Octagrape: Emotional Oil
Emotional Oil is the missing link in Octagrape's wild early 4-track jam spigot. "Eternal Hair" is Jason Begin's first octasong, with Glen Galloway scrawling mad vocal lines about careening tornado phobias and mistaken identity over top. "Teenage Baboons" is a song about Jell-O sunlight capturing and pixilating all possible future nostalgias. "Soviets": a monster riff Glen somehow unearthed while connecting Major Stars to Modulo 1000 and bouncing low sparks off a couple slapback glammed out verses. It pulls its cold-war glow from a secret stash of ancient vacuum tube storerooms hidden deep in the San Bernardino mountains; keep your comrade warm. The EP's closer is "9-Eyed Lion", and it bulldozes like some schlep ghostwriting songs about unanimous relating with Mott The Hoople. There's a clear sense of the royal stalking pain of a ravenous beast that's got you and yours completely surrounded, keeping the entire village up in shifts all night. Lighters. There is conquest, drool, saber-rattling, capture/freedom, and a roaring return to the question, "Was it ever?" The B-side features an etching by John Ringhofer (Half-handed Cloud) as an interpretation of a young Jude Galloway doodle. Cutaway: all the mind is a stage. All the required stages are out of sequence. There is a podium and a feeding-back mic for you to sing epically through to your own frontal lobe.
Jad Fair & Danielson: Solid Gold Heart
Anyone who ever had a Solid Gold Heart -- wouldn't they want to turn around and share it? Of course they would. Jad Fair and Danielson do. And their 11 tracks of sweet collaboration, collected under said title, sound like what you might expect: gleaming tunes of sincere sing-speak, resplendent with sparkling back-up vocals and warmly melodic, inventive instrumentation; a sunshine-bright outlook of positive encouragement to keep "rockin' on the side of goooood" -- because, after all, "We deserve chocolate cake/ We deserve apple pie/ Enjoy your life ..."
Octagrape: Red UFO
Octagrape emerged in 2012 as a mild case of stunted spontaneous combustion from Glen Galloway's (Soul Junk, Truman's Water) wandering imagination. Glen had a handful of weird hooks and songs he didn't know what to do with and started to play some solo shows. The band expanded into a four piece as Glen enlisted skate photographer O Bartholomew to play bass, Ely Moyal (Truman's Water) on drums, and Jason Begin on guitar. Red UFO came together as part of a batch of 30 songs recorded quickly and live-in-the-studio. From the fried pulse of opener "Real Light" to the final seasick euphoric rinse of "Trevor Cobalt", this kind of sums up the live experience all squashed up in cheap old compressors and oozing out any opening available.
Ortolan: Covered In Black
Precociousness always catches its observer off guard; we are witness to a stubborn incongruity, adisproportionate relationship between limited years and elevated levels of skill, insight, or vision. Itconfounds common experience, and we wonder. When Ortolan’s debut album Time On A String wasreleased in 2010, three quarters of the family foursome were yet under drinking age. Along with copiouskudos given to the quality of the music and the maturity of the song-writing, every single review mademention of their age. Wonder indeed.What may be the greater marvel though, is when a nascent talent starts to grow into itself; when prodigiouspromise begins to deliver something beyond spectacle, when it begins to nourish those who are witness to it.Such is the case with Ortolan’s latest, Covered In Black.
Dan Zimmerman: Dreams of Earth
Dan Zimmerman’s latest offering, Dreams of Earth, is the kind of work that exists only by a halfcentury spent listening and crafting songs. This kind of time ingrains in a man an understanding of how stories are told, of when to cut to the chase and when to linger on a word or a breath. From the ethereal backing vocals of Elin K. Smith and Timothy Hill, to the sublime guitar work of Tony Jones and the rock-and-roll steady rhythm section, to the light but masterful production hand of Daniel C. Smith, the music is a call to the ineffable, but it is grounded. It grooves and it moves with earthiness, dust, and sweat. Zimmerman himself is in fine voice and his own guitar turns and lilts and hammers with subtlety and swagger. All is vibrant and immediate: the space between the notes is felt as strongly as the notes themselves.
