Though the banjo doesn’t typically lend itself to the mellow, lilting sounds of gentle vocals and soothing melodies, Maggie Rogers has found a way to accomplish just that. Her work is vastly inspired by dance music and sounds found in nature – a combination which marries inherently rhythmic beats to flowing, striking sonic qualities. The three standout tracks from her former Bandcamp release Bloody Ballet (now removed from the internet) are “Resonant Body,” “James,” and “Drift.” The current and quite remarkable new single “Alaska” is available to stream and download now.
There is very little out there about the mysterious (UK-based?) band Seramic. I love the gospel vibes of this track, complete with choral call and response. Hopefully they will release more music soon, but in the meantime, snuggle up to this warm blanket of a tune!
Happy Holidays everyone!
I’ve never made my year end lists public, but this year I’ve decided to shake things up. I present to you my personal best of 2015, both songs and albums. The songs can be streamed here if you would like to listen (honorable mentions included at the end):
Albums (in no particular order):
Wolf Alice – My Cool Is Cool
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
Rayland Baxter – Imaginary Man
The Bohicas – The Making Of
Beirut – No No No
Jason Isbell – Something More than Free
Blitzen Trapper – All Across This Land
Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
The Tallest Man On Earth – Dark Bird Is Home
Coldplay – A Head Full Of Dreams
Ryan Adams – 1989, cover album (Taylor Swift)
Songs (also in no particular order):
“Uptown Funk” (ft Bruno Mars) – Mark Ronson
“Talking Body” – Tove Lo
“Here” – Alessia Cara
“Genghis Khan” – Miike Snow
“Mountain At My Gates” – Foals
“Lydia” – Highly Suspect
“Coltrane” – Amasa Hines
“Your Loves Whore” – Wolf Alice
“Where You At” – The Bohicas
“Getting Ready to Get Down” – Josh Ritter
“Nobody To Blame” – Chris Stapleton
“Heartbreaker” – Daniel Wilson
“OctaHate” – Ryn Weaver
“Electric Love” – BØRNS
“Leave A Trace” – CHURCHES
“Dreams” – Beck
“Stressed Out” – Twenty One Pilots
“Trip Switch” – Nothing But Thieves
“Snakeskin” – Deerhunter
“Adventure of a Lifetime” – Coldplay
“Ship To Wreck” – Florence + The Machine
“Sedona” – Houndmouth
“Pretty Pimpin'” – Kurt Vile
“Spring (Among the Living)” – My Morning Jacket
“Snake Eyes” – Mumford & Sons
“Dunes” – Alabama Shakes
“Brazil” – Declan McKenna
“Gibraltar” – Beirut
“Forget You In LA” – Poema
“Yellow Eyes” – Rayland Baxter
“Empty Handed” – Christof
“Color Decay” – Júníus Meyvant
“Death with Dignity” – Sufjan Stevens
“How Could You Babe” – Tobias Jesso Jr.
“Dark Bird Is Home” – The Tallest Man on Earth
“Between Me And You” – Brandon Flowers
“Hello” – Adele
“Everglow” – Coldplay
“Flagship” – Jason Isbell
“Outcast” – Mainland
“Mystery” – Boxed In
“Roman Holiday” – Halsey
“Forest Fires” – Axel Flovent
“No Room In Frame” – Death Cab For Cutie
“Borderline” – Tove Stryke
“Hold Me Down” – Mansionair
“Moona Festival” – Polyenso
“Love Grow Cold” – Blitzen Trapper
“Where The Night Goes” – Josh Ritter
“Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread” – Everything Everything
“The Way It’s Always Been” – Brandon Flowers
Step aside all other British early-20-somethings with incredible musical sensibility, Leo Stannard (19 to be precise) has entered the scene. He croons with the rasp of Paolo Nutini, hits notes as high as Justin Vernon, yet still fits comfortably in the same space as our beloved Ben Howard. It was incredibly difficult to choose just three of his songs – they are all truly excellent. I adore the undeniable warmth of the horns in “Why Don’t We,” and can’t help but completely melt into the melody and his range in “Eliza.” “Please Don’t” shows off the intricacies of his guitar picking prowess and his peerless sense of timing.
Europe, be on the look out for his debut EP next month! And for us Americans… well, hopefully we will get a piece of Leo before too long!
Here’s a moody, captivating track from the Aussie trio Woodlock. I like how subtle this tune seems to be at first listen, yet after each spin, you start to pick up on all of the gorgeous ambience and melodic growth hidden behind every twist and turn. There’s a certain backbone and mystique to Zech & Eze’s voices that leads me to believe this group has the potential to make a serious impact.
This is the second single from The Careful Ones’ upcoming LP The Foxes and The Hounds. Lead singer JMR has a very evocative vocal delivery, much like my Icelandic fav Ásgeir, so naturally I am drawn to the moody tunes of The Careful Ones, who hail from Central Florida. If you like JMR’s voice, but dig a less traditional, more experimental, soulful approach, JMR has a self-titled solo project that The Careful Ones very avidly cross-promote. I recommend a listen of his song “Pioneer Of Your Heart.”
This ethereal tune by Pepa Knight uplifts your soul instantly. Pepa’s soaring vocals contrast (yet beautifully complement) the driving percussion, creating a luscious and inspirational palate of sounds. Apparently this track, and the rest of the forthcoming album, was inspired by his travels through India. If you recognize Pepa’s voice, he is the frontman to the Australian band Jinja Safari (also excellent). Though I am not sure what the future holds for Jinja Safari, you can at least expect more flavorful tunes from the solo Aussie later this year.
Ok, here we go – this year’s SXSW roundup! So let’s get to the numbers (sadly, I forgot my UP band this year which totaled my walking mileage each day)…referring to last year’s official SXSW statistics, I listened to likely 2,200+ bands this go-around in an insane 15-day binge. I siphoned it down to 224 bands worthy of a deeper look. Those 224 bands garnered a second listen, and from that point I got the number down to 102 bands that I attempted to schedule alongside about 180 already-familiar bands (of the 2,200+). I managed to see 41 bands in 3.25 days. I had 10 clear favorites (one of which was Typhoon, which shouldn’t count since I’ve seen them before, but I couldn’t resist as they performed in a church), so without further ado, in no particular order:
Ásgeir – Iceland
Sylvan Esso – USA
Mighty Oaks – multinational, based in Germany
Nick Mulvey – England
Rare Monk – USA
Hozier – Ireland
Leif Vollebekk – Canada
Highasakite – Norway
Spanish Gold – USA
Typhoon – USA
To elaborate on a few of these…
His performance was hauntingly beautiful. I remember being so confused when he announced his final song – it felt like he had just begun. It was as if he hypnotized the crowd, with a voice even more crystal clear and heartbreaking than in his recordings. He sang a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” that was simply bone-chilling. I am very touchy with covers, especially those of legendary bands, but this was an extreme exception. Ásgeir reinvented the song in all the right ways without losing its integrity, and though this video does not even come close to the performance I witnessed, at least it gives you a solid idea.
These guys were such unexpected performers! For music I was originally considering to be of the mellow persuasion, I am now dubbing it “thug Feist.” This was an all-out dance party. Having seen the Durham-based duo create this music in a live setting, it’s obvious that this is the area where they shine. Their recordings don’t do this art justice in the slightest. If they are in a town near you, even if you are on the fence about their music, GO. You’ll be wildly impressed.
No words really. This Brit is something special. It was just him and his acoustic guitar at the alter of the St David’s Episcopal Church. He was able create such immense, beautiful sounds completely solo. It felt like he was wrapping the audience in a warm blanket and with each song that passed, he drew everyone closer. I was entranced watching him keep a bass line with his acoustic guitar all while plucking these amazingly intricate melodies that kept building on top of each other, layer by layer – no loop pedal, no other accompaniment. It was magical to gaze at this man creating.
My love for Mighty Oaks runs deep. Having been a fan and follower since 2012, I was long overdue to see them perform. Fantastic doesn’t really cover it. They play with such intensity and passion, it’s infectious. Though their album isn’t out in the US yet, expect huge things from these guys in 2015. Huge. For now, enjoy these two favorites.
This band was a total crapshoot. I figured I’d take a chance on them and holy shit I am so glad I did. They finished playing and I looked over at the person next to me and said, “What just happened?!”. A wall of paralyzingly gorgeous, complex sounds and harmonies disarmed me and everyone surrounding. I have since learned that they are Norweigen, have a forthcoming album out April 7th (worldwide, yay!), and are now on a US tour with London Grammar…so basically, you’ll be hearing a thing or two from Highasakite before long!
I won’t draw this out any longer, so for the four bands that didn’t receive my complete debriefing, I want to stress how excellent they were. Hozier was mind-blowing – so captivating and so piercing live. He exceeded my expectations and totally confirmed all the hype. Rare Monk was inventive and intense. They were able to successfully pull off some extremely intriguing effects and vocal distortions, including the least chill version I’ve ever heard of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Leif Vollebekk was a complete treat and solidified a permanent space in my (figurative) singer-songwriter favorites file. Spanish Gold was rocking and got everyone moving. The zillion people in line to see their show at Stubb’s was yet another reminder that people still care about rock –very much so. And they give good reason!
A truly lovely song for those of you who are enjoying the gray winter weather as much as I am. I don’t know too much about Allman Brown other than he is from the UK and has a beautiful EP out on Akira records. I recommend checking it out on his bandcamp. Otherwise, snuggle up and enjoy this gorgeous tune.