I had the opportunity to photograph Warped Tour…it was great.
From the first few harmonized notes of “King of the World,” the second released song off of New Jersey quartet Young Rising Sons’ first EP (to be released on July 22), one can quickly hear why Young Rising Sons are shooting stars in the music world. The band has already been featured on the NHL Awards, the MLB Network, and NBC’s summer television campaign, and it will not be long before both “King of the World” and the more widespread track “High” are staples on mainstream radio. Why? How do I know? The band has all the makings of success. Both tracks off of the soon-to-be-released EP are infectious pop/rock hits with neat harmonies, sprawling lead vocals, and effervescent instrumentation. The band combines the upbeat rhythm of Phillip Phillips with the bubbly jollification of American Authors. In short, the band creates fun music, and who does not like the sing along to fun music?
To celebrate their self-titled debut EP, the members of Young Rising Sons are taking off on an American tour in August with Little Daylight, and soon, as I predict now, the band will be in even higher demand. So, do you want to hear what I am talking about? The band’s music will certainly do a far better job than my words. Let’s first take a listen to “King of the World.”
Drums, guitar, and harmony. A little upbeat Vampire Weekend mixed with Imagine Dragons. The difference? Young Rising Sons seems happier. The music is carried by clicking rhythms, quick keys, and sing-along harmonies. Even the short, intra-verse vocal proclamations are tremendous. The song is rich in sound and excitement, and one is tempted to put the song on repeat and listen to it all day. My favorite part? The short bridge breaks the song down and combines all of its elements in a tasteful and skillful combination of influences. It’s a killer piece!
“High,” which you may have heard before (it’s been making its rounds), begins with a sweet whistle followed by lead vocalist Andy Tongren’s effortless vocal. What makes this song? Did you get to the Mika-like chorus yet? Tongren’s falsetto is sweet and uplifting. The whistle is a bit Noah and the Whale-esque. The song is just a testament to the band’s efficacy. I can’t stop listening to it.
Tell all your friends about Young Rising Sons because when the band hits the big time you can say you heard them first!
Dorothy has run away with a Brooklyn-based four-piece into the blue Kentucky rain. It sounds like a mix between a pastoral film about America’s heartland and a horror movie. But don’t worry, there is nothing horrible about Runaway Dorothy; on the contrary, this band, which has already been featured on a variety of TV, Internet, and Print outlets, successfully melds a bucolic snapshot of America with Northeastern edginess. Runaway Dorothy tugs at the heartstrings of Americana, and much like The Avett Brothers, connects southern folk and country together effortlessly.
Runaway Dorothy is the pet project of Dave Parnell, who, after playing guitar for a showcasing rock band, chose to pursue his own tunes. After moving to Brooklyn, Parnell enlisted the permanent support of his brother Brett “Bert” Parnell (electric guitar), Sam “The Reverend” Gallo (bass), and Evan Mitchell (drums), who aided in the release of the band’s first album, The Wait, in February of this year. The album, a skillful take on classic folk harmonies and subdued country, plays like a potent combination of The Head and the Heart and The Everybodyfields. All of the flowery language and comparisons aside, the album is worth a listen … or two or three.
How can we best showcase the band? Well, let’s take a look at two of its hits – one more country and one more folk. First up, a trip into the “Blue Kentucky Rain” for a little slow-dance Country/Americana; more simply put, a ballad.
A melancholy acoustic guitar strums in the background of Dave Parnell’s smooth, clean croon. There are no rough edges to his voice; he draws out notes effortlessly and with the precision of a professional (which he is). The dulcet harmonies in the chorus help carry out a lugubrious guitar riff of the song’s primary melody. The song is a bit of a lamentation and/or an entreaty. Parnell plays the part exceptionally well; his vocal a testament to desperation mixed with some hope. And the Springsteen-esque harmonica is spot on.
“Sing With Me” has more hop to its step. I love the rhythm of this song. It fulfills all one wants in a song. There is neat harmony when there should be neat harmony. The acoustic guitar is apt, and the lyric falls off the tongue of Dave Parnell with tenderness and ease. The song is just a joy to listen to.
On June 23 at the Space in Westbury Ben Folds was Ben Folds. I do not question that Ben Folds is himself every second of the day, but the cheeky, bespeckled singer/songwriter with enough wit to slay a room full of eager ears was able to completely express himself during the 26-track unplugged set. It was just Folds and his immense grand piano … and an impromptu drum set during “Steven’s Last Night in Town” (that proved that Folds is truly a renaissance musician). Most of all, though, it was an unconstrained Folds who was able to take a break from his orchestral tour and encourage several loud requests from a rambunctious crowd; although I was about to explode at the individual who obnoxiously yelled “play ‘Bitches Aint Sh*t'” around 50 times. Folds swooned the crowd with a jam-packed discography spanning his over 25-year career. Currently, Folds is in the midst of an honorable campaign to save Nashville’s Historic Studio A, and I mention this because it just further demonstrates that Folds is a musician’s musician, an ardent supporter of tunes and perspicacious purveyor of piano anthems.
Folds packed the new theater at Westbury, a surreptitiously large space with rows of seats set back behind the stage floor and elongated bar in a nook set stage left. The crowd spanned Folds’ career. Mid-90s aficionados recited the lyric of “The Last Polka” (off of the Ben Folds Five’s eponymous debut album), while newer Folds fans rocked out to “You Don’t Know Me,” a set-list surprise that sent the crowd in a dizzy – Folds depended on the female members of the audience to play Regina Spektor’s part, even though a rather intoxicated male screamed Spektor’s lines in a tune resembling a dying animal. It was, though, the zealous crowd that helped make the show. Folds balanced his songs from his standard setlist during his most recent tour (“Effington,” “Jesusland,” “Steven’s Last Night in Town”) with personal tributes to his early career (“Video,” “Tom & Mary,” and “Emaline”) – Check out the full setlist. The crowd ate everything up like the people at the restaurant in “All U Can Eat,” which he also played – well … maybe not those people who are all obnoxious gluttons, but you get my point. The crowd sang along with most songs, and this was a delightful touch that added energy to the show.
Best songs? “Fred Jones Part 2,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Army.” Each song was met by a singing crowd. Each song Folds played passionately, his vocal and piano reverberating throughout the venue. Folds is a consummate musician and it shows. But the best moment of the night came with the personal “Westbury” touch. After exchanging normal platitudes with the crowd and asking who was from Westbury, some individual in the back screamed that no one is actually from Westbury, which is obviously false but, at the time, it was rather funny. Folds proceeded to tell the audience a story of how he went to the Broadway Diner, a popular diner in Hicksville (near Westbury), which he turned into a circa-1964 British pop song with a catchy hook that he had the audience create a three-part harmony with. Why? Why do this? Because Folds loves music. He loves harmony. He loves entertaining. He is a tremendous musician, and this solo show at the Space was a testament to that.
Is Folds coming to your area? Take a look at his tour schedule.
When I first heard Hozier’s dark croon masterfully guide the lyric of his subtle condemnation “Take Me to Church,” I listened in silent awe and quickly lapped up his EP. That was month’s ago, and since then Hozier has taken the alt/rock world by storm by way of YouTube, Reddit, and the eager ears of many active listeners. He has also released a new EP, From Eden. I am not that different from the rest of the millions of ears that have allowed Hozier’s voice to soothe them; his vocal has become unmistakable and one listen can easily ensnare any music lover.
What is it about the 24-year-old Irish musician that is so enticing? Is it his aforementioned voice, which blends the passion of Dan Auerbach and command of Bhi Bhiman? Is it his instrumental diversity, wet and heavy with foreboding percussion mixed with lightly plucked guitar accompanying consequent softness? Clearly both of these elements play to Hozier’s draw, and it is an absolute pleasure to write about such a skilled musician.
Hozier is a true musician. He has consistently been involved in groups, including Anuna, an Irish choral group, which he sang in for three years. Now, he has shifted his focus to unique rock music, and the music scene is the better for it. Hozier’s seminal piece “Take Me to Church” is not only a commentary on religion but also an oddly spiritual experience; the vocal and voluminous melody transport the listener to a melodious shrine. It is difficult not to listen to this song on repeat.
“Like Real People Do,” which also appears on Hozier’s debut EP (Take Me to Church) is a completely different tune. While “Take Me to Church” is a dark, rhythmic piece, “Like Real People Do” is more Iron & Wine than Airborne Toxic Event. The song is subdued and, dare I say, pretty. The guitar is picked with Hozier’s voice, and the song is fluent.