Follow Friday 2.14.14

Valentine’s Day has us in an amorous sort of mood this week.  Here are the albums and artists that have us starry-eyed.

Ásgeir – In The Silence

Entirely hijacking my listening the past week has been Ásgeir’s debut album In the Silence. Not yet released in the US, his first album draws heavily from influences like Bon Iver, James Vincent McMorrow and fellow Icelandic native Jonsi. The songs are beautiful melodic folk and are beginning to make waves in Europe. Look for a US release sometime in the near future. -Scotland

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the bear – Overseas Then Under

What a great find this week. the bear, from Muscle Shoals, Alabama have a great folk-twinged indie rock sound. Last year’s album Overseas Then Under has a couple great soaring, single-worthy tunes in “He’s Not Mine” and “Darlin’ Boy”. But listen to the whole album – the lyrics to the brighter, poppier tunes early in the album hint at the melancholy of the last half of the album. Altogether, the album weaves a story of a love that never could never be- an emotional story arc that aptly matches the title Overseas Then Under. -Dave C.

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CEO – Wonderland

The sophomore solo LP by CEO finds Eric Berglund (formerly of The Tough Alliance) unwound and unleashed. The mood he evokes on Wonderland – a childlike euphoria mixed with the half-remembered hedonism of a post-drug comedown is as unimitable as it is intoxicating, even though it is constructed with recognizable tools and pieces. Berglund effortlessly blends his touchstones – balearic house, Sakamoto’s 80s-era genre-smashing maximalism, mainstream hip hop, 90s new age, and and who knows what else – holding them together with his impeccable pop songcraft. Berglund takes the weaving of this day-glo baroque tapestry completely seriously, and it’s songwriting perfectionism and utter sincerity that lured me into the alternate realm of Wonderland. I’ll be staying here awhile. -Ramona

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Illum Sphere – Ghosts of Then and Now

Manchester’s Ryan Hunn aka Illum Sphere combines beats and atmosphere on his debut album, out on Ninja Tune this week. File it somewhere between Jazz and weird electronics, between Shigeto (who features some drums on the album) and The Gaslamp Killer, between workout and chill. The title of the pre-released single “Sleeprunner” says it all, really. Some songs seem a bit generic at the beginning, but Illum Sphere always has a twist or two up his sleeve as the tracks develop – a very sophisticated and coherent debut. -Henje

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Katy B – Little Red

My pick for this week is Katy B’s second album, Little Red. It’s a solid dance-pop album and some of the stand outs for me were “I Like You”, “Everything”, “5AM”, “Crying For No Reason”, and “Play”.  There’s a continuous mix on the deluxe version of the album with a different track order that is supposed to be better than the standard album. I haven’t heard that yet but I’m looking forward to it. -Christine

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Kishi Bashi – 151a

I will look back! A year ago to the date, to be exact. I’m currently re-fawning over Kishi Bashi. I got my *cough* limited edition *cough* vinyl in the mail today (yesterday). It’s a recording from a show I went to last year on Valentine’s Day, so it seems timely. The recording can be listened to on his bandcamp page (http://kishibashi.bandcamp.com/releases), it includes an unreleased track as well as a couple of covers. I’m not going to stop there and be all precious and pretentious though as were it not for his full album, 151a, I wouldn’t have found myself at that show or getting this LIMITED EDITION vinyl. (as of right now there are 8 left) [Ed. Note – 7.] -Faith

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Phantogram – Voices

I’ve enjoyed Phantogram’s sound for a while now, which has shades of one of my all-time favorites, Portishead, but with less nihilism and melancholy and more pop. Maybe we can call it “trip pop.” Anyway, my admiration for them grew when I caught the band at a festival not expecting the live performance to sound nearly as good, but I was happy to discover I was wrong. I like keyboardist Sarah Barthel’s lead vocals, which are detached and cool but complement the music. Guitarist Josh Carter sings on a few tracks and his vocals can be a surprising contrast, but still work with the instrumentation. Standout tracks are “Fall in Love” and “Black Out Days.” I find myself appreciating the album very much in the midst of these winter doldrums — moody, but with enough punch to keep me looking ahead to seeing Phantogram live again during warmer times. -Qbertplaya

You can stream the entire album on NPR Music right now: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/11/271517810/first-listen-phantogram-voices

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Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”

This week I am reviewing a single track…a single track that you will want to listen to 12 times in a row. “Coffee” by Sylvan Esso is a beautifully constructed track. A foundation of deep bass is layered with a wide variety of percussion and incredibly lush, playful vocals. The track takes you on a journey through a forest of chimes, nuanced electronics that bring to mind the Notwist, and a vocal that has a comforting resemblance to Feist. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this album will have to offer. -Johnny

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Thumpers – Galore

My pick of the week is “Galore” by Thumpers. It is a sparkling pop gem that often skates closely to the bubblegum line, but bounces back with catchy hooks and tight percussion. Take it for a spin and I think you will find at least one track belongs in your summer playlist. -Jeremy

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Tinariwen – Emmaar

I had the good fortune to see Tinariwen perform in support of their stellar 2011 album Tassili, recorded, unlike many of their previous releases, in the Sahara Desert that they call home.  The album situated the band’s sound squarely around the nomadic campfires indigenous to the Tuareg people’s home region, though in a nod to the music’s wider accessibility the band drew in musicians such as Nels Cline (of Wilco) and Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone (of TV on the Radio) as key contributors.  This is the same formula used on Emmaar (guest appearances include Saul Williams and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), though the political situation in Mali and surrounding environs of the Sahel forced the band to relocate to another desert – the Mojave in California – to cut and record this album. The affect on the sound is to lend a further tinge of nostalgia – this is a band formed amidst exile, after all – without completely abandoning the music’s sense of home.  Musically, Tinariwen lies somewhere in the realm between Bob Dylan’s folksy blues and Fela Kuti’s incredible sense of rhythm.  It’s an immensely enjoyable sound, and yet another wonderful album from some of the greatest artists in music today. -Jeff

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Woodsman – Woodsman

This week wasn’t about choice, but more about need. During stress-filled days of deadline anxiety and disappointments I needed something that was more straightforward. I didn’t want lyrics telling me sad stories or stories on redemption and sacrifice. I needed droning guitars, building drum beats and landscape. I needed music that kept to the background and complimented my thinking. This week, Woodsman’s new self-titled album found me pacing the hallways looking for that constant. -Rocky

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Youngblood Brass Band – Pax Volumi

This week’s pick is Pax Volumi by Youngblood Brass Band. Not much to say about this but to say that it kicks ass. Many of these tracks, as it is to be expected, kick you right in the teeth from the get-go and you can’t help but wanna dance a little. Listen to this when you have to get something done, whether it be taxes, shoveling, or cooking (make something spicy). These guys have been making music together for 17 years and you can definitely hear it. They gel together effortlessly and give you a record you will not soon forget. -Dave P.

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