Tag Archives: Listen Up!

Listen Up! New Music 3/3…

A couple new albums and a new discovery…

The Whitest Boy Alive – Rules

the_whitest_boy_alive-rules_album_coverAfter much success with his hometown band Kings of Convenience, Erlend Oye broke away from the simplistic pop for the more dance oriented The Whitest Boy Alive (on the short list for greatest band names of the decade). Flat out, this is fun indie dance hall music. The track “1517” starts out with a familiar keyboard/bass line, one that could be tracked to Daft Punk’s “Better Faster Stronger”. If Daft Punk traded in their turn tables and vocal effects for instruments and a softer melodic tone, you have The Whitest Boy Alive. Every track has a similar tone: an almost jazzy quick note guitar riff matched with a funky disco bass-line; it’s undeniably catchy and fun. They aren’t breaking any new ground, but if this doesn’t get your feet moving and smiling, you need to check your circuitry. The album releases 3/31.

Heartless Bastards – The Mountain

heartless-bastards-the-mountain-cd-cover-album-artSounding like a dirty indie country version of Cat Power with a healthy  mix of Jenny Lewis and Jeff Buckley (yea, whoa), Heartless Bastards‘ 3rd album has been viewed as somewhat of a departure. The band started as a 3 piece, and has added a memeber for the album, but the only remaining original member is Erika Wennerstrom. She knows how to belt it out with the best of them, showing little restraint on the album opener and title track “The Mountain“. Although, one of the best songs on the album comes when they slow it down and add some banjo and violin, “Had To Go”.  They have a real hodge-podge of influences, which is what makes them so interesting and exciting to listen to.

Empire of the Sun – Walking On A Dream

songoftheday-walking_on_a_dream_coverThe two Aussie ‘gents that formed Empire of the Sun have made a bigger splash with their new “side project” than either of their individual efforts (The Sleepy Jackson & Pnau, never heard of them? Yeeea, don’t feel bad). Often noted as being a bit pretentious (just look at that album cover, eek!), you can’t deny their ability to craft an uber catchy pop song. The obvious comparison to MGMT is apparent while hearing the first couple bars of the title song “Walking On A Dream“. The album as a whole is not built as strong as that single, it becomes convoluted with a few throw-aways, of which the album could have done without. The keepers would have probably made a solid EP, but it still remains a good debut.

– Ant

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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

Listen Up!

First off, I must apologize for not updating the blog with my own original commentary in quite some time. That being said, let’s get into it!

The Felice Brothers self-titled album is available now.

The Felice Brothers self-titled album is out now.

The Felice Brothers, mountain men from upstate New York, are part of the new wave of Americana/folk revival that is happening around the country. These three brothers, along with their once traveling dice gambler, now bass player, known simply as Christmas, set out to bring back the raucous deep and dirty Americana that makes you feel as though you are in a deep south saloon sippin’ on some moonshine, tapping your spurs to every wood-creaking, washboard-raking sound. You will hear many influences, most notably their lead singer, Simone, who sounds Bob Dylan-esque, but with actual harmony (don’t chastise me). Fresh off seeing them at the Anti-Pop Music Festival here in Orlando, I will tell you, as good as this album is, their live show is what sets them apart from the rest. I was so impressed with these ‘gents, they actually out-performed and had the crowd more involved than the well respected and much more widely known Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. (Check out their impressive performance below.)

lakeLAKE are an interesting collective. Comprised of up to nine people at any time, each of which are accomplished musicians with various solo albums attributed to each. Their new album, Oh The Places We’ll Go, clocks in at just under 28 minutes, but it leaves its catchy impression, seemingly begging to be listened to again immediately after completion. Sounding at times like a group of friends that found some of their parents old instruments and recording equipment, this album is an ode to 60’s dream-pop. The album is loose, but everything fits into place, and not a second is wasted, creating 2-3 minutes of pure pop prowess at a time, rather than offering some of the meandering dreamy landscapes like their previous self-titled album. You will find yourself coming back to this time and again.

alpinismsAfter both Ben Curtis’ and the Deheza sister’s respective bands broke up, they came together to form School of Seven Bells, actually becoming greater than the sum of their original parts. Taking their name from a notorious pickpocketing school in Colombia (wait, what?), SoSB has an infectious brand of electro-dream pop, wandering through bassy trip-hop and even Frou Frou territory. The twin sister lead singers range from tribal vocal musings to traditional Indian vocals (like the country, not the oppressed original American inhabitants), all the while simultaneously provoking thought and unleashing their undeniable charm and grace. That’s not even mentioning the music; Ben’s beats are meticulous, providing the sisters with a beautiful pallet of sound-scape to craft this masterpiece of dream-pop. Their seemingly come-out-of-nowhere album Alpinisms is creating quite the buzz, and rightly so; the album will most definitely make my top 20 of ’08.

The Felice Brothers – Whiskey In My Whiskey (Live)…

There you have it, quite the range of musical sensibilities this week! Thoughts?

-Ant

Listen Up!

Built To Spill are one of my favorite bands. That being said, listening to their discography, you can’t help but see how they have influenced so many bands of this generation: Band Of Horses, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab For Cutie, and Pedro The Lion, to name a few. Full of memorable riffs, bass grooves, and toe-tapping beats, Built To Spill are the epitome of consistency. There is not one of their albums that is not enjoyable if not fantastic. They are known for their live show, which is truly a showcase for their technical musical abilities. I usually nominate an album per band featured in every edition, but choosing one would be a slight of hand.

My Morning Jacket on tour now.

My Morning Jacket are on tour now.

LIVE: Speaking of My Morning Jacket… Having seen them live on Saturday night at the House of Blues right here in sunny rainy Orlando, FL, I can honestly say, it ranks with the best shows I have had the pleasure to see. I always say, a concert should not just be a band up there playing their songs verbatim, I could do that in my car, they should add something new, show their musical prowess. After all, you are putting on a SHOW. MMJ are the quintessential concert band, going off on 5-10 minute guitar solo tangents, adding entirely new portions to a song, and even mixing songs together. True amazement was awarded when they started playing “Highly Suspicious”, my least favorite MMJ song of all time (bordering hate). How they made that song enjoyable is a true testament to their live presence. 2 sets and 2 1/2 hours later, it was a night I will always remember.

The Spring Standards are brand new to the music scene, and according to their myspace, not even signed to a label yet. To be honest, I saw them on Conan O’Brien (see it below) over the weekend, and let’s just say, I was impressed. For an unsigned band that JUST released their debut EP, No One Will Know, recently performing on Conan as well as a video for Paste Magazine, that is pretty impressive. They bring an onslaught of melody and mixed vocals, not to mention their live presence; each member sings, plays their instrument, and also play a piece of percussion all at the same time. Fun indie pop for the almost ending summer.

– Ant

Listen Up!

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins in stores 9/9/08.

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins in stores 9/9/08.

Okkervil River has been busy; with three albums in the last four years, you may think there has to be a drop in quality, but alas, they deliver the goods again on their new album, The Stand Ins. I will not waste any of my trademark alliteration and clever quips on this modest description (hint: full album review soon), but do not expect another Black Sheep Boy, they bring more of the pseudo upbeat alt-country/rock of last years effort, The Stage Names, almost serving as an extension. Brash and brutally honest lyrics galore. Perhaps we can cross our fingers for a new 2009 release.

Brendan Canning - Something For All Of Us... is available now.

BSS Presents: Brendan Canning - Something For All Of Us... is available now.

Broken Social Scene is an oddity. They have had more branch-off solo albums than the Wu-Tang Clan. OK, we won’t be ridiculous, but the release of BSS Presents: Brendan Canning’s Something For All Of Us… marks the third album in two years released by one of the super-groups masterminds (see also: BSS Presents: Keven Drew – Spirit If…, also recommended, also loving the use of “…”, and breakout alum Feist – The Reminder). Brendan does not stray from what he knows, and you can expect more of the arrangements you would hear from a normal any BSS release. Now if only we could get a proper follow-up to BSS’ self-titled 2005 masterpiece.

The Avett Brothers - The Second Gleam EP is out now.

The Avett Brothers - The Second Gleam EP is out now.

Never being one for conventionalism, I am throwing in The Avett Brothers for the second time in this weeks Listen Up! They released The Second Gleam EP somewhat under the radar, with the brothers new album soon on the horizon. It is a stripped effort, most likely some B-sides from their critically acclaimed 2007 album Emotionalism. All of the songs here contain simple guitar/banjo and vocals only, beautiful ditties about lost childhood, murder of a loved one, and unbridled love (you know, the usual). Following these ‘gents has been a fantastic ride, to see how much they have grown since their humble beginnings; they have really found their stride.

– Ant

[Listen Up! is a weekly feature.]

Listen Up!

New edition of our weekly spin-list…

Headlights new album "Some Racing, Some Stopping"

Headlights new album "Some Racing, Some Stopping"

Headlights new album, “Some Racing, Some Stopping”, has been a morning wake-up album for me since it was released. Their sweet fairytale-like echoing dual vocals will instantly put you in a good mood. If I could compare them to anyone, they would be a lighter (lyrically), more accessible version of Arcade Fire (driving danceable drum beats and busty bass bravado). They don’t really bring anything new to the musical world, but what they lack in creating a genre of their own, they make up for in crafting fun catchy pop songs.

“Wouldn’t it be sorta strange if we could hear our hearts all beating at once? Some racing, some stopping, some skipping and dropping while we’re listening. And the faces wouldn’t matter ’cause we’d know it when it pattered.” – from the title track ‘Some Racing, Some Stopping’

Hoots & Hellmouth - S/T

Hoots & Hellmouth - S/T

Hoots & Hellmouth are somewhat of an anomaly, surviving merely on word of mouth. Their brand of gallivanting gospel is gaining them a reputation from their shows; impromptu audience participation (inviting the whole crowd on stage at once for a sing-along) and improvising when their drummer was feeling a bit under the weather (buying a large piece of wooden board before the show and covering it with tambourines to create a stomping ground of makeshift percussion). Of course, I haven’t been able to see them, but by word of mouth, they are becoming an old standby in my collection. If you would love a dose of good old fashion Americana, give these gent’s a listen. The track “Home In A Boxcar” makes me want to go down to the local saloon and sip on a dirty whiskey sarsaparilla.

Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us

Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us

I guess there is a bit of a mini-theme here, I have been on a female vocal jaunt as of late (so sue me). Mates of State have always been known for their husband/wife dual intertwining vocals and punchy use of the organ. You could almost come to expect a great album from them, but more of the same, not really bringing in many new ideas. “Re-Arrange Us”, well, it re-arranges them. Gone is the organ (sure to upset many longstanding fans), but here to stay is crafty song-writing and a focus on the female lead, with hubby taking a backseat most of the time. They really flaunt their pop music prowess, creating melodies that stick in your head for days (good luck getting “Now” out of your head).

Honorable mentions: Built To Spill, Delta Spirit, Drive-By Truckers, and Ryan Adams.

[Look for a new “Listen Up!” every weekend.]

Listen Up! (Week 1)…

Kicking off our weekly spin list; we will let you know what albums have been getting the most plays from us this week. Click album covers for some tasty music…

Sigur Rós - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

Sigur Rós - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

Icelandic dream-pop collective Sigur Ros has been garnering a lot of attention this week. Known for their dreamy landscapes and lush music arrangements, this is pretty much the perfect album for a rainy afternoon.

Dr. Dog - Fate

Dr. Dog - Fate

Dr. Dog has creeped right into my favorites, which is a feet in and of itself. These guys need your attention. Melding feelings of nostalgia and swank, Dr. Dog have made an album that will be in many year end lists. An album for a joy ride. (Look for a full review very soon)
Fleet Foxes - S/T

Fleet Foxes - S/T

The Fleet Foxes seemingly came out of no where, with their high octave vocals and penchant for Beach Boy’s-esque harmonies. I have found myself coming back to this again and again. They even inspire artists.

The Botticellis - Old Home Movies

The Botticellis - Old Home Movies

Not many people know about this band yet, and that is quite a shame; they are on my short list for album of the year. The sweet morning melodies, the knack for harmony, and the ability to just put a smile on your face.

[That’s all for this weeks edition. Check back every weekend for a new ‘Listen Up!’.]