First Listen: Björk – Biophilia

Björk‘s new album – Biophilia – is now available for your listening pleasure via NPR’s First Listen series.  The album, which is also available in the form of an interactive iPad/iPod app, is perhaps the artist’s most experimental work to date.  Not known for her shyness in the face of technology, Björk has created an immersive multimedia experience for Biophilia.

Here’s how the folks at NPR describe the album’s background: “Björk’s latest and most ambitious project yet, began as a collection of songs written around themes of nature, science and humanity’s relationships to both. For most artists, that’d be a lofty enough concept on its own. But Björk heavily researched astrophysics, string theory, neurology, biology and other areas where science and music meet.”

With a description like that, and a personality like Björk, there can be no doubt that you’re in for a treat.  So, head on over to NPR and have a listenBiophilia will be released on October 11th.

First Listen: St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

One of the most anticipated albums of the Fall – St. Vincent‘s Strange Mercy – is now available for your listening pleasure via the fine folks at NPR Music.  The album, which is due out on Sept. 13th, will be streaming on NPR until release.  So, head on over, and have a listen!

Coming Soon: Tired Pony – “The Place We Ran From”

I’m often a bit uneasy when it comes to “supergroups.”  I mean, what does that really mean?  As far as I can tell, it’s a bit like the musical equivalent of the All-Star game.  Yet, the bar can be a bit low at times (I’m looking at you, Tinted Windows).  And so, I initially approached Tired Pony – a new group featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), Richard Colburn (Belle and Sebastian), and a cast of guests that includes M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel (She & Him) and Tom Smith (Editors) – with a bit of hesitation.  Thankfully, after seeing the performance video over on their website (which appears to have been shot in my old basement), I can finally set aside my doubts…

In an interview with BBC’s 6Music, Lightbody describes the forthcoming album – The Place We Ran From – as a “twisted love letter to the States.”  Of its country-tinged construction, he adds: “I can’t get away with writing pure country music because I haven’t lived that life, but I love it so much that I always wanted to try my hand at it.”   On its themes: “It’s inspired by my love of Wilco, Calexico, Lambchop, Palace, Smog – these bands that look at the darkness in America.”

The album is out July 12th on Fiction.  (Available for pre-order in the U.K. on Amazon.)

Follow me to find some useful links, and hear a bit of Lightbody performing a Tired Pony track acoustic.

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First Listen: Jónsi – Go

Today, we’re continuing yesterday’s Icelandic theme with NPR’s first look at the new Jónsi album Go.  Jónsi is, of course, Jon Thor Birgisson, the singer from Sigur Rós.  I’ve long loved and admired Sigur Rós’ towering, immersive soundscapes.  Sonic architecture that can hit with the fury of a primal scream – or a gentle breeze – and leave you profoundly changed just the same.  And so, for obvious reasons, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Go‘s release.

And man, does it ever live up to expectations!  The first two tracks – “Go Do” and “Animal Arithmetic” are so joyful, and so playful, that I almost had to make sure I was playing the right album.  Of course, by the time the album’s gorgeous third track – “Tornado” – rolls around, everything becomes perfectly clear.  Jónsi’s voice continues to soar here, as it does throughout the album – occasionally diving and weaving through brass, woodwinds, chimes, and assorted other bits of orchestral ephemera.  The album has such an enthusiasm, and an intensity of purpose, that it’s almost impossible to imagine it stripped down to anything less than a philharmonic.

On a side note, and as a long time fan, it’s really exciting to hear so much English on Go.  (Granted, I have a degree in Old Norse, and have studied Icelandic, but still…)  I do love me some Hopelandic, but I find Jónsi’s choice here to be quite daring.

If you’ve been on the fence about Sigur Rós, or haven’t really connected with their music, I strongly encourage you to try Go.  It’s epic, exuberant, and beautiful (especially the album’s crisp, penultimate track: “Grow till Tall”).  If it doesn’t brighten your day, then I’d urge you to kindly stay away from Whoville.

Follow me to listen to the album…

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First Listen: She & Him – Volume Two

It’s been a scary, busy month of dissertation drafting (due any day now!), and so I’ve been a bit remiss in updating this site.  Ok, fine, entirely remiss.  And this isn’t really so much of a post, as it is a postcard… But one of the things that makes it all more bearable is the new She & Him album Volume Two.   We’ve had a quick look at it on this site before, and you can still visit that post for a free download of “In the Sun.”  But for now, and until its release on March 23rd, you can hear the whole thing courtesy of NPR.  And of course, after the cut.  Enjoy!

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