Friday, June 28, 2013

Listen: The Dodos - "Substance"

A couple weeks ago we got our first taste of The Dodos' fourth studio album Carrier with "Confidence", which marked a sort of revitalized return for the band as well as an exploration of different guitar tones. "Substance" is in an odd way, a callback to Time to Die in so far as it adds another layer to the band's technical pop clatter.

Despite it being the more emotive of the two tracks we've been expose to, it's far more bustling. "Confidence" slowly plodded before erupting into an incendiary climax. "Substance" maintains the rather high energy all throughout; adding brass stabs for emphasis at its climax instead.

Considering the strength of both tracks, there's really no doubt that Carrier will be great. Until it's release in two months, we have two very great tracks to keep us company.

The Dodos' Carrier is out August 27th on Polyvinyl.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Watch: Daughter - "Youth"

When I learned that Daughter had released a music video for "Youth", my mind was instantly imagining the possible scenarios they would've gone with for a video. It didn't at all occur to me that the route Daughter would go would be one as simple, minimalistic, and beautiful as the song itself.

Directed by The Mitcham Submarine, the video for "Youth" is really just a performance of the song by the band. That might sound boring in theory but it's artfully done. Filmed on a large black stage with spotlights illuminating the band members, it's gorgeous. The positions of the band members will change, subtly, as the focus moves to a rather important part they play but mostly, it's just varying shots of the band playing "Youth" in its entirety.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Watch: Another Hell featuring Daughn Gibson

A couple months back, a half year ago in fact, a photo went up on Daughn Gibson's Facebook. "On the set of All Hell video, Frazier, CA" it said. Since then I've been anticipating a music video particularly because if we've learned anything from Daughn Gibson's incredible debut, he's not the sort of man who does what you expect.

True to form, the video for All Hell isn't just your standard music video. No, instead it's a 6 minute short film inspired by All Hell and conceptualized by director Sam Farahmand. A fan of Daughn Gibson's music, Farahmand created a rather homage to the feelings All Hell invokes - it's full of mystery, a snapshot of rural family life explored on the album without being a simple retelling of the album's stories. No, instead Another Hell is a different story entirely. Featuring Daughn Gibson himself, Another Hell functions as a sort of psychological think piece - it's reveals very little about itself, subtle when it does, and nothing aside from Daughn Gibson's presence is all that resolute. Characters come and go, odd considering Daughn Gibson's clearly the drifter here. Instead of featuring just one song it features snippets from several - notably "A Young Girl's World" and "In the Beginning".

Another Hell is tense, foreboding, and oddly a bit hopeful with a shot of a rather content Daughn Gibson serving as the parting shot.

Listen: Bowerbirds - "June"

Another month draws to a close which signals another offering from the Bowerbirds' ongoing Small Songs from a Tiny House series - their short form songwriting experiment.

Until now, it wasn't exactly clear who was involved in the project. Some sounded like just Phil Moore and his guitar, some slightly expanded but still lacking that Bowerbirds full band flavor. Any involvement from anyone besides Moore has more or less just been hinted at (female harmonies that dart in and out with rabbit quickness on "April"). "June" is our first real evidence of the contrary. Recalling "Northern Lights" somewhat melodically, "June" jumps right into the action - drums, vocal harmonies, it's Bowerbirds as we've come to know them. Just in a shorter, more succinctly way. Despite the fact that the track is all of 2 minutes long, there's still that characteristic development that leads to memorable enjoyable musical moments; tough considering the small window they have to work with but definitely well executed.

I can't wait until the end of the next month to see whether they stay this route or go somewhere different entirely.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pitstop: Daughter

My discovery of England's Daughter came from Eric over at The Wild Honey Pie. After a friendship forged from me simply being at the right place at the right time in the form of Wild Honey Pie events and showcases, Eric would constantly ask me if I've seen this or that session that they put out that day/week. My answer was usually a guilty no and one time that guilt led to me immediately seek out the latest, recommended session which just so happened to be Daughter.

What a session that was. Daughter are, with the fear of sounding like an over-exaggerator, creating some of the most staggeringly beautiful music I've ever encountered. What makes Daughter so unique in how incredible thought out every aspect of their songs seem to be. Principal songwriter Elena Tonra has an absolute gift for painting utterly devastating pictures of failed love. It's a rarity where absolutely every single phrase in a song is important or invaluable but that's what you get with Tonra's heartbreakingly poetic lyricism.

"If you're still breathing you're the lucky ones because most of us are breathing through corrupted lungs/Setting fire to our insides for fun/Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong" Tonra sings on "Youth" and damn if it doesn't pack all of the punches. It's one of the first moments you experience in "Youth" and the lack of restraint is characteristic of Tonra's songwriting. All the while being set to these incredible arrangements that find the perfect balance between stark and lush. Tonra and the feelings she envokes are at the forefront of Daughter but clearly not its only draw.

Despite their ability to induce sudden empathetic heartbreak, Daughter aren't the type to be relegated to pure mood music - used only on the break up mix or times when you just feel like feeling sad, Daughter's songs have a poppy momentum that makes them capable of repetition without coming across as baseless; losing any of their impact. His Young Heart's "The Woods" proves Daughter's haunting beauty can exist separate from tales of heartbreak. It doesn't matter the tale Tonra decides to tell, it'll be carefully crafted, well plotted artfully arranged, and achingly tender.

