The January Mixtape & other stuff

For a handful of reasons, I’m feeling rather strongly that January has got to go. First off, it’s been damn cold, and I don’t use that kind of vulgarity lightly. It’s been years since I remember anything close to the constant bombardment of sub-freezing daily temperatures we’ve been ‘blessed’ with here in NY this month, and I‘m tired of it. Second, and much more important, before February is through I’m going to be the father of twin girls, and, of course, I’m pretty damn psyched about that. Vulgarity again, I know, and I apologize. I know everyone is going bat shit over Animal Collective’s “My Girls” these days, myself included, but the song has taken on a whole new life for me in the face of what’s coming. My wife’s 34 weeks in right now and looks as though she could pop at any minute. It’s a beautiful sight, and I admire her more than ever for not only dealing with the physical toll on her body in such a brave way, but the psychological toll of spending the better part of the past 4 months confined to a couch. For me, putting together a pack n’ play last weekend sealed it all. I stood over that thing for a few minutes after I was done imagining the tiny lives that will soon inhabit it. The surrealist nature of the past 8 months very quickly became 100% real.

As far as music goes, the selection of new tunes I’ve come across in January has made me very excited for what lies ahead in 2009. Literally, I could barely keep up with all the songs I wanted to post. All the record labels must know I’ll be severely handicapped when it comes to regular posts in a few weeks and started getting while the getting’s good. I’m sure you are well-versed in Merriweather Post Pavilion by now, but in addition to it really compelling new albums came from Soft Black, A.C. Newman, and Antony & The Johnsons. The upcoming month sees solid new albums from Handsome Furs, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Dan Auerbach, and a few others. I figured there was no sense in trying to narrow down the month’s selection into a 4 or 5 song sampler of the best it had to offer, so instead you get a mixtape of something from almost every album or band I posted about this month. Dig in, and sorry there’s no Zip - I still haven’t mastered that.

MP3 :: I Am An Animal / Soft Black (original post)
MP3 :: People Got A Lotta Nerve / Neko Case (original post)
MP3 :: Two / The Antlers (original post)
MP3 :: Ladybug, Don’t Smile / The Online Romance (original post)
MP3 :: There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve / A.C. Newman (original post)
MP3 :: So Bored / Wavves (original post)
MP3 :: Everything With You / The Pains Of Being Pure A Heart (original post)
MP3 :: Glasses On / Schwervon! (original post)
MP3 :: She’s Got Stripes / Aaron Young & His Nightjars (original post)
MP3 :: Reasons To Quit / Phosphorescent (original post)
MP3 :: Blood Bank / Bon Iver (original post)
MP3 :: Tunnelvision / Here We Go Magic (original post)
MP3 :: Familiar Light / Asobi Seksu (original post)
MP3 :: Starting Over / The Black Lips (original post)
MP3 :: I’m Confused / Handsome Furs (original post)
MP3 :: The Rake’s Song / The Decemberists
MP3 :: Never Had Nobody Like You / M. Ward (original post)
MP3 :: The Wind / Peasant (original post)
MP3 :: End In Flames / Strand of Oaks (original post)
MP3 :: Beauty Force / David Shane Smith (original post)

Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light

The Crying Light by Antony & The Johnsons could practically be a redefinition of the term "mood music". I’ve owned a copy now for a little over a week, and in that time have alternately loved it and refused to listen to it for another minute. More than any other recent album I can think of, The Crying Light demands to be played under the right circumstances. That does not include the drive home from work or cooking dinner with my wife. A somber, meditative song cycle such as this needs to be heard, for me, in a calm, isolated setting. Preferably with a good pair of headphones. Any other set of conditions have so far prevented me from being absorbed into the surreal space somewhere between life and death where these songs seem to exist. And unless you are willing to let go - to allow this album to completely possess you for its full 40 minutes - than you are better off setting it aside until later.

In 2005 Antony Hegarty shocked the indie-world with I Am A Bird Now, an album detailing a transgenderation (is that a word?…not familiar with the lingo) that was both beautifully detailed and uncomfortably personal. “Hope There’s Someone” was rightfully one of the biggest hits of the year (well, among snobby music seeking types, that is), and Antony was propelled to the fore of a young group of songwriters (Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Sufjan Stevens, etc.) being praised for their innovative way with a song. Though The Crying Light doesn’t have one moment in particular as astounding as “Hope There‘s Someone”, it is another remarkably consistent song cycle. The orchestration is often breathtaking - it’s a minimalist’s dream of restraint - and is arranged as a beautiful backdrop for Antony himself. Not surprisingly though, it’s Antony himself that takes these songs to another level. His angelic voice, a haunting falsetto that is equal parts fragility and sorrow, is a truly disarming instrument. It could be the most expressive voice working in independent music today, and makes the album’s universal themes of death and rebirth startlingly personal. It’s been said before and I have to agree - though sonically it bears little resemblance to the normal idea of the genre, The Crying Light can only be described as soul music.

MP3 :: Another World
(from the Another World EP and The Crying Light)

Stream :: Various tracks
Video :: Epilepsy Is Dancing
(from The Crying Light. Buy here)

MP3 :: Hope There’s Someone (edit)
(from I Am A Bird Now. Buy here)

The Tallest Man On Earth - Shallow Grave

The prestigious title of Tallest Man On Earth, according to Guinness, belongs to Xi Shun, who nearly stands a very impressive 8 ½ feet tall. So one should not take the recording moniker of Sweden’s Kristian Matsson literally. I couldn’t find his name anywhere in the top 10. He is, for all intents and purposes, full of shit in making this claim. Perhaps he is the tallest man on his block, or maybe even his hometown. He could be the tallest man on Gravitation Records, but I don’t know that for sure. What I do know about him is that his 2008 album Shallow Grave is absolutely stunning - it‘s another record in a series I‘ve come across since posting my 20 favorites of the year that would‘ve, could‘ve, should‘ve been included. With a bullet.

I’d heard the name here and there over the past 6 months or so, but it wasn’t until the recommendation of a trusted friend last week that I picked up Shallow Grave. I think I’ve listened to it everyday since. In short, I haven’t heard a singer/songwriter as compelling with just acoustic guitar and vocals in a long, long time. The Tallest Man On Earth is indeed Kristian Matsson, a guy who’s dead-waking voice is a clearer, cleaned up version of Dylan’s circa World Gone Wrong. Along with the distinctive vocals, these 10 songs feature a combination of astute lyrics, stark directness, and fret buzzing acoustics. With songs this solid, size don’t matter.

MP3 :: The Sparrow And The Medicine
MP3 :: Pistol Dreams
(from Shallow Grave. Buy here)

David Shane Smith - Cloud Pleaser

David Shane Smith would make a great science fiction writer, and I don’t mean the child-fantasy light sabers and spaceships kind. Instead, the decaying futuristic cities Smith evoked on his last 2 releases (Wintertower and Angry Earth) have more in common with the realistic bleakness of, say, Children of Men, Blade Runner, or a Philip K. Dick short story than the genre’s typical fare. Smith is at his best when painting stark scenes of environmental corrosion, urban degeneracy, and human indifference, and his latest, Cloud Pleaser, is full of them. His recent relocation from New York to Los Angeles has only intensified these themes.

Sonically, Smith still draws from a varied array of sources, including folk, electronica, ambient, and, to a lesser degree, hip-hop. Fingerpicked acoustic guitars blend with bedroom beats and jarring sound effects, and the arrangements often make unexpected twists and turns between these styles. Cloud Pleaser sounds like the creation of a guy equally indebted to Amnesiac, Rejoicing In The Hands, Paul’s Boutique, and Music Has The Right To Children. “Miserablism” is a prime example - it begins as a somber acoustic folk song that jarringly morphs into a minimalist, sleepwalking rap about consumerism and superficiality. Tape glitches and military-march percussion punctuate “Brand”, a song that uses striking images such as “futureless eyes”, “the church has been defaced”, “it’s not the least bit controversial to worship militarism” to map out the apocalypse and its morning after. The funereal nature of the album is lifted, however, with its closer, “Beauty Force”, one of the prettiest songs in Smith’s canon. Sparse piano melds with Smith’s lilting melodies, and the song becomes the proverbial light at the end of the Doomsday tunnel.

Cloud Pleaser is not an easy listening experience. The dark beats, strange noises, and ghost-like folk are a far cry from the crowd-pleasing pop the album title puns. Instead it is the most compelling work yet from an outsider artist with a singular vision. Cloud Pleaser possesses the stunning moments of brilliance scattered throughout Wintertower and Angry Earth, but combines them with a new found consistency from song to song. There isn’t a weak moment here - 10 songs whose shared mood and themes coalesce into something of a personal addendum to the Book of Revelations. Consider yourself forewarned. It will soon be available through Stroboscopic Records.

MP3 :: Miserablism
MP3 :: Brand
MP3 :: Beauty Force
(from Cloud Pleaser. Buy here)

Introducing: Aaron Young & His Nightjars

One of the most welcome musical surprises I’ve received lately was getting some new music in an unsolicited email from Aaron Young & His Nightjars. It seems these guys from Kalamazoo, MI, led by singer/songwriter Aaron Young (natch), are just getting started with their musical careers. There isn’t a heckuva lot of info over at the site - no tour dates, no album info, no promo pics, and no blog posts with band happenings or other minutia. They’ve only been on myspace since this past October. There’s just a quick bio stating, among a few other things, that most of the songs were written when Young wasn’t out catching birds! Becoming a fan of Aaron Young & His Nightjars today is truly getting in on the ground floor.

Simple metaphors about ground floors aside, “She’s Got Stripes” impressed me so much on first listen that I actually played the song 4 times in a row upon first hearing it before moving on to the next. It’s a simple acoustic shuffle with Young’s hushed, creaky voice mapping out some very subtle and pleasing melodies. Everything’s so easy-going you almost don’t even notice the violin and xylophone that sneak into the mix as the song ambles beautifully to its conclusion. “Two Steppin’” is a spry, catchy jaunt and the most immediate of their songs I’ve heard so far. I’m telling you, there have been a ton of cool new songs to hit the blog circuit so far this year, and Aaron Young & His Nightjars are fitting right in with the best of them. I’m excited to hear what these guys do as time goes on. Bitch hold onto your heart.

MP3 :: Two Steppin’
MP3 :: She’s Got Stripes
(Info here)

New Music - The Roadside Graves

Long time PHW favorites The Roadside Graves have completed the follow up to their 2007 breakthrough, and one of that year’s best albums, No One Will Know Where You’ve Been. My Son’s Home was just sent to me a week or two ago, and I’ve got to say, this thing’s a monster. At 18 tracks My Son’s Home plays out as one of the more ambitious albums I’ve heard in a long, long time - it’s a sprawling beast that touches on every strength of the band's sound (folk, blues, country, soul, Pogues, Springsteen, The Band, Rolling Thunder Revue, etc.). I’ll have a more in depth look at it as release time approaches - it’s due from Autumn Tone sometime this spring, but an official date has not been set.

To satiate our appetites the band has posted two new songs over at their myspace. The first is “Ruby”, and my adoration of it was well documented in my Favorite Songs of 2008 List. You see, the band sent along a 6-song demo CD last summer that contained “Ruby” and it’s been blasting from my car speakers pretty regularly ever since. The song is a lot grittier than anything from No One Will Know Where You’ve Been, and contains some typically sharp (twisted?) lyrics from John Gleason (“I remember the night your grandmother died/Cigarette in her hand and a book by her side/You and I on the couch just touching each other/We didn‘t tell a soul ‘til the morning after”), as well as a crazy-ass shout-along chorus. The other new one, “Take A Train”, is a bluesy barroom rocker on cheap trucker speed with some surprising time changes. The terrific piano/guitar interplay featured is par for the course for The Graves. Any fan of good Americana music should keep an eye out for My Son’s Home. It will undoubtedly be a highlight of 2009.

Stream :: Ruby / Take A Train
(from My Son’s Home. Info here)

MP3 :: Ruby (demo)

[mp3] Strand of Oaks - "End In Flames"

Props to Muzzle of Bees for pointing the way toward the lovely, aching “End In Flames” from Strand of Oaks. The song’s quiet mix of pianos, acoustic guitars, and hushed vocals remind me a lot of Neil Halstead‘s “Hi-Lo and Inbetween” from his 2002 record Sleeping On Roads, which is one of my favorite all-but-forgotten folk songs of decade. “End In Flames” sounds all pretty and calm and peaceful, but there’s some pretty heavy feeling-like-the-end-of-the-world-shit going on in the lyrics. It’s available on Strand of Oaks’ debut, 2008’s Leave Ruin, which was released by La Société Expéditionnaire (they put out last year’s solid You’re No Dream by Soltero as well) and is available at eMusic. I haven’t had the chance to download the whole thing yet because my subscription resets at the end of the month, but I fully intend to check it out when I can. Until then:

