Friday, December 30, 2011

Conveyor - "Mukraker" live video

Yesterday, fans of Brooklyn quartet Conveyor were gifted with a brand new song called "Mukraker" that premiered on One Thirty BPM and today, for the more visually oriented fans, the band delivered another gift in the form of a spiffy new live video. In their live acoustic video for BreakThru Radio's Hear & There Session, the foursome opens up their sound a bit with a delightfully surprising addition of a cellist and some backing vocal harmonizers that are positively stunning and the sparse banjo-laden outro is absolutely gorgeous.

I have no idea what to expect on Conveyor's upcoming full length but if this new song is anything to go off of, it's going to be amazing. Here's hoping we don't have too long to wait. "Mukraker" will be released digitally on January 2nd so make sure to go the Conveyor's Bandcamp then for a tasty new download.

Milagres - Glowing Mouth (2011)

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My introduction to Brooklyn indie rock quintet Milagres is wholly due to Sam at Middle Class White Noise. While preparing to post his favorite tracks of the year late last month, Sam created an extensive playlist of tracks from the year and while familiar with several of the artists, Milagres was the first one that stuck out to me as one I had no head of before.

Milagres' sophomore album Glowing Mouth was released on a day already populated by dozens of brilliant follow ups and perhaps unsurprisingly what truly caught my ear during my first listen was a sense of familiarity. But not in a been there done that sense. No, Milagres seemed to capture little pieces of the bands I really like without actually sounding too much like them. From The Delorean-esque subdued epicness of "Fright of Thee", Wild Beasts’ artful arrangement-consciousness and falsetto on title track “Glowing Mouth”, to a folksy drawl and pastoral image painting reminiscent of Bowerbirds' Phil Moore in "Doubted" and yet, these small parts don't eclipse the originality of ideas or sounds that Milagres can rightfully call their own. Milagres’ strength is as much in its undeniably memorable little moments as in its ability to stitch tons of those moments into a whole song.

So while it may have been Milagres' similarity to other bands I liked that made me take notice, it’s their own slow-building, gently unfurling moments that made me stick around. Each track on Glowing Mouth manages to sound distinctly different from the other while at the same time containing certain transferring elements – like the intricate forays into dreaminess or stadium rock flights of fancy. Milagres, with its talents for blending many different elements essentially cement their place as one of my favorite bands – the band that transcends genre and is just plain good. The kind of band whose music you have to break out because no explanation will be compare.

Get a taste of Milagres with this live acoustic video of "Lost in the Dark" for Big Ugly Yellow Couch and if you like it, make sure to check out their latest album Glowing Mouth:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pitstop: Teletextile

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(Photo by Candace Camuglia)

Considering their similar affinity for dark textures and diverse instrumentation, it's no wonder my love for Friend Roulette brought me to Brooklyn quartet Teletextile. Though framed around the intoxicatingly sweet vocals of harpist Pamela Martinez, Tim Cronin's backing vocals, bass, and accordion, Alex Topornycky's guitar and banjo, and Allan Mednard's percussion are all part of Teletextile's artistic vision. The group stitches together layers and layers of lush tonal tapestries with an ethereal, mysterious air but grounded by earnest, sincere songwriting.

Teletextile's debut album Glass is currently only available in Europe but hopefully will see release stateside soon. You can get a taste of Teletextile's rich, dreamy indie-pop with this video for "What If I":

And while you wait for Teletextile to release music in the US, you can check out music on their Bandcamp, their European label Lili Is Pi's Soundcloud, or catch them live at the Glasslands Gallery January 5th with Conveyor, Illuminator, and Snowmine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation (2011)

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From the second The Year of Hibernation begins, you are griped with an unshakable feeling of pathos. Youth Lagoon's music is all about feeling. Sure there are lyrics but the majority if not all of their resonance comes from Trevor Powers' beautiful, soaring melodies and his dreamy but not fantastical textural landscapes. Powers, with his childishly sweet reverb-laden vocals, is able to inundate the listener in a sea of nostalgia effortlessly and for the complete duration of the rather short 8 song album. And yet in 8 songs, Powers is able to say so much in a surprisingly succinct way.

Trevor Powers may be young but possesses a talent for emotionally evocative arrangements that's startlingly mature. Each song gently blossoming into it's predetermined main point skillfully and. Powers lyrics may be a bit confessional and yet, there's none of the urge of eye-rolling that accompanies that. Even without being able to hear Powers' words, the very feel of them arrests you. The Year of Hibernation is an album unlike any I've encountered before: Where the instrumental plays an overwhelming larger part than the words and influence every other aspect with stunning ease; where what exactly is being said is secondary to how it's being said and what it in turn is saying to you;  an album that must be felt, in order to be properly understood and enjoyed. The Year of Hibernation is no doubt a future favorite that show a young master at work; a work of exceeding beauty and skill.

Get a peek of Youth Lagoon's charmingly evocative sound with the video for "Montana":

Youth Lagoon - Montana from Tyler T Williams on Vimeo.

Pitstop: The War on Drugs

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December is the time of year for year-end track lists, artist lists, albums lists, and virtually anything you can think of to bring the year in music to a close. But if you're anything like me, you might've spent the year focused on the all the things you actually knew you liked or loved to check out absolutely everything. This time of year, I've written best of lists but I've also been reading them to figure out notable things I've no doubt missed. Philadelphia's The War on Drugs, the indie rock brainchild of Adam Granduciel, is most certainly one of those things.

On sophomore record Slave Ambient, The War on Drugs take splashes of The Cave Singers' catchy folk rock (harmonica included), combine them with Real Estate's easy listening jangle, and cement it all with a slight electronic fuzz the keeps it all interesting as Granduciel's adds in hearty folk drawl amid the driving drums and upbeat guitars.  There's lead ins and peaks and troughs and all the stuff necessary for a thoroughly engaging album experience. But album-ender "Black Water Falls" might very well be the album's best track. It rambles on, almost completely out of the electronic haze that fills much of the album's tracks and yet, doesn't jump the shark.

