Thursday, June 3, 2010

Belle and Sebastian

Scottish twee is a regional genre of which I am a frequent listener: Shop Assistants and The Pastels helmed the scene in years gone by, and, most recently, Camera Obscura have taken the lead after years of Belle and Sebastian's making the most popular twee sounds around.

There has been a lull in Belle and Sebastian's production of music since their 2006 album The Life Pursuit. In that span of time, leader of the pack Stuart Murdoch has been steadily working on his God Help the Girl group/story/film project. However, Murdoch's fans would not be appeased by a new project; they sought a Belle and Sebastian record.

Thankfully, Murdoch and his old friends are getting back together and are in the process of finishing new music, promising fans a tour and a new album. A fresh album of jaunty, sweet songs is on the way. A release date has not been announced yet, but the promise is what counts.


Dear readers, this has been my final Art Rock post. It has been amusing to watercolor in the indie news that I follow so closely, putting to paintbrush the wealth of otherwise un-useful, obscure music trivia that I have been gathering. I have come away with a portfolio of portraits of people most of whom will not be recognized by name --let alone by face -- by the general public. So, if you happen to be a dedicated fan of any of my illustrated musicians, or any other in the indie category, I would happily take commissions.

Thank you for reading,

Jessi Finn

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Best Coast

If you ask me, the weather is unbearably hot, and recreationaly drying in the sun is not my cup of iced tea. Summer is not my season, and any beach is the place I like the least.

But summer songs -- when played in air-conditioned quarters -- do allow me to escape my angst and enjoy what the summer has to offer: sugary, nostalgic tunes. Best Coast's songs add a dirty dose of angsty lo-fi to California pop. Start with "When I'm With You." And if it's not stuck in your head after one listen, you don't know catchy.

Best Coast, led by Bethany Cosentino, is releasing its debut album in the summertime after plenty of sunny singles.

A pastel boombox, some plastic sunglasses and this yet-to-be titled album may just reverse my mean streak and make me think twice about beachcombing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Yes, dears, I realize that much of this week's focus is on The Arcade Fire--that flock of multi-instrumentalist Canadians who recently released tidbits of a few new tracks from their desperately anticipated third full-length album.

But I find it impossible to pass up the chance to illustrate an afro or discuss intriguing collaborations, and The Roots have offered up a two-for-one offer. Thank you, sirs.

The Roots' forthcoming album, How I Got Over, is set for release on June 22 via Def Jam and is expected to feature a host of enthralling artists. Most recently, Dirty Projectors' gorgeous singers and harmony specialists, Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle and Angel Deradoorian, were pictured hanging out in the recording studio in a Questlove-tweeted video. And this collaboration comes as no surprise for those of us who have seen the video he previously shot of Dirty Projectors backstage at "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." These girls mesmerize with their fantastical webs of harmonies, and Questlove was rightfully impressed.

Also slated for appearances on the album are the captivating -- and previously illustrated -- Joanna Newsom and the two-band man Jim James (My Morning Jacket/Monsters of Folk).

The benefit of being a late-night talk show house band is now clear: it comes with the chance to gain the contributions of the show's musical guests on your latest record. Well, at least if you're a respected group like The Roots, there's a chance that that plan might work, and it has for them. They are some smart fellows.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


M.I.A. knows how to promote an album. Drop a dance floor single, release a graphically bloody music video and speak a few unfavorable words about the most famous pop stars in the world.

The album, due July 13, seems to be called /\/\/\Y/\ -- a needlessly confusing reference to her offstage name, Maya. It will be released on Interscope and her own imprint, N.E.E.T., whose Website showcases a chaotic conglomeration of graphics and moving images that creates the effect of being hit in the face with a parade and a vat of candy. Witnessing it is a fascinating but troubling colorful experience.

The dance floor single, "Xxxo," is available now for download. Bringing that '80s shiny, electronic sound, it is unbearably catchy. It sounds much unlike "Born Free" -- the gritty single that came packaged with a controversially violent video only weeks earlier.

Oh, and those celebrity conflicts of note involve Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. M.I.A. also knows how to go for the jugular of popular culture.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Antony and the Johnsons' album covers can be collectively recognized for their black and white, stark, almost lifeless photographs that are as evocative as Antony Hegarty's tremulous vocal delivery. If you witness the cover of their 2009 full-length The Crying Light, which showcases the contorted figure of Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, you will realize the visual equivalent of the band's shadowed torch ballads.

But with the release of the band's new record, Swanlights, the mood seems to have shifted. Or -- at least -- the visual image of that mood has.

Swanlights, which is planned for released on October 6 via Secretly Canadian, is covered in a color-tinged collage and charming cursive handwriting. The collage may be of a bloodied polar bear, but the image still does not seem as troubling as the colorless portraits that cover their previous albums.

Special editions of the album will also come with a 144-page book of Antony's artworks and writings. Crafted by an alluring artist, the book will surely be somber and beautiful.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Kele Okereke is best known for being the vocalist and guitarist for the lovelorn yet oh-so-dance-crazed British pop band Bloc Party. But now Kele can add solo artist to his pop résumé.

He is releasing a solo album, The Boxer, June 22 via Glassnote, and lucky for eager listeners, the first single has been released to the public. It's called "Tenderoni" -- a name that one would think would otherwise baffle iTunes but, in fact, more than one separate result is gained. Just try it.

Anyway, back to this specific song named "Tenderoni." Producer XXXchange of Spank Rock supplies a pulsating electro track to support Kele's vocals, which on more than one occasion spell out the peculiar song title. This song would fit right in at any sweaty disco where the people are colorful and the beverages are strong.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Department of Eagles

People went nearly mental over Grizzly Bear's album Veckitamest last year. And for good reason. It is a meticulously crafted, beautifully serene and creative album.

But one year prior I was thoroughly impressed by Department of Eagles In Ear Park -- an album I prefer over Veckitamest. Daniel Rossen, the second-in-command of Grizzly Bear and the first-in-command of Department of Eagles, creates songs with more energy than could have been expected from a Grizzly Bear album prior to Veckitamest's release. I think it was the extra dose of Rossen that made that album such a hit.

Needless to say I was quite excited when I heard that Department of Eagles is releasing another album. Due June 20, this album will be comprised of never-before-released (but not new) material. Archive 2003-2006 is a collection of songs and sounds Rossen and fellow Eagle Fred Nicolaus recorded after their 2003 debut The Cold Nose and prior to In Ear Park's 2008 release date.

"Brightest Minds" is the first track off the record that can be heard. It is a drum and piano-driven folk number with Rossen's soulful, raspy voice leading the way. If the whole album is as exciting as this song, it is sure to be another winning one.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Antlers

The Antlers' album Hospice was a beautifully bleak addition to 2009. Even though the album has managed to wriggle out of me a few uncomfortable contemplations of my own mortality, I am eager to hear more, and I am sure that many other people are, too.

Luckily for those seeking more emotive introspection, The Antlers have a couple more songs to share. And they are offering them for free.

New York Hospitals is the name of the two-song EP, which can be downloaded on the band's MySpace Page. The EP accompanies the new music video for Hospice song "Sylvia," which chronicles an agonizing relationship. This might not be the kind of music that you will want to listen to while you bask in the sun -- or maybe it is. Spending your relaxation hours in a state of existential crisis might be refreshing change of pace.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Corin Tucker

Corin Tucker was a guitarist and the vocalist with the vibrating roar for stellar threepiece Sleater-Kinney before they went on hiatus in 2006, having released their last album, The Woods, in 2005. Since then, drummer Janet Weiss has been focusing on band Quasi and guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein has been writing NPR Music blog Monitor Mix; Brownstien has also been crafting comedy skits with Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen as the duo ThunderAnt.

Little, however, has been heard from Corin Tucker. But Tucker will be releasing her debut solo album on the Kill Rock Stars label sometime in the future. No release date or album title has yet been announced, but the real news here is that she is making music and her supreme sounding vocals will be experienced once more. She has mentioned The Slits, The Raincoats and The English Beat as stylistic reference points for the record, which is currently being recorded.

And a Sleater-Kinney reunion has not been ruled out, folks. It is always a possibility.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dum Dum Girls

After too many posts focusing on the males of indie music, I searched for some cool females I could draw. I was looking for females who rock and have irrepressible style to boot. And then I found some. Who better than Dum Dum Girls, whose Sub Pop debut I Will Be just came out March 30, to bring some serious garage rock, black leather jacket, red-orange lipstick energy to this blog?

Having only released a record few days ago, one would think new wares from Dum Dum Girls could not be expected for a few months at least. One would be thinking wrongly, my friend. Check your local independent record store shelves in two weeks and you might find a special surprise.

Dum Dum Girls will be releasing a split 7" with Sub Pop label-mates Male Bonding as part of the Record Store Day festivities on April 17. It is a day for all of us music freaks to show some serious appreciation for our independent record stores and reap the many releases that indie artists put out especially in honor of Record Store Day. Athens' own Haffa's Records is one of the many participating record stores, so stop by and take a gander at all the independent music confections that surround you.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

LCD Soundsystem

Is there any band in this indie world that is not putting out an album this year? All the big guns, and the new littler but just as important guns, are announcing new albums to be released this year. All of us amateur music critics will have a pretty tough time compiling best of the year lists once the year ends if more bands keep announcing 2010 album release dates.

In the past few weeks alone, Broken Social Scene, The Hold Steady, The National and LCD Soundsystem have all recently announced albums with May release dates. I cannot believe all that music awesomeness will be occurring within the span of a few Tuesdays. Our pocket money will surely be hurting in June.

But, seriously. What in the world is going on in May? Is there something these guys know that we don't? Will June bring a sort of indie apocalypse, or an actual apocalypse, for that matter? We'll have to wait and see, I guess. In the meantime we can all eagerly anticipate the arrival of too much exciting music.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dan Bejar

Dan Bejar is a Destroyer and a New Pornographer (and yes, that is Dan Bejar up there. Not Sean Lennon with a mass of ragged waves of hair). He has a priceless voice and he writes wonderfully weird words that he speak-sings with that incomparable voice.

Merge Records has announced that they will be reissuing remastered editions of three of Destroyer's early albums on April 20. These three albums, City of Daughters, Thief, and Streethawk: A Seduction, will be available on CD in brand new packaging. Streethawk: A Seduction will also be available on LP.

In other Dan Bejar news, a new New Pornographers album, Together, is due May 4 on Matador. Three of the 12 tracks are Bejar-written (the nine penned by lead New Pornographer A.C. Newman).

Say hip-hip-hooray if you are a Destroyer or New Pornographers fan. The New Pornographers will be performing at Sasquatch! Festival this May. Hopefully Dan will be there, speak-singing his new songs. That would be nice.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rufus Wainwright

This post is for me.

It is fair to say that I am partially, if not completely, obsessed with Rufus Wainwright. What a voice he has, what songs he writes and what a stylish performer he is. He can captivate any room and conquer any project. He has tackled the Judy Garland songbook at Carnegie Music Hall, written an original classical (and French!) opera and, most recently, released a live record of his own material.

Rufus' pop albums, however, are what make me happiest and nerdiest. And, luckily, Rufus is releasing his sixth studio release, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, which arrives on April 20. I am quite excited, it is obvious. If I have the chance to see Rufus perform live again, I will not miss it. Few voices can fill a theater like his can.

Thoughts also go out to Rufus after the death of his mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle.

(P.S. My illustration does not do Rufus justice, so please look at all the lovely pictures of him out there on the wonderful Internet).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Festival Lineups

Don't be fooled. Festival lineups is not a band name. It refers to the arrival of music festival season. A flood of lineup announcements are currently filtering through music news sites everywhere.

Coachella's full lineup has been announced, and Bonnaroo's initial list is out. Tickets are on sale, people, so get them before they are all scooped up. Speaking of scooped up, three-day passes for the Pitchfork Music Festival sold out in under a week. Wowza.

Too many bands to illustrate are set to play these fests, so I had to choose a few: Phoenix is on the bill at both the Coachella and Bonnaroo festivals, The Dead Weather will be performing at Bonnaroo and Gossip is playing Coachella. They will be much more vibrant and lively in person than on paper, so don't miss a chance to go to a festival. It will cost more than few bucks, but there will be more than a few good bands at each festival.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady are set to embark on a Spring tour after a major lineup change.

Keyboardist Franz Nicolay -- the curly-cue-mustachioed, amped-up, vaudevillian entertainer dude of the band -- has left The Hold Steady to pursue numerous other ventures.

Without Nicolay the band will lack his kitschy appeal and dapper vests, but they will chug on. The Hold Steady tour and tour and tour some more, and they will continue to do so without Nicolay aboard the bus.

Frontman Craig Finn and his remaining bandmates have planned a Spring tour of these Northeastern parts of the U.S., and a date at Cleveland's own Beachland Ballroom is set for April 13, so be sure to see this entertaining group of guys live.

They may be a bandmate down, but they are still The Hold Steady: the raging, powerhouse band led by a guy named Finn (no relation to myself I don't think but I'm happy to share my surname with a rock star).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The National

The National have a new album coming out in May on 4AD.

As of yet, no title has been announced and the exact release date has not been specified, but an album is coming. This unnamed album is one of the most anticipated releases of 2010, and it kind of feels right to have so much mystery and hype surrounding a band that creates shadowy, cinematic rock songs.

In an interview with Stereogum, The National frontman Matt Berninger said that they "started out trying to make a fun pop record" but that they "veered off that course immediately." I guess this is bad news for those who were hoping to the band would get "happy" and make a dance record but good news for those of us who like The National just the way they are.

Speaking of good news, The National have already announced spring tour dates in support of this mysterious album, none of which are in Ohio, but one is at the Radio City Music Hall. Wow, boys. I guess you've hit the big time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joanna Newsom

My favorite harp player-- first in a category that otherwise only includes Harpo Marx-- has a lot in the works.

Joanna's new album is due February 23. Have One on Me is a peculiar album title from a harpist and songwriter who sings about cockles and cowries and sawdust and diamonds, but nonetheless, this is the confirmed title. Nothing but loveliness can be expected, as that is Joanna's specialty, but the album title, which only conjures images of bar room flirtations, does seem like a bizarre choice.

Joanna will be playing multiple shows in Ohio in support of Have One on Me. She will be at Columbus' Southern Theatre on March 29 (tickets are on sale now, so snatch them up while you can), and she will be playing the MusicNOW Festival in Cincinnati on March 30.

Don't miss an opportunity to see Joanna. How many times a year do you have the chance to catch an indie harp concert? Few, indeed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Karen O

The holiday season was full of award nominations -- and disqualifications -- for Karen O.

The good news: Yeah Yeah Yeahs' album It's Blitz! is nominated for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy award.

Also, the Where the Wild Things Are score that Karen composed with prolific movie score composer Carter Burwell has garnered a healthy collection of nominations. "All Is Love," -- the idealistically sweet song that Karen sings backed by a group of youngsters known on the soundtrack as The Kids -- is nominated for a Grammy in the Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media category. The Golden Globes have graced the score with a Best Original Score - Motion Picture nomination, and the Critics' Choice Awards have also nominated the score and "All Is Love" for Best Score and Best Song.

But there is bad news, of course.

The above-mentioned disqualification comes from the Academy Awards. Although the nominations have yet to be announced, the Academy Awards have already announced that the Where the Wild Things Are score has been thrown out of the running in the Best Original Score category for not satisfying their rules. These rules seem far too difficult to even attempt to decode, so I won't try. All I know is Karen has been robbed.

"All Is Love," however, still remains on the Academy Awards' Best Original Song shortlist that has yet to be dwindled down to the finalized nominations. I can only hope and pray that Karen will have a reason to show up on the Oscar red carpet because I am sure she would be wearing something marvelous. And a Karen O performance during the Oscar ceremony would be much appreciated.