“We Don’t Even Live Here” — P.O.S. and his “Weird Friends” showcase just how far ahead they remain of mainstream hip-hop via new video

I’ve been a champion of P.O.S.’s magnificent hip-hop effort We Don’t Even Live Here since it came out late last year, but the rapper continues to find ways to mine that album for gold as the new year gets going, proving he leads the genre’s vanguard by a wide distance. Reset your opinions of hip-hop by giving these lyrical anarchists a listen or ten. They won’t be beat, and any chance to dig deeper into their catalog is worth the effort. Their tour was cancelled last year due to P.O.S.’s imminent need for a kidney transplant, but they will be playing Sasquatch! Fest with Mumford and Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, the XX and an astonishing number of other cutting edge alternative artists, when the festival takes over George, Washington on May 27, 2013. Based on everything I’ve heard about his live shows, this won’t be one to miss.

Check out the video below! It definitely deserves a shot at wider mainstream acknowledgement, even as the band refuses to give up an ounce of their indie credibility to get it.


Mumford and Sons’ The Road To Red Rocks joins the ever-burgeoning ranks of unnecessary, indistinct live albums

I can understand the band’s interest in releasing The Road To Red Rocks — the idea three years ago that Mumford and Sons would have a US fan-base capable of filling the legendary outdoor venue would have seemed laughable, before their blend of Euro-folk traditionalism became pop via “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave.” But there’s nothing unique about the recordings here, little which bends the songs and makes them any different live than they were on the albums we already own. It’s one thing for the band to take a victory lap, but don’t be surprised if most fans choose to let this one pass them by, for if you weren’t there to actually experience this show, the audio portion of The Road To Red Rocks is the definition of expendable.

The video portion of the album, on the other hand, showcases the oddity of an Arena Folk band in all its glory, which at least warrants a second look. That, and the fact that the band opened up the path for bands like the Lumineers to achieve radio success, at least gives room for hope as we leap into 2013.

Check out the live album below via Spotify, and get a glimpse of the DVD portion via a YouTube clip of “Little Lion Man” from the concert:

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There’s nothing “Artificial” about the love the Local Strangers show for all things folk on Left for Better

The Local Strangers

Photo Credit: Derek Orbiso Dizon

Left for BetterNothing puts insomnia in its place better than the discovery of a post-worthy track. Something about the Local Strangers’ “Artificial Love” jumped out at me after their album Left for Better had accidentally slipped to the back-burner. But this Seattle duo brings the Midwestern charm of Over the Rhine to this bare-bones piano and vocal showcase, as Aubrey Zoli channels Karin Bergquist even as she adds her own smoky charm to the recording.

And though this is the album’s sedate closing number, the rest of the album is equally worthy of praise. “Uptown,” featuring Matt Hart on vocals, is a cross between Glassjaw Boxer-era Stephen Kellogg with slight touches of modern Mumford folk, with a hook which won’t quit. And “Daniel” lets Zoli shine yet again, making believers out of all of us as her voice melts over the carefully paced bluegrass melody and harmonies which would make Fleetwood Mac melt in their prime.  “Can’t you make it look easy?” Hart sings over a hand-clap march of percussion and banjo, slyly answering their own question as the harmonies soar.

This is a keeper you’ll hopefully still be praising well into the new year.Left for Better is an assured album from a duo ultimately comfortable enough in their own skin to produce a album deftly merging varied tastes into one of the year’s best intimate listening experiences.

Jesse Plemons does it all. From Friday Night Lights to Breaking Bad, the real revelation is Cowboy and Indian

Jesse Plemons Cowboy and Indian

Consider my mind blown. I’ve come to expect the unexpected from Jesse Plemons, who has worked his way from Friday Night Lights to Breaking Bad, earning himself some of the wildest meth-infused scenes of the current fifth season. But I’d never heard his band Cowboy and Indian until this morning, and the music they make is definitely worth more than a cursory listen. I submit for your approval “Trouble,” an older song they’ve reworked via a video with The Sessions, wherein the band merges Mumford and Sons with Fleet Foxes, with more than a hint of one of my favorite folk songwriters, Danny Schmidt, in the melody. This is folk music for those of us who more than love the genre … we soak in it. Consider this band part of my official desert island list.

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Hoots and Hellmouth

Hoots and Hellmouth

Philly's own Hoots and Hellmouth

I’ve built such a fanciful kingdom in my head
Say, don’t you want to go there?

For fans of the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons, I can’t see any reason you wouldn’t want to visit the world of Philadelphia’s resident folk-rockers Hoots and Hellmouth, who launched their latest album Salt yesterday. Their latest effort attempts to push them beyond being merely lumped amongst modern folk revivalists, as they attempt to focus on individual songs and further develop their unique sound. But as they say on “I Don’t Mind Your Cussing,” “talk is talk is talk.” The proof is in the music, and what Hoots and Hellmouth offer on Salt is definitely worth savoring silently, letting it all soak in.

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men

Bring it on, Iceland! These indie-folk rockers who call themselves Of Monsters and Men drop us into “Little Talks,” their latest single, with little warning just how great the music’s going to be. They’ve been featured on NPR’s First Listen, and their Into The Woods EP just reached #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, which is for bands who have never had a top 100 album. Paste, meanwhile, rightly dubbed the band the “next big thing,” and in an era where Mumford and Sons and Florence + The Machine are capable of building wide-reaching audiences, I find it impossible to believe this band can’t live up to similar hype.

The video for “Little Talks” builds the band’s modern mythology, with an impressive animation showcasing the band’s sense of unbridled whimsy, as the exceptional vocals are backed by a wall of horns straight out of 90s third-wave ska. It’s a brilliant mix which showcases just how much fun Icelandic bands are capable of having, even if they do spend much of their year north of the arctic circle. It will leave you instantly wanting more, making “Little Talks” a perfect candidate to go viral.

ALBUM REVIEW: Silver Tongues – “Black Kite”

Silver Tongues Black Kite

Album Review
Silver Tongues – “Black Kite” (2011, Karate Body)

Louisville’s hidden treasure Silver Tongues, and their debut album Black Kite, serve as a glorious throwback to classic rock bands, where a debut album could freely experiment by dabbling in multiple genres. Today’s bands so frequently have to hit the ball out of the park on the first try and then repeat the success or fail to gain traction in the business, but Silver Tongues seem to take pleasure in twisting listeners’ expectations. There’s nothing taken for granted, and it’s not as if the band’s taking unnecessary risks with their musical direction. They’re just willing to admit that, when a band’s getting its feet wet, sometimes there’s nothing more valuable than pushing the envelope and trying a variety of sounds. And with an independent label backing them up, it’s a safe bet they’ll get the chance to build their musical reputation on their own terms. This is the work of a band which may not find its “hit” until a third or fourth album, but give them that time to grow and the rewards will be immesurable.

Not that I’m saying their songs aren’t worthy of wide exposure, because that would be a mistake. “Wet Dawg” sounds like Kings of Leon if they actually dared to let a song speak for itself rather than burying the lead in a mess of pseudo-pop trappings. What makes it clear Silver Tongues is worth supporting is their ability to transform the song into an addictive live gem. I was lucky enough to catch the band live at Headliners in Louisville back in January and, even as a co-opening act playing before the supposed “big draw,” they immediately roped the crowd in with a live performance which showcased the music above the hype. There’s plenty of pop hook buried in there to keep the songs reverberating in your head, but that the band’s out there working the road and building these songs in a live setting as well proves they’re not happy merely letting the studio versions speak for themselves.

Speaking to the album’s quality, however, is the fact that every song plays its role in the cohesion one finds immediately appealing about Black Kite. “Warsaw” would be perfectly at home on a Coldplay album, with its frantic string backdrop, but the vocals are pure seventies classic rock, with layered harmonies and an arrangement coupled with a slow-build climax which is immediately accessable and repeatedly listenable. The album’s opener, “Highways,” has an unforgettable backdrop of organ drone and handclaps-meet-bass-drum percussion, providing a thunderous reason to immediately fall in love with what the band has to offer. And the album’s title track, “Black Kite,” and the beautifully melodic “Hope For” manage to successfully bridge the gap between bands like Mumford and Sons, with the ethereal vocals and simple acoustic arrangements, and today’s more modern pop-leaning bands where the hook comes first above all else.

The result is a nine-track album which plays well both as a coherent, well developed debut and a template for a band willing to push its exploratory envelope in pursuit of a long-term career. Black Kite came out too late in 2011 to make my list of best albums of that calendar year, but it has already won a place in my heart as one of the most interesting efforts I’ve heard during this one. I expect to hear big things from this band; like the Black Keys before them, they seem destined to build a respectable basis for long term success on their early indie records. And with the right push, they’d seem poised to have a similar mainstream breakthrough once their material has time to develop to its full potential. Put simply, Silver Tongues is a keeper, and their impressive debut has legitimate heft and staying power. You won’t want to miss it!