This is just a quick post today; but I really wanted to post Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson‘s (henceforth known as MBAR on this blog, as that name is simply far too long to continually type out) new video for “Buriedfed”, the opening single on his self-titled debut which came out last month.
It’s simply an awesome video; a somewhat creepy campfire sing-along, that takes a surreal look at funerals and death. And the actual song itself – a swirling, majestic mix of sparseness and atmospherics – is made all the sweeter in the video by Robinson’s somewhat disarming smile, which lasts the entire song through; all the while talking about burials and failures. It really is… affecting.
Below, the video. Below that, the mp3.
Listen. Love. Support.
And they took her to the doctor To fix her heart, and heal her head She said, “Goddamn, I’m tired of being polite Go save somebody else” – Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, “Buriedfed”
So today, I received my copy of the new Flobots album, “Fight With Tools”, and all I can say is these guys have got me excited… in a big way. Despite the fact that they’ve been taking a pounding in the music blogosphere lately, I have high hopes for Flobots.
The problem with that Popmatters review linked to above – in my opinion – is that they seem to be missing the entire point of the song that they eviscerate there, “Handlebars”; something which I find surprising, considering the fact that the point is made clear by the video that accompanied the single. Let’s take a look at some of the choice words in that review:
At one point in “Handlebars”, the narrator boasts that he and his friend made a comic book. Hey guy, guess what? I made a bunch of comic books with my friend Josh when we were kids. It was a series called Goggle Guy. We made about 10 different issues and actually sold some of them. Call me when you and your buddy pop out issue number two, which will hopefully happen sometime before you “end the planet in a holocaust” as you threaten toward the end of your little brag session.
Um. No. See, as I see it, the song isn’t about a bragging session at all. It’s a song about the infinite possibilities that we all have as kids; that idiom that anything is possible as long as we believe in ourselves. After all, it’s opening lines of “I can ride my bike with no handlebars, no handlebars” hit you over your head with that wide-eyed, child-like innocence
But, at the same time, it’s a song about how that potential is beaten out of us by life… how life can jade us, and steal our innocence.
And, ultimately, it’s a song that talks about the fact that, while we have all the potential in the world to do all these good things (“I can design an engine sixty four miles to a gallon of gasoline, I can make new antibiotics“), we squander this responsibility. When they’re talking about “ending the world in a holocaust”, they aren’t literally saying that they will (I feel like a dumbass for even having to point that out to the reviewer)… they’re talking about the powers that be. I mean, listen to that last stanza and it’s blindingly obvious:
My reach is global
My tower secure
My cause is noble
My power is pure
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let’em all die from exasperation
Have’em all healed from their lacerations
Have’em all killed by assassination
I can make anybody go to prison
Just because I don’t like’em and
I can do anything with no permission
I have it all under my command
Because I can guide a missile by satellite
And I can hit a target through a telescope
Through a telescope
Through a telescope
And I can end the planet in a holocaust
In a holocaust
Gah. I got a bit carried away there, but that review irritated me no end, and I needed to get that out. But this post isn’t meant to be an analysis of “Handlebars”.
What this is meant to be, is a post saying: these guys are good. Mixing hip-hop with a groove-fusing rhythym section, violins and trumpets… in a tightness beyond belief? Yeah, it’s good. And the productions values on “Fight With Tools” looks to have been flawless.
While they may not be “Rage Against The Machine” (and, let’s be honest, they’re nowhere near the same league… but then again, who is?), they offer something: they offer change. They offer hope. And that’s what music should do.
I’ve included three tracks from the album below. The first is the album intro, “There’s a War Going On For Your Mind“, which sets the mood for the album to come. The second, “Mayday!!!“, is a hard-hitting track, that in the hands of a lesser band, might have become a wall of mashed sound… yet somehow, Flobots pull it off. And, of course, the final track is the single, “Handlebars“.
What that extremely long and convoluted title alludes to is the fact that, for me, May 2008 has proven to contain an absolute dearth of good new music. Aside from the new Death Cab album and Frightened Rabbit release, not much sparked interest from me this month, and that might have been noticed in the slowing of regular posting here.
In a way, the month of May forced me to confront an issue that I suppose all music-bloggers eventually face: whether to post regularly – sometimes for the sake of posting – simply to provide your regular readers with something to tide them over; or to hold back, and stick firm to the policy of “only posting music that excites you“. I noticed this trend throughout the month in some of the other blogs I read. Some were subscribing to the “post for the sake of posting” philosophy, which I can understand. It’s a valid way of thinking, and probably the smartest if you’re hoping to build up a community on your blog – as I’m hoping to do – by engaging your readers regularly.
In the end though, I felt that I simply could not do that. Perhaps it’s the wrong decision to make, and feel free to leave me a comment if you’d prefer that I post more regularly. But really, I find it really hard to write at all, unless there’s some passion behind it.
Anyway, I suppose in some ways that’s an apology of sorts for the lack of regular posting around these parts lately. Or perhaps a justification. I can’t decide quite which.
I will add two songs here, however, that have been on my “Possible Blog” list for quite some time now… but were waiting for more companions to join them, in order to make a “music round-up” post. However, nothing more came in May. So here they are, standing lonesome…
The Old Romantic Killer Band – Lovers Pass
The Old Romantic Killer Band
The Old Romantic Killer Band are everything that’s right with the blues/folk/punk fusion movement. Catchy, and hooky as all hell, this song, “Lovers Pass“, is an instant classic… and, in my opinion, finds The Old Romantic Killer Band at their dirty blues best.
The band, a two-piece from Leeds, is easily one of my bands to watch in 2008. Singer Harry’s voice has that vintage quality that just pulls you in with it’s warmth, and the stunningly tight yet emotive rhythm section driven by Greg behind the drums is sure to please the blues purists. Amazingly, The Old Romantic Killer Band has still not been picked up by a record label… I doubt they will stay that way for much longer.
Earmark these guys right now. They’re the real thing.
The Tallest Man On Earth – It Will Follow The Rain
The Tallest Man On Earth
Ok. I’m going to throw around the “Dylanesque” word here. And yes, I know it’s overused. And yes, I know it’s rarely warranted. And yes, I know it’s almost lazy for a music blogger to use that word.
But listen to The Tallest Man On Earth (aka Swede Kristian Matsson), and try not to hear early Bob Dylan there… it’s almost impossible, isn’t it? There’s an abandon there, and an inherent ease that simply recalls Dylan for me. Point blank.
This song, “It Will Follow The Rain“, is taken from The Tallest Man On Earth’s 2007 EP, although he has just released his full-length debut, “Shallow Graves”, earlier this year. The production on “Shallow Graves” is exactly that sound that I love… scratchy and warm. It honestly feels as if Matsson is performing these songs live in your kitchen, with every breath and every crack is his warm rich voice present.
There’s nothing forced here. It’s natural, and tumbles from The Tallest Man On Earth in a way that’s impossible to resist.
Langhorne Slim is an artist who has me excited; the quintessential “everyman” performer, he is a singer who seems to truly embrace his flaws… and then run with them.
Langhorne Slim (photo credit: Crackerfarm)
The 27-year-old Slim, aka Sean Scolnick, is a proponent of that frenetic folk-rock of which I’m such a fan; but he manages to do it with an authenticity that sets him apart from the crowd. The sound in his records is… well, raw, in the best sense of the word, and sometimes so crazed that the imperfections in his voice come cracking through… but you love him all the more for it.
Really, Langhorne Slim mixes folk, blues, and rock in a way that few others can. And while his sophomore self-titled disc – which came out last week – isn’t as raw as his past release, “When the Sun’s Gone Down”, and his “Engine” EP, there’s still enough soul, fire, and warmth in his recordings to pull you in; particularly in the cracked-voice chorus of “Diamonds and Gold”.
“A tough day at the office,
And a worse night at home
Don’t wanna talk about it
Just wanna be left alone”
– Langhorne Slim, “Diamonds and Gold”
Langhorne Slim has also released the gorgeous video to his first single from the album, “Rebel Side of Heaven”, which contains perhaps one of my favourite refrains ever, with the words:
“Although we’ve sinned all our lives, we’re not going to hell.
We’re going to the rebel side of heaven.”
– Langhorne Slim, “The Rebel Side of Heaven”
The video itself is one of the most beautifully-shot music videos I’ve ever seen, with rich vibrant colours and stark shadows. I’ve included it below for you visual pleasure.
Ultimately, I suppose what truly draws me in to Langhorne’s music is his unbridled passion. I hope it does the same for you.
I really couldn’t decide on which tracks to include below, so I thought I would include one from each of his last three releases. The first is the stunning track, “In the Midnight“, from the aforementioned release, “When The Sun’s Gone Down“, which displays his bluegrass influences and contains an awesome banjo accompaniment. The second is his track, “Restless“, which originally appeared on his “Engine” EP, but has gained a new life as a re-release on the new self-titled release; and finally, “Diamonds and Gold“, from that self-titled release.
Continuing my recent love affair with Scottish musicians, today’s post deals with the, quite frankly, brilliant band from Glasgow, Frightened Rabbit.
Frightened Rabbit have released their new album, “The Midnight Organ Fight”.
Yesterday I finally recieved my copy of Frightened Rabbit‘s new album, “The Midnight Organ Fight“, following a month of extreme expectation after I was exposed to their single “The Modern Leper” at the beginning of April. While that song raised my hopes somewhat, it in no way prepared me for the perfection that is “The Midnight Organ Fight”. This is an album that almost never puts a foot wrong, and is easily a contender for my “top albums of 2008” list.
There’s a sincerity to lead singer/songwriter Scott Hutchison’s lyrics that immediately draws you in; it’s like a stream of consciousness of poignant observations… in fact, I’ve heard his lyrics described as “all the stuff you wish you’d said at the time of the break up but were too drunk/tired/dumbstruck/sad to sputter“, and I couldn’t put it better myself.
I might not want you back, but I want to kill him […]
I’m still in love with you and can’t admit it yet.
– Frightened Rabbit, “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms”
All of this is delivered in Hutchinson’s charming Scottish brogue – sometimes seemingly in direct contrast to his subject matter – and jangly, mixed guitars that only serve to heighten the urgency and immediacy of the emotions that lie just below the surface.
It’s beautiful, desperate, angry, and so damn tight, that I’m amazed this is only the band’s sophmore release. Put simply, Frightened Rabbit are everything that I got into this gig for.
Below, I’ve included the video for their first single, “Head Rolls Off“, and then two tracks off the new album; the aforementioned “Head Rolls Off”, and the heart-breaking “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms“. Do yourself a favour, and get this album. Seriously.
Wow. It’s been a busy few days, which means that I haven’t been able to get onto the blog much lately, so I apologise for not replying to comments here and there. Unfortunately it’s going to be just as busy a week this week, with another trip down to Sydney in the works. This time however, it’s not work-related; I’m heading down there to attend a lecture by Neil Gaiman… can you say “excited”? I certainly can.
However, not to worry; I have some posts set up to publish while I’m away, so they should hopefully tide you over for a while.
In the meantime, I thought I would drop a quick post today, discussing The New Frontiers.
The New Frontiers (image credit: Gabriel Hernandez)
I first heard The New Frontiers when I was exposed to their song, “Black Lungs“, a while ago… however, for whatever reason it languished in my “possible blog material” playlist for months, until now. I’m really not sure why I didn’t post the tune back then, as it really is a cracking song. It’s fitting that I post it now, however, as The New Frontiers have just released their debut album, Mending, this week.
The New Frontiers have been drawing comparisons from music bloggers to Wilco and Ryan Adams left and right, wherever you look. And, while I think these comparisons are somewhat overstated, you can certainly pick up those influences in their music. To that mix, however, I would add a healthy dose of The Alternate Routes… personally, I feel that would be a more accurate parallel, if you’re one of those people who demands their new music is compared to something.
The plain fact is that “Mending” is, in it’s entirety, one of the most promising albums I’ve heard from the alt.country stable thus far in 2008. There’s an integrity to these songs that eschews the pretentitiousness that the oh-so-hip alt.country sometimes spawns. And that’s a great thing.
I’ve included two songs below, the sparse “The Day You Fell Apart”, with it’s beautiful velvet vocals, and then the aforementioned “Black Lungs”; a meatier song, but one that still conveys the emotive quality of lead singer Nathan Pettijohn’s voice.
Apart from those, however, I would suggest heading across to their myspace page, as there are several links there that point towards sites where you can stream the entire “Mending” album.
Listen. Love. Support.
Knowing my passion for Ryan Adams, a post featuring these guys shouldn’t come as a surprise. After Romantica‘s “America” album was featured on Paste Magazine’s “Top 100 Albums of 2007”, comparisons began popping up between Romantica’s singer/songwriter Ben Kyle, and both Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy just about everywhere… heady company indeed.
