The March Mixtape

MP3 :: Cheerleader - Grizzly Bear (original post)
MP3 :: Young Adult Friction - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (original post)
MP3 :: Love Is A Wave - Crystal Stilts
MP3 :: So Far Around The Bend - The National (original post)
MP3 :: Now We Can See - The Thermals (original post)
MP3 :: From The Hips - Cursive
MP3 :: Freeway - Kurt Vile (original post)
MP3 :: Run Chicken Run - The Felice Brothers (original post)
MP3 :: Pulling On A Line - Great Lake Swimmers
MP3 :: Mama’s Eyes - Justin Townes Earle (original post)
MP3 :: Flash In A Bottle - Dead Heart Bloom (original post)
MP3 :: Andrew - Crystal Antlers
MP3 :: You Can’t Get It Back - Gentleman Reg
MP3 :: Don’t Haunt This Place - Rural Alberta Advantage
MP3 :: Whoa Billy - Lucky Soul
MP3 :: Brand New Sun - Jason Lytle

My commute to work from where I’m currently residing is anywhere from 45-60 minutes, and as much as I hate crawling along the Belt Parkway, the extra time in the car has allowed me to keep up with new music much better than I thought I would after the twins were born. Afternoon rides are reserved for classics I can unwind with (and shout along to) after dealing with 13 and 14 year old brats all day, but I usually spend the morning ride listening to something new - it’s funny how in tune I can be to music in the delirious state I’m usually in after 5 or 6 hours of broken sleep. The above songs have all have made those rides not only more tolerable, but somehow even enjoyable - the best new songs I‘ve heard over the past 30 days or so. Or at least the best songs that are available as free and legal downloads. I’ve posted 8 or 9 of them previously, so you can follow those links to find out more information. For the tracks which I haven’t posted before, the links are there for the artist’s homepages. Enjoy.

The Thermals - Now We Can See

The Thermals received a lot of attention a few years back for The Body, The Blood, The Machine, a loose concept album about the U.S. being governed by fascist Christians. Hm. I liked the free downloads that former label Sub Pop released (“Pillar of Salt” and “Here’s Your Future”), and loved the live show I saw (opening for Ted Leo at the late great McCarren Pool in Brooklyn, Summer 2007), but for whatever reason I never checked out the rest of the album. And that’s despite my affinity for both politics and fascist Christians. I just missed out.

When news came of Now We Can See, the forthcoming follow up to be released by Kill Rock Stars, I made a point to listen when the opportunity presented itself (and it’s out there, so yeah). Holy crow, this album flat out rocks. It’s the real deal, no doubt, and though it shames all of those pathetic mall-ternative bands pandering to the Hot Topic punks, I get the sense that the simple power chords and Hutch Harris’s vocals (yes, reminiscent of the dude in Green Day) could blow up with the younger generation if given the chance. That might be putting too much faith in the musical taste of today’s youth, but it really wouldn’t surprise me. The Thermals manage to pack Now We Can See with enough catchy post-punk-pop hooks to last the average attention-span-deprived middle schooler at least through sophomore year. Fortunately they should appeal to us children of the 70's and 80's too.

Overall Now We Can See is a more personal record than the socially conscious The Body, The Blood, The Machine, but by no means has the band’s energy been diminished. Harris and crew keep things pretty manic from start to finish, save the beautiful ballad “At The Bottom Of The Sea”. Themes of death, love and drowning abound, and song titles like “How We Fade”, “We Were Sick”, “When We Were Alive”, and “Now We Can See” give the album a sense of communal angst (notice all those “we’s”). The most striking thing to me about this album after a handful of listens is the balance between punk-as-all-hell energy and careful articulation - this is one singer who never has to worry about his words getting lost in the noise. Harris’s vocals are front and center, and no matter how loud the guitars roar he is never overshadowed or unintelligible. And yes, his lyrics are worth paying attention to.

The title track has been made available as a free download, so check that out below, but really this record has about 8 or 9 potential singles on it of the 11 tracks. Other standouts include the anthemic album opener “When I Died”, the just-under-2-minute-blast that is “When We Were Alive”, and the crunch of “We Were Sick” and “I Let It Go”. If you like loud guitars, memorable choruses, and singers who mean it, check out Now We Can See - it’s definitely a worthwhile listen. Comes out April 7th.

MP3 :: Now We Can See
(from Now We Can See. Pre-order here)

[video] Camera Obscura - "French Navy"

2006’s Let’s Get Out Of This Country kicked off with one of that year’s best singles - “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”. The upcoming My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura’s 4AD follow up, kicks off with another blast of 60’s-tinged, endlessly melodic indie-pop called “French Navy”. The video, which made its debut recently at Pitchfork, features band clips interspersed with lots of footage of an affectionate couple running around Europe kissing. The song is killer, and now it’s really nice to look at too. My Maudlin Career drops April 21 in the U.S.

MP3 :: My Maudlin Career
(from My Maudlin Career. Pre-order here)


Camera Obscura Summer 2009 Tour Dates:

27th May Nashville, TN, Mercy Lounge
28th May - Newport, KY, Southgate House
29th May - Chicago, IL, Metro
30th May - Minneapolis, MN, Cedar Cultural Center
1st June - Denver, CO, Bluebird
2nd June - Salt Lake City, UT, Urban Lounge
4th June - Portland, OR, Wonder Ballroom
5th June - Vancouver, BC, Commodore
6th June - Seattle, WA, Showbox
8th June - San Francisco, CA, The Fillmore
9th June - Pomona, CA, Glasshouse
11th June - Los Angeles, CA, Henry Fonda Theatre
13th June - Mexico City, Mexico, Lunario
15th June - Austin, TX, Antones
16th June - Dallas, TX, The Loft
18th June - Birmingham, AL, Bottletree
19th June - Atlanta, GA, Variety Playhouse
20th June - Carrboro, NC, Cat’s Cradle
21st June - Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
22nd June - Philadelphia, PA, T L A
24th June - New York, NY, Webster Hall
25th June - Boston, MA, Somerville Theatre
26th June - Montreal, QUE, La Tulipe (10:30 curfew)
27th June - Toronto, ON, Lee’s Palace
29th June - Columbus, OH, Wexner Center Ohio State University
30th June - Pittsburgh, PA, Mr. Smalls

[mp3] Kurt Vile - "Freeway"

Speaking of The War On Drugs, I had no idea until very recently that Adam Granduciel is not the only songwriting member in the soon-to-be-touring-with-The Hold Steady Philly band. Turns out Granduciel’s recording partner, Kurt Vile, is quite the songwriter as well. Besides helping craft much of Wagonwheel Blues’ textured classic rock sound, Vile has been busy recording a batch of his own songs, with highlights from last year’s Constant Hitmaker and the upcoming limited edition God Is Saying This To You… starting to make their way around the blogs. Word is that he’s set to release a brand new record later in 2009 called Childish Prodigy, but more on that later I guess.

“Freeway” comes from Constant Hitmaker, and would be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s heard Wagonwheel Blues (again, one of my favorites of last year blah blah blah). It certainly sounds as if it could be an outtake from those very same sessions. I found this recently over at The Catbirdseat where it was described as being “bedroom Tom Petty” - which is apt, Vile adheres pretty close to lo-fi production values and an underlying Americana feel. But the quirky vocal ticks, atmospheric guitars, and some inspired tossed-off lyrics make it stand out among the hordes of likeminded homemade artists. Kurt Vile could make some waves later this year, and here’s a chance to catch on before the rush.

MP3 :: Freeway
(from Constant Hitmaker. Buy here)

The War On Drugs Announce U.S. Tour

The War On Drugs released one of my favorite albums of 2008 in Wagonwheel Blues - a record that perfectly brought together droning, psychedelic rock ‘n roll with classic Americana sounds. When I interviewed lead singer/songwriter Adam Granduciel last year about his songwriting inspirations he summed things up with this - honesty and spontaneity in a performance translate better than anything. Starting on March 29 The War On Drugs will be able to demonstrate that honesty and spontaneity to American audiences for the very first time since releasing the album. After spending a ton of time touring overseas they’ll be supporting The Hold Steady throughout April, obviously getting the chance to play for some huge, enthusiastic (drunk) audiences in the process. If you haven’t yet heard The War On Drugs try the driving “Taking The Farm” from Wagonwheel Blues as a primer, and get to the show early to see them next month. And check out a video interview conducted recently by Burn the Bowery that features some live footage and new insights from Granduciel.


03/29/09 Cambridge, MA - TT The Bear's Place
03/30/09 Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
03/31/09 Albany, NY - Valentine's w/ The Hold Steady
04/01/09 Buffalo, NY - Tralf Music Hall w/ The Hold Steady
04/02/09 Grand Rapids, MI - Calvin College Fine Arts Center w/ The Hold Steady
04/03/09 Urbana, IL - Courtyard Cafe w/ The Hold Steady
04/04/09 Bloomington, IN - Jakes Nightclub w/ The Hold Steady
04/05/09 Chicago, IL - Schubas w/ Tallest Man on Earth
04/06/09 St. Louis, MO - Gargoyle w/ The Hold Steady
04/07/09 Iowa City, IA - The Picador w/ The Hold Steady
04/08/09 Omaha, NE - Slowdown w/ The Hold Steady
04/10/09 Boulder, CO - Fox Theatre w/ The Hold Steady
04/11/09 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge w/ The Hold Steady
04/13/09 Las Vegas, NV - Beauty Bar w/ The Hold Steady
04/14/09 Stateline, NV - Harrah's Tahoe South Shore w/ The Hold Steady
04/15/09 Sacramento, CA - Harlow's w/ The Hold Steady
04/17/09 Seattle, WA - Jules Maes Saloon
04/18/09 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge w/ Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band
04/20/09 San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill
04/21/09 Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
04/22/09 Phoenix, AZ - Modified
04/24/09 Austin, TX - Mohawk
04/25/09 Denton, TX - Rubber Gloves
04/26/09 Nashville, TN - Exit/In
04/27/09 Knoxville, TN - The Pilot Light:

MP3 :: Taking The Farm
Video :: A Needle In The Eye #16
(from Wagonwheel Blues. Buy here)

[mp3] The Felice Brothers - "Run Chicken Run"

Looks like I was just a bit premature with my Felice Brothers post from the other day if I wanted to be all inclusive. Team Love has just made a track from the forthcoming Yonder Is The Clock available and it‘s called “Run Chicken Run”. I haven’t gotten a chance to listen yet, but with that name you know it’s top notch. Also that’s the album art, so print it out and make a t-shirt if that’s your thing.

MP3 :: Run Chicken Run
(from Yonder Is The Clock. Buy here)

Justin Townes Earle - Midnight At The Movies

The fact that Justin Townes Earle has chosen to flaunt the names he shares with two legendary songwriters shows the kid does not lack in confidence. The son of gravelly voiced hardcore troubadour Steve Earle, and (middle) namesake of late, great Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt (a friend and mentor to the older Earle before his untimely passing in 1997), Justin must have wondered whether the attention he would undoubtedly receive was legit or the result of a golden birth certificate. Yeah those names get you in the door and perk people‘s interest, but then the scrutiny and inevitable comparisons are only made that much more intense. In short, you better write some damn good songs. Earle’s 2008 debut, The Good Life, was a modest album that made good on the promise that comes with such esteemed lineage, but never truly set the Americana circuit on fire. For Earle though, it didn’t take long to take another shot.

With his recently released sophomore effort, Midnight At The Movies, Earle should expect the type of lazy journalism that has plagued nearly every review he’s ever received (including this one) to finally come to an end. The new album shows a distinct growth over his debut, and should establish Earle as an artist worthy of being judged entirely on his own merits. In fact, he seems more indebted to country music icons Hank Williams and Buck Owens than daddy and his drinking buddies. The songs hold close to a sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Nashville radio station circa 1960 or so. The violins sound more like fiddles, the pedal steel guitars sweep in and out of the mix beautifully, and the drums are often simply brushed - all adding up to a tight, professional sounding collection of old fashioned country music. Add to that a set of pipes that can sway from a Paul Westerberg rasp to a Hank Williams croon and you’ve got all the ingredients for something truly special.

“Mama’s Eyes” is the autobiographical first single, which uses his paternal relationship as the inspiration for some nice maternal sentiment. Sounding as smooth vocally as a young Ryan Adams (who Steve ironically once said was the finest vocalist the alt country movement had produced), Justin thankfully lacks the overly-nasal Southern growl that can sometime irritate on his father’s songs. Elsewhere a mix of originals snuggle up with a few well chosen covers - rock fans will recognize a terrific mandolin-driven version of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” - that establish Earle as a top notch scene-setter and story teller. I wasn’t ready to be as taken with Midnight At The Movies as I have been over the past week or so - this is a very solid album that, while significantly different in sound than anything his father has ever released, easily bests everything Steve’s done since Jerusalem, arguably even The Mountain. The next time Justin Townes Earle has a record to promote, I promise not to mention you know who, or you know who, again. There’s no reason to - Midnight At The Movies signals the arrival of a unique artist flourishing within one of America’s oldest and purist musical forms.

MP3 :: Mama’s Eyes
MP3 :: What I Mean To You
(from Midnight At The Movies. Buy here)

The Felice Brothers Ready New Album...

...and that photo is not from the recording sessions. Team Love is getting set to release a new record from The Felice Brothers on April 7. The Mark Twain referencing Yonder Is The Clock is the follow up to last year’s excellent self-titled Team Love debut (which featured “Frankie’s Gun”, one of my very favorite songs of 2008). The Felice Brothers have always drawn from a wide variety of distinctly American influences, and the 2 new songs streaming over at their myspace are no different. Album opener “The Big Surprise” is a slow building weird-folk ballad, all creaky vocals and unexpected sounds that feels like it could fall apart at any moment. In other words, perfect. “Penn Station” is a rough around the edges folk-rocker for anyone who’s ever drunkenly missed the last train home. Both suggest the possibility of a really special album. Pre-orders will ship on March 31, at which point you’ll receive the album as a 320 kbps download.

Stream :: The Big Surprise
Stream :: Penn Station
(from Yonder Is The Clock. Buy here)

MP3 :: Frankie’s Gun
MP3 :: Wonderful Life
(from The Felice Brothers. Buy here)

[mp3] Dead Heart Bloom - "Flash In A Bottle"

“Flash In A Bottle”, by New York’s Dead Heart Bloom, has been on repeat here for most of the past hour. It’s a pretty little folk tune with a distinctly '60's melody whose quiet, subtle beauty has kind of crept up on me, becoming one of my most played tracks of the past few weeks. Dead Heart Bloom have been busy publicizing their recently released string of free EPs of late - three in the past year - the latest of which, In Chains, houses this song. Check them out on myspace to hear more.

MP3 :: Flash In A Bottle
(from In Chains. Buy here)

[mp3] Grizzly Bear - "Cheerleader"

With the inordinate amount of hype surrounding the forthcoming Grizzly Bear album, Veckatimest, Warp Records is sitting on a virtual goldmine. So, what else to do but make one of the standout tracks available as a free and legal download? At 192 kbps, no less. “Cheerleader” may not be the most obvious choice for first single, but in a way it makes perfect sense - it is a better representative for Veckatimest’s overall sound than the more obvious “Two Weeks” or “While You Wait For The Others”, both soaring indie-pop masterpieces.

And by the way, Veckatimest is very, very good. I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned that yet. I can’t wait for my pre-ordered vinyl copy to get here in May. It’s a truly excellent album and leaps and freaking bounds beyond the inexpliably overrated, lifeless, boring-as-warm-shit Yellow House. Opinions, all. Oh snap though.

MP3 :: Cheerleader
(from Veckatimest. Info here)

New Bob Dylan Album Coming Soon!

This week the welcome news came that Bob Dylan will be releasing a new studio album on April 28, once again through Columbia Records. Together Through Life is the name and I’m placing my bet now that no matter what it sounds like (early word is like an old Chess Record) Rolling Stone will call it “his best since Blood On The Tracks”. And since Dylan’s mug on the cover of the RS will sell copies it will no doubt receive 5 stars (see their reviews of U2 or Springsteen’s recent “masterpieces” for evidence of this trend). The difference is that Together Through Life may actually deserve it. Personally I’m really looking forward to the new one - I’ve been on a bit of a Dylan kick lately and was just listening to 2006’s Modern Times (his best album since Time Out Of Mind) last week. Check out this interview on the Dylan home page for more info about the sound of and inspiration behind Together Through Life.

Video :: When The Deal Goes Down
(from Modern Times)

[mp3] The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - "Young Adult Friction"

After releasing what is easily one of the best indie-rock albums of this young year, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have been keeping rather busy. Right now they are on a tour that runs through June, including the obligatory SXSW shows and culminating with a stop at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago on June 18. To keep the momentum going Slumberland Records have decided to release a highlight from an album full of them as a 7” single. The evocatively titled “Young Adult Friction” will be this collector’s item A-Side, and has generously become the third song from the truly excellent album available as a free download. I’m down to get the friction on.

MP3 :: Young Adult Friction
(from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Buy here)

Read PHW’s previous post here and check out the other 2 free mp3s from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

[mp3] The National - "So Far Around The Bend"

The National and the folks behind the Dark Was The Night compilation have released another free mp3 from the excellent charity set. “So Far Around The Bend” is a jaunty little pop song that would probably feel out of place on either Alligator or Boxer, but sounds like a completely natural and welcome experiment for the band nonetheless. If I had the choice, I’d love to be able to share the beautiful Antony Hegarty & Bryce Dessner cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home” (my personal favorite), but this track is one of the set’s strongest. Proceeds of the 4AD released 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.

MP3 :: So Far Around The Bend
(from Dark Was The Night. Buy here)

[mp3] Papercuts - "Future Primitive"

Back in 2007 Papercuts released Can’t Go Back, an album steeped in warm acoustics and a hazy, lovelorn 60’s nostalgia. It was a very solid collection, if not particularly original sounding, that showed songwriter Jason Quever’s skill at dusting off some vintage folk-rock melodies and making them his own. Papercuts returns on April 14 with the follow up, You Can Have What You Want. Judging from the first single, “Future Primitive”, Quever has taken his band’s sound in a more rhythmic, textured, and slightly darker new direction - a clear indication of the band forging their own place in the music landscape instead of borrowing from the past. “Future Primitive” has been circulating for a few weeks now (and turned up on my February Mixtape with a bunch of other cool new songs), but if you’ve missed out on it so far here’s your chance to take a listen. The new album will feature contributions from Beach House’s Alex Scally and comes to us from Gnomosong, home of Vetiver and Jana Hunter.

MP3 :: Future Primitive
(from You Can Get What You Want. Info here)

[mp3] The Handsome Family - "When You Whispered"

To celebrate their 20th anniversary as a married couple (God bless ‘em), Brett and Rennie Sparks, the songwriting duo behind the gothic-Americana of The Handsome Family, set about recording their 8th proper studio record, Honey Moon. I never really dove head first into this band’s catalog other than the excellent Through The Trees from 1998 and a handful of various other songs from over the years (“Drunk By Noon”, “# 1 Country Song”, “So Much Wine”, and “No One Fell Asleep Alone”, specifically), but that was never by choice so much as circumstance. You can’t listen to everything, can you? The husky baritone of Brett has always given heft to the dark, naturalistic lyrics penned by his wife, and on the new album that tried and true formula is still at work. Though maybe not the best album to start with for new listeners, Honey Moon continues The Handsome Family’s unique take on folk music and should certainly appeal to long time followers of the band. Honey Moon comes out on April 14 through Carrot Top Records.

MP3 :: When You Whispered
Stream :: Darling My Darling
Stream :: My Friend
(from Honey Moon. Pre-order here)

Dan Deacon - Bromst

While Dan Deacon’s 2007 album Spiderman Of The Rings, and more specifically the impossibly joyous first single “The Crystal Cat”, weren’t necessarily my first positive encounters with electronic music, they certainly went far towards erasing whatever “guitar only” prejudices I may have wrongfully possessed up until that point. My hesitancy for electronica had already been in gradual decline over the previous 10 years or so, thanks mostly to the more mechanical directions Radiohead utilized at the decade’s beginning, but it took the 4 glorious, surf-rock mimicking minutes of “The Crystal Cat” to really blow the doors wide open. It was kind of an important listening experience in my own personal history - a moment when the possibilities of music not created by traditional instruments were fully realized in my tiny acoustic brain.

The rest of Spiderman of the Rings was certainly an interesting listen as well, but, beyond the album’s handful of amazing songs (the towering “Wham City” and beautiful duo of “Big Milk” and “Pink Batman” specifically), didn‘t really click. While the skilled craftsmanship was quite evident, there was something about Deacon’s more absurdist tendencies that made a few tracks completely miss their mark for me. I mean, did the world really need Woody Woodpecker’s laugh sampled and repeated for 4 interminable minutes, to start the album, nonetheless? Regardless, Spiderman of the Rings had high points that made me extremely interested in what Deacon would come up with next, which were further intensified late last year when he started touring with a 14-piece live band behind him, performing songs from a forthcoming record. It was around that time that Bromst became one of my most anticipated releases of 2009.

Like Merriweather Post Pavilion earlier this year, Bromst is the rare record that not only lives up to the hyped excitement I felt, but far, far exceeds it. Despite being an invented word that references the percussive focus of the songs, the album title itself seems to allude to something both classical and classic. Add to that the symphonic aura over the album‘s 60 minute running time and Bromst has the feeling of being bigger than it may actually be. Deacon holds nothing back on the album’s breathless opening trio - “Build Voice”, “Red F”, and “Padding Ghost”. Each is a blur of unbridled enthusiasm - the product of an artist who doesn’t seem to be contained by boundaries at the moment. The 3 songs each hit continuous sonic peaks that sound like multiple, simultaneous electronic orgasms. Just as revelatory, album closer “Get Older” surfaced online a few weeks ago as part of a split single with Adventure. It too is a densely packed sonic whirlwind, and joins the others as some of Deacon’s most adventurous and satisfying recordings to date.

Chalk it up to maturity or the sudden desire to have his music move the mind as well as the nerves and body, but the vast majority of Bromst smartly foregoes the moments of nonsense that peppered Spiderman Of The Rings. Computers still buzz and squawk and squeal like crystal cats having strokes, but they are now augmented by live drums and percussion (thanks to members of Ponytail & So Percussion), female back-up singers, and, on “Surprise Stefani”, what sounds like gentle, undulating electric guitar feedback. The album also houses Deacon’s first(?) attempt at straightforward vocals on “Snookered”, while “Wet Wings” is little more than 3 minutes of heavily-treated female vocals harmonizing on what sounds like the melody from some traditional American folk song. If that sounds weird on paper (or on screen, I guess), believe me - Deacon makes it sound even weirder through headphones. But, like every other whim Bromst follows, he also makes it work.

What is most clear when listening to Bromst is that Deacon is at the peak of his creative powers - a madcap genius striving to be taken seriously as both sound artist and traditional musician. The album never once trips over its sprawling ambitions - you’d be hard-pressed to find another modern album with a 60 minute running time that maintains such focus and consistency. The classification of this record as electronic, or electronica, is inevitable, but is also sort of a misnomer. I can’t think of another artist working in the genre whose ideas should be as easily accessible to fans of indie rock as Deacon‘s. Bromst should prove to be his breakthrough to a much wider audience - its palpable, surging energy is flat-out undeniable. Simply put, Bromst is fucking righteous. Dan Deacon has crafted what will prove to be not only one of the year’s best “electronica” albums, but one of the year’s finest albums, period.

Stream :: Get Older
Stream :: Wet Wings
(from Bromst. Info here)