WHO: Sanders Bohlke
WHERE: Oxford, Mississippi
CONNECT THE DOTS: Opened for Badly Drawn Boy
YOU WILL LIKE HIM IF YOU LIKE: Cooing, “ooh”-ing, and the plucking of acoustic guitar strings
Sanders Bohlke describes his sound as “experimental neo-folk,” which makes sense considering his songs are very acoustic-based. The thing is, there’s something more beyond the guy-with-a-guitar picture. His songs seem at times to be infused with a bit of a soul element that calls back to Maxwell, and honestly, that’s never a bad thing. This is best translated in Bohlke’s live rendition of “Search and Destroy,” which can be found on his Facebook page, along with a few other videos. Again, it’s a very subtle tinge of soul, so I might be overemphasizing it. Heck, it might not even be there, but it’s what I hear. (Feel free to comment below and let me know what you hear!)
[LISTEN]: Sanders Bohlke – “Weight of Us”
“I’m not ready, I’m not ready for the weight of us… The time has come, let us be brave. Shake off all of your sins, the time has come, let us be brave, let us be brave.”
“Weight of Us”–arguably Bohlke’s most well-known track–is fit for a momentous Grey’s Anatomy montage. With it’s drumming beat, sweeping build up, and lyrics that call us to bravery, you can just picture Cristina running around the hospital to look for Owen so that she can declare her love for him after deciding to take the plunge (Note: Or insert any other two main characters who are obviously in love but can’t admit it). You get the picture–it’s a hard song to dislike.
[LISTEN]: Sanders Bohlke – “Quiet Ye Voices”
However, I think that there are others that perphaps better showcase his talents. “Quiet Ye Voices” is one of them. With more intricate instrumentation, layered harmonies, and even handclaps (and who doesn’t have handclaps?!), Bohlke has a fuller, more orchestra sound in his recordings that never loses its warm tone.
But to be honest, I find him strongest and most compelling in his life performances. There’s just something about the way his voice extends and reaches and fill the expansive space that grabs me. I’ll leave you with this chilling live rendition of “Fighter Pilot.”
[WATCH]: Sanders Bohlke – “Fighter Pilot” (Live in a loft in Jackson, Mississippi)
[LISTEN]: Sanders Bohlke – “Weight of Us”
If you like it, buy it! Support independent musicians!
Lia Ices’ willowy vocals waft effortlessly across the opening moments of “Love Is Won,” piercing the quiet, backed only by simple piano chords, heavily-reverbed like the thick condensation of air above a lake at summer’s dawn. It is a fitting introduction to the avant-garde pop songstress, as her voice is her greatest instrument. Like a swift seductress in murky waters, her barely-above-a-whisper coos resonate throughout the subtle orchestrations on “Little Marriage,” in a wispy, lilting fashion, embellished with bells and finger snaps. Though Grown Unknown does begin to feel slightly redundant in its form towards the end, with mellow, mid-tempo avant ballads sandwiched between more of the same, Ices’ sophomore effort sees her develop her own voice. Rather than echo the safety of the piano-based singer-songwriter vibe that permeated debut Necima, she shows a more solid understanding of herself as an artist, experimenting with wider, vaster soundscapes. Captivating standout tracks “Grown Unknown” and “Daphne,” (feauting Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon) play to Ices’ greatest strengths, embracing her more experimental leanings atop interesting instrumental backdrops. Ultimately, Lia Ices’ voice is the main attraction. It is, in effect, the conductor guiding the instrumentation and the siren captivating by injecting an ethereal, effervescent vitality and experimental avant-garde lean into an otherwise familiar and tired formula.
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Grown Unknown”
WHO: Lia Ices
WHERE: Brooklyn, NY
CONNECT THE DOTS: Friends w/ Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (who sings on “Daphne”); currently touring with The Besnard Lakes, The Cave Singers
CLAIM TO FAME: When Jagjaguwar snatched her up last year
YOU WILL LIKE HER IF YOU LIKE: Going for walks in forests, daydreaming, cloud-watching, fairies
FOR FANS OF: Bon Iver, Bat for Lashes, Glasser, Lykke Li, Cat Power
This one’s been sitting around in my drafted posts for a while, and with her album, Grown Unknown, coming out Jan. 25, I figured now would be as good a time as any to pull it off the shelve. Truth be told, I had never even heard of Lia Ices until it had been announced that she had been courted and wooed by consistently spot-on major indie label, Jagjaguwar in August 2010. She has already has one record under her belt: 2008′s Necima (out on Rare Book Room Records), which you can hear in its entirety over here.
Labels (or at least indie labels) are finally starting to catch on by offering up free “samplers”–legal downloads from artists–so that people are able to get a little taste before taking the plunge and buying the album (if anyone still does that anymore). Jagjaguwar has done a good job of this, by releasing lead single “Grown Unknown” for free legal download, and now, “Daphne” (which features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon).
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Grown Unknown” (right-click, save as)
Hand-claps and reverb-drenched vocals in “Grown Unknown” create a sea and cave-like atmosphere, like a siren singing her song, beckoning the sailors.
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Daphne” (feat. Bon Iver) (right-click, save as)
“Daphne,” on the other hand, sees her as a woodland fairy, nimbly peeking from behind the moss-covered trunks of towering thousand-year-old trees. With the urgent shift around the 2:40 minute mark, Lia Ices and Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) vocals blend together seamlessly, intertwining, accompanied by piano and electric guitar; the turnaround is stunning. I’m an incredibly visual person, so these are just the images that flutter through my mind as I listen to her music.
Ultimately, it’s her voice that draws the you in. Lia Ices has a voice that is a quivering and lilting, timid wisp, with a certain mystic transparency about it. Her vocals flutter constantly, fading in and out, like the wavering remnants of something that was once there and now is no longer–like a hand reaching out to grab on to something that has already gone. Haunting and ethereal, it begs a closer listen and invites curiosity. And even after the song has ended, its ghost still lingers in the crevices of your mind, unseen and unheard, yet still present.
Too pretentious/convoluted/ambiguous a description? Oh well. My schedule is lacking in creative writing courses this semester, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Nevertheless, Lia Ices is one to watch in 2011, so keep an eye (and ear) out for her!
Also, if you like what you hear, show your appreciation by buying the record and supporting the musicians whose songs you listen to on repeat so that they can in turn make more music for you to love. I mean, that’s the least you can do, really.
[WATCH]: Lia Ices – “Half Life” (from Necima)
**Damn. Brooklyn really is a breeding ground for artistic talent (Sharon Van Etten, Oh Land, and Holly Miranda, just to name a few). New York, I can hear you calling my name. I’ll be there. I’ll see you in a year or two.
HOMETOWN: Long Island, New York
LINEUP: Eric Cardona (guitar/vox), Gabel D’Amico (bass), Andrea Estella (vox), Dev Gupta (keyboard), Bryan Ujueta (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Rhythmic rolling body waves captured in a bottle of glass shards
Without a doubt, Long Island quintet Twin Sister has stolen my heart (and my ears) today. And now as the sun is beginning to set, this band’s music is just what I need to ease me into the still and quiet evening while I furiously pen some poetry for my class tomorrow. Andrea Estella’s voice is sometimes buried beneath a wall of fuzzy reverb and tinny guitar (“Ginger”), and sometimes it’s sweet, drawn out, and lingering in the foreground backed by atmospheric swells and swoons (“Dry Hump”). And when Eric Cardona shares vocals at times, they create some light harmonies that make the tips of my fingers tingle (see video below).
Twin Sister translates their “wall of small” (what they sound like, according to their Myspace) recordings as well as their more sparse tunes surprisingly well in a live setting, so go and download their Daytrotter Session (free!) for your sonic pleasure and listen for yourself!
[MP3]: Twin Sister – “Ginger” (right-click, save as)
Karin Dreijer Andersson, was originally one half of Grammi-winning (Swedish equivalent of a Grammy; those tricky, Swedes!) electric duo, the Knife, with her brother. Now performing solo under the moniker, Fever Ray, she is known for her theatricality (often donning masks and face paint), haunting vocals, and creating dark daydreams with synth textures.
“When I Grow Up” is a Fever Ray original and is the perfect song to introduce new listeners to her music. Honestly, on the first listen her multi-tracked vocals sound almost Bjork-like. The bass line is gripping and the sparse percussion is quite satisfying and carries the eerie feeling effectively. The single melody line repeated throughout pushes the track forward with a sense of movement.
And here’s the video, which I think suits the track perfectly and adds to its eerie tone.
First Aid Kit
And we’ve got 2 Swedes on the docket today! These two sisters from Stokholm had humble beginnings. They started off posting acoustic videos on youtube and tracks on Myspace, and clearly, they’re doing something right, because now they’re touring all over the world. They have a show in Toronto coming up on October 15.
Their version of Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up” is a beautiful folk rendition with the girls’ signature harmonies. Completely different from the original, First Aid Kit’s vocals are in the forefront while subtle guitar instrumentation and muted percussion is buried in the mix (save for the intro).
Which version do you prefer? Fever Ray’s spooky electronic take or First Aid Kit’s classic folk?
P.S. What did you think of Glee’s cover of Paramore’s “Only Exception”? I hated it.
Eccentric Icelandic songstress Björk has yet to release a full-length record since 2007′s Volta, and the last time heard from her, she released a collaborative Mount Wittenberg Orca EP with the Dirty Projectors. There has been no word of a new LP in the works, but luckily for us she has just come out with a new song and video “The Comet Song”–a track written for the Finnish children’s movie Moomins and the Comet Chase, which you can check out below.
Björk – “The Comet Song”