The Salt Lake Arts Council Presents
Twilight Concert Series: Courtney Barnett
Snail Mail, Choir Boy
239 Main St
Salt Lake City, UT, 84111
Watch & Listen
Courtney Barnett is one of the most distinctive and compelling voices in indie rock, a singer-songwriter who mixes deeply insightful observations with devastating self-assessment. With countless awards in her home of Australia as well as Grammy and BRIT nominations, fawning press and an adoring audiences, Barnett's rise to global prominence feels both unprecedented and important.
Music fans have rarely witnessed the breathless acclaim and superlatives that comprised reviews of Barnett's debut album "Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Think" -- Rolling Stone praised her as "one of the sharpest, most original songwriters around -- at any level, in any genre... a self-strafing humorist á la Lena Dunham who's also a Dylan-style word ninja." 2017 saw the release of the wonderful album "Lotta Sea Lice," an introspective but beautiful album of duets with Kurt Vile and a gorgeous place-holder while we awaited the release of her world-weary-but-fierce sophomore solo album "Tell Me How You Really Feel."
While her lyrics continue to encompass the poetic, political and personal, "Tell Me..." reveals a startling new lyrical economy. Barnett's newest songs reveal myriad layers of meaning in seemingly every line, all the while accompanied by her own face-melting guitar and one of the best rhythm sections in rock. Her increasingly unusual song-structures, timbres and moods hint at future ambition while her glorious, feed-back heavy live show has eviscerated audiences on 5 continents.
Lindsey Jordan is on the brink of something huge, and she’s only just graduated high school. Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout Lush, her debut album as Snail Mail, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn.
“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” sings the eighteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter halfway through the sprawling anthem that is “Pristine,” the album’s first single. You can’t help but agree with her. It’s a hook that immediately sticks in your head—and a question she seems to be grappling with throughout the record’s 10-songs of crystalline guitar pop.
Throughout Lush, Jordan’s clear and powerful voice, acute sense of pacing, and razor-sharp writing cut through the chaos and messiness of growing up: the passing trends, the awkward house parties, the sick-to-your-stomach crushes and the heart wrenching breakups. Jordan’s most masterful skill is in crafting tension, working with muted melodrama that builds and never quite breaks, stretching out over moody rockers and soft-burning hooks, making for visceral slow-releases that stick under the skin.
Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan’s explosive, dynamic personality. Growing up in Baltimore suburb Ellicot City, Jordan began her classical guitar training at age five, and a decade later wrote her first audacious songs as Snail Mail. Around that time, Jordan started frequenting local shows in Baltimore, where she formed close friendships within the local scene, the impetus for her to form a band. By the time she was sixteen, she had already released her debut EP, Habit, on local punk label Sister Polygon Records.
In the time that’s elapsed since Habit, Jordan has graduated high school, toured the country, opened for the likes of Girlpool and Waxahatchee as well as selling out her own headline shows, and participated in a round-table discussion for the New York Times about women in punk—giving her time to reflect and refine her songwriting process by using tempered pacings and alternate tunings to create a jawdropping debut both thoughtful and cathartic. Recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, with contributions from touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass as well, Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade.
The songs on Lush often come close to the five-minute mark, making them long enough to get lost in. The album’s more gauzy and meditative songs play out like ideal end-of-the-night soundtracks, the kind that might score a 3am conversation or a long drive home, from the finger-picking of “Speaking Terms” to the subtle, sweeping harmonies and French horn on “Deep Sea.” It only makes sense that Jordan wrote these songs late at night during a time when she was obsessively reading Eileen Myles and listening to a lot of slowcore and folk songwriters.
“Heat Wave” is one of the album’s most devastating moments, a song that wallows in a crumbling mid-summer relationship. “I broke it off, called out of my shift, and just cried in my bathtub and wrote this song,” Jordan recalls. “I was just so desperate to just get the way I was feeling out onto paper so that I could just have it and be done with it. It was almost kind of painful. It was like puking onto paper, and crying, ‘This girl hurt my feelings!’ Towards the end of writing the record, I became better at dealing with my emotions.”
Jordan’s personal crown jewel of the album, “Let’s Find an Out,” puts her childhood classical guitar training on display. It’s a road song of sorts, a nod to feeling young and disoriented on her first ever tour: “I’d gotten knocked around a lot by the process. I was scared. It’s sort of this love song about another person who is going through the same thing.” “You’re always coming back a little older / but it looks alright on you,” she belts over her intricate playing, on one of the album’s most pensive and gorgeous moments. Lucky for us all, she doesn’t sound scared anymore.
“Choir Boy” was what the kids called singer/songwriter Adam Klopp in his early teens when he fronted punk cover bands in Cleveland, Ohio. An intended insult, the label seemed fair and fitting in a way, given Klopp’s religious upbringing and angelic voice. After high school, Adam left Ohio for college in Utah. While his career as a student would prove short-lived, he integrated into Provo and SLC’s underground music and art scene, left religion behind, and called his new band “Choir Boy”.
“It seemed funny to me as sort of a comical reclamation of the mocking title I received from “punk” peers as a teen. While serving as a weird reflection of my childhood and musical heritage.”
Since Choir Boy’s gorgeous debut LP on Team Love records in 2016, the dream-pop outfit has gained a cult following online and in underground circles. Adam’s stunning vocal range, layered compositions, and heartbreaking melodies are backed by musical partner Chaz Costello on bass (Fossil Arms, Sculpture Club, Human Leather) - and along with a rotating cast of players, create the perfect blend of nostalgia-laced romantic pop music we’ve been waiting years to hear.
$10 ADV / $15 DOS
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