O'Death are an "American Gothic Country band" -- which might not seem to make that much sense, until you listen to their music while watching their music videos, which seem bizarre and ritualistic in a creepy, East Coast woodsy kind of way (and serving as...

Ryan Sollee of The Builders And The Butchers sings like he is the lovechild of Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) and Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel). He croons nasally and lyricizes darkly. On the band's latest album, Dead Reckoning, he appropriately breaks his...

Mike Anderson's visual interpretation for "How You Hold Your Arms" combines two sets of videos at once, but not in any way you might be able to predict. From the Western Vinyl website, they state, "A recorded song floats unchanged in time, through endless possibilities...

Jeremy Mangan makes paintings of barns. Barns are not in and of themselves fascinating subjects, and it's hard to escape the cliché imagery associated with them -- of wheat fields and bucolic pastures. But Jeremy Mangan makes barns magical.
jeremy mangan Mangan grew up in rural Washington but spent a number of years living in New York while attending graduate school at Hunter College. His interest in shantytowns and weather-worn buildings began with observations of his surroundings, and was later informed by the urban layering of New York City. "I think what [my interest] comes from is a combination of growing up here and always being attracted to these dilapidated old structures," Mangan explains over coffee. "And then in New York, the overbuilt stacking, the literal hierarchy -- where the higher up you are, the higher up you are. You look up and you see the penthouses, and then you look down and you go into a subway." When Mangan first began his explorations into rural Americana, he was working with a very unorthodox medium. "I was painting fairly realistic, naturalistic subject matter at that point, and I was frustrated, so I decided I would just use the dumbest material I could find -- something that wasn't meant for art making and wasn't so precise," Mangan explains. "So I just bought a cup of coffee from the local bodega and started painting with it."
"Music does something kind of like poetry does. We can access music and listen to music and it doesn't have the expectations on it that visual art does, to be important or meaningful or to have direct social commentary... There's just something visceral and direct about it that I want to be in my paintings also." - Jeremy Mangan
Looking at his work, it's hard to believe that Mangan managed to achieve such an impressive array of depth and tones using coffee, but he has always been a technically skilled artist. He attributes much of his painting technique to his time spent as an ice carver. While finishing his graduate degree, Mangan's studio shared a building with Okamato Studio, the ice sculpting business of Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto. "They knocked on my studio one day and said, 'Hey, I need to deliver this ice sculpture; I could use a hand with it.'" At first Mangan only helped with the deliveries, but he was gradually entrusted with more responsibilities. Eventually they let Mangan try his hand at carving. "They gave me a 300 pound block of ice and a chainsaw and said, 'Go for it.'" Mangan's experience with carving fundamentally changed the way he approached painting. "As a painter, I could look at a face as a mug shot, and then in profile, and imagine how I would render it and how the line should be, but ice sculpture made me think in terms of volume, and that took a while to learn." This sojourn as an ice sculptor led Mangan to many interesting situations, including one assignment making a giant reindeer for Martha Stewart's holiday party. "She seemed very... uh... composed. Like she was working. Very smiley, almost robotic. What you might expect." Although it was a day job that involved creating and working with his hands, Mangan ultimately felt that he needed to leave New York and make more time for the work he wanted to pursue. "I was working 40, 50 hours a week carving ice, and I didn't go that far away to become an ice carver. It was just a job. I wasn't painting... I joke that I needed to leave New York and move to Fife for things to really start coming together." jeremy mangan

A festival that manages to bring in quality folk, bluegrass, alt-country, and indie rock bands without feeling blown-out, over-run, and over-saturated. dr. dog Dr. Dog seem to be constantly, eternally on tour, and their spirited jams are easy pop jams to enjoy when...

Dan Sartain begins Dan Sartain Lives, his sixth album, with paranoia and his life under threat in "Those Thoughts"; "I don"t wanna know who"s at my door.../ I don"t wanna hear your gunshots," he sings. Thereafter, the mood changes, until he ends the collection with "Touch Me," a lyrically optimistic track which describes the tangibility and goodness of other lives: "Everything"s made right when you touch me/ Just a touch of your fingertips will make the shadows disappear." The connection between the beginning and the end is a connection between life and death which pervades this album, and, contrary to its often dark sound, Lives is a hopeful offering. Even the artwork contrasts notably with his previous two album covers, which depict his suicide.

 

The ironically life-affirming "Atheist Funeral" has a bassline which creeps like the Grim Reaper beneath lyrics about controlling one's own life: "We die, I know/ And we all must go.../ Don"t speak about God at my funeral." This deicidal attitude is also heard in "Praying for a Miracle", over the reincarnated chords of Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardiner's "The Passenger." Here, Sartain places the difference between life and death not in the power of some benevolent God, but in one's own hands: "Heaven and hell may not exist/ And I don't believe any of it/ Nobody's looking out for you."

Chicago artists JT And The Clouds make a brand of folk and Americana-influenced indie rock that really hits sometimes. They recently released a live video of them performing "Low July", and everything about it is fantastic -- the cinematography, the sound, the expressions...

  Kasey Anderson's Nowhere Nights is the worst alt-country album I have ever heard. If Ryan Adams could be photocopied, and that copy could be copied, and that copy was faxed overseas, the result could very well be this record. Repetitive, self-centered, and creatively bankrupt, Nowhere Nights...

Catchiness can only hold your attention for so long, and even that gets stale before long on The Little Heroes' second album, Thank You. Although it's full of driving beats and semi-rhythmic guitar patterns, too much of it sounds like standard teenage anthems. Lyrics that are...