Song of the Week – Signals

Signals – Júníus Meyvant

About a month ago a friend of mine introduced me to this wonderful musician. Júníus Meyvant is a singer-songwriter from Iceland who produces pop music with a folk influence.

Júníus Meyvant’s debut album Floating Harmonies came out in July and is a stunning piece of work. Listening to it start to finish takes you on a journey, it drifts from upbeat brass lead pieces which make you want to take on the world to tracks which make you want to curl up snug inside on a rainy day.

Signals is an example of one of his gentler tracks and is probably the one I’ve connected with most so far.

The song begins with an intricate guitar riff (which reminds me of raindrops) before Meyvant’s vocals pour in over the top giving it an ethereal quality. The song builds its layers bit by bit. Next a solid base beat is added in followed by the strings and percussion which bring it all together with a real wow factor.

There are so many different elements but they all work together magically and grow into an impressive united sound as the song progresses. Signals makes for a lovely listen.

Other tracks worth giving your first listen from Floating Hamornies include Hailslide, Gold Laces, Neon Experience and Color Decay.

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Song of the Week – Alaska

Alaska by Maggie Rogers

I’m sitting by the water in the Auckland viaduct watching the sun sparkle on the water and the water ripple beneath the boats. It’s peaceful and beautiful in every  sense of the words but this serenity has been enhanced by another element – the sound of Alaska by Maggie Rogers.
You may remember the video that went viral earlier this year of Pharrell Williams being absolutely blown away by a Uni students music? Well that song we all loved as much as he did, has finally been released.

Alaska by NYU student Maggie Rogers, originally from Maryland, is a mix of folk and the electronica sound. Both of these styles dominate the music industry today yet few songs seamlessly bring together the two sounds like this track. It features a funky yet gentle beat and beautiful lyrics about a walk through the woods, sung to showcase an impressive range by Rogers. There’s a real strength in her voice and its grown by the calm quality she has, her vocals are so controlled it’s a stunning quality.

Chuck your headphones in and have a listen while sitting in an idyllic spot like I am. There’s no better way to start your day. (Especially when you’re about to be stuck inside at a conference all day!)

Song of the Week – Way Down We Go

Way Down We Go – Kaleo

My friend recently introduced me to Icelandic rock band Kaleo and I was an instant fan. About 20 seconds into my first listen of Way Down We Go I was in love with their sound – a fresh combination of rock, folk and blues.

This song, the first release from Kaleo’s excellent new album A/B which came out June 10th, has picked up a lot of play in the US and is just getting its first rounds on Radio Hauraki here in NZ. It featured in a range of TV series which helped get it off the ground, this include Suits, Orange Is the New Black and Blindspot.

But really it doesn’t need any explanation, it just needs you to take the time to listen. This band is something special and Way Down We Go is the perfect song to start your new love affair with the group.

Song of the Week – Still Trying

Still Trying – Nathaniel Rateliff

Take Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons, add them together, plus a dollop of genius lyrics and a tonne of soul, and you get the sound of Nathaniel Rateliff. Intrigued? You should be.

This American singer-songwriter from Missouri has been around for a while, but I’ve just discovered him. He is just what you want in the alt-folk genre we’ve all grown to love today. He’s got the grungy and powerful voice and knows how to build a song up from a soft guitar riff and whisper to a full foot-stomping, make-you-wanna-shout style folk track.

Still Trying is a magic song from his 2013 album Falling Faster Than You Think You Can Run that does just this. It’s calming yet stirring at the same time. I know that’s an awful contradiction but somehow Nathaniel Rateliff reaches that in this song.

If you want more upbeat and shouty folk music listen to his 2015 album Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, if you want more gentle tracks like Still Trying then stick to his earlier albums. I like both styles for different reasons and all his work makes for compelling listening.

Song of the Week – Make It Holy

Make It Holy – The Staves featuring Justin Vernon

I stumbled across The Staves last week while pining to be at Glastonbury and I haven’t been able to stop playing their song Make It Holy ever since. What a magic track. It evokes a real emotion in me as it twists and builds.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a track with such chilling harmonies but this English accoustic folk trio made up of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, know their strengths and compliment each other superbly.

The album Make It Holy features on was produced by Justin Vernon and he accompanies them in this track. His chilling voice shines through as a softer undertone on the big lines and gives the song an extra layer that other songs on the album don’t have. It would be brilliant with just the Staveley-Taylor sisters but when Justin Vernon’s unique grunt is added it has the x-factor. This track is impossible not to love.

Have a few listens and I recommend buying their album If I Was – there’s a lot more where this came from.

Song of the week – Only Love

Only Love – Mumford and Sons

This week I’ve been checking out Mumford and Sons new album Wilder Mind. 

I’ve always been a fan of these guys. Their folk-belters like Awake My Soul, I Will Wait and Little Lion Man are songs which will always stand out for me as some of the best banjo-strumming, foot-stomping tracks we’ve heard in recent years. But like many, I also began to struggled with the same-same sound the guys were producing in every track on their first two albums. I eagerly went to their concert in 2012 only to leave feeling a little disappointed – I was overwhelmed by how much the songs blended together as one, yet, I had hope. I could tell Marcus and his bandmates had more to them, they weren’t going to be one-trick ponies, because they had more talent than they were showcasing. Wilder Mind is the album that proves that.

The range of songs on this album is impressive, the band have worked hard to produce something new and fresh and they’ve done that. It’s a bit of an experiment record, there are a few different routes they’ve gone down. Some songs showcase qualities of Radiohead, others have a riffs you’d expect to hear on a Coldplay track. My pick of the bunch from a few quick listens, is Only Love.

The track starts slowly with the male harmonies we all know and love, the type that really make your hairs stand up. I’m immediately caught up, the lyrics are the kind that make you stop, listen and think:

“And I hunger and I thirst
For some shiver
For some whispered words
And the promise to come”

But don’t fret, Only Love isn’t a depressing ballad. It may start slowly but this song is magic in the way it reaches a point where it just erupts! There isn’t much warning for the loud, invasive and energetic invasion of electric guitars that burst out in the middle of the song. It is magic.

This is the kind of song I needed to hear from Mumford and Sons, this is the song I want to see them play in concert.

Only Love marks a new direction for this band and I think it’s a good move.

Concert Review: Angus and Julia Stone

Angus and Julia Stone play the Opera House in Wellington
Angus and Julia Stone play the Opera House in Wellington

Last night I was lucky enough to see Angus and Julia Stone play for the second time in four months. I went along to the Opera House in Wellington knowing I was in for a great show and I was right, this Australian brother-sister duo managed to blow me away again.

Firstly I have to commend them on not having a rehearsed performance they roll out at every single gig. It pains me how often you now head along to see an artist or band for the second or third time and you are subjected to the exact same set list , repeated jokes and the same stories introducing each song. I loved that last night Angus and Julia Stone put on an entirely unique show, there was no repetition from when I saw them play in Auckland in September. Instead they just went with it and fed off the crowd, responding to requests for songs, laughing and joking along with people telling them they’re beautiful and thanking their dedicated fans. Everything in their set was new and fresh and that would see me buy a ticket to see them every time they come here, where in other cases I might opt out because I’ve ‘seen them before’. With this duo the gloss will never wear off.

It was obvious last night that the siblings have really found their sound on their latest self-titled album. The newer songs stood out, they came to life with a fantastic backing band which adds a bit more oomph to the love songs and helps to thicken up their soft voices by adding an element of rock. The set started strongly with Heart Beats Slow, in which both their voices were immediately showcased alongside each other. Julia’s fiesty, yet soft and sexy sound is complimented perfectly by her brother’s gentle and dulcet tones.

Half the magnificence of Angus and Julia Stone is the variety in their songs. Last night we got flashes of their original work which is very folk influenced, but before you knew it you’d be transported to a rock song or a fun, jazzed up cover like You’re The One That I Want from Grease. Their voices were at their best in the slow, love songs like For You and Santa Monica Dream which gave me and those seated beside me chills. But my pick of the songs in last nights set was Crash and Burn, a song that simply has to be influenced by Neil Young. It’s a bit of an Angus classic, with similar sounds to the likes of Yellow Brick Road from the album Down the Way and his solo work like Broken Brights. It’s slow and melodic with elegant lyrics and more than one crescendo guitar solo. I was riveted during the whole song. Julia’s sensual dancing in the shadow of the lights during this tune added to the effect of it all, it was quite mesmerising.

During the gig the pair announced they were loving their time in our beautiful city and of course it wasn’t long before someone in the crowd made it known that Wellington is a windy city. Julia immediately took the hint and promised the crowd that their song Private Lawns which features lyrics about the windy city being ‘mighty pretty’ was coming our way soon. When it did, we were blown away. The upbeat, bouncy song was such a fun change following on from some of their slower tracks. This was Julia’s real time to shine as a musician, she strummed along, kicking her feet up in time with the beat and annunciating the words ‘private’ and ‘public’ with popping p’s and silly facial expressions. Before you know it, the guitar is swung around behind her and she picks up the trumpet and blasts out a stunning solo that makes everyone’s mouths drop wide open. Then she barely has a moment to catch her breath before she’s straight back into the singing again – she must have amazing capacity in those lungs cause this is truly quite a remarkable thing to watch.

This morning as I reflect on the show I’ve decided the duo are in their prime. Since coming back together with the help of producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin they have really found their place in the music world and their live act is a work of art. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Angus and Julia Stone.