Billed as “Denmark’s coolest artist,” J Tex and the Volunteers would be the face of Danish Americana (if that can be a thing) were T-Bone Burnett to go to Europe to produce it. “This Old Banjo” showcases that sound to its fullest extent, a bare melody of acoustic guitar intertwined with flourishes of banjo which expertly back Jens Einer Sorensen’s dry, wind-broken vocals in a very cinematic fashion. “I hear that banjo and it makes me sad,” he sings, but the effect of the song itself is the opposite, making listeners want to hear more. Like another long-lost European country outfit called Funky Nashville, J Tex and the Volunteers dig out what’s great about classic Americana while twisting it through their own unique lens, something I could stand to hear plenty more of. It’s a good thing their new album Old Ways vs. New Days comes out January 30, 2015 on Heptown Records!
Brooklyn-based duo She Keeps Bees knows how to build a song through quiet swells and subtly-menacing grooves. Their latest, “Radiance,” heralds the coming of Eight Houses, due out September 16th, via a carefully layered track built on melancholy chords of piano against mild percussive rhythms and the sultry-sweet vocals of Jessica Larrabee. Four albums into their career, they’ve yet to rise beyond “best band you haven’t heard,” but the material here suggests they deserve a great deal more.
Give the track a listen via the streaming link above, and feel free to sound off in the comments. Their tour dates are below as well.
8/30 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre Lounge
9/3 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall
9/6 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite
9/7 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
9/8 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Rhythm Room
9/10 – Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
9/11 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
9/12 – Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
9/13 – Kansas City, MO @ Czar bar
9/14 – Lincoln, NE @ Duffy’s Taver
9/15 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
9/16 – Milwaukee, WI @ Club Garibaldi
9/17 – Detroit, MI @ PJ’s Lager House
9/19 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
9/20 – Athens, OH @ The Union
9/25 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
9/26 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
9/27 – Washington, DC @ The Lot (Atlantic Plumbing)
11/12 – Bristol, ENG @ The Lantern
11/13 – Manchester, ENG @ Gullivers
11/15 – London, ENG @ The Lexington
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.