Two things unsettled me before I listened to “Vomit”: firstly, it’s title and secondly, that it was the first single off an album called Father, Son, Holy Ghost from a guy whose famous indie breakout Bon Iverism was that he’d spent the formative years of his life in a religious wacko cult. Creepy.
As it turns out, there was very little reason for my trepidation.
“Vomit”, besides a rather harrowing first minute, is more of the lovelorn classic rock wallowing of Christopher Owens, picking up nicely where the band’s Broken Dreams Club EP last left us. Crafted in the “Hellhole Ratrace” mould, it builds into a wonderful choir-backed climax, outrageous soul-singer and all, and shows off the leaps and bounds bandmate Chet Jr. White has made in composition since their charmingly raw debut.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost will be released on September 13th.
When Pat Grossi, the man behind Active Child, dropped Curtis Lane into circulation in mid-2010 it marked something determinedly different from the rest of the pack still hung-up on replicating the chillwave sound artists like Washed Out and Toro y Moi were perfecting. Even though he’d been lumped by association into the genre, Grossi’s gorgeous falsetto and sun-stroked harp melodies were much more direct and in many ways much more beautiful than anything his peers were doing and were strung closer to dream pop than anything else.
Now with his debut LP, You Are All I See, ready to go, Grossi has released a track off the album as part of the Adult Swim Singles Program and it’s absolutely beautiful; one of those songs that’s sure to get the hype steamroller into motion, sounding like the r&b vocal sensibilities of How To Dress Well layered over much brighter, more operatic melodies than anything Love Remains could conjure. Listen to “Hanging On” here:
In the four years since Zach Condon’s francophilia hit its gorgeous, horn-blaring high with 2007’s The Flying Club Cup, a quick detour through Mexico for the hit-and-miss March of the Zapotec EP has been the only visible marker of our hero’s musical whereabouts. It wasn’t until the release of their latest single, the wonderful “East Harlem”, that the band’s upcoming third LP, The Rip Tide, was firmly on the map again and if the tracklist is anything to go by, it looks like Condon, whose trip to Europe inspired Gulag Orkestar, has left his travels behind for places like home (simultaneously his hometown “Santa Fe” and his part-time residence, “East Harlem”), “Payne’s Bay”, and the single b-side (the namesake of a town in Indiana (thanks Google)) “Goshen”. NOTE: On further investigation, Goshen is also an area in New York, which may make more sense.
The b-side and album track burns slowly, possibly more so than any Beirut song thus far, and Condon’s croon is accentuated by the usual suspects – the percussive-based group of brass, strings and vocal harmonies that give Beirut their shine – and a delicate piano riff. You can listen to the track for yourself below and pre-order The Rip Tide, set for release August 30th, here.
Though I have no doubt the more blog-savvy of you would have caught onto Jai Paul’s awesomely wobbly ‘BTSTU’ sometime last year while it was weaving its way through the blogosphere like wildfire, for those of you who didn’t, here’s your chance to hear the most delicate “Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me” ever recorded. Since being listed amongst the likes of James Blake, Jamie Woon, Yuck and Jessie J in BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll, things have been quiet from the Jai Paul camp but we do know he’s signed to XL Recordings and retreated to the studio to work on his debut full length (hopefully to be released sometime this year) and while that remains in the works, we can at least cherish what we have.
While gamers everywhere explode with frothy, hyper-excitibilty over the release of the second installation in Valve’s Portal series, The National have given the rest of us a reason to be just as happy; hot off the heels of their contribution to the soundtrack of indie flick Win Win, they’ve dropped another new song to go along with the videogame.
“Exile Vilify” is meant to evoke the “same visceral reactions from its listeners that Portal does from its players” and though my gaming knowledge extends as far as Mario Kart and FIFA, if that statement rings true, you can count me in. It’s the sort of somber, slow-moving ballad that the band seems to be able to produce at a whim, suspending Matt Berninger’s croon above a beautiful piano melody and string arrangements, and it’s just as good as we’ve come to expect from a band that rarely ever puts a foot wrong. You can find it below, along with the teaser trailer for Portal 2:
A brand new National song has found it’s way onto the internet, with a particularly special premise for the seasoned slow-burning indie rockers; “Think You Can Wait” is the first song the band has written specifically for a film. Win Win is Tom McCarthy’s latest feature following 2003’s The Station Agent and 2008’s The Visitor (excellent films, I might add), as well as writing credits for Pixar’s Up, and it’s been getting a great reception on the festival circuit, including the currently underway SXSW. Starring Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Tambor, amongst others, the film follows Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), an attorney, high school wrestling coach, and all-around sad sack, who uncovers a wrestling prodigy, only for the boy’s mother to turn up, from rehab and without a penny, and threaten to dismantle everything.
“Think You Can Wait”, which plays through the credits, is a moving, pensive song that seems to float along as gracefully as we’ve come to expect of the band, on the back of Berninger’s rich baritone and typically understated instrumentation and string arrangements. It’s a song that tucks in nicely between “Lemonworld” and “Runaway”, off their hugely-acclaimed 2010 release High Violet, though as a whole burns more in tune with the mood of 2007’s Boxer. “I’m out of my mind / think you can wait?”, Berninger wonders broodingly in the enigmatic lyrical style that, over the course of five LP’s, has carved itself into its own comfortable, idiomatic niche and as he wallows, “I’m trying / but…
There’s a hell of a lot going on in “Don’t Stop”, the latest teaser off The Dodos’ forthcoming No Color. It’s instilled with the groups typical energy, tightly wound around masterful finger-plucking and pitter-patter percussion, and I’d dare say it might just be one of their best songs to date. There’s still no sign of Neko Case’s reported contributions to their 4th LP but it’s safe to say my interest in the rest of No Color has hit a fever pitch.
There’s a lot of great sites out there offering interesting, artistic and often unique videos of the artists you love talking, creating and playing music. Here are some you should definitely know about:
I’ll say this straight away: The Take Away Shows series produces some of the most consistently incredible videos of any of the sites I’ll post in this blog. Started in 2006 as an expansion of La Blogotheque, director Mathieu Saura (under the pseudonym Vincent Moon) began filming one-take videos of artists playing songs in completely regular settings (someone’s apartment, taking a walk down the road, on a park lawn) and often stripped down and/or acoustic. He has since gone on to film music documentaries for The National, R.E.M. and Beirut amongst others, but it’s his Take Away project that really shines, having now produced over 120 videos.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you guys can rip on the Fork all you want but the .tv side of the site compiles some of the best music videos out there. From the Daytripping sessions with artists like Bon Iver and The Black Keys, to the Tunnelvision live series, and not least of all, the Special Presentation videos featuring…
Watch Ezra Koenig, of Vampire Weekend, and both of The Black Keys slug it out for Stephen Colbert’s “Best Alternative Music Album” vote; the dubiously titled Grammy category introduced in 1991 to recognize the section of the music industry that existed “outside of the mainstream music consciousness”. Past winners include 7x platinum Parachutes and 8x platinum A Rush of Blood To The Head, both of Codplay’s wins to date, UK Albums Chart #1 Icky Thump, the third of three wins in five years for The White Stripes, and Radiohead’s 3x platinum OK Computer, platinum-within-a-week Kid A, and the self-released, 3,000,000+ units sold In Rainbows, amongst a host of other obscure, mega-selling worldwide phenomenons.
Despite the fact that solid information on Wu Lyf is exceedingly scarce, they’re the type of band I feel I know better than half the bands whose middle names and favourite TV shows I could find on their myspace pages in a matter of minutes. For one thing, they’re genuinely different from anything else around right now. They’re a band who seem to willingly defy and avoid any sense of definition; the most unwilling of rock stars. But for a group so determined for mystery and behaviour that seems to only perpetuate their legend, their elusiveness only serves to shoot down the idea that it’s all a gimmick. And if that isn’t enough, the music should speak for itself because what Wu Lyf have is something truly special: tortured, melancholic and absolutely mesmerizing. I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Billy Bragg, M. Ward and Owen Pallett, amongst a host of others, have come together to record a Joanna Newsom cover record released digitally recently in support of the Oxfam America Pakistan Flood Relief fund. They’ve uploaded the album to Soundcloud, embedded below, and if you’re feeling particularly charitable you can head to their website, where a donation of $10 or more will earn you a high quality mp3 download of the 22-track album, cover art and liner notes. It’s for a good cause.
“Pakistan’s worst floods in decades are now affecting more than 20 million people. More than a fifth of the country’s cropland has been inundated, and 1.8 million houses damaged or destroyed. In the crowded temporary camps, waterborne disease is already taking a toll. In order to prevent more suffering and fatalities, Oxfam is rushing clean water, sanitation materials, and other essential aid to hundreds of thousands of those in need.”
Kevin Barnes, eccentric frontman of indie pop outfit of Montreal (that’s a lowercase ‘o’ mind you!) did something yesterday that not many artists do, for several reasons: he responded to a critic. The main reason, though, is quite simple – you can’t look good. Following his discovery of the 6.7 semi-dismissal from Pitchfork, he took to his blog to give his own snarky, critical response to a snarky, critical review. You can read it here but if you don’t want to, here’s the crux of the issue: Kevin Barnes feels misunderstood. His calls for a “fair and balanced review” amongst the slew of insults and sarcasm did serve a purpose though: it brought an important question back into the spotlight. Just what does a review serve to do?
Let’s put it into a wider context for a moment: the press are a huge part of a musicians life. The influence of a website like Pitchfork alone is enough to rocket the career of an upcoming independent artist into the spotlight or have it crumbling away like a fistful of sand. The evidence is clear enough to see: bands like Vampire Weekend can credit a lot of their current level of success to the hype Pitchfork spun around them (this isn’t a jab at the bands ability, for the record) and Fleet Foxes went from folk minnows to a debut album that charted in seven countries in the space of a year, on the back of a no-holds-barred 9.0…
Though this song has been floating around for the better part of 2 weeks now, here’s your friendly reminder to give it a listen if you haven’t yet been swallowed by its monstrous swell. Robert Smith, eccentric frontman of goth legends The Cure, teams up with glitched out troublemakers Crystal Castles for this enormous cover of Platinum Blonde’s 1984 hit ‘Not In Love’. Play it at a deafening volume and wait for that chorus to kick in.
They’re not doing anything we haven’t heard a million times before (particularly with the absurd amount of bands doing it right now) but where The Pains of Being Pure At Heart get off easy is that they capture a charm that few of their peers are able to tap into. Their debut record was playful and new-wave romantic in way that made you forget The Field Mice were doing this way back in the 80’s and their latest single “Heart In Your Heartbreak” shows us that nothing’s changed. Belong isn’t set for release until March next year but here’s your early litmus test (pro tip: don’t take it too seriously):
Zola Jesus is Nika Roza Danilova, a classically trained vocalist and Julliard reject by the age of 10. With this re-recording of the massive “Sea Talk”, which features on the Valusia EP released just today, she continues her proclivity for creating huge, swelling pop songs with a gothic synth twist.