Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ra Ra Riot Interview & Concert Review @ Webster Hall January 25

Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot
I happened upon a live session with Ra Ra Riot on WRNR Annapolis yesterday, as I was in the car driving the flat-as-pancake terrain on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Happy to learn that this classic rock station now has a morning new music radio show called "The New Black," which can also be streamed online.  Anyway, I had just seen this fave band tearing it up in NYC at Webster Hall last Friday night (official PopMatters interview with frontman Wes Miles and concert review posted today with more photos/videos here), so it was fun to visit with them again.  The early morning vibe on WRNR was decidedly different, a scaled back version of the group without a drum kit but still worthy of their time and for any old or brand new fans that may be listening.

A quick interview on air reflected the early hour as well and you can check out a video of a new song, "I Shut Off," from the session here.  With the Super Bowl this weekend the host of the show with his over-the-top radio guy voice asked if they'd be rooting for the Baltimore Ravens.  Maybe they didn't realize how close they were to the town (granted they were just as close to Washington Redskin territory), but no one gave any props to the local team.  
Miles did say how he had both quarterbacks on his fantasy team, so he'll be happy with any outcome!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Christopher Owens' Intriguing Solo Debut Lysandre

Christopher Owens
Christopher Owens has left the teamwork of Girls with songwriting partner JR White to launch a solo career, realized in the solo debut Lysandre (out January 22 via Turnstile).  Working with Girls producer Doug Boehm, Lysandre combines the concept album idea with an operatic structure, musical motif and all.  These songs provide a narrative which revisits Owens during his first tour in 2008, a wild ride during the indie band's success from San Francisco to New York, over to the French Riviera and back again.  This is just a slice of an extremely interesting life, which includes escaping as a teen from the Children of God sect, finding an millionaire patron for his music and a fragile existence on the edge of society in San Francisco.  Owens describes the album as "A coming of age story, a road trip story, a love story."

Check out the second single from the album, the uptempo "Here We Go Again," complete with early rock and roll "oh-la-las" and lyrics that implore, "Don't try to harsh my mellow, man."  The Lysandre theme is revisited by a guitar this time, continuing the thread throughout the album.  It's a pared down approach when compared to the indie rock crunch of Girls, the music now lightly layered with acoustic instruments and backing vocals.  A different tactic for this intriguing musician, definitely worth a listen.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's New Release on KCRW's "Album Preview"

Nielson, Rogove and Portait (left to right), photo via Jagjaguwar Records
KCRW is streaming Unknown Mortal Orchestra's upcoming release II as part of the NPR station's "Album Preview" program.  Clocking at just over forty minutes, the ten song collection continues the underhanded theory of musical psychedelic minimalism by this Portland trio.  Or as the group's record label Jagjaguawar describes it, their "break-beat, junk-shop charm."

The songs were written during a grueling tour after the notoriety of the Bandcamp hit "Ffunny Friends" and the release of 2011's namesake debut album.  It begins with the impressive guitar skills of frontman Ruban Nielson, although with unfortunate lyrics about how "Isolation can put a gun in your hand."  Nielson is a native New Zealander who originally began writing songs on his home equipment before meeting up with bass player/producer Jake Portrait and drummer Greg Rogove.  The single "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" was picked for my Winter 2013 New Music Playlist, with its wistful melody about a life underwater.  "So Good At Being in Trouble" is the second single from the collection, a laid back track about bad boy behavior on the road communicated in a snarky smile.  The bratty vibe also works well for the next song, "One at a Time," while lightening up the mood for "The Opposite of Afternoon," which brings in vocal harmonies over cavorting guitar lines.  "Faded in The Morning" even adds some laughter into the mind altering mix.  To further the mystery, the cover artwork features a photo of Janet Farrar, the British witch known as an author and teacher of Wiccan witchcraft.

This band was on my Top Concert Experiences of 2012 and I'm looking forward to seeing them again when they come to Bowery Ballroom on February 28.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra II

Link to listen here (through Monday, January 28th).

Track List:
1. From the Sun
2. Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)
3. So Good at Being in Trouble
4. One at a Time
5. The Opposite of Afternoon
6. No Need for a Leader
7. Monki
8. Dawn
9. Faded in the Morning
10. Secret Xtians

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

YouTube Video Playlist of Winter 2013 New Music Songs

For those of you who prefer some visuals with your new music, I've put together another YouTube Video Playlist for my latest collection of songs for Winter 2013.  Some videos have already appeared in previous blog posts about the songs (The Octopus Project and YACHT for example).  Others are live appearances I found online, some of which intrigued me simply by their locales (Unknown Mortal Orchestra at a familiar Mercury Lounge while I found Ra Ra Riot thrilled to be returning to their alma mater, Syracuse University).  A more professional video captured Wild Nothings as hosted by KEXP at last fall's CMJ Music Marathon, along with other official videos created by bands.  Lastly, how interesting to see an official lyric video for the Major Lazer song -- so that's what Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors is singing! Link directly to YouTube here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter 2013 New Music Playlist

The year has started with enough music for another new music playlist and then some! Many selections are singles from upcoming releases that aren't even out yet but the songs sound strong enough to want to share immediately, from Jim James, Foxygen, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, to STRFKR, Major Lazer and Atoms for Peace.  Other tunes are stand alone singles that need no padding to release on their own. It all bodes well for 2013, so dig in. Link to listen here.

1. "Whitby" -- The Octopus Project
Austin-based indie electropop group The Octopus Project has released an infectious single "Whitby," as part of a digital Whitby EP.  The song features the vocals of Yvonne Lambert, veering away from the instrumental but always melodic ways of the band.

2. "Second Summer" -- YACHT
This song from indie electropop band YACHT is a single in honor of the Portland/Texas/L.A. group's tenth anniversary by its core, Jona Bechtoit and Claire L. Evans. "Second Summer" is a supposed state of mind, flaunting their goal "to create environments of total freedom," along with an instant dance party everywhere they go.

3. "Breakers" -- Local Natives
Local Natives is an indie rock quartet from Los Angeles, expanding their sound to include atmospheric instrumental breaks as evidenced in the "Breakers" introduction.  The song is a single from their upcoming sophomore album, Hummingbird.

4. "Like a Sundae" -- Black Moth Super Rainbow
Black Moth Super Rainbow is a collective of musicians from Pennsylvania that embrace analog electronic instruments to create their take on psychedelic electronica.  "Like a Sundae" sits solidly in the middle of the track list for their fifth album, Cobra Juicy.

5. "Off" -- Frightened Rabbit
Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit is about to release their fourth album, but this song is from last fall's EP State Hospital.  The airy introduction creates a melancholy mood, before the down home jam by the quartet kicks in with Scott Hutchinson's gritty vocals.

6. "Nothing Arrived" -- Villagers
Villagers is an Irish indie rock quintet with soaring melodies, piano and acoustic guitar strumming supplying the heartfelt core of their music.  "Nothing Arrived" is off of their second album, {Awayland}.

7. "Only Heather" -- Wild Nothing 
Jack Tatum's music project Wild Nothing released a sophomore album, Nocturne, in 2012.  His songs combine dream pop with indie rock, with a backing band for the live group sound.

8. "While I'm Alive" -- STRFKR
STRFKR is a new abbreviation for Portland's electronica band a.k.a. Starfucker.  The quartet overlays pop melodies and dance grooves that defy identification.  "While I'm Alive" is the opening track to the group's third album, Miracle Mile.

9. "Flood's New Light" -- Thee Oh Sees
Guitarist John Dwyer's prolific career includes this energetic quintet based in San Francisco. A new irresistibly catchy tune, "Flood's New Light," is off their sixth album in the current configuration, called Putrifiers II.

10. "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Portland's Unknown Mortal Orchestra is riding their buzz band wave with a world tour and new sophomore album II.  "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" is the single for the new collection, showcasing the trio's fuzzed out guitar and buried vocals that still manage to stay above water.

11. "Default" -- Atoms for Peace
Atoms for Peace is a super group side project of Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers).  The quintet displays the complexities of sound similar to Radiohead in "Default," the single off the upcoming album called Amok.

12. "Shuggie" -- Foxygen
Jonathan Rado and Sam France are the songwriters for this new band, embracing a retro psychedelia which still sounds funky and fresh without being sardonic.  "Shuggie" is the single from their debut album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic.

13. "Beta Love" -- Ra Ra Riot
Ra Ra Riot is now a quartet, streamlined for the new electropop focus in their third album (also called Beta Love).  Wes Miles' falsetto calls everyone to the dance floor to the punctuation of synths, and fans should be eager to loosen up.

14. "Know You" -- Wild Belle
This sibling duo from Chicago brings on the reggae, via heavy reverb and indie sensibilities.  Natalie Bergman's enchanting vocals streamline the transition throughout their debut three song single.

15. "Know Til Now" -- Jim James
Jim James, the frontman of Louisville's psych rock band My Morning Jacket, releases his first solo album (under his own name) with the upcoming debut, Regions of Light and Sound.  "Know Til Now" mixes soulful vocals and bass heavy R&B without any restrictions of a group think.

