Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart (2011)

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Seattle sextet The Head and the Heart might be one of the most talked about folk bands (other than Fleet Foxes) right now and that's no coincidence. One listen to any song of their self-titled debut will make a fan out of you. Their songs are infectuously well-crafted featuring lovely three-part harmonies, fun foot-tamping melodies, and a fresh style of songwriting.

The Head and the Heart use their larger than average size to great effect, underplaying a lot of their members talents until magical moments where they seem to just spontaneously burst forth like Charity Rose Thielen's soulful vocals on "Rivers and Roads" or showcasing Kenny Hensley's impressive piano chops on "Ghosts" all anchored by guitarist Johnathan Russell's delightfully raspy voice.

The Head and the Heart shares a quality that many of my favorite album often do. A sort of interconnectedness of all the songs. Sure, each song is wonderful in its own right but heightened by its place in between others or just a direct continuation (like how "Cats and Dogs goes directly into Coeur D'alene ). It's a feat that's hard to master and yet The Head and the Heart do so effortless on their debut. Their songs are the kind that make you want to get up and dance and crave to see them live.

Get a taste of The Head and the Heart's incredibly energetic soul-rousing style of folk rock with "Lost in my Mind" performed live for KEXP:

East River Pipe - We Live in Rented Rooms (2011)

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I snagged East River Pipe's lastest album We Live in Rented Rooms on a whim knowing absolutely nothing about the musician Fred Cornog aka East River Pipe or his bedroom recordings that he's been making since the 1990s. No, my purchase of his album was motivated purely by the fact that I was looking for something new and the good folks at Amazon were offering up the album for dirt cheap. So imagine my very grateful surprise when the album turned out to be good. Not just good, actually. More than that. We Live in Rented Rooms is filled with articulate lyricism, sweeping string arrangements, and a pervasive state of melancholy.

The most interesting thing about Cornog's bedroom recording is the fact that he takes real chances. He doesn't just rest on the same songwriting conventions or strengths in fact: none of his songs sound all that similar. They're either lightly sprinkled with strings, or flutes, reverb to form a hazy mystique, jangly guitar lines, or light touches of piano but never in quite the same way. He's also not afraid to let the music do it's job, often having the tracks continue long after he's done singing ("The Flames Are Coming Back", "Con Man").

I'll be honest during my initial listening of "Backroom Deals", I had a hard time seeing any of the potential that I would see realized in the remainder of the album. I actually almost shut it off but thanks heavens I powered through because the rest of the album is worthy of awe. The first two songs weren't horrible, I just felt like Cornog's complete lack of subtlety when he declares "The whole world runs on backroom deals" in "Backroom Deals" would be the theme of the album and I rarely like to get political if I can help it. However there's a sort of charm to Cornog's openness. Instead of pondering at what he really means when Cornog says something, it's actually all laid out bare for you and you can focus on the way he says it and the music he's making to get the point across. We Live in Rented Room is definitely worth a listen for anyone looking for something new but decidedly good.

You can get the album for cheap on Amazon, listen to some of his older tunes on Myspace

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thunder and Lightning - Kangaroo Court

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been totally obsessed with ARMS since I discovered them about two months ago. Since then I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Summer Skills and listening any band they told me to during the wait. So, when they posted an article about Goldstein's ex-bandmate, drummer Brent Katz of Harlem Shakes fame, was releasing a new album with new project Thunder and Lightning, I took immediate notice.

Kangaroo Court is a welcome debut from Thunder and Lightning, embellishing on the established musical credibility of drummers/singers (like Telekinesis, S. Carey, and J. Tillman) with a noteworthy quality: While featuring blustering drum parts also contains heavy doses of feel good piano pop. The album, from the beginning strains of "I Held Her Hand In Mine" to the dying ones of "Jupiter, Florida" is a non-stop ride of pure poppy goodness. But occasionally the album decides to take a break from its breakneck, hyperactive pace ("Hourglass Figure", "Worm Song", "Jupiter, Florida"). What separates Thunder and Lightning from other indie-pop groups is its inventiveness and unpredictability. Anytime the listener is in danger of becoming even the slightest bit complacent, Katz (who acts as chief songwriter, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire) changes gears. It's an album that effectively keeps the listener on their toes but lacking in pretension or overindulgence. It's smart, savvy pop with a flair for the dramatic.

You can listen to Thunder and Lightning's debut on their Bandcamp.It's available for download there on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Lykke Li releases "Sadness is a Blessing" video

Lykke Li is no stranger to theatricality, as fans most likely saw in her Solarium and "Untitled" videos. And Lykke Li has some rather talented friends: Remember Swedish/Lebanese actor Fares Fares in "I Follow Rivers" video? Well in her latest video for "Sadness is a Blessing" she combines the two - her first music video to actually feature parts sans music features Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard as her father. Lykke Li plays Skarsgard's attention-grabbing rebel daughter who manages to shock a roomful of affluent dinner patron with her vodka guzzling and dancing. The video was directed by previous collaborator Tarik Saleh.

Enjoy the video for "Sadness is a Blessing":

Lykke Li - Sadness is a Blessing (Director Tarik Saleh) from Lykke Li on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sondre Lerche releases video for "Domino"

Who needs highly conceptualized music videos with a super developed plot? Not Sondre Lerche. His new music video for "Domino", directed by friend Kate Barker-Froyland, features Lerche in his new home in Brooklyn putting his newfound ability to drive in the US to the test, as well as using the subway along with some footage of Lerche playing live shows in and around New York with some brief scenes of Lerche recording for good measure. It's a formula that's remarkably simple and yet done extremely well.

Enjoy the video for "Domino":

Monday, April 25, 2011

Son Lux - We Are Rising (2011)

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I wouldn't have heard of Son Lux if not for NPR and an oddly persistent curiosity. Son Lux aka Ryan Lott writes music for modern dance companies when he isn't writing his own tunes. His music a mix of hip hop beats, field recordings, and string and brass arrangements that sounded strangely intriguing despite my normal distaste for such things. Add to the fact that he recorded the whole of his latest album is one month. If that doesn't seem at all impressive to you (which it certainly should), a cursory listen is bound to change your mind. We Are Rising is a multi-layered, richly textured sonic tour de force.

You'd be hard-pressed to find any song that wasn't an absolute labor of love and hard work. Each song strong enough to standalone but also nearly perfect in their place on the album. Whereas some electronic musicians haphazardly throw together all their sounds, Son Lux stitches together a wonderfully cohesive musical tapestry with an elegant use of his arrangements and found sounds.

It's a shame to think that I almost missed out on Son Lux. His album is arguably one of the most aurally enriching experiences I've had in a long time. It's an album that just doesn't quit - there's constantly some sort of forward motion or cluster of sounds to keep you engaged and interested but not excessively so. There's also a certain refinement of ideas that seems odd for someone who wrote a whole album in less than 30 days (Lott was given all of February to white the new album). There's no dizzying array of overcrowded sounds and that works to Lott's advantage in providing a well crafted set of dazzling, yet subdued tracks with real staying power.

Get a taste of Son Lux with title track "We Are Rising" from his latest album We Are Rising, due out this Tuesday.
Son Lux - Rising by Son Lux

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Antlers - Burst Apart (2011)

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Brooklyn trio The Antlers wrote themselves a pretty big check to cash with their heartrending 2009 release leading to tons of speculation, lots of expectations, and a great deal of pressure. How do you follow up an intensely emotional album like Hospice? By not worrying about it, apparently. On Burst Apart, there's no grand unifying theme or metaphors, no overarching plot, instead the band offers up a collection of new songs and allows them to speak for themselves. The result is a captivating experience greater than any half-hearted attempt at a spiritual successor to Hospice.

Burst Apart isn't just a lackadaisical attempt at tiding over fans until the next big thing though. Underneath the haze of fizzy guitars and swarming electronics, The Antlers provide a visceral, engaging experience that transcends the limits of narrative. Rather than plotting along from point to point; from song to song, Burst Apart organically grows throughout- each song a natural extension of the one that preceded it until the listener comes to the startling realization that the record is over.

You can pre-order the album here or listen to the album in full at NPR until it's May 10th release date.

Left With Pictures - In Time (2011)

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For those lucky enough to know about Left With Pictures last year, you probably witnessed one of the most daunting, artistic endeavors in their rather young lives. I'm referencing, of course, their In Time project: Composing a new song and video every month for the whole year, inspired by the month it was to be written in and released at the end of each month. The concept itself isn't that new but Left With Pictures definitely make it their own and the result is captured on their latest release, sophomore album In Time.

I had the great pleasure of viewing the project blossom over the past year but honestly, the monthly fixtures are only really done justice in album form where you can trace both the evolution of the year and the band's songwriting chops. Beginning with January's "Constantly", the album's sound isn't all that different than what you might've heard on Beyond Our Means or the Secretly EP at least until the band decides to take some risks. Risks that just so happen to pay off big like Toby Knowles acapella in "October Waits".

Considering the fact that the project wasn't envisioned as an album, it's pretty surprising how well all the songs fit together. Most likely the reason the band decided to put out the project as an album. On In Time, the classical musicians turned pop artists get to prove their talents as both composers and songwriters. It's a delightful blend of upbeat, easy listening music and music of the more serious sort. What stays constant throughout is the riveting stories of enchanting characters that you want to know more about. In Time's greatest achievement however (aside from writing a brilliant Christmas song) is in its ability to maintain a level of unpredictability throughout. Left With Pictures really challenged themselves to provide something fresh and innovative to great success. In Time is a great album with several absolutely astounding music moments that you're bound to be humming long after the album is over.

Left With Pictures' sophomore album is available via their record label Organ Grinder Records but also for those of us stateside available digitally via Amazon

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Oryx and Crake - Oryx + Crake (2010)

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I mentioned Oryx and Crake what seems like ages ago but it's only now that I'm getting a chance to sit down with their debut album, Oryx + Crake. As to why it's taken such a long time, I should explain that Oryx + Crake isn't the type of album you listen to everyday. The thing that sets Oryx and Crake apart from other folk-tronica bands like Crystal Fighters or tuung is exactly why you can't listen to Oryx + Crake too much. Somber, lush, and richly melancholic, Oryx + Crake is mood music. Album opener "Fun Funeral" is a bit of a misnomer, there's nothing all that fun about it. It's langurously listless and kind of depressing. You'd think for a band that combines violin, cello and banjo with dancy beats, they'd be a bit more upbeat. It's not until around midway through the album in a soaring moment during "Open Your Eyes" where the album gets its first hint of anything resembling mirth. But it's deceptively shortlived. Sure the album kind of bucks up- speeding up a bit, but the lyrics are still rather dark and any glimpses of vitality are gone before they really have a chance to make a lasting impact.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with Oryx and Crake. They're different and talented and the album is nothing short of incredible, it's just not necessarily the type of music you want to hear when you'd rather be dancing or celebrating. At least for the first part of it. Whereas the first part of the album is kind of soulcrushing (to put it lightly), the second is sprinkled with moments of hope and traces of something vaguely resembling joy (at least for a little bit). With Oryx + Crake, The Atlanta 9 piece proves it's a force to be reckoned with able to conjure up pain simply and efficiently in a way that belies it's large size. There's definitely a more to come from Oryx and Crake, let's just hope it's a bit...happier.

Give Oryx and Crake's debut album a listen on their Bandcamp.

Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues (2010)

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I was introduced to Justin Townes Earle last year at possibly the worst time for him: Right in the midst of his personal struggle as he cancelled a tour to go to rehab. Normally things like that would ward listeners off but I was intrigued and even more so when I discovered he wrote a "country" album about New York City. It's certainly not your typical fodder for anything vaguely resembling folk music and yet that's exactly what Earle sets out to do so on Harlem River Blues.

It's easy to peg the Nashville bred Earle as a country singer who seems way out of his element singing about a city with virtually nothing country about it. And yet, Earle isn't really a country singer. Sure he has the sort of Southern drawl and twangy guitar that comes naturally to most of them but what Earle's has that others don't is an inventiveness that keeps his music from sounding like what you'd typically find in the genre. No, Earle's music is a combination of bluegrass and folksy Americana with the sensibility and engaging nature of Indie rock. It's why he can get away with convincingly spinning tales about a city that's as far away from as country as can be like the work song "Working for the MTA".

With Harlem River Blues, Justin Townes Earle proves that you can work wonders if given the proper inspiration. The album is fresh and innovative and yet familiar. Earle could be singing about anywhere but just happens to be singing about New York City. There's not a whole lot of you have to know about the city in order to get the album or understand what he's singing about. Rather he uses the city as focus for his tales of love lost, defeat, and possible redemption.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Youth releases first double A side

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You might remember Youth, the Portland band that plays a delightful mix of sunshine-y rock music and summery beach pop. During their intro piece (which you can read here), I mentioned that they would be releasing a set of double A sides available for free download. And now it's official. As of today (bandmember Maggie Morris' birthday)the band released "Everything"/"Comes and Goes" which those who downloaders of their free live in Santa Barbara album would've heard in a rougher edit.

Give the tunes a listen and if you like them, you're in luck, you can download them for free at Youth's Bandcamp.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sondre Lerche releases new single "Private Caller"

It's pretty hard for me to say anything about Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche without sounding like I'm gushing. Because the man is super talented, super charming, and well super talented. I've been eagerly awaiting the release of the next record, the self-titled fifth studio album, since the release of his fourth album Heartbeat Radio at the end of 2009. So as its June 7th release date gets closer and Lerche starts releasing track after track to ease the wait, I just get more excited.

Lerche first released album starter "Ricochet" to the lucky few who purchased the concert and album pre-sale bundle, following it up with the release of Domino. And now he's made "Private Caller" available for streaming for pretty much anyone who's interested.

Enjoy Sondre Lerche's "Private Caller":
Sondre Lerche - Private Caller by sondrelerche

And for those that missed the release of "Domino", give that a listen too!
Sondre Lerche - Domino by sondrelerche

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mumford & Sons premiere new song live in NYC

British folk troubadours Mumford & Sons have certainly been busy with nearly endless touring, playing with living legends (Bob Dylan Grammy Performance anyone?), and about to join forces with folk collective Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and old-time roots revivalists Old Crow Medicine Show for the Railroad Revival tour that you'd think they didn't have the time to work on new songs. I mean, they've been pretty quiet about anything vaguely resembling a follow up to 2009's Sigh No More aside from two quiet released collaboration EPs. Well just last week Mumford & Sons performed new song, the possibly titled "Lover's Eyes", at the PC Richards & Sons Theater in New York City.

Watch the band's spirited performance of the new track:

Monday, April 18, 2011

ARMS - EP (2010)

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You ever have a moment where you finally realize there's a whole lot more to an album? That happened to me with Brooklyn quartet ARMS' reverb-laden five song EP, the simply titled EP. I know I mentioned it awhile back when I was first introduced to the band (you can see that here) but this week I've listening to the EP non-stop for the last couple days and had a moment of pure enlightenment. EP has a series of interconnected stories bound by the same protagonists and a spooky, otherworldly atmosphere. It's hard to gather the full story since the EP is merely a teaser until ARMS release their "true debut" album Summer Skills later this year but EP is part of a sci-fi/supernatural epic and break up story.

After finding out that the EP is more of a concept album, there's the thought that it loses some of it's magic. Wrong. Todd Goldstein's lyricism while oddly straightforward also contains a certain mystique, and subtle uses of metaphors and symbolism. Goldstein manages to juxtapose seemingly normal everyday activities with rather violent visuals in a quick-fire but lackadaisical manner. Almost making you wonder if you heard his lyrics right. No song is this more evident in than "Heat & Hot Water" where Goldstein's two protagonists manage to escape danger and the first signs of a faltering relationship begin. There's various slice of life moment intercut with references to this beast they brought back with them who continues to grow and mutate as the couple begin to fight and mistrust each other.

The most tragic part about EP is that it's over almost as soon as it's begun. The tales are so interesting that you simply want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, EP doesn't really deliver in that sense. Because it's not supposed to. It's a great re-introduction to Goldstein who's turned ARMS from a solo bedroom project to a full on band. So until the release of Summer Skills, you'll have to make do with the EP. Which isn't too bad of a consolation anyway.

Listen to the EP via ARMS' Bandcamp.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stricken City - Losing Colour (2011)

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Stricken City released their debut album Losing Colour about two months ago and I avoided listening to it purely because I didn't want to come to terms with the fact that they were breaking up. But in the end curiosity won out and I decided to look into the new album.

Beginning with high energy "Some Say", Losing Colour shines with Stricken City's characteristic grit and Raa's devil-may-care confidence. Stricken City manages to take risks while also staying true to their established sound. It might not mean much considering this is the band's grand finale but it's certainly appreciated.

Considering half the album has previously been released in one way or another (EP, free download, etc), I'm surprised how new the debut/final album sounds. The songs gain newfound meaning in the context of the album. Losing Colour manages to make an art out of it's ability to turn-on-a-dime avoiding all the pitfalls associated with such fast-paced switch-ups. And in a pretty ballsy move Stricken City even include a remix of "Pull the House Down", a song from their mini-album Songs About People I Know. Stricken City make sure to cover all bases with mostly instrumental tracks "Office" and "Lost Art(ii)".

