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.