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One of the bigger problems I’ve encountered when trying to persuade people to listen to foreign music is that they feel they can’t relate to it; foreign styles of music combined with singing in foreign languages can easily add up to confusion. That’s why I feel particularly implored to recommend Beirut, because although the Balkan folk tunes they play are certainly a foreign style of music, they are played in large part by a fellow named Zach Condon who sings them in English.

This isn’t to say it’s easy to understand him due to the vocals largely being buried under the lush instrumentation. Then again, even if you can’t make out exactly what he’s singing, you can still tell that it’s in English and that he’s got a lovely voice (which is an instrument in itself). Listen to Beirut and take the plunge into foreign music without taking the plunge into foreign music, and yes, that does make sense.

Downloads

From Gulag Orkestar
Postcards From Italy (MP3, 5MB)
Mount Wroclai (Idle Days) (MP3, 3.8MB)

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The Rosebuds are one of those delightful bands that doesn’t limit itself to one sound, or even a few. The songs from their latest album, Birds Make Good Neighbors, vary either a little or lot. Leaves Do Fall is reminiscent of old country songs, Outnumbered has a rocking Beach Boys feel to it, Boxcar reminds me of good pop-rock songs in general, Shake Our Tree reminds me a smidge of The Dandy Warhols… and so on!

The point is that The Rosebuds make awesome music because they’re influenced by awesome music, and I say more power to ’em. Listen to enough of their songs and you’ll find something that suits you, so get listening!

Downloads

From Birds Make Good Neighbors
Boxcar (MP3, 5.3MB)
Leaves Do Fall (MP3, 3.6MB)

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Having a mild obsession as of late with the songstyles of Hawksley Workman, it’s only natural that I perused the songstyles of his similar artists, as defined by last.fm. But with all those artists to choose from, where do you go, how do you start? If you’re anything like me, you pick the one with the most interesting band name, and for me, that meant Matt Mays & El Torpedo.

Despite the fact that I obviously was going against the adage of “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” my choice did not disappoint whatsoever. These Canadian fellows play a fine blend of country-rock, easy on the country. This is another case of little innovation remedied by rampant awesomeness, especially Mays’ vocals, and everything blends together so perfectly that it’s hard to remember that this is their debut album. Although the only things they have in common with Hawksley Workman are the rocking tunes and their Canadian nationality (and the fact that I love them), I couldn’t be more pleased with how last.fm comes up with similar artists.

From Matt Mays & El Torpedo
Cocaine Cowgirl (Music video)
On The Hood (Music video)

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Country’s one of those genres where most comments about it are one of two themes: “this song’s really sad” or “this song’s really boring.” Of course, not all country is like that, but you try to tell people that they should disregard musical stereotypes and see where you get. Not very far, I’d imagine.

The fact that I used that as a prelude to this post on Kate Maki isn’t meant to imply that her songs are boring (they’re not) or sad (OK… they’re sad); it’s meant to imply that some people see the word “country” and immediately get the notion that they’re not going to like it.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the topic at hand. Kate Maki is a country musician who writes sad songs that don’t bore one to tears, nor do they disappoint musically or lyrically. It’s nothing especially original, but country’s one of those genres where experimentation isn’t exactly encouraged, nor one where it’s particularly necessary; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say. Enjoy the stereotypical country twang without the stereotypical country boredom, as I say.

Downloads

From Confusion Unlimited
To Be Good (MP3, 1.9MB)
Over (MP3, 3.2MB)
Mid March Blues (MP3, 2.6MB)

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Take rock, add cellos – what do you have? Cello rock… come on! Or in this specific case, Matson Jones. I suppose it’s technically cello-based rock since there’s still a bassist, but cello-based rock sounds more like an organism than a style of music. That said, I’m not going to proclaim to be extremely well-versed (or even versed at all, for that matter) with cello rock, but since I do proclaim to know good music when I hear it, I hereby proclaim Matson Jones to be good music.

Enough of my poorly-worded descriptions and general tomfooleries: my proclamation is enough! These three tracks should be enough to whet your proverbial appetite for cello rock; I would apologize for the low bitrate, but they’re full songs and the recording wasn’t particularly high-quality to begin with.

Downloads

From Matson Jones
A Bit Of Arson Never Hurt Anyone (MP3, 835KB)
Italian Song (MP3, 1.0MB)
He Means Nothing, My Dear (MP3, 2.1MB)

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Here at either/or, we believe that even though something’s slightly old, and blatantly popular, it’s still worth a mention (if it’s good, that is). At least, that’s what I believe in. It is with this point in consideration that I present Travis’ 2003 release 12 Memories. 12 Memories is an admirable collection of catchy, memorable rock. Within this though flow fantastic, moving lyrics as well as some very very fine instrumentation.

Although a slight departure from the happier antics of their previous efforts, 12 Memories is an extremly accomplished album and an excellent example of their musical growth. Songs such as the opening track Quicksand combine strings and piano with Fran Healy’s wonderful voice to produce a tune that is nicely simple, but never falls into the realms of boredom. This is followed up with tracks such as Re-Offender and Paperclips, both of which give us a little touch of beauty in our world (and we all just love that, don’t we?)

Elegant, catchy and beautiful: what more do you want? Probably some downloads, I’d wager.

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Hawksley Workman is one of the very few artists that I find randomly on last.fm and proceed to enjoy thoroughly. Most of his earlier music, i.e. the songs that aren’t on Treeful Of Starling, is largely multi-layered, chock full of small details, whereas his newer music (i.e. Treeful Of Starling) is largely stripped-down. In that sense, he’s kind of like a Elliott Smith in reverse (who’s music got more detailed as he got more money to spend on it). Not that that’s a bad thing; I just wanted to work in an Elliott Smith reference.

Workman’s site apparently features no MP3s, but there’s music videos and that’s good enough for me. Striptease and Jealous Of Your Cigarette are my favorites of those listed below, so check ’em first.

From (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves
Jealous Of Your Cigarette (Music video)
Striptease (Music video)

From Lover/Fighter
Anger As Beauty (Music video)

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I was trying to think of a way to describe this and then it came to me: if the music of Haley Bonar (slow folk-rock) and the music of Josh Rouse (catchy country-rock) had a musical baby, that baby would be the music of Rocky Votolato. Strange analogies aside, his new album, Makers, is full of winners, some more winning than others. The one I have down there in MP3 form is pure, unadulterated winner (you’ll have to right-click & save target as).

P.S. Wouldn’t it be cool if music could have babies?

Downloads

From Makers
Portland Is Leaving (MP3, 2.5 MB)

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With the release of their new album being somewhat imminent (or is it, who knows with those crazy kids known as Radiohead), I thought it’d be fitting to take a look at their last studio release, Hail to the Thief. After the superb Kid A and the not-as-superb-but-still-pretty-decent Amnesiac, Radiohead fire back in 2003 with Hail to the Thief, a nice blend of the work done in Ok Computer with the experimental tones of Kid A and Amnesiac.

Depending on your stance with the band, Hail to the Thief is either one of their best albums or pretty ordinary. I take the “pretty awesome” stance on this occasion: tunes like There There (The Boney King of Nowhere), Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner) and 2+2=5 (The Lukewarm) aptly demonstrate the bands willingness to step outside the traditional realms of what’s deemed as “alternative”, despite their public appearance of being overly-pretentious. The band’s life aside, this is a cracking album and from what I hear, their latest effort looks to continue the trend of quality music from them.

From Hail to the Thief
There There (The Boney King of Nowhere) – (YouTube)

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When most people think of the band Heatmiser (assuming they’ve heard of them, that is), the first thought that pops into their head is “Elliott Smith was a member.” However, two other members of the now-defunct band are in bands of their own: drummer Sam Coomes is the driving force behind Quasi and co-leader/singer Neil Gust is the singer for No. 2.

While Quasi sounds entirely different than Heatmiser, No. 2 could almost be called Heatmiser 2. They sound like what Heatmiser was progressing towards when they split up: melodic, non-grunge rock. That’s rather non-descript, so I guess I’ll just say that if you appreciate melodies in your rock, No. 2’s the band for you. Seriously, just listen.

Downloads

From What Does Good Luck Bring?
A Little Confusion (MP3, 5.4 MB)
More, More (MP3, 4.1 MB)
Stranger’s March (MP3, 4.4 MB)