Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Here We Go Magic debut single "Tunnelvision"

You may not have heard of Here We Go Magic before now, but you might be familiar with Luke Temple. No? Me neither, but he released two critically acclaimed experimental folk records before branching out with a new, more expansive sound for which he is recording under the Here We Go Magic moniker. The most immediately noticeable thing about Temple's music is his voice, which Sufjan Stevens calls "one of the most beautiful voices in pop music" and Ben Gibbard similarly states is "one of the prettiest voices in all of indie rock, hands down."

The first single, "Tunnelvision" from the upcoming self-titled album is available to download over at The Fader. It's a gorgeous track and very much worth your time to go grab, but don't take my word for it, take Sufjan's. The record is scheduled for release on February 24th.

Here We Go Magic Tracklisting:

Only Pieces
Ghost List
I Just Want To See You Underwater
Nat's Alien
Everything's Big

Andrew Bird previews Useless Creatures

Although I think most of us would prefer a full preview of Noble Beast, Andrew Bird's upcoming album, you can at least listen to the album's instrumental bonus disc (available with the deluxe version), Useless Creatures, in its entirety for the next two or three days here. It's a very avant-garde set of songs with lots of noodling around on the violin like you might expect, though its definitely the most experimental music he's ever made, at least as far as I've heard.

Also, because January 20th still feels like such a long time to wait, make sure you at least hear Noble Beast's first single, "Oh No," on Bird's homepage.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: Gramercy Arms - Gramercy Arms (* * * 1/2)

Gramercy Arms is easily the quietest (press-wise) "supergroup" to come around in some time. That's probably for the best, as that label tends to bode poorly for projects that receive special attention; Velvet Revolver, anyone? According to their website, the New York collective is currently comprised of members of "Guided By Voices, Luna, Joan as Police Woman, Dead Air and The Dambuilders, along with comic Sarah Silverman." That's quite a list and a diverse one as well, but the group's sound is focused and straightforward despite the number of musicians (and comediennes) involved. Their self-titled debut album, recently released digitally in the US with a retail release in March, is a classic pop record full of snappy tunes with bright, sunny melodies.

For the majority of the album, Gramercy Arms channel the spirit of pop folk groups like Simon & Garfunkle, The Byrds, and (of course) The Beatles. "Looking At The Sun," with hand claps and simple harmonies (by Silverman, of all people) is catchy and fun, "Shining Bright" grooves along with singer/bassist Rainy Orteca's smooth melody and some great guitar work, and "Automaton" is a familiar, yet welcome, slice of pure pop. The opening track, "Automatic," feels like the only actual stylistic departure on Gramercy Arms, a New Pornographers-esque song with a driving guitar line and group vocal chorus that quickly became a favorite.

Gramercy Arms feels remarkably (and probably deceptively) easy, like the group just got together and out came songs which they simply recorded, produced, and put on a disc. In many ways it makes for an enjoyable listen by eliminating all the over-the-top crap that too often accompanies this kind of project. However, whereas many supergroups seem to be trying too hard, occasionally this album feels as if the group played things a little too safe. There's nothing wrong with tunes like "Since Last September" or "I Believe," but they don't stick with you or differentiate themselves from myriad other 70s-influenced pop songs. I suppose that's tough criticism, but you might expect more from such a collection of musicians.

Still, Gramercy Arms is an enjoyable pop record that's easy on the ears and retains its listenability upon repeated spins. With a supposedly revolving (or evolving) lineup, I'll be interested to see what direction the band heads toward for their next outing.

Check out Gramercy Arms' MySpace Page or Hompage for songs and information.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Artist: Built By Snow

This latest post has been, in part, inspired by the winter wonderland that is my home for the holidays, though pop-rockers Built By Snow actually seem to have little to do with their namesake. The quartet hail from Austin, Texas and their upcoming debut album, MEGA, is a sunny explosion of pop melodies which the band describe as "[hitting] your brain like an Atari blasting out of a bazooka." That may or may not sound appealing, but the group's infectious mix of keyboards, eager vocals, and nerd-tastic lyrics is uber-catchy and extremely fun.

MEGA's brief 21 minutes has some great moments, like the quirky, clap-happy "All the Weird Kids Know" and the spastic "Invaders," which really does have that Atari/bazooka feel going on. Goofy, energetic, and brimming with melody, Built By Snow have a good thing started here, and when singer JP (no last names) implores "Let's take on gravity, put rockets on our feet," you'll feel inclined to join the party.

The album drops on January 20, but Built By Snow have put up FOUR tracks online free to download, including the aforementioned highlights. Check out www.builtbysnow.com/rad/ to get a hold of those and for more info on the band.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

And/or Happy Holidays from all of us (me) at Chewing Gum for the Ears.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review: Alaska in Winter - Holiday (* * * *)

One man band Brandon Bethancourt (Alaska in Winter) wrote his first album "in a tiny cabin out in the middle of nowhere Alaska," hence the moniker. His sophomore effort Holiday, released this past November, was recorded while Bethancourt was staying in Germany, hence song titles like "Berlin" and "Knorrpromenade" and the hausmusik influence. While he may wear his songwriting influences on his sleeve, Alaska in Winter's unique electro-rock sound is tough to categorize. With copious amount of auto-tune and vocoder effects and an abundance of drum machines, Holiday is a unique piece of indie electronica.

Because my love of electronic music does NOT run deep, I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed Alaska in Winter. There's something about Bethancourt's way with slowly building climaxes and repetitious beats and loops that enhances his often hyper-processed vocal melodies into something both fascinating and moving. Holiday's first half is its strongest, with the highlight being "Berlin," an entrancing six minute anthem featuring haunting vocal harmony and subtly progressing beats. Opener "We Are Blind and Riding the Merry-Go-Round" is another favorite, with Zach Condon (Beirut) contributing background vocals and ukelele and Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw) on violin.

