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New Music Friday: Jesse Malin, The Avalanches, and Waxahatchee

Mar 20, 2020

By Bella Carles

Jesse Malin wrote “Shane” after celebrating his hero Shane MaGowan’s 60th birthday at the Dublin National Concert Hall (alongside Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins, Bono, Nick Cave, Sinead O’Connor…). “I thanked him for everything; the songs, the stories, the inspiration. I told him that he better not go anywhere, that we still need him.”

Here’s the video, filmed in Dublin and directed by Joseph Quever.

Here’s a little bonus footage of Jesse and Lucinda Williams writing the song.  

Jesse is back home in New York City, following the cancellation of his European tour. Here are some positive words:  

On stage most nights I tell the crowd that touring around the world has made me see how small and beautiful this planet really is, and how connected we all are as people. The fact that we are all alive right now at this very moment is something we need to embrace and make the most of every single day. We need to find ways to be present and loving, no matter what your politics are, your religion, your god, your skin color, or your favorite sports team.  In the end, we all bleed the same. We have lived through a lot of tough times – blackouts, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and now this current coronavirus pandemic – and I have never seen anything like this in my time, but I do know we will get through it somehow. In the meantime, keep a distance so that this virus can die down and we can rebuild even stronger. Now is a good time to turn to family, friends, neighbors, music, movies, meditation, anything that helps keep your head up and your heart beating.  Look at what the Italians are doing.  Sing from your window, your fire escape, your balcony, or your roof. Even from afar, the power of love is stronger than you think. Use this time to reflect on what really matters most. A slower tempo can help you feel the real deal inside. Be brave, open, and stay smart. Keep a positive mental attitude and we will back together before you know it. Happy St. Patty’s Day.  May the luck of the Irish and some PMA get us through.  Jesse Malin, New York

Photo by Olivia Jaffee

Find Jesse Malin at www.jessemalin.com

Today, Astralwerks released The Avalanches’ soaring new single, “Running Red Lights.” Featuring the unmistakable voice of Rivers Cuomo, the track finds the Weezer frontman in a single-minded mood, emotional – “I’m a thundercloud, ready to burst like Schrödinger” – and running red lights to reach his lover. Set against The Avalanches’ ghostly dreamscape, Cuomo sounds as though he’s speeding along a cosmic highway, while synths, harps, and tambourines swell, sparkle and cascade all around. Enter Pink Siifu, incantating the words of the late, great David Berman (lifted from the Purple Mountains’ tune “Darkness And Cold”) and clairvoyance seems to hang in the ether. 

The Avalanches’ Robbie Chater says,

“Running Red Lights” didn’t start out as a defining moment; “a single” as it were. But Rivers responded to our fuzzed-out Spacemen 3 inspired jam with such open-heartedness, that we soon dropped all pretense and got down to the heart of the matter… loss.

We love that wide-eyed, elated, almost evangelical Los Angeles sense of possibility that he tapped into.

He captures that feeling that comes on the other side of the abyss when you have lost everything and so then, there is nothing more to lose.

The way life is so beautiful and overwhelming and heartbreaking all at the same time. Rivers, like us, is always chasing the melancholy, that space…between the notes.

David had agreed to share his words with us for the middle 8 a few years back.
It’s a strange feeling releasing this now, 6 months after his passing, but we are so glad he got to hear the music, and it means a lot to us that he really liked it.

David wrote to me often through some dark, dark years and really pulled me through.

…Running Red Lights…is about such times.

Every moment is a gift. So live fearlessly. If you love someone, tell them.
Without connection…where are we?
As Rivers sings in the fade, “We are all we have…”
We have to have faith that that is enough.

The Avalanches: Robbie Chater & Tony Di Blasi 
Photo by: Grant Spanier 

The accompanying video was created in loving memory of David Berman, who recorded two earlier songs with the band – “A Cowboy Overflow of the Heart” and “Saturday Night Inside Out.” In the clip, Erik Cavanaugh dances through the streets of Hollywood in his high heels, high on a message of hope from a storefront psychic. Following a shattering revelation, he glimpses Angelyne, the original Hollywood billboard queen, and her trademark pink Corvette, and his fortunes change once again. Cavanaugh, a standout performer from the 2016 season of “America’s Got Talent,” has amassed more than 90 million views of his videos in his mission to show that dance is for everybody and anybody. “Running Red Lights” was directed by three-time Emmy nominee Greg Brunkalla (Grouplove, Danny Brown), who also helmed the 2016 video for The Avalanches’“Because I’m Me.”

Greg Brunkalla says, “This was the 2nd video I did with the Avalanches, but the first time I actually met Robbie and Tony in person. For ‘Running Red Lights’ they asked if I could include a few key elements–like neon, a psychic and have it take place in LA. Oh, and they wanted a little heartbreak, a theme that also ran through ‘Because I’m Me.’ I had a great time collaborating with them in LA. When creating music videos, it’s always best to be able to have access to the musicians along the way.”

“Running Red Lights,” which received its first play earlier today on Australian radio station triple j, is from The Avalanches’ forthcoming album. Download/stream “Running Red Lights” feat. Rivers Cuomo & Pink Siifu HERE.

ABOUT THE AVALANCHES:
On their groundbreaking debut, Since I Left You, The Avalanches presented the world with a totally unique sound, crafted by meticulously combining over 3,500 vinyl samples. This approach set a precedent for dance music, inspiring a whole generation of musicians and producers. Released in Australia in 2000 and in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2001, Since I Left You is now regarded as a modern classic, It was named one of the year’s best albums by critics around the world and later placed in the Top 10 of Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s and in the Top 20 of Rolling Stone’s Greatest EDM Albums of All Time. The video for the title track won Best Video at the 2001 MTV Europe Music Awards and was named as one of the top music videos of the 2000s by Pitchfork.

The release and subsequent touring in support of Since I Left You was followed by a 16-year radio silence, which was broken with the release of The Avalanches’ sophomore album, Wildflower (Astralwerks). It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Vinyl Albums chart and atop the Australian Albums chart in 2016. Wildflower earned six ARIA Award nominations and international acclaim, with The Guardian hailing it as “a joyous journey” and Pitchfork proclaiming it “better than just about any music ever made” and “an album that could have been made by nobody but the Avalanches.”

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Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) is gearing up to release her highly anticipated new album Saint Cloud, out March 27th worldwide. Critics are already hailing Saint Cloud as a career-defining album with Crutchfield’s songwriting front and center.

Previously released songs like “Fire” and “Lilacs” have set the stage for what fans can expect from this release, and today Crutchfield has released another track, “Can’t Do Much,” which she says is the first song she wrote for the album. Waxahatchee tells us, “It’s meant to be an extremely unsentimental love song, a love song with a strong dose of reality. It was written early on in a relationship, where the feelings were super intense, but also fear or apprehension were sort of keeping me from totally relaxing in it yet. Sort of like ‘it’s annoying that I love you so much’-totally unromantic, which sort of makes it really romantic to me.”

Written immediately in the period following her decision to get sober, Saint Cloud is an unflinching self-examination. From a moment of reckoning in Barcelona to a tourist trap in Tennessee to a painful confrontation on Arkadelphia Road, from a nostalgic jaunt down 7th Street in New York City to the Mississippi Gulf, Crutchfield creates a sense of place for her soul-baring tales, a longtime staple of her storytelling. This raw, exposed narrative terrain is aided by a shift in sonic arrangements as well. 

Photo by: Molly Matalon

While her last two records featured the kind of big guitars, well-honed noise, and battering sounds that characterized her Philadelphia scene and strongly influenced a burgeoning new class of singer-songwriters, Saint Cloud strips back those layers to create space for Crutchfield’s voice and lyrics. The result is a classic Americana sound with modern touches befitting an artist who has emerged as one of the signature storytellers of her time.

From the origins of her band name-the beloved creek behind her childhood home-to scene-setting classics like “Noccalula” and “Sparks Fly,” listening to Waxahatchee has always felt like being invited along on a journey with a steely-eyed navigator. On Saint Cloud, Crutchfield adds a new sense of perspective to her travels. Reflecting on this, she says, “I think all of my records are turbulent and emotional, but this one feels like it has a little dose of enlightenment. It feels a little more calm and less reckless.”

Many of the narratives on Saint Cloud concern addiction and the havoc it wreaks on ourselves and our loved ones, as Crutchfield comes to a deeper understanding of love not only for those around her but for herself. This coalesces most clearly on “Fire,” which she says was literally written in transit, during a drive over the Mississippi River into West Memphis, and serves as a love song to herself, a paean to moving past shame into a place of unconditional self-acceptance. Coming from a songwriter long accustomed to looking in other directions for love, it’s a stirring moment when Crutchfield sings, “I take it for granted/If I could love you unconditionally/I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky.”

Which is not to say that Saint Cloud lacks Crutchfield’s signature poetry on matters of romantic love. Still, her personal evolution in this area is evident too, as this time around, Crutchfield examines what it really means to be with someone and how it feels to see our own patterns more clearly. On “Hell,” she sings: “I hover above like a deity/But you don’t worship me, you don’t worship me/You strip the illusion, you did it well/I’ll put you through hell.”

Crutchfield also looks at what it’s like to be romantically involved with another artist, someone in search of their own truth, on “The Eye”: “Our feet don’t ever touch the ground/Run ourselves ragged town to town/Chasing uncertainty around, a siren sound” and “We leave love behind without a tear or a long goodbye/as we wait for lightning to strike/We are enthralled by the calling of the eye.”

And of course, even when Crutchfield is taking a more nuanced approach to love, her ease with all-encompassing sentiments is still clear, with lines like “I give it to you all on a dime/I love you till the day I die” which sound culled from a classic torch song.

Album Art by: Molly Matalon

Over the course of Saint Cloud’s 11 songs, which were recorded in the summer of 2019 at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX, and Long Pond in Stuyvesant, NY, and produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Big Red Machine), Crutchfield peels back the distortion of electric guitars to create a wider sonic palette than on any previous Waxahatchee album. It is a record filled with nods to classic country (like the honky-tonk ease of “Can’t Do Much”), folk-inspired tones (heard in the confessional lilt of “St. Cloud”), and distinctly modern touches (like the pulsating minimalism of “Fire”).

To bolster her vision, Crutchfield enlisted Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox, both of the Detroit-based band Bonny Doon, to serve as her backing band on the record, along with Josh Kaufman (Hiss Golden Messenger, Bonny Light Horseman) on guitar and keyboards and Nick Kinsey (Kevin Morby, Elvis Perkins) on drums and percussion. Bonny Doon will also perform as Crutchfield’s live band during her extensive tours planned for 2020, which include the US and Europe.

Saint Cloud marks the beginning of a journey for Crutchfield, one that sees her leaving behind past vices and the comfortable environs of her Philadelphia scene to head south in search of something new. If on her previous work Crutchfield was out in the storm, she’s now firmly in the eye of it, taking stock of her past with a clear perspective and gathering the strength to carry onward.

Waxahatchee will be hitting the road this April for a huge world tour including North America. All dates are listed below. Pre-order Saint Cloud here.

TOUR DATES:
PLEASE NOTE – These shows in bold will be rescheduled for later in the year. We will have new dates for these shortly. Please hold onto your tickets and await further news:
4/10 – Detroit, MI @ Jam Handy *
4/11 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theater *
4/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer *
4/15 – Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts *
4/16 – Boston, MA @ Royale
4/17 – Providence, RI @ Columbus Theatre *
4/18 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere ^
4/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere ~
4/23 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club *
4/24 – Saxapahaw, NC @ Haw River Ballroom *
4/25 – Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge *
4/26 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West *
4/27 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn *
4/29 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Mid City Ballroom *
4/30 – Houston, TX @ The Satellite *
5/1 – Dallas, TX @ Sons of Hermann Hall *
5/2 – Austin, TX @ Scholz Garten *
5/4 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress +
5/7 – Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy and Harriet’s +
5/8 – Los Angeles, CA @ First Congregational Church of LA +
5/9 – San Francisco, CA @ The Castro Theatre
5/10 – Sonoma, CA @ Gundlach Bundschu Winery +
5/12 – Portland, OR @ The Old Church +
5/13 – Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater +
5/14 – Vancouver, BC @ Christ Church Cathedral +
5/15 – Seattle, WA @ The Neptune Theatre +
5/17 – Guadalajara, MX @ Corona Capital Guadalajara
5/20 – Maquoketa, IA @ Codfish Hollow Barn
5/21 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe *
5/22 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre *

6/24 – Bristol, UK @ The Fleece
6/25 – Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds
6/26 – Manchester, UK @ YES
6/27 – London, UK @ Islington Assembly Hall
6/29 – Paris, FR @ Petit Bain
6/30 – Wiesbaden, DE @ Schlachthof
7/1 – Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
7/2 – Roskilde, DK @ Roskilde Festival
7/3 – Gothenburg, SE @ Pustervik
7/4 – Oslo, NO @ John Dee
7/6 – Stockholm, SE @ Hus 7
7/8 – Madrid, SP @ Mad Cool Festival
7/9 – Berlin, DE @ Frannz Club
7/10 – Hannover, DE @ Cafe Glocksee
7/11 – Köln, DE @ Artheater
7/14 – Strasbourg, FR @ La Grenze
7/15 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso

* w/ Ohmme
^ w/ Radiator Hospital
~ w/ Bonny Doon & Shamir

+ w/ Mirah

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