malleus&incus

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!

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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

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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…)

Genre-defying Bands Part 1: The jazz-rock-funk-hip-hop-etc band

Posted in Funk, Genre-defying, Hip Hop, Jazz, Rock by Keshav on August 1, 2010

In the month or so that this blog has been active, I’ve been attempting on and off to come up with a good idea for a post. Alas, my efforts were in vain. The conclusion I’ve come to is that, like Hamlet, my tendency to over-think things can prevent me from actually getting anything done. So, I’ve decided that instead of agonizing over what to write about, I’m just going to write, and see what I end up talking about.

I have a problem with genres. When people make music that attempts to conform to x-genre, they really pigeonhole their music. While there are a lot of great bands that can be described with one genre label without doing them a grave disservice, I’ve come to believe that one characteristic many great bands share is their inability to be accurately described by a genre label. Maybe this has to do with my taste, as I gravitate towards things which are strange and different. But regardless, I’d like to share some bands which I think defy genre-categorization, and also happen to be awesome. For now, I’m going to talk about two genre-defying bands with a lot of similiraties, Rudder and Kneebody.

IMPORTANT: Listen to the sound clips, or you won’t get much out of this post.

Rudder

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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…)

Jazzing Up the Indie, Smoothing Out the Rock

Posted in Indie, Jazz, Rock by jurbanik on July 14, 2010

It has come to my attention that some people may find 1400+ word posts a little hard to get through. I’d be very glad to receive some feedback on that point in the comments, but for the time being I’ll assume that there is some legitimacy to the claim. As a result, this post is going to be my attempt at a speed post: I’ll brief the general idea and each artist, but leave it up to you to listen to the individual songs, and try to be a little more succinct with my writing.

That said, jazz and indie are two genres that are not commonly fused. Sure, lots of indie/ alt rock artists have jazz influences, but few artists have continued in the legacy of 70s Jazz Fusion like Return to Forever of King Crimson, fusing jazz rhythms and improvisation with rock instrumentation (and vocals). However, a few artists have begun to fill this niche in the last decade, replacing the progressive rock roots with indie qualities, and altering the formula for how much of each influence to take in to create some very unique sounds.

Karate

Karate is one of those bands you’ll either love or hate at first… but even if you hate them, if you listen more, they’ll probably grow on you. Karate has a reputation for being one of the most calculated musicians on the indie scene: while self taught, Geoff Farina and other band members were compulsive in their control of song arrangements. The band loves jazzy improvisation, but when recording, requires perfection. The laid back instrumentals are complemented by Farina’s lo-fi voice, which in itself takes a little getting used to. Sadly, after 695 live shows, Karate disbanded because of Farina’s hearing problems. While listening, check out the jazzy guitar riffs, subtle cymbal-driven drumming, and especially the beautiful, almost ethereal solos.

pines// pockets

The Halo of the Strange // Unsolved

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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 last.fm 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…)

Live (almost): Islands @ Black Cat

Posted in Alternative, Indie, Live Music, Pop, Rock by dc3 on July 2, 2010

Live shows are always filled with unease. Maybe it’s the strange realization that the voice you’ve been listening to for a year now through headphones actually has a voice box and a head and appendages attached to it. Or perhaps it’s your own nervousness for the artist who’s meeting hundreds of people he doesn’t know but who in some abstract music-is-the-expression-of-the-soul kind of way already know him.

In any case, this unease was too much and caused me both to take the Metro in the wrong direction and to almost fall forward accidentally walking down the up escalator. After thinking that these two literal reversals of direction were some unspoken symbolic message to “turn-back,” and seriously considering calling the whole thing off, I decided that that would be the stupidest reason to miss a perfectly good concert and so decided to forget about the whole thing. The rest of the night contained no other prophetic signs.

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Introductions

Posted in Folk, Rock, Singer-Songwiter by dc3 on June 27, 2010

Nick Drake

Inaugural posts always shoulder the burden of having to be profound or enlightening simply because they are first in order. I’m usually a sucker for those kinds of unwritten rules, but profundity aside, an introduction must be made.  An introduction of two sorts: the music and the irrelevant blog that attempts to frame the music in so many words.

I’m not sure how this music blog differs from any others except that it presents our favorite music in our own words. I’m not sure that a music blog should do more than that. This project sprang from what all projects by young people spring out of these days, boredom tinged with some restlessness and dissatisfaction. A group of friends and acquaintances decided to jump on the bandwagon and go public with our musical tastes. We all have pretty different preferences so you’ll probably hear a variety of music on here loosely connected only because they happen to appear in the same library that we’ve built up over the years. In a sense, then, the music reflects something about us; but that’s also the kind of sentimental bullshit that doesn’t mean anything. I can’t speak for the other authors on here, but music is the easiest way to avoid originality and speak through other people’s words. How else could you package a generation’s voice into neat rhyming verse? I guess because that’s what I love and hate about music, that’s how I’ll speak from now on.  So hopefully you won’t find anything frighteningly democratic or hilariously incomprehensible here. Instead, we’ll try to pick music that’s interesting and tell you why. It might not be the newest stuff or critically acclaimed, but hopefully other people see something in the songs that we do.

In a desperate attempt not to come off as a snob, I won’t try to categorize my musical taste as mostly indie folk, folk rock, indie pop, brit pop, twee, low-fi, and singer-songwriter. In other words, place any two unlikely genres together, add “indie” in front of it, and you’ve got an excuse for music. Good music usually consists of a voice, an acoustic, and not much else; but then again, not every college kid is a good artist either. Since this is an introduction, I’ll start at the roots, digging back into the family tree of good music. Indeed, if my music taste has a lineage, these would be its ancestors:

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