S.O.W.S. “Hey Mami” by Sylvan Esso

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


sylvan esso - sylvan esso

Playful, infectious, throbbing electronica; that is how I am best able to sum up this week’s featured artist, Sylvan Esso. The duo spawns from the the ambitions and collaboration of vocalist Amelia Randall Meath and electronic engineer Nicholas Sanborn. Once again I found this up and coming group on NPR Music. What a wealth of good music?

My favorite aspect of this song from their latest self-titled album is that it reminds me somewhat of the whim of 90’s Pop production. Artists like Bjork at the time were playing with the concept of setting a song; creating a story of the physical location of a recording. The intro to “Hey Mami” uses that concept as it transitions from a vocal round being sung on a bustling street corner into the clean throbbing bass at the core of the song. I couldn’t help but play the song on repeat until I had it memorized.

S.O.W.S. “Violin” by Amos Lee

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


amos lee - mission bell

As far as songwriters go, this week’s artist, Amos Lee, has his own brand of character. His words are profound and evocative and the voice that carries them is reminiscent of old-time folk singers like Willie Nelson. This week I am sharing his song “Violin” because of the context it has had in my life through the past few months. I have been working through an unfamiliar transition with new hardships. In my efforts to combat these ups and downs, I have reawakened more of the musician in me that has overseen the blessings that music offers during times like these. Here are a couple of lyrics from the song that I have related to most:

“Lately I / I’ve been heading for a breakdown / Every time I leave my house / Well, it feels just like a shake down. / … / Oh, God, why you been / Hanging out in that ol’ violin / While I’ve been waiting for you / To pull me through?”

It seems to me (and you are welcome to find other meaning in these lyrics) that Mr. Lee has overlooked the answers to his grief that rest right in front of him; inside “that ol’ violin,” much the same way I have. God has given me the means to pull my own self through what tries to hold me back on a regular basis, even if at times I am the one hindering my progress in this world. Thank God for music!

S.O.W.S. “Quarter Chicken Dark” by Various

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


various - goat rodeo sessions

You know that feeling when discovering new music can feel in fact rather nostalgic. That is what I felt when I first heard the Yo-Yo Ma project, The Goat Rodeo Sessions. This group is made up of four of the most talented musicians on their instruments of choice including Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. More so, I would even go as far as to say that they are the pioneers of those instruments. “Quarter Chicken Dark” first came to me on a Thile-heavy Pandora station that intrigued me enough to research the project further and to my surprise, this prestigious quartet fell into my lap and I in turn fell for them. While the style of their music is rather collaborative, the sound reminds me a bit of Punch Brothers. Perhaps that is where the sense of nostalgia comes from; finding something new that is reminiscent of something older and rich in sentiment.

How would I characterize this song?… In a nutshell, I see it as Bluegrass Art Music, or artistically contrived bluegrass likely stemmed from the fact that such virtuosic performers are playing in such a common genre. That is what makes this music so genuine; it is hard to pigeonhole. I find that more and more music should be these days and it makes everyone involved (including us the listeners) better for it. Enjoy.

S.O.W.S. “Poison & Wine” by The Civil Wars

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


civil wars - barton hollow
The Civil Wars can be considered a folk music tragedy in some respects. After releasing their second full studio album last year, the duo announced their hiatus as a result of “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” It was truly unfortunate news because, while their catalogue was short-lived, it was marked by beautiful songwriting and a unique chemistry not often found between two songwriters these days.

I fell in love with their evocative harmonies and captivating dynamic when I first saw their NPR Tiny Desk Concert. The live video clip for this week’s song includes that full performance below. I find that while “Poison & Wine” is not their most high-energy song to date, it displays the kind of emotion that is characteristic of all their music. This song was also the hook that got me interested in the first place. However, I would highly recommend investing the time into their newer self-titled record The Civil Wars.

S.O.W.S. “Something Oceanic” by Third Seven

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


third seven - cascadia

Third Seven is much more than just an inspiring artist. He is a pioneer for the brand of genuine sincerity that we should all seek for in art and music. His songwriting is forged from a part of the soul that much of the music industry has long forgotten and buried under money and image. I have been subjected to the creations of this solo artist for as long as I can remember and have listened to his cello playing since I was an adolescent. Known to the rest of the world as Third Seven (some have even called him a “Cello Wizard”), I have always known him as my brother Billy.

Third Seven is a concept that Billy Mickelson calls himself when he performs solo; just a voice, his cello, and some beats, which is a modest understatement of the complexity of what he creates. Billy is always touring and creating new music. He has performed in virtually every state in the lower 48 and has seen more of Europe touring his music, than most of us hope to see in a lifetime.

Something Oceanic strikes me as a hypnotic love song for the ocean. I find that the looped rhythm rocks the listener like waves out at sea, while the rising chord progression reaches up towards a celestial plateau. This song is only one of the many amazing songs that Billy has shared with the world in his recordings and performances. Cascadia is his latest full-length album of all new music and I hope that you find to time to listen to it from end-to-end. Please, head over to thirdseven.com to download the album for yourself, and don’t forget to offer a donation as well. I know that Billy would greatly appreciate it.

S.O.W.S. “Glamour Box (Ostinati)” by Ulver

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


ulver - messe_i.x-vi.x

Since I was first introduced to the world of Ulver when I was in junior high, they have been one of my greatest sources of inspiration and favorite bands I have ever had the privilege of listening to. Their music is always evolving in the best ways possible and I envy their ability to create what ever they want and be successful doing so. That is a dream come true for any artist.

Their latest masterpiece, Messe I.X-IV.X, is a powerhouse of collaboration. Commissioned by the Tromsø Kulturhus (House of Culture) in their native Norway, Ulver performed this inspired work with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. These compositions were created and arranged by Ulver with the help of composer Martin Romberg, whose touch should not go unnoticed in this collaborative effort.

