Friday, June 28, 2013

Music Stuff on the Internet - Volcano Choir, Dawes, Foals, Surfer Blood, Josh Rouse, Junip

Justin Vernon is continuing in his Jack White-esque quest for record number of side projects, but that's OK because his side projects bring us beautiful songs like this one.  There's no Bon Iver falsetto, but who cares - in this ambitious track we have all the emotional threads we need. (via The Wild Honey Pie, who calls it "melancholic triumphalism.")
Off Volcano Choir's upcoming album "Repave" out in early September.

Dawes recently stopped by Letterman and performed "Most People," one of my personal favorites off of "Stories Don't End." I'm not sure if it's Taylor Goldsmith's crazy hair, but there seems to be a little extra oomph in this performance. They sound fantastic. Check it out. (via Rolling Stone)

Foals recently performed for KEXP in Seattle, which is on a roll lately (check out the recent Daughter performance here).  They keep the roll going with a fantastically subdued Foals performance.

Oh, and hey looky here....another awesome video performance from KEXP, this time from Surfer Blood. For you SoCal locals, Surfer Blood is playing the Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier in about two weeks on Thursday, July 11 - the perfect locale for their surfer rock/pop vibe.

As if public radio doesn't already dominate the music airwaves, KCRW recently had Josh Rouse stop by their studios for an intimately soothing performance of "Simple Pleasures" off his new album, "The Happiness Waltz."

Pitchfork recently had Junip on hand who performed a sonically lush rendition of "Walking Lightly."

And last but not least, more "Best Albums of 2013 (so far)" lists have made their way out. You can check out a compilation of Best Albums of 2013 lists here (including the imnotsleeping Best Albums of 2013 (so far) list).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Songs for Summer Solstice - An imnotsleeping Summer Mix

Even though we generally think of Memorial Day Weekend as the official kick off to summer, there is something about today, June 21st. The official first day of summer. The longest day of the year.

The summer solstice.

The summer solstice, in all its balmy, fragrant glory - at least here in Southern California, where the heady jasmine is at its peak and the jacaranda trees are shedding their final purple blooms. The summer solstice is the true beginning of the glory of what a magical thing summer can be. Long sunny days with cool ocean breezes, a carefree bike ride up the coast, a BBQ with friends at the park or in your backyard, the waning humidity of dusk, and nights that hold an electricity within their calm, cool reprieve. A season that demands the full utilization of every one of our senses demands the proper soundtrack. Here's the imnotsleeping summer 2013 mix - Songs for Summer Solstice.

Happy summering.

More awesome summer mixes from around the web:
Songs for the Day has created not one, not two, but three (three!) mixes, each appropriate for different summer times and feels. Check them out on 8tracks below:

Then of course there is the latest in the seasonal mixes from Music for Ants. Listen on Spotify below, or download the whole mix here.

Paste has also put together a quick mix of a summer tour sampler, which you can download here or listen below:

Also thanks to Paste, we've got a bit of a different summer mix, aptly titled "40 Bummer Summer Songs Ranked by Sadness" which you can listen to here. 

Rolling Stone also has an opinion about which albums you should listen to this summer. While not a summer playlist, its a list of 'must listen to' albums to keep you busy all summer long. Check it out here.

Summer tunes to look forward to from Pretty Much Amazing.

Heather over at Fuel/Friends put forth her musical tunes for the summer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Best Covers of 2013 So Far

June is the time of year when music bloggers take stock of what has been happening into the year so far.  Best albums and best songs lists flood the internet giving us a good chance to catch up on what we may have missed, or to focus back in on music we especially liked but have maybe forgotten about.  This year there seems to be a larger-than-normal influx of great covers - everything from Paul Simon to Bruce Springsteen has been covered, with artists truly showing another side of each song.  Here are some of the best covers of 2013 so far.

The Last Bison Covers M83's "Midnight City"
The Last Bison is a folk-driven family band out of Virginia fronted by the impassioned Ben Hardesty, whose vocals and playing are normally so fervent it sounds as though he might snap a string at any moment.  Their take on M83's "Midnight City" draws the band inward a bit, by showcasing a more restrained style of playing.  It's this restraint that gives it anticipation- they are able to hold themselves back in a way that builds and builds until the right moment, complete with fiddles and banjos and a whole host of other instruments not present on the original, leaving you feeling a bit exhausted after watching. In other words...holy smokes.

The original:

First Aid Kit Covers Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song"
Swedish act First Aid Kit's sophomore album from last year ("The Lion's Roar") is full of strong harmonies and folky guitar, a premise that is translated perfectly on a not-oft heard but beautiful song by Paul Simon. Like the female harmonic counterpart to Simon & Garfunkel's timeless harmonies, First Aid Kit gives us the feminine perspective and plays a simple and effortless, yet powerful rendition of "Kathy's Song."

The original:

Pickwick Covers Richard Swift's "Lady Luck"
Pickwick w/ Sharon Van Etten released their cover of Richard Swift's groovy and soulful "Lady Luck" back in January, a cover that takes the original's lo-fi riff and gives it a bit more oomph while staying fairly faithful to the original.

The original:

Daughter Covers Bon Iver's "Perth" and Hot Chip's "Ready For The Floor"
Daughter has an ethereal, otherwordly vibe with echoed guitars and bittersweet vocals that create a unique sound, which they applied to an equally as echoed and otherwordly artist in covering Bon Iver.  What is unique about this cover is that it also includes Hot Chip's "Ready for the Floor" which is very different from the softness of both Bon Iver and the vocals of Daughter's Elena Tonra, and it is this soft approach that brings them both together as if it were meant to be.

Bon Iver:

Hot Chip:

Night Beds and Carousel Cover Robyn's "Dancin' On My Own"
Night Beds' Winston Yellen has vocals and songs full of quiet yearning and longings, so strangely it makes perfect sense for him to cover this pop driven tune by Robyn.  The original tune itself, despite its heavy dance beats and upbeat vibe, has an incredibly longing underbelly, captured perfectly with Winston's vocals on this cover.

Night Beds cover Robyn

There seems to be an epidemic of people dancing by themselves in the covers world right now, and Carousel recently got in on the Robyn action by also covering "Dancing on My Own," offering up a more synth-happy version.

The Original:

Laura Marling and Eddie Berman Cover Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark"
In one of the most unexpected and quietly poignant covers of the year, Laura Marling teamed up with LA based newcomer Eddie Berman to recreate the Bruce Springsteen classic, only they do so by  giving it a slower, calmer vibe.  The gentle sway in their version permeates into Eddie and Laura's motion during the video, giving a bit more bittersweetness and an almost lullaby quality to the song.

Bonus: ONE Presents Protest Songs
The ONE Campaign has released an abundant list of covers of protest songs, each of which is available on the ONE agit8 website.  Here's a little taste of what you can expect, with Mumford & Sons and Elvis Costello covering Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Music Stuff on the Internet - The Dodos, Laura Marling, The National, Frightened Rabbit, Bonnaroo Live Stream

New Single by The Dodos
The Dodos have a new single, which is off of their upcoming album Carrier (according to The Wild Honey Pie).

Laura Marling Performs on KEXP
Laura Marling stopped by KEXP in Seattle (the same folks who brought us this awesome Daughter performance) and gave another stunning performance, highlighted by complex guitar playing that she somehow makes look effortless, just as she does with her singing.  Yet from that effortlessness comes a strong, pristine, controlled quality that is captivating.  Take a look.

The National's Matt Berninger on NPR
The National's Matt Berninger sat down with NPR Music for a brief but fascinating chat about his relationship with his brother and its influence on the track "I Should Live In Salt" off their recent album, Trouble Will Find Me. You can listen to the NPR interview here. 

Frightened Rabbit Covers Best Coast
Cover Me recently posted this performance of Scottish band Frightened Rabbit performing a cover of...Best Coast?  For a Scottish look at the Southern California theme song "The Only Place", check out the video below.

Bonnaroo Live Stream
If you didn't make it to Bonnaroo this weekend, you can still watch lots of the performances thanks to a livestream they'll have up all weekend.  You can watch the stream below and get the streaming schedule over at Live Music Blog.

Video streaming by Ustream

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013 So Far

Yesterday highlighted some of the "Best of 2013 So Far" lists, along with the imnotsleeping Best Albums of 2013 So Far list.  After some hemming and hawing about which tracks to include on an imnotsleeping Favorite Songs of 2013 playlist, the final product houses any track (not just an officially released single) that stood out from albums or songs released this year. A compilation of Best Songs of 2013 lists from around the web is below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Best Albums of 2013 So Far

2013 has been a year abundant with stellar albums- new albums from new artists and new albums from not-so-new artists have graced our ears with such ferocity that its been hard to keep up.  Thankfully, the internet has done much of the legwork for us with its wide array of "best of so far" lists, which are compiled below. Each list has a few similar albums and lots of different ones, highlighting just how diverse the first half of 2013 has been for music.  The imnotsleeping Best of 2013 So Far list is below, and check back tomorrow for the imnotsleeping Best Songs of 2013 So Far list.

Spin's Best Albums of 2013 so far

Stereogum's Top 25 Albums of 2013 So Far

Pitchfork's Highest Rates Albums of 2013 So Far 

NME's Greatest Album of 2013 So Far

Pitchfork Best New Albums

NPR's All Songs Considered The Year in Music (So Far) 2013

Just Some of NPR Music's Favorite Albums of The Year (So Far)

*new* Pretty Much Amazing 40 Best Albums of 2013

*new* Music For Ants Best Albums of 2013 (so far)

*new* Paste's The Best Albums of 2013 (So Far)

imnotsleeping's Best Albums of 2013 So Far (in no particular order)

Hummingbird - Local Natives
On only their second album, Local Natives prove the difficulty of putting them into a specific box.  With an indie-rock lean based on top of hyperfast beats, they also manage to convey an emotional agitation, showing moments of softer melancholy layered over cool grooves. Its an album that continues to get better with each listen; "Mt. Washington" becomes darker, while "Colombia" becomes more poignant, and bonus track "Ingrid" grows more urgent.
More Local Natives:
Local Natives on Letterman
Local Natives Live at SXSW
Local Natives Spotify Session
Local Natives on World Cafe

Stories Don't End - Dawes
In a music world where hyper production and The Next Big Thing can sometimes take over, its refreshing to have the simplicity of sound in a band like Dawes, and an album like Stories Don't End.  Dawes has become well known and synonymous with the Laurel Canyon sound harkening back to 70's singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne- and with good reason.  Lead singer and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith weaves poignant imagery with a simple turn of a phrase, sung with an unassuming voice that gives us a nostalgic reminder of how lyrics can drive a sound.
More Dawes:
Tuesday Listening - Dawes, Stories Don't End
Dawes Live at SXSW
Dawes Covers John Fogerty
Dawes Interview on NPR Music

If You Leave - Daughter
If Daughter's debut full length album is any indication, we can look forward to a lot more from this new English trio, who have stealthily and breathlessly entered onto the scene with a melancholic ethereal and folk rock sound.  There is a stillness in some of their songs that only serves to build the anticipation of a bigger, more built up sound that suddenly takes over in waves.  Lead singer Elena Tonra has a quality of sadness in her vocals, which are coupled with Explosions in the Sky-style guitars, only adding to the picturesque quality of each track.
More Daughter:
Daughter Covers Bon Iver and Hot Chip
Daughter Performs Live on KEXP Seattle
Daughter on an imnotsleeping Playlist

Woman - Rhye
Rhye is also a newcomer this year, out with their first full length album Woman, a portrait of seductive, sensual beats and a perpetual longing in the unique vocals of lead singer Mike Milosh.  Often mistaken for a woman's vocals, his voice has been compared to Sade- and their music shares in some of the same smoky qualities.
More Rhye:
Rhye Live at Le Poisson Rouge NYC
Rhye on an imnotsleeping Playlist

Holy Fire - Foals
On their third album UK band Foals busts into your ears with a ballsy sound encompassing a discoed Scissor Sisters-type groove with much harder rock beats and guitar.  It then jumps into a more alt-rock vibe on tracks like "Bad Habit," as if there are two totally different directions on the album. The big sounds travel from track to track, so no matter which direction it goes the energy level remains high up until the last two tracks, "Stepson" and "Moon" which highlight yet another side of their sound- finishing off the album with a softer tone.
More Foals:
Foals on an imnotsleeping Playlist

Once I Was An Eagle - Laura Marling
Laura Marling's angelic voice has been gracing us for a few years now, and with her fourth studio album she continues with her soft folkiness.  Not to fit neatly in a 'folk box' Marling combines a cohesive style of varied tempos, varied singing techniques, soft tones and her seemingly effortless vocal ability that was highlighted in her recent video duet with singer Eddie Berman (below). With her efforts on Once I Was An Eagle, an album that sometimes sounds like two separate entities thanks to her varied tones, she solidifies her place as a folk enchantress, at the ripe young age of 23.
More Laura Marling:
New Laura Marling Tunes
Laura Marling and Eddie Berman Cover Dancing In The Dark
Laura Marling Tiny Desk Concert on NPR
Laura Marling Covers Whipping Post by The Allman Brothers

Trouble Will Find Me - The National
The National's latest album Trouble Will Find Me has been perhaps one of the year's most anticipated and most well received. Continuing to build on their trademark sound of driving, anthemic beats with lead singer Matt Berninger's dark, moody and deep vocals sitting atop.  On each track he demands attention, yet sings in a subdued way, as if he wants to blend in the background- one thing this album won't do.
More of The National:
The National on Letterman
The National Tiny Desk Concert on NPR

Mother - Natalie Maines
Breaking out on her own away from The Dixie Chicks seems like a natural evolution for Natalie Maines, and she uses her debut solo album to hammer that home.  Gone are the harder twangs and knee-slappin country tunes of her days with the Chicks- in their place we find a varied musical ability, covering everyone from Eddie Vedder to Pink Floyd to Jeff Buckley.  She does so with producer Ben Harper's help, who also plays and sings on the album and who was able to draw out of Natalie a stellar vocal performance on this album.  From what I've experienced, this is intensified in the live experience, so if you've got the chance to go see her, go.
More Natalie Maines:
Tuesday Listening, Natalie Maines -Mother
Natalie Maines on an imnotsleeping Playlist
Natalie Maines Live at SXSW

Such Hot Blood - The Airborne Toxic Event
The Airborne Toxic Event typically embraces high tempoed, frantic beats and intense emotive lyrics and vocals by lead singer Mikel Jollett, both of which are present again on their third album, Such Hot Blood.  Perhaps a little more comfortable in the skin of who they are, they've taken their third album a bit farther, intensifying every emotion and every drum beat.
More of The Airborne Toxic Event:
Tuesday Listening, The Airborne Toxic Event - Such Hot Blood
The Airborne Toxic Event Performs at the MFA, Boston
The Airborne Toxic Event on an imnotsleeping playlist
SXSW Day 3 Playlist

Ghost On Ghost - Iron & Wine
Sam Beam's Iron and Wine has released a plethora of work at this point, but it is safe to say he has mastered the art of evolution as much as he has storytelling and music.  At first listen, Ghost on Ghost is significantly more robust than most of his previous albums, although his previous Kiss Each Other Clean gave us some hints of what was to come.  He's moved on from the soft, lo-fi whispering tunes and has entered into a phase where he isn't afraid to have a horn section, groove out a bit, and sing with a bit more gusto.  Its still got the tones that we love from Iron and Wine, but with a lot more oomph and a much bigger sound.
More Iron and Wine:
Tuesday Listening, Iron and Wine - Ghost on Ghost
New Tracks by Iron and Wine

Country Sleep - Night Beds
Winston Yellen has seemingly come out of nowhere, but after listening to Country Sleep for the umpteenth time he seems to have the quality of someone who has been at this gig for a long time.  Coming from nowhere is hardly appropriate, given that this album came from his time recording in Johnny Cash's cabin in Tennessee, where the summer nights during recording made themselves heard in the soft quietness of Night Beds's music and the falsetto of Yellen's voice. With a chilled out vibe overlayed with melancholic tones, its a beautiful album that softens and surprises throughout.
More Night Beds:
Night Beds Covers Robyn's Dancin On My Own
Tuesday Listening, Night Beds - Country Sleep
Night Beds Live at SXSW
Night Beds performs at LHS Room 125

Limits of Desire - Small Black
Small Black's sophomore effort enters with a track so full of dreamlike synths and airy vocals that the ending of the song brings on a sweet sadness that it is over.   Hooking you with this sweetness of "Free At Dawn," Limits of Desire is a high that takes you on a dreampop ride without being too overly synth-y. It allows vocals and lyrics to shine through, giving this album a little extra emotive energy while not sacrificing its effervescent base.  If you want to feel good, put this album on.
Pitchfork Stream
On an imnotsleeping Playlist

Muchacho - Phosphorescent
Matthew Houck begins his 7th album with the slow excitement of a sunrise, appropriately with a track called "Sun, Arise!" which lays the foundation for the rest of the album's cool grooves that illustrate his Brooklyn influence, while keeping true to his Alabama roots with a more rockin', twangy side.  Throughout, his layered vocals give off an echoed, airy vibe that is culminated in songs like the stunning  "Song For Zula," surely to be a top song of the year.
More Phosphorescent:
On an imnotsleeping Playlist
Phosphorescent Performs at SXSW

Monday, June 10, 2013

The National Perform on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert

Dear Internet,

Thanks for this.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Music Stuff on the Internet - Local Natives, Whitley, IG88, PAPA, Bell X1, and Daughter

Local Natives are currently on tour in support of their stellar album Hummingbird and recently stopped by David Letterman. Check out their live performance below.

This is one of those tracks I saw popping up all over the interwebs and decided on a whim to give it a listen. Boy am I thankful for whims. Its ethereal slow beats lead into a melancholic tone that feels entirely too short for a song this gorgeous and entirely perfect for the June Gloom we are socked in with here in Santa Monica. (via Indie Shuffle)

In keeping with the ethereal theme (but minus the melancholic tone), KEXP in Seattle's Song of the Day on June 4th was this stellar track, "Drowning in Pinwheels" by IG88, off the album Breathing Suit which you can purchase at Bandcamp or iTunes. 

PAPA got their infectious, catchy hooks in me with their upbeat single "Put Me To Work" and are continuing to further my love affair with this new track.  Their full length debut is due out later this summer according to Buzzbands LA, and they are going to be playing live in downtown LA at Fig & 7th on July 26th. Check out their latest "If You're My Girl, Then I'm Your Man" and "Put Me To Work" below. 

Also teasing their forthcoming album is Irish band Bell X1, who performed recently on Irish station Today FM.  Their new album Chop Chop is out July 2, but you can preorder now.  Here's video of "The End is Nigh".

KEXP also posted video of an in-studio performance by Daughter, whose album If You Leave is out now and is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  Daughter is touring this summer and fall, including some dates with The National.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Watch: Rhye Live At Le Poisson Rouge NYC

While the first half of 2013 has been full of great albums, none have been attached to such buzz about something other than the music as Woman by Rhye.  With slow grooves, an overabundant sensuality, and silken vocals from lead singer Mike Milosh, the smoky mystique in their music was only heightened before its release by their lack of personal physical imagery anywhere.  There are little to no photos of the duo, made up of Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal, who chose to (gasp!) have listeners focus on their music instead of what they look like.  This lack of actual images leaves it up to the listener to create an imagery in their mind based only on what they can hear in the music- a concept they have managed to take into the live sphere and that adds a unique layer to their music.  The album was recorded while both members were separated from their significant others for an extended period, and that longing is captured in their music, thanks to its slow grooves and Milosh's insanely pristine higher register.  I saw Rhye at the El Rey in LA a few weeks ago and discovered a band who was intent on recreating that sensual, longing feel from the album into an atmosphere on stage- a stage that was completely lacking in spotlights and instead relied on a few minor backlights and heavy use of candlelight, creating only shadows, silhouettes, and the music.  Rhye recently took this experience to Le Poisson Rouge in NYC where it was (sort of?) captured by NPR.  Check out the video below.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Music Stuff on the Internet - Glen Phillips, NO, The Mowglis, Local Natives, Dawes

For any of you that grew up or came of age in the 90's, chances are you listened to Fear by Toad The Wet Sprocket on repeat till the tape broke (and for those of you that didn't, that stinks).  Glen Phillips, lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, recently performed a set on NPR's Mountain Stage, where he displayed his oh-so-familiar vocals that sound just as they did during the summer of Fear.  Oh, and he also mentions that Toad is working on new music.  Cue up your nostalgia and have a listen over at NPR.

NO recently did a session on Daytrotter, but for those of you who don't have a Daytrotter membership (you might want to rethink that), you can check out NO in this here video.  Offering up emotional heaviness and a tone a la Airborne Toxic Event, they also have some Soundcloud tracks up on their website.

If you are looking for additions to your summer playlist, go ahead and take a gander at the new video by The Mowglis for "The Great Divide" off their forthcoming album out June 18th. (via Paste)

As if I couldn't be more obsessed with Hummingbird Local Natives, they recently did a special performance for Spotify Sessions, which gives us a more acoustic-based look at some of the tracks from what I consider to be one of this year's best albums. You can listen to the full list of songs here.

The new Dawes album, Stories Don't End, is full of a more rounded out, robust Dawes, so its nice to see lead singer and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith take a step back from that studio sound and do this super-stripped-down rendition of John Fogerty's "Someday Never Comes" with his brother Griffin doing harmonies and bringing new attention to the lyrics. (via Rolling Stone)