Saturday Night Music Interlude — Hundred Waters performing “Cavity”

Hundred Waters is an indie-electronic-art rock band formed in Gainesville, Florida in October 2011, though their association goes back to their adolescence in Orlando, Florida.  The group is composed of Nicole Miglis, Paul Giese, Trayer Tryon, and Zach Tetreault.  There is an excellent background report and interview with the band on an Echoes.org podcast.  Their sound is unique, blending unusual time signatures and bending melodies that combine an intriguing mix of electronic and natural sounds, all tied together by the haunting, expressive voice and lyrics of Miglis.

Saturday Music Interlude — BØRNS performing “10,000 Emerald Pools”

BØRNS is the nom de plume of Garrett Borns.  He originated out of the Grand Rapids music scene that came out of the local community arts college.  After a short stint in New York, he moved to Los Angeles.  On his Facebook page, he is a self-described tree house dwelling resident of that city.  His rise, after years of woodshedding, has recently been on an upward trajectory.  This month he earned designation by XPN’s January Artist to Watch.

He sings with an otherworldly falsetto voice that closely matches by his approach to, and the selected themes of, his music.  He is largely marked as alternative and indie rock, but I would put his music closer to singer-songwriter neo-folk.  Whatever you want to call it, it is engaging and beautiful music.  Here he is with an unattributed accompanist* performing “10,000 Emerald Pools.”

Here is the electro-dream-pop version:

 

*An unforgiveable omission that almost eliminated this post.  Note to artist and record company–attribute your performers.

Winter Saturday Music Interlude — Olafur Arnalds

I first became familiar with the music of Olafur Arnalds during the difficult period of my father’s decline and eventual passing.  It was last November and Arnalds’ songs from the album For Now I Am Winter drifted from the radio.  He is a gifted composer from Mosfellsbaer, Iceland.  He began his musical career as a drummer in hardcore/metal and then moved on to electro-pop.  He now scores ambient, neo-classical, and electronica that mixes in acoustic instruments that ground and humanize the music.  Additional background and a podcast interview can be found here on Echoes.org.  His music beckons us in their musical imagery of overcast, twilight days and cold clear nights.  Here is one of my favorites from his Living Room Song series from 2011, where he composed a song a week for an entire week form his living room.  The entire series can be viewed here.  This one is entitled “Near Light.”

Another of my favorites is “This Place Is A Shelter.”

Saturday Music Interlude — Three from London Grammar

London Grammar consists of vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman, and multi-instrumentalist Dot Major.  Out of university from Nottingham, U.K., Reid and Rothman met in the dorms and began recording and posting their music on-line.  “Hey Now” became an internet viral hit in 2012 and they released a debut album in 2013.

Their music is dominated by the emotive voice of Reid, whose powerful vocal instrument always stays in the foreground but is supported and propelled effectively by both Rothman and Major.  The three acting in empathy effectively mine the emotional potential of each song.

The following two videos from WFUV showcase the band’s raw talent in an organic, unproduced setting.  Their version of Chris Isaak’s classic “Wicked Game” performed here is a their performance evokes both the sorrowful reflection and obsessive passion expressed in the song’s lyrics, though it is apparent that “Hey Now,” a self-penned song, possesses more urgency and passion in the minds and hearts of the artists.

Finally, here is their most recent official video which most effectively displays the band’s potential backed by full instrumentation and with Reid’s disciplined but powerful vocals tested to their full range.

Weekend Summer Music Interlude — Laki Mera

As a youth summer for me consisted of baseball (both watching and playing), tennis, fishing, exploring the south Jersey pine woods, cookouts, and spending time at the beach with family and friends.  After the age of 15 throw in working a summer job to save for college and help my parents make ends meet.

This activity came to me with the background of the radio playing music provided courtesy of the powerhouse New York radio and television broadcasting center.  Summers consisted of anything from jazz to folk to country to rock to pop, and my favorite stations, some of which no longer exist, made the same transition as the society around it:  the now defunct WNEW-AM, WABC-AM, WMCA (with their “Good Guys” lineup), and a host of others.  It was Jack Spector on WMCA who played the first Beatles song on New York radio.

All of this is a way of saying that, while radio has evolved and struggled since those heady days, music goes on as the backdrop to our lives; informing and influencing us in subtle ways, reflecting the world around us, sometimes providing pleasure and sometimes a respite, mirroring our thoughts, our hopes, our passions, and our fears; providing a backdrop to our happiness during good times, and a sanctuary during hard times.

This weekend’s interlude is a band called Laki Mera, a trio out of Scotland that has been making music for 10 years now.  They make what has been described as electro-dream-pop.  They are often compared to the Cocteau Twins, but this seems to me to be an inexact comparison, which speaks to their unique voice and vision.  What they do, I think, is create both acoustic and electronic musical soundscapes that provide the foundation for Laura Donnelly’s beautiful voice that allow our imaginations to follow the lyrics to wherever they may take us.  They have not yet reached great economic success but their music speaks for itself.  Last year they released their third LP entitled “Turn All Memory To White Noise,” which was actually released last summer.  The only videos online include their lyrics.  “Seraphine” is one of the best–a refreshing moment of anticipation wading in a cool stream.  A welcome respite from a disastrous week for the world at large.

 

Saturday Music Interlude — Northern Latitude Update — Thus Owls, First Aid Kit, and Olafur Arnalds

The last few months have seen some interesting music come from our friends of the northern latitudes.  Here is some great music inspired by or from the land of long winters and the midnight sun.

The first group is known as Thus Owls.  It is a Canadian-Swedish duo of vocalist Erika Angell and guitarist husband Simon Angell who mines their inspiration from the small village tales from a Swedish island in the album Turning Rocks.

The next group, First Aid Kit, is a Swedish folk duo consisting of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg.  Their latest album, which was released May 19th of this year is known as Upside Down Mountain.  Their influences are American folk-rock and country-rock.

Finally, I meant to write about him earlier but Olafur Arnalds is always an inspiration.  Hailing from Iceland he composes neo-classical instrumental music inspired by minimalist and dream-like ambient and electronic music that effectively evokes emotions and memories of the subject at hand.  In his most recent album, Now I Am Winter, he collaborated with vocalist Arnór Dan of the Icelandic band Agent Fresco to create moody, atmospheric music that captures the essence of a land of snow, fire, and ice.

Saturday Music Interlude — Moby and Cold Specks Performing “A Case for Shame”

A leading exponent of electronic and ambient music, Moby has fused traditional folk and earlier music traditions into his techno vision.  Now with the album Innocents he brings voices, acoustic, and conventional electric instrumentation into the mix as organic elements at the core of his music that grounds and humanizes it.  In the case of the following version of the song “A Case for Shame,” which is significantly different from the album version (which follows below it), Cold Specks’ voice, sounding much like a huskier Norah Jones, is an instrument in itself that glides over the guitar rhythm and sets the tone for the song, which is a dreamlike contemplation on the ephemeral nature of existence.

The more highly produced album version is here:

This is introspective, beautiful music and just the tonic for modern life.