Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Listen: Tiny Ruins - "Carriages"

                                         (photo by Georgie Craw)

With the release of her sophomore record rapidly approaching, New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins wants to make sure you know exactly what you're in for. The latest single "Carriages" is the third offering from Brightly Painted One and certainly the heaviest. "Me at the Museum, You at the Wintergardens" was a work of effusive brevity, "The Ballad of the Hanging Parcel" an expansive yarn, and "Carriages" takes a page from the latter; a sumptuous sprawl adorned with luminescent harmonies.

"Carriages" is a casual plod, showing the full breadth of Fullbrook's narrative prowess organically growing while also taking great care to provide an elastic accompaniment that still manages to drive the tune forward. It's an emotive piece of talented songcraft delicately fashioned and the effort clearly shows.

Tiny Ruins' sophomore full length album Brightly Painted One is out May 2nd on Spunk Records in Austrailia, May 5th in the UK/EU on Bella Union, and May 13th on Flying Nun Records in the US.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Listen: Lucius - "Genevieve"

Back when Brooklyn pop outfit Lucius revealed the official details behind the much anticipated debut album Wildewoman, I lamented the lack of standout track "Genevieve" from their self-titled EP. The band assured me that the blow would soon be mitigated and while including it as bonus track from the European release of their album isn't quite what I expected, it certainly helps that they've allowed us natives to at least hear the brand new version of the track.

As Lucius proved on their full length's first run, there's really not too much the quintet can do to improve upon their already immaculate sound - the ladies vocals are a bold and brassy as ever, intertwining seamlessly, the band a present force around them and given their own moments to shine. "Genevieve" was a cacophonous triumph on the Lucius EP and it remains so here - spruced up with a new mix, which adds another layer of variety with its production effects. The band aren't really in need of fancy recording tricks given their tight knit precision and the ladies' bodacious vocal chops but variety is the spice of life after all, and probably a nice way of putting a new spin on a track the band have been playing live for years so granted they kept the effects to minimum, there's really not much to complain about. "Genevieve" is boisterous and jubilant, fun and flirty, and well, just damn good.

Listen to the brand new mix of "Genevieve":


Monday, March 31, 2014

Listen: Tiny Ruins - "The Ballad of the Hanging Parcel"

A little more than a month ago, New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins announced the details of her forthcoming record Brightly Painted One and offered up the effusive "Me at the Museum, You at the Wintergardens". It was perfect introduction to the subtly arresting folk that.

While "Me at the Museum, You at the Wintergardens" fluttered with coquettish effervescence, "The Ballad of the Hanging Parcel" takes a different route - not quite melancholic but far more introspective. After about a minute of unhurried rumination, the track picks up with the introduction of drums. It's a steady build filled with drive-by harmonies at unexpected intervals that helps to make the track particularly dynamic illustration of the track's theme of uncertainty. Nearly double the size of our first taste of Brightly Painted One, Fullbrook expands her narrative world building on "The Ballad of the Hanging Parcel" while not slacking one bit on the emotional resonance.

Listen to Brightly Painted One's second single "The Ballad of the Hanging Parcel":

Tiny Ruins' sophomore full length is out May 13th on Flying Nun Records.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Watch: Sylvan Esso - "Coffee"

                                                   (photo by DL Anderson)

One of the highlights of my SXSW experience was without a doubt getting the chance to see North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso perform. After making the terrible decision to sleep on their tunes when some of my favorite artists were advising all their fans to do otherwise, I dug in based on a pretty noncommittal suggestion from a friend. "Have you heard of Sylvan Esso? I really like their song 'Coffee'" she practically almost shrugged out and yet that was apparently just the sort of thing I need to light a fire under me - I checked out "Coffee" and was enamored, I checked out "Play It Right" and fell absolutely in love.

One of the most charming things about Sylvan Esso's performance is just how into the music they're creating they get. It's the sort of thing absolute necessary to make an electronic-based performance worthwhile and yet, the twosome went above and beyond in that category. Amelia Randall Meath utterly dominates all free space with her killer and unpredictable dance moves; enough to evoke a chorus of "ooh"s and "aah"s while she dipped and rolled to Nick Sanborn's infectious beats. So it's rather unsurprising, considering not only the lyrics but also how ingrained in the duo's live show it is that the focus of their video for "Coffee" would be on dance.

It starts unassumingly enough - the camera sweeps and follows Sanborn into a dance hall where a night of line dancing is taking place. After a bit of warm up everyone's having a good time and Meath and Sanborn blend right in. And just as quickly the scene changes to a house party in full swing - there's couples kissing, attendees passed out, and no one seems to really want to be there. Meath dances but her heart's not really in it while Sanborn's in the kitchen, downing a beer and barely participating in the conversation that's occurring. Perhaps the most unexpected source of enjoyment is the last segment - an sort of modern sock hop, the fun of the contra dance returns in earnest and then Sylvan Esso deploys its secret weapon - Amelia's badass moves. Despite being the camera's focus, the multitude of people paying her no mind makes the video's message abundantly clear - when you're doing what you want for the hell of it, there's no stopping your good time. A couple of good friends can help but ultimately the moment of pure elation comes final dancefloor chaos. There's an order in Meath and her friends' choreographed sequence but all those people milling about just out of focus are having the time of their lives and really, Amelia probably is too - cracking a smile during the most rigorous part of her dancing right before the cut.

If you can catch them on tour, I strongly, strongly recommend it. Dates here, and you can preorder the self-titled debut record out May 13th on Partisan Records.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Listen: William Tyler - "Whole New Dude"

Last year, right about this time, Nashville guitarist William Tyler put out a record. That record, Impossible Truth, was rather unlike the multitude of other records released at the time or even the whole year. While bands/artists pumped out records that seemed to screech and keen for relevancy, Tyler's Impossible Truth was a revelation in its slow-building organic plod. An album of expansive, patient guitar work - it was an album that seemed much more content to draw absolutely no attention to itself, to lie in wait until the right listener, which the proper amount of appreciation for its supple melodies and silky smooth flow, came along.

Impossible Truth was such a slow burner that I'm rather surprised William Tyler can follow it up quite so soon. And yet, that's clearly a testament to Tyler's musicianship - overflowing with musical ideas but skilled enough to sift through them and give them full breadth of being. There's not a single uninteresting moment in 13 minute offering "Whole New Dude", the bright burning star of Tyler's upcoming Lost Colony EP. After a bit of casual unfurling, "Whole New Dude" gets off to a sumptuous start - William Tyler's bent guitar lines adding just the right splotches of coloring to the rest of Tyler's freewheeling tread. Though always tunefully melodic and pleasantly so, there's always a sense of freedom in Tyler's compositions - that suddenly he'll take an unexpected path and wind up on a very different musical ramble and that's no different here. On "Whole New Dude", Tyler flexes his guitar chops and masterful musicianship with the help of a band while also keeping things on the right side of unpredictable. Tyler's never the sort to suddenly jump ship on a good musical idea but he knows when its outlived its usefulness when all its had to say has been said and transitions to the next one with careful efficiency.

Theoretically, William Tyler's "Whole New Dude" is a song in three parts - it's rousing intro, the spry and spirited meaty development, and its bristling, pseudo-showy coda. The transitions all handled with a delicacy but not quite the sleight of hand you'd expect.

William Tyler's Lost Colony EP is out April 29th on Merge Records.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Listen: Wye Oak - "Glory"

It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, especially those who've paid even the slightest bit of attention to Baltimore indie rock duo Wye Oak, that their SXSW sets were the highlight of the whole damn thing. But unlike their previous live sets where you could be certain to see Jenn Wasner shredding away to her heart's content, the band's decision to shelve guitar created a much more curiosity-provoking experience. While "The Tower" asserted that the duo's new song didn't sound at all lost or lacking, how the guitarlessness translated into their live set was a definite cause for concern. One subtly allayed by the band's excellent musicianship.

"Glory", the second single from Wye Oak's upcoming Shriek finds the duo plotting a distant course from the land of indie rock and settling somewhere in the realm of danceable electro-pop. It still maintains an organic edge, never quite plunging deep enough into the realm of synths and 808s but there's a certain funkiness, a rumpshaking quality alien to Wye Oak songs and one that was no doubt influenced from Wasner's poppier side projects Flock of Dimes and Dungeonesse. Nevertheless, it's not too jarring a transition but one that seems quite natural both within the context of "Glory" and the band itself. You don't need to have seen the duo live to know that their new album will live up to the hype. "The Tower" and "Glory" make that abundantly clear.

And in case you missed it, here's the first single "The Tower", Wye Oak's Shriek is out April 29th on Merge.

Friday, March 7, 2014

All Around Sound is Turning Four - Day 5: Kishi Bashi

It was a strange sort of serendipity that brought me to Kishi Bashi - or rather the sense of serendipity a showgoer feels when the opening act for the band you actually paid to see is not only good but incredible. I had long been a fan of Sondre Lerche and trusted his pretty much flawless skill in electing such talented openers but nothing prepared me at all for Kishi Bashi. When he took the stage with violin in hand and practically an armory of instruments at his disposal I settled in for a show and certainly was not disappointed. It wasn't the spectacle of your typical one man band but the pure display of bonafide musicianship and enjoyment that won me over. Everyone longs for that one 'I saw this band when they played to pretty much no one in a bar in the middle of nowhere' story and Kishi Bashi is more or less mine. Except you can replace "bar in the middle of nowhere" with the Bowery Ballroom and "no one" to a packed house of unexpected (but delighted) observers. Nevertheless I had that moment, shared with a bunch of strangers, and seeing his gradual rise from virtually unknown opener to venue packing headliner is a point of pride for me. As I continued to catch him live and noted the borderless development of a unique trademark sound a question always nagged at me that never quite got answered (or asked) the few times I've been able to strong arm Kishi Bashi into talking to me - what sort of music does K. even listen to? So I asked him and got this mix.

Kishi Bashi's contribution:

Kishi Bashi's 21 favorite mostly funky classic moments in prog rock / jazz-rock fusion  (in no particular order):