Leave it to Leonard Friend to continue to spread the funky mantle of white-boy soul in the absense of Justin Timberlake. “Every Woman” ups the ante* from what we’ve already heard on his Lynyrd Frynd EP, building on an eerily oriental-tinged melody with enough hints of Michael Jackson and Prince-inspired audio fuckery to keep even the most jaded listener pressing repeat long into the night. This is what “Hear! Hear!” was made for, and if it doesn’t convince you of the immediate hook-worthiness of Leonard Friend, nothing I ever say will. “This must be something else,” he sings, and he bloody well means it. Nothing else in today’s musical landscape can properly prep you. Just listen!
* download the mp3 for free: right click, then “save as”
DOWNLOAD MP3: The Doctors Fox – “Gauge” (right click, save as)
Handful of Laughs, by Boston’s own The Doctors Fox, is one of those albums which will warp your mind and assuredly change your definition of what makes genre-bending music work. These are epic arrangements of raw, furious experimental depth which rival anything you’ve likely heard in years. “Gauge” in particular showcases their genre-twisting style in all its glory, defying any attempt to classify them lazily. The closest I can come to pigeonholing their sound is at the song’s midpoint, when the song shifts from 4/4 basic pop to a frantic 6/8 fiddle-fueled stomp of glorious proportions … Boyd Tinsley himself would be gobsmacked by the single’s raw awesomeness. The rest of the album lives up to that almost unreachable level of jam band creative bliss track after blistering track, making The Doctors Fox one of my favorite new music finds this year. If you’re lucky enough to live on the east coast, check them out live while they’re still unknowns.
DOWNLOAD MP3: Sarah Miles – “Middle of Nowhere” (right click, “save as”)
If I could run a hundred miles
I’d still be so far from anywhere worthwhile
Now I see how hard it is to be alone
I can’t run a hundred miles
For those about to get your piano pop on, I salute you. And if you’re taking my advice, you’ll be playing “Middle of Nowhere,” a sunny pop nugget from Sarah Miles which fits perfectly into any lineup featuring the likes of Sarah Bareilles or Vanessa Carlton, with just enough rock to get your feet moving while the hooks dance between your ears and peer pressure you into repeating endlessly. If you dig that track, grab it for free via the link above, then give her other tracks a listen: “Never Ending Chase” and “Find My Way Home” are equally ear-catching, hinting strongly that this New York singer-songwriter’s’ music is destined to push as far from the middle of nowhere as possible.
DOWNLOAD (MP3): Tribes – “We Were Children”
This one reminds me of that Pixies song that plays at the end of Fight Club … one of those memorable hooks you’ll want to hear as many times as you can to let it sink all the way in. The band, based in Camden, England, is an “it’s about time” return to straight-up rock & roll melodic guitar riffs, anthemic tunes, and they’re doing it all themselves, working these songs from the ground up and earning the acclaim. Inspired by Pavement, Nirvana, the Libertines — any of those 90s-era rockers who dared to twist conventions while crafting songs which have stood strong through two decades — Tribes are going to hit you hard and fast, and they’ll hope you’ll agree their music has the potential to stick around as well. Their EP We Were Children came out on Universal Republic in late November, and they’ll be dropping a full-length at some point in 2012, so there’s still plenty of time to check them out and become a convert to the sound. Once you do you won’t want to stop listening — take it from an addict with no particular need for recovery.
According to the band’s bio, they’re commenting on a strange world from their burning observation deck, filling the band’s groove-based electronic art rock with crunchy guitars, cinematic imagery and 80s synth-pop elements … lyrically fueled by an existential “WTF?” Their first full length CD doesn’t drop until January 10, 2012, but you can get your jones now with a free MP3 of their frantic electronic version of “Jingle Bells,” which will warp your Holiday listening list for good — enjoy!
DOWNLOAD MP3: Public Jones – “Jingle Bells” (right click, then “Save As”)
Wherever you fall on the pop spectrum, there’s a great deal to love about the U.K.’s latest musical export, Zun Zun Egui. This is prog-pop that takes experimental to a hook-filled level which makes them accessible as much to fans of Vampire Weekend as they’d be for more old-school folks who appreciate the avant-pop contributions of Frank Zappa or David Byrne. Their video for “Fandango Fresh” speaks for itself, a sunny effervescent example of what makes music “pop” in the grand scheme of things. Their album, Katang, is already out in Europe and will see release here in the States on November 8th. Don’t delay … the sexy worm gets the bird! and truly amazing music waits for no one.
