Cymbals Eat Guitars
Back in 2009, Cymbals Eat Guitars first caught my attention with their first single,“And the Hazy Sea.” The song was a mish-mash of indie rock, a Pavement meets Superchunk meets The Pixies meets Built to Spill meets Modest Mouse type of conglomeration that one could only dreamed of in the mid-90s. I can still remember the first time I heard the song as a sample on a music website and how instantly I transformed into a teenager in that moment, re-connecting with all the greats from the previous decade. Unfortunately, the rest of the debut album, Why There Are Mountains, didn’t quite live up to the frenzied tide of “And the Hazy Sea,” but I still expected a bright future from the band.
In 2011 they returned with Lenses Alien, an album that received favorable reviews but still lacked the same intensity of that first track. I chocked it up to a band striking gold once and never seeing the light again. Thankfully, my assessment was completely wrong.
While reading No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan several months ago, the fact that Bob Dylan grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota struck a nerve with me. Not that I didn’t already know Robert Zimmerman’s hometown; what caught me off guard was the way author Robert Shelton described Dylan’s disdain for small town life. Being a fellow small town Midwest boy who couldn’t wait to escape, I felt a spiritual connection to Bob, like maybe that internal yearning for bigger things is what has always drawn me to his music. On the first page of the biography, Shelton encapsulates the mining town: “Hibbing had dug its own grave with sixty years of mining shovels, now only good for burying miners.” This description reminded me of my hometown that imploded when the Morrell’s meat packing plant left town three decades ago. As the book went on to describe the very familiar scene of empty storefronts and prevalent backwater conservatism, I decided I had to visit Bob Dylan’s hometown, a seven hour drive north from where I grew up.
When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day
Two years ago, Mirel Wagner emerged from Finland like a haunting ghost, bringing with her the sparse, folk storytelling that had long been forgotten. Her songs told darkly disturbing fairy tales of death and decay, all conveyed through only her raspy, alto voice and the soft strumming of her guitar. Her approach seemed simple enough, but the combination of the lo-fi production and Mirel’s hypnotic melodies resulted in one of the best folk albums of 2012.
When I first purchased Wagner’s latest release, When the Cellar Children See the Light, I worried that the sophomore curse would hinder all the elements that made her first album great. Would the songs sound as gritty with amped up production value? Would Wagner lose sight of the muse that inspired such intense songs as “No Death” and “To the Bone”?