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…
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! :)
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.
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.
King Krule is the moniker of the 18 year old (!) Brit Archy Marshall (aka Zoo Kid). It’s kind of incredible to hear such a smooth, mature voice from a young lad like Marshall (but that’s besides the point). The bottom line is that I got lost in this mellow track and if I were to have to add it to a mixed tape, I would include it in one that will be used to sit back, chill out, read and meditate. A cold track for the (remaining) laid back summer days?!
If you think the dissonance between King Krule’s look and age is jarring listening to this song, check out his first single from the forthcoming debut Easy Easy. Mind blown.
Kishi Bashi is the pseudonym of K Ishibashi of Jupiter One, and violinist of the bands Of Montreal, Sondre Loche, and Regina Spektor’s tour. In 2012 he released his first solo album, 151a, to much acclaim. His beautiful voice and the array of uplifting tracks make it one of the best, most unique releases that I’ve heard recently. If I hadn’t found out about him in 2013, he definitely would have made it on my 2012 faves list!
Manchester is without a doubt the catchiest track of the album—with soaring string arrangements and a build up of swirling vocals, it’ll inspire all kinds of emotions in you all.
This is the type of artist that I know I will follow for years. I devoured 151a and wish there was more and more for me to discover from him. Luckily he likes to experiment! Check out his beautiful cover of Beirut’s A Sunday Smile.
BellaMaine, Single Life (from the AnAnxious Mind EP, 2013)
This song isn’t likely to revolutionize the face of music as you know it - but from the first time I heard its initial hook and the husband and wife singing duo’s passionate voices, I couldn’t stop humming it. Making catchy and fun songs is this WA-based band’s specialty. Show them some love and buy their self-released debut EP. Also go see them live, since I’m sure all that upbeat pop/alt country energy comes across on stage.
The British band Alt-J released its debut album An Awesome Wave in fall 2012. This tune here is my personal favorite, with its most pronounced trip-hop beats (a tune for spring, if you may. May it arrive quickly). Other tracks on the album are more pop, and heavy on the synth and thus less exciting to me personally. But really, this song makes the album worth the investment.
PICKWICK, Lady Luck, ft. Sharon Van Etten (from forthcoming Can’t Talk Medicine, out March 12th, 2013)
Seattle band Pickwick is on track to release its much-anticipated debut album on March 12, 2013. Other than putting out what appears to be a great record, these talented fellas had the delight to record Richard Swift’s song Lady Luck with the incredible Sharon Van Etten. Pickwick’s lead (Galen Disston) and Van Etten successfully channel Swift’s falsetto with their harmonies, while still maintaining that cool smooth groove.
Looking forward to delving into this soulful-seeming band when their LP comes out next month!
They will be touring in support of the release of their album. Check it here.
BAT FOR LASHES, Lilies (from The Haunted Man, 2012)
Bat for Lashes is the stage name of British singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Natasha Khan, who released her third album in fall 2012, The Haunted Man.Lilies, like many of the songs on this album, is a gorgeous and (appropriately) haunting track that is heavy on Khan’s crystal clear vocals, accompanied by electronic beats and synth galore. It unfolds quietly and steadily—more like something to see you through your mellow Sunday morning, than to get you out the door to work. Surround yourself with beauty like this every day.
THE MALDIVES, I’m Gonna Try (from Muscle for the Wing, 2012)
This gorgeous track from Seattle band The Maldives infects with its simplicity. Alt-country isn’t normally my cup of tea, but in this case I find it to be straightforward enough to avoid cheesiness.
The band is playing a handful of shows in small venues on the west coast (US) next week. Hopefully they’ll be back on the road again soon, because they’re a good winter band to experience and re-visit.
LOCAL NATIVES, Breakers (from forthcoming Hummingbird, out January 29, 2013)
Dear goodness, this song is contagious. This is the first thing that I think about when I listen to the LocalNatives. How do they know the tap into the populist indie heart? how?! I know the musicians of you out there can probably answer this pretty easily.
For their sophomore album, they joined forces with The National’s Aaron Dessner (seriously, who hasn’t lately?!). This definitely comes across in the broader, more ambitious sound of the album (it was available to stream on NPR a little while ago. It’s out next week!)
This song starts with huge, swaying harmonized vocals that recur throughout, and they’re the hook for the track. All the jagged notes in between are really just a segway for these waves of vocals.
Bless this hipster band’s heart. And I say this with the most love that I can muster (and that’s a lot. I have a big heart).
Their upcoming US tour is basically sold out coast-to-coast, but you can still check out the dates here (or if you live in Europe or Canada. Then you’re in luck).
FATHER MISTY JOHN, Only Son of the Ladiesman (from Fear Fun, 2012)
A moniker of Seattle musician J. Tillman (former drummer of Fleet Foxes), Father John Misty makes music that is all you’d expect from someone who describes the beginning stages of his album as the following:
I got into my van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse and started driving down the coast with nowhere to go. After a few weeks, I was writing a novel, which is where I finally found my narrative voice….
The songs are beautiful and affecting. They’ll take you on a journey far from home (unless you live in the desert, in which case - you’ll feel right at home!).
As with most songs I write about - I recommend you consume the entire album. With this one I will stress this even more—the narrative is easy to follow and the songs really have the full effect when heard in sequence. One song just won’t do! But it’ll get you started…
JUNIP, Line of Fire (from forthcoming LP Junip, out April 23, 2013)
This Swedish trio, led by the gentle soul and voice of José Gonzalez, are releasing their sophomore album at long last in spring 2013. Line of Fire is the first track we get to hear from the album, and it demonstrates all the band’s wonderful traits - starting quiet, building up with control, and exploding in a concerted and emotional tangle of vocals and strings two-thirds through. Can’t wait to hear the rest. Great start to my most anticipated albums of 2013!
I have failed you this year. It has been a rough one and I should have found solace in music-sharing. But I didn’t. So here is a (very) modest peace-offering to you - my very favorite (eight) albums of 2012. In the next few days I will post several new songs and hopefully this will start us off into 2013 in a good way.
(in alphabetical order)
Cold Specks, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion (listen here): probably my favorite discovery of the year. This gal put together an incredibly mature album considering its her first and she is 24…Can’t wait to hear more.
Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan: This band is for the haters to hate on, full-time. But I love them. They prove life’s truism that things that start off rocky and are hard to get into, will ultimately offer the best rewards. Give it a chance, will ya? You can even buy the album for a mere $5 here.
First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar (here): These sweet Swedish sisters brightened up a-many days this year. For that reason alone, their surprisingly folksy album deserves prime real estate on this list.
Grizzly Bear, Shields (sample): Yeah, this album is genius. Listen to it on repeat. I have nothing else to add (other than - Half Gate is especially incredible).
Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams (here): this album unfolds very sweetly and slowly, ultimately - in my case - leading to somewhat of an obsession.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Heist (yum): white dudes from Seattle with a point of view. Rapping, and doing it real well. A little simplistic for you? Listen to the lyrics, you’ll quickly be disproved.
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (here here here): More than any other albums I listened to in 2012, this one takes them all. Van Etten’s vulnerability and rawness resonated more than I’d care to admit. I’ve listened to the songs, and whole album, on repeat as if I was a high school girl again. It isn’t often that a piece of music touches me like this. I owe her a lot!
Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe (a sampling can be found here): incredibly soulful. Just oozes honesty and grit.
Those who know me, have learned that I’ve taken in anything and everything that members of Animal Collective have recorded over the years. So you can imagine my excitement when the band’s new album finally came out a couple of months ago! I purchased it immediately but it’s taken me this long to wrap my mind around it. It’s a lot more rough around the edges, not much to sing along to, and definitely required repeat listens before I was even able to grasp what it is I’m listening to. This may sound negative, but I was up for the challenge. Now, almost two months later, I’m able to identify a preferred song (Applesauce) and let go of my longing for the Beach Boys touch that was so apparent in their previous albums, particularly Merriweather Post Pavilion. In a lot of ways, this album takes me back to their early releases like Here Comes the Indian (2003). They’re back to their four-member structure and their songs are more textured than ever. I think peeling off those layers has been the challenge for me, but again - a well worth endeavor indeed.
LORD HURON, Ends of the Earth (from Lonesome Dreams, 2012)
Here at Days of Music, diversity of sound is the name of the game. The previous post was about rapper/producer duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and now we’ll discuss a much anticipated debut LP release by folksy act Lord Huron (I’ve been waiting patiently for two years!) This L.A.-based band is headed up by singer-songwriter Ben Schneider and offers a sound that evokes the likes of Fleet Foxes (harmonies, yay!) but with more rhythm and energy. I’ll admit that the band doesn’t an bring an earth-altering uniqueness to the table, but hey, I’m hooked. Case in point, this song here. Just listen up. You’ll get it.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (ft. Mary Lambert), Same Love (from The Heist, 2012)
Macklemore (i.e. Seattle-based rapper Ben Haggerty) and producer Ryan Lewis released their debut collaboration album last week, The Heist. This album will ingratiate itself on even the more extreme rap and hip hop skeptics of you out there. Same Love is my favorite, humming-at-every-chance-I-get, track from this album and its lyrics advocate for marriage equality. What more can I ask for. Onward!
They’re on tour between now and mid-December in Europe and the US. Most of the shows are sold out, it seems, but check this list out for updates.
I’ll be seeing The Walkmen tomorrow (finally!). Their new album Heaven is a bit more solemn than their 2010 Lisbon album. It’s interesting to hear their big sound so tame, but I’ll take it. It’s good to experiment.
At the end of this week I’ll be taking a road trip up to Montreal for a much anticipated and necessary vacation. The ultimate goal of the trip is to partake in Osheaga, an enormous three-day music festival that showcases an incredible laundry list of bands (many many of which have been featured on the blog over the years!). I’m going to try to post a song every day until I get there of a band that I plan to see.
On the first day, Sigur Ros will be performing! I’ve never seen this odd and eccentric Icelandic band live, but I’ve been following them since their very first album a-many moons ago. Their sound (with its invented language) is delicate but so very expansive. It fills a room completely, so I can only imagine what it’ll sound like outdoors, in nature…
This track here is one off their recent album Valtari. It’s the one that stuck with me after a few listens, but I’ve found that listening to their albums is an evolving experience. Next week, the favorite may be totally different.
GRIZZLY BEAR, Sleeping Ute (from forthcoming LP, September 2012)
The Brooklyn band’s third album, Veckatimest (2009), was one of those albums that has been on rotation for years in my ears. I still haven’t tired of it. But…it’s time for some new material. Save for a bunch of shows here and there, Grizzly Bear seemed to drop off. Maybe it felt that way because they were so ubiquitous after the last album came out. But in any case, a ten-track fourth album is on its way and will be released in mid September. Hurray!
A month ago, the band put out the first single from the album, Sleeping Ute. This song is uncharacteristically explosive—dominated by energetic percussion and Daniel Rossen’s sprawling guitar. Only towards the end of the track does it take on the familiar air of one of their earlier quiet and ruminative songs.
Cannot wait for more tracks from this album. And! the! tour!
TOM VEK, We Do Nothing (from Leisure Seizure, 2011)
On the heels of the excellent article this weekend in the NYT about how we should all get over being (or saying we are-) so busy, this song came to mind. What better counter reaction than singing “we do nothing with our time” for almost four solid minutes?!
Tom Vek is a London-based musician who has kept a pretty consistent deadpan sound that can either make you laugh or drive you mad. I laugh.
He released his second album, Leisure Seizure, last year after a much obsessed over six-year hiatus. His debut album, We Have Sound, was an updated (and much-revered) homage to the Talking Heads with his intentionally flat voice, dominant bass, abrupt tracks, and idiosyncratic nature (you can listen to an example here). From an initial cursory listen to the new album, he’s going forth with that sound. It’s fun. Listen up.
BOBBY WOMACK, Please Forgive My Heart (from The Bravest Man in the Universe, 2012)
Legendary R&B and soul musician Bobby Womack has recently made his solo return to the recording field with the production help of Damon Albarn (Gorillaz/Blur) and Richard Russell (head of XL Recordings). Albarn and Russell’s vision lead his new album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, as their signature electronic and dance beats pepper his soulful voice. If this reminds you of Gil Scott-Heron's final album (I’m New Here) it’s not by chance - they produced that one too. Womack’s voice kills everything it lays above. Simply put, it’s what heart sounds like.
Do yourself a favor and delve deeper into this album - this track, Please Forgive My Heart, is the one that sticks most in my mind after the album ends, but there is so much to listen to, and for, on the other tracks. So go do some in-depth research, eh?
(for a totally different sound, listen to the final track,Jubilee)
This catchy expansive tune is brought to you by Montreal singer and artist Claire Boucher, aka Grimes. It’s got pop and electronic beats, and is overall pretty darn ethereal. You may not have heard of her before, but Boucher has released *three* albums in the last two years under the moniker Grimes. If you like this sampling, you should try out all of the Visions LP. She’ll have you dancing to her honey-dipped vocals in no time.
This is as close to country folk that I will probably be able to embrace (and I guess that isn’t saying much), which is ironic since First Aid Kit is a Swedish band…Johanna and Klara are two young sisters who have the ability to create beautiful harmonies that sound effortless and timeless (though a lot of country/folk music sounds timeless to me, really).
They had a good deal of success in Europe and Australia with their debut album, The Big Black & The Blue (2010), but have really only gained serious traction in the US with their recent LP, The Lion’s Roar. There are a bunch of solid tracks on this recent album (the title track, for instance) so it’s worth a more comprehensive listen. Emmylou will not leave your brain whether you love or loathe it, so be prepared.
First Aid Kit is touring the US this spring! Check here for dates.
Sharon van Etten's new album, Tramp, is just the right amount of evolution balanced out by the consistency of her beautiful sound. I finally got to dig into this album this week and obsession has taken over.
The song that stuck most with me is “We Are Fine” (optimism never hurt anyone!), with Zach Condon of Beirut on backup vocals (!!). For the background story of this (therapeutic) song I’ll turn to a revealing quote from NPR’s "The Record" blog:
"We Are Fine" is her most optimistic song yet. Van Etten struggles with social anxiety and panic attacks, though she’s figured out ways to manage them — one of them is asking a friend to talk to her. As she was working on "We Are Fine" she realized she wanted the song to be closer to the way she experiences an attack, by adding a voice. "We Are Fine" is a duet with Beirut's Zach Condon, who has social anxiety, too.
This whole album is worth a close listen. It is personal and careful, and probably won’t leave you indifferent either emotionally or musically.
Check out tour dates for the most-intimate-show-in-a-big-venue that you will see this season on her website.
DRY THE RIVER, Weights & Measures (from the Weights & Measures EP, 2011)
I’m a bit torn about this song. On the one hand, it’s super cheesy! On the other hand, it’s really mesmerizing…I’m such a sucker for a hearty falsetto. This new UK band is hitting all the breakout-bands-to-watch-in-2012 lists that DJs shamelessly compile at the beginning of every year. Their debut, Shallow Bed, is due out in the UK on March 5, 2012, and in the US shortly thereafter.
If you like Antony & the Johnsons (without the weirdness) or Bon Iver (without the scruffiness), you’ll probably like Dry the River’s sound.
Canadian newcomers, Braids, have created a debut album that is super concise and coherent. I could have selected any song off Native Speaker - they’re all pretty excellent upbeat ambient tunes that meet shoe-gazing halfway. I just went ahead with the opening track. Feast your ears!
No tour happening at the moment, but check back here for updates.
THE HEAD AND THE HEART, Rivers and Roads (iTunes Session, 2011)
This band is one of my favorite discoveries of 2010, and definitely my proudest via my blogging endeavor. Since I first found out about the Seattle band they went from a self-released album, to being one of Sub Pop’s golden children. They now tour full time and open for bands like Dr. Dog and The Decemberists.
They recently released a special iTunes session with new versions of some of the songs off their self titled debut, as well as a couple new songs they had been trying out live (Go! See! Them!). Rivers and Roads grabbed me when I heard them play it live, and I’m so glad to have a copy of it in my music library to press play and rewind. Also check out their acoustic version of the song here.
They’re off to Australia now for a tour (Alyza!) and then on to the US for a bunch of March dates around the country. Click here for info.