Brian Vander Ark & Jeff Daniels: Simple Truths [Album]

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Longtime reader(s) of Trainwreck’d will definitely remember an interview we did with Brian Vander Ark a few years ago that was a real treat to add to the collection. Such a sweet and wonderfully talented dude. And in that interview, we brought up the fact that The latest album from his group The Verve Pipe happened to feature some guitar work from a man that I had always assumed was just an amazing actor, Jeff Daniels, (one of the greatest performances in a film since Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest was from Jeff with his performance in The Squid and the Whale), but turned out to have a bit of guitar chops to him as well. I remember going back and checking out some more work and live videos and what not of Jeff playing and singing and seriously had a thought that went sort of like this: “Man, it would be so cool if Brian and Jeff put out an album together. That would be so cool.” Well folks, I am hear to tell you that I might be a god damned fortune teller, because here we are now. Although I will admit, I could have never guessed just how great a full blown collaboration between the two would be. And I’m also here to tell you folks, it’s really is that damn good. I’d like tell you more if you would care to listen.

Simple Truths is a spectacular album through and through. I feel like I need to get that out first off. For fans of very straight forward country & blues driven songs, this album will simply blow your mind. The songs are mostly dark, yet only mildly depressing. But the sadness seems to only walk the brink along the lines of Johnny Cash’s work with Rick Rubin in his later years before circling back into their own special brand of cool & collective brand of exploration into the simple truths (pun intended) of life, love, worry, regret, and the metaphorically emptied bar stool of death and loss. And I can’t forget to mention, the tracks are catchy as hell at points!

Some of the songs touch on some very serious matters that feel deeply personal and the likes of which we can only imagine spark a fire deep in the soul of both Brian and Jeff. Brian’s tearjerker of track “Behold the Brave” made me want to reach out to my own father as fast as digitally possible to remind him that I love him. And Jeff’s political lament within “Another American Down” can fuel the fire of anyone searching for answers in these strange and trying political times, but just can’t quite seem to find the answers. Some very serious shit is happening here, and it is truly amazing. But, it’s not all gloom and sadness, I must add. The Vander Ark voiced “Four Wheel Drive” is a nice twang infused down home country song that will get your toes a tapping’ before the blues come back around. I wouldn’t say it is a “silly song”, but it’s about as lighthearted as you are going to get, and is just a truly fun song to embrace before the dark.

But, the darkness definitely comes swiftly back around with two tracks that are personally my favorite of the bunch. “Forevers Over Just Like That” is a seriously dark track that brings the album as close as it ever gets to the fore mentioned Cash & Rubin sessions. It’s so dark, yet might be able to be misinterpreted and as a full on suicide note to the average listener. But, a listener who may dig deeper into a listen should recognize that that is not entirely true. I won’t pretend to know what exactly Daniels is getting at (I’d love to ask him someday!) with the song, I just know that it is so damn real and beautiful and is just about one of the most beautiful blues heavy country songs I have heard in the last decade (and I listen to a shit ton of Blitzen Trapper, mind you!). The other track, and my favorite by far I have to had, is another one fronted Jeff called “Hurry Home” that is absolutely mesmerizing with it’s old school country vibe that feels like it could have been toured with the Highwaymen several decades ago. It’s absolutely brilliant, straight forward, blues driven country music. It has all of the elements that make country music incredible, and none of the elements that make it a disgusting mess at time. I don’t say this too often…but I truly believe that “Hurry Home” is a a perfectly arranged song. The chorus is catchy, the story is heart felt, and Daniels is at his height of blues craftsmanship on this track.

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Overall, I have to say, listening to this album is an all around wonderful experience. It has taken a lot of effort lately for me to really dig in to find new music that is worthwhile and can make me turn off a podcast every now and again, to hear a story set to some well played music. And that is exactly what Simple Truths can be summed up as: A brilliant collection of stories with some amazing guitar work and outstanding vocals. Just a damn good album altogether.

