If I wasn't already a big fan of French/Portlander musician Tender Forever (I was), I would be after seeing her "Congratulations" tour last week. Currently traveling down the West Coast, "Congratulations" is an all-ages tour that combines Tender Forever's amazing stage presence and music with a bunch of weirder-than-life YouTube videos. It's like going to an awkward house party with no booze and finding out that your friend's sister's friend is playing and she's the best electro pop performer ever. It rules.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think most of the best voices in the world come out of folk singers. Maybe that's just because you can actually HEAR the singing, instead of the beats or the effects (which both have their places in my heart, don't get me wrong). Over the last year I've immersed myself in the Pacific Northwest's stellar Celtic folk music scene, and Colleen Raney has been the clear standout on my playlists and concert-going schedule. I'ma let you finish, but her voice is the best one I've heard in years.
Zola Jesus can be hard to pin down. One minute, she smothers listeners with cold blankets of synthesizers, hitting them with some of the most uncomfortable atmospheres since Second Edition by PIL. Then her opera-trained voice (that voice!) bursts through the sludge and you realize "oh my god, it’s a pop song!" Live and on her latest record, Conatus, she drops a few more clues to the Zola Jesus mystery.
As their biggest hits in the US were love songs, one may forget that much of Savage Garden's music is decidedly dark, especially on their eponymous debut. Major themes on Savage Gardeninclude depression ("To the Moon and Back," "Santa Monica") and troubled or abusive relationships ("Tears of Pearls," "Break Me Shake Me," "A Thousand Words"). As might be expected from a group named after an Anne Rice quote—"The mind of each man is a savage garden"—the gothic subculture was a major influence musically and aesthetically; the liner notes featured artwork from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. The stunning song "Mine" was axed from the USA release for its reference to "crosses and crucifixes" and replaced by a cute track about how people shouldn't break promises. Still, there's no real losing with Savage Garden, because regardless of how bright or dreary each song is, they share an essential quality: terrific, poetic songwriting.
Sybris is a lady-led melodic rock band from Chicago, the kind of band that pairs well with true grit and imaginings of standing tiptoe on top of the highest summit wearing nothing but goosebumps. But it's been a few years since their last album, and quite frankly, it's due time for the next. Sybris, the rock world needs you.
The debut album from WILD FLAG (say it with me in a Bill and Ted "Wyld Stallyns!" shout-y voice) drops this month! Finally! Until we get Wild Flag in our hot little hands on September 13, let's stream it at NPR First Listen and take a look at the oh-so-fun video for the first track, "Romance."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' new album, I'm With You, officially dropped today (or yesterday, depending on where you are) but has been streaming as an iTunes preview for the past week. This sort of move shows confidence: After all, if you can legally listen to the whole album without buying it, the powers that be must expect a good portion of listeners to love it enough to buy.
So, is it that good? Eh, not so much, if you ask me.
I first heard Sacha Sacket's exquisite voice in 2004, when he performed on my university campus to promote his then-new album, Shadowed. Mid-walk, I sat down, stunned, until the end of the simple, voice-and-keyboard show... then hastened to introduce myself, gush, and fork over a few dollars for my own Shadowed CD. I fell asleep night after night plugged into "Kite High!"; dorm clamor could not touch me. While I have never considered myself a musically sophisticated person, I knew it was one of the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard.