Ava Luna: Electric Balloon
After years of writing and performing, Ava Luna has refined their doo-wop soul meets punk-as-fuck aesthetic into something bold and glaringly defiant in today's indie music landscape. Following the release of their critically lauded first proper full-length Ice Level, the band spent an intense 2-week period writing and recording in upstate New York. Unlike previous efforts that were meticulously mapped out, the songs that would become Electric Balloon were "?a family effort." according to frontman Carlos Hernandez. For the new album, former Columbia composition student Hernandez relinquished the reins a bit, opting for a more organic approach to writing the material for what would become Electric Balloon.
In the wake of Ice Level, Ava Luna's sharp edges have melted away just enough, making it easier to connect with their no-wave grooves and soaring harmonies. Distilling everything from James Chance and ESG to contemporaries like Dirty Projectors and Of Montreal, Ava Luna have landed on an aggressively unique sound that still manages to be accessible.
Stone Jack Jones: Ancestor
Based in Nashville, but raised in a coal miner?s company house on the banks of Buffalo Creek, WV, Stone Jack Jones is the descendant of four generations of coal miners. After being rejected from military service in Vietnam due to epilepsy, and discouraged from pursuing the coal mining business, Jack decided to start wandering. By the time he landed in Nashville, where he met Roger Moutenot, Patty Griffin, and Kurt Wagner, Jack had worked as a carny, an escape artist, a ballet dancer, a professional lute player, and even owned a strip club.
Ancestor was produced in collaboration with Roger Moutenot (known for his work with Yo La Tengo, Sleater Kinney, and many others), and features contributions by Patty Griffin, and Lambchop members Ryan Norris, Scott Martin, and Kurt Wagner. Intensely meditative, the album patiently explores the hardness of the coal mines, the mystery of suicide, the comfort of a dog's love and acceptance, the idea that forgetting all you know can be the first step towards hearing and reconnecting with your muse, and one man's gratitude for the love he's been given and the life he's had the chance to live.
Dawn Landes: Bluebird
Based in Nashville, but raised in a coal miner?s company house on the banks of Buffalo Creek, Based in Brooklyn, but raised in Louisville, singer-songwriter Dawn Landes has been writing songs for most of her life, and at 33 already has more than a decade of experience as a professional producer and engineer. After leaving NYU where she studied psychology and literature, Landes began honing her production and engineering skills, working at Stratosphere Sound (owned by James Iha, Adam Schlesinger, and Andy Chase), and at Philip Glass' personal recording studio, before launching Saltlands Studio in Brooklyn with partners Steve Salett and Gary Maurer.
Her new album Bluebird was produced in collaboration with good friend Thomas Bartlett (known for his work with The National, Sharon Van Etten, Rufus Wainwright, Antony and the Johnsons, and many others), and features contributions from Tony Scherr, Rob Moose, and Norah Jones.
Press coverage of Bluebird will understandably present this album as Dawn's answer to her ex's "divorce record". However, like any great songwriter, she's abstracting her personal narratives enough to leave them open to interpretation and a larger meaning. Bartlett's spartan production keeps the vibe intimate, making it easy to connect with these naked and honest songs which manage to rise above the context in which they were written.
Abram Shook: Sun Marquee
From road trips through South America to surfing excursions in Indonesia, Austin-based musician Abram Shook has been fortunate to have the opportunity to absorb more of the world's cultures first-hand than many of us ever will. After leaving Santa Cruz, California where he grew up and studied jazz, Shook spent several years in Portland and Boston playing in numerous bands, and wrestling with an unsettled spirit. Turning to traveling as a means to quell his existential dread, eventually landed him in Austin, TX, where he's been part of the city's rich creative community for over 8 years. Though the music community in Austin is no substitute for the briny air and patient West Coast beaches he still longs for, its vitality and creativity still manage to nourish the soul.
Abram Shook's solo debut, Sun Marquee breathes with the lungs of a man that finally found a new place to call home, while also reflecting upon the circuitous path that led him here. Propelled by Shook's impeccable bass groove, and inspired by artists like Shuggie Otis, Serge Gainsbourg, and Tom Zé, Sun Marquee distills lessons learned and questions unanswered into an accessible collection of pop songs.
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.