Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chris Thile

I’ve been introduced to several great artists thanks to Paste Magazine through the years, but none have I followed to the extent of Nickel Creek front man Chris Thile.

In the three years since I swiped the 26th issue’s music sampler from my uncle’s subscription, I’ve enjoyed expanding my collection of Chris’ impressive catalogue. In addition to the brilliant musicianship and air-tight harmonies of Grammy-winning trio Nickel Creek, Chris’ captivating endeavor with The Punch Brothers received multiple listens during my spring break this year.

But it’s his most recent "solo" album, 2006’s “How to Grow A Woman From the Ground,” with the How to Grow A Band that still tugs at my heart strings the most. Amid riveting interpretations of popular singles from The White Stripes and The Strokes, this gorgeous ballad gently tells the story of Chris’ struggle to accept the collapse of his marriage at age 23. The fragility of his voice breaks way into this desperate moan during the bridge that absolutely kills me every time.

And for Radiohead fans check out this absolutely brilliant cover of "Morning Bell."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I believe in fate, I believe in good things coming to those who wait

My love for Jason Mraz is like a tide—it ebbs and flows. The lows are, for the most part, never that low. The highs have been some of the best times of my life—like the summer of 2006 when my sister graduated college. I bought my weekend ticket to Sun Fest with the intention of also seeing Fiona Apple, scheduled to play the day before Jason, but brotherly duties prevailed and I proudly sat in on my sister’s commencement.

The following day, me and two of my friends embarked on the first leg of our journey: a 300-mile drive to West Palm Beach. We endured the scorching sun and stood arm to arm to keep our place in the crowd of sun drunk youngsters. It was a great concert eventually eclipsed by the stellar Jacksonville show we drove to the following day (crazy, I know). Regardless, it was the perfect way to jump-start a summer vacation.

But the absolute highlight of the summer, and perhaps of all my concert experiences so far, was the solo acoustic show in NYC at Irving Plaza. The intimate Songs for Friends Tour was Jason’s way of thanking the devoted fans who have stood by him since his humble beginnings at Java Joes.

Playing to a packed house on July 21, Jason stood under a single spotlight with a vase of white roses and a bottle of water behind him. He performed one gem after another, sailing through one of his strongest collection of songs, The E Minor EP in F, in the first 20 minutes. It was an unbelievable experience and I don’t think any future concert I catch of Jason’s will ever match it.

Alas, the closest I can get to that experience is playing the mind-numbingly beautiful Internet album Homemade—a collection of garage-recorded tracks compiled by Jason sometime in the late ‘90s. Long before the record-breaking reggae shuffle of “I’m Yours,” the bombastic “Wordplay,” and the monster-sized chorus of “The Remedy,” Jason was a bustling acoustic performer in San Diego’s music scene. Much of his early sets contained selections from this 14-track collection. One even made it onto his major label debut in 2002. For the most part, these songs are a snapshot of simpler times for Jason’s career and it’s absolutely thrilling to look back on. It’s Jason at his best—effortless, angelic harmonies and brilliant songwriting. I couldn’t possibly sum up my feelings on each track in a few paragraphs, so I’ll let them do the talking.

Download this album—even if you aren’t a fan of Jason Mraz as you currently know him. The joyful serenity of “One Find,” “Strange” and Khalil Gibran adapted “God Moves Through You” is something you just can’t beat.

Jason Mraz Homemade

Best Seat in the House
Burning Bridges
Run Boy, Run
One Find
Wear Your Sign
Falling All Over the World
Eyes Open (Remember My Name)
Take Me Away
God Moves Through You
The Boy's Gone
Stranger in the Sky

(note: you'll notice fuzz on a few tracks, especially "Stranger in the Sky", but that's just the way the album was released)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

All Things Patty: Part Two

Not many artists can survive a fall out with a disagreeing label—whether because of exhaustion, depression or debt. Even fewer manage to emerge from two dysfunctional label relationships and garner the adoration of critics and fans like Patty Griffin has.

Her career began in the late 1980s with gigs in Boston bars and pubs booked by a guitar teacher from the Cambridge Music Center, John Curtis. It was a slow start for Patty- at one point she held jobs as a telephone operator and waitress at Pizza Uno to support herself. The dissolution of a marriage and the collapse of an artist development deal on "Like A Virgin" producer Nile Rodgers’ label sent Patty into a deep depression. Out of this tumultuous period sprang the songs that would eventually comprise her phenomenal 1996 A & M Records debut, Living With Ghosts.

Patty’s 1998 follow up, the Jay Joyce-produced Flaming Red, was a pulsating rock ‘n’ roller with loud guitars, biting lyrics and soaring vocals. Two weeks into its release, Universal Music took control of A & M and Patty was displaced to Interscope Records. Misfortune would yet again plague her young career when Universal Music was acquired by Vivendi in the spring of 2000. After recording her third album, Silver Bell, in New Orleans with producers Joyce, Craig Ross and Malcolm Burn, Patty’s new label sat on the finished product for a year.

They wanted singles, and Patty was told exactly that—record 10 radio friendly songs, and her work would see the light of day. The label handed her a copy of U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind for inspiration. She went back into the studio, but soon found the "hit" songs weren’t there. Patty asked her manager to cut her a deal out of the contract. The label conceded on the condition that she was only entitled to re-record five of the album’s tracks for future releases. Any more than that and Patty would have to pay for each additional song. Eager to get the nearly two-year ordeal behind her, she agreed.

Ironically, it was her performance of selected songs from Silver Bell on the television program Austin City Limits that caught Dave Matthews’ attention. Shortly thereafter, Patty was signed to his label and made her ATO Records debut in 2002 with 1000 Kisses.

Silver Bell is one of many albums to never see a commercial release. It did, however, find its way to the Internet to the delight of Patty fans around the world. The 14-track collection is a testament to her range and talent—emotive, well-crafted and achingly beautiful songs.

Little God
Perfect White Girls
Truth #2
What You Are
Silver Bell
Sooner Or Later
Top Of the World [alternate version featured on Impossible Dream [2004]
Sorry And Sad
Making Pies [alternate version featured on 1000 Kisses[2002]
Mother Of God [alternate version featured on Impossible Dream [2004]
One More Girl
Standing [original recording used on Impossible Dream [2004]

For the entire album, including a bonus cover of "Kiss Them For Me" by Siouxsie & The Banshees, head over to Omnipop.

(Not so) Little Voice

I just realized I bought Sara Bareilles' debut on Epic Records two years ago today. I had only heard one song from the San Diego songstress, but it was enough for me to pick up her album on the way home from work. Her voice hit me immediately--the way she swoops and soars with such mellifluous ease is truly captivating.

It's somewhat appropriate that I update this on Thanksgiving because I see Little Voice as a pop record cooked in a sultry oven for five hours and basted with soul. It's got a fair amount of gloss to it, but the songs are able to survive the heavy handedness that comes with overproduction. "Come Round Soon" was an immediate favorite--as was the beautifully written"Between the Lines." But it wasn't until the stunning closer, "Gravity," that the breadth of Sara's talent peaked its head from behind the wall of sound.

And that's what I'm ending this with for tonight. A low-key performance that I remember watching repeatedly upon finding it. This will have to hold me over until her next album, due in early 2010.

Monday, November 23, 2009

While I'm procrastinating...

I could blabber on about this performance, the song, Queen of Soul, etc., etc...but the word that best encompasses my impressions when I watch this clip is: perfection. What better way to kick off your week? A box of these doesn't hurt.

Friday, November 20, 2009

He's a millionaire...

Before Jason Mraz brought Anya Marina on tour as an opening act in 2008, they were buddies on the San Diego music scene. This performance from 2001 is one of my favorite Jason tunes for obvious reasons. Silly, but satisfying all the same. What better way to start the weekend?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Imogen Heap: Ellipse

I like to take my time before I analyze an album. It may not be the timeliest decision, but it’s the only way for me. And it’s a good thing I waited. Had I reviewed Imogen Heap’s Ellipse after I bought it in September I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the sonic beauty of this album.

Lead single “First Train Home” was an instant favorite for its gradual build to a frenetic wave of synths and drum beats. It shines in the smallest moments and enthralls in the biggest, which is nothing new for her—more like a gentle refinement.

Imogen could’ve fared just as well to continue the beat heavy tracks of Speak for Yourself. Fortunately, Ellipse knows its strengths. There’s warmth and richness to the melody of “Little Bird” that echoes a few of her older tunes, most notably “The Moment I Said It,” but takes them to new heights. The dizzying ethereal harmonies and instrumentation blend so effortlessly that on first listen I didn’t pay much attention. With repeated listens I’ve become completely elated for this understated, four minute and seven second track that has the bones of a folk song and the flesh of Feist’s “Honey Honey.”

She flies her Frou Frou flag proud with the swelling “Tidal,” another prime example of her masterful pop sensibilities. At times the music overpowers Imogen’s lighter-than-air vocals, and even she might be aware of this. A deluxe edition of the album was released with instrumentals of the album’s 13 tracks. Perhaps it was merely to please the segment of her fan base eager to cut and paste an honorary Heap mix.

Regardless, there’s something to be said for believing that your music can stand on its own without help from a voice.

Imogen not only shows she’s well adept at production, but also at recognizing how imperative placement is. The pacing of this album is impeccable—ample time to get cozy with the lush, orchestration of ballads (“2-1”) and sing into your rear-view mirror (“Bad Body Double”). And when the final chords of the subtly rhythmic, reflective and gorgeous “Half Life” rang out I felt comfortably whelmed—neither under nor over, just full. It just needed a bit to digest.

LISTEN: Little Bird, Aha!, Half Life.
(But it should really be taken as a whole.)

Jamie Lidell moves my feet

For me, there is nothing better than driving with the windows rolled down, and blaring the blue-eyed soul of Berlin-by-way-of-England musician Jamie Lidell. You've heard his songs--even if you don't know it yet.

Jamie attracted the ear of Grey's Anatomy music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas in 2006. His song "Multiply" was not only featured on the show, but earned a coveted spot on the show's official soundtrack for season two.

What I love about Jamie is his willingness to try new things. He started as a producer of electronic music. His 2005 Warp Records debut was a truly sublime marriage of soul tracks and the music he made his name with. But 2008's "Jim" stripped away much of the electronic and got right down to Prince and Stevie Wonder-esque soul. It's a completely joyous listen from start to finish that's carried by Jamie's velvety chords and spot-on songwriting. The melodies this man comes up with are inescapable. I think I've sang this song to myself a hundred times this year.

I had the chance to see Jamie at the Austin City Limits festival last year...but I missed him. I don't want to talk about it. But I will say that while standing on a line to meet my musical hero, Patty Griffin, after her stellar performance my friend decided to catch Jamie as he was leaving the signing tent. An acquaintance of his played in Jamie's band and he wanted to see him. So, Jamie told him to hop on his golf cart. In a move that will plague me for the rest of my life, my friend comes running back, urging me to come with him. Jamie was waiting on the cart. I decided to stay in the line. How often do you get to meet Patty Griffin? Off he went, sitting on the back of Jamie Lidell's golf cart kicking up dirt into the air and zipping through the crowds of sweaty people.

Jamie's saying "Goodbye" to Jim, and that means new music is on the horizon. Fingers crossed he'll grace the Sunshine State with a show. But in the meantime, I think I'll drown my sorrows in this delightful tune. See you next time, Jamie.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

All Things Patty: Part One

It was almost four years ago when I first heard of Patty Griffin. My sister dragged me to a late showing of Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown”. Clearly, I was not interested when I entered the theater. As the film unfolded, though, I found the music irresistibly good. I had my keys in hand the minute the credits rolled, ready to buy that soundtrack. I did, and immediately tore open the plastic wrapping, slid it into my car stereo and gripped the wheel. It was everything I needed at that moment—musically and personally. I listened to that soundtrack every day, and eventually decided I should seek out a few of the artists on their own turf.

I found Patty’s “Impossible Dream” at a Best Buy inside Gulf View Mall. It was the only copy left and I remember holding it in my hands, flipping it over to read the track listing and being completely enamored with the artwork.

And then it sat on my CD shelf for months. It wasn’t until I bought the 2003 live album-- “A Kiss in Time”--for $6 at a Sam Goody closing sale and fell completely in love with this woman’s charming presence that I revisited my first Patty purchase.

“Impossible Dream” is, quite possibly, my favorite album by any artist. It’s definitely my favorite of Patty’s and has stood up to repeated listens time and time and time again. The stories never tire, the melodies never wane and that voice never ceases to completely rip me to pieces.

It begins with the moody bayou gospel of “Love Throws a Line”. Patty said this song was inspired by her love of gospel—which she considers to be some of the most inspirational music written. I may not be adept in gospel, but if this is Patty’s attempt at coping with sadness, it succeeds. Those hand claps just work for me—not to mention the sublime choir of voices that harmonize on the chorus.

She follows it superbly with the stark “Cold as It Gets.” There is nothing happy about this song. There is nothing beautiful about it. It is harsh, sparse and incredibly effective. The thoughts of a Holocaust survivor are interpreted through the stunning, yet focused vocal. The song is so deliberately restrained that I can only imagine a person singing these words who has held on to this grudge for decades, waiting for the day they can avenge the dead.

I'd hate to single out a particular track as a favorite because I rarely listen to them individually, but "Top of the World" is one of Patty's most recognizable songs for a reason. Lifted from 2002's unreleased album --"Silver Bell"--and stripped down to the bones, the lyrics immediately grab your attention.

I wished I was smarter, wished I was stronger;
wished I loved Jesus the way my wife does;
I wished it had been easier instead of any longer;
I wished I could've stood the way you would've been proud,
but that won't happen now, that won't happen now...

Regret is a hard thing to capture in music, but Patty brings this sentiment to life so vividly that it never ceases to send chills up my spine.

I could go on about these songs for days. The placement and pacing of each track is exquisite and extremely emotionally charged. For me, this is an album that never peaks. It continues to build on a foundation of incredible songwriting ("Useless Desires", “Florida”), visceral production (“Mother of God”) and delivery (“When It Don’t Come Easy”) that leaves you utterly baffled by the final strums of the gorgeous closing ballad “Icicles.”

Basically, if you picked up no other artist from this blog than Patty Griffin, I'd be content.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kelly Clarkson is a big baby.

What could possibly elevate a good show to legendary status? The artist performing in their Halloween costume? Most definitely. This video has kept me giggling all day. Enjoy, folks. I don't think you'll see Kelly Clarkson dancing to Peanut Butter Jelly Time as Stewie (from Family Guy, of course) on American Idol next season.

If that wasn't enough, Kelly and her costumed band deliver an absolutely blazing version of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army".

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachael Yamagata

I've been out of the country twice. Once to Canada in 2007--although, most would dismiss this excursion because my friends and I literally walked over from Niagara Falls. The first time, however, was an Atlantic hopping flight to London, a train to Scotland and a detour to York (the terrorist bombings during the summer of 2005 kept us from heading back to London for several days, causing much stress and strenuous planning on my dad's part).

We made our way to London. One thing my dad was adamant about showing me was Harrods. My dad and I had spent hours perusing every department on every level of this massive consumer complex. $40 t-shirts weren't exactly in my price range. Once I recovered from sticker shock, I found my oasis. 3 for 15£. That was the sale on the third floor of Harrods' music department.

I flipped through the racks of albums for at least an hour before deciding on David Gray's "A New Day at Midnight", another album I can't recall, and Rachael Yamagata's "Happenstance".

I spent the entire evening glued to my headphones. I played these tracks over, and over, and over again. I had never heard anything like her voice before. Now, I've noticed how she draws from revered musicians like Tom McRae, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits. But then, her intimate style of writing hit me like a double-decker bus.

"Happenstance" is a fine debut- and certainly a step above most female singer-songwriters that find their way into the pop world. Yamagata made her mark with the slick, melody driven catharsis of “Worn Me Down”.

She gained some attention for the lush, opening waltz “Be Be Your Love”--featured in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-- but it wasn’t until her appearance on Zach Braff’s “Last Kiss” soundtrack that she reached a wider audience.

“The Reason Why” is a classic break-up anthem through and through--despite being written about her decision to embark on a solo career and part with her first foray into the music world, Chicago funk band Bumpus.

All of those songs are well-crafted, pleasing to the ear and a fine display of Yamagata's talent. But my personal favorites are the album cuts featured below:

"Meet Me By the Water"
Beautiful melody, direct lyrics and hypnotizing production by John Alagia.

Understated lullaby that renders me speechless every time I listen.

"Ode To"
Featured as a hidden track on "Happenstance", but clearly one of the best examples of her songwriting on the album.

And those are just a few examples of this woman's talent. In later posts, I'll share some live recordings, unreleased songs and selections from her second release, 2008's double album "Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart". Get acquainted with Rachael Yamagata.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The night could just bend forever...

It wasn't until I reached the 13th track of "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" on my drive from Spring Hill to Tampa last night that I fully realized the gift this songwriter has. The song permeated my speakers and my mouth immediately stretched into a fat grin.

I think that's what I admire about his music the most. Whatever mood the song conveys--whether it's the intimate, lonely croon of "Idaho" or the hopeful sway of "Empty Hearts"-- that mood is immediately rooted in the listener. His music makes my heart ache in the best possible way. Do not wait another day to listen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I get completely lost in the swelling strings of this romantic, brooding song. There's something unhinged in the way he sings "Just put me inside you/ I would never ever leave". Creepy? Certainly. But romantic, nevertheless.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I could be lovely given the chance.

Experimenting with new sounds and songwriting styles is taboo in the world of pop. Messing with a tried and true hit-making-formula is destined to alienate radio’s eager listeners anticipating their next anthem. For most of 2004 through 2006, those anthems were supplied by inaugural American Idol champ Kelly Clarkson. In those three years she had a string of radio hits, won two Grammy awards and embarked on four successful tours in support of the album “Breakaway”. So, it came as no surprise when she divulged to the media her third album, “My December” , would be entirely composed of material she co-wrote with members of her band that rumors began circulating Clive Davis, former CEO of RCA Records, was displeased with the results.

Never Again [Kelly Clarkson/ Jimmy Messer]
ps: check out that money note at 1:57.

The outcome of the “My December” ordeal is now somewhat of an industry parable. It was hailed as “The Return of Kelly Clarkson”, despite that she was only off public radar for a few months. Radio stations were buzzing about the first single weeks in advance. Fans were curious how Clarkson could possibly live up to the success of her previous album. So was her label.

“Breakaway”, the sophomore album juggernaut that propelled her into super stardom, was not an overnight success. In an interview with Blender Magazine, Clarkson said her label wasn’t optimistic the project would have any longevity. She was told to her face the album would be lucky to sell more than 650,000 copies once it was released. “[RCA] thought there was only one single—“Since U Been Gone”, Clarkson dished in an interview with on-demand channel Music Choice. “They thought all the other songs, especially the ones I wrote, were just crap,” she added. As Clarkson made the publicity rounds in support of the album, the subsequent singles began to receive more airplay on radio stations. When that happened, the label came on board to support their bubbling star.

Five singles later and 11 million albums sold worldwide, Clarkson was one of the most popular female artists in the world. Following the Addicted Tour [on which she performed one of the best versions of this song to date] she headed into the studio in the fall of 2006 to lay down tracks for her third album. From the beginning, it was a highly anticipated project. Fans were curious how she could possibly deliver an album of equal success to “Breakaway”, but duplication wasn't part of Clarkson’s intentions.

Be Still [Kelly Clarkson/ Aben Eubanks]

Foregoing expectations that she would work with the same producers that crafted memorable pop songs “Since U Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes”, Clarkson teamed up with producer David Kahne—who had previously worked with Paul McCartney, Sublime and The Bangles. At the suggestion of her band mates, Clarkson asked legendary punk musician Mike Watt to play bass on six of the 26 songs recorded for the final project. Fans and critics alike were intrigued with the developing project and wondered what a pop star was doing among an unlikely group of musicians.

The album was finally released after a media-fueled battle of artistic integrity over commercial success that hounded Clarkson for months. Reviews among critics were generally positive and on par with the singer’s previous works. Casual fans, however, didn’t quite warm up to the new material at first. After a change in management, a second single that failed to chart and a cancelled summer tour, the impression was left that the label had been right all along. The new material simply wasn’t good enough.

How I Feel [Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer, Dwight Baker, David Kahne]

What was most interesting about the “My December” ordeal was the actual music took a back seat to label politics and media created tension. Despite the criticism that the album was too dark and that there weren’t any radio friendly singles, “My December” has remained a favorite among her fans, including me. The pop sheen of her earlier albums was replaced with rollicking bass lines, crunchy guitars, strings and synths. The lyrics were a rebel yell for a scorned, misunderstood and lonely youth. And then there was Clarkson’s finest asset—her voice. Passionately wringing every ounce of emotion from each lyric, she presented an impressive amount of range throughout 14 tracks. It was exactly the album no one expected from an American Idol winner.

Transforming a stint on a reality show into a thriving music career is a feat few will ever achieve. Clarkson is determined to make her career count for something other than number one hits. “There’s no way [to be number one] unless I do the formula stuff every time,” she said to Music Choice. “I want to do something different,” Clarkson said, “and different takes time for people to catch on.”

Maybe [Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer, Aben Eubanks]

Clarkson followed up “My December” with 2009’s super-charged pop album "All I Ever Wanted". Producers Max Martin, Howard Benson and Ryan Tedder were enlisted to craft the album’s 14 songs—6 of which were co-written by Clarkson. Ironically, it has taken 26 weeks, three singles and months of promotion to sell more than 1 million copies worldwide—an achievement “My December” earned in eight weeks with one single. Some chalk it up to the economy. Some anticipate an increase in sales in the months to come. But as Clarkson eluded to Elle Magazine, even her most fervent fans are likely outgrow her one day.

“It’s weird to me when a 12-year-old tells me I’m their favorite artist,” she said. “In time, I’ll be weeded out, and that’s cool. I know I’m a good singer—but I know who I am, too.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

8 a.m. lectures.

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Brandi Carlile.

No lyrics in the title. No catch phrase to lure you in. Just the name of this absolutely rockin' 28-year-old woman. When I first heard of Brandi Carlile, it wasn't love at first sound. For some strange reason--perhaps I wasn't paying attention close enough, or I wasn't in the mood to have my world shattered--her voice bothered me.

What was I thinking?

I have enough common sense now to recognize that Carlile's singing is surely other worldly. Her songwriting skills are truly wonderful--as demonstrated on 2006's self-titled debut and 2007's breakthrough, "The Story",-- but her real strength is that voice. First, there's her power. She can brood with the best and wail like a bat in the hands of Donny Donowitz.

Second, the heart wrenching emotion in her delivery--it is ineffable.

And third, her range and control are incredible.

She may not be blowing up your radio, but this is an artist to savor. Her third album with Columbia records, "Give Up the Ghost", hits stores Sept. 22 on vinyl and Oct. 6 on CD. Elton John, Amy Ray of The Indigo Girls, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers all lend their talents. It's sure to be a doozy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When your feet are leaving the ground...

30-year-old Patrick Watson and his eponymous band first came onto my radar in early 2007 on ABC's uuber drama Grey's Anatomy. Before your eyes start to roll let me say this- Grey's has some of the best music on television. I've lost count of the number of additions to my CD library thanks to the show over the last six seasons.

Watson's music is far from cookie-cutter soundtrack schlock, however. Upon listening to 2006's $20,000 Polaris prize winning album "Close to Paradise" for the first time, this four piece band completely immersed me in their sound scape of pure imagination. Watson, along with Robbie Kuster, Simon Angell and Mishka Stein, effectively navigate a handful of genres on the album's 13 gorgeous tracks without letting its cohesion fall apart.

"Slip Into Your Skin" is a personal favorite of mine with understated jazz lounge-esque verses and swooping orchestral choruses. Watson's vocals seem to relish in these moments, as they frequently appear throughout the album's 47 minute run. String arrangements makes their fullest appearances in the piano heavy "Drifters" and Stein c0-written "Lucious Life". Coincidentally, these are two of the four tracks to receive stunning video treatments.

I could go on and on and on about this album, and this band (and I will when I cover The Cinematic Orchestra- more on them later). I'll end by saying that as I type up this entry I'm listening to their third--and second Polaris-nominated--album, "Wooden Arms," and have yet to be disappointed. Repeated listens are a must before making a judgement, and that's no difficult task. This is a band that really pulls you in at the wee hours of the morning.

For tour dates visit their official site.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Hajimemashte! Making this has been in the back of my mind for about six months now. A summer of lazy (i.e jobless) days and long nights (i.e Dexter marathons) drained all of my ambition to get this blog off the ground. However, with the start of my senior year at the University of South Florida I decided to get my hands dirty in a mud bath of musical goodness.

I should introduce myself- my name is Matt Spencer. I am 22 years old and currently studying magazine journalism at USF's School of Mass Communications in Tampa, FL.

Music has always been an integral part of my life- from The Wizard of Oz to Les Miserables, I grew up surrounding myself with anything that allowed me to escape. I spent most of my childhood in community theater, but eventually gave that up. I started learning guitar in high school and to this day I consider myself only mediocre. Practicing was never my forte.

And then came college. I spent most of it commuting from my home in Spring Hill and it was during those commutes that I was able to spend two uninterrupted hours with the music of my choice. Sometimes I'd spend a week on one album, sometimes it would change every day. Whatever my mood, I had a go-to album for it.

My fondest memory was during my freshman year in 2005. With a rigorous coarse load including English Composition 1 and University Experience, I spent what "little" spare time I had making anonymous compilations of my obsession at the time- Jason Mraz. I would spend hours burning patch work collections of my favorite live (and legal) Mraz tracks I had swiped from (more on that in future posts).

Once I packaged them and scribbled a brief blurb of enticement in Sharpie on the outside, the joy bombs were dropped around campus for lucky students to find. I did this twice a week for several months before my funds, and time, ran out. I have no idea what became of them or who picked them up. All I hope is they passed them on, and continue to share them with their friends.

I guess that's my hope for this blog, as well. There will be many, many artists featured here. You may like some and be indifferent toward others, but at the very least I hope you pass it on to your friends.