The label certain artists get when they are considered “The Next…” must be so complimentary and nerve-racking.  I don’t want to push any associations in your head with major talents and “if you’re a fan of…” because Ferraby Lionheart deserves to be listened to with open ears.  He was a songwriter when I first heard and read about him, but I wanted to just let him know he was his own artist.  I read a couple reviews that said he was donned the next Elliott Smith, but his songwriting stands on its own without being compared to a timeless artist of our generation.  I can hear Lionheart probably enjoys the recordings of Smith but he has his own voice and songs.  He possesses a great knack for catchy melodies, thought-provoking lyrics, and a sweet sense of tranquility.  I go back to this album quite a bit when I am in certain situations or moods.  It makes me relaxed and happy to be a musician myself.  I am not sure what Ferraby is doing currently, but I am excited for his next album and finally seeing him perform live.

For Fans Of: Elliott Smith, Townes Van Zandt, Simon Joyner, Ryan Adams, Fleet Foxes, J. Tillman, Destroyer, John Lennon

Standout Tracks: “Small Planet”, “Under the Texas Sky”

Buy

-Steve

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Many of us experience the certain phenomenon when an album can’t be listened to enough. It gets to the point you have to take it out of your CD player or move on in your Ipod before you get completely lost in it.  The Middle East made an amazing record in 2008 that was in and out of my CD player for a good 6 months.  That might be a common occurrence for some, but when you find yourself trying to discover new music on a daily basis, it kills your indie credentials.  This Australian band makes melancholy music with raw emotion, pretty use of instrumentation, and a knack to write songs easily singable but also sad and heartbreaking.  They use a great mix of vocal harmonies, interesting lyrics, and chants through choruses.  Another great album for the winter but also great for a drive with the windows down late in summer.  I am extremely excited for the future of this band and where the musical mixed bag they write from will take them.

For Fans Of: Seagull, Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, Minus Story, Destroyer, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, M. Ward

Standout Tracks: “The Darkest Side”, “Blood”

Buy

-Steve

The title of the new record by Rock Plaza Central says a lot about the album itself.  It is an epic journey full of music so creative and compelling, it makes me remember why artists are so intriguing. If you look at a painting, film, or anything artistic from the heart, you can look at it a thousand different ways and discover something new every time.  Singer and guitarist Chris Eaton has an amazing knack for writing lyrics like a novel and portraying them in a unique and amusing way.  I say to anyone checking out RPC for the first time to allow Eaton’s voice to grow on you like Destroyer, Joanna Newsom, or even Jeff Mangum and you will get the reason I find it so charming and haunting.  The album feels like a journey in which battles exist and travel is hard on everyone.  It has a loose narrative from Faulkner’s Light of August, but it doesn’t shine through too much in the music.  I just love the instrumentation and storytelling Eaton presents in front of us.  I would best describe this album as music for artists.  I myself as a musician feel this album hits home in many ways and I strongly believe RPC is one of the best indie rock bands out there today.  I was lucky enough to see them about 2 years ago and their live show is as amazing and energetic as all of their albums.

Standout Tracks: “(The World Is) Good Enough”, “(Don’t You Believe the Words Of) Handsome Men”

For Fans Of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Phosphorescent, Califone, Rural Alberta Advantage, O’Death, Ola Podrida, Mount Eerie (The Microphones)

Myspace / Buy

-Steve

Snowglobe

Snowglobe is a fantastic mix of pop, psych, and Americana out of Memphis, TN.  Reading their myspace, it seems like the band has been together for a while and gets some of its influence from the Elephant 6 Collective.  They started by playing shows in Athens, GA with the likes of Of Montreal and Olivia Tremor Control.  I would also say they must get a handful of ideas from bands like The Flaming Lips and The Byrds. This  7 song EP is a fun mix of folk-inspired indie pop.  I really liked this record from the first time I listened to it, and it gets a little better with each spin.

For Fans of: Elephant 6 Collective, Smog, Absentee, Starlight Mint

Standout Tracks: “Ms. June”, “Seems Like”

Buy

– Steve

National LightsThis album is one of my favorite “undiscovered” gems.  Filled with sweet and melancholy instrumentation and vocals with a concept that is not sweet at all.  This concept album about a girl being murdered somewhere in the midwest is beautiful and so easy to listen to.  I would suggest this album for anyone looking for something quick and easy to throw on and sing to.  It can also be for someone looking to dissect what is the true premise of  The National Lights’ conceptual idea.  I have listened to this album over 50 times, and every time I blare it I sing, sing, sing.  Great refrains, simple acoustic guitar, female harmonies, and simplicity working best.  I can’t say enough about this record, and hope The National Lights release something new soon to feed my hunger.

For Fans of: Elliott Smith, Ryan Adams, Death Cab For Cutie, Nick Drake

Standout Tracks: “Mess Around”
” Swimming in the Swamp”

From Last.Fm:

The National Lights is the primary song-writing project of Jacob Thomas Berns. Assisted by the arrangements Ernest Christian Kiehne Jr. (The Bland Allisons, Sonya Cotton), Jacob Thomas sets out on his full-length debut, The Dead Will Walk, Dear, to forgive the past while compounding its wrongs. Stirred by the fiction of the American Gothic, The Dead Will Walk, Dear roughly documents the passions, trials and regrets of a Midwestern murder.

Buy

-Steve

The Blue TreesOne of the very first bands to strike a chord with me not only musically but also emotionally was Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.  The Welsh band was like nothing else I had ever heard.  Songs would rotate between English and Welsh and the instrumentation was mesmerizing.  I started to judge my whole CD collection by Gorky’s.  I would turn a page and think to myself, “can this even be near my Gorky’s albums?” I ended up throwing away burnt CDs and actual albums based off of Gorky’s.  I remember the day I first heard this album, “The Blue Trees,”  I was on a road trip with some friends in college and most of them weren’t into indie music.  I threw on the album and instantly was asking everyone else in the car, “Isn’t this amazing?” I was blown away by the happiness and sunshine flowing through the speakers.  Most of their melodies leading up to this point had been behind a wall of slight distortion and this record was raw and inviting.  I still to this day throw this record on in the summer to make the sun shine a little brighter, or to break the gloom of winter when it has set in.  Beautiful melodies, pretty acoustic guitar and strings, whisper-sweet vocals,  great percussion, subtle bass, and catchy refrains fill this record to the brim.  Most people don’t necessarily know Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and it makes me extremely sad.  When bands like Belle & Sebastian, The Strokes, and others were blaring on indie radio, Gorky’s was playing half-full venues here in the states.  Wales always hailed them for their music, when we here across the ocean letting them get pushed under the rug.  Please listen to this record and enjoy the intimate moments with me.

Standout Tracks: “This Summer Has Been Good From the Start” “Fresher Than the Sweetness in Water”

‘What good is the sun if you haven’t got love” – “Lady Fair”

“Just as a light shines what’s up ahead, I heard it all in what you said, cause what you got is sweeter than water” – “Fresher Than the Sweetness in Water”

For Fans Of: Belle & Sebastian, Mojave 3, Nick Drake, Super Furry Animals, The Zombies

Buy

-Steve

Simon Joyner seems to be a forgotten soul.  He has been releasing quality albums for 16 years now and I guarantee if you asked a 100 people who he was, maybe 1 would have “heard” of him.  For many years now if I have a friend or co-worker who likes anything of Conor Oberst’s, I try to turn them on to Simon Joyner.  His vocal delivery is very similar, he is even slicker with his lyrics, and – oh by the way – he was in the Omaha scene first, influencing Oberst himself during those days.  Out In The Snow is Joyner’s 2009 album on Team Love Records.  I became so used to Simon just playing acoustic guitar and singing that when he finally released an album with a full band I was in shock.  This album is with a full band and sounds sonically gorgeous.  The recording is very good, especially for a Simon Joyner album, and he is still killing songwriting  like it was 1993.  The 8 tracks are a mix of fragility, love, anger, and moving on.  He uses a mix of slide guitar, strings, horns, and pretty organ to emphasize his layered acoustic guitar.  He also has some great female back-up vocals.  I would suggest this album to anyone who is focused on lyrics like I am.  Joyner’s voice can take some getting use to, but if you like anyone like Joanna Newsom, Destroyer, or even Bob Dylan you will find this album very gratifying.  This is a great album to enjoy while sitting by your fireplace, drinking some tea or coffee, and celebrating the winter months.

Standout tracks: “Ambulances” and “Last Evening on Earth”

“Your eyes are as deep as a bruise” – “Last Evening on Earth”

“It took years to break my heart to see what was inside” – “Sunday Morning Song for Sara”

For Fans of: Conor Oberst, Bob Dylan, Destroyer, David Dondero, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Joanna Newsom, Nick Drake

Buy

Steve

Six Organ Of Admittance’s Ben Chasny has had quite a prolific career, starting with his frequent, home-recorded output in the late 90’s to his numerous studio works in the latter half of the decade with Drag City. Often lumped in with the New Weird America movement, Six Organ’s acoustic-rooted psychedelia owes as much to self-professed influences such as Townes Van Zandt as 70’s psych rock and 90’s noise. if i had to sum this album up in one absurd phrase, i would say it’s like dropping acid on a boy scout camping trip after the troop leaders have fallen asleep.

Nautral Snow Buildings are Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte, and they specialize in an evocative brand of earthy, organic, folk-influenced ambient drone. both of these albums are absolutely massive in scope and detail, and i wouldn’t recommend them to anyone looking for a quick fix. but if you have the time to devote to these works, you’ll be vastly rewarded. excelling equally at half-hour drones and two minute folk tunes, Natural Snow Buildings bring a pastoral, reverent approach to their art. These are patient, ascetic, and achingly gorgeous compositions. here, i’ve included both their newest release, Shadow Kingdom, and their acclaimed 2006 double album The Dance Of The Moon And The Sun. Enjoy.

Shadow Kingdom (2009)

The Dance Of The Moon And The Sun (2006)


i’ve been coming back to this album over and over throughout the past couple of months, and every time i’m surprised with how engaging it remains. Luke Temple, a singer-songwriter who mostly dabbled in quaint and effective (if not particularly distinctive) acoustic indie before recording the Here We Go Magic album largely stream-of-conscious over the course of a few months in 2008.

while luke’s voice and songwriting still lies at the forefront, they are combined with a meditative repetition and hazy electronics that recalls late 70s German experimentalists like Popol Vuh. while this description admittedly sounds pretentious on paper, Temple’s music is anything but. his sweet, child-like vocals, simple lyrics, and penchant for melody will hook you quickly; it’s the immaculate layering and attention to sonic detail that will keep you coming back.

to me, the most refreshing thing about here we go magic is the effective utilization of the whole lo-fi aesthetic that’s sweeping the nation. instead of shouting obnoxious distorto-child vocals over a couple of chords and waiting for the reviews to roll in, temple takes a painstakingly detail-oriented approach and commits himself to the medium that best conveys the quiet restraint of his music.  his songs float in and out like those otherworldly thoughts that appear in your head in between waking and sleep. these glimpses often leave as they came, without any solid introduction or ending or even more than one repeating phrase, but as luke temple obviously knows, there can be great beauty in that which is fleeting.