May 2nd, 2013 , by John Beeler
A decade and a half into his musical career, singer-guitarist Denison Witmer has released a self-titled album, and for Witmer, Denison Witmer comes as an occasion to reflect on the unusual lessons of a life spent as a quiet, underground success.
“Looking over the arc of a career, there are moments when you got it right,” he says, “and moments where you didn’t. For me, music’s always about the process. It’s not always about the final product; it’s more about the journey. You work song by song and album by album in pursuit of something—I really try to trust that approach.”
Building the Honey Jar studio with producer and collaborator Devin Greenwood has made it possible for him to create a recording using the same patient, intuitive processes that have driven his songwriting—and his career. Witmer was able to bring in trusted performers like Greenwood, William Fitzsimmons, Dawn Landes, and Sufjan Stevens, and give them free rein to realize his music.
The result is an organic musical self-portrait, drawing inspiration and consolation from sources as different as Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and the life of knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, and weaving them into what is arguably Witmer’s most direct and personal album to date.
Denison Witmer is out today on Asthmatic Kitty Records.
Be sure to check out Denison on American Songwriter, where he’s Writer of the Week.
“One source of inspiration for this record was the story of the knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey . . . He said that some days you pitch it perfectly, other days you don’t. It’s so erratic that when the ball leaves your hand, you have to immediately accept that it might not be great or go where you want it to. You have to focus on the next pitch and let go of the mistakes behind you.” Denison Witmer, speaking to American Songwriter
May 2nd, 2013 , by John Beeler
American Songwriter just released “Tired,” another video of Lily & Madeleine from the same acoustic session. It is just as striking and lovely. You can view it here, or below.
Other good news: we’re told that the 10″ vinyl of their forthcoming EP, The Weight of the Globe, is finished production and should be landing soon. We’re told it looks and sounds fantastic. You can reserve your copy of the 10″, which we’ll ship to you in June, here.
May 2nd, 2013 , by John Beeler
Chris Schlarb’s new album, Psychic Temple II, arrives July 16th but you can hear the album’s first single now. “‘Til I Die” is Chris Schlarb et al’s take on one of the only Beach Boy songs written entirely by Brian Wilson (Wikipedia entry on the song here).
April 13th, 2013 , by John Beeler
April 11th, 2013 , by John Beeler
The inaugural podcast of a Bandcamp.com revamp features our very own Helado Negro.
We are big fans of Bandcamp, an online service that lets musicians release music directly to fans and one we use prolifically. The service revamped their front page this week, with a renewed focus on artists and creative content. Andrew Jervis, formerly of Ubiquity Records, is Bandcamp’s new “Chief Curator,” and he’ll be selecting content for their weekly podcast.
Helado Negro is in some good company in this first edition joining Hairy Hands, Baxamaxam, Wild Honey, Tramp Rec., and many other fantastic acts. We’re looking forward to the next installment of the podcast.
Oliver Barret tried his hand at illustrating Roberto Lange of Helado Negro, and we think he captured the spirit – and the hair – just right.
You can hear all of Helado Negro’s catalog for free (and buy his new record, Invisible Life, for $8) on Bandcamp right here.
April 9th, 2013 , by John Beeler
At the intersection of ethereal jazz and intricate folk, composer Chris Schlarb leads Psychic Temple in new directions. Anchored by the interplay of drummers Andrew Pompey and Tabor Allen, Psychic Temple II features an all-star roster united by a single, maniacal vision.
Psychic Temple II arrives July 16th from Asthmatic Kitty Records and fulfills the promise of Schlarb’s four-track, 40-minute maiden voyage by expanding its atmospherics into the realm of pop songcraft. With an ear toward smart, concise songs, II finds only one track stretching over four mintues in length.
A year in the making, the album was assembled with a wide-ranging team of collaborators: singer-songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Ray Raposa (Castanets), Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens, progressive metal guitarist Paul Masvidal (Cynic, Death), bassist Devin Hoff (Xiu Xiu, Nels Cline Singers), vocalist Sarah Negahdari (Happy Hollows, Silversun Pickups), and more.
In celebration of the auteur as cult leader, Psychic Temple II presents surprising reinventions of work by iconoclasts Brian Wilson, Joe Jackson, and Frank Zappa. Unsurprisingly, Schlarb not only wrote and arranged the album’s material, but he produced and engineered it as well, “I admire people who are control freaks,” he says.
April 8th, 2013 , by John Beeler
We’re happy to welcome Frank Riley of High Road Booking to the team that’s bringing Lily & Madeleine to the world. Frank has booked for My Bloody Valentine, Wilco, Indigo Girls, Josh Rouse, OK Go, Music Go Music, Son Volt, and many others. Wilson Zheng at High Road will be helping out as well.
Frank and Wilson join publicist Asha Goodman, who works for Saks & Co in their Nashville office, and manager Paul Mahern and his White Arc Management company. Chris and Hannah Burque of Ghost Town are handling mechanical licensing.
Glad to have Frank, Wilson, Ghost Town, and Asha on board. Click here to watch Lily & Madeleine perform “Back to the River” live in Indianapolis.
March 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Written over the course of their summer vacation and recorded in three days, The Weight of the Globe is a musical snapshot by teenaged sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz of a pivotal moment in their lives—turning their backs on the comforts of the past to step into an uncertain future.
The recording project that became the Weight EP started with producer Paul Mahern, who’d fallen in love with the duo’s YouTube videos, acoustic covers of a handful of favorite songs, and immediately got in touch to invite the sisters into the studio. Lily & Madeleine started writing their first original tunes over summer vacation, and Paul introduced them to their bassist and songwriting partner Kenny Childers. The response to their first original song was immediate: the YouTube video racked up a quarter of a million views, and the sisters sold out the first two shows they ever played.
Each song on The Weight of the Globe was written as a discrete, self-contained folk-pop statement, but thanks to the real-time circumstances of recording it, the EP holds together like a collection of interconnected short stories. Taken as a whole, the songs chart a journey from love to disillusionment to heartbreak.
We’ll be releasing The Weight of the Globe on CD, with bonus acoustic tracks, and on beautiful 10inch vinyl (with a download code to access the acoustic tracks) on June 11th. Preorder it here.
Watch a brand new video from the girls on Do317 here.
March 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Fol Chen returns with The False Alarms, hits from a secret dance party you haven’t been to yet. The Los Angeles band’s kaleidoscopic first two albums (Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made; Part II: The New December) offered a taste of everything: minimal electronic grooves and complex layers of organic sound pivoting across genres from rock to soul/funk to dance. The only constant across their extremes of experimentation, through all the asymmetrical rhythms and screwed vocals, was the consistency of their pop instincts. The vehicle for their musical ideas was always a tightly, meticulously synthesized earworm. Their third communication, The False Alarms, takes Fol Chen’s subversive strategy one leap forward.
There has always been a dark undercurrent to their music. Like a Philip K. Dick novel, Parts I & II warped the world around us into a cryptic, surreal vision of the future, sometimes to grotesque or even disturbing effect. But The False Alarms is that much more emotionally direct: funkier, funnier, sadder and sexier, sometimes all at once. This time, there’s no mistaking the lingering aftereffects of the slow toxin under the crunchy, ear-candy coating.
Buy it here.
March 15th, 2013 , by John Beeler
NightSky, crafted by game designer Nifflas (aka Nicklas), is out now for iPhone and iPad. Described by the Guardian as “ an unusually atmospheric and beautiful set of physics puzzles,” the side-scroller game features a unique soundtrack by our own Chris Schlarb.
Here’s what Chris says about the process of designing a video game soundtrack: “Eventually, Nicklas and I developed a simple music engine that would allow for each game world to contain 4-5 minutes worth of music, consisting of 3-5 short pieces that could be played back in a random order….As Nicklas would create new worlds and puzzles, I would play the early beta versions and write music that reacted to the different environments. I felt that the most important compliment I could provide was to help establish a sense of place.”
Most video games either feature licensed music (ala Grand Theft Auto), or generally skew electronic. Not NightSky. Chris developed an ambient avant-garde jazz soundtrack that is remarkable to listen to while playing. IGN said that the “the fantastic ambient/jazz/electronic soundtrack is good enough to enjoy outside the game.” See more gracious press quotes on Chris’ page here.