Category Archives: +++ vocal harmonies

Brandi Ediss / Simple Friend

I met Brandi Ediss online through my pal Mary Lou Lord (also featured on this blog). I think Brandi is one of the most criminally underrated singer-songwriters out there. Her songs are literally… LITERALLY… perfect pop songs. She also makes absolutely charming and mesmerizing music videos for a lot of her songs (stop-motion animation, random slideshows, etc).

She also records with her boyfriend Frank as “Simple Friend”. Featured here are several of Brandi’s original songs, as well as the Simple Friend song “count to three”.

She is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. She should be as well-known as Laura Gibson, Frankie Cosmos, and other huge indie/bedroom pop artists. Hopefully this blog will get her music out there, much more.

She is freakin’ brilliant. I’d love to make bedroom pop/folk music like this with someone this talented and experienced (especially melodically). I love all the people I work with, but I feel like I haven’t yet found a singer/songwriter who writes brilliant shit like Brandi, and also makes such perfect videos to accompany such perfect songs.

Much love to Brandi and Frank!

Engineers

I know hardly anything about this band. Probably the most underrated band, ever. Currently, they have 5,800 listeners on Spotify. That really isn’t much. Seven albums under their belt. Do not sleep on ANY of them.

 

 

 

Seams

Oh, Seams. Dundee, Scotland’s own. Two tiny four-song EPs (absolutely flawless), then called it quits.

 

What a soaring voice… soaring instrumentals and arrangements. Young brilliance. Perfection. YouTube playlist of “Colours and Maps” EP:

 

This EP is everything perfect about indie rock/pop. Everything perfect. Enjoy.

 

Live acoustic:

Bess Rogers

I discovered Bess when I found out she was Ingrid Michaelson’s backup singer a few years ago. After hearing Bess’s small handful of albums, I realized she’s a better writer than Ingrid (and I love Ingrid, don’t get me wrong). And I like Bess’s voice a lot, it’s like Ingrid’s but with less affectation, I think. The melodies Bess writes are just more soaring, interesting, and quirky. Still catchy as hell, but something sets it apart from the typical pop. One of my favorite songs of hers is “Weak Link” (the last video featured here).

I think Rogers lives in Ingrid’s shadow, a lot. But hopefully, this post will shine a spotlight on her. Because she’s fucking incredible, by herself. Thanks, Bess.

 

 

 

Kings of Convenience

They’ve been around for almost two decades, but I hate how these guys barely get any love….. I love their gorgeous music and it totally calms me down. Tremendously beautiful acoustic guitar layers and arrangements… stellar harmonies, great lyrics, too. “Quiet Is the New Loud”, indeed. Scandinavian songwriting…. is there anything better? Not usually.

I’d love to see these guys live someday… (sigh)

 

Paper Aeroplanes

Oh man, Wales….. how does your country bring us such beautiful, perfect music and beautiful women? You’re like Iceland, only smaller. I love you, so very much.

First Paper Aeroplanes record (playlist of 13 songs):

 

 

 

 

Velocity Girl

Not sure if I wrote about them already, but…. yeah. Pretty much a staple of my music-listening, since 1994. Sadly they weren’t together long… but man, did they leave a powerful impact. From College Park, Maryland / Washington DC area. A lot of people prefer their earlier work, such as “My Forgotten Favorite” or the album Copacetic, but I think their best work is their last stuff, specifically the Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts record (1996).

Sarah Shannon (vocalist) now does solo stuff as her own name. Worth your time, if you like her voice (and how could you not?)

Seapony

Ugh. It kills me that this band broke up recently. Perfection.

Here’s their 2012 album link from Spotify:

Mary Lou Lord

maryloulord

Mary Lou Lord was my introduction to indie rock. If it weren’t for her song “His Indie World”, that I heard on a syndicated indie radio show on Sunday nights called “Spin Radio” (later– “Revolution Radio”), I would have never discovered the numerous classic indie rock bands she references in that song, until many, many years later. But in early 1995, when I first heard this song (lyrics below), I begun my true musical education looking for all those bands’ CDs at local, used record stores. What an education it was, too. What an enjoyable journey. And of course, I had to own all of Mary Lou Lord’s releases, too. And man, I fuckin’ LOVED them. I’ve been influenced by a lot of female musicians in my life, but I think the very first were Juliana Hatfield, Tanya Donnely, and Mary Lou Lord.

A few years after hearing “His Indie World” (from her self-titled EP), Mary Lou released her major label debut, “Got No Shadow”, which has “Lights Are Changing” (Bevis Frond cover, which appears on her first EP), as well as one of my favorite songs, ever, “His Lamest Flame” (the opening track– a lyrical response to Elvis Presley’s “Marie’s The Name (His Latest Flame)”). So creative, and so damn catchy. In my opinion, a much better song than the one Elvis recorded.

As I listen to her, as I’m writing this, it’s again clear that Mary Lou Lord is just one of those singer-songwriters that speaks to the very essence of your soul. You have an emotion, and you put on one of her albums, and she just gets you. It’s not really the other way around… you thinking, “I totally relate to her! Man, what a great song.” No. She relates to YOU. She gets you. That’s just her sound, her energy, her presence. Her music is that transcendent…. it just reaches in, and pulls, pulls, pulls. She’s said of The Bevis Frond (probably her favorite band) how altruistic, honest, and genuine his music is. I can see that in the Bevis Frond, without a doubt, but I also see those very traits in her music.

Mary Lou was very musically active in the 90s, but after she had her daughter (coincidentally, a talented singer/songwriter, herself!), she got really quiet, musically. Most likely because she wanted to raise her daughter right, but man, what a musical void she left during the 2000s.

From 2001-2015 she basically didn’t do much, musically… maybe a one-off show here and there in her native Boston (and she’s never really stopped busking in Boston, which is how she got discovered), and then she did a 2004 album called “Baby Blue”, released on a small label (I really love that record even though so few people know of it).

And then, recently, she dropped a lovely collection of songs on all her fans, with her latest record, “Backstreet Angels.” It is a collection of covers and original songs (as is common with basically everything she releases), and quite a collection it is, indeed. At 50 years of age, she’s still got it. She still sounds like she’s in her mid-20s, doing the gritty acoustic jangle-pop she’s done so well.

On a personal note, I’ve been following her on facebook for a while. A few years ago, I read on her website that she had suffered from a vocal cord condition called spasmodic dysphonia (involuntary spasms during speech, and occasionally singing). I was concerned that maybe that’s why she was so quiet, musically, after 2004. She didn’t post really anything (or at least anything I could see initially). All of a sudden, I started seeing a lot more posts by her, talking about her record and whatnot. I initially wasn’t able to comment on any of her posts, as we weren’t proper friends, but one day, I saw that I was able to comment. I happily commented several times, about how much I love her as a person and as a singer/songwriter, and she responded to every comment I posted. I was so thrilled! Here was Mary Lou Lord, one of my biggest songwriting influences, kinda sorta talking to me on facebook. One day, she said I should send her my music, as she was planning on doing a music blog type of thing in the near future. So honored that she would actually give a shit about some unknown dude’s tunes. She actually added me as a friend proper, one day after that, and I gladly accepted her request. It seems like we have a nice online friendship and rapport going on, in our random facebook banter/comments. She’s just a super-cool woman (and I’d say I’m a pretty cool dude, myself, haha). Seeing her posts usually make my day, as she always has something cool to share (often musically, as do I), and, without me sounding too “fanboy” about it all, I’m just really happy that we shoot the shit and talk music. And, I told her yesterday that I’ve been meaning to promote her new record and talk about her music, and she was really happy to hear that… so, here it is!

Without further ado, please allow me to share some of my favorite Mary Lou Lord songs with you all. And, for you Spotify users (wait, you’re not on Spotify yet? What are you WAITING for?), here is the full album stream of her latest record. Enjoy!

God, those harmonies on “Some Jingle Jangle Morning”…. KILL ME.

Her brilliant duet with Elliott Smith

The Archies song “Sugar Sugar” (with Semisonic). The best cover on “Saturday Morning Cartoon’s Greatest Hits”, by far.

“My Buddy Valentine”, from her latest record

“Because He’s Leaving”, from her 2004 record

And, finally…. “Backstreet Angels”

Buy it here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/maryloulord2

And I’ve got to stream “Got No Shadow”, too…. it’s so worth your time. One of the most overlooked 90s albums, period.

Thanks, Mary Lou. 🙂

“His Indie World” lyrics:

I don’t think I fit into his indie world
Guided By Voices and Velocity Girl
Eric’s Trip and Rocket Ship, Rancid and Rocket from The Crypt
Bikini Kill and Built to Spill, it’s plain to see that I don’t fit
He says my songs are too deep and gloomy
He wishes that I could be more like Jenny Toomey
Just give me my Joni my Nick, Neil, and Bob
You can keep your Tsunami, your Slant 6 and Smog
What’s the story he says Butterglory
I say what’s the news he says the Silver Jews
His Heavenly hang-up is getting me down
And it’s making me wonder why he’s hanging around
Cause I don’t fit into his indie scene
Huggy Bear and Helium and Half-Japanese
Sebadoh and Sentridoh and Superchunk and I don’t know
Doug and Lou and Calvin too and Kim and Kim and Kim and Kim
Yeah I’m stuck in the past and he’s stuck on his four-track
But I can’t get through to his one-track mind
I push play and record and a major chord
Maybe I’ll win his heart this time
Maybe I’ll win his heart this time

Ashton Allen

ashton

Ashton Allen is probably one of the most underrated singer/songwriter out there, period. His facebook only has 871 likes as of today, August 12th, 2015.

Nine years ago, I was in Barnes and Noble, and the music department had this playing over the store stereo. I bought the CD immediately (it was only $7.99, which was dirt cheap for CDs, at the time).

I love this friggin’ record. This is what songcraft is all about. This guy. And man, what a voice.

I don’t know anything about him… some things I’ve read say he’s perhaps a Christian singer-songwriter (which I’m not terribly into, but not completely against– hell, I love Mindy Smith, and mentioned her on this blog, too)… some say he’s just a casual musician who happens to put out great records. There’s hardly anything about this guy, anywhere…. but…. he needs to be out there, more. And he’s a damn good-lookin’ dude. Why is he not more well-known? I mean, I know this record is from 2006, but still… great music is timeless, as you dear readers/listeners know.

A few of my favorite songs from his perfect 2006 record, “Dewdrops”: