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Podcast and Publication News

Hi! I’m proud to present a recent episode of The Night’s End Podcast featuring my Horror story, “Young Man, Are You Lost?”

I am so impressed with the production, voice work, and sound effects used by the Night’s End team to bring my story to life.

Check it out below, but be warned, it is scary!

https://www.nightsendpodcast.com/podcast/episode/3d3317d7/young-man-are-you-lost

Additionally, I recieved two acceptances last week.

My story, “Time Keep,” a clockpunk science fiction tale, will be in Fission #1, the first in a new series of fiction anthologies from the British Science Fiction Association which is known for their non-fiction critical work in the field of science fiction. The story is one of my personal favorites and I am thrilled for it to be out in the world. More details to come as I learn them.

Next, my Hanukkah-themed microfic, “Festival of Fire” will be in the second print anthology from Brilliant Flash Fiction, one of the best flash fiction magazines out there.

Check out my Bibliography page for links to any recently published pieces you may have missed.

All the love,

Elad

Starting up 2021 running!

Hello! I have had a busy and productive start to 2021. Let’s get to the highlights:

On January 1st, my micro-fiction story, “Every Awful Sound” was published as part of Your Dream Journal’s Monster Micro issue: https://ilovedreamjournal.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/every-awful-sound/

Later in January, I wrote a non-fiction (!) love letter to one of my favorite films of all time, I Heart Huckabees as part of The Daily Drunk’s “Nuts on Screen” series: https://dailydrunkmag.com/2021/01/13/ode-to-a-geological-formation/

Both of those are my second appearance at their respective sites.

Earlier this month (February) a story I have been shopping around for years found its home at a site called Literally Stories. “The Dying Disease” was written for io9’s first ever short story contest on the theme “The Future of Death.” I envisioned this story as kind of ‘bedroom apocalypse’ story. It’s a bit of a strange timing, with the pandemic, and a sad piece like this, but I am glad it resonated with people. https://literallystories2014.com/2021/02/12/the-dying-disease-by-elad-haber/

And, finally, as an experiment, I signed up for a Flash Battle competition over at Space and Time’s website. They published my story, “Stay In Your Homes,” last year and they are wonderful people over there. It was really fun! Some difficultly to incorporate three disparate images into one single 500-word story, but I tried my best with a kind of bonkers, Jewish God-inspired party story. You can read the stories in my current “battle” and vote on your favorite (ahem, mine) here: https://spaceandtime.net/2021/02/13/flashbattle-fade/

Voting open till February 26!

Publication Roundup – 2020

*dusts off blog*

*clears throat*

Despite a difficult year for all of us, I’ve managed to publish some fiction, which brings me joy. I had a goal this year to publish at least four pieces of fiction, including an anthology, and I met it! *insert more joy*

First up, my story “Stay In Your Homes” was featured in the 137th issue of Space and Time Magazine. It’s a story born out of living in the dense Florida heat since 2004 and imagining a climate crisis future of extreme heat and what people might do to survive it.

The PRINT issue is available via Amazon here: Space and Time #137 or via PDF from this Archive link.

Next up, my story, “Bee Mine” was featured in a fun new online magazine cheekily named, Your Dream Journal. I originally wrote this story for a <500 word flash fiction contest. When it didn’t advance, I added some more paragraphs to give it a little more texture and then sent it off to Your Dream Journal after reading a few of their funky pieces. It was immediately accepted and published the next day!

“Bee Mine” on Your Dream Journal.

My next story was published in November, but I had the idea over the summer. I was lounging in a pool and I looked up in the sky and saw the Sun and the rare daytime Moon. I thought about how those two must be friends or possibly lovers. And a silly story came out. It was published in the humor-based (and awesome) website, The Daily Drunk.

“P is for Planetsized” at the Daily Drunk.

