If you’re a fan of large, multi-instrumental bands be sure to check out Cuddle Magic’s sophomore album, Picture. It justreleased yesterday, and includes some great tracks.
The ensemble is based out of New York and Philadelphia, and made up of 12 musicians, or more, at any given time (and a 3-foot plastic penguin). Their sound covers a wide range of genres, including folk, world, and avant-pop. The diversity won’t be for everyone, but it’s always interesting to see how bands craft their music with such a variety of instruments (strings, percussion, vibraphone, clarinet, keyboards, guitars, and a whole lot more). Several tracks I recommend include “Expectations,”"Anyone,”"One Useful Song,” and “Say When.”
I might need to take a breather in between, but here’s the current roster in the band: Alec Spigelman, Ashley Paul, Ben Davis, Bridget Kearney, Christopher McDonald, Cole Kamen-Green, Dave Flaherty, (inhale-exhale), Eric Lane, Kristin Slipp, Lucy Railton, Max Haft, and Mike Calarese. Many of them got their training from the New England Conservatory.
Old Hannah are a folk-duo out of Boston. Their songs create memories of debatable origin. They elicit a nostalgia not entirely based in reality, more like some vague swirling sensation of times past. Like a montage of youth shot through corroding, color-beaten film. Specifically their song “When I Die,” which, like most things I obsess over, keeps me up at night
Old Hannah is guitarist Tyler Bussey and singer A.K. Bussey plays guitar with the craftsmanship and melodic sensibility of Elliot Smith, embedding slight, lilting melodies into palm-muted chords while A.K. sings with the conviction of one who understands Grace as both abstraction and fact of life. In “When I Die,” a song as profound as it is simple, Bussey’s guitar playing acts as an understated guide to A.K.’s melody as she details post-mortal wanderings and laments, traipsing through golden gates and floating above the world, images that mirror the ambitions of her vocals. And when they touch the chorus, a nearly ethereal portion of the song existing only as a riff and a line, Bussey reaches an infectious slide which propels A.K.’s lament to the heavens: “And when I die, I’ll sing you songs.”
I first saw Old Hannah at a folk show where most people played covers. Given the power of “When I Die,” I assumed it to be a song handed down through the generations and was astounded to find it was theirs.
Yellow House never really did it for me. The first three songs, ending with “Knife,” were beautiful and accessible. They drew me in and built a graceful momentum. But the remainder of the album, the other 8 songs, broke off, choosing to meander through sometimes aimless soundscapes with no discernible resolution. It was Department of Eagles, Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen’s side project, that restored, or initially placed, my faith in Grizzly Bear. I had a bunch to say about that here. Anyway, like the good lil’ music blogger that I am, on to Veckatimest.
Veckatimest finds Grizzly Bear at a point of self-realization. They have power – magic maybe – and they’ve chosen to wield it. With “Two Weeks,” a hook-fraught, stand-up chamber pop epic, Ed Droste finds a Frank Sinatara-swagger to his vocals. He waltzes across a staccato keyboard and through disembodied harmonies; he finds his stance and sets hold, confident, charming, nearly ebullient with pop-righteousness. But the power of Veckatimest is in it’s adaptability and emotive range. “Two Weeks” descends into “All We Ask”, a brooding, reverb-soaked ballad marked by Rossen’s trademark stomping baritone guitar. Instantly all that serotonin has vanished. The verse swells into the chorus, which wavers behind Rossen’s bop before gently eroding to the underlying current. The boys harmonize in a near whisper: “I can’t get out of what I’m into with you.” If “Two Weeks” is a sunny summer’s day on a hillside, then “All We Ask” is the corresponding insomnia at two A.M. (Oh, is that what time it is? huh.)
After the first serveal listens my memory of the album felt like a sin graph; it peaked with certain hooks every few songs and descended into oblivion with others. The sequencing speaks to a calculated foresight, where each of their most accesible songs is spaced by several more brooding ones. It nearly follows the High Fidelity rules for making a mixtape. “Cheerleader” bumps between reverbed guitars and marching-beat drums while Droste ghosts over everything. “While You Wait For the Others”, basically a Department of Eagles song, follows Rossen’s heartbreak, reinforced by the most prominent harmonies on the album. I’ve fallen in love with the expanse of Veckatimest, the overwhelming density of sound, the swelling harmonies, the way each track tends to morph several times before resolving in a definite form. I Guess I’m Floating compared the Veckatimest anticipation to Srgt. Peppers. Then I thought it was hype, now I can only agree. This might be an album for the ages.
IndieMuse loves the pixies. So does our wonderful friend Liz Pelly from PellyTwins. She wrote an even more wonderful article, published below, about the Pixies and their overarching influence on Boston bands. (Full Disclosure: I’m interviewed in this article. Ha)
Pixies fans with hundreds of dollars to spend will surely be reminded of the band’s relevance and significance as the most influential band to ever come out of Boston on June 15, when the band is set to reissue all of their studio albums in a fancy box set.
Titled Minotaur, the package will be offered in both a Deluxe Edition and a Limited Edition. The Deluxe Edition includes the Pixies’ five studio albums– Come on Pilgrim EP (1987), Surfer Rosa (1988), Doolittle (1989), Bossanova (1990) and Trompe Le Monde (1991), plus a DVD of every Pixies’ music video and their 1991 performance at London’s Brixton Academy (a year before they broke up), a 54-page picture book, and redesigned album covers by the Pixies original designer Vaughan Oliver, all in a slipcase. The Limited Edition version includes the entire deluxe package, plus each album on 180-gram vinyl, a Giclee print of Oliver’s artwork, and a 72-page hardcover book, all in a custom clamshell. The Deluxe Edition is $175 and the Limited Edition is $450.
While these re-designed packages are one way to remember the impact of this influential band, there are certainly other ways to hear and appreciate the Pixies’ legacy. Boston University visiting professor of American history reminds us that while listening to the Pixies’ albums can re-affirm their significance in American culture, their legacy can be appreciated just as much by listening to their influence on other bands.
“They’re the kind of band whose legacy continues to increase as years pass,” said Schmitz. “Their significance is about influence more so than their album sales.”
So rather than shell out hundreds of dollars for box sets, perhaps try reminding yourself of the Pixies’ legacy by checking out these Boston bands who all cite the Pixies as a major influence, after the jump:
You know that catchy Passion Pit song “Sleepyhead” that we all know and love so much? Well, if not, it’s below. But here is a pretty awesome video cover of the song by the band Run Toto Run. I love weird shit like this.
Passion Pit‘s “Sleepyhead” video was one of the cooler vids from last year (and Pitchfork endorsed!). Here we have the video for the new single from upcoming album, Manners. This song has taken some heat since it’s release, mostly because it isn’t “Sleepyhead.” And it’s tough not to compare the two. “Sleepyhead” was immaculate in it’s immediate, pop infectiousness and it was the world’s introduction to the band. Frontman Michael Angelakos’s falsetto was endearing and the backing story – that the entire EP was written as a valentine’s gift for his girlfriend – was adorable. “The Reeling” shows us a slicker, more-produced sound from a band introduced as a type of bedroom pop. Where “Sleepyhead” resonated immediately, “The Reeling” is definitely a grower. But for that reason, I’ve already become more fond of this track. And this video – beautiful girls literally tearing up a New York night – is the ideal reflection of their music. IndieMuse is psyched for Manners to drop, and until then will have to hold ourselves over watching this video on repeat.
I have several places of note I would like to direct you. Once a month, at a house in Allston, a bunch of folk singers get together to sing songs for each other. Along with my friend Addision, I covered this event for the Boston Phoenix. Addison also edited some footage for the Boston music blog EnoughCowbell.com, some of our friends. Here are several links to some amazing performances by some genuine Boston folk singers. And check back with EnoughCowbell over the next few days for some more footage. (Above photo credit: Ryan McCune)
The Boston Phoenix – Montage video and accompanying article. Brief into to the absurd talent gathered in the room that night. As we gather more footage, we’ll unveil these glimpses in full.
The past few weeks, I’ve been listening to a band called Fan Modine. A friend introduced me to their 2004 LP Homeland, and I could tell 30 seconds in that this was an album that I was going to like. Give them a listen if you enjoy the Magnetic Fields, Belle & Sebastian, Arcade Fire, or Stars.
The band has an upbeat indie-pop sound that features some really solid instrumentals. After lead singer Gordon Zacharias helped the orchestral pop duo Hercules with vocals, they returned the favor by producing string arrangements on four songs (including two of the best tracks on the album, “Newstand of the Sun” and “Pageantry.”) There is also clarinet and electric harmonium, among other cool instruments.
A few years ago, main man behind Fan Modine, Gordon Zacharias, assembled a 5-piece band in Carrboro, NC, featuring Ash Bowie (Polvo, Libraness), Jeremy Chatelain (Jets to Brazil, Cub Country), Chuck Johnson (Shark Quest, Idyll Swords) and Lee Waters (Work Clothes, Lud). The band hasn’t released an album since Homeland, which means it’s been 5 years since they’ve released new material, but their Myspace says that a third album is in process “slowly.” Homeland is Zacharias’ sophomore album (debut is Slow Road to Tiny Empire), and he purportedly started work on the album while working as a “professional dog walker” in downtown Manhattan. The album was recorded in 5 different places across the US, including New York, LA, New Orleans, Western Massachusetts, and North Carolina.
Pretty & Nice’s first release for Hardly Art, Get Young, is officially out! My vow of silence is finally broken! I’ve had this album for two months and omgomgomgomg it is overwhelmingly good. (That has been building up for some time – I’m relieved I could express it in print so as to save myself the physical embarrassment of flailing my hands and jumping up and down.) I had the fortune of doing an interview with them 2 months ago for another magazine I wrote for (you can find it here) and have obsessed over this album ever since.
It took six months to record Get Young in their own all-analog, basement studio, putting in long hours and agonizing over every slight detail, staying up late in the night to record a sequence of bells on “Gypsy,” inviting friends to stomp and hoot at the end of “Pixies” and layering the hell out of each song with an armada of instruments scattered throughout their home. The result: their songcraft is unique and infinitely charming; the album progresses from frenetic punk epic to to sagacious pop classic, blending abrasive guitars bursting from broken amps with subtle vocoder hooks and pretty, oh-so-pretty pop falsetto. The guitars on “Pixies,” lilting and winding, are a melange of late Of Montreal and early Queens of the Stone Age, while the immaculate closure of “Wandering Eye” hits with an unexpected poignancy and ends with an immediate sense of withdrawal. Dammit, it’s already over? And clocking in at just under thirty minutes, listening to Get Young in its entirety relates an even stronger sense of accomplishment, like I just did an intense work out, or something. But with my brain!
This is the indie-pop epic you didn’t know you were waiting for. I’m often skeptical of “Best of the year…” type statements, but I’m going to make one. Get ready. This, if not the best, one of the best albums this year.
Just get this album, however you can. I won’t even pretend any more; buy it, download it, send for it via money order, or carrier pigeon. And considering P&N’s seeming obsession with the broken and archaic (their blown out speakers, their vintage recording studio, their old synthesizers), I’m sure they have a carrier pigeon package-plan tucked away somewhere in their scheme for world domination.
Then go see them live and freak out. I don’t know how people can thrash that hard and play guitar parts that intricate. Unless, of course, they are magicians. As I’ve suspected from the beginning.
And “Wandering Eye.” Goddamn that song hits hard. I’m still reeling.
From Get Young – “Wandering Eye”:
The entire album streaming here, for a limited time.
And here’s a live video of “Tora, Tora, Tora” at Great Scott in Allston Rock City. Not the best quality, but, they play so fast it looks like they’re being sped up.
An amazing song entitled “Red House” fell into my lap yesterday by the band Wild Light. Since discovering the song, it’s pretty much been on constant repeat on my computer.
Wild Light currently only have a four-track EP released, and their sound varies a bit depending on the song that you are listening to. It’ll be interesting to see what direction they take on their debut, which has an expected early 2009 release. Right now, the best comparison I’ve got is a mashup of Ron Sexsmith, Coldplay, The Format, and the Flaming Lips.
Wild Light is based in New Hampshire, and band members include Jordan Alexander, Seth Kasper, Timothy Kyle, and Seth Pitman. They are currently on a small Northeast mini-tour with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.