I Dig it
I am one of those music hipsters who listens to bands you might have never heard of and goes to music festivals you don't know about. Yet.
New to the RockBlock
I first heard Eddie sing at the Hotel Utah Open Mic in San Francisco. He was sporting a confident and humble smile- I was not expecting him to melt everyone's heart with his smooth and buttery voice. Though I grew accustomed to hearing him sing in an acoustic setup with either a piano or guitar as his only supporting instrument, I am loving these sick moody dark beats on his EP entitled Queerjazz. His songs have a provocative and sassy tone that make you feel empowered, and sexy. I am really enjoying the slow whole-body rocking effect I Don't, Morning Ritual and Fight All Night has on me. It really helps that this EP was produced by my dear friend Sam Marshall. Give this lovely Queerjazz a listen.
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I heard Maria Brosgol, or Belle-Skinner, in Brooklyn at an open mic. As she was ready to go on stage, a man who knew I was from out of town ran up to me and said: she's the next big voice of New York.
That got my attention. And holy crap I think and hope he's right. Belle-Skinner has this voice that makes the crystals in a room twinkle and raise every hair on your neck. Her songs create an almost visual, or rather dream like experience, where you are traveling through a windy scenery, and the choruses feel like a whole body experience. This is her second self-produced EP, We Shut Our Eyes. If you don't have time for the whole album right now, make room for Siren Song. It's absolutely beautiful. Here is a video of her performing it.
I had the pleasure to hear and meet Dolores Cobach during a recent trip to Argentina. Her voice had me enthralled.. Dolores is a fantastic performing artist, and has a calming and soothing stage presence and overall aura. But this is something you can very easily pick up in the songs. I heard Dolores at Open Folk in Buenos Aires, which was easily one of the highlights of my trip. Crazy thing is, I told a friend of mine from San Francisco to listen to her and look her up, and turns out they had met a few years earlier at the Hotel Utah Open Mic- is this community small or what? Her voice is deep and enchanting, and her songs captivating. All three songs on this demo album are beautiful. My favorite personal is Time Has Come, as it transports me back to a packed and quiet room, as we all hung on to her smooth strumming and chilling voice. Support her on bandcamp and follow her on facebook.
I had a festival crush on this band as soon as I heard them at Ponderosa in 2016. You know that feeling when a band is totally new and you've never seen them perform before, so you're sitting there eating your thai food on the grass while they warm you up with their first song but their front woman just steps to the front and lets out a few perfect pitch belly screams and crushes it, totally taking you by surprise? Ya that's how I fell for Youngblood- I ate cold thai food that day. The band has a synthpop sound, with a dark twist. I was really stoked when they finally released an EP, and I hope they record that song that's still in my head from 10 months ago.. I really like Broken English, and Alone With You. They have more music videos, including a live music performance of Easy Nothing- but something about this twisted video of Feel Alright just feels... right. Youngblood is currently on a European tour- see their schedule below and maybe try and catch them (see below). Follow them on facebook, and find out more on their website.
I met Ezequiel de Lima, or rather Ivory Tusk, in San Francisco during his performance at the Lost Church. Originally from Buenos Aires, Ivory Tusk was touring solo and traveling with his partner through the USA, road-tripping through California, Utah, Arizona, and hitting up National Parks and venues to experience life à-la-Americana. To finish off the folk-tour, the two spent some time in Nashville Tennessee- during this part of the trip, Ezequiel metHarrison Brougham who offered him free studio time at the Art Institute of Tennessee. They recorded 5 live songs in one afternoon, featuring Ezequiel's voice and his flawless rhythmic finger-picking on the guitar- no edits, and barely overdubs. These minimalist recordings went on to become Ezequiel's EP entitled Zephyr. He has since also released a second EP, called Rising Lights. But knowing the epic story behind Zephyr, I want to take this moment to introduce you to Ivory Tusk and his journey through the American South. Find both of his albums on bandcamp, follow him on facebook and check out his website. Also, he is on tour through Europe right now. Who knows what he's cooking up on this trip!
