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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

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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

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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

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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

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A Track by Track Album Review
By: Rachel Geiger

SpeedDreamer
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.

Limbo
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.

Hives
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.

Junebug
“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.

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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.

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Wayne Szalinski – Black Mirror

18 Nov

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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.

Vacationer – Metro Chicago

13 Nov
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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.

Leagues – Radio Radio Indianapolis

11 Nov
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Photo taken by: Monica Moehring

Last week, I had the privilege of seeing Leagues play at Radio Radio, one of my favorite venues. I’m going to admit something. Before the show, I had only listened to Leagues album, You Belong Here, maybe two times. I went to the show, watched them perform their set, and immediately went home and listened to the album before going to bed. How many times have I done that in my past? Probably none. I was so incredibly blown away by Leagues performance. Their stage presence was enjoyable, the vocals were on point, and even the crowd was fun to be apart of.

My favorite song of theirs, Spotlight, had me and the entire crowd literally jumping for joy.

Have you ever been asked or asked someone else what a specific band’s music makes you wish you were doing each time their song came on? Well, every Leagues song makes me wish I was at the beach, sipping on a margarita. Their formula inspires something inside of you to want to sit in the sun and bask in the warmth.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this band perform live and wouldn’t hesitate to see them again when they come to town, which hopefully they do. If you have a chance to check them out, be sure to wear comfy shoes because their music will make you want to dance around.

This video isn’t from the show, but I love this performance.

Apples

28 Oct

It’s been about two weeks since my last post. I’ve been sick. So terribly sick. The good news is that I’m feeling better, except for this nagging cough that refuses to go away.

I titled this post “Apples” for a few reasons. In this post, I’m going to be reviewing a show I went to on October 18 with Neulore and Andrew Belle. Yes, Apples is the name of one of Neulore’s songs.

Another reason this post is titled apples is because it’s fall and with that comes lots of apples…and baking.

Let’s start with the review. Neulore opened the show, and boy did they open it. Every time I see them perform, it’s like my soul is re-awakened. Their music electrifies the crowd, and I mean that because if you look around at all of the faces as they watch the band perform, they all stare in amazement. Adam Agin, the lead singer, performs with so much emotion, it’s easy to see that this is his life’s passion. From the moment he arrived on stage, he held everyone’s attention.

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The show was at Do317 Lounge, which is an incredible small venue located in Fountain Square. They have great craft beers and excellent sound.

Now, this was the night that my sickness started, so I wasn’t feeling all that great, but it was easy to forget about that while Neulore performed. When the show ended, the band did something that made me almost jump up and down in excitement. They performed their song “Apples” in the middle of the room with just Adam’s voice and an acoustic guitar. Thanks to my lovely roommate, Angie, she taped the performance. You can’t see much, but that’s okay. Just close your eyes and prepare for goosebumps.

Andrew Belle was next up on stage. As usual, Andrew brought pure talent. His set list, mixed with some old and lots of new, was a delight to watch. I have to admit, I loved when he sang his old stuff…there’s a special place in my heart for all that is The Ladder.

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All in all, it was a really great show, and I loved seeing these two artists perform in such an intimate setting.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

2 Oct

What did I think about all of the concerts I’ve been to lately?

Find out here.

Panic! At the Disco – Radio Radio (August 14)

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The moment Brendan Urie belted out the first note, I felt like I was transported back into my early twenties. Just like the past times I’ve seen Panic, Brendan was a firecracker on stage. His vocals were on point, the performance was super energetic, and they made sure to play some of my favorites from their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (which I like to think they did just for me).

My only complaint, and if you know me personally this shouldn’t surprise you, was the obnoxious people who held up their cell phones pretty much the entire show. If you’re one of the people who do this, stop. Do you really want to go back and watch a shitty recorded version of the show? I hope you answered no. Bands hate it. People who attend the show to actually pay attention to the band hate it. So stop it.

All in all, the sold out show was a blast, and I’d gladly pay to see them again.

Jimmy Eat World – Egyptian Room (August 17)

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Oh my gosh. I think I’m still in speechless from this show. I saw Jimmy Eat World only once before at The Metro in Chicago, and they did not let me down the second time around. When you try and explain to someone how in love you are with a bands music, there’s never enough words to. For example: I love them. I adore their music. Their music makes my world brighter. Their music impacts me more than any other bands. See, all of that and I still feel like I didn’t touch the surface of how I feel.

Anyways, the show was phenomenal. They performed a wide range of hits (newer and older) and the entire time I watched them, I felt like I was on cloud nine. I know that’s an overrated saying, but it’s a good one.

Thank you to my friend, Kurt for allowing me to tag along. It was an epic night of music and fun.

Mumford and Sons – Klipsch Music Center (September 2)

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Aside from the interesting crowd, this was a great show. Mumford is an excellent band to see live. If I had to pick one thing I didn’t like, and this may sound negative, but honestly if I were a band, I’d love hearing it. They sounded exactly like the CD. Now some of you may love that about a band, and that’s totally fine. Personally, I love being surprised by the band. I love listening to their CD and then seeing them live and going, “Holy shit, they sound even better live!” So there. That was my one complaint.

Note: Surprisingly, my view wasn’t blocked by as many camera phones at this show, but I was in the lawn, so mostly I watched those big screens you see in the picture I’ve attached.

The Mowgli’s – Radio Radio ( September 6)

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Some of you may know this band. Some of you may not. The Mowgli’s are a group, a big group, of talented musicians from California. Now if you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you know that I lean toward more slower/sad/depressing music, but The Mowgli’s upbeat, positive vibe really grabbed my attention. Their song “San Francisco” is one hell of a tune. Let’s talk about the live performance. You guys…you’d think if there were eight people on a small stage, it would somehow not work, well The Mowgli’s made it happen and then some. They performed together like they’d been doing it for centuries. One of the best things about this band: Their interaction with the crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so loved by a band before. I know I know…a lot of bands tell the crowd that it’s the “best crowd ever” but when The Mowgli’s preached it, I feel like they really did mean it. So there, Indy IS the best crowd ever.

And here comes my complaint: There was a crowd, maybe four or five young kids (geez, this entire post makes me sound like I’m some sort of old lady who despises noise and cell phones. I’m not, trust me) but these kids were so insanely obnoxious that I wasn’t the only one wanting to muzzle them. Their incessant “YEAH’s!” and “WHOO’s!” were some of the loudest I’ve ever seen at a smaller venue. I wish I would have taken a picture of them and posted it so I could warn you. The caption would be, “IF YOU SEE THIS GROUP AT A SHOW, STAND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VENUE!”

Yellowcard – Egyptian Room ( September 14)

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Photo Credit: Cole Ungethum

Another blast from the past. I was obsessed with Yellowcard right around the time Ocean Avenue came out, which was in 2003. To this day, I’m still obsessed with the album. So, when I heard that Yellowcard was doing an acoustic tour celebrating the ten year anniversary of the release, I was all over it. The show, well it was better than I imagined it. Because it was an acoustic show, it made it feel like one huge singalong. You could hear the entire crowd singing with the band, and that in itself is one of the most beautiful things to witness. The band sounded amazing, their stage presence, even in such a casual toned down way, was still beautiful. All in all, it was a night of music I’ll never forget.

These Animals – Derrick’s Living Room ( September 15)

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Last of my reviews belongs to These Animals. I spent a Sunday evening catching up with them when they stopped in town to play an intimate set. That’s right, it was extremely intimate. You should be super jealous that you weren’t there. A good friend of mine, Derrick, hosted the guys for a night, and they set up shop right in the living room of Derrick’s apartment. I don’t know about you, but I love these kinds of shows. I used to have these types of shows all the time when I was doing Shows That Matter. They allow you to connect with a band in a way you aren’t able to do when they’re playing up on a stage, behind microphones. It’s just them and their voice. Now, if you aren’t very talented, this would seem discouraging, howeverThese Animals are. It amazes me every time I see them perform that their name isn’t all over the internet. It should be. They played a relatively small set, but it was beautiful. Always love seeing these boys and can’t wait to see them again in November. Get ready Indy. They’re coming next month and playing Do317 Lounge.

That’s all. I’ll be sure keep attending shows and posting my reviews here.

Get out there and enjoy some live music.

Paul Federici – Relative Importance

17 Feb

One of the frequent contributors to Sounds That Matter, Mike Vial, contacted me not too long ago about doing a review on an independent artist named Paul Federici. Canadian born, Paul recently released his new new album, Relative Importance, this past January. I was more than happy to give Mike the platform to review the album since this artist is full of talent. Enjoy.

When a singer-songwriter hails from St. Catherine, Ontario, they have the disadvantage of being constantly compared to Dallas Green’s City and Colour project. For Paul Federici, it hits a little closer to home: He went to high school with Dallas, too.

Let’s note, Paul Federici’s first release, Relative Importance, has all of the highlights we might expect from a City and Colour record—a blend of emotive lyrics, vivid harmonies, authentic instrumentation—but Federici’s voice is an instrument of it’s own power.  His singing possesses an ability to be soft-spoken and gripping at the same time. It’s, dare I say, beautiful.

Paul Federici has the type singing style one seeks when exploring themes of lost love, guilt, regret, and reflection. Complex, legato harmonies are juxtaposed over minimalistic lyrics. A song like “True” only needs 21 words to paint a colorful landscape of honesty.

But this isn’t a simple record, especially musically. You will find unique open-tunings that offer a tiny hint of the Goo Goo Dolls or Duncan Sheik. Plus, Paul Federici has recruited a star-studded cast of Canadian musicians for the record. Listen for the drumming of Nick Skalkos (the Coppertone; Spirits), most notably on “Conveniently Yours”; Kirk Starkey’s cello on four songs, especially “Remember Me”; and the artistic production of producer moon:and:6 (Michael Chambers) from Catherine North Studios.

Relative Importance is a gorgeous work. With eight songs, it is a perfect introduction to Paul Federici’s singing talent; it will leave you wanting more. For now, you will have to leave this one on repeat.

To listen to Relative Importance in it’s entirety, click here. The album is “name your own price” so donate whatever you can, to help.

Huge thank you to Mike Vial for taking the time to write up this fantastic review and also being a frequent contributor to Sounds That Matter!

Anna Gilbert – Christmas

22 Dec

A review by Brian Palmer

While it’s true that Eugene, Oregon is no Nashville, it has produced its fair share of talented musicians in recent years, chief among them being Mat Kearney, Shawn McDonald, Paul Wright and the band Rootdown. One of our best-kept secrets, however, is pop-rock songstress Anna Gilbert. Her album, Christmas, is one of the freshest Christmas releases ever produced. Simple arrangements and a Ramen Noodle budget help make this album surprisingly unique and diverse, and you owe it to yourself to check this album out if you want to hear something different.

Anna Gilbert’s Christmas is a fantastic surprise if for no other reason than it sounds nothing like all the generic, mass-produced, lifeless Christmas albums that are generally released this time of year. It swings when it needs to, there are moments of genuine fun being had throughout the album, and in some instances the classic songs are performed in such a languid way that you’ll swear they were meant to be sung exactly like this rather than in the traditional manner they are often performed in. Gilbert imbues the tracks with the sincerity they deserve, and at the same time she gives the songs life by not going on autopilot when she sings them, and this is what helps makes the tunes stick in your mind after the album has finished playing.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” is a stunner because of its unexpectedly ethereal and sedated treatment, and Gilbert’s soothing and angelic vocals turn the traditional “Glo-o-o-o-ria” moment into an authentic double-take experience as she throws the first of several vocal curveballs on this album. Gilbert’s rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” sounds for all the world like an orchestral lullaby and the kicked back vibe of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is like having a tropical Christmas experience, complete with Gilbert singing in perfect time to the sounds of a ukulele and nothing else.

Christmas is noteworthy because it is a bare-bones production that uses simplicity, subtlety and creativity to its advantage. The show-stopping moments are found in the subtleties rather than in epic choruses, heavenly choirs or vocals that reach for the heavens. Most of the 11 songs have a languid reverence to them, and on the material that she does write for this album (“Rest in the Light” and “I Don’t Want a Lot” are two songs of her creation, and two more songs feature a chorus that she has added to the original), simple messages and arrangements are used very successfully.

Christmas shines because it is genuine and heartfelt. The tracks are refreshing, unique and engaging, and Gilbert’s lovely voice demonstrates why she is a singer to watch out for. This is one Christmas album that will make you excited about listening to Christmas music again.

Victoria Clemmons

9 Aug

The angelic voice from Los Angeles, CA has captured audiences from around the world. Her debut EP, When Flowers Bloom, is composed of six songs all very unique with one thing in common; each track is beautifully written and composed to produce thoughts that you might hide away. The beauty of music is that it awakens feelings that you may tuck away because you’re are afraid of thinking about them. Music has the magic to heal and I truly believe there are artist’s in this world that have the ability to do so, such as Victoria Clemmons.

Pick up her latest EP. Whether you’re going through a heartbreak, a moment of clarity, or just looking to discover, Victoria Clemmons is the answer.