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After three long, agonizing years of stark Robin Pecknold demos and hit-or-miss J. Tillman solo albums, Fleet Foxes as a whole finally return with their announcement of a new album, Helplessness Blues and stream of the album’s title track, which hints at an album that sticks to the sound that brought Fleet Foxes to their indie stardom in the first place.  Part “Ragged Wood” and part “Mykonos”, the song divides evenly into two sections:  a pastoral acoustic section and a more grandiose rock section.  The song’s weakest point is the transition between these two sections because, frankly, there isn’t one.  The acoustic strumming slows a bit, and the second section enters with the bluntness of a sledgehammer.  The mixing between these two sections is pretty awful, so hopefully, Helplessness Blues won’t have these same issues throughout the album, considering the brilliant production that characterized the group’s self-titled debut.

Helplessness Blues is out May 3rd on Sub Pop.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues by subpop

Eisley’s first album in almost four years is about to be released through Equal Vision Records on March 1st. The album is called The Valley, and this song “Ambulance” is taken from it.

The Valley was recorded at Rosewood Studios in their hometown of Tyler, Texas, with producer/engineers Gary Leach and Austin Deptula (LeAnn Rimes), and mixed by Andy Freeman at Bay Area Tone in San Francisco. The album’s title refers to the emotional turmoil that the DuPree sisters, who front Eisley, experienced as they crafted their third album: Sherri enduring a failed marriage; Chauntelle, a broken engagement; and Stacy, a painful breakup. The only relationship that ended on their terms was the split with Warner Bros. Records, the label that released their first two albums and several EPs. Promising to bring listeners through the band’s darkest and most trying times, “The Valley” reveals their strength, patience and perseverance. On tracks like “Smarter” and “Sad,” there’s a musical aggression and emotional urgency that transports you to the moment they were written, laying bare the open wound of the broken heart. And the chilling album closer, “Ambulance,” is an icy snapshot of the very moment of betrayal and abandonment. Elsewhere, there’s a stately solace in the hopeful “Kind” and whimsical “Mr. Moon,” and buoyant string arrangements decorate opener “The Valley” and “Watch It Die.”

Anybody with an ear for this kind of thing knows the Live Lounge, BBC Radio 1 feature originally presented by Jo Whiley, and now by the lovely Fearne Cotton.

Live Lounge, on which artists are invited to perform an original alongside a cover of their choice, is renowned for its tendency to throw up interesting and unexpected takes on well-known tracks (Arctic Monkeys doing Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good,’ Robyn taking on Alicia Keys’ ‘Sleeping with a Broken Heart’). Being the BBC, it’s all lovingly archived, bizarrely frequent recurrence of N-Dubz and all.

Hawaiian singer-songwriter Bruno Mars is the latest to grace the BBC studios, and his debut performance is everything a cover version should be: beautifully arranged, personalised and performed in the light-hearted manner in which it was intended. He even throws in a couple of lines from the Beach Boys’ similarly-titled ‘California Girls’ and a clever take on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “songs about Satan are great and everything, but I really wish more death metal bands wrote about dinosaurs,” then this track’s for you.

Here’s “Reptilian Age,” the fourth track off Blood Rainbow’s Lethal Message.

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THE BLOOD OF PREHISTORIC ANIMALS WAS FLOWING LIKE WATER
WHEN THE T-REX WAS TEARING THEIR FLESH
SCALED TITANS WERE WANDERING THE BLEAK LAND
THEIR RACE EXTINCT THOUGHT, THEIR GENES ARE WAITING FOR THE COMEBACK

FROM THE DEPTHS OF TIME
GIGANT ANCESTORS

THEY ARE RUSHING TO US THROUGH THE FOG OF AGES
HAVE RECORDED THEIR NAMES AMONG THE IMMORTALS
YOU CAN BE A HERO IN A PAST ERA
COME WITH ME AND WE WILL FLY TO THE REPTILIAN AGE

THE FOAM OF THE ANCIENT OCEAN IS COLOURED RED WITH BLOOD
THE WILD SEA REPTILES ARE BITING EACH OTHER
GIGANT PTERADONONS RULE THE SKY
THEY PROUDLY LOOK DOWN AT THE LAND SEEKING PREY

FROM THE DEPTHS OF TIME
GIGANT ANCESTORS

THEY ARE RUSHING TO US THROUGH THE FOG OF AGES
HAVE RECORDED THEIR NAMES AMONG THE IMMORTALS
YOU CAN BE A HERO IN A PAST ERA
COME WITH ME AND WE WILL FLY TO THE REPTILIAN AGE

REPTILIAN AGE! A PAST ERA
REPTILIAN AGE! FROM THE DAWN OF EARTH
REPTILIAN AGE!
FORGOTTEN WORLDS

I’m not somebody who’s prone to hyperbole, so I’ll say this in my own typically understated manner: this is the best thing ever to happen to me in my life.

On January 27, Ian Maleney’s Quarter Inch Collective will release Quompilation #1, a download/cassette-only compilation of 13 Irish acts covering their favourite songs from 2009 in their own inimitable styles. The compilation features the diverse line-up of Cloud Castle LakeFlokGinolaHipster YouthKid KarateMarket Force,No Monster ClubPatrick KelleherRhino MagicSacred AnimalsSpiesSquareheadand We Are Losers, although the exact tracklist is being kept firmly under wraps.

Luckily, we’ve been supplied with a couple of advanced screenings from the tape, and today saw Dublin scuzz-pop outfit Squarehead premiere their cover of labelmates Adebisi Shank’s ‘(-_-)’  (in single quotes that almost looks like Napster propaganda.) It’s not just a straight cover though: the trio have added a sun-kissed vocal melody so that we can all now sing along to the tune without looking as demented as I usually do.

Squarehead – (-_-) (Adebisi Shank Cover) by Quarter Inch Collective

(Photo by Loreana Rushe, modified by Nialler9)

I haven’t been the nicest to Dallas Green over the years but I’ll be the first to tell you that he does one hell of a job on Canada’s first hip-hop anthem of the new year.

That’s right, I said hip-hop.

Last week Consequence of Sound premiered “Live Forever”, one half of Two Songs, the upcoming charity 12” by Shad and Dallas Green. Shad, for those of you who don’t know, is absolutely fucking awesome. Last year he put out TSOL, his third entry into the imaginary Canadian Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Like Shad, TSOL is also fucking awesome.

Do you know what else is fucking awesome? “Live Forever”, which you can hear below.

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If you like what you hear and feel like supporting the Skate4Cancer you can pre-order Two Songs at MapleMusic. Act fast, though, because with a limited pressing of just 556 copies I imagine City & Colour fan girls will eat this up faster than any fat joke I can make.

For all the shit Britney gets nowadays, her singles have always been top notch. Even when her vocals were long ago deemed utterly fake and her persona as manufactured as a slice of American cheese, a fan would always have the singles: the sensual “I’m A Slave 4 U,” the clever “If You Seek Amy,” the absolutely perfect “Toxic.” And here is Britney trailblazing pop yet again with a single that blows most of Circus out of the water. Britney does dubstep, something I couldn’t believe until I verified from multiple different streams. Listen to the whole song (it’s really good!), but the bridge around 2:05 almost made me fall off my chair.

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Indie stars The xx seem to be taking it easy these days, but the same can’t be said of their beatsmith extraordinaire, Jamie Smith, who runs around with the under the name of Jamie xx these days. Apart from his prolific remix work, Smith is set to drop I’m New Here on February 22, which features reworkings of some choice cuts from soul master Gil Scott-Heron, dunked in a ripe dose of xx production. Snippets of the upcoming album can be found all across the net, but the latest track to drop now comes with it’s very own pink rectangular block as a visual aide. Slick, just like the song.

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.

WU LYF-spitting it concrete like the golden sun god from LUCIFER YOUTH FOUNDATION on Vimeo.

To mark the death of Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty, acknowledged here on Tuesday, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters dug out an old cover of the late great’s biggest hit, ‘Baker Street.’

The Foos’ cover of ‘Baker Street’ originally appeared way back in 1998 as a b-side to their ‘My Hero’ single (this being back in the days when physical singles actually existed, although most were on CD by then, thus rendering the term ‘b-side’ technically obsolete).

