Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Michael Powers - Chandelier (Sia cover)

Let's talk about covers one more time to remind people what I think makes a good one.

1. The artist has to pay homage to the original.
2. The artist has to put a spin on it to make it their own.
3. The artist has to do something a bit different than the original.

Does this cover check all those boxes, hell yes it does. Michael Powers is a Nashville based singer/songwriter that you may have seen on Season 11 of American Idol. He's got a style that's distinctly all his own and it's amazing. It's not that he sings his songs in a minor key but when he does a cover, he strips is down, slows it down and gives is so much personality and gravitas that it's a whole new song by the end of it.

This version of Chandelier is so mournful that it took me a minute to be able to fully wrap my head around it. This is a man that's had almost everything taken from him that the only thing he can do is fully throw everything away and live life without abandon. He's fighting to stay strong but he's getting close to his breaking point. It's more than "fake it til you make it" this is survival. This is coming back from the precipice and doing everything he can to regain control of his life again.  Michael's voice is so grounded in a life well lived that you are wrapped up in it and you are able to draw comfort from him even though he is broken and battered (in this cover that is). There is so much emotion being harnessed that I had to stop writing and just listen to him and appreciate all the nuances in his voice. This man is incredible and should be a super star.

Night Drive - Rise and Fall

One of my favorite things is to have music sent to me from an artist. They have put themselves out there and are kind of standing in a vulnerable place looking for praise and acceptance from a stranger. I think that's how we go through so many interactions in our lives. We put our best out there and hope that someone sees it and likes it. I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted via twitter by Houston based synthpop duo Night Drive with a simple tweet saying, "We think you'll like this" and they were damn right. I liked the hell out of it. So much so that I've listened to it every day since they tweeted me.  I checked out their bio and it says this, "Night Drive co-founders, Rodney Connell and Brandon Duhon met after a young woman they were both unknowingly dating was killed in a car crash. The tragic event bonded the two, and shortly afterwards they began a musical collaboration. Inspired by sci-fi cinematic landscapes, Night Drive creates modern synth-pop that explores the darker currents of abstract emotion."  Damn. That's a lot. But it gives you a bit of understanding as to where they are coming from and what they are processing through their art.

"Rise and Fall" is the first offering from their upcoming debut LP and it's fucking brilliant. The song is just this amazing piece of music. It's got this quality that grabs you up and you take off running. You kind of have to keep pace with it or you're going to get left behind. It's just so well done in the production that by the time you catch your breath, the song is over and you're ready to start it over.
You can hear a little Brian Eno in the vocals and this is something that Roxy Music would totally get behind if they had a day in which they were feeling a little happier about their experience.

The song is this melancholic event that maps the course of a break up. Two people have grown apart and the snowball has started down the hill and the avalanche is inevitable and all you can do is watch it. There's no way to stop what's been put into motion and you are helpless even though you know it's not what's best. It's heartbreaking and it's horrible but it's part of life sometimes. You can't keep the bad from happening sometimes and we need the bad to happen so that the good is balanced out and we have the opportunity to know what we have lived and what we are experiencing.  You have to temper both sides so that you can stay in perspective.  The beat and the underlying track is gorgeous. It just propels you through the song in a rapid fire delivery that is amazing.  I really love this sound and I love that they tackle the not so easy stuff in life. We need that in our music because life isn't all sunshine and rainbows.

Go to your favorite online music distribution source and buy this track. You won't regret it.

Glenn Stewart - Breaking Boundaries

Here's what we have in this album. One of the most solid country albums of 2014. Yeah, I know that I am about 2 years behind but I've only recently learned about him and I could not be happier to be on the band wagon now. Glenn takes a reverence of old outlaw country and mashes it up with the pop sensibilities of today's market. I think people are calling this type of music "Bro Country" and that may be a potentially valid label but it's merely a reflection of the audience. Music in any genre takes influences from the world and uses them to create music that has an appeal that is timely and easily disseminated to the masses. If Loretta Lynn was trying to sell a song today about birth control, it wouldn't have the same affect it did back in 1975. So the climate of the world has a way of making its way into the art our musicians create.

I don't like pigeonholing an artist as a gay artist because that's not fair. Glenn is a country singer that happens to appreciate the company of a certain cowboy and that's beautiful and it's honest and it's damn important because in a genre that is stereotypically exceedingly homophobic, it's amazing to see an artist living their life out and proud. Now, I would easily put this album up to anything released by Thomas Rhett or Jason Aldean and I think that the quality of the songs would kick their ass hands down. But, because of one little thing about Glenn - he's not going to get mainstream air play on country radio. I think that's bullshit and it's garbage because on one hand that should have no bearing whatsoever about the quality of his music but on the other hand, I NEED to know so badly that when he's singing a love ballad that he's singing to a man. I need that representation in my life because I've spent so many years switching pronouns in songs to make them fit my life and I don't have to with this album because he's representing me and what matters to me on a fundamental level. So yes, I hate the fact that he's not going to be embraced by the country fans as a whole but I don't care because he's my hero.

The album isn't just some "twangy" little country ditty. It's got heart. It's big. It's bold. It's got a lot of rock influence and Glenn's voice is AMAZING. When I listen to male lead country music, Glenn's voice is what I want. Every time. It's reminiscent of Garth Brooks and a storied history of male country artists but it's also very contemporary and now. The way he punctuates certain syllables and his overall presence is just amazing. I can't hear one misstep on this album. It's a solid performance and he and his producers know exactly how to build a song. It doesn't hurt at all that he's not hard on the eyes at all and when you imagine him delivering "Barn on the Rooftop", you can see a mischievous grin and sparkle but then you hear just how much control and love and passion he has when he delivers "Centerline".  This man is simply incredible in his delivery.

A lot of times when you have an independently produced album like this, it can read as hokey or gimmicky. There are a lot of artists that reside in the "gay music scene" that rely on potential components of their fan base to make them more relatable. There are several "bear artists" that come to mind and their songs read as parody because of the content. Glenn doesn't fall into that trap. His songs have a universal appeal that can easily be played anywhere, anytime. There isn't anything niche about this album. It's a country album and it should be revered as one of the best albums of 2014.

I keep going back to this but what he's done is created a songbook that I can turn to my boyfriend and play any of these songs for and they'll matter.  When I hear "Baby You're My Only", I can take any of those lyrics and easily hold them up in my relationship and know that the meaning is what it is and doesn't take any code switching to give them credence. I can hold my boyfriend and slow dance with him and rest my head on his shoulder and know that this is what representation sounds like. It's a gorgeous song and I can't wait to play it for my boyfriend.

I found Glenn because of his cover of RuPaul's "Around Again" and fell absolutely in love with the treatment of the song. I even wrote about it when I saw the video. He took a good song and made it great. The country treatment was perfect for that song. I'd love to hear his take on other dance type songs. Maybe "Dancing on My Own" by Robin or even something like "Partition" by Beyoncé. I don't want him to stop recording originals but I would love to hear his take on pop music. "Around Again" is fun. It's poppy but it's still got amazing country sensibilities to it.  I'm not going to gush on it again because I've already written about it. But that this point, I don't want to hear Ru's version anymore. This is the only version of the song I want in my life.

I can't speak highly enough about these 13 tracks. It's a damn good album. It's a fantastic representation of what country music is and should be. You can hear in his performance that this is what he loves and he treats it with the reverence and care it should be handled with. It's got some mileage on it. Like Glenn and many fans of the album will attest to, these tracks have some life on them. They've lived. They've had their heart broken and they've been kicked around by the universe but they still get up and they still push forward and live their life. "Rock and Roll Cowboy" takes no prisoners and it's believable. It's not like some city slicker in a suit is belting out this song. It's being sung by someone that's lived this life. Authenticity is something that country fans can see right through. If you're not authentic, you're not going to make it. It's one of the reasons that live country performances sound exactly like the album versions because there's little to no post production clean up to the vocals. If they can't sell the performance on their own merits, they aren't going to go very far. And I can't hear any trickery in this at all. It's 100% Glenn and it's 100% country.

"Little Miss John Wayne" is a rocking track about that cowgirl you see in the bar that lives her life for herself and gives no effs to anyone that looks down on her. She's going to do her and she needs no approval from you or anyone. When she walks into the room, everyone knows and everyone can't help but stare. It's a party song and it's fun. It should be on country radio stirring up a storm.

We all know what it's like to get through the week and are greeted with the weekend and a libation or ten and when "Here We Go" starts and you hear the growl in his voice, you know where he's been and you remember nights where you had one or two too many but it's the weekend and it's your time. Another solid banger here.

"Good on Me" is the one song here that is the one that's a bit different. It's the one that seems like he wrote for mainstream radio. Or he's singing about his best girlfriend. We all have friends that are girls that we hang out in that make us look better. It's still an amazing example of what he can do on the mic. He sounds amazing singing about men or women.

There are times when we need to be reminded that there is hope in the world and that when we need that gentle reminder that no matter what seems to be going on that's wrong, you just have to keep your head up and fight the good fight. "Dancing" is that song. It's a beautifully written song about perseverance and hope. We just have to hold on to the good and dance. Even if only in our minds.

You can't sit around and feel miserable about your life if you want to make anything out of it. It doesn't matter if it's occupational, relationship or just life in general. You can't accomplish the things you want in the world if you don't try. That's the message behind "Long Streak of Gone". You have to put yourself out there to get what you want.  Bottom line. Success, love and happiness don't come to those that don't try.

"Bigger Than Life" tells us that it's ok to want more. We all dream of more. Wanting more for ourselves. Wanting more for our family. We want to matter. We want to be remembered for something. We are all trying to cement our legacy in this world and in order to do that, sometimes we have to be "Bigger Than Life" but at the end of the day, we just have to be ourselves and know that as long as we are being our own authentic selves; we will get where we need to go.

And the album closes out with a gorgeous acoustic version of "Baby You're My Only".  This man can do no wrong on this album and this bonus track was the perfect cherry on an amazing album.

This album is literally my favorite thing right now. It beat out the Moana soundtrack and that says a lot. If you're a country fan. If you're a music fan. Go out and buy this album now. It's $9 on Amazon. Spend the money and you'll not regret it. I want to see him perform live now. I have a NEED to see him perform live now. Preferably with my boyfriend so I can sing along with these songs that I can easily tell will mean a great deal to me not just now but in the coming years.  Glenn Stewart is the real deal and I am damn glad that he's shared himself with the world.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Henri Bardot - Giving Up

This is the voice I want to hear when I listen to Indie Ballads. I want to hear mournfulness. I want to hear soul. Portland's Henri Bardot is exposing his deepest feelings with this release. He spent well over a year writing his album in what appears to be a form of exile to dig deep into his heart and make the music he needed to get out of himself. This track is phenomenal. It's got so much depth and character to it. It's got some mileage on it and it's seen things. This isn't cookie cutter kitsch. It's quality and has body to it. I dig this a lot.

Selaphonic - Heartbreak Heartbreak

I LOVE INDIE POP! This is no surprise. I love finding new artists. I love hearing new voices and when the voices are this good I want to gush about them to everyone that will listen. This song is pretty freaking amazing. It's reminiscent of Magic Man, The Griswolds, Two Door Cinema Club and could stand up next to any of those guys. It's a year old and I hate that I have just come across them but this is good. This is very good!!! I will be putting them into heavy rotation.

City Rain - Let You Down (Demo)

Hands down the most commercial track I have ever heard from Ben but I am in no way mad at it. I think it's important that people hear his music and if that means making something a little more commercially available to get him in the door, then he should do it. His voice is amazing and it sounds so freaking good in this track. I can't wait to hear the whole thing because I know it's going to be amazing. Will always be a fan of City Rain and I want them to do absolutely outstanding things.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Doug Repetti - Eternally

Perennial P-Town favorite, Doug Repetti has released a new video and song. I've been a fan of his for years now. I think he's got one of the smoothest voices in the business and I think the music he makes is amazing. I would gladly buy a full length album from him because he commands that much respect in his music. He's smart, he's got an ear for what is needed at that moment in time and he's just a damn talented artist. I really dig the song. It's full of hope and a sense of what we all want in this world. It's about love and how we are all searching for that person or persons to spend our lives with and see all the wonders of this world. It's got a very "Age of Aquarius" vibe to it and I think that's what we need more of. We need more love and acceptance in this world. The visuals in this song are amazing, pairing famous couples through out recent pop culture history with the lyrics of the song. It's bright and vibrant is just fun. Here's to many many more releases from him in the near future!