Thursday, 31 March 2011

Put The Video On, Eh? Will Do.

In the back of my mind, I knew I'd been sleeping on checking out the new material from TV On The Radio, a band that have graduated from mere passing interest five years ago to full on 'must listen' status today. 

After two albums I've utterly adored, not making time to preview newie Nine Types Of Light feels more than remiss, positively criminal. 


Though lacking the immediately sweet lure of Golden Age as it preceded Dear Science back in 2008, what Will Do accomplishes so satisfyingly is to demonstrate that the new album will explore the delicious intricacies of TVotR's sound. It glistens, hints, whispers the promises of their next opus in the folds of deep synthetic beats, distant brass, and a chorus that floats its way into your mind space in a most intangible manner. The video adds a futuristic layer to the song, one which wouldn't be conjured up immediately from the audio alone but which is crafted well by the director to suit the gentle swell of the tune. 

It's almost unimaginable that this band could make a misstep in what has been an experimental, adventurous career to date, with this newest material doing nothing to hint at such an occurrence. Due out April 12th in the USA, Nine Types Of Light is currently on pre-order here and the band tour North America and Europe thereafter (dates here). 

Suitably chastened, I await the full release as a straight A student eager to make up for an errant B on a piece of obscure homework. Must try harder, straighten up and fly right, etc etc.

Monday, 28 March 2011

MPthree: Music Processed (in) 3 - PJ Harvey

This Mpthree series will attempt to constrain my ramblings by offering up just three words, in three categories, to describe the music presented. For more info on this oddity, read back here.

A well known, perhaps revered selection today, in the form of England's ever-evolving, polymorph songstress PJ Harvey.  

MP3: PJ Harvey - Written On The Forehead (via Insound)
Taken from the current album 'Let England Shake', out now

 Buy it at Insound!

Bio: England / Mercurial / Lifer

Sound: Fluctuating / Personal / Pensive

Emotion: Defiant / Political / Inspiration

Let England Shake is also on sale for $5 this month at AmazonMP3. More information on PJ Harvey, including US tour dates, on her website

Sunday, 27 March 2011

REVIEW: Alexi Murdoch - Towards The Sun

Creeping through the First Listen portal of a now threatened NPR, this album by Scotland's Alexi Murdoch is a sweet example of unanticipated listening ending in a satisfying purchase. Without advance streaming, I highly doubt I would be writing about Towards The Sun just now.

Having stumbled over it, though, I've now embraced the subtle delights of an album that demands little but deserves plenty. 

MP3: Alexi Murdoch - Towards The Sun
Taken from the album of the same name, out now

Murdoch's style has that same quiet power so strongly marshalled by acoustic maestro Jose Gonzalez, all intricate picking and hushed, confident vocals. Some Day Soon displays all these hall marks, the unassuming percussion emphasising the hopeful lilt of the guitar, as Murdoch delivers wistful reflections on family and friends.

Elsewhere, album centre piece Slow Revolution delivers a Frank Turner-style take on world upheaval, albeit at 1/4 the speed that the latter would normally employ. Even so, it allows time for the words to sink in; space for us to ruminate on similar matters ongoing in world politics. It's a quietly dark number that provides an album highlight.

A couple of things might grate about this release, one being the length of the songs, the other that there is little variation from the slow burning acoustic style. These really are trifling concerns, however, as the emotional variety and subtle changes in tone provide more than enough engagement over the 37 minutes running time.

An affecting release with heartfelt, atmospheric songwriting, Towards The Sun marks Mr Murdoch out as one of the acoustic singer-songwriter brigade who actually sticks in the memory, urging repeat listens. Give him just 30 minutes of your life. He'll quickly return the favour with the deepest contemplations of his own.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Yuck Air Some Dirty Laundry

It's been a while since I checked in with the wonderful work of Dirty Laundry TV, so here's a good one to catch up with. 

Rising London quartet Yuck entertain with some nan stories and a group of rather stereotype-enforcing band members: introspective, distant singer, gregarious drummer, awkward guitarist, and inconspicuous bassist. Nonetheless, their reverb-heavy, Dinosaur Jr on barbiturates sound is mesmeric and well worth some attention.

First, though, the interview, with none-too-tough-on-the-eye host Malia James...

