Oh Well, Okay

Okay. No seriously, the band's name is Okay. Ok? So Okay has an album, a few in fact, but this particular offering is only two weeks old. This is not a deep breath of fresh air, but 18 short ADD breaths of simple sugary sun. One-word titles are the norm, as are sub-3:00 run times, as are swelling feelings of lovestruck nostalgia. His voice is oddly comforting, unconventional, hypnotic. His lyrics are charmingly personal, occasionally painful, often profound. This is much better than Ok and it'll make you feel more than Ok.

[from Huggable Dust|buy]


Choke Me

A Fleet of Foxes?

I know you're tired of waiting for the new Grizzly Bear record, but if you squint your eyes in the sunlight, you might just make do (and then some) with the fantastic album Fleet Foxes is set to release June 3rd on both Subpop and Bella Union. Two top-notch labels, I might add.

This album is one with your surroundings, so long as those surroundings are outdoors and sundrenched. This consciousness is streaming downhill, eddying in the shallows and collecting flower petals from bank-dwelling dandelions. It could sweep you away as well, though it proves to be quite buoyant. Buried amidst the ooohs and ahhhs of these acknowledged Brian Wilson fanatics, you'll find tribute to a litany of seminal pop and psych-folk '60s bands from the Beatles to the Zombies. Reverb will be employed with abandon, organs will shudder with swirling vibrato, tambourines will dance. This is downright spiritual.

Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
Quiet Houses
[from Fleet Foxes|buy]


Listening Assignments 5.26.08

1. Philadelphia Slick - Culture Industry - If you know where I can find the mother load of jazz-backed hip-hop in the chilly cool vein of this, please let me know. ASAP. (I found this on thesixtyone) [from Culture Industry|buy]

2. David Cook - Hello (Lionel Richie)- I don't know if I've ever really talked about American Idol here, and you might even love it that way. But m'lady and I did watch this season beginning to end. Can't believe this gent won, though he had some amazing highs (this song, for example). All-in-all, not an incredible vocalist, and most of the time simply mimics the inflections of Chris Daughtry and Scott Stapp. But "the rocker" finally won an Idol and they still stuck him with a sappy pop ballad as his first single called "Time of My Life". He even gets to sing "magic rainbow" in the second verse! Anyhoot, I think this should have been the first single instead. Yet another "finding your dreams" slow-rocker is enough to make me want to taste a barrel. [possibly from Analog Heart|info]

3. Laura Marling - Failure - Yes. Yes yes yes. Keep singing. Please don't stop singing. You're 18 going on 30. [from Alas I Cannot Swim|buy]

4. Athlete - Best Not to Think About It - I love Joel Pott's voice, though it's taylor-made for Grey's Anatomy. It's the usual sweeping and swelling, pop irresistibility from Athlete. [from Beyond the Neighborhood|buy]


Thing of the Present: Vetiver

I know my first Vetiver post was probably poorly timed, considering its proximity to the release of their new record Thing of the Past, but I'm going to tell you about this one as well.

Thing is a labor of love, an album of covers that you'd never know were covers unless someone told you they were covers. Woven together with intentionally frayed edges and playful unravelings and somehow resulting in a heartfelt almost-live folk album guaranteed to spread some light into your darker corners. You're a dusty rug hanging on a clothesline. Vetiver is the breeze, the sun, the broomstick that's going to beat you clean again.

the Swimming Song (Loudon Wainwright III)
Road to Ronderlin (Ian Matthews)
[from Thing of the Past|buy]


The Mrazberries taste like Mrazberries

I'm not sure how Jason Mraz became a punchline, but it sure seems like he gets a lot of flak. His gums flap like a goofy white rapper as his acoustic strums stuccatto alongside. His rhymes are chatty, altogether phatty, and designed to make you happy. How can you hate on that?

Mraz brings back the love on We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, brings back the head nodding reggae strums, brings back the jazzy pop sensibility behind it all. Brings back the falsetto and the scat, the summery bongos, the smart harmonies. All the things you either love him or hate him for. If you're reading about it here, you know how I feel about it.

Lucky (feat. Colby Caillat)
The Dynamo of Volition
[from We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things|buy]



It's kind of serendipitous when album releases seem to closely mirror the season they are released in (Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago for example. Released last winter and echoing icy remorse accordingly). Add Mates of State's Re-Arrange Us to the pile, this time hand in hand with the sunlight of spring/summer.

Married couple and family musicians tend to connect on a subconscious level that translates over onto the recordings and MoS are no exception. This is, in my opinion, their most focused effort, eschewing much of the chaotic twee they are more famous for in favor of deliberately crafted and restrained pop with engaging harmonies and dynamics. In short, Summer becomes this record and I'm digging it like an archaeologist. Speaking of which...

Get Better
The Re-Arranger
[from Re-Arrange Us|buy]


Listening Assignments 5.19.08

1. People in Planes - Pretty Buildings - This'll fill your epic mainstream pop quota for the week. Killer melody, and the song doesn't really kick in until after the first chorus. I like restraint. [from Beyond the Horizon (out Summer 08)|info]

2. The Submarines - Brightest Hour - There are a lot of things to like here. The opening tape crackle, inviting your closer to the gramophone, the alternating panning of the adorable vocals, and what sounds like a metronome of crickets taking care of the percussion. [from Honeysuckle Weeks|buy]

3. Adam & the Amethysts - Bumble Bee - If you don't like the first 30 seconds, stick around. Trumpets and layering are your friends and a humanity will be revealed over the course. [from Amethyst Amulet|info]

4. The Autumns - The End - A truly complete song with beautiful male falsetto and clean arpeggiation, building to a dissonant turning point and rousing climax. Yes, I just said rousing climax. [from The Autumns|buy]


Yeah yeah

It's been two days, I know! I've been out and about the last two days doing various somethings including, this morning, meeting James Taylor for the first time. What a rock star. But I do have a double-post ready for you tomorrow, including your long-lost listening assignments.

It just got REAL nasty outside. Stay safe, kiddies.


Frightened Rabbit Turns Tables

There are just some bands that exude a kind of weightiness. An epic nature. Untold depths. Frightened Rabbit is Scotland's answer to Middle America's emo movement. You don't have to be whiny to be heartwrenching or adolescent to be heartbroken. You don't have to be angular and dissonant to convey emotional instability, but I will say this: nothing tells of redemption and triumph like a 5 minute musical build that started at a whispering plea. With every listen, The Midnight Organ Fight is further positioning itself to be in the top 10 of 2008. This is a record for the lost, the found, the dead, and the born again. The broken, the lonely, the human, the thirsty, the tired and trampled. This is your golden crown.

"You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last leg"

Head Rolls Off
My Backwards Walk
[from The Midnight Organ Fight|buy]



I was playing my iPod at work last night and I put on one of my favorite EP's of all-time: Vroom's Rosebud, which I hadn't listened to in at least a year. It was great, of course, and I realized that I haven't written a word about them on this blog. An injustice at the very least.

Records like this make me realize how the world of music has changed in the last 4 years in relation to the internet. In their heyday, they were a pretty big deal in VA, seemingly destined to find a niche in the popular recording industry. 5 years later, you can find nary a thing about the band on the expanse of the interwebs. Just a tribute myspace page and a for-posterity wordpress blog updated less than once a year. The music stands up surprisingly well today, a testament to the lasting power of a good hook and melody. I'd like to believe things would be different if this EP came out today, but isn't that just one of life's catch-22's. The best we can do now is appreciate it for what it was and add it to a (hopefully) growing repertoire of music that inspires us. Cheers, mates.

Let's Get Physical
[from Rosebud|buy]
Dumb Like That
[from ...Throws Like a Girl|buy]


Back to the Future: Narrow Stairs

A few months ago, I was called gay for wearing a Death Cab for Cutie shirt in public, a moment as shocking as it is telling. Thanks to Plans, a record I actually like and obviously their biggest-selling best-known album, and the OC, the average American thinks Death Cab are a bunch of pussies. At the same time, the indie elitists who loved their early work cajole them for "selling out" with a major label and a shiny, hooky album like Plans. Therein lies the rub. The last 3 years has been a building battle of expectations. New fans wanting another Plans, old ones wanting a return to The Photo Album, and the people who don't give a damn making fun of the people who do. Needless to say, Narrow Stairs is going to leave at least one of those groups disappointed.

And, not to get all age-ist on you, but that group will probably be the bright-eyed and fickle high school crowd who pushed Plans above over a million copies sold. Armed with an 8-minute-plus single, Ben Gibbard & Co. are serving notice that this record will be an immediate departure from their sugar-coated ways of recent past. And by committing this record to analog tape, they limited the amount of things that could be done to it in post-production, thus forcing them to get the sounds they wanted in the studio and put down a helluva take for each song. Which they did.

Narrow Stairs
is not the Photo Album, though the beginning of "Long Division" does sound strikingly similar to "We Laugh Indoors". It's no Plans either, though the opening "Bixby Canyon Bridge" does feel like a rougher-edges take on "Marching Bands of Manhattan" but definitely spirals off the handle over the final two minutes. It's no Transatlanticism, though "Your New Twin Sized Bed" does remind me of a slightly slower "Title and Registration". None of these similarities take away from this record, it actually serves as glue. This is a band, making the music they want to make, and doing it their way. This is a band that has history with me, history with you, history with themselves. This is their way of addressing it. This is Back to the Future, Death Cab style.

Watch an amazing documentary on the making of Narrow Stairs on Current TV.

Grapevine Fires
[from Narrow Stairs|buy]


The Talented Mr. Sparro

Damn, that white boy can sing!” - Chaka Khan 1994

Sam Sparro made his ltl debut back in November's listening assignments with "Black & Gold", which cracked my top 50 songs of 2008 (#48) and peaked at #2 in the UK. At 25, he's younger than I am, has better pipes, better moves, and a better record than I could hope to make. It's synth sophisticate. A tight blend of soul, r&b, electronica, and strobe lights. But he is no one-trick pony, as evidenced by the record's hidden song, a seemingly live piano ballad, oozing range and attitude, nightclub chatter rolling in the background. Yes, I'm a bit jealous. If you're over 60, you might not want to click play. I don't want you throwing out a hip.

Too Many Questions
Still Hungry (hidden track)
[from Sam Sparro|buy]


Listening Assignments 5.12.08

1. Eric Hutchinson - Ok, It's Alright with Me - There's not a lof depth here, just an irresistible chord progression hook and the moxy and voice to pull it off. RIYL: Jason Mraz, Gavin Degraw, Jamie Cullum, Maroon 5 [from Sounds Like This (re-release 5.20)|buy]

2. Julian Velard - End of an Era - The velvety-voiced wonder is back with a preview of his debut LP The Planeteer, due this fall. Geek's been holed up in London, selling out shows, blogging about it sporadically, talking like Tom Waits, the usual. There are few artists that excite me like Julian Velard. Get your mind out of the gutter. [from The Planeteer (out Fall 08)|myspace!]

3. PlayRadioPlay! - Madi, Don't Leave - I'm middle-road on this one. I heard it in my bar first, a place where you don't hear all the details, just the basic gist. And for the whole song, I thought it was new Imogen Heap, and I dug the melody. Then I get home and look it up and it's not Imogen, it's the synth-pop project of some girl-pants-wearing dude. So I feel betrayed, and I do feel guilty about liking it. Someone needs to break all vocoders in existence. Who's with me? [from Texas|buy]

4. Jason Anderson - Hidden Light - This song tears me open in a rare way. This microphone must have been hidden in the shadows as Jason toiled atop the keys, thinking he was all alone in the world. [from Life Sucks Love Sucks Dose Out|buy]



It's Mom's day! Grandmother's Day! Girl's day in general! Hug a girl! Make her feel special! Hug yourself if you're a girl! Look at baby pics of yourself with your mom! Make her some dinner! Rub her shoulders! For free!

The Winston Jazz Routine - Grandmother's Glow - I will stop at nothing until I post every song from this album at some point in my life. It's truly one of the most beautiful things I've ever listened to. [from Sospiri|buy]
Drew Worden/Said the Lion - Falling Slowly - My talented pal Lindsay and I recorded this cover for her mom, because it's one of her favorite songs and she cried when we played it live. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won an Oscar for it, and deservedly so.


Year of the Kitty

The rise of the "indie" record label has been a welcome sight to music lovers everywhere. It doesn't really mean anything to many people anymore, thanks to the expanses and find-ability provided by the world wide web. For the true indie labels, it's more about your love than your money (though your money would be nice). It's a matter of priorities, a hierarchy of wants and needs, but at the top of it is love. For the music you believe in. For each other.

Asthmatic Kitty owes a lot of notoriety to their diamond in the rough Sufjan Stevens, but their stable now includes a solid lineup of artsy-folk folks like Castanets, My Brightest Diamond, Shapes and Sizes, Half-Handed Cloud, and Rafter. And now they're expanding again, and giving us a free taste of the goodies therein. 6 new musical acts and 1 artist (Laura Park, artwork shown above). The label is one of those rare jewels I'm talking about. It has an identity, it wants to get next to you, it wants to make you smile. They don't feel like you should feel obligated to support them, but they want to make you want to. And I'm fairly confident you're going to want to.

Osso - Year of the Boar
Shannon Stevens - So Gentle Your Arms
[from Works In Progress|stream|download]


John Mayer Parodies Himself. Again.


Mailing it In

Hey guys-n-gals. I'm mailing it in today. I've been working all day on this website for a special event we're hosting at my place of work and now I actually have to go in to work...but I wanted to throw you a collective bone. So you didn't come to the page today and receive nothing for your trouble. But I don't have time for the ol' song and dance. Signed, sealed, delivered, it's yours.

Ira Says Goodbye - God Helps the Man


Tingsek the Luminescent

Can you be addicted to sunshine? Can a summer breeze be contagious? Can music cause skin cancer? I'm quite certain the answers to questions like these cannot be found on our native shores. There is a man, far across the sea, who knows the rhyme to the reasons and just might hold the key to the seasons. Magnus Tingsek has been my ambassador of light for the last two weeks and I'd like to introduce you. He's quite friendly. He'll remind you of someone familiar, perhaps Ben Harper, maybe Jonny Lang, mayhaps even John Mayer. You'll recall things you thought you forgot, profound moments lost in the shuffle of simplicity. Your toes in the water for the first time of the year. Your first look in the mirror after the perfect haircut. Waking up the minute before your alarm goes off, refreshed and rearing to go. The complexity of a top-shelf margarita as it rolls around your mouth. There's no rehab for the hit you're about to take.

Let it Shine
[from Too Many Feelings at the Same Time|info]
So Real
[from World of Its Own|buy]


Listening Assignments 5.5.08

1. The Lodger - The Good Old Days - The sun'll come out tomorrow. Betcher bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be su...wait, it's already here? I'll be outside if you need me. [from Life is Sweet (out 5.27)|buy]

2. Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm - I'm not sure if this song is profound or profane and I'm not sure I care which anyway. It's pretty moving either way. [from The Midnight Organ Fight|buy]

3. Coldplay - Violet Hill - Kudos to CP for giving away their first single for free instead of going the iTunes route. Coincidentally, I like this track a lot. The piano is refreshingly low until it's actually needed in the final stanza. [from Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (out 6.17)|buy]

4. Sam Cooke - Nothing Can Change This Love - This song has appeared here as part of the "Oh, It Is Love" mix, but never as an mp3 or on its own. I just can't imagine a song that puts this kind of bombastic love in a better perspective. [from One Night Stand: Live at the Harlem Square Club|buy]



I'd imagine, as far as google-ability goes, having a band name like Tokyo is up there with being named John Johnson or "Live". I'd imagine someone would have to know more specific details about you to be able to find you amidst the 138 million other websites that show up. That or you'd have to simply be very very popular. This particular Tokyo I'm referring to isn't quite there. Yet.

Hailing from the musical "hotbed" of Virginia Beach, VA and registering under 100k listens on their myspace page might render them an afterthought in the location-driven hipster community. So you're from Brooklyn? You're signed! Ditto Portland, Austin, Omaha or Los Angeles. VA Beach? Notsomuch.

But like every other band to appear on linesthroughlines, this Tokyo has something that catches my ear. There is a surface of leveled restraint, calm and reflective. But someone is hidden on the shore tossing in pebbles, their landing points creating rippling waves from their epicenters. The blue sky reflected above is no longer pristine, the clouds are jagged and sharp, the sun temporarily torn apart by the vibrations. Sooner rather than later, the calm returns, the chaos a distant memory. Only this level surface remains, reflecting the above, hiding the below. Only the faint hum of bees in the distance.

With our help, Tokyo may one day be google-able. You can be a part of that by going here. At least they aren't named "New York".

May 9th @ the Boot (Norfolk) w/ The Never, Sarah Carter
June 9th @ Rehab (New York, NY) w/ The House Floor + 2

[from Swan King|buy]


Eat. Sleep. Folk.

It's sunny enough outside to show some Flight of the Conchords love. I know I'm the only blogger on the web who likes them, possibly their only fan on the planet...yeah.

Has press coverage of these two New Zealanders reached a saturation point? I say no, mostly because every article I find has a new photo shoot with endlessly classic poses and costumes. I could look at articles like these indefinitely.

FOTC's new self-titled record debuted at #3 on the Soundscan/Neilson list, making it the highest-debuting comedy album of all-time. So give it a chance. Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's not good.

"My rhymes are so potent that in this small segment, I made all of the ladies in the area pregnant."

Ladies of the World
Foux Du Fafa
[from Flight of the Conchords|buy]


I'm Rad.

Illegal upstairs internet dried up.
Spent an hour on the phone configuring my own internet.
Was successful.
I have achieved ultra-speed.
More tunes later tonight or tomorrow.