It'd be better if Stricken City didn't break up but consider Losing Colour a worthy consolation prize. Months and months of hard work are finally realized and fully rewarded with this thoroughly enjoyable debut album. Stricken City go out with a definite bang. The only way that really suits them.

Listen to the album via their Bandcamp.

Lord Huron's video for "The Stranger"

So technically this is old news considering the video was released around 2 months ago but I only recently discovered California's Lord Huron and this video is pretty sweet. The video for "The Stranger" is pretty much everything you could ask in a music video. Directed by Jacob Mendel, it's got a nice cohesive plot that fits well with the actual music itself. Two intrepid travelers are out with a wearying third who collapses. The two then perform some sort of ceremonial funeral rites that involve taking his cool fur hat, socks, and shoes and continuing on their journey. Then things get kinda weird. One of the journeymen starts to see the dead guy popping up in all sorts of place while the other remains oblivious. I won't ruin the ending cause it's pretty good. Just watch it, it's entertaining and the video itself is awesome.

Enjoy the video for Lord Huron's "The Stranger":

The Stranger from Lord Huron on Vimeo.

The Arctic Monkeys release video for "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair"

I previously admitted to an accidental hiatus from the Arctic Monkeys. So when they started releasing all sorts of new stuff like "Brick by Brick" and new single "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair", I plunged back in -so to speak. I have no idea what's happened between Favourite Worst Nightmare and now (I missed Humbug thanks to the hiatus) but there's been a definite change in sound. Almost enough to sound like a completely different band. The band's new album is shaping up to be a more retro rock sounding with a noticeably more.

The video for the new single is pretty trippy but not in that "Holy crap, what the HELL is going on" sense (though there is a little bit of that) but merely because of the psychedelic colors and loads of visual distortion.

It'd be easy to dismiss the Arctic Monkeys new sound as a cop out or something to that effect but it's not actually that bad. I mean, I've definitely listened to the two new songs a couple times. So I'll be more than willing to give the new album a chance. You should too.

Enjoy the video for "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair".

Pitstop: Youth

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It's always great when a band you like turns you on other bands. In this instance it was previously featured Portland band Typhoon that led to me finding Youth. Youth is a Portland band in its early stages but they've definitely got massive amounts of potential (just give surefire favorite "Want You To Know" a listen). Youth began early last year as a collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Elec Morin and drummer Stephen Leisy before Maggie Morris joined later contributing vocals and guitar and enlisting friends Grant Hall and more recently Sam Schick on bass. The band themselves describe their music as "a mix of our day to day feeling, we write generally upbeat melodies and sing about whatever is going through our heads at the time" and "writing songs that we want to hear but haven't heard yet" which is a pretty apt description. Their songs are summery and upbeat jangle rock with occasional splashes of beach pop goodness. You might be tempted to compare them to surf rock bands like Avi Buffalo, Surfer Blood, or The Drums but don't. It'd be easy to compare the high vocals in "Just Like You Said" to Avi Zahner-Isenberg's but you'd be doing yourself a disservice. Instead of pigeonholing the young band, simply listen and enjoy, you'll be glad you did.

Here's hoping there's more to come from the budding rockers. They just released a free live album of a Santa Barbara concert that you can download here and have plans to release several double A side singles for free online so stay tuned for that.

You can hear some of their tunes at their Facebook, MySpace, and Bandcamp.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Antlers release two new tunes

Those lucky enough to attend SXSW were treated to Brooklyn trio The Antlers performing their upcoming album Burst Apart in full, well now the rest of us are in luck too. In preparation for the album's release next month (May 10th to be exact), The Antlers have released two of the album tracks for streaming and download. These include "Parentheses" and "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" which is enjoying radio-play. Which you can now enjoy thanks to a radio rip from Listen Before You Buy.

Get a sneak peek at the new album with these two new tracks:
The Antlers - Parentheses by Frenchkiss

The Antlers - Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out by ListenBeforeYouBuy

Stars - The Five Ghosts (2010)

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My introduction to Stars came during a conversation at a college party about 2 years ago between me and probably the only other sober person there. After bonding over the host's choice of music (The Slackers was playing when we actually met), he asked me if I had heard of Stars. I hadn't and quickly remedied that after leaving. My accomplice made it explicitly clear that I had to listen to Set Yourself on Fire as it was arguably the greatest example of what to expect from the Canadian quintet and to this day remains my utmost favorite Stars album. But Stars' latest release The Five Ghosts ranks pretty high up there.

The Five Ghosts is a perfect example of what Stars does best. At times featuring slow, stirring heart-on-your-sleeve ballads and others dazzlingly danceable, synth-heavy electropop. The whole album hovers in the exploration of a sort of supernatural element most evident in "Dead Hearts" and "I Died So I Could Haunt You" while also exploring the breakdown in relationships that so characteristically Stars in "Fixed" and "We Don't Want Your Body", there's also some endearing upbeat moments like "Wasted Daylight".

The Five Ghosts is trademark Stars and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The new album follows a "If it ain't broke..." mentality, instead offering up it's true uniqueness in the form of clever occasionally tongue-in-cheek lyrics and memorable, hummable melodies. And really, that's all Stars really needs.

Typhoon - A New Kind of House EP (2011)

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I was recently introduced to Portland based indie legion Typhoon but only used a video posted on NPR of a two song SXSW set and their album Hunger and Thirst to form an opinion of them. Lo and behold they recently released a 5 song EP early last month by the name of A New Kind of House. The EP is a fully formed multi-movement work meant as a continuation of Hunger and Thirst.

A noticeable difference between the EP and it's predecessor is an evolution in style. The use of Typhoon's diverse instrumentation is far more restrained and the folk element that album listeners only glimpsed at previously are more broadly explored in the EP. But the rock influence is not all gone as can be seen in "Claws Pt. 1"

With A New Kind of House, Typhoon establish themselves capable of great things. In a time where the indie orchestra shtick is becoming more common and a bit played out, they prove that all hope is not lost. They manage to distill Hunger and Thirst down to its great moments and not merely replicate them but use them to inform wholly new ones proving themselves as real musicians capable of standing the test of time.

You can give the EP a listen on Typhoon's Bandcamp.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lost in the Trees release two new videos

North Carolina folk orchestra Lost in the Trees have certainly been busy: playing numerous shows on tour, the occasional tribute show, and having just begun recording their new album; they somehow had time to film not one but two new music videos.

The first video for "If You're Afraid of the Dark" is actually from the band's 2007 release Time Taunts Me and uses footage from old movies. There's not a lot of info available for the video but it uses the archival footage to both create this otherworldly feel while still maintaining this odd sense of calm. Furthermore it's a great way to hear a track from an album that's not widely available.

The second new video is the title track from their recently released All Alone in An Empty House. The video, directed by bandleader Ari Picker as well as Jerry Stifelman of CreatoDestructo, is nothing short of insane containing way more conflict than I think I've ever seen in a music video. The video plays more like a mini horror movie featuring a violent standoff in the kitchen that somehow manages to remain unresolved before spiraling off into further insanity with the cinematography really adding to the creepy, supernatural elements of the video. A lot of time you have a music video that has nothing to do with the track accompanying it, but not this time. Lost in the Trees hit the nail on the head with this one. It's beautifully shot, distinctly memorable, and hella creepy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lord Huron - Mighty EP (2010)

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You ever have a band's name in your head and not entirely sure how it got there? I can't tell you how or when I heard of Lord Huron but it seems like they've been at back of my head occasionally coming to the forefront for almost a year. Every once in awhile, they name would pop into my head and I'd ignore it and move on to something else. Until eventually I decided to check them out.

Lord Huron is Los Angeles based musician Ben Schneider (and his touring band) who crafts infectious sunny tracks of the folk pop variety with a bit of a twist. Schneider's music is filled with noticeable world influence. Like unrestrained calypso-esque "Mighty" or the Balinese Gamelan remiscient opening in "The Stranger"

Mighty, Lord Huron's second EP, is short and sweet offering up four addictively catchy songs with enough juice to keep you energized for days. The only problem is there's a sort of haze pervading his music in both its upbeat dancey-ness and a light otherworldly fuzz that manages to obscure his lyrics which happen to be pretty imaginative.

You can listen to this EP and his previously released Into the Sun EP at Lord Huron's Bandcamp.

The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow (2011)

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There's a lot to be said for the ability to carry a tune and Joy Williams and John White of The Civil Wars do so remarkably. Their debut album Barton Hollow is practically bursting with lovely simple melodies ornamented by interweaving vocals and top notch songwriting. Hardly surprising considering Williams and White are two professional songwriters that happened to meet at a studio writing session but unexpectedly their vocals are perfect matches, utilized so dynamically that you're left in stunned disbelief practically all throughout the album.

Barton Hollow is a shockingly strong debut album, not just in terms of the absolute vocal power of Williams and White but also in it's coherency. Each song is a positively delightful work of art, shining with sincerity and brimming with confidence and purpose. There's nothing even remotely superficial or excessive from Williams and White's extensive use of melisma to every note of the string and horn arrangements; each choice artistic and sensible.

Haven't heard of The Civil Wars? Acquaint yourself - with the music video for "Poison & Wine"; they're bound to be around for awhile.

Monday, April 11, 2011

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (2011)

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When tUnE-yArDs announced that their sophomore album would be studio recorded, I was dubious. The lo-fi charm of BiRd-BrAiNs is essentially what initially drew me to her and when I initially heard first single "Bizness", I was at first sure my reservations had proved true. After seeing tUnE-yArDs perform it live it was incredibly hard to listen to a recording where she swapped out vocal ornamentation for computer blips and beeps but it grew on me. Some people might be put off by her sudden jump to high quality recording: Don't be. w h o k i l l is a natural progression for Garbus, proving what she's learned from years on tour and contains all the best elements from fans can come to expect like her big, brassy vocals combined with some of the newer aspects featured at her live shows like bassist Nate Brenner (who helped write some of the new songs), and a horn section to name a few. There's a lot of sonic differences from her debut and a new found sense of restraint that's actually incredible endearing.

Charging right out the gate with her own take on the national anthem "My Country", it's clear that w h o k i l l is going to be an experience like no other. Whether you begin listening to the album with lofty expectations or an open mind, you're bound to have all of your wildest expectations shattered as that's just Garbus' style. Even songs you may have heard before have gotten a bit of a makeover. They're still recognizable but Garbus has tweaked them up to offer up a new listening experience.

The new album is now streaming as part of NPR's first listen. Give it a listen here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pitstop: Typhoon

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Typhoon was brought to my attention by a dual effort of Sam at Middle Class White Noise and NPR. Turns out the Portland based indie orchestra was one of the overwhelming number of bands at SXSW and NPR managed to get them to play a Tiny Desk Concert (sans desk) at SXSW. I won't lie, I have a fond weakness for bands with an almost absurd amount of members. That and chamber pop in any form and Typhoon just happens to fit both those category. But I knew I was hooked the magical moment everyone entered during their medley of "The Sickness unto Death" and "The Honest Truth". I'm not exactly sure how many members are in Typhoon as their numbers seem to change at the drop of a hat but there are however about seven core members of which Kyle Morton is the ringmaster. This gargantuan organism is utilized to remarkable effect with lovely vocal harmonies and surprising subtlety and precision despite their large numbers; No doubt the work of lots of practice and years of familiarity.

Typhoon currently have a studio album (Hunger and Thirst) available and released their new EP A New Kind of House. You can listen to these on their Bandcamp.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trent Dabbs - Southerner (2011)

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I don't know why I'm surprised at the talent contained within the ranks of the Ten out of Tenn but each time I'm introduced to a new artist I go through the same stages of shock, awe, and excitement. It's already happened at numerous times and has happened again this time with Trent Dabbs. I was introduced to Trent Dabbs around the time that he released his new album Southerner last month through a re-tweet by (the oft-mentioned) Andrew Belle advertising it.

Southerner is a thoroughly enjoyable album and is another virtuous display of the talent contained with the Tennessee artist collective Ten out of Tenn. Where Trent Dabbs' album differs from the other albums/artist featured here is that he crafts lovely, guitar-centric pop. That is until "Neil Young" when the album climatically becomes a full on rock effort.

The name "southerner" conjures up a lot of ideas as to what the album could sound like and instead of relying on any cliches or anything of that sort, Dabbs is able to let his album speak for itself. Offering up sincere and overall entertaining peeks into what has shaped him. It's simple, laid back, and just good.

