Archive for April, 2011

Spotlight on Son Lux

The Wire‘s RPM Challenge isn’t for the faint of heart. Most musicians take 2-3 years to write, record, and produce an album. The RPM Challenge shortens that time to just one month – and the shortest month of the year at that. It’s a lot to take on.

When Ryan Lott (aka Son Lux) first heard about the challenge from NPR Music’s Robin Hilton, he wasn’t convinced it was for him.

Well, my initial reaction was I absolutely cannot do this. This is just not in the cards for me. It was just like, ah that’s too bad because that would have been a super cool opportunity, what a cool thing for them to think of me, blah, blah, blah. So I slept on it and I told a couple of people about it, one of whom is my manager, Michael. He was like, “Oh dude you have to do this.” (Laughs)

Ryan Lott (photo courtesy of artist)

So he embarked on the challenge. Over the course of February, NPR checked in with Lott regularly to note his progress. (Very cool stuff.) For a time in the middle of the process, he didn’t think he was going to make it, but somehow he managed to not only pull it off, but produce an absolutely gorgeous album that features some of my favorite artists, including the likes of: DM Stith, Antony Hegarty, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Shara Worden, and more.

Fortunately for me, it’s so ridiculously fun to make music that working really hard, as hard as I can exhausts me but also energizes me in a really important way.

I fell in love with the finished product a few weeks ago, when NPR streamed it as part of their First Listen Series. Now you can download it for yourself, and you totally should. It’s already a serious contender for my annual top ten list.

We Are Rising is full of magical moments. It held me at attention from the very first song, “Flickers.” Take a listen yourself:

You can also download “Rising,” the first single from the album, here.

Though the album has a nice, clean feel, it also somehow manages to project a  majestic quality, and this is a dichotomy I can certainly get behind.

Check out this intriguing interview (which I’ve been quoting from) with Ryan Lott and NPR’s Robin Hilton about how it all went down.


Sea of Opportunibees

Haven’t had a chance to catch Sea of Bees yet? Well you’re in luck.

Julie Baenziger of Sea of Bees (photo courtesy of artist)

Turns out Julie Baenziger is mighty busy (or should I say buzzy) this week. She’s playing something insane like eleven shows in New York alone over the next week or so. You’ve already missed a few, but fear not. Surely one of these will fit into your schedule…

Monday, 4/25 Rockwood Music Hall
Tuesday, 4/26 Joe’s Pub
Wednesday, 4/27 Glasslands
Thursday, 4/28 Pianos
Friday, 4/29 Cake Shop
Saturday, 4/30 Mercury Lounge
Sunday, 5/1 The Living Room

So many shows, it may be hard to sea the forest for the bees.

Seriously, though… you need to go to at least one of these. Her voice is singular and her performance, surprisingly emotional. For extra credit, check out the show at Piano’s, which also features (the lovely) Lady Lamb the Beekeeper.

The science behind band names

One aspect of the music world that has always interested me is the process of choosing a band name or moniker. Sure, sometimes when you ask musicians how they arrived at their choice, you get some boring, non-committal answers. But every now and then, you may hear a humorous anecdote or even obtain a rare glimpse into a musician’s psyche.

Of course, there are the inevitable trends. The bear-, black-, sea-, beach-, and crystal- names. (I won’t bother to list them out here. We’ve seen them all before.) And the ridiculous, over-the-top names: Natalie Portman’s Sideways Ponytail, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. (1)

Then there’s the ironically un-Googleable names. Women, Real Estate, !!!,YACHT, The Muslims – the list goes on. (Just try finding info on BOBBY.)

These names are so common that it becomes nearly impossible to find them online – especially when they are first starting out. No Google, I don’t want to buy a house. I want to listen to “Beach Comber.”

But even this phenomenon isn’t terribly new.

What struck me as funny last week was the band Little Girls. Google that, and you may just end up on a watch list.

(1) This clever little program makes fun at the increasingly arbitrary process of band naming. The sad thing is the results aren’t half bad. Go here and auto-generate one for yourself! My first attempt yielded “My Sister is Canadian.” (I took piano lessons for 7 years. Can you play the guitar/banjo/or ukulele? We might be onto something…)

Swedish artist alert

By this point, you may have figured out that I have a bit of an obsession with interest in Scandinavian music. Sure, the easy explanation would be that I spent a few months living in Denmark, but there’s no denying that there are some fantastic things going on over there. Maybe it’s all those cold, dark months. Who knows.

One of my biggest regrets at SXSW a few weeks ago was not seeing the Swedish band Fredrik. (They opened for the equally delightful Norwegian artist Silje Nes – double swoon.)

But luckily for me (and really, for everyone), you can stream the entirety of their upcoming album, Flora, which officially comes out April 12th. The video they made is pretty sweet – it follows Yiva the wolf around Fredrik’s hometown of Malmö (I’ve actually been there!).

Check it out. Seriously.

"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being