By Sierra Drucker
In the musical era of a major soul re-emergence, Electric Guest come across with a fresh new spin on the genre. Blending it ever so slightly with indie rock and a tinge of hip pop flavor, this Los Angeles duo burst onto the scene with a killer debut.
It’s kind of impossible not to fall in love with their single “This Head I Hold.” It’s catchy, effortlessly stylized, modern and yet tinged with an indiscriminate feeling of nostalgia for the musical decades of yore. From the layered and flowing instrumentation, to those super smooth falsetto vocals, this tune offers a little slice of cultivated perfection.
So who are the masterminds behind it all? Singer Asa Taccone, along with his uber-talented multi-instrumentalist bandmate Matthew Compton, has been busy behind the scenes producing hits for brother Jorma Taccone’s novelty project, The Lonely Island (as made famous by Andy Samberg and Saturday Night Live). Asa’s brother just happened to be longtime friends with the one and only Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse). After hearing some of Asa’s songs, Burton knew he wanted to be a part of this passion project.
You can really hear that signature Danger Mouse sound on the track “American Daydream.” Take a listen and watch Asa completely lose his s&*t in their first official video, directed by Jorma Taccone.
Nearly six years and one stress-induced episode of shingles later, Electric Guest has a Danger Mouse-produced full length, and a shiny new label deal with Downtown/Fontana Records.
By: Sierra Drucker
Heartless Bastards epitomize good old rock and roll for the new age. This foursome hails from Ohio, home to fellow rock brethren The Black Keys who actually passed the Bastards’ demo along to Fat Possum who quickly recognized the talent and signed them in 2004. Four albums later, and with a slightly new lineup, they are about to release their debut full length for Partisan Records, undoubtedly their best work yet.
Although they take inspiration from old school rock staples like The Breeders, Guided By Voices, Otis Redding and Led Zeppelin, they deliver 10 leathery blues rockin tracks with a consciously modern twist. A newly refined production courtesy of Jim Eno from Spoon breathes life into their music, taking them from garage rock to, well, garage rock if you went to the container store and organized all of the tools.
Arrow finds the band using subtler instrumentation to accentuate the firey and weathered vocals of their fearless front-woman, Erika Wennerstrom. Her sound is timeless, reminiscent of Janis Joplin or Victoria Legrand, not only because she possesses that extraordinary tone, but also because of her unflinching delivery that can only come from writing the songs herself.
Click the image below to indulge your ears with another gorgeous new song, “Only For You,” courtesy of KCRW’s Liza Richardson, and prepare to melt under Wennerstrom’s mercilessly swooning vocals.
Lucky for us, Heartless Bastards are preparing for a nationwide tour, with a stop at Los Angeles’ Echoplex on April 3rd. Until then, be sure to pre-order your copy and anxiously await the release date (February 14th) when you can strap on your best sunglasses, roll the window down, and blast the Heartless Bastards while the wind whips your hair – like a badass.
2011 has been an amazing year for the music video. Artists continue to push the boundaries of the medium, using it to challenge social norms, experiment with new technology, express beauty, comedy, and tragedy, sometimes all at once. There have been so many videos that caught my eye this year, but I’ve narrowed it down to the top 11 of 2011.
#11: “It’s Real” by Real Estate
On top of being one of my favorite breakout bands of the year, these fellows tug on my heartstrings, complimenting this sunny song with an entire video dedicated to our canine friends. I want one!
#10: “You” by TV On The Radio
TV On The Radio take a look into a future that finds them broken up and exploring new and unique facets of life including Live Action Role Playing, the Bush Administration on Ice, Dojos, and, Jheri Curls. Let’s just hope they never break up, for Tunde’s sake.
#9: “Bizness” by tUnE-yArDs
This colorful creation plays off of all the best parts of this song. It’s playful, colorful, strange, and beautiful.
#8: “Our Deal” by Best Coast
Drew Barrymore directed this tragic and oh so stylish tale of two star-crossed lovers. Great video, however I feel like the random break-dancer at 2:38 kind of takes away from the severity of the situation. Just sayin’…
#7: “Tog” by Colourmusic
They say when it comes to horror films, the less you see, the more chilling Colourmusic wisely leaves this one up to the imagination. I think it was a pie-eating contest. Call me an optimist.
#6: “My Machines” by Battles
It was tough deciding between this video, or the sensual overload video that is “Ice Cream.” In the end, I went with this one I love the concept. It might be a social statement attacking our materialistic nature, or maybe it’s just someone’s Black Friday nightmare brought to life. I’ll let you decide.
#5: “Sprawl II” by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire went with another interactive video for “Sprawl II.” I can’t listen to this song without thinking of the Hood Internet’s Arcade Fire/Blondie mash-up. Anyway, check out the video below, and then get interactive HERE.
#4: “Cruel” by St. Vincent
St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy is most definitely my favorite album this year. That delicate voice floats along edgy distortion and dark subject matter, much like her video for “Cruel.”
