Friday, April 19, 2013

Listen: Daughn Gibson - "The Sound of Law"

Little known fact: When I reached out to Daughn Gibson to participate in last month's blog birthday playlist extravaganza he was waist deep in the recording of his new upcoming album. It was probably some of the most exciting news I'd heard and while I had resigned myself to months of no new music or tours from the man that makes this new track all the more exciting.

"The Sound of Law", the first peek at Gibson's follow up to last year's All Hell, shows just the right amount of progress with slick production it sounds remarkably different than the sample-laden All Hell. And yet, it continues with Gibson's rural tales in his same smooth crooning baritone. It's just the right blend of old and new to get you excited which thankfully isn't that far away. Gibson's Sub Pop debut Me Moan comes out July 9th. Just under three months and I'm certainly excited to get my hands on it.   Not only that, Gibson's following the release and a short European jaunt with a pretty extensive US tour.

That's a lot of good news. Celebrate properly with the new track "The Sound of Law":

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Listen: Laura Marling - "Master Hunter"

British folk songtress Laura Marling's certainly come a rather long way, of that there can be no question. From the days of her folk pop "Ghosts", she's solidified herself as a beacon of poignant, poetic lyricism and righteously melodic songwriting. This second single "Master Hunter", off her upcoming fourth album Once I Was An Eagle, continues a trend of Marling's elevation in overall badassery with a rock n' roll ramble.

Where in "Where Can I Go?" Marling at least pondered her loneliness, in "Master Hunter" her "You want a woman who will call your name? It ain't me, babe" makes it's rather clear, she's completely fine being alone. It's a percussive heavy track that functions in stark contrast to the emotive "Where Can I Go?" with a steely delivery that assures you Marling is no one to mess with and rightfully so. 

Marling's Once I Was An Eagle is out May 28th on Ribbon Music. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Listen/Watch: Young Man - "In A Sense" (Alternate Version)

When I interviewed Young Man's Colin Caulfield, he mentioned that many of the songs on their latest album Beyond Was All Around Me have gone through many incarnations before appearing the way they do on the record. Enter this acoustic version on "In A Sense" shot by Matt Liljegren which features a more lounge rock approach to the somber break up track. Framing a casually sprawled guitar-wielding Caulfield in the center frame, the video also features Caulfield adding the track's additional elements (synth and drum) in a sort of scrolling fashion.

It's a softer, more transparent version of the track which really helps to convey Caulfield's calm epiphanic lyrics. Smoother with a sort of bossa nova lilt thanks to the percussion, I kind of really hope there's plans for this version to make it's way out into the world.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pitstop: Baobab

It takes a very creative and diligent person to create music the way Baobab does. And yet, few people would accuse Baobab's mastermind Phil Torres as being anything but. Releasing his debut self-titled full length early last year and quickly following up with sophomore full length Bayohbahb on Hand Eye Records, Torres is positively overflowing with creative energy of that there can be no denying.

One of the things it may be hard to conceive is that absolutely everything you hear on Baobab's records is all the work on one man. Surprising given the intricacy, the total and complete fullness of sound, and the pairing of electro-acoustic elements so flawlessly but it's all true. Also surprising is how despite the complex layering at play, that Torres manages to keep his songs sounding so incredibly simple. They're very straight-forward folk pop jams at their core and that's never really forgotten regardless of Torres elects to dress them up. 

The tracks are short, pleasantly arranged tunes that are really only long enough to get their point across before fading out and giving way to the next one. A tough act of balancing a need to hear more of your favorite musical moments and simply cutting to the chase which Torres is an adept, allowing him to engage in a sort of  musical sleigh-of-hand, packing his album with an irregular amount of tracks and having you be none the wiser - the tracks build on each other and truly seem like a collection. The albums breeze by unhindered but not without making a definite impression.  

Despite his knack for pairing loops and synths with far more natural sounds like fingerpicked guitar and mandolin, Baobab is more than just a one-trick pony. Bayohbahb sees a shift in Torres' electronic exploration - having the electronics utilized more openly, elevating their importance far more than on Baobab, enabling Torres a far more diverse textural palette. But the organic sounds that took the spotlight on Baobab aren't gone or even forgotten - after the jarringly electro pop of "Oceanus Procellarum", "Merida" swoops in to soothe, to put everything back in order for the unsuspecting Baobab fan. After which, the album strives to evenly balance it's use of both. It's a low-stakes tug-of-war that results in some pretty spectacular music moments as the album gives in to it's initial inclinations. 

Where Baobab recalled sunny plains, Bayohbahb invokes a pervasive sea imagery. At times sunny, others stormy, it's less about Torres' lyricism that call attention to this - rather the fluid pull; a resplendent ebb and flow, and a sort of odd transparency despite many of the songs' complex compositions. It's more than just the summery beach vibes many bands resort to - Bayohbahb gives itself completely to open air traverses that leave the beach far out of sight. 

Considering his ability to create two infectious, engaging works in an amount of time that's short even in these days of  an instant gratification focused music industry, there's no doubt in my mind of Baobab's musical prowess. Where loops are largely hit or miss with people, Torres' ability to follow up an already incredible release with something that both manages to sound like a true successor while also offering up a healthy dose of elegantly carried out ideas makes him a sure-fire one to watch. I'll be waiting with bated breath for not only his next musical release but also any hints of a tour. Baobab seems like one show you absolutely don't want to miss.

Digital copies of Bayohbahb are available now, while vinyl editions are out April 30th. You can order/preorder via Baobab's Bandcamp if you're so inclined.        

Friday, April 12, 2013

All Around Sound-Off No. 3: Young Man

My introduction to Chicago based band Young Man happened surprisingly enough from a suggestion based purely on my love of Sondre Lerche. I hadn't ever heard of Young Man but man if I wasn't intrigued. I came for the pop jams but stayed for the thoughtful attention to detail and the interesting concept. Where nowadays it seems like lady singer/songwriters get all the fun with creative, atypical, or even just unashamedly intellectual songwriting, I was drawn to Colin Caulfield's arresting, well utilized plainspeak. Vol. 1 reminded me in a rather odd way of Laura Marling's I Speak Because I Can. The two were certainly different and Caulfield strayed toward poppy accessibility and universalness but the idea of young people growing up and learning about life was their common thread. It wasn't exactly I Speak Because I Can from a male point-of-view but it was close enough to pique my interest and make me explore the rest of the Young Man canon. 

Caulfield's always been rather open about the fact that after the release of the final album of his coming of age trilogy, the band Young Man was over. With the release of Beyond Was All Around Me creeping ever nearer until its eventual release and what I could only assume was the band's final tour together it only made sense to try and sit down with Caulfield and discuss the end of the project. Which Caulfield obliged by inviting me to chat right before their headlining set at Glasslands in the front of the band's tour van.   

Dante (All Around Sound): So thanks for meeting with me today. Let’s just dig right in, alright?  
How exactly did the Young Man trilogy start? Did it kind of evolve from the Boy EP?

Colin Caulfield: I wrote a bunch of songs – like the first Young Man songs I wrote, some of which are on Beyond Was All Around Me like “School”, “In Time”, and “Unfair”, I wrote those before Boy and then I started writing Boy. I started to realize the songs that I had written would be better for a full band so I wanted to do something before that kind of as an introduction to the project. But kind of concurrently during the writing and recording of all that I continued to write so all these songs happened in the process of the last four years.

Did you write the whole song cycle at the same time? Or has it taken the whole four years to write all of this?

Colin: The songs that are on this new record that are old have gone through so many different variations. I mean, I wrote versions of them a long time ago but started really drafting them and stuff.  

How was it going back to these older songs? Did you have different feelings about them? Did you have to update them?

Colin: Mm. Yeah, definitely. I mean “Unfair” especially went through a lot of changes but it didn't feel that weird because they were always so new – they always felt so new because we were doing these different versions with the band and stuff.  It was like new territory for me. Even though we were playing songs that I had written prior to that point it was very, I don’t know, exploratory because I didn't know what I was doing with the live stuff yet.

You play a number of instruments; you play guitar and drums and piano, right?

Colin: Yeah.

What made you decide to go with a guitar as basically the main instrument of Young Man?

Colin: I guess the songs that I started writing for Young Man I was writing on guitar and the guitar and voice combination is just very natural for me. I guess it just made sense. I’d love to be a drummer in a band that sings but for this it just wouldn't make sense if the lead singer was the drummer.

On Beyond Was All Around Me and Ideas of Distance you have these pretty beefy string arrangements how much say did you have in that? What’s your musical background?

Colin: I took some theory classes in college. I didn't major or minor in music but I know a good bit about part-writing and stuff like that. But I had help on both of them; especially with the new one. I flew to Boston and did all the arrangements with this string arranger named Ben Talmi who goes to Berklee. He might be graduated now actually but I went there and I spent a week with him and we just sort of workshopped everything in his apartment. I wrote all the lead melodies and then he would write the accompaniments and we kind of just went from there.

Since Boy you’ve pretty much released all of this stuff on a pretty consistent basis of about an album a year. Was there any particular reason why you wanted to get the music out so fast?

Colin: This has been very much a learning process for me, this project. My best album is definitely still in me maybe even in me right now. Songs that I’m writing now are just better; they’re just all around better songs. I think just because it’s about youth and coming out of youth, because I feel like I have done that now, that now I just don’t want to be treading over that material for too much longer. So I felt this compulsion to get everything out really quickly and I think that’s just in my nature too. Hopefully now that I've gotten that out of my system the next release I do, whatever it is, I’ll be ready to really milk that one release, you know? And take it one at a time instead of thinking about the next record.

I mean, it doesn't come across like you just trying to get these songs out of the way. It definitely feels like you've spent time on them.

Colin: Yeah, no doubt. I did and we've spent time working on them but still once they were done I wanted to be like “Okay, let’s do more.”

How long was your recording process?

Colin: We were here for three weeks tracking and then I came back for a week of mixing. So it was like a month.

Each album kind of has a different method that you went through. Ideas of Distance was mostly self-mixed and produced, right?

Colin: Mhm.

And then you had John McEntire on Vol. 1 and then… so is there any particular reason why you went through all these methods and didn't just stick to one producer or one way?

Colin: Well I moved on from doing it myself because I can’t record a full band. I don’t have the equipment to do that and so that was an obvious step. With McEntire it was a good experience but it just didn't gel perfectly, you know? So we started thinking about other people and then Nicolas [Vernhes], yeah I would make another record with Nicolas.

Yeah, everyone pretty much goes to him.
Colin: Yeah I know, he’s awesome. But yeah it was just kind of out of necessity.

Beyond Was All Around Me is way more band-centric than Vol. 1 was that kind of the intent going into it? Did you want a more band-centric album?

Colin: Yeah. I wanted to somehow balance it being like really personal music with the fact that it was a full band. I mean it got to be weird this dynamic of being the main songwriter in a band that like the live show is like so original in terms of original from the source material. We’d take the songs in such different directions and stuff so I wanted the record to reflect that more instead of just being a representation of me.

I also read that around the recording process of Vol. 1 you were listening to a lot of ambient/electronic music and that kind of comes out in it. Was there any specific thing that you were listening to going into Beyond Was All Around Me that might’ve inspired it?

Colin: I can’t really think of anything to be honest. Beyond Was All Around Me felt the most like a culmination of everything, of all my influences and stuff like that. So there wasn't necessarily one thing.

So if you had to pick three tracks from your whole works that summed up what you were trying to do with Young Man, what would they be?

Colin: Hmm. That’s a good question. I think “Enough” off of Ideas of Distance or maybe “Felt”. Man, that’s a tough question ‘cause there’s so many songs.

I mean if you want to go more than three feel free.

Colin: “Felt”, the closing track on Ideas of Distance

Which actually counts as “Enough” because there’s the whole it comes back in it…

Colin: That’s true. Good call. So “Felt”, man this is hard. It’s a hard question. Good hard question. Um “Waterford”! Yeah “Waterford”, off the new album, lyrically I think is really strong in terms of that and I think “Five” off of Boy is really clever and deals with the idea of growing up and that  transition really well. Those three: so “Five”, “Felt”, and “Waterford”.

And I’m sure everyone wants to know, what are you doing after this?

Colin: I don’t know. I’m moving to New York but I’m trying to just give myself some time. By the time we’re done with touring with this record, I will have another album done if I want to record it but I don’t want to jump into it too fast and make sure I really really really want to put it out, you know?

Are you planning on going in like a radical new direction?

Colin: I don't know. I've demoed a couple things that could be considered very different. Who knows though. It's so hard to decide on one thing. That's kind of the reason I want to wait and make sure the direction I go in I want to commit to it. 

Thanks again to Colin Caulfield for agreeing to sit down and chat as well as to Hannah May at Sacks & Co for helping coordinate it. If you haven't heard it yet, listen to arguably the best Young Man record to date (and ever, so it seems) Beyond Was All Around Me.  My review here

If you have the opportunity to see them on this, their final tour as a band, do so. It's an experience I couldn't recommend any more highly. Dates here

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Young Man - Beyond Was All Around Me (2013)

It's rather true to form that Beyond Was All Around Me, the last in Colin Caulfield's Young Man trilogy of albums about growing up arrives musically without very much pomp or fireworks. Rather like the sudden realization that you are in someway different than you were before i.e. an "adult", that's pretty much how Beyond Was All Around Me proceeds.

While many of the trappings of Young Man past are present in the album's patient build-ups and plods and casual glide of one song into another, album opener "It's Alright" starts on a dynamically different note than its counterpart in Vol. 1's "Heading. Where a half minute goes by before any sort of cohesive musical thought takes shape and nearly another half minute before its first words is even uttered, "It's Alright" begins right out of the gate with a smooth head-bobbing groove quickly followed by the entrance of Caulfield's vocals. Though even in this main difference, you can hear how alike they are, Caulfield still reveling in the electronic sounds to give the track an added textural layer.

Beyond Was All Around Me proceeds very much in this manner; quick moving pop with insistent toe-tapping grooves. It's clear on this album more than any other that Young Man has become far more of unit than simply a platform for Caulfield's musings. Though lauded as a consummate popsmith, the evidence of that was rarely as readily apparently it is now; Ideas of Distance: a collection of slowly bursting emotional reveries that really relished in the things it had to say and Vol. 1 trying to fuse that thought with a faster pace and more memorable, enjoyable hooks. On Beyond Was All Around Me, Caulfield's ponderings become, for better or worse, mostly secondary. Unlike many of Vol. 1's tracks, Caulfield doesn't see the need to repeat a single verse to give it added importance, instead allowing what's truly important to jump out at you. Just look at definite album standout "In Time" with its blustering prog-rock leanings which allows its singular theme to percolate at just the right moment: "I'd like to be a better man in time".

The album doesn't really slow down, not truly anyway, until "Being Alone" with sweeping string ornaments and unobstructed acoustic guitar. It's a much needed opportunity to appreciate what Young Man has offered up in its past releases: lush instrumentation cushioning a strong lyrical prowess. It's a major turning point in what to, up until this point, had been an album relying more on the familiarity of a band that's played together for awhile and really, truly, allowing the lyrics to motivate the action. It's not done in a manner that undoes any of the good work done in the first part but it's clear everything has changed. Songs are slower, the lyrics far more prevalent, and we get more clues as to what Caulfield's trying to leave us with.

While it requires an additional sort of diligence to catch everything that is happening lyrically and frame it in relation to Caulfield's ongoing narrative. It's easy to get so incredibly bogged down with a concept that it doesn't allow the music to really stand on its own but thankfully, Caulfield allows a little opportunity to enjoy the album for what it is: an elegantly crafted collection of pop rock gems elevated by earned moments of poignancy. With Young Man function in a lot of ways as a sort of musical young adult novel, the real twist is how far Colin Caulfield's come with this project. Able to recall the best things about each previous release to better benefit his last, Beyond Was All Around Me sees the return of Ideas of Distances' more diverse instrumentation choices, Vol. 1's cohesive sprawl and more accessible arrangements, but it's more than just cherry-picking things that worked. Caulfield has learned from his own experiences and puts them almost flawlessly into action. The result is a work that's special not only in its intentions but for just how good it manages to come out.

You can stream the album on Rolling Stone. Beyond Was All Around Me is out now and you can buy it via Frenchkiss, on iTunes or most other digital retailers which I strongly recommend because it is excellent.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pitstop: Loud Valley

My discovery of Orlando band Loud Valley came, surprisingly enough, from reading a show bio. It was a strange sort of chance that led to me perusing Day Joy's bio for the Cameo Gallery gig opening for Secret Mountains' record release show despite knowing more or less exactly who they were (I had in fact seen them just the night before). And that perusal led to Loud Valley as I learned they and Day Joy share several members. Of course I was intrigued.

Loud Valley, the brainchild of Travis Reed, is another one of those genre-defying bands Florida seems to be churning out in full force these days. Unlike Day Joy, with whom the band now shares the majority of its members, Loud Valley isn't quite so melancholic; allowing itself brightly lit traverses alongside it's ear-opening, buoyant weaving of textures all while managing to sound rather straightforward. At times recalling sunkissed lounge days and at others giving in to darker tendencies. The band's only record at present, the self-titled full length, hits a rather large number of moods all the more effective due to the album's rather cohesive build up. Tracks seems to spring forth from the end of others; logical progressions from either brighter or darker, more layered moods established before. In fact, Loud Valley ends very much how it starts - a far more jubilant echoing of "Pensacola" on "Daytona Beach".

Actually, Loud Valley shares a lot in common with Lord Huron's Lonesome Dreams; both sharing a rather cinematic western feel (especially "The Refrain") with tracks that seem to conjure up images of wide-open sun-warmed lands. But where Lord Huron spins a rather clear-cut pop feel from his previous experiments, Loud Valley seems wholly content dwelling in less predictably linear territory.

Since the release of its debut, Loud Valley has undergone a couple changes - shedding many of its members and, if the more recent track "Orlando City Blues" is anything to go off of, it's sunnier tendencies. It's not exceptionally dark, but the  noticeably more jammy Loud Valley's track surrenders over the folk-recalling dream pop vibe in favor of a something far more garage rock. Not a particular head-scratching turn when going from Loud Valley's penultimate released track "Ruins". It's a different Loud Valley but one that still manages to make you interested in what's in store. Here's hoping not too long before we find out. Until then, check out more of their tunes via their Bandcamp.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Watch: ARMS - "Comfort" (Le Rascals Naked Session)

If you're anything like me, since the announcement that Brooklyn indie rockers ARMS were following up their brilliant sophomore record Summer Skills with an EP, you've been waiting with bated breath for a proper listen of what's to come. A listen that up until now has mostly only been available through ARMS' incendiary live sets. That's right, recently Todd Goldstein sat down with Le Rascals to played a give a very special acoustic rendition of new EP track "Comfort".

What makes the acoustic version so special is its rarity. Live, Goldstein is quite the showman completely shredding away on his guitar and in this more intimate session you can to see and hear just how complex the new track is with its nearly jaw-dropping flurry of riffs and counter melodies. Goldstein has maintained that he wanted to make the EP's songs less cerebral, less complex than Summer Skills but it's clear to see that even without the intricate layers and swirling textures that Summer Skills dwelled in that there's is absolutely nothing simple about this new track.

Not only is the instrumental work something to write home about but on "Comfort", Goldstein's lyricism remains as arresting as ever. Still adept at popsmithery without oversimplification, the track features some excellent lyrical moments delivering a 1-2 punch at just the right moments of swelling guitar and a poignantly crafted lyric that doesn't necessarily need to be all that highfalutin' to hit is mark. Whether it's the chorus of "I'm not the comfort you need" to the smaller, one-time lyrics they're all deeply affecting. Hard-hitting, heart-clenching, and occasionally smile-inducing, "Comfort" hints at an record worthy of great praise. Here's hoping it's out soon.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Listen: Genders - "Show Me"/"Oakland"

                                                     (photo by Shannon Wolf)
It's a rather exciting time for Portland foursome Genders. Since its three core members departed former band Youth last year, they've had a delightfully surprising amount of forward momentum; releasing an EP a few months ago, playing Treefort Music Festival, and following that shortly after with a two song 7". Yes, it's a pretty good time to be Genders.

On "Show Me", the first of the foursome's new tunes, the bright summery bounce of both "Golden State" and "Sugarcoat" as well as their Youth days (the June EP in particular) returns. It's a pretty sweet poppy confection that floats along on beach rock waves and traverses toned down psychedelic paths. Maggie Morris' vocals are cool and calm as she continues to come into her own as a consummate frontwoman; all charm and pleasant coo. Unlike the sunkissed beach pop of "Show Me", its b-side "Oakland" dwells in those more darkly textured and darker themed lands of "Twin Peaks". It doesn't contain the same level of intensity or urgency as "Twin Peaks" but "Oakland" carries a similar mysterious air, a polar opposite to the a-side but a rather excellent pairing.