MONONFESTO’S SAN DIEGO SPOTLIGHT: REDWOODS’ BIRDY BARDOT SHAKES IT UP AGAIN

The latest offering from The Redwoods Music, Birdy Bardot II, has San Diego buzzing once again. Monofesto seized upon the opportunity of the new release to team up with local photographer Kristy Walker to cover the record release party show at the Casbah last month.  In addition to an album review, we were also able to interview Birdy bandmates Matt Molarius and Daniel Schraer. Check out all parts of this special “San Diego Spotlight” feature below, and be sure to check out the Redwoods Swapmeet & Greet this Sunday 7/30 at Allegory and the next Redwoods Review on August 6th at Coronado’s Bay Resort.

SHOW2Interview Plug4ALBUM3

Show Review: Birdy Bardot Record Release Party – Casbah – 6/23/17

A thrilling intensity filled the Casbah when Birdy Bardot and band took to the stage last month and unleashed their new material during the record release party for Birdy Bardot II. It was a festive night for the Redwoods and the SoCal music scene, as Birdy was supported by the revival of San Diego favorites The Heavy Guilt, Los Angeles indie rockers The Dead Ships, and label mates Dani Bell and the Tarantist.  Everyone was in high spirits and the band was anxious to celebrate their efforts and share the results with the Casbah crowd, who were primed to graciously receive. As mentioned, Monofesto was lucky to team up with local photographer Kristy Walker who not only shared her knack for capturing the fabulous ladies of the Redwoods and especially Birdy’s increasingly dynamic stage presence but also chronicled the frenetic flow of the night perfectly (check out Walker’s photo slideshow of the night below). 

 

There was no doubt that even in this talent rich evening, the star of the night was Birdy herself. From start to finish, she demanded that every eye in the house was fixed on center stage. Early in the set, when she ripped into the new album’s featured single “Fortune”, it felt like an arrival for Ms. Bardot, rising to a new echelon as a performer. Consistently animated since her days fronting San Diego’s New Kinetics and The Rosalyns, Birdy was now in complete control of the stage and crowd, matching her ferociously beautiful roars with sudden bursts of bodily force.  

The band was happy to pick up on her momentum and bring their own personalized heightened antics to the performance. Oft-touted as a San Diego all-star line-up, each section proved worthy of the billing. Dillon Casey and Matt Molarius  (guitars) ripped powerfully but more impressively filled every sonic space with tight fills, evenly balanced and partnered. Jake Naylor on the drums was resoundingly awe-inspiring in his exacting perfection, and Jason Littlefield was equal to demonstrating his tight professionalism on bass. Daniel Schraer  (keys) was fluid and nuanced in his accompaniment. Of course, Alfred Howard held it all together neatly with his bag of rhythmical tricks (his theremin-inspired manipulation of radio static on his old boombox a particular treat to behold) and limitless passion, seemingly picking up and channeling every rhythmic turn and beat through him simultaneously.  

Birdy had the material from the new album noticeably surging, but she also brought a new welcomed edge to the self-titled freshman album cuts. The crowd was animated throughout, including a captivated crew of young San Diego men lining the front of the stage. Whether looking for a footing to climb the precariously tight Casbah sound rigging or whipping her head back to assault the looming ceiling, Birdy brought infectious life to every word and note. The night capping encore opened with a patient but building rendition of “Right Back” (Bardot II’s closing track) that highlighted Schraer’s moving ability to float Birdy’s vocals out over the heads of the crowd and into the night. They then returned to the first album to close the night with fire. 

Ensuring that the high intensity never faltered was Redwoods ringleader and local legend in the making, Howard. Howard was especially demonstrative this evening in his percussive and explorative sound display,  keeping the Birdy set pumping. Impressive considering his workload for the evening. By the time he took the stage with Birdy he was already on his 4th set of the night, as he not only opened the night bringing his longtime project The Heavy Guilt back to the scene but also bolting from main stage to the back Casbah lounge stage to fill every possible space with raucous rhythms with two Dani Bell and the Tarantist masked-sets between main stage sets. 

Dani Bell and the Tarantist: photo by Kristy Walker

Dani Bell and the Tarantist: photo by Kristy Walker

Dani Bell played their role beautifully, supporting their label mate by keeping the night fresh and alive at every turn. They turned on the spectacle and magic with the flip of a switch like the seasoned and confident act they have worked to become over the past years. The stage connection between Bell and Howard is inescapable and somewhat enigmatic but nevertheless seamless at this point.  

Eric Canoza and Howard of The Heavy Guilt

Eric Canoza and Howard of The Heavy Guilt: photo by Kristy Walker

The Heavy Guilt opened the night with obvious excitement to be performing together and to be presenting new material. Eric Canoza and Howard are joined with a fresh and talented new line-up; Austin Burns (guitar) Aaron Hook (bass), and Peter Williams (drums). Canoza’s voice continues to melt wonderfully into the screaming wall of sound, creating an uplifting urgency. It was great to see the addition of Burns, fully showcasing his instrumental skills this time around, as North County San Diego has long enjoyed his vocal talents with the likes of Second Cousins

Austin Burns : photo by Kristy Walker

Austin Burns : photo by Kristy Walker

Additionally, the Dead Ships definitely gave the night a boost with their poppy reverb laden grooves delivered with metal fierceness. The professional commitment to their sound and performance was evident, making them a fun band to experience in San Diego as they continue to play and spread their name along the West Coast.

The Dead Ships: photo by Kristy Walker

The Dead Ships: photo by Kristy Walker

One last striking thing about the evening was the civility effectively balanced with the raging power and emotion of the music and gathering.  Part of Birdy Bardot and the Redwood’s appeal is undoubtably the talent housed in such a polite, gracious, and approachable group of musicians and the lovely, well-intentioned people they attract around them. 

We Recommend: Birdy Bardot II Lands with a Roar

tempbirdy2_t350The new Birdy Bardot album released by the Redwoods Music, Birdy Bardot II, brings an equal amount of swagger as its self-titled predecessor, but this time around there is an even more biting edge and diversity to the music. As mentioned openly by the band, this second album was a collaborative effort built around Birdy’s wide range and abilities, and the result is a sweeping tour of styles and moods. Giving each member a chance to truly infuse the group with their own unique creative touches effectively unleashed fresh energy into each track.  

The common denominator remains Birdy’s sultry smooth vocals that turn in a flash to razor sharp, biting roars, and the group has found even more opportunities to showcase this moving effect. “Wake Me up with Fire” is one that will have you hitting replay just to hear her reach the maxed out vocal levels as her belting of “fire” will test the threshold of your car speakers or earbuds (tempting you to preorder the vinyl to really see what the recording is made of).

Equally cohesive and important is the masterfully penned lyrics of Alfred Howard (resident Redwoods lyricist, percussionist, and founding father). His musings and offerings move from empowering oneself in the face of an ambiguous future, voicing the scorned and wounded, celebrating personal awakenings, to wandering through the isolation and anxieties of lost time and purpose. 

Of course the featured single “Fortune” is a great representation of the increased power behind the Birdy Bardot sound, but it is really only a single piece of the intricate emotional journey that is the album. The first 3 tracks burst out of the gate with unbridled confidence, but tracks like “Slowly Know Me”, “Take This All Away” and “Through the Dark” are haunting contributions that take you back into the recesses of your own latent desires and quandaries. Thankfully, “Right Back” closes the experience with melodic and thematic comfort to wrap us up in resignation with who we ultimately are and with all that we have dared to let ourselves experience.

Having tested out the album for several weeks now, we definitely advise taking it in from start to finish, as mining the collaborative efforts for the naturally unifying threads is an enjoyable process, and each track features a unique blend of composition and performance that relies on rotating talents and abilities. Let’s hope this creative process serves as a model for more aspiring artists seeking the right formula for collaboration to be lifted up as well as lift up their bandmates. 

 

Interview: Redwoods’ Musicians Matt Molarius and Daniel Schraer Talk New Birdy Bardot Album

Monofesto reached out to the talented Redwoods’ musicians behind the Birdy Bardot II album to find out a little more about the new release. Long-time, respected San Diego artists Matt Molarius (guitar) and Daniel Schraer (keyboard) provided some insight into how the new album came together and what it is like to create within The Redwoods Music endeavor.

BirdyRecordRelease-10

photo by Kristy Walker

Molarius, frontman of San Diego’s iconic Transfer has stepped away from center stage to co-start and run The Redwoods Music, spending more time producing and managing, but his participation in the Birdy project has given him a chance to continue to write and also focus on perfecting his guitar chops. Both in the studio and on stage his contributions are a driving force behind the stomp and swagger that brings a welcomed edge to the music.

BirdyRecordRelease-26

photo by Kristy Walker

Resident keyboardist for the Redwoods, Schraer is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who has worked with numerous bands and projects around San Diego and Los Angeles. Studying music at UCLA, he has also been involved in film and television project scores. His work on the album is evident, as the keys are featured heavily on several tracks and provide a “vintage cool” tone throughout.

Monofesto: It’s been mentioned that Birdy Bardot II is probably the most collaborative Redwoods album to date.”  Bringing this type of communal spirit to the creative process is commendable. What do you see is the greatest reward or benefit in taking on such a collective project? 

Matt: I feel like it’s far more personal for everyone when they are able to put their creative stamp on the music. At the same time, it’s also very unifying to complete an album where everyone has a meaningful contribution and you can look around and say, “Check out what WE did. It rules.” All the players in this band are a force in their own right, so I feel like it really enhances the final outcome of the album when the spotlight moves around a bit.

Daniel: I think when everyone is on board with the general vibe of the band great things can happen. Everyone in the group is on the same page in terms of musical taste, so when we bring ideas to the table they tend to work together to make something even better. 

photo by Kristy Walker, courtesy of The Redwoods

photo by Kristy Walker

MF: Concurrently, what are the biggest challenges that arise in working within such a large collaboration?

Daniel: There’s a lot of people in the band, which can create a “too many cooks in the kitchen” type of scenario. If there’s too many ideas kicking around it can make it really difficult to move forward with a song. Luckily everyone knows when to contribute and when to step back, so we usually avoid that problem.

Matt:  Scheduling is a challenge. Everyone hustles, and to get several people with revolving time slots of availability in the same room at once can be tough. Fortunately, everyone involved is committed and this project is a top priority for all the players so it tends to always work itself out.

MF: With so many diverse contributions, was there an attempt to create a unifying theme, feeling or tone for the album? 

Matt:  I wouldn’t say that there was any specific theme or direction that we were trying to laser in on but I will say that we wanted something that would highlight what Birdy does best. In that, there were several ways we could go and ideas we could explore in developing these songs as she has a pretty vast range within her vocal approach. The album more presented itself rather than us having a detailed roadmap. Heavy riffs and some over the edge moments, some sludgy mid-tempo, dark colors as well as preserving some space and letting some fragility be exposed. It just kind of came together and took on its own shape…we just tried to stay out of the way.

Daniel: We just wanted to create something that is tasteful, layered, and kick ass. Birdy has a very distinct style, so as long as it fits her voice and vibe, it works.

MF: Can you talk a little bit about the production process for the album and how creative decisions were ultimately shared along the way?

Matt:  We always demo ideas out and shoot them back and forth for refinement. Once we have a skeleton, we get the right tempos and hit the studio for drums and bass. Then the layers of guitar, keys, percussive ideas, weird sounds are added before finalizing the song with the vocals. Everyone gets a listen to the rough mixes for any additional notes before we send off to our mix man, Jordan Andreen. 

Daniel: I wouldn’t say all creative decisions were shared, but everyone came in and did their part. Some songs we worked out as a band and played live for a while before finally recording, while others began as a small demo with maybe Jake, Alfred and whoever wrote the music. Then we would flesh out the demo and figure out what parts to add. 

photo by Kristy Walker

photo by Kristy Walker

MF: For each of you, what song(s) do you have the most fun playing on this album? What makes these songs enjoyable to perform for you?

Daniel: “Fortune” might be the most fun song for me to play, although “Take It All Away” and “Had My Doubts” are great too. Its fun to show off a bit during “Fortune” and I love the way the keyboard parts fit with the rest of the music on those other two. 

Matt:  I like playing several of the songs on this album. I particularly enjoy the more ripping tunes as they are loud and dynamic and you get to lose yourself a little more in the performance. “Fortune,” “Had My Doubts,” “Only Need You to Love Me”. That’s the rush that gets to be addictive in this process. The collective energy created by the crew when we’re all in the moment and tearing it out together.  I also enjoy playing Black Mirror as it’s a fun acoustic guitar Travis Picking song that’s a little out of character for the record but somehow fits just right.

photo by Kristy Walker

photo by Kristy Walker

MF: What other take-aways do you have from the experience of making this album? 

Matt: I feel like we got to be a little more experimental with this album and let go of some inhibitions musically. Which is such a liberating process but doesn’t always produce results that you might expect. In that spontaneity, I feel like another side of player’s sensibilities are revealed. And in this case, they all blended together in such a cool and interesting way. I don’t think we could have planned where we would end up but I couldn’t be more pleased by where we landed.

MF: Thanks to both of you for the insight into the creative process over at the Redwoods. 

Watch New Chad VanGaalen Video for “Pine and Cover”

The Calgary mastermind is at it again with more artistically bending visuals and sounds.

From Sub Pop:

In Chad VanGaalen’s new animated video for “Pine and Clover” [watch here], a shapeshifter is born with the inability to form memories. It transforms into whatever creature or object it senses to be closest to it in the moment, but cannot remember what it was previously. It seems to have no sense of self, whatsoever. Or as VanGaalen humorously theorizes it: “This is what humans will end up being, or possibly have been.” 

Created by VanGaalen, the “Pine and Clover” video is a combination of hand drawn drawn animation (cell animation), claymation, and paperless 2D animation. As the singer describes it:  “The style and economy of the animation is governed by my ability to sit in a chair and draw for as long as I possibly can without being distracted by my beautiful vegetable garden. Because of the garden and its beauty, I have been inspired to make most of the environments similar to what I see in the garden, so needless to say there is a lot of lettuce.”

Chad VanGaalen’s “Pine and Clover” is one of the highlights off of Light Information,  the creative polymath’s sixth album. The album will be available on CD / LP / DL / CS on September, 8th in Canada via Flemish Eye and the rest of the world through Sub Pop.

Go See It: Birdy Bardot New Album Release Show @ The Casbah – Fri. June 23rd

tempbirdy2_t350San Diego’s talent rich Redwoods Music collective is ramping things up this summer, beginning with the release of Birdy Bardot II this Friday, June 23rd at the Casbah.

We fully recommend getting out to the Casbah to see Ms. Bardot commanding the stage with the new material backed by some of San Diego’s finest musicians, which compromise the wide cast of characters of Redwoods Music. With the new album being a truly collaborative endeavor, the evening promises a dynamic stage full of guest performers and contributors.

The band is primed for Friday’s album release show, having just recently returned from a west coast swing with the Redwoods Revue that included performances in Big Sur, Healdsburg, and Napa at the Bottlerock Festival.

Birdy Bardot and band giving their all to audiences on California's central coast. Photo by Kristy Walker, who beautifully chronicled the joy and camaraderie of life on the road on the recent tour.

