Friday, December 6, 2013


First things first, Lola is not her real name. When she came down to Nashville with nothing in hand but a bus ticket and a guitar missing three strings, with no plan except couch-surfing and playing open mic nights, she would introduce herself simply as "Lola." You would find this out because after her set you would inevitably go up to meet her for yourself. You would do this because she had an act that was so good it scared people. You won't hear another voice like this one. You won't hear song structures or opaquely personal lyrics quite like these. And you definitely won't hear another recording like the one I've linked below. Called I'm a cat, it is, frankly, one of the best indie music offerings I can name. If I had a rating system on Ear to the Rail, which I don't, this EP would be one of those rare tens.

The thing that makes an "artist," more than anything else, is a completely unaffected way way of seeing things just a little differently than the rest of us. Almost anytime someone causes us to look awry at the world, to cock our ear toward the speaker and say "I've never heard that before," we tend to like it. Oftentimes art seems to be a congenital condition, after all, it's hard to fake being stuck with a way of seeing everything from a tilted perspective. It's nice, though, when people sound this good doing it. This music is the chipped teacup, the unexpected face in the dark, the mustache on the Mona Lisa.

Lola's music is not always immediately approachable. It can be difficult to orient yourself with what you are hearing. And even once you've found your place, she keeps you perpetually off-center, shifting when you least expect it from a murderous cacophony of voices (all hers) to the occasionally breathtaking merger of sweet, almost innocent, harmony. Although her music is tonally challenging and at times rhythmically complex, it is not intellectualized. From the first chords of the opening track, "I am positivity," you will recognize this as pure heart music.

I'm resistant to the idea of making comparisons, but you might hear some of Bjork's Medulla in this particular recording--though I'm a cat allows more room for grit, even humor. Like Medulla, it's all acapella. (It is also a collaboration which occasionally features a handful of Nashville musicians called in to lend their parts.) Still, for my money, I'd pick this album over Medulla. I'd pick it over half my record collection if you want the truth.

I am a Cat
by I am Pazuzu:

She is still making new stuff. She's performed under various monikers, from "I am Pazuzu," to "A Parade." For her latest, check out "Cher Von."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Adam Burrows

One word you don't hear quite as much outside of Nashville is "songcraft." And when you do it usually predicates those mainstays in the singer/songwriter genre like Prine, Simon, and, depending on the decade, Dylan. But thanks to a movement that any of today's twenty and thirty-something Nashvillians will tell you is alive and well just east of the Cumberland, we are becoming reacquainted with this type of writing--and we like it. Burrows is just one of those newer artists who is helping this musical approach to reemerge among Nashville's indie crowd, along with Americana, Southern Rock, and just plain ol' Country (the kind that drinks PBR, not the kind that wears straw hats).

While it is not uncommon for a Nashville artist to have attended many a seminar on the art of songwriting, a real sense of story is not common enough in local writer's nights. And often when one does find it, it can be just a little too cute--a little hackneyed. In Borrows' music, however, you will find the genre in good form, offering you a narrative, a purpose, and also a melancholy that, while palpable, seems to emanate from a place that you can't quite pinpoint. What you'll also find in his songs is a thoughtfulness and an attention to structure that separates his turn of phrase from the many singer/songwriters who, while they may have the vocal chops, lack the same sense of metaphor; by comparison, these lesser lyricists leave you with the impression that you've heard something of little more substance than a loosely worded journal entry. (Hence the craft.) Apart from the heavy-hitting writers of the nineteen-seventies, you will no doubt be reminded of a few of the prominent artists from the last few decades who have made the effort to return to "roots" music. Of these, the Counting Crows might come to mind. Still, this is a one-man show. The guitar work is thoroughly competent--fluid even. The vocal is plaintiff without being overly emotional, strained just enough to make its case, which is a good sign, since any message worth saying out loud is worth the concern of the one saying it.

You can find his album here:

In particular, check out "Just Another Adam," "Camden," and "Alone."