Milani’s Top 3 for 2015!

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This week I’m highlighting 3 different tracks from 3 different artists that have stood out among the clutter this year…

Tobias Jesso Jr. is a Canadian singer/songwriter who released his debut album earlier this year. He’s got an interesting backstory. He started out in Vancouver in an indie band as a bass player. The band moved to L.A. to back a young pop singer, but that didn’t work out. So Tobias started to work as a songwriter in L.A. He didn’t have much luck as a songwriter and wasn’t finding any work. Then after breaking up with his girlfriend, he got hit by a car while riding his bike (injuring his hand and having his bike stolen in the process). The very next day he found out his mom had cancer. This chain of events helped push him to move back to Vancouver, and he decided songwriting was going to move to hobby status (his music equipment was left in storage in L.A.). He then proceeded to use the family piano to write a song for himself, which he sang (he was never confident in his singing ability). He posted a video on YouTube and Facebook, and started getting really positive feedback from both friends and strangers. As he posted some more material, more buzz followed. This eventually led to some demos and then a record deal. He worked with multiple producers on the album, including Patrick Carney (Black Keys), Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Vampire Weekend, Kylie Minogue) and Chet “JR” White (Girls). Adele tweeted a link to his video for “How Could You Babe” which garnered him a lot of attention, and he was booked on The Tonight Show for his TV debut before his album was even released. His album “Goon” came out in March and Jesso Jr. wrote it entirely himself, centering on his piano and vocals. His sound has a very ‘70s era vibe, definitely doesn’t sound contemporary at all. Jesso Jr. continues to gain popularity; I read that he was hanging with Taylor Swift and that he may be collaborating with Adele on a song for her upcoming album. So definitely check him out if you’re looking for something mellow to listen to. I’m including the lead track from his debut album “Can’t Stop Thinking About You”, which is a very stripped-down song with mostly just Tobias and his piano. It reminds me, just a little bit, of the theme from Cheers (part of the piano that is).
“Can’t Stop Thinking About You”

AWOLNATION struck it big with the anthem “Sail” from their debut album “Megalithic Symphony”, which went platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada. This is a solo project from Aaron Bruno, who used it to record music that didn’t fit with his other bands he was playing with. He freely mixed genres, incorporating both live instruments and electronic elements, very slick production and a heavy electro-pop vibe. The sophomore album came out earlier this year, titled “Run”. I’ve heard it’s more of the same, but I have to admit I haven’t yet listened to the album yet. I’ve heard the lead single “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)” many times though, and I still haven’t gotten tired of it (granted I don’t listen to the radio a whole lot). So for those of you that are sick of this track, I apologize, but if you’re not familiar with it then check it out. It has all of the key AWOLNATION elements, bombastic production, and a heavily arpeggiated blend of new wave, electro and pop with a powerful chorus. This is one artist that is maybe better to listen to in small doses, becausehe mixes so many elements into his songs it can be fatiguing to take in an entire album in one sitting. My favorite part of “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) is the chorus (I like the fast-spoken words). I also like the overly bombastic part about 3 minutes in where the music starts pounding even harder before Bruno starts screaming like a lunatic. Again, the production on this song makes it “pop” when it comes on the radio compared to most other songs.
“Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”

The Arcs is the latest collaboration from Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys). Auerbach keeps busy, in between Black Keys albums he’s recording solo albums and producing records by other artists. When his bandmate, Patrick Carney, injured his shoulder this year and the Black Keys took some time off, Auerbach pulled together a side project which is The Arcs. He partnered with Leon Michaels, a multi-instrumentalist who Auerbach worked with in the studio on albums by Lana Del Ray and Dr. John. They brought in some other friends to play on the album. “Yours, Dreamily” was released in September. The album was recorded hastily, in two weeks across three different studios, and has a spontaneous vibe to it. The music is not unlike the Black Keys, especially their last album. Auerbach does take advantage of being more experimental, there’s more of a psychedelic tone on some tracks and overall the record is a little more soulful and harkens back to classic R&B. The band is pretty tight and there’s a definite groove throughout the album. Unlike AWOLNATION, this is an album that you can easily digest all of the way through. The track I’m highlighting “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” was a favorite right away after my first listen. The song has psychedelic elements and has some cool production techniques on it to make it sound more retro. But I really like the overall vibe of the track, the band plays well together and it has a timeless element to it – not to mention a great chorus.
“Put a Flower in Your Pocket”

