Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Old Abram Brown (is far from dead and gone)

Coming from Nashua, NH, Old Abram Brown manages to take away my breath with awe. Creating an original indie/post-rock sound that sometimes resembles The Middle East or an American Radiohead yet is totally their own, the 3 piece band has recently released its debut LP, Alive in Winter. I wanted to take that opportunity and get to know the guys a little better, so I contacted Erik of the band with the following results:

Q. Old Abram Brown is composed of 3 unique members. Can you tell me a little about the group and its inner workings?

A. "The group is: (primary instrument first) Erik Lund (drums,guitar, backup vocals, electronics) Dylan Vukelich (piano, bass, backup vocals) Carson Lund (Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Trumpet, Percussion). Often we each bring separate ideas, the beginnings of a song just as a single riff or melody. We all feed of of each others ideas and build other parts from there around the original riff. Arrangements are composed together live and then during the recording process we were able to add new ideas and build layers of instruments".

Q. What inspires you to create and make music?

A. "All sorts of things. The most direct being all the diverse musical tastes from each band member, indie rock, ambient, southern twang, folk, funk, samba, dance. We all seem to be digging fairly different types of music right now, but it's under the same umbrella. Also I think things like art, design and especially film manifest themselves in our influences".

Q. Is there a story behind the band's name?

A. "We get asked this one a lot. It has sentimental value to Carson and Erik as it was the title of a song we sung in Elementary School music class. It is a short hymn composed by Benjamin Britten".
(The rhyme is probably this: "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone,
You'll never see him more;
He used to wear a long brown coat
That buttoned down before". - Oded)

Q. Starting out as an indie band in a world filled with bands can be very hard (but also a lot fun, if you're with the right people). What's your approach?

A. "We just practice in our basement in Nashua, NH. Ya it's a crazy music industry but we are just doing what is fun for us. I wish I had some anecdotes but I'm sure those come after touring and such".

Q. What do you think of the music industry? How does the indie artist relate to it?

A. "The music industry is rather crazy right now. So much competition yet so much more opportunity to get your music heard. I guess the trick is people are hearing it with such easy access on the internet but it is so much easier for people to dismiss bands nowadays. Occasionally it seems like music is being devalued these days. So many artists slave for months over reel to reels and mixing only to have someone give it a 30 second spin on their i-pod earbuds and never give it a chance again. However, I know there will always be a crowd of real music appreciators who will always give the music the treatment it deserves. I think it will be a different music industry but I don't think it will ever become obsolete".

This record will last much more than 30 seconds, I guarantee.

Check out Old Abram Brown on MySpace and last.fm for more tracks and gigs info. Get their highly recommended debut LP Alive in Winter for the complete experience on their store or iTunes.

Old Abram Brown - Will Our Garden Grow {MP3} (from Alive in Winter)
Old Abram Brown - Polonius {MP3} (from Alive in Winter)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Manic with the Manson Family Picnic

My first impressions from NYC's Manson Family Picnic were these:
1. Adorable.
2. What's with their name?
3. Where have you been all this time?

The five piece band induces true smiles (that come from within) with a unique combination of folk, pop, psychedelics, jazz and even punk. There's more than a little madness involved, expressed in genuine enthusiasm, while maintaining a thorny hold on reality.

"Do you ever feel like you’re crazy? I do. Do you ever feel like someone’s watching you?”, ask the opening lines in "The Mistakes". Sometimes it's fun to be crazy.

Check out Manson Family Picnic on their website, MySpace and Facebook for streamable tracks and gig updates. Get their debut EP on CDBaby.

Manson Family Picnic - The Mistakes {MP3} (from Manson Family Picnic)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The North Sea Stream

The waves crash ashore, a car beeps on the street; you pause and look, then move on. Life seems like some eternal flow of things, thoughts and feelings, a soundtrack of existence. In such a flow of sounds reminiscent of the works of Michael Brook and Brian Eno, super busy man Brad Rose, under the moniker of The North Sea, weaves his own stream of consciousness.

Originally folk oriented, The North Sea is continually evolving, currently dealing with experimental and ambient phases of music. In addition, Rose founded and edits an indie label and an online experimental music journal that reaches to the ends of the world (and sound) called Foxy Digitalis.

Check out the North Sea on MySpace for additional tracks and updates. Grab the online edition of Foxy Digitalis for the latest on experimental music across the world.

The North Sea - Ferns Pressed In Paper {MP3}
The North Sea - Embroidered Copper {MP3}

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CD Release Party with Anderson Council

Anderson Council is a funky indie rock band from Ajax, Canada. Led by a couple of brothers, the group won several regional band competitions by producing jam and psychedelics based and influenced material that is also fun and easy to get into (and hard to leave behind). In fact, their live performances, both acoustic and regular, are said to be great and energetic.

