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

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

Day 5: Lost In The Trees

Lost In The Trees

Who: Lost In The Trees

What: Very large, sweeping indie “orchestral folk” (as described by group founder Ari Picker).

Where: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Why:Because this is really something special. It might not grab you on the first listen, but it’ll definitely get you to come back for more. There is something incredibly intriguing that really grabs you about each song – and each time it’s something different. One track might has a crashing sound of terror, another touches on electronica, yet another is a stunning orchestral composition. Lost In The Trees sounds like your whole record collection at once, twisting and turning around genre boundaries in a way that will keep you interested for a long time.

When: All Alone In An Empty House, Lost In The Trees Anti- Records/Trekky Records debut, is out now.

Lost In The Trees – Walk Around The Lake

Day 4: Amanda Merdzan

Amanda Merdzan

Who: Amanda Merdzan

What: Semi-cutesy indie-folk that’ll definitely put you in mind of Kimya Dawson.

Where: Perth, Australia

Why: Honestly, I can’t vouch for anything but the song offered below, I haven’t had a change to listen to more yet, and it’s not like this is a brand new sound or anything. But something about the lyrics in “The Last Song” one got through to my cold, cold heart when I first played it – remembering how much you’ve forgotten about times gone by, loves lost, rang a little true with me and put a tiny tear in my eye. (Don’t tell anyone, ok?)

When: Amanda’s Into The Gallery is out now and available from iTunes and the like, or from emusic here. If you like what you hear and happen to be in NYC, Amanda will be playing shows there for the next few months, so look her up.

Amanda Merdzan – The Last Song

Round Ron Virgin, Cowabungler

Round Ron Virgin

I’m so late on this one, it’s kind of embarrassing. Yeah, I’m forever moaning about being behind on mail but this one may be a record – it arrived on, cringe, July 15th. Oy. Apologies, Round Ron Virgin – I’ve been enjoying this album on my iPod ever since you sent it, but my lazy ass has been slow in getting a post done. Better late than never?

Definitely, if you haven’t heard Cowabungler yet. Round Ron Virgin is Oli Chance (formerly of Oli ‘n’ Clive) along with about a zillion other musicians – members of Wet Paint, The Rumble Strips, Helsinki, and The Coastguards, among others. Their press release boasts, rightly so, that “the album features no less than 25 instruments, ranging from the euphonium to drum machines, guitaleles, and the humble yet versatile saucepan-and-floor.” Sweet! A little bit folk, a little bit country, a little bit various other genres, Round Ron Virgin manages to play with all kind of styles while still maintaining a sound of their own. “I Love You, But You Are Nuts” is a little acoustic folk-ish ditty that’s been stuck in my head for about a week, “Old, Sick & Die” sounds like New Orleans and is surprisingly life-affirming, “Sailor Song” (below) is a very odd sea shanty that makes me laugh. The sense of humor is definitely one of the best things about Cowabungler, there’s a surreal streak running throughout that keeps you on your toes. Similarly, Chance’s voice manages to sound both forlorn and like he might laugh any second, an unusual quality which I find incredibly charming.

Cowabungler is out now on Records Records Records records (which is only funny if you say it out loud, and gets funnier each time, like the Bob Loblaw Law Blog), and is free to download, remix, or redesign. Chance’s approach is to “make the album as accessible as humanly possible. It’s easy to distribute music these days, and we want to actively encourage fans to pass it on, remix it, re-work it and re- imagine it, then share it with us and everyone else through our website.” So go go go to the Round Ron Virgin website to download the album and find out more.

Round Ron Virgin – Sailor Song