Sound it Out # 45: Charles Bradley - “Strictly Reserved for You” (MP3)
Soul singer Charles Bradley has a lot of feelings, and it's not hard to see why: he's lived on the street, discovered his brother’s murdered body, and spent most of his 64 years as a James Brown impersonator, all while dreaming of recording his own music. His songs teem with the incredible anguish of his life, and his gratitude for its turnaround. Bradley has only seen success in the last few years, and his deep love for his life and fans is apparent. I’ve never seen someone give so much of himself on stage; he will actually burst into tears while wailing “I love you” and thanking the audience when he performs. It's irresistible.
Victim of Love is Charles Bradley’s excellent new album (out today!), and it sounds like a classic soul record with some sneaky psychedelic overtones. Charles has agreed to share this free download of the first single “Strictly Reserved for You” with us. Take a listen, know that Charles loves you, and head over to a record retailer to show your love right back.
Junip is a band from Gothenburg, Sweden, comprising members Elias Araya, Tobias Winterkorn, and José González. Though their first EP came out way back in 2005, they are only now releasing their second full-length album, Junip, which arrives on April 23rd. Singer/guitarist González’ much-lauded solo career has kept him away from the band for big chunks of time. It's been worth the wait.
Junip's new single “Line of Fire” is an atmospheric gem. Whispery vocals, exotic percussion and an overall ominous tone make for a highly addictive song. Download/listen below.
Sound it Out # 42: Helado Negro - “Dance Ghost”(MP3)
Helado Negro is the musician alter ego of the visual/experimental artist Roberto Carlos Lange.He’s the son of Ecuadorian immigrants who grew up in South Florida and now lives in Savannah, Georgia. The music of Helado Negro (translation: Black Ice Cream) is a moody mish-mash of samples and rhythms that evokes the haunted mood of a David Lynch movie. Helado Negro’s fourth album is called Invisible Life and will be out March 5.
Meanwhile, Lange has a commissioned live performance coming up on February 23 at the Savannah College of Art & Design. It’s called Brain Finger Composition and includes sounds that members of the Savannah arts community uploaded to Google Voice. He will also conduct a 10-piece orchestra by connecting each musician to one of his fingers with a piece of yarn.
“Dance Ghost” is one of the first songs that Helado Negro has sung in English. It has a haunting, languid tone that you can imagine being an ideal soundtrack for a sticky Georgia/Florida/Ecuador summer night. Download it below.
What’s changed: They’ve added bassist & multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson (Blood Brothers, Fleet Foxes) and are now a 4-piece. The new record sounds lusher and includes some new sounds (background singers! reverb! flute solos!).
What hasn’t changed: The Cave Singers continue to sound like nobody else. There’s an intense rural feeling to their music that feels like a moonshine-soaked porch sing-along.
Their fourth album is called Naomi and is out March 5, but you can pre-order it here and download it next week.
The band has given us a free download of “Easy Way” for two days only, so grab it now. I also highly recommend seeing them when they tour the U.S. in the spring. You’ll be glad you did.
On the rare occasion, a dreamy, jangly, coming-of-age pop song can make me dance like a moron in the kitchen.
Download “Teenage”, put down the knife, press play, and behold the power of London’s Veronica Falls as you shake your thing. Their second album Waiting for Something to Happen is out on February 12 and is full of angsty gems like this.
Sound it Out # 39: Guided by Voices - “She Lives in an Airport ”(MP3)
Dayton, Ohio’s legendary Guided by Voices broke up in 2004. Over the course of a 21-year run they’d gone through numerous personnel changes, with singer and main songwriter Robert Pollard as the only consistent player throughout.
Pollard reunited the band's mid-'90s lineup in 2010 and released three albums in 2012: Let’s Go Eat the Factory (January), Class Clown Spots a UFO (June) and The Bears for Lunch (November). All three records have classic Guided by Voices attributes: hilarious song titles (“How I Met My Mother”, “Worm with 7 Broken Hearts”, “Finger Gang”), hard-to-tolerate noisy parts, and extremely catchy and well-crafted rock music.
Much has been written about how GBV and Robert Pollard could release flawless albums with some self-editing and higher production values. Maybe that’s true, but it’s missing the point. Robert Pollard is deeply compelled to produce copious amounts of music, and part of being a fan is listening to all of it.
That said, I think The Bears for Lunch is the best and most consistent release of current-era Guided by Voices. The clever and tender turns of phrase in “She Lives in an Airport” make me believe that there is no more talented songwriter than Robert Pollard. He makes me want to quote lyrics, which is something I’ve vowed never to do in music writing.
Check out "She Lives in an Airport" in the free download below, and then dig in to all three albums from 2012 right away; true to form, Guided by Voices has a new record called English Little League coming out sometime in the first half of 2013.
Record labels tend to release best-of collections and superstar schlock (now approaching: new Aerosmith, Ne-Yo, Kid Rock, and a Backstreet Boys Christmas album) around the end of the year, and I’m having a hard time finding new music to recommend. Every once in awhile, though, an indie artist is brave enough to put their music up against the 4th quarter sludge heap. Lord Huron’s new record Lonesome Dreams came out about a month ago and it’s all I want to listen to.
Lord Huron started as just Ben Schneider, a Michigan-born Navy brat with fond memories of his father playing guitar around a campfire at (you guessed it) Lake Huron. Ben’s since moved to LA and morphed Lord Huron into a 5-piece melodic hootenanny machine. The songs are lush and accomplished and feel perfect for this time of year. “Time to Run” is my favorite song, and the band is giving us a free download for a week. Start your holiday playlists here.
Sound it Out # 37: Jenny O. - “Automechanic” (MP3)
I posted Jenny O.’s first single almost a year ago. At that time, Jenny was just getting started - she had moved from NY to LA and had a five-song EP called “Home” that she released herself. Since then, all five songs on “Home” have been featured on TV series, car commercials and video games...some of them in all three. Jenny has toured the country a few times, played a residency in LA, turned some heads at SXSW, and made a new record. She's on a roll.
The new album is called Automechanic and though Jenny has been courted by record labels large and small, she opted to put it out on her own imprint, Holy Trinity, on February 5th. There’s a purity and a fire to Jenny O. that I find irresistible. Her almost child-like voice is an evocative counterpoint to the confidence and complexity of her music.
Here’s a free download of the title track from Automechanic. Thanks Jenny!
Sound it Out # 36: Earlimart - “97 Heart Attack” (MP3)
Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray make records as Earlimart and also help other artists make theirs. Aaron owns The Ship Recording Studio in LA, which evolved from a group of friends who liked to drink beer and play music to a place where artists from around the globe come to make records.
The studio employs the latest recording technology, but Aaron also likes to toy with old-school techniques.
Sound it Out # 35: Divine Fits - “Would That Not Be Nice”
Divine Fits is a great band that plays melodic indie rock. I saw their seventh-ever live show last week and they played with a reckless joy that one rarely sees these days. They have two singers who also swap out guitar and bass duties; I loved watching them switch instruments in a silly and complicated maneuver that that resembled a wrestler’s tag-out move. They played their hearts out and seemed to enjoy every sweaty minute. There was a sense in the audience that we were sharing something special.
This is a new band, but these dudes are probably not new to you. Divine Fits is Britt Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade & Handsome Furs) and Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks). They’ve made a fun and cohesive record (coming out Tuesday) titled A Thing Called Divine Fits.
“Would That Not Be Nice" is sung by Britt and features a beefy bassline and synthy keyboards by Alex Fischel. Grab the free song below and don’t forget to buy the record on Tuesday.
Sound it Out # 34: Diamond Rings- "I’m Just Me” (MP3)
When I was a naive and confused tween, I yearned to lose my virginity to Boy George. I later learned that a few of my male friends shared this same fantasy. Now a new generation of youth gets to feel this way about Diamond Rings.
