Sufjan Stevens Releases Two Plainspoken, Love-Filled Songs

One of the best songwriters extant, Sufjan Stevens, has again graced us with new songs. Both are lyrically plainspoken and forthcoming, stripped of artifice and unencumbered. While the lyrics are effortless, the compositions, performance and production are weighty and enormous. Praise be.

According to Stevens’ press release: “In celebration of Pride Month, Sufjan Stevens is releasing two new songs on the topic of love: “Love Yourself” and “With My Whole Heart,” available on limited-edition 7” vinyl in late June and on all digital platforms May 29, 2019.”

Listen below to the first song, Love Yourself, a newly-recorded, fleshed-out version of an old 1996 demo. The demo can be heard following the new version. The new release is heartfelt and wondrous, reminding us at moments of an older Stevens’ medley in which he melds his ebullient take on Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart.

Also released is a brand-new song, With My Whole Heart, which Stevens wrote in an attempt to “write an upbeat and sincere love song without conflict, anxiety or self-deprecation.” Mission accomplished. Musically, the song is massive and aspirational, serving up a love-feast of sounds. Simply put, it is one of the Best Songs of 2019. A “short reprise” of the song follows to end the new release.

You can listen to all four tracks below. A 7-inch record will be released in late June, along with a Sufjan-designed t-shirt, both of which you can obtain HERE. Portions of the proceeds will go to the Ali Forney Center in Harlem and the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit.


A Must See: Lauren Ruth Ward at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara Tomorrow Night (Thursday, 5/2)

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Talented up-and-coming Los Angeleno artist Lauren Ruth Ward is playing at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara tomorrow night (Thursday, May 2nd).

Our collaborator and pal from LA, LA Music Scene provides the apt encouragement below.

“You should be there. Why should you be there? Because Lauren Ruth Ward is special.

What makes Lauren Ruth Ward special? Certainly her deft songwriting and empowering humanist lyrics, her beautifully raspy and throaty vocals, her full-of-energy-and-love and exuberant-abandon live performances, and her knack for surrounding herself with exceptionally talented collaborators.

But what makes Lauren Ruth Ward really special is Lauren Ruth Ward herself. Self-confident and self-assured without the slightest hint of arrogance, Lauren is exactly and completely the unique individual she was born to be. She’s a smart, charming woman, and an artist and performer driven with boundless energy. She’s “Mom” to her band and a huge supporter of the LA music scene, and just about the most-comfortable-in- her-skin person you’ve ever met.

The LA music scene is as good as it’s ever been because of the wealth of extraordinarily talented women populating it. At the very top of that population is Lauren Ruth Ward.

Lauren Ruth Ward with LA friends Laura Jean Anderson and Cosmo Gold Thursday May 2 at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara. You really should be there. “

We strongly concur and recommend HIGHLY that you get tickets for the show HERE and check Lauren Ruth Ward out tomorrow night at Velvet Jones! Check out First Thursday downtown and then saunter on down to Velvet Jones for a complete night.

To get more of a feel for Lauren Ruth Ward, check out a couple of her official music videos (starting with great new songs Valhalla with its Janis Joplin-inflections and brand new Hungry Barber) below followed by LA Music Scene’s recent live video of Ward in action on Valhalla.


Watch Jenny Lewis’s Superb Unplugged Set for The Current

Excuse us, but we have gone down the rabbit hole and been deeply immersed in Jenny Lewis’s new album, On The Line, a ten-furlong front-runner for Best Album of 2019 so far. Lewis’s new album is stupendously well-crafted and, despite its sing-song melodies, manages to convey a wonderwall of hurt behind its Brill-building facade. Such has been the case with Lewis for over 20 years, beginning with her seminal band Rilo Kiley in 1998, but On The Line shows Lewis at the height of her artistry. Simply put, Lewis is one of the best songwriters and artists extant and deserves every accolade she receives. If you haven’t, we recommend you immediately dive deep into On The Line and look out for her upcoming shows (including at San Luis Obispo’s Fremont Theater on May 25th) HERE.

