Monday, July 21, 2014

Watch: Dry the River - "Everlasting Light"

It's expected that sometime in the space between a band's debut and sophomore record the idea will be entertained to tweak, perhaps even completely reinvent their sound and British indie rock quartet Dry the River are perhaps no exception. While the departure of violinist/multi-instrumentalist Will Harvey might've played some part, it turns out (or at least in the case of the past two singles) that Dry the River are forgoing the folkier aspects of their humble folk rock beginnings in favor of much more rock edged pop approach. The positive here being that they are freed a bit from the sense of pervasive melancholy that seemed to ensnare Peter Liddle's poignant but often morose songwriting. 
"Everlasting Light", the second single from the upcoming sophomore effort Alarms in the Heart, proves that Liddle is capable of effective lyricism at a quicker pace and that the band are a lot more fun than their material might otherwise suggest. Taking a rather different approach and having the source of Liddle and company's pain be the external rather than the emotional or spiritual, the video for "Everlasting Light" sees Dry the River lads paired with a group of fearsome women with black belts in karate. An expected amount of carnage ensues as the band find themselves way over their head but bruised pride aside, the quartet find themselves virtually unscathed from the floor-mopping bout.

"Everlasting Light" also dismantles a bit of Dry the River's characteristic climactic surges perhaps for the best. While the way they've done so has never seemed particularly rote, there's no denying that it proved to be an oft used part of the band's formula and "Everlasting Light" quickly establishes that the band can do without it to advance the song forward. There's clearly climactic highs reached in "Everlasting Light" but rather than the whole band rallying forward in a trademark swell, it's achieved simply through Liddle's own natural cadence - his vocals rising without the need for a band's tumultuous deluge. 


Dry the River's sophomore album Alarms in the Heart is out August 26th on Trangressive Records.

The Dø - "Miracles (Back In Time)"

After the release of their new single "Keep Your Lips Sealed" two short months ago, Finnish/French experimental pop duo The Dø have pretty much hit the ground running with album details while also keeping those details to the bare minimum. While their influences/inspirations range pretty from all over (but mostly rap/r&b), the duo's new single "Miracles (Back in Time)" is still very much a part of their expectation-defying, genre-trouncing style.

"Miracles", manages to rely on many of the conventions of electronic music without allowing itself to be defined by them. In "Miracles" there's a deft but minimal use of samples that grant the tune an elevated sense of grandeur all the while the vocal lines are smooth and fluid rather unlike the glitchy and clipped pacing of "Keep Your Lips Sealed" all the while the drum beats rebound cavernously with the notable lack of accompaniment. There's no gallop toward a climax, rather the tune revels in its own simplicity, building up and breaking apart its layers before they become too complex in different combination and configurations. Unlike other tracks by The Dø that pit Olivia Merilahti' vocals firmly on par with whatever the band's cooked up, there's a notable stripping back, Merilahti (though more than competent to) doesn't need to exert a whole lot of effort to maintain focus. It's an interesting turn for a band that's skilled at making beauty out of the clamor but one that's ultimately successful as the twosome make a surprisingly catchy pop jam from only a handful of elements.

The Dø's upcoming third album Shake Shook Shaken will be out September of this year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Listen: Husky - "I'm Not Coming Back"

About two years ago, Aussie quartet Husky arrived toting their debut Forever So on Sub Pop. What was contained within was an oddly atmospheric and yet driving brand of folk pop. The most notable thing about them was the subtle way in which singer/songwriter Husky Gawenda's doleful tenor seemed to caress his carefully chosen phrases. On new track "I'm Not Coming Back",  Husky essentially offer up a souped up version of more of the same defining characteristics. "I'm Not Coming Back" is the most fast paced the band have allowed themselves but even as the track speeds along there's no denying the regard for space and care that's downright refreshing. It's good to know that even as the band grows there's still an element of their discerning nature that'll no doubt aid what might be a far poppier direction of their yet to be announced follow up record by grounding it in sincerity.

Listen to Husky's latest single "I'm Not Coming Back:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Watch: Little Tybee - "Don't Quit Your Day Job" (Live at Doppler Studios)

While any news of a brand new record from Atlanta jazz-inflected folk pop outfit Little Tybee has either been suppressed or is virtually non-existent, that certainly isn't stopping them. Considering we only got the dazzlingly rich For Distant Viewing after Little Tybee postponed it's release for about a year and a half, they don't seem in any particular rush to hurry their process along and that's probably for the best.

"Don't Quit Your Day Job" (which is filmed at the same studio that brought us the updated version of Building A Bomb's "Hearing Blue" that eventually found its way onto For Distant Viewing) places both the band and its frontman in a rather curious place. For starters, its clear from the get go that "Don't Quit Your Day Job" is a complete and total jam. Despite its studio setting, it features the band in absolutely rare form that's pretty much equivalent to the band's live set - there's an awe-inspiring amount of technical pyrotechnics that don't really pull you out of the song itself. Brock Scott spends the majority of the track in his high register, which might actually be the most impressive performance in the sea of the band's impressive performances. Instead of piercing, Brock Scott's falsetto is pillowy and agile, graceful in its extended execution.

Brock Scott's lyricism has always been a wonderful draw but in a rare, unexpected turn, seems not secondary but tertiary to the rest of the band's performance and Scott's vocals in general. That's not to say that the lyrics are weak here but rather they band is operating on a level that the lyrics just stand no chance of matching. "Don't Quit Your Day Job" is a pretty necessary reminder that Little Tybee are a consummate live band, luckily released just ahead of a summer tour. You can see if they're coming to your neck of the woods here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Listen: Lewis & Clarke - "Triumvirate"

There are few bands where the word sprawling seems so wonderfully apt at describing them than the folk-fueled art pop of Pennsylvania's Lewis & Clarke or its mastermind Lou Rogai. Over the course of several years, Rogai has established a clear and honest vision of elevated longform songwriting that's mesmerizing in its grandeur, immersive in its majestic sweep, and yet so neatly contained within its wide expansive.

For those that have followed the career of Rogai's Lewis & Clarke, "Triumvirate", the title track from his upcoming record, is an offering that's wonderful in its familiarity while avoiding mere rote repetition. "Triumvirate" trades the dreamy lushness of Blasts Of Holy Birth for an intriguing openness, employing a sort of horizontal layering effort instead of the vertical - the result is a powerful possession of space as Rogai's proves he doesn't have to package his lyrics in fancy dressings, the melodies enduring in their own right yet floated a long on elegantly arched piano and the barely there whisper of guitar. Even in its rising swells, "Triumvirate" maintains a pervasive quiet, an ever so slight push keeps the track from succumbing to what could easily be a self-destructive sense of lethargy. Instead "Triumvirate" strikes with the subtle strength of ocean's waves - capable of enveloping you in its nearly 9 minute swell before you even know what hit you.

Lewis & Clarke's upcoming full length Triumvirate is out September 9th on  La Société Expéditionnaire bt is available for pre-order via Kickstarter campaign along with a couple rare goodies like a companion book, double 12" LP, silk-screened poster, and more. You can contribute here.

A preview of several of the album's songs is available in A Map of Mazes, a short film/mood piece directed by Kevin Haus.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pitstop: PHOX

When one of your favorite bands personally recommends another band, it's a good idea to listen to them. That's the takeaway from when Typhoon percussionist/ukulelist Devin Gallagher suggested one time tour mates PHOX to me at a show at this year's SXSW. Turns out the Wisconsin natives were on more than a handful of can't miss lists and for good reason - originally hailing from the circus town of Baraboo, their songs contain a sort of imaginative narrative flourish that's sure to set them apart from the multitudes of other folk pop bands plying their wares.

Framed around singer/songwriter Monica Martin, the sextet take a much more laid back approach to their soulful pop-infused folk. It's never quite about the hooks for the band - who certainly have a knack for it if single "1936" or "Slow Motion" are anything to go off. No instead PHOX's main talent is setting and maintaining specific moods while demonstrating their musicianship in a way that's less flash and all substance.

PHOX is a subtly brilliant blend of typical rock instruments with the more chamber pop ornaments - guitar, bass, drums and voice complimented by banjo, piano, and trumpet, clarinet which recalls early Fanfarlo (though more in the assortment than any true stylistic fingerprints). Aside from Martin's tenderly offered vocals, the rest of the band gathers in a decidedly artful and beguiling dizzy whirl of sound. It never quite rises to the overwhelming crescendo, instead settling for calm plods and gentle swells.

PHOX are the kind of band full comfortable in their sounds no doubt a direct result both of the band members years of friendship and time devoted into developing their sound. There's nothing particularly rushed, nothing truly insistent about PHOX and that's a definite plus - their folky pop songs blossoming naturally but ever wary not to overstay their welcome.

PHOX's self titled debut full length is out June 24th on Partisan Records. Orders available here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Watch: Sondre Lerche - "Bad Law"

After nearly a decade long career of being known for it, Norwegian singer/songwriter/popsmith extraordinaire Sondre Lerche is making a full on break from his nice guy image. There's been subtler attempts at it before (see lyrics to "Coliseum Town" for the possibly the most overt), but in the video for "Bad Law", the first single from his upcoming seventh full length studio album Please Lerche really goes for the gold.

The story in the "Bad Law" video is one we're all probably far too familiar, Lerche in a show of poor decision making has a little too much to drink and starts to humiliate himself more and more at a party. It says a lot about Lerche's charm that he can embody what everyone would probably agree as the absolute worst part of any party and draw a strange sort of enjoyment out of watching his drunken, increasingly embarrassing antics not with fingers over the face watching cringeworthiness but unabashed delight at his antics. Taking his cues from the track, Lerche's dancing is wild and erratic, especially during the track's most cacophonous moment building toward near nuclear levels of instability. There's an almost limitless potential for the video to dip into a pitiable tragicomedy but things are kept surprisingly and appreciatively light as we're shown not only Lerche's continuous unraveling but a little of the aftermath of the night's shenanigans.

Watch Sondre Lerche's video for "Bad Law":

Sondre Lerche's upcoming record Please is out September 23rd on his own Mona Records.