Month: February 2016

HAWK’s latest single and music video focus on Ireland’s view on pregnancy and abortion: “Once Told”

Staying true to HAWK’s theme of shedding light on political and social issues, “Once Told” focuses on the disturbance and disappointment many have with Ireland’s antiquated abortion laws. It is still illegal to have an abortion except for on extremely rare occasions. Lead singer, Julie Hawk, explains the drive behind “Once Told”:

“This song is just a tiny fraction of the frustration that’s being felt every day.”

In the music video, Hawk stares directly into your eyes singing of this frustration, while around her, her band mates twitch, tweak and itch with discomfort. The overall feeling of this video is deep, unsettling and disturbing. It harnesses and displays the exasperation of both women and men, visually and in song.

 

 

“Once Told” is a track off of HAWK’s upcoming, self-titled EP, due out April 15th, 2016 on Veta Records.

Music video from Michaela May conveys strong message about women today: “1954”

Below the obvious pop-flavored overtones lie a message with a heavier and more profound thought; the thought that, according to May, “Society often talks about how far women have come, but there are still some fundamental issues that beg the question, is this still 1954?”

In the visual representation of her message, May is poked, prodded, made up, painted, tugged on, groped and stripped until during the final moments, a plastic surgeon enters. The message that may not be clear by the airy sound of the track is crystal clear in her music video.

 

Stay tuned for more from Michaela May. An EP should be coming our way later this year.

Music video from NYC musician, Brooke Forman

Up and coming electronic mega voice, Brooke Forman, will be sharing her debut EP this March. The upcoming EP was produced by Benny Reiner, the drummer for the stellar Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” Forman is an NYC original who’s already built up a reputation in NYC and other major cities. Check out the colorful and vibrant music video for her empowering track, “Lioness”:

 

 

Find out more about her music on her website and Facebook page.

Fun video for Nicky Davey’s soulful track, “Been Lovin’ You”

Nicky Davey is the duo composed of Nick Green and Dave Rosser, two musical fellows of LA. In the comical but endearing music video, Nick and Dave wander around downtown LA, serenading women who seem to want to have nothing to do with them. The video represents the life of a musician in LA, a place where you find you sometimes have to do anything you can in order to cultivate your music in such a large and bustling place like LA (like wander the streets sharing your music with the community).

 

Keep a look out for more from Nicky Davey, as the boys will be releasing an EP sometime soon.

Album Review: “Ilsa” by Mike Castle

Mike Castle, a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, recently shared the story, embodiment and tale of his journey through a dark time in his life, in the language of music. This story came to us in a neat package of tracks, a record titled, Ilsa. Unable to bear the constant stimulation of life which came to him in the form of intense anxiety, Castle found himself in a hospital, certain his heart was failing him. From this experience he emerged with a new sense of hope, love, forgiveness and fulfillment. He emerged with a clearer picture of what his life was and what it will be, and that this battle with anxiety will be ongoing, but he can handle it. With this clearer picture, also came the understanding of imperfection and patience with the imperfections of life.

 

Ilsa is decorated with heartbreak, pain and revelation disguised in blues, rock and folk-inspired sounds. Every sound, instrument and voice you hear on this record is Castle himself. He worked tirelessly to create twenty to thirty demos and when it came down to getting into a studio, a collaborator suggested to Castle, he just do it all himself. “Just do it, it won’t sound the same if you don’t do it all,” he said. That was precisely what Castle did. The result was exactly what Castle wanted, a record wrought with subtle flaws and dripping with raw emotion and honesty, the epitome of Castle and his life.

 

It opens with “Trying to Be the Man.” You can hear the struggle instrumentally and lyrically. The struggle of sifting through the mess that one’s thoughts can become. The deep sea of questions, what ifs, why, when and how can be difficult to keep afloat in, to catch a breath when it’s constantly washing over you. The ringing guitar in your ears feels like that constant reminder and tug that anxiety manifests as. At times in the song it’s buried by other instruments, or Castle’s voice but at other times, it’s all you can hear. Within this, is a story, a message from a man who is trying to overcome this all to be a man for someone else. To be a man that exists within himself but is so hard to reach sometimes.

 

 

“Telephone Wire” is a bluesy piano ballad that goes hand in hand with “Trying to Be the Man.” Whether it’s the story of another love or the same love, it ends in pain but this is the kind of pain that’s accepted and resolved. Much of the theme of this record is acceptance of the way things are but knowing that, according to Castle, “love eventually wins.” Other tracks dealing with lost, past or present loves, like “Late Night Girls”, the 6 minute “Lake of Fire” and “Ilsa”, the namesake of the record, are rich with this theme.

 

“Rio Grande” is a short, absolutely rock-inspired track while “The Only Thing I Really Loved” starts sounding like a 60s rock track and when Castle’s vocals are added in, it takes on a more contemporary sound. Ilsa will not age as it incorporates elements of so many decades and styles of music. It’s the kind of record that could be listened to in 20 years’ time and could be placed anywhere in the chronologically organized file cabinet of the last 60 years of music. It’s clear that Castle had fun being creative on this album. No track begins or ends like any other track on the album and he showcases his ability as a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and lyricist/storyteller.

 

“Light” is an undeniably unique track dominated by distorted vocals and ripping guitar. The distorted vocals sound like they’re coming to you through water. They sound like the sun looks when you open your eyes under water and see its light above you, flittering and rippling but irrefutably powerful.

In the darkness, there’s a light.

Keeps me safe and holds me tight.

 

“Light” builds gently until the light pours, explodes and shoots out of every crack, crevice and imperfection, reaching its highest point right when you think the song is going to end. It leaves you on the edge of your seat. This is one of my favorites on Ilsa.

 

 

“Guillotine” brings the record to a close, summarizing and reiterating what Ilsa represents. The perspective that life is so short but is so rich. It’s a decadent experience that can be so incredibly overwhelming at times, hard to deal with, unbearable but beautiful when you let it be beautiful. A line from “Guillotine” summarizes it so perfectly:

In my short time of being here, I have loved, lost, I lied.

Ilsa is available now on Bandcamp and iTunes. You can also find out more about Mike Castle and his music at his website: mikecastlemusic.com

 

Album Review: “Wabi-Sabi” by Cross Record

Emily Cross introduces her latest project, pulling apart the curtains shrouding the entrance into her world of music. The entrance is big, beautiful and full of brass: “The Curtains Part” is a loud introduction to the world that is Wabi-Sabi. The sharp contrast between Cross’s soft voice and the flickering strums on a guitar and the swelling brass at the end create a perfect first handshake with Wabi-Sabi.

Emily Cross extracted herself from her life in Chicago and engrafted it all in a new, very different place: Dripping Springs, TX. Here, her and her husband lived on a ranch with their chickens and a bird sanctuary in their back yard. Cross worked upwards of 60 hours a week as a nanny, restaurant worker, among other jobs. In the midst of all this, she channeled what energy she had left; energy that came with this new experience, new location and the buzz of her new life. Together this energy was projected in song. The inspiration for the album comes from the Japanese term, “wabi-sabi”, which is the idea of impermanence and imperfection. In Cross’s new home, she was surrounded by the unfamiliar, mysterious and beautiful. You can hear the foggy mornings and bright sunrises, singing birds and peaceful sunsets of the ranch in her music.

“Two Rings” is one of my favorites. The xylophone and bells are the sound of curiosity and exploration. I envision hands pulling back branches and bare feet wandering through trees and brush. The song gains and keeps momentum, speeding from walk to run.

 

 

Then comes “Steady Waves”, one of a few singles released to give listeners a taste of Wabi-Sabi. This single is a potent example of what this record has to offer. Intensity waxes and wanes, volume builds and crashes like waves. There is a drive behind this song like a quickly beating heart that is spellbinding and engrossing. It is almost as if you are being chased. But, near the end of the song, the chase slows to a gentle rocking, a lullaby. Cross casts these mystical spells on the listener time and time again during Wabi-Sabi.

 

“High Rise”, directly inspired by the rising of the sun above their very own Moon Phase Ranch, depicts in song the rising of an orange sun. With this track comes a curious music video in which Cross contorts, writhes and interacts with a chainsaw whilst wearing a strange, outfit causing her to look almost alien. From here “High Rise” breathes life into the following track, “Something Unseen Touches a Flower to My Forehead.” It is a forceful, pounding track with Cross’s voice gently laid atop. A light, delicate voice above rough guitars, throbbing drums and a sound like whips. The juxtaposition is invigorating and refreshing.

 

 

Her music glows, glimmers and shines but can also be raw, rough, jagged and forceful. Here lies the true beauty of Wabi-Sabi. The beauty in disparity and adaptation in divergent environments can be glimmering, exciting and striking but simultaneously rough, raw and jagged.

 

“Basket” for example is a strange, unnerving and otherworldly track that unpredictably, describes parenting in relation to weaving a basket. Over and over again, like the motions of weaving a basket, with ringing in the background and plucks on strings Cross sings:

 

I wanted to make something to hold you in.

I gathered the grasses, the sun turned them golden.

