1. “Friends” – Marsicans. Marsicans appeared fully-formed writing masterful indie-pop-rock songs. I have no idea how that happened, but we’re all beneficiaries. This one manages to get heavy on the lyrical content and yet still manages to be one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard since … uh … “Swimming” by Marsicans.
2. “My Roommate Is a Snake and the Landlord’s a Bat” – Gregory Pepper and His Problems. If the conceit of Sleigh Bells is “hardcore guitars tamed by pop melodies,” the conceit of Pepper’s new album Black Metal Demo Tape is “sludge metal guitar and indie pop melodies.” This particular track starts off as a doomy dirge before transitioning into a early-Weezer power-pop tribute to metal. It’s a fun ride the whole way through the track. The rest of the album is equally inventive, charming, and gloomy (sometimes in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, but also sometimes not).
3. “Weathering” – moonweather. Fans of the acoustic work on Modest Mouse’s Good News album will love the unique vocal style and swaying, shambling, enthusiastic folk arrangement of this tune. The lilting, floating horns/string arrangement is excellent.
4. “€30,000” – Emperor X. If John Darnielle had collaborated with Pedro the Lion in between his All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee days, the results would have sounded as enigmatic and engaging as this incredible track. It’s almost pointless to tag this with genres–it’s a thoughtful, passionate, wild indie-pop (okay, I did it anyway) track.
5. “Unbroken Chains” – WolfCryer. If you’re not listening to WolfCryer yet, you’re missing out on some of the most vital, important folk songs being sung today. Baumann’s vocal delivery, vocal melodies, and lyrics are all top-shelf in this weary, burdened protest tune.
7. “I Won’t Rest Until” – Brianna Gaither. Following in the vein of Moda Spira, this tune seamlessly blends electro-pop synths, instrospective singer/songwriter piano, soulful vocals, and indie-rock drums for a thoroughly modern-sounding take on serious pop.
8. “We Notice Homes When They Break” – Loyal Wife. An earnest, charming love song that’s part alt-country (via the blaring organ), part indie-pop (through the vocal tone and vocal melodies), and part singer/songwriter (through the lyrics).
9. “Hold On” – Midnight Pilot. The title track to Midnight Pilot’s latest EP is a distillation of their Paul Simon-meets-Americana sound, a yearning piano-driven ballad augmented by lovely fluttering strings and capped off by a beautiful male vocal performance. The vocal melodies in the chorus are catchy and sophisticated, a balance rarely struck well.
10. “Alone with the Stars” – Ofeliadorme. Portishead-style trip-hop with a heavy dose of spacey/ambient synths for atmosphere. The video is in black and white because the song sounds like it is in noir tones.
11. “Eternally” – Julia Lucille. Fans of the complex emotional states of Julianna Barwick will find much to love in this track, which has similar focus on wordless vocals (although not looped and layered ones) to convey the dramatic, almost mystical mood. This track does have a full band supporting Lucille’s voice, and the band’s patient, thoughtful accompaniment creates a dusky evening for her voice to wander through.
12. “Islands III” – Svarta Stugan. Instead of releasing a video, this Swedish post-rock outfit released a video game. Set in a gray, bleak warzone environment, the game has elements of Helicopter Game and a side-scrolling space shooter. (It’s fun!) The song itself is a slowly-moving, minor-key, guitar-heavy post-rock piece of the Godspeed You Black Emperor! school. The game and the song really mesh well–it was a great idea.
Saying that Winna by Tara Fuki is difficult to explain is a bit of an understatement. Each of the songs on the album are written for two cellos and two female voices, with influences ranging from classical minimalism to Eastern European folk songs to post-rock to Jonsi-style alt-pop. If that wasn’t enough, the lyrics are in Czech. All this comes together for this American listener to become something of an otherworldly missive: Winna sounds vaguely like things I understand, but mostly it sounds beautiful in a voice that no one had previously tried to speak to me.
There’s a lot of pizzicato plucking throughout the album, both on its own and as a contrast to flowing counterpoint. Sometimes the cellos are intertwined in a complex way; sometimes they compliment each other instead of playing off each other. At no point does the sound get cluttered; the duo have orchestrated their duets masterfully to make the sound consistent and pure. The band has previously used electronics to augment the sound, but with the exception of some wind chimes in “W twojej glowie,” they are totally acoustic on the album. The most complexity of the whole album comes in the finale of that tune, when both cellos, both vocalists and the chimes are going in opposite directions. It’s exciting, and it feels fresh.
“Lecimy” and “Dopis” are closest to traditional indie-pop song structures; it’s easy to imagine the perky-yet-restrained “Dopis” as a song that could fit in Regina Spektor wheelhouse. “Anna” starts off with a traditional-sounding folk vocal melody, then puts a yearning, keening vocal counterpoint over it. The song develops with some dramatic, scraping percussive work on the cellos, remaining a heavily vocal piece. It’s similar to things Julianna Barwick would create. The nine-minute “Zavrat” imposes the most post-rock influences, as the most production happens in this tune (reverb, found sound of rain, perhaps even some cello overdubs or incredibly complex individual performances). Its furious tone is internally consistent, and manages to fit in the context of the album.
Winna is an amazing album that confounds me with its beauty. It sounds like little I’ve ever heard before, which is a big compliment from a person who listens to music all the time. It’s a really powerful work that can be returned to over and over. If you’re into adventurous, experimental work that doesn’t delve into noise or abstract chord mashing, Tara Fuki should be on your shortlist.
Here are some neat things that are happening in the music world.
Singer/songwriter Aaron Hale (whose music IC is quite fond of) is now part of The Orphan Care Network as the head of artistry and advocacy. Helping orphans through art? I would say that’s pretty much in line with everything I want to be about. He is currently booking house shows in the Texas/Arkansas/Tennessee/Alabama area. If you want to host/attend a house show, get more information, or support him financially, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Judah is the best singer/songwriter you’ve never heard of (and I hadn’t heard of, until recently). He’s put up all his incredibly complex, unique and engaging work for free on Bandcamp so that you can get to know him better ahead of his upcoming release Monster (which I am absolutely thrilled for). So if you don’t feel like supporting artists but wants lots of music, this one’s for you!
Julianna Barwick and Dogfish Head Brewery are two of my favorites at their respective games. (Julianna Barwick might be the only person in her loop-one-voice-into-dozens game, but the approval still holds!) They’ve teamed up to make a beer and an EP named Rosabi; the EP includes the sounds of the beer being made. The beer, however, does not come with a download of the album (wishful thinking!). You can pick it up wherever Dogfish Head is sold; it just went on sale 6/20, so hopefully there’s some left at your local store of choice.
Youtube just got way more music-friendly: Paste and Music Vault are now hosting their own channels. The Music Vault contains Daytrotter sessions, as well as a veritable treasure trove of historical finds. Go nuts, y’all.
Soundsupply continues to hone their niche in the punk/emo/hardcore world by featuring Say Anything and the beloved-by-pop-punkers Allison Weiss. (Allison Weiss is also beloved by Independent Clauses for being one of the most forward-thinking businesspersons in music.) Go get tons of music for relatively cheap and support artists!!
It was bound to happen at some point: a service called ARENA has busted out a “rent-to-own” plan for music. I have no idea whether this will catch on, but there is a quantifiable difference between a song I played once for research and listening to “Wild One” by Flo Rida 30 times because I run to it. Will keep you posted, if anything happens because of this service.
Speaking of running, IT’S TIME FOR THE RUNHUNDRED MONTHLY LIST!!! —Stephen Carradini
The Top 10 Workout Songs for July 2014
This month’s top 10 list plays host to an eclectic bunch of established and upstart musical acts. On the international front, you’ll find a reggae hit from the Canadian band Magic and a platinum single from Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz. Elsewhere country artists Jarrod Niemann and Lady Antebellum document their nights on the town. Finally,you can check out the latest from newcomers Tune-Yards and Charli XCX alongside chart regulars Katy Perry and Shakira.
No matter where your interests lie on the musical spectrum, there should be something for you below. So, if you’re looking for a few new tunes to liven up your summer workouts, this month’s playlist will give you 10 great places to start.
Here’s the full list, according to votes placed at Run Hundred–the web’s most popular workout music blog.
To find more workout songs, folks can check out the free database at RunHundred.com. Visitors can browse the song selections there by genre, tempo, and era—to find the music that best fits with their particular workout routine. —Chris Lawhorn
A continuation of yesterday’s post, here are the June/July singles that are quiet.
1. “Simplify” – Brendan James. It’s as if Josh Ritter sat down at a piano and started casting off lyrics like he does over a guitar. Beautiful, powerful, engaging stuff.
2. “Crush” – Roy Dahan. Dahan’s Israeli vocal tone and cadence fit gloriously over snappy, precise alt-country, creating a unique, beautiful mix.
3. “I Will Let You Fall” – Walking with Elephants. Clear, crisp Americana, like Mumford but without the howling vocals.
4. “Everything is Yours” – Jonny Rodgers. I posted a Rodgers video of this song yesterday, but this version is different and worth listening to in its own right. Rodgers is a massive talent that I eagerly look forward to hearing more from.
5. “Follow You” – Sam Buckingham. YouTube suggests that I should watch videos by Junip and Noah & The Whale next; Buckingham’s delicate folk-pop kinda fits in there, but it’s way more charming and lilting than those bands.
6. “Strike the Gold” – Kodachrome. Think more of the picture type than the Paul Simon song, and you’ll have a good idea of what this impressionistic synth-pop tune sounds like.
7. “O Love, Let’s Renew Our Vows” – Jonny Rodgers. So, I’m really, really stoked about Rodgers. Really.
8. “One Half” – Julianna Barwick. A female Sigur Ros? A more concrete take on New Age? A transcendent composition? Absolutely stunning? All of the above?
All Julianna Barwick needs on “Forever” is four female vocalists and some ambient synths to create transcendent beauty. This is one of the most gorgeous tracks I’ve heard all year.
If you love James Taylor, America, and that Nashville folk sound from the ’70s, “Shed a Little Light” by Winter Mountain is going to be on your good list. You will hum and sing.
So I just found out that students from Hocking College are behind the Robbins Crossing sessions, which is A. Completely awesome and B. Completely jealousy-making for this ex-journalism undergrad. In this version, Decker (of Belle Histoire) brings her clear, emotive vocals to bear over an acoustic guitar in a historic cabin. Sweet.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.