Six piece soulpunk band Lightmare squeezed in this entry just under the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest deadline. “Pica Taco 25”, a new song presumably inspired by the local Taqueria Mexicana chain, is captured in this Zoom video that must have been challenging to synchronize with the tempo and intensity changes. Creativity finds a way!
On the song’s title, Lightmare responded:
Funny story, the title of the song was the automatically populated title on one of our phones when we recorded the first take. After searching for the right new title to capture the real message of the song—the ongoing battle with depression and trauma—we realized nothing felt adequate, so we chose to leave the title where it dropped.
Sara Curtin and Maureen Andary, the two soulful folk musicians performing as The Sweater Set since 2008, recorded their new album Fly On The Wall in front of a live audience at Tonal Park in Takoma Park MD two full years ago, in April 2018. In “Being Alone”, the fourth advance single from Fly On The Wall which we’re honored to premiere today, Curtin sings “When did we get so bad at being alone?” Songs written ages ago can take on new meaning when our world suddenly shifts into a strange new quarantine. Hopefully we’ve gotten a bit better at being alone over the last month, and maybe this quiet, mellow tune can help.
Curtin and Andary have this to say about “Being Alone”:
SARA: I wrote this song in the dead of winter. Washington, DC is a city that clears out in December around the holidays and again in August during government recess. “Parking is easy, bars are empty.” The predictability of the pattern and the quiet of the city got me thinking about how we behave when we’re alone. Do we let ourselves feel it? Do we stare into the mirror discovering every new wrinkle and gray hair? Or are we forced to feel it only when the internet goes out and we can’t numb our loneliness with a mindless scroll through Instagram, or a whole night-long Netflix binge?
It’s meditative to sing this song. There are only two chords and even the vocal melodies and phrasing repeat while only the lyrics change. We always work very hard to sync our exact phrasing and breaths for our songs, but we spent extra time on this one because of its precise use of unison and counterpoint melody. If something is off, it pulls you out of the trance. Like when a fire engine goes by at the very end of a yoga class.
MAUREEN: It was special to sing this song together. It’s so interesting when we sing the refrain and the verse at the same time to end the song. The refrain is an expansive melody and we had to really plan our breathing for this one. We’ve done counterpoint in choral singing and also in our school days of musical theatre so this is a fun callback to those experiences. Don’t let the electric guitar fool you, this is Sara’s most Stephen Sondheim-esque reverie on the record.
SARA: “Being Alone” was the most patient and quiet I can remember ever being while writing a song. I remember sitting there, playing the chords over and over and just waiting for the words to come out. While experimenting with the effects on my electric guitar I started to notice very faint overtones. Those notes ended up as the very simple 2-note melody Maureen plays on the classical guitar. It happens very specifically only 3 times throughout the song when one or both of us sing the word “body”. It was one of those things that I was only able to notice because of how quiet I let my mind become while writing. It was fun to put hidden nuances and patterns like this all throughout the song.
MAUREEN: I love the backdrop this song has with the weather and the sense of place. What’s interesting is that the seasons and the places are so predictable, even in the city, the patterns of the people on the street are the same, but what changes is us. In February I complained to a mentor of mine that I didn’t want it to snow because I didn’t want school to be cancelled. And this guy was like “NO!! Don’t ever say that! It means you’re no fun anymore!” I realized he was right and immediately took it back. But I think that’s the essence of this song. I think that the narrator is feeling oddly confronted by the seasonal shift and wondering, why does this bother me now? Why am I uncomfortable with the quiet?”
Tune in Friday May 1st at noon to see The Sweater Set performing live in a split-screen Facebook livecast, and pre-order Fly On The Wall that day too, as Bandcamp is waiving their fees that day and sending more money to the musicians that need it most right now.
Time for another #DCmusic entry in NPR Music’s #TinyDeskContest. This one is a new tune in the arsenal of bluegrass/folk band Two Ton Twig, a ripping song called “Beltway Wolf”. Give them a follow on Facebook to keep up with their periodic live streams.
We don’t get to post very many jazz music videos, so kudos to trombonist Shannon Gunn for her 2020 NPR Music #TinyDeskContest entry. Her new song “Nature”, in Gunn’s words, “celebrates nature in all its energy and glory”, “originally inspired by the old hymn ‘For the Beauty of the Earth.'” Featuring Kelton Norris on drums, Karine Chapdelaine on bass, and Chris Barrick on vibraphone, this take was the winner even with Barrick’s brief sheet music snafu.
Tony throws back to Windows 95 pinball, while Paul figures out how to set up a DJ livestream.
Smokin on Planes – Interspecies Love [single]
Brushes – Mars & Me [Mars & Me]
Griefcat – Marseille [Griefcat]
Kromanauts feat. Kool Keith – Heavyweight Building [DJ single]
Big Like Bear – Dancing in the Rain [Big Like What?]
Lizard Hands – I’m Trying To Be Okay [single]
Drew Beckman, DC’s only queer cowboy singer, put together this entry to the 2020 NPR Music #TinyDeskContest in the innocent time before our COVID-19 lockdown. “Hellfire”, a brand new song backed by The Boundary Boys, is about “diving headfirst into sin and enjoying every second of it.” Damn, remember sinning? Those were the days.
Today’s #TinyDeskContest entry is pure DC. Rapper Tim Hicks of the funk/hip-hop band The Cornel West Theory grabbed our attention with his new solo album Bullets and specifically the historical ode to legendary NBC4 news anchor “Jim Vance”. While on lockdown, Hicks filmed this flawless and fiery delivery of the track while accompanied by Zsameria on Hula Hoop, Zoie Bilhah Agostino Hicks on Bow & Arrow and the menacing Henok Yohannes Hicks on Nerf Gun. Hicks writes “Washington D.C. is the next untapped market for great music. It would only be right for the next winner of the NPR Tiny Desk Concert 2020 to be from the city where NPR Headquarters is based!!!”
We’re one week before the extended deadline falls on NPR Music’s 2020 Tiny Desk Contest, so it’s time for Hometown Sounds to focus on the worthy entries from the DC area. Indie folk band Near Northeast has led our coverage for thelastfouryears, and their ambitious 2020 entry makes good use of the limitations of our current situation. Their most recent album Cabin Sessions is a collaboration with Nashville resident Takunda M. Since the DC-based band members can’t get together right now to record a song in person, they used videoconferencing to bring in Takunda’s voice for the haunting song “Flowers”. We’ve watched a lot of musical livestreams in the last month on YouTube, FB Live, IG and Zoom, and this one really shows what’s possible with some organization and teamwork.
Hear our recap of the 2020 DC Web Fest, where Hometown Sounds was honored with a Local Heroes Award!
Bad Moves – Party With the Kids Who Wanna Party With You [Untenable]
Blue Streak – Damaged [Damaged b/w Raleigh (demo)]
Lotion Princess – Think of Me [single]
Martin Royle – Pop Bottles: A pop adventure in three Acts [Pop Bottles]
Mustafa Akbar – Attracted [Attracted EP]
Philco & Sam Burns – House Music Can No Longer Be Commercial Free [single]
“Party with the kids who want to party with you.” Seems like simple advice, right? As daily life becomes more and more untenable, we must seek solace and joy from the people who get us, members of our tribes. But all this social distancing makes that way more difficult. For now, let’s come together to dance to the methodically catchy new single from one of DC’s finest indie pop band Bad Moves, and the delightful music video from Ben Epstein and singer David Combs’s production team Baby Pony Food Productions. I bet they could really use a preorder right now for Untenable, the new album dropping on May 29th.