Django Reinhardt – Sultan of Swing
I’m going old school for this dig. Django Reinhardt is a Jazz/Swing guitarist who had his hay day back in the 30’s and 40’s. When he was 18 he was caught in a fire and had severe burns all over his body. That accident paralyzed two of his fingers on his left hand, and forced him to re-learn how to play the guitar after his recovery. The amount of guitar playing he was able to re-learn is downright incredible. With his half of a left hand he still managed to become quite the accomplished musician. Spotify has tons of best of collections of Django and his quintet, and it makes for some great easy listening. The two most prominent members of the quintet are Django on the guitar, and Stephane Grappelli on the violin, so expect them to take most of the solos. I’ve only been able to listen to a small fraction of what they have on Spotify, it’s a disgustingly large amount of music, but it makes me appreciate Spotify even more. Where else are you going to find an endless collection of old timey jazz music?
ДахаБраха (DakhaBrakha)- Ягудки
DakhaBrakha is a folk group from Ukraine. I discovered them courtesy of LaBlogtheque and one of their take away shows. They contemporary Ukrainian folk music, and if that gives you as much of an idea of their sound as me, just picture a drum circle with one of the ladies playing the cello. Then on top of the drums and the cello add the occasional chant, some hollering, a yelp here and there and that’s about it. I’m pretty sure they sing in Ukrainian although I really don’t know how to tell, it could just as easily be Russian, or some other Eastern-European language. It kind of reminds me of Native American music. It’s definitely got a bit of a tribal feel to it, and I find it just to be a lot of fun. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it wouldn’t hurt you to expand your horizons a bit. If you are interested in checking them out. The only place outside of youtube I’ve been able to score a listen is on last.fm where they have quite a few songs you can download for free.
Buke & Gase – General Dome
You might think this band bears a strange name, well you’re right, but when you learn that this group treats your ears to a couple of hand made instruments, the baritone ukulele (buke) and the guitar-bass hybrid (gase) the name makes some sense. Buke & Gase uses those instruments to create an experimental, folky-indie kind of sound with a very syncopated style fueled by a very prominent kick drum. “Houdini Crush” opens the album up perfectly giving you a taste of what to expect and then “Hiccup” follows that up marching to a steady beat. That one, two punch is some great fun and General Dome keeps the fun times rolling. It’s not always pretty, especially when this duo comes dangerously close to a post-punk/grunge kind of sound. They quickly show you they are not afraid of experimenting, and why should they be? They created their own instruments, and then they didn’t rely on their homemade instruments as a gimmick, but backed them up with some really well crafted and interesting songs. Go give them a listen.
The Lumineers – The Lumineers
The Lumineers seem to have been really blowing up recently so they might not be all that new to some of you, but if you haven’t heard of them, this indie folk group is worth a few listens. Back a couple years ago when Mumford and Sons boomed into super stardom and showed the world that folk music could be super popular, it gave some room for bands like this. And while The Lumineers are lacking a finger-plucking banjo, they do have a few tracks that rock out with a mandolin. They also have a cello and occasionally sport the accordion which allows them to avoid their songs blurring together and make their debut an easy listen. If your still not convinced to give these guys a shot give The Lumineers a chance to convince you themselves and watch them play the two strongest tracks from their album “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love.”
Local Natives – Hummingbird
Hummingbird is Local Natives long awaited follow-up impressive debut, Gorilla Manor. The band has taken the time between albums to refine their sound and they have shown that they have some staying power. Their second album seems a little more somber or subdued. There aren’t any tracks on this album as charged as ‘Sun Hands’ was from Gorilla Manor, but that doesn’t mean that Hummingbird lacks potency. In fact I would say that Hummingbird just edges out their debut as a better album, it seems more consistent and more relevant. It’s not that their sound has changed much, you’ll still find the great vocal harmonies, and instrumentation (I especially enjoy their drumming.) The lead single ‘Breakers’ hooks you in with some gorgeous Oo’s, and along with some brightly toned guitar work, gives a great taste of what to expect from the rest of the album. “You & I” and “Heavy Feet” are some other tracks I would strongly recommend.
Menomena – Moms
It’s been somewhat of a worrisome wait for this release. I say that because very soon after Menomena’s last album Mines this trio became a duo. Now most people, at least those familiar with Menomena, are probably wondering how much losing Brent affected the music they write. Well, things are a different, but Moms delivers another very enjoyable listen just like what you’ve come to expect from this band be it a duo or a trio. Moms is darker than previous albums. It is more focused and has more to tell us than what we might have thought coming from a Menomena album, and while sometimes I miss the quirkiness, just about everything benefits from the tighter song structures and deeper meanings. Maybe it’s not as good as old Menomena, maybe it’s better, I’m not too sure right now, but it’s definitely a great collection of tunes.