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.

Monday, July 13, 2015

New Song by Gardens & Villa, "Fixations" (New Album Out August 21 & NYC Tour Date September 25)

Adam Rasmussan (left) & Chris Lynch (Photo Courtesy Secretly Canadian)
Gardens & Villa is one of those bands that are simply interesting to listen to, so I jumped on the new single "Fixations" from the upcoming third album Music for Dogs (due August 21 via Secretly Canadian). The sound is multi-layered and quirky, without any alienating thoughts of mainstream acceptance: "Colony Glen" from the group's last album Dune was an easy pick for my Winter 2014 New Music Playlist and "Black Hills" off the self-titled debut was featured on my Winter 2012 New Music Playlist.

This self-categorized indie rock band was formed in Santa Barbara in 2008, but has recently downsized to a duo and re-located to L.A. Adam Rasmussan and Chris Lynch found warehouse space in the Frogtown neighborhood, christened it Space Command and opened it up to visual artists and designers along with other creatives. They set about creating the new album with Dusty Ineman on drums, Shane McKillop on bass and Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Jacob Portait as producer. New songs were infused with disparate influences such as Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, David Bowie's Low, Bill Nelson's Chimera and Cleaners from Venus. Check out the video for the single "Fixations" here or on YouTube -- it's a parody of modern party life excesses complete with e-cigs, drones and colorful drugs, while Sam France of Foxygen makes an appearance on a Segway. Their label calls the music full of "Zen Pop-Nihilism" if you're looking for some sort of description, but I say just let your ears dig in. Also catch Gardens & Villa live in NYC on September 25 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.