Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kiss Me Kate

Kate Bush’s new release, 50 Words For Snow, is one of my favorite cds of the year. It’s her first recording of new material since 2005, and it’s worth the wait. There are only seven songs in it but the album is over an hour long. The songs are quietly haunting and ponderous. Kate’s voice and piano playing are in superb form here. The album features several guest artists including the bassist Danny Thompson, the drummer Steve Gadd, and the actor Stephen Fry. They all contribute to make this a most remarkable and memorable album.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Angelic Angelique

Excuse me for being lazy. I’ll keep this post short. Angelique Kidjo was born in Benin and has lived in Paris for a number of years. She has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. Her music is all over the map, from traditional African to jazz, funk, and rock and roll. If you ever get the chance to hear her live, jump on it. She puts on one heck of a show. Just about the whole audience will be up on their feet dancing.

Have a safe and peaceful holidays. And thanks for following my blog!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Sound is the solo project of Bradford Cox, the vocalist of the indie group Deerhunter (an interesting band well worth looking into). He was born in the musical hotbed of Athens, Georgia in 1982 and formed Deerhunter in 2001. He’s been releasing solo cds under the Atlas Sound moniker since 2008. His voice is delicate and has an amazing range. Atlas Sound is spacey, quirky and catchy. His latest release, Parallax was released in 2011. It’s brilliantly produced and is full of earworms like the song Te Amo. Love it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wing And A Prayer

There’s just something about the music of the multi-instrumentalist Courtney Wing that make me want to listen to it over and over. It’s some of the happiest, warmest music I’ve heard in a long time, and instantly puts me in a great mood. He comes from an interesting background—his father is Chinese and his mother is Russian and Icelandic. Wing started playing music as a youngster and when he was in his 20s, he played in a reggae band in Belize and learned flamenco in the south of France. He has a couple cds out and his youtube videos are quite creative.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

To Esmerine, With Love And Squalor

Among the many splinter groups of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, my favorite is the Montreal-based group, Esmerine. Unlike GYBE!, which is focused on layers of guitar, Esmerine is relies mainly on cello, marimbas, and percussion. Their sound is quiet and relaxed, and could be labled neoclassical. Great, late night music. Esmerine has released three cds since their 2003 recording, If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True. And 10 points to anyone who gets the reference in this review’s title.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Who Knew?

Sure, I already knew that Scarlett Johansson was a beautiful, talented actor. I’m a big fan of hers. But I had no idea that she could sing as well. And not just a mediocre voice that a good producer transforms into someone who can sell records based on their name. This girl, er, lady, can sing. She’s performed with the Jesus and Mary Chain and has covered a bunch of Tom Waits tunes. And she’s recorded with Peter Yorn and David Bowie. Not too shabby for a 27-year old. She’s got quite a range, from soft and dreamy to sultry and sexy. I guess you could say I’ve got a case of Scarlett Fever.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The XX Files

Jamie XX is a side project of Jamie Smith of the lo-fi group, the xx. Jamie started his career as a drummer, but has expanded into using electronic percussion pads and heavy sampling, which create a totally unique sound. He’s become a much sought after remixer for a number of artists including Adele and Florence and the Machine. His mixes are beat heavy and are very trance.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nudge. Nudge.

Elbow has been around for a while, yet I haven’t really gotten into them until I heard a couple tracks from their stunning new album Build A Rocket Boys! It’s the group’s first release since their Mercury Prize winning The Seldom Seen Kid. It’s full of catchy tunes and features a somewhat stripped-down sound. The lead singer, Guy Garvey’s voice reminds me a lot of Peter Gabriel. A lot. His songs are catchy, poppy and have great earworm potential . I just can't get the song, With Love out of my head. The group describes their sound as prog-rock without the guitar solos. Now I’ve got to hunt down their older releases to see what I’ve been missing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sweet Marissa

I first heard Marissa Nadler on a recent SoundCheck show on NPR and her performance blew me away. Her lush, dreamy vocals, beautiful guitar work, and mature lyrics caught me off guard. Marissa was born in Boston and released her first cd in 2004. Her voice reminds me a little bit of Hope Sandoval and Joanna Newsom—with a commanding, melancholy feel to it. After her fourth release, she was dropped by her record company. Through a Kickstarter campaign, she raised funds from her fans to produce a new, self-titled cd and a video in early 2011. For some reason, she’s more popular in Europe (they have better taste?) than in the States. If you like what you hear, her cd is available directly from her website: It’s well worth it, as every song on the cd is outstanding.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Real Gem

If you’re into quiet, hauntingly beautiful vocals, and meditative, classically influenced instrumentals, then Gem Club is your kind of group. It consists primarily of singer/pianist Christopher Barnes and cellist/bells/singer Kristen Drymala. The two make some heartbreakingly pretty music together. They remind me a little of Bon Iver, but their sound is truly their own. They’re from Somerville, MA and just released their first full-length debut, Breakers, this year.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bath Time

Baths is the electronic pop project of the musical genius/producer Will Wiesenfeld. This guy has had musical training from the ripe old age of four and has been recording since his teens. Naturally, he claims one of his main influences is Bjork—the Goddess. But his music only vaguely resembles hers. It’s hip-hoppy, funky and features his wonderful voice. Be sure to check out his youtube vids—they’re not only well produced, but very entertaining. Here’s a guy I’d love to see live. Even though it’s just him and his laptop. His debut album, Cerulean, appeared in 2010.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Secret Chiefs 3 is a side project of; you guessed it, three musicians from the group Mr. Bungle—a group I’m only vaguely familiar with. The music is unlike anything I’ve heard before. Sort of a blend of Middle-Eastern wedding music with a hint of rock and surf music. There’s very little biographical info on the band out there so I’ll just post a couple youtube vids and hope you enjoy it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sun Of A Gun

Sunwrae is a nine-piece ensemble lead by keyboardist and composer Rae Howell. The group is based in Melbourne, Australia and was founded in 2001. Their music is a beautiful blend of modern classical chamber music, jazz, and cinematic soundtrack. They remind me a little of early Oregon but is much more accessible. It’s gentle, sweeping, and is absolutely mesmerizing. From what I gather, the group hasn’t done a lot of recording—I only found one expensive import on Amazon, but there are quite a few of their live videos on youtube. (If you know how to convert these to mp3 files, you’re golden!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Good Jo-hann

Johann Johannsson is a remarkable find. I don’t know much about him except that he writes incredible soundtracks to music videos and movies. His music is founded in classical roots but definitely has new-age leanings. It’s lush, and sensual and compliments everything he writes for. I do know he’s from Iceland, yet another amazing musician from this dramatic country. Look for his stuff on youtube--there’s a ton of it and it’s all amazing. You go Jo!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Want To Take You Higher

Rob Barber and Mary Pearson founded the indie duo High Places in Brooklyn in 2006. Their music is quirky, sparce, and features layers of electronic effects and minimalist almost jungle-like percussion. The vocals are dreamy and hypnotic. They moved to Los Angeles a year after forming and have done a lot of touring. They have three releases to date.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In The Summertime!

Okay. This is a no brainer, and most of you have probably already heard of this group. But I like to post a great summer, cruising-in-the-car band every year. This year it’s Foster the People. I especially love their live version of “Pumped Up Kicks” live at SXSW. Just a fun band, pumping out some fun jams.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deaf Jam

Deaf Center is a multi-instrumentalist duo—Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland—from Norway. Their music is quiet, sparse, and introspective. A combination of dark ambient electronica, post-classical, and drone music. A lot of their music sounds like a cinematic soundscape to a slow-moving movie. If none of those descriptions make any sense, give them a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Perfect music for late night conversations.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pretty in Pink

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the group Pink Martini live and it dawned on me that not everyone knows about this remarkable band. Led by Thomas M. Lauderdale, the Portland, Oregon-based group is another hard one to describe. Take some 40s and 50s swing and combine it with a heavy dose of Latin, Afro-Cuban salsa, Brazilian bossa nova, tango and French cabaret, then toss in a mix of songs from all over the globe including Russia, Greece, Japan, Croatia and points elsewhere, and you’ve got a decent, yet fuzzy picture of what Pink Martini is all about.

The group was formed in 1994 and features the vocals of the energetic China Forbes. They have several recordings to their credit, all of which are worth owning. Each cd has its own sound, but they all have that singular Pink Martini spirit of fun to them. If you ever get a chance to see them live, I can guarantee a most entertaining evening.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Good Things Come in Trees

After long time vocalist, Victoria Bergsman left the Concretes in 2006, she started recording under the name Taken by Trees. Her music is quiet, stripped down and melancholic, and has been compared to Camera Obscura. Victoria has a wonderful voice and has two albums on the Rough Trade label. Her most recent recording was made in Pakistan with local musicians and as you’d expect, is radically different from her first cd.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A New Leif

Once again, I’ve discovered an artist who has very little biographical info out on the interwebs. Here’s what I do know. Leif Vollebekk is a Canadian singer/songwriter. He studied Icelandic and Philosophy in Reykjavik, Iceland, and he released his first cd, Inland, in 2010.

Here’s how he describes his sound: "I want to sound like Hank Williams meets Sigur Ros. Hopefully, I'll fail and get somewhere else." That pretty much sums up the general feel of his music. His voice reminds me a little of Jeff Buckley’s. Warning: His song “Don’t go to Klaksvik” is a real earworm. You won’t be able to get it out of your head!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Young and the Restless

It’s hard to imagine Sarah Jarosz was born in 1991. She has the maturity, presence and songwriting skills of a person far older. Sarah had mastered the mandolin at 10 and was performing live with musicians like Dave Grisman and Ricky Skaggs by the time she was 12 years old. Her sound is definitely bluegrass influenced but stretches far outside the genre. And her voice is sweet and captivating. Jarosz is currently studying at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she has picked up the clawhammer banjo and guitar and is majoring in contemporary voice improvisation. She just released her second album, Follow Me Down, in the spring of 2011.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let There Be Austra

Austra, named for the Latvian goddess of light, is based in Toronto and features Katie Stelmanis on vocals and keyboards, Maya Postepski on drums, and bassist Damian Wolf. Their music is dark and electronic and is similar to groups like Glasser and Fever Ray. Stelmanis’ voice covers quite a range, which is not surprising—she was classically trained and joined the Canadian Children’s Opera at age 10. While her delivery is pretty unique, she sounds a bit like Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine.

Austra’s 1st cd was released in May, 2011 and is full of catchy tunes—from dark and quiet to bright(ish) and poppy. On all the tracks, Stelmanis’ voice is up front and center. The production reminds me a little of Bjork’s at times. And it’s all Austra-licious!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Royal Treat

Joan Soriano has been dubbed the “Duke of Bachado”. And he definitely deserves the title. From what little biographical information I’ve gathered, he was born in the countryside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He built his first guitar from a tin can and fishing line and has gone on to an amazing career in his native land.

Bachada is an indigenous music of the Dominican Republic and is influenced by music from Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Soriano’s voice makes you want to get up and dance. Joan has performed throughout N. America and Europe. I missed him the last time around. Hopefully, he’ll make another North American tour again soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hair Band

Braids is another band that I find pretty hard to describe. Their music has been categorized as experimental shoe-gazer. Okay, that’s a pretty fair assessment of their sound. It’s dreamy and has a nice rhythm to it. It also has incredible production values to it. Great layers of sounds and very complex, smart, intelligent music. And the vocalist has a distinctive, crisp, voice. Nice and emotive. And I liked them so much, I actually bought their cd!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Ages

The band Agesandages is made up of a collective of multi-instrumentalists and is lead by Tim Perry. The band hails from Portland, Oregon and features excellent, cheery vocals and a psychedelic, folky sound. Their first release, Alright You Restless, came out in early 2011 and I highly recommend it. Every tune on it is a gem.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Wise Old Sage

