Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s featured selection is “Close Your Eyes-We Are Blind” by Alaska in Winter from the 2008 album Dance Party in the Balkans on Milan Records.
Alaska in Winter is really Brandon Bethancourt, an art student from New Mexico, who began the project in, you guessed it, Alaska, where he spent a semester in a cabin recording music. It wasn’t until he returned from isolation, though, and collaborated with Zach Condon of Beirut and Heather Trost from A Hawk And A Hacksaw that Dance Party in the Balkans, with all of its Eastern European flavor, came together. The album is a natural progression from Bethancourt’s previous project, Opion Somnium, for which he also collaborated with Condon and Trost, among other Albuquerque musicians. While Opion Somnium was more glacially composed and paced (think Mum, Sigur Ros, and Rachel’s), it seems that the frost of an Alaskan winter has warmed the tone of Dance Party in the Balkans and the result is an album of frequently danceable electo-pop. “Close Your Eyes-We Are Blind” is a perfect example of Alaska in Winter’s collaborative nature. Beginning like a cut from a Beirut album, with Condon commanding vocals over his strumming ukulele, the song then shifts to a more chilled synthesized melody with modulated vocals from Bethancourt, until, finally, rustic East meets electronic West as a chorus builds over a canned Casio drum program and Condon’s acoustic rhythm.
Currently, Alaska in Winter is touring Northern Europe, but hopefully they’ll be back your way sometime soon. Keep up with the band’s MySpace page and for now, check out this video for “Your Red Dress (Wedding Song at Cemetery),” also featuring Zach Condon: