unearthing an underground

every other Friday lester j allen discusses another musical artist he feels deserves more credit. this is a blog dedicated to the exploration of music

issue 3. Bright Eyes/Neva Dinova

You will have heard (or heard of) Bright Eyes. If the name doesn’t ring a bell then the music will. But as vastly popular as bright eyes are, I’ve found through the millions of conversations I’ve had with like minded people, the collaborative split E.P. recorded with Neva Dinova “One Jug Of Wine, Two Vessels”, seems to have escaped the public ear. Somehow, everyone seems to start with the 2005 album “I’m wide awake, it’s morning” and then follow on chronologically. There’s no harm in this, I’ll be one of the first to defend any Bright Eyes record… well at least up until the 2007 “Cassadaga” album but that’s for my own personal reasons and another story for another time. For whatever reason the 2004 album “One Jug Of Wine, Two Vessels” gets skipped and overlooked. It is for this reason I have made this issue about this underground album instead of an underground artist, despite how popular both bright eyes and Neva Dinova already are. This is a record that was ignored so much, that saddle creek records deemed it necessary to re-release it in 2010.

There’s a funny story in that actually. In 2010 I was probably going through the worst of my mental health issues. One day in that year I saw a post online saying “ New bright eyes/Neva Dinova album” and being more excited than a cigar smoker in Cuba, I clicked the link to take me on to Youtube only finding myself listening to songs I already knew. Any rational human being would have gathered it was a re-release with added songs, been disappointed as hell and then slunk away. Not me though. In the state I was in, I deemed it more realistic that I dreamt up the album before it got written. And if that’s not crazy enough I genuinely panicked on what the world will think of my new power. I didn’t calm down for about ten minutes when I read the word “re-release”. The longest ten minutes of my life.

ANYWAY, enough rambling. Neva Dinova are as underrated as nights in with wine. By that I mean just because everybody else is somewhere else, that doesn’t necessarily mean its the best place to be. But there’s something different about this E.P. I think maybe it’s because it almost sounds like the whole album was written around a bonfire. It has that closeness where you can imagine how well they get on externally just from the music. However in the re-release, bright eyes and Neva Dinova added 4 new tracks to the front of this already beautiful E.P. And to be fair to myself, I have to say how I think the newer tracks on the album have less of that warm “singing with your oldest friends” type feeling. To help you understand what I’m trying to say, it was a bit like if you could imagine the Beatles later adding on more tracks to Sargent pepper’s. I’m not saying these tracks won’t still be genius. I’m more suggesting that old saying of sometimes “less is more”.

Unlike the last two issues I’ve posted up, this is actually incredibly easy to listen to. So much so that I feel like it’s that time you should go and give it a listen. My only advice for it is, if you do get the 2010 addition (as opposed to the 2004), I would listen to it how it was originally intended to be heard, form track 5 onward and after hearing that then going back and deciding on the others. That probably has more to do with me trying to preserve the memories of my youth than the sound of it. But as always, listen to your ears more than my words.


link 1 takes you to where you can purchase the album. The following links are to the tracks from the album on youtube. Both Neva Dinova and bright eyes are easy enough to google.

P.S. The last track “spring cleaning” is my favourite.








(Source: lesterjallen.com)

issue 2. Daniel Johnston

For me, Daniel Johnston is like amaretto mixed with bourbon - it always sounds like a bad idea and yet I’m forever surprised at how genius it actually is. I do feel like I’m cheating a bit with this one because he already has an incredible reputation amongst musicians. However, for some reason the majority of conversations I have where I bring him up are often depressingly followed by “yeah I think I saw his X-Factor audition”. I’m sure Daniel Johnson is a lovely man, but his name really can make my life difficult sometimes.

The main thing to take with you from this week’s unearthing an underground is that there is nothing I can tell you about him that you wouldn’t get from watching the award-winning documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”. In fact, I recommend this documentary so highly that I will be genuinely disappointed if you don’t Google it, find it and watch it right now before you even think about continuing with this week’s issue.

Daniel’s recordings fit the bill of “rough music” (as discussed in issue 1) beautifully - as always with my recommendations, not an easy sound to get into. But what he does with so much ease is capture his whole personality over a single album. I shouldn’t have to point out that for someone with bi-polar disorder, that isn’t an easy feat. The early tapes he used to make in his parents basement are the ideal starting point for anyone interested in getting interested. And for those who take a listen, disagree, think it’s strange and finally reach the conclusion that I must’ve lost my mind (again) because I consider Daniel being one of the greatest songwriters of all time - I did too. I didn’t get it. The first time I heard it I didn’t reach a sudden epiphany. Instead I hated it. Then I found something that honestly changed my perception of music for the rest of my life. I found an album called “the late great Daniel Johnston” a cover album of Daniel Johnston’s songs. And the names that were attached to that album …JEEEZ! Bright eyes, Tom waits, Sparklehorse, Deathcab for cutie, M. Ward and many more, all doing there own interpretations of Johnston’s songs. Your left thinking to yourself, “he wrote that?!?!” That’s when you start to hear past the weird voice and hear the genius within. And lets be honest, if we still disagreed, when it gets to the point that people like M. Ward, bright eyes, and Tom Waits agree he’s a genius… it may be time to eat your hat, swallow your pride and just… agree.

You can’t help but fall in love with his way with words. The usual crowd of songwriters (including myself) generally obsess over their lyrics. And why shouldn’t we? For a lot of us it’s the quintessential purpose for music! To put across your thoughts so poetically that your entire audience relate it to a highly personal and private time in there lives and then all walk away saying something along the lines of “no YOU don’t understand! That new Conor Oberst song is all about me”. (For those of you wondering, I picked Conor because he is particularly gifted in that area). Daniel however, uses words …well… how you normally use words. There’s no way of explaining it because it’s so simple, that if I tried to dissect it I’d only put it back into the words he used. A bit like trying to find out what makes a sub-atomic particle. His lyrics always remind me of when kid’s point things out in a way that is so brilliantly obvious that no adult has ever thought to say it.

Lastly, and my note to leave on, there are so many ways of appreciating Daniel Johnston that I defy you not to like at least one aspect of his music. Whether it is his bold, blunt and childlike lyrics; his unique blend of unconsciously mastering/ignoring harmony and structure, or just his journey of how a confused and scared man who everyone thought was too crazy to do any good, challenged some of the greatest minds in the music industry.


As I said, he’s pretty well known and you can find him easy enough through Google. Once again though here are a few links of my favourite videos and links. The second link down is “The Devil and Johnston” trailer. The third is a link to where you can buy “the late great Daniel Johnston” album.







(Source: lesterjallen.com)

issue 1. Paleo

The more I try to remember where I first heard Paleo, the more distant it seems. I think everyone gets to the point of listening to something where you can’t imagine your taste of music without it. You know the nicotine artists that remain on ‘play’ for a month, until you find some left over strength to stop today’s favourite tune from also becoming today’s productivity replacement? Well, Paleo could well have written the book on it. According to his website Paleo is David Andrew Strackany and I’m not going to lie, this is NOT the type of music you would hear for the first time and announce to the room you’d ‘like to hear it again, but louder’. On the other hand however, I really don’t plan on using these blogs for artists that are easily grouped with others in boxes of genre.

“So, what is it about Paleo?” I hear my unswallowed anti psychotics ask. Well I guess for me there are three aspects. ‘Rough music’ is a theme that will come up increasingly in these little introductions, and by that I mean where you’re left to put in the missing pieces. A great example of this is when your ears and brain have the “is that a bad banjo, or a broken guitar?” conversation. Or when voices unintentionally break in a recording. Still, at a live show you always hear the sigh of disappointment from a no.1 fan (wearing the t-shirt) because the singer didn’t try to sing it wrong again. If you do see that guy in the audience, feel free to tell me to be quiet. I feel like a lot of Paleo’s recordings make me feel as if I’m uncomfortably sat on someone’s dusty bedroom floor, trying to hold up the microphone for him to sing in to. You just don’t get that closeness with many songs any more.

Imagery!! This is the big one bout Paleo for me. “We have grass stains on our eyes from all the world we have to see” (from “forever is a very long time”). I have that lyric scratched on my bedroom wall (yes, I still want to be 14). I’m finding this paragraph increasingly harder to get though without bombarding you with an unnecessary amount of quotes to wade though. “Her hair makes a kind of cathedral between our eyes. Her face is the floor under her stain glass sky light” (from “November 30th, 2006”). What’s most impressive for me is how he did this, under what he called “daytrotter sessions” or to anyone else, a song diary. Every new sunset, a song of intense lyrical genius had been forged. This does mean a lot of his songs are just referred to as dates such as “November 30th, 2006” which if you’re dyslexic (like me), or just forgetful (also me) makes it a little bit of a chore to find the song you just fell in love with again.

The third and last thing that makes his music such ‘a great’ in my opinion, is the passion in his voice but that’s something that should be heard, not discussed. So that’s enough of my thoughts, I think you’ve endured my rambling enough for one session. Have a listen yourself and let me know what you think, because your own opinions are always the more important ones … in your own opinion.


Paleo’s music can all be found on his website. Just click any hyperlink on there it will take you through to the lyrics of the song you selected then click the date and you can listen to the entire song diary. Unfortunately when googling and youtubing you will have to sift through “the paleo diets” uploads. His website is below and I’ve left a few other links you can catch him on.








(Source: lesterjallen.com)