Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Listen: Friend Roulette - "You Drank All the Eggnog"

One of my least favorite things about the generic holiday times is how every musician far and wide seems to clamor to make their voice heard in a sea of Christmas song covers and/or holiday albums/EPs, what have you and it seems more than a little pointless. While a good and truly original Christmas song is basically the holy grail of songwriting prowess, few bands seem willing to try aiming for more than just your run of the mill cover that says "We exist and it's Christmastime so why not!?"

Then there's Friend Roulette. Whose ability to churn out new music seems tied to their very existence. For their sojourn into Christmas themed shenanigans, the Brooklyn chamber pop sextet take inspiration from the very real fact that sometimes to spend time with your family around the holidays sobriety might be a painful option. Their tune "You Drank All The Eggnog" details the consequences of that occasionally inescapable option - getting messed up and ruining everything. Similar to their video for "Rocket Dog", "You Drank All the Eggnog" gets  a lot of its drama from smashing things. The tune is dark and dreamy, and even manages to slip in a reference to "Sleigh Ride" and a slighter, subtler one to "Deck the Halls" immediately after. 

"You Drank All the Eggnog" is a very realistic Christmas carol that acknowledges the occasional unpleasantless of this time of year while also just being kind of really fun. It's essentially trademark Friend Roulette. Enjoy!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

San Fermin - San Fermin (2013)

I encountered Brooklyn based San Fermin due to a suggestion of them as chamber pop band of note. While the suggestion was wrong in that there's really far too much going on under the surface of San Fermin for them to really qualify as chamber pop, I suppose it's a fitting moniker for the brainchild of composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone. In what is rapidly becoming a trend, Ludwig-Leone emigrated to Canada in a fit of post-grad "What now?" shock where he started working on what would become San Fermin. San Fermin and the self-titled album are rare in that the narrative voice isn't in the spotlight. Ludwig-Leone has surrounded himself with a group of consummate musicians and trusted them to interpret his vision - a page right out of the classical music handbook. But San Fermin isn't a contemporary classical music ensemble by any means. Ludwig-Leone's chosen voice (at least on parts of the debut record) is that of modern indie pop. 

A concept album, San Fermin tells the story of two protagonists experiencing a crisis not unlike the composer/songwriter's own. "Renaissance!" starts the album with a sense of drama and intrigue and epic grandeur and establishes the album's ambitiousness right off the bat. The album balances the two characters by giving them dramatically different sounds - the male narrated by the Allen Tate's booming baritone and voiced by pervasive melancholic folk while the lady's role is overtaken by the female duo at the forefront of fellow Brooklyn band Lucius and features moments of lush, resplendent pop mastery. After establishing the two separately in "Renaissance!" and "Crueler Kind", the album shifts between the two in track-by-track call and response - a dialogue extended over the course of a little less than an hour.

While adopting this kind of reactionary songwriting format, Ludwig-Leone also makes extensive use of musical interludes of his compositions which while very good technically and aurally, don't really do much in service of his established narrative choice. In a way, they're the composer's attempt to make his own voice heard after relegating those duties to others. 

San Fermin is an ambitious album, of that there is no question. It's also a very good album - but it's not an album free from weaknesses. San Fermin's weakness lies in its ability to more seemlessly integrate its various influences. It's a case of many plates spinning in the air that actually distract from a rather interesting concept and even more interesting bit of absolutely gorgeous musical moments. It's clear and obvious strengths are in those moments Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe make their presences known and are given the focus ("Crueler Kind", "Sonsick" "The Count", "Oh, Darling"). Non-coincidentally these are moments when the album is at it's poppiest, it's most accessible; it's most fluid and forward moving. Allen Tate's voice is an anchor - firmly grounding everything but so rarely given to the vibrant flights of fancy of Laessig and Wolfe. The exception to this being when their union in "Bar" and triumphant sun-speckled "Daedalus (What We Have)". 

There's moments on the album that feel truly earned due to the rotating narration and staggered pacing - "Oh, Darling" is probably the true moment where the female protagonist doesn't shine like a beacon of light - draped in dazzling, catchy pop melodies and boundless confidence. "Oh, darling, I've been so miserable/I can't describe" and the male rouses from his wallowing and offers comfort, countering "When you're off alone and your heart is gone to sea, leave your lonely here with me". For all the bells and whistles afforded to San Fermin from it's orchestral accompaniment and reliance on moments of lush majesty - the most moving moment is its most lyrically focused; it's most simple and its most bare. 

While "Daedalus (What We Have)" provides the male's bookend moment of transformation - the actual moment not occurring lyrically but compositionally. The storm clouds disperse and Allen Tate's vocals glisten in bright moments of musical catharsis. It's a testament to Ludwig-Leone's skills that while having a considerable amount of plot going on that the defining factor in character growth lies in the music. 

What keeps San Fermin from being a truly, truly great record in terms of cohesion and it being the type of album you want to listen to in full over and over again lies in a perceived inability to unite Ludwig-Leone the talented composer and Ludwig-Leone the incredibly gifted pop songsmith. When the lines between these two sides of the creative coin marry, the results are sure to be astounding. San Fermin seems a bit disjointed, with parts that either seem a bit superfluous or dragging. Regardless, San Fermin is an excellent and intriguing debut with its fair share of album highlights. It's a richly engaging listen with a slew of rewards that reveal themselves on each subsequent listen if you're diligent enough to stick around. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Listen: Friend Roulette - "I Guess"

With their debut album done and out in the world earlier this year, Brooklyn experimental chamber pop outfit Friend Roulette don't seem to be wasting any time getting their new songs out in the world. Hot on the heels of I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head came tender ballad "Rocket Dog" ahead of a brand new Grow Younger EP out early next year.

"I Guess", the second peek at the forthcoming EP, is probably the most straightforward lyrically than we've gotten from Friend Roulette in a bit. No space explorations, magical transformations, or even drunken sailing trips. Despite it's militant drums and it's subtle psychedelic haze, "I Guess" is for the most part firmly grounded in reality. About real expectations and wants as Julia Tepper's vocals craft Rapunzel-esque visions of pining loneliness - if Rapunzel was a young twenty-something having a particularly rough night in Brooklyn.

"How long can I last here lonely every day?/How long will I last here wasted in the rain?" Tepper sings and it's a moment that invokes sincere sympathy. We've all probably been there. Waiting by the phone or outside of a house/apartment waiting to be let in for what seems like forever with no idea if there's anyone on the other side. It's a very realistic bit of drama gussied up with Friend Roulette's trademark layering with the EWI doing a considerable amount of heavy lifting to establish the track's dreamy atmosphere and the rest of the band's at times aggressive textural interplay serving as a counterpoint to Tepper's delicate vocals.

Friend Roulette's Grow Younger EP will be out February 6th.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "November"

As this year rapidly barrels towards its end, there's sort of a gradual tapering off of musical releases. Blogs/Publications are throwing up their Best Of lists, musicians retreating to their homes to refresh and/or record while others have made their plans to for the new year well known: tour tour tour. And yet, among the hustle and bustle of the year end festivities, Bowerbirds' year-long song-a-month short-form experiment continues onward. "November", the 10th addition to the ongoing (and soon ending?) series, certainly takes it's time. Phil Moore enters warbling and cooing for about a minute a capella as everything slowly comes together - piano, harmonies, the gentle swish of drum brushes before the track springs into a gallop. Even then there's a considerable amount of freedom in where everything goes - with the inclusion of the rest of the band Moore sets himself further apart with vocal riffs and echos while the piano holds down the fort melodically. It's a short, quick-moving burst of pop that's very much in line with the project's original ethos.

Listen to "November" here:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Rejection #5"

                                                        (photo by Marius Hage)

While I certainly understand the theory behind Norwegian singer/songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Sondre Lerche having a collection on unreleased album cuts, every time he releases a slew of them I'm confused how he could possible narrow down the album cuts. For those unaware, Sondre Lerche, usually writes/records about double the amount of tracks he intends to have on the album he's currently working on. That magical number since Lerche is first and foremost a pop musician tends to be 10. Meaning more or less each album cycle Lerche has 20 tracks to choose from. WHAT. Basically Sondre Lerche is going to have unreleased album cuts/rarities forever in perpetuity from now until the end of time or so it would seem.

The good thing for fans of the affable Brooklyn based Norwegian is every now and again (usually while hard at work on another new album) he'll release some of these to be ravenously consumed and distract from the fact that we're all waiting on something new. This year, Sondre Lerche started integrating himself more into the indie music industry as a whole meaning a performance at this year's CMJ Music Marathon (which was incredible, btw) and is releasing a set of older unreleased tunes recorded recently with Spoon's Jim Eno for Record Store Day's Black Friday event.

Ahead of its release this Friday, you can hear the swaggering bit of pop magic in "Rejection #5" from the Public Hi-Fi Sessions which is kind of classic Lerche in its Prefab Sprout honoring. It's kind of a mash-up of old and new, conceived around 2004's Two Way Monologue but unfinished until very recently where Lerche was able to finish some of the lyrics - sliding in another reference to actor George Lazenby to get the job done. Sondre Lerche doesn't often reference his own songs, usually allowing them to be self-contained little narratives so the bit of a sly wink towards Heartbeat Radio's "Like Lazenby" is a nice treat for the dedicated fan.

You'll be able to pick up Sondre Lerche's Public Hi-Fi session on Black Friday but if you don't live near a record store or prefer you music to be of the digital variety you can pre-order it now.

(via Spin)

Listen: Bowerbirds - "Seven Wonders"

With a new Bowerbirds track popping up more or less every 30 days, now might be the most wonderful time to be a fan of theirs. True, those songs aren't the Bowerbirds fans have come to adore but it's interesting and enjoyable to see them experiment with their song in pretty much real time. Instead of the two year gestation period, the periods are shorter and the permutations happen on a much grander scale - when else besides their song-a-month series have you heard the Bowerbirds take on R&B? No where.

Well, fans of the Bowerbirds have an extra reason to be thankful this November. In addition to the forthcoming Small Song from a  Small Tiny House, Bowerbirds are participating in a benefit album for 826 Valencia, a non-profit program dedicated to developing children's writing skills. The album, entitled You Be My Heart, is a veritable smorgasbord of talent and features original songs from songwriter Devon Reed performed by Fruit Bats, Maps & Atlases, Mark Kozelek, Marissa Nadler, and so many more. There's seventeen tracks in all and if the Bowerbirds' single is anything to go off of, it's going to be incredible.

"Seven Wonders" sees the Bowerbirds still more or less entrenched in the spirit of experimentalism. Known more for tender, genteel pastoral sketches, "Seven Wonders" has the Bowerbirds continuing to challenge themselves with new ideas - the result is a rugged rock jam which still highlights Reed's ample songwriting talents resulting in some rather brilliant and unexpected phrases rather at odds with the tracks's rough and tumble delivery.

You Be My Heart is out December 9th. Mark your calendars.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Listen: Hiss Golden Messenger - "Drum"

No disrespect to Daughn Gibson but on his most recent New York visit, I was probably far more ecstatic to see opener Hiss Golden Messenger than I was to see him. The reason for it is simple: Hiss Golden Messenger's M.C. Taylor's NY sojourns are few and far between with him mostly playing hometown shows in his native North Carolina. Taylor's set was probably the direct antithesis to Gibson's bassy boom - quiet,
intimate, yet managing to leave a crowd of party-goers utterly transfixed.

As if the release of this year's transcendent Haw wasn't enough, early next year will see the release of another Hiss Golden Messenger record in Bad Debt.  Recorded on a portable cassette player before previous records Poor Moon and Haw came into being, Bad Debt is essentially the solidification of Taylor's songwriting talents. Bad Debt features a load of unreleased songs and also several songs in their first arrangements before going on to be reimagined, reinterpreted, and/or rearrangened on Poor Moon or Haw.

"Drum", one of Bad Debt's unreleased tracks, has a spiritual-like simplicity while no less than engaging than the more fleshed out Hiss Golden Messenger track. It's stark, melancholic, and emotion-stirring - covering a rather impressive range in its 2.5 minute length. It's bare bones presentation providing the sheath for M.C. Taylor's poignant, realistic lyricism. A piece of every-man psalmic beauty.

Hiss Golden Messenger's Bad Debt is out January 14th on Paradise of Bachelors along with a exclusive bonus live album London Exodus. Pre-order available now.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watch: Lapland - "Unwise"

Earlier this year Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Josh Mease self-released his first album under his newly adopted Lapland moniker. The album, named after the moniker, was a silky smooth concoction of beautiful sung and mindfully written songs that seemed to glisten with a dreamy dewiness while remaining starkly very much of this world. The album then disappeared. Gone from the Internet and all mentions of it grew to hushed whispers. The reason for this being but not exclusively Mease's signing to Britain's The Lights Label. While the album is slated for an official release next year across the pond and another self-release back home, the good news is we get to revisit some of the album's multitude of highlights as they get the single treatment.

The video for "Unwise", directed by James Kunhert, draws rather poignantly on the otherworldly presentation of Lapland's songs. The foggy haze that clings around Mease's doleful vocals become a physical mist and feeling of uncertainty as Mease travels the hinterland following a specter of a lover. It's never quite clear if she's gone from this life or merely gone from his but Mease travels in search of her, following clues she's left while running free through the woods. The woman moves through the woods in a graceful and beautiful bit of modern dance that further obscures the line between perceived realities. Is she leading Mease to her? Was she ever really there in the first place? These are the questions you're left to ponder as she and then Mease wander through the forests all soundtracked to the blissful lushess of Lapland's "Unwise".

Watch the stellar video for Lapland's "Unwise":

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pitstop: Tiny Ruins

My introduction to New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins came innocently enough from her future set-mate Will Stratton. A rogue tweet that claimed the then unknown to me songwriter was in Will's words "1000x better in a similar vein" to Laura Marling. I was notably intrigued. Quite the fan of Marling, I took Will's claim as a challenge requiring my full attention. If there was a young songwriter equal or better to Marling, I needed to experience this for myself. Not only to judge for myself whether Will's opinion was valid in my eyes but also in the of chance he was right it would certainly behoove me to know of her.

While the jury's still out if Tiny Ruins is better than Laura Marling or vice versa, I did discover that Fullbrook possessed not only commendable songwriting talents but also a compellingly tender fingerstyle technique. Her lyrical narratives were clever and resoundingly poetic, her melodies heart-stirring and instantly memorable. While I had only gotten the change to listen to a couple of her songs (all of her music isn't yet available in the US), the true moment of discovery occurred during an intimate set the night before CMJ officially began at We Listen For You/Doppelgang Media's CMJ Kickoff Party where Fullbrook played unquestionably the night's softest but mesmerizing and transformative set. A definite highlight of the set was, unironically, the last song "She'll Be Coming Round" when Fullbrook let loose during an instrumental break at the song's end. It was that moment I knew I would drop all my other CMJ plans to catch her as many times as I would be able.

In addition to hearing some of the newer songs from her upcoming sophomore record Brightly Painted One, it was a treat to watch Fullbrook bring her songs to life, the melodies gradual build, gently unfurling; the songs reverberating with emotion and purpose and filling each and every nook of the room. So while it may be a moot point to argue that Tiny Ruins is a better singer/songwriter than _____, I do know one thing: Hollie Fullbrook was without a doubt one of my favorite parts of CMJ if not perhaps my favorite music discovery of the year. Her songs are feats of subtlety both lyrically and in composition filled with poignant moments and ineffable charm.

Tiny Ruins' sophomore full length Brightly Painted One will be out in New Zealand early 2014 with a US date hopefully soon to follow.

Listen: Creature from Dell Pond - "Exquisite Kingdom"

It's a little bit of a disservice to introduce you to Boston trio Creature from Dell Pond's "Exquisite Kingdom" right off the bat. It's the last track on their 5-song EP Go Exist and by the time you get to it, it feels well and truly earned both thematically and musically. For the most part, Go Exist is a boisterous affair - full of energetic rock pop and frontman Nolan Sullivan's theatrical hyped delivery. It's reminiscent of Conveyor if you obscured the tropics-recalling experimental pop lens through which most of their tunes seem to be filtered through.

While Go Exist isn't completely devoid of narrative substance, "Exquisite Kingdom" is the first/last moment on the album where it's allowed to exist completely on it's own merits. Featuring bassist Gordon Walters on vocals, it trades in clamor and affected vocals for a much smoother and cleaner delivery. Featuring indelible melodic flourishes between Walters' undulating vocals, it's perhaps the most readily accessible and the straight forward of the EP's 5 tracks. It's also the most outwardly beautiful as it revels more in pop conventions than the EP's rock ones. It's a whirling blend of both instrumental and tonal coloring which subsumes many of the EP's narrative themes in a less aggressive presentation.

Creature from Dell Pond may be a young band still finding their way and experimenting with their influences and interests but they've created something truly ear-catching and special in "Exquisite Kingdom" and here's hoping they can maintain that level of not only stellar songcraft but emotive depth. Only time will tell.

Creature from Dell Pond's debut EP Go Exist is out now. You can stream it in full via Bandcamp.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Listen: Angel Olsen - "Forgiven/Forgotten"

Perhaps it's too soon too say but so far Angel Olsen has proven to one of the most consistent new singer/songwriters. From 2011's debut Strange Cacti, Olsen has managed to have a pretty dependable release schedule since then and 2014 sees her full length return with Burn Your Fire For No Witness.

Though Olsen managed to have her own Dylan Goes Electric moment on this year's "Sweet Dreams" single, "Forgiven/Forgotten", the first single from her forthcoming sophomore record, establishes that her amping up in "Sweet Dreams" wasn't just a quick saunter down rock 'n roll lane. It's oddly fitting that Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten are now labelmates considering "Forgiven/Forgotten" and Olsen's songs in general share a similar empowering sense of self-awareness and emotional surrender as Van Etten.

"I've wasted my time making my mind/I don't know anything/But I love you" Olsen coos amid a purring guitar and cleanly cacophonous drums. It's the definitive barb among a sea of soothing platitudes and unanswered questions. Always a unique vocalist, Olsen's voice carries effortless through the instrumental clamor; clear, resolute, strong, and articulate. Even if the rest of Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a full band affair, "Forgiven/Forgotten" is a ringing endorsement of just how inextinguishable Olsen's talents are.

Listen to "Forgiven/Forgotten", the first single from Angel Olsen's forthcoming sophomore full length Burn Your Fire For No Witness out February 18th on Jagjaguwar:

Gracie - Work It Out EP (2013)

Considering electro-pop producer Gracie is responsible for not one but two of my favorite tracks of the year (spoiler alert?), when I heard news that Gracie was out in Los Angeles recording a new EP, I was elated that we'd be getting more music so soon. I mean Gracie's Bleeder EP did just come out less than a year ago. And yet here we are, with a brand spanking EP in our laps.

It's a little unfair perhaps to expect Gracie to trot out something with the all-attention consuming prowess of "Creature Pleaser" on every release. Especially considering he's no one trick pony and has essentially gone out of his way not to be so. And yet, that's unfortunately what I was hoping for out and found lacking the Work It Out EP's three song jaunt. That's not to say that there's nothing worthwhile on the Work It Out EP - there's a lot happening and a lot to hear on it.

Album starter "Make Me Glad" is a veritable bounty of varying sounds and influences in and of itself. The closest I hope Gracie comes to the recent indie R&B resurgence, it's all chill beats and laid back top-down driving music vibes. Combine that with slow jazz-y sax runs and loosely shredworthy guitar riffs and it's really hard to classify "Make Me Glad" as anything but a Gracie track. And not even a standard or trademark one at that.

"Photo Type" is probably the most straight forward of the EP's track with its smooth grooves and breezy melodies and under-reliance on beats for momentum. It's a track that pretty much coasts (albeit with quite a bit of pep in its quick-step) towards it's pseudo-experimental breakdown finish. "Wait 4 It" closes the album on an emotive note in a similar way to the Bleeder EP's "Habits". It's emotion-stirring but not at the risk of sacrificing Gracie's sleek pop stylishness.

Considerably shorter than the Bleeder EP, Gracie has considerably less time to grab your attention and extrapolate on his musical ideas. It sounds daunting but on the Work It Out EP, Gracie does so with deft and grace. Each song an enjoyable slice of electro-pop goodness in its own right but ultimately fitting together just so. There may not be an absolutely infectious song in this fresh batch of new tracks but there doesn't really need to be. The Work It Out EP's tracks aren't of an overbearing and all-consuming poppy nature but could easily fit into the soundtrack of your life and isn't that essentially the job of a good record? Yes. The answer is yes.

Listen to Gracie's three song Work It Out EP:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pitstop: Parkington Sisters

Clearly the key to worthwhile music discoveries lies somewhere with Mike Savino aka Tall Tall Trees. He has this habit for playing shows with what eventually ends up to be my next musical obsession. From Brooklyn singer/songwriter Lapland now to the Parkington Sisters who he had the pleasure of opening for/playing in on a short tour. When he announced the tour dates with them, it was a given I was going to check them out; it was only a matter of when.

In a lot of ways,  the lead single from their new EP "Inside of My Head" both does and doesn't prepare you for the excellence of the folky Massachusetts sister quartet. It's easily their most infectious, accessible and poppy offering not only on their Inside of My Head EP but of their whole catalog (which really just expands to their debut album Till Voices Wake Us). It's a hell of a hook to introduce you to the Parkington Sisters and you'll either be delighted by the softer, more subtle build of the other songs or listen to "Inside of My Head" until someone checks you into rehab for song addiction.

From a cursory listen, the Parkington Sisters have the stuff most other folk pop bands have: emotive vocals, shimmering harmonies, an affinity for arresting musical moments and a clear narrative voice - and yet when laid in the sisters talented multi-instrumentalist hands, they become weaponized to lay siege to your very heartstrings. Parkington Sisters sing of love, heartbreak, sailors, and far away lands like they're lived the stories themselves. There's none of that hokey put-on folk affect or unneccessay drama, each musical moment is hard-on, occurring at the perfect moment to induce a heart-fluttering shudder.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Listen: Conveyor - "Pushups"

It's hard to imagine that the time has come for more new music from Brooklyn experimental pop rock quartet Conveyor. It seems like only yesterday their debut self-titled full length made it's way into the world and considering that Conveyor wrote/recorded many of the album's songs while setting out to record the album proper, it's more or a marvel that new material has sprung up quite so quickly. And yet here we are: Conveyor has a new single. "Pushups" combines the foursome's playful quirkness a rather noticeable fuzz like they wrapped the track in cellophane. Bits of distortion aside, there's Conveyor's trademark vibrant melodies - brightly burst despite some effort to obscure them. All the while, lyrically, the band probably couldn't be more tongue-in-cheek.

"Haven't seen you lately, have you noticed that I've been doing pushups?", is Masters' initial croon and it really only gets better from there. "Pushups" perfectly encapsulates that feeling of running into someone you haven't seen in some time and trying to convince them that you're doing awesome; albeit in this case through the use of a hilarious exercise conceit. I wouldn't expect anything less from Conveyor. "Pushups" is smile-inducing splendor mixed with sunny melodies that percolate the track's gritty electronic crunchiness. It harkens back to the rugged experimentation of Conveyor's Sun Ray EP without retreading those same poppy deviations.  Where they walked hand in hand previously, "Pushups" pits the experimental/electronic elements directly against the rock/pop elements, drawing in the listener far more deeply than if it had simply resorted to either of those elements. 

Conveyor stay true to their sort of classic rock 'n' roll edge by channeling the old school AM/FM radio fuzz and for their comedically self-conscious lyricism, still continue to offer up a bit off dazzling songcraft - you'll be humming "Pushups" for days. 

You can pre-order Conveyor's upcoming 7" featuring "Pushups" as well as another brand new track "Mammal Food" from Gold Robot Records out December 10th.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "October"

October has come and gone despite the persistence of Halloween for about a three week stretch. As sad as some might be to see it go, the end of October heralds the release of another Bowerbirds track as a part of their ongoing song-a-month series Small Songs From a Tiny Small House.

I've mentioned Bowerbirds songs being sparse before but never have I meant it more than in "October". The new track toes the line of Phil Moore's synthy explorations and the folk-leaning art-rock of Bowerbirds' latest endeavors without committing to one or the other. It isn't until the song is about 2/3rd complete until we get an actual beat cushioning the track from it's lyrically focused freefall. For the majority of "October" it's just Moore and a fleeting organ while a soulful guitar riff happens in the periphery. It's trademark Bowerbirds beauty achieved in an arresting new way of stripping absolutely everything away until there's nothing to focus but Moore's vocal prowess. Moore's vocals have always shone through and made themselves known in every Bowerbirds song but here, with little else to grasp on to beside them, it's a rare chance to appreciate solely them. 

Listen to the 9th track in Bowerbirds year-long composition project: 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pitstop: Night Panther

                                                         (photo by Kelly Kurteson)
Considering how many times I've wandered into a Night Panther set in the past year, it's seemed kind of a given that Night Panther were worthy of my affections - from first charming me with their sassy head bops and high falsetto wails at I Guess I'm Floating's CMJ Floating Fest in 2012 to now, after the release of their debut self-titled full length, it completely escaped my notice that I've yet to feature them. A terrible mistake on my part, for sure.

Without beating around the bush, Pennsylvania's Night Panther are modern day glam rock; clearly influenced by Queen but not letting it define them. Night Panther are dazzlingly flamboyant and sexy in a far more classic sense than we get nowadays harkening back to the days of subtlety and romance instead of hot pants and twerking and stop just short of Prince-level babymaking prowess.

Their melodies are winsome and inescapable, their electronic elements a formidable backbone but employed with a smart and methodically deft hand. Take "Fire", part of what makes the track so instantly accessible lies in its pristine vocals and clear cut delivery. Sure, it spirals into a delightful climax and a varied outro but you're hooked long before the crescendoing synths make themselves truly known.  That embrace of proper songcraft first/textures later is what makes Night Panther consummate pop professionals.  Their songs don't really on fancy bells and whistles to leave a lasting impression but pop and sizzle on the band's talents. One listen to Night Panther and you're sure to be humming those infectious driveby melodies for days.

Night Panther's self-titled full length debut is out digitally now but for the physical collector there's a limited edition gold 7" featuring "Delta" and "Fire" out on Small Plates Records here.

Listen: The Debauchees - "Rancid Dancin'"

Assuming you've finally cobbled the bits of your blown apart speakers and extinguished the flames from Louisville trio The Debauchees' debut single "I've Got Energy", you might want to get ready to get back to work again. The Debauchees' debut full length Big Machines and Peculiar Beings is coming. Soon. And it's going to do it's fair share of devastation when all is said and done. But luckily, "Rancid Dancin'" takes a break from the incendiary fervor of "I've Got Energy" revealing that behind Sydney Chadwick's come hither thrall is really just a self-aware introvert.

In a lot of ways, "Rancid Dancin'" is very much the opposite of "I've Got Energy" which bristled with badassery and confidence, spotlighting insecurity dramatically. Where "I've Got Energy" pitched forward with a pretty merciless intensity, "Rancid Dancin" is all sultry swagger. Make no mistake, the track contains every ounce of spunky delivery of its predecessor but slows its momentum down a bit from boisterous rager to sumptuous toe-tapper. 

The Debauchees' debut Big Machines and Peculiar Beings is out November 12th on sonaBLAST! Records. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Listen: Camp Counselors - "Devil's Night"

Clearly I was wrong in thinking that Huntress, the debut album of Cemeteries' offshoot Camp Counselors, would be a sort of one-off release; at least for a little while. Releasing a brief bit of experimentation in the form of "Swept" soon after the album release, contributing a track to Snowbeast Records' Halloween compilation Rituals entitled "Incantations", and also premiering a brand new instrumental track on his currently in progress tour with Teen Daze titled "Night of the Demons", there's a bounty of material to be had from Camp Counselors.  And clearly Reigle shows no signs of letting up. To commemorate the horror aficionado's favorite holiday he's released a brand new instrumental track by the name of "Devil's Night". 
"Devil's Night" both continues in Camp Counselors exploration of synth sounds and in Reigle's inspiration in the macabre. Alongside the driving bass pulse there's a Night on Bald Mountain-esque melody stretched out on top imbuing the track with a sinister foreboding effectively realized when "Devil's Night" takes a noticeable dancier lean.    

You can listen to Reigle's contributions to Rituals both as Cemeteries and Camp Counselors as well as tracks from the compilations other artists here

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Son Lux - Lanterns (2013)

Due to his very method of music making, New York based experimentalist Son Lux essentially has to create something new and dynamically different on each outing. It's a rather weird corner to back yourself into, to create music in such a way that each release has to at least try to drastically reinvent the wheel while more or less keeping a coherent trademark sound and in a way that's not too much different from the standard expectations of a new album. But Lott's methods, usually involving chopping musical ideas to bit and reconstructing them bit by bit, seems to carry more of a threat of drying up the creative well. Luckily for us, Lanterns, the third full length from Son Lux, proves he's still going strong.

A lot of what differentiates Lanterns from Son Lux's previous releases isn't encapsulated in the singles. In "Lost it to Trying" and "Easy", despite it's incorporation of different collaborators Lily & Madeleine, DM Stith, Rafiq Bhatia, recall We Are Rising cuts and that essentially helps for a smooth transition into Lanterns. While not forgoing a lot of the dancier moments contained in tracks like "No Crime" and "Plan to Escape", We Are Rising encapsulated a sort of epic grandeur and pervasive darkness. Lanterns shines a light where there was only hints of it previously, even shifting moods in the course of a single track. While remaining sort of in the same wheelhouse lyrical, Son Lux reaches for brighter textures and even achieves a rather upbeat air on a number of the album's tracks.

With two albums preceding it, there really was no question of whether or not Son Lux could create a cohesive album as they've all previously have been and Lanterns falls right into line there. Instead, what listeners can truly enjoy is that Lanterns keeps the strong musical ideas and even stronger presentation of them a flowing. Lanterns is a treat from start to finish; a work of considerable talent and finesse that demonstrates there's no real danger as far as Lott's well of creativity is concerned.

Lanterns is out now on Joyful Noise, listen to it here:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pitstop: Floating Compass

A guaranteed way to stumble upon great new music has always been/forever will be to stick tight to your favorite bands/artists. That's how I discovered the indie orchestral pop collective Floating Compass. The brainchild of Tim Cronin, a member of the Camera Obscura live band and featured trumpeter on Freelance Whales Diluvia, Floating Compass' Tales of Yesteryear presents a distinctive brand of medieval flavored chamber pop that could very well inhabit the same realm as Joanna Newsom's Ys or Have One on Me.

Ironically their embrace of the past sets Floating Compass on an innovative level apart from the band's contemporaries. Using accordion and trumpet in a decidedly different way than their most well known advocate Beirut, Floating Compass' use of them seeks not to wisp you to the shores of  the Mediterranean but a far bolder task of throwing you back in time transporting you to crowded cobblestone streets a stone's throw from the crisp sea air and the nearest lighthouse.

With tracks like "Cathedral", "Buoys" and "Pendulum" that features recordings of the songs namesakes - church bells and the like, the thing that keeps Tales of Yesteryear and its various experimentations from being contrived or too on the nose is pure commitment. That and the songs actually being good. You can't argue a field recording's hokeyness when it inspires an enjoyable song, or a cohesive album. I mean you certainly can semantically but I know I sure won't.

You can stream Floating Compass' debut album Tales of Yesteryear now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond (2013)

Earlier this year at FMLY Fest Brooklyn, I had the great pleasure to witness Mutual Benefit in action. I was transfixed and ultimately transformed - Jordan Lee's warm tenor enveloped me like a tender hug while his dreamy soundscapes transported me light years away from the crowded room at The Silent Barn. It was the type of experience I've always attributed to great music but rarely found myself feeling. When Mutual Benefit announced that several of those songs from that set would make their way onto a record soon out for release, I was ecstatic at the notion that I'd be able to relive that moment pretty much infinitely at my leisure. Fast forward months and the single release of the magical "Advanced Falconry" later and Love's Crushing Diamond was born.

Love's Crushing Diamond isn't just the culmination of years of musical ideas and collaborations, it's a rite of passage in the most unironic of ways; a life philosophy forged in the crucible of worthwhile experiences and put forth in the most accessible of ways. Featuring a remarkably similar sonic palette all throughout, Love's Crushing Diamond is a record that builds upon itself - each song seems an extension of the thoughts covered in the song before it as coherent in its narrative as it is in its textures. Unsurprisingly, it's a record that recalls itself especially in "Strong Swimmer", the cathartic release/album ender which references opener "Strong River". Perhaps due to its notable folk influences, the songwriting strikes a perfect balance between wondrous nature imagery and tales of personal growth.  

Love's Crushing Diamond is a record of selfless sincerity; raw and heartfelt but utterly life-affirming. Jordan Lee's dreamy folk pop styling are the perfect guise for the absolutely beautiful soul-searching and soul-bearing that occurs on the record. It's never overt, little lines here and there, that when combined form a little map to the album's earnest journey of pure feeling. To its benefit, Love's Crushing Diamond isn't trying to be a life-changing record, it's just the thoughts and sounds of Jordan Lee and friends artfully arranged with the purest of intentions and love of songcraft that resonates with the listener. Love's Crushing Diamond is a stunning masterpiece where it's labors of love are wildly apparent; elevating it from your standard pop record to one of astonishing beauty and worth. It's a record I know I'll return to over and over as will anyone lucky enough to get it in their ears. Hopefully that's as many people as humanly possible.

Listen to Mutual Benefit's Love's Crushing Diamond now:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Listen: Genders - "Something To Get You By"

Here's a bit of good news: Portland rock quartet Genders have emerged triumphant from a bit of studio action with Cheshire grins happy to announce the completion of their debut full length Get Lost. They're about to run off on a North American tour with Built to Spill but not before they dropped the first single for the upcoming full length, the appropriately titled "Something To Get You By".

If there was any doubt in your mind that Genders wasn't a rock band through and through, "Something To Get You By" is your answer. Swimming in a sea of shoegaze-y fuzz, looming dark textures that'll drain the summer tan right off of you; replacing it with an autumnal chill. While it remains to be seen if the other tracks Gender released either from the EP or this year's tour 7" will make it's way onto Get Lost, "Something To Get You By" is the dark cousin of many of those cuts - forsaking sunny summery jangle for a staggering intensity in a similar vein to "Oakland" and "Twin Peaks" but with a far more oppressive loom.

Genders' debut full length album Get Lost is out December 8th.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Watch: Landshapes - "Insomniacs Club"

Earlier this year UK quartet Landshapes made themselves known in a big way. Previously known as Lulu & The Lampshades and most notable for "Cups (You're Gonna Miss Me)", they reemerging sounding like a different beast entirely. Their single "In Limbo" marked their transformation into an innovative rock band from the cute folk duo of their early days, it was a subtle shift perhaps to their London showgoers but to their foreign fanbase it seemed like an overnight renaissance. But I'm not sure anyone's complaining - Landshapes are leaner and seem to have stumbled upon the perfect balance between instrumental tumult and hair-raisingly good vocals.

In their new video for "Insomniacs Club", the darker textures explored on "In Limbo" return - perhaps even more so this time around. Haunting and a tad bit of foreboding, "Insomniacs Club" unravels with subtle nuance of psychological thriller told through lyrics. I'm sure the video, taken from director Ian Pons Jewel's 1/4", certainly doesn't hurt. It's an occasionally horrifying bit of intrigue as a sound artist finds herself besieged by terrifyingly surreal nightmares. If the video's style or main actress seem all familar to you it's probably due to Crystal Fighters' video for "Follow" featuring the same director and actress. 

While non-UK fans of the band wait for Landshapes' debut full length Rambutan to street elsewhere there is a bit of good news. Landshapes will be heading over to the US to play a handful of shows at this year's CMJ Music Marathon. I strongly recommend you hit up this rare opportunity to see them play as well as harrass them about the lack of a US release date, at least that's what I'll be doing. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Listen: R.L. Kelly - "Fake Out"

I've made no secret about my feelings for Philly rock quartet Alex G, their tunefully melodic brand of guitar pop is straight up my alley and they release songs on a consistent enough basis for me to be reasonably content. The songs may not be there when return for them (a little diddy called "Joy" for example) but if you pay close enough attention to Alex G, you'll get a new song every whenever they feel like it. And that's essentially how I found out about this split 7" featuring Alex G and R.L. Kelly.

Despite my obvious love of Alex G, I found myself far more impressed by the continuing melancholic pop stylings of R.L. Kelly and her side of the split. It's also a bit of incredibly strong songwriting and it's a joy to be able to hear new songs from her to add alongside her fantastically sad Life's A Bummer EP/cassette. "Fake Out", the split's closing track and the last of R.L. Kelly's three new songs happens to be, in my humble opinion, one of the best. The vocal delivery is stronger, especially in her higher register; the lyrics properly balanced between moments of poetic lyricism and simple yet delightfully endearing narrative of Rachel's trademark sadness. Despite it being the most accessibly presented of R.L. Kelly's songs on the split's it's also the most open to interpretation while also being ear-catching and wonderfully entertaining despite it's sense of hopelessness.  R.L. Kelly's "Fake Out" awakens its listeners latent schadenfreude in a far more healthy and socially acceptable way that's a way better use of your time than Youtube videos of people falling down.

You can purchase Alex G and R.L. Kelly's split 7" digitally on Bandcamp or on limited edition mint/purple vinyl from Birdtapes.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "September"

If the last two offerings from Bowerbirds' ongoing song-a-month series Small Songs from a Small Tiny House were a bit jarring for you, the latest addition "September" should certain set things right. Done (for now) with their R&B leanings, "September" sees the Bowerbirds returning to a basic folk aesthetic - guitar in hand like a campfire songs. Containing their trademark nature imagery, "September" is far more straightfowardly folky than anything the Bowerbirds have offered up in their three song career. Functioning more as a tribute to their influences than anything else, it's not until Phil Moore's vocals cut out and an instrumental section begins filled with hand claps and the high notes of a piano played percussively occur when you get a feeling of it truly being a Bowerbirds song.

And it makes sense, these short song experimentations are stretching the trio's creative boundaries in a way that challenges their cultivated sound. The little hints and nudges we get that seem to say "This is a Bowerbirds song" occur more as unconscious notifiers as things the band truly enjoy to put into their songs than anything more methodical. That's what's so enjoyable about watching the evolution of ideas in these 2-3 minute songs, we see the Bowerbirds step more and more out of their comfort zone and both try new thing and find inspiration in new things. It'll be a treat not only to hear the rest of the year's compositions but also to see the takeaway/effects of Small Songs from a  Small Tiny House.

Listen to the eighth track from Bowerbirds' Small Songs from a Small Tiny House "September":

Friday, October 4, 2013

Listen: Lost in the Trees - "Lady in White"

I have no idea what it is but Lost in the Trees' Ari Picker has a talent for just creating these arresting knee-jerk emotional reactions in his music. It's a skill that in all honesty I thought will dull over time and find myself surprised and elated that Picker's compositions are still so emotional effective. I guess I'm also surprised at short amount of time between releases it takes him to create these completely sincere, visceral pieces.

