Deer Tick

My first experience with Deer Tick was a prime example of the “please listen more than once phenomenon”. Upon first listen, I was impressed by the intro’s twangy vibe… and then singer John McCauley’s voice began to sing. My heart sunk. “Too raspy,” I thought. “Discordant!” I proclaimed. Then I gave it another shot. And another. By the fourth play, I was not only digging the delicious twanginess behind the singing, but I was swooning on McCauley’s gritty voice and stylistic odes to a day long gone. I got on board whole hog–music, lyrics and voice. I was passing the song to friends. I was soliciting Shan’s advice. (He said of “Art isn’t Real”–“its a great summer twilight tune” but then wanted to make sure “Art isn’t Real” wasn’t the band name. It’s not.) And so in this, the twilight of our summer, the ‘Hive gives you summer twilight tunes to ride out on the August wave to. Do me proud and listen no less than three times.

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My dear friend Seth rarely pushes anything on me. He believes strongly in free will and all that jazz. He might occasionally make a gentle suggestion that I might enjoy a book, or ask me if I’ve heard of a band (knowing that I will lie and say yes and then immediately run to my computer and discover who they are). But he never pushes. (Except for his very favorite book, Winters Tale by Mark Helprin, which he pushes on everyone, but no one ever reads.) So, in rare form, Seth pressed on, asking me again and again if I had listened to the Headlights song. Lesson? When Seth makes an enthusiastic recommendation, a girl should listen. In any case, I’d say more about the music, but I’ll have to let the music speak for itself as I am walking out the door to go meet fellow ‘Hiver Joe for the very first time!

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Crystal Skulls

In the summer, songs have to pass a test. At least in my world. Each new track must be played at full volume in my car while driving on a relatively empty highway at (or slightly over) the speed limit and said song must make my head and/or butt bounce (depending on bassline, ‘natch), make me smile and think “its summer!” and, finally, make me want to listen again. Unfortunately, my car is presently residing in my Grandmother’s driveway due to the difficulty of being vehicular in NYC. However, I feel more than confident that Seattle five-piece The Crystal Skulls are more than strong enough to satisfy the car test requirements. (They did manage to replicate the experience in the nearly equivalent “peach-jam-making music test”.) Its an easy, breezy pop they sing, just the right kind of music for the mid-summer pause– when the novelty is over and all one really wants to do is find an outdoor space, grill up what there is to grill and just be mellow. And am I alone in noticing a little Steely Dan in “Cosmic Door”? But that would make sense since “Deacon Blues” will always, always pass my summer music test.

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St. Vincent

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, used to play guitar with the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, which might account for her pleasingly random-seeming musical influences. Contrary to standard operating procedure, I don’t have a whole lot else to say other than I really like this woman, she has pluck and style and and I think you should listen to her. Plus, you’ve gotta love a woman who names her album “Marry Me.” Brassy!

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Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Don’t get me wrong, I really like the arrhythmic bobbing of one thousand hipster heads at, say, a Menomena show outside in the summertime. Equally pleasing is the boho hippie happy love vibe and patchouli smell rising like steam above an Amadou and Mariam or Manu Chao show. But I’m not talking about hippies or hipsters here… I’m talking about the hot. sweaty. funk. Sharon Jones has been bringing the hot sweaty funk for years now and as soon as the band starts playing–hips WILL be swaying, arms WILL be flailing, and, yes, booties will be shaking, because Sharon and her million person band of 3-piece-suit-wearing talent consistently brings it. These songs may not be brand spanking new, but when the music is classic, who needs them to be?

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The Harlem Shakes

It is a difficult thing, trying to find the perfect song to accompany a key lime pie, a margarita, good company and some serious barbeque. The first time I heard the buzz about the Harlem Shakes, I was hoping for just such a song (because I am always hoping for such a song), but I was expecting something a little more, erm, Harlem? When I heard the opening notes, my heart sank a little and then I got over my initial expectations and couldn’t stop bopping. They are clever, loud, playful and often rocking out, and for today, July 4th, I plan on blasting them loudly and often. Margarita in hand.

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Ra Ra Riot

Art is often speckled with tragedy. I was planning to post on Ra Ra Riot beforehand, but now with the untimely death of their 23 year old drummer John Pike early this month, I have to forgo some of the general enthusiasm and lightness of these posts in favor of something a little more somber. All there is to say really is that the music made by this Syracuse band is lovely and this is a terrible loss and it just breaks my heart to hear this sad news. Hopefully the music they make in the future will be able to be a testament to the young man who helped create their sound and the music they have already made will be a beautiful reminder of him. The ‘Hive sends its love to Ra Ra Riot.

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Detektivbyrån |
Detektivbyrån |

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with instrumental music. As a compulsive reader, songs have often been an extension of that compulsion, and I’ve always been drawn to verbose, dense songs that have something to say aside from the music itself. And if I can relate to what is being said, then all the better. But every once in a while songs sans words manage to tickle some small place in our brains and can speak to us directly without having to say anything. I don’t know if this is that for you, but without getting into it, DetektivbyrÃ¥n is from Goteborg (Sweden’s second city) and with their simplicity, chimes, accordians and ethereal Amelie-esque charm, they have managed to thrust me straight back to the time I was in their city and I’ll be damned if this isn’t the wordless soundtrack to my time there, only discovered after the fact. And so, they must be added to the short list of musicians who work in the instrumental form who just plain old move me

E18 [MP3, 5.2MB, 206kbps]
Nattopet [MP3, 5.2MB, 128kbps]
Dansbanan [MP3, 5.6MB, 200kbps]

Maximo Park

I’ve always been a sucker for things British (colonial exploits excluded). Recently I had a mad craving for a British-made Lion Bar, which has the perfect combination of caramel, chocolate, wafers and what I swear tastes like nougat (although I am told I am wrong on this). It’s the perfect candy bar and I just can’t seem to find anything else as good stateside. While I was visiting the British establishment in New York that actually sells this confectionary achievement, I couldn’t help but enjoy the salesman’s accent. Which brings me to my point, Maximo Park. While Maximo Park is perhaps more straight up radio poppy than the music that I general enjoy (but always want so much to like), it’s British radio poppy! So I love it! And while I commend all of the accentless Swedish acts that astound me so, there is just something about someone singing in a Newcastle accent over a ragey guitar. Go figure. So as the sun gets hotter and the days get lazier, I recommend giving in to your sillier side, snapping up a Lion Bar (if you can find one) and slapping some “Our Earthly Pleasures” on the Pod. Earthly pleasures, indeed.

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Lately there have been all these commercials for the NYC “easy listening” radio station and despite my general aversion to anything “easy” (especially when “listening”), I’ve been fascinated by how calm the woman on the advertisement is. One has to wonder… is it the music? Well I’m not ready to throw in the musical towel yet and so my latest solution to needing a little sonic R&R is going to have to be Dntel. Dntel is definitely not going to make the evening drive line-up next to Celine Dion BUT Dntel is Jimmy Tamborello (also part of The Postal Service and Figurine)–which earns him some cred in my book. His vocals are calmer (and prettier) than Ben Gibbard’s (although BG gets points for style) and the beats are a little lighter and more folky-playful. The end result is that I can’t turn it off. It’s a lovely and complicated melange of bips and tics that also manages to calm and soothe. Interesting. It ain’t easy like I thought I wanted, but it’s just right. As always, some tracks are included here, but the intrepid listener can find the whole album on Dntel’s Myspace page…

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