Thirty years ago (July 12, 1990, to be exact), Northern Exposure premiered on network television. The six-season series depicts life in a fictional small town called Cicely in the wilds of Alaska. It does not shy away from the spiritual nor the surreal, in employing extended dream sequences, fairy tale...

As music fans and college radio DJs descend upon NYC this week, those of us who are already here are taking stock on the music scene as it stands. Last year, the CMJ Music Marathon saw a heavy representation from indie bands that were making their festival debut, such as Speedy Ortiz and Hunters, who then took off in the media instantly after. This year shows great promise, with buzz bands like Twin Peaks, PAWS, Gem Club, Blue Hawaii, and Adult Jazz playing, as well as stalwarts like Obits, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Cold War Kids returning the to fray -- along with the anticipated reunion of shoegaze legends Slowdive (and Low opening!). And, of course, it wouldn't be CMJ without a slew of brand new band hoping to get their big break. CMJ Music Marathon 2014 As always, the lineup for CMJ 2014 is diverse -- but something we appreciated seeing was that there seems to be an increase of girl bands and female solo artists. It is notable to mention that this year's CMJ has also extended its reach to large group of new venues, concentrated mostly in Brooklyn. Here are our top picks, though many more are listed on CMJ.com!
Captured Tracks has figured out that the formula to creating a successful label is to have no specific formula: just do what feels right, and do it for the artists, not for yourself. The Brooklyn-based record label works hard at getting new artists exposure rather than getting themselves exposure; they've built up a reputation as a great label on word of mouth, and label owner Mike Sniper uses his intuition when making big decisions.
Captured Tracks Record Label Feature
"We're a young company going about the music industry in what we think is the standard way, but it turns out we've been doing it pretty differently. There's no ethos or philosophy, per se. We're not looking for our label to be the topic of a release; we want the artist to be the focus. If exploiting whatever C/T is helps get a new artist's music out in the world, than that's great." - Mike Sniper, Founder of Captured Tracks

 

Portland's MusicfestNW has always had one of the more diverse festival lineups around. A large part of that is because -- rather than jamming thousands upon thousands of people asses to elbows in a huge field on some farm somewhere -- MusicfestNW puts the action into venues scattered around Portland, setting the population loose. It is less of a festival and more a set of well-curated shows that all just happen to take place on the same weekend. Accordingly, I skipped around town to see multiple acts, my favorite of which were Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Roseland Theatre, Mount Eerie at Aladdin Theatre, and Frank Fairfield at Bunk Bar.

Mount Eerie

Mount EerieThere are few constants in life, but one thing that can usually be relied upon is that every Mount Eerie performance is going to be different from the last. At this year's MusicfestNW that may or may not have been the case considering Mount Eerie opened for Bonnie Prince Billy two nights in a row at Aladdin Theater -- but if you caught one of those sets, it was probably quite a different affair from the last time you saw Phil Elverum perform. Elverum is an adaptable performer. Aladdin Theatre is a sit-down venue, and a Bonnie "Prince" Billy show necessitates a fairly muted and low-key scene. Sure, the sold-out crowd was buzzing, but they were buzzing about as much as you can for a headliner that plays Americana and folk. Mount Eerie's performance switched to match that feeling in the air. On stage, it was just Elverum with an acoustic guitar flanked by two female singers, singing backup vocals and doing verbal renditions of some of the instruments on his songs. It was a change from sometimes noisy and fairly abrasive solo shows. The chatter overheard afterwards ranged from people wondering who the hell Mount Eerie was to those wondering what the hell Mount Eerie was doing. It was an odd set from Elverum for sure, but a bold one, and one that he hit right on the button. Sometimes -- especially with Mount Eerie's recent sounds -- it's easy to forget how soft Elverum's music is at times (see: “Through The Trees", below). This particular performance was one that seemed a little bit out of left field, but it was one that worked as well if you appreciate the variety of Elverum's music. Editor's Note: We should probably also mention his upcoming November 2013 LP, the ironically-titled Pre-Human Ideas, which features auto-tuned versions of songs from his recent LPs. Yeah. Seriously.
The lingering spectre of Bohemia is alive and well on this Thursday evening, cloistered in a mysterious pocket of SE Portland. This show is an invite-only occasion in a tiny house venue, lit up and resplendent in candle flame and shadow. Four stellar acts, firmly underground but rising rapidly, quickly and firmly destroy any lingering retrophilia, that destructive nostalgia that leaves cultural explorers feeling hopeless and defeated. The feeling that everything has been done before, done better, by our parents, our older siblings, our neighbors and bosses. Can it be that there are actually GIANTS among us, living saints and martyrs, sacrificing all in living rooms and kosher delis the world over? Every act that plays this cozy living room show is distinctive, with something passionate and personal to transmit.
July 18th, 2013 @ Dream's Outer Space in Portland, Oregon

Wizard Apprentice

First up is Wizard Apprentice (formerly known as Fat Transfer), from Oakland, CA. My friends and I come in during the tail end of her performance, lulled, hypnotized, and mesmerized by her loop-oriented, disembodied soul music. She plays with backing tapes, vaguely karaoke style, with layers and loops of her own voice, making a spectral chorus out of thin air. Talk about "an army of me"! She unknowingly answers a few questions I'd been having regarding arrangements and structure, and my mind is whizzing with new ideas by the time she extinguishes her wicks. She's got a new album out on Bandcamp, seems to be a formidable talent with a distinctive vision to communicate, so you'd be advised to get in on the ground floor, and check out this newcomer.  
Based on the real life story of survivor-activist Chong Kim, Eden pulls no punches while following through with its dramatic premise of a young woman abducted and forced into prostitution. Jamie Chung plays Hyun-Jae, a first-generation Korean-American high school student looking to get into some innocent trouble. But she finds more than her share when she is abducted and sent to a sex slavery facility run by corrupt warden Bob Gault (Beau Bridges) along with his second-in-command, the vermin-esque Vaughan (Matt O' Leary). The film pivots not on Hyun-Jae's trials and suffering, but rather on the relationship between the three leads. It's an almost Shakespearean triangle: Bob is commanding, domineering, an absolutist with no conscience. Vaughan is power hungry, tired of being used, unstable. And Hyun-Jae is the survivor, biding her time with absolute ruthlessness until Bob and Vaughan let their guard down.

 

Whim is a weekly collection of media focused on independent rock/pop/garage and everything surrounding it. This week we showcase the new single from MS MR, some Animal Collective news, Pure Bathing Culture's debut record and more.

 

MS MR

Mysterious Brooklyn indie pop group MS MR have been on the radar for quite some time now, with industry insiders whispering of their powerful pop music as if they were everybody's best kept secret. But with a debut album in the works and one of the year's best singles, MS MR have officially broken through in 2012. "Hurricane" is perfectly delicate yet sultry and sexy. The singer's voice is haunting and echoing, and combined with the pounding drum rhythm throughout the track, it is not only the best surprise of the year but also serves as the perfect soundtrack to humid summer nights.

 

Mount Eerie - To The Ground 7"

Our European friends Atelier Ciseaux are releasing a limited edition copy of To The Ground, a 7" featuring the tracks "To The Ground" and "The Mouth Of Sky" (MIDI Strings). As with all Atelier Ciseaux mixes, this one does not disappoint, and they're proving it to you by offering the whole thing for stream, below. The artwork is designed by Phil Elverum himself, and the release is limited to 300 copies.

 

Order To The Ground 7" On Atelier Ciseaux July 12th, 2012 Update After the records were distirbuted, Atelier Ciseaux asked fans to take photographs of where their copy of To The Ground ended up. Scroll over the image above to see some examples, or see the rest on Armour & Discipline.

 

K Record's annual Helsing Junction Sleepover takes place at the 30 acre Helsing Junction organic farm, a beautiful natural venue. Opportunities for camping, picnicking, swimming, underground films, and wild rock 'n roll combine for a weekend of rambunctious outdoor shenanigans! As always, this year's lineup leaves us starry-eyed and ready...