Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Listen: Jamaican Queens - "Water"

If you were to take some sort of weird inventory of all the things I've spoken highly about you'll notice a common thread; sure they're all GOOD but they also have an added link of me not really knowing what is happening. That's not bad. My favorite music just happens to be the type that manages to deftly dodge any labels that you try to stick on to it. The latest being Jamaican Queens, borne from the experimental chamber pop remnants of Prussia, the Detroit trio had pretty much shed all of that and chameleoned itself into a different beast entirely. Even going from single to single (we've heard three so far) there's not really a definitive clear concise way to label what it is Jamaican Queens are going for. Which is fine. Instead you have to actual listen to them.

Their latest single "Water", begins with a rather sludgy synth-intensive deluge that gives way for the entrance of Ryan Spencer's vocals. That's the only break you get before layers upon layers are stacked and the waves of poppy synth goodness gather more and more intensity. It's intricate as hell while managing to be utterly engaging and catchy as all hell.

Jamaican Queens are prepping to release their debut full length Wormfood and it'll certainly be an unpredictable and interesting thrill ride. I know I'm looking forward to it. It'll be out March 5th. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Listen: Alessi's Ark - "The Rain"

After releasing a terrific sleeper album in 2011's Time Travel and finally releasing her debut record Notes from the Treehouse for the first time in the US late last year, folk songstress Alessi Laurent-Marke aka Alessi's Ark has certainly had a busy releasing schedule. So much so that the news of another record took me pretty much completely by surprise. And yet, her latest album The Still Life will be out in April. Colorful me excited.

It's hard to tell what first single "The Rain" means for Alessi's direction. She's had non folky sounding songs before and yet "The Rain" takes her dreamy atmospheres and places it with a sort of pop friendly percussion.  In fact all the instruments involved have a far more percussive role while allowing Alessi's vocals to shine through. It's a downright catchy number which balances that catchiness with being interesting. A definite reason for excitement.

Listen to the first single "The Rain" from The Still Life out April 30th in the US and April 16th for those lucky UK folk.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Watch: The Acorn - "Rapids (Mère de les chaudières)" (Herd Mag Session)

I mentioned on my most anticipated albums list that Canadian folk pop band The Acorn were preparing their follow up to 2010's No Ghost and since it's announcement last year, we're finally getting a taste of what we can expect on Vieux Loup. Sort of. In his original announcement The Acorn's Rolf Klausener promised a R&B, dance, and experimental infused album which we don't really see too much of in the new track. It's in progress so maybe it'll be treated a bit differently in studio. Whatever the case this live rendition of "Rapids (Mère de les chaudières) is pretty great and recalls Glory Hope Mountain. My favorite The Acorn album and the one I hope they return to for defining their band sound one day. Until then, Klausener seems content to experiment and the results sound pretty amazing so they're not complaints here.

Enjoy this live rendition of "Rapids" for Herd Magazine:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jherek Bischoff - Composed (2012)

It's hard to imagine I almost missed this record: there might not be record so relevant to all of my interests than Jherek Bischoff's Composed. And yet that was almost the case. I had no idea of its existence until "Eyes" was featured on Sondre Lerche's Best of 2012 Spotify playlist and was reminded to check out the whole album by it's featured spot on We Listen For You's Overlooked Albums of 2012.  

Jherek Bischoff's record certainly boasts an impressive list of players; from legendary heavyweights David Byrne and Caetano Veloso to somewhat newer acts in Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and Mirah Zeitlyn (of Mirah and Thao + Mirah fame) but the featuring of such a talented and eclectic bunch of performers is secondary to Bischoff's own talents. Featuring an enormous orchestral sound, Composed is more of a display of Bischoff's excellent producer talents than anything. Recording friends, collaborators, and co-conspirators separately and layering them to get sound of an orchestra.

Despite it's opening and the rather straightforward David Byrne led "Eyes", Composed is a lot more than clear trodden lines and accessible fanfares. On, "The Secret of the Machines", Bischoff plays with instrument timbres and employs their percussive qualities and drafts fleeting ornaments before allowing everything to unravel noisily into a slightly jarring outro. While dark, languorous "The Nest" plays like an interesting mix of cabaret and gypsy song. With it's rotating cast of players, the album's truest source of cohesiveness comes from Bischoff himself and his artful arrangements to keep things from sounding like too many hands on the jukebox.  

Writing the songs himself on ukulele before expanding them into the orchestral pop majesty you hear at play and shining a spotlight on those who offered to take it, it's rather unsurprising that Bischoff's album escaped widespread notice last year as he seems more than content to work from the sidelines, providing all the tools for an impressive victory while taking so very little of the credit. A humble record bursting not only with talent but a myriad of ideas skillfully employed.

Get a taste of the brilliant record with this sampler from Brassland:

Listen: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down - "Kindness be Conceived" (ft. Joanna Newsom)

Truth be told I haven't listened to a whole lot from Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. My easiest opportunity to rectify that was seeing them live when they opened for a sold out The Head and the Heart at Bowery Ballroom was thwarted by my own planning. Concert-hopping I arrived just in time to see the headliner (the aforementioned The Head and the Heart). Apparently that was a big mistake.

On her new track "Kindness Be Conceived", Thao Nguyen teams up with Joanna Newsom for a rather simple but intensely enjoyable folky ramble. It's harmonies, harmonies, harmonies and it's beautiful in its simplicity. I may not have paid a whole lot of attention to Thao and the Get Down Stay Down before but my interest has certainly been piqued, my attention grabbed. Her new record We the Common is now officially on my list.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down's We the Common is out February 5th.

Listen: Nerves Junior - "Goodnight Nobody"

Like a phoenix Louisville band Nerves Junior rise from their flames of assumed self-destruction and are born anew as a far more polished beast than I could've ever expected. I enjoyed the fuzzy guitar rock of their 2011 debut full length As Bright As Your Night Light but the newly minted quartet's comeback single "Goodnight Nobody" off their upcoming Craters EP is crystal clear treadable pop rock of a rather enjoyable caliber. Nothing is obscured as each member shifts in an out of focus to the tune of an everpresent synthy hum. Nerves Junior's new path  may be more brightly illuminated but even that's not enough to pigeonhole the band.

The pop dolled out here isn't your throwaway, bubblegum variety. Nor is it the pretentious self-serious artiness that's the other extreme. No, instead Nerves Junior return with newfound clarity that hints at sunnier days and good times on the horizon. "Goodnight Nobody" is accessible but not cheaply so. The melody is what's really important here as each bandmember skirts around the edges with helpful embellishments and yet, there's a drive that keeps it from being more than that. There's a rock band at play here. They may not be playing with balls-to-the-wall energy but they're alive and well, precise as hell and smart enough to know when to stay out of the way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Watch: Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers - The Russell Sessions

It's certainly been awhile since we've heard from Michigan folk rockers Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers. If you've been in the Michigan area, there's certainly been no shortage of appearances by the  quintet but for everyone else there's been relative little to for you besides a one-off single the band released last summer. Well now you're in luck. Back in November, The Rainbow Seekers holed up in an industrial building by the name of the Russell Industrial Center and filmed a set of brand spanking new songs completely live. They recorded both videos of the endeavor as well as audio and we get to revel in both as we wait for the eventual follow up to 2011's On Being.

From their very On Being-esque "Your Story" to the sax-infused jazzy baby making vibes of "Feel", Joe Hertler and his band establish two things: 1) That good things come to those who wait. Offering a eclectic set of songs that balance the serious nature of Hertler's introspection a la On Being as well as the fun times the band and vivacious energy the band is known for 2) The band quite simply needs to tour more. It's downright criminal that only the Midwest gets to experience the talented, interconnected of this band. These videos are enough to make us all a little jealous.


"Your Story"


"River Runs Dry"

"Red Wings"

You can download the digital album at their bandcamp here.

Listen: Junip - "Line of Fire"

Has it really been three years since we've heard new sounds from the Swedish folk rock trio Junip? Apparently so. And their latest single "Line of Fire" off their forthcoming sophomore record shows exactly what we've been missing: swaggering drum beats and a sparse but not empty, slow burning canvas for Jose Gonzales' lilting vocals. Junip always has this talent for having busy, bustling songs that sound anything but.

There's no doubt that there's a lot of things happening on "Line of Fire", with string sounds and organ alongside rapidly moving drums and guitar and cresting meandering vocals but somehow, it doesn't quite seem overwhelming. There's space for everything to breath and stretch to the most of it ability. "Line of Fire" is one of those tracks whose intricacies reveal themselves only when you hold them under a magnifying glass.

Otherwise it appears rather simple, a very logical step for a band offering up follow up material; close enough to previous sounds to be familiar while not appearing to be a rehashing of already treaded moments. Proof of a band that knows what it's doing; able to shift focus off their complexity of what it's doing to the utter enjoyment of it.

Listen to Junip's return in "Line of Fire":   

Junip's sophomore record is due out in April.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Listen: Gracie - "Habits"

Yesterday, everyone and their mom sought fit to release a brand new single while I was unable to immediately devour it. One of these such people was Philly-to-New York transplant Gracie with his brand new track "Habits". Did you ever wonder what Gracie, who's responsible for one of my absolute favorites track of 2012 "Creature Pleaser" would sound like if he tackled a ballad? No? Well, it went and happened anyway.

"Habits" is more than your standard ballad coursing with sumptuous beats that trot alongside Andrew Balasia's rough-hewn vocals and simple piano accompaniment until allowed to take center stage at the song's end. The pairing of beats with the emotion-laden vocals doesn't distract however, instead giving the track a much appreciated pulse and a rather sweet, distinctive spin to a standard songwriting trope.

"Habits" proves that Gracie is just as good at crafting heartfelt electro-pop ballads as he is infectious dance-inducing jams. A necessary skill for a diverse and well rounded album. Gracie's Bleeder EP is out March 12th on Small Plates Records. And you can now pre-order a physical 7" single featuring "Creature Pleaser" and "Habits". Do it. You know you want to.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Listen: Friend Roulette - "Golden"

After what seems like ages of Friend Roulette quietly working on special something somethings and proving to be one of the hardest working Brooklyn bands (they played what some could only describe as an utterly ridiculous amount of CMJ shows...), the Brooklyn chamber pop sextet are just about ready to drop their debut full length record. Scoring a premiere on USA Today, it's hard not to be thrilled for the not so little band that definitely will as they drop its first real single from the upcoming I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head.

Golden, a svelte lullaby tucked in layers of cozy harmonies, marks one of the Friend Roulette's more linear songwriting efforts. Trading in their characteristic quirk and intensely fun production ideas for a shimmer ballad filled with nature-imagery that both highlights Julia Tepper's vocals as well as features Friend Roulette for what they do so well: providing an insanely involved driving accompaniment that doesn't distract from the lyrics but highlights and accentuates its curves and subtly changing shapes.  Ballads can easily become throwaway fair especially if you're not particularly in the mood to be serenaded in any particular instance but with "Golden", Friend Roulette make sure you're engaged stocking what would already be a lovely vocal showcasing track with swoops and bends and a sort of relaxed big-beat attack that oddly enough inspires foot-tapping. It's an interesting gambit but if there's one thing we've learned from Friend Roulette it's that they have gobs of interesting left to spare.

Friend Roulette's debut full length I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head is out in April on Goodnight Records.

Friday, January 11, 2013

All Around Sound's Most Anticipated Albums of 2013 Playlist

It's a whole new year which means a whole new release calendar to look forward to! A handful of bands have recently started unearthing album details and waking up each day to a new announcement is the bee's knees. It's still rather early in the year meaning more are sure to roll in as well as more details and previews but until then these are the releases I'm most juiced for based not on mere speculation but an announcement of some kind. Because if it was based on who I thought was releasing an album this year, this playlist would be hours long.

The Acorn 
This year will see the end of Canadian band The Acorn's hibernation. Brought to my attention a mere couple months ago by my friend Corey it was the perfect time to get into them it seems. Without having to wait the three years since the release of No Ghost while also having enough time to explore their discography, I'm excited at what the new album Vieux Loup will sound like. No release date at present but a working title is a step in the right direction. Here's hoping more details are on the horizon.

If you've been to any of their shows, this won't come as particularly shocking news to you but if you haven't, you might want to brace yourself. Maybe take a seat. After 2011's incredible underrated and criminally ignored sophomore record Summer Skills, ARMS are releasing an EP. When? The verdict is soon and for all intents and purposes it could drop any day now but a release is nigh. Any live show attendees might have heard a track or two or three or four from the upcoming five-song EP and well, I'm be straight with you: They're pretty damn great. Capturing the dramatic literary lyricism that drew me to them to the first place and pairing it with some absolutely astounding musical moment of the powerpop persuasion, I couldn't speak more highly of the forthcoming EP if I tried. And I haven't even heard it yet. But based off the 3 or 4 songs I've been lucky enough to hear, I'm willing to stake my reputation of it being one of the best releases slated for release this year. Get ready because you might never love another band more ever again. Until we can hear anything from it, here's the last song ARMS dropped - a self-remix of the title track from their sophomore record Summer Skills:

One of my favorite new music discoveries last year was Texan turned native New Yorker Brazos aka singer/songwriter Martin Crane. His lyrics were poetic, his music full, ear-catching, and downright rocking. The strength of the introductory concert was enough to have me kicking myself for not having discovered Crane and his band all that much sooner. And yet with the release of his sophomore follow up to 2009's Phosphorescent Blues on the horizon for this year, maybe it's a good thing I didn't? I couldn't imagine being a long time fan that long having to wait nearly 4 years for new music. For those holding out that long, you have my most heartfelt sympathies. According to all the rave reviews I heard from those lucky enough to have it in their ears, the new record should be well worth the wait and makes me all that more anxious to get it in my own.

The Cave Singers 
When I say that Seattle's folk rock trio The Cave Singers were one of the best opening bands I have ever seen, I hope you don't immediately accuse me of hyperbole. Opening for Fleet Foxes back in 2011, they were a very special kind of opening band. I had heard whispers of their existence before then sure but nothing cemented my interest in them as much as seeing them rock out live. To say that I've been biding my time until they saw fit to return isn't an exaggeration. I have been and I assume when they return their set will be just as fun if not more so than what I experienced. Maybe then I can right the wrongs of a whole sold out seated venue full of people refusing to get up and dance to "Black Leaf" when asked. Maybe.

Friend Roulette 
They may have retired one of my favorite songs in their catalog indefinitely (I'm talking about the Friend Roulette EP's "Sailing Song" by the way) but the songs they've replaced it with are too incredible for me to get sore. The quirky Brooklyn chamber pop sextet has talent bubbling out it's pores and each song they write is pretty darn original and that's cause for excitement. This year, their debut full length I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head should get out of development hell and then the band can get all the praise and accolades they deserve. Seriously. For all the scores of Brooklyn bands there's few with as much originality and vision and passion as Friend Roulette. From Casablanca recalling "Or Berlin" to R&B-esque "Lie", Friend Roulette seem willing to try anything and that versatility and openness is sure to benefit them in the long run.

In case you couldn't tell due to my incessant posting about them but I really like Guards. They take what so many bands are trying to do in the nostalgia-fueled rock vein and do so in a way that leaves very little yo be desired. It's almost impossible to explain what makes Guards work so well. Each tune we see from their upcoming debut In Guards We Trust just establishes what we already knew and why we so desperately wanted an album from the New York based trio: they're a damn good band. They manage to be both pleasant and intricate and jammy and simple without falling prey to any of the negative tendencies those involving while giving listeners and fans what they want while not being predictable about it. Guards are kind of an enigma, really but they're a rather friendly, pop song crafting one and that works just fine.

Little Tybee 
It was supposed to come out last year but due to a series of remarkably unfortunate events and the band deciding to take some extra time to make sure it was really offering up gold star material 2013 is the year of Little Tybee's For Distant Viewing. Rather nervous when they announced the album's release right after Humorous to Bees came out in 2011, I'm a little glad they took time to prioritize a stellar release over just another release in general. Especially considering the break between albums is crucial for not burning yoursef out. The few tracks we've been treated to are certainly strong enough but that extra bit of care will undoubtedly result in a far more album than anyone could possibly imagine. I'm rightfully pumped as should you be.
Little Tybee - Mind Grenade from LaundroMatinee on Vimeo.

Local Natives
I didn't really realize how much I missed Local Natives until the emerged triumphant from their latest bout of album recording. I've been a bit careless with my love for Local Natives, I'll confess. Never pouncing on opportunities to see them when I should and as the band seems poised to rocket up to bigger and bigger things, I might've missed my chance. At least without having to hardcore duke it out for my place in the Local Natives lovefest that's sure to follow after the release of their sophomore record Hummingbird. Why? After a remarkable debut, their next offering seems to be (as far as the two singles we've heard thus far will attest to) far better. Which is saying something. It's an album that's on everyone's must-have list and for good reason.

Pattern is Movement 
I'm rather late to Pattern is Movement party but better than never I say. Thanks to a sound guy at Cameo Gallery I heard and fell in love with the incredible All Together and so the news that Pattern is Movement are about to put out a new album this year is simply the best new. No idea when it'll be other than soon or what it'll be because a band like Pattern is Movement is rarely to do the same thing twice, I'm full of excitement just thinking about all the things that could be. Until details emerge this is one thing you can do to find out what you're in for: go see Pattern is Movement live. They're playing a handful of shows and have promised to play some new songs then.

Secret Mountains
A couple years of plying their trade, two EPs and one cassette of new, original material later, Baltimore psychedelic rock outfit Secret Mountains are just about ready to put their debut full length out into the world. It should be cause for excitement. Though a pretty great band from the get-go, Rainer sees Secret Mountains truly coming into their own - exploring emotional depths not yet plumped, tightening up their band sound, and making their jams that much more undeniable. If there's any justice in the world, 2013 will be a big year for Secret Mountains. The progress and sheer strength of their debut makes anything else absolutely unfair. Rainer will be out February 26th on Friends Records.

After what seemed like a whole year of talking it up, it's finally 2013 and Typhoon's follow up to Hunger and Thirst and A New Kind of House EP is so close you can almost hear it. Actually a couple months ago, the Portland folk orchestra gave us a taste of what to expect from White Lighter with single "Common Sentiments" and while no details have really emerged since then, it's really only a matter of time. And then the massive sensemble will tour and all will be as it should until they disappear to record a new album. Luckily we have some time with them before that's even an option.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme
The music of English multi-instrumentalist Rob Jones is a bit of conundrum. Reading about it or even seeing it, it's a process that's shocking creative and far more complex than it's sound will have you believe. Jones crafts music very much like those of the most radical experimentalists - relying far more heavily on the precise combination of sounds and a deft hand at detail than what you'd think necessary and yet that's all part of the appeal. For the complexity and innovative forethought Jones' process possess, the sound is clear, simple, and most importantly, enjoyable. It's a sound steeped in those of old despite Jones' very current approach. The third album from The Voluntary Butler Scheme A Million Ways to Make Gold seems (at least from its first single) to be a return to form from the futuristic leaning The Grandad Galaxy but rather than be some sort of backpedal just highlights Jones' ability to create smooth, svelte pop from an arduously complex process.

It's the moment I've been waiting for ever since the Toronto rockers released their debut album Strike Hard, Young Diamond. Wildlife have been hard at work on their sophomore record spiriting away to a cabin to work on songs before splitting their time between Brooklyn and Connecticut to record the thing. Meanwhile they've been keeping us informed on all the update taking wacky pictures, writing blogs, and giving hints at what to come without actually giving us anything substantial to go off of. Not yet anyway. But yesterday  the Canadian quintet revealed the title and cover art for their upcoming record ...On The Heart and I am pumped. The album will be out in the world February 26th and words don't exist to describe my excitement.

Young Dreams
After three absolutely incredible singles, the debut full length Norwegian orchestral pop collective Young Dreams is almost within reach. We've heard the grandiose gladiator-themed first single "Fog of War" and we can probably something equally as majestic, as musical, as excellent of Between Places. What's more the good news is their new album might actually bring the band stateside and that's the only thing I want right now. Between Places will be out March 5th in the states on Modular Recordings.

Young Man 
I know what you're thinking: didn't Young Man just release a new album a couple months ago? Yes, yes they did. And piggybacking an album release right on the heels of an album release is normally very very risky for fear of the songs not being as developed as they should be but if there's anyone that could put out teo amazing albums close together it's most likely Colin Caulfield. He's got such a thoughtful way with words and songwriting that you just know he took time to let the songs gestate naturally. I have complete and utter faith in Young Man that their new record Beyond Was All Around Me out April 9th is going to be super. No word yet on what it'll actually sound like but any news is good news in this case. Due to the lack of a single, I'll just post a track from Young Man's brilliant Vol. 1.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Listen: Guards - "Ready to Go"

After the summery jangle of "Silver Lining" and midtempo rouser "Coming True", it's about time for a something a bit more down tempo, no? Whether or not you agree that's what New York retro rock trio Guards are dishing out. "Ready to Go", the latest from their upcoming debut full length In Guards We Trust, is a walking tempo jam with Richie Follin crooning and harmonic shout vocals. Things might slow down a little but the band's still tight and interlocked as eve. It's a nice change of pace and proves Guards are versatile players that a more than capable of keeping you engaged regardless of tempo.

Listen to the third single from the full length "Ready to Go":

And in case you missed it, you can watch this awesome and kind of creepy album teaser for In Guards We Trust featuring "Nightmare":

Guards' debut full length In Guards We Trust is out February 5th.

Listen: Secret Mountains - "Coasting"

After a three song preview cassette, a successful Kickstarter campaign, and quite a bit of teasing Baltimore psych-rockers Secret Mountains debut full length Rainer is almost upon us.  What's more, yesterday over at Disco Naivete, a brand new single was premiered from the Baltimore sextet and simply put, it's incredible. 

"Coasting" follows in the more immediate, more insistent footsteps of Winter Sessions songs like "Make Love Stay" or "Golden Blue" while still maintaining it's own place in Secret Mountains catalog of jams. It's a dark, surging track crackling with a mighty intensity and an almost ferocious gait as guitar riffs amble in and out of focus and Kelly Laughlin takes the helm of the fast-paced dirge. There's a heightened sense of drama as the track plods forward that it could very well be the stuff of action movie soundtracks. Instead it's the latest in a collection of bristling, intricate jams that Secret Mountains have seemingly perfected. The perfect track to get you righteously pumped for Secret Mountains debut. 

Listen to "Coasting" now:

Secret Mountains' debut full length Rainer is out February 26th on Friends Records. Pre-orders are available here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Watch: Young Dreams - Fog of War (Modular Session)

If you're anything like me, you dream about being able to see Norway orchestral pop maestros Young Dreams live. Since being tipped off their existence by Sondre Lerche's Best of 2011 Spotify playlist, I've been following the young band pretty closely hoping upon hope that they'd be some sort of announcement that they're leaving the comforts of Norway and Europe for a good old fashioned US tour. No news on that front yet but with their debut full length Between Places about to drop and a good friend in Sondre Lerche, it's highly possible that might be a good thing they have on the horizon. Or at least I'm certainly hoping so.

Until the day when I can see them without having to skip the continent, videos like these will always be a treat. Shot on a rooftop in Berlin, you get to see the core six members of Young Dreams rocking out to "Fog of War". The video is in this cool, panning circle that shows each member at a specific point in time so you can see just what they contribute to the whole. In case you were curious just how many instruments were at play on the most basic level of Young Dreams you have your answer. This and other videos like this just might tide me over until Young Dreams arrive on US shores. Maybe. Either way it's a pretty incredible live video of a pretty incredible live band. Check it out:

Young Dreams' Between Places will be out March 5th in the US on Modular Recordings.

Listen: Wildlife - "Born to Ruin"

After what seems like ages of the Toronto rock fivesome Wildlife hinting at their new album dropping, this is the week everything's taking shape. Revealing their cover art and track name (albeit a bit subtly) a day ago, we finally get to hear what the lads have been up to for the past year. From lakeside cabins to seaside towns, Wildlife have been hard at work making sure their latest effort stacked up against their incendiary debut.

"Born to Ruin" is a pretty natural evolution for Wildlife. Percussive and heavy, the track pulls the balls to the wall energy the band is known for in their most ripping of tracks and live sets and instead proceeds at somewhat less intimidating level of intensity. Instead the track shuffles along with a gentler head bobbing, toe-tapping pace that allows for a far more engaging listening experience. The band's always done a great job of playing together but at the slower pace, it's far easier to make out the various parts at work and really enjoy the grand moments of music making as the occur. Wildlife's always had a rather anthemic leaning output and "Born to Ruin" is no exception. It's virtually impossible for me to be more excited for Wildlife's sophomore record ...On the Heart than I already but "Born to Ruin" is great enough to almost make me second guess that excitement. Thank heavens it's release is little more than a month away.

Get a taste of Wildlife's plodding rock scorcher "Born to Ruin":

Wildlife's sophomore effort ...On the Heart is out February 26h on Wax Records.

Listen: Telekinesis - "Ghosts and Creatures"

Stop the presses, hold on to your loved ones for dear life, and get ready to squeal in utter joy and delight. Singer/songwriter/drummer Michael Benjamin Lerner aka Telekinesis is releasing a new album. And letting the squealing commence. If you've followed him on Twitter this wouldn't exactly come as a shock to you as he's spent more time forwarding on updates of an album in the works but it's still rather great news. Especially because we get to hear it. Also details are with it. No nebulous "soon". Telekinesis' new album Domarion will be out April 2nd on Merge and that is cause for celebration. What's more, our preview of the album is pretty choice. There's definitely some extra production at play but all's fair in love, war, and pop right? I'm excited for more powerpop from Seattle's most loveable hipster.

One of my favorite things about Telekinesis is each record manages to sound different without actually trying all that hard to make it so. Or not obviously anyway. "Ghosts and Creatures" benefits from the extra touch of producer and Spoon drummer Jim Eno and relies more on fuzzy synth textures than anything else. Lerner's percussion prevails sure but it pulses underneath all sorts of arcing synth sounds and they crackle and fizz around Lerner's ever-emotive vocals.

Telekinesis' third studio album Domarion is out April 2nd on Merge Records.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Listen: Night Beds - "Ramona"

Fans of emotion-stirring ear-catching folk rock rejoice. Nashville based songwriter Winston Yellen aka Night Beds is releasing a full length album. What's more if you liked "Even If We Try" but wondered if Night Beds was capable of doing something a bit more fast-paced, you're in luck. New single "Ramona" continues the atmospheric listless vibe achieved on last year's single and the Every Fire, Every Joy EP while speeding it up a little. Also Yellen has a full band backing him up which fills out the sound nicely and makes his rich emotive vocals all the more distinct, easily floating to the surface through the hustle and bustle of the band at play. There's a slight bit of twangy guitar action that both recalls his new Nashville home and album title - Country Sleep.

The strength of the two singles alone is enough to make me want the album and want it bad. Thankfully we don't have too long to wait as Night Bed's Country Sleep will be out February 5th on Dead Oceans.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

All Around Sound's Favorite Albums of 2012

As mentioned in my favorite tracks year-end round up, 2012 function more so as the year of the single than anything else and more so this year than any other in recent memory. While one or two tracks were pretty spectacular on their own, throw together with a group of like-minded (or not in some cases) tracks saw them floundering for life, attempting to plug up the holes of sinking ships of hastily recorded follow ups or unmethodical debuts.That said, the year was not without it's fair share of brilliant music moments - albums that not only delivered on the potential of their singles but exceeded them by leaps and bounds. Here are, in no particular order, some of the exemplary records that really took the idea of an full length record to heart. Enjoy!

SoftSpot - Enzo
A relatively recent addition to my list of almost obsessively listened to albums, SoftSpot's premiere full length Enzo gets it's name from the Japanese word for "circle" and delivers as much; the album flowing from track to track with unceasing undulating energy. A listen to Enzo, it's not hard to see why it belongs on here: Sarah Kinlaw's vocals are hypnotic, the band not relegated to merely background players. SoftSpot reach an exceptional balance between balls to the wall frenetic jams and organic unfurling introspectives. There's no clear divide between them either as a track metamorphoses into the other almost without warning but not jarringly so. Everything on Enzo seems natural, seems right with no undue kinetic energy explled as SoftSpot demonstrate their prowess as band of patience willing to ride out the mounting waves of their own composition and benefiting greatly from it.

Bro. Stephen - Baptist Girls
If there's anything I've learned from Mad Men (besides how to drink copious amounts of booze, chainsmoke, and commit adultery like an Olympic champion) it's this: Nostalgia is America's chief good. Case it point: Bro. Stephen's nostalgic reveries are simply too good not to enjoy. It's intimate, heart-felt, and more so about beautifully crafted moments that make your heart bang or flutter than anything else. Scott Kirkpatrick is certainly gifted as a singer and a songwriter, of that there's is no question, but what really makes Baptist Girls is how each individual part of it's construction: from the precious melodies, the subtle creak of wood, to Kirkpatrick's beguiling sincerity, it's how they all congeal together to create these moments similar to yours, similar to anyone's that you can relate to. That are so beautifully simple, they make you nod while maybe you tear up a little. Baptist Girls is more than just a collection of songs, its a series of moments lovingly arranged like a family photo album.

Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion 
While it never really pays to cut down another artist in other to praise another artist, damn if only some of that residual buzz from the Alabama Shakes had fallen on Canada's Cold Specks. Her voice crowning the stormy, weathered soul of her own make. Dark atmospheric pieces with brilliant, triumphant moments I Predict A Graceful Expulsion is a quiet, delicate beauty of an album and entirely deserving of as many eager ears as possible. The fact that it hasn't might be the greatest slight of the year. She doesn't have a big band behind her gospel-inspired take on the singer/songwriter idiom but Al Spx's voice is as sagely, pained, and most important of all sincere as a modern soul singers could be. That's not a dig at anybody, Spx just provides a clean, non-showy alternative to what can sometimes become a flashy, spectacle.  

Jessie Baylin - Little Spark 
Layered with sweet Bacharachian sweeps and Dusty Springfield's classy sensuality, Jessie Baylin's sophomore record is one steeped in past influences but instead of playing like a jukebox album, Baylin utilizes her adoration of  60s/70s pop to convey her own troubles which are not all that different from theirs. At times fun and infectious, others serious and heartfelt, Jessie Baylin's Little Spark is a pop album that thoroughly benefits from knowing its history. The Brill Building lushness and orchestral flourishes provide an insatiable base for Baylin's flavorful additions. It's guilt-free pop you'd wish could set some sort of standard. Not only wearing your influences on your sleeve but using them merely to enhance instead of dominate what you're already skilled in. 

Laura Gibson - La Grande 
With more than a handful of releases underneath her belt, La Grande is Laura Gibson's most accomplished. Seeking solace in a rather old-timey sound, La Grande manages to avoid hokey-ness aided completely by her minimalistic approach to songwriting where she says just enough to have every word resonate with purpose while never quite being contrived about it. Each song belongs, each verse and phrase important. Gibson always been a gifted, poetic lyricist but when aided with the rather creative western-y lo-fi leaning sound on La Grande, the whole takes on a very classic feel. 

Lord Huron - Lonesome Dreams 
A work of unmitigated patience, forethought, and effort, Lord Huron's debut full length Lonesome Dreams could be called a concept album of sorts. While western-tinged instead of the world-inspired sound of their previous EPs, the album fits rather excellently into the Lord Huron canon. Despite the fact that the PR campaign seemed filled with painstakingly thought of detail (a website for the fake author of the novels of which Lonesome Dreams is based on being one of them), Lonesome Dreams is an album that doesn't get bogged down with all that when put into actual practice. The details function more as behind the scenes notes dictating where the story will go without seeing exhaustingly recalled. Lord Huron have a talent for simple-seeming but complexly layered chamber pop and they don't disappoint here. Their sound as full and evenhanded on their sepia-colored opus as any of the more electronic leanings of Ben Schneider's creation, Lonesome Dreams is another stellar example of what a concept album can be: easily to listen to without foreknowledge, enjoyable all around, and tremendously rewarding if you do happen to get it. While I'm sure we've yet to get the full brunt of Lord Huron's innovation, Lonesome Dreams is a particularly wonderful start.  

Daughn Gibson - All Hell 
If you had explained Daughn Gibson to me before playing it for me, I probably would've avoided it like the plague. Electronic/Country hybrid? That sounds relevant to exactly none of my interests. Thankfully no one told me what to expect from Daughn Gibson and I got the pleasant surprise of a wonderful album of unexpected twists and turns and a surprising amount of emotional resonance for such a sample-laden release.    It's rather easy to be dissuaded from an album that feature stories about people appearing on Cops and yet Gibson with his commanding presence, deep booming baritone, and adventurous charm make the album a completely worthwhile endeavor. A rather impressive effort and much appreciate burst of new and interesting in two genres where sameness is commonplace.

Hospitality - Hospitality 
From the angular melodies to the band's tight knit padding for Amber Papini's smart lyrics about city life, post-college, and all sorts of old young people concerns, Hospitality is catchy jangle pop done right. Papini has a real knack for pop hooks that don't quite feel like pop hooks and the band perfectly balances hanging back to give Papini the room her feathery vocals need to alight while making their own presence known and heard. A far different version from the syrupy chamber pop of their EP days, Hospitality provides an excellent base for the band to build upon. An album that proves Hospitality are ones to watch and enjoyable ones at that.

Conveyor - Conveyor
If there was a more vibrant, colorful album released all year, no one certainly told me. Conveyor's self-titled debut is an auditory sunburst, channeling sunny days and unrepressed happiness while building on the group's  minimalistic experimental pop we saw at work on their Sun Ray EP. Quirky but not goofy, Conveyor create exuberant smile-inducing moments of sheer aural bliss while never casting any doubt on their talents as legitimate musicians. Conveyor is a slowly-evolving but always engaging pitch-perfect adventure where every route is the scenic one and every path worth taking. A charming whole filled with tasty, interesting parts.

