Premiere: Shana Falana’s Gauzy “Cloudbeats” is a Reflection of Dark Times

Shana Falana

Shana Falana. Photo by Sheri Giblin.

“I was pretty lost in addiction, living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in 2006.” That’s how Shana Falana sets up “Cloudbeats,” the mist-wreathed new single from her roaring new record Here Comes the Wave. She spells out that same backstory explicitly in the lyrics, sighing, “Pills I take/ cocaine, too/ call in sick/ ‘I have the flu.’” The music that surrounds the confession is drifting and dreamlike—a stark change from the thundering roar for which Falana has become known.

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Scene Report: Folk in Buenos Aires

Open Folk

Open Folk Night, Tuesday folk nights organized by Fede Petro and Martin Grossman.

In the residential architecture of Buenos Aires, many of the most intriguing buildings are invisible to passersby, hidden down dimly lit alleyways. The Piso Horizontal (“horizontal floors,” or PH for short) are perfectly suited for the crowded city blocks that they divide, making the most of every square meter of space for those that dwell within them. They also make the perfect venues for live music—long, rectangular rooms with tall ceilings (natural hall acoustics) and towering French doors that swing open to leafy patios, where attendees can gather as members of a mutual musical appreciation society to smoke cigarettes and chat without fear of disturbing the artists performing inside.

However, if the noise of a Black Sabbath cover band bleeds through the adjacent wall until 3 a.m., the neighbors might call the cops, and the game would be up. But maybe, if the music was too lovely, and the voices too compelling, the disgruntled neighbors would slowly put down their phones, transfixed, and everyone within earshot could continue to enjoy the show.

Enter the folk musicians of Buenos Aires—an extensive array of performers with influences spanning the genre, from traditional Argentine folklore (pronounced folk-lo-ray) artists such as Atahualpa Yupanqui, Eduardo Falu, Jose Larralde and Lena Valladares to the contemporary folk of North America. The most recent revival seemingly began with fingerstyle guitarist Mariano Rodriguez and psych-folk rockers Los Alamos, continuing to grow with increasing momentum over the last decade. This impressive rise has finally culminated with a batch of artists so fiercely supportive and collaborative that familial metaphors are all but inescapable.

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Bon Iver Makes A Ghostly Return on “22, A Million”

Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon is Bon Iver. Photos by Cameron Wittig & Crystal Quinn.

An often-repeated detail in Bon Iver’s backstory is that Justin Vernon recorded his mostly acoustic debut in a Wisconsin cabin in the winter. In case you missed it, though, For Emma, Forever Ago’s cover art was a view of a knotty forest, as seen through a window covered mostly in ice. The image captured the solitary-yet-cozy feeling of the collection: it’s a comfortingly raw record about being alone.

The artwork for 2011’s more polished, bombastic, saxophone-and-flute-augmented (and Grammy-winning) album Bon Iver, also touched on the pastoral. There’s a cabin on that cover as well; but this time, instead of photographic documentation, the landscape was a peeling multi-media relief from Minnesota artist Gregory Euclide. The imaginary landscape made sense there: The album’s songs referenced places far away from Wisconsin, and there’s more distance and more people playing on the record as well.

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New Directions in Acoustic Guitar: Dylan Golden Aycock, Ignatz, & Norberto Lobo

Dylan Golden Aycock, Bram Devens, and Norberto Lobo

Dylan Golden Aycock, Bram Devens, and Norberto Lobo.

Picking up an acoustic guitar seems like one of the simplest musical gestures, but it can also be one of the most intimidating. If you’re inclined toward a certain strain of finger-picked folk—a genre often referred to as “American Primitive”—there are many larger-than-life figures to contend with: John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Bert Jansch, Michael Chapman. Factor in names added to that master list in recent years—from Jack Rose to Glenn Jones to William Tyler to Daniel Bachman—and all the competition might make you consider another instrument.

Yet this tradition of solo acoustic guitar also offers opportunity. Because the form is so defined and sometimes even rigid, there are myriad ways a new player can poke at the rules, simultaneously embracing and stretching what’s been handed down. As a result, even subtle variations can have huge impact. And the potential for putting finger-picked strings in previously-unheard contexts is literally limitless.

Three recent releases demonstrate how creative an acoustic guitarist can be in reshaping the past rather than rehashing it. None of these players are exactly new—all three have made multiple interesting albums over the past decade—but each began by carving their own path, and each continues to expand their innovations.

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Cymbals Eat Guitars Get Out of Their Own Heads

Cymbals Eat Guitars

If you live in Philadelphia and ever need help moving your couch, Joseph D’Agostino’s your man. When he’s not fronting Cymbals Eat Guitars, the musician becomes the mover, hauling furniture and overstuffed boxes around town to make ends meet. But don’t pity him for his strenuous day job: to D’Agostino, lugging around armoires and bedframes is a sort of privilege, rather than a pain in the ass.

“I like this job because I don’t have to think,” he says over the phone. “I just go through my day, and it’s like doing Crossfit pretty much all day long, for hours at a time–and when I come home I’m pleasantly exhausted.” (If only we all felt the same.) It’s about the escape, and D’Agnostio’s spent a good chunk of his 27-year lifespan trying to get out of his own head. Like so many of us, the man’s got a rumination problem, a mobius strip of a mind; rather than producing daydreams, his brain conjures the object of his obsession ad infinitum. Compared to the ceaseless din blaring in his skull, the sweat and sore muscles sound almost pleasurable.

If heavy labor is D’Agostino’s sedative, then Cymbals Eat Guitars is his cure. With the help of his bandmates (the band’s current lineup comprises bassist and contributing songwriter Matt Whipple, keyboardist Brian Hamilton, and drummer Andrew Doyle), the artist’s fashioned the contents of his frazzled one-track-mind into four multi-track rock marvels, each more sharp, snide, and revealing than the last. Earlier this month, they outdid themselves yet again with Pretty Years, a polished set of urgent, acerbic anthems.

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