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New Crush: Fences

23 Oct

After going on an album buying splurge last month and blowing all my cash, I was reminded of the fact that the list of albums to buy never ends.  Top of the list at the moment is the self-titled debut full length of Chris Mansfield’s project Fences.  So far I have heard all of two tracks, “My Girl the Horse” which has been playing on a near constant loop on my ipod, and “Girls with Accents” from the new video.  There is something about the chemistry of this music, something both tender and worn, inviting and distant.  Having not yet heard the album in it’s entirety I haven’t yet been able to codify my impressions into coherent sentences.  So to put it simply, the music is really really good.  In fact, in the process of writing this post I broke down and finally bought the vinyl online, despite my lack of funds I just couldn’t wait any longer.

I’ll keep this post short as I hope to write a proper review of the album within the next few weeks.  But for now it should be noted that this record also marks the debut* of Sara Quin as a producer in her own right.  Obviously the twins Quin have been co-producing their own records for some time now, but this is one of the first times that we’ve been able to see those talents put to use on another artists work.  It’s pretty stellar stuff, the songs sound rich and dense without ever being heavy-handed.

Chris Mansfield has, from what I can tell, been working toward this record for some time and it shows.  Every note is a stunning achievement.  And now I’m going to go listen to the record I just bought…

*Sara Quin also recently produced the debut album for friend and former Northern State MC, Hesta Prynn, it is unclear which was recorded first.
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New Crush: Janelle Monae

30 Sep

Simply put… Janelle Monae is fucking awesome.  She’s one of those artists whose name I kept hearing about long before I finally gave in and listened.  She is also one of those artists who does not disappoint, and in fact exceeds the expectations set by all that name dropping, and all while tearing it up on the dance floor and wearing some damn fine tux’s!

Her second full length album The Arch Android, widely [and bizarrely] reported as a debut, presents suites 2 and 3 of the on going epic of her Bowie like alter-ego Cindy Mayweather – a love lorn robot in an oppressive sci-fi society.  Monae masterfully uses this story to draw comparisons and allusions to the problems in our own society, following in the footsteps of Vonnegut, Huxley, Le Guinn and Orwell before her.  Yet perhaps the truly astounding proof of her talent is her ability to combine all of these heavy ideas and dense story lines into really fucking good music.  And by good, I mean downright toe tapping, dance with your headphones on amazing.  Truth be told, when you strip away the sci-fi facade what Monae is truly singing about are complex issues of race, representation, oppression and freedom, themes that form the bedrock of all great R&B, Soul, Funk, Punk, Hip Hop and even dance music out there.  In summation, it’s pretty rad to have a pop singer who is able to fluidly synthesize genres and book-smarts into great music.  Also, did I mention she look’s great in a Tux?  It’s a win-win all around I’d say.

For your viewing pleasure here’s what very well might be my favorite song of the year, “Tightrope”.

I also recommend checking out the “Tightrope (Wondamix)” version, featuring Lupe Fiasco and B.o.B. I wasn’t able to embed it here but it’s also damn good, and features a badass rap by Monae at the end.

Janelle Monae’s two albums, Metropolis: The Chase Suite’s vol 1, and The Arch Android: The Chase Suites vol 2 and 3, are widely available and well worth the listen.

New Crush: STLS

27 Sep

I don’t know about anyone else, but I fucking hate it when I find out a band has broken up.  Seriously.  It’s like finding out you’re best friends broke up and they’ve been dating since high school.  I go through a period of mourning and everything.  I have even been known to shed a tear upon discovering the news of an ‘indefinite hiatus’.  Of course, that being said, I have also shed tears while watching trailers, crappy tv or the last five minutes of Homeward Bound when channel surfing (Shadow made it home you guys! broken leg and everything.)

At any rate, there are two things I usually do when I find out about a band splitting up.

1.) Buy anything I can get my hands on that the band released.  This is especially important for small and/or young bands as that shit becomes scarce quick.  T-shirts are also a high priority item.  No tours, no shirts.  So you best get them while they still have your size.

2.) Furiously scour the interwebs to find what the various former bandmates are doing.

The newest edition to the musical graveyard to grab my attention was portland based Explode Into Colors.  The trio had only been around for about 2 years but gathered quite the following due to their distinct sound and great live shows (or so I heard, never got to see them for myself *grumble grumble*).  They were playing shows pretty steadily as recently as this past May, but come June they were no more.  QUELLE HORREUR!!

Happily the weberverse searching yielded happy things and quite quickly too.  Lisa Schonberg, who you may remember from her Favorite Things contribution, not only has a new project underway, but they’ve already released new material.  Even better is that her musical partner in crime is longtime homocore icon STS, who you may remember from such bands as The Lookers (with Sarah Dougher), The Haggard (with Emily Kingan) and Cadallaca (with Sarah Dougher and Corin Tucker).

Together they form STLS, a duo who’s debut 7″ Drumcore is available for purchase or download on Kill Rock Stars Records.  They may be short on melody but damn do they ever have a fuck ton of rhythm.  Oh how I want to see them bang those Tom Tom‘s live.  Who knows, maybe this time I’ll get my chance.  And for those of you in the portland/oly/seattle area – WTF are you waiting for?!  Look how cute and drummy they are!

New Crush: Laura Marling

22 May

So in my adventures of moonlighting as a music reviewer I wind up playing a roulette game of sorts, never knowing what music I’m going to get next. Will it be something amazing or something terrible? It’s quite different from the more common method of discovering music which is almost always by association – your friend showed you this band, that band is friends with such and such, heard on your favorite radio show, or a pandora selection. It’s sort of amazing how quickly the sheer randomness of it can make one skeptical.

In light of that, it was with great delight that I found the subject of my most recent review, one Ms. Laura Marling. Hailing from england and all of 20 years old, Laura Marling writes the kind of songs that make you weak in the knees. They are instantly familiar, echoing shades of decades past while writing with an eye on the horizon. Her voice is woody and playful, effortlessly shifting between a womanly rich depth and a sweet lilt. She is the kind of artist you long to have a cup of coffee with and talk about the world. Her songs breathe with such compassion and grace, and show an immense amount of maturity for someone so young.

My review should be up on Wears the Trousers in the next few days, so if you want a slightly more in depth analysis I encourage you to give it a gander. In the meantime please, please check out the wonderfully shot video for her new song “Rambling Man” and then watch it again, her words are worth the repeat. The new album was just released stateside so there is now no excuse for not checking it out.

New Crush: Foals

18 Apr

After going down the rabbit hole of the interwebs yesterday I stumbled upon a video for the new single off the forthcoming Foals album “Total Life Forever“, due out stateside on SubPop records digitally in May and fully pressed on CD and LP in June.

Now, Foals is a band that I am largely unfamiliar with.  I had heard of them before or course – it was kind of hard to fully miss the success of their debut Antidotes- though despite seeing it everywhere I somehow managed to avoid listening to it all together. Until last night.

The video for “Spanish Sahara” took me by surprise in the best possible way. First of all, it is without question a gorgeous clip, shot beautifully by the talented Dave Ma.  It’s a wonderfully understated and devastating landscape – the photographer in me just couldn’t help but fall in love with it. Plus, the music is REALLY good. I immediately found Antidotes and have been listening to it since.  Very Battles-esque, and very cerebral all peppered with those soprano guitar sounds that I can’t help but be a sucker for.  Though I have to say, what I have so far heard off of the new record is more exciting.  It seems looser, more daring.  I’m very curious to hear the whole thing, so stay tuned for the full-length review that is sure to follow it’s release.

In the meantime, enjoy the video that is responsible for this little love fest.

New Crush: Lovers

15 Jul

Lovers

This is a post I have been meaning to do for months.  When I (finally) visited Portland in May I knew I had to see a show, it really almost didn’t even matter who it was so long as a show was seen.   So I picked up a copy of the Portland Mercury to see what was going on and decided to see Lovers, a band I had previously never heard of before, play at the Branx.  This is something I don’t do nearly enough in New York.  Sure going to see shows blind, so to speak, can lead to more than a few duds, but to see a really good band without any preconception of what they are all about and where they are going to take you is a pretty amazing experience.  Lovers, I soon found out, were just such a band.

Singer-songwriter Carolyn Berk and current collaborators Emily Kingan (The Haggard) and Kerby Ferris (Fantasmina) took the stage and began playing songs from their newest release “I Am The West”.  Almost instantaneously I began grinning like an idiot.  This is a common occurrence for me when I hear new music that I really, really like, and I’m sure it makes me tons of friends. Funny how it only takes a second to fall in love – both in life and in music.

LoversI left Portland the next day and, much to Tory’s amusement, started grinning uncontrollably yet again as I listened to the album for the first time while on a train to Seattle.  It was a welcome surprise when the album lived up to the promise of the night before, the material just as spirited and sincere as it was in person.  Without the hum and distortion of small venue acoustics the songs could breathe within the fine tuned landscapes of their production.  Even more refreshing – Berk’s voice and lyrics, both of which had been hard to hear on account of being distracted by all the grinning, turn out to be wonderfully earnest and inviting.

“I Am The West” has remained on constant rotation for me since then, a good two months now, and I continue to revel in it.  So, in truth this post is not so much a review as it is a plea.  A plea for anyone out there reading this to please, please check out this band if for no other reason than I, your humble blogger, am in love with them and think you should be too.

The end.