Richard Hawley is probably destined to be one of those over-talented Brits who never cracks the American market, and that’s really a shame, ‘cuz he’s awfully damned good. Back in the 90′s he was in the Britpop band Longpigs before hooking up with Jarvis Cocker’s Pulp, but on his own, Hawley has released seven truly inspiring solo albums. And while he’s probably known as being more of a rockabilly-styled singer, his latest album, Standing At The Sky’s Edge…with walls of fuzzy feedback, processed vocals and dark lyrics…is downright psychedelic. And for a guy who’s said he’d “never, ever been interested in fashion or being fashionable”, he’s put out a very hip record. Head on over to his website to check him out, and here he is doing ‘Down in the Woods’ live on Jools Holland’s show…
Remember Zero 7…??? Of course you do…who didn’t have the album Simple Things on the top of their iTunes list when it came out?!! It practically defined the entire Chillout genre of music. As luck would have it, Sia got crazy famous because of ‘Destiny’, but for some reason the same didn’t happen to Sophie Barker who sang lead on ‘In The Waiting Line’. But Sophie’s had three solo albums of her own material, the latest…Seagull…was released in the UK late last year, and even though you can pick it up on iTunes, it hasn’t had any kind of publicity over here. However…since ‘Say Goodbye’ has been dropped on a bunch of music blogs recently…it showed up in my email box this morning…I’m thinkin’ it’s about to get a stateside release soon. You can follow Sophie on her website or over on facebook
Fort Atlantic is Jon Black, and Jon Black is pretty Goddamned amazing. His musical style, lyrical phrasing and voice is eerily reminiscent of Jackson Browne, with a little bit of an upbeat Jeff Tweedy thing thrown in for some Indie cred. I was introduced to Mr. Black via my regular email blast from Noisetrade, one of the better sites I subscribe to for new music. Artists can upload an album, EP, single, or live recording to distribute it completely free (tipping gladly accepted and encouraged by yours truly). Fort Atlantic is set to release their first album May 29th, but to get you interested they’re offering a 5-song EP that is quite a revelation. The first time I listened to the anthemic ‘No One Will Know’, with its surging drumbeat and pleading harmonies, it raised the hairs on my neck…
I think I have made up my mind
I think there are places that we need to go just to find…
Black has spent the past three years in his DIY home studio working on the songs that make up his debut album. When he finished recording last November, he packed up the tapes and travelled to New York to have Grammy-winning producer Tom Schick (who coincidentally has spun the knobs for Tweedy and Wilco) handle the final mix. When they were done, Schick said…
“The songs on this record are instant classics. Jon has an impressive voice and crafts beautiful songs with many great twists and turns. I love this record”.
He was right…after listening to the five tracks on the EP you come away with a warm, comforting feeling…almost like you’ve known these songs your whole life. I love this record.
You must get this EP. Head over to Noisetrade for the free download…and if you like it like I know you will, throw him a tip! Then tell all of your friends. Then visit his facebook page and LIKE him…..you’re welcome!
Sarah Jaffe has come a long way since she was last on The List back in 2010 with ‘Clementine’. On her new album, The Body Wins, the folky rhythms and mournful lyrics from that first record have been replaced with fuzzy sampled percussive beats, electronic pianos, upbeat melodies and a much more pop-centric feel to her songwriting. Gone too is her earthy, slacker image that featured a mish-mosh of hoodies, plaid shirts and knit caps. Judging from the cover of The Body Wins where she sports a new razor-cut hairstyle and almost military-like fashion, I’d say Sarah has been put through the record company makeover machine. But if the marketing guys thought getting a haircut was necessary to get noticed, it must be working ‘cuz even Jon Pareles of The NY Times reviewed her album yesterday. For an indie artist, that’s kinda huge. And judging from what he wrote, I’d say we’re both fans of her new sound.
No, you’re not listening to a long-lost Simon & Garfunkel single…this is Paul Simon’s son, Harper Simon, and if not for me clearing out some of the stuff taking up space on my DVR last night, I would probably have never heard this. It played as the credits rolled on the first episode of the new HBO series, ‘Girls’, and if you’ve seen the show (and you’re like me) then you probably can’t imagine a more perfect song to encapsulate the characters and themes…
Everyone seems so certain
Everyone knows who they are
Everyone’s got a mother and a father
They all seem so sure they’re going far
They all got more friends than they can use
Except me ‘cause I’m a fool…
The show, by the way, is excellent! Writer/Director/Creator/Voice-of-her-Generation Lena Dunham’s super-smart look at four twenty-something girls trying to make their way in the World is peppered with dialogue that flows like a hipster mash-up of a David Mamet play and a Whit Stillman movie. And is it coincidence or by clever design that Mamet’s daughter Zosia plays one of Dunham’s girlfriends and Stillman regular Chris Eigeman plays her boss? I dunno…just watch it!
Laura Burhenn and the Omaha-based Mynabirds are back with their second album, Generals, due out June 5th, and she’s giving away the title track…a percussion-heavy, anthemic foot-stomper that was good enough to get me out the the serious Song of the Day drought I’ve been in! In this song, Laura sounds kinda pissed off with the way a few politicians have been trying to step on the rights of hard-working girls out there lately…
Calling all my generals
My daughters, my revolutionaires
We’ve got strength in numbers
And they’re going to pay for it…
Today on The List we prove once more that everything old is new again. Fuzzy dueling guitars with whammy bars, echo, reverb, some honky-tonk piano and even a Goddamn cowbell…welcome to the 70′s, kids!!! Zeus are four guys from Toronto that obviously have prayed at the alter of Grand Funk Railroad, and their second album, Busting Visions, will be released next month. Besides making friends on Facebook, you can check out more of Zeus on their website, and for you New Yorkers, they’re playing The Mercury Lounge Thursday night (2/23/12).
What’s not to love about this new song from Brooklyn-based Englishman Ed Vallance?!! Right from the intro with that twitchy guitar & syncopated snare drum, to the almost Steven Patrick Morrissey-like whiney wail of his voice, and the way it quickly builds to a flourish of mirrored backing vocals and distorted guitars and then slides back into the tick-tock tick-tock marching beat of that drum…everything just comes together perfectly. ‘Crystalline’ is the lead track from his second album, Volcano, which is due to be released this month, but check him out on his Facebook page and for you New Yorkers, he’s playing a residency at The Ace Hotel in Manhattan every Sunday in February at 10:00pm.
OK…so yesterday a lotta you pointed out to me that the recent stream of sad-as-Hell folky songs that have taken up residency here on The List might be just the thing to convince some of the more manic/depressive types who hang out here to open a vein…God only knows I can’t be burdened with that responsibility…and then this morning Andrew Usenik, my much younger rockstar cousin from the Great White North, emails to remind me that his band Ten Second Epic will be playing Webster Hall this week! That gives me the perfect opportunity to kick out the title song from their latest album, Better Off. No sad-bastard vibe here, just three and a half minutes of guitar-driven, rhythmic rock-n-roll that should get you off the ledge and back in business. So if you’re in the mood from some old-skool R&R, hit The Studio at Webster Hall Thursday night tell Andrew I told you to show up. Oh yeah…check out the video for ‘Young Classics’…also off of Better Off… for an even harder & rockier look at these guys…
January is almost over and we’ve been so damned busy here at Damn Ugly (we’re havin’ a record-setting month, thanks for asking!) that we have yet to put out a single new Song of the Day this year! I’m gonna rectify that by offering up a song off of Kate Tucker’s beautiful new EP and also send you guys a link to where for a limited time you can download the entire EP for free. Ghost of Something New includes songs she recorded with her former Sons of Sweden bandmates and other collaborators in Seattle, Brooklyn, and Nashville. The deluxe version will be released March 13 with some exclusive songs, but like I said, for the time being she’s giving it away (don’t be a cheap-ass…you can still tip her a few bucks!) over on www.noisetrade.com and you can follow Ms. Tucker over on her facebook page.
