Saturday, December 29, 2012

Local Artist Spotlight: Trouble Lights

Rural Iowa might not be the first place you'd expect to find intelligent, electronic-based dance music.  

Then again, it probably isn't the first place you'd expect to find unique ethnic cuisine, sustainable living and a school for transcendental meditation.

But there it is: Fairfield - nestled in the cornfields of southern Iowa.  It's a small town of less than 10,000 with a diverse and rich arts and cultural scene and home to the Maharishi University of Management (a school started by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the famed guru of The Beatles). 

Director David Lynch has held annual "Weekends for World Peace and Meditation" at the campus since 2005, featuring world-renowned musicians and speakers.  

Last spring, Lynch's foundation website heralded a new music video from a Fairfield duo called Trouble Lights, and since then, the band has burst onto the local music scene. 

The video, for the song "Safe With Me" (directed by Geoff Boothby), was heads above other videos I'd seen for local artists.  In fact, the professionalism and appeal of the song and video had me do a double take as to why I'd never heard of this group before.

Trouble Lights is the project of vocalist Adrien Daller and musician Philip Rabalais.  It's highly-charged electronic pop music with powerhouse diva vocal melodies from Daller, who studied musical theatre in the UK before returning home. The resulting sound falls somewhere between the classic pop of The Eurythmics and the dark theatricality of Lady Gaga.

The group recently released their debut album, The Endless Prom, on Maximum Ames Records (home to Leslie Hall, The Poison Control Center, Christopher the Conquered and more)

Below is the music video for Trouble Lights' latest single, "Ready".  It's a steam-powered, head-on-collision of dance grooves.  Once the chorus hits with the "Whoa-oh-oh"s, the party is full speed ahead. 

Watch it here:

For more on Trouble Lights, visit their official website.

And be sure to check out these other Fairfield, IA artists:  Greg Brown, Jefferson County Green Band, Surgery, Utopia Park and Little Ruckus.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - 'Swim & Sleep (Like a Shark)'

'Swim & Sleep' by Unknown Mortal Orchestra weaves an unforgettable guitar hook throughout its entire production, and the effect really sells the song.

Chill out and stream 'Swim & Sleep' in the SoundCloud player below:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Foxygen - 'Shuggie'

'Shuggie' by Foxygen reminds me of some of the quirky--yet brilliant--singles that gained radio traction in the mid-1990s. Songs like 'Girl Like You' by Edwyn Collins, and even 'Whoever You Are' by Geggy Tah spring to mind. Perhaps it's because 'Shuggie' borrows heavily from the prevailing musical themes of the sixties while managing to shapeshift halfway throughout the tune?

In any event, watch the video the intriguing 'Shuggie' below:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bear in Heaven - 'Sinful Nature'

'Sinful Nature' is some fine chilled-out synth rock.  The seductive introduction pulls one in, while the subsequent chords and verses hypnotize its listener.

You can stream 'Sinful Nature' by Bear in Heaven in the SoundCloud player below:

Ty Segall - 'Thank God for Sinners'

Taking a page from the Elephant 6 recording collective, Ty Segall revives lo-fi garage rock in his recent single, 'Thank God for Sinners.'  It's half slow burner; half fuzzed out space jam.  The guitar work inspires, and the melody is tasty.

Stream 'Thank God for Sinners' in the SoundCloud player below:

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Rosebuds Cover Sade

Anyone who knows me knows I have a major soft spot for Sade.  

Sade's ultra-chill, smoothed-out R&B struck a chord with me very early in life.  Back in 1985, I would bob and sing along to "Smooth Operator" from the child booster seat in my parents' van.

So, when I heard that indie-rock act, The Rosebuds had covered her 1992 album, Love Deluxe, in its entirety - and released it for free -  I was delightfully curious to say the least.   

One listen to the opening track, "No Ordinary Love", and I realized what a beautiful tribute this is.  To cover an entire album so effortlessly, and with the depth of emotion found here must truly be an act of love and respect from the artists.

According to The Rosebuds' bandcamp page, they covered the album to commemorate its 20th anniversary:

"To say this album is a constant influence to The Rosebuds and the records we've made over the years would be an understatement. We’ve always been fans. Ivan’s been covering Sade songs since I’ve known him--he sings them in the house, he sings them while driving, he sings them with or without a guitar in hand, he sings them when he doesn’t even realize he’s singing aloud. It’s the language he hears music in."

