Infinite Shuffle

December 25, 2010

57 – Mumford & Sons

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

I’m not sure why it took me so long to discuss Mumford & Sons. I first heard about them in early 2009 via the Outroversion blog. I’d heard a couple of songs and liked them, but, for some reason, I never put forth the effort to listen to their full arsenal until about a year later. And, by that time, I felt like my window for “breaking” them had closed.

But, as it turns out, while they’ve been receiving a lot of critical praise following the United States release of their debut album, Sigh No More, there is still a lot of people who’ve never heard of the London indie-folk quartet.

The album dropped in the United Kingdom in October 2009 and landed in the U.S. in February of this year, so some might deem it out of the running for “album of the year” praise. But you know what? Those people are stupid.

There is nary a bad song on this 12-track disc — all are good, some are really good and a few are great — which is why I would deem it the best album of 2010.

According to Wikipedia, the band formed in late 2007, rising out of London’s folk scene with other artists such as Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Noah and the Whale — all solid acts, I might add.

Mumford & Sons, which is led vocally by Marcus Mumford, enlists a slew of folksy instruments, including mandolin, banjo, dobro, string bass and accordion. And the members of the band are very versatile, often switching instruments throughout live shows.

While the band can do the slow, swaying folk thing with the best of them, it’s the spurts of rollicking, rocking fire that make their songs so great. Every song in their repertoire is a sine curve of awesomeness … (that one goes out to all of you math nerds).

In addition to the two gems embedded above, other standout songs include “Awake My Soul”, “Roll Away Your Stone”, “After the Storm” and the title track.

Mumford & Sons make a bevy of literary references in their work. The album title and corresponding song include allusions to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and the songs “Timeshel” and “Dust Bowl Dance” draw heavily from the John Steinbeck novels East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath.

After tearing up England in 2009, the band has conquered the world this past year, from topping the charts in Australia to selling out a horde of shows in the United States in the fall.

Earlier this month, the boys picked up a pair of Grammy nominations for Best New Artist (aka The Kiss of Death) and Best Rock Song for “Little Lion Man”.

I unfortunately missed them when they came through Chicago a few months ago, so I’m eagerly awaiting their return.

Join me in keeping tabs on the band via its MySpace page and official website.

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December 19, 2010

56 – Stornoway

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

I’ve been wanting to write a post about Stornoway for several months, but it’s taken me awhile to find a free (read: illegal) download of their debut release, Beachcomber’s Windowsill.

I first heard about the band roughly a year ago from a few references on the Outroversion blog, but I hadn’t actually heard anything by the group until this past summer when the single, “Zorbing”, was included on KEXP’s Song of the Day podcast.

After hearing it that first time, I repeated it once or twice and was immediately hooked.

While that song seems to combine about three different genres into one track, the rest of album sticks to the group’s signature sound — something like alternative indie music mixed with traditional Irish-tinged ditties.

Stornoway isn’t actually from Ireland. The group hails from the Cowley area of Oxford, England, and is named after the Hebridean town on the Isle of Lewis, which is the northeast tip of the United Kingdom — practically the opposite end of the UK from Oxford.

The band consists of four members, but, as you can tell from the video, it often enlists the services of a trumpeter. There’s also a violinist that joins the ruckus.

The gents have been together since at least 2006 and first started to make some noise in England in 2009 when they released their first few singles. The debut album dropped on May 24 of this year, and, while none of the other songs live up to the awesomeness of “Zorbing”, it’s still a quality disc.

Other solid tracks include “I Saw You Blink” and “Boats and Trains”.

The group finally made its way to the United States in the fall, including a stop in Chicago last month. So, it’ll probably be awhile before it returns.

For more on the group, check out its MySpace page and official website.

December 12, 2010

55 – Earwig

Filed under: Columbus, E — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I first heard about Earwig in mid-August when someone from the band commented on my review of fellow Columbus, Ohio, act House of Heroes.

They provided a link to the their website, so I checked it out. The group didn’t seem like anything too special, so I never gave it a second thought.

That is, until I saw that Simon over at Outroversion had put up a post about the band. After reading his synopsis, I figured I’d give them another chance — and, again, I wasn’t too impressed.

But just before writing this post, I thought I should listen to their stuff on MySpace one more time so it was fresh in my mind. And, as it turns out, my first impression — and second one, for that matter — of Earwig was way off.

Originally, I deemed them a decent band, but nothing special. After another listen, I realized there really was more going on there than first assumed.

None of the songs really repeat — it’s as if each track was influenced by something totally different.

“Star Crossd” sounds kinda twee, maybe a little like fellow Ohioans Guided By Voices. “Rumplestiltskin” is heavier in sound and tone. “Trees” is just pure indie-pop. “Lovesong Cockroach” has a grunge feel to it. “Glorious and Gloom” is a little more emo-pop.

“Shiny Morning” opens with an auto-tune thing that is very reminiscent of Imogen Heap/Frou Frou before heading toward a more indie-pop/rock track. “Drag” reminds me of something Jimmy Eat World might’ve put out in their heyday. “Used Kids” sounds like something I would’ve heard on the radio during high school in the late ’90s — I just hope the band’s not as religious as it sounds in the chorus of this song.

There’s also an interesting back story regarding the band’s latest release, Gibson Under Mountain. Apparently, the album title came to lead singer Lizard McGee in a dream, and shortly thereafter he was “dream-writing” all the songs.

For more on the band, visit the official website.

December 5, 2010

54 – The Band Perry

Filed under: B, Mobile Ala., P — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I tend to shy away from country music, almost as a rule. It’s not that I hate it — I just generally loathe the kind of people who love it and the way they rally behind it.

Because of this philosophy, I’m sure I’ve missed out on several solid bands that I would’ve liked. And The Band Perry would have fallen into that pile were it not for my good friend, MK.

She sent me an e-mail a few days ago and told me to give their song, “If I Die Young”, a listen. She said she really liked the singer’s voice.

After listening to it a handful of times, I would concur.

According to the band’s official website, the song just hit No. 1 on the country charts. Who knew?

The group from Mobile, Ala., is made up of the three Perry siblings — lead singer Kimberly and little brothers Reid and Neil. In their rather lengthy bio, they say that they were raised on both classic rock and country.

That upbringing shows in their music. They churn out plenty of country ditties with a rock sensibility as well as some sweet, twangy ballads.

While the big single is clearly a gem, it turns out the band’s entire self-titled debut album is pretty solid.

Other strong tracks include “Hip to My Heart”, “Postcard From Paris”, “Independence”, “Double Heart” and “All Your Life”.

I doubt this discovery will shift my interest in country music much, if at all. But it does go to show that expanding your horizons is never a bad thing.

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