Tag Archives: folk

Skeleton Dead premiere: New songs, debut album “done and dusted within the month”

Just got an email from the British duo of Skeleton Dead, who we first fell for back in December. Not only have they released two more sparse, gorgeous neo-trad folk tracks on their Soundcloud, there’s also album news: “We’re currently finishing off the album – should all be recorded, mixed, done and dusted within the month.”

“Lock the Doors” starts with an ominous thrust of crawling echo that would fit well with “U Smile 800% Slower,” before a car engine turns over and the tale of a murderous burglar begins over jangling guitars and slowly progressing organ. But underneath the bright, gentle instrumentation, the echoed retardation never leaves: drifting in and out, providing ballast and biting menace.

Lock the Doors by The Skeleton Dead

“Taken by the Tide,” is Skeleton Dead’s most sunshine-y song by a country mile. A train-like acoustic rhythm guitar is overtaken by a warm electric that would fit well in a ’50s ballad or a Cass McCombs song. “If we’re taken by the tide / I can’t say that I’ll mind.”

Taken by the Tide by The Skeleton Dead

These two additions make Skeleton Dead’s album one of our most anticipated of the year. And for our UK readers, they’ll be playing some dates in June. So keep an eye out.

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Listen to Timber Timbre’s Upcoming LP for Free!

Just a heads-up that Creep On Creepin’ On, scheduled for an April 5th release, can be heard for free HERE [updated with the correct link]. I favorably reviewed the Canadian ghost-folk outfit’s 2009 self-titled debut back in Noise Narc’s early days, and Creep On Creepin’ On, as the name might suggest, continues the same theme with references to death, seances, madness and magic spells, but with a few extra instruments thrown in here and there (like the morose sax at the end of the title track or the demonic cello/sax/violin combo in “Do I Have Power?”).  On a first impression, it sounds like some tracks veer more towards a horror movie score sound (Swamp Magic), while others will make you want to slow dance like it’s the zombie prom.  I like it.

Pre-order Creep on Creepin’ On here or here.

Also, it looks like they’re only making three US stops between Ontario and Europe, but one of those is Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live, April 12.

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Gerry Rafferty: 1947-2011

Gerry Rafferty’s two hits, “Stuck in the Middle with You” (1972) and “Baker Street” (1978), were both featured in episodes of The Simpsons.

The first will forevermore be linked to the scene in Reservoir Dogs when Michael Madsen cuts the ear off of a uniformed police officer with a straight razor, but it was also playing when Itchy cut the ear off of Scratchy in Reservoir Cats.

Lisa plays the lick from “Baker Street” at the conclusion of the 9th season’s “Lisa’s Sax,” after Homer, having inadvertently destroyed Lisa’s first sax, gifts her a replacement with the engraving “Dear Lisa: May your new saxophone bring you many years of D’oh!”

He was 63 and the cause of death seems to have been liver-disease-related, so here’s a track that you probably have not heard off of his 1972 debut, Can I Have My Money Back:

Gerry Rafferty, “One Drink Down” [Amazon]

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Deadly Folk

Solway Firth, the imagined home of The Skeleton Dead

Here’s a note to all publicists who send submissions to Noise Narcs: do exactly what The Skeleton Dead did. Get the reference our (dreadfully Photoshopped) logo makes to the classic arcade game NARCS and then blow us away with unexpectedly great tunes.

The Skeleton Dead are a duo from London, although their heart lies “somewhere along the coast of the Solway Firth deep in the industrial north west of England.” Which, given my expert knowledge of British geography, puts them in the same cheery territory as Channel Four’s The Red Riding trilogy [Ed: wrong coast, idiot.] Despite their black metal name, Knol and Claire’s sound is a heavy folk dash of Leonard Cohen and Smog, with a pinch of the stark vocal duets of Low and the icy prettiness of Broadcast. Knol handles primary vocal duties, and he has a voice that lingers, gravely and tender, with just a touch of the strut of Jarvis Cocker. A voice that I wouldn’t mind getting lost in for an album. Or four.

Their Soundcloud has two additional songs on par with these two. Ignore the below tags, file this under “bands to keep a serious eye on” and “music to listen when facing a dying fire while drinking bitter.”

Are You Going to Over React? by The Skeleton Dead

Gather Up Your Clothes by The Skeleton Dead

Update: Reposted as Soundcloud embeds due to some technical issues.

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Melancholy Monday: Sam Amidon, “Rain and Snow”

Way back in January, in the comments to one of my earliest Noise Narc posts, Dave recommended All is Well, an album of Appalachian-style folk released in 2008 by Sam Amidon, whom he’d recently seen perform at First Unitarian.  I listened to the album and second the recommendation, but when Amidon’s fourth album, I See the Sign, came out later that spring, I never gave it much of a chance.

Like All is Well, I See the Sign was produced with the help of experimental Icelandic musician, Valgeir Sigurðsson, who subtly augments Amidon’s tradfolk lyrics and instrumentation with interesting horn, percussion, electronic noise and drone.  The results are mournful, ethereal hymns to hardship and suffering.

Not really summertime music.  I See the Sign is pretty much the opposite of King of the Beach.

But there’s a reason why I included this album on Noise Narcs’ Best of 2010: not-so-short-list, and now that the weather is turning cold again, I find myself playing it more and more.

“Rain and Snow” is a traditional folk tune about a man dissatisfied with his wife.  It’s been widely interpreted by all sorts of musicians, famously including The Grateful Dead on their 1967 studio debut, but Amidon’s much darker, much more desolate version takes a place among the best.  It evokes the fatal serenity, devoid of panic or fear, sometimes described by those who’ve approached hypothermic death and returned to tell of it.

Sam Amidon, “Rain and Snow” [Buy I See the Sign]

Grateful Dead, “Cold Rain and Snow” [Buy Grateful Dead]

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Thom Yorke’s my older brother

I have a secret. It’s not that Radiohead is my favorite band. Or that I used to be (and to a much smaller degree still am) a giant fanboy. My secret is that leadsinger Thom Yorke is my older brother.

How else can you explain the number of bands that I’ve been introduced to by Radiohead (through their webcasts, radio playlists, openers, and collaborations)? A quick glance through my iPod reveals that a virtual who’s who of my musical taste has been stolen from Radiohead: Autechre, The Beta Band, Can, Clinic, DJ Shadow, Four Tet, Laika, Liars, Louis Armstrong’s version of “St. James Infirmary,” Magazine, Neu!, PJ Harvey, Sigur Rós, Sparklehorse, Tricky. No mere band could have that much musical influence. Only an older brother could have that.

So when my older brother Thom Yorke posts a playlist on their website, Dead Air Space, I pay attention. And on November 4th, Thommy (as we family members call him), furthered his stranglehold over my musical taste, giving me a musical noogie, posting Sibylle Baier’s “Forget About.”

Sibylle Baier was a German actress in the 1970s who, before deciding to be a stay-at-homemom in America, was involved in a few Win Wenders movies. Despite her music appearing in one of Wender’s films, she never pursued a musical career. But in 2006, a tape of her home recordings from 1970-1973 made its way to Orange Twin, and they released Colour Green. Baier’s guitar pallette is heavy on Leonard Cohen, but she has a piercing, fragile voice. The album, for reasons more than its back-story, is ghostly.


Sibylle Baier, “Softly” [Buy]

Both her thirty-years late recognition and bare folk reminds me of Vashti Bunyan, who released only one album in 1970 (Diamond Day) but was encouraged by her cult popularity to make a sophomore album in 2005. Another thirty year span that was very much worth the wait. Especially if, like me, you came late to the game didn’t have to wait at all.

Vashti Bunyan, “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind” [Buy]

Thom also posted Fleet Foxes member J. Tillman’s “Crosswinds,” but sorry big bro Thom: I’ve been listening to him for years. Great song, though. The younger brother has become the master?

J Tillman, “Crosswinds” [Buy]

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Turkey Daze

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  The leaves have been stretching themselves out to catch as many timid autumn rays as possible before turning brittle and brown.  Pilsners and IPAs are giving way to porters and stouts.  Perhaps the hopes of Philadelphia sports fans, ultimately dashed by our beloved Phillies, are beginning to get up again, so that the Eagles may ultimately dash them.

And Americans from coast to coast are preparing to commemorate something by surrounding themselves with family to watch football, talk politics, and (most importantly) gorge themselves stupid with the year’s bountiful harvest.  We’ll feast upon all of the side dishes that made this country great and help ourselves to serving after serving of my least favorite poultry.

Except that this post isn’t about that kind of turkey, it’s about the country that Allen Iverson, strangely, now calls home.  Haha.  Bait and switch.

This past summer, Bouzouki Joe records released Turkish Freakout, an excellent and well-researched compilation of 1970s psych-folk singles, such as Ersen’s 1973 hit, “Gunese Don Cicegim.”

Check it out:

Turkey is often referred to as the meeting point between East and West, a statement verified by this selection of choice Turkish grooves. The western rock, psych, funk and jazz influences that began to be incorporated into traditional Turkish sounds during the late 60s and 70s can be heard here, as the Anadolu pop sound of Turkeyma balanced these new elements with the complex sounds and rhythms developed over many years. All tracks are referenced from their original 7 inch releases, painstakingly tracked down from various sources in and around Istanbul. The marriage of these styles is original, captivating and bound to freak you out.

Ersen, “Gunese Don Cicegim” [Buy Turkish Freakout]

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The Paranoid Style in American Music

Google wishes Dizzy Gillespie a happy 93rd

The current issue of New Yorker has a fascinating tracing of the paranoid, anti-government strain of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck cohort to its roots in 1950s anti-communist paranoia, especially the infamous John Birch Society. A highly suggested read.

But, pathetically, what most caught my imagination was not the historical or political import, but this tidbit: “Trumpeter [Dizzy Gillespie], whose actual name was John Birks Gillespie, made a humorous run for the Presidency in 1964, organizing John Birks Societies in twenty-five states.” According to Indiana Public Media,

[Gillespie] said that he would rename the White House “the Blues House” and proposed a presidential cabinet with Duke Ellington as minister of state, Max Roach as minister of defense, Charles Mingus as minister of peace (“because he’ll take a piece of your head faster than anyone I know”), Peggy Lee as minister of labor, and Miles Davis as the director of the CIA. He also suggested having racist Mississippi governor Ross Barnett serve as U.S. Information Agency director in the Congo and earmarked Alabama governor George Wallace for deportation to Vietnam. Black Muslim leader Malcolm X was to be appointed as Attorney General, “because he’s one cat we definitely want to have on our side.”

Sounds pretty good to me, at least better than Goldwater. As does his campaign song, “Vote Dizzy,” a remake of the classic “Hot Peanuts,” with vocals by Jon Hendricks, from the 1963 Newport live disc, Dizzy for President. Especially fitting that this would all come together today, on what would be Dizzy’s 93rd birthday. Google Doodle and all.

Dizzy Gillespie, “Vote Dizzy (Salt Peanuts”) [Buy]

Bob Dylan, communist co-conspirator

Bob Dylan also joined the anti-Birch wagon, producing a somewhat middling song called “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.” “Talkin'” was an improvisational blues style developed by Woody Guthrie (see “Talking Fish Blues“), that Dylan used in other songs to better effect (“Talking World War III Blues,” “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre”). But “John Birch” itself has an interesting back story. Originally slated for release on Dylan’s sophomore effort, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, CBS objected, possibly as a response to Dylan attempting to play it on Ed Sullivan. “John Birch” and three other songs (including the fallout shelter themed “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”) were dropped from the record. Dylan, although crushed, instead included “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “Talkin’ World War III Blues”, and “Bob Dylan’s Dream.” Given that the first two are undeniable and major classic (see NoiseNarcs’ take on Jim Hall and Bill Frissel’s version of “Masters of War”) and that the other two are excellent, we at Noise Narcs are forced to take a Birchian view and conclude that CBS colluded with Dylan under the guise of censorship to further his communist plot of changing popular music forever. Very clever, you communist pinkos, very clever. Not so clever is the way they tip their hand with this week’s release of Dylan’s The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964, which reveals their plot by including “Talkin’ John Birch Blues” and a slew of early Dylan demos.

Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” [Buy]

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Monday Music: the Portuguese edition

Let others take up my madness
And all that went with it.
Without madness what is man
But a healthy beast,
A postponed corpse that breeds?

-from “Sebastian, King of Portugal”
by Fernando Pessoa (Richard Zenith, trans.)

I have three tracks to share with you on this rainy monday (it’s rainy where I am).  Each from a different continent, they all have in common the Portuguese language, a tongue well-suited to song, unlike our coarse Germanic talk.

"Fado," by Jose Malhoa (1910)

The first, a classic example of the Portuguese fado, was recorded in Mozambique somewhere around 1955 or 1956, during the reign of Portugal’s imperialistic Estado Novo.  It is one of the earliest known recordings of Joao Maria Tudella, who would go on to become an internationally touring fado singer in the following decade.  He is accompanied by Alves Martins and the famous Antonio Fonseca on Spanish and Portuguese guitars.

Joao Maria Tudella, “Cancao do Mar” [via ElectricJive]

The next track was recorded in 1971 in Paris by Brazilian Bossa Nova singer Nara Leão.  In marked contrast to the violent political turmoil of the preceding decade in Brazil, “Insensatez,” off Dez Anos Depois (“10 years after”), is practically Tylenol in song form.  It is one of my favorite bossa nova tracks and exemplifies for me the sleepy melancholic characteristics of the genre.

Nara Leão, “Insensatez” [Amazon]

The final track I submit to you closes the debut solo album of Portland, Oregon-born jazz bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding [myspace].  Only 24 years old at the time of this recording, she was selected by President Obama to perform at the Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo at the end of 2009 and has not surprisingly been receiving quite a bit of critical attention since that time.  Her sophomore effort, Chamber Music Society (2010) [Amazon], is also excellent.  Niño Josele joins her on “Samba em Preludio,” playing flamenco guitar.

Esperanza Spalding, “Samba Em Preludio” [Amazon]

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Names, names, names: Kurran and the Wolfnotes

Got an email from a PR person last week, addressed to Robin, asking me for a response to an email he had sent last week about Kurran and the Wolfnotes. I was indignant. How dare he send me, the all important music blogger, an email meant for somebody else? Doesn’t he know that Noise Narcs gets literally TENS of emails a month? And another indie band with “wolves” in the title? Seriously? Why not just add a “fox” in there?

And so I sent off a polite but curt note letting him know his (completely innocent) mistake. And then I clicked on the link and hit play. And it was a wonderful piece of pop-folk, very much in the vain of Midlake‘s “Roscoe.” The single from the London-based quintet is available for pre-order via Rough Trade. Call me Robin.

Kurran and the Wolfnotes, “Your Four Limbs”

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