Archive for October, 2010

Glee(ful) pop music from unknown Swede Johan Hillblom

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Full disclosure: I went a little nuts about unknown Swede John Hillblom last Friday on Swedesplease. Usually when that happens I get ignored and the band slips further into oblivion. But this time people are responding so I’m going to repost that Swedesplease post here. Frankly I think Johan should be immediately added to the Glee cast. If you are a fan of the Decemberists, Belle and Sebastian, and/or Antony and the Johnsons you really need to listen to this.


If you read this site with any regularity you know that I actually prefer demos to an overproduced product. I also prefer sincerity over stale cliches and indie rock hubris. So when I heard the songs of Johan Hillblom I was smitten.

The song “Sneak Preview” may be underproduced but that doesn’t mean it’s amateurish. The trumpet solos are great, the odd beats cool, and Johan’s crooning vocals clear and crisp. The lyrics are personal and clever without being pretentious. Examples include “you should see the gallery in my cellphone, you look like an angel from every angle” and “once when I was drunk I accidentally poked you on Facebook, and what’s worse you didn’t poke back”.

In a word if you are looking for the next Jens Lekman or Montt Mardie (or the next cast member of Glee for that matter) you needn’t look any further.

Sneak Preview [Download]

Bonus song (and here’s where the Glee reference comes from):

Left me to wake [Download]

Caleb Stine – “I Wasn’t Built For A Life Like This”

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Unlike a lot of people I like songs about life on the road. In fact I just read an interview with Taylor Swift where she said she didn’t want to write songs about life on the road. Well, her life on the road is filled with pampered lunches, adoring fans, and first class dinners so I could see why that might not make the best subject matter.

In the case of the title track from Caleb Stine’s new record I Wasn’t Built For A Life Like This life on the road is hard, fraught with substance abuse, and a sad, lonely place. On the other hand Caleb can’t imagine living any other way, especially when he sees his friends happy and content in the suburbs.

Caleb lives in Baltimore and when he’s not on the road living the life of a traveling troubadour he is opening up for all the cool artists coming through town. Catch him this Monday opening for Johnny Flynn at Sonar.

Buy the new record here.

I Wasn’t Built For A Life Like This [Download]

Bonus – here’s a great video of the first song on the new record:

“My Service Isn’t Needed Anymore”

Ben Weaver – “Mirepoix and Smoke” (Bloodshot Records, Oct 19)

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Usually I’d write a little something about the record from which a song comes. Try to give some insight, however slight, on the artist’s inspiration. But Ben Weaver has already done this for me with his “artist statement” posted to the Bloodshot Records webpage.

Ben Weaver artist statement [Download]

The new record is called Mirepoix and Smoke. You can buy it here now. Ben Weaver has an extensive midwest tour starting in Minneapolis and ending in Chicago (Schubas) on November 13.

I hear a little about what Ben talks about in his artist statement in the song “Grass Doe”. The song is a little more basic than his past works, the music is a little more stripped down. But lyrically the song is filled with wonderful imagery of nature. Erica Froman, formerly of the group Anathallo, adds some lovely harmony vocals. I think this is the Ben Weaver record I’ve been waiting for.

Grass Doe [Download]

Bonus (this song was written for Sandbox Theater’s production of a play about the Wandrai Brothers):

Coldest Winter 1944 [Download]

New Music from The Davenports – “Christopher Starts” (Mother West Records, Jan. 11)

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

There was a time when songs like The Davenports “Christopher Starts” ruled the college radio airwaves. Bands like The Posies, REM, and The Bears were the norm and not the exception. That time has passed and now power pop is another maligned and marginalized sub genre of indie rock. Luckily there are music supervisors out there who find this kind of accessible but crunchy pop a perfect foil for any number of scenes. In part The Davenports owe some of their success to such song placements. It’s their song that is the theme of Intervention. Others have been licensed by MTV. But don’t hold that against them. This is smart, catchy pop.

“Christopher Starts” is from the much delayed full length Why The Great Gallop?

