Archive for the ‘Neophile’ Category

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Neophile: Good Night, States

November 14, 2008

good-night-states-backgammon-peace

One of the bands that’s on constant repeat in my media player right now is Pittsburgh’s Good Night, States. They sound like a stripped-down version of Arcade Fire – a little bit more catchy, and a little less bombastic. While they’ve been getting some good press (like this Spin article), I’m more impressed that I can’t help but stop whatever I’m doing to just listen whenever “Spring is the Winter’s End” comes on. They also get the z=z stamp of approval for making all their songs available on a pay-what-you-will basis at their website.

Good Night, States will be playing the All Asia in Cambridge, MA on November 21st, and here’s a live video to give you a taste of what to expect. I asked Megan Lindsey (vox, keys, trumpet) if there were any plans for a West Coast tour. Sadly not, but she did mention that they were looking for a booking agent, and she offered up a case of Franktuary hot dogs as an additional inducement (Megan is the owner-operator of the cathedral-based hot dog stand). I’m happy to personally attest to how good the hot dogs are, and I’d add my gratitude to hers if you are someone who can get Good Night, States to visit this coast.

Good Night, States [website]

MP3: Good Night, States – Spring is the Winter’s End (Down to the Heart) (buy)

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Neophile: Fergus Brown, “Nerds in Love”

November 6, 2008

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I stumbled upon this sweet, geeky love song by Australian singer-songwriter Fergus Brown. It has an amusing backstory; apparently Brown wrote it about a particular girl that he had silently admired from afar. One of his friends told her about it, and gave her a copy of the song. In a perfect world, they would be happily together, but either Brown is very discreet about it, or they are just friends.

As far as I can tell, this track and its B-side, “Last Winter” are the teasers from his debut album, scheduled for release next February. I’m looking forward to it – Brown has the same gentle, playful-but-melancholy vibe as Jens Lekman, with a similarly beautiful voice. If these two songs are any example, I’ll be reaching for the full-length CD to get me through grey winter days.

More Fergus Brown: artist page myspace

MP3: Fergus Brown – Nerds in Love (buy)

Image: Nerd Love by Flickr user fille_de_photo, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Neophile: Hollerado

October 6, 2008

[embedded YouTube link; if you can’t see it, click here]

Hailing from the small Ontario town of Manotick, but now based in Montreal, Hollerado have just released a great single, “Americanarama” (from their Demo in a Bag 5 EP). Its video is a hilarious spoof of American Apparel, complete with Dave Foley doing a spot-on parody of the company’s notably sleazy founder (and fellow Montrealer), Dov Charney, in over-the-top mustache and lavender Y-fronts. Of course, the nice thing about making a video that indicts the hypersexualized imagery of American Apparel is that you can fill it with women in skintight, metallic leggings, in t-shirts and panties, and the like. To be fair, the band members don’t spare themselves – they also appear in just their skivvies. Make sure you check out the behind-the-scenes video too, to watch the band drink booze out of coffee cups while director George Vale zooms around on rollerblades.

MP3 link: Hollerado – Americanarama (at RCRD LBL)

More: website myspace

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Neophile: Mother Mother, O My Heart

September 21, 2008

Hurrah! Vancouver’s Mother Mother just released their second album, O My Heart, and it sounds just as awesome as their first. They have a distinctive, eccentric sound – playful pop, enriched with imaginative lyrics and vocal harmonies. They are just starting a tour of Canada and the US – they’ll be at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA on October 22nd, and they are wrapping the tour up in Seattle on November 8th.

More: myspace website

MP3: Mother Mother – Body of Years

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Neophile: Kristoffer Ragnstam

September 17, 2008

Swedish indie-pop artist Kristoffer Ragnstam’s sophomore album, Wrong Side of the Room, was just released in the US a few weeks ago. I have an insatiable appetite for infectiously catchy and happy songwriting, and Ragnstam doesn’t disappoint. I’m hoping that this album breaks him out into the US.

Ragnstam was kind enough to respond to some questions via e-mail (his responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity).

You’re frequently compared to your countryman Jens Lekman, and you are both known for sweet indie-pop. Do you think there is a ‘Swedish sound,’ or is it just that only certain types of music are picked up for the US market?

I don’t think we’ve got special sound. And why Jens and I play in USA is probably more that we found people who believe in us and constantly give us great tours etc. So more luck than sound.

What factors influence your decision to sing in English?

That’s easy. I grew up with English music and I’ve only been listening to English music. So when I started to do my own stuff English felt best, although it can be strange sometimes to write in a language that’s not my mother tongue. But hopefully the record buyers understand what I’m trying to say. 🙂

How do you feel that your artistic process changed (or didn’t) between Sweet Bills and Wrong Side of the Room?

I had a vision together with Joel (co-songwriter) and Chris [Brown, the producer – see below]. We would like it to sound homemade and pure. Thanks to the vision, we did have a very simple process making the Wrong Side—my band and I knew each other much better this time. Plus we had been touring a lot so…

You famously talk about recording ideas for and bits of songs in your cellphone. What comes next?

Maybe in the future we would be able to record a full song at a decent quality. That would be fun. I use it more like a scrapbook.

Can you cite some of your influences? And who among your contemporaries are you a fan of?

I love musicians who play music like there is no tomorrow. People who make me think they do it very much in a solid honest way. I like bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Slayer, The Roots, Kings of Leon, Daniel Lanois etc.

I really enjoy your witty, wry, and self-deprecating lyrics (and it would be great if they were posted to the Internet!). They definitely focus closely on the personal. How do you decide what to sing about? Do you ever think about singing about more ‘serious’ subjects, or are you committed to singing about the personal?

Oh, the lyrics should get posted any minute. My web page is pretty new new and needs some minor changes. But when it comes to lyrics, I do think my weapon is to sing about my normal life. ‘Cause a lot of weird stuff happened there, and it may sound forced to sing about something else. Sometimes it can be very serious to me but end up like a normal thing on the lyricpaper.

Can you talk a bit about what it was like working with engineer Chris Brown (Blur, Radiohead, Supergrass)?

Wow! It’s a dream to work with him. He’s been a part of many of my favorite albums, like RIDE. I love Chris and he’s one of the people in the music biz that I respect the most. Not only thanks to his CV, but probably more ’cause he’s constantly honest and only says what he thinks – no charade or theatre, just 100% Chris Brown, and that’s very inspiring.

Any upcoming plans to tour in the US?

I will tour all over. Europe, Japan, and back to the United States, plus take care of my newborn son.

More: website myspace

MP3: Kristoffer Ragnstam – Wrong Side of the Room

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Neophile: The Airborne Toxic Event

September 16, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t see it, click here]

Rounding out our posts about bands with literature-inspired band names is Los Angeles-based The Airborne Toxic Event (from Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise). I first heard the track “Somewhere Around Midnight” on KEXP and immediately clicked to their playlist page to identify the artist. The song is off TATE’s eponymous debut album, released in early August on Majordomo. Mikel Jollett’s voice reaches into my chest and wraps itself around my heart; more prosaically, his voice fills in the gap between Conor Oberst and Matt Berninger. Check out the video for “Does This Mean You’re Moving On” (above) and the gorgeous string intro to “Somewhere Around Midnight” (MP3, below).

More The Airborne Toxic Event: myspace website

MP3: The Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime Around Midnight