Calhoun “Takes Me Away” In A Storm of Ethereal Uplift

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Kohli Calhoun is on the cusp of hard-fought creative perseverance. With debut album Take Me Away on the horizon and a single of the same name already born into the world, one might imagine Calhoun as a fresh face ready to artistically blossom. But while those seeds are indeed set and in place, the last eight years have been something more equivalent to a Spartan without the spear for the Brooklyn-based musician.

Initially expected to release her first batch of music in 2008, frustrations with a producer left Calhoun album-less and bounced out of music. Left as a castaway burned by a downward twist of fate, she contemplated never coming back after such a setback. But, like a chapter unfinished and a verse left undone…. the art never truly stops. It merely waits for the writer to recapture their flame once the time is right again.

And so the bug returned for Calhoun (along with a helping hand from the Brooklyn musical community), and by 2014 she had begun writing for what would become the Take Me Away sessions. A journey, at last fulfilled.

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Perhaps it’s the power of Calhoun’s artistic sensibilities as a songwriter or just those past experiences still looming raw, but this initially released single makes the strong emotions of her personal Dark Age seem as fragile as though they were yesterday. The first notes ring with the innocence of an arpeggio-ed lullaby, quickly turning to an effervescent confessional comparative to a more ragged St Vincent or Regina Spektor at her most breathlessly world-weary.

Calhoun can literally bring the motions of this song up to an angelic procession before plunging down to little more than a single vocal right on the cusp of cracking. Right on the fringe of falling apart. Drowning in the gentle drone of a synthesizer. It’s just the right mix of technology and fragility that brings to the mind the indie masterpiece of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A modernistic art piece that still knows how to breathe on the weight of it’s impassioned human lungs.

And ultimately it’s that level of humanity that makes this track sparkle as much as it does. The notion that yes we may not know the reason why Calhoun sings so starkly of this emotional weight, but we can still understand her need to escape it. Her need to move by the demons biting just outside the periphery.

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Being able to relate to others is one of the most human qualities we have. And when it comes to Calhoun, I’m ready to be taken away to the land this song promises. Let it be a journey we can all gladly take together.

Listen here:

http://www.imposemagazine.com/bytes/new-music/kohli-calhoun-take-me-away

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! 

Admiring The Scenery….

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In all my years spent living in Western New York, I find myself traveling often (especially in my pursuit of the local music scene). Buffalo, Rochester, Geneva, Lewiston, even as far off as Cooperstown. But one place continuously manages to stick out above the rest, and that is Ithaca. It’s a place whose venues have not only managed to play host to some of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen, but also contains some of the best storefronts that have music…. nearly ready to come springing out the door at you when you walk in.

Take Angry Mom Records for instance, which despite the presence of Rochester’s famous House of Guitars and underrated Record Archive remains one of the top record shops in all the area. Located within the basement of a used bookstore on Ithaca’s Commons and run by a couple of old punk rock enthusiasts, there’s a distinct sense of character and what may be a (slightly below sane) sense of humor oozing out from between the stacks of CD’s and LP’s. It creates a familiarity and a connection within the place, and as a lover of vinyl and record stores of all shapes and sizes that’s what I most often find myself gravitating towards. That environment where you can take time out of mind, and just exist within the simple joy of flipping through 33’s, 45’s, and everything in between.

It’s often all about those simplest of joys when it comes to our ties with music, and for me that inevitably always boils down to the experience of concerts. Seeing music played out live and in person surpasses the magic that even masterpiece-level albums can reach, and when it comes to Ithaca there are venues that embody everything from marquee-lit splendor to hole-in-the-wall hideaways. There’s the historical State Theatre, whose vaudevillian-era mainstage has had everyone from fresh faces like The National to grizzled veterans such as BB King, right down to The Haunt which has been an avenue for under the radar talents like folk duo Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion and punk rock icon Bob Mould. There’s even the very hushed little Hangar Theatre, which has been a backdrop for more gigs courtesy of varying acts like Richard Thompson, Cowboy Junkies, and Leon Russell.

Thanks to a very vibrant little college town (and the persistence of some very skilled individuals making it happen), my hope for the local music scene is always alive and well whenever I’m visiting Ithaca. It may not have the name recognition of nearby Buffalo, and it will never be the size of a hub in NYC, but it’s a place with a superb backdrop of culture that isn’t frequently found in Western New York. But like a good song or that record you never knew existed, sometimes it just takes a little discovery.

 

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