Another interesting point in the Anderson Council story is that their debut EP, Under Auditorium, coming out these days, was produced by students at Durham College. Apparently, the students formed a student operated, not for profit indie label called Backrow Records, that this is its first release. The EP itself was mastered by Iain McPherson ("DJ Iain"), whose previous credits include production on USS's (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) material.

Check out Anderson Council on MySpace and Facebook for streaming tracks and gig updates. Their CD release performance is on April 3rd at E. P. Taylor's, Oshawa, Ontario. If you're in Canada at the time, better book yourself a good spot.

Anderson Council - Heartless Stones {MP3} (from Under Auditorium)
Edit: The song was removed but can be streamed on the band's MySpace.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Catching up with the Flying Black Hats - Part 2

This is the second and final part of the interview with Dan of the Flying Black Hats (the first part is here, the original feature is here).

Q. What do you think of the music industry? How does the indie artist relate to it?

A. "I don’t really think of the music industry to be honest with you. I played enough shows and knew enough people in bands to realize it wasn’t for me in any conventional sense. I would love to be a “recording band”, but I don’t particularly enjoy being on stage.

One of my best friends is Pat Noel, the keyboardist from Beulah. And when I moved to San Francisco I lived in a punk house with Luke Jenner and Vito Roccoforte who went on to form The Rapture. And Owen from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Great guys and great musicians, but I learned firsthand how hard it is to make it as a musician, let alone an ‘indie’ musician. I have a ton of respect for anyone who feels that calling and goes for it. The reason I stopped playing in bands is that I wanted to focus on writing fiction and I have trouble doing both at the same time. And, like I said, it was always the writing and creating that appealed to me, not performing. But I will always write music. I can’t avoid it".

Q. What stands behind the band's name?

A. "The Flying Black Hats? We had a poster on our wall of the famous picture of ‘The Flying Black Hats’ pretending to play tennis on an airplane (the picture appears in the first part of the interview - Oded). We decided to burn some CD’s of our music as Christmas presents for our friends because we were poor as shit. We weren’t a ‘band’ per se. We just liked making music. But we decided we should have a band name. Inspiration via poster.

By the way, if any record company folks read this, I was just kidding about the not wanting to be in a band; email me and I’ll tell you where to send the check".

That's the interview. If anyone from the music industry is actually reading this, consider the Flying Black Hats an example for the young and passionate indie musician who can sometimes use a helping hand (and a record deal) but also the room and freedom to create and evolve on his own. Consider the readers (and writer) of this blog as your average music lovers and consumers, do not pester us needlessly with your legal minded copy right issues when all we want is to buy the music and help the artists we love (iTunes and Amazon MP3 - why do you forbid potential customers from countries outside the US to buy songs? Last.fm - why do treat most countries with a bias? Why are so many content sites barred to those outside of America? Where is the much coveted net neutrality?). But I digress; this is about the Flying Black Hats, so check them out.

The Flying Black Hats - Love Rescinded {MP3}
The Flying Black Hats - Last Show at the Fillmore {MP3}
The Flying Black Hats - Juke Joint {MP3}

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catching up with the Flying Black Hats - Part 1

The charming indie duo The Flying Black Hats (Pat Patsy and Danny Lockjaw), featured here a while back, witnessed some rather surprising success and rising listening counts in their last.fm site at late. The surprise stems from their almost laid back approach to the music industry which may also be reflected in their songs. One of the tracks in particular, "Love Song", reached notable popularity status on the Hype Machine.

I wanted to learn more about the duo so I asked Dan to answer some questions and thankfully he agreed, providing some very interesting insight into indie music. As the text is a bit long (and I loathed cutting out too much out of it), it will be in two parts. Here's the first:

Q. Can you tell a little about yourselves. How do you operate and work on your music? Are you still active?

A. Pat and I met in High School in San Diego in the early 90’s and have been friends ever since. When I met Pat, he was playing in a band called James Campbell Nylons. I joined up and we played some terrible, but fun shows. That band broke up pretty quickly and we formed a band called The Patsies. We played very poppy punk music. Generally, I would write the lyrics and Pat would write the music. I spent most of my time in class writing lyrics and would give Pat 2-3 “songs” by the end of the day.

When we met, we both played guitar... barely. Both of us are self taught and we picked up some other instruments along the way. Pat plays piano. I can play Harmonica pretty well and so can he. We like to bang on stuff in lieu of drums. It’s weird when I think about it…I’ve been in several bands, but I never really had a connection with anyone musically the way that I do with Pat. We have been writing songs together for 15 years, and it just works. Always has, and hopefully always will.

When we recorded the songs on Recordings, 2003, we were living together in the Mission District of San Francisco. It was something we did for fun. We had a busted up Tascam 4 Track and we sat around and drank and just had fun with writing music. I don’t think either of us really enjoyed being in a “band” as much as we enjoyed the pure process of writing. We never attempted to get gigs after High School. We just recorded and shared the songs with our friends.

Eventually Pat moved back to San Diego, but we see each other fairly often and it is never a question of if we will record music, but when, what, how much. It is a way to relax and a way to communicate with each other. Neither of us are very good at talking openly about our feelings, but we understand each other through the emotion in the music we create.

