Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday, November 6, 2020

Amid all of the turmoil in the world right now, many of us find focus and enjoyment through music. A way to share direct financial support with musical artists is by purchasing their works on Bandcamp Friday, when Bandcamp waives collection of revenue for digital sales (not including subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days.

Here are some of my recommendations for what to pick up this Bandcamp Friday (or any other day).

Rosie Tucker – “Never Not Never Not Never Not ~ I first saw Rosie Tucker play in 2019 at the Top Hat in Missoula, MT. I was really blown away by the set & ordered the vinyl for this album when I got home. Rosie Tucker’s lyrics are multi-layered, but approachable. Their vocal styling is creative and unexpected. The deft production choices let brevity do its work, yet allow certain tracks more time to build to dynamics and drive emotionally. All the while, the listener is drawn in by the California landscape, emotional struggles, and the joy of having really good friends.

Sentimental Records – “NO MORE BANDS: AUTUMN 2020 ~ I mentioned production choices in the previous album which brings me to this compilation. I started following the Sentimental Records label online when I realized what a genius producer Wolfy is. I’m looking forward to checking out this comp and other things on the label to hear song-writing from Wolfy as well.

Norah Lorway – “Future Void ~ This recent release via the Distant Bloom label exhibits live-coded sonic creations from Norah Lorway. Featured among the best experimental music releases of October 2020 on Bandcamp, “Future Void” welcomes us to a world aptly expressed by Aaron Owen‘s topographical cover art. Slow builds churn up echoes and glacial shifts reflect light at their high points.

Aloud – “Exile: 10th Anniversary Edition ~ The political turmoil of the past week (… year? decade? lifetime?) has made Aloud’s “Exile” album one to which I perennially return for inspiration. It has been great to watch the band evolve from “Fan The Fury” until present, and, as a fan, this album has always stuck for me. Jen and Henry shared retrospective videos with fans this fall & I look forward to the insert/liner-note details about this record that expresses hope & heart during political and emotional exile.

That wraps up my suggestions for this month. Stay safe & share some love for musicians!

Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday, July 3, 2020

Since the beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns this year, the online music company Bandcamp has been promoting “Bandcamp Friday”, starting on March 20, 2020 and occurring on the first Friday of the month every month following until today. On these days, Bandcamp agrees to forego their collection of revenue for digital sales (not including subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days.

While not a perfect model, the monthly occurrence provides a calendar marker for giving deliberate support to small or medium-scale artists and labels. This might be the last Bandcamp Friday of this wave of COVID-19, so I’m sharing some music that I find exciting on Bandcamp.

Tré Burt – “Caught It From The Rye” ~ Tré Burt put out this well-balanced album on Oh Boy Records (the independent label started by John Prine). He expresses heartbreak both public and private in deftly executed songs & rounds out the sentiments with songwriter’s wisdom.

Our Native Daughters – “Songs of Our Native Daughters” ~ This Smithsonian Folkways release caught my eye after listening to Kaia Kater’s “Grenades” from the same imprint. Seeing Rhiannon Giddens’ name, I expected something great. I was further impressed by the other musicians in Our Native Daughters. One reason to buy things on Bandcamp these days is that digital downloads are sometimes bundled with pdfs, videos, or other files. The companion pdf to this album yields scholarship and provides context to the music, serving as a jumping off point for more learning.

Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris – “Earthseed” ~ I have not given this a full listen yet, but I’m eager to hear their exploration of the themes of Octavia Butler’s science fiction. FPE Records’ listing of the recording drew me in.

Nana Grizol – “South Somewhere Else” ~ This album delivers on Nana Grizol’s fun folk punk sound, pushing beyond it here and there with fresh ideas. For long-time listeners of the band, their lyrics have matured with the bittersweet passage of time. They grapple with the ongoing task of undoing xenophobic social conditioning, acknowledging biased falsehoods and the resulting behaviors with acumen that allows them to be dismantled.

Oxherding – “Unfolded Along The River” ~ This is my friend’s most recent release on Distant Bloom, an electronic record label from Saint Louis, MO. I can imagine river confluence scenes past and present while listening to these two tracks. I also appreciate that the label has taken a stand on social justice issues. Through sales in June 2020, Distant Bloom donated $520 to ArchCity Defenders, a non-profit civil rights law firm in Saint Louis.

