Category : Folk
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
I cherrypicked this band off of 3hive… originally was drawn to the E. Smith comparisons. I gotta say from the track available on their site “Contradictions” the only similarities to him seem to be the straight 8 bar strumming with the guitar and perhaps the melody. It’s still a pretty good song… it seems to combine a bit of electronics a la Postal Service with more Beach Boys-ish sounds.
There’s actually another band that’s been doing a similar thing that you might be interested in if you like Absinthe Glow… Lost On Purpose. The vocals and song setup especially remind me of them. The songs have a background feel to them that’s a bit dreamy and slow, but the songs are more uptempo than most bands like that.
[Treble Hook Sounds]
The year is still mighty young, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the new Albumen record is one of the best of its “type” that I’ve listened to this year. “Type” is going to be difficult to pin down accurately, however, for their new album Lake Desolation. The songs are all over the map and underneath it, ranging from fine folk ramblings to disturbing electronic offerings to straightforward rock. Sort of like Earlimart lost somewhere in The Appalachians but with more keyboards.
I’m not gonna lie and say this won’t be a challenging album for many who are used to more straightforward neu-folk like Iron and Wine. This is folk that is RIPPED completely open. Often bathed in deep-well reverb and loads of strange blips and beeps, the songs refuse to sit still and play nice. I think this is why I dug the album so much.
Casual alternative listeners may be content to say that the singing often sounds remarkably like Michael Stipe with less of the whine (and more of the hair). However, for indie folks more in-the-know, let’s go with an initial impression of Bill Callahan (Smog) and David Berman (Silver Jews) with just the barest, barest inkling of Calvin Johnston’s (Beat Happening) bassoon-like mutterings at times.
Many of the songs are dynamic, containing quieter porch folk and that leads to forceful overdriven choruses and endings. “Circle Down” is a good example of that double-sided nature. “Silent Sunrise” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, a midtempo rocker with really infectious chords and melodies.
Continue reading “Albumen – Lake Desolation” …
Awhile back, I had heard this really awesome folky song in the background of a Honda Element commercial. I instantly looked up from what I was doing (I had the TV on just for the noise) because I thought it was actually a Smog song. Indeed, the singer of “Orange Sky”, Alexi Murdoch, does sound a bit like Bill Callahan mixed with a bit of Mark Eitzel (from American Music Club).
The commercial is a really simple one, just some mountain bikers travelling along in their car. The song is what really makes it memorable, though i’ll admit that Honda is late to the game with the combination of porch folk rock and cars (i.e. Volkswagon and Nick Drake).
Continue reading “Alexi Murdoch – Honda Element Commercial” …
I lost the sheet that came with this CD, but decided to give it a review anyhow. The Texas based husband / wife duo Annabella makes lovely indie pop that really reminds me of Innocence Mission, Mojave 3, maybe Sarah McLaughlin a little. Later into the CD, on “Just So You Know”, I realized that The Sundays comparison was entirely valid as well.
The music is understated and dreamy, a bit of a departure from other up-tempo indie duos like Viva Voce and Quasi. Piano and other instruments add nice touches. For me, Terri Dittmar’s voice falls into that category of exquisitely beautiful, but tiny bit too mainstream. But I think that may actually increase the band’s fanbase. All in all, I really liked this CD – it’s such an undeniably pretty album.
Sun Is King
Blasted Record Effect
I was recently clued into a band called Armored Frog, whose name was reason enough to check them out. But I really dug the 3 songs available on site which all come from their Weasel on a Weathervane CD. As near as I can tell from this selection, Armored Frog’s specialty is extremely hushed and weather-worn folky songs that have more in common with Mark Linkous and Norfolk and Western than any appalachian crowd.
The minimalist “Blasted Record Effect” moves along at the speed of sloth, and the empty space between the notes wonderfully highlights the vocals (either from George Ayres or Jake Baker, I don’t know which). Like a true frog, their singing is extremely throaty and croaky… someone give them a cough drop! But it actually works beautifully in all of their tracks. The atmosphere reminded me of some of the slower Hayden songs.
Continue reading “Armored Frog – Blasted Record Effect” …
Between The Pines
I’ve run across the music from this band quite a few times already over the past couple months, so I finally decided to make a proper post about them. Between the Pine actually has a free EP available at the 80H Records site, so there’s no excuse to give them a listen. If you like mopy lo-fi acoustic songs, you’ll be glad you downloaded the 3 songs. They also have a full length available on Itunes and CDBaby and I believe they’re currently working on a new album.
The three songs are beautiful, sparsely populated, somewhat folksy tunes that seem informed from such diverse musical sources as Sea and Cake, Tarnation, Norfolk and Western, Birddog and Ponies In The Surf (and other Asaurus bands).
I’m making all this stuff up out of my ass again – rather than reading my lame attempts to compare them to various bands, why not just go and download these amazing songs yourself and see?
weird song, sequenced to an old Casper the Friendly Ghost film
Between The Pine website
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…
Chances are quite good that you’ve heard of Chan VanGaalen by now, or you’re about to hear his songs this year. The Calgary busker turned Sub Pop signee has enjoyed a good amount of well-deserved press lately. I got sent a copy of his debut Infiniheart awhile back and I’ve been listening to it quite a bit, though I only got to write up about it now.
Earlier in his career, VanGaalen would simply record his own CD-Rs full of his music on a multitrack recorder and then sell or hand these limited editions out at shows and to his friends. The undeniable quality of the music got a buzz going, and it didn’t take long for major indies to come a-sniffin’.
On his debut, he is equally adept at soaring indie rock on songs like “Clinically Dead” (which I feel really recalls The Shins), dusty porch folk a la Will Oldham on “After the Afterlife” and pseudo Postal Service electronics on “Kill Me In My Sleep”. And that’s only the first 3 songs on the album! “J.C.’s Head On The Cross” mutters along like some Folk Implosion outtake, while “Somewhere I Know There Is Nothing” has a My Morning Jacket vibe going. The rest of the songs are all equally inventive and quirky in their genre shifting.
Continue reading “Chad VanGaalen – Infiniheart” …
Clampitt, Gaddis & Buck
Engine Number 3
No this isn’t some strange incarnation of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This is Clampitt, Gaddis and Buck. More catchy, huh? This track sort of came out at me from left field because I was sort of expecting a slow appalachian type folk song, perhaps in the manner of Iron and Wine.
Instead, “Engine Number 3″ is a raucous bluegrass infused hoedown worthy of a lost episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. Anyhow, plunking banjo and alternating male and female vocal lines make this a really fun track to listen to. Interestingly, the band hails from Oregon as opposed to Tennessee or West Virginia which is where it sounds this type of music might come from.
Continue reading “Clampitt Gaddis and Buck – Engine Number 3″ …
La Nuit on a Toujours Tout
I don’t know a whole lot about French singer Christelle Delaney other than the information found on the always fabulous Pehr label, which is where this MP3 is located. Delaney sings sultry french pop songs but there is a underlying element of sadness underneath the semi-detached lyrics. In that way, she is sort of Nico-ish but her voice seems less low and gravelly.
Continue reading “Delaney – La Nuit on a Toujours Tout” …
[Swim Slowly Records]
In beautiful hushed tones, the band Doveman leads us on a trail that’s been blazed somewhat by Earlimart and Lambchop before. But the vocal pathos in Doveman’s singer Thomas Bartlett on their song “Honey” is really awesome in it’s sad whispery ways. A side note: it’s weird, but when I said “Doveman” to myself a couple of times I kept hearing the word “Duffman”, the beer spokesman from the Simpsons. Boy, is this a light year and a half away from that.
The song moves along slowly with a simple highhat step keeping time. This could easily be part of the soundtrack for the ending credits of a indie detective movie where the hero is walking off into the blackness without the girl. Halfway through the song a really touching muted trumpet burps along with a bit of tinkling ivories in the background.
Continue reading “Doveman – Honey” …
I heard this really nice, mellow track on SomaFM the other day by a band called Ellery. I guess what made me remember their name was that there is an Ellery Lake that I’ve visited many times near Yosemite and I have a lot of good memories from that place. So when it came time to write a post, that little random thing stuck in my head.
Tasha and Justin Golden continue the popular husband-and-wife team trend (Low, The Handsome Family, Viva Voce) as the band Ellery (previously known as Dividing The Plunder). The track I heard is called Arizona and is from their EP release “Make Your Troubles Mine” which swims sweetly along at a speed that’s not going to start any hearts racing. But this is what they do best. They play gentle pop songs that might qualify for alternative adult radio, which is sort of interesting because I normally don’t gravitate toward these type of songs. But there were some really good tunes on the EP. Know Better Now which is the last track is particularly beautiful.
Continue reading “Ellery – Arizona” …
The End Of History
[Bella Union Records]
Beautiful, clear fingerpicking is what originally drew me to Fionn Regan’s The End of History release. Added arrangements with strings and sparse, brushed drums kept me going starting with “Hunters Map”, a sort of spaghetti western style song meeting up with Iron and Wine. Great vocals and melodies rounded out the arrangements and continued throughout the album making this a very good folksy alt-country offering.
On tracks like “Hey Rabbit”, Fionn reminds me of James Booth a little bit – there’s a definite dramatic tinge in his voice. Other songs like “Put A Penny In The Slot” remind me of a super indie folk band I like called Ponies In The Surf. Overall, the songs are extremely strong, not watered down like some of the folk and country stuff that passes through the doors, and it’s been spending a considerable amount of time in the stereo over here. I think Fionn is Irish… this debut record is out on the Lost Highway label in the U.S, but on Bella Union elsewhere.
Fionn Regan Myspace
The End Of History
Be Good or Be Gone
Fionn Regan’s website
Easy Not Easy
I got a chance to preview the new Graves album, Easy Not Easy. Graves is basically just Greg Olin playing understated, mopey folk. It’s the kind you put on the stereo just when all but your favorite stragglers who don’t have work tomorrow have left the raucous house party thrown by your indie rock neighbor’s friends’ friend. It’s 2 am clean-up music, to be shared by just a few people who’ve got the time to linger and pick up those empties strewn on the floor.
Olin’s folksy approach reminds me seriously of Lambchop’s songs though the momentum doesn’t build as much. I also get an Eels / Vic Chestnutt / Chad Vangaalen / Townes Van Zandt approach to the songs. Though the focus is the singer-songwriter, Olin is able to parlay that into something slightly more grand, much like Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner who uses layers of additional instruments like horns, vibraphone and strings to create a soundscape backdrop for his songs. I would say that Graves is much more stripped down, but the idea is the same: Some kind of wonderful folk.
The CD is out on the once-again amazing Hush label.
Greg Olin – guitar, vocals and everything else
Selected Albums on Itunes:
I told myself I wasn’t going to label Great Lake Swimmers as Band of Horses meets Norfolk and Western. But there’s a big difference between telling yourself that and having it obliterate any useful RIYL information running around in your head.
But truly, this is a great band that plays the dreamy and reverbed type of Alt-Country Americana Folk (er, Canadiana Folk) that Band of Horses is known for. They’re much more toned down, however – less of the anthemic indie rock feel. Great Lake Swimmers are from Toronto, and I’ve yet to hear a song of theirs that I haven’t liked – which means I should probably get on the ball and buy their CD(s). “Moving Pictures, Silent Films” is probably one of the most starkly beautiful songs that I’ve ever heard – so full of yearning and open spaces. It is unbelivably gorgeous and has been known to move many a Hockey-playin’ man to tears… Ok I made that up but you get the idea.
Bodies and Minds video
Great Lake Swimmers website
Iron and Wine
Such Great Heights
I thought the world was coming to an end when I heard Sam Beam of Iron and Wine cover the Postal Service song “Such Great Heights”. Never mind that it’s an awesome song. I would have much rather him covered a DCFC song any day, but beggars can’t be choosers. The fact that it also appeared on the excellent Garden State soundtrack was pretty cool and I guess it didn’t hurt his publicity.
Continue reading “Iron and Wine – M&M Commercial” …
Iron and Wine
The Shepherd's Dog
Regular readers of Palebear (all 3-4 of you) will note that I love to complain. I love to hijack other people’s reviews to spout forth my own nefarious propaganda from upon the blog soapbox. I love to put a damper on the party with doom and gloom about the current direction of the music biz. I love to self-aggrandize with exaggerated and mixed metaphors.
Well, this review is going to be another of those. So I apologize in advance to anyone who’s here looking for a real Bitchforkian or Rolling Boneian review of Iron and Wine’s new album The Shepherd’s Dog. Go view those publications to get the real, actual scoop by writers that are paid millions of bucks.
But really, Mr. Sam Beam doesn’t need any of my help. The album is quite different from his earlier ones and if you’ve gone straight through from those skipping the Woman King EP or the Boy with a Coin single, you might be a bit shocked. But add those little releases in (and note the ubiquitous Postal Service cover) and you’ll see that there’s continuity; the direction he was going in was easily foreshadowed by those EPs and he continues to hold the torch of one of the best bands currently on Sub Pop.
I really like the album, although he’s muted the lo-fi Appalachian folk presentation in favor of fuller instrumentation. Beam’s voice still, well, BEAMS – a bright beacon on songs that in others hands might be bloated currency filled with unnecessary meandering. I suspect that far from alienating his current fans, he’s bound to pick up a few new ones, maybe some avant-garde musicologists and those who thought that his earlier work was too hushed or slow. A few songs are sorta wacky – in particular I thought the end of “Wolves (The Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” was positively funky street. But there’s enough of the old folky Beam in the other songs to tide me over until he the day where he goes completely back to his old stuff. I dunno if he will do that, though – I think he’s too restless musically to go for a reprise of “Creek”.
Ok, so I promised some complaining. You can just skip down to the links below if you’d rather not hear it. Here is my unstructured grousing: I’m a part-time music reviewer who’s supposed to reviewing for “fun”. Long ago, I gave up any illusions of making a career out of this. I’m just not a good enough wordsmith to command music-moola from Spin and too old to be a collegiately wide-eyed music reviewer who writes reams of reviews for free just because “it’s the music, man.”
No, it’s gotta be that I write for 1. “Fun” in my spare time 2. The dubious pleasure of receiving promos in advance of the music buying public.
Let’s talk about “Fun”. Sure, it’s fun to write about an album once in awhile. However, the catch is that if you can write a halfway decent review (or, as it’s come down to, even a decent 100 word blurb), then bands, songwriters, record labels and publicity houses by the thousands will beat a path to your door. There are just so many emails and packages that I get from these people, who I actually sympathize with. We used to run a record label and it was so difficult trying to figure out who to send stuff to. So when you did find a music reviewer that you thought was good and whose taste fit the style of what you were releasing, you’d be sure to send them a CD.
But it’s a Catch-22 for a one-man reviewing operation: the better and more open you are, the more stuff that you receive and the more your workload increases, and consequently the greater the chance of the quality of your writing suffering. And at some point, it stops being “fun” and more like a job. But, as I’ve said I’m just not into working myself to the bone for free. I don’t have a crapload of time or patience on hand. You just get Burnt Out On Blogs™.
So, it comes down to this. Other than to unburden myself in diatribes like this or to promote the occasional release that I absolutely feel needs to be supported because it’s such a great album and no one knows about it, I’m writing for the occasional feeling of Specialness. The great feeling that, hey, look I got an album from one of my favorite songwriters – and I got it before anyone else did, and for free, and it’s such an awesome album. And I get to talk about it so my 3 readers will know what its like before it comes out Whoo-hoo! I rock!
And then I go on the internet and it turns out that the album has already been in the filesharers hands for months.
I hate to dredge up cliches, but digital music is such a blessing and a curse for people involved in music. On the one hand you’ve got super-wide distribution and a larger audience, and on the other hand, that same ease of accesibility makes it so easy for people to get music without paying for it. I’m not going to get all high and mighty – I don’t use the filesharing systems, but I’ve gotten music illegally for free online before. Guilty.
So maybe it’ll seem I’m somewhat of a petulant hypocrite to say this – but man, you gotta give me SOMETHING to keep me writing reviews day in and day out for free. My love of music is large, but reviewing just cannot exist in a vacuum for long unless you’re in college or being paid by the word. I need to be able to feel that I got something out of it, and I get sort of depressed by all the MP3s being slung like jai-alai balls between people who have no idea that they are slowly but surely KILLING the one thing that sometimes keeps me writing.
CDs aren’t worth anything nowadys. Trust me, I’ve gone to Amoeba and tried to sell back copies of CDs. I think I tried to sell back 100 CDs and they took maybe 3. So if CDs aren’t worth the paper and plastic they’re made out of, and the songs are already online for free, what’s so special about receiving a promo?
A side note: this is recently why I’m interested in vinyl LPs. At least there’s something physical there to collect. Please do send me all the promo LPs you have!
If I was a much more sane music reviewer, I’d just ignore all that shit and just count myself lucky that I’m in the game. I do get promos, sometimes even fairly far in advance. I get to compete with 500,000,000 or so other indie music review bloggers for the attention of the music-buying public. I get to occasionally receive snide comments on posts (thank you, to the few who do actually write nice comments). I get to wade, nay swim through manilla envelopes and online press releases for fun. I get to be ignored by a lot of big major music blogs that I try to make friends with, but when I do happen to make a small complaint about them in a post, I get a one word comment or sad face from them in return and then they go back to ignoring me. I get to feel guilty about not reviewing really great indie bands even though they really deserve a well-written review.
Oh, it’s a wonderful life. But for some reason I just refuse to play along. </endrant>
p.s. Subpop reps, please ignore this post. =)
All right, here is a division of Sony that actually gets it. By “it” I mean how to market products through a visually stunning commercial that also features memorable (and good) indie music. This is the commercial for the Sony Bravia with music by José González.
All too often, companies completely drop the ball on offering up the actual video or music to their commercials. I never understand this. I mean, why in hell would you not want people to play your commericals OVER AND OVER on their computers because they think it’s cool? Why in hell would you not make it clear somewhere what band is playing the song in the commercial (and for those “made for commercial” songs, make preparations in case you see a lot of people liking that music). Screw the rights concerns and such, you’re a big sprawling company; figure it out by throwing money at it or something.
Anyhow, I’ve been wanting to write about the Bravia Commercial for awhile. Not only can you play and download the commercial in different sizes, but they even made an entire website (bravia-advert.com) devoted ONLY to the commercial that includes Behind the Scenes information, music downloads and pictures.
Why would you want all that info? Well, it is a visually stunning commercial. You have to see it for yourself but it basically involves a gazillion (250,000 actually) multi-colored Superballs simultaneously bouncing down a San Francisco Street. They let all of them go at once. The effect is unreal… I couldn’t believe this was not computer generated but it’s definitely real.
So, to complete their commercial they set it to a really awesome track by indie folk troubadour José González (note the spelling, it’s Gonzalez with a “Z”, not Gonzales). The track is called “Heartbeats” and is off his first album Veneer. Quite a few folks have compared him to Nick Drake and the resemblance is uncanny at times. People are going to say Iron and Wine as a reference point too. But I think his mostly fingerpicked acoustic guitar music can stand on it’s own for it’s sheer beauty and timelessness. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have it in this commercial.
OK, the only slight hitch in all this is: I’ve never seen this commercial on TV. I believe it’s only been shown in Europe. One of these days we’ll get some good commercials over in the U.S….
How To Miss The Ground
Ok, so I sort of needed this album to right my sanity. After tossing quite a few CDs of Kinski-esque Melvins metal, it was nice to come across the beautiful, pastoral album by Juviley. Equal parts Kings of Convenience, Mojave 3 and Belle and Sebastian, “How To Miss The Ground” mopes melodically along at its own pace. In particular, I enjoyed the drowsy slide guitar which infuses his pop songs. Feeling no need to speed up the world, Or Zublasky encourages us to slow down and smell the music. Smells quite good to me.
Juviley on Myspace
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.
Kings of Convenience
Riot On An Empty Street
I had great hopes for this newer Kings Of Convenience CD – “Riot On An Empty Street“, because I’m a big fan of their Quiet Is The New Loud album from before (both are on Astralwerks). Certainly the first part of the disc features that same hushed and beautiful acoustic guitar with intertwined voice harmonies that made a lot of people call them the next great Simon and Garfunkel. Except of course they’re Norwegian.
But while “Homesick” is a beautiful track that reminded me of Azure Ray, and “Cayman Islands” is lilting and just sweet enough to comfort many a weary music traveller, the album seems to go astray near the bouncy “Love Is No Big Truth” and derails with the 80s-like “I’d Rather Dance With You”. It’s almost like New Order or something.
Continue reading “Kings of Convenience – Riot On An Empty Street” …
If You Come To Greet Me
I’ve been enjoying the Laura Gibson disc that came out on Hush quite a bit lately. I was enjoying it so much, actually, that I completely forgot to post about it. I had it in the background while we were doing renovations here at PBHQ. To me, this is always a good measure of a decent folksy album… that I forgot that this was a “submission”
Notice, I said “forget” and not “fall asleep”. Important (but subtle, for some) difference!
Anyhow, If You Come To Greet Me is quiet but it’s still quite engaging. I think that definitely has something to do with it having the Norfolk and Western stamp on it. Indeed, most of the members of that Portland band take a turn backing up Gibson.
The resulting folk music is a bit emotional and even raw, and it’s going to remind the casual indie listener a bit of Chan Marshall. To me, it’s less bluesy and insistent but just as immediate. The musical instrumentation does get more fleshed out in certain songs than others, but remains firmly rooted in quieter, melodic folk and Americana. I’ve read a comparison of her voice to “sepia-tones” and “aged photograph” That pretty much sums it up well – this is a beautiful album that I think I’ll be able to put on the stereo 10 years from now and still enjoy.
[Little Cowgirl Records]
A beautiful, and all too short, new EP from Lys Guillorn came our way awhile ago. Three Songs are three of the prettiest home-recorded folky tunes to hit our ears in awhile. Shades of Edith Frost, Tarnation, and many other indie country artists bloom forth on her songs. She has a lilting voice that slyly lulls you nearly to sleep, but the pretty pastoral melodies and instrumentation (mandolin, bells and lap steel guitar) are enough to make you sit up and take notice. The music has a country garden feel but with a good dose of darkness to it so it’s not “skippin’ in the garden” country.
Say It In Slang
I woke up this morning and just realized how ASTRONOMICALLY behind I’ve fallen on getting new music posted on Palebear. We’re definitely not at a loss for new music… it’s coming out of my ears. Need to play catchup, so the reviews are going to come fast and short.
I’ve been trying to figure out M Coast (AKA Marshmallow Coast) for awhile now ever since I got their album in the mail. The first song, “Sailing Around The World” = Stereolab or Broadcast. The second song, “Out of the Water” = Folk Implosion. The third song, “One Fine Day” = Masters of the Hemisphere plus, uh Free Design? Does that give you a general picture? I hope so, because that’s all you’re going to get to go on from me.
Seriously though, this is another super excellent indie pop album that just slipped through the cracks. Oh, and by the way this is an E6 collective band so that explains the “sounds like Masters” comment.
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.
Here Comes The Sun Again
M. Ward, m. Ward, m ward – seems like everywhere I go the sky is pouring M. Ward. For good reason, I’d guess. I had really got into his songs after getting Transistor Radio and seeing him open up for Dios (Malos), but his latest album Post-War is just as strong. The music is so good, I totally forgive him for being music buddies with Conor Oberst on that Bright Eyes performance on Austin City Limits.
Here’s another place you’ll hear his songs in: commercials. This is another one I’d meant to write about immediately but it got pushed to the backburner for so long. Cadillac has been stepping up to the plate when it comes to using “indie” artists in their commercials.
The M. Ward song used in the Cadillac commercials was “Here Comes The Sun Again”. I heard it almost non-stop for awhile some months back and then they stopped playing it. I don’t even remember which model it was for (typical), but what I remember most about the commercial is the car being driven through a forest and the sunlight filtering through the leaves. It’s a great song – he really has that “ancient wise voice stuck in a young person’s body” phenomenon going.
Interestingly, I keep getting this particular song mixed up with “Paul’s Song” which is a few tracks back on Transistor. And that’s actually where I bit the first sentence of this post from, hehe.
Here Comes The Sun Again
Adventure, Bless, and Don't Be Sorry
Though he now plays under his own name, you might have come across Mike Downey’s musical contributions in the past without knowing it. He’s been a member of the legendary indie band Wolfie and enjoyed stints in Mathlete, National Splits, and The New Constitution.
His latest album, “Adventure, Bless and Don’t Be Sorry” packs some unabashedly electronic musings (throwback to Mathelete perhaps) against honest troubadour-style indie pop. The production sounds a bit 4 track-ish which fits well with the heartfelt songs. Downey’s vocals are fairly high and a bit squirrely, often reminding me of Mac from Superchunk, Chad VanGaalen, or even Doug Martsch. The music, however, is more electronically dreamy and contemplative than rockin’, though definitely beat driven overall. Even a bit twee at times. It could be a bit of Field Mice plus Postal Service plus Tullycraft perhaps?
“You’ve Your Spy Map Out” could definitely be Postal Service. You know what though – I actually think Downey’s voice works better than Gibbard’s against this type of music. “Oh, Randomness” reminds me of a Future Bible Heroes track (the same goes for the later track”Event Camera”).
“Judge On The Horn” has a great beat and guitar melody going. Another particular favorite is the semi-anthemic “Rats Were Comrades”. The descending bassline melody of “House / Hotel” was also kind of fun. Though the songwriting in general is pretty top notch, he is just as likely to throw some more experimental drum beats at you, as he is try to win you over with shiny bedroom pop gems. Kinda cool to have that jumpiness going at all times.
I’m going to start off this review by saying that I almost NEVER agree to receive a CD when a particular band emails me to tell me about their latest and greatest. Here is the reason why – unwanted obligation. I know I’m never obligated to write a review from a submission (well, tell that to the bands that call my phone number at home…), but for solicited CDs, I just feel obligated to do it. And since it takes me a long, long, long (long) time to write these things up, I feel bad about it. It’s even worse for “friend” bands, those that I don’t like. So long ago, I learned that the least contact possible is the best.
Well, I made an exception for Monarch because I listened to their songs and just knew that I had to get the CD. It doesn’t hurt that they’re from the Baltimore area (AGAIN) – lately I’ve been noticing that a lot of music coming from that region is right up my alley. In any case, their new album “If Children” (yes, the one that I agreed to receive in the mail) is pretty fantastic. It’s going to be very hard to put a finger on the style of music they play, but if you really had to push me for it, it’s a delicious combination of folksy pop and late 90s shoegaze tendencies. Like a handful of surprising nuts from a peculiar trail mix, but what a handful it is.
