Who is Jon Black?

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Folk, Indie by jurbanik on September 1, 2010

Late last night, malleus&incus received a pingback from another blog: apparently we were mentioned in episode 22 of the Up From the Ground podcast. Embarrassingly enough, it was my earlier post about a surprising Ke$ha demo. Turns out the guys running the podcast were as surprised as I was to hear how (half) decent Ke$ha’s voice is capable of being. However – as I looked around the website, it became immediately apparent that the website wasn’t just for the podcast. Turns out that ‘Up From the Ground’ is the podcast of Jon Black, and is just one of the many features on his blog/website, Who is John Black.

The question of the hour seems to be ‘Who is Jon Black?’ Turns out he is a singer-songwriter based out of Alabama. Story has it that Jon started his music career after the fire alarm went off at his software corporation and he realized how much corporate America wasn’t for him. Whatever the deal is, I’m glad he made the decision to focus his life on music. Though I was too out of it to give him a good listen last night, I’ve revisited him over the past couple of hours and I like what I hear. He has a voice that could fit in an indie pop band as well as indie folk. It is one of those rather marketable voices – it reminds me of Wilco sometimes, Damien Rice others, and even has a hint of City and Colour in it. (more…)

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Oh Connecticut

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Alternative, Rock, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on August 16, 2010

When this post is up, I’ll officially be back on the east coast. My two months are Stanford were great, but I’m excited to get back to… humidity, an extremely boring town… okay there isn’t that much to look forward to until I get back to Princeton.  Despite my general apathy about Connecticut as a whole, I thought it might be cool to looks at a few musicians that call Connecticut home. At some point in the future, I plan to look at some musicians I know personally, but for now, I thought I would share some (marginally) larger acts.

Bronze Radio Return

BRR Press Shot

A six piece from all over Connecticut (and parts of NY, but don’t let that ruin the illusion of purist Connecticut music I’m trying to establish here), Bronze Radio Return released their first full length album last year. Their first EP received pretty poor reviews, but they’ve improved a lot since then. Lead vocalist Chris Henderson is a graduate of the Hartt School – a pretty prestigious music/art academy in Connecticut (of course), but I’m not really sure where his voice developed from: the sound oscillates unpredictably from faux-reggae to jam band (think Augustana) to pure unadulterated alt rock (maybe a little like Blue October). The band has a pretty soulful sound at times, and has a rather impressive range in terms of styles they achieve. The occasional harmonica gives the music a bit of a folky feel, and some songs are laden with subtle synth parts.  Overall, the band achieves their goal of blending the old and the new, and even create some memorable lyrics and catchy hooks while at it. For a slightly more detailed review, check out absolutepunk or The Hartford Courant.

Pullin’ On the Reins// Old Time Speaker


The ABC’s of Indie Rock part 2

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Alternative, Folk, Indie, Lo-fi, Playlists, Punk, Rock by dc3 on August 13, 2010

Jumping right in from the last post:

Sequestered in Memphis // Stay Positive

Though they formed just six years ago, the Hold Steady has a sound that feels like it came straight from the ‘80’s. It’s a modernized, Midwestern Springstein with a classic rock feel. Such a strange strange sound.

Love Vigilantes // Around the Well

So folksy I wanna die. Sam Beam never sings above a whisper so his voice feels like it’s right up against your ear, like if you and him were stuck in a small room together and his  face was the only thing you could see in the dark. (more…)

The ABC’s of Indie Music part 1

We here at the blog have so selfishly denied the site any color up until now, attempting to project a sense of self-importance at the expense of any cheerfulness. After a long wait, Technicolor has finally arrived at Malleus&Incus and along with it, youth.

