Tiny Boats – No Tiny Feat

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Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been digesting the album “The Broken Vessels” from a new group called “Tiny Boats”. It’s been a somewhat humbling, stupefying, and inspiring experience, and by the time this review is done, you’ll understand why I chose those words.

When I review an album, I lean not only on my perspective as music lover, but also on my experience and insight as a songwriter, musician, music producer, and audio engineer. Perhaps that makes me more critical, as I tend to analyze the album rather than simply listen to it, but I find it actually helps me better understand the artistry and effort behind each project.

The first few seconds of this album made me nervous… as I heard a simple acoustic guitar part, drenched in an infinite sea of reverb I braced myself for the worst…. Oh please, don’t let this be painful to my tender ears!!! And then…just a couple of seconds into the song – I found myself completely entranced in the music. But, more on that later….

This album is hard to describe, but it is a fantastic blend of styles, ambitiously produced, with songs that have been crafted by lyrical and musical artisans – leaving them with a level of depth and artistry that is sorely lacking in so much of the cookie-cutter music that is popular today.

This may be the first album from Tiny Boats, but it is actually not the first time that the members have worked together. Jason and Jesse previously worked on a number of songs under the name of Herod the Fink. I don’t know why they chose to work under a new name on this project, but it was a good choice, as Tiny Boats reflects a maturity that leaves the old “Herod the Fink” tracks sounding pretty amateurish by comparison. This album represents a new beginning for them – not because they have abandoned their “old” sound, but because they have perfected it and taken it to an entirely different level.

Stylistically – where to begin? American and European folk, rock, pop, indie rock, even a little country and punk… somehow all rolled together in a fairly dramatic, sometimes theatrical format. At times they sound very “retro”, as if they were straight out of the early days of rock, and at other times they sound very progressive, even reminiscent of rock legends such as Rush. Still other times they flirt with modern pop rock sounds that typify bands such as Imagine Dragons, and still other times they bring to mind the quirky folk inspired sounds of Midas Whale.

The album production seems thoughtfully done, with layer after layer of sounds alternating with stripped down, intimate sections of music. The songs are dynamic from start to finish, and the fusion of many styles keeps the project interesting from one song to the next.

While some songs are certainly stronger or more enjoyable than others, I didn’t really feel that there were any “fluff” songs on the album – each song seems to hold it’s own. The first song on the album – “Burn in the Sun”- is a fantastic song that provides a very strong opening to the album, and quickly makes my favorites list. Next up is “Being and Doing” which brings to mind the “Rush” sound I mentioned previously. Midway through the album, the song “I Built These Walls” borders on chaotic at times as they push the boundaries of their eclectic style, starting with a slow, intimate, and produced sound and then working their way into a high speed, less polished “garage band” type of sound and then alternating back and forth several times between these two incredibly different styles. Strangely enough, they seem to do it with ease. As they dive into “We Waited for Sunshine” they give off a retro vibe reminiscent of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Skipping ahead to “Polaris”, they have a melancholy sound that is very sparse at some times, and richly layered at other times, with a creative approach to the production that helps it stand out on the album – this was definitely another favorite of mine. The album ends with “Broken Vessels” – a fast paced song that seems to blend folk and punk, a sound that is certainly a big part of their “signature” sound.

I mentioned earlier that my attempt at reviewing this album left me humbled, stupefied, and inspired. The stupefied part is that there is so much to say about this album that I’m at a loss for words. How do I communicate the interesting blend of styles? The very dramatic and theatrical moments in their arrangements? The way they effortlessly shift between a stripped down and intimate feel and a highly produced, layered feel? The genuine songs that are not written from formulas, but are written from the heart? I can only say – give it a listen.

As for being humbled, I sincerely am. Frankly, I was not a huge fan of “Herod the Fink”, (sorry guys!) and despite Jason’s long history with music and recording, my impression is that he is still a relative newcomer in the world of recording and producing. I’m humbled because his production work certainly doesn’t sound like that of a newcomer at all, but that of a seasoned pro. The passion and honesty of the songs are not lost in the production: at times, I can hear the little “human” elements in their performances that come from real musicians, which I truly enjoy. Clearly, as musicians and also as a production team, Tiny Boats is not afraid of blazing their own trail and doing so with style.

But mostly, I’m inspired. In this day and age of “bubble gum” pop, and cookie-cutter production, Tiny Boats offers a refreshing experience that draws on great musical inspirations from the past, and packages them boldly, with a modern sound and style all their own. With a fairly average voice, a home studio, and a band made up of only 2 people, Tiny Boats has created something special – not with gimmicks, but with good writing, good production, and obvious passion.

Tiny Boats isn’t “just” an album, it’s art.

Learn more about Tiny Boats and sample their music at http://tinyboatsofficial.com

By Matt Mylroie of Driftwood Tide Music
http://www.driftwoodtidemusic.com

 

Tiny Boats – No Tiny Feat

Drone Strike

alanToday a friend of mine (who I didn’t know was a Low fan) posted a link that has had me smiling all day.

I had not heard this news but it was like candy to my reading eyes.  At this weekend’s Rock The Garden music festival in Minnesota, five indie bands were gathered together to play a long evening of rock ‘n roll.  Among the bands invited were Minnesota’s own Low, the very band that inspired this website (including the name).

The crowd had just been rained on so much that some were literally standing in ankle-deep water, and as Low took the stage certainly no one was expecting what would come next:  a 14-minute, droning, noisy, ambient tune from The Curtain Hits the Cast that was stretched out to fill their entire almost 30-minute set, followed by a simple three-word punchline.  “Drone, not drones.”

Apparently the majority of the audience weren’t amused (warning: foul language in that link).

Listen, folks, I understand that:

  1. the audience was filled with people that probably don’t know the iconoclastic side of Low and were looking for just a good night of music, and that
  2. this amounted to a preachy political statement at an inconvenient time, and that
  3. people paid a lot of money to see a night of what they hoped would be music, and
  4. Alan probably alienated some potential fans by making this statement.

That having been said, reading about it has reminded me once again what made Low so life-changing for me in the first place.  Here is a band who, from the beginning, wanted to be like nothing you’ve ever heard before.  They played quietly and slowly, with subtle harmonies and lots of ambience, to crowds that often sat while listening, and would often turn their volume down in hostile venues, during the era when Grunge was hitting the scene.  And they not only succeeded in doing it, but they’ve earned a throng of loyal fans, some of them quite high-profile, and managed to stay married and active in the church, while raising children, for over 20 years.  Perhaps Alan is right that it’s a fluke, but it gives me hope that I can stay true to myself and still find a niche in life.

Secondly, without getting too political here, the issue of drone strikes by the United States government is a concern to me, and it’s sensitive, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and interrupts my daily life and thoughts in a disturbing way.  Anyone that reads a lot about the subject should lose at least a little sleep over it.  It seems to me that Alan feels the same way, and what better way to bring awareness to the issue than point it out starkly to a crowd of art fans who might be receptive to the message?  And I’m noticing that this seems to be the overlooked point of Alan’s stunt.  So Alan seems to have miscalculated, perhaps, and a crowd of 5000 potential fans might have been the casualties of that bold risk, but I’m so glad he took it.  So glad.  Like, tonight when I put my kid to bed and he was brushing his teeth I was just beaming to myself the whole time, just thinking about it.

While many of the crowd probably wanted a refund on the money they spent on Low, I literally would have paid $100 to see it.  And you know, as far as I can tell, they seem to be the most-talked-about artist that played that show – and hundreds and possibly thousands of people are hearing the phrase “drone, not drones” for the first time (including me), so perhaps Alan knew what he was doing after all.

Drone Strike

The Ghost and the Guest: An Unexpected and Unlikely Album

Jake Workman The Ghost and the Guest is an interesting album that was recorded in a simple bedroom studio and was released last year by LDS artist Jake Workman. Loyal Linescratchers followers may recognize Jake from his days with the group “The Sweater Friends”. Prior to listening to this album, I had never heard any of his music, and knew little about him. So, it was with a completely fresh and unbiased perspective that I was able to sit down and listen to his music.

I reviewed the album in a digital download form and found that the download contained much more than just music. Graphics from the album are included, as is a scanned copy of a handwritten thank you note from Jake. Most interesting though was a large booklet, which was conveniently provided in a number of different e-reader formats. Right about here is where things started to get weird, interesting, or sentimental – depending on how you look at it. The included e-book comes in at over 40 pages. In the preface, we learn that the songs were inspired by the life of Henry Pickett Pratt, who was born in 1866, and left a journal about some of his early life – a journal which was read by Jake Workman. Something about this man and his experiences struck a chord (pun intended) with Jake, and provided the inspiration for the songs on the album. The e-book includes portions of the journal that provide a backdrop of sorts for the songs. Jake has intended for the journal and the music to be enjoyed simultaneously in order to get the full experience of what he intended to create and capture.

Continue reading “The Ghost and the Guest: An Unexpected and Unlikely Album”

The Ghost and the Guest: An Unexpected and Unlikely Album

Low/Sparhawk news clearinghouse: free music, new band, new albums, Wilco, Ben Gibbard, BYUtv, etc

Linescratchers has been sleeping, but low is the band that never sleep and Alan Sparhawk is the shark of the music world. If he stops writing and performing, he dies.

Alan Sparhawk collaborated with violinist Gaelynn Lea in a new band called Murder of Crows. They’re selling a download of their first EP, Imperfecta, for however much you’d like to pay (including $0) here. (Handmade CD version is available here.) Watch their segment on PBS show The Playlist here.

Low has announced that their new album, The Invisible Way, will be released in March (I’m not linking the album trailer because it’s ridiculous, perhaps as a comment on how ridiculous a trailer for an album is as a concept.) Jeff Tweedy from Wilco invited the band to his Chicago studio to record the record and he also took the producer’s helm.

In the meantime, the band has released their second pay-what-you-want digital EP, Plays Nice Places. It’s a collection of live tracks from their recent tour with Death Cab for Cutie. I can never forgive Ben Gibbard for slaughtering This Charming Man*, but it’s interesting to hear him take the vocals for “Words.” Download it using the widget on the right side of the page here.

Low was also featured in an episode of BYUtv’s surprisingly good new series, Audio-Files. Watch the whole 30 minute episode free here.

The Retribution Gospel Choir also remains active and will release their new album, 3, on Chaperone Records this January. “Q: How do you follow-up a four-song 7”? A: With a two-song full-length.” Sounds like they’re going to attempt replicating the live RGC experience this time. I’ve been lucky enough to see them once in DC and once in Santa Cruz, CA. If you haven’t seen them live yet, brace yourself. Prolific jazzy, Wilco-y guitarist Nels Cline joins on one song (half the album?)

 

*If you want to cover the Smiths, you bring your A game. You do not change the lyrics. Gibbard’s egregious offense:

This man said

“It’s gruesome

that someone so handsome should care.

to

This man said

“It’s crucial

that someone so handsome should care.”

No, a hundred times no. If there is one word that could ruin that song, he found it.

Low/Sparhawk news clearinghouse: free music, new band, new albums, Wilco, Ben Gibbard, BYUtv, etc

Imagine Dragons demolishes MTV’s castle keep . . . unless you have a better play on words

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The winner of the 2008 Battle of the Bands at BYU, Imagine Dragons, has been all over lately including KCRW which in my mind means they’ve made it.

This week they’re MTV’s Push Artist, whatever that means. At least part of it is that this video’s on cable.

So it’s a Vegas/Cougar band in a postapocalyptic San Francisco Bay with one of Mahonri’s rock which has properties Moroni never told you about. Best thing ever?

Check it out.

Imagine Dragons demolishes MTV’s castle keep . . . unless you have a better play on words