Category Archives: New Music

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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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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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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The Barr Brothers: Artist to Watch

The Barr Brothers are finally flying above the radar. That, and I’m admittedly a year behind with this discovery. Thanks to the Line of Best Fit, I stumbled across this Montreal-based band after reading a lovely “Folk Innovators” review. Their self-titled album dropped in 2011, but siblings Andrew and Brad Barr, accompanied by harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial, have made consistent appearances at various Canadian jazz and folk festivals and toured with the Low Anthem and Alexi Murdoch. In a time where indie folk outfits dominate the airwaves, the Barr Brothers take a similar sound and soar above the limits of folk music.

Their music is extremely well-crafted, from dreamy, endearing singles like “Beggar in the Morning” and “Cloud” to a bluesy, stomping “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep from Crying.” My favorite is the dark “Deacon’s Son,” featuring Psapp-inspired percussion, steel drums, and an aggressive harp solo (never thought I’d ever see that combo!)  It seems disjointed, but in fact, the Barr Brothers prove their versatility and innovation around a rich Americana sound.

In the lively “Give the Devil Back his Heart,” the Barr Brothers summon “every moth barreling towards a flame.” After a year of cultivation, the Barr Brothers can count on a trusted fanbase barreling towards new music.

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Matthew E. White: Baroque-soul-gospel-psychedelic-jazz-awesome?

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Matthew E. White ‘s album Big Inner is baffling the music industry. White’s name is that of an aspiring teen trying to distinguish himself from the other crooning Jason Mrazes. His long hair/Jesus-beard combination channels Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And his music is, well, tough to describe. So difficult, that music publications are combining words like ‘baroque,’ ‘soul,’ ‘Americana,’ and even ‘reggae’ to try and grasp his unique sound. They’re also comparing White to well-known names like Randy Newman and Sharon Von Etten, so it looks like his album Big Inner measures up to some big players. I first scoffed at the absurdities of some of these descriptions, but finally understood after watching his debut video “Will You Love Me” (below). White has crafted an amazing, and equally confusing, gospel/folk/jazz/soul/etc music formula. And it’s working.

Big Inner is an album of many firsts; it marks White’s debut release and the start of  his record label Spacebomb. The label gives artists the opportunity to record in the relaxed setting of a Virginian attic, along with White and his band members…and their house choir. In addition to these endeavors, White also runs an “avante-garde jazz band,” Fight the Big Bull.

Matthew E. White’s soothing bass voice supports a (for lack of a better word) big sound. Big Inner opens on swaying, horn-infused “One of These Days,” and is followed by a cosmic, grand “Big Love.” A mix of Beck-inspired instrumentals, with Justin Vernon vocals…and that awesome gospel choir (again- always goes back to the gospel choir). My repeat-track is “Steady Pace,” for it incorporates a Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” funk with sweet bells and strings. Although people aren’t sure where to categorize White on the genre book(music)shelf, that’s probably for the better. Why place a book back on the shelf when you can’t stop rereading certain passages? His sound is too intriguing to put away.

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With a Little Help from my Friends: Fall Folk Playlist

Nothing says fall like folk music and friendship. Too Hallmark? Too bad- you’re stuck with me. Maybe I really like alliteration, but maybe I also really like my friends and their rad taste in music.

To me, fall conjures warm, twangy, and acoustic melodies. Well let’s be real, this blog wouldn’t exist if I felt differently. But while summer is meant for punchy rock chords like the band Free Energy, spring is poppy and jingly like Allo Darlin’, and winter is slow jazz stylings of Peggy Lee, fall is soothing, sometimes biting, and overall pretty contemplative. What are some of your favorite seasonal songs?

Before Thanksgiving I polled a few friends to find out their impressions of fall music. Turns out we all came to the same conclusion: folk and fall are the perfect pair. From The Lumineers to I Am Oak, here’s what they had to say. (Shout-outs to Kelly, Swanson, Bethany, Alys, and Colin for being my muses and for You Won’t for the background music.)

Folk Selections for Fall from Alison on Vimeo.

Eager to hear these songs for yourself? Below is a Spotify playlist to meet your autumnal needs. Quick! Go listen before it’s December.

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Mumford and Sons: Lover of the Light

Earlier this month, British folk outfit Mumford and Sons released their video for Lover of the Light. I’ve owned their sophomore release Babel since it dropped on September 21, and have listened to it religiously like a good little fangirl. Yet, for some reason, “Lover of the Light” failed to transfer into my iTunes music library. There are far greater problems in the world, I know, but I still feel cheated by technology for separating me from this beauty.

Sure, the vigorous and angry banjos of Mumford and Sons sound repetitive when you listen to their albums straight-through and they spend too much time on grand declarations then cultivating thoughtful, toned-down verses. However, this stunning video caught me way off-guard and left me misty-eyed. Now I just want to share this with everyone.

Directed and performed by actor Idris Elba (from Prometheus, Thor, and American Gangsters), “Lover of the Light” follows a blind man through his daily routine. Midway through the video he ditches his cane and seeing eye dog, quite literally running into the light. Sprinting through a forest and picturesque Welsh peninsula  Elba’s character finally experiences the world without being hindered by his disability. It’s an incredibly empowering and moving piece, showing that we can use senses other than sight and still be “lovers of the light.”

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