Friday, February 27, 2015

New Song by Emile Haynie featuring Rufus Wainwright "Little Ballerina" (Debut Album Out)

Emile Haynie (Photo via GQ)
L.A. music producer Emile Haynie released a debut album this week that follows the long tradition of heartfelt creative output spurred on by a failed relationship. He enlisted quite a collection of collabos to bring his songs on We Fall (Interscope Records) to life: Brian Wilson, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow, Lykke Li, J. Spaceman of Spiritualized, Father John Misty, Nate Ruess of fun. and Lana Del Rey (Haynie produced her album Born to Die, along with others by Kanye West and Eninem, just to name a few). 

But it was "Little Ballerina" featuring Rufus Wainwright that caught my ear, instantly recognizing his warm vocals and wondering if I had missed something about a new collection from this favorite artist of mine. Haynie told GQ in a song-by-song breakdown that it was actually fellow super producer Mark Ronson who suggested Wainwright for the track, bringing a "loving, playful delivery." It's definitely found a place on my next playlist -- take a listen at the widget here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Rock On Foundation Alt Star Party 2015 w/The Hold Steady & DJ Windows 98 (Win Butler of Arcade Fire)

Bowery Ballroom served as this year's site for the second annual Alt Star Party, a fundraiser for the Rock On Foundation during the NBA's All Star Weekend in NYC.  New Hampshire native Matt Bonner of San Antonio Spurs fame is also a huge music fan and founding member of this nonprofit, that supports community arts and athletics via grant programs and community events.  Bonner hosts The Alt Rock Star Party with his brother Luke as a way to  together the alternative music scene and NBA.

Minneapolis' veteran rock band The Hold Steady headlined the event, banging out tune after tune for the packed crowd who passionately sang along, knowing far more words than the average fan and throwing their own glitter fetti. Brooklyn's power rock trio STRNGRS took to the stage in support, and there were guest DJs throughout the evening: Stefan Marolachakis of Caveman, Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend, Dapwell (formerly of Das Rascist) and DJ Windows 98 a.k.a. Win Butler of Arcade Fire, who closed the night (or rather early morning) after a team win at the NBA Celebrity game.

With Paul & Rock On Board Member Will Sheff of Okkervil River
Hanging with Caveman's Jimmy Carbonetti (left) and Matt Iwanusa
DJ Windows 98 - NBA Celebrity All Star Win Butler

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tom Vek @ Rough Trade, Brooklyn NY February 11

Tom Vek is the stage name of London's Thomas Timothy Vernon-Kell, a self-taught producer and multi-instrumentalist who released a third album, Luck, last fall.  Performing as a electronic one-man band at Rough Trade on a frigid winter night, the beats flew to heat up the crowd in this small venue. His music is all taught layers, with mostly speak-singing for vocals (a woman introduced as Olga joined Vek for a few songs, otherwise he was on stage solo throughout the gig).

The night began with "We Do Nothing" from the 2011 album, Leisure Seizure. This is most likely when I made my acquaintance to the musician, all arty angles with a geeky nerd look behind thick frames. It makes sense that this is a guy who recorded this first collection of songs (2005's We Have Sound) while studying graphic art. He thanked the crowd and asked how they were doing before launching into the rest of the set. Colorful projections were memorable in their simplicity, such as when his face flashed as depicted on the latest album cover art (see photo below). "Chore," the single off of his second album, illustrated the time spent between albums learning more complicated production techniques. Yet the new songs are still heavily influenced by electronica and dance punk, with repeated lyrical lines keeping things in a linear thrust. For example in "You'll Stay," Vek intones, "What I want to say is everything's OK" over and over for a chorus, while a pulsating vibration serves as a percussive base.

Vek thanked the crowd again for coming to see him do his "new thing," saying "It's been fun." He ended with the synths blasts of "Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)," a song that ends up chugging along with images of humans as dancing animals. It could be said for that in the audience too, a nice warm up to returning into the cold outside.  Check out the videos below.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Romantic Songs Playlist for Valentine's Day 2015

Being snowed in is a perfect excuse to bust out another Romantic Songs Playlist as Valentine's Day rolls around -- on a Saturday night no less! I start things off with an awesome live version of "Heart It Races" by popular playlist group Dr. Dog, and let this latest personal music compilation find a balance from within. I've included some recent songs from fave band Spoon and artist Beck (with congrats on the Grammy win, even if it was for Rock Album of the Year and doesn't quite apply to this assortment of sublime music) plus older picks from my collection. I dug deep in the archives for The Cure, The Raconteurs and James to compliment the newer tunes from Dan Croll, Beach House and Band of Horses. The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" was chosen for this year's list before the Seattle Seahawks took the field with it blaring during the Super Bowl, and now that strange moment when sports coopted this anthem is embedded in our consciousness. Plus as the game ended in upset it's bittersweet indeed...

Listen up here and visit my posts from 2014, 2013 and 2012 if you need more inspiration. Happy to oblige and enjoy the holiday!

1. "Heart It Raves"  Dr. Dog
2. "Lovesong"  The Cure
3. "Only in My Dreams"  Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
4. "Compliment Your Soul"  Dan Croll
5. "What Would I Want? Sky"  Animal Collective
6. "I Saw the Bright Shines"  The Octopus Project
7. "Crown of Love"  Arcade Fire
8. "No One's Gonna Love You"  Band of Horses
9. "Nantes"  Beirut
10. "Together"  The Raconteurs
11. "Inside Out"  Spoon
12. "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space"  Spiritualized
13. "Walkabout (with Noah Lennox)" Atlas Sound
14. "Heart Is a Drum" Beck
15. "Bitter Sweet Symphony"  The Verve
16. "Chicago"  Sufjan Stevens
17. "Sometimes"  James
18. "Norway"  Beach House
19. "I and Love and You"  Avett Brothers

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gorillaz Recap: Five Top Picks In Video (New Album Due in 2016)

Important news about a new Gorillaz album in the works appeared earlier this week via Jamie Hewlett's Instagram account, after posts of some the virtual band surfaced. There were new depictions of the surly bass player Murdoc (far right in image from here) as well as teenage gal guitarist Noodle (at far left and fun fact that she has been voiced by Japanese actress Haruka Kuroda, Miho Hatori of trip-hop group Cibo Matto and Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth). These characters were joined by a beefy drummer named Russel and 2-D, lead vocalist, keyboardist and alter ego for Damon Albarn of Blur and The Good, the Bad & the Queen. The group was created in 1998 by Hewett with Albarn who had dropped hints that after finishing his solo debut, last year's lovely although mellow Everyday Robots, he would be working on new Gorillaz songs.

I remember being transfixed by the first self-titled album's "Clint Eastwood" in 2001 (or rather a year or two later as the tune caught on in the states).  It was just like nothing I had heard before, a genre-crossing blend of hip-hop, rap and Blur's Britpop with Albarn's familiar vocals, plus the wacky idea of it all being played by cartoon musicians! "19-2000" was another gem, with its laid back vibe and video of one crazy car ride. To attest to my love for the band, two of my very favorite dance tunes of all time appeared on the second album, 2005's Demon Days.  I can't help but move when listening to the non-stop action of "Feel Good Inc." and "Dare." Yet another top pick, "On Melancholy Hill" from 2010's Plastic Beach, is infused with hopeful sweetness, all goodness and light. There is also 2011's The Fall that was recorded entirely on an iPad to check out, and here are the videos for all my faves below.

P.S. Besides the post about Albarn's latest album, there are two other popular posts on this website featuring this inventive band: a performance on David Letterman from October 2010 and a live session on KCRW back in August 2010 (and interview!)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winter 2015 New Music Playlist

Needless to say, winter has arrived. Let’s hope the Blizzard of 2015 is just that – one for the ages. Digging out to new music while sending good thoughts to the Boston area and those with much more snow than we in the NYC area. Check out debuts by Will Butler and Museum of Love plus returning salvos by Modest Mouse, Mew and The Go! Team. There’s also plenty to get a dance party going (YACHT, Mark Ronson, Belle & Sebastian and Stars) or mellow out with The Lone Bellow and The Decemberists. Listen up and enjoy! 

1. “Where Does This Disco?” – YACHT
L.A.-based YACHT released this catchy stand-alone single with its stylistic stamp of dance punk meets synth pop. Formed by duo Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans in 2002, the pair expands with a touring band for their energetic live shows.

2. “Daffodils (featuring Kevin Parker)” – Mark Ronson
This collaboration between producer Mark Ronson and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is just one of three found on the hit album Uptown Special. Parker’s cool vocals float over one gigantic groove, blending into an unexpected genre-smashing delight

3. “Take My Side” – Will Butler
Arcade Fire’s Will Butler adds another side project with a solo debut, Policy, due in March. The lead single, “Take My Side,” is a confident tune infused with infectious energy, from his antsy singing to non-stop strumming guitars and a rockin’ beat.

4. “Ferus Gallery” – Allah-Las
L.A. alt rock quartet Allah-Las started playing its mix of psych rock and garage pop in 2008. “Ferus Gallery” exudes a classic laid-back California vibe on the aptly named sophomore album Worship the Sun.

5. “Boys Latin” ­– Panda Bear
Baltimore musician Panda Bear (a.k.a. Noah Lennox, co-founder of Animal Collective) is now creating his experimental compositions while living in Lisbon. This single off the fifth album since 1999, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, features his layered vocals amid a garrulous foundation of electronica.

6. “Competition” – The Dodos
The Dodos, San Francisco’s indie rock duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber, has been exploring percussion driven music since 2005. “Competition” is the single for its sixth full release, Individ, with weaving rhythms and fingerpicking guitar grounded by Long’s warm, earnest voice.

7. “Down South” – Museum of Love
Former LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney establishes himself on a new dance music path with Dennis McNanay. This first song, “Down South,” off the self-titled debut album, chugs along with poise.

8. “The Party Line” – Belle & Sebastian
Glasgow pop band Belle & Sebastian is back with Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, the ninth album since 1996 (and its first in five years). The party vibe is kicked into high gear and the group aesthetic sounds as taut as ever.

9. “No One Is Lost” – Stars
Canadian quintet Stars released its seventh studio album since 2000, No One Is Lost. This title track is an upbeat song with surprisingly dark lyrics, smooth harmonies and an irresistible dance beat.

10. “Simple Machine” – Guster
Boston alt rock band Guster is back with its seventh collection since 1991, finding a new vigor with producer (plus bassist for The Black Keys and keyboardist for The Shins) Richard Swift. “Simple Machine” is a delightful romp of a song and is the first single from the album, Evermotion.

11. “Lampshades on Fire” – Modest Mouse
Seattle-based indie rock band Modest Mouse returns with a sixth album since 1993, Strangers to Ourselves (its first since 2007). “Lampshades on Fire” is the first single for the upcoming release, full of the unyielding angst fans expect from the group.

12. “Moonlight” – Hanni El Khatib
“Moonlight” is the title track that leads off the third album by L.A.-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Hanni El Khatib. The quirky intro leads into a shadowy world of jagged rhythms and shaggy group vocals.

13. “The Scene Between” – The Go! Team
This song is the title track and teaser single for a fourth album since 2000 by The Go! Team, a band from Brighton. The contagious combination of hip hop and electro, screaming guitars plus cheers and chants is the brainchild of Ian Parton.

14. “Empty Nesters” – Toro y Moi
Toro y Moi is the musical project of California-based Chazwick Bundick, ready with his fourth album since 2008, entitled What For? “Empty Nesters” veers away from the retro R&B of the last collection, embracing a solid guitar pop sound this go-around.

15. “Make You Better” – The Decemberists
Indie folk rock quintet The Decemberists released its seventh album since 2000, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, ending four years of silence. Colin Meloy continues his role as the charismatic narrator (lead vocals, guitar and principal songwriter) in this first single “Make You Better.”

16. “Every Age” – José González
Swedish singer-songwriter and guitarist José González has combined classical guitar with soft vocal melodies since 2003, also contributing to the band Junip. “Every Age” is a languid, haunting single from the upcoming album Vestiges & Claws, his first solo release in seven years.

17. “Satellites” – Mew
Danish alternative quartet Mew (active since 1994) is back after six years with a future release, +-. “Satellites” serves as the first single, with lead vocalist Jonas Bjerre’s high vocal range soaring over this characteristically epic tune.

18. “Shadows” – Ryan Adams
North Carolina native Ryan Adams is releasing a self-titled album by default since he couldn’t decide on another name. (To his credit, he has had to title fourteen of them since 1991.) “Shadows” showcases Adams anthemic songwriting, utilizing a voice consistently up for the challenge.

19. “Then Came the Morning” – The Lone Bellow
Southern-born but now Brooklyn-based indie folk trio The Lone Bellow recently released its second album since 2011. “Then Came the Morning” is the title track; its swelling harmonies over spare instrumentation allow the human element to shine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Song by The Go! Team "The Scene Between" (Album Due March 24)

Ian Parton (Photo via Memphis Industries)
U.K. band The Go! Team is back with a new video for the title track of the upcoming release, The Scene Between (due March 24 via Memphis Industries).  This is the latest album since 2011's Blackouts, with ensuing rumors that it could be the last effort by the band. So I was thrilled to hear this news and dive into the world of exuberance that is The Go! Team, as embodied in this psychedelic video. As directed by James Slater, it stars a choir of everyday people in neon robes amid majestic landscapes from around the world. The songs have always had way too much going on yet it somehow all makes sense, while elevating the listener into a borderless community of race and musical genres.

Brighton's Ian Parton had this vision to mix Sonic Youth-style guitars and double Dutch chants, plus elements of classic hip hop, electro and over the top Bollywood productions. The first album (2004's Thunder, Lightning, Strike) was created in his parent's kitchen, so he had to put together a band when asked to play festivals after this successful debut. The breakout song, "The Power Is On," found its way onto commercial and movie soundtracks, but I remember "We Just Won't Be Defeated" as my favorite. Its unapologetic simple piano introduction brings on a "Let's Rock" in vocals and attitude, along with an uplifting chorus of horns. This edge of cacophony is found in the new song as well, allowing a refreshing humanistic world view and inviting us along.  Listen to "The Scene Below" with the video below -- just don't be shy to add some jazz hands of your own.