Sunday, August 21, 2016

Jerome Holloway: Whole Of Me

I find myself increasingly turning to Sofar Sounds to discover all types of new artists/bands. The ongoing concert series hosted in intimate indoor or outdoor venues with only a handful, attentive guests attending, is a simple but brilliant concept with a clever acronym (SOngs From A Room), and has spread to many cities around the world.

It was while browsing SoFar Los Angeles on YouTube that I came across singer-songwriter Jerome Holloway.  I listened to his earlier versions of "Whole of Me", and while they are excellent, it was this Sofar live performance that completely blew me away.

Filmed in Malibu on April 23 by Nancy Cardenas, Nate MacNabb, Sam Silver and Mateo Barragan (audio), Holloway's light-as-air flawless vocals and guitar playing perfectly complement the sunny setting. His voice on this particular occasion calls to mind two of his biggest inspirations Marvin Gaye and Damien Rice, yet he very much adds something special to the mix that gives the whole scene a Laurel Canyon sound and vibe. It's easy to picture Holloway hanging out with Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash and the Mamas & the Papas in the late 1960s. And I can just as easily imagine him on stage at Woodstock in August of 1969, singing to half a million peaceful souls.

Born and raised in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area, he moved to Chicago just over a decade ago and began performing on a regular basis before relocating to Los Angeles around 2012, soon playing small, well-known venues around the city as well as other West Coast cities, including Portland.

The seven-track debut EP 'Matters of the Heart' was released in 2008 and was followed up in 2011 with the EP 'Sunday Morning Night Music', also containing seven tracks.  The studio version of "Whole of Me" is found alongside "Troubling Times" on the single by the same name; it dropped in 2014. More recently, a collection of five superb live-in-the-studio performances (including "Whole of Me") was released by Audiotree Music in the summer of 2015.

Holloway is currently working on presenting a live musical piece entitled The Ballad of Lucky St. Clair for which he has written and recorded the score. A live performance of the first movement as well as the release of the score will take place in November in L.A.

As far as regular upcoming gigs, he'll be part of the line up at the one-day Taste of Soul Festival in Atlanta Saturday, September 10.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mount Saint: Excuses

I was watching the first season of the American show Flaked on Netflix a few days ago. Starring Will Arnett, it takes place in Venice and is shot on location. It's a pretty good show actually; a second season will premiere in 2017. (my favorite character is 'Cooler' played by George Basil who manages to give his character just the perfect amount of Southern California "dudeness".)

But what really got my attention was the music: wonderful little snippets provide the show with that unique laid back, sunny, Southern California vibe. The excellent soundtrack is a mix of known and lesser known artists/bands (search for it on YouTube where several users have uploaded the songs that are featured on the soundtrack). One track in the first episode was quite different than the rest, and my curiosity about the song set me on an obsessive Google search.

What is already well-known: for a couple of years, Brittany Tolman did keys/backing vocals for Imagine Dragons, co-founded by her drummer husband Andrew Tolman. They both left ID in 2011; by all accounts, it was an amicable split. Andrew joined The Moth & The Flame that same year.

What is not common knowledge: Brittany co-founded L.A. based quartet Mount Saint in 2013 with brothers Clint Holgate and Calvin Riley Holgate plus Drew Beck.; Andrew Tolman played drums in the studio.

The band released their four-track self-titled debut EP in January 2015, they played shows, they gave a few interviews, they made announcements on social media. And then POOF! Mount Saint seemingly disappeared into thin air.

The members themselves are alive and well - Brittany apparently lives in Portland, Oregon as we speak - but the Twitter/Facebook Mount Saint accounts went dormant last year, and no news from 2016 are to be found on the web. Fortunately, this year, someone had the brilliant idea to place their song "Excuses" in Flaked. Whether the placement will generate a renewed interest in Mount Saint remains to be seen; it greatly depends on the success of the show's first season (eight episodes.)

With this blog entry I hope to help spread the word on the band-that-came-and-went. The entire EP is superb, but "Excuses" is the track that continues to give me chills, and is the kind of song that should have been a monster hit last year. Perhaps it's not too late?  (make sure to listen to all four EP tracks)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Massive Attack: The Spoils (Featuring Hope Sandoval)

After releasing the double musical treat "The Spoils/Come Near Me" on July 29, and publishing a clip to go with "Come Near Me" on the same day, Massive Attack today followed up with a video starring Cate Blanchett to accompany the sublime track "The Spoils" which features the beautiful vocals of Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star); she has collaborated with the band on two previous occasions. Created by renowned Australian director John Hillcoat, the video includes eerie and impressive sculptures by Lone Wolf Effects.

Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja have a string of European dates this month; first up are four shows in Scandinavia of which the first three are festival gigs: Oslo Aug 10, Helsinki Aug 12, Gothenburg Aug 13, Copenhagen Aug 16 . The duo also has a sold out concert in their hometown of Bristol on September 3.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Olafur Arnalds: Particles (Featuring Nanna Bryndis)

29-year-old acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Olafur Arnalds has been traveling around Iceland this summer, recording with various Icelandic musicians/singers (plus one poet) in seven different locations and dropping one track/video each week. Simple yet brilliant concept.

The sixth song/video was released this week and features vocalist Nanna Bryndis (Of Monsters and Men); the stunning performance took place in a lighthouse in Garour where Bryndis grew up. It really doesn't get much cooler than that.

The clip was shot by Icelandic director Baldvin Zophoniasson aka Balvin Z.

NOTE: The seventh and final track/clip in this beautiful 'Island Songs' series drops August 8 and will be recorded in Reykjavik where Arnalds is based.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tash Sultana: Notion + Gemini

Self-taught multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Natasha Sultana aka Tash Sultana began playing the guitar at age three and started busking on the streets of Melbourne as a teenager. Now 21, the Maltese-Australian one-woman band is performing at sold out venues all around her native country and will also be taking her show to the UK, Germany and Holland in September for five dates.  (just announced: tickets for several U.S. gigs go on sale in September) 

Her latest digital releases are the superb "Gemini"and "Notion"; the singles dropped in April and June, respectively. The accompanying live performance videos recorded in her home showcase the immense virtuosity and passion she brings to her music. At times her gorgeous guitar work and vocal styling eerily recalls the late great Jeff Buckley; however Sultana is very much carving out a place of her own in the world of music, attracting new fans worldwide every day.

Note: Sultana will be opening for The Temper Trap and Garbage in late November and early December.  (includes tour schedule)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kroki: Who You Are + Eyes

Merner, Stachowiak, Szatt

Polish trio Kroki was formed only last fall by Jaq Merner, Pawel Stachowiak and Szatt. On October 10 they delivered an outstanding show in Warsaw as part of the ongoing international concert series Sofar, performing "Who You Are" and "Eyes"; on both songs Merner's gorgeous vocals float atop the superb soundscape co-created with Szatt and Stachowiak. ("Who You Are" is available on BandCamp)

The band has four gigs coming up on home turf in August and September. Let's hope there's an EP or full-length on the way as well as tours outside Poland.

NOTE: Be sure to also listen to the stellar tracks on Szatt's and Merner's respective Soundcloud pages. (Bassist Stachowiak does not appear to have a Soundcloud account.) (Songs From A Room)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Stalking Gia: Second Nature + War Paint + Born Free

Behind the mysterious (and eh, slightly creepy) moniker Stalking Gia is 22-year-old Tiffany Giardina. Born and raised in NYC where she is still based, the singer-songwriter got her start as a kid acting in musical theater, commercials and more. In her early teens she released two full-length albums and three singles of which two were included on feature film soundtracks.

She went on to write or co-write for other recording artists before focusing on solo-projects: the stellar "War Paint" came out in 2014 and was followed up with the excellent "Born Free" in 2015.

Last month, she dropped the superb single "Second Nature"; the accompanying video was created by director Jesse DeFlorio and cinematographer Seth Illif was published this week; both are L.A. based.

Giardina has found a mature, sophisticated sound that fits her like a glove. Sadly, her videos on YouTube have a low number of views. And - judging from a Google search - she is not receiving the attention from music blogs/the mainstream media that she deserves. Here's hoping that will change in the near future.