Shovels & Rope – a lesson in bringing the house down

I got beer on my phone, what can you do.

I got beer on my phone, what can you do.

Playing their second show in New York City in as many days, Shovels & Rope brought the Music Hall of Williamsburg to it’s boot-stomping, beer-spilling knees on Tuesday, September 23rd. Americana’s new favorite couple, they’ve often been likened to a ‘modern day Johnny and June’, is special for many reasons. These include the ability to bring any house down with little more than a few bars of a new song, relatively unknown to the people in front of them. In this instance, it was The Devil is all Around, the opening track on their latest album, Swimmin’ Time.

In the middle of the crowd, people were smiling at each other and making friends over the sheer wonder of it all. We were, every last one of us, enchanted. Part soulmate-level romance, part riot, part ‘I’m staring at you so we remember what we’re doing’, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent pulled off a performance that was not only worthy of their exceptional songwriting, but gave thier fans something to really watch. Having made a point of remaining a two-person act, the instrument juggling epitomizes the kind of well-honed display of guts, determination and bare-bones talent these two are all about.

“People think we’re gazing romantically in each other’s eyes, but I’m really just waiting for the change. Michael likes to catch me sleeping on the job” Hearst told Rolling Stone Magazine recently, underlining the teamwork and good humor it takes to pull it all off in front of an audience. I think it’s probably both, though, and it’s impossible not to fall completely in love with them, their music, and the fact that no words can do justice to just how phenomenally talented they are.

Hearst and Trent do not strictly adhere to any notion of a set list, nor do they really know exactly who will be playing which instruments. As it happens, this is a recipe for the kind of live magic that has fans and critics alike wondering, “Why the fuck aren’t these guys bigger?” Anyone lucky enough to see them go lip to lip over the same mic for Save the World can attest to the palpable electricity pouring off the stage. It’s infectious. The devil may well be all around, but so are these guys and it’s an entirely heartening experience. Their 2012 album was called O Be Joyful for a reason, after all.

Ultimately, it was a show in the truest sense of the word, and one I need to get another ticket to before I go stark raving bananas.

FYI – American Songwriter has a great feature on Shovels & Rope that you should definitely read, too, if you’re even halfway as much in love with them as I am.


Odessa – a beautiful debut EP

Ever heard of Odessa Rose? Me neither until this morning, but now I would like have bonfire parties with her for the rest of forever while we dance around like pixies. This is a direct result of having listened to her self-titled debut EP (well, almost, it’s called Odessa) on repeat for the last 6 hours. There are only four songs on it.

This shit is good. The production is absolutely killer, showcasing her pretty yet powerful voice as it rises up and rains back down like a meteor shower. But that’s not all, the percussion and the instrumental sections then smash the whole thing back into outer space. It’s lovely, but it’s lovely with oomph.

So, do you want to hear something beautiful? Of course you do. Watch the video below, then listen to the rest on Spotify, then go and buy the whole shebang on iTunes if you live in a country where it’s available. (Well, the US.)

“Hummed Low” Odessa Rose from drew bourdet on Vimeo.

Young Summer – Siren

Credit:  Eric Mooney Photography
© Eric Mooney Photography

Washington, DC based musician Bobbie Allen AKA Young Summer is back with her first full-length album, Siren, following the success of her 2013 Fever Dream EP. While the record features a couple of known quantities such as Waves That Rolled You Under, it also boasts a whole lot of shiny new synth-laden surprises, including Leave Your Love which has received rave reviews from the likes of Nylon Magazine, and Taken which isn’t about the Liam Neeson movie of the same name.

Allen herself has described the whole album as “haunting, but specifically the title track.” She’s certainly onto something there and, as was her intention, the song really does call you in, daring you to resist the rest of the album. Of course, the whole thing meanders along to its final destination before you really want it to, ending in with an uptempo yet cool-sounding track called Classless Kids with more than a hint of Lana Del Rey style gloominess. As the last notes fade, it’s hard not to want more, to find out where she’s going next.

Having already soundtracked TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Pretty Little Liars with her cover of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, played SXSW, toured the UK and garnered a notable US following, I’d happily put money on the fact that wherever she’s going will involve even bigger and better things.

You can pick up/download your own copy of Siren as of midnight tonight or, if you’re still not convinced, head over to her site for a free download to help persuade you.

The Pacifics – St. Patrick


Of all the things to listen to this evening (no going out for green beer for me unfortunately) a song called St. Patrick is potentially the most appropriate. In fact, those two words are the only lyrics too, shouted down a microphone by The Pacifics, a Dublin-based four-piece. It couldn’t be more perfect, and it’s free to download.

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If that was enough to whet your appetite a little, you can stream their debut LP, Pacifically, on Soundcloud, too. The word riotous springs to mind.

If you need to scare some snakes or some unwanted English invaders out of anywhere, keep these guys in mind…

beau. – Routes


Just as I was about to give up on the internet for another day I found this. A girl called Ruby Randall happens to work wth a bunch of electronic musicians in Canada she has a project that goes by the name beau.. A particular song they’re responsible for, called Routes – with Trevor and Evor & Lum as collaborators – could well be one of the most beautiful, hopeful sounding things I’ve stumbled across in a while. I mean, it twinkles.

I can’t tell you a whole lot about it apart from the fact it’s perfect for any Poliça fans in need of a slight cheering up, you can stream it on SoundCloud and it’s very, very, very – some might say ridiculously – pretty.

FYI, I’m only 85% sure it’s even the right act in the photo above… but that’s more than half so I’ll take the risk.

Mary Cassidy & Jon Lawless – Make it Do (S. Carey Remix)


I have a big soft spot for Canadian double act Mary Cassidy & Jon Lawless and it would appear that I’m not the only one. A certain Sean Carey  – aka Justin Vernon’s mate from Bon Iver – has taken such a shine to their track Make It Do that he decided to do a little remix on it.

Safe to say the result is nothing short of beautiful and who knows, it would be great to see him maybe even produce a track or two with them in the future.

Moral of the story: Sometimes it comes own to both what and who you know… or who’s seen your (lovely) shit on the internet. Nice one, guys.

The Creeping Ivies – What Would Joey Ramone Do?

179162_387244718002568_539552225_nGrungey garage rock can be catchier than Rebecca Black rolled in velcro, according the Glasgow duo The Creeping Ivies and their single What Would Joey Ramone Do. After about a minute you’ll find yourself singing along and wishing you sounded like a human incarnation of a leather jacket, too.

My initial impression is that they have a kind of sound that is at once endearing, scruffy and really quite hard to ignore. Anybody would think they like punk or something…

With their second album Ghost World due to drop soon after the New Year via Dead Beat Records, and their debut effort, Stay Wild, still available, there’s a whole lot more where that came from.