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Adam
Tucson, AZ

He’s just this guy, you know?


A decade and change ago I did a short and wholly inadequate post about a duo I absolutely adore. Their bluegrass-y harmonies and lapping waves of melancholy remain singular and, were it not for their untimely dissolution, we would surely be listening to their fourth or fifth album and wondering how many Best Country Duo Performance Grammys one act could collect. Alas, with the virtual guarantee The Civil Wars are done for good, the sort of person that chases these heartsick highs must look elsewhere, and I have.
The Japanese House. I don’t know, it’s hard to wrap your head around. I mean, is she a space alien from an advanced culture that has achieved the platonic ideal of music? Is she a time traveler from our own distant future where the slow and deliberate action of time has polished music into a perfect sphere of transcendence? I await a reply from Science. In fairness, the sounds we perceive from these tracks could be captured transmissions from an advanced culture or signals bent back in time from our own planet, the artist we know as Amber Bain may be a hologram The Government created as a cover.
So there I am, making a playlist circling around a country-but-not-quite-country vibe I was feeling, and I’m poking around in various recommendation engines for “if you like then you might like” kind of stuff and there’s Katie Pruitt. I might like Katie Pruitt, the komputormachina said, so I put her album on my playlist all casually, like, “oh, here’s another album”. What a buffoon, what an absolute simpleton I was. 185 tracks on this playlist from amazing artists, The Staves and Lera Lynn and Waxahatchee and Joy Williams and Sarah Shook (coming soon, oh lawdy) but here comes Katie Pruitt and…were there other songs on this playlist?
You might call this post “timely”. In a scant few days the debut LP from The Marías will be upon us and here you are, nay we are, ahead of the game. I can’t believe it either. The Marías. Are we on another episode of “Adam Listens to Songs In Languages He Does Not Understand”? ¿Es Un Millón en Español? Sí. ¿Hablo Español? Un poco, y mal. I’m sure I didn’t even get those ten words right, let alone in the right order.
Long, long ago, in the distant past of 2009, I wrote a short post about the debut album from Béatrice Martin as Cœur de pirate and I assure you reader, even today the songs from that album are special. I have a kind of nostalgia about not just those songs and that recent-yet-not-recent time but the way hearing those songs felt then, the echoes they throw from then to now. There are songs and albums and artists that are your favorites and you would call them your favorites perhaps out of careful consideration or soul-searching and they come easily to mind when someone asks you to name them.
I am very late To this MADE IN HEIGHTS party Which is now over Abrupt, unexpected end Kelsey Bulkin gone solo All before my time All before I even knew That I should be sad Nevertheless, here we are Nevertheless, here it is Listen to these beats Hear these silky, sweet vocals Bring it all inside Murakami Slow Burn Where to find MADE IN HEIGHTS: Twitter: @madeinheights Website: madeinheights.
Maybe you remember Aly & AJ. I did. Vaguely, anyway. I remembered Radio Disney pop that was not my bag. That’s a pretty simplistic hand-wave at a back catalog that includes a gold record, but it’s what I remembered. Imagine my suprise, then, when I found an Aly & AJ song in my Spotify “Discover Weekly”. I was very confused. I played the song. I am no longer confused. While it somehow hasn’t managed to commandeer every post I make here, it is nevertheless true that I have developed a strong propensity for 80s-esque synth-heavy pop music.
This gigantically tall image was the only one sufficiently excessive to encompass the towering wall of sound pumped out by Bomba Estéreo. Their brand of club-banger cumbia is an all out assault: hot guitar licks, sick beats, razor-sharp vocals with a mix of traditional instruments and electro-magic that rises together into a whirling tornado of the absolute hottest fire. Bomba Estéreo is no newcomer to the musical scene. You may (I did not, my shame is great) recognize them from their smash hit Soy Yo from their previous album, or the music video of said track which racked up a bananas view count on its way to becoming a cultural touchstone, but their story goes much further back to 2005 and Simón Mejía’s interest in electronica-influenced takes on classic cumbian styles.
Guppy (makes 1 album) Ingredients: 1 part Weezer 1 part Charlotte Hatherly Veruca Salt Artisanal Kay Hanley In a shaker, combine Weezer and Charlotte Hatherly over a handful of cool as ice, shake gently. Rim a high-ball generously with Veruca Salt, pour the shaker contents through a strainer. Add two liberal splashes of Kay Hanley before garnishing with a Cherry Bomb. Serve thrown directly in the face. Pardon my language, but:
In a totally unexpected turn of events that no one could’ve possibly predicted, I’m back at the Elizabeth and the Catapult well imbibing the sweet, clear nectar of Elizabeth Ziman’s musics and let me tell you: it is damn good to be back. Over a relatively long tenure of fanhood (squeeing fanboy alert, like, more than usual) I have come to not just love and adore Elizabeth and the Catapult music, I’ve settled into a sort of implicit trust with her output.
I had a real photo problem with Now, Now. See, they used to be a three-piece with Jess Abbott (who I know from Tancred and not from this, what a world) but they’re back down to the original duo of Cacie Dalager and Bradley Hale. Unfortunately, most of the band photos on the intertron are interminably ancient and as such depict the trio and therefore are not what I’m after. As an additional wrinkle Cacie Dalager is currently sporting some super rad pink hair, as seen above, and there’s no way I wasn’t gonna showcase that situation, so this is what I’ve got.
It’s likely you’ve heard about Maggie Rogers already. We all know that’s not gonna stop me from doing my bit here according to my own particular idiom, but it is nevertheless a thing that needs to be acknowledged. Alaska is a certified Internet Event after her, and I’m quoting her directly here, “gif-able moment with Pharrell” and I linked Alaska down there like I damn well must because in addition to being a phenomenon it is a planet-killer payload of quality.
* WARNING WARNING WARNING * This is not the oft-soothing sounds of CGPLS you’ve come to expect. No, this is a brutalist rock beatdown with face melting danger level RED. Prepare your mind and body for an all out assault before you click the little play buttons. Also I’m definitely gonna drop the F-bomb. Just keep swimming, we’ll all get through this together. A thing you may not suspect about me, based on the content I post here, is that I used to listen almost exclusively to raging guitar-driven hard rock and alternative.
So, story time. I got some new speakers for my home audio setup, they’re very spiffy and they sound great and I was looking for interesting music to listen to on them. Whilst stumbling haphazardly around various audio review sites looking at what songs they used as test tracks, I saw a mention of a 2013 Blu-ray Audio release of Beck’s 2002 album, Sea Change, mixed for full surround sound and in a lossless format.
TO: Lights, Canada, Action FROM: Adam, Tucson, It’s still hot here I swear DATE: Today Dear Lights, How are you? I am fine. I don’t know how you keep doing it, but you are super good at music-ing. Even though you’re a Canadian from America’s hat, I’m glad you let us buy your music here in the USA. I went to Canada once, it was very cold but also very pretty.
VÉRITÉ (Kelsey Byrne) comes to us from the land of alt-pop indie-tronica (also New York, I guess) with a voice that I would follow right into a burning building. It’s a textural toolbox; smoke, gravel, breathy falsetto, vibrato, she just pulls out the tools and goes to work. Also, and not in these tracks, but sometimes, just sometimes, she’ll reach in there and pull out an f-bomb and just drop it right on you and I think we all know I love a good f-bomb.
I’m gonna keep it simple on this one. First, hot knowledge bomb for you. Her name is not Christine. It’s Héloïse Letissier, which may be the most French name I’ve ever seen, and I keep pronouncing it in a truly awful French accent in my head over and over. I’m talking Steve Martin in The Pink Panther bad, here. But never mind that. Brass tacks: “Tilted” is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long, long time.
This was a total accident. Maybe fate, if you believe in that sort of thing. I got a notification from PledgeMusic that Elizabeth & The Catapult had posted an update on the new album project and I popped over there on my phone and it gave me one of those “you might also like” situations and I’m not even kidding you, I hit the wrong spot on the phone and there I was looking at Lera Lynn’s PledgeMusic.
Come with me on a vision quest for a minute. Picture the word “slinky” in your mind. No, dammit, not Slinky®. Slinky the adjective. Cat burglars and black dresses and smoky nightclubs, steamy noir streets, tuxedos and delicate curls of cigarette smoke against an inky sky, right? Now, imagine slinky as a sound. That’s Marian Hill. That’s what they do. It’s jazz, it’s dubtronica, it’s chill tempos, thick bass and sultry melodies that radiate classy cool while they whisper untoward nothings in your ear.
As foretold in the previous post, I am again attempting the difficult task of brevity. I struggle, as all do. Genevieve sprung from the electro-pop fairy land that I exist within right now, but I find her further toward the pop end of that spectrum. “Show Your Colors” hooked me up front with an easy-going, uplifting, uptempo groove and a sing-a-long refrain, but as I went through the EP the depth and weight of “Human Again” really seeped into my pores and quickly became the track that defined Genevieve for me.
This is going to be a little shorter than normal. I have, no lie, four (FOUR) artists to post right now before my brain forgets again, so I’m going to try out…brevity. I feel that I’m actually already failing… Allie X is part of the synth-tronica pop-adjacent world I’m currently living in/loving. There’s some rawness to this EP, but the overwhelming majority of the album is very tight and the composition of the tracks is lovely.
In that way that sometimes happens, Allison Weiss fell right out of the clear blue sky. I didn’t find her among the rubble on Spotify or Last.fm, I didn’t hear her on the radio or read an article, I didn’t hear her lyrics coming out a car window and look them up on the spot. I didn’t do a damn thing, folks. This one was all Jenny Owen Youngs. I’m just readin' my Twitter like you do and Jenny Owen Youngs is talking about her UK tour and I’m internal-grumblin' about how I want to watch Jenny Owen Youngs and she sends out this little deal right here:
Sometimes, the music doesn’t click. You listen, you hear, but you don’t find it. It’s not there. Weeks, months, years later you come back and there it is. Like it was always there. And it kind of languidly stares over its metaphorical shoulder at you as if to indicate it was right there the whole time, where were you looking and you sort of semi shrug at the mental apparition and look abashedly at your hallucinatory shoes and think something empty and trite at it like “Brains are weird.
This here, this is something a little different. How to describe HOLYCHILD’s debut album The Shape of Brat Pop To Come… It’s kind of like a dubstep beat truck driven by a disaffected, acerbic singer-songwriter crashing into a jazz factory that’s rented its back room out as a nightclub? I guess? I…really don’t know. They call themselves “brat pop”, as titularly indicated, and I like that as a descriptor. There’s definitely a thread of brat running through the whole thing, a sort of entitled “give no fucks” attitude that reaches from the lyrics through to the over-driven bass lines, and honestly that would be enough.
So I’ve got a little something for you here. A little of that good good, you know what I mean? I’m not gonna lie, this stuff right here, this will mess you up. This will: Mess. You. Up. You don’t wanna get into this Ryn Weaver situation unless you’re looking for some of that Singapore Suites stuff. Some of that Grade A+. Uncut. Yeah, I’m sick of that metaphor also.
Yes. I did just do a Lights post, like, 10 minutes ago in CGPLS time. I know. I KNOW. Look, alright? I didn’t know this other album was out there. I didn’t know. It is so good and also so wildly different that it deserves…no, no it demands recognition. I was musically smitten with Lights before. Strongly Musically Smitten, official classification. I’m in Stage Ten Incurable Musical Love with her now.
Her eyes kind of look right into you, don’t they? It is only recently that I’ve become aware of Fleurie, though the Fear & Fable EP I’m currently wearing a figurative hole through was released in 2013. Once again our ever-generous overlord The Great and Powerful Spotify has gifted me with bounteous musical joy and once again the beneficiary of such is you, dear, silent, likely imaginary, reader. The good news is that she has new music on the horizon, so, soon there will be more than this.
I’m back, folks. Welcome to 2015. I brought you something, today. Today, I brought you something. I’m gonna lead off with a zinger: Zella Day is volcano set to erupt and cover the pop musical landscape in her hot fire and I’m gonna get you keyed in on this before she’s suddenly winning a Grammy Award and you’re wondering how someone this good slipped by you direct to Song of the Year.
So, I don’t know how listening to music works for all of you. Everyone kind of ingests and internalizes these things differently. For me in particular and in service of this particular narrative, I’ve got this one little alcove in my mental musical taste pavilion set aside especially for a certain kind of electronica that I cannot trivially define with a genre boundary. This Department of Lovely Electronica, it has a kind of continuously listening spidey-sense steadfastly monitoring the musics that enter into my ears ever vigilant for the undefinable hallmarks of what it needs.
It likely does not come as a surprise that I kind of like (adore) Hafdís Huld a little (a lot). I was quite enamoured with Dirty Paper Cup and though I didn’t write up Synchronized Swimmers, I also enjoyed it immensely. Here’s the thing though, reader: this album is particularly wonderful. I’ve listened to it repeatedly, excessively, even for me, even for me and a Hafdís Huld album. I think I’m in love.
In a Quixotian tilting exercise, I endeavoured to take on use of a Windows Phone 8 device for a while. It was actually pretty good, but synchronizing music from a Mac to it was not, so I decided to take that opportunity to investigate a paid account with Spotify. I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with the catalog breadth and due to the excellent coverage, the rate at which I could take on new random music was increased immensely, not to mention they now send me these emails that say things like “You like (artist), you should listen to (new artist)” and these imperatives are eerily accurate (data mining is getting really effective).
I remembered something today. I was on the Twitters burning time while I waited for a Wimbledon match to get underway when Vienna Teng says: If anyone wants to help me do a final soundcheck before my 2pm EDT @Stageit show today, I'm hanging out here... https://t.co/zz1jwf8nSa — Vienna Teng (@viennateng) June 28, 2014 Honestly folks, I didn’t even know what StageIt was but listening to artists soundcheck is like getting a trip behind the curtain so I clicked that link and made a StageIt account.
Look everyone, I’m not trying to solicit your thanks or praise necessarily, but I think I’m kinda getting you in on the ground floor of a confirmed music situation here. An honest to God happening. Roo & The Howl’s very first full length album has only been out for about a month at this point and that’s a good jump on the game. Also, NoiseTrade. You guys, you’ve got that algorithm dialed in.
I think we’ve all come to terms with my unadulterated love of words and generally speaking I think precedent would suggest I will happily use a thousand words instead of a picture ten times out of ten. Knowing that, and potentially having read the other things I’ve written here, I expect the following will be somewhat of a light shock and I wanted to prepare you for it with a vaguely wordy introduction that meanders along, much as I normally do.
It’s been a while since we last spoke of Elizabeth and her accompanying Cat (apult). Nearly five years, in fact. I’ll give you a second to catch up on your history. Much has happened, Taller Children was fresh at that time, but we’ve now seen not one but two additional studio albums, The Other Side of Zero in 2010 and earlier this year, Like It Never Happened. It’s this most recent outing that I’m here to wax poetic about and/or sing the praises thereof.
You probably already know Anna Kendrick, she’s kind of a Big Deal™ with the acting and whatnot. She was in a musical comedy thing called Pitch Perfect not that long ago, and she’s got a single out from said musical comedy thing. That’s not terribly surprising, in general. What’s unexpected is that it’s really good. Like, really really good. I kinda hope Anna Kendrick does a full album if there’s more of this in her somewhere.
There is music, sometimes, that just makes you happy. Happy is, maybe, too strong a word. Let’s say it puts a spring in your step, that’s closer to what I mean. That is what Let The Rain Fall, the most recent studio outing from Good Lovelies (THE Good Lovelies maybe?… The ambiguity of the definite article situation in regards to the disposition of the name of this musical act has yielded a certain amount of consternation within me that is wholly disproportionate to the issue), does.
I’ve been meaning to do this post for a long time, it’s a rather glaring oversight. I would go so far as to say I owe you an apology, when you get down to it. If you like the kind of music I like and have somehow failed to stumble upon A Fine Frenzy and I, I of all people, have neglected to bring her to you, well. Let us assume that my apologies are of the humblest and sincerest of natures.
Yes, yes. You’re very funny. Oh, 2005 is calling, it wants my crush on Eisley back? Yuck it up. I’m late to the game, I get it. I don’t know how I stayed out of the path of this. I guess it’s a little more chamber/indie rock/pop than is typically my style. Whatever, it’s great. I mean, let’s get serious. They’re named after a spaceport from Star Wars, and that’s awesome, but the fact that they lay down these quality melodies and delicious harmonies over lush arrangements is downright startling when you consider those two things in juxtaposition.
Laura Marling is someone I’ve listened to before but was not entirely taken with. Her first effort, “Alas I Cannot Swim”, was a little rough in ways that I didn’t entirely care for. There was quality there, but it just didn’t seem to have settled into itself. Having missed her intermediate efforts, I recently acquired “Once I Was An Eagle” as I was randomly reminded that I meant to check her out again.
Well, friends, it’s been barely a month and here I am again. I’m serious, don’t raise your expectations. So, these guys just turned up following me on Twitter. I do not know why. I looked at my followers and there they were. I clicked the link thinking “Why would this band be following me on Twitter?” I still cannot answer that, but the freshly pressed EP I found there makes me think it’s just the fate of random chance.
This post is not as much a post per-say, but more of an infonoticeupdateitem. Well, two actually. A bit ago now, Rachael released Chesapeake, a full-length studio affair crowd-funded by Pledge Music. It is very good and you should get yourself a copy and listen to it. I have every intention of writing it up at some point. Yeah, I can’t take me seriously anymore either. Here are my favorites: You Won’t Let Me
Happy New Year? I guess? I’m sure you’re probably sore with me if you still even follow the site. Hey, I do what I can, ok? The music comes when it comes. But seriously kids, I have something for you here. I. HAVE. SOMETHING. I NoiseTrade here and there cause you get to try on music for nothing, which in many cases will lead me to go drop real dollars on albums and EPs and the like.
I know it’s been a while. Picture me, friend. No, not rolling. Picture me in a misanthropic silence-cave of laziness and platitude on a throne of quiet destitution. There is music here but there is not Music here. Imagine, if you can, the sort of holy-light, soul wrenching, wondrous and magnificent sound it would take to shatter that bitter reverie so brilliantly as to generate a post on this much neglected weblog.
Azure Ray, a CGPLS timeline: 2003: Azure Ray releases Hold On Love. 2006: I finally listen to it. I don’t really like it. I don’t HATE it, I just don’t like it that much. 2010: Azure Ray releases Drawing Down The Moon. I see that they released it, but I figure I don’t care, I didn’t like the last one. 2010: A month later I listen to it anyway. I need new music.
Happy Valentines Day, reader. I say reader as I’m sure most of you have left this place for more frequently updated pastures, and I can hardly blame you. I have exceeded the one-year-without-posting hard rule and my shunning is required by internet law. However, I return penitent in hopes that I may pass with these offerings. I, however, make no assertions nor intend any implications that should indicate that I expect to post more anytime soon.
You may know Jenny Lewis as part of indie darlings Rilo Kiley. I’m not gonna lie to you here, folks: I don’t love Rilo Kiley. I tried on Rilo in aught and four when they appreared on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack with Portions For Foxes and it just didn’t catch my ear. I’ve heard a song or two since, but nothing to make me take a deeper listen. You win some, you lose some.
Meaghan Smith is a confirmed CGPLS threat level red. In case you’re not familiar with the Cute Girls Threat Advisory System, that translates to severe risk of imminent swooning. Tight, well executed arrangements spanning pop, jazz and even some distinct elements of chanson française mingle with Meaghan’s adorably sweet vocals to make a lightweight album that is toe-tappingly terrific and catchy in every way that is good and right. If you can listen to Heartbroken without the inexorable, inescapable, utterly undeniable compulsion to snap your fingers or get down with the aforementioned toe-tapping, I have bad news for you: you are a robot and your metal heart will never know love.
It’s that time of year, you know? So, Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah in the culturally-insensitive and gloriously irreverent words of Virgin Mobile. Everywhere you listen right now, it’s Christmas music and let me tell you, friends, I’ve been sick of Christmas music for about a decade. So, what I’m gonna do, rather than punishing you with more yuletide jingles, is just put up some of my favorite one-offs. Maybe I didn’t like the whole album, maybe they’re from a soundtrack, maybe they’re just absurdist nonsense.
I am officially the Tin Man. Rachael Yamagata has finally stolen my heart outright, and I am without. There are no pictures due to a pretty hilarious-but-not-funny pre-show situation with the box office staff at Mesa Arts Center (I ruined Joe’s whole evening), but the things I saw are serving to fill the void where my heart resided previously, so that’s handy. How these abstract images and indistinct emotional impressions are keeping me alive, I’ll never know, but I don’t question the proverbial “gift-horse” and neither should you.
I know I promised this weeks ago. Two things about that. First, welcome to Cute Girls, this is kinda how we roll. Second, I’ve been having some trouble writing this up. To be clear, I have no trouble recommending Brandi Carlile to anyone, man, woman, child, animal, vegetable, mineral, visitors from strange worlds who do not perceive sound, everyone. If you’re reading this and you don’t already listen to Brandi Carlile, you should start right now.
I’d like to start here with a short letter I’m composing to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Dear Sirs and/or Mesdames, I am writing to inform you that I do not believe that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has claim to the title of “Greatest Show On Earth” any longer. I have just returned from a rock ‘n roll show put on by Katie Herzig and Brandi Carlile and I believe that this show, by which I mean the musical masterpiece that most certainly could cure cancer if distilled into a serum, was, in fact, the “Greatest Show On Earth”.
