Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Phil Cook & His Feat - Hungry Mother Blues (2011)

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When he's not roaming around with experimental folk outfit Megafaun, indie rock supergroup GAYNGS, or helping fellow North Carolina musicians, Phil Cook writes peaceful down-home folk. Who'd have guessed? Not I. The release of his new album Hungry Mother Blues was a completely shock to me and if not for a tweet from one of his Megafaun bandmates, I wouldn't have even known the album existed.

Hungry Mother Blues is an all-star set of acoustic tunes played on a multitude of instruments like dobroe, guitar, and banjo inspired by the various genres of the American Heartland namely blues, folk, and country. The tunes are short but succinct, virtuosic but not flashy. With no vocals, nothing distracts from Phil Cook's talent and you can just sit back and enjoy what is no doubt a good instrumental album.

I never knew just a man and his guitar could sound so good but Phil Cook will make a true believer out of you with his simple, rural folk tales. It's music that not only conjures up images of a hot summer day on a shady porch but also of the various characters you can see from it. Give Phil Cook's album a listen via Bandcamp.


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Today marks the official record release of Brooklyn based band BELL's debut album DIAMONITE. You might remember that just a few days ago they had their CD release party and now you can actually get your hands on it. And after being teased with only 2 tracks from the album, you can now listen to the whole thing via their Bandcamp.

DIAMONITE certainly is a busy album. Not quite glitch-pop and yet far from fluid, the whole album is characterized by layered sounds of nearly every sort, pulsating drum beats, and Olga Bell's sultry vocals. Not only does each track manage to differ from the ones surrounding it but there's also massive changes within the tracks themselves (Most notably in "Magic Tape" and "Charlie"). It's an album that reinvigorates itself before the need ever arises and yet does so so artfully it doesn't come off like they were just scrambling for ideas. The album manages to be both organic and methodical in a way that would be utterly perplexing if it wasn't done quite so well. It's an album where every track has a standalone quality and yet fits well within it's context.

DIAMONITE is an album positively packed with great musical moments. Dance-y, poppy, and yet not exclusively either; DIAMONITE is an album that can be enjoyed in any setting: A quiet night at home or crowded club. It manages to conjure various soundbites and clustered soundscapes into sparse, spacious pieces liberally sprinkled with emotional intensity. Definitely an album worthy of a listen or five. Give it a listen at BELL's Bandcamp.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Olivia Quillio releases new tracks

Remember Olivia Quillio? That spunky baritone ukulele player with powerhouse vocals? If not you can catch up here. For all others, Olivia has uploaded a bunch of tracks to a Bandcamp. Several of the songs are new ones not featured on her demo and ones that I got to here when I saw her live like "Retrospect", "Lukewarm Action" and "The Bomb". I was lucky enough to see her in person and purchase her demo but now you can enjoy her music too thanks to the wonders of the internet via her Bandcamp. So give the new tunes a listen, you're sure to love them.

The Wilderness of Manitoba - When You Left the Fire (2011)

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My introduction to The Wilderness of Manitoba is thanks to the cool people of Amazon Mp3 who recently made "Summer Fires" available for free download as part of their Free Song of the Day. I didn't actually download the free track but I did check out the band. Turns out the Wilderness of Manitoba aren't actually from Manitoba but instead from the much more musically relevant Toronto.

Beginning with simple finger-picked guitar lines on "Orono Park", it's clear that When You Left the Fire is going to be enjoyable. And then a banjo enters followed almost immediatebly by group vocal harmonies and then there's no doubt in your mind it's going to be good. The folk quintet take their time and it's rewarded with great tunes practically bursting with the talent of all those enlisted to make it. As evidenced by the vaguely experimental "Hermit" (whose lyrics are where the album gets its name), The Wilderness of Manitoba aren't above seeking out less folksy elements to enhance their music making.

When You Left the Fire is a slow burner of an album, slowly building towards the positively mammoth 13 minute and change instrumental album closer "Reveries En Couleurs". It's also an album that's unabashedly folk. There's banjos, washboards, and a harmonica that disappears almost as suddenly as it appears. And yet this unashamedly folk album is far from boring. The quintet may take time before launching into the lyric side of things but that just means there's more time to enjoy the amazing melodies they come up with. That and it makes the vocals that much more appreciated when they do enter. When You Left the Fire maybe be a slow burner but it just gives you more time to appreciate all the little things the band does well. It's an album that's sure not to disappoint!

You can still get "Summer Fires" for free at Amazon here. Or get a taste of The Wilderness of Manitoba with a live video uploaded just last week featuring a non-album track called "Chasing Horses":

Friday, May 27, 2011

AgesandAges - Alright You Restless (2011)

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I stumbled upon Oregon music collective AgesandAges sort of by accident while looking at shows to go to in New York City. There's two ways I respond to typeset band names either 1) intense intrigue or b) irate indifference. AgesandAges just happened to pique my interest and listening to a few tunes on their Bandcamp, I decided to give their full length debut Alright You Restless a try. You might be asking yourself: What sets this Portland seven piece apart from the more popular, famous folk collective Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros? Sure there's a deep sense of community in their music but AgesandAges have a decidedly different energy and different presentation. AgesandAges excel in clustered vocal harmonies, joyful rapturous optimism, and a rather unexpected intensity.

Alright You Restless is a rather unique beast. It's a debut album that manages to stay astonishingly original and fresh even after repeated listens. It's rare for a band to be so strongly characterized on their first outing and yet AgesandAges manage to do so without appearing to try. Alright You Restless also manages to avoid the pitfalls of having such a large group of musicians featured on it. The melodies are simple and memorable and the lyrics clear. It's the kind of music that manages to be both fun and revitalizing at the same time. Give AgesandAges a listen with some tunes on their bandcamp.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pitstop: BELL

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In my pursuit of all things ARMS-related, I stumbled upon BELL. You see, the fellows of ARMS are playing a show with them tonight. A CD release show for BELL's upcoming album DIAMONITE that's out next week. BELL is a Brooklyn based foursome composed of Olga Bell, Jason Nazary, Michael Saltsman, and Gunnar Olsen. Different than my standard fare, BELL is no doubt infectious and it's not hard to see why they won me over so quickly. There's only two songs from their upcoming album available for listening and yet, that's all you really need.

I'm still not entirely sure each member's duty besides Olga Bell's heady vocals but you'll find that once you hit play, it doesn't really seem to matter.

"River" has this sort of majestic grandeur, not present in "Dialtone". Both have this large, sprawling quality but "River" with it's multiple tempo changes and driving drums pump you up in a way that "Dialtone" just can not. It's a good thing that "River" comes after it on the album otherwise you might feel a little gypped. But it's not a competition and both tracks are amazing in their own way.

Get to know BELL with a few tracks from their upcoming album DIAMONITE which you can preorder on their Bandcamp. And if you just so happen to be in NYC with nothing to do tonight, go see ARMS & BELL at the Knitting Factory for what's sure to be a night of awesome much.

The Dodos release video for "Companions"

It's hard to believe it's already been two months since the release of The Dodos latest album No Color and subsequent release of their "Black Night" video. Now "Companions is getting the video treatment. The premise is simple enough: Singer/guitarist Meric Long gets some cigarettes and coffee for a late night excursion when all of sudden weird crap starts happening. Like seeing a random guy appear near your speeding car. Things pretty much spiral off from there. I won't ruin the surprise for you but things get pretty dramatic. Enjoy the video for "Companions:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sondre Lerche premieres video for "Private Caller"

It's a little strange but ever since viewing it at Sondre Lerche's album listening party, I've been eagerly awaiting the wide release of his new video for "Private Caller". Why? Because it's the type of video you can watch again and again. Filmed at Brooklyn's Union Pool by friend/collaborator Katie Barker-Froyland, it combines several elements that have made Lerche's videos enjoyable in the past: Namely the assistance of Lerche's friends and family (Lerche's wife Mona makes another appearance in this video). The story of the video is rather simple. Sondre Lerche's playing on stage at Union Pool with a sort of futuristic microphone of a bunch of call girls of varying ages. Lerche's charmingly exuberant performance goes more or less unnoticed by the disinterested call girls until they spontaneously break out into dance. Turns out that's all that they needed before they set upon Lerche for an interesting twist.

I'm incredibly eager to get my hands on Lerche's new album but until that day (6/7), this video will do. Check out the video for "Private Caller":

Sondre Lerche - "Private Caller" Video (Stereogum Premiere) from stereogum on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sea of Bees - Songs for the Ravens (2010)

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My introduction to Sea of Bees essentially happened just from me checking out venues in New York City. You see, there's about three bands/artists that seem to constantly play at various venues in New York City that have references. I checked out Sea of Bees first and I'm certainly glad I did. The moniker for Julie Baenziger, or Julie Ann Bee for those who can't pronounce her rather difficult last name, Sea of Bees is a California based musician who just happens to have taught herself a multitude of instruments. Her music is characterized by large swelling melodies and unbridled passionate vocals.

Her debut album, Songs for the Ravens, released almost a year ago is a collection of songs with varying styles held together with the common strand of Bee's powerful vocals. Whether it's the more rock-influenced "Marmalade" or twee-esque "Fyre",, Julie Bee never looses sight of what's she's trying to say. She also has this great knack for creating these lush soundscapes to accompany her unique vocal stylings.

It's hard to believe that someone could write songs about love so dynamic and so refreshing as Sea of Bees. And yet she does so effortlessly. Her ability to tackle an age-old form and breathe new life into it comes most noticeably from her frank sincerity. There's tons of singer/songwriters singing about love out there but Sea of Bees might end up being the only you really believe.

Get a taste of Sea of Bees with her video for "Willis":

willis from TERROREYES.TV on Vimeo.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Cave Singers - No Witch (2011)

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As I mentioned in my review of the Fleet Foxes United Palace show, I had been inspired by the few songs I had heard before from Seattle folk trio The Cave Singers to buy No Witch. Now I've been inspired again, this time by their energetic and just downright good live performance, to share it.

No Witch is the kind of album that pretty much begs to be listened to. An infectious guitar rock/folk hybrid, it's an album with equal parts sing-a-long melodies, toe tapping drive, and good old fashioned easy listening. No Witch takes its time, allowing you to really listen to what's going on; to fully revel in Pete Quirk's delightfully raspy voice, some tasty guitar licks, and the occasional guest instrument like melodica in "Haller Lake" and harmonica in "Haystacks".

After witnessed The Cave Singers rather rambunctious live performance, the laid back attitude of No Witch was a bit of a shock but no less enjoyable. There's something to be said for a band who know the value of restraint and The Cave Singers do it well. From the caravan travel stylings of "Outer Realms" to the vaguely electronic "Faze Wave", the trio certainly aren't afraid to step out of the box with their songwriting resulting in much more diverse album that sacrifices absolutely nothing to be good. Check out No Witch and more importantly The Cave Singers, you won't regret it.

And if you need a bit of convincing, watch this live video of The Cave Singers performing "Haller Lake" on KEXP:

Live!: The Cave Singers and Fleet Foxes at United Palace Theatre

As the Seattle folk rock trio Cave Singers took the stage and launched immediately into their first song, I only had one thought: “Why didn’t I listen to them before this!?”. I had heard a couple of their songs and that motivated me to buy their latest album No Witch but that had more or less been the end of it. And yet their highly energetic folk rock was everything you could want and more. Pete Quirk was friendly and personable and helped to really motivate the audience to get into their music. The only problem with their set was that it seemed far too short; a problem befitting of such a good opening band.

