Last month, we saw Marika Hackman perform “Cinnamon,” one of three original songs off her new Sugar Blind EP. With help from producer Charlie Andrew (of Alt-J), the London singer-songwriter broadens the hushed scope common among today’s many folk devotees, inflecting a tune’s subtleties with an occasional pop rhythm, synth-scapes, and other off-kilter arrangement choices. This cover of Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me track “’81″ closes out the EP with less dramatic flair than preceding cuts, though still adding an instrumental depth left unexplored on the solo-harp original. Covering Newsom is no easy feat, but Hackman’s take is moving and lovely, not to mention proof Charlie Andrew’s production work should not go unnoticed going forward. Hear it above and stream the whole set below:
Doug Paisley will follow 2010′s Constant Companion, an excellent set featuring Feist harmonies and keys by none other than The Band’s Garth Hudson — with his most collaborative effort so far early next year. Strong Feelings arrives on January 21st via No Quarter Records. Other details accompany the album announcement, but I’d rather defer to Paisley’s own understated statement that it’s “just 10 new songs,” given that he’s an accomplished songwriter whose tunes simply speak for themselves. Among others, Hudson returns this round, adding the kind of essential keys accompaniments one would expect from a living legend. Hear him glue “Song My Love Can Sing” together on organ above and watch him join Paisley in the studio for “What’s Up Is Down” below:
Just before his renown 1971 Massey Hall set, Neil Young booked a December 1970 stand at New York’s Carnegie Hall with a number of recently written, now classic, tunes in tow. The Toronto homecoming and NYC gig would inevitably help cement his new new material for the ages, but first Young warmed up the solo act in a more intimate club, playing a week at Washington D.C.’s Cellar Door. These shows are notable for many of the same reasons Young fans love the Massey Hall release, though this archival set — out next week — is even more raw and rife with off-the-cuff-energy. Below, hear the first time “Old Man” was performed live, “Birds” (one of my favorite Neil songs), and more from Young’s late-1970 run. “Cinnamon Girl” is played for the first time on piano above.
José González has spent the last few years rekindling Junip for the trio’s excellent sophomore LP. Perhaps this track was cut prior to that collaborative streak, but either way, capping off 2013 with a return to solo work isn’t the most surprising element on this one. As it turns out, his contribution to Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is the least acoustic, least subdued and by far the most dramatic outing of his catalog so far. We caught a slice of the track in the film’s trailer along with a typically rousing turn from Of Monsters and Men, but now comes the full tune complete with a cinematic arrangement worth a few spins and, perhaps, a trip to the theater. Check it out above.
From Bon Iver’s piano session at AIR Studios to St. Vincent’s psych-rock set in Brooklyn, these 4AD sessions never fail to deliver a fresh portrait of an artist’s live act. While, for example, Annie Clark’s mind-mending guitar work was treated with off-kilter camera angles and a background projection screen, this week’s set from Glasgow takes a decidedly understated approach. Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard put it best:
“The idea behind the session was pure and simple – Camera Obscura are a perfect band, they record their songs all playing live together and there’s a beautiful, unblemished chemistry in that unity.”
Filmed at the band’s hometown Tron Theatre, frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell was far along in her pregnancy during the shoot, which, combined with the fact that they were headed out on tour in support of the Desire Lines LP, brings the clip a palpable degree of nervous anticipation. Watch standout “Fifth In Line To The Throne” above and the whole set here.
In the three years since we dug Doug Keith‘s last record, The Lucky Ones, he’s been playing guitar and bass in Sharon Van Etten’s band, among other projects. Now comes word of not only a new solo LP from the NYC singer-songwriter, but a team-up with the pair’s mutual collaborator, J Mascis, as well. “Pure Gold in the 70′s” arrives on February 11th via Keith’s The Village Label. It’s our first taste of Pony, a 9-track album set for a new direction and inspired left turn to boot. Gone is the acoustic thrum and folk lean of earlier tendencies in place of spare synth, a pulsing bass part, and double-tracked lead vocals. It’s an intimate, stirring start that turns on a dime when Mascis cuts in with an epic guitar solo in tow. Hear it above.
It’s been five years since New England songwriter Joel Thibodeau’s Death Vessel released their last LP, but the wait ends next February. Sub Pop just announced Island Intervals, the 8-track follow-up to Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us, complete with an excellent first taste featuring recent tourmate Jónsi of Sigur Rós. Thibodeau treads some fresh ground here, recording the album with producer Alex Somers in Iceland, where his dulcet timbre and high-pitch voice make a seamless match to Jónsi and Somers’ intimate yet expansive palette. Having long been a fan of Death Vessel, this is one of the most gorgeous things he’s done and a testament to the power of great collaborative chemistry. Give “Ilsa Drown” a spin above.
Some tunes sound best closest to the moment they were born. That’s my sentiment, anyway, one which makes me partial to demos in general or, better yet, home cassette recordings. Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor put this one to tape in his rural North Carolina town, specifically in his kitchen while a 1-year-old son slept and his father worried, musically and otherwise, of economic woes. The track arrives on Bad Debt, an LP recorded in 2010 before Taylor’s better known full-lengths, in a reissue early next year. Hear it above.