I absolutely adore A Girl Called Eddy. In a metaphorical world where Rachael Yamagata is my one and only, A Girl Called Eddy is the girl I met that made me wonder. I’ve been considering exactly how to describe this music in the most make-you-wanna-listen way for months. Hopefully the following does the trick. Some music is airy and lighthearted, it puts a spring in your step, puts you in a good mood.
No, that’s not the name of an awesome musical act (but it should be), this is just an editorial. I have some general interest musical things to bring to the attention of our illustrious and discerning readership. First, CGPLS alum Adaline (who actually saw the post I did on her back in June) is involved in a competition for a phat stack of music development cash up in Canada and, as is customary in all competitions of the Modern Era, there’s a user vote component to the whole thing.
It’s been slow in music-land of late and I haven’t had time to digest some of the likely-great stuff I’ve got queued up (A Fine Frenzy’s new album and Miss Li of iPod Nano Commercial fame are both in line, also some old Anna Ternheim has caught my ear), so I decided to throw in a cup cake. Of course I’m a Sara Bareilles fan, it’s basically implied, and recommending Sara Bareilles to someone that likes the kind of music I post here is akin to recommending air as a possible breathing media.
Catherine Feeny is an artist of remarkable quality. Heartfelt and intimate, Catherine delivers unique songs steeped in country and folk but filled with instrumentation and rhythm from, well, everywhere. Acoustics, electrics, piano, brass, strings, chimes, ukulele, hand claps, whistling, electronics, harmonica, accordion, you name it. That’s not to say she’s gimmicky, nor that she piles on more when less will do, but you never know what she’s bringing into the fray.
Continuing a small but proud tradition in my music library of artists that sing in languages I do not speak, Cœur de pirate has captured my heart without saying a word (that I understand). Beautiful, simple arrangements? Check. Delicate vocal stylings? Check. Double-scoop of piano? Check. Let the swooning commence. Perhaps not knowing, or at least having only a vague idea, is part of the magic for me, but I can’t imagine music this good, and it is that good, comes with anything short of brilliant lyrics.
The Waifs are from Australia. I think we all know the sort of temptation I’m dealing with here. I will endeavor to keep ironic Aussie slang usage out of this. No promises. My best is not always good enough, you see. Sun Dirt Water, the newest release from The Waifs, is stellar. Blues and country, rough-hewn and gravelly, peppered liberally with great harmonies and brilliant guitar work (and the occasional harmonica!
Part concept album, part extended metaphor, the debut EP from Beautiful Small Machines is a robot-themed mixture of spiff electro-pop with a splash of acoustic ballad. Dancing down a fine line just this side of geek-rock, sweet and sassy vocals from Bree Sharp mingle with 80s-flashback synth productions from music man Don DiLego to create the perfect retro-future sound to play after the robotic uprising. Techie-friendly name-dropping abounds calling on everything from Ender’s Game to Aqua Teen Hunger Force and casually slipping in concept-appropriate terminology like mainframe, wifi and automaton.
Part 3: Salvation My love affair with Loose Ends was…torrid. As a gentleman, I’ll abstain from detail, but believe me when I say this EP and I were close. Serving mostly to wrap up Happenstance, the disc played like bonus tracks to the now venerable debut, a Thinking of You card from Rachael to me. Loose Ends triggered an immediate return to heavy rotation for Happenstance and life was good. I had new music, I had my old friend Happenstance and I had renewed vigor for the long trek to The Promised Record.
Imagine my surprise when, as I’m driving in this morning listening to the local ClearChannel CGPLS-friendly affiliate (92.9 The Mountain, You could do worse in Tucson), I hear something that a) I haven’t heard ad nauseum and b) I like! I know! Philosophically I know that The Dark Lord of The Clear Channel has designated Erin McCarley for fame, but that’s kind of ok when the quality is this high.
No, it isn’t 1997. Letters has been making a comeback for me in recent weeks. A head-bobbing, rocking, “why did I ever stop listening to these guys?” kind of comeback. There’s something absolutely infectious about their sound, energetic and fun and everything that good pop rock should be. You’ve probably heard Letters to Cleo (or at least Kay Hanley, lead vocalist and lead cute girl) even if you think you haven’t.
Ridiculously cute. No, seriously, I’ll let you take a minute. You may recognize her from Scrubs as Stephanie Gooch, Ted’s dreamgirl. Turns out that the cute ukulele player thing she did for the show? She does that for real. And she made an EP. One EP. One, lone, solitary, EP. Is it a comedy EP? “Dear Deer” would seem to indicate so. But then you’ve got “Just Say When” and “Out the Door”.
Perhaps the cutest girl to ever sing a love song and without a doubt the cutest SOUNDING girl to ever sing a love song, Hafdís Huld single-handedly restored my personal opinion of Iceland*. With simple arrangements and a voice that challenges buttons to a cute-off, Hafdís teeters on the edge of sugary-sweet, mixing stark-if-confounding lyrics and twee-pop melodies into delicious musical confections that sound surprisingly like hard candy tastes. Even at her most melancholy on Dirty Paper Cup, it still goes down like a Mary Poppins prescription.
What a name, right? The visual is amazing and, coincidentally, so is the band. Elizabeth & The Catapult are truly marvelous. Innovative arrangements, brilliant vocals, depth and variation that constantly gesture toward a broad pool of musical capability and matter-of-fact-ly indicate that they do, in fact, have all the tools. They just released their first full-length album, Taller Children. It’s real good. But I’m not gonna talk about that. They also released a self-titled EP in 2006 which is one of my favorite EPs of all time.
This isn’t a TV blog, but lemme start out here with this. The pilot of Royal Pains on USA was pretty excellent. I’m feeling especially fond toward it because they featured one of Adaline’s songs, and it was thusly that Adaline and I became acquainted, in the musical sense, of course. Evoking shades of several of my favorites, Adaline brings a nice mix of electronic effects and traditional instrument work to create an very engaging soundscape.
The Brazilian-turned-New-Yorker duo of Blondfire has been rattling around in my music library for a long time. Known as Astaire pre-2005, they were forced to change their name by, I kid you not friends, the Estate of Fred Astaire. What the hell Estate of Fred Astaire? Are two kids making really slick electro-pop really a danger to your cash cow? You people need to get a job, clearly you have nothing to do all day.
Part 1 (in a continuing series): Please Clap Your Hands. The Bird and The Bee are crazy good. How could they not be? Brilliant production/instrumentation from the well-traveled Greg Kurstin (No kidding: Sia, The Flaming Lips, Kylie Minogue, Beck, Rilo Kiley, and Jane’s Addiction) and swoon-worthy vocals by perennial crush-inducer Inara George come together in a magical tropicália-infused electronically-augmented ear-gasm that just does not quit. At times evoking shades of Jem, Frou Frou and Bitter:Sweet, at times eschewing comparison, The Bird and The Bee deliver one thing consistently: quality.
GASP (Shock!) /awe. Yes, friends. “And other music. Like, also.” The year, lovers, is 1996 and I am positively enamored with Bringing Down the Horse by The Wallflowers. One Headlight, 6th Avenue Heartache, Three Marlenas, The Difference, Josephine… What an album. Then they played a song for the worst Godzilla movie ever made, and we’re talking about a series of movies that relied on men in rubber monster suits trampling scale models of cities, for the most part.
Sometimes, I just go to last.fm and mine it. I mine it for precious musical elements the way a prospector, hefting his pick and brandishing his pan, might seek gold in 1850’s California. The process is arduous, the sheer volume of tabs involved would dissuade the faint of heart, but I know the prize is in there, obscured by the strata. The bulk of music on last.fm is waste mineral, cast aside into a great pile of insufficiency.
Cute Girls Playing…violins? I’ve been on a minor classical tangent of late brought on by a couple drive-time listenings to the superior classical DJs at AZPM Classical. These guys know their stuff. Anyway, one night they get on a violin and cello roll and oh man do I love strings. They’re playing some Paganini and Shostakovich and I’m in love, so I roll a Pandora station on Paganini. After a bit, Pandora busts out some Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto in Dmaj, and I started weeping, openly, on the spot.
In the many seasons of my musical whimsy, the coming of the singer-songwriter is the most recent, and Anna Nalick was there at the beginning. Following on toe-dippings like Alanis, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and the occasional Fiona Apple, Anna represented one of my first full-album plunges into the cool waters. I had rather forgotten her as she was over-shadowed by huge comers like Feist and Rachael, and she slipped into the obscurity of my musical memory.
