Chapin Sisters: Today's Not Yesterday

Abigail and Lily refuse to shut up until all the whole world sings together in peace.

Chapin Sisters

Today's Not Yesterday

Label: Lake Bottom
US Release Date: 2015-10-23

The Chapin Sisters' latest album, Today’s Not Yesterday is deeply grounded in the country rock of the past. The title suggests the artists live in the present. They know what time it is. But Abigail and Lily Chapin wear their musical influences on their sleeves: the sounds of Laurel Canyon, the folk-country of the Byrds, Joan Baez, Neil Young and Melanie, and is that Seals and Crofts I hear? No matter if it’s intentional or just emerged from the zeitgeist of another era, the tight vocal harmonies and the multi-layered strata of acoustic stringed instruments echo back almost as much as they move forward.

The material purposely maintains a plain aura. There are no big vocal or instrumental solos. The blending of sounds is more important that their independent existences. Consider songs such as “Trees Fall Around” and “The World is All”. Nothing seems to happen. The pace moves sluggishly. But then, the players begin to mesh with each other. The music becomes brighter. What once sounded slow becomes an invitation to relax. The sisters create a reflective atmosphere as the words turn into just syllables. The syllables become mantras. The song ends where we began, except we have calmed down.

Perhaps that is why the quintessential song here is appropriately called “Waiting”. It functions as performance and performance art by giving the aural description of what it feels like as well as making the listener stop and linger. This is not always a positive description, but on the whole the pleasurable moments of anticipation and delay far exceed the other components. On “There Will Be a Time For Us” Abigail and Lily croon to military cadence on the song of that name. The time is not now, but it will be worth the wait.

The sisters sing mostly serious songs about relationships, children, and love, but they also have fun tunes. “I’m chasing the rain / because I love umbrellas / I stare at the sun because / my favorite color’s yellow”, they croon over a lilting guitar melody and gentle drumming. The silliness is part of the point. The narrator loves being absurd and offers no rhyme or reason. She is what she is. The frisson between an act which does its best not to stand out as individuals and a composition that celebrates one’s uniqueness creates a tangible tension. We all are different. That makes us the same.

The record ends with the anthemic “We Will Not Stop Singing” that evokes old union hymns, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and a time of political activism. Abigail and Lily refuse to shut up until all the whole world sings together in peace. Good luck with that, but one cannot help but agree with the sentiment. It’s a lovely song of protest; inspirational in its execution. We live in a time of many wars across the globe, an enormous refugee crisis, and a meanness on the part of many people to other human beings. Recognizing ourselves in others and our shared humanity seems like a dated concept from another time. That was yesterday. This is today.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

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

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