Using one’s voice and other means of leverage is something that appeals to me with all of the musicians and organizations I am sharing in this post. When they get some extra money from Bandcamp sales today, it’s going back into sustaining actions that will make their part of the world a better place.

Unbound Words

Living Life’s Questions

Last fall, I was traveling with my friend Grace, and we had plenty of time to talk as we drove back to Missouri through the mountains. One thing she brought up for discussion was enduring questions to which we return. I replied that I had perennial questions which had been very useful, but when I began to elaborate, they seemed thin. What questions are worth asking?

Artifacts like personal journals have allowed me to dig back through these questions and my responses. Sometimes inquiries have made their way into song lyrics or blog posts. My broad questions include:

  • “Am I loving life today?”
  • “Am I living fully?”
  • “Am I listening?”
  • “What makes you sing?”

This collection of questions has provided intriguing prompts, but it doesn’t always get to the bottom of serious problems that I need to address in my life and community. These questions feel meaningful, but, numerous times, I have avoided probing further.

And this is where conversing and writing merge with the enduring questions I ask myself. Then I can draw out new questions and listen to the ones that others ask me.

I doubt that my act of writing is strong enough to nurture better questions. When I step away from the computer or notebook, I think that I have engaged in indulgent expressions that have further delayed my confrontation of major challenges. But I’m selling short the craft of writing. As Lyanda Lynn Haupt reminds us in her book Crow Planet, writing is a way of seeing.

Three years ago at a local coffee shop, a stranger asked me about my activity with my notebook in between sips of coffee. He wondered if I was a college student or a professional writer. I submitted that I was just writing on my own. I had no institutional impetus (other than the likelihood of certain coffee shops to inspire reading and writing). His countenance was brightened, and he encouraged me to “keep writing”. So that’s what I must do. I hope you do, too.

Unbound Words

Earth Day, 50 Years On

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day in the USA. I’ve been reflecting on the significance of the day and what impact its activities hold.

In 1970, people were remarking at the changing pace and patterns of life fueled by petroleum. Wendell Berry calls attention to a piece published in the February 1970 issue of National Geographic. Berry elucidates how the piece, “The Revolution in American Agriculture”, would have us see as marvels the myriad tools of modern agriculture and its petroleum dependencies while breezing past the social, economic, and political realities that changing agribusiness brought to bear. Berry and others couldn’t ignore how all the pieces were fitting together to damage our planet and its future.

The 1970 Earth Day event was partially spurred by reactions to the 1969 Union Oil Santa Barbara oil spill. The momentum of the event grew as decades went on, but so did the global damage being done in the name of oil dependency. The even larger Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred on March 24, 1989. I was only three years old, but I recall seeing video montages of the aftermath as I grew up.

For me, images of oil-slicked animals and burning rain forests on television paired with trips to a local zoo that primed my awareness of environmental issues and how my personal behavior plays a role. That has to be one of the results of Earth Day and other similar movements that grew more notable during the last half of the 1900’s. Many more things are out in the open.

Yet no matter whether we look at the initial setting of this event or 50 years later, it seems that the movement towards the health of the earth is an uphill battle. I quote The Unsettling of America out of context, but the assertion fits here:

Our ‘success’ is a catastrophic demonstration of our failure. The industrial Paradise is a fantasy in the minds of the privileged and the powerful; the reality is a shambles.”

Wendell Berry
Unbound Words

Hello World – Idyllic Blog Post

I started writing on the Internet back when free web space didn’t exactly mean you were going to be mined for personal data or be a content creating laborer for a giant multinational. For those with the adequate devices and Internet services, there was welcome space to test out writing skills, upload pictures or experiment with HTML and CSS. Using the services was often coupled with learning about them, and the bar for becoming proficient wasn’t too high (creating static pages is still not that tricky in 2019, and it’s a skill worth maintaining). Actual computer ownership still excluded many people from engaging, but, once you had the tools and a short education, you were a cyber citizen. I saw it all as a peaceful civil space akin to the one John Perry Barlow demanded to keep free from tyrannical governments in “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”.

I’m not sure where we’re at now with freedom of self-expression and censorship, but I feel settled about posting on hosting that I set up myself, that I purchase with my own money, that I can monitor easily. I had always been comfortable with WordPress, having maintained a blog for years though letting its hosting lapse in 2016. I’m using that platform here and re-acquainting with its place in open software and online publishing.

So, once again, “Hello, world!”