Polytype – Basic//Complex [Review]

Polytype - Basic//Complex

Basic//Complex is a surprise, not to discredit Polytype whatsoever, but this is a deep and rewarding album that manages to pluck ideas from various genres and meld a wonderful, warm yet precise sound that works so well you might not have seen it coming and may be left in your playlist for weeks to come. Continue reading

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Junip – Your Life, Your Call [Watch]

Junip

Junip have released another music video from the upcoming self-titled Junip – follow up to 2010’s debut full length Fields. It might just take the crown for being the creepiest music video I have seen in a long time. Continue reading

Jasper Byrne – Hotline Miami EP [Listen]

I’ve been dabbling in the seedy 80’s neon criminal underworld of Dennaton Games’ superb top down, 2D, PC killathon Hotline Miami for the last couple of weeks and along with being essentially the playable version of the motel/lift scene from Drive, it also has a killer soundtrack that’s more than a nod to Nicolas Winding Refns slick thriller. There are more than a few artists involved with the soundtrack including a wide range of styles and genres, however the title track from Jasper Byrne is one of the best. The Hotline Miami EP is, although sadly a little on the short side, a fantastic slice of electro with deep bass and 80’s style synths that moves between sounding upbeat and almost positive to menacing and grimy. Check it out! Definitely for fans of the 80’s revival we’ve been hearing the last couple of years.

The Hotline Miami EP can be grabbed for $4 over on bandcamp

Tom’s mixtape: Volume 2 [Listen]

Midnight SunIsaac Delusion

“Isaac Delusion is about two multidisciplinary artists continually exploring new musical landscapes”. This is where techno and folk meet and produce super cool riffs complimented by smooth non obtrusive vocals. It’s going to take a while before I get bored of this track. Their EP Midnight Sun was released this year, and will be closely followed by their second, Early Morning which is soon to be released.


Alone Trampled By Turtles

Trampled By Turtles are set to release their 6th album in November called Stars and Satellites. With their highly successful track record in the Bluegrass scene there’s no doubt it’ll be a hit. Following the formulas of traditional folk and fiddle songs, and using a wide range of instruments their sound is timeless and full of soul.


TomorrowFuture Islands

This artist has quickly become one of my favorites; I could imagine them being a product of David Lynch. I like to think Sam Herring’s voice is a mixture of Tom Waits and Cat Stevens. The band have very recently released a 7″ single, after their successful album, On The Water (2012). The deep repetitive beats and synthy swirls – not to mention Sam’s scream-like roar half way through makes this song as wonderfully weird as the rest of their stuff.


Old FriendSea Wolf

Alex Church has been recording under the name Sea Wolf since 2003, and has been successfully pioneering the solo project since. He has a new album that’s yet to be released called Old World Romance and is currently on tour in the states. This track, Our Friend, is a sneak peak of what’s to come from the new album – and it’s very exciting.


Black & White MountainsSnowblink

Daniela Gesundheit AKA Snowblink has an extremely listenable voice. It’s the simplicity of this track that had me hooked. Delicate layers of beats and synths overlaid with vocals which sound a bit like Amiee Mann make it so enjoyable.


Can’t Get Enough The Sweet Serenades

I love the voice at the beginning of this song, it sounds like a burp. A band that’s descibed as, “Hip swaying, knee twisting, & finger snapping goodness”, this is a good wake up and walk to work track. The Swedish band’s manifesto of creating ‘unpretentious pop songs that make you feel cool’, doesn’t let you down here.


These Days (Jackson Browne)Pandit

Pop tunes infused with ambient and experimental texture, Pandit is the work of Lance Smith. I haven’t heard a bad song from this guy, and considering These Days is one of my favorite songs, Pandit’s cover is spot on. He has a new EP coming out at the end of the month, so keep an eye out for that.


Hang on to Me (Daytrotter) The Wooden Sky

I’m a huge fan of the Daytrotter Sessions, they often bring out better, more heartfelt sounding recordings than the originals. This is definitely the case with this Wooden Sky track. Taken from their latest album, Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun (2012), Hang on to Me is just one of the many great tracks from the album.


JitterDakotafish

Their synth-pop beats have a similar sound to Pheonix. This track is taken from the 2011 album, Many Moons. It’s a good track to stick on as a party winds down and the sun rises.


Miracle (Ghost Beach Cover) – TRAILS AND WAYS

Here’s something different; Brazilian shoegaze. I actually prefer this version of the track to the original Ghost Beach track. Covers can often come off as sounding like the original with less instruments and slightly awkward vocals, but when a band gets it right – it can transform a song into their own which is exactly what they’ve done.


New TheoryWashed Out

Since 2009, Ernest Greene’s project has received a constant stream of positive reviews. This track, New Theory comes from his first EP, Life of Leisure which launched him. 2011 saw the release of Within and Without, his first full length album which received startling reviews all round. 


Utah All Human

This is a random Bandcamp find, with similar vibes to Imaginary Johnny, this is an easy song to get into. He’s currently touring the states with his new album, Catholic Guilt or the Queerest of Thoughts.


Wally Wilder Delicate Steve

Steve Marion has flooded blogs recently with Positive Force. His music sounds as though he wrote lyrics and then decided the guitar should sing them. It’s cocktail of Ratatat and Animal Collective.



Golden PalmsHORSES / Bronson

Short and sweet, this track encompasses all that’s great about low-fi songwriting. Although it seems Patrick Ebermann’s project HORSES has evaporated. Now appearing under the name Bronson, the album Paper Tusk was released in 2011 and Golden Palms on this is different to the original – a bit overworked in my opinion. Here’s the original.


Little Dreamer (Future Islands Cover) – Doe Paoro

This one’s a grower, resist yourself from skipping it before the first minute. The sparse piano and seldom drums slowly intwine themselves into a beautiful melody which Doe Paoro sings through. The original song naturally has unusual vocals from Sam Herring, and so this Kate Bush sounding twist fits perfectly.


Says ElliottSibylle Baier

Sibylle Baier is a German folk singer, she sounds like a sad Nico – and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I love this song, its intimate sound makes you hang on every word. She’s quite a mysterious person, the homepage of her website reads:

I (her son Robby) set this site up for my mother…Sibylle will most likely never see this site. She is really quite perplexed by all the attention that her album “Colour Green” has gotten. My father keeps telling her about all the pages and articles that are out there, but she, though smitten, prefers to hear about her accolades through the eyes and ears of her family. The web makes her dizzy, I think.


Woods – Bend Beyond [Review]

Sometime in June, before summer had sunk its teeth in, Woods announced their new album, Bend Beyond. Much excitement instantly circulated the alternative-folk scene; their track record has been consistently strong. Sun and Shade which was released last year was a personal favorite, and reassured the fans they were still on the right track.

Firstly, let me begin by saying Bend Beyond will not let you down. It’s a highly enjoyable, and extremely well executed album which demonstrates a maturity in both the songwriting and the production – which fits perfectly. The lo-fi indie-folk band from Brooklyn have a distinct sound, predominantly down to Jeremy Earl’s vocals, which this time round acquire a clarity like never before. It’s this factor for me that makes Bend Beyond different. Not only can you appreciate the layers of instruments that create their psychedelic sound, but the vocals are refined to the point where you can listen and enjoy the lyrics on a level which you couldn’t do before.

The first track, Bend Beyond sends you back to the woods, with their familiar riffs and guitar solos. It’s the longest track on the album, and paces itself nicely. It sets the tone that Woods is a band, not just Jeremy Earl. The second track, Cali in a Cup was in fact an early release, and has a nostalgic Super 8 music video to accompany it. This song is a prime example of the high quality production value they’ve got going.

One of my all time favorite songs by Woods was the final track on their last album, Say Goodbye. The gently strummed, stripped down style is apparent in a couple of tracks in Bend Beyond, most notably in It Ain’t Easy. It’s a moment of calm that engages you with the simpler harmonies and lyrics that Woods are so good at writing. It’s as essential as the much expected instrumental jams which remind you these guys are having fun making this music.

My top picks from the album would be, Back to the Stone and Is it Honest?, both encompass all that there is to love about Woods. The album is released as of today, and is available on iTunes.

Tracklist below.

  1. Bend Beyond
  2. Cali in a Cup
  3. Is it Honest?
  4. It Ain’t Easy
  5. Cascade
  6. Back to the Stone
  7. Find Them Empty
  8. Wind Was the Wine
  9. Lily
  10. Size Meets the Sound
  11. Impossible Sky
  12. Something Surreal

Here is Cali in a Cup and a few others to get you back in the zone.



