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Editor's Choice

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Helena Micy

Posted by [email protected] on October 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

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Helena Micy’s Unique Song Writing Approach Shapes R'N'B

(5 Oct 2013)

You may have noticed, there are many artist and genres recognized here at Street Rock Review. To date however, only five percent of the artists reviewed were ever posted on the site and of that five percent, I have only felt compelled to write full blogs on four artists. Our mission is to provide indie artists a platform to be exposed globally and the vision of this “Editor’s Choice” blog is to highlight artists pushing the boundaries of select genres of music. While looking over the site and shifting a few things around this week, I was struck by how many artists featured have taken elements of different genre’s and merged those elements together to set themselves apart from an otherwise oversaturated pool of upstart musicians. It’s this ability which set them apart from other music we normally review. You see, there are thousands of talented musicians which have limited themselves to a “brand” and the more famous an artist becomes the more pressure they find in staying true to and adhering strictly to a certain approach to the creative process. So, in choosing the artist for this blog, I intentionally selected a musician whose creativity is not stifled by anyone else’s expectations and approaches music as just that…music!

You may listen to Helena and think, Oh, this is R'N'B or maybe Soul but hang on a moment. “Don’t change” has a classical Piano lead in and “Leave me alone” is driven by classical guitar. That’s not the R'N'B I’m used to. But what is it exactly, I was expecting from R'N'B? In fact R'N'B has itself been “branded” with certain beats we have all become very familiar with. So, maybe we need to start from scratch and redefine R'N'B. Well, that’s exactly what Helena is doing. It’s not a complete departure from but an enhancement to the depth of the R'N'B listening experience. Classical, Blue’s and Soul. Classical sounds found throughout all genres of music, a Blue’s approach to storytelling and a Soulful expression of the artist emotions.

There are so far only 3 songs to review from Helena; the first song I reviewed is called “Listen.” From a reviewers perspective this is really the most interesting of the songs I heard. There is certainly an inspiration, but whatever it was is very much cloaked. I should imagine that there will be many people deciphering the lyrics for quite some time. As for me, I don’t fully understand the inspiration and I don’t feel it necessary to try hard at understanding it either. It’s the music of this song driving the message and words are really only used to incite deeper universal feelings. Have you ever listened to a song and come away with no real feeling about it whatsoever? Sure you have and I as well. That’s because the artist did not spent any time crafting their approach to evoke emotion. It’s not an easy thing to do and they may be content to create music which is catchy in some way but says absolutely nothing and therefor triggers no emotional response from the listener at all. On the song “Listen” Helena took a lot of time writing and crafting her approach, as a result she created a song as emotional as it is powerful.

Let’s look at the lyrics first. As I said earlier I didn’t really understand the inspiration completely in the song “Listen.” Helena most likely intended it that way. So she uses single words and short phrases to create the emotion. Some listeners will not be actively listening to pick up on these subtleties so the next step is the instrumentals, which again carefully crafted, match the emotion in the song the writer wishes the listener to feel, and then the vocal delivery should also match that same emotion. As a result of this approach you convey everything about what it is you are wanting to say without actually saying it, strait out. You may be asking yourself, why not just say what you want to say strait out then? There could be any number of reasons for this, in this case it makes the topic which triggered the feelings in the songwriter and the emotions felt by that event continually delivered over the entire course of the song without getting so heavy as to turn the listener away from the music. To me this ability and approach to song writing say’s a lot about how an artist’s feels about music and how dedicated they are to creating an amazing experience for the listener.

The second reason I decided to write this blog is to highlight depth and imagination in Helena's music making process. A great artist recognizes that there are sounds throughout all genres of music which can bring depth to their songs and anyone inspiring to create truly great works, dabbles in as many of these instruments and sounds as possible. Let’s say I have a Rock band and I use bass, drums and electric guitar as do most all other bands in the genre. Few of these bands will make it very far not because they are not creating something good but because the sound is similar to so many other artist. There is really nothing there to set them apart. Helena’s music is R'N'B but she understands that the piano and guitar are instruments she can bring to give her songs further depth and it does. As a result it’s not another genre of music created but a more sophisticated and unique sound which helps set her apart. I imagine that as Helena continues to grow with music so will her artistry in combining sounds to create ever expanding and deeper feelings of emotion.

Couple these talents with an amazing vocal delivery and what’s created is something extraordinary. Helena sings with a passion and power which is very much engaging, believable and memorable. The listener comes away with a feeling of conviction, optimism, confidence and strength, which I think, communicate directly to a generation of independent believers. Her lyrics are a flagship for young adults, grown up fast and perhaps under less than perfect circumstances and they shine as an external spiritual force, invigorating ones inner determination and courage.

I am excited about Helena and what she brings to R'N'B and Music in general. Her song writing approach is fascinating, her understanding of triggered emotion through lyrics, instrumental and vocals is imaginative and her experimentation with various instruments to create the best possible listening experience combine to launch what I believe is the next “BIG THING” in R'N'B, Helena Micy.

 http://www.reverbnation.com/helenamicy

John Samson

Posted by [email protected] on September 26, 2013 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

A New Road for John Samson of the Weakerthans

(1 Sep 2013)


I discovered the Weakerthans is 2000 while listening to punk rockers like Fifteen and Mustard Plug, all off the SubCity record label. Disillusioned after the rise and fall of traditional rock, metal and grunge because of what I saw was a lack of honesty to music. Listening to the weakerthans, I once again felt inspired by music and was ready to strip the tags away and listen to music which spoke to me regardless of what genre someone else had tagged it with. There are no walls confining the music and that makes it very difficult to categorize them to any other genre. So, instead of tagging them this or that let's put them in a separate category altogether. A place John sings about in the "Heart of the Continent" off the "Provincial" LP, released as his first Solo album in 2012, "The Crumpled Dark." This may mean nothing to you on the surface but that's exactly where you should start. Throw out all expectations you have for what your musical experience should feel like and let John take you with him, and you will come upon familiar places you have already been and feel things you once felt. The "Crumpled Dark" is within you already and waits to be rediscovered.

 

John's inspiration for "Provincial" came from exploring four different roads in Manitoba, the province where he lives. He sings about the thoughts invoked by places and objects rarely the object itself, which is why his songs speak so universally. In listening to "Provincial" I did not come away with any real understanding about his travels but rather the emotions and the feeling of shared experience. There is a human travel we all take and are still taking (places, people and emotions) shaping us every second of our existence. They forge a place in the "Crumpled Dark", a 6th sense, things we only get whiffs of,  close to our souls. Experiences so powerful they've etched themselves into  the truest essence of what makes us who we are and bare testament, that we have embraced the human experience.

 

Provincial utilizes what I can only refer to as the complexity of simplicity by utilizing every note in a given song to the greatest possible effect. Acoustic guitar, drums and piano, an occasional background fitting to the feeling John is trying to evoke. The instrumentals are smart and well placed though out the album and enhance the poetry of John’s lyrics.  Much like "Jets to Brazil" one comes away moved by the lyrics is these songs and inspired by the power of words, thoughtfully placed. It will have you looking at everything just a little longer, it will give you reflection, understanding and inspire you to reconnect with everything which makes you who you are and drives you to be who you want to be.

 

While I will always be a Weakerthans fan, I was very pleased with John's first solo effort. The entire album for me is a must have but If you just want to ease yourself in, I recommend you start with Heart of the Continent, When I Write My Master's Thesis, Letter in Icelandic..., and The Last And. After that, you will be hooked and most likely seeking more. If you are then check out all the old Weakerthans albums, every one of which is a solid album.

 

If you are a Weakerthans or John Samson fan please share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

You can start your journey by visiting johnksamson.com or theweakerthans.org

Pamela Moore

Posted by [email protected] on September 26, 2013 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Pamela Moore reset the established norms of the metal music genre this summer with her breakout LP, “Resurrect Me.”

