Category Archives: low fi

One for the Week…The Besnard Lakes

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Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO

The Besnard Lakes new album Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO came out  this week on the Jagjaguwar label, keepers of an roster including the excellent Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Sharon Van Etten. The space related title might reflect the album’s atmospheric soundscapes, ever so delicately woven.

Here’s what I know…

The Montreal born soft-rock act was first formed in 2003 by husband and wife duo Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas who later fused with now longtime bandmates Kevin Laing and Richard White. Their fourth album it was recorded in Breakglass studios, Montreal and features several accomplished musicians.

Top Tracks…

All eight tracks hold something distinctively their own. At almost seven minutes long – an duration average of the album – ’46 Satires’ might not be the most obvious choice for an opener, however it’s entrancing  undulating melodies spin round an ethereal vocal. ‘The Specter’ has echoes of dusky eighties melodies, while ‘At Midnight’ builds into cleverly effective penetrating vocals. First single ‘People of the Sticks’ is the most commercially friendly choice, while closer ‘Alam0gordo’ leans towards a darker sonic instrumentation that proves oddly captivating. 

Listen When…

Your world is one of unrushed daydreaming.

Also…

The band play Stereo in Glasgow on 24th May, as part of their European tour. Teeny venue = likely to be a great show.

Check out the band’s website for more.

 

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The Weekend Edition

It’s officially Spring! According to the clocks anyhow, we’ve lost our obligatory hour. Although it’s been freezing – to your bones – cold the sun’s out, so there’s progress.  Some songs I found that will make you feel you are on the cusp of summer.

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Mikal Cronin – Weight

Surf pop track from American singer songwriter Mikal Cronin, who I discovered today. His album (nice artwork) MCII comes out this May on Merge Records, keep an eye out.

Jovanotti – Bella

I know absolutely noting about this artist, but I love his enthusiasm. In the absence of a more technical description it’ll make you’re on holiday, in a really fun bar.

 

Phosphorescent – Sun Arising/It’s Hard to Be Humble

The blissed out closer to Phosphorescent’s album Muchado, Bon Iver with power. It’s followed by a riot of an older, strongly country influenced track, the opener to the previous release Here’s To Taking It Easy. If you don’t know it check out both albums.

 

 

Cool Things I Found

oldman45

I still love this song as much as I did ten years ago.

Prog-rock from Singapore: Anechois

When I’m in study mode I listen to only instrumental music, I exhausted Mogwai and Godspeed pretty quickly so I tweeted asking for suggestions. A kind sir passed on Anechois whose EP, A Shadow of a Sound, has been nice to listen to, there’s a little bit of funk in it to. Check it out for yourself…

The MOMA blog

I have an insane love for both New York and art galleries, although I don’t go to either often enough. Once I took a week off work to go to Edinburgh Art College and study pastels on a large scale. My teacher tended to sigh at me and ask me why I always made things so difficult for myself, sitting at a really weird angle, trying to paint through glass or holding my pastels funny. I liked massive abstract things, so he told me to look up Richard Dieberkorn, an American artist influenced by German Expressionism. I still have the piece of sugar paper he wrote the suggestion down on in 2B pencil.

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Richard Diebenkorn Sketch

This week I ended up on the MOMA blog, which has a whole exhibition on German Expressionism. Random but I’ve very much enjoyed flicking through the works and thought you might like it too.

One for The Week…Low

This week I rediscovered some slightly cumbersome Sennheiser headphones I bought about ten years ago and was too self conscious to wear on the street plugged in to my ‘portable CD player’. The quality, perhaps therefore due to restricted use, is still great and the first thing I listened to on them was the new Low album, The Invisible Way.

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You need to know

It’s the tenth album in twenty years from the Sub Pop signed Low, who hail from a place called Duluth Minnesota. An emotional, often poignant journey based on writing and recording strong, beautiful songs I’d possibly say it trumps all of the others. We’ll see how it stands the test of time.

