Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Five Best Music Venues Around NYC

March 17, 2012

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Whether checking out a friend’s band or going to see our favorite artists, the venue can be hit or miss. Many rock rooms of all sizes can be the kind of places you’d never want to be unless you had a reason to go there. Let’s take a look at our five favorite live music venues around New York City that bring sound quality, decor, presentation, talent and the overall live experience to the next level.

Union Hall | 702 Union St., Brooklyn | Take the R to Union Street
The folks at Union Hall care deeply about what they do. This translates to every aspect of their esteemed live room. The sound is top notch. The staff is hospitable and on point. The booking team brings the best in local, national, and international up-and-comers in music and comedy through the space on a nightly basis. With a standing room capacity of 100, you’re always close to the action. The Ting Tings, Fleet Foxes, David Cross, Fred Armisen, and Janeane Garofalo have all graced the Union Hall stage. You can get the party started upstairs with a bite to eat, a round of bocce ball, or a drink at the bar. Their larger sister venue, The Bell House, is another gem for live music and even bigger acts.

Brooklyn Bowl | 61 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn | Take the L train to Bedford Avenue
Opened two years ago near the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl has raised the bar across the board. The venue books a diverse line-up that ranges from big name national acts to thriving local talent. Such luminaries as Adele, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Snoop Dogg, Big Audio Dynamite, Dinosaur Jr, Hot Chip, Gogol Bordello, John Legend, and Sharon Jones have all graced their stage. Questlove mans the wheels of steel for a weekly Thursday night residency called Bowl Train. Brooklyn Bowl pours an impeccable selection of local brews, serves up delicious Blue Ribbon fare, and offers classy yet unpretentious rounds of bowling. Unlike so many music venues, the décor is impressive and the sound is impeccable on a stage high enough to guarantee quality sight lines. Most evenings require a cover charge or advance ticket purchase for entrance, which is used to fund the bands rather than acting like an exclusivity tactic that ultimately pads the owner’s pocket.

Waltz Astoria | 23-14 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria | Take N or W to Ditmars Blvd.
This coffee shop and wine bar strikes the balance between fostering new artistic talent and curating slightly more established performers. With weekly Open Mic Nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you never know what might come your way between comedy, music, spoken word, magic, and many other mediums. As exhilarating as it can be to see a polished big name act, there can be a unique kind of thrill witnessing artists in their infancy. There’s a rawness and honesty that can often disappear with experience. It’s a charming and special time in performance that can be spied regularly at Waltz. Thursdays through Sunday host touring performers, songwriter competitions, and rotating themed music series. They even offer morning Kids Sing-A-Longs on Mondays and Thursdays to get musical with the whole family.

Maxwell’s | 1039 Washington St., Hoboken | Take the PATH train to Hoboken Terminal
A short jaunt from the Manhattan PATH stops, Maxwell’s has been serving up quality grub and the finest in indie rock since 1978. When quality bands breeze through the likes of Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and Terminal 5, many often hit Maxwell’s the night before. What that means is a chance to see these groups at a smaller venue. Maxwell’s has a 250-person capacity room that ensures this intimacy. A never-ending who’s who list of rock has ripped the Maxwell’s stage a new one including The Replacements, Nirvana, Joan Jett, The Pogues, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Buzzcocks, Fugazi, John Cale, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Strokes, and on and on we go. Their reputation in the music community attracts the continually excellent roster. The cozy restaurant offers a high quality diner-style menu that oozes personality.

Midnight Ramble | Levon Helm Studios, 160 Plochmann Lane | Woodstock | Rent a Hybrid
Levon Helm is widely considered a national treasure. As drummer for The Band, he also carried lead vocal duties for classics like “The Weight” and “Up On Cripple Creek.” A true original in music and classic rock, Levon has been hosting his Midnight Ramble, on periodic Saturday nights since January 2004 in his barn. Named for the traveling minstrel shows of his youth, the Ramble has featured special guests like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, The Black Crows, Norah Jones, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello, and Willie Nelson, sometimes unannounced. The intimacy of these performances at Levon’s hearth offer a hospitality and warmth found in no other venue. Tickets run you between 100 and 150 clams. It’s pricey, but not considering that you get to see a living legend in an intimate setting who has a wealth of famous friends who like to drop in and jam. Levon also fosters the up and coming talent of the area, having Brooklyn’s local heroes, Spirit Family Reunion, join in on the fun on a recent wintry Saturday night. New Midnight Ramble dates are added throughout the year, usually a month in advance. Keep checking the site or subscribe to their Newsletter for future shows. This kind of retreat to rootsy Americana surrounded by the secluded wilderness of the Catskills Mountain Region is the perfect antidote to urban intensity.

About the author: In addition to writing for offMetro.com, Chris Brunelle plays in New York band, The Whisperians, who will celebrate the release of their latest single “Life Is Coming True” with a show at Union Hall on Leap Year, February 29, 2012.

Photo of Brooklyn Bowl by Adam Macchia

Originally published here.

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Things to Do on Maui, Where It’s Easy to Be Green

March 10, 2012

Mai Tai by the shore (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Whether we’re working in San Francisco or New York, at offMetro.com, we often find ourselves dreaming of sun, sand, and bath-temperature seas. We recently flew (yes flew, but we offset our carbon footprint; $23 to ameliorate the 4,000 lbs of CO2 emitted) to the Hawaiian island of Maui, where we discovered a dynamic range of comforts, eco-friendly eats, activities, and accommodations that can be enjoyed amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Rim.

What to do
1. Drink: Get a taste of one of the island’s best Mai Tais—and have a chat with one of its most famous bartenders—at the beloved Tiki Bar and Grill.

2. Take in Hawaiian Culture: Ka’anapali Beach Hotel takes Hawaiian cultural preservation seriously and warmly welcome all into the festive spirit of Aloha. Beyond the myriad classes and activities offered to hotel guests is a free nightly Hawaiian live music and Hula show open to all.

3. Swing a Club: The courses of Wailea capture Maui’s lush green space and stunning views in a world-class golfing experience. Each of Wailea’s three courses offers a unique outing. It has earned recognition from Maui Historical Society for its preservation of prehistoric lava rock walls during construction, and is considered a thinking players course where skill and strategy are consistently tested. As you work you way through any of the courses, keep an eye out for the wild onlookers; birds, geckos, mongoose, and other creatures are sure to be on the sidelines, as are the stunning views of Mount Haleakala and neighboring islands of Molokini, Lanai, and Kahoolawe.

4. Snorkel: On the north-western shore of the island, Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach and Napili Shores are great places to spot sea turtles, butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, trigger fish, and the former Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapua. Excursions to the tiny crescent-shaped island of Molokini and the aptly-named Turtle Town are among the most popular snorkel and dive destinations in the world. If you didn’t come with gear, 5 Star Scuba does rentals for $10 per hour.

Where to eat
1. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Some Sushi restaurants specialize in tradional and some in modern fusion, while Sansei excels at both. What sets Sansei even further apart from any other sushi experience is the innovation they’ve brought to Maui-inspired seafood cuisine. On an award-winning menu full of rock stars, one stand out is the Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi with shaved Maui Onion, Red Jalapeño, and Yukke sauce. The Mango Crab Salad Hand Roll won top marks at the Taste Of Lahaina Festival, showing how well Sansei can capture the excellence of local flavor. Chef Kaipo Nakata cultivates relationships with local vendors to procure the best available products. This translates to premium fresh ingredients across the board. The level of culinary quality and innovation is upscale while staying competitively affordable. All this inviting excellence is wrapped in a décor that is relaxed, simple, and comfortable to fully enhance the vacation vibe. As the weekend dinner hour fades and nightlife descends, Sansei transitions to a festive atmosphere, holding host to a variety of nightly events like Karaoke Thursdays.

