Wyld hits the right notes on sweet summertime glow of “Child”

I’ve been freelancing as a music writer for a few years now, and I still consider one of my greatest gold medal achievements to be the connections I’ve made to New York City’s area music scene. I’m sure I’m said this in one form or another before in my writings, but here it is again. Some of the biggest city crossovers of mine have coincided within very significant parts of my life that really defined the person I’ve become and the art I’ve created since. There’s a beautifully-lit, urban imagery to it all I deeply appreciate whenever I get the chance to look back on it all. Plenty of nostalgic tones, sunrises, and late-night hero orders in that paint box.

I found that same fond imagery coming to mind watching the music video for my latest connection on that New York City map, Brooklyn-area singer-songwriter Elizabeth Wyld. Look no further than the opening shot of the iconic city skyline in “Child”, or the lyrics’ initial mentions of Christopher Street and signature yellow cabs. Though looking beyond that, I’d say the greatest ode to this city in both song and video lies in it’s romantic heart.

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“Child” is a sweetly shiny, folk-pop foot tapper that relays one of the oldest and most relatable feelings in humanity: navigating/risking the vulnerabilities of falling in love. It can happen as fast as a shock to the system and hit twice as hard, especially in that first moment’s “spark” that feels like your insides are doing caffeinated backflips. I equate the feeling to… jumping into an ice cold pool instead of dipping a toe in on a hot summer day. But as anxiety-provoking as the thought of such a crash is, when that feeling’s right… you just sense it in your bones and welcome it with a smile. And I felt this whole course of thought spill out just giving this song a few listens… again, good memories brought to mind by the presence of good art.

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Plus, the music video for this song fills in the illustrations of the lyrics beautifully. It does so in a way that reminds me of the useful narrative power music videos still have in even in a post-MTV and TRL era. I think that’s mostly due to the performances of Wyld and Dana DePirri, who exude the type of natural, bright-eyed chemistry that makes the “thrift store cardigan” romance of this song authentically movie-sweet. Not in the plastic, Hollywood way that feels more substance than stereotype. Rather, in the type of way that goes to show the sort of stylized gloss I think we all put on that initial relationship ember that makes our brain chemistry’s electricity crackle. It’s an endorphin rush, and this video really puts it in the moment.

To do that so naturally, puts a smile on my face every time. Go drive with the windows down, the sunshine on, and take in this song’s ambiance.

You can check out Elizabeth’s music at her website http://elizabethwyld.com/

 

 

 

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Bowie first demo found in bread basket

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Not exactly a headline I imagined writing, yet here we are. Per this article and image via The Guardian, one of the earliest recordings of David Bowie singing with his first band The Konrads recently resurfaced. Evidently, a former Konrad rediscovered the demo of the 16-year old then-aspiring saxophonist singing the tune “I Never Dreamed” in an old bread box when moving back home.

First of all, finding anything of a value in a bread box that isn’t disgusting, rotten bread (especially with the magnitude of a Bowie tape), seems like the most adorably fun, totally British situation I can possibly imagine. All the story really lacks is that typical UK rogue’s charm and charisma, AKA: actor Colin Firth.

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You see what I mean. I can’t make fun though. Discoveries with historical value like this dazzle to my eye like shiny Spanish galleons from long-lost pirate ships. The concept of mythical areas like Prince’s Paisley Park vaults and wherever Ryan Adams stores his years of insane, unheard material creates the same effect. And to just have that hanging out in your house? It’s like finding a Honus Wagner baseball card being used as a bookmark in a copy of The Boxcar Children.

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The Bowie demo’s expected to fetch just over $13,000 US dollars at auction. Sadly not an expense I could ever afford, but may it hopefully find a good home to continue its unique little place in the musical timeline!

Reading this story also made me think back to Paul McCartney’s recent appearance on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and some of the oral history they explored around Liverpool. A lovely segment if you haven’t given it a viewing. Seeing this talisman of young Bowie just beginning to draw the line of his career is much like the scenes they show of the home where McCartney first wrote songs with John Lennon.

At the end of the day, its just wonderful to know these places and items still exist.

One More Time With Feeling…

Watching Moses Sumney’s NPR Tiny Desk segment was a lucky stumble-upon this week that I highly recommend hearing at least once.

I say this due to the stripped-back crafting of Sumney’s vocal range, which for lack of a better phrase froze me to my seat like a slap to the head. I was immediately reminded of an ethereal, Nina Simone figure just emoting a… gossamer beauty. It reminded me of the first time I listened to Bon Iver sing Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me/Knick of Time” solo at the piano.

