Posts Tagged ‘iron and wine

21
Sep
11

Hoots and Hellmouth – Face First In The Dirt (2011)

This past weekend I decided to head downtown and check out an annual happening in my city, Larkfest.  Larkfest is a culimation and mishmash of various street vendors, artists, and live music.  In addition, it also sprinkles (or dumps) a large helping of obnoxious drunk college students who change the tone later in the day to something truly worth avoiding, especially if you have young children in tow.  Regardless, if you show up early enough it’s actually a worthwhile event; I always enjoy catching some of the random and obscure live musical acts that range from Alternative, Rock-a-billy, Emo-Folk, and Bluegrass, there’s a little of something for everyone.

While strollering my 4 year-old around and my teenage Chinese exchange student we checked out the random ethnic food samplings, tatooed cuties, and a variety of hipster artisans selling t-shirts , cupcakes, and graffitti artwork.  At one piont I passed a tent sponsored by a local radio station where the guy gave me a look and panned down at the plethora of scattered CD’s. It was truly a “come hither stare for free stuff”, and he was very cool about taking as much as I wanted.  The offering of free music was of bands I had never heard of and he knew that; jokingly he said “Yeah, I guess you just have to judge the music by the cover art and take a risk” and he was right.  It was like being offered a mystery free candy yet being unsure you really wanted to find out what it tasted like.  Plus, for most of us, avoiding anything that adds to our physical music collections we do at all costs, especially mystery music.  Regardless, I could not resist and grabbed two albums not wanting to pass up the opportunity for some fresh fodder to review and also not offend the guy offering free music.

I grabbed two albums, one was Jenny Dee and The Deelinqents (to be reviewed later this month), and a band called Hoots and Hellmouth out of Philadelphia, PA.  As with most albums you put in your CD player the first impression is rarely an “oh my god!” moment, and well, this wasn’t one of them either.  However, the band does have something going on in the right direction and I feel they may be one to watch in the future.  The album that I grabbed seems to be more of a sampler rather than a full fledged album and I wanted hear more.  I could find the album on Amazon and it to0 indicated this album was only 4 tracks; this contrasts in comparision to their two prior albums which featured around 10 tracks each; so perhaps it’s just a stripped down album to buy some time.  For what it is worth, it’s a solid sampling of their music and is catchy.

The band has the feel of something between a faster paced version of Dolorean and The Kingsbury Manx; with a twist of Ray Lamontagne without the raspy grit, and a wee bit of Old Crow Medicine Show and some Chatham County Line thrown in for good measure.  Basically, they have a kind of down home sultry folk / country type of sound that appears to making a come back in the underground alternative scene.  While I do like what they are creating for themselves, I’m not sure I’m a fan from the first listen.  It can be truly be said that this band is an “acquired” sound that not everyone is into from the get go;  like Iron and Wine’s sound or the late Elliot Smith’s music, some people pass it off as too mellow or sleepy tending to form automatic opinion’s about its worth or longevity as a something worthwhile to add to a collection.  I think it would be fair to say that Hoots and Hellmouth has a quality sound and feel that is not worth passing up, it’s worth giving a few listens and then forming your own educated decision. Unlike the meloncoly sounds of Smith and Iron and Wine; Hoots and Hellmouth are far livelier and faster paced, definitely some “feel good” music, yet campy.

In closing, I think I would like to hear more about what these guys have put out there and also would be curious if any of our readers have seen these guys live.  Being from Philly myself, I’m partial to liking these guys and giving them a chance.  As always, let us know what you think of this band if you have caught a show, or perhaps send us an opinion on the two prior albums and how they measure up to this release.

Hoots and Hellmouth’s 4-track Face First In The Dirt gets a 3 out of 5.

25
Jan
11

Iron and Wine to play MassMoCA 4/16/11!

A pleasant surprise if you are an Iron and Wine fan and a bit of sunshine for all of us who initially may have felt forgotten about as they announced their recent tour dates and cities.  Although Albany, NY will not get the much needed attention by the band our neighbors to the East in North Adams, MA will!  

As Iron and Wine wraps up the European leg of their tour they have decided to put some additional US dates in their tour schedule.  On April 15th they play in Buffalo, NY, April 16th they will play in North Adams, MA at MassMoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), and April 17th in Burlington, VT.  The tough thing for me to figure out is that there are no assigned seats for this show and is “general admission”, what does that mean?  So, if my wife and I go will it be standing room only?  Random seats that are first come, first serve?

I hate to be a complainer but with a $25 ticket price (which is not that expensive I admit) one normally would like to know if there will be chairs, or at the very least some logical quality experience for a large crowd.  If not, seeing Iron and Wine play for 2 hours standing is not all that appealing for me personally; perhaps when I was 20 yes, but 40, no.

If you have seen a show at the Hunter Theater at MassMoCA, please let us know here at HiFi Central what the layout is like and if the acoustics are good.

Either way, it is nice to see that Sam Beam and his crew will be playing  the New England area after all these years. 

If you are interested in purchasing tickets for this show click here.

04
Nov
10

Iron and Wine 2010-11 Tour Dates

 Iron and Wine’s website currently updated its tour page for the remainder of 2010 and beginning of 2011.  Clearly Sam Beam and the band are far more comfortable playing in warmer weather than venturing up Northern East Coast, specifically HiFi’s Centrals home city of Albany (c’mon Iron and Wine, play at The Egg!!!!)

The mid-West and South will have the pleasure of seeing Iron and Wine so get your tickets as quick as you can, often these shows sell out quickly.  I did notice that there is a gap between the end of November for US dates and then February when he begins a European tour; so perhaps there is a chance the band will buy a hat, scarf, and some mittens in the meantime and grace us with their presence.

I’ve never seen Iron and Wine since they rarely tour New England area; at least I don’t know if the band has ever played the Albany area.  Looking at past tour dates since 2008 they have jumped over Albany and played in Buffalo or NYC; clearly the capital city is not worthy enough I guess.

It appears to happen quite frequently that good acts often jump over Albany and I’m not quite sure why that is; clearly not a lack of music lovers or venues.

Thought you might want to know the band is on tour this month and playing “select” cities, let’s hope one is yours!

To see the tour listing for 2010-2011 click here!

15
Jul
10

MIDLAKE – The Courage of Others (2010)

On Monday I posted my second installment of Print o’ The Week and some have emailed me asking what the Midlake in the print meant; good question right?  The print is actually concert poster created by Portland, Oregon artist Dan Stiles for a Midlake show in that city.  But, clearly more of an explanation and album review of the band Midlake would be appropriate.

I stumbled upon Midlake when I began to get interested in Iron and Wine; I had been a die hard Elliot Smith fan for years and the natural progression to these bands makes sense since to a degree they follow a similiar formula and would be catagorized in a similiar genre of music.  In my opinion if you are familiar with the bands Dolorean, Kingsbury Manx, or Chatham County Line and like indie-folk-rock, you will also find Midlake appealing as well. 

Midlake is not a new band by any means, they have actually been together since 2001 and have released 3 albums prior to The Courage of Others (2010).  Midlake’s previous album Trials of Van Occupanther (2006) brought the most notoriety for the band; although remaining relatively an underground album it did gain them a larger loyal following.

Mellow and serene, lying on your back on a sunny day staring at big puffy clouds and dreaming about life and what it all means would sum up what listening to Midlake is like.  Lead singer Tim Smith has a Thom Yorke  (Radiohead) quality to his singing, but defines himself with a lullaby quality that is complimented by the always apparent folky flute and piano balladesque indie-folk-r0ck tempos.   The Courage of Others takes the band down a similiar path as Van Occupanther, however, there is a greater sense of sincerity in this album.  The first song Acts of Man is a deeply moving, honest and just a simply fantastic arrangment highlighting the use of harmony that the band  mastered and created as a signature of their music.  Winter Dies starts off with a faster tempo that is quite unexpected and then regresses into a solid mellow mood that just continues to keep the album together. Songs like Small Mountain,  Core of Nature, and Rulers, Ruling All Things exemplify Midlake‘s wholehearted and ernest attention to detail writing songs over the course of four years between albums.  Like their songs, it is apparent that their work is not taken lightly and not rushed into with wreckless abandonment; clearly the band wants every album to be worthwhile to the one listening.

Midlake’s music is consistently mellow, this is not rock album by any means.  Midlake keeps the mood  and tempo consistent throughout every song.   That is not to say that Midlake’s music is monotonous or repetative, it’s not, however Midlake does keep to a pretty consistent formula never really straying one way or anothe.  In many ways this album, and their previous releases, feel like a story and each song is a the next chapter.   Midlake is not for everyone, for some they might find themselves absolutely bored to tears with this album; others might find it a true gem.  Yet, as I mentioned earlier, if you do like mellow folky-indie sounding  singers or bands you should like Midlake. They fall in between Nick Drake and Dolorean I guess.  If you are able to pick up a copy of The Trials of Van Occupanther do yourself a favor and check it out as well, it is a landmark album for the band.

Midlake is currently touring in Europe and I hope they swing back in the US for some dates.  The band hails out of Texas, so I’m sure upon their return they will play there first.  Check out Midlake’s website at www.midlake.net to hear a few songs in their entirety.

You can also listen to a dozen or few samples of Midlake’s music from various albums by clicking here .

21
Apr
10

The “Art” of the Music Business

Over the past few years my wife and I have been collecting art by artists like Phil Frost, Shepard Fairey and Dave Kinsey.  Granted all three are not up and coming artists and are quite established in the contemporary art world , their art has spurred a generation of others to create and express their creativity in a myriad of mediums.

Although the “rock art poster” is not a new concept, the gradual evolution has produced some very impressive and clever designs that most of the general public never get to see, or further, consider collecting as reputuble art worthy of hanging on our walls at home (other than our college dorms or first apartment with college buddies). The  indie music art world actually is worth considering and now is the time to take advantage of limited edition signed artwork for a steal. 

