Tag Archives: Fleet Foxes

Amanda Merdzan Redraws the Indie/Folk Map

12 Jun

Amanda Merdzan

When astronaut John Glenn orbited above Perth, Australia in 1962, people in the Western Australia capital city turned on all their lights so the city would become a sparkling lightbulb to the orbital viewer; Perth is aptly known as the “City of Light” because of this magnificent communal stunt.

Indie/Folk musician Amanda Merdzan is also from Perth, Australia. What do these two things have in common (despite the similarity of origin)? Merdzan, similar to her hometown, is a “city of light” for Indie/Folk music. Her music dazzles with a powerful edge that shines through her savvy vocals. While a troubadour with a sincere rawness to her tunes, Merdzan juxtaposes this denuded flavor with a striking maturity in her words and musicality. Put simply, Merdzan is a fluorescent light in an often lucifugous climate.

After the release of her debut album in 2010, Merdzan spent three months in the U.S. before going home in 2011 and gigging around Perth. She is now on the heels of her latest release, an EP called The Map Has Been Redrawn.

“Afraid” is the title track off of the 5-song EP. The song bounces with a Mumford and Sons rhythm at its entrance, combining Merdzan’s potent vocal with an excellent instrumental of echoed strings, plucked acoustic guitar, and heavy percussion. The inception of the piece latches on to the listener like a good book to an eager reader; once it pulls you in you cannot stop exploring the created world. And it is quite a world – one full of imagery-inducing harmonies and musical precision. Seriously, the song does not have a flaw.

This live acoustic version of “Each Day Like the First” (the 4th song on the EP) exposes the tenderness of Merdzan’s voice. The song flows with the subtle authority of Fleet Foxes or Tallest Man on Earth. While pastoral, the persistent rhythm maintains an urban quality – a contradiction that works well to create the wonderful aura that encompasses all of Merdzan’s songs.

Follow Merdzan on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

A Window to Honduras – San Pedro Sula Sessions

1 Aug

What happens when you combine Americana beats with troubadour inclinations, take the intriguing combination to the warm, mountainous highlands of Honduras, and base lyrics off of historical narratives that you just happen to be teaching to children in the country. Well, much in line with the album cover above, you get this odd mixture of brush strokes and colors that form a piece of artwork, both delicate and brusque, almost Hemingway-esque.

The Blind Window is led by multi-instrumentalist Brian Katz, a semi-finalist in the 2011 International Songwriting Competition, who created this blend of inspired music while working as a history teacher in Honduras from 2010-2012. In his surroundings, he found enough isolation to devote time to developing his craft. In his subject, he found ideas that he molded into songs of pain, expired youth, and loss.

His music is endearing. It mixes the midwestern Americana branded by Tom Petty and Neil Young with modern Dylan-inspired folk created by bands like Fleet Foxes.

San Pedro Sula Sessions is The Blind Window’s first EP. Released in mid-July, the album is being toured in the Toronto area. I want to target two tracks that I think you all will like, both of which (like the entire EP) are available for free download at The Blind Window’s Bandcamp.

In order to understand the lyric of “William Walker” it is first important to understand who Mr. Walker was. Let me brush up a bit on my history, and, Mr. Katz may need to help me a bit. Walker was a filibuster (idea of conquering Latin American land and creating new slave states to join the Union) who became president of the Republic of Nicaragua in the mid-19th century. He ruled until he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies, and was executed by Honduras in 1860. Ah, so now the lyric, “Shot at the firing wall by Honduran guns,” makes sense. The song’s introduction combines a staccato acoustic rhythm with synth. It would be a disservice to just say it’s Indie. I catch a noticeable scent of modern Mountain Goats. The band layers elements before the vocals begin.

Katz’s vocal is certainly Neil Young-like. His voice can get up there and it rises in the verse skillfully and melodically. I absolutely love this crescendo. He possesses a vocal talent much like some of the better folk artists, and this elevates the music to an excellent level.

Now, with William Walker’s history in your mind, read the lyrics of the piece. In a small frame, Katz speaks on Walker’s last days, reminiscent and nostalgic. And, there are gem-lines like, “When I am freed, from this penitentiary, I will reach, my divine finality.”

“Lost Between the Lines,” begins with soft ahs much like Iron and Wine’s “God Made the Automobile.” This continues and rises over a guitar riff until it fades into a perfect harmonica. Gosh, Katz’s voice really does remind me of Neil Young. Sorry for repeating it, but I really think he has a similar voice. The song moves at a great pace, the harmonica fill my favorite portion. It is not difficult to recognize the talent of The Blind Window, and I look forward to hearing about them more soon.

Follow the band on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, or Visit their website

Top Ten Songs of 2011 – #7: “Battery Kinzie” by Fleet Foxes

23 Dec

Waiting for Helplessness Blues, the follow-up to Fleet Foxes’ eponymous first release in 2008, was like waiting for a New York Jets superbowl. It just never felt like it would come, despite how long I patiently waited. Robin Pecknold, lead singer, songwriter, and a whole bunch of other things, originally said the album would be released in 2009, but because of touring and other time constraints this was pushed back to 2010 and finally May of 2011. Honestly, I don’t even think that Pecknold and the band thought that there would be such demand for the second album. It probably caught them by surprise. They are pretty awesome though, so, they shouldn’t have expected less. Luckily, unlike a Jets Superbowl appearance in my lifetime, Helplessness Blues was released in May of 2011, an extremely successful body of 12 tracks that was received well by critics and fans alike.

The Foxes are Fleet!

After listening to the album once through I was also satisfied. It was seemingly a mirror image of the first release, but I had no problem with that. Fleet Foxes is a baroque folk band concentrating on mellifluous melodies, harmonious harmonies, and skilled acoustic instrumentation. Pecknold, whose father was in The Fathoms, a local Seattle 60s band, and guitarist Skyler Skjelset idolized artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Brian Wilson, while they grew up and went to high school in a suburb of Seattle. When they began to make music and perform it, critics noticed that they were insanely talented in the songwriting and harmony categories. It was pretty clear from the start that they were going to make it. And, make it they did.

“Battery Kinzie” is not the favorite off the new album for most people. That would be the album’s title track “Helplessness Blues,” a passionate track that takes on a Mumford & Sons feel with rising crescendo (something that Mumford and Sons – Fleet Foxes British Folk counterpart – does in every one of their songs). It’s a wonderful piece and I do enjoy listening to it, but, it is not the best song on the album. That spot is reserved for “Battery Kinzie,” a song that tells the story of a man trying to get his love back and failing (the man appears as a motif in this semi-concept album and he does get back with the girl at the end of the album which is good if you like happy endings.)

So why is this song better? First off, I absolutely love that it hits you right away. Within the first 25 seconds of the song, the listener gets this pounding rhythm, an effortlessly strummed acoustic guitar, and Fleet Foxes’ trademark blend of sweet, sweet harmony. Pecknold belts out:

I woke up one morning
All my fingers rotting
I woke up a dying man, without a chance

The song rises like a man getting out of bed with a sharp sun puncturing and reflecting off the glass. But it does take a bit of a dark turn that strays away from the happy melody. This dark turn remains for the rest of depressing song. The instrumentation serves as a bit of a contradiction to the lyric. But, when looking into this some more, I actually feel that it’s apt. The music is constant and pretty static. It is wonderfully crafted, but it does not change much. There remains the pounding percussion, same three chords, and similar harmony. I think the song represents a moment in time so well because of this constancy. And that is at least lyrically what the song was supposed to convey.

My favorite portion is the chorus. The harmony is delightful. Do not wander through the dawn. The line is held out with delicate harmony. The song works so well and perhaps this is because it is a tight, short piece with no true opportunity for failure. I think, while it does seem like a bridge song, “Battery Kinzie” highlights the true strength of Fleet Foxes. Percussion, acoustics, and harmony.

