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Album Reviews- Mary Lambert, Low/Shearwater 7”

I reviewed Mary Lambert’s upcoming EP, Welcome to the Age of My Body, and the Low/Shearwater 7” split, Stay/Novacane, for Seattle Weekly. You can also read these reviews here.

Mary Lambert, Welcome to the Age of My Body (Dec. 17, Capitol Records, marylambertsings.com) When we last heard from Lambert, she’d just released “She Keeps Me Warm,” a spinoff of her now-world-famous solo on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’  “Same Love.” Countless shows supporting Mack and Ryan and one deal with Capitol Records later, the chanteuse has released her second EP, the first since her signing with Capitol. Opener “Body Love Part 1” finds the 24-year-old Cornish grad returning to her poetry roots with a poignant spoken-word piece about the crazy things women do because of their not-always-positive relationships with their body (expensive makeup, diet pills, self-harm). “When do we draw the line?” she asks, before proclaiming it’s time for women to take back their bodies (the lush, driving backbeat here has a bopping Ani Difranco vibe, which is interesting to note). The four-track collection also includes “She Keeps Me Warm” and “Sarasavati,” in which Lambert shows her incredible range over a piano backdrop. The album closes with “Body Love Part 2,” its most emotional song. Continuing where “Part 1” left off, Lambert acts as a guidance counselor, offering more advice on the topic of body image, an ever-present theme in her life and work: “You are worth more than who you fuck/You are worth more than a waistline,” she sings, the emotion building until you can hear her voice breaking. With Body, Lambert deftly tackles important issues so often swept under the rug by urging listeners to confront the part they play in the big picture. By doing so, she proves she’s a compelling voice of her generation. If we see more from her in this vein, she may be this for years to come, too. (Sat., Feb. 1, Showbox at the Market)

Low/Shearwater, Stay/Novacane split 7” (out now, Sub Pop, subpop.com): The split, originally issued on Black Friday and limited to 3,500 copies, reveals a very different side to these two very indie groups. For starters, both are covering R&B tracks (by Rihanna and Frank Ocean, respectively). Yet each band approaches its song differently. Rihanna’s “Stay” is a polished, piano-driven pop ballad and Low maintains that structure but strips it down to its bare essence with lots of pretty keys (and, arguably, more sincerity). Shearwater, on the other hand, really reinterprets “Novacane,” musically and lyrically. For example, while Ocean sings about a “model broad” with a “stripper booty and a rack like wow,” Shearwater praises the “summer girl” who has “skinny legs and eyes like wow.” And while Ocean comes right out and says his “model broad” is doing porn to pay for tuition, Shearwater is intentionally vague, saying simply she’s doing “something” (hipster girl working at a bookstore?). Shearwater also slowed down the tempo, excluded the vocals from the outro, and reworked the R&B-inspired beat into a languid guitar riff, turning “Novacane” into a stark, haunting tune that really matches the song’s theme of feeling numb. Odd on paper, Stay/Novacane is surprisingly well done split that shows the ceaseless eccentricity of Sub Pop and its roster. Oh, and if the opportunity to support a local label isn’t reason enough, all proceeds from the single will be divided between charities Rock for Kids and the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Shearwater, Sat. Feb. 15, Crocodile) AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Mary Lambert Welcome to the Age of My Body Low Shearwater Low/Shearwater Stay/Novacane Stay Novacane album reviews Seattle Weekly freelance writer music writing music journalism

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Concert Previews- Danielia Cotton, Deck the Hall Ball

I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview shows that happened yesterday in Seattle. You can also read these briefs here.

Danielia Cotton There is such a natural grit to this New Jersey–born singer’s voice; whether she’s singing over pedal-to-the-metal rock riffs or taking things a bit slower on a bluesy tune, the attitude and emotion in it is immediately apparent. Her latest album, 2012’s The Gun in Your Hand, is a solid mix of Cotton’s two sides. With Jonny Marnell. El Corazon. 8 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Deck the Hall Ball In what is perhaps its most globally diverse lineup yet, 107.7 The End is back with another Deck the Hall Ball, now in its 22nd year. Scottish synth-poppers CHVRCHES (filling in for Tame Impala) will kick off the event. The first of three English bands, Foals, an indie-rock quintet from Oxford, will play next; followed by everyone’s favorite alt-pop princess, New Zealand’s Lorde, playing her second Seattle show this year (following a sold-out set at September’s Decibel Festival). Sheffield, England–based indie rockers Arctic Monkeys will play songs from their latest album, September’s AM, before fellow Brits (and Mercury Prize winners) Alt-J take the stage. Hometown heroes The Head and the Heart (whose latest album, Let’s Be Still, has received rave reviews since its October release) and French alt-rock quartet Phoenix will take the stage as well. New York’s Vampire Weekend round out the night with jams from its latest, Modern Vampires of the City. Whew! Better bring your dancing shoes. KeyArena. 3 p.m. $68 and up. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Danielia Cotton Deck the Hall Ball 107.7 The End's Deck the Hall Ball concert preview music journalism music writing journalism freelance writing freelance writer Seattle Weekly