Q. What inspires and drives you in music? What are your influences?

A. I don’t think it is a question of inspiration so much as necessity. I have to write down what’s in my head or I start to go kind of insane. A lot of our songs are kind of depressing if you listen to the lyrics, but I have always thought that happy things weren’t worth writing about. That sounds corny and clichéd, I know. And that is not to say that we haven’t written our share of silly songs. Generally, I consider writing a way of purging the anger and depression I feel whether it be at a girl who broke up with me, the general unfairness of the world, or the fact that I think most people’s priorities are so incredibly out of whack.

Pat is an amazing musician. When we first met, I was probably a better guitarist than he was. He caught up to me in about a year. And he is just one of those people who is naturally gifted with music. I’m not. I look at music as a vehicle for language. Music is language for Pat, and I think that is beautiful. It is also why we make a good team.

Influences... When I was young I lived in the south, and folk music was always very important to me. Pat is obsessed with Neil Young. That said, when we were younger we looked up to bands like Screeching Weasel, The Queers, OpIvy. As we got older, we both became more interested in what would probably be referred to most accurately as Indie music and old folk/country/blues: Elliot Smith, Beulah, Belle & Sebastian.

And folk, old and new. Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, The Carter Family. Not big fans of new country, but we both love Hank Williams and Johnny Cash - those old guys who played their guts out. The fact that most of the songs only had three chords appealed to me. There are so many people who have influenced us individually and together, but I think the commonality is good lyrics, not much pretension, and heart. Hard to go wrong with that combo.

The Flying Black Hats - New Start {MP3} (a new song)
The Flying Black Hats - Calling Out Your Name {MP3} (Recordings, 2003)

To be continued tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

June Madrona and the Music Industry

Last.fm has announced Yesterday a rather controversial change in policy that would mean listeners would have to pay 3 Euros per month to be able to stream songs on their net radio. An interesting point: listeners from the US, UK and Germany will get the same service - for free.

The wisdom and apparent less than even handed approach here may be questioned in light of the current global economic situation, especially when similar financial models from the past were not too successful. Judging from the initial amount and content of the comments by last.fm users in response to the announcement, success is not guaranteed in this case as well.

With all these changes coming (and more still to come, look here), I just hope that the site's main raison d'être, music discovery, will continue even on this new and limited format. After all, I owe last.fm the introduction of many great songs and artists (here's my profile there).

The latest are Olympia, Washington based group June Madrona. Though its members have been rotating now and again, the band's main singer-songwriter Ross Cowman has endured. Together they create warm and earthy folk, sometimes reminding me of early Decemberists, sometimes of quiet New Pornographers. Mostly though, they are a unique and original group capable of enchanting their audience in an other-worldly atmosphere. Just take a look here for a live example.

Check out June Madrona on MySpace, last.fm and their touring blog for updates and tracks. Get their CDs on Bicycle Records or Waterhouse Records.

June Madrona - Five Views of Rainier {MP3} (from A Long and Ugly Road)
June Madrona - An Early Spring {MP3} (from The Winged Life)
June Madrona - Bedroom Faeries {MP3} (from The Winged Life)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Archivist's Domain

It's sort of a slow day so far, the kind in which you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, except that you are sitting barefoot and have no shoes at all. Also, it rained. A lot. Does any of it make any sense?

I guess I got a bit twirled by a few of The Archivist's tracks. An enigma in person, he has released, that I know of, a single self titled EP in 2007 to critical acclaim. His songs have a tendency to sweep you off your feet into some dream-like existence where reality mixes and blends with... another reality? a true illusion?

It's a whirlpool I wouldn't mind getting sucked into right now.

Check out The Archivist on his website where you can download his EP and MySpace for further updates.

The Archivist - Jeremiah (The Archivist) {Mp3} (from The Archivist)
The Archivist - Street Night Om {MP3} (from The Archivist)
The Archivist - Signs & Symbols {MP3} (from The Archivist)

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's All About the Love: Charlotte & Magon

They say there is no force on earth so powerful as love; a fifth element to bind all things together and break all barriers apart. So they say. That little voice inside my head that tells me I'm not the best person I can possibly be also whispers rumors of love being a lie, a mere set of convenience, lust and reproduction driven behavior, while all we seek is self approval and denial, an unrequited mirroring indulgence.

But I should know better than to listen to little voices that dwell in the dark recesses of the brain, usually swimming in their own acid filled pools of sarcasm. I know otherwise.

Take Charlotte & Magon's story, for example: meeting for the first time in an airport after two years of web interaction, coming from two different cultures (she's French, he's an Israeli) and joined together by a musical project. The result is love made manifest in an album and music as well as in an enduring relationship.

It's a gray sky-piercing, hope-giving ray of light for some of us.

