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Campfire Cassettes is one man with many words

Hilariously bitter

Campfire Cassettes will sing about beautifully deviant creatures twice this weekend. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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At the heart of it all, the power of a singer-songwriter is the ability to convey the perception of a singular vision, of one person letting out everything that's inside them. There's nothing separating them from the listener besides one guitar and one microphone. When this form finds its most fragile and human moment, we find something like Nick Drake's crushing finale, Pink Moon. Elsewhere, this form gives a sordid glimpse into a fucked-up mind, as in the weirdly popular recordings of Charles Manson's early folk attempts.

Somewhere in the middle, we find acts like Campfire Cassettes. One is never a hundred percent clear just how much of the many, many words, are coming directly from the sincere mind of Campfire Cassettes' Jonathan Buchanan, though one hopes the answer would be something like, "Not a whole lot."

Campfire Cassettes was started by Jonathan Buchanan as a way of getting these pesky songs out of his head. Sometimes he performs with a full band, but the tour he's on finds him performing solo, with an assist from his tourmate, Todd N Todd (AKA Todd Daniels). The first song on the Los Angeles-based Campfire Cassettes' upcoming LP, GOSLEBROCK, features this line: "My sister Mary got everything. She got a brand new horse when she was seventeen. My sister Mary got everything. When I was seventeen, I got an STD." It's this sort of downer self-deprecation and outer bitterness that defines Campfire Cassettes.

It'd be depressing if it weren't so hilarious.

Todd Daniels, meanwhile, has been playing guitar for 20 years, versus Buchanan's relatively recent career in building up his guitar playing.

"I tell stories that are sometimes kind of quirky," says Daniels. "There's this ruse that I do onstage where I'm waiting for the other Todd to show up, but it's just me. I'll finish the show as the next Todd and thank everybody for putting up with the earlier me. I just need to break it up a little bit."

"Todd's a way better guitar player than I am," breaks in Buchanan. "My favorite song of his is about a horse that dies because his heart explodes from a cocaine overdose. That's my favorite."

Both Campfire Cassettes and Todd N Todd dabble in songs that explore dark or sexual or weirdly violent subject matter, yet approached with a distanced humor that betrays a history and backstory not explicitly laid out. Take, for instance, "Coke & Viagra," Campfire Cassette's ode to blindly fishing in the world for brief encounters and anything even drifting close to what someone might call love.

"We've all had our experiences," says Buchanan. "I've learned my lessons in my youth. I try to keep it easy, now. The greenroom that we're in, right now, is pretty mild."

In a similar vein as other comedy singer-songwriters (not to pigeonhole Campfire Cassettes), Buchanan approaches every seedy topic with a gentle voice and a winsomely strummed guitar. Even when he's being outwardly hostile or pitifully self-loathing, everything comes across as a sprightly folk song that pulls in under two minutes.

Many of the songs are relatively timeless, though some approach a version of social commentary, like the curmudgeonly takedown of musical hipster affectations, "Fuck You Like a Ukulele." Elsewhere, we have the self-pitying indictment of Los Angeles culture, "Older Men." GOSLEBROCK closes out with "Ryan Gosling," another study in desperate Hollywood living, as someone calling themselves Ryan Gosling begs for someone to fuck them to the top.

There's a severe lack of fascinating lyrics in the world - so much so that fascinating lyrics demand comment. Campfire Cassettes and Todd N Todd are two singer-songwriters that sound like more than two singer-songwriters, and their words are worth hearing.

CAMPFIRE CASSETTES, w/ Todd N Todd, 6 p.m., Friday, July 25, Le Voyeur, 404 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, cover tba, 360.943.5710

CAMPFIRE CASSETTES, w/ Todd N Todd, 7 p.m., Saturday, July 26, Metronome Coffee, 3518 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, cover tba, 253.301.2375

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