Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/21/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Oh Yeah” by Foxygen

When I recently went to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra play in Chicago, the opening act was their Jagjaguwar label mates Foxygen. I had never heard of them before, however I must say that not only was I duly impressed enough to delve further into their oeuvre, but there were probably more people there to see them than UMO who were the headliners.

Foxygen is a California duo consisting of Jonathan Rado and Sam France who formed in 2005. Although they are a duo, the band adds several members including vocalist Elizabeth Fey when touring.

The group self-released six EPs, between 2005 and 2011 and got their big boost by handing their (at the time) just recorded EP Take The Kids Off Broadway to producer and Shins member, Richard Swift at one of his shows, not knowing if he would listen to it or toss it in the dustbin on his way out of the venue. Not only did he listen to it, he also agreed to produce and perform on their record.

Their sound is a thoroughly modern take on ‘60s psychedelia, infusing Kinks inspired melodies buried under a barrage of Velvet Underground drone with a hint of Bowie-Rex glam. Their second full-length album, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic is chock full of interesting non-sequitor lyrics and plush melodies that are undercut with energy and drive.

The album is an embarrassment of well-written riches including tracks like “Oh Yeah” with its “Mambo Sun” stop-start rhythms and jivey Bolan-esque vocals with rewarding lyrical couplets like “I’ve got a movie playing in my mind / I’ve got some money but it isn’t mine / And if you wanna be a bummer, take a number / Baby, get in line,” that make you think and smile with admiration at the same time. Elsewhere, “Shuggie,” the record’s first single, finds the band in a Paul McCartney moment, shape-shifting all over the place in its three minutes from funk to rock to melodic AM radio sing-a-long.

The quasi-religious “On Blue Mountain” unapologetically lifts the melody of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and finds Sam France channeling Bob Dylan in the vocal department while singing “On Blue Mountain / God will save us/ Put the pieces back together.”

“San Francisco” seems to have fallen off of an electric Kool Aid truck fully formed with a call and response chorus that gravitates between the pie-eyed naiveté of the sixties sifted through the lens of today’s WTF generation.

All in all, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic is a record that really gets under your skin after repeated spins, and is well worth the investment in time and money to check it out. They will be performing again in the Chicago area this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival. I will definitely be there!

Edited: April 21st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Today’s Supernatural” by Animal Collective

Psychedelia is alive and well and living in…Maryland? Well at least in Animal Collective’s case, it hails from Maryland. In a musical world where little is truly ever new, Animal Collective consistently tap into the past to create a sound that’s wholly their own. Like a wigged out Yes or a Beach Boys on acid, the sound of Animal Collective is like nothing else you’ve ever heard.

David Portner (aka Avey Tare), Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear), Josh Dibb (aka Deakin) and Brian Weitz (aka Geologist) were grade school friends who went away to different colleges, but would reconvene back in Maryland to make music during breaks. After college they began to work together regularly. Forming a collective, rather than a band, gave them the freedom to work alone, in pairs or all together based on who was available at the time, resulting in their 2009 breakthrough record, Merriweather Post Pavilion, having only three of the four members in the lineup. While not working together, each member of the group has recorded outside projects, with Panda Bear becoming a successful recording artist in his own rite, and Brian Weitz becoming a marine biologist.

During their early days, the collective would take to the stage wearing masks and makeup, in an effort to feel more comfortable in front of people. They did this from 2000-2006 until the notoriety of the masks began to overtake their music. Today, their live shows feature elaborate lighting, with the band typically performing mostly new and unheard material, sometimes years before it is released. I saw the band perform today’s Song Of The Day at the Pitchfork Music Festival back in 2010, only to have it finally turn up two years later on this year’s stellar album, Centipede Hz. It seems the face makeup has made a reappearance in this, the official video that accompanied the release of this song as a single.

In 2010, the group branched out into film with the release of a “visual album” called ODDSAC, featuring music and videos developed at the same time and edited live in real time. While, I’ve not personally seen this film, or heard the accompanying sound track, based on their prior modus operandi, it must be one far out experience.

Edited: December 15th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/12/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Baby Get Worse” by Divine Fits

When I first started playing Divine Fits’ debut album, “A Thing Called Divine Fits,” I immediately gravitated to the songs that featured Britt Daniels on lead vocals. Daniels formed the band with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks while on hiatus from his band Spoon. In fact, it was Britt Daniels and the Spoon connection that led me to this album in the first place. What I found was that this record is chock full of really good glam-infused tunes written by each band member with a heaping helping of ‘80s synth-pop and punk rock thrown in for good measure. This track, featuring Dan Boeckner on lead vocals, immediately caught me off guard and insinuated itself into my cranium. It is firmly on “repeat” mode in my iPod.

Edited: September 11th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Trouble With Candyhands” by Deerhoof

Emanating from San Francisco (Greg Saunier & John Dieterich) by way of Japan (Satomi Matsuzaki), Deerhoof have released 12 albums of unpredictable music with a sound that would have made Yoko Ono proud and John Lennon jump for joy. It has finally come to pass that the ingredients of Yoko Ono’s recordings circa “Double Fantasy” that were championed by John Lennon have somewhat reached the mainstream with Deerhoof and their brand new release “Breakup Song.” Part electro-crunch, part sing-song melodies, part twee vocals and completely infectious in the dance rhythm department, “The Trouble With Candyhands” is a prime example of this band’s unique and irresistible sound.

