the Monroe Mustang, still first in spaceThis band has cool charm and mystique to spare -- the least of their qualities. They are from Texas, for crying out loud. And they are resolute, having put together a special session of musical embroidery that sounds like nothing else. Still, sonically-speaking, you can't help but think that Monroe Mustang have been around since 1971, session-guitarists, perhaps, for Ziggy Stardust. Or openers for that unfortunate T. Rex stateside tour. Maybe they were simply in the background, hanging out during Syd Barrett's last stab at it, watching him slowly melt away. There is some lineage that is inexplicable but apparent. And with THE ELEPHANT SOUND, Monroe Mustang have created an epic, post-psychedelic masterpiece -- on equal footing with any of the works of their erstwhile predecessors.
The quietly stunning Julia With Blue Jeans On is the fourth Moonface release, bringing a degree of intimacy and self-reflection unlike anything Krug has produced to date.
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
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.
Moses Sumney evades definition as an act of duty: technicolor videos and monochrome clothes; Art Rock and Black Classical; blowing into Fashion Week from a small town in North Carolina; seemingly infinite collaborators, but only one staggering voice. A young life spent betwixt Southern California and Accra, Ghana — not so much rootless as an epyphite, an air plant. The scale is cinematic but the moves are precise deeds of art and stewardship. Sumney’s new, generous album, græ, is an assertion that the undefinable still exists and dwelling in it is an act of resistance.
To try to pin Sumney down on a sound — and really, on any matter — is to end up with a hand full of fog, but his genius is never allowing the set to sound like a hodgepodge. His forthcoming double album expands upon the sonic universe built in Sumney's critically-acclaimed debut LP Aromanticism and subsequent EP Black In Deep Red, 2014. The songs on græ may be divergent, like the visceral, Smashing Pumpkins drama of "Virile" and the intoxicated, outro jazz of “Gagarin." There’s the kinky, ambiguous bop of “Cut Me” countered with the sweeping, amphitheater-ready “Bless Me.” But there’s that voice, always unknowable and penetrating, threading these pieces together: a heavenly rasp, a whale call, Miles' horn, a soulful snarl. It all works to create a paradox, keeping art and artist somewhere between any one sure thing — but surely something that demands your attention affixed and your breath bated. All of this is græ.
There’s probably a biblical analogy to be made about a person who just happens to be named Moses, who flees the binary, splits a massive body into two pieces, and leads us through the in-between — holy and wholly rebellious. By breaking up græ into two multifaceted, dynamic pieces, Sumney is quite literally creating a "grey" in-between space for listeners to absorb and consider the art. Not strictly singles, not strictly albums, never altogether songs or spoken word segments on their own. It's neither here nor there. Neither/Nor, if you will.
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
Guitar virtuoso, songwriter exemplar, former Songs: Ohia collaborator and now Chicago everyman Dan Sullivan (aka Nad Navillus) is back with his most accomplished work to date, Iron Night. But this time the concept of Nad Navillus has been expanded. For starters, Nad Navillus has bloomed into a full band accompanied by various instrumentalists, including a full-blown string section. Sure, Sullivan still writes all the songs and leads the charge with his incredible lead guitar work and vocals. But this isn't your albino brother's indie-rock label's singer-songwriter anymore. There are collaborators in Dan's midst--a team Nad Navillus, so to speak. And they are, dare we say it, making sure the rock gets out.Recorded at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio in Chicago in the blazing summer heat with Rob Bochnik and Greg Norman at the helm, Iron Night is the Nad Navillus full-length avant rock record we've all been waiting for. Lyrically flirting with both the spiritual and the macabre, Iron Night encompasses a large range of themes and moods but never fails to project a unified tone. It is not quite a concept record, but it feels like one. And, musically, Iron Night reads like a "what if..." manifesto found in the used bin of some second-hand book store catering to music-types...what if Low had teeth or what if Gastr del Sol committed itself more steadfastly to the song form or what if the members of Fairport Convention regained their youth and plugged in for one last hurrah on the rooftop of some midwestern pizza parlor. A band can rest its laurels on being impeccably referential, or it can go about embodying a vastly superior parallel universe. Iron Night demonstrates that Nad Navillus does the latter.
Show Your Face is Nad Navillus' second album, its first for Jagjaguwar. The record combines Chicago-native Dan Sullivan's John Fahey-esque guitar playing with his beautiful voice and timeless lyricism, which brings to mind classic early-period Jackson Browne. Throughout much of the full-length, the songs demonstrate the happy marriage of a minimalist approach to songcraft with traditional fingerstyle guitar. The result is a meditative and layered work built on simple melodies and rhythms. While it is the guitar that drives these songs--something that won't surprise those who know Sullivan primarily as the guitarist for Songs:Ohia prior to this album--it is the vocals that anchor them. Lyrics focus on paradoxes: earnestness and cynicism, sensitivity and callousness, innocence and wisdom. The songs on Show Your Face occupy the unresolved conflicts of our conscience. Drawing equally on Sullivan's experiences performing classical choral works, bluegrass, barbershop, and Metallica covers in a Japanese metal band, Nad Navillus will appeal to fans of Gastr Del Sol, Archer Prewitt and Low.
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.
Dream Sounds may be the closest Nagisa Ni te ever gets to a greatest hits record. And although there are only four tracks on this compact disc (some previously released, but all re-recorded, re-mixed and re-mastered for this special edition), the record clocks in over forty minutes, runs the whole gamut of the sounds and moods of Nagisa Ni te’s songcraft over the years, and contains their most moving moments. This full-length record is the perfect introduction to the dreamy and nature-obsessed universe of Nagisa Ni te. Nagisa Ni te is Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda, and they are from Osaka, Japan. This is their sixth album.
Nagisa Ni te (aka Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda) are back. Their new record The Same As A Flower, recorded between 2002 and the beginning of this year, is the third to be released by Jagjaguwar. Much like on previous records, the songs on the new record by this Osaka, Japan-based group are about nature, about the singularity of two people immersed in nature together, and about experiencing life as “being”, not “becoming” or “recovering from”. And like their previous full-length record, Feel, The Same As A Flower still brings to mind the very best of sixties’ and seventies’ psychedelic, progressive and folk rock (i.e. middle-era Roy Harper, Pink Floyd, 13th Foor Elevators and early Neil Young). Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s Tori Kudo may describe Nagisa Ni te best when he says: “Nagisa Ni te’s naked Progressive rock-based worldly songs, which are sung not so much deliberately as seriously, on their love beach, now fill a blank somewhere between underground hi-fi and overground lo-fi.” Also of note, Dominquie Leone of Pitchfork wrote: “Well before mystic folk became fodder for VW commercials, Shibayama was conjuring up the spirits of Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin to the delight of the Japanese psychedelic scene.”
Here is the Nagisa Ni te story: in the beginning Shinji Shibayama performed "hyped up dada-psych" in the early 1980's as part of Idiot O'Clock and then the more toned-down Hallelujahs. He also founded and still runs Org Records, the label responsible for bringing Eastern psych powers Maher Shalal Hash Baz to the world. With Maher Shalal Hash Baz's help, with the musical contributions of many of their collective friends, and with the assistance of Shibayama's now full-fledged cohort Masako Takeda in all things Nagisa Ni te, Shibayama recorded and released On The Love Beach, a beautiful, slow and entrancing work pulling equally from American and British rock traditions. Thus was born Nagisa Ni te, which means "on the beach" in Japanese, an homage of sorts to Neil Young's 1975 masterpiece. Their psych folk tendencies notwithstanding, Nagisa Ni te also did well to take cues from the avant rock world around them at the time, comfortably implementing the minimalist credo "less is more" throughout this record.Though On the Love Beach was Nagisa Ni te's debut, it is the second Nagisa Ni te record brought to the United States and Europe by Jagjaguwar. It follows Feel, their most recent endeavour, which garnered significant critical acclaim in the press. And like Feel, it does bring to mind the very best of sixties' and seventies' psychedelic, progressive and folk rock (i.e. early to middle-era Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Crazy Horse, and Roxy Music). Maher Shalal Hash Baz's Tori Kudo may describe Nagisa Ni te best when he says: "Nagisa Ni te's naked Progressive rock-based worldly songs, which are sung not so much deliberately as seriously, on their love beach, now fill a blank somewhere between underground hi-fi and overground lo-fi."
This one’s for the procrastinators and the slow learners. This one’s for the bungled and the botched, for the fumbled and humbled. This one’s for the late bloomers, and ultimately, Nap Eyes latest full length Snapshot of a Beginner is proof that sometimes, the late bloomers bloom brightest.
Eight years and four albums into it, the artistic arc of Nap Eyes finds itself tracing a line alongside frontman Nigel Chapman’s daily tai chi practice. Those first years and albums are the cold mornings in the park: the measured movements, the joint aches, the self-doubt. With each new release, an incremental and invigorating step forward. And with the end of each album and tour, a return to the beginner's practice. And now, Snapshot of a Beginner, Nap Eyes's boldest, most concentrated and most hi-fi album to date, a study of that repeated return and all that it can teach you.
Almost all the songs of Nap Eyes are whittled into their final form from Chapman’s unspooling, 20-minute voice-and-guitar free-writing sessions. Each member — drummer Seamus Dalton; bassist Josh Salter or guitarist Brad Loughead — then plays a crucial role in song development, composing around the idiosyncratic structures and directing the overall sound and feel of the songs. Until now, that final song construction and recording has been mostly done live in a room. But for Snapshot of a Beginner, the band went to The National’s neuvo-legendary upstate NY Long Pond Studio, working with producers Jonathan Low (Big Red Machine, The National) and James Elkington (Steve Gunn, Joan Shelley), the latter of whom also did pre-production arrangement work with the band.
It took Nap Eyes a long time and a long practice to reach this artistic zen, but one gets the feeling throughout Snapshot of a Beginner that this balance is going to hold.
Nap Eyes are all Nova Scotians by raising and temperament, acclimated to life on an Atlantic peninsula linked narrowly to the rest of North America. I'm Bad Now, which follows enigmatic frontman Nigel Chapman's quest for self-understanding, is their most transparent and personal to date and constitutes the third chapter of an implicit, informal trilogy that includes Whine of the Mystic (2015) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016). While Nigel composes songs in their inchoate form at home in Halifax, Brad Loughead (lead guitar), Josh Salter (bass), and Seamus Dalton (drums), who live a twelve-hour drive away in Montreal, augment and arrange them, transubstantiating his skeletal, ruminative wafers into discourses that transcend. The band provides ballast and bowspirit to Nigel's cosmical mind, this album lending itself to a new sonic clarity, depth and range to match his effortless melodies and extraordinary writing.
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.
Through the hollow vision of centuries of reputable texts and celebrated celebrity and American pulp fiction, journeys have always been epic. And so Southern Indiana's own Odawas mine these territories in their debut full-length "The Aether Eater". It is a sort of conventional journey. One which Neil Young may have taken in his early Buffalo Springfield days. This journey has a beginning, an end, and an epochal disposition. It takes a Camus-type anti-hero and hurtles him into space to watch him mock and finally humble himself before it (but of course, in the most discrete way possible). Odawas are nicking all over the place: from Randy Newman's plain-spoken grandeur or Beach Boy story-telling or Angelo Badalamanti's cheesy romanticism or Charles Ives' avant-garde ear or Art Garfunkel's "presence-of-a-blue-whale" harmonies.
In Okay Kaya songs, her world looks a lot like ours — Netflix, jetlag, vegan peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, lonely bowls of ramen, diet trends. But unlike ours, each of these vibrates and shimmers with deeper, darker meaning, with existential dread and desire for understanding. Through Norwegian-raised New Yorker Kaya's dreamy soft-focus lens, the language of Twitter memes becomes modernist poetry as her breathy contralto voice sings lines like, "If you don’t love me at my guttural sound, you don’t deserve me at my guttural sound." This is Sade for nihilists. On the opening track of her new record, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, out on January 24, 2020, from Jagjaguwar, she sings, "I used to fight the feeling, always let it win." As she transforms these feelings, defeats, and victories into songs, the lyrics often involve pools of sweat, oceans, and other forms of wetness. But Okay Kaya’s world is not one of renewal and rebirth—it’s not water at all, actually. "It's more like bile," Kaya says, "It’s what comes out in the purge." In these songs, Kaya swims through her melancholy and anxiety—not as a way of cleansing herself, but as an understanding of their depths.
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.
"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.
As the second single from The Stand Ins, "Pop Lie" takes the meta-referential mission of Okkervil River to a new distinctly pop level. Stephen Deusner had the following to say about it for Pitchfork: "[Okkervil frontman Will] Sheff wants to look beyond common pop song notions to discover something truer and more essential, no matter how disillusioning it may be, which is the central, enthralling contradiction for Okkervil River: Even as they ruthlessly deconstruct pop music, they make great pop music. The darker Sheff gets, the more honest he sounds and the more absorbing the song. By that equation, the stand-out on The Stand Ins is "Pop Lie", an exquisitely bleak dismantling of singer-songwriter pretensions." There are two additional tracks on the single, on which Sheff plays the role of a whole band: vocals, guitars, bass, and drums. There's an orphaned song from The Stage Names / The Stand Ins sessions called "Millionaire" which displays the storyteller in Will rising to the surface in a soaring acoustic piano-laden shuffle. Also included is an alternate slowed-down, fuzzed-up version of "Pop Lie".
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.
Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy Appendix is not just a companion piece to their critically-acclaimed 2005 release; it's also a condensed, alternate vision of that record's imagery and themes, with the ultimate intent to exhaust and destroy both. This ambitious mini-album rounds up and reworks the band's favorite unfinished songs (tracked for the Black Sheep Boy full-length) and then punctuates and bookends them in brand-new compositions; in the process, it shows songwriter Will Sheff and company both revisiting themes from their past and shooting off in some startling new directions. “Missing Children” entombs an unnerving fairy tale monologue in an arrangement that recalls The Marble Index or Tilt; its melody is reprised twenty minutes later in a frenetic and jangly rocker that might have been hatched from the side of Love's “A House is Not a Motel.” In between is everything else; suffocatingly lush string instrumentals, skittering found sounds, lean rockers, deafening epics, the rhythm section interrogating the lead singer, and “Black Sheep Boy #4,” which messily dispatches the Black Sheep Boy character in a lurid crime scene high on a plateau of hallucinatory, cinematic folk.
This is the tinderbox to the fantastical fire that is Black Sheep Boy, the much anticipated full-length record by Okkervil River, coming out in April 2005. This CD-single, priced exceptionally low, will be in stores while Okkervil River tours the United States with the Decemberists in March and April. The first track, “For Real”, is from the full-length record. The second track, “The Next Four Months”, is previously unreleased. And the third track, “For the Enemy (Live)”, is a very special recorded glimpse of Okkervil River performing live.