Oh, one other thing. This is the duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner but you can’t tell it from the music. It sounds great, and quite full at times. The overall mood and structural tendencies remind me of anyone from Viva Voce, Matt Pond PA, Cat Power, Radar Bros. and Rilo Kiley. I could go on and on naming bands. Great mix of dynamics and musical moments on the CD.
But anyway, a big apology to them for not posting this for several months. They deserve your time, have a listen to the songs…
We All Shine On
I received this CD-R from the band Nire a few months ago and have been enjoying it on and off. I must say that this type of music is just definitely up my alley – hushed, soft folky pop songs with boy and girl harmonies. The Portland, OR band is actually going to be touring with the excellent Ponies In The Surf band who we’ve covered at Shmat earlier.
Like the Ponies, Nire makes music that is often introspective and quiet, perhaps referencing bands like Mojave 3 and The Yum Yum. The same minimalistic approach is there but where they differ is in the flavoring; where the Ponies use a slight Latin-American influence to spice up their songs, Nire’s secret weapon is Erin’s muted piano playing. The songs are a little less whimsical as well.
This actually works really well as simple held chords in songs like “New Pair Of Shoes“, or more active plunking on “Something More” and “Let Go”.
It is also interesting how the album is called “We All Shine On”, because while there could be some shades of Lennon here, the piano instrumentals “Prelude” and “Interlude” seem to have a definite modern sort of influence to them, using repetitive arpeggios to create a minimal soundscape.
“So Small” definitely reminds me of Yum Yum, who were a great hushed folk-pop band with similar boy-girl singing. This song, like the rest of the ones on the album, is just so pretty and is my favorite track right now.
“We All Shine On” has become another great rainy day disc to put on when the skies turn grey outside. I’m actually hoping to catch them live with the Ponies when they come through town…
Josh Hinton – guitar / vocals
Erin Morgan – piano / vocals
Norfolk & Western
The Gilded Age
I have to admit that I’ve needed to keep the new Norfolk & Western album The Gilded Age percolating in my Itunes “To Review” playlist for quite awhile before taking a stab at giving it a review.
You see, I’ve been a huge fan of theirs (the band revolves around Adam Seltzer and Rachel Blumberg) and have been following their work since 2003 or so. The general feel to their music is, well, it is often “hushed” and introspective (small wonder they’re on the Hush label). And I LOVE this kind of stuff, and the band has never disappointed. They take porch rock and imbue it with all sorts of instruments like banjo, pedal steel, and strings. Long before the Decemberists hit it bigger with their carnival-like atmospherics, N&W were the band who filled that niche for me.
But with their latest album they completely deconstruct the folky notions that I’ve had about their music. And not surprisingly, it ends up working due to their musicianship and songwriting capabilities. I mean, the first song is called “Porch Destruction”. What do YOU think that’s about? They’ve definitely upped the rawer and distorted side of their music, though I’d argue that they’ve had that potential all along. I always felt they were more of a band with the dynamics of say Low, Red House Painters or Lambchop than straightahead folk music anyhow.
Interestingly, the music for “Porch Destruction” really reminds me of an old Sparklehorse song. And despite its name, the real fireworks don’t start until nearly halfway into the song and it’s tempered by strings and xylophone. The title track “A Gilded Age” starts out right away with distorted and delayed guitar fighting it out with a funny little banjo line.
“Watch The Days Slowly Fade” may be the track on the album that sounded the most different to me. The chords and melody remind me of Neil Young plus Matt Pond PA. This one really rocks out at times which was cool. The sound collage “There Are No Places Left For Us” is classic Norfolk and Western … it’s an instrumental intermission that’s almost like a creepy Russian radio broadcast.
Continue reading “Norfolk and Western – The Gilded Age” …
The Opposite Side Of The Sea
I’m going to admit that I’m a little bit out of my league trying to review this Oren Lavie CD. No doubt it’s a wonderful collections of smoky, quirky, mellow tunes. And actually, there is a very good chance that you’ve already heard a song. The opening track, “Her Morning Elegance” was used in a Chevy Malibu commercial.
I know I got one reference correct immediately, even though it’s an easy one – Nick Drake‘s footprint is everywhere. Oren’s voice is hushed, even ragged sounding at times, which goes pretty well with the sparse arrangements. No pounding drums here. There are a lot of orchestral arrangements, at times a bit whimsical. Sometimes it reminds me of the strings on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”. The other name that comes to mind is Leonard Cohen, though the songs aren’t as bleak. Also, uh, Sting? Beyond that, I’m afraid I’m going to have to let this one ride in the Ipod for a bit.
Solving My Own Puzzles
[Hand to Mouth]
Got in this rather nice CD from Origami Ghosts the other day that’s been making the rounds on my Itunes. Though the band is mostly the vehicle of John Paul Scesniak from Seattle, he doesn’t drive the car all by his lonesome preferring to create some rather nice soundscapes with the help of various musical friends.
The influences listed include Modest Mouse and Pinback, which might be a good starting point. I especially here that in the vocals. But there is less rockabout and a stronger, evocative Americana /Folk type of feel injected throughout many of the songs. Part of this probably has to do with the different instrumentation (hammered dulcimer and cello?).
But it’s also inherent in the songs themselves which mostly run in the vein of moody acoustic folk dirges punctuated by occasional off-kiltre drum outbursts. The overall effect is fairly artsy, but not beyond the average listener’s reach.
A few of the artists brought to mind are Matt Pond PA (must be the cello), Built to Spill, Sam Prekop, American Music Club and Joan of Arc though Origami Ghosts don’t by any means sound exactly like any ONE of those bands. I liked at least 3/4 of this disc which is saying a lot in the new Palebear review format. Which is pretty darned picky…
All right. Time to get back into it. The music that is. For awhile, I’d been interested in picking up some of Mike Kinsella’s (drummer from Joan of Arc) stuff. In particular, his American Football endeavor because the few tracks I heard reminded me so much of American Analog Set.
I completely forgot about it. But I was reminded to plop American Football onto my Amazon wishlist again after hearing something from Kinsella’s other current vehicle “Owen”. (Side note: “Owen” seems to be an immensly popular name to choose for bands – I recall getting a couple different Owen CDs for review back in the day).
Anyhow, if this beautiful opening track “Bad News” is indicative of the quality of the rest of the album, I guess I’ll add Owen onto the list as well. It’s very hushed with acoustic guitar and piano, simple melodies and Kinsella’s mellow voice – again very much reminding me of Andrew Kenny. It’s split into two halves, the first part is very American Analog Set while the second is something of a throwback to Blue Guitar era Red House Painters, especially those acoustic guitar triplets.
[Asaurus / Paper Cities]
Pants Yell! writes the songs that I wish I had written.
I was trying to think of other ways to praise their new CD “Recent Drama” but this is probably the one that I feel the most. So, coming from a songwriter’s perspective that’s probably the best I can give: Godamnit, I wish I had written these songs.
I’ve been following the band ever since receiving a copy of their 2003 cassette tape release “Our Horse Calls”. When I got this CD, I stupidly didn’t put it on immediately but left it in the “good pile” because I knew I’d like it. Geez, a bonehead move. That’s one month’s time I could have been immersing myself in Pants Yell! greatness. Instead, I waited until now to put it in on, so I need to make quicker judgements in this review based on only a few listens.
Not that it’s that difficult. Their stuff has always been honest and open indiepop all the way through. Nothing too grandiose. But it also has those occasionally quirky chord jumps and slightly shambling but amazingly organic feel to the drums that sets them apart from other indiepop bands. And because this is a trio, there’s also much more room for the bass to make a melodic presence. The whole shebang is often nicely loungey; you come home, put the CD on, settle back with a drink and make the most of the rest of the day.
On just a cursory listen however, it’s evident that this album has quite a bit more arrangement and fullness than some of their earlier work. The songs are still standout indiepop, but things are definitely moving around faster. The opening track, “Kids Are The Same”, is probably one of the best examples of that. This is superfast for them, and definitely different from their more laidback stuff. This song is pretty lushly recorded as well.
I’ve always had a hard time doing a “sounds like” description. Here goes: It’s sort of like Belle and Sebastian, Beat Happening, Masters of the Hemisphere, The Pastels, Tullycraft and Galaxie 500 rolled into one. How’s that for namer-dropping?
“Easy Way To Be Cruel” leaves you with a peaceful easy indiepop feeling; deliciously understated lyrics go hand in hand with the groovy music. Yes, groovy! Both “Our Weather” and “It’s Been Done” motor along in classic Pants Yell! fashion. “We’ve Got History” has a strange but delicious guitar line that goes atonal suddenly.
Continue reading “Pants Yell! – Recent Drama” …
Ponies In The Surf
[Early Morning Late Night]
Some really lovely folk numbers from brother and sister duo Camille and Alexander McGregor, who are otherwise known as Ponies In The Surf. This is beautiful and uncluttered music with a slight Spanish inflection in the chords.
“Ventricle” is a nearly perfect tune that is intimate and yet expressive with the interchange in their voices. All of their songs feature only a single guitar that plunks along plaintively, almost like a ukelele. It forms the perfect complement to both Alexander’s slightly boozy falsetto and Camille’s sweeter voice that is nearly, but not quite, twee.
Continue reading “Ponies In The Surf – Self Titled EP” …
No Straight Lines
[Beechfields Record Label]
Off the record, I had already decided I was going to like these tracks from Baltimore’s Private Eleanor before I heard them. Austin Stahl from the band runs OTPrecords who put out the amazing The Seldon Plan record which is still stuck on heavy rotation at our house. I figured anyone who released that album and was also in a band would probably sound pretty good in their own right. How right I was!
Initially a bedroom band project, Private Eleanor has grown to five members and has toured extensively around the country (hey, they played with our faves Dios Malos!) The music itself is an interesting blend of more restrained but nonetheless infectious indie pop and slightly dronier, slower stuff.
I haven’t heard the entire album yet, but on the basis of the 3 or 4 songs I listened to I’m going to have to go with my gut and say that the band that PE reminds me most of is American Analog Set. It has everything to do with Austin’s semi-hushed tones and vocal melodies, as well as the band’s overall tasteful restraint on everything from keyboards and bass to drums and other percussion (xylophone?) This was really apparent on a song like “Richmond” which was my favorite track from their new album “No Straight Lines”. There is a bit of a folksy or woodsy element to some of their songs, but I think that’s more of an accent than a genre that they play.
Other tracks like “Bed Of Nails” simmer along more slowly, and even sound a bit sultry with that bassline oozing all over the place. You know, I want to say that I hear the echoes of The Posies in the way that some of the melodies are put together on this song… but I’m not sure if I’m being influenced from our earlier assessment of The Seldon Plan. “Seventeen” is another great track with a driving beat and pop melody smarts that seems to further back up the Posies similarities. The simple, chiming guitars and tasteful piano were very nice on this one.
Continue reading “Private Eleanor – No Straight Lines” …
Red House Painters
A few days ago, I was idly listening to the news on TV when I heard a song for a Target Commercial and looked up immediately. Again, I thought maybe someone left the CD player on because it was the intro Red House Painters song Cabezon from the album Ocean Beach.
Not only was I impressed because Ocean Beach is one of my favorite RHP albums, but it’s pretty cool that Target chose this song for two reasons. The first – it’s from one of their older albums (originally 1995, re-released in 1999?), and second – even though it is the first track on the album (so marketing probably was just demoing a bunch of different older indie albums to glean some tracks, and they got lucky because this perfect song for their commerical was the first one) it’s NOT a hit single. In fact it’s an instrumental, so the only way you might have known that was if you had the album (or cheated and visited their site).
Continue reading “Red House Painters – Target Commercial” …
I’m not exactly sure how we missed checking out Rocky Votolato seeing as how it’s plastered on the splash screen for Barsuk Records. But miss it we did; it was probably one of those “I’ll just check it out later” things that got misfiled. (I was reminded of him from a post on faves 3hive)
Anyhow, though his last name may be a bit of a typingtwister (I keep typing Voltotado), his music is contains some really fine and serene folk-based acoustic musings. From Barsuk’s Northwest backyard via Texas, Votolato’s latest release is Makers out on Barsuk this past January.
“White Daisy Passing” was the first song I heard, and there’s a good chance that you have as well seeing as it was featured in the television show The OC a little while ago. That show has got a serious case of indie-artist-itis… not that it’s a bad thing. For us at least.
Anyhow, “White Daisy” is a really pretty folk tune that has a feel similar to The Shins “New Slang” of all things. The songs have a poignant as well as lonesome feel to them like they were created in wide open spaces. I wonder how much of that has to do with his Texan roots.
The songs are more straightforward folk than the Appalachian tunes of Sam Beam and seem a bit more upbeat instead of overly mopy. He has a pretty strong voice as well, and does some beautiful harmonizing with his own vocal melodies. He includes harmonica in a couple tracks, though that doesn’t make an appearance on “White Daisy Passing”.
Hmm.. interestingly, I read that he used to be in an “emo” band before? I’ll let that slide. Some good songs to be had from him.
Albums available on Itunes:
Makers (2006 Barsuk)
Light and Sound EP (2003 Second Nature Recordings)
Suicide Medicine (2003 Second Nature Recordings)
Burning My Travels Clean (2001 Second Nature Recordings)
Rocky Votolato (1999 Status Recordings)
Rocky Votolato’s Webite:
The Crowd Train Takes The Form
I’ve been a fan of the New Jersey label Monotone Records for awhile. Got a chance to listen to some of Ryan Doyle’s songs off of his The Crowd’ Train Takes The Form CD-R a few days ago. I’d heard some songs off the “Sparrows” tape and this collection of songs continued the nice folky vibe that was on it. The mood of the tracks is very pastoral and thoughtful, like a lot of tracks from the label (notably Kevin Huelbig Jr.’s stuff). At times it is uptempo and melodic like The Shins or Belle and Sebastian, but it usually comes across more understated.
Continue reading “Ryan Doyle – The Crowd Train Takes The Form” …
[Painting Is A Dinosaur]
A couple of very nice tunes came to us the other day from Sam King from Northwest Arkansas. The songs are off his CD The Baby & The Bathwater that he released in Spring 2005 on Painting Is A Dinosaur, a sort of music and art site collaboration vehicle of sorts with several other people.
The two songs I heard are on the quiet and folky side, with just King’s voice and an acoustic guitar. His vocals on “Anxious Actors” are less hushed than Sam Beam’s (Iron and Wine) but it feels like he is drawing his inspiration from similar place. The “new” Appalachian folk rennaisance is certainly a force to be reckoned with, or at least I think it is becoming more palatable to the average indie listener. The waltz chord progression of this song reminded me a bit of E. Smith’s Waltz No.2 .
Continue reading “Sam King – Anxious Actors” …
Only As The Day Is Long
I’d actually been looking forward to this album for a really long time. Funny, the first time I heard Sera Cahoone I had no idea she also sprang forth from the (now seminal) band Carissa’s Wierd. I just knew she was somehow related to Band of Horses and I really liked the songs from her first solo album that I heard.
Now that SubPop picked her up, she’s got another album out – “Only As The Day Is Long.” It’s a lovely little folky country album. Truthfully, I like the more sparse moments of the first 3 songs on the album – when “Runnin’ Your Way” starts up I get a little antsy. For me, the current alt-country-folk americana thingy that’s so popular walks a pretty delicate line between boring mainstream country and amazing indie folk. It’s never the Dixie Chicks (thankfully), but give me the slower stuff on the album any day. “You’re Not Broken” is a great track – plaintive and simple.
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:
She Keeps Bees
Funny, I found this artist while looking up some info on The Finches whose show I caught awhile back at Silverlake Lounge. The link was to She Keeps Bees playing Cagematch on gootube – the band is basically Jessica Larrabee playing just about all the instruments from guitar to drums. It’s a Chan Marshall / Mia Doi Todd type of gritty folk/blues. I really liked the stripped down Cagematch song because it reminded me of Songs: Ohia (The Lioness?).
There’s a very raw and wounded sound to her voice. I liked the rest of the more fleshed out songs too, like Lucille which reminded me a bit of The Naysayer. Some really nice songs from this mostly home recorded first effort, “Minisink Hotel“.
Jessica is currently doing a tour with The Love Story
She Keeps Bees website
I’ve really been noticing that compared to a lot of other music review blogs, I tend to post in clumps. Their coverage is pretty much every other day, or even multiple times a day. I tend to save up all the new music until the end of the week and post it all at once. Makes for a bit of confusion keeping track of all the bands in my head though.
Which is why I’ve started doing massive numbers of blog “drafts” to try keep it in order until they can be posted later on. The unfortunate thing about that is that sometimes I’ll forget and a great band won’t get mentioned for another few months.
Sparrow House is one of those bands. I’d heard “You Sang Along” on SOMA and immediately went to check them, or him, out. Him being Jared Van Fleet. That song sounded like a mixture of N. Lannon and Earlimart – some good mellow stuff. The other tracks run a similar vein, with “When I Am Gone” sounding an awful lot like an Iron and Wine track. You’ll have to visit Jared’s myspace page to listen because there’s not currently much on the homepage, and actually the EP “Falls” is sold out though he’ll be getting in some more product soon. Interesting, he’s doing 4 EPs in a row, one for each season of the year.
Jared’s also in the band Voxtrot, but after listening to the tracks I have to say personally I dig his solo stuff more.
Sparrow House on MySpace
Sparrow House website
In Comfort's Tight Clothes
This isn’t the album cover for Surrounded‘s upcoming release, but actually a Deep Elm Records release from 2003 called “Safety In Numbers”. Still, I wanted to post about them because I recently received a three song demo for the upcoming release and it was totally amazing.
Imagine the more structured “Vivadixie…”-era Sparklehorse songs and you’ve got a good idea of Surrounded’s shimmering, intimate rock songs. The first track off the sample disc was “In Comfort’s Tight Clothes” and it’s almost too close to Mark Linkous material for comfort. The Swedish band (oh yes, we do like bands from Sweden and yes, the country should be known for more than just winning the Olympic gold in hockey) creates a very dreamy soundscape to house Marten Rydell’s whispery vocals. Truly amazing song there.
Not only is the music very much in the Sparklehorse vein, but the imagery in the sprase yet evocative lyrics really reminds me of Linkous too, especially on “Bolder Acrobat.” Still, there is something very different about them and the music that I can’t quite put my finger on.
“Terra Firma Legion Farewells” is a beautifully hushed tune containing keyboards or strings reminiscient of Mercury Rev or Air, with an AM radio broadcrast in the background. The song later expands to include drums and chiming guitars before fading out quietly.
When I first heard these songs I sorta forgot about the 35 CDs in line in front of them for review and jumped them up to the top of the stack. So, you can imagine I’m going to be keeping an eye out for their full release which is happening ? For now, you can visit the site and listen to tracks off of their older album.
Marten Rydell – vocals, guitar
Marcus Knutsson – guitar
Erik Edwardsson – drums
Tom Malmros – bass
Albums available on Itunes:
Safety In Numbers (Deep Elm 2003)
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
The Great White Jenkins
Winter of Discontent
Some cool indie pop tracks from a band called The Great White Jenkins. The songs are more on the mellow, folky side but have some nice instrumentation going on as opposed to a singer-songwriter vibe. “Winter of Discontent” has a nearly loungey feel at times but although there is that Oberst-quaver in the vocals it never turns into Bright Eyes (thankfully). The warm keyboards and kettle like drums add nice atmosphere to the song.
“Fishing Trawler” sounds a bit more expansive, like Belle and Sebastian at times. Strings and soft horns add a nice feel to the well balanced mix, and the instrumentation reminds me most of “large band” proponents such as Lambchop.
The Love Letter Band
Fear Not My Brothers ...
I was actually fearful that the extremely long name of this nifty little CD by The Love Letter Band would explode the Palebear database constraints, so I’ve waited until here to print it in its full glory: “Fear Not My Brothers, Fear Not My Sisters, For I Have Seen The Future…”. Woo!
There’s a weird folk/country stream of consciousness theme going on in the songs, and at times it feels like Conor Oberst is mixing it up with Bonny Prince What’sHisNameNow. I don’t usually go in for ribald emo-angster singing, but the songs were really engaging and complemented the style really well. No slap against the singing, but just something I usually pass on; if the songs weren’t so good then I definitely would have handed this CD off.
The band is a “loose nuclear family” revolving around the nucleus in question – Chris Adolf. Because many of the tracks are very short, it’s got that GBV feel to it. Devendra Banhart definitely comes to mind as well.
The title track (I’m not going to write out the name AGAIN) is a wonderful Southwestern cantina romp complete with trumpets and pedal steel with Adolf egging the rest of the band on.
The room chorus at the end of “Everybody Sings Their Own Little Song” is VERY Saddle Creek, but the fun instrumentation (recorders, melodica, accordian, etc.?) is more E6 styled. The nice guitar instrumental right after that reminds me of something off of M Ward’s latest. “Love Will Be My Home” is like a Buddhist Woody Guthrie clapping (with one hand) along in time with the music, while “I Will Be Here” is a more standard, pedal steel driven country pop tune.
You can find this one out on the ever-pleasing HHBTM label from Athens, GA…
The New Year
[Touch and Go]
Hm… so this is the new year. And to bite a DCFC lyric or two… I don’t feel any different.
Well, maybe a bit different. I feel like writing about music more now that the CRAZY REVIEWING MONKEY PRESSURE is off my back…
Back to talking about the new year. I somehow or another missed getting any CDs from the band The New Year which is amazing since I was a huge fan of Bedhead and saw them in shows many times (believe they opened for Yo La Tengo, or was it Red House Painters at the Alligator Lounge). After 1998 when they split up, I just somehow lost interest.
The Kadane Bros. new outfit isn’t such a new outfit after all, but it’s new enough for me. And if you’re expecting something other than the extremely dynamic, slowcore moody music that Bedhead was known for, prepare for disappointment. I love their new stuff, however. Same tinge of darkness, same emotion (before “emo” was something to cringe about).
The latest album they put out was in 2004 and is called “The End Is Near” which isn’t a very auspicious title for a band called The New Year. Anyway, the song I heard from them that I liked was called Disease and you can watch the video for it on the Touch and Go site.
The One AM Radio
This Too Will Pass
I am not quite sure what is going on, but lately I’ve been getting a ton of great music in the mail. I’m only surprised because 2006 was a year of so many bad or mediocre albums that found their way to our door. It’s sorta weird – the minute I decided to hell with being an “official” review blog, everything started to work out.
Well, I also DO have a soft spot for most of the stuff off Dangerbird too (hooray for SS Pickups). But for some reason I’d never heard of The One AM Radio before. This is the musical project of Hrishikesh Hirway who combines beautiful hushed vocals with extremely smooth and muted beats in his songs. It’s the kind of semi-electronica I can dig – a la Tristeza and Postal Service.
Hirway’s voice exudes unbelievable calm and it meshes with the songs amazingly well. I’d say that on more than a few levels he does remind me a bit of Jose Gonzalez or Kings of Convenience. I think he also might give N. Lannon a run for his money. But more than a few tracks like “Cast Away” and “You Can Still Run” have a Mark Kozelek feel to them – folk-drone shoegaze, or something in between.
Other songs like “Coming Back” and “A Brittle Filament” are almost orchestral or movie-like in feel. Trumpets, violins, upright bass are sprinkled throughout the album liberally among the beats. Interestingly enough, Pontiac did use one of his older tracks (“What You Gave Away”) in a commercial.
His latest album is called This Too Will Pass and I have to say that I didn’t need any convincing – I was into it right away, but then again this kind of music is right up my alley. Very evocative stuff…
Bright Yellow Flowers...
I’ve been a fan of The Zephyrs for awhile now, having heard so many of their tracks on SomaFM. But I never got around visiting the website until recently.
The Scotland-based band creates dreamy soundscapes that range from Mojave 3 to Spirtualized to Low and Dirty Three.
They don’t have too many full songs for download but they do have a full length video for the song “So Called Beau” which mainly looks like pastiches from old home movies of waterfalls and the woods. The song I kept hearing on Soma was the beautiful slow-jam slide guitar driven “Galicia” which for some reason reminds me of a track off Beck’s Sea Change. Some really nice songs here for fans of shoegazey plus acoustic stuff.
Watch The Light Fade
One of the newer indie labels we’re keeping an eye out for is Seattle’s Tarnished Records. They’ve got a couple good artists in the folky semi-Mazzy genre that we dig. They recently put out Vivian Linden’s Watch the Light Fade which is an awesome, sultry alt-folk-country album.
As far as the vocal department goes Linden has that wounded and bruised semi-drawl in spades, reminding us of Edith Frost’s lonesome lost call, the emotional strength of Renée LoBue (Elk City), Paula Frazer’s smoky songwriting and maybe a little bit of woundedLori Carson. Pick out a few Hush or Barsuk artists to throw into the mix and you’ll be getting close.
What makes the album genuinely hit the sweet spot is the amazing backing musicians that surround her: twangy guitar dipped in vibrato, simmering brushed snare, lonesome tinkling piano and moody bass. It sort of reminds me of the Norfolk and Western vehicle that Adam Seltzer uses to create a pictoral atmosphere that’s like a heavily rusted, lonesome automobile awaiting the pre-thunder of a gathering storm. Sorry, it’s difficult to explain. It’s not gloomy folk – it’s more pensive than anything. She just really nails that timeless feeling of being stuck inbetween the rain and the shine.
Wax and Wane
I feel uneasy. That’s the mood that Baltimore’s Wax & Wane puts me in. I got a copy of their Winter CD and its spent a good amount of time in my Itunes playlist so far. Word is that they’re channeling Broken Social Scene.
I guess that could be correct, but the truth is they are channeling a TON of stuff here. There is a lot of moody strings haunting the tracks which definitely adds to the strange uneasy feeling they put you in. This seems to be another one of those great collective-type groups (Reindeer Section, New Pornographers – although there are only 5 members listed) where everyone plays “Various Instruments”. The other instruments range from horns and piano to what sounds like handmade bells.
Lead vocals switch from male to female nicely. Other RIYLs might include Low and Norfolk and Western. Uh, a little American Football perhaps? Anyhow, I dig the organic songs, dig the pretty melodies, and dig the overall folksy mood. Beautiful stuff.
Wax and Wane on Myspace
Valiant Death Records