-->
Music

Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus

It takes more than “balls”, as Cook used to sing, to get through life. Being tough is not enough.


Elizabeth Cook

Exodus of Venus

Label: Agent Love
US Release Date: 2016-06-17
UK Release Date: 2016-06-17
Amazon
iTunes

Elizabeth Cook has had it rough for the past five years. There’s no need for details here. A listener should be able to judge the quality of a person’s music without knowing his or her backstory. The music needs to express it all. Judging by the 11 tracks on her latest album, Exodus of Venus, Cook has transformed her troubles into the blues. Since she’s steeped in country, it is tempting to label this record of which she wrote or co-wrote all the material “country blues”, but that suggests something else. This is blues and country.

The closest equivalent that comes to mind is Emmylou Harris. Whether she covers a rock song, Bruce Springsteen, one by English folkie Sandy Denny, or even a Beatles cut, the song is country. Cook, like Harris (whose voice Cook has more than a passing resemblance to), just sounds as if the music comes straight from the soul, which lies at the root of country, soul, blues, or any other form.

No doubt some of this is also due to her talented back-up players, including bassist Willie Weeks, drummer Matt Chamberlain and lap steel guitarist Jesse Aycock. Guitarist Dexter Green produced the record.

There aren’t many happy moments on Exodus of Venus, but what would one expect from titles such as “Dyin’”, “Slow Pain”, “Methadone Blues” and “Broke Down in London on the M25”. The songs offer the solace of the this too has passed/this too will pass, the future lies ahead. That’s not much consolation to living in a world of death, illness, addiction, and other serious troubles. It takes more than “balls”, as Cook used to sing, to get through life. Being tough is not enough.

The thing is, Cook doesn’t know what saved her either. She just survived. It wasn’t God, or music, or love that rescued her -- although she doesn’t knock ‘em; she just managed to keep going. On the title song she declares, “There’s no below / There’s no above / There are a few places to find love”, and “Let’s part the waters / Let’s wall the seas / Let’s laugh in the face of modern disease”. Cook’s advice: drink alcohol now, find forgiveness later -- but it’s clear she’s being ironic and probably memoiristic as her partying past is no secret. In other words, she’s learned her lesson; she hasn’t really learned anything except life is hard.

But Cook still has compassion. The most empathetic song on the album is “Tabitha Tuder’s Mother”, an homage to a Nashville woman whose 13-year-old daughter vanished on the way to the school bus more than a dozen years ago. It’s not clear elsewhere on the record if Cook believes in God, but she asks one to pray here. The sadness of the situation commands no other response.

Patty Loveless makes a guest appearance here, on “Straightjacket Love”, a bluegrass-style rave up that lets the two shift the gears from quiet acoustic harmonies to putting the pedal to the medal and singing in overdrive to capture the manic mentality of the narrator. The singers make their point: being wrapped up in love means everything else suffers, but it’s worth it. One might approach the record in the same way. Cook’s mostly melancholy music contains rough diamonds whose brilliance needs to be brought out in the cutting.

8
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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

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

rating-image