Thursday, May 29, 2014

"all white everything"- jj

In 2009 when they were both coming to prominence, I frequently confused the bands jj and The xx. I know I can't be alone in that confusion because they were almost fated to be blurred together. Both trade in stark, dream-haunting pop. Frequently the only sign of a pulse either have to show is a well-programmed drum sequence. Both groups are "fronted" by vocalists who simultaneously manage to sound self-assured and slowly withering. In reality one of the most tenable differences between the two is that jj exists as a Swedish duo and The xx are an English trio.

But it’s coming up on two years since we’ve heard anything new from The xx, whereas jj are readying their third LP, V. Today the duo offered the first taste of the album with "all white everything". The song begins with Elin Kastlander silently praying as crisp piano trickles in. In such a desolate environment, Kastlander sounds defeated. Her hopes for mending her "restless soul" are dashed when everything a possible companion tells her is deemed "all Greek to me." "I've been up all winter for someone like you and I know that you've been up all winter for someone like me," she exhales in the following chorus. It's a common sort of desperation, hoping someone else feels the same as you so you can justify what seems absurd. Kastlander's desperation only grows as Joakim Benon’s high-strung drum machine dots the barren landscape. At the apex of despair, around the 3:26 mark, she struggles to complete the question "have I said enough?" When you're alone long enough, it becomes much easier to question every decision you've made. 

V drops August 19 through Sincerely Yours/Secretly Canadian.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's New(s)?

Andrew Bird premieres new album Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of...

Indie-folk/chamber-pop artist Andrew Bird has been on a bit of cover kick as of late, and today brought news that streak would continue with the announcement of the indecisively titled Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... Joined by recently formed backing band Hands of Glory, Bird is delivering a full record of covers of alternative-country duo The Handsome Family, who are best known for their 2003 track "Far From Any Road" which was the True Detective season 1 theme song. The release comes a little more than 6 months after Bird's last album, the seven song EP I Want to See Pulaski at Night.

Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... drops June 3 and you can preorder the track on Bird's site. You'll find a gorgeous, slightly rollicking cover of "Tin Foiled" here via Pitchfork and below there's a teaser trailer for the LP along with summer tour dates.

Tour Dates:
6/6 New York City, NY- BAM Harvey Theater (Studio 360 Radio Love Fest)
6/7 New York City, NW- Rough Trade
6/8-9 Washington, DC- Lincoln Theatre
6/10 Carrboro, NC- Cat's Cradle
6/12 Asheville, NC- Orange Peel
6/13 Manchester, TN- Bonnaroo
6/15 Tulsa, OK- Cain's Ballroom
6/16 Austin, TX- The Paramount Theater
6/20 Boulder, CO- Chautauqua
6/21 Telluride, CO- Telluride
7/2 Ann Arbor, MI- Power Center
7/4 Toronto, Ontario- Toronto Urban Roots Fest
7/5 Ottawa, Ontario- Ottawa Bluesfest
7/6 Montreal, Quebec- Jazz Fest
7/8 New York City, NY- Central Park Summerstage
7/10 Hanover, NH- Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center
7/11 Bridgeport, CT- The Klein
7/12 Lowell, MA- Lowell Summer Music Series
7/18 Vancouver, British Columbia- Vancouver Folk Fest
7/24 Calgary, Alberta- Calgary Folk Fest
7/26 Edmonton, Alberta - Interstellar Rodeo
8/1 Big Sur, CA- Henry Miller Library
8/2 Saratoga, CA- Mountain Winery
8/3 San Francisco, CA- Sigmund Stern Grove
9/19 San Diego, CA- Humphrey's
9/21 Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Bowl

Spoon unveiling something on June 10

Back in March
indie rock quartet Spoon teased their recently completed eighth album with a short, cryptic trailer entitled "Hi". And now after the announcement of inking with label Loma Vista, the Britt Daniel led band have added to the album mystery with the above photo. Found on both their Twitter and Facebook pages, the picture offers no other details other than that the band is doing something on the date. "R.I.P." could be the name of a darker new album, a new track, or something else entirely. 

Whatever it is the band is keeping quiet, other than to tell Rolling Stone the record will accompany a summer tour. In many ways the campaign resembles Arcade Fire's masterful run-up to Reflektor with all the similar frustration of waiting. While you wait, ponder over this short clip of Spoon performing new track "They Want My Soul".

Belle & Sebastian planning new album, tour, and reissues

2014 is shaping up to be a jam-packed year for Scottish pop outfit Belle & Sebastian. Stuart Murdoch and company have been working on a ninth LP with Gnarls Barkley/Youth Lagoon/Animal Collective producer Ben Allen. Though it's currently without a title, tracklist, release date, or album cover, the band has been fastidiously documenting the recording process for the album on Instagram.

And if their first album since 2010's Write About Love wasn't enough, the sextet is plotting a tour that will include choice festival dates in: Germany, Austria, Spain, Poland, and Sweden this summer, in addition to Austin, Texas this fall. Not enough? Stuart Murdoch's directorial debut God Help The Girl, which won awards at Sundance this year, will start showing in the United States and Canada in the fall.

Finally, long-term home Matador is prepping a reissue campaign of the band's catalog. Considering the "flat production" found on the initial version of their magnum opus If You're Feeling Sinister and the overwhelming fondness for it, the move is a no-brainer.
If you're still not satisfied, watch the band briefly covering "Don't Stop Believing" and check out the aforementioned tour dates.

Tour Dates:
6/9- Vienna, Austria- Arena Wien Open Air
6/20- Neuhausen, Germany- Southside Festival
6/21- Scheesel, Germany- Hurricane Festival
6/22- Hilvarenbeek, Holland- Best Kept Secret Festival
6/25- Copenhagen, Denmark- DR Concert Hall
6/26- Norkopping, Sweden- Bravalla Festival
7/26- Costa Brava, Spain- Festival Porta Ferada
7/28- Santiago de Compostela, Spain- Plaza de la Quintana
8/3- Katowice, Poland- Off Festival
8/8- Cesena, Italy- Rocca Mallatestiana
8/10- Palermo, Italy- Ypsigrock Festival
10/3- Austin, TX- Austin City Limits Festival
10/10- Austin, TX- Austin City Limits Festival
10/31- Paris, France- Pitchfork Music Festival Paris 

Check back tomorrow for more of the newest in new(s) and follow AllFreshSounds on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

"Tambourine Light"- Woods

Titling the A-side from an upcoming 7" single "Tambourine Light" couldn't have been a mistake by psych-folk rockers Woods. Before lead singer Jeremy Earl's voice can begin, his shimmering guitar riff engenders comparisons to The Byrds’ epochal cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man". It's not just Earl and his guitar tone; everyone in Woods manages to summon the spirit of the folk-rock originators. Kevin Morby's barely there, but anchoring bass doesn't fall far from the Chris Hillman tree. The way Aaron Neveu plays his lilting drummer pattern, Michael Clarke may as well be manning the kit. Even Woods' soft harmonizing exists on the same spectrum as the Roger McGuinn-led group In the "jingle-jangle morning" it’s clear who Woods are following.

There are digressions though. Earl's voice is best described as "quietly aching," whereas McGuinn's is routinely labelled "nasal" or "drawling." And while that's a miniscule difference, it's an important one. McGuinn sometimes sounded disappointed singing through those nostrils, but you got the sense he'd move past it. With Earl, it's harder to tell. Sure he's looking up "past the Sun," but at what and for how long? "Forever" is a word he let's go of as the band gels into a restful groove. That said it's an eternity where the bliss of it being "forever morning" can easily be misconstrued as "forever mourning." In that period of time he's pushed creeping shadows away and has felt all sorts of challenges come up "against him." Hearing Earl describe these struggles you realize if anyone's ready "for to fade," it's him.

"Tambourine Light" will be out July 8 on Captured Tracks and is backed by "Tomorrow's Only Yesterday".

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What's New(s)?

Andy Warhol directed clip of a 1967 Velvet Underground concert surfaces

Last week was a very good week for the Velvet Underground. First there was the well publicized news that a 1966 acetate of the band's "Scepter Sessions" was going up for auction, and now Spin is reporting (with help from Open Culture) that a 33-minute film of the Velvets performing in Boston in 1967 was posted last Wednesday on YouTube.

Simply entitled The Velvet Underground in Boston, the Andy Warhol directed footage was found by the artist's museum in 2008 and premiered at New York's MOMA in 2010. Since then it was essentially gathering dust until a YouTube account called "John Colon" liberated it from the museum on the 21st. Shot at Boston's Tea Party Club, the clip bursts with sudden pans, zooms, and abrupt edits that are as jarring as the band's lacerating wall of noise. In fact, "noise" or more appropriately "noise rock" is the best way to describe VU's set since nothing is distinguishable behind Warhol's constant knob twiddling. Considering very little complete footage exists of the band, any performance is a complete revelation.

Raekwon debuts new collabo "Call of Duty" with Akon

If the Wu-Tang Clan really is forever, then today is one of those days that offers unassailable proof.  This morning saw Ghostface Killah teaming up with BADBADNOTGOOD and Danny Brown for a brilliant round of freewheeling; this afternoon Ghost's frequent Wu-collaborator Raekwon dropped the latest effort from his upcoming sixth LP FILA (Fly International Luxurious Art)

Entitled "Call of Duty", the track features a riotous hook from R&B singer Akon and Raekwon nimbly recalling "roughed up stones" and "murders by number in Monaco." He even crafts a slight allusion to his recent feud with RZA, saying, "When we go, yo, we go together; whatever is said, it’s still combat boots on the door." Not even internal disputes can bring the Wu down.

(You can listen to "Call of Duty" here and look for FILA to drop later this year.)

Check back tomorrow for more of the newest in new(s) and follow AllFreshSounds on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

"Six Degrees" ft. Danny Brown- Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD

Finding the common thread through "Six Degrees", Ghostface Killah's collaboration with Toronto jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD and madcap MC Danny Brown, is near impossible. It's akin to performing alchemy or decrypting James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Sure you can try, but your attempt is going to end in embarrassment. Ghost is arguably the greatest to ever do "stream of consciousness" rap. He blends painstaking descriptions about the "tartar sauce on my S Dot Kicks" with head scratchers like "fly like Egyptian musk," delivering each with a similar command. In that sense, Danny Brown is a direct descendant of Ghost. Making the most out of his pinched-off, nervy flow he talks about "b**** p**** smell like Penguin's" and avoiding crack fiends on the way to the store with equal urgency. Both of their brains leak like a sieve and every thought flows out with the same pressure. 

Emboldened by BADBADNOTGOOD's minimalist noir-slink, Ghost and Brown fill in the blanks with a deluge of details. While delivering bodies to Staten Island landfills, Ghost "creeps like a caterpillar." To keep his evil third eye functioning, he pours "bottles of the 150 over twisters" and blows "on the green deadly." As drums pan back and forth, Ghost spotlights a fiend "with a needle left stuck in his arm, died of bad fix" and doesn't even blink. Like any "good" narrator he's careful not to romanticize any one character. Guys from the block "stashing guns in shrimp bags" aren't a tragedy, but a matter of fact. If Ghost opts for the ego-route with his verse, Danny Brown nears full-blown id. He'll scratch you without thinking twice if you dare stand in his way while watching Juice. Rappers will be devoured "like butternut squash" if Brown feels his tummy rumbling. Even the decision to go "drunk drivin' in a Charger" doesn't scan as ill-advised. It’s just something to do. When you're as unfiltered as these two, there's no telling what thought might come out.

"Six Degrees" drops as a 10-inch single through Lex on June 24 and can be preordered here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Shades of Cool"- Lana Del Rey

Last week on the blog, I was bemoaning a lack of Bonnie "Prince" Billy songs in surf movies. I couldn't help but wonder aloud how the indie-folk legend had been shut out of something he seemed tailor-made to soundtrack. But in all of that huffing and puffing, I'd blown past an even more egregious error: the lack of a Lana Del Rey Bond theme song. I understand the pop siren's only been on the radar long enough to realistically appear in one Bond film, 2012's stellar Skyfall, but what about the new effort? Have the film's higher-ups even considered "Gangsta Nancy Sinatra" or are visions of Adele still dancing in their heads?

Whatever the case may be Lana Del Rey's latest Ultraviolence single "Shades of Cool" acts as a terrific tape submission for the role. Nearly every crucial component of a Bond theme is here, from discreet percussion to subtle string flourishes and bending guitars. In fact, hearing the wavering riff in the intro even my mother was lead to ask "is this a Bond song? So if you're not picturing crosshairs popping up when it hits, you're doing something wrong.

Getting the musical costume right isn't enough though; you need to nail the performance as well. Themes crafted by the likes of Garbage and inestimable Shirley Bassey have proven a Bond performance calls for an unflappable cool papering over a flood of emotions, which Del Rey's being doing since she was "swinging in the backyard." Even while dealing with a druggy partner she deems "unfixable" in the airy chorus, she isn't the least bit flummoxed. She can wait until she's no longer "one of many," but the one and only. If the day never comes, if she never breaks through, she'll leave along with the sweltering guitar solo ending "Shades of Cool". Tears may bead down her face as she walks out the door and she'll still appear stone-faced. Like 007 himself, she's a survivor.

Ultraviolence drops June 13 on Polydor/Interscope.