Music

Ladyhawk: Ladyhawk

The latest in a rash of Neil Young-loving guitar heroes, these Black Mountain-affliated roots rockers spin fuzz-distorted tales of love and disappointment.


Ladyhawk

Ladyhawk

Label: Jagjaguar
US Release Date: 2006-06-06
UK Release Date: 2006-06-05
Amazon
iTunes

There must be something in the weather up there where Washington State turns into Canada, something that makes it a hospitable home to guitar hero bands from Built to Spill to Silkworm to Yume Bitsu. Maybe it's the constant drizzle that shows up in the fizz and pop of guitar amplifiers, or the rumble of thunder that's echoed in mountainous riffs. There's the constant beautiful melancholy of fog and the drift and low expectations, just distorted enough to burst into occasional unexpected rainbows. Ladyhawk, the latest band to emerge woozily from this scene, stand hip-deep in aching guitar riffs, buffeted by emotion and suffering the pains of ordinary life.

Recorded with a rough and unmediated live sound, the band's debut is by turns melancholic and boisterous. Singer Duffy Driediger has a memorably weathered voice, rasping with feeling and fraying a little into vibrato at the exuberant choruses. Darcy Hancock, who plays lead guitar, is the other key factor, cranking out the monstrous riffs and squalling waves of feedback that define the album. The band's rhythm section -- Sean Hawryluk on bass and Ryan Peters on drums -- are locked in, unobtrusive but tightly containing these raucous songs. Amber Webber and Josh Wells of Black Mountain step in for extra vocals, percussion and organ, though the connection between the bands seems more personal than musical.

Ladyhawk is roused, once or twice, to joyous anarchy, in the buoyant guitar crunch and peal of "The Dugout" and the happy-go-lucky strut of "My Old Jacknife"; but for the most part these songs feel like downbeat epiphanies won through hard drinking. Cuts like the lengthy, hallucinatory "Long Until the Morning" whistle through empty corridors of sound, mystically distilling loneliness into the silence that follows crashing guitars. "Advice" could be a Silkworm slow rocker, its slow guitar chords building sadly under bitter, bitter words, stopping suddenly, then picking up again. It's a character song, with the protagonist apparently an older, more cynical musician, the kind of person who's burnt through every filament of his own good feeling and wants to start working on yours. Hedonism has never sounded more depressing than when he says,

Don't you worry, 'cos time will pass quickly, /

Soon you'll be 50, /

Soon you'll be dead, /

So smoke if you want to, /

And drink up your fill, /

Your good looks are fading fast, /

So fuck who you will.

More uplifting but just as sad is "Sad Eyes / Blue Eyes", its plain-spoken drumming punctuating heart-sore lyrics like "You broke the backs you rode upon". And "Teenaged Love" frames torn-from-life images -- a girlfriend's bitchy mother, sex on a parent's empty bed -- with ragged stabs of guitar.

Fans of new country rockers like Centro-Matic and Oakley Hall will immediately fall into step with Ladyhawk, as will lovers of old-style electric roots outfits like Crazy Horse and Uncle Tupelo. Others, especially those corrupted by a constant flow of gimmicks, may find that this very unflashy recording takes some time to warm up to. It's a slow burner, gaining weight and heft through repetition, and if you put it on when it's been raining for days, it will worm its way right into your soul.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image