"Belle Isle" | Anna Burch | Carry The Curse | Polyvinyl
I saw Anna Burch's first video show up on social media late last year and was hooked. That kept my eyes peeled for her record to arrive at CapRadio, which happened a few weeks later.
Her gentle, sincere delivery and poppy hooks caught me in a hurry. They stick out in a way that has substance along with tight production. Lose that and you often lose me as a listener.
I wrote about her track "2 Cool 2 Care" for NPR recently but the track that really stands out for me is the twangy "Belle Isle." I asked Burch to tell em a little more about that track in particular.
Nick Brunner: Was the song written with the intention of using the lap steel guitar?
Anna Burch: The pedal steel was the last thing we tracked on Belle Isle and was very much an afterthought to the initial arrangement. We had already recorded a demo version that featured a really clean lead guitar part that I loved, and didn't lean too hard into country territory.
I showed a few friends the demo and got comparisons like Patsy Cline and Flying Burrito Brothers, so I thought, I guess it's a country ballad after all. My former roommate/bandmate at the time I was writing the record (Matthew Milia, Frontier Ruckus), plays pedal steel but kind of goes through phases with it. He had been playing it again around that time and I thought it would make a nice addition to the song. I also I thought it would be meaningful to have him make a cameo on the record even though, or because, it was a departure from my collaboration in the band with him.
Belle Isle was the first song I wrote after moving to Detroit, and the earliest song written for the record. I was still very much trying to figure out what I wanted my solo stuff to sound like, so it is a bit of an outlier from the remainder of the record.
What affinity do you have for country/western music where it’s most usually incorporated (specific artists, albums, songs)?
I'm honestly not that into country music! I think being in an indie folk band for about 12 years on and off exposed me to a lot of it though. I do like a lot of pop music that has country influence, like early 70s stuff especially. I love the couple of songs on Joni Mitchell's Blue with pedal steel, George Harrison's "I Live For You" and Karen Dalton's "Something on Your Mind." I think pedal steel is a beautiful, expressive instrument. And even though it's such a clear genre signifier, it can be so nuanced and atmospheric.
Is “Belle Isle” the same song in your mind without it?
Unfortunately I don't think I'll ever be in a position to take a pedal steel player on tour for just one song! I'm also not playing it in my live set right now, so maybe that's partly why? I think it's an element that has really attracted some people to the song, and I'm not sure it would be as effective of a recording without it.
When we first tracked it, we were having a hard time envisioning it blending with the lead guitar track since it's in the same tonal register. We almost took it out honestly. But Collin Dupuis, who mixed the record, saved it and did such a beautiful job blending the two instruments--probably because he lives in Nashville! It certainly adds a special quality to the track and sets it apart from the rest of the record.
Carry the Curse is out Feb. 2 on Polyvinyl.
"All The Stars" | Kendrick Lamar & SZA | Black Panther The Album | Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Records, Interscope
News broke last week that Kendrick Lamar would executive produce and curate the soundtrack to the upcoming film Black Panther. Last week, Kendrick released his collaboration with vocalist SZA as the first single from the soundtrack. I was surprised by how traditionally poppy the track felt and after two listens the hook was firmly buried in my head and I was humming it all day.
Lamar had already rocketed to international recognition by the time I got around to listening to his tracks, so my attention went to lesser-known artists. All it took to draw me in was my love of superheroes. For those keeping track this is the eighteenth film since 2008's Iron Man started the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther: The Album is out Feb. 9 from Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Records & Interscope
Content Warning: This song contains explicit language.
"Nervous Young Inhumans" | Car Seat Headrest | Twin Fantasy (Remastered) | Matador
There's a pure joy I feel when listening to this cut. From the energy of the opening salvo to the signature "casual strain" in the voice of singer Will Toledo. Nervous Young Inhumans is gripping through it's entire 3:35 run time.
Maybe this is cheating the "Coming in 2018 theme" since Twin Fantasy was originally released 2011. Toledo says “It was never a finished work and it wasn’t until last year that I figured out how to finish it.”
In the last two years Car Seat Headrest has been busy, from signing to an indie powerhouse record label, extensively touring and promoting its breakout record, Teens of Denial, this re-release seems like a fine stopgap until we see new original songs.
Twin Fantasy (Remastered) will release Feb. 16 on Matador Records.
"Same Star" | Belle & Sebastian | How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 2 | Matador
This is the second single to come from the new 5-song EP by Belle & Sebastian. The long-running Glasgow band returns with its symphonic and aristocratic brand of bedroom pop music in the second of a three part EP series. If the five song trend continues into the next release, we'll see what amounts to a traditional full-length B&S record before the end of the year. The collector in me likes this approach as there's something intangible about completing a set.
How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 2 will release January 19th on Matador Records
"ABC 123" | tUnE-yArDs | I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life | 4AD
The last two albums from the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Merril Garbus felt more controlled than the chaotic lo-fi loops of BiRd-BrAiNs (2009) or W H O K I L L (2011). If the first two singles of the upcoming record are any indication, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life will continue the trend.
The polish doesn't keep songs like "ABC 123" from being bass heavy hooks, perfect for dancing. tUnE-yArDs kicks off its winter tour in Sacramento on Thursday, February 15th at Ace of Spades with dates following in Chico and Oakland.
I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life releases January 19th on 4AD records.