Friday, April 29, 2011

The Head and The Heart


{image from Sub-Pop Records}

Though I didn't get up before the sun to see the Royal Wedding, I'm making up for the day's enjoyment with a patio-sit-work-sesh in 70some and sunny RVA. Feels good. Calls for feel good, Americana music {though I suppose if I was more topical, we'd be featuring some post-punk Brit outfit. But we had The Beatles on Monday, so cut me a little slack?}.

As Seattle keeps cranking out the kids with the good stuff, The Head and The Heart recently signed to Sub Pop Records to release their self -titled debut. An easy six-piece ensemble, piano and guitars dominate with flourishes of Charity Rose Thielen's violin and topped off with ebullient handclaps and footstomps. Think Avett Bros., a little Jason Isbell and the harder edge of Augustana. Lyrics from core songwriting partners Josiah Johnson and {VA-native} Jonathan Russel have you either coming or going – looking for life-lessons and experience in a new land, or missing the loved ones in cities left behind.

The Head and The Heart // Down In The Valley

The Week's Once-Over

Bluegrass Bonanza - Brown Bird, Devil Makes Three {Becki Hoehn}
Perfume Genius
Explosions in the Sky {Dustin Artz}
Under the Covers Monday - The Beatles v. She&Him

cheerio, pip-pip!
xx, chirgo

Thursday, April 28, 2011

bluegrass bonanza

Across the amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty, Becki Hoehn guests posts for us from the wilds of Auburn, CA. When not tromping about in cargo shorts and SmartWool socks, she's catching shows and schooling roadies on the finer points of soil chemistry.

xx, chirgo

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Brown Bird


Devil Makes Three

Bluegrass - their roots can be traced back to the Appalachians, so why did it take me moving away from the Appalachians to start appreciating bands with banjos and upright bassists?

I recently went to a show where two bands just blew my mind with their talent. The opener, Brown Bird, is a duo from Rhode Island who plays more instruments than The Arcade Fire has band members. Their dark bluesy country music had me drop-jawed, and luckily for you RVA peoples they are going to be in town May 22nd, location to be determined.

The Devil Makes Three had me upon sighting an inked chick on upright bass,{Lucia Turino}...but seriously I think these guys just want you in your dancing Toms, uh...boots?
What's the typical fashion for bluegrass, I'm too new at this?
Regardless, everyone in the venue was bouncing around to their "badass backporch blues," me especially.

-B

Brown Bird // Danger and Dread

Devil Makes Three // Aces and Twos

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Perfume Genius


On occasion I'll come by an album that completely destroys me.

Upon realization I have 67.99GB of music in my iTunes {what?! gross.}, I've been pushing up my sleeves and giving the ol' heave ho to scores of mp3s I never want to hear again for the rest of my life. I'm not talking tracks I'd be a little embarrassed to come up on shuffle during a shared road trip. You just have to embrace "Mortal Kombat" popping up before working your air ninja blades. I mean my enjoyment of four Girl Talk albums is simply long past the expiration date.

Besides the point and get back on topic, would you? Sheezus.

In my "benefit of the doubt" modicum, I can't throw out anything I haven't given at least one listen. So when I came to Perfume Genius, I judged a book by it's cover and assumed "synthy, Animal Collective-wannabe, Garage Band application." wrong, Wrong, WRONG.

After years of self-destruction and persecution by the crawling, hushed demons that haunt the sorrowful few, Mike Hadreas took shelter in his mother's house in Washington state. The taking up of a hermetic life stirred long-suppressed creativity, and Hadreas started penning lyrics to lay open dark stories of addiction, suicide and abuse. Set against lo-fi, simple piano at times so quiet you can hear the whoosh of recording pick-up, Hadreas' vocals range from harsh whispers to tremulous demands. Rather than cheap and shallow, the results are lush, warm melodies cradling his words to your ears and making you pay attention. Forcing you to look.
look out, look out / there are murders about

Released on Matador Records in 2010, “the songs on the album are the ones I think are the most real. And they are about everybody, you know? Even though some of them are directly from my experience - I always had everybody in mind.” - mike hadreas

Perfume Genius // Learning
Perfume Genius // No Problem

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Explosions In The Sky


Happy to report that Dustin's back for another round, and stoked on the recent release from Explosions. Check back later this week for another ES special guest.

xx, chirgo

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Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Hate to admit it, but this is one of those bands it's pained me to see blow up. I've been devout since their album, "Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die," before Friday Night Lights brought them a bunch of cringeworthy boppy teens thinking they are having some divine revelation after sneaking weed into the audience and just letting go, man. THIS BAND IS LIKE….AHH MAN I CAN'T EVEN PUT IT INTO WORDS. sigh. (And I'm the guy who can't appreciate when good bands get their due. sigh again.)

Critics have been tired of post-rock since the mid 2000's, giving "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" pretty mediocre reviews, when it is in fact a stellar album all the way through. My top of 2007 actually, but that may be because I moved out West and did, ahem, miss everyone.

It's good to see Explosions sticking to what they know best with another solid effort. "Let Me Back In" is a step forward for the Texas group, with a voice sample (?!), and a groove beat instead of a march (!), which crescendos into some brilliance. "Trembling Hands" has an angular Interpol-type guitar (!), more voices (!), and is only three and a half minutes long (!). Some crazy firsts, for them. But this is still an Explosions album. 6 songs, each cryptically named. Massive energy built around lulls. Cohesive throughout. If you like Explosions, and can get over the need to hear something completely boundary-pushing from them, you won't be disappointed. This fits nicely into their catalogue.

-da

Explosions In The Sky // Let Me Back In

Monday, April 25, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Elizabeth and the Catapult



A little sexy push and pull for your dark-pop affinity. Don't you worry about it.

Elizabeth and The Catapult // Go Away My Lover

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Alexander


Alex Ebert, better known as the messianic frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, released his solo effort Alexander back in March. Scaling back from the 10+ piece enthusiasm of the Zeroes, Ebert still delivers on blissed out, 70's inspired psychedelia. "Truth," with it's Caribbean flavors, licks of Paul Simon and maybe even a little Citizen Cope for the more contemporary of our contemporaries? whistles and trips just enough to mask politically-minded lyrics. You don't get serious until you GET serious.

Alexander // Truth

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fleet Foxes


{image from Spin.com}

Truth: I've had this album for a month, and only started listening last weekend.
Truth: I sold my May 15 tix for D.A.R.
Truth: It's gonna bruise after this amount of kicking myself.

I can't say why I didn't give Helplessness Blues a spin and "replay all" from the get-go. The sole, feeble explanation I can shrug my shoulders over was my head not being ready for the hippie. Because that's exactly the kind of record the Seattle natives created: a sweetly green musing on the esoteric and blue-collar. A life returned to reaping what you sow, "if i had an orchard / i'd work till i'm sore / you would wait tables / and soon run the store" from the sophmmore album's namesake first single. Is it laughable that it's one of the most romantic things I've heard all season?

Pretty sure a certain someone needs to spending more time out on the playground.

If you're not ready for posings of "why is the sky blue?" lyrics, or heavy blushings of The Moody Blues - don't force it. It'll come around when the cicadas start whirring and a caftan sounds like an excellent brunch outfit.

Fleet Foxes // The Shrine / An Argument

Monday, April 18, 2011

Under the Covers Monday: Ben Folds & Death Cab

Using blankies to make syncopated electromatic sounds on an acoustic?

Ah. That's why Ben Folds always gets the girls.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Panda Bear {& the more the merrier}

As you would assume, I've been hard-pressed to properly post as of late. As a genetic default, this puts me into a spiral of guilt that perpetuates delayed postings which equals no postings which equals more guilt which means I'm blaming my mother.

Isn't that what I'm supposed to do in my late-20s when I'm questioning inherent personal behaviors?

Since taking over for Mckay two years ago, I have a lot of heart for ES and being able to share music with the five or six of you that check back from time to time. To be sure we keep the ES closet full, I've decided to bring on guests writers - particular people particularly passionate about music. They're only requirements are to stoke the blog fires, exercise witty banter and be scorchingly good-looking. We've set a high-bar around here.

So without further ado - ladies and gentlemen: the reputable Dustin Artz!
{f*ck...i gotta step up my game}

xx, chirgo

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I like lists.

Every year on my phone I make a list of all the new albums about to come out. Next to each sits a number denoting how many times I'll eventually listen to it.

Anyway.

For most of 2010 Panda Bear's name sat on that list with a big 0. His album "Tomboy" kept getting delayed and delayed, and that stubborn little zero brought me a pang of disappointment every time I glanced at it.

So I'd listen to "Person Pitch" one more time. Every track on it flawless, just as relevant today as it was four years ago; hazy, warm and dream-like, so simple yet so overwhelmingly grand and lush. Something sacred about it. Add to that the accessibility of "Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion," and my anticipation for "Tomboy" couldn't have been any greater.

So I might be a bad guest host critic for this one.

"Tomboy" is solid, don't get me wrong. The songs are shorter, but still contain the simple, repetitive melodies that put you in a trance. They just end sooner. Long, repeated choruses like "Know you can count on me," still make you feel somehow more pure just for listening to them. Percussion like that on "Slow Motion" still gets your head nodding, recalling the stutter stop of throwback Audio Two's "Top Billin." Interwined with all the reverb and repetition to come, Panda Bear still creates magic.

And yet while the formula is still mostly there, the biggest shift on this album seems to be an emotional one. While Panda Bear is always reflective, at his most impactful he dwells in the land of optimism and triumph. E.g. Noah yelling at his brother at the top of his lungs to open up his throat…"MATTTTT!!!!!!!" This album on the other hand is enveloped in a bit of darkness, the songs increasingly tinged with loneliness as "Tomboy" progresses. There is something uneasy lurking in the corner. And instead of leading us out, like the guitar that strains to be heard and eventually prevails on "Bros," Panda Bear lets doubt sit with us as the album stops spinning.

Which, of course, is not always a bad thing. If I threw away all the self-absorbed melancholy in my CD collection I wouldn't have much left. But when you look up to a musician like some sort of Holyman the way I do Noah Lennox, well, to be frank, it just kind of bums me out.

That said, I'm probably going to listen to it a hundred times and have it end up on my best of 2011 list.

Panda Bear // Slow Motion

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Weeknd


My deep-rooted, nostalgic love for early-90's R&B is springing some new green. The genre's dark cascade towards growling sex cynicism and clenched maxillary muscles is just what I plan to keep ducking into.

The Weeknd, known up until now for those who can find them {him?} as XO, is 20 year-old Torontonian Abel Tesfaye. Doesn't take long to figure out the kind of night you're gonna have after listening to his sensuously violent, don't-let-mom-hear-this-on-your-mixtape lyrics. Sink your teeth into the shoulder of TW's House of Balloons download here. Don't miss Beach House samplings with How To Dress Well leanings, and previous release "What You Need."

The Weeknd // Wicked Games.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mondial Creative Labs

Nick Wurz and Kevin Bennett of the hugely talented shop, Mondial Creative Labs, took to the streets after VCU's loss to Butler two nights ago. They're like ghostwriters for the wild letdown and adrenaline detox experienced by students and fans as they swarmed, alighted and ultimately retreated from the scene on Broad. Surreal and sadly gorgeous, you could be on either side of the police line and still mourn the end of the cinderella story.

Fantastic stuff, gents. Check out an older ES interview with largely Mondial-populated band, Autocue, here.

VCU Riot after 2011 Final Four from MONDIAL on Vimeo.

Friday, April 1, 2011

R.E.M.


Been spinning the new R.E.M., and fondly remembering Michael Stipe's and my moment at Dell'Anima. That moment being my eyes bugging out when he walked in with his bespectacled wonderfulness, oblivious to the fact Out of Time defined my childhood. A couple tracks from Collapse Into Now will likely make an appearance on my 5th Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K run playlist - not that you really need to lean on your playlist when nearly the entire Fan is out on Monument porches, howling.

And when you're not pounding pavement, you're bleeding Black & Gold this Saturday. Nobody's eatin' crow in RVA.

R.E.M. // ƜBerlin