Tag Archives: Ryan Adams

Mid-week Mixtape: Piers Twomey

This week’s mixtape has been lovingly put together by Sydney songwriter Piers Twomey. Piers’ sophisticated new album of modern folk – Strange Advice – has seen him likened to Kings Of Convenience and Grand Salvo. He has performed alongside Preston School of Industry, Ben Sollee, Krystle Warren, Dappled Cities and Jack Ladder. This week, as well as sharing these lovely songs with us, Piers is performing at ‘Don’t Think Twice’ a new folk music night presented by Timber & Steel from 6pm on Sunday at the Annandale Hotel.

Go along to the gig and check him out! And check out Piers’ brand new video for ‘Mountain Song’, which has just been updloaded here.

Bill Callahan – The Wind and the Dove

I think listening a lot to Bill, who was once Smog, has taught me not to be overly self-conscious about whether I sing “correctly”. His lovely, deep, rich voice is just perfect to my ears, though I imagine some first-time listeners would find his deadpan delivery a little lacking. This song is a quiet, personal, complex and unassuming little “relationship” number from Bill’s Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle album from a few years ago. I think it slipped under the radar a little bit to be honest, but most Bill fans I’ve come across cherish the album with its curious folk and soft-rock with string section production! The man is certainly adored far and wide, and I do think he’s one of the greatest living songwriters. What about this line from the same album?

Love is the king of the beasts
and when it gets hungry
it must kill to eat.

Genius.

Ryan Adams – She Wants To Play Hearts

First off, I’m not really the hugest Ryan Adams fan (sorry to those who are!) But, at a friend’s house a few years ago, this song sort of stopped me in my tracks. It makes me feel nostalgic, and reminds me of listening to those warm Don Maclean ballads when I was a kid from my parent’s record collection. Somehow, it reminds me of Don’s version of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ – one of the all time songs, I think it’s the tempo… anyway. I love the bare minimum arrangement and super intimate but very unaffected vocal and the way his natural vibrato rings out the emotion from every note. I think I like my Ryan Adams heartbroken and confused. So thank you Ryan – even if just for this song.

Red House Painters – Have You Forgotten

OK, well, more wistfulness here. I only heard this a year or two back, but it reminds me of living in New England in America as a teenager for three years with my family, with that weird new-person isolation, the huge seasonal changes, beautiful forests, eventually making close friends, crushes and kisses… and
all that kind of normal stuff. Mark Kozelek’s voice is just one of those instantly haunting and heart- aching things – no pretensions, it just is. Like many of Mark’s songs, this seems to be very nostalgic as he looks back on the simplicity of his own childhood and remembers Spring and October autumns and the
magic of looking out the window at “frozen farmhouse landscapes” at Christmas time. But I think there is something even stronger here, something to do with the purest kind of love and something about healing. Who is he speaking to when he asks “When you’re older your heart turns to ice… have you forgotten how to love yourself?” My guess is the question is directed straight at himself.

The Strokes – Hard To Explain

Alright enough melancholy! When it’s time to jump around – this is one of my favourite ways to do it. The way this somewhat bratty track effortlessly cruises along busting out a simple beat, slinky guitar riffs and crazy good vocal melodies like that’s the easiest thing in the world to do… well, it just blows me away. Of course Julian Casablancas is an alluring gentleman and that helps; his lazy voice drips graceful cool without even trying, and that high vocal he hits a couple of times (“was an honest man!”) in the song plus the “I don’t see it that way” hook, well it makes the whole thing 3:48 of guitar pop perfection. I once heard a really great 50’s style rockabilly guitarist exclaim, “This isn’t music!” about the lo-fi sounding ‘Hard To Explain’. When he was a kid, I’m sure his parents said the same thing about Little Richard.

Grand Salvo – Bend In The River

No rest for the wicked, so it’s back to the broken and bruised! Australia’s own Paddy Mann, aka Grand Salvo is a huge favourite of mine. When I first started listening to his albums – again on a vocal level – I was stunned by the simplicity and the softness of his delivery. Of course Paddy is a stunning lyricist, story-teller and musician, and uniquely Australian too – I actually think of him as a bush poet who loves acoustic and orchestral instruments. His arrangements and melodies seem perfectly formed to me, like if it were somehow up to me, I wouldn’t touch a thing, I’d keep everything exactly as it is. I saw a short interview online today where Paddy described his music with a smile as, “slightly depressing folk music” which is spot on I guess. This song from one of his earlier albums I included as it was the first Grand Salvo song I ever heard – and it affected me greatly. Seek it out and give it a go – it’s hopelessly beautiful, sad and romantic.

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From The Vault: Country Music Confessionals

Next year marks my 10th anniversary with what has become a full blown love affair with twang music. It started as a crush, I swear. I’m currently working on a long form piece about the albums that came out in 2002 that sent me down the wayward path towards three chords and the truth, but in the meantime, here is something I first published as a response to the Kasey Chambers album ‘Barricades and Brickwalls’ when I was editing Sydney University’s student paper Honi Soit. I later re-worked it into this format (as in, I edited out the album review and wrote strictly memoir) for the lovely gals at Frankie magazine.

Obviously I’ve come a long way since the article was first published, in terms of what I’m listening to and loving and other things as well. Writing this from the United States (where I am hastily typing in a pink cashmere sweater and my underwear) it should be noted that the music that I love would only really be described as Americana here (check it, it’s in the dictionary) though in Australia we still have so far to come in terms of creating a definitive definition and so I have kept the ‘country’ in. Happy reading.

COUNTRY MUSIC CONFESSIONAL:

Flannel shirts, failed romance, heartache, heartbreak and sad, sad songs. I might live to regret putting this in print, but I have a confession to make… I like country music.

I know it isn’t fashionable. Country is just about the daggiest style of music an otherwise self-respecting young woman could have chosen to embrace. It’s tragic – like being a 24 year-old collector of Tupperware or VIP customer at Copperart. It’s the soundtrack of choice for dingy American diners and dimly lit highway truck stops. It doesn’t have the brazen rebelliousness of punk, or the art school precociousness of indie rock or the forthright sexuality of pop. The genre is defined by the nasal twang of the singer and slow walking swagger of the band. It’s country music – it’s about loneliness, loss, and line dancing. And I like it.

My music tastes have not always been this way. I have not always been a fan. I used to be one of those cynical cool kids who thought that country music, littered with hideously sequined Tammy Wynette clones and silver bearded Kenny Rogers types, was not for me. Sure I liked the bedazzlar, stone-wash denim and spiral perms as much as any child of the eighties, but I was never going to listen to Dolly Parton. No amount of Billy Ray Cyrus mulletude could make me trade ballet for boot scooting. For me, country music was always considered tacky and trashy. Even my parents – whose tastes included a passion for Australiana decor and home-made Jenny Kee knitwear – had the good sense to be fans of other musical genres.

As a kid, I spent most my childhood living in small rural areas, so most people make the assumption that it must have been the seventeen years I spent in towns without traffic lights that secured a love for country music. This is not the case. In my formative years I was a full-fledged pop fan with the Kylie Minogue cassingles and the ra-ra skirt to prove it. Growing up, the only hints of the country enthusiast within was a fairly well rehearsed cover version of the Alannah Myles song “Black Velvet” and a one time yodeling gig in my primary school eisteddfod where, armed with a hot head of freshly crimped hair and some seriously disturbing white patent leather cowboy boots, my attention seeking soul got the better of my good taste. Now, these are the embarrassing details of decidedly naff childhood, but they could belong to any performative ten-year old growing up in the early nineties.

No, this love for country music is something relatively new – something that didn’t hit me until my early twenties, when I started listening to the moderately successful new generation of artists now widely referred to under the sub-genre of “alternative country”. In the alt-country world performers like Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy and Lucinda Williams wooed their audiences with harrowing harmonicas and harmonies and tales of eternal heartbreak. They labelled themselves “country” but were a dark contrast to the more popular country stars like Shania Twain or Keith Urban. Archetypal alt-country bands like Wilco and Whiskeytown represented a seedier side to country – less spray tanned, less gaudy, more Neil Young than Nashville factory line.

And so I became a fan. And the more I listened to alt-country, the more I grew to accept other types of country. And the more I came to accept country music as a whole genre, the more I realised I had crossed a neon lit, barn dancing, gin swilling point of no return, signified by a proposed road trip to the Tamworth music festival and the needless ownership of three pairs of cowboy boots.

Perhaps it is because I now live in the city and the music is a nostalgic reminder of home – a place of open landscapes and dusty paddocks and tumbleweeds. Perhaps it is because I am steadfastly heading towards my mid-twenties and my taste has been blurred by the onset of premature wrinkles and a career crisis. Perhaps. I know on some level I could try to justify my love, try to defend the genre from accusations of hillbilliness, try to make it worthy, trendy, ironically cool. But I know in my heart, I cannot and do not want to. It’s country music – it’s music that by very definition is quintessentially uncool. And even though I am often embarrassed to admit it – I have to write it down… I like it.

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For The Long Haul: Obsessive Compulsive Romantic Seeks Faraway Country For Enduring & Impossible Love Affair

Twenty hours in the air might seem like a long trip for some. Too far to go for a holiday. Too many hours in transit. Too much expense – of time and dollars – only to land and have your body-clock feel as though it’s been fucked sideways for about three to five days. It is a long way, yes.

I’m on the road at the moment. I have been for about three weeks. For better or worse, it means I’ve shaken the feeling of being fucked sideways. But when you’re on the road and you’ve traveled many, many hours to be somewhere, you are constantly asked by locals about time in the sky, so you spend a dumb amount of time thinking about it.

How do you cope?

Is it worth it?

Why would you do it?

I always say the same thing, a little monologue about my homeland, how it is nestled way down at the bottom of globe. Far from London. Far from Paris. Far from Rome. And far from America of course, a distance I have known too well for too many years. I have never been to London. I have never been to Paris. I have never been to Rome. But, oh how I have been to America.

I am nothing if not obsessive compulsive.

I have walked jet-lagged and bleary-eyed and dumb-struck on American streets so often. Too often? Perhaps too often. The trick when flying far is how you divide the time.

Two weeks ago: Sydney to Seattle via LAX (Swift’s Adventures in America: Trip Four, aka Too Early To Be Named Yet But Off To A Bloody Good Start)

*Arrive at the airport stupidly early because you’re stupidly excited.
*Consume five processed meals, six in-flight films and more than a few standard drinks.
*Have a brief nap but wake with enough time to obsess over a song or two, re-imagine an old love and remember why it’s an old love.
*Stop-over in LA and stretch legs, fire off an excited email or four and cue your favourite traveling song on the iPod so that when the plane that’s become the second leg of your journey takes off, you can let the excitement outweigh the exhaustion:

Four months ago: Sydney to New York via Vancouver, Montreal and Prince Edward Island (Swift’s Adventures in America: Trip Three, aka In The Interests Of Diversity – For The Love Of God – Go Further North)

*Arrange to meet an old flame in Vancouver. Obsess over this for the entire distance between Australia and Canada. It will kill the hours more quickly than you could ever know.
*Decide old flame is a bit of wanker.
*Drink. Meet new flames. Watch bands. Repeat until you arrive in NYC:

One year and five months ago: Sydney to New York via LAX (Swift’s Adventures in America: Trip Two, aka Seven Days In Total Is A Stupid Length Of Time To Try And Do This)

*Stay out until four in the morning in Sydney the night before and arrive at the airport with a half-packed bag, almost no dignity and certainly no sleep.
*Sleep all the way from Sydney to Los Angeles.
*Miss connecting flight to New York and become stranded in LA:

Three years, three months ago: Los Angeles to Sydney (Swift’s Adventures In America: Trip One, A Lesson In Breaking Your Own Heart, Really, Properly, Better Than Any Man Could)

*Fall head over heels for the country you are about to leave so much so that even the thought of getting on a plane home makes you feel unshakably sad.
*While waiting around LAX, in between drinking margaritas and staring vacantly at ugly airport walls, use public computers constantly and pick up swine flu.
*Sniffle all the way home, happy and sad and confused, love-sick and actually, really pandemic sick.
*Decide to find out how many times Steve Earle’s Fearless Heart can be played on a 14 hour flight.

*Land sleepless on the tarmac in the mother country. Feel a dumb sense of awe and happiness and craziness restored with the knowledge that LA to Sydney is not merely a 14 hour flight to you anymore. It’s 206 plays of Fearless Heart.

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Beat the Drum: Americana adventures at triple j

Last week I had a great surprise. No, I didn’t win Lotto or wake up with the sudden ability to tap-dance. Fingers crossed those surprises are still to come. But I was asked to guest program an alt-country special for triple j’s Roots N All program. Going to air every Thursday night from 10pm, Roots N All is a three-hour specialist program that is broadcast nationally. It was a huge honour to be asked to host the show and putting it all together was a blast, so big love to the wonderful folk at triple j who made it happen and also to all the listeners who tuned in on the night.

If you missed the show, you can stream it here up until this Thursday July 28.

Additionally, you can also check out the playlist on triple j’s website.

Some highlights from the show included brand new music from Wilco, Dawes, Vetiver, Those Darlins and Tiny Ruins. I also played some old favourites like Ryan Adams and Silver Jews, country covers legends The Pigs reworking Beyonce and two songs with ‘Motherfucker’ in the title. Good times.





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Country music confessional

Flannel shirts, failed romance, heartache, heartbreak and sad, sad songs. All the reasons I’m a sucker for country.

I know it isn’t fashionable. Country is just about the daggiest style of music an otherwise self-respecting young woman could have chosen to embrace. It’s tragic – like being a 27 year-old collector of Tupperware or VIP customer at Copperart. It’s the soundtrack of choice for dingy American diners and dimly lit highway truck stops. It doesn’t have the brazen rebelliousness of punk, or the art school precociousness of indie rock or the forthright sexuality of pop. The genre is defined by the nasal twang of the singer and slow walking swagger of the band. It’s country music – it’s about loneliness, loss, and line dancing. And I like it.

My music tastes have not always been this way. I have not always been a fan. I used to be one of those cynical cool kids who thought that country music, littered with hideously sequined Tammy Wynette clones and silver bearded Kenny Rogers types, was not for me. Sure I liked the bedazzlar, stone-wash denim and spiral perms as much as any child of the eighties, but I was never going to listen to Dolly Parton. No amount of Billy Ray Cyrus mulletude could make me trade ballet for boot skooting. For me, country music was always considered tacky and trashy. Even my parents – whose tastes included a passion for Australiana decor and home-made Jenny Kee knitwear – had the good sense to be fans of other musical genres.

As a kid, I spent most my childhood living in small rural areas, so most people make the assumption that it must have been the seventeen years I spent in towns without traffic lights that secured a love for country music. This is not the case. In my formative years I was a full-fledged pop fan with the Kylie Minogue cassingles and the ra-ra skirt to prove it. Growing up, the only hints of the country enthusiast within was a fairly well rehearsed cover version of the Alannah Myles song “Black Velvet” and a one-time yodeling gig in my primary school eisteddfod where, armed with a hot head of freshly crimped hair and some seriously disturbing white patent leather cowboy boots, my attention seeking soul got the better of my good taste. Now, these are the embarrassing details of decidedly naff childhood, but they could belong to any performative ten year old growing up in the early nineties.

No, this love for country music is something relatively new – something that didn’t hit me until my early twenties, when I started listening to the moderately successful new generation of artists now widely referred to under the sub-genre of “alternative country”. In the alt-country world performers like Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy and Lucinda Williams wooed their audiences with harrowing harmonicas and harmonies and tales of eternal heartbreak. They labeled themselves “country” but were a dark contrast to the more popular country stars like Shania Twain or Keith Urban. Archetypal alt-country bands like Wilco and Whiskeytown represented a seedier side to country – less spray tanned, less gaudy, more Neil Young than Nashville factory line.

And so I became a fan. And the more I listened to alt-country, the more I grew to accept other types of country. And the more I came to accept country music as a whole genre, the more I realised I had crossed a neon lit, barn dancing, gin swilling point of no return, signified by a proposed road trip to the Tamworth music festival and the needless ownership of three pairs of cowboy boots.

Perhaps it is because I now live in the city and the music is a nostalgic reminder of home – a place of open landscapes and dusty paddocks and tumbleweeds. Perhaps it is because I am steadfastly heading towards my late-twenties and my taste has been blurred by the onset of premature wrinkles and a career crisis. Perhaps. I know on some level I could try and justify my love, try to defend the genre from accusations of hillbillyness, try to make it worthy, trendy, ironically cool. But I know in my heart, I cannot and do not want to. It’s country music – it’s music that by very definition is quintessentially uncool. And even though I am often embarrassed to admit it – I have to write it down… I like it.

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