Bone & Bell
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Bone & Bell

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter

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There's enemy fire lighting up the night in the Bone & Bell song, "The Lights." The protagonist sees it, sees all of it, and it hits her in a way that she hadn't thought that it would. It actually hits in a way that she had hoped it wouldn't. It's a song that doesn't seem to be all that much about a warzone, but more about some form of inner war. It's about fighting a stasis that might just be unbeatable. It's about getting to a point when the skies are raining down and there's a thought that this quite possibly could be it.

Heather Smith, the force behind the epically chill-bump-inducing, Chicago-based project, sings, "So this is the end of my rope/And it's not as exciting as I would have hoped," and it's part letdown, part deception. Who knows what she's been telling herself and who knows what others have been telling her all this time that would get her to the point where the disappointment could be so great, when the ticks of the clock were dwindling. Smith, with her acoustic finger-picking and such harrowing and sophisticated vocals, makes you feel as if you've been swimming in red wine all day, just floating in it, turning purple, getting so slowly fucked up on it. There's a romance between heaven, hell and here, weaving between so much of her writing. We're unable to figure out where she is and where she wants us to all go together. You feel a pull into a dewy cemetery grounds, at the midnight hour. You feel the early morning sunshine, with the memories of the cold thoughts from the night before.

The way she plays and the way she sings, you're not certain what to do with either the morning sunshine, nor the lingering thoughts from the graveyard. These are the beautiful doldrums, or the spooky leftovers from something mysteriously charged that make you sit still and soak it all in. The songs have a properness to them, a classy smokiness to them, but they don't feel right to be brought out at the dinnertime hour. She sings, "Sweet Queen Regina/How can you leave me now/I can never leave you/Wouldn't even know how/Petticoats and blades of grass/A tickle here, a pinch of ass/Moments that would never last/Despite how we tried/Now Regina's dead and gone/Queen uncrowned/Chosen one/Broken, beaten, bound and tied/From ruby lips and hips that lied," and it feels royal, somewhat. It also feels to be a bit dirty, with that pinch of ass, and then there's the part about the hips lying. It's a splash of split meanings and odd temperatures that, together, form a lovely train of thought. - Daytrotter


Texan-turned-Chicagoan Heather Smith tends to get obsessive about musical instruments, but she doesn't express those feelings through the popularly preferred method—long, technical conversations that make any non­musicians in the immediate area look for the door. Instead she uses her gearhead tendencies as a foundation for her recordings. Her first EP, Loom, was built around the baritone ukulele, and thankfully sounds more like the work of Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti than Zooey Deschanel. Her new four-song set reveals a fixation on vintage organs, given concrete shape via haunting, chanteuse-style ballads with faint echoes of delicate folk. - The Chicago Reader


Bone & Bell, Loom. That's right, there's no cover art, which is kind of a head scratcher when you consider Bone & Bell's Heather Smith boasts an impressive portfolio of graphic art and animation. Even her resumé looks good. So why isn't there any cover art? Well, here. Here's the background image from Bone & Bell's website. It'll have to do for now, I'm afraid.

Le sigh.
Now, if you did what I'm assuming you always do when you see a link, I trust you already went to the site and noticed that you could get this record for free. (And who doesn't love free music?)
Now, the nice thing about ukulele music is that it doesn't require me to blast it through the big speakers and I can listen to it here in the office through tiny laptop speakers. Which is what I'll be doing for the third time in a row as I write this up.
Smith's senses of vocal harmony and melody instantly have me thinking of The Bird and the Bee's Inara George but she has a deeper and lower registered voice, quite a step away from Inara's often birdlike intonations. And she aint bad at the ukulele, either. I could go on at length about her ukulele skills if only I knew how to play the ukulele myself. As it stands, though, I have no idea what constitutes shit-hot ukulele licks. It sounds like she's definitely not fucking up, so I'll say she's good.

Hooray for mediocre blogging!
...
And finding the last known picture of the grunge era, apparently.
Loom kicks off with a dreamy waltz aptly titled "Flying, Falling, Crawling". Just a pair of voices, the baritone ukulele, and a surfy reverberated and tremolo'd guitar. I thought at one point I heard a piano note but I'm not hearing it anymore. With as sparse as the arrangement is, it's wonderfully dense and creates a whole soundscape to get lost in. So much so that the following number, "Sweet Queen Regina" is a little jarring at first with how dry the production on it is. Two voices, the baritone ukulele, and a woodwind of some sort. Flute? Recorder? I don't know.
Actually, the dry aesthetic continues on into the next song, "I Am Not a Vegetable". Just the uke and voice on this one. It's a light and fun little number that you could easily hear Regina Spektor covering for a soundtrack to a Wes Anderson movie.
Nope, wait a minute. Remember the whole piano thing? Yeah. Piano comes in on "O' The Death of the Caspian Sea" along with the woodwind again. I can't tell if it's two ukes or one and a guitar. Ms. Smith has a way with words; indeed, each song is appropriately titled. You're flying in the first song and sitting on the beach at sunset with this one. Speaking of sunsets...
"Sunrise, Sunset" closes the record with the same instrumentation as "Sweet Queen Regina" until about two and a half minutes in when everything goes all wall of sound synth on your ass.
ANYway, it's free. Go grab yourself a copy. That way, you can tell me how off I am. - Sound Design and Assembly


