Laura Gibson, where have you been all my life? During a recent listen-to-my-inbox session Gibson’s new album La Grande came on and I was immediately spellbound. From the breaking gallop of the drum in the opening track “La Grande” through each of the subsequent tracks Gibson’s voice teases you to follow her into the world her fifth album neatly constructs. It’s that voice that stands as the focal point of the album – at times mournful and at others resplendently confident. On tracks such as “Crow/Swallow” and “Lion/Lamb” you can hear a blush of influence from Peggy Lee and Dusty Springfield which imparts a wonderful retro feel to the material.
The pace of the album is masterful, a great ebb and flow that makes you slow down and really appreciate the lyrics and how they’re being presented. While Gibson’s voice is the unquestionable core of the pieces the supporting percussion, guitars and strings flow around and through her arcs and plaines with just the right amount of presence in the mix. Each track is complete unto itself but the real glory of the full album is that they also weave together seamlessly. Get a copy of La Grande and prepared to get lost.
She’s about to embark on her US tour so check out the dates and get your tickets.
[MP3] La Grande
Cloud is the new “the” and sometimes it’s difficult to keep all of the new cloud bands straight so I was a little slow on listening to the stuff from Cloud Control. At some point over the last few weeks their new album Bliss Release come up and more than once I found myself checking on the source of what I was listening to. CC isn’t making anything really wild music but they’re well invested in playing cool retro neo-surf pop. It’s breezy with a fair touch of charming lyrics. The male-female harmonies tend towards the homey sweet end of the spectrum but not in an annoying way, it actually end up being rather soothing. Bliss Release is the first release for the Australian group and it’s definitely a strong showing out of the gate.
[MP3] Gold Canary
Miami’s Another New Republic (aka ANR) snuck up on me. They’re another group that initially I didn’t give enough of a listen to but stuck on my “to review” playlist long enough that they slowly began to grow into my consciousness. Now that I’ve given their newest album Stay Kids a few listens straight through I am embarrassed it took me this long. They call their music “apocalyptic synth-pop” which certainly touches on the weight of the material – this isn’t all fluffy dance music (although they have their moments) – it’s smart lyrics delivered with a well chosen variation of synths, drums and effects to lend the right mood. On the second trip through Stay Kids I definitely felt the comprehensive ebb and flow that it the mark of a well curated album. Now I just need to make sure to catch them the next time they pass through town.
[MP3] New Armor
Wounded Lion were one of the bands I had the absolute pleasure of discovering -and interviewing- at SXSW. These guys get on stage and let it it all go and magically it sounds really good. Well, not magically, Wounded Lion succeeds sonically because they don’t give a shit they just want to make music and have fun. Theirs is a loose sound with eager guitars and unpretentious vocals with a thumping soul of tasty brash cymbals. After seeing them live I find a lot to appreciate in their recordings that I might not have noticed just giving it a cursory listen. So,if you get the chance to catch them live DO IT. But, if you can’t see them live then check this out then listen to this.
[MP3] Creatures In A Cave
I’ll be honest this is a band that should have been posted long ago seeing as I first heard their stuff in late January but thankfully they have risen to the top of the massive pile of music I’m trying to make sorts of after not staying on top of email for a month. Giving them a refreshed listen I think it is their pure enthusiasm for the classic folk pop music they’re playing. Their new album Wholesome is an absolute pleasure to listen to, definitely caught myself tapping my pen in time with it while listening on my headphones today at work. There is still room for them to grow towards a more distinct Hands & Knees “sound” but they’ve proven they have the assets to work with.
[MP3] Close Your Eyes
It’s been a while since a rap album really grabbed my attention and Beans’ new album End It All not only grabbed me it never let me go. Each track has a new angle on inventive and awesome beat making. A member of the iconic Anti-Pop Consortium it’s not terribly surprising that he brings this degree of intelligence to this album. He pushes himself to explore new sounds both in transforming his usual delivery – weightier drawn out phrasing – as well as partnering with some other creative musical minds like TOBACCO, Four Tet and Son Lux. End It All proves Beans dexterity as a rapper and as a man willing to consider new angles.
[MP3] Mellow You Out
Moon Women are yet another Philly group quickly grabbing the attention of a wider audience. A group that started rather informally when the opportunity to play a irresistible gig arose the three figured they give it a go. Turns out they sounded really good. Now, with the polish of some practicing and gigging, the praise is coming in waves. Moon Women push the echo effects to a point only the experienced can reach without crumbing apart. It’s charged and gritty and is only going to get better. Get in early .
[MP3] Listen Closely
There is a level of cheekiness and experimentation found on each track of The Zookeepers new album Good Looking Out. There is a lot of sound piled into this record but the New England quartet holds off on mashing everything together and making it real loud like a lot of bands do these days. Instead, they nibble at synth pop, silly punkishness and really simple piano driven indie sounds. Gula Gula comes off all chill but they play around with it just enough to tease your ear. Lady Gaga is an ADD romp through sampling and hooks that plays a bit like a nervous breakdown, but in a good way. How do they pull all of this off without coming off as aimless goofs? They know music. They are comfortable enough to play around and adventure without getting lost. There is room to tighten up their sonic mission but as a way to get themselves out there Good Looking Out gives you a good sense of their skills.
It is with great embarrassment and even greater pleasure that I am just now posting anything on Pearl & The Beard. They’ve been making their way into my playlists for a while now and are just about to release God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson so I simply must bring you into the loop. The group has truly grown into a lush and nuanced indie folk group and this album shows the refinement and craftsmanship that has become the hallmark of a Family Records production. P&TB incorporates some traditional folk components like accordion, accapella chorus and simple string accompaniments with excellent results. When wrapped in their strong lyrical delivery each song achieves soul warming status even in the sadder songs. Pearl & The Beard has already come quite a way as artists and if God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson is any indicator the group’s evolution holds a lot of promise.
The Fools are a Brooklyn duo that, upon first listen, took me back to the early days of Righteous Babe Records, Lilith Fair and Tracy Chapman. When good strong female singers tapped a soulful vein but weren’t afraid to really rock out. Jen and Uchenna first met at Rutgers U but they didn’t start playing music together until they both moved to NY after college. With Jen on guitar and Uchenna on bass they’ve matured into quite the bluesy duo. It’s not terribly complicated just earthy and enjoyable. The duo currently gigs all over NY so if you’re in the area be sure to check out one of their shows.
This group is my new obsession. Everything about their high energy synth pop sits well with me. Its got the essential spaztic bump to get a dance party reved up and the kind of clean power vocals that you can’t help but jump in on the action. The Minneapolis act consists of Maggie Morrison, rocking the lead vocals and Grant Cutler, on the “beats.” Morrison has a direct line to the pop greats of the 80′s. Her vocals croon and sail over the dream electroscape created by Cutler’s instrumentals. If I were to actually reveal the number of times I’ve blasted Wild At Heart and danced around my apartment I’d be exposing a little to much of my crazy chic underbelly than is appropriate on this here blog. But, trust me, it’s a lot.
Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You… is the long awaited first full studio album from Brooklyn’s Mike Grubbs a.k.a. Wakey!Wakey! After cutting his teeth with a free covers album (something that I have parsed and spread through numerous mixes and playlists), a live album and an EP –not to mention a slew of gigs and a spot on One Tree Hill–Grubbs has really refined his sound achieving stellar status on my indie pop scale. Numerous times, while listening to the album, I found myself paused by his lyrical prowess. Often anchored by his piano playing on previous recordings the introduction of more complicated arrangements on AEIWISTLTISY only serve to build the emotion in each song. The Oh Song mans up with the addition of a burly male chorus while Take It Like A Man weaves in the shrill of the violin to push it off the starting block. It is a great “beginning” for Wakey!Wakey! one that is sure to be followed by even more touring so be sure to catch him when he pass through your surrounds.
Some folks with musical chops interpret the burden of such talent as a calling to fuss and refine until every element of their product is perfect. Tom McRae is no such artist. He is the kind of musical talent that takes great delight in the process; prefers to bask in the experimentation and possibility. On his fifth studio album Alphabet Of Hurricanes his product is the direct outcome of quite a bit of play and shaped by a lot a bit of craft. It’s a mixed bag — as one might expect — Me & Stetson representing his pop sensibilities whereas American Spirit is a little more alt country. Despite the scatter the assortment is enjoyable as a whole mostly due to the thread of joy in the creation that is found in every track.
Out Of The Wall
There is a steady cool to Fink’s music that plays off so cleanly you feel as though you’re listening to lead man Fin Greenall’s private musings. Without hiding behind all the wit and wile of many of today’s artists he plays it as it lays. Having spent a number of years as a DJ dabbling in trip hop and acid jazz it isn’t surprising his recent work tends towards the understated. With Fink he has been focusing on a slightly more traditional approach to songwriting. The spectacular Distance And Time has a folkier waft while last year’s Sort Of Revolution marks a happy medium between folk and acid jazz. The tracks maintain the cool Fink has come to be known for but there is an touch of soul that cannot be ignored. The title track from Sort Of Revolution spreads smooth crooning vocals over a minimal, but propelling, arrangement. The rest of the album plays out in a similarly chill manner making this the perfect soundtrack for your wind down time.
