Monday, March 29, 2010

spring awakening

Spring is here.

To celebrate the melting of what I will dub the LAST BIG SNOW STORM of the winter (please just come along with me on this one, Rocky Mountain Weather Systems), I took my dog on a trail run by a lovely creek.

Oh! When I say by a lovely creek...I mean in a lovely creek! The melting Colorado snow pooled on the well loved trail, creating big puddles and trickling brooks on what I was going to use as a dry foot path. While I was picking my way around the mess and missing all the emerging beauty of spring in the landscape around me, my dog lurched me back into reality by stomping firmly in a puddle in front of me and Pollock-ing my legs with sun soaked mud.

So you know what I did? I turned toward the shallow river of a trail, bent my knees, and jumped.

My dog and I puddle stomped up and down that trail, and by the time we returned to the car we were both coated in a festive layer of red clay and my shoes were squeaking and raining out the ventilated sides.

Sometimes it is perfect way to celebrate a messy, melting world by immersing yourself in it. Or at least splattering yourself a little.

Not to mention puddle stomping is mighty fun.

The Morning Benders released a delightful, shiny album, Big Echo, produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor (remember I like them) this month that has been making me feel all sunny and tingly like tilting my head up to the bright afternoon sky. I can't wait until their April 7th show. Depending on the weather that day I might be the dancing, swaying girl with mud coated shins and a big, goofy smile on her face.

Excuses- The Morning Benders

Thursday, March 25, 2010


When I was talking with some folks who had experienced SXSW this past weekend, many band names were thrown my way. But when a friend mentioned he saw a band consisting of all women who absolutely and unapologetically destroyed...I put them at priority level one.

Warpaint has been carving out a place for themselves since last year when they released their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse (the origin of the title can be found here) under Manimal Vinyl. After a phenomenal showing at 2009's CMJ, Rough Trade Records picked them up just in time to get cracking on a 2010 debut LP. Now that I've listened to Exquisite Corpse I can say that I am thoroughly ready for these ladies to release more.

Equal parts psychadelic, gritty, and ethereal, Warpaint blends punchy beats with ragged textures and wildly intuitive melodies to make music that sounds like it's on the brink. Emily Kokal's and Theresa Wayman's vocals are as warm and tantalizingly raw as a desert breeze, seeming to scrape just under the swelling surface of liberated bass and drum lines.

It's a bracingly fantastic EP. It's full of fearless creative exploration, misty beauty, and melting, fluid homages to the sounds of girl groups of 60 years ago. Grrrrl power, right?


Billie Holiday- Warpaint

Sunday, March 21, 2010

i choose all the wrong times to hike

A delightful and lively performance by Elizabeth and the Catapult at one of my local trailheads, Mt. Sanitas.

Why don't more great Brooklyn bands serenade me with accordians and skip-inducing indie pop while I climb up to ridge trails?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

island heart you've left/ i do not know why

You could blame my deep love of fuzzed out Jan and Dean vibing beach rock for my instant addiction to Holiday Shores' debut album Columbus'd the Whim.

It might also be argued that it's just good.
To explain how exactly it is good, come along with me for an adventure...

So you know when you're bopping along a sunny sidewalk on a perfect summer day, and the ground is dancing with wildflowers, and a Bermuda shorts wearing neighbor waves and offers you beer, and the whole day goes by without even a hint of a sunburn....but then you notice something is a little odd? Like maybe the neighbor with the Bermuda shorts is watering a purple lawn. Or the wildflowers are plaid, and the honeybees all look like they're from a Tim Burton film with larger than life heads and wings made out of tie dye lace.

That's how this album sounds.

It's all sunny, poppy, noise rock...but then something is just off. In a way that I definitely get behind. It could be the dissonant harmonies bubbling below Nathan Pemberton's charming Stephen Malkmus-esque voice. Or the wandering, plucky guitar melodies that syncopate so curiously. Whatever it is, Pemberton and his band have found a place in the growing wave of lo-fi surfer rock that is sure to make this a sonically pleasing summer.

Holiday Shores is of course participating in the magical mayhem of SXSW this weekend, but they'll be continuing on the road after Austin, warming up the colder parts of the country while the last of the snow melts.

Phones Don't Feud- Holiday Shores

Thursday, March 18, 2010

a new believer in the old believers

I was lucky enough to see the graceful Laura Veirs play to a crowd in her hometown a couple weeks ago, (for my review, click yonder for my Reverb write up), and was of course swept away by her performance. But in the small venue in Manitou Springs, I was captured by another performance.

Opening for Laura Veirs were two groups, and their scattered members performing solo, Cataldo and Old Believers. I was settled into my chair, squirming about in anticipation for Veirs' set, when Nelson Kempf of Old Believers stepped on stage. He was so unassuming that for a moment I didn't notice his presence...until he started stomping and singing with his hands behind his back an acapella piece filled with so much soul that I forgot a human voice could hold that much melody.

My friend who accompanied me that evening looked over at me, and I looked over at her, and we both knew that this was something special.

Old Believers, when paired with instruments and other members, lay down groovy beats with infectious soul. Lyrics as profound as any American folk hero, and songs that are so much fun that Kempf pulled the whole audience into singing along for my favorite song of the evening (and perhaps my favorite new song), It's With You Now.

The recorded version of the song is incredibly different from the live version, which was beautiful in large part because of Kempf's earnest and stripped vocals, so for a listen at what Kempf's raw voice sounds like, please indulge in this video, where his guitar belies that inherent rhythmic genius this man has. He can create a beat out of nowhere, and I love it.

Old Believers have an album out, Eight Golden Greats, that was released in 2008 under the Brave Records label and it's been helping me sway through my days in such a light and lovely way.

That's All- Old Believers

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

and even if the morning never comes/ my hands are blessed to have touched the sun

Sorry for the absence! I was on a much needed road trip to the warmer climes this nation has to offer, and left technology by the wayside as I remembered how to breathe.

On to the music.

Three part harmony oozing with cheeky lyrics over some popping guitar and cymbals seems to pull me in when done with great reserves of talent. But in the past few years the indie pop movement has become inundated with some unfortunately forgettable bands attempting to replicate the sounds of Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Beach House, and other groups of that ilk. It should be noted that it requires some real skill and musical chops to push through the hyped up harmonic and jangly chaos and make great, original music. I'm often skeptical when I first hear that big explosion of shiny reverb laden vocals from a new group.

But guess what? Add another band to the aforementioned list of innovative stand outs to pull me into their orbit, because Local Natives has waded successfully through the possible mess of cliche hooks and faux-intellectual versing and chorusing.

This Southern California band caught my ear recently while I was lamenting my lack of presence at the fabulous riot of musical talent that is SXSW. (Their performance at last year's SXSW led to being signed to Frenchkiss [The Dodos, Freelance Whales, The Antlers, Passion Pit] and a bevy of glowing praise). Their debut release, Gorilla Manor, accompanied me on a sunny hike up Mt. Sanitas this morning, and it was a perfect fit. Their music evokes winding roads through dappled light on the Big Sur coastline and crashing turquoise waves.

Just the right level of oohing to float over pulsing kick drums, with frolicking melodies ringing in tandem with unhurried lyrics; Local Natives have released a gem of an album. I heartily recommend you check out the whole thing, and catching them live (as I plan to do on their extensive tour).

Also I am in full support of their cover decisions. As shown below.

Warning Sign (Talking Heads)- Local Natives

Sun Hands- Local Natives

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

why i am jealous of ireland

Ireland will be receiving So Runs the World Away, the transcendent Josh Ritter's new album, a full week and change before the rest of the world. I may apply for citizenship.

To slake my ever growing appetite for Ritter's music, I've been playing video versions of his new songs. And they sound just as unbelievably monumental and true and pure as I could ever dream.

Look at his face while he plays perched on a picnic table, singing to the flickering candles, and giving off a joyful glow himself. He remains in my mind as one of the most significant songwriters around, and any time I see him perform I am reminded of his captivating ability to make a four minute song reveal more than multiple years of higher education. His music just swallows me right up, until my eyes dance and my heart forgets just how to be jaded.

"Orbital"- Backstage at Admiralspalast, Berlin

The picture used above was taken in the winter of 2009, and I just love how straightforward it is. You can see the gray in his stubble, the laugh lines around his mouth, and there is no attempt to airbrush all signs of life away. It's a portrait of a man who tells the truth, and those who have listened to him do it are itching to hear how it will sound next.

Monday, March 1, 2010

she and him: volume two

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, known in your ears as She&Him, created an affably harmonious and symbiotic musical relationship with their 2008 release, Volume One. I still listen regularly to that album and am taken by Zooey's smooth and forlorn voice over M. Ward's most excellent vintage beach guitar aesthetic. I don't want the adjective "adorable" to take away from how good this duo has proven to be, but they are an incredibly lovable musical pairing. If you could hold an album by the hand and frolic with it down daisy lined, dusty paths, you would do so with Volume One.

From the freshly released single from March 23rd's Volume Two, I expect I will hold out my other hand for their new album as well.

Welcome March properly! It's going to be a glorious, sunny, clean linen sort of springtime.

Thieves- She&Him