MAGNET Exclusive: Download Tyler Ramsey’s “Breaking A Heart”

Tyler Ramsey’s “Country Teen” was arguably the best thing about Band Of Horses’ Why Are You OK. So it makes some sense that he broke from the group a year after the album’s 2016 release to resume his solo career. “Ten years is a long time in any relationship, except for maybe a marriage,” says Ramsey. “Especially with a bunch of dudes who are basically living together and carrying all the stereotypical baggage of being in a rock band.”

With the new For The Morning (Fantasy), the versatile multi-instrumentalist has found common ground between the subdued acoustic nuance of his previous work and the lush Americana grandeur of Band Of Horses’ Grammy-nominated 2010 album, Infinite Arms. Nowhere is that reconciliation more evident than on “Your Whole Life,” “A Dream Of Home” and “Breaking A Heart” (the last track available here as a free download). With its pronounced Laurel Canyon vibe, “Breaking A Heart” sounds like some lost Desperado-era Eagles gem, though with a mist-shrouded Appalachian soul. “The chorus was looping around in my head for a while,” says Ramsey. “I had everything written for the song, but there were a few lines troubling me, so I called my dad and we came up with the last few lyrics 20 minutes before I tracked the vocals.”

Seasoned singer/songwriters Thad Cockrell and Molly Parden provide harmony vocals on the song, and the fluid pedal-steel accompaniment comes courtesy of Music City session ace Russ Pahl. “Russ did it in Nashville and sent the files over,” says Ramsey. “I was literally jumping up and down when I heard it.”

When he’s not on the road, Ramsey lives with his wife and daughter on an idyllic piece of rural real estate 14 miles from his hometown of Asheville, N.C. Much of For The Morning took shape during Ramsey’s regular writing excursions into the woods on his property. He took the demos he made at home to La La Land studios in Louisville, Ky., where he worked with engineer Kevin Ratterman and longtime friend Seth Kauffman (Jim James, Lana Del Rey). Finishing touches came at Fleetwood Shack, the Nashville studio of former Band Of Horses bassist Bill Reynolds, who departed the group the same year as Ramsey. 

Not that Ramsey is opposed to looking back. For The Morning includes “Evening Country,” a full-band variation on “Evening Kitchen,” from Infinite Arms. “It was the only thing on Infinite Arms that was super bare bones,” he says. “That was the dimension I was really pushing in that band, trying to give fans something that’s more intimate. It was fun to have that influence.”

—Hobart Rowland

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Wilder Woods’ “Sure Ain’t” Video

International man of mystery Wilder Woods is set to release his debut album via Atlantic in August. Word in the forest is that this secretive, sophisticated soul singer might actually be the frontman of a well-known band, but that’s about all we know. (Jack White’s people assured us it’s not him, as he’s too busy trying to singlehandedly save the music industry to have yet another side project.) “Sure Ain’t,” the first track shared from Woods’ upcoming album, is a powerful, funky modern soul train that will someday soon be pulling into Spotify subscribers’ Michael Kiwanuka Radio station.

Since our cousin’s dog walker’s dealer knows a guy who worked at Layman Drug Company studios in East Nashville (where the LP was recorded), we sent an email asking if Woods cared to share any thoughts on “Sure Ain’t.” Surprisingly, the man responded.

“‘Sure Ain’t’ is about that innocent and playful type of flirtation,” he said via encrypted text from a blocked number. “It’s about the ongoing chess match when you’re trying to let someone know that you’re into them, but leave the ball in their court to make the next move. It’s about maintaining confidence and swagger while giving the other person the chance to have it their way.”

Well, we’ve all played that game, so it’s nice we now have an awesome three-minute soundtrack (and accompanying visuals) for it the next time we need it.

We’re proud to premiere the video for “Sure Ain’t” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Anthony D’Amato’s “Passing Through” Video

Tomorrow NYC singer/songwriter Anthony D’Amato releases latest single “Passing Through,” and he’s kicking off a West Coast stint next month (dates below) in support of this excellent new tune. While on a marathon tour of Europe last fall, D’Amato shot a video for “Passing Through” with Dutch filmmaker/journalist Matthijs van der Ven (The Influences) that perfectly captures the song’s feeling.

We’re proud to premiere the clip today on magnetmagazine.com, and we thought D’Amato could give some insight into the making of the striking video. This is what he had to say:

“We shot the video for ‘Passing Through’ on a day off in Amsterdam right in the middle of an 11-week European tour. So, needless to say, I was feeling the sentiment of the song pretty hard at the time. Touring—especially solo touring—can be incredibly beautiful and incredibly lonely all at once. You meet so many wonderful people and see so many amazing places, but you never get to stay, which makes it all a very bittersweet experience. Director Matthijs van der Ven locked into that feeling right away—perhaps because he travels so much himself. I was grateful to work with someone who so clearly understood what I was trying to convey.

“I first met Matthijs a few years ago while filming a live session in Utrecht for The Influences, the online performance series he runs out of the Netherlands. He was my first call when it came time to shoot this video, in part because I love his work, but also because I liked the idea of shooting something quick and raw with a local filmmaker and then leaving it entirely in his hands while I continued on down the road. It was a chance to make a collage of all the moments that make up a day in the life on tour. There’s wandering and reflection and excitement and boredom and sightseeing and naps on public transportation. There’s marveling at the beauty around you and burying your face in your phone because you found some free Wi-Fi. Most of all, there’s wishing you could stay, if only for just a little bit longer.”

Tour Dates
5/16 – Los Angeles @ Largo (w/ Watkins Family Hour)
5/17 – San Francisco @ Amnesia
5/18 – Sutter Creek, CA @ Feist Wines
5/23 – Portland @ White Eagle Saloon
5/24 – Walla Walla, WA @ Billsville West
5/25 – Prosser, WA @ Brewminatti
5/26 – Port Angeles, WA @ Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts

MAGNET Exclusive: Listen To Mecca Normal’s Long-In-The-Making Live Album “Brave New Waves”

Full disclosure: Over the past decade, Vancouver duo Mecca Normal has contributed a weekly feature to MAGNET’s website. Every Saturday, we post an illustration by guitarist David Lester, accompanied by text from vocalist Jean Smith. Personal epiphanies, labor/social history, gender politics—they’re all on the table, or at least on your screen. And the same can be said for Mecca Normal’s music. 

When Smith and Lester first played together in 1984, they blew minds in two ways. First, Smith’s words confronted the listener with uncomfortably acute observations about the way things are. Second, a lot of people couldn’t get their heads around the idea that a rock band might not have a rhythm section. A lot has changed since then, and people are generally a little more open to notions about what a rock band needs in order to rock, but even then it was pretty self-evident that they didn’t need anything more than Smith’s succinct imagery, her elastic voice and the chugging blasts of Lester’s guitar to do so. This is still true today. 

But along the way, Mecca Normal’s been open to other ways of doing things. After all, why refuse one box only to put yourself in a box of your own? So for a few years, the duo became a three-piece, aligning itself with New Zealander Peter Jefferies. For a few albums, he variously produced, played piano and drummed. (Along the way, he and Smith started another band called Two Foot Flame.)

This is the edition of Mecca Normal that you’ll hear when you put your needle down on the transparent green wax of Brave New Waves (Artoffact). It captures the trio in concert at The Cabaret in Montreal in 1996, ripping through songs from throughout Mecca Normal’s career. Smith is in fine form, ranging freely from abstract imagery and musicality to messages and sounds that are as concrete as a building block sailing through your window. Lester, who never really needed a drummer’s help, proves adept at locking into Jefferies’ gut-punch grooves. And Jefferies, who had spent the years before his Canadian sojourn collaborating with a who’s-who of the New Zealand rock and beyond-rock underground, finds ways to complement the careening wildness of Smith and Lester’s interactions without reining them in.

One caveat: While this performance is pretty essential, it represents one phase of Mecca Normal’s long and dynamic history. So consider getting the CD—or at least using that download code—to hear the bonus tracks of the core duo blasting through a 1993 session at a Montreal radio station for a taste of that wildness in concentrated form.

Listen to Brave New Waves below, and also check out the Smith-directed video for “Armchairs Fit Through Doorways”

—Bill Meyer

Brave New Waves insert; paintings by Jean Smith

MAGNET Exclusive: Download Son Volt’s “Devil May Care”

Jay Farrar doesn’t want to overly politicize Son Volt’s ninth release. “There’s definitely protest songs on it—it’s the tradition of the bard to sing about what’s going on,” says Farrar. “I was raised on folk music with political content. Basically, when you see turmoil, you write about it. Another Son Volt album to compare it to would be Okemah And The Melody Of Riot, so I’m roughly on the 10-year plan.”

Roughly, yeah—Okemah is actually 14 years old. And it doesn’t possess the easy beauty of the new Union (out tomorrow on Transmit Sound/Thirty Tigers). Available here as a free download, “Devil May Care” finds Farrar rethinking the album’s one-dimensional direction. “About midway through writing the record, I felt I had to balance things out—that there needed to be some songs that represented a more regular rock ethos,” he says. “So I thought of the ‘anything goes’ essence of rock ’n’ roll—bands like the Who, the Stones and the Replacements.” 

Where 2017’s Notes Of Blue took Son Volt in a sometimes dirgey direction as it toyed with blues authenticity, Union revisits the folky elegance that made Trace’s quieter moments so enduring. In fact, new tunes like “The 99,” “While Rome Burns” and “The Reason” would’ve fit quite nicely on that 1995 classic. “With Notes Of Blue, I was really trying to explore and get inside some of those alternate tunings the old blues guys used,” says Farrar. “For the most part, I went back to standard tunings on this one.”

A major upgrade on Union is the chiming Rickenbacker work of on-and-off member Chris Frame, who rejoined the group on the Notes Of Blue tour. His inventive leads propel and enhance what are some of Farrar’s prettiest melodies in decades. “I’m been listening to a lot of Tom Petty lately, and it just seemed like the 12-string needed to be there,” says Farrar. “In some ways, it’s synonymous with protest music, going back to the Byrds and Bob Dylan.”

In the end, it’s the protest tunes that win out on Union. “I took it as my job to report on what I was seeing,” says Farrar. “There’s a sense of resignation there—you know, like, this really shouldn’t be happening. There’s such a cultural divide going on right now that doesn’t need to be there. There needs to be more of degree of reconciliation, which is where the title comes from.”

And if Union is indeed the sound of a heaving populace in the throes of disparity, Farrar is as focused as he’s ever been—and oddly at ease. Guess we can thank the Donald for that.

—Hobart Rowland  

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Starflyer 59’s “Young In My Head”

Longtime MAGNET fave Starflyer 59 not only celebrated the silver anniversary of 1994 debut album Silver earlier this month but is also set to release 15th LP Young In My Head on April 26 via longtime label Tooth & Nail. The only constant member of the Southern California band has been prolific frontman Jason Martin, who’s also played with Lo Tom and other outfits as well as done studio work for the likes of Cigarettes After Sex and the Drums.

In some ways, Young In My Head is both a return to form and a journey into uncharted territory for Martin. “My 16-year-old son Charlie played drums on the record,” he says. “Since there was no need to schedule rehearsals, we were able to play and work on the songs for a while before we recorded them. This gave the music more of a band feel. It reminded me of the old days. It was fun … I wanted the parts to be a bit more intentional, not as much layering as in records past. But when it was all said and done. it still just sounds like a Starflyer record to me.”

Young In My Head‘s title track (“It’s about the idea of my body getting older,” says Martin, “but my mind staying the same”) is the second single from the album. It’s out on Friday—but, dear MAGNET reader, we have it a couple days early for you. Like the best Starflyer songs, it’s instantly memorable and catchy and familiar—and unmistakably Martin, who’s quietly become one of indie rock’s most consistent songwriters of the past quarter century.

Check out “Young In My Head” now:

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of The Yawpers’ “Dancing On My Knees”

On April 19, MAGNET faves the Yawpers return with Human Question (Bloodshot). The 10-track, 38-minute album is the follow-up to 2017 concept album Boy In A Well, which we deemed Essential New Music. Today we’re proud to premiere “Dancing On My Knees,” off Human Question (the fourth LP from this Denver outfit—and former MAGNET guest editors).

“‘Dancing On My Knees’ was born out of a desire to make something jaunty, angular and danceable uncomfortable,” says singer/guitarist Nate Cook. “While it didn’t turn out quite as bizzaro, we were definitely taking some nods from Captain Beefheart with the general feel of the song. Lyrically, this is probably the most optimistic song, and is kind of full of mantras that I was mining during the time to achieve some self-improvement. So much for that.”

Well, you can see for yourself if Cook and his bandmates did indeed make self improvements starting April 16 in Kansas City, Mo., when the Yawpers kick off a month-long U.S. tour. But in the meantime, you can thank us for bringing you “Dancing On My Knees,” which should prove to be a highlight on your spring playlist. Check it out now.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Hayes Carll’s “What It Is”

The cover of Hayes Carll’s sixth release (see below) pretty much says it all. The stark black-and-white format doesn’t do its subject any favors—and neither, quite frankly, does the foreboding desert-highway setting. It’s a classic take-it-or-leave-it moment, with the Grammy-nominated Texas singer/songwriter looking oddly nonplussed, like he’s just stumbled out of the tour bus after a long night on the road.

“We spent a couple of hours outside Santa Fe, walking around and trying to find beautiful backdrops,” says Carll of the shoot with photographer David McClister. “We took photos where I looked happier, but I’m not sure we had any other image that emotionally fit the record better. I just hope I don’t look bad.”

After a rough divorce, a recent engagement to fellow singer/songwriter Allison Moorer (Steve Earle’s ex) and a career that’s had its share of twists and turns, Carll—at 43—may finally be in take-it-or-leave-it mode. That’s the basic sentiment behind What It Is (Dualtone), its title track available here for download. “What it is is right here in front of me, and I’m not letting go,” he sings on the chorus, his sober resignation goosed by the tune’s propulsive shuffle. It’s as much a declaration of renewal as a coming to terms with reality.

“It’s not over-the-top joyful, and it’s not under-the-ground depressing,” says Call. “It’s the point of my life I’m at.”

Carll is an acquired taste. His melodic sensibilities and one-dimensional singing—while loaded with warmth and character—won’t bowl you over. But his honest, dry-witted infatuation with everyday revelations sneaks up on you. The guy has a way of making hay out of life’s bittersweet ironies, and it certainly helps if you have more than a passing familiarity with the Texas troubadour lineage for which he owes a debt of gratitude—names like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker.

“I was waiting tables in Galveston, and one night I was walking down this alleyway and heard music coming out this place,” says Carll, who started his career in the late 1990s playing covers in bars along Texas’ northern Gulf Coast. “It was a place where people actually wanted to listen to the music—not just get hammered and hear ‘Magaritaville.’”

That spot was the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, the Galveston version of the legendary Houston listening room that nurtured Van Zandt, Earle and Lucinda Williams in the ’70s. “I totally soaked it in, doing open-mic nights and tending bar.”

More than 20 years later, Carl has assembled a loyal enough fan base to sustain a career—and without having to pander to any sort of predetermined Lone Star aesthetic. “There’s a lot of guys who get into this trap where they’re huge in Texas,” says Carll. “They have tour buses and play for thousands of people and make a whole lot of money, but that doesn’t necessarily translate once you cross the border. I never had that issue because I was never really successful like that in Texas, so it put me in the position of at least being able to see the world before going broke.”

Focused, confident and slightly eccentric, What It Is sounds like it’s coming from a guy who’s definitely been around. “There are two themes throughout the record—part of it’s about me, and part of it’s about the world around me,” Carll says of the album, which was coproduced by Moorer and Brad Jones (Matthew Sweet, Josh Rouse). “When I was younger and knew less, there was a false confidence. The more I dig in and try to connect with the world around me, the more I realize I don’t know. But I feel like I’m in a good place and heading down the right path.”

—Hobart Rowland

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Bobby Long’s “Serpentine”

Bobby Long has never been one to make the same album twice—not even close. To guard against repetition, he’s fortified his muse with a diverse list of producers, including Liam Watson (White Stripes), Ted Hutt (Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucero) and Mark Hallman (Carole King, Ani DiFranco).

“I don’t want this to sound insensitive to the listener, but I’ve never really worried about what people think,” says Long, who’s a new father and settled comfortably in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. “My tastes change, and my style of playing is changing and evolving all the time. What I’m listening to today is not what I’m going to be listening to in a year-and-a-half’s time.”

On his latest, Sultans (Compass), the Americanized Brit is in full-on collaboration mode with multi-instrumentalist Jack Dawson, who gets double-billing on the cover. Long had previously worked with Dawson on 2012’s The Backing Singer EP. “He played violin on that record, and we share a lot of the same loves,” says Long. “You get to the stage where you just want to work with friends—and I think we’ll continue together for the time being.”

Making Sultans was a no-pressure, no-fuss affair, with Dawson producing and another pal, Dave Lindsay, serving as engineer and drummer. Sessions took place over a year’s time at Lindsay’s Country Club Studio in Brooklyn. “We recorded as a three piece—about 50 percent of what you’re hearing is live,” says Long. “I’d sit by the console and press play; Dave would go into the drum room and sit down; and Jack played bass. I fucked up a few times, where I didn’t press the right button. So we’d do this great take, and Dave would get up from the drums and come around and be like, ‘Ah shit, you didn’t press record.’”

Sultans takes its name from the LP’s first and last tracks. The original was just drums, ukulele and a sample that Dawson loved, with Sgt. Pepper being the obvious inspiration for the eventual bookend treatment. And while Sultans is only occasionally loose and experimental, it does test the limits of Long’s gritty folk template in some unexpected ways. At times, its tightly wounded psychedelic jams recall Jimi Hendrix’s sophomore masterpiece, Axis: Bold As Love, especially in their push-and-pull between the blues and the Beatles. 

That friction works in spades on “Serpentine,” a driving, ominous mini-epic with a slithering guitar lead and lyrics that bemoan the vagaries of co-dependence. “The riff I had for a while—that was one of the more instinctive songs, really,” says Long. “I have a lot of wonderful women in my life who seem to dote on me, from my mom to my wife to my sisters. It’s more of an ode to them.”

—Hobart Rowland 

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Lily & Madeleine’s “Supernatural Sadness”

The shimmery groove of “Supernatural Sadness” will surprise fans of Lily & Madeleine’s early folk rock: It’s more Hall & Oates than Simon & Garfunkel. On Canterbury Girls, their fourth album (out February 22 on New West), the Jurkiewicz sisters from Indianapolis chose to collaborate with producers Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, who worked a similar magic bringing some disco sheen to Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour. “Is it pain or pleasure? I’m dazed and confused,” the song begins. But although the lyrics, as Madeleine explains, wrestle with conflict, the sisterly harmonies and the bright, yacht-rock pop are pure pleasure.

“We wrote ‘Supernatural Sadness’ with Ian Fitchuk,” says Madeleine. “It was our first time writing with him, and together we were able to create this fun, kind of psychedelic pop song. In the studio we wanted the song to be bright and energetic with acoustic guitar and shimmering synths, to contrast the darker, more moody lyrics. The song is ultimately about being drawn to someone who you know is bad for you. It’s easy to commiserate with someone and find connection in their melancholy mood, but the pleasure in pain can soon lead to a parasitic relationship. Total empathy can turn you into a host for someone else’s baggage and steer you into their toxic behavior, and indulging in self-pity can set you back from growth. The most powerful part of the song is the end of the chorus where the lyrics say ‘And I won’t be around, no I can’t help you out.’ In that moment the host is able to see clearly and break free from the almost supernatural bond that connects them to the parasite’s heartache. In other words, don’t date bummers!”

We are proud to premiere “Supernatural Sadness” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now. And don’t date bummers!

—Steve Klinge