Tag Archives: Indie Rock

Blind Pilot: iTunes Session EP

Band remakes of three album tunes, a cover and a new title

Portland’s Blind Pilot returns with a 5-song EP to complement their debut album, 3 Rounds and a Sound. The group has been touring as a sextet and with this EP take the opportunity to revisit three tracks (“The Story I Heard,” “One Red Thread” and “3 Rounds and a Sound”) from the album that were originally recorded as  a duo in the process of taking on additional musicians. The airy genteelness that underlined Israel Nebeker’s album vocals is replaced here by fuller, more aggressive playing and rougher productions, altering the songs’ moods. This is the sound of a band taking their songs from studio to stage, adding new dimension to the originals. The group’s cover of Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio” (which was also covered recently by the Band of Heathens) opens with a terrific a cappella harmony, and the guitar-bass-drums is given additional lift by Ian Krist’s vibraphone. The lone new title, “Get it Out,” closes the EP with a contemplative shuffle. Those who haven’t heard Blind Pilot should start with the debut LP. Fans will enjoy this EP as a way to wait out their next tour and album release. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | The Story I Heard (original album version)
Blind Pilot’s Home Page
Blind Pilot’s MySpace Page

The Wanteds: Failure Looks So Good

wanteds_failurelookssogoodCathartic, hard-charging indie guitar rock

This Portland band was originally a one-man project of singer-songwriter-guitarist Tommy Harrington. His debut, 2004’s Let Go Afterglow led to extended solo touring, but unexpected fatherhood and a regression into drugs shelved the project until Harrington was able to get clean and refocus. Gathering together a bass player and drummer, Harrington self-produced this nine-track release, combining hard-charging guitars and brutally personal lyrics. A few of the tracks, particularly the opener, recall the guitar textures and cathartic fire that fueled U2’s early, pre-messianic, albums. Harrington frees himself of childhood trauma as he flays his brother with the album’s title phrase, “failure looks so good on you,” and retraces the steps of his recovery in the daily commitments that keep an ex-addict anchored. As a songwriter, he keeps his sleeves rolled up so you can see the scars, and his guitar is a good match for the ferocity of his words. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Ladysmith
The Wanteds’ Home Page
The Wanteds’ MySpace Page

On Tour: Blind Pilot

Portland duo Blind Pilot heads out on the road as a 6-piece band with the addition of bass, banjo/dulcimer, vibraphone and keyboard/trumpet players. They’re supporting the CD release 3 Rounds and a Sound, headlining in March and April and opening for the Decemberists May through July (the irony!).

MP3 | The Story I Heard

March 24 Nashville, TN The Mercy Lounge
March 26 Greensboro, NC Studio B
March 27 Arlington, VA IOTA
March 28 Philadelphia, PA Theater of Living Arts
March 30 Cambridge, MA Middle East
March 31 New York, NY Mercury Lounge
April 1 Pittsburgh, PA Club Cafe
April 2 Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom
April 4 Minneapolis, MN 400 Bar
April 6 Norman, OK Opolis
April 7 Austin, TX Mohawk
April 9 Tucson, AZ Plush
April 10 San Diego, CA Casbah
April 11 Los Angeles, CA Spaceland
April 13 San Francisco, CA Cafe Du Nord
May 24 Missoula, MT Wilma Theater*
May 26 Denver, CO Fillmore Auditorium*
May 27 Kansas City, KS Uptown Theater*
May 29 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theater*
May 31 St Louis, MO Pageant*
June 1 Columbus, OH Lifestyle Communities Pavillion*
June 3 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle*
June 4 Raleigh, NC Memorial Auditorium*
June 5 Richmond, VA The National*
July 18 Troutdale, OR Edgefield Amphitheater*
July 19 Troutdale, OR Edgefield Amphitheater*

* With the Decemberists

Press Release
Blind Pilot’s Blog
Blind Pilot’s MySpace Page

Blind Pilot: 3 Rounds and a Sound

blindpilot_3roundsandasoundIntriguing acoustic indie rock from Portland, Oregon

One of the foundations of sound mixing is that you can emphasize one sound by de-emphasizing others. Portland, Oregon’s Blind Pilot is a good example of how this principle works on a band level. Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski started out as a duo whose songs, built mainly on guitar and drums, emphasized lyrics and vocal melodies by stripping away all the other distractions. Their first full-length CD adds a second string player and a bassist, but even as they absorb touches of vibraphone, violin and horns, the arrangements retain the fragile sparseness that serves to spotlight Nebeker’s melodious voice.

Likening Nebeker to the Shins’ James Mercer acknowledges the high edge in each singer’s voice, but only skims the surface of their styles. Mercer is, at heart, a rock vocalist, while Nebeker sings with more carefully constructed style, doubling his vocals, singing harmonies, and caressing his lyrics with thoughtfully stretched words and sounds. Backed by low-key mostly acoustic backings, Nebeker sheds the theatrics required of a rock vocalist, settles into the coffeehouse volume of a folk singer, and draws listeners into his lyrics with agonizingly beautiful melodies.

Nebeker’s songs are crafted around ear-catching phrases, but even as you sing along, the verses remain enigmatic. But instead of remaining impenetrable assemblages of poetics, Blind Pilot communicates their songs’ emotions through Nebeker’s vocal tone and the band’s subtle instrumental support. The lyrical imagery may remain abstract, but the feelings of loneliness, remorse, fallibility, and mortality, the longing to reach out and the reality of sharply pulling back, all resonate deeply. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | The Story I Heard
Blind Pilot’s Blog
Blind Pilot’s MySpace Page

Kingsbury: Lie to Me

lie_to_me_frontShadowy indie rock

After a pair of self-released EPs and a 2006 full-length, The Great Compromise on Post Records, this Florida indie rock band has fully embraced the Internet distribution paradigm. Their latest EP, Lie to Me, is available for free on their new website, along with photos, lyrics, blogs and the assorted ephemera of twenty-first century marketing. If you like what you hear, you can send the band a donation. Kingsbury’s latest music is moody, guitar-and-studio-production rock that’s filled with hushed secrets.

The instrumental “Ocarina Mountaintop” opens with funereal organ chords upon which echoing piano notes fall like heavy raindrops. “Back in the Orange Grove” suggests something less than sunny occurred amongst the citrus, with the lyrics (But I’ll never go back in the orange grove / My last lonely home back in the orange grove / Oh mother you can let go / The rose garden will continue to grow) sung in a whispery, confessional voice, accompanied by piano, bass, synthesized percussion and dramatically flanged keyboard notes. “As I See It” is similarly sparse and introverted in tone, but the lyric is a three-minute wonder-wander from selfishness and pessimism to pragmatic optimism. What starts as a child’s self-centered tantrum transforms into an adult world of possibilities.

“Lie to Me” opens with a lyric borrowed from “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide But Me and My Monkey,” but unlike the amped-up bell-ringing rock of the Beatles’ tune, Kingsbury remains cool, with jazzy cymbal work and atmospheric electric guitars. The EP closes with “Holy War,” featuring a short lyric decrying war in the name of God, backed by a guitar, bass and drum track that builds hypnotically across its six minutes. The band likens itselves to Calla, Low, Sigur Ros, and Mogwai, but you can also hear neo-psych/post-punk sounds of 1980s bands like the Neats and Feelies. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Holy War
Get Lie to Me
Kingsbury’s Home Page