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Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent music labels. This sampler was curated by editor in chief Christian Williams. 


December 2014

TriBeCaStan
It’s hard to pin a genre tag on the 11-piece New York City band TriBeCaStan, but that’s why its music is so fun and unpredictable. Featuring a talented cast of multi-instrumentalists that each take pride in their ability to coax beautiful sounds out of whatever instruments they can get their hands on, the band applies that same “anything goes” attitude to music making. TriBeCaStan’s latest is a Christmas album titled Coal, Again! that features the band using six familiar Christmas tunes as a framework for their globe-trotting, free-jazz loving, and mind expanding sound. While the album is mostly light-hearted, TriBeCaStan recognized an opportunity to make a political statement with their treatment of “Carol of the Bells,” which is an adaption of the Ukranian folk song “Schedryk.” The track is a poignant balance of solemn and rousing, and the band excels at both ends of the sonic spectrum on this musical fist of support for the Ukranian people. Coal, Again is out now Evergreene Music.


Spain
Josh Haden is the primary figure behind the soul-stirring music of Spain. The Los Angeles-based songwriter and his band have been building a fiercely loyal fanbase worldwide for almost 20 years, but its latest record, Sargent Place, is its first U.S. release in more than 10 years. The son of the late, legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden (his final studio recordings are on the album) and the brother to equally talented musicians Petra and Rachel Haden, Josh utilized his family’s rich musical talent on this recording, and their presence—both physically and spiritually—is felt throughout. A case in point is “The Fighter,” which features a tune originally plucked out on an acoustic guitar gifted to Josh by Rachel, and elegant backing vocals and strings from Petra. Sargent Place is out now on Dine Alone Records.


Wannabe Jalva
The four members of Brazilian-based Wannabe Jalva have dubbed their music “uterus space-groove rock,” which is definitely a good way to catch the attention of a curious music fan. Making slow-burning, melodic jams in the psychedelic vein of bands like Tame Impala, Wannabe Jalva has been building a loyal following in Brazil since 2010, and is primed to add to that fan base with the North American release of a new EP and supporting tour. Though the band’s self-description brings to mind an approach to making music that’s not yet fully formed, the catchy hooks and sophisticated songwriting dispel that notion immediately. Here’s “One Way Street” off Collecture, available now


Lily & Madeleine
It’s been a year since teenage sisters Lily & Madeleine released their self-titled debut to critical acclaim. And while they’re still not even 20 years old, it’s obvious that they’ve learned a lot about making music over the past 12 months. Keeping up with their commitment to release one new album every year for three years, the duo recently released its sophomore album, Fumes, which features a fuller production that complements the mesmerizing harmonies and dreamy melodies the duo has become known for. Just try to get “The Wolf Is Free” out of your head. Fumes is out now on Asthmatic Kitty Records.


Problems That Fix Themselves
The Chicago-based duo of Joshua Tabbia and Alex Borozan make electronic music under the name Problems That Fix Themselves. The duo’s latest album, Which is Worse, took two years to write and record and is just its third full-length release in seven years of collaboration. That deliberate approach to making music is evident on the new record, which modulates between sophisticated ambient, drone, and noise arrangments. While some of the tracks emphasize the duo’s reputation for sonic assault, tracks like “Maximum Occupancy” illustrate Tabbia and Borozan’s ability to coax subtle melody out of their complex and percussive compositions. Which is Worse is out now on Already Dead Tapes.      


Wilder Maker
Gabriel Birnbaum is a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who makes music under the moniker Wilder Maker. Birnbaum writes the songs, but the band’s unique sound is a direct result of the wide and varied influences that he and each of the other four members bring to the project. For his part, Birnbaum brings an interest in free jazz as well as his experience as a full-time member of the Ethiopian pop ensemble Debo Band to the table, which keeps the compositions lively and unpredictable. His baritone also blends beautifully with fellow vocalist Katie Von Schleicher, as evinced on the track “Zion” from the band’s latest album, Everyday Crimes Against Objects of Desire, Vol. I, available now through Bandcamp.


Quinn DeVeaux and The Blue Beat Review
From Chicago blues to southern gospel to New Orleans soul, San Francisco-based Quinn DeVeaux can do it all. He and his top-notch band have been entertaining Bay Area audiences for years no matter what the genre, so it’s only natural that DeVeaux’s latest record Originals demonstrate an upbeat blend of all of the above. Propelled by driving drums, catchy guitar licks, and soulful singing, the track “How Many Teardrops” showcases a little bit of everything DeVeaux and his band have to offer. Originals is available now through CD Baby.  



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