I apologize for my online absence - but there's some good stuff coming - I promise. That includes this selection of three noteworthy new artists of course:
Sleep Whale -
After a beautiful debut EP and an equally strong full-length both released this year, it was clear to me that Sleep Whale (originally known as Mom) were a band worthy of mention here. The (almost) entirely instrumental Little Brite EP (first released in 07) showed a band that could build gorgeous soundscapes that were both unique and accessible - utilizing guitar, cello, and various field recordings and digital effects. From this base they expanded their sound to include more vocal and percussive elements among other things on their first LP , Houseboat, which was just recently unveiled. At first I balked a bit at the transition to songs that were um, more song-like and slightly less abstract, but Sleep Whale's latest retains what made them special in the first place while showing remarkable growth in a brief period of time. Plenty of the tracks hearken back to the band's earliest work - like the thoughtful "Roof Sailing" or the shimmering "Icicles," but the vocal-led tunes are just as engaging, especially the appropriately watery "We Were Dripping." This is lovely, almost otherworldly stuff sure to captivate any willing to let it sink it.
Josh Likes Me (MP3) - from Little Brite
Cotton Curls (MP3) - from Houseboat
The Dø -
The Dø is a French duo comprised of Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy, who wrote, recorded and produced their debut album, A Mouthful. The record is notable for several reasons, one being that this is the first album by a French band performing in English to reach #1 on the French music charts, which is impressive. But the music itself warrants even higher praise. The Dø are difficult to categorize as they are almost schizophrenic in their stylistic variance, ranging from twee-pop ("Playground Hustle") to tribal chants ("Unissassi Laulelet") to almost MIA-esque rap ("Queen Dot Kong") and utilizing everything from a choir of children to every percussive instrument you could name to support Merilahti's yearning, child-like voice. So the album may not be for those who prefer consistency, but for the adventurous there's plenty to love here - A Mouthful is one of this year's most joyfully exploratory pop albums. Highlights will probably depend on individual taste, but for me the three best tunes are the dark, poppy "On My Shoulders," the ukulele-led ballad "Stay (Just a Little Bit More)" and the more aggressive "Tammie."
Washington DC band Bellflur first caught my attention with a song entitled "Grey Sparkle Finnish Pig," which I admit just made me curious initially but ended up making a very good first impression. The group has been around since 2001 and have released several albums, the latest of which is an EP called Last Quarter of the 20th Century Blues. If you, like me, haven't heard about the band before, I recommend get acquainted by taking a listen to their new record, which is a dreamy, psychedelic collection of tunes with post-rock leanings. Though Bellflur might be considered a vocal-centered band, the music they make is less about lyricism and more about complex instrumental arrangements and progressive song structures, using various organic and digital elements in composing their music. Their all-encompassing approach and obvious ambition makes songs like opener "Grey Sparkle Finnish Pig" - a menacing, shifting indie rocker - or "The Rhythms of Waking and Sleeping" - a fascinating blend of atmosphere and abrasion - such intriguing and compelling listens. These four are definitely worth keeping an ear on as I imagine you'll be hearing much more about them soon.
Grey Sparkle Finnish Pig (MP3)