Monday, August 18, 2014

Concert Review: Sarah Donner

Self-described “singer/songwriter/creative type” Sarah Donner graced the stage at Tin Can Ale House this past weekend. The overall tone for the show was set at maximum quirk, partially by opening act Birdie Rae, Donner herself, and her stage partner, the robot from closer Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra. 

Donner’s set list was a mix of acoustic tunes with a broad range of subjects. She kicked off her performance with the jolly “Let Him Go”. Performing solo, Donner was obviously unable to recreate the pleasant harmonies from the original track, but cleverly substituted the kazoo solo with a mouth trumpet sequence instead. She followed with a fresh song, written on the road, about how her many of her possessions were stolen after a van break-in. Like many of her other songs, it had the potential to be hokey, but Donner’s engaging stage presence had the crowd in her hands. 

Her banter with the crowd between songs is also what kept the audience with her for so long. She threw out a lot of offbeat questions to lead into her music, and at one point told them to “put your hands in the air and praise the lord…Beyoncé”.

Two covers made their way into Donner’s set. The first was the very literal “Dumb Ways to Die”, which fit so well with Donner’s other odd jams that it would have been hard to tell it was penned by her unless she announced it.   The second was “One Day More” from the musical “Les Miserables”. The song is typically a tour de force sung by the entire cast, and Donner did her best one-woman rendition, complete with a whiny Eponine and overly angelic Cosette. 

More earnest songs, like “Perspective” and “All My Guns” were met with less enthusiasm by the crowd, perhaps because they missed the playful mood established earlier. The wide interval jumps in “Perspective” proved to be problematic for the singer, whose intonation suffered. Perhaps part of the reason those songs felt a little flat was because of how unoriginal they seemed in comparison to Donner’s other work. She truly shined when she got to sing about the geeky stuff, like dinosaurs or the possible rebuttal of Schrödinger’s cat. Her vocals were both more spirited and in tune in the humorous portions of the set. Though she ended on a slightly blander note than she began, Donner generally offered the Comic-Con weekend crowd exactly what they needed – a hearty dose of witty nerdiness with a dash of sincerity.

Friday, August 15, 2014

'SomeKindaWonderful' Q&A

You must STOP and you must LISTEN because this group is a crazy HIT. (unless you’re driving, then dear lord you shouldn’t be reading this!)

They are driving their way towards the top of the Alternative charts while earning massive national radio play, and with the amount of talent and musical ambition that can be heard over the songs it won’t be long until all of you are singing along.     ( I had no intention of rhyming that…)

Now,    I love the story behind the bands song “Reverse”,that is was merely a song recorded by chance, in less than three hours after ‘SomeKindaWonderful’ (Jordy-vocals, Ben-drums, Sarah-backup vocals-percussion, Justin-bass, Matt- guitar, ukuele) unexpectedly met in Cleveland, OH.

With an upcoming Fall tour with New Politics and Bad Suns hitting Orlando October 17th we had to know more about                       SomeKindaWonderful, So I caught up with the band member Matt ( guitar, ukuele, etc:) here’s what he had to say:

When did all of you decide to come together for this?          
Ben and I (Matt) were having some beers in a little bar near ben’s house and I was playing a little guitar in the back… just messing around with this new riff I had been playing.    Jordy came up and just started humming a melody along with it (turns out Jordy was in cleveland on a soul searching mission to basically get away from the heartbreak and frustration and terrible deals he was having in the LA music scene).     We went back to ben’s studio which was right down the street and wrote and recorded our first single “Reverse.”    At that point the three of us just figured we were starting a band and we just kept working on new songs lol.

Where does the name ‘SomeKindaWonderful’ derive from’?

Jordy dreamt the word “Wonderful” around the time we started writing songs together, which we all liked.    Then we started throwing around the phrase SomeKindaWonderful (like the song and movie title).   We would search the hashtag “#somekindawonderful” and it was alot of really special beautiful moments in peoples lives… a couple standing together, a sunset, etc…    I guess we felt that our band and the music we were making gave us that same feeling.

In one word how would your describe your sound?                                                                     Our music combines what we all love, collectively and individually, about music and art in general…  I really think it would be impossible to describe our band as having just onesound

Do you have any crazy/dramatic show experiences yet?

Every time we play a song and the audience sings along it feels amazing…  also, Summerfest in Milwaukee was incredible… we were playing to a pretty big crowd outdoors right while the sun was going down and it was really dramatic and beautiful.

How do you feel being a part of the New Politics fall tour?   

We’re all really excited to get out there and spread our music and our message to the whole country.

How long did you work on this new album before it was released?

We worked on it in probably 4 different phases.    Since Jordy lives in LA and Ben and I live in Cleveland, Jordy would fly out here and work on songs for 10-20 days at a time usually. 

Is there anything you would like to tell our reader’s?                                                             make sure to follow us on twitter and instagram at @somekindawonder and be on the lookout for the official “Reverse” music video which will be out very very soon.


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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Album Review: Shakey Graves "West of Calgary"

West of calgary, alejandro rose garcia, shakey graves

"West of Calgary" accounts for musician Alejandro Rose Garcia's life on the road, which he sends plucking guitar and sweetly howling to an audience increasing both in numbers and rambunctiousness. On stage he is known as Shakey Graves. The album is composed of twenty live songs, and is a refreshingly organic cut from an artist who is far more captivating as a live performer than a studio musician. From the intro to "The Waters" an intimacy exists between the artist and the audience as the opening tack simply titled "Hello" begins with a seemingly small crowd applauding Grave's appearance on stage; he replies with a casual yet enthusiastic "What's up?" With this, the stage is set for the album that follows.

Graves' truly authentic style comes from a combination of a blurry inversion of the Piedmont picking style, Dylanisticly poetic lyrics, and a suitcase modified into a drum kit, which he uses to keep the irregular beat beneath his music. His innovated sound comes through in the first full length song on the album titled "Coup Deville," which brilliantly sets up a theme that strings together the  album as a whole. It begins with a vaguely familiar riff incorporating pieces of traditional folk guitar into his own unique style. Before singing he explains that the song came from his own experiences encountered on the road while playing folk music around the country. The opening line romanticizes the rambler's lifestyle as he sings, "Well, the devil said for you and I to settle in our shoes so we would never have to fight, lord, we'd never have to lose," then continues to recall the events that occurred on his "way back home."

The common thread in his work is the rough and rowdy life lived on the road. In this regard there is no new ground being broken. However, it is the unique style in which Graves expresses this sensation that separates him from other artists. The dynamics in the vocals and the unpredictable sound of his guitar reflect the nature of his material. While each of his songs glorify this in one way or another, none do so more explicitly than "Built to Roam." Here he states, "Dress your skin in sticks and stones. Doesn't matter where we're headed, no, 'cause some of us were built to roam." As he sings this, his voice and guitar are liable to change from a slight whisper to a raspy shout at any brilliantly calculated yet unpredictable moment. By doing this, Graves symbolically represents the impulsive nature of what he is singing about.

The song which exhibits this kind of impulsiveness musically and narratively is also his most captivating. "Late July" tells the tragic tale of a love triangle between the narrator, Gold Digger, and Snake Lady. It is outlined musically in the standard Graves fashion as verse one begins "Well, Gold Digger took my money / dipped my heart and hands in honey / Snake Lady stole my savings / Told Gold Digger she was having my babies,"and the story that follows can only be resolved by "a date with the [electric] chair in late July."

With this song, he establishes himself not only as a expert lyricist and innovative musician, but also as a brilliant storyteller who wouldn't be out of place with the greats who came before him. Shakey Graves is "eager, young, and qualified" to find himself rambling along that old, mythical ribbon of highway traveled by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan. Where that will take him is as difficult to predict as the music he plays.