ARTIST

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On January 2nd, Jens Lekman announced his plan to record and release a new song ever week for the rest of the year. This is, of course, super great news. The songs will be recorded while he works on his next album, and the way he describes it, they’ll be sort of off-the-cuff thoughts put to music – he says to consider them “postcards… little greetings from me to you”. Considering it was a full five years between 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala and 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t, this is a welcome change of pace for those of us who love Lekman’s unique brand of lovesick poetry.

Considering how candidly confessional  Lekman’s songwriting tends to be, this is a natural direction for the writer to pursue – and anything that leaves us with 52 more Jens Lekman songs is good news to me. Below is our first taste of what Jens has in store, which is titled, appropriately enough, “Postcard #1”. Enjoy.

And here’s the full announcement from Jens Lekman’s blog:

Happy new year!

Here’s my new years resolution for 2015: While working on my next album, I will sit down once a week, write down my thoughts, turn them into a song and share it with you directly. Think of these little songs as postcards. Little greetings from me to you.
You see, I spend a lot of time on my songs, on their details. I sweep the streets that my characters walk on and polish every doorknob until I feel confident to let other people in. But it does lead to a very isolated creative phase.
And I’ve been longing to share my thoughts and life with you a bit more. I’ve been longing to write about things that make sense one particular day but that might make no sense once the album comes out.
Then at the end of this year we can sit down you and me and listen through these 52 songs, and remember where we were and when we were there, who we kissed and who we missed. I’m looking forward to that.
Yours truly Jens Lekman

 

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ARTIST: Reptar

Reptar is a band you need to be listening to. That’s it. That’s all you need to know. They’re bouncy brand of synth-pop has been bringing the good summer vibes to my Blazer all month – and I don’t expect to be tiring of their big hooks and booty-shakin’ breakdowns anytime soon. They sound like some sort of cross between Talking Heads and Passion Pit, with a little Isaac Brock and MGMT thrown in, all delivered with a wink and a cockeyed grin. They’re debut EP, Oblangle Fizz Y’all, is out now, and should be listened to by everyone.

mp3: Reptar – Stuck in My Id
from the EP Oblangle Fizz Y’all (buy it here)

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ARTIST: Lia Ices

I have been completely smitten with Lia Ices for the last couple weeks, even though I’ve only heard these two songs. But listen to them yourself and just try to tell me my smitten-ness is misguided…

Her debut record was released in January on Jagjaguwar, and I’m still yet to hear all of it, but if these charming and understated tracks are any indication of what it contains, I really have no excuse to not grab this album. And neither do you! Oh, and those harmonies on the end of “Daphne”? Those are courtesy of one of Lia’s label-mates, a mr. Justin Vernon. That is very neat.

mp3: Lia Ices – Grown Unknown
from the album Grown Unknown (buy it here)

mp3: Lia Ices – Daphne
from the album Grown Unknown (buy it here)

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ARTIST: Glasser

You’ve heard about that ice storm that’s frozen most of the Midwest, right? Well it kind of ruled. Why? Because I got the last three days off of school as Snow Days. That’s right, SNOW DAYS! And during those Snow Days, I found out I passed my National Board exam, got several due-dates for looming projects postponed, and Kristin and I got a brand new kitten! (more on that later…) So it’s been a pretty great week around here, even if it has been cold and icy.

Another great thing about the storm was all the time it gave me to just lay around and listen to music. In addition to playing lots of our vinyl collection during multiple games of Cribbage (I’m currently leading Kristin 4 to 3), I’ve also been poring over a bunch of 2010 year-end lists and picking out some artists I missed over the last year. So far, the one that’s completely swept me off my feet is Glasser, who made numerous year-end lists of people with great taste. And for good reason.

Glasser’s basically Cameron Mesirow’s show, with some help from producers Subliminal Kid and Van Rivers. Her debut album, Ring, combines elements of electronic and pure pop into a soft-focus soundscape, dabbling in bits of tropical and world music along the way, all tied together by her crystalline voice, at times recalling both Bjork and Taken By Trees’ Victoria Bergsman. The songs are both gorgeous and challenging, and they make the perfect soundtrack for three days spent indoors during a winter storm. Even if you don’t find yourself in that situation, Glasser still comes highly recommended.

mp3: Glasser – Plane Temp
from the album Ring (buy it here)

mp3: Glasser – Home
from the album Ring (buy it here)

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During the short time we spent in Seattle last week we not only got to attend a great local show, but I got schooled in a bunch of fantastic local music by Kristin’s uncle (thanks Chris!). I’ve been enjoying a bunch of it, but one group has stuck out especially – Seattle’s own The Head and the Heart. The group apparently got together after meeting at a local tavern, and you can tell – their bouncy songs are rooted in barroom piano, floorboard-stomping rhythms, and the kind of vocal harmonies that sing-a-long redemption is made of – in short, this folksy quintet’s got just about everything I love.

Every last song on their debut album is catchy and infectious, with a keen instrumental edge that makes me think they’d be one fun band to play in. Take “Coeur d’Alene” for instance – what starts out as a fairly straight-forward folk-pop song ends up as a boozy piano romp near its end, or “Ghosts”, which begins as a morose piano number, but as soon as those harmonies swoop in with their “doo-doo-doo’s”, the thing becomes a whole other animal.  Other fantastic songs include the stomping “Lost In My Mind” and the chimes-laden “Sounds Like Hallelujah”. But my absolute favorite song so far is “Down in the Valley” – a throbbing slow-burner that builds from its acoustic intro to a resounding finish – piano and harmonies swirling together in some kind of beautiful splendor.

You should be listening to this.

mp3: The Head and the Heart – Lost In My Mind
from the album The Head and the Heart (buy it here)

mp3: The Head and the Heart – Down In the Valley
from the album The Head and the Heart (buy it here)

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I stumbled onto The Roadside Graves via shuffler.fm a while back and I’ve been meaning to write about them ever since. They’re a rollicking 7-piece out of New Jersey who, like some of their other NJ brethren The Gaslight Anthem, Steel Train, and Titus Andronicus, are doing their best to make the Boss proud. However, where their peers venture more into pop (Steel Train) and punk rock (Gaslight and Titus), these guys seem to hold fast to that sturdy bar-band sound that first made Asbury Park so appealing – and they do it well, with all the heart and backbone you could ask for.

Apparently they have something like four albums under their belt (!), but all I’ve been listening to is their recent EP, You Won’t Be Happy with Me. Its six tracks are driving rock ‘n roll in the best NJ tradition with a touch of alt. country twang, kicked off with the fantastic “Demons” – a piano driven rocker bolstered with subtle guitar and organ flourishes and not-so-subtle harmonies that soar high and make you want to raise your fists to the sky in solidarity. The sprawling seven minute jam “Liv Tyler” (posted here) opens up wide on its huge and heart-breaking chorus “I don’t know whose baby you are”, and the fourth track, “Everything”, just sounds impeccably like looking up at the stars from on top of a buddy’s car hood, both in its sweeping string-laden sound and in its earnestly confessional lyrics.

mp3: The Roadside Graves – Demons
from the EP You Won’t Be Happy with Me (buy it here)

mp3: The Roadside Graves – Everything
from the EP You Won’t Be Happy with Me (buy it here)

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ARTIST: Sara Radle

So the other day I wrote about my recent Weezer binge, and as part of that I started down this rabbit-hole of all things mid-nineties and Weezer – which of course included the Rentals. I not only dusted off the old favorites, but caught up on their impromptu reformation last year and the fantastic Songs About Time that came out of it (look for a post on that soon) – it’s been a blast.

Well Sara Radle was a part of that recent Rentals-revival, as Matt Sharp asked the Texas-based musician to join him in Los Angeles and reform the group and embark on their Songs About Time adventure. She did, and her singing/guitar playing/keyboarding was a huge part of The Rentals recent incarnation. She’s since moved on, though staying in LA, and has just released her fourth solo record, appropriately entitled: Four. It’s pretty fun, full of girly-pop exuberance and sun-kissed harmonies, right on par with a lot of the mid-nineties power-pop I’ve been revisiting lately. Enjoy!

mp3: Sara Radle – Fooling Nobody
from the album Four (buy it here)

mp3: Sara Radle – Song For Adam
from the album Four (buy it here)

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ARTIST: The Acorn

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I’ve written and rewritten this post about a half dozen times now. Included among its various incarnations: a tirade directed at Pitchfork, an expose on my new love of water colors, and thoughts on why every band should seclude themselves in an isolated cabin to record albums.

But I’ve decided to just scrap it all and just tell you why I love The Acorn with no filler.

The Acorn’s latest album, No Ghost, is beautiful, dynamic, and just a treat to listen to. The dreamlike melodies play perfectly with the vocals. The album itself seems to have a unifying theme and hints to some past pain or struggle. I don’t know whether or not this album is concerning a true story from the life  of The Acorn’s lead singer Rolf Klausener’s or if I’m just hearing  things, but there is definite emotion throughout these songs.

mp3: The Acorn – Restoration
from the album No Ghost (buy it here)

I’m including this song for two reasons: First, to show an example of one of the more poppy offerings on the album and second, because I know a kid that sounds exactly like Bobcat Goldthwait. (But oddly enough looks exactly like Jimmy Stewart.)

mp3: The Acorn – Bobcat Goldwraith
from the album No Ghost (buy it here)

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will_strattonI know Chris puts no pressure on any of us to post as frequently as he does, but I still feel like a bum.

My blogging habits may suggest otherwise, but my summer has hardly been devoid of music. With the amount of incredible music surfacing this summer, no one should be wanting. A favorite find of the summer for me has been Will Stratton, who was introduced to me through a very special ‘birthday mix’ given to me by my friend Hillary. (The mix also came with a six-pack of coke. Pretty much ideal.)

Will Stratton pretty much has every good thing going for him right now. This 23-year old singer-songwriter has ‘functioned under the wing of Sufjan Stevens” and is a “self-professed disciple” of Nick Drake. These influences, most prominently Drake, are apparent in his music, but I loath to just throw Stratton into a ‘sounds like’ category. Far from just mimicking the style and sounds of Drake, Stratton is exactly what made these musicians so beloved, an expert lyricist with the prodigious musical skill to back it all up. His latest album, New Vanguard Blues, was just released last month and its a promising candidate for anyone’s year-end list.

mp3: Will Stratton – Katydid
from the album What the Night Said (buy it here)

mp3: Will Stratton – Bluebells
from the album New Vanguard Blues (buy it here)

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I stumbled on this last week and I’ve really been loving it. Incredible Yacht Control is the creative moniker of Bret Vogel, who wrote and played just about everything on his recent album, Ordinary Boys, which he describes as:

Kind of a concept album. Meant to give the feeling of being stuck inside the brain of an agoraphobic retail employee on a Monday morning before coffee.

The song I’ve been loving comes toward the end of the overstuffed album (track 18 of 19) – and it’s called “Ghost to Agent 4”. Listen below, then grab the whole thing at his Bandcamp page. Enjoy.

mp3: Incredible Yacht Control – Ghost to Agent 4
from the album Ordinary Boys (buy it here)

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youngman_

So we saw Young Man (which is essentially just Colin Caulfield) about a month ago at Locals Only here in Indy, and I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed. He was plenty of fun, and he had a talented band behind him – but they really didn’t sound anything like the dreamy pop I’d been hearing swirl on the internet, so he left me a little bit “meh”.

Well, I don’t know if his live show has improved any (though these videos seem to indicate that it has), but I can definitely recommend his recorded music – because holy cow, this stuff is gorgeous. Think Beach Boys meets M83, ala Panda Bear but less sprawling – just pop songs with incredibly infectious choruses, sung in beautiful harmonies over dreamy instrumentation. It’s pretty great.

His debut EP, entitled Boy, is set to be released digitally August 24th on Frenchkiss Records – it’s a concept album of sorts dealing with childhood and what it feels like to leave it behind. Check him out.

mp3: Young Man – Five
from the album Boy (pre-order it here)

mp3: Young Man – Up So Fast
from the album Boy (pre-order it here)

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ARTIST: Blind Eyes

blind_eyes

This past week I found myself in one of the most delightful record stores I’ve ever set foot in. (Seriously, I was filled with delight the whole time.) Vintage Vinyl of St. Louis embodies everything that is right with music right now, at least on the retail level. After nearly two hours of browsing I approached an employee and asked a question, “I want to walk out of this store with some St. Louis rock. Can you help?” There are a lot of ways the clerk could have responded to this question, some bad, (think ‘High Fidelity’) but he seemed to revel in the opportunity and immediately ushered me to the “local” section and started handing me album after album. That right there is why I love independent record stores.

I walked away with one of the catchiest albums I’ve heard in a long time Modernity by The Blind Eyes.

This St. Louis band has crafted an album, released in 2009, full of hooks and catchy choruses that you unwittingly hum later while you sit in a rocking chair waiting for your delayed flight back home. (Yup, the St. Louis airport has rocking chairs…awesome.)

‘January’ is the first track from Modernity and it greeted me with everything I would love about The Blind Eyes. Catchy lyrics, great vocals, solid guitar, and a jazzy upbeat delivery of the whole thing. (I don’t know if that jazz feeling has anything to do with The Blind Eyes being from St. Louis, but I hope so.) And apparently they absolutely kill live. I believe it and am looking forward to a future album set to be released sometime this year.

mp3: The Blind Eyes – January
from the album Modernity (buy it here)

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