Saturday, January 31, 2009

Or, The Whale: album details, tour dates, MP3

Or, The Whale are a seven-piece country/folk band from California that have recently re-released their debut album, Light Poles and Pines, earlier this month. The band's slightly twangy southern rock sound is full of sweet vocal harmony and lush instrumentation; think a smoother, lighter version of the Drive-By Truckers. You can get a preview of their new album by downloading the melancholy ballad "Rope Don't Break" below. You can also hear another, more upbeat song from the album, called "Call and Response" over at the band's MySpace page. Both are worth a listen.

Rope Don't Break (MP3)

Track List for Light Poles and Pines:

01. Call and Response
02. Saint Bernard
03. Threads
04. Isn't She Awful
05. Death of Me
06. Crack a Smile
07. Fixin' to Leave
08. Rope Don't Break
09. Life and Death at Sea
10. Gonna Have To
11. Bound to Go Home
12. Prayer for the Road
13. Fight Song

Or, The Whale have also announced a February/March tour:

02-11 San Francisco, CA - Hotel Utah Saloon
02-19 Eureka, CA - The Pearl Lounge
02-20 Portland, OR - Berbati's Pan
02-21 Seattle, WA - The Sunset Tavern
03-12 Los Angeles, CA - Silverlake Lounge*
03-16 El Paso, TX - Zeppelin's
03-18 Austin, TX - SXSW
03-19 Denton, TX - The Boilerroom
03-21 Ft. Worth, TX - The Chat Room Pub
03-24 Denver, CO - Meadowlark
03-25 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
03-27 Sacramento, CA - Luigi's Fun Garden
03-28 Berkeley, CA - Starry Plough

Friday, January 30, 2009

Review: Peter Adams - I Woke With Planets In My Face (* * * * 1/2)

I'm going to get the crux of this review over with right here: Peter Adams made one of the best albums of 2008 and almost nobody noticed. Now you should proceed immediately to and download I Woke With Planets In My Face for whatever price you choose (make sure you throw him some money, the guy has earned it). If you'd like to stick around, or if you made it back, I'll go into a little more detail about why I believe this album deserves such high praise.

First, though, a brief introduction. Peter Adams is a multi-instrumentalist who has been making music since 2005, when he released his first album, The Spiral Eyes. That would make last year's record his sophomore effort, which he performed, recorded, and produced entirely by himself. Adams is a classically trained violinist and is adept at a host of other instruments including the guitar, piano, drums, bass, and synths (to name just a few, really). While some one-man bands primarily entertain on more of a novelty level, Adams' music is impressive on it's own terms; the fact that he composes and records by himself just makes it all the more amazing.

Adams draws comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, Flaming Lips, and Radiohead, but doesn't sound particularly like any of them. His high tenor voice is fairly unique, and his inclusion of Eastern musical influences also sets him apart, but his music's most distinctive quality lies in the fullness and complexity of his arrangements. Songs frequently and smoothly shift between different styles and tempos while instruments come and go, building to crescendo and then fading into the background. "Conversation With the Moon" and "The Seventh Seal" are examples of Adams' ability to create expansive, dynamic songs that are fairly epic in scope, while "Sprinkler Song For Jessica" and "Into the Mist" are much more intimate and delicate. Although he primarily eschews formal song structures, Adams can also write a great pop-rock tune, as evidenced by the rockin' "Ziggurat" and the oddball, kazoo-filled tale of "Annabel Lee."

Each song on the record feels formed from a separate set of influences, yet everything is tied together by a certain stylistic thread that keeps the project compelling from start to finish. "Planets" is an album that's infinitely better than the amount of the attention it's gotten, a collection of songs that is beautiful, surprising, and completely captivating. Once again, don't take my word for it, hear both of Peter Adams' albums on his site and purchase either or both for whatever price you think is fair (or order a physical copy if you're so inclined). I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but this really is music you shouldn't be without.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dan Auerbach: album details, new song

After releasing one of the year's best records in 2008, one half of the Black Keys (the guitar/vocal half), Dan Auerbach, is taking a break from his bandmate and releasing a solo album, Keep It Hid, on February 10th. His debut features a full band for the majority of the tracks along with a few quieter blues numbers all of which showcase Auerbach's strong songwriting and thrilling guitar work. It's an instant rock 'n' roll classic, and you can get a listen by hearing "My Last Mistake" below.

My Last Mistake (stream)

Track list for Keep it Hid:

Trouble Weighs a Ton
I Want Some More
Heartbroken, In Disrepair
Because I Should
Whispered Words
Real Desire
When the Night Comes

Mean Monsoon
The Prowl
Keep It Hid
My Last Mistake
When I Left the Room
Street Walkin'
Goin' Home

Auerbach is also going on tour with backing band Hacienda:

Feb 28 - 9:30 Club - Washington DC, Washington DC
Mar 1 - Paradise Club - Boston, Massachusetts
Mar 2 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, New York
Mar 3 - Bowery Ballroom - New York, New York
Mar 5 - Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 6 - Metro - Chicago, Illinois
Mar 7 - First Avenue - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mar 10 - The Showbox - Seattle, Washington
Mar 11 - Wonder Ballroom - Portland, Oregon
Mar 13 - Bimbo’s - San Francisco, California
Mar 14 - El Rey Theatre - Los Angeles, California

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Artist: Black Gold

Multi-instrumentalists Eric Ronick and Than Luu have spent years lending their skills to a variety of big names (Panic at the Disco, M. Ward, Rachael Yamagata, to name a few) and are now stepping into the spotlight with Black Gold. The duo formed the band in 2006 and worked on writing material for their debut album, Rush, between their stage musician gigs. The record is already available digitally now and will be getting a proper physical release next week.

Rush is a diverse alternative rock album that finds the two musicians dabbling in a variety of genres yet keeping a distinctive feeling throughout the 11 tracks. Ronick handles the majority of the vocal duties along with keyboards and synths while Luu takes on drums, guitar, and programming. Along with a few friends, the duo make quite a bit of noise and cover some serious territory, from the electro-funk of "Breakdown," to the piano ballad closer "After The Flood." Most of the group's experiments work well, though Black Gold sound best when the energy is high and the beats are coming fast. Highlights include rocker "Plans & Reveries," the groovy, slinky "The Comedown," and the harmony-heavy opener "Detroit."

The eclecticism of Rush gives the duo a chance to show off their musical chops, but it also bodes well for any future albums the two might create together. With this solid foundation, whatever direction they decide to venture in for the next go 'round should yield some impressive results.

Check out Black Gold on MySpace for songs, videos, etc., or sign up for the group's mailing list and get a free remix EP of "Detroit."

