Profile: Listener

The time where we open up your mind to some new music is upon us. Put down your phone/mouse/keyboard/tv remote, 'cos these guys are really something special. Listener are a welcome reminder of the fresh and original creations out there, if you only look.

Americans Dan Smith (vocals) and Christin Nelson (the music) originate from Georgia and Nevada and have been on the road together since 2007, with Dan having toured under the 'Listener' moniker since 2002. Some of Dan's earlier albums definitely fall into the hip hop/rap genre with vocals of a much more emcee style about them, however, it's the later/most recent album, Wooden Heart which I really want to tell you about.

Labelling their musical style as, 'Talk Music', the band already have four albums under their belts - Wooden Heart (2010), Not Waving Drowning (2009), Return To Struggleville (2009) and Whispermoon (2003). The 'Talk Music' style they posses could be a sort of celebration and modern evolution of the Beat Generation - a group of American writers (Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac being the most famous) in the post WWII era, rising to prominence in the fifties. Together, they began a cultural movement that idealised and experimented in non-conformity and spontaneous creativity - essentially the beginnings of the hippie counterculture; the bohemian hedonists.

Listener are a hidden gem in the indie underground, their music more of a poetic recital put to music, but far more beautiful, complex and intense than one would imagine. The lyrics, or verses of poetry, are deeply meaningful; swelling and building in unison with the music. Dan's vocals are passionate, sporadic, charming, agitated and with an endearing southern twang, all at once. The subjects of death, love, loss, pain and longing might seem a little indulgent at first, but after a few listens, the sheer substance jumps out and hits you with some of the most sincere and honest songwriting you care to bare witness to.

There's something in Dan's vocals and Chris's sparse, ethereal combination of southern, pulsing rock and slow electronic jams that offer a real uplifting feeling, despite the subject matter. The vocals are what hold the record together, making the listener step back and take note. The rawness, the passion and Dan's unrestrained, all-or-nothing style is what really helps to deliver the emotion across. Wooden Heart is full of fantastic lyricism. Detailed, observational and full of vivid, image-fuelling metaphors and descriptions that flow easily and effortlessly. They are an art in themselves.

"She's the kind of lady that calls everybody baby, honey, sugar, sweetie, she's always making friends and she keeps us all locked outside her thick leather skin. She always starts with a smile, it's small and butter yellow, but easier than a handshake, doesn't like her hands touched." - Seatbelt Hands

One of the darker tracks on the record, These Hands Weren't Made For Us; a brooding, angry, guitar-heavy warning siren of the evil to come, is one of my personal favourites, along with the lead song, You Have Never Lived Because You Have Never Died. The track opens with a an innocent, gently plucked banjo, interspersed with distorted guitar in the verses. A medling, high-pitched guitar riff over the chorus creates an eerie effect.

This band deserves all the attention they get, I really can't sing their praises enough. So have a listen below to Wooden Heart. What do you think?

Links | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |