The story behind this video is astoundingly simple, yet undeniably profound…
The story behind this video is astoundingly simple, yet undeniably profound…
Passenger – “Whispers”
I’ve never cared much for Michael David Rosenberg’s (aka passenger) voice. I find it rather airy and to be honest, I scrunched up my forehead the first time I heard “Let her go” from his 2012 album “All the little lights”.
But, I promised myself that I would always look deeper into the artists that I encounter. Give them a chance to impress me with the other elements of their craft, and his latest album “Whispers” has certainly delivered…
On Sunday, Jason Mraz announced the launch date of his next album entitled “YES!”. 15 July is the day we’ll all be looking forward to, but till then, he has promised to premiere a new song each week till the full album drops.
For this album he has teamed up with Raining Jane, an all female indie band from Los Angeles, which is good news. Previous collaborations have resulted in some amazing music, and the lead single “Love Someone” is no exception.
According to an interview with Radio.com, Mraz and the 4 girls of Raining Jane were just walking down a dirt road in Virginia when the ideas for this song were penned. They just grabbed an instrument each and started “making things up”.
If this is a true taste of what “YES!” is going to be like, then we are really in for a treat! Jason Mraz is one of those innovative and intelligent musicians that always delivers an astounding performance in all of his work.
Check back here for next weeks track.
20 May 2014
How has music affected your life?
I’m sure I can quite safely say that almost everyone is touched by its influence in some way or another. It is such an intricate part of who we are as humans that it is almost impossible to ignore.
But what makes music so miraculous, is its ability to transcend the boundaries of understanding. Whether you are a Masai warrior from the Serengeti, or a tenor from an A Capella group in South Carolina, you have the potential to make a musical connection with just about any one.
There are a few moments in my life that illustrated to me why music is such a corner-stone of human existence, and these moments will forever be ingrained in my mind. Continue Reading
In the 1998 film “City of Angels”, there’s a moment where all the angels gather on the beach to face the sun rise. The angels couldn’t feel or taste or enjoy any earthly pleasures, but they could hear music in the dawning of a new day.
I like that notion. What song would you attach to this mornings sun?
I’ve been listening to Bastille’s debut album, “Bad Blood” on and off for a few months now. I’ve never been one for main stream hype, especially when it comes to music. As a rule of thumb, I tend to steer away from tracks that appear on the top of the charts. They tend to be rather generic and musically boring.
But something keeps drawing me back to a few tracks on Bastilles’ “Bad Blood”. Why is it that they keep featuring on my many different playlists? Continue Reading
So here’s an artist that I wish I had heard of years ago!! This guy is pure, unadulterated, makes-most-other-musicians-want-to-slit-their-wrists, talent! I just wish I could find more information about this guy!! He’s from Texas. That’s all his biography will dare tell us.
What strikes me about Shakey Graves is the unapologetic rawness of his performance. His album “Roll the Bones” gives the impression of a home recording using a sub-standard microphone, and the very clever layering of his vocals make his sound somewhat hypnotic.
In the opening track of his 2011 Album “Roll the Bones”, called “Unlucky Skin”, Alejandro Rose-Garcia (or simply “Shakey Grave”) glides between time signatures with a grace that only comes with years of practice. (On a side note, for those of you that are scratching your head, the “time signature” of a piece of music is what determines the meter and how many beats there are per measure, and to a certain degree, the arrangement of strong beats within the piece.) And it’s not regular time signatures either. He swaps between 5 and 7 beats per measure, and as any musician would tell you, just learning to master either one is hard enough on its own. The result is a constant shifting of beats which draws the listener’s attention and holds it.
He uses this technique on several different levels. In “Built to Roam”, each of the first three lines of the first verse has an added layer of vocals, breaking the monotony of just a single voice taking us through to the chorus. The second verse has the same build of vocals, but the well placed pause before the last chorus builds tension nicely. It’s subtle, but clever.
His cover of Bruce Sprinsteens “Fire” is a stand out for me. He’s given it a darkness that is very intriguing. Everyone listens to a piece of music with different ears. A person’s life experiences play a big part in interpreting music, and the same song can even be interpreted differently by the same person at different points in their life. That’s the beauty of listening to and collecting music. My point is, Shakey Graves has offered us his understanding of this classic track, and it certainly twists the meaning of the song. I’d love to know what “The Boss” himself thinks.
The rest of the album follows in a similar way; constantly challenging us to rethink our perception of him as an artist, but I’m not going to analyze each song here. What I really want you to see is what he does in a live situation. Let me put it this way; if you went to a gig of some guy you had never heard of, probably in some dive of a bar where the local bar flies are less than appealing, and the artist walks up on stage with only a guitar and a kick drum/tambourine fashioned out of an old suitcase and kick drum pedals, what would your first thoughts be? But then he’d start playing, and this is what you’d hear…
And with every song he’d keep you so focused on his wildly eclectic persona that you may as well be sitting alone in the room with him playing just for you. Here’s another track (not from the reviewed album) that he did with Esme Patterson. It’s just too good not to share. The track starts at 1:05. Enjoy!
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10 April 2014
So I’ve managed to get my hands on Noah Gundersen’s first full album, “Ledges”. I’ve been listening to it for the last few days on heavy rotation, and I’m still not sure where I stand with this album. I definitely had to dig quite a bit deeper on this one compared to his EP “Family”.
The first thing that stands out for me is the abundance of biblical references scattered amongst the lyrics. The most prominent of which is the track “Isaiah”, which uses the prophet Isaiah (No surprises there) as a vehicle for the song. “With the prophet Isaiah on the crook of your arm, saying I will protect you from all earthly harm”. The rest of the lyrics reveal a love affair that he is having with an attached woman: “I’m the reason you’re guilty, in another man’s’ arms. Honey, what am I doing, how did I get this far”.
So, to sum up, we have reference to the Prophet Isaiah, who prophesized the coming of Jesus Christ. And the story of an adulterous love affair. (Are you seeing the link yet? Me neither).
But somehow this song doesn’t feel blasphemous at all. In fact, you get the sense that neither party has any control over the situation. Almost like there’s another force at work. Something biblical, or prophetic perhaps? I don’t know. You have a listen and decide for yourself.
A great artist is someone that is able to express their feelings without holding back. A great artist is willing to expose himself and his proverbial skeletons. It’s an unfortunate truth that the most memorable songs are born out of some terrible situations, such as drug addictions and family abuse. I remember watching a video of a collaboration between Herbie Hancock, John Legend and Pink. Pink opens the video saying “Pain is what creates my music, I’m useless when I’m happy. Pain is my motivator. Frustration, anger, confusion, loneliness”. Obviously this is not true for all artists, but it seems to me that Gundersen has a similar muse.
The album starts with “Poor man’s son”. The gospel like a cappella harmonies draw you in immediately and I can’t help but think that there’s a bit of Negro spiritual mixed in there as well. This song would be fantastic live. The intensity would have a crowd transfixed and the gaps between phrases would leave you holding your breath in anticipation. The song builds later with the addition of the acoustic guitar, and the last 50 seconds of the song has the gang almost shouting a repeat of what would be the bridge of the song. Almost like he’s getting annoyed because no one is listening! LISTEN UP DAMMIT!!!!! We’re listening Noah. Promise.
I could go on about all these songs for ages, and it wouldn’t bother me either. In the time it’s taken me to write this, I’ve gone from “not so sure” to a firm believer! This man is brilliant! I will leave you with one more interesting correlation:
In my previous blog, my review on Gundersens “Family” EP, I mentioned that the only other time I felt this passionate about a musician was the first time I heard “O” by Damien Rice. On that album there is a song called “Cold Water”. The chords and beat of the introduction and verse are almost identical to “Poison Vine” from this album currently on review. What does that mean? I’m really not sure. Draw your own conclusions. For me it’s symbolically poetic. An affirmation of my loyalty.
If you do decide to listen to him, take your time. Really listen. Make a conscious decision to hear what he has to say, and the way in which he says it. You will find it hard not to believe him!
4 March 2014
I’m battling to recall who introduced me to Noah Gundersen. I think it may have been my niece in the UK. Whoever it was, Thank You Thank You Thank You!! This has to be one of the most refreshing sounds I’ve heard in a long time.
The only album/EP I’ve heard is his self released “Family”, and I must say, I sat transfixed from fade in to fade out. His instrumentation, guitar playing style and lyrics are beautifully crafted and honest. I have only ever felt this way about a musician once before, and that was Damien Rice with his Album “O”.
The first track, “David” immediately draws you in with the solid bass beat from what sounds like a knock box. The droning strings give off a sense of angst and frustration, setting the tone for the rest of the song and arguably the rest of the EP. The lyrics make reference to the popular bible story of David and Goliath, and he uses this reference to illustrate his desire to overcome his “demons”. I guess that explains the aggressive accompaniment. After all, the only way to deal with your ghosts is to face them head on, without backing down.
His lyrics are incredibly descriptive. I would liken them to a photographer taking detail shots of an intricate piece of wood work or the close up portrait of a pretty girl; revealing the small imperfections that you may not see otherwise. Lyrics like “I met a lot of fine women, with the small of their backs, shining like the crescent moon” from the second track “Fire”, creates a scene in your mind that puts you right there in the moment. The droning pedal bass and open fifths seem to eclipse the sun and invite the creatures of the sacred night to dance around in your mind.
The rest of the EP is not as dramatic, but no less intriguing. “Nashville” and “San Antonio Fading” are songs that can hold very different meanings from person to person. Regardless, he still uses some very specific imagery that will make you feel like he’s singing only for you. The smoky quality of his voice and the well placed harmonies by his sister Abby only add to the tone (so to speak) of the lyrics. I guess the next track, “Honest Songs”, perfectly rounds off the overall intention of this EP.
My favourite track is the next in line, “Garden”. I will admit, I’m sucker for this type of lyric that simply illustrates the old adage of the silver lining, or in this case “even in the smallest places can a garden grow”. Everyone goes through difficult times, some more difficult than others, but nevertheless, its how we deal with these times that make us who we are. So for me, this song is my mantra during these times.
The title track “Family” ends off the album with a rather bohemian type of vibe. I can only assume he’s referring to the disjointed on goings of his own family. There’s a definite feel of taboo within the lyrics, but also a sense of nonchalance that you would expect from someone who has grown up in that type of environment. Nevertheless the song follows perfectly from the rest of the track, and as before, paints a picture of specific scenes being played out almost like a narcotic induced illusion.
As a whole, this artist has staying power. He’s made it through the break up with his band “The Courage”, and has emerged wiser in my opinion. He has all the makings of a great musician, and he has a dark sorrowful sound that is coloured by moments of intimate joy. I truly look forward to seeing where Gundersen takes us with his next album “Ledges”.
21 February 2014
I am not particularly fond of the whole idols franchise. The shows themselves have produced some incredible moments I’ll admit, but I can honestly say that there hasn’t been an idols winner that has caught my attention with their debut albums after their “crowning”.
Until now… Continue Reading