Recommended: We/Or/Me – Sleeping City

We/Or/Me is Bahhaj Taherzadeh, a Chicago-based singer-songwriter whose voice conjures forth Nick Drake and Sam Bean (Iron and Wine).  His music hearkens back to the traditions of British folk rock, and is both spellbinding and beautiful.  And because of all these things, and more, I am very happy to report that Bahhaj has written with news that his first full-length – Sleeping City – is now out on Bandcamp.

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Mailbag: Clara Engel

Clara Engel is an experimental, post-punk artist from Montreal who puts together songs full of textures and atmosphere.  Songs like “Lick My Fins” (below) are challenging, evoking as they do anything from cabaret punk to Siouxsie and the Banshees… even hints of Annie Lennox and Patti Smith.  It’s a challenging, but ultimately rewarding, listen to an artist that is clearly driven by an inner poetry that burns from the inside-out.

The great testament to the highly original nature of Clara’s music is my complete inability to find any sort of description that feels appropriate.  One of her many albums – Secret Beasts – feels at times tortured, and at others calmly spiritual.  It’s a mystery, and, honestly, I feel unfit to reduce it to the constraints of a review.  (And actually, that does feel like a compliment to me.)

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Mailbag: Andy Berkhout – Love Without Fear

Andy Berkhout‘s Love Without Fear is a beautiful, folk-inspired record that unfolds like a lazy afternoon in the country.  An acoustic album, with roots in folk and Americana, Love Without Fear is an intimate, gorgeous listen that is sure to captivate you.  Tracks like “Love’s Deep Embrace” (below) remind me of Elliott Smith, even as they create something that is both personal and original.

I have to agree with Slowcoustic on this one: “So essentially I am saying that you know this album wasn’t just thrown together, it grew out of crafting numerous tracks over time and it shows in the pretty darn solid collection of finger-picking, folk tinged beauties.”  Andy spent a year in which he released a song per week, and that dedication to improving and honing his songwriting craft really shines through here.

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Recommended: Balto – October’s Road


I’m going to jump right to it with this one: Balto’s October’s Road is gorgeous.  Goosebump-inducing gorgeous.  The album, which is available on Bandcamp, is the work of Daniel Sheron and five of his friends (including Philippe Bronchtein of Hip Hatchet), and comes attached to a truly excellent origin story:

Balto came into being when Daniel Sheron abandoned his life in Moscow, Russia and went alone into Siberia. Against an ever shifting backdrop of railways and desolate wastes, he wrote a cycle of songs to tell the story of what had happened in that strange country, why he had exiled himself, and why he thought it mattered. In train cars and crumbling cities he encountered PEOPLE, and they inhabited the songs he was writing and the notes he was taking. In the fall, Daniel brought Balto back to America and called his friends to record an album in one day. On December 15, 2010, six people entered a basement in Brooklyn, New York and emerged that night with an album that no one had expected. October’s Road.

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First Listen: Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

Thanks to Stereogum, we’ve got the title track from Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues (out 5/3 via Sub Pop).  And I’ve got to tell you… it’s soaring, majestic, and wonderful.  At one point, singer Robin Pecknold asserts: “And I know you will keep me on the shelf…”

Not a chance.  Come have a listen, and grab your own copy!

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