Coming off the immensely powerful A Church That Fits Our Needs - a musical tribute to Picker's deceased and troubled mother, you'd think "Lady in White" would be lighter, if not more fun. Not even close. While easing up slightly on Picker's ability to reduce you to tears, it still finds that elegant balance between mournful beauty and forward moving slice of pop. Based mostly on piano and Picker's doleful tenor, it's the rare Lost in the Trees track that reduces its string arrangements to ornamental flourishes for the sake of maintaining a sense of an otherworldly aura. It's artfully done like just about every other thing Lost in the Trees do.

Listen to the one-off gem "Lady in White":

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pitstop: Pearl and the Beard

Despite their association with some of my other favorite bands Lucius and You Won't, it has taken me an astonishing amount of time to get to know Brooklyn trio Pearl and the Beard. It wasn't until seeing them live for the first time at The Wild Honey Pie's Summer Camp that I really fell for the band hook line and sinker. 

Pearl and the Beard combine many of the wonderfully little elements I absolutely adore: diverse instrumentation (guitar, drums, cello), incredible vocal prowess with goosebump-inducing harmonies, smart and engaging lyricism; the list is pretty much endless. There's also the band's ability to mix traditional folk, infectious ear-catching pop, and utilize their string player in a way that's more than just ornamental.

Featuring everything from sentimental ballads and fiery love songs, Pearl and the Beard are the kind of band that let their personalities shine through their music. Clearly enjoying what they're creating and creating it together, they allow their songs to be fun and occasionally humorous when they call for it while also being able to deliver serious folk epics ("Devil's Head Down") or scorching rock jams ("You"). They're a band with seemingly limitless potential that are only getting better at their already rather stellar songcraft.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Listen: Nils Frahm - "Says"

German pianist/producer Nils Frahm has made a career out of instrumental music of the genre-defying and intimate sort. Of that there is no question. But "Says", our first peek at Frahm's latest full length Spaces, seeks to take the introspective quality of Frahm's compositions and expand them ever outward - instead of quietly drawing in the listener, in a rare feat (for Frahm especially), it seeks to drag you into Frahm's headspace through a borderline aggressive act of percussive force.

On "Says", Frahm's use of minimalism results in perhaps the longest track in his entire catalog. A sprawling 8 minutes, it relies instead of on the artificial sound of a synth instead of Frahm's more natural piano to set its mood and for tonal coloring. His piano isn't gone, in fact it's still very much present but "Says" pairs the two very different textures into an ambient labyrinth of rising intensity.

The song's elasticity grants a newfound intimacy different than can be glimpses Frahm's shorter musical sketches. Because of the improvisatory nature of Frahm's performances, captured for Spaces, you're given a completely different perspective on Frahm's mental machinations. Listening to the track becomes like following a thought process, relying solely on communication of the nonverbal variety.

It's a stunning treat handled with excellent care from a talented well-rounded artist.

Nils Frahm's Spaces is out November 19th on Erased Tapes America.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Listen: Anna Calvi - "Suddenly"

This October, English singer/guitarist Anna Calvi makes her triumphant return with her sophomore record One Breath. Known for dark textures and a cinematic scope on her debut self-titled record, One Breath appears to be a bit of a departure. At least if "Suddenly", the second single, is to be believed.

"Suddenly" is as jubilant as Calvi's ever been without coloring in the whole of its evening song pallor. Despite her occasionally breathy delivery, it's far removed from the seductive coo of many of the debut's stand outs. It's a brighter narrative with darkness at its corners threatening to creep in occasionally beaten back with the exuberant choruses.

Anna Calvi's much anticipated sophomore record One Breath is out October 8th in the US on Domino Records.

Watch: Golden Suits BreakThru Radio Live Session

Earlier this year, Fred Nicolaus of Department of Eagles fame released his solo debut under the moniker Golden Suits. In addition to being the sum of his musical thoughts since Department of Eagles went on hiatus years ago, it also chronicles a rather hectic year in Nicolaus life as well as an obsession with John Cheever that Nicolaus hasn't been too shy about hiding.

This week - today in particular, Golden Suits starts a rather inclusive US tour and what better way to ring in the occasion than this lovely live video he did for BreakThru Radio. In it, he plays "Swimming in '99" which aptly chronicles the album's theme of love, loss, nostalgia that seamlessly weaves Cheever's stories with Nicolaus' own. Not to discredit the rest of Golden Suits but the album opening track is probably its very best. Stripped of all the album's lovely trimmings, Nicolaus still gives the track the performance it deserves armed solely with his trusty electric guitar. It's a perfect example of what you can expect from the Golden Suits live show and why you should hit up one of 12 tour dates.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chris Holm - Kilos (2013)

After quite a bit of teasing and endorsements from Sondre Lerche and Young Dreams, Norwegian guitarist Chris Holm's debut album Kilos finally sees the light of day after a year in limbo. Thanks to Lerche and his wife Mona who directed a music for the first single, we've heard "When I Die" and it's been a year full of anticipation, at least for me.

From album opener, "H.A.A.R.P." with it's rap sampling tropicalia fusion, you're not exactly sure what you're going to get with Kilos and that's perhaps the most exciting thing about it. Chris Holm's debut is an album of fun but worthwhile experimentation. Occasionally balmy interludes ("Problem with You", "You Know the Drill"), jangly guitar pop ("When I Die"), and jazzy grooves ("Raleigh's Peak", "Bicycle"), Kilos is the kind of album that never does the same thing twice and contains some driveby moments of lyrical prowess like "Sealed" "Love is a lie but I want to taste it", it's an album that contains within it some rather dark subjects (the forerunner being "Violence Comes from Silence") dressed up rather vibrantly but just short of obscuring what's actually being said.

Kilos is a scenic exploration of Chris Holm's musical influences and multi-instrumentalist talents that despite it's various genre leaps manages to remain coherent and enjoyable. It's an album that's very clearly of Holm's own make, retaining a certain one man starkness regardless of amount of instruments you hear. It's the introduction of a man who for the majority of his career has stayed out of the spotlight electing instead to contribute stealthily to the the whole. And Holm's solo debut, comes across very much so. It's an album of charming musical moments and clever experimentations that doesn't insist on its own glory. Kilos is an collection of Holm's musical thoughts quietly stewing in his own brilliant talents waiting to be discovered.

Kilos is out now digitally on Éllet Records and is available for streaming on Spotify.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Watch: Nothankyou - "Oyster"

                                                       (photo by Alexander Kell)

Since the release of her debut full length DIAMONITE back in 2011, BELL aka singer/pianist Olga Bell has meandered a bit away from the direct spotlight. Joining forces with Dirty Projectors, she's been lending her talents to the harmonious Brooklyn collective for the better part of the year and been tinkering away on her own material more or less in secret. Until now. Olga Bell's return isn't that of BELL but rather a collaboration she began with London multi-instrumentalist Tom Vek under the name Nothankyou.

The trans-atlantic collaboration birthed two tracks, one of which - "Oyster" has a starkly beautiful video. In it, Olga Bell is the only focus. Taking at least part of its influence from the 90s Calvin Klein ads, the video is black and white and features a bare Bell singing directly to the viewer while also impersonating Tom Vek who directs the sort of chiding answers back to herself. Maintaining the illusion of an commercial set, there's a brief moment where Bell breaks, removes a donned pink wig and sips an oyster before turning that too into a commercial moment with a coy wink to the camera. It's a simple but elegant video that relies mostly on the song itself to provoke an actual response.

You can nab Nothankyou's debut 7" either on limited edition vinyl or download from Moshi Moshi Records.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alexander von Mehren - Aéropop (2013)

Chris Holm is one busy little bee. When not playing Norwegian orchestral pop sextet Young Dreams or crafting music of his own, he's off serving up his talents elsewhere it seems. That's how I learned of his contributions to as member of Norwegian composer/producer/pianist Alexander von Mehren's live band.

Alexander von Mehren's debut full length Aéropop falls somewhere on the spectrum of Sondre Lerche's early lounge rock days, the orchestral splendor John Cale's "Paris 1919" and the sensual decadence of Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson. That's a lot of ground to cover for sure but von Mehren's jazz-flavored brand of piano pop behaves more like those easy breezy classics than any of the more aurally challenging works of today. It's more than a bit of jazz classicism however. While Aéropop is remarkably svelte and engages in pristine melodic presentation  tracks with synthy touches like "La Variation de Douche"  and "Neuschwanstein" make it very clear von Mehren can engage in a bit of updating if the need arise. It's use is slight but provide the tracks with an added textural depth.

Alexander von Mehren's Aéropop is easy listening for the modern era, tracks birthed and bloomed within the confines of even the tiniest of attention spans, containing a double dose of your standard tracks while still clocking in at under an hour. Even on von Mehren's extensive "Natural Selection", a stylized simplicity exists. Interesting musical ideas come and go without any sort of conceptual hang ups - merely an emphasis on groove. At 20 tracks, Aéropop succeeds due to wealth and fluidity of ideas. von Mehren embellishes where he must but isn't afraid to let good musical ideas run their natural course instead of milking them for all their worth. The result is a balancing act of rather epic but effortless seeming proportions.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "August"

As the year sneaks ever closer to its end, one thing can be certain: North Carolina's Bowerbirds are still holed up in their cabin building their in-home recording studio, crafting trickets and art work, and creating more songs for their ongoing Small Songs From A Small Tiny House song-a-month short-form song experiment.

August's offering follows very much in the footsteps of July's, another smattering of R&B infused beauty. Despite the pulsing beats, there's a very organic quality to the track's production. Not quite the synth pop of Island Dweller and far from the art-pop/folk of Bowerbirds past, "August" sees the Bowerbirds setting their pastoral lyricism to a far more driving accompaniment. Gently unfurling as much as these shorter songs allow, the track succeeds due to Bowerbirds' indomitable sincerity.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Watch: Kishi Bashi - "It All Began With A Burst"

Today may be the official release date of Kishi Bashi's "Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It" 7" but he's still got a couple tricks up his sleeve. Namely a video for 151a's percussive powerhouse "It All Began With A Burst". The whimsical new video directed by Christopher Coots gives us a peak at all the layers to effervescent track's production featuring a set of TVs all featuring different parts of K. and his team. Front row center is K. playing bass while below that is the floor tom, and one of screens shows his trademark violin. It's a fun little video that also brings the track's layered production to light in a really interesting way. Then again, I wouldn't expect any less from Kishi Bashi.

Kishi Bashi is currently on tour. See if he's coming to your city here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Listen: Art Decade - "No One's Waiting"

Boston symphonic rock outfit Art Decade may have just released their debut full length Western Sunrise last year but that doesn't seem to have stopped them from getting back to work on a follow up. "No One's Waiting", the first peek at a forthcoming record finds Art Decade right where they left off - out of bristly forest of the punky rock jams and back among a blanket of glistening string arrangements.

Rather like "Western Sunrise" or "The Impossible", "No One's Waiting" vocals are downright anthemic, building from a subtle climb that slowly incorporates the strings with it's driving drums. Another example of Talmi's genre-straddling abilities, "No One's Waiting" doesn't rely strongly on either the indie rock growl or the orchestral pop flair, taking what's necessary from both and balancing them alongside each other. The result is a sort of ebb and flow that always returns to the middle ground but plays with that balance in interesting ways before embarking on a climactic rise that walks both influences hand and hand to a rather cathartic release.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Listen: Son Lux - "Lost It To Trying"

A few short months ago when experimental composer/producer Ryan Lott aka Son Lux signed to Joyful Noise Recordings, we got a little taste of what that team up could result in with the beautiful one-off single "TEAR" in anticipation of a forthcoming full length. Now, with Son Lux' Lanterns finally completed we're getting a peak at the sure-fire masterpiece with "Lost It To Trying".

Built on fluttering flutes, "Lost It To Trying" features the vocals of Indiana sister duo Lily & Madeleine and continues Lott's fascination with the juxtaposition of opposites. Pristine melodic lines inlaid with seemingly random swatches of chaotic turbulence. It's a blend of heavenly orchestral pop with just the right amount of updating with electronic sounds and drum pads infusing a pseudo R&B flavor. All the while the ladies' lovely vocals float unfettered and undisturbed above the multi-layered textual labyrinth of Lott's creation.

Son Lux's third full length and Joyful Noise debut Lanterns is out October 29th. You can now pre-order limited edition clear and black vinyl as well as standard black, CDs, and mp3 over at Joyful Noise.

Golden Suits - Golden Suits (2013)

During the press cycle for Daniel Rossen's Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP last year, Rossen let slip that he'd been helping former Department of Eagles band member Fred Nicolaus with his upcoming solo record. In an instant my hopes of an Department of Eagles reunion were reignited after years of lying mostly dormant. To what extent that aid was was left unclear and it wasn't until well over a year later that the first peak what Nicolaus had been brewing made it's way out in first single "Didn't I Warn You"

With Daniel Rossen functioning mostly as the megaphone of Department of Eagles, it's rather easy to relegate Fred Nicolaus to the role of background player but on his first solo venture, under the moniker Golden Suits, Nicolaus makes his own voice heard in a big way. While Rossen's vocals often accompany a sense of emotional urgency, Nicolaus' flexes his with practiced calm. Where Rossen's are swathed in intricately layered arrangements, Nicolaus' vocals roam wild and free. But Golden Suits is more than just your standard "he did this so I'll do that" kind of record - rather for the first time, we get to see what Fred Nicolaus can do when only relying on his former collaborators for finishing touches.

The result is an album that takes it's time - softly treading, lightly weaving, and effortlessly steered. Nicolaus' melodic power comes predominantly from his ever spotlighted vocals and his lyricism is spry and clever while given ample time to take root. Though almost every one of Nicolaus' Department of Eagles conspirators are present, Golden Suits is far from a Department of Eagles record and their influence is subtle if anything. The only audible instance of Daniel Rossen's vocals is in the harmonies of album closer "Dearly Beloved".

Golden Suits is clearly Nicolaus', recounting his own tales of woe and upheaval distilled into a sense of offbeat pop that allows them to be more than melancholic musings. They're not quite elevated to the level of humor but infused with just enough pep and light-heartedness to be utterly enjoyable, relatable, charming, and not as insufferable as an album of "Woe is me" songs has the potential to be.

While it may have been a bit of unintentional misdirection that lead me to Golden Suits, I'm certainly glad it did. Not only does the album spotlight Fred Nicolaus as a dear melodic yarn-spinner but paints a far clearer perspective of Nicolaus' strengths as musician in ways a late arrival to Department of Eagles might not really indicate. Fred Nicolaus might be the least famous of his Grizzly Bear cohorts but Golden Suits proves it's not for lack of talent and Nicolaus should be well on his way to selling out venues soon enough.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Listen: The Debauchees - "I've Got Energy"

Louisville trio The Debauchees are young - let's get that bit out of the way right now. It's a point that'll be brought up time and time again and like similar young adult bands Avi Buffalo, Balkans, and Out Go the Lights, it might begin to obscure the very nature of the music they're making. Consisting of three sprightly twenty year olds, The Debauchees are a band of considerable talent and precision.

The biggest counterpoint to their youth might very well be in the sultry purr of vocalist/guitarist Sydney Chadwick. Well at least it starts out that way before rising to a tuneful punky wail at the most climactic moments. It's a delivery that requires a lot more confidence and self awareness than your standard twenty something and yet comes off without the slightest bit of insincerity. And the same can be said of the band as a whole invoking the sort of rebellious rock n' roll spirit you usually don't encounter at all in indie rock. It's far from trying to invoke records they grew up listening to and decided they wanted to incorporate, it's raw influence emblazoned on their sleeves and galvanizing their every musical decision. They don't need much more to spice up their music than that. "I've Got Energy", the lead single from their upcoming Big Machines and Peculiar Beings seems like it could very well have been a live take sort of a thing.

It may be too soon to say but The Debauchees are a band of contradictions: young in actual age but old in spirit and influence, polished but not wholly without grit, "I've Got Energy" is insanely catchy without relying the least bit on pop conventions. They're not reinventing the wheel but they don't have to - they're setting the whole damn thing on fire.

The Debauchees' Big Machines and Peculiar Beings is out November 12th on sonaBLAST! Records.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Listen: The Lost Cavalry - "Telescope"

Considering "Stars Are Ripe" has technically been available for a month or so before releasing the stream, British chamber poppers The Lost Cavalry decided they owed us another single and I for one am not complaining. While I mentioned "Stars Are Ripe" is more of a continuation of the The Lost Cavalry we've come to know, "Telescope" isn't quite so familiar sounding. Sure, it features Mark West's sleepy vocals but other than that it doesn't feature The Lost Cavalry's infectious, moving folk pop sound.

That's not to say "Telescope" is stagnant but there's considerably a lot less going on it in than songs past. Where you could listen to any previous Lost Cavalry song and point out any of its multitude of members (there's six), "Telescope" sounds very much like ringleader Mark West could perform it solo. There's little ornamental flourishes but other than it's a rather straight forward, blossoming simple vocal showcasing folk tune.

The Lost Cavalry's debut full length Three Cheers for the Undertaker is out September 16th on Folkroom Records.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Listen: Chris Holm - "H.A.A.R.P"

If you follow the actions of Norwegian orchestral pop sextet Young Dreams, you might've heard guitarist/vocalist Chris Holm's "H.A.A.R.P" before. Awhile back they created a mix for Under the Radar's artist mixtape series and they slipped this little gem on there. And hopefully you've heard of Chris Holm before - besides being Young Dreams gritty rock guy, he's been a member of Sondre Lerche's backing band and even had the first single for his upcoming solo debut record Kilos directed by Sondre Leche's wife Mona.

And while the first single "When I Die" was every bit of a gritty rock jam, opening track "H.A.A.R.P" shows you really can pin Chris Holm down. Featuring hip hop samples almost extensively about halfway through that all changes and the sort of tropical leaning sound reminiscent to Young Dreams shine through. It makes  a strange sort of sense and even Holm's pillowy soft vocals carry a message befitting of the rap selection that preceded them.

It's enough to make me just kind of shrug when attempting to figure out what sort of record Kilos is going to be. Luckily that won't be too long as Kilos will be out everywhere digitally on September 20th.

Listen: Lucius - "Tempest"

It kind of goes without saying but Brooklyn indie pop quintet Lucius' upcoming debut full length album is without a doubt one of my most anticipated albums of this year. Since discovering them last year, it's been a marvel to watch them only get better and better and "Tempest", the next single from the forthcoming Wildewoman just shows more of that.

Unlike the playful narrative flavor of "Hey, Doreen", "Tempest" plunks Lucius right back in the emotional hot seat of the songs from the self-titled EP. Only instead of the questing, pondering  "Don't Just Sit There" or the sassy and rebellious "Go Home", "Tempest" recalls the most violent conflicts in a relationship. But rather than pointing fingers, they willfully acknowledge their own culpability in surprisingly calmly delivered lines. It's a piece of delicately plotted beauty that runs the gamut of heartfelt appeal and soothing rationalization filled with those powerhouse vocals that are every bit of Lucius' signature.

Lucius' debut full length Wildewoman is out October 15th on Mom + Pop.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "The Plague" (Scott Walker cover)

If you're anything like me, you're probably eagerly awaiting news of another record from Norwegian wunderkind turned wunder mann Sondre Lerche. I mean, he's released a new record almost every two years since his debut so we're about due. While he's been off charting the globe working on a new more experimental album, we've finally got a little something to tide us over - "The Plague".

Sondre Lerche's contribution to a Scott Walker tribute album entitled Songs from Montague Terrace is a darker Lerche than you're probably used to and yet surprisingly not even the slightest bit of a misstep. Lerche has a method actor like ability to take up any role for a cover while still imbuing a bit of himself in it. That's what we get here in "The Plague" which is more than your paint by the numbers cover - there's a bit of new with the old like clattering drums which give Lerche's vocals a sort of spoken word feel and a sea of reverb effected vocals that aid in the mysterious aura.

So while it may still be a while yet until new original Sondre Lerche material reveals itself, I'll be happy to take this sort of thing - a fresh new look and interesting bit of experimentation from a pop songsmith.


Songs from Montague Terrace is out on All Souls Music on September 16th.

Laura Veirs - Warp & Weft (2013)

For longevity as a singer/songwriter so much emphasis seems to be placed on reinvention - elevating previously existing songwriting forms to new heights, tonal shifts and the like but fortunately for Portland's Laura Veirs and her latest offering - ninth studio record Warp & Weft, all that's required to offer up a truly special record is a little bit of imagination (which luckily Veirs has in spades) and help from a few of her talented musicians friends (like guest vocals/harmonies from Neko Case on "Sun Song").

Warp & Weft is an intimately felt record filled with intriguing songwriting concepts from orphans to origami cranes are all given their due without it seeming at all unrelated or unrelateable. Each of Laura Veirs' albums features a truly roaring indie rock jam from "Black Gold Blues" to "July Flame" and Warp & Weft's takes the form as another feat of homage akin to July Flame's "Carol Kaye" in "That Alice" - a musical tribute to Alice Coltrane. Perhaps more so than other releases, Veirs indulges not only in the more fast-paced, forward-moving rock element but in pure ambiance-setting tracks ("Ghosts of Louisville", "Ikaria"), the result is a more balanced pairing of indie rock and twangy introspective folk. 

Veirs' latest is an album of endearing worth, full of truly enjoying musical moments and a strong batch of songs that really flows with an album feel. Warp & Weft may be less obviously tonally cohesive than say Year of Meteors, Saltbreakers, or July Flame but it's far from a disjointed or aimless effort. It's an album where you favorite track depends on the day as almost all of them (the two instrumental/vocalise tracks aside) are full of thoughtful, compelling lyricism, dynamic, masterful arrangements and even by album number nine are anything but predictable. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pitstop: Canon Blue

If there's one thing I've learned from paying close attention to Efterklang from about the time I discovered them back in 2010, it's that the trio contains some of the most top shelf taste both in terms of collaborators and in general music likes. Their touring members have consisted of absolutely amazing musicians in their own right: Budgie, Heather Woods Broderick, Peter Broderick, and now you can add Nashville singer/songwriter Daniel James aka Canon Blue to that list. 

Touring with Efterklang in support of  their excellent Magic Chairs afforded Canon Blue's sophomore album Rumspringa with an absolutely amazing production team that not only included Efterklang but Sigur Ros' go to string section Amiina. The result - an orchestral pop album of stately beauty that certainly doesn't skimp on the pop element. So intrinsically intertwined, Rumspringa combines the majestic grandeur of a fully flushed out string section with undeniable danceability or just good old fashioned ear-catching infectiousness.

Even stripped of Rumspringa's legion of masterful musicians, Daniel James has an abundant wealth of musical ideas and skilled effective delivery. Just take the Chris Taylor (of Grizzly Bear) assisted debut Colonies which contrasts stark textures and introspective lyricism with the telltale signs of poppiness that would flourish into Rumspringa. The leap from arty to accessibility is not unlike Efterklang's occurring at a slightly quicker pace. It's enough to make me positively giddy to see what he'll do on the next Canon Blue album. Hopefully it's not too long before then.

Now and for a limited time you can snag a free download of Rumspringa with some extra goodies (b-sides, sketches, remixes, etc.) from Noisetrade. Do it.