Harlan Pepper, Young and Old

Harlan Pepper, Young and Old

Who: Harlan Pepper

What: Indie-folk brought up-to-date with a sense of humor, a blend of styles, and a little more ‘today’ than most.

Where: Hamilton, Canada. The Google tells me this is in Ontario. Canadian geography is a mystery to me.

Why: Because “Great Lakes” – below and available free from Harlan Pepper’s bandcamp page – is totally awesome. Seriously, it’s a fantastic track – just all-around great. Good lyrics, nice wordplay going on with the lake names, and it weirdly makes me feel like home. I guess because Pittsburgh is near Lake Erie – and by ‘near’ I can only mean ‘nearer than I am right now’ because it’s all relative and stuff – or something, it just feels familiar like home. Anyway … I’ve enjoyed Young and Old, Harlan Pepper’s debut, but I should admit that I think “Great Lakes” really is the standout track. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the rest of this very young band’s album – “Reefer” is pretty great as well – but I think Harlan Pepper is still trying out styles to see how they fit and not all of it is as successful as “Great Lakes” is. Their music doesn’t feel like a cohesive whole yet, but Young and Old definitely has moments that point to potential I’ll like to see develop.

When: Young and Old is out now, available via bandcamp!

Harlan Pepper – Great Lakes

Johnny Hawaii, Smurf’s Up

Johnny Hawaii

Who: Johnny Hawaii

What: Laid back surfer pop, brought to us by Bad Panda Records

Where: From Marseille, France, not often the origin of Hawaii-infused surfer tunes.

Why: Because Johnny Hawaii knows exactly how to bring the sounds of the beach, somehow. With the first few notes of “The Lonely Smurfer”, I can close my eyes and seriously feel like I’m on a sandy beach, sun shining, a warm breeze on the air, nothing but the sounds of the water and some rustling palm trees around for miles. Not that I’ve ever been anywhere near such a place, but Mr. Hawaii really knows how to evoke the image we all associate with the beaches of his namesake state.

When: Johnny Hawaii’s Smurf’s Up EP is out now and available to listen to or download via bandcamp, or learn more about this intriguing man through this little interview.

Johnny Hawaii – The Lonely Smurfer

Darren Hayman’s January Songs

Darren Hayman's January Songs

We got a mail last week about Darren Hayman’s January Songs project – you know Darren Hayman: “ex-Hefner, godfather of modern indiepop, one of the best songsmiths of the past 15 years, oh you know the one”. Ok, I didn’t know any of those things, but I’m sure you do. I’ve been meaning to listen to some Hefner for a while now, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Isn’t it funny how you can somehow miss out on something everyone else has been listening to for ages?

Anyway, so there’s this Darren Hayman guy who everyone already knows everything about, and he’s doing a project right now – January – called, unsurprisingly, January Songs. The goal is to write and record a song for every day this month. It’s already the 19th, but it’s not to late to listen along – you can check out the full schedule here. He’s apparently been keeping a video diary throughout, and has gathered a whole bunch of people to collaborate with on this slightly crazy, but very cool and ambitious project. Especially when whipping out a song in a day can sound as good as this one, recorded with Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris. I don’t think there’s a person out there who can’t relate to this one.

Darren Hayman w/ Elizabeth Morris – I Know I Fucked Up

Lost In The Trees update

Lost In The Trees

You might remember that I was really, really taken with Lost In The Trees when I first heard them back in November. This is just a little update as we’ve just had news that, because of their 2010 successes, Trekky Records will be re-releasing Lost In The Trees’ first EP, 2007’s Time Taunts Me. It’s a little more than just a re-issue though:

“Over the past three years, between extensive touring and multiple releases, Picker found himself returning to the bedroom recordings of Time Taunts Me, fleshing out and augmenting the baroque compositions until they were as big as they sounded in his head. Picker also recorded three new songs, written during the Time Taunts Me sessions but never put to tape, expanding the seven-song EP into a proper full-length. This is Time Taunts Me the way Picker always envisioned it; and the way the world should hear it now.”

Sounds like something worth hearing indeed. Time Taunts Me will be out on February 1st, presumably through the regular venues as well as a 3-part red-vinyl-LP / CD / MP3 package via Trekky Records.

Lost In The Trees – Tall Trees

9: Jared Mees & the Grown Children

Jared Mees & the Grown Children

Who: Jared Mees & the Grown Children

What: Indie folk with a razor-sharp edge, led by Jared Mees (who’s been recording for several years now), joined by an ever-changing group of musicians referred to as the Grown Children.

Where: Portland, Oregon

Why: I’m biased here just because I love the genre – especially lately, I can’t seem to get enough folk and country. This would fit very nicely next to Langhorne Slim, if you’re a fan (which I most definitely am) or even Nick Cave (quite like him as well) – a traditional-ish sound but with a most decidedly modern edge. Subject matter, naughty words, even a slightly too-electric guitar sound here give these guys a dust-bowl-folk-group-meets-carnie-freak-show feel.

When: Mees and co. are currently wrapping up a new album, to which “Cockleburrs & Hay” is, I think, a preview. Or maybe just an unrelated new song. Whatever, it’s pretty great, so check that out and grab their last, Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money, while you wait for more.

Jared Mees & the Grown Children – Cockleburrs & Hay

8: Ivan & Alyosha

Ivan & Alyosha

Who: Ivan & Alyosha

What: Truly stunning indie-folk

Where: From Seattle

Why: Oh, so lovely. It’s soaring but feels, at the same time, very earthy. The layered vocals on “Glorify”, at least) are incredibly delicate but weighty – I actually want to listen to what these guys have to say. I’ve only had the chance to hear this one track fully and quickly sample tracks from their last release – I’m more intrigued by this newer song, but I definitely want to hear more. I’m probably way behind the times on this one since they’ve already done the SXSW thing and been endorsed by NPR, but I don’t care, I’m just glad to have heard them at all.

When: Ivan & Alyosha’s debut EP, “The Verse, The Chorus”, was released last year (I think – there’s some conflicting information available on that point). “Glorify” (below) is a teaser track for their upcoming 2nd EP, “Fathers Be Kind”, will be out on Missing Piece Records, February 1st, 2011.

Ivan & Alyosha – Glorify

7: Kate and After

Kate and After

Who: Kate and After

What: Indie pop, in a general sense – boisterous and cheerful, great for dancing about the room and singing along to.

Where: Unsurprisingly from Sweden (Gothenburg), apparently the kingdom of happy indie pop.

Why: Because they do what they do really well. They remind me deeply of the first Stellastarr* album, which I loved so so so much, but they never lived up to again. Kate and After picks up where Stellastarr* left off after their debut – danceable pop with a slightly manic edge that keeps things interesting. And keeping in mind that Kate and After is still very young (their debut single was released less than a year ago), they could definitely put out some really fun music in the future.

When: Kate and After’s “Things To Do” EP is out now and free to download via their website. The artwork features the exact Doc Martens that I wanted so badly when I was a teenager back in the ’90s (sigh, I miss the ’90s) and this only makes me like Kate and After just that little bit more.

Kate and After – The Pretender