Ball of Wax 48 Songs: The Lonely Coast – “Rachuli Iavnana”

Like Pampa, The Lonely Coast were a group I knew I needed to have on this English-free volume of Ball of Wax. Their phenomenal voices and tireless ear for old songs from all over the world make for a powerful combination indeed. They very kindly obliged with this recording of a Georgian folk song, which is, in their words, “a direct plea to the spirits of disease (bat’onebi)—pre-Christian spirits believed to have taken possession of a child suffering from illness—for their cooperation in healing a sick child.” I may well try this one myself next time my kid is sick, although my rendition of this tune would be a pale imitation of this rendition. The chirping baby robins captured in this live field recording are the perfect accompaniment to this gorgeous, haunting performance.

The Lonely Coast will do their best to class up the Ball of Wax 48 release show on June 3rd. If you’ve never seen them live before, do not miss it! (If you have, you already know not to miss it.)

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Ball of Wax 48: Virgin of the Birds – “Maintenant Blanchissant les Rayons”

The thing I like most about this song is the arrangement and instrumentation. Virgin of the Birds‘ Jon Rooney has an uncanny sense of balance that shines through in this reflective addition to Ball of Wax 48. His approach is simple and elegant. An occasional tambourine that lifts you off and then disappears to float you through the next part of the song, where the vocals cut out and a wavy tremolo and melodic piano do the singing. I’m not sure what Jon is singing about but it sounds like he’s got a knack for the French language. I imagine him in a thought bubble singing this barefoot, dressed in white up in the clouds with an all white piano and a white polar bear rug underneath his feet.

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Ball of Wax 48 Songs: Racingpaperplanes – “Det Vita”

Richard Wilson has performed and recorded for over fifteen years under the name Racingpaperplanes, but to my knowledge he sings almost exclusively in English. I was delighted that he responded to my call for non-English songs with “Det Vita,” a tune in his native Swedish. Even though I usually can’t understand a word, I love hearing people sing in their own languages. And musically, this song is right in my wheelhouse. According to Matty I’m suffering from Decade Displacement Disorder; perhaps Richard is a fellow sufferer. His unironic love for the grungy, minor-key sounds of ’90s rock shines through even on this synth- and drum-machine-infused tune – and of course I love it.

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Ball of Wax 48: Levi Fuller & The Library – “Der Panther”

If anyone has Decade Displacement Disorder, it would be Levi Fuller. This song sounds straight out of the pages of late ’80s early ’90s Seattle. I’m guessing German is the language used. It sounds appropriate. It could also pass for Swedish psych rock. “Der Panther” does a good job of switching between modes. The switches between the chords and the switches between verse and chorus. It holds one’s attention well. The song slowly picks up intensity and then . . . a solid harmonics breakdown and then the gradual build continues. Levi’s songs keep adding more and more depth and I’m loving the direction he takes with the recent Ball of Wax 48 challenge.

Levi Fuller & the Library will play at the Ball of Wax 48 release show, June 3rd at Conor Byrne.

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Ball of Wax 48 Songs: Winston Seedlark – “Quand J’avais Dix Huit Ans”

Whenever possible, steal ideas from this man

Whenever possible, steal ideas from this man

“Quand J’avais Dix Huit Ans” translates to “When I Was Eighteen Years Old” in English, and that sounds about right. The rough, dry, basement punk from Ireland’s Winston Seedlark (an Irishman writing in French is very Beckett – nicely done) has the energy, enthusiasm, and rough edges of one’s late teens. The main bass riff, played hurriedly in the opening before settling into a more regular tempo, is all Buzzcocks and Fugazi tribute. My French isn’t good enough to pick up the rest of the lyrics, but it’s a fun tune.

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Ball of Wax 48 Songs: Pampa – “Entre Balas y Batman”

Welcome to Ball of Wax 48, a collection of songs in languages other than English. Our first track is from Pampa, a band whose participation in this volume was mandatory. “Entre Balas y Batman” (which I just learned means “between bullets and Batman”) is a slow-burning rocker that starts off a little mellow, breaks down with some fast-talking Spanish, then wallops you with spacey guitars and pounding drums and bass. Moon Baillie’s plain-sung (and -spoken) vocals and multi-layered guitar mastery are key to the band’s full, seductive sound, but the steady rhythm section of John Carlson and Steve Lykken hold it all together beautifully.

Don’t miss Pampa’s set at the Ball of Wax 48 release show June 3rd at Conor Byrne!

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BoW 48 at Conor Byrne! Songs of Resistance at Folklife!

Hello there, Friends of Wax. There are a couple events coming up that you should know about if you like music, or resistance, or languages. I hope to see you at both. (Or at least one. [But really, come on, both.])

bow47Ball of Wax Songs of Resistance at NW Folklife Festival
Sunday, May 28, 7pm, Vera Stage
With Warren Dunes (Julia Massey) / Danbert Nobacon / Solvents / Hangry Hayrabs / James Kelly Pitts / Levi Fuller
If you missed the Ball of Wax 47 release show, here’s your chance at a redo! This will be a terrific night of music on a glorious stage and we will have copies of this radical collection of songs of resistance available for $5 or however much more you want to pay (every single dollar will go to the NW Immigrant Rights Project). Thanks to NW Folklife for inviting us to be a part of the festival. Check out the whole schedule here!

Ball of Wax 48: No English!BoW-48-poster
Saturday, June 3rd, Conor Byrne Pub
With Pampa / Levi Fuller & the Library / Die Geister Beschwören / The Lonely Coast / Moe Provencher
8:30pm / $8 / BoW 48 CD (NO ENGLISH) included with entry
For our next trick, BoW 48 will feature 15 songs in languages other than English. It’s quite an exciting blend of sounds, both musical and linguistic, and I’m really happy with how it’s come together. This is our most international release, as you might expect, including songs from Spain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Argentina, and more, but there’s also a healthy dose of polyglot local music involved. And so, as always, we celebrate with live music from those locals! I can’t guarantee there won’t be a fair amount of English sung (though I know Pampa is planning an all-Spanish set, and I wouldn’t put it past The Lonely Coast to eschew English altogether), but I can guarantee a delightful evening of music and a killer compilation to take home with you after the fact.

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Get On With It: Going Home with the Foghorns

a1260674649_16The Foghorns – . . . on a Dog’s Ass Sometime
(2017, Knick Knack Records)

The older you get, the more the memories pile up. The Foghorns’ new album . . . on a Dog’s Ass Sometime (a companion piece to their 2015 album The Sun’s Gotta Shine . . .) is an album about nearing middle-age and using a rare opportunity of reflection to recall ALREADY feeling old in one’s late twenties, around the first time you truly realized life’s reality may not match previous expectations. You get nostalgic for feeling nostalgic. You recall missing the partner and/or friend you once had without necessarily missing the partner themselves. You’re too damn cynical to think any more of those old flames or hook-ups as the ones that got away.

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Let’s Live it Up While We’re Alive: Thoughts on the Foghorns . . . on a Dog’s Ass Sometime

a1260674649_16The Foghorns – . . . on a Dog’s Ass Sometime
(2017, Knick Knack Records)

“Oh, the way you used to look at me / like an old Trans Am on the road” – so begins . . . on a Dog’s Ass Sometime, the latest album from Seattle’s weary hedonists, the Foghorns. It’s a beautifully honest sentiment, one of discarded illusions, reigned-in ambition and sober self-awareness. Like an aging shit-kicker who’s gaining a gut while losing his looks, it’s both proud and resigned, an admirable achievement for a short-story or novel but a revelation for, essentially, a pop song.


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Submit to Ball of Wax 48: Any Language but English

Finnish 48 courtesy  Sami Keinänen, via Flickr.

Finnish 48 courtesy
Sami Keinänen, via Flickr.

In the interest of continuing the important work of broadening all of our perspectives, I thought it would be nice if the next volume of Ball of Wax were to contain only songs sung (or rapped or ranted or intoned or what have you) in any language but English. (Made-up languages allowed/encouraged.) No other restrictions, so feel to go crazy. And you’re welcome to use found words as long as they’re public domain. Bonus points for translations, but they’re not necessary.

Deadline: March 20th (later submissions will likely be considered, drop me a line if you have something in the works).

Guidlines: here.

Questions?: Hit me up.

Looking forward to hearing (and probably not understanding) your work!

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