In relation to their other albums, the band has said that Messe I.X-IV.X best feels like a companion to their 2007 release Shadows of the Sun (another album in my library that I am rather fond of).

Below, I would like to quote from the album’s mini-site:

“The Norwegian masters have evolved over the past two decades to cross an astonishing body of disciplines, taking in ambient, avant-garde, electronic, psychedelic, prog and jazz influences. Now it is their electronic, atmospheric and classical sensibilities which come to the fore. In a short message to their fans – subtly alluding to the darkness of history – the band named some of their influences for Messe I.X–VI.X:
«Gorecki’s No. 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It haunted us for years and probably always will. The Gustavs Mahler and Holst. Sound collages from When or Nurse with Wound. 70’s kraut and synth. Ash Ra and Autobahn. 80’s pop scores. John Carpenter and Tin Drum. Terry Riley, again and again and again. Saint John of the Cross.»
Ulver summer 2013″

I really could not have said it any better myself. I extend my appreciation to Kscope records for all they do on behalf of their artists. They are great people.

Since this week’s song is a part of such a compositional album, it was difficult to choose one piece from the six. Glamour Box (Ostinati), paired with Song Of Man at the heart of the album, only stood out to me as exceptional works. I highly recommend taking the 45 minutes to meditate with the album in its entirety. Enjoy.

S.O.W.S. “Royals” by Lorde

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MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


lorde - pure heroine

Some may say that this week’s song is a bit overdue or perhaps outdated when it comes to how fast pop music moves in and out of the popular listening circuit these days, but I would argue that that is exactly the point of a song like this one; a bit counter-culture.

Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor was born in New Zealand in November 1996 (and that is not a typo, she is only 17). Known by her stage name, Lorde, Ella’s record Pure Heroine was a number one hit within the first month of its release in the U.S. In interviews Lorde had acknowledged, “I had a sneaking suspicion that it might do all right,” and that is an understatement. Pure Heroine sold 85,000 copies within the first week of its release.

But, what makes Lorde so special? There have been plenty of one-hit wonders that top the charts. I find that what sets her apart from the rest of her pop/hip-hop counterparts is that she does not identify with that sect of the music world. In fact, she fights against it. The lyrics in “Royals” tell a story about living within an average lifestyle and being content in that. She has even gone as far as requesting that radio stations stop playing “Royals” in an effort to give her listeners “breathing room before she releases new music.” She also said in interviews that she would hate for her fans to start hating her music because it is overplayed. I think we can all attest to pop music being overplayed on T.V. and radio. That is a sense of maturity that is well beyond her years, and I find it admirable and worth sharing in today’s S.O.W.

S.O.W.S. “Retrograde” by James Blake

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MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


james blake - overgrown

James Blake was yet another wonderful find from the NPR Music All Songs Considered program. My thanks this week are due to them. They seem to enrich my life everyday.

James Blake was one of those artists that got me interested in a whole new vein of music. His style has echoes of past Soul and R&B artists while creating it into his own unique brand of Electronic Synth. There are even subtleties of Blues in his music, especially in Retrograde, which is the characteristic that personally draws me into his newest record, Overgrown. When the song begins, Blake is humming a soulful yet somehow haunting theme that sets the stage for the rest of the track. When I first heard the intro, I couldn’t believe that so much bluesy soul could come out of this white guy from London, which seems to be the general first impression when people hear Blake’s voice for the first time.

Blake’s infused style paired with the rising synth swells are what give one gooseflesh in a way only music can. It reminds me a modern take on 90s Trip hop, like artists Portishead, Tricky, or Massive Attack. Call it Post-Trip Hop, if you will.

S.O.W.S. “Renaissance!” by San Fermin

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


san fermin - san fermin

For this weeks S.O.W. I would like to extend my thanks to NPR Music. Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton are the iconic hosts of an NPR Music stable called “All Songs Considered.” This program is an amazing source of new music and comes with a healthy serving of genuine musical insight from this dynamic duo. I found San Fermin through a quaint concert series live from the NPR Music office called Tiny Desk Concerts (another amazing source of new music and inspiration). These concerts are intimate, stripped, and raw performances from some of the best artists I have ever seen. Anyway, on to the music…

San Fermin is one of those bands that composers/songwriters dream of becoming. The group is the brainchild of Brooklyn native and Yale-studied composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone and these origins become rather evident when you listen to his rich and heartwarming arrangements. It is classical avant-garde meets indie pop and the two marry together in the best way possible. Renaissance! was one of those songs that hit me on a very powerful level. As a writer and creator in the musical era we live in, I often go months without finding something of true inspiration that enriches my soul more and more every time I listen, and Renaissance! was just that. Check out their self-titled album, and you can hear it for yourself.

S.O.W.S. “Pale On Pale” by Chelsea Wolfe

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MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


chelsea wolfe - apokalypsis
Inspired largely by black metal, Chelsea Wolfe‘s sonorous, bleak yet inspiring style is all her own. Songs like Pale On Pale are unique gems that provoke a broad spectrum of emotion. Wolfe’s haunting vocals and guitar drones summon the rapport of folk, the hum of death rock, and bleakness of black metal that create a truly hypnotic sensation.

Chelsea Wolfe was one of the many artists that I had the fortune of learning about through my brother. He has a vast taste in music and has influenced a significant portion of my interests. Chelsea Wolfe makes the kind of music that you float along with on a long road trip or on a rainy day. Pale On Pale specifically, is one of those songs that you find yourself listening to and end up humming to yourself days later. Her melodies have that tendency to float through your subconscious and leak out at the most unexpected times.