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Frontloader Sessions: The Norms

I’m thoroughly enjoying these Frontloader Sessions… yes, in case you were wondering, I am changing the name to simply “Frontloader Sessions.” It’s easier to remember and I like the word “frontloader.” I made an executive decision and (after asking my mom if I could do it) KABLAMMO! Name change.

I also consulted with Sherman Bear. Now, for those of you that do not know who Sherman Bear is, he’s the one sitting with The Norms here:

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As you can see, Sherman is quite at home whilst hanging out with rock stars. He’s so comfortable, in fact, that he asked THEM to get him something to drink. I believe his exact words were, ”I am thirsty and do not understand why I do not have a drink in my paw. You there, fetch me something to quench my thirst… pronto.” Good people, let me tell you… when a bear tells you to do something, you do it.

She could be your next bride.

She could be your next bride.

You know how Wookies will tear your arms from your body? Well, a bear like Sherman will hire a Wookie to make you fall in love with him/her, marry him/her, have kids with you, and then on your 50th wedding anniversary, Sherman will have the Wookie execute “Order 92” which requires the said Wookie to tear your arms from your body in front of everyone at your 50th anniversary party that your kids threw you, then proceed to slap your face with your own arms as he/she says (in Wookie speak), ”Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”

Pretty wicked.

Sherman will be rejoining TheFrontloader.com as a regular columnist in the next coming weeks. He’s been busy helping U2 strategize for 2015. Oh yes… the whole iTunes thing? Completely Sherman’s idea. Say what you will about it, but now U2 is the most un-obscure band in the world. See if you can top that.

Getting back to The Norms…

TheNorms_1I was thrilled to finally meet them. Their song, ”Notes,” was featured a few months ago here on the site. I remarked how much I enjoyed the vocals, the pop-sensibility of the writing, and about how awesome their name is. Contacting them was a must for me, and I was grateful when they accepted my invitation to do a session at the studio.

Ever since I started doing the sessions, I’ve been lucky to have some enthusiastic artists grace the studio. The Norms were no different. They actually showed up early to set up, which was great because it ultimately gave us more time to record and chat. We set them up in a semi-circle, got the levels right, and then hit record.TheNorms_4

Gabriel, the main songwriter, explained to me how important it was that each instrument played a specific part in the music, that nothing was there just for sake of being there. Aside from the rhythm section of Eric (drums) and Curtis (bass), I felt that this quality can be best heard through the lead guitar lines of Austin… his playing complemented the vocals while giving the listener something more to grab hold to. It was almost as if the lead guitar was playing another bassline on top the bass. For some reason it reminded me of Snow Patrol. Very cool.TheNorms_2

An acoustic setting can either be intimidating or exciting for a band that considers themselves an “electrified” band. One of the main reasons why I chose to make these Frontloader Sessions as acoustic as they can be is because I think it’s a test for the song… to see just how good that song is without the bells and whistles of electric guitars and what not.TheNorms_3

When they asked me what songs they should perform, I had two requests: 1) ”Notes” and 2 ”Tomorrow.” They came through with flying colors.

I’m posting the first two videos right now… the other two will be posted later this week. In case you’re wondering, the reason why I’m splitting up the videos is because I can. Hey, I need to have material for the rest of the week, right? Give a guy a break!

Plus, my mom told me to do it this way. So if you have a problem with it, go talk to my mom. She’ll set you straight.

Here’s ”Notes.” Totally dig this song.

And here is “Tomorrow.” I got creative in mixing up the camera shots and had Gabriel sit down for this song. Yes, I’m working hard for you people.

It surprised me when I was told that as a band, The Norms had not done an acoustic show before. Their music lends itself so well to this format… I am hoping that they continue to experiment with acoustic performances, as I think it can help them expand their audience.

Good songwriting, arrangement, and good people. What more can I ask for in a band?

**** Be sure to check in later this week for the rest of the videos!!!! ****

The Norms on: [Official] [Facebook] [Twitter]

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Lucinda Williams New Album and My iPhone Quest


It’s been about a week since I’ve posted here. You can say that I’ve been so incredibly busy that I haven’t had time to write anything. You could say that, I tells ya.

