Friday, March 30, 2012

Stream the new single from Jai Paul

It's been a VERY long time (almost two years!) since the British electro-pop-'n'B artist Jai Paul released his sensational debut, "BTSTU," one of 2010's best songs (or 2011's, depending on whether you're counting the original demo leak, which I was when I wrote "almost two years"). And until today, "BTSTU" was not only Jai Paul's breakout hit, it was his only released recording. But that's changed with today's release of the new single "Jasmine" on the high-profile British independent label XL. "Jasmine" is a stunning follow-up composed of funky guitars, ominous low-end synthesizers, a spartan beat, Paul's trademark sliced-and-diced approach to passionate R&B vocals, and a very ample dose of reverb. The result is an irresistible piece of shadowy, gorgeous, danceable lo-fi pop that's sure to be a 2012 favorite for many, yours truly definitely included. Honestly, it sounds like nothing else (though if I had to make a direct comparison, it'd be a reined-in and drugged-out rendition of Usher's excellent recent Diplo-produced single "Climax"). And while it may not boast the instant-gratification high of the classic "BTSTU," I prooooomise the subtler "Jasmine" is just as addictive and emotionally powerful as its predecessor. Here's hoping this release bodes well for the possibility of a Jai Paul full-length sometime soon; in the meantime, though, "Jasmine" should be enough to last us all another 18 months. It really was worth the wait.

Stream "Jasmine" over at Pretty Much Amazing, and listen to the 2011 edit of "BTSTU" here. Enjoy!

RIYL: Grimes, Purity Ring, James Blake, the Weeknd, the xx, How To Dress Well, Phantogram, Jamie Woon. And Usher. Duh.

UPDATE: Another recent gem is streaming at PMA as well -- the totally awesome Shabazz Palaces remix of Spank Rock's new "Car Song," prominently featuring another comeback kid au moment, Santigold. Santi's cold as ice, Spank Rock's mouth has never been filthier, and Shabazz Palaces outfit the track with some seriously menacing bass. Listen up!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

FENSTER to perform at 51 Main, 4/6

Fenster, a band including New Yorker-turned-Berliner and Middlebury alumna (!) JJ Weihl, will be performing at 51 Main on Friday, April 6 at 10:00 pm. Fenster were recently featured in Diane Martin's WRMC new-music column "Tunezday," where she compared their unique, dreamy, self-described "deconstructed" pop sound to the likes of the Strokes, Arcade Fire, the Flaming Lips, Beirut, and the xx. If you're in Middlebury that day, don't miss this show! (And if you're in NYC today, they're playing a show there tonight!) Check out Diane's post and its comments for further information about the band and show. Below, listen to the folky "Oh Canyon":

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How do you feel about Skrillex?

In the past two weeks, "brostep" figurehead and former Warped Tour small-fonter Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex, has played SXSW and received major coverage on the hipster tastemaking sites Pitchfork and Stereogum. So, some questions:

What's going on here? Is the indie music sphere warming up to Skrillex's bowel-movement-esque bass drops and cheap caffeine high aesthetic? Is this an earnest attempt to cut through the divisive maybe-bullshit about authenticity, legitimacy, and gender politics surrounding the chart-topping dance act? Did Pitchfork post an interview only to further its never-ending competition with Stereogum? Is this a case of the "underground" seizing upon and (possibly ironically) re-appropriating a mainstream sound just to mess with expectations and prove the supremacy of its cultural capital? Speaking of authenticity, how convincing is this sudden attention given that these publications and the audiences to which they cater have a history of derisively ridiculing this very act? Is the high traffic on these articles due to interest in Skrillex or interest in hearing the "victim" (or should that be "enemy"?) speak at long last? Is the polarizing Skrillex worthy of "defense" from the most renowned online independent music criticism publications currently running -- especially after being slammed by one of the most famous figures in U.K. dubstep (the "real" kind) on one of the same sites, to much praise? What is "real" dubstep, anyway? Why does this post require so many quotation marks? Is the U.S. fundamentally uglier, clumsier, worse at dancing, less aesthetically refined, and more misogynistic than the U.K.? Is Skrillex trying to simulate the sounds of gastroenteritis, or is that a coincidence? Is Skrillex's music sexist? Can it be listened to sober without inducing a headache? Is Skrillex a poser? Is Skrillex the 2010s answer to hair metal? I thought that was Sleigh Bells?

