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"Variant Blues ... is a microcosm of the human condition under these current conditions – beautifully transposed into song." 

- Screen Legion

 

"“Tired Love” might rise to one of the best mature love songs I have ever heard." 

- Ralph Greco, ShortAndSweetNYC.com

 

"As long as music exists I hope music that sounds like this continues to persist as well. 

- Joshua Macala, Raised by Cassettes

 
 

Variant Blues

MUSIC IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS: SONGS 21-30

An Album by Eric Anders & Mark O'Bitz

Released December 20, 2021

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Variant Blues is the fourth installment of the Anders/O'Bitz collection "music in the time of coronavirus." 

All Songs Written by Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz 
Produced and Mixed by Mike Butler 
Mastered by Jamal Ruhe 
Cover Design by Ileana Hernandez and Eric Anders

Eric Anders - Vocals
Mark O’Bitz - Guitars, Piano, Keys
Mike Butler - Producer, Guitars, Bass, Keys, Harmonica
Jenn Grinels - Backing Vocals
Matt Lynott - Drums
Bill Terry - Pedal Steel
Tim McNally - Strings

PRAISE

Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz Capture the Times on Variant Blues

Screen Legion

 

Variant Blues .... is a microcosm of the human condition under these current conditions – beautifully transposed into song.... "Far Gone" is a beautifully poignant, melancholy ballad. Acoustic chords lay the foundation for the ethereal vocals to follow .... right out of the gate, "Far Gone" channels something one might expect from the likes of Radiohead or The Verve.... dreamy single notes ring out over the acoustics and vocals to add to that sonic dreamscape mood. In addition, Far Gone touches on the social isolation and themes of loneliness brought on by the global pandemic – in a way that’s both beautiful and broken.... Anders and O’Bitz are a well-oiled, acoustic-driven machine.

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From Music-News.com

Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz

by Jon C. Ireson

 

What once seemed like it would be an interesting historical blip has turned out more like a war era. Several years of a prolonged fight against an ever-evolving enemy that has shifted the priorities of the planet and has caused people to fray in all sorts of bizarre ways. The waves continue to wreak havoc and the factions of believers and non-believers remain at odds, as fiercely as ever. COVID-19 has its claws well into 2022 and the foreseeable future. For artists, there is an endless supply of new problems and perspectives to explore in the time of Coronavirus.

The creative team of Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz have channeled this inspiration into an anthology that explores the many facets of this extraordinary period. Along with producer-collaborator Mike Butler, they have compiled Music in the Time of Coronavirus, a four-part series of releases featuring O'Bitz's masterfully graceful guitar playing and Anders' incisive lyrics and ravishing vocals. Part Four, titled Variant Blues, looks at the failures of grossly incompetent "leaders," assesses the emotional damage of our collective baggage, and provides a ray of light from the other side of this mess. The music was assembled almost exclusively remotely in the spring and summer of 2021 when Delta was the variant of the moment.

The opener is an unveiled indictment of the previous president. 'Far Gone' laments the unfathomable ways in which the country fell apart between 2017 and 2021 and the way that it seemed like nothing the man did could be stopped, no matter how illegal, immoral, or unpresidential. The song itself is not outwardly fiery, it remains in the Anders/O'Bitz wheelhouse of languorous singer-songwriter fare. The vitriol comes purely from the lyrics with the music echoing in resigned disappointment.

With the orange elephant in the room out of the way, they turn their attention away from the chaos at the hands of the power brokers to focus on the battle at home. Songs like 'We'll Get There Soon' and 'Err On the Side of Love' highlight relationships pushed to the point of breaking due to the combination of the usual personal struggles with the imposing medical predicament under which we are living. In each of these songs, Anders seeks to find the way through the hardship to the other side by staying obstinately positive in the face of his and others' understandable cynicism.

