Wednesday, March 31, 2010

28 Costumes to release new album

Liverpool band 28 Costumes has announced the upcoming release of their new album. Recorded in the summer of 2008 by fellow band member Andy Donovan, the album will contain several tracks already released as singles ("This Band Has Eaten All Our Money") and some released on EPs ("Inside/Out", "You Excite Me", "Erika") as well as several new songs. This album will be the band's sophomore release after the 2004 The Fake Death Experience. The album is to be called This Band Has Eaten All Our Money after the single of the same name is set for a summer release but lucky concertgoers will have an opportunity to buy the limited edition album on their April 10th show in Liverpool. The limited edition album will come in 28 Costume's money bags filled with real money where it will be possible for an even luckier few to get their money back as several of the bags will be filled with the exact cost of the album.

I have to say it's about time! I love this band's energetic and vibrant sound and have been waiting for the news of this album's release for about two years. It's sure to be amazing and I'm excited just thinking about it. Hear what the band sounds like with their music video for the single "Erika" released before Donovan joined the band:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cast Spells on Daytrotter

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Dave Davison, lead singer for technical pop band Maps & Atlases, also has a solo side project by the name of Cast Spells. The trademark twanginess of Davison's voice is there but the sound is a bit more stripped down allowing you to really hear Davison's songwriting efforts; a seemless blend of metaphor and folk-influenced pop goodness. After playing the Sargent House show at SXSW, Davison stopped by Daytrotter and you can hear the results here:

Also you can hear Cast Spells' debut release Bright Works and Baton EP here and at his bandcamp site.
<a href="">Glamorous Glowing by Cast Spells</a>

Pitstop: Anya Marina

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Something that you often hear about the music industry is that's it about who you know. San Diego's Anya Marina proves that while that may true, talent also works. Marina having trained as an actress as well as obtaining a degree in English and you'd hardly peg such a versatile woman to be the singer/songwriter sort (Ezra Koenig and his NYU writing degree aside) but what she learned as a writer and an actress allowed her to develop a successful live stage act eventually opening for musicians like Jason Mraz and Rhett Miller. Her experience with radio as a DJ for numerous California station probably didn't hurt either. The talented songstress has released two albums Miss Halfway in 2005 and Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II in 2009 and has had her songs featured on a variety of popular dramas like Grey's Anatomy, United States of Tara, and Supernatural (which is actually how I found out about her). She's also one of the various indie artists featured on the New Moon Soundtrack. She even done a cover of T.I. hit song "Whatever You Like" where you can finally understand the lyrics. She's also had numerous nominations and wins for San Diego area music awards and with her unique voice, combination of serious, sexy, and playful, and memorable songwriting it's not hard to see why.

Enjoy this video of Marina's "Move You" from her 2009 release Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II:

Watch: MGMT - "Flash Delirium"

Last week when their album leaked, MGMT made their whole album available for listening. Now they're premiering a brand spanking video off Congratulations for the track "Flash Delirium".

The video is shot in a bright, colorful, and all around visually appealing style and features band leaders Andrew VanWynGarden and Ben Goldwasser attending a welcome home party attended by military officials and the like. While not containing the over the top trippiness of their "Kids" video, "Flash Delirium" is still strange with vestiges of the psychedelic vibe that the band is known for.

Watch it here:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Watch: Left with Pictures - "The Ides of March"

It's the end of March and that means Left with Pictures is serving up a brand new song/video combo as part of it In Time project. March's song is called "The Ides of March" and while the subject and lyrics are kinda dark, Left with Pictures delivers another radiant gem of poppy goodness guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dirty Projectors gives a gift in the form of free tracks

Fans of the Brooklyn based experimental rockers Dirty Projectors or just those looking good free music can rejoice as in addition to additional tour dates before the band heads off to plays a bunch of festivals abroad the band has also posted tracks "Ascending Melody" and "Emblem of the World" available for download on their website for free. All you need to do is go to their website and put in your email address and you'll the proud owner of two new shiny tracks yet to be released. For those craving a physical copy, you're in luck and can buy the 7" from the Domino Records store. Help yourself to the free download here:

For those unfamiliar with the ethereal siren song like vocal harmonies that often form the base for David Longstreth's soaring vocals, hear what they sound like in "Stillness if a Move" from their 2008 release Bitte Orca:

Watch: Lykke Li - Possibility

Swedish lovely Lykke Li is one of a handful of artists that lended their talents to create exclusive tracks for the New Moon soundtrack among the likes of Thom Yorke, OK Go, Death Cab for Cutie, and Muse to name a few and despite my dislike of the movie series, any good music lover can't deny that of many of the songs are just plain good.

The video for the track "Possibility" was filmed live in a similar vein to her video for "Tonight" and the alternative version of "Breaking It Up" but her powerful tone and lyrical clarity will have you second guessing the video's authenticity. Don't. It's live. It's real. It's good.


Pitstop: Teitur

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Don't know where the Faroe Islands are? Don't worry because about a year and a half ago I didn't either; until I discovered Teitur. Teitur might arguably be one of the greatest songwriters so it's a shame he's not more well known. His debut album Poetry & Airplanes, released in 2003 on Universal, drips with lovelorn weakness and an emotional intensity that few might find themselves ready for. Boasting lyrics like "I think about long distance rates instead of kissing you babe/I'm a singer without a song/If I wait for you longer my affection is stronger/And I was just thinking, merely thinking that this boat is sinking" in "I Was Just Thinking" that are both heartswelling and heartrending and augmented by his quiet peaceful folksy balladic style. He then parted with Universal due to creatives differences, starting his own label Arlo and Betty Records where he released his second album Stay Under the Stars in 2006. He even released an album in his native Faroese before releasing his fourth studio album The Singer in 2008. Despite subtle variations in instrumentation, listeners can still expect to hear the deeply invocative smooth style that doe-eyed Teitur has honed and made his trademark on all of his albums. If stellar songwriting is what you crave then look no further than Teitur.

Teitur recently released a compilation album All My Mistakes in the UK composed of what he considers to be the best tracks off his first two albums that were previously unreleased there, and is currently working on fifth album poised for a September release.

Hear what he sounds like with his song "Louis Louis" off Stay Under the Stars:

Pitstop: Wildlife

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Chances are you haven't heard of Wildlife but upon listening to the Ontario natives you'll be changing your tune. You might be tempted to compare the band to fellow Canadian bands Arcade Fire or The New Pornographers but that'd be a mistake. Combining punk rock intensity and folk sentimentality with powerpop the band creates energetic heart-felt tunes with a unique sound and memorable, moving melodies. The five piece first formed in 2006 and pretty much haven't looked back. Now the band is working on their debut album and I for one couldn't be more excited. Here's hoping the album enjoys a release sometime this year as it'll certainly be one for your library.

Hear what the band sounds like on their myspace here:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Now Streaming: She & Him - Volume Two

Indie pop duo She & Him is composed of rocker M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel. Together with Deschanel acting as chief songwriter and Ward as more of a producer/arranger the duo presents sugary sweet pop reminscient of the 60s. The band's debut release Volume One was well received and now the duo is back with Volume Two. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, it doesn't really change the group's sound too much or mark any changes in direction but rather offers up more of what was delivered in the first release only with much more of a focus on being breezy and whistful.

The album is available on NPR's First Listen where you can either stream the album in its entirety or listen to individual tracks here:

The band also recent released a video for album track "In the Sun":

Now Streaming: MGMT - Congratulations

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Brooklyn psychedelic rockers MGMT are back with their sophomore album Congratulations. Set for a April 13th release, the album was leaked earlier this week and in response the band decided to stream the entire album on their website. The album combines their quirky psych. style with traces of poppy surf rock. Not surprising considering the cover art for the album is a giant ocean wave. The band has stated that they would prefer not to release any single from the album, instead seeing the album as a single work and would rather have people listen and see what tracks jump out.

The band will be appearing on Saturday Night Live on April 24 and on Letterman on May 11th to promote the album.Listen to the album for yourself here:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fanfarlo - Reservoir (2009)

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London quintet Fanfarlo have certainly been busy what with the completion of their first US tour in December, live performances on Letterman and Carson Daly, a slew of shows at SXSW (the band's third time at the festival), signing to a major record label, and going on another US tour (with a brief sojourn to Toronto) before playing at Bonnaroo in June. Fanfarlo's been getting a tremendous amount of buzz and it's not hard to see why. Their debut album Reservoir is filled to the brim with intelligent and charming indie pop. The smart lyrics are far from pretentious however grounded by storytelling prowess that makes them relatable as well as enjoyable. Beginning with lead track "I'm A Pilot" starts with claps, stomps, and drums which contrast the soft pleasing tenor of lead singer Simon Balthazar. "Ghosts" whose lyrics the album gets its name, trades in the bombastic percussive efforts for a busy violin intro before setting into a foot tapping pace where you get to hear each band member playing their "designated" instruments: trumpet, guitar, bass, drums, and violin. "Luna" ups the energy while maintaining the steady drumbeat that was present in the previous songs throwing in a clarinet for additional spice. "Comets" proves that you don't need technology to create atmosphere with creepy effects all provided acoustically by backing vocals, saw, and melodica. "Drowning Men" is about feeling trapped in a small town and is aided by dream-like, almost nonsensical lyrics and contains the almost tongue in cheek lyrics "We can still afford to not make sense at all". At times driving, some times laid back and sentimental, the track is definitely one of my favorites. "If It Is Growing" is the slowest track on the album and does exactly that, starting out with two notes played consecutively on piano and slowly adding more instruments on top of the simple ostinato. First single "Harold T. Wilkins" brings the energy up and adds a mandolin into the groups ever growing collection of instruments. It's based off of real life British journalist who wrote extensively about flying saucers. The song tells a story about someone who feels out of place waiting for aliens to come take them where they think they belong.

The album is an exercise in ebb and flow, coming from nothing in "I'm A Pilot" and building throughout before fading out into nothing with instrumental track "Good Morning Midnight". It deserves a place in any music lovers library where it will probably endure extensive listening.

Enjoy the video for "The Walls Are Coming Down" which was released before the band signed to Atlantic Records. It features escapologist Ros Walker:

The School to release new album in May

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The School is a London pop octet from Wales whose sound is greatly inspired by that of 60s girl groups. As a result, the songs have a focus on female vocals delivered with a dreamy, wide-eyed innocence accompanied by lush Phil Spector-esque arrangement. The band notably was signed to Spanish label Elefant Records after playing only 4 shows. That was sometime ago and now the fruits of the band's labor can finally be seen with the release of their debut album Loveless Unbeliever. The band will be selling them on their upcoming UK tour and the album will be available everywhere by May 31st.

The band recently released a video for their song "Is He Really Coming Home?":

The album is available for your listening pleasure on Deezer. Check it out here:

Pitstop: Horse Feathers

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Some bands call themselves folk but offer up few elements besides that of an acoustic guitar. Well meet Horse Feathers, composed of lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Ringle, violinist Nathan Crockett, cellist Catherine Odell, and newly added multi-instrumentalist Sam Cooper, the band's sound is deeply reminscent of Appalachia with Ringle's high, quiet voice aiding to their moving quality. You'd never guess the band was from Portland. The band's gone through several incarnations, most recently from three piece to a quartet and the band's soon to be released album Thistled Spring will mark the first studio recording for all members but Ringle. Horse Feathers has previously released two albums, Words are Dead and House with No Home, and if there lastest album is anything to go off of the new album is bound to be an amazing musical experience.

The band's new album out on Kill Rock Star Thistled Spring is out April 20th. Also currently the band is on tour to promote the album and might be coming to a place by you. Hear what they sound like on track "Curs in the Weed" from there latest release House with No Home:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Daft Punk alive after all these years

It's a been awhile since anyone has heard from the electronic duo known as Daft Punk and while they hadn't completely dropped off the radar, the duo has apparently been very busy since the release of their third studio album Human After All in 2005 and live album Alive 2007 in 2007. Playing shows and DJ sets in their native France as well as several shows abroad, creating the award nominated full-length movie Electroma, even creating mixes for DJ Hero. The band also signed to compose the film score for the upcoming Tron Legacy to be release December 17 and will make a small cameo as themselves. The duo was also quoted to be working on material for a new album with as of yet to be determined release date.

Here's to hoping there's more to come from them in the immediate future.

Phoenix to release free live album

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The pop rocking four-piece Phoenix is one of the best things to come out of France since crepes, dijon mustard, and Daft Punk. Releasing the critically acclaimed and Grammy award winning Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix just last year, the band has pretty much been blowing up ever since with numerous live performances on shows like SNL and Jimmy Kimmel Live, having their songs featured in a number of primetime dramas like CSI and Royal Pains, and playing a slew of tour dates culminating in their appearance at several festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella. Now the band is giving their fans something new to scream about in the form a brand new live album (the band had previous released one in 2005) of their Sydney performance, completely for free. The album is available for download at

Hear what French indie rocker sound like with their hit single "Lisztomania":

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Local Natives - Gorilla Manor (2010)

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The debut album from Los Angeles based Local Natives, Gorilla Manor, hooks you from the moment you press play with its entrancing harmonies, energetic delivery, and clean precise playing from each member of the five piece. After the fading strains of last track "Sticky Threads" you'll be wondering why you didn't discover this band sooner. The band plays folk influenced indie rock and has been compared to Fleet Foxes but Local Natives maintains a rugged individuality. Each song contains toe-tapping inspiring drums, memorable hooks, and exhilarating three part harmonies. "Wild Eyes" in particular features complex drum playing that wouldn't be out of place in math rock. "Who Knows Who Cares" fuses together masterful string arrangement, sweeping vocals, and hyperactive drum beats into a stunningly beautiful contradiction of a busy but no less moving slow track. Gorilla Manor, released stateside this February, is an interesting mix of heart pumping and calming connected by high energy and an ever-present drum beat. The songs possess an almost limitless capacity for interaction with clapping, shout vocals, catchy and singable hooks, and dance-inspiring beats that would only the dead could resist. The album is pure enjoyable indie rock at its best.

Currently Local Natives is playing SXSW before continuing on a US tour to promote their new album. Hear what they sound like from their music video for the track "Airplane":

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Weepies announce release of new album

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Married folk duo The Weepies have certainly been busy what with the birth of their first son Theo in 2007, collaborating with Mandy Moore for her album Wild Hope, the release of their album Hideaway in 2008, and a couple shows here and there. Then the duo began production of their fourth studio album Be My Thrill in an intimate home studio this past April and in December announced that the master had been approved by their label, Nettwerk. The album's confirmed collaborators are Meg Toohey and Colbie Callt. Now it's only a matter of time before folk lovers far and wide can rejoice at the release of the duo's latest musical endeavor whose release date has yet to be officially announced but is rumored for a May 25th release.

Until the official announcement, or the release itself enjoy the track off the band's 2008 release Hideaway "Can't Go Back Now":

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Frightened Rabbit - Winter of Mixed Drinks (2010)

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Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit's third album The Winter of Mixed Drinks, released March 1st, is an artful mix of melancholy and optimism; hope and desperation. Unlike the band's two previous albums, The Winter of Mixed Drinks is less inspired by the personal life of lead singer and songwriter Scott Hutchinson instead a somewhat fictional detailing of a protagonist's feelings of loss and detachment, it remains no less relatible. Instead of focusing on the negative however the album seems to be more about embracing one's struggles and eventually overcoming them. The album combines Hutchinson's talent for lyrical storyweaving and emotionally charged vocals with clear and smooth guitar lines in a way that both gently coaxes the listener and strongly drags them into their musical realm, allowing them to truly relate; to witness the highs and lows until end track "Yes, I Would" leaves them exhausted and sated while all the while making them want more. Charming, moving, and inspiring all in equal parts, the album sets itself apart from the standard indie pop through pure honesty as well as musical enrichment.

Hear the band's first single off the album "Swim Until You Can't See Land":

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gin Wigmore - Holy Smoke (2010)

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Lyrics from lead track "Oh My": "I've had two years in heaven, but five weeks in, hell/Where do I go now?" sets the stage for the debut album from New Zealand songtress Gin Wigmore. The follow up to her Extended Play EP, Holy Smoke, was released in the fall of last year abroad and enjoying release in the States earlier this week on Universal Motown Records and features Gin delivering tongue-in-cheek vocals backed by The Cardinals such as second track "Hey Ho" which has Wigmore delivering threats to the one who wronged her. Gin Wigmore's dry raspy voice and take-no-prisoners song lyrics almost make tender tracks like "I Do" and "Dying Day" seem like an impossibility. But she manages to dull her hard rock edge and display an emotional vulnerability in these songs that would really move most listeners. The balance between tough and vulnerable is achieved with fun tracks like "Mr. Freakshow" where Wigmore makes it clear she doesn't want to be treated like a lady and "One Last Look". Wigmore's debut album is a delightful balance between rock-fuelled silliness, seriousness, and sensuality in a similar manner to her Extended Play. Holy Smoke is pop with a hard rock feel that progresses into a tender territory in a way that will have listeners craving for more. Luckily Gin is coming stateside to play a few tour dates at this year's SXSW, so those craving a live performance won't have to look too hard to see her.

Enjoy the fast-paced first single and lead track from Holy Smoke "Oh My":

Pitstop: Freelance Whales

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Meet Freelance Whales. The Queens five-piece crafts dreamy, sentimental pop rock with an interesting array of instruments like banjo, harmonium, glockspiel, and waterphone in addition to guitars, synths, and drums. Their songs are multi-layered, enchanting, and deeply evocative works. The band is a testament to the merits of when the musicians truly works as a cohesive unit weaving entrancing masterpieces that'll have you hanging on the edge of your seat. Freelance Whales' debut album, Weathervanes, is out April 13th and if the few songs I've heard are anything to go off, the album is bound to be a hit. Boldly individual, arresting, and brimming with raw barely subdued emotion. The band is one of the tons of bands playing at SXSW, one of the biggest music festivals, and is sure to amuse and delight those lucky enough to stumble upon their shows. Following the stop in Austin, the band is going on a US tour to promote their upcming album and if you have an opportunity to see them live, I'd certainly take it.

For those not lucky enough or in need of more convincing, see what the band sounds like live here:

Freelance Whales: Generator^Second Floor (Grand Street Studio Recording) from Ryan Mack on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast (2010)

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Florida's Surfer Blood are surf rockers with an ironic twist: None of them surf. Instead their songs are inspired by the West Palm Beach area they call home. But instead of generic odes to beaches and the surf or carbon copies of the most famous surf rockers, The Beach Boys, the band remains individualistic in sound and their debut album Astro Coast invites listeners into the many facets of their world. The band being labeled as surf rock might steer listeners away but aside from references to the surfing the band's songs can be seen as much more than lazy rock filled with simple tales of beach life. "Floating Vibes" and "Take It Easy" are sentimental as well as enjoyable and while "Swim" doesn't really go anywhere lyrically it's arguably the most catchy and entertaining track on the album. Instrumental track "Neighbor Riff" continues in the albums' efforts to provide a little something for everyone. Also fans of old school rock n' roll will be happy to discover that the album is absolutely filled with electric guitar. The album is a great work of pop featuring memorable sing-a-long hooks while also showcasing the band's talented playing.

Hear what the band sounds like with this video of their infectiously catchy "Swim" here:

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns (2009)

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With a name like The Rural Alberta Advantage you'd expect the Toronto-based indie rockers to perform traditional folk ballads using standard folk instruments. Well, you'd be half-right. The band's debut album Hometowns has a folk-influenced sound but starting from beat-heavy "The Ballad of the Raa", you get the feeling the band is not quite what you might expect. Sure they use acoustic guitar in some songs but they play with a intensity and energy reminscent of folk punk bands like Defiance, Ohio or Against Me!, the only thing seperating them from the genre are strained shout vocals and anti-something lyrics. Instead you have charming tales of love and love lost augmented by vocal harmonies and stellar string arrangements. Purely nostalgic acoustic tracks like "Rush Apart" are actually a rarity on this album but the driving drumbeats and guitar riffs keep them from changing the album's mood too much. As surprising frantic as the record was, it allows itself to decrease in intensity at just the right moments and is sure to be a good listen regardless of genre taste.

Listen/watch the video of The Rural Alberta Advantage's "Drain the Blood" here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

OK Go - Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky (2010)

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Remember OK Go? The Los Angeles based Chicago four-piece known mostly for their treadmill choreography in the "Here It Goes Again" video released their third album Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky this January.

The album fuses the jangly pop rock they're best known for with elements of dance pop, electronica, and even folksy acoustics("Last Leaf"). Tracks "I Want You So Bad I Can't Breathe" and "End Love" even contain echoes of disco. The album marks a change in direction for the band towards a more experimental/psychedelic vibe but still manages to contain vestiges of the band's previous sound. Fans might be a bit surprised at first but should find the album an overall good listening experience that strangely manages to fit a variety of genre influences into a cohesive work of art.

The band has decided to part ways with major label EMI and create their own operation by the name of Paracadute. As a result, the new label will be re-releasing Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky this upcoming April. Enjoy this video for album track and projected third single "This Too Shall Pass" here:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Maps & Atlases sign to Barsuk Records

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Chicago-based indie rock group Maps & Atlases announced earlier this year plans to record a full-length album. The band actually spent the better part of 2009 recording new material for the album in addition to touring. Though this will be the band's debut album the band has been together since 2004 releasing their Tree Swallows Houses and the You and Me and the Mountain EPs through Sargent House.

Now the band recently announced that they have signed to the Seattle indie record label, Barsuk Records. The album is expected to be released sometime this summer.

Streetlight Manifesto - 99 Songs of the Revolution: Volume I (2010)

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New Jersey Ska/Punk troubadours Streetlight Manifesto are back with their new album 99 Songs of the Revolution: Volume I. The first in a series of eight releases from the band, and other friends of the band who signed on to the project.

The album is a cover album featuring ska arrangements of works by artists from a variety of different genres such as folkies Mason Jennings and Paul Simon (of Simon & Garfunkel fame), electronic-inspired The Postal Service and Radiohead; even fellow punk rockers NOFX and The Dead Milkmen. The band also covers the song "They Provide The Paint for The Picture-Perfect Masterpiece That You Will Paint On The Insides of Your Eyelids" which was written by Streetlight's own Tomas Kalnoky for side project The Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. The album is interesting in that it contains what I never thought I'd hear on a Streetlight Manifesto album: acoustic guitar. In addition to acoustic guitar featured on tracks like "Linoleum" and "They Provide the Paint...", the album also contains other cool effects like a trumpet fanfare intro on "Such Great Heights", and ukelele in "Hell".

The album's conception and release has been argued by fans but regardless of their concerns, the album manages to deliver awesome music in the band's traditional style despite consisting of all covers. If you want the album, support the band by buying it at their live shows or ordering it from the band's merch website here:

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (2010)

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Mumford & Sons is a folk rock quartet from London though listening to their debut album Sigh No More you probably couldn't tell. Released in October of 2009 in the UK and February of this year in the US, Sigh No More features wonderfully crafted folk songs that seem to come right out of Appalachia. Employing instruments like mandolin, dobro, banjo, double bass, and violin, the album reminds listeners of straight-up, albeit higher-quality produced folk music straight from the American heartland. Sigh No More moves at an almost break-neck pace reminescient of punk music but in a way that demonstrates the virtuousity of the band while highlighting the songwriting prowess of band leader Marcus Mumford. Though the majority of the songs as fast paced, the average track length is about 4 minutes. The inclusion of balladic tracks like "The Cave", "Timshel", and "Awake My Soul" as well as adding organ, brass, strings, and keyboard provide a nice contrast and keep the album from appearing too predictable and repetitive.

Sigh No More is high energy, well-written folk rock containing a multitude of tracks that could be released as singles. A wonderful debut album released by an amazingly talent band that has a place in the collection of anyone who loves good music, folk fan or not. Enjoy the band's third single "The Cave":

Saturday, March 13, 2010

First Aid Kit - The Big Black and The Blue (2010)

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Earlier this week I mentioned the the release of First Aid Kit's debut album The Big Black and the Blue.

The album starter "In the Morning" sets the tone of the album demonstrating what the sisters are best know for: their stunning vocal harmonies. Short and somber, it features the sisters largely unaccompanied for the majority before the entrance ominous beat-keeping drum beat and repetitive twangy guitar riff that instead of distracting only augments the girls' intensity. The lead track also sets up a reoccuring water motif opening with the sisters captivating vocals narrating a trek across the wilds to dispose of a wedding ring into the sea ultimately resulting in a grim watery death. Following is "Hard Believer", detailing a religious arguement in an almost surprisingly upbeat manner especially considering lyrics like "Love is tough, time is rough on me" before reaching a triumphant climax with the duo belting: "And it's one life, and this life, and it's beautiful". "Sailor Song" begins with solo vocals with a gently strumming autoharp that helps to accent the words of the songstress/narrator before the song picks up into a hoedown-like energy and the song's plot slowly unravels. Initially the intro hints at a dark fate with the foreshadowing: "I was out on the porch, and now I'm ready for my doom". This song are so important the lyrics are to understanding the song's content because the overall cheerful, happy tone that belies the song's actual nature. Also returning is the water motif; the story about a sailor and his significant other who waits for him to return. "Waltz for Richard" maintains the dismal mood of the album, telling of a couple's last visit to the coast to watch bosts on the ocean together before being split up.

"Heavy Storm" opens up with lamentatious "I wish I could believe in something bigger/More than these trees, these winds, these oceans/I wish I could believe what they tell me" and describes the change that society has had on the song's various characters who move away, settle down, and ultimate lose old characteristics. The song provides a sort of social commentary with the characters living in peace with nature, playing shabby instuments but not caring, and singing songs praising their loved ones and nature before moving away to the big city and completely phasing out these aspects of themselves. The narrator(s) constantly wish throughout that they could return to far gone days before giving up and resigning to the fate that those far gone times are gone forever. "Ghost Town" enters with a organ and piano intro that provides a stark contrast to the guitar-centric album so far before the guitar and vocals enter to give a balladic account of a lover overwhelmed by their personal demons and a troubled past that ultimately lead to missed opportunity and longing. Whereas the last song saw the triumph of negativity, "Josefin" can be seen as a representing the overcoming of this struggle and becoming better through facing these challenges. "A Window Opens" sees the return of the darker feel. The narrator hoping that leaving will help give them clarity and understanding before ultimately deciding against it and opting instead to return. "Winter Is All Over You" is a slow moving but gripping narrative that portrays a character going off and dying in a war and the feelings of those left behind best illustrated by the sorrowful and almost rageful: "I saw your mother at the department store she looked as innocent like a stillborn/But all I could think about was the sting". "I Met Up With A King" sees the possible re-emergence of the religious themes encountered earlier in the album featuring a conversation between the narrator and dying, rotting "king" (possibly Jesus?) as well as girl used only for body by a young man who takes everything from her and has a total disregard for her mind (a prostitute reference perhaps?). Maybe it's a reference to Parzival? The rotting king being the Fisher king and the girl being...well any girl in medieval literature actually. There's several possible interpretations of this song and that is what is so good about it. The earlier argument against religious validation and the way the girls growl on "Well thank God" kind of shuts down the religious reference but who knows? Last track on the album "Will Of the River" rounds out the album, spicing up the simple guitar and vocals with flutes. The song, full of nature imagery, asks a very Hamlet-esque question of whether "to rest upon forever or to live for one more day" before the storyteller resolves to pick themselves up and go make a home somewhere. The song ends the album perfectly, fading in the same silence from which the album began.

Something I found interesting was the albums way of functioning as a storybook. Each song has it's own story with connecting themes of either the ocean, regret, despair, or sometimes death. The songs could function as a series of vignettes or you can put them all together to get a greater story. Also of note is the use of language in the songwriting. Several wonderful little words and sayings are slipped in in a way that doesn't draw any attention to thems and the listener would probably miss if they weren't paying attention. The songs themselves contain certain hints to their central plot but leave much to the imagination of the listen, much like a well-written piece of fiction. The album itself flows seemlessly with each track aiding to create an overall mood but retaining their own individuality and charm.

I mentioned the ambiguity and variety of interpretation for First Aid Kit's second single "I Met Up With A King", listen/watch and decide for yourself:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stricken City - Animal Festival EP (2010)

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Stricken City is a British indie pop rock quartet led by vocalist and korg-er Rebekah Raa. This past October they released their debut mini-album Songs About People I Know, and they're back again with their new Animal Festival EP. Animal Festival is a four song ode to what Stricken City does best. Finely crafted whimsical jangle pop. Title track and opener launches immediately into action; the bassline barely establish the song before Raa enters with vocals. The song is energetic and busy in a way that doesn't manage to overwhelm the listener. second track "An Iron Heart" functions are the EP's emotional track, slowing down the tempo somewhat and allowing for Rebekah's vocals to really stick out. Following is "Bella Writer" , a short reggae-ish track where Raa's vocals are only accompanied by beats and effects. Lastly, "Animal Festival Part 2" is a sort of ethereal vocalise. The strongest song here is opener "Animal Festival" but that's hardly a surprise. It's the longest of the four tracks with the other songs providing more of a cushioning. That's not to say the songs are bad in any way. The band website describes the other three songs themselves as being bonus tracks with the EP itself leading to a full length album to be released in the summer.

<a href="">Animal Festival by Stricken City</a>

Stricken City's Animal Festival EP is available for free download with a donation option on the band's website. Also available on the website is mini-album Songs About People I Know and the single Lost Art.

Video for "Animal Festival" here:

Stricken City - Animal Festival from Stricken City on Vimeo.

Janelle Monae to release new album in May

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Normally I avoid hip hop, rap, and R&B like the plague. Not because I don't like it but because it usually takes me such a long time to find anything that I consider "good" that I often don't want to make the effort. However Janelle Monae makes me want to give these genres another chance.

What Janelle Monae does is hard to put a label on. Sure some would call what she does Hip Hop but she takes influences from everything and has a level of musicianship you don't normally see. Her style is quirky, her stage presence electrifying, her music is odd yet strangely relevant. You see, Janelle has gone about the album process in a different way. Instead of releasing full length albums with 12or so songs she decided to create and distribute smaller EPs that contain songs that would keep the listeners interest all thorough. These EPs are linked by overarching story of an android by the name of Cindi Mayweather who defies the rules set forth in a sort of futuristic steampunk world that states that android are not allowed to fall in love with humans. The EPs are part of a four part series known as the Metropolis Suite. She released (and then re-released when signed to Diddy's Bad Boy label) the first EP called The Chase. It sets up the story and has Cindi running from cyborg bounty hunters known as The Droid Control. The epic storyline is brought to life thanks to Monae's powerhouse vocals, lush orchestrations, and clear, confident delivery.

Now Ms. Monae has announced the release date of her debut album The Arch-Android, a combination of the second and third parts of the Metrolopis suite, for May 25. The album will follow the adventures of android Cindi Mayweather and will see her having sort of awakening not unlike Neo in the Matrix. The first single from the album Tightrope featuring Big Boi of Outkast fame has already been release and I'm sure a video is already in the works.

Fans of Monae won't have to wait until May for more though as already she's announced tour dates in a multitude of places beginning later this month. Enjoy her short film for her song "Many Moons" here:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rogue Wave - Permalight (2010)

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While reading the current issue of Under the Radar I saw an advertisement for Rogue Wave's new album Permalight and was almost instantaneously inspired to get the album and review it.

For those not familiar with them, Rogue Wave is a four person indie rock band that manages to combine the stripped down acoustic subtlety of folk music, the jangly guitar sound of garage rock, and the catchiness of a pop rock group. They even had their song "Lake Michigan" (from third album Asleep at Heaven's Gate) featured in a commercial for the Zune a couple years back. Permalight, the band's fourth full-length album, marks the bands return to the studio and features new bassist Cameron Jasper.

The album reminds me of their first album Out of the Shadows in the way that it mixes styles. It opens with "Solitary Gun" which after a barely audible whispered intro launches into a clap-happy, energetic pop rock styled song. What follows is "Good Morning (The Future)" which follows directly in the heels of the preceeding song with similar energy and a dance pop feel with techno-esque vocal effects. Next is "Sleepwalker" which slows the album down and gently coaxes the listen to the vocals with a barely there accompaniment. After things pick back up a little bit with "Stars and Stripes" which brings back the pop rockish feel. If you listen to lyrics, you'll find them to be rhyming nonsensical jargon. A song for pure enjoyment's sake, I guess. The title track returns to the dance pop feel but retains the lyrical complexity (or lack thereof) from the previous song coupled with several effects like futuristic beep chimes.

"Fear Itself" manages to ground the album after the ridiculous lyrics in the past two songs and like the second song on the album forces you to listen to the lyrics purely by stripping away all the fancy effects and instruments and reveals a vulnerability and emotional connection you haven't felt through the entire album as of yet. It's fitting that it's located at the exact middle of the album. The next song "Right with You" retains some of mood from its predecessor before becoming a beat more upbeat and picking up the tempo. Following is "We Will Make A Song Destroy" which manages to balance the silliness of the title, driving bassline, contrasting slow down and changes in tone, and effects. The emotional vulnerability returns in "I'll Never Leave You" which has the vocals accompanied by a quietly strumming acoustic guitar and claps to keep the beat. It manages to remain sparse but also have enough going on that you're not left pondering at strange silences. "Per Anger" manages to combine the enjoyable aspects of the first part of the album with techniques like allusion which the listener has come to expect from the second part. The rather somber mood disappears with the garage rock feel of "You Have Boarded" whose only compositional drawback is the repetitiveness of the title line. I mean it even modulates. The album ends with the exceptionally short track "All That Remains" which follows in the stripped down vibe established by several of the other song on this part of the album. The only accompaniment for much of the song is a solo acoustic guitar until the song briefly picks up with a far-away sounding acoustic guitar before ending abruptly.

The album follows this strange format of being split pretty much in half. The first half boasts popish, eventful though lyrically underwhelming content while the second pretty much tries to redeem itself by providing sparse tableaus which really give the vocals and lyrics their moments to shine. Overall an interesting listening experience that has a little something in it for everyone's taste whether you crave emotionally relevant folksy masterpieces or simple dancey pop-influenced ditties.

Left With Pictures announces new project

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British chamber pop group Left With Pictures has a new project: In Time. Their goal: To produce a new song and new music video for that song at the end of every month for the whole year that is inspired by each particular month. To make sure they don't give up halfway through they've enlisted the help of Gideon Coe at BBC 6 who already made and announced slots for each new song on his show and the band has promised the videos will premiere on their website the day after. These songs aren't just half-hearted endeavors either. They have to be written, recorded, mixed, and arranged and the videos have to be filmed and completed by an already agreed upon date. Tough stuff espcially considering the Londoners just finished and released their debut album Beyond Our Means late last year and plan on still playing shows.

I must say that I love when bands do stuff like this. Not only is it a challenge both creatively and technically but it almost always ends with amazing result and while fans wait until the end of March for the latest song, they can enjoy February's song/video "St. Dominic":

Heart-Sick Groans - Gentlemen, If You Ain't Right, Get Right! (2010)

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Heart-Sick Groans are an indie pop three-piece from Sweden. They just released a 7 song EP at the end of last month called Gentlemen, If You Ain't Right, Get Right! featured on it is lead track "Three Day Blow" which they recently made a video for and a favorite of mine "Suddenly Molly". This EP proves above all that these guys are indie pop masters. Crafting delightful and enjoyable though tragically short pop gems that'll only have you hungering for more after giving the EP a listen.

Heart-Sick Groans' recently released EP Gentlemen If You Ain't Right, Get Right! is available to download for FREE at their bandcamp website.

Give it a listen right here and if you like it, go ahead and download away!

<a href="">Three Day Blow by Heart-Sick Groans</a>

Bowerbirds - Upper Air (2009)

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Is Myspace Dead? I sure hope not because that's how I found out about a folk duo known as the Bowerbirds. Bowerbirds are composed of guitarist/lead crooner Phil Moore with vocal harmonies, accordion, bass drum, and piano provided by Beth Tacular; along with sometimes multi-instrumentalist Matt Damron (who replaced their previous jack-of-all-tradesman Mark Paulson).

