August 23, 2016 — “Aligning With the Sun” by Dear Tracks

Dear Tracks

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Aligning With The Sun” by Dear Tracks (2016, from the “Aligning With The Sun” single).

Dear Tracks is a dream pop duo from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They formed in 2014 when Matt Messore left his emo band You Blew It!, and moved from Orlando to Michigan to start all over. He said he always had a good time playing shows in Michigan. He always wanted to start a dream pop band, so he teamed up with Victoria Ovenden to start this project. I don’t know anything about Messore’s previous band, but it’s a ridiculous name. Yes, the exclamation point is part of that band’s name. Also, as a minor digression, Victoria Ovenden might have the most amazing indie rock name since Phoebe Summersquash out of Small Factory.

By 2015, Messore and Ovenden signed to Track and Field Records, which released their first single last year and the Soft Dreams EP earlier this year. Along the way, they’ve been compared to bands like DIIV, and also to Zachary Cole Smith’s other jam, Beach Fossils, Real Estate, and more. They also say that they owe a lot of their sound to The Jesus and Mary Chain. I can’t hear any resemblance to JAMC, but I can certainly hear those other things. Maybe even Beach House. There’s some guitar bits that seem like they came straight out of the jangle pop scene of the 1980s and early 1990s. The synths and dreamy, washed out vocals make it sound less like The Smiths and more like (stick with me here) if you played a record by The Sundays, ran it through some gauzy filter, pitched it down a bit, and added some synths and a fog machine.

What I’m trying to say is that I like this.

“Aligning With the Sun” by Dear Tracks

Dear Tracks has recently signed with The Native Sound, which is known for releasing its albums in very small physical batches. For this single, they’re doing a lathe cut square 7″ record that will be hand-numbered. They’re doing a “pre-sale” for one week, and on the 28th of August, they’ll cut exactly the number that were ordered. That’s it. Digital copies are, of course, available.

There is, as I understand it, a debut album on the horizon, but I don’t know any details.

You can “pre-order” the 7″ record via Native Sound here, or you can buy a digital download from Bandcamp here.


August 22, 2016 — “In My Dreams You Walk Away All The Time” by Julie Stokkendal

Julie Stokkendal

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “In My Dreams You Walk Away All The Time” by Julie Stokkendal.

Julie Stokkendal is a dream folk singer/songwriter from Bergen, Norway. Or Copenhagen, Denmark. I know absolutely nothing about this woman. I don’t know how long she’s been around, how many records she’s put out, or what’s on the horizon for her. The only thing that I’ve been able to learn from the internet is that she used to collaborate with fellow Norwegian Einar Stray and his orchestra.

Earlier today, I got a notification from SoundCloud that Julie Stokkendal started following my feed. As I always do in these situations, I clicked through to her feed. I saw her songs, and listened to this one about six times in a row.

I’m reminded of some familiar things like Azure Ray, Lori Carson, Julee Cruise, and even Katie Crutchfield. But much dreamier than any of that. Well, maybe not dreamier than the music of Julee Cruise, but you get the idea.

Without further ado, here’s tonight’s song:

“In My Dreams You Walk Away All The Time” by Julie Stokkendal

This is really pretty and really dreamy, but it’s about a gal who has been dumped, and she’s sad, but she’s trying to pretend that she’s moved on with her life. Right out of the gate, we get some of that:

I look into other eyes now
But I can’t find eyes like yours, of course

Then, later, we get that she’s sort of stalking her ex lover:

Have you seen me outside of your window?
I walk by often to see if you are home
If you are alone
Do you love someone now?
And how is she compared to me?

And then the bitterness over the breakup:

How come you don’t love me now?
You said you’d never change your mind
But you changed your mind
And how is she compared to me?

It’s got heartbreak. It’s got creepiness. It’s got angst. It’s got self-doubt. It’s a really lovely song and it uses all of those things perfectly. Mostly, though, it’s just a gorgeous song.

As I said, I have no idea if there’s a forthcoming EP or album, or if this is a standalone digital single. I don’t know if she’s on a label. I don’t know anything else. I can’t find anything about her. I just hope that there’s plenty more to come.


August 21, 2016 — “Low and Slow” by Sofia Härdig

Sofia Härdig

Sofia Härdig

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Low and Slow” by Sofia Härdig (2016, from the forthcoming album And The Street Light Leads to The Sea).

Sofia Härdig is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist and singer. She’s been making records since 2005 and has put out five albums in that time. Her new album, And The Street Light Leads to The Sea will be released October 28. I had never heard of this woman until I got something in the mail bag about the new album, and I was quite intrigued by the list of bands she’s worked with in the past — Free Kitten, The Hellacopters, Belle and Sebastian, Lydia Lunch, David Sylvan, The Cardigans, and many more. I was also intrigued by the fact that she’s often described as “an electronica queen” and as “Sweden’s best kept secret”. On the new album, however, she’s compared to Sonic Youth and the Pixies and stuff of that ilk. People have said that it’s reminiscent of Le Tigre. These are all good things to be compared to. On this song, I’m actually reminded a bit of Sleater-Kinney.

Whatever it might remind you of, this is the first single from the forthcoming album, and I like it a lot:

“Low and Slow” by Sofia Härdig

In the first minute of the song, there’s some different stuff going on. Right out of the gate, for the first ten seconds, it sounds like a post-punk thing. After that, there’s some Sonic Youth-style guitars, and when she starts singing, I’m reminded quite a bit of S/K.

At 1:40 to 1:42, there’s a wonderful little drum fill, and I wish that it happened again, but it’s just that one time. And in a way, that makes it even more magnificent. And since I’ve already mentioned Sleater-Kinney, that sort of reminds me of that bit in “Words and Guitar”. Janet’s drumming is great, and it comes in short bursts and quick stops. However, there’s just one time during the “Take, take the words in my head” section where she plays straight through what would have normally been a pause. It’s just once, and it’s great.

All I know about the forthcoming release is the street date — October 28. I know I’ll be looking forward to it.


August 13, 2016 — “Fall” by Lisa Hannigan

Lisa Hannigan

If you only watch one music video today, make it “Fall” by Lisa Hannigan (2016, from the forthcoming album At Swim).

Lisa Hannigan is an Irish indie-folk singer/songwriter currently living in London. The Dublin native has released two solo albums, and has a new one —At Swim— coming out on August 19.

As the story goes, Hannigan was enrolled at Trinity College, where she was supposed to be studying French and Art History. After just one week, she met Damien Rice and she eventually quit school to travel across Europe with him. Later, she would contribute vocals to his 2002 debut album O (which sold something like two million copies worldwide) and his 2006 sophomore album 9. She also toured with his band, and was for all intents and purposes, a member of his band. She was also dating him. She was also poised and ready to launch her own solo career.
One day while on tour with Rice in Germany, he fired her from the band. Without provocation or warning, right in the middle of a tour, and literally moments before they were to take the stage, he told her that he wanted her out of the band. It may have been a shock, but she dusted her boots off and got back to work.

In 2008, she released her debut record Sea Sew, which was met with critical acclaim. She followed that in 2011 with Passenger, which topped the Irish charts. She toured extensively with that record for a couple of years, but when it came to writing stuff for a new record, it just wasn’t happening. She was facing a bit of writer’s block, but she was nudged out of it with a bit of help from some friends and strangers.

She says that she got some help from veteran musician Joe Henry, who had produced Passenger. He ended up giving her the words to today’s song, which nudged her out of a funk. A little later, she got a completely unbidden phone call from Aaron Dessner out of The National. She didn’t know him and had never even met him, but he offered his services to her, and he ended up producing the new record. He also invited her to perform with The National at the Longitude Music Festival in Dublin last month.

I had actually never known about Lisa Hannigan until I got something in the mailbag about the new album. I was immediately reminded of a bunch of things that I know and love. Something like early Sharon Van Etten. Something like early Jessica Lea Mayfield. Even something like Hips and Makers-era Kristin Hersh. Something like some other stuff, but very much her own thing.

Today’s song is the fist song from the new album, and NPR Music is streaming the entire album here. This is about the first song, though, and here it is as a music video:
“Fall” by Lisa Hannigan

I love how soothing it is. I love how her strong voice is way out in front of everything, then the acoustic guitar, then the electric. I love a lot of things about this. I’m going to like the full album quite a bit. I’m also not going to waste much time in acquiring the back catalog.

You can pre-order At Swim via ATO Records here.

Also, I recommend listening to this podcast, on which Hannigan talked about Damien Rice, Aaron Dessner, Joe Henry, and Kristin Hersh. And she plays some of the new songs.


August 11, 2016 — “Sea of Sand” by Aida Victoria

Aida Victoria

IF you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Sea of Sand” by Aida Victoria (2016, from the album Beyond the Bloodhounds).

Aida Victoria is a “gothic country” singer/songwriter based in Nashville. She grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina in a Seventh Day Adventist home. She describes her own music as treading a line between rock, afro-punk, and country, while employing some elements of Blues. She also says that her music is like Southern Gothic fiction. There are some dark, tragic overtones with glimmering light underneath.

She moved around a bit, and finally settled in Nashville. All the while, she pieced together enough songs for the debut album, which came out in May via Canvasback Records. The album was produced by Roger Moutenot, who is known for producing most of Yo La Tengo’s albums. He also produced the Sleater-Kinney album The Hot Rock (1999), and many others.

I had never heard of Aida Victoria until the Hopscotch Music Festival lineup was announced for this year’s festival, which is just four weeks away. By the time I got my preliminary research done, I had her on a short list of bands to see.

To be honest, I haven’t heard the entire album yet, but I like everything that I have heard. Especially this:

“Sea of Sand” by Aida Victoria

It’s got a bit of loud/quiet/loud. It’s got a bit of dark/bright/dark. And there’s some weirdness. I really love the weirdness and the beauty and the darkness of the lyrics.

The Germans have a word for the feeling of pining for a place you’ve never been. Fernweh. That’s sort of expressed in these opening lines:

Here’s a song for Montana
and North and South Dakota too
Here’s a song for Wyoming
And all the pretty places I ain’t been to

And then this weird line:

Here’s a song for my friends
I hate every single one of y’all

And then the line from which the song title comes:

Here’s a song for Arizona
The damn desert nearly done me in
You could drown in an ocean
or you could sink in a sea of sand
I am sinking in a sea of sand

Those are all great lines as far as I’m concerned, but here’s the real payoff in the closing lines:

I’m in the ground
If I was an angel, I’d be sweet
But I ain’t holy, honey. That ain’t me
I ain’t nothing but a no-good small town girl
Hell-bent on ruling the world
I think I’ll rule the world
I’m gonna rule the world

I love that she’s unapologetic about being Southern. And I also love that at the end of that stuff, which is sort of dark, comes the line about “I think I’ll rule the world”.

Aida Victoria is playing on the middle night of Hopscotch. She plays at 11:00 pm on Friday September 9 at the Nash Hall. Friday is the night with the least amount of schedule conflicts for me, so I’ll be able to catch at least the first half of her set before heading out to Car Seat Headrest at CAM.

You can view the Hopscotch schedule in pdf format here. You can still get tickets for the whole festival, single day wristbands, or single event main stage shows. See all the ticketing details here.


August 7, 2016 — “Under Your Nose” by Crosslegged

Keba Robinson (Crosslegged)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Under Your Nose” by Crosslegged (2016, from the forthcoming EP Truly Truly).

Crosslegged is the Brooklyn-based indie folk recording project of Keba Robinson. Indie folk with just a dash of punk. She’s been making music as Crosslegged since 2011. She released a couple of bedroom recordings, but the first thing that she considers to be a real release is an album called Speck, which came out last June. Her brother Raz says that Speck doesn’t really sound like anything else. He described that album as “part Father John Misty, part John Coltrane”.
Robinson has an EP coming out via Split Level Records next week called Truly Truly. Split Level Records is a label that she helps to run. Speck was the first proper release on that label, and there are only a couple of other bands affiliated with it.

I had never heard of Crosslegged until a friend texted me the other day with a clip to the video for “Why Do You Do That”, from Speck. (see it here) He said he thought I might like it. After watching it, I texted back to him that I did like it and that it reminded me of Hope Sandoval meets the early recordings of Warpaint. I don’t like the new, polished, poppy Warpaint. I like the older, grittier stuff. Less glamour, more substance. We’re not here to talk about Warpaint, but there is a slight connection here. One of the other artists on Split Level is Mikah Sykes. I don’t know his music, but Robinson has collaborated with him before. He also used to be in a band called Little Twos. Emily Kokal out of Warpaint used to be in Little Twos with Sykes.

That’s enough about Warpaint, though.

After I watched that video for “Why Do You Do That”, and wondered why it only had a handful of views, I looked for other stuff by Crosslegged and came upon this new song. This one still reminds me of early Warpaint, and also of early Cat Power.

This is that song:

“Under Your Nose” by Crosslegged

The new EP comes out on August 12, and you can pre-order the digital version (and get an immediate download of today’s song) via Bandcamp here.


August 1, 2016 — “Pictures of You” as covered by Blankenberge

Blankenberge

If you only listen to one cover song today, make it “Pictures of You” as covered by Blankenberge (2016, from the The Cure in Other Voices compilation tribute album).

Blankenberge is a shoegaze/drone rock/post rock band from Saint Petersburg, Russia. I’m assuming that the band got its name from the Belgian coastal town. I think they’re a five-piece, but the only thing that I really know about them is that they released an eponymous EP in March. I like what I’ve heard from that, but that’s not why we’re here today.

The band was included in the latest tribute compilation album curated by the folks at The Blog That Celebrates Itself. Today, the blog and record label released its newest thing: The Cure in Other Voices. As always, the compilation features a few bands who I already know, but mostly bands that I’ve never heard before. There are some well-known songs from The Cure’s catalog, and some lesser-known songs. Today’s song is from the “never heard of this band” pile, and also from the “well-known song” pile, as the original came from The Cure’s fantastic 1989 album Disintegration.

A lot of the songs on this compilation are creative interpretations of the original, and this is certainly one of those. It’s much darker and foggier than the original. It’s probably in a different key, but I don’t know enough about that kind of thing to say definitively. What I do know is that it’s nowhere near as bright. And it certainly has much more of the quiet/loud/quiet thing than the original version does. And the “loud” parts…. Oh my! Heavy, and loud, and lovely.

This is that song.
“Pictures of You”, as covered by Blankenberge

I love the singer’s voice, and I love the heaviness of it. I always thought that the original version was too bright for the theme. There are different theories about what the song is really “about”, and different theories about the inspiration. A house fire that damaged all of Robert Smith’s pictures, or a decision that he made to intentionally destroy all of his pictures, or something else entirely. Maybe it’s not autobiographical, and was inspired by a poem that he read? Smith himself has given different accounts of what the song is about and what inspired it. What’s clear is that it’s about loss and regret. But the brightness of the guitar always seemed contrary to all of this. This cover version doesn’t have that problem. It’s dark, and it should be.

You can get a download of The Cure in Other Voices from Bandcamp by naming your price here. You can also get the Blankenberge EP by naming your price here.


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