Friday, December 28, 2012

Journey. No, not that Journey.

This year's Grammy for best original soundtrack went to, of all thing, a video game. It's called Journey and definitely sounds like a different kind of game. I heard an interview with the composer, Austin Wintory, who explained the game has no violence, no battles, no gunfights, no winners or losers--it's actually loosely based on the writings of the philosopher Joseph Campbell. It's a game of discovery. It sounds like a game I could see encouraging my kids to play. And while I haven't heard the entire soundtrack, what I have heard I was very impressed with. Give it a listen and judge for yourself.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Speck Mountain is a Brooklyn-based group that makes dreamy, space rock. The group is made up of Karl Briedrick on guitars, Marie-Claire Balabanian on vocals and bass, and multi-instrumentalist Kate Walsh. The group came together in 2005 and have released 3 albums. Their sound is quiet, slow paced and features lush, pretty vocals.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Terre Firma

New York-based Terre Thaemlitz started out as a DJ while he was studying rt at Cooper Union. He's worked with the likes of Bill Laswell and the Golden Palominos. His music is experimental ambient and incorporates house, funk, jazz, and a number of other genres. There's nothing quite like it so it's hard to compare it to anything. Thaemlitz has a large body of music out there and there are plenty of youtube videos to explore as well.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Monster Mash

Of Monsters and Men arrived on the scene after winning a battle of the bands contest in their native Iceland in 12010. Since then they've just torn up the world of music. Just like other bands fro their country like Sigur Ros and Mum, they have a distinctly Icelandic sound. However, Monsters have a more poppy/catchy feel than the dreamier Icelandic groups. They've been compared to Arcade Fire, which I can't really see.  The lead singer does remind me a little of Bjork. I recently looked up their tour schedule and noticed just about every one of their shows is sold out. Give them a listen and you'll see why.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Zwan Song

I don't know how I missed this band. Following the break up of the "Smashing Pumpkins", which I wasn't familiar with, the lead singer and guitarist formed Zwan. Interesting name and interesting band. The band put out a couple albums and went on tour. I've read that the the founder, Billy Corgan was in a bar in Cincinnati when a bullet flew the window and just missed him. He then decided this was not the life for him. The group lasted for just over a year. I've only posted live videos of the group because I think they must have have ben awesome to hear live. Enjoy! (I read somewhere that they were getting back together.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rokk & Roll

Actually, the group Rokkurro is probably the opposite of Rock & Roll. They have a dreamy, atmospheric sound that is typical of so many Icelandic groups. And what's with a small island nation like Iceland producing so many fine bands? Bjork, Sigur Ros, Mum, and now Rokkurro? Once again, this will have to be a rather short post since there is virtually no info on them on the net, including Wikipedia. If it wasn't for the fine CBC radio show, The Signal, I would never have heard of them. So look for their music on youtube, in addition to the clips I've included, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

We're a Canadian Band

Seriously, that's all all know about this band. Actually it's just a singer who hooks up with other musicians to put out some incredible music. I've heard her name is Daniela Gesundheit.  I've heard her music on "The Signal" on CBC hosted by Laura Brown and I've fallen in love with her voice. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Let's Go Metric.

Take some roots music, add a little alt-country, and spice it up with a touch of classical and it all adds up to the group "Three Metre Day". The group grew out of the beloved Toronto band, "The Henrys" but have a sound all their own. "Metre" consists of High Marsh on violin, who's played with everyone from Bruce Coburn to Don Byron, Don Rooke on lap-style slide guitar whos played with the Cowboy Junkies and written several Hollywood soundtracks, and Michelle Willis on vocals and pump organ. They produce quiet, thought provoking music that's quite unique.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Brassed Off

Here's another band that has almost no biographical info on the net and is hard to describe. Brasstronaut hails from Vancouver, BC and their music is jazzy, and at times dreamy and at times sounds like slow dance music. About the only group I can compare them to is Yo La Tengo. A lot of it could be used as a soundtrack.

Friday, July 6, 2012

April in Paris

The group Paris Combo doesn't fit any category. Maybe it's because of the diverse cultural mix of its musicians. The group includes two French members, an Australian, a Madagasgan, and a Mediterranean. Their music is a combination of 1920's swing, Latin, Cabaret , along with a bit of Django, and a bit of the Mid-East. It all adds up to a fun, toe-tapping blend of music that'll put a smile on your face, and will make you want to grab a partner and dance. I was lucky to hear them perform live in Kiev a few months ago. And I found a long youtube clip of the performance. What a great night of music!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Right Ahn!

Pricilla Ahn is a charming young singer from Bernville, PA. She has a wonderful, sweet voice. She started singing and playing guitar at the ripe young age of 14. Her first album, A Good Day was released on Blue Note in 2007. Her songs have been used in tv shows like Grey's Anatomy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

That’s Just Cold

The Canadian born singer, Al Spx, who goes by the stage name, Cold Specks, describes her sound as “doom soul”. I guess that’s a pretty fair description. Her voice is deep and throaty and is definitely gospel influenced. Her music is quiet and bluesy, and is full of raw anger. Her debut album, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion came out earlier this year.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bird is the Word

It’s hard to believe that the singer, Birdy, just turned 16. Her voice has the range, power and maturity of someone much older. Her real name is Jasmine van den Bogaerde, so it’s understandable why she goes by her shorter moniker. She began writing songs at the ripe old age of seven and by the time she was 12 she had her first recording contract.  In 2011,, her first single, Skinny Girl peaked  at number 17 on the U.K. pop charts. And one of her songs was included in the soundtrack to the film, “Hunger Games.”

Friday, June 1, 2012

Remember Rat Fink?

The creations of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth from the late 1960s? Well, this has nothing to do with that. This post is about the music of Finian Greenhall who uses the moniker Fink. He was born in Bristol, England and was fascinated with the guitar in his teens. Then he made a musical right turn and got seriously into ambient techno for about ten years. Then in 2006 he returned to the guitar and relaunched his career as a full-blown singer/songwriter. His songs are full of emotion and remind me a little of early David Gray.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Story Time

Beautiful, aural soundscapes is how I’d describe the music of Tim Story.  The Ohio-based keyboardist is largely self-taught. Tim was part of the Windham Hill gang, but is not related to Liz Story. His music is contemplative and texturally complex, and evokes a wide range of emotions. Much of it could be a soundtrack for a Merchant Ivory film. I had the opportunity to see him perform live recently and it was a great experience.  His performance was subtle and nuanced.  If you get a chance, I highly recommend catching one of his shows.  Tim has several recordings including the brilliant  cd, Beguiled

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Favorite Ukrainian Rock Group

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Huh? Ukrainian Rock?” Well, we were in Ukraine recently on vacation, and our friends and gracious hosts turned us on to the remarkable group Daha Braha. Their music is almost impossible to describe. It combines traditional elements on Ukrainian folk with modern rock. Their lead singers wear traditional folk outfits with tall Cossack fur hats. I was fortunate enough to hear them perform live while I was there. Give the music a couple listens, the somewhat dissonant harmonies take a little getting used to. Then imagine several thousand Ukrainian kids rocking to this music while singing along with the band! It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

You Are Getting Sleepy...

This is going to be a short review since I can't find any info about this group. I believer the group Sleep Dealer is from Moscow and might be the work of one artist. The music, as the name implies, is mostly quiet post rock. Layers of guitar, bass and drums. It's very atmospheric and could easily be a soundtrack to a sci-fi movie. Some is has a classical feel to it. Many of their tunes start out quietly and slowly build. Interesting music indeed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Other Ravi Shankar Daughter

Anoushka Shankar started studying the sitar with her legendary father when she was nine and made her performing debut four years later. She began touring with Ravi and played Carnegie Hall in her teens. Her first cd, Anoushka, was released when she was just seventeen. Anoushka's music ranges from traditional classical Indian music to fusion and worldbeat. Her latest release, Traveller, is a fusion of Indian and flamenco.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

YOU try playing the cello and singing at the same time

Jorane is probably the only pop cellists who sings while she bows in the world. It might sound like an odd combination but it surprisingly works quite well. She’s French-Canadian and was born Johanne Pelletier in 1975. Her voice ranges from soft and soothing crisp and powerful and she sings mainly in French. But that really doesn’t make her music any less accessible. Her music is hard to describe, part classical, part moody indie-rock. She’s worked with the likes of Daniel Lanois and Lisa Germano and has several recordings out. Some of her videos on youtube are rather Bjorkish (unfortunately I can't embed them on my blog). Be sure to check some of them out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

At The Movies

Two Door Cinema Club is a trio from Northern Ireland. It features singer/guitarist/programmer Alex Trimble, guitarist/singer Sam Halliday, and bassist/singer Kevin Baird. The band has a fun, infectious sound—jangly guitars, a strong beat and catchy, danceable electronics. The vocals are good, and feature some fine harmonies at times. Their first album, Tourist History, came out in 2010. Another great band to crank up, while driving around with the top down.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Deerfield Invasion?

The Deerfield, IL based group The Redwalls definitely have the early 60s British Invasion sound down. They even have the look to go along with it. You can hear the influences of bands like the Kinks, Animals, and of course, The Beatles in their music. They have a couple of cds out and their big(?) break was when they were invited to tour with Oasis in 2005. The Redwalls haven’t put a cd out since 2007, so I wonder if they’re still together.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Young at Heart

There’s a soft spot in my heart for space rock bands, going back to my Pink Floyd and Yes days. It’s seems like new groups in this genre are popping up like crazy these days. One of the newest is the group Young Galaxy. The band is made up of ex-Stars touring guitarist Stephan Ramsay and his girlfriend Catherine McCandless, along with several supporting musicians. They’re originally from Vancouver but have since relocated to that hotbed of excellent new music, Montreal. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2007 and they’ve put out two subsequent albums since then. Young Galaxy’s sound covers quite a range from complex space tunes with lots of production value to stripped down, folkier material. But all their songs feature fine vocals. Their latest cd, Shapeshifting is highly recommended.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Love Is All You Need

The group Love Spirals Downwards has been around for quite a while, but I feel they should have received a lot more attention than they did. They formed in Los Angeles with guitarist, keyboardist, and composer Ryan Lum and vocalist Suzanne Perry. They have an ethereal, electronica sound, not unlike the Cocteau Twins and other 4A.D. bands. But their music has a happier, folky vibe to it than other so-called Goth groups. I’m not sure if Love Spirals Downwards is still together since their last release was back in 2002. However, their music still sounds pretty fresh today.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Latest Trent

The driving force behind the group Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor has recently been venturing in new areas for his muse—namely writing scores for movies. His music for “The Social Network” garnered him an Oscar last year. And his score for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is equally brilliant. As you’d expect, his music ranges from dark and moody to driving and raucous. And it contains some interesting prepared piano which I mentioned in my recent Hauschka post. I was never a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails, but I really like the new direction he’s going in.

Friday, February 3, 2012

How do you prepare a piano?

I know, that sounds like a set-up for a real corny culinary joke. But in reality, it describes a technique used by the German musician Hauschka. It involves placing various objects between the strings or onto the hammers of a piano. The technique has been around since the late 19th century and Erik Satie was an early practitioner. Hauschka’s music displays the influence of Satie as well as modern minimalists like Philip Glass and Steve Reich and he’s been releasing a cd nearly every year since 2005. The first video shows how one prepares a piano. Bon appetit!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Magical Madjo

Madjo is a French-Senegalese singer with a wonderful, spirited voice. There’s virtually no info on her on the net, so this entry will have to be brief. She put out her first and only CD, Trapdoor in 2010.and it’s a dandy. The songs are mostly in English, but that doesn’t really matter—her joyful singing transcends language. Her music is mainly catchy pop and will put a smile on your face.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Night of the Living Dead

The Dead Texan is a duo comprised of Adam Wiltzie and Christina Vantzou. Wlitzie is better known for his work with the ambient group Stars of the Lid and Vantzou is avideo artist. There music sounds like it would be perfect for a soundtrack of a science fiction movie. So far, they only have one cd out, 2004’s self-titled release, however they have a bunch of very cool videos on youtube.