Leon Bridges just keeps getting it done. Since bursting onto the scene in 2015 with his debut throwback-inspired LP Coming Home, Bridges has embraced his retro-fitting R&B croon while slowly pushing his palette of sound watercolors into more modern spaces. Followup Good Day (dropped in 2018) kept Bridges’ soul stylings front and center, but traded in a few vintage lines for added pop hooks and production touches.
Bridges’ latest work at initial glance seems to focus on maintaining that relationship between the classic and contemporary. Entitled Gold-Diggers Sound for the studio where many late nights were spent recording the album, early singles “Motorbike” and “Sweeter” act like yin and yang between the two elements, with Bridges right in the center of the emotional crosshairs.
“Motorbike” has all the hushed passion of whirlwind summer romance, hung with the delicate strength of pitter-patter drums and the miles beneath the metaphorical tire tracks. While “Sweeter” finds itself in that same laid-back pocket as Bridges and musician/producer Terrace Martin collaborate on the track, dedicated to the memory of George Floyd.
The song’s lyrics, which focus on a Black man’s thoughts as he’s about to die, are heartrending and vulnerably visceral in a current landscape so defined by police brutality, violence and hatred. And few could sing it as well as Bridges, who endlessly draws the usual comparisons to the likes of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but is only really fair to be weighed against Leon Bridges.
To get a sense of what I mean, watch Leon and Terrace Martin tackle a live acoustic version of “Sweeter” at the Gold Diggers Studio below:
Gold Diggers Sound drops July 23rd. If the video above wasn’t enough to satisfy your interest in the album, check out the official music video for “Motorbike”. It’s directed by the talented Anderson .Paak, and adds a deeper emotional connection to the track’s blissful romantic side.
To the person whose eyes choose to read these sentences,
Greetings. You may or may not know some small piece of the “creative me” via prior posts on this website as you give these current words a scan. At this point its more likely the latter as I’ve been absent since last year, AKA the start of pandemic times.
A combination of slow recovery from right wrist surgery, the changing of the world amid COVID, and a mix of so many of my anxieties kept me far from the computer; glued instead to the undersides of blankets and mind-blanketing side hustles. Fears… they don’t easily go back in the box when life changes radically. At least in my experience.
But I’m not here to magically say I’m better from those wounds now and have returned to become 100% myself again either. Its more a “one situation at a time” kind of vibe where some moments outweigh handling others during a pandemic. I will however say in these currently backward days that seem so unfit to be called something as futuristic-sounding as 2021, it feels wrong to allow time to win and freely pass while only being able to lay in the fetal position staring at its back as it gradually fades away.
So while I can’t perhaps provide the exact essentials many folks need right now, I’m still a writer here to entertain with creativity when I’m able to do so. And I can still do what I’ve always loved best: supporting musicians who just need a signal boost and a voice to listen and help spread the word. Sometimes the best thing we can do as humans (virus or no virus) is to give each other a hand up.
And better to do it sooner rather than later, because most of all we know is finite. The full name for this site (On The Back Edge of the Beat) came from singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle and a random piece of stage banter I happened to see of his on Youtube that ultimately inspired the title. That was all it took to start this project, and as small as it is I’ve always been thankful to JTE for that idea lightbulb.
Sadly, we lost Justin in August 2020 at only age 38. I haven’t had the words to describe how that’s felt since I learned it happened, other than I miss him and I wish it hadn’t had to occur of course. Especially for the sake of his wife and young daughter.
Moments like that have made me realize that its okay to slow down during these times, preserve strength and heal your wounds. However, you can’t just stop the car and hide because that’s easier than life’s potential fortune of possible cruelty. That’s a lesson I’m still working out on the days it feels easier to just be sad or depressed, but I plan to return to do what I do best on this site again, with a small tweak.
I’m now changing the email for all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Its a more direct means of contact that’s easier to handle right now.
Hopefully this is just the start of more to come in the days to follow.
Since I first started this website as one of several small outlets for my creative efforts, I never imagined it growing to the point of having guests to come write alongside of me. But I’m proud to say we’ve reached that moment, and in my opinion it couldn’t be on a more appropriate discussion.
Angela Mastrogiacomo’s topic of introverts networking in the music industry and beyond is basically my life. Often it’s not easy to feel like an inward person in a field that’s so “public”, but you have to find the best strategies to help figure it out for the overall good of the career you want to find for yourself. Otherwise it makes climbing the hill that much harder, no matter what your profession is.
And as much as I like putting the microscope on the musicians I cover here on OTBEOTB, sometimes it’s just as intriguing to turn the lens the other way and expose the writer’s vulnerability as well.
