Music like this virtually reviews itself. From the opening note, a long sustained organ hit with the gut-punch of Harvey Danger’s “Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” the hook of “Heavy Moon” is immediate, as the band builds steadily upon a meaty layering of Kula Shaker, Oasis-inspired vocals, and the brilliantly elemental melodic structures of Elliott Smith.
The Montreal band, formed in 2009 by sitarist / bassist Rishi Dhir, won the Polaris music prize for debut-album The Seven Seas, and fans have long awaited the proper follow-up, which finally will see the light of day on February 5th. They picked a great opening single, as the video below will attest. But having heard the entire album through a few times now, I can attest the remainder of the album is chock full of keepers, including “Setting Sun,” which blends the hook of Kula Shaker’s “Tatva” with a jangle-pop melody the Gin Blossoms would have killed for in 1996. And “The Sea of Your Mind” is exactly the nine-minute progressive pop jam your mp3 player’s been begging for.
Plug your headphones in, hold on tight and get ready for the ride … but music this good is worth every second. Spread the word!
The Middle East
The Band: The Middle East
Location: Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Label: Missing Piece Records
Upcoming Album: I Want That You Are Always Happy (due: July 12th)
Learn More: http://www.themiddleeastmusic.com
The band has a low-key sound akin to the idea of Elliott Smith had he had the opportunity to record with She & Him; it’s light, smartly developed and has the hooks to dig into your brain without you suspecting anything. The single, “Jesus Came To My Birthday Party,” is featured on their new album, due out on Tuesday, which is the follow-up to 2008′s Recordings of the Middle East. They’ve built their touring chops while opening for up-and-comers like Mumford & Sons, and clearly they’re a band worth keeping an ear toward. The album’s already a top twenty hit in Australia — now it’s set to be their breakthrough in the US. Enjoy the free download and feel free to post your opinions on the single below!
FREE MP3: The Middle East – “Jesus Came To My Birthday Party (right click to download)
Year of the Album — #023
Lawrence & Leigh – “Odyssey Vol. III – Hills and Masts” (2011, Independent)
If you like your music in short, easily inhalable chunks which don’t require much thought in the listening process, Lawrence & Leigh are not for you. On Odyssey Vol. III: Hills and Masts, the third part of their ambitious three-part EP series, the Brooklyn songwriting duo takes chamber folk to expansive new heights. If you’re willing to listen to something that provides its reward to those who are patient and willing to slowly peel these songs like an aural onion, there’s a great deal to savor.
With a sound which melds the pop smarts of Elliott Smith and Over The Rhine’s Karen Bergquist with melodies that twist and turn, taking you on an aural journey. The Smith comparison is heard most on the wonderful “Heeled Shoes,” with a hauntingly simple guitar line that brings immediate comparisons to the slow build of “2:45 a.m.”
Meanwhile, “Glow” builds its way expansively through layers of melodic chamber pop, each part shifting and merging until late in the proceeding we get to hear the real hooks dig in: “down here in the shadows I’m without my mask, and everything you’ve wanted could be in your grasp,” Andrew Kalleen sings, before the song morphs from funky pseudo disco into something Burt Bacharach would love, complete with hauntingly catchy vocals from Kristin Stokes that sound like Manhattan Transfer flew in for a studio sound-check. All this in six minutes of musical bliss.
It’s not an easy album to fall in love with, but give these six ambitious songs enough time to soak in and you’ll understand why this duo is making waves in the world of folk music. It’s a challenging recipe for meaningful music, and given the chance, I’ll take ambition and creativity over ease of consumption any day.