Check out Charlotte & Magon on their website (for a full stream of the album), MySpace and last.fm for updates and info. Their debut album, Love Happening, is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Charlotte & Magon - Mon Amante {MP3} (from Love Happening)
Charlotte & Magon - Nine Cloud {MP3} (from Love Happening)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amanda's Obsession

Does beauty merely hide the pain underneath or are they both somehow coupled together into something of an even greater impact? Listening to Toronto, Canada's indie singer Amanda Zelina, I'm strongly leaning towards the latter.

Sometimes important clues to the artist's inner workings can be found in her life's personal story. This may be such a case. Amanda's debut LP, Love Me till I'm Me Again, coming out soon, has been under intense work for over 2 years and on some rather unusual circumstances filled with upheaval, depths of depression and mountains of joy and hope. But, we may ask, would the resulting beauty be as it is without the pains of bringing it about?

Check out Amanda Zelina on her website, MySpace and last.fm pages for updates and the rest of her debut album - in video!

Amanda Zelina - Obsessed {MP3} (from Love Me till I'm Me Again)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Electric Black Blues

Proclaiming themselves "the most punk rock country-blues chamber orchestra on earth", NYC's Electric Black set their sights very high. What can you possibly expect from a collection of musicians led by a man who resembles the even darker twin of Side-show Bob (sorry, I couldn't resist)?

Well, nothing, until you hear their first song. Then you begin to realize that their claim of artistic lineage coming from Howlin’ Wolf and Charles Bukowski, to name just two of the alleged progenitors, may not be without ground. The sound is very blues based, but its elements of alternative, rock and creepiness (is that a genre?), mingled with a dash of Tom Waits' spirit, make it more than that. When you hear that singed voice, you know it's for real.

“I wanted to create an album that honestly told the story of human struggle, from the grandiose to the day-to-day. An album that struck a chord with the core of the human spirit, an album that could endure,”
says front man Johnny B. It's certainly a remarkable piece of work.

Check out Electric Black on MySpace and their site for streamable tracks and updates. Their official debut performance is on March 26th at Bowery Electric, NYC. If you're in the area, check it out; it promises to be an intriguing event.
Electric Black's debut LP, Electric Black, is due out this May (iTunes).

Electric Black - So it Goes {MP3) (from Electric Black)
Electric Black - Our Love is Smoking {MP3} (from Electric Black)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Beyond the Rim with Flowers of Hell

Space opera is not for the faint of heart nor the impatient. Its paths may lead through chaos, crashing cacophony and discord, only to emerge triumphant with resolve and peace brought on by sorrow and wisdom. Thus in the great space between Sigur Rós, Nico Muhly and others, travels Flowers of Hell, an international group composing and performing all over the globe.

But Flowers of Hell is not just a 16 piece space rock opera orchestra (though I could have sworn I heard a Vorlon on "Forest of Noise", the third track in their new album). They're also unique musical collaborators with groups like My Bloody Valentine and utilize the latest technology to record and mix online. Sounds like the beginning of a modern day space opera all by itself...

Check out Flowers of Hell on their official site and Myspace for updates on gigs and streamable tracks. Their new CD, Come Hell Or High Water, launches April 6th.

Flowers of Hell - Bluemschen {MP3} (from
Come Hell Or High Water)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lemonwilde's Dark L.A.

I was privileged enough to have been contacted by Luke Martinez of Lemonwilde the other day to listen to their debut EP, Red Room. This part of the "job" is still very exciting for me: I usually look for new thrilling artists but sometimes they come to me.

Lemonwilde started in Los Angeles in 2007, and if you listen closely you'll be able to recognize the city through their music, or at least a dark, haunting and haunted version of it (some of the songs also have a sort of a Gotham feel to them). I can't really describe the music in words, it needs to be experienced and felt. But this unique mixture of rock, jazz, blues, alternative and a host of other genres of music (and other forms of art, by the look of their website), is truly remarkable in effect.

"Do you need to run?", asks the chorus in "Nondeterministic Automation", the closing song in their EP. Run, run - and get the EP (and go to their impressive gigs).

Check out Lemonwilde on their official site and MySpace for streamable tracks and gig updates.

Lemonwilde's picture is from an L.A. Cityzine article.

Lemonwilde - Just This Ashtray {MP3} (from Red Room)
Lemonwile - Inspired Painter {MP3} (from Red Room)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Featured Artist(s): All of us/None of us

All of us/None of us are an indie rock band from the American west coast (L.A. and San Francisco) that promises to live up to its name* of musical commitment with genuine rock spirit flecked with blues and alternative motifs.

With an already critically acclaimed debut LP, Lucky Robot, under their belts, the band recently published its second EP, Arcane and Abel (also available on iTunes).

Check out All of us/None of us on MySpace and their official site for more streamable tracks and updates.

All of us/None of us - Watcha Gonna Do? {MP3} (from Arcane and Abel)
All of us/None of us - Excess {MP3} (from Arcane and Abel)

* The band's name also strikes a chord with certain moral dilemmas being debated all around the world, specifically the individual-society/state relationships and how one is bound and responsible for the other. I won't get into it in great detail right now; suffice it to say it has life and death repercussions as well as personal ones. Interestingly, it's also the name of an organization that deals with prisoners and former prisoners' rights, probably inspired by a quote from a Bertold Brecht poem: "Comrade, only slaves can free you. Everything or nothing. All of us or none".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

At SXSW 2009

SXSW is making a lot of noise in the blogosphere these days, gathering hype like some hurricane storm. And why wouldn't it? It's a major gathering place for artists and musicians from all over the world in the already quirky (in a good way) city of Austin, TX.

Not wanting to be completely left out of the excitement, this post is about one of those artists who'll be performing at SXSW, Swedish indie pop singer-songwriter Adam Heldring. According to his MySpace, he has begun fulfilling his musical dreams by traveling alone to NYC and through hard work is making a name for himself.

And it's all part of the grand plan: "Playing SXSW is a big deal for me and I'm very excited! But I did work hard and everything I've accomplished in the US so far has been very well received so this feels like a perfect next step", he says.

So, if you're in SXSW give him a listen:
Friday, March 20, 12pm noon @ Habana Calle 6 - Swedish afternoon party
Saturday, March 21, 8 pm @ The Wave Rooftop - official SXSW showcase

Also check him out on his MySpace for further updates and tracks.

Adam Heldring - OK Goodbye {MP3} (from Metro)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Pree

I must admit I was a bit slow getting into the indie folk band Pree. I'm not sure why; I was also slow getting into Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart and now I can't imagine my life without them.

What finally caught my ear was "Lack of Fight", a charming piece filled with folk-pop and alternative hooks, shimmering with inner light. I think I just needed to tune myself for their unique sound - because now I can't seem to stop.

A Washington, DC based group, Pree's debut EP, A Chopping Block, is due out on March 23rd.

Check out Pree on MySpace for gig updates and more tracks.

Pree - In the Parlor {MP3} (from A Chopping Block)
Pree - Lack of Fight {MP3} (from A Chopping Block)

Bonus: Pree - Heaven is a Drag (live)

AON Sessions: Pree, "Heaven Is A Drag" from All Our Noise on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tourists Through Eternity

Every day I go over my lists
Trying to figure out who I have missed;
So many names still waiting and still,
So many confirmed on arrival by quill.
Some running towards me with arms open wide,
Imagining a haven beyond my reaching stride;
The humans below tend to help quite a lot,
Kin and strangers tied in a knot;
How strange and confined do they all seem
When o' so vainly they're trying to deem:
Is it oblivion that they seek?
Or maybe good ol' eternity's chic?

Once in a while I go through the names
Of those I remember, of those with the flames,
I smile at their folly and cry with their souls
Endless potential there crashed on my shoals;
But for those who still wonder, for those who still care,
Let me tell you a secret, if you're willing to dare:
Everyday I hum with the spirits their life's joy
Sorrow hereafter unwilling to share nor destroy;
The music at heart is the sound of the babe,
The cry of the mother, do not be afraid.

This post is dedicated to Spencer Bell and to all those who have passed by, tourists hurrying elsewhere, taking and giving worlds filled with love.

Check out Spencer Bell on his last.fm and MySpace and beautiful memorial site.

Spencer Bell - Tourist {MP3} (from Feudal, Brutal, and the American Dream)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another Quiet Rainy Afternoon

Winter has come to grace us one last time, leaving its teary soft farewell behind. It's quiet and calm before what's to be, no doubt, another stormy (and dry) work week. But enough with the weather metaphors.

Rain isn't the only beautiful and calming presence to have visited me this afternoon. The other was a young Californian singer-songwriter called Cameron Lewis. Discovered quite by chance, he's singing in my ears as I watch the drops roll down on the window, sneaking another bite of strawberry salad. It's the picture of solace, or rather the sound of it.

Check out Cameron Lewis on last.fm.

Cameron Lewis - Telephone Lines {MP3}
Cameron Lewis - Corner Living {MP3}
Cameron Lewis - Suddenly {MP3}

Friday, March 13, 2009

"... And the Truth Shall Set You Free"

"If I knew how to write happy songs that rang true, I guess I would do that. But it‘s that truth I look for, more so even than the beauty. And the darker things get me there. There‘s a kind of clarity that comes after the sadness, or comes with it sometimes. It‘s a mixed feeling: you‘ve hit rock bottom and yet it feels like your feet are finally on solid ground. I strive for that clarity in my songs and in probing for it I tend to get the sadness instead, or hopefully sometimes both".

I've been looking for an artist who's looking for the truth for a long time; some claim to have found it in religion or love, others accuse certain people of hiding the truth or lying, but I think it's rare that an artist signifies the search for the truth so plainly. Its importance is so great, that even beauty, form or style, stand second to it.

So when I read the interview with Flowers from the man who shot your cousin (quite a moniker for a truth seeker) and listened to his songs, I knew I got lucky. Like a wandering holy man, Morgan Caris is traveling between Canada, France and The US, continuing his work on his dark folk music. Spread the word, the truth can't be far now.

Check out Flowers from the man who shot your cousin his website, last.fm and MySpace for a world of content and beautiful tracks. Buy his Hapless LP and EPs here.

Flowers from the man who shot your cousin - Lay Down Your Arms (from Hapless)
Flowers from the man who shot your cousin - No Home (from a wonderful Hinah Session)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Black Eyed Dog

The great Aquarium Drunkard had a recent post about the ever changing and always alluring Tom Waits. The live show it hosted demonstrated how versatile Waits is, and yet how you'd be able to recognize his unique voice and style in a second.

Italian Fabio Parrinello, working under the moniker of Black Eye Dog reminded me somehow of Waits (with a hint of Mark Lanegan to boot). Was it the smoky voice? The heart torn lyrics? The jazzy-folky-bluesy style laced throughout his sophomore LP? Maybe all of the above. It is clear that he deserves to be heard.

Check out Black Eye Dog on his MySpace and label and look for his LPs (Love Is A Dog From Hell and Rhaianuledada (Songs To Sissy)) on Amazon and iTunes.

Black Eyed Dog - Salinas {MP3} (from Rhaianuledada (Songs To Sissy))
Black Eyed Dog - Roses {MP3} (from Rhaianuledada (Songs To Sissy))

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Show Me The Ropes

First, some good news: The Hype Machine seems to be worth all of its hype. In a move that suggests listening skills sorely lacking in certain politicians and people I know, the display setting on the site has changed again to a more egalitarian form, following massive protests from users and blog owners. I hope that this matter will continue to be dealt with in the same serious and responsible manner.

Second, I want to join in the hype around the New York City based duo, The Ropes. It's fun joining an ongoing hype now and again, but only if the hype is justified - and I think there is a good reason here. Sharon Shy and multi-instrumentalist Toppy, the mentioned duo, create fun and catchy indie rock/electronic with the potential to appeal to more commercial crowds while keeping their own sound (as they have done already on several EPs and LPs).

Check out The Ropes on their website, MySpace, Facebook and last.fm for more streamable tracks and info. Get their EPs and LP on their store.

The Ropes - Be My Gun {MP3} (from Be My Gun EP)
The Ropes - Kitty Get Down {MP3} (from Be My Gun EP)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Broken Frame(s)

The great folk/covers blog "Cover Lay Down" has recently published an important post regarding a controversial policy change by the Hype Machine. According to the new default setting, only songs found from the leading 100 music blogs will be displayed on the latest song list (with an option to display music found on the rest of the blogs per visit).

I stand with "Cover Lay Down" on opposing this decision. I think it stands against the basic principles by which the Hype Machine was created: to encourage exposure to new music and artists and to give a voice to their fans and admirers. By giving an unequal "spotlight" to all the blogs, it is in fact the artists, and especially the indie artists, who are being hurt the most. It creates a kind of a mainstream in the blogosphere, the kind I at least was trying to escape to the relative pluralism of the web.

Personally, I'm trying to use this blog to try to help artists get the recognition and notice they deserve. This will be a lot harder under these new conditions. What bothers me more though is the possible loss of the sense of discovery and delight of stumbling upon new music. How many of my current favorites do I owe to such a chance discovery?

My discovery for today is Guillaume Léglise who heads the French indie folk/pop group My Broken Frame. His delicate and intricate songs remind me of Sufjan Stevens and yet he's a genuine artist by his own.

Check out My Broken Frame on MySpace and last.fm for lots of gigs info and streamable songs. Get his debut LP Chapel Hill on Amazon or iTunes.

My Broken Frame - No One {MP3} (from Chapel Hill)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Featured Artist(s): El Boy Die

El Boy Die originally comes from France, though after about ten years of travel he has settled, for now, in Montreal, Canada - that's at least what his MySpace says. Listening to his music (plus some visual aids) however, encourages a different impression.

It's as though he's coming from some old story, half forgotten and half made up, invoking eerie images of quiet and yet adventurous life, simple and magical. Perhaps that world he travels comes from intense introspection, with imagination and creativity at the helm. It's a place I'd like to visit one day.

Check out El Boy Die on his new project, El Boy Die & The Witches on MySpace and last.fm (official site coming soon).

Special thanks for Laurent Orseau for his beautiful shot of El Boy Die (taken from his great site).

El Boy Die - Little Wind {MP3} (from How the Way is Long...)

Bonus: El Boy Die - Lullaby (Live)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Featured Artist(s): The Deer Tracks

The Deer Tracks' new album, Aurora, is hitting the UK tomorrow (March 9th), so expect elaborate electronic splashes with gentle eddies of faraway green memories, all topped with crusty ice.

The indie electronic duo, consisting of David Lehnberg & Elin Lindfors originally comes from Gävle, Sweden and is already busy performing all over the UK and the rest of Europe.

