July 2nd, 2013 , by John Beeler
The new, self-titled, self-released solo album of Nedelle Torrisi is scheduled for a September release, and it’s a fresh start in more ways than one. After a career of acclaimed collaborations—recording as half of Cryptacize or a member of The Curtains, or touring with Sufjan Stevens—and solo work as simply “Nedelle,” Nedelle Torrisi is Torrisi’s first record under her own full name. Its pared-down R&B style looks back to the radio hits of her childhood, like young Sade or classic Prince, that managed to combine the innocence of youth with a knowing worldliness. It also represents the fruition of her musical partnership with friend, housemate, and now, producer Kenny Gilmore (Ariel Pink). With the help of collaborators as stellar as Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel), Julia Holter and Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Gilmore also plays most of the instruments that drive the album’s bright, cool soundscapes. There’s also a bonus acoustic EP of Torrisi’s takes with piano accompaniment, to put the focus more squarely on Torrisi’s literate songwriting and a voice the New York Times called “guileless…an earnest instrument of pleasure and petition.” Before it became self-titled, Torrisi began recording this project under the name “Paradise,” and it’s easy to hear why. Nedelle Torrisi’s melancholy pop encapsulates at once the bittersweet nostalgia for an Eden lost and the longing for a heaven just out of reach. Listen on Stereogum here.
June 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Chris Schlarb wanted his new video, “Seventh House,” to be more than a commercial for the record.
“The idea of making a video for promotional purposes only doesn’t hold any interest for me,” Schlarb says. Instead, he enlisted director Sahale Jensen to create a short film that would expand on the themes of the song and of the intricately constructed full-length album, Psychic Temple II.j
In keeping with his role firmly at the helm of the Psychic Temple project, Schlarb was closely involved with the conception of the video, starting with the choice of Jensen for the director’s chair. “I came across a video that Sahale did for Aaron Roche and was intrigued by her work. We kept in touch over the years,” says Schlarb, “and she was the first person I thought of for this project.”
What followed was an involved discussion of the song and its lyrical imagery, over a series of lengthy telephone conversations. “We met and collaborated virtually,” says Jensen, “but never have actually met in person!”
The video takes the mystical and astrological imagery of the song and makes them unsettlingly literal. “Pisces in the Seventh House,” chants the song’s eerie vocal, and the Seventh House becomes a seemingly ordinary suburban home. The duality represented by the Pisces, explains Jensen, becomes the main character and a sinister doppelgänger, both played by first-time film actress Annea Umayam.
“We shot north of Seattle in a small town called Sedro-Wolley,” Jensen says, “at my grandparents’ house. I knew the look of their homey and comfortable house could help sell the disturbing juxtaposition when something more sinister decides to show up. We shot over a two day period with a very small four man crew.”
The result is a video that combines a very simple look with disorientingly cryptic content. Schlarb points to the gaps and omissions in the films of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, but also to the negative space built into his own music. “Don’t give everything,” he says. “Leave some mystery.”
Ultimately, says Schlarb, “I am very proud of the work and love that went into this video. It was an honor for me to work on it with Sahale and her crew.”
June 11th, 2013 , by John Beeler
The Weight of the Globe, the debut EP from Midwestern soul sisters Lily & Madeleine, is out now and available in 10″ vinyl, CD, or digital. The CD includes acoustic versions of the girls’ first five tracks, and the 10″ includes a download card to both the original and the acoustic set. David J Woodruff designed the lovely cover art.
Lily & Madeleine recently appeared on “Chances With Wolves,” a fantastic radio show on East Village Radio. You can hear that here. Vogue.com premiered their new video of “Back to the River,” directed by young and up-and-coming Nashville director Allister Ann. You can watch the new video here. Finally, NPR’s All Songs Considered premiered “These Great Things” here.
You can purchase the album here.
June 10th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Whether it’s music to fuel a midnight ride back from the beach, to feed the speakers in the window on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or to offer escape from a sweltering commute, this summer needs a soundtrack, and Asthmatic Kitty Records has answered the call by curating a free mixtape of freshly-minted tunes from its catalogue. An 18-track snapshot of the label’s wildly eclectic roster, this season’s edition of Asthmatic Kitty’s Digital Sampler offers everything from icy, tripped-out beats to rootsy singalongs, from acclaimed veterans to brand-new discoveries. Artists Raymond Byron & the White Freighter, Dots Will Echo, Fol Chen, Helado Negro, Lily & Madeleine, Ombre, Chris Schlarb, Shannon Stephens, the Welcome Wagon, and Denison Witmer each serve up a track or two with their compliments, and renaissance man DM Stith has designed the kaleidoscopic cover art.
