Linda Perhacs: The Soul of All Natural Things
Linda Perhacs? Parallelograms was created in the heart of hippy country, LA?s Topanga Canyon, by a dental hygienist who was inspired by nature and by the cultural revolution going on around her. When Parallelograms was finished, it sounded like a masterpiece, but the label had pressed it so poorly, sales were non-existent. Obscurity beckoned.
But in the internet age obscurity can be discreetly transformed into a kind of niche immortality. By 2003, Parallelograms had become a cult album.
And slowly, Perhacs began making music again. In 2010, she connected with a new generation of LA musicians attuned to her vision, including Fernando Perdomo and Chris Price, both accomplished musicians and producers in their own right. The trio began recording the eclipse song, ?River Of God?, and what became a new album?s title track, The Soul Of All Natural Things.
The Soul Of All Natural Things, for all its apparent serenity, is also a subtly polemical album, full of exhortations to take a step out of our frantic everyday lives. ?We get too far out of balance and we must find a way to get back to our polestar,? Perhacs says. ?I have a deeper purpose. My soul is giving itself to the people; I want them to be helped, I want them to be lifted.?
Lily & Madeleine: Lily & Madeleine
Like truth, beauty resides in simplicity. When it manifests itself, it doesn?t require elaborate arguments or proofs; you can?t debate someone into apprehending it. It?s apparent and all it requires is appreciation, or perhaps even love. Such are the songs of Lily & Madeleine.
Understandably, when their debut EP, The Weight of the Globe, came out earlier this year, much was made of the fact that Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are teenagers: Madeleine is eighteen and her sister is sixteen. Surely, that?s important given the impressive talent on display. On that release as well as on Lily & Madeleine, their debut album, these two young women sing with a spare elegance that?s all the more breathtaking for seeming to come to them so naturally. Both Lily and Madeleine can sing powerfully, but you will find no show-off pyrotechnics here. They are not afraid of fragility or vulnerability.
The songs on Lily & Madeleine trigger profound emotional effects. The shimmering recollections of that summer, that girl, that kiss, the scent of that evening air, the heat of those afternoons, all float in and out of consciousness as these songs play, transporting you to the world inside you that knows everywhere you have been, but that does not know time, or its passage, or its end.
Shannon Stephens: Something Good
Chris Schlarb: Psychic Temple II
Psychic Temple II is a labor of love envisioned by Chris Schlarb to bring his most far-ranging inspirations to life ? as he puts it, ?a dream ensemble that could never actually exist.? The ensemble?s sophomore release was painstakingly constructed over more than a year with the cooperation of some of the most progressive musical minds from a staggering variety of genres.
Psychic Temple II reaches beyond the long-form experiments of its predecessor for a more tightly focused yet conceptually dense collection whose songs are no less exploratory for their briefer durations. Schlarb also includes three cover songs by composers who share his boundary-demolishing mindset: Joe Jackson?s ?Steppin? Out,? Frank Zappa?s ?Sofa No. 2,? and Brian Wilson?s ??Til I Die,? a gorgeous, lesser-known Beach Boys song that features vocals by Sufjan Stevens, Castanets? Ray Raposa, and Cryptacize?s Nedelle Torrisi.
The New York Observer called Schlarb?s debut solo album, Twilight & Ghost Stories, ?40 minutes of avant-garde bliss,? while Interoceans, recorded with experimental jazz duo I Heart Lung, was chosen by NPR as one of the top five jazz albums of 2008. He composed the score for Nicklas ?Nifflas? Nygren?s video game Nightsky and has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Meet the Composer.
Lily & Madeleine: The Weight of the Globe
Written over the course of their summer vacation and recorded in three days, The Weight of the Globe is a musical snapshot by teenaged sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz at a pivotal moment in their lives.
Each song on The Weight of the Globe was written as a discrete, self-contained folk-pop statement, but due to the real-time circumstances of recording it, the EP holds together like a collection of interconnected short stories. Taken as a whole, the songs chart a journey from love to disillusionment to heartbreak; the narrator's weariness in "Tired" persists into "Things I'll Later Lose" ("I've been hearing things, and I've been losing sleep"), while the words to "Back to the River" seemingly return to the same mythic river that flows through "In the Middle."
There's nothing calculated about The Weight of the Globe. As sincere as it is precociously sophisticated, it marks the auspicious debut of a strikingly talented musical family.
Denison Witmer: Denison Witmer
Denison Witmer is Denison Witmer, a culmination of a story that started at the birth of independent music in the early 2000s.
He began his career in 1998 with Safe Away. Three albums, dozens of hard, long tours, and several years later, Denison released his most popular record Are You a Dreamer? in 2005. The industry changed quickly though - losing its focus on singer-songwriter folk music.
Instead of bowing to the pressure to follow musical trends, Denison continued to refine his sound, becoming more confident in creating something subtle and sublime. His music grew up as he did; a couple of years ago, his dad passed away, and in 2012, he became a new dad.
So, since Dreamer, there's been time, craft and perfection, and slow and quiet reflection and production. Now there?s Denison Witmer.
Fans who liked Dreamer, Denison's best-selling record, will love Denison Witmer. They?ll appreciate that Sufjan Stevens, William Fitzsimmons, and Devin Greenwood (Norah Jones, Amos Lee) all appear on this record. They?ll love the way Denison has figured out what works. They?ll appreciate the attention to detail, in songwriting and in production.
And for those new to Denison, they?re not not alone; there?s a whole generation of young songwriters in their early 20s that grew up listening to Denison. They?ve heard and respected a finely honed style that pulls from a tradition of folk singer-songwriters going back 40 years to Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Carole King, Neil Young, and even Woody Guthrie.
Artists only get once chance to self-title a record. Denison chose a good one.
Fol Chen: The False Alarms
Fol Chen make the soundtrack to a future that never was. To listen is to leave the comfort of nostalgia and land with both feet in a bolder 21st century. The False Alarms (Asthmatic Kitty, March 19) continues the band's electro-pop odyssey, now with a honed character and a more distinct palette of sounds. Fol Chen has also traded its cloak of anonymity for defiant confidence featuring Sinosa Loa as its new front voice.
It's pop music for people who aren't sure where or when they are, but who know it's nowhere they've been before.
Helado Negro: Invisible Life
Press play on Invisible Life and you lose your season. Roberto Lange - Helado Negro - is talking to you in Spanish. He?s talking to you, perhaps with more volume, in the language he?s been teaching us all over the past three years through the lessons of the seductive full-length Canta Lechuza, the sub-narrative exploration EP Island Universe Story One, and the all-in collaboration,OMBRE, with Juliana Barwick. This immersive curriculum, paired with our own capacity for feeling, will make Invisible Life visible. At least as much Roberto Lange wants us to see of himself. Translate the name of that first song for the first clue: it illuminates you.
Jon Philpot, The Bear In Heaven frontman, is one of a key few contributions on the album, including more old friends like Eduardo Alonso (Feathers) and Matt Crum (Lange?s longtime bandmate in ROM), as well as kindred and vast spirit Devendra Banhart. Banhart?s guitar on ?Arboles? multiplies the whispered dream of Helado Negro into technicolor parallel existences. Roberto Lange, the conductor, the man alone, has always kept his family close, even if its definition has expanded from his mother?s kitchen to the long-stretching road that sends him from one show to the next.