Memories and Artifice

This is all artifice, it is beautiful for it, and we are lucky to be here together to watch a world of someone else's creation live and fade around us.

Memories and Artifice
our cat Ramona, perched above Lysh's Traynor amp

hey everyone, Niko here. Trying a new thing. I'm not a music reviewer per se, but I wanted to try my hand at it all the same, so every Friday I'm going to do my level best to write through some music, books or what have you that I've been losing myself in around the moments I'm obsessively working on other projects. I hope you like, thanks for being here. Love you.

There are, famously, no good band names. People will tell you that Radiohead is a bad name, and they're not wrong insofar that one's own opinion can never truly be wrong. A band name just needs to get you there, lead you in, call out to eager hearts on winds of desire. I don't know if I fully agree that there are no good band names, there are only difficult associations. Our opinions based on the relation of ourselves and our world.

This is why I think Ducks, Ltd is perfect. I know I'm about to go somewhere beyond all this, somewhere I have been before, somewhere I yearn to find again.

Ducks, Ltd makes me think fondly on half-remembered commercials about wetlands and marshes on Canadian television. The heavy coffin of a television we had in our basement when I was young that didn't have cable, just rabbit ears held together by duct tape and straightened-out wire clothes hangers. Remember fondly the smell of the air in my youth I can only struggle to fully recall, the feel of a floor beneath my feet that was cold and hard, lost now under new carpet and shifting memories.

There is a delicate balance between nostalgia and influence. How to grow a future from the roots of days long behind us. on their latest record, Harm's Way, Ducks Ltd. sounds like something new and old all at once, there are bright and sun-soaked guitars, tones that shimmer and shake. Shine like the mississippi delta. Drums of delicate ferocity, pulled back at once and then released with ferocious restraint. Ducks Ltd. is a well-honed two-piece – Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis – a balance of songwriting who have been molding their work into a towering vista of ear worms and feet shakers. Songs to make your shuffle through the rooms and hallways of a life.

This doesn't mean we are here to float in waves of blissed out wonder, Ducks Ltd. ponders on the weight of a world in collapse, like an enticing souffle falling in on itself after too much time exposed to oppressive heat. The streets and sidewalks and dillaptated brick buildings of cities in slow decay, the erosion of civilization. But presented all the same with warm tones, asking us not to despair but just remember, mourn if you need to, but rise one more day if you can and try again. Dance if you want to. Remember the TV in the basement of your memories and how it felt to be alive with endless possibility. Even if, even when, everything is bad, there can still be a song in your step.

My favourite part of music, of art, is artifice. None of this is real, how could it possibly be? Dan Campbell has created a life to hide in the corners of. Not in his primary body of work, as the head of one of the all-time great punk rock bands The Wonder Years, but bolder in a work of great and tremendously heart wrenching fiction.

Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties isn't real. How could it possibly be? The falsehoods only help the truths bite harder, leave marks that might never fully heal.

Campbell has always written like a man confessing sins to a preacher he has never fully believed in. Songs of dynamic failures and hard worn triumphs, a man in motion through the rhythms of his world, sometimes desperate to simply keep a hand on the wheel. He feels real, tangible and fallible. I have interviewed him once before and I can tell you here and now that he is every bit as real in conversation as he is in lyrics and poured into microphones. A man who is here to tell you exactly who he is, how he arrived in this place, and how happy he is to find you here with him.

But he is also Aaron West, and Aaron West is someone different. A beautiful, mourning work of fiction, as all great writers eventually need a character to hide in the bones of. This has been a story unfolding over time, stemming from debut album We Don't Have Each Other in 2014. It feels at times like the best idea of the Mountain Goats, a world imagined through shades of memories, hardships and great lovers, despair and the hope that arrives with the arrival of a new days sun.

Aaron West is back once more, with an upcoming record In Lieu Of Flowers (out April 12 on Hopeless records) that isn't possibly real, but is devestating all the same. The titular character finally forced to reckon with the ghosts he has been running from, hoping to never be fully haunted by. Flavours of roots and folks music, tastes of Springsteen and John K. Samson in the water.

A good song, a perfect song, builds a world around you. A world that lives and breathes, grows lush and green, oceans of deep blue and skies deeper still, peppered only slightly with clouds that hint at rain and seasons to come. This world, all worlds, will turn to brown and crumble. They are not here forever, only just a moment. Aaron West's world is just that, lush green tinged in amber, like a photograph found behind a dresser of a grocery store in a town you don't remember how to get to anymore. Beautiful in its memory but never fully real.

Aaron West's world isn't real, but it feels like you can touch it. A pack of smokes you can feel in your pocket if you want it to be there, the way gas station coffee tastes like shit. You can taste it too, the bitterness lingering on your tongue.

Campbells voice lends its strengths to this kind of world building, it is big and bold like a God of creation but pained and saddened like those cast down to earth. It contains the weight of all things and is unafraid to share them with us.

on "Paying Bills at the End of the World", West worries at the state of things here at what can often feel like the end. Maybe you've been here before too, in this place, certain that every minute is the last one. No one told the birds the world was ending he opens, guitars strum into motion and create the backdrop of the world. The stage that Aaron West will live and die on.

Not real, but how could it possibly be? This is all artifice, it is beautiful for it, and we are lucky to be here together to watch a world of someone else's creation live and fade around us. Split a coke and watch the sunset do its thing.

you should know that Ted Leo is going on tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Shake The Sheets, one of the all time great records by an all time great musician. I don't know if there is anyone better than Ted Leo, a musician who so deftly moves between tones and energies, there is no genre, there is no one single truth. There is just an endless stream of guitars shredding and dancing and swinging around you. I won't go too deep on Ted Leo here, because I plan to do that elsewhere when I feel like I can. But you should get tickets to these shows before they're gone.

TOUR — TedLeo
<p>Ted Leo’s music, tour information, and contact </p>

Also hitting the road with Ted on these shows is the INCREDIBLE Ekko Astral, who I will also be writing more about in the future but just know that they are a bright shining star in a field of kinetic energy and you will come to know their name, as it will be shared amongst the hallways of giants. They just got signed to Topshelf Records, and trust when I tell you to get on board now while the heat is turned to its highest settings.