Truth is that ever since the iPhone 6 came out, I’ve been going back and forth on whether to get it or not. Back and forth… literally… back and forth from the store. A total of 5 times now. The first 2 times were just to check the phone out to see if I wanted the 6 or 6+. The other times were to actually get it. Purchase it. Take it home. Sleep with it. Have babies with it. Shower it with gifts.image

But alas, it was not to be. Why, you ask? Because the salespeople apparently did not want my business. It’s a long story that I’d love to recount to you over a beer or something. Instead, I’m going to do my best at relating it to Lucinda Williams’ upcoming new album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.

I’ve been a huge fan of Lucinda Williams ever since her 1998 album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The songwriting blew me away and I fell in love with her gravely, slurry, half-asleep type of vocals. She’s released a bunch of records since, but Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone will be her first studio double album. Pretty cool.

I’ll tell you this much already: the first track, “Compassion,” is worth the price for admission.

imageHow do I know this, since the album won’t be released until September 30? Well, I know people who know people who know people who told somebody that told me that NPR has the entire album available to stream. Click here to check it out.

Yeah, I’m THAT important.

I will say this for Williams’ vocals – all the qualities I love about them have been further accentuated. Just take a listen to how she delivers the first line to the track, “West Memphis.” Sounds exactly like how the iPhone salesperson spoke to me for about 30 minutes when I tried to buy the darn thing. I looked at him and said, “Dude. I stopped listening 10 minutes ago. I just want the phone, man.”

He then proceeded to say the exact same thing again. I stopped him after 5 minutes and left the store.

Nice. I tied it all together.

If you haven’t got the time right now to check out the entire album here (you really should, it’s quite good), here’s an acoustic performance of one of the songs, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” courtesy of Sound Opinions.

https://soundcloud.com/soundopinions/lucinda-williams-something

Very cool, indeed.

In case you’re wondering, and I KNOW you’re wondering… I’m going to try to get the phone again tonight. Wish me luck.

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Rachel Ann Weiss: “Dark is Coming”

1176253_654249884586809_1112747251_n-e1394661991220I’m always fascinated with what direction the kids of famous entertainers take. For example, I think it’s so interesting that Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob Dylan, took to music and has turned out to be such a success. Did he hear his father’s catalog and want to do the same thing? Did Jakob see his dad perform one day and think that dad sucks and he could do better? What was the turning point for him? This makes me wonder what Bono’s kids will do… will they follow their father’s footsteps or will they stay away from the limelight? Or how about Bruce Springsteen’s kids?

Well, I can safely tell you what Kathleen Turner’s kid has done.

Rachel Ann Weiss has taken the music route and has released quite a collection of songs. Her Always EP was just released last week and includes the featured track here, “Dark is Coming.” I’ve been playing this song for the better part of the morning and it’s definitely helping me forget that the current temperature outside is 100°F… and it’s only 8:18am. I’m sure that by 12:00, my face will have burned right off.

Weiss’ voice is instantly rewarding: rich, smooth, and dynamic. “Dark is Coming” showcases these vocals in a reverb-filled, guitar swelling sound. Take a listen…

In an interview with American Songwriter, Weiss reveals that “Dark Is Coming” was written with Buckley very much in mind: “I decided to use a few chords from Jeff Buckley’s ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’ in the chorus and that inspired me to finish the song with him in mind. So, ultimately, it’s about two men that have influenced me greatly: Jeff Buckley and a former love of mine.”

Very cool.

If you dug “Dark is Coming,” then definitely check out the rest of her Always EP. You can hear all of her music on her official site. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with Weiss’ range of styles… she allows herself to branch out in many different directions. It’s always good to keep’em guessing. Like right now… I bet you didn’t think I’d do this:

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That’s right… keep’em guessing.

Rachel Ann Weiss on: [Official Site] [Facebook] [Twitter]

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Brenda Xu: “Light of the Moon” + CD Release Party Info

photo_shoot_john_hancock_070_1244636257A few months ago, I discovered that Brenda Xu was in the process of putting out a new album. I had met Brenda back when I would go perform in coffee shops and bars around San Diego. Her soft, delicate style had always made me take a look at why the heck I feel the need to push so hard whenever I sing. I still struggle with that in my performances… but hey, sometimes “Yelling Asian Guy” is a good selling point.

So upon receiving an advanced copy of Xu’s album, For the Winter, I was pleased to hear that she is still writing some beautiful music that can calm the most savage beast. I popped the CD into my player and drifted away for a good 40 minutes.

Beautiful, beautiful music.

W139Brenda Xu will be officially releasing For the Winter on Thursday, September 18 in Seattle. The CD release party will be held at The Fremont Abbey in The Great Hall. Xu states, “Ever since I visited this space for a ‘vocal jam’ last year, I dreamed of playing here one day, and now I can’t believe that is going to happen next week!” She will be performing with her band, along with a string quartet. I would love to attend that release party, but I will be incredibly busy fighting crime as not only Batman but Robin as well.

Oh? You didn’t know that Batman and Robin are one and the same? Yeah, the costume changes are tough to do, but it confuses the bad guys, and that’s all I need to get the upper hand.

For those of you future super heroes, make sure you come up with a gimmick that shocks and awes the bad guys. In the end, they’ll thank you for it. I still receive thank you notes from all the bad guys I’ve put away. One of them reads, “You da best. Tanx 4 kiking my ass n makin me feel guud about it.” People, that’s what I call appreciation.

Anyhow, you’ll find my favorite track of Xu’s album below. “Light of the Moon” has so far been played 18 times on my iTunes and I’m sure it will rack up more digits. There are some songs that just stop me in my tracks. Thank goodness I wasn’t listening to this whilst fighting crime…

Me: Hold on, bad guys. Hold ON! Will you all just HOLD ON???
Bad Guys: Why? What’s up, Batman and/or Robin? We gon’ throw down or wut?
Me: Of course we will, but hold on until this song finishes. It’s such a good song!
Bad Guys: Werd to yo mutha.

For those in the Seattle area, get your patoots to Xu’s CD release party. For those not in the Seattle area, I hear it’s a perfect time of year to visit, especially on September 18.

https://soundcloud.com/brenda-xu/02-light-of-the-moon-mp3/s-wx0nV

Be sure to visit one of Xu’s links below to pick up For the Winter on September 18. No, it won’t magically appear in your iTunes account…

Here are some upcoming Brenda Xu show dates. I’m looking forward to her California shows. Perhaps I can get her into the Frontloader studio for an acoustic session…? You never know…

10/4 Portland, OR – The Waypost
10/5 Cottage Grove, OR – Axe & Fiddle
10/7 Sacramento, CA – The Torch Club
10/8 Roseville, CA – Beatniks Books
10/9 San Francisco, CA – 50 Mason Social House
10/10 Atascadero, CA – Last Stage West
10/11 Santa Cruz, CA – The Abbey
10/12 Altadena, CA – Coffee Gallery Backstage
10/16 San Diego, CA – Lestat’s

Brenda Xu on: [official] [facebook] [twitter]

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New U2 Album Released Today… Right NOW.


thSo I’m sitting in the comfy chair at my local dentist, checking my iPhone for the latest in Apple news, and whaddyaknow, U2 releases an album. Right there. Like, right there… at that very moment.

I said to myself, “That’s a nice thing to do… those nice Dublin boys…” and then I remembered that I’m at the frikkin’ dentist office, with a bunch of stuff stuck in my mouth, about to experience something extremely uncomfortable. I remarked to my dentist, “Ifhoi rp9ss jlaip” and he replied, “Oh? U2 released a new album today? Fantastic.”

Amazing how dentists can understand anything you say.

To make this short and sweet, U2 released their latest album, Songs of Innocence today. Here’s the amazing thing:

You can have it for FREE as long as you have an iTunes account.

And who doesn’t have an iTunes account??? My grandmother even has one.

Go pick it up right now. I’m spinning it as I type this, and although the verdict is still out on the album, I think Neil McCormick’s review is pretty on target so far.

I’m hoping this album grows on me.

New U2 on any given day is a good day, though. Man, I love this band.

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Frontloader Sessions: Twin Oaks

Back in June, I featured Twin Oaks, a band that I described as, “spacious, evocative, and altogether gorgeous.” At the time of that writing, you could grab their single, “Constellation Lines,” for free. I just checked and you can still download it for free by clicking here.

Twin Oaks 3Man, talk about cool. It’s the start of a new week and already, you can get something for free.

Twin Oaks recently paid a visit to The Frontloader studio to perform for the Black Couch Sessions. I was quite excited about this session and I probably goobed out a bit too much when they arrived. I might have used the words, “Cool,” and “Awesome” more than I usually do. That’s awesome and cool, though, as I’m sure they though my enthusiasm was pretty cool and awesome.

Setting them up was relatively easy. I threw up three microphones, one for each performer, and one last microphone in the back to grab what room sound I could get. Lauren’s vocals were soft yet dynamic, Aaron’s acoustic guitar was the backbone to everything, and Louis’ Stratocaster rang through the room in a way that only a Strat can.Twin Oaks 1

One challenge I knew I would have to face is what to do with the electric guitar. The studio is really just one big cool and awesome room with no baffles or really anything to isolate sounds. I could throw the amp in the closet, but that would take that element out of the natural sound of the room. Our solution was to turn the amp away from the other microphones, turn the volume down just a hair, and go for it.

We started at around 4pm and stopped at around 7:30. We all sat down to listen to each recording after the performances, all the while talking about the band, the music, and the attention they have been receiving. Twin Oaks is currently in the studio recording, which is cool and awesome to hear. Be sure to check out their blog to stay updated on all their happenings.

After we were done, the guys sat down and tried out a few of my guitars. Yes, I have some pretty cool and awesome guitars. I gave them a sample of what they recorded, we said our goodbyes, and they went on their way to a BBQ or something.Twin Oaks 2

After the session I remember sitting down and thinking, “That was cool and awesome.”

I look forward to the new recordings they are working on, and in the mean time, I will continue to enjoy their latest EP, Lion’s Den. You can pick it up here for a mere $5. Well worth the investment, if you ask me.

Looking back at these videos, I can safely say that I am so pleased with the results. I love the simplicity of the music, and Louis’ electric guitar created this aura of loneliness that was wonderful to capture. After hearing them perform in this setting, I believe I will stand by my description of their sound: “spacious, evocative, and altogether gorgeous.”

Here’s the first song they chose to perform, “Find a Way.”

They were kind enough to perform one of my favorite Twin Oaks songs, “Constellation Lines”

Lastly, they gave me a glimpse of a new song, “Ruins.” Very cool and awesome, indeed.

Be sure to stay updated by visiting one of the links below. Thanks again to Lauren, Aaron, and Louis for coming over to perform. I had a great time and hope we can do that again sometime!

Twin Oaks on: [Official Site] [Facebook]

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Vök: “Tension”

PromoImage.jpgI used to play in a band called Möbius Band. We thought we were really sophisticated and progressive, and to our credit, we did have some interesting music. The coolest part of us, though, was our name. We got to use the “ö” in our name, which immediately creates intrigue and prestige.

People would often ask me, “How do you pronounce your band name?” to which I would proudly reply, “What? You don’t know? Come on… it’s easy!” and then I would change the subject to something about how my shoelaces just aren’t jiving with me.

They’d walk away wondering if I actually knew how to pronounce it. To my credit, I didn’t.

So imagine my intrigue when I came across the band, Vök. I figured they must know how to pronounce the “ö” because they’re from Iceland, and it’s common knowledge that everyone in Iceland knows how to pronounce it… just like it’s common knowledge that everything in Iceland is made out of ice. I mean, “ice” is in the name of the place, for Pete’s sake.

Vök is set to release their first EP titled Tension in October via The MuseBox Records. Check out the title track… beautiful, beautiful tension…

This electronica/dream pop is slowly creeping into my veins. I dig it and look forward to hearing more from Vök. If you’re wondering just how much gear is used for a live performance of a song in this genre, check out this video of Vök on KEXP:

I have no idea what she’s singing about, but it must be deep.

Visit Vök’s links below and enjoy the music!

Vök on: [Facebook] [Soundcloud]

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New Ryan Adams Streaming For Your Ears

I received an enthusiastic text from a friend of mine that got me so excited that I nearly fell out of my pants:

“New Ryan Adams! Free stream on NPR”

I don’t really have much else to say except that I am now going to take a listen…

If you’d like to listen with me, click here.

In case you missed that link, it’s right here.

Once again, move your mouse over this link here and click it.

And now, because I don’t know what else to say, are some pictures of shocked babies.

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Ryan Adams on: [Official] [Facebook]