MP3: Yuck - Rubber
Taken from debut album Yuck, out now

 Buy it at Insound!

So that 90's 'Seattle sound' is finally being hauled from the annals of rock history for a bright new revival, huh? Good good, we're all tiring of bands aping New Order and Depeche Mode anyway, right? Time to move on to the next decade. 

Remember what's up after grunge, You have been warned. 

Yuck are on tour in the US during April and May. Check out their Myspace for all the dates. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Tune For Tuesday: Alejandra O'Leary

One of the great joys of the music blogger's inbox comes when, sandwiched between the latest remix of some pop song that was already shite and the latest mass mailing for a genre one has never covered, a familiar name pops up after quite some time unheard from.

Imagine my delight, then, when three new tunes from former NYC, now Michigan-based singer-songwriter Alejandra O'Leary, dropped into my lap from the digital ether.

Those who have scoured the archives, or with an eidetic memory, will recall a glowing review of O'Leary's 2009 release Nothing Out Loud. Well, prepare for some more superlatives, because these new cuts are just as swathed in charming tone and delicious pop melodies.

MP3: Alejandra O'Leary - Broken Mirror Baby
Taken from the forthcoming, as yet untitled album, 
due out later in 2011 - MYSPACE

I've plumped for this one as our Tuesday tune choice - try saying that without spitting all over the computer - thanks to the upbeat intro it's set to provide the new album. A confident, sweeping brush off to an important someone who, unfortunately, only seems to bring trials and tribulations, Broken Mirror Baby powers along on a chunky riff, neat guitar chicanery, and satisfyingly deep percussion. 

With the more melodic sensibilities of 90's Britpop on show, yet never afraid to uncover a more delicate side when the guitar reverb momentarily recedes, this track offers a pleasing range of emotion and style. Overall, though, it's  a pure cracker to kick back with a cold bevvie and take in, anticipating those brighter days that must be just around the corner. 

So download, dig, and sit tight for further posts on that new album. You can also go back and spend some time with Alejandra's debut, if you missed it first time around. Neither choice will disappoint.  

Sunday, 20 March 2011

SXSW 2011: The 'Maybe Next Year' Year

South By Southwest (SXSW) largely passed me by this year, especially compared to the 2010 edition, for which we had special guest blogging action from the heart of Austin. 

Catching up a little today, however, I thought I'd at least offer up some of the more choice reports and photo segments for any of you that were similarly isolated from the shenanigans. Whether down to lack of time, moolah, or sufficient hipster status, we can at least make the required resolution of the SXSW attendance fail: "Next year..."

  • Death From Above 1979 reform briefly, causing an equally brief riot. Hint: the first 30 seconds have pretty much all the 'action'...punk rock, this is not.

  • British rock outfit Dinosaur Pile Up, previously covered herein last summer, managed to turn a few heads by all accounts.  
  • Omar Rodriguez-Lopez had a special -if very familiar - guest join his group's SXSW show, in the newly shorn form of Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Belting out some 'future punk', the duo set some pulses racing for the new Mars Volta jam due later this year.  
  • Chicago's Smith Westerns seem odds on for the most emergent accessible indie rock act, building on a foundation of buzz that's generated in the last year or so. Listening to their set on NPR, that's no bad thing. 
MP3: Smith Westerns - Weekend 

  • Hardcore punk legends Bad Brains took the SXSW stage at Emo's. Reputedly now on a more serene, progressive tip nowadays, they nevertheless appear to have enraptured fans of their previously raging, dynamic sound.
  • That rapper that interrupted that country singer appears to have done what he's best at and receive lots of attention for style over substance. Well, at least he's 1,000-odd miles away this time.

  • Our friend and 2010 reporter Darci had pangs of withdrawal, even one year on, and chronicled her sleepless, distant vicariousness here on sPikeR(!).  
  • Snag a bunch of other free MP3's from SXSW 2011 bands here on NPR, while stocks last.

Did you hit Austin this year? Or were you, like us, sat at home trying to pretend you had too much to do anyway? 

If you went and have some tips on exciting acts to watch out for, don't hesitate to drop them in the comments section. Until next year....  

Thursday, 17 March 2011

MPthree: Music Processed (in) 3 - Daddy Lion

This Mpthree series will attempt to constrain my ramblings by offering up just three words, in three categories, to describe the music presented. For more info on this oddity, read back here.

Back down the coast we go this evening, to check in with Washington DC's Jeremy Joseph, better known in music mode as Daddy Lion.  

Taken from the 2010 self-titled EP, out now - BUY

Bio: D.C. / Bedroom / NPR'd

Sound: Psychedelic / Downbeat / Hazy

Emotion: Perplexed / Release / Hopeful

Learn more on the official site here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Tune For Tuesday: Jónsi

A favourite around these parts for much of last year, the solo outing from Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi, Go, yielded many upbeat, synth-laden efforts alongside the singer's more naturally flowing croon. 

One of the finest examples of this is opener Go Do, a pulsing track that sets the album off at a glorious pace and showcases a more accessible, yet no less quixotically endearing side to the Icelandic singer. 

As it just got posted in Insound's latest slew of great free mp3's, I thought I'd post it as today's tune in case you somehow missed the fanfare last year...

MP3: Jónsi - Go Do (via Insound)

Taken from the 2010 album Go, out now

Buy it at Insound!


For more info, check out: 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

REVIEW: Arc In Round - s/t

Philly's Arc In Round finally made some waves - my timing flaw, not theirs - around these parts last month, enveloping my senses with the beguiling Spirit single. Having since had a few good one-on-one sessions with their new self-titled album, it's time to see how they went about weaving that alluring mix of dreamy shoegaze and alt-rock into a full album tapestry.

MP3: Arc In Round - Spirit
Taken from the forthcoming self-titled album, out May 10th - Visit the official website here.

MP3: Arc In Round - 3am All The Time
Taken from the debut EP Diagonal Fields, available now on Bandcamp

Blending any other influences into the hazy reverb of shoegaze can yield mixed results at the best of times. The dynamic walls of noise subsiding into quiet reverb offer enough variation to begin with, so attempting further sonic alchemy requires skill - and a little luck - to avoid ending up with a lump of purest green.

Skillful as they are, Arc In Round achieve most here through their less-is-more approach to dilution. A melodic flourish here, an addictive alt-rock hook there; but never a wholesale capitulation to another style. The swirling mania of shoegaze remains at the core of all they play, with the embellishments providing the icing (frosting, in US parlance) that adds to the taste.

The playful pummel of Spirit is matched on other early tracks, Coffee being a particularly breezy yet angular example. Elsewhere the atmosphere is more brooding, as on the skewed II, which has all the threat of a A Place To Bury Strangers track but replaces the sheer sensory assault of that comparison with more of a soaring groove.

Dual interludes labelled <----> and >----< break up weightier tracks in esoteric fashion, showing an isolated though not unwelcome desire to indulge pure electronica. It's a microcosm of what makes this album so endearing; the natural exploration of it's sound, its place amidst the sonic wash of shoegaze. 

Often, such exploration on a debut can lead to a lop-sided end product, brilliant in the places it all gels together, messy in those it doesn't. That isn't the case here. Certainly, there are areas that Arc In Round will improve upon next time, erm, around...those where they're experimenting with collages of sound that will be more familiar to them during their next recording sessions. There's a pleasure in accompanying them along this path, though, rather than any impatience for the fully realized sound of whatever comes next.

As the venerable Mr. Frank Turner inimitably puts it: 'If you're all about the destination, then take a fucking flight.' If, however, you've time to walk the scenic route, this is one evocative record to sound track your stroll.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

MPthree: Music Processed (in) 3 - Maritime

This Mpthree series will attempt to constrain my ramblings by offering up just three words, in three categories, to describe the music presented. For more info on this oddity, read back here.

Today, we have long time favourites Maritime out to play. 

MP3: Maritime - Paraphernalia
Taken from the forthcoming album 
'Human Hearts', out April 5th (USA)

Bio: Milwaukee / Lifers / Touring

Sound: Emo(riginal) / Hooks / Breezy

Emotion: Bright / Joy / Nostalgia

 Buy it at Insound!

Learn more about the band on their official site here

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A Tune For Tuesday: Alexi Murdoch - Towards The Sun

Alexi Murdoch is a new name to me, first coming to my attention thanks to NPR's fantastic First Listen new music section. It might still be hanging around for another day or two, if you fancy a run through.