You can download The Rosebuds' LOVE DELUXE below, and I whole-heartedly encourage you to do so.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wild Nothing - 'Paradise'

Eighties college radio lives on in Wild Nothing's 'Paradise.'  Atmospheric stoicism rules the day on this track, with colorful synth effects interacting quite wonderfully with Jack Tatum's vocal production.  Listen to this one on headphones if you want to catch all the sonic nuances.

Stream 'Paradise' below:

Alt-J - 'Fitzpleasure'

Dub-popsters Alt-J have produced a dynamically raucous tune of a song in 'Fitzpleasure.'  This is one of those singles you just can't quite put your finger on, as it spans many different genres in a short four minutes.  Nevertheless, the final product is rich and inspiring.

Stream the video to 'Fitzpleasure' below:

Pinback - 'Proceed to Memory'

Dirge rockers Pinback are back with a solid single, 'Proceed to Memory.'  This is one of those songs that builds up kind of slow but smoothly morphs into a likeable head-nodder.

Stream 'Proceed to Memory' in the SoundCloud player below:

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Juxtaposition: Glenn Frey vs. Taylor Dayne

Maybe it's just me, but is Taylor Dayne's "Tell It To My Heart" a dance club reincarnation of Glenn Frey's "The One You Love"?

I know that sounds like the most absurd hypothesis ever, but humor me for a second...  

Several years back, I was on a caffeine-fueled roadtrip in the middle of the night and heard "The One You Love" on a schmaltzy soft-rock FM station.  I remembered the song from my childhood, but couldn't remember the name of the song or the artist.  The melody rang tinny in the back of my conscious for nearly two years before I realized it was by former Eagles songsmith, Glenn Frey (say it with me now: The "H" is "O").

The only reason I held onto this smoother-than-smooth, yacht-rockin' heartbreaker for so long was because it reminded me eerily of Dayne's dancefloor megahit from the early '90s.

Even if you don't buy into my crackpot theory, give the videos a watch, because they are both pretty spectacular relics of their respective times.

Glenn Frey - "The One You Love"

Taylor Dayne - "Tell It To My Heart"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tame Impala - 'Elephant'

Tame Impala maintains 'I Am the Walrus' aesthetics on its newest single from most recent album, Lonerism.  'Elephant' has crunch, distant vocals, and perhaps most importantly, a driving beat that never drops.

Stream 'Elephant' in the SoundCloud player below:

Grizzly Bear - 'Yet Again'

Grizzly Bear has returned with a new album and a very solid single.  'Yet Again' is textured and atmospheric.  It's a tightly wound studio production that carries very well over to radio.

Stream 'Yet Again' in the SoundCloud player below:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ariel Pink's Haunted Grafitti - 'Only In My Dreams'

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is known for the quirky, but 'Only In My Dreams' is a lovely tune of a song.  The recording lacks none of the psychedelia inherent in most of the Ariel-led collective's previous offerings, but it is probably one of the more palatable singles they've produced thus far.  So tasty!

Watch the video to 'Only in my Dreams' below:

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Forgotten Gem: Blur - 'There's No Other Way'

In keeping the 90s Britpop hit parade alive, today we present the video to Blur's 'There's No Other Way.'

'There's No Other Way' was Blur's second radio single, was released in 1990, and reached Number 5 on the U.S. Modern Rock charts.  (The single reached the overall Number 8 slot in the band's native Britain).  Contrary to the band's later work, 'There's No Other Way' was emblematic of the Manchester-based "Baggy" or "Madchester" subgenre of raucous dance-influenced music popularized by other Britpop bands such as The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses.

The video to the single is entertaining, showing an angry Gen-Xer (Damon Albarn) sitting at the family dinner table, brooding and scowling the entire time.  Juxtaposed with the peppy melody, the video's visuals sharply depart from the happy-go-lucky feel of the immediate musical surface.

Blur, of course, went on to record a number of mega hits in the next two decades following the release of 'There's No Other Way,' and they went on to rival Oasis for the crown of European Kings of Rock in the 1990s.  And following the dawn of the new millennium lead vocalist Damon Albarn established Gorillaz, and the rest, as they say, is history.

You can watch the video to 'There's No Other Way' in the video player below:

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Forgotten Gem: Pulp - 'Help the Aged'

"Funny how it all falls away"
Jarvis Cocker's band, Pulp, followed up its breakthrough album, Different Class, with This is Hardcore.

'Help the Aged' is a tender slow burner featured on Track Four of Hardcore that oscillates between benevolence and stark truths.  "You can dye your hair, but it's the one thing you can't change," sings Cocker, in reference to the one constant none of us can escape:  our own mortality.

Structually, 'Help the Aged' slyly begins as the usual ballad, but steadily marches toward a bombastic melody with a stunning hook.  It doesn't hurt that the lyrics are stirring and poetic.

Watch the video to 'Help the Aged' below, and while you do remember, "Help the aged.  Because one day you'll be older too."

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Zedd - 'Spectrum'

Electronic dance music has become a dominant force in the pop and rock music scenes as of late. The cult followings of Deadmau5 and Skrillex by today's youth are a partial testament to that.

'Spectrum' by Zedd is another electronic dance tune that balances house beats and catchy hooks with a likable vocal. Check out the video to 'Spectrum' below:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sky Ferreira - "Everything is Embarrassing"

Sky Ferreira's latest single, "Everything is Embarrassing", is one sumptuous slice of indie electropop.  The lyrics are memorable, the beats are fresh and the hook is undeniably classic.

"Everything is Embarrassing" is to be featured on Ferreira's upcoming, October 2nd EP, "Ghost".  The EP is intended as a lead-up to her debut album, "I'm Not Alright", which is scheduled for released late this year.

For more on Sky's music, visit:

Monday, September 03, 2012

Forgotten Gem: Ash - 'Burn Baby Burn'

In 2001, I played Ash's 'Burn Baby Burn' incessantly on my portable music device.  Not quite emo, not quite punk, not quite grunge, 'Burn Baby Burn' was a thrash guitar-laden anthem incorporating power pop vocals, all within a strict three-and-a-half time limit.

By contemporary standards, 'Burn Baby Burn' might sound like an All-American Rejects rip-off.  But back in 2001, the tune seemed innovative to me, and I remember it garnering some decent radio airplay here in the States.

For old times sake, you can watch the video to 'Burn Baby Burn' below:

Forgotten Gem: Ween - 'Freedom of '76'

Ween was panned for not taking rock music very seriously.  But in 1994, when the duo released Chocolate and Cheese, critics took another look.  Was it possible to successfully fuse humor with decent songwriting?  The album seemed to answer that question in the affirmative.  

'Freedom of '76' is a track from Chocolate that, on the face of it, is a quasi-parody of seventies soul, but that serves as a solid chillwave predecessor in the end.

Stream 'Freedom of '76' in the player below:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gotye - 'Somebodies: A YouTube Orchestra'

By now there have been countless covers made of Gotye's impressive 'Somebody That I Used to Know.'  Gotye, himself, seems to be reluctantly impressed, and just posted this video mashup of many of the renditions in the video below:

Friday, August 03, 2012

Sponsored Post: Little Caesars Pizza - 'Fishing'

Check out this humorous spot from our most recent sponsor, Little Caesars, in the video below:

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Forgotten Gem: School of Fish - '3 Strange Days'

Lighter and fluffier than their grunge counterparts, School of Fish delivered the power pop-tastic '3 Strange Days' in 1991.  And unlike their alternative rock contemporaries who were digging deep into the songbook of punk, School of Fish reached all the way back to Woodstock, implementing psychedelic guitar licks and power hooks.

After '3 Strange Days,' School of Fish faded from the radar.  Tragically, singer Josh Clayton-Felt died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 32.

Watch the video for '3 Strange Days' below:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forgotten Gem: Liz Phair - 'Supernova'

On the heels of her breakthrough Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair released follow-up Whip-Smart just a year later.  'Supernova' was the sophomore album's flagship single, but it oozed of perfunctory pop hooks and formulaic production value when compared to the Exile collective.

Nevertheless, for as much as 'Supernova' seemed to mimic the alternative radio shtick of the time, it sounds refreshingly underground by today's standards.   Modern "Alternative" often sounds too polished, and modern "Indie" often gets lost in its own digital abstraction.  'Supernova,' on the other hand, is a back-to-basics ode to garage punk and songwriting.  It stands on its own merits.  And for that, I find 'Supernova' quite endearing.

Check out the video to 'Supernova' below.  (Try not to laugh too hard at all the nineties tropes):

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Joss Stone - 'The High Road'

Joss Stone killed it on Jimmy Fallon Thursday night when she belted her silky smooth rendition of Broken Bells' 'The High Road.'  Dare I say, I enjoy this version better than the original.

Although I wasn't able to locate the Jimmy Fallon video clip for posting here, I've done the next best thing and embedded the SoundCloud stream to Joss' studio cut of 'The High Road' below:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Forgotten Gems: Archers of Loaf - 'Harnessed in Slums'

The Archers of Loaf may not have garnered the same level of indie-rock stardom as many of their early-'90s counterparts, but that didn't stop the influential Chapel Hill, NC band from making a lot of noise.

With a sound as angular and pop-centric as Pavement, but owing equal credit to the pure noise of Sonic Youth and the raw energy of the Pixies, the Archers strutted the line between melody and discordance like few of their contemporaries.

While the band's 1993 debut, Icky Mettle could still be considered their best and most important album, I have an affinity for their follow-up, Vee Vee.  On Vee Vee, the band plowed straight ahead with such a genuine lack of restraint that songs come off as contorted and misshapen, yet strangely and perfectly balanced.  "Harnessed in Slums" is a great example of the group's ethos, and an often overlooked indie-rock gem.

Watch the video for Archers of Loaf's joyfully raucus, "Harnessed in Slums" below:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Natalie Duncan - 'Sky is Falling'

Upcoming pop songstress Natalie Duncan advances torchy, bluesy jazz with her slow burner, 'Sky is Falling.'  Delicately searching, Duncan brings forth a credible sense of melancholy amidst a backdrop of optimistic expectation.  Her first album, Devil in Me, is set to drop July 24.       

In the meantime, watch the music video to 'Sky is Falling' below:

Childish Gambino - 'Heartbeat'

Like most folks, I first encountered Donald Glover as "Troy," the jock character on NBC's groundbreaking comedy, Community.  On the show, Glover plays a goofy, silly guy who's into playing in imaginariums and treating the "real world" with genuine contempt.

I had heard for awhile that Donald Glover had a side project rapping under his alter-ego, Childish Gambino, but I was never real motivated to listen to his stuff because of typecasting:  I couldn't separate the serious rapper allegedly portrayed by Childish Gambino from the totally not-very-serious character of "Troy" from Community.

This all changed when I had the pleasure of catching at random the video to 'Heartbeat' on CoolTV, the only television station that actually seems interested in playing music videos right now.  When I watched the vid I was, surprisingly, pretty darned impressed.

Unlike the absurd "Troy," Childish Gambino in 'Heartbeat' lays down lyrics with a distinct viciousness not replicated by other rappers.  Certainly, the overall cadence is akin to Kanye, but the emotional delivery is undoubtedly reminiscent of Mr. Slim Shady, himself.  The hook is auto-tuned enhanced, but the artificiality is mitigated by the mean lines Glover drops all throughout the song.

Stream the video to 'Heartbeat' by Childish Gambino below:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Father John Misty - 'Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings'

'Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings' has really struck a chord with me as of late.  Sung by J. Tillman--pseudonym Father John Misty-- the tune is wistful and soothing and folksy and generously proclaims "Jesus Christ" all throughout.

You can watch the video for 'Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings' below:

The Wombats - 'Jump Into the Fog'

'Jump Into the Fog' has steadily earwormed its way into the playlists of many alt-rock radio stations as of late.  To be sure, the looping keyboard riff has a lot to do with it.  But the song is also solid, containing a manic melody.

Check out the video to 'Jump Into the Fog' by The Wombats below:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Glenn Mederios - 'Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You'

Sometimes, the perfect prescription for a lazy Sunday is a schmaltzy love ballad. In 1987, Glenn Mederios had a hit with his rendition of 'Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You.' The corresponding video is heavy on slow motion, horse riding on the beach, playful water fights, and, perhaps most importantly, uncomfortably long centershots of the vocalist belting out the tune's prolific chorus.

 Watch the video below:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Behind the Sample: Nancy Sinatra and Robbie Williams

In the final moments of last night's Mad Men season finale, Don Draper sits down in the lounge and orders an old fashioned.  Just moments afterward, a couple of young and attractive females proposition the show's protagonist, asking if he's alone.  Before we can discover the Ad Man's answer, the scene blacks out, and Nancy Sinatra's 'You Only Live Twice' saunters in the background, carrying the show out on a hopeful--albeit muted--note.  Will Don continue living the virtues of his new life with second spouse Megan?  Or will he revert to the not so virtuous ways of his past?

