Archive for the ‘Soul’ Category

Love Greatly

In Folk, Soul on March 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Where to begin. A thing happened in Virginia Beach, VA in mid February that doesn’t usually happen in Virginia Beach, VA, regardless of the time of year.  It was a living room show, a potluck, a gathering of singing, songwriting friends, which seems normal enough. But there was also a laptop computer, running dutifully, and a microphone to capture these moments, as pristine as they are raw.  Squeaking strings, some slightly off their intended tuning, knocks at the front door, crowd banter in the background, they all combine to create this world of intimacy and realness.

On a project like this, you might expect some clunkers, but you will not get any here. You might expect a general ceiling on how good the best songs might be, too. Wrong again. Instead, this collection serves to shine a light on a few truly amazing songs that will be resonating through my speakers for an indefinite amount of time.

Ian Thornton has to be considered the highlight of the bunch. His rough-hewn old soul voice and fingerpicked guitar arpeggiations hypnotize with ease. They sweep and swirl with slow-burning emotional restraint and with the aplomb of a seasoned road warrior.  I will now be requiring a full-length recording immediately, thank you. Twins Jenni & Jessi Hunt provide another transcendent moment with “Subject to Sink”. Two members of a 9-member folk-singing family band The Hunts, they stepped on their own to the forefront here with this beautiful duet.

Listen and enjoy:

The album is as cheap as free and as expensive as you deem worthy.
[get it here]


“Lost in the Light”

In Folk, Indie, Soul on January 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

A sleepy, smoky bar. Tall tables and ashtrays, scattered and half-full. A few barflies bellied up, backs turned to the stage. A golden guitar appears before the microphone.  The speakers bark as the cord slides home and one of the silent strangers glances over at the guitar. A pale hand grips the fretboard, its partner poised above the pickups. Twang, CHK, twang, CHK. Every chord, a heartbeat. Every heartbeat, a breath. Every breath, an ascension. Bar stools slowly swivel towards the spotlights. The barkeep has stopped sweeping up yesterday’s dust, his hands and chin resting on the end of the broom. The golden guitar speaks softly. Twang, CHK, heartbeats align, the room breathes in, the room breathes out.  The beats, the breaths, and the dust the only sounds, cutting away the darkness.

Bahamas is the soundchild of Feist’s touring guitarist, Toronto’s Alfie Jurvanen. Barchords is out February 7th on Brushfire Records. Stream the whole thing over at Paste.

Survival of the Fittest

In Electronic, Indie, Pop, Rock, Soul, Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

“…Wesafari is relatively unknown in their own hometown of Seattle, the natives distracted by other Pacific Northwest heavyweights like The Decemberists, Deathcab for Cutie, The Shins, etc. They are the underdogs with no expectations. In near obscurity, they crafted this stellar collection of sounds, samples, and hooks into an album that has easily breached my all-time top 20. Now all they need is a follow-up…”

I wrote this blip in October of 2006, a fact that only cements the reality of the time that has elapsed between then and now. Somewhat tragically, I could write an identical passage about Wesafari today and still be almost 100% factually correct. The slight statistical anomaly is actually the most important part: there is now a follow-up…

Wesafari might be the ultimate local band. Amazing(ly), obscure. A treasure you feel priveleged to know about. A small part of you just wants to keep them in your pocket forever, but the bigger part wants them to play packed rooms in every town. For the dynamic healing power of their music to fix scores of unsuspecting and previously unhappy people. For the artistic process, the sweat and tears and time it takes to make something great, to all be worth it in the end. This industry sucks so bad right now, it blows my mind sometimes that bands that fit Wesafari’s description (of which there are few) even exist at all.

Being such a huge fan of Alaska, I was almost afraid to listen to Sea Survivors. The fear was short-lived. Like Alaska‘s “Shooting Stars” before it, “Lions” is a killer opener here , but with a key difference: it’s not Alaska. My interest piqued, I plowed onward. A few things stand out. One of the only negative things I can say about Alaska is that it is relatively short (9 tracks). Survivors comes in a healthy 13 tracks long and is immaculately paced. Newest band member Trina Mills lends her vocals to a few songs, most notably “Eye for an Ideal”, where she and Rick Wright do a little back and forth round that I loved.  This still sounds like the Wesafari I love, but it’s warmer, more hopeful and lush. A little more golden. If Alaska was a snow drift lean-to, Sea Survivors is a blanket, beckoning you from the chaise lounge, ready to bring the heat back into your life.

[from Sea Survivors|buy]
Shooting Stars
[from Alaska|buy]
From Glacier to Sea
[live on KEXP]

Hell Yeah Ghost

In Electronic, Pop, Soul on October 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm

yeahghostMmmm, Zero 7 is back again with a slurry of new singers, the most prominent of whom being a newcomer (to me) simply named Eska. Despite a few iffy reviews I stumbled upon, I actually favor Yeah Ghost to their last offering. The music is, for the most part, plinky and bright, with Eska’s scattered-soul voice carrying it for much of the way. The album essentially plays out like an experimentation into various realms of pop songwriting. There are uptempo, dancy numbers followed by sultry afternoon nap songs and “The Road”, which could (should?) have closed the album, is a beautiful male/female duet, sung over solitary Wurlitzer and stand up bass. It’s certainly an odd place to end up, after first visiting the clubby Black-Eyed Peas-esque “Mr. Magee” earlier in the record, but it works. Having multiple vocalists, changing even those from LP to LP, would be a difficult barrier for most bands, but Zero 7 succeeds in maintaining “their” sound and attracting new fans with each offering.

Medicine Man
The Road
[from Yeah Ghost|buy]

*links removed by request

Chris Merritt Goes Big

In Indie, Pop, Soul on September 10, 2009 at 11:54 am


I’m going to go big on this one, or I might as well go home.

I now know Chris Merritt. I’ve played a few shows with him, spent at least minimal chat time, talked about the Pixies and his commercial pilot dad’s temper and the lawnmower Chris had to push around back in the day. He’s told me that I am somewhat of an enigma to him, which is ironic because he’s still somewhat of an enigma to me. He can seem moody and distant. He can be engaging and captivating. He can perform his intricately arranged songs with his eyes closed, or he could forget the words to (or how to play a part of) my favorite song.  These are the burdens that come with being as talented as this young man. When you’ve written over 1,000 songs and you’re under 30, it’s probably not easy to keep it all straight. There are only so many notes on a keyboard after all.

Here’s the big part. Chris Merritt has written more great songs at 26 than Ben Folds ever has or ever will.

I’m a huge Folds fan. He’s dripped his sweat on me in the orchestra pit of a show at Virginia Tech. I felt the hair creep up on my neck when watching him play with the West Australia Symphony at Perth (on DVD, not live, unfortunately). I cry when I listen to Whatever and Ever Amen. And god forbid if I say aloud that he could hardly hold Merritt’s jockstrap. This is sacrilege. And Chris is probably going to be mad at me now, but the cat’s out of the bag my friends.

Chris’ main “flaw” is that he may be too talented. There’s a lot going on in that head. There is some inhuman itch in those fingertips that must tap a new melody upon every rise of the sun. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the good from the blah when you’re prolific and alluring and everyone tells you that everything is amazing.  How does Chris take criticism? Does every track cut make the album? These are things I wonder when I see double albums and collections getting dropped out of the sky every 6 months. But make no mistake, there are treasures within.

It’s important to know that Chris Merritt will probably never be as popular as Ben Folds (deserving or no) and he’s probably tired of the comparison anyway. All I care about are these things: He plays piano. His heart resides firmly and permanently on his sleeve.  His melodies and harmonies will move you. He deserves to be heard. Virginia is for Hoverers is as good a place to start as any. It’s mostly amazing. It’s as irrelevantly flawed as we all are, and totally perfect in its own ways. Musicians like Chris Merritt are the reason I started this blog.

I’ve been big and bold, if not rambling and incoherent so I’ll end on another big one. Maybe not everything Chris touches turns to gold. Just mostly everything.

She Wolf
I Don’t See You Here
[from Virginia is for Hoverers (Part 1)|buy]

If your interest is piqued in the slightest, you should visit his site and listen to more of his fantastic catalog, including (in my opinion) his masterpiece to this point, Pixie and the Bear (a double-motherloving-album), which I reviewed here. Read the rest of this entry »

Fink, Fi, Fo, Fum*

In Dub, Soul, Twitterrific on August 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm

finkFee, Fi, Fo, Fum…I smell the blood of an Englishman who has a stranglehold on chilled-out-funky-fresh. His name is Fin but Fink will do.

Nothing is Ever Finished
Move On Me
[from Sort of Revolution|buy]


Charlie Be Thy Name

In Bluegrass, Folk, Soul on August 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm


It took two videos and all of 10 minutes for me to decide to purchase Charlie Hardin‘s newish EP Hollywood Be Thy Name on iTunes. Something about a whispy beard gets me every time. Ok and the music also happens to be positively arresting. I like the shapes his mouth makes when he’s singing something real.

Clear Blue Sadness
[from Hollywood Be Thy Name|buy|myspace]

Oh Regina

In Folk, Pop, Soul on August 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm

regina2As you may know, there’s something inherently special about Regina Spektor. I’m guessing it was apparent the moment she was delivered, in Moscow, with the eyes of a real-life precious moments figurine. It was probably compounded seconds later, when her first cry hit a perfect high C.  She was put here to sing and play piano and write songs that sound like conversations with an intelligent and thoughtful 8-year-old girl. Every line seems to end with the slightest of upturns, rhyming gets tossed out the window, her fingers tap the keys faster, slower, her voice rising, falling, like a throwback on some Vaudeville stage. Frankly, I’d pay money to listen to her sing the alphabet.

Laughing With
[from Far|buy]

The One and Only Antony

In Folk, Soul on July 29, 2009 at 1:12 pm

cryinglightI’ve written about Antony before, as I certainly should have, and I know he’s not for everyone but he is most definitely for many someones out there. Maybe even you.

I’m convinced that the aged spirit of Nina Simone lives inside this man. This singular mouth-full-of-marbles voice drives these tunes with significant weight, like a soul crying for salvation. It is not really the sound of a voice at all, but more akin to hearing the blood pounding through your ear drums. It’s something deeper, something biological, that interprets these notes in their own funny ways, lulling me to sleep, massaging my tear ducts, pulling my smile strings. It is the sound of an underdog asserting his/herself as an alpha of this musical landscape we tread.

I Was Young When I Left Home (w/ Bryce Dessner of the National)
[from Dark Was The Night|buy this amazing charity compilation]
[from The Crying Light|buy]