Archive for December, 2013
By: Rob Brayl
I recently discovered gospel singer Tamela Mann. In a search for that life-changing song, her single Take Me To The King somehow found its way through my headphones; Mann’s rich pipes touching heart, soul and bone in this raw, heavy-hitting release.
(That’s the beauty of music, isn’t it? How it seems to find us when we need it the most.)
This woman is fabulous and her talent is undeniable.
Watch a live performance of the track below.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
I had a migraine when I turned on The Epidemics. By the time the album finished, my skull was screaming, and I was happy about it.
The best bands enhance your headaches. They don’t make the pain go away, but they make it better.
The Epidemics are Swedish and female-fronted, a Frankenstein built by the disembodied limbs of goth, metal, and punk rock. Though all the songs (I’ve heard) are written in English, their Facebook page is a collage of English and Swedish, reminding me passion knows no borders.
The sizzling, speedy guitars and grade-B lyrics are pure horror-punk, but not so abrasive that radio-rockers would faint. The sound is serrated, but sedated, a numbed edge on which to slide.
Waking Up the Dead was a strong first album, drawing genius (whether subconsciously or intentionally) from Die Mannequin, The Distillers, The Misfits and The Gits. The only song I could have done without is Never Grow Up, which means 90% of the album hit me the way it should’ve. That’s a brilliant ratio!
Now, they have half of their second album free to stream on The Pirate Bay- that’s how I discovered them in the first place. It will always blow me away when artists offer their art for free. They have to eat same as any of us, and yet here they are, turning their hearts into a no-pay buffet.
I’m amazed. I only hope I’ll have that strength one day.
By: Rob Brayl
Without warning, Beyonce shocked us all and crashed the internet when she surprise-dropped her 5th studio album on Friday the 13th.
The reaction thus far has been immensely positive, with many calling the completely-out-of-nowhere move game-changing, and others referring to the self-titled release as her best, most mature body of work. While I agree that visually and artistically, this is her best album to date, I have hesitations considering this game-changing simply because most artists do not have the massive fanbase, marketing budget or resources to pull off this feat. I applaud her courage and innovation in taking a risk to release music in a way that is unheard of, yet I recognize this monumental undertaking will be nearly impossible for a majority of artists who stand on the lower prongs of the music industry ladder.
With that aside, I specifically wanted to address the track Pretty Hurts. In a sea of shallow bullsh*t, Beyonce has once again dived into the deep end – this time covering the topic of mainstream beauty and the pressure for girls to be beautiful physically above all else. The video depicts Beyonce playing a beauty pageant queen who is criticized harshly for her outer shell, stumbling through tiaras on a journey to discover that harsh universal truth: That happiness can’t be found in bodily perfection.
Mama said, you’re a pretty girl / What’s in your head it doesn’t matter / Brush your hair, fix your teeth / What you wear is all that matters … Pretty hurts / Shine the light on whatever’s worse / Perfection is the disease of a nation / Pretty hurts / Shine the light on whatever’s worse / Try’na fix something / But you can’t fix what you can’t see / It’s the soul that needs the surgery.
The video treatment is imperfectly flawless.
In a time in pop culture when twerking is on everyone’s lips, this track and the substance behind it are completely and utterly refreshing. And dare I say, game-changing? Music is more than sales and remaining ahead of the game — it’s about reaching people — and Beyonce has always understood that, connecting with fans and critics alike in a way that’s authentic and heartfelt.
Watch Pretty Hurts (directed by Melina Matsoukas) below.
By: Rob Brayl
If you’re looking for a jubilant jolt of girl power spirit, a double dosage of Yuna will do the trick. The Malaysian singer/songwriter recently premiered the music video for Rescue, and it’s nothing short of enchanting. The empowering track is taken from Nocturnal, her newly released Verve Records debut.
The Elliott Sellers-directed video was shot primarily at Big Sur, with select shots in downtown Los Angeles.
Official video + live performance of the track (via Conan) below.
Loving her authenticness!
By: Rob Brayl
Beyonce shows her halo on new track God Made You Beautiful, an ode to her little one, Blue Ivy Carter. A sneak peek of the inspirational song first appeared in the trailer for her HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream, but the full-length version has now emerged with the release of the film’s DVD, which dropped over Thanksgiving.
Listen to the understated gem below.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Sound Strider (aka Sam Waks) is this generation’s answer to Negativland. As with any glitch-hop, his mechanical mash-up’s bound to leave you disoriented. But, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a slice o’ zen within the techno fog.
Sam was exposed to the magic of music at an early age: his dad was the principal cellist of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and in high school Sam made his own break into the musical world by playing the drums in garage and jazz bands. With the 90’s came a new musical frontier in the form of remixes and computerized samples, and it was in the sonic underground Sam found his identity. Not only has he sought to create his own music, but to birth a platform for other artists- he left Australia to convert a 19th century agricultural ruin in France into a recording studio.
He’s already helped new artists break into the scene, all the while honing his own experimentation.
Enter the Intrepid Travels EP, a sophisticated mindfuck. My head’s still unsure what to make of it.
Maybe it’ll make sense when my skull stops spinning.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Most of my ska is cut with punk. I seldom explore the genre in its purified form. Thus, I was excited to step out of my comfort zone when Umbrella Bed was described to me as “2-Tone ska”.
As it turns out, “2-Tone” is a tag ascribed to ska that stuck to the pop underbelly, avoiding the alternative influence of punk and grunge.
For Umbrella Bed, this means less safety pins and more brass.
They’re veterans on the Minnesota scene, with five albums and an ocean’s worth of shows to swim in. They came together in 1995 (when I was still developing motor skills!), and though cogs in the machine have changed (both in musical style and member line-up), the motor has remained resilient- and rearing to jump!
Refill is their latest- a five-track EP, hot n’ fresh for 2013. With echo and bounce, it lends a little splash of summer to my December chills. Fun-loving vocals are energized by trombone, French horn, trumpet and saxophone, a section in turn strengthened by the more traditional guitar, drums and bass.
I’d LOVE to see the whole band make a trampoline out of a stage. Their zest must be infectious! Even watching them in their music video makes me wanna leap.
By: Maria Ciezak
MARIA CIEZAK: For those unfamiliar, can you give us a brief background? How did you meet the band?
ARIANA AND THE ROSE: Sure. I actually started as an actress, doing musical theater, commercials and film from the time I was a kid all the way through college. I wrote and played music on the side as a release. Throughout high school and the beginning of college, I wrote with people in New York, LA and Nashville, but it wasn’t until a year before I graduated from NYU that I decided I wanted to pursue music full-time. I put a band together as soon as I graduated, meeting guys through my managers and friends’ suggestions. I decided to call the band Ariana & the Rose since we perform all the music with live instruments and we’ve been together ever since.
MC: I love the new acoustic video for Heartbeat — the song is beautiful. The video is very raw and personal. What made you choose the dark color theme?
A: Thank you! Well, the song has this theme of a beautiful thing falling apart. I created that video with my friend and fashion designer, Daniel Silverstein. We wanted to make something that spoke to both of our styles. (I’m wearing a dress from his Fall 2013 collection in the video.) There’s something so classic about black and white and we felt that having the color of the video to be completely de-saturated would be a modern way of capturing that classic feel.
MC: What would you say you enjoy more: Recording? Writing? Or performing?
A: I really go back and forth with this. I always say that I enjoy whatever I happen to be doing at the moment the most. I’m currently in the studio writing, so right now I enjoy that more. But I’ll be on tour in a couple weeks and that will be my favorite part. I look at it as a good thing to be indecisive about.
MC: Do you write all of your own material?
A: Yep. I play piano and usually start most of my songs on an acoustic instrument. I do a lot of co-writing, typically me and another writer/producer. I find that writing alone can get a bit lonely sometimes. I’m a really social person and I like having another person to bounce ideas off of.
MC: If you had to place your music into a certain style or genre, could you?
A: I would choose synth pop, as a broad genre. More specifically: singer-songwriter with heavy electro and synth influences.
MC: I see you have been compared to many artists but I think your sound is very original. Do you find it flattering when placed with artists?
A: Thank you. I really try to create music I feel sounds just like me. Of course, it’s always flattering to be compared to other artists, especially ones that have been so successful. I’d like to think that when people compare you to other artists they love it’s because they love you too.
MC: What’s next for Ariana & The Rose?
A: My single Heartbeat came out on Nov 19th and my EP Head vs Heart will be released in early 2014. I’m also headed on a US tour with Heffron Drove (Nov 23-Dec 22). So lots of new material and live shows. It’s the perfect way to end the year.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Got your afro? This band will take you back to the 70’s.
From the crooning double-vocals to the confident guitar, Ron LittleJohn and the Funk Embassy are reviving a movement I thought was forever embedded in nostalgia. Their music makes me want to don bell bottoms and march the streets with signs that read, “Freedom to the people!”.
Seriously. This music is weed. This music is sex. It’s got me grooving, strung out on the bed.
The longer I listen to funk, the more I realize this is where original rock n’ roll had its roots. It all started with soul!
All (good) music is interwoven. Genres are only a way to organize the magic.
These rhymes are simple, the poetry eloquent. It can make you dance, make you swoon, make you sweep stars under your pillow.
Ron’s voice makes me feel things I thought could only be invoked by British accents. It’s endlessly sensual, dangerously hypnotic. Meanwhile Alana offers a sonorous, foot-stomping harmony, vocal chords hitting the highest peak while still packing a punch. Their chemistry is shockingly hot- an ideal front for Thierry’s tight, rich song-writing. Pair that with the silky-smooth beats from the DJs…
But it’s not all a soundtrack for the id! Shining On (the group’s debut) is crammed with gems of honest substance, touching humour, and slick soul. The title track is a message of encouragement from Ron to his unborn daughter, Soul Devotion is a crash course in romance, while Light Me Up stirs the lusty side of life. Seems Like Yesterday faces the reality -and tragedy- of seeing old lovers, and Emma Lee wraps it all up with a perfect credit roll. Combined, you have a layer-cake of lyrical content, iced with flavourful sound. This album has been called a labour of love. I can see why; the sound is virtually spotless.
The amazing thing about this musical project is every musician involved is a master in their own right. Fifteen artists made contributions to this album, whether by snagging guest spots for certain songs or devoting their energies to the entire piece. What a roster!
It would be impossible to choose my favourite song. Luckily, they’re streaming all of Shining On through Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Youtube.