Monday, February 28, 2011
Singer-songwriter Lauren Pritchard is a hard one to label, and that's a good thing. She's been compared to Adele, Norah Jones, and Carole King, but I'm not sure if any of those fit. I wish I could offer up a better comparison (in my mind, at least), but maybe Lauren Pritchard is sort of on her own soulful cloud. And that's really the best complement I could ever give her.
If you're not familiar with Pritchard's music, her wonderful debut album, Wasted in Jackson, included the song "Stuck," which has been turned into a pretty cool video. Take a moment, see if you like it.
Pritchard, who will be performing at The Firebird on April 10th, recently took the time to take part in our 10 to Spin series. She's got killer taste, as we expected.
The "Repeat" Playlist.
These are songs that I could stick on repeat and never take off. For one reason or another, I've grown to love these songs. Some of them make me really sad, so I don't turn them on that much; but each of them has an instant effect on my heart and mind and I like drifting off with them. I think it's healthy to listen to the same songs over and over. It's sort of like looking into those pictures of what you think is a blur and then you see the object that it makes after staring for a long time. I listen to a song over and over and I feel like I find the meaning. Though the person living next door or upstairs probably wants to strangle me for not changing the song, I don't mind. We can't help what we love, can we? I hope you make a repeat playlist of your own, too. --Lauren Pritchard
Jesus is Just Alright by The Doobie Brothers
This song always reminds me why I started playing music in the first place.
Down By The River by Neil Young
This song made me understand about letting love go away and how we all need to buck up sometimes.
Right On by The Roots feat. Joanna Newsom
Joanna Newsom's voice is gorgeous.
F**k You by Cee Lo Green
We all wish we'd written this song, and I sing it at the top of my lungs.
Brand New Key by Melanie
The innuendos in the lyrics make me giggle. I love this song.
I Can Change by LCD Soundsystem
Choon. Choon. Choon.
Jungle by Professor Green feat. Maverick Sabre
I love how Green speaks about life, so honest, and I love the tone of Maverick's voice. Gimme more.
Pop Life by Prince [listen]
He sums up our expectations for ourselves in this world, and he's not far off, in my opinion.
Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
The best anthem song of 2010. Like no other.
This Old Heart of Mine by The Isley Brothers
I dedicated this song to someone once. I still sorta feel that way.
US English, the Saint Louis duo of James and Brea McAnally, just released the EP, Used Future, on Post Literate today! It's the second effort in the now two-thirds complete trilogy, promised in the fall of 2010 when the two dropped the inaugural EP, What Frontier, on our asses.
Here's what US English says about the new EP: "[It] emerges from the concept that whatever future we enter is predicated by our past, partially lived and already worn out. The second in a series of 3 EPs, Used Future blurs the lines between Kratwerk and Kanye, its distant digital environment exploring the dark corners of online culture and an era obsessed with repetition."
To give you a visual of what they've just described, watch this video the band made for Used Future:
The band will celebrate its new music baby this Friday with a show at The Firebird, along with Bo and the Locomotive and So Many Dynamos. Doors 7:30, music starts at 8:30. Get tickets now!
Buy Used Future online here.
Stay connected (we think?!): Follow US English on Twitter at @usenglishmusic and the band's label at @postliterate.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Los Angeles husband and wife electro/dance/disco/afro-beat duo, Rainbow Arabia, has offered up the first single from their soon to be released LP, Boys and Diamonds (March 1st on Kompakt Records). Danny and Tiffany Preston have crafted a synth- and-bongo infused anthem to introduce listeners to their unique sound and the compositions of the new record. Tiffany's voice shimmers over beats and electro-tones that sound as if you've stumbled upon a group of lost indigenous peoples who have never seen an outsider apart from their Korg, Moog, and Roland synthesizer delivery men.
Watch the only slightly creepy (Tiffany as some kind of tortured mime?) video for "Without You" below.
On March 1st, grab Boys and Diamonds over at Kompakt.
Download a remix (by another L.A. pair called Nguzunguzu) of "Without You" HERE.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
|Photo credit: Rachel Demsick|
Last October, as part of her house concert tour across the U.S., singer-songwriter Annie Stela set up and played her songs in my living room. Her performance still often lingers in my mind; I remember her effortlessly playing songs like "Breathe Through," "Heart," and "Clean It Up," undoubtedly making a true connection with everyone in the room that night with her voice and words. Annie's a unique performer -- really, a special talent -- and I can't wait to see her again.
She recently released an EP called William, "consisting of songs written and originally performed solely by artists with the name William." You know, like Billy Joel and Billy Idol. And, oh yeah, today's JOTD, Billy Squier's "My Kinda Lover." I'm confident that after just one listen you'll be shaking your booty.
The best news? Annie's William EP is available as a free download throughout the month of February. Visit Annie's website to get your digital copy after you listen to the JOTD below!
Annie Stela - My Kinda Lover
TV On The Radio's hiatus seemed like an eternity. Sure we saw the guys in multiple projects, both musically and at the helm in production roles, Heck, they even showed up in independent movies. But, it was not even close to fullfilling to those of us who worship their collective work as a band.
Well, oh happy effing day! TVOTR has cemented its return to the scene by releasing its newest single, "Will Do," for all of us to hear/make music love to. The band also announced that its latest album, Nine Types of Light, will be released on April 12th.
Check it out below!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
|Photo credit: Marcelo Biglia|
they carry me
wherever I go...
The more I listen to Josh Ritter's latest album, So Runs the World Away, the more I'm convinced it's about one simple thing: refusing to stand still. So many times in my life I've struggled with this notion -- to rest on my laurels, to enjoy the past a little bit too much. Thankfully, I've come to find that's not the way to live my life; it's much better to keep moving, no matter how dark the road ahead may seem.
Ritter, I think he's the same way. He sings of not being afraid of the dark, to call for a lantern to light his way. He acknowledges the rough seas surround him, knowing they also carry him; he's smart enough to realize that nothing ever comes easy, nor should anything that is to be appreciated. Josh Ritter has become one of my favorite songwriters because his words seem so real.
And if I had to pick one of the best moments during his show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, it would be at the end of his main set, where he turned one of his best songs, "Change of Time," into a magical singalong. He started the song with the line I've mentioned above, the line that is buried in a hazy swarm of sound near the end of the studio recording. "Rough seas," he sang, "they carry me, wherever I go."
Everyone knew what to do. We sang. Loud enough for him to step away from the microphone and smile. It was a beautiful moment, one I'll always remember.
These are the moments that define a Josh Ritter show. They're the ones where you're immediately sure you're experiencing greatness. Another happened midway through the show when Ritter signaled for the lights to be turned totally off -- not dimmed -- so he could perform a solo acoustic version of the longest song off The Animal Years, "Thin Blue Flame." How he remembered all the words, I'm still not sure, but he sang it in complete darkness and silence, and we listened to a tune that novelist Stephen King once called "the most exuberant outburst of imagery since Bob Dylan’s 'A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall' in 1963." That's not hyperbole; that's completely true, and hearing it live in that type of setting had me amazed.
Everything about this show was amazing. The venue, First Avenue, is an absolutely marvelous place to see a concert. It holds about 1,500 people, and if it wasn't sold out, it was close. Whoever designed the place must have had artists like Josh Ritter in mind; you feel close to the performer. You feel every word, every breath, every minor miscue. You feel like you're part of an underground music community, a place where the world outside stops for just a few hours. A place where you get to hear Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band cover The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes." A place where one of Ritter's best songs, "Kathleen," sounds as fresh as the first time you heard it.
In the end, when Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison, who did a fine job of opening the show, joined Ritter for a rendition of The Everly Brothers' "Stories We Could Tell," I wondered if live music could get any better. If nothing else, I was sure that I was seeing Ritter at his peak, creatively and emotionally, moving forward in the darkness, wishing only to refrain from staying in one moment too long.
Be the light in my lantern, the light in my lantern tonight.
You've heard that song "Cleveland Rocks," right? You know, the Midwestern anthem that boasts the city's ability to "live in sin with a safety pin?" Whatever that means? Well, after spending the weekend with my new indie crushes, The Lighthouse and the Whaler, a fivesome out of the aforementioned Ohioan city, I want to write a new song titled, "Cleveland Folks!" Because holy crap, these boys are bringin' the folk.
Aaron Smith (violin, guitar, keyboards) told me that the band is most often likened to Fleet Foxes and Freelance Whales. And I can definitely hear those comparisons. Like Fleet Foxes, the band's notable strata of harmonies is soft yet complex, and like Freelance Whales, the instrumentation is ethereal and whimsical, particularly due to the xylophone, a frequent visitor across the band's ten-track debut LP.
I have to say, it took me awhile to select which song I wanted to post on the blog. Having the pick of the litter ain't easy, people.
Option #1: Album opener, "Under Mountain, Under Ground" is punctuated by vicious acoustic strumming and topped with aching falsetto vocals, the younger, sweeter cousin of Mumford and Sons' growls and foot stomps.
The Lighthouse and the Whaler - Under Mountain, Under Ground
Option #2: The driving "White Days," a hit single off the album, juxtaposes a sense of urgency with floating pop elements (again, that wondrous xylophone). Here, it's the labyrinthine lyrics that hold me captive. I'm not exactly positive of their meaning, but I could sit for hours attempting to extract their hidden message. What I do know is that they are beautiful.
The Lighthouse and the Whaler - White Days
Option #3: I ended up picking the road less traveled by for our Jam of the Day: a little ditty called "Windows." Fecund instrumentation prevails, of course. The tambourine is the first party guest to show up, but he's quickly joined by gorgeous violin, hand claps (just listen to the combo to really get it), and that ever-popular chap, the xylophone. At just under the 1:30 mark, a drumbeat drops and pushes the dreaminess into reality. But, it is not a reality without hope. Michael LoPresti sings, "Don't you wait for the hardest part/ The ones you love will hold you up..."
The Lighthouse and the Whaler - Windows
It is that simple sentiment that solidified my choice for JOTD. But, really, you just can't go wrong with these Ohio boys.
More The Lighthouse and the Whaler:
Our friend, Louis, shot beautiful pictures of the band when it performed back in January at the local Saint Louis venue, Cicero's. Take a look at his pictures on his concert photography blog, music VS man.
Most importantly, you gotta buy the album. The self-titled record came out in November 2009, and it's just lovely.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
|Photo Credit: Agatha Donker|
Oberhofer busted up on our radar early last year when we happened across a free EP the duo posted on its website, quickly gaining the band a Jam of the Day nod, as well as a spot on our Best Songs of 2010 list. But we're not the only ones who are keeping a close eye on these guys, considering they've been hand-selected to open for The Morning Benders, The Vaccines, and now Tapes 'n Tapes.
We sat down with Brad Oberhofer and Pete Sustarsic, the two youngsters who comprise Oberhofer, at Southern Rail in Carrboro, North Carolina, in a converted train dining car, over a round of Whiskey and Gingers, some tater tots, and a hummus plate. Our conversation, like our order, was diverse; it covered everything from finding a record label, to MTV's Skins, to sloppy shows at CMJ.
So you’re living in Brooklyn now? Via Tacoma?
Brad Oberhofer: Yeah – hopefully we will get a chance to get on some West Coast dates soon. We’re tired of the cold, you know?
You’re on your second North Carolina date. How far does this tour take you guys?
Pete Sustarsic (laughing): It kinda goes in a lot of little circles. It ends in Minneapolis with Tapes 'n Tapes on the 25th. Then we’re basically going back to New York.
B: We have one show in Dekalb, but so far we’ve been through Madison, Chicago, Iowa, Saint Louis – and that was just us before we met up with Tapes…
Where did y’all meet up with them?
B: No, Chicago, right?
B: Yeah, Madison.
|Photo Credit: Agatha Donker|
So, are you guys doing SXSW this year?
B: We WILL be there. We will. We’ve never done it. We’re really excited, man.
You guys doing day parties?
B: Yeah, and night parties – should be really good. So far we’re only doing six shows, but we’re doing the Urban Outfitters showcase, the Brooklyn Vegan showcase, the RCRD LBL showcase, the Vice showcase, the SESAC showcase.
Lucinda Williams has always been good at telling the truth. Songs like “Those Three Days” and “Essence” reveal a woman who knows what she wants and also a person who isn’t afraid to ask questions. Williams, in my opinion, is a confronting songwriter – one of the best alive, male or female.
So when I hear a song like today’s PJOTD, it affects me deeply. “I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’” is exactly five minutes in length, but it reveals a lifetime of struggle, a journey that is still ongoing through good and bad. It’s a song about broken plans, unconditional love – it’s about rising to the challenge when you’re least prepared to do so. Really, it’s just a song about life.
Williams’ new album, Blessed, is set for release on March 1st.
Lucinda Williams - I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’ (via NPR)
Monday, February 21, 2011
Now that we've had the weekend to absorb The King of Limbs, "Lotus Flower" has emerged as the early standout on Radiohead's new record. While we know full well that the listening experience has the propensity to change and evolve each time through a Radiohead album, it is clear that "Lotus Flower" is the rock solid core of The King of Limbs. Paced and guided by Phil Selway's steady and unrelenting percussion, the track is a perfect vessel for Thom Yorke's haunting voice and spooky lyrics. He wails as the track closes, "The darkness is beneath/ I can't kick the habit/ Just to feed your fast ballooning head/ Listen to your heart."
Many have anointed Radiohead the consummate musical innovators: a band that never looks back and always breaks new ground with each record. In most respects this sentiment is spot on, but with this record, and this track in particular, we see Radiohead building on (rather than breaking free from) a sonic foundation made up of the odd, percussive nature of Kid A, the melodic aspects of In Rainbows, and even the eerie compositions of Thom Yorke's solo record The Eraser. This makes for a track that is unmistakable. It is Radiohead, and you know it. It is amazing, and you know it. We expected nothing less, and these Brits continue to live up to expectations with impunity.
Buy The King of Limbs HERE.
Watch the Thom's So You Think You Can Dance audition (aka the video for "Lotus Flower") below.
Friday, February 18, 2011
|Photo Credit: Robert Bellamy|
After a string of plaudits for remixes of artists as diverse as Bloc Party, Burial, Wild Beasts, and Amy Winehouse, it wasn't long before Banjo or Freakout, aka Alessio Natalizia, joined the shortlist of bands with true buzz surrounding them. Their first EP, Upside Down, was also received to critical praise across the board due to its gauzy melancholia and bedroom beats.
It was the perfect precursor to the introspective delirium of this album, though Alessio's approach to making music has never wavered. Our Jam of the Day, "Go Ahead," is rich with gently-strummed guitars, synths, drum loops, and those little effects, making it simply mesmerizing.
Check it out below via The Fader, and pick up the debut self-titled LP when it drops February 22nd on Rare Book Room.
Banjo or Freakout - Go Ahead
If you want more BoF, head thisaway to see what we wrote about his song, "105."
Happy Friday everyone!
On Valentine's Day, we told you that Radiohead's eighth studio record, The King of Limbs, would be available for digital download this Saturday. Well, Thom Yorke and Co. have pulled a fast one on us, and the record is actually available...NOW. Delightfully tricky.
Go grab the soundtrack to your weekend over at http://www.kingoflimbs.com/. We couldn't be more tickled. Thanks, fellas.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
We could’ve had it all.
There is a moment in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary where Louis Creed almost goes insane. His son, Gage, has just died, and he’s imagining what could have been – Gage growing up, Gage getting married…basically, the rest of Gage’s life. It’s all right there so vividly, except, of course, it will never happen. It’s some of King’s best writing, and if I could share it all with you here, I would.
This might have nothing to do with Adele and her upcoming album, 21. But, for me, it has everything to do with today’s rousing JOTD, “Rolling in the Deep.” It’s a song about scars, love, and yearning for what could have been. The life after the death. The unknown that we still imagine.
Somehow, it never goes away.
We could’ve had it all.
Buzzing Scottish band Admiral Fallow just took a huge leap of faith. They have agreed to make their second show in the United States (ever!) the first show (ever!) promoted by our little music blog! The show goes down in Durham at Fullsteam Brewery on March 19th as the band stops in the Triangle after SXSW on the way to NYC before heading back home.
The band is already causing quite a stir in the land of the Scots. Fueled by young, foot-stomping and faintly maniacal singer-songwriter, Louis Abbott, the band is already known in the UK for its thrilling and cathartic live sets. These shows walk the delicate line between simple voice and guitar compositions like “Four Bulbs,” and riotous cacophonies of white noise. The songs are about alienation within relationships, and experiences of youth itself are sung, chanted, and screamed with utter abandon.
Picked to open for a thirteen-date stretch of Frightened Rabbit’s late 2010 European tour, they are now poised for the March 28th release of the debut album, Boots Met My Face. It’s lead by the first single "Squealing Pigs," which is a shining example of the band's soul, as Abbott quite successfully allows his accent to be the focus of his singing, contrasting magically with the sweet sounds of co-vocalist, Sarah Hayes. When the song breaks, a softly-plucked banjo is overtaken by heavily strummed guitars, screaming clarinets, and a chorus of voices that combine for a joyous and heart-filled ruckus.
Abbott says, “All of the songs document the first chapter of my life, be it memories from school or kicking a ball about with my childhood chums. All of the songs are taken from real life events. There's no fiction. I'm not into making up stories or characters for the sake of trying to stir emotions. They are songs about friends and family as well as a fair bit of self-evaluation.”
“…could just be the start of something massive…” The Fly
“Absolutely beautiful…[a] great new talent….” Edith Bowman, Radio 1
"...surely destined for a larger stage." ***** Sunday Mail
“[Their] brooding, heartfelt folk leanings are bolstered by a soundtrack of colourful orchestration, including flute, strings and double bass - a rich concoction that has caught the attention of more than a few unsuspecting ears.” The List
"...intimate and epic...quite stunning..." **** The Herald
"They did not so much ‘take to the stage’ as colonise it and build a mini empire of sound for the awestruck concert goers...surely one of the truest new talents in Scotland today." **** New Found Sound
"Admiral Fallow are set to soundtrack our forthcoming festivals." **** The List
"…open-hearted love songs and impressively conjuring a balance of nostalgia..." Scotsman
For more information on Admiral Fallow, photos, and interviews check out:
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
If you like voices, they don't get much better than Rachel Bearer, Ben McLain, Chris Harrison, Jessica Freedman, Paul Peglar, and Katharine Anne Hoye, the sextet who form the Los Angeles-based "supergroup" SONOS. Their recent release, December Songs, features original compositions as well as traditional holiday tunes. It's more of a "winter" album, rather than a "let's kiss under the mistletoe" one, so there's still plenty of time to enjoy its sounds as we slowly make our way toward spring.
Our latest 10 to Spin comes from Harrison and Freedman of SONOS. They don't just give us their picks, they give us some cool stories to go along with the tunes, too. Enjoy.
Chris Harrison: Most of the songs that have found a home in my random access memory mark an emotionally colorful event or chapter of my life. In most cases, they served as the soundtrack. These songs either remind me of feeling at home emotionally, or returning home after a journey away.
Jessica Freedman: As we have learned in the past few years as touring musicians, home is where your bags are. The collection of songs I chose speak to the idea of home as a feeling rather than a place - how you may feel when you are home, missing home, leaving home, or rediscovering it. Enjoy :)
The Dillards - Hey Boys [listen]
The first music I remember is live bluegrass in our family room. Loud, fast, and incredibly joyful, my Dad’s band, “The Unstrung Heroes” would tear through every tune in their repertoire at break-neck speed. “Hey Boys” was my favorite, and I’d stand wide-eyed in the hallway peering at them from around the corner, trying to keep up with the lyrics as they flew by. I’d always get a kick of giddiness when each voice took its place in the big stacked chord on the words, “won’t do us any harm...” (CH)
Frou Frou - Let Go
When I listen to this song, I am immediately transported to the summer after high school graduation before leaving home for college in L.A. It reminds me of driving around late at night with lifelong friends, knowing our lives were about to split off in a million different directions. It was exhilarating, inspiring, and scary all at once. This song brings me right back to that feeling of just surrendering, letting go; being right there in the moment as you never know what's to come. Oh, and the arrangement/string parts take my breath away. Gotta love Imogen! (JF)
Joni Mitchell - California
Every time we’re (SONOS) finally on a plane headed for LAX or Burbank, this plays loud and clear in my mind’s ear. The “home” association in this case is rather obvious. (CH)
Kurt Elling - Leaving Again/In the Wee Small Hours
Kurt Elling is probably my favorite vocalist EVER for so many reasons besides his mindblowing technique, improv skills, and honest, emotional delivery. In my opinion, as far as jazz singers go, he is sort of super-humanly creative, as evidenced by fusing this composition of an original "verse" with the old standard "in the wee small hours of the morning." I have been especially identifying with this song in the past year as SONOS has been touring non-stop. Whenever we return home, it is only for a brief moment before we are off again. "Sleeping, waking, leaving again." (JF)
The Pharcyde - Passin’ Me By
When I was in seventh grade, I was pale, non-sporty, and endowed with a 13 year-old’s imagination and emotional capacity. No concept was more relatable than the inability to express one’s heavy feelings for/to the girl out of reach. Just about every night of that year, I’d lay awake in my bed, listening to the local hip-hop station, waiting for this song to play. Ridiculous as it sounds to me now, it felt at the time like “the pharcyde” were four other seventh-graders with the eloquence to put to words what we were all going through. Thanks, fellas. (CH)
John Mayer - In Your Atmosphere
I was at the concert where this live track was recorded in Los Angeles a few years ago. As a pretty obsessive John Mayer fan, I had never heard this and was completely mesmerized. He tends to gets a lot of flack, but he is truly an incredible songwriter and musician - his lyrics & guitar playing really shine in this song. I identify with the sentiment a lot in terms of having a hard time going back home when someone you associate with everything about it is no longer a part of your life there - "I'd die if I saw you, I'd die if I didn't see you there." (JF)
Chet Baker - Look for the Silver Lining
No voice makes me more comfortable or at ease; like I’m floating. This song feels like every sunny drive without a hint of traffic that I’ve ever taken around Los Angeles. I think there have been about four of them. (CH)
Louis Armstrong - The Home Fire [listen]
My mom loves Louis Armstrong, so this album was always playing in my house growing up. It makes you feel warm, comfy and loved, just like his voice. :) Reminds me of coming home for the holidays (where I am right now as I write/listen to this!) (JF)
Simon & Garfunkel - A Heart in New York
Kathy from SONOS introduced me to this lesser-known (at least to me) Simon & Garfunkel gem. I love New York City & this song just flows and breathes with the same energy as the city...inspiring. I hope to one day experience what it feels like to actually live there. (JF)
SONOS - Home
Okay, so bear with us as we shamelessly include a brand new song of ours (written by vocal percussionist Ben McLain) that just came out on our winter album, December Songs!! It serves as a great example for the album as a whole in that it's not your typical Santa's-coming-to-town holiday album, but rather a collection of songs about what this whole time of year makes people feel :) Thank you so much for listening, we hope you like it!!!!
The first time I met Andy Berkhout, I immediately noticed his gentle disposition accompanied by a permanent, genuine smile. If I had a million dollars, I'd bet you'd like this guy.
|Photo credit: Katie Guymon|
Robust with sunny acoustic guitar, cabasa, and hand claps (and do I hear a little bongo up in there?), "Remain Kind" feels like an open heart with room for, well...everyone. In fact, Berkhout sings, "I have loved, loved you all..." And, there's no resulting indication that his capacity for emotion is tapped out. That kind of unwearied worldview feels very fresh.
And knowing Berkhout, it's also authentic.
Andy Berkhout - Remain Kind
You can pre-order a copy of Love Without Fear now! The record will be available on iTunes and Amazon on March 1st.
Berkhout's Love Without Fear Release Show is coming up on March 4th at The Gramophone. Details are forthcoming. Click here to see all five of his upcoming Midwest shows.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
|Photo credit: Rob Stephenson|
Ocean Carolina is the Brooklyn-based creation of singer-songwriter-producer Michael Simone who began performing as a solo artist in good ol' North Carolina in the late '90s, before moving to New York in 2002. And almost ten years later, we have the result of his experiences both performing in the Tarheel State and collaborating with various artists in the NYC area.
It's called Leave On, and it's a five-song collection of country-twinged pop songs produced with Alex Cox on bass guitar, Jon Graboff (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals) on pedal steel, and Simone manning the rest of the instruments.
The first song released from the EP is also our JOTD. "Blue" is a laid back, harmonica-driven tune, more pop than country due to the addition of light electronic elements, piano, and silky-smooth vocals.
Ocean Carolina - Blue
The perfect combination of north and south.
Monday, February 14, 2011
"Silverlake" is actually the very first song recorded by the women (Orenda Fink, Maria Taylor) of Azure Ray after spending six years apart, musically speaking. On the track, Fink and Taylor sing, "Laughing all night long/ For the sake of the song/ Like we used to..." And wow, along with those "reunited and it feels so good" lyrics, the sheer happiness "Silverlake" brings me is further proof that a six year suspension was far too long indeed.
The song was recorded with Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, not too long before his passing. Fink and Taylor say this of Linkous: "We were very fortunate to record this song with Mark. It was the first time we worked together and the first song Azure Ray wrote after our six year hiatus, so everything about the song is dear to us."
Despite the song's beginning buoyancy, the repeated line, "Like we used to..." becomes quite chilling, as it morphs into an eerie drone, sounding almost robot-like. Given Linkous' involvement, it digs deeper, it bleeds more.
1) Last night at the 2011 Grammy Awards, a much deserving Arcade Fire rose up and nabbed the night's top prize, Album of the Year for The Suburbs. While this recognition feels a bit like the Oscars' Best Picture nod for Return of the King (after two preceding films that were generally regarded as "better"), the win for Arcade Fire is a shot across the bow of a recording industry that has recognized commercial viability over true artistry in recent years. Snatching the award from the likes of Lady Gaga, Eminem, and something called Lady Antebellum, the members of Arcade Fire, fresh off a hard rocking performance of "Month of May," seemed as shocked as all of the pre-teens and industry types who had never heard of the inimitable Montreal-based rock collective until just minutes before. Check out their Grammy closing, post-win performance of "Ready to Start" (lamely cut off and interrupted by some corporate nonsense) below.
2) Radiohead has announced that the band's new record, King of Limbs, will be released digitally this Saturday (actual physical release of the record will wait until May). We knew this release was coming sometime this year, but until last night, the release date was shrouded in mystery. With the digital download of the group's previous record, In Rainbows, you were able to choose your price. No such luck this time for those of you wishing to grab another Radiohead album on the super-cheap. On Saturday, grab King of Limbs HERE for $9 or $14, depending on how you like your digital tunes (mp3 or WAV).
Both of these news tidbits make our hearts skip a beat over here at SIC. Happy Valentine's Day.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
|Photo Credit: Katie Guymon|
A lead singer and an athlete are not the same. An athlete can easily cover up an injury or sickness and deliver a legendary performance. Hell, one of Michael Jordan's best games came in a playoff-pressured situation where he needed multiple IVs because of the flu. A musician having a cold -- a nasty one where it affects your voice -- is a little different. Just ask David Monks of Tokyo Police Club.
I'll give it to Monks -- he really tried to deliver what his fans wanted last Tuesday evening at The Firebird. But, let's face it, the first six songs were not pretty. TPC's front man struggled to sing in a lower register, zapping the energy of songs like "Favourite Color," "End of a Spark," and "Graves." The tunes crawled; they sounded like rusty chains being dragged down an ancient gravel road. A gritty effort, yes. Memorable, not quite.
But then something happened. Maybe it was whatever he was drinking (it looked like tea), but somewhere in the middle of "Tessellate," Monks started to show signs of a second wind (or, really, a first wind). Guitarist Josh Hook, who carried the first half of the set with his electric guitar, started to pick up more steam. The songs started to sound like the band that 400 people came to see on a frozen Tuesday night. And, thankfully, it wasn't too late.
|Photo Credit: Katie Guymon|
"I remember when our voices used to sound the exact same," Monks sang during "Breakneck Speed," a song off Champ that was sandwiched between two other songs off the same album, "Bambi" and "Wait Up (Boots of Danger)." The trio of tunes, which came near the end of the first set -- a set that lasted about 40 minutes -- showed of TPC's ability to rock just right when every member is near or approaching proper form. That 15 or so minutes alone was worth a trip to The Firebird.
The encore, like the show, was short and sweet. But, it did end with a bang, as members of opening act Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin joined their Canadian friends for a rendition of "Cheer It On." A fine, albeit bittersweet, way to end a show that was just hitting its stride, but in the end, provided enough juice to keep everyone excited for the next one. And the one after that.
Click here for Katie Guymon's full set of pictures from the show.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Short and sweet, Delta Maid knows how to get it done. The twenty-five year old from Liverpool is a self-taught guitarist, and her voice reminds you of the sweetest winds blowing across the South. Clocking in at a little over two minutes, today's PJOTD reveals a youthful talent with a bright future ahead of her.
The best thing I can say about Delta Maid's music is that it feels like home. It feels like driving down the back roads, with the windows open -- like a free soul with nowhere to go. No plans, no commitments...just letting it all slide for a minute or two.
Delta's debut album, Outside Looking In, is set for a release later this year. For now, we give you "The Changes Made."
Delta Maid - The Changes Made by Delta Maid
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Anyone with an ear to the ground in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area of NC have heard the rumble of a local music scene waiting to blow the eff up. From the wildly successful, and heavily local Hopscotch Music Festival, to stage-stealing opening slots before major national acts, Triangle bands brought their shit correctly in 2010.
And Raleigh label DiggUp Tapes is doing its part to bottle the swelling noise one single at a time with their sick new comp, Cassingles Vol. 1. Fathered by songwriter Brian Corum, who just so happens to have today's Jam of the Day via his band Lonnie Walker, DiggUp Tapes was born last year with three simple goals. Promote quality music in danger of being overlooked. Keep the focus local. Do it with rare but affordable tapes and vinyl LPs that have a keepsake quality. And that is all.
Cassingles Vol. 1 features twleve artists contributing exclusive tracks by artists at different stages of development and notoriety. None, however, is too far removed from humble origins or a DIY spirit.
Check out "Heartbreakin' Ball" by Lonnie Walker below and the entire compilation via the widget.
Work it Triangle. WORK IT.
Bands included on the comp:
Arbor Myst (Ben Clack Formerly of Dark Meat)(DiggUp Tapes)
Birds of Avalon (Bladen County)
Embarrassing Fruits (Trekky Records)
Gross Ghost (Grip Tapes)
Lonnie Walker (DiggUp Tapes)
Motor Skills (Denmark Records)
NAPS (DiggUp Tapes)
Snails (Featuring Sam Herring and William Cashion of Future Islands and Abe Sanders of Lower Dens)
Veelee (Grip Tapes)
Whatever Brains (Funny/Not Funny)
I don't love you, but I always will.
It's the lyric that Joy Williams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars will never escape. The stabbing lyric at the heart of their breakthrough song, "Poison and Wine." The one moment where truth bites beautifully and leaves an immediate scar. It's the lyric that you avoid to anticipate, because, sometimes, the truth doesn't hurt so good.
Poison and wine are not mutually exclusive -- not in The Civil Wars' world. And somehow, you wouldn't have it any other way.
What is exactly happening here is hard to explain. Williams and White have formed a duo, a musical partnership that has created waves. You know, the kind that get your album to the top of the iTunes charts and to #12 on your first-ever Billboard 200 chart. Sure, their talents are undeniable, but talent alone doesn't always win out in this world.
But, let's forget about the reasons why. The only thing you need to know is that Barton Hollow, the debut album from The Civil Wars, is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes furiously inspiring. Emotionally, you'll be hard pressed to find another collection of songs this year to match its consistent, raw approach to invoke feeling. That's what Joy Williams and John Paul White do best.
Fortunately, The Civil Wars took a few minutes to chat it up with us over the phone a few weeks before Barton Hollow's release. You can purchase the album now.
John Paul White: We wish we could have released this record a long time ago, so we're anxiously chomping at the bit. And thankfully, other people are, too. It's a bit of a whirlwind getting the tour set up, and taking a couple of trips out west. Right now we're kind of holding on for dear life, in a wonderful way.
Joy Williams: We just got the CDs with all of the packaging we've been working on so hard. There are so many details to take care of. The unintentional tease of things taking a little bit longer has actually been a positive thing. It's created more enthusiasm.
JP: Now we can worry about whether somebody runs from the altar at the last second.
Joy: (laughing) Who's running from the altar?
JP: I don't know...I don't know. (laughs) Just throwing it out there...
Joy: You're making me nervous! (laughs)
Joy: (laughing) No!
JP: I'm kidding! I'm totally kidding. Although, we do joke that I have a solo career coming called "The Civil War." It might be a little presumptuous to do it now. I need to wait a little while.
Joy: (laughing) You're so full of it!
JP: Thank you.
Oh boy. Well, you mentioned the enthusiasm, and I get a sense of the people who talk about your music -- there is so much passion there. The first song I heard was "Poison and Wine," and it didn't take me but twenty seconds to know that this was something special. And that doesn't happen all the time.
JP: Thanks a lot, man.
Joy: Yes, thank you!
I really mean that. I'm not sure if I've heard honest music like yours in a while.
Joy: Well, the response has been overwhelming. Primarily, because that "Poison and Wine" had a really great (showing) on Grey's Anatomy, that song has lumped to the forefront initially. To have...I think we're a little under half a million views on the music video that we made. To see people come to shows to experience the music, and to hear how other people interpret the songs is always a great and wonderful surprise. The fact that the music is connecting with people is nothing short of magical.
We tend to write a lot of times much more focused on "Is it true to us?" and "Do we care about it?" Because if we don't, I think people in the crowd will pick that up, too. But, I think that what has been fantasic is the word of mouth, and the organic way that that song and some others on the record have connected so that people want to talk about it. That is something that we never planned on, but we're grateful for. And we continue to plan on creating in a way that is authentic and true to our lives, and if it connects with other people, that is very tasty icing on the cake.
John Paul, I read about how you guys first met, and it was sort of like a chance meeting. Can you describe that meeting? And also, when was it that you finally decided that this was what you wanted to do?
JP: Well, I think it was like any typical relationship. You know, we kind of waded into it little by little. And I have an immense fear of rejection, so I was really nervous about even hinting about the idea. Because we had multiple conversations about the solo artist life, and touring, and making records for a major label and all that, and we mostly talked about the negative of all those things.
And so, I felt that...I can't say when was the initial time that I thought, "We need to be a duo." But I do know that from the first spark, it was, "I want to make more music with this person." And so, it kind of grew from that, and we waited a little while before our second co-write, and then it was little after that before we ever went in the studio. And once we went in the studio and got our voices on tape, it was kind of undenaible for me. I couldn't help but at least ask. And we always joke about how it was extremely akward, like, "I know you probably don't like me, but I like what what you do, and I have this guitar...and you're a pretty good singer...and...you probably don't want to do this...you probably hate me...I'm gonna go!"
Joy: (laughing) Yes...
JP: It was exactly how it felt! But luckily, unbeknownst to me, she felt the same way on the other side of it. Once we were in, it all kind of snowballed really fast from there. With instrumentation and things like that, we never really even had to have a conversation. When we wrote songs, we wrote them with a guitar, or we wrote them with a guitar and a piano. We wanted it to feel right in that kind of set up, and we just kind of felt like, "we won't adorn it with something else to distract you, unless it really needs it."
Well, that makes a lot of sense. When I listened to the full album to the first time, it was just beautifully simple and organic sounding. What was your sort of method of recording?
Joy: I think the method is the fact that we don't seem to have one. And that we continue to sort of follow our instinct and follow this mysterious muse that is the sound we've sort of organically come into. I know for John Paul and for me, that in the process of recording, we don't always believe that endless options are a positive thing. We intentionally wanted to limit ourselves in some ways. We said no to Auto-Tune, we did not play to a click track. We wanted elements -- if we were going to add them to songs -- we wanted them to be felt and not simply heard. We ended up putting in a lot of things in the recording process that we ended up stripping back went it came to the final product. It's all very much void of science. It's very much an experiment in following our instincts. And thankfully, the producer that we worked with, Charlie (Peacock), also felt the same way. There were no battles; we wanted to continue to keep the emotion of the songs intact.
The songs feel very close to the initial source. To me, that's beautiful.
Joy: Thank you.
JP: Yeah, I think a lot of that is testament to the fact that we go and record just voices and guitar, so it has no choice but to be vulnerable and intimate and on the tip of your tongue, so to speak. When we initially write the song, we know we're going to be performing it the way that we're writing it. We make sure there's no portion of it that is filler or overwrought. We're not waiting for a guitar solo to come in and save the bridge. It would make sense that it still feels new and first born because, typically, the nucleus that we come out of that room with never changes. By and large, whatever we walk out of the room with that day, that's the way it is.
A lot of people out there who see the "Poison and Wine" video might think you're married or something, but you're not. Do you still have arguments? I'm obviously trying to get the dirt here...like, what happens to The Civil Wars when things go bad?
Joy: A ha! (laughs)
JP: This is one of the great things about being in a duo with someone who is not your spouse or significant other. We can say things to each other, that if we were in a lasting relationship, other than being in a duo...you know, we just air it out and then go to therapy...
Joy: Ha! Individual therapy. (laughs)
JP: And then it all smooths over. It works because we don't have to be quite so mindful of things that people would who are in a normal, emotional relationship, and I think that's good for us. And it's good for us in the songwriting process, too. Honestly, we don't fight. We're extremely early in our relationship. We have tiffs and we rub each other the wrong way sometimes when we're on the road, but, we know that we're not going to have to live with this person every day for the rest of our lives, so, we can deal with this!
Joy: (laughing) I love it when you talk sweet, that's so great. It's so honest, it's completely true. Therapy for me is $125 an hour. Therapy for John Paul consists of a very good whiskey.
Ha! There you go!
JP: Mine is a lot cheaper than hers is. (laughs)
Joy: (laughing) But, mine is better for my liver.
JP: Yeah, but all my problems go away. Just so you know. (laughs)
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"Under Cover of Darkness" will be the first single from The Strokes' new record, Angles, (their first in five years... has it been that long?) which will drop March 22nd on RCA Records. The early word on Angles is that it will be a return to the sonic buzz and the angular, riffy, garage sensibilities of Is This It and Room on Fire. According to Rolling Stone, the lead single "barrels into the bar with 'Return to Form' written on its forehead." We want to be drinking a bottle of beer in that bar when this happens. Remember what it was like the first time you saw and heard THIS? We want... no, we need that feeling again. Hopefully, our love affair with The Strokes is renewed this afternoon.
Download "Under Cover of Darkness" HERE, for $FREE.99, starting at around 1:30 CST (there is a countdown clock), and only for 48 hours. So jump on it.
Stream "Under Cover of Darkness" below.
The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness by TheMusic.FM
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Admiral Fallow is a beeping awesome new band from the UK that is causing quite a stir in the land of the Scots. The band is fueled by young, foot-stomping and faintly maniacal singer/songwriter, Louis Abbott, who attributes his influences to the likes of Tom Waits, Elbow, Low and Mr. Springsteen himself.
Our Jam of the Day, "Squealing Pigs," is a shining example of the band's soul, as Abbott quite successfully allows his accent to be the focus of his singing, contrasting magically with the sweet sounds of co-vocalist, Sarah Hayes. But then the song breaks, and a softly plucked banjo is overtaken by heavily strummed guitars, screaming clarinets, and a chorus of voices that combine for a joyous and heart-filled ruckus.
The band, fresh off a UK jaunt supporting SIC faves Frightened Rabbit, is heading to this side of the pond for SXSW next month, so expect to hear much, much more about them post-festival.
Listen and download below. And Admiral Fallow - we fully expect quite a few people in the U.S. to know you in a year or so. No doubt in our minds.
Admiral Fallow - Squealing Pigs
Monday, February 7, 2011
Toro y Moi is the moniker of "chillwave" artist Chazwick Bundick, who just may be the coolest guy to come from South Carolina since Tom Haverford. Chillwave (or glo-fi!), a relatively new movement, is just what it sounds like: chilled out, new-wave grooves. Mr. Bundick has been operating within this aural arena ever since the release of his 2010 debut Causers of This, an impeccable introduction to the new genre. His second LP, Underneath the Pine, will be released on February 22nd (Carpark Records), and if "New Beat" is any indication, Toro y Moi is injecting a little funk / disco into this year's dose of chillwave. We like.
Watch the video for "New Beat" below.
Stream Underneath the Pine HERE. Buy Underneath the Pine HERE.
Brooke Fraser, has hit us with another treat -- this time a video for her newest single called "Betty." It's off her latest album, Flags, which we chose as one of our favorite albums of 2010. We think she's pretty adorable in this video, no?
Tags: Brooke Fraser
Friday, February 4, 2011
For Friday's Jam of the Day, we are going to sit back, and let a recent press release about his upcoming album do all the talking. Honestly, we couldn't have said it better ourselves.
"Alone in his room, Alex had his guitar, a Lowery organ he picked up at a St. Vincent’s thrift store in Los Angeles for seventy bucks, a clarinet he used for the bridge on the record’s first single, “Truth,” and a violin he’d found somewhere in Tucson on tour. He had his own voice, his breath, his knees to slap, his fingers to snap and his toes to tap. When he knew that he wanted to use a violin on the bridge of “Glimpses,” he had an urge to call a friend to come play it for him, but then questioned why he wouldn’t try it himself. Says Alexander, “To me, it’s a very humble album with sky’s-the-limit sort of qualities, and so I didn’t really shy away from doing whatever I felt like doing."
Alexander, aka Alexander Ebert, aka the dude in Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros came roaring onto the scene in 2009 after a stint in the electro-pop group Ima Robot. But now it's his turn to take us down yet another new road. Hopefully this new endeavor will be equally satisfying.
Our Jam of the Day, "A Million Years," is just one of the songs on Alexander's self-titled debut and will be released March 1st via Vagrant Records. Get your stream on below.
Alexander - A Million Years
Could it be that we already have 2011's Cover of the Year? A definite possibility if ever one did exist. It will be tough to top James Blake's cover of "Limit to Your Love," written and originally recorded by Feist on her 2007 record, The Reminder (check out a live version by Ms. Feist HERE). Blake takes Feist's lyrics and elements of the original arrangement and makes the song completely his own (as all noteworthy covers tend to do). Blake is able to achieve this by reducing the slow jam's pace (even more than the original) and breaking the track down into a raw and essential form. The remake is almost cathartic in its simplicity. Nothing unnecessary is included. The main additive is a HEAVY bass beat that resonates best in your headphones. Pump up the volume. You'll feel it deep in your bones. The bass ingeniously interrupts the occasionally distorted timbre of Blake's voice and the gentle, lilting piano. As a result, the track absolutely shines.
Check out the fantastical (floating/spinning fruit!) video for Blake's version below. Download his highly anticipated self-titled debut LP on February 8th on Universal Republic.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
|Photo credit: Guy Aroch|
We unofficially named U.S. Royalty one of our Top Bands to Watch in 2011, all the way back in October of 2010 when we first listened to "Equestrian," the first single off the now-released debut LP, Mirrors. Yes, that long ago. We were so taken with the lead track, we placed it on our 100 Best Songs of 2010 list and wrote that it "combines the same kind of southern, sweet tea harmonies with gobs of beautiful nature imagery a la Fleet Foxes." It is inspired by Washington Irving, after all.
Now the guys from D.C. have released single number two off the effort, and it is decidedly different from the rustic indie-folk with which we first shook hands. "Monte Carlo" is the best unrecorded Fleetwood Mac song I've ever heard. Seriously.
U.S. Royalty - Monte Carlo
You guys, this band is getting ready to blow up. Metaphorically curtsey to your new royal family by picking up Mirrors right away. The guys will kick off a tour with Broken Records near the end of February. Sadly, there's no Saint Louis date.
You will miss sunrise
if you close your eyes
and that would break
my heart in two
Choosing to cover Townes Van Zandt is pretty popular these days. But when you do it beautifully, as Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle do on their new album, We Still Love Our Country, it sounds as fresh as ever. To me, "If I Needed You" should be the gold standard for any songwriter trying to achieve honesty in his or her lyrics. Its simplicity has always spoken to me, no matter who is singing its words; it's undeniably timeless.
Smartly, Rodriguez and Kyle don't try to invent the wheel here. Their version is gentle, and Rodriguez's harmonies are in that Emmylou Harris category -- you know, the kind that softly linger in the back of your mind for days. Frankly, Rodriguez is a star in my book, and she's only getting better.
We Still Love Our Country is available now. I'd recommend giving it a shot.
Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle - If I Needed You