And while Sumney and Justin Vernon are different musically, to hear the level of falsetto these men can conjure is… frankly unreal. And it’s not because they’re male. Rather, it’s the undeniable power of this ability. I hear these performances and am just stunned someone’s voice can make these sounds so beautifully in the first place. Simone, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, Mahalia Jackson, Etta James, Jonsi from Sigur Ros, and certain select others come to mind. But whatever the case, my point is these are just some of the moments that make performances timeless, and why as a music lover I never stop searching for them. Because when you find it, you know.

Plus, if you somehow still don’t know by now (and you need to!), NPR Tiny Desk performances remain one of the best music media sources anywhere. Not only have I discovered new artists like Sumney and The Lone Bellow, but musicians like Wilco, Dave Matthews, Julien Baker, Anderson .Paak, Leon Bridges, Run The Jewels, Brandi Carlile, and countless others I love have adapted to the space in new and sometimes unexpectedly great ways. T-Pain anyone?

(Yes I really said T-Pain. It’s that good. Enjoy a few others.)

There’s so much feeling injected into these performances, and it would be a bucket list goal of mine just to watch a taping. But in the meantime, get a listen to Moses Sumney. Not just because of the voice. Listen to the harp, saxophone, and twinkling guitar in the band moving around in the arrangement. You may not be a fan for life by the end, but the creativity in motion is a fascinating place to play.

Saluting the Drummers!

Because really, do they ever get the respect they so justly deserve?

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Maybe people are just jealous of the hair. The need for this dedication comes courtesy of two sources.

1: This writer’s ongoing obsession with the music of Anderson .Paak (see previous post, RE: The Reasons Behind That)

2: This.

As you may or may not know, this video of 8-year old Japanese drumming prodigy Yoyoka Soma replicating John Bonham’s (extremely difficult) drumming on Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” recently went viral. Now watch this video because the interest is SO well-deserved!

I don’t say that easily either.

You see, I’m one of those Grinch types that can’t get onboard with kid musical performances. And I don’t mean the 8th grade high school talent show variety, more like the “see this crazy gifted 10-year old on major network television” kind. I applaud them for what they’ve done… I’m just not likely to watch.

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But let’s not dwell on that, and instead talk about this video. I’m not a drummer so forgive the lack of any technical knowledge in describing this, but suffice to say this kid has chops. Her foot can barely reach the kick drum pedal, yet she’s already acing the patterns of one of rock’s more technical drummers. If you’ve seen the video already, just go back and watch it for that kick drum impressiveness alone.

In 8 years I was lucky if I had complete mastery of the alphabet (spoiler alert: still a work in progress), let alone nailing the percussion to one of rock’s more classic songs. Right down to the opening cowbell flourish people. Somewhere, Christopher Walken is very happy. And still likely as weird as ever, according to Captain Obvious.

So all hail the sick drumming skills of Yoyoka Soma, as well as all the young, very talented musicians who may or may not be “crazy gifted on network television”. Ya’ll are doing fine work, and despite this Grinch’s worse ways, you are the coolest.

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Oh, Tuesdays…

They’re not exactly the Tom Waits-ian type days of lore where you expect to sit back spinning “great yarns” by the smoky haze of lamplight. But, given that the start of my average work day coincides with the beginning of the standard workplace lunch break, I tend to look toward the odd days/hours to help unleash my inspiration. Which in itself… hasn’t been an easy process.

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Lately I’ve been trying to feel my way out of one of the worst dry spells I’ve experienced as an independent writer, and losing my urge to create. And while I don’t want OTBEOTB to be any less about music, from now on you may see more of my “nuts and bolts” feelings regarding my creative process.

That might occasionally include venting some of the frustration on the road to breaking out of a funk too.

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Because there certainly have been plenty of recent ups and downs, and speaking from the perspective of a slump as a long-time sufferer of anxiety, it makes the feeling of sitting silent agonizing. Not using the words I know I have. I feel like there are worlds out there spinning I’m out of orbit from or places my voice could be. And yet, I’m not there.

Yet at the same time, I still think of plenty I’d like to say about a new song or an album I see that I just can’t make myself write down. Or, I deeply fear what I will say won’t sound as good as what’s in my head. So… let’s change that feeling, because I have something new (to me) musically you need to know about.

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In the last week or so, I’ve suddenly been devoted to the discovery of California singer/rapper/drummer/producer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak, his last full-length LP (2016’s Malibu), as well as recent .Paak singles “Bubblin'” and “‘Til It’s Over”. Now despite being a voracious music lover, I admit to being very guilty of having good music in my possession I simply don’t listen to. To put it in terms of food, my eyes occasionally grow larger than my stomach. So from time to time, I’m a few years back on a good thing. #musicalpackrat

In .Paak’s case, last Monday morning I put on lead Malibu track “The Bird” in a spontaneous decision to listen to the album straight through after previously leafing through a few cuts. And while low background music I enjoy typically helps me focus during work days, I never expected to be so quickly struck by the burst of lightning that is how good of an album Malibu is. While a few moments do drag (and I’m still not sure whether to laugh or cringe at the Prince-sounding omage of “Silicon Valley”), .Paak’s consistency across Malibu and its 16 songs is almost revelatory in the days of digital.

