Earlier in the year, I was absolutely sure that I was burned out on folk music for the rest of 2007, but Travel by Sea somehow rekindled that love. Autumn Tone Records has reissued the duo’s debut, Shadows Rise, and what a debut it is. Reminiscent of an understated Midlake and bits of Wilco, Shadows Rise does everything right, from the atmospheric instrumentals, to the rolling piano and guitar riffs that scream nostalgia, to the subtle, melancholic vocals. What makes this all the more impressive is that in the three years making this album, the two bandmates never really met in real life; all of their recording, producing, and trackmaking was carried out over the Internet. Admittedly, it’s not a breakthrough album, as it doesn’t have any surprises or hidden tricks up its sleeve, but it’s just an excellent example of how far any band can go as long as they have talent or passion for their work. That alone should be reason enough to check them out. Keep an eye out for their sophomore release later this year; it should have enough oomph in it to make waves in the underground.
A camping article
I know what you’re thinking: oh great, another female singer-songwriter. Normally I’d be on your side, but Jolie Holland is actually quite different. True, on the outside this self-taught Texas native just looks like any other Neko Case wannabe. Hell, she even has the red hair. However, when you sit down and actually listen to her music, you begin to realize why her newest album, Springtime Can Kill You, is one of the better and more refreshing releases to come out this year. With smooth vocals that easily roll around the instrumentals, Jolie has a musical style that’s not quite of this era. Whereas we’re seeing a resurgence of female singer-songwriters these days taking the folk/alt-country route, Jolie takes a slight detour and veers into the kind of American swing/country-blues music that was prevalent in those black-and-white days where families huddled around the radio instead of a television. This is one of those perfect albums to have on vinyl; the raw sound and subtle pops produced by a record player really adds to the rustic, nostalgic atmosphere, making it a more intimate affair. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more swing and reminiscent of busy 30’s city life, I’d recommend you go out and get Jolie’s previous album, Escondida; while Springtime Can Kill You provides a casual, loungy feel, lush with slow-paced, relaxed piano, her previous album is considerably more bustling, with more jazz-inspired arrangements backing it. Either way, both are excellent, refreshing albums in a market flooded with so many singer-songwriters trying to take a jab at folk music, which is frankly getting a little bit overdone for my tastes. To help you choose which album to go with, the following two tracks are from Escondida and Springtime Can Kill You, respectively. If it were up to me, I’d get both albums, because both complement each other perfectly, but whichever suits your tastes.
We like campervans too!
Beginning the night’s rather short bill was Barsuk label mates (get it, mates?) of Mates of State, The Starlight Mints, and to be honest, I was pretty disappointed. I had been looking forward to seeing them, having heard nothing but good things about their latest album Drowaton. But the lack of organic sound pretty much turned me off immediately. When a song heavily relies on violin, I believe that someone should be playing a violin, not using a lap top do it for them. If you can apply minute details such as singing through a plastic megaphone, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to rely a little less on clips. I’m not saying their music isn’t fun to listen to, but I felt like it was somewhat fabricated which takes the fun out of the live performance. Hey, at least they set up some unnecessary vertical lights behind them that flashed rainbow colors the entire set. Sadly this lighting made taking reasonable pictures impossible. Rounding out the night was Mates of State who took the stage after a lengthy intermission. As soon as sound check was finished, the incredible twosome ripped into their setlist which consisted of a delicate balance of their discography with a slight emphasis on their newest album Bring It Back. Although they didn’t start off with the most energy, as they progressed into the setlist it seemed as if Corey and Jason were getting more and more into the performance. It’s pretty amazing watching Corey’s hands as she plays the organ and how quickly they move in these complex patterns, yet she never looks down once. Jason’s on point drumming was flawless as well. Of course, any of their onstage interaction brought on swooning from the girls in the crowd. “They’re just too cute for words,” I heard one girl standing beside me sigh. And it is kind of sickening how meant for each other they are. This is more than apparent as you watch them stare into each others eyes mid-song mouthing words of encouragement and working together with such ease. Their happiness is pretty much contagious. I mean, it’s hard to watch two people so in their element and not smile. I scanned the crowd and the one word to describe the mood of the audience was joyous: people were dancing, singing on the top of their lungs and all in all having a great time. Seeing Mates live was definitely a breath of fresh air considering all of the sullen cross-armed concerts I’ve been to in the past few months, and I highly recommend catching them on tour if you can.
A camping and campsite article
Koenjihyakkei is a project from Tatsuya Yoshida, better known as “the man” behind bass & drums duo Ruins. Though bred in a similar style, Koenji is something a bit different: it’s prog-rock with a heavy focus on female operatic vocals. Sounds pretty horrid, huh? It’s actually not; I’m even willing to go as far as to say that Angherr Shisspa, their latest album, sounds like an amalgam of Boredoms best efforts, a swirling, jumpy mix of keys, reeds and Yoshida’s signature drumming, glued together by the cast of singers. More than that, though, it’s prog-rock that doesn’t bore, and it further pushes my belief that the Japanese are the finest purveyors of experimental music today.