Grizzly BearIt says it all. I recently got to see them live in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago and it has become my favorite concert that I have been to, ever. They use reverb like it’s going out of fashion and more people sing in the band than CSNY, well they’re tied. Anyway they have a very unique sound and I am very excited to see where they will be going in the future.

I highly recommend them, and I would start with songs like “Two Weeks” and “Knife.” If you like, then try some deeper cuts like “Little Brother” (Yellow House or Friend EP are both wonderful) and “Colorado.” I don’t care how you listen to them, just do it!

For all you Twilight fans, they will be appearing on the New Moon soundtrack with a new song “Slow Life” with a guest appearance by Beach House singer Victoria Legrand (Who also appeared on “Two Weeks”). I have heard a little sampling from the Amazon.com page and I already lie a lot

Pitchfork.com had them play two songs from their most recent effort: Vectatimest. Both of the songs are quite beautiful, Now Listen! http://pitchfork.com/tv/#/episode/2043-grizzly-bear/1

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Artist: Santigold

Album: Santogold

Released: April 2008

Label: Downtown Records

I think I have found my weakness as of late. Pop music. Granted the “pop” music is not as popular as Billboard top 100 but I do feel that much of it is based on those lyrics and hooks that pop music was born with. Anyway the song that I has been stuck in my head is no exception. Santigold’s Lights Out is catchy and I dare you to listen to it just once.

I’ll be honest, I am not the biggest fan of Santigold, I dismissed her as a record label’s attempt to jump on the M.I.A. bandwagon of woman singers who dress crazy. A few of her other songs I just can’t get into. However this song is very good.

Anyway check out the song, its crazy good, almost as crazy as the video.

Out of the Blue

Artist: Electric Light Orchestra

Album: Out of the Blue

Released: November 1977

Label: Columbia

So my lack of dedication to this blog has been quite substantial however I would like to make up for it by returning with some new songs and albums to show off. I’ll be taking the plunge with a song that I have been enamored with for the past few days. ELO’s (Electronic Light Orchestra) Sweet Talkin’ Woman is one of my favorite more poppy songs by the Group. If you have never heard of Jeff Lynne (singer, guitarist and chief song writer) now is your chance. All of your favorite ELO tunes, you have them even if you don’t know you do, were written by Lynne. Tangent: Lynne was also in an 80’s supergroup called The Traveling Wilburys which included some good company being that Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison were all making sweet music babies together but I digress.

Sweet Talkin’ Woman came on to my FM the other day and it inspired me to buy ELO’s Greatest Hits; I know a greatest hits, how daring. But nevertheless after one listen I needed that song at my fingertips. Coming off of the 1977 Out of the Blue among many other singles off of the album. The song itself uses effects on vocals better than Cher or Kanye ever did and like all ELO songs the string section adds so much. But what really gets me each time I listen to the song is the chord progression. Well, don’t take my word for it here is a live version with all of ELO’s hair glory.

empireofthesun

Artist: Empire of the Sun

Album: Walking on a Dream

Released: October 4, 2008

Label: EMI

 

I have listened to this song so many times it became funny again after it wasn’t even funny. Empire of the Sun is a collaboration between two guys I have never heard of (Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore) from a country I have never heard of (Australia). Their album “Walking on a Dream” captured my attention due to the album cover’s awesomeness, horribleness, what have you, either way the cover got my attention. On many occasions the cover means nothing to me; many album covers are covers that only mothers could love, this one comes to mind. But that doesn’t mean the music is horrible.

To make a long story shorter, I looked up Empire of the Sun and liked what I heard. There are some great tracks on the album; most notable being “We Are the People” and “Half Mast” but the song that got my booty shakin’ and quakin’ was the title track, “Walking on a Dream.” It is catchier than an addicting substance sipped through a crazy straw.

I don’t want to compare the duo to MGMT but it is easy to do so even if their music is not necessarily that similar. Empire of the Sun’s songs are electronic but have too much guitar to be electronic, you know what I mean? You don’t? Well than just listen to the song.

Palace of Mirrors Review

April 22, 2009

61fjaazdsml_sl500_aa280_2Artist: Estradasphere

Album: Palace of Mirrors

Released: September 19, 2006

Label: The End

 

 

This is an excerpt from Estradasphere’s website and summarizes the group very well:

Estradasphere is a band of multi-instrumentalists from an unlikely variety of musical backgrounds. Timb Harris (violin/trumpet), Jason Schimmel (guitar/banjo/keyboards/vocals), Tim Smolens (upright and electric bass/vocals), Kevin Kmetz (Tsugaru Shamisen/guitar/keyboards), Adam Stacey (accordion/keyboards/clavinet), and Lee Smith (drums/percussion) were trained in disciplines ranging from classical and jazz to metal. This diverse instrumental and stylistic palette enables them to execute a vast array of orchestrations and even forge entirely new genres such as “Bulgarian Surf,” “Romanian Gypsy-Metal,” and “Spaghetti Eastern.”

Essentially the band is capable of playing a ludicrously diverse array of styles, and they do just that, plus create their own.  The group’s original lineup featured John Whooley (saxophone, accordion, vocals) from their early days in Santa Cruz until before their last studio album “Palace of Mirrors.”  Estradasphere became quite popular at clubs in Santa Cruz and their shows took on the bizarre atmosphere of a circus.  Fans were encouraged to come in costume and participate, which spawned a number of exceedingly strange sideshows.  Among them were fire-dancers, book readers, stilt walkers, and finally the infamous Mono Man, who “wore a cape, painted his bare chest with a large M, and proceeded to attempt to kiss people in the audience while pretending to have the disease of the same name” (Wikipedia).

