With her impossibly fragile, quavering voice and a batch of mesmerizing songs, New Zealand singer/songwriter Aldous Harding has delivered a self-titled debut album that is so far into and so far beyond what might be described as traditional folk music that it both transcends and transforms the genre. On the surface, Harding (actual name Hannah) creates mystical and mysterious songs that sound like they've been dusted off from the 60's era folk vinyl crate at some U.K. flea market. But spend the time and dive a bit deeper and the tracks, like the devastatingly mournful and intimate "No Peace," become extended, haunting journeys into heartwrenchingly personal territory. Aldous Harding is an album that demands your full attention. Our suggestion: wait until after midnight, remove all distractions, plug in some good headphones and track all nine songs from start to finish in one sitting. Then exhale. Repeat. Stream the album here. Click through to watch the video for "Hunter" and listen to "No Peace."
Former Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson is a man who wears as many hats as he has options. A decade's worth of platinum songwriting with artists as diverse asTaylor Swift, The Dixie Chicks, Pink, Josh Groban, NAS and Ben Folds hasmade him a platinum-selling go-to songwriter specializing in tailoringhis melodic gifts with an artist's own particular style and lyrics. The Twin Cities tunesmith has put almost a million dollars in the bank thanks to co-writing just one song: "Someone Like You," the massive international hit off Adele's 21. But now, Wilson says he "wanted to hear whatthe music in my own head sounded like." This week we get the chance to hear as well with the long-awaited release of Love Without Fear, Wilson's first studio album since 2007. After a DIY version of the album was scrapped -- "there was something missing: other people") -- Wilson enlisted some A-list support including guitarists Blake Mills and Nickel Creek's Sean Watkins and vocal backup from the likes of Sara Bareilles, Sara Watkins and Natalie Maines. Click through to stream "Even the Stars Are Sleeping," the albums only co-write (with Rachael Yamagata) featuring Missy Higgins on harmonies.
Dan Wilson - "Two" (from Love Without Fear)
Not to read too much into a photo, but the rather faded, yellowed image of Lana Del Rey on the cover of her new single "West Coast" does say at least 999 words on the rather dramatic change she's been goin' through musically. Gone are the glam pin-up Hollywood posings and the fresh-from-the-salon lacquer. Now Lana's decided to hold the cheese with a Laurel Canyon 1972 look that suits her and her new Dan-Auerbach-produced track. Nice to see a tiny speck of dirt under those fingernails. Figuratively speaking, of course. Click through below to behold the new image. The new Ultraviolence project supposedly drops late spring (TBA).
Lana Del Rey - "West Coast" (from Ultraviolence)
Wallis Bird's new album Architect, out today in the U.K., has a vivid sense of place and new direction, musically and geographically. Relocating from London to Berlin, the Irish-bred singer/songwriter says her new songs “began with needing a big change in my personal life and environment, and as soon as I realised that I was going to move to Berlin I felt the muse immediately. That gave me a kind of blind confidence to experiment freely.” Known for her high energy live shows and ability to shred an acoustic guitar's strings over the course of a few songs, Bird found herself fascinated with Berlin's more electronica-leaning musical atmosphere. "Hardly Hardly," reflects that new plugged-in circuitry while still giving the listener an idea as to how the song would be constructed in an acoustic setting. And with the acoustic live performance below (click through) you can hear the result. More DC on Wallis here...
British nu-folk trio The Staves (Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor) take on the Fleetwood Mac Rumours-era standard "Songbird" by Christine McVie and turn what was already a classic into something fresh and different. It's no secret that the late, great Eva Cassidy had pretty much put her own indelible (and exceptionally fine) stamp on the song years ago, but this version from a MOJO covers collection has it's own straightforward charm with a simple production and some lovely three-part harmonies. More DC on The Staves and their Dead and Born and Grown debut album here.
The Staves - "Songbird" (from Rumours Revisited)
Over a year ago we first tipped you to London-born Tamsin Wilson and her NY-based collective Wilsen (which we surmise is the plural of Wilson). Much has happened stateside over the past year with opening slots for the DC-RADARed London Grammar, San Fermin and Daughter and the Wilsen trio are readying Stage 2 with the release of a new EP Magnolia (May 19) and a long-awaited return to the U.K. As we noted last year, Wilsen plies song graced with "gentle, airy vocal melodies and an atmosphere that seems conjured up by someone lacing the communion wine with a warm hallucinogen. These hymns have a blurry but beautiful celestial buzz, often starting in a whispered hush and then expanding, slowly, as rhythms rise and the band ebbs and builds again." Not unexpectedly, "Magnolia" advances the Wilsen modus operandi while wisely tightening the focus on the key melodic elements of the song. Needless to say, we're expecting big things. More via our original Wilsen post from 2013 here.
Wilsen - "Magnolia" (from the Magnolia EP)
Major labels have been notoriously gun-shy when it comes to signing new artists lately -- particularly unknown and untested ones from across the pond. Columbia has been stepping up to the bar in fine fashion recently with new DC-faved acquisitions like Asgeir, First Aid Kit, Chloe Howl and London Grammar. Add to that list Irish singer/songwriter Hozier (aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne). We tipped you recently to Hozier's From Eden EP and now we've got an acoustic performance video of "To Be Alone" shot in an old hotel ballroom in Kilkenny, Ireland. Hozier returns to the U.S. for seven showcase performances in May (see dates below) and will complete his debut album for release later this year.
A relationship gone bad gets analyzed by the numbers in "Math Wiz," a brisk bit of catchy folk/pop goodness from veteran Canadian singer/songwriter Emm Gryner and her just released tenth album Torrential. Of course we get things "divided," "taken away" and "summed up," but as Gryner sings at the outset, "sue me if that sounds a little weak." No worries.
Emm Gryner - "Math Wiz" (from Torrential)
As the title of the second album from Mimicking Birds, Eons seems about right. It's been a long four-year wait since songwriter/guitarist Nate Lacy and his Portland, OR, band released their acclaimed eponymous debut but in describing his new album as an exploration of "the infinite and the infinitesimal" he's also clearly looking at the big, rather timeless, picture. The music of his Birds, however, remains grounded and human-sized: warm and ethereal musings that mix an acoustic heart with just enough shimmering, artful embellishments to lend the songs a larger-than-life feel. Lead track "Bloodlines" is one of our favorite songs of the year, a stunning melody floating above twinkling guitar lines and a shuffling, unpredictable time signature. Eons drops May 13 via Modest Mouse-man Isaac Brock's Glacial Pace label. Click through for "Burning Stars" from the 2010 debut.
Mimicking Birds - "Bloodlines" (from Eons)
"Palace" is the welcome new track and video from Brooklyn's The Antlers, the art/pop trio and critical darlings led by falsettoed frontman Peter Silberman. Taken from the band's forthcoming June 17 album Familiars, the song exemplifies what we've referred to before as The Antlers' "painstakingly cinematic and intricately textured" music. The impressionistic video for "Palace" was directed by Hana Tajima. Click through for the lyrics.
James Vincent McMorrow's "Red Dust" not only gives us the chance to highlight another track from his exquisite January album Post Tropical, it presents the opportunity to highlight the video's director Aoife McArdle and director of photography Stephen Annis (who shot Arthur Beatrice's "Late"). Unlike most music videos that come across as cheezy marketing strategies or dimbulb self-indulgence, "Red Dust" and "Cavalier" (below) deliver an interesting and provocative narrative as well as striking visual images. Note: brief nudity might make this NSFW. Stay tuned for another Annis-shot vid later this week. More DC on McMorrow and Post Tropical here...
Like fellow Canadian alt-pop outfits Hey Rosetta on the east coast and Said the Whale on the west coast, The Royal Streets, from the more centric Waterloo, Ontario, ply that particular musical trade fusing artful indie pop with a distinctive left-of-center sensibility. But there's more of an unpretentious acoustic jangle and an almost jazzy melodic feel at the core of Kings and Queen, the band's debut full length produced by Dan Hosh (City and Colour, Whitehorse) and released independently earlier this month. Album opener "Bass Clap" immediately sets the tone for what's to come: the vocals of guitarist Algernon Friolet and Jillian Dowding harmonizing and playing off each other with a fresh, unpredictable edge as the band keeps things pulsing, then kicking with a persistent urgency. Click through below to listen to "Wake Up Chord" and watch the video for "Hoes In Mexico." Stream the full album here...
The Royal Streets - "Bass Clap" (from Kings and Queen)
We're not sure if being the daughter of a minister plays into Tori Amos' new track from her forthcoming album Unrepentant Geraldines. Maybe it's what she calls a "genetic thing" in reference to the Cherokee blood from her mother's ancestry. Or her North Carolina roots that prompts her to comment that "the South walks with me wherever I am in the world." But when she starts singing "Satan knows how danger makes you feel" in "Trouble's Lament" you certainly get the feeling that she's still got battling demons on her mind. Look for Unrepentant Geraldines on May 13 via Mercury Classics.
