Hi folks, it’s time for me to post about a great new EP that was in my inbox today. As I’ve said before, I’m surprised how much submissions are still coming in every day, but this one really stands out. I’m talking about the debut release from Dutch folk singer-songwriter Kashmere Hakim which goes by the name The Hillsinger EP and which was released only two days ago. What makes this EP special isn’t its creativity or its experiments – it’s the other way around: the pure and straight-forward character is what makes it special. It shows that you don’t need more than an acoustic guitar and your voice if you’re able to write good and honest songs. And this is exactly what Kashmere Hakim does: writing honest music that hooks you up and takes you on a little journey through the arts of expressing human emotions and telling everyday yet meaningful stories.
The EP comes loaded with six songs and a playtime of 16 minutes which is just right for this kind of release. Outstanding are the melodies of Kashmere’s songs, they are fragile, sometimes broken, but not over the top, rather dry but still compelling. The opener Free People is a good example for this kind of song-writing and it shows that this man surely got a feeling for writing music. This belief manifests itself even more if you take a listen to John Henry, the third track on the EP. The melodies here are different and much more melodic and simpler than they were in Free People – and still it seems that this (a little bit blusy) style just fits the story of the song and tops it off. The free downloadable track Foreign Worker really sums up the overall picture I got of the EP with its soft melodies and its calm atmosphere. If you like this track I’m most certainly sure you’ll like the other ones too. Among the straight acoustic guitar and voice arrangements, there are some strings here and there, especially in the brilliant Grandparents House. This addition really benefits the songs and I’m convinced that there will be much more great music from Kashmere Hakim in the future if he’s able to keep up with this high quality work. If you want one of the 500 copies of the EP, just write an e-mail to Kashmere (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contatct him via his MySpace profile. A digital version of the EP will be available soon. Fine acoustic folk!
One of the things I keep mentioning: I like Yo La Tengo, let’s say I love ‘em – or even better: YLT are my all time favorite band. I loved Yo La Tengo since I started listening to so called “indie” music – what was way before I started to listen to folk music. This explains why no folksy band made number one. I just mention this to show that I also have some real love for good indie rock and to use it as an explanation why today’s featured band got nothing in common with the music normally reviewed here. But sometimes an album just grabs you and you feel that it has to be something special. And listening to Christs Lane just gave me this feeling.
Devolver are a young band from Montreal/Canada which is about to release their second full length album this year. The debut record was called Sky Of Holes and can be downloaded in its entirety by clicking the following link. Originally I wanted to introduce the band by reviewing both albums, but after some rounds in the player I don’t think Sky Of Holes plays in the same league as Christs Lane, though it had its moments, e.g. with the nice homage to Flying Saucer Attack (a band highly underrated). But you know my philosophy : I don’t want to use this blog for writing negative reviews – why there will be none. But again I strongly want to point out the opportunity to download Sky Of Holesfor free (band approved) by clicking this link. But now let’s move on to the upcoming follow up record.
Sky Of Holes had one feature which can also be found on the new record: the lo-fi attitude of the recording (which by the way was one of the main characteristics of the above mentioned Flying Saucer Attack). And so I see both albums straight in line with the old hometaping is reinventing music movement. At least it seems to fit the overall character of the music. And here we arrived at the most important point: the absolute quality of the songs. It’s a long time since I heard such great indie rock tunes and such a varied album. I clearly hear some Yo La Tengo influences (note: I always hear Yo La Tengo influences if I like an indie rock band), but also the psych moments of haunting Flying Saucer Attack atmospheres are present. Sleep the Golden Ages is the best example that combines both elements. But I don’t want to reduce Devolver to both bands – I honestly think they have a very own style. At least the overall impression of the whole album seems to indicate this, for tracks like Seems Unkind or my favorite, Suncreep, are absolutely brilliant but also very distinct from tracks like the Marilyn Manson like sounding Promise or the gentle Afternoon that sounds like a vocalized B-Side version of Yo La Tengo’s opner Beach Party Tonight from the stellar Summer Sun album.
So…I could write a lot of words more to praise the album, but I don’t think this is really necessary. The main facts are said: Christs Lane is great, sounds like YLT and FSA, still with own style – ah and I totally forgot the best thing about it: the album isn’t released yet, but Marc (the man behind the moniker) was so kind to provide a download link and urged me to share it with all of you. Isn’t that just absolutely amazing? And because it is, I highly recommend DOWNLOADING THE ALBUM FOR FREE RIGHT NOW BY CLICKING HERE. If you like Indie rock that never gets too hard and is psychedelic with some nice noise elements, but also with some indie rock pop moments, you should go back to the previous sentence and start downloading right now! If you don’t like indie rock, you don’t want to check out the band’s (very annoyingly looking) MySpace. Christs Lane is a killer and it will score high in my indie rock list at the end of the year.
I’m proud to introduce to you: Shelley Miller, songstress hailing from Chicago/Illinois who is about to release her third album When It’s All Gone, You Come Back that will hit the road March 9. The album reminds me of Joe Pug’s masterpiece Messenger even though it’s not quite the same style. But the meandering trough quiet acoustic tracks (Nadine or Blame The Sky) and more aroused ones (Hard Love or the e-guitar driven Fool For Loving You) is a shared feature of both artists. If you are familiar with Australian (now London based) singer-songwriter Holly Throsby, you also will hear definite parallels in the wonderful ballads Shelley offers en masse (best example is All The Way Down, that even shows some shared vocal techniques).
The strength of the record lies in its variety, at least if you’re looking for an album that combines rock ballads, extremely well played acoustic folk with wonderfull shimmering melodies (maybe with some jazz pop flavor at some points), indie folk (I Don’t Mind or Burn To Buckle) and a portion of alt country appeal (It Was Billy). Personally I think the mix is bold but also shows the talent for creating a consistent overall picture, because everything seems to be at the right place if you take the time to really listen to the whole album from the beginning to the end. Every time the record seems to get a bit monotonous, Shelley manages to prevent it from happening. Take the track Wait For You as an example, it starts with only acoustic guitar and vocals, but in the middle some cymbals come in and then some decent percussions in the back wherefore the track never gets boring. In fact the songs are all really good, well arranged and composed with lots of ideas (e.g. the great violin melody in the background of Texarkana).
Privately Shelley Miller works as a guitar teacher and I don’t know if this is one of the reasons, that she’s able to write such lovely and great melodies. Love Is Not Crazy shows so many emotions, so much feeling alone in the guitar notes that you instantly know: this woman got enormous talent and it should not take too long to find a constant audience and a regular fan base. The more I listen to When It’s All Gone, You Come Back, the more I hear the jazzy nuances and a hint of Katie Melua’s jazz/blues pop of her first album Piece by Piece. And I know, Katie Melua isn’t quite the best reference for an indie blog that gives a big F You to all shitty major labels, but Piece By Piece had its moments and I think I can hear some of them here too. But don’t worry, Shelley Miller just uses those influences to add her personal mark to them – no copying, but rather an improving of given structures.
So the music flies by and guides you through many different genres of mostly acoustic music, Shelley’s voice is present all the time as an important and unique part, forming the character of the album. But, to be honest, sometimes I got the idea that the music was written around the vocals, what leads to the assumption that the music itself was neglected a bit. I’m talking about Figure It Out. The song is, as I said above, very well placed in the whole context of the album, but it also is the weakest track in my opinion. I just can’t feel the honesty, the passion, but maybe that’s just my point of view and I don’t want to beat a dead horse here. Let’s just say that even such a good album like this one has its little blemish and quirks (remember the e-guitar driven rock ballad track Fool For Loving You among all those sensitive acoustic tracks?).
On the long run the positive aspects are clearly the elements that shape the record and the acoustic ballads are the real strength of it. I think it reasonable to tag the album as folk, even though it isn’t quite the earthy folk often featured here. It’s more like the jazzy, dark-red cushion folk that nearly got nothing in common with the folk that is played by folksters like the recently featured Tim Schmidt or alltime classic Laura Gibson. But listen to the tracks I embedded, they are just beautiful and they are good indicators for the rest of the album. This music is good, this music is good, this music is…ehm…you get my point – and now don’t wait and pre-order the record directly via Shelley’spersonal homepage or buy the MP3s via cdbaby.com. If you want to preview some tracks, you can check out her MySpace or her Last.fm site (with all the tracks streamable).
And don’t forget to join the release party of the album on March 12if you are in the area. “The CD release party is Friday, March 12 @ 9 pm at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Advance tickets/info available at http://www.martyrslive.com.“
I’m glad I found the perfect band to post about after yesterday’s article on Slow Six’ new album. Why is that so? Simply because Bird cuts the electronic influences and the post rock but keeps the string arrangements and the orchestral character and adds some folksy atmosphere to them. Bird are Bardt, Jak and Janne from Eindhoven, Netherlands and they started making music back in 2008. Since then they self-released their debut, a 10’’ with the name Before We Go, and later in 2009 their second output, left untitled. But to simplify things they call this collection of home recordings #2. Reading sentences like the following, makes clear, that they are just the right band you want to discover today (from their bio): “Bird follows its own musical ambitions; Making records DIY style and playing at places where the music, in its most basic acoustic and storytelling form, still is appreciated.” That’s the spirit.