After Whooley left the group they gained the renowned Kevin Kmetz who is one of the greatest shamisen players in Japan.  The next album was “Palace of Mirrors” and clearly fits their genre of “Epic-Cinema-Thon.”  After the intro, the title track begins with epic theatrical flair and continues to grow until it becomes a grand opus of strings, accordion, piano, and trumpet.  The following track, “A Corporate Merger,” starts with a jazzy guitar riff, before accordion, shamisen, and violin kick in and all begin trading themes.  The greatest realization I had from hearing “A Corporate Merger” was that the shamisen fits the song perfectly and matches the violin extremely well.

“The Terrible Beautypower of Meow” displays some really beautiful harmony on the part of Timb Harris.  “Colossal Risk” is even bigger than it sounds, and hits the listener with a musical range from walking bass lines to gloriously discordant trumpet.  “The Unfolding Pause of the threshold” is a psychedelic and heavy ride into a place that probably only Estradasphere has been.  “Smuggled Mutation” is a showcase for Harris’ frenzied violin skills, but also displays some really impressive shamisen, and underlying the whole vaguely bluegrass melody is a heavy metal foundation.  Trust me, it works.

Following the track is a sort of intermission-esque piece called “Six Hands” that seems to be entirely piano and harpsichord.  It is perhaps needed recovery time after the blistering Smuggle Mutation.”  It is very difficult to describe how much ass “Flower Garden of an Evil Man” kicks within the first two or three minutes, but suffice to say it is quite a large amount.  Nearing the end, “Those Who Know…” is the prime example of Kevin Kmetz’s ridiculous skill with the shamisen, and there is a majestic “Palace of Mirrors Reprise.”  Ending it all is “The Return,” which is probably best described as hardcore cinematic gypsy metal to the max.

This video of “Hunger Strike” off “It’ Understood” sums up the Estradasphere experience and is the epitome of their original lineup.  Instead of being intimidated by the length, start watching and you’ll be sucked in.

Actor Review

April 21, 2009

st-vincent-actor-album-art2Artist: St. Vincent

Album: Actor

Released: May 5, 2009

Label: 4AD

 

First of all, I would just like to ask: why hadn’t I heard of this woman until now?!

Apparently her 2007 debut “Marry Me” generated a lot of hype; however, clearly not enough.  I obtained that album in order to hear it in its entirety before listening through her impending release: “Actor.”  The most arresting thing throughout the album by far is Annie Clark’s voice.  I have a feeling she could sing “Over the Rainbow” and put Judy Garland to shame.  At times I began thinking I was listening to one of the incredible singers of the 50s like Ella Fitzgerald, but before I could slip completely into that notion I’d be bowled over by a discordant guitar and/or a sporadic drum break.

Annie Clark’s arrangements are hard to describe mostly because of their strangeness. The oddity of her writing is somewhat inherent, as she combines guitar, strings, various percussion, brass, piano, and the list goes on.  Upon investigation, I found that Clark was a guitarist for Polyphonic Spree, and then in Sufjan Stevens’ touring band.  This is some serious indie cred, but then she played drums, bass, and guitar on “Marry Me,” proving she is a skilled multi-instrumentalist to boot.

Her upcoming record “Actor” has been posted on NPR Music as separate tracks, and all of them are there and free to listeners.  Most of the instruments heard on “Actor” are still played by Clark, but her collaborators include musicians who have played for Sufjan Stevens, Bjork, and Phillip Glass, while her producer has done work for Modest Mouse and Polyphonic Spree.

“Actor” is less dreamy than her debut, although it does contain that wonderful essence on songs like “The Party” and “Just the Same but Brand New.”  “Marrow” is exemplary of the raucous irregular bursts that are especially powerful on “Actor.”  I can imagine that track becoming one of her supreme live songs.  The songs are even more complex and still feature a wealth of different instruments, but are arranged into increasingly byzantine layers.  Her guitar seems to have gained quite the attitude since 2007, so the quieter melodic portions tend to be dominated by piano instead.  All in all, there is just a lot more going on in “Actor.”  The sounds range from raging guitar and walls of noise, to pure heavenly vocals, which are often both present in a single song, as heard in “The Strangers.”

The only real drawback I see for listeners of “Actor” is that it may be too much for some people to take in at first.  If you have that feeling, then I urge you to listen through the whole album before you make any final judgments.  Any suspended criticism will pay off, and you’ll realize what a gem it is.

3

wolfgang-amadeus2

Artist: Phoenix

Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Released: May 25, 2009

Label: Glassnote

 

 

I, like many viewers watching Saturday Night Live on April 4th, was unaware of a French rock group by the name of Phoenix. Apparently these dudes have been playing music for over a decade and most of it is very listenable, much of it being categorized as alternative, electronic and dance. Anyway, that fateful Saturday night has now given me a song that has been stuck in my head for a few days now. “1901″ is the hit single off Phoenix’s latest effort, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” which will be hitting stores in the colonies May 26. The song is upbeat, toe-tappin’ and overall very lighthearted, which is a mood that I am always on the hunt to find new songs to satisfy. If you are in an economically stimulating mind frame, then head on over iTunes where there is a four song EP for sale which also includes “Lisztomania,” the second song Phoenix played on Saturday Night Live, which is also very good. If not, here is the video of the performance, or the album version.