Tag: NYU

New Video: Kris Kelly Releases a Symbolic and Animated Visual for “Cracked Porcelain”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer Kris Kelly. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, […]

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New Video: Singer Songwriter Kris Kelly Releases an Intimate Solo Acoustic Performance of “Cracked Porcelain”

Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.

Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco’s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.  The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos. 

Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others. Recently Kelly released a live and very intimate, solo, acoustic session featuring “Cracked Porcelain,” that gently pulls and teases out the song’s gorgeous melody — and forces the listener to pay even closer attention to the song’s lyrics. 

“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.

“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?

“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”

Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.

Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco‘s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.  The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos

Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others.

“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.

“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?

“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”

Raymond James Mason is a Long Island, NY-born, Brooklyn-born trombonist and singer/songwriter. As the story goes, Mason picked up the trombone at a very young age, and as a teenager, he studied classical performance and jazz studies at my alma mater NYU, where he studied with Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber and Elliot Mason. Upon graduating, Mason quickly became an in-demand musician, playing across a wide variety of genres; but he’s best known for being a member of renowned local Afrobeat act Antibalas, which eventually led to him becoming a member of the Daptone Records/Dunham Records in-house band, playing with the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields and the The Expressions and many others. Additionally, Mason has performed and or recorded with the likes of Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Tame Impala, Maren Morris, Earth Wind and Fire, Mark Ronson and and more. Unsurprisingly, he very busy Mason learned from these artists while honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.

Back in October 2016, Mason reached out to Daptone Records house band member, longtime friend and Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik to set up at a casual recording session. At the time, Aukstik was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped with only a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Aukstik and Mason assembled an all-star squad of local soul musicians, including Alex Chakour, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Freddy DeBoe, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Joe Harrison, who has played with Nick Hakim and Charles Bradley; and Morgan Price, who has played with Antibalas to record a couple of Mason’s compositions — two of which wound up becoming the A and B sides of Mason’s solo debut, “Back When”/”No Clue.”

A side single “Back When” is a strutting and swaggering bit of a soul pop centered around an arrangement of Arp Omni bass synth, fuzzy guitar lines and a steady backbeat — and while thematically the song is a universal tale of lost opportunity and what could have beens, it’s a decidedly contemporary take on the Dala Records sound, as it nods at contemporary soul, hip-hop and psych pop in a way that brings Tame Impala, Nick Hakim and others to mind. “No Clue,” the B side single is centered around fuzzy power chords and a garage rock vibe, while thematically the song focuses on a dysfunctional and confusing relationship. Both singles reveal an an up-and-coming artist, who’s actively and earnestly pushing the sonic boundaries of soul.

 

 

THROWBACK: John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” — Or Some Thoughts on Jazz, My Father and The Events of 9/11

John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme has been an annual tradition since this site’s inception, and while it may arguably be among one of the most beautiful album s ever written and recorded, it’s also an album that has a deeply personal meaning to me; in fact, the tradition goes back to about roughly 2005. On that particular September 11th, I had come  home from a job at a small Midtown Manhattan-based publisher to my father cooking and playing A Love Supreme on the living room stereo loudly — so loudly that it almost felt and sounded as though the musicians were playing right in our living room. My father wasn’t exactly the most thoughtful or even mindful person but in light of such terrifying and awful events, it seemed to be one of the most thoughtful things he’s done in many years; after all, the album is not just a reminder of the profound beauty we are sometimes capable of, as well an album that humbly contemplates the nature of God and of God’s love. And it made quite a bit of sense. 

Now, as you know, this post is an annual tradition here and as you may recall, my father was a complicated and conflicting figure in my life. He was a terrible drunk and died at the age of 57. Throughout his life, he was in many was, he was three or four different people at various points in my life, and I’ll never be able to completely reconcile all of them. Years ago, I learned to just accept it as it is. And while he may have been a unknowable and sometimes terrible person, who I frequently hated and had no respect for, he was my father — and unlike some of the people I grew up, I knew him and he was around, even if he was sort of absent. But he taught me how to did teach me how to wear a suit and how to tie a tie; how to catch a baseball and how to throw it; how to read a point spread; raised me as a Yankee fan; and he was a huge jazz fan — particularly, the bop era. One of the rare positive things I can remember is my father playing old Horace Silver, Oliver  Nelson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and a long list of others. Dad loved Coltrane the most, and in my house, he was something akin to a god. In some way small way, those old albums are one of the only ways I can truly connect to him in a way that makes sense. 

As a native New Yorker, September 11th has a much different meaning and feel than most other Americans. Back then, I was finishing my last semester at NYU, and I can still remember coming across the missing posters posted all across town. At the West 4th Street A,B,C,D,E,F, and M station — the M train didn’t stop there at the time; but it does now — the victim’s families posted missing posters from ceiling to floor, going end to end, east to west, across Sixth Avenue. With each of those posters, the family tried to capture their loved one  in the fullness of their lives, smiling in that awkward and self-conscious fashion that we all do in extremely posed pictures or doing something that they loved. “My friend such and such was last seen on the 103rd floor . . . ,” several would read, and they were pleading for any information they could get on their loved one.  But somehow you just knew that most of those people would never be found again; that they’d never be returning home ever again; and the family would be left with somehow trying to piece together their lives without someone they loved. Personally, I quickly recognized that in every one of those pictures, it was much like looking at someone you knew and/or saw regularly — your neighbor, your childhood friend, an ex-boyfrend or girlfriend, your coworker’s wife or kid, your cousin, a family friend you hadn’t seen in some time, a coworker. And although New York is a bustling city of 8.1 million people, there are countless moments in which it’s one of the smallest places in the wold, and as a result, you knew someone who survived the attacks or someone who lost someone. It’s a deeply visceral sensation of along the lines of “that could have been me, that could have been me, that could have been me/thank goodness, it wasn’t me, thank goodness, thank goodness.” 

Understandably, my mind turns to the families of the victims and survivors and the world at large today. In the past I’ve suggested wordy but thoughts on religion and our purpose here. I won’t do that today. I’ll just simply say this — cherish life. Cherish life always. This is all we know, and it may very well be all we have.