Sunday, August 10, 2014

SOHN - 'Artifice'

I'm certainly a fan of London-based record label 4AD.

Artists such as Bon Iver, Iron & Wine and The National are some of the label's biggest acts to-date, but it's also been credited for breaking out lesser-known indie and electronic artists.

4AD started as a side-label to Beggars Banquet Records in 1979, and was popularized for releasing breakout albums by Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins and the Pixies in the 1980s.

But in recent years, the label has really hit a stride, signing some of independent music's brightest and most creative artists.

One artist on the label that deserves mention is SOHN.

An English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer, SOHN relocated to Vienna, Austria in 2010 to join the growing electronic music scene.  By 2012, he was signed to Aesop records, and a year later, to 4AD.

His debut album, Tremors, was released in April 2014 and features the lead single, "Artifice".

"Artifice" is a deeply atmospheric chillout session, played at dance-club pace.

It's layered with vibrant jungle rhythms, a haunting backdrop of electronic blips and keys and soulful vocals.

Fans of 4AD label-mates Purity Ring, Twin Shadow and Grimes should definitely give SOHN a chance.

The mysterious video for "Artifice" may be viewed below:




Visit sohnmusic.com for more information on this artist.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Paul Sprawl



Paul Sprawl is an artist I learned about through another musical connection about a year-and-a-half ago, and his sound caught my attention right away.

Growing up listening to my father's Michael Hedges records, I've long felt a kinship to fingerstyle guitar.  The harmonic tapping of two hands on the neck of the guitar, drumming against the wood body of a hollow acoustic - there's a strange power I've always felt calming and beautiful.

Years later, I became a big fan of Minnesota guitarist Billy McLaughlin and his fingerstyle approach. I've been fortunate to see him play in intimate settings on several occasions and have been continually inspired by the magnetic quality of his live performances.

So, when I learned of Sprawl - another Minnesota-based musician with an incredible talent for fusing fingerstyle, experimental acoustic and bottleneck blues - I jumped at the opportunity to see him perform live.

Paul Sprawl is a California native, who's lived all over the U.S. and most recently settled in the Twin Cities.  He's been performing and writing music since the late '60s, but finally quit his temp job to pursue music full-time in the late '90s.  Choosing the life of a troubadour, Sprawl tours cross-country and internationally, with a staggering work ethic and commitment to his art.

The name "Sprawl" is somewhat perfect for a guitar style which blends technical accuracy with loose jams and unexpected twists.  Occasionally, his songs can start to spin outward and grow abstract, but then he'll suddenly bring them back inward.  His baritone vocals and bluesy harmonica reach through pockets and bring a distinctly American sound to the listener, like a campfire song held in an art gallery.

Sprawl has released nine independent albums, including 2011's stellar Dream Zoo - an album that finds his sprawling guitar technique tightened into more concise pop songwriting structures.  There's a sense of darkness sweeping down echoed halls, like the lyric, "Dreams are kept in cages, People buy tickets, They come to look and listen" from the title track, "Dream Zoo".  It's an album that's set perfectly for an introspective late-night drive down a forgotten highway.

I've met Sprawl on two occasions now and his conversations are well in tune with his songwriting sensibilities.  Both times, I've felt drawn in to his performances in the same meditative way as he seems to be playing - as if the music is light pouring out from some dark place within.

For more information on this artist, please visit: PaulSprawl.com


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dandelion - 'Weird-Out'

Dandelion emerged with 'Weird-Out' just as grunge was beginning to die off.  In many ways, the tune comes across as a blatant Nirvana rip-off.  (Maybe it's the double tracking of the vox track?)  Yet, there is something just a little bit different about the arrangement that distinguishes the song from the Cobain led troupe.

Dandelion never really went anywhere after the modest success of 'Weird-Out' wore itself out.  Indeed, the band found themselves the subject of ridicule in a Beavis and Butthead episode.    Nevertheless, Dandelion is surely a band that epitomizes the 1990s alternative music scene, especially when you consider the band's other singles: 'Under My Skin' and 'Waiting for a Ride'.  The video for 'Weird-Out,' for instance, features Gen-X slackers, dressed in t-shirts and jeans, vocalizing in shoe-gaze style whilst jamming out hard on the guitars.  The music is Pixies-inspired, the exuberance muted, and a slowed down Punk beat serves as backdrop--characteristics most grunge music shared with each other in that time.

Watch the video for 'Weird-Out' in the player below:


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Morcheeba - 'The Sea'

This one is an oldie, but a goodie.  'The Sea' was featured on Morcheeba's 1998 release, Big Calm.  It's trip-hop all chilled out, and is--once again--another song well suited for a lazy Sunday.

Watch the video for 'The Sea' below:


In the Valley Below - 'Peaches'

'Peaches' contains catchy electro loops and a dainty chorus.  It's the perfect song for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Watch 'Peaches' by In the Valley Below in the video player below (wow, that's a mouthful):


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jagwar Ma - 'Uncertainty'

Industrial rock sprinkled among nineties shoegaze, Jagwar Ma presents a clamorous single with 'Uncertainty.'  Slightly detached, yet surprisingly focused, the recording is quite compelling.

Watch the video to 'Uncertainty' in the player below:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Future Islands - 'Seasons (Waiting on You)'

If Fine Young Cannibals had recorded a single in 2014, 'Seasons (Waiting on You)' would have been it.  The track is defined by synth, driving drum and bass, and a soothing vocal.

Watch the video for 'Seasons' by Future Islands in the player below:

Bear Hands - 'Giant'

"I am loving you more."
Bear Hands sets forth a catchy electronica-infused drum and bass single with 'Giant.' The track has gained greater airplay on regional indie stations as of late.  Of course, that's mostly due to its infectious chorus.

Watch the video for 'Giant' by Bear Hands in the player below:



Sunday, June 01, 2014

Rixton - 'Me and My Broken Heart'

Here's some more British blue eyed soul for ya:

'Me and My Broken Heart' is infectious, to say the least.  Part Bruno Mars, part Maroon 5, Rixton sets forth a stylish summer crossover hit with the single that seems to be blowing up everywhere.

Watch the video for 'Me and My Broken Heart' below:

Ed Sheeran - 'Sing'

'Sing' is a pleasing blend of folk and hip-hop by UK redhead Ed Sheeran.  Pharrell Williams lends his Midas-Touch to the bridge, joining Sheeran's soulful chops in near perfect unison.  Sheeran does a great job rapping some of his lyrics as well.

Watch the video to the exciting 'Sing' below:


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jesse McCartney - 'Superbad'

Jesse McCartney reinvents his boyish image in the new video epic, 'Superbad.'  Smokin' stogies and sippin' down scotch, the Leo-lookalike's babyface doesn't entirely sell the new Don Draper playboy image.  But it's nevertheless an okay start to a potentially new dynamic career.

On the other hand, the vocals and underlying audio are great.  Jesse's voice has matured, and the end product is one worthy of JT or Michael Jackson.

Watch the official video for 'Superbad' below:


Ariana Grande - 'Problem'

If you liked it when Amerie belted "It's the One Thing That Got Me Trippin!," then you'll really like 'Problem' by Ariana Grande.

The tune has been climbing the charts lately, but despite its popularity, it's thankfully not pure saccharine like the rest of the Top 40.  Instead, 'Problem' is an amalgam of thumpin' bass, Jay-Z-inspired lyrics in the bridge, careless whispers, and some catchy hot sax (see Late Night with Jimmy Fallon).

Stream 'Problem' in the video player below:


Friday, April 18, 2014

Big Data - 'Dangerous (Featuring Joywave)'

'Dangerous' requires some patience, but the wait is well worth it.  Steady bass and drum slowly lead the song toward a metaphorical head butt at around the 2:10 mark (see video below).  From there, the track seduces its listener into a raucous crossover dance party that they don't ever want to end.

If you like the neo disco of LCD Soundsystem and the indie vocals of Of Montreal, then 'Dangerous,' by Big Data, is right up your alley.  Watch the official video in the player below:

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Beck - 'Waking Light'

'Waking Light' is a soothing ode that caps Morning Phase, Beck's first studio album in six years.  It features beautiful orchestrals and luscious space-inspired vibes. 

All in all it's a very well put together song.  In fact, I've been playing the tune several times a day since Morning Phase was released last week.

Stream 'Waking Light' in the video player below: