Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Other Lives @ BAM This Weekend October 9 & 10 - Reconfiguration

Other Lives (Photo credit: Emily Ulmer)
Portland based indie rock band Other Lives is appearing October 9 and 10 as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival.  Reconfiguration: An Evening with Other Lives is being touted as an "rarefied intersensorary domain" created by director Terry Kinney, co-founder of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. I wrote a piece about the program and this fave band for the BAM blog recently, so I look forward to taking it all in this weekend. But I also wonder about this trendy onslaught of interdisciplinary performance arts, with equal weight given to both the music and visual design (last month's Tree of Codes at the Park Avenue Armory even added modern dance to the mix).

Other Lives has a new album out via tbd records, Rituals, which is definitely worth a listen as the inherent grandeur of the song "Reconfiguration" appeared on my Spring 2015 New Music Playlist. Tickets can be purchased here and check out a captivating performance of "Reconfiguration" at the Music Apartment video below.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Song by Deerhunter "Breaker" (New Album Out October 16 & NYC Tour Dates December 8/9)

Deerhunter pals Cox and Pundt 
Indie rock band Deerhunter is ready with its seventh album, Fading Frontier, due October 16 via 4AD. The first single, "Snakeskin," struts along with funky swagger yet the latest song "Breaker" finds a sweet spot of brightly nuanced harmonies and brightly lit production values. It features a first ever duet between frontman/singer Brandon Cox and best bud guitarist Lockett Pundt, a vocal mind meld endearingly depicted in the video. Check out the video below as directed by Cox with additional photography by Pundt.

The new collection was created by the band's founding members in their hometown of Atlanta -- Cox, Pundt and drummer Moses Archuleta -- with bassist Josh McKay. Production duties were shared with Ben H. Allen III, who has provided an assist since 2010's Halcyon Digest. Deerhunter will soon embark on a world tour in support of the new release, with stops at Irving Plaza in NYC on December 8 and Warsaw in Brooklyn on December 9. Cox's solo project Atlas Sound will open many of the dates, a creative outlet for his intensely introspective music that I witnessed at the Ace Hotel during CMJ and Moogfest in 2011, as well as at Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2012.  Looking forward to more music ahead through both trajectories!

Monday, September 14, 2015

A New Music Playlist with a Bit of Country Twang to Honor My Father

A recent favorite photo with my dad, Wallace B. Jansen
I've taken a month-long publishing break as my father's health declined and his final days were spent in a hospice facility, after being under the organization's care since his hospitalization last fall right after my mother died. (At the time, I put together my own funeral songs playlist as I loaded my laptop with her favorite Broadway shows and classical masterpieces.)  I brought a few of his CDs along with me, listening to the country music he loved so much as I sat by his bedside. My dad discovered this genre during his time in the U.S. Army at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, quite a culture shock for the private school boy from suburban Connecticut. How strange it was to listen to George Jones, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard without him chiming in at full volume, emphasizing the twang in the vocals.

There's a joke that if you play a country record backwards you get your wife back, your job back, your truck etc. Of course the fact that we can all relate to loss and heartbreak is part of the appeal. As I returned home with files of paperwork and boxes from my parents' house, I thought about creating a new music playlist with a big of country twang in his honor. Digging in my own archives since 2009, I pulled seventeen songs that had some down home flavor, or at least attitude. Here's the result at the link here or listen below, proving that everybody is just a little bit country when you look hard enough.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Late Summer 2015 New Music Playlist

Why not rock another playlist while there are still weeks of summer left? There’s certainly enough new music on the scene to choose from. In researching my latest picks, I also discovered plenty of crazy descriptive phrases to label the bands, from electropop, indie pop and rock pop to atmospheric rock, post-rock and rocktronica. Check out whatever perks up those listening ears, be it veterans such as The Dears, Mates of State, Beirut, The Chemical Brothers and Wilco or newer groups such as Penguin Prison, FFS and Baio. Listen on Spotify via this link or as a YouTube playlist.

1. “Fixations” – Gardens & Villa
Californian indie rock band Gardens & Villa recently relocated from Santa Barbara to L.A. and downsized to two people for its third album since 2008, Music for Dogs. This kicky tune, “Fixations,” by Adam Rasmussant and Chris Lynch, demonstrates a new direction while keeping layered textures intact

2. “Staring Contest” – Mates of State
“Staring Contest” is a typical blast of fun from the indie pop couple Kori Gardner (keyboards, vocals) and Jason Hammel (percussion, vocals), musical allies since 1999. The latest release is a self-produced EP, You’re Going to Make It.

3. “No No No” – Beirut
Santa Fe native Zach Condon returns with a new batch of songs following hospitalization for exhaustion after excessive touring for his last album in 2011. This sweet ditty is the title track for the upcoming release, with a familiar worldview embedded in the instrumentation.

4. “Cream on Chrome” – Ratatat
This Brooklyn-based duo of Mike Stroud and Evan Mast just released its fifth studio album since 2001, Manifique. The single “Cream on Chrome” spotlights their quirky rocktronica instrumentals that inspire Ratatat’s signature sound.

5. “In a Future World” – Telekinesis
Drummer and songwriter Michael Benjamin Lerner took a different approach for Ad Infinitum, his third album since 2008 as Telekinesis. As a happy newlywed in Seattle, he took to the basement studio to compose songs dripping with electronica as evidenced in “In a Future World.”

6. “Island” – Surfer Blood
Surfer Blood is an alt rock quartet from West Palm Beach that just released its third album since 2009, 1000 Palms. Singer John Paul Pitts brings a laid back vibe to the vocals for the band, as demonstrated in “Island.”

7. “ I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fall” – The Dears
Canadian indie rock band The Dears is ready with a sixth album since 1995, Times Infinity Volume One (volume two will appear shortly afterwards). Frontman Murray Lighburn leads the way through another emotional rollercoaster with this song, “I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fall.”

8. “Some Minds (featuring Andrew Wyatt)” – Flume
Flume is the stage name of Sydney-based multi-instrumentalist and electronic music producer D.J. Harley Streten. Here he enlists Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt for lyrics and shadowy vocals in this stand-alone single, following a debut album back in 2012.

9. “Sensual People” – Lylas
Singer and banjo player Kyle Hamlett is the mastermind behind Nashville’s indie rock quintet Lylas since 2005. The song “Sensual People” supposedly arrived in his dreams, an enchanting tune for the upcoming second full length release.

10. “Gone” – JR JR
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. changed its name after five years to JR JR and recently released this feel-good single, “Gone,” in advance of a third album. The Detroit indie pop twosome of Daniel Zott and Josh Epstein is clearly ready to keep the party going, whatever the moniker.

11. “Call Girl” – FFS
The single “Call Girl” is a result of collaborative recording sessions between Scottish indie rock band Franz Ferdinand and the L.A. rock pop brothers pair, Sparks (Ron and Russell Mael). Songs on the self-titled album revel in heavy hooks and a collective swagger found in this supergroup.

12. “Calling Out” – Penguin Prison
Penguin Prison is the electropop musical project of singer, musician, producer and remixer Chris Glover since 2008. “Calling Out” is the exuberant sing along single from his second album, Lost in New York.

13. “Random Name Generator” – Wilco
Wilco dropped a ninth album without fanfare, Star Wars, that’s full of the gritty alternative rock this Chicago-based group is famous for after two decades. With singer Jeff Tweedy’s undercurrent of vocals, “Random Name Generator” churns along with relentless persistence.

14. “Sister of Pearl” –Baio
Chris Baio, known as the bass player for Vampire Weekend, is releasing a solo debut of his dance music as he also keeps busy as a D.J. and record producer. This tune “Sister of Pearl” is a fun introduction to the new debut, The Names.

15. “Wide Open (featuring Beck)” – The Chemical Brothers
British electronic dance music partners since 1991, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons are back with an eighth album, Born in the Echoes. They entrust the vocals to Beck for “Wide Open,” just one of the many rock star appearances in the collection.

16. “Sparks” – Beach House
The song’s genesis is a vocal loop captured during a sound check before a Beach House concert. It serves as a bewitching introduction to the upcoming fifth album, Depression Cherry, by the Baltimore-based dream pop duo of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand.

17. “All Yours” – Widowspeak
Molly Hamilton (guitarist and vocalist) and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas of Widowspeak recently traveled upstate from Brooklyn to record new songs in a barn. “All Yours” is a winsome title track for the upcoming release, the band’s fourth album since 2010.

18. “No Comprende” – Low
Low is an indie rock trio from Duluth, Minnesota, known for slow tempos and spare arrangements for great effect. “No Comprende” lucidly continues that mantra as featured on an upcoming eleventh album, Ones and Sixes.

19. “Sad Heart of Mine” – Caspian
Beverly, Massachusetts instrumental post-rock band Caspian is getting ready to release its fifth studio album since 2005, Dust and Disquiet. The group strives to convey a story in music, much more than just presenting building blocks of sound.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

New Song by Maximum Balloon, "Let It Grow" (From Upcoming Album)

Dave Sitek of Maximum Balloon has released a new song from an upcoming sophomore album, "Let It Grow," a sweet, melodic tune already getting airplay on my favorite online new music sources KEXP and KCRW.  There is no title or release date yet from Sitek's label, Federal Prism Records, so this will have to hold us for the moment.

Maximum Balloon is Sitek's side project away from being a producer and guitarist for TV on the Radio and straight up producing bands such as Beady Eye, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Foals. It is the first new material since a track from the self-titled debut landed on my Fall 2010 New Music Playlist ("Apartment Wrestling" featuring vocals by David Byrne). Sitek reenlists other collaborators on that album for "Let It Grow" -- Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe. The mood is all soft lighting and hushed singing as Karen O. performs in the love-soaked lullaby mode of her recent album Crush Songs or "The Moon Song" for the movie Her.  Adebimpe matches her tone, letting lyrical lines float gently into place. Take a listen here or on the label's SoundCloud page. It won't be the last time you'll want to hear the song.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Songs by Peter Bjorn and John on NPR's "World Cafe" (Album in the Works)

World Cafe session (Photo via XPN by Joachim Belaleff)
Swedish indie pop trio Peter Bjorn and John (PB&JK) recently recorded a live session that aired on NPR's "World Cafe" yesterday from the X-Level Studio in Stockholm. I hadn't heard anything from the band since 2011's popular Gimme Some, with the single "Second Chance" finding its way on TV in several commercials and even as a theme song. Tracks appeared on my Late Spring 2011 Playlist and I caught them on tour in support of the album during a raucous show at the Bowery Ballroom, which easily made its way on to my top 25 concert list.

The live session began with older songs such as "Second Chance" with "Amsterdam" and "Ice," providing an instant reminder about why this is one of my favorite bands. These songs are filled with pop hooks and bouncy grooves that carry the listener to a musical wonderland. During the interview with host David Dye, Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson admitted that this album is taking twice as long as they expected as many songs were scrapped half way through the process. They also spoke about the music scene in Stockholm as tight knit and extremely healthy. Three new songs were then offered up for preview, "a subdued ballad called "Breaking Point," along with the more up tempo and familiar sounding "Do Si Do" and "Objects of My Affection" (even bringing back whistling like the 2006 hit song "Youngfolks"!) Check things out here or on NPR's "World Cafe" website. Videos and a free download are also promised over at the program's Tumbler page. Now if the band would only finish up and release the album...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Song by The Dears, "I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fail" (New Album Out September 25)

The Dears (Photo Courtesy Big Hassle Media)

Montreal band The Dears have announced not one but two albums on the way, with the first new song ready for a preview. The band returns using typical thoughtful prose for a title, "I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fail," and the sound is straight out of the gate epic. With lush, dense instrumentation that infuses the tune with orchestral pop rock flourishes, founder and singer Murray Lightburn takes us on yet another musical journey. The new album, Times Infinity Volume One, is due September 25 via Dangerbird Records, with additional material spilling into Times Infinity Volume Two, out in early 2016.

It is the first album since 2011's Degeneration Street, the group's fifth release since 1995. A fan of the band already, I caught the band on tour around that time and the single "Omega Dog" found its way on my Winter 2011 New Music Playlist. Back then I also had the opportunity to interview keyboardist and Lightburn's wife Natalia Yanchak for PopMatters, when she was a new mother. I know well that during that time of life keeping any sort of side projects going is not easy, much less being in a band. But over the past two years, the process began again and things began to click into place musically. As Lightburn says, "When you start a band, you never think of the end. When we began work on this album, it was a process that consumed us completely, harkening back to our earliest days. In turn, the record became about sentimentality but in the face of great uncertainty; the concept of eternal love and all its fragility." With those words, take a listen to the song here or on Soundcloud and be ready to be moved beyond the surface into deep emotions -- something The Dears always do so well.