Get a taste of The War on Drugs with the video for their song "Baby Missiles":

The War on Drugs "Baby Missiles" from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Countdown" (Beyonce cover)

In what has become one of my favorite holiday traditions, Norwegian wunderkind Sonder Lerche is offering up another cover as a gift this Christmas, Beyonce's "Countdown". One of my favorite artists of all time covering one of my favorite songs of the year? Yes, please. This cover takes it's place alongside past contenders Animal Collective's "Bluish", Owen Pallet's "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt", and from way back when Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You". But this one trumps all of those, easily. Sure Lerche's made some gender-specific changes but otherwise the songs stays pretty much intact. It's an interesting solo acoustic take on Beyonce's dizzyingly giddy love song.

 Sondre Lerche - Countdown (Beyonce Cover) by All Around Sound Blog

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Daniel Hart - "How Can Love Be Wrong" video

Remember back in September when I posted about former St. Vincent musician Daniel Hart's solo record The Orientalist? No? Well violinist/multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart released his solo debut earlier this year inspired by his adventures in India and the whole thing is just grand. But this post isn't about that. Well not directly anyway. Sometime since then Daniel Hart and actress/comedienne Charlyne Yi teamed up to make a music video for "How Can Love Be Wrong". The video might very well be the most epically adorable thing you've seen all year. There's a boy adventurer searching for his elephant, the aforementioned elephant made out of tons of material and operated by two people, and a dastardly moustachioed  villain. The plot is pretty straightforward: The boy is looking for his lost elephant who happens to have been elephant-napped by the dastard. They have a sword fight on the beach and peace is eventually restored. But color me impressed: the video features some stunningly brilliant cinematography and as simple as the plot is, it's cute and all kinds of awesome.

Enjoy the video for Daniel Hart's "How Can Love Be Wrong":

Daniel Hart - "How Can Love Be Wrong" from charlyne yi on Vimeo.

Gabriel Kahane - Where Are the Arms (2011)

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The first time I heard of Gabriel Kahane he was featured on New York chamber ensemble yMusic's debut album Beautiful Mechanical. While the work features compositions by St. Vincent, Son Lux, and My Brightest Diamond (under their real names), there's also a cast of actual composers which I had relegated Kahane to. Lo and behold I discover that Kahane is not only a professional composer but also writes pop songs. Kahane released his sophomore record Where Are the Arms on the 2011's best day for new music, September 13th. 

On Where are the Arms, Kahane essentially proves himself as both a composer and a songwriter- his songs are richly layered endeavors where the arrangements and words walk hand in hand. Kahane's songs are composed almost purely out of those breathtaking musical moments you want to listen to again and again.

Where the Arms might be a pop album but Kahane certainly provides an interesting take on it with instrumental flights of fancy that are guaranteed to make the already fantastic songs your favorite right when you might've been questioning just that. "Charming Disease", "Merritt Pkwy", and "Calabash & Catamaran" are surefire standout but each song is pretty exceptional. 

You can listen to Where are the Arms on Gabriel Kahane's bandcamp.

All Around Sound's Favorite Albums of 2011

This year I got more in sync with music than I think I ever did, with follow ups from established acts like Blind Pilot, Bon Iver, and Feist, the majority of my favorite came from bands and artists I had little to no knowledge to in years prior (with some noteable exceptions). Below are some of my favorite releases of this year that I feel really took the concept of an album to heart.

Despite my fastidious allegiance to the format of an album as a means to tell a story, there comes a time when an album can just be a collection of songs and still be okay in my book. This works in the case of BELL’s debut album DIAMONITE based on the cohesive nature of the tracks. Each of Olga Bell’s tracks contain a similar quality that makes them fit together like perfect puzzle pieces and even when she goes off in zany unexpected directions, like the folksy interlude in “Charlie”, they manage to remain a part of the sound and feel of her other songs. Those random moments where she zigs instead of zags breathe life into the album and keep things from getting too stale (not that they were all that much of danger of that to begin with).

8) The Head and the HeartThe Head and the Heart
The Seattle sextet’s debut album has all the making of a great album, that I was kind of surprised not to find it on more best of lists. From the slowly unfurling intro of “Cats and Dogs” that incorporates each member of the ensemble before a heartwarmingly grand unified tutti moment, to how that track leads directly into “Coeur D’alene” there’s no shortage of great musical moments. There’s a wealth of talent contained within the band’s ranks and on the debut each member gets their moment- violinist Charity Rose Thielen often sneaking up on you with brazenly soulful solos that manages to surprise you no matter how much you listen, guitarists/vocalists Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson trading off seamlessly, and Kenny Hensley mind-bending piano chops. It all comes together into The Head and the Heart’s folk pop gumbo alongside a smorgasbord of resonating lyricism that doesn’t try too hard.
 The Head and the Heart - Lost In My Mind by subpop

7) North HighlandsWild One
There’s a major different between a lot of the albums on my list and North Highlands’. The wide majority of them made an impact due to stellar lyricism, North Highlands didn’t do and that’s fine. Wild One is an example of a more “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” approach that doesn’t get nearly enough love. Brenda Malvini’s delivery is part of what makes Wild One such a treat. Repeated lyrics empowered like a command or chant and no matter how many times she repeats a phrase or word – it doesn’t get old. But Malvini’s isn’t the band and it’s due to the effort of the whole that Wild One is the success it is. The group’s playing is tight and diverse, swaggering and bustling to create an enjoyable romp that lasts the whole album – even in downbeat numbers like “Fre$ca” and “Best Part”. North Highlands might keep you emotionally at arm’s length but in doing so they make sure you have plenty of space to listen and more importantly to dance.

6) Marissa NadlerMarissa Nadler
Considering how recently I got into Marissa Nadler’s latest album, her self-titled sixth, it’s kind of surprising that the album can be one of my favorites of the year and yet it is. Marissa Nadler has managed to positively consume my life from the first listen, no doubt due to Nadler’s crystalline vocals, delicate intricate arrangements resulting from Nadler’s arresting attention to detail, and poetic storytelling.

5) Laura MarlingA Creature I Don’t Know
While a bit of a far-cry from her sophomore I Speak Because I Can in terms of emotional intensity and rich moving narrative, Laura Marling continued with her more mature, less conventional songwriting style that revolved around a single driving theme. While I Speak focused on responsibility and womanly duty, A Creature I Don’t Know explored the intense dark emotions that her previous album mostly hinted at. And while album centerpiece “The Beast” falls a bit flat (or needs more time to properly digest), Marling still manages to put together a stunning batch of songs that work exceptionally well together. Marling’s most remarkable tracks are in fact the ones with seemingly the least amount to say “Don’t Ask Me Why”, “Salinas”, and “Sophia”. Rather than trying to drive home her themes like “The Beast” or “All My Rage”, the other songs are small peeks into the mind and psyche of Marling’s characters. While it’s never quite explained why they do what they do, that’s somehow okay. With the exception of “My Friends”, Marling doesn’t ever try to make them accountable for their actions merely to present them in a rich and engaging manner in which she earnestly succeeds.
 Laura Marling - Sophia by ListenBeforeYouBuy

4) Sondre LercheSondre Lerche
Every time Sondre Lerche reemerges from a recording-related hibernation I know the result is going to be something special and dear to my heart. Sondre Lerche’s eponymous sixth album was no different. While not quite as near or dear as Heartbeat Radio (most likely due to the time I’ve spent with the latter), Lerche certainly brings his a-game and manages to both Lerche’s jazzy-pop rock stylings and also tread new ground. It’s an album brimming with brilliant songcraft and arrangements but also Lerche’s exceptional lyricism. On his self-titled, Lerche combines elements from his previous albums like Phantom Punch’s hard rock fizz but takes things to riskier level when Lerche steps out of his comfort zone of singing pseudo-confessional type songs and embraces a broader songwriting style that still manages to sound personal and engaging.
 Go Right Ahead by sondrelerche

3) Anna Calvi Anna Calvi
Anna Calvi’s self-titled debut beginning strains transports you to a smoky, dark cabaret club and there you remain until “Love Won’t Be Leaving” fades out gingerly. Anna Calvi lays all the cards out on the table: ninety percent of the album’s songs are about sex or of a sexual nature (“No More Words”, “Desire”, “First We Kiss”) and yet Anna Calvi presents it in such a classy refined manner that you can both relate and appreciate and enthusiastically share with others. Her passion is felt more than stated, her vocals practically exploding from her at precise the perfect time to make its effects most immediate. While Calvi’s exploration of the primal is nothing new, both Wild Beasts and Laura Marling releasing albums doing that same thing this same year, what catches is Calvi’s total allegiance to the world she creates in her exploration of sounds and textures.
 Anna Calvi 'Anna Calvi' by Anna Calvi

2) Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues
I could go on and on about how Fleet Foxes almost didn’t release this album and how we’re all lucky to be able to it and that’d be true. But Robin Pecknold’s neurotic perfectionism has resulted in one of the single most beautiful albums of the year. If an album has a weak track or two, that’s expected and not really cause for alarm but what do you do when an each and every track on an album is utter perfection? It’s something to be celebrated. That’s no easy feat and Fleet Foxes have managed to do this on their sophomore record and with an effortlessness that belies the frustration its member most likely felt making it.
 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues by subpop

1) ARMSSummer Skills
In a year where I found several eagerly anticipated follow up albums to be flops, ARMS is one of the few bands that not only delivered but exceeded all my wildest expectations. Summer Skills, with its supernatural break up album concept, delivered not only a boldly innovative idea but presented it in a way that was exceptionally mindful of itself and charmingly catchy. Todd Goldstein achieves an elegant balance between grizzly detail and imagination-fuelling vagueness in his songwriting that only helps to enrich the album’s miscellaneous stories. Each song pits the two main characters in a new predicament which Todd Goldstein’s deft songwriting and the band’s startlingly precision underscore and navigate you through. Summer Skills is labyrinthine and yet wholly accessible, an album with nearly as many instantaneous rewards as its hidden treasures.

Honorable Mentions:
The Antlers - Burst Apart 
Caveman - CoCo Beware 
The Deloreans - "American Craze"
Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers - On Being
The Dodos - No Color 
Left With Pictures - In Time 
tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Head and the Heart - "While You Were Gone" live video

I sincerely hope that there's a new album already well in the works from Seattle folk pop sextet The Head and the Heart. That's the only thing that will validate the seemingly endless stream of new songs that seem to be coming from them as well as satiate my desire for more from them as soon as possible. Tonight, the band posted a video of new song "While You Were Gone" that features guitarists/vocalists Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson duetting on the streets of Seattle.

Enjoy this live video for new track "While You Were Gone"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good Old War premiere new single "Calling Me Names"

Philadelphia folk pop trio Good Old War have a new album coming out. Despite reading tweets declaring such a couple months ago, I kind of completely forgot about this. The new album titled Come Back As Rain and inspired by the band's feelings of homesickness while constantly away from home will be out March 6th. Yesterday the band played a live studio show via Livestream where they answered questions and played some new tunes. One of which was their most recent single "Calling Me Names" which they premiered over at Paste Magazine. The new track contains the same delightful catchiness the group is known for in the songs and tight three part harmonies with one notable exception: That high pitched voice you hear? That's not an addition, that's drummer/accordionist/all around chill guy Tim Arnold. Guys have somehow gotten even better at singing. Go figure.

Enjoy the new tune "Calling Me Names" by Good Old War:

Pitstop: Young Dreams

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(Photo by Eirik Lande)

It's kind of a given now that almost everyone who opens for Sondre Lerche in concert, I will grow to love. I'd like to think that it's not just because my love for the Norwegian singer/songwriter extraordinaire spills over on to them but that it's due mostly in part to the fact that Lerche has an exception talent for picking skilled musicians to open for him. And yet, Young Dreams is a band that I didn't have a chance to see live because they only accompanied him on this European tour dates. So my introduction happened mostly in the form of Lerche talking about how they were killing it every night of tour and by earning a slot on his favorite tracks of 2011 playlist.

The Norwegian outfit is positively stacked with members, one of whom I actually recognized from my obsession with Norwegian music I had a few years back - Matias Tellez. But this massive quantity of hands helps to create a sort of orchestrally big take on tropical pop much in the vein of Lord Huron. But it's not just a rehashing of what some other guy and his band have done before. No, there's swooping, swerving, craning melodies just aching to be heard alongside sunny, jubilant dancey beats.

So while the band's only released two 7" singles (with b-sides), they're definitely worthy of some year-end lists so kudos on that to Sondre Lerche. And there's an album coming in 2012 so there's always that to look forward to.

Get a taste of Young Dreams with the debut video their track "Young Dreams":

Young Dreams from Young Dreams on Vimeo.

Carter Tanton - "Fake Pretend" (featuring Marissa Nadler) video

This year, psychedelica has seemingly become the norm - at least when it comes to music videos to the point where it's kind of become overdone. And yet Carter Tanton's "Fake Pretend" could only exist in realm. His jaunt into fizzy electro-pop is bookended by his and Marissa Nadler's clear-cutting emotional vocals that create an interesting mix of synthy folk. Well director Jeff Maksym created a video that stays true to that aesthetic. While it's trippy and colors are everywhere - there's also a very real Carter Tanton wandering among the cornfields and farmland brush. Sometimes he slips into the colorful jumble of shapes or seems transcendentally unaware and it works in this awesomely artistic way of having Carter Tanton slip in and out of reality. Makers of psychedelic music videos should take note: This is how it's done.

Fake Pretend - Carter Tanton (feat. Marissa Nadler) from jeff maksym on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Typhoon - "Never Be Your Lover" live video

Earlier this year, Typhoon completed their first ever US tour and I missed it. All of it. Or less dramatically, I missed when they came to New York. Well if you're anything like me and are regretting your poor life decision to not see them in concert, you're in luck. Typhoon has just put out the first peak at a full concert recording going up sometime hopefully soon. What's extra awesome about this video is that it's a brand spanking new Typhoon song that has yet to be released (but probably played a bunch on that tour). Check out the new song "Never Be Your Lover" and subsequent jam session:

Typhoon - Never Be Your Lover / Jam (live) from Matthew Ross on Vimeo.

Yellow Ostrich - The Mistress (2011)

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My introduction to New York by way of Wisconsin indie rock trio Yellow Ostrich happened while gearing up for my first CMJ excursion. Paste Magazine's main CMJ event was a concert at Brooklyn Bowl featuring the trio (and Kopecky Family Band but I digress). I didn't end up going to that event but made a mental note to check out Yellow Ostrich for not other reason but curiosity and the tendency for Paste to know what I want to hear before I'm aware of it myself.

Yellow Ostrich's The Mistress was actually self-released last year but Barsuk Records decided to re-release it when it signed the band. A brilliant decision if we're being totally honest. My first taste of the trio came in the form of "WHALE", which I could've quickly written off as being silly and nonsensical and yet, it features layers and layers of pitch perfect vocals (which happen to be layers of Alex Schaaf's voice), the sort of gently evolving songcraft I love, and talent that belies the song's effervescent whimsy. And as fun as the record can be, there's also an emotional sincerity in Schaaf's tenderhearted tenor. It elevates seemingly unimportant concerns into the realm of caring.

The Mistress straddles the line between serious and fun in a way that's genuine and ultimately enjoyable. And after energetic songs like "Hahahaohhoho" and "WHALE", a sentimental ballads like "Mary" and "Slow Paddle" hit the ball right out of the park. An album positively brimming with talent and with no shortage of infectious tunes, The Mistress is a definitely must-listen for anyone looking for another band to love.

Get a taste of Yellow Ostrich with their video for "WHALE":

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Watch: Marissa Nadler - "In Your Lair, Bear"

Ever since I listened to the Marissa Nadler's self-titled fifth album earlier this month, I've essentially been waiting for this moment. Album opener and arguably my favorite Nadler track has finally gotten the video treatment it so rightly deserves. It kind of makes some sort of cosmic sense that the video for one of Nadler's most narrative of narratives doesn't really have a plot. Instead you're gifted with some intensely beautiful shots feauring the chanteuse herself. Marissa Nadler and director Alec K. Redfearn are a music video dream-team creating a brilliant work of art fueled by the subtle emotions that are the very essence of the track.


Marissa Nadler "In Your Lair, Bear" from Alec K. Redfearn on Vimeo.

Real Estate - Days (2011)

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It took me a criminally long time to get into Real Estate, let alone listen to their latest album Days. Last year when I was still using to find new music, it suggested Real Estate and I listened to a couple tunes and for some reason never went back. Although it made enough of an impression for me to buy their debut self-titled album. And yesterday, a moment of late night clarity revealed that I had yet to listen to the new Real Estate.

Days is an instant rush of summer, plain and simple. With it's undulating jangly guitar riffs and beach imagery, that much is a given. And yet, Real Estate take what a bunch of bands have done in service to that surf rock vibe and make it their own. Real Estate are impressively precise considering their nature to slip into jam band-esque repetitive phrases that they somehow find a way to keep interesting. Real Estate are by rights and definition a soft rock band. Rarely do they get higher than a mezzo-forte but what they lack in decibels they more than account for in solid playing and lovely, sprawling melodies.

Days is a surefire winner filled with track after solid track that does what a good album should strive for. Each track leads more or less seamlessly into the other without any sort of jarring awareness or feeling out of place. So while it may have taken me a year to get into Real Estate, Days has made a true believer out of me. Let it do the same for you.