Top Tracks

‘So Blue’ is absolutely beautiful – listen!

The previously released ‘Just Make it Stop’ and closer ‘On Our Knees’ are more of my favourites.

Listen when

You have time, as soon as you have time in fact.

Arbitrary Add

For a sporadic history read an interview from 1996 here, a site which has lots more random press on the band.

It was also the year that Low’s SXSW performance was overpowered by a neighbouring hardcore band, Ramones fans rioted in Argentina after queueing overnight for free tickets falsely promised by Coke a Cola and  David Bowie’s ‘Telling Lies’ was the first song to be released as a digital single.

Rating

As I only feature music I generally like I’ve decided rating releases is pointless. It has a mighty Play a Song For Me seal of approval!

One for the Week…Rick Redbeard

No Selfish Heart
No Selfish Heart

I waaaaay late in posting this, but as the album itself took eight years to complete I figure you can forgive my current blogging pace (akin to that of a tortoise’s steps). I first heard Rick Redbeard‘s album No Selfish Heart in December, it already reminds me of Scottish winters and the kind of lamentable snowfall that covered Edinburgh in waves.

Released with the monochrome artwork above last month I believe it’s had much acclaim already and it’s also on one of my favourite Scottish labels, Chemikal Underground.

You Need To Know

It’s the first solo LP from Phantom Band frontman Rick Anthony, a rich collection of mostly love songs, full of emotion, wise words and discovery. Sounding like a refresh of old celtic ballads it’s often thankfully simple his deep, distinctive vocal and moving lyrics are commendable.

Top Tracks

  • Kelvingrove –  originally a folk song which Rick learnt along the way, his version is a love song like nothing I’ve ever heard, plush violin meets distinctive Scottish songcraft
  • Now We’re Dancing – originally released on a spilt single with Adam Stafford it’s a clickety, wry beauty
  • Wildlove – Like a lullaby, it will raise a smile
  • No Selfish Heart – This could be my most favoured track on the album, it feels fresh and poignant plus I love the tune.

Listen when…

You’re in need of something pretty, at the coast on a chilly day or sitting my the fire in a log cabin (as we all do of an evening).

Rating

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Songs for Your Soul

As we hurtle towards the end of the year I’ve been getting returning to listen to things I really loved over the last twelve months. It’s not quite a best of list as I find it hard to narrow things down that far, rather just a rundown of great songs…Merry Christmas Eve!

 Scottish & Sublime

Meursault – Dull Spark/Flittin’

These tracks are both from Neil Pennycook’s alternative folk band Meursault’s stunning 2012 album Something For the Weakened. Amongst a number of accolades it’s received it just topped the Scottish BAMS, an award set up by the great Peenko blog and voted for by Scottish bloggers including me, you can read the full list of winners here.

 

Lament For a Teenage Millionaire

 

Adam StaffordVanishing Tanks/Russian Glass 

Both of the these tracks from Falkirk musician Adam Stafford’s spilt single, released on independent label Gerry Loves Records are so well crafted I’ve listened to them many times.

 

Human Don’t Be Angry –  1985 

I bought Malcolm Middleton’s first Human Don’t Be Angry album on CD in Inverness, because it was playing in the shop and even though I had it on download it sounded too good not to own. Stunning instrumental guitar…

 

Three Blind Wolves – Sound of The Storm 

Having first seen Glasgow four piece Three Blind Wolves live in May, I then listened to their joyous, country rooted album ‘Sound of the Storm’ on repeat for many weeks after.

Dream A Little Dream Pop For Me

Tennis – It All Feels The Same 

Husband and wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley released ‘Young and Old’ in February, blissful sugar pop to make you happy.

Beach House – Myth

The first track which was released from the band’s album Bloom, it’s a beauty.

New American Idols

Sharon Van Etten – Leonard

An album which is amongst the best releases of the year (and has indeed appeared near the top of many tastemaker album lists) US singer-songwriter Van Etten’s Tramp is sublime. This is the video for ‘Leonard’…get to listening!

Loch LomondWhite Dresses

The most poignant and unusual kind of chamber folk from the Oregon ensemble Loch Lomond, this is the title track from a European EP produced exclusively for Chemikal Underground. It’s a tearjerker.

 

Father John MistyHollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

For ex Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tilman his 2012 album ‘Fear Fun’ is likely to define the point where people had begun to listen to his solo work. This is the first track I heard from it…

Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

Watch this video and I’d defy you not fall in love with Damien Jurado’s latest record.

 Magical Music

The Dirty Three – Towards The Low Sun

Australian prog-instrumental rock trio The Dirty Three just seem to get better and more distinctive, their quivering instruments conjuring a rugged, turbulent landscape.

 

The Tallest Man  on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

If you like properly old fashioned song writing, this release from Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson is just plain good.

 

Francois Atlas & The Mountains – Gold Mountain (Slow Club Cover)

Two excellent bands, one reworked song.

Discovered Discoveries

For non regular readers Play a Song For Me is mostly about asking musicians and people involved in music for their suggestions on something which is great, new or rare. Of all the great submissions I’ve had this year there were a couple which really stuck out for me, I hope if you haven’t heard them already please click on the link!

John Knox Sex Club: Submitted by The Last Battle

Six track ‘album’ Raise Ravens came out from the Glasgow folk-rockers in September, check it out….

Tommy Johnson: Submitted by Adam Stafford 

Blues legend Tommy Johnson, whose songs are timeless.

Miss Irenie Rose: Submitted by Rachel Sermanni 

A young, supremely talented Scottish singer

Ring Around the Records

Superb Sounds for Saturday

The Babies

It’s so nice when you listen to something new which is genuinely brilliant. Discovered these guys, The Babies, through Brooklyn Vegan and listened to their new album Our House on a Hill, which you can stream in full at Spin. They’re made up of ex-Vivian Girls and Woods members plus bassist Brian Schleyer and the guitar on the track below, Get Lost, is insane.

Godspeed

Having a down day, or in need of some instrumental listening…these Canadian progressive-rock stalwarts are an excellent remedy.

Do Say Make Think

Of the same Canadian rock ilk as Godspeed, couldn’t not share.

 

M83 – Teen Angst

TUNE. Of the popular electronic variety.

 

RNDM – Walking Through New York

Another chance discovery, ‘Random’ is a new collaboration between Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Stuverud. I found this track via One Little Indian Records and believe it to be great.

A post (almost) unrelated to the hurricane…

On Saturday I spoke to my good friend if mine who lives in the East Village about which record stores in New York might be a good shout for a new feature. He recommended Other Music as one of the only ones remaining which sells CDs and not just vinyl- apparently it has “a great range of indie and eclectic stuff–even a good world section which includes great music from Nigeria and weird oddities like recordings of insects in tropical rain forests or Thai pop music of the seventies.” 

Sounds the business right?

I hadn’t had the time to look it up properly before the hurricane hit, but as I, along with most of the world, continue to fret about everyone over there it’s been in the back of my mind. The store’s located on East 4th Street Manhattan which is out of the evacuation zone, but the website’s down right now so for the sake of research I scooped some sessions from the store instead…

The marvellous Cate Le Bon

 

 

The mighty Iron & Wine

 

The melody making Camera Obscura

 

Keep your chin up NYC!

If you listen to one thing this week…make it a Tiny Desk Concert

I discovered NPR (National Public Radio) Tiny Desk Concerts around the time I shifted from just reviewing gigs and records to writing this here blog, and – driven by a whimsical ambition to listen to as much as possible – was trying to sift through mags and media. Held at the incredibly cool desk of some chap called Bob Boilen I expect the slot’s probably incredibly well known, I’ve just come to know it as a good place to look now and again for artists I haven’t heard of. The most recent find was a session from singer songwriter Chris Bathgate (a last minute addition to Matchstick Maker’s list, see last post for more), leading to this round up of some great sessions…

Chris Bathgate

Charming tunes which are catching, orchestral violin and a foot-stomping delivery – he may hail from Michigan but Scotland’s threaded through.

 

Dirty Three 

Crashing drums, balkan violin and a yelping vocal from the band’s thrusting lead singer – what’s not to love?

 

The Tallest Man on Earth 

Songs to sink right into.

Yann Tiersen 

I discovered this quite by accident. Win.

A few other good places to find new artists are Seattle station KEXP, The Guardian’s column New Band of the Day and Indie Darkroom.…so go now and find music that you love.  Go now.

Playing with Matches

Music fans: you are in for a treat. Recently I was sent an EP from mysterious musician Matchsticker Maker, containing three low-fi songs which are entirely bewitching.  Here he talks about four treasured musicians, just make sure you get to the bottom…

Matchstick Maker Plays…

Stanley

A band from Aberdeen that I know almost nothing about and have never seen live, but whose album “Animals With Amazing Disguises” is incredible. It’s some of the most invigorating and exciting sounds I’ve heard in ages, plus the guy’s voice is heart-stoppingly rich. Check out the album opener “Join Hands” and try to get your vocal chords around the top notes near the end. 
Late one night in May I was driving in the middle of nowhere way up North, with a late sunset burning on the horizon, I switched on the radio right in the middle of that song “Join Hands”. I’d never heard it before, didn’t know who the band was but I genuinely had to stop the car when I heard that melody, and then it turned out to be a live session! Fearless vocals, mind blown. Then they did a brilliant Goldfrapp cover.
(I love this live version)

 

Jonnie Common

I somehow stumbled across the album “Master Of None” just as it came out which is quite rare for me, but I immediately loved it and have pretty much played the vinyl to scratch-laden death since. It’s just great catchy, witty and interesting songs, the track “Hand-Hand” contains the lyric “I can’t skateboard to save my life, but I like to imagine what kind of bizarre scenario might involve me having to do so”… you can’t beat that…  

I was playing at the Jura Festival a few weeks ago and on the Sunday morning someone mentioned that night’s gig involved “Jonnie-something-or-other”. I managed to sneak in to see his set and it was even better than I’d imagined, in a village hall next to the distillery, tiny crowd, cabaret seating, candles, one man and an omni-chord – as far as pleasant surprises go it was way up there. If you’ve got any sense at all, go and see him live.

 

Dead Man’s Waltz

A folk-noir band from Skye. I’ve seen a few great live shows from these guys but the most memorable was when I supported their album launch during a stormy October night in an old stone barn on Skye, a perfect setting for their bleak and majestic soundtrack… (some poetic license and/or altered perception might have influenced that memory a bit but it’s definitely fairly accurate.) 

 

Check out the video for “Swings and Roundabouts”
and Emmeline…

and find their album here

Ben Sollee

I’m amazed he isn’t far more well-known than he is. He’s an American cello-playing singer-songwriter from Kentucky, which is different, and his songwriting is charmingly eclectic & just fantastic. He’s just released his fourth album but I first heard him when a friend played me the song “Panning For Gold” a year or so ago from his 2008 album “Learning to Bend”. The whole idea of the song is beautiful (imagining god as an old man with dementia) and musically it’s heart breakingly intimate.

 

 

Of them all of those above I find Mr Sollee a standout, beautiful song.

And don’t forget to check out the Matchsticker Maker EP right here” The songs were bubbling around in my subconscious for a wee while so, while a storm whipped up outside, I sat by the stove in my wee cottage and recorded them with one mic and a battered old guitar I was given about 10 years ago.” In particular I find Evergreen to be a timeless, beautiful piece of music.