I try very hard to keep my inbox clean. I have gone to great lengths to view the “no messages” notice before I log out. It’s just comforting to have some control over the situation. Yes, I know there’s a psychoanalysis here, but take off your Freud cap and roll with me.
Here’s a bunch of stuff that’s come into my inbox lately that I need to put in front of you.
The Boxing Lesson threw down this goofy, DIY video for instrumental psych track “Three.” Check it.
Charlotte & Magon are very rapidly moving up the list of bands to watch. They keep releasing stark, intimate, brilliant videos of incredible songs, and their latest is no different. A fingerpicked guitar, Charlotte’s elegant voice and a gentle arrangement makes “Black Horses” a mesmerizing tune.
In sadder news, Carter Hulsey‘s “The Love Is All Around Us” Tour ended in an unlovely fashion, when someone stole all the band’s stuff after the last show. More info and a donation link to help the band get back on its feet are here. The world is a hard place, and music makes it better. Let’s help Carter Hulsey win out over the evil in the world this time and get back to making it better with music.
Charlotte & Magon have now released two videos of stark, swooning, dramatic acoustic music. The first caught my attention, and the second, aptly-titled “Motoroïde (White Version),” keeps it. This is a band to watch, most certainly. Gorgeous music.
This stark, genreless tune from Charlotte & Magon will stick in your head, even without the sparse, haunting video. The clouds of breath that Charlotte makes only enhance the ghostly feel. It’s like Two Gallants without the drums and a female singer. I know that sounds like a stretch, but yeah. That’s what I’ve got. Comparisons aside, it’s a brilliant track, and it makes me look forward to their not-so-soon-forthcoming album.
I’ve covered French duo Charlotte and Magon since January 2011, and I’ve been mesmerized by their pensive, mysterious indie-rock that draws just as much from trip-hop and Fleetwood Mac as it does any current band. Life Factory is their first full release, and it delivers on the promise. Charlotte’s alto voice commands the stark, crisp tunes with easy authority, and the whole project comes off with a dramatic flair. They can go a bit overboard on the drama in places (“Dice,” “Shellshock”), but tunes like “Motoroïde” and “Black Horses” are excellent songs that make me excited for the future of this band.
Italian band OfeliaDorme is the perfect companion to Charlotte and Magon, as the bands share similarities in sparse, stark mood and atmosphere. The veterans in OfeliaDorme make Bloodroot a standout by not wasting a single moment: every bit is thoughtfully considered, causing the tunes to seem effortless. (Isn’t that always the way?) Vocalist Francesca Bono sits atop the mix, delivering her vocals in a straightforward, almost entrancing voice. Her voice melds equally well to spacious, gloomy tunes (“Brussels,” “Predictable”) and upbeat pop moments (“Ulysses,” “Stuttering Morning”), which results in a nicely varied group of songs. It’s a credit to the band’s songwriting skill that the album still holds together well as a unit. Bloodroot is an album that you can put on and enjoy in its entirety. If you’re into music that makes small arrangements sound gorgeous, this one’s for you.
Swedish outfit E321 adheres more closely to the post-rock idiom than the two previous bands, but they still keep a candle for gloomy, spare atmospheres on three-song release Among the Trees. Opener “The Naked Sea” builds from a lone guitar playing forlorn melodies to a heavy rock section, complete with spoken/yelled vocals that give it a vaguely post-hardcore vibe. “They Call Us Human” and “Among the Trees” follow a similar pattern, but make the quiets quieter and the louds louder. The band shines when it’s turning morose moments into aggressive ones, although E321 doesn’t go all the way by attempting Isis levels of earsplitting clamor. Instead, the band dials in to their comfort zone and turns out really effective, evocative tunes. If you’re into things that have a post- attached to their name, you should check out E321.
Signals to Vega is from Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is interesting because A. it breaks the streak of international bands in this post and B. I once spent a weekend marooned there because of a car wreck. I hold no hard feelings against the town, but if I did I think STV would help exorcise them. This duo does aspire towards the towering metal/post-rock fusions of Isis, as the 10-minute-long lead track “Fear Not the Cycle of Life” alternates between poignant sections of twinkling beauty and roaring double-pedal excursions. The band does both well on Into the Arms of Infinity, as they never lose sight of the melody in the crush of hugely distorted background guitar. No vocals on this one; you’ve just got lots of trilling, soaring guitar to admire. This will make answering e-mails sound way more dramatic and important.
Rifftastic Austin magic meets West Coast tour funkiness in Megafauna’s “Touch the Lion” video. Everyone wins.
Fool’s Gold unleashes sure-fire mixtape magic with “The Dive.” If African influences and orange-tinted summer videos ever fall out of style, it will be a sad, sad day at IC HQ.
Dirt bike wheelies on the freeway, dudes hip-hop dancing, and a vaguely ’80s cast to the whole thing? Sign me up for the video to Phoebe Jean and the Air Force’s electro jam “Day is Gone.”
Charlotte and Magon have been batting 1.000 with their pensive, trip-hop-esque indie rock. Depending on your aesthetic, “Dice” is yet another grand slam or a complete strikeout. I suppose it depends on how you feel about absurdist adventures in the desert.
1. “I Touch My Face in Hyperspace Oh Yeah” – Devin James Fry. You shouldn’t need my encouragement to listen to a song with a title so enigmatic and intriguing, but if you do, the fiery, wild-eyed psych-folk-rock is just as immediately engaging and mind-expanding as the title.
2. “Cheap Shades” – Chris Staples. Staples tosses off lyrics in this gentle, walking-speed acoustic tune as if they were easy to come by, as if they weren’t complex and unique and deeply thoughtful. This doesn’t sound like the Mountain Goats at all, but fans of John Darnielle will hear the lyrical kinship (even if the music is closer to Sufjan’s Michigan than anything TMG has put out, except maybe Get Lonely). If you’re of the age and vintage that 238’s “Modern Day Prayer” is tattooed on your consciousness, get prepared to have your mind blown: this is that Chris Staples.
3. “Can’t Undo This” – Heather Bond. It’s tough to do a dramatic, introspective ballad without getting formalist or maudlin. Bond balances gravitas and vulnerability to come up with a searing, poignant, piano-driven tune.
4. “Take You Away” – The National Parks. Handclaps, pizzicato violin, punchy horns, and bright-eyed guy/girl vocals buoy this cross between orchestral-folk-pop, party-friendly indie-pop-rock, and even some disco vibes (!). Weighty genre labels aside, this is a cheery, thoughtful tune that does more than bash out chords on a well-trod road.
5. “Ida” – El Tryptophan. Was Pet Sounds an orchestral explosion of the Phil Spector sound? If so, “Ida” could fit in the chronological and sonic space right between ’60s girl-pop arrangements and Brian Wilson’s masterpiece (with some Velvet Underground thrown in for good measure). [Editor’s note: El Tryptophan is now known as Gryphon Rue.]
6. “Pink Lemonade” – Monogold. Sometimes the title is all you need to know.
8. “Kids” – Dara Sisterhen. Somehow manages to blend country, ’50s pop, and folk-pop into one breezy, carefree tune perfect for your next road trip.
9. “The Script” – The Treacherous French. Almost any accordion-laden acoustic tune is going to come off like a sea shanty; the washboard percussion, enthusiastic high-tenor vocal performance, and “whoa-ohs” solidify the notion.
10. “Willingham” – Echo Bloom. Somehow combines the murky sounds of a forest, high-drama noir vocals, indie-rock slinkiness, and ghostly aura. Wildly inventive.
11. “Little Dreamer” – Charlotte & Magon. Delicate electric guitar, gently dramatic vocals, and an overall sense of lazy Saturday mornings.
12. “Gotta Wanna” – Gun Outfit. I turn the key and the engine hums. I turn out of the gas station and back onto an empty Arizona highway, headed back toward California. The insistent drumming underscores my sense of motion, but the vocals and guitar lean back to make sure that everyone knows it’s not all that urgent. We’re gonna hang out and enjoy ourselves when we get there; we’ll enjoy it on the way, too.
13. “Hold Hands for Dry Land” – Oryx and Crake. The gleeful community feel of Funeral was part of what made it so engaging: Oryx and Crake develop that same sort of group vibe in this punchy-yet-thoughtful melodic indie-rock track. Anyone named after a Margaret Atwood novel is asking for your full attention–they reward, both musically and lyrically.
Trip-hop has been popping up on my radar with increasing frequency lately; I don’t know if there’s been a recent bump in its creation, or if I’m just getting exposed to it more. Whichever it is, I’m thankful for it: the slinky, wintry cool of “Stealin’ Hearts” by the awesomely-named Chrome and the Ice Queen should do to you just what the title states. Download “Stealin’ Hearts” here.
The incredible Patrick Watson has released a mind-bending, beautiful video for “Into Giants” that morphs from its Skype opening into a Broadway musical. It is mesmerizing. (And they get snow thrown on them!)
Red Wanting Blue, who I’ve covered several times, are finally coming to my home state of Oklahoma for Norman Music Festival 5; sadly, it’s the first year of the festival that I won’t be there from the earliest shows to the end of the main stage. My personal problems aside, the band is on the rise: RWB just booked its first gig on Letterman for July 18. Check out “White Snow.” (More winter! But only metaphorically.)
Speaking of things related to my home state, The Rock’n’Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher was shot completely in Oklahoma. Check the comedy’s trailer:
Red Wanting Blue is the personification of the blue-collar road warrior band. Since 1996, the band has been cranking out melodic rock’n’roll/pop that fits neatly next to Counting Crows—which is a great thing in my book, as I know almost every word of August and Everything After. RWB’s newest, From the Vanishing Point, just broke into the Heatseekers chart at #10, which is a hard-earned spot for a band that’s worked diligently for so long. As my Dad quips, “One of these years I’ll be an overnight success.” Here’s their video for the ridiculously catchy “Audition.”
Charlotte & Magon have been charming me for a while (exhibits A, B, C and D), and “The Mining” is no different. The tense, sparse tune draws from trip-hop, electro-pop and post-punk before bursting into a wicked guitar solo. Yes, a guitar solo. They’re ratcheting up for the release later this year of their “magnum opus, rock novel” Life Factory, which is “the story of the working man in search of hope and truth.”
This hypnotic, entrancing video somehow fits with Joakim’s weird and wild dance track; I seriously stopped thinking about everything else in my life and just focused on this video the first time I saw it. YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS. But this video makes it so easy.
Robert Deeble’s gentle, knowing acoustic shuffle on “Heart Like Feathers” feels like putting on a warm sweater. Also mentioned in the press was “inspired by G.K. Chesterton,” which is pretty much an auto-listen in these parts.
PJ Bond sounds like a more desperate Rocky Votolato (!) and that’s because of his punk-rawk background (phew). He’s playing acoustic tunes now and circling the globe, but he stopped off in Lynchburg, VA, long enough to record a live take of “I’m in a Bad Way.” That link jumps to the MP3, hosted by Alt Press.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.