Three in Three: The Indie Pop Stylings of The Royal Bear

24 Apr

Today was an uplifting day in New York. My Dad and I took advantage of a perfect Sunday sunny afternoon and went to a New York Mets game. We sat in incredible seats and, while we were both scorched by the unexpected sun, we enjoyed a Mets victory. A beautiful day results in some brand spankin’ new pop music, and part two of The Music Court’s “Three in Three” section. The band is an Indie Pop foursome named The Royal Bear from Seattle that recorded their debut full-length album Attack at Bear Creek Studios, the well-known farm studio that housed Fleet Foxes. The Royal Bear actually entered Bear Creek right after Fleet Foxes left, so they recorded their debut album when the vibes were flowing in the studio.

What came of their 10-day session? A fresh take on indie pop that moves skillfully with head-bopping rhythms, punky guitar tablature and light melodies. The Royal Bear wants their music to be fun and because of the bubbly and driving rhythm it maintains it’s fluffy pop characteristics even with its post-punk sentiments. And, this results in exciting music that is enjoyable and catchy. Listen to “Keeping Secrets” on the band’s website.

http://sarathanonlineservices.com/theroyalbear/

The song fulfills its pop test in the first few notes. Some of looked at the band as 80’s because of its focus on “heavy pop,” but the rhythm suggests indie pop with a hint of punk. This genre combination allows The Royal Bear to effortlessly mix the airy simplicity of pop with easy-going punk elements. The result is fun music which is the exact intention of The Royal Bear.

Beatles’ Selling, Axl Suing, Fleet Foxes Personalizing

24 Nov

Who said that the agreement that finally put Beatles‘ songs up for sale on iTunes was no big deal? After a week on iTunes, The Beatles’ have sold 450,000 albums and two million individual songs worldwide.

Link: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/11/24/beatles-week-1-2-million-singles-sold-but-which-classics-endure/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Am I surprised? No. The Beatles once again prove why they are the biggest band in the world. Ever. It does not matter that they broke up 40 years ago. Hey, Usher, remember when you said Justin Beiber was a pop craze like the Beatles. Lets see if 40 years from now he is still selling like the Beatles.

The massive quantity of songs and albums sold reflect a symbolic jailbreak of music. It is nice to see that people did not acquire the mp3 versions of the songs for their portable music devices illegally. Well, some, some waited to acquire the music legally.

So, I guess we can look at the ratings and see what is officially the most popular Beatles’ song and album – according to iTunes sales.

Best Selling Album: Abbey Road

Best Selling Song: Here Comes the Sun“…

Which is off of Abbey Road, my favorite Beatles’ album. iTunes fans have spoken. Now, while the best Beatles’ song is arguably “A Day in the Life” and best album probably is the one with peppers in its name, this is certainly telling. Heck, Abbey Road was the last album released before the Beatles dissolved. Imagine if they kept releasing music. Do you see what I did there?

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In other news, Axl Rose is suing Activision, makers of the Guitar Hero games, for $20 million. Yawn. Store this in the I don’t really care news bin. Rose, who is already rich, is looking for more money because…well read the article if you are interested.

Link: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/axl-rose-sues-activision-over-guns-n-roses-guitar-hero-feature/story-e6frfku0-1225960010189

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Performing on Letterman (Credit: Blush Photo)

Fleet Foxes, the awesome indie/folk band from Seattle that took the country by storm with their eponymous first album in 2008, is planning on releasing their new album in the Spring of next year.

According to lead singer Robin Pecknold, the album is going to travel inwards.

“It’s a lot more personal to me and direct in terms of the lyrics, less shrouded in metaphor or visuals. Musically I’d say it’s still in the same family but hopefully just more refined,” said Pecknold in an interview with clashmusic.com

I am excited. Fleet Foxes is an excellent modern band that have the attention of true music lovers. Their brand of folk/rock calls back to the 60’s musical tradition and I am eager to hear what is coming next.

Link: http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/fleet-foxes-finish-more-personal-album_1185915

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