Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pitstop: Wolf Parade

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My discovery of Montreal rock quartet Wolf Parade was one of those happy little accidents born of boredom, I was in Barnes & Noble browsing the CDs when their latest release Expo 86 caught my eye. When I actually sat down to listen to the album, it was like an explosion of awesome sound in my ears. The only way I can think to describe Wolf Parade is old school Devo with garage rock-esque guitar. On my first listen, my interest wasn't truly grasped until the album's fourth track "Little Golden Age" probably due to it being the liveliest track at that point of the album but when my interest was grabbed, it was held and not let go until the dying strains of final track "Cave-o-Sapien"

Give Wolf Parade a listen with track "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)"

EardrumsPop to release free digital releases in the Fall

One of my favorite blogs, Norway based Eardrums Music, and its netlabel EardrumsPop have announced that this fall, around October, they will start releasing free monthly digital releases. The releases will feature all the awesome qualities of their seasonal themed compilations like amazing cover art made by cooperating artists, explanitory booklets, and what's sure to be great original songs. The singles will be comprised of two orignal songs and possibly a cover song from an artist the band thinks deserves more attention. I for one could not be more excited. Is it fall yet?

The Bowerbirds announce Fall tour dates

North Carolina folk duo The Bowerbirds have more or less been quiet since their SXSW show but now the band has announced some brand new tour dates for the fall and I for one couldn't be more excited as it features what I think is the band's first ever visit to the Northeast. Here are the announced dates:

9/10 Hopscotch Music Festival at Pour House Music Hall, North Carolina
9/24 The Mohawk (with Efterklang) in Austin, Texas
9/25 Oysterfest in Frisco, Texas
10/11 Black Cat Backstage in Washington D.C.
10/12 Bowery Ballroom in New York, New York
10/13 Castaways in Ithaca, New York
10/14 Iron House Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts

So if the band's coming to a city near you, mark the date, start clearing your schedule and plan for a night of awesome. I know I am!

Watch: Left With Pictures - "Half Time"

Earlier this week was the last Monday of the month, meaning that British chamber pop band Left With Pictures released the latest song/video in their ongoing In Time project. The video for the song "Half Time" was created by a group of the bands friends: directed by Jake Odgen, produced by Ben Kidd, and featuring Dan Ward, Hannah Ogden, and Chloe Ogden. The video has this sort of stop-motion like filming style which works interestingly considering the premise of the video is the three actors are running a race. The song itself is mellower than last month's anthemic love song "June" and is interesting in its kind of stripped down, psuedo-minimalistic melodies unlike anything I've heard from the band before but at the same time manages to still contain the band's signature sound. In fact, it's the song's simplicity both the melodic accompaniment and the vocals that make the song so memorable and nice to listen. Left With Pictures certainly didn't disappoint this month and its doubtful they will next month. Enjoy the video for July's In Time release "Half Time"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Random Musing: Tomas Kalnoky solo gig videos

So I mentioned earlier that Tomas Kalnoky was playing two solo acoustic shows in NYC and LA under the "Toh Kay" moniker. I wasn't able to attend (curse you 21+ shows) but thanks to the marvels of the internet was able to find these videos where he plays song from Catch 22's Keasbey Nights era to the latest Streetlight original album. Enjoy some Toh Kay aka Tomas Kalnoky of Streetlight Manifesto at his Joe's Pub performance in NYC.

"Heres To Life"

"Sick & Sad"

"Would You Be Impressed?"

"A Better Place, A Better Time" (with explanitory interludes)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Drums - The Drums (2010)

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Brookyln-based surf rockers The Drums hinted at a bleaker sound for their self-titled debut after the release of their Summertime! EP (which two of the album songs are from), and they certainly weren't kidding. Album opener and first single "Best Friend" begins with John Pierce "You were my best friend but then you died". Although the song is still poppy and upbeat despite being so morbid. "Lets Go Surfing" declares the band's love of the surf, how important it is to them, and masterfully incorporates a childhood rhyme into it all-in-one. "Skippin' Town" continues to illustrate the complicated relationship established in "Me and the Moon" and "Book of Stories" with lyrics like "I know you're trying to kiss me/I know you're trying to kill me" and "Do you want me to skip town?/Do you want me to come 'round?" "Down By The Water" marks a total change in mood and is the first truly melancholic sounding track on the album which actually contrasts the lyrical content where reaffirms his eternal love that he first declared in the preceeding"Forever and Ever Amen". "I'll Never Drop My Sword" is another interesting song in that it features the acoustic guitar for the first time on the album (even if just got the intro).

The Drums' debut manages to stick with their characteristic surf pop sound while also branching away from strickly beach blanket pop songs about surfing. Instead they prove that not all is sunshine and summer fun although its hard to tell that from the tempo and mood of the songs alone, instead when you listen to the lyrics you get a sense of what the songs are really about. The album progresses much like an on-again/off-again relationship would with tracks like "Me And The Moon", "Book of Stories", "Skippin' Town" and "It Will All End in Tears" serving as conflict/break up songs; "Lets Go Surfing", "Forever and Ever Amen" and "Down By The Water" as reconciliation songs; "We Tried" "I Need Fun In My Life" and "I'll Never Drop My Sword" are post-break up songs. "Best Friend" serves as kind of an reflection/explanation, albeit a vague good one, on the events that are elaborated on in the following songs while "The Future" can be seen as prediction or actual realization of the couple getting back together despite not being right for each other.

Enjoy the video for the first single off The Drums "Best Friend":

Plants and Animals - La La Land (2010)

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Before the release of their sophomore album La La Land, I had never heard of Montreal rock trio Plants and Animals. It wasn't until after seeing them on a list on Stereogum of anticipated releases then reading a feature on them in the latest issue of Filter Magazine that I decided to give the album a listen. Lead track "Tom Cruz" has driving bass lines and a bit of a soft-rock vibe with a little hard rock edge that keeps it from being merely background music. "Swinging Bells" begins with these floaty dreamlike chords and open quality, getting a bit more involved with drum fills, adding these shout vocals that somehow don't manage to disrupt the dreamy quality of the track, before fading out accompanied by a whistling solo. The sudden plunge into the energetic "American Idol" might be a bit jarring after the two calmer tracks but makes the track no less enjoyable. Six-minute "Undone Melody" slows the album down, continuing with its inclusion of more than the standard guitar/bass/drum set up by adding in piano and tiny smidges of sweeping strings. The track starts off simple and slowly unravels into something complex and lyrical. "Kon Tiki" follows with this kind of energetic mellow first achieved in lead track "Tom Cruz" and the instrumental breaks have these cool melodic lines that I found to be far too short. "Game Shows" continues the album's calm mood with guitar and barely there piano accompanying the vocals. The track picks up slightly about midway through with the addition of strings, bass, and drums. There's also a piano solo that moves the track towards a more upbeat sound and is taken up by the rest of the instruments before the track fades out. Just like "American Idol" was kind of surprising after the slow tracks, "The Mama Papa" does the same. It features the most prominent guitar heard on the album and is probably the most poppy track in the sense that you could clap or dance to it if you felt so inclined. "Fake It" brings the tempo down a bit but not in a sudden manner, if fact it seems like a natural progression from the previous track. With a title like "Celebration" you expect the track to be uptempo but instead it's the opposite with a lilting, entrancing quality aided by the background sounds. "Future From The 80s" is slow and soft and with occasional robot voice effects with strings and muted brass. Album closer "Jeans Jeans Jeans" brings the tempo up again but not shockingly so. There's about a minute before the vocals enter, and when they do, it's not for very long. The track has some guitar effects and possible waterphone that create these fleeting almost imagined moments of ethereality.

Plants and Animals employ alot of interesting tricks and such on La La Land like saxophone solos on "American Idol" and whistling solos on "Swinging Bells" but what really struck me was the melodic content and guitar work as opposed to the lyrics, which I will admit I couldn't always make out/make sense of. Each track has these little music moments that really catch your attention like the various mood shifts in "Tom Cruz" and this guitar riff that happens right before the track returns to the original. The album has a general cohesiveness only broken by the more uptempo tracks. I literally jumped when "American Idol" and "The Mama Papa" started due to the fact that the tracks before them were so soft. The album has an overall dream-like sense that makes it seem like its could be the soundtrack for a dream with the upbeat tracks representing the more action-packed parts. I don't know quite how to explain it for there's this little things in the guitar parts that create this airy, unreal nature. It's not one of those albums that'll catch your attention if you listen to samples of it (which I foolishly did at first) but rather one where you notice more and more happening with each subsequent listen like a complex movie. That's not to say that the album is unnecessarily complex but that there's these little gems that happen, that you might not notice on the first or even second listen.

Get a taste of Plants and Animals and the new album with the video of first single "The Mama Papa" here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now Streaming: Best Coast - Crazy For You

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Best Coast is surf pop made by California native Bethany Cosentino on vocals and guitar with assistance on drums by Bobb Bruno. Her debut album Crazy For You, due out July 27 on Mexican Summer in the US and Wichita Recordings in Europe, is summery, beachy, breezy, and has a retro vibe with Cosentino's voice resembling the early 50s and 60s female vocalists. You can stream the full debut at Wichita Recordings here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gin Wigmore releases new video for "Too Late for Lovers"

So I'm actually unsure at to when exactly Gin released this video. It was filmed during the period she was in L.A. filming the video for "Hey Ho" but has yet to appear on her site. However Google prevails and I found it there. The video directed by Moh Azima, stars Gin as a frustrated waitress in a small town diner waiting for someone to come rescue her before she decides to take it upon herself to leave the diner and the town behind. Enjoy the video for "Too Late For Lovers"

Pitstop: The Stone Foxes

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So I actually stumbled upon The Stone Foxes completely by accident. Good Old War tweeted about their (Stone Foxes') Blip.FM Session and I mistakenly thought it was Good Old War's. I opened the link to find the four San Francisco indie folk rockers about to start their first song of the set which was "Mr. Hangman" and was taken with their old style rootsy blues folk. When their drummer pulled out a harmonica and started wailing away, I knew I was hooked. The band played a couple more songs while revealing themselves to be skilled multi-instrumentalists as instruments were passed around, someone pulled out a mandolin, the drummer played more harmonica, and good times were had by many. During the live show, the band revealed that they just currently released their sophomore album Bears & Bulls which the songs they played were off.

Hear what they sound like with the music video for "Stomp" off Bears & Bulls. If you like what you can check out their Blip.FM session here and/or buy their new album at their website here:

Random Musing: Ingrid covers "Toxic"

It's not secret that "Toxic" is Britney Spears' most catchy pop number. So combine that with the talented and always lovely Ingrid Michaelson and you get awesomeness on a grand scale. She even throws in some choreography for good measure. This video was actually brought to my attention by Ingrid herself via tweet. Enjoy Ingrid Michaelson covering "Toxic" at Bonnaroo 2010:

Random Musing: Maps & Atlases & The Willie Brown Bears

So this clip features a middle school drum-line from San Francisco's Willie Brown Academy by the name of the Willie Brown Bears. They had the unique experience of getting a chance to play with Chicago indie outfit, Maps & Atlases. Enjoy the interesting video. Presents: Maps & Atlases from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Monday, July 12, 2010

John Craigie - Montana Tale (2010)

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Hearing John Craigie's solo live shows left me a little unprepared for the masterfully full sounds of his latest full length Montana Tale. Beginning with a banjo and violin intro on "Gone", John Craigie's voice delicately enters, persuading you politely to keep listening. The oom-pah bass and bluegrassy violin flourishes wouldn't be out of place in old style fiddle music but Craigie manages to combine acoustic with the electric to create an amazing folk track and album opener that hooks you with its uptempo and busy-but-not-distracting nature. "As Tragic" takes the tempo down a couple notches, so Craigie can deliver his bittersweet serenade that's a bit melancholic but also rather uplifting. Bluesy "Labor Day" reminded me of John's live shows with it's kind of tongue-in-cheek opening lyrics "On Labor Day, I quit my job" and harmonica fills. It's another combination of acoustic and electric and has a "Devil Went Down to Georgia" type epic quality. The balladic "Will Not Fight" has a sort of completeness which could've been the album closer, which had me wondering where Craigie could possibly go next. The response: "Mama Nashville". The harmonica-heavy track is bound to put a smile on your face with its devil-may-care delivery and virtuostic displays. "28" brings the album down again, with its allusions galore, and barely-there piano and violin providing a blanket of accompaniment to John's sorrowful vocals. The only way to describe "Easter Sunday" might be epic, unsurprising considering its subject matter is Jesus' rise but aided more by the almost dizzying array of instruments employed by the end of the song. By the time "Resurrection Bay" started, I had heard more harmonica than I had in my whole entire life but the harmonica solos really helped to set up the mood and remain unique. "Anna Rose (Part IV)" with is violin-heavy arrangement, is a toe-tapping, motivational, and purely entertaining all at once. When he declares: "Quit your job, sell your car, tell that fool that you live with that you don't want to live here anymore/Bring your banjo and I'll teach you how to play 'cause it's never too late", you really want to do all those things and join him. The "All Through Montana" is nearly 9 minutes long, and strips all of the ornate arrangement away to feature John Craigie's vocals accompanied by strummed guitar and beat keeping bass drum. About 3/4 in the song becomes an virtuostic showcase for the electric guitar. Summery "Map of Dallas" brings the tour-inspired album to an artful crowd, describing the feeling of being on the road and looking forward to returning home where the locals know and love you.

While there's so much done right on Montana Tale, my favorite part is probably John Craigie's lyricism. He manages to slip these little genius nuggets into each of his songs, that you might notice on your first listen but become more apparent with each listen. Included is John's countdown's and the like, which really helps to infuse the album with more personality. You might not have heard of John Craigie but he's certainly no amateur. His music is remarkably well written, the instruments amazingly well-played. His album doesn't come with a booklet of lyrics, but fortunately you won't need them. Craigie's voice on every song is as clear as a bell which says alot about the production quality, as well as Craigie's own vocal talent.

Here's a sneak peek at the album with a live solo acoustic version of "Anna Rose (Part IV):

You can listen to more of John Craigie at his MySpace or listen and buy his album here.

New Pornographers - Together (2010)

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From the cello intro off lead track "Moves", I knew The New Pornographers fifth studio album Together was going to be epic. A bit mellower than their previous albums (Twin Cinema's hyperactivity included), they still maintain the same energetic, creative, and body moving qualities of all the other albums. "Moves" is an example of orchestrated pop rock done right. Beginning with the aforementioned cello intro before violins, guitars, drums, and the like join in, followed by the intermingling of voices (though Carl Newman serves as chief vocalist) that form the backbone of the band's trademark sound. Next is "Crash Years" featuring Neko Case on vocals. Power chord laden "Your Hands (Together)" is one of the first song on the album without a featured solo vocalist. It also brings the album a bit more uptempo from the calmer two preceeding tracks. "Silver Jenny Dollar", penned and sung by Dan Bejar, brings the tempo down a bit and adds a bit of a retro rock feel. "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk", probably my favorite song on the album, has Carl Newman, Kathryn Calder, and Neko Case's enchanting interweaving vocals alternating with extensive instrumental breaks combining to make a toe-tapping but still emotional masterpiece. "My Shepard", featuring Neko Case on vocals, manages to be solemn, uplifting, and nostalgic all at the same time. Its probably the most balladic track on the album but still manages to keep the album moving and is full of tons of these climatic little moments where the mood changes, the band's playing gets louder, and the listener might find themselves letting out a contented sigh. Dan Bejar's "If You Can't See My Mirrors" brings back that retro rock feel and wistful reflection. "Up in the Dark" follows in pretty much the same mood as the previous track but with a little more motion and featuring the other band members more heavily. "Valkyrie In The Roller Disco" is the most stripped down I've ever heard The New Pornographers. Consisting of mainly a keyboard, the ever-present myriad of voices, and a distant sounding guitar with some maracas thown in for good measure. "A Bite Out Of My Bed" fills in all the silence created in the last track tastefully throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to create an upbeat pop gem. Dan Bejar's last contribution to the album, "Daughter of Sorrow" starts out with incredibly high energy before becoming lilting and almost-melancholic-yet-not-quite. It's has this floating feel, assisted by the wordless chorus. Album ender "We End Up Together" is the longest track on the album at almost 6 minutes and combines almost everything awesome that happened on the album. Instrumental breaks, string flourishes, clustered vocals behind Newman's lead ones, and featuring the return of the cello licks. The track starts of simply and grows in scale, reaching a clap inducing intensity before its sudden end.

