Sylvan Esso — Hey Mami

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A delicate song like a set of nesting dolls, Sylvan Esso’s “Hey Mami” opens bare-bones with gently layered vocals, piling on claps, bells and finally some hazy electronics. It’s a subtly genius track about a girl getting cat-called, the kind of song that turns “Blurred Lines” on its head with little to-do, with fragility turned strength. Listen closely, turn it up, repeat, wear it like armor.

Sylvan Esso is the collaboration of Mountain Man singer Amelia Meath and Megafaun bassist/producer Nick Sanborn. The duo only has two tracks out at the moment, but are touring the eastern seaboard through December. If you made the mistake of missing their show at Black Cat last night, try to chase them down in Philly on Friday, and while making travel plans stream “Hey Mami” below.

 STREAM: Sylvan Esso — “Hey Mami”

#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)”

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”

Kevin Morby – Slow Train (Ft. Cate Le Bon)

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You may have heard of Kevin Morby before. He has, after all, made a name for himself as both the singer/guitarist for the Brooklyn band The Babies and bassist for Woods. Recently, however, the Kansas City Native announced the release of his debut solo LP, Harlem River, an album he has dubbed as an homage to NYC, the greatest city in all the land.

Harlem River’s first single, “Slow Train,” is a smooth folk track layered with serene strings, a delicate high-hat and a slight reverb. The last verse of the song is rounded out with a perfectly harmonized assist from emotive Welsh singer Cate Le Bon. Together these two artists turn “Slow Train” into one of the most relaxing tracks we’ve heard in a while. I don’t hate the idea of hopping on the A train, putting in my ear buds and listening to Morby all the way from 207th St to Far Rockaway. Neither should you. Stream “Slow Train” below.

STREAM: Kevin Morby – “Slow Train (Ft. Cate Le Bon)”

Introducing: Carnivore Club

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The first thing you must know about Carnivore Club is that it shares its name with a Canadian meat subscription company. You must know this to be sure you’re seeking out the band, a solo project from Judas And The Winehearts’ singer/guitarist Arend Bruchwitz. His folk-infused pop music calls to mind the zeitgeisty indie bands of my college years, when Animal Collective, Arcade Fire and Andrew Bird were at their most exciting.

Carnivore Club’s self-titled debut EP can be found on Bandcamp and iTunes, and is surely as good an investment as a monthly subscription of rare meats. Stream it now below.

Ricky Lewis – Clay Baby

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A plucked bass note on an acoustic guitar is an underrated thing. That’s how Ricky Lewis‘ spare, haunting “Clay Baby” begins, and as the song builds, he adds slowly to that simple beginning–a strum of the guitar, a plinking bit of piano, and then, eventually, his own voice.

Lewis is a folk singer from New England, and the song, which is off Lewis’ Serious Mistress EP, sounds like it should be performed in a dusty barn in western Massachusetts.

It’s a song about breaking out of ruts. The rut of a shitty job, of being hung up on a girl, of getting stuck in bad habits.

“Break the pattern, you know” he sings, “of coming back for you.”

When the slide guitar rings out in the chorus as Lewis goes falsetto, you pause. Later, an otherworldly drone rings out in the background, making the whole thing briefly abstract and unfamiliar. There aren’t too many components to this song, but every one makes sense.

STREAM: Ricky Lewis – “Clay Baby”

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”

#TBT: Trampled By Turtles – Where Is My Mind (Pixies Cover)

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As we anxiously await the weekend, we welcome yet another Throwback Thursday. Today we are featuring Trampled by Turtles’ cover of Pixies’ iconic “Where Is My Mind?”. The first rule in Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club, but can we take a second to appreciate the ending to that movie. This song perfectly encapsulated that moment when the entire financial system was collapsing, but everything felt just fine. That was my introduction to this song, and I definitely replayed the credits several times just to hear this song before I had to return it to Blockbuster.

This is by far the Pixies’ most popular single, and was on their debut album Surfer Rosa in 1988. Apparently the song was inspired by Black Francis’ adventures while scuba diving in the Caribbean and as all the fish hid from him, one little fish just continued to follow him. I love this Trampled by Turtles’ cover because it takes their unique blend of bluegrass and folk and applies it to a song that originally felt so melancholy and ominous, giving it a more vibrant, camp fire-like feel. Stream it below.

STREAM: Trampled By Turtles – “Where Is My Mind (Pixies Cover)”

Maria Taylor – Something About Knowing

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Since her early days with Azure Ray, Maria Taylor has been delivering some of the most beautiful folk-tinged, effect-laden balladeering around. That hasn’t changed on her latest solo record, Something About Knowing, but she’s also stretching into territories we haven’t heard from her before. She’s still sporting those soft, delicate, echoing vocals, but the songs on this record tend to be quirkier with stronger rhythms. We hear a range from her here as she tries on styles and sounds that aren’t strongly present in her earlier work, though she does still return to the full, blanketing, atmospheric vibe she’s favored in the past.

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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”