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Mr. Brightside

Andrew Varner

Andrew Varner calls his music pop with a purpose, meaning it’s meant to provoke and inspire, not just show off his proficiency on piano. But there’s no hiding those skills”all of Varner’s songs contain expertly-wrought piano melodies blended with soft beats and bright strokes of electric guitar. Autumn Leaves introduces you to the singer-songwriter’s dusty voice, fluid fingers and tender-hearted lyricism. On the polyrhythmic How To Be Alone, he takes turns ratcheting up the guitar to a fever pitch and downshifting into an easy, mid-tempo amble. Lest you get the idea that Varner’s from the Bruce Hornsby school of rock, skip over to Let Me Down for dynamic, driving post-punk. Yeah, there are some nice cascading piano parts in there, but there’s plenty of jagged edges, too. Even pianists get to be badasses.


All Keyed Up

Jes Hudak

Things happen when you’re 13 ” first kisses, first cigarettes, first piercings ” and, if you’re like Jes Hudak, first albums. Maybe it’s a little precocious for a 9th grader to drop a record on her classmates and hit the local open mic night, but getting a head start can pay off. Now well into her 20s, the LA ingenue has already been a contestant on American Idol and Rock Star: INXS, toured with Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5 and Howie Day, sung both the National Anthem at Giants Stadium and a Tom Jones cover for a Pantene commercial, and picked up her fair share of music awards along the way. Here’s what the fuss is about: Hudak’s limber voice and gift for writing insistent little piano melodies that won’t let you soon forget them. National Holiday is blissed-out piano pop, while No One in the World is sexier terrain, where a chorus of cooing Hudaks and the squiggle of electric guitar raise the temperature. High school boys, eat your heart out.



There are two ways to deal with a Magic Man. If you’re Heart, you run away with him beg your mama to “try to understand.” If you’re Amy Crawford & The Electric, you temper your emotions with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The songwriter lays down the law with a spry piano melody and fool-me-not lyrics on her song, Magic Man: Don’t tell me you’ll do the best you can / You’re wasting your time unless you’re a magic man.  It’s infectious and effervescent piano pop with vintage textures í  la The Beach Boys, only fronted by a clever girl with a lot more serotonin in her system. On her self-titled debut, Crawford and her band”The Electric”dole out a collection of upbeat gems that fall somewhere between Mates of State after a nap and Feist after a couple of sodas. Crawford’s comely vocals and nimbleness on the ivories make for some bewitching listening. In other words, it’s magic.