Once in a while, you come across a musician that's really doing his own thing. Someone's who's taste in music is so broad and his influences so diverse, that there is no limit to his creativity and imagination. Meet Devin Lane- rather Gentle Return, his solo project. His debut album, South, was one I had been patiently waiting for, as I got to hear most of these songs week after week, performed at the infamous Abbey Tavern in the foggy side of SF. That's the fun thing about knowing the musicians- you become emotionally invested in their process and progress. You see them develop their sound and experiment with it.
This album is a combination of edgy acoustic rhythm and gentle electric licks, stimulating your senses and inviting your fingertips to engage in a little closed-eyed dance, bringing you on a psychedelic journey through Devin's lyrics about travel, letting go, toxic relationships, and the sounds that inspired him. I've included a video which is actually not featured in his debut album, but I wanted you to get to fall in love with the magic which is Gentle Return as I came to appreciate him: fully acoustic. Through the months and all of the performances, I loved Switches, Blue and Gray, Mamita Papita, and The Conservatory (hey, I know that place!)- Yes I realize that's pretty much the whole album, he's good shut up. This album sounds like it could be a collaboration between Pink Floyd and Father John Misty. If that doesn't make you want to listen, I'm not sure what will. You can support him on bandcamp and follow him on facebook.
I was originally drawn to No Sinner through the power of their performance. Front woman Colleen Rennison is Rock n' Roll embodied. With a voice that leaves YOU breathless and a stage presence of a born performer, she captivates any audience and reels them in for a roller coaster of emotions and a good time. Her songs and voice are an invitation to dance, daring you to shake your hair out and feel desired and sensual, but also come down and take a journey through your blues. She's quite a bit of a traveler and roadtripper and her music is no doubt influenced by her experiences throughout the different countries and scenes- perhaps that explains why her songs make me want to get behind the wheel and drive into the sunset with the wind in my hair and a cigarette in my hand. I met her a few years ago during her performance at Ponderosa, where she had me at Boo Hoo Hoo- Give that album a listen too. I could share some official videos, but I really wanted to feature a video of her performing my favorite song from this new album, on a rooftop in one of my favorite cities in the world. Do you feel me?
By the way, No Sinner is Rennison spelled backwards. She was born to do this.
I Wish i was a fish
Most people struggle with multitasking- their brain might be able to handle 2 things at the same time- and we're talking about fully committed, body and mind. Then you meet Frida Teresia, also known as I Wish I Was A Fish. This multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer, is her own one woman band. I've seen flawless performances of her singing, playing the piano, and the percussion. At the same time.
Although originally from Stockholm, this fish can be found wherever there is music or water to swim in. She doesn't simply play you a song: she feels the song and performs it for you with her entire being engaged in the music. I wish I could share with you an ounce of the energy and passion she leaves on a stage- but for now, I will settle for sharing this video of her song A Kid at the Open Stage Berlin. She recently released an EP, and I pretty much love all of it. But I'm sort of crazy about Run and Storm. And Follow... Just listen to the whole thing, and remember that most of these instruments if not all, are played by Frida herself.
Ever fantasize about making a band with your best friend, one who completes your sound and finishes your sentences/harmonies, and is just the perfect partner for your musical dream- someone you've know all of your life, and with whom you want to share this rocky journey? Well... meet the sisters behind King Willow, Amanda and Juliana Salguero. These two ladies steal everyone's heart and eyes wherever they go. Originally from Connecticut, they have built a strong and faithful following in their current town of San Francisco. We met at various open mics, where I found out about their recording plans and started to countdown the days until their EP release. They released their album the day before my birthday! Oh girls, what a lovely present. Their songs are... not catchy, that's not the word I'm looking for... They're timeless and ageless. But don't only give in to the dance temptation- beneath the flawless harmonies and beautiful melodies are words that might just bring a tear to your eyes. You might find yourself wishing they'd get out of your head and stop reading your heart and mind so damn well- they're just that good. Listen to all of the songs. Seriously, this EP is the biggest tease! More please!
Bats in the Belfry
It is one of the most refreshing things to see an all female band. Although a rare occurrence, these ladies are not unicorn- they are Bats! Bats in the Belfry is an awesome all lady string trio from Montreal. These multi-talented and instrumentalist ladies create magical and chilling harmonies and reach deep into your soul with their words, offering your blues and darkness some soothing company. Their lyrics are honest, vulnerable, and at times sarcastic- their aura is that of 3 best friends who have helped create beauty out of the turmoil and the darkness in their lives. Don't you just love it when the energy of a friendship reaches beyond the duo and actually uplifts and connects with people outside of the crew? I am enthralled by Demons of Black Despair, Relationshit, and Diamonds. Canadian readers, these ladies will have a lot of shows in Montreal and all around Canada in the coming months, so follow their journey and catch them in your town- you don't want to miss this all powerful, all feminine, all strings trio.
Did you always secretly enjoy the ridiculous songs from The Enema Strikes Back (Blink 182) but feel that you're too sophisticated for the meaningless shit and fart jokes? Do you happen to also prefer funk to punk? Then Shut Up and Listen to Adam Balbo. That's actually the name of one of his tunes, although it's probably helpful to shut the fuck up when trying to listen, since your brain can only do so many things at once- unless you're Frida Teresia from I Wish I Was a Fish, in which case feel free to add some accordion jam to the funkalicious vulgar songs. You might be in for a bit of a shock, as this album is not really suited for children or people who dislike the mention of bowel movements. But if you get past that and give his poetry a real listen, you will find a frustrated philosopher. His lyrics have the tone of a wise unfiltered friend, sitting on a couch, casuallycommenting on the shit you, him, and the world's going through. And it will leave you thinking: "Fuck man.. you're right". Adam's songs are real, vulgar, existential, relevant, andaccessible.
Unlike everyone else I've written about so far, I don't personally know Adam and have never seen him play live. But I hear he's releasing his new album, A Little Bit Ludicrouson on Friday April 21st, at the Lost Church in San Francisco. If you live in SF, go give the guy some love and let him pour it all out for you!
I heard of Ellisa Sun so many times, but never really saw her until much later, after everyone had spoken highly of her soulful songs and her jazzy band. Needless to say, she was pretty hyped up in my head- but thwn I saw her, goddamn she delivered. Her songs and voice can draw people from the back of any room as she soothes your soul with her smoky voice and flirtatious words. But that's not at all to take away from the professionalism and talent of her band. They bring with them a perfect soundtrack to a cozy night at a cocktail bar, with music that is so easy to digest you just might have a second serving. Her debut album entitled Moon & Sun was released very recently, and it's deliciously bluesy. After having played with this same band for several years, Ellisa has developed a well orchestrated melody and harmony. Her songs will make you reminisce about old and new love, and will give you the feels and the chills. I am a huge fan of the moody Angel Town, and the irritated Grand Piano, which make me giggle cause they both remind me of how real and funny this woman can be.
I had the pleasure of meeting Eileen when I lived and played music in San Francisco. She brings with her this southern charm and smirk that makes anyone feel cool and chill by association. Eileen's got a fierce yet angelic voice, and a perfect control of her instrument. She was a part of an achapella group, a choir, and is trained in classical guitar- and this extensive background has contributed to a delightful set of skills to backup and launch her solo music project. Eileen grew up in New Mexico, but calls the West Coast, San Francisco to be precise, home for the last few years. She speaks of topics and feelings that are close to her heart and values, from societal expectations to love, disappointment, home and the sense of longing for a new one. Honey & Zest is the perfect title for her debut album- with a sassy and sweet delivery, her honest and witty lyrics make her music relatable and empowering. Hey There, San Francisco, The Girl Next Door and Portland are among my favorites, as I really feel like I connected with Eileen as a songwriter through the lyrics of those songs. Although she recently released this album, she is already writing and recording new tunes. With an affirmative message, empowering words, and a glowing smile, she is the embodiment of a peaceful protester. She entices the kind of revolution this world needs AND deserves. Join her!
I knew of the legendary EG Phillips before I ever met him, which surprisingly took about a whole damn year while we waltzed in and out of the same open mics. With a vivid imagination and a nonchalant air, EG has created a unique and soothing story-telling genre of music. His crafty lyrics leave any songwriter envious of his penmanship- luckily, EG had the brilliant idea of hosting an event called EG Phest, during which he invited his friends and fellow musicians to learn one of his songs and perform it as a part of his birthday celebration. I have very fond memories of learning The Fish Song, a song that challenges the societal view on our way of life and its impact on the world. The first iteration of this event had 11 participants, which is kind of a big deal- 11 people learning and performing anyone's songs in a single night... I don't think there are that many musicians who can claim that. During EG Phest, he released his book of poetry, Words as Pictures with 107 poems and stories. He plans to make this an annual event, and if you want to participate, you might just be in luck. You can either pick up one of his songs or perhaps go New Basement Tapes Style and come up with your own melody (EG, do you approve of this concept?). Anyways, I digress. His album Fish From the Sky is a compilation of a mere selection of his brilliant writing, and features some of my personal favorite, such as The Fish Song, Sett'n My Own Pace, and The Mystery and Milieu of You. If you want to know more about the upcoming EG Phest in August, then head on over to his facebook page and give it a like, and check out his website.
I met Claire in one of the loudest open mics I've ever set foot in. And I mean, this place is a late night open mic, with bands and friends all catching up and jamming together, very loudly. Sometimes it's really hard to shut off the sounds from everyone surrounding you. But this woman's voice just grabbed me by the collar and commandeered my attention. I would love to claim that the whole bar went quiet- but I sincerely don't remember because for those 3 songs, I was just enthralled by her powerful voice and may have pretended that she was singing just to me. I mean, we did share a pretty intentional smirk at one of the funny lines in her song, so let me just think it is so...
I'm trying to think of a way to describe her music, and I have to say it's a pretty delicious desert made up from a dash of jazz, a timeless Patsy Cline like voice, some Newfound folk (see what I did there? Cause she a maritime lady), and chocolate poured over peach. The peaks and valleys of her songs expose the vulnerable and powerful person behind the words. Her sound is jazzy/country with, of course, the Claire flare. And she sassy!
Yup, I met Elliot at an open mic (contain your shock...), and I was immediately a fan. It's really hard to not laugh when you're with or around Elliot. He's one of those rare singer songwriters who goes to an open mic with a bass- when I used to host an acoustic open mic, he was the only person who required an amp- and although I want to say it was a pain in the ass, it was absolutely worth it. Elliot was always a pleasure to see and hear. He is most memorable for his performance of Give A Fuck, in which he goes through a list of things he doesn't give a fuck about, since he'd rather make his music. But what is "his music" really?
Elliot is a professionally trained and playful musician, who is well versed in several instruments. Perhaps the most magical thing about him though is his ability to just make music out of sounds coming from any object. His debut album Curiosity is a perfect blend of dope basslines, strong vocals, and sounds from a variety of instruments, as well as objects including a conch shell and a piece of bamboo. Check out this video of his song off of his album Curiosity, entitled How Many Sounds From a Piece of Bamboo? The answer is 10. The song is entirely composed using a piece of bamboo. He stamped it, blew it, shook it, hit it, made a guiro out of it, and pretty much did a variation of the above mentioned to create a song. But asides from this experiment with a bamboo and his hallmark statement song, the rest of the album address issues such as common courtesy, friendship, love and heartbreak. You can listen to some of the tunes from his debut album Curiosity on his YouTube Playlist posted below, or purchase a digital copy of the CD on cdbaby or iTunes.
I met Eric at the Open Folk, a high caliber open mic in Buenos Aires- yep, even in Argentina I didn't waste time and went straight to an open mic. What he proceeded to do was unlike anything I've ever seen or heard before. If you're not paying attention to the stage and who is creating the music during his set, you might expect to see a computer, maybe some turn-tables, and a dude with some big headphones scrubbing. But I hope you don't have a lot of eye makeup on because you're going to be rubbing your eyes in disbelief when you see a man, holding a classical guitar- and that is it my friends. Using his mouth, palm, fingers, and a classical guitar, this man creates a full-bodied electronic song. His beats and rhythm, coupled with his precision and accuracy make up some of the deepest house music I've ever heard. His album ERROR is available on Spotify, but before you go ahead and give his album a listen, I urge you to watch at least a few minutes of him doing his thing. I know that you will appreciate his songs more knowing the precise movement of each finger, and the minimalist instrumentation.