End of Month List, Music

May 2014 New Music

Here’s all my favorite new releases from May in two easy to use playlists.

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Nikki NacktUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • From – Connecticut
  • Fav Tracks – Find A New Way, Water Fountain, Real Thing, Hey Life, Wait For A Minute
  • Recommended Tracks – Find A New Way, Water Fountain, Time of Dark, Real Thing, Hey Life, Sink-O, Wait For A Minute, Left Behind, Rocking Chair
  • Single – Water Fountain

Merrill Garbus (vocals, songwriting, percussion, ukulele)  and Nate Brenner (bass, songwriting), a.k.a tUnE-yArDs provide an eccentric blend of world beats, jazz, R&B and folk. Garbus has a belt it out voice that is necessary to avoid being swallowed up by the drum loops swirling around her. She’s serious about percussion too and just returned from Haiti where she furthered her training in drumming. Garbus is known for creating loops on the fly during live performances. Don’t miss this live performance of my favorite track from the new album, “Real Thing” for KEXP in Seattle.

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The Moon Rang Like a BellHundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell

  • Genre – Indie Electronic Art Pop
  • From – Florida
  • Fav Tracks – Murmurs, Cavity, [Animal], Xtalk
  • Recommended Tracks – Murmurs, Cavity, Out Alee, Innocent, Down From The Rafters, [Animal], Xtalk
  • Singles – Cavity, Xtalk

The Indie Electronic Art Pop genre isn’t going to be producing any radio hits anytime soon, but Nicole Miglis’ voice with these ethereal mixtures of electronic and acoustic sounds grabbed my attention on the first listen. Some tracks have more ambient and experimental leanings while others have at least one foot firmly planted in Pop territory making for a nicely balanced album.

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Sound MirrorSyd Arthur – Sound Mirror

  • Genre – British Progressive Psych Rock
  • From – Canterbury, England
  • Fav Tracks – Garden of Time, Hometown Blues, Backwardstepping, What’s Your Secret
  • Recommended Tracks – Garden Of Time, Hometown Blues, Autograph, What’s Your Secret, All And Everything, Forevermore, Backwardstepping, Chariots, Singularity, Sink Hole
  • Singles – Hometown Blues, Garden Of Time

In this sub genre , you can expect to hear classical and jazz influences as well is unusual time signatures. This four-piece band that expertly walks the fine line between dipping into the been-there-done-that bin of retro/revivalism and the making a album that is intriguing and contemporary.

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Are We ThereSharon Van Etten – Are We There

  • Genre – Singer-songwriter, Indie Folk
  • From – New Jersey, New York
  • Fav Tracks – Your Love Is Killing Me, Taking Chances, Break Me, Every Time the Sun Comes Up
  • Recommended Tracks – Afraid of Nothing, Taking Chances, Your Love Is Killing Me, I Love You But I’m Lost, You Know Me Well, Break Me, I Know, Every Time the Sun Comes Up
  • Singles – Taking Chances, Every Time the Sun Comes Up

Sharon Van Etten’s new album, Are We There, portrays a woman in the dark shadows of a toxic relationship. When she sings on my favorite track, “Break my legs so I won’t walk to you; Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you; Burn my skin so I can’t feel you,” her pain is palpable. The album’s pace is dirge-like, and I felt the droning to be tedious on the first listen. After a second listen and some attention to the lyrics, the beauty of her pain was suddenly striking to me. Now, I find myself frequently coming back to this album.

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Sylvan EssoSylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

  • Genre – Indie Electronic Folk
  • From – North Carolina
  • Fav Tracks – Coffee, H.S.K.T., Hey Mami, Could I Be
  • Recommended Tracks – Coffee, H.S.K.T., Hey Mami, Could I Be, Wolf, Dress, Play It Right, Dreamy Bruises, Uncatena
  • Singles – Coffee, Play It Right

Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have previous music biz experience in a Vermont folk group and a psych-rock band respectively. Together they explore mostly an electronic aesthetic that critics laud as equally at home in a dance club and in a trendy cafe. Meath adds just enough folksy humanity to Sanborn’s playful electronic beats to make this an irresistible, ear pleasing concoction.

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Do It AgainRöyksopp and Robyn – Do It Again (EP)

  • Genre – Electronic
  • From – Sweden, Norway
  • Fav Tracks – Do It Again, Every Little Thing, Monument
  • Singles – Do It Again, Say it

This EP brings together two favorites. Robyn is a pop singer-songwriter with a career path that has flirted with mass appeal, but in the end has provided her with critical acclaim and a cult following instead. Röyksopp is a downbeat duo usually compared to Caribou, Air and Groove Armada.

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Changing LightMirah – Changing Light

  • Genre – Singer-songwriter
  • From – Philadelphia, PA; Olympia, WA; Brooklyn, NY
  • Fav Tracks – Oxen Hope, I Am the Garden, Radiomind, 24th St
  • Recommended Tracks – Goat Shepherd, Oxen Hope, Gold Rush, Fleetfoot Ghost, I Am the Garden, No Direction Home, 24th St, Radiomind

Mirah has been a fixture on the alternative singer-songwriter scene for over a decade. Changing Light (along with seemingly most others this year) is a break up album. This year sure is developing into a somber one on the indie music scene. The album is very lush with horns, strings, woodwinds, & vibraphone in addition to the standard singer-songwriter staple instrumentation. I’m just starting to appreciate the connections behind the scenes in the music industry, so I was interested to see that two albums that I like very much, this one and  Nikki Nack by the Tune-yards, share an engineer/producer.

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Unrepentant GeraldinesTori Amos – Unrepentant Geraldines

  • Genre – Singer-songwriter, Piano
  • From – Maryland, California, Florida
  • Fav Tracks – Trouble’s Lament, Weatherman, 16 Shades of Blue, Unrepentant Geraldines
  • Recommended Tracks – Trouble’s Lament, Wedding Day, Weatherman, 16 Shades of Blue, Promise, Unrepentant Geraldines
  • Single – Trouble’s Lament

Another singer-songwriter veteran, Tori Amos, has a new album this year. This album also has an overall melancholic tone. “Wedding Day” seems to be about a marriage that has grown silent. “Weatherman” is about a man’s love for his deceased wife. “16 Shade of Blue” seems to be about losing your job and getting old.  On the bright side, “Promise” is an endearing track with her daughter and “Unrepentant Geraldines” is empowering as Amos sings, “I’m gonna free myself from your opinion . . .”

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Nabuma RubberbandLittle Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband

  • Genre – Electronic, Synth Pop, Alternative R&B
  • From – Sweden
  • Fav Tracks – Klapp Klapp, Paris, Let Go, Pretty Girls
  • Recommended Tracks – Klapp Klapp, Pretty Girls, Paris, Nabuma Rubberband, Killing Me, Let Go,
  • Singles – Klapp Klapp, Paris, Let Go

Little Dragon in a quartet that includes Yukimi Nagano (Vocals, Percussion), Håkan Wirenstrand (Keyboards), Erik Bodin (Drums), and Fredrik Källgren Wallin (Bass). The main attraction is Nagano’s voice. Along with the recent trend, this album also features achingly slow paced tracks. The band reports drawing influence from Janet Jackson and Prince for this album and it shows on the slower tracks especially. If you are in the mood for some sensual 80’s R&B-inspired music, look no further than “Cat Rider” and “Pink Cloud.”

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I Never LearnLykke Li – I Never Learn

  • Genre – Indie Pop
  • From – Sweden
  • Fav Tracks – I Never Learn, No Rest For The Wicked, Sleeping Alone
  • Recommended Tracks – I Never Learn, No Rest For The Wicked, Just Like A Dream, Gunshot, Never Gonna Love Again, Sleeping Alone
  • Singles – No Rest For The Wicked, Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone

Li’s signature retro-styled pop is the product of her longtime collaboration with Björn Yttling of with Peter Björn and John. However, her work as gotten increasingly despondent with each album. The new album sounds like a goth version of the Phil Spector girl groups of the 1960’s. I Never Learn’s cover artwork even shows our wounded chanteuse photographed in a mourning veil/black wedding dress. Is this the “Chapel of Love” for the 21st century? Forgive Lykke Li. She was recently run over by a heartbreak bus. These sad songs are beautiful even if they are a little much when listened to one after another. In a recent interview, Li indicated that she feels this despondency in her work is a sign of maturity. I can’t help but feel like this self-pity and over-dramatizing of a break up is a youthful characteristic. Compare this to Sharon Van Etten’s heartbreak album, and Li can sound like a whiney millennial.

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In ConflictOwen Pallett – In Conflict

  • Genre – Indie Pop
  • From – Toronto, Ontario
  • Fav Tracks – In Conflict, Chorale, The Riverbed
  • Recommended Tracks – I Am Not Afraid, In Conflict, On a Path, Song For Five & Six, The Secret Seven, Chorale, The Sky Behind the Flag, The Riverbed, Infernal Fantasy
  • Singles – Song For Five & Six, The Riverbed

Owen Pallett is a singer-songwriter that has his roots as a touring violinist. He is also a composer and has arrangement credits on several albums of artists with household names such as Arcade Fire. This is his second album under his own name. Notably, the prolific Brian Eno contributed to In Conflict on synths and vocals.

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Farmer's CornerWooden Wand – Farmer’s Corner

  • Genre – Indie Folk, Experimental Folk
  • From – New York, Tennessee, Kentucky
  • Fav Tracks – Uneasy Peace, When the Trail Goes Cold, Dambuilding
  • Recommended Tracks – Uneasy Peace, When the Trail Goes Cold, Adie, Dambuilding, Home Horizon, Port of Call, Gone to Stay

James Jackson Toth adds jazz blushes on his folksy Americana to create an excellent lazy weekend kind of album.

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Black HoursHamilton Leithauser – Black Hours

  • Genre – Indie Pop
  • From – Washington D.C., New York
  • Fav Tracks – Alexandra, I Don’t Need Anyone, 11 O’Clock Friday Night
  • Recommended Tracks – 5 AM, The Silent Orchestra, Alexandra, I Don’t Need Anyone, I Retired, 11 O’Clock Friday Night
  • Singles: I Retired, Alexandra, 11 O’Clock Friday Night

Hamilton Leithauser is best known as the lead singer for The Walkmen. This is his debut solo album. The supporting musicians on this album are practically a who’s who list from my iPod and hail from: Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, The Shins, and Dirty Projectors.

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Ocean DeathBaths – Ocean Death EP

  • Genre – Experimental Electronic
  • From – Los Angeles
  • Fav Tracks – Ocean Death, Voyeur
  • Recommended Tracks – Ocean Death, Fade White, Voyeur, Orator, Yawn

Will Wiesenfeld treats us to 5 tracks not unlike the work on last year’s Obsidian. He is masterful at placing seemingly random clicks and snaps in the ideal location like a supermodel with the trendy, supposedly disheveled look – in truth every hair has been placed at the perfect angle.

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Upside Down MountainConor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Singer-songwriter
  • From – Nebraska, New York
  • Fav Track – Zigzagging Toward the Light, Hundred of Ways, Governor’s Ball
  • Recommended Tracks – Zigzagging Toward the Light, Hundred of Ways, Lonely at the Top, Enola Gay, Double lIfe, Night at Lake Unknown, You Are Your Mother’s Child, Governor’s Ball

Conor Oberst may be best known for his project, Bright Eyes, which thrust him into the forefront as an important figure in the indie folk rock scene. He is now considered and elder in the genre. On this and other Oberst albums, you’ll find a storyteller approach to music. The critics were split on this one between good reviews and mediocre ones. The main complaint of reviewers was that Upside Down Mountain was too perfect, too pretty, too gorgeous. There has been a deluge of dissonance this year, so I’ll take this easy-on-the-ears album!

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WhelmDouglas Dare – Whelm

  • Genre – Singer-songwriter, Piano
  • From – England
  • Fav Tracks – Clockwork, Repeat, Caroline
  • Recommended Tracks – Clockwork, Repeat, Caroline, Unrest, Lungful, Swim, London’s Rose
  • Single – Nile

Douglas Dare’s debut album, Whelm, has an overcast mood making it a perfect listen for a stormy day. Here you will find a singer at a piano, but with the addition of surprisingly fitting electronic flourishes. Dare uses interesting syncopation to yield a less predictable experience.

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TightropeChatham County Line – Tightrope

  • Genre – Bluegrass, Alt Country
  • From – North Carolina
  • Fav Tracks – The Traveler, Tightrope of Love, Will You Still Love Me
  • Recommended Tracks – The Traveler, Tightrope of Love, Sixteen Years, Ships At Sea, Will You Still Love Me

Chatham County Line provides thoughtful Bluegrass on their latest album, Tightrope.

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Friendly BacteriaMr. Scruff – Friendly Bacteria

  • Genre – Electronic
  • From – England
  • Fav Tracks – Render Me, Come Find Me, Feel Free
  • Recommend Tracks – Stereo Breath, Render Me, Deliverance, Thought To The Meaning, Come Find Me, He Don’t, Feel Free
  • Singles – Render Me, Thought To The Meaning

The beats are playful and the guest vocals are spot on. I love the jazz and R&B elements blended with an electronic base.

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Wine Dark SeaJolie Holland – Wine Dark Sea

  • Genre – Folk Jazz Fusion
  • From – Texas
  • Fav Tracks – Dark Days, The Love You Save
  • Recommended Tracks – On And On, Dark Days, The Love You Save, All The Love, Waiting For The Sun

Jolie Holland’s diction can be hard to endure on some songs, but these carefully selected tracks are worth your time. I especially enjoyed her backing band on this album.

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