When I first heard those comparisons, I was intrigued to say the least. After all, Adams and Tweedy are two of my favourite artists. But, more interestingly, both were known for playing in the alt.country/Americana style… and I knew that Ben Kyle was an Irish boy, and I wondered whether he would be able to bring that authenticity to the Americana style. I shouldn’t have doubted it for a second.
Ben Kyle has said of the band’s style that:
It’s really hard to be objective about your own sound, particularly when you’re trying to sound subjective, but if if I had to label what we do… I’d probably call it “Irish Americana Pop.” Some of the artists I’ve listened to a lot on the American side are Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Wilco, Springsteen, and Dylan. And on the Irish/Brit side, Van Morrison, The Waterboys, Nick Drake, Belle and Sebastian and a lot of Irish folk. I think you can definitely hear some of these footprints, and we definitely take more of traditionalist approach.
And I can certainly hear pretty much all those influences in there. Although if I had to say what it immediately recalls for me, I’d probably say a delightful mix of Ryan Adams, Wilco, Del Amitri and some Gin Blossoms thrown in there for good measure. In fact, I can even hear some hints of The Damnwells in there, particularly in the opening chords of their tune, “Queen of Hearts”. In other words, it’s simply heaven.
The songs I’ve included below all come from “America” album – except for the bonus goodness of Ben Kyle and Ryan Adams performing together on one of Ben’s songs. Do yourself a favour, and check out the album now.
(Aside: I have to pop down to Sydney tomorrow for work requirements, and will be there until next week, so I might not be able to pop onto the blog much. I’ve post-dated a post to appear on Live Music Friday, so hopefully that will appear without a hitch…)
After almost a week off from the blogosphere, there are a few songs that I haven’t told you about… so we’ll just jump right in…
Matthew Ryan – American Dirt & Gone For Good
Matthew Ryan… don’t call it a comeback!
Matthew Ryan has – for the most part – flown under the mainstream radar, even though he’s been releasing albums for more than a decade now. In fact, a quote on his Myspace page even reads, “Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years“. And the lack of mainstream exposure is absolutely shocking, as Matthew Ryan’s output over the years has been nothing less than consistently brilliant. I suspect, however, that 2008 will be the year that he finally hits the big time.
There’s just something about Matthew Ryan’s voice; it has the very real ability to reach right into your soul and tug on it until it wakes up.
I’ve included two songs here: the first, “American Dirt“, is off his latest album, “Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State“, and is a ball of seething rage and purpose. The song smothers you in it’s intent, which is more steely than anything I’ve heard from Matthew Ryan before. Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State came out on April 1, and I seriously suggest you check it out. Ryan is on top form with it.
The next song, “Gone For Good“, is off his 2007 release, “A Late Night High Rise“, and is a slow, delicate number that displays Ryan’s versatility. There’s a Bon Iver kind of vulnerability in his breathy, pleading lyrics here, that absolutely breaks me every time I hear it. A must-listen.
Josh Ritter… one of the best songsmiths of our time.
Stepping back in time a bit here, to Josh Ritter‘s 2006 release, “The Animal Years“, and it’s standout track, “Thin Blue Flame“. A 10-minute track of epic proportions, it’s like something out of Revelations… really, it’s a 10 minute opportunity to re-examine your life, and the way we live.
I wondered what it was I’d been looking for above.. Heaven’s so big there ain’t no need to look up. So I stopped looking for royal cities in the air — only a full house gonna have a prayer.
Only a full house. – Josh Ritter, “Thin Blue Flame”
Josh Ritter — to me at least — is still one of the best songsmiths in contemporary music. Point blank. And Thin Blue Flame is no exception. It’s a direct plea to his listener… and one that I can’t turn away from.
One of my guilty pleasures last year was One Republic’s tune, “Apologise”. As cheesy and formulaic as it was, there was something about the song that I just dug. So this is included here, really, as just another guilty pleasure. New Atlantic can produce some interesting stuff, but their cover of “Apologise” is a nice, cheesy, formulaic cover. Heh. But it’s cool for a spin.
The Kooks have just released their second album, “Konk”.
The Pete Townshend-beloved Kooks are back, and I’m really digging where they are going with their second album, “Konk“, which came out last week. This song, “Tick of Time” is a ridiculously catchy closer to the album, and shows them in their best light… a band, just having fun.
I’ll admit it, I was sceptical that The Kooks would be able to deliver — again — on their hype. But this song clinches it for me. Well played lads, well played.