You want an antidote for autotune, this might just be it. This and any album by ex-Huffamoose Craig Elkins. Both blessed with unorthodox voices and a sense of musical adventure, they front the new/old movement toward a more complete music... a more inclusive music... a dramatic and theatrical approach to music, if you will. If you don't already know, I have been backing Elkins since hearing his I Love You album, a sometimes dissonant and intriguing but always entertaining and musically delightful album. He lives in his own world. I thought. Until Wilson Marks tossed his music into the ring.
Wilson Marks, I thought. Never heard of the guy. Then it occurred to me that I had not heard of Craig Elkins until I heard his album, either. I became like that weird disc jockey I have been imagining since I was a kid -- the one who is exuberant and fearless while putting an unheard track on the air, prefacing it with, “Oh well, here goes nothing!” Except that it was something, for both Elkins and Marks. Something a bit outside the box and sometimes way outside.
There is a difference between Elkins and Marks. They come at their music from slightly different angles, Elkins steeped in mostly rock, Marks in jazz. They have different visions, Marks being the more serious of the two. But their music--- there is enough there to say that they worship at the same altar. They love the odd chords and chord progressions. They write and sing for the truth and the drama, depending upon song. They look way beyond the obvious. They are, in a word, creative.
The song above opens Marks' album, What Was Made for Weathering, and is the tamest thing on it. If I walked into a lounge and heard this, I would order a Crown Royal, straight up. Maybe two. This is sipping music to be heard in a low-light setting and, in fact, sets up the album. Marks writes tone poems, of a sort -- songs about the obvious and not so obvious facets of everyday life. Things we ignore except subconsciously. Things we see but do not see. Right in front of our face. Life is strange that way. Love and war. Love and hate.
Marks has this ability to suck you into his mind with the simplest of lyrics, as if there are any. He talks to you as much as sings -- in asides, in confidence. “How do you train for the apocalypse,” he asks before heading to his medicine cabinet for a dose of unreality. He strums his guitar -- actually he plays his guitar because what he does is hardly strumming -- and paints life in daydreams or maybe just short glimpses. The important things are not necessarily the important things we think they are, he seems to tell us. Pay attention. Life is short and not even close to what we think. Or is it? “You can't unring the bell but you can unring the finger....” “They say it's darkest in the birth canal.” These are lyrics, not song titles.
Marks keeps it simple as far as the musicians are concerned. Himself and guitar, Janie Cowan on bass (sometimes bowed, I am guessing, because it sounds cello-like in places), Aaron Parks on drums. All on the same page. All part of Wilson Marks' musical vision of the world. In fact, when you listen to this, pay special attention to the interplay of instruments. In this case, they are the musical equivalent springboard for the lyrics, which I find exceptional.
And there is this, just because I thought you should see and hear it.