Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Will Be, Will Be

Since the 2007 release of Smokey, Dev has been keeping himself very busy. His just recently released What Will Be is such a new, refreshing approach to his sound that it seems he has found yet another way to reinvent himself. There are those who would say that this album is a step backwards for him as it is a lighter approach musically, and it is following the extremely well received Smokey. However, i believe this to be such an inaccurate statement after listening to this album to its full extent. I first received a taste What Will Be in late September when he opened for his companions in Little Joy under the pseudonym Swami Save Us Jr. He performed a delightfully raw and stripped down set differing greatly from his usual larger band jam session sets. He opened with the single Baby in a joyous symphony of spontaneity and whimsy. He continued into also showcasing 16th & Valencia Roxy Music; the way this number was performed was eerie and haunting in a very enjoyable way, however this song falls very flat on the album. I feel as this is the worst cut due to its forced vibe that seems like it was made solely for an American Eagle fiting room. However bad for Banhart, is still fantastic as far as other artists are concerned, and even the 'worst' track on this album still has its pleasent moments. The opening cut from the album Can't Help But Smiling, is a bubbly little jive that flows like a picturesque honey moon in the 1920's. It showcases the playmanship of this album musically. The bop and sway of the begining of Angelika is a light toe tapper that eveolves into a full scale latin bossa wonderful explosion all over your face. Which is very stylistic and appreciated from Dev at this point. Chin Chin & Muck Muck is jazz at its purest level, and for a non jazz heavy musician, this showing is extraordinarily exciting, and the lovely lyrics that float atop it add to its cool cool sound. He pays much homage to his Smokey sound in Rats, with the funky mud sludginess verse to quick quirky coolness choral transitions. As for Maria Lionza, the sound is too surreal to explain, and can only be fully appreciated by listening to this cut for yourself. (opt. if doable, listen to in a nocturnal setting) arguably one of his best tracks, of all his discography. Simply Brilliance. So after listening to this album, i feel that Banhart has not taken a step down at all. Contrariwise, I feel he has stepped up his game with an entirely new vibe and sound that he had no fear in revealing to everyone. Maybe not the best album for the "Banhart Faithfuls", but for those of you who are trying to get a taste of this guy, and want to ease into it, or anyone who just appreciates a talented musican showcasing himself very well, i highly recommend this album!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Modest New Face of Folk?

Is the myth of folk music gone? No, quite the contrary as a matter of fact. All around the world musicians are looking to their folk roots and establishing themselves as folk based artists. Dalarna, Sweden is no exception to this either. Under the moniker of The Tallest Man on Earth, Kristian Mattson has stepped into the scene. What sets Mattson apart from other contemporary folk artists, (Trapper, Oberst, Iver) is his traditionally based sound. Mattson is a humble man who would never compare himself to Bob Dylan as anything more than an inspiration, however his wounded howling stripped vocals, delightfully melancholy acoustic strum fits, and brilliant lyrics would put him far above many of the striving artists currently in circulation. I won't go as far as to title him as the "Dylan of this age" but i will be so bold as to call him the one with the potential to breath life back into the genre as a widely accepted one again, much as what Iver has the potential to do as well. Through Tallest Man, Mattson is able to speak freely and truly, as an artist hopes to as best they can. His sincere affection is apparent in cuts like The Gardner, and The Sparrow and the Medicine, both off of his much enjoyed 2008 release, Shallow Grave after his well received self titled 2007 E.P. He also more than holds his own with his more playful tracks, Like Honey Won't You Let Me In. His traditional side flourishes in the beautiful raw power of Pistol Dreams, with his vocals at their peak soul provoking, modest cowboy folk singer levels. He is
a quiet, modest artist who stays out of the media for the most part, so not much is known regarding his next release. But with how well produced and lovely Shallow Grave came to be, it is not hard to comprehend that it probably wont be for long until the next one drops. For those interested, he finished a tour with Bon Iver in the begining of this year, and the videos are on google video. So is Mattson the new poster child of the folk world? That's for you to decide, but in my opinion, as much as i Love Oberst, its about time a new face stepped in...

Winds of Change: The Secret to the Mercury Program

Although not necessarily a vibrantly out there act, the Gainesville based Mercury Program have consistently laid out great material since their founding in 1997. The sound is a strange mixture of affluent spacial-ism, and a concentrated light snow-fall pitter patter tone. The texture of the melodies are usually delightfully simple with occasional artistic change ups and rich heavy jazz fused post rock experimental rhythm cuts. Tom Reno's guitar style is a Mondrian take on playability. He lays smooth melodies that soothe and move simultaneously, while alternating back and forth between change ups and one man jam sessions almost effortlessly. With tracks like Marianas off of their first instrumental E.P. All the Suits Begin to Fall Off, Whit Travisano's vibraphonic groove sways become a motif of the bands latter sound. It gives a surrealistic Dali-esque mystery to the music, and makes the sound that much more intricate and blue. It is by no means, a mainstream sound, as it is minimalistic in its approach, and not attempting to gain a cult following in the styling of the society of MGMT electric feelians. Their sound has been steadily developing and even blossoming into a fruitful wondrous harmony of different styles and vibes. Off of their 2001 release, A Data Learn the Language, a wide range of different variations are introduced to the core sound the Program familiarized their fans with. Cuts like To-From Iceland have such a new, vibrant sound that actually emulates a wintery excursion through the backwoods of a wintered Iceland.
The use of the layered keys and rhythms makes their sound limitless with ideas such as these which can also be seen in Highways Like Veins the closing track off their 2000 release From the Vapor of Gasoline. Even in their earliest works, these boys have been dealing out the heaviest, deepest melodic masterpieces and only continue to do so. Now they haven't had a release since A Data Learn, but they dropped a release date on their new album Chez Viking, said to come out November 24th, of this year. If they can manage to keep up the solidity of their sound, and stay true to their experimental groove session roots, then this new album has the capability to put them back in the mix and show everyone just why they are a band to watch out for, as they are changing the face of modern music in an incredibly good way.