The Barr Brothers are finally flying above the radar. That, and I’m admittedly a year behind with this discovery. Thanks to the Line of Best Fit, I stumbled across this Montreal-based band after reading a lovely “Folk Innovators” review. Their self-titled album dropped in 2011, but siblings Andrew and Brad Barr, accompanied by harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial, have made consistent appearances at various Canadian jazz and folk festivals and toured with the Low Anthem and Alexi Murdoch. In a time where indie folk outfits dominate the airwaves, the Barr Brothers take a similar sound and soar above the limits of folk music.
Their music is extremely well-crafted, from dreamy, endearing singles like “Beggar in the Morning” and “Cloud” to a bluesy, stomping “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep from Crying.” My favorite is the dark “Deacon’s Son,” featuring Psapp-inspired percussion, steel drums, and an aggressive harp solo (never thought I’d ever see that combo!) It seems disjointed, but in fact, the Barr Brothers prove their versatility and innovation around a rich Americana sound.
In the lively “Give the Devil Back his Heart,” the Barr Brothers summon “every moth barreling towards a flame.” After a year of cultivation, the Barr Brothers can count on a trusted fanbase barreling towards new music.
Now that the end-of-the-semester hiatus is over, I’ve been busy cramming a month’s worth of holiday cheer into a few days. Sure, it sounds like the least joyful way to celebrate, but luckily these songs easily make days merry and bright. This post is brief because my brain is still mush, but here’s a Spotify playlist for are my Top 10 Holiday Songs for the most wonderful time of the year.
- “The Christmas Song” by Catherine Feeney and “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming” by Sufjan Stevens (one of his 5,000 sing-along Christmas jams): Breathless and simple Christmas wishes
- “White Christmas” by Otis Redding (from Love Actually): A cozy sweater. A warm fire. A cuppa hot cocoa.
- “Christmas TV” by Slow Club: Charming and quirky, with lyrics that say, “hoping something good might grow out of this mistletoe.”
- “Fairytale of New York” by Gianni and Sarah (of Walk Off the Earth…aka the 5 people who used one guitar to play Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know”): Not only is this one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, but they use ukeleles and whistle. Natasha of Paper Crown’s Blog sums the song up nicely, saying: “It’s bitter and it’s hopeful, and it’s sad and it’s romantic, and it’s screwed up and it’s human. It’s just real. That’s what makes it such a great Christmas song.” Amen.
- “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi: Fluttering and festive piano chords
Do you have any to add? What are your favorite holiday songs and albums?
*Bonus (because it’s sadly not on Spotify)…Party Hard by Little Isidore: For your Kris Kringlin’ and do-wappin’ enjoyment
Matthew E. White ‘s album Big Inner is baffling the music industry. White’s name is that of an aspiring teen trying to distinguish himself from the other crooning Jason Mrazes. His long hair/Jesus-beard combination channels Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And his music is, well, tough to describe. So difficult, that music publications are combining words like ‘baroque,’ ‘soul,’ ‘Americana,’ and even ‘reggae’ to try and grasp his unique sound. They’re also comparing White to well-known names like Randy Newman and Sharon Von Etten, so it looks like his album Big Inner measures up to some big players. I first scoffed at the absurdities of some of these descriptions, but finally understood after watching his debut video “Will You Love Me” (below). White has crafted an amazing, and equally confusing, gospel/folk/jazz/soul/etc music formula. And it’s working.
Big Inner is an album of many firsts; it marks White’s debut release and the start of his record label Spacebomb. The label gives artists the opportunity to record in the relaxed setting of a Virginian attic, along with White and his band members…and their house choir. In addition to these endeavors, White also runs an “avante-garde jazz band,” Fight the Big Bull.
Matthew E. White’s soothing bass voice supports a (for lack of a better word) big sound. Big Inner opens on swaying, horn-infused “One of These Days,” and is followed by a cosmic, grand “Big Love.” A mix of Beck-inspired instrumentals, with Justin Vernon vocals…and that awesome gospel choir (again- always goes back to the gospel choir). My repeat-track is “Steady Pace,” for it incorporates a Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” funk with sweet bells and strings. Although people aren’t sure where to categorize White on the genre book(music)shelf, that’s probably for the better. Why place a book back on the shelf when you can’t stop rereading certain passages? His sound is too intriguing to put away.