Friday, December 28, 2012

Know(les) it all

Finally, a Knowles I can stomach. Stuck in the role of "little sister" to glamazon Beyonce Knowles, Solange's accomplishments may seem to have gone unacclaimed and unnoticed. At the ripe ol' age of 26, however, she has released two albums with major labels, been signed by Next Model Management, been nominated for Celebrity DJ of the Year by The Golden Spin Awards, appeared in several films and television shows, and been honored by the American Society of Culture Critics for her contributions to music and fashion. Chew on that, big sis. She's also gotten married, had a child, and been divorced. But I'm not sure that fits into the "accomplishment" category.
Her latest release, EP True, is the first EP for the singer and her first release under the indie label Terrible Records. Consider it an amuse-bouche to the artist's third studio album, currently in progress. In any case, don't fret -- the first single off True should tide you over. Solange has finally discovered her sound. Who would believe that her sound ended up being a revisit to eighties new wave? Call me an '80's baby all you want -- I'm into it. Lucky for us, she not only found her sound, she lost her pants. With legs like hers, you won't hear me complaining. I just wonder how the locals of Cape Town felt about it...
True is available digitally as of November 27th and set for CD/vinyl release on January 8th.
Happy New Year all. May 2013 bring you sweet love and great music.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy 40th, AMA's.

Sure, it's no Grammys. But after 40 years, the American Music Awards has undeniably made an impression on the industry's landscape. Following the format of 2012's Grammys, the telecast was reminiscent of an IHeartRadio concert, sporadically interjected by the presentation of an award. Strange, considering each category showcased only three artists (are we running out of nominees?). The direct result? A show lacking the drama, substance and wardrobe malfunctions we all anxiously await with our thumbs on the "pause" button of our DVR remotes. An indirect result? A very happy Music Chik. 

As Julie Andrews once sang, the beginning is "a very good place to start." Apparently, the AMA's thought that a good place for Usher as well. I disagree. At the ripe ol' age of 34, Usher struggled to get through the middle of his montage, running out of steam enough to prompt the back tracks on the last leg. Similarly, seeing Ryan Seacrest from the "get-go" almost made the AMA's a "no-go" for me like, say, every New Year's Eve special, Top 40 countdown or red carpet pre-show hosted by the media mogul. Appropriate given his involvement in pop music but predictably bland in his presentation.

I feel compelled to organize my thoughts by way of "hits" and "misses," and in the spirit of tradition, I'll give you the bad news first. The "Everyday Birthday" dedication made by Swizz Beatz, Chris Brown and Ludacris was, well, ludicrous. Talk about a gag gift. Pitbull's performance was (pun intended) the icing on the stale, dry cake. The biggest disappointment for me, however, was Kesha's rendition of "Die Young" -- not because she gave a lackluster or talentless performance (eh-swizz beatz-hem) -- but because she is better than that. What many may not realize is that, underneath all that "garbage glam," is some legitimate vocal talent. Don't believe me? If Kesha had sung it this way, absent the naked men, fishnets and stage-floor gyrations, you would. 

Now for the good news. I have a newfound respect for (and teenage girl crush on) The Wanted after their performance of "I Found You."  Nathan Sykes' rock star-worthy solo blew my socks off (to put it PG) and threw The Wanted to the top of my wish list. Santa, can you hear me? See for yourself... 

As for the rest of Sunday's pro's, I'll put it simply. Pink showcased her insane post-baby bod, athleticism and grace, and thoughtfulness in her artistic expression, albeit a bit vividly for an internationally syndicated telecast. I was pleasantly surprised by Taylor Swift's non-acoustic, sans-peasant dress performance, as well as Justin Bieber's stool-set ballad intro. What's the lesson here? Think outside the box and keep people guessing (regarding your performance choices, not your posse choices). 

On a final note, Stevie Wonder's Dick Clark dedication was the highlight of the evening; that is, until the finale. Who could dream that the most glamorous and talented (I use those terms loosely) musicians of our generation could all look so ridiculous at the same time (besides every female songstress who thought a Beyonce bodysuit mandatory)? That, my friend, is truly the definition of "too legit to quit." 

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's Better with the Bahamas

Okay, it may not be the Bahamas you're thinking of, but Afie Jurvanen is just as hot (and far more accessible). Born and based in Toronto, Afie's part of an elite social circle, with friends like Kathleen Edwards, Jack Johnson, Feist and Ryan Adams. While not all Canadian-bred, musicians like Johnson are flocking to Toronto, creating a prominent music scene similar to that of Seattle or Brooklyn.

The gifted guitarist, who alone comprises Bahamas, is no newbie. Prior to going solo in 2009 (with his first album Pink Strat), Afie played with Feist, Zeus, Jason Collett, and the like. Lucky for us, Afie found the spotlight and a modified sound on his latest EP, Barchords. Afie's backup singers bring us back to the days of doo wop, creating a sound that is effortlessly pretty. 

What I love about Afie (besides the obvious) is his composure and control. His guitar skills are strong and his voice smooth -- the perfect storm of sexy. On this EP, try tracks like "Montreal," "Never Again" and "Overjoyed" to satisfy your acoustic cravings. More rock are "Caught Me Thinking" and "Okay Alright I'm Alive." The obvious front runner, however, is the bittersweet "Lost in the Light," a song, Afie admits, is about "the death of a relationship." I'd never let you go, Afie...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Girl, Uninterrupted

Admittedly a bit late on the uptake, but I bet most of you, too, are DeVotchKa virgins. How I've gone all these years sans the musical stylings of the Denver, Colorado quartet is beyond me. Incorporating instruments that you probably can't even pronounce (dare you to say "bouzouki" five times fast), even the band's name is fun to say. DeVotchKa, a derivation of the word "girl" in Russian, has been at it for quite some time -- since 1997, to be precise. The band can attribute its humble beginnings to the vivacious crowds of underground burlesque and the loyal subjects of the genre's reigning queen, Dita Von Teese, with whom the members toured nationwide. 

Fortunately for the DeVotchKa crew, they elevated above ground and to greener pastures, nabbing an Oscar nod for the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack (the majority of which the band scored). We may have glazed over the praise-worthy compilation -- and who can blame us after Abigail Breslin "Super Freak"-ed her way into the musical memory of the film -- but the Academy Awards sure didn't. Similarly, the band's sound has been recognized by the producers of "Everwood," "Weeds," the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Grammy Awards and Billboard. 

The hardest part about loving this band is attempting to describe it to others, especially because of its eclectic sound. Described by some as "gypsy folk," the band reminds me a bit of Mariachi El Bronx at times (like on "Contrabanda" and "Along the Way" for example), The Drifters ("Somethin' Stupid") and even The Killers / Bruce Springsteen ("All the Sand in All the Sea;" "The Last Beat of My Heart;" The Alley"). And while the aforementioned tracks are among the top of my list of DeVotchKa tunes, the hands-down fav seems to be the oldie but great-ie "How It Ends." Try to keep your composure; it's quite melancholy. 

Near the West Coast? DeVotchKa is touring close to home through the month. Info at its site below.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sundrenched Everywhere

We all know that I'm an alternative rock groupie (anyone else feel compelled to organize a sit-in at the WRXP studios in protest of its switch-over to WFAN?). What you may be unaware of is the newly launched, which may just be my new vehicle for new music. Described by as "music social network that combined elements of American Idol and YouTube," the site gives aspiring artists a platform to enter contests, get feedback and achieve exposure and prizes. 

Thanks to Invenio, I've discovered the Connecticut-bred quartet Echo & Drake and what has become my sleep-song serenade.  Check out the band's "Morning Dove," below. While you're at it, try "Sundrenched Elsewhere," the title track from the band's late-2011 debut, as it is Invenio Music's recent "Original Song Winner." Looking for a reference? Think Snow Patrol meets The Cure meets Phoenix. 

Feel like celebrating? Join the site's creators and yours truly at the site's launch party tomorrow at NYC's Session 73 at 8pm. Comment for more details. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Minor Glimpse of Major Lazer

The good news is -- after three long years -- Major Lazer has finally announced the upcoming release of its second studio album Free The Universe. The bad news? The Diplo project announced the album's delay shortly after, as the original November 6th date has now been pushed back to February 19, 2013. Lucky for us, it gave us a little taste to whet our appetites. An appropriate amuse-bouche for what is sure to be some scrumptious musical sustenance, as this is a compilation of the industry's finest. Featuring collaborations with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Tyga, Bruno Mars, Wyclef Jean, Shaggy, Wynter Gordon, Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman (on "Get Free") and others, the guest list is impressive. Check out the first single from the album below. 

Unfamiliar with the brainchild of Diplo (and formerly, of Switch)? You're more familiar with its work than you think. Have a listen to "Pon de Floor" ft. Vybz Kartel (also below). Ring a bell?

Major Lazer is playing Bowery Presents' Terminal 5 in New York on October 27th if you're looking for an excuse to start your Halloween boozing a few days early. Tickets and other info at the website below.

In memory of MS.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Beat Goes On...

Thus the time dreaded by middle-schoolers and adults alike is upon us: the end of summer. And while I maintain that there is nothing quite like listening to the feel-good sounds of Bob Marley or Michael Franti and the like with a cold beer on a summer's eve, the cool mornings and clear nights are a change welcomed by all those ready to part with the thick air and thunderstorms characteristic of August in New York. Still, most of us drudge into fall with a teary eye on summer in our rear view. How do I cope with this inevitable parting? I relish in the tunes that make the transition of seasons a little bit easier. Here are a few that strike me as uniquely autumn.

1. Crystal Fighters - "AT HOME"
One of the more recently released singles off the band's debut album Star of Love, this group describes its music as "fast, mesmeric and passionate." Frankly, sometimes that staccato rhythm works (see below) and sometimes, well, not so much (see "I Love London," off the same album). Either way, there's no denying that Crystal Fighters provides a great work out soundtrack. Run faster, bitch.

2. Real Fur - "ANIMAL"
With only this single to its name, this band has proven quite elusive. We know that "Animal" was released under the French Indie Label deBonton and that the group has perhaps a handful of songs to boast as of yet. More importantly, however, we know that this song kicks ass. See for yourself and have a listen.

3. Xaphoon Jones - "THE JACKSON PIT"
True that two wrongs don't make a right, but Xaphoon Jones proves that two olds make one badass new. Jones mashes Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" and Passion Pit's "Sleepyhead" to create a sound that's oh-so-September.

4. Of Monsters and Men - "SIX WEEKS"
At this point, we're all relatively familiar with this Iceland gem and their wildly successful single "Little Talks." My guess is, however, that you're just about sick of it and looking for something new from the group to stimulate your senses. Try this.

5. SKTRKT feat. Little Dragon- "WILDFIRE" 
Have you ever heard of an artist who is uncomfortable with attention? Me neither. Until now. A project founded by Aaron Jerome, this DJ/producer utilizes an alias and native masks to promote anonymity. His reasoning? "Let the music speak for itself." Amen brother.
(Thanks, MS).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Blame It On My ADD, Baby.

If at first you don't succeed... well, you know how that ends. Just ask Aaron Bruno, face and founder of AWOLNATION, formerly of the bands Under the Influence of Giants, Hometown Hero and Insurgence. Awolnation's single "Sail" is making big waves in the alternative rock community with the return of New York's "New Rock" station, 101.9 FM (apologies to my less-than-local readers for the nonsensical reference). Regardless of your proximity to the Empire State, however, you may still be familiar with the band, as its music has been featured on everything from a BMW commercial to "House" to "Sons of Anarchy," even a Portuguese Nokia LTE commercial. Released in March of 2011, "Sail" has now gone Platinum in the US and double-so in Canada.

The title of Awolnation's debut album, Megalithic Symphony, pretty much gives it away at the go. Listening to this album in its entirety seems as if intended to provide an all-inclusive, transcendent experience, beginning with an almost-instrumental title track that spans less than a minute to a grand finale "Knights of Shame" reminiscent of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- not in style or composition -- rather, in its length and constant evolution. The 12-minute song acts as a sort of summary of the album as a whole, showcasing the band's eclectic sound. Some of my other favorites include "All I Need" and "Kill Your Heroes." Like what you hear? Catch the guys on their US tour this Fall with (one of my absolute favorites) Imagine Dragons. Website's below for more info...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Ultimate Primadonna Girl

I've found the next big thing to hit the USA, and fortunately for...well...everyone, it doesn't consist of prepubescent boys. Meet Marina Diamondis, dubbed Marina & The Diamonds thanks to the translation of her Greek surname. While her stagename may be a bit of a misnomer, the act consists solely of the singer-songwriter: no band; no group. The diamonds, she explains, are her fans. In that case, I'm declaring myself Marina's Number One "diamond."

Born and raised in Wales, Marina moved to the UK at the age of eighteen to pursue a music degree. Although she dropped out after only a few semesters, she credits her being "delusional with drive" for her success, as she was signed by Warner Music Group in 2009, released her debut album The Family Jewels in 2010 and nabbed several international music awards before her sophmore album Electra Heart debuted at number one in the UK and Ireland in April 2012.

Even more appealing than her obvious talent (she penned every song on the album, you oughta know) is her style. When asked to sum up her look in three words? "Vintage, cheerleader and cartoon," said Marina. With her new album came a new image, an evolution from brunette Euro edge to blonde Hollywood glamour. Perhaps we can attribute her time spent in Los Angeles for the transformation; perhaps her adoration of Blondie, Gwen Stefani and Madonna. Either way, we're on board, as was Max Factor when it made Marina their new poster girl last winter.

It's difficult to find a single song on this album not worthy of playing on loop, but if I had to choose my faves, they would be "Bubblegum Bitch," "Lies" (check out the acoustic version of this one), "Homewrecker," "Power & Control," and of course, "Primadonna Girl."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Good Thing for Good Old War

In the spirit of the Fourth, it's only fitting that I declare my independence from the UK sound of which I've grown so fond and celebrate some good old American boys for a change. Meet Keith, Daniel and Tim -- the combination of whom produce the Philadelphia feel-good folk band Good Old War. Its third album since the band's formation in 2008, Come Back As Rain was released this past March and features songs that effortlessly soundtrack the summer months.

On first listen, Good Old War may remind you of Fleet Foxes thanks to the boys' Sixties-esque vocal harmonies or Mumford and Sons as they manage to incorporate accordian into quick, staccato beats, yet their sound is remarkably different. From the new release, try "Amazing Eyes" (featured below), "Not Quite Happiness," "Can't Go Home," "Over and Over," "Touch the Clouds (Taste the Ground)," "After the Party" and "Loud Love."

From those past -- which exhibit a more percussion-driven and upbeat sound -- give "Coney Island," "Making My Life," and "My Own Sinking Ship" a listen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Before You TiVo...

While this is surely not a social commentary on the poor habits and expectations of what has been dubbed "Generation Y," or the technology generation, it is no secret that we are characterized in part by our need for instant gratification. How can I make such a harsh generalization, you ask? By a show of hands, how many of you have DVR? See, that's how. But you may want to think twice before you hit the fast foward button, for commercials are often an amazing vehicle for new and moving music. Years later, I carry with me a memory of a Nike "Courage" commercial featuring "All These Things That I Have Done" by the Killers and swoon. Here are some artists worth watching in real time.


