Submit to Ball of Wax 47: Songs of Resistance and Rebuilding

Photo courtesy Scott Lum, via Flickr

Photo courtesy Scott Lum, via Flickr

Like many people these days, I’ve been thinking about how best to deal with the reality of the next four to eight years. There’s a lot we need to do, but part of that should be, I think, turning our creative minds to the problem, and addressing the situation as best we can with our art.

So, I would like the next volume of Ball of Wax – the first to be released under the DJT administration – to feature songs of resistance and rebuilding. (I kind of want that to be theme of every volume for the next several years, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) Not generally, but as specifically targeted at the real situation we find ourselves in as possible. (I have to say, the protest volume has some great stuff on it, but it didn’t go as far toward addressing reality as I would have liked – and I’m as much to blame for that as anyone, since my song was about the Mexican-American War.)

Make no mistake, this is entirely a partisan affair. I’m interested in different perspectives, of course, but this will not be the place for “let’s give him a chance” songs or “blame it on the PC language police” songs – never mind, it should go without saying, MAGA/”build the wall” songs. This collection will treat the impending administration as a national emergency, so if that’s not your perspective, feel free to wait for another volume – or look for another outlet altogether. (Folding other, ongoing national emergencies into your song is certainly appropriate, though. I’m certainly not pretending everything was a-OK and peachy until now.)

Deadline: Well I don’t know, how about January 20th?

Submission guidelines: Here.

Questions: ask away!

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: Guma – Great Neck

Ball of Wax 46 closer “Great Neck” by Austin’s Guma is an unexpected delight. Rich and nuanced but impossibly airy, “Great Neck” draws on the same African and Island music (like the great King Sunny Ade) that’s inspired everyone from the Talking Heads to Tune-Yards.  The hypnotic repetition of the bright, clean guitar parts contrast with the soaring, protean vocals. While a technically impressive tune, if feels breezy and effortless. Welcome to Ball of Wax, Guma, looking forward to hearing more in the future.

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: Stereo Sons – Basilisk

Stereo Sons – the production duo of Chris Klepac and Mike O’Doherty – make their BoW debut with “Basilisk,” a cool slice of electronically-based music with an actual, honest to goodness song and a healthy dose of soul embedded in it. Is IDM still a thing? I don’t know if “Basilisk” makes me want to dance, exactly, but it certainly uses the tools of electronic dance music to put forth some very intelligent sounds. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Klepac and O’Doherty.

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: Happy Tourists – Another Day

This song brings back pleasant memories of the ’90s to me. And it deserves ’90s music video treatment, for sure. This song sounds too witty, subtle, and clever to come out of Seattle. In fact, according to the Happy Tourists’ bandcamp, they are from New Haven, Connecticut. The dude is only 19 years old! I wasn’t writing anything half this good when I was that age. Almost twice that age and I’m not writing anything half that good. Dig deeper into Happy Tourists’ bandcamp page and you’ll find an EP loaded with original catchy songs. “Another Day,” along with the EP it comes from, are loaded with soft synthetic sounds. A mellow tone rings throughout with nothing too jarring in between. I would keep an eye and ear on Ryan Ansel, the creator behind Happy Tourists. Hopefully his EP Things That Fool Me won’t be his only offering. Regardless, it’s worth many revisits.

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: Modern Relics – Stay with Me

Modern Relics‘ “Stay with Me” is a catchy, well constructed, and polished tune. The song transitions seamlessly between the main groove of “Please stay with me for awhile” to the driving chorus “listen darlin’, I have fallen.” The song is catchy, upbeat, and positive. A well arranged horn section elevates the song further. But it’s all balanced perfectly. Neither too much horn, nor too much guitar, nor too much ornamental singing. Seattle is lucky to have a gem of a band like Modern Relics to call their own.

Modern Relics are playing the Ball of Wax 46 release show tonight! Don’t miss it.

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: The Winterlings – Science

Veteran Seattle duo the Winterlings‘ “Science” is an enjoyable, confounding mix of styles. The song combines elements of classic pop with lo fi folk, like the Shangri-Las if they were an Elephant 6 band. The simple repeated drum part is paired with harmonium, twinkling piano twiddlings and cowboy tremolo guitar chords. The production is roughly hewn – note the bass sitting way up in the mix – but the ambition and joy is palpable. Nicely done, Winterlings.

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: Pampa – The Battery Is the Lullaby

Once again, I’m excited to share new music from an old friend and long-time contributor to Ball of Wax. Brian Baillie has appeared under various monikers over the years, but he’s been fronting Pampa for a while now, and they’ve developed a warm, enveloping sound all their own. “The Battery Is the Lullaby” (from Pampa’s debut full-length Amongst Flutes and Whistles) rides on one chord and a simple octave bass line for over six minutes, but never stops arresting the listener’s attention. Dynamics swell up and down, unison vocals sing a repeating hook about a movie about rollercoasters, Brian’s brilliant leads provide melodic focus at key points . . . it all just works. It’s so satisfying to see a musician you’ve followed for years become part of a musical unit like this.

I strongly recommend catching the full-band version of Pampa at your earliest convenience, but in the meantime, Brian will open up the Ball of Wax 46 release show this Friday at Conor Byrne with a solo set. Come early, stay late!

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: The Laughing Group – Black Dress

Longtime Ball of Wax contributor Seth Howard has at long last taken the plunge and given his band a proper name. The Laughing Group comprises Seth on guitar, voice, and some other stuff; Sam Jansons on drums; and Jeffrey Henry on bass. I’ve been enjoying their work as a live band for years (mostly at Ball of Wax shows), so it’s highly gratifying to have them identify as a proper band with their own releases. There is some dark stuff going on in “Black Dress,” both musically and lyrically. The power-trio-plus-viola arrangement, with beautiful falsetto harmonies from Jeffrey, reminds me of some of my favorite Low songs: heavy, gritty, beautiful and – with lines like “blood doesn’t show on a black dress” and “we can only keep her away from the mirror for so long” – disturbing all at once. Go get their “pay what you want” EP right now, why don’t you?

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: Jon Garcia – the river will fall

It’s been several years since we’ve heard from Jon Garcia – I think he’s been taking a break from music to focus on his work as a filmmaker – so it was quite a pleasant surprise to receive some new music from him for this volume of Ball of Wax. “the river will fall” leaves behind the baroque, orchestrated approach of his past work for a simple, stripped-down, droning feel that I find very appealing. A couple keyboard chords, a pulsing kick drum, and the title of the song repeating, mantra-like, in a sedate, soothing melody. What river? When will it fall? What does it mean for a river to fall? Keep this song on repeat as you try to work it out.

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Ball of Wax 46 Songs: James Kelly Pitts – Night Shift

James Kelly Pitts cuts to the core of 21st century living with the beautiful simplicity of “Night Shift.” It’s an anthem for all of us who at one time or another feel beat down upon by working for our wages while we strive for something greater. He takes several elegant lines and sets them in rotation with each other. Lines like “I’m the shadow of a man,” and “They never said it was gonna be easy.” James shows a mastery of song craft, weaving in and out of verse, chorus, bridge, and refrain such that you can never really tell just where at in the song you are. Yet he manages to tie everything together into a very cohesive, well-sung tune.

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