ALBUM REVIEW: Serena Matthews – “2012”

Serena Matthews 2012

Album Review
Serena Matthews – “2012” (2012, Independent)

The rain, it talks to me
When no one else can tolerate
My words that don’t make sense
To anyone except for me and my old friend the rain

– Serena Matthews – “Rain Song”

This album should come with the subtitle Greatest Hits, because even if you’ve never heard a word sung by Serena Matthews prior to pressing play on these, you’ll be won over and a lifelong fan once you do. Full disclosure: I’ve been addicted to Serena’s beautifully elemental folk songs since I first found her music on mp3.com close to a decade ago. Because she does not seek the limelight, her music never made a wider splash than it did on that site and various others around the Internet where she’s posted her continued creative musings over the ensuing years. Rest assured, however, that these are among the best bare-bones acoustic folk songs you’re liable to find.

The 21 songs on 2012 are each delicate aural paintings of raw depth and beauty which stand up to repeated listening because of their elemental nature. Whether she’s singing about a man going to his death (“Crow Song”) or observing the rare transcendent grace of the world around us (“Blackbird Fly Away”), Serena doesn’t mince words. Hearing these compositions all in one place after all these years simply accentuates what makes them so memorable and indispensable. Serena doesn’t want fame, but she’ll continue to have a rapt audience as long as she continues to release such stunning music. 2012 is a stirring example of Americana at its finest, and it deserves to be savored.

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Jeff Mangum to return to the stage in 2012

Jeff Mangum

Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel

Okay, so I’ll admit my day hadn’t been going quite as planned. But it’s hard to be depressed about anything when you learn one of indie music’s most reclusive modern songwriters is going to actually make more live appearances in 2012. According to Pitchfork, Mangum will be playing a string of dates in the US and Europe, including two-night stints at Chicago’s Athenaeum Theater and Atlanta’s 40 Watt Club.

Surely these dates are going to sell out insanely fast, but if any one musician is worth fighting it out for tickets, Mangum would be among most music fans’ top five. The dates are below, and for kicks, enjoy this live version of “The King of Carrot Flowers 1 – 3” from 2001:

01-18 New Haven, CT – Shubert Theater
01-20 Brooklyn, NY – Gilman Opera House at Brooklyn Academy of Music
01-25 Philadelphia, PA – Irvine Auditorium at University of Pennsylvania
01-27 Washington, DC – Lincoln Theatre
01-30 Chapel Hill, NC – Memorial Hall at University of North Carolina
02-01 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
02-04 Minneapolis, MN – Pantages Theatre
02-06 Chicago, IL – AthenaeumTheater
02-07 Chicago, IL – Athenaeum Theater
02-08 Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater
02-10 Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
02-11 Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
03-07 Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
03-09-11 Minehead, England – ATP Curated By Jeff Mangum
03-13 London, England – Union Chapel
03-14 London, England – Union Chapel