Monday, April 30, 2007

Voices that Give Me Hope and Faith and Strength: Lauren Pritchard

Does anyone want to check out Lauren Pritchard's performance on May 22 at Ars Nova with me? (where my friend Jillian works!! )

Lauren Pritchard is only 18 years old. She has an intoxicating voice that is currently being featured in the musical Spring Awakening, in Duncan Sheik's incredible score for that show. Yeah, that Duncan Sheik. He of "Barely Breathing" a little over 10 years ago, who I barely took notice of back then. I *loved* Spring Awakening -- no, not because of the probably unnecessary teen nudity, but because of Duncan Sheik's songwriting - and because of the way voices like Lauren Pritchard's delivered those poignant songs (and hers was probably the stand-out among several excellent voices, despite her part in the show being relatively small). Duncan Sheik's songs and Lauren Pritchard & others' voices gave Spring Awakening a depth, complexity and organic trueness that is rare in the musical form. It helped A LOT that in this musical, the characters don't talk to each other via song -- the songs instead emerge from inner dialogues, reflecting what's going on in their own heads. Seems like such a small thing, but few (if any?) other musicals use songs in this way. And it's so much more natural...
Beyond transforming the musical genre, while I haven't read Frank Wedekind's original play, I also imagine that this music may have also completely transformed what was very possibly quite average material, in terms of content. Well, perhaps it was the addition of the outstanding score, plus Bill T. Jones' choreography (more interesting movement than typical "Broadway" dance numbers), and very innovative direction by Michael Mayer.

Anyway, Lauren Pritchard wanted to be a singer-songwriter before she wanted to be a Broadway star. And she just might be able to use her exposure from Spring Awakening as a launching pad for broader success in music, beyond musical theater. I hope she succeeds. It's hard not to compare her to Joss Stone -- another big, soulful/smoky, astoundingly young, white, female voice. The thing that continually disappoints me about Joss Stone is her songwriting -- it's her voice, not her writing, that is her strength. The problem is that a great song depends as much (if not more) on the writing as it does on the voice or the musicianship. I fear Lauren Pritchard may run into the same trouble, but I have more hope for the future in her case. Though not as good as the Sheik-provided stuff in Spring Awakening, the songs on her myspace page show potential. I haven't listened to them enough to want to lay down judgment, but check them out.

Also, YouTube of her singing Spring Awakening stuff:
1. "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind" duet with John Gallagher, Jr. - she comes in a little after the 2 min. mark
2. Singing "Left Behind" at a concert-type performance - w/ Duncan Sheik on guitar

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Countdown to Our Trip to New Orleans JazzFest

This weekend I'm in Ann Arbor, celebrating my sister's ascendance to "master" status. Go Bec! We're having lots of fun, but in terms of music, all I've really heard while out thus far has been Fergalicious from a jukebox (groan) and the like. It's okay... this weekend is all about my awesome sis, and next weekend is all about MUSIC. Let the countdown begin to our trip to the second weekend of JazzFest!

JazzFest is perhaps my most favorite event in the world, in one of my most favorite places. And we didn't make it last year, so I'm getting even more giddy than usual just thinking about it. All kinds of amazing music of all different genres, almost 24 hours a day, all over the city (way beyond just the fairgrounds)... I CAN'T WAIT.

I just started studying the grids for the fairgrounds schedules and the nightclubs. The goal is always to try to see as many artists/bands as possible in every 24 hour period there, while still leaving time for just enough sleep & food to keep Rich from committing me to an institution for OCD (I am prone to get a little scary compulsive with our daily music itineraries during JazzFest -- I prefer to call it ambitious...) .
It helps that the food is so good, of course... I was just reading Adam Duritz's JazzFest food favs and it's true... how can I mind taking set breaks when it's for Central Grocery's muffalettas? Brunch at Mother's? Crawfish Monica at the fairgrounds? For the record, I also completely agree with him that it's all about the iced teas and strawberry lemonade during the day -- save the Abitas for the night or else you might not see night!!!!

All right, time to watch Bubba drop wisdom to the UMich grads and remind me what a president is supposed to sound like on a podium.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Idolator's "Stuck On Repeat: Prince Makes His Case"

Idolator's right. Prince's studio cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" is goosebump gorgeous. Hit up that site for a copy of the mp3 (before the link expires).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Stephen Marley - Mind Control

I don't smoke, but I'm all about these joints... "Inna di Red" (ft. Ben Harper), "Hey Baby" (ft. Mos Def), title track "Mind Control", "Let Her Dance", "Traffic Jam" (ft. Damian Marley), "Chase Dem". The bulk of Stephen Marley's debut solo album Mind Control is really good stuff, actually. It's worth buying the whole album -- easily enjoyed straight through from beginning to end & perfect for playing at parties through the warmer months (and it's finally sunny and warm-ish here in NYC!).

I first fell in love with this guy's voice on Erykah Badu's track "In Love with You". Until now, he's never done a solo thing -- he's been working in music for years though -- with his brothers, people like Ms. Badu & Eve, producing, ... so you probably know his music without realizing it.

Sometimes on this new record of his, his vocals eerily channel his father's voice. And yet, this music is most definitely his own -- it's *modern* reggae full of lots of current influences. And oh, yeah, it's not all mellow either -- there are definitely some dance tracks too ("Traffic Jam", "Let Her Dance"). Anyway, check it out.

And check this YouTube for an acoustic version of "Inna di Red":

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Words Fail Me

Air - Alone in Kyoto

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Surprisingly Entertaining American Idol Country Week

First off, how lovely is Martina McBride?!?!?

Living in Manhattan where you don't hear much of it, I sometimes forget that I like country music. Sure, there's plenty of awful country music - but there's plenty of awful music in every genre. And when country is good, it can be great. Martina McBride was right on. The best country music is master storytelling - telling believable stories and telling them with heart. There is something simple and true and pure about great country music -- and great country artists. And, as I'm pushing my way into a crowded subway car full of seemingly perpetually irritated, and often smelly, strangers, being transported to open, country air through a simple melody might be really helpful. Maybe a little more country music is exactly what my NYC Qi could use for balance.

So, the show. I love Bonnie Raitt. I love the song "Something To Talk About". Sanjaya's stated goal was to do Bonnie Raitt justice!? Are you KIDDING me!? Watching that song get completely destroyed was perhaps the most painful American Idol viewing experience of the season for me - and believe me there has been plenty of competition for that crown. Why did you give him clearance to do it, Bonnie, why?! I am praying that Sanjaya will go this week. Though I'm starting to worry that he's going to win the whole thing, which I am also starting to admit would be as hilarious as it would be unfairly tragic.

Real quick notes on the others. Melinda was as awesome as always. She looked great, too. Phil Stacey, yes, surprisingly decent. I agree - he's bound for country music. Chris Richardson's Rascal Flatts song was extremely disappointing. I don't even like him, but I thought he'd do better than that this week. Blake - polished and seemingly secure in himself as always --- but his persona is starting to really annoy me. I start to feel sick when I watch him at times. I don't know why, exactly. It's like he's trying too hard or something. I like his songs better if I don't look at him while I'm listening. Jordin's performance - though not perfect - had goosebump moments of greatness. I think she's my favorite right now because besides being able to sing, she's young, yet mature, and she takes risks. I like that. She's probably really really annoying in person though. And, finally, I felt so badly for Lakisha. She tried to put herself out there and sing something she truly connected to, but it just wasn't good. It wasn't the right song for her. I wanted it to be good, but it wasn't. Oh well. Hopefully she'll get a next week.

Now check out one of my favorite country songs ever:

Monday, April 16, 2007

God's Gift to USC? Now Div I Ballin' [Lil'] Romeo Miller

Is Romeo Miller God's Gift to USC?

Maybe it shouldn't be surprising that South Central's own SC has officially cornered the market on the rapper-baller.

The artist formerly known as Lil' Romeo is officially going to be a Trojan come fall of 2008.

Dude. It's hard to decide whether this was a better *business* decision on the part of USC sports or for Romeo/his genius dad Master P. In USC's court, can you imagine what this is going to do for ticket sales? Merchandise sales? Half-time shows? Team after-parties?

Like Jay-Z, Master P (& maybe his prodigy Romeo, too) is not a businessssssman, he's [they're] a BUSINESS, ... MAN.

Not only does Romeo get a full athletic scholarship (like he needed the $$???) and a chance to "focus on his studies & basketball rather than music/Hollywood".... he also gets the opportunity to:
- slam dunk the perfect PR set-up for the May 22 release of his upcoming album Gumbo Station, which maybe not so coincidentally is reported to feature Dr. Dre production, as well as high profile guest spots from people like Rihanna & Lil Wayne
- sub in four years of true-South-Central street cred for his Beverly Hills High past, and
- hedge his music/balling bets with an education from the best film school in the country.

