Reigning Sound Greg Cartwright

Dylan once claimed to be “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” but Greg Cartwright actually lives in the latter southern town and now inhabits the tune itself a bit on “Falling Rain.” This track is off the new Reigning Sound record, Shattered, out in July on Merge. There’s something well-traveled, laid bare and free from pretense here, jangled around the edges and pulled together in the warm familiar tone of a cut put to tape at the Daptones’ Brooklyn studio. Give it a spin above.

Esme PattersonColorado’s Esmé Patterson has a new EP out on Tuesday: Woman to Woman, seven responses to famous love songs that were written from the perspective of men. “A lot of women immortalized in songs might tell a different side of the story if anyone ever asked,” she says, and I agree. As a concept for a record, that’s a fine start, yielding even better results upon execution. “Valentine” says “you’re just breaking your own heart” to the guy behind Elvis Costello’s “Alison” (which EC himself endorsed “with Love and Squalor” after the tune debuted), while “The Glow” flips the coin on Brian Wilson’s “Caroline, No,” “Never Chase a Man” warns Dolly Parton classic “Jolene,” and “Tumbleweed” provides the set’s initial impulse as a reaction to Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta.” Even without the backstory, Patterson’s songs cut through with a genre-hopping point of view to boot. Hear four of them below:

Daughter Still Air StudiosDirectors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard — the pair behind standout 4AD sessions from Bon Iver, Camera Obscura, and many others – have teamed with Daughter for a live orchestral rework of the UK trio’s 2013 debut, If You Leave. Recently, Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli, and Remi Aguilella performed five album tracks accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra, arranged by composer Joe Duddell and caught live on video at London’s George Martin-founded Air Studios. The session went so well, in fact, the band is releasing it as a digital EP on April 15th followed by a limited 12″ pressing on May 26th. More clips are available, but watch above for the best so far: their stunning take on “Still,” the cut Forsyth and Pollard directed in official video form last year.

Conor Oberst Upside Down MountainConor Oberst and his latest backing band shared seven new tunes from his upcoming album, Upside Down Mountain, yesterday in a live showcase for WNYC’s Soundcheck. Performing with Miwi La Lupa on bass/vocals, drummer Conor Elmes, and guitarist Stephen Bartolomei, they unveiled album opener “Time Forgot,” “Double Life,” “Lonely at the Top,” previously released studio track “Hundreds of Ways,” 2012 soundtrack cut “You Are Your Mother’s Child,” “Night at Lake Unknown,” and — personal favorite – “Common Knowledge.” In addition to the set, Oberst fielded a few questions from host John Schaefer on music festivals, the Omaha bar he owns, and desert island reading material. Check out a playlist from the Greene Space webcast above.

Elliott Smith Needle in the Hay Trumpet Documentary

Elliott Smith is back in the news this month with his former label, Kill Rock Stars, sharing another outtake from his self-titled record and the announcement of a new documentary from filmmaker Nickolas Rossi. As for the rarity, fans who missed the alternate version of “Needle in the Hay” back in 2012 (when it was available briefly in exchange for a newsletter subscription) can now hear the abandoned trumpet solo take on KRS’ new archival comp, Crazed MP3 Fans Volume 1. The released version came out in more sparse, despairing form back in 1995, while this one lightens the track’s mood a bit between the verses by tracing its central melody with brass and harmonica. It’s an intriguing look behind the curtain at Smith’s process of constructing and deconstructing his material, even when limited to just an old 4-track cassette recorder. Hear it above.

Meanwhile, Heaven Adores You, a Kickstarted documentary launched a few years back, has finally come to fruition. It’s original teaser trailer below didn’t offer much in the way of new footage or commentary, but rest assured the post-funded film now promises a slew of notable interviews. Among the list of Smith friends/family/collaborators are photographer Autumn de Wilde, producer Larry Crane, Sean Croghan, KRS founder Slim Moon, Largo’s Mark Flanagan, a rare appearance from Jon Brion, Shon “Goldenboy” Sullivan, Heatmiser’s Tony Lash, and Elliott’s sister Ashley Welch. In comparison to 2011′s Searching for Elliott Smith, this project is shaping up to be more in line with de Wilde’s essential 2007 book. Multiple festival premieres and screenings are scheduled for May. Continue →

Andrew Bird Pulaski

Montreal nonprofit the Yellow Bird Project has teamed with dozens of artists over the years to make beautifully designed shirts, posters and other one-off visual items for charity. This year they’re going the audio route as well, releasing a compilation set with Andrew Bird, Keaton Henson, Elvis Perkins, Micah P. Hinson, and more covering fellow notable YBP-friendly acts. Proceeds go to various causes, but only when this project gets off the ground via pre-orders here. In the meantime, here’s a promising first taste: Andrew Bird’s stirring bluegrass take on the New Pornographers’ prescient Mass Romantic cut “The Fake Headlines” above.

PHOX: Slow Motion

April 9, 2014

PHOX Slow Motion

This cut from PHOX first crossed our radar as a standout on their Confetti video-EP, and now it returns for the Baraboo, Wisconsin band’s debut LP. Recorded in their home state at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studio in Eau Claire, producer Brian Joseph kept the EP’s DIY charisma intact, building a warm, whimsical arrangement around the group’s Feist-ian lead vocalist, Monica Martin. As with previous efforts, this is the perfect midweek shot in the arm of upbeat charm. The self-titled album drops on June 24th via Partisan Records.

Ethan Johns The ReckoningEthan Johns held out for years to unveil a proper solo debut with If Not Now Then When?, but now a follow-up is right on its heels. He didn’t bide time in the studio either: The Reckoning a 10-track LP produced by Ryan Adams at his Pax•Am Studios in Los Angeles — was cut in sequence over just two days last year. “I had been on the road for months, and then all of a sudden it was 10 o’clock at night and we’d recorded 80 percent of the record,” he says of the session. “We left the studio to go and watch a movie, and that was it. The next day I came in and I did the next two, and that’s the record.” 

The album is built on a narrative first mentioned when Johns premiered “The Roses and the Dead” live last August, saying the set would follow a pair of English brothers (James and Thomas Younger) on a formative journey across the Atlantic and further westward through America. As with his collaborative debut, it will be great to hear the roles of producer and songwriter reversed, delving more deeply this round into Johns’ long-documented synergy with Adams. It’s out on June 2nd; check out the cover above and track titles below. Continue →

First Aid Kit My Silver Lining

First Aid Kit return this summer with a follow-up to their 2012 sophomore set, The Lion’s Roar. Producer Mike Mogis is back on board, as well, for the 10-track Stay Gold LP due on June 10th. Per teaser track “My Silver Lining,” the Söderberg sisters will “keep on keeping on” channeling the southwest charm of the last record. The scope is a bit wider, though, thanks to cinematic strings arranged by Nate Walcott and performed by the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. Hear them above with the road-ready momentum of a band that’s been on tour for years, picking up a few friends along the way. The tracklist is below. Continue →

Songs Ohia Soul

Following last year’s Magnolia Electric Co. reissue, Secretly Canadian have announced a new archival set to honor the legacy of Jason Molina. This Record Store Day (April 19th) brings Journey On: Collected Singles, 18 rare cuts from Molina’s Songs: Ohia project, stored on nine 7″ singles with a CD version and custom-etched turntable adapter. I for one will be lining up for this thing, as many of these have been hard to come by on vinyl even prior to his tragic passing. In the meantime we have teaser track “Soul,” a fine example of the fatalistic beauty Molina could channel with just spare guitar, understated drums, and a raw, one-take vocal. The cut is off Nor Cease Thou Never Now, one of his first 7″ releases, put out by Will Oldham’s Palace Records in 1995. Hear it above.

Bry Webb: AM Blues

March 6, 2014
Bry Webb


Timber Timbre, ‘Curtains?!’

March 6, 2014
Timber Timbre


Conor Oberst: Governor’s Ball

March 5, 2014
Conor Oberst