Kadman – Rustbelt Hymnal

Last month, my friend David Manchester self-released Kadman’s Rustbelt Hymnal, a record that he, Dan Cohan (of the Water/ Manly Deeds), and myself had worked on for almost 2 years. It wasn’t the scale of the record that took so long, it was the distance put between the 3 of us a few months after our first weekend of tracking. Just a 5 song EP, this project started humbly in a converted garage practice space, and was finished at Scenic Route’s home studio.

Kadman has had a number of lineup changes, and with them a few different directions in their sound. Manchester has always been at the reigns, his strong tenor vocals and folksy-style electric picking the foundation of each incarnation. I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing David and sharing the stage with every version of the band. Watching David progress from a somber folk-rock act, then adding Frank Corl on drums and James Bahleda on upright and electric bass, this gave David’s songs not only more dynamics, but also pushed him to experiment more with his guitar sounds and song structure.

These advancements in complexity have always been well represented in each Kadman release, but I always thought the recordings missed the mark on the band’s live dynamics and energy that always seemed to entrance me at Kadman shows. The final formation of the group consisted of just Manchester and Dan Cohan; Cohan looping both subtle background guitar licks and driving drum patterns, while David’s vocals and lead guitar built the songs up and up, adding in shoe-gazy guitar-noise loops occasionally. The result, the most raw and “exciting lineup of Kadman to date” (Al Shipley, City Paper).

Not only is it exciting to work on and interpret songs you’re familiar with, but David & Dan I consider good friends, having played over a dozen shows with them both. Cohan is undeniably one of the most energetic and passionate players I’ve ever seen. Containing his force is damn near impossible, so we tracked his drums live while David put down a scratch rhythm guitar. Some of the slower songs were a little tricky for Dan, who is so used to more driving tunes with his other bands. “Mountain Song” in particular, mostly had Dan tapping out quarter-notes on the ride, while accenting the 1 through most of the song; not easy for a lot of drummers at such a meandering tempo. Two days were spent in that garage tracking all of the drums, guitars, and most of the vocals. We started mixing shortly after, and then things got tricky… Manchester moved from Baltimore to Pittsburgh and had a beautiful baby boy. We went back & forth with mixes and notes, and after a while found there were certain elements missing that we would need to record …somehow!?

Purchase a limited, hand-made copy HERE.

Rustbelt is a reference to cities in the Northeast and Midwest that had strong industries in metal-working, that later would struggle and deteriorate due to economic hardships. Pittsburgh and Baltimore were among the cities to be be affected, and it somehow seemed a fitting tribute with David spending hours on the road between the two cities while working on the record.
A cold and wet weekend last January was picked to finish the tracking. Having so much time to dissect the mixes, we carefully added instruments like bass, lap steal and organ that would accentuate the powerful tracks we had already laid down. Once we really dived into the mixing process, there was so much room to experiment with the pretty sparse instrumentation. I messed with different textures on the guitar and bass, gave Dave’s vocals some nice space to work in, and added roomy swells in certain songs. I pulled out the bitcrusher at the end of “Dropped”, slowly turning David’s last held out note into this very organic but slightly robotic wailing. This was one of the most creative mixes I’ve ever worked on.
With the obvious difficulties of being almost 5 hours apart, David and Dan no longer perform together, and put their energy towards new projects. Manchester has found some talented people in Pittsburgh to work with, the newest chapter in his musical endeavors is called ArloAldo, tapping into David’s more mellow roots. All in all, Rustbelt Hymnal is still a record David, Dan & I are happy to have under our belts…pun really not intended!

180 Degrees

As always, I’ve been keeping busy with new jobs and projects. One of the best feelings though is when you get to see those projects unveiled to the world finally, and lately I’ve had a few come to see the light of day.

I’ve been working with Sandy Robson for probably a year now, tracking a couple songs, doing different instruments and vocal parts a session at a time. It’s been a nice process of seeing her come up with new ideas to add and really hear these songs grow. The songs that Sandy writes come off as simple and pleasant at first, but she’s really got a knack for melody and her voice is phenomenal. Sandy also surrounds herself with some incredibly talented musicians, who help to bring her songs to life.

On stage and by her family, she goes by Letitia VanSant. For a couple years now Sandy has been playing shows and piecing together an album, song by song. Now she finally has a collection of songs she’s relasing as her debut record, titled “Breakfast Truce”. Be sure to catch her Album Release show at the WIndup Space, July 14th w/ Victoria Vox & Strange Fur.

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Probably a complete 180˚ from the work I did with Sandy, comes a 3 song demo/EP I tracked with new post-hardcore band Bricklayer. It’s been years since I’ve worked with a band like this, and it’s a sound and an energy that I really miss recording. We spent one evening at the beloved Mobtown Studios, and from about 8pm to 4 am the next morning, we hammered 3 killer songs. Check out my favorite song, titled “Man You’re a Great Moog Player”; a driving song that’s got elements of Drive Like Jehu & Frodus. Also, note the sweet time change from 5/8 to 6/8

These guys had the songs down pretty tight, and were a blast to work with. This project has gotten me itching to do more heavier-rock, punk and hardcore stuff. So I hope I get to work with them again!

Heart Strings

Just when I think I’m growing into one of those old people who just stop listening and buying new music, some incredible new releases emerge. Maybe I am getting a little old, these latest selections all seem to have a heavy dose of strings and acoustic instruments.

Violin/Whistling mastermind, Andrew Bird dropped a new record last month. It’s not as poppy or mainstream as some of his previous work, but it’s an incredibly lush, thoughtful and beautiful record that doesn’t need hooks around every corner. You can stream the entire album RIGHT HERE, and apparently if you buy tickets for some of his upcoming shows you can a digital download of the new album and a couple EPs. It’s comforting to see professional artists who still give so much back to their listeners like this.

Bird & Band have also posted a gaggle of videos from recording the new album “Break It Yourself”. The house they’re jamming/recording in is a wet dream I’ve had for a while now.

Horse Feathers, another act that has a great appreciation and understanding for dense string arrangements has a new full-length coming out next week. Preview the whole record over here at NPR. Serene compositions of plucked acoustic guitar, violin and cello, these guys have calmed me down after many a rough day.

What Year Is It?

Just recently some of my favorite new releases have been coming from bands whose heyday seems like almost a decade ago. Last week Nada Surf released a brand new studio album; The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy. Not that this release has come out of left-field, Nada Surf has continued to write & record their brand of positive Pop-Rock since the mid-90′s, this being their 7th full-length. Enjoy this aptly titled track “When I Was Young”.

Nada Surf – “When I Was Young”

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There have also been whispers for a while now, about a new record from the Jealous Sound. If you’re not familiar with the Jealous Sound, shame on you! They combine 2 great songwriters from 2 of my favorite bands of the late 90′s/early 00′s; Blair Shehnan of Knapsack and Pedro Benito from Sunday’s Best. If you’re still scratching your head, do yourself a favor and look up all of these bands. Former members have also included Jawbox drummer Adam Wade, and Sunny Day Real Estate’s bassist Nate Mendal, who they supported last year on tour. All-in-all these guys are in good company.

Their first full-length Kill Them With Kindness was named one of the Top 40 albums of 2003 by Spin magazine, and rumors of a 2nd full-length have been bouncing around ever since…until now! Out next week, is the long awaited release titled A Gentle Reminder. A friend of mine found the album available on soundcloud, check it!

And last but certainly not least, I’m sure most of you have heard about the reunions of At The Drive In, and Refused, both incredible bands! But I happen to be more excited about the announcement of The Casket Lottery getting back together to record a new record.
Another incredible band formed in the late 90′s, Casket Lottery has close ties with post-hardcore greats like Coalesce, Small Brown Bike, Hot Water Music and even Appleseed Cast. For only being a 3 piece, these guys had incredibly dense, dynamic and substantial sound. I look forward to new music from them this year, but in the meantime check out some of my favorite older tracks.

The Casket Lottery – “A Dead Dear”

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The Casket Lottery – “On the Air”

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Brightest Glory

There are rare moments in this “business” when you’re working with an artist and you start getting chills. The musician starts playing a progression or slides into a verse that just hits a chord with you. It’s only for a moment, and the best an engineer can do is hope to have a mic in the room ready to capture a truly passionate performance. I’ve only had a few of these moments in my years recording, where I get the hairs on the back of neck standing up while putting the finishing touches on a song; you know you’ve got something good, maybe real good!

I had the immense pleasure and honor to work with The Manly Deeds, an energetic folk band that combine the traditional with the untraditional. Conventional acoustic instruments are backed by percussion created from an old leather suitcase, a beat up washboard, a tin can, and a handful of change. The songs themselves fall into this unique blend as well, they take tales of modern living and wrap them in a kind of local legendry; prostitutes walking the streets of Baltimore are given siren-like powers, bar fights turn into tall tales, extraordinary human feats turn mythical. They perform these songs with the same fervor they infuse in their characters, blazing guitar and banjo, the mallet and tin-can take their frustration out on the washboard as it holds on to its last life, it will someday be replaced like many before.

However, the real heart of the Manly Deeds came to light in a few of their slower songs. "Brightest Glory" is a moving song that has the band's Adam Aud and Brad Cardwell, joined by local songwriter and friend Cameron Blake, each taking a verse, coming together at the end for the last chorus. The slow plucking of the banjo, the strummed guitar keeping rhythm and Blake adds a beautiful violin melody, as the song closes the trios vocals soar through the ceiling of the old stone church. Maybe it was the setting, the beautiful acoustic instrumentation, or the moving vocals building and building, there's no equation for what makes a song great. That's why it's called a "moment", because it comes and goes so easily. We were lucky enough to not only capture the audio, but also some visual stimulation. Check out the video mandolin player Jason Aud compiled:

The Manly Deeds – Brightest Glory from Jason Aud on Vimeo.

The Manly Deeds just released this debut full-length this week. Almost all of the recordings were done in March, and we wrapped up mixing this summer. It’s been a few month since I’ve listened to these songs, but now when I pop in the shiny new disc we all worked so hard for, I listen to them and I still feel those chills. I’m pulled back to that long weekend spent in a 150 year old church, the instruments and voices bouncing around and filling the hallowed space. A moment forever captured, a group of close friends and musicians working together to make some one’s artistic idea a reality.

Alternate Routes

Hey there Scenic Route lovers! I know I’ve been neglecting you, but that was not my intention. I’ve been busy, I know I always say I’m busy, but this is busier than usual. Last month I was busting butt to finish a lot of projects and tie-up loose ends, because I am currently on tour. I was approached to run sound for a band’s almost month long tour. Get this, the band is called the Alternate Routes…Scenic Route, Alternate Routes…weird right?!

I hadn’t heard much of their music but let me tell you, these guys put on a killer show. Rocking tunes with a kind of alt-country flare, lyrics and melodies that stay in your head for days, and they really get the crowd pumped at every show. It’s been a real pleasure working with them, and its hard to consider it work when the music is so good.

Tour is going well. The band had an amazing show in Raleigh last night, and we’re on our way to Charlotte right now. It’s been a busy and tiring trip. The tour is in conjunction with this charity Music 4 More that collects funds and instruments to give to needy school music programs. We’ve been making a few school appearances, doing concerts in gyms, auditoriums and cafeterias. It’s been really cool seeing kids get excited about music, especially when they’re at an age where it’s hard to get excited about anything. Last week we did 2 school appearances in Anne Arundel County, then booked it down to Vienna, VA for a show at Jammin Java. We then woke up nice and early the next day for an interview at WTMD. Needless to say everyone is beat, but it’s been a blast.

Looking forward to coming home and working in a studio that I’m familiar with, rather than walking into a new venue every night, where there’s a house sound guy giving me the stink-eye, and I have no idea how each venue’s system is set up. It has been quite a learning experience and I have defintitely been honing my skills, ears, and ability to think on my feet.

See you guys in a couple of weeks!

Tours, Past & Present

This spring, I had the pleasure of helping the boys in local instrumental-rock duo The Water, with a week long tour. We started in Philly where they got to record a few songs at the WXPN studio’s, then hit up Buffalo, Brooklyn, New Jersey and back to Philly. On top of all the planning involved, it was fun (and a lot of exercise) assisting Dan & James load & unload their seemingly endless piles of gear, run sound occasionally and meet some really awesome people along the way.

 

Equipped with a handy-dandy future phone, I ended up taking a good amount of video footage of their performances. It only took me a couple months to figure out the best way to get it off my phone and in the trusty hands of Jason Aud a.k.a. Jason The Swamp. He edited the footage and synced it up nicely with the recorded audio from the XPN session, which you can find HERE. A huge thank you to John Vettese of Y-Rock on XPN for taking good care of us!

This month I’ll be on the road with alt/country-rock group the Alternate Routes running sound. The tour was organized by Music 4 More a charity that raises money and collects instruments for underfunded music education programs. The band will even be making a few appearances at schools along the way, and some possible recording time while we’re in Nashville for a couple of days! I’ll have my mobile rig on the road, so who knows when and where some tracking could take place?! There will definitely be show recordings posted along the way.

Here’s a list of our dates. If we’re coming to your town, come check it out.

Johnny D’s   Somerville, MA
Acoustic Cafe   Bridgeport, CT
Acoustic Cafe   Bridgeport, CT
The Studio @ Webster Hall   New York City, NY
Maxwell’s   Hoboken, NJ
World Cafe Live! (upstairs)   Philadelphia, PA
Jammin’ Java   Vienna, VA
Metro Gallery   Baltimore, MD
The Pour House   Raleigh, NC
Double Door Inn   Charlotte, NC
3rd & Lindsley   Nashville, TN
Vinyl   Atlanta, GA
Frankie’s   Toledo, OH
Schubas   Chicago, IL

Help Us Fight PKD!

This Friday night at the Windup Space, join some of the most amazing and big-hearted musicians you’ll find in Baltimore, in the fight against Polycystic Kidney Disease. Not only have we found some of the most giving artists in the city, but some very generous businesses have donated their goods, services and gift certificates to help us in our efforts to raise money for the PKD Foundation.

Donations have been provided by:

Music will be provided by these incredible artists:

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Along with local volunteer-based label Loveasarus Records, we have compiled a compilation to help promote and raise money for the cause. Enjoy tunes (some rare & unreleased) by these great Baltimore bands, and if you’re feeling generous, download and your donation will also go towards the fight against PKD.

So join us, help us find a cure for the most life-threatening genetic disease, Polycystic Kidney Disease.

In the process, enjoy some great music, get a chance to win prizes from local businesses and wet your whistle with some cheap, tasty beers donated by Flying Dog Brewery.

Doors open at 7:30pm
Music starts around 8:00
$10 gets you,  as well as 1 raffle ticket.
Additional tickets are $2

RSVP on FACEBOOK!

SAVE THE KIDS!

“SAVE THE KIDS!”

A music benefit  and raffle to help raise money in the fight against Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).

Taking place September 30th, 2011 at The Windup Space (12 W. North Avenue.

A handful of the areas best bands donate their talent, while some of Baltimore’s cherished small businesses donate merchandise, services, gift certificates and more to be raffled off the night of the concert.

THIS IS AN ALL AGES EVENT
Price: $10.00 (entry includes 1 raffle ticket)
Extra raffle tickets are available for $2.00

PROCEEDS GO DIRECTLY TO THE PKD FOUNDATION

Enjoy music by:

HER FANTASTIC CATS

While he was studying composition at Peabody, Jason Reed happened to hear the country fiddle of Roy Acuff. All at once, he knew he needed to play Old-Time music and eventually settled on the banjo. But, given his training, what he plays is as much avant-garde as it is Old-Time.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE WATER

The post-rock duo’s lush and thunderous live show does more with two musicians onstage than most bands two or three times their size, with the help of a suitcase full of effects pedals and a dazzling DIY light show. With Dan Cohan switching between drums and guitar and James Klink juggling guitar and keyboards, the duo pile on layers of loops and beautiful overlapping tangles of melody and polyrhythms. Building each song up and tearing it back down with linear song structures and ingenious arrangements, The Water transcend predictable soft-loud-soft dynamics but almost always reach a euphoric crescendo, often accompanied by a flash of color from the strange obelisk of light that stands center stage.

 

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SEA COUCH

Engrossing, often eerie husband and wife duo from Baltimore influenced by the likes of the Carter Family, Entrance, Dock Boggs, Doc Watson, Karen Dalton, and country gospel. Imagine John and June playing very sad songs on banjolele and tenor banjo.

 

 

 

 

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HOUSE & HOME

Formed in the harsh winter of 2009-2010, House & Home play indie rock with a touch of Folk/Ambient/Americana. Once being called; “one of the most passionate and infectious bands in Baltimore right now”, they love music and try to make fellow music lovers feel right at home!

 

 

 

 

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WE USED TO BE FAMILY

In this music you will find moments of near panic that bring you to the brink of disaster before gently pulling you back from the ledge. The rhythms lull you into a seemingly familiar setting before you have time to realize that you might have to count in order to tap your feet. This is a collection of compositions; refined through rock sensibilities, but not at all what one might consider pop music. T.Y.T.O., while playful on the surface, is a serious recording that brings to light the rare talent and depth of imagination of the players involved.

 

 

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OF THE WEST

Of The West is the brainchild of husband/wife team David Banahan and Lisa Wanionek Banahan. Yet, the band is not complete without the indispensable help of Nick Kelly and Henry Ward. They create methodical and passionate soundscapes that evoke intense emotions akin to Sigur Rós, Brian Eno, Yo La Tengo and Godspeed You Black Emperor. This is no casual listening band. It’s intense and it will move you.

 

Goodbye Mr. Blake

Like any skill or trade, even musicians who make a career from their passion often have to make difficult decisions. Finding the balance of making a living and just living is tough in any career. But when you make a livelihood drawing from what inspires you, you often find yourself being pulled back to your roots.

Cameron Blake has been one of Baltimore’s hardest working and talented songwriters for a number of years now. His story is intriguing and just as oddly poetic as many of his songs. Cameron grew up in a rural town in Michigan, listening to a lot of his parents’ classical music collection. He moved to Baltimore and studied classical violin, but became slightly disenchanted with his instruction.

He found solace in the extensive workings of Bob Dylan, discovering great inspiration and freedom in the music and lyrical stylings of the American folk song. Teaching himself to sing and play the guitar, Blake found himself working on his own folk catalog. Playing with local Baltimore musicians from all styles & walks of life; fellow Peabody graduates, members of the BSO, professional roots & rock musicians, members of his Church’s band, and even the occasional rag-tag drunken musician! Blake has always pushed himself and has achieved quite a lot during his time in Baltimore. He’s organized and performed many Benefit concerts, a 2 night Double Album Release show at An Die Musik earlier this year, he performed at the Night of 1000 Dylans at the Creative Alliance, and won 1st Place at World Cafe Live’s “Philly Rising”, along with countless great performances up and down the East Coast.

Cameron & Alex at The Windup Space

I bumped into Cameron multiple times at Mobtown Studios, while he worked on both his first and second studio albums there. It wasn’t until I started asking him to play a few shows I was booking that we started to get to know each other. After running sound for him a few times, we started to share stories of shows and methods of songwriting. We bonded over our admiration for strongly religious bands and songwriters like David Bazan of Pedro the Lion, and punk bands like mewithoutYou. We’ve become good friends over the past couple months, and have shared the stage a few times playing each others songs and working on projects together. His drive and sheer talent with voice and multiple instruments doesn’t bring out jealousy in his fellow musicians, but inspiration and joy.

Cameron Blake & Dave Hadley at Mobtown Studios

Unfortunately for those who have come to know Cameron either through music or other means, we now have the hard task of saying Goodbye Mr. Blake. Him and his long term girlfriend (and some times musical companion) Jill Collier are getting married this month, and they’ll be moving back to the beautiful landscapes of Michigan that occasionally peak out in his songs. Even though we will miss him greatly, I’m sure there are many of his friends that can share in the happiness that awaits Cameron & Jill in their new life together! You will always have a home here in Baltimore guys!

Cameron lovin' the beach at Atlantic City!

Cameron Blake plays his last Baltimore show TONIGHT at An Die Musik!

As a special goodbye gift to us, Cameron just released a collection of live recordings titled “Long Winter”

It includes some intimate and rare performances of some old and brand new songs! Including 3 tracks we worked on together. ENJOY!

Bon, Bazan & more!

For me, being so involved with the local music scene, and hearing dozens of out of town bands a week, is somewhat of a Catch-22. I’m always discovering new (and old) Baltimore bands, and all the touring music I’m exposed to, doesn’t leave me much time (or room on music shelves) to actually delve into new national releases. Fortunately, I was able to come up for some air recently and what I’ve discovered so far for this summer’s soundtrack is going to make it a pretty enjoyable one.

Bon Iver – S/T

Wisconsin’s biggest export after cheddar should be the new Bon Iver record. With For Emma, Forever Ago being such a stunning debut, the sophomore slump was definitely going to be a steep one. With the help from a wide range of  musicians, including saxophonist Colin Stetson (who’s played with Arcade Fire among many others) and legendary pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz, Vernon asked them to help re-work his songs.

With a new backing soundscape of lush string, horn and electronic arrangements, new life is brought into already well-crafted indie-folk gems. Bon Iver’s self-titled record is as intimate an account as fan’s would hope for, but doesn’t disappoint those also looking for more experimentation from Vernon, a guy who isn’t afraid to throw some serious Auto-Tune on his vocals. But be warned, a few of the songs do go off into an 80′s romantic-drama feel for a while; distant sax, synth pads, electric piano, sampled snare, and the occasional noodly guitar.

Stream the whole album HERE!

 

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David Bazan – Strange Negotiations

I have a few friends, and my handy NPR Music app to thank for letting me know about this one. When a friend first asked me if I’d heard the new Bazan record, I pretentiously texted “Oh, You mean the live record he did LAST YEAR!?”. Foot was quickly inserted into mouth after they sent me the single of his brand new LP, Strange Negotiations. “Wolves at the Door” was the single and I was immediately hooked. I hadn’t heard a song this edgy from God’s most popular ex-boyfriend since Pedro The Lion’s Control. Once I had the entire record in hand, I was as usual very satisfied with this body of work.

People always try and pigeonhole a performers latest record as a culmination of all their previous, but for Bazan’s I think it’s more true, and false at the same time. Songs like “Wolves at the Door” and “Eating Paper” cut like rawer tracks from Control and Winners Never Quit, while “Virginia” and “Strange Negotiations” have somber, acoustic qualities reminiscent of very early Pedro The Lion. Subtle use of synths and keys continues a love affair that Bazan prominently professed with brief side-project Headphones.

But now that he’s back playing with a full band since releasing his first solo full-length Curse Your Branches, this newest record shows more of a band-written record than the songwriter w/band releases we’ve become familiar with. Looser compositions and song structures, ample time provided for rocking and building dynamics, makes for a slight and still very pleasant departure. If you’re a fan, you probably knew about this record before I did. If you’re not a fan, this record is just as good as any of Bazan’s work to start diving in to the discography of a seriously overlooked modern songwriter.

Enjoy some of my favorite tracks, and purchase this NOW!

“Wolves at the Door”

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“Virginia”

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“Eating Paper”

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Fredrik – Flora

Fredrik has been a band I’ve been oddly obsessing about for a few years now. I say oddly, because even though they pull influences from dozens of genres I do enjoy, their music is distinctly unique and at first listen something I wouldn’t think about obsessing over. Starting off as a side project by Fredrik Hultin & Ola Lindefelt of The LK, Fredrik combines elements of indie-folk, trip-hop, electronica, and experimental-pop. The duo takes organic and often homemade instruments & sounds and build entrancing tornadoes of melodies and rhythms and layer soft (sometimes hushed) vocals. Their last full-length Trilogi, seemed to pay homage to the dark winters of Europe, simpler times of being children and playing in the snow. Their latest effort, Flora seems to focus on the season that follows; with songs like “Rites of Spring”, it’s hard not to pick up on the blossoming and freshly explosive tunes they aim to translate.

Enjoy 2 of my favorites, and buy any/all of Fredrik’s records HERE.

“Rites of Spring”

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“Inventress of Ill and Everything”

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The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks

Last, and definitely not least comes a quiet killer of a record. Two Matchsticks is the newsest release by Andrew Kenny of American Analog Set. This is his second release under the moniker The Wooden Birds, and here Kenny has made some big headway, with the help of some friendly faces. Joined by longtime friend Matt Pond (of Matt Pond PA..duh!), and Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, Kenny continues to record warm, little pop jams in the comfort of the living room. But coming from someone who knows how fine a living room recording can be, this album is a perfect example. Cool picked bass, soft drums & percussion, along with the beautifully layered harmonies of Kenny, Pond, Gibbard, and some female help from Leslie Sisson, this record is just as good as any AmAnSet record, if not more fun!

Listen, Like, SUPPORT!

“Two Matchsticks”

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“Long Time to Lose It”

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Bands of the Week – Wooden Dinosaur, Brown Bird, The End of America

Wooden Dinosaur

What an incredible week. I really got to experience some great roots, indie-folk and pop music; a nice blend of some of my favorite genres. First off, Wooden Dinosaur from Vermont kicked off a show I put together at Golden West. I knew it was going to be a good night when they took to the stage with an upright bass, fiddle player, and 2-piece horn section. They packed the West’s small stage with 6 members total, but the sound was not overbearing at all. The band was lucky enough to catch many friends & families finishing their meals, and instead of running off into the delightful Friday night to partake in some other fun, many of them stayed and enjoyed the beautiful music these folks from the Great Northeast had to share. Putting together a beautiful blend of folk, americana and some elements of lo-fi pop, Michael Roberts leads the group layering somber vocals over top of plucked & strummed guitars. The fiddle is a not-too-subtle counterpoint, with female vocals dropping in occasionally to elegantly emphasize these already charming songs. They’ve got a new full length available on their site, as well as a live recording and set of improvised songs to enjoy on bandcamp.

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Brown Bird

Wooden Dinosaur was a tough act to follow, but Brown Bird from Rhode Island were definitely up to the challenge. Made up of David Lamb and Morganeve Swain, this duo is a force to be reckoned with. David switches from acoustic guitar and banjo while at the same time keeping a strong groove with a kick drum. Morganeve is a master of any string instrument she touches; upright bass, fiddle, cello. The two weave beautiful vocals over the rich layers of acoustic instruments. Pulling influences from some of the darkest reaches of the world, their sound seamlessly blends american folk, country, blues, gypsy and other Eastern European musical influences. All in all, Brown Bird writes, records and performs deep, soulful folk that is sure to please anyone that might be a fan of Fleet Foxes, early Iron & Wine, The Cave Singers and fellow Rhode Islanders The Low Anthem.

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The End of America

This was the second time I had the pleasure of booking a show for this band of New York folkies. Consisting of James Downes, Brendon Thomas, and Trevor Leonard, the three share a number of stringed instruments (banjo, acoustic & electric guitars, and mandolin) and some bass-thumping help from a nifty device called The Porchboard. Each instrument carefully played along with the others to get the most rhythmic and melodic potential; a banjo head tapped like a snare drum, trembling mandolin as delicate as a violin’s tremolo. Just as the instruments are pushed to their potential, so are the boys voices. 2 singers harmonizing throughout a song can be a tricky task, but 3 is supremely courageous, and if pulled off can be quite heavenly!

On top of being skilled vocalists and musicians, these guys also have built up some mythology around their concept for recording their record Steep Bay. Wanting to distance themselves from many of the troubles modern studio recording can entail, they traveled to a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. With just their instruments and a battery-powered recorder, the band recorded 9 songs in the cabin, on the porch, around the fire, in a canoe, anywhere inspiration found them. The result is a truly heartfelt indie-folk record, with enough pop hooks to make you reach for the disc over and over again. Enjoy this amazing video and be sure to catch them next time their in town!