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Entries in Music (13)

Tuesday
Feb232010

Shout Out Louds: Work

 

Shout Out Louds

Work

Merge

February 23, 2010

 


Today, Swedish indie pop band Shout Out Louds release their third album Work (Merge), on which they mature and find a sound that evolves from the shiny freshness of their debut Howl Howl Gaff Gaff and the icy thinness of their sophomore effort Our Ill Wills.

Vocalist Adam Olenius sings with a new full-throated conviction, though he still periodically slips into that croaky falsetto, and Bebban Stenborg has been steered away from the Moog and the synth to a warmer keyboard and occasional piano.  On some songs, horns or strings dot the sensible pop with an extra dimension. 

These improvements are a testament to the “work” put in by the band while crafting these songs, but no doubt they also benefited from the tutelage of producer Phil Ek, who has plunged indie rock into the mainstream with bands like The Shins and Fleet Foxes. 

“Fall Hard,” the second single from Work (video below) is centered on a set of driving, sustained chords that carry throughout, creating a speedy stretch of highway from which scenic roads of sound branch off.

Not every track on Work will have you bopping out of your seat like "Fall Hard" or "Walls," but create a playlist with fellow Swedes Lykke Li and Peter, Bjorn, and John, and you’ll chase away that ho-hum feeling with a bright sound that rivals the sun-kissed ice floating in the Baltic Sea.

4 / 5 Stars

Official Website

Three-week North American Tour starts May 2 in Washington, D.C.

Passion Pit recently released a synthed-up remix of “Fall Hard” which you can download here.

Monday
Feb152010

Ben Allison: Think Free

Ben Allison

Think Free

Palmetto Records

October 13, 2009

 

I was recently looking for some contemporary jazz, as I felt I was being too narrow in my music selections, getting too entrenched in mainstream radio-friendly fare.

It didn’t take long to discover Ben Allison.  A double-bassist (stand-up), Allison has formed and toured with many bands while releasing nine albums of material over the past fifteen years. 

His most recent work, Think Free (Palmetto 2009), was my first exposure, and it hooked me right away.  As a former trumpeter, I was delighted by the lyrical and moody lines played by Shane Endsley on the opening track, “Fred.” 

An unexpected presence on a jazz album was Jenny Scheinman’s violin.  Her playing on the creatively titled “Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Godzilla” caused me to rethink what I already considered a diverse and beautiful instrument.  While Scheinman and Endsley swap lead melody duties, the rhythm section of guitarist Steve Cardenas, drummer Rudy Royston, and Ben Allison on bass alternately swells and recedes but always drives the album onward. 

Allison is a masterful composer who has worked with a litany of talented musicians throughout his various projects.  Think Free plays almost like a rock album, with chord progressions one might hear in a Radiohead song.  This truly modern sound will provide music lovers of all persuasions to dive into the Ben Allison catalogue, which I can’t wait to do.  

4.5 / 5 Stars

Favorite Track: “Platypus”

Download Think Free on iTunes

Tuesday
Feb092010

Wil Wheaton Reminds Me Mike Doughty Is Awesome

I really like it when two seemingly disparate shapes of the pop culture kaleidoscope come together to form a beautiful and unexpected pattern.  This phenomenon occurred for me last night as I was listening to the latest episode of Wil Wheaton's podcast, Radio Free Burrito

Sidenote: It was also the first episode of Radio Free Burrito I had ever listened to.  I am an admitted latecomer to the all-encompassing grasp of Wil Wheaton's sublime geekdom.  I was an early fan of his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but am just now starting to appreciate his blogging, writing, and tv appearances.  I anticipate a future blog post dedicated to his work. 

Early in the podcast, Wil played a portion of his friend MC Frontalot's new song "Your Friend Wil" on which Mike Doughty sings the refrain, "Your friend Wil says, 'Don't be a dick!'" a phrase which started as a protest to bullying gamers but has now evolved into the former child star's personal philosophy. 

Wil talked about his friendships with the nerdcore rapper and the soulful songwriter, which reminded me of the fact that music is a universal language, and no matter your career, lifestyle, or level of fame, a good song can resonate without boundaries.  We don't all get to be friends with the artists, unfortunately.

Wil recalled the first time he heard a Soul Coughing song - Screenwriter's Blues - with amazing detail, and the awe in his voice conveyed the sense of revelation he had that day driving down the California coastline.  He spoke with such reverence for the music of Mike Doughty, and was especially grateful that the singer gave him permission to play one of his songs on the podcast. 

I thought he was going to play something from the slick 2008 album Golden Delicious or the more recent Sad Man, Happy Man, but he went with a great stripped-down tune from the Skittish LP, "The Only Answer." 

I hadn't heard that song for a long time, but it made me remember the genius Mike Doughty is capable of.  An acoustic guitar, that signature voice, it was a master lesson in the kind of simple, straightforward songwriting that can take a person by surprise. 

That kind of real emotion emanating from a few chords got me energized about Mike Doughty, and I will be taking a long stroll through his catalogue.  I also want to check out Sad Man, Happy Man, and will tell you what I think in a future post.  Until then, here's to musical friendships and unexpected pleasures. 

You can hear a live version of Mike Doughty's "The Only Answer" at Last.fm.

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