Wednesday
May192010

New music: Marah - "Valley Farm Song"

Marah circa 2007Marah, more than possibly any other band, played a huge role in shaping and refining my musical tastes.  They entered my consciousness at an extremely formative time - the year was 2001 and I was about to enter my senior year of high school.  Kids In Philly was just about the most exciting thing I had ever heard - a record that channeled the soul and grit of Tom Waits, recklessness of The Replacements and youthful idealism of Springsteen.  As the title suggests, Kids In Philly has an undeniable sense of place, but the stories and characters are universal.  What sealed the deal for me though was the live show.  The marathon shows on 2004's tour in support of 20,000 Streets Under The Sky felt to me like seeing Springsteen in the early 70s.  The band was tight, the shows were long and almost spiritual.  I was mad to live and Marah made me feel alive.  The memories of listening to their music and seeing them live will forever help define my college years.  Those long nights at TTs, Maxwells, The Southpaw, The 100 Club in London are some of the most vivid and beautiful memories I have.

Marah faced a lot of adversity over those years though.  They dealt with numerous lineup changes, critical praise came and went and came again, they shared the stage with legends - but the commercial success they deserved never really came.  After the release of 2008's Angels of Destruction the band splintered, cancelling a world tour just days before it was scheduled to start.  Serge Bielanko headed west towards fatherhood, while brother Dave held down the fort - the Marah as I knew it was done for good.  I haven't seen them live since 2006 and, which might be for the best.  

With all that as background, suffice it to say that my interest was piqued when I saw that the "new" Marah has an album coming out soon, and the first single Valley Farm Song is starting to make the rounds online.  I'm happy to report that it mostly captures the ramshackle beauty of my favorite Marah songs.  Clattering percussion, suczzy guitars and Dave's distinctive nicotine-stained voice.  Check it out, along with a few of my favorite Marah songs (one from each record):

Valley Farm Song (new)
Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft (Let's Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later On)
My Heart Is The Bums On The Street (Kids In Philly)
Soul (Float Away With The Friday Night Gods)
Pigeon Heart (20,000 Streets Under The Sky)
Sooner or Later (If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry)
Can't Take It With You (Angels of Destruction)

Sunday
May092010

Recommended: Vikesh Kapoor

  

Vikesh Kapoor writes folk songs that sound as if they were teleported from 1960s Greenwich Village - but rather than shallow nostalgia, the songs take real modern issues and wrap them in language and delivery that recall the past.  Newspress Scare, a freewheelin' protest song,  uses a metaphor of a broken newspress to comment on topics such as political deception, the failure of media and public apathy -- or at least that's my interpretation.  Listen for yourself:

Vikesh Kapoor - Newspress Scare

Get the Newspress Scare 7" here.  Vikesh Kapoor opens for John Shade at Lizard Lounge tomorrow (5/11), tickets only $5 - get them here.


Friday
May072010

Album preview: Delta Spirit - History From Below

Wednesday
May052010

New music: St. Claire

You know that fuzzy feeling you get when you find a new song or band that completely blows you away on first listen?  Well, I got that feeling last night when I stumbled onto St. Claire's myspace page and heard tracks from their upcoming debut Everyone Lives Here.  Really excited to share this with everyone. 

I really don't know much about the band beyond what's on their myspace, so I'll just focus on the music.  Emily Forsythe's sultry voice takes these simple, dreamy folk songs to a another level - the result is completely mesmerizing.  While the vocals are what drew me in, these are truly great songs - full of lush melodies and smart lyrics.  Layers of harmonies, background vocals add depth, while banjos, glockenspiel and snare add texture  -- and that's just The Simple Things, which the band has graciously allowed me to post for stream or download:

St. Claire - The Simple Things

The band's debut record Everyone Lives Here is out later this summer - and they'll be celebrating the release of the record July 8 at Great Scott with Hallelujah The Hills, Mr. Sister and Sleepy Very Sleepy.  Get tickets here.  I won't miss it.

Check out more songs from the upcoming Everyone Lives Here on myspace, as well as fantastic covers of Neil Young's Round and Round and John Lennon's Love.

Wednesday
May052010

Recommended: John Shade

     

The fantastic debut from John Shade, All You Love Is Need, is an album that deserves attention.  The songs are musically simple, which allows the beauty and heartbreak of the lyrics to shine through.  Shade (not his real name) is a deft songwriter and lyricist, and his pop sensibilities are apparent.  The arrangements are mostly sparse, but are highlighted with strings, horns and percussion that give the songs life.  Also, this record sounds great - really nice production.  The entire album is available for free - or whatever you want to pay for it - here.  Get it now.

I had such a hard time choosing which song to post, I decided to post three (hope that's okay!).  Little Heart and So Long, Theresa are heartbreaking and beautiful.  I Hate The World... is a bit more uplifting.  All are great.

Little Heart
So Long, Theresa
I Hate The World (And Everyone In It)

John Shade has 2 weeks left on his 3 week residency at Lizard Lounge - get tickets here.  Great openers as well - Vikesh Kapoor opens 5/11 and Jocie Adams of The Low Anthem opens 5/18.  Tickets only $5!

Tuesday
May042010

New release: Woods - At Echo Lake

 

Lots of heavyweights on the "New Release" racks this week.  Broken Social Scene, Josh Ritter, The New Pornographers, The Hold Steady, etc.  However, the release that I'd like to focus on is Woods' At Echo Lake.  The songs that comprise At Echo Lake pick up where 2009's Songs of Shame left off - psych jams built on blues, country and pop foundations.  They continue to have a knack for writing songs that sound tossed-off at first glance, but reveal depth with each listen.  Folk songs with filthy blues guitar licks, sludgy jams laced with pop melodies - this is right in my wheelhouse.

After a few listens, Suffering Season is one of my favorites from At Echo Lake - enjoy and please support Woods:

Woods - Suffering Season

Friday
Apr302010

Kitchen Sessions #1: The David Wax Museum

Kitchen Sessions is the brainchild of visible voice contributor Steve Legare.  The idea is simple; great bands playing intimate house shows, filmed for all the world to enjoy.  Good deal.   

The first installment of Kitchen Sessions features the great David Wax Museum.  This amazing content comes courtesy of Kitchen Sessions - check out kitchensessions.net for more videos.  Also, huge thanks to guest contributor Maria Cristina Romero!

 

Combining many musical styles can be tricky, often resulting in mimicry, identity failure, or at worst, a total sonic nightmare. The David Wax Museum, however, pulls it off with seemingly effortless skill. Emerging at a time when indie roots-rock groups are a dime a dozen, the Boston-based band is an exciting exception, melding rural Mexican melodies with Mid-western folk. I was fortunate enough to experience this unique sound first-hand when The David Wax Museum brought its unparalleled musical chemistry into my living room last March.

Having heard only a few tracks off of the sextet’s second album, Carpenter Bird (September 2009), I didn’t know what to expect when Steve Legare, my housemate and Visible Voice contributor, told me the band would be coming to our apartment. Legare met Missouri-bred front man, David Wax, in February after an exuberant set at a sold-out Club Passim. When Legare invited Wax into our kitchen, he enthusiastically agreed. Just days later, The David Wax Museum was in our home, serving up its refreshing blend of Mexo-American roots-rock to an audience of intimate friends and new acquaintances.

Wax and Co. transformed the 15 x 24 living room with their effortless and ebullient play.  David stirred and strummed his guitar (and jarana), as Suz Slezak’s effervescent fiddling and occasional donkey jawbone rattling added melody and texture. Wax’s cousin and fellow Missourian, Jordan Wax, added extra flavor on accordion while Jiro Kobuko delivered masterful solos on the mandolin and dobro. With a set ranging from folk ballads to Andean-inspired chants, the foursome showcased its Latino alt-folk fusion, and left our eager ears wanting more. Despite being short two members—percussionist Greg Glassman and bassist Mike Roberts—the Wax Museum put on an unforgettable performance. Drawing us in with honey-smooth harmonies in “Beekeeper,” bringing us to our feet with “Colas,” and haunting us with hearty howls in “Unfruitful,” the band left with a roomful of Somerville fans that night. The evening culminated in the countrified son jarocho-inspired title track, “Carpenter Bird.” Jordan filled in for Glassman, the featured percussionist and vocalist on the album version, and the band performed beautifully, belting out verses from atop chairs scattered throughout the audience.

Using call-and-response techniques and an array of instruments, the group creates an engaging and authentic sound that is difficult to compare. Nestled somewhere in between Hank Williams and Calexico, The David Wax Museum carves an untapped niche for its distinct style. With more son influence than mariachi, and a lot more fiddle, “Boston’s homegrown answer to Calexico” (The Bostonist) effectively sets itself apart. What Wax lacks in natural fluency he makes up for with his smart lyrics and his infectious energy. Being tagged “one of Boston’s hottest new bands” is no easy feat, but The David Wax Museum lives up to its hype. See for yourselves this Sunday, May 2nd when the band returns to Club Passim in Harvard Square with Jiro Kokubu, Greg Glassman, and Mike Roberts. 

- Maria Cristina Romero

The David Wax Museum also play a free show in Harvard Square tomorrow (5/2) as part of the Harvard Square MayFair, and have a busy summer with many dates in the area.  Check out their full tour schedule here 


Unfruitful

 
Si Te Vas

More videos at kitchensessions.net

 

Thursday
Apr292010

New Music:  Phosphorescent

I've now heard two tracks from Phosphorescent's upcoming LP Here’s To Taking It Easy, and both have knocked me out.  It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama) is propelled by a bouncy bass line and horn section.  The Mermaid Parade, on the other hand, rambles along at a more laid back pace - sounding like a Basement Tapes or American Beauty outtake, guitar licks dancing with honky tonk piano. 

The Mermaid Parade
It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)

Here's To Taking It Easy is out May 11 on Dead Oceans.  You can pre-order CD and vinyl here

Monday
Apr262010

Recommended: Wooden Dinosaur

This post has been a long time coming.  Nearly Lost Stars, the debut album from Vermont's Wooden Dinosaur, is one of my favorite albums of the year so far.  Michael Roberts' timeless lyrics are the centerpiece of these folk songs, but the band's interesting arrangements help flesh things out.  Horns, bells, banjo and strings add color to the sepia-toned fingerpicked acoustic guitar that forms the base of these songs.  Highly recommend checking this out - buy the record here, or check out more tracks on their myspace


One of many favorites from the album:

Wooden Dinosaur - Can't Be Me

The band plays All Asia in Cambridge on May 21.  Look for more on Wooden Dinosaur on visible voice soon.

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