Tour Dates:

5 New York, NY - East River Park #
19 Albuquerque, NM - The Launchpad *
20 Colorado Springs, CO - The Loft *
21 Denver, CO - The Loft *
24 Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room *
25 Des Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews *
26 St. Paul, MN - Station 4 *
27 Madison, WI - The Annex *
28 Chicago, IL - AV-Aerie *
1 West Lafayette, IN - Purdue University *
2 Cleveland Heights, OH - Grog Shop *
3 Philadelphia, PA - The Barbary *
4 Cambridge, MA - Middle East *
5 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge *
6 Hoboken, NJ - Maxwells *
7 Washington, DC - Rock and Roll Hotel *
8 Richmond, VA - Canal Club *
10 Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506 *
11 Atlanta, GA - Drunken Unicorn *
12 Oxford, MS - Proud Larry's *
13 New Orleans, LA - One Eyed Jacks *
14 Dallas, TX - Club Dada *
15 Denton, TX - Rubber Gloves *
17 San Antonio, TX - White Rabbit *
18 Austin, TX - SXSW
21 Tempe, AZ - The Clubhouse *
24 Las Vegas, NV - Wasted Space / Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

* w/ Lydia

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Strand of Oaks: New album, free MP3

Strand of Oaks is actually just one man, Timothy Showalter, "an Indiana Mennonite turned Pennsylvania Hebrew Dayschool teacher who even drives the school bus for extra cash." After more than his fair share of personal trials, including losing all his posessions in a house fire, Showalter began writing songs which led to performances with Jason Anderson and Kimya Dawson and eventually to his first record.

His debut, Leave Ruin, was released today, a collection of nine beautifully crafted and emotionally imbued folk tunes. Download the song "End In Flames" below to get a taste.

End In Flames (MP3)

Track list for Leave Ruin:

1.End In Flames
2.Two Kids
3.Lawns Breed Songs
4.Mourning Worker
5.New Paris
6.Sister Evangaline
7.Dogs of War
8.Do You Like To Read?
9.Leave Ruin

Review: Bon Iver - Blood Bank [EP] (* * * *)

There is something uniquely beautiful about everything Justin Vernon and Bon Iver touch. From the debut LP, For Emma, Forever Ago to the various covers and assorted singles floating around the 'net, Bon Iver have continued to impress and intrigue.

The Blood Bank EP is a collection of four songs recorded from the end of 2006 through the middle of last year. While not an entirely cohesive record, each tune expands subtly and successfully on the sound that Vernon crafted on his debut. The title track is warm and expressive, "Beach Baby" features some beautiful slide guitar, and "Babys" rides on jangling piano instead of mournful acoustic guitar. The final song, "Woods," is more of a complete departure, a choir of auto-tuned vocalists (probably all Vernon) and no instruments.

It wouldn't work for an album's worth of songs, but the exploration on Blood Bank makes for a captivating 17 minutes that will at least get everybody excited for the next record.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (* * * 1/2)

Franz Ferdinand have always been a great deal more interesting than the majority of their peers in the crowded party-rock genre. Something about the group's ability to explore and experiment with various pop styles while simultaneously offering healthy servings of cocky, danceable tunes has gained them a legion of converts. The band burst onto the scene in a big way several years ago with their self-titled debut, a critically acclaimed chart-topper that propelled them from near obscurity to stardom. The boys maintained much of that momentum with their sophomore effort, You Could Have It So Much Better, which followed a similar formula and provided even bigger hits, proving that they were anything but a fluke.

It’s been well over three years since then, and the band’s eagerly anticipated third album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, has finally seen the light of day after quite a bit of talk from the group about their fresher, funkier sound and a couple of early sneak-peeks. Opener and first single, "Ulysses," is the first indication of a new approach for Franz Ferdinand, with the group's signature sound underlined by fuzzy electronics and keys. This style is prevalent throughout the record, especially on the dark, ominous "Twilight Omens," the funky "What She Came For," and the eight-minute techno-rocker "Lucid Dreams." The album also includes more standard fare, like "Turn It On" and "No You Girls," but everything feels a little more dressed up this time around.

Aside from a delicate ballad, "Katherine Kiss Me," and the spacey “Dream Again,” this album is tailor-made for Saturday nights. The electronic textures add some needed flair to a sound that might have grown stale the third time around and the band still have a way with melody that’s hard to resist. However, while Franz Ferdinand sound comfortable with most of their experiments, many of the songs lack a certain punch found in their earlier work. “Bite Hard” still has the same old swagger in its step and “No You Girls” has the band’s sexy, trademark groove, but as a whole, the record feels strangely flat after a few spins.

The raw, punk spirit that previously underlined the group’s first two albums has been replaced by a sense of exploration without real direction, and despite all of the fun tricks and clever studio magic, the foundation of Tonight just doesn’t hold up to the band’s own standard. Still, if you came expecting a good time, you're likely to have one; the music is funky and fresh enough to keep fans happy and the band from slipping out of the spotlight.

New Artist: Cut Off Your Hands

Cut Off Your Hands hail from New Zealand, and are just now releasing their debut LP, entitled You and I, in the States last week on Frenchkiss Records. The trio play infectious power-pop-punk in the vein of The Fratellis, Franz Ferdinand, or The Wombats and are set to complete their introduction to the U.S. with some tour dates here starting in February.

The group's frontman, Nick Johnston, had the following to say about the record:

"Our pop sensibility has come lately. (While writing the record) I was listening to a lot of doo-wop - in particular Phil Spector produced groups like the Ronnettes, and the Crystals - and I've been obsessed with how melodically centred those old songs are. It's what makes them still relevant and exciting to someone like me, a 23 year old, 50 years later. I also began seriously taking an interest in 1950's artists such as Roy Orbison, Ritchie Valens and Elvis. I found that I was no longer that interested in weird sounds, or noisy groups, all I wanted to hear and recreate were beautiful vocal melodies that are calculated but appear so effortless."

Check out the band's MySpace page to hear several songs from the new record.

North American Tour Dates:

2/21 - Richard's on Richards w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - Vancouver BC
2/22 - Lucky Bear w/Ra Ra Riot - Victoria BC
2/24 - Doug Fir Lounge w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - Portland OR
2/25 - Neumo's Crystal Ball Reading w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - Seattle WA
2/27 - The Independent w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - San Francisco CA
2/28 - El Rey Theatre w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - Los Angeles CA
3/1 - The Loft-UCSD w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - La Jolla CA
3/2 - Detroit Bar w/Ra Ra Riot & Telekinesis - Costa Mesa CA
3/7 - Kilby Court w/Future Cop & Theophilus - Salt Lake City UT
3/15 - Firebird w/Headlights, Pomegranates & Gentlemen Auction House - St Louis MO
3/16 - Conservatory w/El Paso Hot Button - Oklahoma City OK
3/24 - The Cinemat w/Passion Pit & Ra Ra Riot - Bloomington IN
3/25 - Musica w/Passion Pit & Ra Ra Riot - Akron OH
3/26 - Blind Pig w/Passion Pit & Ra Ra Riot - Ann Arbor MI

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review: Torche - Meanderthal (* * * *)

At the end of last year, I started to hear some buzz about Torche, who some were touting as having created the best metal album of 2008. I'm not much of a metalhead, but I decided that I needed to give it a shot to see what all of the fuss was about. After a couple spins through Meanderthal I was sold on the hype; Torche have created a solid record not only in the metal genre, but one that contains a good deal of pop accessibility as well. It's heavy, thundering rock music that you can enjoy without wearing yourself out.

Of course, the idea of combining metal and pop music is not a new one, but it's also rarely a successful or interesting blend. Usually the formula fails because the musicians don't truly understand the genres, and end up creating a shaky hybrid that doesn't excel in either. Torche doesn't suffer from this issue because they are a metal band, plain and simple, and they focus their efforts almost exclusively in that direction. Actually, to refer to the group as having anything to do with "pop" might seem misleading to some, but they understand something about melody and hooks that many of their peers do not and this album is unique because of it.

Much of the music is quite heavy, with crunchy guitar riffs, frantic drumming, and singer Steve Brooks' sludgy, yet earnest vocals. But, while songs like the instrumental opener "Triumph of Venus" and the dense, driving "Sandstorm" show the more traditional metal side of the band, the anthematic "Healer," the lighter, warmer "Across The Shields," and the punk-inspired tune "Fat Waves" are all examples of Torche's ability to introduce more listener-friendly elements into the music. Some vocal harmony, pop melodies, and the occasional bit of restraint allow Meanderthal to be an accessible, fun record without sacrificing the impact that comes with hearing a great metal album.

Maybe it's true that you can't please everyone, but Torche have gotten about as close as possible here by successfully creating something both metal purists and indie kids can rally around, and that's quite an accomplishment.

Interview: Michael Reisenauer of Pale Young Gentlemen

Michael Reisenauer is the singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist for orchestral indie group Pale Young Gentlemen who released a great album near the end of last year entitled Black Forest (tra la la). I had the opportunity to talk to Mike this past week and got some insight on the band, the record, and his influences as an artist.

Me: How about an introduction or history of the band, I understand that you are the co-founder of the band along with your brother Matt and friend Brett Randall, but now you’ve got seven people, at least at the recording of your last album. How did that evolve into such a big project?

MR: It was pretty natural, actually. The three of us were playing around, Matt, Brett, and I, just like a piano, drums, and Brett was playing guitar at the time. Then we started getting some shows, and we saw an add for somebody that was looking for a band that really liked Andrew Bird and so we picked her up, though she has since left the band. Then we got cello, then we got a bass player and we were a five piece, and, you know, the more we played the more people were interested in playing with us, and the more we were willing to collaborate with everybody.

Me: You recently released your second album, which was great, in October of last year called Black Forest. Can you tell me a little bit more about the making of the album, what influenced the music, and what you learned in the process?

MR: Okay, it was kind of my first crack at really trying to compose an album of songs that lived together, that interacted with each other. Our first album…we lucked out in a lot of ways, I don’t know exactly how, but we just kinda recorded some songs that we had been playing live. The big difference I guess is that I was trying really to capture a feeling that I’ve had in my early 20s, this kind of misplaced feeling and trying to find some kind of home for it...We wrote a bunch of songs that Matt and Brett and I demoed in the basement studio. I’ve got a software program for writing string parts, and we added drums and guitars and vocals to it and it sounded really cheesy, but then a month later we went into the studio and tried to track everything as quickly as possible, and that’s about it.

Me: As the primary songwriter and singer, you’re responsible for a lot of the creative energy that goes into making the music, but for your past album, at least, there were six other people in the band…What process do you go through in writing a song?

MR: Well, it kinda depends on who it is and what the part is. I would print off sheet music and give it to the string players the first few times, but some of these songs went through really major, dramatic changes because we would rehearse it and play and see how the parts fit together and go “that doesn’t work.” So we go back and next week I’d have new parts, some of them had been totally changed, and others just tweaked a little bit. We’d add drums and bass to it, record our rehearsals, then play them back and see again what was working and what wasn’t working.

Me: I noticed as I was listening to Black Forest, and and then going back and listening to some of your debut album, that Black Forest is much more ornate and diverse; there are more instruments, more complex arrangements, etc. Was that purposeful? Did you approach the music in a different manner or did it just naturally evolve to be that way?

MR: No, from the beginning I knew what the title of the record was, and I had written “Our History” and “She’s All Mine, I Think.” Those kinda set the tone for the record, I think, musically, how important strings were gonna be in the record and how I wanted it to sound almost like a fairy tale or something like that. So after those two songs we had kind of an idea of what was going to happen, and then I just tried to write songs that would fit together in that context.

Me: You mentioned a couple months of touring last year. Are you planning on being on the road much soon? And do you enjoy that experience or is it pretty exhausting?

MR: We’re planning on getting out soon, but not for quite that amount of time...All of my vacations when I was a kid were road trips because we didn’t have money to fly anywhere. We would drive out to Colorado or Wyoming or wherever. So something about being out on the road feels very natural and peaceful to me. In time, it gets exhausting. We were out for two months and did a lot of dates; we had very few nights off, so it kinda wears down on ya, but at the same time you get better at doing it. I don’t know, it doesn’t really compare to anything. It seems almost like you’re a traveling salesmen or something, but instead of selling encyclopedias you have songs, you know? You stay in a different motel every night, but they could all be the same motel, it’s a weird thing.

Me: I recently heard your cover of the MIA song “Paper Planes,” and really enjoyed it. Where did that come from? I saw it on a CokeMachineGlow podcast, but how did that start?

MR: Matt and I have always talked about wanting to do cover songs, but we never really rehearsed them...One song we always wanted to cover was “Straight to Hell” by The Clash. I was working in a coffee shop this summer and I heard MIA’s song and I thought at first it was gonna be the damn Clash song, but it ended up being Paper Planes and I thought that was interesting. Then when we were on tour we got an email about CokeMachineGlow wanting us to cover a top-40 type hit from the past year and I thought that made about as much sense as anything else. So we went out and covered it. (Hear the song)

Me: I have one more question for you. I have a brother who is close in age to me and we actually roomed together in college for a while...How is spending time on tour and in the studio with your brother, Matt?

MR: It’s the only thing that keeps me from going out of my mind, I think. Matt and I are less than a year and a half apart in age and something happened when we were in our late teens when our parents divorced and somehow our relationship got really close after that. We lived together and when I don’t see him I pretty much call him on the phone almost every day even if I don’t have a reason; we’re really close. It’s kind of funny; there is an idea that it’s kind of ironic, our relationship as siblings, because a lot of siblings can’t get together, or if they do get together they kind of hate each other on some level, but we’re just not that way.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

MP3 Saturday: Jon Boden, Wild Light, Marissa Nadler

Check out a song from each of these recommended artists. Some of the music is available only for a limited time, make sure you take a listen!

Jon Boden - "Has Been Calvary"

It's unlikely that you've heard of Jon Boden if you live in the U.S., but the British singer/songwriter has been making music with various folk groups for some time now. Both The Observer and The Guardian have good things to say about him, and for good reason; his classic folk sound and strong songwriting deserve attention. "Has Been Calvary" is the first single from his upcoming album, Songs from the Floodplain, which will be released March 2, 2009 in the U.K. Check it out below.

Has Been Calvary (MP3)

Wild Light - "Heart Attack"

I've already written about Wild Light once before when they gave away another song, and now we have the pleasure of hearing a second track, "Heart Attack," one of my favorites from their upcoming album, Adult Nights. The song is available over at Spin, but only for a few more days, so go download it! Otherwise you'll have to wait until March 3rd when the record is released.

Heart Attack (Spin download page)

Marissa Nadler - "River Of Dirt"

I don't know much about Marissa Nadler, except that the Boston singer/songwriter makes beautiful music, as evidenced by "River Of Dirt," the gorgeous, haunting first single from her new record Little Hells, which will be released on March 3rd. Her striking voice alone makes this song one you should hear, and provides yet another reason as to why March is shaping up to be a great month for music.

River Of Dirt (MP3)

Asobi Seksu album details, new single

The pop duo of Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna are set to release their new album, Hush, through Polyvinyl Records on February 17th. Chikudate's classical musical training and Hanna's rock background combine beautifully in an expansive and expressive shoegaze pop style that is absolutely stunning.

For a preview of the upcoming record, the first single, "Familiar Light," is available to download over at Pitchfork. The track explores a larger, more epic indie sound while still maintaining the intimacy of Asobi Seksu's previous work and should get people excited for hearing the rest of Hush when it's released next month.

"Familiar Light" download page - Pitchfork

Asobi Seksu's MySpace page

Hush Track List:

1. Layers
2. Familiar Light
3. Sing Tomorrow's Praise
4. Gliss
5. Transparence
6. Risky And Pretty
7. In The Sky
8. Meh No Mae
9. Glacially
10. I Can't See
11. Me & Mary
12. Blind Little Rain

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blackout Beach - Album Details/MP3 Download

Blackout Beach is the most recent recording name for former Frog Eyes frontman Carey Mercer. He recently released his second album called Skin of Evil on January 20th which tells the story of a woman named Donna through the eyes of her past and present lovers (Donna gets a cut too, of course). The concept is difficult to dig out of Mercer's bizarre, complex arrangements and obtuse lyrics that keep the album both intriguing and exciting. The music was composed, played, and recorded entirely by Mercer alone, but includes more layers of sound than you might expect one man could possibly make.

Blackout Beach is offering a free song over at RCRD LBL entitled "Nineteen, One God, One Dull Star" that showcases Mercer's shifting, evolving song structures and intense vocal style. The page also has two other tracks available to stream from the upcoming album.

"Nineteen, One God, One Dull Star" download page

Track list for Skin of Evil:

01. Cloud of Evil
02. Biloxi, In a Grove, Cleans Out His Eyes
03. William, the Crowd, It's William
04. The Roman
05. Woe to the Minds of Soft Men
06. The Whistle
07. Nineteen, One God, One Dull Star
08. Three Men Drown in the River
09. Sophia, Donna, I Was Down the River Waiting
10. Astoria, Menthol Lite, Hilltop, Wave of Evil, 1982

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Review: Loney, Dear - Dear John (* * * *)

Emil Svanängen, the driving force behind Loney, Dear, is releasing his latest effort next week entitled Dear John. Although only his second album to hit the U.S., this is actually the Swedish musician's fifth offering of shoegazey, electro-folk tunes. It's unlikely that most of us have heard Loney, Dear's entire catalog, but apparently Dear John is the final piece of a "five-album puzzle" that doesn't mean the end of the band but the "end of this particular journey."

Dear John contains a mixture of angst, loneliness, and heartache similar to the band's previous work, but the overall tone this time around is decidedly more sinister and dark. The occasional glimmer of hope can still be found, but they occur less frequently and feel dulled by the noisy, swirling buzz of electronics behind many of the album's 11 tracks. Svanängen frequently treads the line between intimate and epic, taking songs that feel private and lonely and filling them almost uncomfortably full with layers of sound and thundering climaxes. His unique approach, while not easily digested upon first listen, provides a strange and exciting journey throughout Dear John.

The brooding, complex sound carries a hefty emotional weight throughout the record, starting with the first single and one of several upbeat tunes, "Airport Surroundings." The song begins with a simple bass/percussion line before adding layers of synth, guitar, and vocals behind Svanängen's unsettled lyrics. Following is the equally tumultuous "Everything Turns To You," with an intro of hazy static and distant electric guitar slowly expanding into a noisy, angry anthem. Elsewhere, he showcases his more delicate side with the warmer, more hopeful-sounding "I Was Only Going Out" and the hauntingly beautiful closer "Dear John."

Svanängen's exploration of more distinctive styles pays off especially well on "Under a Silent Sea" with its electronic foundation eventually growing into a full-blown techno explosion, and "Summers," a celebratory tune with wistful harmonica, gorgeous harmony, and more organic percussion. In fact, he sounds so at peace (relatively speaking) that you may find yourself wishing he could lighten up more often.

Taken as a whole, Dear John is perhaps one sad, lonely ode too long, but Loney, Dear have created a striking collection of song that shows the band taking risks, moving forward, and refusing to take the easy way out. The album drops January 27th on Polyvinyl.

Loney, Dear on MySpace

Loney, Dear's homepage

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dark Was the Night details, Dirty Projectors & David Byrne MP3

You've probably heard about the soon-to-be-released compilation by HIV/AIDS awareness group the Red Hot Organization entitled Dark Was the Night. The album will contain 31 songs by groups like Arcade Fire, Spoon, The National, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, and, as mentioned in the post title, a collaboration between Dirty Projectors & David Byrne which you can download below.

Dirty projectors & David Byrne - Knotty Pine (MP3)

Also, take time to stop by Dark Was the Night's MySpace page to hear a different song each day or so from the collection.

I can't wait to get my hands on this thing; the complete track list is almost unbelievably great. The collection will be available as a double CD, triple vinyl, and a download, so make sure you pick it up one way or another on February 17th to support a good cause and dramatically improve your music library.

Disc One
01 "Knotty Pine" - Dirty Projectors + David Byrne
02 "Cello Song (Nick Drake)" - The Books Feat. Jose Gonzalez
03 "Train Song" - Feist + Ben Gibbard
04 "Brackett, WI" - Bon Iver
05 "Deep Blue Sea" - Grizzly Bear
06 "So Far Around the Bend" - The National (arrangement by Nico Muhly)
07 "Tightrope" - Yeasayer
08 "Feeling Good" (popularized by Nina Simone) - My Brightest Diamond
09 "Dark Was the Night" (Blind Willie Johnson) - Kronos Quartet
10 "I Was Young When I Left Home" (Bob Dylan) - Antony + Bryce Dessner
11 "Big Red Machine" - Justin Vernon + Aaron Dessner
12 "Sleepless" - The Decemberists
13 "Stolen Houses" (Die) - Iron and Wine
14 "Service Bell" - Grizzly Bear + Feist
15 "You Are The Blood" - Sufjan Stevens

Disc Two
01 "Well-Alright" - Spoon
02 "Lenin" - Arcade Fire
03 "Mimizan" - Beirut
04 "El Caporal" - My Morning Jacket
05 "Inspiration Information" (Shuggie Otis) - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
06 "With A Girl Like You" (The Troggs) - Dave Sitek
07 "Blood Pt 2" (based on original song "You are the Blood" by the Castanets) - Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)
08 "Hey, Snow White" (Destroyer) - The New Pornographers
09 "Gentle Hour" (Snapper) - Yo La Tengo
10 "Another Saturday" (traditional song) - Stuart Murdoch
11 "Happiness" - Riceboy Sleeps
12 "Amazing Grace" (traditional song) - Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues
13 "The Giant Of Illinois" (Handsome Family) - Andrew Bird
14 "Lua" - Conor Oberst + Gillian Welch
15 "When the Road Runs Out" - Blonde Redhead + Devastations
16 "Love vs. Porn" - Kevin Drew

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fol Chen album details, MP3s, Video

Experimental pop newcomers Fol Chen are set to release their debut album, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made, on February 17th through Asthmatic Kitty Records (yeah, the one with Sufjan Stevens). The group's funky sound is both strange and catchy, especially on the single "No Wedding Cake," a danceable electro-pop tune which you can download below along with the group's first video.

No Wedding Cake (MP3)

No Wedding Cake (Remix) (MP3)

No Wedding Cake (Video)

If you like what you hear/see, be sure to head over to Fol Chen's label page where you can find more songs to download as well as a little more info on the band.

Track list:

1.The Believers
2.No Wedding Cake
3.You and Your Sister in Jericho
4.The Idiot
5.Red Skies Over Garden City (The Ballad of Donna Donna)
6.Winter, That's All
7.Cable TV
8.Please, John, You're Killing Me
9.The Longer U Wait (Version)
10.If Tuesday Comes

Monday, January 19, 2009

Worth Hearing: January 20, 2009

Here's a list of some of the notable and worthwhile albums being released this week and some links to where you can get a listen:

A.C. Newman: Get Guilty - MySpace page - I've only heard a few tracks from this album, but if those were any indication, it's great.

Andrew Bird: Noble Beast - listen to the album at NPR (My Review) - An amazing record from one of indie's most consistent artists.

Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion - listen to the album at NPR (My Review) - Absolutely fantastic, a must-hear!

Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light - listen to the album at Spinner - A strangely beautiful listen.

Bon Iver : Blood Bank EP - listen to the EP on their MySpace page - A nice four-song set for a follow-up to last year's stellar debut.

New Artist: The Steps

The Steps are a young Austin-based quartet specializing in fashionable old-school punk rock. Their self-titled debut was released last year under the supervision of Chris "Frenchie" Smith (Dandy Warhols, Explosions in the Sky, Jet) and turned a few heads here (Austin Monthly, Paste Magazine) and in Japan (Rolling Stone). Their sound is simple and straightforward, a no-frills take on a familiar, but exciting formula that makes for more than a few great moments.

Tunes like the first single, "Dagger," the classic rocker "Outlaw," and the Jet-eque "Cold Floors" showcase the band's raucous, fun sound with frontman Will Thompson's earnest vocals, sweet guitar work, and an overall confidence that makes The Steps a band worth your ears' time. If this debut is any indication of what's to come, I'm eager to hear more from these guys soon.

Check them out on MySpace to hear a few tracks or head over to iTunes to purchase the album.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review: Miniature Tigers - Tell It To The Volcano (* * * *)

After posting a bit about Miniature Tigers a couple weeks ago, I decided I needed to hear their debut album, Tell It To The Volcano, as soon as possible. The record was released last year digitally and will be getting a proper physical release soon, but I wanted to write this review while the excitement of hearing the songs was still fresh in my mind. "Volcano" is a light-hearted, fun album full of pop hooks and clever lyrics that is especially refreshing in the midst of so many self-serious indie bands out there today.

Starting things off is the first single, "Cannibal Queen," an extra-catchy album highlight about singer Charlie Brand's attempt to find love with a good girl. The band also shine especially bright on the bitter, yet humorous title track which presents an interesting (and primitive) look into getting over that previously special someone. Brand has a quirky way of describing what could otherwise be very familiar and normal situations, like experiencing a change of heart, "I'm no longer on a quest to get girls undressed" or post-break-up depression, "I listen to Tchaikovsky and cry, pour myself a glass of red wine." Yet, even has he slings clever phrases and odd metaphors, he manages to seem relatively sincere about the subject matter.

Elsewhere, Miniature Tigers get mopey ("Annie Oakley"), territorial ("The Wolf"), and creepy ("Like or Like Like"), but if you're not paying close attention, you might just assume they're throwing a 29 minute, low-key party. The music on Tell It To The Volcano feels effortlessly ear-pleasing with a fun blend of acoustic guitars, various keys, and well-placed vocal harmony that keeps a good pace and never overstays its welcome. Brand may have a sharp wit, but his melodic hooks are sharper; he's hurt, he's angry, and maybe a bit unstable, but he's not about to let that get in the way of a good time.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Maria Taylor: New album details, free song

Maria Taylor's upcoming album and third solo effort, Ladyluck, is due out on April 7th through Nettwerk Music. The record will feature product from Andy LeMaster, Mike Mogis, and Lukas Burton and collaborations with Michael Stipe, Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes, and Mckenzie Smith of Midlake. According to Taylor, the album sounds best if you "listen in a dark room, with a candle or two with headphones, maybe in the bath, but definitely horizontal." Nice to have some instructions!

Anyway, you can hear a preview by downloading the gorgeous first single, "Time Lapse Lifeline," below. She also has another track, "Orchids" streaming on her MySpace page, which is equally as wonderful. April suddenly seems like a long ways away.

Download: Time Lapse Lifeline

Friday, January 16, 2009

Review: Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (* * * *)

Although perhaps overshadowed by Animal Collective's release on the same day next week, Andrew Bird's upcoming album, Noble Beast, has built up a sizable amount of hype, especially with the album streaming over at NPR and leaking several days later. Even before that, Bird has been anything but shy about showing off his new material, especially live. When I saw him perform this past summer, half his concert was something of an album preview. I enjoy the idea of songs practiced live, then re-imagined or re-written before finally settling in their final recorded state, and I've been interested to see if that concept worked to Bird's advantage here.

Noble Beast is a lighter, airier record than 2007's Armchair Apocrypha, which was something like Andrew Bird's rock album (relatively speaking, of course). In a recent interview, Bird stated that the recording process for these songs started with the vocals first, and the album certainly reflects that. He still uses his virtuoso violin playing and otherworldly whistle to great effect, but the other instrumental flourishes seem more designed to give his unique tenor voice and abstract musical poetry the spotlight, and as a result, Noble Beast features the strongest vocal performances of his career.

Bird spends much of the album subtly expands his style and experimenting with new genres. "Masterswarm" begins with a delicate violin/vocal introduction before shifting into a smooth, samba rhythm with light percussion that puts the vocals front and center. It's one of several lengthy tracks on Noble Beast (nearly seven minutes) that make up the 54 minute run time, which occasionally seems overlong but is filled with generally strong material and isn't much of an issue. Still, the tendency for some will be to skip through to find the more upbeat and immediate tracks, but a little restraint will be richly rewarded.

Elsewhere, Bird experiments with noisy rock for the latter half of "Nomenclature," and Spanish guitar and a waltz vibe on the beautiful "Effigy." "Not a Robot, But a Ghost" is easily the most radical (and most interesting) departure, with fuzzed-out electronic percussion and spiky guitar lines pushing the violin and whistling to the background. It's certainly different, and welcome as a fresh approach for Bird. Of course, the album has its more direct and familiar moments. The soaring "Fitz & Dizzyspells" and the more relaxed opener and first single, "Oh No," both are excellent, and could be described as Bird's signature sound, while "Anonanimal" showcases his clever, captivating wordplay.

The album doesn't hit it out of the park with every swing ("Natural Disaster" does little for me), but there are enough exceptional songs to warrant high praise and repeated listens. With a little patience and attention to detail, Noble Beast reveals itself as some of Andrew Bird's best material to date.

Note: For the more adventurous listener, Noble Beast comes in a deluxe edition with a bonus instrumental disc, Useless Creatures, full of avant-garde, experimental musical musings.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Decemberists offer free tune from The Hazards of Love

It's no secret that The Decemberists' upcoming album, The Hazards of Love, is due out on March 24th, and while the band have recently released six tunes with their Always the Bridesmaid series, many of us have been waiting eagerly for a taste of their new record. Today, the Decemberists are making "The Rake's Song" available to download from their website, all you have to do is sign up for their email list. It's up there with the group's darker, stranger material, the bone-chilling tale of a man who found the raising of three children by himself a bit too restricting. - Download "The Rake's Song"

The Hazards of Love is something of a folk opera that tells the tale of a woman named Margaret and a host of twisted characters played (sung) by Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark, My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Robyn Hitchcock and the Spinanes' Rebecca Gates. The album combines a variety of genres from folk to heavy metal, which Colin Meloy explains in this way:

“There’s an odd bond between the music of the British folk revival and classic metal,” says Meloy. “A natural connection between, like, Fairport Convention and Black Sabbath – of course, Sandy Denny from Fairport even sang with Led Zeppelin on ‘The Battle of Evermore.’ I think there’s a shared sense of narrative and ambience, of moving beyond the first person in your writing. And I thought it would be interesting to mess around with that.”

Track List:

1. Prelude
2. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
3. A Bower Scene
4. Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
5. The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)
6. The Queen’s Approach
7. Isn’t it a Lovely Night?
8. The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid
9. An Interlude
10. The Rake’s Song
11. The Abduction of Margaret
12. The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing
13. Annan Water
14. Margaret in Captivity
15. The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)
16. The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)
17. The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Artist: Let Me Run

New Jersey punk quartet Let Me Run formed in 2007 and have wasted no time in hitting the road, getting noticed, and writing their debut album which was recently released on XOXO records. The group's raw, direct approach combines crunchy guitars and pounding drums with stories of tough living and attempted redemption. Meet Me At The Bottom is a hard-rocking collection of tunes that's equal parts grit and melody, punk attitude and pop sensibility. You can download a track below.

Behind singer Travis Omilian's emotional growl, the band create some great moments, like the arena-ready chorus of "Like a Fish," the friend-in-trouble anthem "Shane," and epic closer "The Body and the Slowburner." Meet Me At The Bottom bodes well for Let Me Run, who treat each and every minute on the album as an opportunity to impress instead of space to fill. Recommended for those who enjoy the music of Rise Against, Jawbreaker, and Roll The Tanks.

I'll leave you with this, from the band's bio:

"...imagine yourself drunk as f*** flying a fighter jet through the Grand Canyon at one billion miles an hour with a bear. That is how Let Me Run lives every second, every day."

Rock on, guys.

Head over to Fuse.TV to download "Like a Fish" and check out the band's MySpace to listen to a few others.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MP3: The Old Ceremony - 'Til My Voice Is Gone

I worry sometimes that I have dug myself so deep into the indie scene that I've forgotten how to enjoy some of music's simple pleasures; a sing-a-long chorus, relatable lyrics, a smile-inducing amount of positive energy, etc. Fortunately, bands like The Old Ceremony are here to remind us of how effortlessly enjoyable rock 'n' roll can be, and why you and I should take a break from listening to our Animal Collective records every once in a while. The group's anthematic Americana sound ranges from "the Beatles to Beck, Leadbelly to Led Zeppelin" according to their bio, and that's a decent description from what I've heard so far. The North Carolina five-piece's ability to build familiar themes and pleasant melodies into relevant, interesting structures is both admirable and gratifying.

The Old Ceremony are giving us a sample of their upcoming album, Walk On Thin Air, by offering the first single, "'Til My Voice Is Gone," over at RCRD LBL. The song's triumphant message and epic presentation combined with the band's skillful musicianship should make you a believer in no time.

M. Ward previews new album, Hold Time

NPR started streaming M. Ward's entire upcoming album, Hold Time, last night at midnight ET!

Of course you should check it out.

Because it's awesome, that's why.

Seriously, though, go listen.

You can also still hear Andrew Bird's upcoming Noble Beast, and NPR will have Animal Collective's latest there next week (though chances are you've heard it already). So make sure you check back here or there often to get the latest.

Lastly, check out M. Ward's video for the song "Hold Time."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Project Jenny, Project Jan tour dates and collaboration info

Project Jenny, Project Jan burst onto the scene in 2007 with their high-octane debut album entitled XOXOXOXOXO. Their electro-dance-pop sound caught the ear of many a critic and the band instantly became one to watch. For 2009, the duo of Sammy Rubin and Jeremy Haines have big plans, including a collaborations EP, a contribution to a covers album (already out), a tour, and work on a new LP.

The collaboration EP is duo out in March and is titled The Colors EP. It will feature work with Fujiya & Miagi, Mixel Pixel, So Percussion, Adam Matta, and One Watt Sun.

The band's cover of "Self Control" by Laura Branigan is available to download over at Buffet Libre DJs.

Tour Dates below:

02/13/09 Wesleyan University - Middletown CT*
02/20/09 Cats Cradle - Carrboro NC**
02/21/09 40 Watt Club - Athens GA**
02/23/09 Back Booth - Orlando FL**
02/24/09 Club Downunder - Tallahassee FL**
02/25/09 Spanish Moon Baton - Rouge LA**
02/27/09 Emos Alternative Lounge - Austin TX**
02/28/09 Palladium Loft - Dallas TX**
03/02/09 Rhythm Room - Phoenix AZ**
03/03/09 Echoplex - Los Angeles CA***
03/05/09 The Independent - San Francisco CA***
03/06/09 Doug Fir Lounge - Portland OR***
03/07/09 Neumos - Seattle WA***

* w/ Passion Pit
**w/ Fujiya & Miyagi
***w /Fujiya & Miyagi and Pop Levi

Project Jenny, Project Jan's MySpace

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Miniature Tigers announce tour, plan retail album release

The first thing I heard about Miniature Tigers was the following quote from Austin Town Hall, "With a sound that’s poppy and pretty easy on the ears, these guys might just be the new Vampire Weekend you peoples are all looking for..." My interest piqued, I checked out the first single, "Cannibal Queen" from the band's digitally-released debut entitled Tell it to the Volcano. The song features Charlie Brand's quirky lyrical style backed by the band's bouncy, rhythmic guitar/drum/bass combo. While I don't completely agree with the Vampire Weekend comparison, the catchy indie-pop sound that Miniature Tigers create is indeed worthy of our attention.

Download the aforementioned song below along with the video (quite bizarre, and hilarious):

Cannibal Queen - MP3

Cannibal Queen - Music Video (Download)

The band have an extensive tour planned with the likes of Lenka and Dear & The Headlights and will also play at SXSW. They are also planning on a retail release for the Tell it to the Volcano late this year, though the album is available on iTunes now.

Tour Dates (May be incomplete - check their MySpace page as well)

With Lenka
1/15/09 Thu San Francisco CA The Independent
1/16/09 Fri Modesto CA Modesto Virtual
1/17/09 Sat Santa Barbara CA SoHo

With Dear & The Headlights
2/24/09 Tue Los Angeles CA Knitting Factory
2/25/09 Wed Anaheim CA Chain Reaction
2/26/09 Thu Modesto CA Modesto Virtual
2/27/09 Fri San Francisco CA Bottom of the Hill
2/28/09 Sat Orangevale CA Boardwalk
3/1/09 Sun Portland OR Satyricon
3/2/09 Mon Seattle WA El Corazon
3/4/09 Wed Boise ID The Venue
3/5/09 Thu Salt Lake City UT Avalon Theatre
3/7/09 Sat Denver CO Marquis Theatre
3/8/09 Sun Omaha NE Sokol Underground
3/10/09 Tue Minneapolis MN Triple Rock
3/11/09 Wed Iowa City IA Picador
3/12/09 Thu Chicago IL Reggie's Rock Club
3/13/09 Fri Columbia MO Mojo's
3/14/09 Sat Tulsa OK The Marquee
3/15/09 Sun Dallas TX The Door
3/17/09 Tue San Antonio TX Rock Bottom Bar

3/19/09 Thu Austin TX Jackalope

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Artist/MP3: East Hundred

This five-piece band from Philadelphia are composed of brothers Brooke and Will Blair (on guitars and drums, respectively), Brooke's ex-girlfriend Beril Guceri singing, and the Blairs' good friends David Sunderland on bass and Susan Gager on Keys. It looks like a recipe for inter-band drama, and it was, as Brooke and Beril broke up midway through making the group's first album, Passesnger, to be released this week. Fortunately for them (and for us), "rather than derail the recording process...the resultant heartache and awkwardness produced a flood of new material and what was intended to be a minor EP soon became a full-fledged album," according to the band's bio.

The nine tracks on East Hundred's debut LP range from straightforward alt-rock tunes like opener "Slow Burning Crimes" and "Dear Blue" to the more delicate, indie shoegaze sound of "Sigh and Wave." The album has some great moments, especially "Autopilot," with its excellent mix of shimmering guitars and Guceri's clear, strong vocals and the haunting, meloncholy closer, "Afterlove." The band definitely have a knack for writing melodic pop rock tunes that grow with each spin. Get yourself introduced by downloading "Slow Burning Crimes" below and make sure to check out the video as well.

Slow Burning Crimes - MP3

Slow Burning Crimes - watch the video

Track listing for Passenger:
1. Slow Burning Crimes
2. Plus Minus
3. Deadpan
4. Autopilot
5. Pony
6. Along The Way
7. Dear Blue
8. Sigh And Wave
9. Afterlove

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Review: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (* * * * *)

You've probably been able to form your own opinions about Animal Collective's soon-to-be-released Merriweather Post Pavilion as the album leaked several weeks ago. But, for those of you who haven't heard it yet or who look to me for musical guidance and leadership (right...), let me sum the album up right here with a few adjectives; stunning, captivating, essential. Seriously, if you haven't yet, the time to buy into the hype is now. "Merriweather" is an album worth hearing not just because you'll feel out of the loop if you don't, but because you would be missing out on something truly remarkable.

Although not a radical departure from their previous efforts, "Merriweather" has a smoother, more polished feel than even 2007's Strawberry Jam. Less yelling and screaming - more melody and breathtaking vocal harmony, fewer jarring stylistic shifts - more subtle and expansive transitions. I don't mean to make it sound as if the band have stopped innovating, the record still includes plenty of trippy, odd pop moments fans will love (like the Tigger-esque bouncing bass on "Lion in a Coma"); Animal Collective just sound more purposeful and direct this time around. This is also the most engaging and approachable the group have ever sounded, creating a collection of themes and sounds that is much more often inviting than it is alienating.

Album opener, "In the Flowers," has a droning, ambient intro before exploding into a joyous, upbeat celebration with Avey Tare singing lines like "we could be dancing and you'd smile and say 'I love this song'" over scattered percussion and chirping electronics. It's one of many smile-inducing, dance-inspiring moments. Following is another highlight, "My Girls," an explosion of harmony, arpeggio synths, and tribal percussion combined in one of the album's most immediately enjoyable tunes. "Summertime Clothes" and especially "Brothersport," with Panda Bear's arena-sized chanted chorus provide additional instant pop-oriented gratification.

While the more anthematic tracks will likely receive the most attention, "Merriweather" should be recognized for some of its more subtly fantastic moments as well. The gentle, shimmering "Bluish" and the perfectly restrained "No More Runnin" give the album much-needed variety but are also great songs independently, showing Animal Collective's more (for lack of a better word) sensitive side. Elsewhere, "Guys Eyes" builds slowly, adding layer upon layer of vocals and percussion in a psychedelic wall of sound while "Daily Routine" shifts gears from an off-beat electro-pop song into a simple, sonic vocal feature by Avey Tare. I could go on, but I'm running out of tracks. Simply put, it's all great.

I realize I'm only helping to hype an already uber-hyped album, but when it's as good as Merriweather Post Pavilion is (which is to say, spectacular), I can't help but go with the flow. Do yourself a favor and give this one a shot, because this is the kind of groundbreaking, genre-shattering, musical revelation that should be experienced.

New Artist: Harlem Shakes

Harlem Shakes turned some heads in 2007 with the release of their first EP entitled Burning Birthdays, a quirky set of pop tunes that was undeniably catchy and exceptionally smart. After a fairly quiet last year, the band are set to release their first full-length album, Technicolor Health, in March. The group create a great pop style using a mix of spiky guitars, soaring keys, and both programmed and traditional percussion, and while they draw from a variety of influences, their sound feels unique and fresh. I'm predicting some serious hype surrounds this album within the next couple weeks.

The band have a song up at their MySpace page called "Strictly Game" and I simply can not get enough of the fantastic guitar/drum combo behind the witty, well-delivered lyrics; it's pure pop perfection. Add this to the list of reasons March is gonna be an amazing month for music.

Track List for Technicolor Health:

1. Nothing But Change Part II
2. Strictly Game
3. TFO
4. Niagara Falls
5. Sunlight
6. Unhurried Hearts (Passaic Pastoral)
7. Winter Water
8. Natural Man
9. Radio Orlando
10. Technicolor Health

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dan Deacon previews new song, reveals album art

I may be a little late in telling you this, but Dan Deacon is streaming a new tune from his forthcoming album in several places, one of which is at imeem. The song is titled "Get Older" and the album, scheduled for release on March 24th, is called "Bromst." Whereas Deacon's previous work, Spiderman of the Rings, was completely electronic, the new effort mixes organic and electronic elements together while still maintaining his signature sound, noisy, complex dance-pop.

Also, check out this trippy cover art:

Slightly reminiscent of Department of Eagles' "In Ear Park" if you remove the tent. Anyway, the buzz about this album is palpable, so take a minute (six, actually) and give "Get Older" a try. I'm glad I did.

Track listing for Bromst:

1. Build Voice
2. Red F
3. Paddling Ghost
4. Snookered
5. Of The Mountains
6. Surprise Stefani
7. Wet Wings
8. Woof Woof
9. Slow With Horns / Run For Your Life
10. Baltihorse
11. Get Older

Royksopp new album details

The Norwegian duo of Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland recently announced the details of their upcoming album, Junior, due out March 23rd. As is standard procedure for them, the band have written, performed, produced, etc. the entire album themselves, but also decided to bring some friends along for the ride. Anneli Drecker, Karin Dreijer-Andersson (The Knife), Lykke Li, and Robyn all guest. That list alone should turn some heads, though Royksopp have created quite a following and should have no trouble in building the anticipation.

You'll have to wait until March 9th to hear the album's first single, "Happy Up Here," but you can get the goofy "Happy Birthday" track from the duo's website along with a note from the band about the new record.

Track listing:

1. Happy Up Here
2. The Girl And The Robot
3. Vision One
4. This Must Be It
5. Röyksopp Forever
6. Miss It So Much
7. Tricky Tricky
8. You Don't Have A Clue
9. Silver Cruiser
10. True To Life
11. It's What I Want

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Benjy Ferree new album details and tour dates

Benjy Ferree's new album has quite the story behind it. The lengthy title itself, Come Back To The Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee is probably enough to make you start Googling unless you're a serious film buff. The record is described as "a musical eulogy to a forgotten child star who was chewed up and spit out by the unforgiving Hollywood meat market." The child mentioned is Bobby Driscoll, who portratyed Peter Pan in the 1953 Disney classic, but after reaching puberty was fired and began a life of drugs and poverty before dying at the young age of 31.

Sounds intriguing, to say the least, and anyone familiar with Ferree's music will know that his uniquely soulful pop rock sound is sure to bring life to any project.

For a preview, stream the song "Fear" over on imeem or check out Ferree's website for a couple more samples.

Tracklist for Come Back To The Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee:

12. WHEN YOU'RE 16

Also, check out these tour dates with Tim Fite:

Feb 19 TT the Bear's Cambridge, Massachusetts
Feb 20 Union Hall Brooklyn, New York
Feb 21 M Room Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Feb 22 Thunderbird Cafe Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Feb 23 Beachland Tavern Cleveland, Ohio
Feb 24 The Pike Room Pontiac, Michigan
Feb 25 Schubas Chicago, Illinois
Feb 26 Northside Tavern Cincinnati, Ohio
Feb 27 Rumba Cafe Columbus, Ohio
Feb 28 Black Cat (Record Release Party!) Washington, DC

Glasvegas release debut album in the U.S. today

Scottish quartet Glasvegas made some big waves last year in the U.K., but until now their self-titled debut album was only available in the U.S. digitally. If you haven't already, now would be a good time check out the band's critically acclaimed sound by listening to the whole record over at Spinner (this week only, I think). The album features fuzzy guitars, pounding drums, and singer James Allen's distinctive brogue in an epic pop presentation that is often quite excellent.

Also, check out my full review and head on over to RCRD LBL to download the lead single from the album, "Geraldine."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bell X1 MP3 / New album details

Bell X1's third album and US debut, Flock, was released early last year and garnered the band some well-deserved praise. The Irish group have a new record, Blue Lights On The Runway, in the works to be released on March 3rd, which the trio have described as a "little bit electronic, a little bit Bacharach and a little bit New Orleans Funeral March." I'm not sure exactly what that would sound like, but I'm interested to find out.

For a taste of the upcoming album, download the sexy, electronically-inclined first single, "How Your Heart Is Wired," below.

How Your Heart Is Wired (MP3)

Blue Lights On The Runway Tracklist

1. The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella
2. How Your Heart is Wired
3. The Great Defector
4. Blow Ins
5. Amelia
6. A Better Band
7. Breastfed
8. Light Catches Your face
9. One Stringed Harp
10. The Curtains are Twitchin'

Andrew Bird previews Noble Beast!

First, Useless Creatures, now the real deal, Noble Beast. Andrew Bird's new album, due out January 20th, is available to stream over at NPR! The guys over at Stereogum didn't love it, but my first impression has been quite positive.

Go check it out and decide for yourself.

Also, remember you can also give the bonus instrumental disc Useless Creatures a listen over at Bird's website.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Artist/MP3: A Classic Education

A Classic Education are a band I know little about. They live in Italy and tour through Europe, they sing in English, and at least one of them is Canadian, but that's about the extent of what I've been able to find out. I suppose that's not much of an introduction (I also suppose I could have just asked for some more info), but now we can get to what really matters here.

The band's sound, as showcased by the First EP (a fitting title), is gentle, yet earnest, indie-pop with a slightly gritty undertone. At times I hear traces of Arcade Fire, Minus The Bear, and Built To Spill, but it's tough to make a good comparison. The five tracks range from the energetic, shifting "Badlands & Owls" to the emotional balladry of "Lovers Barricade." The disc closes with "Wartimes," a shimmering, mid-tempo pop tune with some afro-pop guitars and a more atmospheric tone. It's a strong set of songs with A Classic Education proving themselves capable of wearing many stylistic hats during the album's 18 minutes.

What I have available to download here (courtesy of the band's website) is a new tune called "We Can Always Run To Hawaii," which is the sound of the group at their most upbeat and sunny. Download the song using the link below and head over to A Classic Education's MySpace page to hear more.

Download: We Can Always Run To Hawaii

Check out the band's website and MySpace Page