The album art for SUUNS newest album, Zeroes QC, serves as an appropriate visual introduction to the Montreal band's music. Featuring a high-contrast black-and-white photograph of a woman dressed in a glitter top, one can just barely make out outlines of trees against the dark background, as their silhouettes drape ambiguously over her face and body.

If SUUNS' brand of mysterious art rock were to take on a visual aesthetic, it would certainly look like this -- living in monochromes and being sprinkled occasionally with bright flashes which hint at beauty in deep places. Obvious aspects of their music -- incoherent mumblings over grinding basslines and electronics -- embrace the darkness, while lighter guitar elements and steady beats seem to offset that heaviness. The resulting sound is brooding and danceable, and singer and guitarist Ben Shemie's own description of SUUNS' music might be the most appropriate visual and poetic accompaniment.
"There is a kind of sense of falling backward that I think the songs conjure," says Shemie. "Or blindly driving your car into a wall. A sense of sadness in all the amazing things in the world."

"We are definitely influenced by visual art, and I suppose art of all kinds," he continues. "On a conceptual [and] intellectual [level,] many of our friends work in that medium, whether it be film or painting or whatever, so there is definitely an interest in what they are doing and what trends are happening in the visual art world in general... "You can definitely draw parallels to composition in a visual format versus a musical format. They draw upon the same tastes and impulses. None of our songs are 'based' on a film or picture or whatnot, but in some cases, I hear our songs as little plays, or films."

One look into SUUNS' own interpretation into their music lies in their video for "Up Past The Nursery," which was directed by Ben Shemie and Petros Kolyvas. The video is slow and complemplative, not unlike the song. Alternating between shots of the band standing idly in the woods and being suspended motionless in watery atmospheres, the video's subtle off-kilter color treatments and occasional overlays of fireworks serve as bursts of action in stillness.

ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW

BLK JKS released their first US full-length last year, and it made a relatively small ripple in the music pond. This year's EP Zol! from the South African band promises to make much more of a splash, due mostly to the well-deserved hype that has surrounded them recently. Not only did BLK JKS win a prestigious SAMA (South African Music Award) for their full-length After Robots, but they will also be playing at the first ever FIFA World Cup Kickoff Celebration Concert, a high honor.

 

ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW Listen to "Zol!" - DOWNLOAD MP3

Damien Jurado's new record, Saint Bartlett, is refreshingly pleasant for two reasons: the first is that is sounds like something from the past that you have known and loved. This is not to say that it is derivative necessarily, but that it draws from many sources in the best possible way. The second is that the soothing voice of lead singer and songwriter Jurado makes everything sound beautiful, calm, and at peace. These two are intertwined; some say that Damien Jurado is reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright, M. Ward, or even Will Oldham, with a bit of Neil Young-style songwriting mixed in. He is all of that, it is true, but has own his unfaltering take on what it is to be a singer-songwriter-performer.

 

Jurado's personal musical style has been perfected through time and experience in the music industry. This is his ninth full length, and his fifth for the midwestern Label Secretly Canadian. It is also happens to be my personal favorite. Nothing of Jurado's I have listened to in the past has had much of an impact, and even revisiting his previous albums doesn't do much for me. Saint Bartlett, however, was gripping upon first listen. This might perhaps be due to the welcome musical addition of the Saint Bartlett Band (an eight member orchestra comprised of members from Kay Kay And His Weathered Underground) to flesh out Jurado's sometimes stark sound.

Listen to "Arkansas" - DOWNLOAD MP3

"It's hard having fun," say Yeasayer in "O.N.E.", and on their most recent tour, they lived up to that line. Although musically they were excellent, they proved the point that it's hard having fun; they barely looked like they were enjoying themselves at all, with...

Upon first listen to Odd Blood, Brooklyn-based band Yeasayer's sophomore album, those familiar with their debut All Hour Cymbals might scratch their heads and wonder if they are playing a practical joke on the listeners. Their debut was marked by folky, quirky, pop-melded tunes. On Odd Blood, Yeasayer seems to shrug off any expectations of continuity or reasonable transition. In order to wrap one's mind around the drastic change in musical approach, here is a brief play by play to clarify exactly what this means:
The opener, "The Children" features ominous, synthesized voices in a chanting style. The effect is unsettling. Luckily, this is a clear fake out: the second track, and the overwhelming choice for single, is "Ambling Alp," a positive anthem urging the listener to, "Stick up for yourself son/ No matter what anybody else does." From there, the tone is set -- swirly, and much more electronic than anything on All Hour Cymbals. Within this format, the midpoint, "O.N.E." is a clear winner: bouncy, fun, and making the most of the vocal talent that has defined Yeasayer in the past. "I Remember" is a mournful, emotional mix overdubbed with a ton of the bells and whistles that an over-produced album should have, but with the unique octaves that the vocalists are able to achieve. "Love Me Girl" sounds like it should be on a Justin Timberlake album, and "Mondegreen" is a funky dance track with the nice touch of group vocals and baritone sax. YEASAYER - ODD BLOOD ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUES BELOW

New video for Foreign Born's "Early Warnings." In its '80s-esque summery treatment, random plants, flowers, and animals are identified almost scientifically, but I don't think any of them actually exist in our current world (or at least that's what a thorough Google search of terms...

When it comes to pop music, bands can try to "defy convention" in a myriad of ways. Some reach for far off musical influences, seeking to add some contrived spice to their normally pedestrian songwriting. Some try to create jarring textures that say to the...