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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sounds of Summer: Part 1

Summer hit 2013 'I Don't Care' by Icona Pop

Icona Pop is made up of a couple of DJs from Sweden, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo (say that five times fast) who formed in 2009.  They have two albums, Icona Pop and This is..Icona Pop (very original).  Their debut hit single was a song called 'Manners' but it was 'I Don't Care' that got them into every American household.  This annoying but catchy song was number 21 on the Itunes dance chart.  The song has been in seemingly every commercial and tv spot/show.  To name a few: Girls, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Glee, Good Morning America, Dancing witht he Stars, The Vampire Diaries.  It has also been in ads for shoes and phones.  It is everywhere this summer!  And the band is currently touring with Matt&Kim and Passion Pit (two of my faves) so that gives them a little more street cred' in my book.  I like the song; it's catchy and has a beat you can dance to.  It's a little more edgy and indie than typical summer hits.  But, I'm certain that 'Icona who?' will be the catch phrase of summer 2014.

Summer hit 2012 'Call me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen

This song is definitely annoying as hell, so it must be a summer hit.  That is the number one rule for summer hits.  The first time you hear it, it's a smash but by the 130th, it's old hat.  Carly Rae Jepsen is Canadian; she's from British Columbia.  Damn, even America's summer hits are imported.  What happened to good ole' fashioned Americana like Nelly (with summer hit 'Hot in Herre' from 2002) , Sisqo (with 'Thong Song' in 2000), Hoobastank (with 'The Reason' from 2004), or even Kelly Osbourne (with 'Papa Don't Preach' in 2002).  I realize that Kelly Osbourne is British but she was on an American reality show, 'The Osbournes' which aired from 2002-2005.  The song is a direct result of that popular show.  Before it, she was nobody in the eyes of the American public.  By default, she's 'American'.   And like the other past hits mentioned, they're all popular choices at Saturday night karaoke! Jepsen, however, is a product of Canadian Idol; she came up third on season 5 of the show.  On Canadian Idol, Jepsen covered the greats like Bob Marley, Queen, Melissa Etheridge, and Janis Ian. She came out with a single, a cover of the John Denver song 'Sunshine on my Shoulders'.  I won't put a link to it because I actually like John Denver.

  Jepsen's debut album, Tug of War came out in 2008.  Then the album, Kiss, came out in 2012 which contained the hit of that summer.  There were parodies everywhere, all over the Internet like wallpaper, but mostly on YouTube.  And like any summer hit, I liked this song the first couple of times I heard it.  By the 200th time, I wanted to vomit.  And like most summer hit phenomenons, Jepsen is nowhere to be found in the summer of 2013. With that being said about summer hits, I will recommend some alternative downloads/bands to follow this summer.  And just because the 'back to school' adds are all over TV does not mean that summer is over.  Not even close!  Summer ain't over til the fat lady (guy) stuffs a corn dog, fried oreo, and funnel cake into her mouth during the Labor Day air show!

  Crystal Fighters:
Crystal Fighters official page    

This high energy British/Spanish indie/dance-electro-synth alt. pop band was formed in Navarra Spain in 2007.  There are six members in the band: Sebastian Pringle (on vocals and guitar), Gilbert Vierich (on guitar, percussion, electronics, and txalaparta), Graham Dickson (on guitar and txalaparta), Eleanor Fletcher (on vocals), Andrea Marongiu (on drums), and Nila Raja (on vocals).  PS: the txalaparta is a real instrument; it's a xylephone-like wooden percussion cider board from the Basque region.  The band also uses the txistu (a Basque pipe whistle) and a danbolin (rope tuned snare drum).  They combine the stylings of Spanish punk, electronica, Basque folk music, and indie dance-pop.  The band envisions their sound as something of the stylings of The Velvet Underground and The Gypsy Kinds going back in time to the 1980's in the Pyrenees and utilizing Skream or Luciano on the production.  The band's first album, Star of Love was released in 2012 and their second album, Cave Rave was released in 2013.  

  I first heard them through my Iphone app, Songza.  I then downloaded and immediately fell in love with 'Love Natural'.  It is bouncy and you cannot be in a bad mood after listening to it.  'Champion Sound' and 'LA Calling' are equally uplifting.  They have the same fresh, unique sound of bands like M83 and MGMT.  I'd love to see them live because I cannot imagine a more high energy concert (other than The Polyphonic Spree).  What I love most about the songs of Crystal Fighters is that the tempo and feel of the song changes just like the topography of a great road trip.  And speaking of road trips, this is a great band to bring with you.  Just download Cave Rave from Itunes, put it in the car CD player and drive down the highway exploring every corner of wherever you are.  This band is fantastic and I highly recommend giving them a listen.  Soon, I expect and hope them to be everywhere.  Just tell everyone you heard about them here, first!  

