Folk

MIIKE SNOW: POP BEATS MODERN MUSIC NEEDS
September 22, 2016 6:05 pm

Miike Snow is the indelible, organic, pop hook-laden band consisting of the production team of Bloodshy & Avant, coupled with singer Andrew Wyatt. The group has been releasing albums of danceable, heavy, somewhat macabre music since 2009. Three albums to be exact, Miike Snow, Happy to You, and iii, all distinct in their own right, but inherently easily recognizable as Miike Snow.

Prior to forming Miike Snow, the production team of Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, were sought after producers and songwriters by some of the biggest names in pop music. Karlsson was a member of the Swedish hip-hop group Goldmine and toured with The Fugees. Under the moniker of Bloodshy & Avant, the duo produced singles for Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Britney Spears, eventually going on to win a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for Spears’s 2004 hit “Toxic”. Bloodshy & Avant was introduced to classical and jazz educated Andrew Wyatt through a mutual friend and took the name Miike Snow. The name was also a play on Japanese film director, Takashi Miike, when they added an extra “i” for their eponymous debut in 2009.

Their music has been described as “A-Ha meets Animal Collective” by The Guardian, which is a great description of the groups deep, rich production beats, and Wyatt’s soft baritone and strong range. The group has gone onto win some awards of their own, and has developed a deep respect from a multitude of artists including: Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon, and Vampire Weekend, through their remix collaborations. Miike Snow released their latest record iii in March of 2016 with tracks “Heart is Full”, and “Genghis Khan” accompanied by full-length feature videos to great fanfare. Miike Snow played a string of 2016 summer festivals including Coachella, The Governor’s Ball, and Lollapalooza, and continues their North American concluding with the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9th in Austin, TX. If you find them near you, you need to see him and get get addicted to their amazing music.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: AVI JACOB IS THE PERFECT MODEST MAN
September 1, 2016 12:05 am

Summer’s over people. Get those lively synth tunes about not letting the night escape us out of my face. The season of hibernation is upon us, and to help us soundtrack the cyclical death of all leaves is Avi Jacob. Be appreciative.

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Jacob’s latest single, “Pickup Truck, is an Americana wet dream from beginning to end. You’ve got a sweet acoustic guitar being masterfully plucked throughout, pickup trucks, lyrics alluding to a father being disappointed in his son. These are the pillars of our great country, and Jacob builds a beautiful house of music with them as his supporting base. This is the environment Jacob is most comfortable with.

Just watch the video of him performing “Modest Man below. It’s just him wailing on his guitar in the woods as he sings his heart out. There probably isn’t another person around for miles. What’s truly great about the video is how authentically homemade it is. No hi-def camera showing close up shots of him from all different angles, no detailed cinematography of the surrounding elements either. It’s simply a camera on a tripod set up on the back porch filming Avi Jacob perform. That’s it.

The idea of a truly genuine artist feels somewhat out of place in 2016. Every persona, as well as every song, tends to get workshopped ad nauseum. The true persona is there at the core, but everything built around him or her are half-truths and hyperbole. It obviously makes for great entertainment, but it’s always bittersweet realizing that the person making such human and relatable art isn’t actually relatable (or even that human) in real life whatsoever. However, every line that Jacob powers out of his soul affirms that what’s being said is 100% him.

Because of this, Avi Jacob doesn’t have the wildest of web presences. He has a total of 79 tweets. His Facebook is only used to promote his performances. And from what it looks like, his website doesn’t even work. It’s doubtful that any of this bothers him though. Because it genuinely seems as though he is an actual rogue folk music folk tale who jumps from town to town by trading a song for a bed and some hot supper.

Maybe it’s all just a ruse and he’s secretly been a millionaire method actor researching for his next role this whole time. Inside Llewyn Davis desperately needs a sequel, so it would make sense. Other than that scenario, Avi Jacob is most likely the real deal that Folk music needs right now. His voice is passionate and his songs are beautifully heartbreaking. What you see is wholeheartedly what you get.

ODE TO THE END OF SUMMER
August 1, 2016 5:21 pm

All good things must come to an end as all people know. Be it the final climax of your favorite summer movie, the ultimate ladling of icy green summer gazpacho, or even the sunset on the last day of your final real summer vacation, time has a cruel habit of overstaying its welcome and continuing to exist well beyond our capacity to enjoy it.

Truly, we must savor these dwindling summer days. There is only ever today, always and forever, presented as future but turned present upon confrontation and then past as it disappears into memory. Hauntingly beautiful, terrifyingly predictable, waveringly consistent; the end of summer has been staring us down since the end of spring. Despite my best effort to avoid eye-contact, it is time to acknowledge its mystery and gear up for September.

So with that in mind, we’ve assembled a few songs you might enjoy to help get you there. Don’t think of it as goodbye summer but as hello autumn. It is the most thoughtful of seasons, chilly and colorful, waiting in the wings, eager to take its place as the metaphysical envelope in which we live our daily lives.

THE HAUNTING MELODIES OF MARIKA HACKMAN
July 18, 2016 11:10 am

In a business increasingly occupied by corporate sellouts and pop singer drones, 24-year-old singer-songwriter Marika Hackman is a melancholic folk heroine. Save us from Auto-tune! Originally from Hampshire, England, she became interested in folk music from an early age, eventually growing in the English folk and nu-folk music scenes. In turn, she received a scholarship to the liberal arts-oriented Bedales School. It was here that she formed her first band, albeit short-lived, along with her classmate (and now famous supermodel) Cara Delevingne.

Nowadays, Hackman’s indie-folk music has taken off with a blue-eyed vengeance which materialized in her debut album We Slept At Last in February of 2015. However, in an interview with AMBY, her music was self-described as “grunge folk” – which to me seems rather fitting. Not only is the term “grunge folk” pretty rad, but the notion of grunge-ness is especially evocative in her lyrics. Hackman is a modern day Sylvia Plath with a beat-up guitar and a penchant for “graveyard poetry” as her lyrics are enchantingly beautiful in both prose and imagery.  

I feel no pain/The blood is frozen in my veins/And although you were here in the morning/My skin was cold before you came

-“Monday Afternoon”

Similarly, she utilizes this conceptuality more aptly with visuals in her music video for “Drown.”

In a way, the soundscapes play out as a film noir themselves – not only through the lyrics, but throughout the Lynchian-esque sound quality to her musical style. Although morbid and dark, there is also a strange, upbeat attribute to it – life may be bleak, but there is beauty to be found in her alienation. Furthermore, Hackman’s album seems to be very cathartic in a way that is self-expressive, conveying the sort of mid-20’s ennui any debut album very well should. “…make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.” (Plath)

So next time it’s raining, consider taking a personal day and staying home curled up in your bed (preferably on a Monday Afternoon) with a glass of vino and the haunting voice of Marika Hackman rising up like smoke from your speakers and consider the beauty in each raindrop falling against the windowpane – I have a feeling that’s what she would do.

OVERCOATS: AN UNQUENCHABLE NIGHTTIME HUNGER
July 14, 2016 11:02 am

The purpose of an overcoat is to act as a tough exterior, protecting our clothing from all of the elements the world throws at us. It protects what we consider to be sensitive. The vulnerability that comes with exposing our clothes that are tarnished by the weather allows everyone to get a look at what we’ve experienced. Even though it’s merely our daily outfit that we’re hiding, nobody can pinpoint exactly what our outfit looks like. We leave that to the onlooker’s imagination until we decide to reveal ourselves.

The music of the now New York based outfit, Overcoats, mirrors much of the same characteristics possessed by the article of clothing they take their name from. The moniker stems from the strength Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell find in making music together. Each note helps build up a warm layer of protection for the vulnerability that the lyrics contain. Their sound is dark and captivating, spare and rhythmic. The Overcoats EP released in 2015 gave a glimpse into what the group is capable of. They combine dance beats with spare electronics and folk harmonies to create a unique sound that is reminiscent of Sylvan Esso combined with The Staves, but more subdued. The focus lies on the emotional picture painted by the lyrics, framed by honesty and shimmering electronics. Their 2016 single, “Nighttime Hunger,” gave us a perfect example of that. It begins with knocking. Once inside, the world is overcome with a fear of the night and what the darkness brings out in all of us. “Little Memory” is a reverb laden journey down memory lane. “We like to write about interpersonal things that aren’t spoken of, or are slightly taboo, “Little Memory” is about memories, time, timing, dreams and regrets. It’s always sad with us,” said Hana Elion in an interview with LA Music Blog. Similar sentiments are further explored on other standout tracks, “Smaller Than My Mother” and “The Fog.”

Since releasing their debut EP last year, the duo have been on a very successful tour in Europe. Their shows are said to be captivatingly beautiful. Seeing the playful vocal interplay between the two is a sight to behold. The European tour was crowned by a headlining performance in the popular Dublin venue, Whelan’s, as well as a set at the Longitude Festival alongside the likes of James Blake and Alt-J. Once back in New York, they set up shop and played a few performances including a show at Mercury Lounge. They have been garnering critical praise as well as an excited fan base ever since. The band has been featured multiple times by NPR, All Things Go, and even Perez Hilton. They also ranked third in NPR’s fan poll for favorite new musicians of 2016 so far. Their appeal seems to know no bounds.

Overcoats is currently in the studio recording what is already a highly anticipated debut album. If the small taste we’ve gotten from their EP and single are any indication, we are all in for quite a treat when this album drops.

TOP 5 UNDERDOG MUSIC SCENES IN THE US
June 24, 2016 1:35 pm

Keeping up with the slew of musical talent coming out of places like New York City and Los Angeles is enough to make anyone’s head spin. It can become overwhelming to keep up with all the other fantastic music scenes this country has to offer. From coast to coast, there are many cities making a significant mark on the musical world, many that go unappreciated.

For instance…

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-Atlanta.

With the likes of Deerhunter, Manchester Orchestra and Neutral Milk Hotel all hailing from Atlanta and nearby areas it’s impossible to say they don’t know what they’re doing. Venues such as The Earl, 529 and The Star Bar showcase many local and national acts. If luck is on your side, you can catch members of bands such as The Black Lips or Mastodon playing at these venues with side projects when not out on tour. Locally, Stokeswood gives everyone a reason to dance while Lazer/Wulf slays the instrumental prog metal scene. The Coathangers are a perfect example of the raw sounds that are coming out of this city right now. Further proof of the scene quality, multi-instrumentalist Derek Torres of TOW3RS has uprooted himself from Raleigh, NC to take his dynamic psych pop talents to ATL. The scene is hopping and don’t expect it to stop any time soon.

Noteworthy Artists:
T0W3RS
Jungol
The CoatHangers
Stokeswood

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-New Orleans

This city will be forever known for their blistering jazz- and understandably so. However, what lurks in between the bars is a whole slew of diverse greatness. The folk and blues styles that have been developed here for decades bleed into the city and it’s musicians in fantastic ways. From the always catchy indie pop of Generationals to the Americana influenced Cardinal Sons to the bluesy, sultry folk of Hurray for the Riff Raff, there truly is something to please everyone. With the Circle Bar showing live music every night and Gasa Gasa housing great up and coming acts, there’s no doubt that the music scene here is one to watch.

Noteworthy Artists:

Generationals

Cardinal Sons

Bantam Foxes

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-Omaha

Bright Eyes, The Faint, steaks…These are a few names that come to mind when thinking about Omaha. This city’s music scene is still churning out great bands and it’s only looking to get better. The locally legendary venue Slowdown, made famous as a creative experiment by the Saddle Creek Records, is the place to play. The venue has become a springboard for local artists and, with no cover, the best place to catch the next great band. The Mynabirds released a standout album in 2015 that showcases just what Omaha and Saddle Creek Records are bringing to the table.

Noteworthy Artists:
The Mynabirds
The Decatures
Eli Mardock

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-Portland

Portland has produced some stellar bands. The Decemberists. Sleater Kinney. Blitzen Trapper. The list goes on. The entire city seems to be a part of a hip band. There’s the indie pop of Radiation City, the shoegaze of Lubec, the folk rock of There is No Mountain. The list of music in Portland literally goes on forever. They’re enveloped by spectacular venues as well. Mississippi Studios, Doug Fir Lounge and the Aladdin Theater attract many local and national acts of an unimaginably wide variety. Good luck keeping up with all the talent coming out of this place.

Noteworthy Artists:
Typhoon
Mo Troper
There is No Mountain

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-Tulsa

Between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, you can find more than an earful of great tunes. From the kaleidoscopic sounds of Tallows to the indie rock of Horse Thief and Broncho, there’s plenty of variety to go around. Although a vast amount of the scene here is Americana influenced, that doesn’t stop any of the citizens from branching out. Annie Clark of St. Vincent was born here, only a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Woody Guthrie. The scene is varietal and interesting. Cain’s Ballroom is a nationally recognized venue. The Campus Corner provides a range of indie rock acts while The Blue Door features the quieter, folky side of the town.

Noteworthy Artists:
Horse Thief
Tallow
Broncho

Did we miss any?? Add yours and tweet us @AtypicalBeasts !

HUXLEE: ALTERNATIVE POP FOLK MAGIC
June 23, 2016 5:13 pm

Caitlin Notey is a LA native, 23 and the lead singer of alternative/folk band Huxlee. She describes Huxlee’s sound saying, “If Alabama Shakes, Bonnie Raitt and Fiona Apple had a little sister with an undying love of N*SYNC.” Yes, the description is accurate and Huxlee’s sound sends shivers down the spine.

Huxlee consists of Caitlin and her five best friends: Carey Singer (guitar), Mac Sinise (drumers), Nick Chuba (programming/banjo), Joe Scolari (bass) and AJ Novak (percussion). The band met while pursuing USC’s Popular Music program. Caitlin says her band, “Masterfully interprets my jumbled artistic impulses and help to create an expanded and fuller sound than what I could ever imagine.”

They released their first EP Bloom in 2013 containing hits Olivia, Crooked Tree, Isn’t/Anything and more. In July of 2015 they released their second EP Teammate. This EP, just as the last, does not disappoint. Aftertaste, 22,Teammate and If I Don’t Get on TV are a compilation of gritty, pop folk magic!

It’s safe to say they are going to be around for awhile and will only be getting bigger and bigger. For tour dates and to hear their most recent EP, click here.

GABRIEL KAHANE WILL BE YOUR NEW FAVORITE ARTIST
May 10, 2016 10:00 am

Every once and a while you stumble upon an artist that you end up falling in love with. As I found myself growing increasingly stressed out finding a new apartment, going to school and balancing out my daily life, I stumbled on Gabriel Kahane by complete chance and I am so glad I did.

The Brooklyn gem has been making music for quite some time. When I first checked out The Ambassador, I noticed that all of the songs intriguingly included a mysterious address within the titles, for example “Veda (1 Pierce Dr.)”

The songs themselves are just as intriguing, nuanced and mysterious. Thought provoking lyrics like “So when I say that my untimely death was something certain, what I mean is that these tragedies are a kind of a family tradition,” accompany ethereal music creating a wonderful combination. The songs dictate different perspectives. That song in particular; portrayed through the lens of a young girl who was shot by a store keeper.

The tracks are as textured and complex as the buildings they’re based on, adding elements of jazz, folk and classic composition to intertwine the scenery. It’s like a displayed work of art at the MOMA, and I’m just a grubby, energetic kid getting stared down by security.

Kahane works in good company as St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver came together to help produce the album. There has even been live adaptations of The Ambassador. Seriously.

Kahane has 7 other recordings online including The Fiction Issue with Brooklyn Rider. The title track (Part 1., there’s 6 parts to the song) features Shara Wilson who records as My Brightest Diamond. Their voices accent each other perfectly.

As a person who pretty much worships punk bands like Superchunk I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Kahane’s music. Then again, I discovered Superchunk by chance too.

EASY LISTENING FROM THE BROTHERS SPAULDING
March 16, 2016 10:54 am

“We wrote and recorded this album with happiness and excitement. We want listeners to simply enjoy it and not think about it too much.”

That’s what Caleb Spaulding said of The Ides of March, the new album from Hampton, Virginia’s The Brothers Spaulding. Created by Caleb and his brother Will, and executed by a cadre of musical friends, The Ides of March is a nice, easy afternoon listen. While I love the sentiment of the above quote, it is literally my job to think about records, so… sorry Caleb.

The Brothers Spaulding bring a mix of funk, folk, and Americana to their record. This lends a bit of breadth, but it also lends a bit of a wandering feeling to the record, like they haven’t exactly figured out what sort of band they want to be. While it is certainly not inherently a mistake to incorporate disparate styles into one work (quite the opposite), it can be folly if one of these styles does not live up to the others.

On The Ides of March, the culprit is funk. The Brothers Spaulding go for a jam-band style funk feel, think Phish or Slightly Stoopid or most “funk” bands you saw in college. Now, I’m the first to admit that this is not my preferred style, but the funk songs on The Ides of March still fall a little short. Funk is all about groove – does it feel really, really good when you listen to it. While these songs on the record are not bad, they’re not quite all the way “there.” I’m just not sure if I really believe them.

Where The Brothers Spaulding do shine is with Americana. Songs like “New England” and “Been All Around This World” come off much more naturally. The guitar sounds are great in this setting, and The Brothers are able to show off their ear for vocal harmony. The drums are spot on, and the tracks just feel more comfortable all around.

The Ides of March is a nice set of tunes for a lazy sunny day. While the album falls short in areas, it shines bright in others. Perhaps next time around, The Brothers Spaulding will find a way to blend their obvious talent to fit their funk desires. Listen to the album below!

WHO IS DUA LIPA?
March 4, 2016 6:15 pm

Dua Lipa is an Albanian-British model and dark-pop princess who is set to release her debut album early this year. While the mere 20 year old musician is still an industry baby, she possesses an exoticness that is mysteriously appealing to our diluted and mediocre American culture. It’s a pop sensibility mixed with the edginess of rebellious youth, and the confidence of a runway model. So who is Dua Lipa? And why is she so interesting?

As the story goes, Dua Lipa is the London born child of two Albanian immigrants, presumably escaping the traumatic events of the early 90’s civil war in the region. Surely this cultural heritage fuels some aspect of her artistic expression. The family returned to Kosovo in 2008 as the small eastern European country claimed it’s independence. However, two years later, at the age of 15, Dua Lipa returned to London, staying with friends to pursue her interests in music. She became a model at 16, an opportunity that not many young women are awarded in life. Perhaps it was a stroke of destiny.

These are the elements that make the otherwise generic sounding pop so interesting. There’s a fire in this artist that exceeds even the talent of her very professional production and songwriting team. She is a natural, a former theatre student and daughter of a rock n’ roll musician.

Dua Lipa recently released a handful of singles along with videos and has set out on tour in anticipation of the forthcoming debut album. Definitely look out for this rising star, and for you Americans out there – break out of your mold, expand your musical horizons and embrace the message of this aesthetically mature young artist. She could be the next Lana.