Emily Saliers - Thirty years into one of the most storied careers in popular music, Emily Saliers decided to record her debut album. "What's a 53 year old woman doing making her first solo record?" muses Saliers, best known as one half of the iconic duo Indigo Girls. "What compels someone like me to follow this strong attachment to rhythmic music?" Murmuration Nation answers those questions both passionately and profoundly. In this "post-fact" era in which we find ourselves living today, Saliers' fearless voice and insightful perspective feel more vital and relevant than ever before. The songs also reveal a new side of Saliers' artistry, one that even her most ardent fans might not expect to hear. "It was so freeing to pursue the kind of music I truly wanted to make without regard to what I'd done before or who I'm expected to be," says Saliers. I hope that this record can take people who think they know me already on a journey that'll really surprise them." While Indigo Girls is still very much alive and well, Murmuration Nation is Saliers' first release under her own name, and it's a surprising journey indeed. The record brims over with life and energy, blurring both musical and geographical boundaries as Saliers breaks down barriers with a bold and infectious spirit of adventure.
Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput" Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the album explores the kind of rhythmically centered, globally inspired music that's always held a special place in Saliers' heart. "I was born in a predominantly African American neighborhood in New Haven," she explains. "Most of my friends growing up were black, so I was steeped in a musical culture that included James Brown, Otis Redding, and all the great R&B artists of the time. That's the music that really stirred my spirit and made my body want to move. I found myself loving music from West Africa and South America for the same reasons. I think of it all as 'body music.'" It was folk music, however, that first brought Saliers to national prominence. Indigo Girls released their breakout self-titled album in 1989, and in the ensuing decades, racked up a slew of Gold and Platinum records, took home a coveted GRAMMY Award, and earned the respect of high profile peers-turned-collaborators from Michael Stipe to Joan Baez. NPR's Mountain Stage called the band "one of the finest folk duos of all time," while Rolling Stone said they "personify what happens when two distinct sensibilities, voices, and worldviews come together to create something transcendently its own," and The New York Times raved that "gleeful profanities, righteous protest anthems and impeccable folk songwriting have carried this duo for thirty years." Known for their outspoken political activism in addition to their brilliant songwriting, Indigo Girls became a household name and a fixture of American pop culture, but Saliers has never been one to rest on her laurels.
Throughout her rise to stardom, she toyed with the idea of recording a solo album that combined her love of folk storytelling with her passion for the grooves and beats of that "body music" she'd always been so innately drawn to. When she met Juliard-trained violinist Lyris Hung, now a frequent Indigo Girls collaborator, Saliers found that her dream no longer seemed that far fetched. "Lyris allowed me to imagine a very broad musical world and expand what I was capable of doing on my own," reflects Saliers. "I would write these snippets and send them to her, and she'd work on them in her home studio and send them back. I got so excited when I heard her productions. I realized she could help me make the hybrid record I always wanted, something with that R&B, rhythmic core along with organic instruments and my lyrics. I asked her, 'Would you please produce the solo album I've been talking about for decades?'" The result is a record that defies easy categorization, with Saliers effortlessly mixing disparate musical traditions underneath poetic lyrics that take their cues from the natural world around us. Album opener "Spider," for instance, brings together hints of heavy metal and Native American a capella music as Saliers weaves an arachno-centric metaphor for geopolitical trickery, while Spanish guitar gives way to orchestral strings and an electronic beat on the slithering "Serpent Love," and the elegant "Fly" draws on avian inspiration for its message of community and cooperation. "'Fly' is kind of at the crux of the album," Saliers explains. "A murmuration of birds is practically inexplicable to scientists, but it's a very powerful thing to watch, and I see it happening in our country in an amazing way right now. From Black Lives Matter to the Women's March to Standing Rock, there are all these grassroots movements starting to coalesce, and I take great comfort in the way people are instinctually moving together to fight injustice and hate." In much the same way, Saliers' songwriting and Hung's production reach across divides to a broad and diverse audience.
Though the musical setting may be different, Indigo Girls fans who have grown up with Saliers will recognize her trademark passion and perception, while younger listeners unfamiliar with her illustrious back catalog will discover in this record a voice of great clarity and understanding that speaks to these unique and troubling times. By drawing on her love of so many cultures and her insatiable appetite for great songwriting, regardless of genre or era, Saliers has crafted an album that is at once classic and modern, timeless and daring. On songs like "Train Inside" and "Long Haul," she leans on her vintage country and folk roots, while "Poethearted" and "Slow Down Day Friend" showcase her love of the ukulele (which replaces the acoustic guitar she's so traditionally identified with here), and "Match" and "Sad One" offer beautiful, bittersweet perspectives on the highs and lows of love. Though Saliers' songwriting always comes from a deeply personal place, she isn't afraid to look beyond herself and examine the big picture with her music, tackling America's obsession with guns on "OK Corral," the violent results of religious zealotry "I’m High I'm On High," and our complicated relationship with southeast Asia on "Hello Vietnam." "There are a lot of heavy, serious topics on this album," says Saliers, "but there's also a lot of whimsical groove and pop to it. That mix is important to me because it's like the ebb-and-flow, peak-and-valley journey of life. I think this record is very reflective of my personality. I need fast and I need slow; I need grooves and I need a little bit of edge." In the end, it all comes down to balance: artistically, emotionally, spiritually. The album showcases a side of Saliers that few knew she carried within her, but one that burns as bright today as it did when she was just a youngster discovering the wide world of music around her. Thirty years is a long wait for a debut, but with Murmuration Nation, it feels like Emily Saliers is right on time.
Overcoats - Overcoats is New York-based female duo Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell. Their sound captivates, combining electronic backdrops with soaring, harmonic intimacy — a sort of Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkel. Overcoats’ songs draw strength from vulnerability, finding uplifting beauty in simple, honest songwriting. Their self-titled debut EP released in June 2015 felt magnetic, attracting critics and fans alike. Its four tracks are smooth, dark, and spacious. Wrapped in dusky reverb, the duo's voices glide over shivering chords and minimal electronics. Smaller than My Mother and The Fog surge with dance-floor energy, while Little Memory and Walk On unfold in gentle, soulful waves. This debut EP catapulted Overcoats across the Atlantic into a three-month tour. Their most notable performances included showcases in London, a headline show at Dublin’s renowned Whelan’s, and a set at Longitude Festival alongside the likes of James Blake, Hozier, and Ibeyi. The duo returned to New York in November to play a packed room at Mercury Lounge. Overcoats is now based in New York, performing and recording new material in studio. More than just a band, Overcoats is a friendship, an artistic duo whose songwriting is musical empathy that verges on telepathy. The two have a clear vision of the sound they want to make together - they operate under one creative impulse. Their name comes from the strength they find in making music together. Like an overcoat, Hana and JJ’s music is as much about the armor they create for themselves through their art as it is about the vulnerability beneath.
Anders Parker - Across an almost 20 year career Anders Parker has cut his own path, zig zagging across roads and wilds with his music. From Portland, OR, to Brooklyn, NY, to Raleigh, NC, to Upstate New York, to Burlington, VT, with some short, rootless incursions into California, Texas, and beyond, Parker has left a trail of inspiration behind, while mining the earth, air, and gravity of each stop, turning that rugged ore into beautifully constructed testaments of life’s experiences. Scorched Earth rock songs, fragile acoustic tunes, shiny synth-pop, ambient instrumental drones, aching duets, pastoral folk, winding arrangements, and more, have all been explored through his prolific output. Parker has released five albums under his own name, including a double record and an album of guitar instrumentals. Under the Varnaline moniker, Parker released five albums between 1996 and 2001. In addition, he teamed up with Jay Farrar to form Gob Iron. Jim James and Will Johnson joined those two to bring the archived lyrics of Woody Guthrie to life in the New Multitudes “supergroup” project. Parker released a beautifully lyrical album with longtime ally Kendall Meade under the band name Anders & Kendall. He was also a member of noise rock band Space Needle, and Parker continues to aid and abet a long list of colleagues and friends in their efforts along the way. Parker’s new record, There’s a Blue Bird in my Heart, will be released on June 17, 2014 via his own Recorded and Freedlabel. The album of nine distinct tracks was created in Burlington, VT, with Parker’s band, Cloud Badge (Creston Lea and Steve Hadeka). The initial tracks were all cut live before the process relocated to Athens, GA, for additional recording and mixing by the legendary David Barbe (Bob Mould, Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt). This new album is 21st century classic rock; each song is its own journey to the corners of Parker’s musical mind.
