Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

23 FEBRUARY, 2009

Monday Music Muse: First Aid Kit


How two Swedish teenagers are redefining indie-folk rock, or what mountain peasants have to do with Fiona Apple.

For most teenage girls, the world of indie music is reduced to the angst-driven overconsumption of Fiona Apple wannabes, preferably blasted in volume that sparks daily yell-fests with mom. But for Swedish duo First Aid Kit, composed of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, 15 and 18, respectively, indie music is for the making. And make it they do – brilliantly, at that.

Their music, indie folk-rock with a distinct Scandinavian twist, sounds like something that belongs on the Juno soundtrack — boldly quirky vocals, backed by an infectious acoustic guitar, with the occasional perfect drum beat. And while the duo is altogether phenomenal, we were particularly taken with their cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song — an extraordinary outpour of vocal delight, utterly chill-inducing in a way that blows all the Fleet Foxes covers of late out of the water.

First Aid Kit‘s debut EP, Drunken Trees, releases tomorrow. But if you absolutely cannot wait, you can thank Jeff Bezos and pre-order it on Amazon today.

Thanks, Minna

16 FEBRUARY, 2009

Monday Music Muse: Peter Buffett


Something delightfully different.

In an effort to branch out of our typical indie-folk-rock niche, we’re doing something a little different today. Something a bit more mellow and grown-up and brimming with the settled contemplative power of an award-winning composer who’s lived through commercial jingles and critical acclaim.

That’s exactly the sort of vibe you’ll find in composer-turned-vocal-expérimentateur Peter Buffett‘s latest album, Imaginary Kingdom. It’s a hard-to-classify but rather successful intersection of seeming opposites – from the keyboard magic of Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of The Moon period to the dreamy tromp of Death Cab for Cutie.

Among the hidden gems up Buffett’s sleeve is the off-album Anything, featuring Akon, which even echoes some of Byrne & Eno‘s socially-conscious lyrical sensibility and ambient electronica.

(And from the department of interesting asides, a tidbit on the Imaginary Kingdom album cover: It was designed by LA-based artist, Lois Keller whose whimsical illustrations and paintings have graced the silos of such high-culture institutions as The Milwaukee Ballet and the Cincinnati Opera, as well as commercial darlings like Disney stores around the world.)

So go ahead, raise your own cultural brow with some music for grown-ups. It’s okay.

09 FEBRUARY, 2009

Monday Music Muse: Keren Ann


Melancholy, fresh familiarity, and a geography lesson in a soft mezzo-soprano.

Before we launch into today’s indie muse, there’s another piece of music goodness simply too good not to share: The audio archive of iconic Canadian radio show Inside The Music, where you can find anything from a documentary on Jamaican Dub music, to a jazz portrait of the great Guido Basso, to full concerts by TED-tested, Carnegie-Hall-approved virtuoso Natalie MacMaster. So do check it out.

Today, we’re looking at a genuine culture-crosser: Israel-born, Paris-and-New-York-based singer/songwriter Keren Ann is the daughter of a Dutch-Javanese mother and a Russian-Israeli father. (Nope, that’s not a typo — Java is a very real island in Indonesia.) Naturally, her music is so impossibly eclectic that it oozes a vague aftertaste of familiarity — think Feist meets Carla Bruni meets The Beatles — while being completely original, lingering in the delightful limbo between indie folk and Nouvelle Chanson.

And if she sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because her music has quietly snuck into some of TV’s biggest hipster darlings of the past few years: Her song L’Onde Amère was featured on a 1st season episode of HBO’s Big Love, and Jardin d’Hiver made it onto the final season of Six Feet Under.

Check out Keren’s latest self-titled album, pure gold to begin with, but embezzled with such gems as the beautifully melancholic Liberty and the quietly burning In Your Back.