Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Momentum for Your Morning

The bass hook in the opening track of the Lisa Piccirillo's debut album "Momentum" grabs you right away--wrapping you tightly in the delight of the first of eleven exceptionally well produced songs. Brew some good coffee, find a comfortable chair in a sunny corner of the house, and take in the entire album in one sitting at the start of your day. It's a perfect antidote to the dreadful, relentless drone of network news.

I first learned of Lisa's incredible vocal skill when she sang background vocals on Gregory Douglass' 2005 album, "Stark." From the get go, the release of her debut, full-length album was something I've highly anticipated and Momentum definitely delivers. She has a rich, smooth, sensual voice and a well-grounded, mature lyrical sensibility. When combine with the spot-on studio performances from some of the best musicians from the Northeast, a guest vocal performance from singer/songwriter Patrick Thomas, and the astute production of Syd, it all comes together in a package that is right at home in your playlist alongside the likes of Deb Tallan, Patty Griffin, and Edie Carey.

Favorite Tracks:
"You Never Say"
"Sandbar" (featuring Patrick Thomas)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Perfect End to a Long Day

One of the true musical gems in 2003 was the self-titled debut album from eastmountainsouth. It was a lush offering that had all the signals of a band at the beginning of a tremendous future. Sadly, the founding duo of Kat Maslich and Peter Bradley Adams parted ways before making it back into the studio to record a sophomore album. Thankfully, Peter has continued to write and record from the highly praised "Gather Up" in 2006 to the release last fall of "Leavetaking".

Leavetaking is the kind of quiet album you can wrap yourself in. Like your favorite paperback novel, it's worthy of curling up on the couch in a dimly lit room, with a glass of rich wine in hand, and just listening. His breathy, soothing vocal style sit beautifully over the soothing piano and guitar arrangements. All in all, a wonderful listen at the end of a long day.

Recommended Tracks:
"The Longer I Run"
"Keep Us"

Friday, April 3, 2009

"New Arrivals" is a Must Have Compilation

Yesterday afternoon I learned of the recent release of "New Arrivals: Volume 3" on Rachel Sage's MPress Records label. How could one pass up the opportunity to grab a single album filled with many great independent artists for one low price, and all in the name of charity? I of course, bought a copy right away and have been listening repeatedly since.

This is a compilation chock full of talent including Toronto's Ember Swift; Los Angeles based artists Lelia Broussard, Adrienne Pierce, and Christopher Dallman; South Carolina's Jay Clifford; New York's Theo Eastwind; and a bonus track from Glen Phillips of "Toad the Wet Sprocket" fame. And when you purchase it, you're not only scoring some fantastic tracks, but you're supporting a very worthy charitable cause--National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)--as 100% of all proceeds go to that organization.

Favorite Tracks (at the moment):
"Moving in Slow Motion," The Sweet Remains
"Reaching for Me," Adrienne Pierce
"Nighttime in the City," Christopher Dallman

Don't walk, but rather run to CDBaby.com or iTunes and discover all the goodness wrapped up in this release!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

$250 a seat? Really?

I really wanted to bring you another music discovery yesterday, but I was frustrated by something. It became a mental block. Here's the scoop.

First, a confession. Not all of my favorite artists are independent. There are a few bands, like U2, that I've been following since I was a teenager. I have fond memories of standing in line in 1984 to get a $15 ticket to the first leg of their Unforgettable Fire show at the "San Francisco Civic Center" (now known, as the Bill Graham Civic Center). The Waterboys opened. It was someone's birthday. Bono sprayed champagne all over the audience. Several of my friends got wet. It was a fantastic show. And, as a result, I've never missed a leg of any of their tours since. But that may have just changed.

Yesterday I was geared up to jump on the pre-sale opportunity for the an October date in Los Angeles. Since they haven't announced anything for the Bay Area, I was willing to hop on a cheap Southwest flight and be there to catch it. But I paused. Call me crazy, but I'm sorry. $250 for a decent seat! Sure I could get general admission on the field of the massive stadium for only $55, but I had to question... is it really worth it? It's not that I couldn't afford it, but rather, why? What else could I do with that money in support of the music I love?

There are some amazing bands and solo musicians all over the country that spend a good amount of their live performance time playing gigs in people's living rooms. These "house concerts" cost the host very little to produce (some food, a few cases of cheap wine perhaps, and maybe the rental of a few extra chairs), yet offer all their guests front row seats to one of the most intimate musical experiences they may ever have. Often in return, the artists simply ask for a suggested donation of $10 or so from the guests. If you've got a living room or basement or backyard big enough to host 30 friends or so, I encourage you to email an artist you like and just ask them. Chances are, they'd love to play a house concert for you.

If throwing a party isn't your thing, here's another way to make a tremendous impact in the world of independent music. Many studio albums, EPs, demos, and videos are all fan funded. That is, artists will offer up a pre-order opportunity before ever entering the studio to help raise the finances necessary to record the music they've worked so hard to write. Studio time is expensive. A 12 minute EP for example can easily cost $5,000 to produce. Unless the artist can be certain they'll sell a couple thousand copies of the EP after the fact, they're entering the studio at a financial loss. That simple donation of $10 or $20 from a few hundred fans, makes all the difference in whether or not the music is ever recorded. Think of it as buying futures in the music you love.

A few House Concert picks:

And for a new recording project currently seeking funds, check out Christopher Dallman.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Anais Mitchell, the Cosmic American, and a Power Outage

What is it about Vermont that gives it the honor of producing so many amazing artists? I'm not sure if it can be credited to the sheer beauty of the Northeast in the spring and fall, or the bitterness of the long, cold winters that lay heavy on the region, but what thing is for certain--if you're looking to discover an immense amount of compelling, independently produced music, start with the Green Mountain State.

Certainly this is true when it comes to Anais Mitchell. A couple years ago, fellow Vermont-native Gregory Douglass recommended we download 2004's "Hymns for the Exiled" and we couldn't be more grateful. The third track on the album alone, "Cosmic American," was an immediate favorite and has certainly found a permanent home on my "deserted island" playlist. How can you not be drawn into a song with such melodic beauty and deeply sexual lyrics "spent a long night with a stranger I give my body to, still I miss you" and "up behind your Astro van, you got me up against the fender, you are the Cosmic American..."?

On March 26th, I was fortunate enough to see Anais perform live at the famous Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. Simply put, she is downright incredible live. Her casual charm and spot on vocals combined to command our attention. The whole room was hanging on every lyric of every song. That is, until the encore when the power suddenly went out. While many artists may have just ended there, Anais made it magical when, under the dim light of a few flashlights and votive candles, she invited all of us to join in a sing-along version of "Goodnight, Irene." Perfection!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Am I the Only One Who Just Discovered Angie Mattson?

I feel like I'm a bit "late to the party" since her album "Given to Sudden Panic and Noisy Retreat" was released in 2007. There was even a free download on iTunes for the first single, "Thank You." But it's OK. There's a chance you haven't been listening to Angie yet either.

She's got a beautifully smoky voice with a musical intensity that sucks you in on first listen. Songs like "Drive" and "Hurricane" offer up rich pop-inspired hooks, yet provide the lyrical and melodic twists necessary to keep with the honesty of the entire album. Then there's "Thank You" which is reminiscent for me of what I liked best about Mazzy Star. It's lush and intimate.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

You've Just Got To See "Cathedrals"

It amazes me that the "world at large" hasn't yet caught the Gregory Douglass buzz. Only 28 years young, and yet he's just released his 7th full-length album of original music--Battler. A more detailed review of the album will be forthcoming as it's definitely an absolute favorite of 2009.

Before we get to all of that, there's a video you just MUST SEE. It's for the first single off the album and is certain to catch the masses by storm when it begins airing on MTV's LOGO network soon. Gorgeously melodic with a driving snare drum that is sure to hook you, I just can't get enough of the song. Add to that a video, directed by Mary Haverstick, that is beautifully shot and ripe with timely controversy... we have a sure hit on our hands.

Thankfully, you don't have to wait to catch it on the Television.