Los Amigos Invisibles, possibly Venezuela’s greatest musical export, has been active for more than a decade. The band’s latest release, Not So Commercial (2011) offers remastered b-sides and alternate versions from previous recording sessions, following the successful, critically acclaimed and Grammy winning record Commercial (2009). This quick 25 minutes EP, however, offers some tasty “leftovers” for your next party. From funky-disco to reggae stylings and smooth acid groove, this EP will please your ears and move your feet.
Musician and composer Pedro Luis Ferrer has been an active Cuban musician since 1965. In his native Cuba he is famous as a musical innovator as well as a sharp social critic and a master of the guaracha musical style. He combines the influences of dynamic Cuban sounds, including Cuban son, guaracha-style songs with his own lyrical poetry. Ferrer’s latest record Tangible (2011) sparkles with bursts of horns, Latin percussion, earthy guitar and and the tres, inviting your feet to move.
Breezy with a beat, their infectious, sunny pop songs are riding waves and moving your shore. Pop doesn’t enter my playlist often, but this I cannot resist. Milo Greene is a new quintet in Los Angeles, harmonizing bliss like Local Natives drenched in glee from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. (thx, Elana)
“You’ll hear smoky soul, flights of dazzling invention and intricate layers of deeply felt emotion. With a voice that belies her age; twenty year old Kimbra already enchants her audience, having been inspired by jazz greats such as Nina Simone, while also bringing a contemporary edge more akin to Bjork and Camille.” I haven’t been this excited about a song in a while. (thx, benschwarz)
Lance Ferguson is one of the most prolific Funk & Soul producers in the retro scene, being the guitarist and producer for The Bamboos, Kylie Auldist & Cookin’ On 3 Burners, as well as having produced for a slew of acts on the Tru Thoughts, Freestyle Records & Record Kicks labels. On Her 12 Faces he teams up with Australian artist Megan Washington as the main singer among a few instrumental tracks. This second album as Lanu displays the full breadth of Lance’s versatility as a producer and shows he can do more than retro-soul or raw funk. Schizophrenic? Not quite, but many faced for sure. All songs tell a story, be it vocalized or written in melody. “Beautiful Trash” is an uptempo, sunny affair that has Washington bouncing along a retro vibe. “The Roosevelt Blues” is equally playful (both in vibe and execution) and envelops you in a lo-fi sumer breeze.
A true friend sitting next to my soul. Talking with me. Laying in a green field on a hill. Wildflowers dance the breeze. Sun shines… bright blue sky… curious clouds mozy by. Trees and forests are not too far away. Hills and valley, mostly. Talking about anything. Stars, dreams – what we enjoy or what others destroy. Comforts found together.
Pepper Rabbit’s set at The Orchard’s party on Friday morning was a bit of an odd one — the group’s normally lush and orchestral sound was stripped down as Xander Singh played solo in in front of a small group of us at Bar 96. Xander admitted, “It’s a little weird to hear my music like this.” Weird, maybe, but still a lovely way to start off the day, and hearing the tracks performed that way was a unique experience. A couple hours later, Serena and I were working upstairs in the Convention Center, just outside the Day Stage where the full band was playing a set. I lucked out, catching two sides of Pepper Rabbit, if only by happenstance. Don’t forget to listen to “Harvest Moon” off their debut album, Beauregard below!
Just after Xander’s set, we booked it across town to catch Brian Wright bringing some good old rock and roll Americana to The Belmont. Brian Wright and his band played an energetic set which included a personal favorite of mine, “Glory Hallelujah”, as well as mix of songs from both his upcoming album, House On Fire and his previous two albums. The early set meant a smallish crowd, but the energy levels were high — especially for the small group of fans that crowded in front of the stage! Brian’s new album comes out next week, you can get a quick preview by taking a listen to “Accordion” below!
We headed back where we came from to catch singer-songwriter Kina Grannis at Bar 96. Serena, who has been patiently shooting SXSW for us, was a fan of Kina’s already, and in no time it was obvious why. Kina’s songs are sweet with the occasional melancholic hint, but most of all, undeniably catchy — essentially, everything you could want in an pop song. She may have first landed on everyone’s radar because of the Super Bowl contest she won back in 2007, but it’s her nuanced songwriting and charming performances that makes Kina a musician to keep an eye on. She’s re-releasing her 2010 album, Stairwells, next month, and you can check out the song “Valentine” below. Kina also recorded a cover of the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” which you can download here.
We swung by The Ale House to catch Buddy’s set, but even as he started playing, the noise levels from the audience were overwhelming; not a good mix, especially for self-described “wimpycore” that Buddy and his band play. Despite it all, Buddy and drummer Al Sgro played the show like champs, playing a short set of folk-pop inspired tunes from his full length, Alterations and Repairs, as well as a couple new ones. There’s a sweetness to Buddy’s songs, as well as a goofy streak (as evidenced by a Whitesnake singalong to “Here I Go Again” that he started). Early in the set, Buddy mentioned that there were supposed to be six of them on stage, and quipped, “It’s the White Stripes version of us.” Later on they became a trio when Holly Conlan (who was mentioned here back in 2009) came up to accompany him on a few songs. It’s no Whitesnake, but take a listen to “Silent Treatment”, and a live cut of “If We Lived Here” below:
The Chapin Sisters
The Chapin SIsters were briefly mentioned in our coverage of SXSW last year, when they sang background vocals for She & Him. This year they were front and center at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, with a full band to back them up! Abigail and Lily’s haunting vocal harmonies and ethereal melodies filled St. David’s as they played a collection of songs from their album, Two. A personal highlight was when, near the end of their set, they shed the band and sang an acapella version of “Sweet Light” to everyone’s delight.
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
I’ve been a fan of Thao’s for a while now, and we first featured her here back in 2008. Since then, she’s released another full length with The Get Down Stay Down ( Know Better Learn Faster, 2009), and has a new album with Mirah releasing in a few weeks. Antone’s was completely packed just before Thao and The Get Down Stay Down hit the stage — they’re always a blast to see live, but from Thao’s hilarious soundcheck ditty alone, you knew you were in for a great time. (“I always drink Shiner, like a wino. And that’s all right.”) Typically The Get Down Stay Down is comprised of Willis Thompson on drums and Adam Thompson (no relation) on bass, but the stage was filled with a few extras — including a violinist, trombonist, and guitarist/keyboardist. They wailed through a set which included tracks from both their albums, including “Body”, “Know Better Learn Faster”, a sick keyboard solo in the middle of “Feet Asleep”, and my favorite part of hearing “Bag of Hammers” live — the most impressive “three sounds at once” vocal intro you’ll ever hear. The band’s set was a high-energy mess of handclaps, foot stomps, soaring horns and exuberant vocals. You can take a listen to “Bag of Hammers” from We Brave Bee Stings & All and “Know Better Learn Faster” and “When We Swam” from Know Better Learn Faster below.
Ben Sollee is another familiar face here at Aurgasm — we previously featured him back in 2008, just after his debut album Learning To Bend released. Since then, he’s released an album with Daniel Martin Moore, Dear Companion in 2010, and has been noted for his political activism, especially relating to his home state of Kentucky. We found ourselves back at St. David’s for the last showcase of the night, where Ben was joined onstage by Jordan Ellis on drums; Phoebe Hunt, Cheyenne Marie Mize, and Tracy Bonham on violin; and occasionally, Abigail Washburn on background vocals. Just before introducing his band, Ben said, “The thing about being an independent musician is that you can’t do it without a lot of help.” That sense of camaraderie and simple joy in playing music with friends pervaded the atmosphere at St. David’s. Ben went on to play a number of songs from his upcoming album, Inclusions, which he described as his search for the answer to the fact that, “More than ever, people are living in urban environments. What does that mean for folk music?” He went on to say that “it can be in the car you hear playing a bass line you dig, and also your grandfather teaching you the fiddle.” I’m not sure what the answer may be, but if Ben’s new songs are any indication, it will certainly be beautiful.
I met Bob Boilen (of NPR’s All Songs Considered) after Ben’s set, and he pretty much summed up my thoughts on the evening:
Alexander Ebert, frontman for Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, debuted his solo effort “Alexander” at SXSW this year. At one point early in his set, Alex said to the crowd, “You have to be a bit forgiving at SXSW” — turns out there was no need for that warning. Despite the heat, Alex and his band had everyone crowded around the small stage, enthusiastically singing and clapping along. Later, he shrugged off all the cheers, jokingly asking “Alright, alright, who paid you guys off?” Though Alex had a band backing him at the Greenhouse, he performed all the songs from his debut album, Alexander, solo. Take a listen to “A Million Years” and “Truth” below.
Sondre Lerche is a long-time favorite of mine, so I was pretty thrilled to hear that Rawkblog & TwentyFourBit had him on the bill for their SXSW party. The scene was a bit calmer over at The Liberty on 6th, which was a bit east of most of the main SXSW madness. Sondre played a bunch of new tunes from his upcoming album, Sondre Lerche, including “Domino” which David Greenwald got video of here: Sondre Lerche – “Domino” (Live @ SXSW 2011). After a couple of the new tunes, someone shouted “Play a classic!” and Sondre asked, “You mean like, The Stones? Or one of mine?” When everyone shouted back, “One of yours!” Sondre quipped, “…of which there are so many!” — but he obliged by playing one of my personal favorites, “Sleep on Needles”. Between the jokes (there was definitely a David Brent reference thrown in there) and the solo performance, Sondre’s set was a great way to spend an afternoon at SXSW. Take a listen to “Sleep On Needles” and his cover of Owen Pallett’s “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” below (another artist we saw perform).
After his set, Sondre was kind enough to give Aurgasm a little shout out!
