Author: Morgan Troper

EXPERIMENTS IN SOUND | Tara Jane O’Neil comes to Ojai

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...

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CREATIVE TYPES | Melissa Kantor of The Rockin Edge

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...

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ON THE RECORD | Kris Simeon & The Lonely Onlies: Kris Simeon & The Lonely Onlies

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...

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ON THE RECORD | Anne Hall: Wonderful

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.”...

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ON THE RECORD | Shelby Figueroa: Highwire

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....

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