This Italian band returns this year with a new album made up of a beautiful collection of ethereal-sounding songs. They are sparse yet filled with emotion, almost cinematic. Captured Heart is one of the catchier tunes, but there is also the stunning Totem - a two-minute track with no vocals, just gorgeous layers of guitar and percussion wrapped up in the band’s signature a gauzy haze.
HOSPITALITY, I Miss Your Bones (from Trouble, 2014)
The sophomore album from Brooklyn indie rock trio Hospitality carries an intensity that I enjoy. In I Miss Your Bones Amber Papini’s vocals forge ahead with determination over the strong and jagged sounds of drums and bass. Given the subject of the song, this forcefulness gives me the sense that I should steer clear from this chick…But the album sounds amazing.
NOAH GUNDERSEN, Poor Man’s Son (from Ledges, 2014)
I’ll be the first to admit that some of the songs I post are pretty random and obscure to most readers. Case in point - Noah Gundersen. How many of you have heard of this talented singer/songwriter? It’s likely that very few. Washington native Gundersen partners with his equally-talented sister and brother on his first full length album, Ledges, that was just released a couple of weeks ago. The Gundersen tribe was raised in a very religious household, a fact that is apparent in their beautifully soulful songs, and especially in the gospel-esque Poor Man’s Son. Noah has stated that he no longer subscribes to a religious lifestyle, but the spirituality definitely seems to linger on in his music—to our advantage.
Now back to how I post lesser-known artists. Lots of people ask me how I find out about all these great musicians, and I say with confidence that it is 90% owning to the amazingness of a Seattle radio station (that I stream in NY) called KEXP. The station is having its pledge drive now, so not only do I recommend you tune in to their broadcasts but I would also like to ask you to become a fellow member. Not only will you be supporting commercial-free radio but you will become a part of an awesome community. Stream and support here.
TEMPLES, Sun Structures (from Sun Structures, 2014)
GOOD AFTERNOON! Are you awake yet? No? Then press PLAY on this post. That will do the trick. English darlings Temples will explode in your ears with the title track from their new album, Sun Structures, that is filled with their psych rock craziness (loved by English rock “royalty” Oasis…).
BECK, Blue Moon (From Morning Phase, out on February 25, 2014)
Beck has made us wait long enough for a new album (the last one was in 2008, time indeed flies!), and it finally will drop next week. Blue Moon is the first tasting we get of Morning Phase, and it seems Beck has finally created that sequel to his incredible Sea Change. The track is textured with orchestral layers that soar, while his grounded vocals land us back on our two feet. Really looking forward to hearing what else this album has in store, since Sea Change is still in the top ten albums of my life (to date)…
It took me a few months to listen to Volcano Choir’s sophomore album, which came out in September 2013. As you may have realized, the lead vocalist of this band is Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), who collaborates on so many projects that sometimes I wonder if he ever takes a break from recording. His work with Volcano Choir on this second album emphasizes more of his signature falsetto voice, and differs from Bon Iver in that it is no longer the essence of the song, but rather an accompaniment to a soaring arrangement of instruments and electronic sounds that push us far, above, and beyond.
ELBOW, New York Morning (from The Take Off and Landing of Everything, out March 10, 2014)
If I had to choose a male vocal that pierces through my heart, I would have to name Guy Garvey of Elbow. How does someone’s voice manage to encompass so much pain and so much strength all at once?
This British alt-rock band has been together since the late 90s and I haven’t really heard an album of theirs that I didn’t like—many of their songs express sorrow and gloom but the compositions are often soaring and therefore seem hopeful. They have been working on a new album for a couple years now and it is finally slated for release on March 10. New York Morning is quite the heartening song, as it touches upon the ambition and desires that rule this wild city. Listen up!
It looks like they are only touring Europe this summer, but hopefully that’ll be updated soon! Check it here.
LIARS, Mess on a Mission (from Mess, out on March 24, 2014)
This NY trio sounds like they are at least 10 people - they have a loud and expansive sound that will either give you a serious headache or energize you for the next 10 hours. After listening to their new single a few times in a row I’m feeling pretty pumped. New album Mess drops on March 24.
You can find more info here, if you can make sense of their website (!)
The meteoric rise of NY-based duo Ms Mr is pretty impressive, especially considering they are part of the chillwave genre, which doesn’t normally get signed to the likes of Columbia Records. Their beginnings were much less conventional, having released a tumblr-hosted EP that created much blog-hype (I seemed to have missed it at the time…). Hurricane is probably their most well-known track that has also been remixed by a-many current musicians. I enjoy Lizzy Plapinger’s (Ms) hearty vocals cutting through some electronic beats—it really reminds me of one of my faves, Zola Jesus. Hope you enjoy this too!
ARTHUR BEATRICE, Grand Union (from Working Out, out February 3, 2014)
British indie rock quartet Arthur Beatrice is about to release their debut album next week and from the sounds of this single and the previous one, Midland (listen here) it will be comprised of emotional but controlled songs led by the deep vocals of Orlando Leopard and singer Ella Girardot. It feels like getting back to basics with less fanfare and musical acrobatics (though those can be fun!) and more focus on songwriting and paired down composition. Listen up, listen in.
It’s been a long four years since we last heard LA-band Warpaint’s ethereal music, but they’re back with a new album that certainly sounds like it was worth the wait. Biggy is the second single off the record - a meditative and quiet explosion that surrounds and infiltrates your every nerve. The band is currently touring in support of the new record, so check out their website to see when they’ll be rolling into a town near you.
BILLIE JOE + NORAH, Roving Gambler (from Foreverly, 2013)
I am mostly impatient when it comes to country music, though given a certain mood and environment - I can tolerate it. This statement is to set the stage to explaining why I’m offering this song on the blog today - I just really get a kick out of hearing Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day fame. Yes, yes indeed) channel his inner country star in this collaboration with Norah Jones. And they recorded a whole album like this! Foreverly is a a cover album of songs by The Everly Brothers and from a first cursory listen - it doesn’t come across as incredibly groundbreaking past the novelty of this collaboration. But I can see how these songs can be a soothing accompaniment, so I’m going to give it a try!
REAL ESTATE, Talking Backwards (from Atlas, out on March 4, 2014)
Talking Backwards is the new track off Real Estate’s forthcoming album Atlas, and it displays the band’s timeless sound in all its glory. If I were to describe this song in one word, “Effortless” would come to mind. Its characteristic sunny melody is structured by the band’s usual intricate guitar and bass maneuvering, resulting in a very comforting and addictive tune.
Real Estate is a consistent band that has shown us solid and interesting albums since they came on the scene in 2009, so I’m looking forward to hearing what Atlas holds.
They’re on tour for the foreseeable future. Check it here.
WASHED OUT, It All Feels Right (from Paracosm, 2013)
On day one of Polar Vortex part deux, I decided to dig into Washed Out's sophomore album that came out over the summer (2013). Washed Out is the stage name of Ernest Greene of Georgia. This album introduces a host of new songs with Greene's signature medley of electronic beats and airy vocals that make you feel like you're floating in a sea of warmth. So pile on your winter gear and press play on this one as you head out the door today!
THE NOTWIST, Close to the Glass (from Close to the Glass, out on February 25, 2014)
The Notwist is arguably one of the most diverse indie bands active today. The band hails from Germany, has been around since the late 80s, and has touched upon a real broad spectrum of genres from heavy metal to indie rock and electronica. This diverse sound makes every album they release quite exciting, since you don’t really know what to expect. So that opportunity has come around again, with a new album (their ninth!) slated to drop in late February (2014).
Quite different from their albums of the last decade, which were fairly melodic, the title track of Close to the Glass indicates that this new album is heavy on electronica with tense and often jarring notes. Yet the soft vocals of lead singer Markus Acher are still consistently quiet and soothing. This combination makes me (predictably) curious to hear more of it!
YOUNG FATHERS, Get Up (from Dead, out of February 4, 2014)
Young Fathers combines pop and hip hop so well. I am pretty sure these guys are going to become famous when their album Dead is released on February 4…Their music is fun, cheerful and makes you want to dance - what else do you need?
Young Fathers is made up of three guys - Alloysious Massaquoi and Kayus Bankole and ‘G’ Hastings - hailing from Edinburgh. They released two EPs to date (Tape One and Tape Two), with the February release being their first LP. I, for one, will be most excited to hear the whole album.
They will be touring Europe this winter. Find tour information and some more songs off of their upcoming album here.
BENJAMIN VERDOES, Unknown Fears (from The Evil Eye, 2014)
Singer/songwriter Benjamin Verdoes pens raw and vulnerable songs with an inescapable straightforwardness. Unknown Fears is relatable and catchy - pretty much all I need to get hooked after one or two listens.
Today (1/14/14) marks the release date for his new solo album. There are some utterly beautiful tracks on this album, like So Bari - a stripped down, acoustic love song - I highly recommend delving deeper, if you’re into the Pac-NW singer/songwriter sound!
Purchase the album from Benjamin and get updates on his tour over here.
TACOCAT, Bridge to Hawaii (from NVM, out February 25, 2014)
Happy Monday! Push aside those blues with some power pop from the sunny and energizing band Tacocat. They’ll be releasing their second album, NVM, in a month. Bridge to Hawaii is a perfect title for this song, and an apt description of exactly what all of us east-coasters wished we were traveling on. Enjoy this Tacocat tasting and check them out live when they begin their tour in support of the new album!
Pop outfit Tennis debuted with a cheerful, light sound and I liked it - for a little while…Then I needed to listen to it only when I was in an energetic mood, and finally I just couldn’t find the right mindset to play it. Then came their recent EP, Small Sound, and I noticed they infused their sound with more of the 70s chill - more soulful, less uppity. I like where they’re going with this. See what you think!
MUTUAL BENEFIT, Golden Wake (from Love’s Crushing Diamond, 2013)
Mutual Benefit is the brainchild of Boston musician Jordan Lee, who released his debut LP in Fall 2013 on bandcamp to much acclaim of the established music blogosphere (he has since been signed to Other Music’s label). If I were forced to choose a favorite genre - the kind that always excites me and gets me overcome with emotion - I would have to go with the one that feels like members of a symphony ran away to make beautiful music with a talented singer-songwriter. I’m thinking Sufjan Stevens, Horse Feathers, Radiohead (sometimes), and the likes. Mutual Benefit falls in this category and for all these reasons I like it - it’s restrained and emotional, textured and sharp. I’m glad I discovered him and I can’t wait to delve further into this album.
He’s heading out on tour this month (January 2014). I, for one, will be lining up. If you’re interested too, find those dates here.
HAMMOCK, Then the Quiet Explosion (from Oblivion Hymns, 2013)
Many of us are getting back in gear post-holiday vacation, post-snowstorm vacation, post-weekend. I thought this gorgeous understated song will be a good accompaniment to assist us in this always-harsh transition - slowly, quietly, calmly, and drowning in beauty. On their recent album (out November 2013), the band left behind its rock and pop influences and turned to ambient—filling our soundscapes with shimmering guitars and ethereal vocals.
SONNY & THE SUNSETS, Those Drawings I Told You About (from I Need You Bad, 2013)
I like me some nostalgia on a Friday afternoon, and Sonny & the Sunsets fit the bill. I would describe this as “lazying around” music, because it takes me back to the chillin’ 70s. This SF band is led by the talented musician Sonny Smith, whose abilities span a wide spectrum of genres and platforms. His collaborations have resulted in musicals, art projects, and short stories among other things. Listen up to this track off of his most recent album.
Happy snow day!
They’ve got some west coast dates on the calendar for winter 2014, find the deets here.
NO JOY, Last Boss (from Pastel And Pass Out EP, 2013)
Montreal-based shoegaze band No Joy creates dreamy tunes out of fuzzy guitars and beautifully muted female vocals. The single Last Boss goes through a-many fluctuations in its short three-minute span, beginning with a slow and quiet section that leads into a spastic one, ending abruptly around 2:00 only to start up again—this time in a meditative form.
This past fall brought us a debut album from the Brooklyn-band Lucius. This band of five is led by two female vocalists - Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig - and creates fun and highly energetic pop music that reminds me a lot of the likes of Matt & Kim.
If you’ve had a rough year, this is my message to you - TURN IT AROUND! Happy 2014!
WARM SODA, Tell Me in a Whisper (from I Need You Bad, 2013)
Oakland band Warm Soda released a highly-regarded debut this year, filled with hopping, light and fun pop songs that throw us back to the 70s in a masterful and unironic way. The hooks in this song and others on the album will get you listening to them allllll the time. I guarantee that you will be singing along after the first (ok, maybe second) time!
Youth Lagoon is the pseudonym of Trevor Powers, an incredibly talented musician based in Idaho. His sophomore album, Wondrous Bughouse, was released in the spring (2013) and continues Powers’ exploration of his ever-fragile mental state (it gets dark…). Dropla is a beautiful tune led by a thrust of dark lyrics laid over a bed of delicate electronic notes.
If Antony Hegarty (of Antony & the Johnsons) would go the electronica route, he would sound like James Blake. This British musician released a gorgeous sophomore album this past spring filled with tracks that feature layers of subdued dramatic beats only to be pierced through with his crystal clear vocals. I Am Sold is as haunting as it is beautiful, and will linger on in your consciousness well past the song’s end mark.
Haerts are a five-member band from Brooklyn that has been garnering much-deserved attention from the moment they released the single Wings. They came out with an EP in 2013 and we can expect a full length in 2014. This dreamy electro-pop tune brings back that special 80s feel (in a good way - kids of the 80s rejoice!) I assure you this song will take you on a ride of nostalgia that will end up in a happy place. This therefore might be a good band to listen to in the upcoming family-filled days! :)
This Australian band released their debut album this year to well-deserved acclaim. They produce upbeat psychedelic songs with ironically gloomy lyrics. I’ve always enjoyed this genre of music for its highly textured compositions and often-times droning, er “meditative”, vocals. Come Save Me is definitely a worthy representative!
Follow the band’s progress here. They’ll be touring the U.S. in 2014, get ready…
FOUR TET, Human Once Again (remix of Skin by Grimes)
In honor of reaching a formidable 100,000 Twitter followers, Kieran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet, uploaded fifteen previously unreleased tracks (via his twitter) as a thank you gift to his social media followers. Among them was a full remix of Grimes’ song Skin (he distributed a shorter, unofficial version back in January). The combination of these two talented musicians should be enough of a reason to enjoy this track, but if you need more convincing - press play to hear Claire Boucher’s (Grimes) lovely vocals intertwined with Four Tet’s electronic beat—resulting in a beautiful and meditative melody that shall soothe your mind and heart.
JAMES VINCENT McMORROW, Cavalier (from Post-Tropical, out January 2014)
To say that I’m excited about the upcoming release of James Vincent McMorrow’s sophomore album is a major understatement. His 2010 debut positioned him as a gifted and affecting folk singer-songwriter. From the sound of this first single off the new album, Cavalier, it appears that McMorrow has decided to pierce our hearts from the unexpected R&B angle this time around. Cavalier is incredibly delicate and controlled—a beautifully contained composition that teeters on the edge only when McMorrow unleashes his gorgeous falsetto.
It’s been a long while since I’ve looked forward to a release as much as this instance. Maybe since Bon Iver’s second album? In sum, I can’t wait for January 14.
And you know I’ll be lining up to see him live! Follow along here for updates.
The Blow has been around for well over a decade in different iterations, but it seems like the band is really finally finding its way with their 2013 eponymous album. Hailing from Brooklyn, the band is currently made up of Khaela Maricich and sound/light artist Melissa Dyne. Make It Up highlights the band’s strengths in Maricich’s jagged vocals alongside punchy dance beats.
I haven’t had a chance to see them perform live, but I hear it is quite the experience characterized by unconventional monologues, installations and light performances. It doesn’t look like there are any shows coming up, but you can check back here for updates!
BAND OF HORSES, Neighbor (from Acoustic at the Ryman, out Feb. 11, 2014)
Just in time for this Seattle band’s tenth anniversary, they will be releasing a ten-track acoustic album recorded at Ryman auditorium in Nashville, TN back in April 2013.
In their announcement of the album release, the band described an “electric” energy in the auditorium during these shows, and somehow that comes across in this recording. On Neighbor, their pared-down harmonies carry the song so well, and the intensity of the experience is able to captivate even those of us listening now in this mediated, compressed way.
Lucky for us, we will be able to see them try and recreate this magic on tour in winter and spring 2014. Check out the dates here.
Listen to the original recording of this song from 2010:
CHROMATICS, Kill for Love (from Kill for Love, 2012)
If you’re going to listen to some synth pop, it better be by someone who does it well. Portland-based band Chromatics is a real good choice with its catchy high pitched synthesizer and dead pan vocals singing “uplifting” lyrics like “I kept a bottle at the foot of my bed / I put a pillow right on top of my head/ But I killed for love.” HAPPY FRIDAY! :)
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…
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.