Tag Archives: New York

Frame of Mind From Sam Levin Spins Forward Ambitious Pop Sound

13 May

Sam Levin just released his newest album called Frame of Mind and it epitomizes a mixture of pop, soul, and indie rock. With lyrics intertwining between the themes of the seen and unseen, and nature undertones, Levin’s smooth vocals keep audiences entertained and wanting more. From a musical auditory observation, the mixing of variety of light synthy sounds and xylophone taps, his music does not fit within one’s typical idea of indie pop. Sounding completely evolved and already carving a specific niche in the musical world, Levin surprises audiences with his mature sound for his age of 15. For 2017, listeners should take note of his over ambitious evolution as an artist and keep track as its just the beginning.

For more listening:

Fenech-Soler

27 Apr

LOLO

Fenech-Soler

Fenech-Soler

Fenech-Soler

HOLYCHILD

(All photos from the show can be found here.)

After a (possibly too long) delay in posts, I’m happy to say I’m back. Midterm weeks were brutal, but I’m glad to say I made it out alive for the most part. A couple of months ago I found out that Fenech-Soler was coming to the states on their very first American tour, and I could not have been more excited. They’re an “electropop” band from Kings Cliffe, often compared to Friendly Fires and Delphic, incorporating synth, indie, and electronic elements into a collective sound. I think the world should know about this group, and their set was entirely too short that night, but nonetheless incredible. The show took place on April 3rd at The Westway, a converted gentleman’s club that still had the dancer’s platform in the middle of the stage. Needless to say, the lighting in this venue was a battle in itself, but I think I managed to get some cool pictures.

The first opener was a two person group called LOLO, with a powerful female lead and bass/keyboardist. She did an incredible cover of “Halo” by Beyoncé to close their set, and her vocals were absolutely amazing. Because Fenech-Soler wasn’t headlining, they were on next, playing a variety of songs from their latest album Rituals, as well as older classics from their 2010 self titled album. The group consists of four members, and their live performance was indistinguishable from their in studio recordings. They incorporated some really amazing rainbow lighting throughout their set, and I’m really pleased with how they were captured. The headliner for the evening was HOLYCHILD, another female fronted group from LA. They’ve been labeled as a top group to watch in 2014, and their set was high energy and very crowd interactive. I’ve waited quite a while for the moment where I would be able to see the incredible music of Fenech-Soler live, and can’t wait for them to make another trip to the US.

 

Ryan Martin is NOT a Hard Man to Love

20 Jan

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Ryan Martin is a musician’s musician. Originally from Los Gatos, California, Martin, a soulful singer-songwriter, moved to New York City and since the move has done everything possible to keep climbing the mountain to reach the musical zenith. Music is often viewed from the rose-colored glasses of the listener. We don’t realize how assiduous and indefatigable musicians need to be to get by in the industry. To succeed – well – it often seems impossible.

But when you have the ability you just know that you must stick at it and do what is necessary to drive yourself forward. It is the one instance of artistic intransigence that is essential. Martin has worked as, “a former pipe salesman, doorman at a tourist bar on Bleecker Street, mover of furniture, bar-back at a debauched Chelsea bar, campaigner for impoverished children, and cash register operator at Trader Joe’s” (Facebook page). He has slept on couches and in his car … until he had to sell it. All of this led up to his debut release – For All the Beautiful Losers – and the tireless effort put into getting to this point seems well worth it.

The album features a dozen delectable tracks that feature sincere depth, wayworn lyrics, and Martin’s gravelly, southern soul vocal. The music plays with several elements – combining the sultry sound of summery country with deep soul and eclectic piano. It is euphoniously complex. I enjoy music that hits you at all different angles, and Martin’s tunes do that.

“Hard Man to Love” lays down a concise rhythm over an effervescent keyboard. The track moves like an Amos Lee piece, slow but sure. The pre-verse guitar riffs are keen. The vocal is tight. There is some swooning country. There is a taste of sweet harmonica. The song is just so rich. And, if you hadn’t had enough, Martin employs a falsetto and strings to end the piece. Very impressive.

“Little Tramp” is just as complex as “Hard Man to Love.” Martin interweaves horns and guitar effortlessly, but still maintains this country-esque feel – almost like a Jay Nash piece. The music is just so enjoyable to listen to. You want to put the piece on repeat. Heck, there is even a little Springsteen in this ditty. Well done!

Track Martin’s work on his Facebook or Twitter. Check out the album on Bandcamp.

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #3 – “Don’t Swallow the Cap” by The National

26 Dec

The National

In 2010 The National appeared on the Music Court’s incipient end-of-the-year countdown. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” reached the eight spot, and, three years ago on Dec. 22 I wrote the following about the song:

When the lyric, voice and instrumentation all join together to struggle with the same concept that the song represents, well, that demonstrates musical experience and intelligence, two things that The National has a lot of.

“Bloodbuzz Ohio” probably deserved a higher placement on the 2010 list. I’m making up for that now. “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” a single off of the National’s sixth studio album Trouble Will Find Me (May 17, 2013), is a perfect demonstration of the above quotation. The new album, which was recorded in New York (north of NYC), debuted at #3 on the US Billboard 200, the same spot as the band’s 2010 release High Violet. While both releases are similar in content and ratings, the new album represents an expected maturation for the band, and this musical efficacy is best displayed in “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” the #3 song on the Music Court’s 2013 list.

One of the rare negative reviews of Trouble Will Find Me stated that the music seemed emotionally dry. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, the melancholic baritone of Matt Berninger is even more saturated with driving, lachrymose rhythms and candid, painful lyrics. It is easy to be deceived, though, because it does seem that the musicians in the National are finally comfortable with who they are. Comfort does often lead to complacency, but for the National it has led to newfound puissance.

While Berninger’s distinctive baritone absorbs the vast majority of the National’s praise, it is essential to point out the two sets of brothers who lay the groove and hold down the musical fort with adroitness. Aaron and Bryce Dessner, who also produced the album, take care of the guitar and airy keyboard that provide the complement to Berninger’s somber vocal. Scott Devendorf helps drive the rhythm forward with an effective bass guitar, and his brother Bryan is responsible for the persistent drumbeat. For the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” the band is in full force. Perhaps most impressive in the song’s inception are the effervescent keyboard sounds that are high-pitched (relatively) and alien-like. The sounds set an eldritch scene, one that Berninger snugly fits into when he opens his mouth.

“Don’t Swallow the Cap” is yet another quintessential lugubrious lyric that features such gems as “I have only two emotions, Careful fear and dead devotion” and “Don’t think anybody I know is awake.” It’s a song about loss and grieving, and Berninger’s croon glides throughout the song like a figure skater, effortlessly manipulating the thin ice. Excellent song by an excellent band.

What’s Your Favorite Autumn Song?

2 Oct

Fall

Fall is a divisive season. Summer is almost universally loved because it provides warmth and winter is shunned (besides from the Holidays) because a trip outside requires a few layers of clothing and also usually features the  freezing welcome to a icy vehicle. Spring is a season of rebirth. Fall, though, is technically a morbid season; everything is dying or burrowing in preparation for the winter. Now, of course, my small summary is only applicable for places where seasons are evident – which, in my case, is New York.

Charles Dickens wrote in his poem “George Edmunds’ Song”:

“Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear” 

Clearly he enjoyed the season, right? But before the trees lay bare and the weather chills, Fall features variegated foliage and pleasant weather. There is apple picking, football, and festivals. While Fall is synonymous with melancholy – at least according to Dickens – I view it through rose-colored glasses. The season may not represent rebirth, but it is not all about death. Such a depressing view is insidious and it permeates through people. Fall deserves a better rap! Plus, at least in New York, while summer has passed it has not completely relinquished its grasp on the weather. It will be 83 degrees today!

Fall is a time for music at the Music Court. Well, every season is a time for music – it is a music blog. So … to celebrate the season, I’m asking you to tell me your favorite autumn song. Your favorite not on the list? Don’t be shy! Lambast my stupid selections in the comments and provide your favorite song. Voting closes on Wednesday. Have fun!

*Note: “September” by Earth Wind and Fire does talk about the 21st night of September. Close enough to Fall!

Need a quick song refresher. Listen to each song below:

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