March 2010


Before I talk about Dead Man’s Bones, I’ve got to take a second to add one in the win column for technology.  I never would have heard of Dead Man’s Bones if Last.fm hadn’t aggregated all of my music listening habits and known that because I like Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Local Natives, Yeasayer and Fanfarlo, that, hey, maybe I’d like this band that I’d never heard of – and guess what, they were dead on.  Impressive stuff.

Anyways, about the band – they’re from L.A., and the more Hollywood-savvy amongst you may be interested to know that Ryan Gosling is one of the founding members.  Their self-titled debut album came out late last year, and is a collaboration with the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir.  I don’t mean one or two songs either – every song on the album features the choir, which is pretty interesting and unusual – although it begs the question of what the setup is for their live shows, and whether they will incorporate another choir for album #2.  ‘My Body’s a Zombie for You’ utilizes the choir to its full effect, making what is, at its core, a moody and dark song, into a fun sing-a-long that seems to beg listeners to link arms in a giant circle, sway to the rhythm and belt out the chorus.  Great stuff.

[mp3] Dead Man’s Bones – My Body’s A Zombie For You

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Lollapalooza has kind of announced their lineup for the 2010 festival (Aug 6-8).  You’ll see what I mean when you go to the site.  Any pro Wheel of Fortune or Jumble players here?

So far, I think I see:

  • Spoon
  • Arcade Fire?
  • The New Pornographers
  • Cut Copy
  • Lady Gaga?
  • Hot Chip
  • Dirty Projectors
  • The Strokes?
  • The XX
  • MGMT?
  • Soundgarden
  • The Black Keys
  • Phoenix
  • … others?

Fanfarlo is one of those bands which divides people into two groups: those that have never heard of them, and those that love them.  I clearly fall into the second group, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to see them in person, I have heard from multiple sources that they are great live – based on their recordings, I’d expect nothing less.

They are a London-based outfit, and their music is feel-good and flowing – ranging from hand-claps and foot-stomps on ‘I’m a Pilot’ to xylophony goodness and more hand-claps (of course) on ‘Finish Line’.  It’s all very melodic and unassuming.  One second you’re listening quietly, enjoying it all – the next second you’re humming along, and then, before you know it you’re singing along with the chorus.  Perfect music for the relaxed, easygoing days of spring.

[mp3] FanfarloI’m a Pilot
[mp3] FanfarloFinish Line

When I first heard Camera Obscura, I was amazed I hadn’t come across them earlier.  The Glasgow-based band has been around in various forms since 1996 and has released four albums over that time period.  Despite the breadth of time those albums cover, each has a common characteristic which endears them to me.  It’s hard to describe, but they all have the ability to lull the listener into a quasi-dreamy state, only to explode seconds later into a catchy, fun chorus.  In other words, it’s music that never fails to make me smile.  Some songs exhibiting this style are ‘Eighties Fan’ (off of their first album in 2001), which is a sweet, slow-paced, innocuous song before tambourine bells usher in a change of tempo about halfway though.  Something about those bells seems to trigger a Pavlovian response to be happy (I haven’t yet noticed a propensity to salivate though).  Another song, off their most recent album ‘My Maudlin Career’, which doesn’t quite take quite as long to reach an upbeat, fun tempo, is ‘French Navy’.  Right from the get-go this one hits you with a punchy one-two which returns multiple times for repeat performances – all-in-all, it makes for a memorable, fun, catchy song.

[mp3] Camera ObscuraEighties Fan
[mp3] Camera ObscuraFrench Navy

I haven’t heard too much from Wakey!Wakey! but what I have heard has been amazing enough to warrant a post here (high bar, I know).  Wakey!Wakey! have a few things going for them – exciting, carefree, upbeat songs backed by piano, an assortment of other instruments, and fun backup vocals.  Oh, and an amazing name for a band.

‘Twenty-Two’ is off of their first full-length album entitled ‘Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You…’, released in February 2010.  It’s has a light, carefree start with some great whistling, some great lyrics, and combines with the deep groove of the chorus to form a really catchy song.  Also, as far as I can tell, it’s about alcoholism (?), which would make it the second most fun song about alcoholism ever (Weezer still holds top spots for pure shoutability).

[mp3] Wakey!Wakey!Twenty-Two

Also, they have an amazing cover of Ambling Alp by Yeasayer (profiled earlier) where all the synth pieces are done with instruments – so so so good.

To be clear upfront, this post isn’t about complex issues of Zionism or terrorism or whatnot – rather it’s about an Australian band going by the somewhat misnomered alias of ‘The Middle East‘.

They create dynamic and beautiful music, a prime example being ‘Blood’, a song that starts out sweet and subtle, with a magical, carefree, and almost ambivalent melody (and a xylophone – love xylophones).  About halfway through, ‘Blood’ starts to get going and builds momentum, ushering listeners to a multitude of layered instruments and jubilant background vocals that seem to reach for the sky.  The stop-motion artsy video below complements the song well and is a great way to experience the music.

[mp3] The Middle EastBlood

The National just released a song off of their new album ‘High Violet’ titled ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’.  The song is typical fare for The National, which, if you’re like me, is not a bad thing at all.  The song can be downloaded at the album’s website at http://www.highviolet.com/.

Still no leak/release yet for ‘Terrible Love‘, the single that was previewed on Fallon a few weeks ago – I’m very much looking forward to an album-quality version of that one…

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