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. “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. “Minnesota, WI” by Bon Iver

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


bon iver - bon iver

In an almost unexpected way, Bon Iver‘s latest, self-titled album took the nation by storm. Pitchfork rated it a 9.5 out of 10 and credited it as Best New Album. The album featured a different sonority than was utilized in their 2007 debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, or even (my favorite) Blood Bank. This “new” sound for Bon Iver exposes a brighter, more hopeful demeanor.

A friend of mine, who had never heard of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon, or the unique vocal style that he produces, fell head-over-heels for this new record. This friend helped me to re-recognize and reestablish my favorite qualities in this band. The main two of which include (1) the unavoidable, hunting yet heart-warming wash of sound that is heard in each song, and (2) the awesome way in which Vernon turns a phrase. It is fairly evident that he really enjoys using cryptic language in his songs, as can be seen in his lyrics and song titles. Bon Iver particularly possess and highlights this cryptic nature through Vernon’s use of clever geography in the song titles. Vernon and I have that in common. I enjoy a good pun, turn of phrase, or riddle any day and that makes this album right up my alley. The album also has an awesome soaring energy that comes from the strong melodies and inspiring poetry–”Never gonna break, never gonna break.” Enjoy this energizing and captivating song from Bon Iver’s new album.

Also, in conjunction with their new album, Bon Iver produced an online video album to accompany the release of the CD. The video album is available for streaming in its entirety, for NO COST. This just goes to show how warm-hearted this band is. They produce art that is readily available to their fans, regardless of instant financial gain. Of coarse, this method of sharing music with fans does have the potential to motivate fans to invest in Bon Iver’s music, but that is neither here nor there. The video album may be viewed on Bon Iver’s YouTube Channel HERE.

S.O.W.S. “February MMX” by Ulver

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]



ulver - war of roses

This album is a testament that the evolving powerhouse known as Ulver shows no signs of stopping. I bought this album in May of 2011, and it was my favorite listening all summer. War of the Roses is an emotional uplift from their previous album Shadows of the Sun, which was written/recorded/produced during a norwegian winter. That time of year, when you are that far north, can have bizarre and beautiful effects on a musician and their output. Check it out for yourself. I grabbed this week’s video off of the Wars of the Roses mini-site. It is a promo clip.

S.O.W.S. “All I Need” by Radiohead

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


radiohead - in rainbowsIn Rainbows is a perfect example of music in the Pay-What-You-Want market. Upon it’s release on Radiohead’s website, the band offered it, available for download, only asking for the amount of payment that the downloader saw appropriate. In their words, “It’s Up To You,” and yes zero dollars was perfectly acceptable. While this was intended to turn a 100% profit for the band because the album was not tied to a label of any kind, it ultimately revealed that most fans, regardless of how dedicated they really are, were more likely to download music for “free” anyway, by more illegitimate means, such as torrent providers and P2P file sharing. The download site was eventually removed and after the physical release of In Rainbows, the album went Number One in the UK and United States.

For the record, while I received this album from my brother by copying the music off of his hard drive , I bought a physical copy soon after. I would hope that an experiment such as this would motivate listeners to look inside themselves and ask, “Is the music itself REALLY, ‘All I Need,’ or is there more to the art of a record than just downloads, mp3 files, and all I WANT.” You decide.


S.O.W.S. “IBM 729 II Magnetic Tape Unit” by Jóhann Jóhannsson

SOWS v.02

MUSIK MODUS (SOWS) pronounced [sohz]


johann johannsson - ibm 1401_a user's manualUsually, I like to share my own ideas about the music I share with others. However, for my first Song of the Week, I would like to quote from the artist’s website. The best, or rather the most valuable opinions about music come straight from the source, the musician. While it is important to form our own ideas about the music that touches our lives, the sentiments that matter most are those of the creator. Jóhann Jóhannsson is one of my favorite contemporary composers, and he reign’s from the beautiful and pure country called Iceland. I received the following from Jóhannsson’s official IBM 1401 website. These are not my words:

“Jóhann’s stately and hauntingly melodic music has been quietly bewitching listeners for some time and his new album, IBM 1401, A User’s Manual – his most ambitiously-orchestrated composition to date – is sure to expand his audience still further.

Inspired by a recording of an IBM mainframe computer which Jóhann’s father, Jóhann Gunnarsson, made on a reel-to-reel tape machine more than 30 years ago, the piece was originally written to be performed by a string quartet as the accompaniment to a dance piece by the choreographer Erna Ómarsdóttir. For the album version, Jóhann rewrote the entire score, and it was recorded by a sixty-piece string orchestra. He also added a new final section and incorporated electronics alongside those original tape recordings of the singing computer.”

–Quoted from www.ausersmanual.org