Sin Fang Bous – Clangour

Sin Fang Bous – Clangour

12 songs, 42 minutes long

Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, Sin Fang Bous’ (the solo project of Sindri Mar Sigfusson from the band Seabear) first album, Clangour, is a catchy and original Dream Pop album. The album has the distinguishing Icelandic feel similar Sigur Rós but with a much more Pop-esque and lively sound. This is an album that will be repeating in your head for days to come after just one listen. It doesn’t contain much of a synth sound like other dream pop bands; instead the album relies a lot more on guitars, violins, and pianos (along with electronic effects) to produce a fairly upbeat (though not generally dance worthy) and joyful album. Not many dream pop or indie pop bands catch my attention like this album has. It stands out from bands with similar tags for reasons that are hard to put into words. It is an album that has to be listened to in order to hear why it’s so good; I can’t imagine any review doing this album justice.

Clangour at Amazon

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Koan – When The Silence Is Speaking

Koan – When The Silence Is Speaking

9 songs, 1.3 hours long

Koan’s 2009 album When The Silence Is Speaking is a chill adventure. The album is fairly ambient, and this is an album I don’t mind throwing on to drown out noise from neighbors when I’d like to sleep. The album is full of empty sounds, lots of echoes over a slow but steady rhythm. Fans of Bluetech should definitely check this one out. Like Bluetech and other ambient works, it’s easier to talk about the atmosphere of When The Silence Is Speaking than other aspects of the album, and like Bluetech’s work, When The Silence Is Speaking has an aquatic feel. However, Koan’s work is less layered and more ambient than Bluetech. This isn’t a bad thing, it just leaves the album with a more lonesome feeling. Altogether, it’s a cool listen, and one I definitely recommend. Apologies to those who don’t know Bluetech for leaning so heavily on the comparison between the artists.

When The Silence Is Speaking in mp3 at Amazon.

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Lullatone – Songs That Spin in Circles

Lullatone – Songs That Spin in Circles

10 songs, 38 minutes long

Lullatone is a husband and wife  group from Nagoya, Japan, and their latest effort, Songs That Spin in Circles, is a beautiful and soothing ambient album. The group refers to their music as “Pajama Pop” because of the lullaby-esque sound that encompasses their music and thus makes this a perfect bedtime album. The songs are diverse and complex while remaining minimal and ambient. The album contains everything from basic keyboards, to guitars, to glockenspiels combined in a beautiful ambient harmony that will conjure nothing but good emotions and a tranquil state.  One of my favorite aspects of this album is the female vocals. The vocals are sparse and come in a mix of Japanese and English, but it is an amazing voice that only adds to the relaxing feel of the album and the overall lullaby feel.

This album is perfect for anyone looking for something beautiful and peaceful to listen to while trying to slip away in to sleep, or for anyone looking for non-invasive, beautiful background music.

Songs That Spin in Circles at Amazon

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Cold War Kids – Robbers and Cowards

Cold War Kids –  Robbers and Cowards

12 songs, 52.9 minutes long

There are some albums that grab you right from the get-go and it’s obvious why the artist has the following that they do, but Robbers and Cowards is not one of those albums. I had to listen to it a few times before I understood what the artist was doing, but once I did, I fell in love with this album. It’s not very catchy, and the singer’s voice isn’t sultry or beautiful. If anything, the singing is in a style more akin to field hollering than actually singing, but the heart and soul of this album is spread across every note, with each peak and trough of sound dripping with emotion. Robbers and Cowards isn’t the most recent Cold War Kids album, and I like Loyalty to Loyalty quite a bit, but this is the one I recommend because it’s the one that got me hooked. While the album as a  whole is a fantastic piece of work, the songs Saint John and Hospital Beds stand out as two masterpieces, and if I was introducing Cold War Kids to an unsure listener, those are the two I’d play for them. Cold War Kids have a genre-defying sound, and although most would simply classify them as another indie rock band, doing such doesn’t do them justice, and you’ll just have to give them a listen to hear what I mean.

Robbers and Cowards is available on Amazon.

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Fool’s Gold – Fool’s Gold

Fool’s Gold – Fool’s Gold

8 songs, 43 minutes long

Fool’s Gold’s self titled album is an awesome Afro Pop adventure, full of interesting ethnic sounds, Hebrew vocals, and tropical guitars. They are a group from Los Angeles fronted by Luke Top, who was born and raised in Israel (which explains the Hebrew vocals). Their first LP, Fool’s Gold, is addicting from the first song. The album is upbeat and optimistic, the guitar is tropical and relaxing, and the Hebrew vocals give a bit of mystery. The album works great for parties and dancing, but is just as satisfying to relax to. My favorite part of the album as a whole is the African melodies with a Western aesthetic, getting their influences from South African, Ethiopian, Eritrean music.

Fool’s Gold at Amazon

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Flotation Toy Warning – Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck

Flotation Toy Warning – Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck

10 songs, 72 minutes long

Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck is one of my most recent discoveries, even though it was released back in 2005. The band, Flotation Toy Warning, made this single release and then vanished from the face of the earth, although their last.fm page hints at the possibility of a new album coming out this year. All I can say about that possibility is that I hope it’s true. Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck sounds like something Sigur Rós might have written if they had Beirut as their singer, wrote lyrics in English, and played the theremin. The album sounds familiar, even though it’s not, and it is haunting and beautiful, full of strings and operatic vocals. Frankly, I would have loved this album without it, but when I first heard the theremin kick in halfway through the album, I was completely sold. Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck is a hidden gem. This is an album of unsung genius, and a must-listen.

Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck is available on Amazon.

Skeeter

Group Bombino – Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2

Group Bombino – Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2

9 songs, 40 minutes long

Group Bombino is a really interesting African group. They are part of the nomadic Tuareg tribe which had political unrest with the Niger government and have since become rebels and refugees. Made in 2009, Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was made by a similar group called Group Inerane) is a guitar driven political protest album (the Tuareg people protesting the Niger government) and it contains some of the most interesting modern blues music I have ever listened to. It has very strong elements of African folk music, containing typical African percussion and vocals,  but what sets this album apart is the smooth, beautiful blues guitar that is being played by Omara Mochtar. The album feels very genuine and ethnic, yet is easy to listen to and understand with western ears.

The group was backed by a small label in  Seattle called Sublime Frequencies which focus on genuine world music. The album is hard to find in America, since only 1,500 copies of the vinyl were ever made, though if one is interested it is available for download from the Sublime Frequencies website as FLAC or mp3.

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