To get a feel for Lewis’s manifold gifts, check out below the superb unplugged (mostly) performance by Lewis, band and string-players as captured by The Current days after the new album was released. Watch as Lewis commands attention throughout, performing and singing with the feel and vocal aplomb of the likes of Mitchell (Joni), Sinatra and [pick-a-totem-of-taste]. There is magic at every turn.

Lewis answers the set’s opening bell wearing a boxer’s robe and playing piano on a particularly moving Heads Gonna Roll, and then segues into knowing winks at the camera and plucked/pizzicato strings on the forlorn Wasted Youth. The loping arrangement and her phrasing on Party Clown are beguiling throughout. Red Bull & Hennessy benefits from her crystalline vocals (that high note at 18:58!), the downshifted mien, and guitarist Dylan Day’s subtle, note-perfect accents.

As great as the songs are from On The Line, the tour de force here is her cover of Bob Dylan’s Standing in the Doorway. With its Joni-like arrangement (circa Hejira/Hissing of Summer Lawns) and vocal- inflections, together with the letter-perfect support on violin, upright bass and guitar, the performance is breathtaking. Dylan Day’s solo at the 24:00 mark (wow!) is magnificent in its skilled subtlety. Day even manages to out-channel “the channeler” himself (the other Daniel–Daniel Lanois, who produced the original version of the song for Dylan on Time Out of Mind). The set closes with a stunning, upbeat Rabbit Hole, featuring mostly finger-plucked strings and violin. Honestly, does it get any better?

We can’t wait to catch Lewis and crew in May. Brava!


Highly-Lauded Weyes Blood Plays Mesmerizing Set at Velvet Jones

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Confession: we here at Lefort have gone from one to 100 in Weyes Blood appreciation in the last 48 hours. While previously only catching snippets of songs and inklings of the oeuvre of Natalie Mering (dba “Weyes Blood“), we have suddenly grown wise to the artistry in Ms. Mering’s music. Much better late than never.

At the onset of their big upcoming tour in support, Weyes Blood today is releasing its justly-lauded new album Titanic Rising, and we have been listening to it intently since finally cracking the code. The album is a must-hear, rife with complex, string-laden pop melodies and lush production (think “dreamy” ’60s-’70s productions) that manage to deftly tug at your heartstrings. Throughout, Mering rollercoasters lyrically from low heartbreak to high hopes and back again (file under “life”). If you aren’t already, get wise to Weyes Blood today via the new album at all the usual sources. You can pick up the preferred vinyl HERE.

As luck would have it, Ms. Mering came to Santa Barbara Wednesday night and, decked in a bright white pantsuit, held sway at Velvet Jones with a mesmerizing set comprised mostly of songs off Titanic Rising, but also including a couple of older gems and a great cover of the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows. While they couldn’t possibly match the orchestral majesty of the new album, Mering was backed by a fab foursome of phenomenal musicians/vocalists (apologies for the namelessness) who managed (with Mering) to recreate both the sheen and drive, but also the nuances, of Titanic Rising. An early highlight was the ebullient Everyday (off the new album) with its sunny Mamas & Papas inflections straight outta Canyon (Laurel). Andromeda also swept up the crowd with its Patsy Cline-as-interpreted-by-Aimee-Mann leanings. The emotional Seven Words (from 2016’s Front Row Seat to Earth) followed, packing its devastating punch, before ceding to additional melodic masterworks from Titanic Rising. As you can see from Mering’s handwritten setlist below, they closed out the set (or so we and she thought) with the serene, expectant “anthem” Generation Why (YOLO why?) to the crowd’s delight. So delighted was the crowd that they would not relent and Mering reappeared with acoustic guitar to perform solo her beautiful ballad Bad Magic. You could hear a pin-drop in the venue until she finished her evocative song and the crowd erupted again in appreciation.

Don’t miss Weyes Blood the next time they come to a town near you.

You can check out the other dates of their tour and buy tickets HERE.

Plus Bad Magic


Cause For Celebration: The National Drops New Song–New Album/Film/Tour Imminent

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Anybody who has read these pages knows we are huge fans of The National. From the day we started this modest enterprise (nearly nine years ago) we have written incessantly about the band. In the process, we have found that young and old have loved and revered the band. Apparently we have published 157 posts on the band. Such is our ardor. And here we go again. Momentus news came today in the form of a new song from The National, with the promise of new 16-track album and film and gigantic tour to follow. There is joy in Mudville.

On May 17th, The National will release I Am Easy To Find  on 4AD . I Am Easy To Find evidently evolved out of a collaborative effort with Academy Award-nominated film director Mike Mills (not the R.E.M. Mike Mills, but instead the director of 20th Century Women, Beginners and countless music videos and commercials). Mills has apparently produced a short film (starring Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander) inspired by the album and to be released with music by The National.

Today the band gives us a good flavor for the album with its opening track, You Had Your Soul With You, which you can listen to below. To our ears its the usual great composite sound we’ve come to expect from the band except that around the 2:00 mark the band backs off, strings (evidently featured prominently throughout the new album along with choir) hit the fore and the voice of Bowie-bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey then takes center stage before Matt Berninger joins back in on harmony. The female solo vocal is unprecedented in the band’s discography and it may take some getting used to (due respect, but we will take Berninger’s baritone any day). But we can appreciate the desire to evolve, branch out and include others. We look forward to hearing other similar female contributions to the album, in particular the incredible Sharon Van Etten, our fave (Irish) singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, the uber-talented Kate Stables of This Is the Kit, and others.

After the song (and Mills’ trailer for his film featuring unreleased fan-fave song Rylan), check out the song’s lyrics, the album’s tracklist (we can’t wait to hear Not In Kansas) and the band’s tour dates. And you can get tickets to all of The National’s upcoming dates here.

You Had Your Soul With You

“You had your soul with you
I was in no mood
Drift away and I could forget
I had only one last feather left
I wore it on the island of my head
I had only one thing to do and I couldn’t do it yet

You felt like heaven stood up in you
You said love fills you out
It moves you from the skeleton and pulls you around
I got it worse than anyone else
And I just can’t find a way to forgive myself
I had only one thing left and I couldn’t see it yet

I have owed to my heart every word I’ve said
You have no idea how hard I died when you left
If I yield to my trances, will I get up close again?
I had only one thing to do and I couldn’t do it yet
I had only one thing left and I couldn’t see it yet

You had your soul with you
I was in no mood
You had your soul with you
I was in no mood”

I Am Easy To Find tracklist:

  1. You Had Your Soul With You
  2. Quiet Light
  3. Roman Holiday
  4. Oblivions
  5. The Pull Of You
  6. Hey Rosey
  7. I Am Easy To Find
  8. Her Father In The Pool
  9. Where Is Her Head
  10. Not In Kansas
  11. So Far So Fast
  12. Dust Swirls In Strange Light
  13. Hairpin Turns
  14. Rylan
  15. Underwater
  16. Light Years

The National on Tour:
4/16 – Paris, FR @ Olympia SOLD OUT
4/18 – London, UK @ Royal Festival Hall SOLD OUT
4/22 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre SOLD OUT
4/24 – Toronto, ON @ Roy Thomson Hall SOLD OUT
4/26 – Los Angeles, CA @ Orpheum Theatre SOLD OUT
6/11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Mann Center*
6/12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Prospect Park Bandshell*
6/15 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo
6/16 – Atlanta, GA @ Coca-Cola Roxy*
6/17 – St Augustine, FL @ St Augustine Amphitheatre*
6/19 – Washington, DC @ The Anthem*
6/20 – Portland, ME @ Thompson’s Point*
6/21 – Montreal, QC @ Place des Arts
6/22 – Hamilton, ON @ Pier 8**
6/24 – Columbus, OH @ Express Live*
6/25 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Hill Auditorium*
6/26 – Indianapolis, IN @ Lawn at White River*
6/28 – Chicago, IL @ Northerly Island**
7/10 – Manchester, UK @ Castlefield Bowl
7/12 – Madrid, ES @ Mad Cool Festival
7/13 – London, UK @ Hyde Park
7/15 – Frankfurt, DE @ Jahrhunderthalle
7/16 – Hamburg, DE @ Stadtpark
7/18 – Rättvik, SE @ Dalhalla
8/4 – Waterford, IE @ All Together Now
8/6 – Glasgow, UK @ Summer Nights at the Bandstand
8/7 – Glasgow, UK @ Summer Nights at the Bandstand
8/9 – Sicily, IT @ Ypsigrock
8/10 – Budapest, HU @ Sziget Festival
8/11 – Buftea, RO @ Summer Well
8/14 – Paredes de Coura, PT @ Paredes de Coura
8/16 – Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
8/16 — 8/18 – Biddinghuizen, NL @ Lowlands
8/18 – Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
8/28 – Vancouver, BC @ Deer Lake Park**
8/29 – Seattle, WA @ Marymoor Park**
8/30 – Portland, OR @ Edgefield**
9/1 – Stanford, CA @ Frost Amphitheater**
9/2 – Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theatre**
9/3 – Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre**
9/5 – Odgen, UT @ Ogden Amphitheater**
9/8 – Santa Fe, NM @ Santa Fe Opera House**
9/10 – Austin, TX @ 360 Amphitheatre**
9/11 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall**
11/25 – Warsaw, PL @ Torwar Hall
11/26 – Berlin, DE @ Columbiahalle
11/27 – Berlin, DE @ Columbiahalle
11/29 – Copenhagen, DK @ Royal Arena
12/1 – Bochum, DE @ Ruhrcongress
12/2 – Cologne, DE @ Palladium
12/3 – Zurich, SW @ Samsung Hall
12/4 – Munich, DE @ Zenith
12/5 – Stuttgart, DE @ Porsche Arena

*w/ Courtney Barnett
**w/ Alvvays


Watch Sharon Van Etten Perform “Seventeen” (Best Song of 2019 So Far) on Ellen, Coming to Sold-Out Ace Theater in LA on Friday

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As we have with each of her albums over the years, we have been obsessing over Sharon Van Etten’s new album Remind Me Tomorrow. With its big heart and bigger production, it’s our current front-runner for Best Album of 2019 and its song Seventeen is our Best Song of 2019 So Far (though the new album’s Stay is a very close second). To get a feel and to prepare for her show this Friday night at the Ace Theater in LA, check out Van Etten’s performance of Seventeen aired today on Ellen. Watch Van Etten and her phenomenal band’s (we always love Heather Woods Broderick’s vocals) explosive performance of Seventeen below, with its Patti Smith/Springsteen echos in which Van Etten assays her NYC teenage-self and her current state. Stunning!

Van Etten then came back on Ellen for a web-exclusive performance of her superb 2015 song I Don’t Want To Let You Down. Another searing performance by SVE and band! Watch it after Seventeen.

Afterwards, watch a similarly-gripping, maracas-gripped version of Seventeen performed previously on Kimmel.


Today is “International Clash Day”–City of Los Angeles Adopts Resolution in Honor of “The Only Band That Mattered”

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Photo: Pennie Smith

The Clash was simply one of the greatest bands to grace this planet (and nonpareil live). We were in attendance for their second U.S. show ever at the Santa Monica Civic on February 9th, 1979 (nearly 40 years ago), and it was easily the best concert we have witnessed in our lives (and we’ve seen a few). The Clash raged through the show while still managing to care for their fans. Anything and everything felt possible during and after that show.

Entire books, movies, encyclopedias, and websites have been devoted to “The Only Band That Mattered.” And rightly so.

Today, February 7th, has been designated “International Clash Day“, and the City of Los Angeles has rightly adopted the resolution you can read below, joining with the band in proclaiming “we know our rights, and we are not afraid to use them in the fight against hate, tyranny, and ignorance.” Well done Los Angeles!

If you haven’t ever seen the band, below you can watch a (grainy) video of their incredible performance of The Magnificent Seven on the illustrious Tom Snyder Show.

On International Clash Day, we say long live The Clash, and RIP Joe Strummer!


Adrianne Lenker Performs Tomorrow Night (2/5) at Soho in Santa Barbara

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Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker will play Soho on Tuesday night in Santa Barbara. Lenker is a gifted lyricist and guitar player whose solo sound reminds of the ballads of Radiohead as arranged by Iron & Wine and sung by a less-affected Joanna Newsom. In short: she provides a complex and beguiling mix. Lenker’s most recent solo album, entitled abysskiss (on Saddle Creek), is highly-acclaimed and is well-represented by the superb song Symbol which you can listen to below. Get thee to Soho tomorrow night!


