All posts tagged Bright Eyes

Indie Dispatches: Musical highlights of 2011 thus far…

Charles Bradley one of CHL's 2011 picks

We’re not really sure why (need for updated content? lack of anything in the way of worthwhile ideas from their editorial staff? an obsession with lists?), but it seems like various online outlets are publishing their ‘best bands’ lists (are there really 40 great new acts this year Stereogum?) and the best of the first 9 months of 2011 just seconds after a best of the first half of the year… So, what the hell, that seems like a reason to chime in with some of what we see as the cooler musical moments to date (since we flaked on a mid-year summation), especially as some of the ‘best of’ ratings are populated with a fair share of clunkers (EMA, tUnE-YarDs we’re looking at you), some that have been much covered but have generated medicore sales and others that we have to disqualify just because (The Head and the Heart really came out in 2010 more than once, and well, there was this too…) So drumroll please… a few of the musical bright spots of the year to date…

Cass McCombs “County Line” (Domino) – quite possibly the track of the year, and McCombs’ finest moment to date. The full length, Wit’s End, is his best yet, though peppered with a couple of jarring moments foiling any aspirations for album of the year (but then, there are more than a few other records in 2011 that seem to suffer from the same affliction)

Middle Brother Middle Brother (Partisan) – a ‘super group’ of sorts, but one that may well be greater than the sum of its parts. Dare we drag up the ‘alt country’ tag, but this trio from Dawes, Deer Tick and the Delta Spirit made an album full of sublime originals (exemplified by the rather superb “Wilderness”) and a rather great Replacements cover (Portland) which will warm the cockles of any Whiskeytown or Ryan Adams fan’s heart.

The Kills Blood Pressures (Domino) – Rock’n'roll at its finest. Guitars and more guitars. A cheap drum machine. And one of the sexiest and most engaging vocalists out there. What else do you need?

Caitlin Rose Own Side Now (Theory 8) – An album that is charming, full of personality and brimming with well crafted songwriting. The spirit of Emmy Lou Harris and Neko Case lives on in the next generation, and for that we are thankful. No wonder the Europeans were early adopters and embraced the talents of this diminutive Nashville singer-songwriter.

Yuck Yuck (Fat Possum) – yes it is derivative, and owes an awful, awful lot to the 90′s, and especially Dinosaur Jr. But hell, J Mascis hasn’t made a truly brilliant record in years, and has headed into old(er)age by making acoustic records, so someone has to pick up the baton in the noise-rock stakes.

The War on Drugs Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian) – The Bloomington, IN label collective does it again, with another great release – this time from the indie rock band from Philadelphia, who once featured Kurt Vile amongst its members. An album both dense and laid back, featuring the droll Tom Verlaine-esque vocals from A. Granduciel. It’s been described in the media as Spiritualized meets Springsteen, and that seems an apt assessment of its dreamy psychedelic-tinged Americana.

Charles Bradley No Time for Dreaming (Dunham) – Both Otis Redding and James Brown may have left this mortal coil, but Bradley makes a brave effort to step in and at least partially fill their ample shoes on his debut album – released at an age when many of his peers are looking to take advantage of those AARP discounts. A slab of sweaty, wrenching soul. Excellent.

Adele Rolling in the Deep (XL) – yeah, so sue us… It doesn’t matter how popular this track is, but it is an absolute monster. The same can’t be said for the whole album, which can veer into schmaltzy mainstream territory, but just for this one song alone, Adele, we salute you!

WILD FLAG - Everything about them. The live show. The limited edition RSD 7″. The videos. The album on Merge. A band that just elicits pure excitement from devotees, both new & old. And they rock. Can’t complain about any of that!

Flaming Lips – live at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A spectacular light show, with strobe lights and lasers bouncing off the palm trees, gravestones and crypts, and playing their finest moment The Soft Bulletin front to back in one the best settings for an outdoor live show in Los Angeles. Three thumbs up!

TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light (Interscope) – thankfully ditching the more overt art-rock tendencies of their last 2 releases, the kings of Brooklyn return to form. And still may be the most unlikely act signed to a major label…

Beach Boys 7″ (free with MOJO 60′s magazine) – a fine taster from the upcoming Capitol issue of the Smile Sessions box set, and putting Panda Bear in his place, showing him who is the master, and making the point about what a real teenage symphony to god should sound like.

Warner Brothers Record Store Day 7″ series – a genius idea – pairing an original from their storied catalog with a cover by one of their newer acts, for example Jenny & Johnny covering Gram Parsons‘ “Love Hurts”. The only fault is that in playing (on Warner Brothers or on other labels) a few of the originals such as Husker Du “I Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely” it only amplifies the sense that very few, if any, artists are making recordings even close to being this truly classic and long-lasting in 2011…

Bright Eyes The People’s Key (Saddle Creek) – At the recent LA live show, the Nebraska combo played one track after another which made the listener think, “This is a great song. And so is this…” And many were drawn from the latest (and possibly final?) album from Conor Oberst helmed Bright Eyes. An album that has possibly the most elaborate packaging for a regular CD & LP release for the year. And we’ll say ‘thanks’ for all of the above.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: All The News That’s Fit to…

UK's Yuck, among bright spots of 2011 so far

Surprise!! After been closeted away down the rabbit hole, toiling away turning the wheels of industry, figures it was time to pop up again into the world and find out just what we have missed. And what better day to choose, than April 1st? So just what has been going on these past few months?

* Domino blasted out of the annual SXSW fiesta on a definite high with everyone raving about their new signing, Austra. The band’s debut album Feel it Break drops May 17. The label also has a schedule of highly rated new releases from Cass McCombs, Anna Calvi and of course the long awaited re-issue of the Queens of the Stone Age classic debut album. Oh yeah, there’s also a new album, Blood Pressure, from our favorite rock duo, The Kills about to drop any day. Bets on ‘best of 2011 list’ anyone?
* A band on an indie won a Grammy for best album or something. More exciting was that their label, Merge Records, released the stunning new album, Civilian from Baltimore’s Wye Oak.
* A new UK combo with inauspicous beginnings (formed from the ashes of Cajun Dance Party) and a terrible name – Yuck – put on some shows and released an album that was far from terrible or inauspicious. Combining a dose of classic 90′s Sonic Youth & Dinosaur Jr the UK group stands as a definite bright spark in early 2011.
* After 20 years in business, our favorite Bay Area operation, Slumberland Records, suddenly became a ‘label to watch’ with new records from Pains of Being Pure at Heart and new noise group, Weekend.
* Sub Pop signed a new band. Or two. Or ten it seems. But seriously though, can they have any more? Still Corners, Memory House, Niki & the Dove… the list of newbies goes on. How many is too many? When you factor in their sub-label Hardly Art, the Seattle indie seems to have an active roster the size of a major label.
* Sharon Van Etten toured. And made even more fans. Swooooooooon.
* Radiohead suddenly dropped a new record on the world to much fanfare. An album which even their fans weren’t sure they really liked.
* The 2 piece is still in vogue despite the demise of the White Stripes in the guise of Hanni El Khatib.
* It became clearly evident that just because the bloggers love you and the press file is big and thick, it doesn’t mean you sell a massive number of records in 2011. Looking at you Dum Dum Girls. And Deerhoof.
* Bright Eyes released an excellent new album, ‘The People’s Key’, which may have been the most lavishly packaged release to hit the top echelons of the charts.
* Sebadoh toured to support the release of a t-shirt because the US label organizing the reissue of their classic Bakesale, release didn’t come close to getting the album out on time.
* The Radio Dept finally toured North America and released a double CD of singles and oddities. Peter Bjorn and John released a new record. Yay Sweden!
* Portishead sent a welcome message that they are happy to buck the system. And you know they will still have fans. And will still sell records.
* Sasquatch Festival once again looked like more fun than spending 3 days in the desert
* Wilco became an indie band. Rah!
* The neo-soul movement became even stronger, with the continuing charge of Fitz and the Tantrums, as they took over SXSW, and seemingly now, the world. Then there is that old dude (62!) Charles Bradley showing a) its never too late to start your recording career (ageism be damned!) and b) THIS is how you make a great soul record. He may not be Otis Redding but he is a fine substitute!

My, this has been fun. But wait – there’s more we’re sure! Maybe we’ll just have to be back next week too fill in some holes that have undoubtedly been missed…

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Recent Signings, Free Agents and Year End Lists Begin

L.A.'s Active Child among Vagrant Records latest signings

Somewhere along the line in the last month or two, news of a few indie signings seemed to somehow slip through the cracks. Most particularly Vagrant Records, who has been busy adding much buzzed about LA combo Active Child to their ever expanding and diversifying roster, along with inking one bona fide legend, Polly Jean Harvey, for her new album – quite a coup. The LA label has done an excellent job of branching out beyond the emo niche it was once known for, and have developed an ‘A Class’ stable of indie rock acts that includes Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Hold Steady, STARS, School of Seven Bells, and of course Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. PJ Harvey’s new album Let England Shake hits stores February 15, while Active Child’s debut should look for a release in the spring.

Meanwhile, what seems like ages ago (and probably was!), blog favorites DOM from Massachusetts signed on with EMI-offshoot, Astralwerks, with a re-issue of the band’s Sun Bronzed Greek Gods EP slated as their first release in early 2011. And now split from EMI and back in the ranks of indie, Mute Records announced that the first artists to sign to the new version of the label include Yeasayer, Londoners S.C.U.M., and Texan singer songwriter Josh T Pearson. Meanwhile in the past week, Sub Pop announced what seems be the 50th new signing for the year, indie-rock supergroup (with members of Man Man, Modest Mouse & Islands/Unicorns) Mister Heavenly…  And what of the free agents out there? Rumors are looming of an announcement about The Head and the Heart signing to a certain Northwest indie (which seems public knowledge but still hasn’t officially been announced)… Will Odd Future sign with XL Recordings, who appear to have been laying out the red carpet for the controversial LA hip hop collective (including reportedly flying their entire posse to the UK)…  What will become of Bright Eyes? This past week details of their forthcoming album The People’s Key (due February 15) were announced. Following the record, which is their last for Saddle Creek, will the project be done, or will Conor Oberst follow the path of his solo projects by bringing Bright Eyes to Merge? Or will it be another indie (such as was the case with Monsters of Folk)? And slowly emerging (and pricking up people’s ears) is the fact that critically acclaimed Seattle singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes (and the Sweet Hereafter) is in the market for a new label home, after a number of much beloved releases on Seattle’s Barsuk. Sykes supposedly has avid fans at both small and large labels, indie and major, and a with a new record in the can, chances are she won’t remain unsigned for long.

Of course, since we are now in the waning days of 2010, most of the news in the music media concerns the ubiquitous year-end lists – one of the first being NME‘s top 75 albums. There is no disputing the UK rag’s choice for their album of the year – These New Puritans Hidden – was baffling, and has had more than one pundit scratching their heads (possibly even the band’s label), but hats off to Domino Records for nabbing that top spot… Subsequent lists from Spin and Rolling Stone (and surely many others) have been released, and as to this column’s picks for the year’s favorites? Well, that will just have to wait until next time…

- Cool Hand Luke