April 24, 2014
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Nearly three years ago to the day, we featured the song "Happy Banjo" from Toronto trio Dark Mean. Since then, the band -- led by Mark Dean (insert "aha" moment here) -- has released a self-titled debut album and, more recently, a new four-song EP Samuel the Phoenix. Their mantra is simple: "we write music, jam in the garage, and make records." For the recording of a live video for the cool Canadian webbers Southern Souls, the band went back for another take on "Happy Banjo." Good move. Click through to hear the original.

When Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak opted to explore the nuances of beat driven synth/pop in the duo Dungeonesse it now appears that her little dance-floor-driven side project resulted in something of an electronic epiphany. In the new Wye Oak world witnessed on the remarkable Shriek (April 28, Merge), the standard bearing guitar cacophonies of the past have been jettisoned in favor of plugged-in machines. Rarely has a band's signature sound undergone such a radical reinvention. And it works. As to be expected, the sound has a cushion of taut bass lines and lush keyboards, but where might opt to go light and twinkled, Wasner, partner Andy Stack and co-producer/engineer Nicolas Vernhes go deeper and darker under their electric blanket, using the dense sonic layers to skillfully balance tension and release. Wye Oak aren't the first to treat synth/pop as a medium for serious-minded indie artistry but we're predicting Shriek will emerge as one of the best and most dramatically defining bellwether albums of 2014. Click through to stream "Before" and watch "The Tower" video.

Wye Oak - "Sick Talk" (from Shriek)

Much of the debut album A Thousand Half Truths from Norway's alt-pop quartet Making Marks is so relentlessly sunny and determinedly upbeat and sweet that your head hurts and teeth ache. Not so much with "Like Spinning," one of Half Truths' best songs and the band's new video. Stream the full album here.

Canadian roots-rock duo Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet -- aka Whitehorse -- have been on a serious roll since the release of their 2012 full length The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss. After last year's live album The Road to Massey Hall and this year's en français EP Éphémère sans repère, Whitehorse are launching a new Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming third album Leave No Bridge Unburned, duo February 2015 via Six Shooter. Producer Gus Van Go (The Stills) has been recruited for the studio work -- the first time Doucet has relinquished the production reins -- and a great new song "Pins and Needles" has been debuted (though it's not certain if it will make the final track list). Click through to stream a cover of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" and watch the video for "Achille's Desire."

Whitehorse - "Pins and Needles"

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