I have neglected my musical prophetic calling as of late, but LO, I have returned to separate the melodic wheat from the chaff and to baptize you in the tuneful rivers of new music (the evangelist metaphor is wearing thin, I know). I have put together a mix of some of the latest songs to catch my ear–cleverly entitled “2012: My Own Apocalypse”–but since sharing music online is a dangerous pastime, I will simply offer to send you a link to the songs (if you know me, shoot me an email; if you don’t know me, post in the comments section and I should be able to see your email…AND make sure you are not an undercover agent of the RIAA!). Most of the following artists I’ve highlighted have a track on this mix…
To begin with, two years ago, in my first “Band Evangelist” post, I lamented the break-up of a band that I believed had great potential to be among the indie greats: The XYZ Affair. Well, the singer of that band has just released a free 5-song EP under the moniker Leonard Friend. It’s a bit more quasi-ironic 80’s electronic poppy than I might wish, but this singer/songwriter’s talent cannot be hidden under a bush & heck, it’s FREE!
Another singer/songwriter–Ramesh Srivastava–from a similarly lamented & potentially epic indie band that broke up several years ago–Voxtrot–has just released a few new songs as well, which can be heard for now at his website (the song “The King” was on my best of 2010 mix). I think Ramesh may someday rise again like the phoenix to the heights he reached with Voxtrot (whose must-have songs include “The Start of Something,” “Fast Asleep,” “Firecracker;” their self-titled album from 2007 is worth a purchase, though not essential), but for now, these few songs are all we have to remind us of what could’ve been.
Some of the kings & queens of indie-dom from years past also have new albums out/coming out that must be reckoned with:
- Andrew Bird/Break It Yourself (out now): I did buy it & I do like it thus far. I’m sure it will grow on me even more (straightaway, I was taken with the penultimate 3 tracks quite a bit). The man is so multi-talented (composing melancholic melodies, playing guitar/violin/violin like a guitar/whistling, etc.), he cannot make a “bad album,” but to be honest, I think he could stand to have a producer other than himself (it lacks a sonic fullness and critical perspective that a talented outsider could have brought), he should focus his lyrical impressionism just a bit, and, this sounds harsh, but he needs to drop his brushes/soft kick drum percussionist Martin Dosh, who, while an incredibly talented musician himself, I think, brings out a soft-rock mildness and self-indulgence in the Bird that keeps him from attaining his full greatness on record (when they play live together, as a two-piece, they are able to create an entire symphony of sounds through looping).
- The Shins/Port of Morrow (out now): After a few listens, I am uncertain what I will ultimately think of these 10 tracks. Having loved the early Shins, it is hard to see this new line-up, sans any other original member than singer/songwriter James Mercer, as anything more than just Mercer resurrecting a “brand” that’s proven to sell records. But his voice & lyrics are so great to hear again (though the instrumentation on this album may have been a bit OVER-produced) and the old sparkle does emerge in some of the attempts to recapture the old Shins magic (much more glimmer than I found in the Mercer/Dangermouse collaboration, Broken Bells).
- Daniel Rossen/Silent Hour/Golden Mile (out now): This lovely throated & absurdly brilliant songwriter from Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles has released a five-song EP that I have found wonderfully enchanting, lovely to the bones, and all other kinds of goodness. Yep, you should buy it!
- Sigur Rós/Valtari (May 29): Now I have to admit that I am getting my hopes up ionospherically high for this forthcoming album–to the point that I do not want to hear any tracks until I have the album in my hands. I was personally disappointed with singer/composer Jonsi‘s recent solo release, so I’m hopelandic (or Vonlenska, if you prefer) for a aural reconciliation between my fey Nordic friend and me.
- Regina Spektor/What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (May 29): I’m not totally sure what to think of this quirkstress any more. I did love so much of her last album, Far, but the initial single for this album, “All the Rowboats,” is cloyingly precious (oh, poor paintings that want to escape from their museum prisons) and I fear the worst. Still, she does have heaps of talent, a golden ear for melodies (until she kills them with an intentionally dissonant note to the throat), and a certain sweet naivete, so I’m certain I will give it a listen.
- Other releases of note to check out or watch for include: White Rabbits/Milk Famous (out now)–I don’t know much about them, but I love the song “Everyone Can’t Be Confused,” Damien Jurado/Maraqopa (out now)–“Museum of Flight” is pretty as all get out, Rufus Wainwright/Out of the Game (April 23), Silversun Pickups/Neck of the Woods (May 8), Beach House/Bloom (May 15)–the song “Myth” from this album is soaringly lovely, Best Coast/The Only Place (May 15)–get a free song off the album here, The Walkmen/Heaven (June 5), and a new Passion Pit album in June. Post in the comments about any albums I missed!
SO those are releases from the KNOWN bands…but let me list out a few NEW (to me & perhaps you?) acts that I’d like to commend to you all:
- Sharon Van Etten/Tramp: This singer-songwriter caught my ear with “Serpents” before I’d heard that The National‘s Aaron Dessner had played on/produced her album (which is reason enough to take note). Her voice is a mix between Cat Power, Kathleen Edwards, and Sarah Jaffe (who also shares a similar composing style & sound). This woman has an incredible future ahead of her. I’ve been playing this album non-stop of late.
- Yellow Ostrich/Strange Land: This LP is the apotheosis of indie-songsmithery. Haunting at points (“Up in the Mountains,” “Wear Suits”), darkly epic at others (“Marathon Runner”) and hopping off walls at yet many other points.
- Pandercakes/Paint By Numbers EP: I don’t quite remember how I heard about this band, but you can download some songs here. Read this music blog to find out more about their sound, which I like immensely–densely layered & yet fun and catchy at the same time.
- Oberhofer/Time Capsules II: I have only listened to one song of of this album (“Heart”) but it has set expectations quite high. This song is a mix of Animal Collective, Explosions in the Sky, Page France, and Muse (the piano parts)–to my ears at least. This kid is the next generation of indie genius.
- Dry the River/Shallow Bed: A friend with impeccable taste just turned me on to this band via a set on KCRW. Check out this quote from their online bio:
“This five-piece band has all the hallmarks of the latest folk sensation: elemental name, beards, acoustic guitars, even a violinist. But what sets Dry the River apart is a background in hardcore and post-punk bands, hence the tattoos, lyrics that read like a Steinbeck novel and a sonic palette that sweeps from gentle to giant like an incoming storm.”
Well, that should keep your ears busy for a short while…until our next gathering at the edge of the river, let the “Glory Hallelujah’s” roll!