The Music Guide to True Detective

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So if you’re like me you’ve spent the last seven Sunday nights prone in front of your television, biting your nails, sweating, watching one of the best whodunit crime shows of our generation: True Detective. The show, whose conclusion airs this Sunday night at 9 p.m. on HBO, tells the story of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, two detective who are trying to answer the pesky question of who keeps killing all these women and children in rural Louisiana.

An underrated aspect of this show, in my opinion anyway, is the music. True Detective doesn’t smack you over the head with its soundtrack — other than its haunting, rootsy opening credits music, odds are you can’t remember a single song from this show.

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Premiere: John Mark Nelson – Truly, You Are

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As the first acoustic lo-fi bars of “Truly, You Are” play, you almost expect to hear the voice of Leslie Feist come in over top of the easily strummed rhythm. Instead of her smoky, shaking vocals, however, we’re treated to the smooth, silky tones of Minnesota’s John Mark Nelson. The track that unfolds is a simple one, yet engaging, of the kind you’d expect to hear streaming out of an art-deco radio on a sunny summer morning during the opening credits of a movie about the 50s. It’s a sound that’s both fresh, nostalgic and, despite my oddly specific description just now, timeless. When fellow Minnesotan Kara Laudon‘s wispy warble chimes in alongside soft organ tones, the results are sweet harmonies, smiles and hugs…and cotton candy…and rainbows.

The track appears on the first global compilation from Sofar Sounds, which is available now on iTunes and Spotify and will be released on vinyl March 2nd.

STREAM: John Mark Nelson – “Truly, You Are” [PREMIERE]

Introducing: Toui Manikhouth

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Singer-songwriter Toui Manikhouth is an artist whose sound is as bare and sparse as his web-presence. Online he is a ghost with naught more than a Bandcamp and Soundcloud page for search results, and recorded his sound is a combination of low whispers and the soft picking of an acoustic guitar. In pitch and cadence his vocals strongly recall the heartweary opining of Elliott Smith, though there are moments on his This Service EP that sound far more hopeful than most of Smith’s catalog.

The three tracks — streaming below, and available on Bandcamp for any price you choose — were carved out in his home in Ontario, Canada and reflect different facets of one melancholy gem. The tired longing of the title track leads into the morose, plaintive crooning on “Other Ones,” and these two contrast with the serene, contented exhaustion of “Flowers for Zara.” With work this touching, here’s to hoping the artist doesn’t remain so anonymous for long.

STREAM: Toui Manikhouth – This Service EP

Bibio – Down To The Sound

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English producer Bibio has cut his teeth on experimental compositions that tend towards the electronic. With “Down To The Sound,” he shows his proclivity for acoustic work as well. Make no mistake, the complexity is still present as the guitars layer and swirl in alternating staccato. Wilkinson sings a gentle melody over the strums that is at once calming and sad. This track is atmospheric and moody, but its emotional weight isn’t overwhelming. Bibio demonstrates his versatility with this lovely short piece, proving that he is just as adept at small statements as he is at grand ones.

Check out the song below and look for The Green EP, out January 27th.

STREAM: Bibio – “Down To The Sound”

Introducing: Po

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If you’re looking for a laidback tune to get you through the week, we suggest giving Pô’s “Shelter” a spin. The Parisian solo artist’s latest track comes hot off the release of his debut Back Home EP. “Shelter” is as minimal as they come, sporting only acoustic guitar, sparse percussion and Pô’s soothing vocals. Hit play, close your eyes and relax for the next four minutes.

STREAM: Pô – “Shelter”

Motion City Soundtrack – Left & Leaving (The Weakerthans Cover)

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In need of some nostalgia today? Then hit play on Motion City Soundtrack‘s cover of the Weakerthans’ “Left & Leaving.” As you can probably guess from the post title, this acoustic take on the Canadian indie-rock legends’ classic track is a wet dream for anybody who lived during the emo/punk years of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

The cover appears on Fadeaway Records’ upcoming compilation, FRIENDS. The collection features an arsenal of tracks, both new and old, originals and covers (tracklisting here). If anything about this MCS cover makes your heart flutter, then you’re going to want to give FRIENDS a run through when it comes out February. Until then, stream Motion City Soundtrack’s take on “Left & Leaving” below.

STREAM: Motion City Soundtrack – “Left & Leaving (The Weakerthans Cover)”

Premiere: Armon Jay – Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed

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In folk music, storytelling is half the battle. Lucky for Armon Jay, he’s got that down pat. The Nashville singer-songwriter is gearing up for the release of Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed, an album which represents, in his words, a two-year journey from “desolation to consolation.” No song better sums up Armon’s style than the LP’s title track, which we’re giving you a first listen to below. Fans of Bright Eyes and Ryan Adams will feel right at home with this one.

Armon Jay’s Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed comes out January 21st.

STREAM: Armon Jay – “Everything’s Different, Nothing’s Changed”

#TBT: Fossil Collective – Do You Realize?? (Flaming Lips Cover)

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This Throwback Thursday we bring you a cover of the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??,” masterfully arranged by Leeds-based duo Fossil Collective. The song is off the Lips’ 2002 album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and is probably their most famous song, having been featured on 3,430,287 breakup/I love you mixes over the years. Interestingly enough, the song was written by lead singer Wayne Coyne as he witnessed his drummer, Steven Drozd, battle withdrawal from a heroin addiction.

Fossil Collective’s rendition of the tune is very stripped-down compared to the original, replacing the climactic crescendos with relaxed, harmonious acoustic guitar. Give it a stream below.

DOWNLOAD: Fossil Collective – “Do You Realize?? (Flaming Lips Cover)”

Ty Segall – The Man Man

At the risk of jumping the gun, I’m going to admit that my favorite album of 2013 so far is Ty Segall‘s Sleeper. The LP represents a stylistic break from the noisy psych rock in which Segall’s been so prolific, and is a concise record of imaginative acoustic songs about death, nightmares and break-ups.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a music video from Sleeper for the past few months. I guess he was busy touring the country and recording another full-length album with his band Fuzz, but pshhh. That’s taking it easy for Ty Segall. The video has finally arrived in “The Man Man,” the eerie tale of a guy just trying to get his groceries home on a dark Los Angeles night. It’s half-nightmare and half comic book, with a dash of ’70s action thrown in. Watch it above.

Sufjan Stevens – It’s A Long Life Live Jam

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Sufjan Stevens has never been particularly concerned with expectations: twenty-five minute songs, Christmas albums, fifty-states projects forever left incomplete and so on. On 2010′s Age of Adz, he was at perhaps his most subversive and experimental, injecting orchestras and electronic loops into his indie folk. No track seemed to capture his varied tendencies more than mammoth closer “Impossible Soul,” which was not restricted by structure or arrangement or genre in going from celebratory folk to robotic drone to orchestral bombast and back again. This previously unreleased live demo version covers only the middle section of that song’s good vibes as Stevens assures us that “It’s a long life” with joyous choral outbursts over meandering instrumentation. The soft piano that opens the track meets us again at the end, is that a metaphor for life? Maybe, but Sufjan’s not saying, and that’s okay, because we never expected him to. Give the demo a listen below.

STREAM: Sufjan Stevens – “It’s A Long Life Live Jam”