Tag Archives: folk

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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Top 10 Holiday Songs: Tis the Season

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Now that the end-of-the-semester hiatus is over, I’ve been busy cramming a month’s worth of holiday cheer into a few days. Sure, it sounds like the least joyful way to celebrate, but luckily these songs easily make days merry and bright. This post is brief because my brain is still mush, but here’s a Spotify playlist for are my Top 10 Holiday Songs for the most wonderful time of the year.

Highlights include:

    • “The Christmas Song” by Catherine Feeney and “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming” by Sufjan Stevens (one of his 5,000 sing-along Christmas jams): Breathless and simple Christmas wishes
    • “White Christmas” by Otis Redding (from Love Actually): A cozy sweater. A warm fire. A cuppa hot cocoa.
    • “Christmas TV” by Slow Club: Charming and quirky, with lyrics  that say, “hoping something good might grow out of this mistletoe.”
    • “Fairytale of New York” by Gianni and Sarah (of Walk Off the Earth…aka the 5 people who used one guitar to play Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know”): Not only is this one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, but they use ukeleles and whistle. Natasha of Paper Crown’s Blog sums the song up nicely, saying: “It’s bitter and it’s hopeful, and it’s sad and it’s romantic, and it’s screwed up and it’s human. It’s just real. That’s what makes it such a great Christmas song.” Amen.
    • “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi: Fluttering and festive piano chords

Do you have any to add? What are your favorite holiday songs and albums?

*Bonus (because it’s sadly not on Spotify)…Party Hard by Little Isidore: For your Kris Kringlin’ and do-wappin’ enjoyment

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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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Cover Songs: I’ll Cover You

Sure, everyone wants to take a stab at “Call Me Maybe” (I’m talking to you Fleet Foxes, Ben Howard, Cookie Monster, etc) or any Beatles song (Apparently “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby” are the two most covered songs). As mentioned in a previous post- I love a good cover song. While I enjoy when they’re produced and recorded on albums, my favorites usually stem from impromptu concerts or requests. I especially love when musicians cross-genres and sounds, like when James Vincent McMorrow sings Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” or when Anya Maria croons T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.” Covers bring new meaning and interpretations to music, and are the highest form of flattery. Here are my top cover picks (for this week, at least).

  • Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) covering Cold War Kids’ “Hospital Beds” – I could honestly put any Flo Flo cover here; it was really difficult choosing between her rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo” and this one. Her voice has similar qualities to Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willett; haunting and borderline-screechy. I like that her version is stripped down, but she still belts the “put out the fire boys, don’t stop, don’t stop” coda. It further exemplifies the pain found in the lyrics.
    • Alex Winston covering the Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light” – Just like Winston’s voice, her version is a little off-kilter. She pairs banjo, heavy guitar, airy female backup vocals, and the slightest accordion with a pounding tempo. Cool.
    • Ellie Goulding covering Bon Iver’s “The Wolves” – I gasped outloud the first time I heard this cover. Goulding’s vocals are so pure and beautiful, and much less muddled that Justin Vernon’s. Plus it’s a capella.
    • Cee Lo Green covering Kings of Leon’s “Radioactive” – I’m not the biggest Kings of Leon fan and honeslty needed to hear’s Green’s version before giving the original a chance. Clearly acoustic covers hold a special place in my heart, but it’s refreshing to hear Cee Lo sing something other than “F You.”
  • Julia Stone covering The National’s “Buzzblood Ohio” – This song reminds me of a train-ride; Stone is contemplative and escaping worries of the past. Her falsetto contrasts The National’s Matt Berninger’s bass in a beautiful way.

If these tickled your fancy, check out my favorite cover blog Cover Lay Down for millions of folk wonders. Or, if you’re the giving kind, The Voice Project is a really great philanthropic organization that works with musicians to raise money for various peace initiatives in Africa. The “Episodes” section of their website features a wonderful web of cover songs.

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The Civil Wars: Folk Music’s Latest Casualty

The Civil Wars at Berklee 10/28/11

Typing this title pains my little heart. But, I have taken some time to mourn, and unfortunately it’s now time to face the (folk) music.

Coincidentally, I saw the Civil Wars in concert for the first time over Halloween weekend last year. I was asked last-minute to take photos of their show for WTBU, and waltzed into the beautiful Berklee venue only knowing their swampy, southern single Barton Hallow. I was charmed by their genuine performance and, ironically, wrote, “contrary to their name, the folk-pop duo the Civil Wars are by no means divided” in my review the next day. The following February, the Civil Wars won two Grammy Awards: one for best folk album, “Barton Hollow,” and another for  best country/duo group performance of their album’s title track. Funny how things change…

According to an e-newsletter (that I’m always giddy to receive each month) and social media outlets, John Paul White and Joy Williams cancelled their upcoming tour due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” While I don’t want this blog to turn into People Magazine or TMZ gossip, it is difficult to hear news like that and not ask questions. White and Williams have such interesting chemistry on stage, yet are both married to other partners. William’s husband is their manager with whom she just had a child. They are quick to squash any romantic rumors and define their relationship to a brother-sister bond. So, what happened? The sweet and sultry recipe for genius folk music has turned to an entity that can no longer tour together.

The Civil Wars at Berklee 10/28/11

I am devastated. The Civil Wars carved out a unique niche in the folk community and it was SO refreshing to see a duo that treats each concert like a black-tie event, rather than sport an unkempt plaid uniform. They radiate with respect for one another, which transcends far above their thoughtful treatment of music; the two are emotional, fun, and still incredibly balanced. Here’s to hoping the Civil Wars resolve this battle and continue to make music in the new year.

And in the mean time…I will have this fantastic cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on repeat to mask the sound of my depressed wailing.

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An Election Soundtrack: Let’s Stay Together

Today was an important day for American policy (prepare to be amazed as I connect this back to music). Barack Obama was re-elected for another four-year term, multiple states legalized gay marriage20 women took seats in the 113th Congress, and the 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting initiative and other NPR lovers celebrated the anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 (BAM it took less than a sentence for the music connection). While public broadcasting features more than just music, songwriting is still an imperative tool in the media.

Back in 2008 before Obama was even elected, he spoke at a Town Hall meeting at my high school. As a 17-year-old taking an AP Government class and watching some of my friends vote for the first time, I was very impressed by his speech…but also by the music selection for this event. I distinctly remember the unique string intro of raspy Ben Harper’s “Better Way” pumping up the crowd and thinking, “being President of the United States cool and all, but DJing this event would be the greatest job ever.”

Fast forward to this year’s election coverage. Last night, after hearing Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied” and watching Obama’s headquarters in Chicago, these were the thoughts running through my head: 1) amiBeyonceyet? 2) Who wouldn’t be playing Beyonce right now 3) “being President of the United States cool and all, but DJing this event would be the greatest job ever” See a comparison?

That being said, I’m appointing myself as the DJ for this exciting election news. Some of the songs on this playlist were actually featured in Obama’s 2012 campaign, while others pay homage to great folk, political activists: Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Joni Mitchell. These singer/songwriters paved the way for future folk artists (Ben Sollee anyone?), and songs written in the 1960s are still just as relevant- I experienced this firsthand while seeing the Hard Rain exhibit at the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Garden last spring. It featured the work of enviornmental photographer Mark Edwards, looping Bob Dylan’s song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Times They are A-Changin'” from outdoor speakers. Very poignant, beautiful, and sad. Dylan and his cohorts still highlight important issues and encourage collaboration to find this “better way.” Obama and Al Green actually summed it up perfectly saying,”Let’s stay together.”

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