At times the album is fun and lighthearted, as in the playful "Speed Boat to Heaven" and the synth-party that is "Streetgang pt. 3," both of which are more straightforward and upbeat tunes. Other of Bethancourt's song are more difficult to work out, like the soupy "Knorrpromenade," which mashes banjo, beats, and keys in a slightly offsetting manner, or the dense, claustrophobic "Streetgang pt. 2." It's clear throughout the record that Bethancourt is attempting to wrestle all of his ideas into a manageable and digestible whole, and he generally succeeds despite the occasional scattered moment.

takes a few listens to truly discover, but the album's epic-yet-intimate songwriting and carefully constructed presentation are worth getting familiar with. Recommended for both indie pop junkies and electronica fans alike.

Head over to Spin.com to download "Berlin" for free!

Also, check out Alaska in Winter's MySpace page

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Throw Me the Statue - Moonbeams (* * * *)

Throw Me the Statue is primarily the songwriting vehicle for Scott Reithermann, a multi-instrumentalist who released his first album, Moonbeams, in 2007, which was re-released earlier this year. With help from Pedro the Lion collaborator Casey Foubert and other friends, Reithermann creates a fuzzy, low-key, indie pop sound with a mix of organic and programmed percussion and mostly acoustic guitars behind quirky stories about lust, love, and relationships. Moonbeams is a great record that is frequently impressive and thoroughly enjoyable.

While Throw Me the Statue has a similar feel to other "bedroom pop" artists, Moonbeams is actually a very expansive record for its kind. The album's 13 tracks (50 minutes) cover quite a bit of ground and leave Reithermann plenty of room to explore, though he never wanders too far. Opener "Young Sensualists," with Casio beats and droning keys sounds minimal and enclosed, as do several tracks near the end of the album, like the quiet "Written In Heart Signs, Faintly" and "The Happiest Man On This Plane." Although he certainly deserves the spotlight for his strong songwriting capabilities, Reithermann is wise to include the talents of other musicians on Moonbeams. Many of the upbeat and fun tunes on the album feel more like the work of a full band and are better for it.

The first single, "Lolita" adds some percussion (drums, hand claps, etc.) for a sunny, breezy sound, "Groundswell" features electric guitars and horns in the album's most direct pop rock moment, and "Yucatan Gold" includes a rock 'n' roll guitar riff and pounding beats. The "group" sound works on the quieter, more pensive cuts as well. Perhaps the most arresting and sincere song on the album is "Conquering Kids," a gently flowing piece reminiscent of Benoit Pioulard or Peter Broderick. With beautiful, spacey harmonies and wistful lyrics, Reithermann shows he can tug at your heartstrings just well as he can throw a party.

Moonbeams is an exciting debut album not only because of the many standout moments contained therein, but also because it shows Reithermann's ambition and potential. I think we can expect big things from this promising new artist.

Check out Throw Me the Statue's MySpace page

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Camp announce U.S. debut album, Colonia

Swedish trio A Camp doesn't truly fit under the "New Artist" category, but for many of you (and myself) they probably will. The group was formed originally as a duo by The Cardigans front woman Nina Persson and Atomic Swing's Niclas Frisk, though it now includes Persson's husband Nathan Larson, an American filmmaker and musician. Their sophomore album and U.S. debut, Colonia, is set for release on April 28, 2009.

A Camp's sound is classy, organic pop with traces of rock and country (think The Cardinals fronted by a woman) and a variety of strings, keys, and horns spicing things up just a bit. Colonia features several guests, including Joan Wasser of Joan as Policewoman, James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins, and Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. Persson's smooth voice is the centerpiece though, gentle, effortless, and gorgeous. The band's self-titled first album, released in 2001, earned the group four Swedish Grammies, though apparently the record never made its way to America. Fortunately, that won't be the case this time around.

Go introduce yourself to this great band over at their MySpace page, where you can hear songs both old and new that should give you a taste of what's to come.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Artist: Damion Suomi

It's always refreshing to find an artist who rises above the crowded singer/songwriter scene. New arrival Damion Suomi (Sue-Me) is one such diamond in the rough and an exciting recent discovery for me. Suomi writes down-to-earth tunes inspired by Irish culture; as he describes it, "these songs were birthed from pubs, drinks, and relationships." Truly, his melancholy, yet hopeful, music is the perfect soundtrack for last calls on cold, lonely nights or for quiet, reflective moments. His sound is simple and timeless, a path well traveled but a welcome stroll just the same.

His debut album, Self Titled, is set to be released on March 24, 2009, but that doesn't mean you you shouldn't immediately familiarize yourself with his music. Check out his MySpace page for a few songs appearing on the upcoming record or visit his page at P is for Panda for more info.

Mason Proper frontman releases FREE EP!

Recording under the bizarre name Bug Lung Baby, Mason Proper singer Jonathan Visger has recently released his second EP this year, entitled Trilobite Trash. It's a somewhat lighter version of Mason Proper's sound with more electronic elements and a spacier feel. It's an excellent four-song set made even better because it's free to download over at RCRD LBL!

Here's what Visger had to say about it:

This EP is a Christmas present from me to you, and a thank you for listening. This last year I have had it reaffirmed to me why I do this. It's for the people out there to whom this music speaks, especially those of you who tell me so. It's about trying really hard to bring something new to the world, and finding people who are looking for that particular thing. More so than ever before, I feel free to experiment and grow and really plumb the depths of what I can do, and that's because some of you have shown me you'll grow with me. I can make mistakes on the way. I don't have it all figured out. I'm not a master at this stuff, I'll always be a student. So thanks for helping to teach me.

So Merry Christmas to us! Go download this HERE. I promise it's worth your time.

If you like what you hear, make sure to check out Mason Proper's latest, also released this year, called Olly Oxen Free. If you want to know what I thought about it, go here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux (* * * 1/2)

Say what you will about Pete Wentz and co; despite all the publicity stunts, absurdly titled songs, and inability to take anything very seriously, the guys also keep giving good reasons as to why they deserve our attention. The band's ability to write hook-filled pop-punk tunes has elevated them above the majority of their peers and warrants some recognition. Their latest effort, Folie A Deux, continues the subtle expansion of their sound that started with Infinity On High by introducing more pop and R&B elements into the music along with an all-star guest list. It's a frequently great record that contains several of the group's best songs.

As usual, your enjoyment of Fall Out Boy's music depends much on your ability to handle Pete Wentz's over-stuffed, smart-ass lyrics, which can be distracting. Fortunately, between singer Patrick Stump's soulful gospel-choir vocals and the pop-oriented production, most of the songs succeed here. The strongest cuts stem from the band's adventurous side, like danceable arrangements combined with Stump's captivating performance on "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet" or the uber-produced pop verses of "Tiffany Blews," on which Lil' Wayne also guests (singing, no less!). Also appearing on Folie is Elvis Costello (really), Brendon Urie of Panic At The Disco, Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes, and Debbie Harry of Blondie fame. What's most impressive is Fall Out Boys' ability to make their guests' contributions into more than just name-dropping.

The album also has it's share of weak moments when things get less funky and back to basics, a reminder that Fall Out Boy aren't the world's strongest songsmiths. Opener "Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes" (there's one of those titles), "The (Shipped) Gold Standard, and "27" are tunes whose blandness can't be masked in studio trickery. Furthermore, the record, like Infinity On High, suffers a bit from identity crisis. The wealth of ideas with very little direction or purpose cause the album to feel scattered, especially toward the end. You get the feeling that the same formula might wear out its welcome the next time around, but with so many great moments, Folie A Deux still makes for a worthwhile listen.

While Fall Out Boy haven't exactly reinvented themselves or even seriously pushed any musical boundaries, they're certainly continuing to move in the right direction. You might disagree, but as Stump wails "I don't care what you think as long as it's about me," over ZZ Top-esque guitars, you'll realize that it won't do any good to argue about it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Artist: Carney

Reeve Carney grew up fast, musically speaking. Still in his early 20's, Reeve, spent a great deal of time honing his guitar skills in music clubs around Los Angeles, and even toured with Johnny Lang for two years before settling into his latest gig, a self-titled blues rock band with his brother Zane (guitar), and friends John David Lipscomb (bass) and Jon Epcar (drums). The young quartet combine the best of soulful rock 'n' roll with pop sensibility on their EP, Nothing Without You, released earlier this year.

The four songs of the EP are split between gritty classic rock and smoother, gentler ballads. The explosive opener "Nothing Without You" showcases virtuoso guitar work and Reeve's impressive vocal abilities. Following is "Imperial Lover," which sounds something like a Gavin DeGraw tune but better written, while "There She Goes" is a lovelorn ode filled with backing vocals, keyboards, and strings. Finishing things off is the rock hymn "Testify," a slow-burning, bluesy anthem and the band's most Zepplin-esque moment.

While Carney do a little of everything here, they're at their best when the volume is up and the guitars are unrestrained, though it all works well enough to make me excited for what's next from this talented young band.

Check out Carney's MySpace page to hear the whole EP!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: Mason Proper - Olly Oxen Free (* * * *)

Mason Proper is another band that escaped my attention earlier this year. Their sophomore effort, Olly Oxen Free, was released in September and, once again, I'm glad I finally found out about it. The album is a brief, but exciting, blast of experimental indie pop that is at once funky, noisy, and bizarre, but always melodic.

The music on Olly Oxen Free is built on a solid bass and drum (the instruments, not the genre) foundation while traditional piano, keys, and guitars riffs are generally avoided. Instead, you hear explosions of spiky guitar lines and blasts of synth that often compete for attention with singer Jonathan Visger's oddball lyrics and high tenor vocals. It's a combination that makes for a fun and unique take on the classic indie rock sound. At the album's best moments, the three-song combo of "Lock And Key," "Only A Moment," and "Out Dragging The River," the music is riveting, the kind of stuff you have to play a few times through before you've had your fill. It's the sound of a confident young band with a fresh perspective and plenty of talent to back it up.

Though the record's ten tracks provide more than enough melodic and lyrical hooks, the first five contain most of the best moments. The spastic "Shiny" and the more deliberate closer "Safe For The Time Being" are both strong tunes found on the back side, but the slow, spacey "In The Mirror" is the album's one true weak spot, a poor start to the second half that depletes the momentum. Despite the diversion, though, Olly Oxen Free is a great collection of songs that certainly warrants your attention. It's varied and occasionally quite strange, but focused enough to be worth hearing in its entirety.

Mason Proper have focused their sound while exploring fascinating new territory, putting themselves in a decidedly upward trajectory. Visger, as both a singer and a songwriter, remains the group's most compelling weapon, and as he continues to push boundaries his band sound more than capable of keeping up.

For an MP3 and video download, check out this post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Gentleman Auction House - Alphabet Graveyard (* * * *)

Though I've already put up my "Top 25 of 2008" list, I'm still getting a hold of some very worthwhile new music from the past year. I completely missed out on Gentleman Auction House when they released their debut album, Alphabet Graveyard, in July, but I'm glad to be late rather than never; I've been listening to this pretty obsessively over the last week or so. The seven-piece group from Missouri, led by Eric Enger, make energetic, melodic, and intelligent indie pop that is infectious and exciting.

In the album's liner notes, three members of Gentleman Auction House are credited with playing drums or percussion and three with guitar, while a variety of other instruments (trumpet, keys, glockenspiel, etc.) are mentioned as well. With this many people doing so many things, Alphabet Graveyard could easily have become bloated or unnecessarily noisy, but the band show a remarkable amount of maturity and restraint. The arrangements feel carefully constructed and the music is tastefully executed, even at the album's oddest moments. It's a little goofy but also quite sincere, think a slightly less bombastic and more accessible Los Campesinos with a shot of funk.

The record starts with the stomping rhythm of "ABCDEFGraveyard," a fun tune with a stop-and-start beat ending with a percussion-heavy "na na na" chorus. Following is the album's first single, "Call It Casual," complete with explosive horns, boy/girl harmonies, and a rap-rock bridge. Once again, it might seem like too much, but the band pull off both tracks with style. The groovy "I Sleep In A Bed Of Scissor Arms" and the epic closer "Good Son" are a couple of my other favorites, though the best part about the album is its consistency; there's truly not a weak song to be found. It's clear that Gentleman Auction House are out to have (and provide) a good time, and they certainly succeed. Alphabet Graveyard does have it's more somber moments, but even at his most dour, Enger still sounds fairly cheerful.

Quirky, melodic, and a little abstract, Alphabet Graveyard has just the right amount of variation and experimentation to make for a thoroughly interesting listen. With strong songwriting, impressive musicianship, and a fresh, fun sound, Gentleman Auction House is a band worth keeping your ears on.

