Friday, November 20, 2009

Mason Jennings has a lot to say.

When Mason Jennings sings, he doesn't just sing with his voice; he sings with his heart. Whether he's on a folk kick or in a rock mood, listening to him is an intimate experience.

The Minnesota native is not just a musician. He is an agent for peace, a humanitarian, a husband and a father. As he maintains his humility, his spirit comes alive through his music.

Since his album Blood of Man was released in September, he has been touring with his new band, made up of close friends.

Although Jennings has played the majority of his career solo and records all the instrumentation on his studio tracks, his new dynamic is more of a rock show than anything else. There will be electric guitar and bass players, along with a variety of drums on stage.

"It's more expandable," Jennings said of the new setup. "They all bring their own personality."

Blood of Man provided an opportunity for Jennings to unleash his rock persona, inspired by his son's curiosity about the electric guitar. He describes his songs as dark and joyful at the same time.

The guitar, piano, harmonica and drums were all done personally by Jennings.

"It's an extension of what I do," Jennings said. "Just a little more raw."

For now, Jennings is just enjoying his new sound on tour. Musically, Jennings said his inspiration comes from a combination of new experiences on the road, the people around him every day and whatever resonates with him at the time. The songwriting comes when he's off the road and has time to get quiet in his studio and "let it flow."

Jennings' shows take up all his energy when he's on the road, he said. His tour ends on Thanksgiving and he'll be home for the next three months, ready to immerse himself in new record ideas.

"It really depends on what I'm interested in hearing," he said, "Some days, I wake up and want to hear aggressive music."

"I want to do both polarities — the intimate stuff and then the rock," Jennings said. "I like when shows are changing throughout the night."

Whatever mood Jennings might be in, expect to hear quality music. His sounds will leave you electrically charged and acoustically vulnerable. It's really the intimacy he creates that draws people to him.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Devendra Banhart continues to suprise and enlighten.

Devendra Banhart is not average by any means. Born in Houston and raised in Venezuela, it is clear he evolved as a musician from a plethora of ethnic influences. Although you might not understand everything he is saying, his sixth album is intriguing, eclectic and liberating.

Released Oct. 23 by Reprise Records, What Will We Be, showcases Banhart's mysterious persona that rises out of his stream-of-consciousness lyrics and shaky vocals.

Straight out of the "New Weird America" movement, Banhart challenges traditions with his multi-dimensional genre-proof songs. As he alternates between Spanish and English, it is clear Banhart possesses a deep connection to the universe that many people lack.

Using repetition throughout his songs is one element Banhart incorporates to emphasize the importance of his lyrics. In "Meet Me At Lookout Point," he repeats, "My heart will find you," displaying much sincerity and enthusiasm.

Indie, reggae, rock, tribal or freak-folk music — whatever you want to call it, Banhart's musical adventures allow us to explore ideas inside of us that are otherwise suppressed.

With lyrics about dancing, horses and renaissance fairs, Banhart reveals his eccentricity as a songwriter. It is a surreal experience to be surprised with every track, similar to that of his past two acclaimed albums, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (2007) and Cripple Crow (2005).

Although it is difficult to decipher his lyrics or gage Banhart's emotions, you can grasp his intentions for living in his music. Asking questions about the world, loving those around you and taking the time to celebrate life are essential parts of his life.

Throughout the track "Maria Lionza," Banhart sings "Who do you love?" An advocate for self-reflection, you can't help but think about the question the same way you can't help but sway to the relaxing sounds.

Banhart's instrumentation is mostly a calming background that supports his vocals, which dictate the mood of the track. You might hear rock. You might hear reggae.

It might take a couple of listens to understand the true freak-folk beauty of What Will We Be but have some patience, and you will come to appreciate Banhart's emotional spectrum and experimental nuance.

As Banhart says in the track "Baby," you will be saying "Holy moley" after becoming involved with the album.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ghostland Observatory rages.

With tight black pants to match his two long black braids, Aaron Behrens aggressively grabs the microphone on stage and yells out “Vibrate!”

The crowd obeys, entranced by his strong presence as he casually picks up his electric guitar to immerse himself in another song.

As lasers dominate the stage his musical partner, Thomas Turner, sings background vocals, plays the drums, and controls a synthesizer.

Ghostland Observatory combines techno beats with a harsh rock n’ roll dynamic that is hard to match. The two Texas natives are reminiscent of Daft Punk, The Clash, and a little bit of Prince. In my opinion, anyone can go to their show and leave a born-again Ghostland fan. I was absolutely mesmerized in the front row. The way Behrens takes the stage like a rockstar while Turner handles the beats makes it impossible not to dance all over the place at an alarming rate.

The combination of electronics inspires a liberating feeling that converges all the fondness of childhood with the perks of being an adult. With his confident attitude and vivacious dancing, Behrens reminds you that self-expression is the essence of living. There's the temptation to close your eyes to feel free with the music, but then you could miss the epic light show or a piece of the constant entertainment on stage. In my eyes, it's a win/win situation.

Check out this video of Aaron singing "Vibrate" while dancing his body off:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Avett Brothers' new album does not disappoint.

If you've been looking for an album that can impact you instrumentally, lyrically lift your spirits and entertain your curiosity then pick up The Avett Brothers' latest record I and Love and You.

After the success of their highly regarded album Emotionalism (2007), the North Carolina natives had a pretty hard act to follow. But Seth and Scott Avett, along with band mates, Bob Crawford (stand-up bass) and Joe Kwon (cello), found a way to enhance their band dynamic, while maintaining their strong folk foundation.

Leaving their folk roots, The Avett Brothers permeate into other genres such as country, bluegrass, rock and pop on their new album. Released Aug. 25, this album features a unique combination of instruments, such as the cello and banjo, fused with the acoustic guitar and stand-up bass, making a creative sound that is worth more than one listen.

Combine the instrumental talent with coordinated fraternal harmonies and background vocal support, songs such as "Laundry Room" could make grown men cry.

The incredible range of the album cannot go unnoticed. "Kick Drum Heart" will make you want to dance your feet off, and "The Perfect Space" reach a more emotional level with lyrics like: "I want to have friends that I can trust/that love me for the man I've become, not the man that I was."

A variety of different themes exist throughout the album. The song "Tin Man" explores the idea of experiencing real, genuine human emotion. The lyrics read: "The wind upon my face/And caring what it brings this way," and continue to say,"I miss that feeling of feeling."

An obvious but brilliant parallel to the "The Wizard of Oz" character, it is no surprise The Avett Brothers believe in an active pursuit of things that evoke feeling in their lives and they want their fans to do the same.

Their songs can appeal to a wide spectrum of audiences because they go beyond instrumental diversity and lyrical maturity. Sincerity is the reason why their fan base has grown immensely.

The Avett Brothers' utter simplicity is apparent in "January Wedding." Scott Avett sings, "I am thankful for her kind of loving cause it's simple." It becomes clear as the album continues just what kind of priorities the band has and how earnestly they want people to listen to their music.

The key to realizing the overall meaning of this album is recognizing the sincerity of The Avett Brothers and their desire to reach people. It's when you unlock the true meaning of their lyrics and dissect them word for word that you can truly appreciate the underlying purpose of their music.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone thrives solo.

I recently had the chance to see Owen Ashworth of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone perform an intimate show. Watching the California-born keyboardist mix sounds on stage was absolutely a unique experience. His earnest singing combined with the complexity of his music was impossible to escape, as I watched him stand completely isolated on stage.

I actually got the chance to talk to him and he's

After he released his latest EP, Vs. Children, he decided to go on tour. While buried in his electronic equipment, Owen sings his heart out. Almost quite literally. Although the loneliness creeps out of every song, there's a strong sense of empathy that gets ahold of every person in the room.

The songs that stuck out to me the most were "Nashville Parthenon" and "I love Creedence." If you listen closely to the lyrics and think about what they mean, you can feel his pain. And it's beautiful really.

If you want to check out more of Owen's stuff, make sure you don't just listen but watch too. Half of his craft is his art on stage.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

KiD CuDi lives up to expectations.

What started as a mixtape from a kid in Cleveland (A Kid Named Cudi) ended up being a sensational work of art in the hip hop world, and not just according to Kanye and Jay Z. If you haven't yet, check out KiD CuDi's album Man on the Moon: The End of Day. All of Cudi's tracks flow into each other in an extremely succinct fashion, leaving you no choice but to become completely lost in the beats and lyrics.

The lyrics. Cudi is not a rapper with just girls and parties on his mind; actually he is a endlessly complex character with thoughts that run deeper than most of us even dream to conceive most of the time. Listen carefully to "Soundtrack to My Life," "Up Up & Away" and "Pursuit of Happiness." They may change the way you think about things.

Cudi is really a breath of fresh air for the hip hop community and the music scene in general. He collaborates with MGMT and Ratatat on this album, which adds whole new layer to his already enhanced dynamic. The beat for his track "The Player" comes from the Band of Horses song "Funeral." By collaborating with these groups that are not often associated with the hip hop scene, Cudi makes himself versatile and opens up his music to layers of new fan bases. He knows that music is a multi-dimensional craft that deserves to be shared with everyone.

Find daily info on Cudi here:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Monsters of Folk album cover released.

Although the album is not due out until September 22, the Monsters of Folk have released their album cover, which appears to be a headshot

of the four folk stars connected through a condensed forest of vines and leaves. Going clockwise, the cover features the faces of Oberst, James, Mogis and Ward. Done by stereogum, the cover was created by Matthew Hollings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunset Rubdown rocks the Pitchfork headquarters.

Check out these recently uploaded videos of Sunset Rubdown rocking out in Pitchfork's office. It's not everyday Spencer Kruug invades your office with his incredible musical militia.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bon Iver forms new music group.

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has decided to collaborate with his favorite Wisconsinites, Collections of Colonies of Bees, to form Volcano Choir. The new experimental LP, Unmap, is expected to arrive September 22. You can hear their one track they've released, "Island, IS" on the Jagjaguwar website:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

VIBE Magazine here to stay.

If you've been worried about the rumors that VIBE Magazine was soon to be history, you can rest assured that the publication is not going anywhere.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

King Charles.

While feeding my recent ongoing obsession with black cab sessions, I discovered this jewel. King Charles' performance can send you to a better place, if you let it. You have to listen carefully, definitely more than once. It is safe to conclude that his habits include reading Oscar Wilde's poetry ("You're Oscar Wilde, short stories in my bookcase") and listening to Bob Dylan ("You're positively 4th Street isolated in my iTunes"). It's safe to say Charles' brilliant lyrics are intoxicating. Like I said, this needs a couple of listens to really give it the justice it deserves.

King Charles from Black Cab Sessions on Vimeo.

This line resonated with me the most:

"You're the word in my dictionary that i can't spell, can't describe, can't put in a sentence, but use all the time."

FInd him on myspace here:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dylan to release Christmas album.

According to Billboard, Bob Dylan plans on putting out some Christmas carols this December. Anticipated tracks include: "Must Be Santa", "Here Comes Santa Claus", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Although Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman) was born Jewish, he wanted to compile an album of Christmas cheer, like other artists such as Neil Diamond and Phil Spector. This news may be slightly surprising to Dylan fans alike, but it's no surprise that Dylan keeps on surprising.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Schwatzman steals the show, twice.

In the movie Funny People, Jason Schwatzman plays the role of an arrogant, self-loving actor, star-struck by himsef (an extension of his self-righteous character, Max Fischer, in Wes Anderson's 1998 film Rushmore). While he plays that role on screen, he also manages to invisibly make his way into the picture through his music.

Although there are a handful of solid tracks throughout the film, Schwartzman's band Coconut Records contributes two tracks that were particularly striking to me. If you've ever known the feeling of walking away from a movie saying, "I have to get that soundtrack," Funny People will most likely be added to your archives. "Wires" and "I am Young" are worth looking up.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Passion Pit exclusive tracks.

Passion Pit released some free exclusive tracks on a mypace transmissions page. Their song Sleepyhead is addictive. You can check out some of their performances too on the page.

Hear it here:

See it here:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Monsters of Folk jams.

