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Monday, February 11, 2013

New Video: Jim James - A New Life

Last week I told you about Jim James' (My Morning Jacket) stellar solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God. At the end of the post, I included the audio to one of my favorite tracks of this new year, "A New Life," which I have been enamored with since the 1st time I heard it.

Today, James gives us a video for this epic tune. Can't say I ever expected him to have some backup dancers in a video but when in Rome! I have to admit when he opens the door to see the apparent object of his affection, I immediately thought about Hot Tub Time Machine when they keep uttering "great white buffalo." Obviously, the image doesn't perfectly match but nonetheless it's what I thought of and caused a little enjoyment.

Great video that fits well with the song's theme. Great great tune Mr. James. Scope it below....

Friday, February 8, 2013

Band to Watch in 2013: The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow is a Brooklyn-based trio soaked in folk, harmony, and awesomeness. They just released their self-titled debut album last month and are ready to take the world by storm. It's early but they are my hands down favorite to pull a meteoric rise like The Lumineers did last year. Now all they need is to have a song featured in 38 commercials and be featured in just about every rom-com's trailer and/or soundtrack.

Back in 2010, lead singer Zack Williams was looking for a place to play some songs he wrote and hone his skills when he approached his longtime friend, and future guitarist, Brian Elmquist about playing in the diner he worked. Another acquaintance, Kanene Pipkin, had just returned from spending time in Beijing and Williams asked if she would sing with them at the diner. Their chemistry transferred to their music and Williams recalls knowing they had something special within the first 3 songs played. It was that point he realized and decided he needed to focus on making music with what would soon be called The Lone Bellow.

Williams had unknowingly been penning songs for years. His wife had a tragic accident falling off of a horse and was feared she'd be paraplegic, best case scenario. Miraculously, after months of rehab she was able to walk again. Throughout this ordeal, Williams kept a journal of his thoughts to help him deal with the situation. His good friend, Caleb Clardy, who co-wrote "Teach Me To Know" suggested that he turn these rhythmic thoughts into songs. Williams then learned to play guitar and incorporated his folk, country, and gospel roots into the words he had laid to paper.

Fate would continue for the group as shortly after they played their debut show, they were contacted by recent Grammy winners The Civil Wars about opening for them at a gig in Philadelphia. Williams became friends with the duo during a show they played together as struggling artists. Shortly after, Civil Wars' producer Charlie Peacock met with the band and set them up in a recording studio. Three days and three nights later, the band had recorded 12 songs.

I highly recommend this album as it has been one of my favorites of this young year and has a steady spot in my rotation for the foreseeable future. There are aspects of recent folk hit-makers like The Lumineers and Civil Wars but also the indie folk darlings The Head and the Heart. The meaningful but fun songs and the male/female vocals playing off each other and harmonizing are truly magical. It's no coincidence that this trio came together and everything has fallen into place so quickly for them.

I look forward to many years of Lone Bellow albums and you should too. Now, get on the bandwagon and share with your friends. Look for them to swing through a venue near you as they are currently touring in support of Marcus Foster.

Check out one of my favorite tunes, "Bleeding Out," below...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Video: Black Books - Favorite Place

Things are really coming together for my fellow Austinites, Black Books. Fresh off having "The Big Idea" featured in a recent episode of Californication (and getting its own official video) and the release of last weeks Aquarena EP (which I will post on once I straighten out my Bandcamp issues), Black Books just dropped the pretty awesome video for "Favorite Place." This has been a staple of their live shows for the last year or so and glad to hear it made the Aquarena cut.

You can purchase Aquarena on their Bandcamp site HERE. Don't worry, the issues are 100% on my end so you should be good to go.

The video was done by French filmmaker Christophe Thockler. You can check out his stop-motion artistry below along with "Favorite Place." I'm glad some people have the patience to do this sort of stuff!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Prevaluation: Jim James - Regions Of Light And Sound Of God

Anyone who knows me well, probably knows that I am a huge fan of My Morning Jacket. Jim James, the band's near-lion-maned front-man, has finally decided to put forth an official solo release. Regions Of Light And Sound Of God will be released tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5th, 2013.

**I feel bad for James and anyone else releasing an album around this time since the recent weekend's surprise release of a long-waited My Bloody Valentine follow up will dwarf most others**

I'm not overly surprised by this move as James has played the occasional solo show in recent years and has been featured in various side projects including Monsters of Folk. His influences stem from a broad range of musical genres, some of which many fans and critics alike have seemed to dislike when they rear their influential heads. For example, on 2008's Evil Urges when they dabbled into their R&B roots on songs like Highly Suspicious where James channels Prince and introduces us all to "peanut butter puddin' surprise." Say what you will but this song is insanely killer live and can easily get stuck in your head for days.

The R&B influence has been around the band as long as they have. See the cover of Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" on the Early Recordings Series Chapter 2: The Learning. During live shows they're known to drop ridiculously good covers of Kool & the Gang, Sam Cooke, Gil Scott-Heron, James Brown and many others.

In doing a solo album, James is able to channel any influence he's feeling at the moment and go in any direction. This can all be done without having much effect on the overall view of My Morning Jacket. Also, guards him against much push back they may typically receive from their label and/or producers.

It has been reported numerous times already across interviews and blogs but Regions is largely inspired by a 1929 graphic novel called  God's Man by Lynd Ward. This isn't exactly the sort of graphic novel most of us are familiar with today. Ward told his story through a series of woodcarvings, and in doing so was able to portray his message across any foreseeable language barrier. It tells the story of Ward's own struggles with his life, his art, and the temptations of the time. I honestly had never heard of this story before but call me intrigued! Ward wrote (carved?) a few other books as well and will be interested to see if there is a spike in their sales around the release of Regions.

In Regions Of Light And Sound Of God, James has taken Ward's concept and applied it to a different sense. We can't feel nor see the stories, but we definitely can hear them. James not only wrote and sang the songs but played all of the instruments as well. After one full listen through, and honestly without paying very close attention to the lyrics, there was this feeling as if I was just told an emotional story. It hit me almost instantly in a wave as soon as the music stopped. While digesting this unexpected notion, I immediately hit play again.

When I first read that the album was based on Ward's novel, I took it as being inspired by the story not necessarily by the process behind it. This may still be the case but whether or not James meant to do so, it feels like the emotions he's reaching out to convey are being carved out in front of me as I listen.

Whatever message intended, Regions does a solid job of tackling and intertwining the diverse genres James regards. Opener "State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)" shows James in his most crooner-esque state. I imagine him singing in a smoky basement lounge with a glass of scotch sweating onto the napkin that acts as the sole barrier between it and the wood of the piano he's playing. A dim light shines across his mane as the backup band begins to softly join the in. Don't get me wrong, there's no mistaking this from the Jim James of My Morning Jacket. It's not a far-off departure, but more a sign of where we're headed....familiar territory we haven't seen before.

"I Didn't Know Til Now" is one of the first songs we were afforded the opportunity hear prior to the release. There's a 70's disco-pop aura around the song but maybe not in the way you might expect. It has a standout ballad or b-side from the era feel to it. Mellow enough but still keeps the toes tapping.

"A New Life" sounds like it could be an outtake from a number of MMJ album sessions. It starts off very low-key with an emphasis on James' voice and mild strings. The tempo picks up a little but the focus never truly deviates. The horns are an exceptional compliment to the song, though.

"Actress" is one of my favorites through the first few listens. Like much of the album it really deviates itself from the other songs while still maintaining its place with the album. There's an early string influence that gets taken over by more of a suffering rocker tone. There is rock opera vibe where you can imagine a lead character singing this to himself in his room on stage talking about his love interest. What are you trying to tell us Jim! Where is this all going??

Ok, I'm not going to critique and review every song on the album but wanted to touch on a few that showcase the varied sides to Regions. It seems almost as if James took it upon himself to bridge the former My Morning Jacket albums, their influences, and where they may be headed into a little more than a half hour.

Check out "A New Life" below.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Band To Watch: Lazyeyes - Wait EP

Lazyeyes just release their Wait EP and this Brooklyn trio is ready to cement a spot in your late winter/early spring playlist.

My initial thought from the opener "Nostalgia" is that they have sound a bit Strokes-ish. Then, their propensity to interweave aspects of west coast fuzz rock with east coast dream pop, all in a nice 90's candy shell slapped me across the ear hole. And now I find myself humming or bobbing my head along to the tunes, even when I'm not listening. Not bad since they've only been truly committed to the band since last summer.

For any of you in the Brooklyn area, they are playing at Glasslands tonight (Friday, Feb 1st) in celebration of the release. Head out, should be a great show. Deli Magazine just proclaimed them “Best Psych/Shoegaze band in New York” for 2012. If you can't make it, no need to fret. Wait is aptly titled as the band is about to head back into the studio to work on their follow up and set up tour dates for late Spring.

Below, you can check out the video for title track and first single "Wait," which is currently getting a lot of radio run in the UK.