June 7th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Lily and Madeleine are hitting the road for the first time.
“We’re kind of making it a family vacation,” explains Lily Jurkewiecz, the younger of the two sisters that make up the acoustic duo. Lily and Madeleine, who followed up their viral video success by recording an EP of original material, played—and sold out—their first-ever live shows earlier this year. Now their EP, The Weight of the Globe, has been picked up for a June 11 release by Asthmatic Kitty, and the duo is set to make a handful of appearances in the Midwest and Northeast.
The sisters kick off the summer with a show in their hometown of Indianapolis this Saturday, June 8, in the Deluxe Room at the Old National Centre, followed by their first-ever East Coast show at Joe’s Pub in NYC on June 11, and a June 12 performance at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.
They’re also excited about their upcoming performance at the Clawhammer festival in Oshkosh, WI, from July 20-21. “I’m looking forward to connecting with other musicians,” says Madeleine. “That’s going to be neat.”
Are they anxious or intimidated at the thought of playing their first shows outside of Indiana? No, Madeleine laughs. “People have asked us that, and I think like, ‘Am I supposed to be intimidated?’ I feel really good about it. It’s going to be like a whirlwind, I think, but we’re just along for the ride.”
After the full-band sound of Weight of the World, these live dates mark a return to the stripped-down sound of the duo’s home recordings—accompanying their own voices on keyboard and guitar—but the two look forward to heading back into the studio with the new material that they and songwriting partner Kenny Childers (Gentleman Caller) have written for their first full-length album.
The sisters hint that we can expect the new material to be slightly more optimistic that their melancholy first recording, thanks in part to the possibilities opened up by their sudden musical success. “The EP was mostly about the feelings of like anxiety and restless that come with being a teenager—teen angst—but the new stuff is more about the excitement of this new adventure” as musicians, says Madeleine; it’s “more positive. We’re excited about it.”
These summer dates mark a rare chance to see the two perform live. Lily is heading into her senior year of high school this fall, and Madeleine is off to start her first year of college. They’re taking their parents and younger brother along to the East Coast dates, which they’re looking forward to not just as a performing opportunity but as a change of scene.
“We don’t know what to expect from New York,” says Madeleine. “I’ve just been there once, and Lily’s never been.”
“It’ll be fun,” says Lily. “It’ll be a family adventure.”
June 4th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Director/photographer Allister Ann seems to have nothing but warm words for sister duo Lily & Madeleine, whose first music video drops today. Released in advance of their Asthmatic Kitty EP, The Weight of the Globe, Ann’s video for “Back to the River” marries the melancholy track to black-and-white footage of the sisters.
“Even though the song itself is very slow and almost nostalgic,” says Ann, “the girls’ vibrant charm needed to be portrayed, so what we hopefully ended up with is a good balance of representing the music and the artists.”
For Nashville-based Allister Ann, that meant balancing the sad nostalgia of the song against footage capturing the duo’s easygoing personalities. She scouted locations around the two young women’s native Indianapolis that matched the timeless qualities of the track, and wardrobe stylist Mizzie Logan outfitted the girls in a classic look to match.
“It was wonderful going into a town with a fresh pair of eyes,” says Ann. “The architecture and history of that city was so inspiring, with bits and pieces that reminded me of old Europe. Ultimately I chose places that I thought would best represent the feel of the song.”
The result is a clip that manages to seem nostalgic for the present, as if capturing the singers’ youthful energy in a time-capsule of vintage home movies. Ann says that he shoot itself was as much fun as it looks: “Lily and Madeleine are so sweet, kind and talented; they made everything effortless and were so easy to work with.
“Best of all,” she adds, “I made some new friends.”
See the video on Vogue.com here, or below.
June 4th, 2013 , by John Beeler
“It must have been spring fever,” says Shannon Stephens; a Facebook announcement from the Seattle-based singer-songwriter says she’s hitting the road in the month of June on a “crazy regional tour.”
On Thursday, May 30, Stephens kicked the tour off with a concert at Olympia’s Spar Cafe, featuring Graydon Holden of lower lights burning, to be followed by seven more dates around the Northwest. Filling out the bill at most shows will be Stephens’ fellow Seattleites, singer-songwriter j. wong and three-piece Pablo Trucker.
Upcoming dates include June 6—j. wong’s birthday—at Seattle’s Sunset Tavern; June 7 at Portland’s Hawthorne Theatre; Boon’s Treasury in Salem, OR on June 8; and a June 15 show at Everett, WA’s Anchor Pub featuring Tomo Nakayama and Cami Lundeen. Finally, wong and Pablo Trucker return to the tour for three more dates: June 21 at Mikey’s Gyros in Moscow, ID; June 22 at Sandpoint, ID’s Downtown Crossing; and June 23 at Caffè Mela in Wenatchee, WA.
The Seattle Weekly called Shannon Stephens the “Best Female Vocalist of 2012,” and those clear, warm vocals come with a wry and often dark songwriting sensibility. She led the band Marzuki along with Sufjan Stevens, and her music has been covered by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, who also sings on her latest album. Pull It Together, her third LP, came out last year on Asthmatic Kitty, and Stephens has begun writing songs for a fourth.
June 4th, 2013 , by John Beeler
We have not one, not two, but four shows in just three days for Asthmatic Kitty artists Fol Chen and Denison Witmer in London, starting on June 3.
Denison’s recently released self -titled album has received glowing praise from the likes of Uncut, who gave it an 8/10 and said “it’s a beauty” and featured one of Denison’s tracks on their Best Albums of the Month compilation. Denison will play his first headline UK show at the Angel in Islington on June 3. He follows that and then an invite only show at Black’s, also in London on June 4 (for an invite, please email tom at asthmatickitty dot com. Denison then heads north to Manchester for a show at the Castle on June 5. All ticket details are available on the tour page.
Fol Chen will make their way into the UK for their first London show for 3 years when they play a free gig at the Shacklewell Arms, London on June 5. Tickets can be downloaded here. They’ll be playing songs from their brand new long player The False Alarms described by The Line of Best Fit as “everything is meticulous, deliberately ingenious. It all flows excellently; there’s no disjointed genre-hopping here.”
May 24th, 2013 , by John Beeler
(Photo by Mike Massaro)
DM Stith has hardly been silent in the years since the release of his eerily intense Asthmatic Kitty debut, 2009′s Heavy Ghost. The Revival Hour, his project in collaboration with John-Mark Lapham of the Earlies (Secretly Canadian), put out its first full-length earlier this year, and is gaining momentum with a new remix EP, a new video, and soon, a European tour.
The dark, soulful sound of the first Revival Hour LP, Scorpio Little Devil—sometimes nostalgic and warm, sometimes noisy and futuristic, but always densely, lavishly arranged—has garnered especially rapturous acclaim in the UK press. The Independent praised the duo’s “exotic musical creations,” and the Guardian argued that contrary to the name of the band, “five seconds of this stuff,” hardly a full sixty minutes, were all the Revival Hour needed to revive its listeners.
Now, two tracks from Scorpio, “Hold Back” and “Run Away,” have been remixed by Lost in Edit and the Earlies, respectively, for a 7″ available from Bandcamp and totally free to download until May 26. The smoky Memphis sound of “Hold Back” has also become a suitably sultry new music video, directed by the Antiphon Music Group and streaming on YouTube and Vimeo.
Coming up this fall, European audiences will get a chance to hear The Revival Hour make their music in person, with dates already announced at Vieland’s Into the Great Wide Open Festival on Sept. 6 and 9 in the Netherlands, at Radar in Aarhus, Denmark on the Sept. 11, and at London’s Sebright Arms on Sept. 17.
You can buy Revival Hour music all in one place here.
May 16th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Big changes are afoot for Asthmatic Kitty alumna Julianna Barwick, who is moving forward with the release of a new record on a new record label. Nepenthe, the follow-up to 2011′s highly acclaimed The Magic Place, will be released this summer on the prestigious independent label Dead Oceans, already home to such diverse artists as Frog Eyes, Califone, and Akron/Family.
Nepenthe marks a departure for Barwick in more ways than one. Like her concert performances, driven by live loops and effects, The Magic Place created complex, layered harmonies primarily using Barwick’s voice, with almost no instrumental accompaniment. A Brooklyn native raised in the South, Barwick named the album for a tree in the back pasture of the Louisiana farm where she grew up, and recorded it in her figurative backyard, at a Brooklyn rehearsal space.
With Nepenthe, the process was radically different. For her latest effort, named after a mythical potion for forgetting one’s sorrows, Barwick recorded in the dramatic landscape of Mosfellsbær, Iceland, at the Sundlaugin recording studios established by Sigur Rós.
Alex Somers, the band’s producer as well as half of the duo Jónsi & Alex with his partner, Sigur Rós singer Jón Þór Birgisson, produced and engineered the new disc, while other luminaries of the Icelandic scene contributed their performing talents. Performers from múm and the string quartet turned multi-instrumentalist ensemble Amiina contributed to the record, along with a whole choir of local young women.
Nepenthe is scheduled for an August 2013 release, eagerly anticipated by critics and fans alike, as well as by her friends at Asthmatic Kitty Records.