Friday, November 28, 2014

Jackie Venson -- The Light In Me

It's hard to say which caught my attention first: Jackie Venson's guitar playing or her gorgeous voice. But at the end of the day, it's Venson's songwriting chops that take the prize. While Venson's specialty is her blues guitar, her music seamlessly combines blues, R &B, gospel, and hip-hop.

My favorite tracks are "All Rise" and "Always Free." "All Rise" showcases Venson's soaring vocals and the hopeful, striving energy of her music. "Always Free" exemplifies her sharp lyric writing, dazzling guitar licks, and her keen ear -- you'd be hard-pressed to assign it a genre, and that's fine. This is purely Venson's voice.

Jackie Venson -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase from CDBaby, iTunes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

William Pilgrim and the All Grows Up -- Epic Endings

The cover art on William Pilgrim's new album shows Will and PM Romero -- both men of color -- getting beaten by white cops. It's a chillingly prescient photo given current events, but the fact is it's a fact of life for many of the men in this great nation. I don't have the emotional energy for a sermon so congrats, you've been spared. Suffice to say the photo is emblematic of the band's darkly humorous political commentary.

Following up on their last album, the band treads familiar territory -- warm, honest music that's equal parts roots music and R&B, featuring William Pilgrim's caramel voice and true stories of truly hard times. "In The Street" and "How It Feels" are probably the most hard-hitting, as they're the most overtly political. However, it's nice to see the band loosen up with songs like "Gimme a Sign" and "Bar Crawl." They're just good old-fashioned songs about having a swell time on the weekends (or wishing the person who gives you a swell time would also give you the time of day.)

My wish for the band's first album was that it sounded a little less carefully produced, that the emotions in the songs -- although always sincere -- were allowed to really push through the polish and hit listeners in the gut. In this sense, Mr. Pilgrim has found his way home. The band is definitely more confident, and definitely more willing to take risks. This is strong music by a strong band that is only getting better with experience.

William Pilgrim and the All Grows Up -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from the band

Bee Caves -- Animals With Religion

While the title of the album sounds bleak and high-concept, Bee Caves is neither of those things. "Running Home to You" and "Black Mason Hills" are probably the most radio-friendly tracks on here, and they were the friendliest to my ears. But Animals With Religion is a tour de force blending the current trends in indie pop and folk. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I should regard that mix as a horrific Frankenstein's monster.

In reality, my biggest complaint about indie folk and indie pop is that they tend to be emotionally flat. Bee Caves' music has a manic urgency that'll force you to shove aside any comparisons to the Pitchfork crowd. In other words, this is candy for your ears and a kickstart to your heart.

Bee Caves -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rick Hart -- Spiral

A few seconds of Rick Hart's warm, honey-sweet voice will get you hooked. He also knows how to play to his strengths. A singer-songwriter in the tradition of the folk greats of the '60s and '70s, all of Hart's songs sound like you've heard them somewhere before.

Hart's honesty and commitment to his music is abundantly clear, and it's what keeps his sound contemporary and immediate. However, much like the '70s, many of the songs sound a tad overproduced. I found myself most drawn to "Hummingbird," which is relatively stripped down compared to the other songs. That being said, Hart does great things with the tried-and-true. Let's hope that his continued success gives him the confidence to deviate from the norm.

Rick Hart -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase on iTunes

Tinkerbelles -- Fine Asses

I'll admit that this time I judged the book by its cover. The Tinkerbelles' definitely have a knack for packaging.

Apparently the cover folds out, MAD-magazine style. Excellent. That weird, subversive sensibility has made its way into the band's music as well. The Tinkerbelles combine surf rock hooks with sludgy punk rock and dance-y beats. It's a little too slick for garage rock but not pre-programmed enough to be dance music. It's a fun album for you to blast in your room/study/mancave while your family's over for Thanksgiving and you can pretend you're still a moody teenager.

Tinkerbelles -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, November 24, 2014

VIDEO: The Paisley Fields -- She's No Angel

This year, the Paisley Fields' lead singer took on the ambitious task of writing a new song a day for an entire year. The year was up a couple of months ago. "She's No Angel" was one of the byproducts of this quest. Wilson's songwriting muscles must have been pretty toned by the time he got to this, because it's badass.

The Paisley Fields were featured on our compilation benefit album. You should listen to it and also buy it.

And you can learn more about the Paisley Fields here: Official, Facebook, Purchase "She's No Angel" on iTunes

Devin Sinha -- The Seventh Season

I'm going to try to double up on posts for the rest of the year (two a day!) because I have a lot of amazing music to tell you about, but not enough 2014 to tell you about it in. The first stepping stone in this marathon is Devin Sinha's quietly majestic The Seventh Season.

The album's lead-off track, "Ripcord," has a light, poppy feel to it. But make more mistake -- it's not fluff and neither is the rest of the album. "Ripcord" is, in fact, a gentle introduction to a mature, introspective album. While it's much, much gentler than most of the stuff featured here, The Seventh Season takes us on a powerful journey through life's more solemn moments, but has a key ingredient in its special sauce: hope and optimism. As the weather gets more miserable, keep The Seventh Season handy to remind you that the bad times don't just pass eventually, they often get better.

Devin Sinha -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp