Tag Archives: indie

Penny and Sparrow: Struggle Pretty

In January last year, I wrote a post about a band that I was completely blown away by on first listen. Penny and Sparrow is back with their second album as of Tuesday!

pennysparrowA good friend of mine introduced me to the Austin, Texas duo and on first listen, I had chill bumps. Second listen evoked tears. I knew I was hooked at that point. I’ve been listening to that album since. I follow them on Facebook and when I realized a new album was out two days ago, I bought it without a second thought. I’m just now getting  a chance to listen to it.

Serial Doubter really kicks the album off (after the intro track Jeffrey Alan) with familiar vocals deposited over increasingly dense instrumentation. The song has an easy-going tempo, but with drums that rock the hammock like a slow breeze.

Bread and Bleeding and Thunder really showcase the Mumford and Sons influence stylistically with the hyper guitars and trumpets or violins, respectively. The soothing vocals that you’re used to come in and somehow melt over the abnormally rapid instrumentation and create a totally new dynamic.

I am absolutely in love with Rattle. This was one of the first two songs the band released in the lead-up to the new album and I fell head over heels for this one. It sounds like the beautiful beginning to a thunderstorm – you know what I’m talking about, when everything gets really still and there’s just a bit of wind blowing but you know something more is on its way so you have a heavy feeling deep inside. I don’t want to rattle and I’ve got no plans to let myself be tossed away, but this muscle could never lift a thing without you anyway. This band writes such gorgeous lyrics that sometimes I’m left speechless. They’re some of the most beautiful lyrics being written in music right now.

Reeth is the song I’ve been waiting for this entire album thus far (and this is nine tracks in). This sounds like a direct upgrade of the sound from Tenboom and it’s absolutely stunning. The guitar is so delicate that it almost feels like a balancing act trying not to tip over onto the vocals. I found myself holding my breath to listen a little more intently two different times.

The album wraps up with the entirely a capella Fantine. It seems a strange choice for a last song, but the lyrics serve better with nothing to distract from their impact. They’re stark and serious and darker than I was anticipating. So before I go saying you make a bad lover, I think that I’ll let you kiss me. I can not in good conscience wear white. If I’m honest, my wedding dress needs to be black. I’ve seen too much skin in the souls that live in it, I fear I’m the bride you give back. you take and you give. You give and you take.

Penny and Sparrow are some seriously talented musicians. I have no idea why more of you aren’t listening to them. Stop everything and do it right now.

 

Key Tracks
Reeth (track 9)
Rattle (track 4)
Fantine (track 12)

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5 songs I can’t get enough of: April 7, 2014

1. Beat Up Car by Taking Back Sunday

I know I’m totally bias since this band is my favorite band in all the lands, but this song makes me feel things deep inside. Not only do the escapist lyrics appeal to me (So if you’re interested, I’ll take you anywhere. I’ll buy some beat up car, we could get out of here. I’ll take you anywhere that you wanna go), but the vocals are stronger than ever and when the chorus hits, I feel the tunes in my soul. This is the most perfect song for this time of year as it’s beginning to warm up to spring – roll those windows down and blast this song and feel like you’re flying.

 

2. Yellow Paper by Royal Teeth

Since Spotify recommended this band to me a few days ago, I haven’t been able to get enough of them. I’m obsessed with their entire debut full length Glow (listen to this album now before you do anything else), but this song gets me every time. It’s slower than most of its surrounding counterparts, but it’s so sweet and mellow. The two sets of vocals are so smooth in this song that they almost melt completely together. It’s beautiful.

 

3. Haunt On by The Stationary Set

This is the title track from an album that I’ve listened to way too many times to count. Even when I was first jamming to this song, I wanted to sing along so badly that I’d throw in the words I knew and just ad-lib sounds for the rest. I can feel the passion in this song and that is something to take notice of. This song slowly builds on itself and about three minutes in, if you’re not feeling this song on a personal level, I’m worried about you. I love how the build up takes most of the song, then the band goes all out for a bit and then after some heartbeat-ish drumming, it’s over. Just, ah. So good.

 

4. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn from The Broken Circle Breakdown Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

I just want to go ahead and say that this is not my normal style of music. I know I live in a small town in Southwest Virginia, and I know my area is ripe with bluegrass, but I’ve never really gotten into it. If you’ve seen this film, this will make sense to you. I guess that’s what does it for me – having seen the film and knowing the emotional impact this is going to give you in the film, this song is just perfect. The male vocals start it out, with some light banjo picking and after a bit, female vocals work in until everything picks up and you have a howling good time. But for real, all the instruments come together in such a beautiful arc that it’s hard not to at least appreciate it. (Also, I know I’m a music blog and not a movie blog, but this movie is one of the best movies I have ever seen – check it out)

 

5. Memoria by Fairweather

I just discovered this band a couple of days ago and if you’re in need of some new rock tunes, check out this self-titled album that just came out last week. This song in particular is my personal favorite from the album – probably because of the pulsing drums and insanity of the guitar workings. This band isn’t all prim and proper polished kind of rock, so turn away if that’s something you look for. I love the sounds that make me feel like I’m at a rock show – as if I could close my eyes and envision it surrounding me.

 

What are you all listening to right now?

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The Apache Relay: American Nomad

I think sometimes, everyone gets lost in the hustle bustle of life. Things are pushed back in place of seemingly more important things, or important things lose their meaning because of unforeseen circumstances. I’ve had such a hectic schedule at work lately that I haven’t been able to write on the blog as much as I would like. I apologize for that – hopefully after today, things will calm down again. But what really led me to thinking about that was my day yesterday. I had the pleasure of attending the Bristol, VA/TN Gentlemen of the Road Stopover that was organized by Mumford and Sons. When I first heard rumors that they were coming to town (I live near Bristol), I couldn’t believe it. When they announced the Stopover was going to be here, I really couldn’t believe it. While it was a long, hot day almost entirely in the direct sunlight, it was bliss. At one point while Mumford was playing, I looked up at the lights and realized that was what I loved most in life. Nothing compares to being packed in a crowd of people who are fans of the band you’re seeing and you’re screaming the lyrics together as one.

If you don’t know much about the Stopovers, it was basically a let’s roll into town and invite all the local stores, vendors, restaurants, etc. out to one hell of a day where we bring 15,000+ people into one small area. It was fantastic. It also meant that Mumford needed bands to play the other slots during the day since it was set up as a festival of sorts, which also gives added exposure to other bands. My friends and I got to Stage 1 and had the pleasure of hearing The Apache Relay play first. And while it was a change in schedule and they were originally slated to play Stage 2, boy am I glad they played Stage 1. With a thirty minute set, they had excellent, unique sound and a phenomenal stage presence. They were also very kind as a whole – I got to meet a few of the members and they were gracious and took time to speak to us and thank us. After this experience, I knew I had to listen to their album. And this is what the real point of this post is.

Their 2011 disc American Nomad starts off with Can’t Wake Up, a song they played live when I saw them yesterday. It’s a slow starting track that has all the potential for an explosion on stage that has an even better end result than the build-up. The song is easy going, but chock full of beautiful noises. Michael Ford Jr.’s voice was so captivating live and translates just as well on recording. His voice is gentle and smooth while remaining powerful when the time comes. He has incredible control over his vocals in the live show, even when the song takes over and major rocking out is required.

Mission Bells slows it down in the most delicate of ways. This band has a great knack for using the tambourine to their greatest advantage. It was busted out many times yesterday during the two sets I saw them do. I also should mention here that Kellen Wenrich’s fiddle playing is superb and this song showcases that (also the man has mad dance moves).

Lost Kid was my favorite song that I heard them perform and it remains my favorite on the disc. The drumming really kicks it up a notch in the beginning of this song before the song really comes at you full force with an array of instruments backing the drumming creating perfect harmony and a wonderland in my ears.

I also had the fortune of seeing Watering Hole performed twice. This song shows real blues influence at the core. Ford’s vocals are as spot-on as ever in this track. Maybe it’s the influence of seeing it twice live, but I think this song out of all of them may perfectly show the band’s pure talent from every corner. Everything is so wonderfully meshed together in this song that it takes a couple of listens to really hear all the instruments working as one and as a whole.

The album wraps up with Some People Change, a slower song that is a beautiful wrap-up to a great album. This track is calming and peaceful and again makes excellent use of a good tambourine. The guitar and the fiddle stand out in this number, lulling so quietly and perfectly it was almost as though to put you to sleep.

As I expected, the album was as great as the live show that these guys put on. I was impressed yesterday after I saw them, and I remain impressed right now after listening to this album. There’s something special in this band that needs to be noticed. Incorporating folk, indie and blues styles into a rock music blender, The Apache Relay create some tunes that you won’t soon be able to shake. I’m going to be listening to this for a while. (And here’s an incentive: Amazon has this record for $5!)

 

Key Tracks
Lost Kid (track 6)
Watering Hole (track 7)
Can’t Wake Up (track 1)

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Beautiful Small Machines: The Robots in Love EP

Pandora really is one of the best tools for finding new music. Lately, I’ve had a hard time switching from the Indie Dance station (take a listen to this one if you haven’t before, it’s so much fun). I was listening the other night and found a song I instantly had to seek out so I could listen to it over and over. The song was by a band called Beautiful Small  Machines –  made up of Bree Sharp and Don DiLego, who met up ten years ago while working on a solo album for Sharp. After scrapping the tunes they were working on for her fourth solo album, they formed Beautiful Small Machines. We’re going on a trip with The Robots in Love EP.

Counting Back to 1 is the song that begins the EP and the song I fell in love with on impact. This number is so up tempo it’ll be hard to contain your feelings and energy. Even on my first run through this song, I couldn’t resist swaying and singing along. For the first time in months, I Googled this one for the lyrics. There are electronic sounds used, but they’re used so sparingly and only used to really enhance the music that’s already there. The sounds aren’t used to block out any lack of talent – in fact, the drumming is amazing and the vocals from Bree Sharp are just as soft as you would expect in any indie song. It’s fantastic and I am obsessed.

Robots in Love follows in the same vein. Great fun lyrics, music that you have to move to. There seem to be less electronic sound effects placed into this track. The band remind me of a female-fronted Hellogoodbye when they were still putting out quality tunes.

Super Conducter is so much fun it almost rivals the first track. The drums are so heavy in this number that it feels like you should constantly be clapping. Right before the triumphant end of the song, the band blasts into a brass ending that feels like robots are controlling the sound in your world. The lyrics live up in this one, too. I’ve got the frequency to turn you on.

So Long to U slows things down a bit, showing Sharp’s vocal talents in raw form, backed only by slow drumming, acoustic guitar, and sound effects. This band proves not every electronic act is completely void of any actual talent.

The EP wraps up with Servo Manual Chapter 1 (Mandroids on Whiskey), a track that really feels like you’re at an outdoor concert somewhere on Mars. This song seems to take on a robot as first person singing or making music. It’s an interesting song, probably something that won’t lose your attention any time soon. It’s very different, as one would expect considering it largely sounds like a robot singing I want to be in love with you. As different as it may be, it remains on track with the album and is a great way to end things.

I was impressed when I heard Counting Back to 1 on a whim while listening to Pandora, but this EP only makes me more excited for this band and for the music that they’re producing. It’s unlike a good majority of what I listen to on a regular basis and it’s something I can plainly hear the talent in and enjoy it all the while.

 

Key Tracks
Counting Back to 1 (track 1)
So Long to U (track 4)

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He Is We: My Forever

As you may have figured out if you’ve read my blog for a while, I’ll listen to anything at least once. It doesn’t take much to catch my attention – but holding that attention is a completely different matter. I was going through some festival lineups recently trying to clue myself in to some of the bands, a few caught my attention enough for me to make a note to listen to them further. One of those bands was He Is We, a female-fronted indie pop due from Washington. We’re gonna have a listen to My Forever.

The album opens with Forever and Ever, a lively tune with soft beats and a lovely female voice contributed by Rachel Taylor. I’m a sucker for female fronted bands, and especially good ones. This song keeps its tempo and Taylor’s voice has a great tone with just tinge of a flat edge to keep things interesting.

Owl City steps in for a guest spot on the next track, All About Us. This is an airy track that reminds me lyrically of a Taylor Swift song. I feel like I should be in the middle of a cloud of butterflies when I’m listening to this – maybe while a rainbow shines in the background.

Wikipedia tells me that Taylor and guitarist Trevor Kelly met at a music store where they were both working in their hometown when they discovered like talents and banded up. These two work well together, meshing musically like a jigsaw puzzle.

Kiss It Better allows Kelly’s guitar playing to really be staged properly for recognition. This song is a stark contrast to the rest of the record – it’s dark and chilling and is largely just vocals, guitar and piano. The lyrics tell a story that reminds me of a Romeo and Juliet situation – the female is dying in her lover’s arms and the story focuses on the male character in the tragic love story. Stay with me until I fall asleep, stay with me. Kiss it all better, I’m not ready to go. It’s not your fault, love, you didn’t know.

The album wraps up with one of the strongest tracks, Fall. Taylor’s voice stronger than ever in this song, owning the lyrics and putting real emotion behind them. I let you in and gave you pieces. I’m quick to stumble, pain increases. The string instruments on this track also should get a spotlight, especially during the outbreaks of the chorus. Though the lyrics may be from a breakup standpoint, the music lends a hopeful air to the song, ending the album on a great note.

Between Taylor’s unique voice and Kelly’s strength on guitar, this album is a solid one. I love finding new female fronted bands, and if you’re looking for a lightly popped album with sweet lyrics, this is a pretty good bet. I’m going to listen to their newest EP after this one.

 

Key Tracks
Blame it On The Rain (track 8)
Kiss It Better (track 6)
Fall (track 10)

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Fun.: Some Nights

Though I’ve gotten better at keeping up with the music game nowadays, there are still some things that slip by my radar. If you ever want to drop me some suggestions, my email and my Twitter links are on my Contact page and you can always leave me a comment on one of the posts. Never hesitate to let me know if there’s a band/album you’d like me to review! Three friends have recently recommended the album we’re going to talk about today, so I figured since it was coming from three trusted sources, I better get on it. We’re going to have a listen to Fun.‘s new album Some Nights.

The opening track is something that’s going to pull new listeners in. I don’t know much at all about this band and have only heard one other song (the single that’s out from this album), but the title track and opener to the album is interesting, kind of crazy and a little reminiscent of iconic musicians like Queen and David Bowie.

We Are Young is the song that I know I’ve heard around from various sources, including a commercial if I’m not mistaken. It’s an unsuspectingly beautiful song that feels dense and carefree at the same time.

Why Am I The One is a slower song that really allows Nate Ruess’ voice to be in the spotlight. His voice is in a unique field that’s hard for me to really describe. It’s not that his voice has a high pitch to it, but something about it feels softer than a lot of vocals I’ve heard.

All Alone is probably my favorite off the album. The guitars and drums carry this song right along in a cheery nature. The lyrics also grabbed my interest instantly: I fell in love with a wind-up souvenir. I bought it downtown as I was on my way to meet you. She sounds like the songs you used to sing to put me to sleep. Now that you’re gone, she’s all that I’ve left to hold.

One Foot almost feels to me that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. It’s almost annoying in the chorus, both lyrically and musically.

The album wraps up with Stars, a song that gets the band back on track just in time before the album is over (besides bonus tracks). There’s more electronic influence in this track than a few of the others, but with the other instruments that are mixed in, it doesn’t feel forced or out of place. Though it’s the longest track on the album, it’s one of their most successful.

 

Key Tracks
All Alone (track 7)
We Are Young (Track 3)
Stars (track 10)

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Bon Iver: Bon Iver

Continuing with the Grammy theme, another big winner that I haven’t tuned into yet is Bon Iver. I saw their performance on SNL and was completely floored by the two songs, so it was really no surprise to me that they won two awards on Sunday night. This is an album I know I needed to have a listen to, so their self titled disc from 2011 is going to be the post of the night!

Perth explodes into your ear drums right off the bat and you know this is going to be something different. The vocals are soft and graceful with a higher pitch than most. There are so many instruments molding together, taking good use of their relationships, but shining on their own. There’s really great drum action happening all through the song, leaving an edge to the quiet vocals.

Relaxing, mesmerizing, entrancing. I wrote these words down while I was listening to Holocene for the first time. Usually, when I feel upset or angry, I tend to listen to angrier, harder music, but Bon Iver is so calming that you almost feel as though you’re just laid back, floating on water and clouds. I’m sure this would calm down even the angriest of humans.

Since I don’t know that much about this band, a good Google search was in order. Apparently their band name is derived from the French phrase meaning “good winter” or “have a good winter.” That seems fitting considering the tone of the music. The entire album feels like I could just get lost. It feels almost starkly quiet – like I would envision a scene of snow in a forest that wasn’t touched by human life. For those of you who don’t know, I write this as I’m listening so I can have a more honest reflection on the album. I got so lost in the album that I forgot to mention a couple of songs.

Wash. is so beautiful that I can’t resist writing about it. Stark piano notes open the song over the fragile vocals. Violins chime in to add to the whimsical mixture of instruments. The stark piano notes continue throughout the whole song, which is interesting juxtaposition wise. Having that pitted against such fair vocals is a dynamic that has to be dealt with carefully or one of the sides could be over powered. Bon Iver pull it off perfectly.

The album wraps up with what is possibly the strongest track on the album, Beth/Rest. The vocals are more up front in this song instead of hanging toward the middle ground. The guitar also makes more of an appearance in this song than in others, along with a saxophone and more piano work.

The instrumentation on this album is really what blew me away. There are so many different sounds that are mixing together to create such truly beautiful music that it’s hard to wrap your head around. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get lost in this album in no time. This is such a perfect album to throw on if you’ve had a long day or a stressful day or a joyous day. No matter your mood, it’ll mellow you out and bring to light some truly gorgeous mixing of musical instruments that will uplift your mood and carry your troubles away.

 

Key Tracks
Wash. (track 7)
Beth/Rest (track 10)
Holocene (track 3)

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