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reLISTEN #1: Introduction

A curation of five sonic gems from the (not so) distant past.

I love sharing music. This passion, combined with my love for writing, led me to start the online magazine Negative White back in 2010. And forced me to bring back Weekly5 after the website folded after a decade.

You all know it: This newsletter brings you five new songs every Sunday. One of the curation’s criteria is timeliness. The featured tracks are only a couple of days old. The Weekly5 are a platform for fresh releases.

However, music discovery isn’t limited to new songs. Instead, I find myself falling in love with older material, releases that were released months and years ago but didn’t reach me in time. But: better late than never, right?

I feel an urge to write about these songs, share them with people, and shine a light on them in the hope they (still or again) find appreciation.

reLISTEN: A new format

That’s why I’m introducing «reLISTEN». Basically, it’s the same idea as the Weekly5, just with ‘old’ songs.

Obviously, the Sunday curation already takes a lot of time. So, reLISTEN will be less frequent, not weekly but monthly.

Most importantly: While today’s first edition is accessible to all subscribers, future ones will be exclusively available for members.

So if you like the idea of reLISTEN and discovered something you love in today’s selection, please consider becoming a member. For $55/year, you’re supporting this platform by keeping it ad-free and independent.

In today’s edition: Josh T. Pearson.

One aspect of reLISTEN I already love is giving the editions more of a theme. It’s some sort of a small-form playlisting with matching genres, topics, or atmospheres.

Today, you can detect a red threat in the prominence of guitar play, all in the realm of folk, Americana, and country-inspired songs. Five songs to dream, to contemplate, to despair in lovesickness, and to fill your soul with catharsis.

AVEC – Dead

I’m a sucker for songs that defy traditional structure and pacing. Specifically, songs that build up over time will always have a special place in my heart. Austrian artist AVEC’s single Dead, released in 2016, is one of these gems.

Black is the color for
The dead inside me

Dead starts innocently with its mourning acoustic guitar melody and AVEC’s smokey voice. For the second verse, an electric guitar adds more pressure. After a short moment of silence, the song opens up for the chorus but keeps building momentum. Marching drums enter. Synthesizers span across endless fields.

Dead constantly gains atmosphere and depth. It flees higher and higher into the sky. I cannot adequately describe the feeling inside my chest this masterpiece evokes. Something between longing, regret, pain, and love; something that tears your heart into pieces. And the only sad thing about Dead is its short runtime—it feels as if the song could spread infinitely further.

I usually don’t listen to country music—with a few exceptions. And Gregory Alan Isakov’s hauntingly beautiful If I Go, I’m Goin is one of these. It’s a sad, folky sound, filled with heartbreak. A slow-motion banjo strums in the background, the steel guitar adds this unique longing, pulling sound. And Isakov’s soothing voice is full of pain.

I will go if you ask me to
I will stay if you dare
And if I go, I'm goin' crazy
Let my darlin' take me there

Inspired by the likes of Cohen and Springsteen, Isakov’s music is rooted deep within North American music heritage. However, despite If I Go, I’m Goin having all the trademarks of country music, it doesn’t descend into the genre’s kitsch. It’s not perpetuating the stereotype of a trucker somewhere out on the road missing his love. The song remains pure, a hurting ballad whose sharpest knife is its softness.

Angie McMahon – Missing Me

Reduce to the max: That’s the theme of Angie McMahon’s Missing Me. The Australian musician waives any instrumental special effects aside focuses the spotlight on her sombre yet warm singing.

Loving you has thrown me
You have been my only rock on the ground
Now that I'm out of sight
Loving you is lonely

Released in 2018 as a teaser for her debut record, Salt (2019), this song is a raw diamond of bluesy rock music, as energetic as emotional. It’s the unfiltered processing of a lost relationship. “Missing Me is about releasing all that punchy sass and angst that bubbles under the surface when somebody isn’t listening to you, or they’re letting you down or breaking your heart,” she explained at the release.

Missing Me, even years later, still stands as loud and proud as an example of what rock music should be all about: not the flashiness, not the overindulged flamboyance, but the straightforward, unedited, unforgiving power.


I vividly remember my first encounter with Josh T. Pearson. In 2011, he was featured in the German Rolling Stone magazine, just releasing his incredible debut, Last of the Country Gentlemen. While on an exchange trip, I bought the album in a record store in Brighton, UK. Seven songs, full of unique takes on the Country genres. And yes, you guessed right, Josh T. Pearson is also one of the exceptions.

Country Dumb is a 10-minute-long, unbelievably weird song. The acoustic guitar jangling while Pearson’s storytelling often feels completely detached from the instrument’s sound. The fiddle then fills the gaps with some colour. It’s hard to describe; you must listen to it to understand the level of fantastic oddness.

However, there’s also an alternative piano version of Country Dumb. It’s shorter and less crazy, but it's also proof that the song is utterly brilliant—no matter which version you choose.

Warren Zevon – Keep Me in Your Heart

Whiskey, weed, and Warren Zevon. It’s the ritual of Hank Moody, the protagonist in Californication, after finishing a book. The series introduced me to Zevon, the cult artist who never received the recognition he deserved while still alive.

Zevon remained a one-hit-wonder for a wider audience with Werewolves of London (Yes, that’s the origin of the melody in Kid Rock’s Sweet Home Alabama). Then, in 2003, he passed away after battling lung cancer.

On his last record, The Wind, Zevon deals with his incoming death and his legacy, also following through with his reputation for black humour: He covers Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. And as a heartbreaking ending of the album, Keep Me in Your Heart is like a final wish, a letter to the world and people he leaves behind. It’s a beautiful token, not depressing or in denial. Zevon sings with clarity and honesty in his voice. A song that gives consolation to the grieving.

Shadows are fallin’ and I'm runnin’ out of breath
Keep me in your heart for a while
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for a while