Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Album Review: Sia's "1000 Forms of Fear" Showcacses Vulnerability

"1000 Forms of Fear" appears to be born out of Australian songstress Sia Furler’s attempt to cope with her wild success. It’s a refreshingly exposed album, if a bit aware of the greatness of its own ambitions. The first song is the single “Chandelier”, co-written by Jesse Shatkin. With a relatively short introduction and verse, its launch into a soaring chorus doesn’t feel totally earned, but certainly sets the tone for the whole album. Sia creates an interesting contrast by enveloping the bare lyrics in with an epic feel. Whether it’s the slow, pounding chorus of “Big Girls Cry” or the sweet, pleading melody of “Hostage”, it’s clear that every song on this album is meant to be an anthem."

Sia is known as well for co-writing hits like “Titanium” and “Wild Ones”, and one has to wonder if some of the songs on 1000 Forms of Fear would have been better suited for other artists. Sia’s voice is showing signs of damage, constantly cracking as she strains to reach and sustain high notes in “Chandelier” and “Eye of the Needle.” It may be that this raw singing is meant to be an example of the vulnerability emphasized by the lyrics, but the ever-present squeaking and tension is taxing on the ears. 

Like most pop music, Sia’s songs are riddled with clichés, set to grand chord progressions to give the illusion of profundity. It’s unfortunate to hear lyrics like “I’m here by your side…we’re letting go tonight” and “I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist” because Sia is clearly capable of doing better. It’s evident with lines like “a butterfly kissing a child with an eye for the minor key” from “Dressed In Black”. These unusually vivid lyrics are occasionally stripped of their power by Sia’s tendency to chew her words. 

The most fascinating song the album is undoubtedly “Fair Game”. Featuring pulsating strings, it’s a more subdued tune that builds into a choral explosion. It also contains one of the album’s most interesting lines, “What good is intellect and airplay if I can’t respect a man”. This reflection on a lack of satisfaction derived from perceived successes is one of many curious glimpses into the life of the somewhat reclusive pop star, and helps to drive the album forward. 

These moments, and Sia’s inclination to use instruments outside of standard pop tropes are what offer the biggest payout on the album. As “Dressed In Black” winds the album down, it’s evident that Sia is a master musical chef. She knows how to combine familiar elements, like a backing choir, with pop oddities, like melodic percussion, that somehow manage to put listeners at ease while leaving them wanting more. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Concert Review: Little Tybee Brings Sweet Southern Sound to Tin Can

This weekend, Atlanta-based folk rockers Little Tybee graced the tiny stage at Tin Can Ale House in San Diego, lit coolly in front of blue and white hanging Christmas lights. After a brief sound check, singer Brock Scott’s light tenor sailed over the audience and immediately hushed the crowd. The rest of the band joined him in a dreamy tune.

Little Tybee

The band’s sound is often deemed “orchestral pop” despite featuring only one traditional orchestra instrument – the violin, played warmly by Nirvana Kelly. Perhaps they get this identifier because of the precision with which they execute their songs. Even on the cramped stage, the members of Little Tybee appear to be in their own worlds, each seemingly consumed by their own artistry. Electric guitarist Josh Martin rarely looked up from his instrument, concentrating on his new technique of under-strumming. Scott often closed his eyes and threw his head back, enjoying the sounds around him. Yet the ensemble managed to stay together by listening to each other, with some members turning an ear to others or slightly facing them.

Their expert listening skills helped Little Tybee to create a dreamy wash of sound, such as in “Empire State”, while still allowing for moments of sharpness. The band never bantered much with the crowd, but it wasn’t necessary. The audience remained captivated by their command over breezy songs like “For Distant Viewing”. Members of the sextet got a chance to showcase their individual mastery over the course of the evening.  Other than these solos, no one instrument dominated over others, though Chris Case’s keyboards occasionally got lost amidst the other sounds. Scott’s fragile voice rarely cut through the neatly layered polyphonies of the other instruments, and instead acted as another layer. His wispy tone complemented Kelly’s lyrical violin, but forfeited the clarity of interesting lyrics like “Prodigal son, shine your rays on everyone."

Little Tybee

Perhaps most indicative of their brash yet summery style was the closer – a combination of “Castle” and “Left Right” that had most of the front row bopping along.  Scott transitioned from the lighter “Castle” with lingering “oohs”, punctuated by sharp breaths. These set the stage for the punchier “Left Right”, a purely instrumental affair that played with unconventional rhythms. This slightly dancier second half also featured more solos, reminding the audience of each member’s contribution and letting them revel in it one last time before an abrupt end. A slightly subdued stage presence highlighted Little Tybee’s willingness to the let the audience play and interact not with their personalities, but the music. This unique approach will surely have audiences coming back for more.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blake Shelton Announced as Headliner for 2015 Kicker Country Stampede Festival in 2015

Luke Bryan, Chris Young, Lee Brice & More Bring CountryStampede to CMT Hot 20 Countdown on July 12

MANHATTAN, KS – Thousands of country music fans flocked to Tuttle Creek State Park in Manhattan, Kansas, and soaked in performances by some of today’s hottest country music stars, including Luke Bryan, Eric Church and more, at Kicker Country Stampede 2014. If you missed the action this year, tune into CMT Hot 20 Countdown on July 12 (11:00am ET/PT on CMT) to catch the highlights and see interviews with and performances by Stampede artists Luke Bryan, Chris Young, Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett and more.

Country megastar and judge on NBC’s The Voice Blake Shelton will be one of the headliners for Kicker Country Stampede 2015. Stay tuned for even more exciting artist announcements in the coming months! Early-bird, weekend, VIP and Reserved tickets are currently on sale, along with 700 reserved camping spots, for June 25–28, 2015. VIP tickets are available for $490, four-day GA passes for $120, four-day, jump-the-line passes for $130, reserved seats for $250, reserved camping sites for $175 and all other camping is available starting at $135 until Nov. 30. For more information on tickets or for any of your Kicker Country Stampede needs, visit

Kicker Country Stampede offered a full-fan experience in 2014 with fun for attendees of any age. In addition to the main stage boasting the biggest names in country music, Steel Rodeo Tours provided non-stop, action packed freestyle motocross exhibitions. The Nashville Songwriters Association International Songwriters Tent featured established, as well as up-and-coming songwriters, including Lance Carpenter, Rob Northcutt Band, Tony Ramey and more. Kite's Grille & Bar Tuttleville Stage once again showcased the best local talent the Midwest has to offer, including Tim Zach & The Whiskey Bent, County Road 5, Jared Daniels Band and more. Other activities included a carnival, mouth-watering vendor food, shopping, interactive exhibits and much, much more.

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