The weather’s warming up and, for Arizonans, that often means hibernation season is almost upon us. But, we at YabYum say NAY to that. Instead, we’re going to start offering you some cool locales to check out until it’s safe to venture outdoors once again. To kick things off, we went to Downtown Phoenix for the Arizona Theatre Company’s production of Albatross at the Herberger Theater.
Of course, under the pretense of “Date Night” I insisted we start with dinner at DeSoto Central Market. This really should be the date spot, especially for those couples who a prone to bickering when deciding where to go for dinner (see Couples Fight). Contained within DeSoto’s inviting sprawl is a foodie haven where vendors provide an array of options, from burgers and contemporary Southern cuisine to Latin American-Asian fusion, an oyster bar, and more. I opted for the delightful fresh (and locally sourced) offerings of RADISH, and not just because they had a cold-pressed juice called Citrus Clouds (see Citrus Clouds, the band). But, I’m certainly not going to say that wasn’t part of my decision making process.
DeSoto Central Market is a great place to stay and relax for a long evening with good company. Cocktails, craft beer, and coffee can all be found on site so you can grab a table (or a couch) and really settle in. But, on this particular evening, we were off to the Herberger Theater to catch the ATC’s production of Albatross.
And, just in case you’re wondering, the albatross of the title is that albatross. The one you were probably forced to read about in high school. I, for one, love Coleridge and his great epic, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but I know I’m that annoying person in your lit class that read the suggested reading list over summer break, like, the entire list.
So when I learned that two clever playwrights had taken Coleridge’s poem and transformed it into a one-man, one-act play, I was excited. My companion for the evening, and fellow YabYum editor, was not quite as excited about the prospect. Turns out, he was in for quite a surprise. Benjamin Evett, as that ill-fated mariner, captivated the audience with his tale of anguish and adventure and then more anguish with some laughter thrown in for good measure.
Albatross continues through this weekend if you’re still hashing out your itinerary. You might want to leave the kiddos at home for this one, however. That sailor swears like a sailor. The Arizona Theatre Company has two more shows left of their 2016/17 Season and both look like real gems: Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash and a Holmes & Watson mystery. I suggest looking into them.
Of course, Albatross left our small party feeling contemplative so we went to The Grand Central Coffee Company which might be my new favorite place in Phoenix. The Grand, as the regulars call it, was designed to emulate “an old Victorian train station” in direct opposition to the “present day dystopia”. In addition to the coffee mentioned in their official title, The Grand boasts a full bar. How cool is that? Rumor has it, The Grand will soon be opening their kitchen and extending their already extensive hours of operation to the full 24/7. Yes, folks, Phoenix might finally get a real open-all-night coffee shop.
Don’t be a stick in the mud and hide from the sun all summer by yourself. Get out there and engage the world around you. And there are some pretty sweet air-conditioned spots that beckon you to explore the city. Be bold.
Singer-songwriter Howe Gelb is practically synonymous with the Tucson sound: something a little dusty and desolate. Back in February, Gelb released the aptly-titled album, The Open Road – Arizona Amp & Alternator, which offers fans a collection of singles and sketches reaching back over the past five years.
The Open Road kicks off with the title track opening the album which will bring a flush of the familiar for fans as that distinctively ambling alt-folk fills your ears. As far as favorites from the release goes, I love the noir vibe of “five star hotel” but I’m also quite taken with the closing track’s yarn about a gal called “jane by any other name”. And, I can’t count out “left of center” which features Lonna Kelley as the guest vocalist.
Even the instrumentals on this album are wonderfully vivid; merging jazz-lounge ambiance with a bit of the beer’n’burlesque feel of the Wild West. This album meanders with surprising grace given that the tracks were pieced together over a such extended period. Then again, it’s in no way surprising if you’re familiar with Gelb’s extended body of work not only as a performer but also as a producer. As the weather moves toward sweltering, this is the perfect album to sink into in its entirety on those listless evenings spent waiting for the sun to set.
Phoenix songwriter and musician Robin Vining of Sweetbleeders fame released a collection of stripped down songs last month. Is There Someone for Everyone? really shows off Vining’s strengths as a songwriter and composer, moving from sprightly sea ballads to melodic musings on the nature of love. Each song stands on its own accord without a single instance of the filler I too often find on other albums.
There’s no picking a favorite song for me here. The piano-driven title track feels like the perfect rainy day song while the intentionally sparse and powerfully desperate “Temptation” begs for repeated listens. And I do love the Western amble of “Watch Where You Step”. The trademark pliancy of Vining’s vocals come through in high shine on tracks throughout the album, particularly on “Wild at Heart” and “Ice Floes”. Bascially, music-lovers, you just need this album in your life.
Is There Someone for Everyone? is available for preview and purchase through Bandcamp, but the official release date is next month in Phoenix. More information on that event here.
The Lonesome Wilderness dropped their much-anticipated EP, Lush, at The Rogue in January and we were on hand to help celebrate the occasion. Lush offers up five tracks of desert garage rock that ignores any presumed division between alt and indie.
The EP opens with “Karma” which feels like it holds all the spiritual insight of a really great acid trip. The somber, and slightly sullen, “Alright” delivers just the right amount of angst before the energy gets turned up for illicit tale of “Murder in Chicago”.
The texturing gets downright trippy on “Stay Out of the Sun” but the band doesn’t rely on those extended post-rock tangents to fill out the EP. Although there are those moments too, this band has a Western sensibility that rises to the surface of their sound, even when the rocknroll comes in without all the textural flourishes usually found in over-abundance on “desert garage rock” releases. They keep things crisp, even when it gets fuzzy. “Nico”, the almost 5-minute closing track, is my late-to-the-game favorite from Lush. There’s a very “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”, folk-rock feel that gives way to modern modes of song construction (or Deconstruction).
As much as I love Lush, there’s nothing quite like the way The Lonesome Wilderness turns their tracks into a post-rock soup at their live performances. So, after you spend sometime with Lush, make sure you add The Lonesome Wilderness to your “Acts to See Live” list (we all have those, right?) if you haven’t done so already. Listen to Lush below…
Back in 2009, for those of you who don’t remember, a major moment in Arizona music history took place – the When in AZ compilation came to life. More than fifty Arizona acts covering favorite tracks from other Arizona musicians are featured on this one massive collection that has persisted in the hearts and minds of local listeners, elevating the compilation above that of mere ephemera to a lasting marker of both time and place.
I mean, on When in AZ. Volume 1, you have a Yellow Minute recording of “Dot Dot Dot” which was a What Laura Says song, Lonna Kelley covering Treasure Mammal’s “Everybody’s A Winner”, The Liars Handshake performing AJJ’s “Let’s Get Murdered”, Black Carl covering Kinch, Fatigo, Colorstore, Truckers on Speed, Back Ted N-Ted, Kirkwood Dellinger, Courtney Marie Andrews, Gospel Claws, Former Friends of Young Americans… Gah! I’d better stop before this gets weird. You just have to check out Volume 1 for yourself here.
But we’re not here to talk about what happened way back when. Phoenix musician Nick Kizer, the man-behind-the-movement who provided the organizational force to get this project off the ground all those years ago, is ready to do it all over again.
That’s right, folks. When in AZ. Volume 2 is getting underway this year.
The When in AZ project not only offers musicians the opportunity to pay tribute to their favorite locally-penned songs, but it’s also a way of introducing their sound to new audiences. And, the entire endeavor is a not-for-profit effort that donates proceeds from the project to local children’s charities. So it’s good music and for a good cause. That’s our favorite combo.
And now, it’s time for a disclaimer. We, at YabYum, are part of the organizing effort for When in AZ – the 2017 edition – not for any monetary gain but because we think this project is pretty rad. We covered the first compilation back in ’09 and we watched it live on as a memento of the artists that make the wondrously vivid and diverse music scene of Arizona.
Along with our senior editorial team (me’n Mark), Nick will be joined this time ’round by Sarah Ventre of KJZZ and Girls Rock Phoenix, music writer and cultural phenomena Mitchell Hillman, musician Erick Pineda of Citrus Clouds, and audio-engineer Jalipaz of Audioconfusion, who will be offering a special rate for artists looking to record a single at the studio for the compilation.
Now, you’re hopefully starting to wonder how to get involved with When in AZ, Round Two.
Well, if you live in Arizona, just record a cover of another Arizonan’s song: past or present. Keep in mind, you’ll need to ask that artist for permission. Then send it in (to firstname.lastname@example.org). That’s it. That’s the genius of Kizer’s project. It captures the NOW of Arizona music in a fresh way and without subjecting entries to a “review board” to select the “best” which usually just means a few people picking out their favorites. [ Disclaimer 2: We’re not pointing fingers. We, at YabYum, openly acknowledge picking favorites. It’s called being a critic.]
If your band (or you) record a cover and send it in, we’ll include it. Now, before any troll decides they can exploit that previous statement to an annoying personal end, we reserve the right to not let you muck it up for the rest of us. All joking aside though, When in AZ seeks to encapsulate music in this place, at this time, so we want to hear from all you splendid music-makers that share this desert state.
