shyghostsT.K. Bollinger's second solo album "Shy Ghosts" contains thirteen sad and bittersweet songs. You can enhance your listening experience by watching thirteen associated videos produced by Vis Ortis, see link here (opens in a new window). If someone would ask me what I thought about the idea of making an album where eternal and existential themes are investigated deep and thoroughly without avoiding any human shortcoming or vulnerability - I would strongly advise against this. Furthermore if this daring idea was based on personal life expericence, gathered insights and a large dose of self-disclosure this would only strengthen my opinion. The risk of ”epic failure” (in both meanings) is imminent. But T.K. Bollinger didn’t ask for my advise. He just went on and made the album. The album project described in his own words: "A collection of slow, delicately arranged songs that speak of sorrow and loss, dementia and decay, fog and fear. Oh happy day! Combining elements of Gothic Country, Doom Metal, Gregorian Chant, Folk and dark Soul these songs explore the eternal question, “why does suffering exist?” No clear answers emerge, other than we must keep walking and enjoy the brief insights and the occasional ray of hope that helps us to summon forth compassion for the shy ghosts that hide in our shadows." This daredevil project caught my eye when T.K. Bollinger started to post songs from the forthcoming album on his Facebook page. I was intrigued by what I heard and was given the opportunity to pre-listen to the album for a couple of weeks. Let me start by saying that I’m overwhelmed by what Mr. Bollinger has achieved. This is sadcore of the highest carat. Making this kind of music is a difficult balancing act. Sad songs without honesty is just embarrassing. However, there’s no lack of honesty here. In fact, T.K. Bollinger sings so emphatically on the album that it feels like he is the last man left on the planet. Naked, tormented and not overly beautiful, but with a heartfelt presence. I'm not an expert on the music of T.K. Bollinger. My reference point for this review is ”Catalogue of Woe”, which was an album with T.K. Bollingers & the Sinking Feeling. In some songs the band almost went beserk (not unlike Neil Young's band Crazy Horse in their messiest and loudest moments) while other songs had a more delicate and restrained expression. Shy Ghosts” is a stripped-down album, sparsely instrumented and simply arranged with just vocals, drum machine, acoustic and electric guitars. No mess or noise. This is an album filled with almost hymnal music.

  

tkbollinger västLet's go over and dissect the album. "Shy Ghosts" begins majestically. The first song is "All Seems Lost". The song starts in slow motion with muffled drums and rimshots (drum machine rimshots). The slow tempo is there to stay. The mood is set from the first acoustic guitar chord. An electric guitar is introduced followed by vocals. "What I once took in hand / Now seems overwhelming / Simple tasks, the provinence of a child / Make no sense". The song fades out with a guitar solo. The second song is "Milk of Human Kindness". The song title refers to (in addition to daily speech and its everyday meaning) to Shakespeare's play Macbeth. When the "milk of human kindness" transforms into almost primal screams the song reminds me of John Lennon's renowned song "Mother". The third song "No More" doesn't belong to the highlights on the album, but it fills its purpose. The song gives you a opportunity to catch your breath after the milk excitement. However, the fourth song "Nothing At All", restores the order and mood. The song is, like all songs on the album, very simply arranged. The lyrics deal with lost love in a very insightful way. "Was it time or complacency / Did I just miss the call? / Now we pass the time by searching for novel ways / To say nothing at all". In the following five songs T.K. Bollinger pull out all the stops. This is sadcore quality lined up in a row. The fifth song is "Habits Defeat Me". It also follows the same formula with drum machine rimshots and minimalistic arangements. The song begins "Without sorrow or shame nothing could change / In doubt I walk down the same road again / Strange how the cure still makes you suffer / Stranger still is how I blame anyone but me". The sixth song ”The Limits of What We Can Love” is one of the absolute best songs on the album. T.K. Bollinger sings in an almost liturgical way. The song ends "While vanity scars most of us / Some could profit from more self regard / Life may prescribe but we must administer / And learn what's best for each of us / The limits of what we can love". I'm impressed and flabbergasted. Only a person with a grave emotional disorder is untouched by this song. The seventh song ”Where Has It All Gone” is perfectly calibrated. It follows the same formula as the other songs. The lyrics deal with the slipping of time and what time does to us. "What I once saw clear / No longer seems bring me there / Makes me wonder / Where has it all gone?". The pained guitar solo underlines the message. In the end we are all alone.

TKBollinger liggande beskurenThe eight song ”Til Exhaustion or Collapse” is the best song on the album. A song that begins with the line "I should have died / If not in the womb / Then by my parents bedside" and ends with "No angel spoke to me / But I still feel blessed / So I'll still sing my dark to you / Even though you're unimpressed / 'Til exhaustion or collapse" can't be anything other than great. The song ends with a whining electric guitar. No more, no less. The album "Shy Ghosts" reaches its climax in the haunted ninth song "All I Feel is Cold". The song is darker than the previous songs and have a slightly harder expression. The first line refers to King Midas "I had just one small wish / That all I touch turn gold". As always, be careful what you wish for. It can have undesirable effects. The song ends with "The darkness lies upon me / It blinds and binds me so / I knew love's warmth once long ago / Now all I feel is cold". T.K. Bollinger really gives his best and pushes his vocal abilities to the limit when singing these lines. The tenth song is "The Body Remains". Despite listening to the song over and over again it doesn't start to grow on me. I spent considerable time trying to figure out why. It's not the lyrics. They are impeccable. I think the reason is the exceptional long and drone-out tones. My conclusion is that the tempo of the song - even by T.K. Bollinger standards - is too slow. In my opinion, this song would have benefited from a slightly faster pace. This is a peripheral remark. There are more highlights on the album. The eleventh song "If I'm Not Ashamed" gives self-disclosure a new and deeper meaning. "If I'm not ashamed / Of who and what I have to say / Why are the keys best known to me / Backspace and delete?" The song ends "If I'm not ashamed of who I am / And what I have come from / Why is the thought that freezes and most frightens me / The one I must stay longer?" Well, as I wrote, there's no lack of honesty here. There are two more songs on the album. The twelfth song is "Sad and Broken". In this song T.K Bollinger goes the whole hog. "If I had to start again / I wouldn't cope / I played the game of trust / And I wound up sad and broken". A guitar solo elegantly wraps it up. The thirteenth and last song is "Flesh and Bone. The last song on an album is very important. It concludes what the artist want to say with the album and should also have a close connection to the themes and a scent of the atmospere on the album. This last song meet all these requirements. "It's not the light that has betrayed me / It's not the night that has brought me home / It's just that ignorance waylaid me / When I pulled out flesh and bone". T.K. Bollinger ends the album in style.

And finally, the overall assessment. Reviewing this album was time well spent. I only review an album if there's a possibility that I might like it. Everything else is just a waste of time. In fact, I can't think of a more cruel punishment than being forced to listen and review terrible music. This is probably T.K. Bollinger's most accessible album. To compare it with ”Catalogue of Woe” isn't very meaningful since it has a completely different approach. But, the album had some delicate and restrained moments. "Shy Ghosts" is delicate and restrained in its entirety. What I particularly like is that the album is so worked through and thorough. There's nothing to add or withdraw. There's also care in album details, for example the order of the songs. I find it very disappointing when too little effort and careful thought have been put in the process of ordering the songs. Needless to say, the song order is perfect. T.K. Bollinger definitely has something to say and now he has spoken. This is a exceptional album. Being mangled by T.K. Bollinger for nearly 72 minutes is probably more than most people can take. T.K. Bollinger is not for everyone, very far from, but maybe he's just the artist for you. On his Facebook page he wrote about the album: "Cheaper than Valium and twice as effective". I'm inclined to agree.      

      

If you click on the icons below they will open in a new window, from left to right: T.K. Bollinger Bandcamp page (where you can buy a digital and eventually a physical copy), T.K. Bollinger's Facebook page, T.K. Bollinger's Homepage and Press kit and lyrics for "Shy Ghosts".

 

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Muddy Roots 2016Time apparently flies and it's a new year again. This past year has somehow flown away. It seems like it was yesterday that I wrote a blog entry;"What to expect and wish for in 2015". In fact, it was exactly a year ago. This weak perception of time probably means that I'm getting old. Now it's time to look ahead again. It seems appropriate to start with some following-up from last year. At the time there were four albums in the making: "Fossils" a split album by Sons of Perdition and Jaran Hereid, "Giving My Bones to the Western Lands" by Slackeye Slim, "Let the Devil In" by Uncle Sinner and "High Desert Hymns" by Palodine. All four albums met or exceeded my high expectations. Unfortunately, one wish didn't come true in 2015, namely that The Victor Mourning would release a second album. TVM seems to be busy with other projects. I also had other wishes for 2015. For instance, that I could find at least one of the hard-to-find four missing albums, read more here (opens in a new window). Of this pious hope came of course nothing (Reverend Glasseye released "One Year Lost at Sea" digitally in 2015. It's not the same as owning the physical album, but still it's better than nothing). What can we expect from 2016? Actually, Pinebox Serenade will release their long awaited EP "All is not Lost" today. I also think it safe to say that Sons of Perdition and O'Death will release albums later this year. I know for a fact that Palodine will release a new album (probably a double album) and that T.K. Bollinger will release a promising album soon. That's about all I know. To make it easier to monitor the genre I have created an incognito Facebook account to follow news from artists and bands. And there's not much recording going on as far as I can tell. Maybe this is the sign of the times. Not good news if that is the case. And what about the wishes for 2016? Let's start with the more unrealistic ones. A new gothic country album from Christian Williams is probably too much to wish for. But, you should never say never. He wrote earlier on his Facebook page that he seriously was thinking about playing his gothic songs live and writing some new ones. A second album from The Victor Mourning would be very appreciated. I believe that they have material for a sophomore release in them. Not entirely unrealistic, but very unlikely is for me to visit the Muddy Roots Music Festival in Cookesville, TN on 2-5 September 2016 (see advertise to left). The distance from here to there is 7 320 km or 4 548 miles as the crow flies. Despite the excellent possibilities of free camping and the opportunity to bring your own beer the airline ticket doesn't come cheap so I will probably confine myself to follow the updates from the event. After all, I prefer listening to music on my old high-end stereo on my own rather than go to concerts (there are exceptions). The list of artists and bands is amazing, especially Wovenhand, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Those Poor Bastards, Munly & the Lupercalians, Joseph Huber and Jayke Orvis (ex .357 String Band) and Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy. Furthermore, I still haven't given up hope of laying my hands on at least one of the hard-rather to-find four missing albums (see above). Despite my depressing album collector statistics maybe it's time for some reverse strategy. Instead of lowering your expectations you should raise them. Therefore, I wish for the complete catalogue from the defunct label Devil's Ruin Records. In fact, there are only 8 to 10 album missing in my collection, but to make it complete is almost an insurmountable task. Maybe - for my piece of mind - it's better to focus on things that I directly or indirectly can influence, like this site. On March 1, 2016 the site will reach its second birthday. Maybe then the visitor counter will have passed 30 000. However, the only thing that is certain for 2016 is that I will have spam referral visits. 

 

EvaCassidyWinter solstice. Six hours and two minutes of daylight today. We severly tested people who live in the Northern Hemisphere are by now tired and pallid and need something positive and uplifting to look forward to. But some of my fellow swedes actually increase the strain. This time last year I almost choked on my coffee when reading an advertise in the morning paper. A "Nashville country night" was presented as "The country event of the year". A swedish cover band including some unamed musicians from Nashville would play hits by Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts, Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift, Elvis among others. You can read my reflective article here (opens in a new window). Now the same swedes are back again tormenting us with a tribute to Eva Cassidy (b.1963–d.1996). For those who don't know who she was here's a short introduction. Eva Cassidy was an American vocalist and guitarist known for her interpretations of jazz, blues, folk, gospel, country, rock and pop classics. After her death she was object of a posthumous recognition, or should I say, posthumous explotation. The combination of untimely death and her undeniable vocal abilities was tapped to the breaking point by commercial interests. The driving force was her parents. Maybe this was a expression of misdirected remembrance or just plain greed. I don't know. What I do know is that one album was released before her death and and eleven albums were released after her death. Actually, I got two albums in the latter category, "Songbird" and "Time after Time". She could sing, I give her that, but the arrangements are quite boring and watered-down. She was a songbird, that's all. Eva Cassidy's version of Wayfaring Stranger is, by the way, the worst I ever heard. The iconization and mythmaking have over the years taken quite parodic forms. Several filmmakers have proposed films based on Cassidy's life, and have worked with her family, but to date these projects have not progressed in any film project. However, in 2007 a film company acquired the rights to produce a film. In an interview a year earlier, Cassidy's parents suggested Kirsten Dunst or Emily Watson as possible actresses who could play their daughter. I think you can draw your own conclusions from these suggestions. Even swedes like to get their (un)fair share. The text on the swedish advertise on the right means "A tribute to Eva Cassidy" and below "due to popular demand". Yeah right. The rainbow on the advertise is unlikely a HBTQ-statement, instead more likely it's a nod to "Over the Rainbow", a song Eva Cassidy covered. The scene of the crime for these repeat offenders is identical from last year. The venue Hotel Rival is placed in the central of Stockholm and owned by former ABBA-musician Benny Andersson. He's rich as a mountain goblin and doesn't need the revenues from this flogging-a-dead-horse evening to pay his bills. Since Benny Andersson isn't driven by money anymore the driving force must be his monumentally bad taste. However, the most absurd thing about this cover evening is that Eva Cassidy was a cover artist. When Caroline Larsson sings "Time after Time" doesn't she in fact cover Cyndi Lauper? And "Fields of Gold" - Sting, "People Get Ready" - Curtis Mayfield, "Woodstock" - Joni Mitchell and "Kathy's Song" - Paul Simon? Of course not, Caroline Larsson and her musicians are covering Eva Cassidy. I simply cannot understand how anybody would want to cover a cover artist unless it is to pretend that they are original songs. The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived. I have only one small request before my time is through. Please, please do not - I repeat - do not cover Wayfaring Stranger. It was a disaster then and it will be a disaster now. I haven't fully recovered yet from Eva Cassidy's "jazz" version of the traditional hymn.

 

 

spam locustsSpam referrals (or log referrals) must be the eight plague of Egypt. Like locust swarms it will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. Spam referrals will distort your web traffic statistics in Google Analytics. My friend Mikael, who happens to be a professional web analysts, patiently and pedagogically explained what it was all about. Spam referrals is spamming aimed at search engines, like Google. The technique involves making repeated web site requests using a fake referer uniform resource locator (URL) to web sites. Sites that publish their access logs, including referer statistics, will then inadvertently link back to the spammer's site. These links will be indexed by search engines as they crawl the access logs. This improves the spammer site's search engine ranking owing to link-counting algorithms that search engines use. Referrer spam can occur in many different guises (or disguises). Ghost spam traffic directly interact with Google Analytics with measurement protocol system where as referral spam directly influence website traffic. Ghost spam don't visit your site, only Google Analytics. The spammers don't even know what site they are spamming. Spammers send traffic to a random series of tracking ID numbers in Google Analytics. The session length is always 00:00:00 and the bounch rate is naturally, 100%. Google Analytics tries to fight back, but there are always hard-fought pockets of resistance and new spammers or spams. When I find spam referrals, I block them out through a spam crawler filter. However, this is both boring and time-consuming. The biblical locusts consumed all the remaining Egyptian crops, leaving no tree or plant standing. Spam referrals will only distort your web traffic statistics. You may now ask - if this is only consequence - why even bother? Well, it's a matter of principle and principles have killed more men than all wars. Spammers try to capitalize on web traffic to other sites, like mine (which to be honest attracts a very limited, but dedicated group of music lovers). How did this happen? Spam referral is the ugly little twin of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Most SEO-methods are serious for sure, but there are dubious SEO-methods in order to inflate and magnify a particular website. Impression is everything, content is nothing. Spam referral sites have absolutely nothing. I have something. I will therefore keep on doing my daily blocking. It's a dirty job, but somebody got to do it.

 

 

DBUK albumTime brings everything to those who wait. At least, this is what the proverb says. Let's test the validity in this review. I’m probably not the only one who have waited a long time for an album from DBUK (formerly known as the Denver Broncos UK). DBUK was formed about ten years ago as a side-project to Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Munly and the Lupercalians. This band triangle could mean two things. On one hand: many committments, on the other hand: a common schedule planner. Munly Munly, Slim Cessna, Lord Dwight Pentacost and Rebecca Vera (all four of them) play in Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and in Munly and the Lupercalians. As mentioned in other articles most musicians in Denver play in at least one band, but often in three bands or more (everything else seems to be lack of endurance). However, it’s questionable if this versatility favors songwriting and recording. A lot of water has namely flowed under the bridge since DBUK made their first recordings on a four-track in 2006. Actually, some of these songs are now released, that is, almost after ten years. To be fair, a 7" ”The Red Cross Is Giving Out Misinformation” / ”Immaculately Warded Children” was released in 2013. ”Songs One Through Eight” is their full-length debut album. The implausible resurrection of vinyl has led to significant shorter albums (to fit in on the A and B side). The album is approximately 41 minutes long and contains eight songs (hence the title). The album was released on SCACUNINCORPORATED (their new and own label) on October 30th 2015. The label also hosts Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Munly and the Lupercalians. The album artwork is tasteful and designed by Heather Reynolds. You can buy the album in the format of your choice, just click on the second icon from the left (bottom). 

