Pitchblak Brass Band: Funky Friday

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Channeling my inner-David Dye and introducing some great new tunes on this funky Friday.

While this band’s sound might stray from Second Fiddle’s folkish tendencies, Brooklyn’s Pitchblak Brass Band will help you dance your way into the weekend. The 10-piece hip-hop brass band (yep, that combination is real…and wonderful) creates a full, boisterous sound, delivering sharp rap lyrics with brassy tuba, trombone and trumpet tones.

Burr Lioz” emphasizes the dynamic versatility of this collective, with major emphasis on vocals. Other tracks like “Ulysses” and “Get It and Run” layer in smooth jazz chords. Pitchblak’s new sound makes each track a unique journey, and their debut album You See Us is a strong entry into the hip-hip music scene. (And if you’re impressed with the album, just wait until you see them live. I had the pleasure of catching their show at the Brooklyn Bowl a month ago and noticed bowlers stopping mid-game to dance to an epic cover of Janelle Monae’s Q.U.E.E.N.)

Pitchblak Brass Band’s debut album You See Us dropped on September 12 and is available on their website and Spotify.

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New Playlist: Songs of Spring

Boston Spring Blooms

I guess it’s almost summer at this point, but Boston is juuust showing signs of spring. Why not celebrate spring with some upbeat music? You’ll recognize some songs on this playlist from previous posts (Catey Shaw and Dan Croll, anyone?) but it also includes Patrick Watson’s soft “Words in the Fire” and Wild Child’s quirky, ukelele chords in “Someone Else.” I’m especially a fan of the collaboration between Alex Winston and the Postelles in the surf-y duet “Pretend It’s Love” and new (and dare I say…jazzy?) Iron & Wine.

Now, go! Get outside! Grab some ice cream and a cute puppy (preferably one you already own) and go picnic!

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Catey Shaw: Family

Towards the end of the semester, my final assignments and iTunes library grow at a similar rate (trolling the web for music is my version of a study break, ok?) And while I’m completely overwhelmed with work, it is necessary for me to A) share this awesome 8tracks playlist “Snap the Whip” (shout out to daniellah for making it) and B) introduce you to Catey Shaw’s “Family,” which is featured on aforementioned playlist.

Catey Shaw is a 21-year-old New Yorker, singing about young adult problems in the big city (check out a sassy pop-rap “Run, Run, Run”.) Sure, “Family” is a concoction of handclaps, ukeleles and “la-de-da’s” that fits my bill for a great, happy song, but Shaw’s voice has some old-school qualities that separates her from other “girl with ukelele” songwriters. Apparently she idolizes Billie Holiday and Bob Marley, and both influences are recognizable on her EP Clouds. Fun fact: she’s also a painter and designed her album art. Shaw played at CMJ last year, so let’s hope for even more music and visibility in 2013.

Back to studying. Which ultimately means more Second Fiddle finds to come…

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Newport Folk Festival: Tickets Secured

Newport Folk Festival logo

Pardon excessive use of caps lock but: OH MY GOSH GUYS I AM GOING TO NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL. This is a dream come true. I’ve actually had tickets since mid-February but wanted to share when they announced the lineup. When Newport broke the news that Beck is headlining Sunday, July 28, I just couldn’t hold in my excitement anymore.

I’ll be there for Saturday and Sunday, which is kind-of a bummer because Phosphorescent, Hey Marseilles and The Last Bison play on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday are packed with great performers and, overall, I couldn’t be happier.

Newport Folk Festival 2013 Lineup

Who am I excited to see? Well aside from the obvious Avett Brothers, Beck and Andrew Bird (honestly, I wouldn’t shell out money to see their solo concerts, but the thought of them all together makes me giddy), I’m really looking forward to Lord Huron, Michael Kiwanuka and Jim James (Yim Yames).

Shovels & Rope and The Lone Bellow are more visible on my radar; all the songs on Shovels’ album O’ Be Joyful are rootsy and raspy, while The Lone Bellow’s are fuller and more produced (they actually share a producer with the Civil Wars…fingers crossed they won’t also share the same fate).

I’m also antsy to see the Lumineers, Felice Brothers and (my love) Langhorne Slim for the second (and third) times this year. It will be nice to see the Lumineers and Felice Brothers on different stages (Felice opened for Mumford & Sons at the TD Garden. They were definitely out of their element in such a big space and I predict this festival will suit them better.)

My friend Andrew and I are pulling our favorite Newport songs on the playlist below. Keep checking back, as we’ll update it in the next few months.

Until then, here’s Beck covering Woody Guthrie.

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Dan Croll: Compliment Your Soul

Dan Croll

One look at Dan Croll and you assume he’s another lanky, British lad in an indie rock band. While this is sort-of the case (he did grow up in Liverpool, attended the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and interacted with a British rocker you may have heard of, Paul McCartney), Croll carves out a unique place between two different genres. I’m a fan. As beautifully stated by Paul Lester of The Guardian’s “New Band of the Day,” “He’s the electro boy with one foot in the world of folk, the troubadour who can handle himself quite nicely, thank you, with computers, and the indie kid who shares management with some Very Successful Artists Indeed, including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora and Conor Maynard.” Impressive.

I’ve refrained from posting about Croll for weeks now, for fear of stretching the Second Fiddle folk genre (which is tough to do after hearing “Compliment Your Soul,” how can you hear that and not smile?!?) However, after further investigation I have deduced that Croll does wonders with folk-infused electronic hooks. Boom, relevance.

His EP From Nowhere dropped on March 5. The title track is repeat-worthy, and “Wanna Know” (above) is a slower, sexier single with falsetto and R&B hints that would make Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos proud. Just when I thought Croll was “too electronic” for Second Fiddle, I came across this video (below) that seems to put him right at home in this space. Enjoy.

Dan Croll – Home (Live at the Paul McCartney Auditorium) from Dan Croll on Vimeo

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PigPen Theatre Co and the Parkington Sisters: Folk Forces

PigPen Theatre Co

Allow me to obsess over PigPen Theatre Co again. The stars aligned in Boston on Wednesday night and this swoon-worthy seven-piece left their NYC hometown for a trip to New England. The combination of sweet harmonies, small venue (at Berklee, no less, where performing is encouraged) and earnest crowd made for an incredibly warm concert. Their journey-seeking songs took on new meaning in this unfamiliar territory. It was interesting to locate the plot of this folk musical, seamlessly showcased in concert form. The men of PigPen carry equal weight, which emphasizes the importance and vibrance of their collective talent.

Lest us not forget their powerful opener, Massachusetts’ own Parkington Sisters. This sister quartet have incredible vocal and instrumental strength; four bandmates rival PigPen’s seven.  The evening ended in a “sing-off” between the two groups. This potential battle of the sexes turned into the most beautiful collaboration of The Band’s “The Weight.” Combine two groups who understand the importance of harmony and BAM- literal music to your ears. Thanks for making the trip up north, PigPen. You’re welcome here anytime.

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Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers: 24 Hours of Musical Implosion

Mumford and Sons - TD Garden
Can barely type right now, I am so musically blissed out. I didn’t plan on seeing Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers in a 24 hour span, but the Lumineers bumped their concert back a week and I found myself going from one concert to the other (with some sweet folky dreams in between). Sure the combo makes some (ok, most) hipsters scoff, but after exhausting both albums all fall semester, it was time to take our relationship to the next level (hang with me, remember, my brain and heart are both mushy and vulnerable and words are difficult.)

First were the Lumineers at the House of Blues in Boston. I arrived late to the sold-out show and was forced to stand in the back of the venue. Because I was far away and less attached to the performance, it took me awhile to really connect with the set. The group sounded great though, encouraging audience sing-alongs during the upbeat “Flowers in Her Hair” and the ever-anticipated “Ho Hey.” Although vocalist Wesley Schultz and instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang joined the crowd for a call and response to their hit single, the band performed the song as an encore to give us the full, Bing commercial effect. It’s funny, I love most of the songs on the album, yet my favorite takeaways from the show were unreleased singles. The first: a gorgeous duet between Wesley and Neyla (below) called “Falling.” The second: a collaboration with opener Y La Bamba, a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “American Music.”

The Lumineers

And then there’s Mumford. I stood three rows away from the stage inside the massive TD Garden. Thought I could keep my fangirl tendencies to a minimal, but as soon as they stepped on stage, my hands were permanently in the air. I forgot that large concerts take on a theatrical element- and Mumford used large wheels and light displays to enhance, but not overpower, their folk-rock sound. Mumfy barely chatted with the audience and focused solely on a stellar performance. They clearly knows how to perform their iconic, booming crescendos, which made acoustic versions of “Reminder” and “Sister,” performed on a small stage on the opposite side of the stadium, even more delicate. I was exhausted just from singing and jumping along. But then again, Mumford plucked at my heartstrings for a solid 2 hours in addition to their aggressive banjo chords.

Mumford and Sons - TD Garden

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