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ELROY WAS HERE: Cruise Elroy’s gauntlet-dropping EP pair leads the pack

For Chris Merritt, Cruise Elroy has been a labor of love years in the works, built on the solid foundation that was the song of the same title, a seven-four exercise in pop-jazz perfection. Daring continuously to push the envelope of what great pop music can and should be, he’s existed on the fringes of pop, building melodies of the Ben Folds ilk while taking his lyrics in the vein of a less snarky Jonathan Coulton. There’s always been more to Merritt’s music than easy comparisons may make clear, but it’s a good start. Now with the arrival of EP1 and EP2 from Cruise Elroy, the full spectrum of this sound is immediately evident.

While the first EP takes the opportunity to update early Merritt faves “Tarmac”, “Feminine Mind” and “Rain King” via a cleaner studio veneer, it also provides us with the songwriter’s strongest pop contribution yet. Via “The Fever,” which speaks to the search for truth between what we can see, smell or touch versus what we sense might be true on the fringes, Merritt hits us with his catchiest chorus while peppering the musical arrangement with his trademark odes to video-game music and off-kilter kitsch. Shorty” opens the EP with an extended 5/4 disco-funk breakdown, then segues into a surprisingly straightforward dose of keyboard-tinged nostalgia complete with the best fuzzed-out bass outside an early Ben Folds Five effort. And even the new studio recordings of Merritt classics shine as examples of remarkably astute songwriting, particularly “Feminine Mind” for it’s twist on Billy Joel’s “She’s Only A Woman To Me” — “She’s a killer but she’s always on time; she’s brutal but she’s never unkind,” Merritt sings without the dark edge of Joel’s misogyny tainting the proceeding. And “Rain King” softens the edges of the lo-fi gem via a pair of extended instrumental interludes at the song’s center and conclusion while heightening the contrast between the bare melody with the trio’s deftly layered vocal harmonies.


But if
EP1 introduces you to the sounds of Merritt and Cruise Elroy in a non-confrontational setting, EP2 becomes positively revolutionary, evident from the moment you crash ears-first into “Sisyphus.” Thirty seconds in and you’ve thrown out any comparisons to Ben Folds as the band embraces prog-rock leanings much more in tune with bands like Wax Fang. Quite unlike anything else I’ve heard on any pop album this year, “Sisyphus” takes everything that’s great about Merritt’s songwriting and encapsulates it within a melodic structure that demands a schizophrenic arrangement. All but demanding headphone listening, the song features layers upon layers which, peeled back, illustrate an artist coming fully into his own. And four minutes in, the Chris Martin-inspired harmonic breakdown seals it, making repeat listens compulsory.


And if you weren’t already sold, the EP’s closer, “Ghost,” which opens with the best rock intro not composed by Styx, will cement you as a lifelong fan. A freewheeling pop masterpiece, Ghost reminds one immediately of the more experimental side of Weezer (“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”), a symphonic synthesized sensation which aptly showcases why I’ve argued for years that Merritt is the best pop songwriter you’re not yet listening to.


These two EPs make it tantalizingly clear that great pop music won’t be denied. With the tease of a full-length still on the horizon, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the sonic world of Cruise Elroy. Nothing else this year comes even remotely close to this, and you ignore it at your own peril.


Elroy was here, and he’s thrown down the gauntlet.

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UNDER COVER: Doctorfunk’s “Back In Black” the prescription for good times

Not since I heard Bloomington, Indiana’s now defunct 16-piece funk outfit Flattus have I heard anything as immediately infectious as Doctorfunk, a band as comfortable dabbling in off-kilter covers as they are breaking fresh ground. I submit for your approval this funkadelic bad-assed restructuring of AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” which is as fitting a summer jam as I’ve heard in years. The jazzy funk backdrop gives the song a fresh new groove, but the vocals stick close enough to the original that this serves as a fitting homage to one of rock’s greatest tracks. For more, check out Second Opinion, the band’s exceptional sophomore album, produced by Jeff Tamalier, who formerly produced or played guitar for Tower of Power, the Strokeland Superband, Cold Blood and others over the years. And follow them on Facebook, you’ll want to definitely keep these guys on your radar screen!


CARRY THAT SPARK: Counting Crows’ “Palisades Park” a return to August form

Adam Duritz is excited about the new Crows record due out at some point this fall, and I’ve got to say, based on a first listen to “Palisades Park,” the band’s returned to form and is ready to craft “imaginative music” again. Says Duritz, via Billboard:

“The songs are different from anything I’ve ever written before, I’ve got to say. They’re a little more imaginative, a little more imagery-heavy. They’re willing to be a little goofier and have a little more of a sense of humor, occasionally. It’s really cool.”

The eight-minute track (nine minutes plus on video) opens with an intro which seems almost the direct continuation of “Chelsea” off Across A Wire, eighty seconds which then catch fire as Duritz then begins singing an almost stream-of-consciousness lyric akin to his live versions of “Round Here” or “Rain King,” a real return to the sound in which the band has yet to dabble in non-concert form this decade. For a guy like Duritz, who has fought more than a few battles with his creativity over the years, to get back to basics in this vein without losing what made his early songs like “Anna Begins” so immediately indelible is quite an impressive act. It’s the careening free-wheeling style of his lyrics which makes this song stand out, even as the musical arrangement is equally innovative, shifting style and meter in a frenetic burst of spectacular pop songwriting.

It only took nine minutes to shift from “who knew he still had songs like this in him before?” to wondering how long we have to wait to hear the other eight. And if they’re as good as “Palisades Park,” I fully expect the album to top my year-end list.


FEATURED SONG: Miles Wick – “In Front Of You”

 

Photo Credit: Don Paris Schlotman

Meet Miles Wick, a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who embodies equally the melodic vocals of Paul Simon and the scene-setting of Sufjan Stevens. Wick, who plans to release his latest album So Much Love on June 27th, has already been profiled in Obscure Sound and Independent Music News, drawing comparisons to Arthur Russell and Damien Jurado. Here, for the first time, we present his stunning track “In Front Of You,” which will make you a believer in the first thirty seconds, its bare-bones acoustic melody providing just enough structure to keep his rising-falling ethereal vocals from spinning out of control into the void. The arrangement’s subtle use of background harmonies blended with light bass and piano draws you in instantly. “It’s all in front of you,” he sings hauntingly on the chorus, and as the swell builds before us we’re just glad for the opportunity to partake.


FEATURED SONG: Tom Levin – “Father to a Son”

A few months ago I introduced you all to Tom Levin, an artist I feel is destined for much bigger things in the future. He’s released a video for “Father to a Son,” one of the standout tracks from his album Them Feet which, if you haven’t heard it, now’s as good a time as any! The video, which you can view below, is a perfect counterpoint to the traditional songs about fathers and sons, a work of art that elevates the song via a colorful blend of animation and live images showcasing three generations living life fully.. I’ll let Levin say it in his own words:

“Father To A Son” is about my father, me and my son. Ever since I became a father, I’ve been thinking a lot about  what kind of person I want to be and what I really leave behind. I can pursue a career, start a company, make money, acquire gadgets and build a house. But the one thing that, in a longer perspective, truly will affect many generations to come is the respect I show my fellow humans and the love I give my children. This is my true legacy.


#009 – Brian Vander Ark (The Verve Pipe)

Welcome to the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast. Today’s episode features Brian Vander Ark, lead-singer and guitarist for the Verve Pipe.

 

If you’re a child of the 90s, you likely remember the Verve Pipe for their album Villians and its lead single, “The Freshmen.” After that, however, they faded into the background of alternative as radio indifference never facilitated a follow-up single. It has been thirteen years since they last recorded a full-on rock album — the band dabbled through the last decade in albums for children, while lead-singer Brian Vander Ark released a series of solo records. But they’re back in the spotlight this week with the pending release of Overboard, an album of solidly crafted pop-rock songs which proves much more experimental and daring in tone than anything you’ve likely heard from them before.

 

Vander Ark sat down to talk to “Hear! Hear!” about the new album, the dark twisty tone of its lead single, and — among other things — why lyrics wind up being the most important thing when crafting the perfect children’s song.

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For more information on the Verve Pipe’s upcoming album Overboard, check them out on Facebook or pre-order the album at Amazon!

Check back on Friday for our next installment of the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast.


DRAWING A BLANK: Bl_nk Sp_c_s’ Memory Man innovates synth-pop for a new decade

Listening to “Memory Man,” the title-track off Bl_nk Sp_c_s’ debut album, is akin to hearing what Pink Floyd would have sounded like if fronted by Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. And that’s a sound I can stand to hear a great deal more of. Memory Man contains nine additional tracks just as genre-busting, a unique take on electronic pop which merge krautrock guitars with pop hooks, delivering a synth-laden mix perfect for solo listening or club excursions. You can watch the video for “Memory Man” below, a clip heavily inspired by David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell To Earth” and Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon” short.


ARTISTS TO WATCH: James Bay launches EP Let It Go, showcases solid songwriting

He looks like John Mayer but has the vocal depth and range of Ray Lamontagne, and James Bay looks primed to take over American radio as he launches his latest EP Let It Go. The buzzworthy songwriter already has a critically-acclaimed full-length to his name in last year’s The Dark Of The Morning, and the new material only cements what we already knew about the man, crafting arrangements which let his vocals shine while emphasizing a real ear for melody and composition. I can’t wait to hear more from Bay in the future. He’s set to take the US by storm with a summer tour supporting Irish sensation Hozier (dates below), and with the production values of Jacquire King [Kings of Leon, Of Monsters and Men, Tom Waits) behind the board on the new EP, it's hard to imagine these songs not building the same grassroots reputation for Bay. You'll be hearing a lot more of this songwriter in the coming years.

Check out a live cut of "If You Ever Want To Be In Love" below.

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Tour Dates:

6/9 Los Angeles, CA               School Night @ Bardot

6/10 Los Angeles, CA             Hotel Café

6/18 New York, NY                 Slipper Room

6/19 New York, NY                 Mercury Lounge [supporting Asgeir]

6/27 Glastonbury                    Pilton, UK

7/11 T in the Park                   Motherwell, UK

 

Supporting Hozier:

10/1 Atlanta, GA                      Variety Playhouse

10/4 Dallas, TX                       The Kessler

10/9 Houston, TX                    Warehouse Live

10/12 Mexico City, Mexico     Corona Capital Festival

10/15 Solana Beach, CA        Belly Up Tavern

10/16 Los Angeles, CA           The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church

10/19 Portland, OR                  Wonder Ballroom

10/20 Vancouver, CAN          Commodore Ballroom

10/21 Seattle, WA                   The Showbox

10/24 Boulder, CO                  Fox Theatre

10/26 Chicago, IL                    Metro

10/28 Toronto, CAN                Phoenix Theatre

10/29 Montreal, CAN              Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre

10/31 Boston, MA                   Paradise

11/1 Philadelphia, PA              Trocadero Theatre

11/4 Washington, DC              9:30 Club

11/5 New York, NY                 Irving Plaza


PICK YOUR POISON: Elephant Stone returns with Three Poisons in August

 

 

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Elephant Stone returns a year after the release of their self-titled sophomore album to give us <i>Three Poisons</i>, due out August 26th via Hidden Pony Records. I fell in love with their prior album, and it’s single “Hidden Moon,” and the new material shines through with the same twist of pop and psychedelic underpinings, creating a sound unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this summer. The video for “Three Poisons” is embedded below. Here’s the story behind the new album, from Rishi Dhir himself:

I don’t think it was just me, but things felt different this time around. The grooves were groovier, the sonics rumbled heavier, and the songs were connecting to something bigger. It wasn’t until Malika Tirolien came in to record her inspired backing vocals for “Knock You From Yr Mountain” and “All Is Burning” that I reflected on that abandoned record collection I inherited and the trip it took me on. In that moment I heard the groove of the Mondays, the darkness of Echo, the jangle of Ride… but what I truly heard and felt coming together in these new batch of songs was—and is—unequivocally the sound of Elephant Stone.

Can’t wait to hear more? Check back regularly for updates! And if you’re so inclined, their upcoming European tour dates are available here. US dates are reportedly coming later this summer.

Track Listing: Three Poisons:
1. Motherless Child (Love’s Not For War)
2. Knock You From Yr Mountain
3. All is Burning
4. Worlds Don’t Begin And End With You
5. Wayward Son
6. Intermediate State
7. Child Of Nature (Om Namah Sivaya)
8. Living For Something
9. Three Poisons
10. Echo & The Machine
11. Between the Lines

FRESHMEN NO MORE: After 13-year hiatus, The Verve Pipe returns with Overboard June 17th

I’ll admit that Brian Vander Ark’s vocals on the entirety of Villians soundtracked my early high school years, giving me plenty of reason to play the album and dozens like it on repeat as I navigated teenage awkwardness. Unfortunately the ’90s alternative rock scene wasn’t built on longevity, at least where myopic, aurally insensitive radio execs were concerned, and bands like the Verve Pipe, Harvey Danger and Semisonic never got the long-term traction they so richly deserved. It wasn’t that they couldn’t write another hit, but rather that radio and label honchos wouldn’t have known said hit if it broadsided them.

Thirteen years after their last full-length rock album, however, The Verve Pipe returns June 17th with Overboard, an album which relights the fire under their blend of well-crafted pop and catch-you-off-kilter rock. With “Crash Landing,” the album’s first promotional single, they show you really can’t go back again — this is no “Villians” or “Photograph” — but you can put a new spin on something and reinvent yourself in a way which is refreshing and well worth the listen. “I’m hearing words no one’s spoken,” he sings.  “And I can feel my heart beat though I know it’s broken. Nothing is the way it seems, like being awake in a dream.” The chorus then crash-lands with an impact that launches this song instantly into the memory banks.

If you’re looking for the band to tread water through nostalgic carbons of what you heard while walking those sophomore hallways, you may be disappointed. But it’s refreshing to hear a band return after all these years, arriving with the verve to sound as fresh in the current musical climate as their alt-grunge did when we first heard it in the early ’90s. That the band’s songs feature hooks as brilliantly singable even after a decade and a half in limbo is the icing on the cake. Overboard is the most pleasant surprise of the summer so far, and it’s an album you shouldn’t miss.


SOUNDTRACK YOUR BINGE: Orange Is The New Black releases Soundtrack album just in time for Season 2

If you, like my wife and I, became immediately hooked by Netflix’s bingeable hit Orange is the New Black, and you’re eagerly awaiting the second season so you can marathon the hell out of it, now’s your chance to pick up a copy of the soundtrack album! Among included artists are title-track songstress Regina Spektor, as well as contributions from Kelis, Betty Davis, The Staples Singers, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and much more to sink your aural shiv into. Worried you’ll miss a minute of the show? Don’t worry — “You’ve Got Time” So give it a listen! And if you get the chance, grab a copy on limited edition Orange Vinyl! Season two of the series releases in its entirety on Netflix June 6th.

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Track Listing
1. Regina Spektor – You’ve Got Time
2. Betty Davis – Walkin Up The Road
3. Latimore – Move And Groove Together
4. Tune-Yards – Gangsta
5. The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There
6. Kelis – Milkshake
7. Leagues – Walking Backwards
8. Little Foot Long Foot – Kickface
9. Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning
10. The Dutchess and The Duke – Living This Life Makes It Hard
11. Nancy Cassidy – Chicken
12. Whispering Jack Smith – Baby Face


FOLLOW THE BLOOD: Australia’s Nine Sons of Dan bring the hooks on rocking new EP

Australia’s alt-rock outfit Nine Sons of Dan dropped their latest EP Follow The Blood a week ago, and the six tracks definitely bring the rock, in a vaguely late-90s way, like a mix of Jimmy Eat World’s frenetic pop vocals and the more rocking elements of All Time Low, Cartel and Anberlin. Speaking of the latter, the new EP was tracked in Australia but mixed in Nashville by J.R. McNeely, who has worked with Anberlin and Dead Letter Circus. “I wrote about where I was at that moment,” says singer Jay Bainbridge. “Sometimes I use dramas that have happened in my past as fuel for content, but this time I just wrote about what was happening around me and to me. I had a lot of frustrations and heartache in my personal life but at the same time felt a sense of strength of unity with the boys and our future as a band.”

