A Cat Called Cricket
Here Comes Another Melody
So how was your Wednesday? I spent the entire day listening to new CDs. Again. I need to go watch TV or something to unravel my brain which is seriously burnt out on trying to come up with RIYLs and synonyms for “indie pop rock”.
But before I do, here’s a nice little CD from a folksy, indie pop rock (ahaha) band from Maryland that reminds me an awful lot of Philly’s Matt Pond PA. Something about the strings I guess, which I’m known to be a sucker for. But seriously, there are some awful nice stringsy arrangements going on here. Bit ‘o Rilo Kiley perhaps in there. Nice banjo picking. Excellent layer cake harmonies, especially on “While You Sleep”. Slight alt-country feel. Vocals sound familiar, can’t place it. “More Of (Nothing)” is an awesome acoustic guitar and strings instrumental that turns Polyphonic Spree-ish at the end. I expect it to be played as background music on PBS soon.
Sorry, I’m about to collapse here, must go watch mindless TV now. Put the Cat Called Cricket back on To-Listen list. But you can head over to their Myspace to listen for yourself. Over and out.
…urgh, came back from watching TV because forgot to mention that the label that they are on, The Beechfields, also houses two great bands that a lot of us like: Private Eleanor and The Seldon Plan. Ok, now I’m really going.
Tracks on Myspace
2.2.07 | Bill Callahan – Woke On A Whaleheart
Turns out Bill Callahan, one of my favorite grumblyfolkers, is coming out with a new album in April called Woke On A Whaleheart. Couldn’t find any advance tracks on the Drag City site, but here are some recent videos to keep you going until they do get some tracks. Ah yes – some good ‘ol Cold Blooded ‘ol Times…
2.17.07 | Karrie Hopper – An Unusual Move
An Unusual Move
Got this rather nice release off Nobody’s Favorite Records the other day… this is a fairly small indie label thats been known to put out mostly introspective and acoustic stuff. Karrie Hopper has a voice that will put you in mind of Mirah plus the Innocence Mission, and the music follows the spirit of both of those artists as well.
“An Unusual Move” is actually unusual on the surface just because it’s a fully letterpressed album – something you don’t see too often from indie artists. There are some great folksy tracks here of plaintive acoustic guitar which match Karrie’s charming voice which tends to transport you back to childhood because of it’s innocent quality. The music is sometimes augmented by piano and backup vocals. Definitely an album to take a listen to if you like the quieter stuff.
2.14.07 | Loney, Dear – Loney, Noir
Very rarely, I get sent albums that leave me pretty speechless. Where the music is so good that it seems pointless to trundle out your review superlatives. I have had this problem with the new Loney, Dear album called “Loney, Noir” which has been on constant playback for a month or so now.
Interestingly, this came in a Subpop package along with the new Shins which I’d been eagerly awaiting. Yeah, “Wincing” is pretty great… but Loney, Dear completely took over my CD player with his amazing one man band recordings. Granted, I’ve got a soft spot for the Swedes (and yes, I was a fan before the current influx of Swedish indies) but Emil Svanängen has really turned on the charm in his pop music.
It’s hard to describe except to say that it is so beautifully natural and organic sounding. It’s not shoegaze, but I’m going to call it “Stargaze” music because it’s filled with the same childlike wonder I once felt when watching the Leonid shooting stars up near Mount Wilson. And I don’t mean that ill-fated kind of childlike wonder that often transforms Peter Griffin on Family guy into a gibbnering 7-year old idiot. I mean true wonder.
The first three songs, “Sinister In A State of Hope”, “I Am John” and “Saturday Waits” are reason enough to get the album. But I was already completely sold by the end of the first track. For reference, the actual setup of the music is similar to either Badly Drawn Boy or Sufjan Stevens or Polyphonic Spree where simple pop and folk melodies are framed by a larger amount of instruments than might otherwise be orchestrated. The instrumentation is quirky which adds to the sense of wonder. Vocally, Emil channels Brian Wilson, Jeff Hanson, or Paul Simon when he sings in a higher voice (which is most of the time), or Jason Lytle when he sings lower. There’s a slight nod to the Elephant 6 type of sound of Beulah or The Apples, but it’s just slight.
Though the recordings are done on his own in somewhat modest settings (apartment or basement of parent’s house), I’ve heard that when he plays live he adds on a full band. I would really like to see them play a show, but I don’t believe they’re coming around to California. They’re playing SXSW, though. I’ve heard they did shows with Peter, Bjorn and John in Sweden – what a bill that would be.
Basically, I am just going to call this the best album I’ve gotten this year so far. And I would be super surprised if it didn’t make top 5 at year’s end. I know it’s early, but Loney, Dear is just too good.
I Am John
2.2.07 | M. Craft
Found this artist through the ever reliable Sixeyes. A former Australian turned Londoner, M. (Martin) Craft plays a mishmash of mellow melodic folk tunes mixed with a slight groove at times. A side note first: What’s with all the folks/bands wanting to abbreviate their first names as “M”. I speak of M. Ward, M. Coast, etc. Oh, M. Night Shyamalan, hehe.
His debut album Silver & Fire was released this past summer, and while he gets hit with that “psychadelic folk tag” I just don’t hear that as much. Although, there is different sort of disco and waltz tempo to what might just be standard folksy stuff in other musicians’ hands. From the tracks I heard, it could be a semi-combination of Bill Callahan, Jose Gonzalez, Hayden, Radar Bros. and Pedro the Lion. I did get to watch the video for “You Are The Music” and OK, maybe that’s more on the psychadelic side. Looks a bit like Max Headroom.
One interesting thing is that in addition to streaming the album, you can also download the entire thing in MP3, but with the tracks as instrumentals only. Never heard of that technique before, but it sounds like a great way to get a feel for what the tracks will sound like.
2.5.07 | Metal Hearts – Socialize
Metal Hearts are another band that I originally found from tracks being played on SomaFM (Indiepoprocks is one the most awesome online radio feeds around).
I don’t know too much about the band other than they are a Baltimore based duo comprised of Anar Badalov and Flora Wolpert-Checknoff and they are pretty young (very early 20s?). Anar also bears a striking resemblance to Ashton Kutcher in the press photo – but we won’t go there.
The music is a mix of moody, down-tempo American Analog Set, DCFC (especially on “Foothills”) and bits of Viva Voce. I really like the hushed vocals on the tracks I heard. The feel might be a little too minimalistic or sparse for some, but I think it really makes the songs shine nicely.
2.24.07 | Mosquitos – Reason To Live
Reason to Live
I’ve meant to post about the Mosquitos several times after hearing them on various internet radio stations but got sidetracked by other stuff. There is also the fact that there aren’t to many MP3s floating around to give links so that you can hear what they sound like.
But then I realized that there’s a video section on their site where you can watch and listen. And it so happens that one of my fave tracks “Reason To Live” off of their latest album Mosquitos III has been set to video. The Far Away Video is directed by Felipe Joffily and mostly features the combination of rather serious shots of the band along with goofier shots of a guy running around with a Chuck E Cheese mouse head on.
The actual music – it sounds like the couple part (ira and georgia) of Yo La Tengo fronting Papas Fritas plus American Analog Set. This song is a bit different than some of their other stuff which has a bit of Brazilian flavor mixed in: they’re described as “bossa nova grooves and winsome indie pop” on their website which is pretty accurate at times.
They’ve released 3 albums thus far: the aforementioned Mosquitos III, Sunshine Barato and a S/T album.
2.21.07 | Palebear Blurbs – Feb 21
Oh man, we haven’t had one of these blurbin’ things in a Hella long time.
Ok, I admit I just wanted a chance to say “hella”. Because I am hella bored. Hella of Cool, Hella Yeah, Hella Smella – these are all band names that will be popping up at a mp3 kiosk near you. Kidding. Here’s the blurbs, a “lake” theme:
1. Skyscraper Girls – Besnard Lakes (Like Mogwai, Low and The Beach Boys throwing a rave)
2. Moving Pictures, Silent Films – Great Lake Swimmers (Band of Horses plus Innocence Mission and Mojave 3)
3. Lover’s Crime (from “Lakes and Ponds”) – The Hero Cycle (Broken Social Scene and Lush plus The Autumns)
4. In Whispers – Lake Holiday (The Like Young, Starflyer 59, Map, and Lilys)
5. Home By Saturday (from “Elk-Lake Serenade”) – Hayden (UH, sounds like Hayden?)
2.12.07 | Palebear HQ Gets New CD Shelves
Apologies for the lack of actual music updates. One thing you gotta remember about Palebear is that it’s a combination personal and music review blog. I did this just because – I could do it. After all there’s no money or glory in music reviewing (unless you are Bitchfork or you offer free music MP3s that you’re posting psuedo-illegally in order to get people to come to your music site, but I won’t get into that)… so why not have fun with the blog?