John O is Diamond Rings. It would be easy to dismiss him as a post-80’s mix of Vanilla Ice and Max Headroom if he weren't so adorable and talented. I saw him play a small showcase last week and he completely owned the room by throwing himself into his performance. He danced on tables and vamped like he was playing in a vast stadium instead of a tiny room holding fewer than 100 people. John's persona is a crazy mix of macho and effeminate and the show could have been ridiculous if it hadn't been delivered with such complete confidence and charm.
If there’s any justice in this world, this new Diamond Rings song will be a massive hit. “I’m Just Me” is a perfect summery club anthem with a great message about being yourself. Download it below.
I can’t think of anyone who makes more consistently beautiful, melancholy music than Beth Orton. Her songs are full of nuanced wisdom and the sound of her voice alone can make your heart delightfully heavy.
Orton's new album is her first in six years and is out on October 2nd. It’s called Sugaring Season and the songs are as lush and lovely as you would hope. Go ahead and download “Magpie” -- it’s a gift from Orton and the folks at Anti- Records.
Sound it Out # 32: Black Moth Super Rainbow - "Windshield Smasher”
There’s a guy in Pittsburgh who calls himself Tobacco. He's been making music as Black Moth Super Rainbow since 2003. His sound has transitioned from disjointed psychedelia to more guitar-heavy dance music, though all of it has a trippy element to it. It shouldn’t surprise you that people enjoy doing drugs and going to see Black Moth Super Rainbow play.
Black Moth Super Rainbow just finished a very successful (and entertaining to read) Kickstarter campaign, raising over $125,000 to release the new album Cobra Juicy. Premiums included a haunted house tour, a roller skating party and hand-painted, glow-in-the-dark masks with a USB stick jammed into the mouth like a tooth. Eric Wareheim starred in one pitch video for the campaign.
“Windshield Smasher” is the new song from Cobra Juicy. It's sort of like a malevolent stadium anthem that gets progressively weirder. Listen and download below.
Sound it Out # 31: Redd Kross - "Stay Away From Downtown"
The brothers Steve and Jeff MacDonald are the core of Redd Kross, who played their first show opening for Black Flag at a middle school graduation party in 1978 (Steve was 11; Jeff was 15). The band quickly became a big part of the LA punk rock scene - their pop sensibilities and long hair made them stand out from the crowd. Their energy and charm made them beloved in nearly any setting.
As Redd Kross matured, they became more and more fascinated with pop culture; they wrote songs inspired by the likes of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, breakfast cereal, and Linda Blair. They had a few major label deals, opening spots for giant rock tours and some radio and MTV play, but somehow never acheived the success of their peers.
34 years after opening for Black Flag, Redd Kross is back with Researching the Blues, their first album in 15 years (out today!). The record is 32 minutes of melody-laden pop/rock, and “Stay Away from Downtown” is a worthy introduction to the band and the new record. Download it below.
Sound it Out # 30: Zulu Pearls - "No Heroes No Honeymoons"
Zulu Pearls is a fellow named Zach Van Hoozer who moved from Washington DC to Berlin a couple of years ago. He’s been working on the record with producer Nick Anderson for three years while plugging away at bar shifts and day jobs.
I like this song very, very much. It’s groovy and slightly sinister and I can’t get it out of my head. It has a kind of restless energy that makes you want to do something exciting and possibly embarrassing.
The new Zulu Pearls album in out 9/18 and is full of spare and soulful tunes such as this one. It’s called No Heroes No Honeymoons, just like the song.
Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) has finished her first album of new material since 2006’s The Greatest. It’s called SUN and it’s out on September 4. Chan played every bit of music on the record, and it comes on the heels of what sounds like a brutal breakup with Giovanni Ribisi. We'll have to wait and see how much of that pain ends up on display in the rest of the songs. The first single is called "Ruin" and you can grab it below. It's perky by Cat Power standards, with a nifty keyboard bit that complements Chan’s haunting voice. Her signature fierceness is there, and the song rocks. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.
Sound it Out # 28: Daydream Vacation- "Dare Seize the Fire"
I’m pretty sure Dave Einmo is some kind of pop music savant. He has a band called Head Like a Kite in which he’s the only consistent member and where he combines movie samples with rock-leaning electronic grooves and often has interesting guests join in with vocals. One of those those singers on last year’s Dreams Suspend Night was Asya, formerly of the band Smoosh (Remember Smoosh? They were the band of cool tween sisters from Seattle that you saw all in all the “bands to watch” lists 6-7 years ago...they were like the anti-Hanson. Asya started singing for Smoosh when she was 12. She’s 20 now).
So, Asya’s first song with Head Like a Kite was called “Daydream Vacation” and she and Dave recently decided to be a full time band called just that. I like it that Einmo named Head Like a Kite after a lyric from The Shins and that Daydream Vacation is a play on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. This is a man who is not afraid to pay tribute.
Daydream Vacation’s debut, self-released record is called Dare Seize the Fire and they’ve generously offered this free download of the title track. (If the HTML5 widget below doesn’t work for you, you can go here to listen). It’s an extremely fun, summery song that went directly onto most of my playlists.
Sound it Out # 27: Laetitia Sadier - "Find Me the Pulse of the Universe"
Laetitia Sadier sings like no one else. She bravely meanders all over the vocal spectrum, frequently dipping into a bit of drone or off-key oddness only to somehow catch herself before hitting a sour note. Sadier was the signature voice of Stereolab, and her new song “Find Me the Pulse of the Universe” has all of the sultry French-ness and jangly, easy listening elements that I’ve missed since Stereolab ceased to be. She has a new record called Silencio out on July 24.
Download Laetitia Sadier’s "Find Me the Pulse of the Universe" for free below.
Sound it Out # 25: Miniature Tigers - "Female Doctor"
I almost didn’t want to single out one song from Miniature Tigers’ new album Mia Pharoah because the whole thing works so nicely as a collection of music. Charlie Brand’s breathy falsetto and a general pop/synth vibe tie the album together, and the Brooklyn-via-Phoenx band experiments with sound and technique throughout the record to great success.
“Female Doctor” has lots of sexy energy, but despite the title it’s more flirty than nasty. It’s got this sneaky guitar riff that makes a happy zone fire off in my brain...and then I hit repeat.
OFF! is a band full of Southern California punk rock royalty: Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Hot Snakes/Earthless/Rocket From The Crypt). Their new, self-titled album comes out on May 8. It has sixteen songs and is sixteen minutes long. So at 1:36, "King Kong Brigade" is relatively epic.
I’ve been thinking about getting a medical marijuana prescription for my insomnia, and it occurs to me that that's probably also the only thing that would make Pond sound even better to me than they already do. I’m confident that no bud was spared during the two weeks they spent in an remote farmhouse making their new record Beard, Wives, Denim.
Pond shares a few members with fellow Australian stoner rock band Tame Impala, who we featured here last year. My favorite song on the new Pond record is“ Moth Wings”, and I challenge you to listen to it and not shake your thing.
Click the little arrow on the widget below to download "Moth Wings" - one week only!
P.S. Yes, there was also a terrific Portland, OR band called Pond back in the 90’s.
Sound it Out # 21: Rebecca Gates and the Consortium - "Dangerous"
Rebecca Gates originally blew my mind with her fantastic duo The Spinanes. She and Scott Plouf (who now drums for Built to Spill) created a passionate and full-bodied sound that you'd never guess could come from a 2-piece band. Rebecca's lyrics were at once vulnerable and bold and she managed to play lead and rhythm guitar parts live.
But it was always the vocals that set her apart. She has possibly the sexiest, least contrived voice out there. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I heard her band’s new cover of “Dangerous”, originally done by the 80’s R&B group Cool’R. This song is part of the “Jackpot Covers Portland” series, in which Jackpot studios in Portland (Oregon) gets local artists to record versions of songs originally done by other Portlanders.
“Dangerous” is a lot of fun. Gates and her Consortium band-mates Joanna Bolme (who also plays in Steven Malkmus’ The Jicks) and Ji Tanzer (Blue Cranes) embrace the 80’s keyboard breaks and silly percussion sounds while throwing down a serious bass line. Rebecca’s voice is as seductive as ever.
Rebecca Gates and the Consortium will be releasing a new album of originals called The Float on May 15.
I’m just nuts about Django Django. I could give you a bunch of biographical facts about them meeting at a Scottish art school and writing songs in apartments, but really what I want to say is THIS BAND IS SPECIAL and THEIR RECORD IS WORTH YOUR MONEY, SO BUY IT.
How to describe the music? Charmingly eccentric. Electronic yet organic. Some might hear the spacey vocal style and deem it psychedelic. Others will find it so winning and listenable that they will say it’s pop. Let’s just say that it makes perfect sense that drummer/producer/de facto bandleader David MacLean’s older brother was in The Beta Band.
Django Django’s debut album is already in my top 5 for 2012. It’s out in the UK and should be out soon in the rest of the world. They’re playing their first US dates in New York March 10-12 and at the South by Southwest festival in Austin next week. I was actually tempted to fly out to see them.
Sound it Out # 19: Moonface - "Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips"
This is slightly complicated. Moonface is Spencer Krug and whatever collaborators he’s working with at the moment. So, this particular Moonface record is titled With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery because Spencer went to Helsinki to make the album with Finnish band Siinai.
Spencer also plays with Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Fifths of Seven, Wolf Parade (RIP) and various other projects. He is a busy, busy man.
Judging by the lyric sheet, Spencer's no stranger to romantic despair. “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips” joins Krug’s big, bombastic voice with Siinai’s precise rock to create one of the oddest sing-along anthems I’ve ever heard; Stevie Nicks gets named-checked twice.
With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery isn’t out until April, but you can download “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips” right this minute - it’s free for a week.
Sound it Out # 18: Polica- "Lay Your Cards Out"" (ft Mike Noyce)
I haven’t done any market research on this song, but I’m pretty sure that the playing of it will make someone want to have sex with you. OK -- that person needs to already be attracted to you and be considering it... but this might put them over the edge. Try it and report back, please.
Polica (which is pronounced "police-uh" and officially spelled as the WordPress-unfriendly Poliça) makes slinky, seductive music. The band is a collaboration between Channy Casselle and Ryan Olson, two members of the 25-piece band/collective known as Gayngs. Mike Noyce from Bon Iver kicks in some vocals as well.
Polica has a new record called Give You the Ghost and it maintains a tone of erotic yearning all the way through. Hot!
Sound it Out # 17: Father John Misty “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
I’m extremely happy to share this free/exclusive download of Father John Misty’s first single.
Father John Misty is better known as Josh Tillman, former drummer for Fleet Foxes and a solo artist. He has a new album called Fear Fun that’s out on May 1st. I’m often quite bad at inferring the deeper meaning of songs, so I went to the source and asked Josh. Here’s what he said:
The central idea in this song is that the customs we have at our disposal to deal with grief, or commemorate a life, generally spectacularly fail to do either of those. Sometimes, and in my case, those attempts at reconciling life with grief fare much better while hooking up in a graveyard.
The song evokes an interesting combination of sorrow and rage. It hasn’t driven me to go get it on in a cemetery, but I’m not entirely ruling it out.
Patrick Watson’s new song “Into Giants” is a gorgeous journey into a land of angelic singing, trumpet solos and string arrangements. The song has a delightful, wide-eyed exuberance.
I'm hoping for more of this lush instrumentation matched with Watson's intimate, confiding voice when the record comes out in April; it's called Adventures in Your Own Backyard, and he wrote most of it in his Montreal apartment.
Sound it Out # 15: Nada Surf "Waiting for Something"
Nada Surf has been playing intelligent and catchy guitar-based rock music for two decades. Their records are lush and beautifully written, and the constant sense of wonder and optimism throughout is a joy for this cynic to discover every time. Nada Surf always makes me believe that everything is going to be all right.
The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy is Nada Surf's new record and it came out Tuesday. The songwriting covers lots of introspective themes about the passing of time without even a hint of sullenness or pomposity. 'Waiting for Something" is a fine example of Nada Surf at their best and may well stick in your head for the foreseeable future. It's been in mine for days.