Last night, Sharon Van Etten played the song “Serpents” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (video below), debuting a new band featuring a guest appearance by Aaron Dessner (the National). The song is from Van Etten’s forthcoming 3rd LP, Tramp, which is slated for release on 2/7/12 via Jagjaguwar. It’s also been released as a single b/w non-album track “Mike McDermott.”
The performance featured a more amplified sound palette than her previous work, adding tinges of indie rock to Van Etten’s alt-folk style, with the songwriter inhabiting a bolder demeanor fronting the proceedings. Add the key ingredient of stardom’s formula – a memorable lead-off single like “Serpents” – andTramp appears poised to be Van Etten’s breakout release. Congratulations on a very successful network TV debut!
One of our favorite indie-folk songstresses, Sharon Van Etten, performs tonight (1/5/12) on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Sharon recently announced that her forthcoming record,Tramp, will be released on 2/7 via Jagjaguwar.
Hear and download “Serpents,” a track from the album, on the label’s website.
This past Saturday, guitarist Glenn Jones was on NPR’s Weekend Edition promoting his new album The Wanting (out on Thrill Jockey). The upshot of the Jones piece was that he had “stepped out of John Fahey’s shadow.” It’s true that Jones collaborated with Fahey, and is a fellow traveler to Robbie Basho, Jack Rose, Stephen Basho-Junghans and other “American Primitive” acoustic folk string-slingers. But once you hear him, you’ll likely think that his shadow itself looms plenty large.
The Wanting is Jones’s solo debut on Thrill Jockey, although we certainly expect from this relationship than a single release. A point of nostalgia for me: it was recorded in an intimate space: a fourth floor apartment in Allston; a Boston suburb that was my stomping grounds in grad school. While I didn’t hear Jones during my time there, I did get to hear many a stimulating solo guitar set at Beantown coffeehouses and bars. But nostalgic connections or not, the musicality and versatility brought to bear on The Wanting is undeniable. Jones plays all of the instruments himself: acoustic steel string guitar, six-string, 10-string and bottleneck, and 5-string open-back banjo. The tunes are originals, but they contain soulful resonances and folk-inflected affinities that make them seem timeless and, quite quickly, fondly familiar.
Check out the video clip and MP3 below: it will likely make you want The Wanting. Better yet, catch Jones live on his upcoming tour (dates follow).
Oct 14 Boston, MA Villa Victoria
Oct 16 Chicago, IL The Hideout
Oct 17 Iowa City, IA The Mill
Oct 18 Dubuque, IA Monk’s
Oct 19 Bloomington, IN Russian Recording
Oct 20 Lexington, KY Collexion
Oct 21 Louisville, KY TBA
Oct 22 Knoxville, TN The Pilot Light
Oct 23 Asheville, NC Harvest Records
Oct 24 West Columbia, SC Conundrum Music Hall
Oct 25 Atlanta, GA TBA
Oct 26 Atlanta, GA Grocery On Home
Oct 27 Chapel Hill, NC The Nightlight
Oct 28 Takoma Park, MD Potts-Dupre Schoolhouse
Nov 1 Brooklyn, NY Zebulon
Nov 3 Easthampton, MA Flywheel
Nov 5 State College, PA Schlow Centre Region Library
Director/Cinematographer: Harvey K Robinson
Burst Photographer: Harvey K Robinson
Time Lapse Photographer: Carolyn de Berry
Shot on location in Efland, NC.
©monkeywhale productions, 2011
Katharine Whalen and Her Fascinators
On September 27th, ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers vocalist Katharine Whalen releases her first CD in nearly five years. Those who associate Whalen with her nineties hits may be in for a surprise: a pleasant one! Madly Love encompasses her diverse musical interests, incorporating jazz, acoustic roots music, and avant pop. She’s joined by the Fascinators, an enthusiastic trio of musicians. Guitarist Nathan Golub, drummer Brad Porter, and multi-instrumentalist William Dawson are fine players, capable of negotiating the various stylistic twists and turns found on Madly Love. The record’s ready supply of songs both whimsical and substantial makes it an engaging listen. Whalen’s extraordinarily rich voice and captivating delivery draws one to return to the CD again and again.
The AV Club’s Undercover 2011, a series of cover songs by up and coming indie artists and alternative stalwarts, has been a bit hit or miss, but Sharon Van Etten’s slowcore alt-folk rendition of “She Drives Me Crazy” originally made famous by the Fine Young Cannibals, is a memorable standout. One of the things I love about Sharon’s cover renditions: she never shirks from completely re-conceiving a song to make it her own. For the music nerd in me, it’s also fun that they lower the key by a fifth and there’s a corresponding downshift in tempo.
Check out the video below.
Sharon Van Etten covers Fine Young Cannibals
Idahoan Trevor Powers, a 22-year old songwriter with an atmospheric alt-folk sensibility, has signed his Youth Lagoon project to the Fat Possum imprint. His debut LP, The Year of Hibernation, will be released by the imprint on September 27, 2011.
In the meantime, Powers is sharing a teaser track, “Montana,” on his Soundcloud page. Check out the embed below.
Brooklyn trio The Pearl and the Beard describe themselves as “three voices, one cello, one guitar, one glockenspiel, one melodica, several drums, one accordion, ninety-six teeth, and one soul.” All of these – well, maybe not the teeth – will be brought to bear in their show tonight at Music Hall in Williamsburg.
The Pearl and the Beard: Sweetness (MP3 download)
Opening for PatB is our favorite banjo wielding, songwriting, ex-Hold Steady member, Franz Nicolay.
Music Hall of Williamsburg (details here)
Doors open at 8; show starts at 9
Over 16 event
Baltimore-based indie folk band Small Sur self-releases their latest LP, Tones on Tuesday. The recording features contributions from members from various other bands, including Wye Oak, Lower Dens, and Beach House.
Here’s a teaser track: The Woods
Partisan Records CD
Bobby, a band based in Montague, Massachusetts, shares some personnel with Mountain Man (including vocalist Molly Sarle) and is filled with alums from Bennington and Hampshire Colleges. Both of these schools are places that encourage self-starters to pursue eclectic courses of study, and this shows in the group’s self-titled debut. It manages to harness the intimacy of bedroom pop while eschewing a lo-fi aesthetic in favor of a spacious, layered production aesthetic.
If one tried to pin down Bobby to a single genre, they’d likely be oversimplifying matters. The band is fascinated with the polymetric constructions of African drumming and the structures of Javanese gamelan. At the same time, the pastoral arrangements that are buoyed by these intricate rhythms frequently channel alt-folk. Sarle’s supple voice and phrasing remind one in places of Vashti Bunyan. She and band founder Tom Greenberg are fetching partners in several vocal duets on the recording. What’s more, there’s more than a smidgen of electronics savoring the mix, creating surprising juxtapositions with the more rustic post-psych guitar textures.
While locating all of these various signatures requires concentration, one’s labors are amply compensated by the often beautiful musical concoctions Bobby has on offer.
Bobby is out on 6/21 via Partisan Records.
Clandestine Series Cassette #1
Northern Spy Records
It wasn’t so long ago that people were counting out “hard copy” recording formats, prognosticating that digital would reign supreme and that vinyl and cassette tapes would be on the scrap heap or, at best, fodder for flea markets and garage sales. While the LP’s resurgence in recent years has been variously chalked up to increased attention to aesthetics, desire for higher fidelity, and a pop culture trend in its own right, many still assumed that cassettes were too sonically compromised and kitschy for a comeback in their own right. But then, lo-fi indie exploded, and the landscape changed.
While Northern Spy’s first in a projected series of Clandestine Cassettes isn’t just concerned with lo-fi aesthetics, one can see why the scrappy Brooklyn import, and others like it, embrace the cassette format. It’s inexpensive, easily portable, and yes, has its own nostalgic artifact qualities. But CC#1 isn’t a novelty item: it’s a fascinating mini-sampler of Northern Spy artists, revealing an EP length recording of avant rock drone-filled soundscapes by the likes of Zaimph and Messages. There’s also “August is All,” a beautiful track of slowly evolving, minimalist yet blues-inflected improvisation by guitarist Tom Carter. A little avant folk star power is in force on “Live at Union Pool,” a reverberant duet by Loren Connors and bassist Margarida Garcia. Garcia also contributes the cassette’s artwork, which recalls homemade mixes and tape trading.
Although you can still get MP3s or FLAC, this tape’s already sold out. But rest assured, there will be more cassettes to come: from Northern Spy and elsewhere on the scene.
Already got rid of your tape deck? No worries; for now, they’re not expensive to acquire. But be warned: I recently learned from Twitter that no less a tastemaker than Steve Smith has gotten a new Walkman. Can it be long before this microtrend explodes and cassette decks are the new iPad? Stay tuned.