Friday, January 24, 2014

January Sounds (or, I'm stumped for a pithy title)

    What's become an interesting year-end / year-beginning ritual for music lovers is the BBC's "Sound of" lists, something they started doing in 2003 when they chose 50 Cent as the act to watch. Their record hasn't been 100%; often, it goes like American Idol in that the runners' up are the most interesting, and have the better careers. In that first year the rest of the top 5 included Electric Six, The Thrills, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. #6? Interpol.

     2004 was another successful class, with Keane topping a poll that included Franz Ferdinand, Joss Stone, and Scissor Sisters. 2005? A bit of an off year. The Bravery came in first, Kaiser Chiefs at 5, and KT Tunstall at 6. And it's not that they were lacking, but lasting chart power wasn't a factor in that year's list. 2008. Now there was a class. Adele, Duffy, Ting Tings, Glasvegas, Foals, Vampire Weekend, Joe Lean & The JJJ, Black Kids, MGMT, and Santigold — only two of those ten haven't gone anywhere since.

     So, there're some good calls and bad. Some with shit-tons of artistic merit, and some pure bubblegum. This year's top pick is a kid named Sam Smith and his voice is heavenly, but the arrangements are the stuff pop confection is made of. Listen to him on Disclosure's "Latch" for a less RickRoll-worthy experience.

    California's BANKS and Chicagoan Chance the Rapper comprise the interesting Americans on the list. What's really got me worked up at present, though, is a young Bristol kid named George Ezra. #5. Little skinny blonde kid with a voice that would make Mississippi blues and Dave Wakeling fans, alike, blink. Twice.

      Ezra got early support from a local BBC outlet, started doing open mic nights, found himself at Glastonbury in the summer of 2013, and is now signed to Sony and working with Class of 2009 graduate Lady Gaga's publicist. Already, people are looking for a repeat Jake Bugg phenomena, or is it just the deservedly cynical UK press? You can't blame them/us. So many times, we've been hyped on some piece of schlock with a too-good-to-be-true origin story. Ezra sounds like he's got the goods, regardless. Let's just hope he can stay away from the producers-du-jour.

      One thing, a little disquieting, is the marketing agreements that are already in place. Apparently there's some kind of Burberry fashion connection. Kind of reminds me of how a Nashville Americana band had a Stetson endorsement before their album even came out. Can't anything stand on its own, anymore?

       Speaking of the home team, among Nashville's newer residents is guitar slinger / songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan. Originally from Ohio, Tasjan landed in NY in the aughts, in the original lineup of Semi Precious Weapons. The band was hot on the glam scene and destined for great things, but they weren't the kind of great things Tasjan wanted, and so he walked away from Gagaland (yes, two Gaga connections in one post. Dig it) into the decidedly more rootsy and down-to-earth Madison Square Gardeners. Even though that band wasn't very long lived, it put him in the same scene as people like Kevn Kinney and Todd Snider, who talked Tasjan into moving to Nashville. Between playing with SPW and bringing his solo act here, he's managed to share stages with the likes of the NY Dolls, Golden Palominos, Tim Easton and Drivin' n' Cryin'. In the latter case, he's their current guitarist.

       Like all the hard-working kids in town, Aaron Lee Tasjan's been out on the road almost since he got here. Keep your eyes peeled for his next local gig. This was at the Stone Fox, in December.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Brand New Single From Foster the People - Coming of Age

I don't think I've ever heard of the Direct Lyrics website, but a lot of people are about to. Foster the People have released a new single and they've got it up and streaming.
Foster the People - Coming of Age