Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday Listening - Night Beds

With the rise of the single and a la carte listening, albums are becoming a bit of a thing of the past.  Many albums can come across as self indulgent or uninspired- with one or two good songs and a lot of filler.  Which is precisely why the new Night Beds album, Country Sleep, (out now) is on my full album rotation, over and over and over again. No filler, all substance.

My favorite kinds of albums and artists are those that are difficult to put into a box.  Night Beds is that type of artist, and Country Sleep is that type of album.  Is it folk? Sometimes. Pop? Kinda. Indie folk/rock? Yup, that too.  Night Beds manages to take the best of each of those influences and combine them into a unique sound. It is at once catchy ("Ramona"), twangy ("Borrowed Time"), acoustic ("TENN"), ethereal ("Cherry Blossoms"), and emotive ("22").   These sounds are woven throughout, all while backed by the soft, often high pitched and always-longing vocals of Winston Yellen.  There is also a general quietness about the album - an air of far away echoes, of lonely nights in the winter, of being outside on a clear, starry night.  Music often evokes a season.  In this album, it feels of winter, yet it also feels of summer.

Country Sleep starts off with a sleepy a capella which then jumps steadily into the upbeat "Ramona". "Ramona" is the first single off the album, allowing listeners to get a feel for the folky pop elements on the album. It captures heartfelt feelings and longings, yet in a song with a great hook.  Its a song that was made for radio...but gleefully misses all the trappings of what usually constitutes a 'radio ready' track- there's no overproduction, no kitschyness, no over simplistic lyrics - instead giving us a full bodied song that you'll find yourself wanting to listen to over and over again.

A track like "22" stands out initially due to the now-familiar drum beats a la the Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men.  With the polished sound of the drum beat set against a soft backdrop of strings, the calm voice of Winston Yellen, and the faint chirping of nighttime crickets, there is an overall feeling of being outdoors on a starry, summer night- a not hard to imagine thing, given that Night Beds recorded this album in Johnny Cash's old cabin in Hendersonville, TN.

Then there are tracks like "Even If We Try" which pull away from any kind of pop influence to stand firmly on the softer side.  There are elements reminiscent of artist like Iron & Wine, Neil Halstead, or Bon Iver, with vocals clear and at the forefront that give the song a lullaby feel. "TENN" comes in with simple acoustics to close out the album, rounding out Night Beds' localities in Nashville and in the mountains of Colorado.  Each of these tracks, and all those in between, will serve whatever it is you're looking for.  Its an album that manages to straddle its influences, making for a fantastically balanced sound that will leave you feeling fantastically balanced, too.

Try if you like: Lord Huron, Father John Misty, Neil Halstead, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver
Standout tracks: Ramona, 22, Cherry Blossoms, Lost Springs, TENN

More Night Beds:

Check out the Fuel/Friends Chapel Session with Night Beds here.

Night Beds at LHS Classroom Sessions (via Songs for the Day):
Part One:

Part Two:

On NPR's Tiny Desk Concert:

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