(25 Aug 2013)



In an era of talentless “demon screaming” and “overdubs” a phoenix has risen. But, is the establishment ready for a change in direction? They may not be, due to their own interests, but, I and many others are getting tired of the “crap” we keep getting fed by Metal radio and their lack of ability to spotlight all the wonderful and creative musicians in Metal today. I wish I could tell you this LP will catch fire and not only get the recognition it deserves but also redirect the Metal genre for the betterment of mankind but with the current state of Metal being “confused” at best, it is likely this album will be underexposed and therefore never really appreciated. So, it is up to the community to get behind Pamela and drive this albums success.

I have been listening to this album for over a month now and several things struck me as “noteworthy.” First, Out of the 10 songs on the album, all are solid and fit logically in order. I review music all the time and I can’t tell you how many times I either lose interest in or find gaping holes in the album as a whole. I listened from start to finish and then wished for 1-2 more songs. I kept saying things like, “Damn, this girl rocks!” and other expletives not suitable for this post. It really blew my mind and was the best listening experiences I have had in quite some time. Second, Pam’s voice is incredible. In the “Awakening” track she go’s off on a tear. I got goosebumps and a chill up my spine when I first heard that song. Michael Posch, who is credited with guitars, bass, keys and orchestration is a genius and these two collaborating was a match made in heaven. 

Listed below is each track as it appears on the album with my side notes.

1. Acquiescent- Pam waists no time letting you know this is a Heavy Metal experience. Driven by power vocals and driving guitars “ACQUIESCENT” eases any anxieties you may have about front-women in Metal having the same kick-ass edge as other males in the genre.

2. Melt into you- An otherwise basic metal song is taken to new heights with Micheal’s guitar shreds melting into Pam’s vocals and transforming the fabric of this song. 

3. Paranoia- A clever industrial back feel is the perfect intro to the mechanical workings of the human mind and complexity of the psyche.

4. We are damaged- Very well placed instrumentals and clever adds make this a standout song on the album. I love how the kids saying the national anthem ends with a guitar lick. This is a common theme throughout the album, Pam often slows it down just to intro a tasty guitar jam.

5. Resurrect me- One of the best songs on the album. Nice acoustic intro, well placed bells (fyi. bells and metal almost always equals AWESOME!) I don’t know what else to say about this one- Total Jam!

6. The sky is falling-  Mystical overtones and whispers combined with great guitars made me throw up my own air guitar and horns. Ends with “there’s a crack in the sky and I wonder why” I wonder why too…could have been my air guitar…maybe.

7. Awakening- As earlier mentioned Awakening is a rare moment in song writing which taps directly into the senses and blows the mind. Starts slow and ends huge, well done Pam, this is a masterpiece.

8. Breaking down- This may not be a song you want to play for your boys at the next B-B-Q but it fits well into the album and is a wonderful song. It’s slower sweat lyrics give your mind a chance to rest and reflect a little. Even the most hardened metal head has a sensitive side.

9. Desperate by design- Solid instrumentals and vocals but a bit flat in terms of lyrics, at least for me. With that said by this point in the album I’m digging the overall vibe so much it didn’t bother me at all.

10. Wide Awake (Phoenix Rising)- There is nothing ambiguous about this song. Pamela Moore has risen to the forefront. This is a solid album start to finish and stands head and shoulders above most Metal albums today.

