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NEWS: R.I.P. R.E.M.

LINK: R.E.M. Breaks Up

Monster by R.E.M. was one of the first albums I ever listened to start to finish. Out of Time was one of the first CDs I ever owned. (And probably the only one I purchased in Jr. High school that I’m not now ashamed of.)

Good thing R.E.M. provided us with the perfect anthem to deal with the emotions we’re all dealing with right now.

Thanks guys.

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You’ll find some pretty great reviews of Bon Iver’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver online. I just don’t think I’m up to throwing my hat into the ring by giving you a full blown review of Justin Vernon’s latest. Instead I thought I’d float something a little more creative and outside the box to tell you what I think of Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

This little graph shows the play counts for each individual track off of Bon Iver. Now I’ll let you analyze how I feel about this album. (Although keeping in mind that I have, at the very least, listened to the whole album start to finish a half dozen times.)(A true feat as I am currently on summer break.)

mp3: Bon Iver – Perth
from the album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (buy it here)

mp3: Bon Iver – Calgary
from the album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (buy it here)

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I’m actually really looking forward to this little compilation of Buddy Holly covers due out June 28th. Look at that lineup. The Black Keys, Sir Paul McCartney, Modest Mouse, and yes, Kid Rock (!!!)

Buddy Holly was one of the artists I knew as a child. I’m not talking teenage years or even my tweenage years, Buddy Holly goes back to those endless car rides to northern Wyoming to visit my mother’s family. Crammed into a mini-van along with my four other siblings while my parents listened to a steady stream of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, and The Beach Boys. (All of these artists can make me feel carsick no matter where I am when I hear them.)

But lets get back into the present and talk about the fantastic cover of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy” by She & Him. Zooey Deschanel’s voice and M. Ward’s guitar have always felt  like they were plucked right out of the fifties, so this cover is just perfect.

mp3: She & Him – Oh Boy
from the compilation Rave on Buddy Holly (pre-order it here)

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So I’m still not quite out of my forced finals isolation. Soon though, so very soon.

But until then, check out this video by Yellowbirds.
They’ll be touring with Josh Ritter in late July. So if you like this video and Josh Ritter, well I think I’ve just planned a fun summertime activity for you.

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When did Alberta become so hip? Between Bon Iver’s new track “Calgary”, the fantastic track Chris just posted from Calgary-native Chad VanGaalen, and everything about The Rural Alberta Advantage I find myself longing for the cold expanses of our northern neighbor.

Let just all agree right now to pre-order the new Bon Iver album and meet back here June 21st to discuss. Deal?

Link: Download Bon Iver – “Calgary”

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If The Antlers’ Hospice elicited tears and heartache, Burst Apart elicits muted utterances of, “Holy crap.” (or more creative expletives)

Burst Apart appears to be the story of two people involved in an absolutely bitter (and very possibly abusive) relationship. Each song  deals with this crumbling relationship and is largely presented in a one-sided conversational tone. “I Don’t Want Love” and its opening line “You wanna climb up the stairs, I wanna push you back down” is your first introduction to what you’re going to be experiencing throughout this album. This line immediately immerses you into the destructiveness and abject horror of the relationship that will accompany you throughout the entire album.

The music of Burst Apart precisely matches the resonance of the lyrics and together they create a haunting atmosphere and environment that unfolds before you. The echoing mandolin of “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” and the jarring strum of a guitar on “Putting the Dog to Sleep” (and is there a snare drum behind that? I have a horrible musical ear) are prime examples of the music being used to convey the emotion of a song.

In Hospice the album closes with the death of the hospice patient and Burst Apart closes with the end of the aforementioned relationship. However, this doesn’t mean closure, far from it. Instead, Burst Apart ends with the melancholy “Putting the Dog to Sleep” where the singer laments on what has crossed all of our minds after a breakup, “What now? Am I just going to die alone?” Like “Epilogue” on Hospice, this final track on Burst Apart concludes the story but lets the listener know that this is hardly the end and that the pain of this experience will continue to haunt those involved for some time.

The Antlers have managed to push forward creatively in Burst Apart, both thematically and sonically, without jettisoning the core of what made Hospice so enthralling. Peter Silberman has once again managed to capture your emotions and takes you on a ride through the ups and downs of an individual being absolutely torn apart emotionally. Burst Apart is not an airy lightweight listen, neither was Hospice, but it is that frightening level of realism and almost crippling devastation that makes both of these albums so remarkable.

mp3: The Antler – I Don’t Want Love
from the album Burst Apart (buy it here)

mp3: The Antlers – Parentheses
from the album Burst Apart (buy it here)

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Bear with me through this first part cause the last half is on awesome Persian pop music from before 1979. You don’t want to miss that.

I think deep down I’m trying to be a music snob. To be that guy I hate. The one who looks down on his less-informed friends with a dickish sneer and says things like, “I’m into music that you’ve probably never heard of.” I said that almost exact phrase on a recent date (sorry Rita) and immediately regretted it. Sometimes I can be a prick.

I’m sure there are times I seek out music that may be just slightly off the beaten path (just slightly, I’m not too adventurous) so that I can continue to act out the misguided fantasy of being my friends musical svengali.

However, sometimes by shear luck, a misguided step will allow you to find something beautiful. That’s how I came upon Pomegranates, a collection of Persian pop, funk, folk and psych from the 60s and 70s….and I love it. Like, a lot.

But it took absolutely falling in love with it to realize that I never intended to. My sole motivation in purchasing this collection was to simply add pre-1979 Persian pop to my collection, listen to it once, and then casually mention it later so that you would be impressed by how awesome I am and how expansive my musical tastes are. And it took actually liking the music to make me realize all of this! (That last sentence was in all caps when I first wrote it) Man I’m shallow.

My apologies for the confessional but it introduces you to how absolutely incredible and potentially altering Pomegranates can be. This is as good of time as any to say that I am about as familiar with the Iranian music scene, both past and present, as I am with translating Farsi. So with that said, lets discover how great this is together.

The music seems to draw from foreign influences while keeping a distinctly unique (and I’ll assume indigenous) flavor. This collection was compiled by Finders Keepers, a label that I am quickly becoming convinced, can do no wrong, and they state that they did their best to find the finest Persian songs ever recorded, both acknowledged classics and obscure masterpieces.

And not understanding Farsi will not prevent you from knowing what these artists are singing about. Its an interesting thing to not be encumbered too much by the lyrics of a song and instead focus on the pure emotion conveyed by the music. And the song selection for Pomegranates elicits joy, love, sadness, ecstasy, and just about every feeling on that big ol’ emotional color wheel. But that isn’t all the songs do, they absolutely rock, or maybe more descriptively appropriate, they swing.

mp3: Marjan – Kavir-e Del
from the album Pomegranates (buy it here)

mp3: Kourosh Yaghmaie – Gol-e Yakh
from the album Pomegranates (buy it here)

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I think I speak for all of us when I ask Chris, “Where is the review for the Arcade Fire / The National show you went to this weekend?”
While we all wait for that, enjoy some video samples from a forthcoming Portugal. The Man album due out sometime near the close of summer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Way back in 2008 (wow that seems like a lifetime ago) I fell in love with a little band from Kansas City. The Republic Tigers first EP entranced me with their almost surreal take on electro-folk. The album that followed, No Color, quickly became one of my favorites and found itself perched quite high on my year-end list.

Now in 2011 we’re finally getting some new Republic Tigers material and just in time for Record Store Day. No Lands Man is a four-song EP being released April 16th (alongside a nifty 7″ featuring “Merrymake It With Me” and “Whale Fight”)

All four tracks on No Lands Man are just lovely. Many of the tracks retain the sound that made me fall in love, acoustic guitars jamming on top of electronic/ethereal backgrounds. “Merrymake It With Me” is exactly that. The first minute of this track made me extremely nostalgic for that spring I spent listening to almost nothing but No Color.

The show stealer was the unexpected final track. Hands down my favorite track off No Color was the simply remarkable “The Nerve”. I was surprised and delighted (Surplighted? Deprised?) to hear “The Nerve” remade into “The Nerve (Nervous Dancing)” which is precisely that, a nervous dance song. (It reminds me of The Bird and the Bee’s “Polite Dance Song” in that the title of the song absolutely nails what the song sounds like.)

Look for No Lands Man at your fine local record store on April 16th (Record Store Day).

mp3: The Republic Tigers – Merrymake It With Me
from the EP No Lands Man

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*Ok, not quite.

But this is still pretty great. Sterogum has compiled a HUGE list of Ben Gibbard covers. You’ll find Ben in all his various incarnations: DCFC, solo, Postal Service, and even duets with his wife Zooey Deschanel. (awww…cute.)

I haven’t listened to all of them yet, its a pretty daunting list, but I’ve listened to quite a few. There are some fantastic songs but most seem to be just ok. There are a few that aren’t any good. Don’t ask me to list which are which. I’d rather you explore and find out yourself…you might be surprised. (i.e. Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”)

link: Cover songs by Ben Gibbard

p.s. I actually really like DCFC’s new single “You Are a Tourist.” At the very least it made me super nostalgic and I found myself listening to Transatlanticism and The Photo Album. Great albums.

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My first introduction to Cataldo was the brilliant “Black and Milds”, a song so good that I purchased the rest of the album, Signal Flare, without ever having heard more than just that one track. I was pleased to find that “Black and Milds” was not a fluke. Signal Flare is a beautiful synthesis of folk, rock, and pop. (Which is actually how I would define the increasingly useless and vague term “indie music”)(That discussion is for another time though)

But all of that was back in 2009 for me. And besides Cataldo tracks making appearances on various blogs, most notably I Am Fuel You Are Friends, I hadn’t heard anything new from Eric and crew.

Well now that its 2011, it seems only appropriate that I should learn about Eric’s new album Prison Boxing from Facebook. (Gotta love social media) However, it seems there is a bit of a catch with this latest album, namely, Cataldo has run out of money. So in an effort to get the necessary funds to get Prison Boxing out the door, Cataldo is asking for our help. (Its actually a pretty one-sided deal in our favor.)

Visit the ‘Kickstarter’ page to see the exact details of the project you would be backing, the great little incentives Eric is offering if you help, and hear a little teaser of what we can expect when Prison Boxing gets released.

Help Cataldo release Prison Boxing here

Also, Eric Anderson is from Idaho. Moscow, Idaho. So if you’re a fan of music, Idaho, or musicians from Moscow, ID…think about lending a hand.

mp3: Cataldo – Black and Milds
from the album Signal Flare (buy it here)

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Its Spring Break. This might mean parties, beaches, and drinking to some people, but to me its just a vacation from my computer, writing, and the seemingly endless editing process. (Although I have been to a beach this week, so I consider this Spring Break seized.)

But I just can’t ignore writing about Broken Bell’s new EP, Meyrin Fields.

Too often you encounter an EP that is merely the scraps of an album. Alternate takes, acoustic versions, live recordings, and unreleased tracks that just didn’t seem to cut it. Sometimes EPs can feel like little more than fan service for insatiable die-hards. This is not the case for Meyrin Fields.

Meyrin Fields picks up right where Broken Bells left off. Danger Mouse and James Mercer have created something that feels like the natural progression of their self-titled debut. The EP consists of four original songs and each feels as lovingly worked over and fleshed out by Mercer and Mouse (ha! Dibs on that as a band name) as anything on Broken Bells.

Meyrin Fields has everything that made Broken Bells’ s/t album such a fantastic record. “Windows” is my favorite track so far and showcases what makes Broken Bells such a dynamic pairing. Mercer’s voice is simply unbeatable and Danger Mouse’s flawless production shines on this other-worldly track.

Ok, originally this post ended with me saying something to the effect of “I don’t care if The Shins or Gnarls Barkley ever make any more music” but that isn’t true. That being said, I’m pretty happy with Broken Bells and hope this good thing keeps rolling.

mp3: Broken Bells – Windows
from the EP Meyrin Fields (buy it here)

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