The Mule & The Elephant
The Payroll Union
The Payroll Union's debut album, The Mule & The Elephant, is a history text book set to roots rock. Converged around early 19th Century America, TM&TE encompasses "profiteering politicians, jealous duels, expansionist opportunists, illegitimate wars, illegitimate children, mourning, betrayal, revenge and poverty".
The narrative reads like a book of short stories straight from the Antebellum era. It's beautifully written and is unapologetic about its dark themes. I feel that it perfectly captures a young, expanding America, uncovering the gritty details of a fledgling south. The stories around the songs sound believable like diary entries and the characters are given life by the voice of the singer, painting a detailed picture of events.
These great words are set around great music. With a rich rockabilly vibe and a gritty tone, the Southern Gothic rock is the perfect, and only, pairing for this album. The shuffle beats and wild guitar playing bring the feet to move and the body to sway, making this a really fun listen. I can see this being the soundtrack for a musical stage production.
The songs provide a vivid vision, like reading a book, and the entire package is sold by the music, so rich and raw, just dripping with tenacity. A fresh perspective on a long gone era and an interesting choice for a concept album, The Payroll Union bring to life a forgotten piece of American folklore.
Anywhere but Where I Am
From the similarly bare plains of Wisconsin comes a new experience in ethereal folk. Foreign Fields, now transplanted to Nashville, captured my imagination when I first heard them in a beautifully shot video for Latvian blacksmiths (Neeman Tools if you're interested) and I immediately needed to quench my thirst for their music.
Anywhere but Where I Am is collection of soft, moving, loosely electronic and fully captivating songs. It's full of character, noise, creative melodies, and vast imagination. The songs glide here and there, breaking and swaying, with haunting sounds buried deep and coming out like a prairie wind. The songs are contemplative, slow moving, and easy to digest. The lyrics dig deep into settling, what 'home' means, and finding peace. I constantly found myself stunned every time I listened a little bit closer. There's always something to pick up on such as the delivery of a line or another transparent sound making its way out from the background.
For such a slow moving album, the songs are pretty fresh. I was never bored or wanting to skip ahead at any point. I found myself intrigued by every track and wondering what was to come, never to be disappointed.
I was so impressed by this record that in about a week and a half it received close to 50 spins. I kept it playing in my workshop, making the time float by effortlessly and inspiring me throughout.
"From the Lake to the Land", "Mountaintop", "So Many Foreign Homes", and "Fake Arms" are absolute must hears, and the rest of the album, well, you need to hear that too. Pick up the Names and Races EP while you're at it.