Music

Kasey Anderson: Nowhere Nights

Anderson hits the "destruct" button on his old life and finds inspiration as a result.


Kasey Anderson

Nowhere Nights

Label: Red River
US Release Date: 2010-02-16
UK Release Date: 2010-02-16
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

As a writer for the ninebullets website, Kasey Anderson threw one of his own songs, "I Was a Photograph", into the ring as a song he thought listeners should enjoy in 2010. That takes some stones, but you know, he's right: "I Was a Photograph", full of raspy vocals and dark-night harmonica, is a damn fine song. It's about Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, whose smudged and weary face -- a conflicted backdrop for the stark white cigarette in his mouth -- became one of the Iraq War's most famous images. The song follows Miller from the horrors of combat to his haunted return home, and it easily stands alongside recent songs like Jason Isbell's "Dress Blues" and Richard Thompson's "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" in the ranks of songs that chronicle the various costs of war on everyone involved. As Anderson puts it, he wants the song heard as much as possible, not only because it's his song, but also because he feels the story ought to be shared.

That really shouldn't be a problem, at least in the roots music/alt-country community, since Nowhere Nights should spread like wildfire there. Reminiscent of Steve Earle's early albums -- thanks, in part, to Anderson's Earle-like raspy drawl -- Nowhere Nights is an album that concentrates on life's crossroads and seeming dead-ends. "I Was a Photograph" notwithstanding, which sits on Nowhere Nights as something of an anomaly that doesn't feel the least bit out of place, the album comes face to face with what it means when we don't feel like the place we've spent years of our lives is home, or when a relationship has finally lost any of the good it ever possessed.

Anderson spent about eight years living in Bellingham, Washington, until he suddenly realized he didn't belong there. Somewhere along the line, he also realized that a relationship had died. So he made his way back to his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and started collecting the songs that would become Nowhere Nights. Produced by Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who also lends guitar and keyboards to some tracks, the album is equal parts contemplation and adrenaline. Anderson's style is surprisingly formal, in the sense that his songs feel very tightly structured, which is fairly unusual when twang and rock meet (or maybe, at the very least, lots of bands are doing a good job of sounding more ragged than they really are). "Bellingham Blues" kicks off the album with Anderson singing, "this ain't never been my home" over a lightly strummed arrangement punctuated by chiming guitars. Finishing the album's framing job, "Real Gone" takes a snarling tone as Anderson concludes, "All this leaving better be worth the cost" and "When I die, you can scatter my ashes anywhere but here".

In between the flames of those dual bridges burning, Nowhere Nights reinforces its theme of coming face-to-face with the need to make a change. "Sooner/Later" boasts a spry melody reminiscent of Jeffrey Foucault's "Ghost Repeater" (in one live recording, Anderson humorously likens it to songs by Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, Peter Case, and others) as it tells its tale of love blooming and fading, while rocker "Torn Apart" addresses lost love with less sympathy. The title track confesses, "there was no great revelation / There was no blinding light / I just stopped sinking into those nowhere nights". The more delicate "Leaving Kind" fittingly recalls the deliberate pacing that's Matthew Ryan's trademark as Anderson paints a picture of increasing isolation.

All told, Nowhere Nights invites the listener in with tales that we all recognize. We've all woken up in the morning at some point with a question -- "what the Hell am I doing?", for example -- ringing in our heads. Usually, we tamp it down and get on with our day. Anderson listened, though, and Nowhere Nights documents the results. It ain't clean and neat, and some feelings probably got hurt, but it's hard to deny that the end result is possibly Anderson's best, most personal effort yet.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image