The former Walkmen frontman leaves us swooning on his solo debut. Backing away from the post-punk of his former band, Black Hours sees Leithauser focusing on digging his gravelly voice through chamber pop environs, singing heartily among stirring strings and vibes on “The Silent Orchestra.” Little the Walkmen did had the vibrant energy of a song like “Alexandra,” with Leithauser smiling his way through an irresistible jig. But Leithauser also throws a bone to those who miss the Walkmen’s nocturnal musings with songs like “11 O’Clock Friday Night,” a kind of New York at night drinking song with some clanging percussion amid the CBGBs guitars to keep it tied to the orchestrated feel of the rest of the album, and the lonely piano ballad “St. Mary’s County.” Throughout, Leithauser’s voice has never sounded better, growing further into a manly howl like a young Rod Stewart. He sounds as terrific crying into a pool of whiskey and reverb on the countrified “I Retired” as he does returning to his roots on the defiant “I Don’t Need Anyone.” While we’ll always miss the Walkmen, the thing we were gonna miss the most was that voice. Black Hours makes their departure sting less, as it’s opens a triumphant new avenue for Leithauser.
It feels like summer’s already here, but there are still plenty of great releases lined up for the tail end of this spring. Here are 10 we’re looking forward to that you can preorder now.
Out May 19
Before they were Jimmy Fallon’s house band, The Roots were one of the most dynamic and socially conscious groups in hip-hop. “When the People Cheer” reminds us of how great they are as pure rappers, and it’s got a cool stop-motion video to boot.
Daniel Rossen’s Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP came out today, and true to form for Grizzly Bear’s Rossen, it doesn’t disappoint. Though he’s perhaps the lesser-known entity of Grizzly Bear (the other being gravy-voiced Ed Droste), everything Rossen has released to this point, both within the band (his gorgeous “Deep Blue Sea," for instance”) or without it (as part of Department of Eagles) has born an unmistakable stamp. It’s a tribute to his talent that you can say that without being able to describe just what that stamp is. It’s a certain mysteriousness that is part of what makes Grizzly Bear so alluring, where you’re very much hearing folk-rock with a kind of doo-wop vocal delivery — sounds simple enough — but everything is curiously out of reach. Lyrics are more suggestive than descriptive, intimating nostalgia and loss without really being forthright about it, and arrangements tend to spiral out rather than circle back to where they’ve started. Silent Hour/Golden Mile is actually more direct than some of Rossen’s other work. “Up On High” wouldn’t be out of place on a Grizzly Bear album, while “Silent Song” and “Golden Mile” are relatively straightforward rock songs that still spin off from typical construction, with spindly guitars and high, cooing vocals that remind me a bit of mid-period Radiohead without actually sounding anything like that. Both songs also benefit from hummable moments — not something Rossen is always known for — as well as the kind of high, lap steel guitar lines found famously in Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” or George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” At five songs, Silent Hour/Golden Mile leaves you wanting for much more, which I’m guessing we’ll get in the form of the next Grizzly Bear or Department of Eagles album, but the EP is far from a departure or indulgence. It’s more like a treat, an appetizer for something bigger.
Conatus continued Zola Jesus' evolution to full-fledged goth pop star, with dance beats and hooks underpinning her freaky awesome voice.
Anti- / Epitaph
Malian Touareg band Tinariwen are joined by Kyp and Tunde from TV on the Radio on this beautiful single.
Father Son Holy Ghost
True Panther Sounds
Text by Lauren Landes
Images by Pia, Courtney and Amber
Another year in the tiny history book of Record Store Day has been logged! Huzzah! April 16, 2011 marks three years and four holidays since a group of music lovers conceived and founded Record Store Day, and the nascent event looks like its cogs are just starting to build up momentum. The overflowing anticipation and excitement ought to keep us all going until next April, when an even larger quantity of releases will presumably arrive in the bins of independent record stores across the world (don't expect to find any of these delicious goodies over at a corporate retail store, though). As a record store employee, it's very exciting to see so many people line up outside my second home before the rooster has crowed just for some exclusive CD/vinyl/other releases sure to be sold out forever.
A quiet day at Amoeba is still overwhelming enough for a lot of people, and a busy day like this past Saturday creates a very unique kind of energy that makes the place feel more like festival grounds than a record store--the vinyl tents at Coachella and Bonnaroo come to mind.
If only every day could be so packed with eager music searchers and ecstatic, hourly announcements for "Fucked Up," the world might feel about thirty percent peppier at all times. Nonetheless, this is why we at Amoeba get so excited for the holiday whose theme song is the sweet sound of excited fingers peeling thin plastic off a 12" square package.