Sondre Lerche – “Sleep On Needles” (stream only) Sondre Lerche – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” (Owen Pallett cover) (stream only)
James Vincent McMorrow
After Sondre’s set at The Liberty, we headed back down to the Rachael Ray Feedback at The Greenhouse to catch James Vincent McMorrow. I’d been hoping to catch him while at SXSW, his debut album Early In The Morning is a beautiful collection of songs, which I’ve been playing on repeat for the better part of the last month. As the evening approached, James and his band played a short set from Early In The Morning. His haunting vocals were the perfect soundtrack to the evening twilight.
We featured Allie Moss back in 2009, and were lucky enough to catch her one show at SXSW this year! The Creekside at The Hilton Garden Inn is the rare SXSW venue that lets you rest a bit while catching a show. Allie was the first artist for the Bedford showcase, and certainly did not disappoint. Backed by a full band, she played a mix of new songs as well as older ones from her Passerby EP. Allie has a full length releasing later this year, but you can take a listen to “Corner” and “Passerby” from her EP below!
It’s been a couple years since we wrote about Lenka here — Julija first gave us the heads up back in 2008. We caught her set at The Rusty Spurs last night, where she played as part of the AustinROX showcase. She has a new album, Two coming out later this year, and her set was a mix of new songs from that, as well as familiar favorites from The Show. You can take a listen to “The Show” if you didn’t catch it the first time around!
At Malalia, there may have been a trance dance party going on upstairs, but downstairs Jenny O. was wowing the crowd with her catchy alt-country tunes. At one point, the audience started their own dance party, dancing along to her upbeat folk rock. Take a listen to “Well OK Honey” from the Honey EP below, as well as a remix from Spirit Animal.
One of my favorite venues is St. David’s Historic Sanctuary on 7th; and the church’s vast and beautiful atmosphere was the perfect setting for Lia Ices’ dreamy, intricate ballads. At one point she reflected my thoughts exactly when she said, “It’s very nice to be with you in this civilized place among all the chaos out there.” Take a listen to “Daphne” from her recently released album, Grown Unknown:
After an exceptionally long day of music, we ended the evening with Owen Pallett. The multi-instrumentalist took the stage at Emo’s late in the evening, but was worth the wait. His most recent album, Heartland, was one of my favorites of 2010, and it’s incredible to see Owen perform these tracks live. It was an impossible-to-describe mix of electronic beats, classical strings that was mind-blowing to see live. Pallett also played a cover of Simon Bookish’s “Interview”. However, a highlight may have been when Owen performed an acoustic version of “He Poos Clouds” as he waited for his computer’s soundcard to reboot.
Toro Y Moi
After one of the longest trips ever, we finally made it into Austin and decided to swing by The Fader Fort and caught their first set of the day, Toro Y Moi. Chaz Bundick (a.k.a. Toro Y Moi) performed to a growing crowd, laying down his unique blend of digital beats, synths and vocals. Take a listen to “Blessa” from his 2010 debut Causers of This and “Still Sound” from his latest album, Underneath The Pine.
Laura Stevenson and The Cans
One of the best surprises of the day was New York based Laura Stevenson and The Cans. Laura and her band played the Riot Act Media day party at The Ghost Room to an entirely too-small audience; the band’s layered melodies, complex instrumentation and Laura’s lovely vocals were the perfect afternoon break. Their new album releases next month, but you can take a listen to “Master of Art” below.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
We made it over to The Phoenix just in time to catch the last half of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s set at the KCRW showcase. Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott brought their dreamy blend of pop and folk and probably earned a whole slew of new fans as a result. The Detroit duo got the entire crowd bouncing around, and they’ll do the same to you. Check out two tracks from their Horse Power EP below!
The Belle Brigade
These LA natives have been on my radar for a while, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to see them live until last night’s showcase at The Phoenix. The group is fronted by siblings Ethan and Barbara Gruska, (the latter playing drums with what seems like every band in LA, including Obi Best, who we featured a few years ago). Their band includes Alex Silverman (of Alex & Sam) on guitar, Aaron Arntz on keys, Keith Karmen on bass and Mike Green on drums. The Belle Brigade’s live show was energetic, uplifting and exceptionally earnest; you can’t help but fall in love with them a little bit. Their entire set was a treat, but one highlight was when Barbara went back behind the kit to play drums, and Mike Green stepped up to do the most epic tambourine playing/dancing I’ve ever seen. Take a listen to “Sweet Louise” off their upcoming album below!
The Sweet Hurt, Wendy Wang’s solo project, has been around in various forms since 2003 — since then she’s released a handful of EPs, plays for what seems like a thousand different bands (including The Bird and the Bee, Priscilla Ahn and Obi Best), and last year, released her first full-length album, The Sweet Hurt LP. The album was well worth the wait; it’s winsome and strikingly honest, and highlights Wendy’s talents as a songwriter and instrumentalist. Like the name suggests, there is a quiet loveliness that pervades the entire album, highlighted by the elegant chamber pop arrangements. Take a listen to the stunning “Things Fall Apart” and the impossibly catchy “Hugs” below!