Zimmerman’s songs are a danger: protest songs raised against a passive dismissal of what heaven has pronounced good, against lack of engagement with the world as it exists here and now. Zimmerman is the Space Pilgrim whose feet are planted on solid ground. Dan ZimmermanDreams of Earth.
Frog In The Reeds: Walking Tour of Spiders In the Woods
Lenny Smith: Who Was And Is And Is To Come
‘Who Was And Is And Is To Come’, the first installment of a new two-record set from veteran songwriter Lenny Smith, is folk music through and through. It is the good story told about people and their Maker, about earth and heavens, about dirt and sky and the horizon where they embrace.
Wovenhand: The Laughing Stalk
‘The Laughing Stalk’ mines the bottomless chasm of a desperate man at the mercy of an inscrutable God. The rhythms are insistent, the guitars unyielding, and melodies are potent and unrestrained. David Eugene Edwards is as much a force of nature as ever, pulling the entire band forward with the strength of his voice, as if it had its own gravitational field. One can’t quite grab ahold of a singular style—each note is informed by the royal heritages and traditions of punk, of country, of rock & roll, industrial, and Native American music. But newer and unfamiliar elements are percolating and rising to the surface; there is rest, there’s hope, even joy. The Impenetrable becomes penetrable, and the inscrutable countenance of theOther becomes recognizable as an attentive look of compassion and tenderness. An insistent rhythm section that once heralded danger now provides the bedrock for dances of celebration, and turns of light shift minor melodies to major. Perhaps Wovenhand’s finest record to date, ‘The Laughing Stalk’ is the testament of a restless artist seeking to document his findings in a wild, untamed, and impossibly beautiful land.
Glen Galaxy: Thankyou
“I put this album up there with Ted Sandquist’s “Courts Of The Kings,” Phil Driscoll’s “I Exalt Thee,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” It makes me remember Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotton. If you like Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming” and Danielson’s “Ships” and Sufjan’s “Seven Swans” and, maybe, “Deep Calls To Deep,” you’ll love “Thankyou.” I wish I could just send one to everyone at my own expense. Then you’d know exactly what I am trying to say. In fact, maybe I will. ?º” ? Lenny Smith
Danielson: Best of Gloucester County
The whole represents a new and welcome chapter in the Danielson oeuvre—a startlingly effective new band, a new thematic field (the locally-grown opus), produced with more sonic ambition than any recent Danielson effort, but without sacrificing the brave interior journey that we have come to expect from Daniel Christopher Smith: the world is complex, slightly dangerous, full of temptations, but there is still grace, beauty, meaning, and the music that is required to suggest all this is anything but easy, but that doesn’t mean it is not rewarding, beautiful, funny, sad, and generous.
Ben + Vesper: HONORS
HONORS reveals a more confident and adventurous Ben + Vesper, who have surrounded themselves with good friends who happen to be perfectly suited to translate Ben + Vesper’s songs into a pleasing and universal vernacular. Here is an album that is full of dance party music for the unsung heroes of the world. Here is an album that is brimming over with eager anticipation from one track to the next. Impeccably recorded by Brian McTear, Amy Morrisey and Daniel Smith in a total of five days, HONORS is one of those albums that marks a moment in time, a moment worth recording and listening to and talking about for years to come. Four albums in four years on Sounds Familyre, and Ben + Vesper have gone and done it. They have graduated the school of rock, with HONORS.
I Was A King: Old Friends
Old Friends is a record of excitement, managing a tension between control and chaos, harmony and discord, old and new; a tension that is always teetering, but never stumbling. There is also a comfortableness to the music—the same kind of comfort you feel when you’re with people you’ve known for a very long time; the comfort to risk, to stretch, to laugh. Old Friends is very special music. It is music not unlike the phenomenon of friendship itself: a sublime oddity.
Ortolan: Time On A String
“Luxuriating within the lustrous musical harbor of the Ortolan sisterhood is the great strength of Stephanie Cottingham's lyrics. She talks of space and place, street corners, trees, and “sitting here reading this all on the ground.” We are able to explore these rooms with her, dream alongside her, join her in the desire to “Be So Bold” and “wish I could live?to the fullest”. We know with her that “I was meant for something more”. We face “Sticky Situations” in the midst of which we struggle to “make things better” and believe the best about people and ourselves. Daniel Smith's fine production has framed all this in such a way that there is little to hinder our entrance.
Music like this is rare. It addresses us kindly, directly, without pretense or irony. It is not cool or hip or self-contained. It is unabashedly vulnerable, open to encounter. It's not often anymore that you hear the music of young people. Not just young people, but anyone who is still engaged in becoming who they are. Ortolan includes us in the family, encouraging us to grow along with them. As we walk from room to room, past painting after painting, here is something that invites us to pause, enter in, and to become a kindred participant in its quest.”
-Dan Zimmerman, 2009
Ben + Vesper: LuvInIdleness
This record began in Ben + Vesper’s kitchen so many years ago over three bowls of vegetarian chili, a pan of cornbread, filtered water, and an agreeable dinner guest by the name of Sufjan Stevens. The occasion was an invitation to play at a house-concert series that Ben + Vesper hosted in their living room (which resulted in Sufjan’s first live show ever). This unlikely start to Sufjan’s performing career also resulted in an ongoing friendship and musical dialogue that has recently inspired Ben + Vesper to dish out another dollop of ambrosial pop songs titled LuvInIdleness. Here is the new EP that finally brought the dinner party full circle as Sufjan, in turn, invited the Jersey-based couple across state lines, harrowing train connections and two great rivers to record 16 minutes of listening glee.
If you don’t wish to try all this, then put on the CD, and you will be pleased to hear a heavy dose of Sufjan’s bright and varied arrangements underpinning each track, and Ben’s brother Josh plucking and bowing that unmistakably gorgeous upright bass. One of the greatest achievements of LuvInIdleness is the room provided for Vesper’s voice to really shine. On every song, Vesper can be heard striding out from the shadows of a backing vocalist to command each melodic turn with her distinctive range. This gives greater weight to Ben’s understated baritone as the two voices form a pleasing union throughout the course of the album.
LuvInIdleness is not only a really satisfying listen, but also a celebration of enduring friendship.
Danielson: Moment Soakers
“Moment Soakers” is everything we’ve come to expect from Danielson, the musical articulation of a singularly poetic and ecstatic vision; music that simultaneously welcomes and surprises, moving both body and soul. Seven-inch vinyl was deemed the perfect format for this recording, and with its complimentary themes of flying and floating, ABBA’s “Eagle” (a long-time favorite of Smith’s) was quickly decided on as the perfect cover for the B-side.
Bifrost Arts: Salvation Is Created (A Christmas Album from Bifrost Arts)
From producers Isaac Wardell and Mason Neely, joined by a remarkable collection of artists (including Diane Birch, Derek Webb (Caedmon's Call), Matt Bauer, Aimee Wilson, Ben + Vesper, Elin K. Smith, and Sarah Fullen), ?Salvation Is Created? is exceptional in its humble elegance and haunting beauty. Some of the album?s voices are coarse and fragile, some are soaring and victorious, some are perfectly bittersweet, and all are pulled together by a mesmerizing stylistic alchemy created when grand orchestral arrangements meet slow-burn R&B bass and guitar, and are joined by the winsome tinkling of the celeste, the woodsy low of bassoon, and intimate folk whisperings, to present the Christmas drama through carols both familiar and forgotten. The idea of faith abandons the realm of the Hallmark card and enters the real world,?God with us? comes with sobriety, but with joy that penetrates to the bone.
Bifrost Arts: 'Come O Spirit!' Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs Volume 1
“For more than 30 years, pop music has suffered from a God complex—attaching a scarlet letter to artists who include the religious experience in their songs.
But a new generation of musicians from across the spiritual spectrum is emerging, discarding the trappings of the Christian-culture industry to reintroduce the transcendence, beauty and historical gravity of western scared music to the places where it belongs: dinner parties, road trips and back porches.
Come O Spirit brings together artists like Dave Bazan, Damien Jurado, Rosie Thomas, Dennison Witmer, The Welcome Wagon (featuring Sufjan Stevens) and Leigh Nash to revive 400 years of long-forgotten melodies and liturgical music. The brainchild of producers Isaac Wardell and Mason Neely, Come O Spirit interprets hymnody through lush, cinematic arrangements and a drop of Southern gothic mystique. It’s like a prayer.
Released Sept. 8, together with the Smith family and Great Comfort Records.”
"It’s only fitting that for Soul-Junk’s auspicious 1960 release, the stylistically dizzying San Diego-based band has returned to the comfy confines of Sounds Familyre, home of their musically adventurous cross-continental kinfolk Danielson. Recorded at Danielson's New Jerusalem Recreation Room studio in South Jersey and co-produced by Glen Galloway and Daniel C. Smith, 1960 is S-J’s eleventh album.
Although repeatedly, massively, fervently rocking out more often than any Soul-Junk record in years, 1960’s crystalline/inventively fuzzified electric guitars and pounding drums (courtesy of recurrent S-J stalwart Brian Cantrell, a Galaxy associate since 1980s high school days in SD) tell only part of the sound-story. Having enlisted over a dozen S-J members through the years, vocalist-guitarist Galaxy is joined by eight others here for a suitably large-scale Soul-Junk ensemble.
Completing the core power-trio, there is thunderous bass from the moonlighting Emil Nikolaisen, guitar-playing front man for Norway’s Serena Maneesh. There is spirited keyboard from Portland, OR’s soulful Todd Fadel. There is ample cello from Jie Jin, a prized classical player active throughout the Delaware Valley and beyond. There is marimba and additional guitar from Joshua Stamper, a Danielson member whose overall charting/arranging skills were tellingly engaged.
And there are those voices -- family voices. Danielson Famile ringleader Daniel Smith (whose sister is married to Galaxy’s brother) is joined by his wife Elin Smith and father Lenny Smith in singing out/harmonizing along. And contributing some colorful album artwork, there is Glen’s son Jude, who joins his dad on stage these days as an estimable teen trapsman.
The Word, sound, vision -- family: Soul-Junk’s 1960.” David R. Stampone
Dan Zimmerman: Cosmic Patriot
"COSMIC PATRIOT is a timeless pop balancing act between a stormy middle-earth apocalypse and something effortless, intimate, and unhurried. The writing, the band, the recording ? there’s complexity, darkness, and intensity, but it’s all so snug and woven and of-a-piece. It’s amazing how disarming a song that starts off with the battle cry, “Prepare for war, total war?” ends up being. Just as the listener finishes taking in the meaning of that chilling lyric, the song glides into a rousing homefires sing-along. Therein is the push-me-pull-me quality that exists throughout. Take “Everyday In My Heart,” which could easily be Johnny Cash covering the Cascades “Listen To The Rhythm Of The Falling Rain.” The clouds form and part, the raindrops and sunshine are interchangeable, and you couldn’t get the tune out of your head if you wanted..." -Glen Galloway, 2009
Danielson Famile: Tri-Danielson!!! (Alpha/Omega)
September marks the beginning of a season in which we look back upon and celebrate some of our favorite Danielson titles from a rich back catalog that has spanned over a decade. This epic journey of retrospection begins with the vinyl reissues of Tell Another Joke At The Ol’ Choppin’ Block and Fetch The Compass Kids (both being released on Secretly Canadian) and Tri-Danielson!!! (Alpha/Omega) (being released on Sounds Familyre). In addition to being back in print for the first time since 2001, these reissues have some unique attributes such as: Tell Another Joke At The Ol’ Choppin’ Block is now available as a 2x12" LP format (as opposed to the 2x10" format in which it debuted) and includes 4 bonus songs from a live WFMU session from 1996. Tri Danielson!!! (Alpha/Omega) has been partially remixed and fully remastered and makes its vinyl return dressed up in a brilliant new gatefold jacket along with a very special bonus track. Remember this is just the kick off of a busy season for Danielson, so stay tuned...
Wovenhand: Ten Stones
In the words of Robert Browning, Wovenhand heralds "another greater, wilder country" on TEN STONES. From the jarring folk of “White Knuckle Grip”, to the eerie bossa nova of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars”, to the fiery foot-stomper “Not One Stone”, the album forms a song-cycle that is singular in its breadth and eclecticism. Flanked by the haunting strains of the bandoneo?n and the drones of the double bass, Edwards’ lyrical inversions stitch symbols into a tapestry of peaceable and hellish imagery—horsetails, honeybees, and bird wings meet flaming battles and barbed wire to proclaim sin’s devastation and the sweetness of redemption. The music of Wovenhand is utterly unique, dizzying those who encounter it, with turnings and lashings of shadow and light.
Ben + Vesper: All This Could Kill You
"All This Could Kill You" is a fiercely beautiful and mysterious collaboration between husband and wife Ben + Vesper and their cast of siblings, grade school friends, brand new friends and friendly strangers. Produced and recorded by Daniel Smith (Danielson), this 13 song album smartly navigates through wildly disparate genres and styles and lands squarely in the ranks of good music that you simply cannot be without. If Ben + Vesper must be classified, one could parse it as such: 1/3 English Country Lane, 1/3 Croonsville, 1/16th Motown, 1/32 Brazilian Psychodelialand, 1/32 Dark Mythic Forest. All comparisons aside, this is music that innocently holds hands with innovation and accessibility. The great strength of this album is the mystical connection that is instantly apparent between the couple at the helm. The low hum resonance of Ben's voice floats and falls through one gorgeous melody after another, while Vesper effortlessly breathes every harmony like a shining maiden from the nether world. One gets the feeling that Ben + Vesper are singing to you alone, reciting the forgotten letters of an old friend written in a common language that lay dormant far too long. Every song offers instrumentation that is wonderfully diverse and concise derived from a team of formidable players, some well known, and some who are bound to be. Sufjan Stevens quietly sits on the floor with his banjo, woodwinds, vocals and piano while drummer David Smith punches each song into its full dance floor potential. Daniel and his wife Elin sing and whistle and snap and knit. But the manic men behind the curtain are Ben's older brother Josh and Ben's lifelong friend Chris Weisman. Together, they worked tirelessly to forge the backdrop of sound that has you edging ever closer to your speakers. Their arrangements are fine tuned in their complexities, yet breathe the air of improvisation that reference the hardship and playfulness of life while flatly condemning the cold claws of irony that have gripped so much independent music today. “All This Could Kill You” is an album that is 100% human and still winsome to the masses. This recording achieves what all timeless music does: to look squarely at the sufferings of this life and hold out hope like a weapon for all to wield, and to have fun all the while.
Ben + Vesper: More Questions
Ben + Vesper is the pure extract of marital bliss you've always wanted but were afraid to ask for. Crushing love songs hide themselves among shopping lists while shadowy omens take the shape of swelling laundry piles. Ben + Vesper’s words and sounds are forged in the fires of an eight year matrimony and a musical collaboration of nearly a decade. With a butter-yellow Telecaster and a hushed croon, Ben brings the listener down a sonic path filled with weathered charm and absurdity, until lost in the dim light of a spooky old forest. The thicket creeks and calls and whispers with the voice and delicate accordion of the ever radiant Vesper, granting safe passage to the most discerning ear. Together, they beckon the weary soul towards a rich spread and surround them with a faithful and talented party of players, making music that strikes hard at any heart that has ever loved and lost.
Hailing from Northern New Jersey, these wedded troubadours have just announced their most ambitious and diverse collection of songs to date through two releases on the Sounds Familyre label. "More Questions" is the first of these to be released to the hungry masses in November of 2006. This seven song family affair features Kurt Weisman and Asa Irons of the acclaimed psych-folk band Feathers, Kurt's brother Chris Weisman, and Ben's brother Josh Stamper.