When I first saw Providence based guitarist Joel Thibodeau aka Death Vessel open up for the Bowerbirds at Bowery Ballroom a little more than 3 years ago one of the main things that stood out/stayed with me was the man’s pervasive sense of quiet that seemed not only at odds with high capacity venue but also the city itself. Thibodeau’s music and his skyward-reaching vocals seem very much the type of thing for summer bonfires and outdoor gatherings in the country not crowded city bars. And yet, though soft enough to get swallowed up by any sort of contrary sound, Death Vessel’s music is that of endearing beauty.
“Ilsa Drown”, the first single from his upcoming full length Island Intervals, isn’t wholly out of character for the man. Beginning with a gentle strum of Thibodeau, there’s the quiet rumbling of something different. It’s not the boom-chick-infused Americana sound of past albums but a much more agile moving beast. The true surprise happens is when a rather familiar voice peeks in to say hello – that of Sigur Rós’ Jónsi beginning a veritable battle of crystal clear, silky smooth high-pitched vocals. Jónsi and Thibodeau trade glassy, svelte lines amid a blanketed textural palette at time perfectly in sync and more beautifully in others – completely dynamics though entirely complimentary. Jónsi’s vocals are downright avian as they soar, dip, and dive while Thibodeau’s are strangely earth-bound. Together they cover a wide-berth that imbues the track with an otherworldly beauty – blissfully emotive and effortlessly enthralling.
Death Vessel’s third full length album Island Intervals is out February 25th on Sub Pop Records.
After releasing not one but TWO releases last year (full length Strange Land and the Ghost EP), it seems Brooklyn based indie rock quartet Yellow Ostrich aren’t quite done yet. Early next year (February 25th in fact), Yellow Ostrich will be adding another full length to their rapidly going discography.
“Shades”, from the forthcoming Cosmos, continues to stretch the limits of Yellow Ostrich’s “signature” sound. Gone are the days of the purely poppy days of The Mistress and on “Shades” in particular, the feeling is far heavier – a sort of prog-rock update with tumble down guitar riffs and sauntering bass grooves while Alex Schaaf’s vocals are firmer, leaner, and even deeper than the boyishness of releases past. Alex Schaaf’s always going to have that higher register but it’s a pleasant surprise that it’s not the only one he’s comfortable flexing.
Yellow Ostrich’s second full length with Barsuk Records Cosmos is out February 25th.
Better late than never is the would-be unwritten rule for music bloggers (if most of us weren’t so concerned with the immediacy of new, undiscovered music, or hype cycling and bandwagon riding at worst, c’est la vie). But what goes relatively unnoticed over a year ago, like the proverbial tree in the forest, eventually makes a sound as long as it’s still screaming over a year later… just like this brilliant track from Berkeley, CA’s Waterstrider:
Oh god, it’s happening. That hook, with its barbs like come-hither fingers and tingly spines. Those vocals, with their ominously harmonious falsettos that beck and call like a cult leader’s sales pitch. That bass and percussion, pointedly pinned to the rest like sticky tack. I’m all wrapped up, no mere exposure effect necessary, although I’ve got no problem listening a few dozen times. The waning year still has much to offer, even leftovers from 2012.
2013 2014, and to Waterstrider making the most of it.
Earlier this year, former Canadian Alexandra Stewart released her debut EP WÀBÀ. Named after the Algonquin word for light, her set of lush pop songs are exactly that. Fusing old style chanteuse with jazz-inflected indie pop, Stewart’s vibrantly textured songs radiate with warmth and, even despite their occasionally dark lyrics, glisten with a delicate sheen; a radiant lunar glow.
“Pow Wow”, the second track on the EP is perhaps the least night-invoking of WÀBÀ‘s 5 songs. The most upbeat and poppy, “Pow Wow” features Stewart’s heavily descriptive narrative lyricism and binds them to winding but minimal melodies. From its beginning brass stabs to its penultimate glockenspiel – “Pow Wow” is all smooth, blossoming songcraft. Each musical idea comes in succession rather than through layering allowing the track a kind of free wheeling plod. “Pow Wow” unfurls at it’s own pace but one that’s none too slow. Each momentous surge leads to another musical idea with Stewart’s vocals forming the densest part of the track – obscuring an otherwise clear melodic trail at its climactic end.
Alexandra Stewart’s premier EP WÀBÀ is out now. You can listen/download at her Bandcamp here »
While we’re busy figuring out how to rank and present our favorite albums and songs of 2013, there’s still plenty to pay attention to outside the listomania. Brooklyn’s Young Yeller is the solo project of Chrome Sparks member Jesse Brickel and definitely something to look out for in early 2014 when his self-titled LP drops. Crossing my fingers that the whole ends up a theoretical sum of songs like “War” (or the equally commanding “1st Love”).