Archive | May, 2012

London Calling – Back in the Middle of June

30 May

In his song “Paris in the Morning,” Joe Purdy proudly sings that he will show you Paris in the morning and London afternoon. Close, Joe Purdy. Switch that around. I will be traveling abroad for two weeks on vacation with my girlfriend. London, Paris, and Berlin – a three-city European excursion, a present to ourselves for our first year out of University and employment. Also, a testament to minimal responsibilities (besides work) and the unbridled enthusiasm of our restless spirits.

But before I sign off for a few weeks, I want to assure you that you should not tune out of the Music Court for that time as well. Okocim and Amanda Grannis will be making their way back onto the blog, posting during the span of my trip. I’m excited to welcome them back and I hope you enjoy their posts.

Then, when I get back, summer posting (few days before summer officially begins) will commence on the blog. The band profiles will continue (at the pace of perhaps two a week), but more categories will sprout up or be revitalized. Remember, if you have any suggestions please do not hesitate e-mailing me at musiccourt@gmail.com. And, if you are a new band who is interested in maybe being profiled on the blog e-mail me at that address!

Since we discuss music on this blog, I am going to send myself off with three pieces that all feature the name of a city I will be visiting in the title.

London:

Paris:

Berlin:

See you all soon!

Elijah Behar and Hollow Body

29 May

Elijah Behar

What happens when you combine influences like The Doors and the Velvet Underground with Radiohead, then stir the concoction with soulful singer-songwriter’s Jose Gonzalez and Leonard Cohen, and then top it off with a taste of modern electronica. Well you certainly get an intriguing blend of experimental folk, and Elijah Behar, a 22-year-old Californian musician now living in Los Angeles, has proven that such a blend of influences can not only work but also flourish.

Elijah released a solo EP entitled Hollow Body in April (which can be downloaded for free on his bandcamp page), and I do not hesitate in saying that this five-track release is fresh and exciting. His deep, lush voice invokes the engaging baritone of The National’s lead singer,  folk powerhorse Matt Berninger, and it also features a sensual quality like Jim Morrison himself. The voice suits the music perfectly as expressed in the first track on Hollow Body, “Black Sage.”

I had the opportunity to interview Elijah through e-mail where I asked him about his influences, music, and future. Before I post our conversation, I want to pull out one apt comment he made when asked about the creation of “Black Sage”

My aim for a track like Black Sage and the whole EP in general was to do only as much production as the song needed to deliver its full impact. I have been involved with projects that get produced and “perfected” to the point where the songs turn sterile and lifeless. On this EP I wanted to start with an acoustic guitar and a voice and build elements around those two instruments that simply compliment the original intention of the song.

Here is “Black Sage”

I would stress to Elijah that what he is doing here is what he should continue doing. The haunting piece features this dark acoustic riff that mixes with his slippery voice that is almost surreptitious and devilish. The song shifts at 1:30 into a Radiohead-like keyboard riff that purposefully lags with the percussion. The following echo is just a total mindscrew. The effects are well done. It is a treat to listen to Elijah manipulate the music and I think this has a shot to be the title track on full LP.

Here is the rest of the interview:

1) When did you first start writing and recording tunes?

 I started playing music at 14 and by the end of high school I was writing, recording and playing with a handful of bands in my hometown, Ojai, CA.

 2.) When you were growing up who were some of your biggest influences and how did those musicians shape you?

Growing up my biggest influences were The White Stripes, The Doors, and The Velvet Underground; pretty much the basic rock and roll package. Over the last few years I have become a diehard Radiohead fanatic (post OK computer), and have been loving more direct singer-songwriters like Jose Gonzalez, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Elliot Smith. I also love electronic musicians like Modeselektor and Aphex Twin. These musicians continue to shape how I approach songwriting and performance.

3.) Is Hollow Body your first release? What were you trying to accomplish with the songs?

Hollow Body is my first solo release but definitely not my first project. I put out an album with the rock band I fronted, Marquee (www.marquee.bandcamp.com) a year ago, and have released a few other projects before that.

With Hollow Body, my goal was to define myself as a musician who combined the raw intensity of rock with the emotional honesty and directness of a more stripped down form, like folk music. I would define my genre as Experimental Folk.

4.) What is your favorite part about recording music?

My favorite part of recording music is towards the end of mixing where I feel like I can finally let go of the material that has bouncing around my skull for months. It’s a relief to have the music exist outside of me.

5.) I always ask this and it is often the most difficult question. If you had a chance to have record a session with three musicians (alive or dead) who would they be and why?

If I could have a recording session with anyone live or dead it would be with any members of Radiohead and Nigel, their producer. Actually I would be happy just bringing them coffee and cooking for them while they recorded new material.

 6.) What is in the future for Elijah Behar?

 In the immediate future, I will continue playing shows in and around LA, make some music videos, and record some demos of new material I have written since Hollow Body was released. Beyond that, I hope to tour the west coast as soon as possible, and I have been meeting with some heavy hitters in the music industry (can’t mention names) who want to help me expand.

One more song for you and then I urge you to check out his Facebook for more details.

A pretty standard folk tune that accentuates Elijah’s killer voice. Good luck to him!

Save The Starlite – Preserving English Rock History

25 May

What’s left of the Starlite Ballroom on Allendale Road in Greenford, UK

When you listen to the classics you tend to get a sweet spot in your heart for the venues that allowed for the “magic” to happen. I know there are many historical places like this in New York (Cafe Wha, Cafe Au Go Go, CBGB) and it is fun passing by them and realizing what rich musical history occurred within the auspices of that building. This is why whenever I hear of a classic rock venue that may be shut down, I shed a tear (like the “Keep America Beautiful” crying Native American). Well, the tear is dripping from my face. Here is the story of the Starlite Ballroom, which has been threatened with demolition.

Located in the United Kingdom (specifically on Allendale Road in Greenford – northwest of London), the Starlite Ballroom featured an incredible list of well-known 60s artists. Ready for the list?

Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours, the Small Faces, the Who, the Quiet 5, David Bowie, the Yardbirds, the Troggs, the Move, Zoot Money, the Midnights, the Action, the Mode, Julian Covay and the Machine, Steampacket, the Symbols, Cliff Bennett, Cream, the Gass, Fleur de Lys, the Bystanders, Eric Burdon and the Animals, the Creation, the Syn, Pink Floyd, Warm Sounds, The Jeff Beck Group, Human Instinct, Breakthru, Alan Bown, Chris Farlowe, the Marmalade, Legay, Honeybus, The Gods, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, the Knack, the Triads, the Easybeats

That is quite the list. Pink Floyd, The Easybeats, The Animals, Cream David Bowie, The Troggs – heck I’m just going to repeat the entire list above. Most of these bands were knee-deep in the musical explosion of the 60s and this venue saw them at the beginning. Notice the Quiet Five there? We did a post on this excellent underrated band back in February which you can view here.

After it was abandoned as a music venue, it became a snooker club and has now fallen into disrepair, which is unfortunate because you would hope classic venues, especially those that sat more than 1,000 people, would spark more historical society empathy.

Before the venue held concerts, it opened as a cinema on September 16, 1935 with a showing of “The Mighty Barnum” starring Wallace Beery. It remained a cinema until 1956, when it was gutted and turned into a concert hall.

Do you want to help with the efforts to save this little piece of music history? There is a Facebook page devoted to it which can be accessed right here. The about section includes a little more about the venue and some plans of how to mold it into something else without subjecting it to the wrecking ball.

From the individual leading the efforts to save the venue, “I’m now asking everyone to send polite letters/emails to Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council (http://www.ealing.gov.uk/councillors/10/julian_bell) asking him to take action to save the Starlite Ballroom site and save it for use by the community. A petition is also in the works.”

Help out if you’d like! Also, there is a theme that goes along with this post. You will have to wait until Memorial Day to find out what that is! Have a happy long weekend!

Phillip Phillips Found a Very Mumford Home

24 May

Phil Phil Takes the Title

Did you really expect anything different American Idol viewers? Let me add to the stockpile of congratulations for Phillip Phillips who took home the American Idol Season 11 crown last night beating prodigious R&B 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez. I recognize the population of disappointed viewers who thought that Phillips was limited vocally and his carefree “hipster” style did not deserve victory over one of the better natural singers American Idol has ever had. I agree with that sentiment to a point. Yes, Jessica Sanchez is the better singer of the duo, but the best singer does not usually win American Idol. Phillips made up for what he lacked in vocal prowess with a keen creativity and perspicacious ear for acoustic music. As I wrote last night on Twitter, he will fit neatly into the modern folk revival – much like Mumford and Sons (whom I will mention in a bit).

Honestly, though, Idol Viewers, did you expect this to go differently? American Idol has just completed its 11th season and since zany bluesman Taylor Hicks took home the title in Season five, five men have won the competition, and they all (with the exception of David Cook, even though he too fits this somewhat), have been laid-back guitar-wielding songwriters. I am counting country crooner Scotty McCreery in this coterie. It is no secret who the main viewership is, and the typical 13-year-old girl loves cute, awkward, relatable, hipster artists. Phillips fit this all, and he won.

But with that all said, I am happy for the 21-year-old Leesburg, Georgia product, who actually paired his American Idol victory with a completed degree in Industrial Systems Technology from Albany Technical College. My guess is his career will go more towards the former accomplishment.

When you take a brief glance at this season as a whole, there were only a few individuals who actually could have made it to the finale. My original guess was that Colton Dixon would win the competition, but this turned out to be a misjudgment on my part mainly based on (and this will be the first time I have ever said this) my age. You see, as much as I like to consider myself up on music trends, Dixon fit the pop/punk genre that was popular among young people when I was like 16 years old, and I thought this was still superiorly popular. He had everything else. He was just playing the wrong music for the times. Don’t be surprised Idol viewers if someone like Phillips wins again next year. It is not gender bias, but rather a tendency to vote for what is currently in. If Florence Welch tried out for Idol, she would win.

As for Phillips’ single “Home,” it fits him like a broken-in pair of jeans. The song is a short ditty with a pre-chorus drop-down that is recognizable. The song is rich with a bluegrassy guitar beat mixed with Coldplay-esque “oohs” and airy “homes.” “Home” was written by songwriter Drew Pearson, and originally meant for British artist Greg Holden (who co-wrote the song), but was submitted to Idol as a possible finale number, and was snatched up smartly by Phillips, who will now make Pearson and Holden some nice pocket-money.

The song is pretty much a Mumford and Sons track. It’s not surprising that it was originally written for (and co-written by) a British folk artist. I think I can actually target out a specific track from Sigh No More where Mumford and Sons uses a similar technique.

Head over to 2:53 and just listen. Even the “awake my soul” repetition rhymes with “home.” 

It is a similar song, not the same song. The reason I mention it is because this is exactly where Phillips will be succesful. If he taps into this indie/folk genre and hits it head on he will not flame out and will continue to be heard of come season 12, 13, 14, and heck maybe even 15 if the show lasts that long!

Peyton Tochterman Plays it Close to Home

22 May

Peyton Tochterman

The sultry sounds of troubadour Peyton Tochterman are soulful, pastoral, but mainly refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of how folk music has progressed recently. Indie folk acts have done a tremendous job transforming a genre. Peyton, though, doesn’t mess around with hybrid stylings. No. Give him a guitar and a harmonica and let his earthy, grainy voice encapsulate you in the comfort of folk.

In his debut solo release New World, Peyton actually transports listeners back to the old world into spacious, wide-open country, with some songs tinged with a noticeable subterranean loss, much in the vein of Bruce Springsteen. Speaking of which, how about we take a listen to “Johnsburg” off of the new album.

The first thing that may pop out at you is Peyton does have an odd semi-resemblance to actor Zach Galifianakis. The second thing is, wow, is that Bruce Springsteen? The voices are more than weirdly alike, they are almost identical. Minimize the screen and just listen to the song. Are you telling me you couldn’t hear this track on The River? So what sets Peyton apart from similar deep-voiced folk artists? His rhythm moves effectively, creating a sense that more is behind him while it is really just Peyton with a guitar and harmonica. Would the E-Street band help him out? Of course! But his ability to create expansive sound from two instruments (three counting his voice) is impressive.

“A New World,” the title track of his new album, is lighter than “Johnsburg” and Peyton’s voice rises as well. “A New World” depicts his lyrical prowess, featuring lines like “life ain’t here for us, we’re here for life” and the catchy hook of “I ain’t ever been here before, hell if I know the way.”

Peyton’s acoustic folk is impressive and it is so great to hear a true singer-songwriter. I have one more little bit about Peyton before I point you in the direction of where you can track his music. I usually don’t do this, but I need to in this case because it sums it up so well. This is from Peyton’s bio.

“Tochterman is a former sports journalist, he has been hit by a train, had Kenny G.’s grand piano fall on his head, has helped cast bronze sculptures for renowned sculpture Cy Twombly, he has traveled across America on Harleys with his dad and has gone to the far reaches of China to record monks in temples blowing really, really big horns. And, he is also a cancer survivor. Through every step, at every breath, and in every barroom, Peyton has been, is, and will always be a great songwriter.”

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