If you know me (I’ll assume you don’t), you’ll know that I’m not much for belt-y, powerhouse vocals; I’m more keen on whisper-sweet serenades that require you to almost lean in (even if you’ve got headphones on).
Priscilla Ahn more than checked off that box for me when I first came across her sparse ‘girl with a guitar and a loop and sometimes a harmonica’ easy listening tunes. I caught her at the Drake back in 2009, and sitting cross-legged on the floor with everyone else in tiny venue, there was a collective hush over the crowd and everyone was actually leaning in.
Now she’s back with Sweet Hearts, a duo project with fellow musician Charlie Wadhams, and they’ve just released their mellow, mushy, and blush-worthy self-titled EP for free download just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Or if you’re a single lady (“all the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies, now put your hands up!”), why not celebrate Galentine’s Day à la Leslie Knope?
Guys, you can follow suit. And then on the 14th, cozy up with a glass of wine, some cheese, a mirror, and celebrate a little good, healthy narcissism. Celebrate you! (It’ll be like your birthday except better because you’re not a year older!)
Oh sweetheart, when I see you again, you’re never gonna let me go. That’s right, you’ll always be my dearest friend. My, my, I’ll love you till the day I die.
Put on Sweet Hearts’ EP, gaze into your own eyes (that’s what the mirror’s for) and pretend all the lyrics are about you. It’s the new affirmation nation.
[Download]: Sweet Hearts’ EP here by entering your email address!
Getting to know an artist is like making a new friend.
There are some people that seem standoffish in the beginning (maybe because they’re shy or because they’ve eaten a crap sandwich and it’s ruined their entire day–sandwiches have that kind of effect on people, y’know), so it takes a couple of visits or run-ins for them to get comfortable around you and for you to warm up to them; then there are those people you take an instant liking to (perhaps you both find great pleasure in watching/making fun of what has become of America’s Top Model over the years).
It’s the same with music. There are some musicians that require a couple listens to get into (Joanna Newsom, anyone?) and others where the connection is undeniable and instantaneous. For me, Youth Lagoon was the latter.
Even better, it was like revisiting an old friend. That’s the kind of nostalgia-tinged feeling The Year of Hibernation is wrought with.
“Five years ago, in my backyard I sang love away. Little did I know that real love had not quite yet found me.”
[MP3]: Youth Lagoon – “July”
Raw vocals with a sort of youthful reverie, crackling and hazy with reverb, beg for a closer listen, for a more concentrated ear. With synths, organ, guitar, and some heavy beats layered on–usually starting off quietly and then building up to thicker, fuller sound (think wall-of-sound)–Youth Lagoon crafts introspective bedroom anthems.
Also, I cannot lie. During my first listen of the entire album, I thought it was a girl singing. (Sorry, Trevor.) Alas, Youth Lagoon is Boise, Idaho’s awesomely named Trevor Powers. (Yes, that’s his real name.) And with a name like that and a penchant for bedroom music and introspection, you’d think that Powers might be walking around with a superhero costume hidden underneath his button-ups.
However even amidst the quiet introspection, Powers references the past only as a way to look to the future. Like the experiences and memories that make us who we are today, The Year of Hibernation is a memento of sorts, to the past.
[MP3]: Youth Lagoon – “Cannons”
From the opening track (“Posters”), I could immediately feel a quiet sense of understanding between Powers and I, like a quiet nod. Like, a musical ‘hey, I feel ya!’ What started as a bedroom project (where the whole LP was recorded) has found resonance beyond his four-walls.
You make real friends quickly. You make real friends quickly. But not me.
I get him. I feel where he’s coming from; from his lyrics, to his delivery, to the entire atmosphere that’s created when everything comes together perfectly. And for me, that’s the beautiful thing.
I have always and will always be a fan of good pop music.
And Robyn‘s “Call Your Girlfriend” is a prime example of what I would personally call ‘good’ pop music.
It’s got everything going for it: a message that is quite relatable for many with the whole meeting-someone-new-when-you’re-still-in-a-relationship-and-having-to-break-it-off thing; it’s emotional but not dissolve-into-tears-worthy (simply because it is quite upbeat) unless you’re a melodramatic Pisces (hey, that’s me!) so it’s still something you can sing along to for fun at the right moments.
Or if you’ve just broken up and you are looking for something to cry to, it’s also good for belting along to while the tears stream down your face as you contemplate the sad state of your life post break-up. (It’s okay, you’ll get over it eventually.)
Or if you just want to feel good about the sorry excuse for moves you call dancing, then the video is your solution. Robyn makes awkward dancing cool (again?)! So the next time you go out to the club (or wherever you get your groove on), you’ll have people thinking “Daaaaaaamn, girl” instead of the usual slow backing away accompanied by looks of horror.
You can thank Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” music video for that.
[MP3]: Little Scream – “Cannons” (click arrow on the right to download)
Montreal-based Laurel Sprengelmeyer (under the moniker Little Scream) has already gifted us with a free download of “Heron and the Fox” (featuring guitar work from The National’s Aaron Dessner), the first single off her debut album The Golden Record. But I guess the Canadian spirit has really rubbed off on the Mississippi native, because now she’s also giving away her second single, “Cannons.”
If you aren’t a (physical) album collector like I am, you’ll be happy to know that her album is out today exclusively on iTunes. Yes…you can purchase it today. But if you must get your hands on the jewel casing (or perhaps digipak or vinyl) and artwork, then you’ll have to wait until April 11 (Europe) or April 12 (North America).
WHO: Sanders Bohlke
WHERE: Oxford, Mississippi
CONNECT THE DOTS: Opened for Badly Drawn Boy
YOU WILL LIKE HIM IF YOU LIKE: Cooing, “ooh”-ing, and the plucking of acoustic guitar strings
Sanders Bohlke describes his sound as “experimental neo-folk,” which makes sense considering his songs are very acoustic-based. The thing is, there’s something more beyond the guy-with-a-guitar picture. His songs seem at times to be infused with a bit of a soul element that calls back to Maxwell, and honestly, that’s never a bad thing. This is best translated in Bohlke’s live rendition of “Search and Destroy,” which can be found on his Facebook page, along with a few other videos. Again, it’s a very subtle tinge of soul, so I might be overemphasizing it. Heck, it might not even be there, but it’s what I hear. (Feel free to comment below and let me know what you hear!)
[LISTEN]: Sanders Bohlke – “Weight of Us”
“I’m not ready, I’m not ready for the weight of us… The time has come, let us be brave. Shake off all of your sins, the time has come, let us be brave, let us be brave.”
“Weight of Us”–arguably Bohlke’s most well-known track–is fit for a momentous Grey’s Anatomy montage. With it’s drumming beat, sweeping build up, and lyrics that call us to bravery, you can just picture Cristina running around the hospital to look for Owen so that she can declare her love for him after deciding to take the plunge (Note: Or insert any other two main characters who are obviously in love but can’t admit it). You get the picture–it’s a hard song to dislike.
[LISTEN]: Sanders Bohlke – “Quiet Ye Voices”
However, I think that there are others that perphaps better showcase his talents. “Quiet Ye Voices” is one of them. With more intricate instrumentation, layered harmonies, and even handclaps (and who doesn’t have handclaps?!), Bohlke has a fuller, more orchestra sound in his recordings that never loses its warm tone.
But to be honest, I find him strongest and most compelling in his life performances. There’s just something about the way his voice extends and reaches and fill the expansive space that grabs me. I’ll leave you with this chilling live rendition of “Fighter Pilot.”
[WATCH]: Sanders Bohlke – “Fighter Pilot” (Live in a loft in Jackson, Mississippi)
[LISTEN]: Sanders Bohlke – “Weight of Us”
If you like it, buy it! Support independent musicians!
Lia Ices’ willowy vocals waft effortlessly across the opening moments of “Love Is Won,” piercing the quiet, backed only by simple piano chords, heavily-reverbed like the thick condensation of air above a lake at summer’s dawn. It is a fitting introduction to the avant-garde pop songstress, as her voice is her greatest instrument. Like a swift seductress in murky waters, her barely-above-a-whisper coos resonate throughout the subtle orchestrations on “Little Marriage,” in a wispy, lilting fashion, embellished with bells and finger snaps. Though Grown Unknown does begin to feel slightly redundant in its form towards the end, with mellow, mid-tempo avant ballads sandwiched between more of the same, Ices’ sophomore effort sees her develop her own voice. Rather than echo the safety of the piano-based singer-songwriter vibe that permeated debut Necima, she shows a more solid understanding of herself as an artist, experimenting with wider, vaster soundscapes. Captivating standout tracks “Grown Unknown” and “Daphne,” (feauting Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon) play to Ices’ greatest strengths, embracing her more experimental leanings atop interesting instrumental backdrops. Ultimately, Lia Ices’ voice is the main attraction. It is, in effect, the conductor guiding the instrumentation and the siren captivating by injecting an ethereal, effervescent vitality and experimental avant-garde lean into an otherwise familiar and tired formula.
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Grown Unknown”
WHO: Lia Ices
WHERE: Brooklyn, NY
CONNECT THE DOTS: Friends w/ Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (who sings on “Daphne”); currently touring with The Besnard Lakes, The Cave Singers
CLAIM TO FAME: When Jagjaguwar snatched her up last year
YOU WILL LIKE HER IF YOU LIKE: Going for walks in forests, daydreaming, cloud-watching, fairies
FOR FANS OF: Bon Iver, Bat for Lashes, Glasser, Lykke Li, Cat Power
This one’s been sitting around in my drafted posts for a while, and with her album, Grown Unknown, coming out Jan. 25, I figured now would be as good a time as any to pull it off the shelve. Truth be told, I had never even heard of Lia Ices until it had been announced that she had been courted and wooed by consistently spot-on major indie label, Jagjaguwar in August 2010. She has already has one record under her belt: 2008′s Necima (out on Rare Book Room Records), which you can hear in its entirety over here.
Labels (or at least indie labels) are finally starting to catch on by offering up free “samplers”–legal downloads from artists–so that people are able to get a little taste before taking the plunge and buying the album (if anyone still does that anymore). Jagjaguwar has done a good job of this, by releasing lead single “Grown Unknown” for free legal download, and now, “Daphne” (which features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon).
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Grown Unknown” (right-click, save as)
Hand-claps and reverb-drenched vocals in “Grown Unknown” create a sea and cave-like atmosphere, like a siren singing her song, beckoning the sailors.
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Daphne” (feat. Bon Iver) (right-click, save as)
“Daphne,” on the other hand, sees her as a woodland fairy, nimbly peeking from behind the moss-covered trunks of towering thousand-year-old trees. With the urgent shift around the 2:40 minute mark, Lia Ices and Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) vocals blend together seamlessly, intertwining, accompanied by piano and electric guitar; the turnaround is stunning. I’m an incredibly visual person, so these are just the images that flutter through my mind as I listen to her music.
Ultimately, it’s her voice that draws the you in. Lia Ices has a voice that is a quivering and lilting, timid wisp, with a certain mystic transparency about it. Her vocals flutter constantly, fading in and out, like the wavering remnants of something that was once there and now is no longer–like a hand reaching out to grab on to something that has already gone. Haunting and ethereal, it begs a closer listen and invites curiosity. And even after the song has ended, its ghost still lingers in the crevices of your mind, unseen and unheard, yet still present.
Too pretentious/convoluted/ambiguous a description? Oh well. My schedule is lacking in creative writing courses this semester, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Nevertheless, Lia Ices is one to watch in 2011, so keep an eye (and ear) out for her!
Also, if you like what you hear, show your appreciation by buying the record and supporting the musicians whose songs you listen to on repeat so that they can in turn make more music for you to love. I mean, that’s the least you can do, really.
[WATCH]: Lia Ices – “Half Life” (from Necima)
**Damn. Brooklyn really is a breeding ground for artistic talent (Sharon Van Etten, Oh Land, and Holly Miranda, just to name a few). New York, I can hear you calling my name. I’ll be there. I’ll see you in a year or two.
If you haven’t heard of Sia (Sia Furler) by now, I don’t really know what to say. The Aussie musician and songwriter has provided vocals for Zero 7, collaborated with Christina Aguilera and Beck, and of course is famous for her ‘breakout’ single, “Breathe Me,” which was featured on the finale of Six Feet Under, as well as every other dramatic television shows out there.
Of course, she is also notorious for her kooky, quirky music videos. (She tapes her face into contorted expression and sings with a plastic bag over her face on “Buttons.”) No, this girl isn’t weird at all. Well, okay, maybe she does have an overflow of creative genius, so what else is she supposed to do–right?
Sia took to her twitter last night to leak 2 free tracks–“Bye Bye Bye,” which was already released on The Babysitters (2007) movie soundtrack, and “The Corner” a ‘new’ unreleased oldie! As to why she was leaking theses track, Sia replied simply:
Guess the holidays really do put everyone in a good and giving mood!
[MP3]: Sia – “Bye Bye Bye” (right-click, save as)
[MP3]: Sia – “The Corner” (right-click, save as)
[LISTEN]: Brooke Fraser – “Ice on Her Lashes“
You lucky Torontonians are in for a treat! Kiwi songstress Brooke Fraser will be making a pit stop at Toronto‘s Opera House on November 23, 2010 for her North American tour in support of her new album, Flags. I previously wrote about Brooke’s new writing approach and reviewed the record, saying that it had a little bit of everything for everyone–pop, folk, a new narration–and showcased Fraser’s growth as an artist. Who wouldn’t want to see this singer-songwriter translate her new (and old) tracks in an intimate live performance?
Now thanks to Sideways-Media you can experience just that (for FREE!) as we have a pair of tickets to give away PLUS a signed copy of of Flags!
Follow any of the steps below for chance to win this awesome prize pack (the more steps you follow the more times you enter!):
- Follow us on Twitter and then retweet the following: “WIN TICKETS (& MORE) to see Brooke Fraser (@BrookeFraser) in #Toronto on Nov.23. Follow @MindfulEarful and retweet! http://bit.ly/dq2uBn“
- Email mindfulearful (at) gmail (dot) com and include: “I Want to See Brooke Fraser” in the subject line and your full name in the body.
CONTEST CLOSES NOV. 19th at 2 PM EST. Winner will be announced later that day.
EDIT: A big thank you to Sideways-Media and everyone who entered the contest. Congratulations to the winner!
Check out the rest of Brooke’s North American tour dates (including Vancouver) after the jump!
HOMETOWN: Long Island, New York
LINEUP: Eric Cardona (guitar/vox), Gabel D’Amico (bass), Andrea Estella (vox), Dev Gupta (keyboard), Bryan Ujueta (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Rhythmic rolling body waves captured in a bottle of glass shards
Without a doubt, Long Island quintet Twin Sister has stolen my heart (and my ears) today. And now as the sun is beginning to set, this band’s music is just what I need to ease me into the still and quiet evening while I furiously pen some poetry for my class tomorrow. Andrea Estella’s voice is sometimes buried beneath a wall of fuzzy reverb and tinny guitar (“Ginger”), and sometimes it’s sweet, drawn out, and lingering in the foreground backed by atmospheric swells and swoons (“Dry Hump”). And when Eric Cardona shares vocals at times, they create some light harmonies that make the tips of my fingers tingle (see video below).
Twin Sister translates their “wall of small” (what they sound like, according to their Myspace) recordings as well as their more sparse tunes surprisingly well in a live setting, so go and download their Daytrotter Session (free!) for your sonic pleasure and listen for yourself!
[MP3]: Twin Sister – “Ginger” (right-click, save as)
While television shows like American Idol rarely ever find musicians who can translate successfully into popular music sphere, it seems as if a shy Aussie beat the slim odds. Lisa Mitchell, an Australian Idol alum, stood out on the talent show for her coy, singer-songwriter demeanor. Released in 2009, Mitchell recorded her debut full-length Wonder in the UK, which has now reached Platinum in Australia. Canadians who do not know her might have actually heard one of her most popular singles, “Coin Laundry,” in a Bell Canada television ad (available for download below). She has been nominated for 3 ARIAs, won the Australian Music Prize (equivalent to Canada’s Polaris Prize) for Wonder, opened for Jason Mraz, and played big Australian festivals like Big Day Out.
Her musical style, some people may say, is full of soft child-like vocals and is unmistakably twee. Simple yet intricate in their arrangements, the girl has a penchant for multiple vocal track layers and most of her songs have the ability of making you smile. Go ahead, I dare you. Because regardless of whether or not you think she’s a musical revelation, you won’t be able to surpress your smile.
[MP3]: Lisa Mitchell – “Coin Laundry” (right-click, save as)
In a time when band names are getting more and more complicated, Washington is plain and simple. Washington is the moniker of Megan Washington and her band. I’ve only recently stumbled across this pop gem, and I’m not one to shy away from some good ‘ol pop music. She’s been really popular in Australia for the past year or so and just released her debut I Believe You, Liar. Her radio-friendly sound ranges from mellow pop like “Clementine,” to the quirky “How to Tame Lions” and even more polished, drilling tracks like “Cement.” Give her a listen, because I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about this this Aussie popstar soon enough.
[LISTEN]: Washington – “Clementine”
[MP3]: Washington – “How to Tame Lions” (right-click, save as)
[MP3]: Washington – “Cement” (right-click, save as)
This four-piece from Sydney been on the mouths of many recently and has been touted as one of the big upcoming acts for quite a while. They’ve toured with the likes of Tegan & Sara and they don’t even have a full-length record out yet. With three EPs under their belts and picking up steam, the Jezabels are starting to gain overseas recognition in North American. The band has played a slew of US dates and are gearing up for their Canadian tour. A mix of pop, rock, indie and even a little alternative thrown in at times, the Jezabels are a diverse band whose honest songs are universally relatable.
And Canada, Canada, Canada–please don’t miss this quartet when they come around next week (dates are below). Sadly, I won’t be in Toronto for the show as I’m stuck out of town for school, so please go and enjoy for me so I can live vicariously through you!
[MP3]: The Jezabels – “Easy to Love” (right-click, save as)
[MP3]: The Jezabels – “She’s So Hard” (right-click, save as)
[LISTEN]: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Oct. 26 Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
Oct. 28 Calgary, AB – The Republik*
Oct. 30 Vancouver, BC – Pit Pub (Uni of BC)*
Nov. 3 Edmonton, AB, The Starlite Room*
Nov. 4 Regina, SK – The Exchange*
Nov. 5 Saskatoon, SK – Amigo’s*
Nov. 6 Winnipeg, MB – The Royal Albert Arms*
I don’t know what it is about Australia that draws me to it. And I don’t know why the great Down Under calls my name, so. It could be the accent (which I’m constantly attempting to perfect), the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroos, or the fuzzy koala bears. Or perhaps it’s because the first time I actually paid any attention to the Olympics, they were held in Sydney, and right then I decided that it was #1 on my list of must-visit destinations. I want to go to there.
Regardless of the reason behind my fascination with the great Aussie country, one thing is for certain: they have some great musical exports. And just like me, they seem to have an affinity for female singer-songwriters. Here are some of the Aussie musicians that I think deserve a some recognition and are worth checking out. This is part 1 of a 3-part series–so enjoy and stay tuned!
This brother and sister duo have 2 full-length albums under their belt, most recently 2010′s Down the Way. With complementary honey-soaked boy-girl vocals, they are household names in their native Australia. Plus it doesn’t hurt that they’re pretty to look at. They actually have quite a substantial dedicated fan base overseas already, with many of their 2010 tour dates selling out (including a sold out Toronto show which I attended). They’ve played numerous festivals, including this year’s Bonnaroo and the CMJ festival over in New York this week. With Angus & Julia Stone well on their way to becoming big names in the States and Canada, be sure to check out their solo efforts: Lady of the Sunshine (Angus) and Julia Stone.
[MP3]: Angus & Julia Stone – “Just a Boy” (right-click, save as)
If you’re into folk/pop, this girl is a true gem. Blasko has been around since 2002, so I guess you could call her a veteran in the industry. Just like her debut The Overture & the Underscore indicates, Sarah Blasko burst on to the scene with sweeping orchestral arrangements and a timid, yet assured warble. She has won 2 ARIA Music Awards (Aussie equivalent of the Grammys) for Best Pop Release (What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have) and Best Female Artist (As Day Follows Night) in 2007 and 2009, respectively, since then. I never really understood why she never broke it over here in North America despite her immense talent, because this girl deserves some well-earned recognition!
[MP3]: Sarah Blasko – “At Your Best” (right-click, save as)
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2010
A marked departure from her usual collection of reflective, intro-centric tunes, singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser draws inspiration from characters other than herself and opts for colorful storytelling this time around on third solo album, Flags.
Despite a change in songwriting methods and a more upbeat tone in comparison to previous efforts, fans will be glad to know that Fraser’s soft, lilting melodies remain intact. In fact, with a new voice, Flags comes armed with a renewed spirit and diverse catalogue of charming tunes.
The New Zealand songstress has come into her own with her latest self-produced record with a confidence that is apparent in her exploration of different instruments and soundscapes. Standout tracks include the piano-backed Aqualung duet, “Who Are We Fooling,” the ‘every girl’ track and Canadian shout-out, “Betty” (which could have been easily renamed to reflect any girl), and beautifully sparse “Sailboats.”
With Fraser’s drive to write music reawakened one night at California music festival, Coachella, it’s only fitting that there be a song in its honor and recognition. However, the gravity of the track may be lost on listeners who aren’t aware of the back-story. Kick-started by the Indio desert music festival and recorded and produced in the City of Angels, you could call this a real California album. (Wood & Bone)
[MP3]: Brooke Fraser – Something In the Water (right-click, save as)
Read more on Brooke’s approach to ‘Flags’ HERE.
**WIN a PAIR OF TICKETS to her show in TORONTO (PLUS a SIGNED COPY of FLAGS): ENTER HERE!
Florence + the Machine has been making waves in the US with their performance on the MTV VMAs and a track on the recent Twilight soundtrack. And let’s just say Florence Welch has no problem selling out shows over here across the border in Canada. She’s already had 2 sold out shows in Toronto and an upcoming one that has already sold out. Capitalizing on their success, the UK “band,” if you will, will be releasing a remix of one of their hit songs, “Dog Days Are Over” by Yeasayer which you can stream below.
If you haven’t heard of Florence + the Machine, my best guess is that you’ve been living under a rock, because she’s (or they’ve) been everywhere lately. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Florence, you should definitely check out her out. Girl has got a set of lungs, which is quite fitting actually, because her debut album was entitled Lungs. Give it a listen and you won’t be disappointed.
@ Madrid, Spain
If you haven’t heard of Lourdes Hernandez aka Russian Red, it’s probably because she’s also fairly new in her hometown of Madrid, Spain. She only has one release to her name: 2008′s I Love Your Glasses. And honestly, I have no idea how I stumbled upon this gem of a singer-songwriter last year, but I’m glad I did. There’s something very distinct about her voice. If you’ve heard it once, it’s immediately recognizable. It might have to do with Hernandez’s accent or the quirky way she stretches and bends her voice. While Russian Red’s sound might not be to everyone’s liking (some mind find it a tad grating like Joanna Newsom’s voice), if she suits your tastes, you’ll love her.
I’ve been listening her new track, “Loving Strangers,” non-stop since I got my hands on it. It’s probably my favourite track of hers (I love its subtleties), and I think it’s on the soundtrack to Habitación En Roma (A Room In Rome).
[MP3]: Russian Red – “Loving Strangers” (right click, save as)
EDIT: I recently had the chance to have a quick Q&A with Russian Red. Check it out here!
*KEEP READING: Russian Red – “Loving Strangers” LYRICS (after the jump!)
@ New Zealand
Wood & Bone Records
With two solo albums–2003′s What To Do With Daylight and 2006′s Albertine–already under her belt and releases/tours with Hillsong United, Brooke Fraser is already a veteran in the music scene. And four years after her last solo record, she’s back and ready to make waves with Flags, which will be released October 12 via Wood & Bone Records. Plus Canadian/U.S. tour dates have also been announced!
Whenever friends ask me about music I listen to, they tend to ask if the artist is “famous,” and I always answer with: “Well, they’re famous to me.” Because regardless of whether a musician has had national/international success, sold a million records, or are on the charts, as long as I listen to them, I consider them “famous” in my mind and make the assumption that everyone has heard about them. (It’s absurd, I know.) Brooke Fraser is one of those artists.
Though she may not be a household name in North America yet, she has a huge following in her native New Zealand and Australia, where her albums have gone Platinum and Gold, respectively. Albertine was Fraser’s U.S. debut and was released in 2008 (two years after it was originally released in NZ, AUS), so I guess you could say she is still relatively new to the North American scene/circuit.
However, being on the road for three years in support of Albertine (beginning in 2006) really took its toll on Fraser; by 2009, she was burnt out and spent. It took a beautiful evening at Coachella and a performance by Fleet Foxes to re-awaken something in the Kiwi singer-songwriter. (Thank you, Fleet Foxes).
“Robin Pecknold began to sing and the purity of his voice seemed to melt away every memory of trauma and disillusionment [...] Then the other voices joined his and it all felt so human and honest [...] It was a moment where I remembered the power of music as a language, a connector. I remembered that I’ve been given the gift of speaking a particular dialect of this language and realised I didn’t have the option of being resigned to silence and I didn’t want it.”
In a press release, Fraser speaks about the direction of Flags and why it’s “more survivable” than previous records :
“I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record. On my previous albums I was singing completely as myself, which is why I think I got so burnt out from touring. Albertine was inspired by incredibly significant events and people and every time I’d sing I’d go back to that moment where my heart was ripped open. So singing such heavy songs nearly every night for three years took a toll. On Flags, it’s still me speaking, but it’s me speaking through the voices of different characters and their stories. It’s more survivable.”
What can we expect to hear on the new album? Wood & Bones calls the new record “a dreamy, alternative-pop collection that showcases [Fraser's] agile soprano, lilting melodies, and knack for telling her stories through the lives of vibrant characters.”
FUN FACT: The new album features a co-written duet with Aqualung’s Matt Hales entitled, “Who Are We Fooling?”. Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman also co-wrote a track.
Here’s a little taste of the record and the first single off Flags. Listen, simmer, and enjoy!
[Download]: Brooke Fraser – “Something in the Water” (right-click, save as)
Album review over HERE!
READ ON FOR CANADIAN/U.S. TOUR DATES!
Marina and the Diamonds / Young the Giants
Opera House, Toronto ON September 8
By Whitney Tam
Marina and the Diamonds (she is Marina Diamandis and her fans are the “diamonds”) has already established herself as an up-and-coming pop artist in her native UK, selling out shows and garnering a nomination for this year’s coveted BRIT Critic’s Choice award. With her first gig in Canada and her only stop in the country this tour at Toronto’s Opera House, Marina showcased the best The Family Jewels had to offer.
It would be easy to say that California’s Young the Giant are your typical indie rock band, but their lush arrangements, catchy guitar licks, and infectious energy were right on point to get the crowd hyped for Marina and the Diamond’s set.
The stunning raven-haired Brit sauntered on stage with a deadpan stare, shades, and an air of mystique that immediately commanded the full attention of the audience. She and her four-piece band opened the show with the appropriate “you-think-you-know-me-but-you-really-don’t” track, “The Outsider,” a sort of invitation to fans to really get to know Marina during the stretch of the show. Fan favourites like “I Am Not A Robot” and “Shampain” had the usually stiff Toronto crowd of 20-somethings jumping up and down and singing along word for word, while solo, piano-accompanied performances of “Numb” and “Obsessions” highlighted her unique brand of vocals (which are now stronger, steadier, and much improved).
Midway through the set, the band jammed to an instrumental build-up until Marina reappeared decked out in the infamous all-American letter jacket, dollar-sign glasses, and two (stuffed toy) burgers, signalling the jump into “Hollywood”―a humorous take on the starry-eyed, tabloid-obsessed society that is America.
Drilling through 12 of the 13 witty, radio-friendly tracks off her debut release, The Family Jewels, the show ended with a fitting two-song encore that summed up what separates Marina and the Diamonds from the never-ending crop of pop artists: her ability to flip pop culture on its head and create something new, honest, and unexpected. Stripped down to only a simple piano melody, she transformed 3OH!3′s raunchy “Starstrukk” lyrics into a subdued ballad (that if not executed properly could have been disastrous; luckily it wasn’t) and ended the night with chirpy “Mowgli’s Road,” the first single off her debut.
A true performer in all respects, Marina and the Diamonds put on a show that kept the audience captivated from start to finish, questionable dance moves and all. The entire set was laced with her distinct falsetto and signature high-pitched howls, yelps, wails, and cuckoos, and proved that she isn’t afraid to be quirky. Like she said in “Hollywood,” she isn’t Shakira or Catharine Zeta; she’s Marina. And her Diamonds were sparkling with her all night long.
This review was originally published on Exclaim.ca.
This Australian brother and sister duo make beautiful music that is simply mesmerizing. Make yourself a hot cup of tea, lie down, and get ready to be transported to the beach with sand between your toes, ocean-side waves, camp fires, and slow moving jet planes.
Here are the videos just in case you missed their live performance!
Thursday night at the El Mocambo was Holly Miranda’s second visit to Toronto in the past 9 months and her first headlining show in support of her debut solo album “The Magicians Private Library”; and the young up and coming artist not disappoint.
Having it been my first time at the local iconic venue, which has hosted The Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughn, I was pleasantly surprised by it’s clean open space and good sight lines. My only gripe would have to be its muddy sound system that seemed be more of a problem for opening band, Braids. Luckily sound issues got sorted out by the time Holly Miranda was in to her second song.
Canadian act Braids seemed a good match to open for Miranda as their music has the same layered ethereal sounds and textures and haunting vocals. Although they played to quite an empty venue, those who gathered near the front of the stage were engaged–including Holly. And the band seemed unfazed by the small size of the crowd and content on playing their hearts out for whatever number of ears were in the building.
The audience had grown by the time Holly hit the stage at around 11, but the Elmo still wasn’t at what you would call full capacity. Regardless, her set was full of heart and passion, and that was evident in the way she sang her words and the way she closed her eyes as she lost herself in the music. Her songs were were sonically lush and thick in texture and reminiscent of a humid summers night, perfectly mirroring the weather that night, but there is something else in her music–a sort of wide-eyed wonder, if you will–that seems to be ingrained in the melodies. In-between songs, the man beside me turned to me and said, “I’ve never heard of her before, but she’s amazing!” The late-night concertgoers were clearly into the music as they swayed with the music, beer in hand. Highlights of Holly Miranda’s performance were “Waves,” her cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and “Pelican Rapids”–her new song about how ‘everyone should be allowed to marry whoever the f–k they want’. If there’s one thing I was a bit disappointed in, it was the lack of banter; but then again, it’s really all about the music in the end, isn’t it? The girl was a sweetheart, the music was good, and it didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes as well.
Check out Holly’s previous musical outfit, The Jealous Girlfriends.
Originally a journalist, Swedish-born Annika Norlin — stage name Hello Saferide — got noticed after the success of a song she recorded on a whim (“Highschool Stalker”) and put on the internet in 2004. Having since been signed to Razzia Records in 2005, Norlin has gained immense success in her native Sweden, releasing 2 English-language records under the moniker Hello Saferide and a Swedish-language album under the band name Säkert, the latter winning her 2 Grammis (Swedish equivalent of the Grammys–creative).
With intriguing, story-like lyrics in the same vein as Regina Spektor, Hello Saferide is unique yet readily accessible and easy to relate to. While her debut, Introducing… Hello Saferide leans toward a more twee pop feel with childlike vocals, organic barely-there production, and an abundance of hand-claps, her 2008 sophomore release More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide is all Annika Norlin all the time.
Despite now singing in her “real” voice, the raspy, crackling vocals seem more genuine and possessing a deeper knowledge and understanding. Some of her songs are more layered the piano, organ, electric guitar, prominent drums, and studio effects, but she is still able to retain the airy, organic, simple tracks with only piano and acoustic guitar accompaniment. Beautiful songs laden with Norlin’s confident tone are only enhanced by her endearing Swedish accent. Foreign women are always more interesting!
For fans of: Regina Spektor, Feist, Lenka
Take a Listen!
I’m not going to lie. I’m a huge sucker for beautiful harmonies and I have a thing for adult contemporary music – it’s weird. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to music that is simply sugary sweet.
So I give you Dala, who is Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther. Their moniker comes from the last syllable of their first names. Smart.
With crystal clear voices that melt together to create the most beautiful harmonies, it seems as though the pair were made to sing together; it’s breathtaking, really.
Plus, they were the only Canadian act to play at this year’s legendary Newport Folk Festival which has played host to some of the great folk musicians like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell.
They met in high school and have been making beautiful music together since 2002. Dala has been around for a while on the Canadian music scene, but I just happened to stumble upon then recently. Enjoy!
For fans of: Chantal Kreviazuk, Indigo Girls
Take a listen!
Despite Scottish singer, Paolo Nutini, not being as well known here as he is across the pond, the Opera House opened to a surprisingly sold out crowd. His demographic seems to be college-age girls and middle-aged women (who also dragged along husbands and boyfriends). I guess that goes to show that a handsome musician with an accent will make just about any girl swoon at any age.
To open the show was Matt Hires, a singer-songwriter with boyish good looks and a good voice. But “good” is nothing too special. The best song he performed wasn’t even written by him, but a cover of MGMT’s “Kids”.
Erin McCarley, most known for her songs featured on TV shows like One Tree Hill and Grey’s Anatomy, was the second opening artist. She was alot better live than I expected and played a half hour set which included her popular songs “Pony (It’s Okay)” and “Love, Save the Empty”. But then again, popular is a relative term as many people in the venue didn’t seem to know or care who she was – talking through her entire set.
Therefore, a little tip: If you’re an artist who wants to get noticed, Paolo Nutini might not be the best artist to open for – his fans don’t seem very receptive.
At around 10 PM, Paolo Nutini finally took to the stage to perform to a crowd of restless and seemingly sexually frustrated bra-throwing girls. He immediately commanded the stage with his soul-gutting performances and powerful vocals, but his stage banter was seriously lacking – and when he did attempt a little conversation, his accent was so thick us Canadians had no way of understanding. However, that didn’t seem to bother his lovestruck audience who beamed from ear to ear, not even trying to hide their silly little schoolgirl crushes. Nutini had the crowd hanging on his every word and singing along with every song, not missing a beat. So, if you’re not too familiar with his lyrics – study up, my friend – or you’ll be the only one left standing there all shifty-eyed clapping along and pretending to sing along all the while hoping he never holds the mic up to your lips. There’s no denying that Nutini knows how to put on one hell of a show, but it’s his off-stage persona that really leave a bad taste in your mouth. You would think that after a sold-out concert, he would want to stay a while to thank his fans. But no – instead he make a run for his tour bus and slams the door without even a second look leaving many girls broken-hearted. If you go to a Paolo Nutini concert expecting a show – one energy-charged charged show you’ll get – but if you’re expecting to get a little meet and greet with your favourite artist, you can expect to leave disappointed.
Paolo Nutini fans are hardcore. Devout followers; there is rarely ever an in-between (in my experience). If however, you just happen to fall into the latter, be prepared to fight your way though an obnoxiously rude crowd. Oh, and apparently smoking is a prerequisite. I guess someone forgot to send me the memo.
If you haven’t heard of her yet, where have you been? Run, not walk, to discover a true gem you’ll surely slap yourself on the wrist for missing. Quirky, fun, endearing and just down right weird sometimes, Regina often seems in a world of her own – one that she invites us into with her music. And while I have to admit her self-released records (“11:11″, “Songs”) might be a bit of an acquired taste, it is truly a taste you won’t regret acquiring.
June 23rd sees the release of Regina Spektor’s fifth studio album “Far” and third major label release (Sire Records) and with just three days to go, fans must be licking their lips with the anticipation. It will be interesting to see the kind of production “Far” will have and how much Spektor has grown. After getting a preview of the entire album on her Myspace, her songs have some of her fans singing her tune while others are disappointed arguing that she has “sold out” and gone mainstream.
There is no doubt that her musical style has changed and somewhat differed, but that is to be expected with growth and the amount of time she has spent in the industry. And would you really want to listen to the same kinds of songs over and over again? It would just get repetitive and grow boring. After all, growth and exploration of different avenues are what we expect of artists these days or else they just become irrelevant. Regina’s 2006 release with Sire, “Begin to Hope” is undoubtedly more produced than even her first major label release “Soviet Kitsch” more less “11:11″ and “Songs”, but no one can argue that the songs on that album weren’t her catchiest yet. “Begin to Hope” garnered her the mainstream recognition she so deserved. Heck – since then, she’s had her songs in blockbuster flicks “The Chornicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and “Dan in Real Life”.
Now, even I’ll admit that I have a bit of a crush on Regina, so I can’t say that I’m impartial. Having seen her live in 2007 at Toronto’s Kool Haus (I despise that box of a venue), you can’t help but fall under her enchanting spell. The stage is where she really comes alive. You cannot truly appreciate her music or genius without experiencing her live show – just her and her piano. But I’ll end this school girl gushing now or I’ll never be able to stop.
Oh, Regina. What a woman. What an artist.
But I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Go crazy!