A few years ago I was at Seattle’s Capital Hill Block Party, and heard Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head for the first time. They were one of the first bands to play, and I just happened to be at their stage beforehand to see who would be playing over the course of the day. When I saw their name at the top of the list, I looked over to my friend and boldly declared “I have absolutely no idea who this band is, but we need to find out, so help us God.”
Needless to say, I was not disappointed in the slightest. The band’s catchy synth-pop sound is somewhat similar to Passion Pit (they formed a while before Passion Pit, pshhh), and they are super quirky. For example, one of their songs, “Beard Lust,” is the essential manual to having a beard. They are from Seattle, so a lot of the people there were their friends (or familiar with their music), and it basically turned into a big, 45-minute, dance party.
Believe it or not, after four years, the band decided to change their name to Brite Futures. “Why would they change from such a glorious name,” you ask?
We chose our band name on a whim when we were still in high school, and “Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head” has seen us through an unexpectedly amazing four years. Our love affair with Natalie’s name was like a summer fling that lasted… and lasted… and lasted… But now it is summer once again, and time for a change. Also, it has recently come to our attention that our muse Ms. Portman is not so keen on us using her name in ours… Ultimately we are lovers, not fighters, and our mamas didn’t raise no fools, so we feel it is time to move forward with a new name. We are BRITE FUTURES.
To fully appreciate NPSH Brite Futures you NEED to watch this video.
I immediately fell in love with Abigail Washburn’s song “It Ain’t Easy” after one of my friends shared it with me last year. I’m not all that familiar with her music, but I continually find myself going back to this song’s gorgeous vocals and instrumentals.
Washburn has a pretty interesting background. She had no intentions of focusing her career on music, and as a hobby, experimented with a lot of different genres including R&B, gospel, and reggae. It wasn’t until a trip to China, where she immersed herself in the Chinese bluegrass culture, that this became her style. Her diverse background is apparent on her most recent release, Afterquake, which is an electronic/folk benefit EP she made with Shanghai Restoration Project’s David Liang (it released on the one year anniversy of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake).
About “Sala”: The Qiang ethnic minority (the group most impacted by the 2008 Sichuan earthquakes) traditionally dances around the fire while singing this song. The words contain no meaning and are simply meant to inspire dancing.
Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about Ben Cooper’s projects Electric President (w/Alex Kane), Radical Face, and Patients. He’s one of the most genuine musicians making music today, representing a DIY culture where, you know, artists actually connect with their fans.
Last year his Patients project consisted of him personally producing 100 CDs and decorating it and its package with spray paint and markers. To receive one of the CDs, you had to trade something, anything, with Cooper, as long as it wasn’t money. Now he is talking about touring the U.S., playing house shows, barns, anywhere that isn’t a typical club. And he wants to start another project where people submit stories and he writes songs based on them. He seems to get in over his head at times with all these projects, but this is one musician who really understands what music is all about.
The Violent Blue is Electric Presidents new album releasing February 23, 2010 on Fake Four records. I’ve had a chance to listen to the album and am really digging it–especially the first half. “Safe and Sound” is likely going to be one of favorite tracks of the year.
Pre-order hasn’t started yet, but I will update here when you can purchase. There are going to be some extra goodies that come with Pre-orders personalized by Cooper himself. Don’t miss out! (UPDATE: As of 2/1 you can pre-order. Only $20 for a package including vinyl, cd, t-shirt, and stickers. Limited to 300 orders.)
Sondre Lerche’s Two Way Monologue (2004) used to be one of my favorite albums, but I have to admit that I haven’t connected with his several releases since then nearly as much. I respect him a lot for experimenting, and trying out different sounds from jazz to indie rock, but none of it has really done much for me.
He just sent out an acoustic cover he made of Animal Collective’s ”Bluish” off their highly acclaimed album, Merriweather Post Pavillion. It brought to mind Lerche’s older work (meaning it’s really good!), and I thought I’d share.
I don’t listen to all that much electronica, but one band that I love seeing live is Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9). For those who aren’t familiar with the band, they are basically an electronica jam band that combines live instruments with samples. The first time I saw them perform was Bonnaroo 2007, and I’ve seen them live two times after that… each show being extremely rememberable.
Last Tuesday, the band released a new album Ad Explorata, and they will be going on a nationwide tour in early 2010. If they are rolling through your city, you should definitely check them out… it’s money well spent.
IndieMuse is taking part in an STS9 Giveaway were you can win some free stuff like an STS9 t-shirt, hat, or the new album. It’s not every day that you can win FREE stuff (right?), so you should take part in this!
