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.
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 grae 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 grae.
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 grae 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
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.
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.
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.
Sleep and Wake-Up Songs is now being rereleased for Record Store Day, it's first time pressed ever on vinyl. Including a demo of the EP track "You're Untied Again" and the never before released song "Knocking Myself Out," the EP reveals Okkervil River in-between the monumental albums Down The River of Golden Dreams and Black Sheep Boy. Band leader Will Sheff looked back to this EP, remarking, "I can hear in it somebody who is actually getting comfortable with singing, with playing the guitar, with letting music happen naturally."
On the reflecting about the title, Sheff recalled "there's something about your mind that's especially flexible when it's in that weird half-asleep/half-awake phase - ideas can glide in more gracefully." Okkervil River present a small collection of more meditative songs, Sleep and Wake-Up Songs is just a station on your way; it knows it's not your lover. It's a little shed, a lean-to constructed on the banks of some shaded stream between mountains. There is peace and quiet here. There's a Les Paul resting against a fallen bough, but there are few loud noises, little reason to panic. The smell of cedars hangs in the air. There's a strange chill.
"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.
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.