Okay, this is a radical departure for me. Sage Francis is a hip-hop artist who I first heard on “The Signal”, the best radio show ever. It’s on CBC and is streamed, for anyone who’s interested. Anyway, Rich Terfry had a brief segment on what he called “pretty hip-hop”. Yes, you heard me right. I’m not a fan of hip-hop or rap. But I immediately glommed on to this guy. I really like this guy and if you want to learn more about him, check his bio on It’s way too long and I’m way too lazy to condense it for you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pure Brilliance

Puro Instinct is two sisters, the teen-age Skylar the guitarist and her older sister Piper on vocals, along with assorted other musicians. They remind me a little bit of the 60s girl bands but with a more modern sound to them. Puro Instinct released a couple of vinyl records on their own and finally, in 2011, a cd titled “Headbangers In Ecstasy”. Their music is dreamy and innocent with fresh, wispy vocals. I haven’t heard anything as refreshing as this group in a long time. My only hope is that a producer-type doesn’t get a hold of the group and try to market them. He’ll surely try to make them “sexy” and over produce them—and totally ruin the group. Listen to them while they’re still fresh and wonderful!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

Before I tell you about Glasser, I’d just like to answer a question a lot of people ask me—“How do you find these groups?” Well, I do a lot of digging from a lot of resources. In this case, I went through the entire lineup of all the groups playing Coachella that I’ve never heard of. Then, I listened to samples of their music on youtube. Tedious? You bet. Worth it? Of course. That’s why my motto is: I listen to a lot of crap, so you don’t have to.

Back to Glasser. It’s the musical project of Cameron Mesirow. Her Dad is a member of the Blue Man Group which features some incredible music of their own. She says she grew up listened to Motown, new wave, punk, grunge, and ska. Her music features beautiful, almost Bjork-like vocals and sparce electronica backing her up. She’s recently toured with xx and Jonsi (from Sigur Ros), and her debut album Ring was released in 2010.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Other Pogo

This isn’t about the much beloved classic cartoon strip by Walt Kelly but about the audio-visual artist. He currently lives in Perth, Western Australia and his real name is Nick Bertke. There isn’t much about him in the way of a bio on the net, except for the tidbit that he worked briefly at Disney. His work is very intriguing. Pogo takes bits of film and scenes from tv shows and does a painstaking job editing them. Then he sets them to music, which is a mix of original compositions and samples. It must take him weeks to edit a two or three minute video. The results are pure genius. If you enjoy them, do a search on youtube—Pogo’s volume of work is enormous. (Warning, his take on "Dexter" is a bit bloody.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Toro! Toro! Toro!

Chaz Bundick of Columbia, SC is the alter ego of the group known as Toro y Moi. It’s a chillwave group that that has a dreamy, dancy sound. Chaz recorded a couple albums worth of music back in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he released his first cd. He sounds a like a cross between Beach House and Panda Bear. I’ve only included studio recordings of Toro because the sound quality on his live recordings is awful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Comments welcome!

Hey everyone! I've been posting for a couple years now. And I've only had a few comments on the music I've put up. What's up with that? Please give me some feedback! It's like there's no one out there. I post something and it's like I'm talking to a ghost town or something. If there's no one out there, I'm going to quit posting music. What's the bloody point?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Major Tunage

Merrill Garbus is the brains and the lungs behind the lo-fi experimental project known as Tune-Yards. She records her voice with a digital voice recorder and shareware mixing software and combines it with found sounds, ukulele, percussion and the results are quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s dreamy and dancey and a tad spacey. She reminds me a little bit of Bjork but with a soulful edge to her voice. She added a couple musicians to her one-person group and signed with 4AD Records a couple years ago. Tune-Yards has two releases to date.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Guitar Heroes

The astonishing Rodrigo y Gabriela have quite an interesting history. The two guitarists started out in a heavy metal band in Mexico City. They moved to Dublin where they earned a living busking on the street. Eventually they learned flamenco guitar, were taken on tour with Damien Rice, and the rest, as they say, is history. The duo has released three cds, the third of which hit the number one spot on the Irish charts in 2006. They play everything from traditional flamenco to their interpretations of rock tunes. All in their own fiery brand of blistering guitar work.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I find it somewhat amusing that the space-rock group God Is An Astronaut is from the quaintly named town of Glen of the Downs in Wicklow, Ireland. At the heart of the band are the brothers Torsten and Niels Kinsella (guitar/keyboards and bass/guitars respectively). The group formed in the early part of this century (Wow, it sure seems strange to say that), and they added the drummer Lloyd Hanney to round out the band. Some claim that the group is one of the finest Irish indie rock groups of this century. I guess I’d equate that with saying “One of the finest bands to come out of the thumb of Michigan”. Anyway, I’ve never seen the group live, but apparently they put on an incredible show, with spectacular videos accompanying each song. They’ve put out four recordings to date and have numerous youtube vids. Well worth looking in to.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Strings Attached

Balmorhea was founded in 2006 by Rob Lowe and Michael Muller. The group features various string instruments including violins and cello and is often accompanied by the talented pianist Peter Broderick. Their music is relaxing and has a pastoral, country sound but is definitely classically grounded. Much of it is sweeping yet has a toe-tapping quality to it. They remind me a little of Oregon but with a country tinge. Balmorhea has four CDs out to date, and they’re all worth a listen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

For Pete’s sake

Peter Broderick is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter from Portland, OR. There’s almost no information about him—in fact, on his myspace page, he’s asking for help on his bio! His recordings mainly feature piano and guitar and his delicately nuanced voice. Much of his music has a Harold Budd feel without being overly New Agey. In some ways, he reminds me of a stripped down version of Nick Drake. I highly recommend his cd How They Are, although at just over 30 minutes in length, it’s not what I’d call a “good value”. However, it’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful recordings I’ve heard in a long time. There are a ton of his songs on youtube—do check them out.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wash Up!

Washed Out is the musical project of Ernest Greene. It’s trippy, hazy, dance music and has been compared to groups like Neon Indian and Memory Cassette. I don’t know much about Mr. Greene except that he’s from Columbia North Carolina and released his debut EP Life of Leisure in 2009.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Here Comes The Son

Ryan Lott is the real name of the musical character known as Son Lux. He was born in Colorado in 1979 and spent his youth moving with his family from city to city. He started playing classical piano at the ripe old age of six and went on to pick up the guitar and drums. His interests spread to jazz and pop and he studied composition and piano at Indiana University. Ryan began composing music for various dance companies.

He eventually took the name Son Lux and started a solo career creating ethereal, dark but listenable music. His debut album At War with Walls and Mazes was released in 2008. The music reminds me a bit of early Genesis and Radiohead and he could easily be part of the 4 A.D stable of musicians. It’s percussive and sparse and unsettling at times, and his voice isn’t for everyone. But the music of Son Lux is certainly unique. And that’s a good thing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Got Cimbalom?

The group Cimbaliband is the true definition of World Music. Members of the band include Hungarians, a Serbian, Gypsy, Germans, and a Croatian. Their music is a mixture of Gypsy, Hungarian folk, and jazz, all combined in an energetic amalgam that makes you want to grab a partner and dance. The lead instrument in the group is the cimbalom, which is the Gypsy equivalent of a hammered dulcimer. I didn’t find much information about the band other than the fact that they are based in Budapest, Hungary. I think they’d make the ultimate wedding band!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Modern Math

The band Mute Math, (also know as MUTEMATH and MuteMath) features the strong vocals of Paul Meany. He was as singer in a Christian rock band and formed a bond with drummer/programmer Darren King. They established a long distance musical relationship, exchanging CDRs until they finally agreed to move to New Orleans and form a real band. Their music borrows from the indie-rock past and is somewhat reminiscent of Radiohead, Coldplay, and a cadre of other groups. Their songs are catchy without being commercial. Another group that I can’t figure out why they're not more popular.