Monday, January 31, 2011

Ringside - Lost Days

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While Zooey Deschannel's musical side project She & Him sure gets tons of coverage, there's another "celerity" band worthy of praise: Ringside. Composed of guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Scott Thomas and actor Balthazar Getty providing beats and producing. Lost Days released this past week is the follow up to their 2005 self-titled debut. It combines the borrowed genre elements used on the debut with a new, more rugged sound. That's not to say the whole album is full of rough-and-tumble rock songs, there's also slower, more introspective tracks like "Stay" and "Love in the Asylum". All throughout the album there's this perfect balance achieved between the beats and the other musical content, no doubt due to the two artists' long collaboration with each other. It's catchy without being fake, and noisy without being irritating: pop rock done oh so right.

Lost Days features numerous guest appearances like Ben Harper on "Lost Days", Joaquin and sister Rain Phoenix on backing vocals, and Weezer's Brian Bell to name a few. It's the product of much labor and love, financed and released by the band itself on their own imprint Ringside, Inc. Here's hoping it's not another six years until they release their next album but if that's what it takes for them to produce another album of this quality, then so be it. Get a taste of Ringside with the video for soft rocking lead track/single "Lost Days" featuring Ben Harper:

If you like what you hear, you can give them whole album a listen and buy it at their Bandcamp here.

Fleet Foxes reveal album details and new tour dates

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After almost three years, folk rock quintet Fleet Foxes is finally releasing its sophomore album. The album titled Helplessness Blues is slated for a May 3rd release date, after which the band will depart on a North American tour.

Tour dates:
4/30 The Vogue Theatre - Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
5/1 Crystal Ballroom - Portland, Oregon
5/3 Moore Theatre - Seattle, Washington
5/5 Fox Theater - Oakland, California
5/6 Spreckles Theatre - San Diego, California
5/7 Hollywood Palladium - Hollywood, California
5/8 Rialto Theatre - Tucson, Arizona
5/10 Stubb's Waller Creek - Austin, Texas
5/11 Palladium Ballroom - Dallas, Texas
5/13 Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, Tennessee
5/14 The Tabernacle - Atlanta, Georgia
5/15 DAR Constitution Hall - Washington D.C.
5/17 Orpheum Theatre - Boston, Massachusetts
5/18 The United Palace Theatre - New York, New York
5/21 Tower Theatre - Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

Limited pre-sale tickets as well as album pre-orders will be available tomorrow. You can also download the title track from the album here.

Pitstop: Crystal Fighters

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Crystal Fighters might very well be the most unique band I've ever heard. The London-based Spanish invoking quintet combines Basque folk instruments with synthesizers to create folk-tronic dance-pop. It's a mash-up of so many genres it' almost hard to believe but Crystal Fighters does it very well. Whether the vocals are chanted, sung, or spoken, their melodies are as undeniable as the beats they create. Normally one who avoids club music there's something intriguing about them that compels you to listen. It's no wonder the group has played numerous musical festivals.

I'm not exactly sure what made Crystal Fighters request to follow me on Twitter (leading me to discover them) but I'm glad they did. Their music is refreshing in its newness and charming in its delivery. The band released their debut album Star of Love in October, you can listen to the full album stream here.

Get a peek at their distinct sound with "Plage":
Plage by Crystal Fighters

Pitstop: Matt Pond PA

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I had heard of Matt Pond PA mentioned numerous times throughout 2010. And for some reason never checked it out. What actually prompted me to give it a listen was seeing the name on the calender for a local concert venue. The venue normally caters to hardcore, screamo, and the various varieties of punk music so I was surprised when I saw Matt Pond PA on the calender. On every instance I had seen or heard his name, a genre was never attached. One Google search landed me on his MySpace page. Turns out Matt Pond PA is the name of the NY-based Philadelphia-born full band that accompanies singer/songwriter Matt Pond. His music evokes sunny warm Spring days regardless of what time of year it actually is. Unlike most full band's centered around a songwriter, every part is given its chance to soar and make its presence known. Sure, the instrumentals mostly compliment Matt Pond's vocals but they're not so out of focus that you can't recognize the talent there.

Get a taste of Matt Pond PA with the video for "Starting" from last year's release The Dark Leaves. And if you like the band's sound make sure you catch them on their tour beginning February 25. You can view the dates here.

Now Streaming: Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines

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Telekinesis has undergone some considerably changes over the year(s) like line-up changes but what hasn't changed is leader Michael Benjamin Lerner's brilliantly shiny powerpop. His sophomore album 12 Desperate Straight Lines was inspired by heartbreak, a van crash, and a restless spirit. It's both charmingly familiar and subtly different.

You can stream the new album in full before its February 15th release date at NPR here.

Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines

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Michael Benjamin Lerner aka the man behind Telekinesis won me over long ago with debut album Telekinesis! back in 2009. Add to the fact that he's worked with underrated singer/songwriter Anya Marina and well, the man can pretty much do no wrong. "Dirty Thing" is by far one of the catchiest songs I've encountered over the past year but for all the right reasons. It's light and poppy but not too much and is one of those examples of happy songs that are actually kinda sad.

Considering the album's inspired by feelings of desperation, depression, anger, and hopelessness, you might be surprised by the album's upbeat high-energy pop sound and yet that's what attracts you to Telekinesis. The duality between the catchiness of the songs themselves and the actual meaning of the lyrics. On 12 Desperate Straight Lines you get vestiges of Learner's established sound while he also throws in more experimentation. It's noisier than the debut but no less accessible. Proving you never know what to except from him: Learner redoes previously released "Dirty Thing" and makes it sound more nostalgia a feat I didn't even know was possible.

12 Desperate Straight Lines proves that even life's low points have good in them. Learner's tracks dance where others would weep, smile when others would frown, and practically shine with optimism. It's the more positive break-up album you bound to ever hear.

You can preorder the album (whose release date is February 15) here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Watch: Lykke Li - "I Follow Rivers"

When she's not selling out shows worldwide, Swedish siren Lykke Li is creating art. After an untitled video where Lykke Li gets in touch with her primal side and savagely attacking the sand on a beach. The video for her second single from upcoming sophomore album Wounded Rhymes "I Follow Rivers", finds Lykke Li traversing the snowy plains of Gotland with Swedish Lebanese actor Fares Fares. Well more like chasing after him. Even going barefoot in the freezing snow to catch up to him. And when she catches up with him there's like a minute of kissing. After the super fem-powered "Get Some", it shows a softer side to the take no prisoners persona established in her past couple videos. And yet, even when she's comforting a man, barefoot in the snow, a steely glance at the camera reminds you that she's still no pushover. Enjoy the video for "I Follow Rivers":

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers (Director: Tarik Saleh) from Lykke Li on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pitstop: Oryx and Crake

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I found out about Oryx and Crake by accident on Paste Magazine's site after seeing their name is an ad-like side banner for Paste's Artist of the Day while reading about notable albums out today. Something about their name compelled me to check into them. Also the recommended if you like: The Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, and Lost in the Trees. Color me intrigued. Self-described on their MySpace page as Electroacoustic indiepop, what struck me was there use of instruments like cellos and violins with beats created on an electronic drum. Like Broken Bells collided with a string orchestra or something to that effect. The 9 piece from Atlanta, Georgia is centered around a husband and wife duo Ryan Peoples and Rebekah Goode-Peoples' guitar, keyboard, and vocals with instruments like banjo, midi, cello, and singing saw thrown in to flush out the sound. I've talked about folktronica bands on this blog before and yet, this was unlike anything I've heard in the genre. For such a large ensemble, the sound is subdued and subtle, charmingly intimate, and yet the beats infuse it with a vaguely dance-pop character.

Give Oryx and Crake a listen and if you like their music turns out they have a record out. So if you like it, grab it! Latest tracks by oryxandcrake

The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger - Acoustic Sessions

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I was first introduced to The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger, the brain child of Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, this past summer when they performed at one of Joseph Gordon Levitt's Summer in the City for his collective HitRECord. Their songs were as eerie as they were captivating, as quirky as they were genius. However, as quickly as they took to the stage, they were gone like stealthy musical ninjas. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon their "debut" album Acoustic Sessions at my local music store. From the second their voices enter in lead track "Lavender Road", you understand exactly why the two are in a musical project together. Their voices weave effortless together and their multi-instrumentalism compliments each other perfectly.

With songs like "Shroedinger's Cat", "Candy Necklace", and "Robot Boy" among others, GOASTT create brilliantly off-kilter fairy tales sometimes sunny, sometimes dark, always creatively original, and tinged with bits of psychedelica. You probably haven't heard anything like The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger's Acoustic Sessions which is a gift in itself. The other is the raw talent you'll get to experience if you buy the album. So do yourself and grab it! You won't regret it.

Get a taste of The GOASTT with their Tiny Desk Concert at NPR:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wildlife - Strike Hard, Young Diamond (2010)

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I have no idea why it's taken me so long to review this album. Truthfully, this album was among my most anticipated albums of 2010. Especially after getting a peek with the Strike Hard, Young Diamond EP. But with Strike Hard, Young Diamond, Wildlife proves that the songwriting prowess revealed in "Sea Dreamer" and "Stand in the Water" was no fluke. Occasionally the Ontario natives will trade in ragged jangly powerpop for some stripped down goodness to remarkable effect.

I spoke rather highly of Wildlife when they released their EP, calling them capable storytellers and talented musicians and I'm proud that with their full-length debut they've maintained these skills. The new songs fit perfectly alongside their pre-released tracks and continue to show their wide range of influences like post-rock on "Drunken Heart" and "Synesthesia". Strike Hard, Young Diamond is catchy, accessible, versatile, and worthy of many repeat listens. Here's hoping there's much more to come from these young rockers to the North because I certainly intend to listen!

You can give the album a listen as well as pick up digital copy of the album up at their bandcamp here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

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Honestly, I've never listened to an Iron & Wine album before. I actually thought Iron & Wine was a 80s rock group until one day a random Google search informed me of my grievous error. And there was no time like the present (what with the new album streaming) to check out his music. For those unaware, Iron & Wine is the moniker of Sam Beam whose been making music since the early '00s. His latest album, Kiss Each Other Clean is his first after about 3 years. A Google search will tell anyone that. But what they won't tell you is how amazing the new album is. I'm not exactly sure what I expected but I had my expectations shattered in a matter of seconds. Some might classify Iron & Wine as a folk artist but that'll leave you massive unprepared for what you're going to hear. The album plays with some funky grooves and electronics.

Kiss Each Other Clean is in many ways catchy like a pop album, but has the earnestness and lyricism of folk, with some jazz grooves and sound experimentation that really distinguishes it from your standard pop or folktronica record. Give the album a listen here.

Now Streaming: Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

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Iron & Wine has made his new album Kiss Each Other Clean available for streaming. What's surprising is not that he's elected to do this but where you can stream it from: Conan O'Brien's website. Then again, not really if you take into the account that Conan's got impeccable music taste as evidenced in who he gets to perform on his show (and the fact that he's good friends with Jack White).

The album will be released January 25th, but until then you can listen to the full album here.

She & Him release video for "Don't Look Back"

She & Him continue their disarmingly cute domination of music as we know it, this time with the release of a video for "Don't Look Back" off last year's Volume Two. The video is pretty much made of awesome, featuring Zooey Deschannel lounging around her futuristic and yet retro-styled apartment, M. Ward inflating a guitar and then playing it, a robot playing the piano, some Zooey clones, and a M. Ward hologram. Enjoy the video for "Don't Look Back":

She & Him - Don't Look Back from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beep! release album and premiere video

What seems like ages ago I mentioned that Beep!, an experimental jazz trio for Oakland California, were releasing an album. Well yesterday was the day that City of the Future became available virtually everywhere (but mostly on Amazon). To celebrate the release of their new album, the trio also offered up a video for "Today is Your Birthday". The video, created by Marina Valentina, is almost as quirky as the band's wonderfully off-kilter sound. Featuring the band, toothbrushes, and morphing pictures of Victorian women; the video is pretty hard to explain. Instead, you should just watch it and try and make sense of it yourself. Enjoy the video for Beep!'s "Today is Your Birthday":

Monday, January 17, 2011

Noah and the Whale release video for new album

Noah and the Whale continue to give fans a peek at their upcoming third album Last Night on Earth, this time releasing a video for the album's first single "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N", It's both quintessentially Noah and the Whale and something delightfully new. Though the song has some rather melancholy subjects like a promiscuous nightclub worker and yet it sounds like a celebration of life. With a catchy harmony-laden chorus and a general upbeat sound. The video features several of the tragic characters described in the song while showing the various members of the band hanging out and eventually playing in the nightclub. Enjoy the oddly upbeat video for "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N" by Noah and the Whale:

Freelance Whales reveal second GLS single

Almost a week after releasing a video for "Enzymes", Freelance Whales' first single for Green Label Sound, the spunky quintet offers up a brand new song called "Day Off". Unlike their much darker sounding first single, "Day Off" is brighter and far more upbeat and yet still features the more nuanced sound developed since their album. And yet the dreamy aspects that made their album great are still there enhanced by a renewed clarity of ideas. The track, influenced by their experience as a touring band, is about "wanting to come home and reclaim your own possessions" according to lead singer Judah Dadone. Enjoy "Day Off" from Freelance Whales and if you like it, it's available for free download.

Friday, January 14, 2011

S, Carey gets music video for "In the Dirt"

Wow what timing. Yesterday, I talked about how incredible S. Carey's album was and today, S. Carey released his first official music video. Crafted by two Swedish filmmaker brothers, Nils and Axel Byrfors, during the Christmas season; the video was actually purely a bonding experience for the two brothers who live on two different continents. After making the video, the brother then emailed it to Carey's manager who showed it to him. Well, Mr. Carey loved it and decided to make it the official video for the song. The video revolves around a little girl leaving home in the middle of the might, only to be tailed by her little brother. They end up having all sorts of adventures in the snow way into the morning time when they suddenly seem to realize the consequences of their actions and wait for their parents to pick them up. Enjoy the video for "In the Dirt":

"In The Dirt" - Official Music Video from S. Carey on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pitstop: Avi Buffalo

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With song titles like "Summer Cum" and "Five Little Sluts", I didn't really believe all the accolades of California based Avi Buffalo. But upon listening to their bright and summery self-titled debut, I'm willing to admit I was wrong. Take 60s surf rock, add in some newfangled guitar techniques, throw in the subtle majesty of some European twee pop and you'll at least have an idea of what Avi Buffalo sounds like. Surprisingly simple, Avi Buffalo still manages to avoid any definitive genre-labeling. Instead they make music that's just good. In it's own way that's oddly familiar and yet not. Like pure unbridled youth in musical form with light touches of nostalgia and consequence-minded sincerity thrown in for good measure. It's music that doesn't take itself serious. Just is, and manages to resonate with your very core and pop up later in your memory.

Originally starting as a recording project for guitarist/vocalist Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg before turning into a full on four-piece band, after a bunch of shows and festival appearances, the quartet has been reduced to a duo. Here's hoping there's more from Avi Buffalo on the horizon!

Get a taste of Avi Buffalo with the video for "What's In It For?":

S. Carey - All We Grow (2010)

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I first found out about S. Carey when he went on tour with Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man on Earth but what I didn't know is that I had heard S. Carey before. You see, S. Carey is the drummer and supporting vocalist for Bon Iver (one of Justin Vernon's evergrowing stable of musical projects). All We Grow was recorded during the band's initial hiatus in '08 and seems to some degree inspired sonically by Carey's time in Bon Iver. Ambient buzzes give way to stunning vocals and lovely layering that really illustrate Carey's talents as an arranger and multi-instrumentalist. Carey's work wields an abnormally great amount of musical power, his quiet barely-there tenor hits you with the intensity of a freight train while being simultaneously soothing and almost unassuming.

All We Grow is great from start to finish, entrancing with its weaving melodic lines aided in part by Carey's percussive skills. There's a real balance achieved between rhythmic percussion and melodic content that creates inescapably ear-catching pieces. While the use of ostinato could get boring, Carey's use of it (like the mostly percussive piano in "We Fell" and "In the Stream") is inventive enough to survive limitless listens with no complaint.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adele releases official video for "Rolling in the Deep"

What do a hundreds of glasses of water, burning model buildings, tons of broken dishes, and a contemporary dancing ninja woman have to do with Adele? Well they're all featured in the official video for "Rolling in The Deep". Released last month, the official video trades the playfulness of the compiled studio footage video for a more somber set of seemingly unrelated scenes that connected convey the steamy grit of Adele's vengeful single. The hundreds of glasses rattle and shake with each foreboding pound of the drums, the dancing warrior woman getting more frantic as Adele denounces her lover in the chorus, and the model buildings catching flames as Adele acknowledges the wreck of a her relationship. It's artfully done and really entertaining to watch. Enjoy the video for "Rolling in the Deep":

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Freelance Whales reveal video for "Enzymes"

Months ago when Freelance Whales released "Enzymes" for Green Label Sound, they promised a video was soon to follow. Well today, the band made good on their promise. The video co-directed by Chunwoo Kae and Ryan Demler of Neue Films, follows in the footsteps of their video for "Hannah" with mangled faces, scenes of the band performing, and some artsy exploding flowers among other things. Enjoy the video for "Enzymes":

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fanfarlo offer up video for "Atlas"

It's been awhile since I've heard from Fanfarlo. Since being featured on the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack, touring extensively worldwide, and playing numerous festivals, Fanfarlo took a bit of a break to write for their new album, enjoy the holidays, and just take a bit of a breather. The band is still working on their new album but had time to share the video for their song "Atlas" which appeared on the Eclipse soundtrack. The band had initially teased about its creation in the early fall but now anyone can see the finished product. Shot backstage while on tour in Sydney, the video is simplicity at its best. Instead of a heavily produced video with an artistic vision, you have the band members more-or-less being their quirkily awesome themselves in front of a black painted wall and camera lens, while Simon and Cathy sing along with the track. There's even some fake vampire teeth thrown in for good measure. Enjoy the video for "Atlas":

Lost In The Trees - All Alone In An Empty House (2010)

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Nowadays it's not uncommon for an band (especially an indie one) to consist of a wide variety of personnel and instruments but Lost In The Trees manages to set itself apart from them. A veritable folk symphony that frames Ari Picker's dulcet tenor, consists of capable members with the ability to move as an organic whole as simply as one might take a breath. All Alone In An Empty House as a whole is filled with heartbreaking melancholy aptly illustrated by Picker's doleful songwriting. A collective of classical musicians, several times during the album you really get to witness their playing prowess as well as Picker's compositional skills with the instrumental sketches. Skillfully wielding the dramatic power of an orchestra with the intimate narrative of a singer-songwriter, All Alone In An Empty House is bound to be one of your favorite albums due mostly in part to their multi-faceted allure, and surprising strength in performance, writing, and presentation that mask the fact that the album is in fact their debut.

Get a taste of the subtle intensity of Lost In The Trees with the video for "Walk Around the Lake" and if you like what you hear, make sure to see them on their upcoming tour. Tour dates can be found on their website here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Decemberists - The King Is Dead (2011)

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Occasionally I run into a band that is talked about so favorably that I kind of put them to the side. Unfortunately, one of those bands was The Decemberists. I actually remember watching the video for "The Mariner's Revenge Song" and being really awestruck but for some reason, nothing actually came of it. So when NPR put up their latest album The King is Dead for streaming, I jumped at the opportunity to actually listen to it before I forgot. I can't say too much about how it stacks up to their previous works but I instantly understood why people liked the band less than halfway through first track "Don't Carry It All". After all, its virtually impossible to dislike anything with aptly played harmonica solos which can actually be found practically all throughout the album. Channeling part American roots music (particularly in songs "Rox In The Box" and "All Arise!") and something more rock-like, the album is melodically driven to an almost surprising degree. There is never more than one voice in the spotlight. Whether that be Colin Meloy's vocals, Jenny Conlee's accordion, the aforementioned harmonica solos, or even a little fiddle. I shouldn't be surprised that The Decemberists can combined folksy acoustics with dazzling rock grooves and such into a cohesive album, and yet I am. "This Is Why We Fight" and "Down By The Water" are probably the most "contemporary" and multi-layered tracks on the album and yet fit seamlessly with the more sparse, acoustic-based tracks on the album. Color me impressed. With the catchy memorability resulting from the melodic focus I know I won't forget about The Decemberists ever again.

Give The King Is Dead a listen at NPR here.