Christopher Starts [Download]

Johnny Corndawg – “The Life of a Bear”

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Wow it took a little searching but I have a post for today. Real country music too from Johnny Corndawg. The song is “The Life Of A Bear” and is from an upcoming record called Down On The Bikini Line. Rich Gilbert is on pedal steel and guitars; if you are a fan of Boston music you’ll remember him from his bands The Zulus and Human Sexual Response. Johnny’s on tour for the month of November with The Futurebirds’; catch their Nov. 19 Schubas show.

The Life of a Bear [Download]

Chris Brecht and the Dead Flowers – “Dead Flower Motel”

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Chris Brecht’s new record Dead Flower Motel was released earlier this summer. It somehow escaped my notice. On the song “Wish You” this Austin based singer-songwriter melds his voice with pedal steel, distorted guitars, and a unique array of sounds. You can buy the new record on BandCamp for $8 here.

Wish You [Download]

“Covington Girl” by David Olney

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I wanted to write about David Olney’s record Dutchman’s Curve for most of 2010. I never got around to it til today. David Olney is a singular talent with a very discernable style that is part country, part folk and part blues. On “Covington Girl” he even adds slightly celtic embellishments like flute.

Buy his new record here.

Covington Girl [Download]

P.S. The new Songs:Illinois t-shirts are in and can be ordered now over to the right. I think they’re pretty awesome and I think they’d make a unique gift for someone or even just for yourself!

New song from Darren Hayman’s “Essex Arms”

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

It looks like I am able to share one more song fairly legally from the new album Essex Arms from Darren Hayman. Clearly I love the guy from these posts (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) and I’m not sure quite why. But I think he’s a singular talent. Eclectic, sure, but accessible in a lofi anti-pop kind of way.

Winter (my server is acting up, song hosted by to stream/download)

“Red Pulpy Mess” Jonathan Burks

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

“Red Pulpy Mess” is the title tack from Jonathan Burks’ new album and as he puts it: the record and the song “take the metaphor of a ‘broken heart’ to it’s visceral limits…”

You can download this record and my personal favorite Loudmouth Soup over at Bandcamp for only $8.

Red Pulpy Mess [Download]

New song from Darren Hayman’s “Essex Arms”

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

It looks like I am able to share one more song fairly legally from the new album Essex Arms from Darren Hayman. Clearly I love the guy from these posts (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) and I’m not sure quite why. But I think he’s a singular talent. Eclectic, sure, but accessible in a lofi anti-pop kind of way.

Winter (my server is acting up, song hosted by to stream/download)

Glenna Bell – “Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder”

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I don’t know if that album title was specifically chosen by Glenna Bell to drum up hits and create a little controversy. If it was, great. Glenna Bell deserves our attention any way she can get it. I was struck by Glenna’s music when I wrote about her 2008 record The Road Less Traveled. And now she’s back and I’m awestruck again.

While I’d like to share an original or two off this new record because they are very good, it was impossible not to post this duet from the classic Clint Eastwood film written and originally sung by Marty Robbins. Buy it here (digital) or here (cd)

Honky Tonk Man [Download]

Glenna Bell video live at Houston Midtown

Dina Maccabee – “Who Do You Suppose You Are?” plus that hilarious indie-pop girl video

Friday, October 1st, 2010

I like what Chicago label Contraphonic does. It’s a little out there at times but I consider them a fine Chicago label. When I heard they were starting a smaller boutique label I laughed. How can you get much smaller than Contraphonic and what would they release on this smaller label that they couldn’t on Contraphonic?

The answer is the debut record from Dina Maccabee. The new label is called ANTEPHONIC and Dina’s release is titled Who do you Suppose You Are?. When I read that this record was a collaboration with “Chicago free-jazz stalwart Tobin Summerfield” I prepared myself for a cacophony of dissonance. Instead I got a slightly experimental but mostly accessible indie pop. Smarter than your average indie pop, more orchestral, and better produced but not noisy or out there at all.

Here’s the song “HiYo”. But it here.

HiYo [Download]

Couldn’t help but link to this hilarious video about what happens if you marry an indie pop girl: