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One-Man Bands

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I recently read a quote (from the early 1900s) in which the speaker theorized that the rapid growth of technology would lead to a world in which people would only have to work two or three hours a day.  While it is safe to say that prediction should be filed away in the “wishful thinking” folder (alongside teleportation, flying cars and hoverboards), it did get me thinking about the positive ways technology has impacted our lives.  For a music fan, such as myself, the innovations in music technology over the last twenty years have been nothing short of amazing.  Not only is music more readily available, the ability to create and record music is only one cheap laptop away.  As a result, there has been an explosion of “bedroom” artists (musicians that write, record and produce music in their own bedrooms) that have taken the music scene by storm.  Many of these “one-man bands” are responsible for some from the best albums of the last few years.  Below are a few of my favorite “one-man bands” and what you can expect if you decide to check them out.
  1. Bon Iver – Justin Vernon, the man behind the name Bon Iver, is probably the most well-known and critically praised one-man band. While Vernon's most recent release (the Grammy nominated, self titled album Bon Iver) is a more fleshed out, full band affair, Vernon first came to national attention with the release of his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago.  Recorded alone in a cabin in Wisconsin, Vernon crafted a modern indie folk masterpiece of lost love and regret that is not to be missed.
  2. M83 – While most “one-man bands” tend to be more laid back affairs, French producer/songwriter Anthony Gonzalez proves that arena-filling, fist pumping anthems aren’t solely the purview of super bands like U2 and Coldplay.  Gonzalez' songs pulse and pound with an unbridled energy that leaps through the speakers.  His most recent release, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, is a double album masterpiece that will likely end up on a number of year end lists.
  3. Washed Out – On the other end of the spectrum from M83, Ernest Greene (aka Washed Out) is known as one of the originators of the chillwave genre.  Greene’s music is an echoing, reverb-filled nostalgia trip.  Full of a wistful sense of longing, Greene’s music is propelled by electronic beats and loops that pair perfectly with the beautiful, wispy melodies that have become his hallmark.  Washed Out’s debut album Within and Without is the perfect album for a rainy, Sunday morning.
  4. Neon Indian – Another artist who is associated with the creation of the chillwave genre, Alan Palomo (aka Neon Indian) takes the same tools used by Washed Out, electronic loops paired with lo-fi vocals, to create a slightly brighter, more up-beat sound.  Palomo’s most recent release, Era Extrana, showcases an artist at his creative peak as he weaves a variety of electronic glitches and bleeping synths in and out of melodies so catchy they will be stuck in your head for days.
  5. Youth Lagoon – A newcomer to the scene, 22-year-old Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) takes the same tropes that tend to define indie bedroom artists (distant vocals, percussive loops, reverb) and uses them to create intimate songs that slowly swell into space-filling, sing-a-longs.  Powers shows a real knack for arranging songs in such a way that even the most jaded of listeners will find themselves getting caught up in the emotional crescendos.  Youth Lagoon’s recently released album, The Year of Hibernation, is an amazingly strong debut that should not be missed by fans of any of the other artists listed above.

Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Performs Bon Iver Available at iTunes

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