As I was taking in this final scene, I had that all too familiar nagging feeling.  I knew I'd heard this song before, even though I never really had.  Thankfully, it only took me a few moments of self reflection to realize that 'You Only Live Twice' featured the same sampling as the late-nineties smash 'Millennium' by Robbie Williams.  In 1999, I probably heard Robbie Williams' take on the sampling only a few hundred times.  Conversely, I had never encountered Nancy's version, even though it was the theme song to one of the Sean Connery Bond films.  Nevertheless, I felt a little sheepish having not realized until this moment that the most iconic part of 'Millennium' was borrowed from another song 22 years its senior.  

Below, I've posted videos to both songs.  Listen to the two of them in succession to discover the music behind the sample:

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Carly Rae Jepsen meets Third Eye Blind

"Here's my number. So call me maybe." Carly Rae Jepsen meets Third Eye Blind. Enough said. Watch the mashup below:

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Men - 'Open Your Heart'

The Men are a post-punk group from Brooklyn.  Their latest single is 'Open Your Heart' from the album of the same name.  True to form, the track's melody consists of Blitzkrieg beats and assertive guitar.   Some clever vocal bridgework provides a tight, but inviting, framework for some rewarding listening.

Stream 'Open Your Heart' in the SoundCloud app below:


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Yuck - 'Chew'

After taking 2011 by storm (at least in the world of Indiedom), Yuck returns with its newest material in the form of 'Chew.'  The band continues its Ode to the Nineties tradition it successfully established last year by including a fair share of fuzz and reverb.

Stream 'Chew' in the Soundcloud app below:

Fiona Apple - 'Every Single Night'

The great Fiona returns after a long hiatus. Her latest single is entitled 'Every Single Night' and features the controlled delicacy she has always been adored for.

Stream the track in the Soundcloud app below:

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Caught On Tape: Nirvana on Top of the Pops (1991)

One of the best television performances from any band would have to include the mockery that was Nirvana's 1991 appearance on the British show, Top of the Pops.

Following the incredible breakthrough of Nirvana's single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the band was thrown into a whirlwind of unexpected fame and attention. The single catapulted the band from indie-rock heroes to crossover alternative pop culture icons.

The band's audience changed overnight from seedy punk rock clubs to arenas full of teenage girls and jocks - something frontman Kurt Cobain allegedly sought to rectify later with the band's less-accessible, but equally magnificent follow-up album, In Utero.

In the wake of newfound fame and success, the band was asked to perform on Top of the Pops - a chart-toppers countdown program, which featured pop stars miming their hit singles to an audience.

Cobain's general distaste for corporate puppetry influenced the band to use the opportunity as a platform for poking fun at the show's formula.

When Nirvana aired on Top of the Pops, Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic barely attempted to mime their guitar parts over the pre-recorded backing track. In fact, Novoselic spent most of the song wildly spinning and throwing his bass above his head and catching it.

Cobain took advantage of the show's live microphone to sing the entire song in a monotone, Ian Curtis-style vocal.

The hilarious resulting video has since become a cult favorite amongst Nirvana fans and serving as a great reminder that the band's troubled late-frontman, Kurt Cobain, also possessed a keen sense of humor.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2:54 - "Scarlet"

This cold and lusty breath of atmospheric shoe-gaze goes by the name of "Scarlet". It's by 2:54, a British band, helmed by two sisters. There's a certain fragile carnality and heartaching adolescent angst behind the sleek veneer and dense rhythms of Cocteau Twins-meets-Mogwai post-rock.

You can watch the equally cool and ethereal video to "Scarlet" below:

2:54's self-titled debut album is due out on May 28, via Fiction Records. Visit the band's official site here for more information.

Bonus: listen to the band's latest single, "You're Early", via SoundCloud.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Grimes - "Oblivion"

Grimes, aka: Claire Boucher, is a Montreal-based artist who's been making waves all over the blogosphere as of late. And for good reason.

Grimes' latest music video is for "Oblivion", a track off her LP, Visions.

"Oblivion" sounds like Blondie's "Heart of Glass" thrown into a blender with Abba and Nine Inch Nails. If that seems like a strange cocktail, it's surprisingly not. The result is a rather eerie and unsettling, yet relentlessly poppy dance track.

In the video, Grimes is shown bouncing around (albeit somewhat out-of-place) to various testosterone-laden circumstances -- an arenacross show, a football game, a mosh pit, a locker room of half-toweled dudes... All the bare-chested revelry is an interesting complement to Grimes' quietly pristine vocals.

