Courtney Barnett is one of the more engaging new musical artists in recent memory. Her songs and performances are mesmerizing. In addition to writing great melodies and delivering them with unique and addicting inflections, her lyrics are riddled with wry and evocative insights and slights-of-tongue. Her great new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, features one of the Best Songs of 2015, Depreston, and a host of other well-wrought and varied gems.
But it is live where Ms. Barnett and her talented band thrive particularly well. To get a feel, watch below her recent set at NPR Music’s SXSW showcase. An impressive set indeed. Barnett and band will swing through California next month (check dates HERE), but her LA shows at the Roxy sold out immediately. Catch her if you can.
Pedestrian at Best
An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)
Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party
We were thrilled last year to once again catch one of the best rock bands of all time, Guided By Voices, in their best environment: live in concert. That night GBV performed 48(!) songs, but it wasn’t until they performed Tractor Rape Chain that the crowd conflagrated completely.
Fast forward to today when we stumbled upon the vignette below of Death Cab For Cutie’s leader, Ben Gibbard, giving a valiant, crystalline reading of the song for Sirius.
Death Cab For Cutie will next week release their first album in four years, Kintsugi. More on that album later.
Apologies, but we’re predisposed to not like new The Late Late Show host James Corden. We were huge fans of the former host, the lightning-quick Craig Ferguson and have been in mourning ever since his departure. But if there’s one way to win us over quickly, it’s to bring in the augmented, nine-member Modest Mouse as the first musical guest on the show’s opening night. Watch below as the band performs the driving Be Brave off of their great new album, Strangers to Ourselves. Snappy togs on Isaac Brock. Can’t wait to see if Corden and crew can keep killin’ with the music.
Afterwards watch the band absolutely slaughter the new The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box on last Saturday’s CBS This Morning. The band also performed Coyotes off the new album on the show.
Check ‘em out.
NPR projected a sublime series at SXSW this year entitled South X Lullaby, during which they asked various artists to close out their Austin-filled nights. You know: late. And unadorned.
A particularly compelling segment from the series featured Brit singer-songwriter Laura Marling, who has recently begun channeling Joni Mitchell while displaying evocative guitar-playing acuity. Watch below as Marling performs Walk Alone, a late-night paen for peace from her phenomenal new album Short Movie.
Marling first sings of not needing a God or master, or anything really. And then at 1:46 her eyes are drawn above to (stained-glass) windows and to who-knows-what. At that point, and for the remainder, she can’t take her eyes off the inspiration. Marling is a rare talent. May she thrive.
As we’ve mentioned repeatedly, one of the most talented artists of this generation, Sufjan Stevens, will next week release his first proper album in five years, the extremely personal Carrie & Lowell. The album will be released on March 30th via his own Asthmatic Kitty label (which “Lowell” helms).
Today the album has been made available for listening via NPR HERE. The album’s centerpiece is Stevens’ mother who died in December 2012 after having left the family early in Stevens’ life and having been riddled with substance abuse, depression and schizophrenia. Following his mother’s passing, it’s not surprising that the album reeks sweetly of the revenant in the room. With its brutally honest lyrics, we hear of the losses and questions that mounted for Stevens during and after Carrie’s life. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Stevens said: “Her death was so devastating to me because of the vacancy within me. I was trying to gather as much as I could of her, in my mind, my memory, my recollections, but I have nothing. It felt unsolvable.” Who hasn’t missed an opportunity that haunts them still? But even more so with family. A word to the wise.
Musically, the dulcet, well-structured melodies on Carrie & Lowell counter-balance its tenebrous lyrics, the closest sound-touchstones being the similars of Simon & Garfunkel and some doses of Nick Drake.
Having listened to it repeatedly, we know that Stevens’ old fans will adore the new album, and new fans should be drawn to the artist too.
Go listen to the album at NPR and pre-order it HERE. You’re going to want to have one of the Best Albums of 2015 in your collection.
We are huge fans of fantastic songwriter, troubadour, guitar-player and American-songbook-preservationist Tom Brosseau. Brosseau has just abandoned a perfect new album to the public entitled Perfect Abandon. Please do yourselves a favor, help preserve Tom and his songbook, and and pick it up HERE.
To get you back in the Brosseau swing of things, check out Brosseau below (as captured during SXSW by KUTX) render the heart-rending song Fork In The Road off of his great, older Grand Forks album. We love everything about this performance, including the bucolic setting and delivery, and Tom singing above a circling airplane.
You can catch Brosseau at Largo in LA on Tuesday before heads off to Europe in April. Get your tickets and check his tour dates HERE.
Earlier this week BBC Radio 6 show premiered the stellar return-to-origins-sound of the title track from Sufjan Stevens’ new album, Carrie & Lowell. You can hear it in the BBC show HERE (at 33:00), or you can listen below. BBC, please.
The new album from one of our favorite artists is named after Stevens’ mother and stepfather and evidently revolves around growing and aging and passing with and through the generations, all as spurred by the passing of his mother. Carrie & Lowell will be released on March 31st and is one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2015. We can’t wait.
Blur is thankfully back in vision and will soon snap The Magic Whip, their first new album in 12 years. The band has previously released rocker Go Out from the album, but today they’ve unveiled the preferable There Are Too Many of Us from the album. Check the relatively straightforward over-population song below. In a word: propulsion. Great sounds from one of the great bands.
The Magic Whip Tracklist:
1. Lonesome Street
2. New World Towers
3. Go Out
4. Ice Cream Man
5. Thought I Was A Spaceman
6. I Broadcast
7. My Terracotta Heart
8. There Are Too Many Of Us
9. Ghost Ship
11. Ong Ong
Eight years later Modest Mouse’s new album, Strangers to Ourselves, will no longer be a stranger. To reveal, Isaac Brock and talented gang appeared on Jimmy Fallon earlier this week for their first late-night TV appearance since 2009. They performed Lampshades on Fire. Pay strict attention to Isaac Brock who gives one of his epic, vein-popping performances. Joe Strummer has to be proud of that which he begat.
One of the most soulful and best live artists extant, Glen Hansard (Once, The Frames, Swell Season), has released a heart-rending new EP entitled It Was Triumph We Once Proposed … Songs of Jason Molina. The new record is Hansard’s tribute to his friend, the gone-too-soon Molina (Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.). Hansard is now making the rounds and appeared this week on the Letterman Show, supported perfectly by members of Songs: Ohia (Jeff Panall, Jennie Benford and Dan and Rob Sullivan), to give a passionate reading of Molina’s song Being In Love. We love the scorching guitar solo about which we can only say: heavy emphasis added. Pure beauty in song.
Afterwards, watch Hansard and crew’s superb live performance of Hold On Magnolia.