Friday, April 23, 2010

A Really Big Shoe

Just when you thought Shoegazer was dead, along comes the group Engineers. For those of you not familiar with the term, Shoegazer refers to a style of downtempo music shere the group comes out, and plays with little emotion or movement and stares down at their shoes. Hence the word, Shoegazer. Engineers were formed in London in 2003 and have a dreamy, atmospheric sound to their music. If one had to describe them, I guess you could say they’re a cross between the Beach Boys and early Pink Floyd. Unusual combination? You bet. Their songs have an odd familiarity to them. It’s like you’ve heard them before, but I can guarantee, they’re all originals.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Jonsi

If you’re a fan of Sigur Ros then you probably enjoy the band’s lead singer Jonsi. (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to add all the bizarre Nordic accent marks). Anyway, he’s released two cds over the last couple of years and they’re a study in contrasts. The first was a collaboration with his boyfriend Alex Somers, and is quite stunning. The album is titled “Riceboy Sleeps” and the titles comes from the fact that at the time, Alex was down on his luck and ate a lot of rice and spent much of his time sleeping. It’s moody and atmospheric and is dreamy without being boring. It features layers of acoustic instruments and a children’s choir and rarely does Jonsi’s voice appear. At times it almost sounds like something you’d hear in church. The second cd is a solo project called “Go” and it’s just about the polar opposite of his first recording and that of Sigur Ros. It’s happy and jumpy with a strong dancy beat. I’m not sure if he’s singing in Icelandic or the made up language he uses in Sigur Ros and several of the tunes are in English. I really enjoy both recordings and have been playing them over and over—rather addicting.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Queen of Swing

The Susie Arioli Swing Band from Montreal sure knows its way around the music of the 30’s and 40’s. The group consists of two guitarists, a stand-up bass, and a snare drum, all backing up the charming Susie Arioli on vocals. Actually, Susie plays the snare, not so much to add rhythm but to give her something to do with her hands, she confesses. The combination of instruments sounds odd, but it sure seems to work. Her voice is silky smooth, and she doesn’t employ some of the usual tricks other jazz singers use. She sings the songs pretty straight forward, but they sure make you want to tap your foot. Susie and her group opened for Ray Charles at the Montreal Jazz Festival back in the last century (I love writing that), and the rest is history. Growing up she listened to Nina Simone, Chet Baker, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Billy Holliday, but her sound is all her own. Another wonderful musical gift from our Canadian neighbors!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dosh Darn it All

Martin Dosh is literally a one-man band. Growing up in Minneapolis, he started taking piano lessons when he was three, switched to drums in his mid-teens, and eventually returned to the keyboards in his early twenties. He’s played in a couple bands and toured with the amazing Andrew Bird for a year. Through the magic of loops, he can make a complete bandful of music. But he doesn’t use tricks for trick’s sake—his music is rich, tuneful, and playful. And it’s great fun to watch him perform.

In the videos I’ve included, Dosh is technically a two-man band. But he does most of the heavy lifting.