October 15th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Something Good is here. Veteran singer-songwriter Shannon Stephens has released a new EP, featuring four brand new recordings of classic material, re-built from scratch with the help of her band of five years. The disc pairs two covers, “World in My Eyes” by Depeche Mode and the title track, Rufus & Chaka Khan’s Stevie Wonder–penned hit “Tell Me Something Good,” with “So Gentle in My Arms” and “My Feeble Heart,” two songs from Stephens’ own back catalogue.
The bulk of the arranging duties on Something Good have fallen to Stephens’ band, with the Seattle vocalist asking her trusted collaborators to put their own stamp on the covers as well as the Shannon Stephens originals, both selected from her self-titled debut.
Stephens pressed pause on her singing career following that 2000 release, taking an eight-year hiatus to raise a family and escape the music industry. “It’s such a different reality, before and after” becoming a parent, she says, “like you go into a new realm and you never go back.” Having looked at life from both sides of that border, Stephens is now coming full circle, rediscovering her own repertoire through the soul and twang of her new sound.
Shannon Stephens and friends will celebrate the release of Something Good with an all-ages show at the Fremont Abbey Center in North Seattle this Friday night, Oct. 18 at 8pm.
October 14th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Fresh from releasing the latest EP in his new, experimental Island Universe series, Brooklyn’s Helado Negro is taking leave of the East to bring his music on a micro-tour of performances from Washington to Southern California.
Along with an appropriately spare stage set designed by Paul Coors—the artist responsible for the artwork of his latest LP, Invisible Life—Helado Negro will be hauling his musical electronics and songs from Invisible Life, plus a handful of songs from his other records, to Seattle’s Barboza on Oct. 13, Portland’s Holocene on Oct. 14, the Bootleg Bar in L.A. on Oct 16, the Soda Bar in San Diego on Oct. 17, and then back up to San Francisco for an Oct. 23 show at the Rickshaw Shop.
Cy Dune, a project featuring Akron/Family’s Seth Olinsky, will be among the featured artists providing support at the Bootleg Bar, as will San Diego–based producer/performer Rafter at the Soda Bar, but the main event is strictly a one-man operation: his intimate live performances will be “just me,” says Helado Negro, “and my machines.”
View the new video for “Enters,” directed by Zircon Prince, below or by clicking here.
October 11th, 2013 , by John Beeler
In Lily & Madeleine’s newest video, which debuts the song “Come to Me,” L&M traveled south from Indianapolis to Nashville, Tennessee to work with 1504 Pictures. Filmed in the streets and living rooms of suburbs and in nearby forests, the video evokes scenes from Donnie Darko and E.T. Plus: what’s in the box? And what’s with that pebble?
Lily & Madeleine releases October 29th, 2013 and you can preorder it here.
October 3rd, 2013 , by John Beeler
On Saturday, Oct. 5, CBS This Morning rewarded early birds with a chance to see Lily & Madeleine making their first appearance on national network television.
Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz, the Indianapolis-based sister duo who were first discovered singing world-weary harmonies on YouTube, will be making the transition to morning TV as part of This Morning’s Second Cup Cafe series, for an interview and performance of two songs yet to be determined.
With their songwriting partner, bassist Kenny Childers (Gentleman Caller), Lily & Madeleine have already recorded a substantial repertoire of original material, starting earlier with this year with a five-song EP, The Weight of the Globe. That disc’s combination of heavy emotions and light, delicate arrangements had the Guardian praising their “shocking” musical talent and “mountain air–pure” voices.
Now the countdown has begun to this month’s release of the duo’s first full-length, a self-titled disc of a dozen all-new songs. Out October 29, Lily & Madeleine finds the duo moving confidently forward from that EP—both as a musical jumping-off point, and as a personal coming of age.
September 24th, 2013 , by John Beeler
The latest dispatches are coming in from the front lines.
We are taking prisoners of war, reports Future Rapper (@futurerapper), stripping them of biotech enhancements and honor. The victory is anticlimactic. Then: Redistributing the spoils to their appropriate decade, millennium, epoch. Buck$ is on the run.
