Sufjan Stevens upcoming album Silver & Gold has a free single entitled Christmas Unicorn

Sufjan Stevens has a new Christmas/Holiday album coming out this November. It is called Silver & Gold and will have a total of fifty eight songs.  If you head over to his streaming page you can download the last track from the compilation for free in high quality digital format.  Appropriately it’s entitled Christmas Unicorn and it sprawls for a full 12+ minutes.  I would expect nothing less from Sufjan at this point.  Take a listen below and then head over to his page to preorder the digital version or the vinyl limited edition if you have money to spare.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Christmas Unicorn

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Cloud Cult

I attended a wedding a few weeks ago where I made a promise to write, once again, about one of the greatest bands that you’ve probably never listened to.  This band is Cloud Cult and they don’t get nearly the amount of attention, money, or acclaim that they deserve.  Part of this general malaise most likely stems from the fact that they self publish their albums on Earthology Records which was founded by lead singer Craig Minowa in 1997.  Although college radio stations and critics seem to find much to like about this group from Minneapolis more often than not people I have the privilege of meeting in person invariably have never heard of them.

My love for Cloud Cult began while I was living overseas and was mailed mix albums by an old college friend.  One such album contained the track Pretty Voice from their 2007 album The Meaning of 8 (amazon) (itunes).  Instantaneously I was hooked.  The layered vocals, the slow build, and the energy and narrative in this one song seemed to be tailor made to make me pay attention.  The Meaning of 8 has a haunting quality smothered in beauty, discovery, and joy that has proven to be timeless in appeal.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Pretty Voice

From there I took a small step back in time and I found the rougher, raw gemstone that is their 2005 release Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus (amazon) (itunes).  Although this album doesn’t have the melodies and polish of their later efforts the songwriting and energy are just as apparent this effort as those that were still to come.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Transistor Radio

At this point in my life it was still 2007 and I was already hooked deeply on anything I could find by Cloud Cult.  I was routinely putting them in compilations and featuring them on Best of the Year lists.  When their 2008 album was released, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea Partying Through Tornadoes) (amazon) (itunes) it seemed that their musical abilities had matured at the same pace as my musical taste.  This album is immaculate from start to finish and contains some wonderful lyrical vignettes.  I was also helped along during this time by being blessed with a live show that took place a mere 25 miles from my home at the time.  I was blown away during their set with the energy and personable nature with which the band took the stage.  And I was not prepared to watch two people paint, on stage, throughout the set.  If I could have afforded the post show auction for the artwork I most definitely would have walked home with a painting (the art auction profits helps finance their live tours).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – No One Said It Would Be Easy
mp3 : Cloud Cult – Journey of the Featherless

In 2010 the band released an EP entitled Running With the Wolves in which they proved that a group of modern musicians can take a masterful song from the likes of Bob Dylan and translate it enough that it becomes their own.  They still play this song live and it is wonderful to hear.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Tamborine Man (Bob Dylan Cover)

Their most recent studio album was released in autumn of 2010 (although they will have a new album out later this year).  Again Cloud Cult did not disappoint.  With the album Light Chasers (amazon) (itunes) the band creates a single narrative piece that is woven throughout all sixteen tracks.  Although some artists would label this a gimmick “concept album” or some other classification I think this album transcends that identity.  Yes there is a meta story going on throughout the album, but each track both furthers that narrative while presenting its own individual identity.  In the end you’re left with a great album that encourages a listener to enjoy the full experience of listening to all of the tracks from start to finish (an increasingly rare attempt in the day of digital single song downloads).

mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Lessons – Exploding People
mp3 : Cloud Cult – The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us

And just recently, as a bonus for those of us who check their website routinely (hoping they will play another show near our home) they posted a masterful cover of the Beatles.

mp3 : Cloud Cult – Help (Beatles Cover)

I still stand by my assertion that Cloud Cult is one of the greatest bands that you’ve never heard of.  They are under appreciated and undoubtedly underpaid.  It’s bands like this that inspire me to write again on this aging blog.  It’s bands like this that deserve to still be written about.

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Of Monsters and Men album My Head Is An Animal

If Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros teamed with Florence Welch and some of the boys from Mumford and Sons the outcome would probably sound a lot like My Head Is An Animal (amazon) (itunes).  Of Monsters and Men combine a lot of currently en vogue folk and indie musical stylings on their debut full length album and every single track is worth listening to.  They’re an eclectic group that somehow sounds very familiar (see above referenced bands + Arcade Fire and even 90’s Ska Revival).  I would go so far as to argue they’re the second best outfit coming out of Iceland.  Take a listen to a few tracks below and you’ll agree the entire album is worth a purchase.

mp3 : Of Monsters and Men – Dirty Paws
mp3 : Of Monsters and Men – Six Weeks

One of the most thoroughly entertaining debut albums I have heard in a long time.

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LCD Soundsystem track All My Friends

Awhile back I played this song during a road trip in mixed company.  In my opinion the song is an icon.  Much to my chagrin no one else in the vehicle had ever heard it before.  To add insult to injury none of my fellow travelers would admit to knowing who LCD Soundsystem was.  Either society in general has failed or I have failed my friends.  Complete and total failure.

mp3 : LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends

The song All My Friends hails from the second studio album from the band LCD Soundsystem.  The album is Sound of Silver (amazon) (itunes) and if you haven’t yet heard the entire album you need to rectify that immediately.  And if this is the first you’re listening to this great band I hate to break the bad news; they’ve already dissolved their band and played their final concert.

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Beach House album Bloom

It has been far too long since I last posted here.  Long story short; I bought a house, moved, and had knee surgery in the past six weeks.  Enough about me, time for the music.

The latest album from Beach House, Bloom (amazon) (itunes), picks up where Teen Dream left off.  Intoxicating, bordering on lackadaisical, lead vocals combine perfectly with well engineered melodies and hazy guitars and keyboards.  Although nothing this time around quite reaches the height of their brilliant track 10 Mile Stereo, the album as a whole is very well done.  If you’re looking for the perfect album on a drive to or from the beach (no pun intended) you need look no farther than Bloom.

mp3 : Beach House – Wild
mp3 : Beach House – Lazuli

I predict this album will make my best of list at the end of 2012 and it really deserves a full listen.  It’s simple, beautiful, layered music that is perfect for almost any occasion that involves hanging out.

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Zach Williams and the Bellow

If you have followed this blog over the past five years you have probably realized that I greatly enjoy the music created by Zach Williams.  You can see a collection of my posts about him here.  I remember that I randomly stumbled upon his music on myspace (yeah, remember that place?).  There was something captivating and honest about his voice.  Something earnest, honest, and at the risk of sounding cliche, something pure.

He’s gone through a lot in recent years.  He’s moved to New York.  He left his old band, found a new one.  And he successfully ran a kickstarter campaign to raise money for recording a new album.  The song below is ripped from a video update he provided for financial backers over on kickstarter.  Enjoy.  We all look forward to the album.

mp3 : Zach Williams and the Bellow – Teach Me To Know (Live)

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Gotye album Making Mirrors

Many of you have probably already listened to the latest album from Australian artist Gotye.  If you haven’t heard the entire album, Making Mirrors (amazon) (itunes), I encourage you to take a trip through each song.  Gotye is at his best when he’s creating new and unque sounds on tracks like Somebody That I Used To Know or Save Me.  Elsewhere on the album there are tracks, like I Feel Better or In Your Light, that feel like they’re paying homage to 80’s guitar pop or 60’s Motown.  He apes those sounds so well that if you close your eyes you could be convinced you’re listening to the jukebox at a throwback diner or the soundtrack to Three Men and a Baby.  Side note, Ted Danson is always great.

mp3 : Gotye – Eyes Wide Open
mp3 : Gotye – Save Me

The entire album is great and it spins effortlessly back and forth between various and obvious influences.  I can’t believe it took me this long to really review this considering it’s been on regular rotation in my car for the past few months.

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Streetlight Manifesto covers The Postal Service

This weekend I stumbled upon a great cover of the staple Such Great Heights.  Their take on the classic song from The Postal Service is skewed heavily toward the ska genre and the opening thirty seconds are brilliantly rendered by their horn section.  Honestly my only gripe is that the horns take such a back seat throughout the remainder of the song.  Enjoy.

mp3 : Streetlight Manifesto – Such Great Heights (The Postal Service Cover)

You seriously need to listen to this track.  At least the first thirty seconds or so.  It’s still amazing me after repeat listening.

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Sigur Ros upcoming album Valtari

On May 28th of this year one of my all time favorite bands will release their long awaited studio album.  After basically dissolving, following their brilliant Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (amazon) (itunes) in 2008, it seems the Iceland boys have finally come back together.  Over on their website they are currently playing a song from the album which I assume is the second track from Valtari.  If the rest of the album is anything like this song we can all look forward to another sparse, atmospheric, and quietly brilliant album from Sigur Ros.

mp3 : Sigur Ros – Ekki Mukk

On their website Georg had this to say about the upcoming album “i really can’t remember why we started this record, i no longer know what we were trying to do back then. i do know session after session went pear-shaped, we lost focus and almost gave up…did give up for a while. but then something happened and form started to emerge, and now i can honestly say that it’s the only sigur rós record i have listened to for pleasure in my own house after we’ve finished it.”

Preorder the album on Amazon here.

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Fun album Some Nights

The latest album from Nate Ruess’ latest effort, Some Nights (amazon) (itunes), is very easy to summarize.  Just imagine if Freddie Mercury and Paul Simon had a baby that grew up in the eighties.  Then that baby mined their collective database of melodies, drum beats, and creative pop songwriting.  Oh, and at some point they became sublimely infatuated with musicals.  That would sum up this album.

mp3 : Fun – Some Nights
mp3 : Fun – All Alright

There are moments throughout the album that make it almost feel as if it was tailor made to be part of a larger stage musical.  A few songs actually break down into spoken word, almost everything is told from a first person narrative (with true chorus backup vocals), and it’s obvious Nate really misses his mom.  He talks about her on a few tracks.  It’s like this grown up Mercury/Simon lovechild went off to camp and decided to write an album.  Except that they’re all circling thirty.

What smacks most oddly throughout the entire album is just how well it all works.  It feels like a run away train wreck of an album that somehow caterwauls into a musical that you can listen to over and over again.  Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the hooks or the pure sugar rush of admitting pop isn’t dead.  Perhaps the band mines just enough from their aforementioned fathers to keep us interested and a bit nostalgic.  Perhaps it’s something else entirely.  At the end of the day this album is simple genuine fun and is worth a listen.

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