Release Date: Jul 7, 2009
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwriter
Visual art has its negative space, psychology and philosophy speak of lack, science continues to grapple with the great mystery of dark matter, and organized religion would be at a total loss without its pantheon of all-powerful invisible über-beings (to say nothing of all those optical illusion blocks that spell JESUS). Point being: What's not there often counts for as much as, if not more than, what is. Music, too, of course has its share of sounds defined by the silences that surround them, and Seattle's Jesy Fortino is one of the finest purveyors of such sounds going.
When people talk about good headphones albums, they tend to mean loud records—albums like Loveless or some other crushing sound that surround you with thick layers of noise. And only by bringing it right to your ear, by drowning the rest of the world out and giving in to its brutal assault, can you finally sift through the layers and find what’s really there, what’s really beautiful. But the second album by Tiny Vipers, the mostly solo project from Seattle’s Jesy Fortino, is not that kind of headphones record.
For some reason, it seems as if the United States churns out more earnest singer-songwriters than does any other country in the world. We produce spare, sincere, folksy artists like the U.K. produces devil-may-care, smart-alecky frontmen. Depending on your tastes, this is either boring or a sure sign that American music is serious music, and that our tunes are exported all around the world for a reason.
Seattle-based singer/songwriter Jesy Fortino's second full-length outing under her Tiny Vipers pseudonym utilizes the same sparse algebra that she established on her ghostly 2007 debut. Possessing a voice caught somewhere between Harvest-era Neil Young and Zooey Deschanel of silver screen and She & Him fame, Fortino's vague, semi-conscious lyrics and soft fingerpicking fit right in with the current crop of late-'60s British folk-obsessed singer/songwriters like Jana Hunter, Joanna Newsom, Jesse Sykes, and Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy. The 11 tracks that populate Life on Earth tiptoe by like thieves, leaving enough predawn atmosphere in their wakes to fuel a thousand cups of coffee.
Tiny Vipers is Seattle-based acoustic singer/songwriter Jesy Fortino. Her haunting ballads are a spooky and otherworldly brand of folk, not unlike a quieter, more subdued Castanets. [rssbreak] Despite the complexity of her guitar work, most songs feature only a single guitar part under her moody vocals. The result is a very quiet record (possibly reflecting her admittedly timid nature - stage fright was once a big problem for her), but one that rewards a close listen.
Vincenzo Natali’s 2003 film Nothing takes its two central figures, Andrew and Dave, and positions them in a characterless white void. The big endless nothing appears to stretch on forever, triggering a peculiar kind of claustrophobia in the two men, who slip into various existential crises as they struggle to adapt to their new surroundings. All that remains of their previous world is the house in which they both lived.
For all the myriad tales of life that every person goes through, there comes along a few that just feel that much more real than the rest. Some can be bloated with over-dramatization or even a few soul-crushing moments can overbear the story’s importance. But as much as one tries, life as we know it is an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey.
Xasthur The California black-metal project Xasthur is one guy, Malefic. Malefic is Scott Conner. Scott Conner makes music that sounds as if it has gangrene. “All Reflections Drained,” Xasthur’s largely instrumental new record (Hydra Head) is misery on misery: unapologetic cardboard-box drums, background muttering, disorienting echoes, a guitar sound like cold, granular gas.