Swear and Shake

New York based band, Swear and Shake, are a force to be reckoned with. Although they’re new kids on the block, they have received numerous high fives for their work on their EP, Extended Play. Members of the band, Tom Elefante, Kari Spieler, Adam McHeffey, and Shaun Savage are currently working on the first full-legnth album, but took some time out to perform a song for Sounds That Matter. Here they are singing These White Walls.

For more information on the band, click on the picture to take you to their website.

Will Shine

I made up a short playlist including eight songs that have won my heart. Click on the picture to take you to the mix.

Tracklist:

The Rebecca West – Lost and Found

Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken – From You To Me

Vespers – Melatonin Rum

Mnemonic Sounds – Habits

Steve Moakler – False Alarms

Handsome and Gretyl – Fighter

Boy & Bear – Blood to Gold

Jhameel – How Many Lovers

If you love these songs, be sure to check out more from the artists. There’s lots more where that came from.

The cover art is a photo taken by the wonderful Kristen Barker of Kristen Lynn Photographie.

I hope you like listening.

Eleven

This week I found five really great artists doing what they do best. Until today, I wasn’t aware of their music, which makes this even more exciting for me because just like you, I’m discovering new music. It’s Tuesday night and these videos will get you feelin’ alright.

Charlie Simpson – Parachutes

Shirock – Still Young

The Front Bottoms – Maps

Austin Gibbs – Wolf Mountain

Belle Histoire – Nightmares

Lex Land

"I think a true artist should be a person who is sincere, who has artistic and emotional integrity, and perseveres through difficulties to keep doing what they love to do. At the same time, part of being an artist is putting on a show. When the two meld, it's a lovely, unforgettable experience."

When I think of great female artists, past and present, some of the names I think of are Stevie Nicks, Fiona Apple, Patsy Cline, and Ann Wilson. Among that list, Lex Land deserves a spot. Not only is she one of the most underrated artists on the scene right now, but she somehow molds her voice so well, she’s able to sing any and every genre. If I had to put together a soundtrack of my life, Lex Land would be the prominent artist featured on it. When it comes to being a true artist, she doesn’t hold back. She dives deep into her soul and creates lyrics that give you chills. She is able to capture one specific moment in her life and draw a beautiful picture you can visualize just by listening. Her music has carried me through good times and bad and my one hope would be that it can do the same for you. Here is my interview with the beautiful Lex Land.

Q. I read that your mother was a karaoke queen and your father was a punk rocker. Did they both have a big influence on you in starting your music career?

A. Yes and no. I was raised, separately and at different times, by either of them with a lot of musical stimulus, but by the time I was old enough to even think about beginning my career as a pop artist, I was relatively estranged from both parents. My father was supportive in my classical singing as a teen, as I think he found it good discipline for me, but I don’t think he was too keen on the idea of me pursuing music seriously. My mother has always been supportive of my decision and work, but I don’t know if I’d say she had a direct influence on it.

Q, What is the moment that you realized you wanted to be a singer and make this your career?

A. I was a freshman in high school, at least three years deep into studying voice, and I had to leave choir rehearsal early to make it to swim practice on time at a remote location. We had been working on Morten Lauridsen’s “Dirait-on”which is a very tender, beautiful song. As my classmates (who were very good) continued to sing, I walked through the courtyard and a fine mist, then soft light rain began to fall in the twilight while I heard their voices fading in the background. I stopped and was present, and just knew that music had to be it for me, forever. In whatever form I could have it. I guess it sounds cheesy, but if there was ever a precise moment I decided, that was it.

Q. What in your opinion is the one thing that makes you and your music stand out from the endless list of female artists?

A. While I would love to say that songwriting is my strongest suit, or that I’m a killer guitar player, I unfortunately don’t necessarily believe those things to be remotely true. I think my voice stands out- it is strong, and well-controlled, and versatile. In one of my sets, a Prince song can follow a Faure piece followed by a big Judy Garland number. It can go from being serious to quirky, from vehement to breaking. Even when the words aren’t the most original, or specific, I think you can understand the deepest meaning from the way I vocalize the lyric. I put a lot of thought and deliberateness into what I do as a vocalist.

Q. In the beginning of your career, you wanted to become an opera singer. What was your reason behind changing the genre of music you wanted to be in?

A. There really are too many reasons, it wasn’t just one thing. A lot of it was circumstantial, and had one or two small events turned out differently I might still be doing it now. Self-expression was easier and more specific when I wrote and performed my own songs… I didn’t have to have people telling me how to stand, how to behave, how to pronounce words. It was a point in my life when my emotions were messy and my personal life resembled that. Making my own music was the only way I could make sense of any of it. All of the sudden, that’s what I was doing and there was no turning back. It happened fairly quickly.

Q. In your opinion, who are some of the more relevant artists out there right now and who would you like to play alongside someday?

A. I’m pretty bad at keeping up with the times and what my “colleagues” are up to. I’m very immersed in my own music scene in Austin and the people I pal around with. On top of that saturation, I don’t have much money at my disposal to buy music. There are many relevant artists doing amazing work at the moment. As far as whom I’d like to play with someday, though, my idols take the prize. Like Prince or Fiona Apple.

Q. Currently, a lot of artists are over-glamorized and make the music part of their performance not as important. In your opinion, what makes a true artist stand out from the rest?

A. Performance is a huge aspect of being an artist, especially considering what type of genre you’re working in. As a professional artist, you are an entertainer as well. I think a true artist should be a person who is sincere, who has artistic and emotional integrity, and perseveres through difficulties to keep doing what they love to do. At the same time, part of being an artist is putting on a show. When the two meld, it’s a lovely, unforgettable experience. It seems as though the over-glamorization you mention is a machine trying too hard to force the product on people, rather than letting the artist and art speak for themselves, while the audiences experience that for themselves.

Q. Where do you hope your career is in the next five years?

A. I’ve always wanted only one basic thing: To just make music with the majority of my time. I want to travel through touring, I want to have free time writing songs and practicing my instruments. I’d like to be able to come home to a cozy place and hang out with my friends and dogs and have a garden. If I can bring home the bread with my music alone, I know I’ll have achieved my greatest goal. It’s tiring running around picking up odd-jobs, then rushing to rehearsals and gigs, and making no money, and then feeling discouraged about your art because of the rat-race.

Q. You’re currently living in Austin, TX. How do you feel the music scene is there and how has it helped your career?

A. There are a lot of facets to the music scene here in Austin, and I’m very happy and content in the little niche in which I’ve found myself. It’s a very community-oriented, sharing, feel-good environment for the most part. I have a wonderful circle of brilliant and knowledgeable people with whom I feel lucky to associate. That has been a bigger help to me as a person and artist than it has to my “career,”but I am much happier to have that. Austin has helped to develop my confidence, and sense of identity, and my communication and musicianship skills. The experience has been truly wonderful, and I feel that I’ve really blossomed here.

Q. Your album, Orange Days on Lemon Street, released in 2008 and in my opinion, is one of the best albums to come out that year. Do you have any plans in the works for new music?

A. My second album, Were My Sweetheart to Go… is going to be released on August 16th on Intelligent Noise Records. We started recording it in July or August of 2009, but the process takes a lot of time and effort from a lot of people, and we’re happy to finally present what we’ve worked so hard on. I’m always writing though, and even since we finished recording last Spring I’ve come up with a lot more material for the next one, whenever that might be.

Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. I don’t think I would bring one of my own songs to listen to. The ideas and stories and sentiments are already burned into my brain- I really only write them down or sing them because I want to have a “hard copy”- so that I have a tool with which I can relate to other people, and they to me, and they amongst themselves. I’m already too stuck in my own head with all my bittersweet nostalgia. I think that’d be the last thing I would want if I were alone on an island. I’d want something that would make me feel less lonely…

To answer one of my own questions, if I were stranded on an island for the rest of my life and could only listen to one artist forever, it would be Lex Land. Her gift would get me through the lonliness. Here is one of my favorites, Play In Reverse.

For more information about  Lex Land, click here.

The End.

 

A Lanky Swede

You may recognize Ola Kluft from former band, The Perishers, however most recently Ola has gone solo working on his own project. Moving his whole life to Vancouver, he has been hard at work on his album, Soon Soon Soon. His music celebrates honesty, laments loneliness, and expresses love, and it’s exquisitely beautiful. Here is Ola performing, Follow My Heart.

For more information on A Lanky Swede, follow this link.

 

Faded Paper Figures

"The challenge isn't really coming up with ideas for songs, but rather writing songs in a way that people can relate to them on an immediate, intimate level, but then also be rewarded for digging a little deeper into the songs' meanings."

