Category: folk

New Video: Pale Mara Releases a Sepia-Toned Bit of Nostalgia Focusing on the Passing of Time and Mortality

Earlier this year, I wrote about Pale Mara, an indie duo comprised of Lee Godleski and Allison Robinson. The duo’s soon-to-be released self-titled album is slated for release on Friday, and from “Bird,” the album’s first single, the duo specializes in an old-timey 70s AM rock sound — with the single recalling The Carpenters and Carole King and others.

The album’s latest single is the sepia-toned, nostalgic, “Not Like I Used To,” a track that focuses on life’s inevitable transitions — particularly, friends, family members and associates dying; of time rushing by and getting older; of uneasily facing your own mortality; and of dreamily looking back at “simpler” times of seemingly endless and careless youth.  Sonically though, the song finds the duo’s sound recalling The Band and others — and while possession a hazy, autumnal vibe, the song reveals a similar, careful attention to craft. 

Edited by Jeff Wenzel, the recently released video further emphasizes the song’s sepia-toned nostalgia as it features old album covers from jukeboxes, pictures of long lost family members and friends, while also capturing life on the road as a working musician. 

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Comprised of Peter Kaunda (vocals), Albert Manda (vocals), Solomon Nikho (drums), Myles Minthall (percussion, vocals) and Guta Manda (percussion, vocals) the Malawi-based act Tonga Boys emerged with the release of last year’s Tiri Bwino, an effort that vividly described African urban life — chaotic, crowded, desperate, frequently deprived of electricity and in many cases surrounded by sewage treatment plants. Sonically, the act meshed contemporary electronic music with the traditional music of the Tonga people.

Reportedly, the Malawian act’s sophomore album Vindodo finds the act pushing their sound in a more mature, dynamic and refined direction. While still centered around the lead vocals of Kaunda and Manda paired by the call and response vocals of the act’s remaining members. Musically, the act’s call and response vocals are accompanied with drums and improvised instruments — namely, plastic buckets, shovels, aluminum cans filled with gravel, and a guitar made of wires on an unheated board. The album was recorded in makeshift home studios in about five different sessions with the band telling their production team Pitor Dang, Czanry Latawiec and Wojciech Kucharcyzk to add more sounds to it later. Dang, Latawiec and Kucharcyzk incorporated a bolder use of electronics into the overall sound. Ultimately, the aim wasn’t to find a way to adapt Malawian act’s sound into European ideas about African electronic music or traditional folk music but rather to further emphasize the energy, rawness, joy and sense of dislocation and displacement within their music.

Album opener “Buranda” which is centered by a deceptively simple arrangement rapid fire call and response, bolstered by forceful tribal polyrhythm that gives the song an ecstatic, trance inducing vibe. Interestingly, as the folks at 1000Herz Records explain, the track is about a party in honor of an arriving stranger, presumably far away from their homeland. Focusing on the experience of a stranger in a strange and perhaps unforgiving strange land seems like a decidedly modern concern, but when rooted to a folk-based sound, the track points at the fact that it’s a timeless one.

 

 

New Audio: Renowned Aussie Folk Duo Oh, Pep! Returns with a Jangling and Hook-Driven Take on Americana

Comprised of Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs, the renowned Melbourne, Australia-based folk duo Oh, Pep! can trace the origins of the group to when they met while they were were both studying at a music secondary school, and as the story goes as soon as the met began writing music together. Now, as you may recall with the release of three critically praised EPs, the duo received a rapidly growing national and international profile — they played a series of attention-grabbing, widely praised at the CMJ Festival, which were praised by  KCRW, and NPR’s Bob Boilen, who later invited the duo and their backing band to perform a NPR Tiny Desk Concert set. The duo also made appearances at a number of prominent folk festivals, including The Woodford Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, The National Folk Festival in Canberra, and Folk Alliance International, Kansas City, and at the 2014 The Age Music Victoria Awards, the duo was nominated in the Young Folk Performer of the Year and Best Folk Roots Category, winning the nod for Young Folk Performer of the Year.

2016’s Daniel Ledwell-produced full-length debut Stadium Cake found the duo subtly expanding upon the songwriting approach and sound that first won them national and international attention — their uncanny ability to write buoyant and ethereal pop with an underlying bittersweet sadness, centered around fully-fleshed out characters, who suffered from self-doubt, heartache, confusion, crippling indecision and a seeming inability to figure out how to move forward with their lives, all while their cohorts rush past them with successful lives. 

The duo’s soon-to-be released sophomore album I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You . . . is slated for an October 26, 2018 release through ATO Records, and the album reportedly finds Hally and Emmerich exploring the melody-rich expanse between indie pop, alt-folk and folk but through the prism of a women who have both come of age and have seen quite a bit of the world. They’ve accomplished most of their goals and dreams rather quickly  — and when that happens there’s this overwhelming sense of “Well, now what? What’s next?” And typically, there are two responses: you contently sit back and rest on your laurels — or you push yourself out of comfort zone. “This album is a darker form of pop than we have played before,” Pepita Emmerich says in press notes. “Basically Liv wrote a bunch of hits.” 

After touring to support Stadium Cake, Olivia Halley had become an in-demand songwriter. “With this album, in particular, I did a lot of sessions with other people. They weren’t necessarily sessions that were for the album. But every now and then, I’d be writing a song and take a fancy to it, then Pep and I would Oh Pep!-ify it together,” Halley says of the album that was written in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles and Melbourne and was largely inspired by her travels over the course of 2017 and 2018.  Interestingly, I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You . . . ‘s third and latest single, the jangling and anthemic  “Your Nail and Your Hammer” was inspired by words written on her wall in Nashville,  and the city’s long-held reputation for being the home of country and Americana — with a pop leaning, hook-driven sensibility; but while further cementing their reputation for breezy and infectious songs, the song evokes the sensation of someone’s mind whirring and grinding with the obsession over a brief and perhaps fleeting moment with another that leaves you wondering for weeks afterwards.

Rosie Carney is a Hampshire, UK-born, Donegal, Ireland-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. Inspired by the rugged and picturesque landscapes of her adopted home, Carney began writing music — and when she turned 15, she left school to showcase her work in New York and Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter was signed to a major label.  In 2013, the British-born, Irish-based singer/songwriter and guitarist added to a rapidly growing profile with a performance on Ireland’s leaning live music TV series Other Voices, as well as sets at Bushstock Festival, Latitude Festival, Electric Picnic Festival, Seven Layers Festival and SXSW. Additionally, Carney opened for Haux on a 28-date tour of 12 countries that included stops in the US and Canada.

While navigating a meteoric rise to national and international attention, Carney grappled with depression and an eating disorder, both a result of deep personal trauma. Simultaneously, she struggled to assert herself creatively in the major label system as she faced pressure to co-write and change her name — before leaving the major label system altogether. Carney’s highly-anticipated debut album Bare which features her collaboration with Lisa HanniganThousand,” is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Akira Records is reportedly informed by the twists and turns of her professional an personal life, while further cementing her growing reputation for writing material that’s cathartic and empowering.

Bare‘s latest single is the  gorgeous “Orchid” which is centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, Carney’s achingly tender vocals, a simple backbeat and some additional tremolo guitar that thematically seems to focus on a profound, inconsolable loss. As Carney mentions in press notes, As the song developed, I saw the opportunity to really expand beyond my usual production and it’s now the most layered song on the album, with strings, drums, tremolo guitar etc. I could just hear the strings while working on the demo and when it came time to actually track them, we used Radiohead’s “Nude” and some of Lana Del Rey’s dreamier tracks as a reference—two artists that are huge influences on me.”

 

Comprised of Henry Hill Kammerer (guitar, vocals) and John Johnson (drums, percussion), the Portland, OR-based folk and blues duo Hillstomp have received attention regionally and nationally for a gritty and sincere,  rock ‘n’ roll-take on Americana/roots music that draws from hill country blues stomp, North Mississippi trance blues, Appalachian folk and blues, rockabilly and punkabiliy played on a drum kit made from assorted buckets, cans, BBQ lids and other ephemera and slide guitar. And over their 17 years together, the duo have toured with Reverend Horton Heat, JOVM mainstays The Devil Makes Three, and Southern Culture on the Skids among others.

Slated for an October 19, 2018 release through their longtime label home Fluff and Gravy Records, Kammerer and Johnson’s sixth full-length Hillstomp album Monster Receiver was recorded by Juniana Lanning and John Shepski with mixing engineer john Askew — and the album finds the band pushing their sound and songwriting into even more experimental territory with the album’s material seamlessly flowing from grungy folk, garage rock and intimate and tender ballads while featuring guest spots from Anna Tivel (violin), Hook & Anchor‘s Eric Clampitt (pedal steel) and I Can Lick Any Son of a Bitch in the House’s David Lipkind (harmonica). Interestingly, the album’s first single “Hagler,” is a grimy, psych blues stomp centered around shuffling drumming, chugging guitar and an explosive guitar solo that recalls the North Mississippi All Stars and fellow labelmate Drunken Prayer as its full of piss, vinegar and whiskey.

Anne Malin is an Interlochen, MI-born, South Bend, IN-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, autoharp), who along with her collaborator, multi-instrumentalist William Ellis Johnson (electric guitar, classical guitar, Lowrey organ, banjo and synth) have received praise from Bandcamp and NPR for a unique meshing of spoken word poetry and music that’s been described as “deceptively rich” and “unsettling.”

Slated for an October 12, 2018 release, the duo’s forthcoming Fog Area was conceived while Malin and Johnson drove past multiple fog area road signs on an emotionally fraught move from Massachusetts to Indiana — and thematically, the album touches upon desire, political and social injustice and prophetic reconciliation with each song on the album denoting a psychic and sonic space as the album’s material draws from and possesses elements of folk, rock and noise, centered through a deeply meditative lyricism. Fog Area‘s first single is the hauntingly gorgeous “In Waves,” a track centered around a spectral and intimate arrangement of shimming guitar, brief bursts of organ, and a soaring string arrangement paired with Malin’s tender and plaintive vocals — and while nodding at Chelsea Wolfe and others, the song’s yearning, intimate and confessional nature makes the song feel as though Malin is singing directly to you and only you.