Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Big Believe

The Big Believe
Let’s Pretend We’re Spies (featuring Faye Hunter)

The Big Believe is a band from Eastbourne, Britain led by Amanda Thompson, whose deep voice sounds sweet and comforting.  “Let’s Pretend We’re Spies” is not about spies.  Rather it’s a cool, fun, folk/rock romp about uplift through introspection and the joy of knowing you’re better off for it.  And that’s just the A side. The B side of this 7-inch takes the song in a synth direction, making it sound somewhat spooky. 

What makes this 7-inch sound bittersweet is that this is the final recording of Faye Hunter, who died in July of this year under tragic circumstances.  Faye sounds wonderful here and adds a layer of sinister undercurrent with her vocals.  She never lost her voice, or the magic that she could bring to a song, but the sadness that goes with a final recording is almost obliterated knowing that she went out on top. This is one of the finest songs I’ve heard all year, and a must-have for fans of Faye and Let’s Active. As an added bonus, some of the proceeds from the song go toward a donkey shelter that Faye supported, and the 7-inch cover is a drawing that Faye created.  If you go to The Big Believe’s sound cloud page, you’ll find other good songs from them, including the great “Girls With Cassettes” featuring Todd Fancy from The New Pornographers, and a terrific rough mix of "Spies." 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

R&L Williams

Robin and Linda Williams
Back 40
Red House Records

Robin and Linda Williams have made many fine albums over their long, storied career and were mainstays of A Prairie Home Companion.  Back 40 is their latest, and continues their great career.

Their music and lyrics reflect old-time country, bluegrass, and folk whether they’re covering artists like Joni Mitchell and early Bob Dylan, reinterpreting traditional songs, or introducing their new song “The Old Familiar House on Christmas Day.”  Tales of love, hardship, good times, bad times all fit in, and are wonderful to hear.  They and their band mates are expert musicians and make this album a must have.  If you’ve never heard them, this is the album to start with, and if you have, celebrate their latest.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview RL

The Words And Music: An Interview With Rene Lopez
 Rene Lopez’s music is so catchy so full of melodies, that it will instantly brighten your day, as will his sublime lyrics.  That was my impression after hearing his EP Let’s Be Strangers Again, and checking out his YouTube videos. I’d found out about him initially from a promo given to me by Girlie Action, a very savvy music company, and was so taken with what I heard that it has been on my iPod in heavy rotation for weeks.  In other words, it’s been one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

I recently interviewed Mr. Lopez by email and I hope you like what he has to say as much as I did, and I liked it a lot.

Andrea Weiss:  Who are your influences?

Rene Lopez:  Prince, Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, Tito Puente, Burt Bacharach, Gilberto Gil, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon.

AW:  Would New York be part of your influences? My music is the sound

RL:  I hear walking on the sidewalk or taking the train in NYC. That is why it is hard to really categorize what I do. There are so many influences. 

AW:  Do you feel Latin music is exploding right now, and if it is, how great is that?

RL:  To tell you the truth I didn't know it was exploding. I follow the current Latin music scene because most of what I hear is not my cup of tea. I know there is now an Alternative Latin Music scene happening now which I need to dig into a bit. 

AW:  How did you get started in music?

 RL:   It was all I ever wanted to do. I can't remember ever wanting anything else. Heard and saw my dad playing music and it was a done deal.

AW:  What kind of music did you hear while growing up, since your dad is a musician?

RL:  My father was a Latin trumpet player so I heard a lot of salsa and Afro Cuban music in the house. He also had a big record collection so we played a lot of soul, disco, jazz and even fusion music. I was lucky to have a very diverse jukebox spinning in our home.

AW:  I love the way you blend Latin music of all types, and rock.  Do both come easily to you?

RL:  It actually does. Ha!!! To me it all fits together like a beautiful puzzle. I started out as a kid blending funk and Latin. I feel like I have returned to that but it’s much broader now. I dig that there is a Latin influence to my music but I'm not really a Latin artist. 

AW:  Your lyrics are wonderful.  How do you get your ideas for them, and your music?

RL:  Wow thanks. I don't get that often. Most people talk about the grooves or vibe of my music. Well all of my lyrics are through my life experience and I think in getting better at expressing that in a poetic way. I really have it together when I'm 90.

AW:  What advice would you give a musician just starting out?

RL:  If you are not 100 percent passionate about music do not do it. You can not expect anything from the music industry. There is no golden apple. You do it because you would die if you didn't make music.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rene Lopez

Rene Lopez
Let’s be Strangers Again

This is a tasty blend of Cuban, Brazilian, African, soul, salsa, and mellow rock --- very smooth, and totally irresistible.  It will stay with you once the record has finished.  Lopez has been making music for 20 years, and is the son of Rene Lopez from Típica 73. 

The lyrics are slightly mystical, none more so than on the title track, but always wise, mature, and great.  They will make you think and reflect.  They're for good times and not so good times, and put together with captivating music, a really wonderful musical experience.
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dream Koala

Dream Koala
Odyssey EP

Mellow electronics, with an equally mellow rock feel to it, perfect for quiet times, thinking, or chilling out.  Yndi Ferreira is Dream Koala, who has remixed tracks for The 1975 and Angel Haze, and has played in several bands of his own, has released his first EP.  This is music to  enjoy and enhance whatever you're doing.  
Andrea Weiss

Monday, October 7, 2013

St. Lucia

St. Lucia
Night Still Comes

80s synth pop and techno pop was always so serious.  Deadpan, monotone singing, keyboards used for ominous effect, incomprehensible lyrics, no emotional content. This is why Brooklyn’s St. Lucia is so refreshing.

There is loads of emotional content here, much of it joyous and blissful. Jean-Philip Grobler sings like someone having a very good time, even when he’s lost out on love, because he knows he will find someone another day.  This is reflected in the music:  driving, forceful, emotional, ready to have fun. And for all the synths here, very few drum machines, another relief, because there is nothing like a human being drumming, since a better beat is kept that way. This is a great full-length debut, and is a welcome and wonderful alternative to music that is the opposite of St. Lucia. 
Andrea Weiss

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust
Last Night On Earth

The Grateful Dead as rather mellow noise rock, with jams built in?  That is Last Night On Earth. Lee and his band, which includes Steve Shelly, does a mighty good take on both Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann.  Alan Licht does his best Bob Weir and bassist Tim Luntzel takes Phil Lesh’s part, and craft an album that honors the Dead.  While there are very few ways you can play the Dead at this point, Lee and his band manage to find a new one.

The jams are not over extended, which is one of the biggest irritants of the jam band scene.  Instead, they fit into the overall songs and stretch them out so Lee and Alan can show their considerable skill.  Lee, whose guitar playing I've always preferred over Thurston’s, is much different here than Kim's with Body/Head, even though Kim has the chops to match Lee.  This is his chance to carve out a legacy and sound of his own, especially now with Sonic Youth scattered for good.

The lyrics are just what Lee always writes: thoughtful mediations on life and relationships.  I've always liked his writing, and always wanted to hear more on any SY album.  Now we get two albums' worth, counting Between The Times and Tides, and that’s extremely welcome.  Put it all together for an album that matches Body/Head, and that makes me hope that SY doesn’t reform.  Both solo projects give us more of Lee and Kim than SY ever did.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Patty Larkin Still Green

Patty Larkin
Still Green
Signature Sounds

So you like Mumford-type bands, indie folk in general, and the roots of folk, and still want more.  Patty Larkin is the one for you, as a gateway to another type of modern folk, and a great album.

Larkin has been around since the 1980s, when she released her first album Step Into The Light, I’m Fine, for Philo/Rounder Records.  At the time, the most popular folk singers were people like Suzanne Vega and The Roches, and Larkin was included in that group.  She became even more popular in the 90s, with albums like Tango, and airplay on NPR, and no-commercial AAA stations, because before these formats got into indie rock, this is the type of music they played.  But for all the popularity of 90s folk, the scene was unjustly overshadowed by other types of alternative music.  This music was as much an alternative as grunge, as 90s folk toot the spirit of grunge and put it into a folk context.

The reason this album is so great is that it’s gentle music, but so is BonIver. The gentleness of the music masks the fact that it’s very melancholy, but not depressing. It’s more unsettled, and the lyrics reflect that feeling. The characters in these songs are facing big decisions. They’re not quite sure of what to do, and really need to think about everything without getting upset.  Mumford explores this, too, as does Of Monsters and Men, but Larkin’s music is quieter, more thoughtful.  Which is to say that just because it’s quieter, doesn’t mean it’s mellow. It has it’s own way of rocking.

The current wave of folk should include Larkin in it, and the others who came of age musically in the 90s. Really, the true roots of today’s folk are in these 90s artists.  The list is long, but a few names to go by: Dar Williams, Jonatha Brooke, The Nields, Richard Shindell, the late Dave Carter, Greg Brown, and even those who are not quite folk, but have one foot in it, like Mary Lou Lord. You’ll find a world of good music here, and also interesting lyrics. And Larkin is one of the best at both, so do yourself a favor, and get into Larkin. You absolutely won’t regret it.    
Andrea Weiss


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