18 Aug 2013, 17:17 MST

A Fine Frenzy

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. Be comforted, this is the best sort of failure from your perspective. You get new music now. I envy you, if this describes your current situation. There are three (two and a half-ish, really. I’ll get there.) albums for you to digest.

My timeline with Alison Sudol is both lengthy and checkered. Well. My timeline with Alison Sudol’s music is both lengthy and checkered. My timeline with Alison Sudol is differentiated from such in so much as it does not exist and I assure you said situation is one of a number of entries on a list of ways in which this particular fork of reality has not delivered. Others of note and relevance: A Girl Called Eddy only makes one album, I keep failing to speak to Rachael Yamagata when the opportunity arises, I have yet to hear Feist live and an elf hunting trip with Hafdís Huld continues to elude.

But seriously folks. I was, somehow, all over One Cell in the Sea in 2007. It dropped, and I had it. I wish I could tell you why, I can’t seem to dredge any details from the silty churn of my rapidly moving and increasingly unpredictable memory. What I can tell you, though, is that upon listening I thought then that One Cell In the Sea had a problem and I still think that One Cell in the Sea has a problem, though time has seen fit to make it a quirk that I now adore more than lament. There is something hauntingly artificial about it. Not overproduced. Not poorly arranged. Just, false. Thin. Façade-ish. It is not bad. No, friend, no it is not bad. I like Come On, Come Out and The Minnow and the Trout a lot, Almost Lover, Near To You also. It’s a good album. She has a gorgeous voice, her melodies are original and beautiful and the lyrical quality is consistently high. I was definitely looking forward to her follow-up despite my reservation.

Bomb in a Birdcage: Better. So much better. It blows out of the gate with What I Wouldn’t Do, and it is quite an opener. Frankly it’s so catchy it should be illegal. Then it hits you with New Heights to remind you that this Frenzy is Fine. It keeps on coming with Blow Away, Swan Song, The Beacon. There are songs between those, but you know. Just genuinely such a great album. Whatever was bugging me about One Cell disappeared in the interim and Bomb in a Birdcage hits all the right buttons and as such I have listened to it a very significant amount. It is at this time that I become a confirmed A Fine Frenzy fan (alliteration: fun for the whole family). Whatever happened between One Cell and Bomb, I approve.

And then.

And then there was Pines. I was pretty excited for Pines cause it totally snuck up on me. You know how you kinda lose track of all your favorites and then you find out they dropped new material and you can have it RIGHT NOW? That happened. Bomb was such a monster and so well done that my expectations were quite high. Unfortunately, Pines showed up with a smorgasbord of songs that are just a little too long in general and seem a little uncomfortable under their own weight. I’ve been trapped in a certain amount of consternation about Pines since I got it. I want to be enamored of it, but it just cannot get in my ear. When I want to listen to A Fine Frenzy, there isn’t a single Pines song that comes to mind. I still wake up whistling One Cell songs and for a statistically significant period there was nothing but Bomb songs in my brain, but Pines I barely remember. It’s all…very sad.

And so here we are. My Alison Sudol timeline: revealed. I’ve gone trifecta on this one so you could hear one from each album and not be forced to take my word for it. I highly recommend acquiring the first two and frankly would love it if someone could help me understand the third which would require said someone to get it and listen to it and, in the service of that academic and beneficial-to-me-personally pursuit, I would also encourage you toward that acquisition. These three are not necessarily my favorites, but they are among them. Well, the one from Pines, that’s just the only one that I even vaguely recognized when I went looking for a sample. Truth bombs, I drop them.

Go forth, reader, and listen.

The Minnow & The Trout
Swan Song

08 Aug 2013, 12:26 MST


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.

Many Funerals is up-tempo. Combinations is less of that. It is something different entirely, in fact. Just click play. You know you’re gonna, I know you’re gonna, just get to it.

Many Funerals

07 Aug 2013, 13:16 MST

Laura Marling

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.

Hearken to me, friends: this album is an overwhelming tide of unadulterated quality; a tsunamic wall of arrangement and lyricism the likes of which I have not seen in some time. That’s right, I used both kinds of colons, that’s the kind of serious situation we’re dealing with here.

These two make me very happy in my ear area. Worth noting, the first seven tracks of this album are basically one long song. If you use a gapless playback device, you’ll hear them flow together. It’s quite magical and may well fly beneath your notice unless you’re paying attention. What that basically means is that you’re only getting 1/7th of the experience with track one.

Go get the album. GO GET THE ALBUM.

Take The Night Off
When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)

18 Feb 2013, 17:49 MST


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. You know, or something.

It’s late and I’m not doing well at the creative and entertaining writing part of our program. Trouvere melds two sounds that I like: bouncy pop and cute-girl-voice. It make nice feel-sound in ear-hole. I’m sorry folks, I just don’t have it tonight.

Here’s a track:

I Wanna Let You In

Right now they’re giving away GIVING AWAY their musical labours, so I’m only linking one since you can go get the whole thing for zero international spacebux: trouveretheband.com

Commence acquisitoning immediately. It’s good stuff. I also quite like I’ll Catch You When You Fall, just puttin’ that out there.

14 Jan 2013, 10:44 MST

Rachael Yamagata

This post is not as much a post per-say, but more of an infonoticeupdateitem. Well, two actually.

  1. 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
Full On

  1. Rachael released a new EP also. It is called Heavyweight and it is better than good. It is great. I have spent a quite goodly amount of time with it at this point. I want her to come back to my state of residence and play the music show again. It is my wishiest wish. My selections:

It’ll Do
Nothing Gets By Here

I’ve also seen her live twice TWICE since the last time I spoke of her. I know. I… ::sigh:: I know. Look, she was magical and wonderful both times, I would watch her again and again. Someday I shall even summon the will to actually speak to her when I see her milling about. Someday.

So here we are, dear reader. Two posts, one day. I probably wouldn’t read too much into it.

14 Jan 2013, 10:25 MST


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. You know how it be. Anyway, they email me sometimes. You know, just to let me know they’re thinking about me.

I get their “2013 Band to Watch” email and it’s BOY and they claim it’s “FOR FANS OF Regina Spektor, Feist, Ingrid Michaelson, Rachael Yamagata, Yael Naim”. Now, the first thing I think to myself is: “Wow, targeted marketing is getting way too good.” Not as relevant as the second thing: “Ha. Yeah right. ‘Dear My Fantasy Band, please be like the aforementioned list of artists in as many ways as you find comfortable without compromising your artistic integrity. Thanks, Adam.’”

Here’s the thing about BOY: they’re even better than that. And they’re German! AND SWISS! I KNOW!

So, firstly here’s a link to their NoiseTrade mahjoojoo: NoiseTrade – BOY

So that’s pretty cool, go get some free music. Their album Mutual Friends is due to be re-released in the USofA in February this year, though it was originally released in the lands beyond the seas in 2011. I’m just hoping their 2013 re-release will be paired with a more thorough tour of these States, United. I’ve linked the import below, but I’ll try and remember (yeah right) to update the link when the US release happens. (Update: Against all odds, I have, in fact, remembered to update this link. Album drops the 26th of Feb, link goes to the Amazon placeholder page.)

So here are your samples. They are my favorites. They are not alone in their excellence, you should listen to their brethren.

Little Numbers
Drive Darling (Acoustic Version)

28 Mar 2012, 17:34 MST


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.

Good news, you don’t have to. Click play below.

I cannot adequately communicate how stunningly good the music of Elizaveta is. I could talk about spacious arrangements, orchestral overtones, Postal Service-worthy beats and the heart-wrenching beauty of her professionally operatic voice but I cannot describe the way her music feels. It is inside you when you listen. If you can’t feel the chorus of Dreamer in your heart of hearts like a suitcase nuclear bomb trying to shatter you into a million shimmering fragments of wonder, you almost certainly do not have a heart. I’m sorry if that’s bad news.

Dreamer is amazing. It is a digitally encoded form of refined amazement. It will amaze the part of your brain that understands amaz-words into a redefinition of the concept.

Armies of Your Heart is even better than that.

Armies Of Your Heart

06 Mar 2011, 17:27 MST

Azure Ray

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. I am blown away while my mind is blown while my house is blown down.

Drawing Down The Moon is a Wunderalbum. Dreamy and ethereal with an airy, reverb-heavy mix, it features mostly traditional instrumentation with just a touch of electronic pixie dust (not the Antares variety, this is the good kind) which, combined with the stark vocals and tight harmonies, makes for a potent musical experience.

Seriously, stop reading this and listen.

Don’t Leave My Mind

14 Feb 2011, 12:58 MST

The Civil Wars

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. I have a few queued up though. Maybe. If I get some comments on this post, well. Perhaps my exceeding egotism and/or guilt will require it.

I submit to you The Civil Wars. Is it bluegrass? Is it country? I find it labeled “folk rock” but I just don’t care for that. What it is, and it is this, is really really good.

Barton Hollow evokes a song I love by an artist I otherwise can’t find merit in: Home by Marc Broussard as heard on his album Carencro. To Whom It May Concern is a much more delicate piece of work. This metaphorical pony has tricks. With an s, my friends.

Barton Hollow
To Whom It May Concern

03 Feb 2010, 13:16 MST

Jenny Lewis

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. Jenny Lewis’ solo work, on the other hand, is a nuclear-payload awesome bomb. I’m talking mushroom cloud of quality, friends.

Acid Tongue, Jenny’s first/only solo effort, explores something I’d call retro country-rock. It’s jangly, it’s bluesy and it’s deliciously reverb-infused. Mix in her crisp songwriting and vocal poise, and you’ve got noteworthiness in spades. Recorded in only three weeks, Acid Tongue carries a kind of live-recording feel, the sort of single-take magic you only get from talented artists with confidence in their craft.

And so here are your samplings. I find myself rolling with Pretty Bird quite a bit and See Fernando is a good example of the more punchy side of the album.

Pretty Bird
See Fernando

I’m gonna leave you with a bombshell, or at least one for me personally. Jenny Lewis, this Jenny Lewis, is the very same Jenny Lewis that played the wise-acre friend-of-truckers Haley in a classic from my formative years, The Wizard. Oh, what a world. Here’s to Jenny Lewis, finding a new and innovative way to steal my heart again.

03 Jan 2010, 12:21 MST

Meaghan Smith

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.

I only get to pick two, as is the sacred way, so I went for my absolute favorite, Heartbroken, and an example of something a little slower in Soft Touch. Unfortunately for everyone this means I couldn’t include I Know, A Little Love, If You Asked Me, Take Me Dancing, A Piece For You or 5 More Minutes all of which range from awesome to stellar. This album is a serious winner. Sadly, these facts put you, the reader, in the unfortunate position of being required by moral imperative to get a copy of this album so you may experience the joy for yourself. I wish there was something I could do for you, but there just isn’t. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that Meaghan’s album is on sale at Amazon for $5 until the end of the month. Yeah, I love those guys too.

Soft Touch

23 Dec 2009, 09:14 MST

The Inaugural Holiday Season Post

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’m not even gonna guarantee they all involve cute girls or love songs. Alright? And we’re off.

This one is wintery, at least. Zooey knocked down this standard with Leon Redbone for the medium-grade film Elf. If Elf did nothing else for me, it did this. This song right here is why I can’t stand She & Him. I want more of this.
Zooey and Leon Redbone – Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Joe is a dedicated Toto fan. I’m a huge fan of Africa and the Dune score, so I guess I’m a Toto fan as well. One of my closet genres is acapella, and Four Shadow is one of my favorites. Thus:
Four Shadow – Africa

Handsome Boy Modeling School was (is?) an interesting experiment, but I only liked a couple songs alot. This one especially, cause I like Cat Power most of the time.
Handsome Boy ft Cat Power – I’ve Been Thinking

Still no album, but I think when Katherine Gehl delivers one, it might be pretty good.
Katherine Gehl – Identical Shirts

The most twisted Carpenters cover in history. PS, if you haven’t seen MirrorMask, punch yourself in the kidney once and then go watch it immediately. Visual smorgasbord.
MirrorMask – Close To You

I like Sia. Sorta. But either way, this track was banished to her Lady Croissant live album, strangely, and it’s probably my favorite Sia song. No, it is not a live track. I know, right?
Sia – Pictures

My girl Adaline keeps busy. In this case, she made a pretty decent electronica song with DJ Revise.
DJ Revise ft Adaline – Don’t Look Down

If Ben Sollee would cut it with the political commentary and just play his cello and sing songs about something else, I’d be a Ben Sollee fan. As it is, guy drives me nuts. Regardless, this Sam Cooke cover is dope. Well, except the part where he injects a bunch of politico bs. But except for that, DOPE.
Ben Sollee – A Change is Gonna Come

If you don’t like Tears For Fears, just get out. Also, if you don’t like Clare and the Reasons, get out twice. And if you don’t like Clare and the Reasons covering Tears For Fears, well, I can follow that it’s a little odd. But I likes it.
Clare and the Reasons – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

Best for last. Two foundational posits:

  • Of all the things Tucson has, one of them is a comparatively low-evil Clear Channel affiliate called The Mountain. And one thing The Mountain does that’s awesome is the Live in Studio C series where they bring great acts in and let ’em do stuff unplugged.
  • Brandi Carlile is awesome. Brandi Carlile’s covers are awesome. Brandi Carlile’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is an awesome burger with a side of awesome fries and a large awesome juice. It’s the #1 awesome combo, if you’re curious.

Put one and two together and you’ve got Brandi Carlile covering Hallelujah in Studio C. It is magical.
Brandi Carlile – Hallelujah (Studio C)

Happy Holidays, everyone, I hope they’re good for you.

21 Nov 2009, 14:11 MST

Rachael Yamagata - Live at Mesa Arts Center

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. Also, before we get into it, I realize that the Brandi Carlile concert review set the bar very high. I will not meet it here. This was not the best show I’ve ever seen, Brandi remains the Undisputed Champion of Live Shows. However, this show had a lot of personal satisfaction for me in addition to being very good and if you like the more sedate experience of the concert hall, you would’ve enjoyed this show, no doubt.

It’s worth noting up front that Rachael Yamagata is funny. Outright witty, even. Considering the heft and subject matter of her songs, you might expect a pretty dour and gravitas-rich live experience. Nay. She had lighthearted banter a-plenty for us, which was a nice performance foil to the aforementioned song weight. Her opener was only about forty-five minutes, which was not enough. She yielded the stage to The Swell Season who also put on quite the show. It’s also worth noting up front that the Ikeda Theater at the Mesa Arts Center is gorgeous, and the acoustics were wonderful. Both acts took time to point out how amazing the venue was, that’s how great we’re talking here. I will be actively seeking the opportunity to attend more shows at the Ikeda. Now, on to the business at hand.

I missed Rachael Yamagata twice, to my knowledge. November 13, 2006, Hotel Café tour at Club Congress. I had a ticket to this. No joke. The week prior, some dude, we’ll call him Random Methhead, smashes the back glass of my truck in an ill-conceived attempt to steal it. I put it in the shop, I’m supposed to be getting it back on the 13th, no lie, and they just plain don’t finish it. They don’t tell me until it’s WAY too late to make other arrangements. A young and wide-eyed Sara Bareilles was also on this tour. It was…disappointing. Second time, that I’m aware of, she was opening for Mandi Moore last year, the date is shaky. I just really didn’t want to go to a Mandi Moore show. I know, it sounds distasteful and weak to me too. It’s not really about Mandi Moore’s music, it’s about Mandi Moore fans. It’s the same kind of reason I don’t go to Slipknot shows, even though I’ve heard they’re epic. This show may have been canceled at the last minute, as I recall, so it’s possible my dereliction of duty didn’t actually cost me. I still take responsibility. Fast-forward to this tour and I don’t even know there is a tour. I am in the dark. Thanks entirely to a timely reminder from Summer over at ELIZA Magazine, I was able to snag some acceptable mezzanine seating, and the rest…well…you can only read about it in my autobiography. Or the next paragraph.

As we sat, the stage arrangement came into discussion. Grand piano, multiple guitars, trap kit, the whole nine. It occurred to us that we didn’t know if she was touring with a band. I proceeded to reiterate my “artist with instrument” postulate of live music which states: “Man, why can’t they ever just come on stage with their thing and just play? Why’s there always gotta be a bunch of other stuff going on, you know?” It’s informal. Until now it’s been an untested dream, for the most part, but I have always predicted that this distillation would create a perfect ambrosia of experience and expression. Let me tell you how my girl Rachael Yamagata rolls. Grand piano, acoustic guitar and an acoustic guitar accompanist. Amazing. Simple perfection. I have upgraded my postulate to a hypothesis. More testing is required, obviously.

The lights go down and Rachael walks out to light applause. Clearly the audience wasn’t “in the know”. As the inevitable hush falls, she leans in to her mic and whispers “Hi, I’m Rachael Yamagata”. She laid down Elephants to open and it was wonderful in all the ways that matter. I shed a single tear of perfect contentment, and gave a hearty farewell handshake to the monkey, as he climbed off my back and austerely exited the theater. Missed opportunities, regret, but at last this unicorn was caught. I won’t bring you to tears with a play-by-play, but the show incorporated bits from Elephants and Happenstance and in that place with that arrangement…well. It was, perhaps, the perfect way to experience Rachael for the first time. I can only hope upon hope that she comes back again and again. Either that or I move to LA and live next to the Hotel Café in a box. It’s not so much a career path as a calling.

I am obligated at this time to recognize Joe’s certification as the World’s Most Brilliant Man for pulling out his iPhone and firing up Voice Recorder. We have a mostly-complete monaural version of this show. Joe provided me with the raw audio and I took it into Soundbooth CS4 and tried to make it sound less like it was recorded on an iPhone from the mezzanine of a theater. The iPhone is hardly a high-fidelity recording implement, but I did my best to reign it in and widen the sound. I cut a couple tracks out (complete with live ambiance like me laughing and seat noise and all that) so there wouldn’t be a 40 minute mp3 to play back, but in the grand tradition of “bootin’”, drop me a line if you want the whole thing. You will have the experience of sitting next to Joe and I, including speculation about how someone gets the giggle-fits and all sorts of other nonsense. I don’t think there are so many of you reading that will want a copy that I’ll find this an issue, but do feel free to prove me wrong with your vast, uncountable numbers. Hopefully the suits won’t find us.

I’ll leave it for another time or perhaps another author to cover the Swell Season. I think they’re pretty good, but I’m not enamored of them. However, insomuch as they brought Rachael Yamagata back to Arizona, I am forever in their debt.

What If I Leave – Rachael – Live at Mesa
Even So – Rachael – Live at Mesa

14 Nov 2009, 19:22 MST

Brandi Carlile

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. She’s a true talent and an absolute musical gift to the world at large. I am not the least bit biased by her life-changing and utterly incomparable live performance. Not in the least.

No, my problem is this. The Story is one of my favorite albums. Ever. There is something perfect about the sound and the songs that captures Brandi Carlile’s lightning in a bottle. It’s just not magic you find in every album. Pound for pound, doing better than The Story is almost as difficult as creating a system capable of expressing elementary arithmetic that is both consistent and complete (the references are deep today, stay with me). Now, I do not think she peaked, not by a long shot, but I do think following an album that good is Gordian Knot difficult. So what does that mean for Give Up The Ghost and why it took me so long to write it up? Well, it’s just not as good as The Story. Obviously not much is by my measure, but when I put on a Brandi Carlile album, I’ve come to expect that grade of magnificence. It took me a little while to acclimate to the new sound and let the methadone take effect, and I’ve only recently felt attached enough to this album to write it out. I knew it was time when I woke up whistling Dying Day and hadn’t listened to the album recently. In case you’re curious, that’s a sure sign of quality.

Give Up The Ghost continues Brandi’s tradition in fine fashion, even if it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of her prior. I’ve developed understandable proclivities to my favorites from the show, but this is an album that’s chock full of quality tracks. From rockin’ numbers like Looking Out to the most delicate of numbers, Oh Dear, Brandi’s playbook is impressive and ever-expanding with the notable addition of some honky-tonk piano courtesy of Elton John (and some duet vocals! Being Brandi Carlile is pretty awesome, apparently). There are times that the production quality leaves something to be desired, but my comparison watermark is T-Bone Burnett’s work, so falling short is hardly a stinging indictment. Dying Day is my hands-down favorite at the moment, but there’s plenty to fall in love with, including strong runner up If There Was No You. All things considered, it’s a great album, it just happens to be the second best Brandi Carlile album you can get.

Dying Day
If There Was No You

19 Oct 2009, 08:46 MST

A few post-concert thoughts. And jetpacks.

On the subject of epic, once-in-a-lifetime musical extravaganzas of the cancer-curing variety, I just wanted to throw my two pesos in the pot.

Thinking back on it, I really think that the tour poster really sold the whole ordeal pretty short. I think that if I had been in charge of the marketing effort, it easily would have featured Brandi and Katie on jetpacks, effortlessly escaping an enormous 50-megaton nuclear blast, each with a bundle of sleepy puppies under one arm and a wide-eyed orphan child under the other. Around them would have featured proclamations of their near-divinity in a bold, mid-century typeface, evoking the classic Science Fiction films of days past.

It would have been glorious. And 100 percent true.

I spent the entire evening feeling as though I were being whisked away to a magical fantasy land from the horrors of the outside world by a pair of jetpack-wearing super-heroines. I’m not sure if I was one of the puppies or a wide-eyed orphan, but I think you get where I’m going with this.

I think that the big question mark hanging over the lead-up to the show was in regards to the vocals holding up. We all know about studio trickery and being the pragmatist that I am, I wondered if in fact they’d be able to live up to the standards set forth by immaculate studio recordings. I think that any apprehension that I had was soundly up-slapped when Katie unloaded Songbird on the poor, unsuspecting audience. She was above perfection, doing things that I can only describe as vocally acrobatic, in some instances, out-doing her work on the album. That, folks, is real talent.

I think that a lot of artists are content to wander out on stage, plow through a decidedly average set of songs and call it a night. Sometimes, it’s like listening to an album, except of course you’ve been standing for three hours and you’re wondering if that wonderful stench of pot and body-odor will ever wash out of your clothes. I’ve had way too many of those kinds of concert-going experiences, and frankly, I’m sick of it. It’s just not worth it. I am very, very happy to report that this is not one of those kinds of tours. You won’t be thinking about your feet, because you’ll forget that you even have feet. It’s an experience like that.

I have a confession to make: once Katie was finished, I thought that there was a slight possibility she may have ended up upstaging THE Brandi Carlile. And then, as if Brandi herself had evolved into a  higher order of mind-reading super-humans, she read my mind. Almost, as if laughing to herself at my thought that she could be upstaged, she and her band walked out and performed a quasi-acapella rendition of Oh Dear. There aren’t many times I’ve experienced a performance that instantly silenced a crowd, but this was definitely one of them. Let’s just say that I’d been served a platter of crow and her glance in my direction seemed to suggest a ‘Get eating, buddy!‘ thought. Rightly so, Ms. Carlile. Rightly so.

Even though she looked exhausted, she evaded the temptation to play a straight set, opting instead to mix it up in a surprising way. Full-on rock-out? Check. Intimate ‘un-plugged’ set? Check. A completely un-micced tune which turned the entire audience into puddles of mush? Check and check. There really wasn’t any ground she didn’t cover, excellent takes on the originals and a very tasteful batch of covers. The coup-de-grace had to be when she invited Katie and her band back on stage for what I can only describe as an Arcade Fire-esque rendition of Katie’s Wish You Well. How do I mean? Well, it wasn’t just that there were eleven people on stage, it also had to do with the multiple people banging on drums, high-energy string playing, powerful vocals and just a plain energy that you just don’t see very often. After having gone back and listened to the album version of this song, it just doesn’t carry the same kind of weight it did at the show. Thanks, guys. I freaking loved that song, and now I can’t listen to it without thinking of Brandi and Katie singing their brains out on a shared mic, everyone having a great time. Pure magic, folks.

After the show, we hung out at the merch table and had a chat with Katie and the ladies. I never really know what to say in those situations, because really, you don’t want to come off like a slobbering fanboy, right? Usually that means that my foot ends up in my mouth. I am happy to report that we behaved ourselves, got a great photo and autographs out of it, and we couldn’t have been any happier. We made our way around back just as Brandi was making her way through the small crowd that had developed. We had a brief exchange, tickets were signed and hands were shaken. I told her that the show was really above-and-beyond, and how much we appreciated that. Like I mentioned, she looked exhausted the whole time, but it never once dragged the show down. In fact, it’s almost like she’d hit her 10th wind and it pushed her even harder. That seriously impressed me.

I know there are only a few dates left, but if you’re on the fence about going, just stop thinking about it and go. These ladies and their top-notch bands are class-acts and it’s a bit of a moral imperative to support acts like this. Unless of course you have an aversion towards jetpacks, awesomeness, freedom and all that is good about the world. You know, like some people do.

As a side note (and I know that Adam briefly touched on it), Katie has a new live album that she’s made available on her website as a pay-as-you-wish download (or free, if you refer five friends). I know this is going to come as a huge shock, but please jump on this. I’m a huge supporter of this kind of approach, and I’m glad they’re trying it out. Bravo, Ms. Herzig!

17 Oct 2009, 09:00 MST

Epilogue: Katie and Brandi, Live at The Rialto

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”. While neither elephant trickery nor trapeze artistry were on display, perhaps the best executed live performance of music ever witnessed was. Considering the gravity of the situation I understand that you may want to verify such a claim, and I believe that attending any of the remaining tour dates wherein these artists are both featured will satisfy any concerns you may have. Thank you for your time and my deepest sympathy on the loss of your 138 year tradition of being the most spectacular thing a person could witness.


Katie Herzig and Brandi Carlile are on tour together right now. Yes, at this very moment. If any of the following dates/locations are within the realm of reason for you to attend, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you do whatever it takes to secure a ticket: Sat, Oct 17, 2009 Wiltern Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Tue, Oct 20, 2009 The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
Wed, Oct 21, 2009 The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
Thu, Oct 22, 2009 Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – Portland, OR
Sat, Oct 24, 2009 Paramount Theatre – Seattle, WA

Joe and I went to this show. I thought it would be a good show. They’re both great artists, they’re both on the Top Five CGPLS Albums of All Time (Apple Tree and The Story). I hadn’t done any particular study into the quality of their live shows, but Brandi Carlile is made up of something similar in effect to cocaine that I would call intimate energy, and not one person, anywhere, in any sense, is doing what Katie Herzig does with music, so hey, sign me up, you know? A quality way to spend a Friday, right?

Let me just go ahead and tell you what my revised version of Heaven is.

Katie Herzig, THE Katie Herzig, comes out on stage. She does a set of assorted tracks from her albums. She is magnificent in every way, witty and wry between songs, pitch-perfect and on-the-ball beyond any expectation I could have. She’s true to the recordings but slides in some subtle-yet-welcome modifications that make this live show something unique and precious. Her band is a shining pillar of perfect accompaniment, Claire Indie overwhelming my heart with cello mastery and Jordan Hamlin effortlessly riffing on a half-dozen instruments. I think to myself, what a great idea it was to come to the show tonight. Who needs Brandi Carlile when Katie Herzig is this good? When they finish, I’m a little sad, cause I’m of a notion that I could listen to Katie Herzig and Co. play live for all eternity.

Then five people stroll out of the darkness into the front-center of the stage and crowd around a single microphone. It’s Brandi Carlile, and she’s brought friends. They proceed to throw down an immaculately done multi-part harmony and literally blow my mind right out of my left ear. They then tear the house from its foundations with wildly energetic and enthusiastic renditions of old favorites and new classics. My mind, which I have picked up off the floor and replaced, is now back on the floor. I decide to just leave it there.

Then she stops. The noise dies down and she walks around her microphone to the edge of the stage and asks us if it’s ok for her to do a song unplugged, as if we were doing her a favor. She then does that. In a massive room filled with people, her band rolls up with acoustics and she just does it. The crowd is stunned. Her voice is angelic. Two terminal patients near the front of the stage are spontaneously cured. The house is miraculously rebuilt by the unbridled quality. They return to their plugs, but stick with the acoustics and knock down a set of songs in a wonderful stripped-down, raw-materials style that showcases everything that makes Brandi Carlile and her band the highest caliber of musician. The crowd is powerfully moved and I have already begun forgetting even the most intimate details of my life in order to more perfectly remember the wonder in front of me.

But Brandi was apparently unsatisfied with the current status of the house, and so she retrieves her electric guitar and tears it back down, leaving all of us standing, stupefied, in the ruins. Parts of the crowd begin ascending to a higher plane of existence as their corporeal forms are replaced by pure happiness. Those of us who remain, though, are soon called upon. Brandi can create not only with her own hands and those of her band, but with ours as well. She divides the crowd into three groups and teaches us three-part harmony. We learn and represent ourselves well. It’s wonderful, she’s wonderful, life is wonderful. She thanks us and leaves the stage to thunderous applause after evaporating an adjacent building with “The Story”.

The crowd begins the ancient rites that summon The Encore. The cacophony is sufficient to bring her back, but she returns as The Woman in Black and lays down two brilliant Johnny Cash covers, including a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, other-cliches-as-well “Folsom Prison Blues” that razes even the ruins of the house clean and salts the Earth where they had lain. Standing now in raw nature, she does a number of further hits including a gorgeous solo take of “That Year” that makes hearts in the room grow by up to three sizes. I am, at this point, a husk of a man, consumed entirely by the magnificence, content if my only further purpose is as a memorial of this event left on site that pilgrims may know where homage be paid.

And then. She calls Katie Herzig back on stage. Katie Herzig brings her entire band. There are now two, count ’em, two cellos on stage and what faculties I have left cause me to begin weeping, openly and without shame. The Katie-Brandi super-band takes off on “Wish You Well” and whatever in any of us that was not blissful is made so. Katie and hers leave the stage, along with most of Brandi’s band. Brandi moves over to the piano and, along with her cellist, begins a tune. It sounds familiar, but I don’t recognize it immediately. “All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces…” She’s covering Mad World. By Tears for Fears. It’s happening right in front of us. It’s HAPPENING RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Her version is unsurprisingly brilliant and it ends poetically with the cellist concocting a delay loop that allows them both to walk off the stage in its wake, in near darkness, Brandi stopping briefly to bow and wave.

Things I now have:
-A signed copy of Apple Tree and a picture with Katie Herzig as seen below
-A ticket stub signed by Brandi Carlile
-A right hand I can never wash again as both Katie and Brandi shook it
-The knowledge in my heart that I have seen and heard what must be seen and heard by all people as an affirmation of life
-Serious desire to see Brandi Carlile and Katie Herzig again, together or separate, as many times as possible

Live music is this good, everyone. Go see a show. This show if possible, but any show is better than nothing. I’m not including any tracks with this post as I failed to bootleg anything from the festivities. I’m pretty positive that no earthly recording device could capture the transcendent perfection of this show anyway. I’ll have a field report on Give Up The Ghost, Brandi’s newest album, in the next several days and also, hopefully, a post about Katie Herzig’s newest release, Acoustic Trio. Until then, you can find me standing in the smoldering hole where The Rialto Theatre previously stood, wracked with euphoria, immovable against the powerful bliss that holds me there, a silent, unnamed sentinel known only as The Witness.

branditicket-thumb appletree-front-thumb appletree-inside-thumb
me joe and katie-thumb

13 Oct 2009, 12:01 MST

A Girl Called Eddy

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. Other music is epic and grand, it opens up like a door into the aether, befuddling your mind and leaving you in wonder. Still other music is brash and urgent, driving you, nay, requiring you to dance and move. A Girl Called Eddy’s music is none of that. This sound is velvet. It’s the warmth of a fireplace. The security of a familiar embrace. An envelope of sound that separates you from the world. You don’t listen to A Girl Called Eddy’s music, you put it on, you immerse yourself in it. The sweet melancholy drifts over you and into your soul and you forget about things that aren’t Erin Moran’s voice, things that aren’t reverb-infused and intent, things that aren’t this music.

It’s hard to describe exactly what it is about A Girl Called Eddy’s sound that forever makes me feel like I’m in a warm cocoon surrounded by icy nothingness. There’s a strong sense of space created by the liberal reverb and open, ambient arrangements, but Erin Moran’s voice defies it, full and rich, opposing the emptiness, grounding song and listener, focusing the magic. More energetic selections pepper a track list dominated by contemplative numbers but even at their most intense, they’re reined in by the strength and weight of Moran’s vocals, kept from running away and upsetting the album’s groove.

These are my favorites, and this is the sound I love on the album. More uptemo numbers like “Golden” and “The Long Goodbye” are excellent songs, but these are what I think of when I think of A Girl Called Eddy. I cannot wait to see what Erin Moran has in store for us on her upcoming album, supposedly due out this year. I am already in the throes of another Long Wait, as patented by Rachael Yamagata, but some tiny unjaded portion of my inner monologue (and it is tiny) maintains hope that A Girl Called Eddy will deliver soon and make me again consider her for the top spot in my musical heart. Do yourself a favor: put on some great over-ear headphones, settle in for 51 minutes and let A Girl Called Eddy prove me right.

Girls Can Really Tear You Up Inside
Little Bird

07 Oct 2009, 11:54 MST

Human Interest Piece

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 called the Peak Performance Project and it sounds like a great idea to me. I like Adaline’s music, I’m all for more of it, so I’m encouraging all of you to figuratively stroll on over to the voting area found here and do some voting for Adaline. When she wins the grandest prize and goes on her US tour in support of her sophomore album, and that tour stops in Tucson (it better), I’ll be doing my best to get one of those hilariously bad celebrity candids that people are always taking of themselves and a slightly uncomfortable star, which in this case will be Adaline (how lucky for her!). I will then post it here. That’s right everyone, you’re not just helping Adaline, you’re (possibly) helping me entertain you with pictures (maybe)! I know you want to vote extra bad now, so I’ll include the link again: vote here As a little bonus material, here’s a track Adaline recorded in one day with also-contestants Bend Sinister at The Peak Performance Project Boot Camp between runs through the obstacle course and ferocious pugil stick battles.

In a Minute

Second, I just got my physical copy of Catherine Feeny’s new album. As I indicated in the “Catherine Feeny has a new album” post, it’s signed and numbered and she even signed it with a heart so now we’re best friends. But it also came with a nice hand-written note of thanks. That’s class, folks, and I endorse class of that caliber and so I’m including pictures of my new favorite album of all time and the note to attempt yet again to tickle your consumer bone.
cf-pith-back-thumb cf-pith-front-thumb cf-pith-note-thumb

I took it out to the lawn and just stared up at a blue sky and listened. And took pictures of it. If you haven’t yet gone over to Catherine Feeny’s site then get over there and order this thing already. In case you weren’t moved to part with your hard earned dollars by the last two tracks (how could you not be?) and the amazing photos (I know they’re mediocre), here’s just one more musical sample to push you over the edge. Don’t waste another moment, go, spend, do what you must.

New York in the Spring

And lastly, some site news! We’re being featured in a magazine! I know, right? It’s called ELIZA and it’s basically a quarterly on how to be my dream girl. By that I mean it’s about fashion and lifestyle for classy ladies, kinda Audrey Hepburn meets the new millennium. They’re doing a story about bloggers in their fall issue and they thought of us! Joe and I are both pleased as punch over the whole thing. We turned in the longest, stream-of-consciousness, over-the-top set of interview responses and Geidy (the poor writer who had to deal with us) managed to make us incredibly digestible. Pick up the new issue and in addition to reading about the mythical geniuses behind CGPLS, you’ll get an outstanding fashion magazine for yourself or your special lady. Do also check out their blog. Editor Summer Bellessa has taken to scooping us on some quality music of late, so if you like what you’re reading here, she’s probably got something for you over there too. Our totally geeked-out thanks to Summer and Geidy and everyone at ELIZA for making us feel cool.

And that’s it folks. I promise there’s some music coming up. Seriously. The change in seasons has me digging into some old favorites, all of which will be posted. It won’t be disappointing. Well, probably not, anyway.

23 Sep 2009, 18:39 MST

Sara Bareilles

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. Look, they can’t all be people you’ve never heard of, alright?

I know you know Sara Bareilles. Little Voice is certified gold, she’s been on Leno twice, she was featured in a Rhapsody commercial (nobody’s perfect), Love Song is double-platinum and spent time as the #1 song on Billboard’s Pop chart. Her story is a warm fuzzy of what happens when good music finds a willing audience in the general public. I’m not posting Sara Bareilles because you haven’t heard her, I’m posting her because she’s absolutely amazing, positively one of the greatest voices on the scene right now, and I like her a whole whole lot. And I do what I want.

In a fit of what can only be described as…motivation, I actually went to a Sara Bareilles show. I’ve missed a lot of good shows. I missed Katie Herzig, I missed Brandi Carlile (second chance this October, with Katie Herzig no less, moral imperative much?), I missed Jenny Owen Youngs, I missed Rachael Yamagata (::ssiigghh::), but this one, I didn’t miss. I’ll tell you what it is that got me there, too. The voice. It’s launching a thousand ships, it’s drawing in the animals of the forest, it’s being bottled by faeries in case singing ever disappears. Powerful in a way most of her contemporaries can only long for, perfectly inflected with just the right amount of jazz, it is precisely the kind of voice you use as an example of what singing sounds like.

Everything she does on the album, she does better in person. She wails on the piano and sings her heart right out and just generally does it right. In my admittedly limited experience and for my money, there’s very little I’d choose over Sara Bareilles and a piano.

If I have one complaint about the album, it’s that it has a case of the “radio friendlies”. With the exception of the occasional obscenity (how could I love her more), there’s not a song on it that isn’t immediately ready for heavy rotation on the radio. I’m not saying that’s bad, it’s that kind of album I guess, but I’d love to hear some less produced tracks. I think there’s more depth to Sara Bareilles than we’ve heard. Hopefully her next producer lets a little more of the raw glory shine through.

Come Round Soon is what passes for “gritty” on Little Voice (I say that like it’s a bad thing), and Gravity is my favorite Sara Bareilles song by a wide margin. Enjoy them, that’s an order. If you don’t have this album already, go get it. This is one cultural phenomenon you should feel good about giving in to. In case you need an example of the other thing, reality television is a cultural phenomenon you should feel bad about giving in to (oh snap!).

Come Round Soon

Also, everyone wave to Technorati: 2yig9xbfkt. I know most people put in a post with the claim code and then delete it. I’m going a different way.

07 Sep 2009, 20:18 MST

Catherine Feeny

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. All that considered though, the star of the show is her amazing voice, textured and earnest with an endearingly delicate falsetto. It’s her Swiss Army knife, at times ethereal and weightless, at times emotional and empowered, at times playful and inviting, but always delivering her poignant, imagery-laden lyrics.

Catherine has several releases in the wild, all of which are positively brilliant. I’ll revisit her older material at a later date, but of especial interest at the moment is the release of her newest album, People in the Hole.

It’s magnificent. I won’t feign any sort of surprise. Her back catalog set the bar very high, but it was still no step for a stepper of Catherine Feeny’s capability to make another fantastic album, perhaps even her best yet. Like all her albums, it’s filled from bottom to top with great tracks and it’s new enough that I’m still in puppy love with the whole thing, but here are two that I find myself coming back to. Catherine is self-publishing this album after some apparent creative differences with her label, so go to her site and buy it and you’ll get an instant gratification MP3 download AND a hand-signed and numbered CD shipped right to your home AND you get to support a great artist in her musical independence.

That’s a mitzvah, friends.


The Bell & the Anchor