Archive for March, 2006

KCRW fave Jesca Hoop

Friday, March 31st, 2006

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Like a squirrel preparing for a long cold winter I have hidden little musical acorns throughout my bookmarks folder. I check in on these acorns occasionally to make sure they’re still there and that they are safe. Sometimes I’m surprised when I notice a new shoot erupting from the nut. That’s what has happened recently when I visited Jesca Hoop.

Discovered originally in part by Tom Waits and Nic Harcourt. Jesca Hoop is preparing her debut full length record. The songs from her debut ep, Silverscreen Demos, lit up the proverbial switchboard at KCRW and she has since been the recipient of a minor bidding war for her next release. Her singing is at times childlike yet complex and the themes of her songs are deep and come across as very spiritual almost mystical. Buy the ep here.

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Seed Of WonderEnemy [Download]

Albertan Alt-country from Corb Lund (Loose Records, March 27)

Friday, March 31st, 2006


Corb Lund‘s new record, Hair In My Eyes Like a Highland Steer, came out on March 27th on Loose Records. I just got back from Puerto Rico where I blew $60 on Blackjack in the hotel casino so I can relate to his new song “Cards”. Corb Lund is another alt-country singer from up north (Alberta to be exact). But I find his style to be quite his own.

The new record is produced by Harry Stinson and features the first call Nashville guitar of Kenny Vaughn. Pick it up here through Loose.

All I Want To Do Is Play Cards [Download]

Truth Comes Out [Download]

Eric Lindell’s take on bluesy soul (also a song from Hound Dog Taylor’s Alligator Records debut)

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

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Eric Lindell is Alligator Records newest signee. And from the sounds on his Alligator debut, Change In The Weather, this is a departure of sorts from what you might typically hear from that old guard blues label.

Eric Lindell sounds like he has obsorbed the locales he has been living in. Originally from California he has taken that state’s sunny approach to music (think Jack Johnson) and added it to the sound of New Orleans his current home (soul, r&b and blues). The subsequent mixture is unlike anything else you’ll hear although comparisons are being made to G-Love and Van Morrison. Hear for yourself this rising blues talent and buy his new record here now.

Change In The Weather [Download]

Bonus song from Hound Dog Taylor’s debut record taken from the Alligtor Records 35 Year Anniversary 2 disc set, buy it here.

She’s Gone [Download]

Kinsfolk Country Store – Luck Of The Roll And Go

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

9 times out of 10 if a reader of Songs:Illinois suggests a band I’m all ears. Usually the band will fit at least one of my particular musical tastes. I expect these recommendations to be of the alt-country and indie folk variety and usually am prepared for such. So I was a little surprised by the music of Kinsfolk Country Store (esp. given the name)

I’m not going to even try to describe the sound; as within and between each song the stylistic variation is extreme. Dynamics and tempos change on a moments notice, and songs that start out as eclectic pop meander down the freak folk highway and then wind up as British psychadelia. You can buy their 2006 release record, Luck Of The Roll And Go, at CD Baby or you can negotiate directly with the band for a reduced rate ($7-10) – grandpa@kinsfolkcountrystore.com.

I Enjoy To SingBaked A Cake [Download]

Lindsay Clark (RIYL Shelley Short, Birdie Busch, Casey Dienel)

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

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Of course it’s way too early and just plain silly to say that Lindsay Clark is the new Casey Dienel (here) but there I said it. But really there are similartities starting with the locale (Boston), the instrument (piano) and the sound (lofi pop). Lindsey Clark performs under the banner Re-Cognition.

Her new demos are up on her site expect them to appear on her new record which she has just started recording. “When I go To Sleep” just plain aches with feeling. On this song and “Portuguese” her wavering voice is countered by jaunty piano.

When I Go To SleepPortuguese [Download]

Grand Mal’s "Love Is The Best Con In Town" (New York Night Train, March 30)

Monday, March 27th, 2006

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Grand Mal is the perfect followup to last weeks post of the NYC band Izzy. Grand Mal’s frontman and all around go to guy Bill Whitten is also of NYC and this record is his first produced by himself and in his apartment. In the past Mercury Rev’s Dave Friedman ably produced his earlier solo works and before that Bill headed up the grungy group St. Johnny.

His work with Grand Mal sounds more polished but is still rooted in messy rock `n’ roll. “His Baleful Eye” namedrops David Bowie and rightfully so with his allusions to “windows in time” and love as a “black cancerous mass”. The new record, Love Is the Best Con In Town, is due out March 30 on New York Night Train Records. Pre-release copies may still be available here.

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His Balefull Eye [Download]

Oddly the tip to write about this new release came from Sweden’s Groover Recordings who have nothing to gain from publicity for Grand Mal. So thanks Groover.

Weedhawks’ "Queen Of The Skinny Girls"

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

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The band Weedhawks host their site though something called “notowar.com” so you gotta love `em for that (unless you’re one of the few hawks still out there). The band has no bio, no webstore, no email and certainly no video. But the band has put up a number of choice cuts up to sample.

If these two are a couple than they’ve got some issues with their relationship as outlined by “Nosy Little Town” and “Queen of the Skinny Girls”.

Queen of the Skinny GirlsNosy Little Town [Download]

Move on out to The Western Suburbs

Saturday, March 25th, 2006


When 6 of your top 8 friends on MySpace are The National, Smog, Wilco, Magnolia Electric Company, Pernice Brothers and Brian Jonestown Massacre you know you’re probably doing something right. Western Suburbs certainly is.

The band is based in Ripponden in West Yorkshire and they’ve patterned their music on Neil Young, Granddaddy, Smog and Sparklehorse.

Siegfried and Roy [Download]

Pentacostal preacher rock from Mike Gunther & His Restless Souls (Heart Of A Champion, April 4)

Friday, March 24th, 2006

The best scene in Walk The Line is where Johnny Cash auditions for Sam Philips by playing a gospel song. Johnny was a huge fan of gospel and his gospel records are some of the best stuff he ever recorded. But in this scene Sam Philips says he’s not buying it and Johnny asks if he’s saying he doesn’t think he believes in God. Anyway Johnny proceeds to sing one of his own songs, “Fulsom Prison” and the rest is history. If Johnny had sung that gospel song with the same fevered intensity of Mike Gunther & His Restless Souls perhaps Sam Phillips would have signed him up after only one song.

I’m a fan of music that has religious themes but I’m also a fan of bands that sing with the passion and fire of a Pentacostal preacher on acid. You can add Mike Gunther & His Restless Souls to the short list of bands performing in this genre (Legendary Shack Shakers, Rev. Horton Heat etc). The bands new record Burn It Down For The Nails comes out April 4 on Heart of a Champion. The songs I’ve heard have and intensity and clarity that you don’t hear everyday. I love the bio given for Mike Gunther. To recap he taught himself guitar at age 14 after hearing Robert Johnson on the radio, he’s hopped freight cars, skipped school to study music and had every job under the sun.

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Easy MoneyWalk All Over It [Download]

Compare and contrast:
Legendary Shack Shakers from the 2006 release on Yep Roc Pandelirium.

IchabodNo Such Thing [Download]

Do The Musiking (Pickled Egg Records, May)

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006


I’ve wanted to write about Big Eyes for awhile but I missed their last release and I couldn’t get my hands on something they did recently on the French label Hinah. But now thanks to the English label Pickled Egg I have my choice of 5 songs from their upcoming May release Do The MusiKing.

This record was created over the last 3 years primarily by James Geen and David Jaycock but also with guests like James William Hindle, Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s) and Suzy Mangion (George). The sound is orchestrated chamber folk that meanders in a way that is often surprising and refreshing. You can preorder this now despite it’s May release date from Pickled Egg directly at their shop.

Sunday JacketThe Printmakers Dilemma [Download]

Something rare from Jens Lekman

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

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I found this Jens Lekman song online somewhere. Not sure where (and it’s not in Jen’s semi official song list). But it wasn’t another blog so I don’t have to credit anyone. Jens has the most disctinctive style of any singer performing today, whether it’s just him and a uke or if it’s a whole symphonic piece. Visit his website and beg him not to walk away from his music career as he has been threatening to do for the last month or so.

Throw Your Arms Around Me [Download]

Morrissey’s irrelevant!?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

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I like Morrissey as much as the next guy but really he’s getting a little long in the tooth isn’t he? Isn’t there some up and coming UK band that deserves some press and that retains the classic Smiths sound? And don’t tell me The Arctic Monkeys!

Perhaps a band to considor is Cats On Fire. Like Arctic Monkeys they have all their demos online as mp3′s. Unlike Arctic Monkeys there are no NME photogs buzzing around their flats, no bloggers drooling over their every live performance and certainly no Pitchfork crowning them the next big thing. So in terms of career longevity this is all good news for Cats On Fire. Check out the two songs below and I dare you not to love them.

These songs are taken from 2005′s Seelonce Mayday Demos; more songs here.

The Cold Hands Of Great MenThe Smell Of An Artist [Download]

Real Austin Music 2 – Stayton Bonner ("Me and My Poodle")

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Stayton Bonner is not that different from some of the great storytelling songwriters, whether it’s classic old timers like James Taylor and Lyle Lovett or the more modern troubadours like Slaid Cleaves and Hayes Carll. That he has similarities with these great singers is a compliment and not something to hold against him. After all you can only do so much with an acoustic guitar and the human voice.

His second record, I Think I’m Goin To Move To Austrailia, was just released in January of this year. Stayton is on tour with fellow Texas troubador Graham Weber. Check out his song about his poodle, Willie, below. Buy I think… here.

Me And My Poodle [Download]

Real Austin music – Graham Weber

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006


I think there’s a shortage of real protege’s these days. Perhaps it’s because bands don’t get out as much as they used to nowadays. Now you can hone your sound from your computer as long as you have broadband and Pro Tools. In Austin the protege and mentor system is still going strong. In Graham Weber’s case his mentor has been one of my favorite singer songwriters and current prince of Austin Slaid Cleaves.

It’s hard to know how much Slaid helped this young man make the rounds and improve his sound but according to Graham himself “he’s single-handedly helped me along this year”. In fact Slaid is going to even record one of Grham Weber’s songs on his next record.

This is as good as it gets in the folk/blues/singer-songwriter genre. The images that accumualte in the song “After All” are enough to make any established songwriter humble in their presence. Order Graham Weber’s new record Beggar’s Blues (Jan 31, 2006) here.

After AllCaught Up In The Race [Download]

**Here’s the guy everyone’s being compared to at the moment. Hayes Carll recently became the first artist whose self released record made it to #1 on the Americana Music Chart. Here’s his take on one of John Prine’s most beloved songs:

Speed Of The Sound Of Lonliness [Download]
(Live)

Matt Bauer’s new ep "Wasps and White Roses" (w/Jolie Holland) (Crossbill Records, April 4)

Monday, March 20th, 2006

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I literally have 15 posts qued up but I couldn’t resist writing about the new ep from Matt Bauer. Titled Wasps and White Roses, this is the followup to 2004′s debut Nandina (wrote about it here). This one is as sparse as the first but this time the songs open up a little bit more with female vocals added to the mix and at times the songs even have a down-home bluegrass feel with the addition of some fiddle. However, they still retain the gothic americana vibe that postitions Matt Bauer somewhere between indie folk and rustic country.

Btw when I say female vocals I don’t just mean some girlfriend or other who just happened to be hanging out in the studio. The female vocals on Wasps and White Roses are by none other than Jolie Holland and Marie Sioux (Brightblack). This record is coming out in April on the resuscitated label Crossbill Records. Of course Matt’s played with everyone and their brother but for a real treat why don’t you catch him playing with Tom Brousseau on 3/28 at Club Passim in Cambridge and 3/29 at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. So look; the packaging is cool, the record is fantastic, the guy’s on tour and I’m telling you to buy it. What else do you want!? Buy it here now.

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Carve It Out [Download]
(w/Jolie Holland)

Bonus: Live song from Tom Brousseau, fresh off being mentioned in Stereogum, titled “Rose”. Buy it here.

