My favorite album so far this year (Run the Jewels 3 dropped in 2016) has been a total left-field selection. Country music doesn’t normally get my attention though the Americana genre being heralded is on my radar. But for whatever reason, when NPR’s First Listen hosted Natalie Hemby‘s Puxico (GetWrucke Productions) I queued it up and found myself hooked. At that time there was little fanfare elsewhere on the web for the singer/songwriter’s debut album but since then she’s been covered by Rolling Stone, The New York Times and more.
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It’s easy to mistake the Accidentals for a much older group of people in a much older band. For a trio having just hit their 20s—and for one who have only been doing what they do for almost five years—their megaton “genre-bending” talent has already seen them receive a bounty of acknowledgments and accolades.
Spanning SXSW showcases, sold-out shows at renowned theaters like the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and performances with the likes of respected veterans of the biz like Andrew Bird, the Wailers, and even Joan Baez, there’s no doubting that the precocious Sav Buist, Katie Larson, and Michael Dause are scaling great heights as they continue to quickly charm audiences throughout the States.
It’s been a long four years for Rachel Yamagata.
For fans of the once theater-bound singer songwriter, the PledgeMusic campaign that helped create her 2011 effort Chesapeake was godsend, having survived two rounds of major label action. “PledgeMusic saved me,” she told PopMatters back in 2011. “It was something that allowed me to make instinctual decisions about how the funding would be used, and I didn’t have to get clearances from anyone. I’m sitting here now writing hand-written lyrics for people who supported the album. I love that fans can support something in advance they would’ve supported anyway. And I get to share behind-the-scenes stuff with them! It’s a great way to get more authentic music.”
Anyone who saw The Devil Makes Three live knew what all the fuss was about: here is a group that infused Americana traditions with an unabashedly modern energy that caused any ears within a mile radius to buzz with excitement. Anyone who heard the early Devil Makes Three records heard something more: a solid group that showed promise but didn’t necessarily light the world on fire. For so long, the trio of guitarist Pete Bernhard, bassist Lucia Turino, and banjo-player extraordinaire Cooper McBean hadn’t figured out how to translate their live shows into the studio, at least not until 2011’s Stomp and Smash and their 2013 followup I’m a Stranger Here.
It all started with a mix. Well, more accurately, it started as a remix.
For both Richard Norris and Erol Alkan, these two young Londoners started out, by themselves, as Djs, Alkan focusing more on dance and electronic music, Norris befriend Joe Strummer and playing on some of the Clash maestro’s latter-day creations. It wasn’t until 2006 that, after having rejiggered some tracks under his own name, Alkan began using the Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve moniker. Norris had joined in, and the group, gaining notoriety for productions of artists of both the underground (Midlake) and the mainstream (Franz Ferdinand, The Chemical Brothers) variety, started making the name for themselves. EPs and singles would trickle out here and there, but outside of 2008 compilation of their earlier recordings, nothing concrete.
What a joy it is, then, that The Soft Bounce is here, and goodness is it a mishmash of so many varied things. From the hippie-friendly go-go bounce of “Creation” to the ‘80s synth homage “Diagram Girl” to the ambient instrumental “Tomorrow, Forever” to the string-driven mod number “Door to Tomorrow”, The Soft Bounce encompasses so much but still originates from the group’s clearly-defined psych-friendly aesthetic.
Thus, to help celebrate the occasion, the two Wizards themselves answered PopMatters 20 Questions, revealing a love of truffle oils, an affinity towards author John Higgs, and some remarkably practical advice for handling life’s problems.