FT5: Bands To Watch In 2011

With all that’s going on in the music world, it can often times be tough to keep up with the enormity of new bands that seem to pop up on a daily basis.  Lucky for you, we try to stay hot on the scene as much as possible to keep you in the know.  So since we’ve officially put the lid on 2010, we thought we’d share with you 5 bands to keep your eye on in 2011.  All these bands will soon be playing huge stages and selling out shows across america so I’d recommend getting into them now before their music pops up in a McDonalds commercial.  Follow the jump for more.

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FTC: Bill Withers

Not really my closet, more like your cool uncle’s closet.  Or that guy down the street who works at the vintage clothing shop and wears orange turtle necks and big collared leather jackets.  This week’s FTC features Bill Withers, a soulful singer/songwriter/genius from the 1970s whose concentrated but powerful R&B and Soul songs left an indelible mark on modern music.  Though he hasn’t released any new music in awhile, you can’t escape his songs.  His track “Lean On Me” is a standard, like “You Are My Sunshine” that was written 35 years earlier, it is hard to identify this song with any particular artist.  It is timeless, and belongs to all of us.  Of course “Aint No Sunshine” is a perfect song.  The heartfelt delivery and soulful vocal tell such a compelling story on their own that you hardly notice the a capella 3rd verse that just repeats “I know” twenty six times.  Alicia Keys owes her career to this song.  Notice the vocal intro, the minor key progression… Bill Withers should get royalties for every time “Fallin” was played in 2001…  And the hook to “No Diggity”…  There are more to speak of, but the track we’re going with today is “Use Me”.  Another funky, simple, but powerful track built around Bill’s strong vocal and a locked-in backing band.  Come back Bill.


My Morning Jacket – Next Stop Austin

For those of you lucky enough to have tickets to tonights SOLD OUT MMJ show at Stubb’s, here is a little taste of what’s to come via ATH’s Dallas TX correspondent.

The band played the Palladium Theater in south Dallas Saturday night to a packed and enthusiastic crowd. This venue is similar to Austin Music Hall in size and presentation, but even with a line stretching around the block waiting on the doors, there were tickets still available (for a time) at the box office.

Show review and pictures after the jump

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Sigur Ros – med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust

Rating: ★★★★ ·

This band is epic. Given the task of singing “Happy Birthday” at an 8 year old’s birthday party, they could likely stretch the performance several minutes with multiple movements involving choirs of children and the London Sinfionetta. (see Ara Bitur`) That is just the natural skill of this foursome from Iceland. And though they showcase that skill in several areas of their new album; med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust, they have expanded their repertoire with looser, shorter, more traditional songs this time around.

The first track/single “Gobbledigook” isn’t quite their attempt at Ipod commercial appeal, but at just over three minutes, they might finally get to play on Letterman. In fact, there are only four songs on the album clocking in past five minutes. The single uses heavy percussion, alternating acoustic guitar lines, and harmonized vocals to create something… fun. Somewhat of a departure from the glacial, sparse musical landscapes they have focused on with their past five albums.

Building on the same theme, the second track is Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur. Though accompanied with brass and string sections and a soaring vocal melody, the driving force in this track is the bassline, piano, and four on the floor drumbeat.

Fans of the traditional epic sounds of Sigur Ros will also find much to enjoy on endalaust. Five minutes into Festival, the bassline and steady kick drum start the final build. Symphonic horns and strings add from there. Vocal harmonies, additional horns, and seemingly whatever other instrument is lying around the studio, take hold of the simple melody and build it to a stunning climax.

For me, the peak of the album comes with the turning point in Ara Bitur at four and a half minutes through the song. A simple piano line is augmented with lightly struck bass, and Jonsi’ Birgisson’s repeating vocal is suddenly accompanied with an entire symphony and children’s choir. At its peak, the song features 90 musicians playing at once. Recorded in one take in the Abbey Road studio in London, this is most epic track on the album.

In several niches of popular music, you can find dramatic shifts in loud/soft dynamics with bands like Explosions in the Sky, or even certain tracks like “Everlong“ from the Foo Fighters, but songs like this show just how far above their contemporaries Sigur Ros can be. It is tough to describe the resulting energy in this song relative to where it begins. Just make sure you only listen to it on empty desert roads with no speed limit, or seated comfortably in your home. But turn it up.

So with endalaust, Sigur Ros have shown that while they can narrow their scope and create succinct, meaningful, and well constructed songs that open them up to shorter attention spans and wider appeal, they are still kings of the epic.