Their second album Upper Air was released during the summer of 2009 and it can best be described as a direct follow up to debut album Hymns of a Dark Horse. It doesn't mark any radical changes in sound or composition but rather provides some more of the beautiful vocal harmonies, innovocative nature imagery, and stellar songwriting that fans of the band have come to love. Opening the album with the calmly stated and almost lackadaisical "One morning you wake to find you are shackled to your bed and bound and gagged/Oh my, what a predicament" of lead song "House of Diamonds" you're not exactly sure what to expect from the song or album in general but the somewhat shocking open and calm delivery of what should be a frantic realization merely helps to illustrate the song's message: That even though you're captured with no hope of escape by the devices of man, in a sense you're free of them as well. No longer having to worry about material possessions, upholding social norms, the list goes on and on. Other songs worth mentioning are "Beneath Your Tree" with a disarming and emotion-invoking conveyance of opening verse "I could bleed, bleed, bleed for days but my heart would still beat for you, dear" and single track "Northern Lights" which manages to combine lovely nature images with simple desires of love. Lyrics like these are a staple of this album and coupled with sometimes sparse arrangements seem to create an overarching theme of simplicity.

I've included the video for Northen Lights (shot by Matt Amato) here for your listening and viewing pleasure. Enjoy!:

Bowerbirds "Northern Lights" from matt amato on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vampire Weekend on Saturday Night Live

So after Jennifer Lopez's performance on SNL I was hoping for anything. So long as it wasn't a repeat of the unspeakable horror was I was forced to endure from anywhere between 7-10 minutes. Now I have nothing against Jennifer Lopez. She's put out some good albums, she's a competent dancer even despite that falling incident at who cares what awards show that was but her performance two weeks ago was simply horrible. Like Adam Lambert live horrible. Her singing sounded strained and her accuracy of her notes are probably still being debated by musicologists far and wide. While not a trainwreck it was just not a good performance. I'll admit I watched them because I thought she was gonna sing one of her older songs which I liked "Do It Well" and I was sorely disappointed.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when after that I saw that the next week's guests would be Vampire Weekend. I was estatic. Fast forward a week later and Vampire Weekend did not disappoint. Singing their first single off the latest album "Cousins" and then "Giving Up the Gun", I was positively giddly with boyish glee. I wouldn't have changed a thing about the performances. Well maybe Ezra Koenig's tendency to have the strangest looks on his face when the camera closes up but that's not really all that important now is it?

In a world where MTV no longer plays music videos or is anyway affiliated with music in general it's nice to know there's a place to go where, while not always but often, there's high caliber live performances and good music. Thanks SNL.

Fanfarlo signed to Major Record Label

Earlier this year I found out that one of my favorite bands, Fanfarlo, was signed to a major record label. Sony I believe. This created a conundrum. Fanfarlo to me represents everything I love about music. Their songs are intelligent and well crafted (even their band name is a literary reference), they're charismatic and humble, and they're talented at their instruments (however many that may actually be). I first found out about Fanfarlo from Eardrums Music blogs compilation project where Fanfarlo's song and later single "Harold T. Wilkins" was featured on their fall themed compilation A Good Crop. It's mandolin laden intro had me convinced of the song's amazingness even before the first verse began. After that first listen, I'm not ashamed to say that I listened to the song pretty much repetitively after that. As for Fanfarlo themselves, the once-sextet-now-five-piece British indie pop-ers are a breath of fresh air in what seems to be an increasing generic sounding music industry. Based off the traditional rock standard of guitar, bass, drums, they also add in violin, trumpet, glockenspiel, mandolin, melodica, clarinet, whatever's necessary actually in a way that's not overwhelming but merely creates music that is enjoyable to listen to. Music that hooks the listener and makes them just want to listen to it for awhile. Only after actually listening for the lyrics (a feat that still took me looking up the lyrics to get) do you realize how genius the band is. Harold T. Wilkins is about what can only be called a ficitionalized account of the life of real life alien expert Harold T. Wilkins. Lead singer Simon Balthasar's somewhat strange yet entrancing voice describes the story of a lonely man who doesn't feel he belongs constant packing and repacking waiting for someone or something to come and spirit him away to someplace better. Who hasn't felt something like that before? It's almost a year to the day that Fanfarlo first self-released their debut album Reservoir and what with it's re-release and their recent string of US tours, and late night television performances, the future looks bright for these literate pop darlings. Perhaps their signing is a sign in and of itself; of new and excitingly legitimate stirring in the popular music realm. I'm no fortune teller but with a band like Fanfarlo around I think we can do more than just hope.

Though the overall results of Fanfarlo's major signing have yet to be seen, one benefit of it is a spiffy new music video:

First Aid Kit's Debut Album Out NOW!

So it's been awhile since I've written anything on here. I'm kinda getting used to this having a blog thing. Anyway I just heard some of the greatest news that I fear my young heart can't take it. Brace yourselves.

Swedish lovelies Johanna and Klara Soderburg of First Aid Kit just recently released their debut album The Big Black & The Blue this past Monday, March 8th [Edit: Their single "I Met Up With A King" was released on March 8th, the album was released January 25th]. Now I first found out about them about a year/year and a half ago from Eardrums Music blog and I have to say they are ridiculously talented. The girls were about 15 and 17 at the time and had already released their debut EP Drunken Trees. Now they're a little older, a little wiser, and still writing awesome songs it seems. While their EP boasted "You're Not Coming Home Tonight" which describes terse end to a marriage, they got surprisingly even more mature with their first single from their new album "Hard Believer" with lyrics like "I see you've got your Bible your delusion imagery/I don't need your eternity or your meaning to feel free/I just live because I love to and that's enough, you see/So don't preach about morality that's just human sense to me". Check it out!:

If you like folk, haunting vocal harmonies, or even just good aptly written music check out First Aid Kit and maybe give their debut album a listen.