19 June, 2012

A free and live recording by the Deep Dark Woods

I was moseying through the Boston Phoenix website last night and realized that the Newport Folk Festival is around the corner. Around the corner is also known as July 28th and 29th (and the 27th for Wilco)! There are a whole slew of worthwhile acts to check out this year, either at the festival or separately on their own tours. The obvious highlights include Iron & Wine, Deer Tick, Conor Oberst, Alabama Shakes, and Tune-Yards. But there are also a lot of lesser-known acts that you should be ready to listen for, if you head to the festival.

One of these acts, the Deep Dark Woods, recently released a free download of a seven song (42 minute) live album from a show in Annapolis, Maryland. If you aren't sure you want to invest $7.99 - $15 for an album (without knowing exactly what you're buying), then this download is a great way to get acquainted with some lovely live tunes. Actually, if you scroll through the News section on the first page of their website, they have three whole free shows for download.

On the Annapolis show freebee, there are a few songs you should pay particular attention to. The three-minute "Sugar Mama" which graces us in the first spot on the Deep Dark Woods website playlist recalls Old Crow Medicine Show with slightly lazier-sounding vocals. It is probably the closest thing to a single that they have going, and it is fairly intoxicating in a lighthearted way. "Back Alley Blues" is meandering and gentle (as is the whole album, really). Then there is "West Side Street." Honestly, it's like a Bruce Springsteen song if Springsteen had spent more time in the woods instead of racing cars in Jersey.

Overall, the albums bundle together a set of spectacular summer songs in a low-key setting. The sounds made me put the Deep Dark Woods on my list of bands whose music I should buy when I get paid (eventually). Until then, I will hope I can catch them at the Newport Folk Festival, or potentially at T.T. The Bears on July 30th for $8.00!

16 June, 2012

"Who" by David Byrne and St. Vincent

Twelve seconds into this first single (that I would mention has been released for FREE download here: Love This Giant) from David Byrne and St. Vincent's album, the beat drops and things get decidedly funky. Not to say that they weren't in the first twelve. In fact, the intro to the song highlights the most bombastic brass I've heard in quite some time.

The song is "Who," and it is meant to be released on a full album titled Love This Giant on September 11th, 2012. The majority of lyrics are delivered in Byrne's signature swaggering, shaking voice. Annie Clark (St. Vincent) sings the soaring chorus and backing harmonies and vocals.

The Talking Heads is one of my favorite bands and I count David Byrne as a major inspiration artistically and philosophically (if you're wondering what I am talking about, check out these two links: Byrne's book Bicycle Diaries and his TED talk on music and space), but never before have I been drawn to St. Vincent's music. However, I will surely be buying Love This Giant come September, and hopefully catching one of these tour dates (as copied from the website):

Date Venue City/St Tickets
Sep-15 State Theater Minneapolis, MN TBA
Sep-16 Riverside Theater Milwaukee, WI TBA
Sep-18 Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL TBA
Sep-20 Queen Elizabeth Theater Toronto, ON TBA
Sep-21 Eglise St-Jean Baptiste Montreal, QC TBA
Sep-23 Orpheum Theatre Boston, MA TBA
Sep-25 Beacon Theatre New York, NY TBA
Sep-26 Beacon Theatre New York, NY TBA
Sep-27 Tower Theatre Philadelphia, PA TBA
Sep-29 Williamsburg Park Brooklyn, NY TBA
Sep-30 The Music Center at Strathmore North Bethesda, MD TBA
Oct-02 Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN TBA
Oct-03 Cobb Energy Center Atlanta, GA TBA
Oct-05 Bass Concert Hall Austin, TX TBA
Oct-06 Hobby Center Houston, TX TBA
Oct-07 McFarlin Memorial Auditorium Dallas, TX TBA
Oct-10 Humphrey’s San Diego, CA TBA
Oct-11 Arlington Theatre Santa Barbara, CA TBA
Oct-13 Greek Theatre Los Angeles, CA TBA
Oct-15 Orpheum Theatre San Francisco, CA TBA
Oct-17 5th Avenue Theater Seattle, WA TBA
Oct-18 Schnitzer Auditorium Portland, OR TBA
Oct-20 Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts Vancouver, BC TBA

11 June, 2012

June Soundtracks: Support from the Crowd

This is a new type of post, one that I think is far more relevant to the way I (and many other people) are discovering and listening to music these days. This type of posting/review will highlight artists who are using social media to share their work. These artists are sharing their albums and allowing you to support them on bandcamp, and/or crowd-sourcing their work on any number of platforms. These shifts to social media platforms and away from (largely) failing record labels, support a certain philosophy of freedom and creative connection that I have embraced wholeheartedly. We have embarked on a period where music-lovers and musicians can be more connected than ever on a global scale, and – to quote the great Patti Smith – "people have the power." The most exciting thing about all of these shifts, in my opinion, is the knowledge that these platforms for direct connection and funding are open to people trying to complete any number of projects. This isn't musician exclusive! 

Without further ado, here are three talents I have stumbled across through the twitterverse and blogosphere. I am sharing one album, one song, and one campaign. Keep your ears and eyes on these artists, and support them if you have a minute to type a thoughtful comment on their websites, or the ability to drop 'em a little dough.

Kellie Lloyd of Australia is a friend of a friend (Kate Wilson, drummer for the Laurels), and in April she released a solo album: Magnetic North. The album is a true mix of sounds and moods.  

On my first listen, I heard quite a lot of Alina Simone in Magnetic North. There is a touch of theatricality in Lloyd's voice, and the pensive brooding that Simone has down pat. But then you bump into a song like "Constellations"; it is joyous in the way that sleeping on an air mattress in your unpainted, first apartment is joyous. There is also something reminiscent of the best of Thievery Corporation and (it may be a bit of a leap to pair these artists, but bear with me) early Sleater-Kinney on much of Magnetic North. Lloyd moves from gnashing guitars ("How To Get There") to understated, yet loyal piano ("We Are Made Of Stars") without the album ever feeling choppy. 

It was while listening to "Constellations" and then "Your Heart is a Hunter" that I realized the power behind this album is not driven by a description of "major life events," in the sense that many artists will write break-up albums. Instead, what I love about Magnetic North is that Lloyd skips the grand poetic gestures and focuses on the beauty of truly lived moments. On songs like "Dead Mans Hand" Lloyd recreates a dream sequence from many individual junctures. This sort of collage-ing is what she does throughout the album, and it makes it more interesting with every listen.

Beards are a folk-rock act from Nashville who I discovered through a Twitter post that I cannot seem to find again (I'm sorry! Kudos to the person I follow who posted their music. If you stumble upon this review, do not hesitate to take credit). The song "Blue Collar Blues" is from their 2011 release, We Grow Old. What I enjoyed about this song is the way the band sets up a stereotype of the genre (for example, in the lines where the narrator drinks too much to go to church the next morning) and then twists that stereotype just enough to make the song a bit rebellious (the narrator admits he rarely does go to church). You can purchase this song for $1 on bandcamp, but if you like it, you should take a little time to hear the whole album.

7 Toy Pianos: HC and the A's Need 1. a piano, and 2. you is a Kickstarter campaign by New York City based band, Heather Christian & the Arbornauts. The campaign was tweeted a few days ago by Amanda Palmer, and I found myself drawn to the a cappella(esque) with soul tune that the band put together to tell the story about why they need a piano. Great stuff. If you would rather support Heather Christian & the Arbornauts by buying their music, they also have a great bandcamp page where you can listen to the entirety of their 2011 album, Cabinet.

05 June, 2012

Kate Miller-Heidke - "The Devil Wears A Suit"

From the bloggers at Fingertips who "scour the internet" for free and legal MP3s, check out this song: http://www.fingertipsmusic.com/?p=11678 The vocals are fragile and weaving, but the music pounds the ground. I love it.