Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Listen: Night Beds - "Tide Teeth"

Late last year when Nashville based outfit Night Beds released "Me, Liquor & God" I was cautiously optimistic about the new direction singer/songwriter Winston Yellen appeared to be taking. The shift in style is subtler if you followed Night Beds' every action and not just their own major releases - namely Yellen featuring on Tomas Barfod's "Sell You".  While Yellen's flirted with electronic music before in the guise of the swirling dream pop that pillowed his soft, doleful tenor, he never outright committed to the electronic influence entirely - instead tapering it with the jammy folk pop stylings of Country Sleep and "Head For The Hills". "Tide Teeth", the latest single from Night Beds, however asserts that the heavy electronic lean of "Me, Liquor & God" might very well be here to stay.

"Tide Teeth" places Yellen much more aggressively in the R&B camp that "Me, Liquor & God" could be plausibly denied being apart of. There's no mistaking the influence and the sound here for better or worse. The songwriting on "Me, Liquor & God" was reminiscent enough to Country Sleep/Every Fire, Every Joy that it was easy to find solace that the even in the shuffle, the soul of Night Beds would endure. "Tide Teeth" however, you're not so sure but Yellen's voice is a rather charming fit for this new direction and the use of autotune/processed vocal effects is tastefully deployed. The new direction is sure to be a jarring realization for those of the barely there electronic-tinged dream pop of Night Beds' earlier days but there's a much more subtler level of musicianship being cultivated as Night Beds try to distinguish themselves from the pack of other electronic leaning bands. Luckily for Night Beds Winston Yellen's voice (both aurally and lyrically) has always been it's key ingredient and as long as the band don't lose sight of that in even their most exploratory, experimental pop-embracing moments, they'll be a band worth listening to.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pitstop: AURORA

My discovery of Norwegian singer/songwriter Aurora Aksnes aka AURORA is essentially the reason CMJ continues to be favorite music festival. I had never heard of her but lured to Brooklyn Bowl with the promise of one of Adult Jazz's few stateside shows, I was charmed and intrigued by the fresh eighteen year old's charmingly awkward stage banter and pure appreciation to be there.

AURORA's presence at CMJ is precisely the reason why I fell in love with CMJ in the first place. With only her (massively successful) first single "Awakening" released and nothing really to promote but herself, she was invited as an official artist based on pure potential, the strength of that debut, and word of mouth from those lucky enough to see Aksnes in her native Norway. It was a gamble well paid however as Aksnes and band were a refreshing treat and definite festival standout. 

And while right after that successful run of shows stateside would've been just the right time to release another track, it wasn't until some months later at the very tale end that we were gifted with the delightful "Under Stars" - a track that delicately splices a more overt electronic element into Asknes' precocious folk pop narratives. If the winsome quality alone of her music alone wasn't enough, the patience deployed in the release of her music seems designed to curtail hype and establish AURORA as an artist that's more than just the buzz surrounding her.   

With the release of the debut EP Running With The Wolves planned for May 4th on Glassnote Records, it luckily won't be too long before AURORA proves that to a wider collection of ears.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Listen: Waterstrider - "Nowhere Now"

For all their declarations of being a world pop/afrobeat band, Oakland CA outfit Waterstrider have been surprisingly subtle with overt references on the singles they've released thus far. On "Nowhere Now", the fourth single from debut full length of the same name, Waterstrider let the floodgate open and deviate from the more conventional pop stylings in favor of an outright jam. It's a percussion-smorgasboard so much so that the fivesome enlist some outside help for added cacophony and yet, even achieving max-percussiveness Nate Salman's vocals as a laser focused as ever - shifting and contorting as the see fit just above the clamor.

It's the most immediate of the tracks we've heard thus far - sure to galvanize and incited a dance party in all lucky enough to hear the title track. It's no wonder they quintet saved "Nowhere Now" until right before the release of their album, it's a definite standout and sure to be a strong contender for any listener's favorite album track. Luckily for Waterstrider, it's no fluke. "Nowhere Now" comes after a full album of world music referencing but not reliant tracks and the full on frenetic energy feels well and truly earned. Apart from album context, "Nowhere Now" exists as an infectious dance-y number that continues to display just what's so great about the Oakland band: namely their familiarity-bred cohesiveness.

Waterstrider's debut full length album Nowhere Now is out now and available to purchase digitally directly from the band via Bandcamp.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Listen: Son Lux - "Change Is Everything"

It's so incredibly easy to get lost in all the how's of composer/producer Ryan Lott aka Son Lux's music that you miss out on some very real moments of grandeur. That's hardly surprising - there's an awful lot going on in even the most basic Son Lux song as Lott finds more and more inventive ways to bring a refreshing newness to electronic music. And yet, for all his incredible innovation, Lott consistently hits it out of the park in the one aspect no one really expects an electronic music to: lyricism. Underneath the dazzling spectacle of chopped up and reconfigured instrumental parts; of vocal samples synced up played with a keyboard, Lott has a way for poignant lyricism that really makes their presence a distinguishing factor from other electronic music. 

"Change Is Everything" puts Lott's lyricism front and center where it deserves to be. "This moment changes everything" Lott sings and it's hard to ascribe that triumphant introduction to Son Lux's new direction. Bringing touring members Rafiq Bhatia and Ian Chang officially onto the project, a new label, a new record, Lott has a whole lot of change to speak of. And yet, one of the definitive qualities of Son Lux lyrics is a sense of universal application - Lott often stops short of exactly how the lyrics pertain to him and usually eludes direct explanations. It's a vagueness that instead of being of frustratingly sparse, tends to be marvelously life affirming. 

"Change Is Everything" makes those stellar music moments felt rather than heard however. It's a track that pulsates with a vibrant fervor that often culminates in stratospheric vocal work. It's astonishing just how much everything works in tandem here as the song itself radiates with a deeply felt sense of positivity. The newly minted trio are on to bigger and better things and there's no greater introduction to that than "Change Is Everything" a song of beguiling charm that's sure to set your heart a flutter.   

Son Lux's upcoming fourth album Bones is out June 23rd on Glassnote Records. The trio is currently on tour so be sure to find out when they'll be in your neck of the woods (if they haven't been already) here.

(via NPR)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Listen: Nils Frahm - "Wall"

With all the International holidays popping up out of the blue I was surprised to find that something as simple as Piano Day did not already exist. In fact, its only equivalent is a day-long festival that happens every year on the longest day of the year in Make Music NY. And yet, German contemporary pianist Nils Frahm took it upon himself to rectify that through the declaration that from heretofore the 88th day of this year and every year thereafter shall be known as Piano Day. That declaration has been generally well received with the aid of Frahm's label Erased Tapes and worldwide celebrations popping up in London at Rough Trade East, New York City at Rough Trade West, and in Los Angeles at Touch Vinyl.

It seems that Frahm's edict wasn't merely a spur of the minute decision however. Piano Day also is the day Frahm decided to release a surprise album - Solo for free. The album continues in a long line of Frahm's album that suspend the notion of genre and feature Frahm's immersive solo piano music although Solo does so with a bit of a twist. The album was recorded on a prototype of a model of piano which Frahm hopes to fund through the sale of the physical versions of the new record and donations. "Wall", recorded on the KlavinsM370 is the introduction and a sneak peek at the super piano Frahm hopes to fund in piano builder David Klavins' KlavinsM450. The hope is to unveil the creation at festival to celebrate Piano Day in Berlin in 2017.

If you've heard any of Frahm's music before - especially the adventurous take on a live album Spaces, it's hard to believe the man could make his music any more engaging and yet "Wall" with the aid of the KlavinsM370 is like hearing Frahm in surround sound. Beginning with repetitive staccato figures - its starling immense, cavernous, a deluge of sound that's both space-conscious and an absolute inundation. Frahm is no stranger to the magic found in the use of space and yet still, "Wall" takes it to a logical progression - in the pure power of the gargantuan size of the 3.7 meter height of the KlavinsM370. But Frahm's touch is delicate, the new piano has the effortless ability to swallow up everything that Frahm appropriately balances. "Wall" is an all-consuming surge but one that Frahm navigates with his characteristic mastery of space for a piece that balances epic grandeur with intimate charm.

Nils Frahm's new album Solo is available for download now. To read more about Piano Day, the Klavins M370, KlavinsM450, and/or to support its creation go here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Listen: Villagers - "Hot Scary Summer"

After a briefer bit of time between records, Villagers are back and ready to release another one out into the world. Hardly surprising considering the band were playing new songs while on the tour supporting the last one but it's a pleasant surprise that the new album is coming out a lot sooner than anyone could have participated.

While on {Awayland}, Villagers experimented with bringing electronics into their sounds to enrich the songs' texture, "Courage", the lead single from the upcoming third record hinted at a return to the more organic sounds of Becoming A Jackal with a twist: everything part of the record from it's composition to its later stage production was done exclusively by frontman Conor O'Brien.

O'Brien has always had an incredibly talent for songwriting which has allowed him to explore much more than your standard love songs but on Darling Arithmetic, O'Brien turns his narrative gaze a bit more inward and the results are wonderfully resonant. On "Hot Scary Summer", O'Brien sings with a renewed vigor that seeps into the performance. Often times playing the narrator over subject, "Hot Scary Summer" gets much of its emotive force less from O'Brien's knack for the proper phrase but almost exclusively from the fervor of O'Brien's delivery. It's a refreshing intimacy that you never realized was missing until now.

Listen to "Hot Scary Summer":

Darling Arithmetic is out April 14th in the US on Domino. Pre-order is available now.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Listen: Daughn Gibson - "Shatter You Through"

With the keyboard intro for new song "Shatter You Through", it's almost impossible to rectify the current Daughn Gibson with that of his sample-heavy debut All Hell. There's a logical progression of course especially when you factor in Daughn Gibson's shift to a band on sophomore record Me Moan but the new song from what is hopefully an upcoming record is a perfect example of an ability to blend different sounds and capitalize on potential in a way you don't quite expect. Daughn Gibson's trademark croon is there to the point you can practically hear the Presley-esque hip gyration but there's a hell of a lot going on in the new track in a satisfying way.

All Hell and Me Moan explored different sides of Daughn Gibson's aesthetic and "Shatter You Through" finds a way to marry them together in a way that's new and exciting and while staying true to their shared history. There's an obscuring of influence present and you're not entirely sure what's purely live sound and what's an artfully deployed sample (looking at your string flourishes) that makes you absolute want to experience the track live. It's a hell of a way to make your return and Daughn Gibson doesn't disappoint - making you crave not just the new tunes but the live energy to go with it and here's hoping he'll soon deliver. Until then, "Shatter You Through", grooving guitar riffs and all will be here and for that we should all be grateful.