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Workshop Hi-Fi June

posted by Matt Pierce on June 15, 2017

Reviewing Feist, Julie Byrne, and Father John Misty

Welcome to Workshop Hi-Fi for June! I’ve been playing these records constantly for the last month and have taken a while longer than usual to talk about them. Each has chill vibes and gravity for DAYS, so maybe that’s what has kept me couch-locked instead of in front of my laptop? Regardless, now is the time to talk about these three beautiful babies.

I’ve been waiting for the new Feist record for a while. It’s been 2011 since Metals was released and not quite as long since I’ve seen her play live. I’m always entranced by her writing and layered arrangements, and the new record Pleasure delivers in spades. 

The title track begins with a simmer and assuredly builds to a lively anthem in the last minute mark. I love how her guitar playing follows her voice and goes beyond when necessary in a buzzy, hard-picking raunch. The amount of noise that she can create with Pleasure will vibrate your eyeballs.  

I seem to love music that crushes you into bits. “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You” is a real bummer in the best way. Perfect Feist formula, poignant lyrics with a little underlying feedback, trippy effects, delicate picking and blunt strumming… It documents the demise and aftermath of a relationship that may or may not had me thinking of past pickup trucks I’ve owned and may or may not led me to squeak out a solitary tear.

“Get Not High, Get Not Low” speaks to my last two years perfectly and maybe I’m listening to this record in the same way one would read a favorable fortune cookie…’THAT IS TOTALLY ME!’, but I don’t really care. Instead of waxing poetic about every damn song, I’ll just say this whole album feels like a long-overdue letter from a friend and you should totally check it out.

What does napping in a hammock in the forest sound like? In my brain, it’s Julie Byrne’s record Not Even Happiness. Heavy folk feels, subdued strumming, accomplished fingerpicking, an assured voice and detailed songwriting give this album a deep feeling of wisdom that is usually reserved for masters like Leonard Cohen. Byrne jumps into this heaviness with absolute confidence and paints a consistently beautiful, dreamy picture throughout the record. 

“Sleepwalker” seems to detail how a supremely confident Byrne reacts to the surprise of meeting someone interesting enough to throw her off-guard a little bit. It’s the hints of vulnerability that make this record more approachable for the listener too and will pull you into it. 

Even though she was born in Buffalo, there’s a long record of cities she’s lived in. It’s evident in her lyrics that her time in the Midwest played a part to her writing. References of the prairie tug on my own nostalgic feelings of growing up in the plains and if you mention Kansas in a song, I’m most likely fully aligned. 

How do you counter two amazingly introspective records from songwriters that place personal discovery over selfishness and spite? You obviously put on a Father John Misty record. On the surface, it’s an intricately written and professionally performed piece that has a strong relation to the previous two albums… However, the more you dig into Tillman’s lyrics, you realize that this fella is way more of a cynical grumpy-ass. 

If you read the lyrics without the accompaniment of his beautifully crafted arrangements and layers of instruments, you could potentially feel supremely offended. Though, if you have an even an ounce of humility and a mild sense of humor, his songs are a wry commentary on our societal hang-ups and can be a more entertaining reminder of human behavior than a Louis C.K. show. 

“Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” is a perfect song to show his methods. His critical storytelling is draped with that smooth voice, sweeping production, a brilliant horn section, jazzy drumming, and a grand piano. If you’re offended with what he’s saying, you might not even notice. A friend told complained that he’s a lazy songwriter and I absolutely disagree. It might seem to be easy creating commentary on current events and the state of human consciousness, but it’s the craft and delivery that makes writing like his so difficult to successfully replicate. It’s indulgent, it’s cynical, it’s critical, but it’s also supremely entertaining. 

 

 

Feist's new record Pleasure

Julie Byrne, Not Even Happiness

Pure Comedy, Pleasure and Not Even Happiness

Father John Misty, vinyl Pure Comedy