Semi-Sweet Acoustic Chocolate

I've been listening to a bunch of obscure but provocative acoustic music recently. Stuff that doesn't really deserve its own post or even a spot in the normal assignments per se, but I felt should be heard. Thanks to Said the Gramophone for the heads up on at least two of them over the last few weeks.

Timber - Criminals - beautiful guitar melody and bonus points for hot-sounding female backup singer. [from The New Gentleman's Shuffle|buy]
Sleeping States - Don't Make Me Over - This song really starts to get great around 1:03 with a changed melody and weird backwards-accordion-sounding effect. And then some weird clicking and squeaking? Then more melody changes! and then and then! If you've made it this far, congrats. [from Distances Are Great|buy]
Sounds Like Fall - St. Majella - Definitely the most straightforward of the collection. Nice slide guitarwork, a decidedly Pete Yorn-ish mood, and a strong melody propel this song to being a worthy repeat. [from The Wolf is at the Door|buy]
Samamidon - Falsehearted Chicken - My spirits are lifted by this half-goofy banjo pickin' ode to chicken. Trust me, it'll make you smile a little. As might this video below. [from But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted (out Feb 20th)|info]


Kid Jonny Lang

Apparently Jonny Lang released a gospel-influenced blues record in 2006 that I never heard a lick of. In fact, I haven't heard much from the boy wonder since I saw him headline the Portland Blues Festival almost 3 years ago. He opened with "Long Time Coming" to a frenzied crowd in Waterfront Park of easily more than 40,000. I had fought my way to the very front. Long story short, he completely ruled. 21 at the time, his voice and confidence was very much those of a grizzled veteran. Of course, when you release your first record at 14 and your first national tour is opening for B.B. King, I'd imagine you'd grow up pretty fast.

Long Time Coming
[from Long Time Coming|buy]
Breakin' Me
[from Wander This World|buy]


Listening Assignments 1.29.07

1. Longpigs - On and On - Welcome back to 1996, though you probably don't remember this song because it was on and off the radio in a matter of weeks, I believe. Anyway, this is probably one of my favorite songs of the era. It's like Oasis, but good. hahahahahaha. Don't mind me. [from THE SUN iS OfTEN oUT|buy]

2. Sondre Lerche - After All - I wonder if Sondre speaks English around his native country of Norway. His English is impeccable as is his grasp on the concept of writing a delicious pop song, be it in the vain of rock, jazz (last year's Duper Sessions), or folkishness. This is just plucky enough to be interesting, casual without sounding lazy. It's just nice, you know? [from Phantom Punch (out Feb 6th)|buy]

3. Rob Crow - Up - Do you recognize this guitar tone by now? I love that I could hear this guitar alongside 100 guitars and know where Rob was. I haven't heard a song longer than 3 minutes from his new album, but his songwriting is concentrated to the bone, focusing on the hook and the feel. [from Living Well|buy]

4. The Frames - The Cost - This song kills me. It just smolders in my head, the beautifully heavy guitar tone, the slow tap tap tap of the hi-hats and sparse snare, the climactic bridge. This song is just mournfully huge. [from The Cost (out Feb 20th)|buy]


The Dears, Defenders of the Universe

With a nondescript name like The Dears, it's fairly easy to float under the radar. Not that this Montreal band has ("They are determined to console underdogs and befriend the alienated" -New York Times, "When the band shines, it reaches stunning heights." -Spin). Currently on tour with the fantastically complimentary Annuals, the Dears are just pushing their way further into the psyche of the intelligent indie-rock listener. It'd be depressing if it weren't so awesome, honestly.

You and I are a Gang of Losers (highly recommended)
Hate then Love
[from Gang of Losers|buy]
Who Are You, Defenders of the Universe?
[from No Cities Left|buy]


New Mew? Do.

Dreamy thuderstorm pop, anyone? Denmark's Mew has been moving upwards in the world of indie press over the last few years, dropping power-pop singles like they're hot. And because most of their material hasn't (until the last year) been released stateside, they haven't had to release a new record since early 2005. Last year's album And the Glass Handed Kites was actually a 2005 release. Likewise, Frengers (just released Jan 23) was actually released abroad in 2003. Still, this is the Mew I like the most: arena-like yet vulnerable. We'll probably have to wait til '07 for truly new Mew, but until then if this is new to you, it's new enough to suffice.

Am I Wry? No.
[from Frengers|buy]


Georgie James

Hey you. Yes, you over there. I have a very good feeling about this. I think if you click "Need Your Needs" below, you'll be hooked like a marlin on a line. Georgie James is the brainchild of former Q and Not U drummer John Davis and the formerly solo Laura Burhenn. She sounds like another in the growing line of fantastic female singers in the general mold of Leslie Feist, Amy Milian, and Emily Haines. She mans the Fender Rhodes while Mr. Davis drifts between drums, electric guitar and bass. The result is a hip and intelligent pop sound you're going to have a hard time not listening to. Add the upcoming full-length to the growing list of anticipated releases of 2007 for me. Enjoy.

Need Your Needs
Cake Parade
[from Need Your Needs EP|buy]


Lovedrug = Viagra + Zoloft?

Guns don't kill people; Lovedrug kills people. After a rollercoaster major label ride on Columbia (without ever releasing a CD), the Ohio quartet is back on cozy Militia Group for their follow-up to 2005's Pretend You're Alive. The new record Everything Starts Where It Ends is due out March 6th and coincides with a huge national tour alongside Plain White T's. Lovedrug has had a profound effect on my career as a music listener, bringing a near-perfect blend of epic rock with just enough darkness and melancholy to cut me deep, but not all the way through. Combining the arena rock grandeur of Queen with the melodic leanings of Sunny Day Real Estate and the distorted pop of Muse, Lovedrug inoculates early and has a lingering effect of euphoria. This record is easily in my top 5 most anticipated releases of 2007. You can pre-order at the Militia Group for $7.50 which is totally absurd. Make it happen if you like this.

Happy Apple Poison
Doomsday & Echo
Casino Clouds
[from Everything Starts Where it Ends|pre-order for only $7.50!]
Heart-Shaped Box (Nirvana Cover)
[from Everything Starts...tour EP]

09-Apr Orlando, FL @ The Social
11-Apr Jacksonville, FL @ Freebird Live
12-Apr Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall
13-Apr Norfolk, VA @ The Norva
14-Apr Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club


The Shins will change your life.

I've been awaiting this day for months. Today, I get to blog about the Shins' new record Wincing the Night Away, which is finally out on Subpop Records. Natalie Portman is finally more Nostradamus than Pat Robertson with her life-changing prediction from Garden State. I half-disagreed back then, I fully agree now. This record surpasses huge expectations, which almost never happens. It's accessible without being derivative. It's experimental without being pretentious. It's melody and harmony joined in perfect matrimony. Here's hoping this will make The Shins a household name for a reason other than "having that one song in that one movie with Zach Braff." Go buy it, go buy it.

Split Needles
Black Wave
[from Wincing the Night Away|BUY IT!]


Listening Assignments for 1.22.07

1. Loney, Dear - Sinister In a State of Hope - Yep, I saved this song for this very occasion. IMO, it's the most beautiful on the album and fittingly, the closer. There are few things I appreciate more than a fantastic bookend to a fantastic album. Word. [from Loney, Noir|info]

2. The Earlies - No Love in Your Heart - My brothafromanothamotha Indie Jake turned me on this. Nay, forced! But for good reason. Right now I can see him rocking out to this hip groove with his eyes closed, biting his lower lip, dancing within himself. Heck, maybe even outside himself for all I know. RIYL: The Beta Band, LCD Soundsystem, Flaming Lips. [from The Enemy Chorus|buy]

3. Artisan - Hold My Breath - I got this song months ago and kept stumbling over it in my playlist. It's a stubborn little bugger, which I'm thankful for. Jittery and piano-y, reverse-vocal-y, totally sweet snare sound-y, and wholly interesting. -y. [from I Hold My Breath EP|buy]

4. J. Tillman - Seven States Across - Ohh does this one smolder in the best way. It could easily find itself right at home beside similarly paced Iron and Wine, and again with the Beck comparisons. This sounds like it was sung in a coal mine by a lost miner who has resigned himself to his fate, but is just singing his refrain "there's a way out, there's a way out" just in case. He just so happened to have a guitar with him before the cave-in.[from Documented: 2006 Tour EP|buy]


Owen on Breakups...

So today, I'm finally dedicating a blog post to one of my favorite artists: Owen (Mike Kinsella). Somehow, he's made appearances in assignments and best-of lists, but never his own entry. Here it is buddy. He's Polyvinyl's prodigal son, appearing in a long lineage of benchmark bands like Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls, and American Football. Owen is his solo pseudonym and the current manifestation of his melodic, soothing sound. His lyrics are profound, especially when bringing haunting relevance to post-breakup emotions. It's usually bittersweet, filled with longing and finality, his voice simultaneously pleading for both another chance and to be released. His signature continuous fingerpicking creates a swirling aura behind the voice like a lullabye, lulling you closer to feel this pain. It's a good pain. The five song Owen EP is hands-down on of my top 5 favorite EP's ever released. It's only $5 on iTunes and probably in any store that carries it. You can take him home with you today.

Breaking Away
Skin and Bones
[from the Owen EP|buy]
Never Meant
[from Owen/The Rutabega|buy]

*Upon further reflection, I'm holding the Shins' post off until Tuesday. Every blog that has posted any song other than Phantom Limb in the last 4 months has been made to take it down by WebSheriff. I'm hoping that's just to curtail pre-release downloading of the album, which makes some (although not total) sense. I will not be posting Phantom Limb. But I will be posting three tracks the day the album comes out so get them while they are hot and go buy the album. If they get taken down, it'll be an unfortunate stance for prominent independent music in the blog community.


2007 New Music Recap

I don't have much time today and I'm (finally) doing a Shins post tomorrow (album drops Tuesday!!), so this is just a recap post in case you missed any of the awesome new stuff that has (or will) come out this year that has been featured here. Enjoy!

loney, dear - hard days
menomena - my my
ghosts & liars - we'll carry on
the good, the bad, and the queen - herculean
apostle of hustle - my sword hand's anger
rob crow - i hate rob crow
the softlightes - heart made of sound


Sun Kil Moon / Mark Kozelek

It's Friday, I've had a really crappy last few days, it's my night off, and I'm going to post something that makes me happy. Sun Kil Moon makes me happy. Because if I close my eyes, painted on the back of my eyelids is sunshine spilling through my front window. Outside of that window is a shade tree and a hammock and these songs are playing on the drifting breeze buzzing by my head. The solo tracks are from the limited release that came out this December.

Si, Paloma
[from Ghosts of The Great Highway|buy]
Lily and Parrots
Carry Me, Ohio
[from Mark Kozelek: Little Drummer Boy (live)|buy]


Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Will Oldham has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. I don't know what to call him. Bonnie "Prince" Billy? I suppose either will suffice. He's one of the seminal alt-country singer/songwriters in music right now, according to many. I need to hear more of him before I pass that kind of judgement, but he does have a very pleasant way about him. The reverb is haunting; the simple arrangements are mournful. He's kind of a big deal. People know him. He has many leather-bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany.

Strange Form of Life
Love Comes to Me
[from The Letting Go|buy]
Beast for Thee
[from Superwolf|buy]

photo by Laurent Orseau


Paste Sampler 27 (Dec06/Jan07)

Magazine Sampler Issue 27cd

Paste Magazine is fast-becoming one of my favorite music publications. If not for the hefty price tag ($7.95), I'd pick it up every month. Maybe I need a subscription. We'll see. Anyway, it comes with a 20 song mix-CD every month filled with up-and-comers and surprisingly more hits than misses. Some of my favorite songs have been first found on Paste Samplers in the past (The Damnwells' "Sleepsinging" is the most notable). This month's is exceptionally strong and it should be considering it spans two months instead of the normal one. Pick up a copy on newsstands everywhere.

The Manchester Orchestra - Wolves At Night - I'm scouring the internet for information that would link the Orchestra to The Format because simply put, they sound like the same band. This sounds like a B-side for Dog Problems (though good enough to have made the final cut).
The Bird and the Bee - Again & Again - The wonderful Inara George's full band project. Everytime I hear her, she reminds me more of Jonatha Brooke which will always win me over in my book. It also has Broken Social Scene vibes going.
The Born Again Floozies - I Used to Play the Euphonium - Playful, overthetop, and foot-stomping happylike. This sounds like an english-speaking Malajube. This one pasted (get it! Paste-d!!! Terrible.) a sappy smile on my face.


January 15th Listening Assignments

1. Electric President - Good Morning, Hypocrite - This song is at a walking pace, skittering with computer-aided melodies and whispery layered harmonies. I hear a lot of Pinback here, and a lot of obvious Postal Service reference in other tracks. Pleasant, delicate, fabulous. Yes, kind of weird too.[from Electric President|buy]

2. Sandro Perri - Dreaming - Ahhh, this song is so pretty. It's got the constant downstrummed home-recording sound of a Jose Gonzalez guitar with the syrupy (single-tracked) vocals of Grizzly Bear. Oh no, he's Canadian! [from ...Plays Polmo Polpo|buy]

3. Malajube - La Monogamie - Maybe it's the french I don't understand, but this song just makes me think of a high school crush, playful, melodic and bombastic. [from Trompe L'Oeil|buy]

4. Common - I Have a Dream - Heyyyyy, nod your head! This song is really fitting today because of the clips of MLKJr laced throughout this smart toe-tapping hip-hop anthem from the new Freedom Writers movie. Check it y'all. hahahahahah. ahem. Yeah. [from Freedom Writers|buy]


Loney, Dear

It's not terribly often that a release comes along on a label like Subpop by a band that I've never heard a whisper of before. It's even rarer when that release happens to be amazing. Enter Loney, Dear. Swedish and sweetish. It's disarmingly simple sounding, despite twittering horns deep in the background and warbly electronics paying subtle homage to Brian Wilson and/or any other delicate pop sound of the last 40 years. It's got huge dreams, big love, and you're going to feel good about it. I promise you that. Newcomer of 2007? Bingo.

Hard Days
And I Won't Cause Anything at All
I Will Call You Lover Again
[from Loney, Noir (Out Feb 6 2007)|info]


Sparrow House

Occasionally, I come across something I just have to share immediately. This video would be on of those things. I need to rip this to mp3, but until then, I'll just press play a few hundred more times in a row. I've heard the Sparrow House EP and it's been all over the internet for awhile (much ballyhoo-d). It's a strong, very lo-fi, home-style recording. This video is pristine, just vox and beautiful guitar work. It blows me away that this is live. (thanks to GvsB for the heads-up)

When I am Gone
Foxes (Sighing like a Furnace)
[from Falls|buy]


Let there be sight!

The power of sight is a deep and important thing. Having the foresight to make the right decisions, learning from your mistakes with hindsight. Seeing the brilliantly tiny features that make your love the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. Some sights get weaker with age, some stronger. I'm getting Lasik surgery in two weeks! I'll be seeing clearly under my own power for the first time since 6th grade! So I thought I'd post about it. Theme posts always yield rarer and more surprising results.

Coldplay - See You Soon - One of the songs that hooked me on this then-unknown. Acoustic and beautiful. [from The Blue Room EP]
Inlets - See Her, Seer - I still can't hear Inlets without hearing Sufjan, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad. He writes oozy gorgeous songs so I guess it's good. [from Vestibule EP]
Michael Merenda - When I See Your Face - The Mammals' songwriter is a Bob Dylan-esque storyteller with plenty of folk and heart. This one builds nicely. [from Quiver]


1.8.2007 Listening Assignments!

1. Ghosts & Liars - We'll Carry On - When Some By Sea broke up less than a year after releasing the masterpiece that was on Fire! (Igloo), I was pretty downtrodden. Thankfully SBS's lead singer couldn't stop playing music, formed this new amazing band and decided to keep writing amazing songs such as this one. I can't wait for this album. [it's a demo!]

2. The Good The Bad and The Queen - Herculean - In case you haven't heard, Damon Albarn (blur, Gorillaz) has a new band and a new record coming out in two weeks. This pleasant track is the first single, I believe. Definitely on the more chill side of things with some cool electronic elements and vocal layering. [from The Good The Bad the Queen (out 1.22.07)|buy]

3. Paper Airplanes - The Fences - After multiple listens, I found this song had a lot more to offer than I suspected. Draped around somewhat unorthodox vocals, there is a beautiful song that dances along merrily for the first third of the song, followed by an intense building bridge with violins and crashing cymbals, then a polite and happy bookend. [from Boyhood|myspace]

4. Apostle Of Hustle - My Sword Hand's Anger - Nothing spectacular here, just a very solid and interesting song from a very solid and interesting band. Occasionally, they remind me of if the Shins were british (I know The Clientele already holds that nametag)...though Apostle of Hustle is Canadian. Same difference right? [from National Anthem of Nowhere (out 2.6.07)|info]


I Hate Rob Crow

...actually I really don't. That just happens to be the title of Rob Crow's new single. He's most known for being the singer for Pinback (amazing) but has many side projects such as The Ladies (with Zach Hill of Hella), the unfortunately named Goblin Cock, and this solo project. He has one of the most trademark guitar tones in indie music and a knack for writing hook-filled genre-bending songs. Also a knack for just being weird in general. But good weird.

Rob Crow - I Hate Rob Crow
[from Living Well]
Pinback - This Red Book
[from Summer in Abaddon]
The Ladies - Non-Threatening
[from They Mean Us]


A Links Post

1. Kottke has his best links of 2006. Tons of amazing things in here.

2. Spiders on Drugs. Hilarious and educational.

3. Oh God! Bees! - classic photoblog of an encounter with a swarm of bees.

4. The 2006 Douchie Awards!

5. That's all for now! Work calls.


The Softlightes

It seems Modular Records is carving out a nice little niche for themselves in the indie scene. With established buzz bands like Wolfmother, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ben Lee, and the Black Keys they are well on their way. Add to that mix The Softlightes, a fledgling group from San Diego releasing their first record with the label in late January 2007. It's inherently likable with a shimmering pop sense as well as a very trademark lighthearted sound. Flashes of more accessible Flaming Lips in there too. And if there's one thing you do with this post, watch the video. Really fantastic.

Heart Made of Sound
A Town Named Blue
If the World Had Cookies
[from Say No to Being Cool, Yes to Being Happy|Due late Jan]

The Softlightes - Heart Made of Sound


The Grays

Raise your hand if you know this band! If you don't, I'm willing to wager that you know two members of the Grays better than you think. Jon Brion is one. Jason Falkner is the other. Maybe you've heard of them? They were founding members of Jellyfish with Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning, Jr, which eventually became one of the biggest "unknown" bands I can think of. I could be biased because Jellyfish released Spilt Milk, probably my favorite record of all time. Jason went on to a mostly successful solo career while Jon Brion went on to compose such amazing things as the score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch Drunk Love, and Magnolia. Anyway, back to the Grays. Just a great band. Beatles and Queen-esque harmonies, flawless arrangements, and tons of Brion's trademark quirks. "Very Best Years" is probably one of my top 20 favorite songs ever.

Very Best Years {fixed and I tested it and it really works now! thanks!!}
A Friend of Mine
Nothing Between Us
[from Ro Sham Bo|buy]


The First Listening Assignments of 2007

1. Menomena - My My - First, let's all thank Barsuk Records for sending me this advance copy of the forthcoming record Friend and Foe (due 1/27/07). Without their help, I wouldn't have this quirkybeautiful collection of songs for another month. I'm pretty sure this song will be around on my best of 2007 lists in another 11 months. [from Friend and Foe|pre-order]

2. The Acorn - Dents - Yes, I did a piece on the Acorn last week, but I saved this song just for you. This is the band at their best: melodic acoustic arrangements with banjo and soothing vocals. mmmmmmm. [from Tin Fist|buy]

3. David & the Citizens - Now She Sleeps in a Box in the Good Soil of Denmark - This is an odd-duck of a song I keep coming back to because I just really enjoy it. There must be 4 energetic acoustic guitars playing at the same time, a few really unexpected chord changes, and a growing tension throughout. [from For All Happy Endings|buy]

4. Brett Bixby - City Lights - The mellow counterpart to David and the Citizens. This sounds like the better parts of Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) and Duncan Sheik (acoustic, pre electronic period). [from City Lights|buy]