singing with bat for lashes

fortunate is not a word that adequately describes how i felt the day simone felice {natasha kahn’s – aka ‘bat for lashes’} producer called and asked me to sing a few notes on her record. more like a dream come true…. natasha is a remarkable artist and i had an absolute blast. i also got to sing alongside the genius of rachael yamagata.
‘the bride’ is released today. go here to get it and be prepared to be carried up and far, far away. she is so uniquely Neil-Krug-Bat-for-Lashes-The-Bride-2dreamy.

beautiful review from stereo embers magazine

Written by: Alex Green

Sandy Bell’s When I Leave Ohio summons a haunting vision of Emily Dickinson behind the wheel of a dusty 1978 Maverick playing Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter and preparing to get the hell out of town.

Bell’s album is all about running away, but not because she’s being chased—she’s running away because the tedium of the quotidian world in which she lives is no way to live at all. And as we all know, tedium is a slow killer that takes years to blow your head off and Bell’s observations of daily life suggest she’s not up for it. She refuses to let herself get frozen in the kind of bleak Hopperian landscape where people zombie their way from gas stations to cafés to theaters never even looking at each other.

It’s hard to live somewhere when you don’t want to live there and it’s even harder to maintain an equipoise that’s not only manageable but also won’t drive you insane. Bell’s departure has less to do with any last chance power drive or rocketshipping dramatically down the freeway with the city burning behind her. It’s a quiet exodus that’s the equivalent of a small shrug, a changing of the mind, a boat slipping away down the river from one darkness into another.

And that darkness is the thing that Bell is reckoning with on When I Leave Ohio. Anyone can leave—that’s the easy part—but if you think of Benjamin and Elaine sitting in the back of the bus soaked in sweat and triumph, you’re forgetting the way that very same sweat and triumph did a pre-credit dissolve and turned into something resembling terror. Bell chases that terror and it chases her right back and the result is one of the darkest, most moving song cycles this critic has heard since Patty Griffin’s Living With Ghosts or Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.

The titular opener is a jaw-dropping procedural (“Drive into the parking lot/Put on your blue eye shadow”) about preparing to leave. The speaker pulls into work, lights a series of cigarettes and punches the clock one last time. The pause between her boss telling her she’s needed at Register Four and the stultifying fury that request surely must incite is one of the most wrenching and anxious .029865 seconds you’ll ever hear. It’s the sound of a kind of comporting of the psyche and what’s left of the soul— how Bell managed to record the tension of that instant is utterly thrilling.

And it only gets better from there.

“I Quit” is an impossibly gutting number whose subject prepares to attend a party that “celebrates the end of everything.” It’s also about the aching glare of a light bulb and the coldness of the world. “I Can Still Feel Your Power” is a ghostly battle-march that’s part funeral procession and part nod to the everlasting effect people have in our lives long after they’re gone.

Later, the hypnotic “Autopsy” is a harrowing spiritual post-mortem and the album closing “Wake Me” is a rousing aural manual of what to leave behind in order to move forward.

When I Leave Ohio is beautiful, resonant work that’s stark and painful, oddly comforting and deeply, deeply sad. Sandy Bell’s songs have such poetic precision and crushing emotional exactitude, her work is nothing short of staggering.

march doesn’t hurt like it used to

IMG_2546IMG_2631I used to despise the month of march. i always felt so trapped. So in-between the innocence of the first snowfall, and typically speaking, too many dank days away from a true warming sun. also, Someone I love very much, died in march.
last year I purposely set out on a quest in an attempt to transform my painful association with this month into something else. I knew the memories could never be totally eradicated, but I thought maybe they could change color or become softer or further away or something. So, I decided on a solo trip to Iceland. We were living in Brooklyn at the time and I was sad, stressed out and had many questions about lots of things. I knew that I desperately needed wide, clean, infinite breathing space. And I needed alarming quiet in order to think ~ to rest. I knew that in spite of my willfulness to hang on and not change, my own personal landscape was evolving, and however unclear and uncertain I still was about specifics, it was important to me that i remain open and move forward with a confident { Latin ‘con fides’ ~ ‘with faith’ } heart and a clear mind. While in iceland, I chose to stay far away from the city and just let the sky and instinct gently propel me from place to place. each day I would set out to explore with my standard provisions: my phone { for security but no service }, a paper map, a pen, cashews and water. I just walked and walked. And while I wouldn’t see people for hours at a time, I found great company and ‘conversation’ with a herd of Icelandic Horses*. I talked to myself, sang, cried, and felt insanely awake. One night around midnight I trekked out in hopes of a glimpse of the Northern Lights. According to the locals, conditions were promising. I tried to envelop myself in the blackest part of the landscape. I walked toward the dark with my feet crunching on the white, white snow and as I looked up I saw more stars than I have ever seen in my life. these celestial orbs were so bright that I felt I could almost reach up and pluck them from the sky like apples. I stopped walking. I stood still. The quiet was so loud it drowned out the voices in my head. The only sound I heard was my own heart beating. This turned out to be the only clue I could find to assure me that I had not, in fact, died and gone to heaven.

*The Icelandic horses are released each spring and are able to run free until fall. There is a beautiful film about this arranged phenomenon.