Red Bull recently released its "World of Red Bull" commercial, featuring clips from Red Bull Media House's own snowboarding flick "The Art of Flight." Both feature M83's "Outro," an epic ode to dark, celestial electronica. The brain child of French musician Anthony Gonzalez, M83 has been making music since 2001, but has only recently gained transatlantic notoriety with its first double-album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, thanks to the album's first single, "Midnight City."


This British Jewish singer-songwriter earned his big break on US soil when his track "Too Close" was featured in Internet Explorer 9's 2012 ad campaign. His contagious beats tinker between soul and dubstep, covering almost everything in between. What's more are the startling honesty and accuracy that make his lyrics so poignant, penning phrases like "Maybe it's another chance/ To mug myself again ... I'm sure I'll fuck things up in the same way."


This trio hails from Denver, Colorado and is finding success with their debut, self-titled album. Featuring instruments such as the cello and mandolin, the band's sound tends to err on the side of sweet, piano-led melodies; however, "Ho Hey" showcases the unrestrained folk rock Americana sound the band is so capable of. While I placed the commercial below for your reference, I encourage you to watch the official "Ho Hey" video, as Bing's version simply doesn't do the track justice.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Into The Fame

My friends say I fall in and out of love often and easily. While I doubt and resent that statement slightly, it couldn't be more accurate when it comes to my love affairs with music. My infatuation with -- nay, feelings for -- Matt Corby are deep and true, if I may get a bit "Hemmingway" for a moment. And when someone feels a love this strong, it's only natural that I wish others feel the same. And I guarantee you will.

This Aussie is only 21 years old, yet he has a voice that is as raw and emotion-filled as it is controlled. Moving between registers and octaves with ease, one is almost thrown aback by his intense focus while singing as he strums gently, then forcefully, at his guitar. What's even more endearing than his sweet smile and heartfelt lyrics is what translates as a lack of confidence before and after he performs each song. When live, he looks down humbly, noticeably nervous, as his fingers find their place. When he's through, he finally looks back up at a crowd so intoxicated by him with a boyish charm and humble demeanor as if to ask "What did you think? Be honest." One would never believe that his career began after his almost-win on 2007's Australian Idol when he was only 16, although one might believe it once one sees how unfairly good-looking he is.

Having released four EP's over the past 2 years, it would be accurate to describe much of Corby's music as "bluesy," pensive and accoustic, yet his first single from Into The Flame, released this past April in the US, is anything but subdued. Listen to "Brother," undoubtedly the song with which Matt courted me so quickly and effortlessly, and let yourself fall fast in love with him as I have.

Others I love from this and past EP's include "Letters," "My False," "Big Eyes," "Made of Stone," "Coloured Stones and Walls," and "Lighthome." I also posted what has surely become my favorite cover of any The Black Keys song. Watch it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sandé Days Are Here To Stay

Still think that women with brains, beauty and a badass demeanor are a modern day myth? Then try Emeli Sandé on for size, smartass. Weighing in at a mere 24 years, Emeli already has quite the impressive resume, including four years towards an MD. Discovered at age 16, her manager "waited patiently" for her to explore her education, as Emeli was adamant towards having a fall-back. Uh, Emeli? While I respect your desire to exercise your God-given intellect and your beyond-your-years insight, it doesn't look like you'll be becoming Dr. Adele Emeli Sandé anytime soon. Great for us. Bad for Glasgow.

Not impressed? How about her laundry list of writing credits? Following a Ne-Yo-esque path, Emeli has written songs for Cher Lloyd, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, Cheryl Cole and Tinie Tempah, to name a few, before signing with EMI/Virgin in 2010. Her debut album Our Version of Events, released this past February, has made Emeli a bonafide Top-40 artist in the UK. Be that as it may, she is news to us. And we need some good news here in the States, no?

This album certainly brought good news to Sandé, as it earned her the 2012 BRIT Awards "Critic's Choice" Award. Need a reference? Think Alicia Keys meets Annie Lennox, although I compare her sound hesitantly. It's all Emeli. Listen to the first three singles released in the UK -- "Heaven," "Daddy" and (my favorite) "Next to Me," (below, for your viewing pleasure). While you're at it, listen to Tinie Tempah's "Let Go" featuring Ms. Sandé (also below).

Monday, May 21, 2012

The British Are Coming

At the suggestion of a foreign friend, I thought it wise to write a post dedicated entirely to a showcasing a few of my favorite English musicians as they are surely soon to become part of yet another British invasion. With such songbird sirens as Duffy, Adele and -- most recently -- Ellie Goulding gaining fame from across the pond, I fear the men have been a bit overlooked. Allow me to enlighten you.


Born in West Yorkshire to Irish and English parents, Ed has been recording his own music since as early as 2005, releasing multiple independent EP's before being signed to Asylum/Atlantic about a year ago. "The A Team," the first single off of Ed's album entitled +, debuted at number 3 on the UK charts, becoming the best selling debut single of 2011. Happened to see Snow Patrol on tour this spring in the US? Then you may recognize Ed Sheeran as the band's opening act. Watch The Vampire Diaries? If so you may recognize his song "Give Me Love," as it was featured on an episode this past February.

If you need a sound reference, think Matisyahu meets Jason Mraz meets The Script. My recommendations are "The A Team," "Small Bump," "Drunk" and "Lego House" (this is where the Matisyahu comparison becomes relevant, by the way). View the official video for his newest single below:


Okay, so James Vincent McMorrow isn't English -- he's Irish. But he spent time recording in London! Eh, close enough.

James spent years exploring his musicality as a rock drummer before taking a chance on singing/songwriting folk music. A move to London proved fruitless, forcing a self-imposed seclusion near his hometown in Ireland for a month, thus birthing his greatest creation, Early in the Morning. His songs exude the heart of Sufjan Stevens and the voice of Ray LaMontagne. Or, as my sister so eloquently stated when listening to his cover of "Higher Love," "he sounds like he's going to cry through the whole thing." That's a real man, baby.

My favorites, in addition to his covers of "Higher Love" and "Wicked Games," are the following:

"We Don't Eat"
"If My Heart Should Somehow Stop"
"If I Had a Boat"
"Breaking Hearts"
"Early in the Morning, I'll Come Calling"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Turtle Time

If you frequent such famous American music festivals as Coachella, Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo, you may be familiar with what may be the only thing East Coasters love about Minnesota (aside from the minute margin of Kris Humphries fans). While Trampled By Turtles has certainly earned its stripes over nearly a decade of touring local arenas and failed folk LP’s, the band's grunt years began to pay off with the release of its 2010 album Palomino, and most recently, with the release of its sixth album, Stars and Satellites, released this past April. And although TBT may be proud of such recent mentionables as being featured on Deadliest Catch and a live television debut on Late Show with David Letterman, the real feat is the new album’s impressive Billboard placement, including #1 on US Grass, #2 on US Folk and top spots on the Alternative, Rock and Indie charts. Need something to compare their sound to? Try Mumford & Sons meets Neil Young meets Bob Dylan. For all of you “I listen to everything but country” people reading this post, don’t be deterred by the comparison.

Like what you hear? If so, you’re in luck, as the band is currently touring cross-country, kicking off in the members’ home town of Duluth, MN tomorrow and concluding in Massachusetts late September. For all of you New Englanders who might want to kill a few birds with one stone, TBT will partake in the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island on July 29th. For more info on the two-day summer festival, visit the official link at, as limited tickets are still available. It seems to be an all-star lineup, with acts like My Morning Jacket, Iron & Wine, City and Colour, Jackson Browne and The Head & The Heart, among other notables.

Take a look at the band’s video for its first released single from Stars and Satellites, “Alone,” as it is one of the more mainstream singles from its country/folk-influenced compilation. Other favorites of mine include “Midnight on the Interstate,” "High Water," “Sorry,” "Keys to Paradise" and "The Calm and Crying Wind." Check out the band's official site for more tunes and info at

Friday, February 24, 2012

Imagine the Possibilities

There's something about West Coast-bred bands that stimulates my senses. Whether Seattle, L.A. or (the home of my newest favorite band) Las Vegas, the warm weather cultivates musical greatness from its emotional roots. Imagine Dragons is hardly an exception. Born in Utah, the band relocated to Las Vegas, clearly a smart move based on its impending sucesses. Several battle-of-the-band wins and a "Most Requested Band of 2010" title later, Imagine Dragons signed with Interscope Records only a few months ago and has since released its EP entitled Continued Silence, gaining notoriety, however, for its previously, independently released EP It's Time.

Imagine Dragons' credentials include their music featured on MTV's "Real World: Las Vegas" and "Real World: San Diego," CBS's "Around the World for Free," TeenNick's "Degrassi" and "American Idol" commercials. They've played many music festivals alongside such notable acts as The Temper Trap, Interpol, Weezer, Neon Trees, Kelly Clarkson and Foster the People (to name a few).

My favorites include "America," "Tokyo," "Leave Me" and, of course, "It's Time." Check out the title track's video below as well as the band's official site,

Monday, February 13, 2012

54th Grammy Awards: The Song that Never Ends

I, along with about 40 million others, anxiously awaited last night's telecast of the Grammy Awards to see if and how they would acknowledge the sudden passing of Whitney Houston
while keeping the show upbeat and lively. I am proud to report that they did, in fact, maintain this balance between respectful reverence and rock and roll. What was off in equilibrium, however, was the distribution of performances and awards (or lack thereof). Fine by me! Bring in the noise, bring in the funk...

Let's begin with the very suave and very... velvet... LL Cool J. While he originally struck me as a
somewhat odd and irrelevant host for the evening's festivities, I thought he handled what could have been an awkward telecast quite well. Setting the tone early in the show with a prayer in remembrance, it felt as though "Father" Cool J was giving us all the permission we felt necessary to allow ourselves a night of fun and enjoyment in the wake of such a tremendous and horrific loss. And enjoy ourselves we did. Performance after performance -- this was a year for the pure of heart and the genuine of talent. The genres were well sorted, showcasing legends like Sir Paul and The Boss (a great way to start and end the show) and entertaining the (younger) masses with acts like Chris Brown and Kelly Clarkson at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised by Bruno Mars' and Katy Perry's vocal performances, as they are notorious for struggling through the high notes of their live sets, although I've never been so sick of their "Look, I'm James Brown" and "Look, I'm a hybrid smurf/alien" motifs.

One of my favorites of the night was the ode to Etta performed by Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt with "A Sunday Kind of Love." Their pitch was perfect and their blend harmonious. There are few things I could think of more appropriate to honor someone like Etta than a collaboration of two different artists with different sounds from different genres -- undoubtedly a "nod" to the
many types of artists influenced by her musical stylings. On a side note, I noticed a bit of a social networking uproar over her absence in the “in memoriam” section. While I can't say the same for Don Cornelius, I was satisfied with the amount of attention they gave to Etta. The past year has proved a dark year for the music world, as we've lost more of the recognizable contributors to the industry than we're accustomed to, and I'm getting the impression that it's simply impossible for The Recording Academy to honor everyone as much as we'd like. After all, there was no Amy Winehouse tribute, right? And to give credit where due -- Jennifer Hudson has always irritated me (I mean, butchering "It's a New Day" for a Weight Watchers commercial?), she was the obvious and only choice for the moving musical tribute to Whitney Houston. She did a nice job, but it was clear (and truthfully, appropriate) that her emotions got the best of her during the song. Regardless, hearing someone else sing what is widely regarded as the single most romantic song of all time made me appreciate the bionic voice that was Whitney Houston all the more.

Back to the music. I'll go as far as saying that the Country performances and Rock performances are always on the top of my list. My theory is this: many Pop performances pale in an effort to recreate a tune to which there are several studio alterations, while many of the Rap genre are a let down because it's simply impossible to edit such a track without losing entire chunks of it (due to the lack of FCC approved vernacular, no doubt). When Blake Shelton or Civil Wars or Foo Fighters take the stage, there's very little in addition to their voices and their instruments. And, as a result, very little opportunity for us, the viewers, to be royally disappointed with how they sound live. But hey, that's just a theory.

Now, let's talk Adele. I thought she looked absolutely fantastic, not just stylistically, but in her demeanor. Despite her unprecedented success, we sometimes forget that she is a kid, younger
than most of you reading this very post. She was humble and gracious, charming the crowd more with each win. She's earned the respect of her "peers" twice or three times her age. When she took the stage, the room was inaudible. This very wealthy, very successful and (for the most part) very talented group of people were somehow, and rightfully so, in awe of this beautiful kid with a superhuman voice. And while I was slightly sad to hear that the raspy tone so characteristic of her voice had changed (perhaps due to her laying off the cigs after surgery?), it was undeniably stronger than it's ever been. Of Adele, my sister said it best: "Adele and her voice. No fancy set. No dancers." No competition.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Voyage of a Voyageur: Kathleen Edwards

I, like many these days, have found myself in a state of soul-searching. And while most would be panicked by such a tumultuous time, I find peace in the multitude of tunes to soundtrack my reflective thoughts. At the top of my "serenity now" playlist? Kathleen Edwards' new album, Voyageur. This Canadian singer-songwriter had classical training as a violinst and an international upbringing as the daughter of a diplomat, characteristics you may not pick up from her Plain Jane persona and Americana folk sound.

As her fourth studio album, it is clear that Edwards is consistent in her sound and wise in her words. Through her effortless yet poetic lyrics come a poignant message with each track, as in Voyageur's first single "Change the Sheets": "Change this feeling under my feet/Change the sheets and then change me."

Other favorites of mine include:

"Empty Threats"
"A Soft Place to Land"
"House Full of Empty Rooms"

You can hear every song on the album in its entirety here:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Del Rey of Sunshine

With films like "The Artist" and acts like Mayer Hawthorne gaining popularity in 2012, it's fairly clear that we are craving a restoration of our artistic roots. Perhaps it's the simplicity of former eras that entices us to revisit the past; perhaps it's the glamour that accompanies a time classified by its stars rather than its celebrities. When it comes to Lana Del Rey, I'd venture to say both play a part, yet the intrigue and wonderment she produces may be most aptly attributed to her rare and simultaneous embodiment of beauty and fear, as well as her honesty when penning her personal heartaches into her music.

Having said herself post-SNL (a fiasco we'll graze over, just this once), she is not a "natural performer." Whether due to a case of nerves or her lack of experience as some have speculated (her millionaire father is partially responsible for her speedy success), her voice posesses a quality that is so pure and pretty, it's almost haunting. And the fact that she writes her own music is something I always admire and aim to boast. I can also appreciate that her videos all look homemade because they are, as she spent months editing clips she found on YouTube to create makeshift music videos in an effort to broadcast her sound.

Take a listen to "Video Games," the unintentional first single off her second album entitled Born to Die, to be released worldwide at the end of this month, as well as the title track. Don't miss "Blue Jeans," "This is What Makes Us Girls," and "Diet Mtn Dew."

For the record, she claims that her lips are real and that she's just "pouty" when she sings.


Lana Del Rey - Born To Die