Katie Kim: The Story Of Her Life

KatieKim

Katie Kim opens the Flood gates with her sophomore album

Irish autuer Katie Sullivan—who, as Katie Kim, home-records ethereal, loop-based folktronica like her recent Cover & Flood sophomore album—has plenty of frustrated yarns about the music busi – ness. And they all end with the same resigned admission: “Well, that’s the story of my life.”

Mike Scott hired her for the Waterboys’ 2011 effort An Appointment With Mr. Yeats and a subsequent European tour, but her duties ended there—she didn’t make it to these shores for its American run. And she helped compose a modern soundtrack to 1928 French silent film The Seashell And The Clergyman—which she performed live with her sextet at the time, plus some music for a U.K. TV series, Final Witness. But she hasn’t received any scoring offers since. Subsequently, the other five members scattered. “They’re now all over the world, doing other things, and I still don’t really like playing live by myself,” she says. “But I have to do it when I have to do it.”

Kim knows she doth protest too much, as things are going pretty well for her these days. The 20-cut Flood is finally reissued Stateside, and she’s put the finishing touches on its follow-up Salt (hitting shelves this autumn), in an actual high-tech studio in Dublin. “It’s much bigger, more ambitious-sounding,” she assesses of its 10 songs, including “Ghosts,” “Thieves” and “I Make Sparks.” But her actual biography is a fun, quirky one that leads almost inexorably to where she is today. Her quiet childhood in the lush Irish hamlet of Waterford was jump-started when she discovered singalong musicals such as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

“And then I just fell in love with Queen,” says Kim. “I think I was 10 at the time, and that’s where my love of vocals came from. Because there were hundreds of them, just a choir of Freddie Mercurys, and I was like, ‘How is he doing this?’”

Then, she grew obsessed with Mariah Carey, even magic-markering the pop diva’s name across her knuckles and plastering posters at home. “My mother got really worried about me—it was very disturbing,” she chuckles. Later, she discovered Dylan, Bowie, Dory Previn and, finally, Leonard Cohen, which provided an aesthetic template for her first acoustic-strummed originals. To perfect her craft, Kim studied music theory in college. It only annoyed her.

“So I spent my college money on a computer and Pro Tools and started recording in my bedroom, and that brings us up to date,” she says.

And she’s proud of the moody atmospherics she DIY-achieved on Flood processionals like “Charlie,” “Blood Bean” and “The Feast,” all held together by her whispery, semi-detached vocals.

“But the music world is funny these days, and not the one I grew up imagining when I was dreaming of becoming this romantic musician,” she says. “People don’t really buy albums anymore and artists have to go on tour all the time just to make money—you really have no choice. Oh, well,” she sighs, adding—wait for it—“It’s the story of my life.”

—Tom Lanham

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From The Desk Of Thalia Zedek: Trieste

The quiet, introspective Eve shows off the Thalia Zedek Band’s impressive musical range. Zedek made her name playing her singular brand of ear-splitting, dissonant lead guitar with Come, Uzi and Live Skull, outfits known for their fierce approach to performing and recording. Her music with the Thalia Zedek Band may not be as loud, but it has the same level of emotional intensity that’s always been her trademark. Zedek will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

Trieste

Zedek: A few years back, I had the opportunity to visit a few cities in Europe that I’d always been curious about but that my touring itinerary never allowed. At the top of my list was the city of Trieste in Italy, where as far as I know, no American ”indie rock” band has ever played. Part of my interest was personal—it was the port that my mother and her family sailed to Palestine from to escape the Nazis in 1933, and it was also the port where my father sailed to the U.S. from in the 1950s (where he eventually settled). It also has a rich literary history: James Joyce wrote Ulysses there, and his protégé Italo Svevo, who wrote Confessions Of Zeno, was born and died there. For our guidebook, we picked up Trieste And The Meaning Of Nowhere by Jan Morris. As we were forewarned, it wasn’t the most vibrant city in Italy, but for me, its history and geography were fascinating.

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Ziemba: The Art Of Songwriting

Ziemba

Ziemba’s music is doing the modern dance

Hope Is Never, the debut album from René Kladzyk (who performs as Ziemba), opens with “It Curls Itself,” a shimmering a cappella piece that describes the slow dance of a flower as it stretches out its leafy fingers to grasp the springtime sun. Her multitracked voice creates iridescent layers of harmony that echo in a vast, cathedral-like space.

“There’s something powerful and freeing about the vulnerability of vocal expression, especially a cappella vocals,” says Kladzyk. “It feels challenging to sing in a way that forces lyrical content into the clear, bright light, but that discomfort makes me feel rebellious and powerful.”

Kladzyk covers a lot of ground on the album, blending indie rock and dreamy synthesizer ballads, often graced by string and choral arrangements that could fit easily into the modern classical repertoire. Those elements come together on “Set Me As A Seal,” where Kladzyk’s aching vocal brushes against a dissonant string section and a rock-solid rhythm section.

“My vocals are first accompanied by a string quartet, then by a full band, with a host of synths dancing around the string players,” she says. “Toward the end of the song, the strings are making sounds that remind me of dolphins talking, and the synths are responding in gurgles and jabs. It sounds like two alien languages swirling around each other.”

When she’s not writing songs, Kladzyk composes for dance companies and her own multimedia presentations, fascinated by the ways different situations can shape the music.

“I don’t differentiate art from music, or my identity as an artist vs. musician,” she says. “I choose to create work that explores performance, sound and movement. Making music can ground the musician or the listener in their body, or produce feelings of ecstatic transcendence. I’m drawn to work that ties threads between mediums that are often understood as disconnected.”

—j. poet

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Normal History Vol. 387: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Someone in Germany sent us an mp3 of their band covering Mecca Normal’s “Who Told You So?”—the first song on our first album. If, in 1986, someone had told me that 30 years in the future, this might happen, I would not have believed them!

You can listen to the Mecca Normal version of “Who Told You So?” in Vol. 275 of Normal History below the caption of David Lester’s fitting illustration “I’d Rather Play Punk Rock Guitar.”

“Fallen Skier” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

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From The Desk Of Thalia Zedek: “10,000 Snacks”

The quiet, introspective Eve shows off the Thalia Zedek Band’s impressive musical range. Zedek made her name playing her singular brand of ear-splitting, dissonant lead guitar with Come, Uzi and Live Skull, outfits known for their fierce approach to performing and recording. Her music with the Thalia Zedek Band may not be as loud, but it has the same level of emotional intensity that’s always been her trademark. Zedek will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

Snacks

Zedek: I first saw this book when it was being waved around and quoted from by John Manson, the lead singer of the Boston-based band Gondoliers during a rather long break between songs in their “Lounge Set” at the Somerville Armory coffee house. I was very intrigued and asked him about it after their set. He said that he had found it on his job as an estate sale rummager but that he was planning to throw it back in the trash. Thankfully, my partner intervened and brought it home, and it has become a household favorite. With chapter like “But Me No Butters,” “Bings, Bangs, Smacks And Crax,” “1002 Sandwiches” and “Cackleberries,” there are plenty of recipes interspersed among Cora, Rose and Bob Brown’s pithy stories of their international travels. At 591 pages long, it’s a veritable encyclopedia! We keep it in our bathroom.

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MP3 At 3PM: The Chairman Dances

TheChairmanDances

The Chairman Dances will release Time Without Measure on August 26. New song “Dorothy Day And Peter Maurin” shows off a production job by Daniel Smith (Sufjan Stevens, Danielson). Like the other songs on the album, “Dorothy Day” tells an intelligent story of an historical activist, a political tale all the more relevant today. Check it out below.

“Dorothy Day And Peter Maurin” (download):

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Leland Sundries: Loss And Found

LelandSundries

Leland Sundries makes music from, for and about outcasts

When Nick Loss-Eaton looked at the songs he’d written for what would become the debut full-length for his band Leland Sundries, he thought, “What am I going to do with these?” Some were rootsier, folk-based tunes that fit in with his previous releases—two studio EPs, a single, a live EP—that worked when Leland Sundries was basically a solo project. Others were straight-up rock ‘n’ roll songs that demanded full, electric-band treatments.

Personally, he was going through transitions. “Part of the story of this record is that between the start of writing the record and finishing demoing and recording, I got sober,” says Loss-Eaton from his Brooklyn home. “I think there’s this subtext that I see in a bunch of different songs.” And somewhere in there, he had open-heart surgery.

The rock stuff won out, barely. He wanted a ’70s-influenced vibe, informed by bands like the New York Dolls and Exile On Main Street-era Stones, but also more modern artists like Spoon. Loss-Eaton, who works as a music publicist by day, writes character-based songs with titles such as “Stripper From Bensonhurst.” Whether the songs rock out, as on the stuttering “Bad Hair Day” or are more pensive, like the twangy “Maps Of The West,” they’re connected by the stories they tell.

Hence the record’s title: Music For Outcasts. “I feel like all these characters are trying to get to someplace, but they’re kind of lost,” he says.

“I was really concerned with how I would tie these things together,” he says. “We have a country waltz, but we also have something like a late-’70s power-pop song; we have this kind of garage/punk thing on there; we have another Americana song, but it has a synth on the bridge. What’s the common thread here? I’m writing for people who feel like they don’t fit in. Whatever that means.”

—Steve Klinge

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From The Desk Of Thalia Zedek: Flux Factory

The quiet, introspective Eve shows off the Thalia Zedek Band’s impressive musical range. Zedek made her name playing her singular brand of ear-splitting, dissonant lead guitar with Come, Uzi and Live Skull, outfits known for their fierce approach to performing and recording. Her music with the Thalia Zedek Band may not be as loud, but it has the same level of emotional intensity that’s always been her trademark. Zedek will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

Flux

Zedek: This is a super-cool art collective that started in NYC in 1993, and I’ve been lucky enough to have become acquainted with the collective and some of their artists over the past few years. They run a year around artist residency from their base in Long Island City, Queens, where they host exhibits and happenings, almost always free to the public. This year they had a Fung Wah Biennali, a exhibit that traveled between all of the North Eastern destinations that can be reached by New York’s “Chinatown” buses. The artists who pass through there stay tightly connected and have spread the “Fluxer” network of artists and friends around the world at this point. Find a “Fluxer” near you and give them a hug!

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Essential New Music: Lifted Bells

LifedBells

It’s not as easy to pack as much action into 13 minutes as Lifted Bells makes it seem. With Overreactor, the band’s third EP and first for Run For Cover, the band’s nervy, mathy emo is as fun as it is chaotic, four rock ‘n’ roll songs that twist and turn enough for 10. Featuring members of Braid, Stay Ahead Of The Weather and another ego supergroup, Their/They’re/There, Lifted Bells spin you around with surprising exuberance. And Bob Nanna (who’s been busy this summer, touring on the 15th anniversary reissue of Hey Mercedes’ classic Everynight Fire Works) brilliantly molds his mouthfuls of words atop Matt Jordan and Matt Franks’s zooming, angular, astounding guitars. And somehow, the band still finds a way to pack in memorable and catchy hooks by the fist full, squeezing them into every tiny empty crevice of these full, vibrant and dense pop/rock tunes.

The title Overreactor implies a state of spiraling out of control—one (supposedly) inconsequential thing leading into to a series of unwarranted responses. This makes a mess of personal lives, but Lifted Bells turns the phenomenon into a record that sounds genuinely inspired. Songs and ideas run into each other like they can barely be contained or controlled, but not in a messy or unwieldy fashion. Guitars collide and explode behind wonderful hooks, like on the quick, barely refrain of “killing a million minutes” on “Lilly Sierra.” Chaos becomes organized and logical when all of the band’s elements come together, making for a stellar EP and an incredibly promising preview of the band’s forthcoming full-length debut.

—Jordan T. Walsh

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Essential New Music: The Low Anthem’s “Eyeland”

LowAnthem

The experimental, garage/art/folk of the Low Anthem is one that never ceases to saunter past prediction. The band follows no cleared trail, yet obtusely does well to cover it up so no one else can find it. Eyeland pars that course. It’s a record best described as 13ghosts’ illegitimate lovechild with Captain Beefheart, replete with horns often surfing the “key” of the songs or lack thereof—a psychedelic ride down the log flume of spacey folk music with Here Come The Warm Jets and The Very Best Of Woody Guthrie jostling for PA dominance.

The record runs the gamut of ’80s video-game soundtrack to the greatest song ever written about legendary shortstop Ozzie Smith and his backflips, making use of turntable DJ tricks in the middle of the most riled-up song on the record only to turn it on its ear with an out-of-tune horn section takeaway. True story.

—Scott Zuppardo

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