Favorited ex.fm Songs

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sasquatch Roadtrip

As of tomorrow at 6 am, I'll be on the road and headed to Sasquatch music festival. To say I'm excited is probably an understatement. Before that though, I'll have roughly 24 hours of driving by myself to get there, so we'll see if I can maintain my sanity until the concert starts. I won't be bringing my computer along, so I won't be able to blog along the way (although I imagine I'll have something to say when I get back). I may try to tweet periodically on the way out there or (battery allowing) while I'm at the festival too. If you're interested, you can follow me @RyneVanK.

While I was looking for a song for to include with this post, I decided to use "Montana" a song from Rocky Votolato's 2003 album Suicide Medicine merely because that's where I'll be spending my first night on my trip. However, after finding the live performance below, I'll probably have to include all of Suicide Medicine in my listening plans for the road trip now. It's far too daunting for me to ever actually compile a formal list of my favorite albums of all-time, but if I did, Suicide Medicine would almost certainly make the cut. And now with this trip ahead of me, I'm starting to think that some Rocky Votolato tunes may be the perfect soundtrack for the ends of long days of driving.

Anyhow, enjoy the song!

Friday, May 18, 2012

This week in music (Week of 5/15/2012)

New release of the week - Bloom by Beach House

The newest offering by Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House was the only album this week that really interested me much (although I could obviously be missing things that I don't know about). The album is receiving pretty positive reviews all over the place including an A- from Paste, an A from Listen Before You Buy, and a 9.1 out of 10 and a "Best New Music" designation from Pitchfork. I've listened to the album 2-3 times now, and I enjoy it, but it hasn't really hooked me yet. As you may imagine from the dream pop genre that they get classified into, the album features lots of lush, ambient soundscapes that just wash over you as you listen. Because of this, I imagine it's the type of album that will take me hearing it at just the right place and time for it to really click for me. It definitely has potential to become a favorite for me. Below you can listen to the first track from the album, "Myth". You can also right click here, to download the track courtesy of KEXP. As of right now, you can download the album from Amazon for $4.99, so head over there soon if you feel so inclined.

Co-new release of the week

I had planned on mentioning down here that earlier this week I had my playlist of 2012 albums on my iPod on shuffle and that I was really getting into an EP by a band called Hazy Mountains that came up (or just one guy called that on closer inspection). Well, I'm still going to mention that, but I'm also going to add that I was pleasantly surprised to see that while looking for a link to his Bandcamp page, I discovered that he also has a brand-spanking new EP just released yesterday. The older EP that I was really enjoying can be streamed below, or downloaded for free (along with his new EP) from Hazy Mountains' Bandcamp page here.

Like Beach House, Hazy Mountains also plays dream pop although his music is purely instrumental. It reminds me a bit of The Album Leaf (one of my favorites) with a bit more of a chaotic sound at times, although I admit I don't have much knowledge of the genre. Certain bands like The Album Leaf, Explosions in the Sky, and this Gold EP by Hazy Mountains just have a way of completely absorbing me into the music. It's a tough line to walk between that and coming off boring, but some bands can do it.

Miscellaneous News and Notes

* One of the reasons I don't give anything grades or scores on here is that I think music is a largely subjective and personal thing. I do actually keep track of scores I give albums for my own reference, but it doesn't feel right saying some album deserves 5/10 just because I don't like it when most other people do. Mostly for me, it is a way to remember later on what I thought of a large number of records so I know what to return to when making my lists of favorites at the end of the year. I think Father John Misty (aka J. Tillman) may agree with this general sentiment after he took Pitchfork to task with an epic rant on Twitter over their (generally positive) review of his album. The whole thing can be read here and is pretty amusing.

* Also, as I've mentioned before, I'm driving to Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington state, and I could not be more excited. One of the very first bands on the schedule is Of Monsters and Men. They recently performed "Little Talks" on Jimmy Fallon, and every time I hear that song, I just come away wondering how a song can be so good. I know a lot of people heard it last year on the EP they released, but it's mostly new to me, and it will likely end up as one of my top 5 or so songs of the year (with a decent shot at #1). Head on over to KEXP here to check out the performance, featuring a pretty good trumpet solo.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Tallest Man On Earth song!

My last post (here if you missed it) was pretty long and rambling, so I'll keep this one short(er).

In the past couple years, I've come around to the conclusion that Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth is incapable of making a bad song. His first album, Shallow Grave ($5 on Amazon), was one of my three favorite albums of 2008 along with Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit and For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. In 2010, he released The Wild Hunt. A second album from an artist you love can be a tricky thing and many people believe in a sophomore slump for musicians (I'd call it regression to the mean, but that's the statistician in me getting in the way). Either way, I didn't want to get my hopes up too high, but frankly I think it blew his previous album out of the water, and it ended up being my favorite album of that year. Later in 2010, he also released a five song EP called "Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird." I tend to ignore and/or forget about EPs usually because I like having a longer album. I'm sometimes guilty of this with this EP too, but the songs on it rank up there with some of his best. If anyone is a fan of his and doesn't own this EP, stop reading this entry and go buy it this instant. You won't regret it.

Well that brings us to 2012. Knowing that The Tallest Man On Earth had an album coming out this year, it was clearly one of my most anticipated albums of the year given the track record I described, but again I worry about building things up too much. A couple months back, I heard a live version of a song called "Little Brother" and immediately fell in love with it. Just a few days ago, another track was released, this time an actual studio version of a song called "1904." It's everything I've grown to expect and love ina Tallest Man On Earth song, and with that, I'm ready to throw caution to the wind. There is no doubt in my mind anymore that this will be one of my favorite albums of the year, just like every other time he has released an album. I'll just have to listen to these two songs over and over and over again to tide me over until June 12 when "There's No Leaving Now" is released.

You can listen to "1904" by clicking here (or download it by right-clicking) thanks to KEXP.

Also, if you get a chance to see him perform live, take it! I've seen him three times and each time he has been funny, engaging, and fantastic in all of his normal ways.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rambling thoughts on the music industry and lesser-known musicians

I'm going to admit before I start this post that it probably won't be anywhere near as coherent as I'd like it to be because I'm not sure it is fully coherent in my head. If you'd rather not read about how Spotify may affect lesser known musicians, feel free to just skip down to the music at the bottom, but it's something I've thought about a lot lately so if you can handle my long winded nature, please read on.

I know lots of people complain that music today just isn't what it used to be. I'd argue that anyone who thinks that isn't looking in the right places because we live in such a golden age of opportunity for music discovery. I wrote a post a while back about all of the different ways that I discover new music. Just stopping to think about all of the options available is kind of crazy. I'm not that old (a 26 year old grad student), but I remember when it seemed the only way to find music was to listen to what the radio was playing or to see who was playing concerts with other artists you liked. I wasn't as obsessive about searching for music back then as I am now, but the options were definitely fewer and further between.

With all of that being said, this great freedom of discovery seems a bit dangerous for the music that is out there. If it's so easy to stream every album from Spotify, what is the incentive to go and buy that album (possibly supporting your local record store in the process). I tend to buy albums I find myself listening to over and over because I like being able to put them on my iPod and I enjoy supporting the artist that is bringing me joy (or some other emotion depending on the artist) with their music. However, I know that isn't the case for a lot people. Lots of people solely rely on Spotify, Grooveshark, Pandora, bit torrents, or any number of other resources. That's all good and well I suppose, and to each their own and whatnot, but what gets lost in this is what the actual effect of this decision is.

This isn't intended to be some lecture against people who don't buy music (and I hope it doesn't come off that way), but I was surprised after reading a blog post by a musician about just how little they make from even a legal service like Spotify. In the linked post, a musician named Bradley James shows a Spotify royalties screen capture that says he had his songs streamed 4,498 times in the past month and made $20.76. Stop to think about that for a minute. That means every time one of his songs was streamed, he made just under half of one cent. That's still a little abstract. Say he had one song that you really liked. You could go buy it from iTunes for $.99 (of which he says the artist gets about $0.64). For the artist to get that much from Spotify, you would have to stream the song 139 times, which is frankly a ton. For a four minute song, that would mean you spent over 9 hours listening to it and the artist made less than a dollar (and you paid nothing).

People may ask, why put your music on a service like Spotify if you aren't happy with how much you make. Well, because of this golden age of music discovery that we the consumer live in, artists need to get their music out there however they can. They need to weigh the benefits of people discovering them but maybe not paying for their music versus people paying for it but fewer people knowing about them. Likely they hope that these free streams will turn into money from CD sales, song downloads, concert tickets, or merchandise.

This discussion has gone on long enough, but I think all of this is something to at least think about when you consume music. Artists like Radiohead, Kanye West, or Lady Gaga can probably afford to have people stream their music instead of buying it, but for lesser known artists I'm sure it can be tough to stay in the game if you're making half a cent per time someone listens to your song. I absolutely love Spotify, and I use it all the time, but I try to make it a tool to try music before deciding if I want to buy it rather than as a substitute. I'm sure most artists don't make music for the money, but that doesn't mean that if they make something that people enjoy, they shouldn't be rewarded in a way that allows them to keep doing it. With that out of the way, I want to highlight a few lesser known musicians that I've enjoyed lately. If you like them maybe you'll want to pay a few bucks for an album, and if you don't hopefully you can find other artists you'd like to support.

Marching Donald

Marching Donald, along with the blog post I linked above, was one of the inspirations for this post. Marching Donald is the stage name of Ryan Davies, a British singer/songwriter. He emailed me a couple weeks ago after I wrote about a friend's band, Suburban Dirts (who put out an awesome rockin' folk/country album a couple months ago). He asked that I check out his recently released album, suggesting that he was influenced by several artists I had written about previously. I happily obliged and was pleasantly surprised. The album was recorded live and can be a little rough around the edges (which isn't a problem with me if you've read recent posts). Influences like The Tallest Man On Earth definitely peek through on tracks like "A Touch of Blue," which I think is my favorite track on the album. On other tracks, there is an exploration of heavier styles with hard strumming on the guitar and louder vocals. The album has really grown on me with a few listens, and even more I look forward to seeing what he can continue to do in the future after a promising debut.

Check out "A Touch of Blue" below along with the lead track on the album (which gives you a little sense of the varying styles). If you like what you hear, you can check out the rest on Spotify (other favorite tracks are "My Book" and "Duvet Day"), and if you really like it might I recommend buying it?

I Build Collapsible Mountains

This is an artist that I've written about before, but he's also one that came to mind several times while listening to Marching Donald. The styles can be similar and neither is very well known, but both have put out really good music that deserves to be heard. I Build Collapsible Mountains has released two full-length albums (although one has since been pulled until a more formal release later this year) and one EP. I've purchased all three and really enjoy them. His EP may be my favorite of the bunch though, and you can currently download it from Bandcamp for only $1. You can stream the EP below, starting with my favorite track "Rails" ("Slowapproacher" is my second favorite):

Ko Ko

With Ko Ko, I'm veering off into a different genre. This band is an incredibly sunny sounding indie pop band from California. I believe they only have a 3-song EP to their name thus far, but "Float" is basically the perfect summer song, and I imagine I'll be listening to it countless times over the next few months.

The Miracals

The Miracals are another band making cheery sounding indie pop out of California. You can buy their EP from last year on Bandcamp for any price you choose (including $0 if you want). However, the real highlight from this band to date is almost certainly the music video they made for "FRNZ". Anyone who has spent as much time playing Mario Kart 64 as I have (or who likes goofy dancing) should enjoy the choice.

Obviously there are thousands upon thousands of little known artists out there in the world, but these are just a few that I have been enjoying lately. I'd love to hear suggestions in the comments of other musicians that people enjoy who may not be known to a large audience.

Monday, May 7, 2012

New Band: Field Report

A good way to get me to listen to an artist is to mention that he used to play with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. A good way to get me to keep listening is to make some exceptional music. Check and check for Field Report.

Before Justin Vernon went off to the woods to record his debut album, he was in a band based out of North Carolina called DeYarmond Edison. Their album Silent Sighs was a really good folky album. If I had known them at the time, I'm sure I would have been sad to hear about their breakup. However, since breaking up, a lot of amazing music has come from the various members of the band. Justin Vernon somehow turned Bon Iver into a huge success, which is great for him as he seems like a good guy. I love that his success has allowed him the freedom to collaborate to his heart's content and try out all sorts of different things (how many other people in the same year can sing a hit song with Kanye West and guest on a "folk opera" with Anais Mitchell?). Three of the other members went on to create the band Megafaun and collaborate with Vernon and countless others in Polica. What I didn't know about DeYarmond Edison until pretty recently is that for a while there was also a fifth member, Chris Porterfield, who played pedal steel. Well apparently they are the band that keeps on giving.

Chris Porterfield is set to release his debut album later this summer under the name Field Report (an anagram of his last name). To date, he has only three unmastered demos available for listen, but they've definitely got me hooked and excited for his album. The songs are exceptionally well crafted folk songs with guitar that just seems to draw me in to a place of comfort. Everything including the hushed vocals builds around that. I can't explain it, but there are certain songs that just make me feel like if they never ended I could just sit in pure relaxation forever along with them.

I can't really choose a favorite of the three, but this one name dropping Fergus Falls, Minnesota will do for now. Check it out below, and then head to Field Report's website here to stream or download the other two tracks.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This week in music (Week of 5/1/2012)

New release of the Week - Body Faucet by Reptar

Reptar are anything but your normal band. For one thing, they are named after a dinosaur from the TV show Rugrats (seen on the right). According to the "about the artist" section on Amazon, they originally wanted to go with "Invisible Boyfriend" as a band name but were told it was the stupidest name ever. Thus they settled on Reptar because "It is the second stupidest band name we have ever heard." Body Faucet is a lot more poppy and full of infectious sing-a-long hooks than most of the music I listen to, but I just can't stop listening to this album. It feels like perfect music to soundtrack the summer, and I have a feeling I'll be listening to this album a ton as the weather gets warmer. I've also noticed that they are playing at Sasquatch Music Festival at the end of the month, and I can't wait to see what kind of live show they have. You can check out the lead track from the album below:

Other notable releases

This week has surprisingly turned into a fantastic week for new music. That Reptar album is actually only one of three albums that came out on Tuesday that has been soundtracking my final week of the semester.

Nick Waterhouse is another artist (like JD McPherson two weeks ago) who is making music that sounds like it could have come out just as easily 50 years ago. His debut album, Time's All Gone, is a fantastic debut for the 25 year old (it's always simultaneously impressive and depressing when people younger than me are making such great and timeless sounding music). I'll let the music speak for itself:

Also out this week is Fear Fun by Father John Misty (aka J. Tillman, aka the former drummer of Fleet Foxes). I first heard the song "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" when he released a video for it a few weeks ago that featured Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation. As much as I wanted to like it, that song really didn't do much for me, so I didn't really expect to like the album, but that changed as soon as I heard it. A lot of the album has sort of a classic country feel (with hints of Fleet Foxes) that just keeps growing on me more and more with each listen. I would not be surprised if all three of the albums mentioned this week end up relatively high on my best albums of the year list. The first week of May has set the bar high! You can stream the whole Father John Misty album here (which I highly recommend you do), or check out one of the songs below:

Miscellaneous News and Notes

* I've been busy most of the week with school work, so I don't have much for this section, but I thought I'd mention that Jack White's album Blunderbuss is starting to grow on me after a couple listens. I'm guessing a lot of other people are enjoying it too because it is his first album ever to reach #1 on the Billboard charts.