Noah and the Whale release new video for second single "Tonight's the Kind of Night"

Today, Noah and the Whale premiered the video for their new single "Tonight's the Kind of Night" on Rolling Stone. The video has a rather simple premise: a boy gets stranded at a gas station and a surprisingly nice (and female) attendant offers him help in the from of a ride. I'm not exactly sure where he was going but by the end of the video they end up at the beach. Add in some shots of the band playing their instruments in front of a screen projecting "traveling" scenery. It's kind of painfully simple but it's hard to be mad at the always endearing Noah and the Whale especially when one of their most upbeat tracks just happen to be playing. Enjoy the video for "Tonight's the Kind of Night":

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing (2011)

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Early last month, The Rural Alberta Advantage delivered the follow up to their 2009 debut Hometowns and whereas Hometowns was fast-paced and intense, Departing relies mostly on a slower, more lyric-based delivery. The folk-influence that RAA showed only glimpses of on their debut comes back in full force after stripping back the layers and added ornaments prevalent on their debut. But the rock edge isn't completely gone from Rural Alberta Advantage's repertoire: songs like the ironically uptempo "Muscle Relaxants", "Stamp" and "Barnes' Yard" keep the album from becoming too sleep-inducing, giving jolts of energy at just the right time.

Departing is a great example of what a sophomore album can be. The band doesn't change it's game plan too much by experimentation but rather offers up more of the same in a way that doesn't feel like you're just listening to the same record. It's a sign that you don't have to make any drastic concessions in order to overcome the sophomore slump.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Deloreans - American Craze (2011)

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I was introduced to The Deloreans by Sam at MiddleClassWhiteNoise when he played "Dear" for me and 3 other eager listeners in a listening room/chat. I was immediately struck by it's epic grandeur and dreamy American sound that reminded me a bit of Aaron Copland and so the search for the album began - made easier by a link being provided.

Album opener "Gatsby" with its swells and vocal bravado establishes the album as one of substance and sets the semi-thematic ode to times gone by. For all the nuanced ideas on American Craze, "Leviathan" is markedly different - a grandstanding guitar showpiece with about two short verses.

American Craze does an amazing job of channeling bygone era music in a way that's no mere replication. The arrangements are positively out of this world, probably due to bandleader Jeremy Perry's experience studying classical music and offers a smattering of various periods in American music (like surf pop in "Girl From the Country"). A bigger feat is how the band is able to navigate from the subtlety of "Gatsby" to the over-the-top ball-to-the-wall nature of "Leviathan", "Landslide", and "Non", back to something way more restrained (at least initially) for "Dear". I'm still surprised by this fact, actually. It's a formula that shouldn't work and yet The Deloreans managed to do to remarkable effect.

You can listen to the album on their BandCamp:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Villagers - Becoming A Jackal (2010)

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I was introduced to Villagers when the fine folks at NPR featured Villagers' Conor O'Brien in an intimate three song set as part of their Tiny Desk Concert series. The set was enchanting and melancholic but in no way prepared me for the debut album itself. Beginning with haunting "I Saw the Dead", O'Brien's poetic lyricism paints pictures of strangely mystical encounters that seem as deeply familiar as any everyday happenstance. It's songcraft that doesn't take itself too seriously and benefits greatly from it - able to dress up "Becoming A Jackal" in something deceptively upbeat and poppy or dramatically elevate a seemingly mundane experience in "Twenty Seven Strangers".

Becoming A Jackal is, simply put, an utter masterpiece. If you were to take each song and inspect it, you'd find each one to be virtually flawless. Each song manages to have it's own distinct sound while contributing greatly to the whole. What's even more surprising is when you learn that O'Brien played almost every instrument you hear on it.

Get a taste of Villagers with the video for "Becoming A Jackal":

Megafaun rewrite history with new video for "Carolina Days"

Megafaun's sunny ode to their native North Carolina "Carolina Days" off mini-album Heretofore is getting the (rather rare) video treatment. In the video, Joe Westerlund plays God - creator of North Carolina and creations man and woman fall in love, marry, and discover many of lives simple pleasures like tobacco, shelter, domestication of animals, the printing press and the song "Carolina Days" before the two go on to fight the invading British and single-handedly win the Revolutionary War in the name of North Carolina. If that wasn't a big enough task, they're then given orders to procreate and populate the city of Raleigh, named after their soon to be born son. They don't seem too thrilled, but manage to do so in about a year. That's certainly commitment.

Watch Megafaun's hilariously entertaining take on World/American History in "Carolina Days":

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Telekinesis releases video for "Please Ask For Help"

The new video from Telekines, directed by Spencer Getz, has a rather simple plot. Guy meets girl, guy is REALLY freaking awkward, girl runs off then realizes the guy might not have been so weird. It's your standard romantic comedy fodder with one exception: the main characters have enormous heads. Telekinesis' current line up even make a cameo in a music video within the music video playing the song featured in the video. It's cooler then it sounds, I promise. Enjoy the video for "Please Ask For Help":