angel olsen’s latest album is just a youthful seven months old, but burn your fire for no witness is already slated for a deluxe treatment.  the reissue will hit november 18th via jagjaguwar – just in time for those year-end best-of lists – and will feature five additional songs.  olsen and her label have shared “all right now,” one of those aforementioned bonus tracks, a sparsely arranged effort that allows olsen’s voice plenty of space to breathe, both literally and metaphorically.  take a listen below.

since their inception in 2006, she keeps bees has adhered to a simple but strict instrumentation: jessica larrabee plays guitar and sings while andy laplant plays drums.  on their first three albums, there wasn’t any need to deviate from this structure.  larrabee is an incredibly capable guitarist, just as adept at drawing emotions from an acoustic, finger-picked line as she is at punishing chords on an electric, and her soothing alto timbre is an instrument of equal prominence and significance.  laplant learned how to play drums under larrabee’s tutelage, adding the rudimentary skill to his production and engineering duties.  their songs were short, often unassumingly poignant (see “wear red” from 2008’s nest), and it was a formula that worked exceptionally well for the washington, d.c. duo.  but formulas run the risk of becoming redundant, something larrabee and laplant evidently realized; their newest album, eight houses, is the most timbrally rich and explorative journey the duo has ever undertaken.

the piano that creeps in midway through album-opener “feather lighter” is the first red-flag indicator of the duo thickening their sound, but the song feels especially refined from its first note, with crystal clear production and a slow vibrato on larrabee’s guitar to increase its depth.  other flourishes pop up throughout eight houses, like the slow,ascending horn lines on “owl” and the doubled, fluttering guitar work on “wasichu.”  do all of these additives suddenly make she keeps bees a markedly better band?  not necessarily.  but they absolutely do enhance the album’s listening experience and prove that the duo is by no means stubbornly set in their minimalistic ways.

sharon van etten’s cosign of she keeps bees and her guest appearances on eight houses certainly bolstered the amount of buzz generated for this album, but her presence doesn’t seem to compromise or shift the duo’s musical direction.  seething, gritty blues-based songs like “both sides” and “raven” still exist in prominence, with larrabee effortlessly exchanging guitar riffs between two different personas and laplant pounding his kit with more fervor and confidence than previously displayed.  what does seem to have changed is the length of the band’s songs (roughly three minutes on average as opposed to two), and, in turn, their conception of songwriting and approach to structure.  ideas feel more fully formed and resolved, and eight houses finds larrabee noticeably stepping out of her comfort zone to perform two successive, poignant cuts, “burning bowl” and “radiance,” on piano instead of guitar.

despite subtle shifts in instrumentation and new, notable layers in many of their songs, she keeps bees largely stays true to their original premise.  it’s a simple one that retains a sense of timelessness in an ever-changing climate, and its additives do nothing but enhance and advance its potential.  with eight houses, she keeps bees has notched another victory in their belt, setting the stage for more promising things to come.


on his third album as perfume genius, mike hadreas is fleshing out his sound.  too bright, due out next tuesday via matador, finds the seattle native experimenting with dark synthesizers alongside his usual piano accompaniment as well as working with portishead’s adrian utley.  the music might be thicker, but hadreas’ lyrics are incredibly sharp as usual, seething about and cutting through stereotypes.  the album is streaming this week over at npr; click here to experience too bright in full.

after a lengthy hiatus, sea oleena is back with her highly-anticipated debut album shallow, due out september 30th via lefse records.  earlier this summer she shared the arresting “if i’m,” and today she delivered its successor.  on “paths,” a smooth ostinato guitar line dictates oleena’s wonderfully lethargic vocal melody, further supported by whispered harmonies and brief swells of feedback.  take a listen below.

a sunny day in glasgow has had a revolving door of cast members for nearly a decade now, but this year’s sea when absent was a stable, incredibly solid release.  the philadelphia sextet recently stopped by the kexp studios to play a handful of songs, galavanting through up-tempo numbers like “oh, i’m a wrecker” before pausing to chill out with “crushin’.”  check out the full session below.

softly, dear is a definitive by-product of the resurgent eau claire diy scene and a prime example of the role folk-infused indie rock continues to play in the town’s diverse musical climate.  though at home in a basement setting, the quintet is by no means confined to these surroundings, proving time and again their capability to play sweaty bars and outdoor venues with ease.  their live show is loud, predicated on tyler hart’s impassioned, narrative vocals coupled with josh frederick’s searing lead guitar lines, and the rhythm section lays down thick textures to guide softly, dear through substantial amounts of musical terrain, ranging from americana to pop to post-rock.

on record, however, softly, dear is more likely to adhere to their bradbury-inspired name.  last year’s portico ep was highlighted by the success of its hard-charging, sing-along lead single “better times,” but further listens showed the band briefly experimenting with more delicate textures on deep cuts like “lenses” and “sleep it off.”  when softly, dear emerged from the studio with their self-titled full-length in hand earlier this summer, they found themselves with an album that fully realizes their atmospheric potential.

the early single “things i say” and album-opener “it’s alright” breathe momentum and familiarity into softly, dear, but the band soon opts to take a more scenic route through the rest of the album.  after hart and addie strei duet on “what was wrong,” the band embarks on “after,” a post-rock wandering sprinkled judiciously with acoustic piano and flute lines.  following up in similar fashion with “halcyon days” and “amphion,” softly, dear has succeeded in more cohesively soundtracking the multiple road trips taken together over the past two years.  album closer “if i knew you then” strips away everything electric and leaves nothing but hart’s voice and acoustic guitar, which couple to deliver an unabashed lyrical confession in a convincing manner; this is a band that can function highly on a multitude of levels.  you can stream and purchase softly, dear below via the band’s bandcamp page.

pity sex stuck out in the crowd of emo-inspired bands that garnered extra attention last year, often putting shoegaze and noise-rock elements on a higher pedestal than their mid-1990s downtrodden idols.  the ann arbor quarter released a split with adventures today via run for cover records; each band contributed a cover along with a new original song, and pity sex offered up “acid reflex,” a noisy, mid-tempo number in the vein of last year’s feast of love.  the track premiered over at wondering sound yesterday, but now you can stream it right here as well.  take a listen.

the two most definitive songs on tennis’ new album, ritual in repeat, are “bad girls” and “wounded heart.”  the former is a haunting, brutal lyrical examination of the self while the latter strips away the band’s signature sound, leaving nothing but a voice and a guitar behind.  the music video for “bad girls” combines these two ideas, paring tennis down to a barebones instrumentation in order to deliver an even more intimate rendition of the song.  the video is simple, to the point, and beautifully shot; it’s the perfect way to unwind on a friday, and you can watch it below.

sebastien grainger was born in 1979, a fact that seems to take extreme precedence in his life: the number is tattooed somewhere on its arm, it’s attached to his band name (to avoid legal troubles), and now it’s been tagged onto the end of his band’s latest single.  the day after performing the song on david letterman’s late-night show, death from above 1979 premiered the music video for “trainwreck 1979″ – pulled from their new album the physical world – over at noisey.  bookended by a younger girl learning the song’s bass riff in her bedroom, the music video primarily focuses on the duo’s live show, complete with its hallmark elephant trunk logo and the new black versus white duality embodied by keeler and grainger.  the same girl turns up at the show, but there’s other footage of her as well, longboarding in isolation and looking pretty forlorn in general.  her air of discontent mirrors the lyrics contained in “trainwreck 1979″ rather well, but a small slice of satisfaction seems to be obtained at the end.  check out the video below.

partisan records is two for two this week in terms of bands on their active roster debuting music videos set in the midwest.  while one could postulate that the scenery in field report’s “home (leave the lights on)” was shot in wisconsin (not a long stretch given chris porterfield’s origins), the new music video for sylvan esso’s “dreamy bruises” was filmed on location in milwaukee this summer.  taken from the duo’s eponymous debut album, “dreamy bruises” is a swelling mid-tempo synth jam chosen to soundtrack a video featuring a large cast of characters.  amelia meath and nick sanborn are there too, the shots of their road trip interspersed with snippets of other story lines, and the video for “dreamy bruises” culminates in true sylvan esso fashion.  check it out below.


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