Thursday, December 18, 2014

Listen: Wilder Maker - "Hope Springs"

When I was introduced to the work of Gabriel Birnbaum and his compatriots in Wilder Maker's Year of Endless Light I was instantly taken not only by the ability to create brilliant, engaging longform compositions but also the way their musicians talents playing other styles of music managed to color what could easily be a simply folk rock endeavor. It spoke volumes not only of each individual's musicianship but also Birnbaum's innovative songwriting ideas.

"Hope Springs", a taste from Wilder Maker's recently released four song Everyday Crimes Against Objects of Desire Vol. 1 sees Birnbaum tackling Americana with aid from a much less robust but equally talented arsenal of musicians than Year of Endless Light that form Wilder Maker's core. Sharing vocals with Katie Von Schleicher, Birnbaum manages to spin gold from the age-old tale of breakup-induced introspection. Despite it's shorter length, "Hope Springs" is equally as intricately well-traversed as any of Wilder Maker's longer cuts - in fact it's seems to stretch on far longer than its rather radio-friendly running time would lead you to expect. While "Hope Springs" manages to follow folk pop songwriting conventions, Birnbaum still manages to subvert them a bit as is his way while offering up some gold star lyricism like the "hope springs with your back against the wall" from which the track gains its name.

While "Hope Springs" doesn't offer up nearly the display of technical prowess that "Song for the Singer" or Year of Endless Light did as a whole, there's no denying the band are just as cohesive as ever offering understated musical moments in lieu of solos and instrumental interludes. Birnbaum and Von Schleicher's vocals are wonderfully complimentary driving home much of the track's emotive power during the duet choruses.

Wilder Maker's Everyday Crimes Against Objects of Desire Vol. 1 is out now. You can stream/download via their Bandcamp here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Listen/Watch: Laura Marling - "Short Movie"

Considering her recent relocation to Los Angeles and the fact that she's more or less continued to tour behind last year's Once I Was An Eagle, I thought it'd be a bit before we got any thing new from British songstress Laura Marling. Yet, surprisingly enough, Marling's prepped an album that's pretty much all ready for release next year. "Short Movie", the titular track from the upcoming album is our first taste of the new album and it shows Marling's not only back to her old tricks but some new ones as well .

"Short Movie" is bucolic and sparse - relying far more on its arrangements and melodies to the set the tone than Marling's own lyrics. Marling, whose lyrical strength has always lied in her simplicity, spends the majority of the song pushing and pulling at her own feelings in a way that's almost conversational. It takes almost the entirety of the song's duration before her "they know but they never know why" transforms into the much more revealing "they know why I loved you but they'll never know why". It's a sort of narrative minimalism that's sure to confound and frustrate those who gleam personal details about Marling's life from her song lyrics because "Short Movie" reveals little in its triumphant grandeur. Marling's chief concern is more about provoking some sort of reaction than in concise storytelling and manages to, through climactic surges do quite a bit of both.

"Short Movie" is the first single from Laura Marling's forthcoming album of the same name out March 24th on Ribbon. Pre-order is available now from iTunes and/or on deluxe double LP via Ribbon.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Voluntary Butler Scheme - A Million Ways To Make Gold (2014)

When UK multi-instrumentalist/producer Rob Jones first started making music under the moniker The Voluntary Butler Scheme he had just come off a stint as the drummer for retro pop outfit The School to the point that his continued dalliance with the genre on debut album At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea seemed almost a given. And yet even while using music from bygone eras as a guide no one could deny that Jones brought a sense of originality to the table - expanding the sound with an impressive lushness and imbuing in them a delightfully ear-catching nature without the risk of a saccharine turn.

However it wasn't until his sophomore record The Grandad Galaxy when Jones opened up his precise, layered compositions to show the nuts and bolts of the operation in a much less easily digestible fashion that the real scope of Jones' musicianship could be gleaned. While bringing in outside parties to play the instruments he could not (namely and exclusive brass), it's the record that most solidified Jones' one-man band status to those that could not see the man in action.  Jones experimented not only with the 60's/70s styles he obviously still drew inspiration from but also the multitude of electronics Jones relies on in bringing his vibrant seamless pop songs to life.

So it makes a sort of logical sense that on A Million Ways To Make Gold, Jones' third album as The Voluntary Butler Scheme, that he'd marry the ideas behind his two previous albums together. Album opener "The Q Word" is Jones' longest track to date is perhaps the most apt introduction to the album as repetitive high pitched beeps give way to synthetic keyboard melodies that despite their smoothness are punchily inorganic that's almost completely odds with Jones' vocals. But as the track progresses the rough-hewn edges round out as they're subbed out for more man-made sounds like bass and brass. In "The Q Word", Jones segues from one album to the next, centering the new release on the more human elements he wants to focus on.

In a sense The Voluntary Scheme has always been about the balance between inspiration and experimentation but A Million Ways To Make Gold finds Jones at his most centered able to create his most catchy pop tunes while not totally shelving his desire for pop experimentation. A Million Ways To Make Gold works as brilliant return to form for The Voluntary Butler Scheme. While Jones' continues his to expand his both his textural and timbral palette, the best songs on the album happen when Jones allows himself to revel to in the funky grooves that gave At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea much of its momentum. But Jones also takes what worked so well on The Grandad Galaxy and refines it to work not only on a smaller scale but in tandem with his more nostalgic tendencies throwing his more adventurous efforts right into the mix.

Far less electronic than the previous album, A Million Ways To Make Gold obscures a bit of the Rob Jones' song construction in favor of these moments of rapid, pop metamorphism. It's a veritable smorgasbord of genres - from the doo-wop/gospel-flavor of "Believe" to the old school rhythm and blues of "So Tired (So Tired)", Jones manages to run through them without making a big show of it. The unsung quality of The Voluntary Butler Scheme has always been Jones' inventive lyricism from
his clever turns of phrases to his beguiling metaphors, and that's no different here. Ultimately A Million Ways To Make Gold is a treat for Voluntary Butler Scheme fans old and new, building on an rich established history while remaining an easily accessible and delightfully engaging album.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme's third album A Million Ways To Make Gold is out now on Split Records.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Listen: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper - "Billions of Eyes"

While Maine export Lady Lamb the Beekeeper has been a welcome addition to the New York music scene for years, I hadn't had the pleasure of even sampling her music until she opened up a very special early show at Webster Hall for Typhoon earlier this year along with Wild Ones. It was impressive enough to make me instantaneously regret having slept on her 2013 full length debut Ripely Pine despite her set consisting of a number of new songs.

Thankfully now that I am in the know, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's upcoming sophomore record After is already on my release calendar. One of the things that struck me the most about Lady Lamb the Beekeeper was Aly Spaltro's songwriting chops - her knack for visceral, highly sensory lyricism. Songs like "Aubergine" and "You Are the Apple" get so much of their punch from Spaltro's visual-invoking lyrics. While "Billions of Eyes", the first single from Spaltro's sophomore record and Mom + Pop debut, finds her leaning more into her pop conventions than her folk rock growl, Spaltro's words still contain that same bite despite it's smoother delivery.

"When gravity's a palm pushing down on your head/like the devil's got a paw dug in your shoulder and the other is rubbing your back" Spaltro begins and you're already along for the rest of her tale regardless of where it's going. And it goes a lot of different places - part tour travelogue, part post-tour sentiments, "Billions of Eyes" zigs when you expect it to zag and Spaltro only briefly lingers on the most interesting parts of her song - the billions of eyes from which the track gets it's title is presented as an almost throwaway line despite it having the most narrative potential and an off-the-cuff reference to a saintly great grandmother is a fleeting drive-by. Instead of focusing on any of these Spaltro instead turns her attentions to the sort of camaraderie from shared experience before offering the briefest hint of a love song. It's not a totally new lyrical direction for Spaltro - she's transitioned songwriting subjects before but where the transitions were handled with lyrical sleight-of-hand before, Spaltro aims for a more anxious delivery - like the twist in an action movie.

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's sophomore record After is out March 3rd on Mom + Pop Records.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Listen: Night Beds - "Me, Liquor & God"

It seems like Nashville based singer/songwriter Winston Yellen aka Night Beds is ending this year very similarly to the way he began it - with a single. While "Head For the Hills" was entrenched in the similar sounds and delivery of Night Beds' 2013 Dead Oceans full length debut Country Sleep, "Me, Liquor & God" sees Yellen returning to the electronic-infused tapestries of his Colorado Springs roots with an updated twist.

Rather than the soft-focus dream pop of the Every Fire; Every Joy EP, "Me, Liquor & God" is hard-hitting pop. Yellen has been no stranger to pop music but where the pop previously diluted/supported by other elements like folk rock on Country Sleep standout "Ramona", "Me, Liquor & God" is a radical step for Yellen's more subdued delivery. Make no mistake - the Night Beds' frontman is hopping on the R&B inspired bandwagon but the trendiness of the tune is subverted by the strength of Yellen's songwriting. It's easy to miss it given how catchy and cool the track is but Yellen's voice is not unlike that of his more folk rooted efforts - despite the obvious vocal processing.

It's a surprising step for Night Beds but one in which the effects can't be seen - in stepping out of his comfort zone, Yellen continues to flex his songwriting chops in a  remarkably effective way. It remains to be seen if Yellen will continue in this vein, that of earlier release "Head For the Hills", or if he's pursuing a sound all together different but it a treat to hear something new from the Night Beds camp especially when it demonstrates Yellen's desire to play around with his sound. If nothing else, that'll serve to make sure the next Night Beds record is different than the last.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Incan Abraham - Tolerance (2014)

Sometimes a band's greatest strength is time. Some bands utilize this instinctually, some make a conscious effort to give themselves as much as necessary to let the ideas really gestate. It's not always a surefire option for crafting a masterpiece of an album but it's an excellent start and it certainly doesn't hurt. Los Angeles quartet Incan Abraham are one of those rare bands that seemed to realize early in their career that time would be their greatest ally. Maybe it's due to the fact that the core trio of Guiliano Pizzulo,Teddy Cafaro, and Spencer Mandel have known each other for virtually forever or at least since kindergarten which seems like forever ago when you're twentysomething but since putting their first ever EP out in the very beginning of 2011, the band hasn't been in any particular rush to record their debut full length, settling for small but strong releases.

Coming into their own on their Ancient Vacation EP, each subsequent release - namely their "Springhouse" 10" seemed to expand on the world pop infusion cemented in earnest on Ancient Vacation. So it was certainly unexpected when "Concorde" the first single from Incan Abraham's much anticipated full length debut Tolerance arrived anthemic and energetic as ever but a much more straightforward rock pop jam. While it didn't herald quite the shift in sound that it might've led one to expect, it did at least demonstrate that the foursome were equally comfortable with much more standard instrumentation - that what truly made the band unique wasn't their fondness for tropical percussion but their talented songcraft and musicianship. That's essentially what's on display on Tolerance. Incan Abraham are at peak performance - Pizzulo and Cafaro's vocals dexterous with a fullness that's impressive for the oft-high registers they inhabit while the band as a whole displays the type of interconnectedness earned from their five years of existence. The complex rhythms are still a prevalent force on Tolerance but used in a way that doesn't just echo the band's past releases. The album builds on the band's previously established strengths - namely their pristine vocal harmonies and knack of radiant melodies and tight-knit grooves by providing them a new context. 

I'll admit when I first listened to Tolerance, I didn't immediately jive with the album as a whole - a lingering adoration for the balanced intricacies of Ancient Vacation making the full length's subtler music moments not really register but Tolerance is an album that much like the band who made it - grows with time. Each subsequent listen reveals not only an additional layer of awe-inspiring but a new moment to fawn over - from the sparse majesty of "Desert Hold" to the a capella harmonies in  the finale of "Springhouse". Tolerance may have been a long time coming but it offers more than the occasional peek at Incan Abraham's potential. It's a solid album from a band more than capable of surpassing the benchmark. 

Listen to/buy Incan Abraham's full length debut Tolerance via White Iris Records.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Listen: Seismograph - "In Holy Abyss"

Considering the immersive quality of his music and assisting on the new Cemeteries album, it's hard to imagine Seismograph's Jonathan Ioviero can put out music with the frequency of which he is currently and yet here we are. With his debut album Azure Drift out last year, and not one but two tracks on the annual Halloween label for which he is a cofounder, the fact that Ioviero managed to record and release a sophomore record so quickly is, well, rather impressive.

With "In Holy Abyss", the first single from the sophomore record Tundra Divine, Seismograph is leaning more in a distinctly folkier directio or at least that's the impression the fingerstyle intro would have you believe. Seismograph continues not only to excel at making his form of longform songwriting engaging and interesting but also in sidestepping easy genre classification. Seismograph has always managed to take the scenic route in regards to genre - a pop momentum functioning as the vehicle but post-rock and chillwave elements like hills and trees are reoccurring parts of the scenery.

The most charming thing about Seismograph's "In Holy Abyss" however is how he manages to manipulate it's main melody into the very fabric of it. Throughout the song's 9 minute sprawl, there's frequent callbacks to its initial presentation and it rises in intensity and immediacy until it's eventually the only thing left - there some time before Ioviero's wispy vocals enter and present long after they fade.

Seismograph's sophomore album Tundra Divine is out now and available on limited edition cassette via Ioverio's own Snowbeast Records.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Listen: Johnny Flynn - "Detectorists"

After releasing and touring behind his third studio album Country Mile last year English singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn has more or less settled down for a spell in Britain to focus a bit on his growing family and log in more acting credits (Flynn starred as Dylan in BBC4's Scrotal Recall). But music doesn't seem to be quite on the backburner for Johnny Flynn as Detectorists, a six-part series written and directed by Mackenzie Cook of The Office fame, not only makes extensive use of Flynn's music but features a brand new song as its theme and Flynn in a cameo appearance to perform it.

"Detectorists", which shares it name and subject matter with the metal detector club of the series' main characters, is pretty much standard Flynn: featuring a melodic guitar line reminiscent of "The Box" and a less growling "The Lady is Risen". While shorter than your typical Johnny Flynn tune most likely due to it being the series' opening theme it's longer than you might expect and no less affecting as Flynn delivers understated, beautiful lyrics amid swelling horns and delicate finger plucking.  It's a pitch perfect fit for the series which tends to aim not for gut-busting guffaws but quieter chuckles and pleasant smile-cracking.

Listen to "Detectorists" which is also available for download here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Listen: Jessica Pratt - "Back, Baby"

It wasn't that long ago when the news broke that San Francisco singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt's follow up to her starkly beauty solo debut was in fact a real thing coming soon and today she finally delivers another taste of what the album, On Your Own Love Again, will sound like.

On "Back, Baby", Jessica Pratt resembles not the dusty rambles of folk troubadours but more closely resembles that of a Bacharachian chanteuse but instead of the typical lush orchestrations to which they're more characteristically paired, Pratt stays true to her guitar allowing the layering of her vocals to fill much of the space. Jessica Pratt has been doggedly pursued by Summer of Love/Summer of 69 vibe comparisons and "Back, Baby" manages the impressive feat of both leaning into them and poking the necessary holes in them. Jessica Pratt's "Back, Baby" is soft-focus folk song with a nascent trace of pop.

Jessica Pratt's sophomore record On Your Own Love Again is out January 27th on Drag City.

Listen: The Dodos - "Competition"

There's no denying that Bay area duo The Dodos have settled into a comfortable groove and with their sixth full length on the way it makes a hell of a lot of sense that they would. While no longer experiencing any of the growing pains that marked the transition between their first three albums, The Dodos are still game to explore different avenues for their sound which has arguably resulted in some of the most unexpected and enjoyable parts of their latest albums. The addition of Neko Case on No Color, expansion of their tonal pallet on Carrier, and even their continued collaborations with the Magik*Magik Orchestra have resulted in refreshing changes of pace.

While there's no telling just yet what The Dodos have up their sleeve for their most recent follow up Individ, their latest single "Competition" reintroduces listeners to The Dodos they've known and loved all these years - just Meric Long and Logan Kroeber's percussive rock pop sans any flashy accouterments. The duo start at jogger's pace and show no signs of slowing down even with a shuffling B section. "Competition" shows that even without a lot of the experimentation they've engaged in over the years that the duo are still enjoyable on their own. Kroeber's drumming is still driving and articulate while never overtaking Long. Meanwhile Long pulls a sort of impressive double duty as he pairs his usual winding lyrics with some rather aggressive guitar growls and competing guitar lines. Essentially Long is still enjoying his ongoing exploration of guitar tones which results in moments that are a lot more subtly engaging. But that's more or less always been The Dodos' style - the technical hidden beneath an ever present forward momentum. "Competition" is a song with an obscured intricacy that's surprisingly easy to miss and in that way is rather reflective of The Dodos themselves. There's always a lot more going on than the duo draw attention to - you just have to listen.  

The Dodos' sixth full length album Individ is out January 27th on Polyvinyl. Pre-order is available now and includes an option for a limited edition early bird LP in red.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Listen: Jordan Klassen - "Firing Squad"

While it was a strange serendipity and the the mysterious appearance of his business card in my pocket that led to my discovery of Vancouver songwriter Jordan Klassen it was ultimately one that scratched a much needed itch for more intricately crafted chamber pop. While he's most recently been touring around his 2013 full length Repentance, next month sees the release of brand new single "Firing Squad".

On "Firing Squad", Klassen is switching things up quite a bit as he puts his subtle chamber folk flourishes on the back burner in favor of a much more pop-oriented sound. It's an exercise in ebb and flow as Klassen allows his normally gentle whisper to rise to a jarring shout to the sound of a shaker and some groovy sauntering melodies. The normal delicacy in layering is still present however, resulting in Klassen pairing together an interesting mesh of sounds to form what essentially amounts to background noise. That's doesn't reflect on it's construction, merely Klassen's delivery is so oddly confrontational that it's practically the only thing you can focus on despite the evident care Klassen's given to the song's composition.

It remains to be seen whether Klassen will continue in this more ferocious, rock-edged pop vein or if this is just a one-off single meant to keep his creative juices flowing but it firmly illustrates Klassen's pop literacy in a way that his previous works only hinted at before.

Jordan Klassen's "Firing Squad" single is out November 18th and will be paired with a cover of HAIM's "Falling".

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pitstop: Saintseneca

The path to my discovering Columbus, Ohio folk rockers Saintseneca is as nonsensical as it is winding. After seeing their ANTI- records debut Dark Arc streaming on NPR earlier this year (which I ignored for seemingly no good reason), I kept coming across them on the internet - from news articles, to show calenders, after months of hovering at the periphery of my consciousness I finally decided to give their records are spin and was delighted at them being exactly what I was in the mood for. It's been awhile since I've fawned over a good folk band and Saintseneca providing a quick solution to that problem.

Where bands nowadays are often described by what they're not doing; how they're challenging previously conceived notions of genre - Saintseneca's major strength is just being damn good at what they do. If you had to pick a thing that sets Saintseneca apart from the multitude of folk bands though it would definitely be the timbral palette that their diverse instrumentation allows them. Whether with guitars, ukuleles, banjos, or the multitudes of other string instruments the band have at their disposal, they're no doubt aided by the fact that singer/songwriter Zac Little's voice pairs astonishingly well with stringed instruments. It's not the sort of thing you'd normally notice without the context of the mass of various instruments strummed and plucked, bowed and hammered but Little's distinct voice has a unique timbre of its own - one that lends itself incredibly well to the band's full, intricate folk pop sound. Yes, Saintseneca's talent lies in its ability to align all of its various moving parts and blend them soundly without obscuring anything and speaks to the musicianship of the four musicians who fills its ranks.

That Zac Little is also an incredibly gifted songwriter also helps. Little combines Saintseneca's knack for soaring melodies and catchy choruses with an ability to affix his sincerity-tinged ruminations just so. It's almost startling precise with just the right balance of poetry and prose. Not wholly unlike Mutual Benefit's Jordan Lee. But where Jordan Lee directs his songwriting towards striking the heartstrings by means of the accessible pop medium, Little's wordiness flows with a conversation ease and those unabashedly upbeat moments a natural extension of that.

Saintseneca are one of those bands whose records makes you want to seek out their live set. Not that the recorded output isn't satisfying but the sound is so expansive, so grand that you just know that they also rule in a live setting. Luckily Saintseneca seem to be quite the fans of touring so if you don't catch them on their current North American tour, there's likely to be another in the immediate future.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Brooklyn Rider - The Brooklyn Rider Almanac (2014)

In my college years, deep in the throes of my Russian composer Alexander Borodin obsession, I stumbled upon Les Vendredis. Les Vendredis, French for Fridays, began as an informal gathering at the mansion of successful lumber merchant turned music publisher Mitrofan Belyayev of musicians to play chamber works. Later attracting many of Belyayev's in form of Borodin, Glazunov, Rimsky-Korsakov, and more - the visiting composers began  creating works specifically to play at the gatherings (many of which were gathered into collections named after the weekly gathering). During much of my college career I wondered why such a thing didn't exist nowadays. Though their inspiration comes from a different source - New York based indie classical quartet Brooklyn Rider ultimately resurrected this idea at least in spirit with their latest project/album The Brooklyn Rider Almanac.

Inspired by the European artistic collective La Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) from which the quartet drew their name, The Brooklyn Rider Almanac is a multi-disciplinary project that essentially explores the nature of inspiration and influence. Tapping gifted artists/musicians not necessarily known for their classical output like singer/songwriter Aoife O'Donovan ("Show Me") or Deerhoof's Greg Saunier ("Quartet, Parts One and Two"), the commissioned works draw from equally inspiring sources - jazz guitarist Bill Friskell looks to John Steinbeck, O'Donovan to William Faulkner.

Brooklyn Rider start the almanac (the recorded first installment of their project) off with a bang - "Necessary Henry!", composed by Albanian cellist Rubin Kodheli and inspired by multi-instrumentalist and avant-jazz composer Henry Threadgill, is perhaps the best introduction to the project if not Brooklyn Rider in general. A driving fortissimo combustion - it's a work of charming ebbs and flows that effortlessly encapsulates Brooklyn Rider's genre fluidity. It's a piece of understated cool that tests the instrumental prowess and limits of the quartet's members - it's a mounting wave of kinetic energy that requires rapidfire changes not only between musical ideas but extended techniques. Brooklyn Rider, as always, of course tackle the challenge head on. Despite the swift perpetuum mobile feel of the piece, Kodheli and by extension Brooklyn Rider are able to keep the piece from feeling overstuffed with ideas - the saving grace being the sudden lulls in intensity with the subtler, more nuanced jazz-inflected passages.

Though Brooklyn Rider have worked outside of the confines of the their quartet setup before (their earlier collaboration with Iranian composer/kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor springs immediate to mind), it no doubt still comes as a bit of a shock when Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond's voice enters on the piece "Exit" composed by Brooklyn Rider's own Colin Jacobsen. Drawing text from Kandinsky's Klänge and taken from the Chalk and Soot song cycle which features choreography John Heginbotham but inspired by David Byrne, "Exit" is another excellent indicator of what Brooklyn Rider set out to do with their project. The piece actually resembles something more in line with art song/folk song than anything from the Talking Heads frontman himself and therein lies its appeal. Blending a wide variety of forms (and coming from Kandinsky's own rejection of form), the piece remains singularly unique. What makes the piece the most radical of Brooklyn Rider's output is purely based on the departure of form - in this case that of the traditional quartet. Even with the addition of Worden, the piece still defies easy classification - making ample use of body percussion in the form of handclaps and footstomps.

Perhaps more than ever, Brooklyn Rider are proving not only exceeding difficult to pigeonhole but actively rebelling against such attempts. While The Brooklyn Rider Almanac is a testament to the nature of homage and influence, it also does its best to and succeeds in transcending those very things. Each contributor on the almanac brings their A game and Brooklyn Rider theirs, the union pushing each to creative heights thought previously unreachable. Brooklyn Rider have endured ten years based not only on the merits of their artistic ability but their continued efforts to keep the ensemble form relevant. Moments like the rhythmic dexterity of Vijay Iyer's "Dig the Say" or Ethan Iverson's "Morris Dance" choir-vocal ending and it becomes quite apparent what separates and ultimately unites Brooklyn Rider with the multitude of chamber groups embracing and marrying classical and contemporary influences - a thrilling enthusiasm, a creative fearlessness that keeps Brooklyn Rider not only true to their artistic statement but excitedly scaling to new creative peaks. The Brooklyn Rider Almanac is a snapshot of this wonderful moment in nothing else and no doubt a placeholder for Brooklyn Rider's next unpredictable endeavor in possibly the best way.

The Brooklyn Rider Almanac is out September 30th on Mercury Classics. If the above sampler piques your interest, the whole album is available to stream until its release date via NPR's First Listen.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sondre Lerche - Please (2014)

Though the break-up album tends to be almost a rite of passage for the serious singer/songwriter, one of the greatest feats of Sondre Lerche has been to stave off such a milestone for the better part of his musical career so far. There's been an off song or two (though those were mostly on earlier albums) but nothing in the vein of a true break up record. That is until now - seven albums in and one divorce later - Sondre Lerche's primed and ready to throw his voice into the fray. My favorite break up albums tend to function as cautionary tales - a veritable list of relationship do's and don'ts that if followed might help you avoid such a painful split. Sondre Lerche's Please however upends that notion completely. On Please's 10 songs - Lerche speaks from a point of clarity and yet there's both plenty of blame to go around and no obvious culprit.

A career-defining knack for pop songcraft - perhaps the most surprising and yet not entirely when you really think about it is just how damn catchy Please is. Lerche's always maintained an image of being sensitive but no wuss, of being emotional but not a whiner and that's at play on a number of Please tracks. Or at least the ones that promise to be the most revealing; the most confessional. But for the most part Lerche plays his trademark role as the nice guy with a heart of gold and shredding guitar skills. There's an emotional distance which obscures just how much of the songs lyrics are autobiographical and which are just cobbled from the common experience, past, present, and imaginary for the sake of narrative cohesion. Songs like "Legends" and "Lucifer" offer almost playfully tongue-in-check expressions of anger and regret adrift on downright infectious melodies.

Opener "Bad Law" more or less sets the tone of the album with it's danceable grooves and playful lyricism. Lerche's a pop musician and an consummate entertainer and ultimately the thing that keeps you coming back for more. In fact "At Times We Live Alone" is perhaps the only track on all of Please that allows itself to be a full on ballad. "Sentimentalist" appears to go that route at first but there's an undeniable underlying momentum, it's a jam even if an emotively fueled one. Lerche's not going to wallow but that's not to say that he's glossing over the emotional fallout either - rather he's presenting it real or obscured though many of the lyrics even when the general nature is upbeat like on "Loss For Words". Lerche wants his voice to be heard but doesn't resort to the abrasive shout of Phantom Punch. Lerche is older and wiser; preferering to offer most of his most important points/counterpoints with a nuanced and almost conversational air. "I'm not holding onto innocence/I'm not holding onto violence/But I'll be letting go of you" Lerche offers helpfully on "After the Exorcism". Lerche's not looking to rage, he's just trying to navigate through the tumult.

Please is more than more of the same from Lerche: it manages to encapsulate what fans have responded to most about Lerche from his early love of Brazil pop and jazz ("Legends"/"Lucifer") and while pushing Lerche's experimentations forward. The power of Lerche's long awaited break up album is the direct result of his subversion of the notions of what makes a good break up record. Lerche doesn't pretend nothing happened; that life simply goes back to the way it was before married life, but neither does he dwell too much on his regret or failure. The heartbreak, heart ache, and anger don't define you and neither should they Lerche seems to posit. It's a mature point but one that doesn't arrive without reasoning. Please is, at it's core, a sort of progression through grief, bristling up against understated moments of contented acceptance before it eventually arrives there to stay.

 Sondre Lerche's seventh studio album Please is out September 23rd on Mona Records. Please is now streaming via NPR's First Listen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Watch: Sondre Lerche - "Legends"

If you haven't already I strongly recommend giving a listen to Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche's seventh full length studio album Please which began streaming on NPR's First Listen earlier this week ahead of its release date next week. If you have, I strongly recommend listening again. And again. And then again after that.

The video for album standout "Legends" directed by Evan Savitt, functions as a sequel (or even a prequel) to the earlier released "Bad Law" video. Where Lerche played a gradually spiraling party guest there, "Legends" sees Lerche removed from the judgement of others but not from his fiesty dance moves. Facing the sobering light of morning (which had little to no effect before), Lerche rubs the sleep/sleepiness from his eyes before continuing his dancefloor gospel. While bits of the "Bad Law" video featured glimpses of the morning after and park jaunt - the "Legends" video doesn't have the same relationship with perspective. The focus is unflinching on the present. Or in a version of the present where Lerche has a quartet of uniformed backup dancers to share in his post-debauchery celebratory dance party. What starts out as a potential dream sequence becomes somewhat unclear as the dancers interact, aid, and enable Lerche in his continued (possibly still inebriated) dance-fueled rampage.

