The Wounded Jukebox

Jo Mango: “Cordelia”

Jo Mango has kept impressive company during her young career, and by all accounts those who have worked with her vouch for her impressive talent. With vocals that rarely rise above a whisper and a sparse, echoing piano melody, Mango communicates this beautiful fragility on “Cordelia” that disarms and comforts all at once. The lyrics are full of tiny moments from both dreaming and waking life, and the song seems to be about the pain of loss and also the revelations that can come with the freshly absorbed absence of a loved one.

A Glasgow native, Mango has toured with Vashti Bunyan, Devendra Banhart, and Coco Rosie, to name a few. “Cordelia” is the latest single from her forthcoming sophomore album Murmuration, which is out November 5 on Olive Grove Records. Download the song below!

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Lymbyc Systym: “Falling Together”

The limbic system is a series of structures in the brain that is thought to control stuff like emotion, behavior and even smell. It’s a complex part of our anatomy, the understanding of which is constantly changing.  Lymbyc Systym is, of course, interested in musical structures, but the results can have interesting effects on emotion and behavior as well. The band is made up of brothers Jared and Michael Bell, and over the course of more than a decade, the siblings have crafted soundscapes of varying textures and complexities that are some of the most compelling instrumental music out there. I’m excited to hear their new album Symbolist, which is set for release on September 18 via Western Vinyl. The packaging alone seems worth the purchase.

The patchwork that is “Falling Together” makes nice use of tempo to stay interesting throughout its four minutes and 18 seconds. The slow drag intro cuts loose a little bit as the track picks up the pace, and then a really pretty piano interlude slows us down again until things get charged up for the eventual conclusion. The remix by Zammuto, the new project by former member of The Books Nick Zammuto — with whom Lymbyc Systym will tour starting September 26 — slows the reel down but still gives us plenty to pick out. Both tracks are really calculated — there’s not a buzz, click, hum or strum out of place, it seems — but equal something unique.

What I mean is it’s good stuff. Check it out below.

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Generationals: “Lucky Numbers”

Generationals, the two NOLA dudes who made an appearance on my list of the best songs of 2011 have a brand new single, and it’s awfully purdy. “Lucky Numbers” continues the low-key but upbeat style that made “Ten-Twenty-Ten” a favorite of mine a year ago, with its catchy keyboards and synthesizer grooves, and that guitar that’s tucked in there ever-so subtly. The vocals are understated but just as catchy, and on the whole it’s a good appetizer for the band’s EP of the same name that’s due out October 2.

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Years & Years: “I Wish I Knew”

All musicians should have a serendipitous origin tale like the one London quintet Years & Years possess for how their lead singer Olly came to be a part of the band. Turns out Mikey, one of the band’s founding members was hanging out at a friend’s apartment where Olly was renting a room. Mikey heard Olly singing in the shower, and decided it was the voice they’d been missing. And it’s those pipes that carry this excellent single to being more than just another catchy tune. The guitar riffs and electronic samples — oh those handclaps and that synthy goodness — along with some keyboards and drums float along and build to an echoing crescendo in the song’s final minute.

The band has received some love from BBC6 and also from those who attended the 2011 Sound Tracks Festival. You can watch a performance from a train that proves just how much people love to sing along to this song. Check it out below!

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Fou De Toi: “Pick Up Your Phone”

The Swedish band with the French name (translated as Crazy For You), makes pleasantries piled upon a picnic blanket under a sunny afternoon, and conducts them like a magician’s apprentice into the twinkling songscapes.  The guys are back after a year apart, releasing a double-side, with a wafting “Pick Up Your Phone” on the forefront, and the wisping “Heroine” at the rear.  Both are dreamy songs you can play with your parents and little sister in the room, with nary a worry about offense.

Streaming and mp3 follow:

[mp3] Fou De Toi - Pick Up Your Phone

A song from last year’s The Impossible Thrill EP…still sunny and nice.

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Snowblink: “Unsurfed Waves”

Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman, aka Snowblink, are a talented duo. Their music is easy on the ears, and its sneaky-good — the kind whose melodies creep into your brain without your knowledge, and you find yourself singing some unnamed but familiar tune in the shower the next morning. And then you remember: Oh yes, it was that lovely, understated number by those friendly Canadians. Gesundheit and Goldman are in the land of the maple leaf by way of Southern California, and I do believe that’s where the imagery and context for “Unsurfed Waves” originates.

We’ve all heard the phrase pure as the driven snow, and unsurfed waves might be less about purity and more about tranquility, which is what Snowblink serve up with seemingly minimal effort. The simple percussion, guitar and gentle breeze vocals remind me a bit of Vica Voce. This is music for a night around the campfire or stargazing in some secluded spot. Snowblink’s sophomore album Inner Classics is out September 11 on the excellent Arts & Crafts. Stream the song below, and download it for only an email address as well!

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The Trouble With Templeton: “Six Months In A Cast”

I kid you not, the first word to enter my brain after 30 seconds of this new track from The Trouble With Templeton was “Wow.” Thomas Calder, the man behind that moniker, has always had obvious vocal talent, and his acoustic guitar-driven ditties were impressive enough. But what is striking about “Six Months In A Cast” is how full and compelling the instrumentation surrounding Calder’s voice is. A jittery jangling guitar powers much of the track, but there’s galloping percussion and echoing piano here that really makes the song something special. The band supporting Calder is a talented one.

And then there’s those vocals. Strong as usual. Listen for yourself below.

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Goodnight, Texas: “Jesse Got Trapped In A Coal Mine”

The two founding members of Goodnight, Texas — Patrick Dyer Wolf and Avi Vinocur — call different US coasts their home. And as folk music havens go, one could do far worse than San Francisco or Chapel Hill, N.C. What the pair have with songs like “Jesse Got Trapped In A Coal Mine” is a simple, straightforward tune about an unfortunate fellow: Jesse has a girl and a life waiting for him, but the perilous trade of coal mining gets to him before his future can.

I’m a sucker for well-executed folk tales such as this, with its mandolin and guitar, drums and upright bass. It’s why I make the yearly trek to the excellent Nelsonville Music Festival right here in Ohio every year. I think what draws me in is the folk artist’s ability to channel times and places and people he likely never experienced, and make them come alive well enough for me to feel like I’m hearing a firsthand account. There’s a slice of that here with “Jesse Got Trapped In A Coal Mine,” and we can all sympathize with a young man robbed of his future, right? Check out the song below and a video, and enter an email in the widget to get a free download as well.

(A Long Life of Living is out October 2, 2012)


Video: Aesop Rock — “Cycles To Gehenna”

I feel as though my respect for Aesop Rock's immense talent is too often forgotten. The mind gets cluttered with the latest indie ditty or the newest trendy mashup. and people like Ian Matthias Bavitz aka Aesop Rock — those who are consistently some of the best, most inventive artists around — somehow get lost in the shuffle. When I hit play on the video for his latest single “Cycles to Gehenna,” I was reminded all over again why I can't help but love almost everything the guy does. The flow is unique and impeccable. The rhymes are clever and rapid-fire. The words are intelligent and thought-provoking. The dude's skin and bones and lungs and soul were made for this.

The video for this track could be called, as Matt said after watching it, “a jet-lagged, black-hooded trip to a land of grit and grime.” The visuals here are of some kind of apocalyptic ballet, set to the thunderous, heavy beat and Bavitz’s trademark flow. Smoke-filled alleys illuminated by motorcycle headlights, revealing the silhouettes of spooky, tutu-ed dancers. And there’s plenty of seductive, limber, face-painted dance routines. “Gehenna” roughly translated means hell, so it’s not hard to draw the connection to a trip underground — like, deep underground — when watching the video.

Aesop Rock’s album Skelethon is out now on Rhymesayers, home to acts like Brother Ali and Atmosphere as well. Watch the video above, stream the song below!

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Samantha Savage Smith: “The Score”

Spotlight bar performance or bedroom tinkering, the sound of the woman so boldly named is both parts sly and another part brass-knuckled; able to knock you flat if you deign to mistreat her.  Her music meanders through some parks and alleys, but always returns home to a cup of tea and a book.  ”The Score” is one of my favorites off her recently discovered Tough Cookie - hopping and swinging its fists at an already-five-seconds-shut-door and a minute old slight.  Smith’s voice reminds me of the Heartless Bastards if Erika Wennerstrom was turned into an even more severe muppet.  Much love intended.

You shouldn’t watch the video for “The Score” unless you’d like to see a pea pod go down a lady’s cleav.  Which you’re beginning to think about now, so go ahead and watch it.

Stream ALLLLL of Tough Cookie right here at this white part here that will transport you to a page full of music after you stop reading this and click on the highlighted which began way back there, up where I started talking about music and not the magic of the internet.

How great is this album art?  Lovely.

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Foreign Slippers: “It All Starts Now”

Gabi Fröden got to me at the right time as her musical version, Foreign Slippers: just when Monday was looking to be all caffeine and no double-glazed donut (metaphorically speaking, but also literally).  I would absolutely like to follow this woman into a large room of my bestest mates and kill any source of intrusion in order to start the wild rompus ablazin’.

"It All Starts Now" will give you a Tuesday’s hope, and a Friday’s energy.

It’s taken from the debut album, “Farewell to The Old Ghosts”, which you can stream and pay euros for, on her BandCamp page, here.

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Honey Mustard: “Wire”

If the scruffy vendor on the shady side of the street said to me, “Would you like some honey mustard on that?”  I would surely say no.  ”I’ll just take the pair of sunglasses.”  But if that same vendor was selling something musically consumable and from Sweden, I would surely order three and some overpriced chips as well.  The new single from Stockholm’s nearly all-bearded boat-born rock outfit is some atmospheric “oh’s” with a tight cam shot of urban woe’s for some seasoning.  ”Wire” is a swell introduction to some of the consistently fascinating  music that is born across the waters.  The foreigners are doing rock and grunge better than we Yanks are these days.  Conflicting feelings on that.

"Wire" comes from Honey Mustard’s self-titled debut album, out September 5th on Slippen Records.

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Rah Rah: “Prairie Girl”

Bite your tongue before you say riot, because this Saskatchewan band has a multitude to offer in the hook department, with feminine dispositions and some flannel twang.  ”Prairie Girl” in particular, gives you all it’s able - releasing a whole summer’s worth of pent up longing and pillow-punching to some sky-reaching vocal unleashings.  Put the song on your upcoming mix for your friends: it’s that uncontainably good.  So much so, I added two new words unto the English language to get the point across.

 (photo by Chris Graham)

Also this free song that has much less lady singing:

It’s all from October 2nd’s The Poet’s Dead; which is a very sad title for an album to have.  Sad…but necessary.

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Local Hero: “Black & White”

The kids are all grown up. Berkeley, California youngsters Local Hero are set to release their debut full-length very soon, and have provided a taste in the song we’re sharing here, “Black & White.” This band has never had problems with awesome guitar harmonies, and “Black & White” does not disappoint in that regard either. But what’s impressive — and perhaps more noticeable than before with this young band — are the little touches. The keyboards woven in nicely, the guy-girl vocal harmony on the choruses, the tiny vocal and musical interludes — these are evidence to me that, while these kids still have that raw, rough-edged energy, they’re maturing as a band. And “Black & White” is a good example of how.

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