Better Oblivion Community Center Tour On Sale–Watch “Dylan Thomas” Video

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It’s been a busy time for Better Oblivion Community , the new
Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers collab. After being delightedly assaulted by their performance on Colbert Wednesday night , surprised by the release of their debut album, and their three-song performance on CBS This Morning, the band subsequently released the official video for their fantastic new song Dylan Thomas.

According to a press release: “Today, the band is sharing the video for the album’s lead single, Dylan Thomas, directed by Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner. Speaking on the origins of the clip, Zauner states: “Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst are two of my favorite songwriters and lyricists of our time, so it was an honor to get to work with them on the visuals for their new project together. As always I worked with Adam Kolodny, my DP and creative collaborator to bring this cross between an Eyes Wide Shut LA mansion party and the Great Northern Hotel to life.

Check the video out below:

In addition to the video, tickets went on sale today for their upcoming tour. You can get tix HERE.

And last but should have been first, go listen to the album (on Dead OceansHERE. Lyrics to the song is at bottom.

Dylan Thomas

It was quite early one morning
It hit me without warning
I went to see the general speak
I was standing for the anthem
Banners all around him
Confetti mad it hard to see
Put my footsteps on the pavement
Starved for entertainment
Four seasons, a revolving door
So sick of being honest
I’ll die like Dylan Thomas
A seizure on the barroom floor
I’m greedy with this private hell
I’ll go it alone but that’s just as well
These cats are scared and feral
With flag pins on their lapels
The truth is anybody’s guess
These talking heads keep saying
The king is only playing
A game of four dimensional chess
There’s flowers in the rubble
These weeds are gonna tumble
I’m lucid but I still can’t think
I’m strapped into a corset  

Climbed in to your Corvette
I’m thirsty for another drink
If it’s advertised I’ll try it
And buy some peace and quiet
And shut up at the silent retreat
They say you got to fake it
At least until you make it
That ghost is just a kid in sheet
I’m getting used to these dizzy spells
I’m taking a shower at the Bates Motel
I’m getting greedy with this private hell
I’ll go it alone but that’s just as well


Check Out Stella Donnelly’s Charming New Video for Standout Song “Lunch” Off Upcoming Album

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It’s hard to say who’s been most active in the last week–Better Oblivion Community Center or Stella Donnelly in support of exciting impending albums. Better Oblivion has performed new songs on Colbert and CBS This Morning, and released a new video (discussion soon-come), while Donnelly has performed new songs on Tiny Desk and released another new song (the stellar Old Man). No rest for the weary.

As if that wasn’t enough, in further support for upcoming album Beware Of The Dogs, Donnelly has today released Lunch, one of the best songs we’ve heard so far in 2019. Check out the touching and hilarious (the subtitles!) video for Lunch below in all it’s lo-fi, grainy glory. The song is a lavish lament to a lyricist’s life on-the-lamb, with heartrending lyrics of disruption framed in superbly-sophisticated musical twists (particularly in its chorus and the accents found in the sprite-like background vocals and “Heys!”). In the coda one also hears limned a Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds musical motif (“Picture yourself….). It’s all magical. Brava!

Despite the song’s melancholy lyrics, the video diffuses the sadness with hilarious subtitles and vignettes. In other words: Sad Happy (Tim Buckley in reverse).

In a press release, Donnelly wrote this about Lunch:

This is my favourite song on the record. It was a massive team effort the night before I flew away on tour. A song that was only ever meant to be played on a single guitar and sung turned out to be the most intricate and textured piece of music I’ve ever produced. I wrote this about the feeling of displacement I get when I go on tour and come back and nothing feels the same. There’s a disconnect there.

Check out Lunch below. Not to sound like Marlon Brando, but in toto, it’s a tour de force!

Beware Of The Dogs is out on March 8th on Secretly Canadian.

Photo credit: Pooneh Ghana