Seth Glier - Seth Glier’s new album Birds is steeped in conflict and contradictions. There’s grief and loss, but also strength and resilience; doubt and dismay, but also a sense of optimism as Glier confronts heavy topics and wrestles them into the daylight. Glier (pronounced “Gleer”) recorded Birds in an airy loft in western Massachusetts outfitted with a grand piano and floor-to-ceiling windows. Birds roost just outside those windows, on the roof of the converted mill building where he lives, and they became his sympathetic audience while Glier made the album. “I felt a tremendous amount of comfort talking to the Birds,” he says “I’d check in with them regularly to see how they thought things were going so far.” Birds is Glier’s fifth album, and the latest entry in a burgeoning career that has included a Grammy nomination and a pair of Independent Music Awards while touring with artists including Ani DiFranco and Ryan Adams. The songs on Birds range from personal to political, and are bound together by the awareness that our world is a fragile place that is all the more magical for it. Glier makes that point on a large scale with “Water on Fire,” a terse, grinding tune that opens with a cynical reworking of a Ray Charles lyric as Glier uses fracking to dig into the false equivalence between freedom and capitalism. “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” has a more visceral, intimate approach: the soulful slow jam, full of warm guitars and multi-tracked vocals, is about the death of Glier’s autistic brother. Together, those songs represent the opposite poles of Birds. “I was really trying to explore connections on this record,” Glier says. Among those connections is the one between race and the criminal justice system on “Justice for All,” a raw chain-gang stomp that sounds almost like an old field recording. “Like I Do” takes a more oblique tack, drawing out feelings of anger through the use of noisy synthesizers and fuzzed-out bass pads. The songs on Birds reflect a scope of sound and style: the title track is lush and & orchestral, for example, while “Too Much Water” pairs Glier’s voice and piano with subtle accompaniment from horns, for a classic, elegant feel that calls to mind Harry Nilsson in the early ’70s. “People Like Us” is jaunty and up-tempo, while the trebly guitar arpeggios and moaning saxophone on “Just Because I Can” sound like a sock-hop slow dance, until you zero in on lyrics delivered by a narrator who dynamites his domestic bliss simply for the power trip. Conflict. Contradiction. Even the cover tune, a reimagined version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” evokes urgency. “Although it was written 50 years ago, it’s still about what’s happening right now,” Glier says. Birds began taking shape after Glier lost his brother, Jamie, who died in October 2015, and inspired a TED Talk performance that Glier gave in 2016. “My brother passing away was a huge component of where I was and what I was looking for,” Glier says. “In particular, I was looking for meanings, wanting his life to mean more than just being over.” For a long time afterward, Glier passed the time by writing songs and inspecting each melody with the feathered fellows by his windowsill. Instead of recording the album in a Los Angeles studio, as he did on his 2015 album If I Could Change One Thing, he decided to make Birds at home. “I thought that I should just stay close to the windows here,” Glier says. “I think this sort of happened by accident, but by the time I started recording the record, it was fall in New England, which is a profoundly beautiful death. The air is full of honesty, the sky is full of geese, and there is bright gorgeousness woven into the dying of things. It all seeped into the textures of this record.”
Becca Mancari - Born in Staten Island, New York, to an Italian-Irish preacher and a Puerto Rican mother, Mancari has lived a life of transition - from working as a janitor in South Florida, to writing songs with train hoppers in the Blue Ridge Mountains and seeking spirituality in India. But it was her time in Virginia and Nashville where she found the roots music that would continue to inspire her musical evolution to today. Her anticipated debut album, "Good Woman," is hauntingly lonesome, with dust-cloud swells of electric guitar and don't-look- back lyrics revealing scenes from Mancari’s well-travelled story. She recalls, “I remember being 19, and I would go to this old warehouse where a bunch of old timers would be siting around picking and drinking moonshine…and we are talking straight up moonshine. "During this time, Mancari's curiosity to see the world with eager, fresh eyes grew, drawing her to travel and experience all types of people and places. Her travels would inevitably impact her music; since her music is the landscape of all she's seen, “Good Woman” evokes the sound of city grit and the mountain music of her youth, swirling into a fresh, nostalgic sound. Mancari explains that she wants her music to be familiar to audiences, but also pushing creative boundaries, rewriting the rules for her genre. She explains, “Our hope is that we’re doing something that respects the roots but also has space and the galaxy in it.” It's these planetary frontiers, along with the powerful fragility in her voice, that make Mancari's music beyond standard classifications. Perhaps more striking than Mancari’s sound is the tender honesty and vulnerability present in each of her songs. Ann Powers describes Mancari’s writing as "lyrical and raw," commenting on the "great personality in her songs."
As a gay woman in the south, she has fought hard to reconcile her spiritual beliefs with her sexuality. Her strong personality enables her to be a spokeswoman to the outcast and the misfit, helping her redefine the categories that so often divide people. Mancari explains, “It was not an easy road when I came out. No matter how hard I tried to fit into society’s molds, I could not. I want to be open and proud of who I am, because I needed people like that in my life when I was young.” Mancari hopes that people will find the bravery in her story and be able to discover their own inner strength. When Mancari sings, she shines with authenticity. It is evident that Mancari knows exactly who she is, and her music has a strong sense of identity. But it is her refusal to subscribe to molds and societies trends that sets Mancari apart. Mancari is challenging all of us to throw away the old book and create a new genre of music. In a short time, Mancari has made a name for herself in Nashville and the southeast. She has toured and played with Margo Price, Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Lone Bellow, SUSTO, Joan Osborne, The Weeks, and more.