The Frozen North’s debut single, Origin/Electric Mistress, is a lovely, haunting, electro-classical instrumental work. A relatively new Warsaw band, The Frozen North features guitarist Neil Milton, a.k.a. the man behind Scottish/Polish indie label, Too Many Fireworks, and last year’s fantastic Variations on Chopin collection.
We’ve been so inundated with music submissions this year (hundreds per day) that several excellent songs have gathered dust in my “Surfacing” series draft folder patiently awaiting publication. One such overlooked gem is “Tears Apart” by Letters to Fiesta, which was submitted to Muruch after we gave a favorable review to Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow. The song is featured on the Manchester band’s EP, Aphorism.
It’s always seemed strange to me that extraordinarily talented singers like Allison Crowe, Anouk and Sia haven’t become household names in every country like their inferior pop princess counterparts. That’s all about to change for Sia, thanks to her new album, 1000 Forms of Fear.
I first heard Australian singer-songwriter Sia over a decade ago in Ireland when she sang for the British downtempo group Zero 7. Sia has had pretty much consistent success in Europe ever since and has penned hits for Katy Perry, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Celine Dion and Britney Spears. Yet she’s only experienced brief brushes with the American charts under her own name, first with the 2006 hit “Breathe Me” and then with her recent David Guetta collaboration “Titanium.” And even those two singles are better known as “the song from the Six Feet Under finale” and “that Titanium song” rather than for their singer’s name.
Sia is finally enjoying a much deserved surge in both popularity and name recognition here in America with the new album’s first smash single, “Chandelier.” The track is everything that the perfect pop song should be and Sia’s rafter-scraping voice pushes the chorus to supernatural heights.
“Chandelier” is such an unusually exquisite, stand out track that the rest of the album can’t help but pale by comparison. There are, however, some impressive exceptions. Among them are “Eye of the Needle” and “Cellophane.”
Also of note is the Rihanna-meets-Beyoncé pairing “Free the Animal” and “Fire Meet Gasoline” – the latter has a chorus melody suspiciously similar to that of “Halo.”
The album also features a solo version of “Elastic Heart,” which Sia originally recorded with The Weeknd and Diplo for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack.
Remember the name Sia. She’s earned it.
Goodnight Texas’ sophomore album, Uncle John Farquhar, was just released today and is a top contender for my favorite album of the year. Goodnight Texas have written songs about moonshiners, coal miners, loggers and steel workers, songs about the struggles and comforts of rural life, songs that would make Woody Guthrie proud, songs that are like Steinbeck novels set to music.
Conceptualized as a scrapbook, Uncle John Farquhar was inspired by stories, letters, books and archives from the band members’ respective family histories – particularly Patrick Dyer Wolf’s titular great-great-grandfather.
The followup to their debut, A Long Life of Living, is so magnificent that all of my praise of that album is just as applicable here: “…who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good?” The new album recaptures and builds on that impressive foundation, this time with a bit more pep akin to Wildflowers-era Tom Petty.
While bands in the Americana/folk revival genre have become a dime a dozen in the post-Mumford era, Goodnight Texas stand out with a brillance and authenticity far above the rest. I adore the dark, ferocious undercurrent to their multi-layered, cross-genre arrangements and especially the rustic poetry of their lyrics.
The exquisite ballad “Dearest Sarah” is written as a letter from a Civil War soldier to his wife. Avi Vinocur perfected the song over a period of 8 years, culling the story and poignant lyric “my love for you is deathless” directly from an actual Civil War letter – written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his “very dear wife” just days before his death. Vinocur expertly mimicked and expounded on the letter’s eloquent, genteel language for the rest of the song’s lyrics and set them atop some truly gorgeous instrumentation. I’m very excited to premiere the song here on Muruch at the end of this review.
Other highlights include the moody backwoods outlaw anthem “Moonshiners,” the heartwarming ode to country life “Uncle John Farquhar,” the rugged finale “Knock Em Stiff” and the album’s jaunty first single “A Bank Robber’s Nursery Rhyme” – the free, legal mp3 of which you can download here.
It’s a shame Goodnight Texas haven’t performed at Mountain Stage yet, it’ll be a crime if they don’t do so within the next year. This is a band destined for greatness.