Backstreet Boys > N*Sync
I don’t know about you, but I was a BSB girl back in the day (N*Sync who?). Millennium was the first album I ever owned (sorry Britney), and if last.fm scrobbling and the Internet had existed back then, you best believe the Backstreet Boys would be the #1 top scrobbled artist on my charts.
Clearly Ryan Hemsworth knows what’s up. (90s throwbacks, boy bands, remixes, and Amanda “I’m suing everyone” Bynes.) Chopping up BSB’s 1999 hit, “Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely,” amidst stuttering electronic beats and the ever-classic “Amanda please!”, the Halifax, Nova Scotia native gets the nostalgia levels pumpin’ so well that I’m almost left wanting to hear more of the original chorus. But really, it’s the feel good boy band harmonies and flamenco guitar juxtaposed against blitz claps, warped synths, and quick start-stops that makes for bumpin’-thumpin’-fist-pumpin’ good time.
Hello 1999, how nice of the self-professed Remix Ryan Gosling to usher you into the sample-heavy, nostalgia-infused 21st century. #Backstreetsbackalright!
You can download the track here by tweeting (just close the pop-up window and download away if you don’t have twitter) or by clicking the link above!
I used to have a serious aversion to remixes (“ORIGINAL 4EVER”), but I’ve now chalked that up to being young and very very confused. (Never) quit playing (remix) games with my heart, Hemsworth.
If you know me (I’ll assume you don’t), you’ll know that I’m not much for belt-y, powerhouse vocals; I’m more keen on whisper-sweet serenades that require you to almost lean in (even if you’ve got headphones on).
Priscilla Ahn more than checked off that box for me when I first came across her sparse ‘girl with a guitar and a loop and sometimes a harmonica’ easy listening tunes. I caught her at the Drake back in 2009, and sitting cross-legged on the floor with everyone else in tiny venue, there was a collective hush over the crowd and everyone was actually leaning in.
Now she’s back with Sweet Hearts, a duo project with fellow musician Charlie Wadhams, and they’ve just released their mellow, mushy, and blush-worthy self-titled EP for free download just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Or if you’re a single lady (“all the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies, now put your hands up!”), why not celebrate Galentine’s Day à la Leslie Knope?
Guys, you can follow suit. And then on the 14th, cozy up with a glass of wine, some cheese, a mirror, and celebrate a little good, healthy narcissism. Celebrate you! (It’ll be like your birthday except better because you’re not a year older!)
Oh sweetheart, when I see you again, you’re never gonna let me go. That’s right, you’ll always be my dearest friend. My, my, I’ll love you till the day I die.
Put on Sweet Hearts’ EP, gaze into your own eyes (that’s what the mirror’s for) and pretend all the lyrics are about you. It’s the new affirmation nation.
[Download]: Sweet Hearts’ EP here by entering your email address!
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Guelph, Ontario dream-pop duo Memoryhouse. Having just self-releasing their digital EP The Years the year before (2010), Sub Pop quickly snatched them up in them in 2011, remastered the EP, added a couple of new tracks, and re-released it–this time with a full-fledged physical release (cd and vinyl).
Their debut full-length, entitled The Slideshow Effect, is due out February 28. “Walk With Me,” the second single from the album, dropped today and is available for the price of an email address (so basically, it’s free)! The cuts that we’ve heard from the new LP thus far are little more uptempo than their predecessors, slightly more sonically optimistic, and much easier to sing along to–which is actually quite fitting since it’s still relatively early into new year and we’re (maybe) still stickin’ to our resolutions and laughably idealistic notions.
The lead single “The Kids Were Wrong” is also available below for less than a penny. With all the controversy surrounding SOPA and PIPA, you really begin to appreciate the exchange of an email address for a track. Commodity exchange for the new age. Oh the beauty of free (or is it “free”?) legal downloads!
“…But where is her face?”
I’m sure this was the first thought to cross the mind of every single longtime St. Vincent fan when they saw the album art for her forthcoming album, Strange Mercy (out Sept. 13 via 4AD).
