Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Slow Knights - Cosmos

Take one of the most prolific bands of the last 20 years, add in 5 of the most varied vocalists to share duties and put it all under the creative control of Derek Gruen aka Del Marquis and what you have is the funkiest album released in a very very long time.  Slow Knights is a cooperative made up of Derek Gruen, Xavier, Rod Thomas, Mykal Kilgore, Bridget Barkan, Chrissi Poland, and The New Power Generation.  Yes, I said The New Power Generation.  Yes, they did release a few albums with a little known artist known as Prince. So as the stars align and the universe takes a collective sigh, Cosmos was born.

This album is perhaps the most refreshing piece of work I have heard in a long time.  I've spent a ton of time lately listening to very heavy singer/songwriter type stuff and a lot of the themes have weighed very heavy on me.  To be able to throw this record on and just listen to it and let it take me where it needs to was more of a blessing than I had expected.  You just settle into the album and you're immediately swept away to a place where The Jetts are "Rocking It To You", Madonna is still on "Holiday", Expose has taken you past the "Point of No Return" and Nu Shooz still "Can't Wait". All the coolest kids are just hanging out grooving to this album. I even get some Laura Branigan realness on "Kingdom"  Don't misunderstand this isn't just some cotton candy fluff that leaves you on a sugar high with no filling.  The album still has depth and weight and a point of view, it's just wrapped in the funkiest packaging you could ever want.  What that does for the tracks is make them so much easier to disseminate and to enjoy.  It's very Mary Poppins of Derek and his production.  He's provided us the "spoonful of sugar" as it were and the medicine is handled.

Each of the five vocalists bring something totally different to the table and they add their own unique point of view to the album.  They are the individual pieces in the spring collection and they all stand on their own but you put them together and it brings it all together and you go, "I totally get it now".  The only issue I have is that I am not 100% familiar with each vocalist so I have to study to tell them apart on some of the tracks.  I know Rod Thomas from his Bright Light Bright Light work so he's immediately recognizable.  The way the tracks are arranged on the album is genius too.  I'm sitting and listening to it and after "Under Attack"  I think to myself, I want a female vocal now and lo and behold, "I Got It That Bad" sweeps and and gives me everything I need.  There are no stand out tracks on the album because they are all wonderful.  They all have a meaning and a purpose and because there is enough variation between the songs, you can easily put it on and go from start to finish without ever once feeling the need to skip a song.  I love "Legendary Children" and "Sweet Harmony" because they are so different from each other.  "Legendary Children" is so uplifting and positive where "Sweet Harmony" makes me want to slow dance and get close.  I'm talking close.

The album sampler doesn't do the tracks justice, in my opinion because they end up like paint swatches in the hardware store.  You don't fully get to experience it as a whole.  Once you are able to hear the songs in their entirety, it's that point where you have the wall painted and you are able to appreciate the full vision.  But the sampler does give you a bit of an idea of the brilliance you are going to experience.

I bought the album on Amazon for less than $10 and it's one of  the best purchases I've made in a long time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vicci Martinez - Come Along

I don't follow singing competition shows.  Never have, never will.  What generally happens however, is that after the show has aired and the dust has settled, I find an artist or two that can stand on their own merit away from the show.  One of my most favorite pop stars is Blake Lewis who was on Season whatever of American Idol and he didn't even win.  You can listen to his two albums that were released and the first one that was fully under the control of the execs with Fox and American Idol sounds totally different than his sophomore release that has some distance from the show.  It seems like the second album is more of what he may have wanted to say than the first.

A very similar thing has happened with Vicci Martinez.  The only thing I know about The Voice is that the concept was pretty cool.  Using your ears to determine the merits of a singer opposed to who looks good.  They weren't picking a visual representation of what would make good television but what was actually pleasing to the ear and what would actually make a good recording artist.  I would love to be able to say that I stumbled upon her all on accident and thought holy crap, this is great stuff. But in all actuality, I was contacted by someone in her camp and asked me to listen to the track and see what I thought.  I am no corporate lackey therefore I am on no one's payroll and if I don't want to write about someone or if I don't like what I hear, I don't write about them.

So I threw the song on and sat down to give it at least a play.  If it didn't catch my ear, I was going to be done.  What has happened, though, is I have sat here for the past 20 minutes listening to the song on repeat. The album version, the live version, the original version and what I can say is wow.  The production is great. The arrangement is solid.  The vocals are superb.  The addition of Cee-Lo takes the track to a new level, then when you add the little psuedo-rap in the middle eight and the song is just full of everything that could make this a top 40 song without question.

Vicci has an earthy quality to her voice that is suited to this slow, deliberate arrangement.  It's down to earth and it's honest.  It's not autotuned and it's not overproduced.  I think Joan Baez and Melissa Etheridge.  But it's more than just that.  It's the honesty in her voice that I think is palatable.  You can feel it.  It's there and it's got a raw edge that can't be taught.

She has an album out on iTunes and all the other fine retailers.  I'm going to pick it up and go from there.  This song, has made me want to invest more time in her because I think she deserves it and I want to hear her story and what she has to say to me.  I'll probably do a write up when I've let it breathe for a bit.

Find Vicci on Facebook:

Lectrolips - Vanilla

This song is so funky.  It makes you give it some deep shoulder action as you just settle down into the groove.  It also borders on and leans so heavily into the sexy sexy time that it's swoon worthy.  The beat is crazy and the lyrics bring to the forefront all the ideas you're having while being invaded by the groove.  Leo and Anthony have a mastery of their craft that this music is just an extension of who they are.  It's some of the funkiest synth you've heard to date.

Lectrolips is one of the most interesting groups you've never heard of but that's okay because they are steadily producing music and one day you will stop to listen to me telling you about them or you will hear the group and be all like, "Damn, that's funky!" and I'll have to say, "I told you so".  So do us both a favor and get on the bandwagon right now with these guys.

Delta Rae - If I Loved You (feat. Lindsay Buckingham)

It's hard to make a claim as to which song on Carry The Fire evokes the most emotion but right at the top is the honest, heartfelt ballad, "If I Loved You".  Liz expresses what so many of us have felt at one point in time or another.  There's someone you want to love because they are deserving of your love but it's just not there or there's someone that wants you to love them but you just can't give them what they need.  In this track, you hear every vulnerable moment in Liz's voice and each subtle nuance is uttered with purpose and drive.

Nothing is wasted in this song or video.  It's simple and stark just like the song.  The video is just a performance piece set against a black backdrop of the group.  Nothing flashy or over the top, just honest.  What's cooler still is that in this version of the song, the guys and gals are joined by Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.  I can only imagine the meeting that happened when Delta Rae got to meet one of their biggest idols.

"If I Loved You" is the fourth single off Carry the Fire which is available at all fine music retailers across the country and internet alike.  Go buy it, it's totally worth it.  And I'm not biased in the least bit.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jillette Johnson - Whiskey & Frosting

I had the pleasure of seeing Jillette live and in person as one of the opening acts for Delta Rae.  Here this young woman was, behind her keyboard all alone but she had a command over the stage and the audience like she had a full band backing her.  We just stood there, mesmerized by how she could sound so big and fill up the entire space without even trying.  Her set was just an opening act set so it was just about 30 minutes long but it gave you a helluva idea of who she was and what she was made of.  After her set was done I knew I want to hear more.

What I wasn't expecting was how amazing her EP was.  Live, she was stellar; her voice was full, glorious, surprising and just breathtaking.  But once you add the orchestration and the arrangements of the full studio cuts from the EP.....holy Jesus.  This girl is a megastar in the making.  The production on these songs will floor you.  Again, not discounting the amazing work she does without the tracks but if you want to take a song and amp it up to a million....let Jillette and her team teach you how.

So about this EP.  It's titled Whiskey & Frosting (two of my favorite things btw) and it's a 5 track album that makes a helluva statement.  It's an album of self reliance and loving who you are no matter who that is.  It's an album that reminds you no matter what life throws at you, you have the power to kick the shit out of it and carry on.  Yes, life can be messy and hard but you have to just persevere and make the bad stuff your bitch.  Strong willed, straight backed - marching through it like nothing is going to get you down.  It's ok if you do get down though, it's part of it.  You just brush yourself off, throw on some concealer and keep at it.  What she's serving is total self reliant realness and I am glad she is.  I think that everyone is going to find something they can relate to on this album and hold onto when it seems like there isn't anymore to give.

It's $4.00 on Amazon right now.  I've said it before, lay off of that Grande Frap today and buy something that is going to do a lot more for your soul than that coffee.  If I had to pick favorites off the EP, it would be "Pauvre Coeur" followed by "Heathen" but all the songs are so special in their own respects and have all touched me on their own merits.  Do yourself a favor and buy the album.  You won't regret it ever.

Jillette on the Web
Twitter: @JilletteJohnson

Fuzz Face - Fuzz Face EP

Alternative Country, Folk, New Grass.  These are all genres that Fuzz Face can be put into.  They could also be lumped into the ubiquitous "gay artist" category.  But the thing that bugs me about labels is what happens when the artist is able to break the proverbial bonds that hold them into one genre and transcend that label?  Fuzz Face is a band that does just that.  Sure they have a fiddle.  They're not raging on heavy metal guitar riffs or banging out a thump-a thump-a bass line that gets all the circuit queens up on their feet.  What they are doing, however, is making honest down-to-earth music that speaks to the heart of each of us.

I've talked about how important it was the first time I ever heard a male artist us a gender appropriate pronoun to speak to what's important to me.  As a gay man, sure it's easy to listen to a love song and mentally substitute the pronoun that speaks to me but to actually hear it recorded, that's something.  It finally helps validate the feelings I have and makes me feel like I do have the right to be loved and to express my love as well.  Fuzz Face does not shy away from singing to their audience and they also don't have an issue playing at being tongue in cheek and thumbing their nose at the establishment but they don't do it in a manner that belittles what they are trying to accomplish.  There is no parody here.  This isn't comedy.  They aren't being ironic or doing this for the sake of doing it.  This is music to a certain segment of the population that is generally sorely misrepresented.

I don't think they are trying to be spokespeople or role models but by the nature of the game and the fact there aren't many other groups doing what they are doing, they have the unique ability to touch those gays in rural areas that grew up on George Straight and Garth Brooks wondering if there was someone to speak to them and for them.  So with the release of their first EP, which is self titled, they have crafted 5 tracks that are fun and playful but at the same time important and relevant.  

Button Up Boy
A chance encounter leads to a one night stand that leaves an indelible mark in your brain.  It's happened to most of us.  It was just supposed to be a thing.  Nothing that was supposed to last but there it is and now you've got to take your clothes and leave...

Old Man
This song.  This song, I mean damn.  My boyfriend of eleven years who passed away in 2010 was 5 years older than me and I called him "Old Man" so this song just kills me.  It's so beautiful and thoughtful and they wrote it just for me.  Well, in my world they did - but that't the thing about music.  This is what it's for.  It's supposed to touch you and make you feel.  It's supposed to be something you connect with that makes you part of something bigger than yourself.  This song makes me feel warm and safe and at home where I need to be.  But it makes me feel sad.  It makes me remember saying goodbye again.  The strings of my heart have been successfully tugged.

It's crazy how much of myself I am able to find in this album.  I was from the city and he was from the country.  The night we met, he looked like a lumberjack.  Flannel Shirt, Blue Jeans and work boots.  Who knew that 5 years later, I would be moving out to the family farm.  This song maybe a bit tongue in cheek but it's that song that is going to validate all those young men feeling these same feelings.

Furry Belly
Another song that doesn't take itself too seriously.  Not a lot to describe here that the song doesn't do for you.  It's super cute and makes you smile.

Came Out Hard
A cautionary tale as it were.  It's a quintessential Western song so I cannot spoil it.  It tells a story from start to finish so you'll just have to listen to the story and make your own decision  but no judgement because we don't judge around here.......  I will say the fiddle and all the different percussion are amazing and build this atmosphere that just wraps around the song and elevates it to a new level.  Like I said, you tell me what you think about it.

It's a well crafted EP and it shows that these guys are certainly more than just a flash in the pan.  They have talent and they have stories to tell.  As long as they are willing to gather around a camp fire or a stage or even a burning oil barrel, I'll be there to listen.  I think this is one of the best albums I've bought in a long time.

Oh did I was a Kickstarter and we all know how much I love some Kickstarter projects.

Here's their Facebook:

I bought the album on Amazon so here it is too:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

James Leon - Plastic

I feel like I'm at a point in my life right now where the music I seem to seek out is full of loneliness, remorse and a twinge of bittersweet.  The newest song to be added to that list is "Plastic" by James Leon.  I have the honor of being friends with James and this single almost seems to be hand written and delivered to me in a time when I too feel as if I am surrounded by a sea of plastic people.  I need more to life than my Ken & Barbie like existence.  And somehow, James knows exactly what I'm feeling and manages to make a right catchy synthpop song to echo all the sentiments I'm feeling.

Much like the cover art for the single. this song doesn't have more than what it needs.  That's something that James has an amazing ear for, he edits himself so that you aren't left with a song that is overworked and produced to death.  That's a skill that some of the biggest producers in the business need to learn from him.  The song has all the right pieces that have the power to make it great.  It's got an air of sadness to it that makes it more than just some synthed-out club banger, it has grit and emotion.  And if you want to take it to the next level, how about we strip away some of those layers to make it something even more haunting.  And apparently James had the same idea because the ‘Diskodiktator’ mix by Johan Billing, a fab producer from Sweden (and we know how much I love Swedish music) does just that.  I makes the song even more melancholic by singling out James' voice and leaving it bare against the coldness of the "plastic people". 

Independent artists like James are more important than any 5 star diva any day because they are part of us.  They haven't risen to the level where they have to "remember what it was like" because they are still close to it all.  It gives the music more honesty and integrity than something you would hear out of every shop window.  I think those are probably the most accurate words I can use to describe James.  'Honesty and Integrity'.  Because he gets it.  He writes from a place of understanding with a universally based idea that we all have been through it at one time or another.  And when you are able to be there with him in the moment and you can look around at all the plastic, it's then you can start to make a change.

Plastic is available to download in two versions – the Diskodiktator remix and the original mix from Monday 18 March on all major digital outlets, including iTunes and Amazon. A CD will also be available to order from Amazon.

More Links:
Listen to the album ‘Never been cool’ on Spotify:
The album 'Never been cool' available to download from iTunes:

and for download/order on CD from Amazon:

Listen to more music from James Leon:
Follow on Twitter:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sergey Lazarev - Cure The Thunder (featuring T-Pain)

Sergey is one of my favorite male pop stars. He has an amazing stage presence and has no problems delivering the song he's singing. The fact that English is his second language has never appeared to be an issue for him and he has an amazing command over English language concepts and ideas. The fact that he has T-Pain in this song and video blows my mind because that can only be a sign for even bigger things to come for him. Maybe an American release of an album.

My question is, thought, what ever happened to the "Take it Off" video. He posted a behind the scenes video and then the actual official video never came out. Anyway, this track and video are super cool and it shows that he has a little bit of an edge to his voice. Not exceptionally sure what's happening in the video but all the people are pretty. What do you think?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Agnetha Faltskog - When You Really Loved Someone

Agnetha sounds incredible in her first single off her upcoming album, A.  "When You Really Loved Someone" seems to be following my trend of late of finding love-lorne songs that just wrap you up in their emotion.  Not only does she sound beautiful, she looks beautiful as well.  This song is simply stunning.  What do you think?  The single is available now, but the album won't be out until May 14, 2013.

Delta Rae - Mercy Lounge (3/19/2013)

I'm sure there's some point where you cannot simply gush enough over an artist and I don't think I've hit it yet so I'll need you guys to help me find that balance.  Tuesday night I had the pleasure of being in the crowd for the last stop on Delta Rae's current tour and all I can say is wow.  This is the second time I've seen them live and I had heard the hype that with each show, they bring something different that you have to be there to fully appreciate and it's true. They have an amazing quality about them that is bigger than stage presence.  It's how they fill the space and I think the root is that they are doing something they love and have a great time doing.  The music connects us all together and it is so easy to feel what they bring to the table because it's palatable. It's organic and it's got a fluidity to it that can only be felt in the moment.  It's the expressions on their faces and the intensity in their voices that just doesn't translate to recording. Yeah, I can record their live performances and they are fantastic to watch back and relive but it's the electricity of the crowd as you are swept up and away into this collective head space and for the next hour and a half - they are telling your stories and expressing your emotions in a manner that you just never could.  They are saying the words you need to say but just can't.  They are making you smile and feel loved and give love like you haven't before.  Yeah, I'm pretty biased.

The show was at The Mercy Lounge in Nashville, which provided an intimate venue for about 300 of their closest friends and the atmosphere was just amazing.  Like the last time I saw them, they had 2 opening acts; Jillette Johnson and Lera Lynn.  Jillette is this really cool earthy singer songwriter that has this smoky quality to her voice and a brilliance when she's telling stories.  She did this song called, "Cameron" that hit me in the feeling spot and I fell for her head over heels.  Lera Lynn is the lead singer of a band of the same name.  She had a more Western vibe than Jillette and did a pretty damn amazing job too.  She had a steel guitar and accordion as guest stars in her set that filled out her sound.  She is definitely worth a second listen and as soon as I get her album listened to enough, I will probably drop a review here.

So our headliners take the stage to a much anticipated round of thunderous applause and launch into their set.  For the next hour and a half, the audience just bends and shifts with ease at each change and movement through the set.  What we got were some unexpected arrangements.  There was a bit of a new intro to "Is There Anyone Out There" (My personal favorite song) and Brittany did a little bluesy-sultry action on the chorus in "Fire" which was totally unexpected and she even wagged a finger at us later and said, "Ha! I surprised you, didn't I?" And she did, it was a really great addition to a song that I already love.  There was also a little remix action happening at the end of "Dance In The Graveyards" that called for some audience participation.

Each member of the band had an opportunity to shine and it was every bit deserved.  Grant's solos on Fire The Chain were inspired as was anytime Mike really got to pound out a driving beat.  I don't know how he doesn't break drumsticks because he is serious about his craft and you feel it in your chest.  I mean the two of them together are on of the most dangerous rhythm sections in music today.  They are simply incredible and two of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

They were very humble as usual and Brittany told us how she was a bit weary from being on the road for as long as they had been but the interaction from the audience was enough to rejuvenate her soul.  They joked with the audience talking about how attractive everyone was and Ian said his siblings were being shallow and he thought we all were very intelligent and had great personalities to match.  They are just the best people in the world.  Salt of the Earth doesn't do them enough justice.  They are the people you want your children to grow up to be and the ones you want your sons and daughters to bring home to meet the family.  I made a comment on Facebook that I am blessed to have these 6 people in my life and that's not something I say lightly or take for granted.  I am very thankful for their music and their friendship.  They have gotten me through more than one rough spot and I can never fully put into words what their music fully means to me.

Then next time they go out on the road, you would be remiss to not catch as many shows as you can because they are self contained moments of brilliance that can't be replicated.

That's actually my video I captured of them doing, "Hey, Hey, Hey".  It's dark because I didn't want to turn the flash on my camera and blind them all as they were singing.  I was trying to be super considerate.

Set List
Morning Comes
Holding on to Good
Cold Day
Is There Anyone Out There
Forgive The Children We Once Were
Whatcha Thinkin Bout, Baby
Oh! Darlin
Unlike Any Other
Bottom of the River
The Chain
If I Loved You
Dance in The Graveyards
Hey, Hey, Hey

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slow Knights - Shame

The first single from Del Marquis' new project, Slow Knights is out today and it will blow your mind.  The direction his music is taking not only him but us, the fans is incredible.  The funk, the 90s sensibilities, the incredible writing, the vocals all come together to make just this amazing symphony of a track.  I can't say how much how good it is.  Much like his work with Xavier on the Tickle EP, this is a departure from what you may expect from Scissor Sisters and I am all about that.  Cosmos, the debut album for Slow Knights is due out March 26.  I think it's going to be brilliant.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Korr-a - Fiyacraka

I don't generally write about club tracks but something about this one has compelled me to do so.  Korr-a (Kristina Korban) is a Ukrainian born musician, actress, model and movie producer that in working with Dave Aude has created a banging club track that is actually pretty special.  I think what it does and does right is the use of positive vs negative audio space.  Her vocals aren't all over the track and she's not trying to be cute, she's just handling her business and owning this track.

The video is chocked full of amazing dancing and my favorite part actually happens close to the end when the group is together.  I want to hear this track in a club where it's loud and it becomes part of you when the bass hits you in the chest.  That's when it truly comes to life, when it's sitting in your lungs and helps you breathe.

I want to hear more from this multi-talented entrepreneur and will keep you posted.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bright Light Bright Light - In Your Care

A piano and a voice.  Sometimes when it's the right arrangement and the right voice, it's simply amazing.  Bright Lightx2 is the perfect combination.  He is pure magic and has an amazing ability to craft a song that touches every part of the emotional spectrum.  I have had amazing luck lately with artists that are simply haunting and this track is no different.  It has such longing and just makes you feel.  I simply don't have the words to properly describe this song.  It's a masterpiece.  Plain and simple.

Justin Utley - STAND FOR SOMETHING Music Video Project

I will never get tired of being an advocate for an incredible artist especially when the message being delivered is as important as Justin's.  If you've read my blog for any given length of time, you know how big of a fan I am of Justin Utley.  I can point to the many posts I've written or I can talk about how magnanimous of a person he is.  Just know that this project is important.  I am not going to rehash what he has already spent time writing, I am just going to point you to the campaign.  Please take some time and read about it.  If you feel compelled after listening to the song and reading about how proceeds from this video will go to benefit Campus Pride, make a donation to the campaign to make sure the video gets made.  Not only is it a tax deductible donation, it's a the right thing to do.

So click the link and go donate some money, get some swag and help spread a message of positivity and hope.