The other day, a friend pointed out that this past year the usual high output of songs that got put up on The List was decidedly less than past years, to which I replied, yes…the necessity to work from time to time had certainly put a crimp in my ability to give away my usual amount of free music, but what did get tossed up was of such high quality as they more than made up for the diminished quantity. And with that in mind, here are the best of the best…the Songs of the Year…
Ryan Karazija didn’t just come up with the best song this past year, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have the best album, too. I could have put any one of the twelve tracks from the album on the annual list…they are all that good…and it’s only a coincidence that ‘Give Up’ is the first track on the album. I’ve already yelled at you guys enough to BUY THIS RECORD, but if you haven’t, do it now! And mark your calenders kids, cuz Ryan’s gonna be taking a flight from Iceland over to New York to play a gig at Piano’s January 19 and MilkBoy in Philly on January 22nd.
If not for Low Roar, Cameras would have certainly been sitting on the top of the heap this year. I’ve played ‘Polarise’ so often, I’m pretty sure even Camille is getting sick of it! Nothing like a wall of hard-to-understand, harmonic, atmospheric, shoegazey melodies to win my heart.
We all should have a dose of sweaty, angst-ridden rock to wake us up from time to time. They’re almost unheard of over here, but these four Scottish lads are burning up the clubs in Great Britain. Powerful, lotsa fun and yes…very sweaty!
#4. BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York
DOWNLOAD: The Ballad Of New York
I swear Chiara Angelicola may have been plucked out of a Jazz Club from the 50′s and transported to the Here & Now to remind us what real music is like. She’s got a voice that can drop so low it will rattle your bones…and then outta nowhere she’ll crack a high note that will give you goosebumps. The Ballad Of New York is going to be on her next album, but in the meantime she’s got a lot more sitting over at iTunes just waiting for you to enjoy.
There’s just something so comfortably reassuring about the way Cass McCombs sings. From the very first time I heard ‘The Same Thing’ I was won over. The melody, the slightly syncopated vocal style, the sad/lazy way it made me feel…it all works.
Another strong contender for my favorite album this year was Civilian by the Baltimore duo, Wye Oak. It’s a noisy mashup filled with masterful guitar work, shoegazey distortion, wonderful storytelling and Jenn Wasner’s languid voice holding it all together. It’s another record that you should seriously consider buying!
We’ve been friends for quite a while and I even shot her album cover earlier this year, but when Gabrielle Aimée sent me ‘Have You Ever’ I was knocked out. I had never heard her slide into such a bluesy place and be so damned sexy on a song before, and the vibrato from the Farfisa-like organ transported me back in time.
Kate Tucker has been a staple on The List from the moment we first heard her with the Sons of Sweden and since then we’ve followed her from Seattle to Ohio to New York and now to Nashville, so when she recorded an EP with Nic Danielson as K+Nikku we were on board. I’ve been goofin’ on her…calling her Katemau5…because of the slightly electronic edge to the EP, but she knows I love her…
The Pack A.D. is Becky Black & Maya Miller and they’re a hard-hitting garage duo outta Vancouver B.C. that has released four albums of stripped-down, pissed-off, dirty punk rock…and they’re bloody great! ‘Sirens’ is off of their latest release, Unpersons.
Going from the grungy goodness of The Pack A.D. to Sherlock’s Daughter shoegazing their way through ‘Reprise’ might be a bit jarring, but I’ve had their EP near the top of my iTunes folder all year and there was no chance it wasn’t making it on this list. Call it nonsensical aural wallpaper if you must, but Tanya Horo’s voice always has a calming effect on me…like a neural tranquilizer…I can feel any tension I’m feeling fall away as soon as she whispers in my ear…
We’ve come to the end, but I’ve turned it up to “11″ and hearing Chaz Tolliver channel Mick Jagger one more time seems like a perfect way to close out this years Best Of List. The Booze play boogie-rock that can’t help but make you think of the early Stones and The Kinks, and Tolliver seems to have mastered the fine art of Jagger-esque posing…in a good way!
Sharon Van Etten has a new album coming out next year and to get us all jazzed up, she’s giving away ‘Serpents’, a rambunctious sizzler that has me picturing her swirling out of control, her arms flaying, totally enraptured by the song. Her plaintive vocal stays locked in the same mid-register throughout…a buzzing, pleading drone…set alongside a howling slide guitar, the constant beat of a snare drum and layer upon layer of trebly guitars. The new record, Tramp, is due out in February on the indie power label Jagjaguwar Records, and she’s playing with some serious folks…the Dessner twins, Aaron and Bryce of the National, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen and Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak on backup vocals. Go check out Sharon on her website
***EDIT: Just thought I would add this, even though it’s a month later…a wonderful piece on Sharon in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine
When the news broke last year that Claudia Dehaza was going to be leaving the Brooklyn-based trio School of Seven Bells, my heart sank a little. It’s hardly a secret that I’m a big fan of their luxurious, shoegazey dream pop…they’ve been featured on The List three times before, HERE, HERE and HERE…and God knows I’ve pretty much worn out their albums, Disconnect From Desire and Alpinisms, so it’s understandable that I couldn’t imagine how the band could continue without the harmonic melodies Claudia and her twin Alejandra spun into their songs. But the new duo of Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Dehaza have recently completed a new album, Ghostory, which is scheduled for a February release. With a bit of creative knob-twiddling, Alejandra is able to harmonize with herself while Benjamin stays at the top of his game assembling layer upon layer of guitars, synthesizers and frantic drumwork into what is unmistakably the SVIIB sound.
You can follow School of Seven Bells on their website and if you’re into planning ahead, the Album Release show is gonna be February 28th at The Mercury Lounge
I know it’s only been a month since I told you guys about Gabrielle Aimée, but since then her self-titled debut album has been released and if you’re looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer, I can’t think of a better way to spend eight bucks! That’s right…it’s on Amazon as an mp3 download for only eight bucks (or $9.99 if you wanna get it from iTunes) and there is even an option that allows you to send the album directly to that special someone as a gift. The eleven tracks are so smart, so sexy, so tight and just so damn much fun, they had me movin’ my ass from the minute I put the record on. BUY THIS ALBUM !!! Then head over to her facebook Band Page and show Gibbles some love by clickin’ the ‘LIKE’ button.
I cried when I heard Dobie Gray died today. Crazy, huh? But for some reason I can remember exactly when I first heard ‘Drift Away’, the song that would define his entire musical career, and what that time meant to me. I was only 14, but God…when I heard the twang of the guitar that opened the song and then his deep, buttery smooth voice, it just cut right through me. And 38 years later, if that song comes on I feel the same way I did on that summer day when it first played through my Dad’s car radio…
I have no meaningful excuse as for why I haven’t put anything from the latest Wye Oak album, Civilian, up on The List since it was released earlier this year, except my usual, “I’ve been lazy and neglecting my duties as your free pipeline to new music”…but I will try to rectify that today. I had been listening to a couple of early mixes from the album since late last year, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I ponied up the cash to buy the record, and my God it’s good! Last on The List with ‘Take It In’ back in June of 2009, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack have crafted a seductive lamentation of angst, apprehension, rebirth and redemption.On the title track, Wasner’s voice is carried steadily along by a chugging, locomotive-like beat that without warning turns into a wall of Neil Young-like reverb and noise that hits you like a punch on the face.
“I still keep my baby teeth
in the bedside table
with my jewelry…”
I don’t know why, but that lyric gives me chills.
And the other nine songs on the album are just as lush and tight and smartly written. Don’t let me go spending your hard earned cash for you, but if you like this song, then the album is a must-buy…head on over to the iTunes Store now! For you New Yorkers, Wye Oak is opening for The National on Thursday December 15th during their week-long stand at The Beacon and you can follow them on their website.
Maybe you’ve read about our album cover shoot, but now you can hear what all the fuss is about. Gabrielle Aimée has a new album coming out and stylistically it’s a huge departure from her earlier work. Some of that might have to do with teaming up with Leo Sidran who produced, arranged and played all the instruments, and Hector Coulon handling the recording and mixing, but from the first few chords on ‘I Know Better’, her vocals slide into a warm, comfortable place that instantly draw you into the song. Check out her new facebook Band Page, and make sure you listen to the bluesy ‘Have You Ever’, a song she penned with Song of the Day favorite Nadia Ackerman. And for you New Yorkers looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving weekend, Gabrielle will be playing at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1 on Saturday November 26 at 5:00PM