In the comments below, write your location (i.e. Chicago, IL) and 3 of your favorite albums of 2009. We could pick the winner out of a hat, but that’s boring, so instead we are going to take out our big U.S. map and randomly point to somewhere. If your location is the closest, you win! And we will be giving away all three prizes separately, so there will be three lucky winners! We will pick the winners on Friday December 18th, so you basically have til the end of the week. And sincere apologies, but we can only ship prizes to the U.S.
Winner Update: So the whole map pointing thing turned out to be kinda a pain in the ass, cause I obviously picked places very close to the middle of two or three contestant locations and literally had to google map the number of miles… but I wanted to do this with integrity!
Winners: The shirt went to Tim (Columbus, OH), the hat went to Will (Atlanta, GA), and the CD went to Katie (Milwaukee, Wi). Thanks for participating!
The Shivers, who are one of the best kept secrets in today’s indie scene, just released a new album called In The Morning. It’s a fantastic follow-up to their 2008 album, Beaks to The Moon (which made my Top 10 list last year). The entire album was recorded on a 4-track cassette deck in their rehearsal space under Queensboro Bridge, giving their music a pure, lo-fi sound.
Like other Shivers albums, In the Morning jumps around a lot from track to track, but the band is able to pull off their diverse sound in a way most bands could only dream. My favorite track on the album is the opening song “Just Didn’t Need To Know,” which brings to mind the Velvet Underground (in particular Lou Reed’s “Heroine”). Other favorites include “Only in It For The $$$,” “Insane,” “Sad Excuse,” and, of course, “Inside Job” (a silent track that lasts for 9 minutes and 11 seconds; Keith is a supporter of 9/11 Truth).
Keith Zarriello has been the only consistent member of the band since forming in Brooklyn back in 2001, but the band has now evolved into a duo, with the talented Jo Schornikow on piano, organ, and occasional vocals. You can look for The Shiver’s song “Feather” in the new Noah Baumbach produced movie Alexander the Last. Jo also scored acted in the film alongside Justin Rice from Bishop Allen.
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.
I’ve recently been obsessing over a delightful album called Silent Shout, the 2006 album by Swedish brother/sister duo The Knife. First, a little background on The Knife: Composed of siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, The Knife released their debut self-titled LP in 2001 on their own label, Rabid Records. Since then, they have released two more LPs, Deep Cuts in 2003 and Silent Shout in 2006, before announcing a three year hiatus after the release of Silent Shout. Karin Dreijer Andersson has already turned heads in 2009 with her self-titled debut Fever Ray. Silent Shout is truly one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard in a while. The sound of the album could fall loosely into the genre of minimalist techno, but yet there is so much more.
The album’s sparse drum loops, simple arpeggios and thick reverb layered sound calls to mind Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo effort The Eraser. But tracks like “Silent Shout,” “The Captain,” and “Forest Families” create an aura something closer to psychedelic trance inducing vibes of Brightblack Morning Light, Black Moth Super Rainbow or Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. The vocals are unique and varied; some songs feature Olof Dreijer moaning at a distorted evil low pitch while others find their energy in the sheer power of Karin’s voice. Whether she’s spitting rhythmically, in songs like “Neverland” or the brilliantly catchy “We Share Our Mother’s Health,” or emotionally proclaiming her love over brooding synths during “Marble House,” Karin Dreijer Andersson is what gives The Knife their cutting edge. Upon doing more research on the group, I quickly became acquainted with their oddities. Wearing strange masks onstage and in photo shoots, sending people to accept awards for them, etc. For me, their mysterious personas only made the album even cooler, because Silent Shout is one of those albums whose rich textures makes you feel like you’re in another world. The album comes paired with Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience, which is a recording of a show during the Silent Shout tour. From the looks of photo’s like this:
It’s becoming increasingly difficult in today’s music industry to see artists initiating connections with their fans. With the instant gratification both bands and fans have demanded with innovations in technology, I sometimes feel that less emphasis is put on the culture of music, and more is put on the business aspect. Both sides are obviously important, but as a species bound by incentives, I really appreciate when people find as much reward in connections and the sharing of ideas, as they do in monetary value.
This is one of the reasons why I feel so attached to Ben Cooper’s music. He is in the duo Electric President and also has a great side project called Radical Face. Both are signed to Morr music, and while Cooper understands the importance of having to make money just as much as the next guy, he also understands the need to go beyond that. Unlike many artists, who turn into businessmen and quickly forget about the art, Cooper has upheld his love for music to the fullest.