Daughter's very good debut album If You Leave is out now on 4AD. I highly recommend it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gracie - Bleeder EP (2013)

Last year when I heard "Creature Pleaser", the first single from Gracie's Bleeder EP, it was really all I wanted to listen to. I played it countless time for countless days and the announcement of the actual release of the Bleeder EP was met more with a hope that the other songs on the record would turn out to be somewhere in the same infectiously good musical realm of "Creature Pleaser" than anything else.

Rather unsurprisingly, Bleeder is more than just a collection of songs providing a cushion for its standout track. Don't get me wrong "Creature Pleaser" still is and probably will be the greatest song Gracie has released but the rest of the tracks on the EP have their merits. Whether it's album opener "Witnessed" which is the perhaps the closest spiritually to "Creature Pleaser" on the record, sultry "Pillow" with its rather Unknown Mortal Orchestra recalling vocals, or really any of the record's tracks really, Bleeder is a record that tries and succeeds to cover a wide variety of sounds and moods while staying true to a similar cohesiveness.

Tracks like "ItsSppookkyy" and "Habits" provide Bleeder with an emotionally resonant core alongside it's dance-y rabblerousers. Gracie's Andrew Balasia might be gifted at creating toe-tapping, body-moving electro-pop but it's on those two tracks that his musical talents are allowed to shine - able to appropriately pair forward moving beats with pure heartfelt feeling.

So I may have come for "Creature Pleaser" but I stayed for the rest of Bleeder - a thoroughly enjoyable 7 song EP which covers a rather impressive ground in produced music. It's varying beats are interesting but not the only noteworthy thing about the songs. There's a multitude of layers to Bleeder and an astonishing amount of well-roundedness to the whole affair. It makes you wonder that if Gracie consider this to be just an appetizer, what will we get for the main course? It's thrilling to think about and here's hoping it's not too late before we're treated to just that.

Gracie's Bleeder EP is out now on Small Plates Records.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Listen: Camp Counselors - "Swept"

The debut album may have recently come out but apparently that's not going to stop Camp Counselors/Cemeteries' Kyle Reigle from making new tunes. The latest tune for Reigle's synthier project Camp Counselors is a piece of dreamy, atmospheric instrumentalism. There's none of the dance-y beats that propelled Huntress towards it conclusion. No, instead the gently unfurling "Swept" takes its time, minimalistic and beautifully so. It could very well have served as Huntress' epilogue if Reigle had so desired. A silky smooth, soothing way to end an album of pervasive eerie.

Listen: Phil Cook - "The Jensens"

It seems like the spindly instrumental guitar folk of Megafaun's Phil Cook's first solo endeavor Phil Cook & His Feat might be a thing of the past. Teaming up with bassist Nick Sanborn and the Bowerbirds' Yan Westerlund on drums, the creaky porch floorboards that severed as Cook's sole accompaniment on Hungry Mother Blues are old news as the previously compact little album-ending ditty "The Jensens" expands almost twice its size. The soothing ending track instead becomes a pulsing rouser, filled with purring guitar solos and high flying counter melodies. Luckily it's spirit stays more or less the same; there's no words and all of the ax-action isn't too flashy. It remains an utterly transportive piece of guitar rock excellence that makes you silently applaud Cook's instrumental prowess.

Comparing the two different versions becomes like comparing apples and bananas. One thing is for sure, Phil Cook is endless talented and it'll be great to see what else he's whipped up on his upcoming EP This Side Up. Fortunately we don't have to have too long for that. This Side Up is out August 13th on Trekky Records.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pitstop: Happy Trendy

                                                         (Photo by Tonje Thilesen)

One of the things which immediately puts me on the defensive at a show is the visual presence of a laptop. With music easier and easier to make without even needing to play an instrument, laptop musicians have popped up everywhere and their sets, in my experience, are often the most boring. There's nothing worse than watching a guy stand in the same spot, face illuminated by a laptop screen and watching him hit buttons. Regardless of how good the track is on record it almost always pales in comparison and then lacks the saving grace of an in-the-moment performance edge.

That's a pretty harsh criticism I know but it's one of which there are exceptions. While produced music might not be my go-to there are certain times when it has to ability to knock you off your feet completely. It helps when the electronic musician actually engages with the crowd like Happy Trendy. I suppose it's a bit unfair to lump the Canadian in with those unassuming laptop musicians as Dylan Khotin-Foote takes a very active role in his music creation (there's not a laptop in sight). It's not just the fact that he actually looks up when performing, it's not even that Khotin-Foote appears to know what he's doing with his synth, it's the way that his music manages to be both dance-y and melodic. It sounds like a no brainer but it's not always something you get but it is with Happy Trendy.

You can't always full out bust a move to Happy Trendy but you can always appreciate the slow lilting melodies and recall them later at your leisure. His tunes stay with you. Not necessarily in the same way a hard-hitting rock jam would but there's no doubt that Khotin-Foote has a real ear for melody. It's not all about the beats and there's a subtle touch to the way he his layers come together - never overwhelming, each musical idea gets its time to shine and serves a purpose. It shows a level of thought and musicians you don't always get with dime-a-dozen electronic musicians and as long as musicians like Happy Trendy exist, I won't be quite as quick to condemn them all. 