Watch Sondre Lerche's video for "Legends" directed by "Bad Law" director Evan Savitt:

Sondre Lerche's upcoming seventh album Please is out September 23rd on Mona Records. Preorder available now on digital and CD/LP.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Listen: yMusic - "Music in Circles (Excerpt)"

While New York City based chamber group yMusic certainly earned their stripes with the release of their debut album Beautiful Mechanical back in 2011, the excitement I felt upon the announcement of their follow up Balance Problems was undoubtably leveled up when it was revealed that had Son Lux signed on to produce it. While yMusic certainly toed the line of indie classical and something wholly other on their debut, Ryan Lott's involvement behind the scenes seemed to portend an additional desire for the sextet to continue to sidestep genre labels. 

While on Beautiful Mechanical, yMusic teamed up with several notable indie artists/composers, Balance Problems goes a more traditional route of having yMusic align less with band fronters/artists that happen to be competent composers and more with those notable for doing just that. That's not to say a couple crossovers aren't present a la Sufjan Stevens. Through taking to commonplace definition, yMusic's core concept is illuminated further - by tackling the pre-established norms in classical music, yMusic set out to ultimately transcend them.

The first single from the new record, "Music in Circles" is an excerpt from a two part piece written by Andrew Norman. The most notable part of Music in Circles" or rather, the excerpt yMusic offer as a taster - is just how long it takes for clear melody to formulate. Beginning with far more percussive leaning strings paired fragmented glancing blows in the winds, Norman offers up merely hints at melody that builds - the spiccato strokes and ricochet go from merely functioning as a percussive effect to forming a part of harmonic vertebra. "Music in Circles" is built from the ground up not from the layering of melody and harmony but from the incorporation of each instruments' own advanced techniques. The most pleasant surprise is how easily everything coagulates into beautiful harmonic moments. "Music in Circles" resembles at its most simple a modal work where each instruments' part ingeniously syncs up. However Norman and yMusic by extension make you work for those moments - much of the piece spends its time gently layering towards the sync only to either snatch it away at moment you expect everything to coalesce or to deconstruct it immediately when melodic fluidity becomes the norm.

"Music in Circles" is a challenging, subversive piece that breaks down the very notion of expectations while offering wonderful moments of beautiful, almost happenstance like harmony that gives yMusic ability to really flex their technical chops. Norman draws attention to the nature of melody, which through his suspension of it, makes the moments when it appears all that more arresting, and the momentous climbs toward its establishment perhaps more intriguing and important.

yMusic's second full length Balance Problems is out September 30th on New Amsterdam Records.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Listen: Sondre Lerche - "Sentimentalist"

                                                 (photo by Eric Ray Davidson)

After the groovy dancefloor filler that was "Bad Law", Norwegian export Sondre Lerche's offering up a much moodier number far more befitting of the breakup album that seventh studio album Please is rumored to be. While the lyrics of "Bad Law" were no doubt rather dark, there's no denying the rather upbeat presentation obscured them a bit - not quite a celebration, but not quite an admonishment either. While it remains to be seen exactly what kind of album Please will end up at the end, "Sentimentalist" sees Lerche optioning a different shade. There's no doubt that Lerche's best songs are the unflinchingly honest, heartfelt gems in his catalog and "Sentimentalist" has all the makings of those without exactly drawing from the same well.

Lerche's most recent dips into experimentalism for The Sleepwalker soundtrack have clearly stuck as his vocals are submerged into a cold bath of reverb. Lerche's trademark melodic clarity is set directly at odds with an ominous, lurking haze that threatens and eventually does consume everything. One of Lerche's greatest strengths has been an ability to spotlight the fallout of negative emotive turns without a sense of wallowing and "Sentimentalist" is crystal clear example of that. It's a song tinged with the specter of regret but never quite giving in to it - at least not lyrically. Instead of riotous pyrotechnics of a relationship at its end, Lerche instead paints a picture of a gradual fade - almost completely at odds with the passionate fervor addressed in "Bad Law". "I'll be damned if I fight, I'll be damned if I don't" opines Lerche before offering a very telling "In the end, would it count?" 

"Sentimentalist" strips Lerche of all his trademark charm to his great benefit. There's no rights or wrongs presented, no appeals for the listener to take a side, instead Lerche presents his own measured evaluation that makes it clear he's removed from the emotional fallout. It's almost jarringly in its neutrality, but commendable that Lerche avoids the viable but cheaper option of playing victim or villain. If Please ends up being a break up album, songs like "Sentimentalist" will be its saving grace - rising above the standard tropes to offer a smart but still enjoyable and still relatable take. 

Sondre Lerche's seventh full length studio album Please is out September 23rd on Lerche's own Mona Records. Preorder for digital as well as CD/LP are available now.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Listen: Ólöf Arnalds - "Patience"

While first single "Half Steady" might've signaled Icelandic singer/songwriter Ólöf Arnalds' absconding from the beaten path into the previously uncharted territory of synth-inflected pop, "Patience" acts as its foil. Palme, it appears won't be all folk/electronic hybrids after all. Instead, it appears her team up with Gunnar Örn Tynes of múm will result in more subtler tweaks to Arnalds' style of lush folk pop. Unlike "Half Steady" "Patience" isn't all that atypical to Arnalds' other works but it's immediately evidentl Arnalds has leveled up her production.

"Patience" might be Arnalds most catchy song to date with its winding melodies and the push and pull of its song structure that culminates into Arnalds' layered choir-like harmonies. It's a sultry surge - never quite picking up from its lilting bow and bend but never quite losing steam either. The video, directed by  Máni M. Sigfússon, seemed to realize this - growing from a soft focused afterimage effect to casually (and most importantly gradually) shifts Arnalds' surroundings from a dark room, to derelict ruins and overgrown forests and fields. Nothing about the direction is immediate; everything growing from a seed of an idea while gently nodding towards Arnalds lyrics.

Ólöf Arnalds' fourth full length album Palme is out September 30th on One Little Indian Records.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Listen: Buke and Gase - "Seam Esteem"

The best thing about the now Hudson, NY based experimental duo Buke and Gase is that they arrived more or less with a fully formed signature sound and a predilection for surpassing even your most wildest of expectations. In a way that's only real descriptor that sticks as the riotous twosome manage to elude and evade absolutely everything even vaguely resembling a genre classification. Earlier this year when Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez decided to post snippets of their upcoming third album in its earliest stages, it was a rare look into the band's creative process that still managed to be completely nonrevealing as to what the album would sound like. Not due to any subterfuge but the fact that Buke and Gase so frequently scrap or warp ideas or employ their improvisations and experimentations in a variety of different ways that you were never quite sure if what you heard then would sound anything like the end product.

"Seam Esteem" is however a proper glimpse at the yet to be titled/detailed third album. On it, Buke and Gase have seemed to settled into comfortable groove - with a direct line of growth evident from last year's General Dome. It continues in their established vein of cacophonous, multi-layered pop-oriented songs while still populating its own universe in terms of style and substance. It's surprisingly straight forward, a firmly established boom-clap beat underscoring the real variant which is Dyer's vocals which undergoes a number of microtransformations throughout. Her unaffected howl making its way towards an ironic computerized detachment as she sings "It feels so for real" in the track's chorus. The twosomes trademark buke and gase made their appearance but more or texture than any real spotlighting.

There's no official word of the third album yet but considering their going on a tour in the Fall, news of the album should be hopefully be revealed soon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Listen: Ólöf Arnalds: "Half Steady"

For fans of the Icelandic chanteuse Ólöf Arnalds' previous efforts, "Half Steady" is going to come as a bit of a surprise but a epiphanic, euphoria-inducing one to be sure.

On her upcoming fourth album Palme, Arnalds is taking a page out of her cousin Olafur's book and imbuing her sound with a bit of electronics. It's not a wildly radical idea with other more folk oriented singers like Alessi's Ark and Basia Bulat going that route on their releases last year but damn if Arnalds' doesn't absolutely sell the shift AND stick the landing. Taking a song she original wrote in her teens, Arnalds, along with Gunnar Örn Tynes (of múm fame) and frequent collaborator Skúli Sverrisson crafts an utterly radiant experimental pop gem. A gifted songwriter, Arnalds' true talents have always been not solely the words of her songs but the feelings they invoke and that's firmly on display here as Arnalds glides above the music box melodies. It's delicate in its construction, oddly simplistic despite in its resplendent cacophony while managing to be charmingly human despite its many inorganic elements. Arnalds' knack for creating little pocket realms for the listener to slip into is still at play here, although "Half Steady" is much more of frenetic clockwork retaining Arnalds' smooth, soaring melodies but upheaving much of the terrain for glimpses at mountainous jags.

Ólöf Arnalds' fourth full length Palme is out September 30th on One Little Indian Records.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Listen: Steve Gunn & Mike Cooper - "Saudade Do Santos-o-Vehlo"

Singer/songwriter Steve Gunn is certainly having a busy year.  After putting out his Paradise of Bachelors debut Time Off last year, he's already prepping to release its follow up Way Out Weather in the fall of this year. What's more sometime in between the production of that record, he somehow had time to work on not one but two collaborative LPs that also came out this year. One with fiddler Mike Gangloff and the other with one of Gunn's own influences British guitarist Mike Cooper.

"Saudade Do Santos-o-Vehlo" is for most, the amuse-bouche to Gunn & Cooper's collaboration and for me at least a much needed/belated introduction to Mike Cooper - a man whose been consistently releasing music for the past 50 years. Cantos de Lisboa, the 11th installment in RVNG Intl's Frkwys series, finds the duo teaming up in Portugal of all places for a set of improvisations inspired in part by the Portuguese culture and their surroundings but also by the two's shared musical backgrounds in folk, jazz, and blues.

"Saudade Do Santos-o-Vehlo" is an instrumental ramble not entirely out of Gunn's normal oeuvre. Cooper & Gunn are in total creative consonance, swirling about and meshing together fluidly enough that you can't really tell which melodic lines are Cooper's and which are Gunn's. You have your guesses but for the most part, the two are in perfect sync feeding off of each other's flourishes. It's a track that could very well go on forever and kind of does, considering it ends with a fade; never quite reaching a true resolution.

Steve Gunn & Mike Cooper's collaborative album Cantos de Lisboa is out now on RVNG Intl

Monday, August 4, 2014

Listen: Marissa Nadler - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" (Father John Misty cover)

If you follow Boston singer/songwriter Marissa Nadler's non-album endeavors her latest team up should be of no real big surprise to you. After enlisting the aid of Angel Olsen and Cat Martino on past collaborations, she's apparently set her sights on Father John Misty's Josh Tillman and they've engaged in a bit of a song swap for a 7" out on Bella Union. For the 7" Tillman's offering up a take on Nadler's "Drive" from her newest full length July while Nadler's tackling arguably the most popular song on the Father John Misty record "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings".

Nadler turns the rugged rock jam into a lamentation. Some of the lyrics which were humorously eyebrow raising in Tillman's delivery, instead are handled with a delicate care that instead makes them appear as a direct response to grief instead of questionable drug-addled adventure. As is Nadler's way, she manages to stay true to the source material while displaying her own strengths - giving herself elegantly craning vocal lines in the balladic version.

The 7" split with be available both on limited edition vinyl and digitally from Bella Union on August 4th.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Listen: Steve Gunn - "Milly's Garden"

Considering how populated the industry is these days, it's actually a pleasure when a musician pops up with a clear vision of both what they want to do and how they're influences can inspire that. In singer/songwriter Steve Gunn's case, he's had plenty of years playing music with a revolving cast of musicians and ensemble permutations to properly solidify his leanings for jazz and blues and imbue not only that technical precision but the shades of coloring into his dusty plain swept rambles.

While that alone makes for some interesting in its own right, Steve Gunn possess a narrative sweep that manages to parlay unaffected plainspeak with a curious knack for just the right kind of details. It's an entrancing simplicity that never actually insists upon its own simplicity. Gunn's songs are not unlike a casual conversation, a story told by two invested parties that feed off each other to enrich the details. The pair just so happens to be Gunn's lyricism and his band however. Equal weight is given not only to what Gunn sings but to the sounds he's able to draw out of his guitar and his collaborators; where even at their jammiest, their path is still firmly in sight and in no danger of being abandoned in favor of too much flash; of too much sizzle.

"Milly's Garden" offers up more of what Steve Gunn does best. On "Milly's Garden", Gunn conjures the feeling of unfettered expanses both musically and technically while continuing his new role of singing full band leader from Time Off , keeping everything firmly on the rails even as the song gives the impression of spreading out into the infinity.

Steve Gunn's Way Out Weather is out October 7th on Paradise of Bachelors.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Listen: The Wilderness of Manitoba - "Leave Someone"

If you weren't aware that Toronto based folkies The Wilderness of Manitoba were on album four well no one would really blame you. After their US debut (which was actually their sophomore record) When You Left The Fire back in 2011, they've pretty much kept things north of the border while venturing south for the odd show here or there. With the announcement of their upcoming record Between Colours however, hopefully another US release in on the horizon because first single "Leave Someone" is for lack of a better term such a jam.

For those that missed Island of Echoes, "Leave Someone" is an introduction not only to The Wilderness of Manitoba's new addition Amanda Balsys but also a distinctly less folk-oriented sound. In fact, Between Colours sees the band trimmed down from quintet to trio but rather than slowing them down, "Leave Someone" shows that the band has been galvanized by it's metaphorical new blood as they bypass folk pretty much altogether and land squarely at rollicking, fervent rock. Though the track isn't all aggressive forward momentum, leaning on the brakes at precisely the right time to offer a slight reprieve in the form of  Will Whitwham's tender vocal solo. From them on, it's back to the spirited gallop to the finish and right into the hearts of Wilderness of Manitoba fans old and new.

The Wilderness of Manitoba's third full length album Between Colours is out September 16th on Pheromone Records.

(via Exclaim!)

Watch: PHOX - "Kingfisher"

                                                         (photo by Jade Ehlers)

Wisconsin folk pop troupe PHOX are certainly a band of many talents. Such almost has to be the case when a band consists of a slightly atypical six members but PHOX's talents aren't confined to the purely musical. Each one of their members has a different skill to offer and PHOX just happens to have an in house music video director in banjoist Zach Johnson.

Their video for "Kingfisher" makes use of light instrumentation and whimsical fluttering flute ornaments to inspire a whole series of fantastical events. Beginning with Monica Martin dragging a bed through an open field, she and the viewer are suddenly transported to a dreamly landscape where everything is majestic and grand but most definitely nonsensical. It's Wonderland-esque without particularly engaging in that particularly tired trope. Even as the members of PHOX cart Martin around, freeing her from her Sisyphean duty of bed transport, you never get the sense that she particularly belongs in this dreamworld as magical and wondrous as it might appear and she's soon dropped right back where she last started in the field all alone in her task.  