Watch the new video to "Oblivion" below:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Duncan Sheik - 'She Runs Away'

Duncan Sheik was one of the "Sheikiest" balladeers of the nineties. His mega hit, 'Barely Breathing,' moved millions of copies and provided millions more young ladies with romantic inspiration.

'She Runs Away' never escaped the shadow of 'Barely Breathing' on Duncan's self-titled disc, but it was nonetheless an enchanting groove.  Soft strings interpose the chorus, while Sheik's pleading vocal hooks and steel guitar seal the deal.

Take a trip to a time of pre-9/11 bliss and watch the video to 'She Runs Away' below:

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Super Bowl Ad: Samsung feat. The Darkness

By far my top candidate for best Super Bowl commercial this past weekend was this Samsung stunner featuring The Darkness and their infamous mid-aughts hit, 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love.'  (This commercial is also my candidate for worst segue ever, but it still works).

See for yourself how great this ad is below:

Gotye - 'Somebody That I Used to Know'

Gotye is one of the big "new acts" of 2012.  Born in Belgium and raised in Australia, Gotye--aka Wally De Backer--presents a contemplative and layered joy of a song.  The call and response, in particular, really sells this one.

Watch the video to 'Somebody That I Used to Know' by Gotye below:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Local Artist Spotlight: The River Monks

The River Monks are a splendidly multi-talented indie-folk collective, hailing from the capital city of Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines, after all, is French for "The Monks" (or perhaps, "The Moines", if you ask a local). The city gets its name from the Des Moines River which flows through its downtown. In the 18th century, a group of Trappist monks built huts and used the mouth of the river for catching fish, which led French explorers to name it Le Riviere des Moines.

This interest in the origins of the state's rich history speaks to the local pride of The River Monks. This is a young group of locally-grown musicians who've found a pull to make their mark on their own city's musical landscape. With every grassroots performance, the band has gathered a loving fan base.

These performances are warm, humble and inviting. Delicate 5-part harmonies resonate over layers of guitar, ukulele, banjo and glockenspiel. Percussion crescendos into triumphant fits of passion and jubilant trumpeting, then instantaneously backs down to reveal an even deeper sensibility beneath.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know these artists a little bit better over the past few months and after seeing them play again last night, feel confident that they deserve to be heard beyond their home state. Which is great, because they are just about to embark on a month-long tour both South and West.

For details on where you can catch The River Monks on the road and to purchase music from their terrific debut album, Jovials, visit the band's Facebook page or Bandcamp page.

Listen below to samples of the songs, "Pelica" and "Fall Hard" by The River Monks:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

He's My Brother, She's My Sister

He's My Brother, She's My Sister is the odd, yet aptly named musical collaboration of brother and sister Rob and Rachel Kolar.

The group's energetic folk-a-billy lifted the crowd at The Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, Iowa last night.

Rob and Rachel share vocal duties with a rich, soulful kinship. Rob's on guitar and kick-drum. Rachel's on tambourine. The songwriting is strong and the harmonies are vibrant and very catchy, but it's the rhythm section that truly rounds out this band.

Aaron Robinson and Oliver Newell fill the air with slide guitar and upright bass, respectively. Oliver is especially lively - dancing and smiling jubilantly from behind his hand-painted bass.

But it's percussionist Lauren Brown who could be vying for the title of Hardest Working Lady in Showbiz. She thunders on drums, sure. She also tap-dances the majority of their live performance. On top of a bass drum. You get tired just watching her, but it's fabulously entertaining.

As I watched the performance last night, I thought, "This is happy music." I could see it on the band's faces. As I watched them careening through jangly melodies like a band of glammed-out gypsies, it was awfully hard not to smile, myself.

Fans of acts such as Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Tilly and the Wall should most definitely give He's My Brother, She's My Sister a deeper listen, particularly at one of their great live shows.

He's My Brother, She's My Sister is currently on tour. For dates and more info on where to find their music, visit:

Watch a performance of "Tales That I Tell" by He's My Brother, She's My Sister below:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lana Del Rey - 'Born to Die'

After years performing in clubs in New York City for crowds of ten or less, Lana Del Rey is finally receiving the exposure she deserves.  Indeed, she is slated to perform this Saturday on SNL.

The sixties-inspired vocal siren is scheduled to drop her major label debut later this month.  And one of my favorite singles from the forthcoming album is 'Born to Die.'

You can watch the official video to 'Born to Die' below: