The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Crown Larks, Blood Dancer

Since forming late in 2012, Chicago’s Crown Larks have busied themselves honing a combination of punkish psychedelic grit, non-grandiose prog/art-rock flourishes, and significant borrowings from the fount of jazz. It’s a heavy, jamming, ambitious stew, and they are currently on the road with a full-length debut under their collective belt. Blood Dancer features seven selections that should attract the interest of folks providing shelf space to electric-period Miles, Soft Machine, and post-punk’s experimental wing; it’s out now on LP/CD/digital through Spacelung / Landbreathing, and for those fancying a cassette, one can be obtained through Already Dead Tapes.

Upon first encountering the name Crown Larks, my mind instantly conjured up an image of a garage band, specifically the kind wearing matching, tight-fitting suits as their frontman very likely brandishes a wooden painted maraca. Once heard however, I was just as rapidly confronted by my initial vision being completely off-target.

Unsurprisingly, the blend of psych, prog, punk, and jazz Crown Larks offer doesn’t easily fall into one sonic camp, which makes describing their sound a little complicated. But the difficulty in categorization doesn’t carry-over to the listening; accurately, Crown Larks dish out raucous, expansionist rock drawing from a wide range of precedent while connecting to the nonce; headbands and patchouli can be envisioned, but there is a tangible correlation to indie happenings, notably in the vocals of Jack Bouboushian and the electric piano of Lorraine Bailey.

For Blood Dancer, Bouboushian is additionally credited with guitar, bass, pedals, and sleep machine. Bailey adds vocals, organ, clarinet, and synths, and Bill Miller is anchored to the drum chair. They comprise the core of Crown Larks, at least for this LP, though it also includes trumpet and flugelhorn from Peter Gillette, the saxophone and flute of Kevin Ohlau, and on two cuts sax and piano courtesy Chris Boonenberg.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/6/15

Vinyl spurs sales growth: “According to the magazine, 65 percent of vinyl sales are in independent stores…”

Apple Wants to End Spotify’s Free Ride: “No matter how you spin it, the whole racket comes out sounding pretty damn crummy. With news like this the norm, it’s certainly no surprise that vinyl record sales are at a 20-year high. Forget irony or nostalgia, the people just don’t want the bullshit.

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records: “South Africa is beginning a new love affair with vinyl records, after they were discontinued in the early 1990s in favor of CDs, and more recently for electronic MP3 downloads. Vinyl record stores are opening in most major cities…”

“Do you still have a ton of vinyl records that you’d like to listen to but you’re afraid they’ll get messed up by the constant drag of the needle? …Japanese Laser Turntable company ELP has released a “revolutionary way to revitalize your vinyl records without damage from conventional turntable needles,” allowing listeners to play wax needle-free, without a change in sound quality or digitalization…”

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD Live: OK Go and Kitten at the Wiltern,
5/2

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Los Angeles often gives the term “tough crowd” its definition—not Saturday night at the Wiltern. On Saturday night, when most people were placing bets on Mayweather versus Pacquiao, a few thousand very excited OK Go fans were eager to be entertained.

It was a mixed bag of very loyal fans. From date night to girls’ night, goth-lite to the boy next door, in a range of all ages, the eclectic crowd represented the array of fans the four-piece band had collected through their seventeen year career. At the drop of the lights, a montage of iconic pop culture movie and TV scenes, cut together to repeat the words “OK” and “Go!” introduced the gentleman pop-rockers.

Band still unseen, OK Go opened with the crowd pleasing “Upside Down & Inside Out.” Mimicking the cover of their 2014 album, Hungry Ghost, headshots of each member was flashed on a large translucent screen that stood in front of stage. A light show of zig-zags and checker boards revealed silhouette glimpses of the band behind it. Every song was greeted with a new element; the screen dropped to fully expose the band. Singing through what seemed to be a “selfie-mic” (a microphone with a camera attached to the end), the face of lead vocalist Damian Kulash was displayed on double screens acting as a backdrop. Lights and lasers continue to run freely behind the band. By the third song, “Writings On the Wall,” a storm of confetti filled the room.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Vinyl Giveaway: Tori Amos vinyl bundle, autographed print, and Moleskine journal

There was a moment not too long ago where around the TVD water cooler, we found ourselves contemplating the ’90s era of female singer-songwriters, most notably those who could literally captivate an audience merely with vocals and piano. Franky just 2 came to mind collectively, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple—yet it was Tori who years prior to Fiona’s debut returned this artistic sensibility to the fore. It’s as if she reinvigorated a niche and others followed.

We’re hardly alone in this assessment and to underscore the considerable merits of her groundbreaking career, Rhino Records has rereleased Tori’s first 2 LPs, ’92’s Little Earthquakes and ’94’s Under the Pink on CD and 180 gram vinyl. The vinyl editions mark the first time both albums are available on vinyl in the US—and we’ve got a copy of each to award to one of you.

In addition, Tori has signed a print to add to our giveaway and she’s teamed up with Moleskine to create a custom Tori Amos journal, which ran in an extremely limited quantity. It’s a white classic large book, lined, with a her signature, and a lyric from “Silent All These Years” in gold foil on the cover. These aren’t for sale, but we have one to include as well in our contest.

“One of the most successful and influential artists of her generation, Tori Amos is as much a force to be reckoned with today as when she released her first solo album Little Earthquakes over 2 decades ago. Eschewing the trends of the time, the prodigious chanteuse touched millions deeply with her arresting melodies, riveting stage presence and personal and honest lyrics. Amos is releasing 2-CD deluxe editions of her debut and sophomore solo albums, Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink, each newly re-mastered and paired with an entire disc of rare b-sides and bonus tracks.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Premiere: Jonathan Sibha, “Maria”

Moody rockers Jonathan Sibha debut under the influence of David Lynch and Sigur Rós. 

We have the pleasure of premiering their single “Maria” which is one of many stellar tracks from their debut, secretlovers.

The native Canadians headed south to Minnesota, recording the bulk of the album in a giant pull barn with a dirt floor and tin roof. Late night vocal sessions were interrupted by moose mating calls that forced the band to move their studio to a wood shack, but they pushed through, experimenting with toys and sonic manipulators, crafting the atmospheric sound of secretlovers.

The resulting songs make for a compelling first album and Jonathan Sibha’s interesting recording process begs further listens. It takes a certain kind of band to disconnect themselves from everything but themselves—and you got to give them props for returning from the wilderness with something beautiful.

Jonathan Sibha Facebook

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The TVD Storefront

Lost Element:
The TVD First Date

“I consider myself an audio engineer enthusiast. I am by no means an expert, but I’ve always been mesmerized by the idea of how sound works and the process of creating and capturing music, particularly my own to tape or CD format.”

“I think this love of sound grew from my first experience when I was a young boy, sitting down in front of our old record player with my father as we listened to his old vinyl records for the first time. I remember sifting through his collection, no idea who any of these bands were and pulling out the albums which stood out to me. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and artists like Billy Joel and Tom Petty. Household names to me now, but back then it was the Album Art which captured my attention.

The sheer size of the record sleeves made the designs of the cover and inserts seem like you were holding a piece of art in itself. An emotion I feel is deprived in today’s generation of CDs sleeves. A comparison which to me now, feels like the difference between painting a picture on a canvas, and printing it out on ordinary paper.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Death and Vanilla,
To Where the Wild Things Are

Formed in Malmö Sweden in 2007, Death and Vanilla largely reside at the intersection of post-rock and dream-pop, and in wielding a broad and savvy vocabulary of influences and a wide array of vintage equipment they’ve developed an engaging sound across a tidy discography. Their latest and first for Fire Records is To Where the Wild Things Are, out this week on LP/CD/digital. Sporting an excellent cover design, its use of Helvetica font recalling the ‘70s paperbacks of Penguin Books, it stands as Death and Vanilla’s best yet.

Death and Vanilla expand to a five-piece for the purposes of live performances, but for most of their existence they’ve been composed of Marleen Nilsson and Anders Hansson; with the recent addition of Magnus Bodin they are currently a trio. Ornate yet vibrant, Death and Vanilla are ripe with the sort of historically knowledgeable but forward-looking sonic construction that began emerging in the 1990s, particularly on the roster of the Too Pure label.

