TVD San Francisco

Five absolutely amazing female singers you need to hear right now

Nicole Atkins (1 of 1)

Every once in a while I take a break from my favorite genre—metal—and go on a singer-songwriter kick. This one came after witnessing a slew of incredibly talented female vocalists hit all at once and who filled up my playlist very quickly. These are five stand-out artists that I have high hopes for in 2014.

I think this is the best of the best in the current new crop of records delivered so far in 2014 and I encourage you to check out each one of the amazing songs below. I’m not sure it’s going to get much better than this, my fellow music lovers. So let’s get started.

Nicole Atkins | So yes, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Nicole Atkins is by far the best female singer of the past decade.

Her voice is simply stunning. A mix of Billie Holiday and Fiona Apple with the power of Janis Joplin, no one can touch her, period. Her new album Slow Phaser is her best work yet and a clear front-runner for album of the year, even this early in 2014.

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TVD New Orleans

TVD Recommends Threadhead Thursday

Jazz Fest doesn’t get started until Friday, but there still are ton of things to do in the days leading up to the fest. Consider heading out to City Park Thursday evening for this great event.

Threadhead Thursday has become an un-official Jazz Fest kick-off party. This is the fifth year the fine folks at the non-profit organization, which provides grant funds to musicians and writers (yours truly included), have thrown the party.

It takes place from 6 PM until 11 PM at the picturesque Botanical Gardens of City Park.

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TVD Dallas

Better Than Ezra,
The TVD Interview

When you’re as “Good” as Better Than Ezra, producing hits and selling out shows comes pretty naturally, really.

Shortly after 1988, the year BTE took root on Louisiana State University’s campus, the band went from college circuit stardom to national fame with their platinum-selling single “Good,” almost overnight. And with later smashing successes “Desperately Wanting” and “Juicy,” among other radio-ready anthems, the New Orleans-based outfit has since become a staple in the early millennium pop rock scene.

The band was among countless similarly styled acts to rise to popularity in the late ‘90s—Semisonic, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty, to name a few. But twenty-five years, seven albums, and several chart-toppers later, Better Than Ezra has continued to maintain a lively presence in the music community and a large base of loyal fans, outlasting many if not all of their contemporaries.

After recently debuting “Crazy Lucky,” their first single since 2009’s Paper Empire, the trio announced the impending release of a new album and tour. In this TVD Interview, founding member, lead vocalist, and guitarist Kevin Griffin tells us about the story behind BTE’s new single, the band’s decision to return to recording, and their commitment to evolving—to becoming a better than ever Better Than Ezra, and keeping fans smitten.

You released your new single, “Crazy Lucky,” last month. What’s the story behind the song?

I was writing it with [producer and composer] Nolan Sipe, and he came in with the idea of a song called “Crazy Lucky.” At first I was like, that sounds a little too kind of “generic pop” of a title to me. But I was like, it rolls off the tongue well, so what if we use the title to talk about this serendipitous nature of love and life. For this song it would be about love, about how random the things that bring you together are.

I went online and Googled how many people there are in the world; it’s 6.78 billion people. So suddenly we made our first line of the song: “There six and three-quarter billion people in this world.” Really we were just sort of Googling different questions and trying to illustrate how random life is, and how happenstance it is, the things that bring you together. Once you’re together it feels like you’re meant to be, but in reality it was just pure luck, or serendipity as they say. But yeah, I knew if I had a title like that, I wanted to have some clever lyric in the song, and I love the way it came out.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Medeski, Martin & Wood + Nels Cline, Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 2

It was through a two-night summer 2012 live stand at the NYC nightclub The Blue Note that Medeski, Martin & Wood inaugurated their performance association with the prolific guitarist Nels Cline. Those with only cursory knowledge of the participants’ musical productivity might view the match as an odd one, but their new live in the studio collaboration The Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 2 illuminates their ability to function as a cohesive unit and serves up a generous helping of forward thinking yet approachable 21st century jazz-rock.

Some surely consider keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood to be little more than purveyors of edgy groove-fusion for the jam-band scene while others will no doubt shortchange Nels Cline as basically just a member of Wilco. The reality is that both the guitarist and MMW have worked extensively in cahoots with a numerous and diverse roster of artists.

