Theo Bleckmann Performs Kate Bush (CD Review)

Theo Bleckmann

Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush

Winter & Winter CD

Often, we discuss covers – artists interpreting songs written by others – in relation to their original renditions. Hello Earth!, a quintet outing by vocalist Theo Bleckmann and a quartet of musicians with jazz and contemporary classical backgrounds, is devoted to the music of prog pop songwriter Kate Bush. It is a loving homage to Bush’s textured arrangements, and thoughtful, atmospheric, and, at times quirky, catalogue. However, to frame Bleckmann’s recasting of this music as a set of covers is to undervalue the considerable transformation these songs undergo here.

This doesn’t mean wholesale deconstruction. Although it starts out tempo rubato, one’s pulse will still surge by the second verse of Bleckmann’s rendition of “Running Up That Hill.” Both it and the title track inhabit a world of morphing, flexible, and swinging rhythms that are the stuff of modern jazz. But Bleckmann and drummer John Hollenbeck are well aware that, in order for the pop propensities of Bush’s songs to also be respected, this pliability of tempo must be met with corresponding forward momentum. Add to this the experimental touches that appear on the CD, such as prepared harpsichord, toy instruments, and other atmospherics, and the balance that is achieved would be the envy of many tight rope acts.

What the artists avoid doing, and perhaps this is a secret to some of the record’s charm, is seeking to recreate Bush’s well nigh inimitable and often theatrical performance persona. Bleckmann is a singer with a powerful and singular sounding instrument and formidable stage presence of his own; he wisely avoids any whiff of caricature. While the aforementioned affection and awareness for the originals is evident, there is no by the numbers recreation attempted on the instrumental musical front either. Instead, Bleckmann and his estimable cohorts pleasingly avoid literal mindedness when crafting their arrangements. The clearest demonstration of this: in “Saxophone Song” Caleb Burhans’ violin replaces the saxophone solo of the original. On “Violin,” the band moves from the more acoustic-based sound world that prevails on the album to a more rollicking and plugged in aesthetic. Burhans shreds on guitar in tandem with thrumming bass licks from Skúli Sverrisson, Hollenbeck unleashing an uncharacteristically aggressive barrage, and pianist Henry Hey’s Leslie-saturated rock organ work.

Bleckmann also refuses campy choices. “This Woman’s Work” could certainly have been accommodated at pitch in the singer’s attractive falsetto; As Ann Powers pointed out on NPR, this approach once helped to supply a big hit to Maxwell. Instead, Bleckmann allows the lead vocals, and backing vocals overdubs, to span his range from low to high; inhabiting the song’s emotive content rather than consigning it to a gender stereotype. It’s a masterful, and affecting, album closer.

Ormonde: “Cherry Blossom” (CD Preview; MP3)

Dream pop duo Ormonde recorded their debut LP Machine in Texas, but its stylistic profile transcends both place and genre placeholder. Breathless duet vocals adorn rustic, loping accompaniments that recall Dean and Britta, Luna, Giant Sand, 80s 4AD artists, and just a dash of synthetic rinsed Tejano music. Check out album track “Cherry Blossom” below.

Stream: Cherry Blossom (via File Under ? ‘s Tumblr page).

Machine is out 8/7 via Home Tapes.

Neneh Cherry + the Thing: “Dream Baby Dream,” Four Tet Remix (Video)

On her latest recording, vocalist Neneh Cherry joins forces with Scandinavian avant jazz outfit The Thing.  Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound) features originals, jazz tunes by Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, and covers of songs such as Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” and Martina Topley-Bird’s “Too Tough to Die.” Check out Four Tet’s remix of the Suicide cover in the video below.

Out today: Creepy Crawlies’ debut LP (MP3)

From Easter to spring cleaning, now is the season in which many of us thing about getting unburied. Not so the duo Creepy Crawlies: the title of their debut self-released full length recording is Get Buried! But as you can hear from the MP3 below (shared via our Tumblr blog), they sure to make getting buried sound appealing, with a winsome yet wall-of-sound brand of indie pop.

Get Buried

The album is out today: help these comely Californians get a leg up in the dog eat dog environment of the record business by supporting it!




Sharon Van Etten: “Serpents” on Fallon (Video)




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!


Sharon Van Etten Plays Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Tonight!

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.

NoiseTrade shares free Nettwerk sampler




NoiseTrade is a terrific site to search for new music. They offer thousands of free downloads by emerging artists and indie labels.


Today, they announced a label sampler by Nettwerk, which features pop and electronica acts such as Submarines, Ivy, Ladytron, and Sarah Mclachlan. Sound eclectic? Sure, but Nettwerk’s byline is “releasing music we love,” not “releasing music according to a tightly wound marketing strategy.” Got to respect that.

Here’s another Nettwerk artist you’ll likely love: Morgan Page, in a new video with a passel of guest artists.