It is on the rarest occasions that I ever hear something on the radio that elicits a instant purchase the next available moment that I am near a computer. Even rarer than this would be the chances of me listening to NPR for more than two minutes. The pick of the week had me doing both of these actions within minutes of each other. Ladies and gentlemen, I present this week's pick, Loom by Bone & Bell

While getting dressed last Wednesday morning, I decided to flip through radio stations when I heard a song titled "O' the Death of the Caspian Sea" featuring nothing more than a delicate, fingerpicked baritone ukulele and sweet female vocal. I listened and discovered that it was a live performance/interview with a local artist, and I do mean artist, named Heather Smith who creates music under the name Bone & Bell. Instantly, I went to my computer which brings us to where we are now.

Loom is the name of her debut EP and is comprised of five incredible songs, all sung and performed by Smith, herself, on a baritone ukulele with various harmonic and orchestrated arrangements sprinkled throughout the recording. The songs have a dream-like quality to the instrumentation with Smith's vocals tying to together the delicacy and beauty of her performance. Musically, the EP brings to mind the work of Cheyenne Marie Mize's debut, Before Lately, and the more softer numbers of Jenny Owen Youngs and Regina Spektor.

Best of all, Smith has released the EP as a free download on her site and her Bandcamp site if you wish to check it out. If you like what you hear, a physical CD copy can be purchased for three dollars at her site. I recommend this for the following reasons:

a) she is a very talented, independent artist.
b) it is a really amazing EP.
c) the cover artwork, created and drawn by Smith, is excellent.
d) it is three dollars.
e) it prominently features a baritone ukulele.
f) all of the above.

Anyway, enough reading about this EP, check it out for yourself as I highly recommend it. Also, Smith is a very talented graphic designer and painter which you can see at her site, Clockworkbird. Loom by Bone & Bell is the pick of the week and seriously, stop reading this and check it out instead. - Hightower and Jones


We’re barely into January, and already the first music fest of 2011 has arrived! Tomorrow Never Knows is a five-day affair. The fest presents an impressive array of indie acts. You can check out dense rock from The Besnard Lakes, poppier sounds from The Helio Sequence or hard-hitting hip hop from Indiana native Freddie Gibbs.

Local acts like Gibbs are scattered throughout the line-up. Another local musician, Heather Smith, joined "Eight Forty-Eight" in studio.

Her music project Bone & Bell perform Thursday night at Schubas in Chicago and relases a debut EP, "Loom."

The show is headlined by Oscar-winning songwriter Markéta Irglová.

Bone & Bell will also perform this Friday night at Uncommon Ground in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. - WBEZ and NPR


Discography

Loom - EP - September 2010
Organ Fantasies - EP - May 2012

Photos

Bio

Bone & Bell is part breath, part bellow. Led by Texas artist and musician Heather Smith, Bone & Bell combines haunting vocal harmonies and lush instrumentation to create a dissonant prayer: both heavenly and tension-filled.

Heather spent her childhood exploring the forests of Poetry, Texas, with a song on her lips and a dog on her trail. Over the years, Heather accumulated a series of instruments and with them wrote a series of songs. "Loom", Bone & Bell's first EP, is a sampling of baritone ukulele songs. "Organ Fantasies", Bone & Bell's second EP release (May 2012), is a collection of songs inspired by vintage organs gathered from alleyways, fleamarkets and secondhand stores.

Just six months after releasing Loom on the internet, Bone & Bell was opening for Oscar award winning Marketa Irglova (Tomorrow Never Knows Festival), performing live on National Public Radio (WBEZ's 848) and recording a session at Daytrotter. The remaining year has come included highlights such as opening for Peter Bjorn and John and playing the first Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements Festival.

Bone & Bell has evolved over time. What was once a solo effort has become a quintet. Heather recently joined forces with Ryan Farnham (drums- formerly of Catfish Haven), Rick Roberts (bass, keys) and Jason Tuller (guitar, bass).