It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the things I’ve been listening to. I frequently post single links to facebook and tumblr but it is rare these days for me to give you a rundown on all of the things I’ve been listening to.
That’s partly because the internet is a vast place. We all know this.
Personally, I savor those periods where I get sucked into the internet’s musical vortexes. Whether I’m finding new artists via spotify’s “related artists” tab or watching random NPR Live videos of artists I’m not familiar with, the outcome is always the same: I find new stuff. Lots of new stuff. Some of it gets lost in the wayside. I’m the first one to admit that I can get fiercely excited about an artist, a song and then a month or two later that artist or song has dropped completely off of the radar. But there are songs that stick. Artists that I could–and do–listen to on repeat.
This blog was primarily started as a place to highlight musicians that I’ve discovered or fallen in love with. Music is a beautiful art form. It has the ability to bring us to to higher places, it has the ability to connect us as humans and remind us that we’re not alone. It helps us remember that our lives are best spent dancing. And those are just a few things.
So keeping that in mind: Here’s a post of the music that I can’t get enough of.
While I prefer posting songs that have accompanying music videos, I had to share this particular song. I had the fortune of seeing Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) accompany The Utah Philharmonia for a special performance of the entire song cycle. The experience itself was absolutely incredible. The musicians themselves were brilliant and Shara Worden’s voice is just beautiful. If you’re familiar with My Brightest Diamond, then you know this. If you’re not familiar with them, you should fix that. Between the brilliant orchestrations, emotionally charged lyrics, and Worden’s voice–it’s a piece that is guaranteed to make you believe in the power of music and storytelling. You will feel deeply with this album.
The story itself is simple. The narrator is a woman whose husband went away for some unnamed war. He shows up at the door 20 years later with brain damage and no memory of who he is/was. In order to help her husband heal and rediscover himself, the wife reads to him passages of the Odyssey. The track I’m sharing here veers from classical to more indie rock territory, and the lyrics here are especially poignant. Before I saw the Utah Philharmonia with Shara Worden, I tried to familiarize myself with the album, but didn’t get the whole way through. When I reached this song–I felt the lyrics strike a chord. When I saw the song performed live: I couldn’t keep the tears at bay.
Artist: Gabby Young & Other Animals | Song: Open
Album: The Band Called Out For More
There’s something magical about the combination of elements that Gabby Young & Other Animals bring together with their music. Big Band jazz/swing/cabaret and pure joy are all to be found here. The band has been on my radar for some, but it wasn’t till this week that I truly fell in love. The band is led by a flame-haired enchantress with a bewitching voice and incredible style. The 7-piece band includes the basics (guitar, drum, etc) but goes further with violins and brass instruments. The music is as varied as the instrumentation: sometimes you’ll find tracks that are so haunting, they’ll crawl under your skin and stay there. Sometimes you’ll find songs so saucy you’ll find yourself impressed by their boldness. There’s a sense of glee in the art of experimentation and new combinations, and they are able to pull the songs off so well that it’s hard not to fall in love with them.
The great thing about this band is that they have tons of music videos that are worthy of being shared–including their brand new music video for the irresistibly catchy song “I’ve Improved” which was unveiled 6 days ago, on Feb. 14. I’m once again going to deviate from the singles (all of which are wonderful) and share my favorite track. The reason it’s one of my favorites is simple. With this band, you know you’re going to get some very upbeat/sassy music. This song goes along with the catchy rhythms and adds on a positive message, and one that’s worth keeping in mind.
Artist: Agnes Obel | Song: Just So
I am fully, 100% behind the mantra that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. That said, occasionally when I’m roaming the massive collection of albums at the Salt Lake City Public Library, a cover will catch my attention. And since I believe in the fun of experimentation (I discovered my love for Sia and the Noisettes by taking a chance on covers that caught my interest–and the Sia album was nothing like what I expected based on the cover), I checked out Philharmonics. From beginning to end, the album is beautiful, and captivating. On the surface, much of the music seems simple. But when you combine the gorgeous music with the lyrics, it becomes something else entirely. Albums like this are why one should believe in the power of experimentation. The reviews in Rolling Stone and on NPR other such sites have their place, but sometimes your favorite new band/musician is just a matter of luck.
With that, dear reader, I leave you to listen to the music here, check out the links provided, or perhaps go on your own musical journey. Wherever your wanderings take you, may they be be fruitful and fully enjoyable.
Apparently musicians aren’t worthwhile.
At least, that’s what the Super Bowl seems to think. Time Business released an article noting that Bruno Mars has been added to the list of musicians that have played Super Bowl half time. For FREE.
“We’re putting someone up there for 12 and a half minutes in front of the largest audience that any television program garners in the United States,” NFL Director of Programming Lawrence Randall, told TIME last year. “It’s a pretty good deal. It’s the famous win-win for both parties.” (TIME)
On the surface: Sure. Playing the Super Bowl can lead to an increase in an artist’s sales and add to exposure.
But this whole situation is indicative of a bigger problem.
First of all–if you’re a musician/band that has been selected to play a gig like the Super Bowl then you’re probably pretty well known. And if you’re a musician/band that is already well known, the chances are that you’ve spent most of your life honing your talents, and working your way up centimeter by centimeter, inch by inch
The road to making a living off of art is not an easy path, and it’s fraught with people who Don’t Get It.
Bands just getting started deal with the free gigs more often than they get paid ones. Writers freelance for little to no money and hope that maybe, just maybe, this submission will get them somewhere. Artists find themselves in gallery receptions where they hear the double edged sword of compliments, “Wow, this is so beautiful, but why is it so expensive?” It’s like somewhere in between the idea of a piece and the final product, the work of creating gets lost on the larger public. Creating is work. It involves time. It involves tools. Just like any other job.
The music industry has made it a priority to stamp out pirating. Buy the albums! Support the artists! Don’t steal music! But then you’ve got moments like these, where musicians are basically being robbed. The NFL argues that the show is only 12 and a half minutes and they’ll grant great exposure. Okay. Fine. So does that mean that if I’m a super famous celebrity and I suddenly have a health issue, I can go into a hospital and demand the doctor to treat me but not get paid? “Oh it’ll only be an hour of your time, and you’ll have the honor of working on me. Oh and I’ll tell all of my friends.”
Ummm….Not so great. Just like doctors have spent years of their lives studying and working to get to their professional level, so have musicians. For the NFL to discount that fact is abhorrent. Let’s not forget that the musicians that play the Super Bowl put in way more than 12 minutes. They’re going to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse some more. They’re going to make sure that they have everything in place and ready to go. There’s travel. They need to make sure they’ve got the equipment they need and they need to get them from point A to point B. This is time. This is energy. This is travel. And they deserve to be compensated like any other professional field.
The attitude of the NFL and their continued practice of this policy is dangerous because it affects far more than Bruno Mars, Madonna, and other big name musicians. This attitude can easily be translated on a local level where popular venues or festivals can use similar logic to damn aspiring musicians. In some cases, it can be taken so far that the venue/promoter demands musicians to pay for the honor of playing their venue. This is a thing. And this is problematic.
I unfortunately don’t have the ins and outs to help fix this problem. But what I can encourage everyone to do–including myself–is to remember to really appreciate art. Appreciate the work and energy that went into the art/music/writings that you enjoy. Remember that the work of creating is difficult and time consuming. And support the art that matters to you. Buy their albums. Go to shows. Buy their sweaters and posters and stickers. If you’re an artist of any medium, do your best work and make sure you’re getting recognized for it.
On that note, I’m going to stop talking and share the internet meme that has gone around. It’s more eloquent and succinct than I am, and should be shared.
So please share it.
Well. I am not sorry that 2013 is over. It’s been a good year, with a lot of wonderful highlights, but it has also been stressful and a bit exhausting. I am not expecting this year to be magically amazing. A year is just like a day, it is what we make of it. And while I am not making any New Year’s Resolutions as such, I do have plans for this year. Plans which still need to be drawn up in concrete terms, but they are there.
A few highlights of 2013:
Gogol Bordello. Seeing them live was incredible. The energy. The madness. It’s a moment that I could never, ever again recapture which is both beautiful and tragic at the same time.
Starting a book club. Yep. That’s right. I gave into my nerd and started a book group with some coworkers. It’s great because it’s open to novels, non-fiction, and pretty much everything else. And selection is done by a new person each month, meaning it’s easy to end up in a situation where I get to read stuff outside of my normal literary comfort zone. And you know what? THAT IS AWESOME. Reading is great. But you should always go above and beyond.
There are so many more things, but my concept of time is pretty unique (read: exceptionally bad) and it is harder to put events and moments in linear order.
2013 was survived mostly with the help of Mojo Juju, The Great Malarkey,Black Prairie, and a continuation of the Amanda Palmer Down Under album on repeat. Without these artists, I’m not sure I would’ve made it.
Goals for 2014:
Go to more shows.
Listen to more music.
Keep being awesome.
I think those are good goals.