2. Mama’s Fish House
Widely considered as possibly the best restaurant in Maui by locals, travelers, and press from around the globe, Mama’s has been serving up fresh and inspired seafood dishes since 1973. They build their menu daily based on what delights they’ve pulled out of the ocean. The fishermen responsible for each particular catch are credited throughout the delectable menu. One dish that gets a lot of deserved attention is the Mahimahi stuffed with lobster, crab, and Maui onion, baked in a macadamia nut crust. Equally impressive is the location, just steps from a secluded beach on Maui’s North Shore. The décor embraces old Polynesia with class and comfort. They’ve used their success to re-invest in environmentally friendly business practices. In talking with Head Chef Perry Bateman, it’s clear Mama’s treats the employees, community, culture, ingredients, cuisine, and environment with love, care, and respect. The ongoing green efforts are spear-headed by Chief Engineer Scott Burns. To date, a giant food processor allows consolidation of eight barrels of food waste, tin, cardboard and other such materials into two barrels of usable food waste pulp. With this, Scott grows beautiful vegetables and herbs in his garden in Haiku, which are used daily to bring local flavors and freshness to the cuisine. (Scott also used this pulp to raise a pig that was ultimately served in the restaurant.)

Where to sleep
The various corners of Maui display a range of flavors for travelers. Hana is a bit hippy, Wailea’s upscale, the Front Street area of Lahaina is packed with nightlife, shops, and bustle. We were drawn to the northwest coast of Maui extending from the world famous K’anapali Beach to the Shores of Napili. Nestled aside neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai, this ocean corridor ushers in a constant flow of breeze that mellows the sun more than any other part of Maui. As the whale watching season eases in with the beginning of Winter and escalates through the peak months of February and March, you can spy these magnificent creatures from shore. This classic Hawaiian destination truly strikes a perfect mix of the Maui experience.

1. Ka’anapali Beach Hotel
Recognized as Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel, Ka’anapali Beach Hotel is on a mission to preserve Hawaiian culture and spread the customs and traditions with their guests. Through their Po’okela program, they have become a major leader in cultural tourism today. Offering daily classes and activities, ranging from Ukelele Lessons to Hula Dancing to Language and Leigh Making, Ka’anapali will immerse you in the Hawaiian experience. As for sourcing local, they grow the Taro on their grounds to make the Poi in their Tiki Terrace restaurant. They also grow the Kukui nuts used in the traditional leis they adorn on all their guests. The commitment to their culture, employees, and guests spreads the warming glow of Aloha Spirit throughout everyone who passes through their doors. The Hawaiian experience they create culturally is matched by the comfort of their rooms and the impeccable service and hospitality extended by the staff. The excellence is no fluke as it comes from the central guiding goals and initiatives that have made KBH a traveler’s favorite since the 1950’s. Check the site for frequent special deals.

2. Outrigger Napili Shores
Outrigger has lodging locations throughout Maui. At this location, the mere steps to Napili Shores showcase beautiful views and top notch snorkeling. Outrigger saves all the leftover soaps from guests and donates them to the Clean The World recycling program that redistributes these anti-bacterials to impoverished countries where it can prevent disease and save lives. Their suites come fully equipped to prepare your own island feast. The property saves thousands of gallons of water by using Xeriscaping landscaping, as well as low-flow toilets and shower heads. Photovoltaic solar panels power the entire common area. Energy-efficient pool and spa pumps are used for its solar-heated pools. They have a recycling program and even composts its lawn debris. Outrigger is constantly running specials and have locations scattered around Maui if you’d like to experience a few different areas.

3. Honua Kai Resort
Go green with upscale modern elegance at Honua Kai. Pass through the courtyard of winding pools, water slide, lounging cabanas, and hot tubs to step onto the beach. The stay at Honua Kai is so elegant and comfortable in every detail, that the experience is truly therapeutic. Their suites are fully equipped to create your own meal in a state of the art kitchen. Or you can head downstairs to ‘Aina Gourmet Market or Duke’s Beach House for a delicious convenient bite. Just off the beach you will notice the Sustainable Dunes project that centers on preserving a vibrant system of indigenous plant and wildlife. Other efforts include energy saving appliances, heat generated from ventilation systems to warm pools, solar-powered trash compacting, and a sprinkler system that measures rainfall in order to only the water the grounds when needed. Of course, the water used in landscaping is recycled. All their green efforts not only soothe the soul of the green-minded traveler, but also enhance the lodging experience by preserving the natural wonder that makes us want to visit a place like Maui in the first place. Honua Kai proves that sustainable initiatives can only serve to heighten a luxurious getaway experience. Ultimately, more green equals more Maui.

Originally published here.

