Cirice – Ghost B.C.

Wednesday’s are a group workout for my department. We all head downstairs at lunchtime, make our way to a private room, and blare music of our own selection, while a trainer sends us through various exercise stations for an hour.

One of the (many) benefits of this is that we get to choose our own music.

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Last week, my wonderful co-worker Lexi’s selection came on, and immediately, my ears perked up.

“Who is this,” I panted in between sloppy yoga-ball leg curls. “GHOST,” she panted back.

And that was that.

The next day, I searched Spotify and listened to all of Meliora, blasting through “Spirit” and “From the Pinnacle to the Pit.” By Friday, I braved the record store, only to have to wait for hipster shit-bags to get out of the “G” section, so I could grab Meliora and scramble out of the store.

I have a thing for bands who’s sound doesn’t match their appearance, and the minute I looked up Ghost B.C., I almost laughed out loud. Their lead singer’s dressed up as an Antichrist pope, with full skull makeup and mismatched contacts. He goes by Papa Emeritus.

Each of the band members dresses as a different Nameless Ghoul. In interviews, typically one of the Ghouls represents the entire band, or Papa Emeritus appears in (rather obvious) prosthetics and makeup to appear as an old Italian man, who is a “ladies man.” According to this faux-leader, there have been three Emeritus’, and the band intends to continue cycling them out. If you pay attention, (and don’t buy their schtick) you’ll realize it’s all been the same singer, just with different appearances. Odd, but intriguing. I think that sums up the band…

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The death look doesn’t match their smooth sound. Vocals are intelligible, unlike many other metal artists. Riffs are clean. There’s nothing unintentional about their aesthetic. Even Dave Grohl (rock’s resident nice guy) dressed in Nameless Ghoul garb and took the stage with them secretly. The music community gets it.

It’s funny, the fear they’ve managed to shake up for their Satanic lyrics and sound. They’ve admitted that their appearance and display is an act. They’re a “horror band” (much like Alice Cooper) but the public does not see it that way. U.S. companies refused to print their album artwork or create copies of Infestissumam because of the sexually explicit artwork.

During recording of Infestissumam, the band apparently had to record their choir sections in Los Angeles, because Nashville choirs were so offended by their Satanic lyrics that they wouldn’t take part.

ANYWAY. Despite all of this odd background, “Cirice” has been nominated for Best Metal Performance for the 2016 Grammy’s. In typical Ghost style, they campaigned in Billboard magazine for attention leading up to the awards.

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“Cirice” is haunting and melodic, and Ghost is entirely aware of that. They’ve openly admitted in interviews that they realized that it was an appealing song, and one that could really sum up the sound of Meliora.

The video is a fantastic representation of the Ghost dynamic and appearance. In it, a child takes to the stage during a school talent show, and apparently, calls upon Satan to liven things up a bit. The school staff, panicking, unplug the sound system, leaving the children on stage, bowing for their performance. It’s a wonderful pairing with the song, and perfectly sums up the public reaction to this intimidating (and fascinating) band.

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Indianer – Birdcloud

If you were to take The Onion and write it by the women of Broad City, that’s the aesthetic I attach to Birdcloud.

When you scroll through their song list on Spotify, nearly EVERY song has an Explicit warning attached to it.

The genius doesn’t lie in their MANY attempts to be offensive. It comes from their delivery and ability to infuse their lyrics with the ridiculous aspects of society. And they do this while making every song catchy.

Birdcloud is still most often found in Nashville, the scene that accepted them from the start. They realize that their sound is abrasive, and they have no intention of toning it down. It’s what defines them.

I’ve read reviews of their shows where the writer was shocked at their stage presence. They often face each other for the entire show, with a frigidity in their eyes, and nearly nose-to-nose.

As with many of their songs, if you were to take “Indianer” for face value, you’d most definitely be offended. But if you catch the frustration and disgust as they spit out the lyrics, you see that its clearly a commentary on stereotypes and ignorance.

“One eighth Apache, Three fourths Cherokee, One eighth Mowhawk, Three quarters Choctaw, One eighth Black Foot, Three fourths Red Sox, I’m more Indianer than all of ya’ll.”

The chorus comes screeching in with all of the aggression of Roseanne Barr yelling at Dan. Seriously. I thought it was Roseanne for a second.

The thing that keeps intriguing me about Birdcloud is that for all of their crassness, it’s meaningful. So often, current musicians take lyrics to a gross-out level without any sort of payoff. But for Birdcloud, there’s always a method to the madness.

You realize that while they may not be songs to belt in front of your family, there’s truth in them, and they’re worth listening to, even with the volume down a little lower.

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O Mother – Son Little

Can I love the world and hate how it makes me feel?

I truly don’t know how to accurately describe the beauty this song conveys both in lyrics and visuals. It’s so chill, but filled with so much emotion. As a black man in America, Son Little (Aaron Livingston) is speaking directly to the issues that are constantly swirling and striking.

Hearing what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York, Little felt compelled to write a song speaking to the pain he feels at the hands of others.

He took inspiration from Marvin Gaye’s song, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” according to The New Yorker, and extended the conversation through to a more intimate approach.

The video is mixed with stunning images of caged wolves and a sleeping Son Little. The song is a beautiful blend of vintage soul and a modern, lamenting consciousness.

Better known for his song, “The River,” Son Little is in the midst of his first headlining tour, hitting cities and villes such as Boston, Nashville and Chicago.  Little may still be unfamiliar for many listeners, but he’s established himself at festivals like SXSW and with artists like The Roots.

Having lived in Los Angeles, New York and most recently, Philadelphia, Little is a man filled with awareness of the world around him, and he has a talent for presenting that to the audience in a way that’s truthful, but still palatable.

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Third Man & Jack White

I do my best not to fan-girl. I really do. But occasionally it happens. So if you hate that sort of thing, please turn away now.

Every now and then, I find an artist (or in this case, a whole label) that their sound and aesthetic fit me in that point in my life so perfectly that I gobble up everything they offer shamelessly.

And right now, that thing is Jack White and his label Third Man Records.

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I fell for Jack White’s music when I got turned onto The White Stripes. (My favorite songs by them will always be “Hello Operator,” and “I Fought Piranhas.”) I loved their stripped-down, gut-busting sound. They were fearless, and they had their shit together. You could tell they were more than a band. They were a business. A look. A feel. And I could respect that.

After Jack and Meg called it quits, I latched onto The Raconteurs. “Broken Boy Soldiers” was played on repeat while I was in high school. (In retrospect, I was a lot cooler than I realized.)

In 2008 they released their second album, Consolers of the Lonely, and while I missed it that year, I’ve been picking up on it in the last few (thanks in part to Spotify/Pandora) and the sound is so solid that it doesn’t age.

As of right now, the title track and The Switch and the Spur are my favorites. I’m a sucker for horn sections and sweeping instrumental riffs, and “The Switch and the Spur” fills that addiction for me.

As mentioned, Pandora and Spotify were playing a lot of Jack White’s music, and whenever I’d hear it, I had the same, “Who is that,” feeling. As soon as I saw the name, I knew this was something I needed to dig into deeper.

So when Jack released Blunderbuss, you can bet I was all over it. The blue and black artwork really lent a wash to his sound that made it unforgettable.

Freedom at 21” was my biggest takeaway from the album, and I’m not going to lie: it’s in part to the music video. Hype Williams directed it, and the imagery doesn’t let go. At 1:36 in the video, White does some unusual hand motions that add a sparkle of character, where he is otherwise rather enigmatic.

Thanks to my addiction to Blunderbuss, when I visited Nashville, I was OBSESSED with the idea of visiting Third Man.

For my first go-round, embarrassingly, I only bought some shirts.

After leaving, though, and the release of Lazaretto, I made lists. And I went back prepared.

The night before Brandon and I’s wedding, the Third Man Records truck was outside of Shake It Records on Hamilton Avenue. Turns out, Olivia Jean was playing an in-store due to the release of her record, Bathtub Love Killings.

Cassie and I abruptly pulled a giant u-turn and ran back to the truck. I snatched up Lazaretto on vinyl (Cassie bought it for me – she’s a hell of a sugar mama), and three days later, Brandon and I trucked it to Nashville, where I dropped a pretty penny and bought Bathtub Love Killings, The Ghost Who Walks, The Black Belles and a few 7″ vinyls (including Elvira!!)

Let’s just say that when it comes to Third Man’s sound there’s a common thread. While White does a great job of distinguishing artists and drawing new attention to long-forgotten influences, there’s a timbre that ties them all together. Most of the artists sound like they could’ve been big 20-50 years ago. There’s blues/roots, garage rock, surf rock and folk. Everyone has an air of “cool.” This is definitely a label that seems to be a club.

The reason I so eagerly grabbed Olivia Jean’s album is quite simple: it’s amazing. “Reminisce” is a good indicator of if it’s your type of sound. As for Karen Elson, “The Ghost Who Walks,” is mesmerizing, haunting and kinda gothic. And I love it.

As I’m sure you’ve heard if you’ve done any research into the Third Man into the storefront, it’s pretty fucking whimsical – it’s packed with character. The walls are yellow and black and there’s everything from taxidermy to instant recordings and analog listening booths. It was recently expanded, so it’s no longer the size of a shoebox, and I’m pretty excited to see it again.

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I won’t be dumb enough to liken Jack White to “Willy Wonka,” as others have (cough cough). But I will say that his aesthetic is like his fingerprint, and at this point in my life, it’s something I’m drawn to. I love the effort he puts into every piece of music and project he touches. Even if I don’t connect with him as an individual, I can deeply appreciate what he’s given me as an artist.

His appreciation for detail, and the desire to make music an experience is something that I think it’s time for again. The art of music has come back around.

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The Ryman Auditorium

If you love music as much as I do (and chances are, you do) there are times where you get all emotional and feel really stupid and cheesy about it. (Which I’ve done multiple times.)

One of the places that impacted the very framework of my soul was The Ryman Auditorium.

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I’ve been lucky enough to visit this place twice, but still haven’t seen a show there…yet.

I’ve never been a big country fan. And by country, I mean the current stuff. Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan make me gag a little.

But one thing I’ll always respect is roots. Whether it’s blues or old country/bluegrass, I eat that shit up. I love seeing the progression of a genre and how influences trickle down.

So let me set the stage for you:

When you enter the Mother Church of Country Music from 4th Avenue, you’ll wonder why in the hell they gave her a facelift. It’s really just so they could fit in a gift shop, newer offices and ticketing. So ignore it. Her facade is still there.

When you walk into the auditorium, something changes immediately. The modern and hideous architecture fades away, and she gives you a giant hug full of warmth and history.

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You’ll enter on the lower level, which to me, almost reminds me of vintage amusement park rides. It has the whitewashed wooden planks and small support beams sprinkled throughout. The top deck overhangs pretty low. Almost too low to be convenient or feel safe, but low enough to also be PERFECT. Even though she was a church first, my heart goes to amusement park. Feel free to judge me.

She seriously has this inconvenience to her that says, “Try to change me. I dare you.”

But wait until you hear the acoustics. You’ll understand her ego. The acoustics have never seemed so perfect in my entire life. It immediately let me know that every sound I’ve ever heard was impure and unworthy. I will forever judge venues by The Ryman, and that just isn’t fair.

Her acoustics make you feel like there is some presence in there. Like at any second, Patsy Cline is going to walk by, or you’ll hear the echo of Johnny Cash’s bass-baritone.

No joke. The lingering air isn’t creepy. It makes you feel like this place is sacred. Try to imagine somewhere with that much history. With roots that go deeper than The Ryman’s. The idea of going to some large stadium and seeing a show makes me shudder after being in this place.

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The Opry may have retired her and moved to higher water, but even they return once a year to pay their respects. And she still acts as a stage for countless modern acts. Her wall covered in concert posters looks like a dream playlist or hall of fame.

The first time I visited, a band was playing that night. The sound booth is directly in the center of the upper-level, and needs to be walked through to get to the other side. I took pause, thinking I’d need to find a new route. One of the engineers stopped and said, “Go on. It’s your home too.” And damn, I wish I could make The Ryman my true home.

Needless to say, this post doesn’t do her justice. So I’d suggest taking a trip to The Ryman. She’ll be waiting with open arms.

The Wedding War

Brandon and I agonized over the music selections for our wedding for MONTHS. We got married in October, so we knew that would have some effect on the music, as it was a large influence on the decorations. But the playlist was seriously the hardest part of the entire planning process. We have very different musical tastes, and the things he found exciting and humorous, I found tacky. The things I found kitschy and fun, he found annoying. A war was waged.

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FINALLY – we sucked it up and made a pretty interesting playlist. For which the DJ promptly ignored in lieu of playing SHITTY country music. We’ve since decided that if that’s the worst thing that happened on our wedding day, we’re pretty damned lucky. But you can’t blame a couple for trying. So, here, in all of it’s glory, is our INTENDED wedding playlist. (Grenades and gatling guns aside.)

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1. Left Hand Free – Alt J
2. XO – Beyonce
3. Around My Head – Cage the Elephant (The part where lead singer Matt says, “Can ya dig it” is my friend Jesse’s favorite lyric to emphasize when scream-singing along.)
4. Stay Alive – Jose Gonzalez (This was our reception entrance song.) This song was also featured in the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which Brandon and I found enchanting. We always think of Ben Stiller longboarding through Iceland when we hear this.
5. Black or White – Michael Jackson
6. Santa Monica  – Everclear
7. Stand By Me – Ben E. King (Mother/groom dance.)
8. Fell In Love With A Girl – The White Stripes (We liken aspects of our relationship to the one in Silver Linings Playbook. We already loved The White Stripes, but now this song took on a different meaning.)
9. Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band (I do my best to not think of the time this song was featured in The Devils Rejects. *shudder)
10. Love Potion No. 9 – The Clovers
11. Cupid – Sam Cooke
12. Crossroads – Cream (My dad was obsessed with this song when I was growing up. It played on the stereo quite a bit.)
13. Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino
14. L.A. Woman – The Doors (Mr. Mojo Risin’ is my favorite part to chant over and over. My dad used to chant it as he worked in his garage.)
15. Cool Kids – Echosmith (I heard this song for the first time while I was in Drifters in Nashville visiting Jesse a few years ago. I brought it back home with me.)
16. Danger! High Voltage – Electric Six
17. Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac
18. All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers (Cassie and I belt this song together. She was my Maid of Honor, so this was dedicated to her.)
19. Anna Sun – Walk The Moon (Brandon and I have fantasies of being able to do the dance in this video. It still hasn’t happened.)
20. Heavy Bells – J Roddy Walston And The Business
21. The Passenger – Iggy Pop
22. Dancing On My Own – Robyn (I used to work at Torrid, and this song played all the time. I learned to love it through osmosis.)
23. Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones (The phrase, “I was born in a crossfire hurricane,” was sang a lot as I was a kid.)
24. Sloppy Seconds – Watsky (The opening line made me leery, but Watsky is such a talent that we couldn’t skip him.)
25. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
26. My Generation – The Who
27. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
28. Always Alright – Alabama Shakes (Recessional song.)
29. The Man In Me – Bob Dylan (The Big Lebowski, anyone?)
30. Runaway Baby – Bruno Mars
31. Where the Wind Blows – Coco O.
32. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie, Q-Tip, GoonRock
33. Mae – The Gaslight Anthem (Processional song.)
34. You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash (Father/bride dance.) (I bawled like a baby when I listened to this, and I knew my dad and I had to dance to it.)
35. The Ghost Who Walks – Karen Elson (Jack White’s ex-wife is quite the talent. Another Third Man Records find.)
36. West Coast – Lana Del Rey
37. Call It What You Will – Larry and His Flask
38. I Am Not Willing – Moby Grape
39. I Love You More Than Words Can Say – Otis Redding (First dance song.)
40. Booty Swing – Parov Stelar
41. Rye Whiskey – Punch Brothers
42. Let Go – RAC, Kele, MNDR (Jarrett, who was my Man of Honor, introduced us to this song, and we couldn’t forget it.)
43. In the Jailhouse Now – The Soggy Bottom Boys (When we’re alone, Brandon sings this song. He does quite a good job.)
44. Atlantic City – The Band
45. Down in Mexico – The Coasters (Death Proof solidified this song for us.)
46. Nothing But a Heartache – The Flirtations
47. Bang Bang – will.i.am
48. Hello Operator – The White Stripes
49. When She Begins – Social Distortion
50. Ohio – The Black Keys
51. Just Got Paid – ZZ Top
52. All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
53. Would You Fight For My Love? – Jack White
54. Fire – Jimi Hendrix
55. Gold and Warm – Bad Veins
56. On My Mind – New Found Glory
57. Harry Potter Soundtrack (Seating music before ceremony.) (We got more compliments on this choice than anything else on this playlist.Everyone LOVED hearing this when they entered the venue.)