Monthly Archives: May 2011

El Guincho

Pop Negro

Sometimes music just feels right the first time you listen to it. And sometimes, that feeling is all you have to go on, whether it’s because you’re listening to an artist who sings in a foreign language, or to music that’s purely instrumental, or to a band whose singer is a bit of a mumbler. In the case of El Guincho, I have no idea what Pablo Díaz-Reixa is saying. I know he’s Spanish, that he’s singing in Spanish, and that I took four years of Spanish in high school, but that’s about as far as my lyrical analysis can go. But I do know that his song “Bombay” hit me just right when I first heard it on Hype Machine. “Bombay” is remarkable on a number of levels – it’s rhythmically diverse, catchy, well produced, etc. But more than anything else, it brightened my day the first time I heard it, and I hope it brightens yours as well. Check it out below, and if you dig it, keep listening! His label was nice enough to post the whole album on Soundcloud!

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The Beatles

White Album

Important Vinyl Update … The Artist: The Beatles. The Album: The Beatles (The White Album). The Store: Plan 9. The Price: $9.

My big sister Cary is the coolest person I know. From an early age, she had awesome taste in music, and was always willing to help me see the light. But of all the recommendations she’s given me over the years, I’m thankful for one above all others: the Beatles. Her Beatles obsession began in middle school, and while mine wouldn’t kick in until much later, she passed on an appreciation for their songs as sacred texts, along with a few of the Beatles posters that once covered her bedroom wall-to-wall. My vinyl collection also didn’t start until long after hers, and it was actually a story I heard on All Songs Considered while driving home for Thanksgiving that made me so eager to seek out my own copy of the White Album.

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Bon Iver, Part II

Clearly Justin Vernon reads this blog. Could he have picked a better day to release the first song from Bon Iver’s upcoming album? Yesterday I wrote about how Later… with Jools Holland opened my eyes to Vernon’s talent for transforming pain into something beautiful. To me, that performance symbolized triumph over loneliness, as if he was shouting, on behalf of broken hearts everywhere, “I’M STILL HERE!” It’s a powerful sight. So what happens next? What happens when your heartache turns into fame? What happens when you’re not just “still here” … but everywhere, instead? For just the price of an email address, you can download “Calgary” and find out. It’s a characteristically thoughtful and touching song, and it highlights the the dichotomy between his falsetto and full voices. His falsetto is so delicate, conveying notes and lyrics as if they’re imagined, more than sung. His full voice appears late in the song, waking the listener from the dreamy tone of the first two and a half minutes. But which is the dream? The falsetto that graced most of his first album, giving him a successful career and a public identity, or the earnest voice that interrupts it? The last line of the song declares, “the demons come, they can subside.” So which is which? Download the song and see for yourself.

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Bon Iver

By now, the origin story of Bon Iver’s wildly successful’ debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, has become indie rock legend. In the winter of 2006, the band’s founder, Justin Vernon, retreated to a remote cabin in Wisconsin to recover from illness and heartbreak, and ended up writing a number of bittersweet songs that captured the attention of critics, blogs, listeners and, of course, Kanye West. I enjoyed the album when I first heard it, but it was his performance on Later… with Jools Holland that made me realize what makes Bon Iver so special. Later… with Jools Holland (or just Later… for short) is an awesome show on BBC that features four or five bands each week, the artists arranged in a big circle, with audience members sitting in between the bands. For the two years immediately after college, I had access to Later… on demand and would filter through back episodes, checking out the diverse collection of performances. Bon Iver’s stopped me in my tracks. It’s a solo performance of “Skinny Love,” just Justin and a steel body guitar, and in four stirring minutes, he conjures the profound loneliness of that Wisconsin winter and transforms it into something greater, more universal, beautiful and, in an inspiring way, confident. I get the chills every time I see it. I hope you’ll check it out and see what I mean, and keep an eye out for his self-titled follow up album, which will be released on June 21.

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Battles

Ice Cream

OK, so I stand corrected. My sister tells me that my bro-in-law Brian is the one who orchestrated the booking of David Vandervelde at their wedding. Credit is now where credit is due. Propers are properly assigned. But little did my big sister know that her corrective comment would give me the perfect excuse to talk about one of my favorite new songs, as it was bro-in-law Brian who told me about Battles. I fell in love with Battles by listening to their song “Atlas” over and over, letting the menacing drums and creepily cartoonish vocals slowly seep into my skin. That’s one thing I love about their debut album Mirrored – in a truly insidious way, it seems to get better each time I play it. Battles has a new album coming out called Gloss Drop, and they were kind enough to drop a single track ahead of the June 7 release to whet our appetites. It’s called “Ice Cream” and features a guest vocalist, but has at its heart the same rhythmic virtuosity that makes their music so amazing. Check it out below, and click here for the song’s frenetic, NSFWish video.

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David Vandervelde

Daytrotter Session

Yesterday I wrote about Daytrotter Sessions, one of my favorite resources for new music, and I linked to Jason Isbell’s outstanding episode. There’s another Daytrotter artist who is near and dear to my heart, thanks in large part to my sister’s wedding. She got hitched in the summer of 2008 at Architectural Artifacts, an eclectic antique salvage shop that fills a spacious former factory building in Chicago. My sister did much of the planning herself, and I’m not sure how she managed to book him, but David Vandervelde performed. He was awesome, and I haven’t stopped listening since. He’s recorded two Daytrotter Sessions, one on Christmas Eve of 2006 and the other in February of 2009. They’re both fantastic in totally different ways. The first is a full-band celebration, electrified and unleashed, and the second is more intimate, with Vandervelde playing acoustic guitar, accompanied only by bass and a backing percussion track. In both cases, his voice shines above all else, gracefully rising and balancing, as if weightless. Check out “Jacket” from The Moonstation House Band album below, and click here and here for his Daytrotter Sessions.

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Jason Isbell

Daytrotter Session

These days, people expect to try before they buy. Particularly with music. It seems reasonable to want to hear a song or two before you head to iTunes to shell out $10 for a band’s album, and there are a zillion clandestine ways to access free music. Today, I’d like to share one of my favorite legitimate ways to get free (and guilt free) new music: The Daytrotter Sessions. Every single day, a nationally touring band that’s passing through the Midwest stops by the Horseshack Studio in Rock Island, Illinois to spend a couple hours recording live versions of their songs. Some of my favorite bands have made this stop, including Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and many more. In each case, what results is a 4-song live set that’s easy to download straight into your iTunes library, complete with custom album art, done by an in-house illustrator. It’s almost too good to be true, and it’s where I looked when a bandmate recommended that I check out Jason Isbell. He’s a former member of the Drive By Truckers, and I’ve grown to love this Daytrotter session. Isbell is from Alabama, and his story-based southern rock songs sound worn, as if years of touring as a musician have polished his songwriting until perfectly seamless. Check out his song “Streetlights” below, or better yet, download the Daytrotter session.

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