By the time the Curious Digit had gotten around to recording HESSIAN HILLS, they had become "adept impressionists" creating a few sweeping portraits of sonic, artistic and emotional paralysis. The songs throughout Hessian Hills flirt with country and the subtler side of epic rock, with sentimental noise and the vestiges of gamelan -- there is a good balance between the traditional and the unconventional, between tension and release. And the words and melodies are memorable, almost infectious, yet disarming.
Rob Sheffield (Details, Rolling Stone) put it best when he wrote, "BOMBAY ALOO is a playfully bizarre avant-pop racket with guitar fuzz, cheapo synths, video-game noises, and songs to take your breath away... If a junk shop could hum, it would sound like the Digit."
The Lord Dog Bird is the solo recording project of Colin McCann, guitarist for Jagjaguwar artists, Wilderness. While the band was on extended hiatus, McCann kept at it, documenting his feelings about life and music at home on his four track. The result is a gritty, tactile document of a time spent in self-exploration and flux.
It’s been 8 years since the first Skygreen Leopards' record was released. Since then the boys have maintained their singular aesthetic while managing to dabble with faux-folk, avant garde pop, reverb-drenched lo-fi psychedelia, plastic country and blurry ballads. This latest effort finds them collaborating with Jason Quever (Papercuts) to create a melancholy world overflowing with itinerant dandies, urban streets, suburban teens, and more girls' names than I care to count, all set to melodic shuffles featuring harmonies, frail piano, and romantic guitars.
As always with the Leopards the rhythms refuse to be bridled, the boys resist the urge to jam, and they won’t ever learn to sing properly. This will frustrate the expectations of some. Others will find a sweet shadowy hiding place in these songs -- 3 minutes to hang out with girls who race horses, boys who never learned to dance, and a dirty uncle who steals your cigarettes.
The Skygreen Leopards started in 2001 as a duo, just Glenn Donaldson and Donovan Quinn. Working out of the Hobo Victoria district of San Francisco, they've since recorded five full-length albums and one EP in their five year history. Over these recordings the band has been given to metamorphosis but has always managed to sound distinctly "Skygreen". Their newest album, Disciples of California, continues in the alchemical tradition of change and inward-revolt. On it, the Skygreen Leopards mix pop melodies, minimal country truisms, jingle-jangling Californianism and angular folk with something the band refers to as "our horse called Dire Arrow," which roughly translates into family friendly (sans the "American Censorship" connotations).
The Skygreen Leopards present Jehovah Surrender, a six song EP that documents the changing of seasons in a world of whippoorwill moans. Electric guitar howl like a farmers hound, fuzz bass stampedes, and drums trot and gallop like the finest of wild horses. Donovan & Glenn write: “Not long ago the band was visiting a friend in Port Costa, California. After sharing a bottle of wine and enjoying the moonlight dances of his two daughters—the friend wanted to share a secret. He pulled an oversized key outof his overalls pocket and lead them out back to his shed. In the shed was an ancient drumset and a cobwebby electric guitar.The man said he knew Arlo Guthrie and that he was once in a band called Hobo Splendor.Well thats all it took for theSkygreen's to lose their hearts and heads to a new muse.We played All the Young Dudes and Hobo Jesus Blues all night longand the daughters danced ballroom. This e.p. is inspired by the man from Hobo Splendor—get better my friend!”
With Life & Love in Sparrow's Meadow, The Skygreen Leopards expand on their strange pastoral folk-pop and enter center stage as one of the most unique voices in the new folk movement. The Skygreen Leopards are Donovan Quinn (Verdure) and Glenn Donaldson (Thuja, Blithe Sons, Franciscan Hobbies, Birdtree, Ivytree, etc.). Formed in 2001, Quinn and Donaldson met while responding to a cryptic ad in the paper looking for Lumberjack players (little wooden dancing men you play on a board for percussion and visual interest). After being bested by an Appalachian man, Donovan and Glenn began studying the stars together where Glenn, while tracing his finger along Orion, said, "Donovan, we are the Skygreen Leopards", and so they were.
The Skygreen Leopards originate from the Bay Area-based Jewelled Antler forest of bands. Donaldson co-founded the Jewelled Antler label in 1999, which has since released over 25 CD-R's ranging from straight field recordings & outdoor improv-folk to noise & fractured pop music. The Skygreen Leopards are without a doubt the most structured and accessible of these projects. Much of the Jewelled Antler music is recorded live outdoors on mini-discs & boomboxes while the Skygreen Leopards primarily focus on a surreal form of multi-layered folk-pop recorded on an old reel-to-reel housed in a moldy trailer on the back of a horse ranch. 12-string guitars, banjos, dulcimers, Jew's harps, organs, maracas, mandolins, harmonicas, ocarinas & reed flutes harmonize with the field-recorded songs of birds, barnyard animals & insects. This hedge of sounds is the backdrop for Quinn & Donaldson's mythological rants & hazy melodies.
