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

Seattle Sounds: The Weather – 1983 (New Music Video)

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On November 25, The Weather, posted a status update:

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Throughout the night, various images and videos were also uploaded – building excitement with the band’s fanbase. Experience the anticipation for yourself:

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After weeks (and weeks) of waiting, the Seattle-based trio finally gave us a “sneak peak” photo, only to be followed up by a link to stream the single on a pretty random Soundcloud.

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Oh I’m sure it’s coming realllll soon, guys!

Yesterday, the music video finally dropped and it was definitely worth the wait! Check out the retro-scopic throwback track below:

If you recognize those faces, that’s not a surprise! Lead singer, Mychal Cohen originally formed the group as Campfire Ok. The original band’s albums, Strange Like We Are (2011)and When You Have Arrived (2013) have been acclaimed for their studio and live performances.

Since Campfire Ok’s last release, the lineup has changed and producers, Chad Copelin and Jarod Evans, have helped put together The Weather’s recording debut. To celebrate, the band will be performing with Ravenna Woods and St. Paul de Vence at Neumos THIS SATURDAY!

Get tickets now, RSVP on Facebook, and check out The Weather’s website for all sorts of new music and info!

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

Outlander in the Emerald City: Helvetia (Artist Profile)

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After the dissolution of the LA-based space rock band Duster, former drummer Jason Albertini moved up to Seattle and founded the experimental indie rock group, Helvetia.  Named after the female personification of Switzerland (Albertini’s childhood home), Helvetia’s music combines the reverb-drenched guitar effects of space rock with the percussions of a classy jazz outfit.  With a lineup seemingly stuck in eternal rotation, Helvetia’s music is anything but homogenous.  Albertini’s songwriting partners have included other former Duster members, bassist Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr., Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, and many, many more.  The band’s breadth of songwriting ability and large music catalog is impressive: since their full-length debut A Clever North Wind dropped in 2006, Helvetia have released four other studio albums and three compilations, and continue to release new songs on their Facebook page about once a week. 

Due to the difficulties I would no doubt face attempting to summarize the full-blown Helvetia musical experience for you, I’ve picked a few of my personal favorites that I feel exhibit the most important themes.  Here goes nothing:

Old, New Bicycle”:  This was my first favorite, and continues to give me chills every time that tasty rolling tom fill introduces the song.  This track (like many others) can be categorized by its cohesive yet dueling nature.  The jazzy percussion hardly changes throughout the entire track, allowing a strong surface for the multiple guitar and vocal parts to “duke it out” on.  The rhythm guitar is smooth, unfolding easily into the lo-fi atmosphere the drums have created.  But before long, the lead guitar rips an off-kilter solo that builds with intensity and cuts out just when it was ready to burst, giving way to the higher-pitched vocal melody, both of which complement the lower tonality of the rhythm parts perfectly.  The lead guitar continues its competition for space throughout the song, challenging the other parts ferociously but intelligently conceding when the overlap would be too much.  This allows the song to ebb and flow intensely and gracefully, leaving the listener panting for more by its finish.  

RyBro”: From their latest album Nothing in Rambling (2012), this chunky alt-rock jam incorporates two rhythm guitars, this time working with the vocals in rhythmic stops.  Just as before, the theme of competition persists, with the lead ripping in once vocals drop out.  This track’s bridge part is entirely unique, taking cues from space rock predecessors in order to create a temporary dream-world for the listener to float around in for a little while.  The trance is broken with a classically intense (and fantastically groovy) solo to bring us all back down to earth.  

In Every Hour” [BONUS TRACK]: After an especially long day of drowning myself in spacey jams, I came upon this gem in the depths of the internet – a previously unreleased track from who knows when.  Unlike the others mentioned above, this song is as mellow as Helvetia’s music gets, featuring parts that actually work together for its entirety!  Although periodically interrupted by rhythmic blasts from the chorus, the lead is entirely complementary of the laid-back vibe this tune gives off.  Albertini’s vocal harmonies give a haunted hue, turning this dream into a wonderfully creepy nightmare. 

Although they haven’t toured in a while, Helvetia’s Facebook page and SoundCloud are fairly active, featuring rough demo releases once a week.  

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Katie Hanford

Rad Report: Experimental Label–Danger Collective Records–Expands to Seattle

There are very few times that a dream is captured and transformed into reality. So often we realize that we’ve aspired our whole lives toward one goal and never fully achieved it. This is clearly not the circumstance in the case of Danger Collective Records—an experimental record label started and based in Los Angeles—which was created on a brilliant principle of “by artists for artists” in January of 2014. A few old friends of mine from high school created this label—Reed Kanter is the original founder with help from Michael Lewis, Jackson Katz, Patrick Jewett, and Nolan Pearson. “When [Reed] started the label [he] was trying to put this idea of…‘talent without fans’…into motion” 

(Reed Kanter), and the dream seems to have come true. After growing up in a somewhat isolated area in the mountains surrounding the LA area where there wasn’t a strong market for small shows and live music, Reed gathered a group of his friends and changed that with a goal in mind “to bring people together over music and make a difference for bands” (Reed Kanter). He created a record label, which is now expanding across the country. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with Reed—who is currently living in New York, and I’ve also stayed close with Michael as we both made the move from LA to Seattle this past fall.