Christmas In Love - Gentleman Auction House have also recently released a Christmas EP called "Christmas In Love," which provides another dose of their unique indie sound for the holidays. It's a fun set of tunes, several of which you can hear on their MySpace page (link below).

Gentleman Auction House's MySpace Page

It's "Best Of" time in the city

Well, I've just finished my five-part series of the best of the year, but I'll include them all here in list format just for kicks. Remember, this is alphabetical! Also, check out links to other lists I've included after mine!

The Black Keys - Attack & Release
Blitzen Trapper - Furr
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Calexico - Carried To Dust
Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine
The Dodos - Visiter
Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
Horse Feathers - House With No Home
Johnny Flynn - A Larum
Larsen & Furious Jane - Zen Sucker
Marching Band - Spark Large
The Republic Tigers - Keep Color
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology
Shearwater - Rook
Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
TV On The Radio - Dear Science
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

For those of you interested in this kind of thing, I'm including links to a bunch of popular "best of 2008" lists here. Go read them, write angry comments, fight amongst yourselves, after all, 'tis the season.

Q - Top 50
(Kings of Leon, seriously, SERIOUSLY?!)

Spin - Top 40 (Very hit-and-miss for me)

Rolling Stone - Top 50 (Any list that includes My Morning Jacket in the top 10 makes me wonder...)

Stereogum Readers Poll - Top 50 (One of the better lists I've seen, Fleet Foxes, TV On The Radio, and Bon Iver take the top three)

Uncut's Top 50 and Mojo's Top 50 - via Stereogum (Two decent lists, though the commenters are up in arms, as usual)

Blender - Top 33 (eh, not feeling this one)

Paste - Top 50 (When I saw TV On The Radio at 50 I was worried, but it ended up being a good, if mixed-up, list)

NME - Top 10 (They haven't revealed their full top 50 list, but from the top 10, I'm not eager to see it)

Both Filter (who's top 10 I've already mentioned) and Pitchfork (who's list isn't out yet) have included "guest" lists from artists submitting their top 10 or so albums.

Filter.com (check out the left sidebar for an ongoing list)
Also, Filter is working with erockster.com to provide songs from all those artists as well as from their respective "best of 2008" albums lists

Pitchfork - Guest List: Best of 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top 25 of 2008 - Alphabetically (Part V)

Ah, the end of the line. The last, though definitely not least, five albums in my best of 2008 list.

Shearwater - Rook

While Okkervil River seemed to get the lion's share of the attention this year for their recent release, former member Jonathan Meiburg's long-time side project, Shearwater, made the better album. With a powerful, yet gorgeous, voice and gift for avant-garde songwriting, Meiburg creates many breathtaking moments on Rook. The album requires some patience, especially during some of the many slower, more delicate moments, but the songs are absolutely beautiful and the band's oft-restrained accompaniment is exceptional.

Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

I had never been much of a fan of Sigur Ros before this year, but their latest album took the band in a slightly different and much more palatable direction. While several of the long, slow-burning, ambient anthems the band is known for can be found here, so too can three minute indie pop songs like "Gobbledigook" and the triumphant "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur." It's a flattering sound for the band, who manage to maintain their signature beauty while making their music much more accessible than they had previously.

TV On The Radio - Dear Science

TV On The Radio is another band that I could never really learn to love until 2008. Dear Science toned down the fuzzy, noise-rock of their earlier albums, presenting a much more pop-oriented side of the band. It's an exciting record that is at once aggressive, thoughtful, and triumphant. Singer/songwriters Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone are at the top of their game here, as is producer and multi-instrumentalist David Sitek, who wraps their songs in layers of guitar, keys, and horns, creating a fantastic alt-rock sound.

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend built up an enormous amount of hype even before their debut record was released early this year. Immediately, the backlash started. To illustrate, Vampire Weekend was voted the most overrated act in Stereogum's reader poll, but were fourth in the "Best Album of 2008" category as well. Me, I think the album is an addicting indie-pop gem that didn't exactly change my life, but provided a half hour of quirky, afro-pop-meets-indie goodness. It's a fresh, fun, record that certainly deserves the praise.

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

At just a trim nine songs (but 45 minutes in length), At Mount Zoomer manages to pack a powerful one-tw0 punch from front-men Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. While the record is more cohesive than the group's debut, it still features songs written separately by both artists, and one massively epic closer, "Kissing The Beehive," as a collaboration. It's complex and plenty weird but maintains a melodic accessibility that makes the whole project very approachable. I've listened to this album repeatedly and loved it more every time.

Top 25 of 2008 - Alphabetically (Part IV)

Ten to go; here are the next five; this section of the list probably contain some of my most unique picks:

Johnny Flynn - A Larum

A Shakespearean actor and poet, Johnny Flynn brings an "olde fashioned" folk style to his debut album, A Larum. He and his band, The Sussex Wit, show remarkable maturity throughout the eclectic set of 14 songs, using guitars, strings, horns, and keys to help give life to Flynn's witty yarns. Sometimes lighthearted, other times wistful or melancholy, A Larum is consistently fascinating and enjoyable. Flynn's new artistic outlet is a welcome one.

Larsen & Furious Jane - Zen Sucker

I'm cheating a bit on this one as Larsen & Furious Jane's most recent album, Zen Sucker, isn't actually available yet in the U.S., but I can't help mentioning it here. The Danish band's latest effort is, without a doubt, a top ten record in my book. Nearly flawless in its construction and execution, Zen Sucker makes for an addicting mix of beauty, intensity, and emotion. Achieving the perfect balance between experimental alternative rock and accessible melodies and arrangements, this is a unique and truly special album.

Marching Band - Spark Large

I heard very little mentioned about these guys this year, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. The duo from Sweden make radiant pop music with layers of harmony and joyful melodies so wholesome it actually causes the clouds to part and the sun to shine even on the darkest of days. Spark Large's 12 songs might be a little sweet for some listener's tastes, but with so many fantastic arrangements and infectious musical hooks, Marching Band should win themselves quite a congregation if given the exposure. Spark Large is a smile-inducing masterpiece.