Watch the video for PHOX's "Kingfisher" directed by their own Zach Johnson:

PHOX's self-titled debut album is out now on Partisan Records. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Listen: Gracie - "Spilt Milk"/"Hood Rich"

                                                         (photo by Brian Vu)

It's a bit of a marvel that Brooklyn based electro pop artist Gracie really hasn't taken a break. Not really. Releasing his Work It Out EP last year and his Bleeder EP the year before, and the Treehouse EP before that, Gracie's pretty much made sure to have a new release ready every year and it's mighty impressive. While Gracie mastermind Andrew Balasia has flushed out his band a bit since his Philly emigration from duo to trio to even sometimes a quartet, there's no doubt that Balasia himself is growing with each subsequent release.

"Spilt Milk" and "Hood Rich" are the spoils of what Balasia's been working on since collaborating with Wilmington DE duo Thunderhank on last year's Work It Out EP and one of the takeaways at least in the form of "Spilt Milk" is a predilection for angular guitar melodies. Although there's certainly more to "Spilt Milk" than that, actually. The guitar is rarely the focus and instead the multitude of samples and breezy keyboard melodies. One of Balasia's trademarks from as far back as the Treehouse EP is that of the idée fixe whose altering tends to form the sum of Gracie's song structure. Where the guitar, bass, and drum bits are merely a part of the track's textural build up, Balasia's own keyboard playing and samples usage forms the backbone of "Spilt Milk" with the vocals often doubling the pre-established melodies. It's an interesting way to form a song and one that is quite easy to escape notice without a whole lot of analysis. 

"Hood Rich", functions as a decent foil to "Spilt Milk" not only because of it's much more supportive stance on relationship tumult but where "Spilt Milk" sought to include organic elements, "Hood Rich" revels much more in Balasia's effects. It's much more electronic leaning while also toeing the line of the recent indie R&B incorporation but manages to stay firmly on the right line of city-living inspired electro pop.  

Listen: Blake Mills - "Don't Tell Our Friends About Me"/"If I'm Unworthy"

I was introduced to Los Angeles singer/songwriter Blake Mills by a stray link from Sondre Lerche praising his guitar skills. Considering Lerche's a talented guitarist in his own right, I was intrigued to say the least. What I found was Mills' carefully worded but effortless lyrical tableaus and a new favorite track in "It'll All Work Out". It was the kind of attention to detail that both made the fact that Mills only possessed a single album released in 2010 both mindboggling and totally logical. Mills makes the kind of music that's a once familiar but all together his own; that no doubt requires a lengthy creative process to achieve such spectacular results.   
When news broke that this year would finally see the release of Blake Mills sophomore record I was elated and Mills certainly didn't disappoint, premiering two songs from the album Heigh Ho on the same day. Fitting of their split attentions, Mills two tracks are dramatically different approaches to his natural narrative flair. "Don't Tell Your Friends About Me", which features former tour mate and collaborator Fiona Apple on harmonies and drive-by verses, is the most straightforward and poppy of the Heigh Ho twofer. Mills' narrative bread and butter seems to be relationship strife and Mills' spins an engaging yarn that's at times charmingly saccharine, borderline comedic, but also delightfully sincere.

"If I'm Unworthy" however gets far more mileage out of Mills' guitar prowess than the occasional solo/flourish. A soulful blues-tinged ramble built upon much more experimental guitar techniques. "If I'm Unworthy" is a brilliant counterpoint to the agile popcraft of "Don't Tell Our Friends About Me" both in terms of emotional resonance and by making Mills' years of musicianship (gained as a session musician and member of bands) the song's actual star.      

Blake Mills' follow up to 2010's Break Mirrors, Heigh Ho is out September 16th on Verve. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watch: Dry the River - "Everlasting Light"

It's expected that sometime in the space between a band's debut and sophomore record the idea will be entertained to tweak, perhaps even completely reinvent their sound and British indie rock quartet Dry the River are perhaps no exception. While the departure of violinist/multi-instrumentalist Will Harvey might've played some part, it turns out (or at least in the case of the past two singles) that Dry the River are forgoing the folkier aspects of their humble folk rock beginnings in favor of much more rock edged pop approach. The positive here being that they are freed a bit from the sense of pervasive melancholy that seemed to ensnare Peter Liddle's poignant but often morose songwriting. 
"Everlasting Light", the second single from the upcoming sophomore effort Alarms in the Heart, proves that Liddle is capable of effective lyricism at a quicker pace and that the band are a lot more fun than their material might otherwise suggest. Taking a rather different approach and having the source of Liddle and company's pain be the external rather than the emotional or spiritual, the video for "Everlasting Light" sees Dry the River lads paired with a group of fearsome women with black belts in karate. An expected amount of carnage ensues as the band find themselves way over their head but bruised pride aside, the quartet find themselves virtually unscathed from the floor-mopping bout.

"Everlasting Light" also dismantles a bit of Dry the River's characteristic climactic surges perhaps for the best. While the way they've done so has never seemed particularly rote, there's no denying that it proved to be an oft used part of the band's formula and "Everlasting Light" quickly establishes that the band can do without it to advance the song forward. There's clearly climactic highs reached in "Everlasting Light" but rather than the whole band rallying forward in a trademark swell, it's achieved simply through Liddle's own natural cadence - his vocals rising without the need for a band's tumultuous deluge. 


Dry the River's sophomore album Alarms in the Heart is out August 26th on Trangressive Records.

The Dø - "Miracles (Back In Time)"

After the release of their new single "Keep Your Lips Sealed" two short months ago, Finnish/French experimental pop duo The Dø have pretty much hit the ground running with album details while also keeping those details to the bare minimum. While their influences/inspirations range pretty from all over (but mostly rap/r&b), the duo's new single "Miracles (Back in Time)" is still very much a part of their expectation-defying, genre-trouncing style.

"Miracles", manages to rely on many of the conventions of electronic music without allowing itself to be defined by them. In "Miracles" there's a deft but minimal use of samples that grant the tune an elevated sense of grandeur all the while the vocal lines are smooth and fluid rather unlike the glitchy and clipped pacing of "Keep Your Lips Sealed" all the while the drum beats rebound cavernously with the notable lack of accompaniment. There's no gallop toward a climax, rather the tune revels in its own simplicity, building up and breaking apart its layers before they become too complex in different combination and configurations. Unlike other tracks by The Dø that pit Olivia Merilahti' vocals firmly on par with whatever the band's cooked up, there's a notable stripping back, Merilahti (though more than competent to) doesn't need to exert a whole lot of effort to maintain focus. It's an interesting turn for a band that's skilled at making beauty out of the clamor but one that's ultimately successful as the twosome make a surprisingly catchy pop jam from only a handful of elements.

The Dø's upcoming third album Shake Shook Shaken will be out September of this year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Listen: Husky - "I'm Not Coming Back"

About two years ago, Aussie quartet Husky arrived toting their debut Forever So on Sub Pop. What was contained within was an oddly atmospheric and yet driving brand of folk pop. The most notable thing about them was the subtle way in which singer/songwriter Husky Gawenda's doleful tenor seemed to caress his carefully chosen phrases. On new track "I'm Not Coming Back",  Husky essentially offer up a souped up version of more of the same defining characteristics. "I'm Not Coming Back" is the most fast paced the band have allowed themselves but even as the track speeds along there's no denying the regard for space and care that's downright refreshing. It's good to know that even as the band grows there's still an element of their discerning nature that'll no doubt aid what might be a far poppier direction of their yet to be announced follow up record by grounding it in sincerity.

