Thursday, December 3, 2009

Three for...Thursday: Mayer Hawthorne, Apse, The Sun

Mayer Hawthorne -

A white, thirty year-old soul singer and DJ from LA, Mayer Hawthorne (born Andrew Mayer Cohen) would seem to be an unlikely pick to record one of my new favorite debut albums, but the (almost) one-man band has proved himself a genuine talent with his recently released first effort, A Strange Arrangement. Cohen's croon has drawn comparisons to the like of Smokey Robinson (among others), which is no small compliment, and throughout this debut he uses his smooth tenor to nail a variety of classic pop and R&B styles, which he recorded primarily by himself. On songs like the album's title track and the lonely "I Wish it Would Rain," Cohen channels a smooth, sultry soul sound, while elsewhere he gets funkier with the falsetto-laden "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" and the jazzy "Maybe So, Maybe No." My personal favorites are the Supremes-meets-Temptations cuts like "Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'" and "One Track Mind," but most everything on A Strange Arrangement is not only a fun tribute to the past, but a unique modern twist on those golden oldies that's fresh and inspired.

Maybe So, Maybe No (MP3 via Rhythm Incursions)


Apse -

Apse is a difficult band to keep track of. Over the last few years, the group has undergone continual lineup changes and major stylistic shifts, staying almost deliberately (it would seem) under the radar. I only recently discovered the band with the release of their second major album, Climb Up, the band's most rock-oriented and accessible effort to date and one that has made quite an impression on me. Where the music used to be drowned in distortion or obscured with hazy atmospherics, its parts are now more distinct and noticeable, with understandable lyrics and more traditional song structures, though the band continues their penchant for dark, haunting instrumental textures and themes. The band's unique brand of eerie, psychedelic rock ranges from bombastic and strange ("The Age") to dark and edgy ("Blown Doors"), captivating at each turn with a mix of organic and digital elements blended seamlessly. Due to the band's chosen palette, Climb Up can at first seem dense and somewhat homogeneous, but each listen reveals more than the last, including standouts like the warm, swirling "In Gold," the appropriately-titled "The Whip," and the slightly Radiohead-esque "The Return."

Watch the gorgeous video for "3.1" at Stereogum


The Sun -

Ohioans The Sun have recently released a new album entitled Don't Let Your Baby Have All the Fun, a fun-loving pop rock record and the band's first since their 2005 effort on Warner Bros. This time around, the band has opted for a decidedly different approach than the major label strategy - they're giving the record away. They are not, of course, the first band to put their music online for free download, but when the tunes are this good, it seems all the more impressive and notable. The new album, recorded with help from Spoon producer Mike McCarthy (whose influence is apparent), is sharp, energetic, and instantly catchy - yielding some great tunes like the shuffling mid-tempo "Special Day," the driving messy "Do the Sucker," and skittering, electronic "Alien." With not a wasted moment on the record's ten brief tracks, Don't Let Your Baby Have All the Fun definitely defies the idea that you get what you pay for. If, for some reason, you haven't already, go download the album or at least take a minute to check out the songs available below. The Sun deserve your attention not just for their generosity, but for the quality of music they create.

So Long, Sundays (MP3)

In Perfect Time (MP3)