Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tunng - ...And Then We Saw Land (2010)

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My introduction to British folktronica ensemble Tunng (via NPR's World Cafe) would've shocked me if I didn't listen to bands like Megafaun and Le Loup. I mean, combining folksy acoustics with the buzz and hiss and whatever other awesome sounds you have at your command seems crazy. Or so simple of an idea as to be completely foreign. And yet, if done well, is mesmerizing in a way the two genres can never manage on their own. When listening through an album for the first time, it's rare that I'll repeat a track and yet that's what I did with the lead track "Hustle" off their fourth studio album ...And Then We Saw Land. Beginning with a simple grin-inducing ostinato, that starts off in a muddy sonic haze before clearing up, and gently eases in other instruments. As with any good ensemble, they make the best of each instrument at their disposable, including lovely multi-part vocal harmonies. It's one of those deceptively happy sounding songs and it's pulled off amazingly. With a lead track as infectiously endearing, you're led to wonder: Where can the album go now? Well, the album maintains its endearing quality resulting from its sincere lyrics and thoughtfully composed instrumentals.

...And Then We Saw Land never manages to overwhelm despite the vast array of instruments and sound at the band's disposal. Instead, each addition only serves to heighten the listening experience. At no point does anything seem excessive or boringly repetitive. While not sure if it was a conceptual choice, the album tosses and turns like a ship at sea and occasionally the sound is allowed to build up like a daunting wave. The effect of which is incredibly gratifying. It's sure to be an instant favorite.

Get a taste of Tunng's fourth album ...And Then We Saw Land with the video for "Hustle":

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Megafaun - Heretofore

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It's hard to believe Megafaun's mini-album Heretofore was meant just to tide over until the band's next album (which they are currently recording). It's got as much substance as their previous two albums and the whopping 12 and a half minute "Comprovisation For Connor Pass" makes Heretofore pretty much as long as them too. The mini-album offers up the jam band-esque instrumentals that manage to avoid that boring repetitive feeling. There's also a little bit of sonic experimentation that makes sure things stay interesting which is not altogether uncharacteristic for the band. Heretofore manages to provide this mash-up of old and new. The songs are new but seem familiar. Not in a been-there-done-that sense and not because they're not risky, but rather because it follows in Megafaun's all encompassing style. All 6 tracks are boldly different from each other but they all sync up to make this album full of rich memorable musical moments. Whether its bright folk pop sound of "Carolina Days", the slowly unraveling harmony laden gem "Heretofore", or bluesy "Eagles" with its bee-bop saxophone solos. The mini-album makes me incredibly excited for the upcoming full-length.

Stricken City says goodbye with new video

British jangly pop rock quartet Stricken City have made it abundantly clear in their mini album Songs About People I Know, that they don't like boredom. In the video for their latest single from their upcoming album Losing Colour, Rebekah Raa wades through a series of mundane daily rituals accompanied by the melancholic track.

The band hasn't gone public with the reason why they're calling it quits but I've got a feeling boredom has something to do with it. And yet the quartet has had an exciting run: releasing three singles, one free EP, one mini-album, and a soon to be released debut album. All in addition to playing shows pretty much constantly. Thanks for the awesome music Stricken City. Enjoy the video for "Losing Colour":

Stricken City - Losing Colour from Stricken City on Vimeo.

You can pre-order the debut album at their site and preview four of the tracks via Soundcloud.
Losing Colour LP Preview by {Stricken City}

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pitstop: Junip

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I'm not exactly sure how I found out about Junip. I remember the band's name being on the ever-lengthening list of bands to check out for at least three months now until about a week ago when I purchased their debut album Fields on a whim. Swedish trio Junip is one of those bands that somehow manage to defy genre-fication. Featuring solo singer/songwriter Jose Gonzales on guitar and vocals, Elias Araya on drums, and Tobias Winterkorn on keyboard instruments like synthesizer and organ, the instrumental combination fools you into knowing what to expect. The band has a retro-rock sound without actually imitating anything combined with some folk elements. Their album is like stumbling into a jam session, sometimes lacking an apparent structure but rather being an organic growth. Unsurprising upon learning that the debut was 10 years in the making and that the three frequently improvised together. Their method of songwriting is actually to jam together and save the good bits that happen and try and do something with them. It's a good method for them. Instead of lyric-focused songs, you have these collections of songs that feature hand offs between vocals and instrumentals. The elusive quality of the vocals is actually what draws attention to them. They seductively meander away from you the most you listen for them, so instead you're forced to accept the music as a whole. The way it was meant to be. Here's hoping it's not another 10 years til their next album.

Get a taste of Junip with the video for "Always":

Noah and the Whale preview new album with "Wild Thing"

Sometimes a totally good band drops off your radar and that's what happened to me with Noah and the Whale. After their release of their second album The First Days of Spring late last year, I hadn't heard too much about the band and its happening (aside from a magazine interview earlier this year) until about a week or so when this track "Wild Thing" appeared. The track, off their upcoming March album Last Night on Earth, follows along in the new style established on their last album: sleepy, unobtrusive instrumentals which frame Charlie Fink's voice and its narrative lyrics. The new album is rumored to be more upbeat and yet, this track is more like the break up songs featured on the last album. Hear the new track "Wild Thing":
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Left With Pictures release final In Time video

Earlier than normal, Left With Pictures is releasing their final In Time song/video. A little Christmas ditty called "Forgive Me". The video directed by Chris Boyle is, unsurprisingly, one of the best produced of all the In Time videos. Its charming, funny, and even a little weird. A naughty little boy, played by Reece Buttery, upon being left coal declares revenge and grows up to be a full blown Santa Hunter. With help from his wife, played by Natasha Broomfield, he finds clues that eventually bring him to the North Pole. Though the video is artfully produced, the song that accompanies it is definitely one of the best to arise out of the In Time project. Starting off as a sentimental piece of gorgeous piano pop, the band's other instruments come in at the just the right times to elevate the song to another level of well composed loveliness. The song even quotes the "Carol of the Bells". This is one of those rare moments where a song and video fit perfectly together. Left With Pictures definitely ended their In Time project on a high note. The amazing amount of growth the quintet had during this project is sure to result in a fantastic new album so here's hoping that's coming up soon!

Watch the video for Left With Pictures' last In Time composition "Forgive Me":

Left With Pictures - Forgive Me from CHRIS BOYLE on Vimeo.

Limited Edition copies of their In Time album are still available for Preorder, so if you enjoyed the In Time songs and videos, think about buying the CD+DVD package here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, & Dharohar Project - EP

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Last year British folk songtress Laura Marling performed in India. Something about the culture must've spoke to her because she along with Mumford & Sons then teamed up with an Indian ensemble to record an EP together. The 4 song EP features a reworked versions of Marling's "Devil's Spoke" and Mumford's "To Darkness". The EP proves that folk music is universal. The Indian ensemble's instruments perfectly compliment the western instruments of the two charming Brit groups. There's something inexplicably amazing about the way the lyrics seamlessly change from English to with the folk singers even trying their hand at it. Instead of like a direct split between styles, the groups merge into this amazing unit sometimes sounding trading off in the lyrics or with the instruments played before ultimately blending again (Meheni Rachi being a prime example. The EP is remarkably innovative, showing their artistic prowess as master musicians as they step out of their comfort zone with none the wiser. They have no problem embracing the culture and have no trouble infusing it with their own. The result is an enjoyable musical adventure that everyone is bound to love. The EP is available digitally through the wide variety of music vendors and will see physically release sometime in early 2011.

OK Go releases "Back From Kathmandu" video

OK Go's viral videos are quite honestly the stuff of legendary. After their last video for "White Knuckles" which featured a bunch of trained rescue dogs doing awesome tricks I wondered how they could top themselves. In their video for "Back From Kathmandu", the band parades through the streets of Los Angeles with friends, fans, musicians, and the randomly intrigued in tow. Spelling out OK Go with their parade route. Marching 8.5 miles has never been quite so cool. Especially when you add the completely delightful assortment of instruments (I swear I spotted at least two accordions), glow in the dark awesomeness, and the 100 people large marching band. Watch OK Go's video for "Back From Kathmandu":

Elle S'appelle to reunite....kinda

British trio Elle S'appelle disbanded about two years ago retiring their infectious melodic brand of powerpop for regular lives, school, and other endeavors. Recently, however, the band appeared on the roster for a Pixies tribute show this upcoming January. When I asked about it, Andy Donovan, revealed that the band is back for this one show at least albeit in a new incarnation. The show, which features a bunch of Liverpool bands like Married to the Sea, Voo, and The House that Jack Built, will also feature Elle S'appelle's new lineup. So if you have plans to be in Liverpool around January 15th, go see the 10 Bands 10 Minutes Pixie Tribute at the Liverpool Masque.

Stricken City album gets release date

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Stricken City's debut album Losing Colour finally gets a release date. The album, due out in February 7, 2011, is available for pre-order at the band's website where they offer up two downloads immediately following purchase. That's the good news.

There's also some bad news attached. The band has announced that this will be their last album and that their February 10th show will be their final performance. It's rather bittersweet. I'm excited about the new album finally getting a release date but not so much about the split. But all good things must come to an end and better that the band goes out at their best than a shell of its former self.

Friday, December 10, 2010

She & Him visit Conan

Last night, cutesy 60s inspired indie-pop duo She & Him performed on Conan and their performance of "I Put A Spell On You" had to be seen to be believed. Stripped down to just Zooey Deschanel on vocals and M. Ward's spacey guitar riffs, the duo proved they're more than just Deschanel's come hither winks with some fancy guitar work. Instead viewers were treated to the most animated performance I've seen the duo give. Gone were the controlled purely melodic vocals the band is known for, replaced with hypnotizing banshee shrieks amid spooky silences and reverb. That might sound bad, but it's not. It's actually amazing. Watch the video:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sondre Lerche donates rare exclusive track to charity.

Tis the season for giving and Sondre Lerche offers up an exclusive track from way back around the release of 2004's Two Way Monologue. The track "Trying to Say Goodbye" is available for download via The Right Track: Tunes to TargetCancer. The Right Track offers up exclusive mp3 downloads from a multitude of artists to raise money for cancer research. The minimum donation required is $0.99 but I will tell you this right now: Sondre Lerche's "Trying to Say Goodbye" is worth much more. Its classic Sondre, featuring just right falsetto and guitar stylings echoed on the later Lerche-composed Dan in Real Life Soundtrack. You can download it and more tracks at The Right Tracks site here.

Justin Branam teams up for charitable iPhone Sessions

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Using the same formula that allowed Justin Branam to raise money to record his next album, Branam teams up with a bunch of friends to help raise money for charity. The homeless in Nashville to be exact. On iPhone Sessions Hope Vol. 1, these Nashville based artists do what they do best: play lovely stripped down sets where allows their talent to truly shine. The seamless recording via iPhone helps to provide an intimacy you might expect in a small bar. The compilation features several Ten Out of Tenn artist like Andrew Belle, Katie Herzig, Tyler James, and KS Rhoads, as well as several artists I personally never encountered before like folsky quintet Neulore, lovely singer/songwiter Amy Stroup, harmony-weaving duo Elenowen, bluesy crooner Seth Philpott, ethereal siren Alva Leigh, and sweet-voiced Steve Moakler. The compilation is available here at a pay-what-you-want rate but before you think to download it for free, think about helping the artists raise money for Nashville Rescue Mission and People Loving Nashville. You'll be glad you did. And for more info on the compilation, the artists and the charities go here.