Tag Archives: ArianaRivera

Baby Artists are Adorable: Alex & Sierra’s “It’s About Us”

I’ve never really been a fan of vocal competition shows, especially in today’s day and age, just because I tend to fall in love with a lot of artists, and if they don’t make to the top of the show, or on the pop charts, they fall off the grid and I never hear from them again.

But that being said, a lot of shows have brought some good artists. Which leads me into topic of the week, some pretty people singing pretty songs.

I was just minding my own business the other day, listening to Andy Grammer, getting ready for his show in February, and while checking out the show, I decided to take a listen to the opener, just to get a feel for them before the show.

And I feel a little grimy, and very white girl right now, but I had a bit of a fling with a folk pop duo. Please try not to cringe tooooo much.

Gang, meet Alex & Sierra.

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They won season three of The X Factor USA last year, and just this year in October released their debut album It’s About Us. And I’ve gotta say, it’s got some good tracks on it.

Let’s just start off with my favorites, because we all know I’m some weird moody, soulful ballad lover.

The first track off the album, Little Do You Know. Sierra has this incredibly beautiful velvet voice that has a pretty limited range, but I still think is very pretty. We’ve seen that I am not particularly prone to having a preference for female artists, because for the most part, little whiny girl voices tend to annoy me, but Sierra’s vocals when she intoned “Little do you know I’m still haunted by the memories/Little do you know/I’m trying to pick myself up piece by piece,” honestly draws me in. In this track, Alex doesn’t come into the song until the chorus, which he sings himself. The two don’t harmonize until the second crack at the chorus, and they fit together nicely (Thank god for that, because they’re dating, so…). But regardless of this point, it’s still a pretty mournful, song. It’s soft, a little sad, not very creative lyrically, but the two sing well together. Harmonizing well is difficult, but I think, just going off this first track that Sierra’s vocal are going to take lead in this vocal duo.

Let’s move on. “Bumper Cars” is probably my favorite track in the entire album, and probably because there’s a lot of simple piano melody throughout, and because the duo start off the track singing together, which highlights more of the chemistry and just well round harmony skills between the two. They know what they’re doing. This is also a sad love song, with a bridge that Alex cries out, “This was supposed to be fun/ This was supposed to be the one,” to which Sierra responds, “Maybe we stayed too long/Maybe we played all wrong.”

Okay, so yes, for the most part, this album is very piano pop, with a lot of love ballads (cue the track “I Love You”) that are unimaginative in lyrics, but very clean and pure in vocals. There are some other great songs on this record though! “Just Kids” is the one track on this album that seems to gain a little bit more of a mainstream pop feel, and I get a hint of LIGHTS or Ellie Goulding or something like that from Sierra. I liked this track because Alex takes some of the lead vocals here and he does some great things with the arrangement. It’s also a little different from the rest of the album because they’re not just expressing love or heartbreak, so I’m glad they experimented there a bit. “Broken Frame,” also a great track, has some more interesting instrumentals, and a little bit more overlay of vocals rather than choppily cutting up verses per person.

The record takes a weird turn when they hash out this country inspired track “Cheating,” which just seemed really strange and a little creepy since the lyrics were literally “Do you ever thinkabout cheating on me?” Honestly, that’s a strange song to write with someone you’re dating. They finally end the entire album on this jazzy, saxophone laden tune, that I like, but seemed very out of place. But they really used their vocals on this track, so good for them for trying something different there on the end.

By the way, you can listen to the whole album here:

Okay, verdict.

I like them. They remind me a lot of James Morrison or Kris Allen and Lenachka in their “Prove it to You” duet on his record Horizons. When they keep it simple with their voices and some piano, I think they do what their voices are good for. They definitely try to attempt every genre possible in this record with hints of indie, folk, pop, country, and jazz, and for some parts it works, and for other parts it doesn’t. Overall though, as a debut album, they did a solid job, and I’m excited to see what kind of future music they’ll create when they mature a little as artists and come into their own.

And hey, at least now I know I’m not going to see a crappy opener.

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Ariana Rivera

Breaks and Brits: An Introduction to Jack Garratt

It was a long break. But, that just means I had whole lot of time to listen to some new jams, and let me tell you, I found some good ones, friends.

I think by know, we realize that I’m a fan of British artists. And why shouldn’t I be? The accent, their outfits, the incredible depth of the voices that many of these artists carry.

Let’s talk about Jack Garratt.

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A man that honestly looks like he’s be living on the streets as a rabbi with his full face beard, Garratt is a lowkey Londoner performer who’s starting to impress people, including myself. With a relatively new EP released in November, and a single released a month later that literally screams to me perfection in a song, I die a little whenever I hear Garratt sing.

I came across his single, “Worry,” and couldn’t help but smile when I listened to his song. A slow building song, Garratt introduces us to his warm vocals, some drums, and an electric keyboard. You think, “Oh, alright, it’s going to be very Ben Howard-esq” (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.) However, he just surprises you, and lets his almost falsetto (synced to some perfect electric guitar sometimes sneaking in) just steal your heart. His synchronism with his drum beats and synth just kind of pull it together for me.

After I listened to “Worry,” it was necessary for me to listen to the rest of the EP, and I couldn’t but just inwardly praise Garratt for his use of genre in just the 4 songs on his EP. “Remnants,” is this hauntingly melancholy track that has whispers of a chill to it. While in “Worry,” we had a little bit of a rock vibe, hinting to me for some reason of indie rock band, The Antlers, “Remnants” is just on the completely different spectrum. Garratt’s links his really simply piano melodies with just some raw, raw vocals that lead up to this powerful chorus reminiscent of The Neighbourhood. Same thing going on with “I Wouldn’t Want You Anyway.” Powerful, clean, and somber.

So I’m halfway through this EP, and think I know this guy’s sound, but nope.

Take a listen to “Water,” and sweet baby Jesus, the amount of soul in this song is just uncanny. We take a turn from indie rock/alternative to sweet soul/R&B and I just dig it. The way Garratt uses his voice in this track truly reminds of water, so he’s got that on the mark.

Okay, we’re to the end of this, and although this isn’t technically on the EP, I have a suspicion this new track just released for sure will be on Garratt’s up and coming album, so let’s just fall in love together.

Let me introduce you to the track, “The Love You’re Given.”

This song gives me legitimate chills, and I’m not exaggerating. This song is Marvin Gaye meets old school Robin Thicke meets some James Blake. I’m definitely feelings some hints of jammin’ electro funk and soul, and I’m sorry James Blake, but “Retrograde” just doesn’t stand a chance here with this new artist. After I listened to this artist, I knew that Jack Garratt was an artist that could basically do any genre if he tried. With such an incredible mix of funk, soul, R&B, electro, and goddamn, even some blues, he knows how to use his vocals and instrumentals to the maximum capacity.

I’m stoked for this guy’s full album, and definitely when he comes to the States for a US tour, you guys can guarantee I’m gonna be there front row and center.

Eyooo, Brits, Brits, keep the music comin’.

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Ariana Rivera

Show Preview: Never too close to love, Alex Clare

In 2012, when Alex Clare’s hit, “Too Close,” topped the charts and became a top 10 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #4 on the UK Singles Chart, I knew we had found a winner.

Already a soulful romantic, Alex Clare’s sultry voice sent me head over heels in love. I realize I say this about many, but we should acknowledge that Alex Clare isn’t someone to joke about, especially with his level of success.

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Born Alexander George Claire, the London born musician is a man after my own heart, growing up listening to blues and soul artists like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. After developing an interest in the trumpets and drums (which hold an influence in his music), lovely Mr. Clare moved on and dedicated more time to the guitar playing and song writing.

Hey it worked.

So when I got the email way back in August that Alex Clare was heading back to Seattle to perform live for the first time in a year, I almost cried.

Clare’s debut album The Lateness of the Hour is a record that never gets old for me, simply because like any good soul artist, Clare just mixes all these different influences together of funk, soul, dubstep, punk rock, and jazz and just creates this cohesive mixture of pieces that together just fly.

I’m stoked to hear him drop his jams for us at The Neptune, November 25th. Although I’m excited of course to hear the famous single, “Too Close” up close and personal, I’m more excited for Clare to bust out the more soulful tracks from his first album.

“Sanctuary,” one of my personal favorites off his first album just keeps it real with his opening of the song with this chorus of echo-laden whispers surrounded by simple piano harmonies. The song has the feel of a ballad, but then the synth, drums, and bass kick in and you’re left a little breathless after the song finishes, hair swept, going “Whoa. What just happened?” The electro-dubstep influence is there, and although some may think it overpowers, Clare never lets his voice be watered down.

Another one that will be great raw will be Clare’s “I Won’t Let you Down,” also off his first album. The closing number off the record, it’s soft, sweet, and a gem led by Clare’s mournful voice and fingers playing the keys. In a sea of tracks laden with a multitude of other instrumentals, this track keeps it simple, and having Alex Clare sing that live for me will be enough for me to live on.

But let’s be real, this tour is also about Clare’s new album that he’s been working on for a year, Three Hearts. A pretty solid piece of art, I’m excited to see how he performs the more upbeat, 80’s retro vibe that this album brings. A record that brings in more of the influence of horns and lively instrumentals, we’re exposed to different side of Clare that is less mournful and definitely more positive.

Yet, we still have those soulful tracks on Three Hearts like “Take you Back” and “Just a Man” that hint at Clare’s older side as a quick break from pop upbeats of horn-laden tracks like “Heavy Hands” and “Never Let You Go.”. “Not in Vain,” one of my favorite tracks off the new record is a good mix of Clare’s new and old sound, a track that has his soulful, yet wobbly voice, and the lead in of piano and soft drums.

Just writing about this album gets me stoked for this show, and although I’m a little more excited for Alex Clare to showcase his older music rather than his newer stuff, just the thought of him performing live is too much for me. Get excited. Get your tickets.

Does it help that between sets, his beautiful English accent will swoon your socks off?

See ya there.

Ariana Rivera

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

Show Preview: James Vincent McMorrow, Neptune Theatre 11/16

I’m a simple girl. I like some tunes with a guitar, a piano, and some solid vocals. I’m not too fancy, I don’t always appreciate all the extras that go into a record, especially when it takes away from the vocals.

Not with James Vincent McMorrow. It’s a whole new ball game.

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Let’s back up. When I heard James Vincent McMorrow was coming to town this Sunday, I became much, much too excited. An Irish singer-songwriter, McMorrow is one of my favorites. Just releasing his second album Post Tropical last winter in January, McMorrow’s sound is indescribable. Compared to his debut album of 2011, Early in the Morning¸ which had a stereotypical folk sound of straight guitar and voice, Post Tropical mixes different sounds to create this unique, cohesive juxtaposition of R&B, soul, folk, and hip hop. It helps that McMorrow’s surreal songwriting and ability to play practically every instrument is demonstrated within the album.

Mix that with his beautiful falsetto and you’ve got yourself a solid deal of music.

I’m excited for this brilliant show at Neptune Theatre, Sunday, November 16th, at 8 p.m. and see how it pans out. Personal favorites?

Pretty stoked for “Cavalier,” the opening track on Post Tropical. A beautiful piece of work, it slowly builds from hushed keys and hand claps to soaring sounds of bass, drums, and of course his gorgeous vocals.

Get excited.

Also, hoping to God and crossing my fingers that he pulls out “We Don’t Eat,” from his 2012 EP, because although it’s an oldie, it’s a goodie. Opening the track up with a quiet repetition of one piano key and soft drums, it escalades into this track with incredible depth. 

I like the way this man builds up his jams, because man, it gives me shivers.

Basic point: Go to this show. You don’t need to be a fan of soul or indie or folk to like this man. The mixes on this album are incredibly complex and conversely inspired with different influences that anyone can fall in love with him.

Get yo tickets: http://www.stgpresents.org/tickets/by-month/eventdetail/1537/29/james-vincent-mcmorrow#

Also, it’s not sold out, and it’s at one of the best venues in Seattle, so I’d intensely frown at you if you didn’t go. And I hate frowning.

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Ariana Rivera

Hozier: Let’s appreciate the man and the album (Artist/Album Review)

Hi I’m Ariana Rivera and I like writing words and music so I asked some people about a way to combine the two and they gave me this job.

So lately, I’ve been obsessed, and I think you know what I mean. I’m talking about soul-sucking, mind-numbing, “Wow, I can’t stop listening” plain obsessed. This entire album and the man who writes it has stolen my heart and although it’s only been a couple of weeks, I just can’t help but love it.

Meet Hozier.

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Born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, 24, Irish born and gifted with a soulful, bluesy as hell voice, this man is relatively new to the industry, with his debut album, Hozier released in Ireland in September, and globally just last month. Studied music in Dublin for a bit and was involved in an Irish vocal choral group, but dropped that…to become who he is, a modern day, Van Morrison and a male Adele.

So let’s talk about his album, now that we have an understanding that he’s somewhat successful and a little bit beautiful.

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Starting off with “Take Me to Church,” his first single that went viral on YouTube and topped the charts all around, we get a feel of how Hozier feels about love in his analogous parallel of love to religion: that falling in love essentially resulted in a death of everything. Not the happiest way to start the day, but the song starts off just a pure tone of his voice and some simple piano chords. Once we get going, background vocals come in, and for a second you see a hint of the vocal choral group roots that he has. The lyrics of this song are powerful once you reach the chorus, and we end the song not just with a pianist and smooth sounds of Hozier’s voice, but with a powerful guitar and drum combo, thundering through to make a statement.

So obviously, this guy has power, and we get a second hint of that in his second track off the album, “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” (which had a hint of influence from the Black Keys to me). At this point in the album, however, you might already have the feeling of, “Okay, I got that he can do powerful R&B and soul, but is this really the sound for the entire album?”

Hozier switches it up a bit and finally shows a softer bluesy side in “Jackie and Wilson,” with an asymmetric rhythm and feel. “From Eden,” the 6th track off the album, other than having incredible lyrics that reference a lil bit of Satan (“I slithered in from Eden”) has the oddest sound of the entire album in my opinion. Start a song off with some cello and guitar, and just a voice resonating “Babe,” and it just is too soulful. It sounds like you’re listening to a lullaby when you first start off. The lyrics come in, and the symbiotic relationship that the cello, guitar, and drums play off each other, and although the song loses its lullaby feel, the instrumentals alone still leave you feeling just serene and peaceful.

 “Work Song,” one of the later tracks, is my favorite of the entire album simply because of the melodic hums that swell beautifully and timed claps that start off the song (This is so weird, but I swear it reminds me of  Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Don’t judge.) He sings this track with almost a careless croon of just walking around mournfully. I dig the style. My favorite lyric off the entire album comes from this song: “When, my, time comes around/ Lay me gently in the cold dark earth/ No grave can hold my body down/ I’ll crawl home to her.” He’s an intense guy, but an intense lover all the same, and this lyric holds it true for me.

Take a listen.

We end the album, still soulful, but much more toned down from when we started. “Cherry Wine,” the last track of the album, is the live version, and features Hozier picking at his guitar and his voice. Unlike with previous songs in the album, in which he sings it with a completely folky, blues style similar to that of the earlier track “Like Real People Do, “ Hozier sings it pure, clean, and naked of any influence. It’s the purest song of the album, and the happiest song as, in terms of tone. With sound clips of blue birds in the background and pretty guitar riffs, “Cherry Wine” ends the album on a happier, more serendipitous note than the intense, tormented sound of “Take Me to Church” in the beginning.

If ya like Van Morrison, if you like The Black Keys, and if ya like some bluesy soul, grab a copy.

Where to get it: http://www.myplaydirect.com/hozier

Where to listen: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8KVn2EQ_jy3dXEtYoeTI0EPy40usREYO 

Overall? Obviously, I’m obsessed for a reason. There’s hints of the Gospel/choral influences in almost every track, and I thank it for it. Although his soulful, bluesy riffs are beautiful, they can be a bit intense, and the heavy content of his lyricism is nicely off put by the heart lifting melodic swells. Additional to that, it seems to add to the holy atmosphere he had in his sound and the love/religion obsession he has in his lyrics.

Maybe you won’t be obsessed, but I still love him for his soulful vibe. That, and the fact he followed me back on Instagram.

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Ariana Rivera