Category Archives: Alessi’s Ark

Alessi’s Ark Covers The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”

Rawkblog got the premiere for this sweet cover of the Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”, which you can listen to here. And after her fantastic cover of Lesley Gore’s “Maybe I Know” (above), I think the girl can cover damn near anything.

Alessi has also given us a holiday playlist, full of delightful classics. You could grab a cup of cocoa and listen to it by the fire, or put Time Travel on instead. Either one will leave you feeling warm and happy.

While we’re on the subject of Yep Roc/Bella Union, listen to this badass tune from new artist Cheyenne Marie Mize (whom I saw with Johnny Flynn). “Wishing Well” (below) reminds me a bit of Feist’s “When I Was a Young Girl”.

The Decemberists Release Infinite Jest-Inspired Music Video

NPR says it perfectly: “We all know about Trekkies. Or those Star Wars super-fans who go to Comic Con dressed up like Boba Fett. But what about all those Infinite Jest worshipers out there? Who can they turn to for obscure references to David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus? Well, The Decemberists, of course.”

This video for “The Calamity Song” might make hipsters explode. I’ve never read Infinite Jest, but the Michael Schur (co-creator of Parks and Rec, vet of the Office and SNL)-directed piece is still comprehensible to culture-less noobs like me.

The video below, a Bands In Transit live session, might make folk junkies (self included) explode. Alessi’s Ark is gearing up for the September 27th US release of Time Travel, and sat down with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons to perform the album’s titular track.

The Leisure Society Join Laura Marling on UK Tour

The Leisure Society’s “Dust on the Dancefloor”, live in the Virgin Red Room.

I must say, The Leisure Society’s second album, Into the Murky Water, is shaping up to be one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s full of fun, bright, melodious pop songs like their next single, “Dust on the Dancefloor” (above), and “This Phantom Life” (the video is great–watch it!). It’s just a solid record.

While I’m not complaining about the fact that I’ll be seeing the inimitable Alessi’s Ark on my branch of Laura Marling’s tour, I would dearly like to see this merry group of Londoners. If you’re in the UK and have coveted tickets to Ms. Marling’s sold-out cathedral tour, congratulations: you get to head-bob your way through a Leisure Society set.

You can also buy tickets for The Leisure Society’s gig at the Barbican on December 8th (with the Heritage Orchestra and Micah P Hinson).

International Markets: The Upside for UK Music

Music royalty orgnization PRS for Music published its annual Adding up the UK music industry report today, presenting dismal figures for 2010. Even live music revenues, which had been on an impressive rise over the past several years, fell 11.8% between 2009 and 2010. UK industry revenues overall fell 4.8%. Yikes.

Is there anything good in a landscape that seems as bleak as London fog? Well, yes. Will Page, the chief economist for PRS for Music, advises in his report that the UK industry should ‘get small’ and ‘get abroad’. The first theme involves “reducing the transaction costs of managing metadata”, which I won’t pretend I understand. I’ll leave that topic for the grown-ups.

The second nugget of wisdom, though, I will happily discuss. The report found that royalties societies in the UK (like PRS for Music) did significantly better than those in the US (like ASCAP) over the 2010 year. Page acknowledges the huge potential for growth in exports, including in emerging markets like Brazil, India, and China. Page writes: “According to the BPI, UK artists’ share of global sales is estimated to be 11.8 percent in 2010, with one-in-ten sales in the US being a UK act and up to one-in-five in markets like Germany and Australia.”

While the report doesn’t talk about folk/new-folk/acoustic music specifically, I’d like to think that some of this growth has to do with the very artists I write about so frequently. While Adele may be queen in terms of sales figures (she was “responsible for almost 10% of all artist albums sold in the first four months of the year”), it shouldn’t be ignored that Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More hit number 2 on the Billboard 200. (And performed at the Grammys. And graced the cover of SPIN.) Their rise to the top is the gift that keeps on giving, through both their exposure-building US tours (bringing along artists like King Charles and Matthew and the Atlas) and the efforts of label/club night Communion. Even buzzy indie rock darlings the Vaccines grew out of the same tiny music establishment in southwest London, Bosun’s Locker (back when Justin Young was Jay Jay Pistolet, and shared a flat with Marcus Mumford).

While other UK folk acts have yet to reach the same status as the waistcoat-wearing Sons, they are certainly on the way. Noah and the Whale grabbed attention for their polished new sound and teaming up with director-photographer Autumn de Wilde on “Life is Life”. Alessi’s Ark made the New York Times at SXSW. Matthew and the Atlas and James Vincent McMorrow recorded for Daytrotter. Emmy the Great’s Virtue got a review in Pitchfork. Slow Club made waves (and Mashable) by debuting new material on (with Paste magazine).

These are just the things that came to mind, but the fact remains that these artists are much closer to US recognition than they’ve ever been before. I can casually talk about Laura Marling or Johnny Flynn without getting blank stares, and I can buy the Communion compilation in Mojo magazine at an airport. I no longer have to scour Youtube for new-folk material–I can just click on iTunes (or Spotify). Back when I first found this whole ‘scene’, things like the Black Cab Sessions, Bandstand Busking, and even Jeremy Warmsley’s Welcome to Our TV Show (and the later version, Jeremy Warmsley’s New Thing) were about all I had. From my perspective, the rise in popularity since those early days (three-ish years ago) seems massive.

Furthermore, another BPI survey found that 83% of people are proud of the achievements of British music. While I’m sure they were dealing with Brits proper, I’m pretty proud of those achievements, too. For even though these new-folk artists often acknowledge American musical influences, there is something quintessentially and inescapably English (or Scottish, or Irish, depending) about them. So by all means, UK music industry–follow the advice of Mr. Page and ‘get abroad’. I’ll welcome you with open arms.

Emmy the Great New Single and Album Stream, Alessi’s Ark Stream

The video for Emmy the Great’s new single “Iris” seems to have been posted May 12th, but the single was officially released yesterday. Though free download “Century of Sleep” (below) has already been circulating, “Iris” is the first official single off Virtue.

The much-anticipated new album will arrive in the UK on June 13th, and the US June 14th. As I wrote about last August, Emmy used PledgeMusic to fund the work entirely through fan contributions.

The Guardian has a full stream of the album–as well as track-by-track commentary from Emmy–here. Excuse me while I go all fan-girl on this business.

p.s. For us American Alessi’s Ark fans, stream “On the Plains” here! As of today it’s also available for purchase on iTunes. We’ll have to wait until September for the full release of sophomore LP Time Travel.

REPOST: Interview with Alessi’s Ark

Back in November, I did an interview with the wonderful Alessi Laurent-Marke, who plays as Alessi’s Ark. In honor of today’s release of her sophomore album, Time Travel, I thought I’d bring it back up.
Although I can’t claim to know her personally, Alessi’s Ark (Alessi Laurent-Marke) seems like the sweetest person in the world. I imagine she bakes cakes, and drinks tea out of antique china cups, and grows flowers on the windowsill of her quaint English apartment. Maybe she owns a cat named after her favorite Jane Austen character. I’ll probably never be able to confirm these particular assertions, but I did have the opportunity to ask her some rather more important things. I caught her in the middle of a busy winter: having just returned from promoting her charming EP Soul Proprietor in the US, Alessi is about to embark on a UK tour with Villagers. Her album is due sometime this coming spring, and this particular slightly obsessive fangirl fully expects it to be fantastic.

How was your US tour? Do you find performing in the US different from the UK?
The tour was lovely! It was such a treat to travel around sharing the music, meeting lovely people along the way. I’d say the vast distances you cover while touring in the States is the biggest difference in comparison to touring in the U.K. Our country feels so tight-knit now that I’ve seen a bit more of your part of the world! Really though, it was the warmth and kindness of the people that I stayed with and met at the shows that really made the trip. The beautiful leaves and hard rain in the Portland was amazing too!

How has your experience making Soul Proprietor been different from working with EMI on Notes from the Treehouse?
The Soul Proprietor E.P took just a few days to record and was played live for the most part. Notes from the Treehouse is an album and so obviously a larger body of work which took about a year; travelling back and forth to Omaha, brainstorming etc and it was also my first experience in a studio–there were things to learn and get used to but now that I’ve had that experience in a studio, putting together Soul Proprietor was a much speedier process. Always learning.

How do you get ideas for your songs? Do you think your style or sources of inspiration have changed over time?
Yes, I think some of the sources of inspiration for the songs have changed over time but still a lot of the things that have inspired me in the past still do; nature, friendships, the solar system…

How do you feel you’ve evolved as a songwriter and performer (especially because you started at such a young age!)?
I have been very fortunate to travel through touring and I feel the time and distances I’ve spent away from the people I love and familiar things have been on my mind a lot since the first album. Touring alone, makes the music evolve–songs over time take on new meanings and forms.

You have many creative outlets–besides writing songs (and a fanzine!), you have various art exhibitions, and sew adorable Ark bags! How do you see these forms of creative expression working together? Do they inspire each other, or feel distinct?
The sewn bits and pieces and drawings are good fun and get the brain coils turning in a different way than playing music does. The mixture of these things hopefully keep others good company and show the tangible side to the ideas in the music.

You’ve said in interviews that the idea of the ‘Ark’ has a lot to do with collaboration, inclusiveness, and friendship. Do you consider the London ‘new-folk’ community (and feel free to contest that label) a part of that? What are your thoughts about the scene’s rising popularity?
It’s lovely that music coming out of the community that you described in London is catching the attention of other ears. Good on ’em!

What artists inspire you? What are you listening to at the moment?
People are inspiring. At the moment I’m listening to Sharon Van Etten quite and this morning, I was listening to Denis Jones and a German musician called Fabian Simon, who’ll be releasing a new album soon–a real mixture of sounds. Molly Costello’s artwork is a great source of calm and inspiration as always. You can have a look here:

What do you consider the most important thing you’ve learned in your musical career so far?
Trust your heart.

When do we get to hear the new album? Can you tell us anything about it?
The new album was great fun to put together! It was recorded in two parts; down by the sea in Brighton with the wonderful Willkommen Collective and in North Wales with wonderful David Wrench. I highly recommend checking out the music they all make themselves! The album will be out for ears in the Spring–looking forward to sharing it!

A Box, A Cab, and a Laundromat Walk into a Bar….

Not really. That would be pretty bizarre. But my earlier post on venues got me thinking about the variety of weird-ass performances spaces that have cropped up as videotaped sessions, and I thought I’d compile a playlist of some of my favorites. Just for kicks.

NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts (check out Fanfarlo’s)
Probably one of the most well-known recording sessions ‘in miniature’, the Tiny Desk concerts take place at the desk of Bob Boilen, the host of NPR’s All Songs Considered. Surrounded by the familiar chaos of a packed office, musicians from Adele to the Antlers have graced the space.

Bandstand Busking (Peggy Sue, above)
Bandstand Busking brings an assortment of fantastic musicians to abandoned bandstands around London. I happen to think it’s the bee’s knees, and I know from experience that it’s a great way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Black Cab Sessions
Black Cab Sessions has featured everyone from Laura Marling to Little Boots. Artists squeeze themselves and their instruments into the back of a cab, play a great song, and call it a day. One shot. My personal favorite is the fabulous session with King Charles, but the acoustic version of “Was It Worth It” by Summer Camp is also wonderful (and sassy!).

Balcony TV
Balcony TV films bands on balconies (duh) all over the world. They’ve spread from the UK to everywhere from Mexico City and Auckland. Balcony TV is very likely to have filmed the band you’ll be listening to obsessively eight months from now. Their Mumford & Sons video, for example (and by far their most viewed), was filmed not too long after the band was formed….and look at them now. I’m rather fond of the Spindle & Wit session above.