 

DBUK 2I will now quickly walk you through the album. The album begins magnificent. The first song is "Broncos Fight Song", written already in 2007. In fact, the song has circulated on internet together with a lavish video for eight years. The video was filmed and edited by Jon Killough the same year. This is a slow, dreamy and moody song. The song is sparingly orchestrated. It relies heavy on Munly’s unmistakable voice, placed somewhere between half-singing and half-mumbling. The highlight of the song is the echo-type vocal sequence between Munly and Vera at the end of the song. "Broncos Fight Song" is pure quality. The proverb seeems to be valid. The strong introduction makes me ask myself: is there more of this or have they burned everything they got in this song? The second song is "Jim Nabors, From Bass To Mezzo-Soprano". The song does not only have a funny title, it's also a good song. It's built up by a guitar loop and semi-frantic vocals. The third song "The Columbia Girl" have a good song structure and elaborated lyrics. Unfortunately, the vocals are highly theatrical and strained, which makes it the weakest track on the album. You begin to despair about the proverb. However, the fourth song "Uncle John’s Boat", a catchy bagatelle written by Slim Cessna makes you regain hope. The song, in all its simplicity, is very beautiful.

   

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The fifth song "Three Bloodhounds, Two Shepherds, One Fila Brasila" puzzles me. DBUK is a side-project to Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Therefore, I can’t see the point of including a song from SCAC’s latest album ”Unentitled” on this debut album, unless as an album filler. But, I don’t think the song is meant to be an album filler. There’s really no shortage of creativity among these people. On the contrary, it’s literally overflowing. But, the choice is strange. The SCAC and DBUK versions are very similar, which makes the choice even more strange. Why didn’t they make a version of Munly’s ”The Gashlycrumb Tinies” from 2000 instead? That choice would have been much more interesting. The sixth song ”Immaculately Warded Children” is, by far, the best song on the album. The song grabs you in a firm grip from the beginning to the end. It’s much darker (not to say gruesome) lyrically than other songs on the album. You find yourself humming: "I’ve got a good good heart / I’ve got a good good heart". This song has everything. The proverb is valid again. The seventh song ”I Hid & Seeked the Funnel” is a very good song. The vocals are dark and elevated. The tempo cranks up with more layers of instruments and Choir. The eight and last song on the album is ”The Red Cross Is Giving Out Misinformation”. Very good and ironic title, I give DBUK that. The last song is very important. It concludes what the band want to say with the album. However, the last song doesn't meet the standards of a good closing song. The song is too unfocused, playful and relaxed for that purpose. The last song goes over in a ”bap bah” vocal part before it ends with a long organ fadeout.

And finally, the overall assessment and the validity of the proverb: ”Songs One Through Eight” is a debut album which took over ten years to release. My expectations are sky high and to a large extent affected by the high standards of the previously released songs: ”Broncos Fight Song” and ”Immaculately Warded Children”. However, ”Songs One Through Eight” contains both highs and lows. The highs on the album are extraordinary high, while the lows are not disturbing low. This determines the rating of the album. If there only were two or three songs of the same caliber as ”Broncos Fight Song” and ”Immaculately Warded Children” this would be an exceptional album and maybe even the album of the year. Now, it’s just a very good album. The pace new songs are written are by any standards slow, despite the acknowledged creativity within DBUK. Splitting yourself into three parallell bands is probably very artistic rewarding, but maybe there’s a price that have to be paid. My impression is that DBUK simply don't have enough material for an exceptional album. But, making a very good album is certainly no disgrace in the times we are living in. And what about the proverb? The answer is yes, it's valid.   

    

If you click on the icons below they will open in a new window, from left to right: DBUK's Facebook page, Scacunincorpoarated page (where you can buy a physical copy), DBUK's Myspace page and DBUK's Soundcloud page.

 

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