Together, as an album is pretty amazing. I found myself listening to pretty much every song on it repetitively. Really that's all you can ask of an album. To have each song on to carry their own weight and now just consist of a couple key songs while the rest serves as filler. The album is made all the more better by its serving up something new in the form of more strings and brass and a mellower sound while also managing to still sound like a natural progression of band that's been around for awhile. The band's powerpop energy isn't lost, even in the most calm of tracks and the aids the album's cohesiveness while keeping it from putting you to sleep. Interesting to note is that Annie Clark aka St. Vincent, Will Shelf of Okkervill River, and The Dap Kings assisted on the album, but you barely notice their contributions. They blend in so seemlessly, if I hadn't read they were on the album, I wouldn't have even known.

Hear what the album sounds like with the music video for the album's second single "Crash Years" directed by the band's own Blaine Thurier:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Watch: She & Him - "Thieves"

She & Him, continuing with their momentum from their latest album release in March and constant touring and festival appearances, are releasing their second single from Volume Two, "Thieves". The video for "Thieves" unlike the vibrant colors for "In the Sun" is in black and white but still features Zooey Deschanel being overal adorable, and even throws in some adorable kids for good measure. In the video, Zooey pines for her childhood friend (played by M. Ward) who being some sort of ne'erdowell has gone missing. The two possess the uncanny ability to send messages to each other through time (Young Zooey send Old M. Ward a letter asking where he is, and Young M. Ward send Old Zooey a map to his location). It's a pretty interesting and has numerous references to the album itself in it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tomas Kalnoky to play acoustic show

Tomas Kalnoky, the songwriter and bandleader of ska/punk Streetlight Manifesto, is playing an intimate solo acoustic show in LA on July 14th at the Hotel Cafe. It will be the second of his 21+ acoustic shows, the first occuring in NYC's Joe's Pub on June 25th. Currently it is unknown if Kalnoky will play more of these shows but the Streetlight official website says that if these two shows have a good turn out, there will most likely be more. So if you're in the LA area, go see Tomas Kalnoky sing/play guitar/be overall witty, charming, and awesome at his Hotel Cafe show.

And if you can't, you can hear his as part of Streetlight Manifesto on their current summer tour, coming to a city near you.

Streetlight Manifesto to resume touring

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After nearly a six month hiatus, New Jersey ska/punk troubadours Streetlight Manifesto is packing up their trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and sardonic wit and hitting the road once again. On their new summer tour titled the "Ship of Fools" tour, they will be hitting pretty much every major US city, several in Canada before heading off to play several shows in Europe. The tour already started in June but there's still tons of dates remaining so check the tour poster and see if they're playing a city near you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Andrew Belle premieres debut music video

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So I recently did a little spotlight on singer/songwriter Andrew Belle but it was actually inspired by the release of his debut music video for the track "Static Waves" featuring Katie Herzig (a talented singer/songwriter in her own right). Unfortunately I can't embed the video like I usually do but if you follow the link here, I guarantee you'll be pleasantly rewarded.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pitstop: Andrew Belle

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Meet Andrew Belle. Chances are you haven't heard of him but you should. The young singer-songwriter and Chicago area transplant recently released his debut full-length album The Ladder earlier this year but that is only one of his many achievements. A member of the Ten Out of Tenn, a collective of singer songwriters in Nashville, Tennessee, being named Chicago's Best Breakout Artist by MTV in 2009, and winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in addition to having his songs regularly featured on several primetime television shows like Grey's Anatomy, 90210, Ghost Whisperer, and Pretty Little Liars. One listen to Belle's music and it's not hard to understand all the awards and accolades. Unlike some songwriters with throw-away lyrics, Andrew Belle's vocals and lyrics are the lifeblood of his songs. His songs are catchy and memorable and combined with his smart lyrics show an ingenuity and musicianship you rarely see in pop music nowadays. Here's hoping we hear a lot more from Belle as he seemingly enjoys more and more commercial success. Give Andrew Belle a listen with this video of him performing "The Ladder":

Andrew Belle is currently on tour. You can see his tour dates as well as check out more of his music on his MySpace here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Maps & Atlases - Perch Patchwork (2010)

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Just several days ago Chicago-based technical pop/math rock band Maps & Atlases released their debut full-length album Perch Patchwork on Barsuk. Featuring several fan favorites from their live shows ("Pigeon" and "Israeli Caves"), the album is the latest in the band's efforts to provide more accessible and poppy songs though its not without uniqueness. The first two tracks on the album "Will", "The Charm", and have a sort of experimental vibe due to some sonic distortion. "Will" opens the album with a sort of hazy, wispy feel with Dave Davison's vocals floating over top before segue into "The Charm" with its military-like drumbeats, aforementioned distortion, and Davison repeatedly crooning "I don't think there is a sound that I hate more than the sound of your voice when you say I don't love you anymore". "Living Decorations" contrasts with its high energy, claps (or drums that sound super similar), and overall brighter sound. "Solid Ground", which the band premiered a couple months ago, wouldn't have been out of place on the band's previous release You, Me, and The Mountain and marks the band's first use (at least that I can think of) of instruments outside their normal guitar, bass, drums, an random percussion with the use of flutes. Instrumental track "Is" is, unsurprisingly, the shortest track on the album and is minimalistic in its approach: each instrument entering sequentially with its own short obstinato before fading out. "Israeli Caves" is similar to earlier track "Living Decorations" in that it shifts the album in a more upbeat direction. "Banished Be Cavalier" follows in the same vein, "Carrying the Wet Wood" builds up from just two/three quickly played guitar notes and might best represent what the band was trying to achieve on the album. Complex but not distractingly so but also memorable and catchy. "Pigeon", one of the band's encores, finds its way on the album and gets a bit of a revamp with some additional instruments added to the middle of the song but other than that remains pretty much the same. "If This Is" adds some strings, shifts mood, tempo, and intensity, and manages to remind the listener of summer, beaches, and surfing (despite not being about any of those things) due to the characteristic surf rock jangle guitar. "Was" is another instrumental track like "Will" and "Is" and mellows out the album before leading into the lilting title track "Perch Patchwork" which pretty much combines every "odd" thing done on the album. The longest track on the album, nearly double the length of all the other tracks, starts with cello pizzicatos accompaning acoustic guitar and Davison's vocals with occasional string and flute flourishes before the strings become more involved melodically complimenting Davison. The track is the most uncharacteristic song from the band but is actually where the bandmembers' musicianship gets a chance to shine. Not only are they proficient on their instruments but they can also compose, arrange, and perform songs in a style they typically don't play in.

When I heard that the band would be employing a more pop-oriented sound on this album, I got a bit nervous that it wouldn't be the same trademark sound but Perch Patchwork manages to add in new qualities like strings while at same keeping the virtuosity and musicianship that drew me to them in the first place. Fans of the band have nothing to fear as the several of the songs would've fit on the other EPs now problem and the new songs that wouldn't are still good. Those new to the band will no doubt be captivated and hunger for more. For those in need of aural convincing, the album is currently streaming on the band's MySpace here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Watch: Left With Pictures - "June"

June ended earlier this week and Left with Pictures has been going strong, offering up their sixth In Time song/video titled "June". The song has a bright sunny feel similar to the season they're trying to invoke and the superb string arrangement Left with Pictures is known for. Unlike their previous videos that feature the band and friends, this new video consists of clips from various black and white era movies. Though that in no way detracts from the band's efforts. Here's hoping the band continues it's song-a-month project. Enjoy "June":