Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lament life with Belgian Fog.

Generally, I don't post anything remotely electronic in this space because, frankly, I have a difficult time connecting to music made with a laptop. Perhaps I'm a luddite or purist for requesting guitars and drums of my entertainment, and maybe I'm fated to lag behind in the music world, in the long run. So be it.

That said, I received a recent note from someone whose music I finally found relatable, and though he lacks a full band, his stunning voice is what gives his music the human connection I require. Seattle resident/Los Angeles native Robert Dale, who records under the name Belgian Fog, sings with a slurry, low mumble, like some sort of hybrid of Andrew Bird and Lana Del Rey, funnily. But he beautifully and gracefully delivers lines about the impending end of a hopeless relationship ("I'm much too lazy to make things right"), disappointment, mental illness. Curiously, there's no dichotomy between dark lyrics and misleadingly major chords, only music of a relaxed pace that matches the distance of depression and indifference -- rather fitting as well as a unique musical accomplishment.

The following three tracks are all there seem to be thus far, and they range in age from one month to one year. At this point, I'm betting that Dale's more talented than the artists he's about to be lumped in with.

Mmmmick Harvey.

Really quite delighted about this one and all the good history behind it. Mick Harvey -- guitarist for the Boys Next Door (later the Birthday Party) and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey collaborator, and solo artist -- is re-releasing his 1995 and 1997 Serge Gainsbourg tribute albums as a double-disc set on May 6. Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants, second round, will accompany a number of European shows, though there are sadly no U.S. dates in sight.

Check out how far he's come and what he's done with others, not to mention his dashing pompadour!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Unbearably Prolific -- It's Great Western Plain!

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote of Dead Trend, a group out of Maine that channeled Black Flag and initially served to promote a book in a very meta sort of way. It was a novelty project, albeit one that was very well done.

As it turns out, members of the group have a second/primary band, Great Western Plain. The trio's fourth release in two years, Elastic Smile, is more "Teenage Riot" than "TV Party," hopelessly Gen X, and though also dripping with nostalgia, is authentic and modern enough to fit the roster of, say, Merge, whether twenty years ago or today. It's genuinely enjoyable for its freakouts, temperate vocals, and guitar enthusiasm.

In fact, Elastic Smile is so modern that it's been released on a limited cassette pressing. They're pretty with it in the context of music trends, I'd say.

Have a listen, and then visit their 2013 release, Lure and Kitsch/Flutter and Slack.

Tee Hee (Snicker, Snicker)

Well, it's been a long hiatus, hasn't it? A return should be thrilling after three weeks of silence 'round these parts, so here's a bit of a thrill.

Remember when this happened? If R&B is quietly popular among the experimental crowd -- it not-so-quietly already made its way into the greater indie rock world, hence why Solange was a no-brainer at FYF last year -- then it's in a good position for its dirtiest past to be updated with unlikely instrumentation and ambiguous irony. Jon Pfeffer, onetime brain behind Capillary Action, is now a solo act, and this new bit from him is wacky, intelligent, elegant, and exciting all at once. Give it a go.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pissin' Streams with Thomas Maguire.

New York-based singer-songwriter Thomas Patrick Maguire is celebrating the 10th anniversary (good lord, 2004) of his album Pissing Streams, for which his voice and outlook have drawn genuine comparison to Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain, and surprisingly, these aren't contexts that I would consider out of his league. On Pissing Streams, his voice had the same dreary murmur that Cobain once mumbled, and while his follow-up albums don't necessarily have the same special grunginess or rawness that Pissing Streams had, I surprised myself by hearing a bit of Smith's "Speed Trials" right off the bat on 2012's No Suppression, Gentleman Drunk, though certainly much moreso in Maguire's guitar style than his singing, which has softened over the last ten years.

Maguire just put out a short documentary about the recording and release of Pissing Streams, and while I was first tempted to lump him in with outcast anti-folk artists like Jeffrey Lewis, I'm surprised to see Maguire and learn that he's got a slight New York accent and looks something like a friendly son of Ray Liotta, clean cut, boyish, looking nothing like the cynical mess I'd have expected. Pissing Streams is enjoyable and holds up well, but it's meant to be listened to while alone.

Anyway, here's that documentary:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Well, this is...adorable.

Finally Meeting This is the Kit.

I was somewhat late in finding about This is the Kit, a folk project of Kate Stables, originally from Bristol and now based in Paris. We have so little exposure to British folk in the U.S., particularly on the west coast, as European artists are more likely to visit New York than, say, California, and it's really only possible from our end because the internet and sites like Bandcamp exist. Which is a shame, as I'm learning more and more often that England has a lot of fantastic folk artists to offer.

Stables' project has a giant appeal for anyone who might be into artists like Vashti Bunyan or David Thomas Broughton, and her own interviews have led me to artists within her own collective, Rozi Plain and Rachel Dadd. A new sampler EP has been released prior to the start of her little European tour, and this is it: