Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Sufjan Stevens Holiday Songs on NPR's "First Listen"

Photo: Denny Renshaw via NPR
Sufjan Steven has released another collection of holiday songs, Silver & Gold, which is now streaming online until next week on NPR's "First Listen" program here. It includes over fifty songs spread over approximately three hours: Volumes 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 to continue 2006's Songs for Christmas.  I received those CDs as a suitable and welcome gift, complete with a fold out poster of a cartoon on one side then an awkward "family portrait" photo with Stevens on the other plus a songbook with lyrics, guitar chords and a personal story called "Christmas Tube Socks." Stevens recalls how he came to love Christmas after the choas of growing up in a overly creative household. "Over time, in the midst of everyday life, I completely forgot all about Christmas and how much I hated it." 

The songs were first gifts to himself and others, time spent with friends in traditional sing alongs and then dispersed as presents.  Stevens is a deeply religious artist whose ordeal with a life threatening illness was exposed throughout his last release, The Age of Adz. (One of my picks in Top Ten Releases of 2010 and his concert at The Beacon Theatre that fall was a Top Concert Experiences of 2010.)  This foray into electronica may have confused fans of his indie folk on earlier releases, 2004's Seven Swans or 2003's Greetings From Michigan and 2005's Chicago, part of a planned series about all fifty states that was ambitious at best.  Silver & Gold returns to the holiday spirit in both genres, while finding room for all age renditions of favorites as well (for example a craft project take on "Jingle Bells" or straight forward belting in "We Wish You a Merry Chrismas"). There's even a rockin' "Mr. Frost Man" along with appropriate nods to Santa and snowy weather. But the endearing a cappella hymns can catch a modern listener off guard, with their not quite perfect harmonies and heartfelt individualism. Even a Grinch's heart might grow in size.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Local Natives Release Video for New Single "Breakers"

LA based band Local Natives are back with a new video for “Breakers,” the single off their upcoming album Hummingbird, due in January.  Their 2010 debut, Gorilla Manor, brought musical acclaim and opening slots for The National and Arcade Fire.  But along with this upward trajectory came individual strife with personal relationships and a death in the family, all emotional material for the next collection of songs.  For the first time, the band left their Californian roots for initial recording sessions in Montreal and then went to Brooklyn to work with co-producer Aaron Dessner of The National, after making that connection on tour.  Local Natives are in Europe touring until the new year when they’ll return stateside (see 2013 dates below the video). 

“Breakers” offers transcendent, lush vocal harmonies after a disjointed, rhythmic introduction. There’s a dramatic moment when everything drops out, adding to the cinematic expanse of the visual component as directed by Jaffe Zinn and Local Natives.  Definitely makes me look forward to digging into the rest of the tracks...

Local Natives 2013 Tour Dates:
01/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
01/30 – Oakland, CA @ Fox Theatre
02/01 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
02/02 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
02/03 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
03/18 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
03/19 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
03/22 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Ballroom
03/23 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
03/25 – Covington, KY @ Madison Theatre
03/26 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
03/30 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
04/01 – Providence, RI @ Fete
04/04 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
04/05 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
04/25 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
04/26 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune
04/27 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Theatre

Monday, November 26, 2012

YouTube Video Playlist of Late Fall 2012 New Music Songs

Posting The Antlers video on the blog here got me thinking... why not turn my latest Late Fall 2012 New Music playlist into something more visual via YouTube?  I have made a few of these compilations, most recently of our Moogfest 2012 videos plus others of shows we did not get to as discovered on YouTube.  With this one I only had to substitute the New Airway song for another on the album, but the rest were found as live sessions (with all my favorite online radio stations represented: KCRW, KEXP and The Alternate Side on WFUV) or concert videos similar to those found on the NMMatterscorp channel.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Antlers Perform "Drift Dive" Live on WFUV

WFUV's "The Alternate Side" (TAS) program has released a video of The Antlers performing "Drift Dive," the final track on my latest Late Fall 2012 Playlist. The song is from the group's recent EP, Undersea. I heard it playing in my car one morning on WNYE 91.5, where TAS broadcasts in New York City weekday mornings.  (It's also easy to listen anytime online at

"Drift Dive" was chosen as the perfect closer months ago, with its dream like, floating vocals and spaced out instrumentation.  IIt would also be a good lesson in the power of restraint as the band builds intensity while holding back at the same time. You can also catch an official video of the song on YouTube, which is dedicated to their hometown of New York City after hurricane Sandy.  TAS has posted the rest of the session along with a band interview here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Late Fall 2012 New Music Playlist

With all the crazy weather adding unnecessary drama to the national elections this fall, at least music fans could be thankful for all the fresh offerings available, presenting a much needed distraction (as long as there was electricity!)  New releases from indie stalwarts Deerhoof, Stars and Cat Power complemented repeats from Two Door Cinema Club, the xx and Freelance Whales along with debuts from Django Django and Melody’s Echo Chamber.   Ready for another playlist with background notes below and link to listen here!

1. “From Nowhere” – Dan Croll
“From Nowhere” is the first official single is from an upcoming debut album from Liverpudlian and MBF Songwriter Award winner Dan Croll.  This spunky tune provides a fun introduction to what is to come.

2. “Presence Of Mind” – The Fresh And Onlys
San Francisco indie rock quartet The Fresh And Onlys recently released their fourth album in four years, Long Slow Dance.  “Presence of Mind” embodies their accessible yet quirky pop vibe. 

3. “Sleep Alone” – Two Door Cinema Club
Irish indie trio Two Door Cinema Club returns to the music scene with their sophomore album, Beacon.  “Sleep Alone” demonstrates their brash confidence in pop hooks.

4. “Fête d’adieu” – Deerhoof
Since 1994, this prolific Brooklyn quartet (originally from San Francisco) has created twelve self-produced albums.  Singer Saromi Matsuzaki embraces a more melodic approach for this animated song about a romantic split – a fitting highlight of the latest album, Breakup Song.

5. “Ruin” – Cat Power
Singer/songwriter Cat Power (neé Charlyn Marie Marshall) has been performing for over fifteen years with her powerful, unique voice.  Marshall plays all the instrumentals on her ninth album, Sun, even incorporating electronic elements this time around.

6. “Angels” – The xx
Dubbed a “miseralist” band by The New York Times, The xx resume their extremely laid back, low-fi approach to songwriting.  “Angels” is the single off the sophomore album, Coexist.

7. “Hail Bop” – Django Django
8. “Default” – Django Django
Scottish quartet Django Django creates full blown guitar romps with psychedelic undertones, as witnessed in these two songs from their self-titled debut album.

9.  “I’m Not Talking” – A.C. Newman
Canadian musician and singer/songwriter Carl Newman (a.k.a. founding member of The New Pornographers) has released a third solo album, Shut Down the Streets. This captivating single, “I’m Not Talking,” features the familiar vocals of band member Neko Case.

10. “Halls Of the Summer” – Caspian
Massachusetts post-rock quintet Caspian released their third studio album of epic instrumentals called Walking Season.  “Halls of Summer” is more of a musical journey than a song.

11.”Cali in a Cup” – Woods
Brooklyn trio Woods channels a sunny West coast ambiance for this single off their seventh album, Bend Beyond.

12. “Activity 3” – Sun Airway
Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Jon Bauthmus creates music under the moniker Sun Airway, with a second album called Soft Fall. 
Bauthmus takes the extra step of recording strings live after heavy sample manipulation, resulting in a unique texture.

13. “97 Heart Attack” – Earlimart
L.A. indie rock duo Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray have been blending their voices since 1999 as Earlimart.  This simple, lilting tune is off their seventh album, System Preferences.

14. “Locked Out” – Freelance Whales
NYC-based Freelance Whales expand their organic blend of acoustic chamber pop with electronic embellishments for their sophomore release, Diluvia. Frontman Judah Dadone continues to lead the way with his airy tenor, which slips easily into an ethereal falsetto.

15. “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Get It” – Stars
Indie pop band Stars was formed by vocalist Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman in Montreal back in 2001, but they are now living in NYC.  This elegantly sweet offering is off their sixth album, The North.

16. “Endless Shore” – Melody’s Echo Chamber
Parisian songstress Melody Prochet relinquished the musical reigns to Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker to produce her self-titled debut album.  “Endless Shore” is packed with psychedelic distortion to complement Prochet’s self-assured vocals.

17. “Magic Kids” – Indians
Søren Løkke Juul has pre-released a few tracks off a debut album due in January, Somewhere Else. This Copenhagen musician’s latest project has already toured extensively with intriguing, atmospheric compositions such as “Magic Kids.”

18. “Drift Drive” – The Antlers
The Antlers is another bedroom project brought to life on stage as a band.  Vocalist and guitarist Peter Silberman formed the Brooklyn trio with Drummer Michael Lerner and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci completing the sound.  “Drift Dive” is the single off a recent EP with an aquatic theme, Undersea.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ra Ra Riot Releases New Song "Beta Love"

Photo via Barsuk Records (Shervin Lainez)
In another BAM-related post, indie darlings Ra Ra Riot have released the title track off their upcoming album, Beta Love, due January 22. I caught this band back in February 2010 there as part of the Sounds Like Brooklyn festival, one of BAM's first forays into new music performances. (Allowing a young, hipster audience into the grand Howard Gilman Opera House was a novel idea back then!)  The group that filled the stage that night has been reduced to a quartet, which is not a bad idea given the flooded airways of large group jams by The Lumineers or Monsters and Men.  

"Beta Love" welcomes fans back into the fold with an introduction featuring Wes Miles' warm tenor.  Yet now it's over synths before a dance beat kicks begins and he floors it in falsetto, more like Michael Angelakos of tour mates Passion Pit.  It's a new direction to be sure, but it makes me just want to hear more. The band begins a national tour tonight, returning to their roots in Syracuse, NY where they met during their college days at Syracuse University (see other tour dates below). 

Beta Love Tracklist:

01. Dance with Me
02. Binary Mind
03. Beta Love
04. Is It Too Much
05. For Once
06. Angel, Please
07. What I Do For U
08. When I Dream
09. That Much
10. Wilderness
11. I Shut Off
Ra Ra Riot 2012-2013 Tour Dates:
11/14 – Syracuse, NY @ Setnor Auditorium (Syracuse University)
11/28 – Providence, RI @ Lupo’s *
11/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Liacouras Center ^
12/08 – Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon #
12/09 – Hartford, CT @ Arch Street Tavern #
12/11 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall #
12/12 – Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place #
12/13 – Ithaca, NY @ Haunt #
01/23 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
01/25 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
01/26 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
02/02 – Tokyo, JP @ Hostess Club Weekender &
02/03 – Tokyo, JP @ Hostess Club Weekender &
02/07 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue
02/08 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theater
02/09 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
02/11 – San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore
02/12 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
02/15 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
02/16 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
02/17 – El Paso AZ @ Lowbrow Palace
02/19 – Dallas, TX @ Kessler Theater
02/20 – Austin, TX @ The Belmont
02/21 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
02/23 – Oxford, MS @ Proud Larry’s
02/24 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
02/25 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
02/26 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle
02/28 – Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
03/01 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
03/02 – Madison, WI @ Der Rathskeller
03/03 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
03/05 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
03/06 – Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
03/07 – Montreal, QC @ Il Motore
03/08 – South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
03/09 – Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street
* = w/ Passion Pit and Joy Formidable
^ = w/ Passion Pit
# = w/ Guards
& = w/ Vampire Weekend and Ultraista

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BAM Video of Logos with Sufjan Stevens Soundtrack

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is celebrating 150 years by continuing its devotion to the performing arts plus films, art exhibitions and even a commemorative, coffee table book.  A new theater, the BAM Fisher, has been added to the stable of spaces, a flexible, black box space with an emphasis on Brooklyn artists.  A recent video created by staffer Ben Cohen celebrates the many logos throughout the storied history of this organization, along with photos of dancers galore over music from The BQE by BAM regular Sufjan Stevens. It begins with a favorite shot (by James Klosty) of one of my most beloved modern dance icons, Merce Cunningham, which reminds me of seeing his company there during the final Legacy Tour just last December... another night to remember at BAM. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Octopus Project Releases New Single "Whitby"

How much love can I show for Austin-based band The Octopus Project?  Their new single off a yet-to-be-named album for 2013 provides a solid romp into their unique world of indie-electro pop instrumentation, while the accompanying video is also a creative wonder produced by the band. The song "Whitby," available on iTunes and other digital channels, is at once funky and fun right from the start, with some lovely melodic vocals by Yvonne Lambert.  In the video, abstract shapes designed in Photoshop then formed utilizing a scrapbook cutting device and then photographed in a series of real world settings.  This amounted to 4,000 images total, no small undertaking.

Peek-A-Boo Records calls the result "a product of The Octopus Project's collective consciousness." The record label is also offering an extended download with bonus tracks at their website (grab it now complete with B-sides and Karoke version!) Their last album, 2010's Hexadecagon is worth a revisit as well as their other recordings, plus my interview from Moogfest 2010 when they were tapped to be the backing band for Devo here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NPR's "All Songs Considered" Moogfest Coverage

One more post about this year's Moogfest...  Just thinking if you'd like a completely different version of what Moogfest 2012 was all about, check out NPR's music program All Song's Considered at the link below.  Last year, their music critics were raving about this undiscovered (to them at least) festival.  This time around, NPR also was able to record full sets by Morton Subotnick, Richie Hawtin, Ana Sia, Andy Stott and Disclosure, which you can link from the show's webpage.  However, it seems strange that headliners such as Orbital and Thomas Dolby were not even mentioned.  Especially Dolby, who was this year's honored guest as winner of the 2012 Moog Innovation Award.

Paul and I listened to the show around midnight of October 28, while in our eighth hour of the drive home to CT from Charlotte after our flight was cancelled due to Sandy (that was a bit more than half way home, as we pulled into our driveway around 4 am). We had to tether the ipad to the internet via Paul's phone, as we were glad to be entertained after hearing the Giants football team win and the Giants baseball team win the World Series.  But it became a running joke that we weren't even at the same festival, since it appears that we barely even crossed paths with the NPR reporters.  Host of the show Bob Boilen recorded the recap with NPR's "electronic and dance-music contributor" Sami Yenigun at the wheel as they were driving as well.  Yet they got an earlier start leaving town, so their flight to back home to Washington, D.C. was still on schedule... lucky!

NPR's All Song's Considered "The Best of Moogfest"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Moogfest 2012 Recap for PopMatters

My recap of Moogfest 2012 is posted on PopMatters today - see link below.

Also, I created an entire Moogfest 2012 YouTube Playlist on the NMMatterscorp channel that has our highlight videos plus a few others of shows we did not get to over the course of our very busy weekend pre-superstorm Sandy.  It also includes a video of Thomas Dolby recording the crowd (including me) shouting his U.S. hometown World Series team, "Giants!" Here is that video as well... enjoy.

PopMatters Recap:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Moogfest 2012: Music In the Streets of Asheville

Our power came back just in time for the colder weather last night, so I spent the morning cleaning out the frig and doing other domestic duties neglected by lack of electricity.  The fun time we had in Asheville definitely helped warm the heart, not only taking in the acts playing the venues of Moogfest but also the many musicians on the streets of this arty town. Music is integral part of this place anytime, anywhere.

It's a crime to panhandle but not to put out something asking for money in return for a song, or in the case of this photo, a rap!  Our 'animal' friends Terri and Will are shown enjoying their own personalized free form rap, complete with a beat box accompaniment, for one dollar.  Paul caught a few of the people we met within just a small radius in downtown Asheville Saturday afternoon so here's another video of Moogfest 2012 highlights, enjoy!