I struggle with mastering these elements to this day, so I really recommend giving this piece a read. I know I plan on using plenty of these strategies myself! Now lets turn the floor over to Angela…
Talking to people is hard. I know it shouldn’t be, but for an introvert, simply talking to someone you don’t know, forcing conversation, having to think about what comes out of your mouth, can completely drain you to the point of exhaustion.
I envy the born extrovert who can bounce from conversation to conversation and feel energized by it instead of depleted.
But in the music industry especially, who you know is everything, and you can’t exactly build a network if you don’t talk to people. Which is why I knew when I started my business that if this was something I really wanted, I was going to have to make it work.
So I did what I always do—I made a plan.
I figured out how I could make networking work for me, and then I got out there and I tested it over and over until I found a series of strategies that worked. Now, I want you to take them for a spin.
I know getting out there as an introvert is hard. You want to build your career, you want to grow your community, and you want to connect, but sometimes it just feels totally overwhelming and you have no idea where to start.
This is where these strategies come in. Next time you’re about to head off to a networking event, review this quick list of strategies and see what works for you—you might be surprised!
Prepare a few topics
Trust me on this—if you’re not a natural conversationalist, prepare a few generic topics ahead of time to use once you get to the event. For instance, if it’s a general mixer for musicians and industry, a few of the topics could be “how did you get into the music industry” or “what brought you to (this city)” or “how did you get involved with (this group)?”
Just a couple get to know you questions can be enough to get you started, help you feel confident and prepared, and give you enough room to start a conversation, and then continue to build on it based on their answers.
This brings me to my next point—always listen intently to what the other person is saying. Not only because it’s rude not to, but because if you’re nervous about keeping the conversation going, a great way to make sure it doesn’t die is by listening to what the other person is saying, and following up on it with another question.
For example, if they say they came to the city for work but joke they stayed because of the food, you could follow up “I know, this city has the best food! My favorite place right now is X, but I’ve really been craving Mexican food. Any favorites?”
Bring a friend
I still remember my very first networking event. I was terrified and uncomfortable and my inclination was to just to stand in a corner and not talk to anyone. Thankfully, I’d thought ahead to bring a friend and it made all the difference.
While you don’t want to use your friend as a crutch, they can be a powerful tool for helping you work the room, especially if they’re more extroverted. It’ll give you the confidence to have someone you know and trust there, and it’ll take some of the pressure off.
Set a time limit
One thing that really helps me is setting a time limit. If it’s a 4-hour event, that doesn’t mean you need to go for 4-hours. Give yourself a time frame so that you know when that time is up, you’re free to go home and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
I’d recommend going about an hour into when the event has started, and setting your timer for whatever you’re comfortable with—but aim for at least 45 minutes.
The best part about a networking event is in the days and weeks after. Once you’ve made the connection in person, and grabbed their IG handle or email, then you can be sure to keep in touch by shooting them a “nice to meet you” email and following them on IG and being sure to comment every few days or weeks so you can keep in touch and begin to grow your relationship. When you go to the next event, reach out and see if they’ll be there, and if they are, make time to stop and chat for a few minutes. This is how you truly begin to build those relationships from acquaintances to real connections.
There’s a very strong early rabbit theme to Owen-Glass’ new LP The Rope & The Rabbit. There’s the title of course, but the initial track is called “Rabbit Hole” as well, and it feels very much like the dreamlike fall of Alice at the start of a pre-Wonderland excursion into this album. The pastoral folk strummer of a track begins small and grows into a varied, undulating thing. Like the rise and fall of sleeping breath into rigorous LSD fever-dreams.
How fitting then to be followed by “Here It Comes”, a Beatles Sgt. Pepper-vibing psych-rocker that makes the creatures of this “Wonderland” shuffle-dance together to a wave of Cole Humphrey’s George Harrison guitar lines and Anthony Earl’s hauntingly satisfying sax. This is all while Kelly Wayne Conley’s hushed vocals raggedly dart in and out of the arrangements, equally as capable shining on the gently-traced Springsteen meanderings of “Devil Don’t Mind” as the rugged groove of “Saint”.
Owen-Glass doesn’t hesitate to flex its strong cast of collaborators on The Rope & The Rabbit, or its desire to experiment out into different melodically-inclined avenues. It seems like a fitting decision given how many of these tracks lyrically deal with the vast complexity that is human conflict and emotion. An evocative musical backing just makes connecting to each song’s inner workings that much easier.
“General Butler” has a wry, Afro-Caribbean sway that brings to mind alt-pop outfit Jukebox the Ghost, while “Leave It Alone” is a full-on, moody burner. Meanwhile, “Paper Chains” feels like a jammier b-side off the Dave Matthews Band’s 90’s smash “Under The Table & Dreaming”.
To latch on to the word “jammier” for a moment, I applaud the group for putting out a song like “Paper Chains”. It’s a track almost 6 minutes in length that lets the musicians stretch their chops out a bit and not simply wrap up a theme in three minutes or less. In a world so dominated by digital singles and putting out work a piece at a time, to see those kind of album-focused moves (on multiple songs here) is a refreshing nod to how viable a good LP still is (and will always be).
Closing track “The Rope” returns to the humbly simple beginnings of the record as it mixes together dusty folk-rock with hints of something almost… chamber pop Parisian. The Rope & The Rabbit is content to keep the listener from just that, being content. Getting comfortable with good music and getting too boringly acclimated with what you’re hearing are two different things, and the latter usually lie forgotten after a time. Not so with Owen-Glass or this album, which offers the kind of intriguing variation to keep me going back to the start of “Rabbit Hole” to begin the journey again.
Check out more on the group and order the album on owen-glass.com!
Eliza and the Organix is, to quote their website, “a funky female-fronted rock band based in Brooklyn centered around the songwriting of vocalist and guitarist Eliza Waldman”. And today marks the release date of their new music video for the song “Road Home”, which you can take a peek at down below.
The very first thing that draws my interest in this music video is the slap of the car’s wiper blades in the opening scene. A minor detail in the scheme of things, but the that initial, almost metronome-like groove acts like a neat little slide into the ear-worming drum rhythm that buoys this song forward. “Road Home” is a tight, fun bounce of a single that uses plenty of synonyms from the funk handbook. That guiding beat’s soon paired with a slinking guitar line, Waldman’s bluesy vocal, and a pacing horn backdrop that altogether bends the line between jazz and punkish Pavement rock-pogo. This fluctuating tempo creates a layer of tension well-illustrated by the music video, in which our main character (played by Waldman herself) is on the run from deer/panda-headed representations of… time’s ceaseless pursuit? The anxiety of life’s constant obligations? Some combo of both perhaps?
A very serious set of questions to consider. The ending in either case represents inevitability. “I don’t know the road you’re on, I don’t know how much time is gone, how much remains?”, Waldman croons in a well-honed echo of the quiet desperation we have for one of existence’s biggest questions.
But this song doesn’t just spend time mired in its thoughts. If anything it considers those philosophies and decides to greet them with a sly smile and the timeless joy and abandon trademarked in the shape of rock and roll.
Both a song and a video worth keeping in your playlist!
Andrew Ryan and I have crossed paths many times as our journeys through separate sides of music have progressed. And while I would say that his has been the more interesting route, regardless I’m just appreciative to have played a journalistic spectator to his creative and musical evolution.
And no period in all that time has been more significant for him than the one here today. Since I’ve known him, Ryan has been a drummer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, writer and versatile jack-of-all-trades. But with his debut solo album Across Currents, we find him out of the support role and instead thrust directly into the spotlight.
And thats not just because his name comes first on the bill, either. With this album Ryan is now the creative center line on the map drawing all the pieces his way, and Currents gently reflects the care of an artist who is very much aware of that. Much like we all do on a daily basis Ryan is figuring it out as he goes along here, but he manages to do so with a carefully enriching level of honesty.
Singing with a voice somewhere in the gentle timbre of an Elliott Smith or Mark Linkous mixed with a twist of slack-rock drawl, Ryan’s vocals are often more musing than momentum-filled. But that’s a very effective style for him, as tracks like “Take Aim” and “City Lights” demonstrate so well. “Out Of My Head” and “Gwyneth” show even further potential for Ryan down that road, as mourning the death of someone close and celebrating the love of his daughter brings out some of the most moving moments this record has to offer.
And those effects are boosted when they’re brought together by Ryan’s deft hand for production. Where musicians like Smith or Linkous might be more content with tape-crackled landscapes with the ribs brought through, Ryan has a much warmer campfire to pull up a chair to. Currents generously sprinkles in horns, keys, drums, guitars and vocal layers (among other things) to dot the terrain with constant levels of shifting interest. On many occasions I found myself doubling back to a song just to catch a fragment of saxophone or winking of piano or harmonica that managed to sneak a cameo into the arrangement.
In a way, sneaking in is the best thing that Across Currents does. The tone of the record may not hit you on the first listen, but thats the thing about art built around introspection: it doesn’t just reveal itself after a few minutes. As a recovering introvert myself, this kind of storytelling takes time to reveal but means a lot if you just make the time to sit and listen to it.
Its also the type of storytelling that can be very difficult to willingly tell (especially publicly), and for that I give Ryan a lot of praise.
He’s created a fine start to what I hope is a long solo career still waiting to be heard.
For more, visit andrewryanandthetravelers.com. Photos courtesy of the site.