Getting to know an artist is like making a new friend.
There are some people that seem standoffish in the beginning (maybe because they’re shy or because they’ve eaten a crap sandwich and it’s ruined their entire day–sandwiches have that kind of effect on people, y’know), so it takes a couple of visits or run-ins for them to get comfortable around you and for you to warm up to them; then there are those people you take an instant liking to (perhaps you both find great pleasure in watching/making fun of what has become of America’s Top Model over the years).
It’s the same with music. There are some musicians that require a couple listens to get into (Joanna Newsom, anyone?) and others where the connection is undeniable and instantaneous. For me, Youth Lagoon was the latter.
Even better, it was like revisiting an old friend. That’s the kind of nostalgia-tinged feeling The Year of Hibernation is wrought with.
“Five years ago, in my backyard I sang love away. Little did I know that real love had not quite yet found me.”
[MP3]: Youth Lagoon – “July”
Raw vocals with a sort of youthful reverie, crackling and hazy with reverb, beg for a closer listen, for a more concentrated ear. With synths, organ, guitar, and some heavy beats layered on–usually starting off quietly and then building up to thicker, fuller sound (think wall-of-sound)–Youth Lagoon crafts introspective bedroom anthems.
Also, I cannot lie. During my first listen of the entire album, I thought it was a girl singing. (Sorry, Trevor.) Alas, Youth Lagoon is Boise, Idaho’s awesomely named Trevor Powers. (Yes, that’s his real name.) And with a name like that and a penchant for bedroom music and introspection, you’d think that Powers might be walking around with a superhero costume hidden underneath his button-ups.
However even amidst the quiet introspection, Powers references the past only as a way to look to the future. Like the experiences and memories that make us who we are today, The Year of Hibernation is a memento of sorts, to the past.
[MP3]: Youth Lagoon – “Cannons”
From the opening track (“Posters”), I could immediately feel a quiet sense of understanding between Powers and I, like a quiet nod. Like, a musical ‘hey, I feel ya!’ What started as a bedroom project (where the whole LP was recorded) has found resonance beyond his four-walls.
You make real friends quickly. You make real friends quickly. But not me.
I get him. I feel where he’s coming from; from his lyrics, to his delivery, to the entire atmosphere that’s created when everything comes together perfectly. And for me, that’s the beautiful thing.
I interviewed Jason Collett recently and have already posted the article I wrote afterward. However, for those of you that are interested, I’ve decided to post the transcript of the interview.
We talked about the state of the music industry in Canada, the importance of musical community, drinking and writing up at Feist’s ranch, and the artist Collett deems “a national treasure” and “the best songwriter of [his] generation.” It was a really insightful 30 minutes, and Collett had a lot to say, so get ready for big paragraphs of text!
I had the chance to have a quick Q&A session over email with the lovely Lourdes Hernández, better known under the moniker Russian Red. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, she caused quite a stir on the blogosphere in 2008 with the release of her debut album, I Love Your Glasses. With an unforgettable voice that holds even those with the shortest attention spans and quirky songs rooted in real life experiences, Russian Red should definitely be on your radar.
Read on for the interview!
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)
The Queen is back!
Here’s a little clip of Fiona going on about the importance of music and writing in her childhood and how playing live is an almost euphoric experience. Just ’cause, you know, everyone can always use a little bit of Fiona Apple in their lives. She’s all over the place, but I could listen to this woman talk for days, with her engaging rambling and all (even the leopard print gloves); her excitement and intensity is incredibly endearing. She’s still got a little crazy in her, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“[Playing live] is somewhere in-between conversation and sex. There’s some kind of knowing of each other, some intimacy, some involvement, some braiding together of people. [...] There’s some kind of interlocking with people that just doesn’t seem to happen any other way quite as grandly and totally.”
After Apple fell off the radar following her return to music with 2005′s Extraordinary Machine (has it really been so long?), so it’s nice to see she’s still alive and kickin’. She probably just came out of writing hibernation, because she’s releasing her long overdue 4th studio album come Spring 2011. About time, considering there’s a 5-year-deep Fiona Apple-shaped hole in my music collection.
Plus, I sort miss the angst-ridden, angry girl + piano combo.
You know what they say: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And I definitely love me some Fiona Apple.
For fans of London’s the xx, we have Tiga’s (Montreal DJ/producer) remix of of “Shelter” from the band’s critically acclaimed 2009 debut, xx.
Best Coast (Los Angeles, CA)
Bethany Cosentino, multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, and drummer Ali Koehler (formerly of Vivian Girls) make up this aptly-named beach-friendly trio. Having just released their debut record Crazy For You in July, this sun-soaked, summer-drenched, cheery surf-pop record will having you wishing it were summer all year round.
Sleigh Bells (Brooklyn, NY)
Signed to M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T record label, this school teacher/former girl-group singer and ex-member of the now defunct post-hardcore band, Poison the Well, show nothing of their former lives. Together, Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller make gritty yet beautiful, fuzzed-out blood-pumping music.
Jenny and Johnny (Los Angeles, CA)
One of the few successful child actresses turned singers, Jenny Lewis made a name for herself as the Indie Queen in beloved Rilo Kiley. Her and longtime collaborator/boyfriend Johnathan Rice, a singer-songwriter himself, have joined forces to present Jenny and Johnny. Their full-length LP, I’m Having Fun Now, isn’t out until August 31, but they’ve offered up 3 new tracks off the album and a free download of “Scissor Runner.”