The Playlist – New Bands: Vogue Dots, Gold Celeste, Palace Winter and More!

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TheGuardian.com has featured a great playlist on their website. The playlist contains new bands that are bound to make names for themselves. These bands include Palace Winter, Gold Celeste, Vogue Dots and Future Elevators. The duo group “Vogue Dots” features Tynan Dunfield and Babette Hayward. They are both sound technicians from Nova Scotia and have just released their first single “Way with Silence.” Their music has a textured synthwave that is a cross between heavier Goth and airy dream pop. It is both murky and cloudy at the same time. Critics say Hayward’s voice is similar to that of Lana Del Rey’s voice.
Gold Celeste’s “Open Your Eyes” is the second single to be released from the band’s first album called “The Glow.” The band calls themselves Gold Celeste because of the beautiful colors in the sky that you see just before sunset and right after sunrise. Their music is supposed to represent the glow that every human being is carrying around with them, even if they are not aware of it. However, their music doesn’t just focus on the good. It also focuses on the bad as well. Human beings are capable of being extremely loving and extremely hateful. Gold Celeste wants their music to be both of these things because this is what creates the glow.

Palace Winter has fast and loud vocals with a shade of deep sadness to it. The duo band claims to be influenced by Seinfeld and Elliot Smith. Their new song “Menton” lasts for six minutes, but it is an entertaining six minutes. The song comes from the band’s debut EP called “Medication” and will be released in October. Anyone who is a fan of Kurt Vile or the war on drugs and vaccines will love this music. It has a steady rhythm that can be considered thoughtful electronic independent country music.

Future Elevators’ first single “Modern World” comes from the five piece Alabama debut album. It is already scheduled to be released in January of 2016 on the “Communicating Vessels” label. The name is appropriate seeing how the music tends to communicate a sense of wonderment to the listener. This groovy music from the band is just as interesting as the music of Gold Celeste. Future Elevators have also had many influences. They claim Modern World was influenced by the Carl Sagan documentary called “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” which is a theme about technology and all of the possibilities it can deliver to the world and universe.

Beyoncé Collaborates with Coldplay

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Superstar and pop icon Beyoncé just finished recording a musical collaboration with the famous British rockers known as “Coldplay.” The beautiful and talented Beyoncé went with Chris Martin and his band to the studio to record a musical track for their new album entitled “A Head Full of Dreams.” Other musicians on the album include Swedish winger Tove Lo, gospel star Merry Clayton and British rocker Noel Gallagher. This album is scheduled to be released on December 15th. Fans on message boards and social media are already hyped up about the release. You can be sure the sales will be through the roof.
It is not unusual for Chris Martin and his band “Coldplay” to collaborate with other musicians and singers. The band has already collaborated with Rihanna on Princess of China, which can be found as a feature on the 2011 Coldplay record “Mylo Xyloto.” But according to Coldplay, recording their most recent track with Beyoncé was the most enjoyable time they had making a record ever. Not only that, but they are very happy with the results as well. Perhaps they are happy to have such a notable singer and musician like Beyoncé to collaborate with them. Just putting her name on the album is enough to gain a lot of notoriety for the album.
On November 6th, 2015, the first single from their album premiered, which was entitled “Adventure Of a Lifetime.” The rockers from Coldplay even appeared on BBC Radio 1, which is a British radio station that is well known throughout the United Kingdom. The rockers only finished their record three weeks ago. They claim they were very close to missing the deadline for completing it, but fortunately the deadline moved gradually to a later date. The leader of the band, Chris Martin, said in an interview that this record will be much more cheerful than their previous record called “2014’s Ghost Stories.” The new record featuring Beyoncé is colorful and joyful. Those who listen to the album will get a sense of the happiness and freedom the band felt while recording it.
Chris was very enthusiastic about the new album and expressed his hope that it would give the band their first headline appearance ever at the Glastonbury festival in Britain next year. He feels this festival is the band’s spiritual home and it is where they belong. With their increasing popularity, Chris might just get his wish.

Happy 100th Les Paul: 5 Classic Albums with a Les Paul on the Cover

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The Gibson Les Paul is a very popular guitar amongst musicians. It has been on the market for over 60 years and used by so many iconic guitar players, such as Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Keith Urban, Muddy Waters and so many more musicians. But what is truly iconic is there have been five album covers with these legendary musicians with a Gibson Les Paul guitar in their hands. These album covers show how much love these legends truly have for this guitar.
If you look at the cover of 1975’s Blow By Blow featuring Jeff Beck, it features him playing on his electric guitar. There is no singing or anything going on there, except from the Gibson Les Paul electric guitar. This cover contained one of the earliest illustrations to feature the Les Paul. You will find plenty of other Les Paul cover examples from albums such as 1975’s Alive by Kiss, 1975’s Bob Marley and the Wailers Live, 1979’s Neil Young and Crazy Horse in Rust Never Sleeps, and 2013’s Skydog the Duane Allman Retrospective.
So why is the Gibson Les Paul popular amongst musicians? Many famous musicians claim they were inspired by the sounds produced from the instrument. Big rock bands, like Pearl Jam and Nirvana, were said to have been inspired by Neil Young’s guitar playing with the Les Paul. The instrument itself is a solid body electric guitar that was first introduced by the Gibson Guitar Corporation back in 1952. The man who created the Gibson Les Paul was actually named Les Paul. He was a songwriter, guitarist and inventor. Les Paul was born in 1915 and died in 2008, so he did live a pretty long life. But even though he is dead, people are still celebrating his 100th birthday by remembering five classic albums that featured the Les Paul guitar on their cover.
The very first Les Paul that was sold contained two P-90 pickups and complete gold finishing. In 1958, sunburst finishes were added with humbucking pickups. Over the next 50 years, the guitar would be redesigned repeatedly to accommodate the look and feel of certain musical genres. Musicians use Les Paul guitars with all kinds of musical genres, including blues, punk, reggae, jazz, soul, rock, heavy metal and more. The craftsmanship of the guitar is topnotch, which means you can expect to pay thousands of dollars if you want to purchase one.

Women Who Rock: Haley Bonar

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A Minnesota musician named Haley Bonar has become an inspiration to women everywhere. Women with families only dream of being able to do what they are passionate about, like playing the guitar and writing songs. Haley Bonar is a mother who doesn’t let taking care of her daughter get in the way of her ambitions and dreams. This doesn’t mean she neglects her daughter, quite the contrary. She is a terrific mother who is there for her daughter all the time. But she has also been able to find a balance between being a mother and pursuing her music ambitions. Many people wonder how she is able to find such a balance in her busy life.
When Haley Bonar first found out she was pregnant, she had her worries. It made her feel like her music career was going to end and that she would never be creative ever again. But what actually happened was just the opposite. Motherhood made Haley Bonar focus more on everything that is important to her in life; her daughter and music. Where other people in her position would feel that they would have to choose between career and motherhood, she chose both. Haley said in an interview that she just makes the balance work because she is determined to do so. It is also good for her daughter to see her mother following her dreams and doing a job that she loves to do rather than a job she hates. It is never good for a child to see their mother working a job they hate. Haley feels that her daughter will feel inspired growing up while watching her mother follow her dreams. Then perhaps her daughter will grow up and be confident to follow her dreams as well.
In this age of music technology and internet music streaming, it really isn’t hard for any talented musician to make a name for themselves no matter what their position in life is. If you have your own recording studio at your house, you could easily upload your music to iTunes or Amazon and become your own producer. Not only will this help you generate money for your music, but it will help you get noticed as well. Then perhaps someone in the industry will come across your music and want to contact you for a record deal. This kind of thing happens all the time. And if you are a parent, do not worry. The worst case scenario is you can hire a nanny to watch over your child while you are away. Either that, or take the child on the road with you. Anything is possible if you truly want it to happen.

Stevie Nicks says,”Every band should have a girl in it!”

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People have all kinds of opinions when it comes to music, singers and bands. Some music fans prefer bands with all girls and others prefer bands with all men. What if you were to mix the two genders and have both in one band? According to Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, every band should have men and women in it because it creates a romantic spell. Now it doesn’t necessarily have to be an even split between the number of men versus women, but if the majority of a band is made up of men then there should be at least one woman in it. The same goes for the opposite. If there is an all woman band then it needs to have at least one man in it.
There are plenty of reasons why a mixture of genders is great for a band. For one thing, it creates more excitement and draws a wider range of music fans to go see their concerts. Fans who love male musicians and fans who love female musicians can both attend the concert of a mixed band. But according to Stevie Nicks, it is the romantic spell that makes it attractive to people. This romantic spell doesn’t necessarily mean that any of the band members are romantically involved with each other in their personal lives. It just creates the essence of romance by having a man and woman on stage singing passionately and playing music together.
Fleetwood Mac recently went on a European Tour and started playing with female keyboardist Christine McVie. They immediately got rave reviews from both the critics and fans alike. Later on British songwriter and singer Adele met up with Nicks, who gave Adele an inspiring compliment. She said “You’re going to be me in 40 years and you’re going to still be onstage doing what you’re doing.” Stevie Nicks is a well respected singer who usually gives great advice and honest feedback. So if she says someone is great then they are great. If she says that a band needs to have a girl in it, then all novice singers and musicians should take note and diversify their band as much as possible. After all, Stevie Nicks has had such a fabulous career as a singer with Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist as well. She has sold over 140 million albums and produced 40 songs that have made it to the Top 50 hits list.

Future People by Alabama Shakes

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“Future People” starts off with some funky guitar lines and a basic backbeat. Howard’s vocals start off very high, showcasing her falsetto. One reason I’m highlighting this song is because of some the chances the band takes musically – there’s some heavily distorted bass on it that really shakes things up in parts. The keyboards are also creating some nice atmosphere and taking the music to a different place. This is one of the more experimental tracks and the risk taking pays off. I really have no idea what the song is about because I’m always very focused on the music during this track and it always ends too abruptly for me – I want to hear more. But then the following track is “Gimme All Your Love” so moving on to the next song ends up being fine.

Believe (Nobody Knows) by My Morning Jacket

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“Believe (Nobody Knows)” kicks off “The Waterfall”. It’s a very positive and uplifting song, which is something Jim James usually tries to embody in his music. This track will probably become a live favorite since it’s easy to see how this song could be taken up a few notches in concert. I think the studio version is a little too clean and pristine and would benefit if it had a little more dirt and grit in the mix.

Compound Fracture by My Morning Jacket

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“Compound Fracture” is the second track on the album and is an example of the band progressing to a point they weren’t at a few albums ago. The song features keyboards in its main riff, which is unusual for a MMJ song where the keyboards are usually used as more of an accent. As the song progresses, bass and guitars pick up more of the weight as the keyboards move to the background a bit. There is plenty of space in the mix, allowing you to easily pick out different instruments, backing vocals, etc. The latter part of the song moves off into more of a jam mode as the keyboard starts coming back in more prominently. Overall, the track is a nice mellow groove that packs a few punches in spots as well.

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.