Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pitstop: ARMS

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Beginning originally as a solo project for Todd Goldenstein when not playing with his band (the now defunct Harlem Shakes), ARMS has since expanded into a quartet and much more than a bedroom side project. Releasing their first EP as a foursome early last year, the simply titled ARMS EP, the band has also been part of a month long residency at Pianos in NYC. That's pretty impressive for such a young band but when you listen to their music it's not hard to see why. EP's tracks are all dreamy, expansive, mysterious, and richly captivating. Their masterful use of space makes their songs infinitely more arresting than any sort of instrumental clamor. Goldstein weaves deeply engaging tales while the band potters around him helpfully. The band works well together and their individual talents helps to the make up an energized, enriching whole.

While the 5 track ARMS EP is the only representation of the band's sound, thankfully the band is working on an album tentatively titled Summer Skills for release later this year. There's also past ARMS releases featuring Todd Goldenstein's solo musical input. You can download the EP at ARMS' website here.

Get a tastes of ARMS with a live video for "Emily Sue Pt. 2":

Emily Sue Pt. 2 - ARMS (TWHP Live Session) from The Wild Honey Pie on Vimeo.

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes (2011)

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Lykke Li hinted at a darker, edgier sound with the initial release of "Get Some", and the rest of her sophomore album Wounded Rhymes does not disappoint. The new album isn't just packed with dance-y pop tracks but throws in the occasional ballad ("Love Out of Lust") and even 60s doo-wop inspiration ("Unrequited Love", "Sadness is a Blessing"). As you listen, one thing remains clear: Lykke Li's new album is an album where she remains fully in control. Her lovelorn claims aren't insincere, rather it becomes apparent that she will love on her terms or not at all.

With Wounded Rhymes, Lykke Li makes it abundantly clear she's no pushover and come a long way from the cutesy crooning of "Dance, Dance, Dance". She's no longer too shy to speak her feelings but has harnessed the power of both her voice and her sexuality. Though there are some similarities between her first and second album in terms of format. At no point does her album become stale, instead when you think you know what to expect: she changes it up in a way that's boldly different and doesn't sound like it belongs on another album.

You can currently listen to the new album stream in full on Soundcloud and pre-order the new album at her website here. Wounded Rhymes hits shelves March 1st on her own LL Recordings.

Now Streaming: Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Almost a full week before its official release, Swedish siren Lykke Li is offering up her new album Wounded Rhymes for listening in full on Hype Machine and Soundcloud. What's most surprising about her decision to do so is that it happened at just about the same time she made her third track "Love Out of Lust" available for listening and download. Give Lykke Li's new album a listen:
Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes (Hype Machine Album Exclusive) by LykkeLi

Ivan & Alyosha - Fathers Be Kind EP (2011)

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Almost four years into their career and Seattle based duo Ivan & Alyosha don't have an album to show for it just yet. But what they do have are two EPs and the latest one Fathers Be Kind, expands their catchy retro rock sensibilities to much more than that. Adding two new members to the group, the songs remain simple and yet noticeably more complex. With "Glorify", Ivan & Alyosha allude to the contrasts between their namesake with lyrics that are both faith-filed and faithless. The whole EP builds from sweet, jangly pop and catchy love songs to majestic grandeur with occasional glimpses of the growth in between. "Everything Is Burning" with its sweeping vocal lines and pervasive melancholy is the first hint that there's much more to the EP than fun, pop songs. When "Glorify" does start, with it's harmonica solo, soft strumming guitar and lead vocals that sprawl into multi-part harmony, it's clear there's something positively magical at work. Ivan & Alyosha effortless craft a gospel-esque masterpiece whose real power is its simplicity.

Listen to the 5 song Fathers Be Kind EP and if you like it, grab it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Heart-Sick Groans release new video

Fresh off the release of their new EP, Swedish indie pop trio Heart-Sick Groans presents a brand new video for "Surfer Friend". The video was made by Mads Peter Brandstrup Jensen's class Drawing Academy in Viborg, Denmark. This is the second time that Heart-Sick Groans has collaborated with the class and the results are similarly spectacular. I'm not entirely sure what the plot is but the things the students do with construction paper and markers is out of this world. See the awesomeness for yourself with the video for "Surfer Friend":

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yeasayer release new video and free digital EP

