This revised version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” was recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station. It is unbelievably good, and should be watched as a video whenever possible. For emergency listening situations, here’s the MP3.
It’s that time of the year again. Leaves are falling. Days are getting shorter. And once again I find myself going back to the same handful of albums that I listen to during this annual transition. One of those albums is Sparklehorse’s 2006 release, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain.
I never actively seek out this album during this time of year. It just kind of naturally happens. I guess that makes sense given that the first track on the album is titled, “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.” The album has a unique, blend of indie rock, lo-fi, folk, and tamed electronic music that Danger Mouse contributed. The album evokes that strange feeling you experience when things are rapidly changing, but you still feel a sense of control. There’s a comfort in knowing that the change is meant to be uncomfortable.
Sparklehorse was the project of singer/songwriter, Mark Linkous, andthis was his fourth and final album before he passed away in 2010. Linksous battled depression and drug addiction during the course of his life, which you’ll notice particularly on his other albums, and the cause of death was sadly suicide. The silver lining is that Linkous has joined a small group of musicians whose music will continue to be played with the changes of the seasons for years to come.
Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain (2006)
Hezekiah Jones has been on my list of favorite artists for a couple years and consistently puts out fun, catchy albums that I find myself going back to on a regular basis. If you’ve been on the prowl for a new folk album, I highly recommend checking out their latest release, Have You Seen Our New Fort?.
You don’t have to listen long to discover that the band plays an insane number of lovable instruments, including piano, wurlitzer, glockenspiel, waterboards, trombone, flugelhorn, saxophone, and clarinet. I’ve long held the belief that every album out there would benefit from these aforementioned instruments, but few artists ever have taken me up on that. And those that have rarely make it sound as great as Hezekiah Jones does. A few of my favorite songs on Have You Seen Our New Fort? include “Airplane Window,”"Drawing Pictures,” and “Lift the Shadow From This Heart.”
Hezekiah Jones is based out of Philadelphia and has an interesting background. Frontman Raph Cutrufello was afraid of performing alone and would invite other local musicians up on stage to play with him. Before he knew it all these musicians learned the songs and more or less became part of the band. While there are a couple musicians who are now full-time members, there are over 15 artists who rotate in, giving it a very collective feel.
Two fun facts: 1) The band was named after Raph’s pet snail, which was named after a character in Joseph S. Newman’s poem, Black Cross (There’s a bootleg of Bob Dylan’s version of the poem that was playing when he brought the snail home). 2) Raph is left handed and learned to play guitar on a right handed guitar… so he just plays it upside down (These fun facts come to you thanks to Philly Venues‘ great interview).
If you’re a fan of Fleet Foxes, Devendra Banhart, or Velvet Underground, I highly recommend checking out Gold Leaves. It’s a new project of Grant Olsen’s, who is best known as one half of the Seattle band, Arthur & Yu. The lo-fi layering of instruments and lush vocals on Gold Leaves debut, The Ornament, blend together a new age folk sound with 60s era pop. It has a reflective quality that’s perfect music for this fall/winter transition. A few of my favorite songs on the 9 track album include, “Cruel & Kind,”"Futures,”"Endless Dope,” and “The Ornament.”
Olson spent four years putting together The Ornament, although much of the early work was scrapped after his laptop was stolen. When asked in an interview with SEA live MUSIC why he branched off from Arthur & Yu for the album, he responded: “Mostly, it was just that these songs were a bit more first person and more personal and Sonya [other member of Artist & Yu] graciously encouraged me to record some of this on my own and try to make Arthur & Yu something more collaborative. It makes sense to want to feel connected to something if you’re going to go broke in a van for a handful of months why playing these songs every night.”
Community is really important to us at IndieMuse, and I wanted to take a minute to feature one of our favorite websites that does a stellar job bringing together music lovers and keeping the independent community strong: Daytrotter.com.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Daytrotter is a recording studio/website run out of a small midwest town, along the Illinois/Iowa border, called Rock Island. Most local residents there are unaware that Daytrotter exists, and have absolutely no idea that amazing bands from around the world go out of their way to visit their small town to record a live, studio session (everything is recorded to analog tape and released for free digitally on Daytrotter’s website). Their studio, called the Horseshack, can be found on the third floor of an unmarked building, over a pizza joint, in an otherwise pretty dead downtown area that hovers over the Mississippi River (or sadly, sometimes under when the river floods).
We’re experiencing a time in the world where everything moves faster than it probably should, and it’s easy for a sense of community to get lost in the shuffle. The down-to-earth folks behind Daytrotter are a diamond in the rough in that regard, as they are on a mission to preserve culture just as much as they are to release great music.
For example, Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending Daytrotter’s 4th Barnstormer tour in the Chicago area. It’s a chance to see a handful of indie bands, such as Sondre Lerche and Hellogoodbye — who are mostly accustomed to playing loud, large clubs — play music in a small barn. This intimate environment is a complete, almost cleansing-like, change of pace for everyone involved. And the genuineness completely shines through.
Thanks to Daytrotter, I was able to be part of a gathering of true, respectful music lovers who just wanted to appreciate the moment. I didn’t see the wave of smartphones documenting the event that I normally do at shows, and there was complete silence from the crowd as bands played. It was basically a rare opportunity for everyone to let their guard down and hang out for a couple of hours.
Maybe it’s the perspective that comes along with living in a small town, where the pace of life is a bit slower, that gives the guys (and girl) behind Daytrotter the ability to follow through on their vision so well. But the part that is truly inspiring for me is the way that they’ve been able to share those values with the world, and create and curate these bright spots for other people who are looking for the same things out of life. It leaves a lot of hope for what the future can bring.
If you’re a fan of Midlake, Bishop Allen, or any band with that similar indie/folk sound, you’re going to love the Brooklyn band, Common Prayer. I’ve had two songs from their debut album, There Is A Mountain, on my computer for a while, but didn’t listen to the whole thing until recently. If I had, I most likely would have placed this on my Top 10 albums list last year.
Common Prayer was started by the former basist of Mercury Rev and founder of the band Hopewell, Jason Sebastian Russo. The band is a pretty big departure from his other ones, and I really love when artists aren’t afraid to branch off into new sounds like this. Since they are making the music they love, rather than just catering to current fans, it’s often some of the most creative work you’ll find from them.
And that’s exactly the case with There Is A Mountain. This is a pretty experimental album, though in a fun, folksy sort of way. All the songs have a different flavor. The opening track “commonprayer” is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in recent years. A few other favorites on the album include “Us Vs. Them” “Of Saints,” “Free Air” and “Everything & More.”
Last week, I saw members of the Elephant 6 collective play a show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago as part of their Surprise Holiday tour. For those who aren’t familiar with Elephant 6, it’s basically a collective/label that formed in the 90s that includes bands such as The Apple in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and… too many to list here.
I’m a big fan of most of the bands who are part of E6, so seeing some of them live was kind of a dream come true. The Surprise Holiday tour basically consists of a lot of members from different E6 bands getting on stage together and playing each others songs.
This feature is about one of the founding bands of E6, in particular: The Olivia Tremor Control. Before seeing them at the show it had been years since I had properly listened to their music. After the show, I immediately went back home and put on their 27 track album released in 1999, called Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One. It’s weird and pretty awesome.
If you’re a fan of experimental/psychedelic, indie rock, kinda like the bands I listed above, definitely check out the album. If you took Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and upped the experimental level by about 160%, you would have something close to the lines of The Olivia Tremor Control. I’m glad I took the time to re-visit this album.
I’m a big fan of the Baltimore based band, The Eureka Birds. They have this really cool lo-fi, pop sound, and their piano and string arrangements bring to mind some of my favorite aspects of The Beatles’ music (gasp!). Their lead singer, Justin Levy, is also a real scientist, which adds that much more street cred to their music. Up to date they have released one album, which I featured here, and just recently released a new fantastic EP called, Eureka! EP.
A few of the tracks I’m really digging on the 6 track EP include, “The Mountain is a Volcano,””Sarah (Sits and Cries),””There Was Light,” and “Cactus Man.” So that’s pretty much the entire thing right there. And the band is being nice enough to give it away for free on Bandcamp.
Just like with the arrangements on many Beatles songs, I find these tracks growing on me the more I listen to them. So take a listen— and if you’re not sure how you feel about it right away, definitely do this band justice by listening through a few times. It’s worth it.
Last night Iron & Wine played to a packed crowd at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. The show ended up being quite good, despite one potentially devastating setback: lead singer Sam Beam was battling what appeared to be a mild case of laryngitis.
At first many people in the crowd were noticeably worried that this was going to compromise the show, which is so dependent on Beam’s vocals. However, after a few soundboard adjustments, and him putting in everything he had, most people quickly realized they were still in for a great show. Members from local band, Califone, backed him on stage, and all the instrumental work was fantastic, and included some fun saxophone and jazz flute.
Iron and Wine is touring on their new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, but made sure to get in a bunch of older fan favorites, as well. They also performed some cool renditions for their popular older songs, such as “Love And Some Verses,” and “Naked As We Came.” The full setlist and photos are below.
Despite Beam’s voice not being quite as present as it typically is, Chicago still witnessed a great show. Sure, it most likely won’t be a contender if they ever release a live album, but so goes life. I highly recommend trying to catch an upcoming show if you have the chance. It’s well worth it.
The Portland band Derby just released a new EP yesterday, called Madeline. I’ve been a fan of the band’s indie pop for years, and am enjoying these new tracks. On this EP the band is experimenting with a new sound that is slightly more raw than their past albums (which are summed up perfectly by Northwest Music Blog, as an “infectious, melodic bundle of sugary pop goodness”). The new sound actually brings to mind the Raconteurs quite a bit, especial on “Madeline” and “Creeping Climbing.” The EP is available for digital download and as a limited edition 7″ vinyl, which you can grab here.
Derby is Nat Johnson (lead vocals, guitar, bass), Dave Gulick (vocals, rhodes, organ, guitar), Isaac Frost (drum/percussions), and Wayne Miller (bass). Nat and Dave started playing together as dorm mates at University of Oregon. Isaac joined the band after graduating from Oregon State University, and soon after that, Wayne joined.
Fun facts about Derby:
Gulick came up with the name Derby, while watching an English Premier Soccer game between Manchester United and Manchester City. The announcer called the game a derby (cross town rivalry).
The band has a tour van named “The Green Submarine.” In Johnson’s words “It’s green, it’s huge, it smells like wet dog, and we love it. It could use some gold dubs, but we’ll deal as long as we can still get the ipods to work through the tape deck.”