Getaway to Maui
Ka'anapali Beach<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Ka’anapali Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Napili Shores Beach<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)

Napili Shores Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)
Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
At the entrance to Mama's Fish House<br /><br />
 (Photo provided by Mama's)

At the entrance to Mama’s Fish House
(Photo provided by Mama’s)
Bench overlooking Molokai<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Bench overlooking Molokai
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Black Pearl dessert at Mama's<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Black Pearl dessert at Mama’s
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Coast on Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Coast on Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Dukes Beach House<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Dukes Beach House
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Egret by the shore<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Egret by the shore
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Gecko<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Gecko
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Honua Kai Pool<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Honua Kai Pool
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Honua Kai Resort Sunset<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)

Honua Kai Resort Sunset
(Photo Courtesy of Honua Kai Resort)
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel Courtyard<br /><br />
(Photo provided by KBH)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel Courtyard
(Photo provided by KBH)
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel Hula Show<br /><br />
(Photo provided by KBH)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel Hula Show
(Photo provided by KBH)
Mama's Dining Room<br /><br />
(Photo provided by Mama's Fish House)

Mama’s Dining Room
(Photo provided by Mama’s Fish House)
Mama's Mahi Mahi<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Mama’s Mahi Mahi
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Outrigger Napili Shores Dining<br /><br />
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)

Outrigger Napili Shores Dining
(Photo Courtesy of Outrigger Napili Shores)
Sansei Sushi Bar<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei Sushi Bar
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sansei's Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei’s Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Sunrise on Mount Haleakala<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Sunrise on Mount Haleakala
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
The beach in front of Mama's Fish House<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

The beach in front of Mama’s Fish House
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
The rock from the beginning of Jurassic Park<br /><br />
 (Photo by Chris Brunelle)

The rock from the beginning of Jurassic Park
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
View from downtown Lahaina<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

View from downtown Lahaina
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
View from Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

View from Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)
Wailea Emerald Course<br /><br />
(Photo courtesy of Wailea Golf Club)

Wailea Emerald Course
(Photo courtesy of Wailea Golf Club)
Wailea Old Blue Course<br /><br />
(Photo provided by Old Blue)

Wailea Old Blue Course
(Photo provided by Old Blue)
Waterfalls on Road To Hana<br /><br />
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Waterfalls on Road To Hana
(Photo by Chris Brunelle)

Dishwasher Pete

June 17, 2010

After listening to a bunch of 7 inch records this week, I came across the Dishwasher 7 inch. Dishwasher Pete or Pete Jordan is a man who for many years lived on a quest to wash dishes in all 50 states. This Letterman interview with him is one of my favorite segments on a talk show in a long time.

Leeni

May 30, 2010

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8-Bit Heart

Leeni’s music takes you into another dimension, perhaps one with only two dimensions, depending where your video nostalgia begins and the real world ends. Leeni’s 8-bit world is so believable that you’d swear you were listening to Princess Peach crooning into a 4-track and awaiting the valiant Mario and Luigi. Of course, she’s not just a princess helplessly pining away, she’s writing in her diary and playing records in her room that’s decorated with New Order and Shangri-La’s posters.

The 8-bit sounds are grade school kitsch and are an unusual counterpoint to Leeni’s soulful, gentle, airy, and even mystical voice. Her words, though, are straightforward, thoughtful, heartfelt, and clever. “Raw Footage” is a bouncy, romantic tale that switches between first and third person. It’s as transitioning between dreams and reality are a conduit to a higher state, as if bliss can be achieved with a combination of both dimensions.

One of the many charming lyrics pleas, “Why can’t life be edited down and set to music?” “Perfection Interrupted” also uses film metaphors but this time to sing of someone’s shortcomings. It furthers the effect that Leeni truly lives in an 8-bit world, seeing her process human qualities in metaphors that never step outside of a television.

Leeni could do one show at Comic Con and start a cult with the fervor of Trekies, but she’d probably prefer the local coffee shop or record convention. Who thinks about fans and success when you’re trapped inside a two dimensional castle?

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

Club 8

May 30, 2010

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Labrador Records

How wonderful it is for a band that is already really good to get even better.

Club 8 is a Swedish duo consisting of Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård, who’ve been releasing albums since 1995. Their music typically blends the whimsy of Swedish pop, the intimacy of twee, the sweetness of bubblegum, the personal lyricism that could give Stuart Murdoch and Morrissey a run for their money, and the strong hooks to match.

Despite the quality and consistency, they’ve seemed to allude grabbing any significant attention from the States. Maybe that’s because they refused touring and interviews. Their seventh full-length release, The People’s Record, takes their sound and songwriting a step further with an emphasis on percussion. This album is by far their most danceable, utilizing syncopation and driving beats that suggest influences from Latin and African music.

It is no coincidence that this is their first record Johan didn’t produce. Enlisting the help of Jari Haapalainen in the control room, they sought inspiration with a trip to Brazil and built up a record collection of 1970s Western African classics. To flesh out their new direction, the teamed up with percussionist, Jouni Haapala, a fellow Nordic musician whose spent time learning the heart of the beats on a spell in Cuba.

To balance all these cheerful aesthetics, Club 8’s lyrical tendencies still veer down the paths of dour and forlorn. With titles like, “Dancing with the Mentally Ill,” “My Pessimistic Heart,” “Be Mad, Get Ill, Be Still,” and “We’re All Going to Die,” Club 8 may be taking their tunes to the discothèques, but they haven’t checked their problems at the door. They are in fact celebrating these dark feelings, which very well may be the mark of maturity that has guided their artistic progression so effectively.


Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

Takka Takka

May 18, 2010

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Ernest Jennings Recordings

Although they inhabit the indie-rock world, Takka Takka have developed even stronger cues from both electronica and world-music since their first, indie and blues-based album, We Feel Safer At Night. With titles like “Monkey Forest Road,” “Lion In The Waves,” and “You and Universe,” these guys seem to have a (somewhat ironic?) fascination and respect for the power of the natural world that is further reflected in their sound. Likewise, the tracks build organically, whether they’re employing a guitar or a synthesized drum. The songs are heartfelt but not boastful, emotional yet muted.

Generally, there’s a grab for “atmospheric”, though the band’s dueling guitars battle out a contrast between pretty and dissonant under the ongoing swell, while the moments of melodic disruption are given enough breathing room in tempo and dynamic range to fully revel in their tonal tension. Takka Takka break the solid rhythm section groove occasionally like on “Lion In The Waves”, which consists of bare acoustic strumming and a haunting vocal that moves from his usual, straightforward delivery into a, dizzying, double-tracked delay that eventually recedes back into the sparse and simple. The effect is powerful yet understated.

Another mellow beauty is “Change No Change”, a track with gentle restraint that threatens to flare into a full on beat-driven peak but never does, as anticipation adds to suspense and the song simmers. It’s not their restraint that’s surprising, so much as the elements they use to keep their album on cruise control. Ultimately, this is a very different band. With Migration, Takka Takka have moved from the obvious trailmarkers of the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan mixed with their early 90 fetishism of indie rock towards hypnotic songs that draw as much from “tropical” and “jungle” nuances as they do from a krautier, chunkier sort of rhythm. We’ll never know if these changes are natural, or trend-biting. Either way, the new Takka Takka is far removed from its past, less an indie buzz band under the wings of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, then something subtler, more mellow; it’s an atmosphere that might be one part Vampire Weekend, or two parts Yeasayer, but while those are still barnstormer bands of sorts, Takka Takka matches the effect of a satisfying day alone indoors with the faint sound of rain falling beyond the windows.

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

Mirah “The Old Days Feeling”

May 18, 2010

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K Records

The Old Days Feeling retains that tender personal bedroom quality of her previous work that seems to mark all K artists in some way, and Mirah in particular. Mirah also retains her songwriting strength while widening her sonic palette.

“Slighted” dresses up a melancholy message with vintage reggae instrumentation. Like the old rhythm and blues sound of early Desmond Dekker and Toots, Mirah flexes the Jah muscle with ease and authenticity. “Don’t” brings the Phil Spector girl-group feel to the Dub Narcotic studio style and is the most obvious “hit” sounding track on the record. It’s the kind of song that’ll have you hopping on your vintage bike to trek down to the diner for a milkshake. “Don’t Go” kicks in heavier than we’re used to hearing Mirah, employing a power drenched chord ascension. It then transitions to the more familiar tender tone of a romantic plea that makes the case that her love is in danger of faltering when they’re not together.

It’s the only entrance of a truly heavy track. “Lone Star” uses Texan metaphors to describe the size and impact of the story’s muse in a mythic and tragic way. The clamoring refrain is infectious and seems to be in the tradition of songs like “Gigantic”.

Mirah’s songs put sexuality, love, confusion, and emotional gentility constantly side-by-side. She translates the complexity of any situation with ease and reminds you how much deeper a person’s feelings run than most art. She also explores sexuality not only from the point of experience but also culturally and socially, bravely putting herself in different shoes to see what it’s like. Like many great K artists, Mirah can weave a near-nursery rhyme with subversive sonic power and modern adult issues while retaining the sting of simplicity. She has the ability to make you truly feel like no other record you have could ever be as honest as this one.

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be view here.

Sally Seltmann

April 28, 2010
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Sally Seltman , Heart That’s Pounding [Arts & Crafts]

“I wear my heart on my sleeve, I used to loose it on the breeze,” muses singer-songwriter Sally Seltmann on “I Tossed A Coin”.  Seltmann’s lyrics play like entries in her diary, gently evoking the spirit of a coffee house or poetry reading above warm and whimsical instrumentation that serves mainly as background.

Seltmann has a long pre-history leading up to this release. She co-wrote the hit “1234” performed by Feist and later the Muppets.  That’s when she went by the moniker New Buffalo, which leaned towards atmosphere-laden shoe-gaze. Not what you hear on Heart That’s Pounding, which has replaced her past with a direct, traditional kind of light pop-rock that you might hear in a feel-good romantic comedy.

Hailing from Australia, she enlists the producing talents of Francois Tetaz who has worked with the likes of Architecture In Helsinki and Lior. “Harmony To My Heartbeat” is the lead off single, with a humble verse that builds to a piano driven chorus anthem.  On “Set Me Free,” Seltman dreams of love over a show tune inspired piano march that plays like a gay parade of yesteryear.

Heart That’s Pounding is full of summery tones, emotional honesty, and optimism. In the title track, Sally sings “I want to feel a heart that’s pounding, I want to hear a beat that’s sounding, bigger than a leap that’s bounding, I was lost but now you found me.” She wants a world full of life, feeling, and ultimately love. Some may find Seltmann cheesy and sentimental. It certainly far too cleanly produced to have anything to do with current trends towards what’s considered “summery”.  Save her for a sunny spring day, anyway.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

James Of The Woods

March 17, 2010

James Of The Woods is the band Brother Jim Wood is using to get his songwriting gems out there these days.  I caught the full-band debut of this project recently and was uber-impressed.  Jim’s just a damn good songwriter.  We joke about how Jim writes about 1 song every 10 years, but each one is so great.  Find him on www.myspace.com/jamesofthewoods and try to make him play more shows!

Figurines “When The Deer Wore Blue”

February 1, 2010

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Wow.  “Childhood Verse” starts us off with an instrumental intro that surges with Danny Elfman-like haunted symphonic-pop grandure, takes a left turn to a simple Daniel Johnston-esque verse, then transitions back to haunting and dramatic.   Figurines makes these sharp turns feel natural and the effective is compelling.  It does exactly what a first track should do in that you can’t wait to hear what the rest of the album is like.   And When The Deer Wore Blue lives up to its great first impression.   You can hear different influences popping up throughout the record, yet the sound is still fresh, unique, and totally their own.  Figurines lead singer, Christian Hjelm, sings with a yearning and desparation that balances its fundamentally quirky by nature.  Figurines on a whole weave together some of the most refreshing arrangements indie rock has seen in a while.  In pop music, the term “classically trained” has become synonomous with singer-songwriters who can play piano pretty fast. The instincts and creativity employed in giving these songs unique and varied musical colors that swell and dip with varying feeling reflects a deeper and more sophisticated relationship to classical arranging and musicality that is often missing in most bands. Many indie-rock artists stick strictly to using the distortion-guitar color palate,  while Figurines have crackeds a new code that better utilizes the potential range of every rock instrument and how they collectively interact. Despite the myriad talents Figurines has to offer, the songs don’t hover aloofly above the listener but are rather very accessible through the various song genres they visit.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.