MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Hiss Golden Messenger’s “Cat’s Eye Blue”

Fatherhood can dredge up a twisted mass of mixed emotions. That’s the inspiration, more or less, behind “Cat’s Eye Blue” from Hiss Golden Messenger’s eighth album, Terms Of Surrender (Merge). “My dad has a lot of qualities that feel sort of endemic to [a certain] generation of American white men,” says HGM’s M.C. Taylor, struggling a bit to gather his thoughts about the song, which you can listen to below. “There’s something rooted in masculinity that has to with not being able to communicate emotionally. There’s this need among older men to hide any sort of sensitivity, which makes genuine communication difficult.”

Terms Of Surrender’s theoretical side-one closer, “Cat’s Eye Blue” unfolds like a pulsing, hypnotic lullaby—perhaps to his own children. “Part of my job as a human is to try and be more emotionally open, because I don’t want my kids to struggle communicating with me as we all get older,” says Taylor.

The 10 tracks that made it onto Terms Of Surrender were among at least 40 recorded in various hotel rooms, a secluded cottage near Charlottesville, Va., and Taylor’s home studio in Durham, N.C. The album features regular collaborators Phil and Brad Cook, Josh Kaufman and Matt McCaughan, along with contributions from Jenny Lewis and the National’s Aaron Dessner. Dessner’s studio in upstate New York served as a recording site, as did Sound City in Los Angeles and producer Roger Moutenot’s Haptown Studio in Nashville. It may well be HGM’s most “produced” album, though it hardly feels fussed over. “We kind of wandered around making this record—and that was intentional,” says Taylor. “I wanted to be able to listen to it and think about the wandering that was happening while we were making it.”

If there’s a recurring theme on Terms Of Surrender, it’s the push-and-pull between aspiration and reality. “It’s me asking myself if I’m prepared to sacrifice in order to live the life I thought I wanted,” says Taylor. “The life I thought I wanted was to play music with my friends, wander around the world and connect with people through my music, and have a deep and loving relationship with my family. That’s easy stuff to say and hope for.”

If only the reality weren’t so messy. “I’ve struggled with a lot of anxiety,” says Taylor. “I’ve struggled with depression. I think part of it is genetic, and part of it is the times we’re living in and my own personal journey of trying to make this thing that I love to do pay the bills, be a good, present father and also be an engaged artist. There are a lot of things I want to do—and do well—in a way that feels genuine to me.”

And you’d hope every father would be on board that.

—Hobart Rowland

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Simon Joyner’s “Yellow Jacket Blues”

Twenty-five years separate Simon Joyner’s first LP from Pocket Moon, his forthcoming record (Grapefruit, October 25), which includes “Yellow Jacket Blues.” The Omaha singer/songwriter has been held up as an example of peak songcraft by fellow tunesmiths as disparate as Conor Oberst, Gillian Welch and Beck. His bank account probably doesn’t match any of theirs, but if you measure success by how many songs he has written that show you the truth in all its messy complexity, he’s one of the richest writers around. 

Joyner’s antecedents and inspirations aren’t hard to spot. You’ll see a bit of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan in his elegant handling of rough situations and lyrics that confront you, outflank you and show you the way home. He’s a guy who can roll a dream of Lou Reed and some lines borrowed from Yoko Ono and Woody Guthrie into a literally barn-storming (as in played on a piano that was mostly wrecked when a tornado knocked down Joyner’s barn) protest against good old-fashioned American injustice. But he’s also the guy who can lay out a cross-generational family fight so empathetically that you’ll feel like you’ve walked in both sides’ shoes. 

Most of the time, Joyner works with a close circle of Nebraskans, but his most enduring musical compadre is Arizona producer/guitarist Michael Krassner. This time, Joyner let Krassner pick the players, and the result is an album that stands apart from most of his discography in subtle ways at the same time that it’s of a piece with the whole catalog lyrically.

“Yellow Jacket Blues” is by no means the first time that first time that Joyner has reached into his bag and pulled out C&W sounds and Biblical imagery. This time, however, he’s stepped back and let the rest of the crew buff the arrangements until they attain a muted, immaculate, but non-distracting glow. The sounds nicely frame the song’s cinematic flow, which takes in a literary argument, a misanthrope’s bloviation and a bedbug scare en route to posing an insight that the same force that drives bugs to drown themselves in your drink brings about new life.

We’re proud to premiere “Yellow Jacket Blues” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now.

—Bill Meyer

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Tulipomania’s “(This Gilded Age) So What Are You Looking At?” Video

If you told Tulipomania’s Cheryl Gelover and Tom Murray they would have to choose between making music and making animated videos, they would have a bit of a Sophie’s choice situation on their hands. Fortunately, they don’t have to choose, so both of their artistic offspring will continue to not only survive but thrive. The latest from the Philly-based dynamic duo is the animated clip for “(This Gilded Age) So What Are You Looking At?”

Like previous Tulipomania videos we’ve featured, “(This Gilded Age) So What Are You Looking At?” was painstakingly crafted by Gelover and Murray. The twosome bombards the viewer with animated paint and collage ripped and reconfigured from print and film. Utilizing thousands of sheets of paper, Gelover and Murray created the animation frame by frame. There’s no CGI here, kids.

“For us, there can be the strangest contrast between the laborious process of assembling, shooting, then editing individual collages to achieve the blasted, image-overdrive effect we’re after,” says Murray. “We think the result is one of only a few sane responses to media saturation, and it feels cathartic.”

“(This Gilded Age) So What Are You Looking At?” will have its festival premiere tomorrow at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music as part of the 16th Animation Block Party, the largest animation fest on the East Coast. After that, it will screen at European festivals as well, including the StopTrik International Film Festival. But first, it’s premiering today at magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Chris Knight’s “The Damn Truth” Video

Ask Chris Knight why it took him seven years to come back to making music, and he’ll tell you he never left. “I’ve been touring more than ever over the last seven years,” says Knight from somewhere on the road, his Kentucky drawl as lumpy and thick as paving tarmac. 

Knight isn’t one to waste words. It’s what makes interviews with him somewhat one-sided and gives his 25-year catalog that rugged aura of plainspoken authenticity. His ninth album, Almost Daylight (Drifter’s Church Productions), is due out October 11. Recorded by longtime collaborator Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle), it’s Knight at his most pointed and personal. Tracks like “I’m William Callahan,” “Trouble Up Ahead” and “Flesh And Blood” examine life’s virtues and vices with an easy elegance that most often recalls John Prine—who actually joins Knight on final track “Mexican Home.” 

When things occasionally turn more issue-oriented, Knight adds an exclamation point to the sort of universal gripes we should all have an opinion about. Which brings us to “The Damn Truth” and MAGNET’s premiere of its companion video. “We finished that song the night before we recorded it,” says Knight. “I was just listening to all the bullshit on the TV … Everybody’s got an opinion. The truth is the truth, and you’ve got to know it when you see it. Maybe we’ll find out what it really is at some point.”

As straightforward as the song itself, the video for “The Damn Truth” delivers its message with some measure of power—mostly from the small screen of a tiny old black-and-white TV. “I made three or four full-blown videos back when I was 20 years younger,” says Knight. “It was a little easier then. We didn’t have a lot of time for this one. We just took a bunch of footage, and [Nathaniel Maddux] put it together. A lot of it was shot at my house, out around the woods.”

Knight and his wife have been living on the same 115 acres in rural Kentucky for more than 20 years, raising their three kids there. “It keeps growing trees and kids and weeds and birddogs and horses,” he says. “I always have plenty to do when I get home, just tryin’ to keep the woods beat back from my house. But that’s the way I like it. Everything is right where I want it to be.”

—Hobart Rowland

MAGNET Exclusive: Shovels & Rope’s “C’mon Utah!”

For a married couple, Shovels & Rope has always been able to stir up quite a racket. And By Blood (Dualtone) is the duo’s boldest, most cinematic release to date. As is customary, S&R’s Michael Trent recorded the album at home in the couple’s backyard studio on Johns Island, S.C., with random input from spouse Cary Ann Hearst.

“The process is that Michael records the record,” says Hearst with a chuckle. “Then I come in when it’s time to do my parts and listen with fresh ears when he’s ready to have an opinion about something. It’s 90 percent Michael—giving him the space to explore ideas and build things up.”

“C’mon Utah!” is a fitting showpiece for the pair’s homespun anything-goes recording process. (Hear for yourself below.) “We tried to paint the picture of this guy roaming across the desert, and it kind of sounds like that in our minds,” says Trent.

The unexpected plays a role in the protagonist’s fate, which is apparently decided in a chorus embellished with a simulated crack of the whip that’s actually a reverb tank. “We inherited it from a friend who passed away, and we used it as crash cymbal,” says Trent. “We just lifted it up and slammed it down.”

Although By Blood has been out since April, the duo is just now embarking on a headlining tour after several months on the road as a supporting act. “The record is pretty big sounding,” says Trent. “We had to figure out a way to make the arrangements work live.”

They’ve had plenty of time to figure it out—not that they mind the scrutiny. It’s always been just the two of them and a heap of instruments onstage. “We’re pretty confident up there,” says Hearst. “We’ve taught ourselves to operate each limb independently, and we’re executing it pretty well. Neither of us is like some prodigious musician. We joke that we’re hacks at everything. But we hack away at so many things that we can pull it off.”

—Hobart Rowland

Tour Dates
10/3 Charleston, SC, Music Farm
10/5 Charleston, SC, Charleston Music Hall
10/8 Wilmington, NC, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater 
10/9 Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
10/11 Boston, Royale
10/12 Brooklyn, Brooklyn Steel
10/13 Philadelphia, Union Transfer
10/15 Toronto, The Phoenix Concert Theatre
10/16 Columbus, OH, Newport Music Hall
10/18 Chicago, Vic Theatre
10/19 Maquoketa, IA, Codfish Hollow Barnstormers 
10/20 Minneapolis, First Avenue
10/22 Denver, Ogden Theatre
10/23 Salt Lake City, The Commonwealth Room
10/25 Vancouver, The Commodore Ballroom
10/26 Seattle, Neptune Theatre
10/27 Portland, Crystal Ballroom
10/29 San Francisco, The Fillmore
10/30 Los Angeles, The Regent Theater
11/1 Santa Fe, NM, Meow Wolf
11/2 Austin, Scoot Inn
11/3 Dallas, Granada Theater
11/6 Nashville, Ryman Auditorium