Matt Haeck, Western States

I wish I had more info on this guy; all I can find is that he’s out of Nashville and he released an EP this year that doesn’t suck.

I really like Western States, though I find I can’t remember any of the melodies after I’m done listening to it. This is a phenomena I’ve noticed over the years and it may well be one of the great unanswered scientific questions; how can a song be very enjoyable yet, simultaneously, unmemorable?  Musicians constantly bemoan that catchy, bad songs are more commercially viable than more complex (and presumably better) pieces. This essential knowledge, that quality and “memorability” are not linked, is a point that informs many music critics’ deep distrust of any music with even a modicum of popularity or commercial success… which is unfair.

There has to be a better way, an elaborate formula to mathematically explain why some melodies, sounds, beats, etc. fasten to the mind more than others, and why I can’t get that fucking Duran Duran song out of my head. Simply step up to the console, plug in the particular emotion you wish to convey (the more mundane the better) and out pops an insanely catchy beat replete with DJ scratches and hand claps. You don’t even need to think; all you need to do is say “I’m sad” and out pops a Dashboard Confessional song.

I am being facetious, of course, but there are many people in positions of great power who take this idea very seriously.  It is they who are largely responsible for foisting the Swedish-produced Britney Spears tracks on the rest of us who were innocently minding our own business.  To paraphrase the late, great Frank Zappa, “that’s it! Turn in up!  Gimme’ a beat at 120 beats per minute.  Don’t gimme’ none of that 119 bullshit.  And turn up those fucking handclaps!”

The following is from Matt’s Myspace page.

Matt Haeck keeps an ear studiously and respectfully trained on those men and women, both living and long dead, who give us our rich heritage of American music. Matt has lived in every major region of America, but he and his music have made their way to Nashville. He comfortably assimilates northern soul, west coast harmonies, east coast pop and Midwest rock into his brand of southern Americana. The stories these places tell combine with influences from Wilco and Stephen Foster to Cormac McCarthy and the Old Testament to form the substance of Matt’s songs.

In January of this year Matt released a new EP, Western States. The seven songs on the album explore thoughts of running, loving, losing, and longing. “The EP’s lyrical content and musical fluidity make it timeless and make Matt Haeck one of the finest up-and-comers making music these days.” (

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New Mobjack Single, Walked Away too Fast

<a href="">Walked Away Too Fast by Mobjack</a>

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Zachary Lucky

Aside from having one of the best ready-made musician names I’ve ever heard, Lucky has some serious chops both as a songwriter and as a player. He has a very easy-flowing sound, fairly dripping with Canadian understatement and existing in a world forever cabin-bound amid the towering landscape of Saskatchewan.

He sounds a little like a Saskatchewanian (sp?) version of Jose Gonzales; voice faint, a little squeeky and whispering as though these song were never meant to leave the fire side. I really like what this fella’s up to and I hope he can make it to the States to play soon.

Here are some samples:

<a href="">Coming back home by Zachary Lucky</a>

<a href="">Our new home by Zachary Lucky</a>

<a href="">Broken Trees by Zachary Lucky</a>

Shot at the Dark – Zachary Lucky from Shot at The Dark on Vimeo.

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Josh Stamper’s Debut Album, Wend

I first met Josh Stamper when he was teaching jazz at my high school.  I was in the midst of my high school career and just starting to get my feet underneath me as a musician with tepid renditions of Pearl Jam and Crosby, Stills & Nash, strummed quietly in my bedroom. I was fast on track to being that guy at the party, earnestly alternating between Led Zepplin and the acoustic mook de jour (think Jason Mraz) before John Belushi enters and exacts God’s will upon my narrow pallet and fragile instrument.

I joined the school’s jazz combo and Josh promptly pulled the rug out from underneath me, introducing me to a myriad of mind-bending musical ideas in the form of modal jazz, chamber music and avant garde genres that your average high school musician does not typically delve into without some sort of chemical assistance.  Josh had some serious chops on guitar, yet refrained from gratuitous displays of dexterity. This restraint had a profound impact on me. As an adolescent guitarist, the notion of self-discipline (particularly coming from a guy who clearly had the chops to drop a proper face-melter at will) came completely out of left field. Josh clearly strove for a deeper end of the pool and his example left an indelible mark on my own music.

Josh always struck me as utterly fearless and his first album seems to illustrate the point.  The man fears no genre, instrument, instrumentation, timbre, meter, etc.  He ventures boldly into areas that terrify most musicians and the result is something of a rarity… surprise.

When you listen to this, you will not know what’s coming next and that’s something that doesn’t come easy these days. Plus, he has really good taste in online web publishing tools…

The following is from Josh’s bandcamp page:

It was a sweaty summer day in Durham, New Hampshire, and Joshua Stamper was steeling himself for his sophomore year of high school, biding his time in a student theatre camp. The play being mounted was peppered with instrumental and choral interludes, and on this day, a new song was introduced. The song’s two vocal lines wove in and around each other, pleasantly lilting along the way any folk tune might. But halfway in, right before the chorus, something galvanic happened. The two vocal lines moved too close to each other, like frayed power lines, and arced. Sonic lightning heated the air—time slowed and expanded—and wham! a new space was seared open. What Joshua Stamper heard and experienced that afternoon was a minor second, the smallest possible distance between two notes in Western music. Stamper didn’t know what it was called—all he knew was that the trajectory had been set. His world had been turned upside down by two notes: ‘e’ and ‘f’.

Since this moment twenty-some years ago, Stamper has worked to cultivate a landscape where the same kind of paradigm-shifting musical events can be created, writing for every ensemble that presented itself: string quintets, big bands, folk ensembles, percussion groups, jazz combos, chamber choirs, small orchestras. Dissonance and asymmetry are points of charm and poignancy, drawing you into a world that is both raw and winsome. Stamper’s music places the listener in the midst of this terrain; when he walks you through a smoothly flowing stream, you feel the current ripple and eddy around your ankles and the ground under your feet accommodate the change. Wrinkles in the music are moments of opportunity, a way of extending and savoring the journey rather than ending it.

Wend is Joshua Stamper’s most recent endeavor, a series of songs exploring the relationships between motion and stasis, pattern and irregularity, change and constancy. With a versatile group of musicians on violin, cello, flute, clarinet, alto sax, bass clarinet, guitar, marimba, double bass, and percussion, Stamper creates rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic textures that move like water bugs skittering across a pond—at once mysterious, humorous, and beguiling. The music is a study of contrast and cohesion: a collection of seemingly unmarryable qualities that exist happily ever after. Meticulous arrangements are woven through group improvisations while noble beauty is matched step for step by rambunctious playfulness. Stamper’s music is not jazz, nor is it classical, nor is it the blending of those two genres that so often compromises the beauty of both. Wend exists in its own world and on its own terms, in the infinite and electric arc between form and freedom, sound and silence, ‘e’ and ‘f.’

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Band Camp Update

My favorite online music distribution company just got better!

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