16. "Get Free" -- Major Lazer
DJ/producer Diplo returns to his musical project Major Lazer with a second studio album due in February, Free the Universe.  Amber Coffman of The Dirty Projectors lends her idiosyncratic style, singing over the exotic synth layers and reggae beat.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nutmeg State of Mind Charity Compilation Honors Newtown

Cover Photo by Chris Trigaux
Terry Carr and Peter Kelly of the new music discovery website The Up-Turn have released a comprehensive compilation of Connecticut-based bands in honor of the Newtown tragedy.  Nutmeg Stage of Mind is dedicated to the 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as an "opportunity to help give some positive meaning to the outcome." These two college guys from Greenwich, Connecticut, put together a 19-track album encompassing many genres to "demonstrate our rich music scene and deep Connecticut pride while also attempting address a problem in our country." 100% of profits will be donated to Mental Health America, the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to "helping all people life mentally healthier lives."  With a suggested donation of just $5 per download, everyone is encouraged to listen/donate/share at the link here:

The music begins with the carefully crafted indie pop of A Beacon School (just written up in my last post).  More indie cred continues with Ghost of Chance, Dwight Smith and The Guru. Yet the collection boasts impressive breadth, with songs funky (Body Cheetah), punky (Fins) and folksy (Closely Watched Trains).  The solid rock in Birth of Flower along with a raucous trio of M.T. Bearing, Sidwalk Dave and Myty Konkeror, balances out the rap of Chef the Chef and Ghost Row.  There's the electronica of Color Plus and the fuzzed out psychedelia of Slates, while the cryptic spoken lyrics of Steeve provides closure with a wistful synth soundscape.  Lots to explore musically, plus the download comes with a PDF of artfully curated photos taken in Connecticut (see a few below).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Modern Rivals and A Beacon School Share Bill in Brooklyn

Patrick Smith
The Cameo Gallery showcase on January 3 featured not one but two members of the Big Foote Music + Sound family. Erick Lee of Modern Rivals and Patrick Smith, frontman for A Beacon School, brought their bands to serve as bookends for the night.

Lee and Smith are both on staff at this music house and use the studios during off hours to create their own personal sound. Each group brought a nice crowd of fans and fellow Big Foote types for their sets in this tiny space in Williamsburg.  I was also there to cover the show for PopMatters which posted today here.

Erick Lee

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NPR's "First Listen" Previews Pantha du Prince

Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory (photo via NPR)
There's new music and then there's a new way of even thinking about music.  One of NPR's "First Listen" current choices is Pantha du Prince's album, Elements of Light (out January 15). This is the stage moniker of Hamburg electronic music producer Hendrick Weber, who enlisted a Norwegian percussion group, The Bell Laboratory, to layer chiming bells over his electronic synths.  NPR calls the resulting collaboration "dashing kaleidoscopic patterns."  The group performed at Moogfest last fall, but in a scheduling quandary we missed out.

The organic side is introduced in the first track, "Wave." This straight forward treatment brought memories of my church's bell choir where I grew up -- I'd be sure get to rehearsals early to be able the play the highly active middle C and C sharp.  While the album has only five songs, it lasts almost 45 minutes.  Nice background music but the digital overlay concept can seem repetitive after a while.  I'd suggest skipping straight to the strongest track, "Photon," as an introduction. (The "First Listen" program allows listeners to choose songs individually or stream the album in its entirety.)  I've been hearing this song on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and on its own, the sound is satisfying and intriguing.  Then perhaps you could delve deeper, courtesy of NPR.

Take a listen on the NPR "First Listen" website here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Frightened Rabbit Video for "Dead Now" - NYC Travelogue

Here's an example of my favorite kind of video for a new song, Frightened Rabbit's "Dead Now" (from their upcoming album, Pedestrian Verse, due February 5). Scott Hutchinson's earthy vocals anchor the rollicking tune from the indie rockers, as we await their fourth collection.  Although basically just a home movie of the Scottish band coming to New York City, this travelogue idea never gets old in my book.  It's like you're hanging out with the band: going backstage, groggy people getting off the tour bus, walking together through Rockefeller Center.  Footage of their raucous stage show and crowd shots remind me off all the videos piling up on the NMMatterscorp YouTube Channel, with fond memories of live shows galore.  

The concept is easy for any band, requiring a minimum of effort beyond careful editing.  But I never tire of this idea. Allowing an insider look always makes fascinating footage and of course I'm partial to the energy of New York City - the city that never sleeps.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jim James Video for "Know Til Now" - Solo Project Single

Jim James of Louisville's My Morning Jacket has a solo album coming out Feb 5 with the title, Regions of Light and Sound of God.  (Not to be confused with his EP released under the name Yim Yames, 2009's Tribute To.)  The video for the single, "Know Til Now," is the exact opposite of the busy cuteness of Hey Geronimo's "Dreamboat Jack" in the last post but has over 50,000 views as well.  It shows James with his back turned, in heavily manipulated black and white footage, gesticulating carefully to the far wall.  For a long song (almost six and a half minutes), this lends itself to allow the listener to take in the music on its own without distractions of sound effects, etc. But the question remains, is the video effective as a marketing tool for garnering new fans?

"Know Til Now" has been receiving good airplay and I've already added it to my next playlist.  This bass-heavy, psychedelic R&B replaces any crunch guitar swagger of My Morning Jacket's group ethic.  Reports claim James not only played every instrument, but engineered it all himself.  By embracing soul and funk leanings, he carves out new territory as a musician.  Check out the lyrics and track list for the album below, along with the video as discussed.

I didn't know til now
How could I have known
But now I see 
How sweet life can be

01 “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U)”
02 “Know Til Now”
03 “Dear One”
04 “A New Life”
05 “Exploding”
06 “Of The Mother Again”
07 “Actress”
08 “All Is Forgiven”
09 “God’s Love To Deliver”

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hey Geronimo Video for "Dreamboat Jack" - Too Cute Or Brilliant Marketing?

Brisbane indie-pop band Hey Geronimo have been celebrating the Australian summer with the video for "Dreamboat Jack," garnering over 50,000 hits on YouTube.  Billed as "aka The Greatest Puppet Chase Ever Filmed," the adorable stand-in characters face classic obstacles such as a plate glass window, a wayward dog and even fragile eggs as they speed along.  The song is from the group's self-titled EP released last June.

The quintet is a composite of band members from Blame Ringo, Montpelier and The Boat People.  Lead singer Pete Kilroy directed the video, with the help of Joe Brumm of Studio Joho (where they create loads of projects for College Humour).  Kilroy explains the idea behind the footage. "We had one of those little GoPro cameras and thought - let's strap this to a remote controlled car! And a boat! And a plane!!"  While the catchy tune is obscured a bit by sound effects,  the alternative is to check out the audio only as provided below (or on the Hey Geronimo Soundcloud page here).  But what fun is that?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

In Honor of Patti Page - Groove Armada's "At the River"

Groove Armada
Patti Page's passing was announced on WCBS Newsradio yesterday as a trivia question. Who was the best selling female singer of the 1950s? Patti Page.  She is probably remembered most for that overly saccharine ear worm "The Doggie in the Window." It was also shared how Page used to double her own vocals because she didn't have enough money to pay for background singers.  Now there's a trend setter...

Today on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," I learned that a fave song by London dance music duo Groove Armada features Page's vocals.  Tom Findlay and Andy Cato sampled Page's original tune, "Old Cape Cod" to create a sumptuous background for  "At the River." In Page's honor, I've embedded it below for another listen.  In this era of overdone vocal contest trills, her languid delivery is simply homespun Americana, finding another perfect niche.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here's to 2013 - Music Events With Mini Playlist

Good riddance 2012, happy to see you go.  Although it was a great year for new music, the country was awash with bad news about violent shootings, destructive storms and political posturing (which continued right up to the last minute and beyond!)  As I let the holiday decor linger into the next weekend, I thought I'd put forth some new year wishes and reasons to look forward to 2013.

My musical wishes would revolve like a disco ball around more indie pop danceable tunes, with lots of hand claps and sing along choruses or endings.  Ra Ra Riot is leading the way with their new release Beta Love (out January 22 and the band will be at Webster Hall Janury 25). The group is now a tight quartet with electropop leanings and it should be more than interesting to see them play these new tunes live, after seeing the band in their original format two years ago.  Check out the title track single in this mini playlist below, created just for fun.  Unknown Mortal Orchestra also released two new songs (listen to "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" with their distinctive fuzzy groove).  This band was one of my Top Concert Experiences of 2012 and I'm eager to see the trio when they take the stage at a larger venue, the lovely Bowery Ballroom February 28.  Another concert I'm looking forward to seeing is Django Django, one of my choices for PopMatter's "Best New Artist's of 2012", at the Music Hall of Williamsburg March 6 and 7.  The band's intriguing instrumental that leads off their self-titled debut album is included here with the songs plucked for my Fall 2012 New Music Playlist , "Default" and "Hail Bop."

I'm even game to think spring, by saving the date April 10 to see Cavemen at Webster Hall. (They are also playing Brooklyn Bowl January 27, with a full list of tour dates listed here.)  In the NMMatterscorp video at the end of this post, the band impressed the audience at last year's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry with their expansive sound and confident stage presence.  And speaking of that indie fest, it will return to the Brooklyn Academy of Music April 25 through 27... so mark those calendars!

January2013 by JaneJS on Grooveshark