Here’s actually the major reason I haven’t been posting lately. For years, I’ve wanted some way to store all my CDs. The problem is that all the pre-made IKEA and Target shelves assume that you have at most 300 CDs – if that many at all.
Not me. I have at least 1500 albums on CD and other format that I bought with my own money (or received them as promotionals). There is absolutely no place to store this plethora of CDs, cassette tapes and records, and having actually been born before physical music went out of fashion (all you younguns…) I’m really not into the idea of burning all of those CDs and selling them back. They currently have taken over the house… and more come in every day because of this music reviewing “gig”.
So, I decided to make some of my own. First off, I genuinely doff my cap to all the furniture makers out there. Making your own furniture is hell of difficult. All the pics on this page are of the CD shelf plus bookcase that I just finished today. I actually bought and cut all the wood, built the custom cases and shelves, hand-drilled and countersank the screw holes, cut and installed the backing for the shelves and balanced the damn thing. The one concession I did make was to buy some “pre-finished” wood that is basically 3/4 inch particle board with a finish. I just didn’t feel like sanding and staining that much wood – I just got through with another project where we stained the wood and it was a real bitch.
The thing is – it looks just like IKEA! I’m not too disappointed though… because they just did not have a sturdy wooden combo unit that would hold all my music and that fit into the space between my window and the closet door exactly. I think that I probably could’ve gotten away with finding two shorter bookcases and somehow topping them with several CD shelf units. But I just love to drive myself insane with these home projects. It took forever and I made some mistakes along the way, but I think it’ll be worth it once we move in all the CDs and albums.
I know a lot of people are going to laugh at my musical de-evolution while patting their wallet sized 160 Gb Seagate external USB hard drive that holds all their music. Well, I do have a considerable amount of my CDs ripped to MP3 as well. But I’ll never give up the hard copy ghost and switch 100% over to digital. Never, never.
By the way, I’m somewhat disappointed that my new shelves only hold only 1300 CDs. This means I might have to downsize a bit. Or build another shelf in the bedroom…
2.3.07 | Peter, Bjorn and John
OK, I have been playing the pants off any track from Peter, Bjorn and John that I can get my hands on – that’s currently 3 or 4 tracks floating around the music barrlogosphere. The only item that is linked to from their official site, however, is the crazy animated comic book video for the whistling-filled Young Folks and even that’s a GooTube vid.
I’ve known about them for a little while, but didn’t know that they recently played Conan and their music has been featured on TV quite a bit (Grey’s Anatomy?) In any case, I’ve got their upcoming album Writer’s Block on my Amazon wishlist already. And here’s an unexpected abbreviative bonus for you: PB&J = peanut butter and jelly = Peter, Bjorn and John. Synchronicity…
A bit hard to describe the music of these three Swedes except that it is extremely poppy, catchy and has a bit of childlike exuberance surrounding it. It makes me want to dance – if I had the inclination to dance. I’m not a dancer, but maybe you are? Shake your boogie.
2.21.07 | Radars To The Sky – S/T EP
Radars To The Sky
Coming at ya – a fantastico, energetic little EP by Radars To The Sky, of which ex-Avelar singer Andrew Spitser is a member. Some of us had written once about his Franklin Bruno vs. Doug Martsch vocal similarities, and a little bit of that has carried over to the new sound. But you might also want to plug yourself in some XTC, Pixies, Yatsura Urusei (listen to the 3rd and 4th song on the EP), and Neutral Milk Hotel for comparisons. Interestingly, having heard Avelar several years ago I really think that Andrew’s singing style fits much better in today’s landscape of strident folk-to-a-yelp singers… in that sense maybe it was a bit of a precursor before its time? Maybe.
The hit on the EP is definitely going to be “Long Walk Home” which should spend some well-earned time on more than a few bloggers playlists. This is where the strength of the band really comes out in the following ways: great curvy pop melodies, male/female vocal tradeoffs, driving bassline/drums and BELLS! I likes the bells. Not to downplay the other songs (“Home For The Holidays” is a understated standout track) but I think if they can leverage this particular type of track onto a full length album, they’re gonna have some real success.
It also appears they are a local L.A. band – meaning I really need to get out more.
Visit and Listen:
Radars To The Sky on Myspace
2.3.07 | Sera Cahoone – S/T
I’d pretty much forgotten to post about Sera Cahoone who I found out about during my pre-Band of Horses absorption days. She actually is a drummer, having played with Carissa’s Weird which was an early incarnation of Band of Horses. She also contributed the drums on the latter’s Sub Pop release.
In any case, her self-titled album is definitely worth a listen – a great blend of straight up country and more modern folk balladeers. A little Gillian Welch, Emily Haines and Edith Frost being channeled through her mostly mellow tracks. She has a really warm and distinct voice – uh, kinda like that Poptart that’s now almost completely done in my toaster oven.. gotta run, but have a gander:
2.18.07 | SXSW Preview: Brighton, MA
You must have heard already that the official schedule for SXSW is out. And of course, I’ll probably be doing the same thing nearly every music blog and their mom is doing: not going, but posting “reviews” about the bands that are going to be playing.
Here’s an easy one to start: I wonder how many people will NOT start out talking about Brighton, MA by saying, well duh why’d they name themselves that if they’re from Chicago? Yeah.
But nothing matters anyhow but the music, right? Which in this case is pretty shoe-gazey and standard indie-rockey, at least from their sample track on the SXSW site. It might strike you as a bit mainstream, in a U2 sort of way, especially with the driving bass/drumsand chiming guitar. And singer Matthew Kerstei’s pipes. But the way that “Bet You Never Thought” is set up also reminds me of a NZ band called Garageland. Not bad… if their album turns out to even more dreamrock and less conventional then I’d be more willing to give it a spin.
Be You Never Thought
2.26.07 | SXSW Preview: The Zincs
More SXSW stuff . Flailing around randomly through the gi-normous amount of MP3 previews, The Zincs grabbed hold of my ear and refused to let go. Some great pop/rock songs here. A creamy sound, slightly downtempo mellow, like Luna, Kingsbury Manx or the less crazy Wilco tracks. No rocket science – just pure good melody with a bit of drone. Interestingly, singer James Elkington has a pretty deep voice that is a nice sharp contrast with this type of music – think Tindersticks, Mark Eitzel, Stephen Merritt, David Gedge, Dave Berman.
They’re a Chicago, IL band and so it makes sense that Tortoise’s John McEntire recorded their latest album, Black Pompadour. Also might explain the slight nod to the post-mod instrumental feel that some of the tracks contain.
SXSW Saturday March 17 11:30 p.m.
at Uncle Flirty’s Loft
The Zincs website
2.26.07 | SXSW Preview: Tobias Fröberg
More Swede Sweetness in the form of Tobias Fröberg. Although I’m a little tired of mainstream and print media grasping and clutching and whatever indie straws they can in a desperate attempt to keep “hit music” alive, I have to say that if they grab hold of Fröberg the attention is well deserved. I keep hearing “next big Swede Thing” and stuff… how about just plain “great music” for a change? Maybe I’m just as guilty though, I only found out about his music via blogs posting pretty much in the same spirit.
Incidentally, what is with the congas with Swedish music, i.e. PB&J’s “Young Folks” and now Fröberg’s “When The Night Turns Cold” which is the track that’s available at his SXSW preview page. Interesting he went with a more uptempo track for that, since he’s often been compared to such folksy greats as Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel, though I also hear some other classic touches like Let It Be-era Beatles, Jackson Browne, etc. But if you’re looking for something more quirky a la Sufjan Stevens prepare to be disappointed. Others might be critical of the way the songs seem to “borrow” from classics (uh, Pachabel Canon in D?) and classic rock (uh, Kansas?). Myself, I think they’re just great songs done in a classic way.
Somewhere In The City
Tobias Fröberg’s website
2.21.07 | The CDs, They Groweth
Completely forgot to post the end result of Palebear HQ’s CD shelf that was installed by little ol me… here it is nearly filled. Oh, and ignore those Led Zep and Eric Clapton box sets. They’re, uh… they’re NOT mine. Yeah. Also, please ignoreth the glass pie plates. I dunno, I guess we’re going to open Palebear Pies in a little while.