Saturday, May 20, 2017
Three years after dropping the excellent two-part EP 'Where Will We Go', singer-songwriter Nick Hakim has released his twelve-track debut full-length 'Green Twins'. The 26-year-old Washington D.C native graduated Berklee College of Music in Boston before relocating to Brooklyn in 2013 and it's here that he seems to have truly found his own voice.
On the new album, the soul influences are still there, but more layers, reverb and distortion have been added into the musical cauldron by Hakim and collaborator/Berklee classmate Andrew Sarlo. In "Roller Skates", Hakim has created a trippy soundscape with echoes of a late Beatles period/early solo career John Lennon. On "Bet She Looks Like You" he whips up a frothy, mad bartender cocktail of Motown, Hendrix with a pinch of country. The result is beautiful and gutsy.
The superb, tragic-comic animated video accompanying "Roller Skates" so perfectly compliments the song one would think Hakim and Kansas-based director/musician Micah Buzan were in the same room when it was made.
Fellow Brooklyn artist creative Terence Nance directed the video for "Bet She Looks Like You". I personally don't feel this clip serves the song well. But to each their own.
Tonight he's performing at Rock & Roll Hotel in D.C.
October 14: ALC Festival in Austin.
June 9: the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.
June 12: Amoeba Records, L.A.
In early November he returns to the UK for five shows.
Other interesting facts: His mother is from Peru, his father is from Chile. Both of his brothers are musicians. He teaches and mentors kids and teens in NYC. He has spoken openly about struggling in school where he was placed in special ed classes from second to tenth grade, in great part due to his dyslexia.
Monday, May 15, 2017
The annual extravaganza known as The Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final took place Saturday night in Kiev, Ukraine. Portugal's contestant 27-year-old Salvador Sobral's beautiful performance of his sister Luisa Sobral's lovely composition "Amar Pelos Dois" won first place. A far cry from the uptempo pop or power ballad type of entry which usually wins the ESC, it was nevertheless an early favorite among both juries and viewers in the 42 participating countries. A soft, cabaret style, vintage Brazilian jazz flavored song (Antonio Carlos Jobim-meets-Billie Holiday), it clearly moved those listening in the arena and in front of their TVs at home. A wild card, a dark horse, but a worthy winner.
My personal favorite in the race however was the runner up, Bulgaria's superb entry "Beautiful Mess", performed by 17-year-old vocalist Kristian Kostov. Born in Moscow to a Bulgarian father and a Kazakh mother, he was singing from the age of six as well as competing in contests in Russia. In 2015 he came second in the fourth season of X Factor Bulgaria and was signed to Bulgarian record label Virginia Records.
One of the five co-writers of Kostov's almost-winner is listed as Alexander V. Blay, better known as Danish artist Alex Vargas whom I first blogged about in 2014, before he became a big name in Denmark. "Beautiful Mess" has a distinct Vargas touch to it, so much so that it's hard to believe he didn't pen it on his own. Kostov has stated he is a dedicated Vargas fan; it would be interesting to see them perform the song together live at some point.
The official clip was directed by renowned Bulgarian music video producer Liusi Ilarionov. The shoot required 35 actors and lasted more than 20 hours. The result is powerful and bears a great resemblance to one of my all-time favorite videos, "Iron" from 2011 by Yoann Lemoine aka Woodkid. It also recalls Lemoine's stunning 2012 clip accompanying "Take Care" by Drake ft. Rihanna.
My three blog entries about Alex Vargas:
My blog entry about Woodkid/Yoann Lemoine:
Saturday, May 6, 2017
In 2012 at age twenty-three, Haley Johnsen was a contestant on American Idol Season 11. Since then, the west-of-Portland, Oregon native has become a bona fide singer-songwriter, releasing the stellar debut EP 'Through the Blue' in 2014 and playing venues in the North-West.
Her most recent single is "Feel the Water". On March 8 in Portland, she offered up a sublime, stripped down acoustic version of this outstanding song as part of the ongoing concert series Sofar.
Another flawless live performance is "Broken Open", track # 5 on 'Through the Blue': the video was Johnsen's submission for a coveted spot on National Public Radio's renowned Tiny Desk Concert series. Though she failed to get accepted this time around, I'm guessing NPR host/Tiny Desk creator Bob Boilen invites her to do a set on the show as soon as word gets around about this superb artist who not only is blessed with an astounding voice, but is also a highly gifted songwriter. Be sure to listen to all of her songs on Bandcamp.
I'm also posting Johnsen's beautiful cover of one of her personal favorites, the 1971 hit "If" by L.A. band Bread, a classic which she manages to make her very own, never an easy feat when covering originals.
There are currently five dates scheduled in Oregon and Washington between May and September plus one gig at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh June 30.