The Union of a Man and a Woman are Neil Campbell, John Harouff and Kurt Beals, three high school kids from Stauntonä Virginia, who have been playing together since the age of twelve. Their tools of the trade are squealing, static-y guitars, a barely legal batch of broken cymbals contained in a little red wagon, the Millenium Falcon of sound systems and shear, youthful bravado. With them, they bring back all the best elements of the convergence of art-rock and punk in the eighties, borrowing as much from artists like the Dead C and Glenn Branca's army of noise guitarists as they do from more "socially important" and vital bands like Fugazi and Big Black. Yes, "there's a bomb in that baby carriage," and it is the Union of a Man and a Woman. Their non-negotiable brand of transcendent noise will convert you on the spot."Cutting its teeth on rock theoreticians like Bastro and Don Caballero, the trio has created a fully-formed machine capable of a wide range of post-punk athleticism, allowing a jarring mix of tight starts and stops, giant walls of sound and studied experimentalism to somehow coexist within the span of a single song. What's more impressive is that THE SOUND OF... was recorded live in the studio with only the vocals overdubbed. Keep an eye on these three -- they may end up rocket scientists by the time they hit their mid-20's."-- Tad Hendrickson, CMJ
For the last decade, Tim Heidecker (along with his comedy partner Eric Wareheim) has proven to be one of our cult-comedy greats with his Adult Swim series "Tim & Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job!" and "Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories." He's starred in indie films and played sold out stand-up sets around the world.
But who is Tim Heidecker? Is he a real man with all the regular feels? Well, yes, of course he is. He resides on a hill in Glendale, CA, up to his armpits in diapers, bills, his mortgage, in the workaday life of a writer. It's this pedestrian side of his life from which Heidecker pulls the fodder for the aptly titled In Glendale, his first earnest collection of songwriting under his full name.
In Glendale shows Heidecker shifting deftly from the mundane to the idiosyncratic; from the sentimental to the caustic; from the earnest to the humorous. His knack for crafting catchy tunes amid curious subject matter pops up in spades across In Glendale. "Ghost In My Bed" is a lovely little number about cutting off someone's head, sticking it in a plastic bag and burying it beneath the Hollywood sign.
After an album's worth of songs about Hollywood murder fantasies, diaper changes and even a cameo from director David Gordon Green, you're left desperately trying to wipe the smile off your face.
It's Trevor Sensor's voice you notice first. A deep bubbling black tar pit of a sound, it's a voice whose unique timbre resonates far beyond the constraints of the songwriting format. It demands the listener reaches for a new vocabulary.
The 23 year old's debut album Andy Warhol's Dream is part of a literate folk lineage that runs from Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan through Tom Waits and onto the likes of Bon Iver, Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens today. It’s an unflinching honest album, transcendent in its exploration of self and sonically a collision between the classic and the forward-thinking.
Sensor's debut EP for the label, 'Texas Girls and Jesus Christ', was written on a borrowed acoustic guitar and took him out into the world. 2016 saw him tour Europe before hitting the road in the US for tours with Foy Vance and The Staves.
Andy Warhol's Dream was recorded to tape at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio and produced by both Jonathan Rado of Foxygen (The Lemon Twigs, Whitney) and songwriter/producer Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, Foxygen). His backing band featured members of Whitney.
On these 11 songs Sensor doesn't so much wear his heart on his sleeve as flings it out in the darkness of the front rows that sit beyond the glare of the single blinding spotlight. This is the sound of one man’s soul laid bare, facing life head on.
From the first moments of Trevor Sensor's debut EP for Jagjaguwar, Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, the Illinois-born 22-year-old singer/songwriter's distinctive burr of a voice sounds aged decades beyond his years. The rest of the young talent's music follows suit, too, with timeless-sounding melodies and a sense of songwriting that exudes maturity while still feeling fresh.
Sensor wrote the music featured on Texas Girls and Jesus Christ on a borrowed acoustic guitar that he has yet to return, composing songs that sound deeply felt and from a place of truth and honesty. "If I'm trying to do anything, it’s to be sincere," he says about his songwriting approach. "A lot of singer/songwriters today are oriented in irony. It's cooler to be lackadaisical rather than to try to be compelling."
And Sensor's music, above all else, is compelling: the proclamatory howls that close out the piano-led "Pacing the Cage," the dark desolation of "Satan's Man", and the dynamic blowout of the EP's title track grab your attention and refuse to let go. With Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, Sensor's presented his own little worlds for listeners to explore - with many more to follow.
II builds on the break-beat, junk-shop charm the 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ruban Nielson came to be renowned for following Unknown Mortal Orchestra's self-titled 2011 debut, and signals the solidification of the band's position as an endlessly intriguing, brave psychedelic band. UMO is unafraid to dig deeper than the rest to lock into their intoxicating, opiate groove and bring rock’n’roll’s exaggerated myths to life. Written during a punishing, debauched touring schedule during which Nielson feared for both his sanity and health, II illustrates the emotional turmoil of life on the road, painting surrealist, cartoonish portraits of loneliness, love and despair.
The threads of our past never unravel, they hover like invisible webs, occasionally glistening due to a sly angle of the sun. On Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson reflects on relationships: airy, humid longing, loss, the geometry of desire that occurs when three people align. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi-Love takes on the complications of being together.
Multi-Love adds dimensions to the band's already kaleidoscopic approach, with Nielson exploring a newfound appreciation for synthesizers. The new songs channel the spirit of psych innovators without ignoring the last 40 years of music, forming a flowing, cohesive whole that reflects restless creativity. Cosmic escapes and disco rhythms speak to developing new vocabulary, while Nielson's vocals reach powerful new heights. "It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artist is today, a curator," he says. "It's more about being someone who makes things happen in concrete ways. Building old synthesizers and bringing them back to life, creating sounds that aren't quite like anyone else's. I think that’s much more subversive."
While legions of artists show fidelity to the roots of psychedelia, Unknown Mortal Orchestra shares the rare quality that makes the genre's touchstones so vital: constant exploration.
"I only started playing the acoustic guitar last year. I'd always preferred the idea that the guitar converts a sound into voltage and then becomes really loud. I thought the acoustic guitar was a little bit too twee for me or something. But after being offered some opportunities to play various acoustic sessions to promote the new record, in situations where it wasn't possible to record the whole band, I decided to treat it like a challenge to try and play acoustic and not have it be lame. After all I was really into Arthur Lee's ability with an acoustic and started wondering if I could make it sound convincing. Anyway, after being somewhat forced to develop some skill on the acoustic through these various radio sessions and things like that I decided to record some songs acoustically and release them since people seemed to be liking the way I was doing it. Everything was recorded straight to tape in my basement with a one mic set up." — RUBAN NIELSON, UMO
As Unknown Mortal Orchestra, New Zealand by-way-of Portland songwriter and guitarist Ruban Nielson marries spry, nervy psychedelia with sharp R&B touchstones. Timeless pop hooks are produced with a soft buzzsaw edge so that the effect is akin to Stevie Wonder producing Plastic Ono Band into Nuggets-like gems. It's a one-two punch that has caught the ear of hip-hop community heavyweights (like ?uestlove, El-P) and indie-world heroes (Liars, Toro Y Moi). With bassist Jacob Portrait and drummer Greg Rogrove, Unknown Mortal Orchestra is preparing a full-length for early 2013. Single "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)," a bittersweet power-pop romp with melodies more delicate than most approaching the genre would dare, is our first taste from the recordings. It's b-side, "Waves of Confidence," is slow-grind sizzurp psych that, by its end, has built and layered to transcendent heights.
Brothers Ruban and Kody Nielson have been playing, recording and collaborating on music for decades. From the influences of their jazz musician father and dancer mother, Ruban and Kody have gone on to play in New Zealand's The Mint Chicks, and at its end in 2010, moved on to separate projects. Ruban formed Unknown Mortal Orchestra out of Portland, while Kody collaborated with various artists and musicians before his own solo project, SILICON, took shape. At the end of 2015, as UMO's Multi-Love and SILICON's Personal Computer made the rounds, garnering critical acclaim, Ruban and Kody (who played keyboards and drums on UMO's Multi-Love) took some time to rework tracks from each of their records. The theme of phones led to Kody working on UMO's "Can’t Keep Checking My Phone," changing it from a bouncy, sprite disco track to a sparser song filled with space, treated vocals and isolated drum breaks. Ruban's rework of SILICON's "Cellphone" is turned moody and dark, with a skittering beat and additional vocals. The limited edition Phone 7" is available on April 1, 2016.
We're proud to release the soundtrack to the acclaimed indie film Drinking Buddies on Jagjaguwar. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Alexander the Last, V/H/S), the film stars Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy, Rush), Jake Johnson (New Girl, Safety Not Guaranteed), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect), Ron Livingston (Office Space, Boardwalk Empire) and Jason Sudeikis (We're the Millers, SNL). The film was music supervised by Jagjaguwar's very own Chris Swanson, Grant Manship and Kathleen Cook, and features Jag artists Foxygen and Richard Youngs, as well as The Amazing, Richard Swift, Plants & Animals, Here We Go Magic and Phedre, among others.
Jagjaguwar is proud to present the soundtrack from director Rick Alverson's provocative film "The Comedy." The film focuses on Swanson (Tim Heidecker), who whiles away his days with a group of aging Brooklyn hipsters, engaging in acts of recreational cruelty and pacified boredom. Desensitized and disenchanted, he strays into a series of reckless situations that may offer the promise of redemption or the threat of retribution. A scathing look at the white male on the verge of collapse, Rick Alverson's carefully observed portrait provokes and disorients; a cautionary fable for the autumn of the American Era. With his similarly-minded friends, ("Tim and Eric" co-star Eric Wareheim, LCD Soundsytem frontman James Murphy and comedian Gregg Turkington a.k.a.“Neil Hamburger") in games of comic irreverence and mock sincerity. As Swanson awaits a large inheritance from his father’s estate, he grows restless of the safety a sheltered life offers, and he begins to test the limits of acceptable behavior, pushing the envelope in every way he can.
Alverson worked with Jagjaguwar to create a soundtrack of eerie, bittersweet and mystic pop songs from the "autumn of the American Era," featuring artists from the present (GAYNGS, Gardens & Villa, Here We Go Magic) and the past (Donnie & Joe Emerson, Bill Fay, Amanaz). Markedly, the soundtrack features excerpts from William Basinski's groundbreaking The Disintegration Loops, one of the most powerful manifestations of the inevitable cycle of life ever committed to tape, even as it documents the inevitable decay of all that is committed to tape.
It’s been four years since the first Volcano Choir album, Unmap, provided a glimpse into the collaborative mindset between a singer and a band that inspired him. Ideas were minted, written at a distance and realized in the studio; edges sanded back and flaps tucked in, the craftsmanship of the endeavor bearing evidence of the craft itself, and the technology used to assemble it. Unmap strove to find strands of life between the ones and zeroes - a carefully constructive narrative that showed the listener through its darkest passages like a tour guide leading their wards through a cave, with nothing but a slack length of rope and the senses of sound and touch. Just as importantly, it brought these people together, setting an expectation: be your own band. Achieve transference. Learn how to play these songs in the live setting. Tour Japan. Do some dates in America. Pull the life from the record and share it with tiny segments of the world.Repave brings Volcano Choir into sharp focus. The glitch-laden, cautious presentation of the band’s previous work serves as points of both reference and departure across these eight songs, the product of growing conviction and trust, of a fully-operational rock band, gifted in shading and nuance, and rumbling with power. It’s the sound of the creative process as it evolves and ultimately explodes, the seamless interleaving of electronic and acoustic/amplified instruments, multithreaded with the timbre and technology of the human voice as it enters and exits the equation. Moreover, Repave is the sound of confident musicians extending their reach to anthemic peaks and pulling back to reveal moments of real vulnerability, sure enough of themselves to let them stand on their own.
If Repave reminds you of other kinds of records from the past decade or so, it’s done so on the bonds between the members of Volcano Choir, how their friendships were fortified over the years-long process of writing and recording these songs. There is an openness to this work that won’t be taken for granted – real, moving tales of change, sadness, loss and truth grace the wordplay of these tracks, an account of life between the fringes of poetry and reality. With each verse you can sense that someone, somewhere is listening to this music and getting stronger, feeling better, learning to open up their soul.
Volcano Choir is Jon Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Matthew Skemp, Daniel Spack, Justin Vernon and Thomas Wincek
Volcano Choir is an assembly of Wisconsinites Jon Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Jim Schoenecker, Daniel Spack, Justin Vernon, and Thomas Wincek. You might find these old friends also frequenting records and stages under different monikers, Collections of Colonies of Bees and Bon Iver. The collaboration predates the meteoric rise of Justin Vernon's Bon Iver project, with original songwriting dating back to the summer of 2005, right around the time the Bees first toured with Vernon's previous band DeYarmond Edison.
While entirely a studio record, the collection doesn't suffer from the overburdens of a digital pile up or over-thinking. Rather it breathes and convulses in equal measure, radiating an inherent dynamism found only in the voluntary bondage of intimacy. With influences ranging from David Sylvian and Steve Reich to Mahalia Jackson and Tom Waits, it might be more accurate to say the group's influence is music itself. You can hear it in the care and real love generously applied to each moment of Unmap. With the vibe of some intimate backwoods gospel, plus a spirit of patience and thoughtful repetition, the music of Volcano Choir is as dynamic as it is lovely.
Unmap ultimately came together over a weekend in November 2008 in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, at Justin and Nate Vernon's recording studio. And while it is at its heart a record about the allure of being with people you need and making something with them, it is also a document created by musicians with rare gifts getting together to exorcise their ideas about beauty. This scaffolding of loops and off grid tempos for choral style vocals offers a state of continual surprise, call it unexpectation.
Unmap marks the debut full-length from Volcano Choir, the collaboration between Collections of Colonies of Bees and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.