Monday, January 27, 2014

Music Mondays: The Civil Wars "Barton Hallow"

Fame is a funny thing. You can have one of the most respected and critically acclaimed albums of the year, win several Grammys and have songs on TV shows and yet,  people won't know you by name. Such is the case for The Civil Wars. In 2011, the duo (Joy Williams and John Paul White) released the album Barton Hallow and received numerous accolades for their work, however, because of the current zeitgeist of music, this amazing folk album went largely unheard.

The Civil Wars Barton Hallow

Barton Hallow opens with the mysterious 20 Years. This chorus-less, relatively short song (the lyrics are only twelve lines long) about a note left for someone to read perfectly sets up the tone of Barton Hallow. In many instances in this album, we are never directly told certain things. People, objects, and even emotion are only hinted at without being directly spoken about.

20 Years

For the most part, most songs on Barton Hallow take the tone of 20 Years. However, there is one song that diverges from the trend and completely stands out because of how dynamic it is. The eponymous Barton Hallow appears half way through the album and is a powerful wake up call to make you focus again. However, though this song bucks the trend of the soft and quiet sounds of the rest of the album, it does maintain the theme of not completely telling you everything. All we know is that the speaker committed a crime/sin and he or she feels that they are a long way from salvation.

Barton Hallow

Unfortunately, as amazing as this duo is together, it appears as though we will not be hearing from them for the foreseeable future. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Joy Williams reveals that she and John Paul White had a falling out after completing their second album, 2013's The Civil Wars. While the band hasn't announced a breakup, they are on hiatus and Joy is quoted in the aforementioned article saying, "If John Paul and I can find a place to meet in the middle, I believe that there could be a future for the band."

This is truly a shame because John Paul and Joy make amazing music together. Not only are they great song writers and singers, they can cover a song like no one else I've heard. Take for example, The Jackson 5's I Want You Back. John Paul and Joy strip the song down to it's bones and where there was once a danceable tune, now exists a melancholic song about longing and despair. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Music Monday: M.I.A - Matangi

First and foremost, happy 2014!

2013 was an amazing year in music and I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for our ears. For this post, I will focus on an album that I and (judging by it's chart performance) a lot of people completely missed last year, M.I.A's Matangi.

Is it too late to add this album to my "Best of 2013" list?

I have to thank a good friend of mine for introducing me to this album because wow. I have been a fan of M.I.A since she broke here in the States with the Diplo produced single Bucky Dun Gun. Since the release of that song in 2005, M.I.A has seen significant success with songs such as XXXO, Born Free and the immensely popular Paper Planes. These songs, however, are just a taste of M.I.A's true talent; experimentalism. With previous albums M.I.A played with experimental sounds, however, it's with this album that she truly shines.

The first for single for this album, Bad Girls, was released early in 2012. Filled with middle eastern influences, this song is an appropriate first single because it sets up the tone of the album. However, it must be noted that while great, this song is only a hint of what's in the album. For a better idea of the album you have to look to the second single, Bring The Noize.

 M.I.A. has never been afraid to push the boundaries of her music and with this album, she did so magnificently. The only other album released last year that I can compare Matangi to is Kanye West's experimental Yeezus. That's not bad company to be in.