Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Knowlton Bourne Sings Songs From Motel 43

Mississippi born and bread Knowlton Bourne isn't your typical singer songwriter. Sure the guy sounds a bit country but he's definitely not as buried in the roots of the Deep South as being from Mississippi would seem to indicate. Oh no, Knowlton sounds more like his long lost brother is Richard Ashcroft and he's spent his whole life in Wigan as opposed to the US. His album Songs from Motel 43 is a soaring psychedelic trip through the cosmos in the back of a F-150.

Songs from Motel 43 is a fantastically airy record that lets Knowlton's vocal stylings sweep over the record like a great Condor coasting on a breeze. The record is vast and expansive and leaves his countrified influences in the dust for a more spacey intergalactic feel. The songs have their ups and downs and a few dirt road twists and turns but at times the whole thing seems rather heavenly and angelic. I'm not sure how Knowlton stumbled onto all this deep in the heart of Mississippi but it's pretty amazing that he did. Songs from Motel 43 is fragile, beautiful, and so much more than the sum of it's parts.

Bourne has taken heartbreak and isolation and painted a splendid picture of it that's as stark and intriguing as the album cover that graces Songs from Motel 43. I really didn't think I would like this record but it has totally won me over through it's Verve-ish vibes, sweeping songs, and sense of starkness. This is quite possibly the best record to come out of Mississippi in the last 20 years and as such should be in your collection.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Savannah Stopover Is One Festival Worth Staying Over For

The Savannah Stopover Festival is an annual event in the heart of one of the most beautiful cities in America. Amongst the Spanish moss, ghost tours, stately homes and Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil is the heartbeat of southern indie rock. The annual festival brings to this sleepy Southern city a bit of hipster swagger or should I say more hipster swagger as SCAD's populace is already there and the hipster quotient is already high. Anyway, like many of the smaller festivals that pop up this time of the year many of the bands are on the bleeding edge of cool and quite developed the level of hype many of their peers have.

That's what makes Stopover so fun. The idea here is to find bands that you've never heard of and be blown away by them. My goal was/is to try to find at least one band that achieved that. I This year I found not just one but four bands that blew me away in the one day I was actually able to get to the Stopover.

So here folks are four bands that you need to find and follow like a cult.

First up were Parlour Tricks. Now it's one thing to see a band in a grotty club but to see them in a church is a whole different matter. It approaches Hail Mary territory when said church is in the deep south and said band oozes sexuality. Anyway, I digress. Parlour Tricks are a fantastic band that embraces the multi-part harmonies of 60's girl groups and modern day R&B rhythms and runs them both through an effects pedal of indie rock. The results are something that comes off like a re-interpretation of The Pipettes from an American standpoint. They're sensual and synched and their stage presence is simply amazing as the three front-women harmonize the heck out of every song they have. It's gorgeous lush stuff would have caused a priest to call the police had one been there. They quite simply blew the doors off the place during their unfortunately short set. The worst part of it all was that Parlour Tricks had absolutely NO music for sale!!! This was painful as they had the crowd eating out the palms of their hand and could have sold a gazliion dollars worth of records. I'm not too religious but experiencing Parlour Tricks was as close to a religious experience as I'll probably ever get. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/PARLOURTRICKSMUSIC

Post Parlour Tricks the POP! Stereo team headed over to catch Sales. Having worked in a sales department how could I not go see a band named after what I used to do? Ok, that's a horrible segue but bear with me because Sales were anything but horrible. Sales were full of surprises as they were from Orlando of all places! Who knew!? This dynamic duo sounded something like Stina Nordenstam trapped in a basement with only a four track recorder to occupy her time. With sweet melodies and simple hooks they mesmerized us with adorableness and spring-like lo-fi indie. The Hang Fire was a great venue to see them at simply because it held like 100 people and they connected with the audience almost immediately. They're an intimate band and their fragility wouldn't have worked say...in a church. Anyway, Sales are the kind of band you want to give a hug to and thank them for existing. The fact that they've been doing this sort of thing down in Orlando just blows me away. Why have they never visited Jacksonville? You can pick up their EP here: http://wearenotsales.com/

Perhaps the greatest discovery of the Stopover was synthpop boffin Terror Pigeon. With a name like Terror Pigeon I was totally expecting some sort of spazz core noise band that was more like An Albatross than what they actually turned out to be. Terror Pigeon can best be summed up by saying they (actually he...its a one man operation) are fueled by ADHD and at least five to six cases of Five Hour Energy. The guy is a fury of uncontrolled chaos that comes complete with slide shows, synthtastic beats, audience participation, and songs that have so much energy that they could barely be contained within the multi-story Club One. Terror Pigeon were mind blowing. How he kept his energy up the entire set is a miracle of modern chemistry but he did and everyone in the audience was roped in to participate. You weren't going to escape this guy. There was yelling, there were parachutes, there were dance parties spinning off of the dance party. It was something to behold. This was the most fun I've had at a show in a very, very long time. As I told everyone I knew, buy everything you can possibly find from Terror Pigeon and embrace the madness. Visit the best website ever: http://terrorpigeon.us/

I wasn't sure if anyone could actually live up to or match the performance that Terror Pigeon gave, but synth pop goddess Computer Magic came pretty darn close. Straddling the line between proper indie pop, Figurine, and Little Boots, Computer Magic play sugary sweet synth pop that's like the best candy you've ever eaten. Rich and lush synths washed over us as Danz's (aka Danielle Johnson) voice quietly whispers in your ear...or in the case of this live thingy kind of does it a bit louder. Computer Magic were arguably the least appreciated but most highly valued band that we witnessed. Playing to a tiny crowd late, Danz still worked her magic and her songs left me warm and fuzzy and closed out Stopover in the best way possible...with a hook in my head and desire to dance. When you think of Big In Japan...think of Computer Magic where's she's apparently released more records than The Fall! Find out more here: http://thecomputermagic.com/

In the span of a few short exhaustive hours in what truly was a stopover between cross continental journeys, my hopes of finding one new band to rave about was exceeded three times over. Stopover is a brilliant festival because of that. It doesn't have huge names but it has bands that should be huge. It's an exceptionally well run festival and it was easy to navigate Savannah and have fun dodging the pre-St. Patty's day revelers at the same time. Stopover is definitely the sort of festival that's worth coming down or up for because as I said the bands are great, it's in a historically cool city, and the crowds are very manageable. While I was only able to stopover for one day this year, my goal next year is to stay over all three days!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lust For Youth Go International

Holy cow! I'm not sure what Lust For Youth ingested before the recording of their latest album International but I'm certainly glad they did. Wow, this is such a different record than previous Lust For Youth efforts that I'm half convinced that this isn't them. Frontman Hannes Norrvide's previous efforts were the very definition of cold and dark but International feels damn near energetic.

Apparently listening to a lot of Cure records during the making of International had an irreparable affect on the band and Norrvide is clearly embracing his inner Robert Smith. International feels like a Cure record, it's gauzy and slightly dark but laced with a pop edge to it and you can pull rope, sway, or even dance to the thing. Shock, horror, I know, but it's really quite good. This is easily the best thing Lust For Youth have ever done and it's darkness and torment is so endearing it's hard to stop listening to it. Crossing synth pop with the angularity of post punk and throwing in Norrvide's dark tendencies gives each song this awkward goodness that reverberates and throbs through the dry ice clouds that envelope you as you listen.

International is a wonderfully poppy goth record that sounds more Cure than the Cure does now. Each of the ten songs of this excursion into murkiness is laden with pop hooks, cloudy atmospheres, and a sense of, dare I say it, hope. I love this thing, it's just such a cool record for these guys and I really hope Lust For Youth keep this clove inspired musical trip up. Probably one of my favorite albums of 2014.

Brooklyn Shanti's Bedstuyle Is An Awesome Ride

Sometimes an album just gives you goosebumps. It's the sort of thing that hits just right and makes everything all tingly and emotionally charged. Brooklyn Shanti's new album Bedstuyle is one of those albums. It creates a sense of exhilaration that's somewhere between chill out and heartache and just wraps itself around your heart, soul, and ears and refuses to let go.

Brooklyn Shanti takes us on a journey throughout Bedstulye, from downtempo to reggae to folk and all stops in between; this record has it all. Brooklyn Shanti fears no genre and puts it all into the pot to create the awe inspiring atmosphere that makes up this experience This by all accounts shouldn't work, there's just too much cross pollination, to many genre's bouncing off of each other, but Bedstuyle manages to give you chills as each new song rolls on by no matter the approach. The range of emotions this record plays with is staggering, from homesickness to love and everything else within reach Bedstuyle plays them all as if they were your own and I think that's really why this record is so successful. From fun in the sun to wishing you were back home it's all here and it's done with such feeling and precision that each of the twelve songs are powerful enough in their own right.

From the atmospheric opener, "Midnight In Paris," to the party vibe of, "This Feeling," Bedstuyle is a roller-coaster ride of building emotions and cascading musical influences. There's really nothing bad you can say about this album. Bedstuyle stopped me in my tracks and just blew me away. Chill out/downtempo stuff is so cliche at this point it's painful...but every once and a while something is much greater than the sum of it's parts and Bedstuyle proves that a fearless approach to music combined with an emotional outpouring can make for one heck of an experience. Stop what you're doing and get this, seriously, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Monica Giraldo Is An Intercontinental Musician

Singer songwriter Monica Giraldo is an artist with her feet firmly planted on two continents. One foot is deeply rooted in the the North American folk music approach to writing songs. Her other foot is constantly exploring her native land of Columbia and its musical influences and roots. The result of this is Que Venga La Vida which brings a Latin flavor to American folk and American folk to Colombian music.

With a pastoral approach to writing songs sung in Spanish, Giraldo creates this intercontinental soundworld that's both dusty and rustic while being exotic and exciting. This is not your usual folk pop record, it's might sound like it at times, but its not because her depth of field and her exploratory nature allows her songs to breathe and slowly and gently pull at your heart strings. This is an honest and beautiful record that brings something to each of the tables Giraldo sits at. Her guitar playing is gorgeous and rustic, her voice tender and mesmerizing, and her songs are intimate and rooted in tradition.

With Colombian rhythms, gently strummed guitars and a lovely voice Monica Giraldo casts a spell on Que Venga La Vida. From the unusual rhythms of "Asi Lo Canto Yo," and "Deja," to the catchy and majestic "Dulce Boca," Monica Giraldo proves over and over she's a fantastic artist no matter where or how she writes songs. Singer songwriter albums are a dime a dozen these days and it's rare that one stands out as a glaring example of what the genre can be...Que Venga La Vida is one of those examples.

S Makes The Cool Choice

The oddly named and impossible to search for S is a spin off project from one of the founding members of Carissa's Weird. While some of the other members of this legendary band went off and formed Band of Horses, Jenn Ghetto retreated to her bedroom with a guitar and a four track recorder. While she may not be as successful as Band of Horses, S is pure and simple and interesting. Three albums into her bedsit exile S is emerging from her bedroom once again with Cool Choices and that's a good thing because it's, quite honestly, better than anything Carissa's Weird ever recorded.

Cool Choices is a fascinating record that hovers between folk music, synthpop and mathy indie rock. What makes this record stick is that there are complex rhythms smack dab next to and quiet acoustic moments and they both work together. There's moments of danceability and moments of introspection and fragility and when combined together S creates a whirlwind of hypnotizing songs that are hard to get away from. While the acoustic tenderness is tolerable, I much prefer her synth'd out tunes and she shows a real knack for creating these dark tinged indie dance hits when the synths come out. "Tell Me," for example takes Cat Power's, "Cross Bones Style," and expands it into a dance floor destroyer. There are hits here tucked neatly between moments of sensitivity and they serve as a constant sense of discovery when you uncover them.

Cool Choices is a fantastic third effort and with the help of Death Cab's Chris Walla behind the scenes it's been polished into something almost cheery. It's the little record that can made by someone who's honest and deeply cares about music even if she occasionally gives it up. For those reasons I think that's why I made the Cool Choice and decided I like this record quite a bit.

The Bad Things Are Anything But

A decade into their career, Seattle's Bad Things are still one of the city's best kept musical secrets. While the word Seattle conjures some obvious musical images, The Bad Things are happily not one of them. This gang of outcasts celebrate their uniqueness and outsider status with a fairly interesting approach to music that has more in common with Beirut than with Nirvana. Their latest album, After The Inferno is a tribute to their standing within the coffee capital's musical community.

Sounding like something from a different century, Bad Things have old world charm by the bucket load. They sound aged, traditional, unusual, and most importantly...cool. There are polka rhythms, accordion songs, horns, chants and a worldly approach to writing a song and not an ounce of flannel in sight. After The Inferno is unusually brilliant because it's pure and honest and different. It's just not modern in a 21st century way and I love how the band have found this neat little niche in which to explore old musical styles that often aren't heard. The Bad Things ability to mix folk, traditional country, Eastern European, Western European, and quirky pop influences into something so mesmerizing makes it almost impossible to turn away from much less dislike.

After The Inferno is the kind of record you'd hear on a steam ship, river boat, or expedition. It's an exploratory and rootsy record that keeps traditional sounds close to it's heart. The Bad Things are honest and awesome musicians and their name is a complete misnomer, because their albums are far from being Bad Things. Seriously awesome old timey music that even your parents and grand parents will like After The Inferno is highly recommended.