Yesterday a coworker asked me for advice about starting a blog. I told him that it’s easy to get blocked because you want to find the perfect topic to write about; you want to kick off your venture with something insightful, provocative, and illustrative of your own expertise. I told him to forget all that—the best way to start a blog is to just start.
I clearly need to take my own advice. It’s been a freakishly long time since I’ve written here, and even though I’ve posted a smattering of things for other sites, I’ve essentially been MIA from the blogging world. But don’t worry—I haven’t exactly been twiddling my thumbs.
What have I been up to? Well, the company I worked for was acquired by LinkedIn back in April. I’m now an editor working on the company’s content branch, LinkedIn Today. This includes the Influencer program, where luminaries like Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Jack Welch, and many more share their thoughts on our platform. I help with all things editorial and also tweet over at @LinkedInToday. Come say hello.
I’d be lying if I said working for a 4300-person corporation didn’t terrify me at first; coming from the start-up world (Pulse was my previous largest company at a whopping 25 employees), the prospect of a Real Company like LinkedIn was intimidating. But I’ve found that my team operates very much like a start-up—or, more accurately, a newsroom. I work with amazing folks who cut their teeth at publications like Fortune, Wired, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and the AP. As one of the team’s only non-journalists, I’m getting a crash course in the state of modern content. I’m learning about ledes and heds and higher ed and the Fed taper and all sorts of things I hadn’t contemplated much since college. I’ve been mired in this music world for so long, I’d almost forgotten that most people don’t get their news from Pitchfork or Consequence of Sound.
With that in mind, I’m not sure what’s next for this blog. What was once a catalog of all the folky goodness I’d discovered on the web has now become a ghost town. I want to get back into the swing of blogging, but my focus is going to be a bit broader than the latest quartet coming out of Brighton. My new gig has given me a lot of food for thought, and I need a place for the feast.
Expect more from Red. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but it’s nice to be back.
I’m a big fan of Adam Sharp‘s Songs for the Day, a blog that surfaces amazing talent literally every. single. day. (Needless to say, he’s a more diligent blogger than I am.) I asked him to compile some of the artists he bets will break this year—or, at the very least, will make 2013 sound pretty darn pleasant. Read on to hear more…
Below are 5 artists you may or may not know already, but who will all be, by my estimation, heavily involved in the soundtrack to your life in the coming year. Let’s see what your year is going to sound like, shall we?
Alejandro Rose-Garcia doesn’t make music that sounds like the stuff other folks are making. Not many people are rolling around the back roads playing their guitar and briefcase drum set while singing about things like gunslingers, women, convicts, booze and wary roaming (sometimes all in one tune). The music of Shakey Graves is at once fresh, familiar, unique and memorable, full of deep truths and wisdom under its cowboy exterior.
There aren’t a lot of artists that would dare start their debut full-length album with an a capella tune, but then again Winston Yellen isn’t most artists. In Country Sleep, the debut album from Night Beds, Yellen has created a stunningly personal, vulnerable and brave piece of work from beginning to end. It’s an album that packs quite the painful punch under the surface of its uniquely gorgeous arrangements, Yellen’s tales of lost love, loneliness, pain and depression always lurking below the strums and strings, armed and ready to reach up and shake you.
Led by the powerhouse vocals of Galen Disston, Pickwick makes the kind of music that will simultaneously stop you dead in your tracks and force you to dance when it starts coming through your speakers. Combining equal parts soul, indie rock and psychedelic rock, this Seattle sextet is producing some of my favorite music being made today. Get your weird dancing shoes ready, kids- when Pickwick blows through town you’re gonna want to be there, and you’re surely going need said shoes.
You could use a lot of words to describe the music that Daughter makes (I know, I’ve used most of them), but the only one you truly need is ‘haunting’. The dark stories of love, loss and alienation being woven in Elena Torna’s songs are haunting. The arrangements that build and burst throughout are haunting. And Torna’s voice, sometimes confident and strong, other times frail and apprehensive, is haunting. Daughter makes music that sticks with you long after the notes fade away.
There are two versions of Noah Gundersen: the one on tape and the one who plays live. There’s the songwriter just realizing his potential, penning stunning songs full of words that cut deep and raising questions that need answers. Then there’s the performer, the one who, with his sister Abby at his side, possesses a power that hushes a crowd from first note to last. You need both of versions of Noah Gundersen in your life in 2013.
Communion further expands its reach with a new weekly show on Xfm, Communion Presents. Hosted by all-around rad dude Maz Tappuni, the show launches today and takes place Sundays at 10pm. The inaugural episode (which you can hear here) features music by Deap Vally, Frightened Rabbit, The Staves, Public Enemy (obviously), and more. And, as all good radio shows do these days, Communion Presents has its own psychic: Mr. Kev Jones.
In other news, Communion band To Kill a King have released a new video for ‘Cold Skin’, the single from upcoming debut LP Cannibals With Cutlery. I’m not sure I totally ‘get’ the film, but watch it for yourself and analyze away. There’s a bit of a Waiting for Godot-meets-Lord of the Flies vibe, if you ask me.
I said I’d blog more about my life, so here goes:
I’m getting more in the groove of things at Pulse, and even though I’m still working like a fiend, it’s nice to be making some headway. I’m fleshing out our blog, and in the past two weeks have interviewed The 405, Saveur, and VICE. Getting the ball rolling!
I made these Nutella buns from the Saveur post. Mmmmm.
I saw Alt-J at Bottom of the Hill a couple weeks ago, and realized it was the first gig I’d gone to in almost two months. TWO MONTHS. Crazytown, right?! The show was great, and not just because the Mercury Prize winners are absolute geniuses: it turns out I’d really missed the live music fire-in-your-belly, and because I saw the early set, I was in bed by 10:30. I call that an old lady win-win.
After the show, my friend and I discussed a) how on earth you can accurately classify Alt-J (does ‘art rock’ really cut it?), and b) how soon their triangle hand gesture will become a meme/Instagram competition. Feel free to share your opinions on these urgent topics in the comments or on Twitter, as all I’m talking about currently is sleeping, the apocalypse, and baked goods. Save me from myself.
I realize I forgot to share a true highlight of the year with you all: I interviewed Laura Marling. I owe the delightful folks at Mxdwn my hearty thanks, as they allowed me to geek out with one of my musical idols. See the full interview here. She has a new album coming up, about which she says: “I’m really happy with it, I’m proud of it, but I think I can say that it will be a challenge to listen to.” Challenge: accepted.
A few of the things I’ve been listening to this week:
Capital Cities – Caught these guys at Mezzanine a few months ago, haven’t looked back. Their disco-pop is addicting.
To Kill a King – Loved this London band for a while, and their LP will be out in February. Check out recent EP Word of Mouth.
Dry the River – Just released an acoustic version of LP Shallow Bed! Intense hits like ‘New Ceremony’ have a totally different feel.
Papa – still loving their recent new single, ‘Put Me To Work’, which is a bit more amped up than their A Good Woman Is Hard To Find EP. Listen here.
The aforementioned Alt-J. Bonus: ‘Matilda’ quotes Johnny Flynn.
Patch and the Giant – A Folkroom find. If you want to be transported to a 16th century English pub, check out this band’s drinking-song vibes.
Haim – Just one word for new single/B-side ‘Don’t Save Me’/'Send Me Down’: obsessed.
By ‘Folkdates’ I wish I meant ‘dates in which folk music was discussed and/or heard’ (I’m looking at you, Charlie Fink doppelgänger in the corner), but in this context I mean updates. Folk updates. Get it? Thankfully, the winter season seems to bring out the best in acoustic music; I guess it’s natural for folkies to get in the Christmas spirit, but there’s plenty of non-seasonal folk popping up as well, like Three Blind Wolves‘ new single ‘Parade’ on Spinner. Anyway, onto the updates:
Anyone who’s ever met me has probably heard about Folkroom, the label/folk night that showcases an increasingly wide variety of artists from ye olde Londontown. I visited one of their nights at The Queen’s Head when I visited London last year, and co-founder Stephen Thomas even wrote me a guest post a while back. I’m a fan.
For the holiday season, Folkroom artist Lucy Cait has been running an advent calendar on her new website, lucycait.com. From giveaways to gingerbread recipes to new songs, these treats are way better than the usual advent offering of stale chocolates. Lucy’s music is the gift that keeps on giving, and she seems to have quite a bit up her sleeves for 2013.
My past few Christmases have been accompanied by the excellent For Folk’s Sake It’s Christmas albums, and this year is no exception. The latest version features some of my favorite up-and-coming UK folksters: Ellen and the Escapades, Tom Williams, Gerard & the Watchmen, Feldspar, Admiral Fallow, Gibson Bull, Stylusboy, and more.
Feldspar doesn’t just cover one of my favorite Christmas songs on the FFS album (‘In the Bleak Midwinter’), they’ve also released a video for awesome original track ‘The Flat and Paper Sky’. Watch the video below, and catch them at my all-time favorite London pub, The Old Queen’s Head, on January 16th.
Props to the old lady getting inked in the church.
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently started working for Pulse, a beautiful news reader app for iPhone, iPad, Android, and web. As soon as I heard about the job I started thinking about the myriad of possibilities for social content, and that was Sign #1 that it was the right step for me. I’ve been brainstorming and honing strategy ever since, and even though I’ve been working really flipping hard to learn the ropes, I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m inspired by my smart, dedicated coworkers, and there’s no doubt that this job has already contributed to the lengthy process of getting my groove back.
I’m at that place now where I want to fast-forward past the awkward stage. Since time immemorial (or rather, since my first barista job in high school), I’ve taken time to roll into things; I get trapped in my own insecurities until about three months in. I’m sure this is normal to some extent, but I’m especially frustrated by it this time around. I know myself well enough to realize that the non-stuttering, non-insane me would probably be friends with my coworkers, and that’s something I’ve found to be extremely important. Everyone says they want a president they could ‘grab a beer with’, and that’s how I feel about the people I see at the office day in and day out.
I know I’ll get there. I had a mini-epiphany the other day: it hit me that I don’t have to be shy, even though I’ve labeled myself as such since forever ago. I’m not exactly a quiet person, so why do I get so stuck when I’m getting to know people? Anyway, the courage from said epiphany lasted about ten minutes, but the thought’s lingered. Progress, amirite?
Time to get personal, y’all.
This blog has been left to its own devices for far too long. Sure, that’ll happen when you enter that blessed-yet-stressful thing called Full-Time Employment; this time last year, I was focusing all my energy on writing and exploring the music landscape. Now I’ve dialed back my blogging (both here and elsewhere) in favor of some truly enriching day jobs, and since starting at Pulse a few weeks ago, I’ve been happily exploring new social media terrain. But here’s the thing: I miss it. I miss writing for me, I miss stumbling upon a new artist and thinking they’re the Second Coming (don’t pretend you don’t do that, music bloggers). I miss being part of the discussion. I haven’t had the emotional oomph to write for fun in a long time, but I think it’s starting to come back. I can’t tell you how great it felt to get that itch again.
I try not to use this as a personal, ‘let’s talk about feelings’ sort of blog, but I think I will for a while. I’ve been in a bit of a rut, and I want my mojo back, thankyouverymuch. I want desperately to be sparked by music again (and I know I’ll get there), but in the meantime, bear with me as I cast the topical net wider. I called this post ‘Ebbs and Flows’ because that’s what life feels like right now: I may be past the dry spell, but things aren’t steady yet.