Like the grand majority of modern metal fans, our tastes here at Heavy Blog are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a recurring column which covers noteworthy news, tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Prepare To Be Spellbound By The Beauty Of Pearl Lion‘s “Big Sky”
Some music is just meant to be paired up with visuals. Instrumental post-rock, of course, is no stranger to this, as many of those pioneering bands have gone on to provide the soundtracks and scores to many a film, TV show, commercial, and more. There can be just something so beautiful about the right piece of contemplative music hand-in-hand with equally striking visual content, and this video from Pearl Lion is proof of that.
Pearl Lion is the moniker of Jared Scharff, a multi-instrumentalist and longtime guitarist for Saturday Night Live‘s house band. Scharff will be releasing a double mini-album project entitled Dark and Light later this year, and “Big Sky” is our first taste of the Light side of things. The track features a lovely mixture of ruminative guitar that would fit right in the canon of classic Americana post-rock like Explosions in the Sky with hints of darker pulsing synths underneath. It’s a combination that bands like sleepmakeswaves have perfected and lends itself well to big emotions and equally big visuals. At only 3:15 it doesn’t waste too much time before swelling to its climatic peak, but it’s a thoroughly pleasant ride through and through.
What elevates the piece entirely though is the video it’s paired with. Working with filmmaker Dan Huiting, who is both a member of Bon Iver and also the senior producer for Pitchfork’s stunning “City of Music” series, the two took the track’s namesake and elevated to its highest form. Huiting documented a road-trip through many of America’s most wide open and pristine places of beauty in the southwest, hitting up Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Desert, and all along Route 66. The results are a mixture of utterly spellbinding timelapse footage and slow-moving close-ups of other incredible landscape fixtures. Particularly as someone who also does much of this kind of work for a living, all I can do really is tip my hat to Huiting, who just absolutely nailed both the feel of the piece while depicting some simply jaw-dropping visuals. This is just simply a must-watch.
Pearl Lion’s Dark and Light will be released together later this year, though no official release date has been made public yet.
You Don’t Know Jim Croce
You don’t know Jim Croce. You might have found yourself singing along to “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” in the car, or connected with the lyrics in “Time in a Bottle”, or been pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of “I Got a Name” in Django Unchained – but you don’t know Jim. He tragically died in a plane crash in September of 1973 at the peak of his burgeoning commercial success. The hits he left behind have survived into the current day as epitaphs of his excellence, but they only reveal a sliver of what he had to offer.
Jim Croce possesses a greater gift for wringing vocal melody out of simple notes than anyone I’ve ever heard. His sonorous croak cloaked in cigarette smoke sounds almost inherently melodic, and is equally at home at a truck stop or a gala. Apart from the golden pipes themselves, Croce’s mastery of voice modulation allows for subtle inflections that give texture and spirit to every melody. Take any Jim Croce song and listen closely to his voice. The delivery on every word is minutely crafted, but he never resorts to oversinging.
The guitarwork provided by Croce’s partner in crime Maury Muehleisen complements the music very well, working around the melodies delivered by Jim without upstaging them. Listen to the airy flight of the soft electric guitar in “Hey Tomorrow” contrasting with the blues of Croce. The song would be abjectly depressing without the guitar lines, but the tone of the song is completely reframed by the hopeful, rising melody of Muehleisen.
In addition to his vast musical talents, Jim Croce was a gifted storyteller who could bring characters to life in his songs. “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” is certainly his most famous invention, but Croce also sung into being the “Roller Derby Queen,” “Big Jim Walker,” “Rapid Roy” (the stock car boy!) and even brought music to Rudyard Kipling’s “Gunga Din.” But of all the colorful characters Croce introduced into the world, perhaps the most compelling one of all was Croce himself. His autobiographical ballads keen with the regrets and hardships Croce experienced in his life. “A Long Time Ago”, “The Hard Way Every Time”, “Box #10”, “King’s Song”, and so many others resonate with the genuine emotion that can only come from a master songwriter directly translating their feelings into music.
Jim Croce was taken far too soon, but not before he blessed the world with some of the most honest and heartbreakingly beautiful acoustic ballads ever written. Take a minute and get to know Jim.
Listen to Message to Bears Sing a Song Carved From Tides
Apparently, Message To Bears has been around for a long time. The project, being the musical moniker of one Jerome Alexander, has been releasing music since 2007. And yet, its sonorous, electronic post rock only reached my ears now. From what I gather online and among its followers, it is a good time to get started; Carved From Tides is the name of the new album and, apparently, it’s a big step upward for the project. On it, the softer sides of 65daysofstatic and Nordic Giants are channeled alongside massive, melodic atmospheres to create a rich, soothing and evocative atmosphere. It is both a chilled album and a moving now, fog at the top of an exhilarating climb.
From the first track, “Never Be”, the basic lushness of the album can be deciphered. Listen to the synths as they undulate across multiple parts, both backbone and heady mist. The drums, richly programmed and executed, are more of a soothing pulse than a crashing beat, reverberating through everything like heartbeats through skin. On top sit the vocals, soft and beckoning but yet also melancholy. Later on in the album, everything so far gets elaborated on with live instruments. This conjunction, seen for example on “Culprate’s Deliverance,” is simply exquisite. On “Spin/Float” for example, live guitars live aside the electronic instruments, adding a human touch to the composition.
The live elements serve to ground the otherwise out there experience into an intimate and unique experience. Many other such instances exist on this album but this is really a creation best experienced rather than read about. You already know what you need to know: expansive electronics, touching vocals, an out-there approach to atmosphere that will be familiar to any listener of post rock and, finally, a blend between intensely electronic and “synthetic” sounds and natural, warm recordings. Now, go out there (or get in here) and take the journey for yourself. The specifics moments are sure to steal your heart.