Friday, May 31, 2013

New Song by The Dodos "Confidence" (Album due August 27)

Meric Long and Logan Kroeber (Photo via Polyvinyl Records)
The Dodos are back with a new single, "Confidence," from their forthcoming album Carrier, which is coming out August 27 through Polyvinyl Records.  This San Franciso duo of Meric Long (guitar/vocals) and Logan Kroeber (drums/backing vocals) may be lumped under in indie rock genre but their influences are found much further outside that spectrum, from West African Eve drumming and progressive metal to country blues fingerpicking.

I interviewed Meric Long after their last albumNo Color, in 2011, after seeing them at Terminal 5 with The New Pornographers, performing a larger-than-life opening set that exploded from the stage.  He discussed how each of the four albums since the band's forming in 2006 had been quite a different experience, yet always focused on a percussion-centric sound.  "Confidence" continues in that vein, with guitars strumming in a rhythmic way until the drums enter.  Long's sweetly mellow voice is still front and center above the fray, even when it all lets loose.  Stream the song below or on  the label's SoundCloud page and check out the fun teaser video for the album.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem at Red Bull Academy, May 27

James Murphy appeared at NYU’s Skirball Center May 27th as part of this year’s Red Bull Music Academy, acting appropriately as the congenial elder statesman in front of a young audience.  He spoke of the early days of his band, LCD Soundsystem, and record label, DFA, when things moved much slower in New York City with “horse-drawn internet.”  Now DFA has grown out of its tiny homegrown beginnings, but Murphy explained how they “always wanted to do what we liked.”  A huge party at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall celebrated twelve years at the label, with many DFA bands in attendance “all super psyched and honored” to be there, according to Murphy. (His 90 minute dj set from the party is available to stream online here.)  When sparse applause answered Murphy’s question of who was also there, he likened the sound to Steve Reich’s clapping piece.

Having folded LCD Soundsystem in 2011, Murphy is now busy producing (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire), and writing music for film as well as a play (solo piano!) He rarely posts on the band’s Facebook and only posts on twitter to say he doesn’t tweet, because “it becomes white noise if you don’t have something to say.”  So the crowd was eager to hear him espouse about music today and the creative process. Seated comfortably on a couch surrounded by band road cases, Murphy reached for water (not the Red Bull on a side table) to soothe a cough he says was picked up by “flying” and answered questions thoughtfully and unhurriedly.  His shaggy hair and beard have now completely changed over to whitish gray, as he donned a suit jacket with jeans and white sneakers.

Murphy grew up in New Jersey, the last of four children who often got called by his older brother’s name.  One of his first memories is lying by the refrigerator in his pajamas to sing along to the electronic hum, rolling out of the way if someone came along to open the door.  He has always made music and has wanted to make music, counting records as prized possessions early in life (his collection now ranges between 14,000 and 15,000 albums).  Founding a label was more a necessity, since no one else would touch the dance punk sound Murphy and his musical pals were into at the turn of this century. The name DFA comes from his days of djing as Death From Above, and the lightning bolt logo is a doodle Murphy created once and has had trouble recreating ever since.  He wondered why indie labels were so anti-successful, as though bands were a “sell out for being able to hear vocals.” Murphy explained, “We wanted to make a label that was ambitious for weird stuff.”

With LCD Soundsystem, Murphy simply stated that they were “never meant to be a band.”  He asked friends to play on his songs, which eventually turned into a tour and it all somehow lasted a decade.  Murphy talked about early gigs at the Plant Bar (capacity around 75), where it was illegal to dance without a cabaret license, since “that’s how we kept New York City safe” back then.  LCD’s first song, “Losing My Edge,” came out as a single in 2002, but it took time to get out on tour and produce the self-titled debut album, released in 2005.  There were a few band rules, set up since Murphy “didn’t want to be one of those bands that you end up hating.”  These included pet peeves such as asking the crowd if they’re having a good time, encores, or overdone expressions referred to as “feeling it.” The rule about no sunglasses had to be repealed a few times in overly sunny locales or with setting suns on the horizon.

In being a frontman, Murphy knew he couldn’t be the David Bowie type he experienced as a young music fan.  He had to "deal with how [he’s] not compelling or charismatic.” So Murphy put his band members near him on stage, in order to reach over and bang a drum or hit a key on a synth.  The band and its music was all about the truth, allowing a direct relationship with fans even if they looked like (according to Murphy) substitute teachers. “There’s always that temptation to be something else,” he said.  As far as knowing when a song is done, Murphy said “It’s done when it’s out.”  Or use a two sided, flip-the-coin mentality, “If you don’t like it, fix it. And if you don’t like it, get out of the way.”  

The easiest song for Murphy to write was the very first, “Losing My Edge.”  But the hardest was either all the songs on the second album, 2006’s Sound of Silver, except “New York I Love You,” which was a song he sang to himself for years, especially during tough times living the urban life.  Or it was “Dance Yrself Clean,” a seventeen-minute song that was edited down to nine minutes. (Revisit this song live as it began the band's first night at Terminal 5 March 28, 2011 on the NMMatterscorp YouTube page, our top video with almost 9,000 views. Write up of the entire night with more videos here.) Unfortunately, Murphy blew his voice out recording this last song for 2010’s This is Happening and had to go on a course of steroids to remedy the situation. 

As far as deciding to end the band, Murphy said the dominant reason was pure instinct.  In the video here, you can see he chooses his words carefully to explain his decision to the dedicated fan base in attendance.  He also did not want to become a “famous person,” someone who could not move about easily in society without scrutiny on all levels.  And Murphy is too much of a people pleaser to enjoy pure collaboration, telling a “stressful” tale of working with Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Andre 3000 for the Converse collection song, “Do Ya Thing” (released in February 2012).  However, the line “I am the shit” that Andre 3000 sings is actually from an encounter Albarn had with Brian Eno on the street.  Supposedly, Albarn asked Eno how things were going and Eno replied, “Everything I’m working on is coming out great.”  So the three of them wondered what would it take to say that and that line was repeated again and again. (Murphy thinks it’s the best part of the song.)

It’s clear that Murphy will continue to play a part in the music scene on his own terms.  After selling out Madison Square Garden (as captured in the movie Shut Up and Play the Hits), he seems to be still catching his breath.  However, he admitted to writing songs everyday and new equipment options in sound production continue to intrigue him.  “I’m not a tree that falls in the forest,” Murphy declared.  “I make music as a form of communication.”  So thankfully, we can count on hearing a lot more from him in the future.  Full interview on the Red Bull Academy Vimeo site here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Youtube Playlist of Early Summer 2013 New Music Songs

With the redo (or upgrade if it's fine by you) of YouTube channels, I had a bit of a learning curve putting together another playlist for my latest collection of new music.  Again, I never know what I'll find online there to check off the list of sixteen songs.  There are some live, some officially live and some videos with the recorded music showing live concert video.  All of my fave online radio stations are represented this go around, from KCRW and WFUV to KEXP.  Plus there are a few other outlets that were new to me and a fan's entry in this visual representation of my Early Summer 2013 New Music Playlist. Link here to the YouTube page or watch below.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Early Summer 2013 New Music Playlist

With Memorial Day the official start of summer, it’s time for another playlist to indulge in over the long weekend (along with the long awaited, new episodes of Arrested Development).  Highly anticipated albums by Vampire Weekend and The National, were released this month, along with new music by Deerhunter and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.  Newcomers such as CHVRCHES and Hands fill out the list with new tunes from Yo La Tengo, Foals and Telekinisis and more.  Time to fire up the grill and crank the tunes.  Link to listen here, enjoy!

1.  “Varsity” – Smith Westerns
Chicago-based band Smith Westerns returns with their sophomore album in June, called Soft Will.  This teaser single “Varsity” shows the songwriting chops of brothers Cullen and Cameron Omori, as they embrace a classic pop ethic with their indie rock quartet.

2.  “Argonauts” – The Little Ones
The Little Ones is a six-piece indie pop band based in L.A. “Argonauts” provides a quirky, memorable tune for their sophomore album, The Dawn Sang Along.