No, not that Kate Walsh. This is the other Kate Walsh, the British one that does the guitar stuff. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, Kate somehow flew beneath my radar for a quite a while. It was only recently that I saw the distinctive blip of an incoming cute girl playing love songs. By the time I had assembled my defenses, she had already dropped a musical Atkin guitar (I’d really like to play one of their OMs).
Part 2: The Long Wait Key moments to this point: – June 8, 2004, Rachael Yamagata releases Happenstance. – September 21, 2006, I realize how unbelievably great it is. – September 22, 2006, Rachael begins punishing me for my lack of vision. Picture, if you will, two years of winter. Not Arctic Circle frozen tundra desolation winter, now you’re just being melodramatic. Regular old winter. Even if you like winter, it’s supposed to end.
Katie Herzig is so right it defies common reason. Combining the better parts of bluegrass and pop with what must be fairy dust and unicorn musk, Katie delivers a sound both familiar and different, immediately identifiable for all the right reasons. Apple Tree is one of the most well put together albums I’ve ever heard. She swings seamlessly from uptempo numbers to stripped down acoustic tracks to expansive show-pieces. Her charmingly affected vocals preside over expertly layered orchestrations, co-mingling to produce a sound that is uniquely Katie Herzig.
The Hush Sound make a big noise. That’s right folks, today I’m bringing the local-newscast-grade word play, try to keep up. The Hush Sound has been around for a while, but it’s only on their most recent release Goodbye Blues that singer Greta Salpeter has come into her own. Greta drives this album forward with her delicious vibrato and powerful piano work, so much so that I don’t mind the occasional interruption of co-lead-vocalist Bob Morris.
Rebecka Törnqvist, my Swedish crush. Melting Into Orange is a very unique album. Her mix of light electronic and jazz is novel enough, but with her bell-clear voice piercing the mix with just the right touch of reverb, there’s not much to dislike. I’m finding it difficult to present anything close to a representative sample of the album, so I just posted two I like. You should also listen to Wit Waltz, Cuckoo and The Poachers, if you’re serious about the process.
Part 1: Falling Hard June 15, 2004. Rachael Yamagata is the iTunes free single of the week and I, without even pausing to consider the ramifications of the moment, download the single. The song: Letter Read. I listened to the song. “That’s ok, I guess.”, I thought. You were expecting a love at first hear story weren’t you? Sorry kids, real life ain’t like the movies. Two years and three months later (I checked my iTunes purchase history) I find this song in my library.
What am I supposed to do here? This deck is stacked. I’m wired to be in musical love with Jaymay. And why not? Jamie Seerman has all the tools. The voice, the guitar, the uncanny insight into my musical desire, it’s all there. This is a no-words-required recommendation. Listen to these two songs on me and then you’ll just go buy Autumn Fallin’. You won’t be able to stop yourself. It’s ok, you’re not alone.
So, Meiko is basically the poster girl for Cute Girls Playing Love Songs. She’s so cute it’s ludicrous. Thank god she plays good music so I could justify looking at pictures of her on the internet until I found the one I wanted to post. That’s not creepy at all, I assure you. Meiko is pretty great musically as well, in case you were curious. Her debut self-titled album has just the right mix of irreverence and introspection, with a healthy, hearty helping of highly entertaining.
There’s only one thing better than a cute girl singing a love song. Four of them. And if you’re not sold yet, several songs feature cello and sitar. Sometimes together. Yeah, welcome to the fan club. Raining Jane hooked me opening for Sara Bareilles and Jon McLaughlin. I bought their CD, Diamond Lane, on the spot. And I didn’t like it that much. It was all very disappointing. Then they released an EP called Paper Nest.
With her utterly disarming vocals and gorgeous arrangements, Meredith Godreau captured my heart with frightening ease. I’ve long been a fence-sitter with regard to “little girl voice”, but Meredith’s label-debut Moenie and Kitchi is the sort of thing that makes you a believer. Oats We Sow Voice Like a Bell
Sarah Harmer’s neo-bluegrass is better than your neo-bluegrass. Growing up on country music, I find I still have a significant soft spot for it when it’s done right. Sarah Harmer’s I’m a Mountain is made up entirely of right. I Am Aglow Will He Be Waiting For Me
The Perfect Storm. Sara is on my short-list of go-to artists, Ingrid is on my medium-length list and I fell head-over-heels for Raining Jane’s live show when they came to town (that’s Mai on the cello back there). Didn’t anyone at Hotel Café ever see Ghost Busters? You can’t cross the streams like this, guys. Winter Song