Post-Truth Blues and Some Thoughts On Miwi La Lupa's Beginner's Guide
by Christopher Wolford
Artist: MiWi La Lupa
Release date: September 26, 2016
Label: Tiger Shrimp Records
I don’t know about you, but I’ve listened to a lot of music over the past week. This wouldn’t be any different than usual, but this time, when I say a lot, I mean nearly every second of every day. I won’t pull out any soapboxes here, but I will say this: if you’ve felt scared or confused or pissed off, I don’t blame you. So have I. Just don’t let it break you down. Don’t let it silence you. Fight back. Hang tight to your friends and family. Open up those ears and let some music in. Explore new genres. Or maybe, for the sake of second chances, give an artist you brushed off years ago another listen. You’d be amazed how much your tastes have changed. One of my favorite things is being proven wrong about music. I’ve written off a lot of bands over the years only to come back weeks or months or even years later and find something marvelous waiting for me on the other side of those speakers.
Of course, we all have our little escapes in times of stress, whether it’s wasting time on the internet or just shutting off the outside world altogether. My methods of coping have changed over the years (i.e. abandoning most of the self-destructive ones) but making playlists has been a constant. The creation phase itself is a form of meditation. I zone out and scour album after album, compiling the perfect mix of everything from isolated tracks to full albums in an attempt to capture a mood or feeling or sense of place. These playlists, the politically charged ones, always have (and probably always will) include Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, an album (and band) I could spend hours discussing. Conor Oberst, the band’s main man, just released a fantastic stripped down solo album called Ruminations. He’s currently touring behind it, but despite recording the album alone, he’s not by himself out on the road. Joining him is fellow musician Miwi La Lupa, a veteran of the Oberst touring band.
So, you may ask, who is Miwi La Lupa? Besides being a talented multi-instrumentalist, La Lupa is a singer-songwriter in his own right who just released Beginner’s Guide, his third solo album, and, if you’re anything like me, maybe it’s just the type of music you need right about now. From the very first notes, the album invites you in, tells you to make yourself at home. La Lupa’s voice, easy-going and understated, pairs perfectly with the music like a fine wine. Many of the tracks are jazzy numbers that’ll get you moving out of your seat before you know it. Others are power-pop gems with distorted guitars that hold down the rhythm one minute then churn out crisp, clean slide solos the next. Even when La Lupa tackles topics like heartbreak and uncertainty, there’s a warmth permeating each of the seven tracks. It’s a short album, sure, but there’s no filler on Beginner’s Guide which keeps it lean, the way an album should be.
La Lupa’s music isn’t the only sound at work on the album though. Select pieces of The Language and Music of the Wolves, read by Robert Redford, are placed at the beginnings and ends of the tracks. Scattering bits of spoken word can be a risky move with any album, especially one as straightforward as Beginner’s Guide, but despite some initial hesitations, the clips of Redford providing insights into the behavior of Canis lupus created one of the more interesting juxtapositions I’ve heard. The crackle of the sampled record, both the first and last thing we hear, creates a kind of loop, sending the listener seamlessly back to the beginning for another go-round with an collection of songs that now feel like old friends.
This essay is the first thing I’ve written since the election and it feels great. It’s also the first review I’ve written at the request of a real musician and for that opportunity, I am eternally excited. I won’t spoil any of the lyrics on Beginner’s Guide by quoting them here but I will leave you with one from Robert Redford:
“Sometimes the howl is a casual affair, with wolves barely getting to their feet.
Other times though, the howl is an obviously exciting event. The wolves show
great interest in the howl and seek contact with each other until the howl ends.”
These are dark but exciting times. Please don’t stop howling, my friends. We hear your call.