That Which We Call ‘Black Rose’ Sounds So Sweet

Hil St. Soul
Black Rose / Shanachie / BUY

Soul music has this unparalleled and introspective nature to it–something that just makes it so smooth and beautiful you have to move your body. Hil St. Soul‘s new album, Black Rose , out last Tuesday on Shanachie, is no exception to this baby-making genre by any means. Even the queen herself would approve.

Black Rose takes soul, funk, R&B, and even hip hop into a new realm of modernity, specifically on “Wash Away,” where Hilary Lusaka’s gorgeous voice floats over a hook you just can’t get outta your head. She offers further advice on “Life,” and title track “Black Rose,” both uplifting and positive with a beat that makes you feel schooled better than Lauren Hill in the art of soul.

Snag a copy of the new record in stores and see for yourself how sweet it really is. Beware when you check out the mp3 below, we promise you’ll be hooked!

MP3: Hil St. Soul – Sweetest Days

N* Grandjean Carrying Stars On Debut

I’m always tentative when listening to a new artist, but my fears were abated as soon as the first few bars of “Heroes & Saints” began, because I just knew it was going to work. Like all the tracks on Grandjean‘s debut Carrying Stars, the music is deep, the lyrics clever, and the songs polished to a mirror shine with some of the best mixes I’ve heard in recent years. Excluding minor contributions from his friends Mikkel Lomborg & cellist Brit Bird, Grandjean plays all the instruments himself which simply shows he is a multi talented musician to boot.

Grandjean has already earned his reputation as an experienced man on the live scene, previously one of two singers in his former band Luke and collaborating with top producer and DJ Kenneth Badger on the internationally acclaimed album Fragments from a Space Cadet . Grandjean’s work has also received quite a lot of radio attention, frequently appearing on the playlists of P3, Denmark’s best known station. I don’t recommened stuff by principle…but check this out.

Re-Joyce for Diversity

Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and in the case of Brit producer James Nichols, that “anywhere” happened to be a bookstore. Chamber Music is a collection of poems by Irish poet James Joyce, inspiring to the point of a media-crossing piece of work in Nichols’ eyes. He has put all 36 verses of Joyce’s work to music, in one handy-dandy compilation!

The album bears the same name as the book, and, naturally, there are a matching number of artists to “cover” those 36 verses, including Mercury Rev, Mike Watt, Virgin Passages, Flying Saucer Attack, and Sweet Trip, to name a few. The knockout punch comes from Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, who add their expertise to the album, which definitely delivers in that vintage, 1907 Irish kind of way. Just ask Wired or NPR what they think about it, they’ll tell you.

Following in Joyce’s own wishes–he actually believed his poems were better suited for music–Nichols grants a gift that no other has attempted in full. Listen for a fusion of modern music and “songwriter” (never expected that title, did he?) Joyce’s lyrics and feel the steam it produces! Electronica versus folk versus pop/rock and whatever else you can imagine allows for a diversion from the norm that only a collision of literature and music can produce.

MP3: Virgin Passages – vi

Go! Get! Verbs!

Portland’s experimental avant-folk collective Au (pronounced ay-yoo) released Verbs this week, the declarative follow-up to their debut self-titled album which came out last year. The band is the brainchild of Luke Wyland, a multi-instrumentalist who released his own solo album PeaoftheSea under the simple moniker luc in 2005, and has since been expanding his musical landscapes with the addition of a full band and numerous guest artists.

Verbs features vocal appearances by Sarah Winchester (A Weather) and Becky Dawson (Ah Holly Fam’ly, Saw Whet), and over twenty more Northwestern musicians drop in to lend a hand, including members of Paranthetical Girls and Yellow Swans. The album was tracked at Portland’s Type Foundry Studios over three days, and Wyland did further recording at his home attic studio over the next two months. Brooklyn’s own Aagoo Records is releasing it.


“Sorry, I Thought I Was Gonna Puke…”

In the intimate surroundings of the Old Queen’s Head pub in London, UK, Brendan Campbell announced to the crowd with his soft Glaswegian tones that he wasn’t feeling too great. Seconds earlier, he’d stopped singing a few seconds into his fourth song of the evening, “Venice”.

Watching a musician concentrate on stage is far from a new phenomenon. However, seeing someone focused on forcing back the contents of their stomach back down their throat can be classed as pretty damn rock ‘n’ roll.

Stomach ulcers aside, Brendan battled on through the pain barrier and still achieved the stunning vocal harmonies that he is becoming much feted for. His lyrical talent leads to inevitable yet enviable comparisons with the likes of Bob Dylan and Elliott Smith.

The lyrics of his dreamy first single, Burgers and Murders, highlight not just his ability but also his sense of humour – ‘Speak to the pigeons/maybe they speak Turkish too’. His guitar strumming also mirrors his vocal ability – it’s of exceptional quality with an impressive pace.

Fittingly, Campbell closes his set with “Mr. Robinson” – the final song on his recent debut release, the Twilight Bird EP, which is available now from digital retailers. It’s a beautiful record that uses the lack of post-production as an asset rather than a flaw.

Many singer/songwriters before him have attempted to create a marriage of convincing lyrics and catchy harmonies, yet Campbell appears to be well on his way to mastering the art – he just might need some painkillers.

MP3: Brendan Campbell – Burgers and Murders