We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is a precocious and cocksure joyride across California psychedelia with a burning, bursting punk rock engine. In the same year as Scott McKenzie the singer of "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)" leaves this mortal coil, Foxygen delivers unto us the dandy Glockenspiel-packing "San Francisco," which both circumvents and dissects McKenzie's tune and its many cousins of the era. "I left my love in San Francisco/(That's okay, I was bored anyway)/I left my love in a field/(That's okay, I was born in LA)" goes the lovely call-and-response chorus, slamming together the archetypal flower children of the 60s and the archetypal ADHD vapidity of our recent generations. Another highlight, "Shuggie," manages to fit all the light bounce of the song's namesake and the climbing choruses of ELO into it's 3 minutes while still filling the tune with imagery of "rhinoceros-shaped earrings" and haunted parlors. Every nook and cranny of the record is loaded with their unflappable, brazen personalities. Foxygen takes "swagger," that as-of-late misused adjective, back once and for all. It's flipping pyramids old and new upside down — from the miracle demo hand-off to their Richard Pryor-as-Jagger live shows to their singular idiosynchratic vision of rock n' roll.
Foxygen is the bi-coastal songwriting duo of Sam France (vocals, Olympia, Wash., 22 years old) and Jonathan Rado (guitar/keyboards, NYC, 22). They are the raw, de-Wes Andersonization of The Rolling Stones, Kinks, Velvets, Bowie, etc. that a whole mess of young people desperately need. At the same time, they pull a very Anderson-type move wherein they paint an impressionistic and hyper-real (and instantly recognizable) portrait of specific places and times — and blurring the lines between time and place. Yet, it never comes across as anything but absolutely modern music. They bring the freewheeling qualities of someone like Ariel Pink to those aforementioned influences to make for one of the most refreshing listens of the year. They are the real deal and total savants. Jagjaguwar is proud to introduce you to Foxygen and their bedroom masterpiece Take the Kids Off Broadway.
When Ryan Olson decided to make a record with Solid Gold members Zack Coulter and Adam Hurlburt, it was clear to them what the result would be: a collection of drugged-up keyboards and slick bedroom production almost exclusively inspired by 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love.” What they didn't know was that it would spiral into a project of epic proportions, enlisting the talents of over 25 musicians from various scenes around the country, relocating the base of operations from Olson's Minneapolis bedroom/studio to the Wisconsin-based studio April Base, and the genesis of a musical super-family, Gayngs.
Olson began calling upon an eclectic cast of contributors whom he thought would share his vision, and relish in the idea of exploring uncharted musical territory within them. The first people to join the cause were Megafaun and Ivan Howard of the Rosebuds. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce were soon to follow. By mid-2009 the studio sessions were becoming more and more frequent, bouncing back and forth between April Base and Olson's bedroom. In Minneapolis, Olson brought in Rhymesayers rapper P.O.S and his fellow Doomtree artist Dessa, psych-rockers Jake Luck and Nick Ryan (Leisure Birds), song-birds Channy Moon-Casselle and Katy Morley, jazz-saxophonist Michael Lewis (Happy Apple, Andrew Bird), retro-pop duo Maggie Morrison and Grant Cutler (Lookbook), and slide-guitarist Shön Troth (Solid Gold).
Vocally, Gayngs is a triumph. Zack Coulter (Solid Gold) shines from the jump, floating over the record with his airy, haunting melodies. Fans of Bon Iver will recognize Vernon's familiar falsetto, but will flip when they hear his Bone Thug's-style R&B, while P.O.S. abandons his genre entirely for a soul inspired tenor. With over a dozen people contributing vocals, its incredible how cohesive the album sounds.
After a year of tracking and mixing, Gayngs is officially ready to release the album, entitled "Relayted". With each song written at 69 BPM's, and tripped-out transitions from song to song, it is truly an audio experience from start to finish.
On the farm in rural Australia where 24-year-old Sophie Payten - AKA Gordi - grew up, there's a paddock that leads down to a river. A few hundred meters away sits another house, which belongs to her 93-year-old grandmother. The rest, she says, "is just beautiful space. And what else would you fill it with if not music?"
And so she did, first tinkling away on an out-of-tune piano, and then on the acoustic guitar she got for her 12th birthday. Gordi's first foray into songwriting came in the form of performances at her school’s weekly chapel. There the chrysalis of the music she's making now — a brooding, multi-layered blend of electronica and folk, with lyrics that tend to avoid well-trodden paths -- began to form. "I often find that writing about platonic relationships," she says, "can be a great deal more powerful than writing about romantic ones." "Heaven I Know," the first single from Gordi's debut album Reservoir, is an example of just that. With the breathy chant of "123" chugging along beneath the song's sparse melody and melancholic piano chords, "Heaven I Know" gazes at the embers of a fading friendship. The ramifications of loss ripple throughout Reservoir, which she wrote and recorded in Wisconsin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, and Sydney. Gordi produced two of the tracks herself ("Heaven I Know" and "I'm Done"), and co-produced the rest.
When it comes down to it, the running thread of the album is its lyrics. "Music is kind of what encases this story that you're trying to tell," says Gordi. Her stories are stark, honest, and soul-searching. Like "the trifecta" of Billy Joel, Carole King and James Taylor that sound-tracked her upbringing, she's unafraid to sit in contemplative melancholy — a place she calls, fittingly, "the reservoir."
There are few young songwriters the caliber of Sophie Payten. At 22 years of age, Gordi distills a broad spectrum of emotional experience into captivating, spine-tingling musical gems – a worldly vocal punctuated by wonderful arrangements. Gordi’s musical instincts began on the piano at an early age by virtue of her music teacher mother. Like so many of her musical heroes, she was later drawn to the earthiness of the steel string – a useful piece of armory to have growing up on a farming property in Canowindra in rural New South Wales, Australia. But the craft in her songwriting is found partly in the emotional spectrum that her tracks span – from wistful aching to spirited celebration, her lyrical journeys take us places in our memories and imaginations that belie her 22 years. The candor in Gordi’s songs is matched by a vocal tone that is at once fractured and brimming with richness. Combining vintage vocal layering and earthy guitar textures with delicate modern electronic production, Gordi’s sonic palette is one she can call her own.
Everything is coming together in Julie Doiron's world, from embracing her electric past, to embarking on a new and energetic phase of her solo career with some of the most upbeat and inspiring songs of her recording career. I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day — which arrives on the heels of the album Lost Wisdom, Doiron and her bandmate Fred Squire’s recent critically-acclaimed collaboration with Mt. Eerie — presents listeners with an album that reflects both her continued growth as an artist and a renewed optimism as a songwriter as well. As has often been the case, Doiron’s songwriting is rooted in what’s happening around her.
More than any other songwriter, you can tell exactly what's going on in her life. Direct and painfully honest, she lays it all out in her lyrics. "I just sing about what's happening," she admits, resigned to her style. "I don't know how to do anything else. I don't know how to write any other way. I've wanted to... I've tried! Because sometimes I feel like maybe I shouldn't be so direct, but I don't know how."
In addition to this new perspective, Doiron has made an album which showcases a thick distortion and melodic pop not heard since her days with indie heroes Eric's Trip in the '90s. It's part of a desire to get back to her electric days with that band. The past couple of years have seen Eric's Trip regroup for triumphant reunion tours, and a rekindling of her work with Trip mainstay Rick White (who produced her 2007 Polaris Prize-nominated album Woke Myself Up, and returned for this album). I Can Wonder was recorded at White's isolated home studio, just northwest of Toronto. Doiron handled the electric and acoustic guitar parts, Rick played all the bass and keyboards, and Fred Squire performed all the drums and some lead guitar. Squire, who comes from Sackville, New Brunswick, is Julie's bandmate in another of her projects, Calm Down It's Monday.