And on that note, I’ll cut this entry short. No, I’m not making a list form of my musical highlights of 2013, but I’m happy to give you a few music videos should you want to enjoy some good music. Happy 2014! Make it wonderful!
A little while ago, a horrible anti-feminist/fat-shaming meme started going around the Internet. If you’ve been online since it started circulating, you’ve probably seen it. The photo–if there had been no text added to it–is a great picture. It’s inspirational. It’s a plus-sized woman facing the camera and proudly holding a paper that says “This is what a feminist looks like”.
I have similar pictures, of me proudly wearing my This is What a Feminist Looks Like t-shirt. For example: this one, taken when I hosted an amazing event that featured the strong community of women poets and musicians within the Salt Lake community.
Back to the meme.
What on its own is a wonderful picture that speaks volumes of feminist pride and exudes confidence was stolen and the message of power was taken away by a malicious caption: ”That’s pretty much what I expected.”
When I discovered the picture, I found myself unexpectedly crushed by the implication that somehow I, as a plus-sized woman and a feminist myself, was somehow less human. Suddenly I was just as easily worth ridicule and disgust. And it wasn’t just the person (or people) who found the image and added the horrific captioning who shocked me–it was the too-many-to-count commenters who were agreeing with the idea, and carrying on the anti-feminist/fat-shaming/anti-human campaign.
I claim to have little faith in humanity among my group of friends. They hear me day after day complaining about the stupidity of people, it’s a thing that I have been doing for a long time, and it’s second nature really. But honestly, under all the bark, I don’t believe it. I generally feel that people are good, that people are capable of amazing, wonderful things. But then something like this happens. And suddenly, my faith in humanity is actually shaken to its very core. The kind of people who insulted this woman are loathsome, vile creatures. And I find it hard to believe that someone could be so very hurtful, and damaging. But it happened.
Then today, I found something wonderful.
Turns out that the stolen picture is actually of a wonderfully badass feminist activist named Kelly Martin Broderick. And she wrote an amazing post about how horrified she was to discover the picture had been stolen and used as it was. But she didn’t stop at horrified. She fought it as best as she could, trying to get the picture removed from facebook since it had been stolen, but to no avail. But that did not stop her from speaking up and speaking out.
Kelly Martin Broderick: You are absolutely my hero.
I can’t tell you how much your voice made a difference to me today. It takes extreme courage to stand up when people are attacking in droves, powered by the fuel of the internet.
I am inspired by your strength, and grateful that you were able to rise above the awfulness of the Internet-gone-bad and make your statement. Despite the awful behavior of the people behind this meme, something great came out of this. Broderick proved that strength is possible in circumstances beyond one’s own control. That even when things are not working towards our favor, we can turn the tide and remind people that our greatest strength is in fact the power of our voice, and our ability to stand strong—and not take other people’s bullshit. If the people behind the meme can use the powers of the internet for harmful purposes, we can use the internet for good. To remind those that found the meme and grew as disheartened as I did upon first seeing it that the world is not all chaos and awful.
I am so fucking grateful for Broderick’s strength, because it’s reminded me that I too am powerful. And we feminists are everywhere. And taking this kind of bullshit is simply unacceptable. Hatred, mean-spiritedness, and spite will get you nowhere. If you want to be happy, if you want to make a difference in the world, you move past those things. You remember that everyone is human, that everyone has feelings and that EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF DIFFERENCE deserves a chance to be happy and live their lives.
If you haven’t already read Broderick’s piece on xojane, you should definitely go do that. Also, contribute to the tumblr page she set up, We Are What Feminists Look Like. As she explains in the piece on xojane:
The biggest miss the creator of my meme made was not realizing the point of the This is What a Feminist Looks Like campaigns; the point is to draw attention to the fact that feminists are not all the same. We are all different.So in response, I am starting a tumblr, We Are What Feminists Look Like. A few friends have already submitted pictures and I hope many more of you folks will submit pictures or thoughts. This experience has taught me that while one cruel person can ruin my morning, I have an entire community of friends, family, and feminists to back me up.
If you were to ask me how long it’s been since Gogol Bordello has colored my music consciousness, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I know that they have not always been there, with their high energy gypsy anthems, but at the same time, I can no longer imagine a world where “Start Wearing Purple” and “Immigraniada (We’re Coming Rougher)” don’t exist.
Last night I finally got to see Gogol Bordello throw down, and I can faithfully attest to the fact that a Gogol Bordello show isn’t a show….per se. It’s an EVENT. It doesn’t matter where you are in the venue–even if you’re not on the floor getting elbows thrown at you or shoved aside because a pit has broken out near you, you’re still involved. I know, because I was on the balcony of the venue they performed at In the Venue and I could not contain the energy that comes with a Gogol Bordello show. I was as involved as much as anyone on the floor, I just happened to be able to leave in one piece….and I got a few moments to check out the crowd to boot. Oh, and did I mention an amazing view of the band? No, I probably didn’t. Well anyway. Let’s back this blog entry up a few steps, and go to the beginning:
August 5, 2013.
A day that could’ve been like any other, except there was something exciting waiting at the end of the work day. I’d bought my tickets to see Gogol Bordello a week or so in advance, and even though the tickets were on my fridge and a constant reminder of what was to come–it hadn’t really hit me till the night before that I was really, ACTUALLY going to see the band that brought the term “gypsy punk” to the forefront. The band responsible for some of my favorite songs of all time, the band that went into an NPR Tiny Desk Concert and reminded the NPR staff that they cannot be contained in small spaces. THAT band. Gogol Bordello.
So work happened. Then off to the venue. Where I met up with some friends who were already there, and then another group of friends joined us. I had the fortune of going to the show with people already familiar with Gogol Bordello and friends who were not as familiar, but open to experimentation. I’m happy to report that the friend unfamiliar with Gogol Bordello was acknowledging their brilliance by the end. Anyway. We stood in line for a VERY long time. Doors–according to the tickets–were at 6:30. We didn’t get into the venue until an hour later, around 7:30. Which would’ve been fine….if it wasn’t August in Salt Lake City. For those not from here: August is blisteringly hot. And we were intimately reminded of this fact last night as we waited. I am grateful that we got there early though, even as much as we ended up wilting. Salt Lake City turned out in full force last night, the venue was packed.
The opening band of the night was Viza, who describes themselves (accurately) as an international rock band from Los Angeles. I was rather unfamiliar with the band, though I’d looked up a song prior to the show and had quickly fallen in love with that particular track (“Breakout the Violins”). The band is made up of the charmingly charismatic leader, K’noup, the mustachioed madman who has a way with the electric guitar, Orbel Babayan, and bassist Alex Khatcherian, guitarist Shant Bismejian, percussionist Chris Daniel, drummer Hiram Rosario, and Andrew Kzirian on the oud.
Look them up and you’ll likely find them described as Gogol Bordello meets System of a Down. I’m here to tell you–that description is fairly accurate. Especially if you give their album Carnivalia a listen. They immediately impressed upon me the fact that they are heavy: the rock elements are strong with this band, but it is all very tight and controlled. The band opened with a cover of the Doors “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” which may be one of my new favorite drinking songs. They brought great energy to the stage, and each of the musicians were captivating. K’noup has a strong stage presence, and couldn’t help but win much of the audience over. As an aside: A friend I was with was totally into the music and we were on the balcony overlooking the stage and she’d been reaching her hand out over the railing. K’noup happened to look up and reached back. Accident? I think not.
Viza was an amazing pick for opener for Gogol Bordello: they definitely helped get some of the crowd’s energy up, plus did that super important thing that a good opener should do: Introduced the audience to music worth looking into after the fact. I’ve spent much of this morning listening to Viza’s discography on Spotify and am planning on buying some merch when I have the funds, that way when I run across them again, I can get some autographs!
A few tracks for you, then we’ll move onto the part of the evening that may easily have made my entire year: Gogol Bordello.
Alabama Song [Whisky Bar]
bizarre video. Great song. Especially live. Next time I see Viza live, I will absolutely be singing along to this song. If you’re familiar with the Doors track….this version is way more manic and awesome.
Breakout the Violins
Vaudeville Rock at its finest. One of the best entry points into Viza’s music.
Fork in the Road
I love his vocals in this track. And his intro to the song. Viza is made up of some amazing musicians altogether, and I fully expect they are well on their way to taking over the world.
turn it up. play it loud. rock the fuck out. You’re welcome.
So Viza was great.
But of course, they weren’t the feature.
The headliner was Gogol Bordello.
And like I said earlier, Gogol Bordello has been part of my consciousness for a while now.
So what do you expect when you’re about to see a band for the very first band that you are completely and utterly enamored with? A band who put out a documentary like Gogol Bordello Non-Stop and whose live shows are reputed to be EPIC and part of why the band is so revered across the globe?
Frankly, you don’t expect anything….other than to be blown away and to have one of the best times of your life. Which is exactly what happened.
From beginning to end–it was one of the most amazing concert experiences I have ever been a part of. Eugene Hutz is an energetic leader, and with vocalists Elizabeth Chi-Wei Sun and Pedro Erazo backing him up and interacting with the crowd, it was impossible not to get excited. The musicians were perfect, and had some incredible stage dynamics. The set list was extensive, and covered everything from “Start Wearing Purple” to “Malandrino”, one of the tracks off of their brand new album, Pura Vida Conspiracy. I have to say that the moment the experience got surreal for me was a few songs in, when the band launched into “Immigraniada (We’re Coming Rougher)”. At that moment the realization that I was really there and in the presence of one of my favorite bands.
Reader: I don’t know if you’ve had similar experiences in your concert going experiences, but if you have you’ll know what an intense, overwhelming feeling that is.
Back to the music: Despite the fact that Gogol Bordello has been on the road pretty much non-stop since July 20th, they took the stage with frenetic energy and kept it up till the very end. The great thing about a Gogol Bordello show is not just the music and the crazy party vibe, it’s the reminder that this band is more than just a simple gypsy punk band. Gogol Bordello’s performances of “Break the Spell” and “Undestructable” reminded the audience just how powerful music can be to a movement. As Hutz said, just before the final song of the night, “Undestructable”, music is one of the real freedoms we have. And one of the most communal things we have to bring people of the world together. The fact is, the Gogol Bordello fan base is more than a fan base. It’s a familia. And I’m ridiculously happy to be part of this global music family.
I’m going to end this with a suggestion. If you’ve made it this far in my entry, congratulations. This was probably much longer than it needed to be. But the evening was one of the most amazing shows of my life. If you love Gogol Bordello and have not seen them live–make sure you change that. If you love Gogol Bordello and you’ve already seen them live–go see them live anyway.
And here are some more pictures for you, provided by some of Gogol Bordello’s super talented Salt Lake familia: Andrea Martin, Erica Head, and Brian Bonell.
And it’s his birthday. So this post is nothing more than me expressing my adoration for one of the coolest musicians of our time. It’s a true thing.
For those of you who have been living under a rock: Silveira is the mastermind behind the band, The Cliks, who’ve been rocking on a worldwide scale since 2004, touring for albums, festivals (like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors tour), and winning over hearts all over the place. I’m not going to go into detail about the band, or Silveira this time around. What I’m going to do is post some videos and let you have some good rock-n-roll to color your week. Check it out. Fall in love. Buy some music.
Happy Birthday Lucas Silveira. Keep kicking ass and taking names. You are an inspiration to all looking to live their dreams, and by the way, you rock.
There are reasons to pay attention to new music. No wait, let me reword that. There is a definite reason to listen to new music. Her name is Cheyenne Marie Mize, and she is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter based out of Kentucky.
In 2010, she released her first album, an introspective, moody compilation of songs titled Before Lately. In 2011, she released her EP We Don’t Need, and performed at SXSW. NPR fell in love with her and listed her among their 10 “Discoveries and SXSW 2011.”
This year she released a new album on Yep Roc, Among the Grey, and visited NPR to record a Tiny Desk Concert. This was my first experience with her music. At first glance, it’s hard to know what you’re in for. For the first track, Mize played ukulele, the favorite instrument of hipsters everywhere, and she looks very indie chic. But once the music starts and truly gets going, you know that you are in the hands of someone who knows exactly what she is doing. Mize is powerful, without being overbearing, and unquestionably talented. Her music hearkens back to PJ Harvey—there’s a sense of depth to her music, and in the three songs featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert (Raymaker, Whole Heart, and Wait for It) she spans the spectrum of emotions—from light, to melancholic, to dramatic. And with each piece, Mize used a different instrument. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” she explained in between songs, “I’ve never been able to decide which instrument to play. Sometimes it’s helpful, and sometimes it means I just have to carry a lot of things.”
If you do any research on her, you’ll quickly find this is not on accident. Cheyenne Mize is a music therapist, and thus can sculpt her lyrics to fit the energy of the music.
And every album has outstanding tracks. My personal favorite from her older material: Wishing Well. The song is impossibly catchy and bluesy, and impossible not to sing along with it.
If you have not familiarized yourself with Cheyenne Mize, take a few moments to do so. You will not regret it.
Among the Grey:
Wait for It:
And if you’ve made it this far….visit NPR All Songs Considered, as linked above, and watch her Tiny Desk Concert. Just do it.
1st image by Meagan Jordan and published in Time Out Chicago
2nd image from Dan Lubbers photoset published online.