What's On The Hi-Fi...Emanuel & The Fear

Emanuel & The Fear
Emanuel & The Fear (EP)
Ishlab Music (2009)
Download "Jimme's Song"
Brooklyn based Emanuel & the Fear is an 11-piece rock band led by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Emanuel Ayvas. Their sound concentrates its heart on weaving intelligent, ornately arranged and conceived songs, which linger and grow with each play.

The hook filled songs on their self-titled EP are dreamy and melodious exhibiting skilled musicianship, song crafting and in-depth lyrics reminiscent of Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. “Rain Becomes The Clouds” develops from a simple hand-clap synth beat then weaves in pretty orchestral strings which rise up to meet horns and piano. All the while, Emanuel sings arms open,embracing all the sounds as they squeeze between his capable grasp. It’s a competition of sounds that bear a lovely tune.

The standout track on the set is “Jimme’s Song” a cool, shuffling corner blues track that builds and conquers in a Dylanesque foot-stomp call, “I don’t wanna do nothing but be in a rock. Don’t wanna get a job. Don’t wanna a be a man”. It's in this song we see the truest nature of Emanuel and the Fear. Smart, poetic, and lovely.

We look forward to hearing more tracks on their debut LP that they are currently recording.

Emanuel & The Fear (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Mark Daumail of Cocoon

You could be forgiven for thinking that the title of Cocoon's first long player, My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash, was chosen for little more than dramatic effect.  Sadly, the album as well as the formation of the group, was born out of darker stuff.  The group's founder Mark Daumail explains that "the album came when I lost most of my friends and family a few years ago.  I needed to sing this story, so I created Cocoon."  Mark began Cocoon as a solo project in Clermont-Ferrand in south-central France, writing and posting songs on the internet.  In late 2005, Mark sought to collaborate with a female vocalist and met Morgane Imbeaud, who to Mark was a natural and seamless fit.

The duo set out to develop a shared sound, creating seemingly carefree and serpentine folk harmonies, with Mark on vocals, guitar and ukulele and Morgan on vocals and keyboards.  The duo's first EP, From Panda Mountains, reached France's Top 40 charts, and the group went on to win Les Inrocks' CQFD award for best new act in 2007.

Mark and Morgane's debut album My Friends... has been a long time in the making and supporting -- work began on the album in 2007, and it was released in France later that year (Sober & Gentle) and in the US (on Minty Fresh) only last month.  The album has been warmly received by the French critical press and fans alike, and the single "On My Way" (arguably the group's strongest track) was one of the most frequently played tracks on French radio last year.  Many of the tracks break with the expected by coupling light and shiny melodies with rather dark and strange lyrics and imagery.  This is a contrast which Mark finds intrinsically appealing, "we don’t like things to be all happy, or all sad, or all funny.  Music is life, and life will never be something with only one mood.  So, we decided to mix all these feelings and to write songs with them."

Although neither Mark nor Morgane have yet been to the US (a trip which Mark admits is a bit of a French fantasy), the tracks from My Friends... owe a lot to current indie-Americana music.  Several of the tracks recall the uplifting jangly melodies of Sufjan Stevens (particularly on the gentle folksy duet of "Hummingbird") and the folk/rock sensibility of Elvis Perkins -- both of whom the group has cited as influences along with stalwarts Pentangle and Fairport Convention.  Not only are all of the songs sung in English, but there is a distinctively strong affection for Anglo-Saxon influences and culture which runs throughout the album.  Theirs is a romanticized view of Americana, of vast and wild landscapes - a nostalgia for an invented bygone era.

It seems more than ever that a growing number of French artists are releasing albums entirely in English, despite various obstacles to doing so in France (for example, French law requires that radio playlists contain a certain proportion of French language music / programming).  Mark has said that, personally, this has not really been an obstacle. For Mark, it was natural to sing and write in English given that "all of our musical and artistic culture comes from the US and the UK.  We’ve always preferred to read English authors, to watch American movies…."  Its a decision which has worked for the band, garnering them recognition as one of the leaders in the English-language radio movement in France.

Having only been playing together for a few years, Cocoon have continued to tour and play increasingly large venues (the 3 recent dates in Paris sold out) and festivals, and the latest album continues to be released to a broader audience to critical raves. "We are so grateful for everyone coming to our shows. We know it is kind of hard now to find tickets, but we think we have to keep on playing in 2000-people-sized venues, to respect the audience and the music."  Keep an eye out for the duo's first visit Stateside this September for what Mark has dubbed the "Great US Panda Force Tour 2009".

On tour, Mark and Morgane like to throw the odd cover into the mix, like the beautiful "The Lakes of Canada" from The Innocence Mission.  Other covers make less sense at first, but somehow the duo pull them off, like "Rehab" and "Kung Fu Fighting".  We have it on good authority to expect, in the very near future, a cover of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades"! 

A lot of the charm of Cocoon has to with the fact that these two are visibly in love with what they do and, simply put, are just having a great time making music.

What's on Mark's hi-fi at the moment?  "The last albums of Elvis Perkins, Grizzly Bear, Great Lake Swimmers, Horse Feathers and The Tallest Man On Earth.  I love them all."


Listen to “Chupee” MP3

Listen to “On My Way” MP3

What's On The Hi-Fi...Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic
Here We Go Magic
Western Vinyl (2009)
Download: "Tunnelvision"
Fronted by critical darling of the Seattle music scene Luke Temple, Brooklyn based Here We Go Magic's eponymously titled album is filled with facile playing, straight-forward melodies and simple yet redolent lyrics all of which culminate in a very solid and eclectic output that eases and rolls out of the hi-fi.

Here We Go Magic opens with "Only Pieces" driven by a lively, hypnotic electronic beat sequence that recalls African drums and rollicks in circles of cascading sounds added every few bars. "Ahab" brings to mind a mid-seventies Steve Miller Band track or Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness track with its slow, lilting synth style chilling under the Police era Sting whisper.

The standout on the album is "Tunnelvision" a bouncy tune that lives on a handclap, leg slap and guitar strum but holds your attention with the subtle voice overdubbing that builds throughout.

There are a few other tunes that might catch attention like "Fangela" but the whole album is filled with passion and attentive song crafting that makes every one of the nine songs a gem.

Here We Go Magic (Official) | MySpace

Villette Sonique Festival

The Villette Sonique festival is back on 27-31 May at Parc La Villette in Paris with an eclectic line-up of shows and events under this year's banner of "Mutant Drums".

Chicago noise rockers The Jesus Lizard opens the festival with Men Without Pants (Dan The Automator's project with Russel Simmins of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) at La Grande Halle de la Villette. The second night sees Atlanta's Black Lips and Krautrocker's Liars taking over the circus tent that is Cabaret Sauvage. On the 29th, NY minimal punk funk stalwarts Liquid Liquid are up with the Japanese rhythmic noise trio Nissenenmondai, and Goblin reinterpreting the soundtracks of cult composer Dario Argento.

Not to be missed are the free weekend outdoor shows on the park lawns with Deerhoof, Lightning Bolt, Syrian folkster Omar Souleyman, Dan Deacon & Ensemble and Ebony Bones. The festival's electro line-up is over two days and features the likes of Diplo, Ritchie Hawtin, Jesse Rose, Boy 8-Bit, and DJ Hell.

The festival also welcomes Sunn O))), Ariel Pink, Magda, Erna Omarsdottir, Extra Life, Tussle, Duchess Says, Monotonix, Gaiser and Barem.

As is the style (think Jarvis Cocker and his children's dance workshops earlier this month), Scratch Massive will be hosting an "introduction to electronic music and organic sampling" for the wee ones on the 30th.

Click for full lineup: www.villettesonique.com

What's On The Hi-Fi...The Arch Cupcake

The Arch Cupcake
Box of Bees
Patriarch Recordings
Download: "Wasabi"
Over the past decade we have seen the rise and popularity of the crate-digger sect in alternative electronic music. Turntable helmers and knob twisters like DJ Meiso, Blockhead, DJ Shadow, R2DJ and Z-Trip have changed the way we think of sampling and have created a modern music style of their own. One that invades the borders of any musical genre that has a sound worth sampling. One newcomer has been making waves in this new musical pursuit. The Arch Cupcake is NYC native Frederick Sargolini, formerly of Ming+FS. He first hit the scene as a solo with his acclaimed Wash Out EP and has shown himself to be a talent to watch with his debut full-length.

On TAC's Box Of Bees, Sargolini mines beats, echoes and scratches like he invented them. They swerve and swirl around each other in an effortless blend of rhythm and time. Just take a listen to "No Dice" if you scoff. He also is a skilled beat boxer but doesn't limit himself to the cliched Doug E. Fresh model and adds a sexy seventies jazz vibe and some wickedly tight scratches to his version of the "The Human Beat Box." The standout track on the album is "Wasabi" a Mocean Worker like sixties go-go grind that oozes cool from its opening beat and continues with utra-sleek Hammond riffs.

Listen for Box of Bees to be on the hi-fi at the next Brooklyn BBQ your at or load it up and bring it yourself. It's guaranteed!


Back Again...The Church

In the late 80's, the Alt-rock landscape was populated by an array of bigger established artists such as Sinead O'Connor, Midnight Oil, Depeche Mode, R.E.M and Love and Rockets. But one band came out of nowhere to score huge success worldwide. That Aussie band was The Church. Their 1981 debut album, Of Skins and Heart had one, modest Australian hit "The Unguarded Moment" which was good enough to get them signed to a major U.S. label. They were soon dropped without releasing their second album. However, the band trooped on through a few more albums and in 1988 released the album Starfish which included the mesmerizingly beautiful Top 40 hit "Under the Milky Way." The song is so popular to this day in Australia it was voted the best song of the last 21 years down-under.

The band unfortunately couldn't grab the same level of attention on their critically acclaimed followup album Gold Afternoon Fix. Although they dealt with a succession of lineup changes in the 90's the Church has released regularly and most of the albums share the same lush, evocative sound, though it moved slightly to a Prog-Rock style. They now work with a lineup featuring the original three founding members Steve Kilbey, Marty Wilson-Piper, Peter Koppes and new drummer Tim Powles.

They are back again with a new album. Untitled #23 is great example of how an 80's band can stay relevant by just doing what they do best: write decent melodic and evocative songs. There certainly isn't an "Under The Milky Way" on the album but songs like "Pangea" display the same lush lanscape that the band became known for in their earlier days.

What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Team Waterpolo

Brit indie-pop band Team Waterpolo has had a charmed and busy few years. Since forming in the city of Preston of Lancashire in 2007, the group has made some huge leaps ahead of the pack. Their accomplishments include a debut single “Letting Go’” garnering NME’s ‘Single of the Week’, tour spots with the Black Kids and Supergrass, becoming a MySpace featured artist of the week, signing to Sony’s Epic Records in August 2008, playing Glastonbury last summer, and finally recording their debut at the countryside studio used by Alex Turner.

Now why does a young, relatively unknown band get such accolades, breaks and success so quickly: because they are so good in so many ways. On their debut album (currently untitled) the band, consisting of singer
Fred Davis, DJ Ruggero “Ruggi” Lorenzini, guitarist Nathan Standlee and drummer Lex Dunn deliver one catchy, clever, upbeat and fresh sounding song after another including lead single "Room 44."

What’s On The Hi-Fi got some insight from lead singer Fred Davis about the band, their tour and the upcoming album due to drop on May 19, 2009.

You have had a very busy past year and what looks to be a hectic schedule ahead. Are you chomping at the bit to get the new single, Room 44, and album out and get back on the road? Any stops you looking forward to on the tour?
Oh yeah, it's been a while since we last toured and we're dying to play live again, Our first stop is Glasgow, we always have an amazing time in Glasgow, the crowds are crazy and so is the nightlife, so we are really looking forward to that one.

You’re from Preston in Lancashire, England, which is famous for producing athletes especially footballers and cricketers. Is this why you have a sports themed band name? And are any of you avid sportsmen / footballers?
HAHA good question. Our drummer has played quite a bit of American football he played for the Lancashire Wolverines, none of us are really avid sportsmen though. We did all go to schools where you have to play rugby and cricket, in fact my debut for the cricket B team was quite the event. I ran two of my team members out and then tripped over and fell into the wickets, The next game I played I opened up the batting and was bowled out on the first game of the match. They call that a Diamond Duck. I haven’t picked up a cricket bat since. The Team Waterpolo name was random and was created by Nathan, he wanted to put two random words together and he liked the idea of having Team in the name. He is American so maybe that's where the "Waterpolo" came from.

Previously, you have supported bands like Supergrass and Black Kids, but you will be out on your own headlining tour beginning April 30 in Glasgow (including a stop at Glastonbury this year). Any added pressure being “the” band on the marquee?
Not really, we’ve done headline tours before. It's cool because when it's your show you know everyone there has come to see you.

You guys have some real fun on your Twitter posts (e.g. Egg hunting with James McAvoy, Jazz and pizza with Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman, Playing Glastonbury with special guest Don Cheadle). Has the addition of all of the social networking outlets been a boon or burden for you guys?
Always a boon. MySpace started everything for us, they featured us a few weeks after we started and it got us loads of attention from the industry and fans. We love Twitter Bebo MySpace etc. If I had to give one piece of advice to bands starting up it would be take full advantage of those sites, they can change everything overnight, they did for us.

All right, which one of you will be the first to marry a supermodel and join a cult?
Well obviously I will be the first to marry a supermodel and we have all already joined cults. I can't tell you which cults though, sorry.

Do you have any plans to get across the Atlantic for some gigs? Maybe CMJ in NYC in October?
No plans yet but oh my God yes! Please, we would love to.

What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
At the moment I’m listening to Seasick Steve, Passion Pit, Dizzie Rascal. Oh and I’m listening to a lot of Jackson 5, but it changes with me from week to week.


Listen to “Room 44” MP3

What's On The Hi-Fi...Art Brut

Art Brut
Art Brut vs. Satan
Downtown Records
'Download: "Slap Dash For No Cash"

Art Brut has been that odd band during these days of albums that are too polished but trying to be real and organic. Make no bones about it; this band has no interest in being Arcade Fire or TV On The Radio. I like both bands but thank God, warts and all, they are more like the Ramones, the Damned or Black Flag. After two really cool and fun albums, Bang Bang Rock & Roll and It’s a Bit Complicated, you might expect Eddy Argos and crew to flounder, but there is a truth and purity in their sound that is sorely missed in the modern alternative music landscape.

On Art Brut vs. Satan, produced by Frank Black of the Pixies, each track storms into sing along lyrics by Eddie Argos that are unabashedly self-effacing without being humiliated. Just kick back with a beer and a trashy rock magazine and fall in love with “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes.” Or have a laugh at U2 and Brian Eno’s overly earnest outputs on “Slap Dash For No Cash.” On “The Replacements” we are reminded just how late most of us got into Westerberg’s band.

No one is going to accuse the guys from Art Brut of tuning up or practicing their scales soberly all night. What you get on Art Brut vs. Satan is a full throttle rock and roll album performed like it’s supposed to be done. Soapbox available for any difference of opinion

Art Brut (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi...St. Vincent

St. Vincent
4AD (2009)
Download: "The Strangers"

Born in Tulsa, but currently residing in Brooklyn. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) attended the Berklee College of Music. She has played guitar for both Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree. Clark released her debut album, Marry Me, in 2007 for which she was nominated for three 2008 PLUG Independent Music Awards eventually taking home the prize for Female Artist of the Year.

With Actor, she has created a diverse, engaging album that initially seems sanguine but harbors some dark and foreboding elements in the music and lyrics. The opening track “The Strangers” perfectly illustrates her shadowy penchant. Beginning with the slow 1940’s MGM-styled orchestral arrangement, the song picks up a thumping beat and soon Clark’s fresh sounding voice floats into the mix. Finding yourself singing along to chorus of “paint the black hole blacker” is an odd feeling. It’s because her music sounds so mysterious and upbeat that it doesn’t devolve into the doldrums.

The album presents new gems throughout the life of its 11 songs. From “Save Me From What I Want” and its ubiquitous “watch yourself” in the background to the Cocteau Twins’ sound of “Laughing With A Mouth Full of Blood” to the slow, easy sounds of longing on “The Party”, St. Vincent’s song crafting and style makes you listen over and over and find beautiful corners to hide in and eavesdrop through the walls of this fine effort.

St. Vincent (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi...Casiotone For The Painfully Alone

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
Vs. Children
Tomlab (2009)
Download: “Natural Light”

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, the one-man band also known as Owen Ashworth, has crafted a lush, evocative album on Vs. Children. Although there is a solemn tone that pops up throughout, Asworth’s vivid stories draw the listener into the simple beats and melodies and create a world of characters reminiscent of early Asylum era Tom Waits. The songs are filled with loss, betrayal and game players that are on the run or wish to getaway but can’t.

It is his love of film (Ashworth was a former film school student) that brings out the most interesting part of the album. With just a glance of the cover art with the bereted, blonde-bobbed Bonnie and the Model T Clyde in the background you get a foreshadowing of the early songs. On “Tom Justice” Ashworth tells the tell of a Dillinger-esque character that robs banks with a smile which segues perfectly in “Optimist vs. The Silent Word” which speaks of betrayal and ends with a humorous blending of the “Saints Come Marching In.”

From there, Ashworth unfastens his album to a broader landscape albeit with the same thematic tones of wayward Midwesterners. What makes the album work so well in the end are the lyrical style and the visual nature of his storytelling that lives in your head for hours after the first listen.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (Official) | MySpace