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I can’t say enough good things about these Seattle sweethearts, The Head And The Heart, whose onstage energy and chemistry has won over many ears, hearts and wallets and whose Sub-Pop self-titled debut record earned them #28 on NPR’s All Songs Considered’s best records of 2011. Sound On The Sound released a bonus Doe Bay Session today of THATH playing No One To Let You Down with some friends against the beautiful backdrop of Orcas Island.

I am hoping 2012 will bring THATH more success and me a sophomore album to add to my collection. For now, enjoy:

 

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This has been a strange winter so far. Christmas trees and holiday lights line the streets of New York City, but without any snow (or a finals period), it’s hard to mark the passage of time. But like every year for as long as I can remember, I have finally arrived in southern Vermont and spent the first day of the season skiing with my family. The shining sun exposed the brilliance of the bright white snow against the icy blue sky—so pristine it almost looked like a painted canvas.

And every season requires a playlist. Songs that evoke days outside in the refreshingly cold air and evenings spent sipping hot chocolate next to a crackling fire. Winter is family. It’s holding someone’s hand and sharing your warmth.

(Click on the image to open the mix in Spotify)

1. January White by Sleeping At Last
2. The Unbearable Lightness by Tyler Lyle
3. My Father’s Father by The Civil Wars
4. Winter Song by The Head and The Heart
5. The Road by Bryan John Appleby
6. White Apple by Blind Pilot
7. From Finner by Of Monsters And Men
8. Wolves by Josh Ritter
9. That Moon Song by Gregory Alan Isakov
10. Old Mythologies by The Barr Brothers
11. Fake Empire by The National
12. Your Move by Kris Orlowski
13. A Country’s King of Dreams by Caveman
14. All My Days by Alexi Murdoch
15. Things Behind The Sun by Nick Drake
16. Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens
17. White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes

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So, remember the band I wrote about…yesterday? The Barr Brothers, whose album is filled to the brim with droning guitar, delicately hushed vocals and pristine harp AND (spoiler alert!!) made it onto my Top 11 Albums of 2011? Well, I am jazzed to be seeing The Barr Brothers for the first time live at Joe’s Pub next Wednesday. AND, exciting news: I am giving away tickets for this show to one lucky winner and his/her guest!!

This is my first ticket giveaway, so I’m going to make this super simple. You have several options to enter.

  1. Post your favorite song from The Barr Brothers on Sounds For The Soul Facebook page.
  2. Post your favorite song from The Barr Brothers in the comment section below.
  3. Post your favorite song or album of 2011 on Sounds For The Soul Facebook page.
  4. Post your favorite song or album of 2011 in the comment section below.

I will choose randomly from this list and announce the winner on Monday night. And, even if you don’t win, you should still catch the show. The details are below.

Joe’s Pub – 425 Lafayette Street
Dec 7, 9:30pm
$12, BUY TICKETS

Watch The Barr Brothers perform Old Mythologies live in the KEXP studios below.

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It’s Thanksgiving—my favorite holiday and the best time to give thanks to the ones you love. I am particularly fond of sharing what you love with those that you love. In that vein, I spend a good deal of time making mixes for my mom—we share a lot of things, and among them is our taste in music. But more often than not, my mixes are filled to the brim with the powerful male vocals of Josiah Johnson, Israel Nebeker, Josh Ritter, Robin Pecknold and others and only sometimes complemented by their female counterparts (Charity Rose Thielen, Kati Claborn). And so the other day, while giving thanks for my most recent mix, my mom challenged me to make her an all-female mix. Shouldn’t be so hard, right?

Wrong.

I consider myself a feminist. But for some ungodly reason my music catalogue has a great dearth of females. As I scrolled through thousands of songs to create the mix, it was literally like pulling teeth. The final version? 16 songs and only 12 artists. This is compared to mixes that usually require me to trim them to fit onto a CD.

So, why am I so drawn to male vocalists? It can’t possibly be that there are more male singers than female. Or that male singers are more influential or popular than female singers. Certainly not.

I think there is definitely a social/behavioral theory that can help explain this phenomenon. But without advanced training, I’ll give you my own take on it. I believe the reason behind my shortage is twofold.

First. As sad as it is, I am drawn to the male voice. I find it appealing, palatable. I can connect to the music because it feels like the lyrics are being sung to me (and aren’t they?!). And so much of music discovery, I have found, is self-perpetuating: You love Fleet Foxes? Listen to The Head and The Heart. You love THATH? Listen to Blind Pilot. You love Blind Pilot? Listen to Gregory Alan Isakov. You love Gregory Alan Isakov? Listen to Bryan John Appleby. And on and on it goes. If I start with male vocals, when do I ever end up with female vocals?

Side note: I dated a guy once who loved female vocalists. He played Aimee Mann, Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse. I found it incredibly endearing and mature. But, why couldn’t I get into it as much as he could?

Second reason. I am more selective and have a shorter attention span with female vocalists. I can listen to Blind Pilot, THATH, Fleet Foxes, Tyler Lyle and others for hours, even days on end. And, believe me, I have. But put Indigo Girls on and I will jam out for 3-4 songs before changing the artist. I absolutely adore Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps, but enjoy Little Wind most when it is sprinkled into a mix instead of played as a full album on rotation.

I have been told that the female voice offers a more limited sound palate. Whether this is actually true, I don’t know. But I certainly feel more limited and restricted in my options for female vocalists.

Maybe it is just that I have not yet found my female vocalist. In recent years, Adele has filled part of this void and she is accompanied by Feist, Indigo Girls, Gillian Welch and a few others. I hope that my list of female vocalists will expand with time and that perhaps my own palate will mature. For now though, this is the mix I came up with:

 I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough

Melt My Heart To Stone by Adele
Someone Like You by Adele
Eagle’s Nest by Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps
Realize by Colbie Caillat
Mushaboom by Feist
Graveyard by Feist
Look At Miss Ohio by Gillian Welch
When You Were Mine by John Heart Jackie (Prince Cover)
Challengers by The New Pornographers
Clementine by Sarah Jaffe
Untitled No. 3 by Sayde Price
Take It from Me by The Weepies
Gotta Have You by The Weepies
Heaven When We’re Home by The Wailin’ Jennys
Closer To Fine by Indigo Girls
Galileo by Indigo Girls

Happy Thanksgiving, and I love you mom, the strongest female I know!

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Latest and Greatest

This is the fifth installment of a weekly collection of the “latest and greatest.” I post two newly discovered songs that have captured my attention and two of my longtime (word of warning, this will be a relative term) favorite songs that are building up dust in my music library.

THE LATEST

Dirty Rain by Ryan Adams
Ryan Adam’s October 2011 release Ashes & Fire, his 13th album, has been a wonderful addition to my library and a great return to the Ryan Adams that I loved on Heartbreaker and Cold Roses. Clearly Mandy is having a good influence. The album opens on the perfect note, with Dirty Rain, a jazzy blend of acoustic guitar and electric piano. The song offers a powerful metaphor for the heartbreak and brutality of a relationship.

Last time I was here, you were waitin’
You’re not waitin’ anymore
And your eyes were filled with terror and smoke from the gasoline
As the stars exploded with gunfire
I saw you smilin’ just before
Last time I was here, you were cryin’
You ain’t cryin’ anymore

To The North by Matthew And The Atlas

I love the banjo. When used appropriately (sometimes that means sparingly), it adds a special dimension to a song. Matthew And The Atlas use the banjo perfectly in To The North. The banjo compliments the unique, raw vocals of Matthew Hegarty. It is not overpowering. In fact, it is almost subtle. But you know it’s there. And without it, the song would not be complete.

THE GREATEST

Challengers by The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers are an indie-rock outfit from Vancouver—a collection of solo artists who come together to produce some incredible music. Challengers is a song that caught my attention many years ago for its beautiful female vocal harmonies. This song is the title track of the band’s 2007 record Challengers. It has recently come back onto my radar—I was challenged to put together an all-female mix—and this will be the centerpiece of the product.

On the walls of the day
In the shade of the sun
We wrote down
Another vision of us
We were the challengers of
The unknown 
 

Lucky by Jason Mraz (feat. Colbie Callait)

In anticipation of a special acoustic performance with Toca Rivera I will have the pleasure of attending at Carnegie Hall in a few short weeks, I have recently unearthed the sweet, unparalleled goodness that is Jason Mraz. His songs formed the soundtrack of my college years. He is pure sunshine, with playful scat singing and a voice reminiscent of Paul Simon. Pop music as its finest, in my opinion. And I never tire of this beautiful melody with Colbie Callait, Lucky. This song brings me back to the playful, lucky joy of being in love with my best friend.

 

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Finally, a video of Hey Marseilles’ “Elegy” is up! I wrote about this song in last week’s Latest and Greatest. Enjoy!

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I am constantly floored by the beautiful, heartfelt music produced by Vandaveer, the Washington D.C.-based duo of Mark Charles Heidinger and Rose Guerin, who met at a DC folk collective known as the Federal Reserve. Their soulful harmonies, instrumental talent and romantic storytelling blend naturally to create sophisticated folk-pop.

Dig Down Deep, released in April of this year, is Vandaveer’s third full length album and blends the diverse influences of Heidinger’s southern, country Kentucky roots with elements of traditional folk. The final product is a cohesive, yet dynamic collection of songs. I’ve selected my three favorites to share, though all 11 tracks are truly fantastic.

Dig Down Deep

The album opens with the title track. The song starts with Heidinger’s pitch-perfect voice and the acoustic guitar, but builds itself up on textured layers of orchestral instrumentation and Rose’s secondary, angelic vocals.

Then you shed your skin down to your bones
You know a house don’t make a home
When you build it all alone
No that’s just a hallow skeleton of sticks and stones

This music video is the perfect illustration of the sound and lyrics of the song.

Concerning Past & Future Conquests

This is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. I am hooked from the very first fingerpick and strum of the guitar and Heidinger’s twangy voice. The instrumentation on this tune is so purposeful and tight, building up to perfectly match the song’s lyrical angst and ending suddenly and without closure.

I dream about you constantly
Side by side, you next to me
Well I want to have it all
I’m gonna have it all

The Nature of Our Kind

This is an incredibly fun track, with a steady drum kick and rootsy vocals from Heidinger. From the moment Rose joins him, singing “OH well the new moon dripped a steady stream / I knelt to wash my face” the song builds its energy, not climaxing until literally the last 13 seconds. It feels like it should be the last song on the album and yet it finds itself exactly halfway through the collection. The song itself is the album’s pinnacle.

 

 

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