You Sing, I Write: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Chance to Win Katy Perry and Boys Like Girls' Albums

I know originally I said I'd be picking a winner today, but I figured I'd extend the contest a few days since I'm sure everyone has been busy with Thanksgiving preparations and shopping now that the holiday season is officially here. The winner of the contest will receive an album by Katy Perry and Boys Like Girls for the most creative answers. I'll be picking a winner this Friday, December 5. Sponsored by Denny's Rockstar Menu, the contest details are still the same, see below.

E-mail me or leave a comment on my blog with your name, the best way to contact you if you win (by email or phone) and answer the following three questions as it pertains to the artist of your choice:

1.) If you could ask Katy Perry/Boys Like Girls one question, what would it be?
2.) What's your favorite Katy Perry/Boys Like Girls song and why?
3.) If you could spend the day with Katy Perry/Boys Like Girls, what would you do?

Thanks for participating and good luck! You can check out the guys from Boys Like Girls live in the kitchen below. Be sure to visit Denny's Web site for more info on your favorite bands and their late night menu.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

December 1st Holiday Benefit Concert

I wanted to let you know about an album release party and benefit concert I'll be attending this coming Monday night and invite you to come along! This year marks the second annual concert and release of A Holiday Benefit, Vol. II, which will be held at the Canal Room in New York Monday night from 8 p.m. until midnight. I attended the inaugural concert last year where many New York-based musicians played and raised nearly $3,000 for 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

Creator of the now-annual A Holiday Benefit series, singer-songwriter Benjamin Wagner, spoke to me last year about his concept for the yearly showcase and album release. Having been a creative writing major himself, Wagner talked of the importance that kids of all socio-economic backgrounds understand and develop writing skills.

"It's how we communicate and express ourselves," Wagner said. "I wanted to do something local and something for kids. I wanted to do something bigger than me. Life is about meeting people and doing things together, not about doing your own thing. I just wanted to do something together with other people that I love — make the world a tiny bit better."

Wagner explained that he was trying to provide a "think globally, act locally" concept, which is the idea he pitched to his fellow musician friends last year. You can read my write-up of the concert and more of my interview with Wagner from last year here.

This year's show will feature 15 performers and showcase many tracks from the album. It's for a great cause and will definitely be a night of amazing performances. Hope to see you there! For more information check out the MySpace page and Facebook event page.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Song of the Week: "The Thanksgiving Song"

It's that time of the year again. What better way to kick off the holidays than with Adam Sandler's hilarious classic, "The Thanksgiving Song?" Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends and eat tons of delicious food!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Artist You Should Know: Luke Brindley

I love discovering new bands and if I could go to a concert every night of the week I’d be content. So, when I received an email a few weeks ago from singer-songwriter Luke Brindley and found out he’d be playing the Canal Room last night for their “Artist You Should Know” showcase, of course I went.

Luke Brindley’s nearly hour-long set was a solid mix of solo acoustic performances as well as band accompaniment on bass guitar, keyboards and backup vocals. While his voice is somewhat reminiscent to that of Jacob Dylan, what is strikingly different about Brindley is his versatility. He can easily adapt from a more up-tempo band set to taking the stage solo. Whether he’s playing a song entirely instrumentally on guitar or alternating between singing and harmonica, he had the audience intrigued.

Brindley is no newcomer to the music scene. His self-titled solo album has been called "One of the best roots-rock records of the year” by The Washington Post while previous releases have received equally favorable reviews. In fact, his 2004 release Playing With the Light, as part of band, Brindley Brothers was named "Top 12 Debut Records of the Year" by Paste Magazine while Rolling Stone said “Fans of Wilco and Gin Blossoms will swoon.”

Last night Brindley featured many songs off his latest EP, Five Songs. Ballads “Loving Arms” and “On Your Side” showcased Brindley’s compelling storytelling and finger picking skills while “Know Your Love” had strong bass accompaniment and impeccable harmonies.

The former New Jersey native displayed his deeper vocals on “The Hudson River,” a song originally written while residing in the Garden State. In fact, many songs were inspired from living in Jersey, another specifically called “Dervish.”

“When I lived up here I used to play guitar with a friend and he turned me onto Turkish music,” Brindley told the audience before segueing into this instrumental number. “Dervish” showcased Brindley’s talented guitar playing as he speeded up the song with intricate guitar picking, improvising as he went along. As he picked up speed screams could be heard throughout the room before he slowed down and ended the song to thunderous applause.

Closing the night with obvious crowd favorite, “Wrecking Ball,” Luke Brindley shows much promise. And, I’m pretty sure, in time he will no longer be an artist you should know, but an artist everyone knows.

Watch Luke playing "Dervish" below for more of a feel of the song.

You can read this review in it's entirety on
Be sure to check out Luke on MySpace if you haven't yet or his Web site for more info.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Many Sides of the All-American Rejects

Review and photos by Wendy Hu

After seeing the Rejects in concert a couple of times over the past few years, I wasn’t sure what to expect with their sold-out show at Irving Plaza last Tuesday. If the night was any testament to their ability as musicians, writers and performers, their new album, When The World Comes Down, slated for a December 16 release, is definitely going to be more than just another catchy pop-rock album. It was a night of entertaining, energetic rock with a large dose of honesty, appreciation for the crowd, sexual innuendos, and guitar picks being thrown into the audience after nearly every song.

The set list flowed, but in an eccentric and unexpected way, largely due to the many sides of lead singer Tyson Ritter. He got the crowd dancing from the get-go with their two big pop-centric hits, “Swing, Swing” and “Dirty Little Secret.” Transitioning into their newest single, “Gives You Hell,” it felt like Ritter was putting on a play with his animated facial expressions and constant audience interaction. One minute sincerely frowning while reaching into the crowd singing “Truth be told, I miss you,” then quickly changing into a sinister smile and bug eyes while flicking his middle finger singing, “Truth be told I'm lying.”

A more serious side came out when Ritter started talking about the state of the world, “Shit can all fall apart, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve got someone next to you,” which led to “Mona Lisa,” another track off their upcoming release.

The entire night Ritter addressed his appreciation to New York fans: “We missed you so much, New York! You’ve been with us forever; we're not just a flavor of the week…You care about the All-American Rejects,” Ritter said. “I haven’t been this happy for two months. I’m going to sing something special for you, New York City,” before he slowed the night down with an acoustic version of “It Ends Tonight.” Disco ball reflections flickered throughout the room as the audience sang along word for word while Ritter conducted them. There was definitely a moment there. It was too perfect, so of course, the next song had to be, “I Wanna Touch You,” another one from the new album.

The hour-long set ended with “Move Along,” which again had the crowd energized, dancing and jumping around. The Rejects ran off the stage, but everyone knew there would be an encore. I wasn’t sure what song they would play since all the hits seemed to have been played already. After the chants died down, AAR quickly ran back onstage as Ritter quieted the room. He then told the story of how three-and-a-half years ago he had a CD with two songs; one of them being the now infamous hit "Move Along," which he gave to two guys from their record label to listen to. He played it for them and one said, “You did it, kid. This is the song.”

Sometime after, this same friend from the label passed away. Ritter said for the new album, he was striving to write something special, something more than just pop music for his friend. Closing the night with “Believe,” Ritter said he really believed his friend was listening “up there.”

See, I knew it would be a fun head-boppin’, teenage-girls-screaming kind of a night, but I’m happy to have been surprised and to have also seen another side of the Rejects, much more than just another pop-rock band.

Watch the All-American Rejects' performance of "Believe" from the show below.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Artist of the Week: Johnny Flynn

The first word that came to mind when I heard Johnny Flynn's voice was timeless. He has that classic sound that artists have been striving for since Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan emerged on the scene. While each artist aims for the longevity of Cash and Dylan, Flynn is well on his way.

