Seeing Angel Olsen play Madrid is a bit like watching your childhood best friend meet the roommates: it’s beautiful, but sometimes you need to duck out of the room. Olsen is here, here being Europe, to promote Phases, 2017’s collection of folk/rock anthems that didn’t make it into her four previous albums. It’s a tour for the fans, who’ve filled the thousand seat theatre. She promises the crowd she’ll play any song we like. I catch myself wondering if anyone else is having an out-of-body experience. Like the Orpheum in San Francisco or Boston’s own Opera House, Madrid’s Calderon is capped with a neck-achingly beautiful ceiling and impossibly low-backed seats. The fluttering vibrato of Olsen’s voice in “Iota,” and even the power-ballad of “Never Be Mine” are swallowed up. Standing is difficult: the chairs, which are covered in dark velvet, keep everyone firmly anchored in place and exactly one arm-rest away from the nearest neighbor.
Moses Sumney isn’t taking interviews right now. But his manager is happy to put this writer and a photographer on the list for Sumney’s Monday performance at the Sinclair. Her message - or maybe it’s Sumney’s - seems pretty clear. Meet the musician through his music. Questions can come later. (Another possibility is that the Harvard Advocate isn’t exactly the sort of media outlet that Sumney, fresh from collaborations with Solange and Beck, and recent mastermind behind the genre-defying soul/folk/synth/choral creation that is Aromanticism, is going to entertain. But you can decide for yourself.) Anyway, we go. They are, after all, free tickets to a Moses Sumney concert.Live, Sumney embodies the same certainty that an interview refusal kind of implies. He jokes with the crowd, he heckles, he splits the audience of mostly-college students to self select into a two-part harmony by asking us whether or not we were rejected by Harvard College.
Claire Messud and I met outside, under the blue umbrellas of Pamplona Cafe. The day was cloudy but the author wore a thin grey sweater and a smile. She’d arrived a few minutes past the hour, which most students would probably call early, but Messud began by apologizing: she’d bumped into a former student in the lobby of the English department and had to say hello, probably with a hug, the same way she’d greeted me. We sat and ordered coffee. Next door, a baptism was happening at St. Paul’s. A fire truck screamed past, and I asked about last week’s reading at the Harvard bookstore. “I suppose one way it might be expressed,” Messud tapped her cup, “is that I’m writing a cliche of frustrated narrative expectations.” She was referring to the suggestion, or maybe it was a complaint, that The Burning Girl, her newest novel, lacked the kind of sexiness that defined the bestselling The Woman Upstairs or 2006’s The Emperor’s Children.
Gabrielle Smith wants you to consider ginger. Smith, the producer; writer; singer and all-round artistic force of Eskimeaux takes a moment to pause on 21 South Street. Smith is known for the quiet intimacy of songs that grow to a growl; her projects “O.K” and the 2016 “Year of the Rabbit” cross from tender revelations “i admit i'm scared” into accusation: “I say, "i love you" just to get you to say anything.”On April 14th, Smith brings her lyrical, gritty sound to the Sinclair. By the time she comes to Boston, Eskimeaux will have completed a cross-country odyssey in the company of alt-rock band WHY? Today she talks with the blog about spices, guitar strings, and sonic inspiration.You’re touring with “Why?”; you’ve worked with “Japanese Breakfast;” “Slutever” and others; what’s it like to work with different artists?It’s great! Working with different artists always gives me new perspective on how something can be played, how a song can be structured, what kinds of sounds I like but have never used for some reason, etc.
There was once a girl with a terrible gift.The girl could pull any kind of fruit out of any kind of pocket. Oranges, quinces, lemons, kiwis; bananas, watermelon, guava. Even dragonfruit. The most difficult were blueberries, becausenobody ever wanted just one and the girl could only pull a piece at a time. She didn’t mind, though. Nobody else did, either: in her city, fresh fruit was hard to come by, and most people were willing to wait. So it took a long time for her to realize the secret horror of the gift. Because all things considered, fruit is more useful than other kinds of terrible talents. (Her best friend, for example, could produce flowers from any kind of hat, which caused all kinds of problems, like pollen allergies and bee-stings and the inevitable scratchiness of a hat with flowers poking out of it).