Yellow Ostrich – The Mistress (2010)

photo by sarah mulligan

Yellow Ostrich’s release, The Mistress, is among my favorite albums from 2010.

Alex Schaaf, the main guy behind Yellow Ostrich, is a treat to listen to for several reasons. First, he makes fantastic music — some have even started comparing his unique style to a modern day Neutral Milk Hotel. And second, he is the rare musician who has a true sense of what music is all about. Instead of hiding in the crevasses, attempting to create a masterpiece for years (and promoting it for even more years), Schaaf has been completely transparent with his development as an artist. Since 2009, he has released 3 albums and 4 EPs. Some of these bedroom recordings are better than others, but that raw look in is completely genuine. Artists often times are afraid to risk putting out music that might not gain traction–and are often discouraged when they don’t instantly receive positive reinforcement. It appears that Schaaf isn’t like that at all. He is on a journey with his music and has invited us along for the ride. He can make an EP with the lyrics being only words from Morgan Freeman’s Wikipedia page, and feel good about it. I think that’s pretty awesome.

The Mistress is Schaaf’s stand out album. A few of my favorite tracks include “WHALE,””Hahahaohhoho,” and “Mary.”

Schaff is from Appleton, Wisconsin (Midwest, represent!) and recently moved to New York City. He just announced a US tour supporting Say Hi (dates below), and you should definitely try to see him if possible. As rumor has it,  part of the joy of  seeing him live is watching him multitask with his pedals, kind of like Andrew Bird. He is backed by Michael Tapper on drums, who has played with We Are Scientists and Bishop Allen.

The Mistress (2010):

Yellow Ostrich – WHALE (mp3)

Yellow Ostrich – Mary (mp3)

Fade Cave EP (2010)

Yellow Ostrich  –  Bread (mp3)

site | bandcamp (FREE!)

tour dates after jump:

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Pale Young Gentlemen – Black Forest (Tra La La)

I’m embarrassed I haven’t featured Pale Young Gentlemen on IndieMuse yet. They are one of the best bands making music today, and an absolute must check out if you are an Andrew Bird or Arcade Fire fan (listen to one song and you’ll see the Bird reference).

Their 2008 release Black Forest (Tra La La) is a true gem. There are too many great tracks on the album to list them all here, but some of my favorites are “Coal/Ivory,””I Wasn’t Worried,” and “Kettle Drum (I Left A Note).”

Pale Young Gentlemen is based out of Madison, WI, and band members include Mike Reisenauer, Matt Reisenauer , Brett Randall, Beth Morgan, and Gwendolyn Miller. As a side note, I was reading The Red Alert’s interview with Pale Young Gentlemen’s frontman, Mike Reisenauer, and he was asked if geography has helped or hurt the band:

“I think it mostly helps us. Writers seem to think it’s interesting backstory.  For some reason, it’s weird to them that Madison, WI exists and that people play music there.”

As a midwesterner, I really appreciated that answer.  The band is currently working on their third album–I’ll keep you posted!

Black Forest (Tra La La):

(mp3) Pale Young Gentlemen – I Wasn’t Worried

(mp3) Pale Young Gentlemen – Kettle Drum (I Left A Note)


(mp3) Pale Young Gentlemen – Paper Planes (awesome M.I.A. cover)

Site | Science of Sound (label) | MF (buy)

Abigail Washburn – “It Ain’t Easy”

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).

Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet:

(mp3) Abigail Washburn – It Ain’t Easy

Afterquake benefit EP:

(mp3) Abigail Washburn & the Shanghai Restoration Project – Sala

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.

itunes | myspace |afterquake site

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Wartime Blues – Doves & Drums

Wartime Blues

The Montana music scene isn’t well known to people who aren’t from the great state of the Grizzly bear, but I’ve actually heard some really great bands out of the region. One of them that especially stands out is the Missoula, MT based grassroots, folk group Wartime Blues. If you are a fan of  M. Ward, Wilco, or Modest Mouse, check em out!

They just released a new album, Doves & Drums, that’s one of the most solid releases of the year. The album has a heavy classic rock influence and front man Nate Hegyi’s voice could easily be compared to that of Dylan’s.  A few of my favorites on the album include  “Doves & Drums,” “Youth,” “Saul Whitewater,” and “Judas Horse.”

The eight piece band is made up of Nate Hegyi, Jesse Netzloff (guitar), Ben Prez (mandoline), Sam Luikens (banjo), Bethany Joyce (cellist), Lisena Brown (keyboard), Tyler Knapp (bass), and Martin McCain (drums).

Doves & Drums (2009):

(mp3) Wartime Blues – Youth

(mp3) Wartime Blues  – Doves & Drums

Official site | MF (where artists earn all the money from sales. a new project I’ve been working on!)

Tour dates:

Dec 15th, 2009 – Badlander w. Jerry Joseph

Dec 31st, 2009 – Old Post New Year’s Eve Bash

Feb 10th, 2010 -  Spokane, WA (Empyrean)

Feb 14th, 2010 – Portland, OR (The Woods)

Feb 26th, 2010 – Greeley, CO (Crabtree Brewery)



If you like Bon Iver, Wisconsin, and beards, you need to check out Cedarwell. Erik Neave, the main man behind Cedarwell, creates music that excites me much in the same way Justin Vernon’s music did when I first set ears on For Emma Forever Ago.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his name quickly spread.

It almost seems too easy to compare Neave to Vernon,  but his music has a similar tone, he’s from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and  looks like he could be Vernon’s brother. Hopefully, he doesn’t mind the comparison, as it’s one he definitely will not be able to escape. Anyway, I think it’s a pretty big compliment myself, and he’s been making music for a while, as well, and is in no way a copy cat.

Cedarwell currently has two albums out and an EP (they’ve also made music under the name Amalgam), and they have plans on releasing another album in February. I’ll be keeping you posted. The band is currently touring in Europe, so go check em out if you can! From the videos I’ve watched they seem to put on very personal shows.

Live on

(mp3) Cedarwell – Burn Up The Sky (Which One)

Fall ’08 Tour EP

(mp3) Cedarwell – Black Lung (highly recommend)

Smoky Mountain Bear (2008):

(mp3) Cedarwell – Home

more mp3s on Cedarwell’s website. Buy albums here.


Farms in Trouble – “The Gas Station Soundtrack” (2008)


Over winter break, I got a chance to give a visit to a few local record stores and a few in Milwaukee as well. On a freezing night, inside of one of the last open shops on Brady St., a not-so-shabby local chain, I fished out The Gas Station Soundtrack by Farms in Trouble. In a plastic sleeve, pressed firmly in the fold of a rectangle of cardboard–the diagram of a patchwork quilt screened on its front–was a disc that the clerk assured me was “dirty.” I don’t think I realized what he meant until later. I gave him $6, the cost of the album. It sat for a few weeks with all the other albums I collected over the break.

This 27-track epic is the product of Zack Pieper and Riles Walsh (of The Candliers), Milwaukee’s own, better known as Farms in Trouble in their 10-piece format. Totaling in at 42 minutes, this album is genius. It’s also, admittedly, dirty. For several reasons. I’ve just finished listening to it, and aside from the fact that my head is still spinning from the manic joy of the whole thing, its texture is also a force to be reckoned with. It’s not lo-fi, it’s not proper, it’s not simple and it’s certainly not a demo. It’s… dirty. No single song breaks the 3-minute mark, but if you weren’t following along, you’d swear there was a long one in there, for sure. Each track lends itself to the next in some way, sometimes chordally, or lyrically, but more often with a particular juxtaposition that makes it rough and crude without losing its charm and brilliance.

As I looked back at the album art, I saw the patchwork drawing. A collection of grids, dotted lines, arrows and what I think are pieces of a city map, the album truly does resemble a patchwork collage. The Gas Station Soundtrack is homegrown. It is rough on the edges and jagged in the seams. There is absolutely no way I could describe this album with a few songs, so I’ve picked some momentary favorites.

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “Pleasure Dome”

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “Like A Needle In Heaven”

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “My Beautiful Baby Born Inside Out”

MP3: Farms in Trouble – “Many Boss Levels”

Support Farms in Trouble: Activities Recordings | MySpace

Here’s a video for “Empty Arrows and Exit Signs” (Track 3)


A friend of mine was talking about Guided By Voices recently, and I can’t help respect the elements of their early style that reflect in the ambitions of Farms in Trouble. Later I came to realize that Zack Pieper actually lists Robert Pollard as one of his influences.