Tag: Single Review

 

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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Although little is known about the Kent, WA-based trio So Pitted, the trio have started to receive attention for a sludgy and abrasive sound that some critics have compared favorably to Nirvana, Metz, Pere Ubu and others. “feed me,” the latest single off the band’s forthcoming album neo will further cement their burgeoning reputation as the band pairs sludgy and acidic guitar chords, layers upon layers of feedback, thundering and propulsive drumming, industrial clang and clatter and distorted vocals in a song that sounds as though it drew influence from Ministry.

The band will be on tour throughout January and February to build up buzz for the album. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates
Jan. 09 – Boston – The Sinclair *
Jan. 11 – Washington, D.C. – Rock & Roll Hotel *
Jan. 12 – Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church *
Mar. 04 – Paris, FR – Mecanique Ondulatoire
Mar. 05 – Amsterdam, NL – Butcher’s Tears
Mar. 07 – London, UK – The Shacklewell Arms
Mar. 08 – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Games Room
Mar. 10 – Lille, UK – La Peniche
Mar. 11 -Brussells, BE – Homepluged
Mar. 12 – Berlin, DE – West Germany
Mar. 15 – Austin, TX – SXSW
Mar. 16 – Austin, TX – SXSW
Mar. 17 – Austin, TX – SXSW
Mar. 18 – Austin, TX – SXSW
Mar. 19 – Austin, TX – SXSW
Mar. 20 – Austin, TX – SXSW
* w/ METZ + Bully

As the story goes, Flower‘s frontman and primary songwriter Jack Fowler wrote the band’s forthcoming album Waste of Life while in the middle of a holding pattern. Although he had a rather busy year as the frontman of exwhy, with the band signing to Other People Records and touring with Pujol and Knox Hamilton, Fowler desperately wanted to focus on revealing his vulnerable side; in fact, the album is inspired largely by Fowler’s own experience of being an office drone. As Fowler explains in press notes “I was working a pretty decent office job and doing absolutely nothing beyond working and getting depressed. I was just spinning my wheels and growing bored and really depressed. I was struggling with talking to people, being social at all. That’s the core of this album—anxiety and not being sure how to define yourself. ”

Waste of Life‘s latest single “Dreams” possesses a pent up frustration over ambitions, hopes and a life that seem indefinitely stalled from some larger, unmoving (and unrelenting), outside force and not having an idea as to what would be the best thing to do next; so the song’s narrator winds up sitting inert and inactive on the sidelines out of fear of fucking everything up — and yet, hating himself for his inability to do anything at all. And despite the song’s desperation and hopelessness, there’s a subtle sense of hope; that things will get better and that somehow life will push you in the direction you need to be going.

Sonically, the band pairs bitter and confused sentiment and anthemic hooks with layers of shimmering guitar and  driving rhythms in a song that sounds as though it draws influence from The Smiths and 80s post-punk. Much like the previous post, Flower’s sound is something that should sound warmly familiar to anyone who grew up in the 80s — but it manages to place that sound and feeling in high contemporary context, proving that the more things change, the more things wind up the same.

 

 

Comprised of Austin Knecht, Tamara Simons, Crystal Napoles, Kai Dodson and Joey Felkins, the up-and-coming Ventura, CA-based dream pop quintet Curtsy have started to receive attention across the blogosphere with the release of “One Less Thing,” a shimmering bit of guitar-led pop  that pairs a driving rhythm with anthemic hooks and gorgeous, ethereal harmonies that manages to sound as though it draws from classic shoegaze and 120 Minutes-era alt rock. Sure, their sound is warmly familiar to my ears, and it will be familiar to anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s — but they manage a heart wrenching sincerity that will likely bring back memories when we are all a bit more idealistic and a lot less cynical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born in rural Vermont and currently based in Atlanta, GA, Nick Takenobu Ogawa is a classically trained cellist and composer, who writes, records and performs under the moniker Takénobu. As the story goes, Ogawa was raised in an extremely small town with a population of about 1,000 residents — and as a result, the cellist and composer grew up playing in the woods, since he had no next-door neighbors and had no cable TV. His parents were professors at Middlebury College, and when Ogawa turned 6, they introduced him to cello, and he took private lessons and practiced religiously until he had turned 18. But after 12 years of study and orchestral playing, Ogawa began veering away from classical music and started focusing on a self-taught style of play that borrowed techniques from his guitar playing and composition based on a variety of roots and world music influences.

Ogawa moved to Kyoto, Japan, where he spent a year experimenting and cultivating his unique playing style and sound — until he had suffered a wrist injury from intense practice. He then wound up attending Haverford College in Philadelphia where he graduated with thoughts of entering law school; however, instead of studying for the LSAT’s and preparing applications, Ogawa moved to Vancouver, BC, where he recorded his full-length debut album. He then moved to Brooklyn and won the 2006 Williamsburg Live singer/songwriter competition and with the winnings he was able to release his 2007 debut effort, Introduction. The album was released to favorable reviews but didn’t gain much exposure.

Frustrated and despondent, Ogawa was close to giving up on pursuing music. But just before his own deadline, the Vermont-born, Atlanta, GA-based cellist and composer submitted his debut effort to Pandora. And ironically enough, just as he was about to give up was the exact moment that he started to see increasing press attention and commercial success; in fact, thanks to Pandora’s recommendation algorithm, in the four year period between 2007-2011, Introduction received enough streams and sales that Ogawa was able to focus on music full-time, releasing three more full-length album. Adding to a steadily growing national profile, Ogawa’s music has received airplay on NPR‘s Morning Edition, has opened for Kishi Bashi and performed and arranged cello on Dessa‘s “It’s Only Me.”  

Reversal, Ogawa’s fifth full-length effort is slated for a February 12, 2016 release and the album’s first single “Curtain Call” pairs a gorgeous and moody cello composition with Ogawa’s achingly plaintive vocals singing about a relationship that has come to an inevitable conclusion, and both sides have recognized that they have to part — perhaps forever. Sonically speaking the song employs the use of several different layers of cello to create a lush and yet spectral arrangement that emphasizes the melancholy sense of acceptance at the core of the song.

 

 

 

 

More than enough ink has been spilled throughout the lengthy and influential careers of The Staple Singers and Mavis Staples, and as a result it would make it unnecessary to delve deeply into her biography — or to repeat what countless others have written and said about her. What I will add is that over the past couple of years the legendary soul vocalist has been remarkably prolific — last year saw the release of the critically acclaimed Good Fortune EP, which was produced by renowned soul artist Son Little. And perhaps much more momentous, the posthumous release of Pops Staples‘ last recorded effort Don’t Lose This, an effort that required the assistance of Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy, who has been a frequent collaborator over the past few days, as well as a number of guest musicians to complete the album as her father intended.

February 19 marks the release of Mavis Staples’ latest album Livin’ On A High Note and the album will reportedly reference and draw from her 60+ year musical career influencing and defining soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues rock and even hip-hop. But the most interesting thing about the new album is that Mavis recruited a number of diverse and critically applauded contemporary artists to write songs on the album including Neko Case, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Nick Cave, Ben Harper, tUnE yArDs, Aloe Blacc, Benjamin Booker, The Head and the Heart and M. Ward — with Ward also taking up production duties. As the legendary soul singer explained in press notes “I’ve been singing my freedom songs and I wanted to stretch out and sing some songs that were new. I told the writers I was looking for some joyful songs. I want to leave something to lift people up; I’m so busy making people cry, not from sadness, but I’m always telling a part of history that brought us down and I’m trying to bring us back up. These songwriters gave me a challenge. They gave me that feeling of, ‘Hey, I can hang! I can still do this!’ There’s a variety, and it makes me feel refreshed and brand new. Just like Benjamin Booker wrote on the opening track, ‘I got friends and I got love around me, I got people, the people who love me.’ I’m living on a high note, I’m above the clouds. I’m just so grateful. I must be the happiest old girl in the world. Yes, indeed.”

 

 

The album’s latest single  “High Note” discusses something that is easier said than done for most us — and it’s certainly the case for me: taking the higher road despite how hurt, betrayed and disgusted you might be over a particular person or a particular situation, and doing so with grace and dignity. At the same time, the song’s narrator points out that taking the higher road requires wisdom and experience — sometimes embittering and hurtful ones to know when and how to do so. Sonically, the song pairs a loose and bluesy guitar line with Mavis’ legendary vocals in a song that radiates a comforting and soulful warmth that says “hey, I’ve been there, too.”

 

 

 

 

Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Rashie Rosenfarb, Matt Francis and Dan Avant, the Virginia Beach, VA-based trio Feral Conservatives have developed a reputation for a sound that balances anthemic pop/arena rock-leaning songwriting with lush, old-time folk arrangements and instrumentation. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that the band’s sound has been compared favorably to the likes of 90s alt rock acts like Velocity Girl, The Cranberries and Cocteau Twins. Interestingly enough, in true DIY fashion, the members of the Virginia Beach, VA-based trio released a series of self-released EPs, purchased a $15 distortion pedal and then toured the East Coast in a station wagon before they signed to Richmond, VA-based label EggHunt Records last year.

Here’s To Almost, the band’s full-length debut is slated for a January 22 release, and the album’s second single “Wait For Me” possesses earnest and enormously anthemic, power ballad hooks that pair power chord rock with folk instrumentation that will likely further cement the band’s reputation for crafting rousing and heartfelt pop/indie rock that feels and sounds as though it could have been released in 1992. As the band’s frontwoman Rashie Rosenfarb explains “Wait For Me’ delves into growing up with this unrealistic idea of what love is suppose to look like presented by movies and TV and realizing it’s flawed — and then navigating through that.” The song manages such youthful earnest passion with the adult realization that love is confusing, complex and messy — and that it actually requires both work and acceptance of one’s positive qualities and their flaws.

The band will be on a short tour to support the new effort. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour dates:
Jan 23rd @ Velvet Lounge , D.C.
Jan 24th @ Bourbon and Branch, Philadelphia, PA
Jan 30th @ FM Restaurant, Norfolk, VA

 

Comprised of Broken Social Scene‘s Lisa Lobsinger, The Beauties‘ Paul Pfisterer and Transistor Sound and Lighting Co.’s Martin Davis Kinack, the Toronto, ON-based self-described galactic dream pop trio Laser quickly won the attention of major media outlets such as Nylon, Spin and BUST Magazine with the release of “Leaving It Too Late” and “Do We All Feel It” the first two singles off the trio’s soon-to-be released debut full-length album Night Driver. Reportedly, the band’s sound — and in turn, the sound of their debut effort — takes cues from electronic and atmospheric albums and late night, country drives from Lobsinger and Pfisterer’s Toronto home to Kinack’s remote “studio in the forest.” And as a result the material on the album meshes electronic and analog elements and was written as though it were particularly designed to be the soundtrack for a introspective and meditative drive into the country.

Night Driver‘s third and latest single “Disconnect” pairs Lobsinger’s sultry yet ethereal vocals with twinkling synths, boom-bap drum programming, angular guitar played through gentle reverb, equally angular bass and a steady, motorik groove in a song that possesses brooding atmospherics while radiating both an effortless cool and a comforting warmth; after all, the song is about the disconnect (and resulting confusion) within an intimate relationship and puts in terms in a way that says “we’ve all been there at some point — and holy shit does it ever suck the life out of a relationship that may have been going well up to that point.”

 

 

 

 

 

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.