Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Rejection #5"

                                                        (photo by Marius Hage)

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

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

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

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

(via Spin)

Listen: Bowerbirds - "Seven Wonders"

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Listen: Hiss Golden Messenger - "Drum"

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watch: Lapland - "Unwise"

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pitstop: Tiny Ruins

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

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

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

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

Listen: Creature from Dell Pond - "Exquisite Kingdom"

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Listen: Angel Olsen - "Forgiven/Forgotten"

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

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

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

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

Gracie - Work It Out EP (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pitstop: Parkington Sisters

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Listen: Conveyor - "Pushups"

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "October"

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pitstop: Night Panther

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

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

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

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

Listen: The Debauchees - "Rancid Dancin'"

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

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

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