It's been four years since the release of Nagisa Ni Te's previous album Dream Sounds, and now - after much work - their seventh album Yosuga has been completed. Jagjaguwar is once again very proud to deliver the band's most recent work to North America and Europe. Yosuga also marks the first time that Jagjaguwar has released a Nagisa Ni Te title on vinyl (not to mention the still popular compact disc format!). The Japanese duo of Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda deliver an album that consists of both beautiful arrangements and soft melodies. Yosuga - the meaning of which refers to the source or grounds upon which the body and mind rely - is one of Nagisa Ni Te's finest efforts.
The Blue Depths is an album for warmer places, a balmy haze habitat for headphone meanderings. This is a dream world where Neil Young and Jimmy Webb float in the reverb-saturated summer breeze. The solemn harmonies of “Moonlight/Twilight” drift between sheets of stirring bowed bass murmur as shimmering guitar notes ebb and flow underneath. Bursts of yearning harmonica arc over ethereal soundscapes in “The Case Of The Great Irish Elk.” The jubilant piano of “Harmless Lover’s Discourse” gives way to the most enticing pop moment of the album, a soaring bed of synth propelled by a driving bass line and vibrant rhythms.
In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of this iconic album, Jagjaguwar is proud to present the Black Sheep Boy 10th Anniversary Edition, a three-LP set combining the classic Black Sheep Boy album and its counterpart the Black Sheep Boy Appendix with an all new unreleased album entitled There Swims a Swan: full-band recordings made six months prior to the release of Black Sheep Boy which illuminate the album's roots in the traditional American songbook. Featuring beautiful, emotional readings of songs popularized by such artists as Washington Phillips, Lead Belly, the Louvin Brothers, and Roscoe Holcomb, There Swims a Swan takes the listener on a trip through the songs that inspired Sheff while composing Black Sheep Boy and reads like a run-through of that album's themes. Black Sheep Boy is celebrated for its album artwork as well as its music, and the Anniversary Edition collects that artwork in a meticulously reworked package, combining every previous element of William Schaff's imagery with a large new piece by Schaff depicting an updated Black Sheep Boy. The release also includes lengthy liner notes by Will Sheff walking the listener through the circumstances surrounding the album.
For Okkervil River fans (the most high-profile of whom was recently revealed to be President Barack Obama, who included "Down Down the Deep River" on his 2015 summer playlist), the Anniversary Edition is a loving, comprehensive, richly expanded presentation of a record many consider to be one of the band's best. For those new to the band, this might be the best place to start, the first step on a long road, the opening to a forest you can get lost in.
On Sleep and Wake-Up Songs, Okkervil River and principal songwriter Will Sheff take advantage of a break between albums to present a small collection of five more meditative songs that toss little boomerangs across the distance between what is and what could never be. They try on a loose-fitting felt suit of Tim Hardin-esque folk-pop, wade until soaked into a misty psychedelic duet, strap on an electric guitar for a lark, stack the overlapping refrains of Sheff and Minus Story’s Jordan Geiger into a Phil Spector-esque ecstacy of sexual confusion, and finally strip things down to naked and initiate a straightforward love song. These five songs have a thematic unity and a serious purpose, but the modesty of the EP format allows the band to carry them off with a candid sense of playfulness. Next spring will see a new full-length from Okkervil River; in the meantime, rest awhile in these songs.
"The goal was to push my brain to places it didn't want to go. The idea was to not have any idea – to keep myself confused about what I was doing," frontman Will Sheff says about Okkervil River's newest album. The resulting record, 'I Am Very Far,' is a startling break from anything this band has done before. By turns terrifying and joyous, violent and serene, grotesque and romantic, it's a celebration of forces beyond our control.
"Mermaid" is the darkest song you'll hear all year: a self-contained fable shot through with evocative and disturbing imagery but rising to a sweeping, romantic, oddly moving climax. This waltz-time ballad gestures towards the tattered folk of Okkervil River's beloved 2005 album Black Sheep Boy, but somehow unearths something much more mysterious and blurrily ambiguous.
With "Walked Out On a Line" we get a glimpse of what might further emerge. Choral and atmospheric and stripped of any of the acoustic textures that have defined much of the band's past work, "Walked Out on a Line" is a smooth-sailing symbolist fever-dream, fractured and impressionistic lyrics floating over a sea of sighing voices, glittering rhodes, and a gently driving beat. It's an ambitious statement about how much innovative fuel the band has to burn, an as fleeting a 5:20 song as you're likely to hear.
Pre-orders will ship to arrive in the mail by the release date of September 9, 2008. All pre-orders made between August 11 and September 9 will receive download codes via email for digital versions of the album which will be available for download as early as September 5th. Orders will be shipped with posters for both The Stage Names and The Stand Ins at no additional cost.
OKKERVIL RIVER’s new full-length album The Stand Ins is the sequel to 2007’s critically acclaimed The Stage Names, which Pitchfork praised as “…one of the year’s best,” and The New York Times proclaimed, “This band’s musical arsenal keeps getting fuller.” The Stand Ins was recorded in Austin and produced by longtime collaborator Brian Beattie and Okkervil River. The album features 11 songs and includes the track “Lost Coastlines,” on which Sheff and recently departed Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater share a duet on the joys and hardships of trying to keep the band together. Of the process Will Sheff explains, “We had so many songs we were excited about that we briefly threw around the idea of just putting out a double record. Instead, we decided to take a group of songs that fit with each other and turn that into The Stage Names, setting the rest aside for a future release, a The Stage Names sequel." The Stand Ins is that sequel, part two of a staggered double album. Like artist William Schaff’s embroidered artwork, which depicts what’s happening underneath The Stage Names’ front-cover quicksand hand,The Stand Ins picks up exactly where Part One left off but also delves deeper into the story and theme of The Stage Names. It is a full-length, fleshed-out, deeply ambitious labor of love.
*We are now out of the deluxe 2xcd version - though limited copies will be available in stores on 8/7/07. The standard single disc version is now available for sale online.* Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy was one of the most acclaimed releases of 2005. Kelefa Sanneh wrote in the New York Times that "Will Sheff, leader of the Austin indie-rock band Okkervil River, writes like a novelist.” With their newest release, The Stage Names, Okkervil River dynamite the walls of Black Sheep Boy’s gothic, moss-walled castle from the inside to let in the glaring sun. Where Black Sheep Boy presented a fairytale of dark babbling streams and high distant towers, The Stage Names takes place in an unmistakably modern world, where snowy televisions blast into cheap hotels the spectral images of soap stars endlessly betraying each other, where losers in late-night bars languish to the beat of their favorite songs, where broken-down actresses place their final cell calls from lonely mansions high in the hills. Riddled with characters real and fake, with true-life biography and brazenly fabricated autobiography, with the relics of high culture and the crumpled-up trash of low culture, The Stage Names is a cinemascopic take on the meaning of entertainment. And, crucially, it entertains. Reverberant with echoes of Motown snap and girl-group pop, redolent with ripe whiffs of dirty rock ‘n’ roll, shining with the shimmy of Bo Diddley, with the shimmer of the Velvets, with the swagger of the Faces, and with a glittery sprinkling of cheap perfume over the top of it all to disguise the stink, The Stage Names is a relentlessly-paced and ruthlessly thrilling journey.
“The President's Dead" is the first release by Okkervil River since 2005's masterful Black Sheep Boy project. Having spent most of 2005 touring and writing, the band and Jagjaguwar wanted to rush this single out before 2006 came to a close. Locked in the grooves of this limited-edition vinyl-only release is what might be Okkervil River's most accessible and most contentious song, "The President's Dead." A two-minute and forty-two second serving of alternative historical fiction camouflaged as a folk anthem tarted up as a pop single that never was, "The President's Dead" depicts with tenderness and empathy the shock felt by a sensitive young Republican upon hearing news of an assassination over the radio, its lyrics shifting sneakily from images of public horror to those of private tenderness as its music performs a similarly schizoid leap. Meanwhile, sequestered away on side 2, the lyric that bobs atop the loping, twangy pop of "The Room I'm Hiding In" depicts a paranoid flight from vastly more powerful pursuers determined to exact the most severe punishment and revenge.
With grackles in their hair and tragedies in their boots, this Austin, Texas-based group (by way of New Hampshire) has taken a shot at tradition and injected it with new passion and virility. Uniting the strains of moody chamber pop contemporaries like Tindersticks, Arab Strap, and Bright Eyes with the ragged emotional vulnerability of classic folk singers like Leadbelly and Dock Boggs, Okkervil River plays music that is both lush and organic, beautiful and unsettling. Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See, Okkervil River's second full-length record and first for Jagjaguwar, is the follow-up to their 1999 self-released debut Stars Too Small To Use. The Austin Chronicle duly called this first record "a remarkable mix of frenetic stringwork and smart, narrative lyrics...the songs [are] a constant challenge to the senses and sensibilities of the attentive." Continuing on the same path, the new record gilds principal songwriter Will Robinson Sheff's literate and wrenching songs with such instruments as string and horn sections, pedal steel, mandolin, Hammond organ and mellotron. It also features a duet with outsider rock legend Daniel Johnston. Supported by some of Austin's best musicians and produced by Brian Beattie, it is no surprise that Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See is an accomplished musical work. What makes this album truly singular, however, is that, lyrically, it is so good it makes your head hurt. The good kind of hurt. It reads like no other record we have ever come across, a very contemporary, reflexive masterpiece owing a lot in tone to the very best of the Russian and Southern Gothic literary traditions.
Okkervil River’s Down the River of Golden Dreams takes the band’s hallmarks—lush, eclectic orchestration that evokes chamber pop and soul, lapel-gripping emotional urgency, and the lyrical, direct songwriting of frontman Will Sheff—and expands and elevates them in service of a stunningly ambitious set of new songs. If last year’s Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See was the middle of the darkest night of the year, Down the River of Golden Dreams is the earliest light of a morning that could either bring the first breeze of spring or a battalion of tornadoes. On it the band stretches their wings. They shake off the fear and trepidation of the last record and try to look life in the face, emboldened by distorted blasts of Wurlitzer, guttural stabs of Hammond organ, urbane strings and jaunty horns that could be the work of a shitfaced Canadian Brass. Down the River of Golden Dreams combines with Okkervil’s trademark melancholy a sense of drama and play at which the last album only hinted. It oozes the band’s signature string-destroying folk-rock attack and umbilical chamber-pop swoon, but it also echoes the venomous cabaret of Jacques Brel, the off-kilter swagger of the Faces and Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, and the dusky balladry of Nick Cave. In addition, it displays a new confidence in frontman Will Sheff, whose concise, literary lyrics and emotionally direct delivery are rapidly distinguishing him as one of rock music’s best new songwriters. Critical raves from the likes of Rolling Stone, MOJO, Alternative Press, and No Depression variously compared the band to Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, Bright Eyes, Tindersticks and Will Oldham. This, their third full-length album, was recorded in San Francisco, California, in early 2003—at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio—with engineer Scott Solter (The Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice, the Court and Spark, Tarentel) at the board.
A List of the Burning Mountains is the latest studio album by Brooklyn psych/noise/kraut godfathers Oneida. It was recorded at the Ocropolis, the band’s longtime studio, and is a powerful, sweeping gesture that evokes the storied history of that space and Oneida’s dedication to a diehard independent music and art community.
Burning Mountains is less a traditional album than a tiny sip from an endlessly roiling sea. Oneida is known for long-form improvisatory performances and collaborations; this release serves as a concentrated blast from a wholly unique band known for 12-hour live, improvised performances and multi-day recording sessions.
Absolute II is the final piece in Oneida’s Thank Your Parents triptych of releases, begun in 2008 with Preteen Weaponry and followed by 2009’s acclaimed triple disc Rated O. With this release, the Brooklyn group concludes a challenging and profound long-term project. The Thank Your Parents triptych, totaling around 200 minutes, is intended to be listened to as a whole or in its component parts. Absolute II stands on its own, in addition to serving as a chapter in an immense whole.
Constant Future is the career-defining statement from Brooklyn-based noise-pop trio Parts & Labor. The album’s 12 tracks deliver the bare essentials that made them sui generis totems of modern art-punk: synthesized keyboard riffs distorted into oblivion, percussion pummeled hypnotically, crackling drones that haunt and soothe, fearless melodies hollered skyward. Their last release, 2008’s acclaimed Receivers, saw Parts & Labor blasting off in all directions and creating collage art from hundreds of fan-curated samples. But fifth album Constant Future finds them crashing back to earth, focusing pointedly on what they do best: unique, electronic landscapes melded with buzzing, anthemic hooks. Parts & Labor have distilled the lessons and experiences of nearly 10 years as a band into a catchy, blown-out masterwork.
Brooklyn noisepunk outfit Parts & Labor has dramatically altered their wall-of-sound: Their fourth album, Receivers, finds P&L focusing on open spaces, longer movements, expansive arrangements and loftier goals. On eight epic tracks, Receivers showcases the band's catchiest and darkest moods to date, reveling in a growing dynamic sensibility only hinted at in their previous work. Though they've maintained their love affair with glitchy oscillations and anthemic vocals, they are now utilizing the full possibilities of a band that was once a scrappy punk trio, and now a mature art-rock quartet. It's is a heady mix of psych, noise, and pop influenced by the arty minimalism of Wire, the surreal pop of early Eno, and even the spaced out psychedelia of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd.
Mapmaker is the second Jagjaguwar/Brah album from Brooklyn noisepunks Parts & Labor. Expanding on the soaring melodies and cracked electronics of 2006's Stay Afraid, P&L explores a wider array of berserk, malfunctioning instruments and intricate, pummeling rhythms. These 12 political/personal anthems about ambition and distraction boast bigger choruses, denser drones and shinier hooks.
Adding new textures to Parts & Labor's searing pop-squall, the album features guest spots from flautist/megaphonist/vocalist Natalja Kent (of The Good Good) and guitarist Joe Kremer (of labelmates Pterodactyl). Opening surge "Fractured Skies" features a horn section (led by P&L's BJ Warshaw on sax) billowing up through the kaleidoscopic fuzz of electronics. Track 10 is a distorted-toy-keyboard take on the classic Minutemen antiwar spiel "King Of The Hill."
Parts & Labor cite the following bands as influences and are totally cool with you name-checking them: Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, Boredoms, Minutemen, Neutral Milk Hotel and Amps For Christ. Parts & Labor spent 2006 touring extensively around Europe and North America, playing shows with Clinic, Black Dice, Islands, Sonic Boom, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Wilderness, Man Man, Spank Rock, An Albatross, Oneida, Year Future, Hidden Cameras, Charalambides, Wooden Wand, Matt & Kim, Kyp Malone and Oakley Hall; and they can't wait to do it again.
Mapmaker was recorded and mixed by The Brothers (Oxford Collapse, !!!, Measles Mumps Rubella, Pterodactyl) at the Brothers Studio in Brooklyn, NY. Additional vocals and electronics were recorded by Parts & Labor in a windowless bedroom. In between their Jag full-lengths, P&L recorded an all-electronics EP for esteemed experimental electronic label Broklyn Beats. Warshaw and Friel also run their own record label, Cardboard Records, which has recently put out music from Gowns, Big Bear, Pterodactyl and Aa.
Patrick Phelan’s third full-length recording is called Cost. To Phelan, it is an understatement. For him, every opportunity explored is another opportunity forgone. More so than on previous Phelan records, Cost places an emphasis on the guttural. His voice and words take center stage. He is much less guarded on Cost than on previous records. There is no lack of desperation in these new songs, yet a hopeful tone is maintained throughout. Balance is the key. Emotion is the lock. And simplicity is the door. Like a finely-tuned architect, Phelan places all of his songs in their proper space, not letting them get crowded with unnecessary words or sounds. He also steers Cost from tipping too far in the “minimalist” direction, thanks in part to a bevy of guitar solos and to the abundance of true rock moments that occur throughout the record. It has been four years since Phelan’s second full-length record Parlor came out (released on Jagjaguwar, as was his debut Songs of…). And during this sabbatical from the frontlines of musical performance, Phelan has devoted his time to the pursuits of cooking — spending time in Italy recently doing just that — and studying local and global human rights. If one’s life energies are zero sum, these recent personal endeavors of Phelan have come at the cost of promoting and performing his recordings. The good news for his fans: the release of Cost coincides with the shift of Phelan’s focus back to both recorded and live music, confirmed by his recent formation of a new live band. Bryan Hoffa, who the record is dedicated to, returns as engineer and co-producer. The record was recorded in several stages, creating an interesting challenge for Phelan who often had to work with “one takes” as the foundation of his pieces. A celebrated cast of players provided support and, bringing their influences to the table, made things a lot easier for Phelan. Greta Brinkman, former bass player for Moby, and Ian Whelan provided splendid bass arrangements. Justin Bailey’s electric guitar arrangements are placed beautifully along-side Phelan’s finger-picked acoustic guitar. And Camper Van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel offers a haunting violin on two tracks. Phelan’s music — acclaimed critically for its elegant simplicity and earnestness of expression — flourishes on this latest release, building on both old and new influences and contributions.
Peter Wolf Crier’s second album Garden of Arms is a document that paints a vivid portrait of all the pain and beauty of growth. Adapting the tenets of the grinding live show, the duo of Peter Pisano and Brian Moen transformed the fuzzy distortion, rolling and crashing drums, and laser-focused purposefulness into an intensely dynamic yet supremely polished album.
Inter-Be is the debut album by PETER WOLF CRIER, the Minneapolis-based duo of Peter Pisano and Brian Moen. The album was born on a single summer night when Pisano felt a torrent of creativity after what had felt, to him, like an interminably long dry spell. He shared the songs with Moen, and over the months that followed, at Moen's home, these rough-hewed tunes became what they are now: a confident collection of songs, but deceptive in that their very guts still reflect the thoughts of a man in transition.
Pisano's is not a new songwriting voice. He is best known for being part of the Wars of 1812, an ascendant Wisconsin-bred quartet. Their first album together, Status Quo Ante Bellum, was more than just an album. It was relocation and aspiration and Pisano's lyrical Eden. As the Wars went on hiatus, Pisano continued to hone his craft, keeping his days full as a teacher at a small private school while fine-tuning, at night, the songs that would soon become Inter-Be. Feeling confident in the songs, Pisano approached Moen, a seasoned drummer and engineer best known for his involvement in Laarks and Amateur Love. After being asked to add some percussive elements, Moen added his thundering drum rolls and perfectly timed fills, but he also added something much more: a melodic soundscape that would complete the evolution of the songs. So was born the partnership that is called Peter Wolf Crier.
Pink Mountaintops might not be the best-known band ever to make rock 'n' roll, but in Get Back they just might have written its scripture -- an exploration and celebration of what, exactly, rock 'n' roll can be. When the aliens touch down and they don't know rock 'n' roll, you can play them Get Back from start to finish and that'll be all they need.
"Outside Love" is ten songs of love and hate that read like a Danielle Steele romance novel but that would probably make for bad television.
"Outside Love" is the third album by Pink Mountaintops, AKA Stephen McBean, who has slowly emerged as a distinctive voice and a very special contributor to the North American songbook. A veteran of the Vancouver/Victoria punk rock scene, McBean is best known for his contributions to acclaimed rock band Black Mountain, as principal songwriter, guitarist and co-vocalist.
Pink Mountaintops is Stephen Mcbean. His other bands to date have included a straight out punk outfit, a crusty punk/metal band, and, most recently, a psych-tinged maximal rock group whose self-titled debut record, Black Mountain, captured a great amount of critical acclaim (and meteorically became Jagjaguwar's best-selling title.) With Axis of Evol, Pink Mountaintops’ second full-length record, Mcbean has once again created something much greater than the sum of his influences. Axis of Evol begins with a forboding spiritual. It then almost immediately ramps up into a thumping, buzzing, blissful haze, at various parts sounding like the Velvet Underground or Spacemen 3 or the Jesus and Mary Chain circa Psycho Candy, and then ends with a hypnotic, Smog-like meditation. Throughout the record, Mcbean sings about love and war, the love of war, and the war of love—on the body, on the mind and on the soul. Home-recorded and largely self-produced, Axis of Evol is a further testament to the vital prolificacy of Stephen Mcbean.
Can a sexually frustrated Canned Heat seduce a hot and bothered Neu into a cheap one night stand? The rock'n'roll road can be a long and lonely one. And it leaves much time for the mind to wander, to fixate and to obsess over the human body and all its wondrously dirty parts. Enter The Pink Mountaintops. Their debut record begins with "She caught my eye and I was on fire" and it ends with a repetitive begging plea "Don't walk away!" from a reworking of Joy Division's Atmosphere. In between these bookend statements, mountains are fucked, an ode to rock'n'roll groupies is sung, and tales of loose panties and ex-models are exposed.The Pink Mountaintops is Stephen McBean, formerly of Jerk With A Bomb and now also exemplar member of Black Mountain. The debut record -- conceived at dawn, while high on a mix of trucker speed and Red Bull, and while sailing down a Colorado highway on route to Denver as the last decent Floyd record played on the cassette deck -- was written and recorded in a month with friends Amber Webber, Joshua Wells, and Christoph Hofmeister. The fore-mentioned country drone stoned drug rock band Black Mountain lent limbs, lungs, and amplifiers to the festivities.
In late 2013, Preoccupations —then known as Viet Cong-- released a small-run cassette EP only available on tour. Over the course of a year, Matt Flegel and Scott Munro worked in their basement studio with a mess of old and run down equipment to build a set of fresh material. Joined by bandmates Daniel Christiansen and Michael Wallace, the band completed work on an debut cassette. What emerged from the studio was a mixture of sharply-angled rhythm workouts and euphoric ‘60s garage pop-esque melodies, balanced with a penchant for drone-y, VU-styled downer moments, and became a hard-to-find classic.
When the four members of Preoccupations wrote and recorded their new record, they were in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. Frontman Matt Flegel, guitarist Danny Christiansen, multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro and drummer Mike Wallace all moved to different cities and they resolved to change their band name, but hadn't settled on a new one.
And so where their previous album 'Viet Cong' was built in some ways on the abstract cycles of creation and destruction, 'Preoccupations' explores how that sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-revelatory trap affects our lives.
Opener "Anxiety" articulates that tension: clattering sounds drift into focus, "Monotony" moves at a narcoleptic pace by Preoccupations' standards, "Degraded" surprises, with something like a traditional structure and an almost pop-leaning melody to its chorus, and the 11-minute-long "Memory" is the album's keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk center.
All this adds up to Preoccupations: a singular, bracing collection that proves what's punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass. Your best year can be your worst year at the same time. Whatever sends you flying can also help you land.