Get a taste of Real Estate with the video for "It's Real" off Days:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Little Tybee - "Boxcar Fair" video

Considering I discovered Georgia's Little Tybee and their new record Humorous to Bees months after its released, I was content to spend the rest of the year just being in love. It hadn't been nearly long enough for me to crave any new music from them. When I first got into Little Tybee I noticed they had a Kickstarter going on to fund a project of vocalist/guitarist Brock Kelly's called Boxcar Fair. The project was a puppet show and while the project was cool and I was very interested, a small part of me thought "How does this relate to the band, exactly?". Well I soon got my answer. One of the awesome things to come out of Boxcar Fair (besides you know, an super cool puppet show that I hope one day to see) was that Little Tybee wrote and play this little ditty. A track by the name of "Boxcar Fair" that soundtracks a pretty awesome video featuring the puppets and will apparently be on the band's new album. Exciting stuff, right?

Check out this spiffy new video for "Boxcar Fair":

Little Tybee - "Boxcar Fair" from Little Tybee on Vimeo.

Watch: Heart-Sick Groans - "A Bossanova With This Casanova"

Swedish indie-pop trio Heart-Sick Groans have been hinting at a brand new EP for a while now and today they gave fans a preview of the soon to be released EP with a video for new track "A Bossanova With This Casanova". The video, like their other ones, features a bunch of students from features Mads Peter Brandstrup Jensen's class at the Drawing Academy of the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. The new track is balmier and more summery than "Surfer Friend" (which was released earlier this year) but with that same old catchy pop that Heart-Sick Groans are proving themselves masters at making.

Enjoy the new video for "A Bossanova with This Casanova" from Heart-Sick Groans":

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pitstop: Matthew Hemerlein

While tending to my newfound obsession with Friend Roulette, I stumbled upon DC based multi-instrumentalist Matthew Hemerlein via The Big Ugly Couch sessions. As a violinist myself one of my favorite things to see is strings given a leading role in less "traditional" music but Hemerlein takes it a whole other level. No doubt his violin/loop pedal are sure to attract comparisons to probably the most famous of violinists/loopers Andrew Bird but Hemerlein's music is distinctly his own. He easily shifts from violin, to guitar, and back again with ease. Besides some absolutely breathtaking arrangements, Hemerlein also has an voice that manages to be both attention-grabbingly quiet and intensely commanding. He's equally skilled with pretty much any instrument he picks up and offers up something new and exciting for lovers of the one-man band.

Last year, Matthew Hemerlein released an his first album Hot Nickels recorded through help from a grant with The DC Commission of the Arts & Humanities. You can listen to the whole album at his Soundcloud.
Latest tracks by Matthew Hemerlein

All Around Sound's Favorite Tracks of 2011

Strangely enough, I remember when a year ago when I swore I would never do a Best Of list. At least not in the way that some blogs do there. Rehashing old reviews and offering nothing new - that might work for some but it's not my style. And yet, Best Of lists are a great way to discover some great music you might've missed throughout the year or might've forgotten about. So my hope is that by throwing my own hat into the Best Of ring I can help do one of those things for you. Enjoy my first Best Of list or more aptly put, my favorite 15 tracks of 2011.

15) The Deloreans - "Buffalo", "American Craze"
Before Sam at MiddleClassWhiteNoise introduced me to The Deloreans, I wasn't aware there was anything of note in Kentucky. Let alone the three stellar bands I was later introduced to from Louisville. An ode to old-fashioned American decadence and a hodge-podge of different styles, practically any song on the album is worthy of a slot and definitely necessary listening but what set "Buffalo" apart is its multi-faceted nature. Fun and frenetic for the choruses but subtle and restrained for the verses, the track utilizes the intense energy of "American Craze" without sacrificing any of the thematic content.

14) North Highlands - "Roundhouse", Wild One
For an album named Wild One, there's actually a shortage of songs that are actually all that unchained and yet that works for North Highlands. Brenda Malvini's soft, delicate vocals are inviting and the band, broad and sweeping around her, pull you in like ocean waves. Malvini quiet coo in "Roundhouse" "If I was wild, if I was brave..." explains a bit, and ends up far more effective than a roar. The track pulses with an infectious energy while maintaining an almost stoic control before there's an unexpected rush, the opening of the floodgates and you're smacked with feeling. The track tells a story but is also intensely danceable. The best of both worlds.

13) The Dodos - "Good", No Color
When I first read that Neko Case would be contributing vocals to the new Dodos album I regarded it with a great deal of surprise and confusion. Meric Long's voice somehow fits the percussion-heavy folk realm the two inhabit but how would Neko Case's translate? Incredibly well. And yet, the tracks where she was barely there- a mostly quiet spectre in the background were the tracks I enjoyed most. When she shouts and harmonizes on "Good" it's almost too much good to bear. "Good" is great because it's driving, hard-hitting, with an astonishing amount of simplicity but effortless precise and no doubt memorable. It's 6 minutes long but far from monotonous - something always catching your ear to keep you from just drifting off.
Good by The Dodos by Mute-Song

12) Hello MTN - "Suitcase Song", Tour EP
Portland folk duo Hello MTN have been working on an album for better part of the year, taking breaks pretty much solely to tour. Luckily, the duo decided to make a four song EP so concertgoers would have something tangible to hold onto and things just kind of spiraled from there. "Suitcase Song" might seem like a bit of a novelty (being that the song features an actual suitcase as the percussion) but the song is positively awash with emotion. The song makes use of the duo's seemingly endless array of talents and features remarkable musical interludes between verses.

11) Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers - "We Are Everything", On Being
It's hard to fathom the possibility of not seeing Joe Hertler and his band in that small mostly empty bar at the start of my CMJ but I did and for that I'm exceedingly glad. On Being shows off Joe Hertler's deft songwriting chops and a wisdom far beyond his years with "We Are Everything" functioning as a delightfully enjoyable cog in Joe Hertler's conceptualized vision. While songs on On Being wrestles with bigger picture ideas and pseudo-religious themes, "We Are Everything" notes how tiny humans are in the grand scheme of things when compared to the limitless wonders of the universe and yet, does so with nary a heavy-hand. Instead with his rich imagery and patience, Joe Hertler creates something truly soul-stirring.

10) Left With Pictures, "June", In Time
Last year, British chamber pop quintet Left With Pictures challenged themselves to the great songwriting feat of writing a song a month as part of their In Time project. Not only did they have to have a fully developed song that would be premiered by Gideon Coe on BBC 6Music on the last Monday of each month but they also had to have a finished video which they would post the next day. For 2010, I had no greater joy than when a brand new Left With Pictures track was revealed as each month their songwriting seemed to get better and better especially when they reached months without an obvious inspiration. One of my favorite tracks from this was "June", inspired in part by the advent of summer but with no obvious references to it. Instead "June", the month it was composed for, is personified as a beautiful girl whom has utterly enchanted the narrator. The song is as big as it's claims that a thousand battle ships would launch for her - the band pulling out all their songwriting chops to brilliant effect to create an upbeat romp full of positively delightful musical moments.

9) tUnE-yArDs - "Bizness", W H O K I L L
My introduction to "Bizness" happened live at tUnE-yArDs' concert in Central Park about a year and a half ago. There she performed almost all the sounds that weren't created by bassist Nate Brenner or with her own drums sticks with her own mouth (besides the brass band she had join her for a couple songs). It was exceptionally impressive. So when I heard the new version where those vocal effects were replaced with studio-processed machine sounds I was a little disappointed. And yet, even with that little let down, the infectiously catch nature of "Bizness" won out. It takes some of the best moments of her 2009 debut and amplifies them about tenfold. Garbus' decision to studio record affords the track with increased accessibility but also allowed her to throw some great things onto it (like the aforementioned brass band).
tUnE-yArDs - Bizness (4AD) by Ragged Words

8) The Head and the Heart - "Rivers and Roads", The Head and the Heart
During an intimately live show at Pianos in September, I had an epiphany: Spunky Seattle folk sextet The Head and the Heart write some pretty sad songs. This might seem like a no-brainer or even downright wrong to you but underneath their fun, poppy arrangements are lyrics about feeling out of place and alone whether you're far from from or stuck in your hometown. And yet there's a shortage songs on the album where this emotion is just left to its own devices - not played with by the groups various band members and their skilled arrangements. "Rivers and Road" is one of those rare songs that's not upbeat and makes no attempts to be. You don't get rapped up in the feel of the song and think it's about something else entirely - no, instead you get this wonderful moment of heart-on-your-sleeve confession carried from a purely vocal standpoint. Guitarist/vocalist Josiah Johnson gets his moment to shine while the rest of the band helpfully keep tempo and Jonathan Russell and Charity Rose Thielen add backup harmonies. And it's all quite lovely and good and makes for a nice song and then in an utterly unexpected moment Charity takes the helm with powerhouse vocals radiating with soul and you're a puddle on the floor. It elevates the already good song to an absolutely other plane of greatness and tugs at each and every one of your heartstrings.
Rivers and Roads by ImpressYourPeers

7) Carter Tanton - "Murderous Joy", Freeclouds
It strangely alright that, like a lot of my musical discoveries, Carter Tanton was a case of being at the right place at the right time. Because Tanton's "Murderous Joy" might just be one of the best songs I've heard in awhile and especially was about a month ago when I was introduced to it. It's catchy in an excitedly nonchalant way - a brilliant masterpiece of a song that single-handedly proved Carter Tanton and an able songwriter to me. There's an ineffable greatness about it - it ebbs and flows at precisely the right moments; its simple with unassumingly intelligent turns of phrase and a pervading sense of calm nostalgia.

6) Tallest Man on Earth - "Weather of A Killing Kind", Adult Swim Singles Program 2011
After the release of The Tallest Man on Earth's sophomore album The Wild Hunt and subsequent Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird EP just a couple months after last year I figured we'd be done with any new Tallest Man for awhile. So when Adult Swim released a brand new Tallest Man track as part of its Single Program this summer I was incredibly surprised and equally as appreciative. It's quintessential Tallest Man with his trademark rasp and complex fingerpicking but also with beautiful melodies.
The Tallest Man on Earth - Weather of a Killing Kind by All Around Sound Blog

5) St. Vincent - "Cruel", Strange Mercy
When I first heard St. Vincent's music, I remember being strangely neutral about it. Albeit my first foray was at a live show that Annie Clark herself was disappointed in. But earlier this year when Annie Clark teased Strange Mercy via Twitter-fueled Youtube videos, color me intrigued. I revisted her older stuff and found myself actually really liking it. When "Surgeon" dropped, I ate it up and asked immediately for more. Then "Cruel" came out. This track took the big rock licks that were my favorite part of "Surgeon" and made a whole song of it. It's big, bold, and strangely enough not in your face. Annie Clark knows subtlety. She's made a career of wink-wink nudge-nudge moments and yet, "Cruel" is subtle in a brand new way. It's vunerable and open with a shouted from the mountaintops vibe that she tones down into something far more marvelous. It's catchy without trading in any of the necessary emotion and virtuosic without being overly showy.
St. Vincent - Cruel by Posh Magazine

4) Fleet Foxes - "Grown Ocean", Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues is arguably one of the best things to come out of this year. Especially when you realize it almost didn't. But Robin Pecknold's musical perfectionism ended up creating one of the greatest albums of the year - one that tackles an important theme of growing up. One of the best songs on Helplessness Blues is no doubt "Grown Ocean", with it's driving drums and bass, not to mention it's place as the cathartic end to an album with heaps to say and even more questions to ask. Everything you love about Fleet Foxes spills out in this track - Robin Pecknold and the band's lovely songcraft, everpresent nature imagery, soul-gripping vocal harmonies. The whole thing is utterly magical, even the wonderfully little ellipses that ends the track (and album).
Fleet Foxes - Grown Ocean by subpop

3) Marissa Nadler - "In Your Lair, Bear", Marissa Nadler
If I had made this list about a week ago, this track wouldn't be here. But since sitting down with Marissa Nadler's self-titled I've found this song has completely taken over my life. Since I heard the opening strains of the album's opening track, I've hardly been able to listen to much else. It's slowly but surely consuming me. And yet, isn't that exactly what our favorite songs do? With her slow, lilting siren song Marissa Nadler has charmed her way not only onto the list but also pretty high on my favorites list. "In Your Lair, Bear", with it's supple melodic lines and yawny unraveling narrative is bewilderingly beautiful. Not a bad song to have utterly take over your life, actually.

2) Laura Marling - "Flicker and Fail", A Creature I Don't Know (Bonus Version)
I was first introduced to the live version of this song which Laura Marling debuted at the Radio 2 Folk Awards early this year and I was struck by how good it is. When describing Laura Marling's music calling it "good" seems kind of like kind of a moot point but considering that half the song is an old song her father wrote and the rest is just things she fixed around it, I was surprised by how well it all seemed to go together. Laura Marling has always been described as being a mature songwriter but this song left me completely floored. Still does. For all the conceptualizing on I Speak Because I Can and A Creature I Don't Know, this track hit me square in the heart. Not only did it sound amazing, like all of Marling songs, but it captured all the elements I loved about Marling and elevated them to the next level - her witty turns of phrase? Present. Her intricate guitar melodies? Present. It contains the emotional side-stepping Marling has started to make her songwriting staple and yet, does in a manner that doesn't make you question it. "Flicker and Fail" shows a decidedly better Laura Marling that was hinted at in some of the best tracks on A Creature I Don't Know and her decision to include it (albeit as a bonus track) shows that she knows this too.

1) ARMS - "Heat & Hot Water", Summer Skills
"Heat & Hot Water" might not have been the first song I heard from ARMS (that slot is reserved for "Emily Sue, Cont'd") but it was the song that launched my year-long obsession with all things ARMS related. So much storytelling is packed into 4 minutes of vibrant, visceral songwriting not to mention so many delicate musical ornaments and intricate textural strokes. While practically any song from Summer Skills could've made it on this list, "Heat & Hot Water" is my definitive ARMS song. The moment on their 2010 EP where I realized I needed to know more, and probably my most listened to track of the whole entire year of 2011. Not to mention a surefire contender for one of my favorite songs ever written ever.

Honorable Mentions:
Conveyor - Sun Ray, Sun Ray EP
The Middle East - "Hunger Song", I Want That You Are Always Happy
Laura Marling - "Don't Ask Me Why"/"Salinas" A Creature I Don't Know
Sondre Lerche - "When the River", Sondre Lerche
The Voluntary Butler Scheme - "Don't Rely On It, Don't Count on It", The Grandad Galaxy

The Head and the Heart release iTunes Session EP with new tracks

Somehow in between all of their seemingly endless touring and being downright amazing human beings, Seattle folk pop sextet The Head and the Heart had time to do an iTunes session and it's downright amazing. One of the greatest things to come out of it though is that fans of the band or just discoverers of random good music were treated to two brand new songs the band has been playing live for a bit now. One of these songs is "When I Fall Asleep" that has been cropping up in all sorts of places since the iTunes EP came out. Now you can listen to it here. Hopefully it'll tide you over until The Head and the Heart come out with a new album and/or tour again.

When I Fall Asleep (iTunes Session) by subpop

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pitstop: Friend Roulette

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(Photo from Big Ugly Yellow Couch)

Considering my obsession with all things ARMS, it shouldn't really surprise anyone that I found Friend Roulette. ARMS' Tlacael Esparza is among its ranks alongside Kyle Olson of Hospitality, and Bryn Bellamy and Matthew Meade of Illuminator. It's a veritable who's who of New York City band members that all came together to make a rather exciting brand of chamber pop.

When I first heard "Sailing Song", it became incredibly clear that I was in for a unique experience. The percussionist's chops are displayed early on alongside swooping bass clarinet and hammered violin pizzicatos as Julia Tepper and Matthew Meade liltingly harmonize.

Where Friend Roulette differ from your standard chamber pop group is due in part to their diverse instrumentation making use of it band members eclectic musical talents like John Stanesco's EWI (an instrument mostly used in jazz) and also in their shying away from cutesy pop dressings. Friend Roulette's music is fun, dreamy, and prone to dark coloring - moments that prove some of the most memorable. There's always something interesting to listen for (not surprising considering the band is about six members strong).

Friend Roulette are currently working on an LP but for you now you can listen to their awesome four song EP.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Andrew Bird to release new album and tour

Earlier this year, singer/songwriting violinist and whistling enthusiast Andrew Bird made a stateside jaunt to a bunch of beautiful theaters (and a stage in Brooklyn), well turns out that was just a warm up. In support of his recently announced album, Break It Yourself, Andrew Bird will be traveling the world with an impressive set of musicians (like Laura Marling).

1/12 Hawaii Theatre - Honolulu, Hawaii
3/5 Barbican Centre - London, Englands
3/6 La Cigale - Paris, France
3/8 Cirque Royal - Brussels, Belgium
3/9 Paradiso - Amsterdam, Netherlands
3/15 Majestic Theatre - Dallas, Texas (with Eugene Mirman)
3/16 The Howlin' Wolf - New Orleans, Louisiana (with Eugene Mirman)
3/17 Tabernacle - Atlanta, Georgia (with Eugene Mirman)
3/19 Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, Tennessee (with Eugene Mirman)
3/20 Southern Theatre - Columbus, Ohio (with Eugene Mirman)
3/22 The Pageant - St. Louis, Missouri (with Eugene Mirman)
3/23 The Uptown Theater - Kansas City, Missouri (with Eugene Mirman)
3/24 Riverside Theater - Milwaukee, Wisconsin (with Eugene Mirman)
4/9 Paramount Theater - Seattle, Washington (with Laura Marling)
4/10 The Vogue - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (with Laura Marling)
4/11 Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall - Portland, Oregon (with Laura Marling)
4/13 Fox Theater - Oakland, California (with Laura Marling)
4/18 Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center - Mesa, Arizona (with Laura Marling)
4/19 Lensic Performing Arts Center - Santa Fe, New Mexico (with Laura Marling)
4/20 Rialto Theater - Tucson, Arizona (with Laura Marling)
5/3 Union Transfer - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (with Tift Merritt)
5/4 Beacon Theatre - New York, New York (with Tift Merritt)
5/5 Beacon Theatre - New York, New York (with Patrick Watson)
5/6 House of Blues - Boston, Massachusetts (with Tift Merritt)
5/8 9:30 Club - Washington, DC (with Tift Merritt)
5/9 Ramshead Live - Baltimore, Maryland (with Tift Merritt)
5/10 The Fillmore Detroit - Detroit, Michigan (with Mucca Pazza)
5/12 Auditorium Theatre - Chicago, Illinois (with Mucca Pazza)

If you purchase tickets via Andrew Bird's website, you have the option of a music bundle where you get two live EPs (one of his earlier 2011 tour) and a digital copy of the new album. Break It Yourself is due out March 6th.

Check out Andrew Bird's teaser video for the album:

Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself from Mom+Pop on Vimeo.

Watch: First Aid Kit - "The Lion's Roar"

After the announcement of their brand new sophomore album, Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit previewed the title track "The Lion's Roar" shortly after. Well now that track's also got a video. Filmed in Stockholm by Mats Udd, the video features the sisters in a kind of medieval tribal garbs with a militaristic band of drummers trekking through darkened fog-laden forests and alternating scenes of the girls in elegant dresses rowing out to the middle of a lake on a bright sunny day to find a trunk hidden at the bottom of the lake. Not much of the plot is explained but it's hardly necessary. The video is beautiful shot and looks straight out of an fantasy epic or a Swedish fairy tale. Enjoy the video for "The Lion's Roar":

First Aid Kit's sophomore album The Lion's Roar is due out January 24th.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marissa Nadler - Marissa Nadler (2011)

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Before the release of her brand new self-titled album, I had never heard of Boston songstress Marissa Nadler and what a tragedy that was. Around the time of her album release, We Listen For You championed it so strongly that I felt compelled to check out her music. But not with the new album. No, Nadler's music seemed like it needed time and devotion to truly understand so I set about starting at the very beginning and working my way to her newest album.

Marissa Nadler begins with the hauntingly beautiful "In Your Lair, Bear" a track that could very well just be the album. It's that good. It shows off everything Nadler does so well - her poetic narratives, her pristine vocals, and her utterly captivating compositions. At six minutes, she takes her time letting her tale unfold slowly but enchantingly and most importantly, unexpectedly. Nadler's songwriting is almost maddeningly strong. There's no sloppy rhymes or singer/songwriter bravado or self-importance. Instead Nadler lets the songs go where she feels they need to and steeps them in an overwhelming sense of quiet that makes the listener far more attentive. Instrumentation and lyricism are given equal tempering in a way that creates some stunning musical moments and only adds an extra layer to Nadler's narratives.

Marissa Nadler rewards dedicated fans with references to old songs, like "Mr. John Revisited", the sequel to Mr. John Lee (Velveteen Rose) off The Saga of Mayflower May and references to Ballads of Living and Dying's "Box of Cedar". But such knowledge isn't necessarily to fully enjoy the album. Nadler is a skilled songwriter and gifted in every sense. Each song a fully realized piece tended to with an artistic attention to detail. The result is an album in which each song is a treat and a thing of utmost beauty. Nadler is often lauded for the impressiveness of her dreamy landscapes but it's those moments when reality crystallizes amid those dreamy hazes that are really impressive most noteably in "Baby, I Will Leave You in the Morning" and "Wind Up Doll". Marissa Nadler is an album of limitless beauty that manages to be literary, musical, and amazingly relate-able all at the same time. An absolute gem of carefully constructed art.

Get a taste of Marissa Nadler with a live video of "In Your Lair, Bear":

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bowerbirds to release new album, ready Spring tour, release new track

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I remember when I saw the North Carolina folk rocker Bowerbirds in concert last year. Aside from a flawless set of album standards they had no problem playing new tunes for us, making it clear to everyone that a new album was definitely in the works. Now it's more or less a year later and the Bowerbirds are making good on their promise. Recorded over the last year at April Base Studios in Wisconsin with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and mixing and mastering in New York City, the new album titled The Clearing, is just about to see the light of day. March 6th will see the release of this third album, a collection of songs that if their first peek is anything to go off of proves exactly why I love the Bowerbirds.

"Tuck the Darkness In" slowly builds momentum adding in little violin and brass ornaments as it plods along, picking up steam. With vivid nature imagery and appropriately used vocal harmonies, the new track has everything that makes for a killer Bowerbirds song without sounding like another song from their two album. Here's to 2012.

Bowerbirds - Tuck the Darkness In by All Around Sound Blog

After the album's release, the band will be embarking on rather extensive Spring tour.

3/17 Cat's Cradle - Carrboro, North Carolina
3/21 Black Cat - Washington, DC
3/22 Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
3/23 Bowery Ballroom - New York, New York
3/24 Paradise - Boston, Massachusetts
3/26 La Sala Rossa - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3/27 The Garrison - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
3/29 Lincoln Hall - Chicago, Illinois
3/31 Cedar Cultural Centre - Minneapolis, Minnesota
4/3 The Crocodile - Seattle, Washington
4/4 Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, Oregon
4/6 The Independent - San Francisco, California
4/7 Troubadour - Los Angeles, California
4/8 Casbah - San Diego, California
4/11 The Parish - Austin, Texas
4/12 The Loft - Dallas, Texas
4/14 The Bottletree - Birmingham, Alabama
4/15 The Earl - Atlanta, Georgia