How else to explain the Nashville-based singer/songwriter/producer/musician Osenga’s “story” Leonard, The Lonely Astronaut, released on September 18. Perhaps the album’s theme was born of his love of science fiction and folk? Sure, rockers have explored this concept for years”David Bowie‘s 1973 album Aladdin Sane and Pink Floyd‘s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon come immediately to mind”but it’s fairly new territory for folk. Credit Osenga’s eclectic taste in music for the turn.
“I was into grunge and then Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, all the shows on the big stages,” he said of his early influences. “The music was heartfelt but they could hide the fact that they were heartfelt by putting on a big show. When I moved to Nashville I became friends with folk artists and really got into Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris…..And I’m a huge literary nerd, too, so that helped make this.” (more…)
Separately, Elora Taylor and Dee Filc are just two twenty-something ladies from Oakville, Ontario. Together, they become something even better, a folk duo called Tallulah Darling that plays stripped down, bare bones rock and country. Though the two cite influences like Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Dixie Chicks, and Toby Keith, you’ll find more street edge in tracks like Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. There, a serpentine bass, buzzsaw guitar riffs, and cheeky lyrics are loosely combined for raw, unrefined rock. Metal Heart, on the other hand, is a more lackadaisical meditation on love, wrapped up in acoustic guitars and falsetto vocals. Finally, on This Is Not A Joke, those country roots are unearthed. With the wistful, confessional appeal of Taylor Swift, Mulligan delivers her simple request: This is not a joke so please stop smiling. Mute adoration, however, is permitted.
Before he had even finished high school in Alabama, Nick Gill had three albums and a 50-date tour under his belt. And if that doesn’t impress you, his music will. Gill has come a long way since penning his first song in 8th grade about a kooky English teacher. These days his songs are poignant, spare meditations on life’s more difficult experiences: love, loss, and growing up. The haunting How It Feels is about a friend’s suicide. But rather than dwelling on the shock and horror, Gill reminisces about the good times”driving around with beauty queens on Halloween. As a violin, piano, and a softy strummed guitar deliver the elegy, Gill’s mellow voice ascends into a honeyed falsetto. Game is lighter fare”an upbeat melody led by a guiro, acoustic guitar and piano. Gill’s warm and dusty songs are on par with singer-songwriters like Jack Johnson and John Mayer. But unlike those elderish statesmen, this young buck’s just getting started.
Amy Stroup is doing just fine, thank you. With an appearance in Prairie Home Companion and song placement on shows like Private Practice, One Tree Hill, and Drop Dead Diva under her belt, the Nashville singer-songwriter is on the rise. Stroup’s music has caught on, and it’s easy to understand why. Her diaphanous folk melodies are composed with economy, creating wide open spaces for delicate textures”a piano line here, a stroke of cello there. On Hold On To Hope Love”a song that would sound right at home on the Once soundtrack”Stroup tiptoes up the scales as the melody swells like a symphony. With a softly husky voice like Norah Jones, Stroup infuses every lyric with sweetness and light. I’m running over the clouds to you, she sings on Just You. Running over clouds is as good a description as any of her music. And if you’re like us, you’ll want to join her up in the ether.
If you love sludge metal bands that drag their guitars and drums through dense bogs of distortion and jolting tempo changes, screaming doom and gloom the whole way, then you’ll want to steer clear of Everett Coast. Hailing from the sunny City of Angels, the duo’s breezy folk rock is antithetical to anything that’s hard edge, hardcore, or hard knock. Like Simon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers, Everett Coast is all about harmonics. Layered and staggered vocal harmonies permeate their songs. On Just Let Go shimmering keys and glistening guitars create dreamy, ethereal rock. While metal bands like Lamb of God bellow lyrics like, Destroy yourself / see who gives a f”k, Everett Coast stays positive, singing, I know we’ll meet again someday / Where we can be the best of friends.” Our point is this: Life’s hard. Sometimes misery’s company is a catharsis, and sometimes it’s better to stay in the light. Next time you need to feel good about things, you know where to go.
Warning Birds is a band of Perthians led by Sam Carmody, a virtuosic singer songwriter with a bent for storytelling that tugs at the heartstrings. With his bandmates”bassist Carmen Pepper, guitarist Bensen Thomas and drummer Tim Bates”Carmody crafts dreamy, fitful indie pop. On Sally glistening pangs of guitar meld with gossamer layers of vocals and brisk rhythms in a tale of love gone dangerously wrong. Plastic Palms explodes out of the gate with soaring guitars and drums, then settles into a meditative meander through watery guitars and the intertwined vocals of Carmody and Pepper. Nowhere do these two sound more transcendent than on Ghost Town, a shuffling, melancholic melody with a chorus that swoons. There must be something here, they sing in harmony, before their voices are swallowed by rolling drums and funereal horns. Fans of Arcade Fire will love this. Put it on, sit back, and get your blissed-out brood on.
A skeleton key, so named for its skeletal design, can unlock virtually anything. Jamie Nichole, a singer-songwriter out of Indiana, wears one around her neck at all times. Symbolically, it’s a fitting totem. Nichole’s music is simple and accessible ” down-tempo songs comprised mostly of acoustic guitar, keys, soft percussion, and the lilting twang of her voice. This Time Around is laced with dreamy imagery ” burning incense and gentle breezes ” swaddled in shimmering organs and pangs of electric guitar. Most of Nichole’s music is languorous, taking its time to tell the story. From the bending guitars and treacly vocals of All I Ask to the elegiac Out of Sight, where Nichole says adieu to a bad relationship, listeners are lulled into a serene state of mind. You may want to light some incense.
SLG: It just comes naturally, really. Johnny and I love all kinds of music and we always put them all into the show. Johnny loves to rock but we also love to tip our hat to history. That is so important. But really, we just love experimenting and finding new voices. That is what [our career together] has uncovered. We really have a good time doing that and can’t wait to create more. It is very exciting for us.
OS: A lot of second- or third-generation artists talk a lot about the fans that come to their shows. Some find it frustrating that the fans are there more to embrace the past than to listen to the newer music. You’ve never really voiced displeasure about any of that.
SLG: I have to say that for the most part, actually the whole part, the fan interactions I’ve had have been very positive. They always talk about how much Woody’s music meant to them growing up and how much Arlo’s songs have changed their lives. There are moments where it worries me and I wonder what they expect of me. But they’ve been very positive and very gracious. It’s really been a great thing to have fans embrace the legacy.
Stephanie White was one of the Top 21 female vocalists on American Idol season five, and though the New Jersey native didn’t make it as far as Taylor Hicks, it wasn’t for a lack of talent. White’s got the limber croon of a jazz chanteuse combined with a pop sensibility that makes her music appealing to the masses. With her band of merry musicians, the Philth Harmonics, the singer creates a gumbo of jazz, funk, ska, and even a little Caribbean. Cheat On My BFFL is a cautionary tale for jerk wads wrapped up in a party. The bass bubbles, the guitars strut, the horns bleat, and the girl sings a warning to men who mean her friends harm. Keep the party going with the sultry Prove It or the creeping jazz funk of Trying To Dream For You. Hey, Taylor Hicks”eat your heart out.
Lately, it seems that we are hearing more and more from new and unexpected partnerships between artists of different genres. This is why, through Superlatones, we are creating our very own directory”a musical wish-list, if you will”of artists who have yet to join the collaborative bandwagon.
It’s the middle of March and once again, St. Patty’s Day is just around the corner. Luckily for us working folk, this year the anticipated holiday falls on a Saturday, which means we are free to participate in the festivities and celebrate. So grab a buddy, pour yourself some Guinness and let this week’s dynamic duo start up your weekend with a little Irish flair.
The Dynamic Duo:
Kíla and Streetlight Manifesto