Tag Archives: resources

Something New

This time around I just want to call attention to a couple of new releases/discoveries that I think are well worth taking the time to search out listen to, if you haven’t already…

Not too long ago The Black Heart Procession announced they were in need of a new record label to release their sixth album. Much to my relief Temporary Residence came to the rescue and the album (titled Six) was released on the sixth of October. There are currently three versions available: LP, CD (the first pressing being limited and presented in a very nicely designed full-colour, linen-bound book) and an even more limited (to 1000) USB drive in the shape of a black heart and presented in a custom designed tin.

Album cover for Six, available now via Temporary Residence
Album cover for Six, available now via Temporary Residence

Fans of BHP will find themselves on familiar ground listening to this album, and as such it’s not likely to disappoint. The recurrant themes of love, loss and heartbreak are there, and there’s never any mistaking the bands’ sound, but it still doesn’t sound old or rehashed – a very welcome addition to the bands’ discography.

You can purchase the album direct from Temporary Residence (as well as other releases from sister band Three Mile Pilot). A free download of Rats, taken from the album Six, is also available, as are a generous amount of other tracks from several of the bands currently signed to Temporary Residence.

(Note: after receiving my copy last week, I noticed a post on the bands’ MySpace page alerting buyers of the CD version that the distribution sticker needs to be peeled from the CD cover very carefully, as there had been instances of it causing damage to the linen cover – thankfully I had not attempted to remove mine! – but just putting a heads-up out there for those wishing to purchase the album).

I’d also like to call attention to Gizeh Records‘ 2009 sampler, which is currently being offered as a free download via their site and contains 12 tracks by ten different artists. I downloaded the sampler yesterday following a recommendation for Her Name Is Calla, who have two tracks featured on the sampler. After listening to the songs (Nylon, from the album The Heritage, and Pour More Oil, from the very limited DVD A Blood Promise) I was impressed enough to immediatley purchase a copy of The Heritage (A Blood Promise was, unfortunately, sold out). Other highlights for me were Glissando, who also have two tracks on the sampler (With A Kiss And A Tear, For The Light), Tresspassers William (Sparrow) and Greenland (Cowboys In Atlantis).

Album cover for The Heritage, available now via Gizeh Records
Album cover for The Heritage, available now via Gizeh Records

Of other worthy note is the fact that the single Hideous Box, as well as the two B-Sides The Good Book and With Eyes So Full of Sparks of Love by Her Name Is Calla are currently free downloads via Last.fm.

All I can say is that listening to these tracks makes me eagerly anticipate the arrival of The Heritage!

S4E

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Pillars and Tongues (Daytrotter Session)

Album cover for Protection, by Pillars and Tongues

Album cover for Protection, by Pillars and Tongues

Every so often you come across something that is so immediately affecting that one of the first things you want to do is tell everyone about it; let everyone know how brilliant this thing you ‘discovered’ is. I had one of those moments this morning when, after a couple of weeks of procrastination (for no reason whatsoever), I listened properly to some tracks by a band named Pillars and Tongues. However, I decided that I should wait – be sensible, don’t go running off to post some babbling rubbish before you’ve listened to it a few times, and therefore be more successful in any attempt to discuss this band and actually sound informed, rather than like a raving idiot, I told myself.

Screw it. This is seriously amazing music.

At first, I just let myself get carried away with the – overall – haunting effect of the music, which was easy to do because not only is atmosphere crafted expertly in Pillar and Tongues’ sound, but the songs I was listening to were studio sessions that ran between 8 and 17 minutes long. Instrumentation is often sedate and explorative – at times rather minimal – which adds a sense of intimacy to the music. On the whole, the effect is mesmerising and creates a true listening experience.

At it’s core, the sound comes across (to me) as being rooted in jazz, blues and folk (even at times sounding influenced by the same Middle Eastern ‘mystique’ that the Tea Party were so fond of), but in manifestation it is so much more than ‘sound’ or ‘style’. It contains elements of free-form expression and abstraction, resulting in an explorative style of music that in turn creates a conversation between the musicians. The music itself, however, draws the listener into the conversation quite seductively, and one never feels like an intruder, or that the experience is vicarious.

All this is wonderfully complemented by the vocals. I get the impression that the voice contains  a formidable amount of power, delicately reigned in on the tracks I had the opportunity to hear. Don’t be fooled by that assessment, though.  The vocals are in no way weak, or overpowered by the music. They are, rather, something of an instrument within the music itself, serving to move you with and through the created landscape, while pointing out notable landmarks along the way. (My apologies here, band members are Mark Trecka, Elizabeth Remis and Evan Hydzik, and though Elizabeth Remis can be clearly heard on backing vocals, I do not actually know who to credit everything else to…yet).

I can’t give you a ‘sounds like’, or  a comparitive ground to go on before taking a peek into the realm of Pillars and Tongues – I feel like any attempt to do so would be an injustice. The best I can do is tell you that if you are looking for an intoxicating musical experience that will move through your senses, exploring you as much as you explore it, Pillars and Tongues is the band to listen to.

If that appeals, here is where I get to share another of my favourite music resources: Daytrotter.com. Along with other features of the site, artists – from the well-known to the obscure (at least to me) – record exclusive studio sessions, which are then uploaded and made available as free downloads, accompanied by an article and occasionally an interview. Artists also generally discuss each song, talking about their inspiration, arrangement for the session itself and various other things. It’s invaluable for discovering new music and artists, or to add a few otherwise unavailable versions from your favourites. (Some personal favourite Daytrotter Sessions include the recent Cold War Kids entry, My Brightest Diamond, Bon Iver, Shearwater, Bell X1 and Deerhunter). Once again, these should never serve as a substitute for the real thing, and even though full artist awareness and backing accompanies the downloads being offered for free, I would encourage your continued support by buying their albums.

Visit Pillars and Tongues at their MySpace profile, where you can listen to and purchase limited MP3’s, or head over to Contraphonic, where you can purchase the album Protection in CD or MP3 format.

This is a direct link to the Daytrotter session by Pillars and Tongues.

Enjoy!

S4E


Music Resources – Last.fm

Yet another music-related post…

This time, I thought I’d take a more generalised line and share some of my favourite music resources, with the focus being on discovering new  artists. It may not be an incredibly extensive list, but it will be thorough, and I can pretty much guarantee that each resource will benefit those seeking to expand their exposure to new music, and ultimately add to their library.

First cab off the ranks is Last.fm, and at the end of this post I have included links to some of the best downloads (I think) the site has to offer. I’m certain that everyone is aware the internet itself is an incredible tool for research and sharing information, but one thing I want to make clear is that I do not in any way support piracy – in any form. (This does not include artists opting to make their work freely available to the public, such as with the downloads available on Last.fm). Piracy is a huge issue and I won’t delve into it at length here and now, but please remember that not all artists make millions of dollars from their work (and that’s just what it is – work – they should be paid for it). I just want to note that once you have found an artist you like enough to add their music to your collection, do the right thing and support them by buying their albums.

Last.fm

I’m quite sure Last.fm isn’t any great secret – millions of subscribers from all over the world are testament to that; but therein lies its power as a phenomenal resource for discovering new music. To start with, you don’t even need to be a member to take advantage of  the many features Last.fm has to offer. It’s a (fully customisable radio) station, a gig guide, and a directory to access a massive catalogue of artists world-wide – popular or not, signed or struggling, you’ll be able to look up almost any artist you can think of and find out all sorts of statistical information as well as listen to their music.

If you become a member (requires a software download), the first thing Last.fm does  is take a look at your listening habits, via a method called ‘scrobbling’. They use this information to create all sorts of different charts, for you and for the global community. You will be able to see charts for who you listen to the most, which song you listen to the most, which albums you listen to the most and  how many different artists you have in your library. Charts can be viewed in a variety of time frames (only becoming relevant once you have been ‘scrobbling’ tracks for the appropriate length of time) – seven day, three month, six month and twelve month charts allow you to see a visual representation of your taste in music over those time frames. (For statistical nerds like me, staring at personal charts can become a time-consuming habit! Not only that, once I learned how to use Windows Excel, my mind started racing with all sorts of ways I could chart my music collection and make comparitive pie charts – I did already say I was a geek…) 

So, how does this help you discover new music? Well, it doesn’t really. Where Last.fm becomes an almost limitless fountain of information for new music is in the ‘similar artists’ categories. Last.fm will automatically recommend artists based on what you listen to. There’s no great thought behind their method – they take who you listen to and compare it to other users with the same kind of listening habits. This results in them being able to create a list of other artists a great percentage of people who listen to one artist also listen to. (For example, I listen to Tori Amos, so I am continually recommended artists that many other people who listen to her also listen to, like Alanis Morissette). It’s not exactly perfect (I’m not a fan of Alanis Morissette) but I have been recommended some amazing artists that I otherwise would never have heard of, and recommendations can be dismissed at any time, leaving the way open for new recommendations.

Of course, you don’t have to leave it there – I certainly didn’t. On the basis of one of the artists I listen to, I was recommended My Brightest Diamond (whose every album I now own). I took a look at the similar artists listed on the profile for My Brightest Diamond and had a listen to them – all of whom referred to others that I could check out via their respective profiles. You can take it as far as you want to – or have the time for – but chances are very high that you will not only discover a bunch of new music this way, but find several that you wish to add to your own library. One again, you don’t need to be a member to take advantage of this – all you need do is go to the site and search out some of your favourites, then click on any ‘similar artists’ that pique your interest and away you go.

Last.fm also has many artists that offer free MP3 downloads  – ranging from unknown/unsigned artists trying to get their music noticed, to well known musicians who are promoting new releases. Often times downloads are available for a limited time, especially when coming from the more well-known artists, so it’s worth checking often. (My Brightest Diamond does, in fact, offer two fantastic songs for free. That I now own every album is testament to the fact that this method can, and does, work as a way of getting your music noticed. It is never a substitute for the real thing, though!)

Finally, Last.fm also operates as a social networking site. That means that you can connect with other friends and check out what they’re listening to, as well as look up ‘neighbours’ (members with very close taste in music to yours that Last.fm list in a menu on your profile). They also have a forum, and offer the option of creating and/or participating in more specialised group forums.

My favourite Last.fm downloads:

My Brightest Diamond offers Something of an End and We Were Sparkling, from the album Bring Me the Workhorse.

Denali offers Gunner from their self-titled debut, and Hold Your Breath from The Instinct.

Piano Magic offers several songs from various albums and EP’s – particular favourites are I Have Moved Into the Shadow and Help Me Warm This Frozen Heart.

Corrina Repp offers four songs, including Upstairs, Outside and Your Son Now.

 

 S4E