Those of you in Chicago and throughout the Midwest may have noticed something yesterday: it wasn’t unbearably cold for a change. In fact, it was almost warm. Well, warm enough to finally go outside without the winter jacket at least. As such, I am longingly and perhaps foolishly anticipating the arrival of springtime and all that goes with it. By nature I tend to gravitate towards grittier, bluesy rock-type stuff, but something about warm weather always makes me crave a slightly folkier style of music. Maybe it’s a nod to the lazy dog days of summer, or maybe its because somewhere deep down I am a closet alt-country fan at heart. OK, I’ll go ahead and admit that it’s the latter because I have always had a bit of a love affair with country music and that whole sensitive singer-songwriter thing. Don’t get me wrong, I hate hippies as much as the next rock guy, but its hard to deny that there is something sublime about sitting barefoot in the grass on a sunny afternoon listening to an acoustic guitar.
Filling that acoustic void for me this spring will be none other than Dan Mangan. I got my hands on his upcoming EP, Roboteering, from our friends at Killbeat Music a couple of weeks ago and have been loving it ever since. Dan is an interesting story in the music world in that this new EP will be his first release of new material in nearly five years, yet even a cursory listen will let you know that he is still completely on top of his game. The EP serves as a bit of a teaser for a new full-length album to be released later in the year, which will feature three of the five new tracks on the EP. Though only 25, Mangan has the voice and chops of a seasoned troubadour; probably because he kind of is one. Since the 2005 release of his critically acclaimed debut, Postcards and Daydreaming, he has been on the road almost non-stop with the likes of Patrick Watson, The Acorn, Elliott Brood, Said The Whale, Hey Rosetta!, Mother Mother, and Brett Dennen. “Robots”, which is more or less the title track from the EP, should tell you everything you need to know. Featuring Dan’s scratchy voice and undeniably catchy hooks blended with delicate guitar playing and building horns, this is the kind of track that sticks in your head for days at a time. And in this case that is a very good thing. The EP drops electronically on 3/10 with hard copies coming on 4/7.
Moving on from Dan Mangan to something completely different, I have a confession to make on behalf of all of us Dicks: we kind of f*cked up. When we first laid our ears on Sholi’s self-titled debut LP we all really liked it, but for one reason or another it didn’t register right away just how great it is. In retrospect we should have done a full review of the album long ago, but in lieu of that I hope that we can make it up to you by mentioning them now so that you can give them a listen if you haven’t already. The album was officially released on Quarterstick Records back on February 17th, so it has been out for a few weeks now. The sound has all the makings of an indie rock classic, managing to somehow sound incredibly rich and complex yet completely straightforward at the same time. I have heard them compared to The Walkmen, but when I listen I hear early Radiohead more than anything else. High praise for sure, but well deserved. The percussion and rhythm sections dominate and are more polished than I have heard on a new album in a long time, clearly the product of many hours spent working on all of these songs in the studio with producer Greg Saunier of Deerhoof. This album is sure to be near the top of a whole lot of “Best of 2009” lists, so I highly recommend checking it out for yourself ASAP. And if it doesn’t catch you the first time around, listen again. We had to listen a few times before it hit us, and we are sure glad that we did.
I want to leave you all on this beautiful Friday with a bit of a blast from the past, something that I intend to try and do on a semi-regular basis from now on. When you listen to as much new music as I do, you often tend to forget a lot of stuff that you fell in love with for a few fleeting moments for long periods of time. You never forget the truly great songs that touched you in a special way, but you do tuck them away until one day you hear something that reminds you of that song and then get to remind yourself all over again why you fell in love with it in the first place. For me recently, that song is “Roscoe” by Midlake from their 2006 release The Trials of Van Occupanther. Over the course of that summer I must have listened to this song at least a thousand times, but before this week I probably haven’t played it in a year and a half. Maybe you remember this song the same way that I do, or maybe you are about to hear it for the first time, but either way I encourage you to revisit your own back catalog and get reacquainted with a song or two from your past. Seriously, the weekend is upon us and it’s not like you have anything better to do…