When in AZ mastermind Nick Kizer took some time to answer a few questions about the project to help give folks a better idea of where it came from and where it’s going.
YabYum: What first inspired you to start When In AZ?
Nick Kizer: In 2009, when I was a younger dude and more active in the music scene with my band, Babaluca, we would often “shoot the shit” with other musicians after gigs. We were always talking about how AZ talent would leave the state for LA or New York once reaching a certain level of popularity. The concept was intended to be a snap shot of the scene at the time, hence the title, “When in AZ”.
Please tell us a little about the first compilation? How many artists appeared on it? When was it released? Did other people help you pull it all together?
The compilation was open to any AZ musician who wanted to cover a song by another AZ musician or band. It was a novel idea and the largest Arizona-based music compilation at the time. There were 50+ artists that recorded songs for When in AZ. The 2009 release was followed up with a multi-venue showcase at local spots such as Trunk Space, Rhythm Room, Modified Arts and Hard Rock Cafe. All proceeds from sales of the compilation and the shows went to music based charities for children’s programs in need of instruments.
I received so much help from other musicians, venue owners, local audio engineers, and media. A big shout out to my friend Laci Lester who helped me put together the first comp.
It’s been seven years since you put out the compilation. What made you decide to take up the project again?
I have had so many friends and musicians ask me about it over the years. It feels like the right time to make it happen again and I think I have a good group of people working on it with me. It’s going to be epic.
Please tell us a little about the review process for submissions (or lack thereof) so artists looking to submit have an idea about what they should expect.
Similar to the first comp, I invite any Arizona-based musician to participate. In the first compilation we received a lot of rock and electronic submission. We are interested in expanding genres for this volume. No one who submitted last time was rejected. I think that made it very special.
So, what are the basic guidelines for artists looking to submit?
The main requirement is that they get permission from the artist they want to cover. That is pretty easy. From there they recorded the cover song by any means they have. We are working with Audioconfusion recording studio to make an affordable/quality option for artists that need help. We will also master the compilation once all the songs are received. The deadline to submit a song is August 1st.
You booked some pretty ambitious shows to celebrate the launch of the first compilation. Do you plan on hosting similar events for the reboot?
The shows are an important part of When in AZ. We will probably do something similar at multiple venues around town or maybe a festival this time around. Details are still being worked out. All I know is it is going to be fun.
So, I’ve been a Playboy Manbaby fan since the band’s inception or, at least, since their very first show. And, as I’ve stated before, they keep getting better with every single album they put out (which is really saying something considering the band has been consistently putting out music since 2012).
I’m not bragging when I claim to have loved the Manbabies since they were Babybabies. I’m just trying to qualify the following statement: their new album really is their best album ever, hands down.
Playboy Manbaby will release Don’t Let it Be this coming weekend at The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix. This much-anticipated follow-up to 2014’s Electric Babyman contains 11 feisty tracks that mark real growth for the band, musically speaking.
The songs on Don’t Let it Be are refined in a way we haven’t heard before from the punk-funk outfit. They go beyond the raw explosiveness of earlier releases to carefully constructed songcraft. And they do so without sacrificing that savage emotional force that made them a crowd favorite early on.
Don’t Let it Be kicks of with “You Can Be a Fascist Too” – the first single off the album which was released just in time for that inauspicious inauguration. Then the second track, “Last Man Standing”, highlights the band’s horns section – David Cosme (trumpet) and Ricky Smash (sax and we know that’s not your real name) – before “Bored Broke & Sober” takes over. “Cadillac Car” is already to be a crowd favorite and is in contention for personal favorite from the album along with the apocalyptic “I’m So Affluent” and the super rambunctious number, “White Jesus”.
The album bears the mark of maturation, not just in the lyrics, but in the instrumentation as well. The orchestration is thoughtful, impeccably timed, and, well, rowdy as fuck.
Robbie Pfeffer, lyricist and vocalist, has a reputation for being a blitzkrieg onstage. Offstage, however, he’s the guy that will pet your dog and ask about your mother. Rather than suggesting that these are two separate and oppositional expressions, I’m putting forth the argument that Pfeffer is the quintessential example of the much-maligned millennial. He’s the meta-millenial. Kind-hearted, community-focused, and facing a world that keeps threatening collapse with a can-do attitude. The existential angst runs high in these young ones, but that’s not going to stop them from cold-crushing outdated conventions with their dad-staches and second hand clothes. They were born to rage against the dying of the light. That mixture of humor and personal fortitude comes through in the lyrics on this album in high shine.