The Republic Tigers - Keep Color

The Republic Tigers are another band that didn't get enough love this year, in my opinion. Their debut album, Keep Color, is rarely boundary-pushing or revolutionary, but it effectively blends 80s synths and classic indie rock with just a bit of psychedelia in a very effective and enjoyable way. Kenn Jankowski's smooth tenor voice, surrounded by constant vocal harmony, fits well into the band's crisply produced and well-executed tunes, which range from spacey anthems to danceable pop songs.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology

Ryan Adams has been cranking out great music for a little over a decade now, and Cardinology is no exception. It's level, relaxed, and generally grounded, which for Adams (now three years sober) is a good thing. The Cardinals provide ample support with their consistently solid musicianship, and while Adams breaks no new ground here, his strengths as a songwriter remain sharp. Despite occasionally lonely or downhearted lyrics, he imbues his tunes with an underlining message of hope that feels refreshing and breathes life to Cardinology.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Top 25 of 2008 - Alphabetically (Part III)

10 down, 15 to go on this year's "best of" list. Keep in mind it's in alphabetical order as to simplify the selection process.

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

Guy Garvey has a way with words that absolutely blows me away. His poetic musings on love and life combined with his smoky tenor voice are perfectly framed by beautiful arrangements on Elbow's latest, The Seldom Seen Kid. It's some of the group's best work, containing several of this year's standout tracks, especially "Grounds For Divorce." Though the band's sound is often gentle and restrained throughout much of the album, the louder, more explosive moments are even more powerful. The record is epic in both its ambition and achievement.

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes was just voted the best album of 2008 in Stereogum's reader pole (among others), and for good reason. Fleet Foxes' debut is a beautiful folk album so saturated with memorable melodies and fantastic harmonies that it might actually be impossible not to love. A five piece from the Seattle, Fleet Foxes have a whopping four singers lead at all times by uber-talented Robin Pecknold, who's enthralling voice and solid songwriting belie his young age (22, I think). This album competes with Bon Iver for my favorite of the year.

Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight

Some bands get away with whining about their self-loathing, doubt, and broken relationships, and others, like Scottish foursome Frightened Rabbit, excel at it. Singer Scott Hutchinson's thickly accented voice and broken, bruised (and often, explicit) lyrics convey emotion so unguarded you'll almost feel embarrassed to listen in. The band's sophomore album, Midnight Organ Fight, is a tremendously compelling set of songs that manages to create something sincere and touching out of all the angst and loneliness that comes with heartbreak.

The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

Classic rock and punk music are blended in a fresh and exciting way for this solid sophomore effort by The Gaslight Anthem. Singer Brian Fallon channels greats like Bruce Springsteen in both his vocal delivery as well as his lyrics about blue-collar workers and small-town hopefuls while the band confidently pounds out gritty riffs. It's an album that appreciates with each listen, full of punk energy and rock 'n' roll soul.


Horse Feathers - House With No Home

Singer/songwriter Justin Ringle, with the help of Peter and Heather Broderick, makes haunting, lonely music in the vein of Bon Iver or old Iron & Wine. His second album, House With No Home, is a gentle, captivating masterpiece that features soft vocals surrounded by acoustic guitars, violin, and banjo in a variety of arrangements and structures. The music is melodic and occasionally hopeful which breaks up the prevalent gloominess; perfect for rainy days or quiet nights alone.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Top 25 of 2008 - Alphabetically (Part II)

Yesterday I covered the first five of my alphabetical list of the best albums of the year; The Black Keys, Blitzen Trapper, Bon Iver, Calexico, and Cloud Cult. Today I'm continuing with part two of my "Best of 2008" list:

Coldplay - Viva La Vida

Viva La Vida made good on Coldplay's promise of an expansive new sound with ten arena-sized anthems incorporating a variety of bells and whistles. While the album isn't revolutionary by any stretch, it's refreshing to hear a band take chances when they very well could have coasted through another album or two and retained commercial success. The band's ability to mess around with time signatures and song structures while still delivering radio-friendly, sing-a-long choruses makes for a respectable and enjoyable record.

Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst (first names for the alphabetical list)

Ditching the Bright Eyes moniker and moving down to Mexico to record his latest album, Oberst manages to retain his songwriting edge while simplifying his alternative folk sound. It's far from a true solo effort, however, as he employs the help of "The Mystic Valley Band" to fill out his folk tunes with electric guitars, jangling piano, and backing vocals. It's a very organic and grounded album that, at times, displays something novel for Oberst; fun. From folk-rock rave-ups to the more familiar downtrodden ballads, Conor Oberst is a great singer/songwriter album.

Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine

Of all the retro-rock bands to release albums this year (Dr. Dog, Cold War Kids, etc.) Delta Spirit's Ode To Sunshine is easily my favorite, I mean the best. It's a gritty, earnest rock 'n' roll record with raw guitars, stomping percussion, and pounding piano serving as the background for the socially conscious lyrics sung with flair by front-man Matt Vasquez. The band's soulful sound is catchy, exciting, and frequently uplifting, all underlined by the sincerity and effort felt throughout each and every song.

The Dodos - Visiter

Guitar/drum duo The Dodos fit best under the label "freak folk," creating odd, offbeat tunes mainly using acoustic guitar and frantic drumming. Visiter is at times thoughtful, light-hearted, and intense, but always both strange and melodic. It's a sprawling record at 14 tracks and just under an hour of music, but the duo's ability to create many differing sounds with such a simple approach is remarkable and the album rarely seems to drag. Combining their experimental edge with pop sensibility, The Dodos easily make it into the top 25.

Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark

With a string of great albums under their collective belt, Drive-By Truckers continue to make fantastic Southern rock even after the departure of Jason Isbell. Taking his place on vocal duties is bassist Shonna Tucker, though Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood sing the majority of the tunes between them. At 19 songs and an astounding 75 minute run-time, Brighter Than Creation's Dark is probably too long, but it's hard to argue with so much of a good thing. Ranging from blazing rockers to country-folk tunes, the songs display uniformly solid songwriting and impressive musicianship.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Top 25 of 2008 - Alphabetically (Part I)

I love year-end lists, but while I was organizing my top 25, I realized that I was changing the order at least daily and getting nowhere on deciding which were my absolute favorites. So, in order to assuage my anxiety, I decided to make it easier on myself and just put the best (read: my favorite) albums of the year in alphabetical order.

I'm going to do this in five increments as to give myself a little room to justify each of my picks. Without further ado, here are the first five (alphabetically!) of the top albums of the year.

The Black Keys - Attack & Release

Another solid release from one of the most consistent rock 'n' roll groups of the last ten years, Attack & Release successfully marries The Black Keys' gritty, raw style with Danger Mouses' quirky production. With plenty of straightforward rock tunes and a few interesting and exciting departures, the band deliver at every turn. It's great to see the duo switch things up a bit while still retaining what made us love them in the first place.
Blitzen Trapper - Furr

Blitzen Trapper's love of classic folk-rock and their need to experiment make Furr a fascinating and enjoyable collection of songs that mash together a variety of genres including country and funk. The record manages to incorporate musical elements of the past while still sounding modern and relevant, and although it feels a little scattered at times, there are enough brilliant moments to qualify this as one of my top 25 for 2008.

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Justin Vernon's masterpiece, recorded under the Bon Iver moniker, is any easy pick for this list and maybe my favorite album of the year. Isolated in a cabin in Wisconsin, Vernon recorded some of the most poignant, beautiful, and heartbreaking songs I've heard in a long time. His haunting falsetto voice, combined with his gentle guitar playing and obtuse lyrics, provides for a truly unique and captivating experience. You owe it to yourself to hear this album; an instant classic.

Calexico - Carried To Dust

Carried To Dust delivers another generous and compelling dose of Calexico's southwestern-flavored indie music. It's a politically charged album with music ranging from fiery Latin rock to gentle ballads, and while the songs still ride the talented drumming and earnest, whispered vocals that have always been Calexico's trademark, it's brimming with a host of talented musicians including some notable guests like Sam Beam and Pieta Brown. It's another well-written, well-executed record by Burns, Convertino, and company.

Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes)

Weird and wacky, yet immensely enjoyable, Feel Good Ghosts was an unexpected but welcome new experience for me this year. Singer/songwriter Craig Minowa, with a penchant for bizarre stories and odd phrases, displays completely sincerity as he works his way through 13 tracks about life, love, death, and loss. The music is packed with swirling strings, layers of synth, and acoustic guitars in a genre-less blend that is unlike anything you're likely to have heard this year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Review: Pale Young Gentlemen - Black Forest (tra la la) - (* * * *)

Madison, Wisconsin's Pale Young Gentlemen (and several ladies, I might add) have recently released their second album, Black Forest (tra la la), a beautifully executed chamber-pop record reminiscent of Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens. The group, founded by brothers Michael and Matt Reisenauer along with Brett Randall, now includes seven members playing everything from violas to bells. Full of complex arrangements, witty lyrics, and tasteful layers of sound, the band show no sign of a sophomore slump.

What immediately grabbed my attention when I first listened to Pale Young Gentlemen was Reisenauer's voice, which is at times a dead-ringer for Andrew Bird. However, while Bird focuses primarily on his virtuoso violin playing and fascinating poetry to carry his tunes, Pale Young Gentlemen have a variety of weapons at their disposal which they employ quite efficiently. The upbeat opener, "Coal/Ivory" features finger-picked guitar and stomping drums as a backbone while the strings swirl, sometimes gently, sometimes menacingly. The stately "Marvelous Design" is carried primarily by piano while "We Will Meet" includes some well-placed woodwinds and bells over what sounds like a harp. With each listen I seem to be able to identify a few more instruments, though the album never feels crowded or noisy. In fact, much of Black Forest is delicate and sparse, focusing on Reisenauer's vocals and adding embellishments to enhance rather than distract.

While the songs occasionally get a little TOO flowery, as on the pleasant, but almost silly "Wedding Guest," the band's exploration of classical themes blended with modern indie music is both admirable and enjoyable. An ambitious, yet sincere album, Black Forest is an enthralling collection of well-written songs that truly gets better each time around.

Young Gentlemen's MySpace Page

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Artist/MP3: Hazel Winter

A relative unknown in the U.S., former Blue Aeroplane member Hazel Winter has already released two solo albums to critical acclaim in England. Her sound has been described to me as "[sitting] somewhere between PJ Harvey, Kristin Hersh and Nick Cave." Pique your interest? It should; Winter's gritty folk-rock sound is exciting, strange, and incredibly compelling.

Her new album, Situation Normal Then, is scheduled for international release in January. "Midwich Sleep On," the record's lead track, showcases Winter's earnest vocals, haunting lyrics, and unique instrumentation (including flute and didgeridoo) in an unsettling, yet captivating way. Download the track for free below, and stand by for a review of the album coming soon.

Midwich Sleep On (MP3)

For more info, visit Hazel Winter's website

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Review: The Black Keys - CD/DVD

CD: Attack & Release (* * * *)

Somehow, I managed to get through most of 2008 (though not all of it, fortunately) without hearing much of The Black Keys latest effort, Attack & Release, the duo's fifth full-length album. Long the flag-bearers of old-school meat 'n' potatoes rock in modern times, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of Akron, OH have shaken things up a bit this time around with the (in)famous Danger Mouse heading up the production duties. The result is a slightly more stylish and sleek version of The Black Keys typical guitar and drum barrage.

Though hardcore fans and rock purists might balk at Danger Mouse's production flourishes (flute, keys, exotic-sounding background vocals, etc.), Attack & Release feels like a necessary step in the evolution of the band. The difference becomes most apparent on the album's slower tracks, where the details give the songs layers of depth behind the typical guitar/drum/voice combo. The opener "All You Ever Wanted" floats along amid hazy vocals and acoustic guitars, while "Psychotic Girl" combines banjo, piano, and what sounds like a haunted choir in a psychedelic slow-burner. Of course, what would a Black Keys record be without some down 'n' dirty rock songs. "I Got Mine" and "Remember When (Side B)" eschew any flowery studio tricks for simple six-string assaults.

Though both the highs and the lows on Attack & Release succeed, some of the most enjoyable moments are made when the duo find a balance between their aggressive rock and slow, meandering blues styles. "So He Won't Break" and "Oceans & Streams" are solid, mid-tempo tunes with plenty of soul and just a little extra production that really hits the spot, while the closer "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be" is a lonely ballad featuring guest vocals by Jessica Lea Mayfield that wraps things up nicely.

While The Black Keys might not grab you quite the way they used to, Auerbach and Carney have taken steps to avoid complacency and remain a vital, relevant rock 'n' roll presence.


DVD: Live At The Crystal Ballroom (* * * * 1/2)

Known for their explosive live performances and their ability to draw an impressive crowd wherever they go, The Black Keys now give those of us who have missed out thus far (or those hoping to relive the experience) a concert DVD of their show on April 4, 2008 at The Crystal Ballroom.

It's remarkable how two men can produce so much noise and energy on stage. Right from the beginning notes of "Same Old Thing," Auerbach and Carney kick things into high gear and never let up throughout 17 songs lasting just over an hour. This performance displays the band at their most simple and primal, with no other musicians taking the stage and Auerbach only once trading in his guitar for the keyboard (though it was so fuzzed out, it was practically the same thing). Occasionally the duo take some time to jam for a bit which is fun for a live show, but they know where to draw the line and manage to keep things focused.

The duo don't waste much time on chit-chat besides the obligatory "thanks so much" and "we love being here" kind of thing, they just gave the people what they wanted, real rock 'n' roll. No pretension, no distractions (well, besides the multi-colored light show), and no dull moments. Auerbach stomps and sways, howling into the microphone while Carney pounds away. And the crowd? They love every minute of it.

As an introduction to The Black Keys or as a reminder of their greatness, Live At The Crystal Ballroom is the band at their absolute best.

For more information on the tracklist and a live track download, check out my earlier post.

Music Video - Butch Walker - The Weight Of Her

"The Weight Of Her" is the first single from Butch Walker's most recent release, Sycamore Meadows, a great singer/songwriter record I reviewed a couple weeks ago. The video for the song follows Butch as he is held hostage by a sexy gas-station robber played by Taryn Manning. Though I'm not usually all about music videos, this is a surprisingly charming and fun story backed by an even better song. Check it out below:

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Artist/MP3: Wild Light

Indie newcomers Wild Light have built up a sizable amount of hype with only an EP and a debut album still three months out. Receiving favorable comparisons to Arcade Fire, Whiskeytown, and Flaming Lips, the New Hampshire quartet have taken classic indie rock and wrapped it in a smooth blanket of pop sensibility that is immediately recognizable yet somehow distinct.

Their upcoming album, Adult Nights, is set for release on March 3 of next year, but fortunately you can get a preview over at RCRD LBL by downloading the lead single "California On My Mind," an insanely catchy tune with endearing (albeit explicit) lyrics that should cause an immediate sing-a-long. If this is any indication of what we can expect in the future (and from what I've heard, it is) then three months can't pass quickly enough.

The band are also streaming several songs on their MySpace page.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Review: Right Away, Great Captain! - The Eventually Home (* * * *)

True or False: Conor Oberst is a musical genius worthy of emulation by ambitious singer-songwriters. If you answered "True," you should give Manchester Orchestra singer Andy Hull's side project, Right Away, Great Captain! a listen immediately. If you answered "False" or "Hell No," think twice. I find myself somewhere in the middle, for what it's worth. While it's a bit unfair (and lazy) to make such an outright association, Hull's new album The Eventually Home often sounds like a slightly more progressive version of early Bright Eyes, though you could probably also draw comparisons to numerous angsty folk artists (Joshua James, Rocky Votolato, etc.).

The Eventually Home is actually the second installment in a three-album concept about a 17th-century sailor. The first section, The Bitter End, follows the man's adventures at sea, while "Home" is about his return to his unfaithful wife and shattered life. Though the record has a central theme, the songs stand on their own and often feel quite personal. Sharing Oberst's love of explicit details and lonely confessions, most notably on the adulterous tale "Cutting Off The Blood To The Ten" and the heartbreaking closer "I Was A Cage," Hull puts his pain in plain view. His quavering voice is saturated with sincerity and despair as he sings lines like "I was a wave collapsing you" and "I could use a friend to say they love me," which could come across as pathetic but for his ability to unearth the feelings of utter loneliness we've all experienced.

While several of Hull's songs are long, detail-driven narratives, some of the most musically compelling moments come on his simpler, shorter tunes. "Devil Dressed In Blue" and "Memories From A Shore" both feature arresting vocal melodies (provided solely by Hull) and an unsettling intensity. "What A Pity" is a gentle, finger-picked song that's more on the wistful side of heartbreak, a welcome reprieve from all of the anger found throughout the other nine tracks. Hull's skillful guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, anchors the whole project and provides just enough variation to enhance and strengthen his tortured tales.

Though it is frequently reminiscent of several other grief-ridden folk projects, Hull's Right Away, Great Captain! contains enough personality to create a satisfying experience. The Eventually Home features strong songwriting and impressive musicianship, making it a very worthwhile singer/songwriter album.

Right Away, Great Captain!'s MySpace page

Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: Good Old War - Only Way To Be Alone (* * * *)

Former Days Away band members, guitarist/singer Keith Goodwin and drummer Tim Arnold, formed Good Old War along with guitarist Dan Schwartz after Days Away went on hiatus earlier this year. Whereas their previous work was focused on progressive indie rock with a bit of an emo vibe, the trio's latest effort and new band debut, Only Way To Be Alone, is a more straightforward acoustic rock album.

During the late 90s and early 00s, acoustic pop became a bit of a tired genre. Or maybe I just inundated myself with it until I couldn't take any more. At any rate, that style of music hasn't appealed to me for a while now. While almost the embodiment of the genre, Good Old War's recently released debut piqued my interest after I heard the first single "Coney Island," a clean, simple tune with well-placed vocal harmonies and tasteful percussion that hijacked my ears, making me hungry for more. After listening to their whole album, I found that while the band's sound is almost too familiar, their songwriting skills and musical talent make Only Way To Be Alone an instantly likable and thoroughly enjoyable record.

Starting with a basic pop-rock template, Good Old War add layers of harmony a la The Beatles or The Beachboys, simple, yet effective flourishes, and joyful melodies that brighten the room even with the occasionally melancholy lyrics. The band's two-guitar attack with plenty of fiery finger-picking provides the perfect backdrop along with Arnold's spot-on drumming. Aside from the first single, the rollicking "Just Another Day," the gently sad "I'm Not For You," and "Tell Me" would be my recommendations, though the album's subtle tempo and stylistic changes (some blues, a little twang) will probably provide different favorites depending on the listener.

Only Way To Be Alone, despite the primarily acoustic sound and folksy presentation, is a pop record at heart. It's a simple, yet effective collection of songs so positive and pleasant, even the most hardened music snob will find it hard to resist.

Good Old War's MySpace page

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review: Anathallo - Canopy Glow (* * * *)

I had seen so much written about Anathallo's new album, Canopy Glow, around the blogosphere recently that I decided I better check it out. I was a bit surprised that I'd never heard of these guys; apparently they've released several EPs and a full-length debut a couple years ago that garnered them quite a few fans. Anathallo is a collection of multi-instrumentalists led by singers Matt Joynt and Erica Froman that remind me a more organic version of Stars. Their sophomore effort is a beautiful indie pop album with lush instrumentation and plenty of boy/girl harmonies.

Canopy Glow is a decidedly low-key affair, relying on vocals and percussion to drive much of the music, though complex horn, guitar, and piano arrangements fill out the songs and provide some needed variation. Even at their most urgent, Anathallo still sound almost too relaxed, but the weightless, delicate feel of the music has a captivating quality to it if you pay proper attention. Highlights include "The River," a slow-building orchestral anthem, the more straightforward "All The First Pages" and the appropriately titled "Bells." As I mentioned, the vocals are the real centerpiece here, with constant harmony and unusual, yet arresting, melodies.

Lyrically, Anathallo are out there, telling strange stories of being "baptized by a dollop from a Cool Whip bowl," and singing lines like "feed the roots and honor the tongues of the animals." Fortunately, the lyrics blend well with the music, creating fantastically imagined scenes with vivid, if sometimes odd, detail. The album definitely takes a few spins to fully appreciate, but the intricate and beautiful compositions are worth the investment.

Canopy Glow is a must-hear for fans of bands like Stars and New Pornographers, or anyone looking for an enjoyable batch of low-key, well-crafted indie tunes.

Anathallo's MySpace

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: The Killers - Day & Age (* * * 1/2)

Apparently, Brandon Flowers got all (or most, anyway) of the Springsteen out of his system on his band's last album Sam's Town and is back to focusing on synth-driven power-pop with an 80s vibe. Day & Age, The Killers recently released third album, shows the group at their most glamorous and shimmering, an over-the-top explosion of sound and hooks that seeks to capture the energy of their debut while still moving forward.

As always, The Killers sound strongest when things move along quickly. The first half of Day & Age has the album's best tracks, the first single "Human," the 80s pop anthem "Spaceman" and the sexy funk tune "Joy Ride." While the fun lasts, the record feels as fresh and exciting as anything they've done. Consistency has never been Flowers and Co's strong suit, though, and the album loses some steam by the end of the ten tracks with two snoozers, the epic-yet-uninteresting "The World We Live In" and the overlong closer "Goodnight, Travel Well." Fortunately, while the band miss a few, their continued unawareness of their own limits still leads to some worthwhile moments, like the vocal chant that begins "This Is Your Life" or the horn-heavy verses on "Losing Touch."

Day & Age might not be a tremendous success, but it's an entertaining 40 minutes of pop music that proves The Killers are back on track.

If you're quick, you can still catch a great deal on this album over at Amazon.com - Day & Age MP3 download for only 3.99! I don't know when it ends, so if you're interested, head on over.

Filter's Top 10 Album List

Filter just released their Top Ten Albums of 2008 List, so I thought I'd pass it on to see what everyone thinks. As for myself, I don't really get why everyone's getting all excited about MGMT (they're not bad, they're just not THAT good), but Fleet Foxes, TV On The Radio, and Bon Iver will make my top 10 this year. Thoughts?

Filter Top 10 Albums of The Year:

1. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)
2. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
3. Dr. Dog, Fate (Park the Van)
4. TV On The Radio, Dear Science (Interscope)
5. Foals, Antidotes (Sub Pop)
6. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
7. She and Him, Volume One (Merge)
8. M83, Saturdays = Youth (Mute U.S)
9. Cut Copy, In Ghost Colors (Modular/Interscope)
10 The Dears, Missiles (Dangerbird)

Also, if you go here you can see individual staff top 10 lists which include mentions of a few more of my favorites like Wolf Parade, Johnny Flynn, and Sigur Ros.

Monday, November 24, 2008

MP3 Monday: Mason Proper, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Frightened Rabbit

Three more tunes (and a video) for y'all to enjoy with MP3 Monday back on track.

Mason Proper

Mason Proper have been creating some serious buzz this year with the release of their most recent album Olly Oxen Free, a great record with a classic indie rock sound. The song "Fog" is a quirky, yet melodic tune and is a good example of Mason Proper's signature style. Also, check out the video for "Lock and Key" available here for download. Both songs are definitely worth a listen.

Fog (MP3)

Lock and Key (Video)

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Our friends over at RCRD LBL have provided a new track from ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, a well-established progressive rock group from Austin, Texas. The song, "Bells Of Creation" has an epic, orchestral sound combined with the band's hard-edged guitar attack. They recently released an EP entitled Festival Thyme and are set to release a full-length in February of 2009. Give it a listen and remember to say "thank you" to RCRD LBL for providing us all with such fine music.

Bells Of Creation (MP3 download page)


Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit are sure to sit atop some "best of" lists soon with their sophomore release Midnight Organ Fight, a collection of heartbreaking tunes about love, loss, etc. that has turned quite a few heads (including my own). This track, "Last Tango in Brooklyn" comes from a compilation done by an Australian magazine called The Lifted Brow. The song is intimate and emotional like much of the band's work and serves as a great introduction to the band if you haven't heard them already. The track is available courtesy of Pitchfork, so head on over there to download it.

Pitchfork download page for "Last Tango in Brooklyn"