DOWNLOAD: Zun Zun Egui – “Fandango Fresh” (MP3)
For those of you who enjoy a touch of Bowie with your modern funky pop music — Fitz and the Tantrums and Cavedoll fans, I’m talking to you! — then you’re going to love what Guineafowl brings to the table. These Australian has built their reputation in a similar fashion, working from the ground up in their home region, and now they’re getting a shot at the global domination they’ve aimed for since forming in 2009. Their latest EP, Hello Anxiety, came out October 4th on Dangerbird Records, and judging by the groove of this initial single, I’d say it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already. Watch the video below, and feel free to sound off in the comments section … we need more conversation here at “Hear! Hear!”
Americana fans, rejoice, because Gwyneth & Monko have arrived to provide us all with our fix! For fans of Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch, this is music which is at once modern and original, while paying proper respect to the classics of the genre. Their self-titled debut has been out since February, the northern California duo sounds like they’ve been born and raised in the Tennessee hills. “Down” (free mp3 download, right click to save) is an amazing example of their work, a slow-burning groove featuring some of the best mournful female vocals not to be prominently featured on a Rosanne Cash or Lucinda Williams album — and Monko’s guitar solo midway through the song’s seven minute length will hook you if the vocals haven’t. Download the song and then check out the full album — if you’re an Americana / folk / indie junkie you won’t be disappointed.
And if that’s not enough to stoke your musical addiction, check out the band’s live performance of “Wishbone” below.
Brooklyn singer-songwriter Mary Bragg will release her new album Tattoos & Bruises on June 7. The album is her third full-length release, and will feature the same accomplished band of players who perform in her live shows, including Rich Hinman, Steve Elliot and Adam Levy (guitars), Jordan Perlson and Brian Wolfe (drums), Jimmy Sullivan (bass), Mike Cassedy (piano, organ) and Marika Hughes (cello). That’s good news for those of us who frequently bemoan the inability of many country artists to attain the same sound live as they do on their star-studded studio albums.
I hear a great deal of new music on a daily basis, but this song really got its hooks into me. The lead single from the upcoming album, “How and Why” is available from “Hear, Hear!” as a free, legal mp3 download – right click the link and select “Save As” to download the mp3 to your computer. So give it a listen for yourself and decide if her pop country sensibility is worth promoting over the latest country radio fodder. I think a few listens in you’ll wholeheartedly agree. Tattoos and Bruises is already at the top of my list of “must review” country releases of the summer.
Watch Mary perform her song “Gone” on YouTube:
And if you’re going to be along the East Coast this summer, consider checking her out live. The following dates have been confirmed:
May 21 – Red Hook, Brooklyn @ Jalopy
June 3 – New York, NY @ The Living Room
June 10 – New York, NY @ The Living Room
June 17 – New York, NY @ The Living Room
June 24 -New York, NY @ The Living Room
June 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ Tin Angel
June 28 – Winston- Salem, NC @ The Garage
June 29 – Decatur, GA @ Eddie’s Attic
June 30 – Athens, GA @ Hendershot’s
July 1 – Swainsboro, GA @ The Cadle Barn
July 14 – Clinton, NJ @ The Black Potatoe Festival
If you have wondered what a hybrid of bluegrass and christian pop would sound like, Texas-based quartet the Walla Recovery gives you a pretty good idea with “She Said,” their latest single (stream it at the link above) which has a definite Nickel Creek meets Caedmon’s call vibe to it.
The band asks you on their website to “step off the platform of nostalgic ‘what-ifs’ and embark on a journey away from unfulfilled longing and toward sacred forgetfulness.” And if the music wasn’t top-notch, with heartfelt introspective lyrics and a beautiful, melodic core, that might come off as hopelessly pretentious.
Rather, however, I found myself, after just a few repeat listens, longing to hear the rest of the band’s new EP With Trembling, which sounds like it owes a great deal to introspective Christian artists like Derek Webb. For adventurous ears, this is a listening risk that pays off in a big way. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
If you want an mp3 download of the song, the band is giving it away on their official website, if you’re willing to tweet or facebook a friend, or provide an email address for their mailing list.