These transmissions could only mean one thing: that the latest chapter in the Land of a Thousand Rappers saga is drawing to a close, and a new one is beginning, with the release of a five-volume, self-titled album chronicling the entire hip-hop time travel epic. Future Rapper, the eternal warrior, has beaten back sinister suit Warhol Buck$. For now, at least.
On Sept. 24, the Land of a Thousand Rappers audio can be downloaded as digital files or played back from a set of five cassette tapes. Surreal, comic, complex and madly ambitious, the Land of a Thousand Rappers took seven years and the combined talents of Michael Kaufmann, Wayne Feldman, Ero Gray, and more to create, telling the story of Future Rapper’s struggle against the forces of avarice and destruction.
The set will be made available with or without the accompanying novella/prose poem, Zero Seed by Michael Kaufmann, Future Rapper’s ally and correspondent in this timeline. and to celebrate his victory, Future Rapper will hold a reading, Q&A and signing for Kaufmann’s book at Indy Reads in Indianapolis, at 6pm on Tuesday the 24th, heralding our new era of peace.
The sky pixelates. The waters pause. The ground sighs. And we reset the system.
September 4th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Son Lux’s marriage of rich, composerly arrangements and brittle electronic beats earned him the title “Best New Artist” from NPR for his sprawling debut album, At War with Walls & Mazes, but the sound of his second full-length, We Are Rising, a chamber piece written and recorded entirely in the span of four weeks, was somehow even more refined. Now he has announced the completion of a third LP, Lanterns, on Joyful Noise Recordings, set for release October 29.
Also known as a member of trio s / s / s with Sufjan Stevens and rapper Serengeti, Son Lux (a.k.a. Ryan Lott) showcases on Lanterns not only his own bulletproof beats and deeply human vocals but also a range of equally versatile collaborators, including Punch Brothers mandolinist/composer Chris Thile, indie auteur DM Stith, and sister singing prodigies Lily & Madeleine.
Lanterns will be a 1200-copy “Split Color Edition” on black and clear vinyl, plus a “Deluxe VIP Edition” of 500 hand-numbered “color-in-color” vinyl copies that literally bear Son Lux’s thumbprint in silver paint. Also available as a CD or digital download, Lanterns’ release will be celebrated with a concert at Joe’s Pub in New York City on November 4th.
“Lost It to Trying,” the first single, features Lily & Madeleine singing backup vocals to Ryan Lott.LISTEN to “Lost It to Trying” @ Pitchfork PURCHASE Lanterns @ Joyful Noise
August 27th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Island Universe Story Two, out now, is the second in an ongoing series of EPs from Roberto Lange, a.k.a. Helado Negro. Not designed to “tease” or “build up to” or kill time between the Helado Negro albums, these releases shadow the LPs, moving darkly alongside them—and, like a shadow, may be more easily described by what they aren’t than what they are.
They aren’t outtakes or afterthoughts or byproducts or B-sides. These are fully filtered, distilled, unified recordings, chapters in a continuous narrative. They’re less like the flipside of a record than they are like the dark side of the moon: always present but (until now) just out of sight. ”It’s a parallel to the continuum of the album,” explains Lange. They’re ”something next to the albums, on kind of their own timeline,” a second stream, offering an alternate glimpse into Helado Negro’s ongoing process. Says Lange, “This is more of what I do. I’m really making music every day.”
But they aren’t exactly about that process, either. Two is underpinned by collaborations—the orchestral sound on the opening “Stop Living Dead,” for instance, was created with composer Trey Pollard and a double string quartet, and “Mitad del Mundo” features the talents of Wilco’s Mikael Jorgenson—but the Helado Negro project has never operated in a vacuum. From his headquarters in Brooklyn, Lange has always quick to point out the importance of other people, sometimes in other places, who have contributed to his music, and of the collaborative dynamic itself: some aspects of his process, says Lange, “are wildly free, and some of them are very structured and have a large amount of direction. It’s widely variable in terms of what freedoms are given and what control is taken.”