And, most importantly of all: Is Skrillex actually any good? Does he have anything interesting to say? Do you care?

If so, check out the articles here (Pitchfork) and here (Stereogum). And below, watch the video for "First of the Year" by Skrillex:

And here is the video for "Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin. In the Pitchfork piece, Moore claims Aphex Twin as a major influence, and it's not hard to hear "Come to Daddy"'s sinister industrial slice-and-dice (and freaky vocal horrorshow) in Moore's work as Skrillex. In fact, Moore mentions this video (an obvious inspiration for the "First of the Year" video) specifically. If you still don't see why you should watch it, it's also one of the best works of the notoriously twisted British music video director Chris Cunningham.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Video of the Week

One point if you know who Givers are. One point if you know what Black Cab Sessions is. Three points if you know what both things are. Regardless of your score on a quiz created to give myself the highest score, you should familiarize yourself with both the band and the unique music web site.

Black Cab Sessions has been around for a while and they've been taking bands around in their black cab, recording their music in a tiny space, and somehow making simultaneously intimate and wonderful recordings of artists that are now being shown on American television (and you thought it was all trash on at 2 am!). This video demonstrates the playfulness of Givers, while also showing off their amazing talents. I dare you to watch it and not have a huge crush of the girl in the band at the end of it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Virtual Virtuosos: Clara Chung

This week's featured artist is Clara Chung a.k.a. "ClaraCMusic." She's much better-known than most of the other YouTube artists I've featured so far (she even has a Wikipedia page!), but is still worth mentioning as she has yet to really achieve fame beyond the internet community. On her YouTube channel she posts both covers and original songs/mash-ups, often collaborating with other big-name YouTube musicians or personalities. For example, in the music video for "The Camel Song," Ryan Higa (nigahiga), from the #1 most subscribed channel on YouTube, plays her love interest:

Clara graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Education, but is now pursuing music full-time. If you'd like to see more of Clara, check out her official website, which has links to all of her social media pages.

No Virtual Virtuosos next week because of spring break, but I'll see you guys again in April!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Video of the Week

In true Lana Del Rey fashion, her latest video includes sultry face shots, exotic animals, and a tattooed man. The Blue Jeans video offers a lot of class to the viewer with its black and white aesthetics and well-planned shots. There's a bit of a Last Year at Marienbad feel to the video that really highlights Del Rey's sexy, yet mysterious, vocal qualities. While maybe not as good as the "Born to Die" video, you should definitely give it a look and listen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tunezday! Feat. The Shins, Conduits, and Tanlines

Indie Rock: At this time five years ago, I was driving (I had just gotten my license!) home from soccer practice with my windows rolled down blasting Wincing The Night Away, the third full length album from The Shins.  It seemed to me that James Mercer had created the perfect springtime album, that is, until now.  Today, The Shins release their long anticipated, fourth full-length album, Port of Morrow.  In the past five years Mercer dropped his band mates, dropped his indie label Subpop, and signed onto Columbia Records to create an amazing, intricately detailed pop-rock album.  While we all loved the lo-fi days of Oh, Inverted World, the production quality that comes with working on a major label is more than welcomed as it allows Mercer to really showoff every element of his songwriting.  Mercer hasn’t bought into the electronic scene as so many artists have, but instead sticks to the bright, layered guitars that have defined indie rock for so long.  It seems only appropriate to me that Port of Morrow comes out during the first beautiful spring week here in Middlebury.  So, go sit outside and blast if from your boom box!

Shoegaze” is at least the subgenre being cast upon Conduits; however, they are resisting this label and if you listen to their debut self-titled album, you will understand why.  The Omaha, Nebraska natives' official press release explains, “these aren't affected youth staring at their guitar pedals and hoping that the audience in front of them would just go away. This is music that pulses and crackles with energy and incident.”  And it’s true.  Driven by female vocals, the energy of this album is undeniable.  It is spacious and begs to be listened to under the sun in the open air.   Midway through the album, the track “On The Day” starts out a little quieter, a little calmer, and then breaks into epic cymbal crashes, rhythms, and chanting vocals.  Quit staring at your feet and check out this album being released today on Team Love Records.

Electronic: Today, Brooklyn duo Tanlines finally release their highly anticipated full length debut Mixed Emotions.  It’s possible that the beautiful weather has made me a little loopy, but I think most people would agree that this album features some of the best summer dance songs yet.  There is an evident heavy club beat influence, but Mixed Emotions also maintains a balance with quirky and accessible melodies and rhythms.  Songs like “Real Life” and “Brothers” have been on the blogosphere for a while, but check out the rest of the album for even more danceable summer tunes.

Stream a few more of this weeks best new releases here:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Listen to Bon Iver's cover of "Coming Down" by Anais Mitchell '04

One of Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver)'s favorite live gimmicks is to cover a song by a lesser-known acoustic artist. Recently, he covered "Coming Down," a track by Middlebury '04 grad Anais Mitchell, at an in-studio live performance at an Australian radio station; listen and download over at Stereogum.

In the past, Bon Iver has covered one of my favorite songs of all time, recent WRMC fave Sharon van Etten's "Love More"; hear his (not as great) cover here and the phenomenal original here. AND here is an exhaustingly comprehensive list of Bon Iver covers (thanks, Stereogum!); there are a few diamonds in the folk-rock rough. Covers are always tricky ground, and I wouldn't say Bon Iver has mastered the delicate craft of making another's song one's own...Swedish-Argentine singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez has though. Have you heard his wonderful acoustic rendition of fellow Swedes the Knife's "Heartbeats"? If not, get thee to this link immediately!

Don't forget to check out Anais Mitchell's new album Young Man In America and Sharon van Etten's stunning third record Tramp, both on Rotation here at WRMC!

Virtual Virtuosos: Chris Doyle

This week's featured artist is the 18-year-old Chris Doyle. He's only been on YouTube for about two years and has fewer than 1,000 subscribers, but I think he is one of the more talented YouTube musicians I've come across. Check it out:

If you like what you hear, go ahead and check out his YouTube channel, or like him on Facebook.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DOWNLOAD: Lana Del Rey x Notorious B.I.G.: "Born Ready To Die"

Now that it's happened, it seems as inevitable a mashup as "The Grey Album." Honestly, it seems incredible it took this long for someone to lay the verses and beats of the towering rap classic "Ready To Die" by the late Notorious B.I.G. on top of the strings and vocals of Lana Del Rey's painful 2012 debut, "Born To Die," but DJ Terry Urban has finally performed the inevitable. It's really the best possible use of Del Rey's album, which is an offensive and just bad piece of music with TONS of atmosphere. The result is, at the very least, pretty badass. It's a bit much at album length, but it's an entertaining and interesting recontextualization of one of the greatest rap albums ever, and it's worth some of your time. Download the entire mixtape here, via Pretty Much Amazing.

Also from PMA: check out this kinda sorta addictive remix of LDR's "Blue Jeans."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Video of the Week

This week's video is a bit different than the last one. Okay, a LOT different. Kendrick Lamar is one of the sickest rappers out there right now. His flow is OUT OF CONTROL. I didn't even know words could come out of someone's mouth this fast. This video has a lot of subtleties that can easily be missed, so pay attention to the lyrics and the graphics and just you may find yourself in a state shock, or rigor mortis.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tunezday!...aka New Music Tuesday!

TECHNO: Fans of Depeche Mode, listen up!  It’s been nearly thirty years since Depeche Mode co-founders Vince Clarke and Martin Gore have worked together, but this week they are releasing a brand new album of instrumental, dance techno tunes under the artist name VCMG.  The album, Ssss, consists of 10 brand new tracks comprised of super heavy, undulating bass, juxtaposed with danceable, melodic synths.  Grab a nice set of headphones (I attempted to listen with cheap ear-buds and regret it immediately) and check out this new album!

COUNTRY: The Memphis band Lucero's newest album, Women & Work, can be more accurately described as not just country, but country soul mixed with some classic, gritty rock and roll.  While "old-school" Lucero stuck to a strictly alternative-country sound, after signing with Universal/Republic Records in 2009, the band took on a bigger sound by adapting a heavy soul influence and a powerful horn section.  The band is no longer with the label, but the sound influence remains evident on their newest album, which you can check out this week on Rolling Stone.