I just name the instruments and you know, you’ll like the music: violin, acoustic guitar, cello and bass. Voilà, the perfect mix. I would say their sound can be described as a mixture of Brown Bird and South China (the band…). Folk elements are delivered by acoustic guitar and very listenable tones of voices combined with a melancholy mood inherit in all songs, and South China elements through the very present strings – and believe me, the strings are gorgeous and you will fall in love with them. Anyhow, it is a funny business that acoustic guitar, cello and violin harmonize in such a great way and I’m not only speaking about this release now. I think contemporary acoustic folk is defined by the combination of those instruments (well, I see that this is too generic, but if you listen to lots of folk music you’ll get this feeling too, I think). But this was more of a randome note here…
Another feature that #2 has in common with South China’s debut Washingtons is a subjective one. I’m speaking of the instrumental track The Fixer. I wrote about Washingtons’ instrumentals that they are the best tracks on the album for they carry nothing but pure feeling in them. And I will say this again about the instrumentals you find on #2, especially concerning The Fixer. It is quite an outstanding track and shows all the finess the band has to offer when it comes to perfect songwriting. This tune really catched me. The other tracks do as well, I just want to point this out, but The Fixer is so damn beautiful and full of emotions…I don’t know what to say, just listen to it for yourself.
In the end there is really nothing one could say against this little album of collected home recordings. The recording quality is fine, the sound is clear and all of the tracks show, that this band got massive potential to put in forthcoming releases. Alone the fact, that they managed to record tracks that range from sad instrumentals (The Fixer and SSC) over more forward orientated folk ballads (About) to folk songs focusing rather on acoustic guitar and vocals (Softly Moaning World) shows the enthusiasm they laid into their music. And this should be highly regarded by every lover of honest acoustic folk music.
If the songs and my words made you crazy about possessing the records, you just have to send some lines directly to the band to order them. You can do so by visiting Bird’s MySpace site and writing them a personal message or using the e-mail adress postet on the left side of the profile. Let’s hope that Bird’s wings are strong enough to fly right into your hearts.
Some days ago I got a curious email I first thought of as a hoax for it was written in a very taciturn way. But as things turned out I was wrong with my assumption and it was a serious submission. Ian Link, a young singer-songwriter from Detroit sent over the first three tracks (ruff cut versions) from his upcoming 6 song demo. He recorded them in a Detroit bathroom and hopes that some listeners will find them quiet enjoyable. The three tracks are bluesy with singer-songwriter and country influences – and as lo-fi as lo-fi bathroom records can be. Bathroom Ballad is a track I really enjoy and which reminds me a little bit of The Mountain Goats – but only very slightly I have to acknowledge. The other two tracks are good too, so don’t miss to check them out. I think Ian got plenty of potential to record a good first demo and I wish him luck finding some interested ears in the future. As soon as new material is available I will update you.
The holidays are over and CFM is back with some fresh music you really should listen to. I’m talking about a young man from Dublin/Ireland with a fascinating americana voice armed with acoustic guitar and a bunch of great acoustic songs up his sleeves. He goes by the name Dermot Kennedy and has not released his debut record yet. Reason for this may be the fact that he only just recently found a good backing band to make music with. I tell you something: I really could imagine him and his music being the new act, say maybe on labels like Suburban Home Recordings – you may disagree, but I still say so.
The strumming acoustic guitar play on steel strings dominates the record and I don’t want to fight the battle of techniques because I think finger picking got its moments especially when it comes to complex melodies, but strumming, on the other hand, can express very well the emotions of the often thoughtful and sorrowful songs by contrasting the “hard” sound of the steel strings with the emotional americana like voice.
And speaking of Dermot’s voice I can tell you that it will grow very fast on you and takes you prisoner because it is very present but still full of feeling, maybe not as whiskey driven as a Chuck Ragan, but in the end it is it what makes the music really special. And I can assure you that the first release that will see the light of day in the future, will be a great one if it is as good as the eight tracks Dermot sent over for listening.
What is there more to tell…yeah, beginning with the tracks I got on my HD I can say that their style is similar and without experiments – and you know, I consider this a very good thing because there is no attempt to hide the intimacy that lies in the tracks and I think every listener will appreciate that, because it brings together the artist, the music and the recipient. And the old argument, that a non experimental style would be non creative or even boring, is just wrong because that kind of music just needs a bit more attention – and this separates the masses in a good way, me thinks.
So, if you want to know a bit more about Dermot Kennedy, visit his MySpace site and listen to some of his music. I for myself can only repeat what I said above, namely that I think Dermot’s music is a hidden treasure that is still to be discovered – so don’t walk along without spending a minute or two.
Yeah…time goes by, even in CFM land. And that’s the reason why I’m happy to present to you the 100th post on Common Folk Meadow….yay! Ok, but no time for party or celebrating, the blog must go on and I hope that I can continue with the regular updates at least for 100 post more.
But this singular occasion gives me the opportunity to announce the start of my little side blog, called BLOOD RED DYNASTY. I won’t add it to my regular blogroll because it is nothing that can be compared to CFM in any way. It’s more of a fun blog for me to post some stuff I can’t post on CFM or to write something when I’m bored. And I don’t think it is a good idea to visit this thing on a daily basis, because I won’t update it so often – the CFM machine keeps me busy alright. For no folk at all, click one of the banners (in case you have not noticed them yet…)