Archive for June, 2010

Respecting Our Elders: Helen Forrest

Helen Forrest

I’d been trying to get into Big Band music recently, and people I had asked advice from pointed me towards folks like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey.  And that was all well and good, but it left me wanting.  Recently though, NPR did an article on Artie Shaw’s 100th Birthday and his Clarinetial influence upon his time.  The article included songs with a dame named Helen Forrest, who provided vocals for much of Shaw’s orchestrations, and suddenly I remembered my Grandmother’s love for this woman’s voice.  There wasn’t a classically strong bond between Grandmama and me when I knew her; she liked her Solitaire, and I enjoyed taping wooden meat-skewers to my wrist and pretending to Wolverine about.  But I DO remember sitting with her on 4ths of Julys and listening to Helen Forrest.  I always used to think all of Grandma’s music sounded the same, and in essence all Big Band music does.  6It circles and pirouettes around L-O-V-E, pining to dash into the warm arms of that special somebody.  Smiling uniforms and glossy eyed skirts (no disrespect) swirling on the dance floor, and all the other scenes that frequent TMC represent a kind of swell magic to me now, and I’m suddenly missing those evenings of fireworks.  Helen Forrest’s timeless voice takes me back, and helps me understand my Grandmother with a whole new perspective.  The kind that sees her as she might have been: in dress and heels, dancing till the band was done.  I won’t bore you with the statistics, suffice to say that Helen Forrest collaborated with a whole gosh-darn-heap of a lot of artists during her time, and she always seemed to be smiling when she did it.  Instead I’ll let you listen to some of her songs, the ones you’ll find impossible not to wonder and remember  within.

Helen Forrest – Everything I Have Is Yours by The Wounded Jukebox

Helen Forrest – On The Sunny Side of the Street by The Wounded Jukebox

Helen Forrest – I’ll Get By by The Wounded Jukebox

Helen Forrest – Between The Devil And The Deep by The Wounded Jukebox


Quite possibly the 1st music video.



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The Bear That Wasn’t: Headphones

If the whimsy and melancholy of growing up had a soundtrack, Belgium’s The Bear That Wasn’t might provide it. As a matter of fact, Nils Verresen takes the name for his solo, acoustic folk project from a rather somber and reflective children’s book of the same name.

In the book, a bear awakes from a nap to find that humans have constructed an industrial complex around him. He is unable to fit in, both with the humans and with the bears. The book also spawned an animated short film, both of which were created by Looney Tunes cartoonist Frank Tashlin.

It’s clear upon listening to Verresen’s debut And So It Is Morning Dew that his project’s namesake is a perfect fit. Verresen spins yarns about the awkwardness of moving from the dreamlike landscape that comes with childhood imagination to the loss of innocence that adolescence and adulthood thrust upon us.

Though not all the messages are sad, the sound is always hefty. Strings, or chimes, or dramatic drumrolls, or banjo strums add weight even to Verresen’s cheerier musings. At first blush, he brings to mind acts like Radical Face or Freelance Whales. Give him a listen, and I think you’ll end up with a smile on your face. Or a tear in your eye. Either way, you’ll be moved.

Buy And So It Is Morning Dew here.

Headphones” By The Bear That Wasn’t (From And So It Is Morning Dew, out now on Friendly Man’ Set Up)

Fizzy Good (Make Feel Nice)” By The Bear That Wasn’t (From And So It Is Morning Dew, out now on Friendly Man’ Set Up)

Next Stop, Disneyland” By The Bear That Wasn’t (From And So It Is Morning Dew, out now on Friendly Man’ Set Up)


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Stornoway: Beachcomber’s Windowsill

Some voices are just soothing.  Lead singer Brian Briggs’ voice has that quality.  Matt introduced me to this band last week, and I have been playing them for everyone.  You maybe have seen some of their songs on Matt and Sean’s mixes. They seem to be fairly popular en England, but not so much here.  They sound like a less folkie Mumford & Sons. Check it out.

Stornoway – Zorbing

Stornoway – Fuel Up


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Bombay Bicycle Club: “Ivy and Gold”


Continuously impressed by these Londoners I am.  Previous sounds have been robust, downright ragged thrills upon the ear, and they were truly lovely. But now Bombay Bicycle Club has a new collection releasing mid-July over the sea, and this time it’s gonna be an entirely acoustic effort, something they’ve been planning to do for a while now.  The two advance songs from the full-length titled Flaws, (to be released the 1st week July) are some skip-along treats for your sunshiny afternoons.  “Ivy and Gold” is simple, but takes the wonderful vocals of Mr. Jack Steadman and Jamie MacColl and wagon-trains them to a lazy ride through the clouds.  The title track “Flaws” features the adorably named Lucy Rose (she’s been touring with them too) with her tender backing vocals and Steadman on a roof, overlooking a English garden.  It’s all a giant wake-up call to the Yanks from NME’s Best Band of 2010.  They’re really something.  Take this chance to get to know them.

Bombay Bicycle Club-Ivy & Gold by The Wounded Jukebox


Apparently, this video for “Flaws” is the 1st of 11 accompanying clips to go with all 11 tracks.  So stay tuned!

[Pre-order Flaws here]

[Bombay Bicycle Club’s Webpage]

[Bombay Bicycle Club Myspace]

[Lucy Rose Myspace]

Flaws Cover

(Flaws and it’s July 12th release is due in the U.K. from Island Records)


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Shiv Hurrah: Oh Oh Oh

My Photos | Shiv Hurrah

Sometimes a cool new band just falls into your lap. Such was the case with Shiv Hurrah, a new quintet from Brooklyn. The term new is used loosely here: four of the band’s five members were in a band together 10 years ago in Rochester, NY. Time and life put the band’s music on hold, until frontman and songwriter David Bechle and those old friends reunited, added a new member and began playing some new songs.

Bechle’s voice is a strong presence on the band’s self-titled, five-song EP, which is available for free download from Bandcamp here. But the band sounds as if they never left each other’s company. There’s lovely guitar harmonies, some keyboards and even some well-placed horns involved across the five-track debut.

Some bands that come to mind listening to Shiv Hurrah’s debut are: Morning Benders, Wilco, and The Drums. In other words, some lo-fi indie guitar vibes, strong vocals, a gift for melody and the occasional use of reverb. They are currently unsigned, but I can’t see that being the case for much longer.

Check these guys out!

My Photos | Illustration by Sean McCausland | Shiv Hurrah

Oh Oh Oh” By Shiv Hurrah (From Shiv Hurrah EP, available here)

All My Teeth Fall Out” By Shiv Hurrah (From Shiv Hurrah EP, available here)


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Forest City Lovers: If I Were A Tree

(Photo by Ryan Marr)

If used properly, the element of surprise can be a band’s path to success. Forest City Lovers know how to take a song for interesting and unexpected turns, and how to vary their sound enough to keep listeners guessing in a totally fun way. Their newest album, Carriage, is the band’s third full-length, and if the first few singles are any indication, it’s sure to be an interesting indie-pop ride. There are chord changes and instruments galore, all used to keep the rhythm steady and slightly unpredictable. But even when you know where Forest City Lovers are going, it’s still fun to tap your toe and sing along.

The band is based in Toronto, and Carriage is set to be released next week, on Toronto label Out of this Spark, and distributed by uber-awesome Arts & Crafts. FCL employs strings, guitars, keyboards, a banjo and even a glockenspiel, all to great effect. The best comparison I could probably make is some of the earlier output from Illinois outfit Headlights. But with more than a dash of quirkiness.


Light You Up” By Forest City Lovers (From Carriage, out June 29 on Out of this Spark / Arts & Crafts)

If I Were A Tree” By Forest City Lovers (From Carriage, out June 29 on Out of this Spark / Arts & Crafts)

Phodilus & Tyto” By Forest City Lovers (From Carriage, out June 29 on Out of this Spark / Arts & Crafts)

The lovely and simple video for “If I Were A Tree”


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The Acorn: No Ghost

The Acorn aloft

Which came first, the lyrics or the music?  In the case of The Acorn, it’s neither.  The visuals and the story are what’s placed front and center in this Canadian Alt-Folk quintet.  The sophomore release of No Ghost follows the tale of dust forming into being, rebelling against its nature, eventually returning to dust once more.  The journey from ash to corporeal and beyond is a full-on wonderland in the hands of the youngsters.  They use the opportunity to explore and water-color their way across several peyote inspired universes and archipelagi only to land in a backyard barbecue of family and friend.  It’s enough to buy a ticket on whatever vessel they sail in, cause you know you’ll be back when it counts the most.  Compared to the last, their newest record seems to escape through the seams and take delight in the space it finds.  Lots of unconventional song structure (not uncomfortably so) and soaring, slamming rhythms.  The arc of sleep into waking revelry begins with the track “Restoration”.  And as you can see from the waveform, it only builds from there.

The Acorn – Restoration by The Wounded Jukebox

So if you up for it, go the rest of the way.  Take The Acorn’s lead and you’ll be sloshing through sewer with Sigmund Freud one moment (“Crossed Wires”) and stomping your hooves with Centaurs (“No Ghost”) the next.

The Acorn – No Ghost by The Wounded Jukebox

The Acorn – Kindling to Cremation by The Wounded Jukebox

See: that the clips from their debut Glory Hope Mountain actually forms a short film, directed Chris Mills.  It’s striking.  And lyrically harmonious.

[The Acorn’s Myspace]–where they cackle and caw

The Acorn No Ghost

(No Ghost is available now via the best label of the year {me thinks} Bella Union Records)


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