Energetic, upbeat, and catchy are three adjectives that could be used to describe Faded Paper Figures. Members of the band, R. John Williams, Kael Alden, and Heather Alden formed in 2007 and have released two full-length albums, their most recent being New Medium. Currently, they’re living in separate states, however they continue to write and record new music. Now that summer is here, let’s welcome it with music that will get your hands clapping and toes tapping. Find out more about Faded Paper Figures, the band that succeeds in getting the party started.

Q. You guys have such a unique band name. Is there a story behind the name?

A. Not so much a story. We liked the idea of our music being a palimpsest, but that sounded too hoity-toity. So Faded Paper Figures was a nice way of gesturing at that, and it has a nice ring to it.

Q. A lot of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Vampire Diaries,” and “One Tree Hill” are featuring indie musicians as part of their soundtracks. Do you think doing music for these shows is helping get your name out there and your music noticed?

A. We’ve been on Grey’s Anatomy 3 times, and I’m sure it has helped get us some new listeners, but it probably hasn’t done nearly as much as online word-of-mouth has done for us. Most of our listeners find us somehow on the Internet I think.

Q. Your first album, “Dynamo,” was met with a lot of acclaim. How do you grow from there with your newest album, “New Medium?”

A. Well, the second album felt like an organic extension of the first; a little larger sound, but still recognizably FPF. We’re happy to report that it’s selling as well as the first. We can only hope that our third album does as well!

Q. Who does the primary songwriting for your albums and what is the biggest influence in your lyrics?

A. The songwriting is a very collaborative process, but it’s fair to say Kael is primarily responsible for the instrumentation and engineering, and John is primarily responsible for the lyrics and melodies. As far as inspiration for lyrics, John has a regular academic career, and his reading gives him a lot to write about. The challenge isn’t really coming up with ideas for songs, but rather writing songs in a way that people can relate to them on an immediate, intimate level, but then also be rewarded for digging a little deeper into the songs’ meanings.

Q. Do you think being from Los Angeles helps get your band more attention?

A. Hmm. I doubt it gets us a whole lot more attention. But it is convenient when we want to do a show or shoot a video, as so much of the music industry is in LA (although that’s slightly offset by the fact that John lives in New Haven, CT, so any time we want to do something like that he has to fly out).

Q. It seems as though all of you take your turns singing on your albums. How do you decide who has lead vocals for the songs?

A. We just sort of think of John and Heather as co-lead vocalists, and it seems to work out pretty well.

Q. You guys are currently in the process of recording new songs. What can we expect from the new album?

A. We’re very excited about this next album. It’s already been a lot of work! We’ve posted one new song, Avida Dollars, on Youtube, and we’ve got several more in various stages of completion. Another new song we’re really excited about that no one has heard yet is called “Friday in the Universe.” It’s a nice blend of our sounds from Dynamo and New Medium. Of course, I wish I could say the third album is almost finished, but it’s just not. We’re shooting for early 2012, and that’s still possible, but only because we release our music ourselves. Most record labels will take 6-12 months (or even longer) to process a finished album and get it ready for release. Because we release music on our own label we can literally finish the album in January and have it on iTunes in February–but again, that’s assuming we can keep up the pace through the end of the year.

Q. You spend a lot of time doing shows on the west coast. Are there any plans to play in any other parts of the US?

A. Not so much “plans” as desires. We would definitely like to get out more, but touring is expensive, and we have to really know that the crowds will be there to see us when we go. So it’s still very possible, but we have to sort of play it by ear.

Q. If you had to choose one band to tour with for the rest of your career, who would it be?

A. Ooh, that’s a hard question. Let’s say “The Beatles”—mainly because you’d need a time machine to make that happen, and there are a lot of awesome things we could do with a time machine.

Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

A. Well, definitely not “The Persuaded.”  The refrain “gotta have our things” would just seem too true at that point, ha ha. 

Here is their video, Metropolis. To find out more information about them, click here.

The End.

Cover It Up

Making your own version of a well-known song can be somewhat challenging. It’s going to be compared to the original and it usually won’t be as good. I say usually, because there has been covers that are better than the original. These covers below are all spectacular. Each of these artists make the song their own, adding their own twists. I hope these get your weekend off to a wonderful start.

Jeffrey James – Rumor Has It (original: Adele)

Harper Blynn – Halo (original: Beyonce)

The Honey Trees – Moon River(original: Andy Williams)

The Rocket Summer – Maps (original: Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Lisa Mitchell – Romeo and Juliet (original: Dire Straits)

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