Happy Trendy's Die Young EP cassette on Orchid Tapes is no longer available BUT you can currently stream/download/love forever on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pitstop: Ethan Johns

There is of course a certain curiosity and almost instantaneous acceptance that comes when one of your favorite artists/bands praises the skills of another. That's how I discovered British singer/songwriter Ethan Johns. Serving as Laura Marling's go-to producer for her past three albums and the only band member she kept around after excising a backing band from her composition process completely, his reputation certainly preceded him. A cursory Google search revealed that until very very recently, Johns wasn't even pursuing a solo career of his own, instead just contributing with some rather A-level artists like Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams (to name but a few).

However with his latest contribution as a producer/musician/etc out in the world in the form of Laura Marling's Once I Was An Eagle and an album on the very cusp of release over here in the states, it's certainly time for Ethan Johns to claim a bit of that spotlight. As you listen to the slinky guitar melodies of "Hello, Sunshine", it's suddenly clear why Laura Marling tapped him for aid in the creation of her simplest record. Johns has an affinity to clear-cutting melodies without a whole lot of harmonic nonsense. There's a bare bones quality to his songs that ensures the words are the most important thing heard. Which is sometimes a rather easy thing to forget and lose when you layer musical idea after musical idea. That's not to say Johns' songs are without harmonic interplay, it's just subtler taking its proper backseat to melody which Johns makes sure to keep simple but distinct.

In "Whip-Poor-Will", Johns assures you that he can handle the spinning plate method of song compostion with melodies, counter melodies, harmonies, and all manner of song technique employed. There's backing vocals by Laura Marling & Ryan Adams but not enough to draw attention to their guest roles and not enough to outshine Johns by any means; just enough to add an different color to Johns' compositional palette.

Ethan Johns' music is interesting in that the rugged simplicity is exactly what you're drawn to. It's nuanced; intention - of that there is no doubt and that's quite enough to pique interest in Johns' talents as a songwriter. Luckily with Ethan Johns' If Not Now Then When? slated for a July 30th release, we're not too far from figuring out just what that entails.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Listen: Saskatchewan - "Destroy"/"Youth Ministry"

I don't know about you but there seems to be a severe lack in summer jams this year. Those tracks that are either fun beach-pop numbers or just summer-invoking guitar rock gems - anything that seems to say "Summer's here". Enter Florida dream pop quartet Saskatchewan. Though their album Occasion came out almost two months ago, it seems to usher in the arrival of summer perfectly. Especially the one-two punch of "Destroy" and "Youth Ministry".

"Destroy" has a rather Drums-esque feel with it's slow brick-laid layer build but where The Drums' Jonny Pierce would sail away on the winds of his falsetto, Saskatchewan's Chandler Strang rides the track's undulating bass lines with his smooth baritone. Each instrument is used sparingly, with the guitar performing more percussively, and there's just the right amount of space that the whole track shines with it's own sun-flecked brightness.

While "Destroy" seemed to skip and flitter about (mostly due to the skipping stone guitar riffs), "Youth Ministry" is far more content to just gently roll on like a lazy river. In fact, it's perfect for those lazy summer days when it's too hot to do much of anything requiring too much effort. Sprawled in the shade or lounging by the pool "Youth Ministry" is your jam soundtracking the minimal amount of work you do to keep yourself cool.

So while it remains to be seen if we'll get other jams this summer, at the very least we've got two here. Because of course a Florida band would do you right. If you haven't yet you can stream/download Saskatchewan's Occasion via Bandcamp.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Listen: Alex G - "Lucy"

Remember Alex G? The rip-roaring indie rock Philly foursome that simultaneous inspired a mosh pit at the Orchid Tapes showcase and in my heart? Well their latest track "Lucy" is perhaps nothing at all like that. Oddly enough despite it being a definite change of pace it still rather fills with what you might very well expect from Alex G. Weird, I know. And yet, the rather electronic-leaning track doesn't feel like a dramatic statement from Alex G. Sure it could and probably is a fun little experiment and yet, as far as experiments go, it's not just a simple throw away piece. It slowly builds in complexity while never quite becoming overly complicated. Each moving part audible and stacked on top of each other to get the desire effect. There's not a whole lot being said (other than "Lucy") but there doesn't need to be, there's plenty of exciting things taking shape in front of you.

Listen: Raindeer - "Aiko"

What a thrilling time it must be to be a fan of Baltimore experimental pop crew Raindeer. After releasing the second track "Tune Out" from their upcoming full length Tattoo, they're already offering up another one and while details about the upcoming full length have yet to be fully divulged we now know that Friends Records will be putting it out. That means this is actually happening and soon. That's cause for celebration and what better track to soundtrack your joyous rapture than "Aiko".

Built upon a doo-wop progression, "Aiko" is a lot more than you'd expect. Invoking for at least a short time the band's debut self-titled at least in terms of the nostalgia-delving sounds, it's not long before it snaps out of the simple melody before rising into a rather jubilant carnival-esque vocalise. Layers swirl in and out of focus all the time the track plods gaily forward with an unrelenting sense of merriment.

With this trifecta of album sneak peeks, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I honestly have no idea what to expect from Tattoo. Each of the tracks manage to be rather unlike the one's heard before while not feeling totally out of sync. What the rest of the album will sound like is really anyone's guess at this point as Raindeer seem content to build each song a completely different kind of stylistic experimentation. A exciting turn of events as each track manages to be a more than adequate stand alone piece, it'll be interesting to see how it all shapes up. Here's hoping news of the album's eventual release comes soon.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Watch: Psychic Twin - BreakThruRadio Live Session

My initially discovery of Psychic Twin was due to a conversation with Cemeteries' Kyle Reigle. He mentioned they were working on a song together (in what eventually came to be "Attean" from Reigle's Camp Counselors project) and my interest was peaked. Who was Psychic Twin? That question lead me to a modest Bandcamp page where I streamed all the available music and found the pairing of Reigle and Psychic Twin's Erin Fein to be a fitting one. Both create a sort of ethereal yet catchy form of dream-pop with a bit of an electronic element. Their vocals were even rather similar in a sense. The idea of them making music together seemed to be make more and more sense the more I listened to Psychic Twin. And their collaboration for Camp Counselors, though a little out of Reigle's normal Cemeteries element proved this to be so.

When I found out that Psychic Twin had just recently done a Break Thru Radio Live Session, I was of course intrigued. Though they only came to my attention a short time ago, I almost say them live when the show got cancelled in a bizarre twist. What did Psychic Twin sound like live? I didn't know. But thankfully this BTR session exists so for the moment I can pretend I know what their live show is like. Featuring "Strangers" in full and bits of "Unlock Your Heart" and "Don't Think", you can tell that Fein, the project's leader is very much a child of the 80s, surrounding her pristine vocal loops with synth-pop stylings that wouldn't be out of place back then. But it's a sort of synthesis of her love of 80s music paired with her own musical ideas that make Psychic Twin more than just an 80s revival act, I feel. "Unlock Your Heart" in particular has a sort of nostalgia-invoking sense without actually sounding like a particular band, and that's just the sort of way it should be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Watch: Jessica Pratt - All Our Noise Session

Last year San Francisco singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt appeared seemingly out of the ether to captivate us all with her lovely, haunting self-titled record instantly drawing comparisons to Joanna Newsom and Angel Olsen due to her distinct vocal stylings. This year, Pratt seems committed to solidifying herself in our minds as more than a soft-voiced apparition as she's tours the continent and charms hearts in person. Wrapping up a tour with Father John Misty not too long ago, later this year she'll be back again with Julia Holter for what's sure to be an astoundingly well received pairing of stunning beauty.

While out on the road, Jessica Pratt filmed this session for All Our Noise which features some new songs so if you were hankering for some tunes from the bewitching folk siren, look no further.

Listen: Neko Case - "Man"

I won't pretend to be the biggest fan of Neko Case. In fact I haven't all that much attention to her solo career knowing her most notably as one of the all star members of The New Pornographers and her subtly spectacular guest spot on The Dodos' No Color and yet when her latest single "Man" from her upcoming album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, I found myself intrigued. Not only because the title had a very Fiona Apple rambling air about it. I had essentially put off checking out Neko Case's solo material for years and I planned on righting this wrong immediately.

Though I had really only spent time with Middle Cyclone, in "Man" I could instantly see her appeal and what fans would surely be clamoring more for on the upcoming album. "Man" continues Case's shifting gender focus and manages to avoid what you might write off as just a silly schtick by actually being pretty damn good. That's not to say there's anything comedic about Case writing/singing from a male point of view, rather it'd be easy to pass up if described to you by someone who has no idea what's going on here. Featuring the tasteful guitar talents of M. Ward, the track is a rollicking rock jam with just the right ounce of ear-catching pop mastery to ensure it stays in your head from now until forever after hearing it. It's highly enjoyable, simple as that.

So, clearly I've made a huge mistake. Neko Case's solo output is not to be ignored because it's far better than any/all of her collaborations. Case engages in interesting concepts and masterful melodic play and now I feel damn ashamed I hadn't listened to her sooner. Here's hoping actually listening to The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You when it actually comes out with redeem me somewhat. With the album out September 3rd on ANTI-, I have plenty of time to listen to her whole back catalog and if you haven't, you should too. You won't regret it, I assure you.

Watch: Laura Marling - "Bleed Me Dry" (Live on WNYC)

Laura Marling's short but sweet North American tour has come and gone with surprising lightning quickness and while she returns to her European stomping grounds to enchant and captivate the masses there, there is hope for those of us left behind. You see, with a new album means a new press cycle which means Marling's bit hitting the radio stations and the like giving interviews, playing acoustic sessions, and my favorite Laura Marling past time debuting new songs. When Marling visited WNYC's Spinning on the Air, she cracked out this dazzling little gem called "Bleed Me Dry" (you might remember last cycle she also pulled out a new song in "Pray For Me" which found it's way onto Once I Was An Eagle).

