Little Scream Perform With Less Scream, More Whisper

I often pick up CDs from the pile to listen to based on the label. Today I’ve been listening to The Golden Record, new album from the band Little Scream on one of my favorite labels, Secretly Canadian. The record is full of big sounds: swooping strings, distorted guitars and thunderous drums, all under Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s gorgeous voice. In addition, Sprengelmeyer plays guitar, violin and keyboards.

The record also contains a fine pedigree of support players: Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre), produced and performs on The Golden Record along with a ton of Montreal-based musicians fill out the rest: Mike Fuerstack (Snailhouse), Becky Foon (Silver Mt. Zion), Patty McGee (Stars), and Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre). In addition, The National’s Aaron Dessner plays guitar on the lead single, “The Heron and The Fox.”

Check out this extremely intimate video of Little Scream performing “The Heron and The Fox” in the close confines of a small car, buried in snow. It is one of the quieter, more introspective songs on the record, the sound here in this video is definitely more paired down compared to the record. And the setting might make you feel a little claustrophobic at first, but the way their whispered, stunningly harmonized vocals fill up the car will more than win you over.

Little Scream: “The Heron and The Fox” (live) from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

Photo Gallery: Lost In The Trees @ Black Cat Backstage

I caught one of my favorite new bands of 2010 at South By Southwest on the first night: Lost In The Trees. If you knew about the horrifying childhood that inspired the works, you’d be incredibly surprised how joyful and celebratory the music actually is. And when you catch the band on stage, the humility, and endearing charm of front man Ari Picker is so big and genuine, you cannot help but fall in love with this band.

I decided to catch them again back here in D.C. Monday night at the Black Cat’s Backstage, where a full crowd of people were all captivated. NPR Music was there to webcast the show, so be sure to take a listen. (Also be sure to check out our Tiny Desk Concert with them from last year).

But in the meantime, here are a few shots I managed to take.

Photo Gallery: The Joy Formidable @ Black Cat

Despite being in Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, you’d be surprised how hard it is to catch a full set by any one band. With so much to see, you’re constantly shuffling around looking for the next thing to fit into the schedule. And when coupled with all the work I was doing as part of NPR Music’s SXSW coverage, it was easy to miss something really good. Such was the case with The Joy Formidable, who performed several times at SXSW, including a way too short set at NPR Music’s SXSW day party at The Parish (listen and watch that here). I was so busy doing work and meeting people that it was over way too quickly.

Which all brings me to the point of all this. I decided I wanted to catch more from that band, so luckily they stopped by D.C. on Friday, March 25 (after SXSW) to play at Black Cat. Sufficed to say, it was totally great: loud, distorted and full of 90s rock energy.

Here are some photos I shot (along with opener Mona, who were impossibly generic):

Photo Gallery: SXSW 2011, Day One

It’s taken me awhile to get all my photos together from SXSW this year in Austin, Texas. So the I’m gonna knock out the next five posts with a different gallery for each day.

Starting with Tuesday, March 15.

Video: Papercuts’ ‘Do What You Will’

A few weeks ago I wrote about Papercuts’ newest album Fading Parade as part of NPR Music’s First Listen series in which we previewed the entire record. It was there I wrote “Jason Robert Quever may not be a household name, and you may not know his sound. But the music he creates as Papercuts always sounds comfortably familiar, even when you hear it for the first time.”

It’s that tone — be it the sound of his music, or in the topics he addresses that carries over into this video. Quever is in a familiar awkward party setting feeling out of his element or too shy to interact, something we’ve all experienced at one time or another. Soon the video turns into something all more surreal and dreamlike, a perfect fit for his psychedelic pop songs. Be sure to check out this album: It’s subtle but rewarding.

You can also see an excellent live promo video of Papercuts performing the same song at a house party from Yours Truly and Sub Pop:

Photo Gallery: Lower Dens, Wye Oak @ Black Cat

Last night at Black Cat, I caught two of my favorite bands right now: Wye Oak and Lower Dens. It was an full-on Baltimore showcase as all three bands on the bill come from the city that has in recent years become one of the most vibrant and creative music towns in the country. I had just recently caught Lower Dens a few weeks back at a house show, but it was great to see them on a larger stage, filling the room with their brooding wash of distortion.

Similarly, in the year since I last caught Wye Oak, the band has put out a stellar EP, My Neighbor, My Creator, and followed it up just this past week with their newest album Civilian. And all I can say is that they just keep getting better and better. For whatever reason, I had to convince a few friends that while the band might seem sedate and folky, they are an absolute force live. They bring a raw power and blustery energy to the songs thanks to the exceptional layers of blown out guitar distortion of Jenn Wasner and the simultaneously performed keyboards and thunderous drums of Andy Stack. I can easily say this double bill was one of the top shows I’ve seen this year so far.

I brought my camera along and pushed up to the front and took a few photos of both bands, plus the opener, Lands & Peoples. Here’s a sampling of the best shots:

You can listen to both sets from Wye Oak and Lower Dens at NPR Music.