Favorited ex.fm Songs

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Free Music Update - 2/19/2012

A bunch of really good free music has been popping up lately, so I thought I'd round some of it up into one post for people who are interested.

First, Hanalei, one of my all-time favorite artists just decided to release all of his old albums along with a new album of miscellaneous covers and alternate versions of tracks for free on a new Bandcamp page. Click here to check it out. I wrote about Hanalei a while back if you're interested in reading that. If you're looking for a place to start, "Parts and Accessories" and "We Are All Natural Disasters" are two of my favorite albums (and not just by Hanalei). The former has an alt-country feel with moments of rock interspersed. It also features some of my favorite lyrics of any album. Very few artists can't paint a picture of a time and place as well as Brian Moss does. Often the songs just feel like tiny movies that you're living inside of. "Parts and Accessories" is one of those albums that I could listen to anytime anywhere. Almost anytime I'm in the car for more than an hour or two it gets a listen. On the other hand, "We Are All Natural Disasters," Hanalei's first album, was a solo project that is a bit more in the indie pop vein. Electronic elements make it just a little bit reminiscent of The Postal Service. It was the album that originally made me fall in love with Hanalei.

Next up is Beat Radio, who a couple days ago released a free EP in anticipation of their new full-length which came out today (for the more than reasonable price of $4). The EP, which you can pickup here, features an excellent cover of "The House That Heaven Built" by The Japandroids. While The Japandroids version is a high energy anthemic romp, Beat Radio strips the song down into just acoustic guitar and vocals. While that approach would seem to risk losing the energy of the original, it works surprisingly well, instead highlighting the vocals. That cover was my first exposure to Beat Radio when I heard it a couple months ago, but it instantly turned me into a fan.

Miracles of Modern Science, a New York based orchestral pop group, has released their new EP (here) today as a "pay what you want" album. I was introduced to the band about three weeks ago by We Listen For You. Rather than your standard guitar, bass, and drums, they use mandolin, violin, cello, standup bass, and drums. At the time We Listen For You shared the track "Singularity," which was a great introduction to a band exploring what pop music beyond the usual fare. The album is worthwhile on its own merits, but the fact that their doing something different gives even more reason to check it out.

Today I also got an email that Eric and Magill, an indie folk duo originally from Wisconsin, are releasing a free EP (via Bandcamp). I know I've heard the duo's music before, but I just realized today that one of the members is from the now defunct Decibully, another band I used to listen to. I haven't given the new EP a listen, but you can't beat free, and I'm guessing it should be an enjoyable listen.

Lastly, if you haven't picked up the Hilang Child EP that I talked about last month, what are you waiting for??? The EP would almost certainly have made my top albums list last year if I had found it before the year ended. As is, it's one of my go to late night albums when I'm unwinding before bed. The Hilang Child facebook page (which is up to 152 "likes" after being under 100 last month!) has mentioned that they have a couple live acoustic videos coming up soon. I'll continue anxiously awaiting anything new to come from them.

This should be enough free music to tide those of you cash-strapped music lovers over for a little while. There is a lot to enjoy there, so hopefully everyone can find something of interest.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day with The Magnetic Fields

Being single, Valentine's Day doesn't do much for me, but it is a great excuse to listen to The Magnetic Fields' ridiculously ambitious three volume album "69 Love Songs." As frontman Stephen Merritt (quite correctly notes), the album isn't an album about love but rather an album about love songs in all of their many forms. Just from song titles like "I'm Sorry I Love You," "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing," "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits," and "I Don't Believe In The Sun" you can already tell the album runs across a wide range of emotions and states related to love in its many different forms.

A few months back, I read the exceptional "Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records" by John Cook. The book proceeds somewhat chronologically through the history of indie label Merge Records, usually while focusing on one band at a time and largely doing so through interviews and pictures. The Magnetic Fields had a chapter focus on them, as did bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Superchunk, and Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Magnetic Fields chapter, the origin of 69 Love Songs is discussed. Apparently Stephen Merritt was drinking by himself at a piano bar when he decided he would write a musical revue called 100 Love Songs that would cover every kind of love song. When he realized that would be too difficult logistically, he decided to do it for an album, and eventually whittled the number further to 69 love songs.

When the idea for 69 Love Songs (at this point including a 76 page full color booklet) was pitched to Merge Records, there was conflicting excitement and worry between the two heads of the label (two members of the band Superchunk). The Magnetic Fields' previous album had sold only 17,000 copies, so trying to produce and actually sell such an ambitious project with a base audience of that size seemed pretty optimistic. As a compromise, Merge offered to sell the discs separately with only 2,500 box sets made, which included all three of the albums and the booklet. However, the idea and finished product garnered a good deal of media attention, and the album (both versions) ended up selling out almost immediately.

The whole story, along with other anecdotes about The Magnetic Fields, Merge, and their many amazing bands is worth the purchase of "Our Noise". The album has also inspired plenty of other creative homages. The picture on the right is one panel from a comic by Huw "Lem" Davies from a site called 69 Love Songs, Illustrated, which has endeavored to have various artists illustrate each of the songs on the album. I chose this one because it has one of my favorite lines "The only stars there really are were shining in your eyes // There is no sun except the one that never shone on other guys // The moon to whom the poets croon has given up and died // Astronomy will have to be revised." The whole thing is an incredibly cool project to look through, and I could spend countless hours doing so. Most of the songs have been completed and they are hoping to finish the project this year. If they ever get the rights to sell this as a physical book, I would love to buy a copy.

In another project, 69 Minnesota musicians each recorded a song from the album. You can actually download the whole thing for free here. I just discovered the project and haven't had a chance to listen yet, but you can't beat free!

Lastly, there is a series of books called "33 1/3" in which authors pick a classic album and discuss it in a short book. There is one about this album (here) that I'm sure would be an interesting read. Another thing to add to my list.

And since we've made it this far without any actual music, here is "The Book Of Love." Enjoy your February 14th.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This week in music (week of 2/5/2013)

It'll be a short post this week (Note: Now that I'm done, it did not end up being short. One day I'll learn how to just post quick and move on.) even though there was a bunch of great new music.

New release of the week - Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit is one of my five or so favorite artists, so there is little doubt that I would enjoy this album. However, just how much I've enjoyed it has caught me a bit off guard. Their 2008 album "Midnight Organ Fight" has an argument as my favorite album ever (along with M. Ward's "Post-War"). In 2010 I named "The Winter of Mixed Drinks" my second favorite album of the year, so you can see that expectations were sky high for me. Despite that, this album fits very well within those expectations.

For those that don't know, Frightened Rabbit is a Scottish indie rock band. I can't remember where I read it, but lead singer Scott Hutchison said he wrote "pedestrian verse" on the cover or a notebook that he used for the lyrics to this album. Seeing that motivated him to avoid trite lyrics. As he explained it, if you call your album "Pedestrian Verse" and the lyrics really are pedestrian, you'll be called out on it. The first line on the album is "I am that dickhead in the kitchen giving wine to your best girl's glass," so I'd say he has avoided regurgitating generic lyrics at the very least. The delivery of his lyrics in that wonderful Scottish accent mean he probably could spout pedestrian verses and I'd still enjoy it. Fortunately that's not the case.

The album is full of potential favorite songs (like both of their last two albums were). Early on, I'm really enjoying "The Woodpile," "The Oil Slick," "State Hospital," and "Holy." My favorite song on "The Midnight Organ Fight" has probably changed dozens of times, so I'm sure if you ask in a couple weeks I'd give you a different list of favorites. Here are three songs from the album if you want to sample it:

Runner-up of the week - Regions of Light and Sound of God by Jim James

This is the first full-length released by Jim James (lead singer of My Morning Jacket, member of Monsters of Folk) under his own name. While I've always enjoyed My Morning Jacket, it has never been a band that I got too into. This album may make me go back and spend some more time with those older albums though because it is just growing on me more and more with each listen.

Most importantly though, everyone should take a few minutes to watch this performance of "A New Life" by Jim James on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He is backed by The Roots along with a string section and perhaps some other additions as well. The steady build of the song and adding of more members along with the camera/light/whatever else work is amazing. I know Jimmy Fallon can rub some people the wrong way (I used to dislike him but have since been converted), but what he and The Roots are doing with music on their show is fantastic. They refuse to just do what everybody else is doing, and it's great for music / tv. I can't think of another show that would give you a performance like this.

Miscellaneous Links, News, and Notes

* Over the weekend I finally got around to watching Searching For Sugar Man, an Academy Award nominee for best documentary this year. I'll probably write a longer post about it later, but for now I highly recommend checking out the film and the soundtrack. As good as the movie was, the soundtrack is even be better (it's only $5 on Amazon right now). It's a shame Rodriguez never took off as an artist and that we are limited to only two of his albums.

* This weekend, I went to a local record store and saw Velvet Underground's classic album with Nico and the Andy Warhol banana on the front. However, in this version the banana was green, which caught me off guard. After some Googling on my phone, I found out that this version (called "Unripened") was what was originally presented to the studio and in turn rejected along with the note "You have got to be kidding me". I'm waiting for a record cleaner I ordered to arrive before listening, but it sounds like the tracks are re-ordered and several versions of the songs are a bit noisier / rougher around the edges. Regardless, I'm pretty excited to add this to my slowly growing vinyl collection and to get a chance to hear it soon.

* I agree with a lot of what was said in this post about the cheapening of the music industry. It is well worth a read. Don't worry, it's pretty short.

* Dawes is set to release a new album in April. A few days ago they gave us the first taste of the album:

* Sasquatch Music Festival announced their lineup a couple weeks ago, and it was something to behold (including The Postal Service, Sigur Ros, The xx, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and just a ton more great acts). Because of this, I expected tickets to sell a bit faster than the couple months it took last year. What I didn't expect was for them to sell out in just over an hour. Here's hoping I can still find a not too expensive ticket on Stub Hub or something and can make my second trip to George, Washington this summer.

Friday, February 1, 2013

This week in music (week of 1/29/13)

The first couple weeks of the year are usually pretty slow in terms of new releases. Outside of the Wooden Wand album that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, not too much has caught my ear. That is until recently when things have really started to pick up.

Album of the week - Hummingbird by Local Natives

I mentioned this album in my last "This week in music" post. At the time, the band had just released the song "Heavy Feet." I still can't get enough of that song in particular, but the rest of the album is wonderful as well. If you're familiar with the band's excellent debut "Gorilla Manor," you're in for a bit of a sonic change. While their last album was full of catchy sing-a-long songs (like "Wide Eyes," "Sun Hands," "Camera Talk," and "Cubism Dream"), this album feels a bit more cohesive as just that, an album. It reminds me more of someone like Grizzly Bear (who I actually haven't gotten that into, but that's beside the point). "Gorilla Manor" had numerous songs that would make me perk up whenever I heard them, but as a whole, the album wasn't one that I really found myself listening to repeatedly. With "Hummingbird," Local Natives seem to have found a way to make an album greater than the sum of its parts. That's not to say there aren't standouts here too, it just takes a little while to find them. Part of it may be that "Heavy Feet" lodged itself in my ears and wouldn't allow me to move on to other songs for a while, but "You & I" and "Breakers" are other standout tracks. The album has been well received pretty universally, and it is for good reason. I've already listened to this album more than any other album this year, and I plan on listening to it quite a bit more in the coming weeks/months.

For the next week plus, you can stream the album here if you want to hear it. Since I already posted "Heavy Feet" a couple weeks ago, here's a taste of the album with the lead track "You & I".

Other albums of interest...

* Amor de Dias had two things going for them that made me check out their new album, "The House At Sea." The first is that one of the members is from the British dream pop group The Clientele. The second, more important, reason is that they released this album on Merge Records, a label that rarely lets me down. Shades of The Clientele are definitely still present (like in that unmistakeable voice), but the album spans all sorts of other genres and styles too. There are folk, . I'll have to listen to it a few more times, but initially, I'm really enjoying it. You can sample a song here, and download it if you enjoy it.

* I just stumbled upon this one today, but the debut EP by Wake Owl is on repeat for me right now. I can't quite put my finger on who it reminds me of (maybe Blind Pilot?), but the mix of country/folk/pop is carried out excellently regardless. You can stream the whole EP from Soundcloud just below.

Misc news, notes, and whatnot...

* A couple days ago, M. Ward / Zooey Deschanel project She & Him announced the release of their third (non-Christmas) album, "Volume 3" due out in May. They also announced a slew of tour dates to accompany the release. In even more exciting (albeit less official) news, the world will be getting a second Monsters of Folk album (M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Jim James, and Mike Mogis supergroup)! 2013 is shaping up to be a good one.

* Pre-release album streams seem to be the new hip thing. It's probably a way to discourage people from illegally downloading leaks. Whatever, the motivation, it's a very welcome trend. Just this past week or so Frightened Rabbit, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk), Eels, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Thao & The Get Down Stay Down all made their albums available for streaming (click the band name to head to the streams).

* Joe Pug posted a live video of his slowed down version of "The Great Despiser." When I saw him perform a couple months ago he told the audience that they wrote the song this way, but when they got into the studio they thought they were Tom Petty and ended up with a more rockin' version. Joe Pug is one of my favorite artists around, so I think both versions are pretty great. Here's the new one:

* Morrissey is currently touring and had to cancel some dates due to what was deemed band member illness at the time. Minneapolis record store The Electric Fetus had the best reaction to the show cancelations on their Twitter and Facebook pages: "Heaven knows Morrissey fans are miserable now." It turns out it was actually pretty serious and Morrissey himself was hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. Here's wishing him a speedy recovery.