it’s taken me a while, but by the time psych-folkers akron/family rolled around their fifth album, i had to pay attention. i’m glad i did. akron/family II: the cosmic birth and journey of shinju TNT is an honest-to-god masterpiece that hits hard in all the right places. while the guys are still best at anthemic experimental rock jams, the album’s got no shortage of quieter moments too, and it’s these that add the final missing element to akron/family’s addicting grooves. album opener “silly bears” has a video below, and it’s a freak-folk stomper that makes you want to roll E, smoke W, or whatever else you do to have fun. drugged-up but not creeped-out, fun-loving but not forceful, “silly bears” is, well, silly – but extremely well-crafted, the harbinger of an album that’s neck-and-neck with starfucker‘s reptilians with best of 2011: so far.
akron/family II: the cosmic birth and journey of shinju TNT is out now on dead oceans.
robin pecknold is the frontman of seattle’s favorite folk-rock collective fleet foxes, and while the foxes aren’t set to drop their sophomore lp until may, robin’s recently released a three-song acoustic ep entitled “three songs” for free via the fleet foxes twitter account. the lead-off, “i’m losing myself,” features a duet between pecknold and grizzly bear leader ed droste. their vocal harmonies weave together to form one of the more beautiful tracks pecknold’s ever done, lush and weathered over tender acoustic picking. stream and download all three tracks after the jump.
gloomy folk mistress marissa nadler is hot off the heels of her lovely 2009 lp little hells with a kickstarter-funded album, slated for release sometime this spring. first single “baby, i will leave you in the morning” is a fusion of her traditional singer-songwriter style with atmospheric electronics and reverb’d guitar, evoking an almost pink floyd-esque feel. it’s a hazy, dreamy gem from an album we’re anticipating more and more.
marissa nadler – “baby, i will leave you in the morning” (mp3)
portland pop quartet parenthetical girls recently dropped untanglements, an album of rarities and alternate versions from their 2008 lp entanglements. their musical sharing binge continues with the release of covers., a collection that’s exactly what it sounds like: the girls bringing their orchestral pop flavor to tunes by other bands, and vice versa. the standout track, “joan of arc (maid of new orleans),” is a phenomenal electronic stomper that climaxes with a nearly tribal percussive breakdown. it’s inspiring, addictive, and, like all the girls’ best work, quixotic. in a fun twist, it’s a track for which i’ve been searching for quite some time – since i caught the girls’ live show (they closed with it). after the jump, listen to the studio version and catch live video i took at the concert, in which band leader/mastermind zac pennington leaves the room when the song begins, only to return moments later and play drumsticks on the venue floor. Read the rest of this entry »
parenthetical girls have been a quiet favorite of mine since i stumbled into one of their live performances. peculiar, awkward, and energetic, the experimental rock foursome has gone through as many different incarnations as albums. they’ve been relatively nonexistent since 2008’s entanglements, but as 2011 rolled around, untanglements, an album of rarities and alternate takes appeared on bandcamp. the album prominently feature pennington’s vocals over piano-driven tunes (though electronics and orchestral flourishes occasionally burst forth). it’s a startlingly good collection, one that proves that the girls are still indie pop’s best kept secret.
okkervil river’s particular brand of melancholy indie pop has gained them a sizable cult following, but they’ve yet to break into the mainstream. will scheff’s liberal use of literary songwriting may have been a factor, but in recent interview’s he’s stated that with the band’s forthcoming release, he aims to retreat from the cerebral and aim more towards the emotional. judging by single “mermaid,” it’s a good move – the tune tugs at the heartstrings without falling into introspective or clichéd territory. even his pained vocals sound more genuine than on the band’s fantastic (if depressing) the stage names. backed by what seems at times to be a full orchestra, piano, and choir, “mermaid” appears a proclamation of things to come. it’s not an unfamiliar sound, but lyrically it’s a welcome change from the sometimes heady songwriting of albums past.
okkervil river – i am very far is out may 10th on jagjaguwar.
noah and the whale’s debut peaceful, the world lays me down was a mixed bag with spots of brilliance. favorites like “jocasta” and “5 years time” overshadowed the album’s weaker points, and showed potential for the english indie poppers. following frontman charlie fink’s painful breakup with then-bandmate laura marling, they released the drab the first days of spring. fans feared the worst; where had the joy gone? but with their newest single “l.i.f.e.g.o.e.s.o.n.” noah and the whale is back on the forefront of happy-go-lucky orchestral indie pop. it’s everything wonderful about the wes anderson-inspired band: a chanted, chirpy chorus, orchestral flourish, and maybe most of all, optimism and hope.
noah and the whale – last night on earth is out march 7th on mercury records.