Archive for the ‘Folk’ Category

Love Greatly

In Folk, Soul on March 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Where to begin. A thing happened in Virginia Beach, VA in mid February that doesn’t usually happen in Virginia Beach, VA, regardless of the time of year.  It was a living room show, a potluck, a gathering of singing, songwriting friends, which seems normal enough. But there was also a laptop computer, running dutifully, and a microphone to capture these moments, as pristine as they are raw.  Squeaking strings, some slightly off their intended tuning, knocks at the front door, crowd banter in the background, they all combine to create this world of intimacy and realness.

On a project like this, you might expect some clunkers, but you will not get any here. You might expect a general ceiling on how good the best songs might be, too. Wrong again. Instead, this collection serves to shine a light on a few truly amazing songs that will be resonating through my speakers for an indefinite amount of time.

Ian Thornton has to be considered the highlight of the bunch. His rough-hewn old soul voice and fingerpicked guitar arpeggiations hypnotize with ease. They sweep and swirl with slow-burning emotional restraint and with the aplomb of a seasoned road warrior.  I will now be requiring a full-length recording immediately, thank you. Twins Jenni & Jessi Hunt provide another transcendent moment with “Subject to Sink”. Two members of a 9-member folk-singing family band The Hunts, they stepped on their own to the forefront here with this beautiful duet.

Listen and enjoy:

The album is as cheap as free and as expensive as you deem worthy.
[get it here]


“Lost in the Light”

In Folk, Indie, Soul on January 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

A sleepy, smoky bar. Tall tables and ashtrays, scattered and half-full. A few barflies bellied up, backs turned to the stage. A golden guitar appears before the microphone.  The speakers bark as the cord slides home and one of the silent strangers glances over at the guitar. A pale hand grips the fretboard, its partner poised above the pickups. Twang, CHK, twang, CHK. Every chord, a heartbeat. Every heartbeat, a breath. Every breath, an ascension. Bar stools slowly swivel towards the spotlights. The barkeep has stopped sweeping up yesterday’s dust, his hands and chin resting on the end of the broom. The golden guitar speaks softly. Twang, CHK, heartbeats align, the room breathes in, the room breathes out.  The beats, the breaths, and the dust the only sounds, cutting away the darkness.

Bahamas is the soundchild of Feist’s touring guitarist, Toronto’s Alfie Jurvanen. Barchords is out February 7th on Brushfire Records. Stream the whole thing over at Paste.

My Favorite Albums of 2010

In Folk, Indie, Pop, Rock, Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm

10. Shapiro – s/t
9. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
8. Autolux – Transit Transit
7. Pomagranates – One of Us
6. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

5. Spoon – Transference
Out Go the Lights
I wrote in January that Transference was Spoon “going back to the drawing board and crafting another flawless spectacle out of tinfoil and toothpicks” and the record has only gotten stronger in the days between. Spoon’s music does not have to be shiny to speak. There are tracks here that sound like they were recorded in the living room by a tape recorder in the kitchen, by old newspaper speakers, by black and white and grainy gramophone. It matters not. This band exists in its own world, and we listen and judge it to be good, convention be damned. While some songs end up sticking in your head, Spoon has rarely been a singles band. This album is loose and free, dark and light, gritty and brave. 2010 simply marks a new vintage of the same old Spoon.
[buy on iTunes or Amazon]
4. Vampire Weekend – Contra
I Think UR a Contra
Two seconds into Contra, I came full-circle on Vampire Weekend. I’d been unfair, a victim of my own pretentious bullshit. I refused to like their self-titled debut, buying instead into the vicious backlash sprung forth from the sudden fawning of the press and fans alike. I wrote off their revolutionary “afro-beat” sound because I thought it was a gimmick, and because I didn’t want to associate with the annoying, whiny Brooklyn hipsters who were adopting it as their anthem. Contra changed all that. This band is simply too good to endure a sophomore slump. Along the way Ezra Koenig has become this generation’s Rivers Cuomo, a musical savant in a cardigan, practically inventing his own genre. It’s a fact quickly confirmed by the most telling of occurrences: rampant haters and copycats. Contra is quick, tight, and brilliantly bright. And if you’ve written them off too, I’d urge you to reconsider. Everyone deserves a second chance, after all. [buy on iTunes or Amazon]
3. Faded Paper Figures – New Medium
It’s probably unfair to say Faded Paper Figures are currently outdoing Ra Ra Riot at their own game (namely by writing better songs), but I guess I just said it. Guy/girl vox, synths, glockenspiels, tambourines, and probably the kitchen sink mark many parts of New Medium, but the reason it works is the carefully-paced exhales opposite these wild inhalations. Owl City got a lot of press by copyin…errr…filling the void the Postal Service abandoned by never following Give Up. With most audiophiles, Owl City is something of a joke now, nothing but a dumbed-down facade of the Postal Service aimed at 13-year-old girls. We should have been looking to Faded Paper Figures all along. New Medium, and ’08’s Dynamo before it, provide a proper and logical progression from Give Up. It’s a unique, melodic and honest record. A truly dynamic long-player of an album. Bravo. [buy on iTunes or CDBaby]
2. Field Music – (Measure)
In the Mirror
David Brewis can do very little wrong in my eyes. No matter the supporting cast (he released one of the best records of 2008 on his own) or the country he lives in (Canada for ’07’s Tones of Town, now back in England), he continues to craft incredible smart-pop. Imagine ’90s cult-pop icons Jellyfish with less Queen and more Beatles. String samples and time-signature magic are hallmarks, but the best part has always been the melodies and expert arrangement of all the pieces. It’s dizzying and disorienting at times, but when the resolve comes around, an incredibly satisfying listening experience. [buy on iTunes or Amazon]
1. Darwin Deez – s/t
The City
I spun this record more than any other this year, so much so that my wife grew to love, then loathe it because of Darwin’s almost-annoying level of catchiness. It plays with the attitude of a 19-year-old thrust into the world, determined to pierce the fog of adulthood with the powers of light, innocence, exuberance, confidence, whimsy, adoration, and wild love. Where there was once darkness, there is none to be found. Darwin’s re-evolution is upon us. [buy on iTunes or Amazon]

A Black Posting

In Folk, Indie, Pop, Rock on November 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm

The clock ticked. The clock tocked. At 5AM, the multitudes flocked. Lines drifted ’round the block. Everything you came for was out of stock. You are so outrageously focked.

I’ll admit that something in my blood wanted to go shopping today. I had the patriotic urge to spend ridiculous amounts of cash, to save 40% on something I didn’t need, to set myself up for a few hours of hell on earth. But I was able to resist and I’m blogging instead. It’s free!

I hope you have leftover thanksgiving feast upon which you may feast again. I hope your day was bright and sunny. I miss you dearly.

Lovedrug – Blackout
[from Pretend You’re Alive|buy]
Ohbijou – Black Ice
[from Beacons|buy]
Gregory Alan Isakov – Big Black Car
[from The Empty Northern Hemisphere|buy]

LAKE ‘n Bake

In Folk, Indie, Pop on November 11, 2009 at 2:04 pm

lakeMake sure when you talk about Olympia’s LAKE that you capitalize the letters. I have reason to believe they’ll throw daisies at you if you refuse. Either that or drench you with some kind of homemade sun-capturing device they’ve been saving for just this occasion. Just capitalize it and don’t think twice.

Let’s Build a Roof is as lo-fi as the trees and wind and just as affecting. It’s a warm. musical breeze weaving through the woods to the tiny cabin in which you stand, cupping your ear to the door. It is the sound of ripples on the LAKE, lapping gently against the side of your rowboat. The sound of twinkling stars, of whisper-thin cloud cover, of forest creatures falling in love.

LAKE is about to bring you copious amounts of joy.

Loose Wind
Don’t Give Up
[from Let’s Build a Roof|buy]
[from Oh, The Places We’ll Go|buy]

They are Night Zombies!! They are Neighbors!!

In Folk, Pop, Rock, Zombies!!! on October 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm

zombieshaunThere are conflicting reports on whether today is National Zombie Day or not. So I’m just going to say it is. I’d be fine with every day being National Zombie Day. Just talking about it is stirring a fierce hunger within me for fresh brains. I want to run amuck in the streets, I want to bite unsuspecting passersby, I want to slowly decompose. Fleeting immortality appeals to me, as does being hunted by a machete-wielding heroine. I long to feel the rush of a slow-motion chase, to have my native language devolve into primal muttering, to wear tattered rags and never have to clean my room again. If you see me lurching in your direction, run.

Dead Man’s Bones – My Body’s a Zombie for You
Banjo Kate – Zombie Jamboree
Chris Garneau – Love Zombies
Shoot Straight Crew – Zombies

Twitterrific Cherbourg*

In Folk, Indie, Rock, Twitterrific on September 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm


Bright and jangly and full of gang vocals and slowly building triumph.
Cherbourg – Goldmine
[from Into the Dark|buy]


A White Wedding

In Bluegrass, Folk, Indie on September 14, 2009 at 6:21 pm

poolOh hi!

So I spent the last 4 days at an incredible wedding in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve got large gaps in memory, still-soaked clothes from jumping in the pool, and an additional 7 lbs of air in the tire around my waist to prove it. I’ve got dirty laundry out the wazoo, kitchen garbage that should have been taken out BEFORE the trip, barbecue short ribs in the slow cooker, and two giant remote controls to program. Oh yeah, and I have a music blog to catch up! So that’ll come tomorrow. In the meantime, listen to these appropriate tributes and hug the one you adore.

Samamidon – Wedding Dress
[from All is Well|buy]
The Whip – White Wedding (Billy Idol)
[from Bridging the Distance|buy]

The Notorious Emily Wells

In Dub, Folk, Indie on September 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

emilywellsYou have no idea about Emily Wells. I’m not even sure she’s real. She’s too cool to be real, too talented, too strange. She’s definitely a figment of my imagination, some kind of daydream. She could tour with Andrew Bird and Jay-Z and feel right at home. She plucks violin strings staccato, slides her trembling bow across them legato, plinks tiny pianos, strums ukes, snaps off healthy drum samples as if in her sleep, and loops them all together like some master seamstress. She croons with guile and moxie and something to prove then rides the beat right into an unexpected hip-hop segment. She’s really good. Maybe too good. If only I could find some kind of video…

Juicy (Notorious B.I.G)
Symphony 6: Fair Thee Well & the Requiem Mix
[from Dirty EP|buy buy buy it]

David Bazan, Reborn

In Folk, Indie on September 1, 2009 at 2:37 pm

davidbazanDavid Bazan has drifted towards and away from me for the entirety of our music courtship. I’ve seen him live as Pedro the Lion, I’m blogged about him, and he’s been placed on mix-CD’s on my behalf (thanks again, Alex!), but now he’s coming back into my shallow waters with a new record that is probably exactly what I needed to hear from his mouth.

There are many poignant things in life, but few are more appealing to me than religious struggle, probably because of the enormous consequences hanging in the balance and because the nostalgic ties to ones upbringing are so hard to cut. This is a man who in the past has stood in front of church and youth group congregations, but now stands on a stage playing songs he longer believes. Paste Magazine listed him as one of the 100 greatest living songwriters before this album, which might be his greatest accomplishment.

How he so deftly slices himself open, I’ll never begin to know.

“you used to sound like a prophet
and everyone wanted to know
how you could tell the truth
without losing that soft glow
but now you feel like a salesman
closing another deal
or some drunk ship captain
raging after the white whale…

…you used to feel like the prodigal returning
but now you hate what you’ve made
and you want to watch it burn.”

-“Lost My Shape”

He also played a ballyhooed house show in Brooklyn last night, which is already up on the web for your viewing/listening pleasure. [watch it!]

Please, Baby, Please
[from Curse Your Branches|buy|stream @ Spinner]
Fewer Broken Pieces
[from Fewer Moving Parts|buy]