Watching Beyonce swing her hair around during the Super Bowl halftime show, my mind started to wander over to another dynamic and extremely different musician I had seen recently. Reflecting on Kathleen Edwards‘ performance last week at Brighton Music Hall, I came upon a version of the same question I ask myself about most of my favorite artists: Why isn’t Kathleen Edwards more popular? I might append “in the US” to that as all of Canada will politely remind you that Kathleen Edwards and hockey belong to them.
The new album from moody Scottish alt rockers Frightened Rabbit has landed. Pedestrian Verse is the group’s fourth album and their first under the Atlantic record label. Front man Scott Hutchinson delivers emotional lyrics that give the album an honest feel. Standouts “Backyard Skulls,” “The Woodpile” and “State Hospital” carry the album to success. Frightened Rabbit’s trademark melancholy is ever-present on this LP, notably in the incessant declaration “There is something wrong with me,” on the track “Dead Now.” This album follows a year of touring with Death Cab for Cutie and the strong State Hospital EP released last year. Pedestrian Verse could be the album that brings Frightened Rabbit off of alternative rock’s backburner and into the foreground.
Purity Ring’s music feels precious to me. When I say “precious” I don’t mean it the way some people describe things that are overly cutesy or twee. I mean that the electro-indie duo, comprised of Megan James and Corin Roddick, treat their music as if it is precious. I don’t say this just because of the band’s slow and careful songwriting process. Each song feels to me like a cut jewel, sharp, precise, bright, and clear, to be handled with care and awe. Or at least that is how I felt when I saw Purity Ring play at House of Blues on Wednesday.
Surprise! The Strokes just popped out a new tune called “One Way Trigger” as if we all knew it was coming. Well of course, the Strokes were about due for a tease since 2011′s “Angles” record. And yeah, there are still Strokes fans out there who remember the thrill of “Is This It?” and the excellent yet under-appreciated “Room On Fire”. So hey, even though the Strokes may now be considered rock veterans, predictably steady, or even old hat, when the Strokes release a new song lovers and haters are going to spin it at least once.
Hey all! I took last week off for Bastille Day, but I hope you all enjoyed two weeks ago’s picks of the week! I’m really excited for Alt-J’s American release! Now onto some other stuff,
This week’s MD Picks are…
Pomplamoose has released quite a few tracks via their YouTube channel over the course of the past few years, all of it incredible. They recently dabbled in Electro-Pop with the single linked to above, and just dropped a new EP. Definitely check them out!
Similar to: The Ting Tings, The Submarines, Shiny Toy Guns
Album: Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
Regina Spektor is one of my absolute all-time favorite artists, and her new album doesn’t disappoint. Incredible sound, with a bunch of old tracks redone, and some new ones to boot, this album is terrific. And, to all the DJs wanting to play this album on their show, it’s available in the MD-recommended rack in Studio A! Recommended Tracks: “Patron Saint,” “Small Town Moon,” “All The Rowboats.”
Similar to: Ingrid Michaelson, Kate Nash, Immaculate Machine
Song: Madeon – “Finale“
I hope you all were as excited as I was when Madeon dropped his newest track. The 17-year old French electronic artist is an incredible force and one that’s been taking over the electronic scene in the past few years. Check out this track and check out all of his other tracks on his SoundCloud.
Similar to: Yelle, Wolfgang Gartner, Dave Edwards
Enjoy! See you next week!
Hope you all enjoyed last week’s picks of the week! The Oh Hello’s are really a great new sound. Now onto some other stuff,
This week’s MD Picks are…
The frontman took a journey to Russian Siberia before writing Balto’s newest album. And like the animated dog, a sense of loss is apparent in the newest album, October Road. There’s a great mixture of seclusion, longing, and optimism inherent to their lyrics. Just an all around terrific sound. They may not have released much in the past few months, but they’re definitely an artist to keep track of. Enjoy! Recommended tracks: “The Railyard,” “Self-Portrait.” Though, in all honesty, they don’t have a bad song.
Similar to: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver
Album: Alt-J (∆) – An Awesome Wave
Sometimes only identified by the Delta character they associate with all their music, Alt-J is a group out of Leeds, UK, that plays what they like to call “folkstep.” It’s an interesting style: a mixture of electronic backing and folk-inspired rhythms, lyrics, and musicianship. I guarantee you that you’ll have at least one of these songs stuck in your head for a while. Unfortunately, the album won’t be released in the US until September, but the group was nice enough to post the entire album on their SoundCloud. Recommended Tracks: “Breezeblocks,” “Tesselate”
Similar to: The Maccabees, The Wombats
Song: Rhye – “Open“
So this song is actually a bit old, by at least several months. but I feel it’s a track that still, nonetheless, needs to be shared. This enigmatic duo has only released this one song so far, and little is known about the band’s origins, intentions, or identity. Pretty cool, huh? But seriously, this track is just absolutely beautiful. I dare you – try listening to this song only once. It won’t be easy. Enjoy!
Similar to: Chairlift, Purity Ring, Neon Indian
Enjoy! See you next week!
Hey everybody! We’re introducing a new tradition where each week the Music Director (me) selects a new artist, album, and song that are bound to perk your ears up a bit. Each week I’ll be posting something that may have gone under your radar a bit, but you’ll really like. Some of these will be available in the rotation shelves (look for the silver stickers), but most of this is just to spread the music around! I hope you all will enjoy it!
This week’s MD Picks are…
Artist: The Oh Hello’s
Really great new artist from Texas. Their new album merges a lot of folky aspects with a new rock and alternative sound. This brother-and-sister combination has great vocal harmonies.
Similar to: Mumford & Sons, The Civil Wars
Album: The Tallest Man On Earth - There’s No Leaving Now
I absolutely love The Tallest Man On Earth. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s this Bob Dylan-esque Swedish singer-songwriter with a very folky feel. This album, though maybe not as revolutionary as his Shallow Grave album, is incredible and definitely worth a listen.
Similar to: Bob Dylan, Joe Pug
Song: Michael Kiwanuka - “Home Again“
This British singer-songwriter merges soulful roots music with a great bluesy background. Michael Kiwanuka has the incredible ability to make you feel like you’re in some raggedy pub somewhere, just watching him pour our his soul. This song is just so beautiful.
Enjoy! See you next week!
Remember Fiona Apple? You know, that impossibly slight singer from the late 90s, the one with the huge blue eyes and the even huger voice? Maybe you remember Tidal, her first, awesome album from 1996 and it’s bad-ass single “Sleep to Dream.” After her 2005 release, Extraordinary Machine, Apple effectively disappeared, dropping out of the general music consciousness and leaving the throaty soulful singing to a new crop of British songstresses. Fortunately Apple is back with a vengeance this year. After her much lauded SXSW appearances, Apple has released the first single off her upcoming album The Idler Wheel, set to drop on June 19th. ”Every Single Night” is extremely minimal, keeping the focus on Apple’s remarkable voice and the interior monologue expressed in the lyrics. For the most part she keeps her voice soft and tremulous, allowing it to shake and even break occasionally before breaking into her full throaty belt in a near yodel at the end of each verse. Its a strange and thoughtful new track from a strange and thoughtful performer whose presence we’ve been missing, whether we knew it or not. The track is available on Apple’s Soundcloud.
I have this thing about Swedish musicians. Why are they everywhere and why are they so good? Consider First Aid Kit, two sisters who make up an extremely young, very cute, and absurdly talented folk duo, who just released their second album to tremendous blog hype and critical acclaim. They just had their Boston show switched over to the Paradise Rock Club after selling out Brighton Music Hall. Others who come to mind are The Tallest Man on Earth, Jose Gonzalez, Jens Lekman, and Peter Bjorn and John, all excellent Swedish musicians who sing in English and have gained an ardent following in the US. But before any of these artists were a big deal, there was The Hives. Though officially they formed in the early 90′s, The Hives came to prominence, as part of the so-called “garage rock revival” in the early 2000s, along with The White Stripes. The band hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves in the US for its excellent and straightforward brand of rock n roll; They all but disappeared after their 2007 release The Black and White Album. But they’re back this year with a new album, Lex Hives, to be released in June, and in the meantime they’ve got a new single, “Go Right Ahead.” Listen up, and then start working on your “Superior Swedes” playlist.
Formed back in 1963 by former Rolling Stones bassist Dick Taylor, the Pretty Things’ raw sound and rowdy live shows made them a top club act in the UK. However the band’s failure to tour the US contributed to the Pretties being eclipsed by The Stones in popularity. The band developed a decidedly more psychedelic style with the release of their 1967 LP Emotions, but it was the groundbreaking 1968 rock opera S.F. Sorrow that should have made the band huge.
Released one year before Tommy, SF Sorrow was critically acclaimed upon it’s release in the UK. Unfortunately the LP was not distributed in the increasingly important US market until well after Tommy hit store shelves. Needless to say US fans did not buy S.F. Sorrow. To most US rock fans, S.F. Sorrow remains little more than a classic rock footnote. That’s a shame, because it’s a great album. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the Pretty Thing’s Dick Taylor and Phil May and gain some insight into this ground-breaking work.
Mike Conway: Can you talk a little bit about how the S.F. Sorrow album came about because obviously that has been a real signpost in the history of rock.
Phil May: We had reached a point, as Dick said, beyond the pop thing, and we had done all that. And I think really it was for our own preservation that we had to find another way or we were getting a bit bored with it. It is like we had done it for four or five years and the singles. It seemed that we needed something more to get our teeth into, to sustain our interest, otherwise, I think we would have stopped. And it was in some ways our salvation, that we found another way of making a record that held our interest and took us into the next stage. Otherwise, I think we would have stopped at that point and just been a pop band with bad boy overtones. The opportunity to go to the best studio in the world, spend a year with Norman Smith was a great working, when you got the Beatles in the other studio and Pink Floyd in the other. The whole sense of Abbey Road was kind of an exciting place of invention and people trying to push the envelope. I remember it as being probably one of the most creative, stimulating periods in my life. It was a wonderful feeling you know.
Dick Taylor: And also there was a feeling of, when we were doing that, it was more like we are working on an artistic project rather than we are producing a piece of product for a record company.
Phil May: Commercial. This is going to be the next commercial big thing. We didn’t have any illusions that maybe we were going to have, but we did feel we were doing something, which is important.
Dick Taylor: That really was in our minds and it wasn’t just like, oh we got to do so many songs to fit an album, it was actually a conceived of piece which we wanted to complete. It didn’t spring sort of like out of the air, but we had to really work on it. But Phil’s story and everything, we just knew, oh now we have to do a song which kind of fits this and sometimes the song would come and the story would change.
Phil May: It was making new demands on us. We were writing for a particular character, like Baron Saturday. We had to come up with something musically which suited his character. So that was exciting. So again, we had found a different way of making music. Whereas the story was driving us. And we had good songs around the time we didn’t use. There was another song which didn’t make the album called “Cardinal of Regrets”, was another character, but we couldn’t get into that, it just stayed on the sidelines because the story ruled.
Dick Taylor: Let’s dig that out again. If you can remember it.
Phil May: I found the drawings for it the other day.
Dick Taylor: I never, I can’t remember it.
Phil May: It was different enough that, you know, if I was doing lyrics, there would be pages of drawings for that song. And then from that, the lyrics would come, after it had been visualized. What was happening? The balloon burning. And then the lyrics would come next. So I had a sketch book full of drawings.
Dick Taylor: And then we would be beating away putting riffs together and things and what have you.
Phil May: So it was a very visual– That’s what I mean, it was very visual. For me it was visualized before the text came. The visual image was there before the text.
Mike Conway: Do you think the work still holds up today?
Phil May: You have to answer that.
Dick Taylor: It seems to, because this is, people seem to be saying it does.
Phil May: Young kids are hearing it for the first time, find it quite stimulating.
Be sure to check out Classic Rock Mine, Saturday nights from 9pm-11pm, to hear the music of the Pretty Things and other obscure classic rock goodness.
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