Finally, I have a forthcoming reprint coming out before the end of the year (if all goes according to plan.) Last year, my story “The Conductor Sighs” was published in Flash in a Flash newsletter. The publisher, Jason Brick, is taking 100 of those stories and putting them together into a flash fiction anthology titled Worth A 1,000 Words. He launched a Kickstarter a couple weeks back and it funded in under 4 hours.

No official book page (yet) but here’s the Kickstarter.

And that’s it for 2020! I have a number of stories already scheduled to come out in 2021 and I hope to be more active in this blog to promote or at least discuss those pieces.

Thank you for making it this far.

Stay safe, hug your loved ones,

Elad.

My Favorite Albums of 2019

It’s my favorite time of the year, Listmas! (Listunakkah doesn’t work, does it?)

2019 was another incredible year for music. In this age of streaming services, it feels like there’s a new major release almost every Friday and I try to keep up with whats going on, downloading and listening to a LOT of new music. The albums that I come back to most often are the ones on the list below. They are all testaments to the spectacular state of music right now.

 

#10 – Toro y Moi – Outer PeaceToro-Y-Moi-Outer-Peace-1547130047-640x640

I’ve been a casual fan of Toro y Moi over the last few years so it was actually a surprise to me how much I gravitated towards this album, which is firmly in the indie-electronic vein, not usually my wheelhouse. But there’s something loose and interesting about these short songs. My favorite is probably “New House” where he sings “I want a brand new house \ something i can not buy \ something i can’t afford,” it makes me smile. But it was the song “Freelance” that prompted me to grab this album and I kept going back to it because it so perfectly captures the vibe of this year.

 

#9 – The Flaming Lips – King’s Mouth Flaming-Lips-Kings-Mouth

The term “concept album” gets thrown out a little too much in my opinion, but with King’s Mouth, uber-productive and decade-spanning pysch rock band The Flaming Lips, have created an album that actually tells a story, and a rather compelling and fascinating one. Buoyed by narration from Mick Jones of The Clash, the album tells the story of the life, and death, of a Giant King of a far away city. The music finds the band curiously restrained, especially after their last few albums, the gloriously massive Embryonic, the post-rockesque The Terror, and whatever the hell Heady Friends was, King’s Mouth is at times almost pop, like in the catchy “How Many Times” or the wonderful momentum building structure of “The Sparrow.” I found this album so inspiring, I started blogging again in this space to highlight the pure joy I felt when listening to it for the first few times. Here is that post.

#8 – Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet andrew-bird-my-finest-work-yet-album-cover-artwork

I’ve followed the career of multi-talented journeyman, Andrew Bird, for over a decade now. He’s prolific, releasing an album every other year (plus  holiday EP’s), so just in the last few years he’s put out a lot of work. Those songs have vacillated between more commercial-minded rock and more esoteric songs with weird structures. I tend to prefer Bird at his more loquacious. His latest album is a happy medium between those two styles and contains some of his best work in years. In songs like “Bloodless,” he references the volatile political situation in the current US, a stark departure for an artist who rarely seems to be of this world. References to Greek mythology (“Sisyphus”, “Olympians”) are definitely more his style. This record also tends to be less morose and more upbeat like in the soaring “Fallorun.” For those unfamiliar with this incredible artist, this album can be a great starting off point.

 

#7 – Caroline Palochek – Pang Pang

Taking up the HAIM slot for this list is the enigmatic Caroline Palochek, former voice of underrated indie pop band Charlift, who broke up a few years back. Caroline has released a few solo records, but never with her own name, so this one feels like a dramatic new start for her career. And what a start it is! The album is firmly pop, but with a kind of epic scale, the 14+ track list alone makes that clear from the start. There’s also a clear arc to the album, starting off maudlin, getting grander towards the middle, and straight-up dance music at the end. Highlights include “I Give Up”, “Ocean of Tears” and “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings.” Caroline has a very unique and powerful voice, but the trick is using it in a way that’s not repetitive and leans on her strengths when needed. Which I think this album does. Her voice does most of the heavy lifting here, but there’s some expert production here that elevates the material. Looking forward to more from her in the future.

