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Nik and the Central Plains-Walk on Beaches Nik and the band released this in April and I only picked it up at his show last May. I was blown away how good this was. Maybe it was because I probably heard all the songs live many times or that it is a more cohesive ‘band’ sounding album than his debut but whatever the reason, I love this record. If you live in Pittsburgh and haven’t heard it, pick it up at any of his shows or online here.

Other artists of note:

Woods-Sun and Shade I vaguely heard of this group through all the constant buzz-bandiness love from the hipster music sites and never thought I had the time or effort to really invest in them. My bad. Lo-fi, psychedelic, fuzz-rock, whatever…this is such a good release. I like the semi-eclectic styles scattered throughout it.

BOBBY-BOBBY I caught this band opening for The Low Anthem earlier in the year and kind of remember them being good but this debut is strangely enjoyable. It’s not an easy listen but once you succumb to the uniqueness of it, it’s really well worth it.

Centro-matic-Candidate Waltz After having discovered Centro several years ago, they have become an essential band for me. No matter what they release I expect great things from them and their latest is no exception. Now if they would just come to Pittsburgh!!!

Calhoun-Heavy Sugar Another Texas band making waves in their hometown of Fort Worth. This is the fourth release of sugary AM pop tunes from the quintet.

The Dodos-No Color Check these guys out at Smalls in the fall. Get there early for openers The Luyas.

Dream Diary-You Are The Beat Lush dream pop from this NYC trio. I am beginning to really dig this ‘dream pop’ stuff.

Frank Turner-England Keep My Bones Frank is beginning to make some well deserved noise here. He’s graduated to the bigger room of Smalls come September having just played Brillobox a few months ago.

Ha Ha Tonka-Death of a Decade Ha Ha Tonka are the little band that could. Like many of the artists I try to spotlight in these posts, they put out great music and yet seem to be so under the radar that no one ever seems to hear of them.

Pete and the Pirates-One Thousand Pictures Second album from this English band full of power pop/rock with a touch of synth goodness.

Vetiver-The Errant Charm I really like Vetiver. This new release proves that he got the goods and now people should start paying some attention.

Tristen-Charlatans at the Garden Gate

As with previous months, I am attempting to focus on bands that might be under your radar. Attempted is the key word this month as a couple of these bands are somwewhat megastars in the indie music world.

This month’s top spot is not a ‘new’ release, it came out in February. It’s been chosen due to the fact that I didn’t listen anything as nearly as much as I did this. After seeing her at Stage AE really made me go back and revisit her stuff. This is infectious music. Can’t wait to see here again soon.

Other artists of note:

Death Cab for Cutie-Codes and Keys

I was never a fan of this band, not because they aren’t good, it’s just never happened due to …whatever. This album is being released today and as NPR had it streaming last week, I listened to and enjoyed it ALOT, surpisingly so. The show here in August has become a must-see.

Damon and Naomi-False Beats and True Hearts

This is a gentle reminder of what they could accomplished in Galaxie 500.

Sam Roberts Band-Collider

I have been a fan of Sam’s since Chemical City. Straight up, solid Rock and Roll.

The Elected-Bury Me in My Rings

I was surprised how much I like this band? I really dig Blake’s fellow Rilo Kiley bandmate Jenny Lewis’ stuff, why should this be so radically different?

Sarah Fimm-Near Infinite Possibility

She reminds me of Sarah McLachlan without all the preciousness crap.

Seapony-Go With Me

Beutifully lush lo-fi goodness from Seattle.

Okkervil River-I Am Very Far

Will Sheff is probably the best lyricists in America today. This isn’t easy music to appreciate. It rewards with numerous listens.

The Donkeys-Born With Stripes

Rock-pop from San Diego.

Miles Kane-Colour of the Trap

I love this guy. He hails from England. What a sleeper of a release.

Fleet Foxes-Helplessness Blues

As with Death Cab, I am not an uberfan of these guys but this is some solid music.

The High Llamas-Talahomi Way

The much heralded releases this past month were from Foo Fighters and Paul Simon. That’s cool, they probably deserve all the hoopla. My list is for artists who might not get a #1 Chart Topper or a NBC Nightly News segment and you may or may not be familiar with. This space is for you to seek this music out. You will be so happy you did!

The High Llamas have been making music since the early ’90’s. They have sort of a cult following in that I have never even heard of them and they have several releases. Not that I am THE music aficionado but I was talking to a buddy last night and I mentioned them and he said, “Oh yeah, Sean O’Hagan.” Who? Regardless, I am now officially on that Llama train. This is such strangely addictive music. It’s a cross between laid-back, ’70’s AM cheese and British pastoral indie-pop. Think of The Clientele covering ‘Bluer Than Blue’. Yeah, that’s what’s up. Hopefully, there will be more from this band here soon.

The High Llamas have been making music since the early ’90’s. They have sort of a cult following in that I have never even heard of them and they have several releases. Not that I am THE music aficionado but I was talking to a buddy last night and I mentioned them and he said, “Oh yeah, Sean O’Hagan.” Who? Regardless, I am now officially on that Llama train. This is such strangely addictive music. It’s a cross between laid-back, ’70’s AM cheese and British pastoral indie-pop. Think of The Clientele covering ‘Bluer Than Blue’. Yeah, that’s what’s up. Hopefully, there will be more from this band here soon.

The Paperhead-The Paperhead Pimped these guys large on the blog yesterday. As with several of the bands this month, they could have easily been the AotM.

The Middle East-I Want That You Are Always Happy

It’s so hard sometimes to get info on a band (you try Googling The Middle East) and it’s even more complicated when they are from Australia. These are some incredibly spare and simple melodies highlighted by sweet vocals. Just beautiful music.

The Belle Brigade-The Belle Brigade

Ethan & Barbara are The Belle Brigade. This is their debut album. They write and perform amazing songs. If Juice Newton cut a rock album in 2011, she would cite these two as influences. Trust me, it works. I really love this band more and more every time I hear them.

I’m From Barcelona-I’m Today

I have a tendency to shy away from bands that have peculiar or smarmy names. There are a ton of groups out there with bad names and I am guilty of skipping over what would be probable awesome music just by hating the cover without reading the book. I almost passed on this band and I am so glad I didn’t. Bombastic, upbeat, and most importantly good solid pop from all places Sweden. It doesn’t hurt that they have been known to have 29 members in the band at once…29! Geez, I’ll step on stage to make it an even 30.

Hillbilly Moon Explosion-Beg, Borrow Or Steal

Dark, sultry, and addictive rockabilly. What more could you want?

Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs-No Help Coming

I am a sucker for old-timey retro rock n roll played with an unabashed lo-fi attitude. This album is a virtual Hootenanny. With a song titled ‘Burn O’ Junk Pile Burn’ you really cannot go wrong.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit-Here We Rest

I first met Jason 11 years ago when he was a young guitar player with something to prove. I have followed him since then and can honestly say that this release sees him achieving a confidence I was always hoping he would get to.

The Head & The Heart-The Head & The Heart

This band was really good live. I, along with the rest of the sold out crowd, never heard of them and they converted a room full of people with nine songs. How does a band not have anything to sell a gaggle of people at a show? Record company politics suck.

Low-C’Mon

This album is good. The acoustic EP of this album is great. More soon from the recent Warhol show.

Thao & Mirah–Thao & Mirah

I just love indie band super groups, don’t you? I like both these gals on their own. Together they are gathering steam as I seem to lose it.

The Sorry Kisses-Keep Smiling

Music-wise, March came in like a lion and stayed that way. IMO, there were many releases that were ‘AotM-worthy’ and it was no easy feat picking one. Did you hear that R.E.M. released their latest? Did you hear that it’s a return to form? Yeah, I heard that too. Hopefully, you haven’t heard of some of these artists and will take some time to seek them out.

The Sorry Kisses are a duo from the UK. This is their third album and it rocks. They really have me hooked. They have a power guitar crunch topped off with spirited female vocals. Think ‘Opal meets Elastica’. I love discovering new bands. More from Hayley and Sam tomorrow, or the next day.

Other artists of note:

Telekinesis-12 Desperate Straight Lines

This is Michael Benjamin Lerner’s second album under the Telekinesis name. He plays every instrument and I was lucky enough to catch his first tour. This album, along with many on this months list could have easily been in the top spot.

Kurt Vile-Smoke Ring For My Halo

I just saw Kurt play a few days ago and this feedback drenched album translates really good live. Pictures coming soon.

Middle Brother-Middle Brother

‘Supergroup’ made up of the songwriters from Dawes, Delta Spirit, and Deer Tick. Monsters of Folk Jr.? That’s unfair, I know. I was expecting more during the first listen but it really catches on after that. Can’t wait to see a live show. Oh yeah, we’re in Pittsburgh. I’ll be waiting awhile.

Alex Turner-Submarine

Alex Turner’s band is Arctic Monkeys. I actually don’t know anything about them. What I do know is that this solo EP is a soundtrack to the film Submarine and it’s really, really good. Maybe I should start listening to Arctic Monkeys?

Marcellus Hall-First Line

I saw Marcellus open for The Hold Steady back in 2007. He was good but quickly forgotten. This new release changes that with his ‘Dylan-esque’ delivery and outstanding songwriting.

The Rural Alberta Advantage-Departing

This sophomore effort is pretty much a Part 2 to their fantastic debut. I love their live show and fingers are crossed for an upcoming Pittsburgh date.

The Baseball Project-Volume Two: High & Inside

This is a solid band making solid records. You would think the whole baseball theme would be corny after awhile but somehow it keeps working.

The Sandwitches-Mrs. Jones’ Cookies

A female trio from San Francisco making spiritually dark lo-fi folk songs. The rudimentary production value adds to these hypnotic tunes.

The Liptonians-Let’s All March Back Into The Sea

Cool Canadian quartet that mixes up rock with pop with folk with…you get the idea.

Those Darlins-Screws Get Loose

Why did I think this band was a bunch of girls playing jug music? This is anything but. The girls part I got right (with a dude in there for good measure) but hillbilly music this ain’t. Catchy garage pop with ‘tude to spare. Hope they are as good live. I’ll find out soon enough when they hit Brillobox in June.

David Lowery-The Palace Guards February flew by and as we all know Bright Eyes and Radiohead released their latest to much ‘electronic’ fanfare. As with last month, I want to spotlight some maybe lesser known releases that deserve as much attention.

It’s hard to believe that David Lowery has been making music since 1985, first with Camper Van Beethoven and later with Cracker. It’s even harder to believe that I have been seeing him play live for just as long and I easily consider him a reluctant musical hero of sorts to me. After 24 (Wow!) releases as main songwriter with his bands, he comes out with a debut solo album. I am happy to say it is exactly what to expect from him. It’s a little bit of country, rock, Americana, and thankfully ‘weirdness’ thrown together that ranks as amongst the best stuff he has ever produced. This album gets better and better every time I spin it. David Lowery is the man!

Other artists of note:


The Low Anthem-Smart Flesh Much has been said about how they recorded this sophomore effort, which may be good press but the proof is in the work. I saw them for the third time just last night and was struck by the superb musicianship the members possess. Amazing. More about the show soon.

Jessica Lea Mayfield-Tell Me Her second album brings a whole lot of growth to her sound. Branching out in production and a more ‘band’ sound has her songwriting becoming more accessible. Be warned, her April 5th show at Club Cafe will probably sell out.

