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Posts Tagged ‘singer/songwriter’

davidpoegodanthegirlGod & The Girl

David Poe

July 3, 2014

Think Indie / Charming Martyr (BMI)

 

 

Poe is a name that is undeniably associated with the surroundings of nineteenth century American literature. Edgar Allan Poe’s dark romanticism with themes of macabre, death and mystery always attempts to focus onto having a certain effect on the beholder. This also holds true for the modern Poe we are discussing today.

 

David Poe is an accomplished artist with roots in midwest of the United States. He has written and composed a multitude of songs and musical arrangements. Through the years he released three previous studio albums himself and contributed to the work of other established acts such as Duncan Sheik, Daryll Hall, Grace Potter, Thomas Dybdahl, Curtis Stigers and Oh Land. He also contributes his art to television, Broadway plays and modern dance. He does all this with a great deal of success with no obvious need to take the limelight.

 

Poe seems content to reach an audience of true supporters without necessarily seeking out the masses. With this approach, Poe manages to create the art he loves and believes in and this comes across magnificently. On his self-titled debut he serves up roughly hewn gems like Blue Glass Fall and Apartment. On his sophomore attempt “The Late Album” the singer/songwriter (though this term should be loosely applied to Poe, as his music reaches beyond the boundaries of this vaguely defined label) comes off more polished with the restrained Drifter which, in another era, would’ve become a pop classic, the artsy The Late Song (Je Ne Suis Pas Mort) and the literary, gritty testimony to a changing entertainment world in Deathwatch For A Living Legend.

 

Poe’s growth continues as he releases his next album, “Love is Red”. This is basically an in-studio live album. The beauty of this album is that it doesn’t rely on individual songs. It presents as a whole, with a vibe that is both solemn and vibrant, courtesy of the old bunker in Berlin in which it was recorded. If there’s one song I’d have to pick to symbolize this it’d be Wilderness.

 

The artist David Poe, who experimented with pop, rock, electronic, jazz and other influences fused things together in a way that displayed his personal convictions (I would refer you to the criticism of political and military actions in Gun For A Mouth, which Poe debuted live in 2003) and an artistic believability towards himself and his listeners. But since the release of “Love is Red” in 2005, Poe turned his attention to other projects and expanded into other media. He contributed to Broadway projects (Whisper House), motion pictures (Harvest, Shadowland) and scored two dance productions (The Copier, Shadowland) as well as produced records for established names in popular music (Regina Spector, Jenifer Jackson & The Brendan Hines). A studio album of his own, however, didn’t materialize until just recently.

 

David Poe returns with “God & The Girl” which instantly delivers on the promise left by his earlier work. The untamed and brazen yet wildly talented musician has transformed into a more experienced, balanced artist who learned to focus his talent into music that delivers in message, meaning and emotion. On this new album, Poe manages to connect to the listener with the simplicity of essentials. It instantly starts with the sweet Honey Moon where Poe’s soft and intimate vocals speak directly to everyone who’s ever felt romantic love. The penultimate verse perfectly delivers the message of that emotion.

 

Poe doesn’t strike gold with every song on the album but he manages to draw you in regardless. Lonely Like Me has a certain vintage feel to it with the plucking of the strings and the twangy arrangement. Let There Be No Longing sends a simple but powerful message and lyrically, to me, the strength lies in the final line: “Long for vengeance/long for mercy/not the memory of what could not be.”

 

Tafetta serves as a little break as it doesn’t rely on a gentle, melodic line but a more rhythmic and offbeat arrangement that glimpses back to some of Poe’s older work and could also draw a comparison to some of the work of his friend and contemporary, Duncan Sheik. Following with Wild One, Poe instantly hits his sweet spot. To me, this song connects the familiar sound I remember from the debut and “The Late Album” with the more mature songwriting this new album provides us with. The slight haunting undertone contrasted by that jangly guitar, topped off by slightly philosophical lyrics like “strangers become friends/it changes, breaks and bends/can we make amends/or is this the end?” is a package that ultimately represents why David Poe belongs to the highest standard of modern songwriters.

 

On When I Fly, Poe reaches back to the familiar sound from his earlier work. Maybe a little more than I had hoped because it sounds like could’ve come straight off The Late Album. And just when I thought the remainder of the album was going to drift off into a musical arrangement trip down memory lane, Poe shows his growth and added experience instantaneously. World Above doesn’t sound like anything he’s released before. Absolute restraint emphasizes the wondering and solemnity that fills the song that covers big questions of belief and existence. Here’s where Poe shows he doesn’t just make music but that his words and arrangements have meaning and substance.

 

Remember tells the story of heartbreak but at the same time it serves as a metaphor of how hard it is to let things go and how much it hurts to lose something or someone that once consumed such an important part of your life. Poe delivers this with vigor and a hidden urgency that emphasizes the message of the lyrics tenfold. Poe continues with the same theme in Thank You, though the tone is more spiteful and the rhythm has a latin-inspired touch to it that reminds me of creative twists by Santana or Calexico. Sometimes songs overpower you or grab you by the throat in the first second. That didn’t happen for me, but from the first time I listened to this song I was instantly intrigued. And I still am.

 

Remember the early 70s? When country & western, folk and rock & roll were all still alive in all its glory. That’s what The Devil reminds me of. The lyrics are relatively simple and straightforward. The melody is subtle and the whole thing is topped off with that typical timbre that makes the folk songs of that time sound so iconic. The album ends with a cloudy song titled These Are The Days that once again bridges Poe’s older sound with the more experienced person and artist he has become through the years. And he ends the album in style by sending us a message that we all journey through this life searching for the way that befits us: “Raise a glass to the past and to the soldiers/and faded friends and happy ends and to the old/may we all live as long as we like/may we all be as strong as the wine.”

 

“The God & The Girl” bridges a gap of almost 10 years. It is instantly familiar to those who were drawn in by David Poe’s older work but also stands as a strong testament to the experiences and growth Poe endured in these times. There’s a certain balance and, dare I say, quiescence to this album that ties things together. There’s no Blue Glass Fall or The Drifter on this album that has that direct pop sensibility though I could definitely hear songs like Honey Moon, When I Fly and The Devil on the radio and maybe even Thank You could even be a dark horse in that department.

 

Fans of the artistic singer/songwriter genre will heartily embrace this new album, while many other people who will likely never even hear of this release. This is a shame and I hope music aficionados and radio professionals alike are going to pick up on this album because it shows the artistry and uniqueness of a worthy singer/songwriter. It is likely the most crowded genre in all of music because anyone with a guitar or piano is pigeonholed in this incredibly vague section of popular music. Therefore many talented people are getting snowed under by the sheer mass of releases in this so-called genre. David Poe shouldn’t be restricted to this genre or many others should not be shoved into this corner of popular music because it takes away from the uniqueness and meaningfulness of this artist and his music.

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ImageBrian Jarvis Band – Beautifully Broken
February 2012 – Soundwave
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Over the years I heard a lot of music and for some reason a big portion of the music seems to consist of New England-based singer/songwriters. Brian Jarvis is another one of those singer/songwriters.

Some time ago we wrote a little post about his single On & On, which is also included on this album. Back then we came to the conclusion that Jarvis has the ability to make his songs sound very accessible and very pleasant to listen to. The way he crafts his songs into accessible, extremely radio-friendly pop/rock songs may not be something groundbreaking, but because he does it so well it surely does make him stand out.

With help of Pat McGee-veteran Brian Fechino, who produced “Beautifully Broken”, Brian Jarvis managed to write and record a collection of 11 songs that stick together and hold up as an album.

I’ve been following Brian Jarvis’ musical endeavors for just over a year now and with the coming together of this album and the added maturity to the musical arrangements and the more pronounced lyrics, you can tell he’s made strides in becoming more than just another singer/songwriter. It was already apparent he could write songs with catchy hooks and melodies and there wasn’t much wrong with the quality of his performance either. He just needed a little more depth and a little something that would make him stand out in the massive ocean of singer/songwriters that exists today.

In the past few years, Jarvis has had a lot to deal with, both personally and professionally. These years must have been tough on him, but impressively he was able to turn the struggles and the pain into strength. He decided to pursue a musical career fulltime and worked on improving himself in all musical aspects. With “Beautifully Broken” he certainly achieved that. He gathered the right people around him, focused on his songs and came up with a strong album that features gems such as: Hardest Break, Honestly and Beautifully Broken.

The title track opens the album. It’s an emotional journey in which he sets the tone for the rest of the album. The anthemic feel of the song adds to the build up and the honest performance makes the song relatable and because it is, it can really speak to you on a personal level.

Hardest Break is one of those songs that instantly sounds familiar. The song’s very catchy and not only the sound of the song is familiar. The message is as well. Everyone has had experiences where they felt they couldn’t live up to someone else’s expectations, whether it was family, love or something else. The way the story unfolds in this song, it leaves you open to interpret the context in your own head.

Honestly is a song title that appears on many albums yet never ever sounds the same. Neither does this one. This tune has a little more edge to it. Sharp vocals and and a consistent beat provide for energy and guaranteed foot tapping. It’s a song to rock out to and to dance to at the same time. It shows a little bit of a different side of Jarvis, which is not only refreshing, but gives the album a kick in the behind in the energy department. Very nicely done.

There are more strong songs on this album, but the ones mentioned above are the ones that stood out to me. Though the final track Till I See You Again was one that stuck with me as well. Not so much because of the songwriting, but because of the performance. This song comes straight from the heart and goes straight into your own. It’s an honest, emotional testimony that you can’t help but really listen to. It’s not just about the song anymore, it becomes personal. And when a musician can do that, it shows they have what it takes. In essence, music is emotion, that is why we can really connect to it and get lost inside of it. Brian Jarvis recognizes this aspect of music and manages to incorporate it in his songs. This, to me, is the biggest asset a musician can have.

“Beautifully Broken” probably won’t end up on many best of-lists at the end of the year, but in Brian Jarvis’ journey towards becoming an established singer/songwriter it is a big step forward and it confirms his talent as a performer and songwriter. Maybe he’s not quite there yet, but this record has him well on his way. He shows courage, strength and emotion and it comes together quite nicely.

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Sara Jackson-Holman – When You Dream
May 18, 2010

While “When You Dream” is only a debut album, Sara Jackson-Holman immediately leaves a mark. There are certainly obvious influences from Irish and British contemporaries (Damien Rice, Norah Jones, Lily Allen) but Jackson-Holman manages not to sound like them, just similar.

With creative songwriting and outstanding vocal athleticism she manages to go in many directions without straying too far from the core of what she’s about musically. From the opener Come Back To Me she has a sort of playful sense in her vocals that works like a worm on a hook. And by the time you hear the first track’s last note it has reeled you in.

Lead single Into The Blue (which you may have heard on ABC’s ‘Castle’) is a rich and well-written piano song that switches in intensity. The piano melody is lush and recognizable and Jackson-Holman’s vocals are full of emotion. And through the album she keeps switching between more emotionally invested songs (the Damien Rice-like When You Dream, the serene California Gold Rush and the honest Train Ride.) and songs that come off more quirky like Cellophane or Let Me In.

I’ve heard from others that they feel her vocals aren’t always strong enough to carry the weight of the songs but I disagree completely. Sara Jackson-Holman has a distinct vocal sound but she can twist it in so many different directions that it can, in no way, be seen as weak. In fact, I think she’s a very gifted vocalist and on top of that she’s a good pianist. Making use of classical compositions and classical influences in her piano playing and song arrangements she is able to connect flavors from the past with a current sound that is not just of a high standard but also very exciting.

“When You Dream” is a remarkable debut album and if her sudden success is any indication, Sara Jackson-Holman is going to be a household name faster than you can pronounce it. This is good stuff. Very good!

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Sara Jackson-Holman – A Very Merry EP
December 2010

First heard of Sara Jackson-Holman while listening to her song Into The Blue on Castle’s season finale in may. Later on I get an e-mail on if I’m interested in reviewing her album an holiday EP. Obviously I am. Sometimes you come across raw talent that you don’t need any convincing for to listen to.

Sara Jackson-Holman is such a talent. Influences like Damien Rice and Feist easily come to mind and other reviewers have drawn comparisons with Adele and Amy Winehouse. Not unsurprisingly, even though I still think Damien Rice may be one of the strongest influences in her songwriting, which is why I draw a comparison to aspiring artist Amy Kuney. Both have a clear, high voice with a smooth, almost jazzy undertone.

Jackson-Holman’s vocals make the songs vibrant and current. She breathes new life into old Christmas classics like Carol of the Bells and Angels We Have Heard On High. You will all recognize the songs yet they will sound anew and fresh. It’s worth your buck, especially as you support a good cause. Go to her bandcamp page to listen and purchase.

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John Hill – John Hill [EP]
October 25, 2010

Meet John Hill, an acoustic folk/rock act from the Netherlands. If you have never heard of him until now, there’s a good reason for it. The “John Hill” EP is his first release. The feel of his music has been compared to masters like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens for example.

Inner Ear Media was approached to shine its light over this debut EP. And after a good number of listens I came to the conclusion that this is very solid singer/songwriter material. I wouldn’t go as far as to compare it to Dylan or Stevens right off the bat, but I do admit there’s a genuinity to the music that reminds you of forgotten musical eras. Hilgenkamp’s vocals are pure and honest and they envoke emotion, not only in himself and his music, but also in the imagination of the listener.

This is quite an accomplishment, because for singer/songwriters it is essential to make that personal connection with the listener, one way or another. Hannes Hilgenkamp, under the John Hill moniker does this in its purest, most honest way and, in a way, he invites the listener to accompany him in his music.

On the opener Does It Still Hurt the empathic vocals reach across, right into your heart. The storytelling presentation of the song gives the song even more credit. The more uptempo Sailin Home is a track that is pleasant to listen to and would have a decent chance on the regional and smaller radio stations in the country. Easy Prey is a little edgier and is just an extremely well-executed song. The final two songs, Hidin From Me and Decency are also of a very high quality. Especially the closer (Decency) is very subtle and comes across very personal. Additions from Florien Hilgenkamp (classical vocals) and Serge Bredewold (former bass player for Twarres and 16Down) shows he selects musical partners that can meet the high standard he set with his tracks.

Hilgenkamp proves to be not only a very accomplished songwriter as his songs are musically and lyrically relevant and accessible. He doesn’t dabble into easily available rhymes and shameless variations on melodies that have been used a million times, no he truly writes songs that don’t just sound fresh and original, they actually are fresh and original. He also proves he’s a true balladeer in the way he personalizes the song and enables the listener to do exactly the same. He brings across the story and makes an actual connection to those who open their hearts to these songs. It may only be a debut EP but it sounds like this man has been writing and performing songs for decades. He surely knows his stuff.

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Lauren Bateman – I’ve Been Waiting
May 21, 2010

Lauren Bateman has slowly been building a name for herself in and around Boston over the past few years. With a full-length release ready she now sets her aims on the rest of the world.

“I’ve Been Waiting” features fairly simple singer/songwriter tracks that sound very smooth and Bateman’s vocals, though a little nasal at times, are fairly pleasant. The album’s not groundbreaking or anything but keeping in mind it’s a debut album it’s actually a pretty good release.

While the tracks may be fairly simple, the simplicity of the songs actually benefits them. Because Bateman didn’t fall into the trap of trying too much at once she focuses on doing it well. The songs are strong and the lyrics are accessible without becoming too obvious or cliché, which is an accomplishment on itself.

Civil Again was the first song on the album that convinced me as it showed a little more fire than the previous tracks. Beautiful Face and Happy Ever After are pretty good songs. Especially the latter. Very good vocal performance and the arrangement has a couple of subtle, yet strong accents that give the track more power and sincerity.

With Linger and I Gave, Bateman shows a grittier side of herself. With more rock influences these songs have more power and energy and this is the side of Bateman I’d like to hear more in the future. Because the songs have more body they come off more convincingly and the songs benefit from the richer arrangements. Especially I Gave is a very strong track. Probably the strongest track on the album.

The closer Everything’s OK is decent but not the most memorable track on “I’ve Been Waiting”. All in all it’s a debut that shows a lot of promise and with a full band behind her, Bateman could grow out to be an interesting act to follow around. Her vocals have a lot of power and when there’s a little more fire and energy in the songs she allows herself to really get into the music. And those are the moments she excells. With a little more experience and more recordings under her belt I reckon this is only just the beginning for Lauren Bateman.

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Allie Moss – Late Bloomer
October 11, 2010 (UK Only)

Allie Moss’ full-length release “Late Bloomer” starts off with the catchy single Corner. It’s one of those songs that you will have in your head for the rest of the week after you listened to it. And Corner is a good representative for the whole album. Allie Moss showcases strong songwriting and a unique vocal color on this album.

Many of the songs that appear on “Late Bloomer” also appeared on her previous EP release, “Passerby”, but on this album these songs are accompanied by a few newer songs. Dig With Me, which was played in the TV show ‘Pretty Little Liars’ is a heartfelt song that’s perfectly suitable to be used in TV shows. The sympathetic sound and the build up into the chorus accompanied by the supporting keys arrangement makes for a rich song which is very accessible.

Another newer song is the jolly Melancholy Astronautic Man. Allie’s been playing this song live for some time and it almost always gets a very good response. The uptempo and easily recognizable chorus has you singing along in no time and the playful vocals only accentuate that. The title track Late Bloomer was one of the tracks that probably impressed me the most. It has a certain honesty and purity over it that instantly reminded me of Joni Mitchell.

A song I was very curious for was Leave It All Behind as I heard Greg Holden joined in the recording of this tune. And as I had expected this track turned out to be another very good song. It doesn’t always work when you put two talented people together, but in this case it turned out beautifully. I can still hear the “oh oh oh” in my head.

The rest of the album consists of the tracks that were already featured on “Passerby” and those songs haven’t lost anything of their power. Once again I would have to say that the believablity and honesty in the music, combined with Allie’s unique vocals is what makes it stand out. Key tracks like Melancholy Astronautic Man, Late Bloomer & Passerby are excellent examples of how good this lady really is.

“Late Bloomer” covers different bases as Allie Moss is able to go from uptempo to slower paced songs with ease. She varies not only in tempo, but also in moods and intensity without ever losing any credibility or pop sensibility. It’s not something that hasn’t been done before but the power is in the delivery. There are thousands of singer/songwriters out there and many of them are quite good, so it’s hard to really stand out. But with the sincerity and honesty Allie Moss is able to embed in her songs there is no question that she stands out among many of her peers.

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