Last year I was lucky enough to grab Olga Bell’s self-titled EP for a mere $5 and it was one of the most worthwhile purchases I had. Plus, it was for charity, and who doesn’t love charity, right? Nonetheless, Bell is an extremely talented musician who’s managed to rise to the top of the fray in the music jungle of Brooklyn. And her sound? Well, imagine if Bjork sat in on an Animal Collective jam session…it’s a great, beautiful weird-fest. She seems to have a real knack for musically filling space and using her classically-trained voice and piano skills to weave in and out of her compositions. It’s good stuff. She’ll be playing the Brooklyn Vegan-sponsored show in Austin, so check it out.
Bell – Chunk
So, New Jersey is absolutely on fire these days. I could write up a whole post on why the Garden State has been kicking other states’ collective asses recently, but bands like the Gaslight Anthem, my boys Titus Andronicus, Fountains of Wayne, and the ever-increasing impact of the Boss tend to speak for themselves. In 2009, new kids on the block Real Estate are breaking out. They play a punked-up, fuzzed-out brand of shoegaze pop, and like their friends Titus Andronicus, their lyrics focus on the highs and lows of suburban life. Give these guys a look when they roll through Austin — they’ll be playing ALL OVER.
Real Estate – Suburban Beverage
So we’re officially a month from a little Austin shindig that you might have heard of before: SXSW. I’m pretty geeked because besides being a shit-ton of bands coming through this year (obviously), there are a lot of great bands at that. And some big, big names to boot. As we get closer to the kickoff (March 18th), I’ll post some bands that I’m particularly going to try to catch.
I think that there is some legitimate trepidation these days when a band is compared to Arcade Fire — there seem to be plenty of unworthy comparisons thrown around these days to bands without the gutsy panache Arcade Fire had when Funeral released. London’s Fanfarlo, however, will draw immediate comparisons to both Funeral-era Arcade Fire and Beirut, but they exist outside of that widely-thrown blanket. They blaze with the anthemic capacity of the Canadian folksters and the pop-sensibilities of Snow Patrol, though their tunes still seem fresh, unheard-of. They’ll be releasing a brand new album, Reservoir, on a short tour with (who else) Snow Patrol around the UK before setting their sights on Austin in March. Reservoir should be a huge hit for these guys, and I’ll be sure to give a review right here.
Fanfarlo – I’m A Pilot
Fanfarlo – Luna
I think at this point it would basically be redundant for me to express how excited I am to see Grizzly Bear coming through Austin. In part because it’s pretty neat to see that a band that’s as widely-known as they are at this point is still coming to SXSW, but also because 2009 is set to be “Year of the Grizzly Bear” all over again. Exciting times! The Brooklyn guys recently announced the May 26th release of a new album, Veckatimest, and yours truly could not be more excited.
Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others (Live On KCRW)
In my desperate attempt to catch up with the many things I missed over the past week or so of being a terrible music blogger, I thought I’d drop in a few recent things before dropping in some upcoming things. The internet never takes a day off, though I certainly do more often than not! Here We Go Magic is Brooklynite Luke Temple’s new solo project through which he’ll be releasing a self-titled LP on February 24th. The album already sounds like an absolute winner, with leading single “Tunnelvision” a striking trip on psych-folk that pulses with a hypnotic, dark undercurrent. Oh, and the video does a pretty good job of making you feel that way, too.
Here We Go Magic – Tunnelvision
Hey kids, glad to be back in business! So, I’m about to get nostalgic for a moment. The first “indie” album that I can ever remember listening to was the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Psychocandy. My cousins had come in from out of state and we usually spent our time bored out of our minds at my grandmother’s house; they were in high school, I had just entered junior high. The Jesus & Mary Chain were nothing like I had ever heard before: they tore through a pop song at a vicious pace, and introduced noise as a primary instrument. It was a harsh contrast of sweet and bitter, crunch and burn. Psychocandy was a freakout, and it was weird–the era of shoegaze had begun.
Today, I guess I like a lot of “weird” bands. The Raveonettes have formulated a series of albums that could pose as a near cover act of the Jesus & Mary Chain. Enter a little New York City band appropriately named The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Their self-titled debut is an absolute gem and sure to go down as one of the landmark albums of the shoegaze genre. This was one of those few times where an album could exist as great in another generation as well as ours, with TPOBPAH channeling both recent and old influences. “Young Adult Friction” serves as a bridge between everything that 1980’s post-punk has taught the newer generation of dance-driven rockers like Los Campesinos! and even the Killers. TPOBPAH are at their finest when they stay toward the mainstream pop end of the spectrum, and “Stay Alive” might be the best work on the album. The Jesus & Mary Chain took a step in the same direction with 1994’s Stoned and Dethroned, and this track could easily have been pulled from that masterpiece. In fact, a handful of songs from the album could have been taken from the best of both The Smiths and New Order.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart will probably end up on many best-of lists at the end of 2009, and surely on mine as well. It’s a fun, loosely-recorded album that is a great introduction to the wide world of shoegaze, and one that is sure to be a classic.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Young Adult Friction
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Stay Alive
Buy The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
I hadn’t heard of these Bergen, Norway lads until I had seen Stereogum talk about their recent single “Modern Drummer”. Ungdomskulen just seem to make really quality fun prog rock songs, and you’ll get a chance to see them at SXSW coming to Austin in March. “Idunno” has a main guitar riff that sounds like it could have been the melody to some early Nintendo game like “Castlevania”, or something. Check both “Idunno” and “Modern Drummer” out at their Myspace.
Both songs will be featured on their upcoming album Bisexual, out 3/2 on Ever Records.
I’ve been very, very excited to make a mention about a very, very talented singer-songwriter from the Bryan-College Station area — Ian Nelson. Ian possesses an innate ability to craft songs that are not only unique in their styling and nature, but that also tap into the earnest emotions of the heart. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone that is this fresh in their music career sound as if they have been on the road, cutting songs for years. Yes, his music is that good. He draws instant comparisons vocally to an early, Greenwich Village Bob Dylan, while musically, channeling Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen with stark, haunting blues. Ian has a yet-to-be-named album on the way that I’m pretty geeked to hear, and you can be sure that you’ll get the details of it right here as they come along. He’ll be playing two sets at the Frame Gallery (216 N. Bryan Ave.) from around 7-9:30. I promise you, you won’t regret being there!
For those locally, if you haven’t had a chance to check out First Fridays in downtown Bryan, well then you’ve just been missing out. Most of the businesses, restaurants, galleries, and pubs downtown will have lots of great things going on, and are open late. Check out the First Fridays schedule here.
P.S. This is my last post until after I take my LSAT on Saturday morning, so wish me a speedy recovery!
Posted in Live
Tagged Ian Nelson
I’m a complete sucker for the great classic country albums of yesteryear, as you’re soon to find out, and I’m especially fond of when contemporary artists tip their hat to that era. But let’s be honest, there are the worthy efforts (Ryan Adams’ Jacksonville City Nights, the Everybodyfields, etc.) and the not-so-worthy (what’s coming out on your local country station?). As I’ll soon delve into, the strain of heartache and hard-living has woven it’s way through time in the American music landscape, from the post-slavery blues, to Woody Guthrie’s protest songs, to George Jones’ wrenching heartbreakers. It’s also particularly fascinating how the development of rock and roll was shaped by the movements of its “country” counterpart.
In steps Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck), the up-and-coming psych-Americana blueser with a poetic embrace of one of classic country’s, outlaw country’s, and America’s finest living legends, Willie Nelson. You could see hints of his appreciation for the genre in his last album, Pride‘s, “Cocaine Blues”. But this, truly, is a touch of magic, and an album that I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Houck’s slight and sudden quiver gives homage to Nelson’s vocal idiosyncracies, and his use of gentle harmonies gives the album a classic warm gospel feel. “Reasons To Quit” is the album’s swan song, and gives it a proper opening. A number of Nelson’s songs chosen for the album are given brand new arrangements while maintaining the feeling that you never step far from the bottle, and old memories. One of the more intriguing tracks is “Pick Up The Tempo”, which is one of my favorite Willie moments. While Houck’s version of the song is not my absolute favorite (that goes to Jerry Jeff Walker’s rendition, which is hard to touch), his gives an ironic, stark contrast to the idea of “picking up the tempo, and bringing it on home” but actually slowing it down and bringing the emotions of a singer-songwriter to the surface. Honor, through contrast. That sums up the album for me.
Phosphorescent – Reasons To Quit
Buy To Willie