I don't bro-in-law Geoff, a die-hard SC alum & fan, is skeptical about how Romeo's skills will hold up on the Div I courts. Forgetting about revenue benefits for a moment, did USC's NCAA tourney hopes for those 4 years just get stuffed by Master P & Romeo? Or will SC have the last laugh, as upon closer reading of the press coverage, it seems Romeo came in a package with his best friend Comptonite Demar Derozan, #46 in's top 100 of the recruiting class of 2008? Geoff predicts that, overall, this SC news will help make him a repeat winner of Peter's NCAA pool in the years to come!

Thank you, Arturo Sandoval!

Usually it's old Jay-Z faves or some other hip-hop that gets me through my runs. Today, the mind(trumpet)-blowing Arturo Sandoval was AWESOME for helping me salsa-sprint through speedwork! If you think jazz is boring, you clearly haven't listened to this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Good for Brightening a Rainy Day: The Pipettes

Last month I dragged Rich to an Amy Winehouse show. Amy Winehouse was quite the spectacle live - at the time, I actually wrote about it to JShep, who posted part of my mini-dissertation about it on her blog.

Thank god for the Pipettes (the openers), who were as intriguing as Winehouse, only sober and full of spunk and sass and Shangri-La moves. Rich, with his British appreciation for irony, found them "endlessly entertaining". They kept his blackberry in his pocket while we waited for Winehouse. Haha. I think Pitchfork describes them as "post-retro" - that's a perfect description. You have to see them live to fully appreciate them (they are better live/as performers than on recordings), but check them out on myspace if you don't know them already.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Random Josh Rouse Posts

Today I'm in the mood to give a random Josh Rouse plug --because he's a really quality singer-songwriter but not that commercially recognized, and the man deserves more popularity. My favorite song of his is "Winter in the Hamptons" -- it's a really delicate mix of two invented subgenres Rich & I call "whiny white boy music" (e.g., Howie Day) & "happy bop bop music" (e.g., Tahiti 80). Now, that's a hard combo to pull off, but this song does it well.

While searching for an MP3 posting of the studio version of "Winter in the Hamptons" elsewhere in the blogosphere, to my surprise I discovered that another music blogger felt a very similar random-josh-rouse-posting urge just a few weeks ago! And Cronhauer's version on his Your Moment of Zen blog is way more thoughtful than mine. So check it out for his insightful two cents on Josh Rouse & for his mp3s! Thanks Cronhauer!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Soulive - playing NYC tonight & new album

I first heard Soulive a few years ago at one of those scheduled-for-2 am JazzFest shows that Rich & I have now decided we're to old & lame to handle (thank you Scott for dragging us there late night that year!). This band can JAM and through a bunch of different genres, too: funk, soul, jazz, latin, hip-hop, R&B, a little pop and rock at times. Basically, if some groove can be found in it, they're down. Instrumentally, they are one of the most consistently tight bands I've ever seen. Eric Krasno & both the Evans brothers are just solid. If your head isn't nodding at one of their shows, you might not be human (or hearing). I especially love the drummer, Alan (shown in the pic). There might be some kind of correlation between how big your hair is and the quality of your stick skills, since my other fav drummer also sports an awesome 'fro. Hmm... maybe there's a new research study for me. Ha. Does anyone know if Erykah Badu can drum? Actually, maybe I just really like huge 'fros. My favorite Soulive guest vocalist, Reggie Watts is yet another with larger-than-life hair.

Which brings me to some potentially disappointing Soulive news, actually. This new album (7/31/07 release date), No Place Like Soul, features the vocalist Toussaint who has apparently become a full-time member of the band... and while Toussaint is fine(I like his reggae band!)... from the few new tracks I have heard thus far, I think his influence makes the band's sound just a tinge too sunny (that reggae influence maybe). I like Soulive better with slightly more hard-edged soul & NYC swagger (Reggie!!). But have a listen and you decide... hopefully when the whole album comes out, I'll decide I was wrong.

Of the Myspace new tracks, I like "Outrage" (pure instrumental) & "Comfort" the best (they're the groovier ones naturally).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

ADIOS, Legs!!!

Yes, I watch American Idol along with the rest of the country, apparently including Jenny-from-the-Block & "her husband". I'm not as into it the past couple seasons as I was in the beginning, but DVR makes it much less taxing to watch. Esp. on the results shows where they fill time with so much crap. Last night, I wish I HAD fast forwarded through that horrendous group performance of "Bailamos". Didn't anyone else notice how out of tune it sounded??? The whole thing was just a mess - botched arrangement or something in addition to the pitch problems. My friend Jeremy's beloved Enrique Iglesias must have had a stroke if he too watches Idol. ANYWAY... there was one perfectly *in tune* moment on the show last night, and that would be when Ryan announced that we don't have to listen to Haley Scarnato's bad elevator music vocals any longer. FINALLY!!! Sorry, Haley, much as you would like to work the sex appeal-trumps-talent music career strategy, your legs - lovely as they are - don't amount to no J-Lo. They do, however, give me a good reason to link to a sample of one of the funkiest songs about legs ever and for that I'll be eternally grateful:


p.s. Thank you to Blake for reminding me what a good song Mr. J-Lo's "I Need to Know" is. That there is a mighty catchy one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

They're called Illinois...

but they're from my home state of Pennsylvania. Even more specifically, they're from Central Bucks county, which is where Rich & I got married! Pink is from there too, actually. And Justin Guarini. Haha. How embarrassing.

Anyway, don't ask why they're called Illinois b/c I have no clue, but this indie band from right near where I grew up is pretty darn good. Lots of people at SXSW last month thought so too, if you worry about any geographical biases affecting my recommendations.

In honor of a) the fact that Rich is in Sweden this week making the title timely for me and b) the fact that it's just a great song, check out "Alone Again". I like it a ton just the way it is, but during the instrumental sections, I also keep half-expecting to hear it turn into a Fort Minor song or to hear Jay-Z or Eminem start spitting. I guess I think a quality hip-hop remix of it might turn out very cool too.

P.S. No, they don't sound anything like Sufjan Stevens, but I loved his mesmerizing Illinoise as well.

Blogging... who me??

Hello. This is my first foray into the world of blogging. I read a bunch of blogs. I write lots of e-mails that oddly kind of sound like blogs. Still, up until now, I have been resisting taking the Blogger free open mic for some improv of my own.

For some reason, though, tonight I said to myself, "why not?" I've sent enough impulsive, unsolicited e-mails to friends raving about this new song I can't stop playing on repeat or that surprisingly awesome opening act. It seems like it'd be a better idea to post all these things in one spot, where people can go and read what I've got to say if they want to and when they want to.

Maybe in 10 years, it'll be amusing to have a record of the soundtracking I tend to lay over my life -- to chuckle at whatever random songs or artists I fall in ...and often out... of love with. And if I help others find music they like along the way, that'd make me really happy.

So, yeah, this is going to be mostly a music blog, because my most tenacious impulses to gush tend to be about music. But... I have been known to be called "research gal" for reasons that go beyond my obsessive MySpace/Rhapsody/professional music blog treasure hunts and my current gig as a PhD student. So don't think I'm going to be able to refrain from posting about other stuff that you might just NEED to know. Like the excellent Van Gogh & Expressionism exhibit at the Neue Galerie (esp. Egon Scheile). Or the 150% that the incomparable Liev Schreiber is putting out there every night in Talk Radio. Or the fact that next Tues. April 17 from 12 pm to 8 pm is Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day (thanks Emily!).

We'll see how it goes...

in the meantime, I have to:

1) shut down my iTunes and stop bopping around to Devin the Dude's "What a Job" (feat. two of my old favs, Snoop & Andre 3000) and the leak of Mario's "Kryptonite" (feat. Rich Boy) [link to stream, c/o Authorize TV].
2) go to sleep so I can get up in time to go running, since my husband, Rich, & I recently committed to running a half-marathon (yep, the above 2 songs are going on my running playlist. Def don't think I could do this half-marathon thing w/out EITHER of my beloved training buddies... Rich OR my IPod Shuffle), and
3) send a shout to JShep, a *real* (and really amazing) music writer/blogger, who has been encouraging me to start a little blog for a while now... and to my fav Amman-bound future awesome architect, who has been seconding JShep's call and leads by example in the domain of following one's bliss. YOU LADIES INSPIRE ME.