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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.


May 20, 2016 — “Evan Evan” by Pale Dian

Pale Dian

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Evan Evan” by Pale Dian (2016, from the forthcoming album Narrow Birth).

Pale Dian is a dream pop/shoegaze trio from Austin. They’re fronted by Ruth Ellen Smith (vocals/synths/drum machine). She and Derek Kutzer (guitar) used to be in the Austin synth popdream pop outfit Blackstone Rngrs. I don’t know what happened, but that band apparently disbanded, and Pale Dian rose from its ashes.

Like Blackstone Rngrs, Pale Dian is definitely going to appeal to fans of Cocteau Twins, Siouxie and The Banshees, and the like. The tail end of late 1970s UK post-punk/goth and the front end of dream pop. If you’ve got a lot of 4AD records in your collection, this is for you.

I didn’t know that this project had gotten started, but I got something in the mailbag about this song and the forthcoming album. I immediately recognized Smith’s name, and recalled Blackstone Rngrs. Even without listening, I knew that I was going to love this song.

“Evan Evan” by Pale Dian

I love the goth-y/post-punk flavors mixed with the shoegazey dream pop flavors. I like the delay and the other effects on the vocals. But really, I just love the buzz at the end of the song. It all comes to a beautiful, noisy head. And I just want to listen again and again.

Play it loud and play it often.

The album comes out on June 3 via Manifesto Records. You can pre-order a physical copy via Amazon here.


May 12, 2016 — “Agoraphobic” by The Cabin Fever

the cabin feverIf you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Agoraphobic” by The Cabin Fever (2016, from the forthcoming album Enjoy Yourself).
The Cabin Fever is a fuzzy indie rock/shoegaze-y trio from Los Angeles. They were formed in 2015 and are set to release their debut album Enjoy Yourself sometime very soon. They’re indicating “late spring”, but nothing else.

They’re a fairly new band, and there’s not much out there about them. All I know is that the band got its start when frontman Sean Moriarty checked himself into a rehab facility. Joel Bedolla (guitar) was a counselor at the facility, and he and Moriarty quickly bonded. They added Tripp Beam (drums) to the mix, and they’ve made a little bit of noise in advance of their first album.

A few months ago, I got some stuff in the mail bag about this band, and specifically about tonight’s song. Between late January and last week, however, I was really busy with work, school, and other things, so a LOT of things blog-wise got pushed to a back burner. I’m still catching up with some emails that I haven’t even read, and trying even harder to work with some of the great things that I’ve received over the last few months.

When I revisited the emails about this, I was completely floored by this song. Moriarty has a vocal style that reminds me a little bit of Courtney Taylor-Taylor out of The Dandy Warhols. The music and everything else reminds me of some stuff from the glorious golden age of fuzzy, guitar-oriented east coast indie rock: 1993. Think about Jawbox’s outstanding For Your Own Special Sweetheart. Think about Archers of Loaf’s magnificent debut album Icky Mettle. It’s albums like those that I’m reminded of when listening to this song.

“Agoraphobic” by The Cabin Fever

I love the tumbling, tom-heavy drums that remind me of David Narcizo out of Throwing Muses. I love the early 90s feel of it. I love Moariarty’s hushed raspy vocals. I love the horns. One of my favorite things, though, is a really little thing. In the middle of the song, there’s a slight instrumental break and there’s a super-fuzzy guitar just chunking out a couple of chord strokes, and it’s only in the left channel. Meanwhile, there’s a different guitar bit that’s only in the right channel. Check it out at around 1:42 until about 2:00. I love stuff like that, and although I was already enjoying the song a lot, it made it so much more enjoyable.

Incidentally, the band just yesterday released their first music video for the song “Paranoia”. It’s another good song with a bit more of that Welcome to The Monkey House-era Dandy Warhols vibe that I was talking about. You can watch that video/hear the song here.


07.02.2015 — “Benighted” by Keep Shelly In Athens

Keep Shelly in Athens

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Benighted” by Keep Shelly in Athens (2015, from the forthcoming album Now I’m Ready).

Keep Shelly in Athens is a chillwave/ambient electronic duo from Athens, Greece. The project started in the summer of 2010 as the one-man project of RPR (sometimes stylized as RΠЯ). The band’s name is a pun based on the Athens neighborhood of Kypseli. Within a couple of months, he made friends with a singer named Sarah P, who joined the band as the only other member. With that lineup, they released a few EPs and a 2013 album called At Home. In January of last year, Sarah P left the band to pursue a solo career and was replaced by singer Myrtha. They’re scheduled to release their sophomore album I’m Ready in September of this year.

Keep Shelly in Athens is one of the many bands who I’ve known about for some time, but didn’t really know what they were about. I’ve heard and read people making oblique references to them in discussions of shoegaze, but I had never really heard them until I finally clicked through the soundcloud link in a mailbag submission from a few weeks ago.

“Benighted” by Keep Shelly in Athens

I don’t know how Myrtha’s voice compares to Sarah P’s, but I read that Sarah P was influenced by Tracey Thorn. This song kind of reminds me of Everything But The Girl, so I guess there must be a similarity. I’m thinking mainly of the penultimate EBTG album Walking Wounded (1996). I’m not an expert on the EBTG catalog, as I only have the last three of their 11 albums, but this song reminds me of Walking Wounded. And that’s a very good thing. I wore out my copy of that album and included most of its songs on mixtapes at one time or another.

Sometime in September, the new album will be released via Friends of Friends Records in Los Angeles. Until then, play this song again and again. Play it loud.


11.26.2014 — “Beautiful Kingdom” by Dreamcoat

Dreamcoat

Dreamcoat

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Beautiful Kingdom” by Dreamcoat (2014, from the “Beautiful Kingdom” standalone single”).

Dreamcoat is an indie rock/folk quartet from Melbourne. They released this single back in September via Blank Tape Records, and they’re set to start recording their debut EP sometime early in the new year.

I know nothing about this band, but I got something in the mail bag promising that Dreamcoat’s style has “elements of shoegaze, folk, post-rock, and indie-pop”. I love those genres, so I was naturally quite intrigued by that.

I wouldn’t say that this song has any elements of shoegaze or post-rock, but I’m not disappointed in any way. I like it a lot. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to say that this song is really really reminiscent of Grizzly Bear. Part of it is that Dreamcoat vocalist Kieran Ebert sings a lot like Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste. Part of it is the drumming. Part of it is the guitar work. It’s the whole thing. It’s a lot like Grizzly Bear. In case you missed it, Shields was my second favorite album of 2012, so being compared to Grizzly Bear is a very good thing.

This is that song.
“Beautiful Kingdom” by Dreamcoat

There’s actually a couple of bits where Ebert reminds me of Jeff Buckley. At the end of each vocal line when there’s a little drum fill, and everything gets a little louder. Reminds me of Buckley in the chorus of “So Real”.

I liked the song right away, and apart from the things I’ve already mentioned, I was drawn to the line in the chorus. I can’t make the whole thing out but I get

I flew to the moon just to drown in your (??)

I have no idea what that last word is, but it’s a cool line anyway. Hopelessly romantic.

This is another one of those songs that I like more and more after repeated back-to-back listens. It’s gonna stick with me for a little while. I hope the rest of the forthcoming EP is this good.

If you happen to live in the Melbourne area, Dreamcoat will be playing a single release party this Sunday night at The Gasometer. That’s ten thousand miles from me, so it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll be there.

For extra credit, here’s the video:


09.18.2014 — “Bells and Ships and Songs” by Dee Sada

DeeSadaLoResIf you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Bells and Ships and Songs” by Dee Sada (2014, from the forthcoming EP Fragments).

Dee Sada is a multi-instrumentalist from London. I got an email a couple of days ago about her forthcoming debut EP, and I know almost nothing about her.

Tonight’s song is a dreamy/lo-fi/folk-y thing that’s highlighted by a delicate bass bit and her very fragile reverb-drenched vocals. For the sake of comparison, there’s some sort of math that I can’t quite work out that involves the magnificent Lois Maffeo, and The Spnianes. It’s weird that something this quiet would remind me of the assault of sound that The Spinanes was, but somehow, it does.

The four songs on the EP are said to be “inspired by and haunted by fractured personal relationships”. The email went on to say that Sada is heavily influenced by the poetry of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Suffice to say, this girl might know a thing or two about sadness. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many of my favorite records were written from deeply personal perspective on sadness.

Since this is absolutely everything that I know about Dee Sada, let’s get to the song:
“Bells and Ships and Songs” by Dee Sada

I really love how unapologetically minimal this is. The first time I listened to the song, I kept thinking that there would eventually be a squeal of guitar, the crash of some heavy-handed drums and some big-time noise in the second half of the song. As much as I would have liked that, I’m really happy that it didn’t happen. It’s much better this way.

At the very end of the song, there’s some morse code message that fades in at about the 3:00 mark I’m not clever or patient enough to decipher that, but I’ll assume that it’s something awesome. Please don’t tell me otherwise.

Fragments will be available on September 29 via the Chicago-based Tip Top Recordings.


08.26.2014 — “Scarecrow” by TWENTYFOURLIVES

TWENTYFOURLIVES

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Scarecrow” by TWENTYFOURLIVES (2014, from the forthcoming album Peaks… Peaks… Peaks!).

TWENTYFOURLIVES is a post-rock quartet from the small Belgian town La Luvière. The band got started in 2009, and they have two EPs to their credit. They’re set to release their debut album Peaks… Peaks… Peaks! on September 15.

Although today’s song has vocals, most of the TWENTYFOURLIVES songs do not.

I really don’t know anything about this band, but today I got something in the mail bag inviting me to listen to a private stream of the forthcoming album. The email gave no details at all. I had no idea even what type of band they were. I usually don’t have very high expectations in a situation like that, but I like to give everything a fair shot.

Within five seconds of the first song, I was pretty sure that I liked it. It took about 30 seconds for me to realize that I loved it. That first song (“Peaks”) is really reminiscent of the early EITS stuff, so I was really impressed. That song isn’t available for public sharing, but this one is.

“Scarecrow” by TWENTYFOURLIVES

It’s a bit of a slow build, and then there’s a bit from about 1:20 to about 2:20 where there’s a really ghostly guitar bit going on. It makes me think of the magnificent Japanese shoegaze/post-rock band Mono.

The vocals are subtle and whispery enough that they don’t get in the way of the elaborate stuff that’s going on with their guitars and the simple genius of the bass line. I’m not really a fan of vocals in post-rock songs, but I quite like them here.

There are tons of examples of post-rock songs that I love because of the dizzying heights and cacophonous buzzes and drawn-out decrescendo in the coda. This song doesn’t have any of those things, and I think it’s better because of it.

The album will be out on September 15, and you can pre-order a digital copy via bandcamp here. You can also score their 2011 EP Mammoth here by naming your own price.


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