A Selfish Man – Francis Lung

Scratch the surface of Francis Lung’s A Selfish Man and you’ll find a clear message. A directive unearthed from his past: the decision to leave his band, WU LYF, and go solo.

**

Whirling guitars and fuzzy synths create a merry-go-round of echo and delay peddles. It’s dreamy and upbeat, but like his shoe gaze counterpart, Wild Nothing, a smoldering emotionality pierces through, and Francis Lung confronts the unknown.

They say you can’t come back
S’why I never left
They say you can’t come back
Babe that’s why I never left

Thor Rixon – The Clown

Five years ago I interviewed a young South African musician named Thor Rixon at a cafe in Cape Town. We’d been set up by a young woman in my music journalism class who was eager to introduce me to her friend and lead man of Sun-Do Q’lisi.

As I set up my GoPro for the interview, I felt a nervous energy run through my gut. I doubted my ability to interpret Sun-Do Q’lisi’s most recent project, an experiment with costumes, exaggerated grins, and synths that hummed like buzz saws.

“At the center of Sun-Do Q’lisi’s music is the desire for creativity and the pursuit of fun.  Unlike many young bands that seem desperate to find a niche, Sun-Do Q’lisi dares to avoid being confined to any label. It may not even be out of rebellious defiance, but simply out of the pursuit of groundbreaking and thought provoking sound.” – BeatsForDinner (April 8, 2012)

**

Five years later, Thor reappeared in my news feed with his release, The Clown. Crammed into a soundproof cylinder with three other band mates, I watched Thor tap his way through a Get Physical live session.

It’s surreal to hear the development. Thor’s sound is more refined, spacious and light footed. He does more with less, allowing the music to settle into a nocturnal groove.

Looking back at my old South African blog post, I’m inspired by two things… Thor’s dedicated vision and the fact that we’re both still doing what we love.

“I challenged the plausibility of his funky music being accepted by a mainstream audience, Thor responded by saying ‘Obviously, we want to make this our career, but we don’t really have a plan like in two years time we want to be here or there.  Lets put as much effort and time into it and see where it takes us.'”BeatsForDinner (April 8, 2012)

Sturgill Simpson – Turtles All the Way Down

“I’ll do the one that you guys spend all the time talking about,” said Sturgill Simpson, his guitar resting on his lap.

**

Sturgill strums a few bars and then stops abruptly.

“Actually just about every journalist so far that I’ve read has covered this song, but I don’t think anybody has actually nailed down what it’s actually about.” Sturgill talks through tight lips. “So my fault… for being too cryptic.”

Laughter ripples through the audience at NPR’s tiny desk concert. Everyone’s in on the same joke and coolness oozes from Sturgill Simpson and his worn-in Converse shoes.

“It’s actually all about drugs…”

The small gathering shifts uncomfortably. Someone coughs. Sturgill soaks in the awkwardness, like any country star worth his brass would make a few NPR stiffs squirm before handing over what everyone had come for – his perfect, soul-probing voice.

Morale is High (Food is Low)

Sorting through my pack for a water bottle, I feel a puddle of sticky liquid at the bottom. I lean closer and inhale. It stinks and my lips feel numb and blue.

I go into damage control, slower than usual after repeated tugs from a whiskey bottle. Luckily, a pair of boxers and bag of bagels are soaking up most of the gas. After pulling everything out of my backpack, I toss the bagels into the fire and watch a fiery plume spike into the night sky.

The flame wilts a bit and I retreat back to the tent. It’s dark and my brother breathes deep in his sleeping bag. I shift to get comfortable but a looming paranoia has loosened my brain cells. They fire off a laundry list of potential disasters… Rattlesnakes! Ticks! Bad water! Food shortage! A field of poison oak. Death by combustion.

Laying there I think I sense a sudden heat-spike. Maybe it’s just lighter. The clouds have moved to reveal the moon. But in my heightened state of awareness I can hear the pop of old redwoods and sand nearing its melting point. I will the tide to swell – to surge – to put out the fire.

The next morning I wake to a moral hangover. The clouds have us socked in and the waves are grey and lifeless. My brother and I start to make breakfast, but I swear it tastes like gasoline. He seems to not notice.

We pack our things. My sleeping bag goes first. Then, the rain fly, a can of beans and a roll of toilet paper. I clip the fuel bottle into a carabiner and attach it to the side of my pack.

**

We walk with everything on our back and already we’re making progress. I skip from rock to rock, trying to avoid stepping in tide pools. The act of placing one foot in front of the other gives rhythm to the day. We’re moving which means we’re closer to something.

I pull away from the group, to conduct a check-in of sorts, wondering why through all of this I haven’t once wished to be anywhere else. The muscles in my legs are warm and my pack fits nicely against my back.

The rest of the group catches up and I silently join the ranks. Nothing is said about my retreat and we begin to walk again, eager to get to our next destination before the tide covers our tracks.