Experimental Brooklyn based rock group Yeasayer is back, this time with new single "I Remember" off last year's Odd Blood and as a special treat they're also giving away a selection of remixes for free. It's not secret that Yeasayer puts out some of the trippest but most engaging music videos out there and their new video is no exception. Directed by friend Sophia Peer, the video follows a biker (whose ex-girlfriend looks strangely similar to Demi Moore) who travels around with bust of his own head made by his biker chick ex-girlfriend. The plot is simple and yet, in true Yeasayer style, is difficult to explain so enjoy the video for Yeasayer's "I Remember":

You can download the three song digital EP at Yeasayer's website here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Random Musing: Weezer write State Farm jingle

There's an endless debate about art vs. commerce and usually anyone who fancies themselves a legitimate artist tries to at least shy away from purely commercial output. Any yet, here comes Weezer who have this strange knack for polarizing its fans (who either want the band to sound like they used to or go away OR are more than okay with anything Weezer puts out based on the band's established "street cred") releasing a jingle for State Farm. Before you get all indignant, give it a listen. It doesn't even sound like a jingle until you heard the trademark "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there". If more jingles sounded like this, I think less people would care about a band's desire to make money and just sit back and enjoy it. Give the jingle a listen and revel in the vintage Weezer sound of days long gone by. There's something to be said for Cuomo's ability to so easily tap into his younger self.

You win this one, Weezer.

Princeton return with new track "To The Alps"

After releasing their debut album Cocoon of Love back in 2009, (Mostly) Los Angeles based Princeton kind of fell of the map. It's not like they weren't doing stuff (they've been playing the occasional show is California) but just never seemed to be enough information about what they were up to. Low and behold when out of the blue a new track shows up. "To The Alps", the first single off their upcoming full length, is Princeton's sophisticated pop sound with some noticeable differences. It's their most poppy track to date and that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just dancier than anything you'd have found on their debut and sheds some of the retro beach pop sound. Instead you've got something a bit different and yet charmingly similar. Enjoy "To The Alps":
To The Alps by Princeton

The band are also playing a couple New York City dates so if you're in the area, go and see them!

3/24 Mercury Lounge - New York, New York
3/25 Cameo Gallery - Brooklyn, New York
3/26 Union Hall - Brooklyn, New York

Maps & Atlases release second single "Living Decorations"

Chicago technical pop rockers Maps & Atlases are back, this time with a brand new video for "Living Decorations", the second single off their debut album Perch Patchwork. The video, directed by the band's own Erin Elders, features the fictional Rick Reebok & The Analog Medallion (played by members of Loose Dudes and Gypsyblood) as a pretty grody band whose only redeeming trait seems to be that they're playing Maps & Atlases' song. Reebok for all his bad dancing and pop star behavior actually scores points when he acknowledges a fan during a concert(played by M&A's Dave Davison) and signs a poster for him. Enjoy the video for "Living Decorations":

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ray LaMontagne - God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise (2010)

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Ray LaMontagne is another one of those amazing musicians that for some reason, I never pursued until now. I was first introduced to Ray LaMontagne almost two years ago when he performed on Saturday Night Live and reminded of him practically every time I stepped into Barnes & Noble this Fall. God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise, while LaMontagne's fourth album is his first one with a banking band (The Pariah Dogs), and his first as sole producer. Beginning with the groovy jam-esque "Repo Man", LaMontagne's talents are only aided by the addition of equally talented musicians. The album remains pretty somber throughout but not tiringly so; every once in awhile he throws in a more upbeat song, like "Old Before Your Time", to make sure he's not depressing you too much. But the occasional rewards LaMontagne offers are hardly necessary, his storytelling is richly captivating to keep you listening from start to finish and over and over again.

God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise might very well be the most engaging folk album you'll ever listen to and yet, effortlessly so. LaMontagne's lyricism isn't heavy on symbolism or figurative language, instead coming off as sincerely natural. The same can be said for the album's flow. Starting with the incredibly uptempo "Repo Man", LaMontagne and his band then reel it back a little, allowing for you to really enjoy LaMontagne's smokey rasp , his descriptive narratives, and the oh-so-subtle way The Pariah Dogs augment each song just so. It's no wonder the album was nominated for not one but three Grammy Awards and won Best Contemporary Album.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heart-Sick Groans - Look!!! These Three Painters of Hits Have Done It Again! (2011)

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Swedish Indie pop three-piece Heart-Sick Groans are back with some spanking new tracks in the form of their Look!!! These Three Painters of Hits Have Done It Again! EP. While it's certainly a mouthful and a rather bold claim, the 6 song EP certain makes good on it. With songs like "Surfer Friend", HSG integrate other influences into their already distinct sound.

The latest EP is dreamy, sparkling chamber pop as its bests and with it, Heart-Sick Groans display mastery over the format as well as demonstrating their continued capability as musicians and songwriters.

The new EP is available at Heart-Sick Groans' bandcamp on a pay what you want basis. Give it a listen or download here.

The Dodos preview new album with "Black Night"

I was first introduced to San Francisco rock duo The Dodos about a year ago and it was love at first listen. Now with the duo gearing up for the release of their new album No Color (which will add Neko Case to the lineup if only for a couple songs). "Black Night" is the first taste of the new album and surprising one of the new tracks that doesn't feature Case. Instead you're treated to The Dodos' characteristic rhythm-based rock, Logan Kroeber's drum work inventive enough to both keep beat and add variety and Meric Long's vocals seizing hold of the expansive freedom afforded by the band's small lineup. They even fit in an instrumental jam. Enjoy "Black Night":

You can pre-order No Color (out March 15th) at The Dodos website here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

tUnE-yArDs releases new single off new album

Not too long ago tUnE-yArDs announce the upcoming release of their sophomore album, and now you can hear the album's first single "Bizness". For those who saw her in concert last year, the song will certainly be familiar to you. It's your first foray into Garbus' more polished studio album.
tUnE-yArDs - Bizzness by ListenBeforeYouBuy

"Bizness" or at least the album version of it seems to lack something. Despite Garbus' big, brassy voice, there's always been a sort of natural intimacy achieved with her and her looping pedal and a sort of amazement that all the sounds produced came from her whereas this version of "Bizness", featuring tenor saxophone and computery blips filling during her normal appeggiated vocal riffs. I'll hold off judgment until w h o k i l l's actual release but the new studio sound doesn't adequately capture Garbus' skills or charm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Porngraphers stack new video for "Moves"

In their video for "Moves", The New Pornographers enlist a star-studded cast to play themselves. The video takes the form of a movie preview, proceeded by a buddy comedy preview called Expectant Dads where Paul Rudd and Bill Hader who seven months pregnant decide to seek out their baby daddies, that glamorizes the band's rise in the aptly named The Rise and Rise of The New Pornographers. In the video, the band makes fun of itself as "Carl Newman" (played by Superchunk's Jon Wurster) puts up a band needed sign asking for: a female singer (Julie Klausner as Neko Case), a guitarist (Kevin Coorigan as Dan Bejar), a bassist (Horatio Sanz as John Collins), keyboardist (Wyatt Cenac as Blaine Thurier), another guitarist, and another female singer? (Ted Leo as Kathryn Calder). The band meets with success in Canada, enters America to some Anti-Canadian hostility, get rich and famous, do some hard drugs, and makes their comeback with "Moves Pt. 2". The video/movie preview's got romance, action, and most importantly the New Pornographer's "Moves" accompanying it.

Other cameos include comedian Todd Barry as the band's merch guy, Donald Glover, John Oliver, and John Hodgman (the PC guy) as their label rep, in addition to nearly countless others. Enjoy New Pornographer's "Moves":

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cake - Showroom of Compassion (2011)

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I'm going to be honest: The real reason I anticipated Showroom of Compassion was because of Cake claiming to be doing so using a solar powered studio and I wanted to see if it could be done. Not because of the 7 year period between album releases. My cursory knowledge of Cake comes from the use of their songs for TV show theme songs (instrumental versions of "Italian Leather Sofa" on Mission Hill and "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" on Chuck) and a few unfocused album listens. And yet, despite the fact that I couldn't really be a called a Cake fan, I was excited once I heard the album got its release date.

Showroom isn't a radical departure from anything you'd expect from Cake, and yet it adds enough new elements to keep itself from seeming stale and overdone. The use of brass is still prevalent though a bit more subtle in its usage. It mostly moves along at a groovy toe-tapping pace with the occasionally rhythmic curve ball thrown in like "Teenage Pregnancy" with its film score grandeur.

At a time where artists churn songs out that vary anywhere from 7-30 minutes, Showroom's rather short track times (never exceeding 5 minutes) is actually pretty refreshing: Long enough for you to enjoy it thoroughly, but short enough that it doesn't get old. One of the worst things that can happen when you wait a very long time for an album is that it simply doesn't deliver. I can't speak of the expectations of the die-hard Cake fans but with Showroom of Compassion, no part of it seems at all phoned in. Sure there's a surprising change of genre/sound with sauntering boom-chuck laden "Bound Away". And yet it keeps the album from sounding too similar (in addition to the piano parts in "The Winter" and strings in "Italian Guy"). I'm not sure how it stacks up against Cake's past albums, but to this listener the album is an excitingly good listen worthy of many repeat listens.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rural Alberta Advantage premiere new video and announce tour dates

Canadian Indie Rock Trio The Rural Alberta Advantage are just about to release their sophomore album Departing (out March 1st). To ease the wait, The trio premiered their new video for first single "Stamp" on The Wedge. Their video is surprisingly very meta featuring a "fan" commenting on the newness of the song and the "show" itself while a girl pines for the two male band members. Hilariously the fan only becomes interested in the girl when he realizes she knows the lyrics to the new song that he doesn't while the girl is solely interested in which band member she likes more. Splice in scenes of the band playing and you've got the video for "Stamp". Enjoy!:

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp from Saddle Creek on Vimeo.

3/9 Middle East Cafe - Cambridge, Massachusetts
3/10 The Bowery Ballroom - New York, New York
3/11 First Unitarian Church - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
3/12 The Knitting Factory - Brooklyn, New York
3/13 Rock 'N Roll Hotel - Washington, D.C.
3/14 Local 506 - Chapel Hill, North Carolina
3/15 The Earl - Atlanta, Georgia
3/17-3/20 Austin, Texas SXSW
3/20 The Loft - Dallas, Texas
3/22 The Maintenance Shop @ Iowa State University - Ames, Iowa
3/23 Mad Planet - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
3/24 High Noon Saloon - Madison, Wisconsin
3/25 First Avenue - Minneapolis, Minnesota
3/26 Lincoln Hall - Chicago, Illinois
3/27 Phog Lounge - Windsor, Ontario, Canada
3/31 Pyramid Cabaret - Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
4/1 Amigos Cantina - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
4/2 The Starlite Room - Edmonton, Alberta,Canada
4/5 Republik - Calgary, Alberta, Canada
4/6 The Royal on Baker - Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
4/7 Habitat - Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
4/8 Venue Nightclub - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
4/9 Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, Oregon
4/10 The Tractor Tavern - Seattle, Washington
4/12 The Bottom of the Hill - San Francisco, California
4/13 The Bottom of the Hill - San Francisco, California
4/15 Indio, California Coachella
4/19 The State Room - Salt Lake City, Utah
4/20 Hi-Dive - Denver, Colorado
4/21 Slowdown - Omaha, Nebraska
4/22 Firebird - St. Louis, Missouri
4/23 Radio Radio - Indianapolis, Indiana
4/24 Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland Ohio

You can also pre-order the new album at their label website here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

53rd Grammy Awards Go Indie...kinda

As the Grammys approach, I realize that this is the only year I've actually been interested in them. Normally the Grammy Awards tend to be a pretty predictable affair filled with nominations for the most popular and mostly similar sounding music. But this year with the nomination of The Arcade Fire's The Suburbs for Album of the Year, I sensed change in the air. And when I checked out other Grammy Nominees I was pretty surprised to see Ray LaMontagne nominated for multiple categories (like Song of the Year for "Beg Steal or Borrow"), Mumford & Sons up for Best New Artist, Sarah Bareilles up for Best Female Vocal Performance (though the fact that she's up against Norah Jones, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga makes her chances of winning plummet immensely), in addition to all sorts of surprising Grammy nods.

Taking a look at the nominees you'll notice this: All of a sudden, The Grammy's are becoming more Indie friendly. What does this mean? Well I'm not sure exactly. The fact that several big name Indie artists are put up against some multiple Grammy award-winning and award-nominated group is both hopefully and not at the same time. While you hope the "underdogs" wins, there's always going to be some doubt as to whether they're actually going to or if they do, why they actually won. Cynicism aside though, you definitely have to admit that the 53rd Grammy Awards are definitely going to be interesting to watch.