Ultimately, “I like the idea of process,” says Lange, “and then what happens on the other side, too. Both are important to me”—aesthetically satisfying product, as well as experimental process—and like any Helado Negro release, this latest chapter in the Island Universe Story delivers on both counts.
Preorder the cassette, due in late September, here.
August 12th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Earlier this year, we had the honor of releasing The Weight of the Globe EP from Midwestern sister duet Lily & Madeleine. And come this fall, we’ll be releasing their debut full-length, the self-titled Lily & Madeleine.
T Magazine, the lifestyle arm of the New York Times debuted “Devil We Know,” the first single from the album. You can hear it here.
This is what rock critic Anthony DeCurtis wrote about the record when he heard it:
“Most wonderfully, their songs are exactly an expression of their youth. That does not mean they are naïve – far from it. Nor, thankfully, are they merely precocious – young people performing the parlor trick of mimicking their elders. It is the sound of innocence on its inevitable search for experience. The themes of this album – the passing of time and the seasons, the ache of desire, the quest for identity, the wonder of what’s ahead – are not just the concerns of youth. They matter to everyone at every age. But as “maturity” sets in and all too often yields to cynicism, we lose the willingness, the fearlessness, to explore them. Rather than hopeful, we become afraid of what we will find. These songs occupy the space we live in before that fear descends and we succumb to its limitations.”
Read more of Anthony’s writings on the album here.
We’re now taking preorders for the album, available on CD, LP, and limited edition white vinyl, here.
August 5th, 2013 , by John Beeler
If humankind, at some point in the distant future, were to invent a time machine, wouldn’t we have heard about it by now? Unless, of course, the evidence were right in front of us, and we just didn’t see it. What if, for instance, there’s an entire genre of music, completely saturating popular culture, in which fragments of the past were constantly being served up in juxtaposition with the aesthetics of musical futurism, zipping backwards and forwards in time through the technologies of rhyme and rhythm? What if hip-hop is a form of time travel, and nobody ever noticed?
Well, someone finally did notice, and compiled a five-volume dossier of proof. Michael Kaufmann, Wayne Feldman, Ero Gray and their team of musical mad scientists are now accepting preorders for Land of a Thousand Rappers, a massive new concept album that excavates the secret surrealist sci-fi collage project that hip-hop has always been, explodes it, and devours it again.
A narrative in verse, replete with sword-wielding heroes, ancient battles, mythic archetypes and emblems, and a huge cast of characters, Land of a Thousand Rappers is literally epic and baffingly complex. Future Rapper, our tentacled Aztec hero, struggles to save the space-time continuum from the sinister forces of art dealer/warlord Warhol Buck$, in a rap odyssey held together by the sort of the sprawling, all-encompassing logic usually symptomatic of either genius or madness.
Seven (7) years in the making, Land of a Thousand Rappers will finally become available for purchase in an edition of 49 (7 x 7) for $49 (7 x 7) and comes in the form of a 140-page (7 x 20) novella illustrated by Jonathan Dueck, plus five (7 – 2) cassette tapes and a download code, in order to ensure compatibility with playback devices from both past and future.
August 3rd, 2013 , by John Beeler
In March, Fol Chen released their third LP, The False Alarms—pure pop on the surface, witty and appealing, but all the more satisfying for the dark and uncanny sensibility lurking just beneath. Now, Keith Musil has released a video, accompanying the album’s title track, that acutely captures the wry and ambiguous tone of Fol Chen’s eerie pop project.
Almost like a horror movie, Musil’s “The False Alarms” starts out at a spooky teenaged slumber party, but when a game of “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” takes an unexpected turn, it’s not quite clear whether the audience should be frightened or elated. When the main character, played by Fol Chen vocalist Sinosa, rises from the floor, has she become liberated from gravity, or trapped in the air? Is she suspended by dark forces beyond her control, or is she levitating under her own power? The video, and Sinosa’s unsettingly serene performance, refuse to give us any simple answers.