Friday, October 30, 2009

Boduf Songs

Boduf Songs is Mat Sweet, a young man from Southampton, England who makes dark, psych tinged, textured folk music.To my ears he sounds like a moodier version of the Elliott Smith of "Needle In The Hay" or "Roman Candle" crossed perhaps with Charalambides or James Yorkston played at half speed.

Boduf Songs eponymous debut album was released on the Kranky label in 2005 after the label came across a CD-R of home recorded demos made by Sweet and were so blown away, decided to release the demos untouched, without any re-recordings. Two albums have followed 2006's Lion Devours the Sun and How Shadows Chase The Balance released in September of last year.

MP3: Boduf Songs - Oh Celebrate Your Vague Words and Coquettish Sovereignty
MP3: Boduf Songs - I Can't See A Thing In Here

Boduf Songs Website
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Writing a music blog you get whole load of emails from PR companies and bands who want you to write about their stuff. I try and listen to everything I get sent, but if I am to be honest, I like very little of what I hear. Every once in a while, however, I receive some communications about an artist that I do like, who to my ears sound great and who I am really happy to write about.

Case in point: Arborea, the husband and wife duo, Buck and Shanti Curran, from deep in the Western Maine woodlands who make low key, atmospheric folk music. Their latest album latest House of Sticks was released in February this year and builds on their two previous full length releases with a set of authentic and resonant recordings. 

In 2009 Arborea also curated and produced a compilation for the UN World Food Program, entitled Leaves of Life. Highlights of which include contributions form Alela Diane with Mariee Sioux ("The Cuckoo"), Devendra Banhart ("Hotel St. Sebastian (demo)") and Micah Blue Smaldone ("The Clearing").
MP3: Arborea - Beirut
MP3: Arborea - Dark Is The Night (In The Wind)

Arborea on Myspace
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Thursday, October 29, 2009


Recently while set on shuffle, my iPod keeps playing tracks from the Steve Earle album Townes, which in turn keeps reminding me of how much I love the songwriting of Townes Van Zandt.

Earle, who famously proclaimed "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table, in my cowboy boots, and say that”, recorded Townes as a tribute to his mentor and friend, and the album features fifteen Van Zandt originals and contains some really interesting arrangements of some of the great songwriters best loved songs.

MP3: Townes Van Zandt - Colorado Girl
MP3: Steve Earle - Colorado Girl
MP3: Townes Van Zandt - No Place To Fall
MP3: Steve Earle - No Place To Fall

Townes Van Zandt on Myspace
Steve Earle on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Townes Van Zandt
Previously on SOTR: Heartworn Highways

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sufjan Stevens

I have had a problem with Sufjan Stevens music over the past few years. I quite liked Michigan and I loved Seven Swans, but I began to lose interest shortly after. It is not that I thought what he was doing was bad, it's just that what he was doing failed to click with me and my interests waned. Well, now my interest has been rekindled by a chance listen to his new record The BQE.

The BQE, described in the label blurb as "a cinematic suite inspired by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Hula-Hoop" was commissioned by Brooklyn Academy of Music and takes the form as an experimental in multi-media extravaganza. The quite sublime musical piece was conceived as the soundtrack to a 16mm/8mm film by Stevens which is available on DVD as part of the release. The BQE package also includes a 40 page book, a stereoscopic image reel and a comic book.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens - Movement I - In The Countenance Of Kings
MP3: Sufjan Stevens - Movement VI — Isorhythmic Night Dance with Interchanges (Courtesy Of Asthmatic Kitty)

Sufjan Stevens on Myspace
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Little Wings - Sandy Babe

I don't know how I missed this, but I did. Back in July, Marriage Records gave away a new track from Little Wings called "Sandy Babe". Kyle Field from Little Wings is one of my favorite songwriters working today.

Sadly the track seems to be a one off as Little Wings are not on the Marriage Records list of Records That Are On Their Way. Good news though that a new Privacy record is!

MP3: Little Wings - Sandy Babe (Courtesy of Marriage Records)

Little Wings Website
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Previously on SOTR: Little Wings

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nico's Afraid

Drawing a line between my two most recent posts and following on from last weeks look at covers of Donovan's "Colours", it feels like the perfect opportunity to look at the original and cover of one of my favorite songs ever, "Afraid" by Nico.

Originally released on her 1970 album Desertshore, Nico's graceful, tender, piano led ballad always stood out for me on the otherwise experimental avant-garde album. My cover of choice is by Espers and is taken from their 2005 covers record The Weed Tree. Espers' version perfectly re-imagining "Afraid" as a folk song for guitar and cello.

MP3: Nico - Afraid
MP3: Espers - Afraid

Espers on Myspace
Nico Website
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Previously On SOTR: Espers
Previously On SOTR: Nico - Chelsea Girls

Joe Boyd

My recent enjoyment of the new Epsers album got me listening to the first couple of Fairport Convention albums, which in turn got me revisiting many of my favorite albums of the same era, which also constitute much of the production work of Joe Boyd.

For those unfamiliar with Boyd, I cannot recommend highly enough his memoir "White Bicycles: Making Music in the the 1960s" which follows Boyd's journey from tour manager in the early sixties, overseeing tours for the likes of Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, Stan Getz and others; to his work at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 where he supervised Bob Dylan’s electric debut; to him founding the influential UFO club in London in 1966; through to his work as a record producer for Pink Floyd, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, amongst many.

Under the moniker of his production company Witchseason productions, Boyd was instrumental in launching the careers of Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and The Incredible String Band. His production credits also include Pink Floyd, Nico, Vashti Bunyan (Just Another Diamond Day), John & Beverley Martyn, Fotheringay and R.E.M.(Fables of the Reconstruction), amongst others.

"White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s" was published in 2006 and was accompanied by a 'soundtrack' with the same name. Both essential reading and listening.

MP3: Nick Drake - Time Has Told Me
MP3: Fairport Convention - Autopsy
MP3: Incredible String Band - Chinese White

Joe Boyd Website
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Previously On SOTR: Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day
Previously On SOTR: Nick Drake

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have recently been enjoying the new album from Philadelphia's premiere psych-folk practitioners Espers.

Since forming in 2002 as a trio consisting of Greg Weeks, Meg Baird and Brooke Sietinsons (and shortly after, expanded to a sextet including Otto Hauser, Helena Espvall and Chris Smith), Espers have created a legacy for themselves as one of the major players in the psych-folk revival or recent years.

Heavily influenced by british folk music of the late sixties and early seventies, including Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Trees and Mellow Candle, the music on Espers' three full length albums (Espers (2004), II (2006) & III (2009)) doesn't hide its debt to these influences, but never falls into the realm of mere pastiche or copy; Espers have their own identity and sound that has grown and expanded with each release, with III perhaps their most fully realized album to date.

MP3: Espers - Cruel Storm (Removed By Request)
MP3: Espers - The Road Of Golden Dust (Removed By Request)
MP3: Espers - Caroline (courtesy of Drag City)

Espers on Myspace
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Devendra Banhart - 'Walillamdzi' Video

Devendra Banhart, Walillamdzi. Directed by Lauren Dukoff

Devendra Banhart on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Lauren Dukoff's Family

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Donovan's Colours

When I first started writing this blog I posted a feature called 'Friday Is For Covers' with a vague hope of starting a regular series highlighting cover versions of various songs that I dig.

For one reason or another this never really took off, but my fascination with covers continues - specifically the different ways that songs are re-interpreted and given new meanings or new directions by different artist.

Donovan's "Colours" is the perfect case in point. Originally released as a single by Donovan in 1965, the songs simple folk style proved popular with the music buying public, reaching #4 in the UK singles charts.

Aside from Donovan's various arrangements of "Colours" recorded throughout his career, two versions of the song spark my imagination and bring something new to this simple yet enduring composition. The first being Van Dyke Parks' 1968 instrumental adaption entitled, appropriately enough, "Donovan's Colours". Available on Park's first album Song Cycle. The second, "Variations on 'Colours'" by Kevin Barker's Currituck Co. Also an instrumental cover, this version relies heavily on finger picked acoustic guitar and what sounds like a xylophone, and sits stylistically somewhere between the Donovan original and Park's version.

MP3: Donovan - Colours
MP3: Van Dyke Parks - Donovan's Colours
MP3: Currituck Co. - Variations on 'Colours'

Donovan on Myspace
Van Dyke Parks on Myspace
Currituck Co. on Myspace

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Previously on SOTR: Donovan

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Magnolia Electric Co.

Photograph by Kyle Johnson

I have always had a degree trouble with the work of Jason Molina. From Songs: Ohia through to Magnolia Electric Co. I have wanted to love his stuff, but aside form the odd track here and there, something has always prevented me form really connecting with his work.

I just seem to have a problem sitting down and listening to his music for sustained periods...until now... Josephine the new album by Magnolia Electric Co. connects with something in me in a more consistent way than anything I have previously heard from Jason Molina. I guess sometimes things just happen that way. Sometimes it takes a while.

is a beautiful record about loss, heartbreak, regret and hope.

MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - The Rock Of Ages
MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - Shenandoah

MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine (courtesy of Secretly Canadian)

Magnolia Electric Co. on Myspace
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day

In the mid sixties, Vashti Bunyan was 'discovered' by the then Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed her to a recording contract at Decca records and gave her an original Jagger/Richards composition to record, this led to her recording for both Columbia and Intermediate records, however after little success Bunyan decided to leave the music business and city life behind and head for a remote Scottish island in a horse-drawn wagon in search of an artistic commune established by Donovan.

It was during this journey north that she wrote the beautiful folk lullabies which would later make up Just Another Diamond Day. By the time she'd made it to her destination, she found that the commune had never gotten off the ground, and no one was left. Upon her returned to London, Bunyan was urged by the legendary producer Joe Boyd (who had already produced Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, and The Incredible String Band) to record the songs she had amassed on her journeys and make an album for his Witchseason Productions company.

The recording sessions for Just Another Diamond Day took place in December 1969 in London with the help of string arranger Robert Kirby (who also worked with Nick Drake on his first two albums), Simon Nicol & Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention) and Robin Williamson (The Incredible String Band). The album was released in late 1970 to little attention and feeling like a failure for the second time Bunyan once again abandoned music in favor of other journeys and a life of obscurity.

Over the subsequent decades Just Another Diamond Day started to receive attention from record collectors and music fans, but things really started to change in 2000 when the album was first released on CD and Vashti started to receive the attention that she deserved, most notably from a new generation of musicians including Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Animal Collective with whom she recorded an EP entitled Prospect Hummer.

In in 2005, Vashti Bunyan recorded and released her second album, Lookaftering, 35 years after Just Another Diamond Day was released. The album was well received by both critics and fans and featured many of her growing army of followers including Banhart, Newsom, Kevin Barker of Currituck Co and Otto Hauser of Espers.

MP3: Vashti Bunyan - Diamond Day
MP3: Vashti Bunyan - Swallow Song

Vashti Bunyan on Myspace
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Sharon Van Etten

I have completely fallen in love with the album Because I Was In Love by Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Etten who cites both Vashti Bunyan and Sibylle Baier as influences, lives in musically similar territory characterized by haunting compositions and soft melancholy vocals complemented by slow and spare acoustic guitar playing.

In the past couple of years Etten has opened for a host of fine artists including Great Lake Swimmers, Alela Diane and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, but it was after earning a support slot with Meg Baird that things started to really come together nicely, as this led to an introduction to Baird’s Espers bandmate, Greg Weeks, who ended up producing and helping shape the recordings that would end up becoming Because I Was In Love.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten - I Wish I Knew
MP3: Sharon Van Etten - Consolation Prize

MP3: Sharon Van Etten - For You (courtesy of Language Of Stone)

Sharon Van Etten on Myspace
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Friday, October 09, 2009


Yesterday I read an article on Donovan being given the title of "icon" at an awards ceremony by the US performing rights organisation Broadcast Music, Inc. I am not sure what the 'award' means, but I figured it is a good an excuse as any to post on an artist that I have a continuing appreciation and love for.

For the longest time I just didn't get Donovan. I guess for the most part I just dismissed him as a Dylan wannabe, my enduring image of the artist being the brief appearance in the D.A. Pennebaker film 'Don't Look Back', especially in the scene where Dylan wipes the floor with him in a hotel song swapping session.

I can't pinpoint when all that changed, but I am thankful it did.

There are so many ideas, innovations and fantastic songs in the Donovan cannon. The Dylan likeness of early recordings can be excused by the reality that they had both been influenced by the same sources (Ramblin' Jack, Jesse Fuller, Woody Guthrie, etc), but even without that there is immense quality and craft in his early folk compositions. From late '65 Donovan started incorporation a variety of other influences in his music (Jazz, psychedelic pop, Easter & Blues), and in collaboration with the producer Mickie Most produced a series of weird, wonderful and critically underrated albums including Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, Barabajagal & The Hurdy Gurdy Man.

Donovan split with the producer in 1969 and his post Most albums are on the whole hit and miss affairs, but not without highlight. Not always the best route to take, but I think for the uninitiated a good entry point in discovering Donovan is with a best of, to work out which period takes your fancy most and go from there.

MP3: Donovan - To Sing For You
MP3: Donovan - Wear Your Love Like Heaven

Donovan on Myspace
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

One of the prettiest things I have heard all year is the Cheyenne Mize and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's collaboration, Among the Gold. Released by Karate Body Records initially as a limited edition of just 250 copies and not made available in stores (only via the Karate Body website & at Bonnie 'Prince' Billy live shows), and later made available for sale digitally, sadly this is a record that has possibly missed a lot of peoples radars.

Mize, a music therapist by day and 'by night' singer and fiddler in the Lousiville, Kentucky experimental-folk band Arnett Hollows as well as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's own touring band, and Will Oldham teamed up for Among The Gold, an EP consisting entirely of covers of songs originally recorded between 1873 and 1915. As laid back as it gets, Among The Gold is a timeless collection of intimate, homespun recordings.

MP3: Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Silver Threads Among The Gold
MP3: Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Kiss Me Again

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - 'I Am Goodbye' Video

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Photgraph by Mia Ferm

One of my most eagerly anticipated releases this year was "Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts" by Castanets, and it turned out to be a record that lived up to expectation. The album saw Ray Raposa take a more stripped back and straight forward approach in delivering his songs, with noticeably less glitches and noises than previous efforts and an increased focus on song structure. Still feeling very much like a Castanets record, thanks in no small way to Raposa's distinctive vocal delivery, "Texas Rose..." is a self contained world of love and heartbreak, darkness and light.

MP3: Castanets - Down The Line, Love
MP3: Castanets - Thaw And The Beasts

MP3: Castanets - Worn From The Fight (With Fireworks) (courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty)

Castanets on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts

Monday, October 05, 2009

Glass Cake

There is a beautiful warmth in the low fidelity recordings of Berkeley, California's Glass Cake, also known as the multi-talented Michelle Shofet. The minimal constructions, blanketed by Shofet's simple yet engaging melodies, produce a charming, warm and engaging listening experience with just the right measures of heart, melancholy and artfulness.

Glass Cake's 'Michelle Shofet's Album' is offered as a free download from the bands MySpace, however the link doesn't work due to myspace's archaic security filter, but you should be able to download it here.

Michelle Shofet also plays in the equally lo-fi and equally charming girl band.

MP3: Glass Cake - Blanket
MP3: Glass Cake - Friend Forever

Glass Cake on Myspace
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It's been a while... I guess for long periods of this year there has been little in the way of new music that has really excited me. Much of my time has been invested in some fantastic re-issues, The Beatles re-masters, the Neil Young Archives and the amazing Big Star box 'Keep An Eye On The Sky' to name but three. Anyway, to cut a rather dull and pointless story on the meaninglessness of existance short, I am back and this time I hope to actually deliver a consistent number of posts before I lose faith again.

There has been plenty going on and I hope to post on some exciting new discoveries in the next week or so, but random things that spring to mind include the hit and miss (but more often than not hit rather than miss) Beck Record Club. The concept being that Beck and assorted musician friends go into the studio and re-record a "classic album" in it's entirety in one take. So far 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' and 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen' have been tackled, but with the promise of Skip Spence's 'Oar' recorded with Wilco, still to come, this is a project that it seems worth keeping an eye on. A new album nearly completed from Damien Jurado, produced by Richard Swift and hopefully out before the end of the year. The slow filtering in of various albums of the decade lists (I love lists) as well as new records from Alela Diane, Espers, The Flaming Lips, Hush Arbors and Karl Blau amongst others make the onset of winter quite appealing.

MP3: Leon Russell - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (from the album 'Hank Wilson's Back)