Song of the Day: Thieving Irons - Babylon Is Burning

photo by Maryanne Ventrice

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Babylon is Burning” by Thieving Irons from their 2010 self-released album The Midnight Hum.

Thieving Irons - Babylon Is Burning (MP3)

Fans of the band Pela were devastated when they announced they would be disbanding late last year, especially considering they were on the verge of releasing a new album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships. The band’s members have made the most of 2010, however, and given fans more than a thing or two be be excited about. In January, Pela guitarist Nate Martinez released a song entitled “Ashes on the Riverbank” under the name Thieving Irons, and announced that a full-length album would be coming later in the year. Pela front man Billy McCarty and bassist Eric Sanderson went on to form Augustines, releasing a song called “Book of James” and announcing that it would be included on Rise Ye Sunken Ships, which the duo would release under their new moniker.

As promised, Martinez released Thieving Irons’ debut, The Midnight Hum, on his own Seabird Recording Co. on August 24. The album is full of beautifully textured indie folk highlighted by Martinez’s distinctive voice. Thieving Irons aren’t as overtly anthemic as Pela, or even Augustines, although some of Pela’s sensibilities, both musical and thematic, remain, and it’s not hard to believe that Martinez used to belong to a band that included McCarty and Sanderson. The entire album can be heard on Thieving Irons’ website here.

Today’s Song of the Day, “Babylon is Burning,” begins with some mournful slide guitar before Martinez sings “Lift up your head son, you’re bankrupt not dead” with a mellifluous rasp. After the first verse some toms come into the background as Martinez sings “Babylon is burning / Drowned out in the silence / The dreams of the failures / Keeping you honest.” Behind the grim lyrics and Martinez’s weary, dejected tone, there is hope to be found, the underlying message being that even in the darkest times you must persevere and “keep searching for your crown.” Eventually, all the instrumental elements come together and Martinez moans the song to its conclusion.

Thieving Irons live consists of Martinez, Mike Brown (who co-produced the album along with Martinez) and various other musicians. They’ve currently been making the rounds around the Northeast and Midwest, and hopefully they’ll find their way over to the Northwest before too long. For more information visit the band’s website or MySpace page.

Here is a video of Thieving Irons performing “Babylon is Burning” for The Wild Honey Pie:

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