VOTD: Bon Iver – Skinny Love

I’ve been covering a lot of Justin Vernon lately, but it’s only because he is THAT good. No, he is not the best singer or guitar player, but he conveys torrents of emotion with each note he croons in his unmistakable falsetto. Take this impromptu live performance on what looks like someones back porch: shown from the view of the artist, it was an incredible way to capture this performance; the emotional look on the faces of the fans in attendance is apparent. Take a look.

Thanks to my buddy Joey Bags for sending me the link.

– Ant

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Dark Was The Night: Beautiful Compilation For A Cause

dark-was-the-nightIn what is looking like comprehensive ‘who’s who’ of indie-rock-pop artists of this decade, Dark Was The Night was finally released last week. Does it live up to the massive hype it has garnered on NPR and oh so many blogs the past couple months? A very confident YES! What’s even better is that it’s for a very good cause. The compilation includes tracks from the likes of Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Feist, Ben Gibbard, The National, Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, Beach House, and the ridiculous thing, there is more. I put one of the standout tracks below; a brand new song from Sufjan is always welcome.

Sufjan Stevens – You Are The Blood

I already bought my 3 LP copy, get out there and do it.

– Ant

Listen Up! New Music…

Finally. I know you have been waiting: My first installment of new music recommendations for 2009. In short, it’s been a pretty good start.

Cotton Jones – Paranoid Cocoon

cjAfter some success with former band Page France, Michael Nau decided to go solo to slow things down a bit. His offerings with Cotton Jones have a simple, folky psychedelia that seems to be so palatable these days. I was trying to describe this band to one of my friends, and the first thing that came to mind was, think: Devendra Banhart without all the quirky vocal meanderings. Essientally, Devendra Banhart lite. But then enter Whitney McGraw, the perfect sweet voice to counter Nau’s low and breathy croon. Think 60-70’s pop here; complete with melodic “whoa’s” and “oh’s”, some funky or acoustic guitar, shaking bells, and whistling. This album was a great out-of-no-where surprise for me. Check out the track “Gotta Cheer Up“, recently getting the single treatment on NPR and college radio.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – S/T

the-pains-of-being-pure-at-heartI will be frank. You have heard this before. In the 60’s & 70’s with The Velvet Underground, and again, probably more so, in the 80’s with My Bloody Valentine. There have been so many bands that TRIED to recreate the magic of these influential bands, but ultimately fail and fade into obscurity. We have heard these sounds and chord progressions before, but damned if they aren’t done perfectly, and properly pay homage as well as adding their own personality. With drenched guitars, driving percussion, and understated vocals,  you will feel like you’re wearing your members only jacket while driving your Nissan Bluebird to jazzercize. Listen to their catchy tune “Young Adult Friction” here.

Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP

bon_iver-blood_bank_bFour new songs from some outtakes of his album For Emma, Forever Ago, the new EP covers mostly the same ground, but adding some electric guitar and vocoder to the mix. A lot of people loath the latter, but it actually works on the EP closer “Woods”, a haunting song about seclusion and needing a break from it all. The most important and impressive track is “Blood Bank“, a musically simple song that focuses on the melody and the message (sound familiar?). When “Beach Baby” comes in with the traditional Hawaiian steel guitar solo, you can’t help but squeeze out a wry smirk. Vernon took some chances with these songs, but they pay off, and that’s what keeps me anticipating a new LP.

More to come when I get another couple minutes!

– Ant

Mickey Rourke Snubbed By The Academy

rourke1_wideweb__470x3210I don’t think this is really a big surprise, but the Academy has once again given the best actor award to push an agenda (and to think otherwise would be pretty ignorant). Sure, Harvey Milk, as a figure, meant a lot for the gay rights movement, but really? Sean Penn for best actor? You ask the average movie-going populous (who keeps up with film), and everyone thought Mickey Rourke was a shoe-in for best actor. The leathery-faced warrior deserved the golden bald man for portraying himself Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler. God help you if you don’t have the heart to route for Rourke’s comeback. A classic story (through both life and film): a fallen man, only to rise up again. The Wrestler couldn’t have come at a better time for Rourke. After years of flops, including cinema and a boxing “career”, you couldn’t help but route for him. It’s a shame the Academy couldn’t recognize the crowning acheivment of one of the best acting, and, well, human come-backs of all time. I guess that is the story of Rourke’s life though: “I don’t hear as good as I used to, and I ain’t as pretty as I used to be. But I’m still here – I’m the Ram.”

Now, if they only gave Oscars for performances instead of pushing a cause.

-Ant

VOTD: Andrew Bird – Why?

Witnessing one of the more affected performances I have ever seen, Andrew Bird awed me with his live rendition of “Why?” at the Plaza Theater here in Orlando a couple weeks ago.  A blues song on the violin? Craziness. If you have not had the pleasure of seeing him live, his footwork with the use of pedals create the backbone of the songs, creating loops of multiple layers and riffing over top of them. Ridiculous musicianry. If he is coming to your city, you NEED to see this man live.

-Ant

What I’m Watching…

Getting back into the swing of things here, finally going to start posting regularly (I promise). I have a lot of back-logged material I want need to share with you! Anyhow, sorry for the absence, and I want to get back to a regular feature: what I’ll be tuning into this week.

daniel-faraday_l1LOST. By far the best series on television right now, LOST is consistently baffling and captivating every week. How did Locke die? Just what in THE hell is the smoke monster? There are a lot of questions gone unanswered, but we are getting a lot of answers we didn’t even know the questions to. Take Daniel Faraday, probably the most interesting charcter on the show at this point, how exactly is he traveling through time? As the series’ end is nearly in sight, we are sure to be getting the answers we have so diligently been seeking for the past 5 years. Check out the talk-back on Ain’t It Cool News for some interesting points/theories about the show. One theory being about the polar bears: perhaps they were used/trained to move the big time-shifting frozen donkey wheel, as evidence colder climate underground and by the remains of a Dharma polar bear being found in the desert. Too many theories to go into; do you have your own?

strike-conan-obrien_lLate Night with Conan O’Brien. Having practically grown up watching our dear Consey in New York, it will definitely be sad to see him go, especially to soul-sucking Los Angeles. This is the last week of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, so it’s a bit sentimental. Hopefully when he takes over the Late Show he won’t lose too much of the goofy gags and childish meanderings we have come to know and love. Like the dynamite chemistry between Conan and Max, the masturbating bear and vomiting Kermit the frog, and the absolute bearded hilarity that ensued during the writers strike. OK, I know the show isn’t the most high-brow of entertainment, but it encompassed my young adult life, and Conan’s self-awareness was so refreshing in the realm of stuck-up entertainers. Be sure to watch the final show this Friday, 2/20, with the final Late Night musical performance by The White Stripes! Good luck in L.A. Cone-zone! Don’t change too much!

-Ant

My Year In Lists: Music of 2008: Top 10

After much thought and deliberation (and changing the order about 10 times an hour), here it is: My top 10 albums of 2008:

10. Ane Brun – Changing of the Seasons


ane-brun
Had the next 9 albums not been released, my love affair with Ane Brun would be all the more evident. A voice reminiscent of Dolly Parton, mixed with the indie and acoustic sensibilities of Feist and Cat Power, Ane (pronounced Ah-na) stirs with emotion and devastation. The culmination of these being the title track, “Changing of the Seasons”, about a man who cannot commit, needing to move on to his next conquest. Although, she manages to sneak in a semi-happy ending. Understanding the common plight of unfound love, her afflicted tone, and fairytale acoustic and string arangements ultimitely leave you with a little hope, even if hope is all you can hope for.

9. Headlights – Some Racing, Some Stopping


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Albums released early in the year often get lost in the mix, forgotten about, but Headlights became my musical pallet cleanser throughout the year. Often overwhelmed with the sheer amount of music released during the year, and sifting through some drudge, Headlights were always there to refresh with their sincere indie pop. They come across like Arcade Fire-light, but that is a genuine compliment. This is ever the most evident on the track “School Boys”, with the driving riff is never compromised through the song’s entirety. Even when the pace slows on the title track “Some Racing, Some Stopping”, a longing heart’s memoir set to a sweet and simple synth track, they still seem to grab your attention. A promising sophomore effort.

8. Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us


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I am unapologetic while continuing down the woman-fronted path this top 10 is taking. Up until now, Mates of State have been known for their weaving husband and wife vocals and jumpy organ. Re-arrange themselves they have, to an extent; absent is the organ, but the dual vocals remain. Call them tween-pop, call them cutesy, call them guilty-pleasure status worthy, but I say they have released one of the perfect pop albums of the last 5 years. This album is full of sing-a-long choruses, hooks galore, and that makes every song as memorable as the last.

7. She & Him – Volume One


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This should not have worked. Simply stated, matter of fact. Comprised of M. Ward, acclaimed indie singer-songwriter, and Zooey Deschanel, an acclaimed actress with no previous musical pedigree. An actress turned singer almost never works (i.e. Lindsey Lohan, the only example needed), but there is such an earnest tone to Zooey’s voice; a breathy, quirky, and rich alto. Surprisingly, she wrote 9 of the 13 songs on the album all by her lonesome; apparently she has been a bedroom-only musician for many years, penning tracks that only she and close friends and family have heard until now. M. Ward provides his musical prowess, but this is the Zooey Deschanel show, with Mr. Ward only lending his vocals to a couple tracks, including the creepily solemn cover of The Miracles’ “You Really Got A Hold On Me.” Already insinuating another record collaboration by naming the record Volume One, Volume Two is eagerly awaited.

6. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs


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My love affair with Death Cab is no secret, but I will be the first to say, after the 2005 release of the tired Plans, though considered their most accessible album, the band needed a shake up. We received it this year with the release of Narrow Stairs, critically acclaimed, and critically dubbed: dark. I have always hated that term, but it fits, and musically and lyrically. Gibbard sounds like a man with a chip on his shoulder in the opener “Bixby Canyon Bridge”, who figures out after his excursion that he is “No closer to any kind of truth.” The album also produced some of my favorite Death Cab songs ever penned: the settling in “Cath…”, the longing in “Your New Twin Sized Bed”, and the burden of over-thinking in “Long Division.”

5. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular


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There seems to be a theme with a third of my top 10, they came out of nowhere. Like Vampire Weekend, another young band to come out of New York, they offer fresh takes on indie pop and adding the rock stardom (i.e. taking themselves too seriously, drugs,trippy music videos) that has been missing from music, almost Rolling Stones-esque (in attitude, mind you). The album begins with the 20-something anthem “Time To Pretend”, weary of living a life of boredom and mediocrity in the form of a morning commute to a desk job, they dream of becoming rock stars. How fitting. Some later songs delve into psychedelia, but are fun, and how can we forget the lyric of the year within the disco-era “Electric Feel”:
“Said oh, girl
Shock me like an electric eel
Baby girl
Turn me on with your electric feel.”

4. Vampire Weekend – S/T


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What can you say about four Ivy league chaps from New York that hasn’t already been said. Some consider them over-rated, over-hyped preppy brats, but consider this, they made an album that I came back to throughout the year. Almost every song has a memorable line, hook, or chorus; what else would you want from fresh indie pop? Employing the use of traditional African drum beats, some call it a gimmick, but it adds something unorthodox; playfulness that could only match their ridiculous moniker. Who knows if this was beginners luck, we may just have a new heir to the yacht rock of the 80’s. I will embrace it, after all, we will know if it was fluke soon enough.

3. The Botticellis – Old Home Movies


the-botticellis
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, The Botticellis were my biggest surprise of the year. I think they were vastly overlooked even in the prided indie circles, and if more people had actually heard this album, it would be in a lot of year-end lists. An amalgam of 60’s surf pop, and dreamy chamber pop, they will reel you in with their charming melodies, meticulous percussion, and honest hooks. A perfect debut for a band that will have many people saying in 2009, “How did I miss that?”

2. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago


bon_iver-for_emma_forever_ago-new
If Sigur Ros’ sound is grandiose, Bon Iver is the antithesis. We are all familiar with the story by now, Justin Vernon became a hermit in a woody cabin after a bad break-up, pouring those emotions into this stripped-down opus. Knowing this back-story makes each song hit even harder. I remember when I first heard this album, how distinct his voice was, how you could hear the pain in his wavy warble. I can always gauge the strength of art (music, film, physical) by its ability to change your mood. Justin’s transparent lyrics are inherently angry and sad. The erratic percussion at the end of “The Wolves” is the biggest tell, while Justin sings “Someday my pain, someday my pain will mark you.” This album will mark you.

1. Sigur Ros – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust


sigur-ros
Before I sat down to write this list, I agonized about what should be my number one, but once I started binge listening to my top picks, it became as clear as waking up this morning. The truth is, I have always been an observer of obsession with Sigur Ros; they created beautiful music while lyrically being non-existent. Once I realized that his voice is used much more like another instrument in the mix, combined with emotions invoked by merely sitting down and giving a couple focused listens to this record, I finally “got” Sigur Ros. This is a MASSIVE record. With orchestral elements, driving rhythms, and the distinctive vocal croon in the indiscernible “hopelandic” language (as well as their first song in English), I could not deny that Sigur Ros had created a masterpiece. Sit down, and immerse yourself in this album.

Well, there you have it! Gripes? Complaints? Albums that were grossly overlooked? Hit the replies. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

-Ant