If you go in for the riled-up cross-genre style of music Playboy Manbaby has become known for over the years, Don’t Let It Be might be you’re favorite album this year. You’ll laugh. You’ll dance. You might call your boss and quit your job so it might be best to hide your phone before smashing that play button. This album has that fury in equal measure to that signature Playboy Manbaby humor.
In keeping with the “For the Record” tradition, I had the chance to ask Robbie Pfeffer some questions about the album, the impending release show, and what’s next for Playboy Manbaby.
YabYum: Let’s start with all the details. Where did you record the album? Who helped out?
Robbie Pfeffer: We recorded with Eamon Ford at his old house, then at Chad[Dennis, the drummer]’s house, then at his new house. Lots of different houses. A ton of people have offered me great feedback on this album and helped it become what it is. Also we’re really stoked to have Lolipop and Dirty Water Records help make it a tangible thing!
So, what’s with the title? Do you bear some Beatles’ ill will?
I think it fits the album pretty well, it kind of sets the tone that this is not going to be a “chill” experience.
With previous releases, the tracks seem a bit more of a cathartic drive. That energy is still very much present on the new album, but it seems like there’s more of a focus on songcraft, both lyrically and instrumentally. Has PBMB shifted their approach to songwriting? Or is this just the natural effects of the maturation that evolves from playing together for several years?
Ever since this band formed we always heard that we are band that doesn’t translate well past the live setting. So we really wanted to make a record that stands on it’s own even if you’ve never seen us. That’s the goal, at least.
On a personal writing level I’m not trying to hide the meaning of what we’re talking about in any way any more. I want to take the most direct path to the point I can find. I really don’t want subjectivity anymore, I want specific meaning. That might change in the future, but for now, that’s how I’m approaching writing.
One of the things I like most about PBMB is the band’s ability to tap into the current cultural malaise and channel that angst into some sort of purifying flurry. As the principal songwriter for PBMB, would you say that’s an unintended consequence? Or is there some underlying philosophy at work here?
I’m an anxious dude and I try to stay alert to the societal changes around me. Music has been a way for me to work that out without drowning in my own existential dread. Also, I know I’m not the only person who questions what it means to be a person and the dynamics of power that exist in this hyper-active world we live in so if people can know that it freaks me out too, but I’m still trying my best, maybe that’ll be comforting to some people. Really I just want everybody to treat everyone else with a little more empathy and kindness.
It seems like you’re a real nice guy (irl) so my guess is that you just have a real low bullshit tolerance level to manifest the sort of aggression we see onstage. Is there a line for you between the performative persona and the other guy? Or is Playboy Manbaby the place to purge all that aggression so you’re not punching people in the throat? The people want to know.
That’s very kind of you! I really disdain violence of any kind. My hope is that when people are dancing at shows they can respect everyone around them and make sure that while they’re having a good time they’re not ruining anyone else’s good time. Generally people have been really great about this, but in the few instances where it’s gotten out of hand we have no issue stopping a show to make sure everyone gets to enjoy a safe, inclusive environment.
We’re a band of nerds and outcasts and we’re not about to be a platform for macho dudes to beat up on vulnerable people trying to have a good time. If anyone feels uncomfortable at our show for any reason please contact any of us and we will address it immediately without question.
The release show happens this coming weekend and the lineup is pretty stellar. Want to tell the people of the internet what they can expect by way of lineup and location?
I’m super excited about this line-up. We ran into the Thin Bloods dudes on NYE and were excited to hear after they’ve all been scattered across the country and busy with other stuff they happen to be back in Phoenix. We’ve shared a ton of great memories playing with them and they’re one of my all-time favorite bands so that’s fantastic news. Also, super stoked on The Darts, Genre, and Andy Warpigs. All great musicians and great people who bring rad stuff to the community.
What’s next for Playboy Manbaby? Touring? Videos? Sit back and relax for a while as reward for a job well done?
Hopefully, all of the above. We took way too damn long on this record and I never wanna take that long again. We’ve got like 10 new songs that we haven’t recorded and we just wanna make as much art as we can until we collapse.
If this is an audiobook, it’s the most beautiful audiobook ever.
On Dinasaur from Jensen [sic], Max Knouseseems to follow a bit of the Jeff Mangum/Aeroplane Over the Sea approach to record-making by creating an elaborate and elusive narrative that plays out over the course of the album.
If you try to view the lyrics through the album’s Bandcamp page, you will be rewarded with a single word (a clue perhaps?) rather than the full story. Although Dinasaur from Jensencounts nine tracks, several of those included are brief interludes between full songs.
It was all the way back in 2014 that Max Knouse knocked our socks off with The Hasty Escape (his band) and their album, The Filthier Things. You can hear elements of Knouse’s earlier work – that windswept Americana, the entrancing harmonies, the stellar guitarwork – but this new undertaking is a bit stranger and no less engaging. It’s impossible to pick a “favorite song” from the album. Dinasaur from Jensen should be consumed in its entirety in one sitting, not piece by piece. However, I will say that “Bottle Submerged” had some favorite moments for me.
Sink into the strange and wondrous aural experience that is Dinasaur from Jensen below…
We heard Delafaye’s first single back in November and then we covered his next single the following month. So, of course, we were just about counting down the days until we could hear his complete debut EP.
The Hilltop dropped on January 27th through the British label Street Mission Records and, I must say, Delafaye is the perfect fit for a London label. His music has a somber, English sensibility and he keeps the focus on songwriting at its core; placing authentic expressions of emotion over catchy hooks and substance over glitz.
“Time and Money” opens The Hilltop; a somber, reflective number that I find as comforting as hot coffee on a bone-chilling morning. “Rain” follows and you’ll start accurately assuming that the EP will continue along this meditative path to its conclusion. Delafaye is for those peaceful, pensive moments. “Dreamers”, my personal favorite, comes next before “Thinkin of You” closes out the album.
Just in case you missed those earlier reviews, Delafaye is the musical moniker of Kentucky songwriter Andrew Shockley. Let’s all hope for an Arizona stop on his next tour. That’s a ticket I would purchase.
Until then, you can check out the new single, “Rain”, from The Hilltop by Delafaye below or head to iTunes or Spotify for the complete EP.
Despite the hundreds of submissions we receive every week, I still like stumbling around for some heartfelt bedroom indie as a much needed break from the glitzy, production-heavy singles we get flooded with day in, day out.
Without Youth has just that sort of refreshing sound I needed to soothe my PR-weary soul: honest and simple yet poignant. Something more a little more promising than polished. There’s warmth in the four tracks found on Seasons; the duo’s latest EP which came out in January.
“Rooms” opens the EP and establishes a dreamy feel for the rest of the release. Liz Christy’s voice matches that dreaminess with her breathy, almost sleepy, vocal style that shifts from pensive to airy. Devon Hancock is the other half of the musical partnership that is Without Youth. Hancock occasionally joins in singing duties to add casual harmonies on tracks like “Take III” which, btw, is a personal favorite from the EP because of its rich, almost-gritty instrumental texturing. “Between Love and Hate” closes the release with a 5+ minute meditation on, well, love and hate and how one can transform into the other.
If you dig the intimacy of bedroom indie pop, I suggest delving into Seasons from Phoenix’s Without Youth below…
Fair Warning: the emotional power of this track can sneak up and overwhelm you. “Back in Anger” by Fingers and Cream comes to us from the band’s forthcoming EP, John Lingers, which will be released through Kromatick Records out of Paris. The band attaches the terms “folk rock” and “pop rock” to their sound, but those phrases are far too generic for the uniquely breathtaking subtly of Fingers and Cream’s music. At just a little over four minutes, I still feel like this track is too short. I want it to continue endlessly. That’s okay, one can always hit repeat. Give “Back in Anger” a listen below…
While Holy Fawn does push the “mellow” boundaries on their new single, “Dim”, the track is just too damn meditative to not fit with list. There is a gently building energy that mounts around the six-minute mark, but not enough to shake the house, just enough to draw you back vivified from the aural soundscape your mind had left to wander. Thick layers of sound, including some unbelievable vocal harmonies, create the distinctive texturing that’s the Holy Fawn signature. “Dim” was released as part of Whelmed Records Holiday Split Vol. 1 which dropped (you guessed it) right before Xmas. Sink into the sounds of Holy Fawn below…
So, obviously to those that know me personally, I would cover a band called The Bookshop Band for the name alone. And, true to their moniker, the band embodies a superb storytelling ability and charming folk sound that will put you fireside on a cold and foggy evening in a coastal English cottage. I guess it’s no surprise then to learn that Bath is the town from whence The Bookshop Band came. “How Not To Woo A Woman” is just a sampling of what waits for listeners on the band’s forthcoming album which is set to drop later this month. Until then, enjoy this early single from The Bookshop Band…
New Jersey singer-songwriter Dan Waszay crafts somber folk music that leaves the listener with the sensation of wandering through a dark and unfamiliar dreamscape. On “Come Down Hard”, Waszay writes “about the use of substances to mask feelings of regret and guilt, the eventual come down from the cloud, alive and left to move on.” Despite the gravity of the lyricism, one can feel the resilience of the narrator in the vocals. Dan Waszay sings like one who has been beat down more than once by life and still managed to push through. Take “Come Down Hard” for a spin below…
Gueorgui Linev is the LA-based Bulgarian-born producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/film composer that performs under the name Kan Wakan. His latest single, “I Had to Laugh”, comes to us from the ambient-electropop side of the mellow wading pool. The vocals of guest singer Rachel Fannan move from wispy to syrupy and back again above a piano-centered musicality. Kan Wakan goes for subtle flourishes when flexing his production muscles on this track, giving the song a touch of whimsy tucked away in the orchestral fullness of the sound. Listen below…
And, for the second time this week, I prefer the real name to the stage name. Bobby LeSage, who performs under the name Lee N. Sage, has an earthen sound as desolate as the plains of Nebraska. “Pastures”, the opening track from Sage’s debut s/t EP, fully embodies this sound. Give the single a listen below, then head here for Lee N. Sage, the EP.
Oh, the sweet ambient folk of Kieran O’Brien… This Irish lad from Galway shapes out a sound that surrounds the listener in a soothing haze on his single, “Won’t You”. There is a touch of melancholy to the music on the song that pairs well with the wistful vocals. “Won’t You” is the second track from O’Brien’s EP, After the Storm, which came out just a few months back. This song is my personal favorite of the four that appear on the EP so I consider it a worthy introduction to the work of Kieran O’Brien. Check out “Won’t You” below or head here for the full EP.
The folk songwriter known as Ivory Tusk enchants listeners on his new single, “Ripples”. This single provides an engaging opening for Ivory Tusk’s recent release, Rising Lights, which came out on Jan. 8th. Ivory Tusk originates from Buenos Aires where he also recorded Rising Lights. His forthcoming release, Zephyr, due out later this year, was recorded in Nashville. Ivory Tusk is planning a European Tour this year, but we at YabYum are hoping still for a Phoenix stop to be added. Last time Ivory Tusk passed through he shared the Trunk Space stage with Justin Moody. Now, that I’d like to see. Until we get those tour dates, enjoy “Ripples” below and then head here to listen to the complete EP.**[See Note Below]
The smoky vocals of Lea Thomas drew me into “Want for Nothing” – the title track from her 2017 album. Calm but in no way aloof, “Want for Nothing” manages to attain soothing and emotionally tumultuous in the same stanza. Originally from Maui, Thomas is Brooklyn-based these days. There is definitely a citified air to her sound, one more cloudy than sunny. I can get behind that. Check out “Want for Nothing” below and then head here for the complete LP.
Justin Levinson applies a 60s slant to contemporary indie pop for a refreshing, summertime sound. This East Coaster definitely has some California vibes buried in his heart of hearts. “Homewrecking Machine” carries some Beatles-esque motifs in the soundscape, including rich harmonies and uplifting energy. The single comes to us from Levinson’s 2017 release, Yes Man, so if you dig what you’re hearing, I suggest procuring the complete album for your personal collection (available here).
I’m totally enamored with the musical stylings of George Linton. This songwriter from the U.K. has a stripped down style that hinges on the storytelling of his songwriting. “That’s Okay My Dear” has a sweet-tempered sound to match its doting lyricism. Definitely spend some time with “That’s Okay My Dear” below. This demo track is a tremendously promising start for young Mr. Linton.
L.A.-based songbird Nilu offers up this simple and soulful single, “What I’m Looking For”. Only single guitar provides the stripped bare melody over which Nilu’s voice flies. Lithe and powerful, Nilu’s vocals define this track and make it shine. Check out “What I’m Looking For” by Nilu below and then head here to add the single to your own playlists.
Gah! What’s with this British songwriters totally ripping out my heart this week? “My Bluebird is a Storm Petrel” comes to us from Lewis Dalgliesh’s recent release, From a Journal, which was written over a seven month period while the songwriter was driving with companions from London to Cape Town. Yes, folks, driving. And, for those of you who aren’t sure where those places are, look at a goddamn map, you’re embarrassing the rest of us Americans. This single has a wayfaring air and a calm, pensive attitude. Just the sort of thing you would hope might emerge from traveling across the world. Listen to “My Bluebird is a Storm Petrel” below. From a Journal, in its entirety, can be found here.
Swan Levitt comes to us from Isle of Wight, UK – surprise, surprise. Apparently, it’s Brit Songwriter Day here at YabYum and no one told me. Whatever. This song, like those that came before it, is a new gem in ancient tradition. “You Were Human” has some real emotive energy and a sci-fi slant, how could I not love that? Levitt goes beyond the guitar-and-vocals combo to add some vibrant but subtle textures that really elevate the track. Take the single for spin a below. The track is also available for your private collection here.
**Correction: There was an error in the piece so the original content was changed to reflect the correct information. Our bad.
If you’re a new band starting out, the prospect of landing that first gig can be a little intimidating. Even if you’ve been making the local rounds and are ready to start looking toward furthering your fanbase, a little booking rundown can help you find shows in new area codes. We asked Andy Warpigs – musician, performer, booking guru, and man about town – to help us understand a few of the show-booking basics.
YabYum: So… how did you first getting into booking shows? Was is something you had to learn to do as a musician? You book shows not only as a musician but also as a show promoter. Is that correct?
Andy Warpigs: I first started booking shows when I was 19. I would find bands on ReverbNation and Myspace and websites like that. I used to book shows at different DIY spots downtown and then I got more involved in The Trunk Space and learned to book more through them.
Booking is definitely something essential to being a musician. I feel like learning things from the venue’s perspective and running shows and doing sound are all skills that you are going to learn eventually if you are a serious musician.
I have booked shows for my own band, and have also booked for my friends bands and community type events. I have also worked with different bars to set stuff up for traveling musicians or residency for local bands.
As a musician, are there some basic steps you should follow in trying to book a show?
I think the first stop in learning booking from a musician’s perspective is to make sure you have open channels of communication with the venue. You have to tap into their built-in crowd and their promotional resources. It is also really important to build a show that is cool from the audience’s perspective and has a variety of acts ’cause that will keep them on their toes.
It’s really important to make sure all of the bands involved are on point and doing everything they can to promote the show as well to their fans and friends. It can be really helpful to book shows through a collective with different like-minded friends, so all the responsibility doesn’t fall on your shoulders.
As a promoter, are there things you look for when you’re approached by a band interested in booking? Social media outreach? EPK? Is there anything you feel is essential when considering a band for an event?
I’m just learning about electronic press kits. Personally, I book new bands because I like their attitude, sound, style, or sense of humor or theatrics. Web presence is important, but it’s about how good they are at engaging their audience, not necessarily how many [followers] they have numbers wise…
So, let’s say a band is just getting started. What advice would you offer to help them get out there and performing?
New bands should play as much as they can. Practice playing out is just as important as rehearsing the songs or practicing your instruments. You hone your craft that way and learn how to work a crowd. The idea of playing for exposure is kind of inflated but you never know who might see you. What’s the worst that could happen? Lol.
Let’s say your a new act looking to book a gig. What’s the best way to go about it? Talk to other bands playing that venue? Ask a bartender? Email the venue directly? Is there a method to this madness?
Emailing a venue and asking who their contact person for booking is always a polite and acceptable way to get a foot in the door at a new spot. Sometimes you can even get things going at a place that doesn’t even do shows by approaching them with the idea.
Check out the Andy Warpigs Facebook page for all his upcoming shows including opening for Bigger Than Mountains on Dec. 29 at the Trunk Space, at Yucca Tap Room Jan. 5, and at 51WEST Jan. 15!
Australian artist Lucas Laufen pairs a stripped down sound with an emotive lyricism; both of which can be heard on his new single, “Boulders”. Laufen spent much of this past year out on tour, but he returned to his home nation to perform and gather inspiration for his forthcoming release, due out next year, before heading to Berlin where the artist will be living for the foreseeable future while working on his second EP. “Boulders” is peaceful and pensive – my favorite combo. Give the single a listen below and then head here for the complete EP.
Nashville-based artist Nicole Boggs has a smoldering voice and a soulful sound on her new single – the aptly titled, “Something New”. After releasing her debut album three years ago, Boggs decided to take her sound in a new direction. This single is the transitory process between what was and what she will become. And, I must say, I’m intrigued. Fusing blues and soul, “Something New” provides a stellar introduction to the sultry vocal stylings of Nicole Boggs. Give the single a spin below or head here to get your own digi-download of the new EP, also titled Something New.
The mellow folk music of L.A.’s Cody Crump heard on “Seventeen” envelopes the listener in sweet and somber sounds. This single comes to us from Crump’s ambitious 2016 album, Good Luck, which clocks in at 19-tracks. Pairing a straightforward lyricism with an orchestral layering of vocals and guitars, Crump crafts an uplifting musicality on “Seventeen” that carries through to his other songs. You can check out the complete LP right here, but first give “Seventeen” a listen below…
This dreamy number by Amy Gillespie immediately reminded me of Joni Mitchell. Only then did I realize that the “For Blue” part of the title of this track was actually a dedication to Mitchell’s quintessential album, Blue. Gillespie shares many qualities with Mitchell including a penchant for introspective lyrics and gentle shifting soundscapes. Give “Wintertime (For Blue)” a listen below or score your own copy of the single here.
Staten Island’s Justy has a unique, smokey-sweet voice reminiscent of Macy Gray. On her latest single, “Can’t Explain”, Justy meanders through the enchantment of love against a mellow, jazz-tinged musicality. The single incorporates HipHop elements for a completely modern take on the love song. At only 21-years-old, Justy is quickly establishing herself as an artist to watch. Give “Can’t Explain It” a listen below…
The music of Bethany Becker might come along with the tag “country” but you shouldn’t go in expecting Loretta Lynn. Instead, think early Taylor Swift: pop-tinged country. “I Want Love” offers an innocent, earthy, upbeat anthem for those transitioning into adolescence. Hailing from Austin, the 18-year-old Becker proves she’s got promise on “I Want Love” which was written with a little assistance from Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, Jeff Pardo. This single is the title track from her 2016 debut LP (available here). Check out “I Want Love” by Bethany Becker below…
Madi Earl might not be old enough to vote, but she’s already garnishing attention for her songwriting skills. “Walls” has an electropop vibe and smooth vocal style. Earl’s not just a singer-songwriter, but also a pianist and violinist. Madi Earl plans to release her debut EP next year so this is definitely a young artist to keep an ear turned toward. Give “Walls” a listen below or head here for your very own copy. If you dig “Walls”, I also suggest looking into other her previous singles (also available through iTunes and Soundcloud).
This upbeat number about the holiday season in Sunny Los Angeles is something desert rats like me can relate to. Lack of snowmen, or snow for that matter, won’t bring us down. Ms. Maura & The Misters, out of L.A., offer up this bluesy tribute to the season that will spice up any holiday party playlist. Listen below…
The Portland-based indie outfit known as Candy Cigarettes crafted this holiday ditty in their own dreampop style: something sweet and a little strange. “A Whale’s Christmas in Childress, TX” conveys the tale of a young boy who asked Santa to turn him into a whale for Xmas and now spends his days exploring the ocean. Except, of course, at Christmastime when he returns to Childress, TX. Obviously. This track from Candy Cigarettes is a gem. Give it a spin below…
What happens when an Electro-Pop Princess teams up with a Michael Bublé Tribute Artist? You get this stellar rendition of the seasonal classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. These Arizona-based artists have the talent and showmanship to take this frequently covered classic and make it all their own. Check out the video for “Baby It’s Cold Outside” here…
Four sisters from Colorado make up the musical quartet known as SHEL. The band recently released a collection of holiday tracks in November titled Winter Fairyland. The EP consists of three original songs and three seasonal standards, including this lovely rendition of “Sleigh Ride”. Rich harmonies meet lithe musicality on this updated classic. Give “Sleigh Ride” by SHEL a spin below and consider adding Winter Fairyland to your Christmas collection (available here).
New York-based singer-songwriter is either telling a home invasion story or creating a new holiday number on his single, “A Man in a Red Suit”. I’m banking on the latter and the incorporation of certain commonly recognized seasonal melodies within the overarching musicality on this track leads me to believe I am correct. Bernhardt crafts a peaceful indie-folk number that you might just want to keep on your playlist as we move into the new year. Give “A Man in a Red Suit” a listen below and then continue on to listen to more tracks from Tyler Bernhardt available through his Soundcloud page.
Let’s change gears for a moment. After all, the holidays aren’t a warm bubble of joy in the middle of a cold season… at least, not for everyone. For those that get lugubrious as soon as the mistletoe is hung, there is Snailmate, a band that defies all genres with their hiphop-electro-experimental-ism. “Christmas Intent: $h***y” is not only for the downtrodden and the heartbroken, but the slightly strange as well.
The Faithettes released their first single (ever) this holiday season. The London-based act, fronted by Paloma Faith, have been performing for years and perfecting that 60s Motown vibe that pervades this new Christmas classic. “Me and My Baby (Spend Christmas with Me)” is available through both iTunes & Spotify so you can add it to your holiday playlists. And you should.