Stately authority, passionate restraint
Simple, elegant, and powerful, “Before” is a walking-paced blues-based rocker that converts familiarity to strength through its stately authority. The song reveals itself at its own pace and is concise in its melodic offerings—which is polite way of saying the verse and the chorus are sung to pretty much the same tune–and yet not once does it seem to drag or bore.
Everything in “Before” arrives unruffled and inevitable—instrumental tracks laid down with offhand precision, the underlying beat betraying a subtle swing, and, at the center of attention, Dweck himself with his resonant voice, at once world-weary and hopeful, an underlying fire close to the surface but never fully burning through. Encapsulating the song’s atmosphere of passionate restraint is the lead guitar, content largely with simmering background flourishes. We get a brief solo at 1:42, and an extended one at 3:02, elegiac and resolute, shining with intention but still that sense of something being held back. I mean this in a good way; I am consistently a fan of restraint when it comes to both songwriting and performing, as it almost always speaks to a level of artistry out of range of the “more is more” and/or “look at me!” approach.
Dweck is a veteran musician based in London whose career has taken him around the world, playing for the art of it rather than the commerce—an assumption I’m making based on the fact that there is little in the way of a solid informational trail to follow online beyond the press release describing him as “a globe-trotting artist” who “has continued to move people throughout the years.” “Before” is a single released in August, without a lot of tangential explanation; whether an album is forthcoming is as yet unknown. Wherever he’s been and wherever he’s yet going, the man is well worth listening to in the here and now; don’t miss this one.
Steady, rich, and resonant
At once intimate and expansive, “Tried To Tell You” simmers with nuanced allure. While grounded in an assertive backbeat, the song’s charms lie in some less obvious places. Do you hear that wobbly synthesizer that eases its way into the mix in the introduction (0:11)? That’s the kind of small, wonderful moment to expect here, much having to do with what the various keyboard sounds are doing; you’ll discover everything from foreboding bass notes to an assortment of friendly interjections if you pay close attention.
But the star of this steady, rich, and resonant song is Tamara Lindeman, the Canadian singer/songwriter who does musical business as The Weather Station. Her voice impresses with its warmth and flexibility, as she ranges between a dusky alto and a breathy soprano, an elasticity that brings to mind none other than fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell. The chorus is concise and sublime (if, again, you stop to pay attention), with brilliant phrasing and intonation. Listen to how much she does with the phrase “I tried to tell you” first heard at 0:48, its simple parade of one-syllable words enhanced by a shift in vocal tone that takes the breath away.
“Tried To Tell You” is a track from The Weather Station’s 2021 album, Ignorance, released earlier this month on Fat Possum Records. You can listen to the whole thing, and buy it (digital, vinyl, CD, cassette, you name it) via Bandcamp.
MP3 via KEXP. The Weather Station was previously featured on Fingertips in September 2011.
Modest and controlled at the outset, with an ever-so-subtle swing, “The Swim” develops organically into a muscular bit of rootsy rock, timeless in its approach and vibe.
Modest and controlled at the outset, with an ever-so-subtle swing, “The Swim” develops organically into a muscular bit of rootsy rock, timeless in its approach and vibe. A lot here rests in the capable singing voice of Gustav Haggren, the veteran Swede who is one of three lead vocalists in Case Conrad. Haggren’s is a burnished baritone, a voice that sounds like a friend and a stranger, a plea and a bargain, a dream and a disappointment. It’s a rich, human voice, unshowy and entirely at home in this easy-going composition, with its major-minor alternations and satisfying melodic resolutions (the sturdy run first heard from 0:51 to 0:58 is especially pleasurable, if you happen to be a chord progression fan).
One of the song’s agreeable touches is this odd little sidestep it takes after the second two choruses, when it deconstructs itself into 6/8 time, with a slightly loopy, Tom Waitsian flair. There’s no particular reason for it, but that’s where the magic in songwriting often lies.
Case Conrad was formed by Haggren in the wake of the 2009 breakup of his band Gustav and the Seasick Sailors, who were a notable Fingertips favorite back in the day (featured in 2005 and 2008, if you’re curious, and aren’t you, a little?). Four of the band members are from Sweden and one is from Portugal; residence-wise they are now split between Malmö and Barcelona.
“The Swim” is a track from A Tightrope Wish, the band’s third album, released last month on Stargazer Records/This Is Forte.