Real Estate – Behind That Locked Door (George Harrison Cover)

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Where George Harrison is lush, Real Estate is stripped down. While George Harrison channels the rolling hills of the English countryside, Real Estate mine the boredom of East Coast suburban cul-de-sacs. Yet, both Harrison and Real Estate possess a sort of sad but sweet disposition, a soft-spoken, understated intelligence. And it’s this central quality that makes their unique versions of guitar pop, new and old, so captivating.

I was quite thrilled to see a cover of George Harrison’s beautiful “Behind That Locked Door” pop up on my Soundcloud feed with Real Estate’s name attached. “Behind That Locked Door” was composed by Harrison as a song of encouragement for his friend Bob Dylan, who — at the time of the track’s release on Harrison’s epic All Things Must Pass — was struggling to overcome his camera-shy tendencies and get back in the limelight for another tour with The Band. This latest rendition is handled with care by a confident but reverential Real Estate. Stream below, and you’ll find the integrity of Harrison’s ukulele-meets-banjo, country-road-meets-island-breeze vibes fully intact.

STREAM: Real Estate – “Behind That Locked Door (George Harrison Cover)”

New Desert Blues – Christoph

First names are unique, even if thousands have the same. They represent something more than the person they identify. They conjure memories and visions that go beyond the moment. The Brits that make up New Desert Blues are taking this concept and using it to great effect. No, they are not the first to title their songs with forenames, but their strict adherence to using them on every song adds a realism to the stories they sing.

Adam/Zachary” was a two part opus plunging into the depths assumed lives and mistaken identity. In the case of Cristoph, NDB uses the old standby format of the live performance music video. Shot in black and white, the dark shadows and plethora of camera angles matches the moody feeling of a song about robbing diamonds and traveling at night. The song is just further proof that they have nailed the noir Americana genre. Give it a watch above.

STREAM: New Desert Blues – “Christoph”

New Desert Blues – Zachary

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New Desert Blues are finally getting the recognition they deserve. It feels like ages ago that we first premiered their debut single “Thom.” Two years later and Zane Lowe is revealing their latest track “Zachary” as Next Hype on BBC Radio 1. “Zachary” is another taste of the South Coast five-piece’s nu-wild-west sound (now self-dubbed “noir americana”), a chilling mix of indie rock, folk and red-blooded country. Although unlike their previous work, there’s something hopeful — and dare we say poppy — about this one. Nothing wrong with that though; even the bleakest cowboy stories have their bright spots. Give “Zachary” a listen below.

STREAM: New Desert Blues – “Zachary”

Bhi Bhiman – Guttersnipe

On today’s internet, anything that wasn’t posted in the last 15 seconds is already old. The upside is that so much wonderful stuff gets left behind. Here’s something from 2012 (really old) I recently rediscovered on a great website called Sleepover Shows. It’s a video of Bhi Bhiman, singer-songwriter currently based out of San Francisco, performing “Guttersnipe,” off his self-titled sophomore record Bhiman, released by Tummy Touch Records. The son of Sri Lankan immigrants, Bhiman grew up playing baseball and splashing in local watering holes outside St. Louis; and like his childhood, Bhiman’s deep-throated gospel of a voice is All American.

“Guttersnipe” is a term for a wandering, ill-mannered street child–the sort of soot-covered character you’d expect to find in Charles Dickens’ stories. And that’s exactly what the song is about. Bhiman’s words, playful and seductive, yet tragic, poignantly romanticize the vagabond existence. “A buzzard riding the rails, I steal my meals, when all else fails,” he belts. As a pitiful, impoverished writer, as I listen to the song, I imagine Bhiman might be singing about me. But while I’ve got empty pockets, I’m too much of a wuss to illegally hitch cross-state train rides, much less steal food. Sigh.

Have a listen to “Guttersnipe” above, and check out Bhiman’s lovely Talking Heads cover below.

STREAM: Bhi Bhiman – “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”

Introducing: Mountain Animation

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In the lore of New York City public transportation the G train has a less than stellar reputation. Though its stations are full-sized the train itself only sports half the normal amount of cars so folks will often find themselves running to catch a train they were on time for. Further, since it doesn’t serve Manhattan (only the upstarts Brooklyn and Queens) it tends to have lower ridership, resulting in longer wait times.

Sometimes, however, that time between trains is a blessing rather than a curse. Sometimes barely missing a train and having to stand at the station for the full interval is the best thing that could happen to a tired commuter trying to get home. Sometimes, the soothing sounds of a subway busker are just that damned good enough to travel the full length of the platform and pierce right through a heavy, clunky pair of over-ear headphones. Sometimes while waiting for the G train you’re lucky enough to catch the sounds of Mountain Animation straddling the subway tracks with Scott Murphy’s sweet violin on the Queens-bound side tossing notes across to Zach Orion’s intricate, frenetic banjo on the Brooklyn-bound side.

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John Mark Nelson – The Moon And The Stars

John Mark Nelson‘s “The Moon And The Stars” drifts between folk styles separated by miles and miles of ocean, and so the nautically themed video seems all too fitting. It’s a bit of a departure from his smoother, sweeping, Andrew Bird-esque 2012 full length Waiting And Waiting, as the tinny melodies played from accordion and marxophone paint images of European peasantry while rhythms lying under the vocals and picked from the standup bass recall the best of Americana. Nelson deftly sails between both, then quickly melds the influences together to form a kind of super-folk conjuring images of pierogi-eating cowboys and cattle-rustling gypsies. It’s a workman’s song, straightforward and solemn, straight from the wintry decks and cabins of a cargo ship.

Stream John Mark Nelson’s “The Moon And The Stars” below, or pick up the track on Bandcamp for a price of your choosing.

STREAM: John Mark Nelson – “The Moon And The Stars”

Neko Case – Man (Ft. M. Ward)

Indie rock journeypeople of various acclaimed ensembles, projects and collaborations? Check. Love of folk fundamentals but an even greater love of blowing up those fundamentals and pushing stylistic envelopes? Check. Purveyors of nu-Americana (Numericana?) committed to genre pluralism and deconstruction of — don’t fall asleep on me, this is going somewhere! Neko Case and M. Ward, the hardest-working alt-country crooners in show business have been teaming up since Ward’s 2006 album Post War. It makes a lot of sense given their career parallels and stylistic similarities, namely their proven willingness to make any kind of music under the sun, so long as it’s good.

Enter “Man,” which could be the soundtrack to a road trip from college radio-era Athens to Riot Grrl-era Seattle. Crunchy guitar riffs and blistering drum fills are the coins of this realm. Case’s vocals, accustomed to driving, take a backseat. The gender bending directness of the lyricism is very punk, if the smooth production belies a reluctance to go all the way down the rabbit hole. But who cares, Case seems to be saying – “Man” isn’t just a subversion of the gender binary, but stylistic pigeonholing too. Case is no Kathleen Hanna, and she’s well aware, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

INTRODUCING: Roadkill Ghost Choir

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Roadkill Ghost Choir hails from DeLand, Florida, which may be why it took us so long to get turned on to them. But despite their small town roots, these guys have a tremendous sound suitably described as indie-American, fitting somewhere in between Fleet Foxes and Trampled by Turtles. “Beggars Guild,” the first track off of their Quiet Light EP, is illustrative of this home cooked style. Chock full of banjo and even a little brass, “Beggars Guild” is a true toe tapper. Stream it below.

STREAM: Roadkill Ghost Choir – “Beggars Guild “

Cass McCombs – Three Men Sitting On A Hollow Log

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Cass McCombs is a self-proclaimed vagabond. Originally from California, Cass spent many of his formative years honing his song writing skills on the East Coast and couch surfing the greater United States. His extensive travels likely account for his eclectic style of song writing, which is apparent in his latest song “Three Men Sitting On A Hollow Log.” A departure from the punk and rock genres which he traditionally occupies, this track embodies Deep South folksiness and brings to mind simpler times. Stream it below.

STREAM: Cass McCombs – “Three Men Sitting On A Hollow Log” 

New Desert Blues – Adam

New Desert Blues continue to win the West with their video for “Adam.” The piece fits the band’s bleak alt-folk just nicely, featuring a man suffering from a fatal case of mistaken identity in the middle of the desert. Watch it above and study up on these UK up-and-comers.

STREAM: New Desert Blues – “Adam”