Listen to Husky's latest single "I'm Not Coming Back:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Watch: Little Tybee - "Don't Quit Your Day Job" (Live at Doppler Studios)

While any news of a brand new record from Atlanta jazz-inflected folk pop outfit Little Tybee has either been suppressed or is virtually non-existent, that certainly isn't stopping them. Considering we only got the dazzlingly rich For Distant Viewing after Little Tybee postponed it's release for about a year and a half, they don't seem in any particular rush to hurry their process along and that's probably for the best.

"Don't Quit Your Day Job" (which is filmed at the same studio that brought us the updated version of Building A Bomb's "Hearing Blue" that eventually found its way onto For Distant Viewing) places both the band and its frontman in a rather curious place. For starters, its clear from the get go that "Don't Quit Your Day Job" is a complete and total jam. Despite its studio setting, it features the band in absolutely rare form that's pretty much equivalent to the band's live set - there's an awe-inspiring amount of technical pyrotechnics that don't really pull you out of the song itself. Brock Scott spends the majority of the track in his high register, which might actually be the most impressive performance in the sea of the band's impressive performances. Instead of piercing, Brock Scott's falsetto is pillowy and agile, graceful in its extended execution.

Brock Scott's lyricism has always been a wonderful draw but in a rare, unexpected turn, seems not secondary but tertiary to the rest of the band's performance and Scott's vocals in general. That's not to say that the lyrics are weak here but rather they band is operating on a level that the lyrics just stand no chance of matching. "Don't Quit Your Day Job" is a pretty necessary reminder that Little Tybee are a consummate live band, luckily released just ahead of a summer tour. You can see if they're coming to your neck of the woods here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Listen: Lewis & Clarke - "Triumvirate"

There are few bands where the word sprawling seems so wonderfully apt at describing them than the folk-fueled art pop of Pennsylvania's Lewis & Clarke or its mastermind Lou Rogai. Over the course of several years, Rogai has established a clear and honest vision of elevated longform songwriting that's mesmerizing in its grandeur, immersive in its majestic sweep, and yet so neatly contained within its wide expansive.

For those that have followed the career of Rogai's Lewis & Clarke, "Triumvirate", the title track from his upcoming record, is an offering that's wonderful in its familiarity while avoiding mere rote repetition. "Triumvirate" trades the dreamy lushness of Blasts Of Holy Birth for an intriguing openness, employing a sort of horizontal layering effort instead of the vertical - the result is a powerful possession of space as Rogai's proves he doesn't have to package his lyrics in fancy dressings, the melodies enduring in their own right yet floated a long on elegantly arched piano and the barely there whisper of guitar. Even in its rising swells, "Triumvirate" maintains a pervasive quiet, an ever so slight push keeps the track from succumbing to what could easily be a self-destructive sense of lethargy. Instead "Triumvirate" strikes with the subtle strength of ocean's waves - capable of enveloping you in its nearly 9 minute swell before you even know what hit you.

Lewis & Clarke's upcoming full length Triumvirate is out September 9th on  La Société Expéditionnaire bt is available for pre-order via Kickstarter campaign along with a couple rare goodies like a companion book, double 12" LP, silk-screened poster, and more. You can contribute here.

A preview of several of the album's songs is available in A Map of Mazes, a short film/mood piece directed by Kevin Haus.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pitstop: PHOX

When one of your favorite bands personally recommends another band, it's a good idea to listen to them. That's the takeaway from when Typhoon percussionist/ukulelist Devin Gallagher suggested one time tour mates PHOX to me at a show at this year's SXSW. Turns out the Wisconsin natives were on more than a handful of can't miss lists and for good reason - originally hailing from the circus town of Baraboo, their songs contain a sort of imaginative narrative flourish that's sure to set them apart from the multitudes of other folk pop bands plying their wares.

Framed around singer/songwriter Monica Martin, the sextet take a much more laid back approach to their soulful pop-infused folk. It's never quite about the hooks for the band - who certainly have a knack for it if single "1936" or "Slow Motion" are anything to go off. No instead PHOX's main talent is setting and maintaining specific moods while demonstrating their musicianship in a way that's less flash and all substance.

PHOX is a subtly brilliant blend of typical rock instruments with the more chamber pop ornaments - guitar, bass, drums and voice complimented by banjo, piano, and trumpet, clarinet which recalls early Fanfarlo (though more in the assortment than any true stylistic fingerprints). Aside from Martin's tenderly offered vocals, the rest of the band gathers in a decidedly artful and beguiling dizzy whirl of sound. It never quite rises to the overwhelming crescendo, instead settling for calm plods and gentle swells.

PHOX are the kind of band full comfortable in their sounds no doubt a direct result both of the band members years of friendship and time devoted into developing their sound. There's nothing particularly rushed, nothing truly insistent about PHOX and that's a definite plus - their folky pop songs blossoming naturally but ever wary not to overstay their welcome.

PHOX's self titled debut full length is out June 24th on Partisan Records. Orders available here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Watch: Sondre Lerche - "Bad Law"

After nearly a decade long career of being known for it, Norwegian singer/songwriter/popsmith extraordinaire Sondre Lerche is making a full on break from his nice guy image. There's been subtler attempts at it before (see lyrics to "Coliseum Town" for the possibly the most overt), but in the video for "Bad Law", the first single from his upcoming seventh full length studio album Please Lerche really goes for the gold.

The story in the "Bad Law" video is one we're all probably far too familiar, Lerche in a show of poor decision making has a little too much to drink and starts to humiliate himself more and more at a party. It says a lot about Lerche's charm that he can embody what everyone would probably agree as the absolute worst part of any party and draw a strange sort of enjoyment out of watching his drunken, increasingly embarrassing antics not with fingers over the face watching cringeworthiness but unabashed delight at his antics. Taking his cues from the track, Lerche's dancing is wild and erratic, especially during the track's most cacophonous moment building toward near nuclear levels of instability. There's an almost limitless potential for the video to dip into a pitiable tragicomedy but things are kept surprisingly and appreciatively light as we're shown not only Lerche's continuous unraveling but a little of the aftermath of the night's shenanigans.

Watch Sondre Lerche's video for "Bad Law":

Sondre Lerche's upcoming record Please is out September 23rd on his own Mona Records.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Watch: Dry the River - "Gethsemane"

Just in time for their stint on the summer festival circuit, English folk-invoking indie rockers Dry the River have not only announced the follow up to 2012's Shallow Bed but also offered up a spanking new video for new single "Gethesamine".
The video, which features the new lineup after the departure of multi-instrumentalist Will Harvey, is a simple affair - capturing the band doing what they do best while dressed in their spiffiest duds in one of the concert halls they're sure to revisit on their upcoming Fall tour. Dry the River have a talent for the spirited crescendo, a tumultuous ebb and flow in their songcraft and "Gethesamine" is no different. After a heart-stirring slow burn where Peter Liddle offers his articulately descriptive lyricism, the track comes to a full on boil, picking up and galvanizing Liddle's lamentations into a ferocious sprint for the finish. "Gethesamine" is more than just a highlight reel of Shallow Bed's most winsome moments however - the new track is just that offering different applications of the band's learned skills and while working within the confines of their band identity. The three part harmonies and monumental climaxes are here to stay but the journey (and in this case the pacing) is a completely different one. 

Dry the River's sophomore full length Alarms in the Heart is out August 25th on Trangressive Records with details of a US release hopefully forthcoming.