Friday, August 29, 2014

VIDEO: Langhorne Slim -- Animal

By the time you read this I'll probably be heading up to the Campfire Music Festival in Lakewood, PA. Friday night has a killer lineup but I'm most excited to see Langhorne Slim. He released this song back in May. This'll be my first music festival so any comments or suggestions (even if it's too little too late) are appreciated!

Langhorne Slim -- Official, Purchase "Animal," Facebook, Purchase other music

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blessed State -- Head Space

If you're waiting around for music that makes your pulse synchronize with the beat, wait no longer. Blessed State's Head Space is a half hour of furious, dreamy punk in the tradition of Bob Mould, et. al.

Blessed State's sound can best be described as expertly orchestrated chaos. "Yr Language" starts off with an irresistible guitar riff that's quickly submerged in distorted bass and furious vocals. Head Space doesn't go up for air from that point onward. "Legacy" is my favorite song on the album -- it probably has the most straightforward melody of the songs on the album, but doesn't let up on Blessed State's singular knack for heaping on the existential pain.

Blessed State -- Facebook, Tumblr, Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones -- Luck Maker

I was just talking with some of my friends over the weekend about whatever's in the water in upstate New York. Hailing from Woodstock, NY, Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones pack a rockabilly punch. Whatever my reservations about the changing Hudson Valley, there's no question that these guys are the real deal.

There's an undeniable sense of fun in Luck Maker that is hard to find in most rockabilly albums these days. Basically, Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones bring the sexy back to rockabilly. It's not a kitten-ish Betty Page-style coyness that most rockabilly singers adopt. This is all about caterwauling in a tin-roofed roadhouse. "Whiskey Pick" is a raucous floor stomper that definitely sounds like something else (but since the lyric is "whiskey pick/all night long" I'm pretty sure it's not a double entendre.) On the other hand, "I've Never" is a sweet love song packaged in a dance number. Hope's vocal acrobatics are a pleasure that only the Ark-Tones' manic energy can support. I guess that joie-de-vivre is the result of that country living.

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones -- Official, Bandcamp

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sweet Crude -- Super Vilaine

I don't think it's quite right to say that the music scene in New Orleans has been "revived." It's not like it every went away. And it's not newly "relevant," because New Orleans is very much part of the fabric of American life. Maybe it's just better to say that the roots/rock revival has made its way to the Big Easy. If you think any band represents that vibe better than Sweet Crude, I will challenge you to a duel.

I wasn't sold right away. When I listened to the first 30 seconds of "Super Vilaine" I dismissed it as hipster bullshitting. But Paul Sanchez and Sonia Tetlow have not steered me wrong yet when it comes to music, so I thought I'd at least give them another shot.

So with way more than 30 seconds logged with this EP, I can say that Super Vilaine is truly dynamic and shines a beacon on the future of the New Orleans music tradition. If zydeco is the baby of rock'n'roll and traditional Cajun music, this is neo-zydeco. Sweet Crude is undeniably proud of their Cajun heritage -- the language and the music are strong throughout, but they're augmented by tribal and hip-hop beats, synthesizers, and an exuberant call-and-response chorus the likes of which fun. have never seen.

The band has already toured nationally (I was otherwise occupied when they came up here, which I deeply regret.) The EP itself is superbly produced, as a dance music album should be. Super Vilaine is a living example of combining tradition with the present.

Sweet Crude -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Madisons -- You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas!

I'm switching back to posting one update a day...mostly because the school year is approaching pretty quickly, so I'm devoting my time to "preparing" (a.k.a. lesson planning, "lesson planning," and partying furiously.) However, here's a band I sat on way too long. I'll just say right now that it's the debut album of the year.

I like all of the bands I post on the blog -- otherwise they wouldn't make it -- but it's been some time since I've discovered an artists I'm truly enthusiastic about. Texas-based The Madisons are that band.

There's no question that You Can Take Your Sorry Ass... has the pop-folk feel that us city kids love to play and listen to these days. But The Madisons finally helped me figure out why it bothers me somewhere deep down. See, bands like The Lumineers are soulful and talented, of course, but they're also....well...polite. When lead singer Dominic Solis croons,

I'm not responsible for the way you say you feel
That's what therapists teach assholes
So they don't have to feel like assholes

supported by a backdrop of tambourines and a carefully plucked mandolin, I realized I was on to something good. It's not that the band is irreverent or wears its dry sense of humor on its sleeve a la The Refreshments (though that's there, and Solis' voice does resemble a young Roger Clyne's.) It's that The Madisons aren't hiding behind a curtain of refinement -- they're to-the-point and they don't care who they might offend, which is what folk music is really all about anyway. It's not about moving to Brooklyn and pretending you're one with the Common Man while cultivating an otherworldly and vintage image. It's about saying what's actually on your mind.

"A Long Slow Death in San Marcos Texas" (quoted above) is a 4-minute masterpiece, and the other tracks on the album follow suit. The music is soft-spoken but the spirit behind it is anything but. I hope the Madisons get their asses out of West Texas and teach the sorry asses over here a thing or two. 

A Long Slow Death in San Marcos Texas

In My Pocket Forever

Meet Me By the Riverside

The Madisons -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Christopher Bell -- Fire

If the music posted in the last few days feels peppy and light, it's because this is all music I listened to in June. At the end of the school year. And now I'm getting ready to head back. That should tell you how far behind I've been on reviews, considering I've been posting two a day all summer. So even though this is early summer music, I submit that Christopher Bell is a songwriter for all seasons.

As much as I love country, if I was being truly honest the cello is my favorite instrument (pedal steel runs a very close second.) Bell plays the cello -- and nothing but -- on the album. OK. Now listen to some of the music.

Bell uses pedals to layer samples of his electric cello -- live -- in order to create his unique sound. On top of that, he's a damn fine songwriter to boot. Check out this selection from "Connect the Dots":

I'm a sucker for layered shirts
sci fi movies and any dessert
you're the only one to crack my shell
but tape it up and never tell

its easy to forget the nature of things
that we're both pimples, scars and pains
losing keys, forgetting dates
forget alarm, sleep in late. 

I also find "Am I What I Think" particularly poignant. I'm sure it's a quandary that only becomes deeper when I'll get older, but I think Bell perfectly captures the agonies of a young person questioning him or herself and his/her legacy.

Fire is certainly a standout album and one well worth your time.

Christopher Bell -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Repeat After Me -- Mapmaker

Jam bands and power pop aren't two genres that seem like they would go together, but Repeat After Me Manages to pull it off. Repeat After Me is signed to Russian Winter Records, which has done an excellent job of building a stable of artists of brands whose music you can space out to, but it's never spacy enough to be off-putting. (PS, Russian Winter Records and I made a benefit compilation album that you should buy.)

But to get back to Repeat After Me, let's talk about their aesthetics for a second. You can purchase a digital copy of this album (recommended) for $5, but for $18 you can purchase a vinyl that includes a free set of crayons for you to color in the cover. For crayons, 20 minutes of fun, and a chance to exercise your own creativity, I'd say that's a pretty clutch deal. You know what else is clutch? Mapmaker.

This is a beautifully constructed album -- plain and simple. You're eased in to what seems like a glittering pop confection with "Mapmaker," before being whisked into more contemplative territory with songs like "I'm Going Back" and "Carve Out a Name." The standout track for me is "San Francisco" -- maybe it's a little silly, but sometimes you need a silly song to leaven Mapmaker's ultimate achievement: building intelligent but crafty music.

Repeat After Me -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp