Wednesday, March 30, 2011

humpday track

peter bjorn & john

remember the epic whistle-filled pop of swedish trio peter bjorn & john? i played their 2007 album to absolute death, and while their 2nd album wasn't my favorite, i'm LOVING their third and latest release, Gimme Some. PBJ's catchy indie-pop draws you in, but they've deviated slightly (but successfully), adding a more rock-infused, retro/1960's kind of sound. so, today's humpday track is "second chance," my favorite of the album so far. that a cowbell in there? gotta love these guys. take a listen and bounce your way towards friday!


for more peter bjorn & john, check out "dig a little deeper" and "eyes" from their latest album, as well as their classics "young folks" and "let's call it off." enjoy!  


Thursday, March 24, 2011

"every new day is a gift, it's a song of redemption"

(from the first lines of "jejune stars")
conor oberst (bright eyes)
whatever you’re thinking about Bright Eyes, stop it now and listen to The People’s Key. yeah, yeah, conor oberst is the crowned prince of the emo teenagers or the next bob dylan or whatever his latest “title” is, but really, this album speaks for itself.

the 30-something always has lots of side projects going on (and good ones at that), but he always comes back to his original, bright eyes. oberst's latest offering, released last month by saddle creek records, is simultaneously the usual brilliant oberst combined with bouncy beats and almost 80's-reminiscent sounds. the standouts for me are "jejune stars" and "ladder song".

check. it. out.  you'll be glad you did! and if you get a chance to see oberst in concert, take it - i saw him 5 years ago, and it stands out in my mind as one of my favorite concerts.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

album review - alex winston

alex winston
awhile ago, i talked a bit about how much i liked alex winston's song, "sister wife." well, i recently reviewed her whole album for my school newspaper here. so in case you're curious, here's what i've got to say about the detroit-native's latest release:

Twenty-three-year-old Alex Winston’s new album, Sister Wife, is characterized by Winston’s fresh pop sound, clever lyrics, and unbeatable hooks that you’ll be humming after the first listen. In 2009, she released Basement Covers, an album featuring covers of Mumford & Sons, The Rolling Stones, and three others. It was literally recorded in her basement with Alex playing every instrument, and record labels started paying attention.  Her latest, Sister Wife, at just over twenty-one minutes long, is a perfect primer in Winston’s unique style that has her poised to become an indie darling. 

The Detroit native and classically trained opera singer wrote all of the album’s songs in addition to playing all of the instruments on the recordings.  Most of Winston’s songs stay in her signature high-pitched, almost girlish tone. Her Joanna Newsome-esque sound may seem like it could be unappealing to some, but she does it all so well that it’s incredibly charming and highly addictive. 

“Locomotive” starts off the album with a driving beat and Winston’s characteristic undeniable hook that gets in your head and stays there. It features a slight twinge of electro-pop while still avoiding an over-produced sound. Next, the title track, “Sister Wife,” is an irresistibly catchy song and a twist from the usual “love gone wrong” theme of many songs.  Her play on the term “sister wife” is obviously easily understood by the listener and is like a cultural time capsule of Americans’ current fascination with those FLDS guys that have a bunch of wives. She hilariously declares with gumption, “Hey there, Sister Wife / Get the Hell out, it’s my night / You don’t know the way to his heart like I do”. The song shines as one of Winston’s best.

“Sweet James” is reminiscent of She & Him’s sixties girl group-influenced love songs. It’s a bouncy tune similar to Zooey Deschanel’s cheery, clever songwriting. “Sweet James” is a modern cousin to the Motown-style tunes about innocent affection between girl and boy, complete with Winston’s endearing “ooh oohs” and loving declarations that this James fellow is “nice as nice can be” and “true blue.”

The one blunder of the album is “Don’t Care About Anything.” It seems to be meant as an emotional, stripped-down change of pace from the rest of the album. However, the track mostly comes off as strangely saccharine wailing until the relief of a somewhat redeeming chorus and violin solo.

“Choice Notes” is the album’s second single and is upbeat with great production that isn’t too over the top. Its fresh sound and happy beat has helped the track get grabbed up for some commercials in the UK, where Alex already has a dedicated following.

Sister Wife is a strong release full of charm, originality, and authentic talent. From this release’s strong songwriting and the fact that she plays every instrument on the album herself, Winston has quickly proven that she is a talent to look out for. And it is obvious that as she heads this week to perform at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in the music mecca of Austin, Sister Wife is only the beginning for Alex Winston. 

for more on alex, visit her website

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

television: a foray into mainstream consciousness for musicians?

i definitely can credit some of my music discoveries to tv. when a show that i like plays a great song i don't recognize, i go straight to google or the "featured music" clips at the end of the show.  it's pretty normal to hear people say something along the lines of, "yeah, i'm awesome, i find all of my awesome music through pure genius, never through lame tv shows." well, maybe not really like that, but i think a lot more people find great new artists through tv than will admit to it.

the cast of gossip girl.
these days, lots of musicians are getting into the spotlight once they're featured on tv shows. remember when death cab for cutie and the killers exploded after being featured and talked about on The OC? don't hate, i know you watched it too! and other bands, like snow patrol, found major mainstream success after several albums of indie success once they were featured on a grey's anatomy episode - the very next day, their song was the most-downloaded track on itunes. 

and lots of these shows (the oc, grey's anatomy, gossip girl, etc.) that are sending indie bands into the stratosphere of popularity have one thing in common: music supervisor extraordinaire, alexandra patsavas. she knows how to pick a great song, that's for sure.

the OC's adorable seth cohen (played by adam brody) helped shoot death cab for cutie and others into mainstream popularity during the show's heyday.

when you think about how music is changing and reaching ever wider audiences, do you think about music featured on tv shows? it's definitely interesting how much music has changed television in the past few years. for example, many shows now feature songs and artists at the end of the show or even on the bottom of the screen during shows. most people think of online promotion and other new-ish forms of media as the jumping-off point for unknown artists, but television is providing this access to the public as well. 

so, do you find some of the music you listen to from tv?


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

humpday track

the gorgeous lykki li

if you know of swedish singer lykke li then you probably remember her awesome debut, youth novels, from 2008. in the past few years she's gathered a big following and now she's back with a brand new album, wounded rhymes, released yesterday.

this week's humpday track is "i follow rivers," which is my favorite from the album so far. it's got lykke's smooth vocals, a tribal beat, and a chorus that pulls you in.

for more lykke li, check out "dance, dance, dance" and "i'm good, i'm gone" from her last album.

LYKKE LI, "I FOLLOW RIVERS": (song starts at about :30)