Looks like the Mayans were wrong. And thank God (or Quetzalcoatl) for that. Of course, the Mayan doomsday prophecy was gratuitously misinterpreted by the Western world and looking back, it’s embarrassing how easily we got swept up in it all. With that said, 2012 was indeed an eventful year…
Building off the success of their first major label debut I and Love and You, the Avett Brothers are back with their special mix of gut-wrenching vocals and banjo-filled “grasspunk” in a new album entitled The Carpenter. Yes, the banjo is back! The longevity and consistency should not be overlooked, as it doesn’t matter how many albums they’ve released, this band from North Carolina manages to exude the same level of free-spiritedness, forceful balladry, and a sense of optimism that infuses their rich and varied sound.
With banjos blazing and foot-stomping galore, the English quartet Mumford & Sons are back with their highly anticipated second album Babel. Their gritty and triumphant take on folk rock has seen unparalleled success around the world in the past few years, which has consequently built high expectations for their follow up to the commercial success of Sigh No More. After all, it’s pretty hard to top a musical journey that has included playing at the Grammys with Bob Dylan and performing for President Barack Obama at the White House.
Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Project Rhythm Seed’s Free Music Friday. Today is a special edition for you, thanks to the good people at Paper Bag Records in Toronto, Canada. To celebrate their 10th anniversary concert series they asked many of their label artists and bands to pick a song from David Bowie’s quintessential album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and record it their way.
When artists Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor harmonize their sounds under the moniker Azure Ray, listeners have come to expect a dreamy essence to the pop duo’s sound but on their forthcoming six-song EP, As Above So Below, Fink and Taylor take Azure Ray into an alternate universe. The dream-like quality remains, but these songs are almost eerie-sounding, far more electronic, minimalist and sonically rich. The album is inspired by parallel realities that seem cruelly just out of reach when lulled into a state of calm by their honeyed and wispy vocals, as though the words float above you like clouds your hands will never grasp.
If the name Josh Tillman sounds familiar to you, it might be because you recognize him as a former member of Fleet Foxes. Or maybe you know him as J. Tillman. Since 2005 he has released seven beautiful solo albums that were somber, acoustic, quiet, and moody in nature. The same cannot be said for his eighth album Fear Fun. And yet it’s Tillman’s best work yet, as he takes listeners on an adventurous spin under his new moniker, Father John Misty.
Life’s winding roads can take us down many paths, but when you’re committed to navigating the world on your own terms, it follows that you’ll cover enough ground for a wealth of experiences that are ripe for musical picking. This is particularly true for the long and varied career of Paleface, who has released a dozen records, toured all over the country, and inspired and collaborated with a boatload of talented artists. Recorded at Thunderdome Studios, One Big Party, produced by Paul ‘Ena’ Kostabi and Paleface, is his second full-length release under Ramseur Records, which houses notable acts like the Avett Brothers (bonus note: Paleface has collaborated and performed on three albums by the Avett Bros).
It’s not every artist that can hit all the right notes when covering an eclectic mix of musical genres, but singer/songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra from Hurray for the Riff Raff is far from ordinary, and that’s especially evident when you hear her amazing voice. Segarra is the principal writer behind this band and their latest album, Look Out Mama, still stays true to their southern-folk origins. Yet it also manages to touch on a wide range of musical styles like soul, psychedelic, Americana, country, rockabily swing, blues, and 60’s surf.
Tis the season for new albums fa la la la la la la la la. Yes folks, they’re coming at us rapid fire at the moment. Everyone and their mother (that’s a good band name) are releasing this year’s new musical offerings, while we in the press weed through the lot looking for some nugget or shiny new ditty that we can cling to. As usual most of it doesn’t hold up and ultimately offers very little in the way of in-depth listening and enjoyment. Not to say that I expected anything like this from Miike Snow, but you never know what that second album will hold. It’s been a career killer for many an artist and band, especially following up an effort as well done as Miike Snow’s self titled debut.
In 2011 Paste Magazine named The Lumineers one of the best new bands of the year and at the time the band listed as its goals the following: “Make music that makes you smile, cry and stomp your foot simultaneously. Make music for years with these dear friends of mine. Be proud of our music. Play Letterman and Europe.” Based on listening to this band’s self-titled debut album, which is out April 3rd from Dualtone Records, the Lumineers are well on their way to fulfilling these goals, as this band’s first full-length album is a fantastic continuation of the roots revival that has taken a hold of music fans thanks to heartfelt melodies and soul-stirring songs.
Music is often at its best when it feels as though you’ve stumbled across hidden treasure, which is how Robby Baier must have felt when he discovered his mother, Sibylle, had recorded an album in Germany during the early 1970s. Thirty-five years later, Sibylle’s son sent the recordings to Orange Twin Records and they eventually published her first album, Colour Green. As the saying goes, better late than never. Baier began to receive recognition for her work so many years after the fact, much to her surprise, as the talented singer put motherhood and family above a music career and never opted to share her talent with the world.
Brooklyn-based artist Gabriel & The Hounds has joined the blossoming record label Communion, which is releasing this artist’s debut record in the UK at the end of February (released by Ernest Jennings Record Co. in US). Entitled Kiss Full of Teeth, musician and songwriter Gabriel Levine is the man behind the moniker “Gabriel & The Hounds,” and while Levine wrote all the songs on the album, it isn’t quite a solo effort, as he is joined by a variety of artists in an effort that is a perfect mix of solitary and communal. Among those who came together to record this album include performers who are in or have recorded with The National, Beirut, St Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, tUnE-yArDs, Bjork, and Jonsi (proving it pays to have friends in high places).
Georgia native, folk pop singer, Madeline recently released B Sides, a collection of demos and rarities from her previous four albums. Madeline Adams has been singing and recording music since she was fifteen with her first album, Kissing & Dancing released in 2002 with modest success. Madeline is a talented chanteuse who produces likeable simple ballads reminiscent of old timer folk artists with whimsical flair. B Sides is another lovely collection of understated, pretty songs from Madeline.
Another year has ended; another list has been compiled. Often I get this feeling that in 100 years, all that will remain of today’s pop culture will be a number of well-thought-out lists. While many critics are driven to paroxysms at the thought of another year-end list, the fact is that they are essential to annual retrospective analysis. There is a feeling of security and consistency in ‘Best Of’ lists; inasmuch as one can feel safe in the presence of a numerically-ordered selection of things. But in truth, the rapid acceleration of technology and the advent of social media has completely changed the way humans organize their internal thoughts. We no longer think in prose, or even full sentences; we think in lists.
Amy Winehouse’s life was tragically cut short when she was found dead in July of 2011. The talented singer had one of those distinct and evocative voices that conveys the pain, vulnerability, and sorrow that seems inherent to the best blues/jazz singers. In the capable and loving hands of producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, a posthumous album of Winehouse’s work has now been released entitled Lioness: Hidden Treasures. But it should be noted that there are only two original tracks and the other songs include alternate versions of singles and plenty of notable covers.
She & Him is an American Indie pop band consisting of actress Zooey Deschanel (vocals, ukulele, piano) and Portland native M. Ward (vocals, guitar). Together these two make twee folk pop with a vintage feel. Much like Zooey Deschanel’s persona their music has an “adorkable” allure in the indie circuit. With two full length albums under their belt, the duo set out to make a Christmas record, which came out in October of this year.
The setting that comes to mind upon listening to Ben Howard’s debut full-length album is a bonfire on the beach, as one can easily imagine this talented musician strumming his guitar atop a log while the shadows of the flames dance upon the faces of a spellbound audience beneath a starry night with the sound of waves crashing in the background. Howard is both raw and intimate, and the beach vibe stems from a complete lack of pretense to his music, and if I hadn’t already known his nationality, I might guess he was from California (He’s not; Howard is English and from the West Country).
Chris Holmes (tour-mate of some British guy named Paul McCartney) and Brian Liesegang (co-founder of Filter, ex-roommate of Trent Reznor) aren’t interested in being lumped into any one musical category. They don’t want to hear about other artists sounding like Ashtar Command. And though I have no idea if either of those things is true, American Sunshine may have helped ensure that they never will be.
First album, Lungs, from Florence + The Machine was easily one of the most unexpected crossover pop successes. Fast forward to the release of their second album Ceremonials on October 31st and Florence + The Machine is still creating music that showcases Florence Welch’s beautiful voice with a larger than life sound. Ceremonials is an exquisitely crafted baroque pop record that is sure to stir the audience both emotionally and spiritually.