Sleigh Bells release video for "Rill Rill"

Brooklyn noise pop duo Sleigh Bells recently released their latest video for "Rill Rill" and similarly to the video for "Infinity Guitars" is full of awesomeness. Despite "Rill Rill" basically being a slow jam, the duo still find a way to stuff some testosterone-fueled epicness. In the video, Alexis Krauss asserts her badassery by throwing partner Derek Miller, who's suffering from some head trauma, and his guitar out of her awesome car. Cut to scenes of Krauss in a classroom, and a bleeding telephone, and you've got a surprisingly interesting video. Enjoy the video for Sleigh Bell's "Rill Rill":

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Heligoats - Goodness Gracious (2010)

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Once again NPR introduces me to an awesome new artist. This time it's The Heligoats. Washington based The Heligoats is actually composed of singer/songwriter Chris Otepka whose innovative and playful lyrics lend some sense to the delightful moniker, as well as Steve Mitchell, Mike Mergenthaler, and Dave James. Their latest album Goodness Gracious was released almost a year ago and while I'm not surprised it managed to evade my notice, one listen had me regretting that it had. The Tiny Desk concert featuring Otepka provided a lot of insight into the inspiration behind his songs (He has some of the most interesting stories I've ever heard)but even without that insight, you can't deny the infectiousness that is Otepka's charmingly inventive lyrics. "Fish Sticks" is by far my favorite for its high energy balls-to-the-wall energy.

I might not have known about Heligoats a year ago but with releases with Goodness Gracious, I certainly wish I had. The album is as vivacious as it is enchanting, brimming with joy, positive vibes, and charm. It's sure to be an favorite.

Get a taste of The Heligoats with the aforementioned Tiny Desk Concert on NPR featuring Otepka solo:

Acid House Kings let you choose their next single!

Swedish twee group Acid House Kings' fifth studio album Music Sounds Better With You is out this March 22nd, and the group are giving its fans the chance to pick their next single off the album. Here you can listen to samples of the four options for consideration: "Would You Stay Stop?", "Under Water", "(I'm in) A Chorus Line", and "Waterfall" which you can then vote on.

Crystal Fighters present new video

Turns out my discovery of Crystal Fighters was excellent timing because no less than 24 hours after, they released their brand new video for "At Home". The video has a plot which finds several of the band members meeting up after what appears to be a lengthy time period. There's different reactions from each member from eagerness, to anger, to grim acceptance. The plot is reminiscent of your standard summer blockbuster where the young group is bonded by a secret in this case eventually all gathering together to unearth a box they buried awhile ago.

Watch the video for Crystal Fighter's "At Home":

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

tUnE-yArDs announces new album and tour dates

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Last August at Summerstage, Merrill Garbus aka tUnE-yArDs played tons of new songs and at her secret show at The Rock Shop announced the next time she returned to New York, she would have a new record out. Garbus makes good on her promise with the announcement of her new album W H O K I L L out this April 19th on 4AD. Unlike her 2009 debut BiRd-BrAiNs, Garbus trades in her lo-fi DIY aesthetic for a cleaner studio sound funded from featuring "Fiya" in a Blackberry commercial.

You can read Garbus' short interview with Pitchfork here for more info about the album.

In addition to the wonderful news about the record, Garbus also revealed some tour dates starting this Spring:

4/26 Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, California
4/28 Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, Oregon
4/29 The Crocodile - Seattle, Washington
4/30 The Biltmore Cabaret - Vancover, British Columbia, Canada
5/2 Visual Arts Collective - Garden City, Idaho
5/3 Urban Lounge - Salt Lake City, Utah
5/4 Hi Dive - Denver, Colorado
5/6 Jackpot Saloon - Lawrence, Kansas
5/7 Slowdown - Omaha, Nebraska
5/8 Cedar Cultural Center - Minneapolis, Minnesota
5/10 Lincoln Hall - Chicago, Illinois
5/11 The Pike Room @ Crofoot Ballroom - Pontiac, Michigan
5/12 Horseshoe Tavern - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
5/13 La Sala Rossa - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
5/15 Flywheel Arts Collective - Easthampton, Massachusetts
5/16 Brighton Music Hall - Boston, Massachusetts
5/17 Daniel Street - Milton, Connecticut
5/19 The Red Palace - Washington, D.C.
5/20 Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
5/21 Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, New York
6/25 The Troubadour - West Hollywood, California