Label: Barsuk
Genre: Electronic, Pop

Phantogram sets the bar high for new music in 2010. Obvious comparisons to Portishead aside, this young duo easily hold their own. It's a fine distinction, but Phantogram is more space-hop than trip-hop and "When I'm Small" throws down a groove of heavily plucked bass that brightens up the bedroom vocals and scratchy record sample circling its way through the track. About a third of the way through everything drops out except soft synth pulses and echoing guitar to highlight Sarah Barthel's voice. Diamonds spill from this woman's mouth every time she opens it! My limited judgment is based on this and a couple other tracks, but I'm happily prejudiced and waiting to be fully abducted by Eyelid Movies on February 9th (vinyl via Ghostly). East Coast dates begin shortly before.

When I'm Small [MP3, 9.6MB, 320kbps]

"Mouthful of Diamonds" live on KEXP:

Posted by sean on 01.11.10 | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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David Bazan

Label: Barsuk
Genre: Folk, Rock

I don't listen to David Bazan as much as I should. The reason why is pathetic. And definitely one a musician never wants to hear—that you love one album, or maybe just one song, so much that anything else from that artist pales in comparison, according to that person's narrow, small-minded, myopic point of view. Guilty. My two favorite song's from Bazan come from his Pedro the Lion album It's Hard to Find a Friend: "Big Trucks" and "When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run." I'm enamored by the way those songs sound like snippets from short stories, more narratives than lyrics. And their tempos, their simplicity, and Bazan's young, quiet earnestness on that first record. I realize this is no excuse and I need to dig deeper into his catalog—especially if I plan on attending one of his upcoming West Coast living room shows (Tickets go on sale today. Only 30 are available for each show). I don't want to be that chump in the corner only singing along to or requesting older material. I hate those people.

From Curse Your Branches (2009):
Bless This Mess [MP3]

From Fewer Moving Parts (2007):
Cold Beer and Cigarettes [MP3]

Posted by sean on 12.30.09 | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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Chris Walla

Label: Barsuk
Genre: Pop

It's a rare day that this kind of pop is considered a threat to national security, but then, these are strange days we live in. Apparently, a "data hard drive containing critical album files was detained by US Customs. The drive was held "to be analyzed" for several weeks on its way back into the US prior to final mixing of the album." Well, as a mention of the band Death Cab for Cute simply hurls me backwards to my collegiate days of angst and Chuck Taylors--I'm glad the music pulled through. Chris Walla, DCFC guitarist/producer, despite some strange customs officer's sentiments, is not making "contentious" music, its true. But I'm always ready to don my Chucks, emote a little and listen to something perty.

Sing Again [MP3, 3.5MB, 192kbps]

Posted by lisa on 11.14.07 | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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Label: Barsuk
Genre: Experimental, Pop

Menomena is one of those bands who are truly making music for the sake of making music. These are not the songs that rock stars and groping groupies are made of. Unless you're living in an alternate universe maybe. Menomena compose slightly skewed music and on their new album, Friend or Foe, it frequently sounds like a meeting of Morphine and XTC. It's easy to get lost in Menomena's world as you explore the album artwork, beautifully illustrated by cartoonist and graphic novelist, Craig Thompson, a weird, dense mix of flesh and blood, life and death, animals and machines. To dig in deeper, aurally and visually, pop open the ecard. It's not an easy listen, nor will it be easily forgotten.

From Friend or Foe:
Wet & Rusting [MP3, 4.9MB, 192kbps]

From I Am the Fun Blame Monster:
E is Stable [MP3, 6.0MB, 160kbps]

Posted by sean on 01.14.07 | Comments (9) | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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Jim Noir

Label: Barsuk
Genre: Pop

I'm not gonna mince words here. Sam sucks. He's on vacation and the poor fellow couldn't get a post up before he left. Jim Noir rules. His songs make you feel like you're on vacation. His latest album, Tower of Love, conjures, through simple melodies, long lazy, barefoot days spent flying kites, sipping and snacking on favorite treats, watching the sun set, and reading out on the porch against evening breezes. Track down the Fatboy Slim remix of his song "Eanie Meany" if you're more of a party-all-night-on-the-dancefloor vacationer.