The XX – Coexist [Review]

One of the most striking features of the XX is their visual identity. It’s simple, effective and because they’ve so firmly stuck to it, it has become a firm compliment to their music as well as a bold statement about their ideas. That vision is now spread across two albums as the XX return with Coexist the follow up to their vastly successful and celebrated debut XX. It’s been an ongoing discussion in the office since the excitement surrounding the release of their mercury winning album subsided, just how they would follow it up – would they forge a new path and deviate from the already unique sound they revealed to the public back in 2009 or would they stick to their craft and further hone the sound they created. Personally because there’s no one else out there quite like the trio, I’ve been hoping for the latter. Yes there are similar artists in terms of the ideals and basic execution but no one does the dual vocals or carefully considered minimalistic sound like Romy, Oli and Jamie.

So maybe the important question is if you didn’t like the XX three years ago will Coexist be enough to lure you back in for another listen? Perhaps. It leaves the young, almost naive innocence of the debut for a more developed and focused sound that shows the extensive world touring the band has partaken in over the last three years. it also sounds a little more introspective, mature and the band have opened themselves to the use of their peers styles incorporating almost club suitable beats at moments. It’s remix friendly yet again and thoroughly cinematic – expect to see many of these tracks cropping up on adverts and campaigns post release. However, in turn there doesn’t seem to be any tracks that jump out on a first listen. This is a shame when thinking back to the debut with tracks like crystalized and VCR instantly standing out from the get go with catchy melodies and clever use of dual vocals. I have listened to the album extensively now and I’m not sure I could pick out a specific melody or moment. So it’s a different beast this time, and maybe a little harder to get into, but despite this it’s still a deeply rewarding album with absolutely stunning production. It’s warm basslines throb, subtle percussion layers in unobtrusively; the unmistakeable XX guitar tone is there and compliments the entwined vocals wonderfully. There’s a haunting fragility throughout which crackles with electric energy and there’s space for every instrument to breathe and stand out. It’s also stylish with new instruments being introduced to the sound, among them strings make an appearance and even a steel drum which is used to perfection on the suitably atmospheric Reunion. It’s exciting to listen to and demands a certain level of attention to get the most out of. What it lacks in catchy melodies it simply overflows with atmosphere and creativity throughout. It is genuinely exciting to listen to on a set of decent headphones in an undistracted moment.

There will be reviews that extensively praise the band for sticking to their sound and continuing that identity they have forged over onto a follow up record, there will also be reviews that slam them for staying safe and making the XX part two, not adventuring out to find a new sound. Either way, it’s unquestionable that the XX have serious talent and a sound that is very much their own. Coexist is an incredible album in so many respects and  though it only refines the sound the band created four years prior and even if it’s not your cup of tea, it definitely deserves your attention for at least one listen. The band have stuck staunchly to a vision and that’s commendable in its own right. It’s refreshing to hear something so thoughtful, genuine and exciting, and to know it’s being consumed and celebrated on a mass scale is truly wonderful.

Coexist is available for streaming here and is released on September 10th via Young Turks

Tracklisting below.

  1. Angels
  2. Chained
  3. Fiction
  4. Try
  5. Reunion
  6. Sunset
  7. Missing
  8. Tides
  9. Unfold
  10. Swept Away
  11. Our Song

Trevor Menear – Some Kind of Sunshine [Review]

My latest bandcamp find (damn I love that site) is Chicago based Trevor Menear whose blues filled slices of soul have relentlessly been rocking my soundsystem all evening.

Some Kind of Sunshine was self-released back in 2010 via bandcamp and follows his 2008 debut Introducing Trevor Menear (Shangri-La Music). Infectiously catchy melodies playfully rub shoulders with raw blues guitar and soul filled vocals to a modern rock backdrop. I’d really like to refrain from comparing Menear to other artists but it’s fairly easy to think the raw blues of The Black Keys circa 2008 meets the soul of Ray LaMontagne with a whole lot more variation and ideas thrown in the mix. It’s surprisingly well produced as well, not to discredit Trevor Menear, however it cleverly blends that fuzzy, rough blues tone that bands such a Radio Moscow and Dan Auerbach chase so intently, with quiet acoustics and superb percussion; never sounding over produced and retaining a very organic sound. Album opener River Blues opens perfectly with style and some flowing licks, it’s exciting stuff and builds into a burning guitar solo that sounds thoroughly effortless.

