Here are the fruits of my labor a.k.a. the results of my procrastination at work. It’s a tough task, but someone has to shine a light on music that you hopefully have not heard yet. This weeks list is more folk-centric than the recommendations I gave last week. I’ll chalk it up to the weather… all I really want to do is listen to relaxing music while lounging in a hammock. So, for all you hammock lovers out there, these bands can supply a nice soundtrack for your gentle swaying.
- Tunng (www.myspace.com/thisistunng)
A really nice mix of electronic and folk influences that definitely errs on the side of folk/acoustic (at least on their album “Good Arrows” which I have the most experience with so far). While Tunng prioduces some really chilled out melodic tracks, they also aren’t afraid to inject some extra zest pulling from their electronic influences, keeping you on your toes yet relaxed at the same time. I don’t know many bands that can pull this off as well as Tunng does. Recommended tracks: “Take”, “Soup”
- Melpo Mene (www.myspace.com/melpomenemusic) or (www.imeem.com/artists/melpo_mene/music/)
Sweden is a pretty rad place… let’s recount just a short list of some reasons: Swedish Fish, Ikea (and the meatballs they serve in their food court), Blenda (trust me, the story of Blenda is one you will not regret reading), and now Melpo Mene. Melpo brings some interesting influences into his music, as I hear some subtle almost-latin-jazzy undertones that remind me of a Swedish version Seu Jorge singing in English. Awesome. Strong guitar riffs and electronic influences are offset by Melpo’s disarming voice, placing it firmly in the “folksy” category. He also does a cover of the Gorillaz “Dare”, which added at least 100 points to his imaginary score in my head. Recommended tracks: “Hello Benjamin”, “The Sun”
- M. Craft (www.myspace.com/mcraftmusic) or (www.imeem.com/artists/m_craft/)
Heading to another land filled with blondes and funny accents, our next featured artist is M. Craft from Australia. Definitely the most traditionally “folsky” of my folk-centric selections this week, M. Craft constucts melodic and lazy vocals over soft percussion and tinny, low-treble guitar riffs. It’s hard to listen without coming to the conclusion that this guy definitely listened to a lot of Neil Young. Recommended tracks: “The Soldier”, “Dragonfly”, “Sweets”
The Soft Pack “The Muslims”
Because some people actually still listen to rock, I present to you, The Soft Pack. The Soft Pack’s straight and simple garage rock is a breath of fresh air in our age of heavy-handed art rock and too-clever-for-its-own good synth pop. Is it possible that the classic formula of guys plus guitars still works? Can I really enjoy music that doesn’t involve impenetrable layers of unidentifiable found sounds (Was that a sousaphone or a squeaky door?), a synth line that sounds plucked from a vintage NES video game, or a clever mash-up of three or more music blog darlings? Channeling Velvet Underground, The Kinks and The Strokes, The Soft Pack proves that simple is good.
1) Kid Cudi ft. Ratatat and MGMT “Pursuit of Happiness”
Collaborating with Ratatat and MGMT is not only a surefire way to create a sick dance track, it’s also the quickest way to build buzz in the blogosphere for your sophomore album. As of September 15, you can buy “Man on the Moon: the End of Day” for $3.99 on Kid Cudi’s MySpace.
2) Crystal Castles “Vanished”
It’s only fitting that my new favorite frontwoman Alice Glass (sorry Karen O, there’s a new Crazy in town) record my new favorite dance song.
3) The XX “Basic Space”
If you like your music brimming with more ennui than a Calvin Klein perfume ad, then you may want to build a time machine and go back to the heyday of The Smiths. Or you can just start to listening to The XX. Either way…
Album recommendation: Jay-Z The Blueprint 3
Oh shit, as soon as the first millisecond of track one “What We Talkin About” hit my ear, I knew Jay-Z’s forthcoming Blueprint 3 was — to use a word that sounds just plain foolish when uttered by a white girl such as myself — ILL. Hov’s eleventh studio album features throwback soul grooves (think the American Gangster soundtrack, only better) and appearances by Young Jeezy, Swizz Beatz and Kid Cudi. The album drops — again, I acknowledge that my use of ebonics (Is that still a p.c term?) sounds as clumsy as a drunk white girl trying to drop it like it’s hot looks (And let’s be honest, I’ve done my fair share of drunken dropping it like it’s hot, so I know.) — September 11, but you can listen to it now via MTV.com.
Songs recommendations: I’ve racked the interwebs and my mind and, having failed to come up with any material more eligible at the moment, I’ve decided to give my three favorite tracks (based on preliminary listenings) off The Blueprint 3.
1. Jay-Z “Thank You”
This song makes me want to roll around town in some kind of luxury car, smoke cigars and do other gangster stuff.
2. Jay-Z feat. Swizz Beatz “On to the Next One”
I wish I had the initiative and lack of dignity to submit a video of me bobbing my head around to this song, because that would pretty eloquently sum up my feelings about it. But I don’t. Hopefully you get the idea anyways.
3. A toss-up between Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z feat. Young Jeezy “Real As It Gets” and Jay-Z feat. Kid Cudi “Already Home”
I mean, seriously, every track is good.
I hope that my first two installments of Lost and Found have treated you well, providing a sufficient amount of inspiration/aural pleasure for your own personal summer soundtrack. This week’s Lost and Found stays on more of the analog side, as I’ve been listening to way too much electronica recently… and for those of you who have seen me inevitably dancing to electronic music (consists of moving my hips and sticking out my index fingers), you know that a change in genre isn’t exactly the worst thing. So, here are three bands that I enjoy immensely but allow me to keep my index fingers in their holsters (aka music that is helpful in avoiding embarrassment to myself).
- The Meeting Places (www.myspace.com/themeetingplaces) Are you in the mood to gaze at your shoes? The Meeting Places can hook that up for you. You might think that there is some cognitive dissonance in lacing laid back soothing vocals over chaotic reverb soaked guitars… but you think wrong, my friend. The sweet and salty mix that these guys provide mesh with your brainwaves very effectively to put you in an introspective- yet not sleepy- mood. I guess shoegaze is a good genre to place them, but I’d venture to say it’s more of a amphetamine-like shoegaze as opposed to an opiate-like shoegaze. Recommended tracks:”Wide Awake”, “Now I Know You Can Never Be The One”
- The Whitest Boy Alive (www.imeem.com/artists/thewhitestboy_alive/) I know, great name, right? That’s what I thought too. And the lead singer is from Norway so you know he’s not pulling your chain. Erlend Øye, the pale lead singer we talk about, first caught my attention as half of the awesome yet maybe-a-bit-boring Kings of Convenience (2 for 2 in awesome names for bands… extra imaginary points). For The Whitest Boy Alive, Erlend transfers his quiet singing voice from slow folk music to more of a catchy uptempo vibe. Being that he has a laid back singing demeanor, the uptempo rhythms are tempered down just a bit… but in a pleasing manner. I think an apt way to describe it is that the instruments send signals to my index fingers that it’s time to come out and bust a move, but then the vocals remind me to chill out, sit back, and soak it all in. Embarassment avoided, thanks Erlend. Recommended tracks: “Burning”, “Done With You”
- School of Seven Bells (http://pitchfork.com/artists/7374-school-of-seven-bells/) Identical twin sisters, of the hot variety, from Argentina. I mean, is there really more that I have to sell you on? I first saw/heard this band when they were opening for Fujiya & Miyagi on tour last winter. Being in the Fujiya & Miyagi mindset going to the concert, I was definitely ready and willing to embarass myself by dancing like an idiot. But when I got to the venue, I first heard this awesome melodic yet intense music eminating from the stage before I could see them, and thought “hm, sounds intriguing.” Then I walked towards the stage and saw them, and that is when full crush mode took effect. It totally caught me off guard, and I shifted my “make an idiot out of myself” mindset to “act cool and maybe one of them will ask you to marry them” mindset. “But Rouge” you say, “they might be hot, but can they rock?” My answer to your query is yes, yes they can rock. Quite well. They produce a pulsing vibe that has a ton of energy to go along with the powerful vocals. Because they are identical, they have the same voice as far as I can tell, and some awesome harmonization ensues. Male of female, you will have a crush on them. Recommended tracks: “Iamundernodisguise”, “Connjur”
Album recommendation: Casiokids Fuck MIDI
My friend recently told me about Casiokids, and now I’m hooked. Leave it to a troop of freaky Norwegians to create some outlandishly funky electro beats. I’ve read reviews comparing them to Fela Kuti, Paul Simon and New Order, and it’s my personal belief that whoever drew these comparisons must have done a fair amount of huffing in his/her lifetime. Casiokids sound like nothing else.
- M. Ward “Rave On” A talented multi-instrumentalist songwriter, short in stature with dark squirrely eyes and a private nature (he forbids photography at his live performances), M. Ward reminds one of a young Bob Dylan. On the aptly named 2009 release Hold Time, Ward demonstrates his knack for timeless folk, country and rock music. This cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” never fails to make me feel all happy and excited about life.
- Volcano Choir “Island Is” If like me, it is impossible for you to listen to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago without a tidal wave of depression and loneliness crashing down up on you, then you may be excited to hear that Justin Vernon has partnered with instrumental rock act Collections of Colonies of Bees for a project called Volcano Choir, which (at least on the first track “Island Is”) won’t make you feel like a) closing the curtains, lighting candles and drinking a bottle of red wine/whiskey to your face b) breaking down and calling your ex in tears c) slitting your wrists d) all of the above. Yay!
- Them Crooked Vultures “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I” Totally stealing The Dead Weather’s thunder, Them Crooked Vultures has emerged as the Most Likely to Make You Wet Your Pants supergroup in recent years. The unbelievable trio of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones performed its debut show at Metro in Chicago the Sunday of Lollapalooza. I don’t know whether to be overjoyed by the existence of this supergroup-on-steroids, or to cry bitterly that I missed the inaugural performance. If anyone out there can find a legit mp3 or video (aka that lasts longer than 33 seconds), please post it up on QS. http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=491766979&blogId=506329306
Album recommendation: Lake “Let’s Build a Roof”
Perhaps the most revealing fact about Lake is that they used to perform as a Fleetwood Mac cover band. The Olympia, Washington sixtet may have moved on to write and record its own original music, but that 70s AM gold sound lingers on. On sophomore album Let’s Build a Roof, Van Morrison horns boogie, Steely Dan keyboards groove and, yes, Fleetwood Mac lyrics tell stories laced with fear and heartbreak.
Music site recommendation: www.stereogum.com
Everyone knows Pitchfork. Only the truly savvy know Stereogum. Since 2002, the blog/web community has offered indie and alternative music news and downloads, won some awards and held court as the under-underground online music source.
- Radiohead (?) “These Are My Twisted Words” It hasn’t actually been confirmed that this song, posted without explanation on Radiohead’s fan site At Ease, is a new Radiohead song, but I’m all too happy to hastily jump on the unsubstantiated buzz train. In other news, Thom Yorke recently revealed in an interview with The Believer that it could be a while before a new Radiohead album… http://pitchfork.com/news/36205-is-this-a-new-radiohead-song/
- Santigold feat. Jay-Z “Brooklyn Go Hard” Walther disdains Santigold as “M.I.A. lite.” Maybe this Brooklyn banger with Hov will change his mind. If not, it’s his loss: Santigold was one of the more fun and pleasantly surprising sets I saw at Lollapalooza this weekend. http://www.myspace.com/santigold
- Animal Collective “Fireworks” I attended Animal Collective’s Saturday set at Lollapalooza with my friend Shannon, who complained of not “getting” the noise pop trio. I advised her to just keep listening, eventually she’d have a breakthrough. Lo and behold, Animal Collective then broke into “Fireworks,” the song that initiated my love and appreciation for the band. http://www.last.fm/music/Animal+Collective/_/Fireworks
Hello all questionable people, please allow me to introduce my humble addition to the QS community. Music in the past couple of years has been pretty outstanding, and with the full integration of music and the interwebs, more prolific than ever. Okay, I have no data to back that up or anything, but a little rhetorical flourish never hurt anyone. Either way, there is a crapload of great music out there, just waiting to be discovered. Usually, the stuff worth discovering is in fact discovered by colleagues such as Amanda, with their incredibly hip taste and finely tuned ear to the ground of the music scene. Or by reading Pitchfork… duh.
With the prolific nature of music these days, a lot of this discovered music gets its 15 minutes in the musical-snob (meant in the best way possible) scene. The problem is, there is such a large gap between the music that is discovered by those inclined to find it and the main stream. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing… keeping a safe distance from the mainstream is a healthy virtue. However, a huge chunk of that “discovered” music simply gets swept under the rug after its 15 minutes are up. It’s still great music, but unfortunately it becomes lost to those of us who aren’t on the cutting-edge of the hip lifestyle. My mission here is to go fishing in the ether of cool-yet-lost music and dredge up some gems for your listening pleasure.
Without further ado, here are my first selections. Please enjoy.
- Home Video (www.homevideo.fm) This Brooklyn (yea big surprise there) electrorock outfit pump out consistently solid tracks that involve tight electronic loops, biting percussions, guitar and keys that aren’t overdone, and a voice that will make you think it must be Thom Yorke moonlighting in a side project. Recommended tracks: “We”, “I Can Make You Feel It”
- Zoot Woman (http://www.myspace.com/zootwoman) Caught up in the Pitchfork annointed “electroclash” genre circa 2003, Zoot Woman was promptly ejected into the void without much acknowledgement (that I know of anyway). The poppy synth-centric tracks are uptempo, yet not exactly rage-dance worthy. More like moderate foot-tapping and hip moving-worthy. Whatever worthy it is, it’s definitely worthy of your time. Recommended tracks: “Gem”, “Hope In The Mirror”
- Grand National (www.myspace.com/grand_national) There’s a lot of different terms out there attempting to describe Grand National, including my personal favorite, “80’s ethereal dream rock”. You can hear plenty of influences in the music, but it seems as if everyone hears something different, which I find cool. Something that everyone can hear is their ability to bridge instruments and electronics seamlessly to produce some great music. Recommended tracks: “Drink to Moving On”, “Talk Among Yourselves”
Album recommendation: A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s “Ashes Grammar”
It’s a fine line between psychedelia and spiritualism, but A Sunny Day in Glasgow walks it confidently. The Philadelphia foursome uses spaced out angel harmonies and underwater synth loops to create a sound that simultaneously invokes drug-induced euphoria and religious epiphany. Their sophomore effort Ashes Grammar blends ambient, lounge, electronica, shoegaze and gospel in one big dreamy watercolor of an album.
Music site recommendation: boykings.com
Chicago-based Boy Kings provide “fresh” and irreverent commentary on the hottest and latest music as well as pop culture at large. Recently, the guys have interviewed Passion Pit, Hey Champ! and The Hood Internet and reviewed new music from Mos Def and Daft Punk. They also provide useful info on the hippest places to see music and hang out in Chicago.
- Phoenix “If I Ever Feel Better” With the release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix earlier this year, pop/rock band Phoenix may have surpassed fellow frogs Daft Punk in the size of their American cult following. Does anyone else remember/love this Phoenix song from way back in 2000? It is so infectious. And while we’re on the topic of vintage Phoenix, does anyone else remember the Phoenix song “Too Young” featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack? http://www.imeem.com/artists/phoenix/music/IbVnCbXy/phoenix-if-i-ever-feel-better/
- Daft Punk “Tron Legacy Theme” If Phoenix has in fact usurped Daft Punk’s throne as hottest French import, it’s likely to be a brief reign. It was recently announced that Daft Punk will compose the entire soundtrack to Disney’s remake of 80s classic Tron, thus winning over hipsters, dancers, nerds, and Jeff Bridges fans alike. http://wearehunted.com/#tron-legacy-theme-daft-punk 3.. Flaming Lips “Silver Trembling Hands” Reviewing a song by the Flaming Lips feels a little like hubris, leaving me at a loss for a pithy description that will do justice to the band or this song. So let’s keep it simple: just listen to this song. And when Embryonic comes out this fall, listen to that too. http://www.myspace.com/flaminglips
Recommended site: www.performermag.com
Billing itself as The Musician’s Resource, Performer Magazine covers bands Pitchfork hasn’t even heard of yet as well as reviews musical equipment and gear. If you’re a musician, or just a wannabe, check out the site, or pick up a copy at your nearest instrument retailer or music venue.
Recommended album: Deerhunter’s Microcastle
Microcastle was pretty much the soundtrack of late winter ‘09 for me. Moody, sometimes monotonous, and occasionally pierced by an ephemeral ray of sunlight, it provided the perfect listening material for January-March in Chicago, World Capital of Depressing Weather. Turns out Microcastle suits summer, too. I just popped it in for a driving trip this week and was blown away while rediscovering the fragile desperation on “Cover Me;” the pop-leaning danceability on “Never Stop;” the slow, spaced-out build and briefly triumphant finish on “Microcastle;” and the epic (well, for an indie band) composition and perfect encapsulation of the simultaneous excitement and malcontented-ness of youth on “Nothing Ever Happened.” I haven’t yet delved into Deerhunter’s other albums, but would be very pleasantly surprised if any of them top Microcastle.
- Wavves “Beach Demon” You gotta love a lo-fi (no-fi?) duo whose guitarist/lead singer basically blows a shot at world fame (or at the very least, free travel) by consuming a cocktail of Valium, Xanax and Ecstasy before performing at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival. Nathan Williams’ now infamous meltdown in Spain forced him and drummer Ryan Ulsh to abandon the stage and their entire European tour. If you like your rock noisy, volatile and reckless, check out Wavves. ttp://www.myspace.com/wavves
- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “Stay Alive” Current media darlings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are frequently compared to My Bloody Valentine. Am I the only one who thinks they sound like New Order? All comparisons aside, Pains of Being Pure at Heart offer a brand of dream pop that’s entirely original. http://www.myspace.com/thepainsofbeingpureatheart
- Lindstrom “The Magnificent” At Pitchfork Music Fest, Lindstrom actually got the audience to dance. That’s right, a crowd of too-cool-to-care, shoe-gazing hipsters put down their PBRs and Parliaments and moved their bodies in time with music. Of course, the proof is in the groovy pudding: next time you invite your friends over, put on some Lindstrom and see what happens. http://www.myspace.com/feedelity
I hope you’re aware of (by Walther):
- Hot Chip: pop electronic at it’s finest. Extremely talented.
- Ratatat: wordless electro-rock. Deadly melodic. A great soundtrack for exciting moments.
- Crystal Castles: hipster freakout dance classic. Impossible not to shake it out with this.
- Amadou & Mariam: progressive folk-rock from Mali. This couple is an institution. Definitive.
- The Wire. If you haven’t watched it – all of it – you can’t be cultured. It’s modern Shakespeare.
Recommended album Pterodactyl “Worldwild”
The sophomore album from Brooklyn band Pterodactyl, “Worldwild” layers muddy guitar effects and largely unintelligible vocals on shot-from-a-canon drumming. The result feels like riding backseat in a pickup truck steered by a drunk driver through a minefield. There are a few moments of quiet reflection – as in “Easy Pieces“ and “Alex” when a shamisen-sounding guitar and hypnotic vocals conjure images of a tranquil koi pond, or on the musical palate cleanser “Ghost Facts” – but the overall tone is raw, unbridled noise rock. Close your eyes and hang on for dear life.
Recommended music site: festivalcrashers.com
Simultaneously irreverent and informative, festivalcrashers.com puts you in the center of the biggest and best music fests – Rothbury, SXSW, NO Jazz Fest and PItchfork to name a few – even if your twenty-something salary has left you stuck at home on your futon, isolated save for a high speed internet connection. Fellow twenty-somethings and seasoned festival crashers Andy Shore and Zack Teibloom understand how hard life can be when you’re just scraping by. That’s why they’ve mastered the art of the festival crash and share their experiences as well as a few tips online.
- Atlas Sound f. Noah Lennox “Walkabout” The first track off Atlas Sound’s forthcoming Logos is like pure downloadable sunshine. The influence of Noah Lennox, aka Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, whose Person Pitch and Endless Summer homage Young Prayer sound like 60s musical time capsules, is about as obvious as the inevitable happy ending in a Kate Hudson vehicle. But hey, we could all use a little peace and love right about now. http://www.prefixmag.com/media/atlas-sound/walkabout-feat-panda-bear-streaming/30872/
- Javelin “Vibrationz” Just when I thought I was the only person who longed for the 90s, Brooklyn duo Javelin comes out with “Jamz n Jemz,” an album full of carefree, ultra-simple dance tracks that would have provided fresh beats for Will Smith back when he was still with Jazzy Jeff. Check out “Vibrationz.” It’s ill. http://www.myspace.com/hotjamzofjavelin
- Grand Ole Party “Look Out Young Son” All you need to know about this San Diego band is that it features a female lead singer-cum-drummer. Sweetness. http://www.myspace.com/grandoleparty
I hope you’re aware of (by Walther):
- Grizzly Bear’s new album Veckatimest
- An Indie complication album entitled Dark was the Night
- The band Deerhunter
- If you like progressive house music Gui Boratto
- The documentary about The Gorillaz entitled ‘Bananaz’Musi