 

'Beyond Silence' introduces the swaying bending of tremolo bar guitar to give it that woozy Western feeling. Gospel chord changes, uplifting organ, and angelic backing vocals deliver a transcendent mood to 'Dusk Comes Too Soon'. Anders voice teeters on the brink of falsetto on a track that shares some thematic DNA with U2's 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.' 

The album concludes with a call back to arguably the duo's best track, the opener of 2019's Ghosts to Ancestors, 'Lopsided Gyre'. In this latest incarnation, they drop the steady plod of the rhythm section, leaving the instrumentation to just guitars and cinematic piano with the vocal coo of Jenn Grinels blending with Anders questioning reflection on the state of our world.

With three years in between versions, the lyrics have become exponentially more pertinent. “Seen enough, it's not okay/Comin' around again today/The simple minds are easily afraid/Keep it stupid simple, their way/How do we live in a lopsided gyre?/How do we hope as the seas get higher/Where do we turn all the rot turns strange/Nowhere to go if we cannot change”. 

This new version is starker and more dramatic yet it has the propulsive rhythm taken out. Like a people worn down to the brink over a society eating itself alive. Melancholic as it may be, 'Lopsided Gyre' is a tremendously fitting anthem for the current zeitgeist. The perfect bookend to a project that has spanned the duration of the pandemic.

Anders and O'Bitz's Music in the Time of Coronavirus has been such a suitable soundtrack to the last two years. A muted confusion, frustration, apprehension yet also a persistent guarded hope.  Anders writes allegory at luminary levels and commits his lyrics to music with the most striking of voices.  All the while O'Bitz is there with the perfect accompaniment, tasteful and moving. They have declared the series to be a four-parter but if this pandemic continues, let's hope this duo has more chapters to guide us through to the end.

From: raised // by // cassettes

Music Review // Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz // "Variant Blues" // (Baggage Room Records)

by Joshua Macala

 

Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz have returned with another album and if there is any sort of positive to take out of the global pandemic we have been going through it has been the ability to find comfort in their music.   Variant Blues has less of a blues sound to it and more one that spans the genres of folk and Americana.   With a lot of acoustics it can feel like The Wallflowers at times, but also there is just that general feeling of something along the lines of Radiohead or Coldplay but in a different presentation.

To some extent, these songs could be thought of as being sad.  "Err On The Side Of Love" becomes slower and dreamy though, which makes it feel a bit more relaxed and just chill.  My favorite song on this album is "Bang Goes The Gun" because when you think of the speed and impact of a gun being fired, this song has the vibes of the opposite of that- just slower and drawn out.  The contrast there is really something special and it needs to be heard.  "Beyond Silence" gets a bit darker and also comes out somewhat trippy.

On "Just A Game" they really break it down into just the strum of the acoustic guitar and vocals, with harmonies that are without compare.   Somehow I hear some Counting Crows in here as well, though one of the biggest influences I can really hear shining through all of these songs is Neil Young. The one line from all of the lyrics on this album that really hits me is: "Nowhere to go if we cannot change" [from "Lopsided Gyre"] because I feel like every day we should try to be a little bit better and I just don't like the idea of being stagnant.

Overall Variant Blues just flies by and feels like the perfect soundtrack for any occasion.  There are elements within here that could put it on pop radio the same way you'd hear a Coldplay song, but it can also be on rock radio.  This really just also reminds me of a certain point in music in the early '00's where artists like Akron/Family made it feel like this modern folk genre was taking over and as long as music exists I hope music that sounds like this continues to persist as well

 

From: Divide and Conquer

ERIC ANDERS AND MARK O’BITZ - VARIANT BLUES

by My Nyugen

3.9 out of 5

 

Highly prolific duo Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz are now back with their fourth installment to their “music in the time of coronavirus” collection, Variant Blues.  On this ten-track release, the two once more show their mastery of the Americana, indie-folk, and singer/songwriter genres and give their all in fleshing out these acoustic-based numbers.

With regards to their two most recent releases, Stuck Inside and Variant Blues, Anders says: “Both albums are full of songs that try to capture something about these times of a global pandemic, climate change, and the rise of new forms of very old right-wing ideologies. Some thorough references to history, some with references to the poet Emily Dickinson, and others that are more directly about these troubled times we live in.

“We had hoped to get into the studio to finish these albums during the spring and summer of 2021, but the Delta variant kept us all at home. These two albums were done almost completely remotely – 90% remotely – with regard to the three principles: me, Mark O’Bitz, and Mike Butler, our producer.” 

 

On their latest project, Anders and O’Bitz are joined by Jenn Grinels (backing vocals), Matt Lynott (drums), Bill Terry (pedal steel), and Tim McNally (strings). Together this group of musicians brings in a timeless acoustic sound rooted in Americana and folk that will leave a lot of audiences wanting more. 

Variant Blues begins with “Far Gone,” which starts off with a sauntering groove. The meandering instrumentals come in with a mellow vibe. Once Anders’ vocals arrive, you can get a fuller sense of his range with his singing executed in a falsetto. There was a melancholy sense to the music as he sings about how “far gone” the times are in this anti-Trump song. His searing portrayal of the world today is a relevant look into our society and what we could do for the future.

 

Oh, To Leave Here” starts off with some dynamic strumming from the acoustic guitar. The band brings in a warm and intimate vibe right from the start. Anders’ vocals arrive with more of his emotional delivery. I was loving how immediate and dramatic the sounds coming across here sounded. The lush background vocals were also another great addition. More dramatic renderings on the guitar arrive on “We’ll Get There Soon.” The warm acoustic sounds reel in the vibes. Soon after, the drums and bass accompany the guitar for a more full-on sound. Anders really sounds great here as he reels us in with his emotionally powerful vocals

An intimate vibe arrives as more acoustic guitar sounds out on “Err On The Side Of Love.” Right away, Anders’ vocal harmonies join in with the moody vibes on the guitar for a resonating acoustic feel. As some electric guitar weaves into the sound along with some drums, the sauntering vibes get fully realized as the band eases into their acoustic sound. Some strings also add a lush and dramatic appeal here.

 

More stirring sounds come from the acoustic guitar on “Bang Goes The Gun.” Some strings reel us in with a dramatic vibe, which was a great addition to the sounds overall. Anders’ vocals come in up-close-and-personal for an intimate performance. The band charges forward with more of their intense sound with this full band undertaking on “Beyond Silence.” The instrumentals all came together to great effect. I was loving how emotional and poignant Anders’ vocals were. He really packs in the mood and feeling to his execution, driving home a very powerful and at times, bewildering sound. Some steel lap guitars also add a dynamic element to the vibes. 

On “Just A Game,” more acoustic guitar solely comes to the forefront towards the start of this track. Right away an immediate sense is realized once Anders’ evocative vocal harmonies enter. I was mesmerized from the start of the band’s startling delivery. I could hear the low stirring sounds of the strings adding a chilling undercurrent to the music. “Tired Love” is another piano-based song from the band. As emotions take flight, Anders reels you in with his soaring emotionally powered vocals. You can feel the emotions behind his delivery and performance. I loved the band’s great acoustic sound here. The strings also tied the music together nicely. A strong and intimate sound comes from the acoustic guitar on “Lopsided Gyre (Revisited).” Anders’ vocals join in, bringing the intensity up another notch. Next, more instrumentals pull listeners in. The band sends us off with another resonating number from them. 

Anders and O’Bitz reel listeners right from the get-go with their unforgettable sound. With a warm vibe, Anders’ dynamic falsetto vocals have a way of drawing listeners closer into the sounds. You can tell that the band is taking their time on these releases as they unhurriedly let these sets of songs build and grow on their own. The way they seem to nurture their craft is seen in this artistic endeavor as the sounds seem to unfold and develop on their own. Anders and O’Bitz are undeniably talented and their truly emotional resonant vocals and musicianship could be seen in every little detail of Variant Blues, a release that sees the band taking the aforementioned genres to whole new heights.