You should be listening to: StrangeJuice
StrangeJuice, Mike Anderson, is the epitome of a working musician. His output is substantial and almost daunting. He seems to be able to write a song with little effort on almost any subject, reminding me of Stephen Merritt. His vocal range is amazing and clear at both the lows and the highs. Why hasn't he been "Discovered"? From what I can tell from his facebook page and such, I don't think he is working on it too hard. He seems to like his life as it is in a way that boggles my mind. I applaud anyone that has found exactly the right niche and makes their happiness there.
StrangeJuice produces songs rapidly. He talks about writing many of them late at night in one sitting. I find his songs feel like snapshots of an emotion, response, thought, or experience. Not always clear, sometimes a little blurry, but always honest and unfiltered. It is how he sees the world - or how he saw it in that moment anyway. Sometimes it is intense, often a little chaotic, irreverent, and perhaps dramatic. Always it is tinged with his good humor and a love of life. Even the painful things seems to be expressed sincerely but also with the "and this too shall pass" kind of philosophy hidden within. His ability to take these sparks of imagination and expression and turn them into entertaining music bursting with life and diversity of spirit is what truly makes StrangeJuice special and a "must listen to" artist.
Video to "Sugar Lane"
I am not sure where I found StrangeJuice. I assume somewhere that the more obscure are held in good standing like lastfm. All I know is that I had to have more and finding him on cdbaby was a big plus. Unfortunately some of their download files were corrupt - however, I approached Mike on facebook and asked him if he could reach out to cdbaby and get the files updated. He went one better and sent me replacement files himself. I assume the cdbaby files have been updated by now.
StrangeJuice's youtube channel is full of fun and creative videos including some candid videos. Some of my favorite videos and songs are a collaboration of Mike and his friend Quinn calling themselves "Naughty Bottle" - they also do a couple of short homespun sci-fi videos that are quite fun to watch.
His Soundcloud page has his most recent recordings. I tried to post some directly here but I couldn't figure out how. "Things I had Forgotten" and "Colorblind" are especially good.
Brown Songs is a modest collection of 50 songs written in his youth and recorded in quick succession. I thought in 50 songs I would find some clunkers - but I did not. Some seem a bit weird, "I Grew a Hippy in My Garden" comes to mind, but I still find myself bouncing in my seat or otherwise absorbed in the sound. The album moves along chaotically from whimsy to sincerity. I felt connected to the stream of consciousness leading me from odd flights of fancy to moving pearls of wisdom and through moments of intense emotional drama. The various instrumentation and sonic approach to each song belies the short length of time Mike said he took to record this album. My favorite songs on this album were: "Shrooms", "Blow Me", "In My Mind's Eye", "Devil", and "I Dug You a Grave". The only single drawback to this album is the length, 2.5 hours, is almost impossible to listen to in one sitting, but it is worth the effort.
As if he didn't have enough talent in the music arts he is also quite accomplished at drawing, see this album cover as well as the cover to "Sparrow", and other artistic mediums, like making his own videos.
Domestic Bliss begins quietly with "Auld Triangle" and quietly invades more subversive sounds the further in you listen. "Henry Brawley" is a lyrical marvel in which Mike uses his lower register to rather ominously chant us into a hypnotic trance. All in all this album is close to a progressive rock concept album in feel. There isn't really a cohesive theme but the songs sounds congeal into a whole that feels trippy, mesmerizing, and haunting. Another rather unique characteristic of StrangeJuice as a home recorded artist is his avoidance of synthesizers or digital music in general. He plays a wide variety of instruments including: guitars, piano, sitar, banjo, tanbura, and bodran. I love the way he incorporates these usually native instruments into his own sound rather than forging a fake ethnic derivative. This is one of those records that my favorite song is always whichever one is playing - but standouts are: "Nothing's Changed", "Something Worthwhile"
Again the eclectic mix of instruments and storytelling launch The Sound of Prozac with a cover that might seem familiar... This is my favorite album of StrangeJuice so far, it is topically dark and brooding. There is a concept in the fact that he is blending earlier recordings of demo versions of the songs between the current versions. One of the truly marvelous things about StrangeJuice is his ability to conjure painful feelings into healing ballads. "So Lonesome I Could Die" is like a soothing balm of mutual understanding. "Eyes of the Morning" begs to be played loudly, eyes closed, preferably while sitting in a rocking chair allowing you to be swept along with the thrumming rhythm. "Altar Wine" is dark and spooky with one of the longer connections to it's earlier version which is raw and slightly unbalanced (mentally not musically). "Imaginary Man" gives me goosebumps in a good way. Characters from horror stories, folktales, and myths parade through the song in a languid march. "Tired and Lonesome" is one of my absolute favorite songs so far in StrangeJuice's whole catalog. It just resonates with some of my feelings these days and yet gives me a sense that the situation is finite and hopeful. I'd really like to find the physical version of this CD but have not been able to find one yet.
I found where you can get shirts of this albums artwork as well as some other designs by StrangeJuice.
Sparrow is the most recent album and the most mainstream sounding one to date. Still lots of his unique character and eccentric lyrics but with a more present pop sound. Several tracks have videos on his youtube channel - all in his own peculiar style. "Calling Luci" has a call to the dancefloor funk. "Hinden Bird" isn't as mainstream as the rest of the record in it's threatening dark rock grind ("I Play Spades, I take lives
I rape your ears with the jangle of my knives") making it a stand out. "Carposina Distincta" and "Marigolds" are both great songs. "Sparrow" is simple and intimate with just his voice and guitar. "Down the Hole" channels a little Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds influence. I love the chorus melody to "Hurricane Ship" "This City" is a sweet little love song ("She promised me when I die she'd roll up my ashes in cannabis and smoke me and get high"). "Iko" is a really festive and angry song fun to play loud while driving with the windows open. "The Late Show" is a mellow story song that ends the album on a pensive and introspective note.