Tori Amos - "Trouble's Lament" (from Unrepentant Geraldines)
Yes, there are five other members of the London's Anglo-French outfit The Night VI, but when it comes to any discussion of the band's particular sound -- we'll go the London-Grammar-meets-Fleetwood-Mac route -- it doesn't take long for things to focus on singer Sophie-Rose Harper. Fresh off a well-received debut EP last fall, the unfortunately titled sextet returned recently with a new single "Sienna," which you can stream when you click through below. But today's focus is our Friday Cover and we're going with Harper's take on Jeff Buckley's "Lover You Should Have Come Over." Backed with just a guitar, Harper starts tentatively in a low register so stick with it -- the last couple of minutes are worth the wait. Check out our original RADAR from last fall here.
The Night VI - "Lover You Should Have Come Over" (Jeff Buckley Cover)
Mike Rosenberg -- aka Passenger -- had something of a "Gotye-styled" dilemma on his hands. How exactly do you follow up "Let Her Go," the bestselling single in the U.K. last year, a Top 5 hit in the US. and runaway breakout in 20 countries? New album Whispers, arriving June 10 via Black Crow/Nettwerk, promises to answer that question in full. But for now we get a couple teasing tastes starting with "Scare Away The Dark," the LP's lead single that drops to digital stores and officially hits radio April 14. Plus, there's a new studio-filmed version of the album's more contemplative title track. Dive in. Read more about Whispers via the DC News Feed here.
Passenger - "Scare Away the Dark" (from Whispers)
Jackson Browne epitomized the image of the early '70s Southern California folk/rock troubadour and along with The Eagles, J.D. Souther and Linda Ronstadt, defined the sound. Mixing up Byrd-style acoustic/electric jangle, literate introspective lyricism and that particularly "peaceful, easy" brand of strummy chord progressions, Browne's extra fine first four albums set the bar for sensitive songcraft that could transition from intimate club to arena stage setting. New double-length tribute album Looking Into You (April 1) gathers up 23 Browne songs from an impressive array of performers including Bruce Springsteen, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin and Lyle Lovett and wisely stays true to the intent and feel of the original compositions while allowing each singer his or her unique style and approach. One of our faves is also one of Browne's best and most emotionally centered songs, the brilliant "Late for the Sky" delivered with a calm, innately soulful interpretation by Joan Osborne. Click through below for the oiginal version, Lyle Lovett's "Rosie" and to read more about the album.
Joan Osborne - "Late for the Sky" (from Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne)
Only a few months on from the release of their self-titled debut EP last December, the Belfast-born, Liverpool-based brother and sister duo of Thom and Lucy Southern return with a moderately amped-up sound on the forthcoming four-song EP Where the Wild Are (April 28, Marathon). As we noted in our original Southern BRIEF a couple months back, the duo and their backing band "follow on the scuffed heels of Jake Bugg, Jamie N Commons and Smoke Fairies -- young performers from across the pond who have found an affinity for starkly rendered classic blues riffs, electrified folk strums and fuzzy three-chord rock basics." It's a description that also just happens to fit the new EP's infectious title track to the proverbial T. Click through below to watch the "Where The Wild Are" video and stream "Shout It" from their debut EP.
Southern - "Where The Wild Are"
"Late" from UK art-pop foursome Arthur Beatrice gets an appropriately artful video in this beatifully shot clip from director George Bellfield and director of photography Steve Annis. We've been fan of Annis' remarkable lens since we first glimpsed his work with James Vincent McMorrow and we'll be reprising some of his best videos over the next week. You won't want to miss them. If you haven't taken some time to spend with Arthur Beatrice's excellent debut album Working Out (Harvest), check out our take here and stream the full album here.
From the very first moments, Lee DeWyze establishes a certain eerie and raw atmospheric presence to "Blackbird Song," a track from the The Walking Dead, Volume II soundtrack EP released this week and a song that he says reflects the "darker side" to his songwriting. "I was inspired to write the song because I'm a huge fan of the show," DeWyze tells the Chicago Tribune. "Lyrics, melody, and being able to emotionally connect is so important. Having The Walking Dead to draw inspiration from made that very easy. So I wrote it, recorded it, and we sent it over. Just like that. We got an amazing response from the show, they loved it. And next thing you know I'm watching it on TV." Click through for the new "Fight" video from his 2013 album Frames.
Lee DeWyze - "Blackbird Song" (from The Walking Dead, Volume II Soundtrack)
When Jordan Beckett of Bootstraps decided to rework the front cover of his eponymous debut album for rerelease last month, he contacted photographer Brian Bielmann to use a particularly dramatic black and white photo of a surfer suspended in a "cloud" of ocean (click through below to view). Bielmann then returned the favor by piecing together a slideshow of equally impressive surfing shots for a video using the Bootstraps song "Sleeping Giant." For those of us who still see a few remaining lumps of snow outside today, the video is particularly therapeutic. More on the fine Bootstraps debut here.