Oregon-based songwriter Anna Tivel’s newest album ‘Outsiders’ starts with a lens so wide we’ve left the planet to look back from a great distance at the turmoil and beauty of our shared humanity. From there the lens pulls close and unfolds in a gripping collection of stories so often ignored. Tivel’s flawed and honest characters move through a landscape of hurt and loss, of small triumph and big love. In eleven songs full of recognition, veracity, and hope, Tivel’s watchful and empathetic eye details the undeniable ache of living.
Throughout her work, Tivel has emphasized storytelling and this album is no exception, building on the strength of her ability to observe and reflect with a clear-eyed empathy. Inspired by authors from Steinbeck to Morrison, Didion to Dubus, she imbues her songs with attentive detail and a dreamlike quality that leaves the ordinary feeling both palpable and poetic. “Tivel’s characters are common but unforgettable,” NPR’s Ann Powers writes, “Her images linger, and become populated with the energy of the real.”
Nick Delffs creates music that straddles the divide between modern and retro, an intriguing union of classic and contemporary.
Nick Delffs is a seeker. He’d never identify himself that way. He’s unassuming and self-effacing, careful to discuss song meanings and biographical details without indulgence or melodrama. Delffs cut his teeth playing basement shows in Portland a dozen years ago, just before that city’s cover was irreversibly blown. It was a time when being musically ambitious meant impressing other local musicians. You were a joke, in that world, if you proclaimed yourself an artist or promoted your band with any zeal. So Delffs would probably find “seeker” a rather grandiose title.
But Nick Delffs is, in fact, a seeker. He’s an old-school rustler of the human condition; a tireless navigator of social and spiritual landscapes; a genuinely curious and wide-eyed, mankind-enthusiast. Soon after meeting him, one gets the impression that Delffs could be dropped in some far corner of the Earth and he’d not only survive, but he’d make a lot of friends—maybe even start a new band. In both casual conversation and his songwriting, Delffs gravitates to the universal. That’s his search. His life’s work is in the identification and removal of our shared illusions. And that is, largely, what Delffs writes songs about. Songs come to him when he’s “feeling detached from the world but totally in love with it at the same time,” he says. “Mostly they come when I am patient and I don’t need them or care about them too much.”
They happen to be pretty catchy songs. Delffs first emerged in 2003 as the frontman for the seminal Portland band The Shaky Hands, known for their jangly, pulsing and introspective songs and their high-energy live shows. The band would sign to the venerable Kill Rock Stars imprint and tour internationally with bands like The Shins and Meat Puppets.
In a world of noise and madness, he will use his music to try and scratch at something human and real. Something helpful. Nick Delffs is a seeker. He shares his discoveries. The latest album Redesign is his greatest gift yet.