Check out The Deer Tracks on MySpace, Facebook and last.fm for updated gigs info and more details. Get the CD on Amazon or Dotshop.

The Deer Tracks - 127SexFyra {MP3} (from Aurora)
The Deer Tracks - Yes This Is My Broken Shield {MP3} (from Aurora)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

An in depth look into Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" - Part 2

A few more themes and motifs in Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (part 1 is here):
City - The album was at least partly conceived while Oberst was living in NYC during a rather tumultuous time in his life. The city with its high rises, sidewalks and neon signs, to name a few items (including the subway and the village in "Train under water") is very present in the album. This is done not just as a backdrop to the theme of loneliness, but almost to an accompanying presence in itself.

Loneliness - An almost existential anxiety is pervading large parts of the album, dealing with death and being alone, living with yourself. The final line in the first song sums the starting point: "I found out I am really no one". I'm not sure this point changes much throughout the album, but more sides of it are explored.

Drugs and Alcohol - Help deal with the constant sense of loneliness and the pains of being alive. Treated with ambiguity ("We might die from medication, but we sure killed all the pain").

Telephone and Camera - The telephone is an important means for communication that should be utilized more ("to talk to strangers"). The camera is a symbol for truth and memories ("Polaroids").

Moon - provides a sense of calmness, fantasy and false clarity (especially in comparison with the harsh reality of morning).

War - A strong sentiment against war (presumably the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, though there are plenty of metaphorical wars I can think about as well) in several songs. The main message is "If you love something, give it away" or "If we walk away, they'll walk away", but by the end there's almost a pragmatic (and very cynical) stance saying "It's best to join the side that's gonna win". This surrender, also articulated by "I'll fight like hell to hide that I've given up", seems a bit surprising for Oberst. By the closing lines Conor looks as though he's accepting the fact that he cannot change things, but he still keeps his own voice (and conscience: "Well I could have been a famous singer, If I had some one else's voice, But failure always sounded better; Let's fuck it up boys, make some noise!").

The last stanza of the last song is both a conclusion to the album and at the same time an open ending. With "The sun came up with no conclusions, Flowers sleepin' in their beds; The city cemetary's hummin', I'm wide awake, it's morning!" uttered in energetic despair, Conor, now in possession of his yellow bird, leaps to grasp at life, with all its memories, pains and loneliness; but there is bitterness to it, even then. And the four lines that may best sum up a great portion of the album are these: "And I'm not sure what the trouble was that started all of this, The reasons all have run away, but the feeling never did; It's not something I would recommend, but it's one way to live, 'Cause what is simple in the moonlight by the morning never is". So in essence, this is also about getting to the morning and living it.

What remains of the optimist in me says that it's better to choose life, morning-ugly clarity and all. The pessimist within agrees as well.

Is there a message for us to find in the album or are we just guessing within our own thoughts and feelings? Either way, thank you Conor for this beautiful mystery.

Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward - Train Under Water (Live) {MP3} (from An Evening with Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward - February 20, 2004)
Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward - One Foot in Front of the Other (Live) {MP3} (from An Evening with Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward - February 20, 2004)
Get I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning on Amazon or iTunes.

Friday, March 06, 2009

An in depth look into Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" - Part 1

Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" is one of my favorite albums of all times, though I was a bit late in getting to know it. Listening to it and reading the lyrics recently have made me think there may be more to it than meets the eyes (and ears).

The album is arranged with a determined order, from an introductory song in the beginning, contrived shifts and passages leading from one song to the next (not only in melody but also in terms of connecting lyrics and themes) and finally a concluding song. In addition, there seem to be several themes laced throughout it, perhaps in slightly different meaning in each song, but they all help to bind the album together as a single work of art and provide it with added layers of meaning. Here are some of the most noteworthy of themes, all of them interacting with one another in some way:

Morning - A reference to "morning" or "dawn" appears in 8 out of 10 of the songs, and the other two share a theme that does not appear on any of the other songs (see below). The name of the album is the last line of the last song, a sort of conclusion in its own (more on that in part 2). The morning in the album usually stands for something expected, a sort of "clearing up" or disillusion, a return to the "normal" situation.

Yellow Bird - Appears in the two songs mentioned earlier (without a "morning" reference). In its first occurrence, in "We are nowhere and it's now", the song's protagonist (apparently Oberst himself) is urged: "By now you probably should have learned. Did you forget that yellow bird? But how could you forget your yellow bird?".
On the second instance, in "Poison oak" (a rather mysterious song, possibly to a very close friend), Oberst continues: "And I never thought this life was possible. You're the yellow bird that I've been waiting for". It seems the yellow bird is expected, desired and recognized when it finally appears. In both cases it could be a symbol for hope and liberation, an intrinsic positive value that can manifest in others; especially good friends for example. It is evident that the recognition of the yellow bird triggers an invigorating transformation, a realization, though not exactly happiness: "The end of paralysis, I was a statuette, Now I'm drunk as hell on a piano bench, And when I press the keys it all gets reversed, The sound of loneliness makes me happier".

