For almost a year now, Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi have been running a song-a-month club that, to me, exemplifies the future of the magazine format on the Web.
Rabbit Rabbit Radio is a monthly exhibition that showcases one new, downloadable song each month, with lyrics, a small essay about how the song came into being, and often a video. The songs are studio recorded and fully crafted — these aren’t demos bashed out while the iPhone was recording.
Each installment also includes photos — artistic shots of forgotten places, gorgeous touristy shots of Europe, up-close puzzle shots of objects or scenes, or even pictures of Kihlstedt and Bossi’s little daughter and her friends — and a thoughtful, fun list-of-10-things that often includes reader input.
Sometimes, some of the pieces are bound together by a theme. July’s song was “Paper Prison (Silverfish),” accompanied by photos from a still-active professional bookbindery, and a video tour of Bossi’s father’s Colonial-era book collection.
A definite look and mood pervade Rabbit Rabbit Radio’s pages — playful, but also reflective and thoughtful, with a love for the things of bygone times. You get lots of sepia tones in their videos and Instagram photos, and a crackling inkpress font that pervades the site. The overall design — graced with images by Vancouver artist Mariko Ando — has the feel of a cozy attic full of a past generation’s wonders.
The music is anything but old-fashioned. Kihlstedt has developed a songwriting style of dark elegance, pieces rich with sadness and poetry, sometimes borrowing from Americana, sometimes building the intensity that suited her so well with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I’m not as familiar with Bossi’s music, but he’s been versatile during Rabbit Rabbit Radio’s first 10 months, with some artsy rock songs and the old-timey piano sentiment of “Ballad for No One.”
One of my favorites is “The Curious One,” a Kihlstedt song closer to the prog side of the scale, with a big, dramatic sound worthy of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and a surprisingly tuneful chorus. Lots of nifty violin playing, too. A stripped-down version of the song went out on YouTube last year, but you’ve got to hear the full-blown version, listenable on Bandcamp.
December’s installment is a haunting, pioneer-tinged ballad called “In the Dead of Night,” based on the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was taken by the Comanche tribe, joined their world, and sired Quanah, the tribe’s last great chief. By contrast, the November song, “Hero and a Saint,” is a fun bit of shrill rock. The accompanying photos, from a Kihlstedt/Bossi European tour, include such unexpected gems as the discovery of little Franklin & Marshall college becoming an international fashion statement.
As Kihlstedt and Bossi approach the one-year anniversary of the project, I’m hoping they find it as successful an experiment as I do. Yes, other people have done “multimedia” on the Web, but they’ve done it exceptionally well, with a warm, personal touch. Subscription prices are low, as little as $1 a month.
You can sample and purchase all the songs to date on Bandcamp.