Tue March 6th, 2018
Minimum Age: All Ages
Doors Open: 7:00PM
Show Time: 8:00PM
Event Ticket: $18
Day of Show: $20
*This event will take place at Murmrr Theatre: 17 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn NY 11238*
Adrianne Lenker (of Big Thief)
Adrianne Lenker, Big Thief’s lead singer, paints in vivid tones, “The process of harnessing pain, loss, and love, while simultaneously letting go, looking into your own eyes through someone else’s, and being okay with the inevitability of death,” in her words.
Masterpiece, Big Thief’s debut album (Saddle Creek), is filled with characters and visceral narratives, songs that pivot in the space of a few words. Adrianne’s voice and guitar playing speak of rich emotional territory with grace and insight. In her words, the record tracks “the masterpiece of existence, which is always folding into itself, people attempting to connect, to both shake themselves awake and to shake off the numbness of certain points in their life. The interpretations might be impressionistic or surrealistic, but they’re grounded in simple things.
Adrianne met her longtime musical partner, guitarist and singer, Buck Meek, in Brooklyn a few years ago, and they quickly formed a creative bond tempered by the experience of traveling and performing for months on end in old dive bars, yards, barns, and basements together. They recorded a pair of duo albums (A-Sides and B-Sides), and Adrianne showcased her songs on a solo album, Hours Were The Birds.
For singer-songwriter Nick Hakim, it all started in a house in Jamaica Plains, MA with collaborators Naima and Solo Woods. There, he put the finishing touches on his breakthrough EPs, Where Will We Go, Pt. I & II, which would later release through his Earseed Records and earn critical praise from NPR and The New York Times. But it was where the sessions for the two-part project ended and the ideas began to materialize for what would become his full-length debut, Green Twins (releasing via ATO Records in 2017), an experimental step forward with emotional heft gleaned from his experiences in the years since.
The story of Green Twins truly began when, armed with the masters for his EPs, Hakim moved from Boston to Brooklyn, spending his time fleshing out unfinished ideas in his bedroom. He came up with lyrics on the spot while playing the live circuit at solo shows including Palisades and NYXO, recording sketches and lyrics on voice memos and a four-track cassette recorder, and embracing the local community of musicians by performing with bands like Jesse and Forever and Onyx Collective. From there, Green Twins came about as a sum of its parts: Hakim took the demo recordings to studios in New York City, Philadelphia and London, and built on them with engineers including Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering, production), keeping the original essence of the songs intact. Sarlo notes that “for other artists, a demo serves as a potential shape the song could form into. But for Nick, demos are more like creating a temple: a sanctuary that now we have to go into and somehow clean, furnish, and get ready for other people to experience the sermon in.”
“I put a lot of thought to the things I’d say, but a lot of it is what I was thinking in the moment, very specific songs,” he says of Green Twins, “many of them are like self-portraits”. The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to Portishead and My Bloody Valentine. “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs”, he continues. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib, and Screaming Jay Hawkins.”
“Bet She Looks Like You,” recorded mostly in his home bedroom, was one of the first songs that “started this fire for exploring this experiment through song.” Each track peels back a particular aspect of his life: on the title song, he gets deeply personal, reflecting on a recurring dream. “All these things reflect how I feel, how I write,” he says. “I sometimes have trouble articulating myself verbally. This is a place I can talk and be myself, with music, this intangible space I create.”
Hakim’s debut comes as the culmination of years chiseling his skills as a musician. Hailing from Washington, D.C., he grew up in a musical household—his older brother introduced him to bands like Bad Brains and Nirvana, and his parents exposed him to Nueva canción—while he set out on his own to discover the DC music scene. He didn’t take an interest in learning an instrument until later in high school, when he taught himself to play the keys. After graduation, he moved to Boston to continue his study of music. In the time since moving to Brooklyn and setting to work for three years on Green Twins, he embraced the live circuit, both as a solo musician and with his band, whom he’s brought together from within his community in Boston and New York.
With Green Twins, Hakim plans to tour through the beginning of the year, and hopes that folks will connect with the songs he’d written. “I think everybody feels insecure about certain things and everybody has lost people dear to them. I think I’m writing about common things that people feel,” he says. “I’m very grateful for anybody that’s listening or wants to be a part of my little world that I’ve created through song.”
If you take a look through his family tree, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Henry Jamison was born to write songs. There’s his father, a classical composer, and his mother, an English professor, who both inspired and encouraged him directly, but if you continue tracing Jamison’s lineage back even further, some interesting names start to turn up. Go back to the 1800’s, for example, and you’ll find “Battle Cry of Freedom” author George Frederick Root, the most popular songwriter of the Civil War era. Travel even further back in time, to 14th century England to be exact, and you’ll find the poet John Gower, known to be a friend to both Chaucer and Richard II.
“There’s definitely this bardic tradition in my family,” reflects Jamison. “I don’t know how much any of it means, but I was handed a set of skills growing up, and I had to learn how to develop them on my own.”
With his stunning debut album, ‘The Wilds,’ Jamison is ready to share that development with the world and claim his place as the latest in a long line of remarkable storytellers. Blending delicate acoustic guitar and banjo with programmed percussion loops and synthesizers, the Vermont songwriter grapples with the jarring dissonances of contemporary life on the record as he struggles to reconcile the clashes between our inner and outer selves, the natural world and our fabricated society. Jamison writes with cinematic precision, conjuring vivid scenes and fully realized characters wrestling with existential crises and modern malaise. His dazzling way with words and keen ear for memorable hooks at once calls to mind the baroque pop of Sufjan Stevens and the unflinching emotional honesty of Frightened Rabbit, but the delivery is uniquely his own, understated yet devastating.
‘The Wilds’ comes on the heels of Jamison’s 2016 breakout debut EP, ‘The Rains.’ Tracks from the collection racked up more than 20 million streams on Spotify, as his uniquely off-kilter brand of lyricism earned a swarm of critical acclaim. NPR’s World Café featured Jamison in their breaking artist series, raving that his “descriptions of places ring true and his subtle production touches stand out,” while Vice Noisey said his “mellow folk…soothes your nerves,” and Consequence of Sound praised him as a “visual lyricist” writing music that “sounds like a dream taking form.” The EP earned Jamison dates with Big Thief, Lady Lamb, and Tall Heights plus festival appearances and performances across Europe.
When it came time to record ‘The Wilds,’ Jamison picked up right where he left off with ‘The Rains,’ returning to the same unassuming, mountainside house in Goshen, VT, where he’d cut the EP. There, Jamison reunited with engineer/co-producer Ethan West, a veteran figure he likens to a musical midwife who helped him birth the songs. While Jamison’s home in Burlington isn’t exactly Times Square, working in Goshen felt like an opportunity to leave behind even the slightest traces of urbanity.
“The studio is about an hour and a half from where I live in Burlington, and you’ve got to drive a little dirt road halfway up a mountain to get there, so it always feels like a bit of a pilgrimage,” says Jamison. “By the time I get to the studio, I feel like I’ve entered some slightly different zone. The property is covered in trees, and Ethan decided he was also going to start a maple sugaring and honey business, so we had to schedule our recording sessions around his maple sugaring season, which is the most Vermont problem you could have.”
Jamison is a solitary artist who writes, records, and arranges everything himself, including all of the album’s string arrangements, and ‘The Wilds’ is a pure reflection of the world through his eyes. The record opens with an ethereal vocal movement that gives way to “Bright & Future,” a short, spare, richly visual song that sets the stage for a record driven by philosophical and psychological musings. On the title track and “Through A Glass,” Jamison comes to a Walt Whitman-esque understanding of the multitudes contained within each of us, while “Sunlit Juice” and “Dallas Love Field” use extended metaphors to examine what happens when we try to impose our outer will on our inner lives (it usually doesn’t end well), and “The Jacket” searches for authentic connection in a synthetic landscape.
“Sometimes it feels like you’re just moving through this air conditioned world of artificial light and hard surfaces,” says Jamison. “That song is about longing for human connection but feeling cut off from everything I’m trying to commune with. The air conditioning and fluorescence leads to this total loss of self.”
The only hope we have for truly understanding ourselves and making peace with our psyches, according to ‘The Wilds,’ is to accept ourselves and each other for the complicated, conflicted, imperfect beings we are. On the abstract “Black Mountain” Jamison reaches the realization that by sacrificing his attachment to his sense of self, he can gain a greater appreciation for his place in the universe, the way a river running into the sea ceases to be, yet simultaneously becomes something grander than it had ever been before. On the gorgeous “Varsity,” he comes to terms with the reality that things will never be as cut and dry as we’d like, singing, “I’m not what I appear to be/ I’m a little more confused, but also less so,” while on the utterly charming “Real Peach,” he seeks to bury the hatchet with the declaration that “if all is fair in love and war, then I don’t know what we are we fighting for.”
“If you’re fighting with someone, you can really believe what you’re saying, and they can really believe what they’re saying, and so you sometimes have to look at the space around your disagreement and discover that you still want to be with that person,” explains Jamison. “It made me think of this Rumi line which I adapted for the song, where he talks about being in the field beyond the right and wrong.”
In Jamison’s case, he may be on the mountainside above the right and wrong, in a basement studio where the outcome of any disagreement is less important than the revelations it produces. The truth of the matter, according to ‘The Wilds,’ is that truth itself is subjective and deeply personal, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can move from conflict, both internal and external, to harmony. It’s heady stuff he’s writing, but as far as Henry Jamison is concerned, it’s all part of growing up, which is why the album’s final track, “No One Told Me,” references Galleons Lap.
“That’s the place where Christopher Robin leaves Winnie The Pooh and goes out into the world on his own,” says Jamison. “In the song, it feels like I’m finally moving out of childhood and into adulthood.”
In some ways it’s an ending, and a bittersweet one at that, but in others, it’s just the beginning of a brand new life. As Jamison waves goodbye to his past selves on ‘The Wilds,’ he welcomes into being new multitudes, each of them counting the days until sugaring season, patiently waiting for their chance to press record and document this latest branch of an extraordinary family tree.