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Summer Festival/Newport Folk Crossover Artists – OEB’s Top Picks

 

Bonus – here are some recommendations for Newport Folk Festival that I already covered through OEB’s Sasquatch, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Forecastle coverage.  Add these to your schedule, in person or online with NPR Music next weekend:

 

Friday 4:05 - Lake Street Dive – Quad Stage

Friday 5:05 - Sun Kil Moon – Harbor Stage

Saturday 2:50 - Houndmouth – Quad Stage

Sunday 12:40 - Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – Fort Stage

Sunday 3:55 - Valerie June – Harbor Stage

SXSW/Newport Folk Festival 2014 Crossover Artists – OEB’s Top Picks

 

Operation Every Band’s virtual summer tour continues along next weekend with a trip up the coast to Newport, Rhode Island.  The Newport Folk Festival started in 1959 and is storied in musical history.  Dylan, Baez, Seeger, Cash – these names graced Newport’s early rosters, making the seaside Fort Adams State Park hallowed ground when it comes to acoustic (and electric, once controversially) troubadours and ramblers.  In 2014, the legacy continues strong with key sets from some of today’s best singer-songwriters including Ryan Adams, Jack White and Jeff Tweedy.  The lineup is complemented with highlight veterans like Mavis Staples, Robert Hunter and Jimmy Cliff, a weekend that consistently delivers greatness.

 

For OEB, the bottom-half of this year’s lineup is where we’ll be focusing our energy this week.  As always, it begins with a list of artists that showcased at SXSW this year and drew top scores from the OEB crew.  The week will continue with more recommendations, worth a listen whether you are going to Newport this year or just are looking for some new bands to dig into this summer.

 

Friday

12:50 - Mandolin Orange – Quad Stage

1:50 – Phox – Quad Stage

2:05 - The Devil Makes Three – Fort Stage

2:40 - Noah Gundersen – Harbor Stage

 

Saturday

11:00 - Willie Watson – Harbor Stage

11:05 - The Haden Triplets – Quad Stage

3:40 – Lucius – Harbor Stage

5:30 - Kurt Vile and the Violators – Quad Stage

 

Sunday

11:10 - Leif Vollebekk – Quad Stage

11:30 - Ages and Ages – Fort Stage

2:45  - Hurray for the Riff Raff – Quad Stage

2:55 – Hozier – Harbor Stage

Forecastle 2014 OEB Spotlight: Brett Dennen – “Out of My Head (Summer Mix)”

 

Pairs Well With…Matt Costa, Amos Lee, Ben Kweller

 

No doubt – Brett Dennen’s Smoke and Mirrors is a full-on pop record.  In fact, the California singer-songwriter just released a ‘summer mix’ of single “Out of My Head”, adding catchy, hooky accents that ups Dennen’s mainstream game a few notches in 2014.  His songwriting ability allows Dennen to pull off this new form so well.  Upbeat tracks are mixed with coffeehouse ballads, less rhythmic and more melodic than the bulk of Dennen’s earlier material, though without losing a beat.  Brett Dennen will hold up the main Mast Stage at 4:15 at Forcastle Sunday afternoon.   

2011 Review: a quirky indie folk rock artist from Oakdale, CA.  In relation to many of his peers at SXSW, Brett Dennen is a fairly established artist already, releasing albums since 2004.  Is music is very accessible, but has it’s own sound apart from the slower singer songwriter artists (such as John Mayer and Jason Mraz) currently in the mainstream.  He often employs synchopated rhythms within his vocal melodies and acoustic guitar playing, covering his music in a light reggae undertone.  Playing live, Brett brings a great deal of energy to his simple catalog suiting his dedicated fanbase.  Brett Dennen is releasing his fourth album in 2011, so expect to hear some new material at SXSW.

Forecastle 2014 OEB Spotlight: St. Lucia – “Elevate”

 

Pairs Well With…Holy Ghost!, Cut Copy, CHVRCHES

 

St. Lucia’s debut full-length When the Night continues to resonate in 2014, a synth-pop record loaded with texture and bass-fueled rhythms.  Jean-Philip Grobler has taken a big slice of 80s pop and spread it evenly over the album.  Key single “Elevate” is a deservedly buzzy track, one that is equally engaging to dance or rock/pop crowds.  There are subtle moments on the record as well, dulling the edges of production in a comforting way.  St. Lucia smartly uses organic elements (horns, percussion both play an important part in places) to ground the heavy synths in an accessible way.  All this analysis aside, St. Lucia’s music is fun and inheritably danceable.  Should make for a strong Forecastle set – St. Lucia is due for the Ocean Stage at 4:45 Friday afternoon.   

Forecastle 2014 OEB Spotlight: Sharon Van Etten – “Our Love”

 

Pairs Well With…St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, Courtney Barnett

 

A true must-see at Forecastle, or any festival for that matter, Sharon Van Etten’s haunting delivery and boiling songwriting is a combination that will surely make for an entrancing set.  Her latest is Are We There, a sonically dense record and maturation from the already excellent Serpents.  Van Etten’s emotional palette is pulled together through brutal moments of honesty and personality.  While all this sounds huge by description, Are We There still somehow remains understated, the tone where Sharon Van Etten consistently is at her best.  Sharon Van Etten will take the Boom Stage at 3:15 on Sunday afternoon.

2012 Review: With only two albums to hear name, it’s pretty amazing how distinct the Sharon Van Etten sound is.  Powerful swells of melody envelop the music.  A dark sense of heartbreak and yearning pore out of Van Etten’s vocals, a unique airy yet dense instrument that is a comforting as it is disquiet.  These series of contradictions just further the depth that is her second record Serpents, an incredible follow-up to the highly lauded Epic.  With so many female singer-songwriters gracing the stages of SXSW, it is a true feat to stand out like Van Etten does, going against the grain with slow dirges that drive as much as a powerful rock band.  I somehow have missed Sharon Van Etten at her consecutive appearances at SXSW the last few years, but will be going out of my way to finally experience these songs live.

http://everyeurovisionsong.tumblr.com/post/88195485135/heres-the-official-announcement-of-every

‘Every Eurovision Song’ Commences

 

Operation Every Band has partly inspired another “Every Band” project as Friend of OEB Ewan Spence has tasked himself with quite a feat.  As he puts it:

 

How’s this for an idea? One thousand three hundred and fifty six songs have been sung ‘in Contest’ at Eurovision. That’s a lot of music, but not so much that we can’t listen to them all. With a bit of dedication and community support, could we celebrate our Song Contest through those musical jewels?

Yes we can! Over the next year, in the run up to the 60th Edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, join us in our project to listen to every single song that has taken to the competitive stage at the Song Contest. From ‘De vogels van Holland’ opening up the 1956 Contest, through to the reprise of ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’, follow Ewan as he writes up his thoughts on each song at EveryEurovisionSong.com.

 

For any clueless Americans like I used to be when it comes to Eurovision, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is an annual competition held amongst member countries within the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).  Each country can submit one song, yielding a continent-wide champion throughout one week every May.  Every Eurovision Song (hosted on Tumblr) reads like a history lesson of European pop music and is ear opening for any level of musicologist.  Good luck Ewan – looking forward to it!

MS MR – “Fantasy”

 

Pairs Well With…Oh Land, Adele, Florence & The Machine

 

Since our review last year, MS MR has become kind of a big deal, pulling main stage gigs at major festivals across the world this summer.  Debut LP Secondhand Rapture is wickedly dense for a greyly toned indie pop record.  Minor-key catchiness is such a nuanced art form, one that MS MR just nails in a fiercely unique way. 

2013 Review: For a pop introduction, Ms Mr’s four-song EP Candy Bar Creep Show displays more grey than sunshine.  Drama, fear and confidence all take turns throughout the NYC duo’s debut.  The standout here is the vocal work of Lizzy Plapinger.  Her tone falls somewhere between Florence Welch and Polica, both in volume and inflection.  It makes those big runs that much more powerful after taking most of a track from a perspective of restraint.  Musically, the starting point is minimal electronic pop, but Ms Mr add all sorts of aural flourishes, from the snaps and harmonies of “Dark Doo Wop” and the sweeping strings of breakout track “Hurricane”.  Even if Ms Mr don’t have a full-length in store for 2013 (news is scarce from their camp), expect a crowded showcase as these four excellent tracks gain traction on their own.

Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich+Fussible – “Radio Borderland”

 

Pairs Well With…Mexican Institute of Sound, Kinky, Grupo Fantasma

 

As part of the Nortec Collective, Bostich+Fussible fuse Northern Mexican traditions and techno elements in their own uniquely coined blend.  Their latest is the Grammy-nominated Bulevar 2000, a complete record that is consistently exploratory, but always grounded.  The international appeal here is obvious – Bostich+Fussible switch back and forth between English and Spanish vocals just as easily as they shift around worldly bases and forms.  While Bulevar 2000 is a dance record by nature, Bostich and Fussible avoid predictable house beats, instead incorporating melodies and practices of EDM into their rootsy traditions.  For anyone stuck on mariachi when your mind turns to Mexican music, give Bostich+Fussible a long spin for a new world of possibilities. 

Naïve Thieves – “Anxiete”

 

Pairs Well With…Vampire Weekend, The Fratellis, Cayucas

 

Naïve Thieves’ just-released full-length Vamonos combines sunset surf-rock with urban melancholy.  Loose, but not necessarily laid back, Naïve Thieves find a nice pocket to work through their already matured sound.  Look out for the African melodies and percussion that find their way into Vamonos, a nice way to break out of rock paradigms by shifting influences around the world.  There are hints of garage punk, albeit filtered through a wide lens, that elevate Naïve Thieves to a band aiming for something unique rather than just attitude and feel.  By breaking genre conventions, Naive Thieves’ songwriting allows these songs to pop, which they most likely would do in a live setting as well.

New Madrid – “Manners”

 

Pairs Well With…Futurebirds, Deer Tick, My Morning Jacket

 

New Madrid has turned to a deeper sound on their recent seven-track effort Sunswimmer, twisting a grunge underbelly through the Athens-based band’s Southern folk-rock roots.  The near-ambient launch of opener “All Around the Locust” opens up the expanse of Sunswimmer early, slowing down in the back-end like a breath slowly let out over time.  New Madrid is in the midst of a nationwide tour that carries them all the way through September, so look for the feedback knob to be turned up a bit more this time around as they continue to evolve strongly.   

Athens’ New Madrid follows along in the shoes many of their Southern rock peers in the band’s rootsy style, though there are some hints of surf rock and even a little ambience into their country-fried, dream rock sound.  There is a warming distance on the recording of their debut LP Yardboat, allowing the band to explore some unique, pop melodies instead of just turning the face-melting meter up to ten. This muted approach yields a tempered patience, which allows New Madrid to really stretch out like on the spaced out epic “Sand Mountain” or the layered ebbs and flows of the ten-minute “Pond”.  Set up New Madrid for a SXSW breather set that’ll still carry a full sense of drama, but some of the nicest slow grooves you’ll hear that day.

Post-SXSW 2014 Spreadsheet 150
 
One-fifty!  This evening’s set is extra packed with four bands shaking our radars.  Mexico, New York, California and Georgia are represented with a mix of rock, pop and World styles.  Highlights:
 
MS MR (9) - Debut LP Secondhand Rapture is wickedly dense for a greyly toned indie pop record.  Minor-key catchiness is such a nuanced art form, one that MS MR just nails in a fiercely unique way.
Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich+Fussible (8) – The international appeal here is obvious – Bostich+Fussible switch back and forth between English and Spanish vocals just as easily as they shift around worldly bases and forms.  While Bulevar 2000 is a dance record by nature, Bostich and Fussible avoid predictable house beats, instead incorporating melodies and practices of EDM into their rootsy traditions.
Naïve Thieves (7) - Loose, but not necessarily laid back, Naïve Thieves find a nice pocket to work through their already matured sound.  Look out for the African melodies and percussion that find their way into Vamonos, a nice way to break out of rock paradigms by shifting influences around the world.
New Madrid (7) - New Madrid has turned to a deeper sound on their recent seven-track effort Sunswimmer, twisting a grunge underbelly through the Athens-based band’s Southern folk-rock roots.  The near-ambient launch of opener “All Around the Locust” opens up the expanse of Sunswimmer early, slowing down in the back-end like a breath slowly let out over time.
Monogold (6) - Shoegaze/indie pop band Monogold hasn’t released any new music in over three years, interesting in that their dreamy, percussive sound has since become a popular song form in SXSW circles.  As expected, full-length The Softest Glow has aged well as something equally inventive and inviting.
Nightmare and the Cat (6) – Twee melodies and hovering electronic pop make up the meat of Nightmare and the Cat’s latest EP Simple, though tracks like “Goodbye So Many Times” and “Alvarado” drive some more punch and drama in their increasingly sharpening sound.
Myrryrs (5) – Nashville beatmaker/producer Myrryrs generally sticks to hip hop beats and down-tempo R&B through his released originals.  Combining a lounge atmosphere with percussive punch is a pleasant mix, one that hypnotizes with focus.

NY Night Train Soul Clap and Dance Off (5) - Jonathan Toubin is a New York City specialty.  The DJ’s homegrown party, Soul Clap and Dance-Off, has become a monthly Brooklyn institution.  Audiences get lost in the groovy dance tracks that hiss and snap off vinyl 45s.

Post-SXSW 2014 Spreadsheet 150

 

One-fifty!  This evening’s set is extra packed with four bands shaking our radars.  Mexico, New York, California and Georgia are represented with a mix of rock, pop and World styles.  Highlights:

 

MS MR (9) - Debut LP Secondhand Rapture is wickedly dense for a greyly toned indie pop record.  Minor-key catchiness is such a nuanced art form, one that MS MR just nails in a fiercely unique way.

Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich+Fussible (8) – The international appeal here is obvious – Bostich+Fussible switch back and forth between English and Spanish vocals just as easily as they shift around worldly bases and forms.  While Bulevar 2000 is a dance record by nature, Bostich and Fussible avoid predictable house beats, instead incorporating melodies and practices of EDM into their rootsy traditions.

Naïve Thieves (7) - Loose, but not necessarily laid back, Naïve Thieves find a nice pocket to work through their already matured sound.  Look out for the African melodies and percussion that find their way into Vamonos, a nice way to break out of rock paradigms by shifting influences around the world.

New Madrid (7) - New Madrid has turned to a deeper sound on their recent seven-track effort Sunswimmer, twisting a grunge underbelly through the Athens-based band’s Southern folk-rock roots.  The near-ambient launch of opener “All Around the Locust” opens up the expanse of Sunswimmer early, slowing down in the back-end like a breath slowly let out over time.

Monogold (6) - Shoegaze/indie pop band Monogold hasn’t released any new music in over three years, interesting in that their dreamy, percussive sound has since become a popular song form in SXSW circles.  As expected, full-length The Softest Glow has aged well as something equally inventive and inviting.

Nightmare and the Cat (6) – Twee melodies and hovering electronic pop make up the meat of Nightmare and the Cat’s latest EP Simple, though tracks like “Goodbye So Many Times” and “Alvarado” drive some more punch and drama in their increasingly sharpening sound.

Myrryrs (5) – Nashville beatmaker/producer Myrryrs generally sticks to hip hop beats and down-tempo R&B through his released originals.  Combining a lounge atmosphere with percussive punch is a pleasant mix, one that hypnotizes with focus.

NY Night Train Soul Clap and Dance Off (5) - Jonathan Toubin is a New York City specialty.  The DJ’s homegrown party, Soul Clap and Dance-Off, has become a monthly Brooklyn institution.  Audiences get lost in the groovy dance tracks that hiss and snap off vinyl 45s.

Forecastle 2014 OEB Spotlight: Hayes Carll – “Stomp and Holler” (live)

 

Pairs Well With…Todd Snider, Ryan Bingham, Justin Townes Earle

 

Unfortunately, Hayes Carll hasn’t previewed any official tracks from his awaited follow-up to 2011’s excellent KMAG YOYO, but news from Carll’s camp references 2014’s tour dates featuring a smattering of what’s next for the advanced, alt country singer-songwriter.  Hopefully the pairing of raucous, skiffle blues with whiskey-soaked ballads continues with Carll’s upcoming fifth full-length, a likely prediction knowing how his songwriting has continued to mature album by album.  Hayes Carll closes out the WFPK Port Stage at Forecastle 2014 on Sunday night at 8:30.

2011 Review: Hayes Carll – an alt country artist from Houston with a rootsy and traditional style and great energy.  Hayes Carll is like a rocking country bar band, but they take it to the next level.  Hayes is an awesome songwriter, with a real storytelling approach that worked so well for the folksters and country artists in the 60s.  The band flat out rocks, incorporating rockabilly and some banging rock and roll, which I’m sure translates greatly.  Hayes Carll is a country artist that the rock crowd can gather round, especially with the respect his music pays to his forefathers.  Hayes can also bring emotional slow tunes to the fray, with soft slide guitar and some Willie-esque crooning.  He’s certainly one of the bright lights in a country scene completely overrun with a pop sound.  I’m not sure how far his sound stretches, but down here in Texas, Hayes Carll has really found a great spot in the music universe.

These Guys Reviewed Every Band At SXSW 2014 So You Don't Have To

Operation Every Band Spotlighted in Australia

 

All the more impressive considering Operation Every Band tackled the herculean task with a small and (obviously) super-dedicated team of four, compiling the results of the 2,285 artists they saw (that’s an average of over 570 gigs per reviewer) into a huge A-Z ratings compendium, simply called ‘The Spreadsheet‘, described as “an all-encompassing look at the SXSW roster with descriptions and micro-reviews along with our subjective rating.”

 

Take a look, it’s pretty inspiring. Think of it as the ultimate buzz band guide to your new favourite act.

 

Aw shucks!

Forecastle 2014 OEB Spotlight: Sun Kil Moon – “Carissa”

 

Pairs Well With…The National, Nick Drake, Angel Olsen

 

At first, it may seem like an odd place for a band like Sun Kil Moon.  Big festival stages and ultra-quiet, doomy folk music may not seem like a natural fit, but Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters) and company have built a dedicated audience that are sure to rapt through Sun Kil Moon’s intimate and lyrical presence.  Kozelek is a prolific songwriter (he tours solo regularly, including a spot at SXSW 2014 we recently covered – 2014’s engrossing Benji is Sun Kil Moon’s sixth full-length.  Strikingly personal and to the point, Benji is the culmination of all of Kozelek’s work over the years, current but constructed with timeless building blocks.  The record is unapologetic in terms of content – death plays the lead part of Benji’s narrative as Sun Kil Moon explores the deepest of emotions.  If you are looking to reflect on Sunday afternoon, and maybe shed a hidden tear or two, Sun Kil Moon will be at Forecastle’s WFPK Port Stage at 4:45.

Milezo – “Kiss You All”

 

Pairs Well With…Kurt Vile and the Violators, Real Estate, Spoon

 

When a new band really dents my radar, I tend to do a little digging to see if I’m not the only one buzzing about them across the interwebs.  To my surprise, Milezo seems to be unknown on a national scale, criminally underrated considering their inventive 2013 full-length Pathways.  The foundation of Milezo’s sound is focused, psychedelic rock, but this is more on the side of a singer-songwriter record than a blues-jam vehicle.  Milezo takes a lot from the 70s forefathers (lots of Beatles and Jefferson Airplane here), but that’s countered in perfect harmony against the quartet’s youthful, passionate delivery.  It isn’t just a couple songs that win over on Pathways, rather the whole record has something to offer.  Diversely bouncing between deep space and punchy pop, Milezo is a complete package already.  Milezo has a few festivals on the plate this month, but so far they’ve been mostly sticking to local Austin haunts.  Hopefully Milezo is a band that builds some momentum over the years, so tell your friends if Pathways has you excited as well.