Lavomatik Sessions
This French recording session takes place in a laundromat. I never would have thought of that as a possible recording space, but admittedly the acoustics would have to be pretty good. Jeremy Warmsley’s session starts with “Take Care” and ends with a sweet little piece of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

Folk In a Box
Folk In a Box doesn’t record anything, and you should consider yourself pretty lucky if you happen to hear one of their concerts. The premise is simple: one person walks into a small wooden box. Someone in the box is playing folk music. The audience member listens.

Songs from the Shed
It’s like Folk In a Box, on a larger scale–with ‘larger’ being extremely relative. For one, these concerts are actually taped. The Shed has been doing quite well for itself; it was featured in a BBC documentary, and has gotten a lot of press coverage. You can see in the Admiral Fallow session above that it’s a pretty tight fit, but bands seem to do just fine.

Bird Song – Alessi’s Ark (TWHP Session) from The Wild Honey Pie on Vimeo.

The Wild Honey Pie Buzzsessions
These things take place everywhere. King Charles played in a horse-drawn carriage; other bands play in New York’s Union Square, LA vintage stores, random apartments, various parks, creepy New York alleys. The Wild Honey Pie also has a lot of concert footage and filmed interviews. The above session with Alessi’s Ark is beautiful.

Yours Truly
Yours Truly ( hails from San Francisco and has produced some wonderful, high quality music sessions. The one above by the Morning Benders was the very first thing I ever heard by the Berkeley band, and it got me hooked. They produce lovely videos, and get great artist interviews/behind-the-scenes looks. It also features the clever gimmick of artist letters–signed Yours Truly, of course–written to whomever they damn well please. The Morning Benders, for instance, wrote to Phil Spector.

These sessions are the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t include the obvious ones, like Daytrotter (yeah, it’s audio…but it’s fabulous) or La Blogotheque. If you have any favorites or sessions in particularly zany locations that I’ve missed, leave me a comment!

New York Times Highlights Alessi’s Hotel Room Concert

Sea of Bees performs at the Hotel Driskill for NPR Music.

From everything I hear, SXSW is a completely unique experience. Besides the thousands upon thousands of musicians and industry buffs braving the Texas heat, the festival also features gigs in just about every square inch of space Austin has to offer. This includes everything from Jack White in a parking lot to fireworks courtesy of the Strokes.

The New York Times highlighted one of the most intimate uses of space at the festival: the hotel room. Three singer-songwriters–Holcombe Waller, Jenny O, and the inimitable Alessi’s Ark–took to the Driskill Hotel to play cozy sets for some music insiders and friends. The event was set up by Waller’s manager, Alicia J. Rose. According to the article, Alessi’s addition was a stroke of scheduling luck and chance: “‘They handed me a piece of chocolate and asked if I had any more shows, and I said no,” Ms. Laurent-Marke said. “Then they said they were having this salmon breakfast, and asked if I’d play. I said yes, of course. I love salmon.'” Her soft songs would be a perfect fit for this makeshift ‘venue’, with a bed for its stage and nightstand lamp its only spotlight.

San Francisco-based blog Yours Truly partnered with MTV to produce another intimate session: the appropriately titled In My Room. This Austin edition (previous San Francisco In My Room sessions have included artists such as Memoryhouse and Holly Miranda) featured Cults, Twin Shadow, The Kills, Yuck, and The Head and The Heart.

These events and others like them (see video above) speak not only to the desire for personalized performances (the popularity of Blogotheque-esque video recordings in increasingly eccentric locations is nothing new), but also the coolest part of a festival like SXSW. This massive influx of talent and creativity inspires all manner of seemingly organic maneuvering within the defined structure of the event itself. At least to this outsider, SXSW Music feels like a giant high school reunion, with groups of friends (old and new) coming together for the sake of art and discovery. The result–performances in unique spaces from hotel rooms to bike shops–lets intimacy cut through the din.