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Concert Preview - Bonnie Raitt

I forgot to post this brief last week, but I wrote this to preview Bonnie Raitt’s show with the Seattle Symphony for Seattle Weekly. Click on the bold link to read this brief on SW’s website.

Bonnie Raitt In her 42 years as a musician, Bonnie Raitt has seen and done it all. From the highs of rock stardom (with songs like “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Something to Talk About,” iconic tunes that helped her earn countless Grammy nominations and multiple wins) to dark days (drug and alcohol problems and being dropped from her label while recording an album), the road hasn’t always been easy for the 63-year-old blues-rock singer. Ever resilient, the fiery-haired Californian released her 19th album, Slipstream, last year, her first since 2005. It earned Raitt her 10th Grammy, and, according to Billboard, was the best-selling blues album of 2012. Yes, after more than four decades, Raitt doesn’t show any signs of stopping—and indicated as much after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000: “[Music’s] the thing that still drives me most, and it always will. I’m never gonna get enough.” With Marc Cohn. Benaroya Hall. 8 p.m. $50.50–$104.50. All ages. AZARIA PODPLESKY

Filed under Bonnie Raitt concert preview Seattle Weekly music writing music journalism freelance writer

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Concert Preview - Macy Gray

I wrote this brief to preview Macy Gray’s upcoming show in Seattle for Seattle Weekly. Click on the bold link to read the brief on SW's website.

Macy Gray You know a song is special when listening to it takes you back to the first time you heard it. It was early 2000, and I was a 9-year-old girl awash in the music of Mickey Mouse Club alums, gazing out the window of our sky-blue minivan. Just then, “I Try,” the second single from Gray’s debut On How Life Is, came on, and I recall snapping my head toward the unfamiliar voice, loving that smoky rasp, and thinking “I didn’t know a girl could sound like that.” Gray’s now-iconic vocals struck a lot of people that way; she won a Grammy for “I Try,” and her debut remains her best-selling album. Her latest is Covered, last year’s collection of covers, but it’s On How Life Is that Gray is performing in its entirety on this tour. The album turns 14 this year—14 years since Gray changed the way I think about music. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Macy Gray I Try On How Life Is Seattle Weekly concert preview music writing music writer freelance writer

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Concert Previews - Halie Loren, Eugenie Jones, Dresses, The Colourist

I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview shows happening in Seattle the week of 10/16-10/22. Click the bold link to read each brief on SW's website.

Halie Loren Look up “jazz singer” in the dictionary, and no doubt you’ll see Halie Loren’s picture. The Oregon-based songbird has the quintessential jazz-club voice: equal parts smooth and smoky, especially when she dips into a lower register. Her seventh studio album, Simply Love, was released last month. Jazz Alley. 7:30 p.m. $20.50. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Eugenie Jones Hearing Eugenie Jones sing, it becomes almost impossible to believe she’s been doing it professionally for only two years. The businesswoman turned jazz chanteuse, who as a child sang in the church choir her father directed, has so much control over her voice, handling both high and low notes with immense care, that she’s nothing short of a seasoned pro. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Dresses It doesn’t seem very seasonal to release such bright and poppy tunes just when the leaves are putting on their colorful coats, but Sun Shy, the latest from indie-pop duo Dresses, sounds just like summertime. The harmonizing of Timothy Heller’s lovely lilt and Jared Ryan Maldonado’s more soulful voice and bright guitar work create that extra bit of sunshine you’ve been craving. With Limousines and Mona. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

The Colourist The indie-rock quartet behind the earworm “Little Games” may spell its name as our neighbors across the border do, but this band is from the sunny state of California—something that comes across in the music, full of warm melodies and pop-tinged guitar riffs. Their four-track EP, Lido, is out now. With The Naked and Famous. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Halie Loren Eugenie Jones Dresses The Colourist concert preview music writing music journalism freelance writer Seattle Weekly

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Album Review - Campfire OK

I recently reviewed Campfire OK’s fantastic new album, When You Have Arrived, for Seattle Weekly. You can also read this review here.

Campfire OK, When You Have Arrived (out now, Fugitive Records, campfireok.com): You can tell a lot about a band by listening to its second album. Is it a copy-paste version of its debut? Or does the band experiment and show a bit of growth? While Campfire OK’s sophomore release is not a huge departure from Strange Like We Are, its 2011 debut full-length, When You Have Arrived is definitely in the second category, with a handful of standout tracks and enough added spunk to give their folk-pop sound a real kick. “Wishing You the Best,” the album’s lead single, is our first big introduction to Andrew Eckes on banjo, who adds a gritty vibe to the song. “New Tradition” is especially touching thanks to quintet leader Mychal Cohen’s lyrics about growing older, stepping aside, and letting your young become your old. And the whole group shows its musicality on a lovely instrumental section in “Pretty and Kind.” Since Strange, the lineup has shifted slightly, with South Africa–born Zarni DeWet providing backup vocals and Harvey Danger’s Aaron Huffman taking up bass. Huffman is especially great on the title track, adding a jazzy feel, while drummer Brandon Milner gives the rest of the group a little nudge when needed. DeWet, who really shines on “Wooden Queen” and “Smoke Out Your Eyes,” adds a light contrast to Cohen’s deeper lead throughout the album. When You Have Arrived may not be completely new sonic territory for Campfire OK, but it is proof of the band’s ability to successfully incorporate a brighter sound into its repertoire.

Filed under Campfire OK When You Have Arrived Strange Like We Are Mychal Cohen Zarni DeWet Aaron Huffman Brandon Milner Andrew Eckes album review Seattle Weekly music writing freelance writer

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Concert Previews - Islands, India.Arie

I wrote these briefs to preview upcoming shows by Islands and India.Arie for Seattle Weekly. Click on the bold link to read each brief on SW's website.

Islands This Montreal-based indie-rock quartet is in a way like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of two defunct bands, the Unicorns and Th’ Corn Gangg, in 2005. In a rollercoaster ride of a history that includes several lineup changes, the band has released five studio albums, most recently Ski Mask on Sept. 17. Its lead single, “Wave Forms,” is similar to Family of the Year’s “St. Croix,” with lots of beachy sounds (complete with a sunny marimba line throughout the chorus) that make you sway before your body even realizes what’s happening. There’s a darker vibe to “Becoming the Gunship,” though, especially as Nicholas Thorburn sings “I had a heart/But it was torn apart/Now I’m the gunship.” It’s a varied release from a band who, through multiple ups and downs, refuses to give up. With Bear Mountain and Hibou. All ages. AZARIA PODPLESKY

India.Arie The world was introduced to India.Arie back in 2001 with the song “Video” from her debut album, Acoustic Soul. The song was, and still is, a feel-good anthem for anyone who’s ever felt uncomfortable with, or was judged because of, their appearance, with such life-affirming lyrics as “And I know my creator didn’t make no mistakes on me/My feet, my thighs, my lips, my eyes, I’m loving what I see.” The song went on to garner four Grammy nominations and cement the artist as one of the new voices of soul. Since then, the Denver-born, Atlanta-based singer has released four more albums—most recently SongVersation in June. Its lead single, “Cocoa Butter,” finds India.Arie’s voice in tiptop form, as smooth and soothing as the title suggests, as she sings heartfelt lyrics about healing and love. It’s wonderful to hear that after a four-year break, she hasn’t lost her touch. All ages. AZARIA PODPLESKY

Filed under Islands Ski Mask India.Arie SongVersation show previews concert previews Seattle Weekly music writing freelance writer

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Concert Previews - Ben Rector, The Lumineers, Shenandoah Davis, Bastille, Jonny Craig, Warships

I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview shows happening in Seattle the week of 9/18-9/24. Click the bold link to read each brief on SW's website.

Ben Rector If you’re a fan of Pretty Little Liars or Modern Family, chances are you’ve heard Ben Rector’s voice. The Nashvillian writes pop-rock songs that are perfect for those prime-time tearjerker moments. His latest, The Walking In Between, came out last month. With Tyrone Wells. The Neptune. 8 p.m. $17.50 adv./$20 DOS. All ages. AZARIA PODPLESKY

The Lumineers It’s been a whirlwind year for the Denver-based, Seattle-discovered folk quintet since the release of “Ho Hey.” After countless sold-out shows stateside and across the pond, the band released a deluxe edition of their self-titled debut, complete with five bonus tracks, last month. With Dr. Dog and Nathaniel Rateliff. SOLD OUT. AZARIA PODPLESKY.

Shenandoah Davis After this show, it may be awhile before Seattle hears from Davis; the songstress—and new wife of Sean Nelson—will hit the road with Anthonie Tonnon (also on tonight’s bill), playing the U.S. this fall and Tonnon’s native New Zealand in the winter. With Tomten and Jordan O’Jordan. 21 + AZARIA PODPLESKY.

Bastille The London-based alt-rock quartet released their debut album, Bad Blood, in March, but it wasn’t until the release of “Pompeii,” the album’s fourth single, that the international buzz started rolling in. With Nightmare & the Cat. 21 +. AZARIA PODPLESKY.

Jonny Craig Not to be confused with the similarly named diet maven, this Canadian-American singer has seen his share of troubles. After multiple trips to rehab and getting kicked out of two bands (Emarosa and Dance Gavin Dance), Craig is sober and set to showcase his soulful voice on a new EP later this month. With William Beckett, Kyle Lucas, Hearts & Hands, and Bleach Blonde. All ages. AZARIA PODPLESKY

Warships The L.A.-based quintet’s debut EP, Shadows, is a collection of indie-pop songs in the same vein as those of Young the Giant but with an atmospheric vibe. At five songs, it’s barely long enough to hold listeners over until the band’s debut full-length, tentatively scheduled for 2014. With Secretary, A Leaf, and Modern Phantoms. AZARIA PODPLESKY.

Filed under Ben Rector The Lumineers Shenandoah Davis Bastille Jonny Craig Warships show previews concert previews Seattle Weekly music writing freelance writer

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Q&A with Andrew Belle

This is the interview I did with Andrew Belle for Seattle Weekly’s music blog, “Reverb.” You can also read this Q&A here.

Songwriter Andrew Belle Loves Dining In Seattle

By Azaria Podplesky

As Chicago’s Andrew Belle puts it, he simply outgrew the acoustic music he had been making, most prominently heard on his 2010 debut, The Ladder. Three years and a heavy dose of electronic experimentation later, the independent artist has released Black Bear. The album, which is available at andrewbelle.com, has a more plugged in, alternative sound. Lyrically though, nothing has changed; Belle is still churning out moving songs about relationships–familial, romantic, and religious. While driving from Sacramento to Portland (on his birthday, no less), we chatted with Belle about his favorite dish to cook, Seattle eateries he loves to visit, and his new sound. Andrew Belle plays with Grizfolk at Tractor Tavern tonight.

Happy Birthday! Are you doing anything to celebrate? We stopped at Chipotle, which I love, and we’re all in good spirits, so it’s a good birthday.

Speaking of food, you often post photos of dishes you cook online. How did you get into cooking? I grew up loving food. I wasn’t interested in cooking until college. I started dating a girl who was really into food. We got married and now she’s a chef, so food is very much ingrained into my world just through her. I’ve learned how to cook a little bit; I’m sort of an amateur.

Do you have a favorite dish to make? I make a good vegetarian chili. It was my wife’s recipe, and I started tweaking it. I like things a little spicier, a little more flavorful. She has more of a refined palate. Basically, I took her recipe and add a lot more spice and different flavors.

Do you eat a lot of good food on the road or is it mostly fast food? It’s 50/50. There’s usually not enough time to go places. I have a running list on my phone of places I want to go, but it’s rare that I actually have the time.

Have you had any good meals in Seattle? Serious Pie was on my list. Pretty solid go-to. And The Walrus and The Carpenter. I think we’re going to try to go to Walrus on Wednesday.

It’s been three years since The Ladder. What was that time like for you? Right when I put out The Ladder, I ran into a lot of success, which was awesome. Then six months in, I don’t know how to explain it except to say I decided to head into a different direction. A lot of it had to do with my personal life. Getting back into touring slowly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write another record about, and then I got married last year; there was a lot of inspiration all of a sudden. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated to make another record. A lot of it had to do with the new sounds that I was experimenting with.

Can you tell me about the process of working with those new sounds? I just got tired of the acoustic folk/pop thing. I grew out of it, you could say. I wrote The Ladder in 2008 and this record in 2012, so there’s four years of musical growth. I wanted to make a record that was a lot more vibe-y and ambient, and electronic elements were a big part of that. I knew it would mean going out on a limb, but my rule of thumb was “If I would be happy to listen to this, that’s what I should be striving for.” It really opened up my songwriting and re-inspired me and reinvigorated me to make songs again.

I get a bit of M83 from the album. That was definitely one of the bands I discovered a year or two ago that started getting the wheels turning. M83, Beach House, Washed Out. The music has a lot of those alternative elements. It’s the same as the way I wrote The Ladder, it’s just delivered in a different package.

What does the rest of the year look like for you? My plan is to tour up until the holidays, take the winter off, and then go back at it next year. Hopefully, after the holidays a lot of people have gotten the chance to check out the record and are excited about it and we can really hit all of the country again.

How have fans reacted so far? It’s been overwhelmingly, 99 percent positive. I can probably count on one hand things where people are like “I thought this was going to be acoustic.” That doesn’t really bother me because I made the record that I wanted to make. If it disappointed anybody that wanted to hear The Ladder part two, I apologize; but I felt like if I was going to do it again, I needed to make something that I was going to really appreciate and enjoy playing every night. But if I had to quantify it, I’d say 99 percent has been really, really positive.

Filed under Andrew Belle Black Bear The Ladder interview Q&A Seattle Weekly Reverb music writing music writer freelance writing freelance writer

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Q&A with Taylor Madison of Daylights

This is the interview I did with Taylor Madison of Daylight for Seattle Weekly’s music blog, “Reverb.” You can also read this Q&A here.

Daylight’s Taylor Madison on Sounding Like Pearl Jam

By Azaria Podplesky

Flannel shirts. Long hair. Doylestown, PA-based quartet Daylight sure has the look of a ‘90s-era grunge band, but it’s not so easy to classify its music. Sure, there are hints of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam here and there throughout its debut album, Jar, but the band mixes those influences with deeper, alt-rock vibes to create a sound they can their own. We talked with singer/guitarist Taylor Madison about how he makes money while on tour, recording Jar, and incorporating influences with their signature sound. Daylight play with O’Brother, Native, Darto, and Lo’ There Do I See My Brother at Chop Suey this Wednesday (8/28).

I saw that you do design work for different bands. When did that start? I’ve always drawn. I started painting the last few years. Since it’s a little harder to find work and tour frequently, it’s more easy, schedule-wise, to do something like that. Not that I make very much money doing it, but that’s how I make money sometimes. I did a few shirt designs for friends’ bands a couple years ago. It was a weird transition to start charging people.

Have you done any artwork for Daylight? Our bass player, Joe [Kane], and I do all of our t-shirts and record covers; more so Joe because I don’t really use Photoshop. We come up with the ideas together for the most part.

Do you go for a certain aesthetic? We have certain things that we know we like. It’s never like “It has to look a certain way,” but we know what we like.

In a video from Run For Cover Records, one member said you all wanted to finish writing the album before recording. Why not have a few unfinished songs? We did have a few lyrics and vocal melodies that were left open ended, but all the songs were written. The songs come out more naturally that way. You’re only in [the studio] for a limited amount of time so you settle on a lot of things because you’re on a time constraint. I think that’s stupid. Write the record, have it how you want it, then record it, rather than waste the producer’s time.

Did this recording process differ from previous recording sessions at all? Definitely. All the other records, for the most part, we recorded in our guitar player Jake [Clarke]’s basement. This time, we did it with our friend, Will [Yip], in an actual studio. For this one, we recorded a song a day. I felt like everyone was a lot more comfortable doing that.

Did you record each song as a full band? Sort of. So it had a feel like we were playing together, Jake and I would play along with [drummer Zack Robbins] in the same room but it wouldn’t be recorded.

Did being in an “actual” studio add any pressure? No, we’re really good friends with Will, so it was very casual. It’s a little surreal. On the wall, they have Aerosmith records and Bon Jovi and Billy Joel so it’s a really cool thing. It was inspiring because it was cool to know that we were able to record at a studio that was that prestigious.

In that same video, someone said you weren’t sure how this record would be received because it was a bit different from your older stuff. How would you compare Jar to previous releases? When we started the band, Jake and I didn’t plan on being singers. When we recorded our first record, we didn’t know what we were doing, we just put it together. We didn’t really like how it came out. Now as a band, we have a much better idea of how we want our songs to sound. Soundwise, the albums are different, but it wasn’t an intentional “Let’s stop doing this and do this.”

You all wanted Jar to be heavily influenced by bands you love but also have your own feel. Was it difficult to find that balance? I don’t think so. This record definitely sounds influenced by certain bands, but it sounds like a Daylight record. We all wanted to do that rather than “Let’s make this record sound like Pearl Jam.” We just started writing songs, and they sound obviously influenced by certain bands but at the same time, it doesn’t sound too far off from another record we’ve put out.

What’s next for Daylight? We’re touring to the Fest in Gainesville in late October and early November. Zack, gets married after we get home from this tour so we’re going to take a little break after that.

Are you all going to be part of the wedding? Joe and I are in the wedding. We’re all going, obviously. We’re all really excited; it’s going to be a very good time.

Filed under Daylight Taylor Madison Jar Run For Cover Records Seattle Weekly Reverb interview Q&A music writing music writer freelance writing freelance writer