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The Complicated Heroine's in Short Supply Again

It's finally here! Eight months later, the EP I recorded on a sunny August weekend at Mike Coykendall's little house in Southeast Portland is out for you to hear!

Thanks so much to the spectacular crew who made it with me— Dustin Hamman's producerly wisdom, Mike Coykendall's lighting-fast multi-track punch-ins, Dan Galucki's drum-brushy goodness, William Joersz's sweet bass licks, Ashley Blincow's no-holds barred Wiretap crooning, Erin Elliott's lullaby loveliness on The Eaves, Courtney von Drehle's improvised slide guitar to make you weep, Philip Graham's additional mixing help, and Maggie Olson for the sexy noir cover art of my wildest dreams.

Selfish Streaming on Vortex Music Magazine

Listen to all of Selfish right now here!! It's a special day-before-release preview courtesy of Vortex Music Magazine. So thrilled to finally share it in its entirety.

Click through to listen and read the full interview!

I’m fascinated by antiheroes, characters that we find compelling not because they’re likable but because they’re enigmatic and don’t follow any rules but their own—and I’ve always been a little mystified at how rarely literary and pop culture antiheroes are women. I think we need more representations of compelling, inscrutable women who don’t care about being liked.
— me on the ladies that inspired Selfish

Believe!

Here's a new song, just in time for November 4th...

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Atomic Sermons

My brother introduced me to this extremely weird genre of music— Atomic Sermons, eerie midcentury religious responses to the looming threat of atomic power. In each of these bluegrass songs, the songwriter seems to grapple with integrating this astonishing new destructive force into their theology. Some associate atomic destruction with Judgment Day, asking for divine salvation ("That Great Atomic Power"). Others contest that atomic power is God-given to attain victory in His name. Others still are wary that man's invention of atomic power will give him a false sense of omnipotence ("There Is A Power Greater Than Atomic"). They have certainly not figured out where the atom bomb sits in their religious worldview, but it's fascinating to listen to them try.

For Christmas I recorded my brother a few covers of these songs, available to listen below.

Here is a great website with a searchable database of atomic-inspired music. Were you aware of The Spokesmen's optimistic 1965 response to "Eve of Destruction"— "Dawn of Correction"? 

Isn't This How It Should Be?

Here's a cover of a song by the late, great Charlie Chesterman, badass alt-country pioneer, longtime friend of my parents', and first musician I ever knew. I have always loved Studebakersfield— one of my favorites albums since I was small.

Played on my grandfather's 1936 Martin model O-15, which Charlie borrowed to play on this album.

“Mona’s Prayer (Harmony Rocket #3)” written by John Clarke, Charles E Chesterman, James Franklin Faris and Andy Pastore (Big Sloppy Kiss Music, BMI)

no love's gone and left her

I am so excited to share the music video for "Song for a Spinster." Conceived in Hannah Cyrus' fever dream in 2011 and filmed last May in Brunswick, Maine with a ragtag band of the best people, it's finally ready to debut. Huge thanks to the Pejepscot Historical Society for letting us film in their incredible historic Skolfield-Whittier House-- go read up on its weird and wonderful history and check them out on Facebook. Hope you enjoy it!

Music video for "Song for a Spinster" by Malachi Graham

starring Lianna Bessette
directed by Malachi Graham & Hannah Cyrus
costume design by Hannah Cyrus
cinematography by Malachi Graham
best boy: Jade Hopkins
poem: "Wild Nights" by Emily Dickinson
filmed in Brunswick, Maine

Special thanks to the Pejepscot Historical Society, the Skolfield-Whittier House, the Bowdoin College Department of Theater and Dance, the Bowdoin Film Society, Jennifer Blanchard, Sarah Glaser, Emily Dickinson, Julie McMurry, and Deb Puhl

That Aggravating Beauty

Last weekend I went on an adventure! I was delighted when my friend Ashley invited me on a short tour to Seattle and Olympia to play with her project, Little, an expanding and contracting musical collective performing its members' original songs as well as classic bluegrass and old-time songs. I also had the absolute pleasure of traveling with Rye 'n Clover, an incredible songwriter and claw-hammer banjo player from Ithaca, NY, and Chelsea Kamm, a gifted shadow puppeteer whose new piece will be performed at the Hollywood Theater here in PDX at the end of April.

In addition to several great shows, we were also singing constantly in the car, on porches, and, once, to a truckful of baby piglets (ask about it some time). Since Ashley and I were brought together by a mutual obsession with the Carter Family, it seems appropriate that the following became our anthem... Recorded live at Reed College at the end of our tour, here's Rye n' Clover,  Ashley Blincow, and myself singing the old traditional by-way-of-A.P. Carter "Lulu Walls":

I love this song, #1 because the guy is an über-creep jealous weirdo and #2 because he somehow doesn't kill her! It's all built up like a country death song, down to the line "She only turned away and nothing would she say" (which I have heard many, many times but NEVER in a murder-free song), but then it's like they just forgot the write the murder verse. Very intriguing.

Anyway, hope you like it! You're welcome to download it from SoundCloud if you'd like. Remember to go check out Rye n' Clover's music (I recommend "Remember the Sunflowers") and stay tuned for news about where Little will be performing next.

Ragged Edges & Pretty Lies

My latest song is about propaganda posters, which I’ve been mulling on since I noticed a number of oddly specific public health posters still hanging all over my college, years after the swine flu outbreak. My morbid side took to wondering how eerie those posters would be if H1N1 had actually become the global pandemic people feared, the influenza of our age. I extended the idea to propaganda posters of all kinds, inspired by this great book on American WWII posters. Imagine discovering an uninhabited post-apocalyptic world plastered in enigmatic posters calling for action against some mysterious threat. Seriously, how terrifying would that be?

For me, this chilling scenario embodies the heart of how wartime propaganda functions. The true essence of these posters, which can be hard to remember in looking at these well-worn images, is that their peppy tone is really just the packaging for gut-wrenching, heart-breaking fear. These posters are now taken as nostalgic emblems of that Greatest Generation, who scrimped and sacrificed and won that war with the certainty that We Can Do It! But stripped of our presumptuous winners’ hindsight, the not-so-silent “Or Else” coursing through the ink speaks volumes about the uncertainty, anxiety, and terror of times of crisis.

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And propagandists seem to channel that uncertainty into blame. Whether glorifying carpooling, effective rationing, and gardening or vilifying gossip and bathroom breaks, these posters’ central conceit is viewer culpability, even in the most mundane domestic activities. The aggressive and consistent use of second person points the finger at the viewer, should the worst occur...

Lobbies & Loyalty

I may play music by night, but I spend my days Clark Kent-style, in an office building in downtown Portland. The Yeon Building was built in 1911, when my great-grandmother was a 12-year-old girl growing up in East Portland. She could probably see it even from her side of the river— for close to two years the Yeon was the the tallest building in Oregon.

Every day I smile at the strange synchronicity: my 86-year-old great-aunt also worked in the Yeon, on the sixth floor, for much of her impressive thirty-year career as a surety bond manager. She reached the highest levels of an entirely male field, navigating through an old boy network under the professional name K.M. Brophy instead of Kathleen so that clients would judge her by work and not by her gender. Kathy waited in the same lobby for the same elevators, stared at the same deco ceilings as she ascended to the office where she would spend her day as she still does, firing off orders and having them followed.

I couldn't help but think of this when I arrived at the office this morning and the ever-present construction crews tasked with renovation had shut down two of the elevators to tear down those art deco ceiling panels. I had flashbacks to my last office building, the Loyalty Building on 3rd & Alder, in which a dedicated crew daily stripped away the quirky, charming aspects of the lobby— a beveled mirror, a malachite-green marble floor, a deco credenza— to create a bland, marketable, 21st-century entryway. The lobby of the Loyalty, which had always made me feel like a femme fatale walking into a film noir, was only a shadow of its former self by the time my company relocated to the Yeon.

I stood in the elevator this morning and looked up at at the unconventional, soon-to-be-removed panels and thought about Kathy doing the same, rising upward through the floors of what was, exactly a century ago, the tallest building in a hundred miles.