A South African emigrant to Britain, 25-year-old Flynn has a style of music that makes the listener question just how old he is. After just one listen it is evident that his songs have much depth and age to them.

His songs can be categorized as folk rock with that quality storytelling encompassing the music that many folk songs are known for. In fact, it's no wonder that Dylan is one of Flynn's major influences as his music takes the listener back to Dylan's early days. Not only well versed lyrically, Flynn is extremely versatile musically as he plays guitar, violin, trumpet, accordion, mandolin, harmonica and percussion on his debut album, A Larum.

I have a few MP3s and videos of Flynn's to listen to so you get a better idea of what I'm talking about and can make your own critiques on him instead of just reading mine. Enjoy!

To listen to Flynn's song "Cold Bread" click here.

To listen to "Hong Kong Cemetry" click here.

You can also watch the video for "The Box" below. A catchy song, Flynn's deep voice blends impeccably with the guitar interludes throughout — at times almost too perfect to believe.

And here's another video of Flynn's with Laura Marling covering Jeffrey Lewis & Diane Cluck’s anti-folk song "Travel Light."

For more on Johnny Flynn, be sure to check him out on MySpace!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blast From the Past: Interview with Sugarcult

A few weeks ago I posted my first interview with Ace Enders featured on Jane Magazine's music section of their Web site when I interned there. This week's edition of "Blast From the Past" is another Jane feature.

Fellow Jane intern Monica Perry and I (check out her amazing blog here — cleverly titled Our Jane) got tickets to see Sugarcult in concert a few years back. I knew some of their radio hits but had no idea what the guys looked like to approach them for an interview (should have done my research!) so when we noticed a bunch of girls talking to a tall man by the backstage area we assumed it had to be one of the guys from the band. We walked over and asked a fan who it was and she told us it was Sugarcult guitarist Marko DeSantis. I was doing a write-up for the school paper of the show so I approached him, asking if they did interviews. He then took my notebook and pen right out of my hands and wrote down his email address adding, "Just don't go out giving this to everyone."

That was my very first impromptu venture of going up to a band and getting an interview and it was so invigorating! Little did I know a few years later I'd be doing this all the time and I must say, it never gets old. If I could interview a new band every day of the week I'd be content! Read my Jane feature below and for the full transcription of my interview with Marko click here.

Interview with Sugarcult's Marko DeSantis

Sugarcult's latest album "Lights Out" is all about "escapism and the guilty pleasures people indulge in that bring temporary happiness but are ultimately self destructive; casual sex, drugs, pop-culture," says lead guitarist Marko DeSantis. Intern Annie talks to him to find out what he actually means by all that.

On the track "Explode" you sing, "The radio is here to stay, turn it off and walk away." Have you been burned by commercial radio?

The music business is all so political, but at the same time we can be happy that some good music is getting a fair shake with bands like the White Stripes and the Killers. It's just sad when places like Philadelphia and New York City don't even have a rock station anymore.

If the radio is too commercialized for you, where do you find out about new bands?
I've never really listened to commercial radio; growing up it was all about going to shows, word of mouth, mix-tapes, magazines, digging through the racks in indie record shops. Today it's not much different, but iTunes, websites and file sharing just make it easier to get turned on to stuff. My favorite way to discover a band is to see them play live and unexpectedly be blown away.

So who are you into now?
Lately I've been listening to The Adored, TV on the Radio, The Strays, Maxeen, Against Me. I'm always diggin' old jams by Tom Petty, Smashing Pumpkins, The Clash, Superdrag, and The Cars.

What inspires your music and this album?
There's an old quote attributed to John Lennon, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." I think the same thing can be said about creating music; you set out to document your experiences and what's in your head and then it becomes something bigger than the sum of its parts.

October 27, 2006
Annie | Music | Permalink | Comments (1)

I love the honesty! Read more of my interview with Marko here and be sure to check out Sugarcult on MySpace if you haven't yet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Song of the Week: "Untouched"

I heard "Untouched" on the radio by The Veronicas about a week ago for the first time and loved it! This morning I heard it once again and have since decided to make it my song of the week. The string introduction in the song is so fierce and the first few lyrics sung are catchy and keeps me listening and dancing along throughout the rest of the song. (Somewhat of a problem when I'm at work and should be sitting still.) Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Folk-Rocker Brett Dennen Ends Acoustic Tour with Sold-Out New York Performance

Taking the stage barefoot, Brett Dennen had the standing-room only crowd dancing along to his folk and Afrobeat inspired music Tuesday night. Playing a nearly two-hour set at the Canal Room, Dennen showcased his remarkable guitar picking and quirky onstage antics, at times acting as a puppeteer while slowly scatting throughout various interludes in his songs — truly a sight to see.

The New York gig was the last of Dennen’s intimate acoustic tour supporting his latest release, Hope for the Hopeless. Coincidentally, Tuesday was homecoming for him as the Canal Room was the first venue he ever played in New York and it was evident he was glad to be back. And, lucky for New Yorkers, Dennen switched up the night between full band and acoustic sets. “Most of the tour has been an acoustic tour, but New York is important so we thought we’d do a couple songs like they’re on the album,” Dennen told the screaming crowd after his first five full-band songs.

Featuring a mix of older fan favorites from his previous albums, including “Ain’t No Reason” and “She’s Mine” as well as his most recent single “Make You Crazy,” Dennen gave each song character, more than listening to his albums ever could. His lively and welcoming stage presence gave the show more intimacy as he told the crowd, “We need to vibe it out a little more” as the lights dimmed. “If you don’t talk for a while we’ll all be meditating our brains and minds and hearts and we’ll all be in the same place,” Dennen said. “If you want, you can sing along. But don’t sing louder than me because I get insecure.”

While every songwriter has a story behind his song, the tales behind Dennen’s music invoke much depth and emotion. One such example is “Make You Crazy” as it was inspired at an awards ceremony for people in the film industry writing about mental illnesses. After his performance at the awards ceremony, Dennen says he was sitting in the audience while a talk was being given about “the pressures in society and how that alone is enough to make people insane. Not to mention the overwhelming stresses that are out there that have an actual physical effect on people. So I jotted that into my phone and thought about it and those were some ideas from it.”

The mini 12-date tour prefaces a larger tour in early 2009. Of his intimate tour, Dennen says, “It’s just something that, as the bigger my shows get and the farther that I need to travel and grow, I always want to be able to come back to the intimate setting. When you take away all of the production of the band and everything, you still have these quality songs that can come across to more of a folk music setting.”

Poignant ballads like “Heaven” showcase Dennen’s lyrical forte. Of “Heaven” he said, “I’m not specifically writing about the afterlife or people who believe in heaven. I’m writing about this idea that it doesn’t matter how people believe or how sinful we are on earth, as long as we believe in this idea of heaven or this dream — whatever you want to call it — that is going to save us in the end.” He continued, “I’m posing questions about it because I see a lot of contradiction between people and their actions and their morals.”

Overall, the night was a solid mix of music. Whether it was Dennen moving his hips in movement to his guitar playing onstage or the crowd dancing energetically during the last song of his night, “Blessed,” all in attendance had fun and will surely be back to see his next tour stop in New York.

Watch the video below of Brett playing "Blessed" on a previous tour date to get more of a feel of his performance.

Check out Brett's Web site for all his latest information and updates on his upcoming tour!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So Long "TRL"

It was only time I suppose. In a way, I feel like my childhood is now officially over. (I know, I know a bit dramatic). But, I grew up watching "Total Request Live" — lingering outside numerous times to get a glimpse of the Backstreet Boys and other favorite bands of mine throughout high school. My friend was even featured on the 11 o' clock news from waiting outside for countless hours when police shut down Times Square when the Backstreet Boys were in town. (She has video footage to prove it, believe me I wouldn't make this up!)

That same friend won tickets for us to be on "TRL" for my 18th birthday — definitely one of the best birthday presents to date. I can still remember the day as if it was yesterday, walking up those escalator stairs at the MTV offices, (thinking it was the coolest thing ever!) before being escorted into the "TRL" studios.

We checked the line-up for the day the previous week and found out that a band called Good Charlotte would be hosting. Twin Benji of the Madden brothers revealed his undying love for Christina Aguilera during that episode. We never heard of Good Charlotte at the time so we did some research and listened to their music and were pretty impressed. A few weeks after, their infamous hit single "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" was released, eventually contributing to their lifestyle becoming that of which they sang about in the song, how ironic.

I'm sure many people my age have similar "TRL" moments and it's saddening that after a decade of bringing fans closer to their favorite bands and launching many successful careers, the most popular music video countdown is now deceased. It was the "American Bandstand" of our era and I'm sure "TRL" will not be forgotten.

Below are five of the performances from the "TRL" finale aired this past Sunday. Watch as Beyoncé, Fall Out Boy, Ludacris, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Backstreet Boys and 50 Cent take the stage at the "TRL" headquarters one final time. (After the Beyoncé clip is done, click the video to see the other performances.)

You can also watch the show in it's entirety, split up into 32 segments, or check out MTV's listings for when they'll replay the final episode of "TRL."

And, maybe in a few years there will be documentary shows dedicated to the impact that "TRL" has had in the music industry like the one below of "American Bandstand." I found this video pretty interesting so I thought I'd share it with you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Homegrown Groove: Interview with Brett Dennen

I first stumbled upon Brett Dennen after reading about him in Rolling Stone back in 2007 as he was named an "Artist to Watch." Of Dennen, Rolling Stone writer Kevin O'Donnell says, "[Dennen] turns out relaxed roots-rock jams about walking through the trees and watching desert sunsets. He's also got some serious guitar-playing chops — his finger-picked, jazz-influenced chord structures could be mistaken for Dave Matthews or early John Mayer tunes."

Since then, Dennen has had quite the journey. Traveling continuously the past year, supporting his most recent album Hope for the Hopeless as well as opening for Australian singer-songwriter Pete Murray and being handpicked by John Mayer for his summer tour, Dennen has kept himself busy. In fact, even John Mayer is one of Dennen's most avid fans, saying of his last album So Much More, "A beautiful and spirited record, instantly likeable."

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Brett the week before the release of his third album, Hope for the Hopeless. He talked to me about the album, including the stories behind some of his songs as well as his songwriting process and current tour. I'll be catching his show tonight at the Canal Room, so be on the look out for a review in the upcoming week. If you haven't yet, watch the video below for his latest song, "Make You Crazy" featuring Mandy Moore.

Rolling Stone named you an artist to watch last year and John Mayer is a huge supporter. Did you ever imagine all of this success would happen for you?
No. I think if you have faith and if you do what you believe in and you do what you know how to do good and you stay real and true to yourself, that eventually you’re going to get recognition for it. But I don’t think you visualize too much specifically what that recognition is going to be. I had always thought that if I continue to work hard and do what I do, I would get some sort of recognition but I didn’t think it would come in this form.

Tell me about Hope for the Hopeless. This is the third album you’ve put out; did you go into the studio with a specific concept for it? And how is it different from your previous two?
I went into the studio with the songs that I wanted to do on the album. I knew that I wanted the music and the production and everything to be a step up from the last record I did. Not to say that it’s better, but it’s a little bit more groomed, [I wanted] the production to be bigger sounding. I think that’s kind of clear if you listen to So Much More and my first record and you listen to Hope for the Hopeless — you can see that progression. The songwriting is a little more focused and crafted. I think as far as the messages and the things that I’ve seen and I write about, it’s all still pretty much the same kind of things that I’ve been singing all along.

I love “Make You Crazy.” Femi Kuti is featured on that song as well, how did that come about?
We have a business connection to my record label and there was a possibility that he might put music out on my label, which is Downtown Records. So the connection was made between he and I by my record label. Beyond that connection, I’ve been wanting to work with him for a while. I’m a big fan of his. A lot of my music was inspired by his music and other artists in the Afro-beat world.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
No. I mean, I love them all equally and I love them all for different reasons too. I think each one of them has the ability to articulate different things I believe in and they also sum up different parts of my personality and different sides of me.

What is your typical writing process like, do you carry a pen and paper everywhere you go? Where do you find your inspiration?
Sometimes you can prepare yourself to write and to be inspired and sort of clear the air and clear your schedule and make plans to work on stuff. Other times inspiration just hits you and you’re forced to just sit down and write or write something down because if you don’t, you might lose it forever. I used to carry pens and pencils around, but now a days if I get really inspired I’ll just type something into my phone.

A lot of things, like “Make You Crazy” is the perfect example. I was sitting in a theater. I had performed at an awards ceremony for people in the film industry who were writing about mental illnesses and I had performed a song. Then I was sitting in the audience and someone was giving a talk about all the pressures in society and how that alone is enough to make people insane. Not to mention the overwhelming stresses that are out there that have an actual physical effect on people and so I jotted that into my phone and thought about it and those were some ideas from the song and then I wrote it.

I really love your song “Heaven.” The lyrics are so deep and meaningful. What was going on through your head when writing it?
I just wanted to write about the ultimate expression of people’s faith, [which is] a lot of times, I think, people’s ideas of the afterlife of heaven. I’m not specifically writing about the afterlife or people who believe in heaven. I’m writing about this idea that it doesn’t matter how people believe or how sinful we are on earth, as long as we believe in this idea of heaven or this dream — whatever you want to call it — that is going to save us in the end. I’m sort of questioning about that, posing questions about it because I see a lot of contradiction between people and their actions and their morals. I just wanted to write about that.

Tell me about your current tour. What can fans expect?
This intimate tour is more of an acoustic tour, it’s just me and my friend Andrew who also plays guitar, and we’re playing small clubs. There are not going to be openers. It’s going to be an entire evening of just acoustic performances of new songs and old songs, cover songs and songs that people may have never heard before. It’s just something that, as the bigger my shows get and the farther that I need to travel and grow, I always want to be able to come back to the intimate setting. When you take away all of the production of the band and everything, you still have these quality songs that can come across to more of a folk music setting.

Is there a certain tour stop you’re looking forward to?
I’m always looking forward to playing in San Francisco. I’m really excited to play Philly because we get to play this tiny, little place called the Tin Angel which is ridiculously small. I played there once a while back and I had a great time. Since I played there, I’ve played bigger venues in Philly and I’m excited to go back to that one.

You worked with producer John Alagia on Hope for the Hopeless. How was that experience?
It was great. He and I have became really good friends. He’s actually coming over my house later on this afternoon and I’m going to help him write some songs for another artist that he’s working with right now. I’ve learned a lot from him and I think he’s learned from me as well. It’s just been a really inspiring process and I hope it continues.

I just saw the song on your MySpace with Jason Mraz that you both wrote for Survival International, how did that come about?
Both he and I were approached at different times by people that were putting together the album. I think what happened was that they asked too many artists to be a part of it and they had more artists than they needed. So they asked us if we wanted to work together so we both said, “Yeah.” I actually had most of the song already written so when we got together at Jason’s studio in his house in San Diego I had given him a copy of the song and showed him where I was going with it and we worked together on it. He wrote a part for it and then we recorded it that afternoon, all the parts except for the strings which we added later. All the rest of it we recorded at his house in his home studio and it was done in a matter of a couple of hours.

Have you always wanted to be a singer-songwriter growing up?
No, not really. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but after I graduated college I was playing gigs in a band and I really fell in love with it and I started doing my own gigs and it took.

I read that you were a camp counselor at Yosemite National Park and you’ve been touring the world the past few years. You have led such an interesting life so far. If your life was a book, what would you title it?
[Laughs] I don’t know. That’s a great question. I don’t know. It would have to be something to do with being weird and different . . . it would have something to do with growing stuff in the garden. Homegrown veggies or something, I don’t know. Homegrown groove.

Be sure to listen to Brett on MySpace and check out his Web site for all his latest information!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Artist of the Week: Ray LaMontagne

Since I received Ray LaMontagne's latest album, Gossip In The Grain, in the mail a few weeks ago I haven't been able to stop listening to it! I introduced you to LaMontagne a while back with my "Song of the Week" of his beautiful first single off the album, "You Are the Best Thing" — currently my favorite track on the album. You can listen to it here for Windows Media or here for Quicktime if you haven't yet.

Gossip In The Grain encompasses the perfect blend of music. Whether LaMontagne is singing an ode to Meg White of the White Stripes with his intriguingly catchy lyrics, "Meg White, I saw you on the big screen/Old Jack was keen/But you stole the scene/Meg White, baby you're the bomb/Old Jack he's great, don't get me wrong/But this is your song " or infusing more of a folk and country sensibility throughout tracks like "Hey Me, Hey Mama," Gossip In The Grain has much diversity to offer listeners.

He's been hailed "a songwriter's songwriter, and a singer's singer" by fellow singer-songwriter John Mayer, who has blogged about LaMontagne on his Web site, adding "I think Ray LaMontagne is as brilliant as any artist that has ever lived. " And I must say, I have to agree.

Songs like "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's a Shame)" showcase LaMontagne's continuous versatility. Whether it's his edgier singing and guitar strumming on this track or horn features throughout, he grabs your attention. "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's a Shame)" is a song that will surely survive the test of time, and so will it's singer.

"Let It Be Me" exhibits LaMontagne's sensitive side while his lyrics are comparable to a modern day take on Bill Withers' "Lean On Me" as his vocals blend extremely well with soft piano interludes and light guitar accompaniment. With poignant lyrics, "When it feels like you're always comin' up last/Pockets full of nothin' ain't got no cash/No matter where you turn/You ain't got no place to stand/You reach out for somethin' and they slap your hand/I remember all too well/Just how it feels to be all alone/To feel like you'd give anything/For just a little place you can call your own" La Montagne aptly gets his point across to the listener in an extremely moving way.

There is so much depth to Gossip In The Grain it's almost impossible to get everything across adequately in one blog post. Definitely check out LaMontagne's MySpace and pick up a copy of Gossip In The Grain when you have a chance, you won't regret it — I promise.

You can also listen to track "Meg White" here. I'd love to hear what you think!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Win Katy Perry and Boys Like Girls' Albums!

A few months ago I wrote about Denny's Rockstar Menu launch featuring late night snacks from some of your favorite bands, including the All-American Rejects, Taking Back Sunday and the Plain White T's. Since the menu has been so successful some new bands have been added this time around, including Katy Perry, Boys Like Girls and Hoobastank.

After 10 p.m. head over to your local Denny's for some food inspired by current chart-toppers Katy Perry, Boys Like Girls and Hoobastank. Read below for each artist's creation.

Hot N Cold Cherry Chocolate Cappuccino, created by singer-songwriter Katy Perry, named after her recent hit single, "Hot n' Cold." Katy's drink includes cherries, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, French vanilla cappuccino and whipped cream with a cherry on top.

The Great Eggsteak, pop-punk rockers Boys Like Girls inspired this hot roast beef sandwich with peppers, onions, pepper jack cheese, scrambled egg and spicy mayonnaise on sourdough bread.

The Hooburrito, inspired by Hoobastank, serves a burrito with crispy chicken strips, pepper jack cheese, cheese sauce, fried onion crispers and a hint of barbecue sauce. Served with tortilla chips, and a side of cheese sauce and ranch.

