Friday, February 10, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Lee Fields

When you hear a voice like Lee Fields', a voice with so much conviction, power and honesty you realize where the term "soul music" came from. Then you wonder, where has this man been hiding and why am I just hearing this for the first time now? I discovered Lee Fields' music while I was creating my Spotify playlist of SXSW 2012 artists and I knew within the first 15 seconds that I would be featuring he and his band. Lee has been working in the music industry since the late '60's and even released a legendarily hard to find funk-soul classic called Let's Talk it Over but it wasn't until his most recent work with The Expressions that he has begun to truly gain some recognition.

If you're a fan of Sharon Jones, or Charles Bradley then be sure to catch Lee Fields at SXSW this year. He has a new LP due out on March 13th called Faithful Man but for now you can grab a free track over at his Facebook page. I also highly recommend listening to his 2009, Truth and Soul Records release, My World on Spotify.

Lee Fields and the Expressions - Honey Dove via YouTube

I'd expect you to find Lee Field and the Expressions playing a free day-party hosted by the Windish Agency but as far as official showcases, I'm not too sure. Perhaps, Truth and Soul Records will have an official showcase or maybe he'll just get lumped together with some unaffiliated like-minded artists. Regardless, you can bet you'll see me in the crowd for at least one performance from this powerful funk-soul group.

"Problems" by Lee Fields & The Explorers

As usual, keep an eye on the official SXSW music site for official showcase listings. You can find information about unofficial events at Show List Austin, as well as Do512. You can also create a customized, free party schedule from one of the most comprehensive SXSW party lists over at SXShhh.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

SXSW 2012 Interview: Of Monsters and Men

It's hard to judge these things but without any sort of scientific evidence I would say that Of Monsters and Men have more buzz coming into SXSW than any other band I have or will feature here. They are already critical darlings and their debut LP, My Head is an Animal hasn't even been released worldwide yet. For now, those of who don't live in Iceland can listen to their brilliant and exuberant 4-track EP, Into the Woods. The full EP is available to listen to on Spotify or their Facebook BandPage and of course you can also purchase it on iTunes.

As a sign of the buzz for Of Monsters and Men in the United States, their state-side tour, which will follow their SXSW appearances is largely sold-out. They actually had to add a second date in Los Angeles and even that is on the verge of selling out. Check the band's tour post to find out if they're coming to your area.

Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks video via YouTube

I had the chance to send some questions to Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir from Of Monsters and Men, you can find the full interview below the break.

  • Did you have any other monikers before arriving at Of Monsters and Men
    For a moment we did. We were competing in Iceland's Músiktilraunir which is like a battle of the bands competition. We only decided to compete like an hour or two before they closed-off the application process. We didn't have a name and time was short so we pretty much decided on something and entered as Hachiko. We slept on it, realized our error and changed it to Of Monsters and Men
  • Are you fans of Steinbeck?  Or is the name simply an allusion/alliteration?  
    The name is kind of a spin-off of Of Mice And Men... what a weird sentence there. The main reason for the name is that we liked how it sounded. It sounds mystical and adventurous and our lyrics are often in that atmosphere. We are really taken by stories and the name seems to be very fitting to what we want to create with our music. 
  • What has been the most surreal experience in your music career(s) thus far?
    Probably people's reactions. We are always very pleasantly surprised when people in the crowd really get into it and start singing with the songs. It's always so nice when that happens here in Iceland but when you have a room full of people in a country that you have never been to singing their lungs out with our songs, that is a pretty surreal experience.
  • What are your expectations of the United States?  Are there places you want to see?  Foods you want to eat?  Etc.
    We are going on tour in March and we are so excited for all the places we are going to visit. Seattle and Philadelphia have been very kind to us and we are excited to be able to play for the people there. I think LA and Texas will be great too. I'm looking forward to seeing all the different landscape, I've heard it varies a lot so, like, driving through a desert will be cool. As with food, I think we'll at least try to avoid all the millions of McDonald's that we will pass. That might be our biggest challenge.
  • What is the most common misconception people have about Iceland?  What will you miss most about Iceland when you're on tour?
    I think one of the biggest misconception that I get asked about a lot is that in Iceland there is only music like Sigur Rós and Björk. Some people are surprised that music like ours would come out of Iceland. We have a very diverse music scene. We have a strong metal scene, a strong electro scene and everything in between. We will definitely miss our friends and family the most while we are on tour.
  • What do you most look forward to in 2012?
    I'm looking forward to releasing our album to the world and for touring. I'm excited to have my Dad come to our first show. He lives in Canada and hasn't gotten a chance to see us live but I still think he is our biggest fan! 
  • If you were on a desert island with one piece of music, one book and one film what would you choose?
    Speaking for myself, my new favorite album is Metals by Feist. I'd bring that one along, the book would be The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It's such an insane and surreal world and I'm very fascinated by it. A movie? I'd choose the Lord Of The Rings trilogy 'cause it's good and really long so the chances of getting sick of it are a bit less, or is naming a trilogy cheating?
  • Feist - The Bad in Each Other video via YouTube
  • Did you ever have non-musical jobs or have you been playing music for most of your lives?
    We all had non-musical jobs. Between us we have had jobs like plumber, video store clerk, airport security, meat packing, kindergarten teacher, sewage cleaner, music teacher, cemetery groundskeeper just to name a few. Many of us played music on the side for a long time but being able to only do that is a very new and fun reality for us, we used to just play for beers. 
  • Using the band as a family metaphor, what roles do each of you play?  Who are the bratty children?  Who are the responsible parent types?
    This is a hard one :)

    Kiddi is most definitely the Dad, just because he worries and is ALWAYS fixing something! He likes to think about stuff like finance and stuff that the rest don't find appealing but that's a perfect thing. It's probably easy to list me as the Mom, as I'm the only girl in the group. Brynjar would be the baby, he's the youngest and he's got the baby face. Raggi is the 5 year old with too much energy for his own body. Arnar is the bratty teenager and Árni is the really pissed-off Grandpa, who complains about how the young people don't eat traditional Icelandic food anymore and then passes out drunk. 
  • If you could collaborate with any artist from any time period, who would you choose and what would you work on?
    This would be different for all of us because we like a lot of different things. Off the top of my head, we would debate amongst us if we should work with Alex Turner, Ray Charles, Justin Vernon, Tom Waits or we could form a super group! 

Alex Turner - Hiding Tonight via YouTube

So, there you have it folks. Keep your eyes on the usual resources to catch Of Monsters and Men at SXSW, they're going to be a hot ticket so don't show up 5 minutes before their set and expect to waltz in the venue without worries. In other words, PLAN AHEAD!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Princeton

Los Angeles-based indie-pop band Princeton make music, which is nothing short of adorable. Their sound is twee, precious and clever with simple, catchy melodies that you'll be humming days after hearing. Their debut LP was released in 2009 and they toured extensively to support it with other, higher-profile indie-pop acts like Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot.

This year's trip to SXSW is to support their sophomore album, Rememberance of Things to Come, which will be released on February 21st. Since their first album was released, Princeton have released a series of singles including To the Alps/The Electrician, and Florida. The song The Electrician features another Bloggy-favorite artist Active Child. You can listen to all of these singles now on Spotify and find lots of other songs and remixes on Soundcloud. Also, if you pre-order the upcoming LP from Princeton on vinyl you'll receive the 7" for To the Alps as part of your order and of course the digital download codes will also be included. It costs $20 in total to order these things and have them shipped to Austin.

Princeton - To the Alps video via YouTube

At SXSW, I'd expect to find Princeton at showcases hosted by Solid Gold and/or Hit City U.S.A.. I'm not sure if one or both of these entities will be hosting official showcases but I would expect at least one them is. Since Princeton is based in L.A. you might also find them at some day-parties hosted by other Los Angeleans. Keep an eye on the official SXSW music page for official listings and Show List Austin or Do512 for all unofficial festivities.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Ava Luna

I had the chance to see, Brooklyn-based, Ava Luna perform on the Mohawk's inside stage about a week ago and they instantly because a band I wanted to highlight for SXSW 2012. Like most contemporary bands, their sound doesn't fit neatly into any one genre but you can hear influences of R&B, soul, indie-pop and some avant/experimental tendencies as well. They perform as a 6-piece, with 3 people doing vocal parts, often with crisp, clear harmonies reminiscent of The Dirty Projectors. One of the things I was most struck by at the Mohawk was how the band doesn't hide their vocals, there were no crazy effects on the mics and they weren't buried in the mix. Most of the songs are sexy, with driving beats, great bass-lines and sensuous vocal parts. The lyrics can be quirky but I think it really works for their sound and shows off the band's personality. They have a series of singles and EPs out right now but still no full length LP.

Ava Luna - Clips video via YouTube

As I mentioned yesterday, the problem with starting these preview posts so early is it makes it difficult to tell you when and where to check out the bands I'm highlighting. So, I'm leaving it up to you to check the official SXSW site as well as, Show List Austin, and/or Do512. In the meantime, you can check out Ava Luna on Spotify, or if you're not down with Spotify I've embedded several of their songs, including their latest single Wrening Day, from Bandcamp.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

SXSW 2012 Preview: Hospitality

I know there are several weeks to go but with the volume of bands playing SXSW, I'm starting my highlights now. The first band I want you to keep an eye on for SXSW 2012 is Hospitality. This Brooklyn-based, indie-pop trio released their debut LP on Merge Records last week but you can also listen to it on Spotify. It features almost child-like female vocals that I find really endearing with pleasant melodies and a jangliness that I always adore. The album, as a whole, is roughly 30 minutes of pop perfection. An excellent soundtrack to a lazy afternoon in the sun or a pleasant Mimosa morning. I expect the live experience to be a guitar-fueled sugar-rush and I can't wait.

Hospitality - Friends of Friends video via YouTube

The problem with doing these preview posts so early is, as of the moment I'm writing this the official schedule isn't out yet. Also, most of the parties have not been announced so I can't really tell you when and where to catch Hospitality at SXSW 2012. I can tell you that typically the Merge Records showcase happens at the Parish on Thursday or Friday night so, keep an eye out for that. For the possibility of catching Hospitality at an unofficial event just scour Show List Austin, Do512 or SXShhh.

In the meantime, you should pick up Hospitality's debut or at least give it a few spins on Spotify. Mr. S. and I listened to it so much during its preview on Spotify that when it came out we just picked it up on vinyl. If that's your preferred method, and you're in Austin don't forget End of an Ear gives 10% off if you have a Go Local card.

For the record, the above track is from Hospitality's debut EP, not the self-titled LP.

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