SHELBY EARL, Sea of Glass (from Swift Arrows, 2013)
Seattle-based singer-songwriter Shelby Earl uses her powerful voice to make folk/Americana songs, often coming up with joyous and upbeat results, as indicative in this track, Sea of Glass. Earl released her sophomore album in the summer (produced by none other than Damien Jurado!), which contains a collection of frank songs that make it very worthwhile to flex those concentration muscles and follow their lyrics. There is a rawness to Earl that frequently gets lost nowadays in the traditional image of the Americana musician. Her sincerity is most welcome and refreshing.
RAUM, Blood Moon (from In the Event of Your Leaving, 2013)
Prepare to be absorbed by the ethereal sounds of this track. The vocals and heavy distortion swirl into each other, engulfing you from every direction for almost six minutes long. You will surely give in - and quickly - as it is so, so very relaxing.
Raum is the project of Liz Harris (of Grouper) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (of The Alps) who released their debut album in mid November to a tune much similar to this track. Use this music to meditate, to read, to commute, to cook, to - anything…
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this NY-based boy/girl indie pop duo ever since they came to light in 2010 with their bedroom recordings. That raw debut EP was magic, but their debut LP was over-produced and way way too trendy for my blood. I thought I’d written them off for good, but then I heard this track - Always Forever - off their sophomore release, Static (out this past October 2013) and I pretty much love it. Madeline Follin’s beautiful voice sounds distanced (a trademark sound of Cults) and the repetitive lyrics give the song a meditative quality that resonates with me.
They’re touring through mid-February! Find out where here.
How I love me some electro-pop, especially on this bitterly cold and grey day.
Heavenly Beat is the moniker of John Peña (former bassist of the band Beach Fossils), who recently released his sophmore album Prominence. Honest is an upbeat track with Peña’s soft vocals cutting through the soothing sounds of a classic guitar and steel drums. Don’t listen too closely to the lyrics, though, as they are a dark portrayal of betrayal and dishonesty…Happy Monday! :)
PHANTOGRAM, Fall in Love (from the forthcoming VOICES, 2014)
It’s been quite a few years since Phantogram put out their excellent debut album, Eyelid Movies (in 2009) and a couple of EPs later, many musical cameos on teen TV shows and numerous collaborations with the big leagues - they are readying the release of their sophomore full-length VOICES, scheduled to drop in early 2014.
I heard Fall in Love on the radio (KEXP, I love you!) and it is much more reminiscent of the band’s debut than some of the songs I heard from the self-titled EP they released in the fall. This track highlights the best this duo can do, from their harmonious vocals to the perfect balance between electronic and rock components. As far as synth-rock music goes, they’re still my favorites!
I can’t wait to hear the whole album and see them live again! Follow their updates here.
SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS, Retreat! (from Give the People What They Want, out January 2014)
Aaaaaaaand she’s back! After postponing their highly anticipated new album release over the summer due to Sharon Jones’s cancer diagnosis, they’re back in business with a new release date slated for January 14, 2014 and an extensive North American tour beginning soon after.
Jones and her band are a force of nature, offering some of the best soul and funk music made in recent decades. Their fifth album together, Give the People What They Want, is likely to do just that - get your dancing gear, this is going to good!
This Portland-based trio produces powerful rock songs that are tinged with blues, to varying degrees. Unannounced it definitely the catchiest of the tracks I’ve heard from their eponymous debut album - the lead vocalist, Drew Grow, sounds entranced as if something has taken hold of him (especially when he reaches the chorus).
They beg the comparison to Arcade Fire (even the vocals are uncannily similar), but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a more unique sound that is heavy on the blues , intensely powerful, and raw as hell.
FIREHORSE, Our Hearts (from And so they fan faster…, 2011)
Firehorse is the project of Leah Siegel, a Brooklyn-based songwriter and musician. Siegel is also a part of several other musical outfits (like the Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout and the Citizens Band), but Firehorse seems to be her main deal.
Siegel reminds me of the genre championed by the likes of Cat Power, but accompanied by a textured layer of electronic beats (so, I guess kind of like the new Cat Power?). This track is the one I took to most on this album, perhaps because of its restrained dramatic feel and sound.
I came late to discovering Firehorse - her debut album came out in 2011, featuring this lovely track Our Hearts, and her sophomore release - Pills from Strangers -dropped in summer 2013. I will admit that I haven’t had a chance to listen to the newer album yet, but I’m very much enjoying the first one, so stay tuned!
MOBY featuring WAYNE COYNE, The Perfect Life (from Innocents, 2013)
Combine Moby’s soulful electronic music with the psychedelic rock of the Flaming Lips and you shall get The Perfect Life - a wildly uplifting tune that leaves you wishing that those guys would record a few more songs together.
Yeah, I’ll admit - it’s not some musical genius and the song probably won’t be written into the “best music of the decade” lists, but I’m OK with that. We need some musical fluff in our lives (and not the kind that’s on Z100)!
As an added bonus, Moby and Wayne Coyne also created this fun video after soliciting a bunch of dancers that act out different characters:
Wild Cub is a five-member band from Nashville that was started by songwriter and composer Keegan DeWitt, who took the plunge by fleeing the Brooklyn grind in 2008 to focus on making music rather than paying ridiculous rent and living cotst (one day, I shall do this too!). He founded Wild Cub in early 2012 and a year later their debut album was released. Thunder Clatter is indicative of the other twelve songs on the album in its infectious and upbeat pop vibe. Other songs have more of an 80s sound to them where the synthesizer features prominently. I can safely say that this track is my most favorite.
I assure you you’ll be singing the words “I hear it call in the center of it all / You’re the love of my life, the love of my life” for some time after the track ends. A positive addiction!
Wild Cub is releasing a deluxe edition of the debut album Youth next month (December 2013) with two bonus tracks. Find it via their label, along with more band info and future tour dates by clicking here.
I was a little slow getting into this new band from the Pacific Northwest was slow to get into, but what ultimately drew me in are the bass plucks that dominate this track. I see this song as being a quiet balancing act between the restrained vocals of Craig Michael Gurwich and the powerful control of Em Maslich’s bass.
The calm that takes over me when I hear this song makes me look forward to their full length, so let’s get crackin’ guys and gals!
BTW, they are squeaky new, so let’s get them touring to our cities! For now, see where they are and buy their music here.
LONDON GRAMMAR, Wasting My Young Years (from If You Wait, 2013)
This British trio begs a comparison to Florence and the Machine, if only because of the intense - almost operatic - vocals of Hannah Reid. Many of the songs on their recent debut LP are similar in structure - they start quiet, climax with dramatic vocals and electronic beats in their midst, and then ease up at their close. The lyrics are, appropriately, about tortured matters of the heart. But yet, despite this seemingly generic description, it works so well. Reid’s vocals are stunning in their strength and control, and the emotional swirl they induce is captivating. I chose to highlight Wasting My Young Years, but really I could have gone with almost any song on the album - I can’t stop listening to its in entirety…
They’ll be touring the US in spring 2014. Click here for more info.
The Head and the Heart, My Friends (from Let’s Be Still, 2013)
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about The Head and the Heart, a.k.a. one of my very favorite discoveries via this blog project (As an aside, you may have noticed how behind I am these days with the blog, but I assure you I’ve been more or less up-to-date musically, I just couldn’t keep up with my work schedule…). This band came out with their sophomore album earlier in 2013 and to say I was excited about its release would be a huge understatement. I was yearning for an album like their first one, that would make me want to listen to it on repeat for the whole day. Alas, either my taste in music has become a tad more esoteric, or the band’s music got a bit more simplified - this album didn’t elicit the same obsessive tendencies as the previous one. I think it’s just more produced and the references are incredibly obvious. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some pretty effing awesome songs on this album. For instance this one, My Friends, which I did listen to on repeat for a while there…It’s light and energetic, which is what The Head and the Heart does best. Makes you want to tap your foot on the ground to the beats and break out into some happy swaying moves, like the best of Americana.
GRIZZLY BEAR, Will Calls (Marfa Demo) [from Shields B-Sides, 2013]
Whenever Grizzly Bear comes out with anything new, us intense fans run to pick it up the very second it’s released. Even if its alleged “scraps” from a recent album. Such is the case with Will Calls, an emotionally stunning track that hits all the marks of what makes a song great and Grizzly Bear, well, Grizzly Bear. The dramatic highs and lows permeate from the very start to the sweet end - gliding from quiet vocals and single notes to explosive but controlled cacophonies of instrumentation and emotive harmonies.
This track is part of a B-Sides album of the band’s 2012 release Shields (funny how it’s a whole new release in the “post-vinyl” era). The album is made up of five new songs (those that didn’t make the cut for the original release) and three remixes. I can write a blog post about each of the new tracks, but I settled for my favorite. Because maybe now it’ll allow me to move on to listening to other songs!
The band is rounding out a long tour with only a few dates in Australia in the first week of the new year. For details and updates head over here.
NIGHT BEDS, Even If We Try (from Country Sleep, 2013)
Winston Yellen is the gorgeous voice and fractured soul behind Night Beds. I happened to choose the one track that is more pain than soothe, but please give the whole album a listen so you can fully explore this truly talented singer-songwriter’s abilities. The rest of the album is a consistent but varied collection of songs that lead with Yellen’s controlled, impressive vocals, but are rich with layered compositions.
Rather than contribute to the world's waste by burning multiple CDs, or crowding everyone's inbox by sending mp3s and links--I thought I would just invite you all here once in a short while for song recommendations. I hope you will enjoy them just as much as I do.
This site is meant solely to spread the word and admiration for these songs further and beyond, so if any of the featured artists do not wish to be here, please just shoot me an email and I will delete the post. No hard feelings!
I can be found at: info [at] daysofmusic [dot] net, or by leaving a comment (a link is provided at the bottom of each post).