Edited: September 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/13/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Just Started Hating Some People Today” by Beck

While it’s been four years since Beck released his last album, “Modern Guilt,” he has hardly been idle. In 2009 Beck started a website experiment called “Record Club” where he and other musicians would get together and cover an entire album in one day. The first one was “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” the second was “Songs Of Leonard Cohen” and the third and final one was Skip Spence’s “Oar.” Guests on these ventures included members of Sonic Youth, Wilco, MGMT, Devendra Banhart and Feist. While it was a cool novelty to hear these unreleased cover albums up on the web, fans had not heard a peep of new Beck-penned and performed material in quite some time. In fact, the only other high profile projects we had were production duties for Thurston Moore’s latest solo record “Demolished Thoughts” and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ superb “Mirror Traffic” album. So it was with great anticipation when word came out that Beck would cut a single with Jack White at Third Man Records. This past May, the resultant two songs from the sessions were released as a single with this song as the A-side and a song called “Blue Randy” on the flip. While both songs are good, they are hardly a major statement from an artist so highly regarded for innovation. So here we are on the precipice of even more current happenings from the Beck camp when last week it was announced that Beck was ready to release a new 20-song album this December called “Song Reader.” Oh, but there is a catch…Beck is choosing to release the album only in sheet music form complete with full color art. So it will be in the hands of the fans to perform the songs before we get to hear the material for real.

Edited: August 12th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/10/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Bicycle” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Every year after the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, I come home with a list of artists that I hadn’t heard before who were great to listen to on stage. After further investigation some of them have released great records that had fallen under my radar, others, not so much. Some of the acts I first heard at Pitchfork include Fleet Foxes, Dodos, tUnE-yArDs and Battles, all of whom I’m still listening to today. This year’s finds included New York City band Cults and Portland Oregon based (by way of New Zealand), Unknown Mortal Orchestra. UMO is the brain child of Ruban Nielson, formally of the band Mint Chicks, who counts artists as diverse as Captain Beefheart and Sly Stone as major influences. Their sound is an amalgam of gauzy sounding neo-psychedelic acts like MGMT, Ween, Apples In Stereo and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Their self-titled debut album casually ingratiated itself with me over several plays until I found I couldn’t live without hearing it incessantly. The otherworldly building featured on the album cover is a monument in Yugoslavia built in the 1960s called Spomeniks.

Edited: August 9th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/27/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Quarantined” by Atlas Sound

Up until a few days ago, I had heard of Atlas Sound but never heard them. Andrew Freedman, a Facebook friend of mine whose father was a good concert buddy of mine in the 1970s, posted this on his page as one of his “Daily Music” posts. When I pushed play, I was promptly whisked away to another musical place…a place I want to return to again and again. Atlas Sound is the name Bradford Cox uses for his solo work when he is not recording with his band Deerhunter. The Atlas Sound material is far more psychedelic and stream of conscious than the more concrete material he records with Deerhunter. This song comes from the first Atlas Sound record from 2008 called “Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel.” I do believe I’m going to become a huge Atlas Sound and Deerhunter fan in the near future. Thanks Andrew!

Edited: May 26th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/14/12


Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Watch The Show” by M. Ward

He is the “Him” of She & Him along with Zooey Deschanel. He is also ¼ of the “super group” Monsters Of Folk along with Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes. Matthew Ward, or M. Ward as he’s better known, has been the epitome of laid-back Portlandia, very happy hanging on the sidelines or in the background of his many projects. Between releasing his own records including his latest, “A Wasteland Companion,” Ward has lent his talents to sessions with such indie luminaries as Neko Case, Cat Power, My Morning Jacket and Jenny Lewis.

Edited: April 21st, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/20/12!!

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Awake” by Canyons Of Static

Not only do they make the most tasty contemporary mood music around, they also possess the coolest band name in all of rock! Canyons Of Static’s brew of instrumental “shoegaze” music built on layers of feedback is experimental, challenging and downright exciting to listen to. The band consists of husband and wife Ross and Aggie Severson (guitar and keyboards respectively), Chris Biertzer on bass and drummer Nathan Gaffney and hail from West Bend, Wisconsin. Their new record is called “Farewell Shadows” and it was released back in January. In concert, the band are a multi-media extravaganza featuring homemade projected films on multiple screens that complement the din and rush emanating from the stage.

Edited: March 19th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/7/12

Song Of The Day – “Eyeoneye” by Andrew Bird

One of our favorite sons out here in Chicagoland, Andrew Bird just released his most ear-pleasing record yesterday called “Break It Yourself.” A master whistler and violinist, Bird has cruised the most non-traditional paths to stardom beginning with his instruments of choice and an amalgam of musical influences including swing, classical, jazz, zydeco and Irish folk tunes. After a stint with the neo-swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bird launched his own Bowl Of Fire band but soon grew restless and struck out as a solo artist creating tape loops of himself on the fly and performing along with the loops. Whether performing solo or with a band, Bird is a must-see in concert.

Edited: March 7th, 2012

Song Of the Day – 5/14/11

Song Of The Day – “Finn Bikkjen” by Casiokids

From Norway by way of down state Illinois record label, Polyvinyl Records, come Casiokids with this great track from their 2010 debut American album “Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar.” Went to see them perform in a small club last August and they did not disappoint.

Edited: May 13th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 4/26/11

Song Of The Day – “Jesus Fever” by Kurt Vile

Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile has a sound reminiscent of Jorma Kaukonen on this track. His lo-fi bedroom records from the past have given way to a more produced sound on his latest called “Smoke Ring For My Halo.” While some of the edges have been smoothed out production-wise, the songwriting is as sharp as ever.

Edited: April 26th, 2011