08 Apr 2016, 18:44 MST

Allie X

This is going to be a little shorter than normal. I have, no lie, four (FOUR) artists to post right now before my brain forgets again, so I’m going to try out…brevity.

I feel that I’m actually already failing…

Allie X is part of the synth-tronica pop-adjacent world I’m currently living in/loving. There’s some rawness to this EP, but the overwhelming majority of the album is very tight and the composition of the tracks is lovely. The vocals are wonderfully variegated but there’s a persistent razor’s edge to her voice that cuts through the electronic pixie dust and right into your ear.

These two are both pretty uptempo but you can find some mellower tracks on the EP when you go to one of the links below and buy it like the solid, upstanding internet music appreciator person that you are.

Prime
Tumor

Where to find Allie X:
Twitter: @alliexxxxandra
Website: alliexandra.com

10 Feb 2016, 20:16 MST

Allison Weiss

In that way that sometimes happens, Allison Weiss fell right out of the clear blue sky. I didn’t find her among the rubble on Spotify or Last.fm, I didn’t hear her on the radio or read an article, I didn’t hear her lyrics coming out a car window and look them up on the spot. I didn’t do a damn thing, folks. This one was all Jenny Owen Youngs.

I’m just readin' my Twitter like you do and Jenny Owen Youngs is talking about her UK tour and I’m internal-grumblin' about how I want to watch Jenny Owen Youngs and she sends out this little deal right here:

And I basically just click that business on over to Allison Weiss' Twitter and next thing you know I’m listening to New Love on Spotify and then I’m buying New Love on Bandcamp and New Love is all I’m listening to because I’m in love with New Love and well, now we’re here.

I’m not sure how to describe why I’m surprised that I am so enamoured of New Love. Indie pop doesn’t usually set up shop in my ear like this, but there is something here that is pushing the right buttons in the right order. Just the right combination of some rockin' guitar and some 4/4 time and earnest lyrics and some reverb and I don’t know, probably mermaid tears? Hippogriff talon? Owlbear hide? Something. I’ve barely been listening to this album for a month and I’ve woken up no less than two times whistling “Good Way”. I don’t even know. You win, Allison Weiss.

Well, I guess actually I win.

Good Way
Golden Coast

Where to find Allison Weiss:
Twitter: @allisonweiss
Website: allisonw.com

Editor’s note, from the future: John-Allison Weiss is this artist’s correct name. In the future, should I write about Johnny A.W. again, their name will be reflected appropriately. This post is of its time, and in that time these words were correct.

03 Dec 2015, 11:14 MST

Sylvan Esso

Sometimes, the music doesn’t click. You listen, you hear, but you don’t find it. It’s not there. Weeks, months, years later you come back and there it is. Like it was always there. And it kind of languidly stares over its metaphorical shoulder at you as if to indicate it was right there the whole time, where were you looking and you sort of semi shrug at the mental apparition and look abashedly at your hallucinatory shoes and think something empty and trite at it like “Brains are weird.” This was me and Sylvan Esso. They were recommended to me more than once, but I just couldn’t get it. It was my fourth full run-through of the album when it just, well happened. I felt it, and then I fell right into it. Full on heavy rotation, just like that. What are you gonna do, right?

Sylvan Esso, a duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, does an interesting thing well with their a-typical beats and electronic sparsity. Meath’s vocals are a treat, jazzy and round and at once contrasting and complementing the electronica while Sanborn mixes a wildly diverse catalog of sounds from buzzsaw bass lines to handclaps and street noise into a carefully weighted tapestry of rhythm and support. This type of expansive electronic mix is a genre I seem to find myself stumbling haphazardly into of late. On the surface, I think I’m attracted to the vocal stylings and the fearless use of space but there’s something else in there that feels like a reaction to the overproduced weightlessness of pop music, something artistically defiant. They seem to simplify where the other would pile layers, strip down when the other would build up. Though the sonic differences are clear, there is something here that I find common with just-posted HOLYCHILD, and I expect I’ll continue accidentally walking into these things now that this idea is locked in my brain.

As to this particular release, it feels as if there’s a zen, a feng shui of sound. It feels substantial but orderly, well built and expressive but in precise proportion. The acapella opening of “Hey Mami” with the great drop setup on the second chorus gives you a taste of things to come, leading into a series with highlights “Wolf” and “HSKT” up to the strongest track on the album, “Coffee”, which deftly twists its melody from brooding to a very satisfying sort of resolved over the course of four and a half minutes. It winds down from there a bit, though I do enjoy “Play It Right”.

Here are a couple but, as is MY WAY, I find the whole album lovely and you should really go buy it and listen to it in its completeness for that is how the music is best experienced in virtually every case and also how we get more of the good music.

Coffee
Hey Mami

Where to find Sylvan Esso:
Twitter: @sylvanesso
Website: sylvanesso.com

19 Oct 2015, 11:12 MST

HOLYCHILD

This here, this is something a little different.

How to describe HOLYCHILD’s debut album The Shape of Brat Pop To Come… It’s kind of like a dubstep beat truck driven by a disaffected, acerbic singer-songwriter crashing into a jazz factory that’s rented its back room out as a nightclub? I guess? I…really don’t know. They call themselves “brat pop”, as titularly indicated, and I like that as a descriptor. There’s definitely a thread of brat running through the whole thing, a sort of entitled “give no fucks” attitude that reaches from the lyrics through to the over-driven bass lines, and honestly that would be enough. If these kids were just making slick electro-dub pop and partying the party of youthe, that would be great and I’d listen to it like I listen to a lot of other cotton-candy music.

The thing about Liz Nistico and Louie Diller is they seem to pretty well think it’s all bullshit. All of it. Virtually every song on this album is holding a giant middle-finger-shaped mirror up to some construct of modern fame and pop culture and asking sarcastically if it’s fucking kidding them, cause it must be. It must be a joke cause it’s just too funny. There’s some pretty quality commentary in there if you’re into that kind of thing.

Or you could just not. It’s great music and the sheen is quite high, you could definitely think soft and simply get down with these sick beats1and ignore the deep stuff.

You could.

Here are a couple. I toyed with the idea of putting some of the harsher drags from this album up, but I think these two are good cross-over tracks against the kind of music I normally sling around these parts while still directing some of the HOLYCHILD shine your way. If you wanna get IN IT, you should listen to “Running Behind”, “Plastered Smile”, “Tell Me How It Is”, “Barbie Nation” and “Money All Around”. And while you’re at it, really, just listen to all the others.

I’m gonna sneak in here and give you a pro-tip cause I’ve been there already: you need to let this album play. Some of these songs, I couldn’t hear anything I wanted in them the first time I put them on but I’m telling you there’s magic everywhere on this album. “Running Behind” starts off with a kind of dubby chopped-and-screwed aesthetic and then the chorus sneaks up on you with some, like, marimba? And melody? And then there’s a bridge? I mean, it’s just. There’s a lot going on. Just, keep the faith.

Best Friends
Monumental Glow

1: Used under license from Taylor Swift, ShakeItOff Inc, 198 9th St NY, NY. It’s Been Waiting For YouTM

Where to find HOLYCHILD:
Twitter: @holychild
Website: holychildmusic.com

04 Oct 2015, 15:57 MST

Ryn Weaver

So I’ve got a little something for you here. A little of that good good, you know what I mean? I’m not gonna lie, this stuff right here, this will mess you up. This will: Mess. You. Up. You don’t wanna get into this Ryn Weaver situation unless you’re looking for some of that Singapore Suites stuff. Some of that Grade A+. Uncut.

Yeah, I’m sick of that metaphor also.

Look, this is some crazy-town good music. Just, holy cow good. The Fool is an album I had taken to calling “Florence and the Machine Lite” but that’s not really what it is. That happens sometimes, she’s got a bit of a tendency toward the trilly vibrato, but it’s not a fair brush to paint the effort. This is something much harder to pin down. It has the lyrics of a singer-songwriter but music that goes the distance from a dubstep breakdown on “The Fool” to bare vocal a capella at the end of “Traveling Song”. Despite the musical breadth there’s a thread that keeps the album coherent, a touch of vulnerability in Ryn Weaver that leads you along. Really, it feels a bit like an album that walks a tightrope. Sometimes the next song starts and you wonder if she’s lost her footing but never fear, Ryn Weaver keeps The Fool upright every time.

Here are two. I’d recommend you also listen to “OctaHate” (her breakout single), “Pierre”, “Promises” and “Traveling Song”. And all the other ones too.

Stay Low
The Fool

Where to find Ryn Weaver:
Twitter: @RynWeaver
Website: rynweaver.com

25 Mar 2015, 12:39 MST

Lights

Yes. I did just do a Lights post, like, 10 minutes ago in CGPLS time. I know. I KNOW. Look, alright? I didn’t know this other album was out there. I didn’t know. It is so good and also so wildly different that it deserves…no, no it demands recognition. I was musically smitten with Lights before. Strongly Musically Smitten, official classification. I’m in Stage Ten Incurable Musical Love with her now. Good/Bad news, Lights: I’m here to stay. There’s a show in Phoenix next month that I think now qualifies as a Certified Moral Imperative.

The thing about Little Machines (and I expect you understand that there is no way for me to level criticism at Little Machines as I find it to be a virtually perfect electronic pop album so this is not and cannot be criticism, it is exposition for the purpose of demonstrating contrast) is that it is electronical as all get out. I love that about it. I love the synth-y joy and the effected everythings and it is a truly magical album. In a certain way though, it’s easy to lose sight of the pure musical artistry at work in the glorious electronic wonderland. That isn’t to say that I have any less respect for an electronic artist than I do for a more traditional artist, just that it’s easy to forget they’re both doing the same thing. It’s not common, in my experience, for great electronic artists to also be great acoustic artists and it is for that reason that Lights’ acoustic re-release of Siberia is truly a beautiful and unexpected surprise from an artist I had saddled with my own limited expectations.

I had listened to Siberia (the original) a little but I wasn’t really into it. It’s a sound that feels like a lower-gloss version of what happens on Little Machines and I just wasn’t there with it. I didn’t leave with any significant notion of any of the songs on the album and I contentedly moved back to playing Little Machines tracks on repeat, no harm, no foul. When I found out there was an acoustic follow-on to Siberia that stripped down the tracks, I had to give that a listen, right? So I did. What I found there were revelations, in the purest sense. Things. Were. Revealed.

First, Lights is a truly wonderful vocalist. I loved her over electronic music, but I can die happy now with her over a solo acoustic guitar or a grand piano. Just beautiful. Delicate, affected, expressive, novel phrasings, breathy falsetto. So so good.

Second, her electronic songs have amazing arrangement potential for acoustics. This is not a thing I’ve found to be any sort of given, it must be treasured and the rare opportunity is not squandered here. There’s no overproduction, no unnecessary complication. Everything feels necessary and deliberate. A string fill here, some reverb there, but in concert with the instrumentals. So good.

Third, she knows Cœur de pirate. I love every single conceivable thing about that. The first time I was working through a full play-through of this album I was about half-way in and I distinctly remember thinking “It would be amazing if she did a song with Cœur de pirate. I hope that happens” and then track seven came on, “Peace Sign” and the second verse was in…French. And I had not, to this point, known Lights, though a Canadian, to sing in French. I was contemplating how much different she sounded in French and whether that was just related to the language differences or if there was an electronic effect in play or maybe it was recorded at a different time and the other half of my brain that isn’t a pedantic mess mind-slapped me hard like “Hey. HEY. That’s Cœur de pirate, man. Get it together, you’re in the tall grass.” “Thanks, self. I’m here now. 5×5.” “Ok.”

Fourth, there’s no fourth. I’m just playing games with your heart now.

Here’s a couple. I don’t even. I mean, also listen to “Siberia” and “Suspension” and “And Counting…” and “Flux and Flow” and “Peace Sign” and do you get it yet you have to listen to the whole album why are you still reading go listen to it right now.

GO.

Banner
Heavy Rope

Where to find Lights:
Twitter: @lights
Website: music.iamlights.com

25 Mar 2015, 11:02 MST

Fleurie

Her eyes kind of look right into you, don’t they?

It is only recently that I’ve become aware of Fleurie, though the Fear & Fable EP I’m currently wearing a figurative hole through was released in 2013. Once again our ever-generous overlord The Great and Powerful Spotify has gifted me with bounteous musical joy and once again the beneficiary of such is you, dear, silent, likely imaginary, reader. The good news is that she has new music on the horizon, so, soon there will be more than this.

Before you wonder if we’re once again in an episode of “Music Adam Listens To In Foreign Languages He Does Not Understand”, fear not. Though her nom de plume is of the French persuasion, her songs are in English delivered by way of Nashville, though as I understand it, she hails originally from Michigan. Her sound is sparse in a powerful way, overlaid by a delicate vocal style that plays beautifully through both piano and guitar driven arrangements that share as much with a rougher indie style as a retail-ready sound you might hear on a finer radio station or television soundtrack. I’m honestly quite surprised I haven’t heard her on a show yet, “Hymn” and “There’s a Ghost” have a quality about them that I’d find very comfortable over a montage.

I capital-A Adore “Chasing All The Stars” and I’m listening to it non-stop with the same sort of casual indifference Yogi Bear shows toward picnic baskets. I’m also including the amazingly strong at a mere two minutes “I Never Wanted”. Neither of these does much of a job at showing the other side of this album which is a little more energetic, but you can’t win ’em all, ok? Go get a copy and then you can know.

Chasing All the Stars
I Never Wanted

Where to find Fleurie:
Twitter: @fleuriemusic
Website: fleuriemusic.com

02 Mar 2015, 13:34 MST

Zella Day

I’m back, folks. Welcome to 2015. I brought you something, today. Today, I brought you something.

I’m gonna lead off with a zinger: Zella Day is volcano set to erupt and cover the pop musical landscape in her hot fire and I’m gonna get you keyed in on this before she’s suddenly winning a Grammy Award and you’re wondering how someone this good slipped by you direct to Song of the Year. You. Are. Welcome. Unless you’ve already heard of her. Then, like, whatever, I try hard and your words hurt.

Number one: Spotify is great. I’ve said so before, but I wanted to let you know again. Before you get all “but the artists get no money” on me, I’m with you. They don’t, it sucks, and if my not being a subscriber would change that for the better, I’d cut them off right now and join Taylor Swift on the sidewalk with a picket sign. Unfortunately, this is where we live now, so I’ve chosen to take on the use of Spotify for screening purposes, that is, I take all the music I think I should listen to and I put it in a playlist and listen to it. If it’s good, I go buy it from somewhere else. Ok? Internet? I’m a stand-up guy, I like my artists to make more music. The value Spotify brings to my process is immediate and ubiquitous access to a stupefying mountain of music and within this gargantuan mass, there are precious materials and much as I have previously done with such things as Last.fm and Bandcamp, I now mine this resource with a jaunty tune in my heart and carefully pick-axe the overburden to reach the hidden golden rewards.

I was recommended her “Seven Nation Army” cover and with it being immediately and ubiquitously available (you see what I did there) I listened to it. It’s basically a song constructed of the things you might use to bait me into a bear trap and so I’m flibberin’ my gibbets, as you might expect, and I pull up her artist page and there’s more songs! But not a lot of songs which means either she’s got a 20 year library of indie label things I’ll never find or I’m basically on the ground floor which is my favorite place to be. So I just threw them all in my playlist and filed it away for later. A thing I learned when I came back to that playlist that you can know now: “Seven Nation Army” is something Zella Day did, but it is NOT what Zella Day DOES.

What Zella Day does is…hm. Well, you see, it’s…::sigh::. Electro…rock../pop…songs. Inspired, vaguely melancholy and downright lovely, songs. There are skittering shadows of Lana Del Rey here, it’s an unavoidable comparison, but there’s always been a kind of film, a grime, for me, on the sound of LDR songs and that is not here. These are crisp and gorgeous and I’m telling you as soon as “Hypnotic” hits the radio in a real way, the kids will catapult her to the moon and in place of a Dark Lord we will have a Queen, not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn. ::ahem::

Now for some comedy: I just track-name dropped “Hypnotic” and I’m not wrong about it, but I’m not gonna give it to you. Do your own homework. I like “Sweet Ophelia” better, so you get “Sweet Ophelia”. And “Seven Nation Army” cause it’s important to know where we came from. I defy you to stop yourself from getting the rest of her available output. She’s even got a couple remixes out that are really great. Just… Look. Just go buy it. I’m tellin’ you.

Seven Nation Army
Sweet Ophelia

Where to find Zella Day:
Twitter: @zelladay
Website: zelladay.com

09 Dec 2014, 10:40 MST

Lights

So, I don’t know how listening to music works for all of you. Everyone kind of ingests and internalizes these things differently. For me in particular and in service of this particular narrative, I’ve got this one little alcove in my mental musical taste pavilion set aside especially for a certain kind of electronica that I cannot trivially define with a genre boundary. This Department of Lovely Electronica, it has a kind of continuously listening spidey-sense steadfastly monitoring the musics that enter into my ears ever vigilant for the undefinable hallmarks of what it needs. The things that tie these artists and songs together is some nebulous thread determined entirely by this abstract processor but when I find new ones, I know I’ve found them, and a little figurative bell rings and I am compelled to listen to them on repeat for a month. Lights and her most recent record, Little Machines: ding. Ding ding ding. Ding.

Ding.

The best thing about this album is the synth work. It’s gorgeous. It’s vintage-y, almost Casio-keyboard at times, but it’s always gorgeous. Airy, ragged, mellow, jarring, low-fi; synthetic in the very best ways. The other best thing about this album is the beats which can only be defined as phat, punchy drum kicks and tight bass lines with a driving, compelling quality that engenders a deep need for the song to continue. A further best thing about this album (you see what I did there, the whole album is amazing, everything is the best, why are you still reading) is the vocal work. Lights covers a gamut from intimately personal to rave dance commander, which is non-trivial in and of itself, but her sharp highs and lightly affected texture are perfect to the point of bespoke for the music. Little Machines is the complete package, batteries included.

And so we come to the time. The best and worst time. The time of the choosing. I can’t do this album any true justice here. These are great songs. The album is great songs. Go get a copy and listen to them all.

Portal
Same Sea

PS: The brilliant header image on this post came from: Wittefini
Beautiful shot. If I took ten thousand pictures at a concert not one of them would come out like that and it’s one of many great shots in the set. Check it out.

PPS: One thing you can’t see in that photo is that Lights has some really outstanding ink. I’d encourage you not to take my word for it and see for yourself.

Where to find Lights:
Twitter: @lights
Website: music.iamlights.com

27 Sep 2014, 06:20 MST

Hafdís Huld

It likely does not come as a surprise that I kind of like (adore) Hafdís Huld a little (a lot). I was quite enamoured with Dirty Paper Cup and though I didn’t write up Synchronized Swimmers, I also enjoyed it immensely. Here’s the thing though, reader: this album is particularly wonderful. I’ve listened to it repeatedly, excessively, even for me, even for me and a Hafdís Huld album.

I think I’m in love.

Home is the name of this outing and I can’t imagine a more perfect title for the album. It’s a simple but elegant combination of literalism (most of the songs seeming to be in some part inspired by her actual home in Iceland), figurativeness (the abstract concept of the people and places and sights and sounds that lend their familiarity to the broad definition of home) and emotion (the relaxing comfort and intangible safety that are indelibly bonded to being wherever or whatever home is). The lyrics are still singularly Hafdís Huld, a seeming combination of excerpts from her diary and conversations you might have with her over a coffee, but the sound, while familiar, is especially smooth, soothing even. The power this album has to silence the lesser demons that erode calm and extort unrest is nigh on medicinal for me and that is a rare gift indeed.

Here are two. There are more than two and you should really listen to all of them.

Sunrise
Treasures

PS: You should really roll back in her Twitter feed/site news and check out all the amazing photos from her recent tour of Iceland. A combination of Hafdís’ travelogue and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has instilled in me a deep and pressing desire to travel to Iceland. I’m not even really a “wonders of nature” traveler, I’m much more likely to aim at urban and historical interests, but the things I have seen of Iceland from just these two sources demand attention.

PPS: She’s done some covers recently on the YouTubes and I’m all for that: Creep

Where to find Hafdís Huld:
Twitter: @HafdisHuld
Website: hafdishuld.com

18 Sep 2014, 11:54 MST

The Wind + The Wave

In a Quixotian tilting exercise, I endeavoured to take on use of a Windows Phone 8 device for a while. It was actually pretty good, but synchronizing music from a Mac to it was not, so I decided to take that opportunity to investigate a paid account with Spotify. I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with the catalog breadth and due to the excellent coverage, the rate at which I could take on new random music was increased immensely, not to mention they now send me these emails that say things like “You like (artist), you should listen to (new artist)” and these imperatives are eerily accurate (data mining is getting really effective). I tell you this such that you might have some context for where I found them and also as a sort of continuing thread that runs through many of my posts talking about my various music inputs. I now have a very lengthy offline playlist in my clients (I call it “The Fitting Room”. I’m really quite proud of myself for that one.) full of music to suss out. I suppose there is some method through which this playlist might be “followed”, as the kids say. I may consider making it public. I’m not sure you people want to see the sausage being made.

The Wind + The Wave is the first (of others, I expect) to shake themselves loose of their neighbors in The Fitting Room and become a constant target of my listening desire. Dwight A. Baker (The Wind, I believe) and Patricia Lynn Drew (The Wave, as I understand it) chose a very apt name for their collaborative effort as the melody sounds and rhythm noises they form from the formlessness are well described as a force of nature. Patricia’s voice is lovely and runs a nice gamut of texture from gravely and smokey to light and vulnerable, often put through a mild overdrive filter that gives the vocals a comfortable feel of vintage blues that compliments the arrangements that run throughout the album. She’s also not afraid to drop the f-bomb and I’m a sucker for some well placed cussin’. Dwight, being a successful record producer, songwriter and musician in his own right, brings to bear a wonderfully eclectic toolbox of sounds that makes them virtually impossible to put in a genre box. I tried. Bluegrass-pop? Alt-country? Southern-indie-folk-rock? Nothing fits. I think the genre here is “good music you want to listen to”. I feel like that fits pretty well. I’m putting all of them in the tags though. You can’t stop me.

Here are your two samples From The Wreckage (you see what I did there), the going rate, I believe. This album has such a breadth of sounds that I would caution you from making any generalized determinations without taking on the fullness of the experience. There is much to hear. So much. To hear.

With Your Two Hands
Every Other Sunday Morning

Where to find The Wind + The Wave:
Twitter: @TheWindTheWave
Website: thewindandthewave.com

28 Jun 2014, 09:48 MST

Vienna Teng

I remembered something today.

I was on the Twitters burning time while I waited for a Wimbledon match to get underway when Vienna Teng says:

Honestly folks, I didn’t even know what StageIt was but listening to artists soundcheck is like getting a trip behind the curtain so I clicked that link and made a StageIt account. I put my new analytical headphones in (Etymotic HF5, really nice) and listened to her tune all her levels and check her gear by playing an impromptu cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. She was bantering with the die-hards that showed up to the internet soundcheck and then it was over and my brain began revolting immediately at the idea of not seeing the actual show, whatever that was. So I gave my monies to StageIt in return for “notes” and got myself a virtual ticket to watch Vienna Teng perform live from her living room. This is when I remembered:

Vienna Teng is crazy good.

I’ve been listening to Vienna Teng for most of a decade, at this point. I got Warm Strangers sometime in aught-n-five when I heard about this ex-Cisco engineer making singer-songwriter piano songs. I became very attached to a particularly funereal (any day when I get to use funereal organically is a great day, as an aside) track called “Passage”. I don’t really know why, though I’d wager the acapella didn’t hurt. Anyway, this album also had a bunch of other things going for it. As I think back now, this was probably the first time I’d encountered what I’d now call “chamber pop” but at the time I called “Vienna Teng music”. Lots of great tracks, though I particularly enjoy “Anna Rose”, “Green Island Serenade” (which I’ve referred to as “bonus track” for way way too long, apparently) and “Feather Moon” in addition to the song exclusively about the stages of grief and loss.

Dreaming Through The Static and Inland Territory passed me by a little. I don’t have a good explanation for it, wrong music at the time. They’re both good albums (“1BR/1BA” and “Love Turns 40” from Dreaming, “Kansas” and “Augustine” from Inland, do your own legwork) but they never locked in for me. It happens.

Fast forward to last year, she put out Aims and I was sure I didn’t like it. I was sure. I listened to it a few times and I was meaningfully confident I did not like it. There was this kinda dance vibe about a lot of it, like a classy EDM and it wasn’t what I wanted cause I wanted more of the Vienna Teng with the bell-clear voice sparsely arranged over almost-classical piano with the complex lyrics and this was not it. And so that was that, right? Why would I go back to it from my place of meaningful confidence?

Well, imagine a website where artists can play impromptu live shows from their living rooms. ::AHEM::

I’m listening to Aims right now. This album is not Warm Strangers, so I was right about that. What I was wrong about was the part where I didn’t like it, cause it’s good. It’s better than good, it’s actually kind of great. As a sonic entity it is truly, definitively, big. Big arrangements, big sounds, big all the things. Even the acapella track, “The Hymn of Acxiom”, is a multi-layered choral megalith. There’s something about this album that tickles a similar cranial region to Elizaveta, if I was forced to make a comparison.

Short version:

  1. I’m back, Vienna Teng, and it’s good to be back.
  2. Live shows are even good over the internet, if you can believe that. Let the power of witnessing music creation in real-time never be doubted.
  3. Vienna Teng is a person who has two names all the time in my head. If I was ever in a position to refer to her in a familiar way, saying/writing merely “Vienna” would, I have discovered while constructing this, be quite uncomfortable. Welcome to the funhouse of my psyche. Mind the gap.

Here are a couple from Aims so you can choose not to take my word for it:

In the 99
Flyweight Love

Where to find Vienna Teng:
Twitter: @viennateng
Website: viennateng.com

09 Jun 2014, 12:22 MST

Roo & The Howl

Look everyone, I’m not trying to solicit your thanks or praise necessarily, but I think I’m kinda getting you in on the ground floor of a confirmed music situation here. An honest to God happening. Roo & The Howl’s very first full length album has only been out for about a month at this point and that’s a good jump on the game. Also, NoiseTrade. You guys, you’ve got that algorithm dialed in. It used to be hard work finding artists this good, but now I just sit back and wait for NoiseTrade (and PledgeMusic and Bandcamp) to send me an email. Anyway, onward.

If you want to optimize your Roo & The Howl experience, you’ll need to do a couple things. First, be somewhere it’s reasonable to sit on your porch just after sunset, into the early dark. Ideally there will be fireflies. Your chair should be laid back and comfortable. On the table next to you there should be a bottle of bourbon, a glass with two ice cubes and a quality Union beer, Miller High Life or PBR, as an example. You don’t need to be there alone, but be there with those who understand the appreciation of music as an activity. Pour the bourbon, swirl the ice, pick up the beer, press play on the hifi and settle into the magic as Bekah Wagner and friends begin the soundtrack to your life.

ME/WE is a truly phenomenal album. The caliber and tenor of the music is the sort of comfortably worn that’s typically reserved for your favorite blue jeans. There’s weight, but it’s snug, relaxed. It’s a heft that draws you in, makes you stay. The arrangements are wonderfully lush in their sparsity, revolving around a blues core that holds the groove, at times scoring the calm, at others holding center on forays into experimental jams that evoke nothing less than Pink Floyd. Bekah’s voice is breathy and soft, yet still finds the perfect texture to walk ahead of the reverb and steel guitar and firm bass lines, all working together to push the tracks into the rare air of greatness.

I am a Roo & The Howl fan, friends. I’ve already begun evaluating appropriate travel and lodging options to reach the Denver area as she has no announced tour that covers my corner of the burning southwest and I am not content to wait. Her siren song calls to me uncommonly strong. This album stands up to repeated straight-through listenings, so don’t think of these as sufficient.

Give Me Time
To The River

Where to find Roo & The Howl:
Twitter: @rooandthehowl
Website: rooandthehowl.com

09 Jun 2014, 10:13 MST

HAIM

I think we’ve all come to terms with my unadulterated love of words and generally speaking I think precedent would suggest I will happily use a thousand words instead of a picture ten times out of ten. Knowing that, and potentially having read the other things I’ve written here, I expect the following will be somewhat of a light shock and I wanted to prepare you for it with a vaguely wordy introduction that meanders along, much as I normally do. The thing is I just…don’t have words for this. I essentially subsisted on this album for three weeks, I took a break for Roo & the Howl (coming soon, seriously, no seriously, I’m serious guys), and I just-now-this-very-minute threw it back on with my good cans and I almost broke down under the weight of quality. This is the entire review of HAIM’s first LP, Days Are Gone:

Days Are Gone is a next-generation multi-megaton treaty-violating world-destroying orbitally-deployed satellite-guided super-sonic ordinance of pure, unadulterated, life-altering, musical joy.

If I Could Change Your Mind
Falling

I literally don’t even. Go buy this album right now. This qualifies as an order. I want more HAIM music and I need you people to buy all the albums so they keep making more HAIM music. I’m not kidding, I will come find you. Both of you.

Where you can find HAIM:
Twitter: @HAIMtheband
Website: haimtheband.com

I know I don’t normally include that information, but I feel like I should. A lot of my favorite artists engage on social media a lot and I gotta say, getting a reply from Elizabeth Ziman (@thecatapult) or Meiko (@meiko) or Hafdís Huld (@HafdisHuld) or Kay Hanley (@kayhanley) is pretty fun, so I’m gonna try to remember to do this. If you check the “Following” list for the CGPLS Twitter account (@cutegirlsongs), I try to make it follow just about everyone I write up, so maybe look there also. I don’t do the Facebooks so you’ll have to sort that situation out yourself. You’ll find a way, I think.

29 Apr 2014, 19:20 MST

Elizabeth and the Catapult

It’s been a while since we last spoke of Elizabeth and her accompanying Cat (apult). Nearly five years, in fact. I’ll give you a second to catch up on your history. Much has happened, Taller Children was fresh at that time, but we’ve now seen not one but two additional studio albums, The Other Side of Zero in 2010 and earlier this year, Like It Never Happened. It’s this most recent outing that I’m here to wax poetic about and/or sing the praises thereof.

A brief aside, Elizabeth (@thecatapult) has totally favorited my tweets on the Twitters at least once and is generally super friendly and engaging in the medium. This, of course, means we’re basically best friends and calls my ability to be objective (Ha! Right? Objective. ME. Yeah, I’m doing this joke folks, hang on to something.) into question. Much like LeVar Burton, I encourage you not to “take my word for it” and if you could see the look I’m doing right now it’d be the one that implies you should probably investigate the sounds of Elizabethan Catapultery for yourself (as if you haven’t already).

A slightly further aside, if “Elizabethan Catapultery” turns out to be a proper noun for something, anything else, the world is exactly as marvelous as I want it to be.

Alright, music.

Elizabeth is a well-known quantity as a pianist, by which I mean she’s super good at piano-ing and I love listening to her piano. Here’s the thing about Like It Never Happened: she plays a meaningful amount of guitar. As I understand it, a significant portion (potentially all? I wasn’t there, sadly) of the songs on this album were composed on a guitar rather than the piano. This opens up a different toolkit for Liz (Can I call her Liz? We’re Twitter best friends, I’m sure it’s fine) and you can hear it. This is a different album. Experimental. It’s like she found a new wing in her talent mansion and she’s just gotta open all the doors. That kind of thing carries a certain risk of straying into fragmentation and dissonance, but this album forgoes that entirely preferring instead to be engaging and imaginative, at times catchy, at others spacious and always brilliant.

I picked a couple out that I really enjoy but there’s so much to hear on this album that you should not believe in any sense that I’ve given you anything except the narrowest possible idea of what may or may not be in play.

Some Day Soon
I Wish I Didn’t

A small editorial, I PledgeMusic’d this album quite readily cause I’ve been given much reason to believe in her ability to deliver. She could be funding a trip into an abandoned subway tunnel in Bangalore with an assortment of cracked glassware, a dozen differently-bent brass forks, two Chinese singing crickets, a gleam in her eye and a song in her heart and I’d swipe my card, and rightly so. Regardless, I wanted to just go ahead and call your attention to PledgeMusic so you can also feel like you’re part of bringing amazing music from brilliant artists like this into the world. I’ve funded Rachael Yamagata music, Ben Folds Five music, Meiko music, the Presidents of the USA, hell Rufus frickin’ Wainwright is self-funding a recording of his opera Prima Donna over there right now.

Be a patron of the arts, folks. Whatever your personal zeitgeist would have you think of this crowd-funding kind of model, never lose sight of the power it has to directly connect you to the arts and artists in a way that buying ex post facto never will. Be a tiny Medici.

01 Dec 2013, 07:53 MST

Anna Kendrick

You probably already know Anna Kendrick, she’s kind of a Big Deal™ with the acting and whatnot. She was in a musical comedy thing called Pitch Perfect not that long ago, and she’s got a single out from said musical comedy thing. That’s not terribly surprising, in general.

What’s unexpected is that it’s really good. Like, really really good. I kinda hope Anna Kendrick does a full album if there’s more of this in her somewhere. This song even has what should be an annoying gimmick with some cups clomping on tables and whatnot, but it really just plays out like indie noise-making which is pretty much right up my alley when there’s a cute girl singing over it.

Go forth and listen.

Cups

30 Aug 2013, 10:07 MST

Good Lovelies

There is music, sometimes, that just makes you happy. Happy is, maybe, too strong a word. Let’s say it puts a spring in your step, that’s closer to what I mean. That is what Let The Rain Fall, the most recent studio outing from Good Lovelies (THE Good Lovelies maybe?… The ambiguity of the definite article situation in regards to the disposition of the name of this musical act has yielded a certain amount of consternation within me that is wholly disproportionate to the issue), does. I’d describe them as alt-bluegrass, I think. Or jazz-country? Western swing? In more concrete terms, they’re like The Ditty Bops without the weird or like the Be Good Tanyas with a more traditional melodic palate or the Puppini Sisters with more country. Delicious three-part harmonies, banjos and stand-up bass, upbeat…and well, just generally magical.

It’s worth noting that if you’re finding (THE?!?) Good Lovelies from me, you actually owe a transitive debt of gratitude to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, as they used Old Highway as an interstitial in Car Talk while I was driving home and, well, here we are. In honor of such:

Well folks, it’s happened again. You’ve wasted another ten minutes of your life on Cute Girls Playing Love Songs. Our producer is Adam “The Unreliable Wordsmith” Michel. Our social media specialist is Amaya Tweeting, our personal chef is Bernie Awder, our corporate accountant is Adam Allup, our horse trainer is Buck Inghell, our private jet pilot is Wi Tu Lo, our back-country fishing guide is Kenny Ketchum, our IT manager is Guetta Mac, our fashion consultant is Preshya Payntz, our music director is Ivan Dulissen, our broadcast engineer is Ann Tinaphaia, our software development specialist is Cody Raisure and our concierge physician is Tanya Heed. And remember, don’t listen to obscure music like my brother. (I’m an only child.)

Old Highway
Backyard

18 Aug 2013, 17:17 MST

A Fine Frenzy

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a long time, it’s a rather glaring oversight. I would go so far as to say I owe you an apology, when you get down to it. If you like the kind of music I like and have somehow failed to stumble upon A Fine Frenzy and I, I of all people, have neglected to bring her to you, well. Let us assume that my apologies are of the humblest and sincerest of natures. Be comforted, this is the best sort of failure from your perspective. You get new music now. I envy you, if this describes your current situation. There are three (two and a half-ish, really. I’ll get there.) albums for you to digest.

