Saturday, June 26, 2010

Now Streaming: Bonnaroo 2010

About two weeks ago, one of the biggest US music festivals, Bonnaroo, occurred. If you were like me, you couldn't pause real life for a couple days to enjoy heat, sweat, mud, and good music but luckily for all those that couldn't attend NPR was there doing live coverage and webcasts (Of which I caught an amazing set by the always lovely Regina Spektor). These performances are now archived and can be listen to, at your convenience. So listen and enjoy here!

Ra Ra Riot to tour US (and Canada too)

Indie pop rock band Ra Ra Riot are heading off on an extensive US (and some dates in Canada) tour in support of their upcoming album The Orchard. The new album is set for a late August release on Barsuk and the tour coincides with the release beginning on August 1st. Here are some dates below:

Aug 1 Montreal, Quebec - Osheaga Festival
Aug 4 Columbus, Ohio - Columbus State Fair w/ Devo
Aug 28 Toronto, Ontario - Molson Amphitheater w/ Tegan and Sara
Sept 5 Seattle, Washington - Bumbershoot Festival
Sept 9 Portland, Oregon - MusicfestNW @Wonder Ballroom
Sept 18 Geneva, New York - Three Stories Benefit @Cracker Factory
Sept 21 New York, New York - Bowery Ballroom
Sept 22 New York, New York - Bowery Ballroom
Sept 23 Brooklyn, New York - Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sept 24 Brooklyn, New York - Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sept 27 Northampton, Massachusetts - Pearl St.
Sept 28 New Haven, Connecticut - Toad's Place
Sept 29 Providence, Rhode Island - The Met
Oct 1 Boston, Massachusetts - Royale
Oct 2 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Trocadero
Oct 3 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Diesel
Oct 4 Ann Arbor, Michigan - Blind Pig
Oct 5 Chicago, Illinois - Metro
Oct 7 Minneapolis, Minnesota - Varsity Theatre
Oct 8 Omaha, Nebraska - Waiting Room
Oct 11 Denver, Colorado - Bluebird Theatre
Oct 12 Salt Lake City, Utah - In the Venue
Oct 13 Crystal Bay, Nevada - Crystal Bay Club
Oct 19 Pomona, California - Glass House
Oct 20 Los Angeles, California - The Music Box
Oct 21 San Diego, California - Belly Up Tavern
Oct 22 Tempe, Arizona - The Clubhouse
Oct 24 San Antonio, Texas - White Rabbits
Oct 26 Austin, Texas - Emo's
Oct 27 Houston, Texas - Warehouse Live
Oct 28 Dallas, Texas - Granae Theatre
Oct 29 Little Rock, Arkansas - Rev Room
Oct 30 Nashville, Tennessee - Exit/In
Nov 1 Birmingham, Alabama - Workplay Theatre
Nov 2 Atlanta, Georgia - Masquerade
Nov 3 Asheville, North Carolina - Orange Peel
Nov 4 Carrboro, North Carolina - Cat's Cradle
Nov 5 Washinton, DC - 9:30 Club
Nov 13 Vancouver, British Columbia - The Commodore
Nov 17 Calgary, Alberta - MacEwan Hall
Nov 19 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Louis' Pub
Nov 20 Winnepeg, Manitoba - The Garric

The band also released a video preview of "Keep It Quiet" from the forthcoming release and will be posting several others in the future so stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love Is All - Two Thousand and Ten Injuries (2010)

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Swedish Indie rock quintet Love Is All's third full-length album Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, released earlier this year in March, charms the listening from the opening with its high energy, almost hyperactive and yet controlled playing style and Josephine Olausson's unique childish voice. Instead of an emphasis being placed on vocals or instrumentals, they weave together sometimes trading roles like on lead track "Bigger Bolder" where the guitars finish the melodic lines after Olausson begins them. Definitely a summer album, the tracks have a warmness and jangly guitar stylings that wouldn't be out of place in surf-rock and yet, manages to elusively evade that classification or any strict classifications all-together (like a brief reggae-ishness in "False Pretense"). The album reminds me of British band Stricken City but only due to its energetic playing and somewhat nonsensical (and sometimes hard to hear) lyrics. That's not to say the lyrics are bad but that they aren't necessarily trying to do much more than entertain and enjoy what they do. Love Is All, with its hodge-podge of instruments, love of music-making certainly shines through on this album and I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn't charmed by the band, the album, and their respective whimsy.

Give the band a listen with the music video for "Kungen" directed by Olausson herself:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Random Musing: Horse Feathers and the Oregon Ballet

So after I attended the Horse Feathers concert in Poughkeepsie, folk musician John Craigie came to town and aftermentioning the concert mentioned Horse Feathers' collaboration with dancers. Intrigued I looked on Youtube and found some videos and found some info. Horse Feathers originally collaborated with the Oregon Ballet Theatre in November performing live accompaniment to original choreography in a show called Uprising. The show was so popular that they reprised the performance earlier this year in January. Enjoy some of the videos I found:

"Working Poor"

"Heathen's Kiss"

"In Our Blood"

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can (2010)

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British songtress Laura Marling's follow up album to her 2008 solo debut Alas I Cannot Swim, I Speak Because I Can begins with the dark "Devil's Spoke", similar to traditional storytelling folk song style, made all the more haunting by Marling's earthy voice and the male backing vocals before migrating to a brighter, more hopeful tone where Marling caresses each lyric in the happier section. Rather than the lead track giving you an idea of what the album will sound like or where it'll go, the song's dual nature leaves you unsure of what to expect and anxious for what's to come. The response is "Made by Maid" which sparse guitar lines showcase Marling's voice and lyrics and sharply contrast the rather busy lead track down to its Dylan-esque sing-speak. "Rambling Man" is somewhat of continuation with a quiet slow-building intro before picking up tempo, texture, and instruments. "Blackberry Stone" with it's simple strummed chords featuring beautiful, lyrical cello lines functions as both Marling recounting the end of relationship but also a part of the explanation given to the person in question. "Alpha Shallows" continues in the heavy use of strings, "Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)" while using still featuring strings and the newly introduced clarinet, doesn't distract from Marling's vocals and might be the best written track on the album both musically and lyrically. "I wrote an epic letter to you, it was twenty two pages front and back but it's too good to be used/And I tried to be a girl who likes to be used/ I'm too good that, there's a mind under this hat/ And I called them and told them I've got to move" are by far the best lyrics she managed to slip in there. While no longer than the rest of the tracks on the album, it's composition might be, for lack of a better word, the most epic. Beginning with a clarinet solo, Marling voice enters to describe a scene between her and a lover accompanied by strings. Slowly the song adds more to it like additional instruments, voices, rising to a musical climax that is musical, lyrical, and emotional. "Hope In The Air" follows with swaggering guitar and almost whispered vocals like Marling is letting you in on a secret, this track marks the return to the more traditional folk style. "What He Wrote" might be an embellishment of the non-speaking man introduced in the previous track, describing his "journey" so to speak and the narrator's fascination with him. "Darkness Descends" brings the album to an upbeat mood. "I Speak Because I Can" serves as the album closer, is probably the most loose in Marling's storytelling style of songwriting beginning by mentioning a woman whose husband has left her before the remaining parts of the song are ambiguous in who they are talking about and to whom and that might be the purpose. The lyrics "I speak because I can to anyone who I trust to listen" might in this case refer to the listener, explaining things she never got to do. Interestingly several of the lines have an unfinished quality to them like perhaps the speaker is overcome by emotion and unable to say anymore before regaining composure and beginning a new topic. If you didn't listen to the lyrics, the listener would be fooled into thinking that the track is upbeat and positive rather than a tale about this lone woman wondering what she's going to do without her husband.
While each song on I Speak Because I Can can be listened to an understood seperately, it also functions as an overall story with the lead track's foreboding intro before metamorphosing into sentimental tracks pining for lost love, describing how it came to be. Several songs aremarked by repeated themes or words like the city ("Alpha Shallows", "Goodbye England", and "Darkeness Descends") or speaking/not speaking ("Hope in the Air", "What He Wrote", and "I Speak Because I Can"). The awesome thing about Marling's writing is that the song's can either related to as tales of love, love loss, etc. or can be treated a little folksy tales meant purely for entertainment. The whole album is enjoyable and entertaining but something to note is that I felt, the second half of the album was more lyrically developed than the first. Marling employs a narrative style of songwriting but the first half seemed more focused on getting the lyrics across than the music that accompanied it. This changes however and the music and lyrics work together to illustrate and form complete vignettes of remarkable songcraft.

