Julianna Barwick – One Half

Julianna Barwick has returned with the single ‘One Half’. Off the forthcoming Icelandic influenced Nepenthe, the lead video offers a shift in style and an interesting interpretation of personal duality. The two halves of Julianna’s self occupy vastly different places; one in a halogen lit empty car park and the other in a lush, surreal forest populated by a psychedelic cake. The song, while utilizing the same looping ambiance, uses discernible vocals as elements in the layers. They’re structural, less as lyrics to tell a story but an functional part of the tonal whole. It’s charming, etherial as always, but somewhat grounded by the tangible english.

DOC069-e1368638001235

The whole album isn’t as different as ‘One Half’, with much the rest of the album remaining true to what you’d expect from Barwick’s shimmering vocals. A few tracks feel heavily influenced by the Icelandic recording location, the hand of producer Alex Somers and cameos by members of local heavyweights Mum & Amiina. ‘Pyrrhic’ feels the most imbued by the land, built out of sighing strings, high choral vocals and an enveloping ascending melody akin to Sigur Ros’s finer moments. The album on the whole works, both newly arrived elements and familiar ones.

You can stream Nepenthe over at NPR Music. You can also pre-order the album via SC Distribution. First run of the vinyl comes in a limited edition gold and includes a poster worthy of the Icelandic tourism board.

Jónsi – ‘Go Do’ and U.S. Fall Tour Dates


JONSI – GO DO

I don’t know why this album is finally making sense to me. There was probably a lot of expectations wrapped up in the thought of Jónsi doing a solo release. I’ll go as far as to say that Sigur Rós doesn’t really even sound like Sigur Rós anymore, but upon first listening to Go, it still felt additionally foreign. Ignoring the fact that initially in comparison to most popular music Sigur Rós sounded more alien than foreign, I think the 10 years of acclimation has let us learn the language of Iceland’s second weirdest exports (should current Reykjavik mayor Jón Gnarr, a former comedian, hits the spotlight I can only guess he’ll be up high on the list). With 2005’s Takk… and 2008’s Með Suð I Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, their last few efforts felt like the process of sobering up as the sun rose…beautiful for sure, but on another level tiresome. The expanded instrumentation helped, but the shock of their otherworldly originality had faded. The live acoustic album Hvarf/Heim that accompanied the documentary Heima, got more listens from me than the previous two albums combined, even though it just served to remind me that their earlier albums were more awesome than their later output.

When ‘Go Do’ came out, it was like the sun had fully risen. The song’s propulsive beat and Jónsi’s tendency to sing in english (not his Cocteau Twins-ian language of Vonlenska) were even more off-putting to me, as I just wanted to nestle back into the darkness of 2002’s ( ). Odder still to see the song playing over the end credits of How To Train Your Dragon, a fine film…but an odd context. The connection I later learned is that director Dean DeBlois not only helmed the aforementioned dragon flick, but also their Heima documentary.

I won’t lie, internet marketing had a role in my coming back around on Go. A few months ago, they cut together a trailer for the tour:

I had to sit through it before watching a handful of dumb cat videos on youtube and for some reason, it reminded me that I really liked his voice. So, I went back to the album and found it to be far better than I remembered and ‘Go Do’ suddenly appeared to my ears to be something that a Sigur Rós song achieved: catchy. It’s been on repeat lately more than I’d like to admit.

Jónsi is taking Go on a national tour very shortly. On my previous experiences with Sigur Rós live, his voice live is incredible weather uptempo or down.

U.S. dates below:

October 15th – 4th & B – San Diego, CA
October 17th – The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA
October 19th – Fox Theater – Oakland, CA
October 21st – House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
October 22nd – The Complex – Salt Lake City, UT
October 23rd – The Marquee – Tempe, AZ
October 25th – Verizon Theatre – Grand Prairie, TX
October 26th – Austin Music Hall – Austin TX
October 27th – Verizon Theatre – Houston, TX
October 29th – Voodoo Festival – New Orleans, LA
October 30th – Moogfest – Asheville, NC
October 31st – The Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
November 2nd – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
November 3rd – Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
November 5th – The Fillmore – Detroit, MI
November 6th – Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH
November 8th – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
November 10th – Hammerstein Ballroom – NYC, NY

Though the limited edition of Go (featuring a live acoustic dvd and housed in a velvet lined box) has sold out, you can still purchase the digital limited edition direct from his website. This version features a download of the album in lossless and mp3 format, the live dvd that came with the physical limited edition as an mp4 and an additional 4 song performance with Jónsi and Nico Muhly.

Junk in my trunk – A backlog of MP3s (Wild Nothing, Dom, Scissor Sisters & more)

I’ve had a ton of shit floating around on my HD that just hasn’t made it up to the site…tracks just nabbed from random websites that I mostly swooped off the shelf blind and have been digesting for a while now. Here’s a few from that batch:



WILD NOTHING – CHINATOWN

Given that it’s so soaked in a summery warm haze of reverb, it’s a pretty easy sell for me. Wild Nothing dips into a fair number of influences to make something contentedly charming that feels like a second cousin to the Cocteau Twins. The subdued cavernous vocals and plucked strings nestled into a clatter of backbeat create something discordantly beautiful.



DOM – JESUS

Even if for some reason the dude’s squeaky pangender vocals alway make me think of Silversun Pickups and the opening bass line feels nicked from ‘My Sherona’, I still enjoy the hell out of this track. It’s a simple, lo-fi jam poured out with a kind of fresh effortlessness that charms. Clocking in at 2 minutes, it’s the kind of tune that is over before you’re bothered by any single element.



SCISSOR SISTERS – INVISIBLE LIGHT

Off their forthcoming release Night Work…it’s not in line with what I usually listen to, but this is the perfect example of how a great hook can change something from generic to worth of repeat. Bonus points for getting Ian McKellen in to do contribute some spoken word. I hope to be guesting on tracks when I’m 71.



TOKYO POLICE CLUB – BREAKNECK SPEED

I’ve posted before about these guys, so I don’t feel the need to on about them too much. That said, this single is something I can contentedly leave on repeat for a while. As with earlier TPC, the core elements are simple which for them is less a detriment and more part of their charm. The layers gel quite wonderfully and are accompanied with the usual lyrics that deal with old friends and lost memories. The whole album is solid, but this is a standout track.



UNICORN KID – DREAM CATCHER

A killer, midtempo chiptune stomper grabbed from the Ministry of Sound blog. They released the song in honor of his signing to the label a few months ago. Unicorn Kid seems to have snagged a lot of high profile slots in recent years – opening for Pet Shop Boys, Owl City & remixing The Gorillaz – something especially awesome considering he’s a chiptune artist. (The previous sentence is in no way an endorsement of Owl City)



EMANCIPATOR – SIGUR ROS VS MOBB DEEP (EMANCIPATOR MASH UP)

I’m not even sure where this one came from, but as mash-ups go, it’s a pretty bizarre pairing that works like magic. Chopped up vocals from Jonsi and a chill minimal beat paired with some Mobb Deep verses come together in an unexpectedly satisfying way. Emancipator is a clever clever man.

Sigur Rós & Björk Show To Be Webcast By National Geographic

An update to earlier post regarding the tantalizingly ‘free’ Sigur Rós & Björk show to be held in Reykjavik this weekend (June 28th). The good folks at National Geographic will be webcasting the show for all to see.

Tune into National Geographic Music from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET (begins at 8 p.m. BST/London or 7 p.m. GMT/Reykjavik) to see, as they put it on their site…”some Björkage“.

National Geographic was never good at jokes.

And, please, don’t make Sigur Rós into a verb.

Free Sigur Rós & Björk Show (Far enough away that you’ll never go)

Björk, Sigur Rós, & múm participant Ólöf Arnalds will perform together in Reykjavik June 28th in an effort to raise awareness for the growing environmental crisis. While this concert takes place in one of the more beautiful spots on Earth, the ultimate issue with it takes to transport folks from around the world to Reykjavik might create a worse dent along with the awareness. I wouldn’t fault you wanting to go anyway. It’s free, except for the $600+ plane ticket.

Instead, you can check out the recent DVD release of Screaming Masterpiece. The documentary, which focuses on the the ever intriguing Icelandic music scene hit the shelves back in ’06 and features live clips from a variety of the country’s top talent.

As an added consolation prize, here’s a track from Sigur Rós’s upcoming LP Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. The simple song, almost completely unadorned by Rós-ian standards, lets the acoustic guitar provide most of the backing for Jonsi’s ever otherworldly voice. A promising prospect for the new album, which releases on June 24th via XL.


Sigur Ros – Illgresi