“Distance” by The Firebird Band. I have been on a huge TFB kick for the past week. They released a three song EP on Amazon this past Tuesday (Say Hello). Please note that before this release, there hadn’t been one for six years (since The City At Night in 2004). This song comes from Drive, a five song EP from the late 90s. The Firebird Band is best described as an indie/electronic rock group. This song is slow-paced, opening with percussion and then a heavy bass line, which repeats throughout the song. The guitar and vocals come in and create an almost dreamlike sound. Imagine sitting on a beach, staring at the setting sun, wishing that the person you love is not so far. This song exudes these emotions. The vocals are definitely not the important part of the song. They sit among the sound, not dominate it. Each part of the music, percussion, bass, guitar and vocals, work independent throughout, almost static in the background. Yet the outcome creates a distinct feeling and evokes a very specific emotion.
“Scenic World” by Beirut. There are two different versions of this song, but the one I have fallen in love with is from the Lon Gisland EP. This song can inspire anyone to have a good day. The music is very different from anything that frequents the radio. Zach Condon, man behind Beirut and a native of New Mexico, spent years abroad where he discovered an appreciation for Balkan music, which is clear in his recordings. The lyrics to this song are simple. He lets the music speak for itself. The words he chooses, since there are so few, definitely take on weight, but they do not overtake the song. He sings, “When I feel alive, I try to imagine a careless life, a scenic world where the sunsets are all breathtaking, breathtaking.” (If you like Beirut, you might want to also check out The Magnetic Fields.)
“Losing Touching Searching” by The Appleseed Cast. This song I am particularly fond of. It has an airy quality to it, as if in a dream. There are complex drums, and subtle, ambient guitar, with hushed vocals. The song builds to a moment where singer Christopher Crisci belts, “Caught in this place we know, with no signs of letting go, you’re heart is just another road, another place that I can’t go, so we sit and contemplate, the world’s become a big mistake, and here we are in the middle, trying to work out this riddle.” (This song is off of Two Conversations, which garnered mixed reviews. Many saw it as combining their earlier, emotion driven work and the complex sound of their Low Level Owl volumes.)
“My Own Sinking Ship” by Good Old War. Best described as folk rock, this song is a beautiful testament to a relationship falling apart. With steady percussion, intricate guitar and unswervingly clear vocals, the track tells a story from one persons point of view, delving into blame and loneliness, emotions and the ability to move past things, if possible. The music is well performed, adding a level of sincerity to the lyrics. It’s clear that Keith Goodwin, Dan Schwartz, and Tim Arnold know their music, and that they put their knowledge into creating a well harmonized, articulate track.
“When I’m Small” by Phantogram. Imagine street beats made avant-garde; 8 Mile meets art student at Ivy League university, and Phantogram would be its love child. With trip hop and psychedelic melodies, this duo has definitely taken to experimenting with sound. This song is one of my favorites. It combines guitar and wispy vocals with synth created percussion. Rather than the lyrics having deep meaning, they repeat as if they, too, are part of the composition, not something to wonder at alone. (If you like Phantogram, check out The xx.)