You Won't - Skeptic Goodbye
Sometimes making truly special folk pop let alone music isn't to try and turn the whole world upside down. It's possible to be creative without necessarily redefining a whole genre of music. Sure, those are what everyone's usually looking for but every once in awhile you stumble upon a record like Skeptic Goodbye from the Massachusetts duo You Won't. It's charming beyond words, fully demonstrative of the twosomes talents, a brilliant collection of songs that works together, but any deviation from pre-established norms is subtle. No look at me attention-grabbing antic here. Josh Arnoudse is a gifted lyricist with the kind of voice that gently commands attention not pleading for it and Raky Sastri is a skilled instrumentalist and well as producer. Their songs are either catchy as all get out or just too good not to want to listen to again and really that's what any good musician to strive for. Skeptic Goodbye is a great smattering of folk pop some with rather anthemic leanings.  

Will Stratton - Post-Empire 
Singer/songwriter Will Stratton is an musician who really gets it. Having great lyrics (which he certainly has in spades) is not all it takes to write a good song. Stratton's approach to songwriting pairs all of his various talents to work to create incredible music moments and excellent mood-changes. In fact, Post-Empire starts with about 2.5 minute orchestral intro before the entrance of the more folk-friendly guitar, a full three before Stratton's first verse is even uttered. This reverence for the actual extra elements of a song is something you'd wish more people cherished, more people employed. Maybe not in such a grand fashion but when an album takes it's time beginning, you know it's going to be a worthwhile listen. In addition to lovely arrangements, Stratton's fingerstyle guitar paired with his rolling, ambling melodies makes for a pretty incredible all-around immersive experience. Post-Empire is the kind of album you can put on and just sit and marvel at the level of musicianship contained within. 

Daniel Rossen - Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP 
Most people refrain from putting EPs on an albums list. I'm not most people. Especially not when you have a record like Daniel Rossen's Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP. On his first true solo outing, Rossen expounds upon the epic arrangements of Department of Eagles and Grizzly Bear with his own solid voice resulting in five songs that are simply spectacular. Astonishingly poetic turns of phrase that stick with you are paired with larger than life instrumentals that seem to grow larger and more layered with each subsequent listen. Topped off with intensely emotive vocals, the EP is a testament to Rossen's own talents and why others are so lucky to have him a collaborating. A beautiful stirring collection of songs that almost weren't. Thank heavens they were.

Efterklang - Piramida
With three fantastic albums under their belt, there was no doubt in anyone's minds as to Danish trio Efterklang's awesomeness or artistic integrity. Then in a move that couldn't possibly be foreseen, the Danes had the wacky idea to go to an abandoned Russian coal-mining settlement in the far north of Norway where they recorded all sorts of sounds that formed the framework for their brilliant, brilliant fourth studio album Piramida. On it, they combine the accessibility of Magic Chairs with the dreamy, atmospheric air of their orchestral-leaning albums. Piramida is a work of incredible artistic ambition proving Efterklang as master craftsmen and truly creatively leaders. Employing women's choirs and orchestras, Efterklang reach a level of collaboration most can only dream of.

Kishi Bashi - 151a 
With a real sense of overarching themes and a cinematic scope, Kishi Bashi's debut is certainly an impressive one. Especially considering the pit of doubters waiting in the wings to compare him to other violin/loop pedal users Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett. While learning from his predecessors, K. manages to offer up a singular, unique voice. Japanese vocalizations are welcome treat from the "oh" and "ah"'s you find in standard pop music while K.'s psychedelic deviations add a distinctive coloring to what would already be an applause-worthy effort to create a debut so strong it has to be heard to be believed. 151a is an amazingly adventurous debut brimming with talent and life.

Lands & Peoples - Pop Guilt 
Though by no means a proper representation of the brilliant new direction the Baltimore lads have taken since losing some of their members, Pop Guilt is a snapshot of the band in their youth and in it you can trace elements for their rugged experimentalism. That said Pop Guilt is a great album in its own right featuring bustling pop choruses, dynamic textural play, and some rather incredible vocal chops in Caleb Moore and Beau Cole. And yet as pleasant and arresting as the vocals can (and are allowed) to be, Lands & Peoples music isn't nor has it ever been a platform for them. Lands & Peoples make great use of textures and layers, using vocals to add more dimension, more depth to their already seemingly fathomless experimental pop ditties.

Port St. Willow - Holiday 
After my discovery of The Antlers' Hospice, I really wasn't looking for a record like that again. A record that would utterly destroy all my emotional barriers and make me absolutely fatigued from just feeling so much but here we are. While not quite as devasting, Holiday certainly falls into the same category of mood music that is simply too beautiful for words. Each and every listen results is a cathartic release and never do you grow numb to Nick Principe's raw, emotion-shredding work. In musical landscape dominated by senseless, vapid music without real meaning, it's a treat to get something this precious, this heartfelt, this real. Principe places himself completely out in the open and the result is an album of absolute elegance and finely crafted pathos.

Levek - Look A Little Closer 
In addition to being a veritable grab-bag of 70s musical styles, Look A Little Closer builds upon the somewhat cartoon-y vibe of Levek's demos with some pretty solid jams. It also happens to function doubly as a sort of emotional catharsis for Levek mastermind David Levesque while avoiding relying too heavily on that to function. In fact, without that little tidbit of information, it's still entirely possible to enjoy Look A Little Closer without feeling like you're missing something; some crucial piece to the puzzle. Instead the album slopes gently into a multitude of jam-laden 70s psychedelic subgenres while not sounding like it's trying too hard to do so. Levek for all intents and purposes casually eludes any notion of genre seeking the far more rewarding option of simple good music.