INDIE ROCK: One of the best things about writing this blog post is that every once in awhile I follow a link expecting nothing, and finding something awesome.  Fenster is a band that started as a project between New Yorker JJ Weihl and Berlin native Jonathan Jarzyna with hopes of, according to Earbuddy, “creating pop songs from distortion and various effects to build dreamy sonic backdrops.”  Their first album, Bones, is being released today and manages to conjure up thoughts of so many other bands and sounds, while simultaneously presenting a completely unique sound in and of itself, perhaps better than most other albums being released these days.  The distorted vocals are immediately reminiscent of The Strokes, Arcade Fire and the Flaming Lips, while the musical melodies made me think of Beirut or the xx or maybe both depending on the song!  While this all seems to be completely incompatible, Fenster somehow does it so right. 

UPDATE: JJ Weihl from Fenster is a Midd alum! They will be playing at 51 Main on April 6! Check out the comments section for a bit more info and check out their website here!

Stream a few more of this week's best new releases here:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beauty in Strange Land

Yellow Ostrich released their second album, Strange Land, last Tuesday and it's well worth a listen (or twenty).

After coming out of the gates running with their debut album, The Mistress, I was skeptical to how a sophomore album would compare to what I already considered one of the best albums in my iTunes library. While I still think The Mistress takes the cake in terms of overall excellency, Strange Land is biting at its heels.

The first track on the album, "Elephant King," starts the album on a playful note that continues throughout. The album exudes a new confidence in the band and they've clearly stepped up their songwriting. "Daughter" begins with the lyric "I won't let you bring me down/said the man with the grin." The album overall has a deeper, darker feeling than tracks from Mistress like "Hahahohoho," but manages to make the music just as fun. It's definitely a sophomore album, but don't we all have to grow up at some point?

Grade: A-

Best tracks:
"Elephant King"
"Marathon Runner"
"Stay At Home"
"Wear Suits"

Stream it here:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Virtual Virtuosos: Caitlin Bell

This week's featured artist is Caitlin Bell, a 19-year-old singer/songwriter from Canada:

Caitlin started posting her originals and covers to YouTube in 2008 (when she was just 15!) but has just recently enjoyed more widespread fame thanks to collaborations with big name YouTube musicians like Sam Hart. If you'd like to see more of Caitlin, she's on Twitter, Tumblr, and occasionally does live shows on BlogTV. You can also check her out on her Facebook here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Video of the Week

Prepare to be overwhelmed...

It's an exorbitant amount of colors and images that all lay over one another. At some points you don't even realize the song is at the heart of this whole thing. "Matchstick" by the Los Angeles trio American Royalty is reminiscent of an early Animal Collective, a band experimenting with the combination of sounds it can create.


Listen to the new BEACH HOUSE

I should be sleeping right now but this is just too exciting. Pitchfork just informed me that BEACH HOUSE just posted a BRAND NEW TRACK called "Myth" on their website. It's swooping and gorgeous and I'm already listening to it on repeat. Word on the street says that their new album, Bloom, the long-awaited follow-up to 2010's Teen Dream, is due out May 15. Listen to the new song below and brace yourself to fall in love.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tunezday!...aka New Music Tuesday!

INDIE ROCK: Andrew Bird, one of the more familiar names in the indie-music scene, returns this week with his seventh solo album, Break It Yourself.  Dedicated Andrew Bird fans will be quick to point out the album’s quieter feel compared to his previous releases; however, the subtlety of Break It Yourself cannot be mistaken for simplicity or brushed off after one listen.  If you listen carefully, the complexity and experimental flare that marked his previous work is still very much present behind the catchier choruses and country-folk guitar. Each song stands as a testament to Bird’s amazing musicianship, including his trademark whistling melodies.  Give this album a couple of listens on NPR’s First Listen and you will be sure to find the beauty and familiar elements in Andrew Bird’s newest sound.

ELECTRONIC: In a time when ethereal synths seem to be taking over, Julia Holter manages to take the common elements of a popular sound and create something completely unique in her second full-length album, Ekstasis.  Holter blends electronic music, experimental modal melodies, and classical musicianship into one incredibly mysterious and intriguing sound.  Instead of droning out into the background, Holter’s ambient pop sound draws the listener in with an overwhelming desire to focus on every layered element, only to realize the inevitable inability to do so.  Ekstasis is already being heralded as one of the best new releases of the year, so check it out now!

FOLK: If you are looking for a more familiar, accessible sound, the folk trio Bowerbirds is releasing their third LP, The Clearing, this week.  The Clearing totes a more classically folk sound with beautifully strummed guitars and strings, dynamic percussion, and perfectly complementing male and female vocals from all three members: Philip Moore, Beth Tacular and Mark Paulson.  The album was recorded partly in a cabin in North Carolina and partly in Bon Iver’s Wisonsin studio, and the intimate woodsy atmosphere clearly permeates into the sound of each song.  In this case, a familiar sound is more than welcome in this gorgeous album.

Stream a few more of this week’s best new releases here:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Get Evian Christ's debut full-length for free (legally)!

If you've been keeping up with the post-dubstep dance music scene at all -- which hopefully you have, 'cause there is some amazing electronic music being made right now -- you've probably noted the pervasive presence of a few qualities: vast empty spaces, ominously echoing beats, seismic-grade bass, chopped-n-screwed vocals, ironically appropriated Top 40 hip-hop/R&B signifiers, and a generally cold, gothed-out atmosphere. Looks to me like it's the combined influence of Burial's Untrue, the Knife's Silent Shout, J Dilla's posthumous Donuts, and first-wave U.K. dubstep in the flattening, democratizing era of the internet. Not too long ago, there was a short-lived subgenre called "witch house" that specialized in a cartoonishly exaggerated version of this very aesthetic; that sound is now largely dead (ironically, for a sound that tried hard to seem like it was already dead...), but the record label that became known for establishing the witch house sound, Tri Angle Records, is still around. Tri Angle is on the vanguard of all this gloomy hip-hop-inflected electronica being put out in the here and now, with such notable acts on its roster as Salem, oOoOO, How to Dress Well, Balam Acab, Holy Other, Clams Casino, and Water Borders.

The latest Tri Angle release is Kings And Them, the debut record from U.K. college student Evian Christ, and it's a perfect encapsulation of the label's aesthetic. Made on his laptop, grounded in gangsta rap and steeped in eerie, vaguely industrial ambience, it's a lumbering, blurry, and sometimes frightening album punctuated by an irresistible danceability. So it's good. Even better, Tri Angle is offering it for free! Get it right here, right now at Mediafire. Additionally, check out an interview with Christ (Evian, not Jesus) and an unreleased track at Pitchfork.

And if you're in the mood for pitch-shifted, nightmarish bass music (or even if you're not), you simply HAVE to hear the latest Burial EP, Kindred. It's one of the best albums I've heard in ages and surpasses even the U.K. producer's 2007 masterpiece Untrue, one of my personal favorite records of all time. Each of the three tracks on the EP is incredible: "Kindred" is driven by a have-to-hear-it-to-believe-it bass drop from hell; the stunning "Loner" is Burial's most open venture into house music territory yet, its jittery synths and fast pulse locking you into an infinite dance loop, but it's still characteristically Burial (i.e. borderline-evil); and the highlight, 12-minute closer "Ashtray Wasp," is the artist's single best track ever, an ultimate Burial composition that's emotionally wrenching, sunken in dark vocal atmospherics, propelled by a clattering, domineeringly militaristic beat, and blessed with one of the loveliest breakdowns you'll ever hear (is that a glockenspiel?!). Check out the each of the three tracks below; I recommend playing them as loud as possible on high-quality speakers or headphones, but make sure your subwoofers (and eardrums) can handle the onslaught.

"Ashtray Wasp"

UPDATE: Hear the brand new Burial-Four Tet collab over at Pitchfork! Whoa!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Virtual Virtuosos: Brad Doggett

This week's featured artist is Brad Doggett. He's a really great guitar player and an equally great singer:


Brad was recently on "The Voice," but unfortunately none of the judges ended up turning around for him. Despite this, he recently moved from his hometown of D.C. to L.A. to pursue his music career. If you'd like to see more of Brad, check out his YouTube and Twitter. You can also listen to all of his covers and originals for free on his Souncloud.