urgencytobleed: (Default)
Well, it didn't take me very long to get way behind in posting, did it? Anyway, as an apology, here are three really kick-ass songs for your listening pleasure. (Also, I kind of got progressively wordier with each one, sorry.)


I'd heard of this band awhile ago but never really listened to them because I got the impression they were super twee and precious. And while Alaina Moore's voice is very girlish and sweet and their songs are chock-full of quirky synthesizers and catchy pop choruses, the duo's true talent for writing keeps their music from becoming too overbearingly sugary. This song in particular is just... immensely glorious and is actually what made me consider giving them a bit of my attention in the first place. It perfectly marries a modern, synth-drenched electronic pop sound with one that borrows more heavily from the past: those boppy, infectious background vocals are straight out of the sixties. Basically, it's just one of the best pop tunes I've heard all year - in fact, their entire new album, Young and Old, is bursting with fantastic pop songs - and if it doesn't have you immediately reaching for the repeat button, well, then, you must have a heart of stone.


Morgan Nagler is a difficult woman to keep tabs on. Early on in her musical career, she performed under the joke moniker of Vagtown2000, which eventually transformed into a fully-fledged band called Whispertown2000. They then released a rather charming little debut album, Livin' in a Dream, but reached their peak with its follow-up (and another pointless name change, this time to The Whispertown 2000), 2008's alt-country/pop mash-up Swim. Since then, the band's been rather low key, releasing a few songs here and there and undergoing some line-up rearrangements. Pared down finally to just Whispertown, the band is now basically back to being Nagler on her own, with a little help from her friends when appropriate. Despite the decrease in numbers, the richness of Whispertown's sound has thankfully not suffered at all. Nagler still has a knack for writing songs that are poignant, charmingly simple and often incredibly catchy and Andy LeMaster's skillful production makes her new EP, Parallel, a real treat for the ears. Standing out to me as especially memorable is the title track, a lush, lovely ballad which is perhaps not particularly adventurous but that's not the point of it; what's so spectacular about Nagler's songwriting and singing is how completely earnest and believable it is, even as it sometimes slightly misses the mark, especially as it sometimes misses the mark, for the appeal lies in her rawness and honesty. (Also of note are LeMaster's understated but gorgeous backing vocals - because we all know I'm a bit of a devotee and, Christ, it's going on six years since Dark Light Daybreak; a girl's gotta get her fix somewhere.)


Listen, you are all incredibly lucky that I've held out on posting more Parenthetical Girls this long. If I gave into my urges, I'd have posted basically every song they've ever released by now. So it's really not too soon for another at all. Besides, you need to hear these songs. Because a. they are incredible, hence b. after being in the game for so long, this band should really have five times as many fans as they actually do. I now consider it my duty to promote the shit out of them until everyone is converted. Anyway, this track is from 2008's Entanglements, which, by the way, is a delightful little gem of an album. The thing I love most about it is that it doesn't overstay its welcome. It would have been easy for the band to go overblown and epic what with an entire orchestra at their fingertips but instead they chose not to indulge on a single unnecessary second and at under thirty-five minutes, succeeded in producing a cohesive whole that is incredibly satisfying and, for the most part, beautifully subtle. This song in particular is absolutely crushing. Between the heartrending string arrangements and Zac Pennington's knack for poetic turns of phrase, it somehow leads the listener to sympathize with the narrator when he finds out that his former illicit teenage lover is now marrying another man (that instrumental subtlety? Pennington more than makes up for it with the theatrical bent of his lyrics). Speaking of those lyrics, I just think the man is an incredible wordsmith. He's no Joanna Newsom but he plays around a lot with various techniques like internal rhyme and dissonance and assonance, which allows his lyrics more flexibility within the confines of sticking to a certain melody. They roll off the tongue so easily and are just really aesthetically pleasing, both heard and read, while also being incredibly clever - all aspects which I very much appreciate in lyricists.

