As The Decemberists took to the stage at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, it became obvious that they could have played a room worlds larger than the largest club venue in Philadelphia if they desired. The rapturous sold out crowd of 3,000 roared back the words to the opening salvo, the three-part odyssey “The Crane Wife”, from the album of the same name that recently turned ten years old. The fact that they booked the “Shuffling Off to Ragnarok” tour at venues such as this, though, speaks to a desire for intimacy; a desire to hear and be heard, a desire to share a smaller space with the people who care most about them.
Julien Baker has signed with Matador Records. She’s also released the new song “Funeral Pyre” and announced that her fantastic debut, Sprained Ankle, will be re-released. And, on top of all that awesomeness, there’s some new tour dates as well. “Funeral Pyre” comes from a new 7″ that will be released in March.
“Decorated Lawns” recalls Julien moving back in with her parents, falling in love, and driving around with the one she loved around the Holidays. The song builds into this wonderful rally of “I loved you/I loved you/More than I hate me” that give you both butterflies and hit you in the base of your spine at once.
Kevin Devine will be releasing his new album, Instigator, this fall. No release date has been set, or pre-orders available, but you can sign up to be notified when they are on the label’s website. (The words “notify me” are actually a link.) Kevin has also announced new tour dates with Julien Baker, Pinegrove, and Petal. You’ll find those below.
At Newport Folk, the 20-year-old Memphian filled the quad inside Fort Adams with plaintive folk songs and electric guitar. Midway through her set, Baker brought out Matthew Gilliam, her bandmate in Forrister, to add touches of atmospheric percussion to “Vessels” and “Brittle Boned.” But for the most part, it was just her ragged-edged voice and ringing Telecaster — and that was enough to win over the audience, who gave her multiple standing ovations. Particularly well received was “Good News,” which, as Baker explained, is about “thinking you ruin everything … and then figuring out that you don’t.”
There is equal humility and precocity to these statements, a duality that kept popping up in my conversation with Baker. She called me “ma’am” with a soft drawl, and apologized often when talking about her creative process, worrying that she was being “conceited or indulgent.” Onstage, she offers aw-shucks-ish disclaimers before launching into particularly gloomy refrains, saying, “I’m sorry for bumming everyone out.” At shows, she sometimes wears a T-shirt that says “Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better.” And yet, despite any outward embarrassment, Baker’s lyrics are bold and unapologetic—about having big, bloody emotions, about the kind of epic feels that come in tsunamis and do not abate. Though Baker sings about God, she is not explicitly a Christian artist; instead, whether or not a supreme being exists is just one of many questions she has about the way the world works, and about the mechanisms available to us to process pain.