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.
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.
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 you think you don’t like R&B or rap, listen to this album and your mind will probably be changed. I bought this album purely because people were making such a huge deal about it when it was released unexpectedly a week early. I quickly found out why people were freaking out. This album is flawless and so smooth.
Punch Brothers- Who’s Feeling Young Now?
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.
I realize we’re more than halfway through summer, but I can’t get this playlist to stop playing, so I thought I’d share it! This group of songs is quite diverse, but they all represent some of my favorite new music from this year (all except one song has been released in 2012) and have kept me jammin’ even in the lovely midwest heat we’re dealing with. Listen on Spotify!
EDIT: Krokodil and Who Is It? Don’t seem to be playing through Spotify unfortunately, so be sure to check those songs out here and here, then purchase them on iTunes/Amazon/Wherever you prefer to buy music.
1. Krokodil- St. Vincent
A taste of St. Vincent’s more angsty side.
2. Climax- Usher
Usher’s new album has blown me away. Even though he’s a pop artist and is friends with Justin Bieber, just give this a shot…
3. Ritual Union- Little Dragon
A beautiful voice and electronic beats!
4. How Do I Know- Here We Go Magic
The feel good- “I can relate to this” type of music.
5. Who- David Byrne & St. Vincent
Saxophones all over the place and definitely a song you’ve got to sing along to…at least a song that I always have to sing along to…
6. Who’s Feeling Young Now?- Punch Brothers
This song is from Punch Brothers latest album of the same name, and so far is my number one album of the year. I like to put this in the genre “Sassy Progressive Bluegrass”.
7. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings- Father John Misty
Times have changed. Josh Tillman is no longer a Fleet Fox, but he’s done very, very well with his solo album full of quintessential folk rock.
8. Who Is It? (Itunes Session)- Bon Iver
After waiting for nearly a year, Bon Iver has finally released an officially recorded version of this cover. Reggie Pace’s beat boxing + the horns are the best.
Today when I checked into the Twittersphere, all sorts of good things were happening- here are just a couple of my favorite announcements for today-
•Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie announced today that he’ll be releasing his debut solo album Former Lives out on October 16 in the US. Check out a snippet from Stereogum’s interview with Mr. Gibbard about the upcoming album. Some of Death Cab For Cutie’s best albums have revolved around lyrics containing heartbreak, and it seems as though Ben Gibbard/ Death Cab fans everywhere are assuming this will be Ben’s breakup album from his marriage with Zooey Deschanel, but maybe Ben will take it in a different direction than we think…
•The Antler’s new EP Undersea is due out on July 24, but today they posted the entire EP on their Facebook page so everyone can stream it. Just “Like” their page and you’re in- listen here.
•Thom Yorke’s side project, Atoms For Peace (consisting of Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nigel Godrich, engineer, producer and musician) is releasing a new single digitally and on vinyl. The first side of the vinyl single will be a remix of their song ”Other Side”, and the flipside will be their remix of Other Lives’ song “Tamer Animals”. Other Lives is an excellent band (read my review of one of their shows here), and this remix certainly puts a very different spin on their orchestral folk tunes. Hear the Other Lives single over at Pitchfork.
(Rubblebucket pictured above)
The last week has been a whirlwind. I think I’m still recovering from Bonnaroo and adjusting back to the real life. The weekend was well-worth the money, no doubt, but it sure does drain you! I had so many incredible experiences, went to so many fantastic shows, and met some very notable characters throughout the weekend.
I will be doing a series of summary posts about the bands I was able to catch, so today I’ll tell y’all about Thursday’s shows (EDIT: It was pointed out to me that The Kooks played on Friday…so this is partly Thursday/partly Friday). Thursday was the least busy day in terms of bands that were absolute must-sees for me, so me and my friend Madi were able to check out a few shows we wouldn’t traditionally go to had we not been at Bonnaroo. We caught parts of a couple other bands, but these are the shows we got to see basically from start to finish.
Rubblebucket is one of those bands that simply has the best of times every moment they are on stage. They played at the “Solar Stage” so it was a fairly small stage, but there was no shortage of an audience. They played a bunch of fun dance songs led by the powerhouse vocals of lead singer Kalmia Traver and backed by their band full of brass instruments, drums, keyboards, synthesizers. So many bands now have similar sounds, but I came away from the Rubblebucket show convinced that they have definitely developed their own unique sound that will hopefully take them far.
Prior to Bonnaroo, I had never heard of YelaWolf, but when I listened to a couple of his songs, I figured his set might be fun, if nothing else. I love rap and hip-hop, and YelaWolf put on a great, beat-heavy show that created quite the party. I’ll give that to Mr. YelaWolf.
Despite YelaWolf’s enthusiam, I was a bit miffed and frankly surprised at his off-kilter stage banter and lyrical content, which was probably just me being naïve to what YelaWolf is apparently all about. Throughout his set, he confessed his love for weed, which is not very uncommon in hip-hop songs so it didn’t surprise me too much. But then he also confessed his love for crystal meth and then sang an entire song about it. In said song, he also mentioned and glorified LSD and Adderall-which I’m assuming he doesn’t use for his ADHD. I had a fun time at the show, and I know that generally rap songs are going to have more illicit lyrics, but I think he celebrates drugs just a bit too much.
The Kooks played an all-around great set. I am not overly familiar with their music, but they are popular enough that every now and then they played a song that was instantly recognizable to most audience members. They carried great energy through their entire show and were definitely fun to see live.
Yesterday brought a pleasant surprise- I attended the sold out David Bazan house show that happened to be less than two miles from my house. I was unable to buy tickets before they sold out, but Bob, David’s manager was gracious and let me come to the show after I e-mailed him to see if there were any available seats.
When I arrived, there were approximately 10 people there, which eventually grew and topped out around 30-40 people. I had never been to a house show, so watching David with such a small amount of people created a whole new dynamic and atmosphere I’ve never experienced.
Mr. Bazan showed up about 15 minutes late, which was more funny than frustrating, because how could you be annoyed when you get to see David Bazan play with only 30 other people surrounding you? The lovely thing about house shows is that everyone is in it together in a sense, no one needs to push to the front to be near the stage, everyone knows they will be experiencing something special.
David walked up with one guitar, sat down on his wooden stool, front and center of the host’s living room and started the night off with a tune (because of the intimacy of the show, I didn’t take many notes…therefore didn’t keep much track of what songs he played). From his first word, his voice blew me away. The man can belt it out- he possesses so much power and projection in his voice…which took me by surprise because that power just doesn’t translate onto the albums as much. Every few songs, David took a 5-10 minute break to answer questions from his audience. The night was about 60% music and 40% chatting, which I believe was just fine with everyone in attendance. Hearing the thoughts, opinions, and stories behind the music and musician is something most people don’t ever have the chance to hear firsthand, which is another reason the house show is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Throughout his hour and half set, David chatted about many topics people asked him about; what David was reading and listening to, who has inspired him the most musically (which happens to be The Beatles), and how be believes “Spotify is just the devil”.
In the midst of one of the mini question and answer sessions, David said something along the lines of “Choice is a bummer…it’s what ruins all of us…”. It seems that in most of Pedro the Lion’s albums, and now David’s solo albums, he’s always questioning, doubting, or addressing some universal life issue. It’s been interesting to see his transformation from identifying as a Christian for so long, then as time has gone on, for him realizing Christianity is not the path he wants to follow. In an interview from Christianity Today from 2010, David talks about his change of heart towards the Christian faith, and seeing him live made me understand him a bit more. When you see him in person honestly singing out his struggles from years past and even joking about his own ongoing inability to pinpoint how to live life in the best way possible, it just solidifies and reminds us that it’s okay that none of us really know what we’re doing… even when we think we do.
That’s what I appreciate about David’s music and story. He’s just putting his thoughts out into song, and you can take them or leave them, accept them or reject them, but it’s difficult not to relate to them in some way. He said he doesn’t like choice, and because of this, his music doesn’t force you into one choice or the other, it allows you to process and hopefully come to a conclusion (or not) on your own.