End of part 1 - tomorrow the conclusion, including the rest of the themes and why this album is still a beautiful mystery to me (second part is here). Please feel free to share your insights about this album. Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Bright Eyes - First Day of My Life {MP3} (Live on KCRW 4.10.03)
Conor Oberst, Jim James, and M. Ward - At the Bottom of Everything (Live) {MP3} (from An Evening with Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward - February 20, 2004)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Squirrelhouse Update

Tuscaloosa, Alabama's indie rock band Squirrelhouse, covered here a few days ago, has launched a new video for their lead single "Fours" from their S.P.Q.R. LP. The clip is rather odd but definitely in the indie spirit and entertaining. Check it out below.

Squirrelhouse - Fours {MP3} (from S.P.Q.R.)

Squirrelhouse - Fours (video)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Leonard Mynx

Leonard Mynx is a singer-songwriter who's also a story teller of a rare breed. Based in Portland, Oregon, Mynx has a talent to enchant his listeners as he leads them through some dark and half familiar paths.

Though the songs in his debut LP, Vesper, appear to be sombre and somewhat stark, they also portray a sense of quiet truth and dignity emanating. On some songs the resemblance in style to a young Leonard Cohen is discernible; in others, the darkness issuing the narrated story cloaks Mynx in timelessness. Either way, Vesper tells some sad tales about a forgotten America, now enshrouded by Leonard Mynx's mesmerizing sound.

The highly recommended Vesper was produced with the aid of Adam Selzer (Norfolk and Western, M. Ward) and is due to be released in Spring 2009. Check out Leonard Mynx on his website and MySpace, where you can get updates on gigs and buy the LP.

Leonard Mynx - Mary (from Vesper)
Leonard Mynx - Northwest Passage (from Vesper)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Song of the Morning: Never Love Again

My first impression, still echoing today after dozens of plays, is of a cross between 18th century drunken British sailors and Fleet Foxes. I admit, I'm over taken by Cherbourg, a London based folk-rock band (formerly known as ‘Davie Fiddle and the Lucky Egg’ ).

Their brilliant debut EP, Last Chapter of Dreaming, coming out this February, is nothing short of a masterpiece. It includes four songs, all rotating around the affairs of the broken heart, unafraid to feel and admit the pain, but like some pub rock of old, you don't get completely depressed. Instead, you take refuge with your friends from the stormy cold night in a warm pub for a round of pints, recovering your strength, basking by the music overflowing it all.

Love can hurt, but after listening to this EP you'll be ready to try again (though it will never feel like the first time).

Checkout Cherbourg on MySpace, Facebook and last.fm for more tracks and gig updates. Buy the EP on their MySpace or on Rough Trade.

* Edit: Their great second EP is covered here.

Cherbourg - Never Love Again {MP3} (from Last Chapter of Dreaming)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Deepspace

What's in a name? A great deal if you're taking Brisbane, Australia based Mirko Ruckels' moniker, Deepspace, as an example. Creating what can be described as other worldly ambient electronic music, it's actually feels like a voyage, not just in and with sound, but also through distinct landscapes and sights as well.

On tracks such as "Subantarctic Phenomena" you'll be willing to swear you're wading through endless reaches of snowy white, shivering with the passing wind and marveling at the surrounding silence. On other tracks, such as "Euphandemonium", you'll be a lone passenger in a deep space exploration mission, just you and the unfathomable blackness outside, your sense of wonder being filled to the brim with the sight of stars and planets passing by.

It is this feeling of wonder, beauty and calmness that transcends this music. Have patience; you need only close your eyes and listen, for the deep.

Check out Deepspace on his website, MySpace and last.fm for more tracks and info. Get his albums on CD Baby, eMusic and iTunes.

Deepspace - Subantarctic Phenomena {MP3}
Deepspace - Arctic Sun and Weather Experiment {MP3}
Deepspace - Euphandemonium {MP3} (from The Barometric Sea)
Deepspace - Leaving the Hub {MP3} (from The Barometric Sea)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Norfolk & Western

This week is not starting out too well for me so far. I've been getting a weird feeling, a mix between "there's something I've forgotten" and "I'm not supposed to be here" which is a bit disturbing.

Fortunately, thanks to the rain enveloped atmosphere and Portland, Oregon's Norfolk & Western, I can afford a little down time. It's all I need right now: mellow lyrics to allow some depression but inspiring and complex enough melodies to keep me from sinking beyond reach. As each song I listen to becomes more complex, more difficult, more layered, so will I, eventually, find my way back. But for now, play on.

Check out Norfolk & Western on MySpace, last.fm and their under construction site for more tracks and updates.

Norfolk & Western - Impossible {MP3} (from Dusk in Cold Parlours)
Norfolk & Western - The Longest Stare {MP3} (from The Unsung Colony)