Have a taste of Laura Marling with the music video of the second single off the sophomore release "Rambling Man":

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Efterklang - Magic Chairs (2010)

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Danish indie pop rock group Efterklang released their third studio album Magic Chairs earlier this year in February. Though the band has been performing since the early 2000s, this was the first I had heard from them, after reading about them in a magazine (either Under the Radar or Spin, I think). Beginning with "Modern Drift" which has lyrical, flowing melodies accompanied by drum beats, violin accents, occasional brass florishes, and piano in addition to guitar and bass; the album starts off lively and fresh and while their penchant of the use of tons on different instruments might draw comparisions with the numerous indie orchestras around, Efterklang style with its sweeping vocals, in-no-rush song build up, and syncopated African-esque drumbeats puts them (and the album) in a league of its own. Not surprising for a band that's been around for about 10 years. Efterklang manages to use percussion to remarkable music effect like on "Raincoats" where clapping intertwines with the vocals and guitar riffs to create an infectiously engaging and charming gem. The album as a whole is rather mellow, not attempting to grab your attention with any over-the-top melodrama but rather catch your ear and move your heart with its lovely melodies. Lovers of mellow indie pop and stellar string arrangements certainly won't be disappointed by Efterklang's most recent full-length release. I know I wasn't!

Give Efterklang a listen with their lead single off 4AD label debut Magic Chairs, "Modern Drift":

Monday, June 7, 2010

Watch: Fanfarlo - "Fire Escape"

The British "indie" pop quintet are back to release a new version of the video for "Fire Escape". The previous low budget version premiered about two years ago before the band got signed to a major label, and even before the finished their debut album Reservoir. The new version is much artsy and plot heavy than the original. Directed by Jamie Thraves, the video tells the story of a suidical man (played by band leader Simon Balthazar) who gets stopped from jumping off a roof by a random man offering aid. The man brings Simon to a house filled with similar "patients" played by the other bandmembers and some other random people before taking a creepy sci-fi spin. The housemates are actually part of a cult that by dying together hope to return to some sort of alien mothership (a possible Harold T. Wilkins reference). Simon is not a fan and that's when the video takes another interesting spin. Because the director and band couldn't decide on a darker or happier ending to the video, they made two different versions. You can watch them below.

The Dark Version:

The Happy Version:

Megafaun release new album details...on Pitchfork.

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I mentioned what seems like ages ago (but what may have only been a month or so) that folk trio Megafaun was set to release a mini-album in summer. Well summer's more or less here and they announced that the album, titled Heretofore, will be released September 14 on Hometapes, and provided more details on the album. 6 songs long, with psychedelic 70s style cover art, with assistance from another band by the name of Slaraffenland on horns, the mini-album is sure to be a doozy, especially considering one song "Comprovisation on Connor Pass" is said to be 13 minutes long. The mini-album is actually to the first of two released expected to be released this year and is sure to hold fans over until the full-length's release. I already included a link to it in a previous link but for those that missed it, listen/download album track "Volunteers" here

Watch: Broken Bells - "The Ghost Inside"

The indie rock duo Broken Bells (composed of Danger Mouse and James Mercer ) released a brand spanking new video for their track "The Ghost Inside" which features the always lovely Christina Hendricks (Joan of Mad Men fame), as a hard on her luck alien beauty trying to get to a planet where fame and fortune seem guaranteed. Unfortunately, various obstacles like a tollway, low fuel, and an asteroid field hinder her and force her to use her arms and legs as payment. After using all her limbs as payment, the alien Hendricks dejectedly lies in wait for a great number of years before space salvagers (played by the band) find her, fix her up with some new limbs, and drop her off on the planet she was journeying to before leaving with her ship. Watch the video for the shocking twist:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watch: Left with Pictures - "Ropes"

This past Monday was the end of May meaning that British indie pop outfit Left with Pictures premiere the song and video for the May edition of their In Time project. "Ropes" is upbeat, bright, and remiscient of spring (unsuprising considering its inspired by the month of May). The video created by bandmember Stu and actress/singer Laura Ellison features Ellison going through a series of costumes at a hyperactive pace and is meant to be sort of recreation of the outro of Michael Jackson's "Black and White" video. The video lacks any of coherent plot line like those establish in the previous In Time features but still remains charming in its simplicity and in Ellison's delivery.

Enjoy Left with Pictures' May contribution to their ongoing In Time series "Ropes":

Watch: Mumford & Sons - "Roll Away Your Stone"

In preparation for the release of their fourth single "Roll Away Your Stone" from debut album Sigh No More, british folk rockers Mumford & Sons has released a new music video. Whereas their previous music videos has costumes, plots, etc., the video for "Roll Away Your Stone" is simple showcase of what the band does best: half in-studio recording, the other half a filmed live performance blended together to keep things interesting and to make it a bit more artistic.

Watch the music video for "Roll Away Your Stone" here:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good Old War - Good Old War (2010)

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Pennsylvanian indie rockers Good OId War are back with their unique brand of folk pop on their latest self-titled sophomore album. The album doesn't mark any surprising new changes in the band's sound, instead offering up more of three part vocal harmonies and stellar songcraft the band is know for. However unlike the band's 2008 debut The Only Way to Be Alone, the album was created solely by the band itself not featuring any guest artists. In addition to the guitar, drums, and keyboard trifecta featured heavily on their debut, listeners can hear new instruments like the accordion on "My Own Sinking Ship". Whereas some artists struggle with their sophomore release, Good Old War's seems an effortless continuation of what the band already did so well: the guitar lines are just as clear and precise; the harmonies just as captivating; the song's still catchy, memorable, and brillantly written. Good Old War is an upbeat and positive sounding album delivered with such a pure goodness and joy to be creating and performing that you can practically hear the bandmates singing through wide smiles.

For a limited time only (like until the end of the day limited) you can get the album on Amazon MP3 for the astonishing low price of $2.99. So don't hesistate to make this amazing album a part of your collection. At such a low price for such awesome music, it's practically a steal. You can take advantage of this limited offer here:

If for some reason you don't choose to take advantage of the great bargain (maybe you'd like a physical copy), you can order the album here:

The band recently embarked on a headlining US tour so make sure to check out tour dates for a show near you

Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (2010)