#3: “Iron” by Woodkid
Prior to his music career Yoanne Lemoine (aka Woodkid) was a successful director working with artists like Yelle, Moby and Katy Perry. Lucky for us, he decided to dedicate himself to music as well, creating the epic and gorgeous “Iron.” In a word – breathtaking.
#2: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra
When you attach such a stunning and artful video to a song that is already so special, what you get is viral. It’s no wonder this video has over 25 million views. It simply never gets old.
#1: “Make Some Noise” by Beastie Boys
Beastie Boys are back with a vengeance this year, and this video says it all. They’ve combined pretty much all of my favorite actors in an epic video of alcohol and drug infused mayhem that ends in a dance-off gone sour. Check out the abbreviated video below, or enjoy the thirty-minute masterpiece HERE.
There were so many videos I wasn’t able to include. Alas, that’s what happens when you are limited to a list. Feel free to comment and share any other videos that caught your eye this year.
Happy New Year! May 2012 bring you music, laughter, creativity and peace of mind.
Like what you heard? Visit Sierra’s blog, Inland Sounds, for more musical offerings.
By: Sierra Drucker
Mayer Hawthorne is one smooth crooner for the modern age. He made the move from indie label Stones Throw to Universal Republic for his sophomore release How Do You Do, released earlier this month.
This soul-loving hipster recalls influences such as Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson. And while his music is certainly a revival of these Motown greats, Hawthorne adds his own progressive spin with tight production and a modern hilarity.
Check out his latest video for “The Walk”, which is essentially an abbreviated version of the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Why? Because he can.
Hawthorne knows that trends in music like the throwback genre are short-lived, so he’s clearly having fun while it lasts. Taking a tongue in cheek attitude to the lyrics, he keeps the themes light, even adding Snoop Dogg as a side artist on the decidedly silky and smirk-inducing R&B jam “Can’t Stop.”
One of my favorites, “A Long Time”, is a simple upbeat song about Hawthorne’s beloved Motor City, where much of his musical inspiration came from.
“A Long Time” – Mayer Hawthorne
“A Long Time (Chromeo Remix)” – Mayer Hawthorne
If you like what you hear, check out more goodies on Sierra’s blog, Inland Sounds.
By: Sierra Drucker
The remarkably talented Irish folkstress Lisa Hannigan has just released her sophomore full length Passenger (ATO). The Mercury Prize nominee teamed up with famed producer Joe Henry (Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples, and more) to create this masterful work. Enjoy a taste with the first single, “Knots.”
From start to finish, this album is pure delight – poetry plays out through pointed lyrics and warm compositions filled with weathered strings, ukelele, piano, and that undeniable voice. The emotional draw of her music begs comparison to artists like Fiona Apple, Katie Herzig, and Feist. She pushes the realm of folk music without even trying, or so it seems.
Her career began when she paired up with fellow Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice. When things went sour, she decided to focus on a solo career, releasing her debut album Sea Sew in 2008. Her talents were soon discovered and met with critical acclaim and chart success. Though she isn’t quite a household name yet, I imagine her sophomore album will pick up even more heat, catapulting her further into the spotlight.
While I would recommend listening to the entire album (which you can actually stream for a short period via KCRW), if I had to recommend one more song, it would be “O, Sleep”. Pair her up with the gut-wrenching vocals of the incomparable Ray LaMontagne, and you get a song that can make a grown man curl into fetal position with a blankie.
Hannigan is currently on a North American tour. Be sure to catch her when she’s in your neck of the woods. You can check the dates out HERE.
By: Sierra Drucker
Little Majorette’s debut full-length has finally received a proper U.S. release. Rifle Heart delivers pop with an unusual quirkiness, typical of fellow Swedish taste-makers like Lykke Li, El Perro Del Mar, and The Radio Dept. There must be something in the water…
The album offers crisp digital-meets-analog electronic leaning pop with an edge, a sound no doubt influenced by producer Pontus Winnberg who has worked with everyone from Miike Snow to Britney Spears, and just so happens to be the brother of Little Majorette’s Petter Winnberg.
Recorded over a period of three years, each song has a unique feel that keeps us guessing.
For instance, the undeniably catchy single, “Overflow,” bears a Bird & The Bee cuteness.
By: Sierra Drucker
Nu-disco King Vito De Luca, aka Aeroplane, is like butter on my turntables. Sleek, rich, and it just sticks. I find that any time is the right time for Aeroplane. Taking a hint from Scissor Sisters, this Belgian is a risk-taker, and not just musically.
Take a look at the video for “Superstar” and you’ll get the idea:
I think Freddy Mercury would appreciate that piano riff. Big, bold, and very ambitious, he takes chances with that standard nu-disco sound. While critics have mixed views on his latest full length We Can’t Fly, I think anyone who challenges the norm is worth a second listen.
Just take the infectious title track, “We Can’t Fly”. Glossy synth and groovy hints of dub mix surprisingly well with gospel-esque vocals. Who would have thought…
Finding an Aeroplane remix is like finding a pot of gold. You just know he poured his shiny disco heart into it. I’ll leave you with a little gem named “Faith”. Enjoy, and be sure to check out more of his music for yourself.