MP3 :: End In Flames
(from Leave Ruin. Buy here)

(Update :: Muzzle of Bees followed up their original post with an interview with Timothy Showalter - the voice and songwriter behind Strand of Oaks. Check it out here)

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have a lot going for them right now - energy, buzz, looks, locale, & youth, to name a few. Best of all though, this NY band has got songs. 10 of ’em, actually, on their self-titled debut, and not a weak one in the bunch. Lots of bands get shot through the hype machine and come out the other side with their weaknesses evident, but that isn’t going to happen to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. The songs themselves, the most important part of the equation, are just too good.

The band draws equally from NY punk/post-punk and the early Rough Trade years of bands like The Smiths & Television Personalities. The 2 tracks the band is offering up for free download, “Come Saturday” and “Everything With You”, are a great place to get your feet wet, but really the album is just overflowing with great songs - each of the 10 a potential single. Rough and noisy enough for the indie crowd and catchy enough for broader commercial success, the band is poised for a break-out year in 2009. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart gets released by Slumberland Records in the U.S. on February 3.

MP3 :: Come Saturday
MP3 :: Everything With You
(from The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Info here)

New Music - Schwervon!

Schwervon! is a New York couple (not trying to hide it or pass themselves off as brother & sister) who are preparing the release of their fourth album for Olive Juice Records, Low Blow. I haven’t heard any of the band’s older albums yet, but the urgency of Low Blow’s sound struck me immediately. A bunch of the songs here, “Balloon” or “Wake and Bomb” being a good examples, remind me of the hyperactive, edgy guitar rock of bands like late-period Sleater-Kinney and Deerhoof.

“Glasses On” is an exception to that comparison though. It’s a delightful little folk/pop song that starts off gentle and kind of stays that way. Matt Roth (guitar/vocals) and Nan Turner (drums/vocals) trade off verses and harmonize with one another beautifully as the song conveys a relationship’s minor frustrations. Though some of the songs hint towards the opposite, as this one does, I bet Roth and Turner are 2 happy cats in real life. Low Blow sounds like 2 people having fun making music together.

MP3 :: Glasses On
MP3 :: Balloon
(from Low Blow. Buy here)

Happy Inauguration Day!!!

Two classic songs remade to fit the times. Both videos were made last year (and previously posted on PHW) as Barack Obama was campaigning across the country. The first is NY’er Eric Wolfson tweaking Ritchie Valens’ “Donna”, the second is Pennsylvanian Earl Pickens (& Family) reworking Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” (or watch this very special one he composed before the Pennsylvania primaries). Happy Inauguration Day!

Dark Was The Night Compilation

The upcoming release from the Red Hot Organization, Dark Was The Night, is slated for February 17 through 4AD Records. The release was produced by one of the brother pairs from The National, Bryce & Aaron Dessner, and features a whopping 31 new songs from some of indie rock’s biggest names, including Feist, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and Sufjan Stevens. Proceeds of the 2-disc/triple vinyl/download will go to the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS.

4AD released "Knotty Pine", a collaboration between Dirty Projectors & David Byrne, for free download. There will also be a new song streaming at the myspace site everyday for the next several weeks. Today it’s “Deep Blue Sea” by Grizzly Bear:

Stream :: Deep Blue Sea
MP3 :: Knotty Pine (by Dirty Projectors & David Byrne)

The complete track listing:


1. "Knotty Pine" - Dirty Projectors + David Byrne
2. "Cello Song" - The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
3. "Train Song" - Feist and Ben Gibbard
4. "Brackett, WI" - Bon Iver
5. "Deep Blue Sea" - Grizzly Bear
6. "So Far Around The Bend" - The National
7. "Tightrope" - Yeasayer
8. "Feeling Good" - My Brightest Diamond
9. "Dark Was The Night" - Kronos Quartet
10. "I Was Young When I Left Home" - Antony with Bryce Dessner
11. "Big Red Machine" - Justin Vernon + Aaron Dessner
12. "Sleepless" - The Decemberists
13. "Stolen Houses (Die)" - Iron & Wine
14. "Service Bell" - Grizzly Bear + Feist
15. "You Are The Blood" - Sufjan Stevens


1. "Well-Alright" - Spoon
2. "Lenin" - Arcade Fire
3. "Mimizan" - Beirut
4. "El Caporal" - My Morning Jacket
5. "Inspiration Information" - Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
6. "With A Girl Like You" - Dave Sitek
7. "Blood Pt. 2" - Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)
8. "Hey, Snow White" - The New Pornographers
9. "Gentle Hour" - Yo La Tengo
10. "Amazing Grace" - Cat Power
11. "Happiness" - Riceboy Sleeps
12. "Another Saturday" - Stuart Murdoch
13. "The Giant Of Illinois" - Andrew Bird
14. "Lua" - Conor Oberst with Gillian Welch
15. "When The Road Runs Out" - Blonde Redhead & Devastations
16. "Love Vs. Porn" - Kevin Drew

Soft Black - The Earth Is Black

Soft Black, the NY folk-rock band led by singer/songwriter Vincent Cacchione, is getting ready to release The Earth Is Black, the follow up to their 2007 debut Blue Gold. I dug much of Blue Gold, especially “Pearl With No String” (mp3 below), so I have been looking forward to a new album from the band for a while. But what was sent to me last week was something utterly unexpected. I have no qualms saying, halfway through January, that this album will rank high among my end-of-year favorites. I know that that might seem like meaningless hyperbole coming from just another music blogger who embraces the innocuous pastime of ranking everything he hears. But seriously, not this time.

I’ve never been so excited to share music from a local NY artist as I am this record. The Earth Is Black doesn’t play a bum note. It’s a strikingly personal album from an artist with something to say - in this case dealing with the effects of deep fear, religious doubt, and sleep deprivation stemming from an endless series of nightmares. “It seems pretty limiting to refer to a record as a strict concept," says Cacchione, "but at the same time its inaccurate to avoid that tag when your dealing with songs that grew from a similar patch of creative soil."

That thematic unity is made even more interesting because Cacchione surrounds his words and melodies with a crackin’ band that’s equally capable of anthemic glam-folk (“I Am An Animal”), Ray Davies-like shuffles (“Time Gets Away And Has Its Way With You”), and propulsive folk-rock sing-alongs (“The Lions”, “The Earth Is Black”). It’s all brought home by the album’s cathartic finale, “Night Terrors”, whose slow-building tension is relieved only by the vulnerability in the vocals. The Earth Is Black is, quite simply, a great rock and roll record. Vincent, I think your luck is about to change.

The Earth Is Black comes out 2/17 through Plays With Dolls Records.

MP3 :: I Am An Animal
MP3 :: The Lions
(from The Earth Is Black. Info here)

MP3 :: Pearl With No String
(from Blue Gold. Buy here)

[mp3] Wavves - "So Bored"

Wavves is the recording alias of a 22 year old California kid named Nathan Williams. Their (his) self-titled (sort of) upcoming release is generating a moderate amount of blog-buzz, which, judging from how good “So Bored” is, is not enough. If you‘ve been digging the surge of super lo-fi, melodic fuzz-punk that‘s so awesome right now (Times New Viking, Women, No Age, etc.) then this track is going to blow your mind. If not then you'll probably just think it blows, because to call it "rough around the edges" is putting it mildly. Give it a good listen though and you'll hear the charming pop song underneath the noise.

I’m not 100% sure about release information - Wavves already has an album available from De Stijl, and it looks as though the new one, Wavvves, will be issued by Fat Possum in early 2009. I’m very likely wrong about that - and there doesn’t seem to be any concrete evidence anywhere of exactly what is happening. Anyway, Wavvves will be available in the very near future, if not already.

MP3 :: So Bored
(from Wavvves. Info here)

New Sounds Goin' Round...

The really cool new tunes just keep flooding in - I literally cannot keep up with all the songs that I want to post. So tonight you get a whole bunch. New ones from Neko Case, Asobi Seksu, and M. Ward (ft. Zooey Deschanel) all started hitting the web today. This post is keeping me from posting a few other songs I’ve been meaning to get to, but whatever - these are too good to sit on.

Neko Case will release Middle Cyclone through Anti on March 3. The song’s brash chorus makes clear to us dudes what we’ve known for years - Neko’s a man man man-eater. “People Got A Lotta Nerve” is one of her catchiest songs to date - a driving country rock song with a, um, killer chorus. The nicest part is that by hosting this song I’m helping some of my little furry friends - for every blog that posts the MP3, Case and her label will donate $5 to animal welfare charity Best Friends Animal Society.

MP3 :: People Got A Lotta Nerve
(from Middle Cyclone. Info here)

Asobi Seksu is a Brooklyn based indie-pop band that received some high praise for their last album, 2006’s Citrus. The band returns very soon with Hush, and the first single, “Familiar Light”, is a deliciously sweet, lushly recorded track that overflows with shimmering melodies. Hush drops 2/17 through Polyvinyl.

MP3 :: Familiar Light
(from Hush. Info here)

The services of M. Ward are in high demand these days, what with all sorts of side projects and tours supporting Norah Jones. He finds some time for himself though with his latest solo record, the upcoming Hold Time. You may have seen the video that was going around a few weeks back for the title track, but on the official first single he’s teaming up once again with his buddy and She & Him partner Zooey Deschanel. And why not? Last year they put together a nice little record of her songs that featured Ward, for the most part, behind the curtain. Here he is though singing lead on a spirited, shuffling rocker, with Zooey providing the harmony, on a song that sounds pretty much like vintage Ward. Hold Time comes out via Merge on 2/17.

MP3 :: Never Met Nobody Like You
(from Hold Time. Info here)

[mp3] Here We Go Magic - "Tunnelvision"

I came across this track over at Gorilla vs. Bear not too long ago and find myself listening to it regularly and wanted to share it. Here We Go Magic is the recording name for Brooklyn’s Luke Temple, and the first single from his band’s forthcoming self-titled debut is this tasty little nugget. “Tunnelvision”’s lightly galloping beat and lush acoustic guitars sound vaguely, at first, like “Girlfriend In A Coma”. But as soon as Temple’s airy voice kicks in, it turns into something more beautiful and dreamlike, and makes a fine introduction to an artist to keep an eye on in 2009. Here We Go Magic comes out on 2/24 through Western Vinyl Records.

MP3 :: Tunnelvision
(from Here We Go Magic. Info here)

New Music - The Wrens

This is amazing! No joke, I just listened to The Wrens 2003 classic The Meadowlands over the weekend. As the glorious final note of “This Is Not What You Had Planned” faded I thought about just how perfect the album is and if we’d ever get the chance to hear new material from the band. But knowing how infrequently The Wrens record, I figured it would be a long while, if ever. Excluding Portishead, The Wrens are about the furthest band in the world from ever being labeled prolific, with just 3 albums to their credit in their 20 (!) year history.

Tonight, just a mere few days after that, I got an email from Absolutely Kosher that announced that THE WRENS HAVE JUST BEGUN RECORDING THEIR FOURTH FULL LENGTH RECORD!!! You read that right folks. And to celebrate you can now purchase a live recording of a brand new song called “Pulled Fences” over at their website. The song is actually a first take, with 3 of the 4 members never having heard a note of the song beforehand. Actually, the song was recorded at Abbey Road studios, and, amazingly, was the first time since 1999 that all 4 members of The Wrens were in the same room playing music together. Apparently all the drum parts for The Meadowlands were tracked waaaaay before the album was officially released.

Anyway, here’s the first new Wrens material in 6 years - follow the link to their site, where the song is available for a measly $.99. It is also available at iTunes or Amazon.

MP3 :: Pulled Fences (link to purchase site)
(Recorded Live @ Abbey Road studios)

[mp3] Bon Iver - "Blood Bank"

Now that Jagjaguwar has made available the title track to the new Bon Iver EP you can officially delete the crummy vinyl rip copy you've been listening to for about a month now. Blood Bank is a very much deserved curtain call for one of 2008’s biggest break-out success stories (and one of my favorites), the little album that could - For Emma, Forever Ago.

The 4 new songs find Justin Vernon dabbling with some new toys - droney piano chords on “Babys”, an entire song in Autotone (“Woods”), and a subtle full band (w/ electric guitar) on “Blood Bank”. But beyond the somewhat new sonics, what Blood Bank really does is remind us of just why we fell for Bon Iver in the first place - warm, honest, homespun melodies sung by a voice that can just flat out bring it.

Blood Bank is available in digital, CD and vinyl formats on January 20th from Jagjaguwar.

MP3 :: Blood Bank
(from Blood Bank EP. Buy here)

New Music - The Antlers

I know I said a few months back that I’d be posting here at PHW with a bit less frequency moving forward, but, musically speaking, 2009 has truly gotten off to a terrific start. The best part is that there’s more where this is coming from - there are 3 or 4 more songs that I've come across recently that I'm excited about and want to get up here when I get the time. The latest band to get a grip on my ears are The Antlers - a Brooklyn based ensemble led by singer-songwriter Peter Silberman. After nearly 2 years of work (and a handful of EPs) they are getting ready to self-release Hospice, the follow up to 2007’s In The Attic Of The Universe, on March 3. Based on the first 2 songs to surface via free download at their myspace, it’s one to keep an eye out for.

The first single, “Two”, has actually been circulating around various music blogs for a while now, and is a fine introduction to the melody driven folk rock The Antlers play. The winding, slow-building melody really blossoms if you put the song on repeat for 15 or 20 minutes (ironically, the song‘s key line is “this all bears repeating”). It seems to deal with the oncoming death of a friend. Dire subject matter indeed, but Silberman’s vocals, which start out in a delicate falsetto and, like the music, swell to an emotional peak, come across with warmth and compassion. “Bears” is equally as impressive structurally, with more of a soft/not-as-soft dynamic and a catchy chorus.

Check out the mp3s below, and if you get the chance you can catch The Antlers at Cake Shop on Jan. 22.

MP3 :: Two
MP3 :: Bears
(from Hospice. Info here)

[video] Jeff Tweedy sings "Fake Plastic Trees" with Johnny Marr & members of Radiohead

I know this was everywhere today, but OMF'NG!!! If you don't consider this one of the greatest videos in video history than I don't know what you're doing on my site....

In other news, Nonesuch Records is preparing a long awaited DVD release of a live Wilco performance. Ashes Of American Flags was recorded at last year's run of shows in Chicago where Tweedy and the boys touched on every song in the Wilco catalog over the course of several nights. It was filmed in part by Brendan Canty, formerly of Fugazi and currently behind the Burn To Shine video series. Look for it sometime in February or March.

Wilco is also busy recording their 7th studio album, which they have said will utilize studio trickery once again to bolster the songs. That's great news for those of us who prefer Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to Sky Blue Sky. Of course, one never really knows exactly what to expect from a new Wilco studio recording, so until it drops you can find some footage of new songs over at YouTube and imagine the possibilities, or watch a performance of "Wilco The Song" from a few months ago on The Colbert Report. Yes, "Wilco The Song" is reportedly to be included on the new album. And the more I watch it the more that excites me - what a cool song despite its goofy self-referentiating. It's a song about the comforting nature of Wilco songs, and if you can't relate to that then you can go away.

[mp3] Phosphorescent - "Reasons To Quit"

Pitchfork premiered the first track from the upcoming Willie Nelson tribute album, To Willie, by Phosphorescent earlier today. “Reasons To Quit” combines that classic country sound that no doubt graced the Nelson/Merle Haggard original (which I’ve never heard before, for shame) with the gauzy folk atmospherics and sedated drawl Matthew Houck & co. honed on 2005’s Aw Come Aw Wry and mastered on 2007’s brilliant Pride. I’d say this song is a big reason to keep To Willie on your radar - it comes from Dead Oceans on 2/3/09.

MP3 :: Reasons To Quit (link to P'fork article)
(from To Willie. Info here)

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty

If you get the chance to listen to something other than Merriweather Post Pavilion anytime soon, I’d recommend checking out the upcoming solo album from A.C. Newman, Get Guilty. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done with his primary band - The New Pornographers - very much, though felt Challengers fell a bit flat after the brilliant run of Mass Romantic, Electric Version, The Slow Wonder (his solo debut) and Twin Cinema. No such worries with his latest. Get Guilty is a fine return to form and a welcome addition to a catalog overflowing with many of the catchiest songs of the new millennium.

Get Guilty has a baker’s dozen new shimmering power-pop sing-alongs. I posted the first glimpse, leadoff track “There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve”, a few months back and I’m still saying it’s among Newman’s prettiest songs. The rest of Get Guilty is equally endearing - full of songs that house instantly enjoyable melodies that are subtle enough to blossom in your head with repeat plays. Check for yourself - Matador has released a slightly edited version of “Submarines of Stockholm” as a free download.

MP3 :: Submarines of Stockholm
(from Get Guilty. Pre-order here or see below)

You can also pre-order Get Guilty if you head over to Insound, where you'll receive an exclusive t-shirt designed by Sydney Vermont (who designed the album covers for Destroyer’s Your Blues and Trouble In Dreams, and happens to be married to fellow Pornographer Dan Bejar) with your order. The design is pictured below. Get Guilty hit’s the world on January 20. Not even a week old and 2009 already has 2 incredible albums under its belt.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

At this point there’s a good chance that, if you have the ways and means, you have heard the new, soon-to-be legally released Animal Collective album Merriweather Post Pavilion. And if you have you are probably really, really digging it. To put it mildly, MPP will be tough to beat come 2009 List Season - it’s another stunner from one of the decade’s most inventive and compelling acts.

On the surface Merriweather Post Pavilion plays out as a similar album to 2007’s Strawberry Jam, though it takes that album’s psyche-rock aesthetic to even further extremes (the notion that this band resembles anything remotely “freak-folk” is long extinct). These songs have denser, more electro-soaked arrangements than prior recordings, and use an abundance of synths, heavily treated electric guitars, and keyboards to fill out its wall of sound. I was also struck by just how rhythmic MPP is without ever being overly drum-heavy - it’s a long way from the organic sounds of Sung Tongs or the looping, acid-fried folk of Feels. The cohesive sonic structuring makes MPP a startlingly fluid listen - songs bleed from one into the next like the continuation of some beautiful dream.

Strawberry Jam was also very Avey Tare heavy album. His harsher, throat-scrapingly raw vocals were used to great effect on songs like “Peacebone“ and “For Reverend Green”, and often gave that album an aura of menace, intended or not. Merriweather Post Pavilion sounds to me like it is dominated, vocally, by Panda Bear. Those heavenly, Brian Wilson-styled harmonies that made Person Pitch so memorable (and 2007’s best album) are all over these songs. That stylistic decision for softer, more harmonic vocals works particularly well within the album’s reoccurring themes of fatherhood, domesticity, and the struggle to overcome limitations to provide for your kids. Though their music has always been described as childlike, on MPP Animal Collective are now singing mature songs about their own children.

There are highlights throughout - actually I can’t think of a weak link here at all. “In The Flowers” is a great album opener, starting off quiet and building slowly to an explosion of sound after the very appropriate line “if I could just leave my body for the night” 2 and a half minutes in. “My Girls”, “Summertime Clothes”, “Bluish”, and “Taste” are all standing out in my head right now as well. It’s pretty safe to say that fans of Person Pitch will find MPP particularly to their liking. Honestly though, if you’re a fan of independent music at all you need to experience Merriweather Post Pavilion. It is the rare album that comes burdened with overwhelming hype that actually exceeds expectation. Quite simply, it’s a great, great album.

Listen to Animal Collective on their myspace. Pre-order Merriweather Post Pavilion from Domino Records. Order a vinyl copy of the album and get the digital download starting January 6.

[mp3] The Online Romance - "Ladybug, Don't Smile"

Happy New Year! I can feel it in the air - 2009 is going to be the best year ever in recorded history. Maybe that feeling is actually the remnants of a New Year’s hangover finally subsiding to the point where I can hold down a beer. Maybe it’s from watching The Pursuit of Happyness with my honey tonight, which was way better than I thought it would be and possibly the most uplifting movie I’ve ever seen in recorded history. Those are big words from a die-hard It's A Wonderful Life fan. Definitely the most uplifting movie I’ve seen all year anyway.

Whatever the cause, tonight I’m feeling good. It may also be this new song from a band called The Online Romance. I came across this track, “Ladybug, Don’t Smile”, the other day over at Muzzle of Bees (his first hand account) and have had it spinning on repeat now for about 20 minutes. Cut to the chase - it’s more sweet indie-pop from Portland and should go over very well with fans of The Shins, Belle & Sebastian, and the mellower side of A.C. Newman. They’re putting the finishing touches on an as-of-yet unnamed debut full length album (they’ve had a handful of EPs) that should be available early in the new year. PHW will keep you updated.

MP3 :: Ladybug, Don’t Smile
(from a future release from The Online Romance. Info here eventually)