We all are driven to doing certain things and making certain decisions in our lives for any number of reasons, be it ambition, fear, greed or love. The last purpose is perhaps the most identifiable to most of us, and so it is no great mystery that that which drives us can both reward us immensely and plummet us into the greatest depths of inconsolable sadness and regret. On Julie Doiron’s first album of new material in over two years, she addresses in her signature intimate songwriting style both the heights and the fallout in a way that forces the listener to reexamine their own loves.
One of the most important and greatest loves in Julie’s life is that towards her family. The first half of Woke Myself Up details the joy and awe that her family has given her. Immediately, one knows that her unabashed and unaffected lyrics are coming from a woman truly moved. The second half sees Julie making mistakes, blowing second chances, and coming to terms with the sad truth that one cannot live up to expectations set by herself or those she loves. The harrowing untitled final track (recorded and added to the album at the eleventh hour by Doiron) may very well be the most affecting of Doiron’s performances ever committed to tape.
Also important to the recording of this album was a reunion of sorts with her musical family. Founding Eric’s Trip bandmate Rick White produced and played on the entire album, and a handful of the songs contain the entire original Eric’s Trip band nucleus that took the Canadian indie underground by storm 15 years ago. Working with an old friend and collaborator like White was key to this album’s intensely vulnerable and emotionally raw tone. What’s captured is timeless and universal, in the same way as Cat Power’s Moon Pix, Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love And Hate, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue.
After a solo album on Sub Pop (her home for the previous decade with Eric's Trip), Doiron found a good home in Tree, for whom she first released Will You Still Love Me? As the inaugural EP, it was also a creative spring-board for Doiron, a mini-album that has endured as a fan favorite. Adored for its sparse, no-nonsense demeanor, the EP offers a first glimpse at what has become Doiron's signature style, the moody union of vocals and guitar whose unified tone both expresses and evokes a timeless longing for a comforting, primal maternalism.
From that understated gem she launched right into her most critically-acclaimed and accessible album, Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. Ottawa-based quartet the Wooden Stars played as the back-up band and helped Doiron step out of her solitary, introspective robe and venture into a more urgent and upbeat, albeit still relatively spartan, direction. Combining elements of rock and jazz-a la Joni Mitchell's early '70s work-Julie and the Wooden Stars somehow translated the coldness of the Canadian winter into one of the warmest and most tender records to be produced in the Eastern province in years.
"Ices" is a celebration of flight, levity, and the conviction that you can leave earth. You take wing in an airplane, you go to real places when you dream, you have out-of-body experiences, you get high, you lose yourself in someone else.
When we started work on these songs, I was beginning a gradual move to California, constantly traveling back and forth from New York. I was experimenting. I was falling in love. Our studio in the Hudson Valley was full of electronics and computers and the sounds of future ships sailing through the vastness of space, and I sometimes forgot where I was. The first songs we wrote were called "flying 1", then "flying 2", and so on, which eventually evolved into songs on the album. Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination. The process created a lightness in me, a freedom and positive energy that I'd never before felt or explored.
This recording session became a two year music and spiritual retreat with my psychic twin brother, Eliot. A private journey during which we abandoned old habits and familiar sounds. We got really geeky and experimented in our studio. We obsessed over sympathetic magic, "Ancient Aliens", and the NBA. We allowed everything we loved to find its way in: Persian percussion, hip-hop beats, lo-fi, hi-fi, Pakistani pop, Link Wray, Jason Pierce, gospel, dub. We developed new systems; we worked with synthesis, software, and samples; we became producers. The Hudson Valley was home base, but I wanted to keep flying. I wrote songs in California, recorded vocals in Atlanta, and worked with Clams Casino in Brooklyn. For the first time, Lia Ices felt like an inclusive project with its own identity, not just a name.
"Ices" as a whole is devoted to these certainties. While we have evolved, we are still animals. We respond to planets, patterns, and cycles. We require the sounds of our origins. We live in the future but stay bound to the primitive and primordial. We will always want tribe, we will always want rhythm, we will always need music to guide us into our deepest sense of what it means to be human. So we hear sounds from all over the planet in this album. We devour so much music, and with this album we allowed ourselves to claim bits from all of it.
Lightning Dust's 3rd proper full length finds its inspiration in skeletal synth pop, modern R&B beats, the films of John Carpenter and -- in accordance with Lightning Dust's only longstanding rule -- absolute minimalism. The core of Fantasy lies as much in the songwriting as in its sonics, and begins with tools familiar to Webber and Wells: her acoustic guitar and his Wurlitzer piano. They worked to distill the arrangements to just the few key elements that were necessary to make the feel right, and through countless hours of labor in The Balloon Factory - their Vancouver studio - the songs found their way to a sonic palette more squarely electronic than either expected.
Infinite Light, Lightning Dust's sophomore album for Jagjaguwar, finds duo Amber Webber and Joshua Wells (both of Black Mountain) calling upon the powers of classic pop arrangements and making the most of five days with a Steinway Grand piano. While Webber and Wells met through their involvement in what they described as two of the saddest bands in Canada, the songs written for Infinite Light found the two moving away from the uniformly downbeat. Rather, the songs were more suited to lush and melodramatic arrangements. Cue the strings. Moments of Infinite Light remind us of the glory days of musical theatre, with touches of Hair, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tommy. Lightning Dust have delivered a cosmic record about the adventure in finding love and the journey in losing and rediscovering "the light."
"While lovers of gritty, post-punk, gothic blues need look no further than Love Life - in fact, you might want to drop some of your other loves - even disparagers of the genre may find Ms. Ford too formidable a force to dismiss. Sounding like the bastard offspring of blues-era Diamanda Galas and a teenage Nick Cave, Ford outdoes both, growling and wailing and offering guttural conciliation while succinctly punctuating the ghastly things that befall the human heart." - Silke Tudor, San Francisco Bay Guardian Here is Night, Brothers, Here the Birds Burn is Love Life's second record, their first for Jagjaguwar. On it the Baltimore quartet create dark, twisted operatic-rock for the rest of us. Featuring ex-members of Jaks, Universal Order Of Armageddon and The Great Unraveling, their music is the evil carnival without the kitsch. Or the dance of the bull-fight without the sword. It co-mingles the sacred with the profane, making the juxtaposition seem natural. Odd time signatures, driving bass, spooky, multi-layered arrangements and Katrina Ford's uniquely sinister, guttural voice and lyrics...the music of Love Life is unlike anything else.
When Manishevitz's debut record GRAMMAR BELL AND THE ALL FALL DOWN was released in 1999, the record was quickly branded by the press as an "underground treasure" that was "bleak and baleful." To them it possessed "a poker-faced Gothic sensibility flavored with sinister acidity." In contrast, Manishevitz's followup record ROLLOVER is a more upbeat affair, possessing the absorbing chemistry of Mr. Van Dyke Parks, Arthur Lee's Love, and (from a different continent altogether) Robert Wyatt. This is exactly as intended. When Adam Busch, the man behind the band, decided to move from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Chicago, he was also looking to find a new home for his masterful collection of spacious blues effigies. The result: the fractured folk lonesomeness evident on the first record has become wrapped in glistening sheaths of 1960s So-Cal pop enthusiasm.ROLLOVER was produced by Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble, Lofty Pillars and Simon Joyner) and arranged by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (Peter Brotzmann Tentent, John Zorn and Light Box Orchestra). In the recording of ROLLOVER, Manishevitz expanded to not only include Krassner and Lonberg-Holm, both of whom performed throughout the record, but also Via Nuon (Drunk and Bevel), Ryan Hembrey (Edith Frost and Pinetop Seven), Jason Adasiewicz (Central Falls) and Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5 and The Flying Luttenbachers). With the help of this superb collection of Chicago-area musicians, Adam Busch has put together a record backed by cascading percussive pellets and simmering, mellifluous horns that resound in mysterious cyclical rounds.
Midnight Sister is brought to you by the isolating landscape of the San Fernando Valley - its colors, diners, lunatics, neon lights. Midnight Sister's Juliana Giraffe and Ari Bazoulian, both lifelong residents of this storied valley, have only become more inspired by the area's mythology over the years: its two-faced magical wonderland and tragic circus.
Giraffe, 23, an André 3000 fashion disciple and daughter of an LA disc jockey, was raised almost exclusively on disco and David Bowie. Her lyrics and lyrical melodies were composed gazing out from a tiny retail window on Sunset Boulevard. Her Rear Window-like longing allowed her imagination to run wild and cook up the wild narratives that would fill Balouzian's compositions. Balouzian, 27, classically trained and already a go-to arranger for odd-pop names like Tobias Jesso Jr. and Alex Izenberg, is inspired by the immersive, almost visual language of Stravinsky and Ravel as much as the cinematic jeu d'esprit of Altman's Brewster McCloud and Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love.
Saturn Over Sunset, their debut album, is a shared musical vision of Hollywood's oddest corners. It is the baroque, eldritch alley you must pass through to fine the speakeasy night of your life. You’ll come out bleary-eyed and the sunrise will be pouring all pink and orange through the smog and palm trees.
In the distance the land kisses the sky. If you squint just right you can see Minus Story in flux there, somewhere between earthbound and ethereal, making sunspots on the horizon line with their noisy & melodic headphone pop. Reared together in America's Midwestern cradle, Minus Story speak their own codified musical language as only childhood friends can share. Tirelessly artistic yet unpretentious, they are unafraid of abject noise, folk, soul, or straight-up pop rock.
My Ion Truss is Minus Story's Studio Album. It was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago with John Congleton (Explosions In the Sky, The Polyphonic Spree). Having a producer behind the controls for the first time allowed them to work more collectively as a band, giving them the freedom to record the primary tracks completely live. It is the closest thing to Minus Story's cathartic live show that they've put to tape to date. The result is an epic & anthemic cross between Pearl Jam, Queen, Brian Eno, and Roxy Music.
If we could hear the angels singing about us, they would be in harmony with the chosen sons of Boonville,Missouri. With No Rest for Ghosts, their second full-length record for Jagjaguwar, Minus Story have arrived. Their heavenly racket shuffles, flutters, crashes and bangs all about us. Their reedy artistic voice nears multi-octave range. Their rhythmic presence delights us in a sublime collision of the conventional and the experimental. And while their trademarked “Wall of Crap” sound is still present to some degree, No Rest for Ghosts has transcended the earnest collage aesethic of sounds battling it out for attention and now fully exhibits a depth and subtlety of performance not found on their critical darling The Captain Is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance (their first full-length for Jagjaguwar, released in 2004). No Rest for Ghosts is a portal to a richly imaginative Minus Story universe, where the band sings about a narrator being eaten and regurgitated by his/her own baby in order to feed its own monstrous young, the chasing of a cloud that eats souls, the jumping off of a cliff like lemmings after employers are laid waste to, the dreaming of a Nazi invasion of their hometown, God sadistically laughing at them, and their respective minds being invaded by undead celebrities. The emphasis is on either structure over hooks, or the willingness to enjoy a story in words unfolding over a set of chords without any unneccessary “window dressing” getting in the way. Minus Story is influenced musically by the solo work of John Frusciante, the tenderness of Bjork, the melodic interplay ofTelevision, and the directness of late period Tom Waits. The band is also conceptually influenced by the brutality of JerzyKosinski's The Painted Bird, the sweeping and ambivalent authoritarianism critique of Jason Lips (the provider of cartoon drawingsfor the album art, and the creator of the Opera and the Blond Stalin character), and most of all by the idea of the invisibleenemy and the erosion of the soul by unknown outside forces.The isolation and boredom of small town life has led Minus Story to put the love of art and best friends before career, fashion andprofessionalism. The writing and recording process for them is one of festivity and trying to capture inspiring moments in theirmistakes. They will never hit their mark, but, in failing, they arrive transported somewhere else. A driving aesthetic force withinthe band is their conviction that they are only different from their musical idols in that they are dependent on shitty jobs to fundtheir art. Only the rich and privileged are truly independent. Minus Story feel that they and their peers are bound by a commonlack of funds as “budget artists” playing “budget rock”.
Following up the stunning Julia With Blue Jeans On, Spencer Krug delights us with five more majestic tunes, newly written and never before released.
Released physically on vinyl only, this EP is the perfect collectible for all Moonface audiophiles.
Moonface is not a band, just plain half-old me, in any solo or collaborative projects I'm involved in from now until whenever. In early 2010 the first EP was released on Jagjaguwar. It was called Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums, and sounds as the title suggests. This past winter, trying to keep sane in my snowed-in Montreal home, I recorded another solo record. This new one is an LP called Organ Music not Vibraphone like I'd Hoped and is due out August 2nd, 2011. -Spencer Krug
This is physically available only in the vinyl format (approximately 20 minutes of music on a single side of a 12-inch record). It is also available in digital formats. The vinyl edition and some digital editions will be accompanied with a dream journal, on which the music is based.
I called this thing My Best Human Face not only because that's one of my favorite lines on the album, but because I sometimes don't know who I am, or if I'm as kind and generous and happy as other people. The title speaks to the vague theme of identity-confusion that is loosely woven into the songs - a reoccurring theme I recognized only after the writing was done. It’s a confusion which I think exists for most of us, sure, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the campfire in the middle of our circle; we don’t have to stare into the flames. It’s simply not that important. At end of it all, these are good-time songs, meant to inspire good times in the listener. They were made joyously, with a stubborn love of music at their centre. And while some of the content might be dark or sad, the memories of making these songs brings only gladness and gratitude, and it's their construction, not deconstruction, that I want to celebrate now.
- Spencer Krug
The lyrical theme of Moonface's With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery, recorded with Helsinki prog kraut rock band Siinai, is heartbreak. According to Krug, it was not planned, but became obvious halfway through the writing process. Some recently battered, still mildly swollen heart snuck its way into the first lyrics written, so he went with it. He wrote songs based on his own experiences with heartache, stories told to him by friends, and drummed up scenarios of ill-fated love that were absolute fiction. Altogether, the inevitability of life's flawed and failed relationships, the shitty feelings we feel as a result, and the people we become (ugly, brave, violent, crawling like babies back toward the womb) while trying to deal with those feelings are the ideas explored in these songs. It is not a particularly original theme, but one Krug felt worth digging into, perhaps deeper than he ever has before.
Written in Montreal, Los Angeles, Asheville, Topanga, Laguna, Big Bear, coastal Nicaragua, and on a sleepy ship traversing the Pacific ocean, making Aromanticism was a 3-year adventure into the parts of the self that society encourages us to silence for the sake of our sanity.
The album title was chosen before any of its songs were written. The not-yet-in-the-dictionary definition of an "aromantic" is simply someone who doesn't completely feel romantic attraction. I'm just trying to get it out from over the red squiggly line.
Aromanticism features performances and production contributions from Matt Otto (Majical Cloudz), Thundercat, Joshua Willing Halpern, Paris Strother (KING), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Rob Moose, Ian Chang (Son Lux), Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders), Nicole Miglis (Hundred Waters), Ludwig Gorannson, Cam Obi and more. All of the lyrics and vocal arrangements were written by me. Genre is shirked while choir-inspired vocal layering is employed in order to explore the multiplicities that are contained within a single person. - Moses Sumney, June 2017