Artist Development

My Morning Jacket

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My Morning Jacket formed back in the late ’90s and released their first album in 1999. The band has seen a few line-up changes over the past 16 years, but has stayed intact with the same five guys since 2004. It was this then new current lineup that put out my favorite album from My Morning Jacket, “Z” in 2005. The band has enjoyed greater commercial success over the past few albums, but they’ve really made more of a name for themselves from their live performances. They have been called out as the best live American rock band by more than one publication over the years. I agree that My Morning Jacket is a much, much better band onstage than they are in the studio. In fact, the best album to check out if you’re not familiar with them is probably their live album “Okonokos” which was recorded at the Fillmore in S.F. I was lucky enough to see them play one of their 3 show run at the Fillmore for New Year’s Eve around the same time as Okonokos was recorded (’05-’06), and they were awesome on the stage. Lead singer/guitarist Jim James has a great voice and the entire band was locked in, playing with a lot of heart. For whatever reason, they haven’t been too successful at capturing their live sound in the studio. Every time they release a new album I’m hoping they have finally recorded something up to their potential but it never quite gets there.

Their sound is hard to describe, kind of alternative and rock, with some dashes of country and soul. It really depends on what album you listen to. Some of their early stuff is more mellow, “Z” is the most alternative and the most rock, “Evil Urges” brings a little soul in. Their latest album “Waterfall” was recorded in Stinson Beach bringing in a little Northern CA vibe to their sound (but more ‘70s era). It’s a fairly mellow album, harkening back to some of their earlier days, and has its soulful moments. Some of the album is pretty meandering and probably could have used some tighter editing. It has its moments, and the two songs I’m highlighting are two of their strongest cuts and evidence the most band growth compared to other songs on the album. I’m hoping this album is a transitional one and will help refocus the band’s efforts next time they hit the studio. Anyway, some of my favorite My Morning Jacket albums are bootlegs from Bonnaroo festival shows. You can’t beat the live performances.

Alabama Shakes Band!

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Alabama Shakeshails from Alabama, and they have a blues-based rock sound with some Southern soul and a little country baked into the mix. The band has drawn comparisons to the Black Keys, Drive-By Truckers and even Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. They are led by Brittany Howard on vocals and guitar, and she has a unique and powerful voice. The rest of the band is Heath Fogg on guitar, Zac Cockrell on bass and Steve Johnson manning the drums. The band first started when Brittany and Zac were in high school together and they met after school to write songs. They grabbed Johnson on drums who was working at a local music store and they started recording some songs. Heath joined the band after hearing some of their demos. After they released their first EP, the band started getting a lot of attention, and they played at the CMJ Music Marathon industry showcase in New York and it all took off from there. More shows, a song was picked up for a TV ad, and then the band signed to Rough Trade Records in the UK and ATO Records in the U.S. Their debut album came out in 2012 and the band earned a lot of acclaim with it, peaking at #6 on the U.S. album charts and earning three Grammy Nominations, including Best New Artist.

Personally, I wasn’t impressed with “Boys & Girls” at all. Their main single “Hold On” was an ok track and hinted at the band’s potential, but I thought overall the album was a little boring and pedestrian. However, being a fairly open-minded person to music in general (although my daughter often pushes the envelope with her current never ending love of top 40 pop), I still checked out Alabama Shakes new sophomore album “Sound & Color”. I had read that it was a little less safe and took more chances than their debut album, so I was hoping these changes were for the best. I thought the band definitely could see some improvements by pushing the envelope some. Lo and behold, there are a number of very good tracks on the new album and the changes the band has made have all been for the best. The album slows down a bit in the latter half, but they have some very good material overall. I can now understand the excitement regarding the band’s potential. I’m highlighting 3 songs that all appear early on during the first 5 tracks on the album.

New band of the Weekend: Strange Names (No 52)

Posted by | Artist Development, Industry News, Uncategorized | No Comments just named Strange Names as the new band of the week. The band is a trio of musicians and singers from Minneapolis who have been described as performing polished pop with a little bit of dark undertow. They are kind of similar to the B52s and the Talking Heads. The trio is made up of Liam Benzvi on vocals, Francis Jimenez on guitar and backup vocals and Fletcher Aleckson on drums. Like many great artists, they claim their music comes from a place of great pain. That is why they tend to touch upon dark lyrical subjects. Even the band members themselves claim their music is not too easy to enjoy. Between their dark infectious tunes and experimental tendencies, it has been rather difficult for them to gain a widely accepting audience. However, their music is catching on after the release of their EP and a single with the recording company “White Iris Records.”

Strange Names still thrives to be a major label in the music scene. One great thing about their music is that it can spread to almost any genre or era. They’ve used the pop culture perkiness of Only Boy and Supernatural Silence and the 60s pop surf harmonies of Overused Phrase. Some claim the music actually feels sunny and happy, and takes them out of a dark place. It makes them feel like everything is going to be okay. Basically, it all depends on the person. Their songs are not necessarily all dark and depressing, but it may take a little bit for some people to get used to. It really depends on how much you can relate to the pain that the singers are expressing in their lyrics. Some people may be able to relate to their pain more than others.
Overall, Strange Names produces songs that are danceable and contain the sound of pop rock to them. Many people from the older generation have listened to their songs and have liked what they heard. The same goes for the younger generation as well. This is why Strange Names will likely succeed in this business. They seemed to have captured the interest of all kinds of music lovers. Their only setback seems to be capturing enough interest in order to make a better name for themselves and become more successful. But with many critics and magazines giving them free publicity about the quality of their music, it looks like Strange Names might be the next big band that people talk about.

Dirty Movies by Van Halen

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“Dirty Movies” – A track from “Fair Warning”, Van Halen’s 4th album and what I’ve always considered their “grittiest and dirty” sounding record. Maybe it has to do with some of the guitar effects Eddie uses on the album or the nature of the songs, but this has always seemed to be a darker album from the band. Even the album cover stands out as being different for them. When I was younger I didn’t listen to this album as much but now I enjoy it much more and listen to it as much as any other album. This is not an atypical track where Eddie starts off with some slower guitar work before breaking out into the main riff for the song. It’s always a nice rush when the main riff kicks in and the rest of the band locks in with the groove. This song is a little unique with the chorus being a bit slower and mostly featuring the harmonies of Eddie and on the album Michael Anthony and live Wolfgang. David Lee Roth is up to his usual antics on this song and has plenty of room to adlib during the live performance.

Raleigh Ritchie: ‘I don’t want to be on posters. I just want to be good’

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Raleigh Ritchie is best known for Game of Thrones and as a rising pop star. You would think that a person in his middle 20s with all of these opportunities would be the happiest person in the world. But Raleigh tends to worry a lot about his career and the way people are going to perceive him. While playing the character of Grey Worm on Game of Thrones, he is also a musician and singer. Music is what helped Raleigh deal with a lot of rough times in his life, like the insecurities of his career. He worries that people will negatively judge him for trying to pursue both an acting and music career. He also worries about getting older and transitioning into adulthood. That is why his singing commonly expresses his fears and insecurities in the lyrics. But even then, he still worries that audiences won’t understand how he truly feels.
A lot of young people can probably relate to Raleigh. As a kid, he was bulled and beat up in grade school like many kids around the world. This caused him to try and remain anonymous from the rest of the kids. That way bullies wouldn’t know he existed and wouldn’t want to target him. He carried on this isolation all throughout the rest of his adolescence years until he finished school. Then he moved to London at the age of 17 to try and pursue his acting career. Raleigh was in a dark place for awhile and it got to the point where his parents were really worried about him. But it was through music that Raleigh was able to pick himself back up. However, he claims that he doesn’t want to only write songs in order to therapeutically deal with his dreadful memories of the past. He wants to write songs in order to entertain people and please his fans.
Now he is 24-years-old and is already planning to purchase a home with his girlfriend. Not only will he have to endure a mortgage, but he and his girlfriend are even talking about having kids as well. If you had asked Raleigh four years ago if he would ever want to purchase a home with a mortgage and have kids of his own, he would have said no way. But now he is in a much better place and it has helped changed his thinking about these kinds of adult responsibilities. But these responsibilities still scare Raleigh because they are all new to him and cause him to worry again. Only time will tell if he is able to move forward in a positive light.

Drop Dead Legs by Van Halen

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“Drop Dead Legs”–This lesser known track from the album “1984” (which spawned “Jump”, “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”) immediately put a smile on my face when Eddie broke into the opening riff. I love how well Eddie’s guitar lines integrate with the heavy rhythm section driving this song. You also have classic David Lee Roth vocal styling and the band’s classic back-up harmonies on this song.

that album cover makes me smile every time I see it

Higher Ground by Playing for Change

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This organization does it all when it comes to getting people together for the sake of music! For each episode and song they create, this organization travels the world and finds music students, artists and children to participate in creating one song all pieced together from small parts each person preforms. The finished art work looks like a well put together travel video made up of all the artists. The best thing about this organization? They give all their proceeds to building music and art schools for children around the world.

Listen on!

5 Songs You Need to Hear This Weekend!!

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There are new songs being released every week from around the world. It can be hard to monitor and listen to all the great songs being released, so you have to narrow down your choices to 5 particular songs if you are on time constraints. The first song you should pay attention to is “Of Crows and Crowns,” which is sung as a solo by Dustin Kensrue. This is not the first time Kensrue has done a solo record. In 2007 he put out another solo record and in 2013 he did a religious worship album. Kensrue was originally the lead frontman for the music group “Thrice,” but they went hiatus around 2012.
Another song you should look out for is “Let It Happen,” by Tame Impala. This is an unusual single that is not just catchy and radio friendly. It is about 8 minutes long and contains a disco-esque style to the music, which is a change for Tame Impala because there are no guitars. So if you want to see a new version of them, then check out Let It Happen.
Heems, who used to be part of Das Racist, is now going solo. He already released his first solo album “Eat, Pray, Thug.” The hip hop star is tackling some tough topics, especially in his newest solo “Sometimes.” This is a plethora of his samples that focuses mainly on race and identity issues. These topics likely derived from his own mixed background where he felt insecure about his own identity. You will hear plenty of references to old school hip hop and some Gordon Voidwell beats as well.
Waste the Alphabet by Dick Diver is a sweet rock song that is pleasant to the ears. The lyrics are clever to the point where they will remind you of Elvis Costello. Dick Diver is a band based in Melbourne Australia and they are about to release a full length album in the United States. The album is entitled “Melbourne, Florida” gives off a fabulous impression to their new audience and fan base. Waste the Alphabet will surely be on the top of their list.
Tranquility by Matthew E. White was released about one year after the sudden death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The song was written and performed as a tribute to the late actor. Matthew E. White was inspired by Hoffman’s work and the song is more of a mournful song in his honor. You can find this song in his new record called Fresh Blood.

Track of the Day! Charlotte OC

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Charlotte OC whose real name is Charlotte Mary O’Connor is a British singer and songwriter. In just a short period of time she has already blossomed with her music and has caught an international fan base. She has also been chosen to appear on the Communion New Faces tour. The British entertainment website, Digital Spy, even described her as the “one to watch.”
Charlotte recently released her newest EP called “Burning,” which you can buy now on online and in music stores worldwide. Her music is a nice blend of sensual pop with Berghain techno. Clash Magazine is premiering a brand new remix of her other work “If My House Was Burning,” which will bring Charlotte onto the dance floor and bringing a whole new beauty to the electronic edges of her music. A musical duo from Hastings named “Folded like Fabric” will be conducting most of the reworking of the song while retaining the same emotional delivery of the singer.
Charlotte has had a bumpy ride towards fame. When she was in her teens she got signed by the popular record label “Columbia,” by was later dropped by them. She eventually picked herself back up with her debut EP that was released by Stranger Records called “Colour My Heart.” In 2014, she had the opportunity to play on stage at the T in the Park festival for “BBC Introducing,” which represents new musical talent across the United Kingdom who is often independent or self signed. This performance led to her next EP release “Strange,” which was backed by the American music company “Harvest Records” and the British company “Polydor.”
Charlotte has a passion for electronic music, which was her main influence before getting into the music business. She particularly loved the electronic music she heard in Berghain, which is a club in Berlin. Her parents also helped influence her by surrounding her with soul music and folk music for a majority of her childhood. Some of her most notable influences are Billie Holiday, Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, and Alicia Keys.
Charlotte has been actively singing and writing songs in the mainstream market since 2012. In such a short time, she has already signed with three record labels and grown a worldwide audience that loves her music. Her soft voice mixed with electronic tones is surely easy to be taken in by. She may not be at superstar status yet, but if her popularity continues to grow as it is then she may very well be soon.

TV on the Radio

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TV on the Radio first formed in Brooklyn early in the 21st century.  The band’s first origins came about when multi-instrumentalist/producer Dave Sitek moved into the same building where vocalist Tunde Adebimpe was living.  Both had been working on recording music on their own, but soon realized they sounded good working together.  They made an EP with Dave’s brother as OK Calculator.  They added guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone after the EP.  The next EP as TV on the Radio, “Young Liars” also featured Brian Chase and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  It received a lot of critical acclaim in ’03 and was my first exposure to the band.  They released their debut full-length the following year titled “Desperate Youths, Blood Thirsty Babes” and did a lot of touring.  The second album came out in ’05 and they added bassist Gerard Smith to the band.  The band went on a hiatus after their 3rdalbum which came out in 2008.  After many side projects and some acting gigs by Adebimpe, the band came back together in 2011 and released “Nine Types of Light”.  Bassist Smith unfortunately was suffering from lung cancer and died at the age of 34 that same year.  At the end of 2014, the band released their first album since Smith’s death, titled “Seeds”.
TV on the Radio have a difficult to describe sound.  They are a mix of post-punk, electronic, a little R&B and a little experimental.  They play a great deal with sound and the band is made up of very creative individuals, both musically and visually.  Some of their tracks are mellow, some more hyper and abrasive.  It’s almost always interesting, and all five of their albums are very strong.   Their latest “Seeds” is a good representation of the band and how they’ve evolved over the past decade.  In some ways the album is a tribute to Gerard Smith, with themes of loss and recovery throughout.