The Cinema

19 May
The Cinema

“Hearing something you’ve worked on come to life and see people react positively is the best thing you can hope for as a musician.”

My plan was to write this big ‘welcome back’ post, but screw that. I’ve gone away and come back so many times. You know that. So, I’m just going to skip all of that BS, skip over me apologizing for being absent, especially skip over me telling you I’m here to stay, because who knows if I’ll be able to keep up. What I will say is that I’m going to try my hardest to continue posting, because like you, I love music and I prefer letting people know about the good stuff out there rather than keeping it all to myself.

Now that we’ve got that awkward re-introduction out of the way…let’s move on to the real story. 

The Cinema. 

Some of you may have heard this band before and if you haven’t, listen up. For four years, Leighton Antelman (side note: you might recognize his name/voice from his other musical project, Lydia) and Matt Malpass (side note: he’s a genius songwriter/producer who’s worked on albums you’ve most likely played on repeat) have been joining forces to release music that leaves an effect on anyone who listens. The Cinema introduced themselves into the world with their debut, My Blood Is Full of Airplanes, consisting of ten tracks that each have a powerful sound. Three years later, they released their sophomore album, Talking in Your Sleep. Another ten songs, every single one perfection. This post isn’t me reviewing their albums. I obviously love them. This post is to introduce the new ears out there to a band they need to know.

I recently interviewed Matt and Leighton and I’m not gonna go into how excited I was to be able to interview one of my current favorite bands. That would be embarrassing…but seriously, I was so excited. I may have had a hilarious text exchange with a few friends who are very much aware of my love for this band.

Onto the interview. Meet Leighton Antelman and Matt Malpass of The Cinema.

Q. The Cinema is made up of you and Matt. How do you go about recording/writing, while not being together in the same room?

A. Leighton: It’s pretty simple, we mostly write over the internet…bouncing ideas back and forth. Then, when we got enough ideas together we hit that studio booth.

Q. What’s your process like when you first get an idea in your head for a new song? Matt: Same question.

A. Leighton: I literally just go into my own studio at my house and grind away at the idea until there is something that isn’t terrible. Then I send it off to Matt for his cold judgement.

Matt: You never know when inspiration for a new song is going to hit and when it does you want to get the initial idea down as soon as possible before it goes away. For me, I’ll usually go into the studio and put down a basic beat, or at least a kick + snare pattern, and then try to hash out whatever the chord progression is going to be. In order to not get caught up scrolling through hundreds of possible sounds and getting sidetracked, I’ll just pick a basic instrument like piano or synth pad and just hammer out the progression or main musical idea to get it down. After the tempo/main groove or beat/progression is down I’ll start filling it out a bit and then laying down scratch vocals if I have an idea for melody or lyrics. If I don’t have any ideas for the vocals I’ll just leave it blank. After I have a good skeleton down I’ll generally bounce down the initial idea and email it over to Leighton to see if he’s feeling it. If he’s down with it we’ll both start attacking the idea back and forth together, but if he’s not into it I’ll just put it into a folder I made called “Unused Ideas” — ha, at this point there’s over a dozen sessions in that folder.

Q. Your latest album, Talking in Your Sleep, I’ve listened to repeatedly. What were a few of the biggest highlights when recording that album?

A. Leighton: I’d say just the freedom we had while writing and recording it was a highlight for me. We could just record the album at our own pace, work on it whenever we felt like it.

Matt: For me the highlights of doing this album were more about the experiences involved in creating it. There are a handful of songs that were inspired by events in my life that were very memorable and kickstarted the songwriting process weeks before even getting in the actual studio. I think those were the biggest highlights for me.

Q. Leighton, you’re also in Lydia, which I’ve seen you’ve been recording new music for recently and you also have an upcoming tour with The Early November. How do you balance working on two separate projects?

A. Yeah, Lydia is wrapping up an album that will be out later this year. Sometimes it gets tricky to juggle the two, but if you want to do it, you can. I think it’s as simple as that.

Q. Matt, what’s been the best memory you can think of as a musician?

A. I think in general, just hearing something you’ve worked on come to life and see people react positively is the best thing you can hope for as a musician. So all the times things have come together and the songs come out and people enjoy them, those are the best memories for sure.

Q. Many musicians talk about the fact that the industry has changed and how much of the music you hear today is very much manufactured. How do you work to keep your music unique to the point where it stands out?

A. Matt: When starting a song I try to keep in mind that its an empty canvas with a million possibilities, you can literally do whatever you want to do, there are no rules. I’ve started writing for the next record already, and I’m more aware than ever that we can build a song however we want with whatever kind of sounds and lyrics we want, and I’m personally determined to make this new batch of songs more unique and interesting than anything we’ve released in the past. Things can get stale if you follow the same steps and same process over and over again, so I’m having a lot of fun trying to push myself and Leighton into being more creative than ever.

Q. Many artists go back and re-release new versions of songs, changing the melody or some of the lyrics. Have either of you ever wanted to do that? If so, what would you change?

A. Matt: We’ve actually talked about revisiting some of the songs we’ve previously released and doing a “remix” of sorts, with the idea of taking the music and just re-imagining it. I would like to take an older song or two and see if we can make them interesting by completely changing aspects of the music, even the chord progression or main riffs, just to find out what can come out of it. Just not sure what song(s?) to try it on!

Q. Leighton, What band or artist are you listening to these days? Matt: Same question.

A. Leighton: You know what, to be honest, I’ve been taking a break from music recently, just in general. Listening to comedy specials and podcast in the car. It’s a nice break when that’s what you do for a living.

Matt:  I’ve been going back and forth listening to a few different things; been listening to a lot of hip hop lately, I love the production on J Coles Forest Hills Drive record and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, ect. And then I’ve been hitting up the Miike Snow and Passion Pit Pandora stations to get my fill of the indie pop world. Then there’s always the 80’s Pandora stations that I can’t get away from, gotta throw that on at least once a week or so! 

Q. What’s one thing you admire about the other’s talent?

A. Leighton: He’s a bigger asshole than me, It’s something I strive to pass him at one day.

Matt: I like how I can send Leighton a song that might be decent but is lacking in soul or character and he’s able to breathe life into it and turn it into a legit song that surpass and expectations I had going in. Somehow that asshole has a knack for knowing what a song needs when I can’t 100% deliver sometimes. (which isn’t often, haha)

Q. If you were both stranded on an island and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. Leighton: Whoa listen to myself on repeat? That sounds terrible.

Matt: I would have to choose any of them, as long as I could hear that smooth sexy voice in my ear on repeat everything in the world would be ok! Just kidding, if I had to listen to him sing on repeat I’d probably punch myself in the head till I passed out.

Check out The Cinema’s latest video, Turn It On.



16 Jan

I put together a playlist for you guys. It’s kind of an I’m sorry playlist for being such a crappy blogger. Yes, I said it. I’ve been a crappy blogger lately. With all of these promises I’ve been making of keeping up a constant schedule of posts each day (besides Saturdays) I’ve done the opposite. The one thing I have been doing is finding lots of new music!

Another bit of news for you: I just started writing my third book! It’s in the very beginning stages and I’m incredibly excited about sharing a piece of myself with the world again. The title of my new book is… “I’m Sorry, You’re Not the One.” It’s based on my own personal dating experiences from the past year. More news to come on this, but let’s get back to the music…the real reason you’re reading this.

The mix is titled after my favorite song on it. Be sure to play that one on repeat.


I’ll be back on Sunday and I’ll get better at this blogging thing!

New Year, Old Tunes

1 Jan

Hey there. It’s been awhile.

Why haven’t I been blogging as much? Lots of things have been happening in my life. After the accident, I re-focused my energy into other things and now my life is almost back to normal. Exciting things are coming up for me. I’m moving into a new apartment soon. I’m getting settled in my new career. I’m re-connecting with old friends. With this new year, I want to make myself a promise, and that’s to keep out all of the bad energy and only let in the good. I hope you do the same.

So, what do I have in store for the first post of 2015? Since it’s #TBT, I figured I’d bring you a few deserving throwback videos that need some TLC.

Cheers to the new year. Be happy. Be safe. Be you.

Stars – Ageless Beauty

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines

The Decemberists – O Valencia!

Guster – Rocketship

Death Cab for Cutie – Title and Registration (one of my favorite videos of all time)

Swear and Shake

25 Nov


The first time I wrote about Swear and Shake was in May of 2011. I remember they contacted me, sending over a video performance of their song, The Light. It took less than a minute to become enthralled by their music. There are many things I love about this band, a big one being the harmonies shared between Kari Spieler and Adam McHeffey. Over the years, Swear and Shake have become a staple in my music collection. I love uniqueness in music, and S&S defines uniqueness. Their ability to perform a song so effortlessly has made me a lifelong fan. Are you intrigued yet?

Sounds That Matter has started the new format and that means Monday brings Short & Sweet Questionnaires. Get to know Adam and Kari better and jump on the Swear and Shake bandwagon.

The song I’d love to cover is:
Adam: “Nick of Time” by Bonnie Raitt

One of the things that connects me to a song is:
Kari: The first thing I connect to when listening to music is the vocals, but I feel most connected to a song when the story is something really interesting. For instance, The Last Bison’s song “Switzerland” seems like an amazing adventure through the freezing cold to find warmth and hospitality. I love that and it transports me somewhere else.

One of the most exciting things about being on stage is:
Adam: When you see people singing a long to your song. There’s no feeling like it, especially when you’re a thousand miles from home.

If I could better myself at one thing, musically, it would be:
Kari: I would love to be the kind of songwriter that writes outside of their own personal experience. I often write about heartache and friendship, things that really happened to me, sometimes with a twist. I’d love to be a “craft” writer—not just an emotional one.

Today’s top 40 music lacks:
Adam: I’d have to listen.
Kari: More music that takes a risk and uses more creativity. I’ll tell you who’s doing great: Sam Smith! I think he’s killing it. And I’m also extremely proud of Meghan Trainor. I think her song “All About That Bass” is unique and special and she deserves all the credit in the world.

Speaking of cover songs, S&S recently released a video covering “Friday I’m In Love” by The Cure. Prepare to fall in love.

Act As If

24 Nov

What began as a solo act, Peter Verdell, released his debut album, There’s A Light. Within a short amount of time, songs from the album were being played on networks such as ABC and MTV. As the music grew more popular, Peter formed a band and together, they recorded their first EP, The Iron Is Hot, in 2012. Success struck and the band has had the opportunity to open for big acts such as Barcelona and Emery. I first came across the band about two years ago, when I was randomly browsing Spotify for new music. I clicked on “Oh My My” and a smile appeared on my face. Everything about their sound, the tone of the singers voice, I loved. Their brand new album, Steady, has just released, and if you can’t already guess, I love it. I really feel like you should get to know this band and that’s why I have this Monday treat for you. An interview with frontman, Peter Verdell.

Q. As the founding member of Act As If, what were some of your initial hopes for the band?

A. My initial hopes were all over the place (…similar to my current hopes). Sometimes I think I’d be totally happy with putting out good music as an indie band and doing small tours, getting some songs licensed here and there. And then other times, I just want things to be massive…for us to get on big tours, have our music featured in a ton of different outlets, do the label thing, etc etc. So, I’m happy about the opportunities we’ve had so far, and I’m thankful for the amazing band that Act As If has turned into (the first album was just me and a macbook and a microphone I borrowed), but I’m also anxious and optimistic for bigger and cooler things.

Q. Your career began as an A&R rep at Drive-Thru Records. This was during the time when pop-punk was all the rage. What was the driving force behind you leaving the label?

A. The driving force was simply the fact that I was spending 40+ hours behind a desk every week, out at shows lots of the nights, and just didn’t have time to be practicing or playing music. I had lots of great experiences working at Drive-Thru, but ultimately I had this inner voice telling me “You need to be playing music! You’re not going to be happy until you at least TRY!” So…I quit…starting taking some music classes at a community college, and shifted my focus towards getting better at the drums, and eventually, my songwriting.

Q. Your band has had really great success in terms of having your music featured on big TV networks. Besides your music being heard by so many, what’s your favorite thing about it playing on such large platforms?

A. Having songs placed on TV shows or being featured on blogs, etc, is important for a few reasons–obviously the “being heard by so many” is necessary if Act As If is going to keep growing and moving forward; but, it’s also just fun…and it helps drive our story forward. It gives us something to talk about, and it gives people more of a reason to take us seriously.

Q. Your brand new album, Steady, was just released a few weeks ago. Prior to this, you’ve released one other record and an EP. How is this album different from the past ones?

A. I’d like to think that everything is just…better: the songs, my voice, our band. We also recorded this album in a studio, as opposed to recording in random apartments for the past EP and full-length, so there’s an obvious sonic difference. There’s also more of Sara’s voice on this record, which I love. I just kinda said “you do your thing, girl”…and she did. She is the queen of harmonizing. And also of tambourine. She is the tambourine queen.

Q. If you could name one thing that sets you apart from all of other musicians out there, what would it be?

A. Great question…I’m not sure the best way to answer. I think every songwriter is unique, I just hope that my unique experiences can be channeled in a way that brings a sense of connection or meaning to other people. My dad died of cancer when I was five, so maybe I have bent toward thinking a lot about death, and the shortness / beauty of life. I was raised conservative/Christian, and then I got really over it, and then I sort of came back to a faith that’s much different–so I think a lot about theology / philosophy. And maybe most importantly, haha, is that I’ve been largely single for the past few years. Lots of dates and lots of nice people, but nothing that’s really stuck. So. I think all of that comes across on this new record. And hopefully, it’s a good thing…a relate-able thing.

Q. I listened to the new album in one sitting the other night. It starts off with the title track, which happens to be my favorite on the album. Can you tell me about the process of writing that song and why it’s the title of the record?

A. I’m glad you like it…it’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s about a couple different things, but it was mainly inspired by a girl who I was having ‘long-distance conversations’ with. A friend had been talking this girl up to me for awhile, and so I went on a date with her while I happened to be in her city for a couple days. We ended up talking every day after for about 6 weeks, which was pretty significant for me at the time. Anyway, I wrote this song somewhere in those 6 weeks, and then as the album was getting finished I felt more and more of a connection to the song, and even just the word “Steady.” I love it.

Q. Now that you have this new album out, do you plan touring in support of it?

A. We want to tour, but it depends on a few things. An extensive U.S. tour will probably have to wait until we can get a good support slot / someone to hit the road with. Until then, it will likely be Los Angeles and regional / west coast dates.

Q. You’ve released some lyric videos in support of the album. Any plans for a music video?

A. Yes! We have a music video for “Uh Huh” coming very very shortly, and we hope to do videos for ‘Steady’ and ‘L.A. Kid’ at some point as well.

Q. What was your favorite part about the recording process with this album? What was your least favorite?

A. My favorite part was watching my bandmates kill it…it’s so fun watching them…I’m always inspired by their talent. My least favorite part was waiting. There’s so much patience involved…and it’s hard to stay calm when things are running behind or taking longer than you’d thought.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which would it be and why?

A. There’s a b-side from this album called “Sooner Than You Think” (which we’ll probably release in the next couple months)…and that might be the one; we’ll see if you agree when you hear it!

Take a listen to “All Our Friends” from the new record. If you love what you hear, give these guys a chance. Their music is magnetic.

Here’s Why You Should See These Bands On Tour

20 Nov

Over the weekend, I was able to check out two exceptionally great shows. Each were amazing in their own way. One being at an actual venue and the other in a much more intimate setting.

Wildcat! Wildcat! – Schuba’s Tavern


I had heard little of W!W!’s music prior to attending this show. I previewed a couple of their songs on the day of the show (Friday) and liked what I heard. Stepping into the venue, hearing that it was a sold out show, I was intrigued to hear them live. When I found my spot, I overheard the surrounding crowd talk about how much they loved the bands music. Basically, with each passing second of waiting for Wildcat! Wildcat! to take the stage, I became more and more excited. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the moment they began their set, the entire crowd erupted. My ears instantly perked as I listened to their harmonies. Holy shit, their harmonies. The packed crowd sang along to every song, while I stood their kind of in awe. I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived, but I left that night a diehard fan. Their stage presence was intoxicating, but more than anything, their vocals were incredibly strong (they were actually better live than the record). The guys are currently on tour and if you have a chance to check them out in your city, you won’t regret a single minute.

Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells) – Oswego, IL


Let me start this review off by telling you that The Damnwells is one of my favorite bands. I’ve been a fan for years, and every single album they’ve released, I’ve loved. When I heard that Alex, the lead singer of the band, was doing a solo living room tour, and he was playing near me, I had to go. The best part about it? It was a house show. Awhile ago, The Damnwells held a Kickstarter event to fund their record, No One Listens to the Band Anymore. If you’re familiar with the site, fans pay different amounts and for that, they’re awarded different perks. Two huge fans, paid a certain amount and their prize was to have Alex in their very own living room. I offered to review the show, and that’s how I was lucky enough to attend. The setting was intimate, the homeowners were two of the nicest people I’d ever met, inviting their friends over for a night of music, alcohol, and they even catered in Chipotle. What nice folks! I’ve seen The Damnwells play twice, so I already knew how incredible they were live, but hearing Alex Dezen play stripped down versions of their songs was magic. With just an acoustic guitar and his voice, he played for about an hour and a half to a small adoring audience. I wanted you to hear how incredible my experience was, so I filmed Alex performing one of my favorite Damnwells songs, Louisville.

The Damnwells will be releasing their new album in just a few months, but until then, they have five other records you can play until you memorize all the words.

Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes – The Hi-Fi


I recently interviewed these guys and I was so sad to hear they were playing in Indianapolis and I wasn’t able to attend. Thankfully, my good friend, Derrick, was! Here is what he had to say about their performance last night.

They live up to the hype.

To be honest, I had never heard of Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes before today. I read only one review of them and to call it glorifying would be a gross understatement. I jumped at the chance to see them live and vilify them in print. Surely, surely they couldn’t be that good.

All show I waited for the “I fucked up” look on one of their faces, for the sour notes of exhaustion, or at the least the inevitable point in the show when I’ve just had enough. Much to my initial dismay and latter joy, it never happened. I was never bored, they never tired, and they seemed to actually ENJOY themselves the entire time on stage. They were having a blast and that became incredibly obvious in their playing.

How rare it is to be at a small indie show where everyone is dancing and hollering through the whole set. I even glimpsed a few near the front who contemplated starting an encore chant. A crowd clamoring for more on a Tuesday night!? No encore was to be had and I actually found myself disappointed it was over.

“If the shoe fits, If the shoe fits, It’s what you are. If the shoe fits, If the shoe fits, then wear it baby. If the shoe fits, If the shoe fits, It’s what you are. Whoa-oh-oh-oh-whoa-oh-oh-oh.” Nashville’s indie rock incubator has woven some mighty big shoes and these rockers wear them well. Don’t balk at your chance to see them live.

Danny Malone – SpeedDreamer

19 Nov


A Track by Track Album Review
By: Rachel Geiger

The track is a simple yet dreamy song. Malone’s voice fades into the background. His lyrics can be hard to catch if there’s too much going on around you. Based on this track alone, his music is definitely best listened to when falling asleep. “There’s so much more to do, you can’t just do it now, it’s all you think about” he continues on and croons, “Isn’t it speed, speed dreamer? Isn’t it yeah yeah yeah” this may seem simple on the surface, but the song is filled with layers and complex feelings. It’s very retrospective.

This one is much more upbeat. The guitar part on it and the added vocals are beautiful. He adds more elements to this song which make it enjoyable to listen to. It gives the music a playful feel to it which is always fun to listen to.

I’m An Artist
From the very first second of listening, this track has a darker feel than the first two. Then the beat becomes more upbeat, but the dark element remains with the piano in the background. “I’m an artist, do what I want, when I wanna.” The lyrics remain simple, but the music and his voice itself remains intriguing.

Black Cat
Another beat that we haven’t heard from Malone so far on the album. “Put yourself in the body of a black cat” the song starts out. “Firecracker, firecracker” Malone repeats this mantra as the following lines are more difficult to hear. Everything about the melody of this song is unique and a beautiful piece of art. Malone screams by the end of the song but then retreats into a more mellow and soft tone before going back to loud. These contrasts are what makes his songs awesome to listen to.

This song has the softest start with a piano and Malone’s mellow vocals. “Now you’re fixed and now you’re broke, now you pick your poison oak” he then sings simply “Hives, hives, hives” he continues with “Maybe call your sister and have her take you in.” The lyrics are both mysterious and intriguing. What could he be singing about? While that may be a thought, the main focus remains on his voice that sounds as if whatever he’s singing about is haunting him.

“It’s the same old song, not much going on around these parts here. Just how long has it been? Junebug, well I wrote your name on my skin over and over again.” Danny Malone writes to a lover or a friend that he calls Junebug who he deeply admires and misses. Malone’s voice is heard with a strong and steady tone. We can hear the sadness in his voice.

Bottom Of The Lake
“Invisible, invisible girl, invisible, invisible girl” This song is beautiful and quiet, the kind you’d love to fall asleep listening to. “She always talked about drowning, her body was found in the morning.” The song takes a dark turn with these devastating, haunting lyrics.

Olympia 2
The guitar begins the song and gets stronger as the song progresses. “I am an empty swimming pool filled up with water. I’ve got to keep it cold, I’m just like my father.” He proceeds to say, “I have to watch my temperature when I’m around you. My life has always been a blur until I found you.” The song takes a turn into a love song filled with vivid imagery and comparisons to describe his love.

Haunted, My Only
The albums closer is clocking in at just a second shy of 5 minutes long. The first minute is instrumental and Malone’s voice comes in with, “I listen to the floorboards creak.” We shortly learn that the narrator of the song’s home is haunted by a ghost. Or is it a metaphor of his lover being like a ghost? Malone seems to create these kind of metaphors, it may seem simple but it represents much more. The same seems to go for this song as well. “This is a haunted house, something heavy in the air.” The music continues with the incredible melody. “So distant, so distant, so very close.” Malone’s album is filled with these kind of contradictions that work so smoothly.

Overall, this album is simple, it’s not too in your face. It’s easy on the ears and the perfect album to listen and analyze every lyric and reflect on it. It’s the kind of album that you just need to take time to let it sink in.

Check out Danny Malone performing the title track off the new album, SpeedDreamer, on Audiotree.


Wayne Szalinski – Black Mirror

18 Nov

Album Review
By: Anthony Kowalik

Michigan band Wayne Szalinski’ s debut album “Black Mirror” is an impressive and complex indie record with a medley of musical elements. The powerful lyrics accompany pop like hooks and alternative surf rock guitar tones to create a unique representation of emo noir. All throughout the record the longing in the singers voice pushes a theme of complicated love. The lyrics are powerful, and not just powerful but meaningful in a darkly poetic sense. They carry a real weight. Only the singer knows exactly what painful moments he’s singing about, yet its worded in such a way that makes it applicable to anyone in a heart aching relationship situation. Those lyrics may hit too close to home at times but the tempo won’t let you get too down. No matter how up tempo the songs become at times, it can’t be confused with upbeat, as the lyrics stay grounded in the darkened theme throughout the record and melodically it is at best described as ironically positive.

Hitting play on the first track, “Sweetness”, opens a door and puts you in a room where someone is in the middle of some sort of breakup breakdown and judging by the tone of his voice this person is letting out a whole lot of suppressed emotion. There is uncertainty of love as he questioningly sings “will you be in your apartment tonight? Will I be in your mind?” The later especially is an honest and heartfelt question that is begging for answers. It works well as the first track of this record because it sets the tone for the rest of the record both thematically and emotionally.

The majority of the songs on Wayne Szalinski’s, Black Mirror, have an uptempo groove to them melodically. The guitar rips through and drives the songs along. There is a stable drum sound that fills all the gaps and keeps pace along with the bass line that even gets jazzlike at times, most notably when it gets to the higher noted grooves. The vocals are filled with lyrical honesty and emotion, singing from a place of both learned heartache and of a pain still being felt from past experiences.

This record has serious hooks. The songs seem to stay with you whether you are lyrically or rhythmically driven. Songs like “Kiss Me In the City”, “In the Morning”, and “Tell Me Lover” have a more driving pace. All three of these choruses posses that ear worm capability. The cadence used in the vocals is unique and also classic at times. Singing “tell me lover what’s gone wrong…” in a similar cadence to the Tears for Fears classic “every body wants to rule the world” works well in that arrangement. In “Kiss Me In the City” the lyrics “oh, what’s the use in staying here, it’ll never be alright for you and I” in such a way that it doesn’t come off as something nearly as sad as that real life realization usually is.

As catchy as the uptempo songs are, the band may be at their best in the slower arrangements. The lyrics come to full darkness when they slow it down a little on songs “Yr Jewelry” and “Some Collagist”. The lyrics “your love won’t change overnight, my love won’t change overnight –i’m wandering tonight” on the track “Yr Jewelry” would not be as effective in a more uptempo arrangement. It makes you think if maybe some of the deeper lyrics and their meanings in the jumpier songs get overshadowed by that pace at times.

Wayne Szalinski showed in their debut album, Black Mirror, that they are a tight band, have the musical skills to do exactly what they want musically and the powerful lyrics to ground it. It’s a record you’ll find company in during those moments when you find yourself lying awake in the darkness at 3am, running through all of your worst past and present heart aching relationship scenes.

Click play to watch the guys perform “Sweetness” on AudioTree.

To purchase a copy of Black Mirror, click here.

Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes

16 Nov


When you hear a band and learn that they’re from Nashville, you’re typically not surprised. Nashville is known for birthing incredible music, just as Paris is known for the Eiffel Tower. You go to Nashville expecting to hear great music. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes are a Nashville based band and surprise surprise, they’re putting out some really good music. Their sophomore album, Kid Tiger, has received positive feedback from big names such as Esquire, naming them one of the top eight bands on CMJ, an online network popular for providing music to fans and music industry execs.

Their music has been heard on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Vampire Diaries, and their latest video, Phantoms, has premiered on Conan O’Brien’s, Team Coco. Needless to say, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes aren’t lacking positive feedback on their talent.

I recently interviewed singer, Daniel Ellsworth, getting a better glimpse into the band that’s turning so many heads lately, including mine.

Q. You formed your band in 2010 and have released two full length albums. Name one of the best memories while recording your first album together as a band.

​A. I think, overall, the best part of making Civilized Man was that it was the first recording I was ever a part of where it felt like an actual band, and not a solo project – everyone had input and everyone was contributing to arrangements. That, and getting to record in the same studio that some of my favorite Andrew Bird, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Lambchop albums were made.

Q. Daniel, You had some success singing on the NBC show, The Singoff. What is the best thing you took away from that experience?

​A. It was a new challenge and it made me a better musician because of it. A cappella isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but the talent and musicianship on that show was unbelievable. I learned a lot and made a lot of lifelong friends. Also, reality TV is the worst.

Q. You guys live in Nashville, a city that is home to a ton of other talented musicians. What is the best thing about living in a city that births such amazing music?

​A. The best thing about living in a city with so much amazing music is that we get to live in a city with so much amazing music. haha. But really – every week we discover a new band that we love. And the history here is unreal. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to record in studios where some of the most legendary albums of all time were made. There’s very few places with that kind of history and those kind of opportunities.

Q. Your latest album, Kid Tiger, was released in March. Out of the 12 songs on there, which was your favorite to record?

​A. Oh, man – if you ask all four of us, you’ll probably get a different answer from each. For me, I’ll say the track Idle Warning. I didn’t understand the full scope of what that song was until we tracked it and then listened back. Everyone’s individual part in that song blows my mind every time I listen to it. If ever I forget the caliber of musicians playing beside me on stage, I can just put on this track and get a very quick reminder.

Q. If you could record a song with any artist today, who would it be and why?

​A. Again, every one of us would give you a different answer on this – but for me, I’d probably say Paul Simon. He finds a way to push boundaries, both lyrically and musically, on everything he’s ever put out. He’s 73 years old and he’s still releasing amazing original music. Not only that, but you immediately know a Paul Simon song when you hear one. In popular music, that’s a feat. I mostly just want to sit down with him and absorb all his wisdom. Or maybe a collaboration project with Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Jeff Tweedy. I think we’d come up with some good stuff.

Q. Since we are almost done with 2014, name your favorite album that was released this year.

​A. Hmmm I haven’t given this enough thought yet, so it might be too early to call… the first thing that comes to mind is Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City.” I think it’s their best record yet. It’s great from start to finish. Others in the running for me would be St. Vincent and Spoon.​

Q. Your latest video, Phantoms, is one big food fight. Tell me where the idea came from and what your favorite part of shooting was.

​A. It was a collaborative brainstorm effort by the band and the director, Tim Duggan. We knew we wanted a performance aspect, but we also all liked the idea of including a food fight. The reverse slow motion was the directors call, and we LOVED it. Best part of shooting: watching our friends Mindy and Polly completely destroy each other in the food fight

Q. You guys have received a ton of positive feedback on your music from high sources such as Deli Magazine and Paste. Your music has also been featured on Grey’s Anatomy. What, in your opinion, has been the most exciting review you’ve received so far?

A. Paste Magazine and Deli Magazine are both great. We love those guys a lot. Esquire Magazine got behind us in a big way this year, and that was really huge for us, too. I don’t know if there’s one I’d pinpoint as most exciting. If anyone loves our music, whether it’s a small music blog or a national publication, that’s exciting for us.

Q. You funded your first record using Kickstarter. What was that like having fans help in the process of creating your first album?

​A. It was really amazing. It felt like a really great way to connect with our fans, which we loved. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to make the record we wanted to make. They are, without a doubt, the reason that we still get to do what we do.​

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which would it be and why?

​A. I’ll say the song Surrender from Civilized Man. It’s my favorite track from our first album.

Currently, the guys are on tour to promote their newest record, Kid Tiger. Wanna see them live? If you live in Indianapolis, here’s your chance! Playing at the Hi-Fi this Tuesday, November 18, the guys will take the stage. For a chance to win two tickets, all you have to do is comment below, telling me what your favorite song of theirs is and why. I’ll select the winner tomorrow night. Good luck!

Here’s their video for Phantoms. Warning: After watching, you may want to have your own food fight.

Vacationer – Metro Chicago

13 Nov
Metro - Chicago

Metro – Chicago

Metro is one of the music venues in Chicago, so when I found out that Vacationer, one of my current favorites, was playing there, I knew I had to attend. Opening up for St. Lucia, the moment the guys stepped on stage, they held the attention of the crowd. Playing to a sold-out audience, Vacationer performed their entire set with expertise.

Favorite part of the show: Kenny Vasoli’s dance moves. Kenny’s stage presence is undeniable and its nearly impossible to take your eyes off of him. Not only does he have that going for him, but his vocals actually sound better live than recorded. I used to be a huge The Starting Line fan, but I was never able to see them play when they were together. One thing I can say is that Kenny Vasoli has vastly improved at his craft since TSL.

Moving on from Kenny’s performance, the other members of the band grooved right alongside, engaging the audience just as much. None of the band ever lacked in holding the attention of the crowd, which can sometimes be a struggle for opening bands, considering the crowd is most looking forward to seeing the headliner. It was awesome to see so many people there enjoying Vacationer’s music and vibing right along with the band.

If you have yet to check out Vacationer, you need to. Their music is best described as sunny electronic pop, which comes just in time for the terribly cold weather that’s approaching Chicago. Here’s the bands video, The Wild Life. This song, along with all of the other fantastic songs, can be found on their newest record, Relief, available in stores now.