As stated, they transcend the standard influences; there’s psychedelia from the discerning end of the spectrum, e.g. the United States of America and Silver Apples, soundtrack material a la Morricone and Pink Floyd’s OST for Barbet Schroeder’s More, and electronic Library Music experimentation like the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop.

They also profess affinity with Krautrock, Sun Ra, Scott Walker, the ethereal drifting of Angelo Badalamenti and Julie Cruise, and yé-yé gals in full-on art mode; these last few elements reinforce a consistent, skillfully expressed pop inclination. Again, the overall thrust is very much in the tradition of ‘90s acts such as Stereolab, Pram, and Broadcast, though Death and Vanilla are far from copyists.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/5/15

Record player resurgence follows boom in vinyl sales: Number sold in 2015 so far up by 240% compared with same period in 2014

Special Series “Treasure Hunting” Wheeling and Dealing: “‘There’s never been a problem finding collections of inventory,’ said Owner of Vinyl Cave Records and The Globe in Superior, Tom Unterberger.”

New Venue, New Time, Yet FMU Record Fair Packed With Vinyl Enthusiasts: “Radio station FMU held its first Springtime Record Fair this past weekend at a new venue: The Brooklyn Expo Center. Despite the new, unfamiliar location and the warm weather date, the place was absolutely packed on Saturday, May 2nd…”

“‘You know something is a dying breed when you hear a teenager say, ‘What’s a record store?’ To met, it almost hurts like a punch in the gut.

The Vinyl Revival: “While music purists claim vinyl has a superior sound over other formats, I myself would argue that it is because this generation has lost the physicalness of music there once was…”

As far as music goes, I have some vinyl thoughts on the matter: “Funny how things go full circle. A few weekends ago, my regular Saturday afternoon wander took me into my favourite downtown record store…”

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TVD New York City

TVD Live: Diiv at Baby’s All Right, 4/28

PHOTOS: JAMIE LANGLEY | Diiv does the same thing for me that the Neu! jam “Hallogallo” does; it just never gets old and propels me with momentum through busy city streets like living inside Sega.

I heard Diiv for the first time from a backyard behind the stage at a Mexican restaurant turned venue for the week at SXSW 2013. Some friends had just played, and we were taking refuge from the chaos back there. The moment I heard the 2 guitars passing their delicious hooks back and forth and looping around one another, I went back in to have a proper listen. I watched their set from behind and was really taken by them.

The music has a lightness and delicacy mirrored in the men themselves, quite petite and drowning in giant T-shirts, but they come across strong, purposeful with intention, and I just love all those guitar hooks and melodies which take up plenty of space that I never question the minimal vocals.

Alex, of course, already knew all about them and might have even known Cole from Beach Fossils, I forget, but regardless the vinyl was a staple of 2013 in our home. “Druun” and “Air Conditioning” off their debut full length Oshin still come up on my iPhone shuffle, and I never skip them.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Premiere: Kings of The Brushwood Thicket, The Lies You Leave Behind

Retro guitar slingers’ Kings of The Brushwood Thicket debut with intimate folk lullabies.

We have the pleasure of premiering the intimately captured 9 song debut, The Lies You Leave Behind from the NYC folk visionaries. From the vulnerable opener “Sweep Away” to the closing notes of the Beatle-esque “Losing Her Again,” lead singer Bruce Brauer exudes pleasantries on behalf of his bleeding heart, delivering honest and insightful songs that convey a world weary hopefulness.

The band’s glam rock roots are evident and create something quite unique once placed atop the ever present sonic thump of jangly guitar and timpani—like Marc Bolan fronting the first incarnation of Mumford & Sons. But it is Brauer’s socially conscious songwriting that truly pushes the music into its own category.

Preorder The Lies You Leave Behind at Kings of The Brushwood Thicket’s Bandcamp page—available tomorrow, May 5.

Kings of The Brushwood Thicket Bandcamp | Twitter

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