Birdy Bardot and band giving their all to audiences along California’s central coast. Photo by Kristy Walker, who beautifully chronicled the joy and camaraderie of life on the road during the recent performances.

Birdy will also be supported by the anticipated return of The Heavy Guilt, Los Angeles critic darlings The Dead Ships, and label mates Dani Bell and the Tarantist. This is a full bill that promises a night of pure music making joy from a connected group of inspired bands and individuals.

Also be sure to check out the album’s first single “Fortune” below:

Go See It (Maybe Now, Definitely Later): Top 5 Reasons to See Father John Misty Live

Father-John-Misty-281-770x470

Supporting his new release Pure Comedy, Father John Misty is opening a massive world tour right here in San Diego at Humphrey’s this Wednesday (April 12). Sold out for some time, this might be an extremely difficult ticket to score, but thankfully he will be back around in the fall primed and seasoned after a summer of global festivaling. Two dates (Oct. 5 &6) at the Observatory North Park go on sale on Friday at 10am. 

We’ve covered Father John Misty’s releases here at Monofesto in the past, but the live experience is something completely in and of itself.  A true performer, Mr. Tillman’s live act definitely makes for an evening not to be missed and not soon forgotten. Here are the top five reasons Father John Misty is a Must See.

5. “That Show”

The number five reason for seeing FJM is based upon word of mouth buzz. There are too many times to mention I have been with a group of music lovers talking concerts or at a concert where “that show” people have been talking about is FJM. They instantly go to, “That show was the best show I’ve seen in a long time” or “That show was the best I’ve ever seen.”  One young couple talked about it like how it must have been what it was like to see Dylan in the early 60s or Bowie in the 70s. The show leaves an imprint and has people talking.

4. Rants

You may get a chance to experience a true impassioned and heartfelt rant from Mr. Tillman. What makes his rants unique is that they are usually coherent, intelligent, and only slightly cliche (although aware of their own cliche matter in a meta way).  He may also steal a cell phone here and there as well; be warned. He loves to provoke.

3. Theatrics

Tillman is truly a born frontman (hard to believe he restrained himself for so long behind a kit with the Fleet Foxes).  He is a showman by all accounts, and his dramatic lyrics and song structures are brought with equal stage dramatics and bodily expression. Every song, no matter the tempo, is brought forth with demonstrable engagement and commitment to acting out every note and providing an appropriate insight into the tone of satire or frustration or elation.

ben-kaye-father-john-misty-central-park-summerstage-12

2. Zeitgeist 

Although it can be argued that what he is saying has already been said before, there is no denying that Tillman is touching upon what needs to be said now. Much of the attraction to his music can be credited to the collective nerve that he is tapping. For the most part, he paints a picture of an insane society and bleak future, but he is saying what we are thinking and, more importantly,  writing melodies and songs that reflect how we are feeling in this world in the present tense.

1. Connection

It helps that most of the people that go to a FJM concert know every lyric, but what leaves people most stunned at the end of a show is his effort to connect with his audience throughout. Tillman truly embodies the purpose of shared live music, which is a chance to commune together and somehow feel more connected and hopeful at the end.  As mentioned above, it is not always a rosy view, but the emotions are so open and raw that we feel closer to our own feelings, which are honored by his nightly effort to bring the room together with a grand production that sweeps the history of sociology, philosophy, and musical genres.  Heavy stuff, but at the end of the night it feels like we are taking it on together.

The Library of Babel – Improvised Music for the Brave of Heart

I first heard the Library of Babel release on Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records several months back and it caught my attention and imagination immediately. The music is primarily improvised and as you’d expect with this sort of experiment, some moments are amazing and other create the listening tension for the next aesthetically pleasing moment to arrive. This is the type of music that takes chances and as a listener you can reap huge rewards for your courage if you dig in and really explore what’s unfolding.

From Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records:

Unconscious gasps of breath. Finger skin sliding on metal strings. An acoustic guitar is flanked by cello and double bass in a relationship that at times feels almost parental – the two bigger instruments keeping a watchful eye over the junior one as it gambols ahead, constantly investigating and testing.

This is a very special release. If what this label has relished in before is pairing occult, abstract instances of sound to partly-erased images and letting the spectator simply make of it what it wishes, a new strategy for Blue Tapes might be to try and apply that lovingly rendered abstraction to music – things people might actually want to hear. Records, some people call ‘em.

So, without compromising our position, it would be an exciting experiment to attempt to curate releases that anyone could hear and get something from. Even if – especially if – the hypothetical listener weren’t quite sure what it was they were getting out of this.

I think the nineteenth release in the tape series, by The Library of Babel, achieves this. This music is delicate, intricate – an intimate conversation in real-time between three gorgeous-sounding instruments. So intimate, in fact, that as a listener you imagine yourself between the instruments, the sounds slipping and buzzing around you, the warm breath of the players on your neck; sometimes even more intimately you feel yourself between the the strings, the notes, sliding as they ring and you vibrate.

The music has an instinctive narrative although the playing is improvised. Fans of blue twelve: Tashi Dorji, in particular, will appreciate this – especially as guitarist Shane Parish and bassist Frank Meadows are friends and regular collaborators of Tashi in their hometown of Asheville, NC. The sounds the pair make with cellist Emmalee Hunnicutt potentially have wide appeal, though, caressing the dopamine centres of brains wired for jazz and free folk alike.

Gratifyingly, though, there is an absence of any real genre to call a home for this music. It is animalistic in its intuition and motives. Seemingly oblivious to its own wisdom and only concerned with the moment.

I love this music very much. I hope something in it captures you too.

Blonde Redhead – 3 O’Clock EP

After a wave of releases by Blonde Redhead that were loathe to move me like their early work, a new EP emerges with great promise. There are not as many angular, noisy surprises but there is a plethora of crafty chord changes and subtle textures. An exercise in beauty and restraint. Worth a listen!

The debut video for the 3 O’Clock EP was masterfully done using interesting lighting techniques and no post-production effects. Really a gorgeous effort.

From their press release:

Blonde Redhead - 3 O'Clock EP

Blonde Redhead – 3 O’Clock EP

Not many bands make it through extended careers with constant evolution and experimentation and a general willingness to change things up. Blonde Redhead deserves a place in this category. Over the course of nearly 25 years, the acclaimed New York-based trio went from the noise rock of the early years to the refined dream pop of Misery Is A Butterfly, before reaching the sensual electronic textures of the studio album, Barragán which was released in 2014. Now it’s time to make a step forward once again, or a sidestep, because, despite the variety of styles, the band has always been able to keep a personality and a unique identity that’s easily recognizable. Fresh from the box set Masculin Féminin (September 2016) and the remix “Freedom of Expression on Barragan Hard” (March 2016) releases, Japanese Kazu Makino and twin Italian-Americans Amedeo and Simone Pace return with a new EP 3 O’Clock, out today on the band’s own label Asa Wa Kuru Records. Four songs, two of them sung by charming Kazu while the other two by guitarist and second voice of the band, Amedeo, which still mark once again the willingness to broaden their musical horizons.

Father John Misty – Two Wildly Different Perspectives

Beautiful song, sparse and spacious arrangement, incredible voice. Check it out!

Sub Pop Press Release for Father John Misty’s new album Pure Comedy:

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there a thing of which it is said,
‘See, this is new?’
It has been already
in the ages before us.

There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.”
– Ecclesiastes

Pure Comedy is the story of a species born with a half-formed brain. The species’ only hope for survival, finding itself on a cruel, unpredictable rock surrounded by other species who seem far more adept at this whole thing (and to whom they are delicious), is the reliance on other, slightly older, half-formed brains. This reliance takes on a few different names as their story unfolds, like “love,” “culture,” “family,” etc. Over time, and as their brains prove to be remarkably good at inventing meaning where there is none, the species becomes the purveyor of increasingly bizarre and sophisticated ironies. These ironies are designed to help cope with the species’ loathsome vulnerability and to try and reconcile how disproportionate their imagination is to the monotony of their existence.

