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Monthly Archives: August 2013

TFNH_HOOKY_COVER_HIGH_RESYou can find a lot —really, too many—of musicians in Brooklyn. At least half the people I know are in bands. Which is great! Unfortunately, a lot of these talented folk all… kind of play the same thing. Or iterations of the same few genres: Shoegaze, garage rock, electronic indie, indie folk. The one thing you can’t seem to find is pared down sounds. Gentle acoustic lullabies are rare in NYC’s coolest borough.

Which is why brother-sister team This Frontier Needs Heroes is a breath of fresh air in the local music scene. The two started writing songs and playing together—Brad on guitar, Jessica on tambourine—and toured all over the world trying to make a name for themselves with classic unplugged strums and endearing harmonies.

That didn’t quite catapult them to fame, and the siblings eventually parted—Brad now lives in Jacksonville, Florida (a city with a very vibrant burgeoning music scene of its own), while Jessica stayed in Brooklyn. Turns out getting out of this music-saturated city was all it took to really propel their sound forward.

Their latest album, Hooky (released Aug. 27), is an intricate composition recorded in Philadelphia with a full band. The two-man folk sound is elevated to something more akin to Andrew Bird meets The Decemberists than Woody Guthrie. Most notable is the use of haunting violin and winding organ—take the climbing intro to “Down on the Farm” followed by introspective lyrics “When I turned 21/ my grandpa showed me how to shoot a gun/ At first I thought that it was fun/ then I heard that the sun would die/ and so would I.” Also worth a mention: The sad and vaguely funny, ode to loneliness that is “George Clooney” (below). It’s richer and more elaborate but polished to leave you wanting more, not borne down by skittering instruments. The best use of a full band to emphasize a small outfit when recording is this exact kind of subtlety. Many, many current artists could take note. Especially in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, the siblings geographic differences means no tours are currently planned outside of Jacksonville. Until then, keep Hooky at the top of the playlist—it’s reminiscent of (and a prefect soundtrack for) long walks in early fall dusks.

I thought I was ahead of the curve when I stumbled upon this Australian 5-piece band the other day. With hand claps and coed back-and-forth sing songs, they’re spot on the nostalgic ’80s radio sound that’s become popular lately. (Ok, let’s just get it out of the way—they sound a lot like Haim, who borrowed a lot of Fleetwood Mac. We over that? Cool.) But, alas, Pitchfork caught on to them about two weeks ago, which means I’m woefully behind. Whatever; back to the music.

Attention is being paid currently for the shiny new single, “Is This How You Feel?” (of the same-name, just-released EP) which is the definition of groovy. Lots of bops and more hand claps and repetitive, car-singalong  lyrics. It really does sound like something pulled from the end credits of, say, Never Been Kissed. And definitely not in a bad way.

But the Sydney-based band has a lot more going on than reductive comparisons to bygone coed bands or girl-group contemporaries. Their first EP, Shaking Hands, has a shadowed moodiness that’s palpable even on the first listen, and deepens after multiple runs—note that tonal belly-drop singer Isabella murmurs on the choral pause in “Pale Rider,” the menacing chords punctuating behind the chorus in “Threat”, the Iggy Pop waver to male vocalist Gideon’s opener in “Take A Car.” A little bit country, a little bit soulful funk. A lot of new rock goodness.

Take a listen to a perfect mix of their old and new songs on Soundcloud—perfect late summer listening. And cross your fingers they’ll make it out of Oz for a tour some day.

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I found these bracelets in a bar.

Specifically, on the arm of my bartender, Lindsey, at Skinny Dennis in Williamsburg (the ‘hoods best—and only—honky tonk bar).

While having a few beers with a friend, I noticed Lindsey’s seriously cool bracelets made of screws and shackles not unlike the gold ones I had just been eyeing at Bird down the street. But the ones dangling from the wrist handing me a Shiner Bock were way, way cooler—where Bird’s are solid gold and pretty and shiny, which is nice, Lindsey’s were badass, made from hardware store goods but in a way that I could never hope to DIY. Looking up, I noticed her necklace was a bib of black iron washers. I needed to know where they came from.

I asked, and I received.

“I make them!” was the delighted answer. Under the moniker White Goods Design, Lindsey crafts her unique, steampunk-meets-western pieces from a studio not far from her day job in Williamsburg. Railroad ties and gold spikes dangle from thread and chains, gold and silver nail heads wrap around wrists to form contrasting-metal cuffs, and thin nails welded to washers dangle quite prettily as earrings.

No online shopping is available at the moment, but you can email her at info@whitegoodsdesign.com for prices. Way cooler than the same gold bangle as half of Brooklyn, no? I’ll certainly be picking up a few.

These were my favorites—see her site for the full lookbook of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets

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533573_334972496600115_430792457_nIt’s really rare that you find an excellent band from your home state when that home state is Maryland. Outside of Baltimore’s rap and psych-electric scene, there aren’t many well-known new acts who hail from the land of crabs and football. That’s fine—I’d made my peace with it.

Until I found The Brothers Osborne (not to be confused with ’60s band The Osbourne Brothers) courtesy of Paste’s recent The Best Of What’s Next issue. Just a tiny blurb on these two brothers, T.J. and John Osborne from Deale, MD, near the end with no sample track—probably because the brothers are, like much of farmland Maryland, not very plugged in and have provided very few ways to listen to their songs online. But the half-page of praise was enough to make me seek out their sound on YouTube, through a handful of live shows in their adopted hometown of Nashville and one excellently-shot teaser for their upcoming album.

And holy shit, am I happy I did.

It’s good ‘ol boy music—masterful finger-pickin’, both electric and acoustic, and the cornfield twang I grew up around that’s a little more authentic  than most region-less radio country. But what sets the brothers apart from Skynard or Hank Williams or other classic southern rock outfits are the Chesapeake particulars: The reference to “the sound of high-tide thunder and your hair blowing in the breeze” in “21 Summer,” which bay and shore folk can feel coming from miles away; T.J.’s drawl on “lonelay” in the deeply heartfelt “Let Me Love The Lonely Out Of You“; John’s ambling, simple but striking electric solos which smart of local bar bands and long summer nights; and reminders to keep it light, not get too melancholy (as country can very often do), and “top it all off with the sun and mix it with rum” in “Rum.”

Marylanders are in a strange position—called northerners by most south of us, and southerners by most north of us, we’re middle ground in more ways than just geographic. There are no “Sweet Home Alabama”-type anthems for Maryland, no cowboy legends to reference, no catalogue of songs praising our cities or beaches or hidden landscapes (though these are all beautiful). It’s a state quietly appreciated by those who call, or at one point called, it home. This is how the Brothers Osborne approach their music: No claims to genre or specific sound. Just repurposing of the bluegrass, blues, country, and southern rock that surrounded them growing up in small town, very rural middle East Coast America.

What results is across-the-board relatable, subtly exceptional, down-home beautiful country. The kind you could let play through a backyard barbeque, local bar soundtrack, wedding reception, or quiet night on the porch watching heat lightning streak across a starless sky. Needless to say, “best of what’s next” is an appropriate label.