Cooper recently started a project called “Patients,” which is more or less a compilation of recorded songs that never had a good home. The project consisted of him personally producing 100 CDs and decorating it and its package with spray paint and markers. To receive one of the CDs, you had to trade something, anything, with Cooper, as long as it wasn’t money.
To get a full appreciation for how much time Cooper put into this project, you have to check out his site. Not only did he invest money—in producing the CDs, opening a P.O box, and paying postage– he also thoughtfully wrote about the entire project by listing the 100 trades that he received and the explanations behind each track on the album. It’s easy to tell how meaningful this project was to him. From his blog:
I feel odd using this phrase, but multiple times I found myself moved by the things someone traded or said — moved to sentiment, or laughter, or surprise. Some even left me scratching my head, or made me blush.
I love that many of you included letters with your packages, explaining your trades, and sometimes even sharing a little slice of your life with me. In many ways, that was my favorite part — getting little glimpses into what motivated you to do this, why you chose what you did, what it meant to you. I love stories, and genuinely appreciate that I got so many of them. And more than once I was pretty shocked that someone traded me something of such obvious sentiment to them. As strange as it may sound, this project was kind of reaffirming. It changed my outlook on people as a whole to something more optimistic. And the best thing is I didn’t see it coming. To be blindsided in a positive way is a wonderful thing.
This project also moved me, and I’m thrilled I was able to take part in it (can you guess which number I am?). It too left me with a feeling of optimism knowing we can still triumph our capitalist ways. I would have gladly paid to receive this album from Cooper, but it wouldn’t have held nearly the same value that it does this way. This is an album that I am never going to forget.
You can still participate in the project via email! Check here for details.
“This was the last song I wrote on my former piano before the hammers got completely stuck and it had to be thrown out [read Dec 27th, 2007 post to read story, see piano.] It was originally just a scratch demo for a general sound I wanted to use on my next Radical Face record, but I kept running with it and liked how it came out. And since that piano died on my the next night, it wound up being the last song to ever come out of it.”
“This is basically a country song. I wrote this song about 3 years ago, and recorded the drums for it while working on Astronautalis’s record “The Mighty Ocean …” down in Orlando. I tracked the guitars, banjo and bass when I returned home, but didn’t put any vocals or extra instruments on it due to getting sick. Then I forgot about it. So it sat on a hard drive for about a year and a half until I was making back-ups and stumbled upon the files. I still had the notebook with the lyrics, so I went ahead and finished it over the course of a night.”
I’ve been listening extensively to Beirut’s two upcoming EPs, March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland (2/17). Zach Condon, Beirut’s frontman, has shifted his sound once again from previous albums–Zapotec features a new Mexican folk music style, while Realpeople Holland is Condon’s electronica side-project. In fact, it’s such an odd mix, that originally the electronic EP was just called Holland, and Condon was going to release it under the name Realpeople. He decided to release both under the Beirut name after a friend advised him, “You should trust your music enough that people should be able to enjoy them both in their own way.’”
Zapotec was partially recorded in a small town outside Oaxaca, Mexico, where Condon traveled last year after canceling his European summer tour. In his two weeks down there, he played with a funeral band, in which he says in a Pitchfork interview, “The entire town plays in the band. It was pretty interesting. It ended up being 17 people.”
I think both EPs are fantastic, but slightly favor Realpeople Holland. My favorite tracks on the two EPs include, “La Llorona” (Zapotec), “My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille ” and “The Concubine” (Holland).
For those who are new to Beirut, they are based in Brooklyn, New York, fronted by 22 year old Zach Condon, and have two LPs to their name–Gulag Orkestar (2006) & The Flying Club Cup (2007). Both albums are amazing, with Gulag Orkestar having a lo-fi Eastern European sound, while Flying Club Cup is more on the French Pop side. When Metromix asked Condon in an interview what part of the world he wants to explore next, he responded “Probably nowhere. I feel like everything’s jumbling together in my head. I feel like I’ve explored all the palettes and now it’s time to look inward for inspiration.”
Beirut should be announcing more tour dates soon, so I’ll keep you up to date (they just announced they are playing at this year’s Coachella festival). Below is a video of Beirut debuting “The Concubine” at a last minute secret show in Greenpoint. The band contacted the venue, Coco66 at 4pm to request the space and took to the stage at 10pm.
March of the Zapotec / Realpeople Holland EPs (2009):