piano

Sara Bareilles

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
Gravity

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.

Catherine Feeny

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.

catherinefeeny.com

Jacaranda
The Bell & the Anchor

Cœur de pirate

Cœur de pirate

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. I think I can easily sum up my thoughts about Cœur de pirate in a way that transcends language barriers, a universal internet symbol of my affection.

<3

Comme des enfants
Fondu au noir

Plus, awesome ink. Just sayin’.

Rachael Yamagata

Rachael Yamagata

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. I felt ready, prepared to receive it.

I was not.

Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart was not what I anticipated. An album in two parts, a true Strange Case in Stevenson’s mould, the spacious and subdued Elephants draws you deep into dreamy reaches of melancholy only to be assaulted by the burning, moody rock of Teeth Sinking Into Heart, the dancing yellow inferno to Elephant’s cool blue flame.

Elephants is a fully-realized cosmology in the key of regret, narrated by Rachael’s emotional delivery. From the first delicate tones of the title track to the last lingering notes of hidden cut The Only Fault, you’re immersed in gorgeous orchestral tracks, cavernous expanses of lost love and woe. Even intimate moments like Duet span a wide sea of squandered possibility where star-crossed lovers float alone in vessels of their own good intentions. The first ten tracks of this two-face play like a concept album, a ten-track experience that is much more than the sum of its parts.

But just when you’re feeling safe in the otherworldly landscape of Elephants, Teeth breaks the reverie with sharp instruments and aggressive vocals, jangling rock and brooding melodies. Powerful drivers lead in, trailing brilliant fire into the smooth sound of Pause the Tragic Ending, and leaving you with Don’t, the mellow conclusion to Teeth. Here, the flames are perhaps the hottest, burning with white-hot control the way only jilted love can.

So here we are. This is right now. The saga continues, as the man says. Rachael has already begun writing for the next album, though if this epic has taught you anything, let it be that it will arrive when it arrives, and not a moment sooner.

You get three from this one. Take heed though, this album is an experience. You should get it. And experience it.

What If I Leave
Brown Eyes
Faster

PS. You can get it on vinyl. Just sayin’…

PPS. In case you missed them: Part 1: Falling Hard, Part 2: The Long Wait

Erin McCarley

Erin McCarley

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.

Erin McCarley fits snugly in a playlist surrounded by Meiko, A Fine Frenzy, Sara Bareilles and Brandi Carlile. She’s got a fair amount of novelty about her arrangements and though she has a small case of One Tree Hill voice, I’m honestly pretty indifferent to joining the CW-addled masses in a round of high-fives on this one. Pitter-Pat is the song that caught my ear this morning, and the eponymous Love, Save the Empty is just….well really good.

Pitter-Pat
Love, Save the Empty

PS. Among the reasons I’ve grown to love Amazon’s MP3 Store is stuff like this: Pitter-Pat Acoustic Amazon Exlusive, f-in’ GRATIS my friends. Hey Amazon, you guys are a-ok by me. Apple has some exclusive content as well (acoustic version of Pony), but as you’d expect, album only. As the Black Sheep might say “You can get with this, or you can get with that”.