Category: singer/songwriters

Ursa Major is a 19 year-old Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who describes his work and sound as Psychedelic R&B as he claims that his sound manages to fit in a comfortable middle ground between the sounds of the past and the contemporary electronic production — although to my ears, the Canadian producer’s debut single “Dusk” bears an uncanny resemblance to JOVM mainstay act, Gosh Pith as the song pairs rumbling and wobbling low end, skittering drum programming and soulful vocals in a song that focuses on lust, loneliness and desperate longing. That shouldn’t be surprising as the young and super talented Canadian artist has noted that his early work focuses on past loves, a fear and inability to move forward, and the complicated and heartbreaking process of falling in and out of love repeatedly. And if you remember anything about being 19 it seems that love was a fickle and ridiculous thing.

 

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If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that I’ve written about San Francisco, CA and Big Sur, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Jenny Gillespie. Gillespie can trace her musical career to he childhood — during drives to and from the Springfield, IL area, where she was born and raised, she spent quite a bit of time harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, who is a gifted and renowned pianist. When the San Francisco and Big Sur-based singer/songwriter was 13, she picked up her mother’s Martin guitar and began putting the poems she had been writing to her own original music. Gillespie’s life was further changed when a local record store clerk gave her album from three of the 90s most renowned singer/songwriters Tori AmosSarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin — all of whom quickly became major influences on Gillespie’s music and songwriting.

After stints living in Virginia, Paris and Texas, Gillespie relocated to Chicago, where she self-produced and then released her sophomore album, Light Year, a folk and alt-country album that received quite a bit of praise. And as a result the attention Light Year received, Gillespie met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX-based multi-instrumentalist, with whom she wrote her third full-length effort, Kindred, a sparse, experimental, electronica-based effort recorded in an old house in Wilmette, IL with contributions from Steve Moore, who has worked with Tift Merritt and Laura Veirs and Dony Wynn, who has worked with the legendary Robert Plant.

Inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya that led her to an African fingerpicking class at the Old Town School of Folk Music and studying for an MFA in Poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, Gillespie found her sound and songwriting approach expanding and becoming more refined. By the fall of 2011, she traveled to NYC to record the EP Belita with Shazard Ismaily, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Lou ReedBonnie Prince Billy, and St. Vincent. Interestingly, that effort possesses elements of pop, folk music, African and Asian rhythms and tones.

Featuring contributions from Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (CalifoneIron and Wine) on drums, her last full-length effort Chamma was released to critical praise, including landing on Billboard Magazines Top 25 Albums of 2014 List. Naturally, that has seen Gillespie’s profile grow nationally — and continuing on that buzz, the singer/songwriter is set to release Chamma‘s follow-up, Cure for Dreaming through Narooma Records at the end of the month.  Recorded over the past couple of months and featuring contributions from Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda WilliamsBon Iver), the album  reportedly possesses elements of folk, progressive jazz, and 60s and 70s AM pop.

The album’s first single “No Stone” paired Gillespie’s unhurried and husky vocals with a spacious and subtly jazz-like arrangement of keys, guitar, bass, gently buzzing electronics and hushed drumming in a song that felt as intimate as a lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And at the song’s core was a conversational lyricism that possessed a novelist’s attention to detail — both physical and psychological — as you can picture a woman who hides her face by the ocean, cherry blossoms in bloom, and someone peering through a keyhole to see a depressed woman struggling to just start her day. And as a result the song’s narrator feels like a fully-fleshed out person, desperately struggling to push forward.
The album’s second and latest single “Part Potawatomi” pairs Gillespie’s unhurried and ethereal vocals with a hummable melody, a deceptively simple arrangement of guitar, drums, bass and ambient electronics that sonically bears a resemblance to Junip — and their frontman, Jose Gonzalez‘s solo work.  And much like much like the album’s first single “No Stone,” “Part Potawatomi” reveals a Gillespie’s remarkable attention to detail, as the song frankly discusses the slow and seemingly inevitable dissolution of a romantic relationship metaphorically described as a storm brewing over the shore. The song’s narrator seems to evoke the sensation of being trapped in a relationship that’s going nowhere out of familial and moral obligation — and as a result, the song possesses a subtle yet increasing feeling of frustration and regret, while being one of the more beautiful songs I’ve heard in the past 10 days.

 

Blaccout Garrison is a Minnesota based singer/songwriter and emcee, who has started to receive attention on this site and across the blogosphere for his Hungry Soulful EP, which has the Minnesotan artist collaboration with the likes of Jackson, WY-based emcee Abstract and Chicago-based R&B vocalist and singer/songwriter The Elle. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that I wrote about “Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert.” Produced by Dthr33, the song featured the use of a familiar and beloved sample to real hip-hop heads — the soulful and jazzy sample that comprises A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Bonita Applebum paired with The Elle’s soulful and seductive hook, as Garrison and Abstract trade old-school inspired verses about the women they love. And fittingly, much like the old school hip-hop sample, the emcees rhyme about their loves in charmingly old school terms as they describe how strong, stunning and smart their loves are, and how they both want to treat their loves as the queens and goddesses that the emcees know their ladies are.

Certainly, in an age in which contemporary mainstream artists have openly referred to women in disparaging and ugly terms, hearing such old-school sentiment is not just much-needed it’s refreshingly sweet.

Produced by P-Soul, Garrison’s latest single “Wishing On A Star” pairs a subtly chopped up old-timey, twinkling piano sample, boom-bap drum programming with The Elle’s effortlessly soulful vocals singing the song’s introductory verses and hook as Garrison rhymes about overcoming life’s frustrations and obstacles while being focused on one’s dreams. It’s positive, thoughtful and deeply soulful music — and in an age of soulless, cynically calculated, prepackaged music such thoughtful and earnest music is needed now more than ever before.

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of Willy Vlautin (vocals, acoustic guitar and electric guitar), Dave Harding (bass, backing vocals), Sean Oldham (drums, percussion, vibes and backing vocals). Dan Eccles (guitar) and Paul Brainard (pedal steel, piano, vibes, acoustic guitar, trumpet and backing vocals), the Portland, OR-based alt country quintet Richmond Fontaine can trace its origins back to 1994 when the founding duo of Vlautin and Harding met at Portland Meadows Racetrack and pored over the racing form and talked about music. Bonding over their mutual love of Husker Du, Willie Nelson, X, The Blasters and The Replacements, the duo decided to write and play music together. After expanding to a quartet, Richmond Fontaine developed a reputation for a sound that meshed elements of rock, country, punk and folk and paired them with Vlautin’s narrative-based songwriting (which has interestingly enough have been compared favorably to the short stories of Raymond Carver and Larry Brown). And as a result, the band has been praised by a number of nationally recognized and internationally recognized outlets including UncutQ MagazineMojoThe IndependentThe Sun and others.

Interestingly, over the past 8 years or so Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin has also developed a reputation as a critically acclaimed novelist. His debut novel The Motel Life won a Silver Pen Award from the state of Nevada and landed on the The Washington Post‘s Top 25 Books of 2007 — and it was later adapted into the critically acclaimed movie, The Motel Life which starred Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. Northline, Vlautin’s second novel was published in 2008 and was a San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten Bestseller. His third novel, Lean on Pete was published in 2010 and won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and was Hot Press’ book of the year. And his last novel, The Free was published two years ago. Along with nine full-length albums, an instrumental soundtrack for Northline, two live albums and an EP,  Vlautin and company have been incredibly (and exhaustingly) prolific.

After a three year hiatus from recording, the members of Richmond Fontaine returned to the studio with their long-time producer John Askew to write and then record their forthcoming tenth full-length effort, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, which is slated for a March 18 release through Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and Decor Records across Europe.  The album’s first single “Wake Up Ray,” is a jangling bit of alt country that tells a story with such exquisite narrative details that it creates a very real, lived in world in which the song’s characters wake up every day to a life and a house that they hate and yet feels largely inescapable — all while reminiscing over the time that’s passed and a love that’s long been over. And although wistful and mournful over the things that can’t be, there’s an acceptance of things being impermanent and a quiet joy in once knowing those things.

 

 

Born in a musical household in which her mother was a successful vocalist and her father was a professional musician and businessman, Munich, Germany-based singer/songwriter, producer and DJ Sandy Dae followed her parents footsteps as a professional musician and vocalist.

Early in her career, the Munich-based vocalist, producer and DJ relentlessly experimented across a variety of genres to find her creative voice — her first release was melodic house but she followed that up with an R&B and hip-hop-based collaboration with another DJ. Dae also has had stints as a vocalist in an alternative/indie rock project and in a reggae project before eventually returning to electronic music. And when Dae returned to electronic music, she realized that she had been where she needed to be all along.

Sandy Dae’s latest single “Losing Myself” pairs the Munich-based artist’s sultry and jazz-leaning vocal stylings with a slick house music production — gorgeous keys, propulsive, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, distorted vocal samples, layers upon layers and an anthemic hook in a crowd-pleasing and club rocking song that manages to possess a naughty, come-hither quality while simultaneously being a kiss off to a potential lover, who could potentially be a time-waster and heartbreaker.

Renowned house music label Enormous Tunes will be officially releasing the single package on January 15 — and the single package will also have remixes from house duo Milk and Sugar and French, deep house producer Mark Lower.

 

 

New Video: The Gorgeous and Surreal Video for Bedouine’s Sultry and Jazzy, New Single “The City”

The Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter Bedouine‘s work has largely been inspired by a nomadic youth. As the mysterious singer/songwriter explained in press notes “I love exploring different places and sounds. My childhood was this amalgamation […]

The Insurrectionists is the solo recording project of  young, up-and-coming 20-something, New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Casey K, who began playing the guitar when he had turned 10. Using songwriting as an outlet for his frustrations and pain of growing up in a broken home, The Insurrectionists actually began as a full-fledged band featuring Casey K., his brother and a friend in 2005 before eventually morphing into its current solo format. But whether as a trio or as a solo act, the project has been largely influenced by a diverse array of acts and genres including Nirvana and Brand New while incorporating elements of piano ballads and piano rock, as well as synths and electronic music.

With the 2013 release of his debut EP, SquarePeg/RoundHole and several other singles, Casey K. has received praise for anthemic alt rock/indie rock with driving rhythms and lyrics that explore and discuss the modern condition — including the hellish company of people, messy lust and desire and more. “Diet Coke,” the first single off The Insurrectionists’ soon-to-be released album, I Gave You The Moon But You Wanted The Stars will likely cement Casey K.’s burgeoning reputation for writing a song with an anthemic and infectious hook, earnest vocals and driving rhythms — but it also sounds as though it draws from New RadicalsYou Get What You Give” but with a harder, grittier edge, while possessing a dreamy feel. The song suggests that the young singer/songwriter and multi-instruemtalist has an innate ability to craft an infectious radio-friendly hook that also manages to be subversive.

 

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Jonathan Hoard is a Columbus, OH-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, vocal arranger and teacher, who has had a lengthy history performing and recording with a number of Grammy Award-winning artists and producers including Regina Belle, Tracy Pierce, Richard Smallwood, Rashad McPherson and DivinePURPOSE and his father, Stellar Award– nominated artist Ronald Hoard as a background vocalist. And with as the frontman of his own act, J. Hoard and The Greenhouse People, Hoard and company has opened for Dwele; however, I’m actually most familiar with Hoard through his work with Gentei Kaijo, the backing band to the popular soul/funk/hip-hop residency The Lesson.

Here’s where things get interesting. Earlier this month, I was at the Women In Music Holiday Party at Le Poisson Rouge when I ran into Melany Watson and a producer/songwriter and guitarist Greg Seltzer. And while chatting with Seltzer, he told me that he recently produced a song by J. Hoard featuring Rabbi Darkside. “Tidal Wave” pairs subtle soul clap-percussion and skittering drum programming with icily swirling synths, guitar chords played through reverb and twinkling keyboards with Hoard’s soulful falsetto which express ache, desire, and joy within a turn of a phrase. Rabbi Darkside contributes a silky smooth 16 bars at the song’s bridge about being in a seemingly turbulent situation and at the mercy at something far larger than yourself in a song that metaphorically views a tidal wave as both destructive and as a cleansing force — all while possessing a a quiet, understated self-determination.