Why do I love The Hold Steady? Because they’ve been making non-stupid ROCK music for ten years. It’s miraculous that a band can deliver so many songs about heartbreak and drinking with the requisite choruses and bridges and still sound smart. Part of it is that the band has a knack for air-guitar-worthy riffs, but it’s really singer/songwriter Craig Finn’s storytelling that sets The Hold Steady apart. Craig’s also possessed of a unique charisma on stage - check out the band on tour in the U.S and Europe from now through October for an undeniably fun and sweaty time.
The new Hold Steady record is called Teeth Dreams and I’ve been dying to share my favorite song “Wait a While” with you for months. It’s a deceptively simple gem that you’ll want on your summer playlist. I personally would slug nearly any man who called me “little girl,” but somehow Craig Finn can get away with it and even get me to sing along. Download it below.
Sound it Out # 71
Buddy is an evolving collection of Los Angeles musicians, the singer & songwriter of which is a man named Buddy. Buddy’s songs are full of brilliant turns of phrase and suffused with beauty, longing, and sadness.
In live performance, the band feels like a group of tight friends coming together to support someone they love. Often, six or seven musicians cram onto the stage behind Buddy the singer to become the larger “Buddy” - the greater expression of a man who appears genuinely surprised and grateful that people enjoy his music. Buddy is now on tour with a stripped-down (and equally powerful) version of the band, and you should go check them out in your town.
Buddy has a new album coming out on August 19th called Last Call for the Quiet Life. The sound is lush where his previous work was spare, and it features lots of lovely vocal harmonies. It’s his best work and I’m proud to premiere the first single “Weak Currents” and offer you a free download. Grab it below. You can also pre-order the record on iTunes if you dig it.
A new Say Hi record is reason for celebration in my home, and a new (and free) song should make you happy as well. Eric Elbogen is the one-man-band called Say Hi and he makes music that is a slippery study in contrasts. His songs are at once catchy and tragic. They are simultaneously fun and substantial. They’ll make you want to dance and cry at the same time.
The forthcoming Say Hi record is out on June 17th and it’s called Endless Wonder. It’s already one of my favorites from 2014. Download “Hurt in the Morning” below.
In case you missed it, we’re at the end of our semi-bi-yearly Free Music Week. Nine exceptional artists offered up a free download and I think they make a great playlist as a group. If you missed any of it, you can still grab the songs through the weekend. They’re all here.
Please support the musicians you love (and their art) by buying music and going to live shows. It’s a mitzvah.
Sound it Out # 69: The War on Drugs - “Red Eyes” (free MP3)
It’s a rare rainy day here in LA, and I can’t imagine any song sounding better right now than “Red Eyes”, the new song from The War on Drugs.
Adam Granduciel is the creative force behind The War on Drugs, and he’s been joined by an ever-changing group of collaborators throughout the band’s 11-year history. The current line-up has been stable through two years of touring and the recording of the new album Lost in the Dream. The result is a cohesive group of beautiful and atmospheric pop songs that are perfect for inclement weather.
Download “Red Eyes” below and pre-order Lost in the Dream once you’re hooked. Get started here:
Sound it Out # 68: Drowners - "Luv, Hold Me Down" (free MP3)
New wave music ruled my teenage world. The swirly guitars and romantic vocals of bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure and The Smiths gave me great joy back in the 80s and still do today. It’s no wonder then that the Drowners debut album totally pushes my buttons. It has that perfect blend of punchy pop backdrops and moody lyrics that would satisfy any petulant teen, even the one you still carry around inside you.
“Luv, Hold Me Down” is the epitome of this. Grab it now and see if you feel the same way.
Sound it Out # 67: Off! - “Void You Out” (free MP3)
The men of OFF! have some harcore credentials...literally. Even though members Keith Morris (singer for Circle Jerks and Black Flag), Steven MacDonald (bassist for Redd Kross), Dmitri Coats (singer for Burning Brides) and Mario Rubalcaba (drummer for Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes) have lives and children and responsibilities now, they obviously haven’t left behind their joy of stripped down thrash rock.
OFF! has a new album of old-school punk rock gems called Wasted Years coming out on April 8, and all 16 songs on it were recorded and written live in the studio. It’s kind of funny to think about, but OFF! are professionals. They’re the punk equivalent of studio musicians and it’s easy to imagine them spitballing songs and getting right down to the business of punching you in the face with their music.
“Void You Out” clocks in at a little over a minute, but packs in all the fury and melody one could want. Get it below.
Sound it Out # 66: Tokyo Police Club - “Hot Tonight” (free MP3)
I must apologize in advance. This song is going to stick in your head, and it’s not going to leave you alone for a long time. It has wormed its way into my brain and literally kept me awake at night.
Toronto indie band Tokyo Police Club has always shown a strong a pop sensibility, but they’ve written a hit song of boy-band proportions with “Hot Tonight.” It’s the first single from their upcoming album Forcefield, most of which is rougher around the edges than this glossy ditty. You can pre-order the record at their Pledge Music page along with a bunch of fan-pleasing bundles.
We have a free download of “Hot Tonight” for two days only. Listen at your own risk.
