Friday, June 19, 2009


Bad Children (05.09, Magic Goat)

For: Bird Names, Times New Viking, Weird America + New Weird America

Byline: New Weird Utah. 06/19/09. Copyrighted. I got dibs on it.

In 1952 little known music archivist, record collector, filmmaker, mystic and all around bad ass Harry Smith put out an anthology called the Anthology of American Folk Music. This anthology was a three disc-80+ song collection of folk songs recorded from 1927 to 1932 collected from rotting crates full of old 78's, thrift store dumpsters, and deceased relatives attics. The collection revealed a weird underbelly of American folk music that had never before been catalogued, blind blues players, white jazz bands, gutbucket groups from the hills of Appalachia; songs about death, betrayal, outlaws and bandits. This compilation showed just how weird America was if you strayed from the brand new inter-states. Far from being a piece of ephemeral from America's amnesiac memory, Harry Smith took these works to be important compositions worth archiving. Fortunately, so did a lot of early bohemians living in New York at the time, and thus the New York folk scene was born. I am not sure if it was that easy but the sentiment is cool, old folk songs from the most marginalized and economically depressed regions of America directly influencing some of the most influential and radical protest-folk singers, it exists as a nice thought. Fast forward to the New weird America where musicians such as Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, Josephine Foster, 1,000 years of Dust, and countless others are borrowing he dusty old aesthetic of the outsider/troubadour and incorporating the lump sum of decades worth of influences ranging from psychedelia to punk to create something weird and beautiful. The epicenter is once again NYC, but not to be overlooked, Utah is entering this new era with their birthright assured as a depository of centuries of weird musical and societal influences that are inciting a rebirth and a movement I am un-creatively calling "New Weird Utah". Bam. Patent. 
This is where Navigator comes in. Braden McKenna is one of the many bearded mystics at the forefront of this movement and with Bad Children he puts his stamp on what is already turning into an amazing year for Utah music. Bad Children, as is noted in Forest Gospel, spans the divide from his freak-folk, spiritual Throwing Tongues to the lo-fi, rocking concept album Songs for Mei and Satsuki. Borrowing from both, Bad Children retains a sense of four-on-the-floor, pop songs underneath a sonic wall of noise of lo-fi bands like Times New Viking and Psychadelic Horses*** to the upbeat, spirituals of Bird Names or songs from Throwing Tongues.  A sense of childlike energy flow through each song of love and faith with Braden's lovable warble underneath it all. Braden truly goes all the way in both directions, on one part this is really a lo-fi ripper and on the other this really is a straight up folk album inspired from the dusty corners of the Old Weird America. A very real sense of earnestness and optimisim holds these ramshackle tunes together and make it an incredibly infectious and touching statement of life in the great Salt Lake. Fortunately, Magic Goat is releasing this album free digitally before it's physical release date. 

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