AURORA’s Empyrean Essence is More Encouragement Than Despair

While I am delighted over and over again by the discovery of
new artists, I am rarely plunged into an inspiration that alters my outlook
on the world. But such a rare captivation did consume me this week, and
19-year-old Norwegian Aurora Aksnes was responsible. 

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My first exposure to AURORA
was her cover of Oasis’s “Half
the World Away” featured in this year’s poignantly wonderful John Lewis Christmas advert.
(This wildly popular video catapulted AURORA to number 11 on the UK charts, and
helped publicize her European tour.)  

Though
the story in this advert held most of my attention, I couldn’t help but notice
the pure character and exceptional pitch of the singer giving voice to the commercial.
I did a quick search to find the song and artist and blessed YouTube directed
me to her music video “Runaway”. I sincerely hope you have never heard this
song before, because watching it in conjunction with the video yields to
something much more ethereal than experiencing either form in isolation.  

If you’re more interested in melancholy acoustic sounds, she’s
mastered that domain as well, with arresting visuals to match. “Murder Song (5,
4, 3, 2, 1)” is gritty and raw, and its music video featuring black-and-white
butterflies fluttering around a tortured AURORA is mesmerizing.  

Both these delicately desolate videos capture feelings that pertinently
embody the coldest season of the year. I intend to put AURORA on all my wintertime
playlists (including Christmas Carols, because “Half the World Away” decidedly
counts as one now that it’s been in a Christmas commercial.)  

On December 4th AURORA posted a celebratory photo
to her her exclusive fan community, “Warriors and Weirdos”,
with the caption “We’ve finished the record!! Magnus, O.
Martin and me are going out for some sushi. It’s a sushi kind of day today.” (Her charming personality is
an added bonus to the insider access of being a member on this page.) Sadly,
this post doesn’t indicate much about the forthcoming album’s U.S. release date.
But you can keep yourself apprised by following her Twitter, Facebook and aesthetically splendid
Instagram accounts.

If you are hesitant to check out AURORA’s live videos
because of her adolescence and inexperience with the stage, I would urge you to
overcome that reservation. She is both impressive and adorable live, as
evidenced by this set for NPR:

AURORA is as cosmically stunning as the natural phenomenon that
shares her name. She is a vocal and visual wonder whose brilliant (and
self-written) songs simultaneously transport listeners to the majestic vistas
of Norway and the darkest depths of human suffering. But AURORA does not cast
sadness in a troublesome light. She handles it gently and imaginatively, with an
artful acknowledgement of its inevitable impact on our lives. This is why listening
to her music is not a depressing escapism, but a stirring reimagining
of the tumultuous and beautiful privilege it is to be alive.  

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DJ M-Schizzle



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Album Review: If I Should Go Before You — A Lament in the Colour of Blues

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If City and Colour’s Dallas Green aims to explore every hue of
the sonic spectrum, he has gotten one color closer with his latest release. 

Green’s body of work is versatile to say the least: he is a guitar
player and vocalist in the recently reunited post-hardcore band Alexisonfire,
and he is also the man behind tender acoustic love songs like “Northern Wind” under his alternative artistic identity City & Colour.
In keeping with Green’s exploratory nature, this record steps distinctly onto
new turf, though not with resounding sure-footedness.

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Image courtesy of neontommy.com

The record opens with “Woman”, a sparse, pulsating
blues ballad with chilling instrumentation and forlorn lyrics that mourn a
collapsed relationship. The song builds until Green’s vocals are soaring over
walls of sound rolling forth in waves, conveying a palpable torment. Such
melancholic inspiration is not novel for Dallas Green, but this stylistic
movement is an unmistakable evolution. 

The next few songs prove to be less memorable. “Mizzy C”
confronts struggles of creativity and artistic maturation over a musical career.
Ironically the track is not as distinct as others on the album, but its message
still rings out through a rhythmic chorus. Green hits his stride with “Wasted
Love”, which best weaves together the new elements experimented with on the album.
The chorus is catchy and the movement of the guitar and percussion creates a
complex and engaging soundscape. The upbeat escapist fantasies in “Runaway”
and “Map of the World” are relapses rather than revivals of old work. The steel
guitar is played with more than once on these tracks and is not misplaced, but neither is it
used to craft something extraordinarily fresh.

“Blood” is without contest the standout track from the album,
reminiscent of previous triumphs like “What Makes a Man?” From its first stirring
phrase the melody promises to haunt listeners long after the song finishes. The
unique implementation of trumpet and howling vocals as well as some of
Green’s best lyrics on the album capture the passions of the record in a truly remarkable
finale. 

Green seems to shine most in subdued minimalist soundscapes,
where his sophisticated lyrics have the necessary space to resonate and his
arresting melodies can hold the undivided attention of the listener.  With
If I Should Go Before You, Green
departs from this territory somewhat; he tackles themes of worthiness, wanderlust,
frustration, dissatisfaction and heartbreak while simultaneously experimenting
with new genres. He doesn’t quite juggle both endeavors successfully – the album
is a sometimes lackluster culmination of blues, R&B and country with only a
few climactic moments. But perhaps those few climaxes are redemptive. 

Some of
the songs (”Northern Blues”, “Runaway”, “Map of the World”) do not singularly offer a
profound impact, but the record in its entirety tells a powerful narrative that
is communicated with visceral honesty and emotion. All criticisms aside, this soul-bearing
journey absolutely warrants quiet appreciation and contemplation as we experience
its aching meaning in our own lives.

Favorite tracks: Woman, Wasted Love, Blood

Album Rating: 7/10

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DJ M-Schizzle



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New Album: Holly Miranda

I’m picky when it comes to female vocalists. It takes a certain combination of honed skill, raw talent, and lack of nasally pompous tone to really capture my attention.

Holly Miranda has seemed to captured my attention.

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A laid back alternative singer-songwriter who’s been kicking it with the music industry since 2004, she’s come into her own as an artist, and knows her sound. And I’m not surprised, with her skills as a trained pianist and self taught guitarist and trumpet player. An 11-track album, Holly Miranda’s 2015 self titled album is one for the books. A strong start to the record, “Mark My Words,” is a track that begins with hints of a Explosions of Sky-esque guitar instrumental leading into some dreamy vocals and calming bells in background. The way Miranda rifts off into “You were just what I needed” in the first minute of the song is a beautiful demonstration of the very clean tone to her voice. The song is quiet and calming, and is a great hint to listeners of the overall vibe of the album.

And for the most part, her sound throughout the entire album is pretty consistent in terms of vocal and instrumental arrangements. She’s simple. She likes to coo and draw out her soft lilting voice with the help of a piano, and hey it works in a song like her last track of “Hymnal.” Fully demonstrating her vocal range on this track, you see this girl can almost take it to the opera level and you’re impressed.

Leading into the next track, “All I Want Is To Be Your Girl,” I get a more upbeat folk pop vibe, almost reminiscent of The Mowgli’s, but I think what I dig most are the chilled out tracks that have an Ingrid Michaelson feel, especially with the drawn out lovelorn vocals in songs like “Everlasting,” and “The Only One.”

“It’s not until we’re faced with death that we truly understand,” sings Miranda in Heavy Heart, overlain by a beautifully simple piano melody, a track which brought tears to my eyes. These tracks are too real for words, and it isn’t because of some phenomenal innate musical composition (although that is present). Miranda discusses themes of love, heartbreak, and that sense of not being to get someone off your mind, and these concepts if not relatable, are at least ones that evoke emotion.  

Best track of the album by far  “Desert Call.” Starting it off clean with Miranda’s vocals and some clean, clear cut guitar, “Desert Call” also takes you back to childhood in the summer. The saxophone near the latter half of the track makes you swoon with the sheer amount of jazzy sophistication coupled with Miranda’s suave vocals.

Think Ingrid Michaelson. Think stripped down Florence & the Machine. Think girl next door singing to you about love.

But in actuality, stop thinking and just listen because the album just dropped TODAY on iTunes and is most-definitely dope.

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Ariana Rivera

True love? It’s Taylor Berrett

It’s been rough lately, and honestly I should be writing a paper, but I’d rather write about music, so let’s just procrastinate together.

I’ve fallen in love, recently. It’s that time of year, you know? And I realize that I fall in love quite often, I’m a romantic, but this guy is worth it, I’m telling you.

Let’s meet Taylor Berrett.

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As I write this, I literally can feel myself become giddy,it’s almost unreal. It’s crazy. Is this how love feels?

Okay, so this is actually really strange because I first
discovered Berrett a couple of months ago when I went to an Alex Clare show at Neptune Theatre (remember that show
preview?). He was the opener, and I remember, at the time thinking, “He’s good,
young, but this kid’s got it.” I took a couple photos, swore he was going to go
far, and then just vaguely forgot about him. Here’s a photo of him performing,
he’s a pretty rad guy.

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But anyway, then I followed him on Facebook, just for news
updates and slowly Berrett began to come out with more of his own music. When he
performed a couple of months ago, he had a couple of his songs, so I knew he
could write, but I was basing his vocal ability off his Beatles covers.

So I knew this kid has talent.

It’s a little crazy I’m reviewing
this guy so soon because his debut album doesn’t even come out for another two
weeks, but the tracks and the EP that he has out now are just too good to not
talk about, and I expertly assume they will be on his debut album.

But let’s talk about my favorite
tracks first, which aren’t on his 2012 EP Anchor
Chasing
. “Those Days,” a track that he just released this year, starts off
just the way I like it: with some finger snaps, simple acoustic harmonies, and a raw,
beautiful voice.

The rhythm on this track is so brilliant and the lyricism that
this man has is so natural, I am reminded of singer-songwriter (and one of my
favorite musicians) Kris Allen. We
start off easy with “Slow down, turn around/Tell me what’s tearing your heart
out baby,” building up the main chorus “Everybody has, everybody has those
days/ Feeling like an ocean, having trouble making waves.” As we build up to
the chorus, we get a little trumpet and sax into the mix, and my heart drops into
my stomach. Then bam, xylophone, and the world just stops.

It’s this perfect mix of acoustic
folk with jazz and it just feels easy
you know? You get the feel of just chilling on the beach with this guy,
drinking some margaritas, with a guitar and a guy playing saxophone in the
background. When we get to the sax solo, you know Taylor Berrett is a classy
musician and not one to be reckoned with. He knows instrumental composition,
and he knows it well.

Okay, so now for my absolute favorite
track that he has out so far. “The Heat,” a track that he released,also, just a
couple months ago is just a game changer.

It’s a little more upbeat, but it’s probably, and this may be a stretch, a
track that I would say is one of the best new singles I’ve heard this year.  He starts drumming out some awesome beats,
leading in with some great vocals that just has excellent rhythm and a sense
of, once again, jazz and blues. Listen to the part when he sings his chorus, “Got
no place that I can go/ Got no money to my name/ Got no scars that I show/ Got no
bad luck I can blame.” The way he weights his vocals rhythmically is not just
catchy. It’s brilliant. The electric guitar mixed with his drummer is all so
cohesively in sync with his vocals, that you would almost expect Berrett to be
someone who’s been in the business for years. Taylor Berrett labels himself as acoustic pop,
and definitely, I can see why he would want to brand himself that way; he wants
to be commercial. But don’t let that fool you, this guy knows solid blues. He
knows solid jazz. He is catchy, but he is skilled and talented. You see it in
the last track I discussed, you see it in the bridge of this track when he
sings “They say man take it easy, enjoy it while you’re free/ I said the heat I
can stand is, is standing still against me.”

And the acoustic version is even
better. Here’s a look.

This voice. Please. There is
control, there is great tone, there is great pitch, and there is just a
beautiful sound.

When I listen to this guy, a smile
forms on my face. Is this what love feels like?

Maybe it’s the combination of the fact
that I’ve seen this guy start it out live, and then have listened to his more
matured singles, and maybe it’s the fact that I know he is the real deal
because I have seen him sing. I’m not
sure. But this is probably my favorite artist
to review thus far, and I love a lot of musicians.

But anyone, one more, let’s talk.

Let’s take it back two years, to another
track, also not on his EP. I like his EP, and we’ll get there, don’t worry. But,
honestly? I really just dig these tracks that he chooses not to publicize as
much. They’re rad. “Fair Warning,” takes it back a little bit more to his folk
roots, but he still rocks it, like usual.

You get this banjo, tambourine, campy
feel, but once again, his lyricism of, “Call me the wanderer/ Write me away/ I’ll
be the mountain you cannot escape,” never fails. This a track I’m pointing out
just to emphasize Berrett’s versatility as an artist. I’m sorry, but I don’t
care how campfire folk he gets, the man has vocals and the man can write. And
why is it surprising? This 22-year old singer from Virginia started writing songs at age 13,
so he’s had plenty of practice.

Quick note on his EP, Anchor Chasing, because I feel like I
should comment. It’s alright; I’m not trying to disregard his first published
accomplishment. Style wise, it’s more lowkey than the other tracks I’ve talked
about, simple. When you listen to it, you can hear in his voice that he still
very much new, and hey this is an EP from two years ago, so it’s
understandable. We all mature as artists.

Of the five tracks on the EP,
there are only two that I truly love and know will make it to his full length
album. “Whole Heart” is definitely a track I love best and a song I think
Berrett is exceptionally proud of especially since he keeps promoting it. It’s
full of those beautiful piano melodies that you all know I love, so points
right there. It’s two years old, but I think this is a solid original
composition of his, and personally, I’m proud. “Pomegranate Sky,” another great
one on his EP is dreamy and acoustic, but solid with some violin and piano in
the background. You feel relaxed listening to this. You have to let his voice just
take you away, and he does, successfully.

By the way, please, please, check out all his music on his soundcloud here!

All in all, this man is going to
top charts. I’m not predicting that, I’m guaranteeing it. He knows what he’s doing,
and seeing as he is already signed to Warner Brothers, and seeing as his album is
about to be released mighty soon, it’s only a matter of time.

Ahhh, is this what love feels
like?

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Ariana Rivera

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Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

A solid find: Hollow Coves (New Artist Update)

I was recently just doodling around on the internet like we like to do when paper proposals should really be written, and I stumbled across these two beautiful gentlemen who, quote, “have that chilled vibe about [them].”

Such truth.

I’m a fan of acoustic sets and I’m even more of a fan of acoustic duos. Pretty clean, pure stuff to me, and I find that if you just have a guitar in hand and your voice, there are no real opportunities to BS your music.

Hollow Coves do not disappoint.

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Meet Ryan Henderson and Matt Carins, two dudes from Brisbane, Australia. Recently just releasing their debut EP, Drifting, indie-folk duo Hollow Coves keep it simple and keep it classy.

Just listening to the first song on Drifting, “The Woods,” is beautifully simple with an intro of a slowly building beat that develops into simple guitar melodies and soft piano chords, vaguely giving a Kris Allen feel to the song. The two boys picked each other well as both their voices truly complement each other as they bring the song alive with their relaxed tone and lyrics of “And we all sit around the fire/ We feel a little warmer now/And we all sit around the fire/ We feel so much better now.”

Drifting – EP by Hollow Coves

Take a listen, and if just chilling around the fire and feeling better and warmer doesn’t give you a “chilled” vibe then I don’t know what will.

In “Home,” the second song on Drifting¸ simple subtle guitar melodies combined with the duo’s intertwined voices also just brings you home as they sing “Take me home/To the friends I’ve always known/Take me home/Back to the place where I belong.”

Such simple lyrics right? I mean, yes, don’t get me wrong here, these pieces of music are not the most complex musically and lyrically, but the overall vibe these two have is what I think they’re both trying to achieve: simple, clean and beautiful. And hey, indie folk isn’t Bach.

I think in the last song, “Heatwave,” is actually the song that is the most complex of the three on the EP with more complicated instrumentals, but at the same time, it’s also my least favorite.  Why? 1) There’s only one person doing vocals on this song, which for me, causes the song to lose depth, and 2) The last half of the song is guitar strumming and humming which gets boring. Nonetheless, the one guy doing the vocals on this song, either Ryan or Matt (I can’t tell), does show a wider range of vocal capability, so cool to know for the future if they decide to release a full album.

Where to listen?! http://hollowcoves.bandcamp.com/releases 

Overall? I like them. I like this. I like indie folk and I like their simplicity and the beauty that comes with it. If they keep to the simple melodies of both their instrumentals and their voices, then Hollow Coves will be a duo that makes it to the top.

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Ariana Rivera