6/27/2012 9:00:36 AM
MV & EE
Available now on Woodsist
Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, otherwise known as MV & EE, have crafted the perfect album for floating down a gentle river on a lazy summer day when all that matters is the moment of now. Space Homestead, the group’s second album on Woodsist, flows like such a stream - moving at its own easy pace, turning and tumbling wherever the day takes it, paying little mind to the commotion of modern life surrounding it.
The band conjures up these pastoral images through the lackadaisical sounds of Valentine’s softly strummed acoustic work and Elder’s reverb-injected lap steel guitar. On “Workingman’s Smile,” this foundation is joined by a careening bassline, simple drum beats, and a pair of electric guitars that hover about with no real destination. The lack of instrumental direction is honed in, however, by the interspersed and easygoing vocals of Valentine and Elder. With the track “Too Far to See,” MV & EE produce a cosmic atmosphere of synthy raindrops and reeling distorted guitar that flies around like a moth looking for a place to land.
The final song on the album, “Porchlight,” fuses crunchy, fast-tempo guitar and jazzy drum beats with a layer of meandering, wah-wah riffs and dreamy vocals; it sounds as if two entirely different songs are being played at the same time. This discordance breaks away at the song’s midpoint into simple harmonica squeals and acoustic rhythms with Valentine’s sensitive voice gliding over it.
Space Homestead, while void of any clear musical ambition, finds strength in its weakness. The free flowing and relaxed nature of the album allows for it to be played as a soundtrack to the aimless adventures of summer. So find a raft, bring a few friends, and let Space Homestead take you down stream.
6/26/2012 4:34:22 PM
Utne Reader is pleased to host the world premiere of the music video for “If Wishes Were Gold” by Sankofa, a modern string band that features Allison Russell (Po' Girl, Birds of Chicago) and Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Russell wrote "Wishes," and provides a sultry lead vocal on the track
while adding acoustic guitar to compliment an understated harmonica by
John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful, and the resplendent brushes of
percussionist Sule Greg Wilson. The result is a warm glow engulfing a
cool summer eve in the city:
Russell recalls the genesis of the song: "'If Wishes Were Gold’ is about as straight forward a song as I've ever written. There's no ambiguity to the particular kind of blues I am feeling there. I was ready to give myself to someone I loved and that person just wasn't ready the way I was READY. To some extent, it also stems from the vagabond existence I was living at that time. There's kind of a double yearning going on, not just for someone to love, but for a place that felt like home, ever elusive. The song was written during a sojourn in Chicago and came to life under the deft musical guidance of John Sebastian. We arranged and recorded it together at Nevessa Studio in Woodstock, N.Y.”
Describing the unique still photo quality of the video, Allison explains: "Rob Stegman, the videographer, decided he wanted to use still shots of me in a metropolitan setting for the video, and we saw it as an opportunity to pay tribute to the beauty and grit of The Windy City. Natalie Ginele is a fantastic Chicago based photographer and had always wanted to do a shoot by the train tracks off of Grand Ave. on the edge of West Town. We also did some shots in the vibrant Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, which are favourite haunts of mine. I hope some of the atmosphere of Chicago comes through in the video. I can't think of too many better places in the world to be blue."
Since the release of The Uptown Strut earlier this year, the album continues to generate acclaimed reviews with SSG Music remarking, “Sankofa offers a spontaneous, raunchy barnyard romp that bridges the gap between hillbilly country, gospel, and soul” while Press Plus 1 noted, “...the instrumentation complements the songs perfectly. The result is an album that is every bit as fun and mirthful as immersed in heritage and history.”
The digital single for "If Wishes Were Gold" will be released July 10 on Cleveland-based Kingswood Records.
6/26/2012 4:27:54 PM
White Arrows - Dry Land Is Not A Myth (Votiv)
Imagine trekking down a humid jungle path at dusk when, through an opening in the trees, you spot the glowing orb of a UFO passing slowly above. You follow the dim hum of the craft and hear the unlikely sound of celebration grow louder with each step. The density of the forest gives way to a moss-carpeted clearing and reveals the source of the sound - a group of young musicians playing psychotropical pop songs to a crowd of head-bobbing aliens.
This story has most likely never occurred, but if it did, the band playing would most definitely be White Arrows. The Los Angeles quintet, formed a few years ago out of demos created by singer Mickey Church, have just released their debut album called
Dry Land Is Not A Myth
. Taken to such influences as Carl Sagan and 90’s kids movies, White Arrows conjure up colorful and nostalgic imagery fitting for a telescopic star party.
