Tag Archives: New Music

Matthew E. White: Baroque-soul-gospel-psychedelic-jazz-awesome?


Matthew E. White ‘s album Big Inner is baffling the music industry. White’s name is that of an aspiring teen trying to distinguish himself from the other crooning Jason Mrazes. His long hair/Jesus-beard combination channels Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And his music is, well, tough to describe. So difficult, that music publications are combining words like ‘baroque,’ ‘soul,’ ‘Americana,’ and even ‘reggae’ to try and grasp his unique sound. They’re also comparing White to well-known names like Randy Newman and Sharon Von Etten, so it looks like his album Big Inner measures up to some big players. I first scoffed at the absurdities of some of these descriptions, but finally understood after watching his debut video “Will You Love Me” (below). White has crafted an amazing, and equally confusing, gospel/folk/jazz/soul/etc music formula. And it’s working.

Big Inner is an album of many firsts; it marks White’s debut release and the start of  his record label Spacebomb. The label gives artists the opportunity to record in the relaxed setting of a Virginian attic, along with White and his band members…and their house choir. In addition to these endeavors, White also runs an “avante-garde jazz band,” Fight the Big Bull.

Matthew E. White’s soothing bass voice supports a (for lack of a better word) big sound. Big Inner opens on swaying, horn-infused “One of These Days,” and is followed by a cosmic, grand “Big Love.” A mix of Beck-inspired instrumentals, with Justin Vernon vocals…and that awesome gospel choir (again- always goes back to the gospel choir). My repeat-track is “Steady Pace,” for it incorporates a Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” funk with sweet bells and strings. Although people aren’t sure where to categorize White on the genre book(music)shelf, that’s probably for the better. Why place a book back on the shelf when you can’t stop rereading certain passages? His sound is too intriguing to put away.


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Filed under Folk News, New Music

Animal Bands: Owling for You

Recently I’ve noticed an oddly-specific trend in band names: owls. And I mean more than just Owl City, people. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive because the wide-eyed creature is one of my favorite animals, but after finding four bands that share similar, lovely sounds, I couldn’t resist sharing. These groups are no longer nocturnal. They make my head spin. You’ll get a hoot out of them. The puns will stop as you keep reading, I promise.

1. First up is Minneapolis four-piece outfit The Owls. Although their last full-length release Daughters and Suns dates back to 2007, their quirky, indie pop is not stale. My favorite tracks are “Peppermint Patty,” a biography of the Charlie Brown character, and Beatles-like “All Those in Favor“. Members Allison LaBonne, Maria May, and Brian, Tighe weave delicate harmonies among playful whistles and piano scales. For fans of: The Bird and the Bee, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura

2. Next I’d like to introduce you to Colyn Cameron of Wake Owl. He is the Canadian love child of Ben Howard (we all know how I feel about him) and the Tallest Man on Earth; Wake Owl’s raspy vocals with eerie string accompaniment generate a powerful sound. His single “Gold” (below) is a steady orchestral crescendo and perfect for the winter months ahead.  While Cameron’s new EP was released earlier this month in the UK, we sadly must eagerly wait until January 2013 for Wild Country to hit the US.

3. Freak Owls is the indie-folk collaboration of Josh Ricchio, Kolby Wade, and Russ Lemkin. Highlights from their debut album Taxidermy are “Little Things,” essentially an electronic Lumineers song, and “Hey, Na Na Na,” an interesting mix of a capella harmonies, airy guitar chords, and endless handclaps. You can grab a FREE copy of their latest EP Orchastrates from their website. And if you can’t get enough, download of their new single “I Would” from SoundCloud. It’s a bit of a departure from their folkier days, and they sound like an echoing Arcade Fire, but hopefully 2013 will bring more Freak Owls.

4. The Hoot Hoots are upbeat, synth-y “fuzzy power pop,” and the perfect soundtrack for solo dance parties. Although they already have two albums, Silly Lecture Series and Appetite for Distraction, under their belts (or feathers?), this Illinois-based band is still cranking out energetic hooks. Feel the Cosmos drops on November 29th. If you like Reptar and Oberhofer and the Lumineers, for the love of music get your Hoot Hoot on.