If that hasn't made you hungry, I don't know what will. In addition to these deliciously appealing meals, I have another contest for you to participate in for a copy of Katy Perry and Boys Like Girls' albums! What I need is for you to E-mail me or leave a comment on my blog with your name, the best way to contact you if you win (by email or phone) and answer the following three questions as it pertains to the artist of your choice:

1.) If you could ask Katy Perry/Boys Like Girls one question, what would it be?
2.) What's your favorite Katy Perry/Boys Like Girls song and why?
3.) If you could spend the day with Katy Perry/Boys Like Girls, what would you do?

You have two weeks for this contest, so be sure to send in your answers by Saturday, Nov. 29th as I'll be picking a winner on Sunday, Nov. 30th. Thanks for participating and good luck! You can check out the guys from Boys Like Girls live in the kitchen below. Be sure to visit Denny's Web site for more info on your favorite bands and their late night menu.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

You Sing, I Write Anniversary Concert: Night In Photos

As promised, here are some photos that recap last Saturday night at Maxwell's. Thanks again to everyone who made it out! With such success, I'm already thinking of ideas for next year . . . maybe I'll hold the concert in New York and get even more bands to play. Suggestions always welcome. Special thanks to Wendy Hu, Dan Ng and Pauline Karakat for the photos! You can view more of Dan's photos of the night here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Songs of the Week: 5 Oldies But Goodies

I've been freelancing at Rolling Stone the past two weeks helping out with their "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" online package — be sure to check it out next week! I'll definitely write a post about it once it's live so be on the lookout. Most of the songs featured I remember from my childhood, growing up and listening to the oldies with my Dad. At the time, I wished more than anything that he'd change the oldies station to Z100, but I must say I've gained a newfound appreciation for classic rock 'n' roll over the past few years. So much so, I even have an "Oldies" Pandora channel I listen to at work. I really wish I could live a day in the 50s and 60s and cover a show back then. Not to mention interview Elvis Presley, that would be amazing!

This week instead of my typical "Song of the Week" I've picked five of my favorite songs from the rock 'n' roll era. I really couldn't narrow it down to just one, so enjoy my mix of songs for the week!

1. "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys.

2. "My Girl" The Temptations

3. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles.

4. "In the Still of the Night" by The Five Satins.

5. "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley.

Honorable mention: "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. You have to watch this hilarious video from "The Frankie Laine" show from the 1956. Lymon was only 13 when he wrote this song!

What are some of your favorite oldies songs?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Other Lives Impress At CMJ With Debut EP Tracks

"We are the Other Lives from Stillwater," announced frontman Jesse Tabish to a packed crowd at Mercury Lounge. "Last time I was here I introduced our band as our town. I'm not going to make the same mistake again."

It's not always easy for a band to be the first onstage for the night, but Other Lives worked the crowd, and by the end of their set, it was easy to tell that those in attendance were impressed. Playing a solid 35-minute set, the band, made up of guitar, bass , keyboard, drums and cello, had an incredibly rich, deep sound that permeated throughout the room. Many songs had strong instrumental interludes that showcased the band's powerful musical structure.

The near-seven-minute track "End of the Year" featured Tabish's deep vocals, as the musical accompaniment was beautifully interwoven into the song. At one point the song became much darker, changing the mood in the room all while slowing down the set before picking it right back up again. The crowd could be seen gazing up towards the stage in earnest, continuously wondering what would come next.

Tabish's vocals are vaguely comparable to that of John Lennon's. In fact, in some of the songs you can almost hear the inspiration of the Beatles as well as bands like Radiohead and Coldplay with each musical interlude.

Most of the songs from the group's seven-song set can be found on the band's MySpace or its recently released debut EP. From the crowd reaction Friday night, I think the Other Lives have a lot more music left to be made.

You can read this review originally posted on the CMJ blog here.


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