As we prepare ourselves for Spring Break, and we get ready to party-hardy in the brilliant sun in the likes of Malibu or Miami or Omaha or wherever it is you Seattle U party-animals take holiday, it’s important to take a beat for yourself. Have a moment of reflection: Contemplate the past quarter’s ups and downs, meditate on the highs and lows of life, and ponder the nuances of emotion. The music to do this to?
Anti-folk is an interesting genre of music. From what I’ve gathered, it appears to follow the precedents of the established modern folk variety, put there by Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Tim Buckley, etc. while lightly mocking the metaphorical nature of the lyrics. With anti-folk, we get much more literal stories and feelings, but with the same power to effectively transfer a song’s message. The vehicle of that power is just of a different nature. When Bob Dylan might say, “Fare thee well my honey, fare thee well,” the anti-folk artist might say, “I never ever ever ever ever want to see you again.” Some of the notable anti-folkers include Jeffrey Lewis, Diane Cluck, Andrew Jackson Jihad [Ed. Note: Now renamed as AJJ], and the bedroom musician we have under our spotlight today, Crywank.
Crywank is a Manchester-based project of James Clayton, complete with acoustic guitar finger pickings, very light drum set, occasional bass guitar, and a delicate voice, which accentuates the frankness of the lyrics. The music is sad. Very sad at some parts. However, it’s the kind of sad that is very beneficial to your emotional spectrum. It helps to give you a balance to your no-rules spring break Pitbull-beat-bumping attitude. Crywank writes music that is easy to stare out of an open window to toward the grey Pacific Northwest skies.
The album that represents Crywank’s style best, I believe is Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid.d
This album is thoroughly dynamic, ranging from softer, darker, falsetto-based tracks like “If I Were You, I’d Be Throwing Up,” to fast paced, driving strummers like “I Am A Familiar Creak in your Floorboards.” The percussion, provided by Dan “The Snail” Watson on this album is completely on-point and enticing, filling every open space with complicated pulsations. The percussion and the guitar are off at times, but this adds to the stripped-down lo-fi vibe that is romantic in its imperfections.
The song “Do You Have PPE For Self Esteem” is a great example of what I mean.
It’s not all sad. There’s a feel good track called “This Song Title Was Too Long (So Now It’s Shorter)” in there with a charming chord progression and a pleasant melody. The lyrics are about growing a bit older, and the basic human desire to do so with somebody. I could see this being in the soundtrack of some unheard-of indie film with Zach Braff or something.
Here is Clatyon’s performance of “Leech Boy,” stripped down to its essence:
Crywank’s Bandcamp page offers a graphic evolution of James Clayton’s music. It’s easy to tell through his Embarrassing Early Recordings that Crywank is most certainly the product of the Manchester emo/softcore scene. Many of his vocals were so powerful that they gate the mix. Take “Lepidopterophobia:” the combination is emotionally loud vocals over a simply pleasurable acoustic guitar progression. The lyrics are verbatim of feeling: a characteristic of urban emo so familiar to the anti-folk scene. Over time, the vocals of Crywank have become toned-down, leading toward the smoother, more relaxed texture that we have today.
The latest release on the page is called “Ish,” and is under the alias JC and the Nobodies, rather than Crywank. This album veers toward experimental at parts, and utilizes more advanced recording techniques, as well as effects. It gets trippier than most of what I’ve heard from Crywank, notably in tracks like “Treehorn.” A major diversion comes in the form of electric guitar in “Michael Jackson,” very atypical of the style.
Getting under the covers with Crywank:
James Clayton is rather open about how he began to record music, as well as his self-perceptions. On Crywank’s facebook page he writes, “I wrote the songs on my first album ‘James is going to die soon’ when I was completely miserable and they ended up making me feel a lot better, I hope they have a similar effect on you,” also adding that many songs regard the conception of sadness itself. Clayton’s influences are clear in his music as well, taking a bit from anti-folkers Andrew Jackson Jihad [Ed. Note: Again, renamed AJJ quite recently], as well as non-anti-folkers like Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, and Joni Mitchell. I can also hear pieces of Bon Iver ad Paul Simon, but that may be speculation.
The touring Crywank is composed of Clayton on the guitar and vocals, Dan the Snail on the drums and Tom Connolly on the bass. Their next performance is in London, and there aren’t any signs of Seattle, let alone the U.S. on their radar.
I do hope this music has helped in your final push toward the break. Remember, your window will always be there for you to stare out of while listening to Crywank. And I’ll always be here to inform you of all the best, worst known DIY artists of today.
JASON McCUE | Make Donald Drumpf Again | KXSU Reporter