Tag Archives: Marissa Nadler

Sacred Bones Turns Ten

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Sacred bones founder Caleb Braaten, photo by Christian Count.

When Brooklyn-based Caleb Braaten started Sacred Bones in 2007, he did it with modest goals and few expectations. But in the back of his mind, he dreamt of one day working with an artist he had long admired: filmmaker and composer David Lynch. Although initially just an idle daydream, Braaten nevertheless started planning for the possibility.

“I had this idea that I was going to approach him to do something together,” he says. “I set aside a copy of every record that we had put out, every version of every record. I started amassing this box that was in the basement of Academy [Records] that said ‘David Lynch’ on it. And then maybe four years into it, the box was big enough. I was like, ‘All right, I think it’s time.'”

Braaten got as far as tracking down an address—”I was going to write a letter and basically tell him that I’m a fan, and I would like to work together someday,” he says—but happened to mention his scheme to a Los Angeles friend, who had a music attorney acquaintance he thought might be a better route.

That connection turned out to be the right one: Lynch received the box of records, thought it was “interesting,” and the lines of communication were open for Braaten to propose a reissue of the soundtrack to 1977’s Eraserhead. Lynch was on board, and a reissue surfaced in 2012. In subsequent years, Sacred Bones reissued two more experimental Lynch efforts, The Air is On Fire and Polish Night Music.

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Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” with Artists on Bandcamp

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Nick Drake was the kind of musician other artists dream of being—and, in some ways, fear becoming. Largely unknown during his 26 years on this planet, Drake’s dark-yet-delicate music returned to public consciousness more than twenty-five years after his 1974 suicide, when the title track of his final record, Pink Moon (1972), was included in a dreamy 2000 Volkswagen commercial hawking the Cabrio convertible. Seventeen years later—and 45 after Pink Moon’s release—a diverse cross-section of musicians are still citing Drake as an influence.

In many ways, though his path was different than both of theirs, Drake was a kindred spirit to artists like Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith (who also owes quite a bit of his spare, haunting sound to Drake). He was deeply in love with music, hungered for success, but, in many ways, shrank from the trappings of music stardom. As a result, he died “thinking he was a failure,” as his sister Gabrielle said in a 2015 interview with Esquire.

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The Best Albums of 2016: #40 – 21

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Collage by Valentina Montagna.

If there’s one thing we learned since we launched Bandcamp Daily this past June, it’s that the world of Bandcamp is enormous—encompassing everything from emo in China to cumbia punk in Tucson, Arizona to just about everything in between. So narrowing our Best Albums of the Year down to 100 choices was a daunting task. This week, we’ll be sharing our picks, 20 at a time, until we arrive at the top spot on Friday.

More “Best of 2016”:
The Best Albums of 2016: #100 – 81
The Best Albums of 2016: #80 – 61
The Best Albums of 2016: #60 – 41
The Best Albums of 2016: #20-1

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Seven Haunted Ladies of Folk Noir

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Mirel Wagner. Photo by Alberto Garcia.

Folk noir is a relatively recent term, but the style itself stretches far back to the earliest history of the blues. While there’s nothing codified about what instrumentation is necessary to make a song “folk noir,” the music is usually stripped down to just guitar and vocals. Lyrics are its most defining feature, full of dark imagery about ghosts, graves and dark nights of the human soul.

In different iterations of the blues, devil women and black snake men live alongside the narrator, who’s usually just trying to survive. In the earlier days, women were more often the subject of such songs (such as Kansas Joe McCoy’s “Evil Devil Woman Blues”) than they were the singers. One notable exception is Victoria Spivey, whose famous “Black Snake Blues” turned the gender tables.

As well as carrying forward some blues traditions, folk noir also draws on bluegrass and country murder ballads like “Banks of the Ohio” and “Pretty Polly.”  While not wrenched brutally from its homeland, as were the African traditional songs that survive in the blues, murder ballads also display clear heritage. This is music of the British Isles; centuries old, passed from artist to artist, each new rendering changing the frame a bit. Murder ballads—also like the early blues—are usually sung from a male point of view. “Pretty Polly” is about a ship’s carpenter who lures a young woman into the woods to seduce her. He murders her when she becomes pregnant, and her ghost haunts him until he dies in the throes of madness.

It was only a matter of time before the Pollys and devil women picked up guitars and started singing their own songs. The women whose work we explore below are just a few examples in contemporary form. Full of macabre imagery and grim, raw emotions, their songs use metaphors as strong as scalpels to get at the viscera of their existence.

Emily Jane White

Emily Jane White. Photo by Kmeron.

Emily Jane White. Photo by Kmeron.

Emily Jane White’s work is characteristically brooding and minor-key. Her lyrics are often inspired by literature, but authors fascinated by the bleakness of human existence—like Cormac McCarthy and Edgar Allan Poe—inform her songs most thoroughly. White has said “I have a strong interest in writing music about more of the shadow side of life”—that which informs our day-to-day but is considered too personal or painful to regularly acknowledge. Her music marries personal melancholy with commentary on the darkness of our political landscape; and on her fifth and most recent album They Moved In Shadow All Together, “The Black Dove” is about police brutality against people of color, and “Womankind” deals with sexual violence.

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The Best Albums of 2016 So Far

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  A one-stop guide for catching up on the best releases of 2016 to date.

Every year brings with it more music than any one person can possibly consume. Even if you stopped sleeping and eating and did nothing but listen to music all day, every day, you’d only be able to get through roughly 13,000 albums in a year. Given that, we’ve decided to make your search for your next favorite record a little easier. These are the records released so far this year that we just can’t stop playing.

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