Favorited ex.fm Songs

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Walking With Memoryhouse

The Canadian duo Memoryhouse released their first full-length album today, The Slideshow Effect, on Sub Pop. The band seems to fall in the "dream pop" genre, which I admit to not being overly familiar with. The music is generally soft, unobtrusive, and ambient, but for some reason I'm really enjoying this album and could see myself returning to it over and over. Sometimes you just need something to put on and zone out to, and this seems to be a really good album for doing just that. That's not to say that the music is boring or uninteresting. It really isn't, and the more I listen to it the more I pick up on little elements going on here and there. It's just that it can lend itself well to either attentive or inattentive listening.

The song that really hooked me was "Walk With Me," which I first heard a couple months ago (and which can be downloaded for free on Amazon and streamed below). Repeated listens to "Walk With Me" led to me eagerly anticipating the album's release today. Again, I can't really articulate what sets this song apart from other dream pop songs that I've heard and subsequently forgotten, but for whatever reason I found myself coming back to it repeatedly. The song starts out with an organ type sound and a sort of quiet hypnotic beat in the background before slowly adding some sort of bells and then vocals. It takes about two minutes before picking up a bit, but the build up makes the eventual refrain all the more enjoyable. Before you can get too comfortable with the refrain, there is a quieter interlude. The song closes with another couple trips through the refrain, which repeats until the end but resists becoming stale or redundant by adding various vocal or instrumental elements on subsequent passes. If you want to stream the song before downloading it above, here you go:

While I wanted to highlight my favorite track from the album (and one of my favorites of 2012 so far), you can listen to the whole album via Spin or below for free. Since it just came out today, I've only been able to listen to it all the way through once, but I anticipate going back several times in the next week or two.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Helio Sequence (Sasquatch #2)

A couple posts ago I wrote about discovering Of Monsters and Men while listening to music by artists that will be performing at Sasquatch Music Festival this year. Since then, I've continued to pile up artists that I've wanted to write about, but I've been too busy to get much written. However, today I can finally get around to my second installment, The Helio Sequence.

The Helio Sequence is an indie rock band from the Portland area. I'm not sure if there is something in the water in Portland or what, but they really seem to churn out great musicians left and right (like M. Ward, The Decemberists, The Shins, Elliott Smith, Blind Pilot, and plenty more). Additionally, the band is signed to Seattle based Sub Pop Records (which has been a more metaphorical home for such great artists as The Postal Service, The Album Leaf, Band of Horses, and The Shins, in addition to signing Nirvana and releasing their first record). Between those two facts, I'm kind of surprised I wasn't aware of The Helio Sequence until now. One reason for that may be that they haven't released an album since 2008 when they released "Keep Your Eyes Ahead."

There is plenty to love on "Keep Your Eyes Ahead" though. The title track is a catchy indie rock number (which you can download via The Current by right clicking here). A writer (and probably also DJ) for KEXP posted a list of his 99 Favorite Songs of All-Time that included "Keep Your Eyes Ahead" at number 64. I'd have to listen to it more to see if it becomes a favorite of mine, but in the meantime the song preceding it on the album was the one that immediately hooked me.

While "Keep Your Eyes Ahead" is fairly energetic guitar and drum driven rock, "Shed Your Love" is a really sweet sounding acoustic song with mostly soft guitar and hushed vocals. Both of these songs deal with loss of some form with the former being about looking forward while the latter focuses on dealing more with the past.

The general sound of the song reminds me a bit of "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's (although I like this one a lot more). Both songs deal with themes of distance separating two people. But where "Hey There Delilah" is much more optimistic about the future, "Shed Your Love" seems to focus on a relationship that fell apart before the singer was ready for it as illustrated in lines like:
Home again to find that you were gone
On a subway train before the dawn
Said that you couldn’t stay and wait for me
Shed your love, shed your love
I'm not sure I can exactly pinpoint why I connected with the song so strongly when I first heard it, but I listened to it about 5 times in a row before moving onto the rest of the album (and I've returned to it a bunch since then). You can listen to the song in the video below:

If you're looking for a third track to check out, "Hallelujah" (not a Leonard Cohen cover) is another favorite of mine. With that said, I've been listening to the album while writing this post, and the whole thing is really starting to grow on me, so I recommend just listening to the whole thing on Spotify or downloading it if you like the tracks above.

According to the band's Facebook page, they are almost finished with a new album that should be out sometime this year. If the new one is anything like their last, I expect it to find it solidly entrenched somewhere on my favorite albums of the year come December.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A fun. Update

The new (to me) music recommendations are put on hold for at least another day due to an awesome free music offer.

The band "fun." (yep that's how it is written) has a new album called Some Nights that will be released this coming Tuesday. The band was formed by the lead singer of The Format (after their break-up a few years ago), as well as one member each from Anathallo and Steel Train. Their first album, Aim and Ignite, was released in 2009, and was one of my favorite albums of that year (and seemed to be well received by most others too). There is a widget at the bottom of the page to get the album for free (or for whatever value you place on the release of your email address and zip code). I believe they are only doing it for a few days to build buzz for their new record, so I recommend hopping on that while you still have time.

It's somewhat annoying when a band does all the work of describing their music for you, but the best description of the album is really just "fun". However, if you're looking for a little more to go off, the band is indie pop / power pop type music. If you don't want to jump in without sampling anything first, here is one of my favorite tracks off the record:

I've only given their new album, which you can stream below, one listen so far. It seems like a little bit of a deviation from their last album. Right now I'm definitely not enjoying it as much as their first album (or either of The Format's albums, which were both fantastic), but I could see it possibly growing on me. The amazingly named blog I Hope Your Ears Bleed alerted me to the free download of Aim and Ignite, and they seem to love the new album, so certainly don't take my word for it (especially since mine could very well change in a few days). One thing that is undeniable is that the band has gained much more mainstream success with this new record, whether by design or not. The first single "We Are Young," which features Janelle Monae, was apparently covered on an episode of Glee and featured in a Super Bowl commercial, which propelled it to #1 on the iTunes download list. The Format and fun. have both been a couple of my favorite bands, so I'm happy that they've managed to get some recognition for their music (along with the money that hopefully comes along with it).

Even just over the time taking me to write this post, some aspects are growing on me. A big reason for that is the power that Nate Ruess can pack into his voice. It's a real highlight of their live shows. I've seen The Format and fun. once each, and both times I came away impressed with the way he can just absolutely belt out their songs the entire night without losing any steam by the end. Anyhow, download the old album, check out the new album, and enjoy free things!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sasquatch and Of Monsters and Men

Anyone who has talked to me for any extended length of time over the last week or two probably knows that I am going to the Sasquatch Music Festival in George, Washington this May. These same people may very well be sick of me talking about it already. The festival is one that I have wanted to attend the last 3 or 4 years, but I've never been able to find someone to go with / actually pull the trigger and just do it. Fortunately, this year I finally did both of those, and I could not be more excited. The festival takes place over 4 days Memorial Day weekend, and as of right now there are 121 musicians and comedians slated to perform. A whole bunch of them are people I've heard before and love. However, with a list that big, there are a great number more who I've heard of but never listened to, or who I have never even come across. I dedicated a whole post a while back to how I discover new music, but this festival has already become a HUUUUUGE source of new discoveries. I've been going through and trying to listen to at least a couple of these new artists each day. Some of them aren't really my cup of tea, but there are also plenty that I can't believe I've never heard before (and that I am insanely glad I now have heard)! Because of that, I'm getting a big backlog of posts that I want to write, so (time permitting) I'm really hoping to start posting a little more regularly to talk about some of these artists.

Alright, now that that (far too) long-winded intro is out of the way, onto one of my new discoveries, a band from Iceland called Of Monsters and Men. I feel like I had seen the band name around, but for one reason or another I never actually listened to their music. Part of the reason is probably that, to date, they've released only a 4-song EP here in the states. However, that's due to change later this year, with their full-length set to drop in April. I'll actually be pretty surprised if they don't blow up somewhat and get pretty popular (and it may already be happening). I've got it on good authority from a friend in the Twin Cities that they are in fairly heavy rotation on The Current right now.

The lead track from their EP, Little Talks (watch/listen below), will get stuck in your head. That's almost a guarantee. The verses feature a playful sounding back and forth between the two lead singers reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (especially in their exceptional single Home). The lyrics seem to tell the story of a woman losing her mind after her husband dies while his ghost watches over her. Or who knows, maybe it's about something completely different, it's hard to say with lyrics. Other parts of the song have sort of a Florence + The Machine vibe to them. Combine these aspects with some catchy horn playing (ALWAYS a plus in my book) and group singing/shouting leading into the chorus, and the song becomes pretty hard not to sing along with or dance to when it is on.

The rest of the EP is solid too, although Little Talks is definitely the stand-out. I'm eagerly awaiting hearing the LP in April, and in just a day or two, Of Monsters and Men has gone from a complete unknown to one of the artists I'm most looking forward to at Sasquatch.

Stream "Little Talks" or watch the video below:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day from No, The Moon Ain't Romantic

I know everyone has different feelings about Valentine's Day as a holiday. It has never particularly been one of my favorites, so I can relate to anyone that doesn't feel like listening to love songs today. However, it's hard to deny that there is a whole lot of good music out there that's appropriate to today. Therefore, I couldn't resist putting together a list of a few. Here are 6 of my favorites along with a particularly good quote from each song.

For any Parks & Recreation fans (and really if you aren't, you should re-evaluate some things in your life), the picture on the left is from this site. They've got quite a few good ones, so check them out. I've also found some cool Valentine's in these places if you like Lost, Community, Fringe,
or just generally nerdy things. Anyhow, onto the music!

First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes

Yours was the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
I don't know where I am, I don't know where I've been
But I know where I want to go

I'll Be Yr Bird by M. Ward

Then when there's no one to care
I could protect you like I've always been there.
I'll become your bear.

Such Great Heights by The Postal Service

I am thinking it's a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and when we kiss
They're perfectly aligned

Kathleen by Josh Ritter

All the other girls here are stars, you are the Northern Lights
They try to shine in through your curtains, you're too close and too bright
They try and they try, but everything that they do
Is the ghost of a trace of a pale imitation of you

(What an insanely good way to start a song...)

We're So Far Away by Mae

Did you know how you would move me, did you know?
Did you know how you would move me?
Well, I don't even think so,
but the moment's magic swept us away.
And it's so close, but we're so far away.

(I really wish I could find a non-live version of this song, but this one is pretty good. This whole album is gorgeous and really recommended if you haven't heard it)

John Hughes Endings by Hanalei

Two arrows struck when their eyes first crossed paths
They were paralyzed by each other causing cupid's content
He broke the stare shyly, she brushed her hair from her face
They were pulled to each other by the center of the room

John Hughes Endings
(I hope this player works, but it is way too hard to find Hanalei's music. It always frustrates me that they aren't bigger. One of my absolute favorite artists.)


As a little bonus, that I forgot about until right before posting this, here is Colin Meloy covering Sam Cooke's classic "Cupid"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Special Super Bowl Edition

I've got to head out to go watch the "Big Game" soon, but I've got a quick Super Bowl blog post ready to go, so without further ado...

In honor of the two teams involved this year, we've got "O New England" by English folk legend Billy Bragg and "We Looked Like Giants" by Death Cab for Cutie.

But this game is about more than just the two teams involved, so we ought to pay some respect to the people involved in the game. Eli Manning is looking to pass his brother Peyton in number of Super Bowls won after today, so to honor him, we've got "Eli, The Barrow Boy" by The Decemberists.

On the other sideline, Bill Belichick looks to win his fourth Super Bowl, which would tie the record for most ever by a head coach. In his honor, we've got "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" by The Velvet Underground.

What did I miss?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New M. Ward music!

A little over a week ago, M. Ward announced that he would be releasing a new album, "A Wasteland Companion," on April 10. That was fantastic news in its own right, but today we get our first taste of what the album will sound like. He released a music video for the song "The First Time I Ran Away." The style of the video is very similar to his video for "Chinese Translation" (and according to Pitchfork they were directed by the same person).

As for the sound, the song starts with M. Ward's (should be) trademarked soft guitar playing. If he ever made an entirely instrumental album, I could probably just listen to it on repeat as a soundtrack to my life. But I digress... "The First Time I Ran Away" consists of verses detailing two times the singer ran away, and his hopes for the final time. The structure is similar to the storytelling elements in songs like "Sad, Sad Song" from "Transfiguration of Vincent" and "Chinese Translation" from the "Post-War" album. The sound reminds me a bit more like those two albums than like his most recent, "Hold Time."

"A Wasteland Companion" can be pre-ordered from the Merge Records store (allegedly with a free poster tossed in). If the price seems a little steep there, I'm sure you can always wait and get it cheaper from Amazon or another outlet. M. Ward also has a string of U.S. tour dates in April and May (as well as some non-U.S. ones before that) that you can check out here. I'm planning to get tickets to go see him at First Avenue in Minneapolis on May 24.

And I've rambled enough, so without further ado, here's the first taste of "A Wasteland Companion." I hope YouTube's servers are up to the task of handling how many times I plan to listen to this song between now and April 10...

And if you feel like singing along... here is what I've gathered are the lyrics from listening to the video. So they could be off a bit, but I think they're close...

The first time I ran away I saw faces in the trees
I heard voices in the stormy sea, ooooooooh
(by the waterfall)

The second time I ran away I saw warriors on the train
catching tigers by the tail
They sang ooooooooh

Cause the way they look at you as if you were a stranger
The way they talk to you as if you were a child
(by the waterfall)

The last time I run away, well I hope it is with you
Will you let me show you where to run?
(by the waterfall)

And for comparison (and because it's an awesome song), here is the video for "Chinese Translation" as well.