Key of C [MP3, 3.2MB, 128kbps]

Buy on iTunes.

Posted by sean on 08.19.06 | Comments (2) | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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The Long Winters

Label: Barsuk
Genre: Pop

The Long Winters are long overdue for an overhaul on the 'hive. They were one of the first five original posts, back when we were just so excited to be live, sharing music that we loved, we'd post a micro-review of the band, and move on to the next one. So more background on The Long Winters: it's the brainchild of John Roderick along with a revolving cast of musicians. Roderick's an Alaskan native living in Seattle, so there's lots of talent to tap up there. Producer Chris Walla and Ken Stringfellow (The Posies) are among the many who have put up with Roderick who's a self-proclaimed "little grouchy Napoleon" (and I don't think he means of the Dynamite variety). Says a lot about his strength as a songcrafter—that he attracts that caliber of musician. Musically he's a little bit folk, a little bit psychedelic, like Apples In Stereo caught up in A Mighty Wind. You'll get caught up in the music and the charming earnestness of his vocals and lyrics.

*Note: Go to The Long Winters site to get hi-fi versions of the 48kbps MP3s. He asks nicely not to link directly to the files, so we won't. He's got Merlin Mann running his site, and you straight up don't want to mess with that guy. He'll get you done.

From Putting the Days to Bed (Coming July 25, 2006)
Pushover [MP3, 2.4MB, 128kbps]
From When I Pretend to Fall
Blue Diamonds [MP3, 1.3MB, 48kbps]
Stupid [MP3, 1.4MB, 48kbps]
From The Worst You Can Do is Harm
Carparts [MP3, 1.4MB, 48kbps]
Scent of Lime [MP3, 1.4MB, 48kbps]

Original post: 02/17/04
A sampling of favorites from 2003. That '60s album.

From Ultimatum
Ultimatum [MP3, 3.4MB, 128kbps]

Posted by sean on 07.02.06 | Comments (1) | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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Rocky Votolato

Label: Barsuk
Genre: Folk

With a name like Rocky Votolato, I was expecting disco covers, not classic folk-rock — acoustic guitar, harmonica, brooding lyrics, scruffy cheeks and the long gaze. Ah, I shouldn't make assumptions based on the guy's name, especially with that Italian ring to it. Did you see those ads in the paper, around the time of the Alito confirmation, blasting people for calling him "Scalito," claiming that was ethnic bigotry? 3hive doesn't need that kind of attention. Anyway, Rocky's an old-style singer-songwriter from the PNW, and "Portland Is Leaving" is the prettiest sad song I've heard in a long time. "Love's a trainwreck, you're a mistake..."

Thanks to everyone for pointing out the bad links... These songs are only downloadable directly from Barsuk's website. Sorry.

White Daisy Passing [MP3, 2.9MB, 128kbps]
Portland Is Leaving [MP3, 2.5MB, 128kbps]

Posted by joe on 02.23.06 | Comments (14) | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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John Vanderslice

Label: Barsuk
Genre: Pop, Rock

When she graduated last year, Martha gave me a mix CD without a track list. For some people, this would be considered a form of psychological abuse as opposed to a kind gesture. For others, like me, it's a pleasant excuse for wasting an hour playing on Google. Investigating "Me and My 424" (one of my favorite songs on what turned out to be a great road trip mix, with the likes of Iron and Wine and Nick Drake) led me to John Vanderslice and about a dozen MP3s, half of which are provided for you below. The marriage of his macabre narratives and nasal vocal whine is infinitely better than the description sounds — trust me. Also, if you've got the time, check out Tiny Telephone, his SF recording studio. Thanks, Martha!

They Won't Let Me Run [MP3, 5.6MB, 512kbps]
Me and My 424 [MP3, 5.1MB, 496kbps]
The Mansion [MP3, 5.4MB, 556kbps]
Time Travel Is Lonely [MP3, 5.2MB, 492kbps]
Bill Gates Must Die [MP3, 2.8MB, 246kbps]
Gruesome Details [MP3, 1.5MB, 247kbps]

Posted by joe on 03.31.05 | Comments (5) | Buy from Amazon, Insound
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