Ivy

Free MP3: Ivy’s “You Make It So Hard”

ivy image

Launched in New York City in 1994, Ivy blend the melodicism of Burt Bacharach, the stylish simplicity of the Smiths and sexiness of Francoise Hardy into an infectious pop blend that’s as cool as a strawberry smoothie and as fun as a day at the water park.

The seeds of Ivy were planted in 1990 when Andy Chase met Dominque Durand at a party in New York. Saying that being in a band “wasn’t her cup of tea,” Durand said “no” to Chase’s invitation to join him for a demo session. Three years later, the pair wrote a tune together and, with the help and encouragement of bassist Adam Schlesinger, stepped into the studio to record a five song demo. So marked the official beginning of the trio known as Ivy.

With the release of their EP called Lately and its subsquent album, Realistic, the three Ivy’s found themselves almost immediately in the pop spotlight. Opening slots with OasisEdwyn Collins andYo La Tengo gave the band momentum and, by 1997, they released Apartment Life, their second long player.

Seventeen years later, Ivy have put out five full length albums and and five more EPs, including this year’s All Hours. It’s an 11-song collection of songs that includes today’s Free MP3 of the Day, “You Make It So Hard.”

“Hard” is the last word tha comes to mind when we listen to this bouncy, bubbly spray of pop and roll. If chocolate could sing, it would sound like Dominique Durand. If a piano could make a request for itself, it would ask to play the sneaky-cool lick from this song. If summer time could dance, it would request this song.

Ivy – “You Make It So Hard”

The Gift

The Gift’s “Race Is Long”

The Gift

In today’s world where fast is everything and nearly everything is disposable, it’s unusual for marriages, much less bands, to last for 17 years. But, since 1994, the four close friends from Portugal who call themselves the Gift have been honing their craft and making music together.

Indeed it was in 1994 that the Gift, while still teenagers, came together to start making music. It’s their friendship, they say, that’s the foundation to the musical endeavors, knowing they can rely on each other regardless of what happens professionally.

Fronted by the sultry singer Sonia Tavares, who counts male singers like Depeche Mode’s David Gahan among her strongest influences, the Gift have released four albums since their 1998 debut,Vinyl, and have become one of Portugal’s most popular and critically-awarded groups.

Their fifth offering, Explode, is their latest collection, featuring our Free MP3 of the Day “Race Is Long.”

What we hear in this this bouncy synth pop piece is the result of those many years together making music: glossy guitars and simmering synths underscore perfectly tuned harmonies, delivered as if one singer intuitively knows what the other is thinking. It’s a song flawlessly fitted for your pop music radio, whether you’re dancing about the living room, hanging on the beach or driving in your car.

Originally written for MP3.com

The Californian Band

The Californian’s “Billion Grains Of Sand”

The Californian Band

The Californian are an LA-based band of five who’ve just put the finishing touches on their debut Kickstarter-financed album. ‘Cuz they’re a fine bunch of gentlemen, they’ve given up a track from the collection you can have for free.

We can’t tell you much more about these alien beings from Los Angeles (whose website promises they’re not here to do us any harm) except to say the troupe consists of John Graney, Jonathan Price, Darren Robinson, Michael Hopkins and Jake Gideon and that they like — in no particular order — Cinderella Hotel, Anna Calvi and Charles Mansion.

They don’t say anything about 1979-era R.E.M.Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, the criminally underrated Volebeats or the legendary Ventures so we figure they’ve never heard of them (being that they come from L.A., isolated that it is.)

But they sure sound a lot like them and we think that’s pretty brilliant.

Download. Dance fast. Repeat.

Originally written for MP3.com

Junkie+XL+jun0

Free MP3: Junkie XL’s “Molly-E”

Junkie+XL+jun0

For today’s Free MP3 of the Day, I drop on your drive a new instrumental mix of the single “Molly’s E” from Junkie XL.

Junkie XL is the Dutch-born musician, remixer and producer Tom Holkenborg who busted onto the scene more than ten years ago with his debut solo set, Saturday Teenage Kick.

Along four additional solo collections, including a 2003 set that included guest collabs withDepeche Mode‘s Dave Gahan, the Cure‘s Robert Smith and Public Enemy‘s Chuck D., XL has also kicked remixes for ColdplayBloc Party and Justin Timberlake.

For this piece, taken from a four-song EP, Holkenborg turns over the controls to Toronto-based remixers Azari & III, recent purveyors of their own long-player Into The Night. From the opening beats, which are straight-up old school disco dance, A & III begin with a layer of hypnotic bass and slather the synths on the top and sides of sound culminating in a dizzying space-out at the very end.

Along with this mix, the Molly’s E EP (out on Nettwerk) includes an Azari vocal remix as well as a remix by French producer Canblaster.

Buy his stuff on iTunes

Junkie Xl – Molly E

LeVar Thomas

Free MP3: LeVar Thomas’ “Lovin’ Alone”

LeVar Thomas

“Surrounded by a family with a great love for life and music, it must have been the destiny of South Carolina raised LeVar Thomas to become a singer and songwriter.” So opens the biography of this talented singer and songwriter.

“As a child LeVar spent his afternoons at his grandparents house,” his story continues. “He would hear his uncles blaring hip-hop in one room, his grandmother listening to gospel records in another room and his grandfather singing while tending his garden. While at home he grabbed every record his mother and father had around and listened intently to each one of them.”

It’s the variety of influences LeVar drops into his cut “Lovin’ Alone” that impresses us. We hear the 60s gospel-flavored of Aretha in his voice, we love hearing the harmonies of the great 70s standup soul groups like the Chi-Lites and the electro-pop beats of 80s-era Hall & Oates all wrapped around lyrics that could’ve been nestled into a Boyz II Men jam.

Take a minute to read the full biography of Levar Thomas, dig his free download and make sure to support this good man’s music.

Originally written for MP3.com

Buy LeVar Thomas’ music on iTunes

Levar Thomas – Lovin’ Alone