Whereas The Cave Singers were talkative and fun, Fleet Foxes was more or less their opposite. Instead they were grateful but reserved and channeled all their energies into performing their songs to the best of their ability. It wasn’t until at least about halfway through their set that Robin felt comfortable enough to try some onstage banter (assisted by the charmingly hilarious Joshua Tillman). Instead the band filled their nearly 2 hour long set with pretty much their whole catalog (minus the 2006 Fleet Foxes EP) and the concert hall was filled with the collective vocals of each audience member in addition to the band. While I’ve had the pleasure of listening to their albums to my heart’s content, that did not prepare me for the truly unmatched quality of seeing the band live. Each time the band hit its three or sometimes four part harmonies, I broke out in swarms of goosebumps; that and the occasional punch in the heart from Robin Pecknold’s emotional delivery. Each song was met with hearty applause (especially audience favorites “Mykonos” and “Blue Ridge Mountains”) eventually resulting in Pecknold's return to the stage, after nearly 5 minute standing ovation with undying applause, to play an encore consisting of a solo “Oliver James” before being joined by the rest of the band for “Helplessness Blues”.

I can honestly say that this show was by far the best show I’ve ever been to. Odd considering the caliber of shows I’ve been to and nothing against those shows but a live Fleet Foxes show is unlike any show I’ve ever experienced. Despite being in a seated theater as opposed to a standing room only venue, I felt the closest to the actual music making than I’ve ever felt. Each little thing the band did was felt and responded to in kind by the audience. The audience’s insistent need to let the band know they were enjoying themselves was not just for show; Fleet Foxes inspired these feelings of intense appreciate with their every action. For anyone who fancies themselves a Fleet Foxes fan, you absolutely must attend a concert: It’ll absolutely shatter your perceptions of them and rebuild them with a greater understanding, greater appreciation, and greater love. Fleet Foxes is definitely a band whose full effect is only transmitted live. It’s not often that I’m rendered absolutely speechless, inspired to sing out, and constantly tingling with goosebumps and yet the band did so effortless. So if you have the opportunity to see them like, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pitstop: Olivia Quillio

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(Pic pilfered from Humble Baritonics with only the best of intentions)

In retrospect, I would've kicked myself if I didn't find a way to get to John Craigie, Liana Gabel, and Olivia Quillio's show at the Slashroot Cafe in New Paltz. I've talked about John Craigie before and Liana Gabel happens to be a close friend of mine but that night I had the pleasure of being absolutely floored by Olivia Quillio. Armed with a baritone ukulele and set of powerhouse pipes, she was by far the highlight of the night (No offense meant to John or Liana). Her songs were simple, poppy, but ultimately awe-inspiring. Her songwriting had some unexpected twists and turns and she demonstrated a positively jaw-dropping amount of vocal control. She rendered me and my accompanying friend absolutely speechless every time she opened her mouth. Each time she took the stage, she had you captivated and hanging on her every word.

Every blogger hopes the music they like gets worthy attention and Ms. Quillio definitely deserves it. Probably more so than any up-and-coming artist I've ever featured. Here's hoping there's more to come from Olivia Quillio and in case my accolades haven't sway you, give her song "Easy Killer" a listen. It's sure to make a convert out of you, too.

You can give more of her tunes a listen at her Myspace or her Youtube channel.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ben Sollee - Inclusions (2011)

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When one of my friends at college would sing and play cello, I got super excited, thinking he's was reinventing the wheel. Fast forward to March when I was showed a video of Kentucky singer/songwriter and cellist Ben Sollee's "Embrace" and my mind was blown. Something about playing a string instrument (that's not the guitar or some variation thereof) and being able to sing too is fascinating to me. Probably because I play the violin and find the task of playing and singing virtually impossible. So the fact that Ben Sollee can do so while creating some of the most intricate and lush melodies. Add that to the fact that Sollee is one of those much-sought-but-surprising-hard-to-find genre-bending conquistadors and we'll it's not just a recipe for success but complete and utter domination of your heart and eardrums.

Sollee's latest album, Inclusions, is a bit different than the jazz/soul/bluegrass/folk influence of Learning to Bend in that it sheds some of the more poppy sound prevalent on the debut. Instead of filtering these influences through a pop lens, Sollee allows them to exist on their own. And yet, they all mesh together to make a juggernaut of an album. Inclusions is as varied as you can be without it seeming like a hodge-podge of tracks assembled with little thought. The albums tracks all blend into each other with ease, enabling the shocking realization that you sat down and listened to the whole album when you only meant to listen to a single track. Inclusions differs from its predecessor by featuring less of Sollee's dazzlingly complex pizzicato melodies and a much more extensive collection of instruments (like jazzy brass on "Bible Belt") and a diminished focus on the cello. It'd be downright infuriating if it didn't make the cello's return that much more rewarding ("Electrified").

Ultimately, Inclusions is a treat. I was tempted to compare it to Learning to Bend at first before I realized that it's essentially a totally different beast. The album is more mature in its approach and not afraid to be something less accessible than the debut. There's essentially less of mash up of Sollee's various influences and more of him synthesizing them to inform his work, rather than purely using them as a crutch.

Give Ben Sollee a listen with the music video that introduced me to him, "Embrace":

Embrace from Ben Sollee on Vimeo.

Bon Iver releases "Calgary"

Justin Vernon has always been the sort of man who keeps his hands in many pots, joining project after project, creating band after band, holing up in random secluded cabins in Wisconsin when time allows. So when he announced that there would indeed be a follow up to Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago, color me surprised. I had thought the man was far too busy with his various side projects to even think about revisiting his Bon Iver moniker. Well now, Vernon is giving listeners a taste of the new album he's been teasing at in the form of new track/single "Calgary". The first of his place-inspired tracks it combines what fans love about Bon Iver: the slow building sonic cloud and Vernon's falsetto with a newfound form. "Calgary" is similar to Bon Iver's normal dewy, atmospheric vibe but is essentially a two part-er without actually committing to it. Not entirely. The second part is where things thaw, get brighter, more uplifting. It's enough to make you absolutely giddy for the album's release - only you know in a more relaxed, zen-like way.

Preview Bon Iver's new album with "Calgary"

Friday, May 13, 2011

BRAIDS - Native Speaker (2011)

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BRAIDS is one of those bands that's existed on the edge of my awareness for a bit. I know I've heard of them before and yet can't place where or when that might have been. But it was their recent show in the UK with The Antlers that convinced me to give them my full attention. The Canadian quartet is composed of some of the most unassuming youths that I might have ever seen. They don't really look like the type to even want to be in a band, much less able to put out their silky smooth type of music.

Not quite ambient, not quite hard rock BRAIDS' debut Native Speaker is something in between. Minimalistic in approach and arrangements, fizzed with the occasional hizz or fizz of electronics, Native Speaker is an album that revels in its subdued nature. In fact the only thing that really jumps out is the vocals that rise up above the blanket sounds that act as its base. And even then, the vocals are more a part of the action than as a device used to actually attract attention. BRAIDS are a unit, each part important in its own special way, each member treated as equals: Extensively showcasing instrumentals throughout the album.

Native Speaker is as intriguing as a soft-speaker in a crowded room. Capturing your attention by its sheer reluctant to actively demand it. Even with your volume all the way up, it still manages to feel whispery and confessional without the heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics that sort of thing usually entails. It's airy and distant but also intimate and not afraid of being unpretty as evidenced from some surprisingly boisterous parts in "Glass Deers".

Get a taste of BRAIDS with the music video for "Plath Heart":

Collections of Colonies of Bees - Birds

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I first discovered Wisconsin natives Collections of Colonies of Bees around the time Volcano Choir (one of Justin Vernon's miscellaneous side projects) released their debut album Unmap. Why? Well, Volcano Choir is actually made up of all but one member of the Wisconsin quartet along with Vernon himself in addition to a couple former members. What appealed to me about Collections of Colonies of Bees is its purely instrumental nature- that similar type of sound that's been popularized by Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai (to a lesser extent as they occasionally use vocals). Their latest release as Collection of Colonies of Bees however, happened around 3 years ago with 2008's Birds.