Let me begin by promising that this will be the first book my kids will ever read. If anyone in Williamsburg, Brooklyn decided to quit getting high (or maybe while very high) and write a children’s book, it would be Paste’s Indie Rock Alphabet Book. The alphabet isn’t perfect and includes a few artists that make you scratch your head, but there are enough gems to merit a recap. It runs the musical gamut from Animal Collective to (spoiler) The Zombies in a wonderfully educational summary of some of indie’s best artists. Buy this book for your little brother or cousin; try to eradicate bad taste at its roots. No matter how you take it, kick it back toddler style and relearn your abc’s. (more…)

Mixtape #1: Lovely Folks

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Folk, Indie, Lo-fi, Playlists, Singer-Songwiter by dc3 on July 22, 2010

Now the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.

There used to be a time when I always had some infatuation on my mind, a stupid sense of self-importance, and metal on my teeth (only one of those has since changed). But it was also a much simpler time, one where attitudes and feelings could fit neatly onto ten-song playlist. Honestly, the mixtape had this magical quality. Whenever you met someone significant you had to make them a mixtape. It was the ultimate expression of love for that girl, the most thoughtful gift for a friend. Those songs that you painstakingly selected and invested your emotional energy into really spoke to your identity or some shit like that. Mixtapes were the spiritual of our adolescent years.

Out of either nostalgia or childishness, I think we should bring the mixtape back. I found this unlikely gem on iTunes. With a cutesy title like “Folksy Indie Love” and the description “this playlist was my lifeline when I was writing my undergraduate thesis. I love it so much, it needs to be shared,” (Princetonian perhaps?) you couldn’t go wrong.


Live (almost): She and Him (and me)

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Folk, Indie, Pop, Singer-Songwiter by dc3 on July 8, 2010

One thing needs to be clear. Any judgments about Zooey Deschanel’s musical talent will probably be clouded by her irresistible good looks. The second thing that needs to be clear is that her collaboration with M. Ward is pretty good.

It could be Zooey’s voice and M. Ward’s good musicianship, but deep down, every guy knows that it’s because she’s just downright beautiful. Sentimental-bullshit-inducing beautiful. Naturally, I had to see for myself. Tonight, the 9:30 club was filled with many she and him’s but scarcely any just she’s or just him’s. It was hard to tell whether the girlfriends had dragged the boyfriends here or, equally likely, the boyfriends had taken their girlfriends.


Radiohead Reimagined

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Alternative, Jazz by jurbanik on July 2, 2010

Hi, I’m John, and I’ve been juggling a bunch of post ideas in my head. I finally settled on one on Radiohead, but I must warn you that my musical tastes are far more diverse than such an introductory post might indicate. I fully intend to blog about everything from the most popular artists of all time (like Radiohead) to artists who have barely few enough fans that all of those fans would barely fill up a neighborhood. But most of all, I’ll only post about music that has value to me. Hopefully that means something to some of you reading.

Since the group’s inception in 1985, Radiohead has released album after album of musical gold. The band has been lauded as one of the greatest musical artists of all time, has been nominated for 14 Grammy awards. They draw on influences ranging from jazz to Krautrock, and bring to the table a unique sound that has provided an influence for artists by the masses. That said, I think any self-respecting music listener must own at least one Radiohead album, if not all of them. Hell, In Rainbows was available as a free download!

Because of this prolificacy, however, I hope that it is fair to assume that I do not have to detail the power of Thom Yorke’s voice, the brilliant fusion of jazz timings into songs masterpieces such as “Pyramid Song,” or the impressive stylistic developments Radiohead has made over the course of the past 25 years while managing to maintain their own sound.

Instead, the focus of this post is what other artists have done with Radiohead’s music. I have selected five covers in remarkably different styles that showcase how music can truly be transformed by an artist’s perception and playing style.

Paranoid Android

Radiohead’s longest song to date contains four distinct sections, and is said to be put together from three different song ideas, each from a different band member. This building block style of song-writing reveals that the song is influenced heavily by The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun.

That said, the abrasive guitars, frequent key changes, and gritty lyrics lend next to nothing to an instrumental interpretation. Beyond that, even Radiohead took a year and a half to learn to play their song live.

Paranoid Android // OK Computer