Andrew Bird – The Fake Headlines (The New Pornographers Cover)

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If you have ever been to an Andrew Bird concert, you have definitely been blown away by his incredible musicianship and his use of looping technology to create the illusion of a one-man orchestra. The highlights tend to be long, complex instrumentals like “You Woke Me Up!” or sing-along anthems such as “Plasticities” or “Fake Palindromes.” 

Unfortunately, Andrew Bird’s folkier side tends to be forgotten by most. The last few years, however, have seen the Chicago musician favor this acoustic, more old-timey side with songs like “Lusitania” with Annie Clark from St. Vincent off of 2011’s top notch Break It Yourself and a reworked version of “Orpheo” on the aforementioned record’s companion album, Hands of Glory. While Bird’s obsession with early country singers has led him to write more simplistic guitar songs, much of his focus has been with faithfully covering classic songs, including “It’s Not Easy Being Green” and various Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt tracks.

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Kalle Mattson – An American Dream

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You might not expect a song called “An American Dream” to come out of Ottawa, but the explosive fanfare and bombast packed into this first track on Kalle Mattson’s new record is fit for any red, white and blue toting folk/rock outfit south of Ontario. Mattson’s homely vocals are filled with sweetness and longing as he intersperses quiet moments with just him, a guitar and a drum beat with horns and crashing cymbals. The track is big and celebratory, the type of song that would bring the house down played live as an encore. Stream it below.

Kalle Mattson’s record Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold dropped yesterday on Parliament of Trees.

STREAM: Kalle Mattson – “An American Dream”

Farao — To Sleep Apart

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Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to keep all the parts of your dinner separate on your plate? Potatoes must not touch peas must not touch chicken. Then one day, your idiot sister reached over and ruined your precious food silos. You were devastated, but you had to eat your dinner, so you did. And then you thanked your idiot sister because it ended up tasting pretty delicious.

That’s what it’s like to listen to Farao‘s “To Sleep Apart.” At first, the song is folky — organic, even. It’s a haunting blend of vocals and guitar that brings the Norwegian-born songstress’ lyrics to the fore, and in its simplicity, it’s stunning. But then something strange happens — the metaphorical mixing of everything on the dinner plate. The song meets an opposite genre as it turns electronic, with droning synths entering and paving the way for the bridge. In that epic moment, Farao’s voice combines with sounds that loop and swirl in an unfamiliar but pleasant chaos. The blending of opposites may sound like a bad idea, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Stream “To Sleep Apart” below.

STREAM: Farao — “To Sleep Apart”

Run River North – Fight To Keep

I’m a sucker for good alt-folk. I’m also a sucker for sweet vocals and vocal harmonies. I’m also a sucker for camping. So the video for “Fight To Keep”, from Los Angeles six-piece Run River North, seems practically custom made for me. The song opens with soft acoustic guitar strumming under singing (very M. Ward-esque) as the band enthusiastically welcomes friend Diedrich Bader and they set off on their trip to the woods. The road tripping and campfiring lead to all the laughs you’d expect, but as the song kicks into gear with light snares and cymbal crashes, we learn that it turns out the band is a big group of cannibals. And that Bader is what’s for dinner.

For the last three minutes of the video it’s a struggle to determine what’s more entertaining: Bader trying to escape from the murderous group trying to eat him or the toe-tapping rhythms and lo-fi guitar riffs soundtracking his escapades. Does he get away? Or does the band get that long pig they’ve been jonesing for? Watch the video above and see for yourself.

“Fight To Keep” will be on the Run River North’s self-titled debut album, out February 25th on Nettwerk.

STREAM: Run River North – “Fight To Keep”

James Vincent McMorrow – Gold

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James Vincent McMorrow‘s first effort, Early in the Morning, came after six months of isolation in an Irish beach house. The album reflected the minimal production and authenticity of a man wrestling with his thoughts. Its most memorable song From The Woods!!” exemplified his ability to accelerate from a standstill to fevered pitch in heart-racing fashion.

This month he’s releasing his second album, Post Tropical. If the first single, “Cavalier,” was a reminder of his gorgeous, whispered voice, then his second, “Gold,” is a forceful example of his musical prowess. Piecing together varied instruments to make a full-fledged opus, “Gold” soars on a gust of horns, strings and, of course, his voice. Comparisons to Bon Iver are inevitable, but they don’t do justice to the unique spin this Irishman has on songwriting. It’s intercontinental and probably the reason that it feels so transcendent. Stream it below.

STREAM: James Vincent McMorrow – “Gold”

Angel Olsen – Hi-Five

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When it comes to songs about loneliness, it’s easy to fall headfirst into a pit of despair. Thankfully, there’s a newer cadre of songwriters who are here to add some more appeal to the sadness. Just like her Jagjaguwar label-mates Bon Iver and Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen uses her music to milk seemingly simple words for all they’re worth.

In “Hi-Five”, Olsen solves her own loneliness problem with her voice and music, resolving to find another person flying just as solo. At first, the song walks forward comfortably, and throughout, Olsen’s voice gains power and variety. In the high point that sources the song’s title, she sings, “Are you lonely too? Hi-five – so am I!” Rather than wallowing, Olsen is rejoicing, and we’re happy to be along for the ride.

Olsen’s new album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, is due out on Jagjaguwar on February 18th.

STREAM: Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”

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”

Introducing: Mapstone

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Mapstone serve up some fireside electronica with their debut track “Shelter.” Seems we’ve stumbled across this gem at just the right time; “Shelter’s” warm synths, homemade percussion and cozy Rogue Wave-style vocals are the perfect things to melt away Hercules‘ work.

There isn’t much online about these Welsh dreamweavers, so you can bet we’ll be glued to their Soundcloud until they release something new. In the meantime, get comfortable and stream “Shelter” below.

STREAM: Mapstone – “Shelter”

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”

Introducing: The Phoncurves

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Some voices are just meant to be together. Such is the case with the Phoncurves‘ Abbie Roberts and Naomi Burrell. The two ladies behind the Brisbane project sing with a harmony rivaled only by the Staves (and they have it down perfectly). On their latest single “Heartstrings,” Roberts and Burrell raise a nice but simple folk backing to immaculate status with those pipes of theirs. Listen for yourself below.

STREAM: The Phoncurves – “Heartstrings”