Secretly Canadian

The War On Drugs Comin Through [new mp3]

by oz on August 31, 2010

The War On Drugs won us over back in 2008 after we discovered the band’s debut release, Wagonwheel Blues. We described them as “Bob Dylan fronting a shoe-gaze band” back then.  “Comin’ Through” was just released and I’m hearing some Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) in the guitar work.

The follow up has been a long time coming, but it’s almost here. Future Weather will be released on October 26th and I have no doubt that it will be outstanding. “Comin Through” has me salivating for the full LP.

The War On Drugs – Comin’ Through

From Wagonwheel Blues:

The War On Drugs – Taking The Farm

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Damien+Jurado

I’ve been a fringe fan of Damien Jurado over the years, accumulating songs here and there while becoming intermittently obsessed with certain songs like “Gillian Was a Horse” and “Ohio.” I’ve always heard good things about him – he’s been compared to Nick Drake. He’s good enough to have released albums on the Sub Pop and Secretly Canadian labels. He’s had a much-lauded solo career spanning the better part of 15 years. All of the signs were there, but somehow I never invested much time in his work.

We received Jurado’s latest album, Saint Bartlett, a couple weeks ago thanks to our friends at Secretly Canadian. Excited to finally have a full Damien Jurado album, I promptly downloaded it and pressed play. Saint Bartlett comes out of the gate with two really strong tracks. “Cloudy Shoes” opens and throws together a beautiful combination of strings, a damp yet groovy percussion, and off-kilter backing vocals that all work together so perfectly it almost hurts as Jurado sings, “Trying to work it out, I’m still trying to fix my mind.” That’s immediately followed by “Arkansas” with its twinkling keys, heavy-handed drum beat, and a hint of an acoustic guitar with Jurado’s wistful vocals. It’s amazing and, lucky for you, both can be downloaded below for free.

The rest of the album is outstanding. Standout tracks include “Beacon Hill”, “Throwing Your Voice”, and “Rachel and Cali.” After listening to all of Saint Bartlett and then going back and taking another listen to some of Jurado’s older music, I began to gain a new appreciation for him. There’s an undeniable purity to his music that knocks you off your feet. And there’s a certain longing in Jurado’s voice that I love – it’s inimitable. And I think those traits are why Jurado has had success over such a long time period – his work seems to be ever-changing, yet always incredibly pure and original. If you haven’t given a real hard listen, I encourage you to. In the meantime, whet your appetite with “Cloudy Shoes” and “Arkansas”.

Damien Jurado – Cloudy Shoes

Damien Jurado – Arkansas

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magnolia electric co - josephine

Magnolia Electric Co. put out Josephine in July and if there’s a better album released this year, I haven’t found it. I’m drawn to musicians that are expert songwriters and Jason Molina falls squarely into the lyrical mastery category. You’ll hear it in the first song, “O! Grace:”

From Chicago to West Virginia.
I’ve been as lonesome as the world’s first ghost.
As lonesome as the world’s first ghost.
But out here even the prairie doubts the horizon.
All I have to do is prove that I’m not pure.
Oh, the right words come but I ain’t talking.
The devil’s mean, but he’s honest just as sure.

It’s hard to explain why this album feels better than other incredible Magnolia albums. I don’t think the production is light years ahead, but I do think the supporting cast takes on a more prominent role in lifting the songs beyond what past efforts could accomplish. Each song’s texture varies, from the pedal steel on “Shenandoah” to the keys and horns on “Song for Willie.” And when the arrangements are simpler, the backing vocals and harmonies can stop you in your tracks like on “Whip-poor-will.” Other songs like “The Handing Down” and “Shiloh” burn with a growing intensity that is captivating.

Unlike stellar past works like What Comes After the Blues, it feels as if Molina is allowing the band to take more of an equal role in Josephine and the end result is both heartbreaking and uplifting. I’m telling everyone I know about this album.

Website | MySpace | Secretly Canadian

Magnolia Electric Co. – Josephine

Magnolia Electric Co. – Little Sad Eyes

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Foreign Born Cover Art

If you’re keeping tabs, 2009 has gotten off to a great start with many solid new releases.‚  The other day I tried to pull together a top 10 list for a friend and struggled to narrow the numbers.‚  My task just got more difficult with the release of Foreign Born’s Person To Person on Secretly Canadian’s great label.‚  The album is perfectly timed to coincide with the height of summer as it evokes breezy, warm weather feelings, but with a certain underlying tension.‚  After a few listens, it seems to provide the perfect tonic to my vodka or triple sec to my tequila.

What makes this record such a good summer soundtrack is the blend of New Wave bass-lines with accents of third wave rhythm, although not so much so that it deserves a “ska” label.‚ ‚  In fact, the rhythm is the first thing to catch your attention and at times the band appears to be pounding away on just about anything it can find, including generous doses of cowbell.‚  Best examples (and best tracks) are “Vacationing People” and “Winter Games,” two infective songs that flow nicely into one another.‚  The guitar riffs also certainly owe a nod to African influences and at times will remind you a little of Vampire Weekend.‚  Personally, I couldn’t help but hear traces of The Talking Heads and even some London Calling Clash in certain songs.

I think this is a perfect addition to anyone’s rotation, at least until football Saturdays kick back into gear.‚  Foreign Born is another in a growing line of great new bands emerging from LA and, bonus for those of you in Chicago, they are playing a show with The Veils at the Empty Bottle on July 23rd”should be a great salve for my self-inflicted Pitchfork hangover.

MySpace | Secretly Canadian

Foreign Born – Vacationing People

Foreign Born – Early Warnings

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Throw Me The Statue release mp3 from upcoming Creaturesque

June 23, 2009

Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue are set to release their sophomore album, Creaturesque, on August 4th via Secretly Canadian. The first single was just released as a free and legal download. Here’s the song “Ancestors” for your pleasure. Throw Me The Statue – Ancestors Older Tracks: Throw Me The Statue – Ship Throw Me The […]

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Dead Oceans/Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian announce SXSW 2009 Showcase lineup

February 18, 2009

The Dead Oceans/Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian combined SXSW showcase is Thursday night at The Mohawk and they’ve just released the lineup: Odawas Phosphorescent Bishop Allen Women BLK JKS Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band Julie Doiron These Are Powers Foreign Born Richard Swift Akron/ Family Here are a few mp3’s to sample: Odawas – Harmless Lover’s Discourse Phosphorescent […]

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BLK JKS – Mystery EP [album review]

December 29, 2008

I had the opportunity to spend some time with the music of BLK JKS, recently signed to the fabulous Secretly Canadian label (sister label of Jagjaguwar) and set to release its debut EP in early March. The band hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, while the EP is produced by Brandon Curtis of the Secret Machines […]

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Catfish Haven – Devastator

October 7, 2008

Some time ago, I read this engrossing book called Bill Graham Presents, the story about the life and times of the legendary rock music promoter. At some point during the book, Bill talks of his love for Otis Redding saying he was his favorite act to ever play the Fillmore. I was somewhat familiar with […]

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