Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke’s Mag Pai Zai is an album I kept meaning to review but never seem to remember until I stumble upon it again. The problem is the standout tracks are so brilliantly amazing they cast a very dark shadow over the weaker tracks. Subsequently, the album is not very memorable as a whole. But those standout tracks are truly stellar: the mellow acoustic folk opener “Time Machine,” the gentle, tinkling tune “Dancing Song,” the string-accented rumination on “Galileo” and especially the astounding, mesmeric acapella ballad “Marrying The Sea.”
Lorde just released the video for the track “Team” from her brilliant debut album, Pure Heroine. Lorde herself said of the video: “This video was borne from a dream I had a few months ago about teenagers in their own world, a world with hierarchies and initiations, where the boy who was second in command had acne on his face, and so did the girl who was Queen. I dreamt about this world being so different to anything anyone had ever seen, a dark world full of tropical plants and ruins and sweat. And of this world, I dreamt about tests that didn’t need to be passed in order to be allowed in: sometimes the person who loses is stronger. Enjoy.” Check it out…
One of my favorite Tiny Desk Concerts is this one featuring Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow.
If all that isn’t enough for you, McMorrow also recorded an awesome “Wicked Game” cover. You can hear and download a remix of it below.
The entire self-titled debut by Solar Drive (a.k.a. actor Balthazar Getty’s new music project) is available as a free, legal, full album download on Noisetrade. Standout tracks include “Some Say,” “Feel So Down” and “Where We Go From Here” – songs on which Getty’s voice is less distorted don’t work so well. The album ends with a pleasant surprise, “Monster” featuring vocals by Rain Phoenix.
Editor Update: Sorry, it seems the album has been removed from Noisetrade since this article was posted. You can sample & purchase it at Amazon.
All Songs Considered is always enjoyable – the particularly noteworthy recent episode New Mix included songs by The Beatles, Oscar Isaac from the new Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy covering The Kinks. There was also a brief mention of Cian Nugent, a great Irish guitarist I hadn’t heard of before. You can hear and purchase his music at Bandcamp or Amazon. There are also several song streams on Cian’s Soundcloud page, including this song…
English Indie trio Daughter released their debut full-length album, If You Leave, earlier this year. You can sample their sound – aptly described by NPR as “sad, searing songs” – on a recent Tiny Desk Concert. KEXP has a free mp3 of “Smother,” and you can hear “Youth” below.
Singer-songwriter Kris Angelis has been making waves in LA – download 5 free mp3s from her beautiful collection, The Left Atrium, by entering your email address into the Noisetrade widget below. You can also view the video for Kris’ lovely duet with Zane Carney, which Muruch Editor Vic compares to The Civil Wars. And purchase the entire album at Amazon.
This has got to me one of the most bizarre, unexpected and totally awesome collaborations ever! As if a duets album by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones isn’t strange enough, the unlikely duo did a covers album of traditional Americana songs originally recorded by The Everly Brothers. Even more shocking is that it’s good. Well, at least the first two singles are good. You can stream “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” at Rolling Stone and watch the lyric video for “Long Time Gone” below. I’ll reserve final judgment for when I hear the full album. While Jones showed her willingness to experiment on her excellent previous release, …Little Broken Hearts, who knew former punk-rocker Armstrong would make a good folk singer. Foreverly will be released on November 25th.
Saturday is apparently “Small Business Saturday” as well as “Indies First Day,” in which authors and book lovers are being encouraged to support their local independent bookshops. Therefore, I encourage all local bookworms to visit Charleston, WV’s only independent bookstore, Taylor Books, on that day or any day. You can also order books and ebooks/epubs from Taylors online, but it’s worth the trip for the bookshop’s atmosphere.
Now that Trans Allegheny closed, Taylor Books is my favorite bookstore on this side of the Atlantic and has thankfully survived the invasion and demise of chain bookstores in the area. Oh and if you don’t like books (how strange and sad), Taylors also has the best coffee in Charleston – I especially like the Nicaraguan Vienna dark roast blend. If you don’t like books or coffee, I really don’t know how you live.
If you do like books and are looking for recommendations for Indies First Day, my personal favorite books of all time are: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (I recently bought this lovely edition from Taylor Books myself to add to my somewhat obsessive Return of the Native collection), The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and pretty much everything else written by Kurt Vonnegut or Edith Wharton. More modern favorites have been Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Book Thief and anything by Kate Morton, Maggie O’Farrell and Victoria Hislop.
I also highly recommend the more modern classic The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which is now being adapted for a movie. You can read my rave review of it here. I first heard about the Guernsey book from a former manager of Taylors and it was a longtime staff pick on the shelves there. I’ve since given copies of the book to several friends, all of whom loved it as much as I did.
Other favorite bookstores of mine on both sides of the Atlantic: Empire Books in Huntington, WV; Two Sisters bookery, Old Books on Front Street and Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC; and The Winding Stair, Hodges Figgis and Chapters in Dublin, Ireland.
It would be very nice if independent bookstores get the kind of support from Indies First Saturday that Record Store Day brings to indie music shops.