When it was first released, I was pretty stunned not to see Annie Clark‘s pale skin and wide, bewildered eyes front and centre among a bed of bouncy curls. I, for one, will admit that I was looking forward to another (for lack of a better word) headshot [classic St. Vincent!], so I was not particularly captivated by the mute tones of the cover and the lack of, well, face.
I was crossing my fingers for some Top Model-worthy, Tyra-sponsored “smizing” this time around! (Smizing is ‘smiling with your eyes’ for those you who aren’t familiar with the term, even though I have no idea why you wouldn’t be since Tyra invented it and mentions it every single time she can get a word in.)
But considering the entirety of the album and the theme of a strange mercy, it’s quite fitting. Whereas Clark’s first two albums were more “people-focused,” Strange Mercy seems to run on a unifying theme, and I can’t wait to see where she takes it and how she weaves it into her lyrics and sounds.
Fans had to unlock this free track by tweeting with the hashtag #strangemercy, so it was all pretty interactive and ingenious on the promotions front.
“I spent the summer on my back…”
“Surgeon” is different from previous material in that it is a bit synth heavy and more electronic-based–lacking the harsh, thrashing guitar sounds (save for build up of screeching synths at the end). However, it’s still classic St. Vincent: wispy and slightly reverbed vocals atop layers of eerie, orchestral, and score-like instrumental tracks. I can dig it.
I’ve been waiting for an eternity for some new Bon Iver, and finally, we get our first taste of new material with the release of the first single off the band’s doubly self-titled sophomore LP–Bon Iver, Bon Iver (due out June 21 via Jagjaguwar).
As usual, the lyrics are cryptic as all hell, but Justin Vernon’s vocals weave themselves into a harmonic tapestry that I want to envelop myself in for days. It’s still the barebones Bon Iver we’ve all come to love, but this time the soundscape is fuller, more vast, and eclectic. The addition of synthesizers and electronic elements embedded into the the backdrop create a heavier, rounded experience.
Sure it’s supposed to be spring, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a “good winter,” right? I mean, the weather isn’t exactly warm and sunny, and my hands are effectively ice blocks as I type this.
Plus it doesn’t hurt that it’s about a Canadian city, either. Canadian pride and wintery wonderland both check off!
Bon Iver, warm me up.
*Tour dates after the jump! (more…)
Fleet Foxes’ highly regarded sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, was released May 3, but that isn’t stopping Sub Pop from giving away another freebie: “Grown Ocean.“
[MP3]: Fleet Foxes – “Grown Ocean” (right-click, save as)
If you haven’t already, you can also grab the lead single and title track that was given away as a teaser to the band’s second LP.
Fleet Foxes’ frontman Robin Pecknold also took to twitter a while ago to showcase 3 tracks he’d previously recorded in California while on a break, one of which features Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste.
[Mp3]: The Kills – “DNA” (right-click, save as / control + click, save link as)
The enigmatic grunge blues rock duo of the Kills‘ “Hotel” (Jamie Hince) and “VV” (Alison Mosshart) have already released the first single off Blood Pressures–“Satellite”–along with its accompanying video, announced the first leg of their tour in support of the album, and shown off the record’s album art (pictured above). Now they’ve jumped on the “free track” trend with a no-fee download of second single, “DNA.”
On the first listen, I have to say I’m partial to the crunchy guitar work and overall frenetic fuzz and grittiness of “Satellite.”
“DNA” is much more down-tempo in comparison, but it’s the type of slinky song you could imagine a gang of leather and vintage-clad badasses with perfectly messied up ‘just-got-out-of-bed-hair’ strutting down a dimly lit street to in slow motion. I think it’s a track that I’ll grow to love more and more with each listen.
With two strong singles, the anticipation is definitely building up for the Kills’ April 5 release date (via Domino) of Blood Pressures, and I cannot wait.
[MP3]: Little Scream – “Cannons” (click arrow on the right to download)
Montreal-based Laurel Sprengelmeyer (under the moniker Little Scream) has already gifted us with a free download of “Heron and the Fox” (featuring guitar work from The National’s Aaron Dessner), the first single off her debut album The Golden Record. But I guess the Canadian spirit has really rubbed off on the Mississippi native, because now she’s also giving away her second single, “Cannons.”
If you aren’t a (physical) album collector like I am, you’ll be happy to know that her album is out today exclusively on iTunes. Yes…you can purchase it today. But if you must get your hands on the jewel casing (or perhaps digipak or vinyl) and artwork, then you’ll have to wait until April 11 (Europe) or April 12 (North America).
[MP3]: Heidi Spencer & The Rare Birds – “Alibi” (right-click, save as)
“No one needs to know we laid around all day.”
All day, every day, that’s pretty much my theory. And if your first thought when seeing her name was Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (from The Hills), you weren’t alone. If not, I should cut back on my celebrity gossip. MTV is terrible.
“Alibi” is a nice, simple, mellow song I came across and thought I’d share. Sometimes it’s nice when things aren’t too complicated; sometimes you need that. (Also, I like how you can hear a single finger-snap on some beats.) It’s the first single off Milwaukee’s Heidi Spencer & the Rare Birds‘ album, Under Streetlight Glow (due out March 27 via Bella Union). Hope you enjoy!
You’ll like them if you like: Ray Lamontagne, sitting by the fire with a cup of tea, roasted walnuts, syrup on blueberry pancakes (or just pancakes in general), The Swell Season, boy-girl vocals that melt seamlessly into one another.
I’ve previously mentioned The Civil Wars in an ON THE VERGE feature as an up-and-coming band about to make the big leagues, and boy was I right. The folksy duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White were the first musicians to have a song of theirs (“Poison & Wine”) played in its entirety on Grey’s Anatomy, they recently played Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, and they’ve been featured in Paste Magazine; basically, they been popping up everywhere–and all before the release of their debut LP, Barton Hollow (out Feb. 1 via Sensibility Music). All the attention they’ve gotten is not without good reason: these two have real, unadulterated talent–and they have substance.
Now to add to the hype, they’ve offered up the lead single of the same name off their forthcoming album for free download! And if you haven’t already downloaded their free live album, Live at Eddie’s Attic, (which is what first got them noticed and garnered them fans–hint hint, independent musicians!) just head on over here to pick up your free copy! Also, I got a chance to listen to the full album when they were streaming it earlier today from 12-1 pm. Verdict: Heavenly.
I apologize for the lack of updates recently. I’ve been incredibly swamped with school and…well, school. You know how it is. Anyway, on to business…Lykke Li.
Another remix of her single, “I Follow Rivers” has popped up–this time by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. That guy likes to bury vocals and use horns (as evidenced by his production on Holly Miranda’s The Magician’s Private Library), so of course there’s a full horn/brass section on this remix (which I find a bit abrasive). Personally, I prefer the original and The Magician remix better, but that’s just me–you can decide for yourself!
The indie darling has also released a video entitled, “Untitled.” I’m not sure if it’s an EPK for the album, or an introduction track of sorts–but the again I have no idea what’s going on in the video itself. Let’s just say it involves a big white dog, sand, knives, lots of flailing around and stabbings of knives into the sand, a deck of cards, and artistry with a switchblade. And all that while wearing five-inch white stilettos.
You’ll like them if you like: Bat for Lashes, zombiefied Florence + the Machine, Ouija boards, Warpaint, Zola Jesus, those stupid ghost hunting tv shows.
Must listen to: “Lucia, at the Precipice,” “About This Peninsula,”
Esben & the Witch are descending upon North America and are on a warpath, ready to take on anything and everyone with the release of their debut full-length, Violet Cries (via Matador). But you can stream the entire album below before its Feb. 8 US/Canada release date! The Brighton three-piece first popped up on the radar when they offered their self-released EP 33 for free download. Their dark, brooding, and ominous creations embedded with the dragged out vocals of Rachel Davies caught the attention of The xx, who they later toured with; they’ve also toured with Foals.
[LISTEN]: Esben & the Witch – “About This Peninsula” (from 33)
“About This Peninsula” was the first track of theirs that I heard, and to me, its instrumentation (specifically the guitar work) sounded very reminiscent of Warpaint’s Exquisite Corpse EP (which I adore). Plus they have English accents and used the word “folly,” “peninsula,” and mentioned “Icarus”! Ding ding ding–hooked!
They’ll be playing Toronto’s Wrongbar for Canadian Music Week on March 11 (on the same bill a Guelph’s Memoryhouse), so it should be an amazingly atmospheric (and creepy) show. You can check out their full tour dates below!
Just a tip–if you’re afraid of the dark, ghosts, or are just easily scared in general, do no listen to this album before you go to sleep. (“Battlecry/Mimicry” is especially unsettling.) Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tour Dates (more…)
WHO: Charity Rose Thielen (vocals, violin, percussion), Chris Zasche (bass), Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Kenny Hensley (piano), Tyler Williams (drums)
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
CONNECT THE DOTS: Toured with Dr. Dog, Dave Matthews, Vampire Weekend
CLAIM TO FAME: They’re just really good. (Plus they just got signed to Sub Pop!)
YOU WILL LIKE THEM IF YOU LIKE: Husky male vocals, collectives, bearded men in plaid, log cabins
Seattle is a very luck state. Composed largely of Seattle transplants, The Head and the Heart was certainly the state’s best kept secret (up until now that is). I, myself, only discovered them this past summer (after finding their eponymous self-released full-length debut); but now that they’ve just been signed to Sub Pop Records, these guys are about definitely about to, for lack of better terms, “make it big.”
Crafting beautiful songs out of the heartache, they remind us not to dwell on the pains of sadness and instead focus on the beauty of it all. Just a bunch of friends singing around a proverbial bonfire, they’ve etched out a special little niche for themselves in a genre that seems overflowing. With a focus on instrumentation, their music is a seamless meshing of rustic harmonies, piano, percussion, acoustic guitar, violin, and yes–shakers. It’s a good ‘ol foot-stompin time.
Though I honestly don’t know too much about them as a band, but what I do know is that you should give them a listen. I guarantee you will like them. “Sounds like Hallelujah” was the first track of theirs that I heard, and damn, that transition to “Momma, don’t put no gun in my hand” really hooked me. “Down in the Valley” is another stunner, and you can now download it HERE, along with a new song, for the price of FREE (a.k.a. an email address), so there isn’t really a good reason not to check them out.
COVER CLASH | “These Days” (Jackson Browne, Nico, Gregg Allman, St. Vincent, Gemma Hayes, Memoryhouse, The Tallest Man On Earth)
Nico’s Chelsea Girl album art will most likely call to mind “These Days,” the hit single it spawned. However, what most people don’t realize is that Nico’s rendition, although it is the most recognized version, is actually a cover.
Written in 1968 by a wise-beyond-his-years Jackson Browne when he was only 16 (YES, 16!!), it was recorded principally by Nico, Gregg Allman, and Browne himself on separate occasions and in very distinctly different styles. But the song has found new life in the covers by St. Vincent, Gemma Hayes, The Tallest Man On Earth, and most recently, Memoryhouse–each bringing a different feeling/perspective. (more…)
I have to say, I’m pretty excited for Lykke Li’s sophomore album, Wounded Rhymes (due out March 1 via her own label, LL Recordings).
I loved Youth Novels (2008), but everyone’s favourite Swede seems to be growing up a bit with the introduction of some darker, heavier sounds and downright sassy lyrics (“Like a shotgun needs an outcome / I’m your prostitute / You gon’ get some”) on the first single (“Get Some”) off her forthcoming album, so it’ll be interesting to hear the finished package.
Just released is Beck’s remix of “Get Some” (which you can download for free). Just thought I’d add a little mp3 treat today since I (and probably a lot of you) are super busy with finals and what not. Think of it as a little pick me up.
Also If you haven’t already grabbed her new (though not so new anymore considering it was released back in October) single, “Get Some” and b-side “Paris Blue,” head HERE to download it for free! You can listen to the two tracks plus a few remixes below.
Break over. Now back to studying!
[MP3]: Lykki Li – “Get Some” (Remix by Beck) (right-click, save as)
Here it is: part 3 of my series on Australian music, just as I promised (albeit a little–okay, very–late). The great “Down Under” has produced many quality folk-pop singer-songwriters, but with these two bands/musicians, Australia proves that it can churn out more than just sentimental and glitter-infused tracks. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a sucker for that kind of music; it’s just good to know there’s diversity.)
Australia is also home to quality psych-rock bands like Tame Impala and bluesy sirens a la Abbe May.
If you haven’t heard of Sia (Sia Furler) by now, I don’t really know what to say. The Aussie musician and songwriter has provided vocals for Zero 7, collaborated with Christina Aguilera and Beck, and of course is famous for her ‘breakout’ single, “Breathe Me,” which was featured on the finale of Six Feet Under, as well as every other dramatic television shows out there.
Of course, she is also notorious for her kooky, quirky music videos. (She tapes her face into contorted expression and sings with a plastic bag over her face on “Buttons.”) No, this girl isn’t weird at all. Well, okay, maybe she does have an overflow of creative genius, so what else is she supposed to do–right?
Sia took to her twitter last night to leak 2 free tracks–“Bye Bye Bye,” which was already released on The Babysitters (2007) movie soundtrack, and “The Corner” a ‘new’ unreleased oldie! As to why she was leaking theses track, Sia replied simply:
Guess the holidays really do put everyone in a good and giving mood!
[MP3]: Sia – “Bye Bye Bye” (right-click, save as)
[MP3]: Sia – “The Corner” (right-click, save as)
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)
I don’t know what it is about Australia that draws me to it. And I don’t know why the great Down Under calls my name, so. It could be the accent (which I’m constantly attempting to perfect), the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroos, or the fuzzy koala bears. Or perhaps it’s because the first time I actually paid any attention to the Olympics, they were held in Sydney, and right then I decided that it was #1 on my list of must-visit destinations. I want to go to there.
Regardless of the reason behind my fascination with the great Aussie country, one thing is for certain: they have some great musical exports. And just like me, they seem to have an affinity for female singer-songwriters. Here are some of the Aussie musicians that I think deserve a some recognition and are worth checking out. This is part 1 of a 3-part series–so enjoy and stay tuned!
This brother and sister duo have 2 full-length albums under their belt, most recently 2010′s Down the Way. With complementary honey-soaked boy-girl vocals, they are household names in their native Australia. Plus it doesn’t hurt that they’re pretty to look at. They actually have quite a substantial dedicated fan base overseas already, with many of their 2010 tour dates selling out (including a sold out Toronto show which I attended). They’ve played numerous festivals, including this year’s Bonnaroo and the CMJ festival over in New York this week. With Angus & Julia Stone well on their way to becoming big names in the States and Canada, be sure to check out their solo efforts: Lady of the Sunshine (Angus) and Julia Stone.
[MP3]: Angus & Julia Stone – “Just a Boy” (right-click, save as)
If you’re into folk/pop, this girl is a true gem. Blasko has been around since 2002, so I guess you could call her a veteran in the industry. Just like her debut The Overture & the Underscore indicates, Sarah Blasko burst on to the scene with sweeping orchestral arrangements and a timid, yet assured warble. She has won 2 ARIA Music Awards (Aussie equivalent of the Grammys) for Best Pop Release (What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have) and Best Female Artist (As Day Follows Night) in 2007 and 2009, respectively, since then. I never really understood why she never broke it over here in North America despite her immense talent, because this girl deserves some well-earned recognition!
[MP3]: Sarah Blasko – “At Your Best” (right-click, save as)
Brooklyn-based Sharon Van Etten describes her music as pure folk. Simple and stripped back, her strength lies firmly in that emotive voice of hers. Etten is one of the rare artists that has possesses ability to grab a listener based solely on the heartbreak factor of her wispy croon. It draws you in by your heartstrings, tugging until you have no choice but to get drawn in. “Love More” comes by way of her sophomore full-length Epic, that was released earlier in September of this year via Ba Da Bing!
[MP3]: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More” (right-click, save as)
WHO: Joy Williams and John Paul White
WHERE: Nashville, Tennessee / Florence, Alabama
SOUNDS LIKE: Curling up by a warm fire with a glass of red wine
CONNECT THE DOTS: Ten out of Tenn (collective), Madi Diaz, Erin McCarley
CLAIM TO FAME: Free digital album: Live @ Eddie’s Attic (download below!)
FOR FANS OF: The Swell Season, The Honey Trees
You may know Joy Williams as the voice of the new Oscar Meyer theme song, “Doesn’t Get Better Than This” or from her song placements on numerous television shows. You may even remember her as one of the Christian musicians your parents let you listen to as a child. But perhaps you haven’t yet heard of The Civil Wars.
After previously being on a major label and then releasing a couple EPs on her and her husband’s independent label, Sensibility Music, Williams has now joined forces with singer-songwriter John Paul White, the pen behind a couple of country tunes from well-known artists (LeAnn Rimes, Matthew Mayfield, Jason Aldean to name a few). They met by chance at a songwriting session in Los Angeles, hit it off, wrote a couple tracks–and that, dear readers, is the story of how The Civil Wars came to be.
Their sound is warm and inviting, with lyrics offering reflection on life and love. Williams and White’s voices blend together so well it’s as if it was somewhat inevitable that they sing together. The Civil Wars offer up a brand of music that is sincere, honest, raw to the bone, and without gimmicks–giving their stripped back sound the ability to withstand time and the influx of fads that come and go it. And with slow-burning, folk-tinged songs, “melodic melancholy folk” is what I think best describes the music these two make together in this age of blending genres.
Last year, I had the pleasure of speaking to Joy about the struggles and triumphs of being an independent musician, having already experienced the major label world. She had some thought-provoking insights into the industry and was incredibly well-spoken, and I think that really comes across in her co-writing with John Paul White. We discussed how we are living in an unprecedented era of the independent artist in which there are so many avenues and platforms through which musicians can get their music out to the public.
And the technological era has done really incredible things for the pair: their free live album has been downloaded over 80,000 times; their 2009 four-song EP, Poison & Wine, debuted at #4 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter Top Albums chart; and the EP’s title track was played in full on “Grey’s Anatomy.” (And wow, when was the last time you’ve heard a song played in full on TV?) See how much the Internet and a little good ‘ol word of mouth can come in handy for independent artists?
The mesmerizing duo will be releasing their debut full-length Barton Hollow on Feb. 1, 2011 via Sensibility Music, and it’s only a matter of time before they make it big. Can’t wait to see what The Civil Wars has in store for all of us in the coming year!
[DOWNLOAD]: The Civil Wars – Live @ Eddie’s Attic **Don’t forget to spread the word!**
I’ve been listening to L.A.-based girl troupe, Warpaint‘s latest track “Undertow” nonstop as of late. With multiple vocal tracks bleeding into each amidst of river of reverb, they sound like hipster ghosts (yeah, I just made that up). With only 2009′s Exquisite Corpse EP under their belt, the quartet has already landed themselves the opening spot on the xx’s current tour. They play Toronto’s Massey Hall tomorrow night (Sept. 29)!
Their debut full-length, The Fool, comes out October 26 via Rough Trade.
“Now I’ve got you in the undertow,” they sing on the track, and they’ve definitely got me.
[MP3]: Warpaint – “Undertow” (right click, save as)