The new single and album opener, “Roll Forever,” is an amalgamation of musical styles, from upbeat electronic pop to relaxed, introspective space rock. Twitching guitars and reverb-heavy backup vocals pair with an uptempo beat, creating a sense of aural slow motion. On the standout track “Get Gone,” drummer Henry Church indulges in the type of bouncing percussion reminiscent of Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. Backed by warbling synthesizers and interjecting guitar riffs, Mickey Church reflects on young adulthood singing, “Mama said I ain’t got no home, yeah, get gone.” While much of White Arrows lyrics seem to focus on the difficult questions of young 20-somethings, the music always offers an infectious counterbalance of positivity.
Dry Land Is Not A Myth
exudes a kind of youthful optimism for life that perfectly reflects the wonder of warm summer nights. And why shouldn’t it? White Arrows seem to be gathering momentum heading into their first full tour of the U.S. So go ahead, bob your heads. Humans and aliens alike.
Ben Sauder is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. Find him on Google+.
6/21/2012 5:03:19 PM
Aimer et Perdre: To Love and To Lose - Songs, 1917-1934
Available now on Tompkins Square (Feb. 14, 2012)
Love is the easiest universal human experience to convey in
song, rivaled only by the similarly universal human experience of losing love.
That’s not to say it’s “easy” to write a good song about love, but rather that
the opportunity for unique and nuanced perspectives are plentiful; a notion
that is celebrated on the fantastic 36-song compilation Aimer et
Perdre: To Love & To Lose – Songs, 1917-1934 appropriately released on Valentines
Day 2012 on Tompkins Square.
For those who appreciate the preservation of vintage
recorded music, this collection is essential. Featuring pre-war Cajun, eastern
European, and rural American music carefully selected and remastered
by album executive producer Christopher King from his own rare collection of
78s, Aimer et Perdre is a treasure
trove of recordings once bound by shellac, now set free by the digital age.
While it would have made sense to clump the “To Love” songs
together on one disc and the “To Lose” songs on the other, King was smart to
mix them up. The ebb and flow of happy courting tunes, lively wedding dances
and mournful laments, match the cycle of love that we as humans seem hardwired
to repeat throughout our lives.
Sonically, it’s apparent that these songs were lifted from
old shellac, but the hiss and crackles are remarkably overshadowed by the depth
of sound King was able to coax from these recordings through remastering. Many
of the songs feature multi-piece traditional groups, yet most of the
instruments are easy to distinguish from one another. On tunes like “La Valse
De La Prison (The Prison Waltz)” by Black Creole musicians Douglas Bellard and
Kirby Riley, we’re able to easily discern the dark, rolling rumble of Riley’s
accordion behind Bellard’s lively fiddling. And on rollicking Ukrainian dance
tunes like “Chernovitzer Bulgar (Dance from Chernovitz),” each transcendent
note from Izikel Kramtweiss’s clarinet hardly sounds like it was recorded almost
83 years ago. The point is there are wonderful moments in every one of these
songs, and new ones you’ll discover on repeat listens.
In addition to a collection of outstanding music, Aimer et Perdre is also a beautiful
physical package, featuring extensive liner notes by King, brief descriptions
and lyrics for every song, and three original illustrations by the inimitable
Robert Crumb. Thanks to art direction by Susan Archie, it’s a collection you’ll
find just as satisfying to look at as listen to.
6/19/2012 12:43:38 PM
Directed by Jennifer Fox
Premieres June 21, 2012 on PBS
While the conflict between a father’s expectations and his
son’s desires is a story as old as the hills, Jennifer Fox has managed to
capture a unique twist on that experience with her documentary film My Reincarnation, which kicks off the 25th
season of POV on PBS.
Like most ambitious children, Italian-born Yeshi Silvano Namkhai
has plans for his life. He likes playing music and taking photographs. He has a
knack for computers. He wants to be a father.
But Yeshi’s father, exiled Tibetan Buddhist Master Namkhai
Norbu Rinpoche, believes that Yeshi is the reincarnation of his great-uncle, Khyentse
Rinpoche Chökyi Wangchug— a revered Tibetan Buddhist Master who died in a
For Namkhai Norbu, the path is clear: maintain the ancient
spiritual and cultural traditions of Tibet through service to the
Tibetan Buddhist community. But Italian-born Yeshi views the responsibility as
an unwanted burden even though he acknowledges having the special dreams
associated with being reincarnated. “I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of
living,” Yeshi says as he struggles to reconcile his desire to be a “normal” Westerner with his father's hope that he will embrace his destiny.
Fox’s film is compelling because it isn’t just a snapshot.
Filmed over 20 years, we’re introduced to Yeshi as a defiant
18-year-old intent on pursuing the life he wants, and we follow him through
adulthood as he evolves into the man he’s become. In that same time frame, we
also see the seeds for Yeshi’s strained relationship with his father, and how
both men work to better know and understand each other. Despite its unique
circumstances, My Reincarnation is
remarkably accessible for anyone who has tried to balance their own desires with
the expectations of a parent.
6/14/2012 2:10:45 PM
now on Paw Tracks (June 12)
“Every day of every year, I wonder what I’m doing here,” sings Dent May on
“Home Groan.” The song is an anthem for small-town kids, or anyone that forgoes
tastemaker cities to stay put. The sentiment is also representative of themes
woven through the album, Do Things, as May muses on existence—from
friendship to finding life’s meaning—with plenty of synth and slightly twisted
Lyrically, May is willing to challenge convention. Throughout
the album, he urges listeners to believe in themselves and their ability to
transcend difficulties. “There was a time when I never thought that I’d feel
good again,” sings May in a vaguely doo-wop style on the album’s title track.
The moral of this story? “Do things your own way.” Similarly, “Find It”
empowers listeners, telling them to stand by their dreams and discover life’s
meaning for themselves. “Rent Money” and “Parents” reflect on frustrations
with the adult world and focus on staying true to oneself in spite of
disappointments and obstacles.
There’s not a traditional love song on the album, though
there’s plenty of love. May mentions the importance of friends in at least 4
tracks. And while “Best Friend” seems to address a lover, the focus is on their
long and reliable friendship. “Wedding Day” and “Don’t Wait Too Long” speak to
the challenges of finding romantic love, and in “Tell Her,” he sings about the
frightening prospect of expressing love once it has been found. In each of
these cases, May has an answer: “don’t worry,” “do what feels right,” “say what
you feel.” The takeaway is consistent: trust life’s process and live from the
Musically, the album is joyful and a bit experimental. May
is not afraid to sound like a warped video tape of a Beach Boys concert, but
most of the time he pulls it off. The liberal use of synthesizer, drum
machines, funky bass lines, and close harmonies make for a lovingly campy sound.
Comparisons to the solo work of Animal Collective’s Panda Bear would be fair. Of course, that makes Dent May a logical pick for Paw
Tracks (Animal Collective’s label). Still, Do Things won’t fail to surprise and—for
Panda Bear fans—delight.
Do Things is a
refreshing combination of experimental play, honesty, and optimism. The
world is a strange, overwhelming place—perhaps most confusing at young
adulthood. Rather than offering tools for navigation, Dent May urges listeners
to throw out the map, get lost, and experience the surroundings. “Don’t know
what’s in store for me,” he sings, “but I think it’s gonna be fun.”
6/14/2012 1:42:54 PM
Langhorne Slim & The Law
The Way We Move
Available now on Ramseur Records (June 5, 2012)
Langhorne Slim sings like he’s in trouble with the law; pleading, explaining, laying everything on the line to be sure his actions are
understood to be honest and intentions known to be noble.
On The Way We Move, Langhorne Slim & The Law weave
their way through folk, Americana and rock, with Slim singing his heart out the
entire way. His scratchy, honest, not-quite-falsetto voice may not be
classically trained, but more importantly it’s emotive.
The title track opens things up with David Moore plunking
out a joyous piano bounce between the chorus and verses while the Law chimes
in, vocally echoing Slim’s declarations.
“I was born with a thorn in my soul/guess it could be worse.
I might not’ve gotten much/but I know what it’s worth” Slim sings on “Bad Luck”
over the top of a snapping one-two snare beat and banjo. He’s had his share of
trouble and hard times, but even though bad luck’s rooted itself in him, Slim
knows he’ll survive.
Moore shines again on “Fire,” putting down a funky key part
to set the stage for a tale about childhood crushes and the inevitable crushing
of adult life. Hardly a pity party, The Law settles into its best groove of the
album on the track, as Moore jams away on his keys like a Stax session man in
A good half of the album finds the boys in balladeering
mode. Banjos and guitars gently pick their way along as Langhorne wrenches
every drop of feeling he can out of his vocal delivery. Nowhere is that more
apparent than “Song For Sid,” an ode to the writer’s beloved, late grandfather.
“Move” tends to lean either toward patient ballads or up
tempo foot tappers and rarely land anywhere in between. But whichever pole they
happen to be leaning on, Langhorne sings it just might be his last song.
6/12/2012 3:41:27 PM
Available now on Hear Music
Released as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, the reissue of Ram looks
to reignite the pop music memories of listeners who first heard the
album upon its original release and turn younger fans on to the
post-Beatles, pre-Wings magic of Paul McCartney. The 12-track album has
been remastered at Abbey Road Studios to wonderful effect, sounding
crisp and clear as if it were recorded today. In addition to the
remastered album, an 8-song bonus disc offers a sampling of tracks that
were recorded during the sessions, but didn’t appear on Ram.
While several versions of this reissue have been made, like the Deluxe
Edition that comes with 5 discs, a 112-page booklet, t-shirts and more,
the remastered album alone is enough reason to invest in these now
the brutal breakup of the Beatles, and Paul’s lawsuit against his
former bandmates, McCartney retreated to a Scottish farm with Linda and
their kids where he conceived of Ram.
Despite his modest ambitions for the album, McCartney’s songwriting
prowess of the early 70s was not easily tamed and is only amplified
with the remastered version. “Ram On,” cleaned and polished, captures
the vulnerability in Paul and Linda’s voices as they harmonize softly on
a bed of ukulele and Wurlitzer piano. Other tracks, like the linear
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and the playful, yet intense, “Monkberry
Moon Delight” are punchier than before—creating an overall better
listening experience. The real gift to fans, however, is the bonus CD.
first single as a solo artist, “Another Day,” and its B-side, “Oh
Woman, Oh Why,” begin the bonus disc, but from there the selections have
either been underexposed or never officially released. One standout
track is the folky “Hey Diddle,” which could have happily called The Beatles (White
Album) home - alongside “I Will” and “Mother Nature’s Son.” Another,
called “Rode All Night,” is a nearly 9-minute rocker of fast chugging
guitar and drums with McCartney’s often unintelligible vocal shouts
above it. As an added incentive, the Special Edition of the reissue also
contains a DVD with several music videos from Ram and the short documentary about the making of the album, called Ramming.
Ben Sauder is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. Find him on Google+.
6/7/2012 2:34:02 PM
Available now on Mute Records (June 5, 2012)
The Liars sixth full-length album is all about advancing
boundaries. Since the band’s first experimental rock release in 2001, it has been resolute in
defying genre designations, preferring instead to experiment with sound and
rhythm. WIXIW is no exception. Even
its title shares in the desire to challenge expectation. The configuration of
letters seems as much about shapes as it does about meaning. The palindrome is
to be pronounced, “wish you.” Read this way, the title carries hope and promise
beside other possibilities: longing, anxiety, confusion.
The album is full of similarly muddled emotions. Much of WIXIW consists of otherworldly
ambient-electronic tracks, ranging in sentiment from welcoming to sinister. The
album opener, “The Exact Color of Doubt” invites listeners into an expansive
soundscape decorated with rhythmic hand clapping. But the next track, “Octagon,”
leads them into a dark, bass-filled underworld embellished with the chatter of
bats and mice. The quick change in tone invites comparisons to Aphex Twin and
Amon Tobin, who displayed a similar dexterity in their ability to both soothe
After the first two tracks, almost all of WIXIW is a blend of beauty and
distortion. The upbeat rhythm driving “No.1 Against The Rush” is tinged with warped
guitar. The playful melodies and rhythms of “Ring On Every Finger” and “Flood
to Flood” are countered by ominous, droning vocals. “Ill Valley Prodigies”
balances an air of suspicion with endearing vulnerability. The title track is
catchy despite its anxious beat and schizophrenic melody. Those who make it to
“Annual Moon Words,” will discover a meditative psych-rock backwater, apparently
designed to usher them safely from the voyage that has been this album.
Music is powerful, and going into dark, scary places with a
stranger requires a degree of trust. It’s your own ghosts you’ll encounter, and
you don’t even know where you’re going. Sometimes a listener can justify
picking a few favorite tracks and skipping through the uncomfortable parts, but
WIXIW does not clearly distinguish
between the bright and dark. For many, this will make it hard to get inside the
music. Still, radiance interlaced throughout will offer almost any listener rewards.
With WIXIW, Liars review experimental
rock as they forge new territory. They explore a junk yard, a good dream, a
crime scene. They’re making something from it all, and they’re asking you to
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