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.
August 1st, 2013 , by John Beeler
Honest, personal, and deeply intimate, the music of Denison Witmer’s self-titled album for Asthmatic Kitty is nevertheless as much about the listener as it is about himself. The messages of the disc—to rest, to trust, to let go of a heavy burden—may come out of Witmer’s own experience, but they aim outwards, towards a universal experience.
Phil Jacoby’s video for “Keep Moving Brother, Keep Moving Sister” takes these themes and makes them literal, intercutting footage of Witmer’s confessional vocal performance with scenes following a man and woman as they each carry a small, secret, physical burden through their respective day-to-day lives. A rough-edged stone in the palm of the hand, the ripples lapping calmly at the water’s edge, the video’s almost tangibly concrete symbols are as spare and unaffected as the single itself—and like the song, the quiet melancholy of Jacoby’s accompanying clip ultimately offers up a message of hope.
July 24th, 2013 , by John Beeler
“I had to get creative.”
According to Shannon Stephens, her new single was born not out of artistic caprice, but of personal necessity. After upheavals in her personal life, she responded by immersing herself deeper in the stability and productivity of her musical work.
She started by recording “World in My Eyes,” a cover that remakes the icy Depeche Mode classic as a defiantly soulful and sultry rock number. The new single, now being released to Seattle-area press and radio, was recorded for what’s planned as a four-song EP, featuring one more cover and two new versions of songs from her 2000 debut.
“I didn’t feel ready to record an album” so soon after 2012′s Pull It Together, Stephens explains, but instead told herself, ”I’m going through some major life changes, and I need to keep busy—what’s something that we could do as a group that we could have fun with?”
She’s quick to credit her “dudes,” the five-piece band she’s toured with for the last half-decade, with many of the choices that are going into the creation of the EP. From the decision to cover Depeche Mode—although “World in My Eyes,” specifically, was Stephens’ pick—to the technical aspects of recording, Stephens and this small circle of collaborators were responsible for every ingredient of her new project, which is being recorded without any additional musicians and engineered by bassist Terry Mattson.
“I have the final say” in the recording process, “but we’re all kind of throwing our opinions in there,” says Stephens. “There were a lot of strong opinions,” she adds wryly, “when we were mixing ‘World in My Eyes.’”
Along with Dearborn and Daniel Blue of Motopony, Stephens and her band will be promoting the new single with a release show on August 2 at 7pm, at Seattle’s new Ballard Sanctuary.
July 18th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Live near Oshkosh? Love good music? This festival is for you.Read the Rest...
July 16th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Out now on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple II is an auteurist outing with an all-star cast.
Led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Schlarb, the Psychic Temple project brings together an enormous range of artists from the musical underground: singer-songwriters Ray Raposa of Castanets, Nedelle Torrisi of Cryptacize, Aaron Roche and Sufjan Stevens; Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens; Death guitarist Paul Masvidal; Xiu Xiu and Nels Cline bassist Devin Hoff; drummers Tabor Allen and Andrew Pompey; trumpeter Kris Tiner; and many more.
“Each one of them is a leader of their own project,” Schlarb says of his Psychic Temple lineup. It’s “an honor,” he says, “for me to be in charge for a little while.”
Psychic Temple II was recently chosen as a First Listen by NPR.org, who said that Schlarb’s ”restless creativity has no choice but to continuously seek new worlds” and praised his “unfailing determination to make things happen.” Schlarb himself describes the Psychic Temple project’s sophomore out as “the most ambitious large scale work for an ensemble that I’ve ever put together,” but the effect of the music is more important to him than its complexity.
“If somebody wants to jump into it on a songwriting level or a structural level, they can listen to it and say, ‘Wow, that’s really neat, these chords are really interesting,’ or, ‘These time signatures are jumping around,’” says Schlarb, “but I’d also like to reach them on a sentimental level. It doesn’t just exist to be difficult.”
Instead, Schlarb says, “I really challenged myself with this record, to write stuff that was a little more intricate and complex and detailed, but still allowed to live and breathe.” The result merges the sophistication of jazz or chamber music with an unpretentious indie-rock atmosphere.
Psychic Temple II is available in CD, LP, and digital download packages starting July 16.
July 8th, 2013 , by John Beeler
“Schlarb can write a jazz tune with the best of them, but on an album that ostensibly crosses boundaries separating jazz, chamber and indie music, his restless creativity has no choice but to continuously seek new worlds,” writes Lars Gotrich, for NPR’s First Listen, about the new album from Chris Schlarb.
Hear Psychic Temple II early and in its entirety on NPR here. If you like what you hear, please comment on the post on NPR and share it with friends.
The album is out next week, and you can order it in CD, LP, MP3, and a limited edition collector’s box, here.