The Pariah Dogs

Posted in Folk, Indie, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on September 1, 2010

I’m quite a bit late with this post, so I figured I’d just do a feature instead of a full album review to save some time. I know I’ve been on a folk binge for a couple posts here, but it is just what I’ve been into. Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I think that Ray LaMontagne has one of the best voices in music right now, and ‘God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise’ was released on August 17th. The record was released under “Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs” – the first of four LPs where Ray gives credit to his live band. This seems a very big step for the very private man – he refuses to do music videos and plays live shows in the dark because he doesn’t find himself beautiful enough.

Truth be told , ‘God Willin’ is one of the few albums in recent memory that has ‘shrunk’ on me rather than growing. Thats not to say that I don’t like the album – I probably wouldn’t be posting this if I didn’t, and individually, the songs on the album are pretty great. The thing is, at first I was extremely happy to hear Ray returning to the folk stylings of ‘Trouble,’ his first album and possibly my favorite – I have been slightly hesitant to like 2008’s ‘Gossip in the Grain’ because of how much of an exploration it was for Mr. LaMontagne. As compared to ‘Trouble’, the new album has better production and a lot of good jams – a sign of more maturity and Ray having a little more money to spend on producing the album. However, after  a few listens, it has become apparent to me that ‘God Willin’ is a little flat – single dimensional. With the exception of the first track, Repo Man, almost all the tracks are interchangeable within the album and they sound awfully similar. (more…)


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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Djohariah Stevens

Posted in Folk, Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on August 22, 2010

It seems that the final Stevens sibling has finally gotten her 15 (or more precisely, 17:02) minutes of fame. The morning of August 20, Sufjan released a new EP entitled ‘All Delighted People.’ The last track on this sprawling 60 minute EP is titled Djohariah, the name of Sufjan’s little known sister. The Stevens brothers have made big names for themselves – Sufjan has essentially indie god status while Marzuki is a marathoner who qualified for the 2008 Olympic trials after finishing 20th overall in the 2006 Boston Marathon.

As if this wasn’t enough, it seems as though the Stevens brothers are very close. Whether it be recording things in their tape recorder at a young age, as in the clip Godzuki from Sufjan below, appearing in press photos together, Sufjan recording some of his early albums at the school Marzuki worked at, or Sufjan naming the band he was part of at Hope College after his older brother (more on this after the jump), it seems the brothers are good friends. As for Djohariah, it is very hard to know.

Godzuki// A Sun Came!


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…)

Videosongs: A Medium By Jack Conte

Posted in Art Music, Folk, Indie, Live Music by jurbanik on August 1, 2010

Everyone knows the cliché that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ Considering most YouTube videos are uploaded at 24-30 fps, and each of the videos I’ll be posting here are over 120 seconds, this post is going to be a minimum of 20,000,000 words – that is one LONG post. Yes, that’s right, this is going to be a video post. Why, you ask? Jack Conte.

What is so special about this scruffy man, you ask? Well, beyond being a very talented musician, he is the mind behind the VideoSong – something that I believe has the potential to develop into its own new (and niche, of course) genre of media. Whereas music videos today are all about unique filming, a clever story, bizarre imagery, or any number of other things that serve to cloud and distract from the music (or at the very most, complement it), the VideoSong is a medium that is all about honesty and transparency. In the words of Conte:

A VideoSong is a new medium with 2 rules:
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).


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.


Painting Houses and Bantamweight Boxing

Posted in Folk, Indie, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on July 21, 2010

It seems as though we at malleus&incus have a habit of avoiding posting on weekends. Whether that be a product of busyness or simply being lazy, I apologize on behalf of all of us and hope to correct the lack of posting in the near future. I wouldn’t doubt that once classes start again in September, the opposite trend will be apparent – we’ll be loading up on posts during the weekend and (hopefully) being productive during the week.

However, I hope it is okay to assume that you’re here for the music, not the apologies. This time around, I’d like to draw some attention to one Mark Kozelek. The 43 year old singer-songwriter is no newcomer to indie, but is vastly under-appreciated. The Ohio native has been a contributor to the San Francisco indie folk scene since 1989, releasing albums as part of Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, and as a solo artist.

Despite lots of favorable reviews, none of his projects have gained the kind of following that a band such as The National has, despite having music that is just as enjoyable and shares a lot of qualities (like the baritone vocals). To be fair, The National owes much of its popularity to the use of ‘Fake Empire’ throughout the Obama campaign. (more…)

Ragni: Lost at Sea

Posted in Experimental, Folk, Indie, Record Review by jurbanik on July 16, 2010

There are a few gems in my music collection, but for me none is as treasured as Ragni’s sole EP. To be honest, I found Ragni completely unintentionally: my discovery was the result of a random Google search for the word ‘somnambulist.’ A technical term for a sleepwalker, I had merely searched because the word seemed so cool. Since then, despite Ragni dropping off of Google’s front page, it has become one of my favorite words, mostly because ‘The Somnambulist’ is the beautiful second song of the Ragni EP and I want as much as possible to do with that song.

The twenty-five minutes of music included on the EP may be all the recorded music of Ragni’s that the public ever gains access to, but in reality, it is enough. The EP is one where the songs can be listened to individually, but the recording really becomes its own when listened to collectively. Because of the importance of each part to the whole, I will post all five songs given that you promise to listen to them all.


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Distant Stars

Posted in Folk, Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on July 10, 2010

People use very different tools for music discovery. These days, Pandora seems to be a favorite choice. Others use similar artists, the radio, their favorite blog, hype machine, or word of mouth – really, anything goes. But all too often when I try to find some new jams, I find myself going down roads I can’t even remember, clicking on link after link. I float through the network that is the network in a dazed state, floating through the haze aimlessly until I find something that pleases my ears.

That said, I don’t know that I can explain how I found myself listening to any of the artists I’m about to share with you. However, I do know that they are talented artists that deserve a little more exposure. I doubt any of them will end up on national radio any time soon, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving them a lot of play time in the last couple of weeks, and hopefully it won’t stop you from appreciating them. In selecting songs from these artists, I noticed many of my favorite songs have something to do with stars.

Benjamin E. Morsberger

Citing his father as his main influence, the younger Morsberger delivers music much different than his father’s TV scores and smooth alternative vocals. Instead, Morsberger utilizes his slightly boyish, wavering voice and draws on a legacy of indie folk to provide his own fresh contribution to the scene. Though he planned to release an LP in March, only a few songs from the album seem to have made their way into the public (and some are freely available). However, these songs show quite a range and quite a bit of promise – ‘Near’ displays catchy hooks and a summery feel, while ‘I’m On My Left Side’ features only acoustic instrumentation, instead using Morsberger’s voice to build the song from a groggy dreamlike beginning to a riveting, emotion driven ending. (more…)