Album Review..."Arthur Unknown" from John Gold

John Gold
Arthur Unknown
Self-Released (2013)
By Contributing Writer Katryn Macko

Florida singer/songwriter John Gold says that he “likes going into a room and finding the little secret treasures that are hidden”, and that’s what his fifth full length album Arthur Unknown is like. He has been working diligently on this self-produced record for two years, and the multilayered yet seamless tracks create a setting of hopefulness and promise. This album is bursting with vulnerability and soul, which is something that has remained constant within all of John’s writing, but he also breaks new ground by incorporating experimental indie influences. He mentions that “There are a lot of hidden things in it, I doubt most people will ever find them.”

Each song emulates the experience of a journey with the natural movement between a large variety of parts. The powerful and inviting nature of “Bluebird (~670-610 THz)” paired with the calm reassurance of “Careless Hands Came” and “The Daughter’s Sons” introduce the record in a way that captivates the listener immediately. The catchy yet intricate single “Edgar Allen Poe” still holds John’s folk roots, but also sounds like Born Ruffians or Vampire Weekend with its staccato rhythms and layered chanted vocals. The most satisfying part of the song is in the bridge breakdown when John yells out “I’ve got my own free will, I know I’m a Son of God”, making his self-control and motivation concrete.

He notes that, “The lyrics are simple unless you know what I’m talking about. That’s when it becomes really complicated.” In between the diverse woodwind samples in “Everywhere/Everything” he sings, “I’ll pay you back in blood with interest, with my crooked teeth”. He has a simple way of explaining things that is distinctive and unusual. “The Last Page of the Bible” is made complete right from the start with the words, “I’ve been dreaming, hoping, singing, writing all my sins upon the last page of the bible; blank white for a reason”. Through these lines and all of the lines in the album for that matter, he effortlessly portrays the flaws all people have within themselves while revealing roads to happiness.

“I pretty much lost everybody over this album, and saved a couple best friends. It's meant to help people”, he explains. This is especially apparent in the spoken interlude tracks such as “Completely With Ease”, which is a flashback of a near death experience for John, and “Intro” which has commentary about death. “Outro” is an uplifting track where several people say, “I love you”, and “Thirty Kids a Year For Life” contains a girl discussing about her love for children and her reasons behind wanting to teach. These make the listening experience more personal and sentimental.

John makes every song separable with different styles that add individuality. The track “Excuse May” sounds as if it could be on Bright Eyes’ album The People’s Key, and “Fourth Tier Mortality” has an old school southern rock vibe to it. It also contains a piano bridge that brings a tempo transformation that changes the whole feel of the song, catching the listener off guard in the best way possible. “It’s Lesser Light” is a smoother and more minimalistic track about desperation and self-deprecation, but it still remains solid and full. The jazzy guitar tracks brighten up this song and set it apart from the rest. “My Best Friend” is a song of names and foreign words that is sung like Dear and the Headlights, while “You Can’t Own” is feisty and bluesy. “Youth Be Gone” is warm and discusses the fleeting nature of summer love and innocence, leaving the album off on a positive cliffhanger.
John is setting out on a national tour starting June 29th in Denver and he is working his way back down to Florida, stopping at as many places as possible on the way. His advice to new singer/songwriters is to “Talk, don’t sing, talk. Say it like you would if you were talking when you sing, that way it will always be you.” Arthur Unknown is completely representative of John, making it a must-listen for 2013.

Official | Facebook | Youtube

Album Review..."Beware and Be Grateful" from Maps & Atlases

Maps & Atlases
Beware and Be Grateful
Barsuk Records (2012)
By Contributing Writer Katryn Macko

For indie music fans that are growing tired of the over-simplified indie music that is becoming the mainstream, there is a versatile prodigious quartet that is currently taking the underground airwaves by storm. Windy city natives Maps & Atlases’s sophomore album, Beware and Be Grateful, is a delightful concoction of layered vocals, intricate and clean guitar lines, and obscure drumming patterns, which is enough to make any mind-stimulating music fan satisfied.

The math rock musicians mastered the seamless composition skills that they built in their previous album, Perch Patchwork, while maintaining both an energetic and emotional edge. The ten song LP begins with the imperious “Old and Gray”, a vocal feature that beautifully sets up the album with the constantly changing rhythms and instruments subtly being added and subtracted with every new line. The honest ending lyrics, “When you are old and gray, I hope that someone holds you… the way that I would” drifts right into the LP’s single, “Fever”. This song seems to flawlessly morph electropop with raspy and honest vocals, while utilizing modern rock instrumentals to create a grooving ballad. “Winter” is a fun filled pop song which divinely contrasts the following track, “Remote and Dark Years”, which radiates with vulnerability and longing. The echoing vocables that introduce “Silver Self” produce a delicate beginning to what becomes a quick-paced Vampire Weekend-esque sound.

