The Mule King

Music for Mules


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Volcano Choir (think Bon Iver)

By now you have probably heard about, if not already listened to, Kanye’s new album, which came out today. It’s a new sound for Kanye – a more ferocious sound – and you don’t need me to tell you it’s worth checking out.

As one of the more interesting and awesome collaborations going, Kanye continues to work with Justin Vernon, the voice and mind behind Bon Iver. Vernon’s distinct falsetto meshes particularly well with Kanye’s new music (“I’m In It” is awesome), but it was even more exciting to get an update into his own upcoming work. “Byegone” was released yesterday as the first single off of Repave, the forthcoming second album from Volcano Choir, Vernon’s side project with a post-rock band called Collections of Colonies of Bees. Volcano Choir’s 2009 debut was good, but difficult to listen to under normal circumstances. Though I don’t want to overanalyze one single, “Byegone” seems to take the band in a slightly different direction, and I like what I hear. It’s hard not to get excited over anything associated with the name Bon Iver, so we will just have to wait and see how this plays out.


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Ghost Beach, Chad Valley, Chvrches – live recap

I was lucky this weekend to catch a few concerts by some up and coming bands (several previously blogged here), and to hear some great new stuff. As I float through Monday in a synth-pop dream world (dream cube?), I thought I would share some thoughts from the weekend.

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On Friday we went to see Ghost Beach open for Chad Valley, a show rescheduled from Marathon Monday. It was sort of an eye-opening experience: seeing one of your favorite new bands – one deserving of widespread popularity – open for a seemingly random act in a nearly empty venue. It was a reminder of the often shaky and arbitrary foundations of fame.

In any case, Ghost Beach did their best to fire up the sparse crowd, chugging through their high-energy “tropical grit pop” for a set that could have been twice the length. I spoke with lead singer Josh Ocean after the show, who was down to earth and seemed to genuinely appreciate the positive feedback. It was cool to see, and you hope that a band like this, with their 80s summer beats and immediate pop-rock melodies, can make it big.

Chad Valley was the nice surprise of the evening, as he does everything to rub you the wrong way: weird name, weird look, Miller High Life in hand. It was just him, his sampler/keyboard, and a microphone – far too hipster for my taste. Luckily for Chad (Hugo), he’s got some cords and knows his way around a synthesizer. His voice falls in nicely with the lush, mellow textures, and creates what I can probably best describe as “therapeutic listening”.

Chvrches on Sunday was a wholly different experience, which was another surprise after Friday with Ghost Beach. It was a sold out show for the blog world’s synth-pop darlings, who have released half a dozen original songs total. Needless to say, it was a short concert, but the (less than) 1 hour they did play was layered and tight. Singer Lauren Mayberry was spot on the melodies, and also happens to be one of the cuter singers around right now. We thought that maybe the band could gain something from a live drum kit, but their sound really had an impressive capacity to fill the room.

If you can, I would go see Chvrches now, before their first album comes out in September. With just 6 songs and a few remixes out, they are selling out their tour. Expecting big things from these guys.

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Empire of the Sun, new album + Disclosure

Stream the new Empire of the Sun album, “Ice on the Dune”, in it’s entirety at Rolling Stone. Word has it that these guys worked to make this a poppier, more cohesive record than its predecessor, but I haven’t had chance to give it a full listen. It’s out June 18, so be ahead of the curve and listen now! Great new single, “DNA”, is below.

On an unrelated note, if you have yet to check out Disclosure, now is the time. After the release of their debut album, Settle, this British brother duo is blowing up. Settle just hit number 1 in the UK, and is being touted by some as the best “UK garage” album of all time. This is all the more impressive for these two (22 and 19), who were barely alive during this genre’s peak. What makes this album so great is the way it fuses this fringe style of dance music with widely accessible pop. It takes a little adjustment, but I expect serious staying power out of this one.