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www.ratpakrecords.com/pamelamoore

Letters from Traffic

Posted by [email protected] on September 26, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

"Letters from Traffic" New LP could reset Seattle Music Culture"

7 Sep 2013

I recently spoke to a friend who had seen a “Letters from Traffic” concert in Seattle. They went on and on about how wonderful an experience it was. Not uncommon, I talk to folks all the time about bands and concerts in Seattle. With the number of talented artists saturating the cityscape and diversity of cultures converging in one place, there are amazing events taking place daily. It wasn’t until the end of the conversation when she said, “It was probably the best show I ever saw,” my attention heightened. Having known her for quite some time, and knowing she attends concerts regularly, big show’s like the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney,… name them, she’s probably seen them.  “The best show,” I asked? She confirmed with her eyes aglow, “Yes, it was an incredible night!” Shocked, I sat back and tried to picture this. Horns, trumpets, guitars, a big band with a complex sound, small venue and packed crowd, this is where the real magic happens. These are the nights we will always remember. Deciding to listen for myself now and readied with the sound of rock-n-soul in the background, my mind is carried like a tree branch in the ocean, I felt like I was riding the crest of a wave toward a destination; a place an artistic visionary had cultivated and crafted, with painstaking design.

In that wave was the rat-tat-tat from the engine of a Model “A” Ford, wizzing passed me as if they needed to get somewhere, anywhere, but off the city street, and into a room their soul longed to embrace. It was the people dressed in suits and dresses, short hair styles with little curls, a lace head band with small white beads adorning its elegant design. In this place the culture was changing and people had every reason to be unhappy, but weren’t. They created their own places in back allies all through the city; places you were expected to leave your troubles at the door and enter with a cheerful spirit.  As you entered the room you were noticed, not as a spectator, but as a participant. Your enthusiasm to enjoy the night contagiously passed through the haze of cigar smoke, churned from the movement of dance and shot back from the roar of the trumpets. Through the crowd comes the line of musicians, one after another, snaking themselves through the tables and along the bar. One by one the crowd joins in, unwinding; casting away all but the happiness in their hearts.

That’s the feeling I get when I listen to “Letter’s from Traffic,” I told her. “That’s it! “That’s very much what happened, that night.” she said. But, that’s another time; those places no longer exist, I thought. Are we not living in a time in which folks have all but forgotten how to have fun? Are we not saturated with negativity every which way we turn? Perhaps, our outlets for experiencing life’s happiness and joy are harder to find today. Perhaps, the culture has once again cast these outlets to the back allies of our cities. Perhaps, they still exist. Exist fueled by the passion of artists and patrons ready to sing from the soul and listen with the innocence of their hearts. Perhaps this day marks the reemergence of the speakeasy, with different motives sparking their rebirth.

Their music has been long in the making but the movement has already begun for the lucky few who have experienced one of these memorable shows. November 2013 will launch the first “Letters from Traffic”, “Icarus Iterations” LP. What we already know about the album is it will feature 11 songs, 5 of which are already available for listen on reverbnation.com and bandcamp.com.  “Minotaur”, “City Ways”, “Nova”, “No Devil” and the acclaimed “Dirty”, which was a top 5 finalist,” blues category, 2013 Northwest Music Experience Awards”  all are incredible songs which evoke strong emotions with an instrumental orchestration highlighting this bands growth and musical range. If that wasn’t exciting enough there are still 6 more songs in the “Mastering” stage of production and if the first 5 songs give us any insight into what “Letters from Traffic” has in store, “Icarus Iterations” may be one of the most electrifying releases of the year.

I am very excited about the future release of “Icarus Iterations” and the rise of Letters from Traffic. With an entertaining live show and catalog chalked full of inspiring music, I wonder just how far this LP will go, how many accolades it will produce or what opportunities may develop for the band.  I just hope I get the chance to walk into one of these small venues in Seattle and experience the show as it was earlier described. Seattle has many hidden treasures and “Letters from Traffic” is certainly one of them.

Also, available for download on www.reverbnation.com/lettersfromtraffic is one of their most insightful and inspirational songs “A Holding Light.” This is also one of my favorite songs from the band. A song which exposes the inherent presence of the human soul, untouchable and constantly shifting the Holding Light is your sword and armor, your most powerful protector. You must recognize its presence and fuel it by being true to yourself. It can make the weak strong and the downtrodden successful. So, when the night is over, band stops playing, crowd says their goodbyes, lights go low and you step back out into the cold city streets, do so with your “Holding Light” guiding your way.


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