Tag Archives: indie

Kishi Bashi album Lighght

Kishi Bashi has a fantastic new album called Lighght which is hard to describe.  Essentially it’s pure fun.  At times during the album you can hear influences such as Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and Phoenix.  If that doesn’t pique your interest know that he used to play violin with Of Montreal.  Oh, he also sings ~20% of the lyrics in Japanese.  What more could you want?

mp3: Kishi Bashi – In fantasia

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John Roderick new track Same Song

John Roderick is the lead singer and creative force behind the band The Long Winters.  You’re forgiven for not knowing who they are due to the fact that they haven’t had a proper album, tour, or really any output in roughly six years.  I was bored the other day and decided to look into what had happened.  To be blunt, not much.

One gem I did stumble upon is that John has been going on entertainment cruises and performing his music as a solo acoustic act.  And if you listen to enough of the bootleg live from a cruise boat sets you eventually stumble upon a new track.  A track that he explains is the first new music he’s created in four years.  A track that he calls Same Song.  It’s a gem of a song that I became so addicted to I looped the Youtube video on solid repeat throughout an entire work day last month.  For those that are new to John’s style this is a perfect slice of an introduction.  Hopefully he puts out a proper album sometime in the near future.

 

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The Lone Bellow Live in Indianapolis

Zach Williams is the front man for current up and coming sensation The Lone Bellow.  I personally began following his career around seven years ago.  From the very beginning I have been impressed.  He approach to music has always been filled with an honesty that comes blasting through his vocals.  Other than Sufjan Stevens and The Weakerthans there is no other artist I have written about more frequently on The World Forgot.  Seriously, I’ve written a lot about his career (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, exclusive ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen) starting in 2006 when I found him on MySpace and continuing through a few months ago when I helped financially support his latest album via Kickstarter.

My interest began by trolling through MySpace (something all bloggers did in 2006).  I found his music, ripped a few tracks, and put them up on my blog.  I used them copiously in mixes.  As the years rolled on Zach and I eventually exchanged emails and I encouraged him to continue making music.  From that first song I believed he had a unique voice.  An honest voice.  Eventually Zach moved to New York and our communications eventually drifted apart.  Through it all I followed his music and continued to push his albums on my siblings and friends as Christmas and birthday presents.  I even convinced some friends in New York to go to his shows.  The one comment I remember those friends telling me is that they met Zach after the show and he was “incredibly nice.”

I often thought of driving to New York to see a show, but financially it really wasn’t an option.  And then a few months ago Zach’s latest band, The Lone Bellow, announced that they going on a small tour and would be playing in my current home town.  The only catch; they were going to play on a day when I was going to be out of town. My wife and I called the airline and the resort to see if we could get an earlier flight.  The cost to change reservations was over $300 – once again I was financially unable to attend a Zach Williams show.  I was bummed, but it didn’t last long.  The Lone Bellow backed out of their original performances and rescheduled for later in the year (this time as a headliner – not the opening act).

I carefully cleared my schedule. I couldn’t find anyone who was free to attend the show.  I went alone.

I was standing at the back of the venue during the opening group because I usually see someone I know when I’m at this venue.  And then Zach walked in on a video call, stood right in front of me for a few minutes, and then walked past me again on his way out the front door.  I stopped him at that point (sorry for interrupting your call) and he gave me a head nod that clearly communicated “I don’t know you, but people often call out my name, so hi.”  I wasn’t even sure if he would remember me and I hadn’t even attempted to let him know I would be at the show, but when I introduced myself he lit up immediately.  We got to meet face to face after seven years of internet encouragement.  During the show he even told the brief story of a kid named Billy who had a music blog who believed in him all those years ago when he was playing 2am shows in Chinatown.

From all of this you could probably surmise that I’m slightly biased.  However, my wife pointed out that they must be doing something right if they’ve been in People magazine twice now (Zach humbly and instantly gave all the credit to their “really good publicist”).  All personal connections aside, The Lone Bellow put on a gem of a concert.  They played and joked for around 90 minutes.  They hit all of the songs from their debut album, covered the John Prine & Bonnie Ratt song Angel From Montgomery (which you can watch here on vimeo), as well as Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away, and interacted with the audience in a way that made everyone feel like they were a part of some special shared moment.

At the end of the regular set Zach mentioned they were approaching the end of the road which prompted a front row patron to spontaneously launch into the chorus of Boyz II Men’s staple End Of The Road.  The band took it in stride and sang two full verses acapella.  Then for the start of their three song encore, just to prove they had some legitimate 90’s R&B credibility, they sang a wonderful rendition of Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby.  The crowd loved it and you could see the band was truly enjoying themselves in Indianapolis.

mp3 : The Lone Bellow – Bleeding Out

During our brief conversation I asked Zach if he felt they had finally made it.  He was straightforward in his response saying they’ve all quit their other jobs and this band is paying their bills.  I still believe in the honesty of Zach’s voice.  There is an undeniable intensity to his performance and I can’t encourage you enough to go see them when they play your town.  Their debut album is a solid effort, but it is elevated to to a true experience when it’s played in a live setting.  You’re invited to sing along and become a part of a unique moment in time that will leave a smile lingering for days after it’s done.

Go buy their album from Amazon or iTunes today and keep supporting great music.

Zach – it was great to finally meet you in person.  I’m eagerly looking forward to your long and successful music career.  Come back and play in Indianapolis some day.

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The Thermals album Desperate Ground

I sat down last night to write a brief and witty review of the newest album from The Thermals.  My internet connection rebelled and I think that might have been a good thing.  This album, Desperate Ground (amazon) (itunes), is great.  It’s really great.  For the past week I have been using it quite heavily in my playlist at work.  All day long I listen to albums.  Back to back to back albums.  Since Desperate Ground entered that list I have literally played it in direct rotation with all other albums.  By that I mean I listen to album A, then once through Desperate Ground, then album B, back to Desperate Ground, etc.

All told I reckon I’ve listened straight through this album at least twenty five times.  It helps that it runs a brisk 26+ minutes and no song clocks in longer than 3:20.  It also helps that every song is a perfect fit on the album.  There isn’t a moment that you begin to feel temptation to skip to the next track.  There are no low points to speak of.  This is pure guitar driven rock (or punk, or post-punk, or whatever label you can come up with) with no other purpose than to have a good time.  It will give you motivation on a Monday morning.  It will help you push through random paperwork.  It will keep your feet tapping and your head bouncing along to the beat.

mp3 : The Thermals – Our Love Survives

At the end of this year I can guarantee this album will still be in my top ten.  If you haven’t heard them before and you like this small sample go ahead and order their album from Saddle Creek (you get a load of swag for preordering).  Then stop and drop them an email or tweet and ask them why they’re not playing a show in Indiana.

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Cloud Cult album Love

With their latest album, Love (buy on their site) (amazon) (itunes), Cloud Cult continues to prove that some bands get better and better the longer they make music.  I have tried to come up with a witty review for this album and I find myself returning over and over again to this simple phrase; Love is a perfect Cloud Cult album.  On a track by track basis you can clearly hear their past musical styles shine through and ultimately blend together into what is essentially a “best of” album composed entirely of new songs.

I have long talked about Cloud Cult as the best band you’ve never listened to.  This album proves it and would be an excellent starting point for any new fan.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Complicated Creation
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Meet Me Where You’re Going

If I’ve piqued your interest in the least you can sample more of their music in a rather long ode I wrote about the band a few months ago (click here).

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The Lone Bellow Debut Album

I have been following a musician named Zach Williams almost as long as I’ve been writing this blog.  I first stumbled upon his music when his moniker was Zach Williams and The Ramparts.  Those were the heady days of Myspace and random music links that led you farther and farther down the rabbit hole.  I followed his career as he made the move to NYC and at one point we started to email back and forth occasionally.  I recall vividly a time when he was playing a lot of local shows in the New York area and I convinced an old high school chum to go and see a show.  He ended up staying after the concert and meeting Zach in person; he described Zach as personable, friendly, and a very emotional performer.

After awhile my correspondence fell off and there were rumours that Zach was done with his pursuit of music.  And then the latest chapter in his career started with The Lone Bellow.  Originally running as another “Zach Williams and the” effort they eventually settled on the simpler moniker of The Lone Bellow.  Eventually they decided a full length album was worth a try and they raised funding on kickstarter to get it made.  Those of us fortunate enough to support the album were treated with digital and physical media alongside some magnificent live recording sessions that really captured everything I’ve always been told about their live sets.

mp3 : The Lone Bellow – Tree To Grow

If you haven’t heard of this band yet rest assured that they will be growing in popularity in the months and years to come.  They’re at their best when Zach is emotionally filling out a lyrical melody and the music swells to meet his voice.  Go buy their album from Amazon or iTunes today and keep supporting great music.  (And Zach – you need to play a show in Indianapolis)

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Sufjan Stevens – Silver and Gold – Gloria

Sufjan Stevens has quite simply done it again.  In 2007 he released a box set of Christmas (and winter, and seasonal, and etc.) songs that spanned multiple eras, references, and were all presented in the many various compositional styles preferred by Sufjan.  This time around he has dropped another 58 tracks filled with more of the same.  And more of the same is more of subtle genius we have come to expect from him.

The full box set is broken into five separate parts that collectively form Silver and Gold (bandcamp) (amazon) (itunes).  First on the list is the album Gloria which serves as a very effective jumping off point for those unfortunate few that are thus far uninitiated.  This first album has a healthy cross section of Sufjan Christmas.  There are original songs that would easily fit on his Michigan or Illinois albums interspersed with his take on classic tracks.  Below are my two favorite songs from the first album although I would encourage you all to listen to the entire album.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past
mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – The Midnight Clear

Other standout tracks on Gloria include the sprawling 7+ minute Baracola and Sufjan’s interpretation of Silent Night.  I’ll be back later this week with highlights from the remaining four albums in the box set.  For those of you in the USA have a great Thanksgiving week / weekend.  For those elsewhere, enjoy the music.

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Sufjan Stevens upcoming album Silver & Gold has a free single entitled Christmas Unicorn

Sufjan Stevens has a new Christmas/Holiday album coming out this November. It is called Silver & Gold and will have a total of fifty eight songs.  If you head over to his streaming page you can download the last track from the compilation for free in high quality digital format.  Appropriately it’s entitled Christmas Unicorn and it sprawls for a full 12+ minutes.  I would expect nothing less from Sufjan at this point.  Take a listen below and then head over to his page to preorder the digital version or the vinyl limited edition if you have money to spare.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Christmas Unicorn

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Cloud Cult

I attended a wedding a few weeks ago where I made a promise to write, once again, about one of the greatest bands that you’ve probably never listened to.  This band is Cloud Cult and they don’t get nearly the amount of attention, money, or acclaim that they deserve.  Part of this general malaise most likely stems from the fact that they self publish their albums on Earthology Records which was founded by lead singer Craig Minowa in 1997.  Although college radio stations and critics seem to find much to like about this group from Minneapolis more often than not people I have the privilege of meeting in person invariably have never heard of them.

My love for Cloud Cult began while I was living overseas and was mailed mix albums by an old college friend.  One such album contained the track Pretty Voice from their 2007 album The Meaning of 8 (amazon) (itunes).  Instantaneously I was hooked.  The layered vocals, the slow build, and the energy and narrative in this one song seemed to be tailor made to make me pay attention.  The Meaning of 8 has a haunting quality smothered in beauty, discovery, and joy that has proven to be timeless in appeal.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Pretty Voice

From there I took a small step back in time and I found the rougher, raw gemstone that is their 2005 release Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus (amazon) (itunes).  Although this album doesn’t have the melodies and polish of their later efforts the songwriting and energy are just as apparent this effort as those that were still to come.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Transistor Radio

At this point in my life it was still 2007 and I was already hooked deeply on anything I could find by Cloud Cult.  I was routinely putting them in compilations and featuring them on Best of the Year lists.  When their 2008 album was released, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes) (amazon) (itunes) it seemed that their musical abilities had matured at the same pace as my musical taste.  This album is immaculate from start to finish and contains some wonderful lyrical vignettes.  I was also helped along during this time by being blessed with a live show that took place a mere 25 miles from my home at the time.  I was blown away during their set with the energy and personable nature with which the band took the stage.  And I was not prepared to watch two people paint, on stage, throughout the set.  If I could have afforded the post show auction for the artwork I most definitely would have walked home with a painting (the art auction profits helps finance their live tours).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – No One Said It Would Be Easy
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Journey of the Featherless

In 2010 the band released an EP entitled Running With the Wolves in which they proved that a group of modern musicians can take a masterful song from the likes of Bob Dylan and translate it enough that it becomes their own.  They still play this song live and it is wonderful to hear.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Tamborine Man (Bob Dylan Cover)

Their most recent studio album was released in autumn of 2010 (although they will have a new album out later this year).  Again Cloud Cult did not disappoint.  With the album Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes) the band creates a single narrative piece that is woven throughout all sixteen tracks.  Although some artists would label this a gimmick “concept album” or some other classification I think this album transcends that identity.  Yes there is a meta story going on throughout the album, but each track both furthers that narrative while presenting its own individual identity.  In the end you’re left with a great album that encourages a listener to enjoy the full experience of listening to all of the tracks from start to finish (an increasingly rare attempt in the day of digital single song downloads).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Lessons – Exploding People
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

And just recently, as a bonus for those of us who check their website routinely (hoping they will play another show near our home) they posted a masterful cover of the Beatles.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Help (Beatles Cover)

I still stand by my assertion that Cloud Cult is one of the greatest bands that you’ve never heard of.  They are under appreciated and undoubtedly underpaid.  It’s bands like this that inspire me to write again on this aging blog.  It’s bands like this that deserve to still be written about.

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Of Monsters and Men album My Head Is An Animal

If Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros teamed with Florence Welch and some of the boys from Mumford and Sons the outcome would probably sound a lot like My Head Is An Animal (amazon) (itunes).  Of Monsters and Men combine a lot of currently en vogue folk and indie musical stylings on their debut full length album and every single track is worth listening to.  They’re an eclectic group that somehow sounds very familiar (see above referenced bands + Arcade Fire and even 90’s Ska Revival).  I would go so far as to argue they’re the second best outfit coming out of Iceland.  Take a listen to a few tracks below and you’ll agree the entire album is worth a purchase.

mp3 : Of Monsters and Men – Dirty Paws
mp3 : Of Monsters and Men – Six Weeks

One of the most thoroughly entertaining debut albums I have heard in a long time.

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