A great show would be if Crystal Fighters and Ginger and the Ghost got together with M83 and Arcade Fire.  That would be AMAZING!!!!

 Crystal Fighter's video for 'Follow' (from Star of Love)
'Champion Sound' (from Star of Love)
Live performance of 'Love Natural' in LA (from Cave Rave)
'You & I' (from Cave Rave)
Chloe Charles:
I first heard of Chloe through the 'Twittersphere'.  Lately, many musicians/artists have been finding me through Twitter which makes me feel legit.  I don't know if they first find my blog or if they just see that I'm really into music.  Whatever the reason, I have found some amazing musicians/bands through social media.  And I promised Chloe that I'd do a write-up about her music because she is amazing!  Take my word for it!

Chloe is a Canadian (from Ontario) singer-songwriter and classically trained guitarist (self-taught to boot).  I am always impressed with musicians who teach themselves instruments and write their own lyrics.  Chloe's debut EP was 'Little Green Bud' which came out in 2011.  Since then, she has performed around 300 shows in eight different countries.  Chloe is definitely a rising star!  Soon, she will be releasing her first full album, Break the Balance.  She has been compared to Adele, Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys, Billie Holiday, Bjork.  What got her feet wet into musical genius was when her father married Cynthia Lennon and then Chole became Julian Lennon's step-sister.  However, this does not mean that only because of this marriage that her luck changed.  Sure, it helped.  But Chloe would have been a talent and star on her own merit, and believe me, she is.  Her vocals mix with classical sounds of the violin and cello, and I'm always a sucker for strings.  Her voice stands on its own but with the added strings, she is a powerhouse of emotional charisma.  Her voice is liquidy and soft, melodic and complex.  To me, her vocals are similar to the 90's greats Natalie Merchant, Mazzy Starr, and Tracy Bonham.  She is a name that you will not soon forget!
 'Water' (2011) by Chloe Charles

 'Soon on a Snowflake'

'Business' (from the upcoming album Breaking the Silence)

Jazzahead (in Bremen, Germany) Chloe Charles cover of 'So Far Away' (by Carol King)
 Note: I didn't like this song until I heard this version.  Sorry, Carol King, but this version is better!  And those who know me well know that I RARELY say a cover is better than the original.  

The Loom:
The Loom is a Brooklyn band.  YEA BROOKLYN!  I always have to plug at least one Brooklyn band.  C'mon!  And The Loom is sensational.  They formed in 2006 and include instruments such as French horn, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, ukelele and of course the classic guitar, keyboard, and percussion.  You know how I love bands that use various instruments that aren't the 'usual suspects' of rock (guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals).  The Loom's debut album (EP) At Last Light came out in 2008.  Their second album (first full length album), Teeth came out in the fall of 2011.  They went on a tour across the US in 2011 and 2012.  They are now working on their third album (second full length album) with producer Kevin McMahon (who manages: Swans, Real Estate, and Titus Andronicus).  They have been gaining a foothold after playing at SXSW music festival in Austin, TX in 2010 and Paste has hailed them as the 'best of what's next'.  If Paste gives your band that title, then it's significant, believe me.  I've discovered a lot of great bands because of Paste. 

I would say they're similar to Mumford & Sons or Badly Drawn Boy.  Maybe a newer Nick Drake.  The vocals remind me of the bass vocal stylings of Bill Callahan.  They are up and coming for sure.  I first downloaded, 'For the Hooves that Gallop, and the Heels that March' which I put onto a 'NYC badass mix' that I made for friends.  I also have the songs 'For All My Friends In Spring, For All My Friends In Fall' and 'The First Freeze' (which I guarantee will make it on my winter/holiday mix for 2013).  What I like most, aside from the many instruments they use, is the fact that some songs are high energy, and some low.  Most of their songs have a winter/fall feel and I imagine walking through the snowy, leaf barren NYC streets.  Check them out.  If you like folk and slower indie like Iron and Wine or Red House Painters, then you'll  love this band!

 The Loom at SXSW in 2011
Lindsay Katt: 
Lindsay Katt is another musician who found me via Twitter.  She grew up in Montana, near the mountains, 'with music in her head'.  The 'voices in her head' prompted her to share music with the world and came with her on the journey to the nitty gritty city of New York's jungle.  Like Stevie Nick's inspiration for 'Landslide', the mountains inspired her music.  Later, the sounds of NYC inspired her sound.  I like that she finds art/music everywhere.  She has been compared to Joni Mitchell and Fiona Apple, and I would agree with this comparison.  Heartfelt and honest, she is the real deal.  Her music has been featured on shows like MTV's The Real World and Teen Moms but also ABC's show Castle and the LOGO film 'Sneakers & Soul'. One of her songs is featured in a Macy's advertisement (the best way for budding musicians to get their music out to the American public).  Her song' Heart Place' is the theme song for a Texas public radio show, called 'The Appetizer' that features new music. 

She plays guitar and piano, sometimes singing a cappella (without any instruments).  What's more is that she writes music to evoke social change.  I love this!  Her song 'My Home' was written for a same sex couple she knows and holds dear.  The funds raised from the song went toward Freedom to Marry (  The fact that she uses her music as a platform for activism aligns her with greats like Joan Baez or Bob Dylan.  She is the real deal!  I have many of her songs in my Itunes library which include 'Shout!', 'Diamond Dogs', 'Stick By Me', 'Not a Mistake', and 'Two Part Game'.  Some of her stylings are somber and borderline industrial rock of bands like Garbage and Poe.  Some of her songs have the pop, upbeat stylings of Sara Bareilles and laid back sophistication of Nora Jones.  Yet what I like is that her music is raw and soulfully honest like Joan Osborne and emotional like Elizaveta or Marina and the Diamonds.  Her vocals are airy like Priscilla Ahn.  The most noble, however, is that Katt isn't in it for the money or the fame.  Katt wants to use her music as a platform for activism and for spreading a message that transcends teeny bopper crap.  I will be keeping my eye on Lindsay Katt, and so should you!
 Lindsay Katt performing 'My Happy'

 Lindsay Katt performing 'Stick by Me' at The Bitter End


I first heard this band live last summer at The Bitter End in NYC.  One of the lead singers, Jules Barringer, is the sister of a very good college buddy of mine.  However, I'd be doing this write-up regardless of this fact.  I know how to distance myself from any personal relationship I have with a band.  This band is amazing, hands down.  There is nothing like them out there today.  They are based in NYC and play a lot along the East Coast (in Philadelphia, NYC, DC).  The band is made up of four individuals: Alex Stewart and Jules Barringer (on vocals), Thomas Griffith (on guitar), Danny Dahan (on bass), and David Karr (on drums).  Their look and sound merges the psychedelic late sixties with the early to mid soulful seventies.  They fuse blues with funk, jazz, and boogie.  Their concerts are a hootenanny, and if you go, you will be dancing and gyrating as if an electric current is running through your body.  Their stylings have been compared to the likes of Sly and the Family Stone.  They definitely would have played at Woodstock.  Even better would be to send them back in a time machine to the late 60's/early 70's to open for the Grateful Dead in Haight/Ashbury.  They are right out of a bygone era of funky afros and groovy bell bottoms.  Dig it!  

Barringer and Stewart combine vocals in a harmony unlike most duets.  They use scat and free form growls and screams to create a lyrical conversation like a ping pong match on LSD.  Blues and jazz scales make up a lot of the vocals and the two singers high energy and synergy compliment one another.  Dahan on drums reminds me of Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  He flails around and never sits still.  He dances and writes with his bass.  His feet hit the floor and bounce to the music creating a new dance move called 'funk the junk'.  I'm sure it will catch on soon.  Karr on drums keeps the band together like the engine of a machine/car.  Griffith's guitar riffs are highly technical and skilled yet they play with the fast and loose style of funk/blues.  He is fast and loose but not sloppy joe.  Watermelon came out with their first full length album, Sleepover, at the beginning of 2013.  I have a feeling that Watermelon will make it big (as if they haven't already).  I can see them playing all the late night talk shows (Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O'Brien.  I do not have their songs downloaded but it's only because I'm waiting to see them again live and get an autographed copy of Sleepover.  But know that I would buy this album ten times over and give it out to friends for gifts.  
'YOWWYCH' from Sleepover

'Shrug It Off' (live) at Dark Star Jubilee 
So that's pretty much it for my recommendations at this time.  But know that this is only part 1 of 'summer sounds'.  I have too many band suggestions for one post.  So look for part 2 on the heels of this post, and open yourself up to some new summer sounds.  

Rock on,


1 comment:

M said...

I'm a big fan of CK's So Far Away and this is worthy cover of a wonderful song. I wouldn't say it's better but it's damn good.