3. “Ghosts and Creatures” – Telekinesis
Telekinesis is the musical project of Seattle native Michael Benjamin Lerner.  For his third album of indie rock, Dormarion, he traveled to Austin, Texas to record with Spoon drummer Jim Eno. (Eno’s studio is on Dormarion Lane.)

4. “My Number” – Foals
English indie rock band Foals recently released a third album, Holy Fire.  Singer Yannis Philippakis leads the charge over tightly wound layers of percussive instruments in “My Number.”

5. “Penny” – Hanni El Khatib
Hanni El Khatib grew up skateboarding in San Francisco and wrote music on the side while working at the skateboard fashion label HUF. Now a singer-songwriter based in L.A., he continues a cool skater vibe for his second album, Head in the Dirt (produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys).

6. “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On the Dance Floor)” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Detroit’s indie pop songwriting duo, Daniel Zott and Daniel Epstein, expand their band to a four piece for their Patterns EP.  This single showcases their vocal harmonies and electronic embellishments plus a welcome sense of fun.

7. “Diane Young” – Vampire Weekend
NYC’s alt rockers Vampire Weekend released their third studio album this month, Modern Vampires of the City.  The four-piece made a deliberate decision to expand into other genres for drawing influences, evidenced in the rockabilly attitude of “Diane Young.”

8. “Never Seen Such Good Things” – Devendra Banhart
Prolific singer-songwriter and visual artist Devendra Banhart has released his eighth album of folk-inspired rock, Mala.  His minimalist approach showcases the vocals and carefully edited instrumentation.

9. “Trouble” – Hands
Hands is an indie rock band from L.A. formed by Geoff Halliday and Ryan Sweeney in Philadelphia, before switching coasts.  “Trouble” is the catchy single for their debut full-length, Synesthesia, full of swirling synths and intertwining melodies.

10. “Demons” – The National
Indie rock royalty The National just released its sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, with “Demons” showcasing Matt Berninger’s melancholy baritone.  Backed by two sets of brothers, Berninger and band are now based in Brooklyn after finding each other in Cincinnati in 1999.

11. “Holy Roller” – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
“Holy Roller” is the stand out single from San Francisco-based Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s fifth album, We the Common. Thao Nguyen’s eccentric vocals playfully provoke within the alt folk/rock continuum. 

12. “The Missing” – Deerhunter
Deerhunter’s sixth album, Monomania, contains a collection of ambient noise rock along with shoegazing tunes such as “The Missing.”  The indie band was founded in 2001 by drummer/keyboardist Moses Archuleta and singer Bradford Cox (who also has a solo project, Atlas Sound).

13. “Recover” – CHVRCHES
Scottish electro pop trio CHVRCHES (pronounced Churches) has already made an impact with their debut EP, Recover.  The song "Recover" charges along with breathy vocals by Lauren Mayberry, with bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty to complete the sound, recorded in a Glasgow basement.

14. “Before We Run” – Yo La Tengo
Indie rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo released its thirteenth album since forming back in 1984, called Fade.  “Before We Run” provides closure as the last track, a floating meditation sung by Georgia Hubley, sweetly building with percussion, horns and strings.

15. “Here I Am” – Adam Green & Binki Shapiro
“Here I Am” is the first track from the duet album by Adam Green (of the Moldy Peaches) and Binki Shapiro (of Little Joy), appropriately titled Adam Green & Binki Shapiro.  Their minimalist approach recalls a 1960s baroque pop, their voices melting together effortlessly.

16. “Plastic Cup” – Low
Indie rock band Low formed in 1993 with a “slowcore” mantra of slowed down tempos and minimal instrumentation, manifest here in “Plastic Cup.”  Based in Duluth, Minnesota, the group has released their tenth album, The Invisible Way (produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Song by Honeymoon "Sure Stuck"

Here's another song for the summer 2013 soundtrack.  "Sure Stuck" by Honeymoon has that laid-back groove of 60s and 70s psych pop without being stuck in the past, which is always a fine line. This catchy tune begins with a buzz of synths that weaves throughout vocal harmonies and a percussive swagger.  It luxuriates to almost seven minutes, enough to lounge outside and get a sunburn.

Honeymoon is a new musical project by two Australian LA-based producers, Aaron Shanahan and Benjamin Plant.  After years producing and writing electronic music, they decided to indulge in their love of lo-fi psychedelia. The full length debut album is due later this year, but "Sure Stuck" is currently available as a free download on the band's Soundcloud page.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Summer 2013 Anthem, "Dumb Disco Ideas" by Holy Ghost!

Here come the summer anthems -- Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Empire of the Sun's "Alive" are already getting plenty of airplay, and now there's "Dumb Disco Ideas" by DFA artist Holy Ghost! If you haven't checked out the recent Red Bull Academy film, "12 Years of DFA Too Old To Be new, Too New To Be Classic,"  I highly recommend it.  Why do I love this record label? Let me count the ways via fave bands... home of LCD Soundsystem, YACHT and Holy Ghost!  Their credo is basically that all music is dance music if it's any good.

Holy Ghost! is a synthpop duo comprised of Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, classmates back in elementary school on Manhattan's Upper West Side and now bandmates based in Brooklyn since 2007. Their song, "Do It Again" from their self-titled debut, punched up my Summer 2011 New Music Playlist. "Dumb Disco Ideas" is from their next album, Dynamics, due later this year.  The song passed my kitchen solo test right away -- I had no choice but to stop what I'm doing, crank the music and dance.  Bonus points for making me take off my shoes, glasses and a layer of clothing (after all, it's over eight minutes long!) This tune is crafted with a DFA requisite dance beat and tongue-in-cheek mode, as in clear the floor to get ready for some fun. You can even snap up an instrumental version along with the single on iTunes.  Now we just need some sun.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Song by Pete Yorn's Latest Project The Olms, "Wanna Feel It" (Album due June 4 plus NYC Tour Dates June 10 & 11)

Peter Yorn & J.D. King
When people hear I'm a music blogger, I get all sorts of reactions.  Sometimes I try to explain my preference on new indie pop by up-and-coming bands, but usually I just wince through stories of "awesome" bro rock concerts at huge arenas. (I was once asked if I liked "jam," which by itself made me think of the kind that comes in a jar.)  However, there is always room for a song on my playlists by the heart-on-the-sleeve troubadour or a fun, jangly group jam.  The Olms' new song "Wanna Feel It," perfectly sits in this latter category, ready for my summer soundtrack.

The Olms is the latest project of Pete Yorn, whose 2001 solo album, Musicforthemorningafter, brought wide acclaim as that singer/songwriter troubadour type, even going gold.  His 2009 album with Scarlett Johansson, Break Up, continued the theme of deeply personal songs about relationships.  Here Yorn teams up with musician, artist and photographer J.D. King, enjoying the partnership of a band.  

"The album has an old-sounding feel, but I feel like it still sounds really fresh,” Pete Yorn writes on the band's Facebook page. “It sounds uniquely like us and a hybrid of our influences, from my love of Brit-pop and groups like The Beach Boys and The Kinks, to J.D.’s love for British Invasion bands like The Animals, as well as bluegrass and country music.”  As friends, Yorn and King decided to write a song together that quickly let to enough to fill and album.  They decided to record on tape, utilizing a vintage AMPEX 440 analog recorded that provides the "warmth and hiss," according to King on Facebook.  “It gives the sound a transience and depth that you don’t get when you track straight to digital,” he explains.  The full album is due out June 4, but there is a three-song EP available with art nouveau-inspired cover artwork by King.  The band is the first signing to the newly re-launched label, Harvest Records of Asheville, North Carolina, home of classic 70s albums by Pink Floyd and ELO.

The kicker tune, "Wanna Feel It," is on heavy rotation on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," where it caught my ear. Its golden SoCal feel belies the themes of "numbness and apathy" (according to the band), with lyrics wistfully asking for "time for a conversation."  The song is available as a free download when you sign up to their newsletter on their website, Take a listen with the retro black and white video and check out tour dates below. 

5/21 San Jose, CA - Blank Club
6/03 Hollywood, CA - The Troubadour
6/06 Asbury Park, NJ - The Stone Pony
6/07 New York, NY - Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
6/08 Philadelphia, PA - Prince Music Theatre
6/10 New York, NY - The Gramercy Theatre
6/11 Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
6/12 Washington, DC - U Street Music Hall