malleus&incus

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…)

A Plea For Duets

Posted in Indie, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on August 28, 2010

One thing I have noticed in the past couple years is the lack of duets between male and female songwriters. I can count on my hands how many memorable ones I’ve heard – there is the sickeningly cute and horribly overplayed ‘Lucky‘ by Colbie Caillat & Jason Mraz, the aptly name ‘Duet‘ featuring Rachael Yamagata and Ray LaMontagne (I still want to review his new album…), the perfectly harmonized ‘Paperweight‘ by Schuyler Fisk & Joshua Radin, the catchy but anti-romantic ‘You Don’t Know me‘  by Regina Spektor and Ben Folds, the heartfelt ‘I Don’t Feel it Anymore‘ by Priscilla Ahn & William Fitzsimmons, and the previously mentioned ‘Train Song‘ by Feist & Ben Gibbard.

Of course this doesn’t include the few artists (like She and Him or Arcade Fire) that have both male and female vocalists, but that is six whole collaborations. I’m not saying there aren’t other good ones out there, but those are the only ones that have been particularly memorable for me. I really can’t understand why: male-female duets seem one of the promising musical possibilities out there. They appeal to audiences that like male and female vocalists, the multiple main voices gives the potential for more narrative lyrics, the male and female tonal ranges are typically different and a good match can create great harmonies, they’ve got the potential for extreme romanticism… the list goes on and on. I can understand that it might be hard to find artists that interface well in terms of rhythmic, vocal, stylistic, and lyrical tendencies, but I would think more artists would at least try to capitalize on this potentially vast marketability. Certainly Hip Hop and R&B artists seem to have no problem executing collaborations… I can’t understand why it is so different for singer-songwriters. (more…)

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 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…)

I Am Not a Robot

Posted in Female Vocalist, Indie, Singer-Songwiter by jurbanik on July 26, 2010

Like my compatriot JAW, I too have begun to notice the preponderance of men with acoustic guitars on this blog. As opposed to reacting by needing filth, however, I thought it might be good to pay some homage to the underrepresented gender on this blog (all of our writers seem to be male). I’d argue that a little bit more estrogen might be good for malleus&incus. And while I’d be very happy going for some piano and guitar driven artists like Sara Bareilles or Tristan Pettyman (who are also worth checking out), I thought it might be better to go in a (slightly) different direction, and focus on some artists where, in my opinion, their voice is the most important quality of their music. Because of this, I’d like to also pair two artists you may know already each with an emerging artist based on similarity of vocals.

Florence + The Machine

If you haven’t heard of Florence + the Machine by now, you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. Though she doesn’t get all that much radio play stateside, her album Lungs was in the UK Top 40 for 52 consecutive weeks – a full year. The main power behind F+TM is Florence Welch, who combines rock and soul sounds with an eccentricity almost matching that of another popular female today (who I don’t think I need to name).

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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.

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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…)

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): 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.

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