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I'm a bit late on this week's post but, anyway, I thought I'd stick with the recent releases theme. I was first turned on to Bowerbirds when I saw them open for Joanna Newsom back in 2010 (has it really been two years already?!?). They put on a fantastic show, which prompted me to pick up their then latest album, Upper Air, afterwards. Though I liked a few songs, I never truly got into the album as a whole until recently, but now I think it's absolutely gorgeous and its just released follow-up, The Clearing, might be even more so. It doesn't exactly veer far off-course in terms of the sound Bowerbirds has established with their first two albums: organic, mainly acoustic folk-rock anchored by Phil Moore's Andrew Bird-esque warble and his heavily nature-influenced lyrics and Beth Tacular's airy harmonies and warmly playful accordion accompaniment. However, it's difficult to fault the band for sticking to what they do best when they do it so damn well. The Clearing contains some of their finest songs yet; in fact, the first half of the album is rather close to flawless, from sprawling opener "Tuck the Darkness In" to the quirky, Tacular-led "In the Yard" to the trifecta of perfection that begins with the track featured here, "Stitch the Hem." The best thing about the song is how it both packs an immediate punch with its catchy chorus and simmers slowly in the back of your mind, listen by listen coaxing you into believing it may in fact be one of the best things you've ever heard. If anything, it will certainly be one of the most beautiful. If Moore and Tacular's impossibly smooth harmonizing, better here than ever, fails to win you over, well, then, I think you should probably have your ears checked immediately.
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I'm resisting the urge to post more Parenthetical Girls, as they're essentially all I've been listening to for the past week with very few exceptions (seriously, if you listen to any one band I've ever recommended here, please make it them). But instead I'll post about another band I've known for awhile but had kind of forgotten about for the past couple years before recently rediscovering. Unfortunately, said rediscovery has been put slightly on the back-burner by my current obsession but that's not to say this band isn't just as worthy of your time.

Winterpills has been consistently releasing very lovely, low-key music since their self-titled debut in 2005 but they've really stepped up their game with this year's All My Lovely Goners. It's a staggeringly gorgeous album that is, sadly, flying completely under the musical radar though it certainly deserves much more attention. It's also a bit more dynamic, sound-wise, than Winterpills' past releases, which makes it even more appropriate for multiple listens. From the lush male/female harmonies of "Amazing Sky" to the more upbeat and instantly catchy "Dying Star" to the devastating, subtle intensity of "Sunspots (Ruins)," there's truly something here for everyone to love. The song that stole my heart right away, though, is the comparably bare and simplistic "Small Bright Doses." Philip Price and Flora Reed's soothing voices and the heartbreaking lyrics are placed front and center while the instrumentation slowly but beautifully unfolds and develops in the background, culminating in a stunning yet still understated finale. It actually reminds me very much of a Carissa's Wierd song, particularly Price's deeper, raspier vocals at the beginning and the melancholy beauty of the song's atmosphere. If you like what you hear, I suggest you head over to Winterpills' Bandcamp page and stream the entire album right away, then maybe throw $10 their way for making such ear-pleasing sounds.

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urgencytobleed: (i put a pearl in the ground)
I've decided I'm going to try this format out exclusively for awhile. It gives me a chance to tell everyone about the things I'm obsessed with still, but without making me feel like I have to churn posts out at a rate of every couple of days. Also, I plan to be more in-depth with these than with my old songs of the day.


I first heard Parenthetical Girls a couple years ago, just around the time they were beginning to release Privilege, a five-part 7" project that would ultimately come together to create a full-length album, so it somehow makes sense that I've just started to truly love the band this year, when it looks like the fifth and final part will be released soon. In just a few days, the intensity with which I've grown to adore the music I've heard (so far, only a fractional part of the Parenthetical Girls catalog) is a bit staggering, so much that it's hard for me to grasp how I've had the first three parts of Privilege and the band's last album, Entanglements, sitting on my computer for ages without realizing how legitimately brilliant they are. Hopefully, now that I've seen the light, I can convince a few others to as well, because the biggest shame of all is how relatively unknown the band still is after so long.

For the past several years, Parenthetical Girls has consisted of Zac Pennington and a rotating cast of additional band members. Pennington is an immensely talented vocalist and songwriter with an eccentric performance persona and the grand musical ambitions to match; luckily, he's also got the uncanny ability to execute every one of his ideas to perfection, no matter how drastically it differs from the last. Privilege, so far, is kind of a bizarre but genius combination of the richly orchestrated, baroque-styled Entanglements and criminally catchy, synth-drenched electronic pop, with the occasional burst of cacophonous experimentation to spice things up.

There are any number of songs from the project that could serve as a perfect introduction but I've gone with "Weaknesses" because it's simply the one I literally cannot stop playing. Even when I'm not listening to the song itself, it's on a constant loop inside my head. The song is just an ideal representation of everything that makes Parenthetical Girls so great. Though Pennington's voice doesn't go through as many elastic twists and turns as it does in some of the band's other songs, it's instantly engaging: unique, strong and slightly strange in a way that makes you want to keep listening. His lyrics, too, are in top form, somehow managing to be sexy, witty, a little bit sarcastic, and even slightly devastating all at once (try and tell me that last line isn't one of the best endings for a song ever). The music reflects this multifaceted quality. It is complex enough to stay interesting with multiple listens but catchy enough to win you over from the start, inexplicably sensual, unsettling and infectious as fuck simultaneously. Basically, it's just a perfect, perfect song and I wish everyone in the world could hear it right now.

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Shannon

April 2012

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