Rose [Download]

Karine Polwart – Scribbled In Chalk (Spit and Polish Records, April 4) (plus my first embedded You Tube vid)

Monday, March 20th, 2006

Karine Polwart is a celebrated Scottish folksinger. In 2005 she won best folk album and artist from BBC Radio. Think of her as an unsung KT Tunstall. She shares label space in the UK with Laura Cantrell, Amy Rigby and Jason Ringenburg at Spit and Polish Records.

Her new record, Scribbled In Chalk, is due out in the UK on Monday April 4th. Her Scottish accent is just prominent enough to add a bit of an original style to her soaring folk music. And while there is probably much more you can glean from this song, I’m left with the image of a sweater unraveling in one’s dreams.

I’ve Seen It All [Download]

P.S. Here’s a You Tube video of “I’m Goin To Do It All” from the same record. As beautiful, if not more so.

You can pre-order your copy here.

P.P.S Over at Swedesplease I have a one song preview of a prominent singsongwriter’s new record. I’m going to leave it at that in case you know who is trolling around the internet.

The Izzy’s from NYC (music to get you out of bed on a Sunday morning)

Sunday, March 19th, 2006


I gotta admit that I liked The Rolling Stones at halftime of the Superbowl. I thought that despite their age they were as energetic as any band I could think to book, their songs stand up and even with the self-censorship issue I thought they tore it up. Needless to say then I’m excited by any of the bands that are bashing out songs using the Stones bluesy, fuck-you attitude and formulaic sound. Besides the fabulous Deadstring Brothers from Detroit, I think NYC’s The Izzy’s come closest to capturing the eternally youthful and confrontational sound of early Stones (and thus early blues inflected rock n roll).

Here’s a song of their self released debut. They also have a 7″ out now on Kanine Records.

Dreaming [Download]

An exclusive song from Gina Villalobos’ upcoming record "Miles Away"

Saturday, March 18th, 2006


Gina Villalobos (referring to yesterday’s post) has been kind enough to get in touch and provide one of her favorite songs off the new album, Miles Away, exclusively to Songs:Illinois. She also corrected the release date, Miles Away is due out in the UK on May 8 (Laughing Outlaw). News of the US release date will be announced in a month or so.

“Hard Enough” shows the other side of Gina’s musical coin (yesterday’s track “Somebody Save Me” is a lot more ballsy). “Hard Enough” is a rough hewn ballad that explores the struggle against the hardening of a person’s heart.

Hard Enough [Download]

The Five Mod Fours (Contraphonic, March 14) plus ex-Clyde Federal

Friday, March 17th, 2006

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The Five Mod Four’s bio namedrops Miracle Legion and The db’s and that pretty much covers the bases. I’d go out on a limb and mention the hyperkinetic jazz/indierock/funk of Big Dipper as well. Of course the band’s name must refer to their most sancrosant band: The Beatles.

The new record, Whiskers, is due out March 14th on Contraphonic. If I had time I could really get into the song “Somebody Failed” but maybe it can be your theme song instead.

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Somebody Failed [Download]

This should be a seperate post but I’m on a roll so what the hell. Here’s a song from the upcoming solo record from ex-Clyde Federal frontman from his project Violins also from Contaphonic. Here’s one from Pink Water (May 9).

Sophie and Pierre [Download]

Preview a song from Gina Villalobos new release (Laughing Outlaw, May)

Friday, March 17th, 2006


What’s the world going to be like when they outright ban cigarrettes and hard liquor? How will we get artists that sound like Tow Waits, Nick Cave, Lucinda Williams and now Gina Villalobos. Gina’s not exactly a new commodotity to me as I’ve been waiting for her next release, exploring her brother’s music and rifling through all the band links on her site/MySpace page.

But if this is the first time you’ve heard of her don’t worry, you’re still early enough to say you knew her when. Her new record is released on May 20 in the UK (Laughing Outlaw) and maybe later in 2006 in the states. I refuse to compare her to other artists (think L.W. or K.E.) but her sound is rooted in the godforsaken desert sounds of real country music (that rocks). The electric guitars and her raspy, well-worn voice are right up front in the mix while the traditional sounding pedal steel is used to supplement her sound. “Somebody Save Me” continues the path she took on her debut record a few years ago. Nothing new but still exemplary.

Somebody Save Me [Download]