The sixth track, “Vampires” brings out more of the alternative elements of this group’s unmatchable style, along with some piano and tambourine parts thrown in. The most impressive guitar work on the album is in “Be Three Years Old” and “Bugs”. The former is accompanied by a multitude of overlapping melodies that mesh tastefully together, and the latter contains a quickly tapped recurring riff and the memorable chorus line, “If I said that we were bugs, would you say that I was taking the easy way out?” The relaxed yet vindictive “Old Ash” provides a pleasant break from the involute nature of the previous tracks. “Important” ends the album on a strong note, specifically due to the straightforward and authentic lyrics that roll out of lead singer Dave Davison’s mouth.

This technical yet completely organic sound is one that is constantly strived for yet rarely ever achieved. In this new and inventive album, Maps & Atlases has put people’s formerly concrete ideas of what indie music is into perspective. God only knows what this novel blending of styles will inspire in the future.

Official | Myspace

Album Review…”Divine Providence” from Deer Tick

Deer Tick
Divine Providence
Partisan Records (2011)
by Contributing Writer Katryn Macko

This album really is nothing short of Divine Providence. It seems as if a higher power did in fact play a part in this fun-filled alt-indie country record. The rustic instruments accolade the rough vocals superbly, and the carefree lyrics commendably play up the band’s matchless style in their fourth studio album. Every track is an innovative sound and experience, abandoning any traces of monotonous moments in this musical revelation.

We are introduced into the world of Divine Providence with the honky-tonk inspired “The Bump”, which precedes the classic rock stylings of “Funny Word”. To change up the genres even more, “Let’s All Go To The Bar” is a punky fusion of chants, distorted guitars, and pounding drums. The single “Main Street” is a lustrous track dripping with Bob Dylan-influenced everything. Following this song is the tranquility of “Clownin’ Around”, which incorporates all facets of being ignorant and young, but songwriter/front man John McCauley articulates the sentiment marvelously. “Chevy Express” also excels in this manner, with the guileless and significant words rolling flawlessly through each note.

The most energized and salient track in this collection is indubitably “Something To Brag About”, which is laden with old school Chuck Berry-like rock and roll. The vocals make a silkier shift in “Walkin’ Out The Door”, but the track still upholds its momentum. The vicious and livid “Make Believe” has a scorching guitar solo that replicates the mood of the McCauley’s lines. Next is the unexpectedly striking “Now It’s Your Turn”, and it arrives with an elegant piano melody and lingers in it’s soft and folky splendor with the earnest chorus lyrics “But out eyes make bridges burn, those nights are all we’ve earned”. In the despairing “Electric”, McCauley spills his guts and laments in the most poetic of ways. The group lightens the mood for the end of the album with the sweet escapist “Miss K” that is full of blissful simplicity.

Deer Tick has once again created a wide-ranging compendium of songs that are equipped with resplendent veracity. Even those who hate all country music will not be able to resist taking part in enjoying this exceptional band.

Official | Myspace

Album Review…”Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll” from Foxy Shazam

Foxy Shazam
Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll
Sire Records (2012)
by Contributing Writer Katryn Macko

This may not be the most eloquent way to put it, but classic rock plus Foxy Shazam front man Eric Nally’s sultry vocals equals one bad ass record. Plain and simple. The band’s fourth studio album, Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll, refines this crew's wild tendencies and highlights their myriad of strengths. This Cincinnati six-piece took a daring step by completely changing their signature funkcore sound by attempting to make a strict themed album, but they accomplished it brilliantly.

Church of Rock and Roll has a promising start with its sterling title track and the hit single “I Like It”. Both are the quintessential classic rock tunes, complete with ripping distortion guitar riffs, chorus vocals, and sizzling lyrics. One pleasant surprise was the heart-wrenchingly honest “Forever Together”. This track gambles with pretty much everything Nally does, through the sincere frankness of his emotions, the unconventional vocal pattern, and the rare use of his authentic squeaky voice rather than his suave stage voice, but luckily he knows exactly how to make it all work. The distinctiveness continues with the digital percussion and beautifully harmonized intro choral feature in “(It’s) Too Late Baby”. Nally drags the listener in right when the opening line pours out of his mouth: “When we were young I played the cowboy and you were my beauty queen”. “The Temple” is hands down the most natural and sexy song on the album. The dirty guitar fits seamlessly with the sinful lyrics, “If you want inside my temple, I’m gonna have to let you in”. There is an eerie spoken word bridge followed by a smooth trumpet line that is pristine and entirely satisfying. “The Streets” is a piano rock anthem oozing with raw passion and drive, paying tribute to his hometown and supportive wife. A gorgeously finger picked guitar riff appears on the last track, “Freedom”, and it’s followed by a screamed chorus which creates a fascinating juxtaposition that concludes the album in an ultimately compelling way.

Check out the booty thumping, tongue-in-cheek (we hope) video for “I Like It” here.

Official | Myspace

Album Review..."Boom!" from A Great Big Pile of Leaves

A Great Big Pile of Leaves
Top Shelf Records (2011)
Album Review By Contributor Katryn Macko

For a band whose first tour ever was with Motion City Soundtrack and Say Anything, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves have had large shoes to fill, but their new EP Boom! illustrates the range of their talents as they move towards a more rustic sound while maintaining the indie flair we all love. This Brooklyn quartet with heavenly vocals and smooth blending guitar riffs displays to the world their softer, more acoustic side in this EP of recreated old favorites and a new gem.

Revamped tracks such as “This Is A Country Song” and “Drought of Snow” off their first album The Fiery Works leave the listener lingering on every word, and every twangy note on the dueling acoustic guitars. Boom! even contains an acoustic spinoff of “Alligator Bop”, the single from their break through album, Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex? It is everything any fan of theirs would dream of, plus it is chock full of tambourines and slide guitars. The foursome brings it down with the fresh song “Learning Curves”, a ballad of physical longing in a library where maracas and a soft glockenspiel complement sensuous vocals.

With this bold divergence from their signature style, Boom! unveils the true capabilities of this endowed group of musicians.

01. This Is A Country Song
02. Drought Of Snow
03. Alligator Bop (Acoustic)
04. Learning Curves

Bandcamp | Top Shelf Records | MySpace

Album Review..."Cold Still" from The Boxer Rebellion

The Boxer Rebellion
The Cold Still
PID (2011)
Album Review By Contributor Katryn Macko

After two full length albums, The Boxer Rebellion has seemed to perfect their unique and incendiary sound in their new album Cold Still. With smooth, raw vocals paired with honest lyrics, they manage to find the impeccable instrumental tonality amalgamations that blend it all into one coherent sound of love, loss, and new hope.

Cold Still opens with a song of complete surrender. “No Harm” breaks the listener down to his most exposed state, leaving him defenseless and ready for the next song to fill up his spirits again.

“Step Out of the Car” effectively accomplishes this with twangy distorted guitar in a fast-paced, high-intensity track that gives one the illusion of everything beginning to burst at the seams.

A sense of reassurance with a hint of sensual longing is transmitted in “Locked in the Basement”’s repeated lyrics “I will love you down, I will. Oh, I will.”

The purest tones imaginable pour out through the instruments in this song, as well as in “Cause For Alarm”, “Caught by the Light”, and “Doubt” with their mirrored genuine lyrics.

While “Organ Song” adds fresh instrumental dimensions, it remains fairly constant throughout with little variation.

“Memo”, “Both Sides Are Even”, and “The Runner” pick it back up with an emotional high unlike any other. They seem to release all internal anguish, confusion, and desire at once, refusing to hold any emotions inside. Now that they have refined their style with these brilliantly formulated songs,

Cold Still seems like just the beginning of this rising band’s future.

See the video for “Step Out Of The Car.”

01. No Harm
02. Step Out Of The Car
03. Locked In The Basement
04. Cause For Alarm
05. Caught by the Light
06. Organ Song
07. Memo
08. Both Sides Are Even
09. The Runner
10. Doubt

Official | MySpace

Album Review..."Pleasure" from Pure X

Pure X
Acephale Records (2011)

Listen to “Easy” MP3

Texas band Pure X (formerly Pure Ecstasy) first made their mark two years ago with the release of “Easy”. Their debut album Pleasure is defined by this breakout track which features Nate Grace's sun drenched, reverb filled vocals fighting through prominent effect-laden guitar eruptions and backed by a throbbing bass and pedantic drums. Although “Easy” branded the band’s sound it doesn’t limit them creatively.

Much has been written about Pure X’s similarities to The Jesus and Mary Chain (especially by the UK press). There is no denying a kindred sound. However, I am sure if we dug around NME from 1986 we would find a comparison between JMC and The Velvet Underground. It’s a style that has been defined before but necessitates new chapters to grow the story.

On “Twisted Mirror” the same technique is used but in a more progressive tone. The song utilizes the sparse, roomy style of their songs to allow the life around you to merge with the track. At first it blends and binds to your surroundings then emerges, ingrained in your senses. It is very organic and rich.

The natural feel of the album is owed to the fact that the band recorded the album live as a unit. The choice to eschew bloated production techniques such as overdubbing and sampling is what illuminates this album.

01. Half Here
02. Pleasure
03. Dry Ice
04. Stuck Livin
05. Surface
06. Voices
07. Easy
08. Twisted Mirror
09. Dream Over
10. Heavy Air
Official | Acephale Records

Album Review..."Boys And Diamonds" from Rainbow Arabia

Rainbow Arabia
Boys And Diamonds
Kompakt 2011

Listen to "Without You" MP3

Rainbow Arabia is an electronic duo out of Los Angeles, California featuring Whisky Biscuit Keyboardist Danny Preston and his wife Tiffany. They have been alternately described in any combination of post-punk, pan-global, fourth world, synth-pop, tropical ethno-electro or world-beat new wave. In truth all of these description are not only fun sounding but accurate. Rainbow Arabia like their peers Gang Gang Dance and Lucky Dragons use any influence they feel works. Throw a dart at a map and you will probably hit a country or culture that the duo use in their music.

On their latest effort, Boys And Diamonds (out on Kompakt), Rainbow Arabia continue this globe-trotting trend infusing their songs with a cultural grab bag of sounds. The pair also channel catchy, hook driven music on the album. The lead single, “Without You”, reminds one of a modern mixture of Haircut 100 and Siouxsie Sioux with it’s jungle percussion and ethereal, punk wailing. Other album standouts are “Papai” which evokes late 90’s Kruder and Dorfmeister, the percolating percussion of “Mechanical” and finally the Cerrone/Moroder-esque, 70’s Euro-disco floor filler “Sequenced”.

Remarkably, Boys And Diamonds with all the varying influences works as a complete album with songs building up from slow percussion tracks to the final crescendo at the end. It’s an intriguing album that might be too much for less experimental listeners but for Rainbow Arabia’s fellow sonic trekkers it will be on the hi-fi for years to come.

TRACK LISTING: 01. Boys and Diamonds
02. Without You
03. Nothin Gonna Be Undone
04. Blind
05. Papal
06. Jungle Bear
07. Hai
08. This Life is Practice
09. Sayer
10. Sequenced
Official | Myspace | Kompakt

Album Review..."Thao & Mirah" from Thao & Mirah

Thao & Mirah
Thao & Mirah
Kill Rock Stars 2011
Listen to “Eleven” MP3

Thao & Mirah is the welcome collaboration of two very different and accomplished singer songwriters, each bringing a unique and yet complimentary voice and approach to this project.  Each alternate roles and songwriting throughout the album.  Mirah’s voice tends toward the breathy and ranging with starry-eyed lyrics (“Spaced Out Orbit”, “Little Cup”), while Thao’s voice reaches low with more direct and rollicking tales (“Squareneck”, “Teeth”, “Folks”).  The overall sound shifts from folk, to pop to blues, all held together with a carefully liberated energy.  Tracks remain immediate and somewhat raw, coming together in their variety to create an impressive and cohesive album.
Have a listen to “Eleven”, the celebratory album opener and our favorite track, with sparking rhythms and Thao & Mirah’s lyrical volley and chorus of “when love is love, don’t let it go away”.  There is no missing the experimental imprint of the track’s co-writer and album co-producer Merrill Garbus of tUne-yArDs, whose new album W H O K I L L should definitely be on your shortlist for album’s to check out.
Thao & Mirah are on tour throughout the US starting this month, with a stop in Brooklyn at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on 8 June.  Hopefully we will see some European dates later in the year.
Thao & Mirah each work with Air Traffic Control (ATC), an organization dedicated to helping musicians promote social causes. Part of the ticket price to each of their shows will be donated to local community organizations working for positive social change, particularly in the area of raising awareness and offering resources in response to physical, emotional and sexual abuse in the home.
01. Eleven
02. Folks
03. Little Cup
04. Rubies and Rocks
05. Teeth
06. Spaced Out Orbit
07. How Dare You
08. Sugar and Plastic
09. Likable Man
10. Hallelujah
11. Squareneck
Official | Kill Rock Stars 

Album Review...Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird from The Tallest Man On Earth

The Tallest Man On Earth
Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird
Dead Oceans 2010

Listen to “The Dreamer” MP3

The Tallest Man On Earth is Kristian Matsson from Dalarna, Sweden. After fronting fellow Swedes Montezumas he released two full length albums (Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt) but has really caught lightning in the bottle with the faultless Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird five-track EP on Dead Oceans.

“Sometimes the blues is just a passing bird, oh why can’t that always be…”

The EP title is not only a lyric but it is a palpable theme to the piece in general. All of the songs lay in a bluesy, seemingly mawkish tone but Matsson expertly sings his way out of that pool and rockets the songs to prominence.

From the light and energetic fingerpicking on the opening track “Little River” to the bare bones electric guitar and plaintiff yearning on “The Dreamer” (which includes the title lyric) to the soft earnestness of “Thrown Right At Me” there isn’t a forgettable or over-indulgent track.

Although his guitar work and song-crafting is spot on and fills the air perfectly, it is the power of the lyrics that fuels the album in its entirety. You listen and come back and back again finding yourself singing a moment either internally or in an under-the-breath hum while grabbing your morning coffee or just taking a break from your day to day life.

The sound and the songs are truly special and we can’t wait to see where The Tallest Man On Earth might take us next.


01. Little River
02. The Dreamer
03. Like the Wheel
04. Tangle In This Trampled Wheat
05. Thrown Right At Me

MySpace | Dead Ocean

Album Review…Lucky Shiner from Gold Panda

Gold Panda
Lucky Shiner
Ghostly International / Notown 2010

Listen to “Same Dream China” MP3

At his origins a remixer (Bloc Party, Health, Telepathe, Simian Mobile Disco), UK’s Gold Panda has now released his excellent debut full length Lucky Shiner. Out earlier this month as a digital release (featuring a few bonus tracks), the physical copy will be released in October on Ghostly International (North America & Europe), as well as on Gold Panda’s own label Notown.

Having been tipped as one of BBC’s Sound of 2010 nominees, Gold Panda is the happy recipient of well-deserved praise for Lucky Shiner. This debut offers up colorful electronica with a depth of field, where beats drive and spiral, without forgoing the warmth of sparkling and emotive melodies. Standouts include “Same Dream China” with its otherworldly soundscape and “Snow & Taxis” mounting shining bells propelled on snare beats. The acoustic interlude “Parents” breaks with the rest of the album, featuring field recordings with grandma and the unexpected treated sounds of a squeaky wheelbarrow.

On Lucky Shiner, Golda Panda deftly mixes the influences of place (the English countryside, memories of studies in Japan) with an array of personal experiences (falling in and out of love, touring, mixing). All of this combining to create a stellar album which captivates with subtlety and depth.

Check out the video for “Snow & Taxis” directed by Ronni Shendar.


01. You
02. Vanilla Minus
03. Parents
04. Same Dream China
05. Snow & Taxis
06. Before We Talked
07. Marriage
08. I’m With You But I’m Lonely
09. After We Talked
10. India Lately
11. You
12. Greek Style (Digital Bonus)
13. Casio Daisy (Digital Bonus)
14. Rush Job (The Ghostly Store Exclusive)

MySpace | Lucky Shiner | Ghostly International

Album Review …Spirit Guides from Evening Hymns

Evening Hymns
Spirit Guides
Kütu Folk Records (France) 2010 / Out of this Spark 2009
 Listen to “Lanterns” MP3

Evening Hymns evolves around Toronto-based songwriter Jonas Bonnetta.  His debut full-length under the moniker Evening Hymns Spirit Guides was released in North America late last year on Out of this Spark, and is seeing its release in Europe this month on France’s Kütu Folk Records.

In many ways, Spirit Guides came together as a way for Jonas to deal with his father’s long illness and passing.  Eschewing the obvious pitfalls, his record embraces hope, allowing his songs the time to develop and take the time necessary to play out.
“Lanterns” is a standout track which builds, slowly adding layers and sounds (guitars, drums, strings, horns), providing buoyancy to lyrics which gently reassures that “everything is going to be alright tonight”.  “Mtn. Song” captures a sense of a certain wonderment, a rolling and impulsive track.  While “History Books”, “Dead Deer” and “Cedars” follow a starker course, bare and seemingly exposed.  “Broken Rifle” stands apart with its assured rock swagger., and on “November 1st, 2008, Lakefield”, quite simply put, it rained.
Be sure to catch Evening Hymns in Paris on 14 September at Point Ephémère. Jonas will also be in London on 27 (The Hoxton Bar and Kitchen), 28 (The Windmill) and 30 (King’s Cross Social) September.  For a complete list of tour dates (France, UK, Belgium, Germany) check out the Evening Hymns MySpace page.
While not on Spirit Guides, check out the video for the excellent track “Port Hope” for a bit of the wonderfully understated spirit that is Evening Hymns.
Official | MySpace | Kütu Folk Records| Out of This Spark

Album Review …Make Out Room (Part 1) from Living Days

Living Days
Make Out Room (Part 1)

Listen to “Let’s Kiss” MP3

Living Days is a new romantic pop group from Brooklyn which includes former members of Matisyahu, Coco Rosie, Lee Scratch Perry, and sci fi thrash band AQUI. Their unpredictable frontwoman, Stephonik Youth, is an underground legendary performer.

On the their debut effort Make Out Room the ever-loving group provides a straightforward new-wave, punk spirit over a synthesized soundtrack that is buoyed by charismatic lead singer Stephonik Youth's deep, sultry vocals. She is not your average indie-pop girl.

Each track on the album not only relives Human League, Berlin and The Cure’s mantras but succeeds in re-inventing each with a superstar panache that will have you hitting the play button every time you need a jolt.

Their VHS-aesthetic on “Let’s Kiss” is a lip-locking gem. Watch it here.

Living Days’ debut album Make Out Room Part 1 drops Aug 24th and will host a record release party at Webster Hall’s The Studio on Aug 27th with bare-bones indie rockers Naked Hearts.

MySpace | Facebook | Twitter

Album Review … Lucy and the Wolves from Martha Tilston

Martha Tilston
Lucy and the Wolves
Squiggly Records (2010)

Listen to “Wild Swimming” MP3

Martha Tilston is a deeply imaginative English singer-songwriter whose latest album Lucy and the Wolves is a collection of eleven seductive modern folk songs. Martha’s poetic lyrics unfurl vivid environments, her vocals crisp and wonderfully unaffected. 
Throughout the album, the feeling of the outdoors remains tantamount through imagery and field recordings (such as the a capella “Searching for Lambs” recorded in a Somerset wood). Stylistically, songs range from more traditional folk (“Lucy”, “Tom Cat”) to the more elaborately instrumented (“Wave Machine”). Each track remains richly organic, lending this album a warm and intimate coalescence.
Joining Martha on this latest release are members of the Woods, including bass player Jon Thorne (ex-Lamb).  Martha’s stepmother, the Irish singer Maggie Boyle, adds flute and harmonies to the standout track “Wild Swimming”, a celebration of the exhilaration of the world outside.
Lucy and the Wolves is out now on Martha’s own label Squiggly Records.  Watch a video for the track “Lucy”, recorded in a wagon nestled in the woods.
Be sure to catch Martha at La Maroquinerie (Paris) on 30 June with Fredrika Stahl.
“The Cape”
“Who Turns”
“Wild Swimming”
“350 Bells”
“My Chair”
“Searching for Lambs”
“Old Tom Cat”
“Wave Machine”

Official | MySpace

Album Review...Well Done Europe from The Chap

The Chap
Well Done Europe
Lo Recordings 2010

Listen to “Few Horoscope” MP3

North London based group The Chap might be named after a magazine on how to be the perfect modern gentleman but the songs on Well Done Europe are not your standard gentile pop songs. The group has crafted an intricate and evocative album that really starts to move on “Few Horoscope”. It’s a simple track filled with funky breakbeats and sexy squeals of delight.

Also check out the track “Gimme Legs” which is a sweet sauce of samples and “Neverless, The Chap”. The latter is filled with cool distortion and is a serious, flat out challenge to all electro-pop comers.

The rest of Well Done Europe is coated with sleepy, artistry that bathes in a hook-heavy, electronic rock feel. The Chap shows off its massive talent on this sizable and fun album.


1. We'll See To Your Breakdown
2. Even Your Friend
3. We Work In Bars
4. Obviously
5. Gimme Legs
6. Well Done You
7. Nevertheless, The Chap
8. Pain Fan
9. Torpor
10. Maroccan Nights
11. Few Horoscope
12. Chalet Chalet

Official | MySpace

Album Review… Laukinis Suo Dingo from Alina Orlova

Alina Orlova
Laukinis Suo Dingo
MetroMusic 2008 / Fargo 2010

Listen to “Vaiduokliai” MP3

On her debut album Laukinis Suo Dingo (translated as The Wild Dog Dingo, taken from the title of a Russian book on adolescent love), the young Lithuanian artist Alina Orlova captures the spirit of playful Baltic folk pop.  Her sound provides an extension of the likes of Regina Spektor and the wonderful Swede Frida Hyvönen, lending proceedings her unique twist.  The album features tracks sung in Lithuanian, Russian and English, all set to the seemingly unstudied accompaniment of piano, glockenspiel, violin, strings, banjo, tuba, accordion, bass, percussion.  Nevertheless, the heart of each song is the same – Alina’s voice and piano.

Tracks like the album opener “Lovesong” tumble on nostalgic strings and piano.  “Ligo” and “Žeme, Sukis Greitai” which ebb and flow with a darker urgency contrast with the altogether sweetly sad refrains of tracks like “Paskutinio Mamuto Daina”, “Utomlionnoe Solnce” and “Po Tiltu” (the latter being one of our favorites from the album).  Other tracks like “Transatlantic Love” and “Vaiduokliai” are simply sunny toe tapping affairs. “Slėpynės” sees the rare introduction of the non-organic, if only for a brief mid-song interlude.

Check out beautiful footage of Alina performing a few tracks for the folks at La Blogothèque.

Laukinis Suo Dingo, originally released in Lithuania a couple years back, is now available in Europe on the French label Fargo Records.

“Paskutinio Mamuto Daina”
“Žeme, Sukis Greitai”
“Po Tiltu”
“Transatlantic Love”
“Utomlionnoe Solnce”
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

MySpace | Facebook

What's On The Hi-Fi...The Acorn Album Review

The Acorn
No Ghost
Paper Bag Records (Canada) / Bella Union Records (US / Europe)
 Listen to “No Ghost” MP3

The Acorn initially began back in the summer of 2002 as the solo project of Ottowa’s Rolf Klausener.  The coming years saw the band’s membership grow to become a collective, releasing the 2008 Polaris Award nominated Glory Hope Mountain.  The band is no stranger to touring, having hit the road to play with the likes of Calexico, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Elbow.
Work on The Acorn’s third full-length album No Ghost (to be released in June) began in the summer of 2009 when the band retreated to a secluded cabin in Northern Quebec.  Tracks came together out of improvisation and an assured experimentation with both acoustic and electronic sounds.  The Acorn then headed to Montreal to complete work on the album, leaving the cool wooded comfort to record in the midst of an urban heat wave – the result being a truly adventurous and rewarding release with staying power.
No Ghost deftly conveys a vivid folk / rock landscape, guided by the subtlest and most effective use of multi-instrumentation and modern / traditional contrasts, both sonically and lyrically.  The album opens with the guitar feedback driven “Cobbled From Dust” and moves into indie folk / rock territory with “Restoration”, a beautiful track with struts along at an excited clip (listen to the Four Tet dreamy take on this track on the Bella Union website).  “Misplaced” is tenderly exposed, along with the intimate “On The Line” and “Almanac”.  “I Made The Law” jolts along on a blend of folk / country / rock guitars while “Bobcat Goldwraith” is an excellent track buoyed by eclectic instrumentation.  The title track revs on frantic guitars and building rhythms and backward guitars and strings.  The album closer “Kindling To Cremation” is one of our favorite tracks from No Ghost, a track that encapsulates The Acorn’s sound – the use of subtle effects and instrumentation and visual lyrics including the wonderfully curious line “I can hear the wrinkles whisper in your dress.”

The album will be available in the US and Canada digitally on 6/1.
Be sure to catch The Acorn in London on 3 June and the following day in Paris at La Flèche d’Or.  Check the band’s website for complete tour details.
Official | MySpace | Paper Bag Records | Bella Union

What's On The Hi-Fi...LCD Soundsystem Album Review

LCD Soundsytem
This Is Happening
DFA 2010

Beginning with his 2002 single “Losing My Edge” production guru James Murphy has hit the bohemian hipster target dead center. As the chief progenitor of the disco-punk sound Murphy’s alter-ego LCD Soundsystem has become the godfather to a generation of anarchic beat-makers.

His now seminal Sound of Silver was one of the breakthrough albums of 2007 and took the idea of dance music to a new place. The album represented a folk sensibility to the lyrics. Murphy spoke of loneliness, aging, and the ever changing socio-cultural world around him backed by the best dance beats of the decade

On This is Happening LCD Soundsystem continues this winning paradigm and expands on it in earnest. The nine tracks on the album seamlessly blend organic and synthetic sounds and doesn’t stray from the beats that are his bread and butter. “Dance Yrself Clean” begins with tip-toeing drum beat that bursts into a rocking electronic bit of synth mayhem.

One can definitely hear Bowie’s mid to late 70’s Berlin sounds as influence on the album. That persuasion is apparent on “All I Want”. The track is a synthed-out and sped up, modern “Heroes” for a new crises generation.

All this is not to say that there isn’t any easy fun to be had beyond the beats on the album. On “Drunk Girls” and especially in its accompanying video Murphy shakes loose any agendas and orders a keg for a few friends of the fairer sex.

If you missed Sound of Silver on its initial release don’t make the same mistake on This Is Happening. Your hi-fi might never forgive you!

Official | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi...Delphic Album Review


Polydor (2010)

Delphic have been on the receiving end of heaps of rather excited hype over the past few months, setting the bar rather high for the Mancunians' debut release Acolyte. What a welcome relief to see that there is more than just a flustered little man tugging at random levers behind a curtain (sorry for the analogy -- Christmas season TV to blame).

The band originally formed to energize the local music scene, melding indie guitar riffs with 90's dance / electronica, creating an energetic and intoxicating smash-up. Looking no further than the inevitable and numerous New Order comparisons would do a serious disservice to the band -- Acolyte stands on its own and provides a refreshing and forward looking kick off to 2010.

Acolyte includes two tracks which were released last year including the driving standout "Counterpoint" (April 2009 on the Belgian label R&S) and the swelling "This Momentary" (August 2009 on Kitsuné). The third radio-ready single "Doubt" (video from Later with Jools Holland) was released earlier this month (and for which there is already a flood of remixes). One of our favorites is the infectious "Red Lights", a track which could fit neatly into the catalog of Swedish label Service. "Clarion Call" provides a building staccato intro to the album, and tracks like "Remain" provide a nod to chilly electro-pop, while tracks like "Submission" and "Halcyon" follow a more guitar-heavy tip.

Ewan Pearson (Tracey Thorn, M83, The Rapture) has leant his production talents to Acolyte.

The band which has in the past supported acts such as Orbital, (to whom the band points as an influence) Bloc Party and Kasabian, is now moving into the limelight and heading out on a water-testing tour through Europe. They put on an excellent live show and one not to be missed. Check them out at Nouveau Casino (Paris) on 16 February. A full list of shows is available on the band's website.


What's On The Hi-Fi...Owen Pallett Album Review

Owen Pallett
Domino Records (2010)

Listen to "Lewis Takes Action" MP3

In a time when new releases often seem to focus on a single track or two, it is refreshing to come across a release which is conceived as a singular whole. Heartland from Owen Pallett (formerly Final Fantasy) is just such a release, featuring storytelling on a wonderfully off-kilter and cinematic scale. On his third release, the Ontario native tells the tale of a young and violent farmer and explores the universal phases of relationships, from the initial flutters of excitement to a disappointing end (and regardless of the cause, an end which seems to leave you a little winded and blinking into the sun).

On Heartland, Owen looked to such diverse sources of inspiration as 19th century military music to various synth-pop of the 70's, ducking among them on this release with the collaborative help of drummer Jeremy Gara of Arcade Fire and mixer Rusty Santos (who worked on Panda Bear's Person Pitch). And no stranger to composing modern string arrangements (including for Beirut's The Flying Cup and Arcade Fire's Neon Bible), on this release, this multi-instrumentalist continues his exploration of layers and the parameters of orchestration (provided by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra).

Spend some time with this release, and you won't be disappointed.

Be sure to catch Owen's excellent live shows, including in Paris at La Maroquinerie on 24 January (we will be there)!

Official | Twitter | Domino Records

What's On The Hi-Fi...The Amazing Album Review

The Amazing
The Amazing
Subliminal Sounds (2009)
Download: "Dragon"
The Amazing have crafted a well-balanced, sweetly melodic and soulful album with their self-titled freshman effort. It’s overflowing with languid, intimate songs that could best be compared to the dreamier slow jams of The Allman Brother’s Eat A Peach, the subtle ethereal synths of 10CC and the organic guitaring and vocals of Fleet Foxes

A Swede “supergroup” made up from members of bands like Dungen, Anna Jarvinen and Sagor & Swing, The Amazing are singer/songwriter Christoffer Gunrup, lead guitarist Reine Fiske, drummer Johan Holmegard, and multi-instrumentalist Fredrik Swahn.

Although the album stands on its own, the tracks "Dragon", "Beach House" and "Is It Likely" are extraordinary, all filled with shining and effortless songwriting, melodies and lyrics. The Amazing is an album that will help you drift away in front of fire on a cool, autumn night.

Listen to "Dragon" MP3

The Amazing (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi...The Limes Album Review

The Limes
September 2009
Sauvage Records

Listen to "Beyond Blue” MP3

The Limes must surely be the only North Carolina / Paris band around. Started in 2006 as a transatlantic writing project, David Simonetta (Paris), Brent Ballantyne (Durham, NC), Orouni (Paris), John Hale (Carrboro, NC) and Mina Tindle (Paris) have now released a cinematic self-titled collection of songs which run the gamut of styles. Tracks range from the sunny strains of Beach Boys sing-a-longs (the infectious "Beyond Blue"), spaghetti western pop ("San Francisco Waters", "Dead Furniture"), nostalgic folk ("Between Roof & Bird"), to Devo-style electronica ("City Lights"). One of the standouts is the mini-epic "Big Top Head", a track which coaxes you down the eerie fairway of old time carnival, and with its wizened hand on your shoulder, leads you into the glow of the fortune teller's tent. A wonderful mix of tracks from an uninhibited imagination, The Limes is out now on Sauvage Records.

The Limes (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi...Wild Beasts Album Review

Wild Beasts
Two Dancers
Domino Recordings (2009)
Download: "The Fun Powder Plot "
The four piece out of Leeds in the UK are a young bunch with one album under their belts and a good amount of praise already heaped upon them. On Two Dancers the group has crafted an often spellbinding, daring and ultimately charming album. I am always a bit suspicious of an album that is sung almost entirely in falsetto. It's a personal thing but it often strikes me as overly theatrical and can cause a quick click of the remote with even the best of backing music. Even Prince breaks out of it once in a while. There is just something about this new Wild Beasts' album that draws me in again and again.

From the opening track, the very fine "The Fun Powder Plot", there is a real sense of confidence in their style. It does make me think of a thousand different references from the 80's UK canon but like much of the better music out there they make it their own and move on.

Two Dancers exhibits atmospheric early-Edge guitar echoed riffs from Ben Little, Chris Talbot's booming drums and Hayden Thorpe's more than revelatory falsetto and thoughful lyrics rolled up into 10 solid and mesmerizing tracks that should force these Wild Beasts to raise their able heads above the fray.

Wild Beasts (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi...Calvin Harris Album Review

Calvin Harris
Ready For The Weekend
Ultra Records (2009)
Download: "Ready For The Weekend "
Scottish electronic musician, singer-songwriter and record producer Calvin Harris (a/k/a Adam Wiles) had a gold album with 2007's I Created Disco which spawned top 10 singles "Acceptable in the 80s" and "The Girls", has written and produced records for Kylie Minogue and a #1 UK collaboration with Dizzee Rascal, but he has not had the same success here stateside. That should change with the recent release of his studio album Ready for the Weekend.

Harris definitely provides his usual healthy dose of positive house anthemic, mirrorball twirlers and thumpers like "Ready For The Weekend" and "I'm Not Alone" on the album, but like LCD Soundsystem (a favourite on the Hi-Fi) there is a crafted and thoughtful development to the songs. Many of the album's finest tracks such as "Blue" harken back to some of the great French dance albums by Cassius, Alex Gopher or early Daft Punk from the late 90's. Other standouts such as "You Used To Hold Me" ably reuse (you can almost hear Thelma Houston) past dance themes without losing their own integrity.

Ready For The Weekend is just the type of album that will make pop, alternative and dance lovers jump on the floor with equal gusto. It's filled with infectious hooks that will be warming up the winter months ahead and pumping out of pods and stacks everywhere.

Calvin Harris (Official) | Ultra Records | MySpace