 

The brooding track, “Wasp in a Jar”, showcases Cross’ capabilities as a creative and diverse songwriter and displays the jagged edge of Wabi-Sabi. To me, it sticks out as one of the only, maybe THE only indie-rock-inspired track. It nearly has an edge of grunge rock as well. It’s wonderful to get the penultimate track on an album and be completely surprised at what hits your ears. You cannot predict Emily Cross’ next move sonically.

 

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Photo Credit: Bryan C. Parker

You can discover Wabi-Sabi for yourself as it’s out now on Ba Da Bing Records. You can purchase it on iTunes.

Album Review: “Gumption” by Your Friend

Gumption is the second piece of work by Kansas-originating musician, Taryn Miller (Your Friend). Since the release of her first EP, she’s ticked off a great deal of musical highlights, including a stop at SXSW and her first tour (her first tour being with Courtney Barnett!). Gumption is a true accomplishment for Miller, in every sense of the word. It is a sonically diverse, complex, and shimmering record with thought-provoking lyricism and an overall sense of warmth that surrounds the listener.

There is an air of mystery, constant questioning of personal perception and reality throughout record. In fact, this entire album was based on a question. Seeking guidance and advice from friends and composers, she landed on a piece of advice from a past high school teacher who said to her:

“Art is just where you are right now. Where are you right now?”

So, for every piece on the album, this is the question, answered in song. So you, too can ask yourself, “Where am I right now?” The answer ambiguous question changes constantly, as we all find ourselves somewhere else day to day, moment to moment, whether mentally or geographically. Just as the answer to this question changes, Gumption changes minute by minute, track by track. Her first EP, Jekyll/Hyde was inspired by the duality of human nature and how these complex orbs we call humans affect each other and interact. We are made up of so much: personality, values, culture, insight, beliefs, creativity. In Jekyll/Hyde she wondered how she was affected by the complexity of others but in Gumption, she asks what HER effect is on others.

It all begins with “Heathering”, which reaches out to you from a dream. That moment right between sleep and awake, when you realize you’re dreaming. And the dream only gets louder, more present as the song expands, grows and develops. Changing tempos and times, interesting sounds and trancelike, distant backup vocals come in and out of earshot. The following track, “Come Back From It”, begins similarly to “Heathering.” But, it takes a turn towards the less abstract during the chorus, offering a brief answer, a sense of relief, to the questions her instrumentals and general style of music ask her listeners. In this collage of track, which contains only a couple simple elements of Miller’s original demo, Gumption producer (Nicolas Vernhes of Deerhunter and The War on Drugs) suggested that this “relief” was necessary.

 

 

 

At this point on the record, Your Friend offers a fleeting moment of pure instrumentals. “To Live With It” is a simple interlude where you get a glimpse into Taryn Miller’s childhood, sonically. She wanted to build her past into the album, literally. So, when visiting her family’s farm in Dexter, KS, she brought a field recorder to sample the sounds she grew up with. You can hear a dripping creek throughout and if you listen closely enough, the sound of an engine. The interlude blends seamlessly into “Desired Things.” It begins immediately with a desire, followed by more desires and wants. Her desire clearly audible in her fluttering and powerful voice:

I wanted to love…            

I wanted to burn…

I wanted to hurt…

“Nothing Moved” – begins with the description of simple pieces of furniture, like an old table and relates to how we perceive each other, how we look and feel to each other.

Is that how I see you, how you see me?

Capable, tethered, frail, un-weathered, though un-healing.

 The lyrics for this piece are stunning, full of life, heavy on the heart at times:

I like to keep you like bees that sting and sting.

 A line about the kind of love that you keep regardless of the pain it causes.

The title track, “Gumption” begins with sweet and tender acoustic guitars but soon launches into the familiar ethereal, detached and introspective nature of the record. Interestingly, “Gumption” represents two separate tracks which alone, were less sturdy but together, created something stronger, braver and more courageous, just as “gumption” is defined.

“I Turned In” is a beautiful track that highlights the sonic nuances that Miller and Vernhes capitalized on for Gumption. Drum machines, electronic hums so deep on the bass scale they are almost missed if listening on a cruddy pair of headphones, and twinkling, digitized elements, giving the track a space-like openness.

 

Your Friend - Taryn - Photo Credit Crystal Lee Farris -19- 72dpi

 

Altogether, Gumption is a beautifully complex record that holds a moment for everyone. In her own personal soul-searching, she has achieved the ability to connect and reach out to so many others. In her own personal introspection, wondering how she has and is effecting others, she is doing just that through her music. Gumption is a triumphant gift to the denizens of the musical ether.

You can buy Gumption now on iTunes.