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Janelle Monae's debut full-length album The ArchAndroid continues the adventures of the android Cindi Mayweather from The Chase EP. I read in an interview that the album, which actually consists of parts II and III of her four part Metropolis epic, needs to be listened to all the way through in order to get the full effect and while several artists often say this but have songs that can stand alone, Monae's words ring true. A sort of hip-hop symphony (or suites, as she actually calls them) begins with the "Suite II Overture" which starts with a tuning orchesta and string intro that sets the tone for the rest of the album and transports you to Monae's futuristic world filled with mystery and intrigue. "Dance or Die" is the album's first movement, setting up Metropolis as a world plagued by violence and fear while foreshadowing Cindi's role in inspiring some sort of change. The track leads directly into "Faster" keeping the same energy and even remaining in the same key and tempo. In it, Cindi realizes her love for the human Anthony Greendown and how it goes against Metropolis law. The funky "Locked Inside" has Cindi pleading her human lover to stay with her despite the risks of their love being discovered and questioning the rules that govern the citizens of Metropolis. "Sir Greendown" is a slow balladic track in the 60s doo-wop style delivered like an intimate love letter setting up a secret rendezvous. "Cold War" and "Tightrope" kind of work together as in "Cold War", Cindi resolves to fight against the system, keeping herself alone so as to protect herself and others and "Tightrope" with its references to balance reflects the revolutionary Cindi Mayweather efforts to remain grounded and features Monae's mentor Big Boi and the Dap Kings on brass. "Neon Gumbo" is a short avant garde interlude in a similar vein to experimental electronica which manages to enchant with its lack of real words much like the made up languages of Sigur Ros or Yoko Kanno composed of reversal samples from Suite I's "Many Moons". "Oh, Maker" is another slow track sung both to Cindi's human lover and her Maker, the God-like figure for androids in Metropolis, in it Cindi questions if the Maker forsaw her dilemna and programmed her that way. It is both melancholic in its description of a failed relationship (which can be gathered through Monae's use of past tense) but also uplifting in that Cindi is truly grateful for the love she shared that inspired her to rebel. "Come Alive" (The War of the Roses) is Janelle's biggest genre-bending masterpiece, shredding rock guitar lines, bluesy bass riffs, punky scream vocals, all combined into a song that works well in so many ways. The track itself describes Cindi's response to oppression: to cultivate your plans in your mind before performing any actual action to truly be prepared to go up against it. It may also detail Cindi Mayweather's stay in Metropolis sanitarium The Palace of the Dogs with its numerous references to schizophrenia, meds, and the mind. "Mushrooms and Roses" is the end of Suite II and is another delve into experimentation, this time on Monae's voice, and a 70s rock sound not unlike Hendrix, Grateful Dead, etc. It describes a place where androids in love can go to live without persecution. Whether this place is real or imaginary remains to be seen as the heavy layering and vocal manipulation give the song a dream sequence like feel.
The Suite III Overture is rather unlike the one for Suite II, instead far brighter and lighter sounding than the latters feeling of foreboding. The beginning of the suite feels like a continuation of "Mushrooms and Roses" However there is a brief period where the overture takes on a darker tone hinting at potential strife before returning to its optimistic sound. "Neon Valley Street" is the next song from Suite III, where Cindi has reached some sort of safe place she can reflect, and one more describes Cindi's feelings for her human lover and her dangerous situation in the city. Whereas Cindi appeared to push her feelings aside in "Cold War", we see that she still has them and hopes they can be rekindled when all the dust settles. "Make the Bus" features Of Montreal, incredibly dissimilar from the rest of the album, sounds like Scissor Sisters. While a good song outright, I feel it detracts from the album's cohesiveness and the story it was trying to tell. "Wondaland" continues the quirkiness of the previous track, with Monae adopting a small childish voice. Monae seemingly departs from the ficitional futuristic world of Metropolis to a much more fantastical, joyful place which is left completely up to the listener's imagination. "57821" returns the album back to the futuristic realm, folksy in style details Sir Greendown's quest for Cindi Mayweather after she left in an attempt to save her and support her in her cause. The song is both tragic in its depiction of his trials but also heartwarming in that the lovers are reunited. The track also sheds light on Cindi's fate since Suite II and the absurd departure from reality that occurred around the time of "Come Alive" until this track. Cindi has been a prisoner (probably at The Palace of the Dogs) and Greendown appears to come rescue her and set her free so she can achieve her goal, telling her to "Fight like Achilles in Troy" because he feels she's the only one who can achieve what she's attempting to do. "Say You'll Go" follows Cindi and Anthony's reunion, another slow track describing the truth of their deep love for each other and also, with its various references to different religions and asking "who will lead?/and who will follow?" seems to represent Cindi's continued self-realization. The track is different than most of the others in its simplicity, eventually becoming a pure piano ballad where Monae's vocals can just soar over without fear of being drowned out by synthesizers or heavy bass beats. "BaBopByeYa", at nearly 9 minutes, is the album's longest and most epic track. Beginning with a jazzy brass and string intro before Monae's vocals soulfully cut in. The song evolves with a pseudo-Spanish/African flavor away from a sentimental song, into a declaration made all the more distinct with the full vocal power not unlike gypsy melisma before becoming an instrumental track similar to the overtures until reaching its ultimate peak where Cindi finally and completely choosing to fully dedicate herself to her cause aided by the strength of her love to Anthony Greendown even if it's confined to just memory.
While Monae's Arch-Android has a program to it, it's by no means any less relevant. In the album, Monae addresses socio-political issues, gang violence, and several of her lyrics wouldn't be out of place outside of her fictional world like "Dance or Die"'s "We ought to protect the mind from degradation, sowing the seeds of education". Her tales of oppression, self-realization and identity, love and loss are all themes that can be applied to life. While functioning as entertainment, it also makes you realize and wonder when it's okay to rebel. Monae's Cindi had previously followed the rules of Metropolis until they infringed upon rights she thought she deserved. The afforementioned interview stated the listener would be changed by this album, and while originally a skeptic, I now fully believe Monae's declaration. Her album, with its fusion of genres and influences, doesn't just tell a fictional story but chronicles our own and while it might not inspire every listener to go out and right ever wrong, it certain does make them think and really that's all a good album needs. If you're looking for an album that's truly going to speak to you, look no further than Monae's The Arch-Android. It doesn't matter if hip-hop is your thing or not because Janelle Monae's genre-bending makes it an album that can appeal to pretty much everyone. And don't cheat yourself! If you're gonna listen to the album, listen to it fully through from beginning to end. You'll be surprised how you feel on the other side.