Archive | November, 2015

First Sight Brings New Meaning To True Love

24 Nov


With no better way to describe Van Norden, as having dream pop influences, this Vancouver musician carries an almost gothic sound to his music, and First Sight brings it to you in a powerful way. The overall sound does not sound cluttered at all, which sometimes is hard to do amongst the EDM scene. The lyrical quality of First Sight does not back down either with mentioning of constellations, finding each other within space, and the feeling of that intense love at first sight feeling. Prior to releasing First Sight, Van Norden has experience being an acoustic folk musician, frequently playing with the LA based SPINdriftr. With a sound that could be best described as having international influences, it’s to no surprise that Van Norden frequently collaborates with musicians in Canada and Los Angeles. The track overall delivers a deep, almost ethereal environment rather than being an ordinary track alone, and for that, we are excited to see what Van Norden has next in store.



Power to the People: Bad Songs for a Good Cause

23 Nov


By Beth Kelly

Whether we’re talking about famine in Africa or race relations in America, climate change and global warming or doing something funny for money through Red Nose Day, you can be sure celebrity musicians will be in on the fundraising spotlight. Charity songs are nothing new, and while the intentions seem admirable enough, the end result is often anything but. More often than not, ego and pride get in the way of truly inspiring the change in the sung-about situation. As evidence, we offer the following list of truly bad songs made for good causes.


Do They Know Its Christmas? – 1984 – This one was written by Bob Geldorf and Midge Uri and recorded by British and Irish supergroup Band Aid. It was intended to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief and succeeded in selling and raising millions. However, critics were quick to point the apparent ignorance of the writers in not realizing that the Ethiopian majority are in fact Orthodox Christians and would be very much aware of when Christmas occurs. It has also been condemned for use of condescending and stereotypical images of the African peoples in order to garner sympathy.


We are the World – 1985 – written mainly by Michael Jackson in collaboration with Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones, this gem was performed by a multitude of famous musical talents in the supergroup USA for Africa. The album sold phenomenally well, raising millions of dollars for Ethiopian famine relief. However, critics of the effort point out that no one involved questioned the circumstances that led to famine nor any other means of preventing future famines.


Earth Song – 1996 – Another Michael Jackson production intended to inspire action, but this one is more likely to inspire aversion for the overly dramatic way in which it’s presented and an instinct to look away from the video in disgust than to bring about any true changes from a general audience. The intention certainly seems noble, that of protecting Earth’s resources, to include rain forests and endangered animal species, but the final effect is melodramatic and whiny.


Love Song to the Earth – 2015 – This Sean Paul collaboration is another attempt at heightening awareness of environmental issues. Released to coincide with the UN climate conference in December, the intention is to create realistic limits on the impact of climate change. Like others on this list, the cause is worthy – particularly in light of the fact that the United States is now the world’s number one oil and natural gas producer, as well as its greediest fossil fuel consumer. However, unfortunately once again the song leans more toward showing off celebrity talents and appearance of goodwill than actual genuine charity.


One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) – 2014 – This One Direction charity song was done for the organization Comic Relief, a UK based organization that seeks to end poverty throughout the world. The song was intended to garner support for Red Nose Day, an activity that aims to raise money through funny acts. The song and related live performances were a financial success for the charity, but there was once again some exploitation of poorer areas of Africa in order to simultaneously garner sympathy for the cause and publicity for the band.


People are People – 2004 – This Ru Paul remake of a former Depeche Mode song targets racism and inequality, in much the same way as Michael Jackson has often taken on this issue through his music over the decades. However, in the hands of the flamboyant Ru Paul, this comes off more as a blasting of those who don’t agree with his views of certain lifestyles rather than an anthem for acceptance and for racial and cultural equality.


Never Had A Dream Come True – 2000 – although written with lyrics detailing the aftermath of a relationship breakup, this single by S Club 7 was nonetheless chosen as an official theme song for the organization BBC Children in Need, garnering the band much fame and fortune along the way. A reunion is currently in the works, with the band once again touting their dedication to the organization that put them in the spotlight to begin with.


There’s no doubt that music moves the masses, and when done for the right cause and with the right dedication, can be enormously effective. However, when the musician or groups involved are remembered more for their personas than their causes, the music falls flat.


Reborn with Katie Grace Helow

20 Nov

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A few months ago, I had to interview prospective interns for a music development agency. I was forced to ask that horribly bland question, “What’s your favorite type of music?” and though I won’t say I’m surprised, I did get one answer more than any other: “Anything but country.” This is clearly a product of the direction that mainstream country has gone, but let’s be fair to alt-country and the underground musicians that keep alive the real art of the genre: country is not dead. Florida native Katie Grace Helow has created a dark and compelling alt-country record with emotional depth, proving not all country is bad.

Past Lives is Katie Grace Helow’s sophomore album, following a more acoustic effort, titled On Time & the Ocean. Her debut was gorgeous in its own right, but her new record has turned up the intensity in every way. The instrumentation is somber, yet powerful, creating the perfect tone for Helow’s commanding voice. The album is comprised of ballads that are world weary, inspired by real life experiences that Helow only felt comfortable sharing in song. The opening track, “Savior or Sin“ features the widest range of Helow’s vocals on the record, which admittedly never reaches any notable highs, but rather has a remarkable depth.This is Helow’s signature sound, one that sets her apart from whatever stereotypical female country singer that you may be thinking of. Though the vocals in “Left For Dead,” the following track, are subtler, they are still just as powerful. This actually could be said about most tracks on the album; her voice is simply impressive.

Helow hasn’t completely abandoned her acoustic sound, with some simpler tracks in the middle of the album. No matter what the backing instrumentation is, whether it be a full band or her singular guitar, Helow still manages to capture your full attention. And I also really appreciate an artist that doesn’t compromise with “radio length” tracks, four minutes and under. A long track is the hallmark of a talented songwriter, and Helow has this in spades. “Scorpion” is an enduring odyssey at seven minutes long, but it has some of the most soothing guitar work on the record. The same can be said of “Live Wire,” though the backing vocals are what haunt in that track. Helow’s good friend Zach Lever contributes to the harmonies throughout the album, and complements the rest of the record perfectly.

When analyzed, Past Lives has all the elements of a talented indie artist. Let’s not make assumptions just because it’s got the word country in it. 

Past Lives is out now. Find more info on Katie Grace Helow on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud.

Falling Awake in the Early Morning

17 Nov

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I remember years ago traveling in a rental car out west with my family while listening to music ooze out of my headphones. I had my favorites list pumping out a randomized selection of music, but I only distinctly remember listening to “Falling Awake” by Gary Jules as I stared out the window of the cloudy landscape and considered the vast contradictions in our world.

This morning I found myself staring out the window contemplating the incomprehensible evil that prompted the recent Paris attacks and, on that note, all recent attacks that serve to challenge the inherent safety individuals should possess. My iTunes was on, and Gary Jules’ familiar croon rose above his plucked acoustic guitar. I mouthed the words, as I have heard this song countless times, and I realized that it fit the questions spiraling around my head.

Jules, who most know because of his haunting cover of “Mad World,” which has been featured on countless television shows, has released four full-length albums. His blend of soft vocals and acoustic guitar is enticing, and his lyrics are focused and intelligent.

“Falling Awake” is a quintessential Jules song. Since first hearing the song, I thought the title and consequent sentiment of the song was fascinating. It is inherently oxymoronic, and such is life. As evidenced recently, events often happen that are perniciously paradoxical to humanity and we are left to question how such horrendous events could happen.

You Said, Tumbler Premieres With Beautiful Psychedelic Tunes

5 Nov

Sounds reminiscent of the English countryside, Tumbler manages to carry an interesting sound overall. Comparable to James Taylor and the Beatles, Tumbler demonstrates a lightness in their sound and lyrics as well. The beautiful mentioning of memories, nature, and the feelings of what it means to be home is also interwoven throughout You Said. The track, Bueller, stands out with lyrical metaphors “pouring in on porcelain skin”, and mentioning talk about “lover’s frown’s” and the power of sunlight. The overall sound of Tumbler is a mixture of subtle eagerness and reflective coolness. With their full sound carrying the almost magical lyrics, Tumbler provides more than just sound to one’s ears, they give listener’s an experience of painted memories.

For more listening:

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