My favorite female vocalists.

this banner does not reflect order – im just shitty at photoshop

I am unabashedly attracted to the female voice. I don’t think there is a more enticing and sexier sound in the entire world than a woman with a gorgeous voice. This includes speech as well as singing. I am also in absolute love with music that has a strong female voice leading the way. When I use the word, “strong”, I don’t mean as in power, but in attraction to my ears and overall timbre.

This is my list of my favorite female vocalists and why. I tried to keep it as current as possible as well, so while I like stuff like Billie Holliday and Etta James on occasion (not to mention Urethra Franklin, ha ha, see what I did there?!), they are not amongst my favorites for some weird reason and not included in this list. I also never use the word “best” in my lists, because this shit is subjective.

#1 Hope Sandoval – Hope is the lead singer of “Mazzy Star” (they have never officially broken up) and is currently fronting her own band, “Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions”. I have been infatuated with Hope since I first heard Mazzy Star wayyyy back in 1995 when “Fade Into You” was a “Buzz Clip” on MTV. Her voice oozes sexy and sultry. My one issue with Hope is that she is a raging bitch onstage and can come across very cold, but I also think that is part of her charm at times. I could listen to Hope sing just about anything and she would have me captivated. It doesn’t matter….well yes it does…, but while she’s completely sexy too, she’s just mean.

However, while she may be a bit of a sourpuss, she will absolutely crucify you if you dare talk while she is performing. This is a good thing. Shut your fucking mouths while the band/act is onstage or go to the bar or outside if you want to yammer about insignificant crap at top volume while people are trying to enjoy the music. I’m looking at you, city of Richmond!

Recommended listening: Bavarian Fruit Bread

#2 Yuki Chikudate – Yuki is the lead singer of the shoegaze/alternative/dream pop/i hate fucking pigeonholing genres band, “Asobi Seksu“. She is a Japanese-American that possesses one of the most beautiful crystalline voices I’ve ever heard. Not only is she stunningly beautiful and my personal indie Queen (Fuck the fuck off, Deschanel), but she has the power to silence audiences and hold them completely still with her vocals, as she has done to me 3 times, almost like a Sigur Ros show. I’ve heard her do everything from droning shoegaze to folk, and she has never disappointed me. She is absolutely amazing and I love her completely. I said earlier in this blog that I’d pay to eat her poo, to be fair, that goes for just about any of these ladies in this list, but Yuki most especially. I also like the fact that she lets her fucks and shits fly during on-stage banter. Ironically, Asobi Seksu does a cover of a Hope Sandoval tune (Suzanne) on my recommended listening. I imagine Yuki will be #1 someday, but time will tell.

She sings a lot of songs bilingual, usually a nice mix of Japanese and English. I’d say the majority of songs are in English, but the Japanese ones are beautiful even if I have no clue what they mean. However, “Asobi Seksu” means “playful sex”!

She also gives really nice hugs.

Recommended listening: Acoustic At Olympic Studios a.k.a. ReWolf

#3 Traceyanne Campbell – Traceyanne is the lead singer of indie/twee pop band, Camera Obscura. Traceyanne has one of the cutest voices I’ve ever encountered. There’s something about a Scottish accent on a girl that makes me absolutely fucking giddy. While her voice isn’t particularly powerful, it posseses this airy quality that sucks listeners in and holds them in a totalitarian grip. I am eagerly anticipating seeing her and her wonderful band twice in June, and you can bet I’ll be the one professing my love for Traceyanne in between every song, or at least until she acknowledges it. Just smack me if I am annoying.

Recommended listening: My Maudlin Career

#4 Charlene Soraia – Charlene is the newest member of this list and is an English singer/songwriter. I was first exposed to her about a year ago via a friend in London and I am so thankful for that experience. Charlene has a bluesy, yet airy, almost twee-like quality to her voice. I fell for it immediately. Her 4 EPs are in regular rotation and her upcoming LP is one that I am anticipating greatly. Keep your eye on this one. She is only 20 years old! I am very big on Charlene’s music and have been pawning it off to my friends whenever possible.

Recommended listening: Daffodils & Idylls EP

#5 Laura Marling – Laura is another new member and another English singer-songwriter. Her music has a lot more depth than my #4 and she is already quite popular. I am still relatively new to Laura’s music, but its been in regular rotation for a while now and I am loving it. She is definitely more folk than anything else, and the arrangements of her music are absolutely fantastic. She’s also only 20 years old!! Think English Joni Mitchell.

Recommended listening: I Speak Because I Can

Honorable Mention: Andrea Corr – Sigh. Andrea is a very long-time crush. Sadly, I want to rank her higher in this list, but I just can’t because it’s been very very long since The Corrs (the band she leads with her brother and 2 sisters) have recorded anything worth a damn. They were unfortunately saddled in the late 90s/early 00s with Mutt Lange producing and it watered down what was a unique pop sound with traditional Irish music influence to a typical Americanized canned pop sound. They eventually released an album going back to the roots, but it sucked, and her solo album wasn’t much cop either. Her voice is still great, but the material is just not there as of late, plus she made the mistake of marrying a douchey-looking fucker (who’s also a billionaire) and I’m greatly jealous of that dweeb.

She also did a duet with Bono of all people covering the wonderful “When the Stars Go Blue” by Ryan Adams. BONO. The piece of shit himself! That version made the Tim McGraw raping of that song seem palatable…..well maybe not that bad, sorry for the overstatement. For that alone, she will probably never regain her stature. That being said, she’s still gorgeous and a part of me will always dig her, but damn.

Recommended listening: The Corrs MTV Unplugged


frenetic kinetic…

MP3 – Fleetwood Mac/Lindsay Buckingham – I’m So Afraid

she moves like a reptile….

MP3 – Marissa Nadler – Annabelle Lee

My favorite films of the last 5 years.

Haven’t posted about film yet and I figured tonight was the perfect opportunity to highlight a few of them as I watched all 3 of these again today.

1. In Bruges (2008) – Directed by Martin McDonagh.

In Bruges is a 2008 comedy by the genius Martin McDonagh who is a renowned playwright in his home country of Ireland. It stars Colin Farrell (in BY FAR his best role ever) and Brendan Gleeson as hit men who are sent to the Belgian town of Bruges to hide out after a botched hit ordered by their boss, played to the hilt by Ralph Fiennes.  I love this film for its tone, and the acerbic wit that is present throughout. The humor is very black and the dialogue is absolutely vicious and at times gut-wrenching funny. Farrell is at his best here playing a bit of a dope, but someone you feel sympathy for as the film wears on. There’s midgets, cute Belgian (shes actually French in real life) girls, drug use + fat people jokes. I love this film and it never overstays its welcome. It also has a killer score and soundtrack.

2. Man on Wire (2008) – Directed by James Marsh.

Man on Wire is a documentary about Philippe Petit, a Frenchman who walked a tightrope in between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. This is a gorgeous story filled with passion, love, and suspense. It’s told in a very cool style of both interviews with the participants and dramatic re-enactments. The use of period imagery and music is almost poetic in it’s tone and the pacing is absolutely perfect. This is a beautiful story with its use and placement of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie #1” (one of my favorite classical pieces of all time) being right up there with the use of Pietro Mascagni’s “Rusticana Intermezzo” in Raging Bull, and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in both Platoon & The Elephant Man for cinematic use of classical music.

3. Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Directed by Quentin Tarantino.

I probably don’t need to describe this film, but I will anyway. Inglourious Basterds is Tarantinos tour-de-force historical fiction about a group of Jewish soldiers who are hunting nazis in WWII France. As usual with QT, the dialogue is jaw-droppingly good, the violence brutal, and the comedy black. This is easily Q’s best since “Pulp Fiction”, and there as at least one scene (the bar scene) that I consider to be his best work to date. Every actor is brilliant, especially Christoph Walz who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the lead nazi in the film.

You need to see all 3 of these if you haven’t already.

Feature – April Mix

My friend Grace has been visiting from Seattle for the past few days and it saddens me that she’s going home tomorrow. She asked me to put together a mix for her iPod for the trip home. I did so tonight and enjoyed doing so, so I decided to make it available for anyone else who may be interested. Some of these tracks have been posted here already, but some haven’t. Enjoy. I’ll probably start doing this monthly, or at least when I have the desire to do so.

Thanks for the exceptional birthday, Gracie. 🙂

Click the cover to get at some tuneage.

  1. Holy Fuck – SHT MTN – From the forthcoming release, “Latin”.
  2. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Anenome – “From Their Satanic Majesties Second Request”.
  3. The Dolly Rocker Movement – In My Mind, In My Words, and In My Heart – From “Electric Sunshine”.
  4. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand – From “The Complete John Peel Sessions”.
  5. The Walkmen – Brandy Alexander – From “A Hundred Miles Off”.
  6. The National – Conversation 16 – From the forthcoming release, “High Violet”.
  7. Au Revoir Simone – Knight of Wands – From “Still Night, Still Light”
  8. Erik Satie – Gymnopedie #1 – From “Man On Wire” soundtrack.
  9. Lay Low – I Forget It’s There – From “Farewell Good Night’s Sleep”.
  10. Asobi Seksu – Celeste – From “PEACE” for Amnesty International.
  11. Camera Obscura – Country Mile – From “Lets Get Out of This Country”.
  12. Fleet Foxes – Silver Dagger – From “Your Protector 12 inch single”
  13. Slow Club – Trick Question – From “Let’s Fall Back In Love EP”.

Quick Spotlight – Bands/artists you need to hear…

The Quick Spotlight series is just a quick post with a short paragraph about a variety of artists that I’m currently digging on and why you should too!

The Asteroid #4 – The Asteroid #4 are a neo-psychedelic rock band out of Philadelphia. They play a crossbreed style of psychedelic rock heavily reminiscent of The Byrds, The Kinks, and other bands of that ilk with a heavy smattering of early 90s Britpop (read: The Verve, Oasis, and The Stone Roses). What sets them apart is a fantastic range of musicianship and songwriting skill. It’s quite amazing to me that these guys haven’t shimmied up the ladder in a more glaring way as it took some digging for me to discover them. Sharing a label with bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Lovetones can’t hurt in the effort to expand their fanbase, but growing it outside of that subgenre can’t be easy.

Recommended listening: These Flowers of Ours

Lay Low – Lay Low is the nom de plume of Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir out of Iceland. She is a singer/songwriter in the mold of Neko Case and Norah Jones. She plays a mix of folk, country, and blues poured into a bowl and mixed around. I’ve posted about her before on here, but she deserves a second mention. Her voice seriously sounds like Bjork and Patsy Cline had a child together with Norah Jones sticking her head in and causin some drama at some point. Her songwriting is superb and she’s surrounded by some excellent musicians on her 2nd record, Farewell Good Night’s Sleep, which was released in 2008.

Recommended listening: Farewell Good Night’s Sleep

Gig(s) Review – The National – Live in Richmond, VA – 4/22/2010 and 4/23/2010

The National

This was my 2nd and 3rd time seeing NYC’s (by way of Cincinnati), The National. I was first exposed to them via their 2007 album, “Boxer” which earned widespread critical acclaim and awoke many to their existence.  I immediately fell for that album and ended up diving headfirst into their back catalogue, which is also stellar.

Needless to say, I was extremely excited they were coming to a city I have ties to for two nights, including a show on my birthday (4/23).

I first saw The National at a festival and I can’t say that I was impressed. This was no fault of theirs, I was just a mile away from the stage and was completely disconnected. The tunes were good, but I could not feel the performance. This was rectified over two nights at Richmond’s historic “The National Theatre” (dunno if this was intentional or not), which is a restored early 1900’s performance hall and was a perfect venue for this wonderful band.

Thursday night’s gig was the band’s first gig on their headlining world tour in support of their new album, High Violet, which was reviewed earlier on this blog. Opening this evening, was Richmond band, Marionette, who I had never heard of before. Marionette was quite capable and put on a good set. I recommend you to check them out, especially their song, Orchid, which has become a staple the last few days.

The band took the stage both nights at approximately 9:45 p.m. which was perfect. The Thursday show started a bit questionably. While singer Matt Berninger’s baritone was razor sharp and pitch perfect, they were plagued by some problems in the mix and Matt forgetting some lyrics! However, these very minor snafus were quickly overcome and the band sailed through a setlist of 19 songs, expectantly heavy on “High Violet”. I was very glad that I had listened to the leak before the show as it helped me appreciate the new material even more.

Matt sings with the fans.

The highlight of the Thursday night show was the enigmatic “About Today” which is a highlight of their “Cherry Tree EP” and is one of the most moving tracks I’ve ever experienced live. Another highlight was Matt coming into the crowd during “Mr November” and getting right in some fans faces and singing with us that were situated near the back of the floor.

Another highlight was the Boxer classic, “Squalor Victoria” which was opened with an extended drum solo by Bryan Devendorf. This was one of the first tracks that made me say “wow” when I heard this band and live the song rips roofs off of venues. Berninger’s vocal was on-point and the crowd sung along fervently as the rock gods smiled down upon Richmond during this amazing moment.

The show was swift and over by 11:30 and was closed with a raucous version of the lead track off of High Violet, “Terrible Love“.

Friday's show from the balcony.

Friday’s show was a bit different. While the band was not plagued by the technical issues or lyrical forgetfulness of the first night, it was plagued by a different sort. A hipster-heavy, frat boy laden crowd that never seemed to be able to shut their mouths during the songs. While I respect everyone’s rights to enjoy a general admission show to the best of their ability, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of respect so many people showed the bands on this evening, at least around me. Opening act this evening, was French duo, ARLT, who I found interesting, but were not suited for this crowd or opening for this band. ARLT would be perfect on a rainy Sunday morning while reading the paper, but not for a rock concert. The lack of respect shown for ARLT made me embarassed to be in Richmond this evening. This experience did not turn me off to the show, as I just moved to the balcony to enjoy the music. It was a different vibe up in the balcony and I was able to soak in the music appreciatively.

One thing that really made me happy with the Friday gig was the setlist changes. Again, it was heavy on High Violet, but they also added some old classics, like “Daughters of Soho Riots” into the mix, which was exquisitely performed by Berninger and company.

The overwhelming highlight of both gigs for me was High Violet, which was played in full over both nights (minus one track each night). I feel that this is the band’s best work to date and is their most accessible work as well. The new songs fit in with the old like your favorite old shirt and a new pair of jeans.

I am very happy that I got to experience this band in this type of setting. The venue is a gorgeous building with excellent acoustics and some very cute girls working behind the various bars (I counted 4 bars in a venue with a 1500 capacity), whoever the ticket taker girl was on Friday night, you are gorgeous! I’m eagerly anticipating my next visit to Richmond to see Camera Obscura at the same venue in June. Give me a holler if you’re going!

For me, Thursday night’s gig was stronger from a few perspectives. I preferred Thursdays setlist (Squalor Victoria and About Today were not played Friday) and the crowd was a bit more laid back and appreciative. Friday was far more raucous, which I completely understand, but it was far less respectful of fellow patron and band alike. That being said, I cannot wait to see this band again, which is coming up in July at another festival. I just hope I get the opportunity to see them in a venue this size again, as I fear an arena may be their next destination.

Thursday 4/22 – *****/5 – Top ten gig of all time for me. Ive been to at least 500 gigs in my life, so I rarely can say this!

Friday 4/23 –  ****/5

All in all, if you are a fan of the band or know nothing about them, go see them live. They are easily one of the best live bands on the planet.

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