The toughest part of collecting limited edition prints is first: “where to look” and second:  “timing”.  It is quite common these days for an artists website to crash due overwhelming response to a monthly release.  These releases are often at random times, in the afternoon between 12:00 -5:00 during work hours when most of us do not have the luxury to keep hitting the “refresh page” button on our computer.  Those of us who have attempted to purchase prints by Shepard Fairey or KAWS know how frustrating this process is and how disappointing when the next refreshed page reflects SOLD OUT in bold letters.  It’s often the recipe for the budding collector to feel cheated and quickly become bitter about collecting all together.

Luckily, there is a great resource where you can snag incredible prints at very low prices of your favorite bands or perhaps designs that you like but have never heard of the band. The website is through a record store chain in Boston called Newbury Comics. 

Newbury Comics is a store like no other and is a mecca for indie music lovers, toy collectors, not to mention comic books and graphic novels fresh off the press.  It’s a culmination of music store, comic book store, Spencers Gifts (although not as cheezy or commercially repulsive), and clearly something unto itself that has no classification that I can figure out.  Part of their website is devoted to  limited edition posters; the selection is simply mind blowing.  You can browse either by  your favorite band or have fun as I do and check out the various prints by alphabetical order.  Some prints are sold out or out of stock, however, a large amount are still available for purchase.

I also like that Newbury Comics provide direct links to the artists websites, so if you want to learn more about the artist and what more they may have to offer it’s just a click away.  This is how I learned about an artist named Dan McCarthy who’s artwork my wife and I avidly collect; although we collect his nature inspired prints he has done prints for Iron and Wine, Calexico, and Sonic Youth.

Another fun artist is Dan Stiles, he is one of my favorites and has a very unique style about him; his prints sell out quite quickly but there are still some you can grab.

Many of the prints that are offered in the Newbury Comics sites are very limited in production, some prints are limited to 25, 50 or 100, and the prices range from $40 – $125.  Signed limited edition art is fun to collect and often appreciates in value rather quickly, so if you are a budding collector, have limited funds, need real artwork, and have walls that need love, consider checking into this and tell us what you think.

You can check out the Newbury Comics print collection by clicking here, enjoy!

21
Dec
09

LaLa Online Music

Upon my recent review of Pandora and my excitement to share it with the masses I have discovered that has become first of all limited in its availability worldwide, and second, the artist profile that one creates barely plays the artist’s songs.  Sorry Pandora, but I’m not impressed any longer.  My “Zappa station” now plays ONE Zappa song per 10 songs and often, the same song? Lame.

I was introduced to an alternate online music source called LaLa and I have to say that I am rather impressed with the variety of artists available and also the amount of control the user has over listening to what you want (and all songs in their entirety!).  Please check this online source out and ditch Pandora since they are clearly a “bait and switch” site.  When they first introduced Pandora it was much cooler, not anymore.

I’m impressed how much Iron and  Wine, Nick Drake, and Elliot Smith they have, you can buy whatever you like at any time, but you can also create personal playlists to play, nice.  Ok, so here’s the catch- you can only listen to one song in its entirety once then you have to purchase it.  So, yeah, it’s free…but then it’s not, but the songs appear to be cheaper (.79 cents vs. .99 cents or more depending) to purchase than iTunes and the variety is pretty good. 

When you initially visit the site they give you 25 credits towards web songs you can add to a LaLa player which is free.  Each song is one credit and you can build a 25 song playlist after setting up a free account.  A cool thing is that you can listen to as many songs as you would like in their entirety prior to adding them to your playlist.  So, if you customize a playlist of things you might listen to all the time you might find the value in it.

Granted, Pandora is absolutely free but it has very serious limitations and becomes horribly redundant in its variety. 

Check out LaLa by clicking here and tell us what you experience.  Worldwide readers, please let us know if you can access this player as well.

09
Dec
09

Pandora Web Radio

For those that may be searching (or have searched) for decent free web radio station that plays the music you specifically like please check out The Pandora Genome Project.  I’m a huge Frank Zappa fan but find it incredibly difficult to find any Zappa on the internet; Pandora actually has a nice assortment of Zappa on the Zappa radio station.  You can create nearly any artist station and Pandora does a good job matching similiar artists in the mix.  I created an Al DiMeola station and have discovered other artists that I had never heard before (and actually liking!).   I have a Supergrass, Bob Marley, Gwar, Slayer, Eliot Smith, Iron and Wine, Jimmy Smith, John Coltrane, Cal Tjader, and other radio stations to choose from that I created.  The possibilities are quite endless.  I found a cable that connects from my laptop to my stereo and was able to feed Pandora through larger speakers, the sound quality was very good.

A cool thing about Pandora is that if you like the song you can give it a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and it will assist you in creating a more personal play list.

Yes, there are commercials every once and awhile, this is actaully something quite new and I would suspect allows Pandora to provide this music for free.  There was a time, I was told, that Pandora began limiting the amount of free songs you could listen to, but I have not experienced any limitations yet.  Commercials are just part of the World Wide Web these days whether you like it or not, but hey…it’s still FREE, so don’t complain.

Check it out and I hope our readers in Iran, Saudi, and other countries where the Web is monitored can access this great station.

Please take the time and tell us what you think!




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