 

#6 – Mountain Goats – In League With DragonsDragons

As I stated in my long form review, this album was an early favorite of the year (it came out in late April) and has remained a stalwart survivor in my yearly Hunger Games-style battle of the albums. Inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, this is an album that’s impossible to classify. Yes, it may forever be known as “the Dragon album” in the Mountain Goats’ long and excellent discography, but it’s more than a gimmick or even a single story arc. This is an album that feels like it should have taken Mountain Goats leader and former one-man-show, John Darnelle, years to make: a “partial rock opera” as it’s been referred to, fully embracing that dramatic bend to his music. After coming from humble and lo-fi beginnings, this band is just a completely different beast than it used to be. And this glorious, uplifting, terrifying, otherworldly album is proof that they still have it.

 

#5 – Bon Iver – i,i  ii

There are some breathtaking moments on Bon Iver’s epic fourth album: the breakdown midway through the early standout, “iMi”, the soft pleading tone in “Hey Ma” when Justin sings “let me talk to her, ma” or the ending cacophony to “Naeem.” String those moments together, plus some genuinely awesome songs in “Faith” and “Salem”, among others, and you might wonder why this album is only ranked fifth in this list. Their last album, the mysterious 22, A Million, was my favorite album of 2016. As I tried to capture in my writeup of the album a few months ago, the parts do not elevate the sum. There’s just too much noise on this record (and not in the good way). Songs that should be 30-60 second segways linger for minutes. Other songs are too short and kind of meld together to create a confusing jumble. And the album ends with a meandering couple of songs that don’t really gel with the rest of the album. Justin Vernon obviously spread his musical net wide with this album, bringing in other singers, multiple producers and created a very modern-style collaborative piece of art. Unfortunately, though, it lacks the cohesion present in previous Bon Iver records.

#4 – Thom Yorke – ANIMA Thom-YORKE-ANIMA

I’ve been a member of W.A.S.T.E. (Radiohead’s official fan club) for more than half of my life, but Thom Yorke’s solo work never really connected with me. Until the release of this year’s ANIMA, a stark and futuristic album, evoking a lot of modern Radiohead sensibilities, while being distinctly personal. Many artists wear their hearts on their sleeves, but in the case of Thom Yorke, who often turns cliche phrases into loner anthems, he always seemed to leave a part of his soul in each of Radiohead’s many songs. Well, he’s got a lot of soul to play with, because this album is full of the kind of bleeding heart emotion we expect from Thom, whether it’s in the yearning tilt to his voice in “Last I Heard.. (He Was Circling The Drain)”, the robotic monotone to the brilliant Boards Of Canada-inspired “Twist”, or the grinning bad boy persona on “I Am Very Rude Person.” At nine tracks, the album is short and sweet, never seems fluffed or over indulgent. It’s damn near perfect.

#3 – DIIV – Deceiver diiv

There’s a moment midway through the first song on the third album by NYC-based rockers, DIIV, where the music chills out for a moment, leaving only a single guitar line and the lead singer’s whispers, then the song ramps up again into a Mogwai-esque post rock explosion. It’s a heavy moment for a band that hasn’t been known for that kind of sound since they burst onto the scene with their excellent debut album, Oshen. It exemplifies the emotional toll the last few years have had on lead singer, Zachary Cole Smith, and his band, as they dealt with his widely publicized drug abuse and rehab. I was dubious, at first, about starting an album with a song with so much baggage. It was the equivalent of killing off your main character in the first chapter. But I see now, after repeated listens to the whole album, that the track order, along with everything else on this album, was very critically thought out. This album is very much a departure from their loose pop-mingling second album, Is The Is Are. It’s darker, stronger, weirder, and more introspective. ZCS writes in raw terms about feeling like his “pain was self imposed” and “he’s had struggles lately.” That rawness also translates to the music, which still retains the “many guitars” sound of their previous work, but often dips into the post rock strain of indie rock, melding all of these different sounds in a layered cake of music that can often feel overwhelming. In the late album highlight, “Blankenship” the band seems to dare themselves to come up with the most complex guitar riff for a short song and they succeed in breathless fashion. Deceiver is a statement and another wild and memorable outing from one of indie rock’s most exciting young bands.

 

#2 – FKA Twigs – Magdalene magdalene

No one is more surprised by the high ranking of this album on my personal list than me. While I’ve been a casual fan of FKA Twigs for a couple years, I never connected with her work in such a personal way as I have on the gorgeous “Magdalene.” This album is a masterpiece, crafted with such care, it’s like a beautiful sunset that you can’t take your eyes off of. I talk a lot about emotion in music and that is exemplified here, in the boozy swagger of “Home With You,” the soaring vocals of album highlight “Sad Day,” or the wash of sound in the opening moments of “Mirrored Heart.” Another nine song album shot in the heart, this record doesn’t have a dull moment on it, it’s always in your face, in the R&B flavored “Holy Terrain” to the fantastical “Fallen Alien” and the bjork-adjacent “Cellophane.” FKA Twigs has crafted something really special here, the kind of album that transcends genre and will undoubtedly be held in high regard for a long time.

 

#1 – The National – I Am Easy To Find IAmEasyToFind

The National have always enjoyed playing in the dark. Their best work is full of sorrow. They revel in the kind of broody, pretentious, rock music that some people might mock, but others, like myself, enjoy. That unique and instantly recognizable style is present through the sprawling, epic, I Am Easy To Find, their eighth studio album. It’s also distinctly different than their previous work, as I highlighted in a longish post here a few weeks ago. After surprising everyone (including the band who didn’t attend the show), they won a Grammy for their incredible 2017 record, Sleep Well Beast. The band obviously went into the followup by thinking about expanding their sound. They incorporated other vocalists for the first time, a small group of talented female singers who lend their voices to every track on the album. They also worked with a director to create a parallel short film to compliment the album. There’s a few songs (“Dust Swirls in Strange Light,” for example) that wouldn’t really make sense without the film side of the project. Musically, this album is a full realization of what The National have been doing since the beginning of the millennia: sweeping and dramatic music tied together with Matt Berginger’s iconic vocals, and a serious, if sad-tinged, approach of indie music. It’s just expected at this point that they can throw together a near perfect 2019 ballad. There’s like three of them on this album alone, especially on the final track, the sublime “Light Years.” They can also rock, when the situation calls for it, like on the absolute spot on studio version of “Rylan,” a song they have been playing on tour for years. Everywhere you look on this epic record, there’s some hidden corner to explore. The centerpiece of the album is the restrained “Not In Kansas,” which is mostly quiet except for a choir-like chorus, evoking Sufjan Stevens. The album feels almost novel-like, hard to get through in one sitting, but lending itself to picking up at various different parts. There’s a continuing motif of water and rain and, like all National records, New York City. Whether they are in full bombast mode, incorporating clever electronics, or just baring their soul in the calm moments, this album is the epitome of what The National have been striving for in their career and my album of the year.

Publication Roundup (2019)

2019 was a great year for publishing for me. Four published pieces may not be extraordinary for more established writers, but for me, it not only marks the most stories I’ve had published in a single year, but also more than I’ve had in the last few years. Plus, I’m extremely proud of the pieces I’ve showed the world this year.

“It Only Rains At Night” @ Strange Constellations

Inspired by a sequence from the famous Black Mirror “White Christmas” episode, this was my interstitial take on the Haunted House story.

“Number One Hit” (Audio Reprint) @ StarShipSofa

My first pro-sale, and one of the best stories I’ve ever written, is reprinted in podcast form. Narrator Jonathan Danz does an incredible job of bringing my story to life.

“Ophelia And The Beast” (Reprint) @ Truancy

This one is special to me because it was the first story I ever published, in a tiny chapbook. I’m thrilled to be part of the growing Truancy family heralded by editor and all around excellent person, Nin Harris.

“The Conductor Sighs” @ Flash in a Flash

This story was published in a unique way. Many online magazines now send their stories to subscribers via email, but this magazine was envisioned as a kind of email-only newsletter. It’s a fairly new enterprise so I think it needs a little more infrastructure around it, online archive, twitter account, etc. As for the story, I’m quite proud of it and would like to get it front of as many eyeballs as I can. Contact me if you missed it and want to read it.

 

2020 awaits!

The Best Albums of 2019 (Part 2!)

IAmEasyToFind

Let’s timewarp for a moment. It was early 2013. News of a new record by The National was popping up on blogs. I recall telling my wife, “I love the National. They are so good. But does the world really need another National record?” Obviously, I was wrong, but I was also nervous. The National had released a string of amazing records, starting with Alligator, then Boxer, then High Violet, it was the kind of consistent output you just didn’t really see that much in those days or since. I thought to myself, “Can they top themselves? Maybe they should just stop?”

Well, I’m glad they didn’t. What came out that year was Trouble Will Find Me, which somehow became my favorite record by them despite scratched copies of all their previous albums (CD’s!So quaint, so fragile.). Not only was that record memorable and exciting, their followup, Sleep Well Beast, was even more adventurous, dark, demanding, oh, and Grammy-winning.

The National are, without a doubt, the best American rock band working today.

So, what do a bunch of Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio hipsters do after yet another breakthrough record? They do exactly what all critics fear. They put out an extra long, self-indulgent album with high instrumentation and guests vocalists that sounds, sometimes anyway, like nothing else they’ve done before.

In May 2019, The National released I Am Easy To Find. It is a sprawling record of disparate voices and sounds. Their guitar-based roots smacks against electronics and prevalent strings, nothing new for these guys there, but within a few minutes of the first song, you can hear this album will be different. A new (female!) voice emerges, a counterpoint to singer Matt Berninger’s instantly recognizable gruff baritone. Not just one voice, either. The album features a small collection of women lending their unique voices, granting the album a renewed tension and vigor.

It makes perfect sense at this moment in the National’s long discography to introduce new perspectives. We are finally getting the other side of all the love songs Matt has been singing about. The fact that his wife, Carin Besser, wrote a few of the songs and sings on a couple more adds to the credibility.

I don’t have the time to get into every song (sixteen of them!) but all of them are notable. From the eye-opening smack of opener, “You Had Your Soul With You”, the gentle swaying softness of “Quiet Light” and “Oblivions”, the drama of “The Pull of You” and “Not in Kansas”, the blasting drums of longtime fan favorite “Rylan” to the heartbreaking album closer, “Light Years.”

In addition to the high concept album, I Am Easy To Find also has a thematically linked short film with the same title. The band has talked about how both the album and film were made simultaneously so they function as two sides of the same expansive project and I think that’s wonderful. The film is emotional and well made and uses not just music from the album, but outakes so it feels very much like its own thing and not just a music video.

The whole project is impressive and continues the kind of high quality consistency that is unrivaled by five scruffy dudes from New York who call themselves The National.

 

“I Am Easy To Find” short film directed by Mike Mills (NOT the bassist from R.E.M, I checked) –

 

Preview Pane: HAIM

Sunkissed indie poppers, the sisters HAIM, are in full swing again in late 2019. They’ve been releasing new singles at a steady clip, starting with my Song of the Summer, the aptly titled “Summer Girl,” with an absolute badass bass line and horn section with pre-requisite video of the sisters walking around LA, removing articles of clothes, but not like that, more like because it’s hot.

Killer song.

Second single of the cycle is “Now I’m In It,” a rather dark (for them anyway) look at post-breakup depression. The beat, the structure of the song, reminds me of an 80’s ballad, but viewed with a modern lense. It’s both catchy and poignant. The video, once again directed by the veteran auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, features another montage of the sisters walking through L.A, this time with a triumphant finale.

 

 

Third and most melancholy of the group is “Hallelujah,” a song with a classic feeling, centered on acoustic guitar and all three sisters doing incredible vocal work. The video, once directed by PTA, has some lovely visuals and features the prerequisite walking through LA, this time at night!

 

The band has been tight-lipped about an actual full length coming out. They’ve treated each of these very different songs as unique releases to stand on their own. I’m sure we’ll see an album from them in 2020 and if it contains these excellent song, it will be notable.

 

BONUS song: HAIM also have a song on the recently released, “Hanukkah+” compilation, which I listened to a bit over the weekend. Their contribution is a cover of Elliot Smith and it’s moody and dark.

https://open.spotify.com/embed?uri=spotify%3Atrack%3A2PpXsTMyaWAY4005WObBfR

 

What I’ve Been Listening To 11.19.19

I realize I’ve let this blog go quiet the last few weeks and I’m so sorry about that! I know there’s not a lot of readers here, but I do enjoy waxing poetic about music more than, well, pretty much anything. So here’s where I’m at musically the last few weeks:

One of my most anticipated albums of 2019 was the latest from Brooklyn-based DIIV, their third and most dramatic record, Deceiver came out in early October and I’ve been spending a lot of time with it. It’s dark and brilliant and tough, I’ve described elsewhere as “emotionally overwhelming” which is both a compliment and an admonishment at the same time. I think a more generous track-listing, for example, would have spaced out some of the darker moments, maybe make it a little easier to get into. Regardless of some of my minor issues with it, the album has a timeless feeling like I will be revisiting for years to come.

A highlight, “Between The Tides”, notable for its building intensity and just top notch guitar work:

 

One of my longtime favorite bands, the seminal R.E.M reissued their 1994 rocker, Monster, a few weeks ago to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The album’s guitar-heavy rock holds up after all these years due to the deft performance from all bandmembers. Along with a remastered version of the album, outtakes and demos, a Remix version of the album, and a live show that features a lot of Monster, but also a lot from their Monster followup, New Adventures in Hi-Fi (arguably my favorite album of their epic discography), including this great live version from that album:

 

Most recently I’ve been listening\obsessing over the new album by FKA Twigs. She’s got one of the best voices in all of music, a vulnerable high register that threatens to break open like an egg. Her music is passionate and vibrant. The album is varied, ranging from what the equally impressive artist Grimes calls “ethereal music” to rap to electronic to bjork-esque heights of dream pop.

Hard to pick a standout track since they’re all unique and excellent, but this is my Song of the Week. I love the structure of the song and the way her voice shines in the chorus.

 

 

 

Pretty fucking epic, right ?

Publication Notes: “Ophelia And The Beast”

I spent my college years unpublished. I wrote a lot of stories and even spent a year writing a novel, most of which never saw the light of day. This isn’t necessarily notable, a lot of young people toil away unpublished for years, but I thought I would be different. I attended Clarion at the age of eighteen. I hoped to publish early and often. But my career didn’t quite work out that way.

I went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. As part of my final project in art school, I designed and wrote my own literary magazine. It would be all retellings of some kind, since I’ve been fascinated with the form for a long time. I did the artwork, the coding, and wrote the stories. I called the site, “The Purple Curtain” off a line from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.

Purple

Those stories turned out to be one of my most successful run of stories. Of the five that ended up on the site, I published three of them. The first of which was “Ophelia And The Beast,” which is now available for the first time online as a reprint in the latest issue of Truancy Magazine.

“Ophelia” has the honor of being my first published piece of fiction and therefore holds a special place in my heart. It was published by a group of fellow Clarionites who called themselves The Ratbastards and the chapbook it was on was chock full of talent, many of whom have gone to publish novels and numerous short stories. Good company indeed!

Here’s a shot of the cover:

Petting Zoo

 

When Nin Harris, editor at Truancy, put out a call for reprints for her retellings magazine, she said she was specifically looking for things that were out of print, forgotten, lost in the ether of published words that come out every year. I immediately thought of “Ophelia” and sent it off to her. Thankfully, she loved it!