Birds is a veritable rock symphony composed solely of four tracks of varying lengths, the whole album is about 37 minutes long. Each track named solely "Flocks" along with the corresponding track number is built on a different theme and yet seems to organic flow from each idea to the next. "Flocks I" begins with start-stop minimalistic guitar strums that transform into scalar climbs, slowly incorporating instrument after instrument before launching into a triumphant cluster of sounds held together with the steady beat of the drums. "Flocks II" begins with a sort of barely there ethereality before the entrance of the drums propels it to action. Distant guitars and electronics keep the track afloat before they subtly make their way to the forefront along with simple, glistening keyboard lines. "Flocks III" follows in a similar manner, starting off with a formless adagio section before the entrance of other instruments - in this instance the guitar and drums together nudge it towards a sense of order. "Flocks III" rather unlike the rest of Birds is noticeably constructed of different parts. After building to a climax, all sound halts and the band starts afresh putting forth new ideas to build off of. In a sense it's not unlike the classical minuet and trio, if only for its formal separation of musical ideas. "Flocks IV" might be the only track on Birds to follow any of the more popular songwriting conventions. It's simple guitar melody is the stuff good pop songs are made of, though it would be easy to just layer vocals on top, Collections of Colonies of Bees goes the more difficult route and instead layer more sounds on top before introducing driving beats that enable for variation and a bit of showmanship as the band are then able to construct solos that then become part of the melody itself.

Birds is an album that basically demands to be listened to over and over again. With no lyrics to distract the listener, it instead focuses on meaty musical statements and small musical ornamentations that reveal themselves more and more with each listen. There's no dramatic flair and yet, it manages to draw you in and entertain you without even appearing to do so. At no time do you realize the length of the track because each idea manages to metamorphoses just as you begin to recognize it.

Get a taste of Collection of Colonies of Bees with a music video for "Flocks II":

While Birds is a pretty fantastic album, there's also rumors that Collections of Colonies of Bees are set to release a new album sometime this year with Hometapes. So stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Princeton release video for "The Electrician"

It's hard to believe that only a few months ago, Princeton was pretty much a non-entity. Sure they had released their debut album Cocoon of Love back in 2009 but has pretty much maintained a strange sort of radio silence since then. Now all of a sudden they're announcing shows and tours left and right, just released "To The Alps" and "The Electrican" together as a 7" single for Record Store Day last month, and now they're allowing all those that didn't get their hands on it a chance to listen to it. "To The Alps" already received the radio treatment earlier this year so this time out, it's "The Electrician" with it's haunting minimalism and creepy hazy vocals over driving beats and screeching guitar licks. The video is a sort of Action/Thriller featuring Active Child as the bloodied nameless criminal who randomly encounter with the police sets off all the action of the video. With little to no warning, the police give chase and the music goes from floaty scary movie music to something way more intense. Random shots of a ballerina are thrown in for good measure and when it's all over, you're left wondering about exactly what you just witnessed. Enjoy the video for "The Electrician":

Princeton: "The Electrician (Feat. Active Child)" from Hit City U.S.A. on Vimeo.

The Middle East announce US album release

After Australian band The Middle East announced the release of their proper debut I Want That You Are Always Happy a couple months ago, I've been eagerly awaiting when they would announce worldwide or at least US release. Well that day is today. Now fans of The Middle East can expect to see the album out in the states on July 12th and on honor of this special occasion, The Middle East have revealed a new song from off the album. The Middle East have always been folk-influenced but "Hunger Song" takes the cake. It's pure folk in and out and yet, the song is undeniably The Middle East. It makes me that much more excited for the new album.

Here's hoping the updated news also means they'll be taking their Australian tour, worldwide as well.

You can hear the new tune via their Facebook or Myspace pages.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Lost Cavalry to release new EP and want YOUR help

It's been awhile since anyone's heard from British folk pop quintet The Lost Cavalry and that's not a bad thing. Bandleader Mark West was hard at work on a film score and the band has been recording it's brand new EP. The as-of-now-untitled EP will feature "Desert Tracks" and as well as a new song "The Flood" amongst others. The cool thing about "The Flood" however is that before the band put the finishing touches on it, they decided they wanted to make it a interactive experience. So, if you or anyone know you is interested in having your vocals featured on the Lost Cavalry's new EP, you can download a special backing track and instructions here. Just make sure you do so before May 31st as that's the deadline.

Until the EP's release sometime later this year, and the "Desert Tracks" single in July, you can catch this video of the band performing said track:

Johnny Flynn - Been Listening (2010)

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In honor of British folk singer Johnny Flynn's upcoming North American tour, I decided to give his most recent album Been Listening, the review treatment. Released almost a year ago, Been Listening continues along the lines of Flynn's blending of both British and American folk styles and once again his full backing band The Sussex Wit featured on Flynn's 2008 debut release A Larum.

Unlike it's predecessor, Been Listening makes far more use of The Sussex Wit in nearly ever capacity. Whereas on A Larum, Flynn's vocals and guitar were at the immediate forefront with the band offering little musical flourishes and ornaments, This time out, Flynn makes full use of his backing band's many talented members with far more intricate instrumental parts. Flynn also makes use of his musical friends: enlisting Laura Marling to duet on "The Water" and Anna Calvi's guitar skills to "The Prizefighter and the Heiress". The highlight of the album is, without a doubt, Flynn's lyrics. Though Flynn's a poet, his choices still manage to render the acute listener awestruck. He has an ability to slip in rather grandiose references (like an allusion to Hemingway's A Moveable Feast) without so much as blink of an eye. The result is something that's smart without being insisting and occasionally fun ("Kentucky Pill", "Churlish May").

Been Listening manages to take the best parts of A Larum and amplify them while also splicing in new elements that happen to work incredibly well. The guest stars, while not necessary to legitimize the record, are certainly a nice touch and Flynn is in rather rare form - shedding a bit of his normally quietude to give a powerful performance in "Howl". It's an excellent follow up to the somber debut. If you like your folk quiet with a lot to say, you'll enjoy Been Listening.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Voluntary Butler Scheme to release new album

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Hot off the release of The Chevreul EP, British one-man band Rob Jones aka The Voluntary Butler Scheme has announced the release of his new album The Grandad Galaxy on July 18 on Split Records in the UK. The follow up to After Breakfast, Dinner, Tea is a definite change of pace from Jones' retro pop as on his latest Jones has made clear his intention to change this up. Using his computers and gadgets to create music that sounds more electronic and more eclectic. Until the new album's release you can get a taste of Jones' new direction with The Chevreul EP.

No word yet of a US release but if it's anything like Jones' debut, it's definitely worth the shipping costs. You can read more about the new album here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (2011)

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I'm incredibly grateful I waited to listen to the new Fleet Foxes. After two years of waiting and teasers in the form of slow releases of tracks "Helplessness Blues", "Battery Kinzie", "Grown Ocean", and finally "Bedouin Dress", actually getting to listen to the album in full was like getting what you really wanted but never told anyone for Christmas.

Helplessness Blues' strength is its simplicity. Sure, there's six men eagerly at work but it never really seems that way. Rather, each member inputs only what is truly necessary in a way that's more ear-catching than if they were to cluster all their talents together. Fleet Foxes' trademark vocal harmonies are featured widely throughout but really, what's more noteworthy is the band's ability to craft absolutely breathtaking musical moments with ease; creating vibrant melodies that serve as the perfect vehicle for Robin Pecknold's poetic exploration of the mundane. It's high caliber songwriting that manages to avoid holier-than-thou pretension through purely earnest effort.

Helplessness Blues is a mixed labor of love and Pecknold's obsessive perfectionism. Labor that's well worth all the months and months of stress. Even when it's clattering around loudly, it's music that refuses to draw attention to itself. Rather, stand solely based on its own merits and the hard work of the musicians crafting it. If it takes another two years to get something even half as good as Helplessness Blues on their next venture, I'd gladly wait.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bibio - Mind Bokeh (2011)

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Towards the end of Ambivalence Avenue, English producer Bibio started to drift more and more away from his folk-influenced tendencies and more towards pure electronica ("dwrcan"). His latest release, Mind Bokeh more or less begins where his last album left off. Bibio trades in his more natural found sounds and uses a more traditional cut-copy method this time out. That said, his music still maintains enough fluidity to provide a nice blanket for his vocals to rest on which is he actually uses rather sparingly. There's even a more blatant rock-influence("Take Off Your Shirt"). Every once in awhile though, there's an occasional glimpse into his old way of doing things most notably in "Artist's Valley" and "Saint Christopher".

While it's certainly a shock to the system that Mind Bokeh is so different than Ambivalence Avenue, it's also refreshing that Bibio is willing to try a complete overhaul of his previous music-making methods. The result is definitely worthy of a listen. The album is catchy in a way that's not as poppy as it's predecessor and never quite reaches anything deliberately danceable. Rather, Bibio's brand of music is for pure enjoyment's sake with some foot-trapping grooves thrown in for good measure.

Get a sneak peek of Bibio's updated sound with the video for "Excuses":

Monday, May 2, 2011

Generationals - Actor-Caster (2011)

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I was introduced to New Orleans rock duo Generationals by pure chance. Maps & Atlases teamed up with A Heart Is A Spade for a contest to win concert tickets and Generationals happened to be another contest on the page. Intrigued I took to the internet, tracked down their MySpace and listened fully until there were no more songs to listen to. It's rare that I will pick up the complete discography of a band I just got introduced to, but I did with Generationals.

, the follow up to 2009's Con Law, is a bit more subdued, less dancey but still relatively sunny when compared to the band's previous release. Their sophomore album seems much more focused and yet maintains the experimentation of various rock genres and sounds of the 60s along with several more here-and-now influenced synths and loops ("Yours Forever" and "Black and White").

Like it's predecessor, Actor-Caster is an album that's undeniably fun and enjoyable. It's music from those that truly enjoy what they're doing. Each track offering up something completely new but vaguely familiar and that's how the album manages to fit together. Each track is noticeably different than the others on the album, and yet all linked by the band's exploration and sprucing up of retro-inspired sounds.

Get a taste of Generationals with the music video for "Ten-Twenty-Ten":

Ten-Twenty-Ten by Generationals from Jubadaba on Vimeo.

Alexander - Alexander (2011)

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I'm not exactly sure how it escaped my notice until now but Alex Ebert, best known as the Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Ima Robot frontman, has released a solo record. The record was written, recorded, and performed solely by Ebert when he had breaks from touring with Edward Sharpe.

Alexander is one of those album that doesn't aspire to much of anything. It's a collection of songs, slaved over loving by Ebert for the enjoyment of the listener. That said, the album is not all that bad, the collection just happens to be peppered with a bevy of influences like 60s psychedelica, tropical pop, and a tidbit of soul ("Glimpses"). It's an album with definite standout tracks like "Truth" -where Ebert sings over a rather sparse reggae-esque accompaniment remiscient of Jamaican toasting-,traditionally folky "Old Friend", and easy, breezy Edward Sharpe-like "A Million Years".

While Alexander as a whole tends to be exactly what you'd expect, that in no way decreases it's value. Ebert is a talented musician and it shows in his ability to create pleasing music that's just sunny enough to guarantee itself a spot on your summer playlists. Ebert even throws in the occasional curve ball with out of left field songs of the more serious sort. It's definitely an album worthy of a listen.

Give Alexander a taste with the video for "A Million Years":