Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Searching the web for a good music video to post can occasionally feel akin to a desert walk. When I finally find something great, it's very much like finding an oasis with cool, clear water. Such was the case when I stumbled across "Small Voices". A man, a guitar, a beautiful song, a gorgeous voice. My thirst was quenched.
The man is 27-year-old Matt Gresham, surfer and singer-songwriter, born in Fremantle, raised in Rockingham, south of Perth. After penning tunes since the age of 13 and playing shows around Australia for the past decade, putting out a few records and even doing a successful stint on X Factor, he decided on a different path. Relocating temporarily to Los Angeles, he gathered material for an EP which will drop later this year; it will of course include "Small Voices", co-written by American musician pal, L.A. based Jaymes Young. The track has also been released as a single.
The studio version is very good, the live version however is stunning. Recorded at Paste Studios in Alexandria outside Sydney, it showcases Gresham's superb voice and fine guitar playing. Paste Studios also created an excellent regular music video which "tells the poignant story of a girl longing for family".
Saturday, May 14, 2016
It's that time of year: the Grand Final in the 61st edition of the Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast tonight at 9 pm local time at the Globen Arena in Stockholm. Over the top, cheesy, the ultimate guilty pleasure? Absolutely. And does it get political and somewhat ugly sometimes? Yep. However, it's also a truly great platform for artists who may be famous in their home countries but are virtually unknown in the rest of the world to present themselves to millions of viewers. Surprisingly, none of the winning performers have had big international careers - ABBA of course are the exception.
This time around, Australia may in fact end up the winner. No, your geography knowledge is just fine, the continent is not part of Europe. But owing to the popularity of the event among TV viewers down under, they were invited to participate for the second time in a row.
27-year-old Dami Im who immigrated to Australia from South Korea at age nine, will represent her adopted country with great pride with the pop gem "Sound of Silence", obviously not to be confused with Simon & Garfunkel's tune of the same name. Her powerful diva voice and stage presence brought the house down in the second semi-final Thursday May 12. If Australia wins, I suppose the contest will be held in Sydney next year - maybe at the Opera House?
I'm a sucker for great vocals and my ears have zero tolerance for out-of-tune-singing. Like Dami Im, my other two favorite participants in this year's final both have superb voices. 29-year-old openly gay Hovav Sekulets aka Hovi Star represents Israel with the gorgeous "Made of Stars".
And finally: the 6 foot 3 inches (1.93 cm) tall former basketball player, 26-year-old Alfred Fehervari aka Freddie from Hungary will perform the powerful rock anthem "Pioneer" on which he is backed up by three excellent male singers who employ a little Peter Bjorn and John style whistling.
Another reason these three songs are my favorites: they were written by native songwriters, not "hired guns", an approach which has unfortunately become very common in recent years with several countries taking to outsourcing the writing of music/lyrics to professional hit makers in Sweden. Not cool! This seriously needs to change - a new rule should be implemented in time for next year's contest: all songwriters MUST be from the participating country.
NOTE: For the first time, the contest will air live in the U.S. on Logo at 3 pm Eastern Standard Time; it will also stream on LogoTV.com and on the Logo TV mobile app. How long before the U.S. will be invited to participate?
UPDATE: Once the juries had voted it looked as if Australia was going to win, but after the viewers' votes were announced, Ukraine - my personal "dark horse" choice in a very crowded field - came out Number One. 32-year-old Jamala gave an outstanding performance, singing her own composition "1944". The song is powerful; it's also quite unusual and bold in its structure, mixing the haunting sounds of ancient times with contemporary soul music. The fact that she possesses the voice to master both genres is a testament to her immense gifts as a vocalist. Watching several of her official videos going back to 2010, it's interesting to observe her development as an artist, exploring different personas and styles. The most recent clips show a singer who has found her true voice - and a gorgeous one it is.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
23-year-old Haitian-Canadian producer/musician/dj Kevin Celestin aka Kaytranada already has an impressive resume producing and mixing material for himself and other artists, but until this year had yet to release a debut studio full-length of his own. Last week he finally made up for that and dropped the 15-song '99.9 %' album which includes contributions by Little Dragon, Syd, Vic Mensa, Aluna George and more.
Accompanying the exuberant and constantly surprising track "Lite Spots" is the perfect video featuring a computer animated robot buddy. The brand new clip was directed by fellow Canadian Martin C. Pariseau.
Kaytranada is currently touring and has a string of shows scheduled in continental Europe, the UK and North America in May, June, July and August. A few gigs are also lined up in Australia and New Zealand in late October.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Following up on his highly acclaimed 2013 EP 'Berlin', 28-year-old Australian L.A. based singer-songwriter Ry Cuming aka RY X drops his eagerly awaited twelve-track debut solo album 'Dawn" May 6. The beautiful teaser single "Only" was released in March as was the video, co-created by the artist and director Dugan O'Neal.
An extensive continental Europe/UK tour begins May 9 in Paris; there are also several festival gigs lined up at this point, including a performance at the 50th annual Montreux Jazz Festival July 5 at 8 pm (NOTE: also on the bill that night are Aurora and M83).
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Neil Claxton has gracefully pulled the plug on Mint Royale, the project he co-founded with Chris Baker in 1997 and kept going on his own after Baker left in 2004. Fortunately, on March 10 Claxton released one final gem and this week published an accompanying video. The stellar single "Time" features fellow Brit Tom Cane on vocals and is a superb swan song. Thank you for the music.
It seems fitting to post three additional sublime videos/tracks from the brilliant Mint Royale catalog: the hypnotic "Ring", featuring the inimitable voice of actor Willem Dafoe as well as the haunting "The Effect on Me", featuring the sampled vocals of outstanding American soul singer Jean Wells (from her 1967 hit "Have a Little Mercy").
My personal favorite however is the glorious song "Show Me", featuring Pos (1/3 of De La Soul) for which one of the greatest music videos ever was made back in 2001. The clip was created by acclaimed Swiss director Ben Hibon who at that time worked at London design company Unit 9; (he has since launched his own company, Stateless Productions, also in London.) Yates Buckley, Tom Sacchi, and Piero Frescobaldi were also part of the team who put together an ambitious interactive project for the Mint Royale website that included 42 fantastic animated characters inhabiting the colorful world of Star Island where the story in the "Show Me" video takes place.
Read Claxton's poignant explanation for why he decided it was time to turn to the key:
NOTE: Claxton will no longer be posting on Facebook, but will continue his Twitter account.