Father John Misty

Father John Misty

Now all of a sudden they expect light in the dark, warmth in the cold, and to make something out of nothing. Cooperation among the species to achieve these goals eventually yields a worldview wherein some among the species believe that there are individuals for whom this type of work is maybe ill-suited. The contribution of the ill-suited is of a more abstract, inspirational nature. The ill-suited begin to make subtle distinctions among themselves that extend beyond “eaten by a bear/not eaten by a bear”. These distinctions involve do-it-ness, cool-face-and-body-ness, craftiness, etc. – an arrangement emerges where these traits can be traded in for better-than-ness. This better-than-ness really starts to run rampant, and the species begins to wonder if there isn’t a Sky-Man in the sky who is perhaps the source of all better-than-ness. It seems like a pretty good explanation for why the species is so important.

Sky-Man pretty much runs the show for a really, really long time, and his inner-circle of better-thans gets increasingly smaller and smaller, even though by the end of his reign everyone in the species considers themselves one. Unfortunately there are some better-thans who get together and decide that one way of better-than-ness is better than other betters-thans’ better-than-ness and teach their little half-formed-brain babies as much (most who interpret this distinction as “me’s” vs. “not-me’s”). “Not-me’s” eventually come to encapsulate everyone that is not a single “me” at any given time, and this paves the way for incredibly distasteful behavior until the species arrives at a place of such alienation and fear there is really nothing so horrible that one of them wouldn’t do to the other. To deal with this less than ideal state of affairs, which seems suspiciously incompatible with how progressive and evolved they are by this point, they set about to entertain themselves into an oblivion with politics, sex, finance, philosophy, and other games of war. This they do until they are so numb, and the idea of any “not-me” so untenable, that they are blissfully incapable of noticing they’re all dead. This happens more or less on an infinite loop until the end of time.

Something like that.

Imagine if you will, as the album starts, that you’re way out in space looking at the earth and, though it’s impossible to “fall” through space, you start a free fall anyway in the direction of the bright blue marble. For the next 75 minutes you plummet toward the earth, losing more and more perspective on what an abstract and impermanent place our planet is, how predictably we step on the same rakes, slip on the same banana peels over and over again through the ages, quickly becoming more and more immersed in the very messy business of being a human – the dubious privilege of being here, the elusiveness of meaning, true love and its habitual absence, random euphoria and the inexplicable misery of others, truth and its more alluring counterfeits, the sophistication of answers that don’t make any sense, the barbarism of our appetites, lucky breaks and injustice, faith and ignorance, crippling, mind-numbing boredom, and the terror of it all ending too soon. Before you know it, you’ve delicately crash-landed and find yourself lying on your back looking up at the stars. If you’re lucky, with someone you love; even if just for a day, a year, a lifetime. Though just an hour has passed you have no recollection of what the earth looked like from the far-flung reaches of space, nor how simple it all seemed a matter of minutes ago.

I know everyone doesn’t feel the same about what’s going on right now. What for some is clearly garden-variety violent white nationalism serving as a catch-all for any number of paranoia-induced anti-fantasies foisted upon the poor and uneducated precisely by the ideologues bent on manufacturing voters who can be manipulated into voting against their own interests by making good and sure they remain poor and uneducated before cravenly

blaming their problems largely on people bearing distinctions like race, gender, and sexuality so people forget everything that’s good about the American experiment, is to others an opportunity to wrench the country back from the influence of hypocritical corporate tyrants bent on enslaving our minds with spineless liberal rhetoric in order to justify wiping out the jobs of decent people so they can fulfill their fey utopian dream of an impossible global community designed to profit only its architects (probably Banking Consortiums, pedophile rings, and definitely The Illuminati).

This album does not espouse either of those views.

Both of those views take for granted a certain degree of sophistication, or at least a knack for cooperation, that I’m absolutely convinced humans do not possess; not to mention some kind of innate logic to the proceedings here on Earth – which make a much better case for being some kind of demented joke than anything else.

The terrifying reality concerning the dilemma above is everything is chaos and no one is really in control of anyone or anything.

But what about the well documented history of humans making life a living hell for other humans since time began?

There is no intellectual, political, or spiritual explanation that will ever satisfy anyone for longer than a moment, least of all this, the only explanation with any dignity. The explanation that appeases both our instincts for compassion and liberation. The explanation that we can either accept and move forward together or keep screaming to our respective heavens, “Why, God, why?”

Things are the way they are because this is how we, the human race, want them.

This is how we want it.

Hold the motherfucking phone. Josh Tillman, you have said and done some stupid fucking things since we’ve known you, but this is too much.

Now the liberals and the conservatives are both outraged because that is a sentiment that is so profoundly insensitive to the ways in which the other side is clearly wrong in objective ways regarding basic decency, but what’s the alternative? We’re either all complicit in this purest comedy, or the people who aren’t to blame are at war with the people who are to blame until everyone is dead. Simple as that.

Is progress possible? What does it look like? The conversion of everyone to our respective beliefs? Well, we’ve seen how that typically goes. The destruction of everyone who fails to conform? That’s not it. The erection of institutions with the power and infrastructure to enforce a rule of law with the good of as many as possible at heart? Not much evidence for that panning out.

What I recommend is this: we return to the Vedic cycle and submit ourselves to the likelihood that many of us will end up getting eaten by bears. It’s only natural. What if instead of imbuing our expectations for the quality of our lives to include perpetual happiness, dream fulfillment, excessive painlessness, existential certitude, material wealth, and all variety of romantic stimulation, we were just grateful for every day that didn’t involve getting eaten by a bear? What if progress only meant literally progressing from one day to the next without getting violently dismembered by a 9-foot tall, 500-pound grizzly?

The irony here of course is that many more humans than we’d like to think, most of whom are not reading the interminable liner notes to a folk rock album, do live in daily, perpetual fear of getting killed by a mammal far more terrifying than a bear, and I think you know the one to which I refer. This form of mammal attack is made all the more nightmarish by virtue of the fact that the mammal in question kills purely ideologically. Bears kill because they’re hungry; they’re very reasonable in that way. So maybe we should submit ourselves to their authority. Bears we can trust.

Bottom line is that as long as we expect to live in such a way – immune to the natural laws of this godless rock that govern everything else here – human existence will continue to be a cruel joke. I fear, however, that it is too late for us to go back into the natural order. We have no desire to return to our primal scene. We like the way things are. We’ve got sandwiches when we’re hungry! Airplanes for when we want to go somewhere! Social media when we want our voices to be heard by all God’s creation! We know that these magical conveniences come at a staggering price, and that excess for the few is based on the scarcity of the many, but that’s why we invented the business of globalization! We’ve already built the wall! It’s a great, great wall that goes up to the heavens and is as transparent as museum glass. It’s a beautiful wall that winds surgically through nations, cities, neighborhoods, and sometimes even homes. It is a globe within a globe, and those who live within its interior are as clueless as to what’s happening on the other side as we are to what’s happening right now on the far side of Mars.

There’s only one creature that can penetrate that wall, friends, and it is bears. Bears can smash through that glass like a pitcher of sugar water through a brick wall. The equalizing revolution of bear justice is coming too. Sooner than you think. As it gets hotter and hotter, they’re coming. They’re coming into our neighborhoods, they’re coming into our schools, into our churches, into our banks, into our places of business, into our governments, into our beds.

The joke is that the best we can do is keep on keeping on, which we’ve proven ourselves pathologically adept at. We’re going to save the planet alright, and it will be a glorious sacrifice just like the Sky-Man we invented showed us how.

Bears, man.