LA-based, Boston export Jenna Lotti crafts anthemic, hopeful pop bangers – ya know the kind that make a hectic day slightly more tolerable? Her dialed-in pop has been featured in American Songwriter and PopMatters with local buzz via Sound of Boston & Boston Globe. A move to LA this past year coincided with the recording of her ambitious new song “Warning Signs” for her forthcoming EP, and if this is representative of what we can expect on her new release, Jenna Lotti is without a doubt going to be a viable fixture in the singer-songwriter / pop landscape.
This enchantingly raw and beautiful track from traveling troubadour Dan Lipton focuses on his time spent in Brooklyn, riding the ferry over the dark sea. It doesn’t hurt to mention Lipton was nursing a hangover when he came up with this aching ballad or that he recorded it in an empty cabin somewhere in Maine. The hallowed vocal breaks he employs help create the heart wrenching feeling of emptiness which purveys the song but unlike the tragic work of Jeff Buckley, whom Lipton has drawn several comparisons to, “Dark Water” is intoned with an uplifting and hopeful quality which balances its tragic vibrations. In that respect, the song is certainly a dynamic listen and a powerful example of what this artist is capable of. Grab the free download below and be sure to catch him this Saturday in DC at Gypsy Sally’s.
When my alarm clock goes off at 6:15 every morning, I groggily roll over and reach for the remote control so I can have the news playing in the background while I slowly get out of bed. Somehow I find it’s a nice way to have some educational background noise as I’m gearing up for another workday.
The thing I often have to stop and think about is how often all we hear about on the news is bad news. ISIS threats, police shootings, riots, virus outbreaks, domestic violence, kidnappings…that’s all we tend to hear about. It’s a nice feeling to feel as though I know what’s going on in the world, but god damn is this shit depressing!
Well it seems that Alex Feder knows exactly what I’m talking about. In his song “Moments of Silence,” his first verse writes the story beautifully for me. He writes “You’re not alone. We’ll all be screwed when the morning comes. We’ll all be in mourning when the screws come undone. Everything is alright, everything is alright. You weren’t wrong, I spend most of my time just waiting around, as if good news will one day just find me somehow. Our hearts are so wired, our loves are so violent. These days the kids dance to moments of silence. Our hearts are so wired, our loves are so violent. These days the kids dance to moments of silence. Everything is alright, everything is alright.” It’s as though he read my mind, but also put a romantic spin on it. That’s the power of great songwriting; it gets in your head and it can create a story all its own at the same time.
So who is this Alex Feder, you might ask? If he sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve heard his music before under a different name. We used to know Alex Feder as pop artist Leonard Friend, who we’ve written about a handful of times in the past. “Moments of Silence” is his first official single as Alex Feder. It’s not very often that I get the time to write about new music on here anymore (which, trust me, is a very heartbreaking reality for me), but when I heard this song tonight, I had to share it with you guys. Hopefully you’ll have a similar reaction to mine.
D Prep posted a cover by Benjamin Francis Leftwich yesterday, which just proves that great minds think alike. Just a day before, I told myself that I needed to blog this song “Box of Stones” by Leftwich. You know, at first sight, I couldn’t take Benjamin seriously because his last name is Leftwich. After about 10 seconds of listening to his music, though, I slapped myself across the face, called myself rude for mocking his god-given name, and fell deeply, deeply in love with his music. This song right here might be my favorite I’ve heard yet. Let’s be honest – what better song is there for a Saturday when you need to just lay low and recuperate from a long week? I’m not sure I can think of one.
Potentially embarrassing fact: I’ve been playing this song on repeat for the past 15 minutes. The lyrics, the sonic qualities, the harmonizing, the soft voice of Benjamin Francis Leftwich – it’s all exactly what I need right now. Every single bit of it. I hope yall can find as much solace in this song as I seem to be finding right now. Off I float into a land of relaxation…catch yall on the flip side.
I’m young and I’m yours, I’m free and I’m flawed; I’m here in your heart, I was here from the start
Welcome to the 5th Artist Picks feature. To refresh your memories, let me recap what this feature entails. We are asking people, be they artists, listeners, or fans, what they would do if they were stranded on an island with an iPod that held only 10 songs. Which songs would they pick and why? Up to bat: Bret Rodysill, better known in the music world as The Record Summer.
Reading back through this, there are more contemporary, and sometimes even cheezy or overwrought songs on this list than I might have expected. But when I really thought about which songs would make me okay, if truly stranded on a desert island–the things that have the strongest memories, heartbreaks, and summers that were, well, great fucking summers–these were the songs I’d personally most like to listen to for better or worse if I had nothing else, and that was the question I was asked. These are the songs that could put me somewhere in the world if I was nowhere in the world.
One January I was sitting in this bar around Brick Lane in London, where there are all these curry houses and rock clubs, and this song came on. I went up to the DJ, asked him what it was, and afterward I was playing it for weeks. That guitar riff is so simple and shrill, but works so well with the melody. It’s a great example of a song with very few changes that sounds bigger. Shows the power of melody, I suppose. I included this song because it always pulls me out of where I am and just makes me want to move around ridiculously, which seems okay in the context of the song. Just Youtube the video and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Plus the lead singer looks a little like Rick Astley. Just saying.
This was an easy one for me. I’ve always loved this song because it’s absolutely sinister, like everything is on the verge of going wrong, like someone just looked across the room at someone he knows he shouldn’t screw, but he will, and she knows it too. It’s about the good parts of the dark parts. There’s something to be said for those parts. The title of the album, “Let it Bleed,” is fitting; sometimes you just have to let go, even if it’s really, really going to hurt later.
This may appear to be an odd choice, and it is, but I couldn’t do without it. An older friend of mine got me into these guys early in high school, and I really started to dive in deep around the time I got my driver’s license. My birthday is at the end of May, so it was perfect–I got my license, and I chose to use it by dicking around with a friend all summer in the car during the hours when I wasn’t at my job at another friend’s pizza restaurant. These were a lot of hours. The Low End Theory was on constantly in the background. Oh, and by the way, this was in Minnesota, the whitest place on earth (according to Chris Rock). He’s probably right. Everyone lost their fucking minds when they heard us pulling up to a stoplight. But we weren’t blaring the bass or anything. We just loved the music.
I chose this for two reasons: (1) because it’s a great song to remember how a simple two piece can be devastating and (2) because I remember hearing them play out at Coney Island a couple of years ago, and when Jack White ripped into this, it was probably the best live display of letting yourself run as a performer I’ve ever seen. Something like when he played Son House’s “Death Letter” at the Grammys and just lost it. You see Quentin Tarentino standing up in the crowd thinking, “He does with music what I try to do with movies.” I normally play and write pretty restrained music, but it’s great to know I could rip the strings off my guitar if I wanted to. I’d just never be able to do it nearly as well as Jack White.
Surprised? I’m not. I’m not saying Will Smith is a good musician, or really even a musician at all, but this song came out when I was eight years old, and holds a certain place for me off in the distance. It always reminds me of times when I didn’t have to worry, as if everything were alright because nothing that went wrong could possibly be my fault, as if I was too young and stupid to know any better, and at the time I was. There’s nothing wrong with pleading ignorance every once in a while, and that’s in a way what this song is for me; I’ll always plead ignorance on this one. This song is a guilty pleasure, and I find nothing wrong with that.
After I had moved to New York and started college, I went to Thanksgiving at this girl’s house in Connecticut. It was wild and strange–her older brother and sister came in drunk the night I got there, and the sister threw a high heel at the brother and split his nose open. The girl was leaving for some work-related thing a few days later, and was preparing for that, so I felt slightly on my own, and everything was just all over the place around me. But, I remember the second day I was there, in that bizarre afternoon pause before you go eat the Thanksgiving meal, she and I were sitting in her study and she put this song on. It was so mysterious to me for some reason, just the sound of it. It made sense. I felt like everything around me was mysterious. It confirmed something fundamental in my mind, and I always still put it on when I want to have some reason to open my eyes up a little at what’s going on.
Mostly to remind me of vocals–the impact of a good vocal break. This is clearly a hip hop song, and most of it is pretty linear, but there’s this pre-chorus (“can’t drive me out of my mind”) where he just kills it, and when I was a young kid sitting upstairs with a collection of three tapes–this, the Top Gun soundtrack, and Roxette’s Joyride (yeah)–I could not get over it. I sang along over and over. I still sing along with it.
The main riff throughout this song just cuts into you like knives. It’s raw and unrestrained. It’s absolutely wild. That’s what I love about it. The guitar tone is about as exposed as it could be. You can hear every little crack in it, and it works. When I record electric guitar tracks for my next record, I’m going to try to go for this tone, exactly, as I’ve always loved it. It just sounds how an electric guitar should sound.
9. Kreuzberg–Bloc Party
I can’t think of a more beautiful song. I never expected to say that about a Bloc Party song, but it’s true. Every time I listen to it, I get uncontrollably sad, and I like that for some reason. Maybe it’s because sadness is an extremely strong emotion for me, definitely stronger than anything close to happiness. But I’m alright with that, as awful as it is. The song sounds like the season’s changing and you’re getting ready for one hell of a winter to come. I had broken up with the first girl I was probably in love with around when I first heard this song, and I related it to that, to the sadness stemming from that, which may have been an obvious reference in retrospect, but still, it was a perfect metaphor for what was coming. And, as it turns out, I was right. That next year was a shitty year.
This is such an abnormal song. There are all kinds of Eastern elements in it, these bends and sighs, and it’s fitting for the subject matter. We’re all always sighing when we’re growing up, always getting over something. In fact, I think I’m still growing up, still bending, still sighing, still getting over something. This song is probably meant to memorialize the specific time and place of that experience–growing up in suburbia–but it sweeps wider. We’re all still growing up in one way or another.
Jon Bell is one of my favorite new singer-songwriters. He released his album What Do You Hear, What Do You Say back in January, and I immediately fell in love with his sweet, acoustic sound. Here’s a video of him playing the song on a roofdeck in Manhattan. The one thing I’ll complain about is his harmonizer smoking a cigarette during the video. I mean, come on, man…you have a good voice, why do you that to yourself? Lame. Otherwise, great video.
Barzin is a singer-songwriter from Toronto who just crossed my radar for the first time a few days ago. One of the best things that comes my way each day is an email from a listserv that I’m on where a dude named Sonnyred sends out a track each day. You know, bloggers need to be grounded sometimes. We get all “I know the best music in the world and you don’t” on people, but that’s not always the case. I sure like to keep my head on straight, and this listserv is one of the things that helps me do that. Just the other day somebody sent out this song by Barzin and said in his own words, “Listen to this on your own and let it transport you to an emotional place where your imagination is your only hope of making sense of everything. Today’s song makes me want to just hang my head down and cry.” Well, damn. Homeboy went all soft on me, but nothing wrong with that. Particularly when you have a catalyst like this song by Barzin.
This summer, I spent a few months in Rockport, Maine at Maine Media Workshops. Let me tell you, the people there are some of the coolest, nicest, most genuine people in this world. I learned how to produce film while there, and the day I got home was the first day I filmed at Lollapalooza.
That footage had some trouble (lost, sent through the mail, sent back a while later after no progress being made, sent back, lost, found, lost again). So 5 months later it still isn’t edited. Damn.
Anyway, one day while we were out shooting a scene in an old theater, I bumped my dome. I mean, completely smacked the hell out of my head. Can’t believe I didn’t get knocked out, but I pretty much immediately sat down and saw stars.
Then someone took me to the hospital. I had a concussion, one of way, way too many in my life, and had to stay home from the shoot. That person who drove me to the hospital was Rocki Rock. She was pretty much the life saver of everyone at MMW. She’s pretty cool. She makes really good music. She’s very talented at a crazy number of things. She has a really cool tattoo that says Bold Is Love. So listen to her music, and if you’re anywhere the Camden Opera House on Saturday, March 12, go out and see her perform with the Peter Paton show. He’s another friend from Rockport and he’s a very funny guy.
Go Rocki. Go Rockport.
Eric Holljes (Duke!) singing and playing “Worst of All,” an Eric Holljes original. In my opinion, the piano section makes this song. The whole thing is great, but that’s just icing on the cake.
I like using this blog to support my friends’ music, but this would be on here whether or not Eric was a friend. His talent is really something else.
“Good In My Hood” – Eric Holljes
Eric Holljes (Duke ‘09). Music video directed by Lawrence Chen (Duke ‘09).