Thursday, 27 January 2011

Eye of the Storm: Death In Plains Calm the Nerves

If a submission plays more than one morning in a row - for it is the breakfast hours that tend to provide the ideal listening space for completely new music here, these days - it's most likely a lock for being written about in the following week.

Such is the curiously addictive quality of Enrico Boccioletti's creations under the formal monicker Death In Plains, that his swirling electronica has provided the soundtrack to my every bowl of cereal and swig of coffee this week.

This here vid is taken from the 2010 Mustard Polo EP, created to provide visual stimulus alongside the vinyl release of the Whirlwind single next Monday. It's a sweeping, majestic form of electronica, eliciting the occasional memory of the 80's heyday in its vocals but wrapping it up in some very contemporary, heavily reverberating synths. Somehow, through the pulsing beat and swirl of sound, it's a blissfully relaxing tune.

Further investigation of the EP from whence it came throws up a delicious range of electronic exploration, from the opening attack of Life In The Woods to the contemplative meander of Colourful. All of which provides ample reason to stream the entire effort below, then drop some coinage into the coffers of Disc Error Recordings here for that sweet sweet vinyl.

Let us know what you think. Or just speak up on what you prefer to listen to or, indeed, to eat at breakfast. Essentially, let's just say your comments are very welcome.  

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Tune for Tuesday: Kaber Vasuki

A closely guarded secret: despite my proselytising about the need for a wide, comprehensive web presence during my day job, I quietly love the challenge of digging into enigmatic artists with a dearth of information on their musical creations.

It is from this peculiar persuasion that stems the desire to tell you about Kaber Vasuki, a self-described 'Frank Turner-type Tamil songwriter', recently dropped a link to his music into my Twitter stream. Spurred on by sheer curiosity, I took a listen and was as equally compelled as I was bewildered.
Specifically focusing on the minimalist allure of Kannavu for this Tuesday's tune, its subtle growth on the back of delicate chants and pleasing vocal harmonies is short but all rather sweet at just a notch over two minutes. The Tamil lyrics add an exotic layer to the song, making the aforementioned harmonies all the more mystic. 

MP3: Kaber Vasuki - Kannavu
Taken from a selection of tunes available for nowt, here
Just spread the word with a tweet if you dig.

As with many of the other creations you'll find on the artist's blog site, part of the beauty lies in the minimal, stripped down nature of the songs, leaving melody and atmosphere to carry the day. 

As there is little else to glean from the various sites other than that this is a relatively recent outing with more music on the way, the most sensible course of action is to sit back, take in the tunes, and allow one's own meaning to flow from the music. At the end of the day, it's nice to simply take an artist on that impression, rather than be bombarded with all the hype and pitched angles before a note has been played. 

Give it a try, won't you?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Mogwai Reveal Bizarre New Video

Ahead of the impending Sub Pop release of the newest album from Mogwai, Scottish purveyors of all things expansive and rock-related, this oddball video surfaces.

Made for lead track Rano Pano - a slow burning joy of a track that builds in waves of crashing guitar - it follows two chaps horsing around at home for the first half, before seguing off into a psychedelic fantasy world far more in keeping with the song for the latter part.

You have to watch for it to really click, yet somehow it does fit rather well with the whimsical nostalgia of the tune.

The album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is released next month on Feb 15th in the USA, from which you can download a couple of delectable tracks below, including Rano Pano. For some sweet vinyl action on that song you can also download the single 7" here.

  Mogwai - Rano Pano by subpop

  Mogwai - San Pedro by subpop

This one is going to be something of a belter, as they say back home. Some of them. Definitely me, anyhow.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Some Supremely Satisfying Saturday Streams? Splendid.

When in the name of all that's good and right will I mature out of alliteration as a principal title-writing device? Unclear, although that one must have purged a good amount of the urges....for now.

Moving swiftly on from free flowing verbal laxatives, the point of this post is to introduce a few album preview streams that have been hogging the H-T-A stereo during the first few weeks of the year. 

Some of these albums have now been released, so hopefully this might help a few of you decide whether or not they're worth your hard earned. Or not so hard earned, if you're this speccy Brooklyn chancer.

Stream: British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall

BSP's comeback after the misfiring Do You Like Rock Music? wastes no time in nailing its colours to the mast, belting out of the traps  with the bristling effervescence of Who's In Control? Great start to what proves a triumphant return.

Though still not inclined to expand on the poetic beauty they found on Open Season (my favourite album back in 2005), the band do prise open the rock treasure trove here, making Valhalla Dancehall an energetic, feisty listen. Stunde Null and Observe The Skies provide fine examples of that side of the record, where as Georgie Ray and Living Is So Easy show off the more genteel elements of which it is also capable. 

Buy it at Insound!

Without blowing minds, British Sea Power have overseen a confident return to form that should serve them well as they delve deeper into their multi-faceted exploration of indie-rock.

Stream: Social Distortion - Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes

In all honesty, I know little of Social Distortion beyond the road-warrior status of leader Mike Ness and that they released albums with memorable covers during my 90's formative rock education. Given that the band haven't released a thing since 2004, however, I don't feel all that wanting and simply jumped into Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes as label Epitaph have this neat little Amazon pricing model experiment working alongside this stream.

Regardless of motivation, this is a listen I'm glad to have taken. A punk rock band of 30+ years, Social Distortion have crafted quite the bluesy rock n roll record this time around. In the wake of The Gaslight Anthem's appropriation of blue-collar rock, Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes comes on like a West coast response to New Jersey's latest and greatest. It has more of a swagger, lower slung guitars, and speaks of the past more through its music than lyrical content. Songs like Machine Gun Blues and California (Hustle & Flow) stand out through their cocksure licks, where as the more reflective Bakersfield has that languid, heat-stricken weariness often communicated so clearly by those hailing from the Golden state. 

Buy it at Insound!

It matters little whether or not you have any familiarity with the band, as this album has a universal appeal for any of us that crave a good old fashioned rock record. That something so invigorating and enjoyable comes from a group that have been paying their dues for longer than many of us have been alive....well that just makes it all the more satisfying, my friends. 

Stream: Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean (player below)

Undoubtedly one of the more eagerly awaited early 2011 releases (albeit a bit further back in the queue, straining on tip toes for a peep of Bright Eyes), the intricately-inclined Sam Beam's fourth album is being heralded as his opportunity to step into the indie big leagues. Headlining Radio City Music Hall next week won't hurt that aspiration either.

Buy it at Insound!

Me & Lazarus provides the first notable moment early on, all halting beats and endearing vocal lilt conveying the playful side of the singer's spiritual pondering. Elsewhere, the jarring, 70's inflected Rabbit Will Run and the more exotic tones of Monkeys Uptown provide some offbeat yet effective head turners. The overwhelming feeling, however, is of simply pleasant music that will sit unassumingly in the background until you mention it. 

By no means a bad record, just not the all-encompassing journey into the acoustic soul that some folks might have been anticipating.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A Tune for Thursday: Daddy Lion Roars Back Into Action

The eagle-eyed amongst you - or at least the ones that are aware of what day it is - might notice that this feature usually turns up on a Tuesday. Well, I missed the weekday this time around, yet didn't want to hold on another week to deliver to you the newest song by DC's Daddy Lion.


When I first tuned in to the music of Jeremy Joseph - for it is he behind the creation and execution of Daddy Lion's hazy, laid-back tones - it was being pulled in by the many qualities of last year's self titled EP. Surfacing early in the new year with a new track, The Scientist's Lament, it offers anyone that slept on that little gem a chance to catch on up.

MP3: Daddy Lion - The Scientist's Lament 

Though I might tend towards saying this new song is a continuation of the style laid out on the aforementioned EP, the songs on that release were so engagingly varied that no individual track of new material would be able to emulate everything it covered. Instead, it's simply fair to say that The Scientist's Lament stems naturally from its predecessors and could fit comfortably alongside the older tracks. 

Well timed for the frozen months, it immediately shines warmly with an intricate, inviting guitar line. The vocals have that same slightly distant quality that so reminded us of several 80/90's indie rock icons, as the lyrics deal with the existential quandary of one who is all too aware that "everything's just matter and I don't have the proof". The contrast of burdensome lyrics set to a breezy, bright tune with a great power to relax the mind is a fun one, giving the song room to operate on a few different levels. 
It might not be another EP of great variety but this new track gives us something to dig our teeth into, as the creative mind behind Daddy Lion beavers away in a bedroom studio to serve up another record. With full control and only a highly active imagination to battle with, it's a fair bet that we'll be hearing some more in the not too distant future. 

Roll on spring time, says I.  


Monday, 17 January 2011

I Beg Your Parton?: Q&A w/ Addie Brownlee

In the latter quarter of 2010, my first stop at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City yielded a pleasant serendipity, catching an intimate early afternoon performance from singer-songwriter Addie Brownlee

With her bittersweet, lyrically intriguing songs, Addie caught the ear immediately and had fun doing so in a live setting. It's with great pleasure, then, that we anticipate her next show this coming Wednesday 19th January. 

A tribute to one of her significant musical influences, I Beg Your Parton? will see the singer take the Living Room stage with Martha Wainwright to pay tribute to the country legend inspiring the show title.  I took the opportunity to catch up with Addie over e-mail, to get the low down on the show:

H-T-A: Happy New Year! We last - and indeed first - crossed paths last October at CMJ. How was that show for you and what have you been up to since?

Addie Brownlee: Happy New Year to you too, Steve! I guess we'll catch up outside of this interview :) The CMJ/Paste showcase was a blast. I got to throw a bunch of koozies, and we met you! Since then I've done several illegal things that I can't talk about. Not really. I've been writing, getting ready for a SECRET show on January 19th at the Living Room. I also licensed Sea Legs to the Department of Justice and performed in a PSA they shot to bring attention to paying musicians fairly.

H-T-A: You released the East of Leaving EP last year after what looks like a fair old chunk of time from the previous release. Do you have any more material ready to go this year?

AB: I've been writing away. We're going to release a full length record this year as well. I try to only write when it's time. If what I'm writing doesn't feel authentic, I stop and get to work on all the other things involved in an independent music career. And I learn other people's songs. And sometimes, when I'm at a live show of someone who's work I really admire, I start writing like a crazed... crazy - during the show. Rude. But I try to be subtle about it. When a brilliant artist is vulnerable in front of so many people, sometimes it drags words of my own out of me.

H-T-A: 'Blessing' is a song that particularly caught my ear at your CMJ show, not least because of your impressive success in crossing the melancholy of lost love with a bitter wit that makes it all the more memorable. Can you share some of your feelings about that song or is it all said in the delivery?!

AB: It's nice that it caught your attention, thanks. I wrote what I felt, which is why when I got to the chorus I just kept writing exactly what I felt - all the things you're not supposed to think or say when you're wishing someone you loved well. 

H-T-A: How did you come to collaborate with Martha Wainwright? Presumably you both share a fine appreciation for Dolly Parton?

AB: Martha sang on my record, East of Leaving and on the full length record coming out this year. She's one of those songwriters who makes me start writing in the middle of her show. Don't tell her. I'm really excited about what she's chosen to sing. I know it's meaningful for her. Everything about the show gets me so excited I can't sleep!



H-T-A: What do the songs and style of Dolly Parton mean to you, both personally and in terms of influence on your own music? 
AB: Dolly is one of the great people making a few turns around the earth with all of us right now. She's written over 3000 songs. Which means next year's show shouldn't be hard to program. She's known as the 'Iron Butterfly' for her business savvy. I got the inspiration for this show, standing in line years ago to see her at Irving Plaza. The mix of people there was E-clectic! Passersby kept stopping and asking, 'Who's playing tonight?'. Because we were this crew (some motley, some not so much) of people who I guess seemed not to make sense together. The show-goers were like a mini data set of every demographic. People in cowboy hats, drag queens, me. Björk

H-T-A: We're eagerly anticipating the show next week. What can people planning to attend expect to see?

AB: We're eagerly anticipating it too! I've sung these songs all my life, but now as I sit with them, I'm so moved by who Dolly Parton is. The wigs and plastic surgery and 'it takes alot of money to look this cheap' persona is no doubt a part of her, but I wanted to make her writing and entertaining (including knowing when to sing a great song that's not her own) the focus. A birthday party/show for Dolly CAN'T NOT be a little silly, but it's not a tribute show (the band just stared at me when I mentioned wigs - somebodies were a wittle low on bwood sugar at wehearsal). 

I definitely sound and look nothing like Dolly. Except for the Lee press-ons. I sort of hoped that because of me being so different from her, people would get a chance to really focus on her music, no distraction from the words Dolly's been writing about her life, all her life.

Thanks again to Addie for taking the time to listen to and answer some H-T-A musical ramblings. Come out to the Living Room on Wednesday 19th Jan at 8pm to see just what goes down at this special show. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A Tune for Tuesday: Late Night Fiction Take Off

One of my objectives for H-T-A this year is to keep a better handle on what's happening over the ocean, back in my homeland of the United Kingdom. Not that my adopted land doesn't birth some of the best music, but home is where the heart is, right? Right. Left. Onwards...

With that in mind, it's rather splendid to start out on this year's Tuesday tunes with Late Night Fiction, the spiky post- type Hull rockers with whom I first became familiar last year thanks to their Horsefight single (stream below).

As promising as those early cuts were, the band's new double 'A' side, released on February 28th, sees them stepping into their sound fully. Still retaining a sharp edge, both tracks flow superbly thanks to a greater focus on the melodic part of their genre.  

The Only Way To Fly demonstrates this in the form of passionate, driving rock and carefully crafted vocal harmonies, all fused together to create an enigmatic song that feels alternately both urgent and relaxed. The curiously named To Entertain a Vertical Posture seeks out its melody in a different manner, surging and falling rapidly through guitar bursts, before settling into reflective passages that allow the band time to breathe and ponder before charging back into the fight. 

MP3: Late Night Fiction - The Only Way To Fly
For more information, visit the Late Night Fiction Myspace page

It's tough to pick a favourite, as both have their own charms and show off a particular side of Late Night Fiction's multi-faceted sound. I've plumped for the former here as it's the more immediate of the two. This is neither here nor there, however, as I strongly recommend picking up the both of them upon release, especially if the the likes of Biffy Clyro or Alexisonfire feature prominently on your iPod playlists.

The band head out on tour around the UK next month and I can only imagine they kick it up even further on the live circuit. If you'd care to catch a gig and let me experience it vicariously through your attendance, I'll be happy to shout you a Brooklyn Ale on your next visit through New York. Unlikely....though not impossible.

Monday, 10 January 2011

REVIEW: MillionYoung - Replicants

As we move into the first trickle of releases for the year this week, we immediately face the increasingly familiar issue of digital versus physical 'street' dates. Longstanding H-T-A fave MillionYoung is the artist inspiring the debate today - tomorrow, Tuesday, more accurately - with the much anticipated Replicants.

Having spent a few weeks in its warm glow, I have to admit that Replicants didn't click immediately. Initially it felt a touch light weight, perhaps even stretched, unable to replicate (oops) the promising EP material that came before it over the course of a full length. Oh well, worth a try, thought I.

MP3: MillionYoung - Calrissian
Taken from the new album Replicants, out now - BUY

Well, it's hard for a chap to admit to such a thing, but I was premature. There's much more at play on Replicants than I believed so; it simply takes some uninterrupted listening and quality headphones to appreciate.

Across the various sonic pastels with which Floridian Mike Diaz paints this album, the cumulative effect of the swirling electronics, sun-kissed synths, and hypnotic beats is one of sleepy euphoria. Be it the beautifully layered atmospherics conjured by the enchanting Cosmonaut or the 80's undertones powering the title track, this is a release adding up to a sum greater than its parts.

Although there could be an impending backlash to all the hazy chillwave being crafted by minimalist artists around the US right now, MillionYoung is not one of the likely casualties of this genre saturation. The breadth of the music on show here is enough to keep Replicants growing on the listener the deeper we delve, putting it on the desirable side of the hype fence.

In the frozen depths of winter, this is an album that will transport you away to the sun-kissed shores somewhere in the recesses of your mind.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Missing In Action: Titus Andronicus

One final, wistful glance back at 2010 tonight, then this weekend will see us moving boldly on to the coming year in music....and probably plenty more nostalgia, only for previous decades rather than the previous twelve months. 

Indulge me then, if you will, as I lament the nine months spent overlooking Titus Andronicus and their supreme, ramshackle second album The Monitor.

Always intrigued by what others took to be the musical landscape of recent years, I've been perusing the Hype Machine Zeitgeist feature this past week. In amongst those I picked up on myself, those I have no desire to dig into any further (Kanye West), some solid releases that simply didn't get enough early ear time (Twin Shadow, These New Puritans), The Monitor stands out like a hobo in a top hat walking into the Ritz Carlton.

The album channels the working class rock heritage of their home state New Jersey, filtering it through a loose conceptual model celebrating the 148th anniversary of an American Civil War battleship skirmish, and finally communicating all of this through sprawling, ramshackle punk rock that schools most contemporary lo-fi indie rock wimps in the true requirements of the genre. In short, it's unashamedly brazen and defiantly brilliant in  both its approach and execution. 

MP3: Titus Andronicus - Four Score and Seven Part 1 (via Insound)
Taken from The Monitor, out now

Buy it at Insound!

The time has passed, however, for me to wax eloquent about the joys of this release. All you need do is take in the songs on show here - or stream the full thing on the Hype Machine page via a Grooveshark widget - and hopefully feel the urge to invest in a whole new sound system on which to listen to the vinyl version that you're now aching to buy. 

Yep, I am feeling that it's that damn good after just a week of listening. What say you?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Down Time Distractions

If you tried to have a wander around the site here today you probably couldn't find much more than an error page, as it seems some evil monkey temporarily pulled the plug overnight. Apologies if your musical needs were briefly unassuaged....I am assured we are back to normal service now.

Sorting that out took much of the time I would have preferred to use telling you about all things good and rock, so instead I'll bridge the gap briefly with a nod to yesterday's Bright Eyes post. I still firmly stand by Conor Oberst's finest outing being on the sole album released by Desaparecidos, Read Music Speak Spanish. Thankfully Saddle Creek still has some MP3's up for grabs so that you can judge for yourself....

MP3: Desaparecidos - The Happiest Place On Earth
Both via Saddle Creek and taken from the 2002 album Read Music / Speak Spanish

Buy it at Insound!

To my mind, the overwrought frustration at suburban America and the utterly bland strip-mall culture that pervades is perfectly documented by this record. In particular it pushes Oberst's voice to breaking point and you frequently feel he's on the edge of self-combustion. The whole record is a barn storming success and one I recommend you have a dig into as you wait for the new Bright Eyes set next month. 

Thanks again for bearing with us, hopefully that's the gremlins out of the machine early and for the rest of the year now. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Games We Play: Bright Eyes Return For The People

Whilst we're on an anticipatory tip, few indie rock songwriters inspire as much polarisation as one Conor Oberst. Be it disagreement over his best musical vehicle (Desaperacidos, if you must) or simply whether his quivering, distinctive vocal is iconic or irritating, whenever the man steps forth with new material the ears of music fans prick up.

Of all his projects, Bright Eyes is the most prolific and likely to rouse passions, so the release of its first new full length in four years, The People's Key, is indeed an important business. As is the first new track from said release, entitled Shell Games

The song rides along on a fairly simple beat, backed up by light, often distant synths that eventually venture into the foreground. Frequent break downs offer a form of hook but the most engaging aspect is as ever Oberst's voice. Less fragile, more confident than I'd previously associated with the output of Bright Eyes, the style is more in keeping with his sound on 2009's superb Outer South, recording with his Mystic Valley Band. The vocal hook on refrain "Here it come, that heavy love" inspires a few repeat listens all on its own.

Without being an immediately stand out track, Shell Games does succeed in piquing interest in the new album - due out on Saddle Creek February 15th in the US - to see if this confident and relatively upbeat sounding Oberst is the one that appears throughout the record. Whatever the case, with a proven songwriting pedigree and a significant gap since the last outing, The People's Key is guaranteed to be one of the year's first important releases.

MP3: Bright Eyes - Four Winds
Taken from the 2007 album Cassadaga

Via Saddle Creek - Visit them here for plenty more free Bright Eyes tunes on the band downloads page.

Buy it at Insound!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Please, Release Me: 11 Albums Kicking Off 2011

I've been somewhat paralysed from posting in the first few days of the year - only partially for reasons alcohol-related, I should clarify - due to the familiar tussle between last year's missed gems (Tamaryn, Biffy Clyro, The Radio Dept, Tallest Man On Earth, ) and the sheer volume of releases that will shortly gush from the rosters of record labels innumerable (, lots). 

As usual, Pitchfork comes to the rescue at this time of year with their impressive list of winter 2011 releases

Where as last year H-T-A featured a symmetrical TenFor10 pick of artists for the year, I'm cutting that to a smaller number this year. You'll see those picks begin to appear later this week but I'm unable to resist selecting eleven somethings for 2011 (possible OCD in developmental stages), so here are the H-T-A anticipated albums, in chronological order, from that sprawling list of releases (and beyond):

  1. British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall (out Jan 11th) | MP3: Living Is So Easy (Spinner link)
  2. Iron & Wine - We Kiss Each Other Clean (out week of 24th January) | Stream: Walking Far From Home
  3. Cut Copy - Zonoscope (out week of 8th Feb) | MP3: Take Me Over (Goldworthy Remix)
  4. Asobi Seksu - Fluorescence (out week of 14th Feb) | MP3: Trails (after e-mail sign up)
  5. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will (out week of 14th Feb) | MP3: Rano Plano
  6. MillionYoung - Replicants (out week of 14th Feb) | Stream: Replicants (at KEXP)
  7. The Twilight Singers - Dynamite Steps (out week of 14th Feb) | Stream: On the Corner (at
  8. Acrylics - Lives & Treasures (out week beginning 1st March) | Video: Molly's Vertigo
  9. Grails -Deep Politics (out week of 7th March) | MP3: Dead Vine Blues
  10. Wye Oak - Civilian (out week beginning 7th March) | MP3: Civilians
  11. Grooms - Grooms (out week beginning 28th March) | Video: Dreamsucker
British Sea Power up first brings back unsettling memories of 2008, when Do You Like Rock Music? built up hopes and then fell flat on its arse, at least in comparison to the supreme beauty of Open Season. Nonetheless, I'm excited to see new music from The Twilight Singers and Cut Copy out so soon, as well as the already previewed releases slated for Mogwai and Wye Oak.

There are plenty more beyond that, so it's shaping up to be a fast and furious start to 2011. What's on your shopping list?