Baker Street by Foo Fighters

Before you post the final and non-retractable version of your ”2010 Songs of The Year” list, be sure to listen to What Happened?, a criminally unheard gem off Animal Collective’s score to the experimental film ODDSAC. It’s a track that mixes the reckless forward momentum of “Turn Into Something” with the electronic pallet of Strawberry Jam, Avey Tare combating a constant squeal and a relentlessly uptempo drum loop for three breathtaking minutes. Tare’s on his A game here, his yelp of the title lyric warm but also shrilly desperate, Animal Collective invoking its trademark brand of nostalgia and adding something sinister. “What happened to make me suffer inside?” goes the opening lyric. Who knows exactly, but looking at the wild party scene the song accompanies, my guess is growing old happened, and youth is now a hazy, hallucinatory memory of constant abandon. Not to be missed.

As the international media descended on Ireland in November to cover its impending financial crisis, their choice of imagery was striking. Almost all pictorial coverage, in the UK and American media at least, focused on one of three images: beggars, ghost estates or horses.

The first two are predictable enough – similar pictures exist in almost every major city across Europe and the United States – but the third is a puzzler. It appears that for all the rapid financial and technological advances we’ve achieved over the past twenty years, Ireland remains the only country in the world where a horse can freely roam the streets of a major city, with or without its owner, and nobody will bat an eyelid. Except for foreigners, of course, but they hardly count.

Limerick comedy rap duo Rubberbandits have made a small industry of this “only in Ireland” schtick, achieving unlikely success with Ireland’s usually hyper-conservative state broadcaster RTE. They first came to (indie) prominence with the hilarious ‘Up Da Ra,’ a sly satire of those radical Irish nationalists (many of them in the US) whose grasp of historical fact is only rivaled by their loose grip on intelligence. ‘Willie O’Dea‘ is no less funny for the fact only a few thousand people could ever understand it.

As comedians, Rubberbandits are as much miss as they are hit – like a crude, very esoteric, Irish version of the Lonely Island – but as musicians they definitely…

One of the blogosphere’s more interesting stories of late has been the rapid rise of Sonny Moore, better known now as Skrillex, in the electro scene. With only two EPs to his name on deadmau5’s label, Moore at one point had six songs near the top of the Beatport Top 100, a site that specializes in electronic releases and is an excellent barometer of artist success. This is a feat that has never happened before, and it’s even more fascinating when you learn that Moore, who was the former frontman for post-hardcore band From First To Last, only began DJing in the past couple of years. His debut EP came out in June, while Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, featuring this rather filthy dubstep remix by everyone’s favorite Dutch drum ‘n bass trio Noisia, was just released last month. Who knew all that pent-up hardcore aggression would translate so well to electro?

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I don’t know much of anything about Young Magic (I don’t even know, really, what that picture above is, except has something to do w/r/t the artist), except that his debut song, “You With Air,” is the exact kind of dark, soulful, lo-fi pop that I’ve been searching for relentlessly after Love Remains spiked this hunger, this crave, for such music into my brain. It’s a little more spirited than How to Dress Well, with less focus on ambiance, but the song’s stifling, throbbing synths and the confessional slur of the vocalist combine to give the same sort of nightly glow. Plus, it’s rather catchy, which is always a plus. More stuff to be moody to, basically.

You With Air 7″ comes out February 11, 2011, on Carpark Records.

Young Magic “You With Air” by carparkrecords

(Photo: Romain Kedochim)

Time was, all the phrase “UK hip hop” brought to mind was the impossibly cool Slick Rick and the slightly less cool John Barnes. Ireland was in worse shape, almost apologetically claiming credit for New Yorkers House of Pain. Of course there were wonderful underground acts on both scenes, but they would always lack legitimacy in a genre still dominated by inner-city black Americans.

Times have changed immeasurably since: British rap acts have become a genuine force internationally, and being white and European is no longer the stumbling block it used to. Nevertheless, London-born, Wexford-raised Maverick Sabre had always struggled to define his own identity since leaving the city of his birth aged 4 to live in the land of his father, a nation where to be both Irish and English is often viewed as an oxymoron.

That struggle is one the 20-year-old teases out on his debut single, ‘Sometimes,’ and one of many fresh perspectives he offers to an already creatively thriving London scene. His style will most commonly be compared with Plan B’s – and indeed he’s already played support for his fellow Londoner – with acoustic guitar prominent in all his songs and reggae-tinged singing interspersed with his half-caste rapping voice.

Maverick Sabre – ‘Sometimes’:

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