Sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. Here’s a playlist I made for your ears (for listening) and limbs (for dancing). It’s mostly songs released from the last couple years, but there’s one by Arthur Russell which is from the 1980’s. Each artist is unique and lovely, so be sure to give each one a thorough listen.
Back in July a mutual friend told me about his brother’s band from Nashville. I almost immediately wrote it off because it seems like everyone’s brother has a band, but then he mentioned that the band had recently opened for The Head and The Heart. My ears perked up, knowing that if a band is opening for The Head and The Heart, they’re probably not too bad… and probably not someone I should be ignoring.
I went home, looked up Night Beds and found a couple of their tunes. I was immediately taken aback by the sultry-smooth vocals of Winston Yellen as well as the sparse folk and country infused tones. Winston Yellen is the main man in the foursome as lead vocalist and guitarist, and is backed by Juan Solorzano on guitar and bass (Solorzano plays the bass through some sort of pedal setup all while playing guitar), and St. Louisans Caleb Hickman on lap steel and keyboards, and Taylor Derosa on Drums.
Last September Night Beds stopped by St. Louis for a show at The Old Rock House. It was definitely a great show, however I felt it was lacking a very full sound because at that point the band was touring as a three piece (no bass and no guitarist other than Yellen). Yellen is so passionate about his songs, and in intense moments, his guitar seems to come secondary to his vocals. Never is passion a bad thing in a musician, but since he was the only guitarist during that show, it became sort of distracting to me when the guitar was so minimal, or not being played at all because Yellen became so enveloped in song.
The album was able to come alive in a much fuller way this time around. Listening to the band with a more fleshed out, developed sound made all of the difference for their live show. The music of Night Beds is mostly quiet and introspective, but when there are loud swells and unrestrained moments, the band combined with Winston’s vocals pulled last night’s crowd right into his world of unbridled, shameless emotion.
Yellen started out a capella with Country Sleep album opener “Faithful Heights”. In this recent interview with the Fuel/Friends Music blog, Yellen said he felt insecure about his vocals… but I think most people would have to wonder how he could feel insecure with such a powerful, beautiful voice.
The show went by all too quickly. They played a selection of 10 or so songs from their debut album (I didn’t note their setlist) all while weaving in some fun in-between song banter, and Yellen’s occasional quirky antics with the crowd. He came to the edge of the stage at one point, grabbed my friend David’s shoulder and said something none of us could understand, then continued with the show. After my brother Jon jokingly threw out a song request, Yellen came down from the stage after they played said song and attempted to playfully headbutt my brother. Somehow it all worked- it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that this obviously very intense person might be a little quirky and quite raw- in all of areas of his music- including his interactions with his audience.
I have had a lot of fun watching this band grow over the past couple months and having the opportunity to listen to some of the guys in the band talk about their excitement for this new endeavor is exhilarating. Best of luck to Caleb and Taylor- it’s especially fun to see two talented St. Louis natives move forward into what looks as though to be a promising experience touring and playing with an excellent band.
They’ll be touring the US for the next month and then Europe in April. Their touring will continue on this year- be on the lookout for other new dates!
Over the years more and more sites for streaming music have popped up. I think at this point everyone knows about Pandora, so I wanted to highlight some of my favorites that aren’t as well known. Each site has it’s own little perks and features that make it unique- some are better for background noise, some are better for finding new, unknown music, others are great for when you’re going for a run and need a quick playlist to get you through your workout. Check them all out and figure out which one you like best!
-You can search for playlists based on a genre, artist, or mood.
-Awesome (free!) apps for iPhone and Android.
-Many of the songs have free downloads, straight from the website
-The site is based on what music is creating the most buzz online which means you’re able to find a lot of new up and coming artists.
-Has a really nice, easy to use layout
-Streams at 320 kbps.
-The base level membership is free and allows you to make playlists, stream a certain artist’s music, and favorite songs you like.
-Suggests artists based on ones you already like.
4 . thesixtyone
-A wide variety of genres and bands stream
-You can choose what music streams by searching for an artist, or by choosing one of their playlists.
-Often offers band info, tour dates, downloads, lyrics, and other random information with each song.
5. Hype Machine
-Highlights trending tracks that are being posted on blogs week by week, going back as far as 2007.
-Has a feature called Fast Forward that plays 20 seconds snippets of songs to allow you to find new music quickly.
-Helps you find blogs based on the type of music you like, which country it’s based out of, and who’s doing the blogging- whether it’s an individual, a label, a magazine, or a radio station.
So far 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for new releases…here are a couple that I’m listening to and have thoroughly enjoyed thus far.
Local Natives- Hummingbird is out today! Don’t think about it, just buy it! (or stream it first…)
Night Beds- Country Sleep will be out on February 5, but is currently streaming over on Pitchfork.
The Revival Hour- Scorpio Little Devil was released yesterday in the UK and has yet to be officially released in the US. However, the album can be streamed and digitally downloaded on their Bandcamp worldwide.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra- II is out on February 5, and streaming over on NPR’s first listen.
Last year I found that some of my favorite shows (Active Child and the second time I saw Poliça would be my best examples) were the ones in small venues, emitted big vibes, rad lights, and loud bass. Every show has it’s own personality, but lately I’ve found I can connect well to a show that has those qualities and are most memorable even if I don’t know the band’s music all that well. A band that can create an aura, ambience, and atmosphere unique to their show, is the show I want to go to.
I guess you could say I’m seeking out that high of a groovy show, so San Francisco’s Geographer seemed like maybe they’d be able to deliver this with their bleepy bloop pop music and occasional big bass and Michael Deni’s smooth voice. Geographer really is a great band, they’ve got some catchy songs that are fun, but not songs I see myself wanting to listen to for the rest of my life. I was hoping the band would surpass my expectations with their live show- maybe that it would be big, bassy, and exciting, but it was comparable to how much I enjoy their recorded music- very fun, danceable at times, but not a show I’ll need to see again in the near future.
For people who truly love Geographer’s sound, the show I’m sure was incredible- he did everything right. Michael Deni amped the crowd, came off the stage at one point to stand amidst fans and encouraged them to come close to him as he sang, and put on a passionate show, and thanked us profusely for being such a fun audience.
I hope I’m not becoming too much of a cynic with fun live shows, I’ve made it sound like I didn’t like the show- I did. I danced. I sang along. It just didn’t quite fulfill that hope I had for a big, full sounding show that shook my heart and put me in a music (and not drug or alcohol) induced-trance. I think Geographer is onto a good thing though- I’m anxious to see where they take their music in the future.
Here we have a rather eclectic winter playlist. Starts out a little folky, moves to some chamber pop, then to some more electronic sounding songs. Some of these tunes are old favorites, some are new favorites, but of course all fantastic. Hope you enjoy!
This year brought lots of phenomenal shows out on the road. Touring is becoming so important for an artist’s livelihood, so be sure to keep an eye on tour schedules and go see all of these guys this year… they put on some incredible live shows.
1. Other Lives
3. Sufjan Stevens
4. Active Child
5. Kishi Bashi
7. Punch Brothers
8. The Antlers
9. Sharon Van Etten
10. The Shins
In comparison to past years, I didn’t make listening to new albums a huge priority. I love being exposed to new music, but I think to a degree it can become sort of taxing- always trying to find the best new stuff can become a bit tiresome. This year I was just content listening to what I was compelled to listen to and left the other stuff for later. Maybe this makes me less of a music connoisseur, but despite not listening to every new release, I still found some gems that will become staples in my music catalogue.
I can’t truly rate them 1-10, simply because every album has it’s place and has been equally valuable to me in different ways this year.
Poliça - Give You The Ghost
Poliça produced some of the best jams of the year. Channy Leaneagh’s auto-tuned vocals paired with the bass and drums create for the perfect atmosphere for an evening drive or an impromptu dance party. Excellent contrast between the intensity in the beats, lyrics, and the clarity of Channy’s voice.
Frank Ocean- Channel Orange
If I were to put this album into a genre, I would put it in the “Sassy Bluegrass” category. This album 1) Contains incredible musicianship and therefore sounds beautiful and 2) Is so, so sassy from a lyrical standpoint. If you just look at Chris Thile’s twitter you’ll quickly catch onto his wit and sarcasm. Because of the humor, it’s a really fun album, but it’s also balanced out by a couple songs that are a little bit more relaxed.
Here We Go Magic- A Different Ship
This album was produced by Nigel Godrich, a longtime collaborator with Radiohead, if that’s any indicator that it might be a good one. It’s a clean sounding album that contains some groovy beats that give it a nice poppiness while maintaining super solid bass lines and overall sound.
Usher- Looking 4 Myself
I’m somewhat surprised I love this album as much as I do, but knew it would be a favorite the moment I first heard the song “Climax”. I can’t say that every song on this album is noteworthy (it’s got 18 songs…) but there are definitely enough to earn a spot on this list. This is a diverse album, Ursher incorporated dub-step sounding elements, piano bits, electronic beats, pop-heavy songs and hip-hop-heavy songs.
Andrew Bird- Break It Yourself
This album took on a more organic, homegrown sound in comparison to some of Andrew’s previous albums. There’s more upright bass and personal lyrics, and less electric guitar and scientific talk. Somehow this album sounds homier, more inviting and lighter than some of his other work.
Kishi Bashi- 151A
K Ishibashi aka Kishi Bashi arrived on the scene this year with his first full length album that came about through Kickstarter fund. His main instrument is the violin, but he also utilizes loops for his beat boxing, vocals, and violin. The album is full of bright, happy sounding orchestration and the occasional japanese lyrics. Kishi Bashi is definitely doing something new and I’m excited to see where he takes his work in the future.
Lord Huron- Lonesome Dreams
Lord Huron took darn long enough to release their debut record, but it was worth the wait. Their EPs are just as good as the album and in Lord Huron style, it’s a great mix of beachy folk and whimsical pop.
Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan
This album is quirky and catchy. The Dirty Projectors are always doing something interesting and this album is perfectly poppy, perfectly rocky, and perfectly orchestrated with the help of the ever-so-excellent yMusic. Beautiful harmonies, weird sounds, and fantastic lyrics.
Sufjan Stevens- Silver & Gold
Yep, it’s a Christmas boxset, and yes, it’s a collection of 58 songs (doesn’t quite fall into the category of “album”), but I can’t not have this on my list. The five EPs inside are a representation of music he made for friends and family during the holidays each year from 2007-2011. This album is full of ridiculous quasi-christmas songs as well as some lovely renditions of classic Christmas songs. Put it on your list for next year’s Christmas music.
Here are a couple releases from this year that I plan to spend some more time with in the coming months: David Byrne and St. Vincent- Love This Giant, Grimes- Visions, Perfume Genius- Put Your Back N 2 It, Liars- WIXIW, Grizzly Bear- Shields.