Don’t let their name fool you. Marching Band is actually just Erik Sunbring and Jacob Lind. But what’s even more deceiving than their name is their sound. Sunbring and Lind have a lot going on at once on their latest EP, And I’ve Never Seen Anything Like That.
The duo weaves piano, multiple guitars, drums, bass and harmonies into rich, warm layers and sprinkle in bits of glockenspiel, slide guitar, horns, female backing vocals or whatever else they can find. They spent two years recording the EP and make the painstakingly pieced-together songs sound effortless.
“Die in My Arms” rings of fellow Swedes Shout Out Louds, and “Artistic Man, Shaved Hand” sounds like a more rousing version of American Football, but there’s always something uniquely Marching Band.
Two years is a long time to spend working on one thing, but ultimately, it was worth it. Lind and Sunbring created something brilliant. And I’ve Never Seen Anything Like That is an almost dead-on title. There’s nothing out there like Marching Band.
And I’ve Never Seen Anything Like That is out today on Urband & Lazar Recordings.
As if putting out three great albums in one year wasn’t enough, Ty Segall has formed another new band. The ambitious performer is joined by Ty Segall Band guitarist Charlie Moothart in the appropriately titled Fuzz.
The group’s debut 7″, “This Time I Got a Reason” b/w “Fuzz’s Fourth Dream” on Trouble in Mind Records, is already sold out, but you can stream both cuts below.
1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?
This year’s top record might be a surprise, unless you’ve actually heard Who’s Feeling Young Now?. Punch Brothers‘ third (technically fourth if you count Chris Thile‘s How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which also featured the band) album mostly left what the critics called “progressive bluegrass” in favor of something pretty close to indie folk.
After mixing genres like bluegrass and classical on their first albums, Who’s Feeling Young Now? focuses more on songwriting. Thile and the rest of the band still pluck and bow at virtuoso levels, but this time it’s more about how the instruments work together — often in the background — instead of the heavily layered bluegrass.
There’s also a great deal of instrumental manipulation. The violin on “Hundred Dollars” is about as far from the fiddle as you can get, and I’m still baffled how they managed to so perfectly cover Radiohead‘s “Kid A” with mandolin, acoustic guitar, violin, double bass and banjo.
And what better way to celebrate our album of the year than by seeing them live on New Year’s Eve? Tonight, Punch Brothers finish off their three-night run at Bowery Ballroom in New York, and I couldn’t be more excited.
2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
The best thing about Japandroids isn’t their music. Don’t get me wrong, Brian King and David Prowse are incredible musicians, but what really got me about their debut Post-Nothing and still gets me on Celebration Rock is the feeling that comes with it.
Most albums have perfectly planned highs and lows, but Celebration Rock is all highs, and better for it. It’s an unrelenting tornado of youth, energy, sing-along shouts and distortion that borders on perfect. It’s heart-racing, fist-pumping rock that never stops and never wears out.
In his review of “The House That Heaven Built,” Pat Hosken of Astro Cannon said, “Anthem is too soft a word.” It definitely is, but I can’t think of a better one. Celebration Rock is an anthem. And it’s changing rock music entirely.
3. Tropical Punk – Ends of the World
Tropical Punk was by-far my most-played artist of 2012. No contest. The Nashville-via-Ithaca band put out a series of three 7″ EPs called Runaway American Kids and their debut full-length Ends of the World this year on their own Denim Records, and I can’t stop playing them.
The handmade Ends of the World CD lived in my car for months, where it became my go-to album. If I didn’t have a specific plan for something else, Ends of the World stayed in, and when it was over, I just let it cycle through again.
Usually, this is a great way to start hating your favorite bands, but for some reason, with each listen, Tropical Punk keeps getting better.
Ends of the World and all three Runaway American Kids 7″s are now available on vinyl via Tropical Punk’s Bandcamp. The rest of Denim Records is also worth checking out — including Music Band‘s Satan’s Grave and Kin Ship’s Where I Live, released yesterday.
4. John K. Samson – Provincial
This list has featured a lot of music’s greatest songwriters. Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are legends, and John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats is certainly working his way there as well. But leave it to John K. Samson to fly in under the radar.
Samson has long been a master songwriter in my book. As the frontman for the Weakerthans, he makes it seem easy to write from the point of view of a cat or about explorers in Antarctica. And while his debut solo album is different, his brilliant character-driven fiction still shines through.
As its title might suggest, Provincial, is about Samson’s homeland of Canada. Some tracks, like “www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle/” — a literal petition to the Hockey Hall of Fame — are unmistakably Canadian, but most carry familiar themes like the small-town boredom of “Cruise Night” and the frustration of “When I Write My Master’s Thesis.”
That’s what makes Samson a great songwriter. His songs read like works of fiction, with creative characters and settings, but they always boil down to something universal and true.
5. Flume – Flume
It was a big year for Flume. At only 20, the Australian producer also known as Harley Straten toured with the xx, got over a million YouTube views and even has a gold record in his home country.
But even without all that, Flume’s self-titled debut album would still make this list. Streten creates fascinating electronic music full of rich textures and vibrancies. But it’s his rare talent of turning those sounds into great songs that puts him above most other electronic musicians.
Streten’s already got an even bigger 2013 lined up. In addition to headlining tours, he just signed to indie mega-label Mom + Pop — home of Andrew Bird, Metric and Tokyo Police Club, to name a few — for the U.S. release of Flume. Get ready to hear a lot more about Harley Streten.