The only genre tag as vague and reductive as “pop” is probably “singer-songwriter.” The term — which was once used to describe professional composers-turned-performers like Carole King, Randy Newman and Neil Diamond — has become a much-dreaded pigeonhole, replete with musty “retro” connotations. Experimental artist Tara Jane O’Neil thinks that gender also plays into it. “The singer-songwriter thing is a very gendered idea,” she tells me. “Friends of mine [who are men], like Little Wings, or Will Oldham or Bill Callahan — they’re troubadours or whatever kind of archetype you can apply [to them]. If you’re a woman doing...Read More
Author: Morgan Troper
The Good Old Days Those still living in a fantasyland where rock music is a beacon of authenticity take great exception to its commodification. Ripped jeans, Grateful Dead tapestries, faded Led Zeppelin tour T-shirts — they used to mean something, man. Or so they say. Ironically, rock ’n’ roll always feels more authentic — and looks its coolest — when it revels in its inherent fatuousness. It’s a luxury pursuit. If you’re going to make it, why not dress like royalty? Or at the very least, a royal jester. Glam rock progenitors like Alice Cooper, Roy Wood and, perhaps...Read More
Kris Simeon — the singer and songwriter behind Oxnard-based project Kris Simeon & The Lonely Onlies — has a voice that’s eerily reminiscent of James Taylor in its smoky, “just an ordinary guy” limpidity. Not surprisingly, Simeon’s songwriting also recalls Taylor, but — as exemplified by opener “Don’t You Say” — he’s injected the tame, mellow folk-pop sensibilities of his forebears with a modern, parlor-room flare. Simeon quickly shifts gears with second track “Easier,” a less-raucous affair that finds his vocals and jazzy chording anchored by a wash of woodwind and auxiliary percussion. The standout track from this latest...Read More
Anne Hall’s latest record, Wonderful, may have been released in the summer, but it makes for far more appropriate autumnal listening. With Maxwell Gualtieri producing and Grammy-winning engineer John Baffa at the boards, Hall’s most recent outing pits her passionate and often staggering vocals against a lilting wash of brass and woodwind. While Hall’s voice is enough to carry a tune, Wonderful’s instrumentation and immaculate sonics drive these songs home: See the dueling stereophonic woodwinds in the bridge of opener “Have They Told You” or the Stax bubble bass and electric guitar stabs in should-be hit “Withstand The Pain.”...Read More
The cover of Shelby Figueroa’s newest EP, Highwire, depicts a hot-air balloon careening into the sun-dappled vaults of heaven. It can’t help but bring to mind the gimmick behind Pixar’s Up. The vista is also symbolic of Figueroa’s songwriting; before arriving at its final destination, the balloon must traverse over the sea and through stormy weather. In the self-affirming opening track, “Into a Storm,” Figueroa conjures an ancient wisdom, reminding herself to stay grounded, both literally and figuratively: “I was told to build my house on a rock / Solid, firm foundation,” she sings during the song’s first verse....Read More
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