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Filed under New Music, Playlist

Ben Howard: Halloween Haunts

It’s eerily coincidental that Ben Howard announced the UK release of The Burgh Island E.P. in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction and the day before Halloween. His announcement itself was obviously not creepy (and actually very exciting for this fangirl), but the album features ominous cover art and a stormy single “Esmerelda,” making the news certainly timely.

Music is an audio diary for musicians, and The Burgh Island is no different. According to an e-newsletter Howard sent yesterday, “it’s a pretty hard listen at some points but a huge relief to get some more songs down and out of my head. Onto permanent paper.” These four songs are loaded with brooding and rippling guitar chords and Howard trades  cheerful tracks from his full-length album like “Old Pine” and “Keep Your Head Up” for intense drum cadences and guitar swells. “Oats in the Water” is my personal favorite, for it starts slow and bursts with energy midway through; Howard’s strengths exemplified . This EP is a wonderful fusion of music and nature (clearly a common theme amongst folksters…or at least the ones I’m writing about here). The Burgh Island is peace within personal turmoil and destruction, and a calm during the storm.

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Logan Afouyni: The Drunk Duet

Sure, we’ve all witnessed those not-so-sober sing alongs when walking or taking public transportation on a weekend night…maybe we’ve even participated in a few of these ourselves. But when Logan Afouyni was approached by an intoxicated man in London who eagerly wanted to sing a duet, the result was surprising to say the least…

Where did this guy come from, you ask? Lucky for Logan, she exchanged information with Clark Chamberlin and they (soberly) made another video.

Maybe I’m especially fond of this story because I spent last semester in London and Clark is also a study abroad student, but Logan’s raw Cat Power-esque vocals and the spontaneity of their duet makes impatient for more. In the meantime I’ve visited Logan’s SoundCloud for some fantastic (free!) covers, found a fan-made video of “The Drunk Duet”, and unearthed the original song by Seattle singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen. His live performance will make you want to stand up and dance just like the audience.

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Avalanche City: My Music “Type”

The “repeat” button on my iPod is getting an extreme workout, and it’s Avalanche City‘s fault. Obviously I say this playfully because, in my opinion, it’s pretty difficult to “fault” Dave Baxter for anything. It’s rare that I find all my ideal musical requirements bundled up in one band, but Avalanche City fits them all. To over-exaggerate even further, I’ve found my musical soulmate. Do you have these requirements? A checklist for your music “type?” Listening to music is similar to being on a first date; you’re initially hyper-aware of those special qualities you like. That’s what I did the first time I heard AC’s “Love Love Love” on an 8tracks playlist. Are those folky guitars? A sweet message? Oh, a bell intro? Xylophones? Sold, to the girl swooning on the T during her morning commute. After having the song on repeat for, well, days, (let’s do the math: 60 minute commute divided by 3 minute song = 20+ listens. I would even replay the song from the midway point, to prolong the end even more.) I soon realized nit-picking made me more attached and it was love, love, love at first listen.

The earnest, light-hearted melodies captured in Avalanche City’s songs reflect the origins of the project. It started as Dave Baxter’s solo career; he was inspired by The Rocket Summer’s ambitious undertaking of producing, recording, and playing an album all by himself. The NZ native recorded an album in one week, and released “Our New Life Above the Ground” for free so others could appreciate his hard work with no strings attached. The result was enormous after he was recognized on a few local radio stations, and now Avalanche City’s Auckland fame is trickling around the world. (His Colin Meloy-esque vocals and thoughtfully paired instruments are perfect for this type of journey.) Unfortunately for me, Baxter still hasn’t made his rounds to the US (in person or in CD form- the only sour chord in this story), but I’m hopeful and listening for those joyful glockenspiels and harmonies to eventually cross the Pacific.

Besides his more publicized singles like “Love Love Love” and “Go,” my personal favorite is the powerful “Ends in the Ocean.” This song channels a sea shanty and bursts with energy. Hoist your sails, for the next stop is Avalanche City.

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September 29, 2012 · 1:18 am