Earlier this year, Capybara self-released their excellent debut album - Try Brother - and are now planning on a proper release next week on indie label The Record Machine. Hopefully that means more exposure for the band, whose music deserves any attention it receives. Freak-folk might be an appropriate label for the Kansas City group, but they rest on the softer, more melodic side of the genre. Their lo-fi approach - utilizing guitars, banjos, and various percussion - gives their songs a charmingly rustic sound, but its the songwriting that truly shines here. Simple yet arresting melodies, constant harmony, intriguing song structures combine for some truly great moments on their new album - like the shifting, multi-faceted opener "San Francisco, 1906," the strange and perky "The Wimp" and the shimmering "Magpies."The whole album combines to form a truly compelling and captivating experience that actually stacks up well against the best debuts that 2009 has to offer - and that's saying something. Oh, and you're welcome for the tunes - they're both amazing.
Birthday Song (MP3)
Animal Kingdom -
Although they've generated a fair amount of hype recently, I still know almost nothing about the UK's Animal Kingdom. I do know that their debut record - Signs and Wonders - was recorded by uber-producer Phil Ek (who's recent work included albums by Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver) and also that it's quite good, which is the point I suppose. Animal Kingdom often sound something like a smooth blend of early Radiohead, Coldplay, and Band of Horses (there's the Ek connection), but while their music may not be entirely unique in its approach, the songs on their debut still contain a genuine distinctness that makes the album worth exploring. First single "Tin Man" serves as a good introduction, showcasing the high, clear vocals and epic-yet-intimate instrumental interplay that can be found throughout the record. They take the occasional break for an acoustic ballad ("Silence Summons You") or groovy rocker ("Walls of Jericho"), which gives some variety to the 12 tracks, and when they get a little strange, as on the dark "Mephistopheles," they prove they're diverse and interesting enough to hold our attention.
Ivan & Alyosha -
No, that band name isn't the result of some crazy coincidence - the duo recording and performing as Ivan & Alyosha is actually comprised of musicians Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary. With Wilson on vocals and Carbary on a little bit of everything, the two make music that is refreshingly simple, with no gimmicks, no pretension, just classic pop songwriting and engaging melodies. They have a bit of a retro vibe to them, borrowing from the pop stylings of 60s and 70s at times, and their new EP - The Verse, The Chorus - shows the two artists combining those past influences with a more modern, alt-rock sound. The results won't start any kind of musical revolution, but the songs are genuine, fun, and catchy as can be. And these two are talented enough to avoid simply retreading the territory of those who have gone on before or sticking to just one formula. Opener "Beautiful Lie" features jazzy piano and smooth vocal harmony in an almost Beatlesque style, "Some Friend You Are" is a melancholy ballad, and "Normal People" is a melodic, emotive rock tune. The seven songs of The Verse, The Chorus get these boys off to a great start.
Easy to Love (Zipped MP3)