A little closing statement for 2021…

I often find in my current stage of life still entering my 30’s that time really does mash down the accelerator once you get to a certain age. And it wasn’t like I was one of those kids who badgered and begged adulthood to appear either. It just…. happens with a snap one day and you’re left wondering exactly where all those minutes went on the way to your current destination.

Entering the final day of 2021 and starting 2022 has brought me into this basement of thought, which is a mixture of both slightly solemn and sobering. Age has a way of doing that to a person the more you notice it. But instead of getting too far down in the dumps, in this moment I prefer to think of rapper Mac Miller and a lyric from his 2010 track “Senior Skip Day”.

“Enjoy the best things in your life, cause you ain’t gonna get to live it twice”

To me that line’s a reminder and mantra no matter how serious things get, its important not to get so caught up in sadness/worrying that you miss out on all the good and enjoyable aspects of this experience. Sometimes that’s way easier said than done, but I can confidently say the best of this year in music at least certainly provided plenty of celebratory moments.

Take for instance…

Brandi Carlile, In These Silent Days

Courtesy Google Images

When it comes to Brandi, my jaw has stayed on the floor for her tunes since 2018 LP By The Way, I Forgive You. Despite knowing her music off and on since 2007’s The Story, By The Way felt like a coming out party for a musical vet taking her craft to the next level. The icon stage. Silent Days has only continued this rocketing trajectory upward behind the weight of tracks like “Right On Time”, “Stay Gentle”, and the golden threaded harmonies of “This Time Tomorrow”. Carlile’s bandmates twin brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth also deserve plenty of praise here as they’ve formed a power trio with Carlile that is a titan both in studio and on stage.

Ultimately though this is Brandi’s world and we’re just living in it, lucky for our listening ears!

Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars, An Evening With Silk Sonic

Courtesy Google Images

Arguably the album with 2021’s biggest hype, the end result is a tight 8-track affair harkening back to the best of old school soul, funk and R&B. Mars and .Paak navigate the terrain as deftly as their on-stage choreography, aided in part by P-Funk legend Bootsy Collins and bass wizard Thundercat (who shines on “After Last Night”).

I know there were some who felt Evening didn’t line up with their expectations, but I felt this was a great tablesetter for the collab project. I hope this isn’t the last we see from Silk Sonic as it feels like there are still plenty more chapters yet to be written in Bruno and Andy’s book together.

Marlon Craft, Homecourt Advantage

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The rapper from New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen was on a creative tear this past year, dropping EP Space (with producer Yusei), LP How We Intended, and this Homecourt mixtape. The release trio are exceptional, but Homecourt takes the top spot for me behind flows like “Lost Faith”, “All We Got”, and “PACE”, as well as a boundless roving energy.

Not to mention Craft only continues to sharpen his lyrical spearheads with each new work he puts out there. He’s one of a select bunch in the genre using that power of prose to move the needle of social consciousness in the right direction. We need more of that in the world as we move into a collective headspace that’s often more spun on lies than uncomfortable truths.

Rag’n’Bone Man, Life By Misadventure

Courtesy Google Images

Rory Charles Graham, AKA Rag’n’Bone Man, had one of the most affecting sound styles I heard all year with this LP. With a baritone reminiscent of a room-riveting Michael McDonald, Graham dominates from first note to last. He excels equally solo (“Breath in Me”, “Old Habits”) as he does in a duet (“Anywhere Away From Here”), which highlights an equally heartstopping vocal from pop singing maven Pink.

I also really came to adore Misadventure because it’s lyrical themes are so true and honest to our basic humanity. Love, loss, sadness, loneliness, fear of inadequacy in the world… these are just a few of our most essential and relatable emotional signposts. We’ve all been in that, and Rag’n’Bone Man feels like he’s right there with us in those trenches.

It means a lot.

And finally…

Leon Bridges, Gold-Diggers Sound

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Since his retro-minded debut Coming Home dropped in 2015, Leon Bridges has melded his old school Sam Cooke vibes with a more pop, contemporary visage. The result is a 20th century R&B feel that is equal parts heart and earworming hooks with tracks like “Why Don’t You Touch Me”, “Motorbike” and the aching “Sweeter”. Sure there’s a bit more production present, but it doesn’t take away from messages like “Sweeter” and it’s ode to the George Floyd tragedy.

Add in stellar collaborators like Robert Glasper, vocalist Ink and musician Terrace Martin and Gold Diggers finds just that, the jackpot at the end of the journey. Much like the Rag’n’Bone Man release, part of the payoff is also in that lyrical relatability. It spoke to me a lot here, and I hope it does for you as well.

May the year of 2022 provide just as great a list of new favorites this time as it did in 2021!

Carlile makes “In These Silent Days” filled for afternoons of golden joy

Oh, Brandi Carlile. We’re here to discuss her new country/folk rock album “In These Silent Days”, and opening track “Right on Time” just started… it makes me incapable of words outside of Brandi, WOW Brandi this level of power is so special. Carlile has musically graduated by the length of planets compared to the young singer-songwriter trying to break out of her birthplace in Ravendale, Washington. 

Not that it took her long to rise, especially with musical compatriots (and guitarist twins) Tim and Phil Hanseroth acting as the heart of Carlile’s backing band. Accolades from the recording booth to the stage soon followed. The bond between the three emerges quickly on other ITSD standouts like “Broken Horses”, Stay Gentle”, “Mama Werewolf” and “This Time Tomorrow”, as powerful harmonies amongst the trio function with the precision of a surgeon’s blade. Even Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in their prime would have trouble making voices sound that clean, crisp and pure; brim-filled with fret-worn emotional storms. 

Carlile still has the same Seattle rocker instinct that made the shriek of her voice so filled with intrigue in her 2005 breakout “The Story”, but in the 15 years since she’s taken that power and refined it with both time and experience. As she recently proved during a live gig at The Gorge she’s still as capable of keeping pace with members of Soundgarden singing their hits, but can also slow to a crawl in the next moment for a Joni Mitchell croon on “In These Silent Days” track “When You’re Wrong”. 

Since hearing Joni’s “Blue” album with her songbird-like melodies, I’ve felt as though I was witness to something I’d never hear again the same way. But if anyone gets close it’s Brandi Carlile. Just put on the closer of ITSD “Throwing Good After Bad” and that tone comes through loud and clear like gems we thought gone long ago. 

I think Carlile hit a definable height with her prior album “By The Way I Forgive You”, and has managed to continue that type of pace here with “Silent Days”. Rightly the praise continues to logjam for her as a result, and in my mind it couldn’t happen to a better person. Especially a musician working this hard not to just get better, but to redefine the art form as we know it. 

Check out Brandi and the Hanseroth twins below slaying the SNL stage last night for some added audio magic!

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!

Talay Shows Folk-Pop “Underside” On Brilliant “Piece By Piece” Debut

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It’s now the first week or two of autumn as I write this, and the changing of the seasons always manages to put me into a contemplative frame of mind. The leaves haven’t quite started to fall completely yet, but the nights are colder, the sunlight doesn’t last as long, and the world here gradually starts to burrow itself away piece by piece in preparation for what’s to come.

As I find myself starting to burrow with it, I think it’s appropriate that Megan Talay’s EP Piece By Piece should land in my lap as the soundtrack to accompany the changes. Talay is another New York City-area songwriter, but unlike the country/folk blending of my prior NYC subjects Ivy, Beck and Neill, she takes that folk and puts it through a blender of sweetly blissful pop, delicately intricate acoustic guitar, and a hook-laden feast of songwriting craftsmanship.

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Piece By Piece is an often laid back slice of an EP, yet still doesn’t waste a moment snagging attention starting with lead single “Underside” and it’s driving foot-tap of a rhythm. Talay is a versatile mix of Ani DeFranco and Brandi Carlile on the track, nimbly thumbing through a list of concealed emotional turmoils before raising a fist and letting a wave of catharsis wash over as a tide of frustration made fury. It’s an immediately relatable moment to anyone who’s ever been an expert at the art of bottling up the world, and Talay’s voice rings true in your ear as someone saying it’s okay…. I’ve been there too.

It’s in that role of relatable narrator and lyricist that Talay finds her greatest footing on this record, whether it’s in the role of a person overcoming the uncertainties of love and life on “Light The Way” and the cinematically-tinged title track, or holding up lighthearted like flowers toward the sunshine on optimistic closing song “Just Fine”. Piece by Piece is an EP that’s like looking through the contents of someone’s cracked and peeling moving boxes shoved behind the boiler in a basement. A few of those memories may be buried back there for a reason, but the years have finally said it’s time for them to breathe and be set free.

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Those years seem to fly by in the span of these mere minutes, and close with a brightly harmonious beauty for having shared them. Piece by Piece makes yet another case for records that speak as complete stories instead of just in fragmented singles that can be bought for $0.99 on iTunes. You may appreciate the radio-friendly lift of the chorus on “Light The Way” or the infectious six string melody of “Forever In My Hand”, but when albums or EP’s speak like this, I feel as though they speak closest to their heart… when they speak together.

Don’t just listen to one part of what Megan Talay has to offer. Go “piece by piece, inch by inch”. Let her mixture of folk/pop and lovely lyricisms get under your skin.

I promise that it’s worth the journey.

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As you can see, Megan’s EP is coming out this week! You can go pick it up on her Bandcamp, and go check out her Facebook page Talay for much information about shows as well as this release! 

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