Nat Baldwin: Dome Branches: The MVP Demos
In 2008 double bassist/singer-songwriter Nat Baldwin released Most Valuable Player, an album that led Pitchfork to say "?he brings fierce performances to these polished compositions." Now 5 years later, Western Vinyl is proud to be releasing the original demos from Most Valuable Player, which were recorded in 2005 and 2006.
After studying avant-garde jazz and improvisation with jazz legend Anthony Braxton, Nat Baldwin started writing songs featuring double bass and vocals. In 2005 he joined Dirty Projectors. In addition to his work with Dirty Projectors, he has performed on Grizzly Bear's Sheilds, Vampire Weekend's Contra, and Department of Eagles' In Ear Park. In between touring and recording with Dirty Projectors, Nat made time to record his 2011 album People Changes, an album that led Pitchfork to say "?whether Baldwin is singing with his throat or his bow, there's a thrilling felling of freedom to it all." More recently, he's been writing, recording, and arranging songs for a new album to be released in 2014. You can hear some of the new material live this September when Nat tours in the US and Canada.
Botany: Lava Diviner (True Story)
When our human experiences defy articulation, music and film can sometimes be the only languages we have to communicate with. In 1975, Peter Weir directed Picnic at Hanging Rock, a haunting film in which a group of schoolgirls disappear while exploring a volcanic rock in the Australian outback. Through the film, Weir explores landscapes of intense memory, and the mysterious forces that bend, mold, and erode the core of our psyches. Similarly, Lava Diviner (Truestory), the debut full-length from Texas native, Spencer Stephenson, gives voice to those ancient transformative forces within ourselves, amplified to the point of distortion by the dry Texas heat.
Though texturally inspired by early new age records like Iasos? Inter-Dimensional Music, and sample-based collage ventures like Colleen?s Everyone Alive Wants Answers, Lava Diviner (Truestory) is reinforced with a robust percussive backbone. Still, Stephenson never resorts to shallow MPC trickery or contrived mixtape clumsiness. Instead, his proto-new age textures float elegantly atop a primal boom-bap pulse to paint a detailed, rhythmic mural that has the scope of a ?70s prog rock epic. ?On Lava Diviner, I wanted to conjure that same headspace that artists like Roger Dean, and even Zdzislaw Beksinski project in their iconic paintings,? says Stephenson. ?I tried to evoke those grand, colorful, surreal landscapes that are mind-bending yet oddly comforting - sci-fi and epic and holy, all at the same time.?
Diane Coffee: My Friend Fish
Joseph Campbell describes a shaman as "person, male or female, who?has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It's a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it." We'll never know the whole truth about what happened when (Foxyen drummer and former Disney child actor) Shaun Fleming moved from the West Coast suburbs to New York, but whatever it was fractured his psyche, opened it up, and gave birth to Diane Coffee.
In 2013, after joining the band Foxygen, Shaun Fleming left the green and golden fields of his hometown of Agoura Hills, CA to become the third roommate in a 700 square-foot, pre-war, closet-free Manhattan apartment. He was welcomed to The Big Apple by a nasty flu virus that drained the last bit of California sunshine out of the skinny, Macaulay Culken-looking 26-year-old's body. As he recovered, cabin fever supplanted the flu, and his relentless creative drive took over. Low on funds and bored out of his gourd, he spent the next two weeks alone in his bedroom writing and recording what would become the debut Diane Coffee LP My Friend Fish.
Aisha Burns: Life in the Midwater
Often when you're in your mid-20's heavy realities start to settle in. Relationships that seemed like they'd last forever lose their spark, your aspirations and self-perception shift, you marvel at friends your age getting married and having babies, and you feel powerless and small, realizing that people you've known and loved for a lifetime can suddenly die. It's a serious psychological shakeup, made even more difficult if your frontal cortex hasn't fully matured yet. It's a beast, a mountain, a wall, or as in Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, a mysterious obelisk that pushes you to evolve?like it or not. For better or worse, parts of us die, new parts come to life, and if we're lucky we emerge smarter, stronger, and more resilient. It's no surprise that for ages we've felt a deep sense of connection with music, art, and films inspired by this metamorphosis. Aisha Burns' Life in the Midwater provides a snapshot of the rough stuff, but with a delicate sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years.
Burns' contributions as the violinist and occasional vocalist for the Austin band Balmorhea belie a nuanced songwriting prowess, and a dynamic and powerful voice. The album's title references a deep dark layer of the ocean that flows far below the surface, and just above what we call the deeps sea. Bioluminescent jellyfish often inhabit this layer of the ocean, emitting mysterious flashes of light despite the risk of exposing themselves to potential predators. Similarly Aisha's songs are dreamlike beacons in the inky abyss?
Grooms: Infinity Caller
After releasing two albums on the indie label Kanine Records, Grooms still hadn't gained enough traction to support themselves with their music and they were understandably ready to call it quits. However, in 2011, impressed with their albums and live shows, author Michael Azerrad invited Grooms to perform at his "Our Band Could Be Your Life" show alongside St. Vincent, Ted Leo, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, and WV alumni Dirty Projectors. It was a huge opportunity for the band, and the catalyst for what would become their new album Infinity Caller. Azerrad's enthusiasm and encouragement gave the band?s primary songwriter Travis Johnson the confidence to soldier on, keep making music, and ultimately find peace of mind.
Ola Podrida: Ghosts Go Blind
David Wingo is a busy man. In the years since the release of his last record as Ola Podrida, he's written and recorded soundtracks for several movies including Take Shelter (winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011), MUD (starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon), and Prince Avalanche (starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and co-composed with Explosions In The Sky), both of which are seeing wide release this coming spring/summer. When he had time in between films, Wingo assembled a live band featuring Colin Swietek on guitars, Matt Clark on bass, and David Hobizal on drums and began to bring his new songs in to the band. A first for Ola Podrida, the new album Ghosts Go Blind was recorded to tape in a proper studio, mostly live, with the full band. The resulting songs are energetic and accessible, while Wingo's abstract narratives are more personal and intimate than ever.
Luxury Liners: They're Flowers
After releasing Freeclouds in 2011 under his own name, Carter Tanton toured the US with The War on Drugs and then joined Lower Dens. While on tour with Lower Dens, Carter had plenty of time to experiment with new ways of crafting songs using samples and other electronics. The resulting album, They're Flowers, is his first release under the Luxury Liners moniker.
Úlfur: White Mountain
Having played in various bands including Swords of Chaos and in Jónsi?s touring band, White Mountain is Úlfur Hansson's debut under his own name. With influences ranging from cult cinema, esoteric literature and contemporary music, Úlfur presents a unique twist on the supernatural.
In his own words: "Every track is a collage of field-recordings made while travelling. I met so many interesting people on the road (for instance, Alexandra of Mountain Man who did amazing vocals for "So Very Strange") and I always carry my tape recorder with me like a camera.
The title is a homage to Rene Daumal's Mount Analogue, as well as Alejandro Jodorowski's film Holy Mountain, but also something else?.Each individual sound has a very special memory attached to it, so the album creates these nostalgic nonexistent spaces, hidden places - an amalgamation of instances, situations that couldn't possibly exist. I imagine this White Mountain, an invisible imaginary place - a sacred place on the horizon. Maybe like a connection to the the universe above. An analogy of the journey of Man."
Wires Under Tension: Replicant
With a battery of custom built software instruments, samples, and 7 live lopers, Christopher Tignor and master percussionist Theo Metz saturate our senses with new colors reflecting the urgent vitality of their South Bronx neighborhood. At times the two seem to lock talons like eagles in a death spiral, as Metz's brutal percussive athleticism keeps pace with Tignor's machines in an aural game of chicken.
The inspiration and experiences that led Tignor to write Replicant are directly tied to his employment history and educational background. His undergraduate degree in Literature, Masters in Computer Science, and PhD in Music Composition are all reflected in Replicant's thematic and technical underpinnings. Prior to his current job as a software engineer for Google, he held a number of interesting jobs including working as LaMonte Young's personal assistant, an EMT, a sound engineer at CBGB, a bike messenger, and has had the opportunity to handle live sound for artists including Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Patti Smith. Listening to Replicant, it's interesting to contemplate how each of these experiences have made their mark on the man and the Replicant.
On Stranger Balmorhea continues the cosmic dialog they began with their eponymous debut in 2007. Though the spirit of Texas' early inhabitants and the weight of the night sky inspired previous albums All is Wild, All is Silent (2009) and Constellations (2010), Stranger shifts the focus from the celestial to the terrestrial, or more accurately, it begins to explore the celestial resonance in all things terrestrial.
Balmorhea's music has always been guided by the experience of living in Texas, but with Stranger the band moves beyond contemplative reverence for the land and the history of their home state. The most forward-leaning of their catalog, Stranger presents worlds of tenderness, aggression, estrangement, and freedom using an expanded sonic palette including guitar loops, vibes, synthesizers, ukulele, and steel pan drums. In addition to these new sounds, electric guitars and percussion take the stage once occupied by piano and acoustic guitars.
Opening with the electric guitar loops, synths, and steel drums of "Days", the band invites us to move forward with them as they explore without pretense or expectation. "Pilgrim" provides the perfect ending, blurring alpha and omega...a concluding gesture taking us back to our beginnings.
Lymbyc Systym: Symbolyst
Playing music together for over 20 years has given the Bell brothers plenty of time to learn how to build off of one another?s strengths as they write, record, and tour. During the three years Michael and Jared spent writing and recording their new album Symbolyst, they spent more time apart than they ever had. After several years of steady touring in support of two full-length releases and an ep with This Will Destroy You, the brothers found themselves on opposite sides of the globe, with Michael living in Japan and Jared studying graphic design in Brooklyn. The geographic distance led them to rely more than ever on the trust they?ve developed over the years they?ve spent creating together.
Symbolyst draws on the band?s eclectic pool of influences?The Jackon 5?s funk, Jung?s dream theory, Bergman?s existentialism, Baudelaire?s prose, and Wright?s organic architecture. The distinctly catchy melodies and head-bobbing rhythms are immediately inviting, while the densely layered polyrhythms, harmonies, and countermelodies reveal themselves over multiple listens, making for an incredibly rewarding experience no matter how many times you?ve heard the album.
Balmorhea: Rivers Arms
In 2008 we had the honor of releasing our first Balmorhea record Rivers Arms. Though the band?s sound and size has grown, the soulful collection of songs on Rivers Arms continues to resonate with listeners. From the contented isolation of "The Winter" to the hazy heat and hopeful longing of "San Solomon," their music captures the indescribable feelings of living and growing in Texas.
Now, 4 years later, we?re excited to make this limited edition vinyl version of Rivers Arms available with 4 bonus tracks and updated artwork. Still wearing their bathing suits, Rob Lowe and Michael Muller recorded the first two bonus tracks as children jumped and splashed in San Solomon Springs (Balmorhea State Park) in the background. These two sunny guitar pieces are followed by a powerful live version of ?Theme? recorded in Vienna, Austria. The final track is a version of ?San Solomon? featuring live drums, recorded in 2008 for their very limited tour E.P.
Young Moon: Navigated Like the Swans
Trevor Montgomery is a craftsman. By day he's a skilled tile setter, a job taxing to both the mind and body. By night he's an equally meticulous and hard working musician, coaxing just the right tones out of his vintage drum machines and synths to carry his tales of love and redemption. As a tile setter and as a musician, his job is the same: assembling things of beauty to fill empty spaces.
Montgomery's previous album The Trickster (St. Ives) was inspired by his youth, wandering in the woods, riding trains, taking meth and heavy psychedelics, and narrowly cheating death on more than one occasion. On Navigated Like the Swan, his debut under the Young Moon moniker, he emerges like a shaman from the woods of his youth -- his darkness is filled with light, cynicism and macabre fixations washed away by a revitalizing and intoxicating love.
Rolf Julius: Raining
Raining is the third installment in the small music series and the first posthumous Rolf Julius release. The title piece ?Raining? originally appeared as part of the 2007 installation ?Drawing (Dot)." When played at a high volume the piece engulfs the listener in a dense world of rain, wind rattled trees, and soaked pastures full of life. However, when played through the small flat speaker Julius chose for the installation, the sounds become soft and cyclical patterns, like a lush landscape viewed from a plane miles above. The second piece ?Weitflächig? is an example of what Julius called ?Musik für eine weite Ebene? (Music for a Wide Plain) - using small sounds to create vast landscapes of sound. ?Music for a Glimpse Inward? originally appeared in a 2005 installation. With small speakers placed along the edge of very large empty room, the music played softly, heightening the listener's perception of space and emptiness.
JBM: Stray Ashes
Despite feeling disillusioned, drained, and disconnected after an intense year of touring, Brooklyn-based recording artist Jesse Marchant, a.k.a. JBM, felt an insatiable need quietly gestating. After a much needed break, he relocated to a remote cabin in the Catskills and started the long process of writing and recording Stray Ashes, his followup to 2010's Not Even in July. Like a twilight journey through canyons, with noctilucent clouds on the horizon, these songs flow with refined grace and raw force.
Though he recorded most of the album in a large log house next to a frozen lake inhabited by hundreds of geese in upstate New York, John Congleton joined the project for additional recording and mixing. Congleton's contributions help to define a sonic space throughout Stray Ashes that perfectly cradles Jesse's earnest vocals, as do the additional performances of McKenzie Smith (of Midlake, Drums), and Macey Taylor (of A.A. Bondy, Bass) on several tracks, which were recorded by Congleton in his Texas studio. The gauzy sonic blanket Marchant and Congleton have created provides a foundation for the mysterious collection of songs on Stray Ashes.
Callers & Delicate Steve: Further Out / Perfect Pairs
Further Out / Perfect Pairs is a collaboration between Callers and Luaka Bop recording artist Delicate Steve. "Further Out" is a disjointed narrative about hotels and their occupants, left to tie up loose ends as life rockets past them, while "Perfect Pairs" explores the difficulties of maintaining relationships within relationships within relationships.
Here's what Delicate Steve had to say about the collaboration:"I met Sara through some mutual friends at a Deerhoof concert last year. Soon after that I checked out her band (on myspace!!) and was really into it. I sent her an idea I had for a song while on tour, then we met for a minute during SXSW, saw each other's bands, and talked about making a song when we were both home from tour. Next we met up at Michael Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life" concert in NY where our bands were both playing. I had an awesome time in the mosh pit with Ryan. A week or two later we started recording "Perfect Pairs" together with Don Godwin behind the board. Shortly after that, we made "Further Out" collaborating back and forth in our home studios."
Carter Tanton: Freeclouds
Carter Tanton (formerly known as Tulsa and current member of Lower Dens) has announced a national tour with The War on Drugs and Purling Hiss behind his forthcoming full-length, Freeclouds. The album features the enchanting vocals of Boston dream-folk artist Marissa Nadler. Tanton's last release with Tulsa, I Was Submerged won the approval of both the media and fans alike, praised by NPR, SPIN, and Rolling Stone, who said Tanton's "indie-seraphim voice is not of this world." In addition to recording and co-writing one song on Marissa Nadler's well-received 2011 album, Tanton has recorded albums by George Lewis Jr (Twin Shadow) and Drug Rug among others.
Goldmund: All Will Prosper
All Will Prosper, Keith Kenniff's latest album under the Goldmund moniker, is a collection of 14 traditional Civil War-era folk songs and one contemporary track "Asoken Farewell." Kenniff has always been a student of Civil War history and culture. From the Ken Burns documentary series on PBS to Bill Carothers' solo piano album The Blues and The Greys, he has studied and enjoyed the music that tied friends and families together in a time when the nation was being torn apart.
Recorded over a period of 5 years in various houses in Massachusetts, Oregon, and North Carolina, Kenniff's arrangements feel fresh and intimate, while retaining the wistful charms and timeless appeal of the originals. In part the album's intimacy is created by his recording technique. With the top of the piano left completely open, microphones were placed close enough to capture the mechanical movement of the keys being pressed and the pedals squeaking. Similarly the acoustic guitar is close-mic'd, tracing the sounds of his fingers scraping and plucking the metal strings. The result creates a rich, almost hyper-real environment, where the tiniest details are magnified and brought to the surface.
Balmorhea: Live at Sint-Elisabethkerk
Though Balmorhea's studio recordings never fail to impress, their songs have always been most powerful and affecting when performed live. The group's intense soulfulness during a live set is consistently remarkable and this special recording from Ghent, Belgium is no exception. The opening track alone is goosebump-inducing, and perfectly sets the tone for this intimate recording.
Throughout the evening the band played with so much energy and emotion that's hard to believe they had just arrived at the venue after a long sleepless drive from Spain. With massive stone walls and floors, the Saint Elisabeth Church (built in 1873) colored each song with a natural reverb and delay, while amplifying the tiniest incidental sounds from the crowd. Despite the intense cold of the unheated church, the band's fingers remained nimble, warmed only by the glow of the candles used to light the stage and the center aisle. As the candles burn out the show comes to an end with the crowd-pleaser "Untitled" followed by a solo piano encore performance of "Constellations." We hope you enjoy this recording as much as we do, and if you haven't experienced a Balmorhea show, we hope this album inspires you to check them out next time they're in your town.
Luke Temple: Don't Act Like You Don't Care
Before the success of his group Here We Go Magic, Luke Temple worked full-time as a plasterer. At nights after work, he spent his hours crafting what would become Here We Go Magic's self-titled debut. During the days he wrote a completely different set of songs in his head. The resulting record Don't Act Like You Don't Care shines with clarity and daylight, in contrast to Here We Go Magic's hazy aquatic debut.
After recording two critically acclaimed solo records for Mill Pond (2005, 2007) Temple's work still hadn't garnered much attention from the record-buying public. Frustrated, but not defeated, he focused his creative energy into the writing of two amazing, but completely different records. Initially referred to as "The Country Record," Don't Act Like You Don't Care was shelved due to the success of Here We Go Magic's self-titled debut. Now, three years later, we're finally able to offer this incredible collection of folk-pop songs.
Botany: Feeling Today
Feeling Today is Spencer Stephenson's debut release under the Botany moniker. The culmination of years of assembling music, this EP, and his forthcoming full-length, flow with a transcendental radiance. Under the gauzy patina of decades-old samples, this Texan sound-sculptor masterfully merges the past and the present, the earthly and the infinite.
Spencer recalls recording a casio keyboard onto cassette-tape at the age of 4, and becoming hooked on the simple idea that he could capture sounds and share them with those around him. Now 22, he's still at it, playing instruments and stitching sounds together in his home atop a hill, surrounded by trees, fringed by the wide Texas horizon.
Spencer explores the cosmic nexus of shimmering psychedelia, blissed-out pop, and instrumental hip-hop, as he turns recycled sounds into something thoroughly modern. For him there's a therapeutic value in reconfiguring the "noise" of an information-dense consumer culture into something nourishing and honest. He collects artifacts...scavenged bits of ephemera...all of the organic and inorganic matter that passes through our hands and heads everyday and he uses them to build something deeply personal. Ultimately, he reminds us that the natural world we are a part of is one of boundless wonder and color."
EDM: Night People
Night People is a series of character studies. Alienated and out of fashion, these people stay up all night, stumbling through isolation to explore trauma and ecstasy in search of their own glamour. The boundaries of reality dissolve in their environment, and the light from within transforms street lamps at last call into beacons towards infinity. Guided through fuzz and fog, truths emerge, as the knots binding sensuality and spirit unravel. In a world defined by EDM's music, the Night People's stories are projected, as reality turns into a film.
Just as the band's name has been abbreviated, their process of recording and producing has been been stripped down for this album. Unlike the meticulous self-production that defined Early Day Miners' albums, their first effort under the EDM moniker finds the band relinquishing engineering duties. Recorded and mixed by engineer Mike Bridavksy at Russian Recording in just five days, the Night People sessions have yielded the most expressive vocal and instrumental performances of Burton's career.
Nat Baldwin: People Changes
Nat Baldwin’s forthcoming album People Changes is much like the stark Maine setting in which it was created. The album shows welcome markings of his experimental bent from years as the Dirty Projectors bassist and a former disciple of free jazz legend Anthony Braxton, but the serene isolation of 17 million acres of New England forestland make this cabin-born set intimate and sincere.
A lean ensemble of talented, time-proven friends was enlisted for the studio--some dating back to his New Hampshire childhood--chosen specifically to create the album’s earnest live sound. Their apt decision to record voice and bass live on most tracks is quickly felt on opener “A Little Lost,” letting Baldwin’s softly warbled falsetto hug a heartfelt cover of Arthur Russell’s sacred love song. Woodwinds flit and pull against contrabass pulses on “Weights,” then recede to let Baldwin’s bare performance stir on “Real Fakes.” The full cast of Nat’s touring ensemble handsomely match the bold arrangements of “Lifted,” followed by jagged improvisation on “What Is There” and a tender rendition of Kurt Weisman’s “Let My Spirit Rise” to finish. Ultimately, People Changes is a slice through the void of late nights spent among tall pines.
Soema Montenegro: Passionaria
Soema Montenegro has been described as a poet, a shaman, and an excellent cook. She may be all of these, but above all, she's a world-class singer. Intense and dramatic, her songs echo the vibrant landscape and culture of her native Argentina. Soema honed her voice and songwriting skills for years before releasing her debut Uno Una Uno (2008), which grabbed the attention of La Blogotheque's Vincent Moon. He was so taken by Soema's charm and skill that he chose to film this relatively unknown artist for the website's special 100th Take Away Show. Watching Soema perform we witness her magically shift from a deep smoldering moan to a wild, but perfectly controlled caterwaul. You don't have to understand Spanish to be enchanted by Soema's theatrical and impressionistic story telling. Her music is so sensual and overwhelming, that it sometimes seems perilously close to madness. Its mystery burns with a heat barely contained by the angular and precise fingerwork of the accompanying musicians. Like Yma Sumac and Meredith Monk before her, Soema is using her voice to innovate and push the boundaries of pure human expression.
Secret Cities: Strange Hearts
In a year defined of bank bail-outs and failures, Secret Cities found themselves fortunate to occupy the basement of a recently abandoned bank in Kansas City, Missouri. Complete with bulletproof glass, functioning pneumatic tubes, and a massive vault, this space served as the band's studio as they recorded their sophomore effort, Strange Hearts.
Working against a self imposed deadline, Strange Hearts was written and recorded within three intense, creatively fertile (if sleepless) months. The effort payed off with a taught pop record, crystallized like coal under enormous pressure. Filtering the classic romanticism of Dusty Springfield and the Shangri-Las through their own kaleidoscopic aesthetic, these songs pulse with an alluring mixture of melancholy and hopeful innocence, as warm and inviting as it is elusive and peculiar. While detailed and carefully crafted, it possesses a new found brevity and directness rooted in the excitement of creation. Ultimately, Strange Hearts is the sound of a young band testing its limits and finding that it hasn't hit them yet.
Rolf Julius: Music for a Distance
Music for a Distance is the second release in the small music series. The title of the work in relation to the cover images (abstract photographs of Julius? wife resembling landscapes merging into a distant horizon) suggests a work of uncommon poetic perception and inspiration. The title track ?Music for a Distance? began as a 2003 live performance of ?Musik für eine weite Ebene? (Music for a Wide Plain) at the Donaueschinger Musiktage in Germany. Over the next 6 years Julius continued to refine the piece in the studio, in addition to live performances of the piece in Europe, Asia, and North America. The dense and nocturnal closing track, ?Music in a Corner? was composed for an installation at MoMA PS1 in New York in 1983. Though different in proportion and point of view, it nevertheless captures the stillness of the horizon that would inspire ?Music for a Distance? many years later.
Wires Under Tension: Light Science
For nearly 13 years Christopher Tignor lived in the 3-story commercial space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he conceived and practiced with his band Slow Six. In 2008, thanks to a tipped off fire marshal, a move was inevitable, and the walls had to come down. Drastic measures would be necessary in order to keep making music on his own terms - living completely immersed in his studio and practice space. Step one was relocating to the Mott Haven neighborhood of The Bronx. Far removed from an overwhelming hipster scene he had never connected with, he found himself surrounded by the working-class grit and intensity typically associated with The South Bronx. The new musical landscape Wires Under Tension creates uncannily echoes this transition. Charged with the desolation of a Mad Max dystopia, the songs on Wires Under Tension's debut Light Science form a narrative in motion from lightness to darkness.
Gary Wilson: Electric Endicott
n 1977 Gary Wilson famously released a uniquely bizarre and personal album titled You Think You Really Know Me..., full of electro-funk, proto-new wave, noise collage, and avant-garde jazz. Despite the fact that the album's fans included Beck, Questlove from The Roots, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and many others, widespread fame and notoriety eluded Gary Wison until the 2002 re-release of his debut album. Soon after media outlets like Pitchfork, The Village Voices, and The New York Times were talking about the lecherous outsider artist, remarkable as much for his idiosyncrasies and DIY aesthetic as his edgy and creative music.
More than the perverted musings of a peeping tom, Gary's music is an honest reflection of ourselves, at least of that part of ourselves that loved our childhood pets more than we loved our parents or that worried if we'd ever make it to second base. Equal parts Prince and Pee Wee Herman, Joe Jackson and Charlie Brown, Gary's songs celebrate our inner ickiness, silliness and grooviness, the romance and randiness of born-losers from Endicott or Anywhere. Rather than alienating us with their creepiness, his songs ultimately make us feel more comfortable being who we are....more comfortable being human.
Callers: Life of Love
Life of Love is the first collection of songs Callers wrote and recorded exclusively in New York as a three-piece. Naturally the band's sound grew in volume in response to the volume of the city; however, they held on to what makes them so consistently affecting: their raw spartan style, anchored by Sara's sensually tough vocals, and Ryan and Don's Southern-honed chops as multi-instrumentalists.
The album started with the band's cover of Wire's "Heartbeat", and the idea of creating something simple and cathartic. Using borrowed amps and mics, in bedrooms and in studios, and by the grace of their good friends, Callers recorded Life of Love in intense spurts over the course of a year. Unlike the experimental ballads on their debut Fortune, the new songs pulse with gritty urgency, colored by the sounds of damaged gear and the earnest spirit of a middle-school gospel choir. The result is an album stripped to the core, an expression of the inexpressible space between us and the places we inhabit and the people we share those places with.
J. Tillman: Singing Ax
J. Tillman's 7th full-length record is called "Singing Ax" and was recorded in three days, February 2010, by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago. Bob Weston mastered the album. If you are pressed for time, tracks 2 ?Diamondback?, 4 ?One Task?, and 6 ?Tillman's Rag?, should give you a general idea what the record's about. Very few of the songs feature accompaniment, though a few include mellotron and drum machine (track 1, ?Three Sisters?, for example). There is something of a drum explosion at the conclusion of track 11 ?A Seat At The Table?. The lyrics are predominately third-person narratives, save for a few stock-in-trade existential musings, such as the title track.
Secret Cities: On Holiday / You Don't Know
Secret Cities' new single finds them interpreting the work of one of their favorite songwriters (Ellie Greenwich) with ?You Don't Know?, then embracing her aesthetic for their own ecstatic, trippy take on the girl group sound with ?On Holiday.? Hazy and sweet, it's the perfect chaser for their recent, celebrated album Pink Graffiti.
Goldmund: Famous Places
Famous Places marks the third full-length release by composer Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff/Helios) and the second release for Texas-based record label Western Vinyl. A graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in percussion, Kenniff focuses his Goldmund project instead on solo piano, mixing the delicate composition of composers such as Erik Satie and Harold Budd with a quiet and elegant simplicity.?
Along with Goldmund, Keith Kenniff also fronts his other popular electronic-music moniker Helios, and his music can be heard in many feature films, documentaries and television for directors such as Harmony Korine and organizations such as BBC, MTV and many more.
Secret Cities: Pink Graffiti
Not so much a concept album as a meditation on a theme, Pink Graffiti is (mostly) about Brian Wilson and young people. It's about Brian Wilson and his work as a prism through which we view youthful things. It's about the feelings that start with him getting all mixed up in our feelings for other people and other music (and vice versa). Inspired by a college thesis, changing relationships, and a fateful meeting with the aging once-spokesperson for vibrant youth, Pink Graffiti is a record that uses one artist to anchor and explore a peculiar set of experiences, thoughts and emotions. By drawing on fractured psych, girl groups and minimalist composers, Secret Cities have conjured a kaleidoscopic, strangely moving whole out of disparate pieces. Distorted loops, drones, and thundering toms underpin distant voices. Pianos are pounded. Grainy acoustic guitars come through like AM transmissions received deep underground. But even as strange sounds and frequencies get pushed out front, the melodies, always and forever, get top billing. From the galloping heartbreak of opener Pink City to the final, cathartic release of The End, Pink Graffiti is pop music turned in on itself, lyrically and musically.
Rolf Julius: Music for the Ears
In 1980 Rolf Julius’ pioneering work “Dike Line” was presented at the “F?r Augen Und Ohren” exhibition alongside work by John Cage, Nam June Paik, Bill Fontana, Milan Knizak, Harry Bertoia, and David Tudor. Since then Julius has created some of the most meaningful and moving works in the grey area between music and art, between sound and silence, slowly emerging as one of the most important and influential sound artists of our time. Whether using photographs, ink drawings, audio compositions, or subtle and sometimes almost hidden outdoor installations, Rolf Julius’ works serve as catalyst, increasing our awareness of the great beauty of the world that surrounds us.
Balmorhea's previous album All is Wild, All is Silent explored the freedom and isolation of settlers learning to live on an untamed frontier. It was an intensely physical album, dealing with the struggles of man on earth. By contrast, their new album Constellations shifts our focus to the cosmos and beyond, meditating solemnly on the mystical and metaphysical. For centuries humans have distilled order from the chaos of the night sky, turning a collection of bright dots into the framework for giants of myth and legend. Similarly, the tracks on Constellations serve as framework for our individual mediations on the wonders of time and space.
J. Tillman: Wild Honey Never Stolen / Borne Away On A Black Barge
These two tiny songs, one being "Wild Honey Never Stolen" and the other being one called "Borne Away On A Black Barge" are little stories about a post-apocalypse landscape and a reworking of the last stand of King Arthur, respectively. Both were meant to be more or less sing-alongs, the idea of including lyrics and sheet music was considered, but it was ultimately decided that that would be pretentious and weird. Josh plays guitar, piano, bass, banjo, mandolin and a lot of drums and Bill Patton plays ukulele. This limited edition 70 gram 7" record features original artwork by Toby Leibowitz.
Slow Six: Tomorrow Becomes You
Today, so-called "cross-over" music is near ubiquitous, from The Wordless Music Series to bands like The Books and composers like Nico Muhly. Yet it is now, following their 2007 sophomore release for the prestigious classical label New Albion, that Slow Six returns to their experimental rock roots with "Tomorrow Becomes You", an emotionally unrestrained full-length infused with taught rhythms, unravelling melodies, and detailed ambiences that owe as much to Tortoise and The Dirty Three as Steve Reich and Brian Eno.
J. Tillman: Year In The Kingdom
Year In The Kingdom unravels some kind of galactic wilderness. Tillman's 6th album lyrically borders on mystic; proffering a transcendent union, an effortlessness. Strange and honest, this song cycle inhabits it's own idea-scape; one seemingly obsessed with wrestling death. These are afterlife dialogues of a mysterious future. Celestial badlands. YITK sounds liberated; it is far and away Tillman's most joyful work. Created with little input or context, it is seemingly disinterested in communicating much else than a meditation for the few who allow themselves to listen with an open heart.
Ola Podrida: Belly of the Lion
Belly of the Lion, is David Wingo's much anticipated sophomore effort under the name Ola Podrida. Chockfull of unsentimental love songs, the album pulses with the burgeoning sexuality borne of feral adolescent summers spent in the sprawling suburbs of the South. It's hard not to be wooed, as the songs gingerly lay to rest the calamities that inevitably befall an adventurous heart.
Sleep Whale: Houseboat
Since 2006 Sleep Whale (formerly known as Mom) have become a mainstay of the fruitful north Texas music scene. With their first full-lenth release Houseboat the band solidifies their position as creative leaders and innovators amongst their peers. Much like their first EP Little Brite, the album pairs Joel North’s deft guitar work and fluid cello playing with Bruce Blay’s impeccable ability to weave percussion, field recordings, guitar, bass, and violin into hypnotic and whimsical dreamscapes. However, unlike Little Brite, Houseboat’s songs show how the band has grown, offering more sonically complex and ambitious compositions.
Equally informed by pioneers like Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Can, and Neu!, the band’s sound has grown into a joyful soundtrack for a midnight drive down the freeway with your windows down. Their songs uniquely straddle the line between experimental ambience and accessible psych-folk-pop, all the while leading you through shimmering labyrinths of sound, color, and texture.
Glass Ghost: Idol Omen
Glass Ghost represents the birth of a new musical force distilled from myriad influences, from J. Dilla to Deerhoof. The result is something completely refreshing, and fittingly, a little scary. It's the pairing of Eliot Krimsky's fragile and haunting falsetto with the group's bottom-heavy, hip-hop influenced rhythm section that yields the crystalline world populated with ass-shakin' beats found on their debut Idol Omen. The unique world they've crafted serves as the perfect vehicle for the album's paranoid narrative, loosely following the metamorphosis of a modern businessman into some mysterious new form.
Balmorhea: All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remixes
The idea to release the All is Wild, All is Silent Remixes evolved organically as the band asked a few of their closest friends if they'd like to remix a track. To their surprise 11 of their friends jumped at the opportunity to create remixes of these wordless narratives that have become so meaningful to them. The resulting album is distinctly more experimental than the original album, but no less joyous and haunting. Many of the tracks retain Balmorhea's uniquely American optimism, though some hardly leave a trace of the original's simplicity and restraint. Highlights include remixes by Eluvium, Peter Broderick, Tiny Vipers, Bexar Bexar, and Helios.
Peter Broderick: Falling From Trees
Peter Broderick’s Music for Falling From Trees, is a 29 minute piece, in seven sections, created for a contemporary dance by London's Adrienne Hart. Adrienne told Peter she was looking for a score of piano and strings, so he left the guitar and his voice aside and focused entirely on those two timbres. The dance tells the story of a man in a psychiatric hospital, and his struggle to maintain his identity. Beautifully utilizing piano and strings, the music evokes a melancholic and playful narrative.
Sleep Whale: Little Brite
The six songs on Little Brite conjure a universe whose ancient forbears include Steve Reich, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Eno’s looping ambiences, Brit-folk guitarist Bert Jansch, gamelan ensembles and Hindustani hand percussion. However, the wall-to-wall beauty of the proceedings is anything but reverential ear candy. Engaging, melodically rewarding, and sophisto-whimsical, Sleep Whale’s atmospheric marriage of the luddite and techno worlds makes for essential listening.
Here We Go Magic: Here We Go Magic
Developed over a two-month period of stream-of-consciousness recording in Greenpoint, Brooklyn Luke Temple's self-titled debut under his new moniker Here We Go Magic is a remarkable departure from his signature singer-songwriter material. Luke recorded the album at home using analog synths, a cassette 4-track, and his trusty SM-57 mic, coloring the sound with warmth and creating textures you want to wrap yourself in.
The album opens with the trance-inducing polyrhythms and gorgeous multi-layered vocals of "Only Pieces.” What follows is an album oozing with sounds maternal and subconscious?like floating in amniotic fluid, ripe, hiccup-y and desperate to emerge. Many of the songs pulse with infectious afro-beat and kraut-rock influenced grooves, calling to mind classic albums like Remain in the Light and Graceland. Despite the album's murky aquatic underpinnings it's hard to resist shakin’ what you got to ebullient blissed-out tracks like "Fangala" and "Tunnelvision."
*Vinyl version includes an exclusive bonus track “Your Eyes Spit”
Shuta Hasunuma: POP OOGA
On Pop Ooga, Shuta Hasunuma lets loose an endless array of gorgeous and restless rhythms and melodies. Throughout the album he seamlessly folds funky bass and synth lines, graceful guitar, and breathy vocal harmonies into his web of glitch-pop-concrete. The result is intellectually engaging and fervent music, that reminds us of our urgent need to celebrate our time together.
It's on the LP's bonus track "Go Pacific" that Hasunuma's impeccable balance between the technological and deeply personal resonates longest. Literally blending bells and whistles into an infectious, breezy dose of melodic sunshine, expect to be caught in an addictive, vinyl trance that will have you eagerly resetting your stylus again and again
Christopher Tignor: Core Memory Unwound
For years Slow Six band-leader, composer, and software designer Christopher Tignor has performed with his signature software instruments alongside fellow band members, sampling and transforming their live performances in accordance with his meticulous, emotionaly-charged scores. On Core Memory Unwound, his debut under his given name, he brings his software to the forefront alongside some of his most intimate compositions for violin and piano. A record dealing with memory, both metaphorically and literally, these intimate tone poems for violin and piano are each presented in two forms, once in their original acoustic state, and then as a "memory portrait" through Tingor's live performances on his signature software instruments.
Balmorhea: All Is Wild, All Is Silent
Austin's Balmorhea has always made beautiful music, but that pulchritude has often belied the underlying sensuality that makes their music so inviting. The band takes a giant leap forward, embracing that sensuality, on their bold and variegated new album All is Wild, All is Silent. Now a six piece with drums and upright bass, the band known for their understated simplicity and restraint has produced an album joyous, haunting, and even a little sexy.
J. Tillman: Vacilando Territory Blues
Vacilando Territory Blues is Joshua “J.” Tillman’s new album. This album’s ten songs (including “No Occasion”, “Firstborn”, and “Barter Blues”) followed by three more songs, all feature Josh Tillman playing guitar and singing. Even this bio was written by him. Bios are an important tool that music journalists mine for POI’s (points of interest) to be included in record reviews. For instance, journalists would never know this album was recorded only on Thursdays under a full moon, unless it was noted here. Buyers at record stores also use bios to discern how many copies of an album they should stock. Bios are rarely read by the music-buying public, as exhaustive liner notes have long since gone out of fashion.
The 11 songs on Fortune channel a temporal sense of place and the spirit of old-time gospel. With the wounded perseverance of Karen Carpenter and the vulnerable, tough-as-nails courage of Heart's Ann Wilson, Sara Lucas' voice is rich and unforgettable. Seaton's guitar work is equally engaging, as he masterfully delivers beautiful unusual chord structures, gritty distortion, and intricate flourishes that call to mind the ever-impressive Tinariwen. Ultimately Fortune reveals the universal nature of the local, reacquainting listeners with sentiments personal and familiar, be they flourishing or fallow.
Tetuzi Akiyama: The Ancient Balance to Control Death
Tetuzi Akiyama's contribution to the Western Vinyl portrait series is a departure in a career of departures. In addition to Akiyama's trademark improvised, blues-infused, guitar work, The Ancient Balance to Control Death also features intense multi-layered vocals. Much like his guitar work, the vocals flow with a sharp primal urgency. The end result is a collection of unique and tense Japanese blues that could only have come from one of Japan's most distinct and creative improvisers.
Salim Nourallah: Snowing In My Heart
Salim Nourallah isn’t a superhero?he’s a father, a husband, and an award winning musician and producer. His latest effort Snowing In My Heart is filled with melancholy tempered with acceptance and honesty. Salim’s lyrics paint a picture of a man accepting loss and powerlessness over the effects of time and age. Despite subject matter, the songs feel upbeat, with their driving rhythm section and unforgettable pop hooks. This is what makes Snowing In My Heart so remarkable.
Goldmund: Two Point Discrimination
Two Point Discrimination marks Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff)'s 3rd release after his highly praised debut Corduroy Road and followup 7" The Heart of High Places for Type Records. Part of Western Vinyl's Portrait Series, this collection features 11 short pieces for solo piano focusing on the sensation of touch and its relationship to sound. In the spirit of composers such as Howard Skempton and Morton Feldman, composition and sound culminate together as space is something that is dealt with directly. And interpretation along with improvisation are both tools that blur the lines between composer, performer and listener.
Slow Six: Private Times in Public Places
Simultaneously traditional and modern, amplified strings, guitars, a fender Rhodes, and drums are joined by homegrown software “instruments” used to process the band’s live performance. The detail and structure of these compositions reveals the group’s background in the world of modern classical music, leaning on NYC’s post-minimalist heritage while their electrified, live energy projects the palpable drive of a long-running band with deep indie roots. In July of 2007 New Albion released the Slow Six album Nor’easter, adding Slow Six to New Albion’s prestigious roster of art-music pioneers including John Cage, Arvo Pärt, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich.
Six Twilights: s/t
Six Twilights' music music is a collection of carefully recorded bits of hushed, delicate male and female vocals, warm acoustic guitars and melancholy piano all rearranged in non-repetative patterns which sometimes resemble songs in the traditional sense and sometimes veer more towards ambient electronic atmospheres. The accompaning DVD is a visual counterpoint to the music: tiny moments of nostalgic, essentialized forms swaying and bending to the warm rushes of sound.RIYL: Fennesz, Sigur Rós, Carissa's Wierd, Marcus Pop, M?ºm, Hood.
Bexar Bexar: Tropism
"Many of the songs have this feeling that's hard to describe but so satisfying to hear: like a sadness that's been buried and you're soldiering quietly on, and not making a show of it. The spare, lovely melodies swell and recede, all with perfect precision and tremendous understated feeling. How this music can be so emotional without ever getting sentimental or corny is completely beyond me" ? Ira Glass, This American Life
Madagascar: Goodbye East, Goodbye West
Goodbye East, Goodbye West is a refinement and growth of the Madagascar’s unique sound. Each track uses crisscrossing accordion, saw, and glockenspiel melodies; anchored by bass, acoustic guitar, and percussion. These instrumental elements are perfectly punctuated with beautiful wordless vocals. From playful waltzes and clanky dirges, to minimalist scrapes and drones, to their arrangement of the Chanukah staple “S’vivon,” Goodbye East, Goodbye West, is a uniquely satisfying and mystifying collection of songs
Oren Ambarchi: Stacte Motor
Oren Ambarchi's Stacte Motors, is the most recent addition to the Western Vinyl portrait series. Additionally, these pieces continue the Stacte series started in 1998 with Ambarchi's first self-released solo recordings. Similar to the 4 previous editions of the series, which explored one idea at length, Stacte Motors is an experiment in exciting instruments with a spinning motor with strings attached. The resulting recordings are metallic walls of minimalist drones, both fearless and dreamy.
Julie Sokolow: Something About Violins
Julie Sokolow doesn't need much to express herself. To record Something About Violins, she used nothing more than her voice, an acoustic guitar purchased for $28.99, and the built-in microphone on her Macintosh G4 Powerbook. In doing so, she has turned on its head the old adage that lofi is the provenance of analog fetishists. She has also created a work of great and unusual beauty.
Robert Lippok: Robot
We've all felt like robots, working alienating jobs, engaging in scripted conversations with others, and even at home, with our repetitive daily rituals. Robert Lippok, successfully captures the experience of robotic life on his Robot EP. As the album begins we hear the distant sound of a robot at work, sounding both mechanical and lonely. This sets the tone for the rest of the portrait. With the fluttering ambient tones and gently repetitive bass patterns of "Unexpected Behavior No. 7" and the arpeggiating synthesizers of "Silent Movement," Lippok continues to develop the feelings of isolation and solace found in a predictable existence.
Shuta Hasunuma: Shuta Hasunuma
Like broken and incomplete memories of dreams, Shuta Hasunuma's compositions string together erratic electronic textures and field recordings from the streets and countryside of Japan with emotive guitar and piano melodies. Throughout the album he does an amazing job of using simple, sometimes child-like, melodies to evoke a feeling of melancholy that's both cinematic and intimate. In the end we get something akin to an audio diary, shifting from deeply moody with tracks like "Prelude" and "Double Navaho" to playful and whimsical on tracks like "Long Road Home" and "Eurikago Afternoon."
Et Ret: Gasworks
Et Ret's compositions achieve warmth and resonance through rhythmic and melodic repetition. He compliments his confident, but restrained, guitar melodies with layers and layers of violins and cellos, creating a swooning and seductive tension. Although his violin stumbles down a crooked path, it still manages to pierce the listener emotionally, calling to mind the work of Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis. As a final touch, the compositions are accented with sparse percussion and subtle analog electronics, highlighting the overall tone of the record; it feels like morning, like things are changing and scary, and it's good. R.I.Y.L. Dirty Three, Popul Vuh, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky
Chas. Mtn.: Hugs
With influences rooted in gangster rap, dub, films featuring Keith David, and punk, Ned Egg and Gary War wanted to start from scratch. The result was an album of simple but honest hardcore-kaut-folk songs with lyrical material ranging from the depression and hopelessness of pan-capitalism to the contempt derived from the manipulation of women. R.I.Y.L: Ariel Pink, Roy Harper, Donovan, Can, Sunburned Hand of the Man, No Neck Blues Band.
Voices and Organs: Orphanage
Voices and Organs, from Gothenburg, Sweden, craft sonic textures and dramatic melodies reminiscent of Sigur Ros or Müm. Their debut, Orphanage, started as a collection of short-stories about a mythical orphanage in the hinterlands. Whether the orphanage is a metaphor for childhood or if it is actually the other way around is up to the listener to decide. R.I.Y.L: Sigur Ros, Mum, Robert Wyatt, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Boards of Canada.
Salim Nourallah: Beautiful Noise
Since the year 2000, Salim Nourallah's music has received praise frompublications such as Time Out New York, Amplifier, Salon.com andRollingstone.com. The public's appreciation for his work was clear when heplayed SXSW 2004 to a standing room only crowd, for his debut of Polaroid.Salim?s latest release, Beautiful Noise, finds him reflecting on themes ofmortality, aging, lost love and, refreshingly, hope as an antidote todespair. His keen pop sensibilities shine through on songs like"Montreal," a McCartney-esque anthem to the joys of coupledom and "TheWorld Is Full of People?" a ballad filled with fatherly worries and love. On Beautiful Noise Salim connects with his listeners with emotional andengaging songwriting, comparable to the Beatles, Wilco, Big Star, or Beck.
Tren Brothers (Mick Turner and Jim White): The Swimmer
The Swimmer is the Tren Brothers' contribution to Western Vinyl's portraitseries. For The Swimmer the Tren Brothers created four musical selectionsand four videos, one to accompany each audio track. If you're familiarwith The Dirty Three, Boxhead Ensemble, Bonnie Prince Billy's Get OnJolly, Cat Power's Moon Pix, or any of the other recordings Mick Turnerand Jim White have contributed to, you're probably already familiar withtheir unique ability to lull and seduce listeners. Together Mick Turnerand Jim White have used music, film, and still images to create abeautiful portrait of a character known only as The Swimmer.
Madagascar: Forced March
Chamber music, Yiddish folk, gypsy laments -- the members of Madagascardraw on these influences, and more, on Forced March, their debut album forWestern Vinyl. The nostalgic, sweeping waltzes and melancholy dirges arepowered by a disparate collection of acoustic instruments (accordion,ukulele, musical saw, and glockenspiel, to name a few) seamlessly woventogether in Madagascar's hands. It's street music for some long extinctcity, the soundtrack for the dreams of gypsies, and a breath of fresh airfrom a unique new voice in music.
Dirty Projectors: The Getty Address
The Getty Address is an epic glitch-opera about a mythical character namedDon Henley. Using a women's choir, sub-woofing sin waves, clipshod beats,a windorchestra, and detuned guitars, The Getty Address guides the listenerthrough a psychodramatic love story, meditating on the ideas of thewilderness inside us all and the meaning of America once the 'ManifestDestiny' imperative has expired completely. The Getty Address is assubtle and flinty a piece of protest music as "A Hard Rain's A-GonnaFall"?but in the end it is a love story.
Faris Nourallah: King of Sweden
In 2002 Faris Nourallah took the break-up of the Nourallah Brothers as anopportunity to release his first solo record I Love Faris. Critics frommagazines such as Mojo found the record to be "warm touching, and onceheard near impossible to live without." Less than a year later he hadreleased his sophomore solo record Probematico. Again critics and fanswere pleased drawing comparisons to Ray Davies, Eric Mathews, and Plush. Despite the success he had with the first two records, Faris knew he had abetter record in him. That record was King of Sweden.
Nourallah Brothers: Nourallah Brothers (reissue w/ bonus disc)
Nourallah Brothers was the first release by the musically gifted brothers,Salim and Faris Nourallah. Unlike many pop albums of the past, this isnot a disparate collection. The sum of its parts creates a photo album, adocument; songs about, lessons from, and results of youth. Even better,this re-released version of the CD comes with a 13-track bonus disc! Both discs shine with the best of pop's past hooks, energy, and sincerity,thus on the first listen you will remember these songs and begin to lovethem. Their endearing melodies will resonate in your heart, stirringmemories and dreams of the past. You may be reminded of The Kinks, theBeatles, Elvis Costello, or Ron Sexsmith.
Burd Early: "Rubberband" b/w "The Velvet Curtain"
Dirty Projectors: Slaves' Graves and Ballads
Slaves' Graves and Ballads presents classical and pop music's bodies-entwined, souls-commingled wedding, with extended families abiding. Their child doesn't have one white eye and one Asian one; rather, he sees differently. The lyrics further develop Longstreth's shrubs-at-the-edge-of-the-lot imagery from last year's debut The Glad Fact, marking how the landscaping in large parking lots makes us feel different about ourselves. Tricked-out Hondas, subwoofers, sunsets, woodchips, chiropractors: all these pieces of the American strip coalesce in a vivid meditation on the technology that domesticates and the instinct that resists domestication. What Slaves' Graves explores in a collective way, the Ballads explore in a personal, individual way. Here, the MO is personal heartbreak and romantic yearning. Uniting both is the feeling that what's most true is hard to see because it is unbearably simple. In this way, Slaves' Graves and Ballads belong to each other.
Salim Nourallah: Polaroid
Polaroid is the first solo release by Salim Nourallah of the Nourallah Brothers. These twelve well-crafted songs explore the dynamics of a simultaneously loving and volatile family life. Unlike many pop albums of the past, this is not a disparate collection. The sum of its parts creates a photo album, a document; songs about, lessons from, and results of a family life where relationships that turn sour are often followed by loving new relationships. As such, much of its success lies in its sincerity and it’s ability to remind us all of our own lives. Alternating between the slow subtle hooks of songs like “Everybody wants to be Loved,” and “Waiting for You,” and the bold catchy pop of “1978,” the album is instantly accessible and endearing, but still manages to withstand the test of time. The melodies are impeccably well crafted and clearly the work of a songwriter in his prime, while the music strides gracefully in step with each melody, perfectly highlighting the emotion and enduring truth of the songs. This is an album that manages to rise up beyond the superficial pop music constructed for the masses, as an album of true substance, with truly universal themes that everyone can relate to and enjoy.
Thomas & Sampson: When The Lower Resembles The Higher
The debut album by Thomas & Sampson, When the lower resembles the higher there will be harmony upon reflection, is comprised of a series of twelve non-traditional love songs. They blend concrete and abstract images together in an effort to capture both the universal and subjective experiences and nuances of a relationship. Most of the music is sparse, existing primarily as a background to support the thoughts and images presented in the lyrics. While digesting each new song, it’s hard to tell if they’re giving us the nourishing placenta or the wailing newborn itself. Whatever it is, it’s sticky, warm, and wiggly and full of life. Many of the tracks abound with falsetto hooks that strike like charmed cobras who’s master left the room mid-song. As the venom sinks in, our corpuscles give in to the infectious sentiments of love and longing. The here and now for Thomas & Sampson is many things at once: a happy dance, love-energy, a brooding la-la band, sour apples, singing in church, embarrassing nakedness, cold indifference, desperate longing, spastic vitality, and debilitating anxiety, all intertwined, overlapping, colliding, being fed by and slowly unraveled by a strange and exciting new love.
Burd Early: Mind and Mother
There's a desire in the songs on Burd Early's latest album, Mind andMother, that would likely make warm blood boil if not for the soothingcomfort delivered by Burd Early's voice. This is the seductive conflictthat draws you in, the friction and the struggle that holds yourattention, and the reason you'll want to press play again and again. Fromthe instantly catchy track "Fertilizer Waiting to Happen," to the sensualgroove of the title track, "Mind and Mother," it seems that Burd Early is ona mission, grasping at some elusive truth, looking for a new openness anda new way to be. He's embarking on this mission with or without you, butwe certainly hope you'll join him.
Kohn: Bruce Willis
The Bruce W. EP by Kohn is the fifth installment of the Western Vinyl portrait series, which has included Bonnie Prince Billy, Papa M, AppendixOut, and Anomoanon, and is scheduled to include others such as Robert Lippok and Mick Turner. In the portrait series, artists provide aportrait in the form of a photo, drawing, painting, etc along with two or more songs about, inspired by, or from the point of view of the individual in the portrait. Jurgen DeBlonde, aka Kohn, has a lot of love for Bruce Willis in his his musical heart and has decided to pay homage to this hero of heroes with a six song EP. The six tracks together with the artwork created by Kohn, complete his portrait of the heroic heartthrob.
Dirty Projectors: The Glad Fact
The Dirty Projectors? debut album, The Glad Fact, dwells in the sorts ofemotional ambiguities and contradictions that have always tortured thesensitive ones. Each song offers a new melody that seems to have been sentfrom some erratic and beautiful netherworld. The music is many things atonce: sophisticated and heartfelt, tender and aggressive, pleasing andmiserly in its refusal to please. Longstreth's songs possess a will tosurprise and deceive that constantly defies our expectation of musical --and emotional -- resolution. The songs' brokenness is their resolution,and their most beautiful part.
Faris Nourallah: Problematico
On Faris Nourallah?s new album Problematico you?ll find that each song haspop hooks that fall like candy from a heart shaped piñata ? each newmelody a sticky sweet guilty pleasure. In Faris? world, he is the sun andeach new song another planet swirling around him. As such, some are cold,blue, and distant, while others swirl with inviting and fantastic colorsand textures. The purity and newness he delivers seems like somethingleftover from childhood, some basic piece of the human core so many of uslose touch with as we grow increasingly consumed by the daily grind.
Anomoanon: Portrait of John Entwistle
A Portrait of John Entwistle is the fourth installment of the WesternVinyl portrait series, which has included Bonnie Prince Billy, Papa M, andAppendix Out, and is scheduled to include Robert Lippok, Mick Turner, andKohn. The Anomoanon have chosen to develop a portrait of John Entwistle,former bass player for the Who, after his death in 2002. The four tracks,each pulsing with the energy of the late Entwistle, include threeoriginals and one cover. In the end, the album leaves the listener with asense of warmth and longing and a renewed perspective on the absenceEntwistle has left behind
Burd Early: Leveler
With his second release Leveler Burd Early provides a collection of slower and more mature songs than those found on his 2002 release Magnet Mountain. Initially, each epic song appears minimal and sparse, however, over time, each song begins to reveal its lush and intricate details. Through a series of abstract vignettes the songs slowly ebb and flow, bringing to light apparitions of a girl in a bed, a cold isolated beach, or a friendship gone sour. Thankfully, the pictures he paints aren’t agonizingly gloomy and you’ll no self-pity in his delivery. Instead, each song is confident, with almost forceful swells of sound supporting the plaintive vocals. With each subsequent listen the numerous layers of sound and words make themselves more clear to the listener as we learn more about Burd, and more about ourselves.
Faris Nourallah: I Love Faris
I Love Faris is an album of deftly constructed songs with swooning dramatic melodies juxtaposed with twinkling organ lines that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear coming out of a circus tent. If this record had come out 20 years ago, you’d likely know Faris’ name as well as you know Elvis Costello or Ray Davies; he’s that good. As you listen to the record, you’ll find that with each head bobbing pop song and piano ballad we get another glimpse of the bizarre world Faris has created. Each song fills the room nostalgia and fantasy, taking the listener to a distorted place where love, hope, and desire take on new meaning. You’ll find little pretense and almost no sense of self-consciousness, just a set of some of the most sincere and addictively catchy pop songs you’ve heard in a long while.
Papa M: Songs of Mac
Burd Early: Magnet Mountain
Magnet Mountain is the debut full length by Burd Early, solo project of James Angelos.? Eleven songs with simple, thin arrangements and a voice that will, no doubt, invite comparisons of Smog and Giant Sand.Too often, the home-recorded solo projects pride themselves on their vulnerability, but the confidence of this cd is rare.? Not a confidence of difficulty, but one blinding white in its own intemperate naked skin.? Burd Early creates a sound weaned on the roots of Americana, but certainly adept in the means of the modern (loops, drum machines, keyboards).
Burd Early is an island, the only light shining in the suburban night, singing songs about simply living not just the loosing.? These eleven songs are reflective but with a sharp aim on the surrounding terrain, often skirting prophetic and comedic within the same breath.? While some solo projects seem to be defined by the rooms they were recorded in, Burd Early leaves enough space for the cattle to roam, the hills to be mined, and the valleys to be flooded.? Magnet Mountain alludes to the expanse of our continent and at the same time the limits of the individual.? Though this may be bedroom pop, Burd Early's songs were created with the windows open.