The story is a mashup of Ophelia from Hamlet and Beauty and the Beast. Who knew my love of Shakespeare and Disney movies would come together in such a wonderful way. I always felt like Ophelia was one of the saddest characters in all of fiction. Her supposed boyfriend (who isn’t really her boyfriend at all) kills her father in an accident, although she doesn’t know that. She’s so stricken with grief and heart-ache, she drowns herself, initiating another series of bloody conflicts with Hamlet and her brother, Laertes, who Hamlet kills as well.

The famous Beast is also a very sad character. I always thought the adaptions that showed him less gruff and mean and more troubled and lonely were more understanding of his character. By putting these two sad characters together, I thought it would create an interesting story.

From the Purple Curtain series, the other published pieces were “Rapunzel Goes Mad”, published in one of the popular early online magazines, pindelyboz, and archived here: http://theliteraryunderground.org/pindeldyboz/ehrapunzel.html. And the modern day sequel “A Beauty, Sleeping” in the now defunct online magazine The Fortean Bureau.

Finally, I wanted to share some typographical fun I had with the Purple Curtain stories when I was working on that project:

 

beauty

“A Beauty, Sleeping” published in 2004 in a shuttered magazine. No online archives.

rapunzel

“Rapunzel Goes Mad” Published in pindelyboz, archived here. Note: the MAD is written in a font called Twigs I designed for another school project.

purple

“The Problem with Purple” This was an Alice in Wonderland retelling, unpublished.

vampire

“The Vampire Drug” No specific story retelling here, just a quick take on vampire stories. Unpublished. 

ophelia

“Ophelia and The Beast” reprinted in Truancy 6.

 

“Ophelia and the Beast” is now available to read with a gorgeous cover art at the new Truancy website here: http://www.truancymag.com/2019/10/18/truancy-6-september-2019/

What I’m Listening To This Week (9.27.19)

Whitney

I’m a well-documented softie. I like hugs. I cry at movies.

So the particularly charming and ethereal music that two guys from Chicago who call their band Whitney falls right into my wheelhouse.  I was familiar with their first album, mostly due to singles played on the spectacular satellite radio station, Sirius XMU, but nothing grabbed me enough to make me seek out more.

All that changed when I heard “Giving Up,” the lead off track and first single of this incredible little album. It’s a song that wastes no time in trying to elicit the most amount of emotional weight the band’s various tools can muster. There’s the soft tapping on the drums. A melancholy horn. And lead singer’s, Julien Ehrlich, stunning falsetto.

Second song (and second single) is just as good. “Used To Be Lonely” sounds like a peak-Wilco title and has one of the best instrumental breakdowns on the album late in the song. Though the lyrics of this song talk about loneliness in the past (note: “Used To Be..), there’s no mistaking the sad patina over the song and the album has a whole.

Is the whole album a downer? Definitely not. There’s hopefulness and love, lots of love, in the lyrics. And the music has a kind of breezy late summer\fall feeling. Close your eyes and you can see the leaves falling off the trees. It’s a short album clocking it just about 30 minutes and perfect for a cooling walk around the neighborhood. 

Another early highlight is “Valleys (My Love).” The combination of the bright musical elements with the longing-tinged lyrics makes for a memorable combination.

About halfway through the album is a surprise instrumental. The predominance of a horn, played by guitarist Max Kakacek (I think!), is featured heavily on this album and one of the reasons I feel drawn to it. I’ve always loved indie bands that use uncommon instruments in the genre (see: Broken Social Scene).

The title track, “Forever Turned Around”, comes at the end of the album and it feels like the proper emotional comedown. After a few songs that could almost be considered upbeat late in the record, the title track ratchets up the melancholy as Julien sings “Spent a long cold winter thinking about \ The way forever turned around.” Again, the individual elements feel almost sparse, a crooning horn, violins in the background, and just a handful of lyrics, but the combined weight of it, and the preceding album, leave a lasting, powerful, impression.