I don’t usually do this, but I have so many videos to cover this month (a good problem to have!) that I’ve listed them like I would MP3s. Instead of commenting thoroughly on them, I’ve posted the main takeaway from each video as a description. Enjoy!
1. “Modern Man” – Brian Lopez. Intergenerational friendships are cool.
1. “Winter is for Kierkegaard” – Tyler Lyle. There are few things that get me more than a earnest tenor singing way too many words over a folky arrangement. Lyle plays somewhere between Josh Ritter, The Tallest Man on Earth, and Gregory Alan Isakov.
2. “Resolution” – Young Legs. The world always needs more quirky, delightful indie-pop on a strummed banjo.
3. “The Fall” – Reina del Cid. Warm, fingerpicked acoustic guitar; brushed snare; stand-up bass; contented alto vocals–it sounds like all the bits and bobs of a country song, but del Cid turns it into a charming folky ballad.
4. “Forever for Sure” – Laura & Greg. The gentle, easy-going guitar and male/female vocals create an intimate vibe, while a mournful instrument in the distance creates a sense of spaciousness. The strings glue them together–the whole thing comes off beautifully. I’ve likened them to the Weepies before, but this one also has a Mates of State vibe.
5. “Touch the Ground” – The Chordaes. Dour Brit-pop verses, sky-high falsetto in the sunshiny, hooky chorus–the band’s covering all their bases on the pop spectrum. That chorus is one to hum.
6. “Inside Out” – Avalanche City. My favorite Kiwis return not with an Antlers-esque, downtempo, white-boy-soul song. It’s not exactly the chipper acoustic pop of previous, but it’s still infectiously catchy.
7. “Bad Timing” – The Phatapillars. If Jack Johnson’s muse was outdoor camping and music festivals instead of surfing, he could have ended up like this. For fans of Dispatch and old-school Guster.
8. “Tapes” – The Weather Station. Sometimes trying to describe beauty diminishes it. Let this song just drift you away.
9. “ Forest of Dreams” – Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands. The Decemberists have largely gone standard with their arrangements, but there are still people holding it down for klezmer arrangements of gypsy-influenced melodies mashed up with the occasional operatic vocal performance. It’s like a madcap Beirut or a female-fronted Gogol Bordello.
10. “Heavy Star Movin’ – The Silver Lake Chorus. Written by the Flaming Lips for the choir (which operates in a very Polyphonic Spree-like manner), it’s appropriately cosmic and trippy. Strings accompany, but nothing else–the vocals are the focus here.
11. “Emma Jean” – WolfCryer. Here’s Matt Baumann doing what he’s great at: playing the storytelling troubadour with an acoustic guitar and a world-weary baritone.
Vic Alvarez has a long history with IC. By talking about his new project Saint Popes, I’ve now covered three of his bands, stretching all the way back to (incredibly) 2004. He’s also written for the site at points. So it’s with a certain confidence that comes from seeing the whole backstory that I can tell you this: The gentle singer/songwriter tunes of Saint Popes’ self-titled EP are my favorite songs that Alvarez has ever attached his name to.
Having a strong collaborator helps: Michelle Keating handles a lot of the vocals. Her strong, clear mezzo-soprano voice fits perfectly with the unadorned, stark arrangements. Even though there are only five entries on the EP, they are varied in style: “Atlas” is a tune reminiscent of the Weepies in its perky yet not overly energetic strumming; “Warm” and “Paperbag” evoke Jason Molina’s slowcore in different ways; “Somewhere” is a charming, peppy pop song. I hear a lot of singer/songwriters, but the spare, tight production cuts through the clutter of what I usually hear.
Even though this band doesn’t share the country affectations that The Civil Wars included in their sound, those looking for a band to fill the post-CW hole in their hearts could do real well to check out Saint Popes. It’s beautiful, crisp, emotional music played without pretense; I don’t ask for much more out of bands.
There are few things more soothing and beautiful than an a cappella choir used to its full potential. The Silver Lake Chorus understands this, and has released the two-song EP Wreckage to prove it. They’ve got Ben Lee producing and A.C. Newman writing on the track, so it can be understood why “Wreckage” is a quirky, upbeat indie-pop tune with piano. It’s fun and clever, but it’s not the jewel. “From the Snow Tipped Hills” is a gorgeous piece that hearkens directly back to what a cappella means in Italian: “in the manner of the chapel.” It shows off what sort or reverent magic choirs can produce for an audience that (potentially) has never heard a full SATB go for an Eric Whitacre piece. Need more proof that it’s worth your time? Justin Vernon of Bon Iver wrote it. Yes. You need to hear this thing right now.
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.