I, myself, have enjoyed jamming to the indie rock/garage punk music that I’ve experienced at the Danger Collective shows down in LA; but what really caught my attention was when I heard from Michael that Danger Collective is no longer solely concentrated in LA—and is actually expanding to both New York (courtesy of Reed) and Seattle (courtesy of Michael)! The moment I heard this, my excitement grew—just knowing that I might soon have the opportunity to jam out to the awesome tunes being produced by this innovative label whether I’m in LA, my home town; Seattle, my true love and current home; or New York, just visiting.

When I heard about the expansion, I naturally had tons of questions for Michael and Reed about this big move up north and back east. So I set up a time to meet with Michael in hopes that he could give me some inside information on the extension of the label in our very own backyard; I later was able to contact Reed as well to hear about how the expansion is progressing in New York.

Michael is now the CFO, and is mainly in control of the money and distribution in the newly forming Seattle branch. I asked him what inspired him to expand the label further north and he explained that it was mostly a mix of the convenience of being able to go to an awesome school like UW and being able to further develop the label in a remarkable city such as Seattle with such an established music scene.


The Collective’s punk bands duel it out at INSIDELANDS 2014

Danger Collective generally signs bands with a very ‘Los Angeles-esque’ sound, but the label has been really good about not boxing itself into any group of specific genres or subgenres. Danger Collective actually signs bands on an extremely wide spectrum of categories—examples of these varieties include “garage rock/post punk (Slow Hollows and Bobby T and The Slackers), Punk (Cool Runnings and P.H.F of New Zealand) psychedelic rock (Casinos and Te Amo), ambient trap (Polo Club and Best Friend, experimental (Nirvanus), singer song writer (Salmon), pop punk (Rexx), and more,” according to Reed Kanter.

However, when I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Michael, he noted that “eventually the Seattle sound, the really weird, like…electronic-y thing will…seep” into the label’s unique mix of music that they represent, which I’m really looking forward to. Despite being open-minded to the idea of letting in new genres and moods of music, Michael admitted to me that “LA had a really big influence on [the label] because that’s what [the creators of the label] were used to [listening to their whole] lives.” It seems that these LA vibes are making their way up to Seattle as Michael has gotten Danger Collective’s “releases into several record stores” in the Seattle area (according to Reed Kanter).

Reed currently does a lot for the label in addition to being the original founder; despite his role in “[managing] artists, [booking] shows, [promoting] bands, [contacting] pressing factories for vinyl, [pressing] cassette tapes, [reviewing] submitted demos, …[managing] the social media, and [taking a role in] anything else that needs to be done,” he humbly told me that he “can’t take all the credit” for the label’s success, and he is very grateful for his friends’ help and support.

He is currently busy in New York getting shows together and spreading word of Danger Collective to the east coast. There’s actually already been a New York show presented by Danger Collective in which Reed took a different approach than the label usually does as he “went for a more electronic genre. Nirvanus opened and he was followed by Best Friend, Eaves, Tele/Visions, then Young Ejecta who headlined.” It sounds like it was a fucking rad show, and I seriously recommend checking out all of these artists. It made me wish I could’ve been in New York for it, but got me extremely enthusiastic about the future potential Danger Collective has right here in the amazing city we live in.

Michael let me know that once a couple more Danger Collective representatives make their way up to Washington, he hopes to have the resources to begin signing local Seattle artists and putting together shows—so keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information on that! In the meantime, get a taste of Danger Collective’s artists in a video playlist from the New Radio presentation, Battle Show IV:

Currently involved in the label are Reed Kanter, Michael Lewis, Jackson Katz, Nolan Pearson, Patrick Jewett, Dylan Thinnes, Franklin Newby, and Nick Fenjves. The label has come a long way in just a year, with their expansion spanning across the country. According to Reed, “Danger Collective Records now has music in stores across the country and [the label has their] artists featured on iTunes and Spotify.” I’m obviously thrilled about what’s to come for the Seattle branch of Danger Collective Records, and can’t wait to see where all divisions of the label go in the future. Be sure to follow Danger Collective Records at dangercollectiverecords.com and on Facebook, and keep an eye out for upcoming shows presented by Danger Collective Records in the Seattle area (or in LA/New York if you’re ever stopping by)!

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Rad Rebs