I’m writing from sunny and ever-so-shaky Los Angeles, California, although not too long ago I was biking around the Town Beach, devouring sandwiches from The Old Brick Store and concluding my scholastic career as a B-student at CCS and CVU. I loved every moment.
However, after nearly 22 years in Vermont I packed my bags and set sail due west for a life of fame and excess in Tinsel Town. That was six years ago.
While fame and excess have yet to come, I’m happy to report back: So far, so good.
In my time away, I’ve cluttered my apartment with vinyl records, tape cassettes and CDs and have been fortunate enough to find work in music, licensing by day and hosting a radio show on KCRW (a Los Angeles NPR affiliate) by night. My girlfriend, Alison, my cat, Dinah, and I are making a go working in “the biz”—we could use a lot more sleep, but at the end of the day it’s what we signed up for.
My radio show has been particularly rewarding. I’m usually on late at night during the weekends. I’ve enjoyed playing an array of musical genres and styles, all falling under an ethereal, hazy sonic umbrella, ripe for sitting at home alone with your headphones. Haunting the airwaves between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., my program allows me to stay on top of music I love, discover music I didn’t know I loved, and connect with artists and listeners all over the world.
Perhaps more important, my work in radio has allowed me to reconnect with lifelong family friend and Charlotte News publisher Vince Crockenberg, who has offered me space to contribute a monthly column in the local paper and share with you some of the music I’ve been featuring on my show. For better or for worse, through nepotism or professional merit (or a combination of both), I quickly accepted Vince’s offer and have since been stewing in a pot of literary limbo deciding what I should write about. I am eager to try my hand at this.
Here’s my plan. Each month I’ll put forward a gaggle of my favorite new artists, songs and albums and provide an accompanying playlist (available on The Charlotte News website) for those of you who would like to direct your eyes and ears toward the same material. I prefer to cover a number of songs rather than spend too much time on just one. With tens of millions of tracks spanning multiple eras and genres available at your fingertips, who has the time to dig into the minutia of just one piece of music?
Normally I won’t rant and ramble before diving into some new tunes, but I do want to explain where I’m coming from so we can best connect.
On that theme of connection and seamless segues: If you like the sound of music for a rainy day you might appreciate the newest single, “Kathy’s Song,” from London-based artist and melodic mellow-man Westerman. Just as you guessed, “Kathy’s Song” is a cover from Simon and Gafunkel’s classic 1966 album Sounds of Silence and takes an ambitious step towards reworking their gentle acoustic guitar and soft-spoken story of longing for a lost lover into a soaring, plugged-in, synth-laden soundscape. With the help of fellow UK producer and frequent collaborator Nathan Jenkins (pka Bullion), Westerman elevates a beloved staple into a colorful, driving love letter forever finding its way to its final destination.
Perhaps that letter was sent 10,497 miles to Melbourne, Australia, arriving to a new home with the equally hypnotic vocalist and songwriter Lachlan Mitchell, aka Laneous. Alongside musicians Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keys), Hudson Whitlock (drums) and Donny Stewart (vibes/flugelhorn), his newest record, Monstera Deliciosa, nestles somewhere between the intimate tones of D’Angelo and the bustling jazzy grooves of Grammy-nominated and fellow Aussie artists Haitus Kaiyote. Songs like “I Wanna Be Your Girl” and “Not Quite Right” roll out the red carpet for the perfect moods to soundtrack your slow summer days. Their record is best consumed 11 tracks at a time and taken with a freshly cracked Citizens Cider.
When the sun sets on your refreshment for a night by the fire, consider stoking the flames and cue up “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” the opening track from the latest full-length effort by new folk songstress Natalie Mering, aka Weyes Blood. An ode to youthful wonder and its exchange for life experience and understanding, “A Lot’s Gonna Change” twists and turns and sparks the beginning of Titanic Rising, or what could be Weyes Blood’s most theatrical, dynamic and stunning album yet. Production and string arrangement from famed producer and Foxygen front-man Jonathan Rado lay the groundwork for Mering’s otherworldly vocals to fly across a canvas of grandiose ambience.
Moving forward, I’ll cover a lot more artists and sounds in detail. Between now and next month, be sure to check out the latest single, “Baby,” and perhaps finest work to date from fellow Charlotter Francesca Blanchard, harpist Lucy Roleff’s most recent album Left in an Open Room, and the cataclysmic sounds of Philadelphia-based composer and producer Damon Smith from his sophomore effort God of the Grid.
And, of course, if you crave more music you can catch me plaguing the airwaves during the witching hours on the West Coast and at an ungodly time in the morning on the East Coast.
To hear the songs John mentions above, click here.