Sound it Out # 65: Total Slacker - "Sometimes You Gotta Die" (free MP3)
It’s hard to take Total Slacker seriously. Get past their name and you still have four people in their twenties wearing 90’s “fashion”. We’re talking high-waisted, acid-washed Guess jeans, oversized jackets and bowl cuts. Singer/frontman Tucker Rountree met bassist Emily Oppenheimer at a laundromat and professes an unironic love for The Olive Garden.
But listen to their new record Slip Away (out on February 11) and you’ll realize that there’s something more going on here. The music is raw, unpolished, and passionate.
Total Slacker’s original drummer Terence Connor was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2012 which propelled them into a grief-induced flurry of songwriting and recording. The most obvious result is “Sometimes You Gotta Die”, a song that I think is about how sometimes the only way to appreciate life is to experience terrible pain. Hear and download below.
Sound it Out # 64: Chaos of Birds - “Rank and Ruin” (free MP3)
Nicole Thomas and Meghan Adkins are two friends with a supernatural musical connection. They formed the legendary Seattle band Mavis Piggott in the mid-90’s, then reunited in Oakland years later to form Chaos of Birds. Meghan is a ferocious singer and songwriter, unafraid to show vulnerability yet possessed of a voice that summons astonishing depths of rage and passion. Nicole plays drums with a effortless zeal that belies her technical skill. With Chaos of Birds, they’ve added great guitar and bass in the way of Will Morton and Matt Ray, and the result is well-crafted bluesy sludge.
Having just returned from a UK tour, Chaos of Birds are planning their next steps (take note managers, booking agents and A&R humans!), including some shows on the west coast. They recorded a couple of songs recently and I’m honored to share the first with you. It’s called “Rank and Ruin” and Meghan’s yowl never sounded better.
Sound it Out # 63: Barzin - "All The While" (free MP3)
It doesn’t surprise me at all that Barzin has a book of poetry out in the world in addition to his records. His songs are melancholy and ultra-verbal, avoiding easy turns of phrase or cheap rhymes. Barzin’s fourth record To Live Alone in that Long Summer (out February 25) finds him in the familiar territory of misunderstood overthinkers, frustrated with humans and craving connections. It’s odd that his songs of alienation are so comforting, but the themes are universal and Barzin just expresses them better than most of us could.
“All the While” is an especially lovely introduction to Barzin. Grab it below.
Sound it Out # 62: Sabina - “Toujours” (free MP3)
You may know Sabina’s voice from her former band Brazilian Girls, though this German-Italian artist is apparently not Brazilian at all. Sabina delivers fanciful stories of talking animals and anthropomorphized objects in a sultry and matter-of-fact tone, while the music spans styles and often defies description. There’s a tone of batshit-crazy genius suffusing it all, making her debut album Toujours a whole lot of fun. It’s out on February 18. Check out the title track below.
After not hearing much that inspired me in the last months of 2013, I’ve recently been inundated with great music. And so Free Music Week returns! From today through Friday, you’ll get at least a couple of free songs a day to get you going on a diverse (and free) playlist for 2014. I hope you enjoy it!
As always, please support the artists who are sharing their music here by going to their shows or buying their records.
Sound it Out # 61: Rhye - “Open” (free MP3)
Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal never meant to form a band. Milosh traveled from his native Canada to Copenhagen to mix a track for Hannibal’s band Quadron, and the two musicians discovered an affinity for making sweet music together. Rhye is all about love: not the unrequited or yearning kind (which seems to make for more natural artistic fodder), but the life-changing mutual stuff. Rhye should be on everyone’s makeout playlist.
“Open” is my favorite from Rhye’s debut album Woman. It’s a sexy song - Milosh’s androgynous vocals swirl with a layers of intoxicating beats. Download it below.
Sound it Out # 60: Throwing Muses - “slippershell” (free MP3)
Throwing Muses haven’t released new music in ten years, though singer/songwriter Kristin Hersh has not been idle. Hersh has various solo and collaborative musical projects, released an excellent memoir called Rat Girl in 2010, and co-founded CASH Music, a non-profit that supplies open-source tools to musicians.
Read the rest
Sound it Out # 59: Poliça - “Chain My Name” (free MP3)
On their second album, Shulamith, Minnesota’s Poliça bring a more aggressive sound to their languid, sexy music. Channy Leanagh’s vocals are the ghostly anchor to a dense electronica palette.
The new album is out on October 22 in the US, and right around there in other territories. It’s terrific.
“Chain My Name” is poppier than I would have ever expected Poliça to be. The driving bassline and prominent handclaps are perky foils to the band’s usual dark and moody tone. Download it below.
Sound it Out # 58: Man Man - “Head On” (free MP3)
Philly band Man Man’s fifth record On Oni Pond finds singer (and main songwriter) Honus Honus collaborating with drummer Pow Pow. The record, out on September 10, is quirky and optimistic and has a charming appeal that feels like an evening at a carnival.
“Head On” is the first new Man Man song in a couple of years. It’s got a fetching string section, plucky piano, and a singalong chorus that relentlessly sticks in your brain. Download it below!