Check out “Wreckingball” below, the final song on the new EP, which features their strongest hook once the song gets going after an unnecessarily long intro. “A stab in the dark hit its mark,” Bainbridge sings, echoing the stabs this emerging band continues to make as they fight for the mainstream attention they deserve. Expect to hear these guys much more in the coming years!

 


WAIT TIL I GET MY HEAD ON STRAIGHT: Matthew Good’s Arrows of Desire a must-hear rock album

Forgive me for being a bit behind the curve here, but Matthew Good’s sixth solo album Arrows of Desire is good enough to be well worth the wait. Out since late September, the album follows his staggeringly good Lights of Endangered Species, bringing a serious dose of invigorating rock music to an audience starved for music of this caliber. From the opening one-two-three gut-punches of “Arrows of Desire“, “Via Dolorosa” and “Had It Coming”, this album announces itself as exactly what fans of Good have come to expect: introspective lyrics coupled with raw passionate rock arrangements which showcase Good’s always-stellar vocals.

The hooks are visceral, hitting from an emotional core no one else among his peers could mine on such a regular basis with this level of consistency. The way he stagger-holds each syllable on “Via Dolorosa” before letting loose with a guttural wail on the chorus: “Wait til I get my head on … wait til I get my head on straight!” That’s what brings us back for more, no matter how long we in the States might have to wait to ever catch him in a live setting. The raw fury comes through on the album, something ever more rare in this day of over-polished radio fodder. Check out Arrows of Desire immediately and remind yourself why rock music, in the right hands, will always be relevant.


“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: Hurrah! A Bolt of Light – “In Over My Head”

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Brooklyn’s Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! brings a sensational blend of U2 arena rock and Augustana-inspired pop to the table via the entirety of their self-titled debut album, due out April 1st. The band spent time with producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Soul Asylum, The Rembrandts) in Los Angeles working to get the sound right, and I’ll come out and say it: there’s not a dud on the album.

“In Over My Head” in particular is a shining example of what the band offers. “I keep my heart in a little box … I should have known there’d be hell to pay,” Will Farr sings, backed by shimmering guitars, thundering percussion and echoing hand-clap fueled backing vocals. And while he may feel as though he’s in over his head, listeners will fall head-over-heels as they sing along with this perfectly radio-ready nugget.

Help break this band wide and share the track now, available to stream and download exclusively at “Hear! Hear!” via the above link. It’s easy to say there’s nothing great making it to radio but it’s another thing entirely to sit back and let something this good slip away. (You can follow Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! on Facebook and Twitter.)


“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: PAZ’s “The Silence” is golden, an EDM hit in the making

There’s nothing about this song lyrically that would typically draw me in, but the hook to “The Silence” is immediate and I could legitimately expect to hear PAZ’s latest played on radio stations in the same mix as Imagine Dragons, Skrillex and Avicii, something which should attest to its EDM bona-fides. In the end the hook is all that matters, and it will have you singing along mindlessly long before you have the inkling to think about what you’re singing. That’s the essence of a great pop song, one which grabs hold and drags you kicking and screaming into liking it, and then getting you to spread the word even when you know you’ll be tempted to attach “guilty pleasure” to the description.

“Hear! Hear” is excited to be the first place you’ll hear “The Silence,” which you can stream via Soundcloud below. When more information is available about the full mixtape, we’ll let you know here as well.


RELEASE THE HOUNDS: Holy White Hounds’ “Switchblade” hooks like a knife to the gut

“Sometimes all you need is just a taste,” or so the chorus of “Switchblade” tells you as the brilliant single pinwheels its way through the confines of your skull. Holy White Hounds owes a great deal to the Black Keys, but their sound has a pop-fueled energy that band often lacks, fueled by the high-end production values of Brandon Darner (Imagine Dragons, Envy Corps) who helmed the band’s latest EP. There’s a real sense of “I don’t give a fuck” fun behind this one, as the video will attest on a single viewing. You’ll be singing along with this one all day while hitting repeat and trying to find out anything and everything about this enigmatic trio. With any luck Holy White Hounds will be the big rock story of 2014, as Iowa needs some serious rocking and this song seriously deserves wider appeal.


Tom Levin’s “Pull Yourself Together” melds sly folk with pseudo southern gospel for real keeper

Like a twisted blend of Cracker, Tom Waits and Jason Isbell filtered through the sensibility of the Coens’ Fargo, Swedish artist Tom Levin defies the “sanctity” of genres with this riot of a single off his latest album Them Feet. Hell, even Levin hints that this is his version of “Minnesota Nice,” twisted through a wondrous sludge of psuedo-Southern Folk and gothic Gospel touches. Says Levin:

The lyrics to “Pull Yourself Together” are inspired by how people in the [American South] are very good at letting someone know, in a polite way, when they are behaving like an idiot. I wrote the song because I had to get my disappointment with certain peoples’ behavior out of my system. “Bless your little heart” takes the edge off almost any insult and sometimes makes it sound like a compliment. If you or anyone you know ever needs to tell someone they are being a total jackass.just send them this song.

Watch it below and make your night just a little more special!


ARTISTS TO WATCH: Unicycle Loves You to release searing fourth album The Dead Age June 10th

This one’s an interesting beast. Though it’s not out until June, and the band won’t be revealing its lead single until after SXSW, I felt I’d be letting all of you down if I didn’t at least get your attention piqued well in advance. With three albums under their belt, Unicycle Loves You has already built a reputation as aural chameleons, delving into jangly power pop, post new-wave and garage psychedelia, but The Dead Age is something else entirely. Taking garage rock into the world of pop music by way of some of the grungiest sounds not already trademarked by Sonic Youth, the band wastes no time digging talons into your brain and achieving immediate liftoff. “Face Tattoo” has potential single written all over its surf-rock guitar-and-drums combo, with the ultimate bass groove underlining the faded-back vocals which echo back to an era when we didn’t have to understand every word our rock stars sang. It was about the way the music made us feel, and this is music tailored to stimulating all your senses.

Until you can hear the new material, give some of the band’s other stuff a listen — check out “Garbage Dump” below, off their album Failure and sound off in the comments if you want to hear more from these guys.


Black Crowes’ Guitarist Rich Robinson will release solo album The Ceaseless Sight on June 3rd

Rich Robinson, of the Black Crowes, has announced he will officially release his third solo record The Ceaseless Sight in June, and has premiered the lead single “One Road Hill” via Paste. You can check out the song below, featuring its strong folk melody, hand-claps and Robinson’s patented jangling acoustic guitar style, all of which echoes through the entirety. I’m really excited to hear more from this one.

In related news, beginning March 8th, Robinson will proudly join the likes of stalwart names such as Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Robby Krieger, Jonny Lang, Bootsy Collins, Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Billy Cox (Band of Gypsys, Jimi Hendrix Experience) and many more on the Experience Hendrix Tour presented by BandFuse: Rock Legends. Robinson will be performing on the following select dates:

March 8 – Shawnee, OK – Grand Event Center
March 9 – Midland, TX – Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center
April 4 – Milwaukee, WI – The Riverside Theater
April 5 – Merrillville, IN – Star Plaza Theater
April 6 – Peoria, IL – Peoria Civic Center
April 8 – Minneapolis, MN – State Theater


UNDER COVER: The Railers – “Motown Philly”

The Railers don’t do anything to this classic Boys II Men track that pushes it into The Gourds’ “Gin and Juice” territory, but they’re still clearly having a lot of fun. Check out the cover below, but then give their original “Good Luck Comin’” in a fantastic live version from Indianapolis’ Rathskeller. They’re a country rock band worthy of a second listen. They’ll be hitting a venue near you over the next month, so give them a shot. Headphones are great, but the live sound’s always preferable.

3.06 The New Vintage Louisville, KY
3.07 Six Strings Bloomington, IL
3.08 Rathskeller Indianapolis, IN
3.14 El Dorado Municipal Auditorium El Dorado, AR
3.15 Revolution Music Hall Little Rock, AR
3.16 Knucklehead’s Kansas City, MO
3.26 TinAngel Philadelphia, PA
3.27 Hill Country DC Washington, DC
3.28 Hill Country Brooklyn Brooklyn, NY
3.29 Hill Country New York, NY

NEW MUSIC MONDAY: Schizophrenic melodies, synths unite adventurous singles from Ninetails, Arum Rae and Sleep Thieves

Ninetails – “An Aria”
Album: Quiet Confidence
Release Date: March 10, 2014

A trippy exercise in merging a dense yet adventurously free-wheeling arrangement, this second single from Ninetails’ upcoming album Quiet Confidence showcases a band with music perfect for close headphone listening. The vocals hide hauntingly out of reach, as the ears focus on the ornately schizophrenic melody, with bells and horns competing amid a constantly shifting aural backdrop. Definitely music worth savoring.

Arum Rae – “2001”
Album: Warranted Queen EP
Release Date: April 22, 2014

The backdrop of this endlessly addictive single which Spin dubbed “Auto-Tuned soul” is awash in synths and electronic dub elements, but Arum Rae’s distinct vocals delve into 808s and Heartbreak-esque territory while making subtle shifts which belie her advanced study of jazz vocals at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. What sets the song apart is that constant shifting between the worlds of hip-hop, pop and electronic, with a minimal use of instruments allowing Arum Rae’s voice to really twist and turn. There are moments where her voice, heard through this chaotic prism, takes on a vaguely middle-eastern touch, as though blending human voice and synth strings.

Sleep Thieves – “City Of Hearts”
Album: You Want The Night
Release Date: Spring 2014

The intro at first sounds like come of Enya’s more twisted synth tracks, but once the drums kick in this single quickly falls into a groove more akin to the sound of the Knife, as filtered through the more poppy nature of early Tegan and Sara. It’s a sound both modern and retro, which is sure to give Sleep Thieves plenty of potential appeal. Their debut You Want The Night, which as a full-length follows their successful 2012 EP Islands, is due out this spring and should quickly assert the Dublin band’s global status among synth-pop taste-makers. It doesn’t hurt that the song is instantly ear-catching and repeatable, which makes you want to blast it from your speakers to anyone who will listen.

 

 

 


FEATURED SONG: Nikki Lerner – “Plea”

Nikki Lerner’s entire album Longings is well worth your listen, but if you’ve only got time for one song, try the subtle building “Plea,” which showcases her pop-meets-jazz leanings in full-on glory. This is an example of a song taking its time to earn a listener’s respect, building layer upon layer of melody as Lerner’s vocals swim among the notes, elevating them from mere pop to something significantly more. This is mournful blues, soaring pop and multi-textured jazz all rolled into one five minute track, something you have to hear again and again to fully absorb. From the pizzicato strings at the first chorus, which immediately make the hairs on the neck stand alert, to the background vocals which add depth and clarity to the melody, this is a song built upon attention to detail. Every detail brings you back. By the time the song builds to its apex — “Please forgive me!” lingering in the air over thundering toms and an epic string instrumental provided by jazz violinist Zach Brock, there’s no going back.

You can buy the album via her Bandcamp page.


FEATURED SONG: Terese Taylor’s “Briefcase” a scathing indictment of love gone awry

I’ve got to say, I like the sound Terese Taylor brings to the table, a biting combination of anti-Lilith nineties post-grunge that references PJ Harvey and Liz Phair, with just as much appreciation for bands like Veruca Salt sneaking out through the lines. “If I ever wanted to be true I’m sure it wouldn’t be to you,” she all but snarls on the chorus of “Briefcase,” emphasizing an inherent distaste for truth-telling in a situation where both sides are hiding plenty in the shadows. This isn’t the easy pop breeze look at love on the rocks, where a well-placed apology will fix everything. This is more akin to the blind leading the blind. “I’m lying to myself and everybody else,” she sings, and the strident guitars and fuzzed-out bass are unobtrusive enough to let Taylor’s understated vocals take the lead. This is a keeper — At Your Mercy Circuit, out in April, has officially jumped onto my “must hear” list.


Kat Dahlia’s “Crazy” proves it: She is THE best thing in pop music.

Is it crazy that it only took one listen to this song and I fell in love?
Is it crazy that I know all the words and I can’t help but sing along?
Fuck no it’s not crazy ….

One listen and you’ll understand. Kat Dahlia is for real, and she’s coming to take control of your earphones.