You Sing, I Write: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Are Your Favorite Albums and Songs of 2008?

I know all the music bloggers and magazines have been writing about their favorite albums, songs and moments of 2008, but instead of reading another journalist's massive "best of" list for 2008, I'm more curious to know YOUR favorites. Was there an album you continually had on repeat in your car or your iTunes play list? What song could you absolutely not get out of your head no matter how hard you tried? What about your least favorite song you seemingly couldn't escape from wherever you went — be it your drive to work, shopping at the mall or at your favorite bar? I'd love to read your "best of" lists! Plus, it'll give me some new music to listen to as I ring in 2009!

Below, I'll post some of the music I've featured on my blog this year — hinting at 10 of my favorites to give you some possibilities of new music to check out for yourself. Take a listen. I think you'll enjoy them as well.

Brent Shuttleworth's video for "When I Reach California" below.



Joshua Radin - "I'd Rather Be With You" listen here.

Jason Reeves - "You In A Song." For Windows click here, for Quicktime click here.

Brett Dennen's music video for "Make You Crazy" featuring Mandy Moore below.



Passenger - "Night Vision Binoculars" check out here.

Pete Murray performing "Opportunity" live below with John Mayer or check out the music video here.



Serena Ryder - "Brand New Love" here. For Windows users you can listen here.


Sia performing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. For Windows. For Quicktime.

Theresa Andersson's video for "Birds Fly Away" recorded live in her kitchen.



Lastly, Ray LaMontagne's "You Are the Best Thing." You can listen to it here for Windows Media or here for Quicktime if you haven't yet.

What do you think? Can't wait to read your lists! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reviews to Peruse

Reviews to Peruse . . . I like the rhyme to that, don't you? I digress. In addition to keeping up my blog on a daily basis, I've also been busy working on a bunch of album reviews for a Web site I started writing for a few months ago — ReviewYou.com. Below are three of my latest reviews by Fico, Down the Lees and Ace Merrill. I have a few more albums I'm working on reviewing as we speak as well as transcribing my interviews with Hellogoodbye and Ace Enders from last month. My goal is to have one of those up in the upcoming week so be on the lookout! Click on the links below to read my reviews posted on ReviewYou.com or the above links to check out each artist's MySpace.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Band of the Week: Antiqcool

I recently received an email suggesting a track by UK-based band Antiqcool that I might like. Naturally, I gave it a listen. Extremely catchy, "Already Late" caught me off guard. The track recalls Sting's vocals while the accompanying music and harmonics brings about comparisons to early Coldplay (see guitar centric songs like Coldplay's "Yellow" and at times slower track "The Scientist"). Other reviewers have even suggested Crosby, Stills & Nash. Either way, there is something seemingly classic and intriguing behind Antiqcool.

Solid, both musically and lyrically, Antiqcool's melodies and light guitar strumming begs the listener to hit the repeat button. "Already Late," is just one example of a song that gets stuck in your head long after the last note is played. Click here to listen to the track for yourself! (If that link doesn't work for you try it on GarageBand here.)

The music featured on Antiqcool's MySpace page is extremely versatile. "Yesterday's Gone" is more of a ballad showcasing great emotion throughout the song (a bit airy which begs a Beach Boys vibe to me) while "Full Metal Jacket" is another catchy, yet unexpectedly edgier track.

What's curious about Antiqcool is that the band, or rather the concept of what is known as Antiqcool, is a mysterious collective pool of artists who write, record and occasionally perform together. There is no set songwriter or musician. Their MySpace states, "Sometimes I work alone as a singer songwriter, other times I get together with friends and collaborate. Making music that we enjoy playing and other people want to hear is all we try to do. I like to think of the Internet as a sounding board to get songs heard and listen to the feedback. It helps to generate an overall picture of what is working and what needs to be fixed."

Their MySpace description continues: "If you like well crafted songs with intricate guitar arrangements and vocal harmonies you've come to the right place," and I couldn't agree more. While the "Sounds Like" category describes Antiqcool as, "The Police arrest Fleetwood Mac defended by Crosby Stills and Nash in Simon and Garfunkel's Crowded House," I think it may be best if you check them out for yourself and come up with your own conclusion.

Give Antiqcool a listen on their GarageBand profile: here or MySpace. I'd love to hear what you think.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New York Opens Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex

Last week I headed to SoHo to visit the recently opened Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in New York — definitely the best money I've spent in a while. From walking throughout three rooms of exhibits to watching a video of some of rock's biggest icons live in concert, not to mention an autograph room where each musician's signature lights up on the wall as their music is being played from speakers, there was something to offer every music fan.

As my friends can attest, I love quotes. So, the live footage of some of my favorite rock legends — Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin and more — was great, but even better were some of the quotes intertwined with each performance. Here are a few that stuck out for me:

"A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage." Elvis Presley

"Music has to breathe and sweat. You have to play it live." James Brown

"The words are just as important as the music." Bob Dylan

"Music makes me high on stage, and that's the truth. It's like being almost addicted to music." Jimi Hendrix

After the video, everyone was ushered into the first of three galleries where we were given a set of headphones and hand-held audio guide to walk us through each area. With personal memorabilia from every band imaginable — from concert posters, numerous acoustic and electric guitars and clothing from many well-known musicians to Johnny Cash's boots, Elvis Presley's personal Bible with handwritten notes in the margins (the page on display read, "The Lord is the strength of my life he shall lead me."), and Bruce Springsteen's 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible (see below) there was so much to see!

The Doors, the Who, Metallica, Prince, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan — you name it, there was something to see from each band and musician. In addition to two rooms of band memorabilia, a third gallery focused solely on The Clash — complete with live concert footage and exclusive interviews as well as posters, tour outfits and band equipment.

Another interesting portion was reading notes to fans written by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones before they hit it big. One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was seeing handwritten lyrics to infamous songs like Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," Madonna's "Express Yourself" and Billy Joel's "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant."

I highly recommend the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for anyone visiting New York. They have a special holiday reduced price until January 2nd which I took advantage of, but if you miss that, it's still well worth seeing for any music lover. I hope I didn't give away too much of the exhibit, but provided a glimpse of what it has to offer. Be sure to visit and let me know what your favorite exhibit is! For more information, check out the Web site here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

EP Review: Wide Eyed Sleeper's "Choking on Menthol"

Wide Eyed Sleeper’s most recent EP, Choking on Menthol might be the most versatile record I’ve heard this past year. Each song is entirely different from the previous and it’s hard to classify exactly what genre the band fits into. Varying from a Foo Fighters rock vibe to a mix of indie, pop and even a little country intertwined, Choking on Menthol has a lot to offer for a five song disc.

Not newcomers to the music scene, band Wide Eyed Sleeper is made up of frontman Brett Ryan Stewart, guitarist Chris Tench, bassist Doc Downs and drummer Kevin Cuchia. Each member has had varying success on their previous endeavors, whether it was a well-received solo album or earning a 2007 nomination for IAC.com’s Indie Song of the Year. The four have combined their talents for an all-around solid release.

Having shared the stage with bands, such as The Strokes, Van Halen, No Doubt, Rush, and Brad Paisley to name a few, Wide Eyed Sleeper shows much promise and Choking on Menthol won’t disappoint. Recorded in Stewart’s home studio, the original plan was to make a follow-up to his debut album. However, once his band came together and the writing became communal, they decided to make the project a band effort.

Opening track, “Let Me Down Again” has that Foo Fighters rock anthem feel, as frontman Stewart’s vocals sound strikingly similar to that of Dave Grohl’s. Even the musical accompaniment is guitar heavy, making it easy to imagine an arena filled with fans singing along.

Title track, “Choking on Menthol” has more of a country vibe to it. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Stewart sings, “I used to want to talk to you for hours/But now I’m not so sure that you even hear my voice/Oh, I don’t see the point of love.” Narrating the emotionally-filled ballad, he later sings “Oh, I don’t see the point of love/It never lasts that long/Oh, I don’t see the point of love/We’re still going to die alone” as his lyrics play on the listener’s heartstrings.

While “Choking on Menthol” and “Left to Write” are slower ballads, “Wake Me Up” is an edgier track with fitting guitar accompaniment. The music is rougher than heard previously on the album, but suits the band well. Singing, “Wake me up when the revolution comes,” if anything is certain, Wide Eyed Sleeper won’t be in a slumber for too much longer after this release.

You can also read this review first posted on ReviewYou.com.

Be sure to check out Wide Eyed Sleeper on MySpace and listen to songs featured on the EP I wrote about above.

Friday, December 26, 2008

You Sing, I Write Photographer of the Year: Wendy Hu

The end of the year is approaching and it's that time when we all tend to look back and assess the year that was 2008 and prepare our "best of" lists. I'll probably compile a few of my favorite albums of the year at some point, but in the meantime I wanted to give credit where credit is due, specifically the amazing photos on the blog.

From accompanying me on the "Get a Life" tour, including interviewing bassist Jeph of The Used on their tour bus, to assisting and photographing my interview with frontman Kris Roe of The Ataris in the basement of Maxwell's, Wendy was there for it all. Not to mention her pictures — have you seen them? All the super clear, up-close concert photos on my blog are courtesy of Wendy. I don't know what I'd do without her!

Sure, I write the reviews, but as they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words" and I have to agree. I try to be overly descriptive in my concert reviews, but seeing a photo as a musician performs, leaning closer and closer to the edge of the stage while every hand is in the air in hopes to shake the hand of their favorite band (see photo above) is priceless. So thank you Wendy for contributing to my blog this year and as a special feature I figured I'd compile a "Year in Photos" post featuring some of my favorite shots from Wendy this past year. What do you think? Here's her Flickr account, did I leave out a photo I should have included? Enjoy!




















Thursday, December 25, 2008

Song of the Week: "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

A fitting song for Christmas Day, this week's song of the week is the 1984 Band Aid song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The song features Sting, Bono, Duran Duran, Paul Young among many others, all who contributed to the track to help raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

I just read a touching article on CNN.com that demonstrates the power of giving titled "Blog 'miracle' saves Christmas." Oliver Janney writes, "This is a happier story of one family whose financial ruin was averted by the actions of a friend, the compassion of strangers, the networking power of the Internet and the holiday spirit of giving." Read more here. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Your Favorite Holiday Songs

I received an overwhelming response from everyone on their favorite holiday tunes from my post last week, so I decided to include some today. Hope you all have a great holiday and you're spending the season with your loved ones and eating lots of tasty holiday treats. I can't wait to eat all the cookies I've been making as well as my Mom's amazing fudge! Still have a few Christmas gifts to wrap myself so I'll definitely be listening to some of your music suggestions while I'm doing that! :-)

The classic Charlie Brown Christmas song, "Christmas Time Is Here."



Vintage Bruce Springsteen. Watch as the Boss and his band play "Santa Clause Is Coming to Town" live from a 1978 performance at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ.



N'Sync's beautiful a cappella version of "Oh Holy Night."



Definitely not your "traditional" holiday song by any means, but a fun one at that. Check out No Doubt's quirky punk take on "Oi To The World."



Quite possibly the most beautiful rendition of "Silent Night" I've ever heard. Watch below for Enya's performance of it in Gaelic.



Lastly, try not to give yourself too much of a headache while watching this video of a house Christmas light display as The Waitressess' "Christmas Wrapping" plays in the background.



Did I leave out any of your favorites? Let me know! Merry Christmas :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Artist of the Week: Chelsea Lee

When I was 17 I was worrying about passing my driving test and making it on time to volleyball and band practice, not touring and opening up for notable musicians like Pat Benatar and Marc Cohn. But, this is the case for Chelsea Lee, who mixes high school and performing up and down the East Coast like a pro, selling out shows at Virginia's Jammin' Java. Pretty impressive for someone in her senior year of high school.

I first came across Chelsea Lee when I caught her performance last month at the Canal Room right before Luke Brindley's set. Her voice really blew me away and the fact that she's just 17 is unfathomable. Lee's performance and songs are that of someone well beyond her years.

Her relaxed singing style recalls Colbie Caillat; full of emotion complete with captivating storytelling throughout her lyrics. She's even been compared to Mary Chapin Carpenter and Natalie Merchant.

On "Long Way Down" — a ballad many can relate to — Lee sings, "It's hard to fit in when they don't understand/So much behind these eyes/I can't pretend that I'm not who I am/A reflection I don't recognize." With soft vocals and strong guitar and piano accompaniment she captures the listener's attention wholeheartedly. She then continues, "I lay on the roof and lose count of the stars/I find myself drifting away/And it's a long way down/And it's going to hurt til I hit the ground/There'll be a lot of mistakes/That I'll try not to make/On the long way down."

For more of a feel, listen to "Long Way Down" here.

Lee has received rave reviews from the press and fans alike. Buzz McClain of The Washington Post describes Lee best. "She sings. It's what she does. Chelsea Lee sings like she means it, with a voice that services the emotion of the song. It’s a voice that carries joy and pain into the heart of the listener, with unbridled passion that borders on obsession," he writes.

"So Far," another stand-up track, plays with the listener's heartstrings as she sings, "Why you got to go so far/Why you got to keep me up here wonderin' where you are/Why you got to go so far/I'd forget you if I could/And I'm doing pretty good."

"Fly Me Home" has words of life realization while much of her music has that timeless quality that every artist hopes to achieve. The more I listen to Chelsea, the more impressed I am of her music. An artist that shows much promise, check her out for yourself on MySpace and download a copy of her album on iTunes. Be sure to watch her video for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" below and if you like what you see, check out her YouTube page as well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Justin Timberlake Track!

Justin Timberlake can do no wrong. From his impeccable "SNL" skits to his growing movie roles, Timberlake is the full package. Check out his latest single, "If I" here featuring T.I. courtesy of Yo! Raps Magazine.

Having that Prince vibe, "If I" is sure to be playing in the clubs pretty soon, if it hasn't already. Give it a listen and let me know what you think! The newest music since Timberlake's well received sophomore solo effort, 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds, "If I" is sure to make the girls swoon with his smooth and sultry vocals as only JT can do.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Help Rebuild New Orleans With Josh Charles

Some of you may remember singer-songwriter Josh Charles from my "Artist of the Week" feature a few months ago as well as my blog anniversary bash last month at Maxwell's in Hoboken. Since then, Josh has been busy working on song, "Healing Time," partnering with Amazon and Tunecore for the release, which benefits the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Having a deep love for New Orleans, Josh was in the process of making New Orleans his home when Katrina hit. Scheduled to record the very next day at Ultrasonic Studios, the studio was destroyed by the storm, resulting in Josh leaving New Orleans on one of the last buses to Houston.

In December 2005, just three months after the devastation of Katrina, Josh went back to New Orleans to record at Piety Street, the only recording studio left after the storm. While there, he went on a congressional pass tour of the Lower 9th Ward, allowing him to see sections that were not open to the public. Moved by the devastation, he wrote "Healing Time" in an effort to bring light in a time of darkness to people’s lives affected by Katrina.

Visiting New Orleans again in 2006, performing at Jazz Fest and Piano Night, Josh was shocked at how little had been done. This is where the idea for "Healing Time" comes in.

All proceeds for "Healing Time" will go to Make It Right which helps build green, sustainable homes in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. You can help Josh and Make It Right by downloading the song on Amazon here for less than a cup of coffee. The goal is 150,000 downloads by New Year's Eve which will raise enough money to build a new home for a family in New Orleans.

I just downloaded my MP3 of "Healing Time." Did you?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blast From the Past: Up Close with John Travolta

As I'm going through the archives of my past work I completely forgot about one of the most exciting days for me while interning at MTV News, nearly two years ago. I'd go into more detail, but my blog for MTV News' MySpace page describes the day's event of meeting John Travolta pretty well, so read it below!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Up Close -- Maybe A Little Too Close -- With John Travolta

Last Thursday, everyone at MTV News was working hard breaking the latest Britney Spears news when producer Justin Tormey asked me to help him set up for a shoot with John Travolta. I couldn't say no! I helped him once before but I was never able to stay for a live interview, and I was super psyched.

Before interning at MTV, I never realized that a shoot can happen almost anywhere. Most times, all you need is a backdrop, some cameras, good lighting and microphones — with the help of people who know what they're doing to film what's going on.

Thursday's shoot took place in a conference room on the 44th floor shortly after Travolta made his appearance on "TRL" talking about his new movie, "Wild Hogs." I helped Justin and a few others search throughout the building for available equipment since much of the things we needed were being used for shoots in other locations. After setting up the backdrop and cameras and perfecting the lighting and sound, Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor, soon entered with John Travolta.

Josh talked to John about various topics during the interview. A big aviator, John talked of how he enjoys flying planes in his spare time and touched on the current generation of performers, such as Justin Timberlake, and their impact on the industry today.

(Read what Travolta had to say right here.)

It was interesting to hear Travolta talk about his former movies and musicals and learn that if he had more time he wouldn't mind singing and putting out an album. He will be appearing in the musical "Hairspray," and said it's like a sequel to "Grease," despite it taking place a few years earlier. It was really cool to hear John talk of people in the industry who have influenced him as well as current actors he may have influenced.

Throughout the interview I couldn't help but notice that while Josh and was interviewing John, the two looked like they were sitting a little too close to each other. When watching the footage from the interview you don't notice it at first, but they definitely seemed to be knocking knees more than just once throughout the interview.

Despite that possible awkwardness, the interview ran so smoothly, and John seemed like such a nice guy, constantly complimenting Josh on what a good question he asked and just seeming overwhelming responsive to every question Josh asked him.

Who knew celebrities could be so down to earth?

— Annie Reuter, MTV News Intern

Watch MTV Rough Cut: John Travolta below or here for the full five clips of the interview.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Song of the Week: "All I Want For Christmas Is You"

Mariah Carey's classic "All I Want For Christmas Is You" always tends to help bring in the holiday season for me. I haven't been able to stop listening to it the past few days (even made it my ringtone!). Watch her black and white music video for it below.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Top 5 Holiday Songs

Last week's Song of the Week featured one of my favorite holiday tunes, "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley. Since then, I figured I'd compile a list of my top five holiday songs below (in no particular order). Stay tuned tomorrow for one more!

1. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole


2. "Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney


3. "Last Christmas" by Wham!


4. "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by N'Sync


5. "Oh Holy Night" by Josh Groban


What's your favorite holiday song? Did I leave one out that you recommend?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Artist You Should Know: Anya Marina

With her soft vocals and quirky lyrics, at times recalling Australian songstress Sia with a bit of Duffy's jazzy vibe, Anya Marina is definitely making a name for herself. Having received rave reviews on her upcoming January release, Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II (stay tuned for a full review) as well as recently toured with Jason Mraz, Marina has been keeping busy.

Watch below as she performs with Jason Mraz during his song "Lucky" and if you like what you hear, be sure to check her out on MySpace and download first single off the album, “Move You (SSSPII)” currently available on iTunes here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Band of the Week: Status Green

I first stumbled upon Status Green a few months ago when they performed for MTV's Battle of the Bands contest where five bands competed to open up for the Rock Band Live Tour. During their introduction to the crowd, their sound was said to be inspired by music from the 1960s. However, when listening closely it's hard to put Status Green into one specific genre as their sound varies from that arena enticing rock feel of fellow Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi to a bit of a swing era vibe.

Status Green successfully blends catchy pop melodies with more of a rock sound featuring impeccable guitar interludes throughout many of their songs. "Juggling Knives" is a perfect example. At points it recalls the fun vibe of Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom" but rocks much harder. It's one of those songs you can easily imagine fans dancing along to at their shows as frontman Lou Montesano sings, "And now your nights have turned into your misty mornings/Yeah you got some money and I guess you're doing alright/Don't ignore all your instincts for once and say no/No big deal, it's your only life."

What's great about Status Green is each song sounds completely different from the previous. While "Juggling Knives" can be easily heard on mainstream radio, "Firebomb" has that classic swing vibe to it. Another danceable track, the band sure knows how to switch up their sound successfully without ever going over the top.

"Heaven I Think" is ballad-like at first with softer vocals, showcasing Status Green's more serious side. The track's pace picks up soon enough, once again demonstrating their versatility. I know Jersey boys when I see them and you can't deny their home state pride with none other than their song, aptly titled "Holland Tunnel."

Definitely one of the best sounds I've heard all year, it's not a complete surprise that they won a tri state listener poll on station 95.5 WPLJ to open for Bon Jovi. I'm pretty sure you'll hear a lot more from Status Green in the near future. But until then, do yourself a favor and check them out on MySpace and catch a show when they're in the area. They have a few New York and New Jersey gigs coming up so visit their MySpace for more info.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fall Out Boy Lead Washington Square Park in Sing-Along

For those who cut class or took a break studying for final exams to see Fall Out Boy perform at Washington Square Park in New York today, many were disappointed. Gracing fans with their presence for oh, just about 10 minutes, the band conducted a sing-along to fan favorite, "Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy."

Bassist Pete Wentz told the crowd, "We want to apologize to you guys. We're not allowed to play right now any music at all. But we figured that Patrick could sing something right here and we can all sing along instead."

According to a MTV News report, since the band didn't obtain a permit to perform in the park, if they so much as picked up an instrument they would be put in jail. Not the most exciting place to be on the day before your album release. While some fans in the crowd were confused about the situation, most clapped along and sang the song word for word as members of Fall Out Boy played air guitar.

After the nearly two-minute rendition, fans screamed for one more song as Wentz told the crowd, "If we're doing anything else we're getting arrested right now." Not a complete loss, the band walked around shaking hands and giving out copies of their upcoming release, Folie à Deux as Wentz showed fans pictures of his newborn from his phone, saying, "How handsome is he?"

Watch below for Fall Out Boy's performance in Washington Square Park, courtesy of MTV and to learn more of the details behind the impromptu concert, read MTV rock editor James Montgomery's take on it here.


Don't forget to pick up a copy of their new album in stores Dec. 16. And be sure to check out Amazon's 12 Days of Christmas promotion, which features a sale on Fall Out Boy MP3 albums, plus a limited edition, exclusive version of the band's new album, Folie à Deux. Limited to 1,000 copies worldwide, the packaging is made from 100% recycled materials, including a seeded envelope that will grow flowers when planted. Definitely not your typical album packaging. Click here for more info. on this promotion as 100 of those albums will be signed by Pete Wentz.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Army of Me Frontman Opens Up at Acoustic New York Set

Taking the stage solo, Army of Me frontman Vince Scheuerman played to a standing room only crowd Wednesday night at the Living Room.

For me, life came full circle as I realized that it was just around this time last year that I first met Vince for Army of Me's show at Union Hall in Brooklyn. My third "official" band interview for the blog, I remember walking away in awe of the pure honesty and amount that he revealed himself to me, a mere music journalist. Then I was struck with the immediate, "I HAVE to do this for the rest of my life" realization.

A few months later I was fortunate enough to go on tour with the band during the "Get a Life" tour with The Used, Straylight Run, Street Drum Corps and Lights Resolve — all great bands you should definitely check out if you haven't yet. I spent two days touring with Army of Me; interviewing the guys and getting a feel for the real touring lifestyle. Let me tell you, it's not as glamorous as it may seem.

Wednesday night at the Living Room, Vince reminded me of why small venues are my favorite. The intimacy. The onstage banter. The feeling that you're having a conversation with the musician onstage.

Performing songs from Army of Me's amazing debut album, Citizen (pick it up on iTunes, easily my most listened to album of the year) as well as a few new songs, Vince showed the audience his true colors as he told many of the stories behind his songs. Take "Perfect," a solid song played on acoustic guitar of which he said was written "at the end of a six-year relationship where I realized I was the worst boyfriend ever and was so wrapped up with myself." With light guitar picking, never overpowering the emotion of the song, Vince had the room paying attention to every lyric sung.

Having been off tour for a few months, Vince told the audience he's been at home writing and debuted a few new numbers. Some still untitled, he told the room his tentative song titles throughout the night. Not a huge deviation from his debut album, the newer songs sounded a bit more personal and fit the acoustic, intimate atmosphere of the venue extremely well.

Heading over to the piano, he told the crowd, "If I had my way, I'd play piano 80% of the time and guitar 20% of the time. But, I'm not good at piano," which seemingly presents a problem in that wish. Despite his lack of confidence in his piano playing, piano based "Better Run" continues to be my favorite song of theirs played live. Slowing down the night, you can feel the emotion throughout the lyrics as Vince sings, "If you find that your life would be better off without me/If you're running full speed and it feels good to be free/If you know it in your soul, though it's hard to let it go/You better run, you better run."

Another song from Citizen, "2 into 1" he asked, "If you love someone, is there anything you can't forgive?" before telling the crowd, "That's the idea of this song." The rest of the night included more of a behind-the-scenes look at each song performed as well as a few personalized dedications to long-time fans in the crowd.

As the year draws to a close, Wednesday night's set reminded me of why I began this blog just over a year ago. Showcasing musicians like Vince that I probably would never have stumbled upon years ago and seeing their progress as a band over the years is so inspiring. I'm excited to see where Vince and the rest of the guys from Army of Me will be up to in the next few years!

Vince will be playing another acoustic set in Arlington, Virginia this Thursday, so if you're in the area be sure to catch it! For more on Army of Me and future tour dates, check out their MySpace. And, if you haven't read my interview with Vince from last year yet, click here.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Hu.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Listen to New Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects' Albums Stream on MySpace

Oh, the wonders of the Internet. You can now listen to both upcoming releases by Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects on their MySpaces before they're due to hit stores and iTunes this Tuesday. Both have been getting mixed reviews by the press, so why not make the decision for yourself?


To listen to Fall Out Boy's album, Folie à Deux click here.

To listen to the All-American Rejects' When the World Comes Down click here.

Which album do you like better? Are you going to pick up both? I'm still debating myself.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Song of the Week: "Blue Christmas"

It's that time of the year again! The cold weather is starting to settle in, houses are fully decorated and most importantly, it's finally time for some holiday music. I'll warn you now, the next few weeks will most likely have tons of holiday song features. This week's "Song of the Week" is my all-time favorite Christmas song, "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley featuring a duet with Martina McBride.

Watch Elvis and Martina perform "Blue Christmas" live below.



And to learn more about the album, Elvis Presley Christmas Duets, watch Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, and other artists talk about recording with Elvis below.



If you'd like to record your own duet with The King be sure to check out http://www.singwiththeking.com. You can put his recording as well as your own duet into an e-card and send to your friends and family. Come on, that's a pretty unconventional Christmas card to send this year. I might send one myself . . .

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Introducing Fiction Family with Free MP3 Download!

Last November, I had the privilege of speaking at great length with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman after the band's New York show. He told me about his side project with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek:

"We started out kind of just joking around. It was one of those projects that was just like, 'Yeah, let’s do it, it’ll be fun.' And then four months into it we had four or five songs and they started sounding really good," Foreman said.

He continued, "It was this type of thing that we started thinking, 'Man this is actually a legitimate project that we’re both really proud of.' And so, that’s kind of where it’s at now. I mixed it myself, basically in my bedroom back in San Diego. So we’re going to try to get somebody else to remix it — bring it a little bit more to life than my ears can. I stand in front of guitar amps all day, how good of a mixer can I be?"

Their self-titled debut album will be released January 20 on ATO Records (stay tuned for a review in the upcoming weeks). In addition, Fiction Family will kick off a 21-date nationwide tour beginning January 13. Visit their MySpace for the tour dates and to listen to "When She's Near," an exclusive track off the album click here!

And, if you haven't read my interview with Jon Foreman yet you can check it out here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Q&A with Joshua Radin

The first time I came across Joshua Radin was last spring when I caught the Hotel Cafe tour as it passed through New York. The night had some amazing performances by Ingrid Michaelson, Cary Brothers, Meiko and Priscilla Ahn, but Radin was one performer that left an impact on me. His soft voice and light guitar strumming seemed to put everyone in a trance and the lyrics to many of his songs stuck with me long after his performance was over.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Joshua as his second album, Simple Times, was released. Not only has his album received rave reviews as well as graced No. 1 on iTunes, but Ellen DeGeneres has been an avid fan, even having Radin perform at her wedding. He spoke candidly to me about the album, as well as his break from Columbia and the state of the music industry today. You can listen to an MP3 of my exclusive interview with Joshua Radin here and read it below as well.

Congratulations with all the success of your new album, Simple Times. It recently shot to No. 1 on iTunes. Did you ever imagine that happening?
Thank you so much. No, I didn’t. That was really cool. It’s one of those things [that] are so fleeting. You don’t want to give it too much credit, things like that or any monetary success. It’s basically like how a good review and a bad review are the same to me. If you take the good review to heart you have to take the bad review to heart. I just try to basically keep writing songs and do what I do and do it for the fans. The only reason to make a record really, is to be able to make another record. If you play a show in a city, you play the show so you can play a show in that city again. And if you keep your head up about it and keep that mentality, then I think it’s much healthier.

This is your second full-length album. How was the recording process different for you this time around?
We definitely did it in less time. The first record I made with a buddy of mine in his bedroom. It took about six months because I didn’t have any money and he was just doing it whenever he had time, which was so rare. So, this one was the first record I ever made with a label and got to hire the producer I wanted. We took six weeks at my favorite studio and I hired these amazing musicians. It was quite the experience.

Did you go into the studio with a specific concept for this album?
I don’t think so. I don’t know if I had a concept in mind for the record. It was more just like, this was really just the last two years of my life. I guess that would be the concept.

I wanted to ask you about your first single off the album, “I’d Rather Be With You.” That’s my favorite song on the album and I was just wondering what inspired it, it’s such a beautiful song. (You can listen to "I'd Rather Be With You" here.)
Thank you very much. Every song I write is true. The feelings I go through, they’re like journal entries. Really the record itself is about falling in love, falling out of love, it’s about my friends, it’s about my family, it’s about the world I live in. It’s a little more expansive, I think, than the first record, which was pretty much a breakup record. They were all songs that I had ever written that came out of a pretty gnarly breakup. I kind of got my life back together and started thinking, “I want to do something a little different.”

I think “I’d Rather Be With You” is a song that maybe has more of a grove to it. I wanted it to be a full-band on this record, I actually have drums on it. There are quite a few songs on the record, like “We Are Okay,” which is a lot of percussion from Lenny Castro, who is Stevie Wonder’s percussionist, who is just an incredible guy. I just wanted to make every song, production-wise, sound a little different on this record. Because, the first record every song, production-wise sounds very similar.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

I think my favorite would probably be “You Got Growin’ Up To Do.” It’s one of those songs that came out in 15 minutes, which is pretty rare for me. And also, that I got to record it as a duet with one of my favorite songwriters in the world, Patty Griffin, which is just a complete and utter dream with just about the coolest person ever.

How did that come about?
I just sent her the song. I had never met her before, I’m just a huge fan and she loved the song and she didn’t even want to get paid or anything for it which is so cool.

What’s your typical writing process like? I know you said a lot of it comes out of breakups.
Well, the first record at least. The second record really is not much of a breakup record; it’s really about everything I have gone through in the last two years. I would say my writing process is, I usually have melody or something floating around in my head as I’m trying to fall asleep. Once I’ve got that melody that sort of comes to me, then I wait around until I have something to say about something I really need to express and then I put lyrics to it.

I know you said writing songs is like writing journal entries. Are you ever scared to write too much in a song or be too personal?
Yeah, I was when I first started writing. I started writing songs about four years ago, but I realized really quickly what people respond to is brutal honesty. That’s what people relate to. I’m as honest as I can possibly be when I write.

I read that you were on Columbia for your first album and then you basically bought out your contract to put out this album.
Yeah. Well, essentially what happened was I made that first record, We Were Here, on my own. Then Columbia signed me after hearing that record to a five record deal and re-released that record under their name as is. This was the first record I made with Columbia. I turned it in and they wanted it more poppy sounding and I said no, so I bought myself out of the remaining four record deal contract and put this out independently.

For a lot of artists, it’s their dream to sign a record deal.
Well, it’s much different now a days. The major record companies are dinosaurs, it’s impossible to get anything done with them. It’s just too much bureaucracy. One day someone’s telling you they love something and then the next day they’re fired and someone new comes in with a completely new set of criteria. When I signed with them originally it was to my understanding that I would have full creative control of what I released. And they were by no means dropping me, they just said, “We want a single on here that’s gonna make Top 40 radio.” And I said, “I don’t do Top 40 radio.” I don’t listen to anything that’s on Top 40 radio. There’s nothing about Top 40 radio that I want to be. It’d be fine if they played what I wrote and what I believe in on Top 40, that’s fine. I just don’t think that’s going to happen. At the end of the day you have to be able to sleep and be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I did what I believed in rather than what some guy in a suit in some office in New York believes in.”

Do you think artists have to be on a major label to be successful today?
No, not at all. In fact, there are so many that are hindered by being on major labels. It’s one thing if you’re like Beyonce or someone like that, if you’re a cash cow for Columbia, then you have the machine and you’re this big pop machine. But, they don’t have the money to develop artists anymore. They’ve lost so much money by piracy that there’s just no money to develop artists. So they make you sit around and make you write and write and write and write and try to fit you into a little formula that has worked with them before, like a movie studio that only has time to make sequels because they know that it’s something that has succeeded before and they don’t take chances. If you’re a huge pop act or you’re in hip-hop that’s one thing, or country music, those genres in our country sell like crazy. But, for my genre, which I deem whisper rock, it’s not going to see millions and millions of record sales. The only way for me to keep creative control for what I put out is to do it independently.

A huge platform are television shows and movies, which your songs have been featured in. I’m sure that has helped you a lot.
Yeah, for sure. But, I didn’t get any radio play on the first record and now this record actually “I’d Rather Be With You” has started to pop up all over the radio without a major label. It’s really cool to see that we’re able to do this and have a number one record on iTunes, something like that that’s commercially successful, but also do it my own way, the way in which I believe.

And you have Ellen DeGeneres backing you too. I saw a clip of your performance on her show and she said you performed at her wedding.
Yeah. She’s really cool. I played on her show in January and she came running up to me and said, “I would love it if you would play at my wedding.” And I said, “Okay, sure.” So a couple days before the wedding she called my manager, or someone from her show called and said, “She’d love to fly you in and you play her wedding at her house.” She’s been such an incredible support and she’s been talking about me on her show. She couldn’t be a more down to earth, mean what she says type of person.

How is it performing a TV show vs. your own concert vs. a wedding? Do you prepare a certain way or do you do something different?
No, not at all. I just get up and bring my guitar and play songs. I try to keep it as simple as possible. Which is why I called the record Simple Times because as much as we were arguing with the label about the record and everything like that, I just wanted to go back to how life started four years ago, just as honest and organic as possible and as simple as possible.

You’ve been called this generation’s Simon and Garfunkel. How do you feel about that?
I don’t think that’s it at all. If anyone wants to make comparisons, they do what they do. People always want to put you in some sort of box to make other people understand what you’re doing creatively and other things and I understand that. I just think I’m just trying to sound as much like Joshua Radin as I possibly can. I mean, I’m influenced by some of the songwriters; of course Simon and Garfunkel are a major influence on anyone that plays music I’m sure. But there are also tons of other musicians I’ve been influenced on and other features and novelists, my parents and my friends and my teachers. It’s pretty ridiculous, this generation’s Simon and Garfunkel. First of all, I’m only one person. Second of all, they’re incredibly prolific and music icons. I just started.

I read on Amazon that Rolling Stone called me this generation’s Bob Dylan and that’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s ludicrous! Bob Dylan invented music. I just feel like that’s putting a bull’s eye on the back of my head for everyone to be like, “No you’re not. You’re not really as good.” And I’m like, “Of course I’m not as good, I wrote my first song four years ago!” And I probably never will be as good. But, I bet you I’ll be much better at being Joshua Radin than Bob Dylan is. That’s all I can hope for.

To see Joshua's music video for "I'd Rather Be With You," watch it below and for more information check out his MySpace.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Artist You Should Know: Brent Shuttleworth

In one of his last performances of the year, Brent Shuttleworth exhibited the true definition of singer-songwriter to New Yorkers at Joe’s Pub Sunday night. Playing a nine-song set, Shuttleworth infused a mix of songs from his debut album, Witness, as well as some covers and a few new tracks, each well received by the packed room.

Taking the stage shortly after 9:30 with first song of the night, “When We Leave This World Behind,” Shuttleworth began alone on acoustic guitar before the rest of his band joined in. With his emotionally-filled lyrics quickly capturing the audience’s attention, as each word was sung you couldn’t help but get the feeling that he was wearing his heart on his sleeve.

While Shuttleworth’s guitar playing recalls early John Mayer, it’s his lyrics and vocals that set him apart. With vocals comparable to that of Ray LaMontagne but deeper with a smoother vibe and lyrics that bear his soul to the listener, Shuttleworth continues to stand out from the crowd.

Second track of the night was “When I Reach California,” currently my favorite song. A song about moving on, Shuttleworth said it also deals with “recognizing the realities of a certain situation and being proactive about doing something about it,” which for many is tougher than it seems. Singing, “You turned your back on me when I needed you/You buried me just like a funeral/I'm so sure right now that you never knew/What I had given up to be with you,” he really gave the audience the story behind his heartfelt lyrics. “When I Reach California” accompanied stellar harmonizing from his band as well as a solid instrumental interlude up to the fade out of the song.

Shortly after, he told the crowd about the inspiration behind “Witness,” the title of his next song. Having worked in South Africa helping with TAC, a campaign for treatment for people with HIV and reducing HIV infections through education and workshops, one day he was invited to a church service by his coworker. At the service, an American preacher from Kentucky was talking on the pulpit as a huge American flag was shown behind him, asking for each person’s weekly earnings to build satellite churches and missions for their communities.

Disheartened by the situation, Shuttleworth explained his surprise to the warmth between the community as they gave hugs to one another afterwards while saying, “You are my witness.” As if they were saying, “You’re a witness to me, to my life, to my existence.”

“The idea to have someone there for you has stuck with me,” he said. “And that’s the name of the next song and the title for my album.” Singing, “All of the nights alone/I never felt my soul was worth having/Won’t let one more day go by/Allowing myself not to be forgiven/When I’m broken/And I’m fading/I need a witness/When I’m beaten/And I’m bleedin’/I need a witness,” he aptly got his point across.

In addition to incredibly solid covers of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” with featured vocalist Amber Rubarth and the Cranberries’ “Linger” with Declan Bennett, Shuttleworth’s set entailed breathtaking ballads like “Satellite” and “Helpless,” a song he told the audience is not only for people in love but for people that want to be in love. “It’s a connection I made; describing the song and the state of being helpless to someone else, recognizing the fact that people take advantage of that vulnerability,” Shuttleworth said of his song. “Regardless of how much you give to a situation there’s no guarantee of any sort of return, in that vulnerability there’s that risk.”

The state of being helpless and vulnerable can be a very positive statement to be in, he explained. “It’s about being able to let your guard down and that state and relationship when you’re able to be vulnerable to someone else and liking the idea of being in love and wanting to be in that place.”

Another relatively new song, “Overcome,” Shuttleworth told the audience is a crowd participatory song. “Everyone is welcome to join in. You can clap, dance, get up onstage if you want too.” Definitely the most upbeat of the night, he had the audience liven up and sing along throughout the chorus.

“Stay” may just have been the most heartfelt song performed during his set. A song written for his late grandfather, Shuttleworth said his grandfather not only encouraged him to play music, “but to follow things that I believed in and things I wanted to do.” Lines like, “All we wanted was to be enough and that’s what we are” left a lasting impression.

Just when the room thought his set was over as the lights went on and music started playing from the speakers, Shuttleworth surprised the crowd by entering the floor between the couches and tables closest to the stage with his and Declan Bennett’s acoustic cover of “Linger” by the Cranberries. An intimate gesture, all in attendance clapped and sang along word for word.

As the year draws to a close and so does his performances, Shuttleworth promises more tour dates throughout the winter and spring. And, from his stellar set and the crowd at Joe’s Pub his fans will only grow with him.

Be sure to check out Brent's MySpace if you haven't yet and watch his video for "When I Reach California" below!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Listen to Live Audio Stream of John Mayer Concert!

You read it right. Just found this on my lunch break. I listened to the show Saturday night when it was streaming live (AMAZING), but didn't realize it was still up. To listen to a stream of John Mayer's two-hour performance this past Saturday at LA's Nokia Theater click here. This concert definitely gives you some insight into the singer-songwriter's past and present. Who knew he could be so comical? Enjoy! You can thank me later ;-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blast From the Past: Interview with the All-American Rejects

Last night's free All-American Rejects concert at Hammerstein Ballroom reminded me of my on the fly interview with frontman Tyson Ritter back in college. It was one of those situations that I look back at and laugh because sometimes I can't believe half the things I've done to score an interview with some of my favorite bands. (Please, no groupie remarks I'm a journalist not a bandaid!) Anyway, last night's show was pretty intimate as they were filming it for Wal-mart and it looked as if only a hundred or so fans gained access to the event. I'll let you know when I find out the full details of when the concert will air. In the meantime, read below for this week's "Blast From the Past" with the All-American Rejects.

When my friend invited me along to help cover a concert at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton two summers ago, naturally I went. She was working on a piece for the Trenton Times about the venue and how it was trying to attract a younger crowd. Hence, the concert "Popfest" was put on by local radio station WPST 94.5 attracting many of its younger listeners. In addition to the All-American Rejects, performers included Nick Lachey, The Fray, Bo Bice, and The Click Five.

My friend was promised a press pass to interview some of the bands, but for some reason it fell through. This is where my ingenious Plan B came in. "Let's just go find their tour buses," I remember telling her matter-of-factly. And so we did. After waiting 10 minutes or so she was discouraged and wanted to leave, but I persisted. A few minutes later, drummer Chris came out of the venue but was short on time, so he told us to wait for the rest of the guys. Shortly after Tyson approached the bus where we were able to ask him a few questions about the event. It was probably less than a five-minute impromptu interview, but I'll take what I can get!

How is it for you playing a show like Popfest at a smaller venue vs. your bigger arena shows?
Our first time to step out in an arena was with Fall Out Boy two months ago and we just got off that tour. So I guess coming off that tour this might seem smaller, but this is still a large show to us. Definitely a different energy though. At a pop show, people don’t move as much.

Do you enjoy playing shows like Bamboozle more?
Oh yeah. That’s like the voice of a generation all in one spot at the same time. They’re the future leaders of America. Even though they may listen to music that’s not contemporary or run of the mill, those people are a lot different when they go to Bamboozle. The people who go to Bamboozle are definitely . . . I don’t know, more cerebral than normal people, I find. Whereas at these shows people scream and go crazy like five seconds after they see us. At Bamboozle a kid will be like "What’s up Tyson?" and try to talk to you, as opposed to try to bombard you or scream until you give into some weird wish that they want. But it’s all fun.

Would you consider coming back to Trenton?
Oh yeah. It was great, the kids were loud, girls were giggly. The next time we come here we’d like to come and play a proper show. We had the option to headline but we wanted to make The Click Five look bad. We don’t like bands that don’t rock their instruments. There’s a difference between playing your instrument and rocking it. I don’t play my instrument. It’s really kind of, I like to call it ho-hum music because after one song you kind of go ‘ahhhh' [referring to bands who don’t rock their instruments].

Gotta love the honesty. Be sure to pick up a copy of AAR's new album when it hits stores, December 16.

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