Flipping the script this week, putting the video up top so my album review can land at the bottom of the post.
“Seventeen Going Under” – Camp Cope covering Sam Fender
I love everything about this. Including lead singer Georgia Maq’s Frightened Rabbit tattoo on her left bicep.
“Old White Church” – Arthur Dodge & The Horsefeathers
Most of this week’s Spotify playlist will be old songs. This one is from 1997, by a forgotten band from Lawrence, KS. I think this was their only “hit,” and that was probably only a hit on KLZR radio. It remains a jam, and I was pleased to find it on Spotify last week. Just outside our old neighborhood in Carmel was a little church that was built in 1853 called the White Chapel Church. Every time I drove by I thought of this song.
“Now We’re Getting Somewhere” – Crowded House
I have probably dozens of writing ideas that have been rattling around in my head for years, most music-related. One of them is an ode to the first Crowded House album, specifically side one. It is a near-perfect set of tunes that sounds more like it came from a veteran band than one putting out its first album. You should go listen to it.
“Squares” – The Beta Band
We don’t have Apple TV+ at the moment, so I’ve not had a chance to watch Severance yet. I look forward to the next time we turn that service on. I did very much dig that Apple used a section of this great track off the Beta Band’s 2001 disk Hot Shots II in the ads for the show.
“tend the garden” – Gang of Youths
“the man himself” – Gang of Youths
Gang of Youths, specifically their lead singer David Le’aupepe, can be a lot to take. He has all the big energy and earnestness of a young Bono or Eddie Vedder, but cranks that up beyond what those guys did in their primes. His songs should often be shortened by a few minutes, his albums should often be trimmed by a few songs. Because of that, reviews of GoY’s work are often mixed, with some critics loving it and others asking the equivalent of “What the hell, man?”
I struggle to connect with some of their music because it can be..Just…So…Much. But the stuff that does connect connects hard. And their new album, angel in realtime., has been delighting and slaying me for the past week.
Le’aupepe has taken on some heavy subjects over his career. The death of his first wife after battling cancer. His suicide attempt. General heartbreak. World politics. It seemed right that he would honor his father, who died in 2018, on GoY’s next album. Shortly after Teleso Le’aupepe’s death, David learned his father had a secret life he never shared. Teleso was born in Samoa, not New Zealand, ten years earlier than he had told his family. He had two sons in New Zealand that he abandoned when he moved to Australia. Those sons had believed, for most of their lives, that their dad had died, not jumped across the Tasman Sea to start a new life with a new family.
angel in realtime. is Le’aupepe coming to terms with all of that. He details his father’s life, honors his memory and background, explores the meaning of family, and expresses guilt for having his father in his life when his half-brothers did not. Almost every one of the album’s 67 minutes are brilliant.
I’m a big fan of albums that are structured well; LPs that have a clear narrative arc with carefully selected beginnings and endings. angel in realtime. has that structure. “you in everything” is the mission statement up front, placing us at the moment of Teleso’s death and the journey it sends David on. Near the middle comes “brothers,” which hits with a devastating impact as Le’aupepe sings about his siblings over a spare piano accompaniment. The first time I heard it was in the midst of doing some housework and I came to a screeching halt as the lyrics hit me. The album ends with the majestic duo of “hand of god” and “goal of the century,” an 11-ish minute suite that closes with one of the most amazing lyrical runs I can recall ending an album. I have to make sure I don’t listen to it with my girls around, lest they see me wiping tears away.
There are plenty of other great tracks in between. Some uplift while others stomp all over your heart.
As part of the writing process for the album, Le’aupepe worked backwards to discover the truth of his father’s life. He met his two half-brothers in New Zealand. He traveled to Samoa to visit his father’s birthplace and dive into a culture he had never been exposed to.
Along the way he learned of, and became entranced by, field recordings of native music from the Pacific Islands made by British musician David Fanshawe in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Those recordings have a profound influence on the album’s sound, both through direct samples and by GoY mimicking them in their playing. The sweeping strings that are present on so many tracks evoke the sounds of the waves crashing on shore, adding to the Pacific feel.
I’ve listened to the album almost non-stop for the past week. Although there are some moments that get a little tedious – it wouldn’t be a GoY album if they weren’t there – it has wormed its way into my head and heart, and each time it ends I’m ready to play it again.
You don’t have to have lost a parent to be able to tap into the feelings Le’aupepe sings about. He tells a fascinating story, one that could really have overwhelmed him and turned him bitter, with grace and honesty. In the end, he still loves, and greatly misses, his father. That love is celebrated across these 13 tracks.
I’ve been bouncing around all week trying to decide what song(s) to share here. Especially when you can just go listen to the album for yourself and pick your own favorites (I recommend doing that). I decided on these two because they share two different sides of the album’s story. “tend the garden” is offered from Teleso’s point-of-view, with him talking about the decisions he made and the path he took. “the man himself” is Le’aupepe realizing he must carry on through the rest of his life without his father. It is one of the tracks that most directly uses Fanshawe’s recordings. In this case, it begins and is built upon singing by the people of the island of Mangaia, in the Cook Islands. It is a perfect meld between the ancient and the modern, creating a timeless, glorious sound.