Sort Of Revolution
First, tricky riffs grab you. Then, horns swell around you and before you know it you’re full sucked into the funky sway of King Expressers. This Brooklyn group originally came together in Accra, Ghana and have drawn influence from soukouss – a melding of afro-pop and caribbean rhythms – to bring us this feel good brand of music. The smooth vocals roll over the up beat horns and dare you not to hit repeat. This is the kind of music you play to turn a sour day around.
Real True Story
In need of a little raspy southern dive bar rock? Then get a dose of State Champion. Wearing the whiskey dampened traits of classic alt country they fill Stale Champagne with tracks reflecting their gritty roots and proudly imperfect sound. The group’s southern fried enthusiasm marks every note on this record. Lyrically they do a fine job cutting a swath through expected territory; family, love & drinking. Building phrases like “tattoo the words forget her where my feather used to be,” that intrigue and drwan you in. I have a sense their live show wears much of the rowdiness captured on this homemade record and I hope to catch it soon. Until then I’ll be keeping Stale Champagne on my playlist.
Come See What I Have Done
The ukulele has been popping up in indie music with increasing frequency in the last year or so. Usually the tool of twee-ish cutie crooners wanting to up the plucky appeal of their songs. Galapaghost, the brainchild of Casey Chandler, is ukulele centric but more assertive than we’re accustomed to hearing. Don’t get me wrong, this is far from thrasher ukulele. The lyrics are sigh inducing and the arrangements plod along with just the right amount of quirk. Throughout Our Lost Generation Chandler’s voice is the factor that keeps Galapaghost away from sticky sweet territory. While in the higher ranges for a few measures he flexes some range which keeps the music grounded. You’re All I Need is prime fodder for a mixtape for your crush while Lost Generation may very well find itself in a sitcom montage. Great weekend listening for you.
You’re All I Need
Let’s Say We Did are definitely coming from rock and roll roots, mostly of the mid-seventies variety. On their new EP the Swedish group brings the clean lines characteristic of their retro inspiration into the now by fuzzing out the high end and pushing their bass to the front. This isn’t complicated music making and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I find it most enjoyable. Follow Me Down has enough going on instrumentally to make multiple listens reveal a little something new each time while the lyrics are simple enough to get caught in your head. Its a good start for this Swedish group and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
Follow Me Down
These boys gots lots of energy. The music that makes up their new release No Hope, No Future has the aggressive percussion and jangly guitars essential for good dancing music. Exploring the boundaries of a distinctly indie punk tradition Good Shoes dabbles in the disco realm on Under Control and slows things down to indie pop ballad range for City By The Sea. The arrangement on City By The Sea is deceptively delicate, the product of a group applying an impressive degree of intention to their work. Each track has something to offer and when listened to (and considered) as a whole further depths are revealed. I will admit I am fully addicted to this album and really hope a trip to the US is in store because the live show has got to be incredible.
We Are The Willows
It takes a man dedicated to his art to cast aside social norms, embrace this childlike voice and see what it can do. Peter Miller is such a man. First begun as a side project (Miller is the front man of Red Fox Grey Fox it now holds its own very distinct place in the musical goings on. Miller captured sounds from all over the Twin Cities; the whoosh of the light rail, birds chirping, etc. Matched with his tender and reflective lyrics to create an album that is really a aural tour through his world. Miller’s voice is unique (just listen to it and you’ll know what I mean) and throughout A Collection Of Sounds And Something Like The Plague it makes pleas, confessions and wails that highlight its intricate potential. I really cannot wait to see We Are The Willows live now that I have had the album on reply pretty consistently for the last two weeks. I sense there are even greater depths to them live.
A Funeral Dressed As A Birthday
This group is tight and delightful and fun and needs to start putting out more material stat. Fronted by a chap named Paul (who’s from Arkansas btw) Motorbikes isn’t working to push new sonic horizons rather to create delectably smart tunes. Each a nice little package that sits well in your ear but also offers space for your mind to wander. They have one album to get you started but I’d like to politely request another soon.
I had the real pleasure to catch the fellas of Sunset a few weeks back at the Weather Vane Music fundraiser. While there was already an undeniable good vibe humming through Johnny Brenda’s that night these guys brought their own up tempo good times. There are a whole mess of bands bringing back the classic 70′s rock sound with varying degrees of success. When it comes to their chilled out instrumental riffs Sunset places themselves near the front of the retro pack. They carve out some distinction with well written and more modernly indie lyrics and vocal performance. Playing with echoey effects at times and dabbling in breathy ethereal delivery at others. I think we shall be hearing a lot more for this Austin band in the tens.