After reading comparisons with Hendrix, and Duane Allman, Menears skills behind a guitar may have a lot to live up to but what really impresses is his restraint on this album. Solos never outstay their welcome, they are written to enhance the song and not purely to show off, something that can and should be greatly admired in songwriters who know their way around their instrument. It’s intelligent writing and only enforces the surprise that this young, talented musician who is not only a brilliant guitarist but proves he’s also an excellent song writer has not been snapped up by a major label already, especially after the recent explosion of The Black Keys into the mainstream of popular music.

Whatever way you look at Some Kind of Sunshine, it is undeniable that it’s a brilliant pop record as well as a superb indie blues record and as a free download (yes it’s free, although we encourage everyone to name a price if they like it and support these artists) it not only deserves to be given a chance but has the potential to spend a long time in my playlist.

Some Kind of Sunshine can be obtained from bandcamp as a name your price download.

trevormenear.com
Trevor on Facebook

Tom’s ‘recently found & loved’ playlist

I started compiling this playlist for a friend, but then realized I hadn’t posted for some time and so I thought I’d share it here too. What I’ve got here, (besides a couple of tracks) is a mix of new music I’ve found while sifting through blogs and music sites.

TV Girl:

A band from LA, they’re slowly on the rise, give them a year and they’ll touring the states, and hopefully Europe. It’s feel good electronic, indie shoe-gaze goodness. I’ve been enjoying pretty much all their releases.

Tyler Lyle:

This is my favourite track from his album, it’s got a good pace that seems to get more enjoyable as the song progresses. The other songs on his album are worth checking out too.

J:

I dug and found gold with this guy, he’s from Czech Republic even though he sounds very American. I love this track, it’s part of a series from his EP that all seem to be about childhood. His album is free, and it’s very good.

surely i come quickly:

I don’t even know how I found this guy, but his music is really enjoyable. It comes from an album called, you never wanted me. I believe the artist is from Saskatoon, Ca. The low-fi recordings really do add to the atmosphere of his music.

Soko:

This girl is pretty well-known around the blogs, and I believe made an appearance in the charts. She’s got some nice music vids, one directed by Spike Jonze. I love her voice, and even though this is a pretty sad song, It takes you on an ‘enjoyable’ journey I think.

Birds of America:

An American artist from Oakland, described as Dub/Folk. This track is super chilled and builds nicely, it sounds like it was recorded in a barn after a good party. It’s been on repeat for a while on my iPod.

Tom Eddy:

A folk band from Seattle. This track comes from their album called, The Bread Maker’s Blues. I think it’s the plucking and soft vocals that makes this track fun to listen to. Reminds me a bit of Herman Dune’s stuff.

Cass McCombs:

This is a pretty well-known artist in folk scene. He’s from Baltimore and has toured with a bunch of folky/rock artists. This track comes from his 2009 album, Catacombs.

Cotton Jones:

I love duets, XX are a good example, and these guys execute this song so nicely. This is an alternate version of their song, Gone The Bells, which they released on Soundcloud, I actually prefer it to the original. The dreamy guitar and bells sound beaut.

The Oh Hello’s:

These guys have an EP on Bandcamp which you can ‘name your price for’. They’re working on a full length album which looks promising as this song demonstrates a lot of talent. They say they’ve taken a lot inspiration from Mumford and Sons, personally i think they sound better.

Grand Salvo:

He’s known as ‘Australia’s Iron & Wine’, Grand Salvo has a knack of writing original songs about everyday observations. This is a song that triumphs on its simplicity. You might find you won’t take in the lyrics until the 3rd or 4th time since the acoustic instruments glide through your ears so gracefully.

Of Monsters And Men:

Time to pick up the tempo, this is another boy/girl duet. For me this is Edward Sharpe and XX mixed together. Of Monsters and Men is a 6 piece band from Iceland. This track is from their EP that was released in 2011, they’re currently working on bringing out a full album. They’re one to keep an eye on I feel.

Angus Stone:

I first heard of this artist back in 2007 when he released a single called Mango Tree with his half-sister, Julia. Definitely check out the song if you don’t know it. This track comes from his new album, Broken Brights, I hadn’t really been following his solo venture, so this album came to be a nice surprise.

Helios:

One of my all time favourite instrumental/ambient artists. He’s usually playing in my car during long drives through the countryside. literally love everything he produces, and somehow i missed this track from his last album, which resulted in a nice surprise.

Tallest Man on Earth:

Tallest Man on Earth hit the ground running with his 2008 debut album Shallow Grave and has been impressing fans and critiques since. This track comes from his newest album There’s no Leaving Now. It’s my favourite on the album – and no, he’s not putting on a Bob Dylan voice….

To Just Grow Away by Tallest Man on Earth

Alt-j:

I’ve started to spot adverts around London for Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave. They’re a British band and have been gathering a lot of hype with their indie/electronic sound. I’m not gonna say I heard them before they got big because I don’t think I did. They’re playing at End of Road Festival this year which should be a treat.

Blackbird Blackbird:

Another of my favourite artists. I got to see Blackbird Blackbird play this year in the UK which was amazing. This guy constantly puts out great sounding music. This is one of his newest tracks, and it sounds like he’s far from losing his touch – nice one Mikey.

Fortune Howl:

I found this on some blog, it’s a remix of one of the songs from Wes Anderson’s new film Moonrise Kingdom. It’s a really enjoyable track to listen through.

Poor Moon – Illusion [Listen]

Whilst the Fleet Foxes ponder what to do next after last years frankly outstanding Helplessness Blues, Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls) Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes, Cystal Skulls) and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards) have been busy signing to Sub Pop Records and preparing the freshly released EP Illusion under the monicker Poor Moon.

While it’s clear there are elements of the Fleet Foxes woven through the EP, equally it would be naive to think they’re simply a carbon copy of the band. Any Place is the perfect slow burning dirge which brings to mind not only the Fleet Foxes more mellow numbers but also Midlake. There are shades of The Flaming Lips – most audible on the superb upbeat People In Her Mind and it’s easy to draw Simon & Garfunkel comparisons on the hushed finale Widow. It’s a wonderful blend that really brings this EP to life. Production on the EP is handled with care and varies from spacious light reverb soaked acoustic guitar, to a more electric and full bodied sound that wouldn’t sound out of place back in the 70’s. There’s a lot of variation between tracks but all five sit together gracefully, it builds before dropping down again and as a complete piece it satisfies immensely.

While I’m not familiar with The Christmas Cards music this is without a doubt an EP that fans of the Fleet Foxes can pick up in confidence. For others who might be curious it’s definitely worth a look as a solid debut EP which can slide easily into the Indie Folk genre tag. I look forward to hearing a full length from Poor Moon if this is anything to go by.

Sub Pop have the entire EP up for stream and if you can spare fifteen minutes of your day it gets my recommendation wholeheartedly.

Illusion is out now on Sub Pop Records.

Tracklisting

1) Illusion
2) Any Place
3) People In Her Mind
4) Once Before
5) Widow

Bandcamp Find of the Week – Pickwick

So I suppose my Bandcamp Find of the Week series should technically be renamed Bandcamp Find of the Season. We’ll gloss over the lack of follow ups since that January article, here’s the latest one. I present to you Pickwick.

There’s scant information across the internet on these guys so this is what I do know; there’s six of them, they’re from Seattle, they have a penchant for vintage gear and they love vinyl (men after my own heart there). But what I can tell you from listening to their debut record Myths, interestingly split into three EP’s and released over a period of months, is that they are a great blend of Soul, R&B and Indie rock with shades of blues and the songwriting skills to boot. It’s raw stuff, don’t expect lavish production here. That’s not to say it’s badly produced however, far from it, there’s perfect clarity and it does nothing but accentuate the bands sound, giving each member’s instrument room to breathe and stand out – there are some infectiously catchy melodies here. Most importantly however, it sounds like the band are having fun and this bleeds into their sound freely at all opportunities. Across the record (or three EP’s depending on how you buy it) Pickwick display great skill in creating meaningful songs full of soul. It’s also worth mentioning the interesting presentation and method of releasing three EPs as a full length. The band clearly have a vision and it’s great to see them experimenting with the way they release their music. Each EP comes with it’s own artwork, all stylistically created to compliment each other, it’s a nice idea well executed.

Have a listen over on the Pickwick bandcamp. Note if you want to grab Myths as a complete piece rather than the three EPs via bandcamp, you can purchase it digitally for $8 (USD) or physically for $10 (USD) on their kungfustore here. Highlights include the superb Hacienda Motel (live version below, well worth the watch!) and The Round.

Tracklisting as follows:

Volume 1
1) Hacienda Motel
2) When Rosa Speaks

Volume 2
1) The Round
2) Staged Names

Volume 3
1) Limelight
2) Blackout