A look into their backgrounds will reveal Cline’s massive number of credits, a list that spans all the way back to Openhearted, the 1979 LP from Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia. But if less productive in terms of sheer volume, MMW’s ties to the concepts of jazz-informed collaboration are ultimately just as strong.

This is mainly because they persist as a band in the truest sense of the word. Shaping up as a trio lacking a clearly defined leader, or maybe better said with three crack musicians constantly alternating the leadership role, MMW’s 20-plus years of activity has effectively been a long and fertile expression of collaborative equality. It’s a circumstance that allows them to engage in dialogue with additional players with relative ease and comfort.

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TVD Chicago

TVD Live: Juana Molina at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4/10

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER Juana Molina is a former comedic television actress who made a foray into music in the late ’90s, leaving her acting career behind. Her humor and immense talent as a musical artist carries through in her live sets and the show at Old Town School of Folk Music Thursday, April 10 was no different.

Though she’s flown somewhat under the radar in the States, she definitely has quite the fan base in Chicago, as well as around the world. With this being her first US tour in 5 years and with the critical acclaim of her latest album, Wed 21, Molina has been missed. She is known for her unconventional approach to song creation and her lyrics are abstract rather than topical. For fans of Feist who seek a similar yet even more experimental sound, Molina needs to be added to your playlists. The two artists also toured together in 2008, so there you go.

Molina sings in her native Rioplatens Spanish which made me a little nervous to see the show because I don’t always understand her lyrics. But after getting a taste of Wed 21 in the days leading up to the show, I had to see what this talented lady was all about.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Jackie McLean,
Lights Out!

Since 1991, the Analogue Productions label has been doing a dandy job in reissuing music from a variety of genres in editions designed to surpass the quality of their often elusive originals. They are currently offering a superb slate of releases from the vaults of Prestige, the storied jazz imprint that captured so many of the form’s most important names. One such figure was the great alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, and if his reputation deservedly rests upon his copious recordings for Blue Note, by no means should the ins and outs of his early work be ignored. Lights Out!, available in a 180gm edition, would make a fine introduction to the rewarding apprenticeship of this true giant.

Spending time investigating the selections in a second hand record shop’s well stocked jazz stacks can result in a vinyl-loving aficionado of improvisation-based song-form commiserating, sometimes even cursing aloud (I’ve seen it) that they’ve been dealt a cruel hand by time’s tough circumstances. Oh, to be born too late. High-dollar values abound, and when combined with the deluge of choices, the tide can certainly prove more than a bit disconcerting. Yes, the digital age has made it so much easier to at least hear the music (indeed, the most important part) that resides in those very expensive grooves, but for those of us who value the full experience, great jazz and a well-made LP go together like rich, thick peanut butter and lovingly made homemade jam.

The music of Jackie McLean has landed on a formidable number of records over the years. He cut over twenty albums for Blue Note alone, most of them in the ‘60s, and if I had to own only one it would surely be from that period. But thankfully the prospect of only owning one is something I don’t have to consider. And if the ‘60s stuff brings McLean his biggest accolades, his youthful work both as a sideman and in the leadership role not only provides valuable insight into his later studies in advanced bop (which frequently sought a productive dialogue with free jazz), they also stand up as highly enjoyable sessions in their own right.

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TVD UK

UK Artist of the Week: FUCK ART, LET’S DANCE!

Hamburg’s FUCK ART, LET’S DANCE! have arrived just in time for the summer. Their upbeat electro infused indie should be played full volume, sun blazing, beer in hand.

“Home” was recently released as a free download followed by a video, with the video for single “We’re Manicals!” arriving shortly after.

“Home” is hopeful and optimistic whilst the latter revealed a slightly darker side to the band. Whatever they turn their hand to though, this German four-piece know how to make music that will get you dancing!

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The TVD Storefront

M3-fer: Sebastian Bach, Lita Ford, Tesla’s Brian Wheat–The TVD M3 Rock Festival Interview

The frost is gone (well, mostly), the warm weather is coming, and with it comes another season of outdoor music festivals and amphitheater shows. As if wagging a defiant middle finger at the Fireflys and Coachellas, the annual M3 Rock Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD has become the late Spring celebration of the hair metal glory days of the ’80s.

Now in its 6th year, the M3 Rock Festival will feature two days of music on two stages, with artists such as Tesla, Kix, Lita Ford, Night Ranger, Extreme, Stryper among others.

We had a chance to talk to 3 M3 artists in the week leading up to M3—Brian Wheat of Tesla, Lita Ford, and Sebastian Bach. We got their take on M3, vinyl, and quite a bit more.

Tell us what you’ve been up to lately.

BRIAN WHEAT, TESLA: Well, we’ve been making a new album—we just finished a new album called Simplicity which comes out June 10th on our own label. It will be out on vinyl as well!

LITA FORD: Well, lately I’ve been writing my book. I’ve taken a little bit of downtime just to focus on the book. We’ll go out and do some shows, then I come back and work on the book. We’re almost ready to turn it in to Harper Collins, and it should be out soon! Pretty gnarly stuff. I let it fly.

SEBASTIAN BACH: I’ve got a new album, called Give ‘Em Hell, that comes out April 22nd. I’ve got a new video called “Temptation,” with John 5 and Duff McKagan in it, and they’re also in my band on the record. Also, Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band, and Bobby Jarzombek is the drummer. I have a new TV show called Sing Your Face Off on ABC TV that’s premiering on May 31st at 9pm. I also have a book deal with Harper Collins…I’m working on my book. I’ve got about sixty or seventy concerts this summer to do, so that’s what I’ve been up to.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Ticket Giveaway: M3 Rock Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 4/25-26

It’s almost that time of year again when music festivals roll into town, bringing bands and music lovers of all genres together for a day or weekend full of music, booze, and possible leg cramping.

These fun-filled weekends come in a variety of sizes and genres. The nationwide Vans Warped Tour is basically a traveling concert, hitting up numerous cities in a span of 50+ days. On the west coast, there’s indie, grunge-rock Coachella and SXSW. On the east coast, there’s the CMJ Music Festival for up-and-coming artists, and the hard-rock and metal M3 Rock Festival.

This year, the M3 Rock Festival celebrates its sixth year of bringing metalheads together for one big hurrah at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. Though tickets went on sale last month, if you still haven’t gotten yours, have no worries! We’re giving away two-day lawn passes each month leading up to the festival.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
The Pink Fairies,
Finland Freakout 1971

The Pink Fairies made one of the most monstrous rackets in human history. Theirs was a sound more barbaric than the Battle for Stalingrad, more hammering than 40,000 jackhammers going at once, and fuzzier than my Aunt Edna’s chin. Drummer Russell Hunter made as big a thumping noise as the giant crushing machine—run by a grotesquely fat man named Tiny—back at the Littlestown Foundry, guitarist Paul Rudolph played all fuzz and nothing but the fuzz, and Duncan Sanderson once nearly swamped the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein (which is double-landlocked) by creating a tidal wave with his brutal booming boot-stomp of a bass.

In short, Ladbroke Grove’s finest were fucking fantastic, mayhem-makers and the kind of fun-loving Radico-Freeks who promoted anarchy, drugs, and free music for all. And who played songs with titles like “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout” that went on forever, frazzling your eardrums and shivering your timbers with their feral, in-your-face druggy din. If you live for fuzz and feedback the way I do, The Pink Fairies are Mecca, because they didn’t make them part of their musical palate—they were the band’s entire musical palate. Making a big freaky-deaky hullaballoo was all the Pink Fairies knew how to do.

For the reasons cited above you will rarely find an album with a more appropriate title than Finland Freakout 1971. Recorded at the Ruisrock Festival in Turku, Finland—which, as we all learned in elementary school, was the site of the Åbo Bloodbath in the aftermath of the War against Sigismund—this was a typical Pink Fairies show, only FASTER, because pre-gig a Canned Heat roadie turned the Fairies onto enough speed to keep a kindergarten class wide awake and drawing perfect crayon circles within circles within circles for a full year.

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