Young Man - Vol. 1
As under-represented as female songwriters/arts/bands seem to be in the music industry sometimes it seems like they have the most interesting stories to tell. The most clever spins on their tragic love lives, the most affecting vocals. I wasn't actively looking for an exception to that, for someone to describe the trials and tribulations of manhood when I found Colin Caulfield aka Young Man. In a series detailing his rite of passage into manhood, Vol. 1 isn't even the full scope of the Caulfield's experiences. And yet, it does so so articulately, so universally, so accessibly while sounds so personal that Vol. 1 quickly became a favorite. It's a male songwriter singing about something actually important that isn't your standard heartbreak tale or love song. Wrapping up his sagely observations in smart-pop dressings, Vol. 1 isn't just an album that appeals to young men or even older men. It's got a broad appeal while tackling a subject few explore that actually matters.  It's a well-rounded effort equally displaying Colin Caulfield's intelligent songwriting chops while also showcasing the talents of his collaborators and dressing them up nicely in solely beneficial arrangements.

Bowerbirds - The Clearing 
There comes a time in every band's career when they seek to change some form of what they've been doing either for better or worse. For Bowerbirds, they expanded upon their pastoral reveries by reaching a higher level of universal resonance than ever before. Transforming from mild-mannered folk band to high-minded art rock band, The Clearing in a lot of ways shines a light on where Bowerbirds have been and where they are going. Their third album, the album gives little hints about their roots while detailing their lives together in their trademark nature-laden imagery and artful use of metaphor. And while employing far bigger experimentations to their sound, they also apply it at a smaller level giving resident power harmony gal Beth Tacular her lead debuts in "Hush" and "In the Yard", the result is simply amazing. Beth, Phil Moore, and the rest of the talented crew of musicians are in rare form on The Clearing and create an album that both appeals to the long-standing Bowerbirds fan while also shaking things up to keep things interesting and grab some new ears.  Bowerbirds have always been masters of subtle emotion-stirring moments and the certainly don't disappoint as each lyric, each phrase, each musical flourish pulls at the heart-strings, brings a smile to your lips, or just lets you bask in the glory of a truly good band that knows what it's doing.

Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters 
In a musical climate where things sound more than a little similar and overdone, a band like Hundred Waters is a much needed breath of fresh air. One of my favorite things about the band is the utterly unclassifiable nature of their music. Owing equal parts of their composition to electronics and the ethereal sensuality of Nicole Miglis vocals, the band are rather unlike anything I'd heard before in the best way possible. Imaginative, creative, and expansive, Hundred Waters' debut album plays like an absolute dream - consuming you fully from start to finish with it's mesmerizing textural play. Hundred Waters are a band of artists in a completely nonpretentious sense creating enthralling, intriguing multi-layered masterpieces that don't beat you over the head with how art-y they are. Instead Hundred Waters offer up works of beguiling beauty that all fit together spectacularly in the grand scheme of their album. Their album is downright cosmic - raising perceptions about what art music can be while remaining accessibly so. Their palette of sounds are otherworldly and grand - the soundtrack to epic adventures or grandiose happenings while remaining subtle enough to operate on a smaller level. An absolute behemoth of talent and dazzling display of non-grandstanding musicianship.  

Honorable Mentions:
River Whyless - A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door

Lucius - Lucius EP

Black Girls - Hell Dragon

Daniel Hart - The Orientalist (rerelease)

Watch: Marching Band - "And I've Never Seen"

The year is 2008 and Swedish duo Marching Band have their song "Trust Your Stomach" featured in the movie Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I fall in instantaneous love. They release two abums of pleasant tuneful indiepop which I do a terrible job of covering. Until now.

Yesterday the Swedes released a brand spanking new video for the song "And I've Never Seen" off their forthcoming And I've Never Seen Anything Like That EP. The tune is mellow jangle pop that slowly picks up speed, gathering up a series of instruments (like drums and glockenspiel). The video is as simple as video can be too. Featuring Swing dancing troupe the Harlem Hot Shots, it starts with each member making their way to an empty restaurant and engaging in a solo dance off before turning into an out and out dance party. Simple but fun video for a simple but fun song.

Marching Band's And I've Never Seen Anything Like That EP is out January 15th.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Watch: Efterklang - "Sedna"

Consummate artists in their own right, Danish trio Efterklang always make sure to spread the love and enlist and varying set of talented, interesting artists to collaborate with. For their video for "Sedna", the third track off their fourth full length album Piramida, Casper Clausen' supple baritone and craning falsetto, Rasmus Stolberg's sumptuous bass lines, and Mads Brauer's ethereal synths are paired with footage of Croatian youths captured by Brussel based photographer Hana Miletec. Brooding teens and a slow-burning understated rock ballad come together to make an incredible pairing.

Watch Efterklang's video for "Sedna":

Listen: Daniel Hart - "Bigger Cities, Thicker Doors"

It's the New Year! So out with the old, in with the new, right? Not quite! Seems like there's still a plethora of goodies from 2012 to discover. One of them being this new track from violinist/multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart. 2012 saw the re-release of The Orientalist, Hart's first true solo record and a summation of Hart's earlier experiences in India. After its release, Daniel Hart apparently released "O Sangeeta" as a single and paired it along with this new track.

Simply put, the track is a knockout. After a St. Vincent-esque melody, his first verse hits and hits hard: "Humility comes down hard like a heavy rain, like a thunderstorm", Hart isn't pulling any punches and after a tiny bit of soft plodding and steadily gaining momentum, the track grows into a sweltering rock jam. Light touches of violin gymnastics before the ground opens up into a majestic sprawling expanse of driving bass riffs and cymbal smashes, "Bigger Cities, Thicker Doors" could've very well been The Orientalist's closing number equal parts cacophonous finale and dynamic tension release. But the fact that it's not only hints at Hart's songwriting growth as he aims higher and plumps deeper emotional depths without needing an album worth of lead in. I'm excited to see what else Daniel Hart has in store. If "Bigger Cities, Thicker Doors" is any indication it's sure to be good.