You can pick up a copy of the album at jeffdaniels.com, which also where you can discover a lot more of his music work that is also incredible. You can find more stuff form Brian and brianvanderark.com. And for those of you who may be new to TWS, you can check out our previous interview with Brian, as well as our review for The Verve Pipe’s Overboard, in which we originally talked about how great Jeff’s guitar work was, and what would eventually lead me to realize that maybe I can see the future, but I may never understand just how bright it can be. Because these guys exceeded all expectations with this amazing album!

Andrew Joslyn: Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean [Album]

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It seems almost surreal to think that I may have stumbled upon what could already be in line to be the finest album of 2017, considering the fact that the year has only just begun. Of course there is plenty of year left to check out, but at the very least I have found the work that will act as the standard in which every other artist will have to meet and/or exceed in order to be considered great. And with the career that Andrew Joslyn has already had thus far, it really shouldn’t be a surprised that his debut solo album Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean, is a brilliant ride through the world of classical music blending ever so manically into the world of hip hop and R&B. To keep it simple: This is an album that only takes the positive elements of modern music and ignores the junk food for the ears that we have been fed over the last couple of decades. Personally, this is the type of album I have been waiting to hear for such a long time.

Joslyn has already secured his title as one of the finest musical composer of the modern time. But now he has boosted himself to an even higher level with his own album, which features some of the best voices in the game belting out lyrics over his beautiful instrumentals. He recruited such talented folks like Will Jordan, Shelby Earl, Billy McCarthy, Adra Boo, and more to act as just another crucial instrument in the sound that Joslyn needed to display, and does it so damn well with Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean. And even when lyrical element isn’t entirely necessary, it still plays out beautifully. This album is more than a collection of songs, it is a full bodied experience. And it really needs to be listened to as such.

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It seems almost unfathomable to me that Andrew Joslyn wouldn’t break out in 2017 as one of the greatest acts I have heard from in a very long time. I’ve loved his previous work with the likes of his fellow Seattle native & hip hop sensation Macklemore, but Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean simply smashes his previous efforts, and brilliantly portrays how evolving and brilliant this man is in the world of music. He’s the Frederico Felini of modern classical music, arguably one of the best in the game, and deserves to be treated as such.

So please people, do yourself a huge favor, do yourself a favor and be sure to add Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean to your 2017 playlist when it is released, February 10th, 2017, wherever you buy music from these days. Check out more details at andrewjoslynmusic.com.

Again, I’m hesitant to call this album the best of 2017, but I will say that it is going to take a hell of a lot to beat it.

From The Vault Part 9: Goldy Locks – Rewind and Undo

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I really feel that I need to preface (as I always seem to do) this piece by stating that I am not usually an avid listener to hard rock music. I do find myself appreciating certain artists though, especially female driven groups. There is something very compelling about the idea of a female with a delightfully upbeat voice, just rocking out so hard to screaming electric guitars and thunderous bass lines. So, while I don’t really cover many artists along the likes of Goldy Locks, I do appreciate her/them as wonderful artists. It’s that type of music that really brings me back to the glory days of when I first heard a group like Soul Distraction or the beginnings of punk bands like Forever or Tacocat. And speaking of glory days……

One of the main reasons I wanted to write about this wonderful album, is that it plays almost directly into the origins of this very site where you are feeding these words into your eyeholes. I shall explain. In the summer of 2011, I spent a couple of months holed up in a hotel room (for the most part) watching every Netflix documentary available, drinking cheap vodka, and basically doing all I could not to delve deep into pits of sadness as very important people passed away back home or just plain missing my wife and three daughters. It was a pretty ugly scene, but something great came out of it. This website! And one of the biggest reasons was because of Goldy Locks.

You see, I would occasionally venture out of that musty hotel room in Biloxi. There were two casinos within walking distance of my hotel, so I felt, why the hell not. I’m not a gambler, but I do appreciate the idea of smoking indoors, and tossing a dollar into a video poker machine and getting served free gin & tonics. One such casino was actually Hard Rock Casino. So, it meant a bit of rock and roll was all around you. And within that Casino, there was a center stage. I know you can see where this is going, it’s not that complicated. One such weekend in July, I managed to catch Goldy Locks performing their hard rock ballads for two nights in a row. At the time I wasn’t certain if I was going to be a huge fan, or if I was just enjoying a bit of relief from my own mind. Eventually, I just became a solid fan. But, I’ve never forgotten how music would bring me out of a funk for a short period of time. Especially live music.

Goldy Locks at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, MS (2011).

Goldy Locks at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, MS (2011).

So how did Goldy Lock’s magnetic and drawing sound bring about the beginnings of Trainwreck’d Society? Well, at this point, I was a solid 3 years into a “career” as a freelance blogger, mostly working (mostly) for the brilliant indie rock-centric Fensepost. I had just gotten Children of Mercy into a couple of shelves across the country, and was in a sort of “what the hell do I do now?” state of mind. Then two things happened. I had an experience with music that didn’t quite fit the world of Fensepost, so I didn’t really have an outlet for that, but I wanted one. The second thing was actually a two parter: I did this strange “questionnaire based interview” with College Magazine about COM where I simply answered some questions in an e-mail and suddenly a pit of press was born, and I drunkenly watch the Netflix documentary I Think We’re Alone Now, which was about two very devote followers of pop singer Tiffany. And something clicked, I am interested in so much more than just introducing new music to readers. I wanted to write about the occasionally hard rocker, and maybe try one of these questionnaires to talk to some people that might peak my interest. So I stole a title from a close friend’s unpublished song he performed once in high school, got some friends on board, and Trainwreck’d Society was born.

And here we are 5 1/2 years later, finally attempting to give a bit of credit to a wonderful hard rock group that inadvertently helped form this little website you are looking at. Simply by being their truly gifted selves, they inspired this silly man-child with a laptop to because an idiot with overflowing promotional e-mails, an IMDb Pro account, and a dream. So, I have to show love to Goldy Locks for guiding me into this mess of an existence.

Now, I know you are thinking…but, the album is good, right? You just spent 700 words barely mentioning the fucking actual album, you Dope! And you are correct. I am a dope. But, I will say that Rewind and Undo is a brilliant record for serious rock and roll fans. They have a bit of everything on here for everyone. There is beautiful orchestration on “Dirty Secret”, there is a beautiful power ballad with the likes of “Today I Won’t Be Afraid”, some very real hardcore, throw your fucking hair around rock and roll in the aptly titled “We Like To Party”. There is a touch of that old school 80’s mentality, but very obviously modernized for today’s crowd. Personally, it is one of the best types of hard rock you can listen to. Why? Because I don’t like to feel frightened or threatened when I listen to loud music. I’m sensitive, I guess. And there isn’t much of that when it comes to Goldy Locks. It’s just pure adrenaline pumping fun, and genuine rock and roll in all its glory.

So that is what I got for ya. Again, so much thanks to Goldy Locks for what did for me, and continue to do for others. Find more information, tour dates, and what not at goldylocksband.com. They are still out there killing it at shows and providing their own brand of brilliant entertainment. If they can rock the bar at a Hard Rock Casino, I could only imagine what they could do to a concert hall. Check them out!

Note: Additional apologies for such a late review, as the formation of Goldy’s band has changed a few times since I first saw them, so please inform yourself with the new crew. Still the same wonderful voice though. You can count on that!

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XO For The Holidays Vol. IX [Album]

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As many of you know, there is a whole lot of behind the scenes type of folks who make even the simplest of sites (like this one) operate. And one of the most important types will always be the fine publicity people who push out their clients’ work like it was the work of their own children. Well, at least the good ones do. I have been doing this work for just short of a decade, and I feel like I have seen just about every type of publicity company imaginable. And with that, a small handful have really stuck out and have become a mainstay not only for Trainwreck’d Society or wherever else I may write, but in my life in general. And while I would like to pretend that I love them all equally, my heart will always go out the hardest to Kaytea Moreno Elst & XO Publicity. Kaytea has not only been my favorite oddly named individual on this planet, she has also been one of those persistently supportive individuals who truly cares about the people she is working for, and has an obvious ear for talent that is almost unmatched in her business. And she has a bit of an edge over others in some very fantastic ways. And that is where we begin with XO For The Holidays Vol. IX.

As the title would suggest, this is the 9th installment of a series that XO Publicity has been putting together for, well, at least 9 years right? It is a collaboration of Holiday themed tracks by the artists they are currently representing, and I shit you not, every year has been fantastic. I have been listening to this FREE downloads for years, and am almost ashamed that I am only now getting around to writing some nice words about them. Seriously folks, before I go to far into this thing, please understand that this is some beautiful holiday music for people like me you absolutely despise fucking holiday music. And I don’t care what holiday it is. I’m just not a fan of this crap…..until it is done like this! This FREE (yes, I am overemphasizing this for a reason) compilation is an amazing collection of amazing holiday tracks that will make the most Scrooge-like asshole feel the spirit.

On Vol IX, we actually find a couple of past TWS features throwing their holiday spirit into the proverbial circle, as well as a few that will certainly be showing up on the site soon (Andrew Joslyn, oh boy, this guy is incredible). And I have bow down to the incredible magnetism and electricity that Magnuson creates on their cover of the classic “Silent Night”, which is absolutely as far from “silent” as you could imagine, just short of some sort of speed metal parody around the end. It is masterfully done. And as I sort of mentioned earlier, Andrew Joslyn is on here with a bit of composure alongside The Local Strangers on a beautiful rendition of “Under Mistletoe”. Our old friends from Blue Skies For Black Hearts also have an absolutely captivating track that mash-up that will leave your heart weeping for about 2 1/2 minutes, leaving you stunned for another 2 1/2 minutes after. And then there is Piney Gir showing off her unique and brilliant vocals on “Love Is A Christmas Rose”. There is just so much here people. There are even more great sounds from Eaglewolfsnake, Bill Berry (with a take on what happens AFTER Christmas), Texture & Light, and Occurrence. And did I mention it is FREE?

So, how do you become a part of this delight holiday goodness. Well, it may surprise you to know that this compilation is, wait for it….absolutely FREE! Head on over to the XO Publicity website and pick up this album. And if you are looking for a solid library of Christmas music that will have every hipster cousin and cool aunt grooving during the holidays, why not check out the previous 8 years worth of XO For The Holidays compilations that are also absolutely FREE!

Kaytea and XO have been oh so special to Trainwreck’d Society and myself over the years, not only for their hard work and dedication, but for their creativity to even have a project like this exist. This compilation, and the 8 that prefaced it, are perfect collections made for the avid cookie decorating, mistletoe touting, holiday nut. But, it is also perfect for the agnostic Scrooge in your life who is sick and tired of hearing Bing Crosby every damn hour on the hour!

So whether you love them or hate them, holiday music is never going away. So, why not let XO make them just a bit cooler and easier for you to deal with. I guarantee this compilation will do that and so much more. Enjoy!

 

From The Vault Part 8: Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell Part II: Back Into Hell

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There are very few artists out there that have been a major part of life from my earliest memories, to this very day. But there are some. And the first one to always come to my mind is the great Meat Loaf. One of the greatest showmen of all time, and the man with the voice that has captivated audiences for over 40 years now. And when he was paired up with legendary songwriter Jim Steinman, it was honestly just not fucking fair to others artists. They are an unstoppable force in their solo ventures obviously, but together, as a team, they’re just an unstoppable force of nature.

So what makes Meat Loaf such an important force to me personally? Well, first of all thanks for asking (because I know my reader(s?) would ask)! It all boils down to one lovely person who has always be a driving force behind anything I ever do in this life. A beautiful woman who would be celebrating her 72nd birthday on this very day had she not lost her very quick battle with cancer 3 years ago while I was, once again, boarded up in a small dorm room in South Korea, leaving me with just memories and tears leading to weeks of endless nights listening to these beautiful songs that we shared together for so many years as a youth. If you couldn’t guess, I am talking about my dearly departed grandmother, Mrs. Betty Whittle.

There was something very peculiar about Grandma, that you may not hot have notice in that last paragraph. Grandma loved MEAT LOAF. Most Grandmas only make the food, my Grandma LOVED greatest artist named after a ground meat dish. In fact, she listened to mainly hard rock and heavy metal music. On the surface she was just a lovely & sweet, although sometimes crass, Grandmother. But, she was not afraid to admit that she loved hard rock sounds and frightening as shit horror films and Steven Seagal action films. She wasn’t some sort of ex-hippy turned punk rocker or anything like that, she just loved her music loud, and her films frightening and/or action packed. I can remember endless occasions of going grocery shopping with Grandma listening to several Meat Loaf cassette tapes, as well as being the first time I can remember hearing Nirvana’s Nevermind. Or anything from White Snake or Alice Cooper. And it was blowing my prepubescent mind when I really thought about what I was hearing! Was this insane? I started meeting other kid’s grandmas, and they never quite seemed as cool. And that’s because they simply were not. Nobody’s grandmother was as cool as her. Never were, never will be. Period.

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So, that is my lead in to this album. While it would be more memorable to cover the first Bat Out of Hell album, which actually holds the fondest memories and really stand the test of time, I decided upon the sequel, which was actually released in my lifetime. I was 8 years old when this album came out. It was actually one of the first Compact Discs I ever received. Christmas 1993, I believe it was. 23 years ago, I was finally having something fresh and new to share with Grandma, and I was so damn excited. And what I couldn’t wrap my 8 year old mind around was the fact that it was the return of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman as a team. I did notice that it sounded so much for like the first Bat Out of Hell than something like Midnight at the Lost and Found, but it was a “sequel” so I just figured it HAD to.

And dammit it all if Grandma didn’t love it as well. I can remember calling her up to see what she thought of it, and when we were finally back to visit her again, we listened to it over and over together. We both knew all of the words, even to the 13 minute long massive hit “I Would Do Anything For Love (But, I Won’t Do That)”. We both believed that ‘Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” was the best song, and we listened to it the most. Fuck, my Grandma was cool.

I mean to take nothing away from the talents of Meat Loaf, but as I grow older I really wonder if it isn’t nostalgia for my wonderful grandmother that truly made me love this man’s music. I honestly like to think it is a little bit of both. My grandmother was a beautiful person. Meat Loaf made beautiful music. And these two elements combined made beautiful memories. In fact, I continued to love Meat Loaf, even when I wasn’t able to share all of his work with my grandmother as I grew older and didn’t see Grandma so much. I still feel like Welcome to the Neighborhood is one of Meat Loaf’s most underrated works, right before Midnight at the Lost and Found. The man has touted out tunes that have always mesmerized me, and I am certain that as long as he has the ability to do so, I will have the will to listen to his music. He’s a fucking madman on the microphone, and if a person as memorable and important to me as my grandmother could adore his work, you better goddamn well believe I always will.

I want to leave this piece on a quick memory I will never forget that involves my grandmother, Meat Loaf, and my dearest heavy metal friend, Metal Mattson. Grandma died 3 months earlier. I made my way back to U.S., and felt lost in my old hometown. I was destined to Spain in just a couple of short weeks, so my time for grieving in my old stomping grounds was limited. But, I had a beautiful tribute to my Grandma that I will never forget. My dear friend Metal (Adam) Mattson had me over to his house for drinks and conversation, as we had done for over a decade in our lives. And you better fucking believe we sat on his couch belting out the lyrics of “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” together in unison over an over abundance of alcohol and a masking of needed tears. This is the way Grandma would have wanted to be eulogized. And I would hope this is the way that Meat Loaf would want people to enjoy his music.

P.S. I know this is less of an album review of Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, and more of a digital Meat Loaf dick-sucking and a 3 year old eulogy to my Grandmother. But, fuck you. I’ll do whatever the hell I feel like doing. It’s what Grandma would have wanted.

Sleep: All Men Must Die, But You First [Album}

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The man is back! Back with a god damned plan at that. Yes, the golden child of Cincinnati is back with a brand new album that will blow your mind. Our man Sleep brings back his old school meets new poetry sound on All Men Must Die, But You First. In a business that has become so saturated with absolutely garbage, it is such a breath of fresh air to hear an actual lyricist spit over eclectic and energetic beats. I say this with absolutely honesty, there is NOTHING to hate on this album. From the concept of the songs, to the delivery of Sleep’s signature flow, it’s an overall perfect album. My only complaint is that it’s not 437 tracks long, but obviously that would be unreasonable.

It’s almost impossible to pick out one singular track to highlight, as they whole album as a concept is absolutely incredible. But, if I really felt the need to showcase one singular track, it has to be “Church with Grandma”. What an honest and deeply touching song that speaks nothing but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s a track that defies so many stereotypes as well. As of this writing, I honestly can not remember hearing another hip hop artists, a black hip hop artist anyway, speak so diligently about being a non-believer.

I sit here and try desperately to find some sort of simile to use to describe Sleep, but’s not really possible. His style is so specific. I will say that he is sort of like the Bill Burr of hip hop. Not that he is telling jokes (although, if you follow the cat on Facebook, you’d think he was a professional comic). It’s just his delivery of truly powerful and truthful statements that make him so incredible and at the level of talent that Burr is in the comedy world. And All Men Must Die is definitely his best work to date. After about 6 or 7 listens of this incredible album, I’m pretty god damned certain I can say with total honesty: Sleep is a force of nature that just cannot be stopped, and has a talent that could take him in any direction he may choose. Fact.

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You can pick up the album HERE, on a pay what you want scale. Throw in some cash people! It’s worth a million bucks, so you can through in at least five.

Check out this video for “Ima Be Famous”:

IAN SWEET – Shapeshifter [Album]

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Dear fine TWS readers, please forgive me, as this is my first outing back into the “album review” world in almost two years, but I feel like I have chosen a fine example of why I want to be back in this business. I have a new style of doing things, and I feel like this album is the perfect lift off for me to explore new grounds, and more importantly, new sounds (no, I will not be rhyming as a “thing”, that’s just a happy coincidence.

So, IAN SWEET. Wow. This is what has been happening since I have been away, huh? Nothing can make a hack music-blogger feel more insignificant than hearing something like this that  has been building into a bigger and better thing while I was busy battling the inner turmoils of mild depression and the demons digitally brought before me courtesy of an Xbox One. But, what a fucking joy to come back to! There is just so much to say about Jilian Medford, the mad woman behind this beautifully deranged project. She is obviously an amazing songwriter, singer, and all of those things she has been told in so many ways over the years. She was solo before this, so she knows she is amazing. There is no Pandora’s box being opened on that front. But, I have to bring up the fact that the entire sound of Shapeshifter is absolutely fucking fantastic! I am a lyrically based, singer/songwriter type fan in general, and it is hard to shift my ignorant ass from that form. But, I will be damned if this trio didn’t up and do it! I am in love!

Seriously, you get everything from this record! For poetry obsessed aborigines like me, you get some serious wordplay about battling depression enraged by terrible relationships and the overall tyranny of living amongst the mortal world from a woman who “just fucking gets it!”. But, for the Marc Maron-esque folks out there, you get some pretty intense yet organized guitar work, perfectly timed drums mixed into a beautiful rhythm that is undeniably catchy and obviously important for so many reasons.

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There really isn’t a damn thing you couldn’t love about this album. I mean, they have an ode to Michael Jordan for shit’s sake! You get to wax philosophy about terrible past loves while enjoying basketball legends, skateboarding, and the inevitable idea that we may all die alone some day. What the hell else could you want? This is just about perfect, if we really had an idea about what perfect really meant. I don’t think any of us really do. But, I guarantee Shapeshifter is very very close.

Alright, thanks Everyone! Please let me know how this works for you. Not so much the album, because if that didn’t work for you, well, there is no fucking help for you. This is beautiful music. I’m being personal. Did I do okay? Am I alright? Whatever, listen to more IAN SWEET!

Learn more about IAN SWEET from Hardly Art, or find them on Facebook (we still do that, right?), and on Twitter (this is definitely a thing still, right?) Find them on Instagram however the hell you would do that. Also at their website.

Check out this video from IAN SWEET right here as well!