"Bleed Me Dry" continues very much in the tradition of Marling's sort of backpedaling one sided love conversations. Build upon a sweetly simple nursery rhyme like melody, "Bleed Me Dry" is a rarity in that it subtly acknowledges the lovers left behind in the dust after you've moved on. It's a rather innocence-illuminating song as its filled with hypotheticals as she questions how you actually know you're in love, what it takes to be in love;  relying on "I've heard..." rather than Marling's usual matter-of-fact examinations. It's a sweetly spun yarn that ends with a rather forward appeal for help and understanding and most importantly, surrender albeit ever so cautious. It could easily be a leftover from the rather naivete-basking first part of Once I Was An Eagle, a peak into where Marling intends to go next, or just a song Marling wrote because she wanted to. Maybe all three, who's to say really. All that really matters is that it's pretty great.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pitstop: Abandoned Lighthouse

My discovery of Abandoned Lighthouse, the solo project of the Antlers' touring bassist Tim Mislock, happened as all good discoveries tend to - at a show I was only dimly aware he was playing. You see, Abandoned Lighthouse was the announced support for Port St. Willow's recent NYC live show return at Knitting Factory and I made a point not to listen to the recently released debut record. Not doing so prepared me for a very different experience.

Despite the fact that Mislock more or less had a record to promote that night, his set that night consisted mostly of instrumental guitar loops he had been experimenting with rather than his songs featured on the album which was all well and good, the loops were entrancing, and played like slightly darker-tinged, obscured versions of the tuneful guitar rock making a comeback with acts like William Tyler and Delicate Steve. It was a rather endearing set that spurred me to buy the admittedly very different debut record that night.

Though still as loop-centric as Mislock's engaging live set, Static Stream adds a more vocal element. In this we get a remarkably less minimalistic musical experience. Sure, tracks like "A Place to Bury Friends" captivate with their slowly-unfurling. Static Stream is a folk-inspired set of ambient-leaning rock experiments.  It seems like a rather far-reaching blanket in theory that rather ends of cherry-picking what works so well in each and applying them in a rather hauntingly beautiful way. Mislock's talent for emotive mood pieces is the glue that keeps it all together - whether they're accompanied by his melancholy-soaked lyrics or just cast on their own into the stormy sea of Abandoned Lighthouse's instrumentals.

Abandoned Lighthouse may be different on record versus live but that's kind of the fun isn't it? The record is an absolute, though somber, gem while the live set allows brightness to permeate what could be an utterly depressing atmosphere. It's a veritable balance of ying and yang that I hope Mislock keeps up. It's always nice when going to a show is its own special experience and its own special reward.

You can listen to/buy Static Stream via the Abandoned Lighthouse Bandcamp.

If You Wait Long Enough: Songs of Will Stratton (2013)

Last year, singer/songwriter Will Stratton put out his incredibly sprawling masterpiece Post-Empire. It was an album I had nothing but good things to say about since a stray tweet from Knox Road brought Stratton to my attention; it was inarguably a great album that paired Stratton's fingerstyle guitar with elegant string arrangements of his own design and while it was a fully realized album near to my heart, I was excited to get more from the former Brooklyn based singer/songwriter. Then following a successful European tour, Stratton got sick. Really sick. Stratton had stage III cancer. While fortunately Stratton's been able to get better, there are some hefty medical bills on  the horizon as the life of a touring musician doesn't exactly include a health insurance plan. 

Besides being an incredibly gifted songwriter, Will Stratton happens to be a rather cool dude and good friend. Perhaps that's why some of his musician friends recorded a covers albums of Stratton's songs to help raise funds for Stratton. You don't do that for someone unlikable. Enter If You Wait Long Enough: Song of Will Stratton, the benefit covers compilation made by said friends. 12 songs, 12 bands, with the bonus of a Will Stratton live track. 

One of my favorite things about the compilation is the fact that I'm not at all familiar with the bands on it. It might seem weird for your first impression of a band to be formed based on a cover and yet here we are. While about half of the album's tracks are Post-Empire era tracks, the other half happen to be a career-spanning endeavor; Brooklyn trio Jane Eyre's Jesse Rifkin performing the only track from Stratton's debut record What the Night Said.  It's really interesting to see what the band's do with the songs. One of my favorites being the glitchy, dream-pop variation of Alexandra Drewchin and Aaron Roche's "Post-Empire" take. Also of note is the rather dark rumble of Wilder Maker's "The War is Over". 

As far as covers albums are concerned, If You Wait Long Enough: Songs of Will Stratton is a rather enjoyable affair. The covers themselves helping to highlight a lot of Stratton's strengths in his own music-making. The covers are great and that's because the bands had such great material to draw from. It helps that the album isn't just a collection of one-note guitar and voice impressions of Will. Whether you live what they do or not, a lot of the covers use the source material as a base and go their own way with it. It creates a bit of interesting variation like the aforementioned Jesse Rifkin cover of "Katydid" which becomes a dance-pop jam.  The covers aren't just hit-it-and-quit-it kind of enjoyable either. I actually found myself going back to several of them that I really really liked making a mental note to check out that artist/band when all was 
said and done. That's the best thing a covers album can aspire to, right? 

You can purchase If You Wait Long Enough: Songs of Will Stratton on Bandcamp which I strongly recommend because not only is the covers album rather good, it all goes to benefit Will Stratton who is a very very nice guy and clearly an inspiring friend. Do it. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Little Tybee - For Distant Viewing (2013)

Discovering Atlanta folk crew Little Tybee might've been somewhat accidental but in a short amount of time the band has shot up into my favorite bands. That's what made the delay of their latest album For Distant Viewing a bit maddening. Set to be released almost directly after 2011's Humorous to Bees, the band instead decided to workshop the songs some more and that release date steadily transformed to this year. It kind of goes without saying but Little Tybee's For Distant Viewing rapidly became one of this year's most anticipated albums for me - even before I heard any of its more recently released singles.

Why? Because I was incredibly curious how the hell they would improve upon Humorous to Bees. And yet on For Distant Viewing they did just did that. Beginning with the title track - a rather short but no less epic feast of what's to come in its pseudo-suite, the band proves that its their album really is about the journey as "For Distant Viewing" reels you in with its enchanting slow burn and siren-like "For distant viewing..." calls. Perhaps my favorite track on the record, "Mind Grenade", follows and endears with its occasional dip into some rather comedic. "How could it be? I'm harboring some broken keys. And it seems that she's gone and changed the locks on me.", Brock Scott laments and yet it's a rather positively handled break up tale. It's a track where everything Little Tybee does so well is hosted in one song - containing Brock Scott's clever turns of phrase, Nirvana Kelly's sweeping string ornaments, the band's busy but not overwhelming musical fills.

For Distant Viewing's charm is in that any of its songs can drastically become a completely different one. Take "Herman" for example, starting with sweetly spun string lines and Scott's trademark croon, it rather subtly becomes a rock scorcher. It's a feat that becomes more and more utilized as the album spins on and on. Away from mostly narrative tracks like "Mind Grenade" and "Boxcar Fair", the band's given freedom to set off on its own synchronous divergent paths. While Humorous to Bees certainly did a good job of including all of the bands various members, For Distant Viewing actually allows them to take the spotlight; culminating in the full on instrumental jam of "Left Right".

On For Distant Viewing, Little Tybee takes their rare form tendencies and become far rarer still. Their grooves and jams are tighter, slicker, tastier even. The band allows itself far more musical interludes which really allows you to get a sense of who the band is. You really can't pigeonhole Little Tybee as your standard folk rock band as the band members various musical backgrounds truly converge on this album. The band has come such a way that it even takes the track "Hearing Blue" from their debut Building a Bomb and updates it - the result being far more impressive than the original. It'll never quite be clear to fans what we missed out on in For Distant Viewing's 2011 incarnation but it's obvious that the year and change spent working on its has worked out in simply the best way. For Distant Viewing is a special record, half supple chamber pop gems, other half jazz-inflected prog-rock jams;  proving that genre is secondary when its comes to the execution of incredible musical ideas.

Listen: Raindeer - "Tune Out"

A couple months ago we got a taste of Baltimore experimental pop troupe Raindeer's upcoming album Tattoo with is title track and with the album officially done, they saw fit to release another track from it: "Tune Out". Unlike "Tattoo", "Tune Out" isn't quite a straightforward and poppy. No, "Tune Out" recalls the quirky B movie soundtrack vibes of their self-titled; synthier but as buoyant as ever. It falls into a happy medium between Raindeer's weirder moments and the rather simplistic direction of "Tattoo". It's enough to make you curious where the album will end up as a whole.

Here's hoping there's an official album release announcement coming because the two tracks we've heard from Tattoo thus far are rather choice.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Watch: Typhoon - "Dreams of Cannibalism"

Portland folk collective Typhoon's video for their recently released 2nd single "Dreams of Cannibalism" from their upcoming album White Lighter takes the tracks opening line "Unhand me, I am not a criminal" and runs with it. Kyle Morton plays a prisoner and former leader of a group of intelligent free-thinkers that consist of Typhoon band members.

After establishing Morton's character preaching to the enchanted listeners, the video quickly cuts to Morton captured, bound, and with a hood over his head. After that, the video kind of gets a little liberal with its time-frame. Bits and pieces of the story are revealed amidst more development as you discover Morton was captured at that very rallying meeting. After his initial capture he manages to escape but his disappearance isn't unnoticed and his pursuers are hot on his heels. The video is a rather short but ongoing game of cat and mouse between Typhoon's member and their persecutors who while played by children are rendered a bit more terrifying but their weapon-brandishing and quick use of violence. If I was Typhoon, I'd be running away from those kids too. The video eventually leads towards a dramatic conclusion which I won't spoil because it's actually an brilliantly unexpected twist.

I may have been a little suspicious by the initial literal handling of the track's lyrics but there was no need. I forgot just who I was dealing with here. Typhoon couldn't do a horrible thing if they tried. Which really just makes the wait for White Lighter even more painful because you just know it's going to be incredible.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Listen: Lucius - "Until We Get There"

Since my discovery of Brooklyn indie pop quintet Lucius at last year's Deli B.E.A.F, I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of new music from them, more opportunities to hear Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig's bold, brassy vocals and the bands distinctive brand of 60s leaning power pop. We've gotten peaks of course in the form of their tragically short self-titled four song EP released last spring as well as through the Christmas themed session for The Wild Honey Pie and their songs showing up remarkably in all matter of TV shows but this fall, we're finally getting a full length. Thank our lucky stars.

"Until We Get There", our first look at the band's upcoming studio album also marks their signing to Mom + Pop Records which boasts a pretty eclectic and exciting roster. But what can I say, I'm really just all a buzz with excitement that we're finally getting a Lucius full length. "Until We Get There" follows is a stream of rather journey-inspired tracks (the first being "Two Of Us On The Run"). It's the kind of track that wouldn't be out of place soundtracking a tour documentary or a roadtrip. It's actually a decidedly new look at Lucius.
While their self-titled EP covered a wide range of tonal shifts, we never quite got a track like "Until We Get There" which combines the subdued vocals stylings of "Don't Just Sit There" with the galvanizing energy of "Genevieve".  It also functions as a far more interactive band experience, for the first time in their recorded out you truly hear Lucius as a quintet and less like a vehicle for the impressive vocal chops of its two ladies.

I'm going to counting the days until their full length makes it way into the world but until then, "Until We Get There" will be perfect company.

Secret Mountains - Rainer (2013)

Baltimore psychedelic rockers Secret Mountains have been making their sweet psychedelic jams for years, impressing many a crowd at shows mostly in their native Baltimore but also New York and its surrounding areas for quite some time with little word of a full length. However after two EPs (Kaddish and Rejoice) and a tape of newer songs (Winter Sessions), Secret Mountains are proud to usher their debut full length Rainer into the world.

In comparison to their past recorded efforts (Rejoice in particular), Rainer is a starkly darker record. Darker textures, darker lyrics. Coming off the celebratory closing track off Rejoice "Rest Easy", that seems like a bit of twist and yet even in "Rejoice", the band tended towards similar tendencies. Beginning with title track, Rainer is an album with a surprisingly cinematic feel. The tracks follow in Secret Mountains' tradition of stretching out before you like a sparsely traveled country road and yet, this time around the tracks, the lyrics, the jams, the all around feel of it all is far more insistent, more hard-hitting, restless even. A remarkable change of pace from the Rejoice EP where the three song EP essentially floated by rather effortlessly.

Instead, "Rainer", "Coasting", and "Remainder" wouldn't be out of place in a indie action film or psychological thriller. Rainer seems to revel in its darker-seeking textural palette until around the time of "High Horse", a touching memorial to a departed friend. That's right about the time the record starts to brighten up a little, letting a bit of sunlight into its previously overcast skies especially on the hopeful, skyward reaching "Remainder".

A lot of bands are rather quick to put out a debut record sometimes to the point of not making sure it's really all that good. Secret Mountains inability to put out a full length until now has clearly helped them (not that they were ever in any danger of putting out a bad record) as Rainer seamlessly flows with the band at their absolute strongest, each members' input clearly visible. Three years may be a rather long time to wait before releasing a full length record but time has certainly been a blessing here, making sure that Rainer was the absolute best record it possibly could be. Each track memorable and endearing in its own way while also seeming very at home alongside the others.  Rainer is an exercise in patience being its own reward, made all the better by the band coming into their own from just playing together. If three years time is what we need for a peak performance inspired record than I might not be so disappointed if Secret Mountains take another 3 years before offering up a follow up.  Until then, Rainer is a more than exceptional placeholder.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Listen: Daughn Gibson - "You Don't Fade"

Not too long ago we got our first preview of Daughn Gibson's follow up to his brilliant debut All Hell in the form of "The Sound of Law" but just in case you thought you had any idea of what to expect from his sophomore record Me Moan, you can go ahead and count yourself wrong. Very very wrong.

One of the notable things about Daughn Gibson is how he seamlessly weaves samples together for his dusty rural croon and yet in "You Don't Fade", that Southern-esque soul and pseudo country swagger slips away some in favor of an eerie loop of female vocals. It was different enough that I thought I was listening to the wrong artist until Daughn Gibson entered his booming, smoky baritone. In "You Don't Fade", Daughn Gibson continues his exploration of dark textures and even darker subjects but in a new refreshing way that's more than just a rehash of All Hell. I mean just listen to the Mortal Kombat-esque chants he uses.

I have no idea what to expect on Me Moan but hell if I'm not incredibly excited about that. It's sure to be a very special record. Daughn Gibson's Me Moan is out July 9th on Sub Pop Records.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Friend Roulette - I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head (2013)

Since my discovery of Brooklyn avant pop sextet Friend Roulette two years ago, they've consistently and constantly promised their debut full length was on the horizon. Now, after numerous setbacks and pushbacks, I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head is out about 3 years since it's initial recording.

On I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head, it's almost hard to imagine this is the same band that put out their self-titled EP in early 2011. Sure there's still the swirling, dark-reaching textural play and the intricate layers of "Sailing Song" and the emotive starkness of "Or, Berlin" (which is one of the only EP tracks to make it to the album) but I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head takes all of that to a whole new level. Despite their formidable assemblage of diverse instruments, Friend Roulette's greatest strength has always been in its infectious melodies and while there's no shortage of them on the album, the occasionally insistent, frenetic presentation of them (especially on album opener "She's On Her Own Tonight" or manic fever dream-recalling "I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head") makes them take exceptional note. Rather than letting the melodies casually catch your ear, they seem ready to depart at any moment in favor of a newer perhaps better musical idea. While this might appear sloppy in theory, Friend Roulette are talented music-writers able to stitch their abundance of musical ideas together in a cohesive manner. Instead the impermanence give Friend Roulette an unpredictable edge - you're never quite sure where there songs will end up or how long it will take them to get there and thankfully you don't have to be. Friend Roulette's tracks are equally about the journey as they are their complex presentation.

But the Brooklyn sextet rely on far more than drive-by type tactics, while thriving on manic energy, they are equally f not more impressive when able to slow down. Just look at "Golden" or "Hi, Hello", these rather balladic tracks are able to pack a wallop without moving a mile a minute. There's still an abundance of musical ideas of them, that's for sure, but they develop at similarly organic albeit slower fashion. "Lie" split into two parts, is perhaps the group's biggest departure from what you might've come to expect from them if you haven't seen their live show. It's a tableau that highlights possibly all of the band's strengths, able to take the R&B-esque vibe in a way that seems very much their own. It's the most dressed up of their tracks, ruggedly experimental is sheer amount of things the band have going on, subtly achieved by a climatic, gliding build. After the intense expanses of "Lie (Part 1)", "Lie (Part 2)", and nearly 8 minute shapeshifter "Earthrise", "Or, Berlin" appears to offer a much needed cool down and mellow album closer.

I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head traverses more musical landscapes in one song than most bands do in a whole album if not career. At no point on the album do Friend Roulette ever appear to play it safe or take it easy. It's an album of astounding effort that while not grandstanding enough to attempt to change the way music is made or perceived, is sure to effect any/all of its listeners in a remarkable way. It's an album with a wast array of happenings that are sure to be discovered listen after listen. I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head is a complex and quirky but not inaccessible work of art. It's a labor of love that took three years to properly realize and hopefully comes across. It's a brilliant album from a truly talented group of artists. Here's hoping it properly finds it way out into the world.

You can stream/download the album via Friend Roulette's Bandcamp and order physical copies from Goodnight Records.

Pitstop: R. L. Kelly

One of the most striking things to me about Los Angeles singer/songwriter R. L. Kelly aka Rachel Levy was that I met her before her Orchid Tapes showcase set, she was all smiles, laughs, and excited coolness and then her set started and her songs we're beautifully depressing, brilliantly sad. With song titles like "Life's A Bummer" and "Woke Up Feeling Sad", it seemed like I had entered a strange Twilight Zone where the happiest person in the room could somehow also be the saddest.

It was a weird dichotomy I didn't really get until she stated "I've got to get the sad out" rather matter of factly over instant coffee the next morning. It made a strange sort of sense that her short and yet moving stripped down songs could enable the sort of catharsis necessary for her to be the life of the party. I mean, it's certainly better than being a sad sack all day and all night.

Apart from her live set and amid the punchy gnarl of electric guitars in "You're Not the Only Monster From Hell" and "Woke Up Feeling Sad" on her Life's A Bummer tape, it might be easy to miss all those high-flying emotions but they're there and perhaps more effective when they suddenly pop out to you.

R.L. Kelly presents sadness with a sort of cool acceptance. Instead of worrying why you feel that way or caring about how that makes you seem to others, it's presented with a sort of care-free air. "Wish I could give a fuck but I'm too broken" Levy sings on "Life's A Bummer". It's completely lacking in melodrama, stated almost like pure observation. The songs aren't self-indulgent whining and that's a real feat when you're talking about how much life sucks.

You can listen to/download the rest of R.L. Kelly's stunningly melancholic Life's A Bummer at Bandcamp.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Listen: Gauntlet Hair - "Human Nature"

When I was first introduced to Gauntlet Hair, late at night in a back in 2011 (as I was wont to be back then), I was eager to get my hands on more. Alas, when their self-titled debut streeted, I was rather disappointed that the best tracks on the album were very much the first two singles I had originally heard. The rest of the album was, in my opinion, rather forgettable. It seemed like a horrible betrayal of potential. Especially when Frank over at Listen Before You Buy shared with me some pre-Gauntlet Hair tracks that I absolutely adored, it seemed to me that perhaps they took a step in the wrong direction considering their early promise and the rather attention-keeping focus of their early slow burners. I was completely willing to write Gauntlet Hair off as one of those fizzled out buzz bands and turn my attention elsewhere.

When Dead Oceans posted the first single from their upcoming album Stills, I listened purely out of curiosity and was rather surprisingly glad that I did. "Human Nature" trades in the rather anthem-striving shouts and crashing percussion heaviness of "Top Bunk", "Keep Time", and "I Was Thinking" for a much cooler delivery. In "Human Nature" we're given dark, murky textures and grounded bass-y vocals. The percussive edge is dulled a bit in favor for dynamic development as the track rises and falls in attention-grabbing cacophony. It's incredibly clear in this instant that Gauntlet Hair has a learned a thing or two, gradually rising into clattering assortment of sounds rather than just starting there for the get go. This is a Gauntlet Hair I can get behind.

While it remains to be seen whether their sophomore record can capitalize on this dramatic change in form, I'm certainly looking forward to seeing where they go. Consider my interest in the Denver twosome restored and anticipation for the new album properly initiated.

Gauntlet Hair's second full length album Stills is out July 16th on Dead Oceans.