Your Country's Right Here: Madi Diaz Shows off 'Plastic Moon'

Madi Diaz sure doesn’t act like a musical prodigy when you chat with her about her music. Aren’t those who attend the famed School of Rock in Philadelphia and Boston’s Berklee College of Music supposed to be a bit, uh, pretentious? That sure doesn’t fit the personality of this polished and pleasant twenty-something woman with an infectious laugh whose self-depracating humor reflects some of the bubbly, uptempo songs on her brand-new album release Plastic Moon.

The only problem with the songs on the album”full of all kinds of bang-on-the-dashboard beats and thoughtful lyrics”is that they are so compelling that stalwarts of every format wants to claim it as their own. No matter. Let the pop and rock and alt-country folks battle it out”Diaz is really all about getting the music to the listeners no matter how they find her.

“It’s pop I think, and indie I think. And then [a business associate] mentioned CMT and I said ‘Sure that’s great. We’ll take it!'”said Diaz with a laugh. “It’s like the first time I’m sure people heard Led Zeppelin or Frank Zappa”and of course I’m not comparing myself to them”–but I am sure people didn’t know where they fit [in terms of musical format] either!”

And it’s clear that she cut her musical teeth on an array of songs that she just loved, no matter the format.

When I was a teenager, Madi Diaz recalled, my dad and I would hang out in the living room and learn songs by bands like the Eagles and Alice in Chains. We’d pick parts to harmonize and sing our way through them, over and over. My dad would get so excited when he figured out something by Yes or the Mamas and the Papas, then he’d let me pick my favorite Silverchair song or whatever I was obsessing over at the moment and we’d learn it together, too. It was the best.

She was well schooled to embrace it, too. At what one might call her father’s insistence, Diaz began to study piano at age five. Although she grew up amidst the Amish of Lancaster, PA, her parents kept feeding her a steady diet of music that ranged from Metallica to Sheryl Crow and The Beatles. It was that background, combined with her formal studies, that guided her toward her musical passion (songwriting) and her musical partner Kyle Ryan, a fellow Berklee student from Lincoln, NE.

“When I started writing for myself, I realized  that I was gravitating toward painfully yearning David Rawlings, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris [music],” she said. “I really thought Americana was where I wanted to be. It still is in some ways. It resonates with a rawness that I love.”

But for now, Diaz’s musical journey is tied up in the indie rock pop sounds of Paper Moon, and that’s just where she wants to be at least for now.

“It’s funny, especially the way things are right now. You never know where or what it is going to take you, where it catches,” said Diaz. “Sometimes you stumble to find the pace. The entire process has literally been that. Moving to Nashville, writing with a million people and then [Kyle and I] writing by ourselves, and then all the rushing, stumbling and then really finding your gait.”

Don’t miss Diaz’s new album and be sure to check out her upcoming video, especially filmed for Valentine’s Day (and featuring her brother’s metal band! Really!). Find out all about it and more on her Web site.

Watch Diaz’s video for “Let’s Go” below:

The EditoriaList: Top Ten Post-Breakup Beatles Releases

Well, this was tougher than I anticipated. This is my THE list of the top ten official post-breakup Beatles releases. I laid myself some ground rules:

1. No bootlegs. We’d be here all year.

2. No box sets. Would have loved to get into the recent stellar releases in both mono and stereo, but you can’t say something is better or worse when it includes everything. There was also a great collection of EPs that came out in the ’90s. I recommend searching that out.

3. No Anthology. These three releases are each too sprawling, comprehensive, disjointed and frankly not that much fun to listen to as an album.

Without further delay…

Top Ten Post-Breakup Beatles Releases:

10. The Beatles Christmas Album (Released December 18, 1970):

The Beatles were a pretty funny group of dudes, which is one of the reasons George Martin decided to work with them in the beginning, having been rather un-wowed by their musical abilities. Their love of goofy and absurdist humor is on display throughout this compilation of their yearly Fan Club-only Christmas messages”a mix of conversation, song and sketch, which gets increasingly absurd, stark, bizarre and sad as the years go on and the divisions within the group grow. Each Beatle recorded their final messages separately. This is another hard-to-find item, but worth a listen for any true fan. And check out what this clever bastard did:



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Anglo Ascension

The Sketches

When it comes to vocal capabilities, to a certain extent you’re either born with them or you’re not. Charlie Bernardo was blessed with an incredible voice”one that sounds like the product of English DNA. As lead singer of DC-based band The Sketches, Bernardo brings huge Brit-pop chops to the table. Strangers”not to get overly hyperbolic”is perfection. Bernardo’s intoxicating croon, a Lennon-like piano line and frayed guitar lashes combine for a lush, swooning melody. Somewhere the members of Keane are gnashing their teeth in envy. She Came & Went, with its cello moans and shaken percussion is superlative Brit folk. Secret Alphabets packs the theatrical punch of Queen on its airborne chorus, but begins with a rolling bass that leans more towards Beatles’ Come Together. The Sketches may wear their influences on their sleeve, but don’t worry too much about it. The visceral chills their music brings are entirely of their own design.

Fantastic Voyage

Ex Norwegian

Ex Norwegian is one of those wily bands that makes categorization impossible. In the one instant you’ve decided their ethereal melodies sound like The Beatles, they leap into frenzied post-punk that has Pixies written all over it. But that protean approach to songwriting is the root of the Ex Norwegian’s appeal. The Miami-based band unfurls a magic carpet ride for each song. Turn Left begins in a joyful jangle that sounds like Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away meets Kenny Loggins’ Footloose. Bluesy rock is traded for whirls of keys in Sky Diving, arguably the band’s sweetest and most British melody. Then there’s the outcrop of distorted, jutting guitars in Fujeira In My Dreams that sounds like Black Francis fronting the Shins. Not confused enough? Put on the willfully inane Dance Trance Pants for wah-wah guitars and a cello. The mind melt is unavoidable, and totally fun. Roll with it, baby.

Righteous Brother

Richard Parsons

Richard Parsons’ bio is short and sweet: Likes dry reds and Jack Daniels, sweet harmonies, righteous chords and vinyl. With these clues, you might be able to extrapolate an idea of what his music sounds like”a little rustic, a little brooding, a little vintage. The Decatur, Georgia-based singer-songwriter comes across like a mix of John Lennon, Jeff Tweedy and Chris Cornell. Listen to You Curse and you’ll get a whiff of the Beatles’ airborne choruses flanked by dusty acoustic guitars and tambourine shimmers. Parsons’ music ambles along at an unhurried pace, taking its time to unfold. Fall Back is darker and sleepier than You Curse, but just as mellifluous. But the singer-songwriter knows how to get his rocks off as well, particularly with the awesome, alt-country psychedelia of Light A Fire. Parson’s love of righteous chords is apparent. If you love ˜em too, you’ll dig this.