To give you a quick sense of the artist without sudden need of a Spotify search, here’s .Paak with band The Free Nationals on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.

And performing “The Bird”.

One of the greatest things about .Paak and Malibu in my opinion is the way the record’s sounds of rap and R&B glow fresh and contemporary, while still maintaining a washing machine blend of James Brown footwork, Otis Redding soul, swinging jazz/funk, and the building blocks of 70’s-era West Coast music. And to hone in on the Godfather of Soul for a moment, its .Paak’s similarly confident, swaggering braggadocio sealed with a Cheshire Cat grin that makes this record kick even harder. He’s got a hell of a gift and knows it, and that in and of itself is infectious.

.Paak does have other prior musical output, most notably LP Venice which has more of a predominantly hip-hop flavor and is still a work in progress for me. Its good, but feels like .Paak just before he starts hitting his stride knocking fastballs and melodies alike out of the park. So consider me hooked as we wait for the two .Paak albums supposedly due out sometime in 2018.

And until then, I plan to do plenty of binge-listening like Netflix to get ready. With any luck, perhaps I can also include pushing those fears and anxieties away too.

(Also, here’s one last video. Just for fun.)

The week ahead, in music…

As we sit upon the cusp of a week just starting to peek its wayward head above the horizon, my music-worshipping brain has decided to ship a few (newer) musical selections your way to help make the days more bearable. Those commuter treks don’t just soundtrack themselves after all.

But anyway.

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Brandi Carlile, By The Way, I Forgive You

First #realtalk moment of 2018: I was clearly napping at the wheel to not have seen how amazing Brandi Carlile has become as an all-around musician. Not that she was any slouch when her album The Story made waves in 2007, but while some might call that period of time a popularity “peak”, Carlile’s had other plans in mind. BTWIFY captures her hitting all the right notes, with tracks like “The Joke”, “Party of One”, “Hold Out Your Hand” and “Sugartooth” leading a list of music that could rank #1 for the year when all the votes are cast.

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Leon Bridges, Good Thing

There seems to have been some initial objection to Leon Bridges shifting to a more shine ‘n’ buffed production veneer on his latest LP Good Thing, but chalk it up to typical fan resistance to change: Bridges works this direction well. Not every track lands, but the album is still a well-crafted relationship of modern hooky textures (“Bad Bad News”, “Shy”) with plenty of endearing throwback (“Beyond”, “Shy”, “Georgia to Texas”). I don’t recommend getting through a few listens of this album unless you plan on having a good portion of it stuck in your head by the end.

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Brent Cobb, Providence Canyon

Brent Cobb may have only just dropped 2nd LP Providence Canyon last week, but upon first listen he doesn’t seem to have missed a beat (or chapter) between now and debut record Shine On Rainy Day. Cobb has the same given knack for blue collar, salt of the earth storytelling as classic country artists like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, without wasting time on any of the tropes dragging down the modern version of the genre. Another fine installment of folk-rock finery here.

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Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, “Ohio (Single)”

Now, for the final entry in this quick list of weekly musical choices, I’ve selected Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness and his new single “Ohio”. I was first exposed to McMahon when his track “Cecilia and the Satellite” was a consistent figure for radio airplay, and I could see “Ohio” ultimately being on a similar trajectory. It doesn’t hurt that musician Butch Walker’s onboard as producer, which always gets my Spidey senses tingling after Walker’s work with the likes of Brian Fallon. Either way, a bit of piano, a lot of nostalgic heart, and a few hooks for the road propels “Ohio” to the good listening list this week.

Now, get out there, enjoy your week, and make sure to bring the music!

Stellar followup is no “Fiction” on new Babcock EP

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When I was first introduced to Stephen Babcock through his prior record Said & Done, I could sense his developing potential. The kind of young musician beginning to reach out and establish himself as he found the basis of his sound and where it might possibly stake his career.

Said & Done felt like the initial foundation of that structure, built on charming acoustic-laden fixtures. Now, Babcock’s new release Fiction feels as though the walls of that metaphor are starting to build up and take on a greater shape. Not that it isn’t without its fair share of familiar moments.

The folky Dawes send-up of album opener “Atlanta” and folk-rock of “Seersucker Dress” could certainly slot in easily alongside tracks from Said & Done. I think the major difference for Babcock on this album though, is more experience. As with any talent, getting to constantly learn, hone and repeat your art is always the best medicine. And you hear those results both in the familiar, speedway-chugging, Paul Simon wit of “Atlanta”, as well as the real left turns that start coming in with tracks like “Darlin” and “Good Things”. The first gets off the ground on the wheels of a boisterously racing Hank Williams-style hoedown, while the other is a smoky, organ-accented blues take that rewards Babcock handsomely for reaching outside the box.

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In fact, “Good Things” final, guitar-searing crescendo may be the most head-turning moment of the whole record. Its the kind of hallmark standout that takes a good song and makes it great, while hinting at greater vision along with it.

Closer “5A” settles back into what Babcock does best without ringing of repetition or ground retread. If the first four tracks of Fiction weren’t enough to have you at least humming a chorus or harmony the first listen in, the earworming lines of “5A” will handle the rest.

Now ordinarily this would be the line where I’d riff a closing pun about how Babcock’s talent is no Fiction, but since I already did it in the title suffice it say: put this album in your summer playlist. You’re gonna have fun.

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Find Stephen online at stephenbabcockmusic.com, on Spotify, and where good social media is sold! 

“Atlanta” gives 2018 the right side of folk rock kick

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As we wind down March and meander into April, it seems like a biennial rite of spring to hear new music fresh off the grapevine in 2018 from New York City troubadour Stephen Babcock. His prior album Said & Done was a fresh favorite of mine and a hot topic on this site at about this time in 2016. Now, two years later Babcock’s preparing followup EP Fiction, due out April 6th.

And while my first thought is its been two years already? What’s really important here is the song. On one hand, “Atlanta” continues the best qualities of Babcock’s well-crafted songwriting. Though in this case, it feels as though it hones in more on the Ryan Adams Gold-era as opposed to John Mayer’s Room For Squares. You can sense the growth in Babcock’s craft since Said & Done, tinkering and getting his weapons sharper. The instruments feel thicker here, with variations and new inclusions that show promise for the entire album’s direction. While the rest of the track hooks with the charm of a foot-tapping Southern ladykiller.

If the reason for our slow start to Spring has been because we don’t have enough 2018 summer driving songs to warm things up, lets start with “Atlanta”. That Jason Isbell-y sounding guitar hum that kicks towards the end is worth the miles alone.

Check out “Atlanta” over on Spotify, and Stephen Babcock online at stephenbabockmusic.com! 

Tuning into the 2018 Grammys…

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…this past weekend was as usual an interesting if altogether deeply flawed experience. Flawed because, as many people more intelligent than I have already noted, the Grammys as an institution is out-of-touch from both a musical as well as cultural standpoint. The program as a whole would likely need to be gutted starting now if it were to get anywhere close to an actual representation of real artistry again.

So, on one hand its very upsetting to see the likes of Bruno Mars beat out the kind of statement album put out by Kendrick Lamar with DAMN. (twice!). Don’t get me wrong, I love Bruno. He’s likely the closest thing we’ll get to Michael Jackson’s skillset again in this lifetime. But his 24K Magic is once again indicative of the safe radio earworm award winners that are more preservatives than legitimate product. AKA, exactly what the Grammys really wants.

The same applies for Ed Sheeran’s win in a category that included both the vastly better Lady Gaga and Kesha. Seeing Kesha’s very public battle to separate from alleged abuser Dr. Luke culminating in the exultation of freedom on her single “Prayer” should have been enough to earn her that award ten times over.

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But until there’s a major shakeup in the system, these controversies will happen as regularly as the ceremony lets music lovers down. When you can ignore artists covering important systemic issues while those same issues are currently at a boiling point in the world… you miss the point every. Single. Time. So I would advise the young and hungry artists to worry less about a show that wants to devote itself to cheerleading, and continue blazing the trails they’re making in the world through their art.

And in the meantime may those dinosaurs die off along with their outdated ideals.

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To double back to Lamar though, the Compton rapper continues to leave me impressed. His vocals still take some getting used to for me, but his performances are aggressively challenging, his technical skills almost sound too fast at times they’re so effortlessly good, and the fascinating concept behind DAMN. is worth researching if you’re a lover of musical backstory. Its a record of many, many layers.

Plus, Lamar’s opening performance at the Grammys (featuring Dave Chappelle) really reminded me again of how vital this genre has become.

Hip hop is acting as one of the most important, socially conscious forms of music and art we have in our modern world today. Its a message I can’t stress highly enough when engaging in musical conversation with people. Its a genre that should be getting its due. On a list of mostly wrong things the Grammys did the other night, leading with Kendrick Lamar was one they got right.

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And I don’t claim to have extensive knowledge on the subject. The fact is I don’t, but the hip hop and rap artists I hear today inspire me to want to just sit down, listen, and learn. They are speaking to a power so fierce that requires nothing more than sharp words to tear down the likes of racists, bullies, corrupt lawmen, inequality, and societal injustice.

Its like poetry in motion with the grace of mental killing power. And in a world gone chaotic, these are so many of the voices that are more critical than ever to listen to. And we need to listen.

Sit down. Be humble. 

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