sundaes and collaborating

If your favorite artist’s songs are like scoops of ice cream, for me consuming moments when these same artists join forces and collaborate on one song is an ice cream sundae.  And I inhale the whole thing.

There is something especially magical and decidedly unique about a collaborative performance between 1, 2, 3 (the more, in my opinion the better) of the artists you love.

The energy is infectious as each performer plays off one another, allowing you to experience a completely new side of the artists that you thought you knew so well.  There is no star, no face forced to shine through; rather, the individual pieces combine to create something far greater than the sum of its parts.

Not convinced? Give these collaborations a listen:

In a passionate encore, David Bazan, William Fitzsimmons, Mariah McManus, Noah Gundersen, Abby Gundersen, and Chris Carrabba cover Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” (don’t miss from 3:29 on)

Up next, a collab including Allen Stone,  Kris Orlowski, Mychal Cohen of Campfire Ok, and some other talented folk..

Listening to this over and over, Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My” in Seattle performed by Lerin Herzer, Andrew Joslyn Hannalee, Goldfinch, Naomi Wachira, and Noah, Jonny, Abby, and Lizzy Gundersen.  The echo resonating in the Cathedral at 2:42 stops me in my tracks..

And now that since my last post you’re officially Daughter converts, brace yourself for the forces of Daughter and Ben Howard to unite and erupt, especially from 6:15 on ..

Kris Orlowski, Campfire OK, and Lemolo team up on Kris’ “Your Move.”

One last video,the perfect send-off, be prepared for chills: Bon Iver and the Staves ethereally layer lush harmonies in “re:Stacks”

Why am I so hopelessly enamored with collaborations?  I think it has something to do with the fact that I can almost picture myself as just one extra voice among many .. or an unnecessary but somehow obligatory tambourine player joining in on the side.


You were an avalanche, I was a city perched desperately close to the mountain

It was getting late last night (morning) when I made my post gushing about Noah Gundersen so the time could be to blame; however, I do feel I should be honest with you and admit that part of me, at some level, was tempted to keep bits of what I love about Noah Gundersen as my sort of secret.

Joining forces with his sisters Abby and Elizabeth as well as brother Jonathan, the Gundersens sing and harmonize in an effortless, ethereal way that makes me wish I shared their same talent and last name.

Almost a capella, the Gundersen siblings’ voices lean into the tensions of the harmonies, crescendoing at just the right moment and then ever so delicately pulling back, letting their voices resonate and linger into the silence.

This chapel performance cover of Crosby Stills and Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping” has never ceased to give me chills:

I’m not the religious sort, yet I would wake up to this doxology every morning:

And though this post is going to have far disparportionately too many videos, I relate to Gundersen music as if it were water and recognize that whatever floodgate should be monitoring my reaction to it has long since collapsed:

And as a send off, although Abby and Noah take the lead, the younger Gundersen siblings have set off on their own, creating their project “Le Wrens”

On music consumption and artist rights

Passionate about music or not, this is a debate you need to be a part of.. myths debunked, statistics explained, perspective attained:

Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered:                         

Rather than using our morality and principles to guide us through technological change, there are those asking us to change our morality and principles to fit the technological change–if a machine can do something, it ought to be done.

On Spotify and Music Consumption:                                                         

Music shouldn’t be free. It shouldn’t even be cheap. If you consume all the music you want all the time, compulsively, sweatily, you end up having a cheap relationship to the music you do listen to.

In turn, this kind of market makes for musicians who are writing with the burden of having to get your attention, instead of writing whatever they’d write if they were just following artistic impulses. It’s increasingly difficult and un-rewarding to write music that is considered, patient, and simple* when the market increasingly demands music that is easy, thoughtless, and careless.

Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999.

Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973!!

The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000.

Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies. Without going into details, 10,000 albums is about the point where independent artists begin to go into the black on professional album production, marketing and promotion.

I’ve done a lot of flying with my feet on the ground

I’ve been looking for one word to describe Noah Gundersen and I think I’ve finally come up with it: earnest.

Noah doesn’t try to be anything more, or anything less, than what he is, doesn’t try to do anything more than what he set out to do.  I’ve found that I really respect this quality in an artist, this humility and self-awareness that is well beyond the his years and well outside of what the industry or instant gratification asks of him.

For artists that you wholeheartedly fall for, I find that there is often one song in particular that catches you off guard and really resonates with you in a way you could not have anticipated but cannot quite shake.

For me, this song was “Jesus, Jesus” off of Gundersen’s 2009 album Saints and Liars.  While the melody is simple and earnest, the lyrics are what really do me in.

Jesus, Jesus, there are those that say they love you
But they have treated me so damn mean
And I know you said ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’
But sometimes I think they do
And I think about you

At this point, I do not feel like I can do Gundersen much more justice by continuing writing about; rather, I feel that I should let his music speek for itself:

On “the relationship between a person and a substance that you tend to abuse and then get over and then so easily fall back into,” – “Cigarettes”

And, Noah Gundersen and sister Abby Gundersen – “Dying Now,” a song of stark realization that you are carrying on an unfulfilling life:

And I think about youI’ve done a lot of living in this town,
I’ve done a lot of flying with my feet on the ground.
You can’t build you bridges after you’ve burned them down,
I’ve done a lot of living but I’m dying now.

And lastly, to end on a far less somber note, “Caroline”

What I would have given to be there sing-clapping along for this rendition.. luckily I’ll be seeing Noah open for David Ramirez this Saturday night in St. Louis at Cicero’s!

I hardly know you and I don’t wanna let you go

I’ve never been known for my self control.

Especially when it comes to songs rich with any combination of acoustic guitar, rhythmic vocals, pulsing banjo lines, piercing lyrics, and intertwining harmonies, whatever hope of me playing it cool is lost, replaced by what appears to the innocent bystander to be a manic foot-stomping, finger-tapping frenzy.

Hudson Taylor’s “Chasing Rubies” is one of those frenzy-inducing tracks.

Formally “Harry and Alfie”  of Youtube origins, the Irish brother duo composing Hudson Taylor originally created their Youtube channel in 2008.  Three years and about 25,000 subscribers later, Harry and Alfie transitioned formally into Hudson Taylor in order to pursue music more seriously.

Although many might argue that starting off on Youtube can negatively affect a musician’s career and credibility, I am even more drawn to Youtube musicians I find talented.  Not only do I find the personal connection and low-quality video/audio charming, but the fact that talent shines through Youtube musicians’ videos performing under these low-budget circumstances actually leads me to respect them as musicians even more.

Maybe then the issue with Youtube origins and credibility deals more with the social need to maintain distance and hallowed, untouchable air between artist and the common fan rather than credibility itself.

Tangent aside, call them the next Mumford, call them the next Of Monsters and Men, call them whatever folk-infused breakthrough band you like- comparisons really are of no use.

Only time will tell if we’re all just cynics on the run.
If we’re all just cynics come undone.

Not so long story short, you need to check them out.  Head on over to iTunes to download their new 4-track EP released August 27th.  While you won’t find the track I’ve been obsessively replaying on Youtube “Chasing Rubies,” “Battles” is well worth a listen as is “Hideaway.”

This is not dejavu
I’ve never met somebody like you
I’d like to tell you the truth
And I hardly now you and I don’t wanna let you go
and I don’t wanna let you go