Anyhow, the Scottish singer-songwriter has a quiet, contemplative style that really hits home on some parts of his new record Towards The Sun. That's on a daily MP3 deal here on AmazonMP3 for the bargainous price of $2.99, if you can catch it.

MP3: Alexi Murdoch - Towards The Sun
Taken from the album of the same title, out now
Stream & download via Bandcamp here


Today's tune for a fine Tuesday is also the title track, which offers up all the elements of the songsmith's finer points. Washing in on a light, simple strum of acoustic guitar, Murdoch builds the song a little at a time, adding in brief flourishes to his playing and the faintest dash of keys where appropriate. The power lies in the honest warmth of the singer's voice, ably supported by his confident, minimalist playing. Despite the stripped down style, the sound feels deep and rich.

Taking his new stuff to the road, Mr Murdoch is available to be seen on both sides of the pond during the next couple of months, including a stop in Brooklyn's increasingly gentrifi-tastic hipster-haven, Williamsburg. Check out the other dates & cities below.

Alexi Murdoch Upcoming Tour Dates 

Tuesday, Mar 09 - Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore (w/ The Cairo Gang)  
Wednesday, Mar 23 - Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church (w/ Sam Amidon)  
Thursday, Mar 24 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (w/ Sam Amidon) 
Thursday, Apr 07 - Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Bitterzoet  
Friday, Apr 08 - Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Motel Mozaique Festival  
Wednesday, Apr 13 - Paris, France @ Cafe de la Danse  
Tuesday, Apr 19 - Berlin, Germany @ Lido  
Wednesday, Apr 20 - Frankfurt, Germany @ Mousonturm 

Monday, 7 March 2011

MPthree: Music Processed (in) 3

I've long sought after a regular, short and sharp feature to contrast with the more interminable ramblings on music and all the elements surrounding it. The main challenge I have is keeping myself from wandering off on tangents, thus escalating the word count and scope. 

What's a windbag Englishman to do....?

Well, this Mpthree series will attempt to constrain my ramblings by offering up just three words, in three categories, to describe the music presented. The categories are: 'Bio', 'Sound' and 'Emotion'. These may well morph as we go along but the severe numerical shackles will remain. 

To kick things off, here's Empire from Jukebox The Ghost

Bio: Trio / Philadelphia / Touring

Sound: PopRock / Upbeat / Quirky

Emotion: Happy / Enthusiastic / Reflective

MP3: Jukebox The Ghost - Empire (via Insound)
Taken from the 2010 album 'Everything Under The Sun'

 Buy it at Insound!

Learn more about the band on their official site here

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Morning Glory: Eat Brekkie With Forks Of Ivy

Often songs I come across align to a particular time of day. Somehow, a tune will float in on a cloud of serendipity and become synonymous with the activities of the hour. 

The most notable of these for me recently has been Iowa, a whisper light song from Baltimore's Forks Of Ivy, that reminds me, with a subtle nudge, to listen every morning as I begin the daily work routine.

MP3: Forks Of Ivy - Iowa
Taken from the forthcoming album Foxfeel, 
out April 19th - BANDCAMP

Part of this dawn allure, I believe, lies in its undemanding nature. The urge to listen comes more from a subtle presence on the periphery, an obligation to acknowledge the quiet, polite atmosphere that the song conjures. It's an accomplished, multi-layered beauty that somehow sounds effortless...natural.

Musically, Iowa occupies the brighter side of Wye Oak's winding introspection, turning over similar emotions for a few minutes before coming to the conclusion that there is always cause for hope. The angelic lilt of Lindsay Parsons' vocal over ethereal waves of light guitar pick up the modd, as deep, resonant percussion anchors the song in the reality of a full day ahead.

Away from attempting to confer the poetic aspects of slipping into the day with this song, the more practical side of me can tell you that the track comes from Fork OF Ivy's debut album Foxfeel, which is due out on the 19th of next month. A release show is scheduled for the 13th April at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore and, well, that's about all that's out there that I can see. 

You can also check out the title track via their Facebook page but the scarcity of other songs means that Iowa will have to be your principal guide for the next month or so. Good job they made it so deliciously addictive then.