If you’ve been wowed by the projections at a Sufjan Stevens or St. Vincent show in the past few years, then you’ve witnessed the work of visual-performance designer Deborah Johnson, the founder of multidisciplinary New York studio CandyStations.
Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. As always, we encountered way too much amazing music, from Meshuggah to The Mars Volta, Converge, Killer Mike, P.O.S, and many more.
David Byrne has one of the most recognizable voices in music, ranking somewhere between Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe. No doubt this is why everyone wants the former Talking Heads front-man to guest on their records. Dirty Projectors, Arcade Fire, Jherek Bischoff — they’ve all taken advantage of the static friction of that back-of-the-mouth tenor.
But Love This Giant, Byrne’s collaboration with St. Vincent, a woman who’s known more for her multi-instrumentalist abilities than her voice, is the first full-length he’s co-written with anyone other than Brian Eno.
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Album after album, few artists are able to maintain a distinct sound while pushing (and sometimes breaching) boundaries. Taking songwriting to new heights and depths while adhering to one’s own musical identity is something that doesn’t happen often enough. But Andrew Bird is one such artist. Ever since his breakout 2005 album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, the former Squirrel Nut Zippers member has become an anomaly, melding together straightforward song-craft with whimsical idiosyncrasies.
Now the Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist has orchestrated a new album that is sonically arresting, even for those who have grown accustomed to Bird’s musical style and tendencies. Break It Yourself marries Bird’s more straightforward songwriting, featured prominently on his last few releases, with the progressive sounds of his 2010 instrumental release, Useless Creatures. The new album makes a home in the middle ground, and prospers for its entirety.
Marissa Nadler: “Baby, I Will Leave You in the Morning”
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A few years ago, when Marissa Nadler appeared on the indie-folk radar with her 2007 effort, Songs III: Bird on the Water, the Boston-based singer/songwriter was starting to get some much-deserved recognition in her brief but impressive career. Now, on her fifth proper LP in just seven years, Nadler has truly found a voice within the realm of dreamlike folk. Building on a style that she has crafted on past efforts, she continues to improve her fairytale folk pop, diving into deeper waters of heartbreak and reflection on this self-titled album.
Album opener “In Your Lair, Bear” sets the tone for the record, opening with a softly plucked acoustic steel string, as Nadler croons, “Where did you go, when the snow fell that year?” The song floats on softly and slowly, drifting through sleepy, delayed guitars, whispering percussion, subtle string arrangements, and a gorgeous vocal melody, before fading.
After such a strong opening, Nadler follows it up with even more melancholic yet euphonic arrangements and melodies, expanding on what was already presented in the opening track. And thus it becomes clear: Nadler is a pro. Churning out track after track, she is once again in her element, her dream pop moving onward, waywardly and lightly.
Back in 2005, Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller met while working at a record store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two would delve into their own musical endeavors — McEntire partaking in the post-punk outfit Bellafea and Miller in the avant/psych-metal project Horseback. After the pair collaborated as Un Deux Trois on the Lovers EP in 2007, they decided to make their collaboration a full-time gig, and they formed Mount Moriah, releasing a debut EP, The Letting Go, last year.
It was soon obvious that Mount Moriah was a stark departure for McEntire and Miller, as they traded in their obscure, not-easily-defined credentials for stripped-down alt-country/folk music. And the duo’s knack for crafting simple (but not simplistic) classic tunes comes through loud and clear on Mount Moriah’s self-titled follow-up.