Shipbuilding Co.-Radios & Flying Birds This is one strange, catchy, and ultimately cool effort. Former Head of Femur member Michael Partington moves to Asia and creates this by himself on a laptop. There’s a retro vibe going…retro as in turn of the century electronic pop? It’s also not a bad thing that he writes about Pittsburgh’s inclines on the opening track!

Zoey Van Goey-Propeller Versus Wings Eclectic folk pop from Glasgow. The band mixes different styles that seamlessly works on their second album.

Nicole Atkins-Mondo Amore This album is great. She is naturally maturing as a songwriter and her tunes showcase her killer voice. I have seen her a few times but cannot wait to see her again. My favorite track, ‘Cry Cry Cry’, was done better when I saw her play it live with a different arrangement.

The Babies-The Babies Side project from Vivian Girls and Woods members. Lo-fi one off? Too bad. This is good stuff and if they were somewhat ‘serious’, they could have kicked major with this. I am shocked how much I do like it.

Ivan & Alyosha-Fathers Be Kind The band is named after characters in a Dostoevsky book. Little known fact, I love Dostoevsky! This second EP from the band is solid.

Le Sera-Le Sera Another Vivian Girls spin-off? Right on! Ethereal folkie dream-pop love from my new favorite label Hardly Art.

The Finches-On Golden Hill Sweet folk from San Francisco. Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs’ music has a laid back, ‘It’s A Beautiful Day‘ feel to it. Coincidence? Regardless, these songs linger.

Lia Ices-Grown Unknown This album is good in an Enya meets Feist kinda way. The first two songs are incredible. You know those repeat songs you can listen to over and over. ‘Love Is Won‘ and ‘Daphne‘ do that for me. Both songs have an epic guitar driven feel that I wish the rest of the album had.

Big Hurry-Gets Me Low

I am going to attempt to begin the new year by hopefully exposing the readers of this blog to new music released within the last 30 or so days that might have slipped under your radar. Yeah, The Decemberists and Iron & Wine came out with their highly anticipated new music but these little artists’ that could deserve as much attention, therefore my new segment…Artist of the Month!

Now, you know I love this band. Even if they weren’t friends of mine, I would still be highlighting this EP just for the fact that it is just so damn good, period. I listened to this relentlessly, almost to the point of getting sick of it…almost. The show they put on the other night was amazing, the best I have ever seen them play and I will have coverage of that soon. In the meantime people, if you haven’t already, get these tunes! The band has grown musically by leaps and bounds and we the listener are all the luckier for it.

Other artists of note:

Apex Manor-The Year of Magically Drinking

One of my favorite bands, The Broken West, broke up. Bandleader Ross Flournoy starts another band and picks up right where the old one left off! I will have more on his band soon.

Fergus & Geronimo-Unlearn

Imagine if Beck and The Brian Jonestown Massacre had twins and Devendra Banhart raised them? That makes no sense at all. Either should these guys but they are cool as hell. Awesome freak folk from Denton, TX! Check them out.

Big Indian, New York-Slow To Visit Sticker Boy

This is such a weird little band. The music is odd, the running times are even odder. It’s great!

Ringside-Lost Days

Catchy pop rock from Hollywood. Key word: catchy (as hell)!

Jenn Grant-Honeymoon Punch

It doesn’t take long to appreciate this Canadian gal’s sound. Like, maybe instantly?

Abigail Washburn-City of Refuge

Abigail plays clawhammer banjo. She takes ‘Appalachian folk’ music to the poppy side.

Twilight Hotel-When The Wolves Go Blind

This duo from Texas blend all kinds of genres such as rockabilly, lounge, and folk using lush harmonies.

Old Man Markley-Guts N’ Teeth

An L.A. outfit that blends punk and bluegrass…what’s not to like?

Anna Calvi-Anna Calvi

Retro cabaret music that’s actually accessible.

Slowwave-Drag Lake Skin

Lo-fi electronic rock from out West.