My timeline with Alison Sudol is both lengthy and checkered. Well. My timeline with Alison Sudol’s music is both lengthy and checkered. My timeline with Alison Sudol is differentiated from such in so much as it does not exist and I assure you said situation is one of a number of entries on a list of ways in which this particular fork of reality has not delivered. Others of note and relevance: A Girl Called Eddy only makes one album, I keep failing to speak to Rachael Yamagata when the opportunity arises, I have yet to hear Feist live and an elf hunting trip with Hafdís Huld continues to elude.

But seriously folks. I was, somehow, all over One Cell in the Sea in 2007. It dropped, and I had it. I wish I could tell you why, I can’t seem to dredge any details from the silty churn of my rapidly moving and increasingly unpredictable memory. What I can tell you, though, is that upon listening I thought then that One Cell In the Sea had a problem and I still think that One Cell in the Sea has a problem, though time has seen fit to make it a quirk that I now adore more than lament. There is something hauntingly artificial about it. Not overproduced. Not poorly arranged. Just, false. Thin. Façade-ish. It is not bad. No, friend, no it is not bad. I like Come On, Come Out and The Minnow and the Trout a lot, Almost Lover, Near To You also. It’s a good album. She has a gorgeous voice, her melodies are original and beautiful and the lyrical quality is consistently high. I was definitely looking forward to her follow-up despite my reservation.

Bomb in a Birdcage: Better. So much better. It blows out of the gate with What I Wouldn’t Do, and it is quite an opener. Frankly it’s so catchy it should be illegal. Then it hits you with New Heights to remind you that this Frenzy is Fine. It keeps on coming with Blow Away, Swan Song, The Beacon. There are songs between those, but you know. Just genuinely such a great album. Whatever was bugging me about One Cell disappeared in the interim and Bomb in a Birdcage hits all the right buttons and as such I have listened to it a very significant amount. It is at this time that I become a confirmed A Fine Frenzy fan (alliteration: fun for the whole family). Whatever happened between One Cell and Bomb, I approve.

And then.

And then there was Pines. I was pretty excited for Pines cause it totally snuck up on me. You know how you kinda lose track of all your favorites and then you find out they dropped new material and you can have it RIGHT NOW? That happened. Bomb was such a monster and so well done that my expectations were quite high. Unfortunately, Pines showed up with a smorgasbord of songs that are just a little too long in general and seem a little uncomfortable under their own weight. I’ve been trapped in a certain amount of consternation about Pines since I got it. I want to be enamored of it, but it just cannot get in my ear. When I want to listen to A Fine Frenzy, there isn’t a single Pines song that comes to mind. I still wake up whistling One Cell songs and for a statistically significant period there was nothing but Bomb songs in my brain, but Pines I barely remember. It’s all…very sad.

And so here we are. My Alison Sudol timeline: revealed. I’ve gone trifecta on this one so you could hear one from each album and not be forced to take my word for it. I highly recommend acquiring the first two and frankly would love it if someone could help me understand the third which would require said someone to get it and listen to it and, in the service of that academic and beneficial-to-me-personally pursuit, I would also encourage you toward that acquisition. These three are not necessarily my favorites, but they are among them. Well, the one from Pines, that’s just the only one that I even vaguely recognized when I went looking for a sample. Truth bombs, I drop them.

Go forth, reader, and listen.

The Minnow & The Trout
Swan Song
Sailingsong

08 Aug 2013, 12:26 MST

Eisley

Yes, yes. You’re very funny. Oh, 2005 is calling, it wants my crush on Eisley back? Yuck it up. I’m late to the game, I get it.

I don’t know how I stayed out of the path of this. I guess it’s a little more chamber/indie rock/pop than is typically my style. Whatever, it’s great.

I mean, let’s get serious. They’re named after a spaceport from Star Wars, and that’s awesome, but the fact that they lay down these quality melodies and delicious harmonies over lush arrangements is downright startling when you consider those two things in juxtaposition.

Many Funerals is up-tempo. Combinations is less of that. It is something different entirely, in fact. Just click play. You know you’re gonna, I know you’re gonna, just get to it.

Many Funerals
Combinations

07 Aug 2013, 13:16 MST

Laura Marling

Laura Marling is someone I’ve listened to before but was not entirely taken with. Her first effort, “Alas I Cannot Swim”, was a little rough in ways that I didn’t entirely care for. There was quality there, but it just didn’t seem to have settled into itself. Having missed her intermediate efforts, I recently acquired “Once I Was An Eagle” as I was randomly reminded that I meant to check her out again.

Hearken to me, friends: this album is an overwhelming tide of unadulterated quality; a tsunamic wall of arrangement and lyricism the likes of which I have not seen in some time. That’s right, I used both kinds of colons, that’s the kind of serious situation we’re dealing with here.

These two make me very happy in my ear area. Worth noting, the first seven tracks of this album are basically one long song. If you use a gapless playback device, you’ll hear them flow together. It’s quite magical and may well fly beneath your notice unless you’re paying attention. What that basically means is that you’re only getting 1/7th of the experience with track one.

Go get the album. GO GET THE ALBUM.

Take The Night Off
When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)