Infinite Shuffle

November 29, 2009

5 – Great Lake Swimmers

Filed under: G, Toronto — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I can’t remember a time in which I’ve went back and repeated a song while listening to my iPod on shuffle. Except for this one time while I was returning home from Chicago on the train and the song “Pulling on a Line” by Great Lake Swimmers came on. I think I listened to it about four or five times consecutively.

Last month, I saw Great Lake Swimmers perform live a local church. And for this devout atheist, they almost made that house of worship seem spiritual to me.

They are similar to Marching Band — in that they combine elements of a band such as Snow Patrol with those of folkier groups, such as Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper. The difference, however, is that while Marching Band’s sound leans closer to Snow Patrol, Great Lake Swimmers tends toward their folkier brethren.

Listening to the instrumentation, I’m reminded of Elf Power, but not quite as bold or dynamic.

On an instrument-related sidenote, I would occasionally hear a banjo standout at various times throughout the album, and it kept reminding of two things — the banjo on Okkervil River’s song “Lost Coastlines” and the theme song to the show Scrubs.

Great Lake Swimmers is a band that generally keeps things simple, and that’s not a bad thing.

Since forming in 2001, the Toronto quartet has grown into a national favorite in their native Canada. With the release of Lost Channels, the band’s fourth album, it has been lauded by a lot of critics, magazines and other media outlets and is gaining a bigger worldwide audience.

The band’s front man and main lyricist, Tony Dekker, has already been dubbed by one national publication as one of Canada’s best singer/songwriters — in the company of legends Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot.

By the way, I eventually realized that the reason I even had them on my iPod in the first place was because I’d heard them through NPR’s Song of the Day way back in March.

There is plenty of free music to listen at their official website, where they have seven songs posted, and their MySpace page, where there are 12 tracks.

Even though my aforementioned favorite song can easily be found at both of those sites, I’m still going to post it here. I just love it too much.

Great Lake Swimmers – Pulling On a Line

November 22, 2009

4 – Bat For Lashes

Filed under: B, England — assman41 @ 12:01 am

The first time I ever heard Bat For Lashes was while watching the show “Subterranean” on MTV2 and the video for “Daniel” came on. The first one or two times I didn’t think much of the song or video, but soon enough, that tune had planted itself in my head. Now it’s easily one of my favorite songs from the past couple years.

 

Bat For Lashes is actually just the stage name of British songstress Natasha Khan, who, in addition to singing, plays the piano, guitar, harpsichord and autoharp.

 

The music, which would best described as dreamy eclectro-pop, varies at times, but the element that ties it all together is Khan’s voice, which conjures memories of Bjork, Tori Amos and Annie Lennox

 

Her first two albums — “Fur and Gold” and “Two Suns” — have earned plenty of praise, and each was nominated for the Mercury Prize. The video for “Daniel” was even in the running for an MTV Video Music Award.

 

The bulk of the music is pretty solid, but the only song that really stands out for me is “Daniel”. As for the rest of it, I could take it or leave it.

 

For more on Bat For Lashes, check out the MySpace page or the official website.

 

Bat For Lashes – Daniel

November 15, 2009

3 – Abdel Wright

Filed under: Jamaica, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

The first time I ever heard Abdel Wright was in the fall of 2005. I was sitting at my desk at work, listening to internet radio — either Accuradio or Radioio — and I was on a New Releases channel and the song “Dust Under Carpet” came on and I was immediately smitten.

 

I think he popped up a few more times on that channel before I officially decided I needed to get his self-titled album. I actually found somewhat randomly later that fall while in a record store in Madison, Wis. — one more reason Madison ruleth.

 

As for the album, it’s full of amazing folk-reggae songs that just sound totally different than anything else on the radio. Wright pens songs with a social conscience and he sings with true passion. No two songs on this album are the same. I would consider it one of my top 10 favorite discs of all time

 

I occasionally surf the web, hoping to find more music by him, but this album is pretty much it. As for other details about this amazing musician, there isn’t much. This article gives some background on Wright’s life and the details leading up to his recording this album.

 

An internet search on him comes up with several references to Bono, who said Wright would be the biggest musician to come out of Jamaica since Bob Marley. Unfortunately, Wright has yet to record a follow-up, and he’s seemingly fallen totally off the grid.

 

His official website is no longer active, and he hasn’t logged into his MySpace page since October 2005. But there are three tracks on there that you should give a listen to.

 

And here is my aforementioned favorite track …

 

Abdel Wright – Dust Under Carpet

November 8, 2009

2 – Lovers

Filed under: L, Portland — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I stumbled across Lovers totally by chance. I was paying my first-ever visit to Las Vegas in the winter of 2009, and my friend and I were looking for something to do one night and, after narrowing down the rather slim pickin’s, headed to the Beauty Bar for a show. We apparently got there early — at least before they started charging a cover — and sat down at the bar next to some people who, as it turned out, were in the opening band.

 

They eventually began setting up their equipment and doing a sound check in which they kept repeating the opening strains of what turned out to be “Igloos for Ojos,” the opening track on their latest release, I Am the West.

 

At first, I thought they were having trouble with their equipment and had just given up, but then they eventually took the stage for real. I have to admit, my expectations weren’t too high considering the situation — some random band playing in the middle of the week at a bar away from the main thoroughfares, and they weren’t even the main act.

 

But my fears quickly subsided as the lead singer, a shoegazing waif named Carolyn Berk, unleashed one of the most amazing voices I’d ever heard in person. The fact that the entire venue was the size of a large conference room and our perch at the bar was just a few feet from the stage only added to the power of her voice.

 

Including a drummer and guitarist, the ladies of Lovers churned out numerous slow, dreamy songs of love and heartbreak and spiced it up with an electronic tinge.

 

If I had to sum up Lovers’ music in one word, it would be “ethereal.” Listening to Berk sing, you can hear the influences of Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega and Mazzy Star.

 

This is how her voice was described in the iTunes review of Lovers’ second album, The Gutter and the Garden:

 

Her slightly off-key timbre and breathy, sometimes volatile delivery add an emotional depth to arrangements that are already immersed in a sea of pastoral gloom.

 

By the end of the show, we had become Lovers converts. My friend immediately headed to the side of the stage to buy a copy of the latest album, a CD that I would later latch onto.

 

The band has produced four albums since forming in 2001. Lovers has basically been a vehicle for Berk, who’s been the only mainstay of the group. She’s had different backing members on each album and made a move from one indie music hot spot — Athens, Ga. — to another — Portland, Ore. — between the release of the group’s second and third albums.

 

Since moving to Oregon, the group hasn’t done much touring outside of the Pacific time zone. So, for now, I’ll have to enjoy them via the internet.

 

If you visit their MySpace page, you can hear selections from all four of their albums. Between that page and their official website, you can hear the first six tracks from their most recent release, I Am the West, including their first-ever video.

 

All of those songs are solid, but rather than try to pick a favorite, I figured I’d attach a song that can’t be found at either site. So below is the seventh track from the latest album.

 

Lovers – Imaginary Women

November 1, 2009

1 – Marching Band

Filed under: M, Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

 

Marching Band seem to encapsulate several subgenres of the indie rock scene.

 

Throughout their debut LP Spark Large, I was reminded of Snow Patrol.

 

But I also heard the folkier tones of such bands as Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper, especially on my favorite track, “Make No Plans.”

 

I continued to hear those influences through the rest of the record, but they also added some more layers.

 

“Makeup Artist” included some more electric instrumentation, while “Travel In Time” was the first song where I could really detect some foreign accent. This track and “Letters” actually reminded me of some Irish and Scottish bands that I like, but it turns out this duo is from Sweden. Shows what I know.

 

The instrumentation is eclectic but tight, and the crafting of the songs is a treat. One of the worst things that can happen to a band or musician is to have all their songs sound the same. Thankfully, Marching Band seems to have something different going on with each track.

 

Here’s how they’re described on Wikipedia:

“Marching Band combines eccentric musical elements with mainstay rock sounds, creating a unique sonic fusion that finds instrumentation of marimba, banjo and vibraphone meshing with guitars, bass, drums and lush vocal harmonies.”

I would say that listening to Spark Large is like receiving a gift on Christmas, but it’s probably more like Hanukah and each song is like a new present to unwrap.

 

Before “Spark Large,” they released three EPs, including the first two when they were known as Second Language. These songs a very simple and melodic — I would liken them somewhat to he band Elf Power — and show a foundation from which they would build upon and add layers to until they reached the point they’re at today.

 

One notable song on that first EP is “Marching Band,” from which they derived their current name.

 

Official website: http://www.marchingband.se/

 

Marching Band – Make No Plans

 

Marching Band – Letters

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