The geniuses behind the newly formed group Monsters of Folk (Jim James, Conor Oberst, M.Ward, and Mike Mogis) released two more tracks for their upcoming album on their myspace:

These four folk gods unite their individual talents as they bundle together their energy, range, and creativity to produce a sensational sound. The tracks are entitled "Dear God (sincerely M.O.F.)" and "The Sandman, the Brakeman, and Me." Both are streaming on their myspace and are available on itunes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Playing for Change.

Why do mathematicians like math? Because numbers are universal.
Naturally, why do musicians like music?
Mark Johnson claims it is an art inscribed inside of everyone around the globe.

It's that very notion that moved Mark Johnson to start Playing for Change, a non-profit organization that travels the globe to unite people under one idea: music. The organization aims to fund music schools around the world, recently starting in South Africa.

The video on youtube has already received over 20 million hits. As various international artists take part in the musical workings of Benny King's "Stand by Me," it is impossible to ignore the captivation of the completely isolated musicians in harmony. Collectively, artists from Santa Monica and New Orleans to Russia and Italy participate separately in the same masterpiece of music.

Johnson was featured on ABC as part of their "Person of the Week" segment last week, and rightfully so. See his impact here:

Visit the website for more inspirational videos and information here:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Andrew Bird exclusive new track.

Andrew Bird continues to redefine whistling for audiences alike, complementing his uncanny violin skills. Combine that with his flawless vocals and you've got a noteworthy track.

Check out Andrew Bird's impressive performance of "Nomenclature" in Pitchfork's chapel-based series:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Beck covers album with Wilco.

Known for his unique versatility and daring endeavors as an artist, Beck has decided to cover some of his favorite well-respected artists, including The Velvet Underground and Skip Spence. He got together with the guys of Wilco last month in L.A. to discuss a collaboration. They decided on the 1969 cult band Skip Spence. Combining Jeff Tweedy's soothing croon with Beck's unparalleled monotone, it is sure to be a brilliant album.

Find some of Beck's work with some Velvet Underground tracks here:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

the black cab sessions.

If you ever find yourself in a music rut or just are looking for some really legitimate live performances in the back of black cabs...

Here's some information posted on the website about the black cab sessions:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tweedy makes the cover of SPIN Magazine.

Due to Wilco's recent success with Wilco (the album), it's no surprise that Jeff Tweedy made an appearance on SPIN Magazine's August cover. On, the album was placed in the category of "The 20 Best Albums of 2009...So Far."

Find the article here:

Sufjan Stevens releasing "BKE" package.

Collaborating with a full-blown orchestra in November of 2007, Sufjan Stevens performed a multimedia experience for avid fans at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. The show portrayed clips of the 11.6 mile Brooklyn-Queens expressway (as a result of city planner Robert Moses' vision for a modernized New York City between 1937-1964) coinciding with varying symphonic rhythms. Not to mention hula hooping women. Stevens initiated an awareness of the harsh relaity of the greed and power-hungry behavior that New York City possesses. The show combined perpetual images of the road fusing Stevens' familiar indie sound with a new orchestral dynamic, comparable to that of minimalist Philip Glass.

Due out Oct. 20, Stevens will release the production that took a couple of years to put together, rightfully so. Stevens' relentless pursuit for profound art and music is sure to be revealed in this highly anticipated package.

Check out a preview of the package on Asthmatic Kitty Records' website:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pitchfork Music Festival a success.

This past weekend the Pitchfork Music Festival graced Chicago and it did not disappoint.
Some articles on what went on at the festival:

Friday and Saturday: Artists like Built to Spill, the National, the Jesus Lizard, and and Yo La Tengo took the stage.

Sunday: The Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, M83, and the Walkmen played.

Some great footage of The Flaming Lips' performance of "She don't use Jelly" and "Do you Realize?":

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Monsters of Folk.

Four MVP's of the indie/folk/rock music scene are collaborating to make a new sound for their listeners, under the pseudonym "Monsters of Folk." On September 22, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, and recently with The Mystic Valley Band), Yim Yames (aka Jim James of My Morning Jacket) , M. Ward, and indie producer Mike Mogis are expected to release an album entitled Monsters of Folk. You can hear a sample of their new track "Say Please" online:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wilco's "You and I" on Letterman.

Wilco appeared on Letterman last night with Leslie Feist to perform the track "You and I" off of their new album, Wilco (the album).

See the performance here:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

wilco (the album).

A week ago the 10 top-selling records understandably belonged to Michael Jackson. Who was number 11? Wilco, of course.

For the past 15 years, Jeff Tweedy has been notorious for his demanding visionary persona, expecting nothing less than perfection from every Wilco album. Throughout their seventh studio album, entitled Wilco (the album), it is clear that all six members were aware of Tweedy’s expectations.

The album was not laid down in the band's Chicago loft, but rather in New Zealand while they were traveling. It was the second consecutive album with all of the same members remaining in the group.

If you listen carefully enough, it is obvious that each track has been crafted meticulously, both lyrically and instrumentally, to convey a sound that that seems calculated, mathematical even. Tweedy flawlessly croons brilliant lyrics while the other members accompany him with their instrumental specialties--John Stirratt on the bass, Nels Cline handling the electric and lap steel guitar, Glenn Kotche working the drums and percussion, Pat Sansone on the electric and harpsichord, and Mikael Jorgenson handling the piano and organ. They synchronize to form a sound that is familiar to faithful Wilco fans, yet refreshingly reviving at the same time. It seems like Tweedy and co. created a culmination of the epic works 2002’s “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel” and of 2004’s “Ghost Is Born.”

Although it may seem unusual that a self-titled album would appear 15 years after the group’s formation, it is timely for Wilco (the band). By the time the eleventh track ends, it is overwhelmingly clear that they have cohesively established a mature sound, of both consistency and surprise.

Perhaps it is self-titled because the high contrast of light and dark throughout the album encapsulates Wilco as a band. Tweedy and his guys can get lost in a series of perpetual jamming and the next moment they are fading into a soft lullaby. That is the beauty of this album.

For instance, the track “Bull Black Nova,” a ballad filled with paranoia and dissonant organ and piano sounds, segues into “You and I,” a soft, romantic collaboration with Leslie Feist. The two tracks are juxtaposed as extremes, taking the listener on an emotionally charged ride, naturally Tweedy’s specialty.

The album kicks off with a sing-along track entitled “Wilco (the song),” which is said to be a love song written to Wilco’s fans. It is a sing-along that you will be happy to have in your head: "Are you under the impression/ This isn't your life?/Do you dabble in depression?/ Is someone sticking a knife in your back?/ Oh this is a fact/ That you need to know/ Oh, oh, oh, oh Wilco/ Wilco will love you baby."

My favorite track on the album slowly became "Solitaire." It's obvious that Jeff embarks on some serious self-reflection: "Once I thought the world was crazy/ Everyone was sad and chasing/ happiness and love/ and I was the only one above it." Another bonus to the track is Nels on the lap steel guitar. The way he collaborates with Jeff on the acoustic and even Pat on the vibraphone transcends the listener. Jeff adds in almost a whisper, "Took too long to see/ I was wrong to believe in me only." After a series of songs regarding his depression and dark drug addiction, it's comforting to hear something uplifting from a man who has boldly paved the incendiary path of Wilco.

There is a unique medley of tracks throughout the album that gives the listener a variety of moods to choose from. Anyone can extract a hook or lyric from a track that evokes a range of thought or emotion. It’s unconditionally guaranteed; as Tweedy says, “Wilco will love you baby.”

For more on wilco visit their site:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pitchfork interview with Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste.

Pitchfork sits down with Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear to talk about their tour:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Regina Spektor grows with new album.

Regina Spektor released her new album entitled Far last week. Throughout the album, it is clear that Spektor's ambition has not wavered since her last studio endeavor, Begin to Hope. Although some of her songs still maintain that oh so random thought process, there is definitely a sense of depth in her recent songwriting. Her track "Laughing With" examines a general perception of God and explores some pretty interesting ideas.

Some tracks to look out for:
"Folding Chair"
"Laughing With"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grizzly Bear performs at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

As various artists play in Milwaukee, Blue Ribbon Vision captures a behind-the-scenes look at their music. Here is some footage berfore their June 8 show at the Pabst Theater as they perform "All We Ask" from their new album Veckatimest: