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Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/27-11/2): Humbird, Bootstraps

Humbird Pharmakon – indie folk

Indie folk artist Humbird‘s album Pharmakon is gorgeous through and through. Her smooth and clear voice shines over upright bass, immaculate fingerpicking, and colorful piano. Humbird‘s style of songwriting is stunning, as she lets melodies float and fall artistically. Her skill as a lyricist is also quite evident, as she draws on allegorical references and names to add a thoughtful depth to her lyrics. Just as you think you have a full mental grasp on Pharmakon, Humbird adds another element. Her song “Persephone” is a great example of this. Placed later in the album, when you’ve settled into her sound, she plays around with the form and adds brass to enrich the song. My personal favorite track on the album is “Pharmakon”. On such a lovely and sweet song, Humbird‘s writing and voice really stand out. A catchy, constant fingerpicking line and vivid lyrics make “Pharmakon” something special, and it proves that Humbird‘s voice is one to fall in love with. It’s easy to hear that Humbird poured her heart and soul into her album Pharmakon – be sure to give it a listen below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/27-11/2): Humbird, Bootstraps”

BIRN Album Review: forevher by Shura

Shura’s 2019 release forevher, is a contrast to her debut release Nothing’s Real which displayed a complex mixture of anxiety and joy. In forevher, Shura channeled these emotions again with a lighter and livelier tone with a subtle flare of funk grooves reminiscent of 70’s and 80’s.

A constant romantic atmosphere is apparent throughout the album especially in “BKLYNLDN” which was written to capture the feeling of being together for the first time with someone you’ve been in a long-distance relationship with. The laidback and easy-going nature of this song clearly depicts this dreamy feeling and makes the listener feel as if in Shura’s shoes. The euphoric storyline of “BKLYNLDN” is continued in “religion (u can lay your hands on me),” vividly portraying being head over heels in love. This song’s breathy and effortless vocals lay over a groovy beat that’s as addictive to listen to as the feeling illustrates.

The mood of the album takes a turn on songs like “princess leia” and “flyin,” highlighting Shura’s anxious thoughts during long-distance travel. With an album like forevher that focuses on exploring the beginnings of new love, these tracks provide a necessary contrast, showing the listener love’s many dimensions. The dramatic and glowing imagery of these songs are derived from “the stage” and are dispersed throughout the entirety of the album. Every song feels like an “endless dreamscape” with a touch of nostalgia that shines sonically and lyrically up until the last track “skyline, be mine.” This song is brief yet has a significant message painting the picture of embarking on a new journey of love, concluding the album with a pulsating ambience.

Catch Shura and Hannah Cohen Live From the Brighton Music Hall this Tuesday night, October 22. The show starts at 8:30 PM and you can stream it here.

BIRN Album Review: Welcome Home by Hannah Cohen

Hannah Cohen Welcome Home – (alternative) 

Hannah Cohen’s return home isn’t quite as “welcome” as her third studio album’s title suggests. After spending over a decade in New York City, the worn out musician began grasping for a reason to leave–and it suddenly hit her one day while writing in the stuffed bathroom of her apartment during a heat wave. She ditched crowded subway stations for miles of empty fields in Woodstock, to rediscover her passion for music and find peace with her demons. Out of this came Welcome Home, a “Carole King meets Tame Impala” masterpiece about slowly outgrowing the robotic daily routines of urban living. 

Cohen brilliantly captures the odd essence of isolation through dreamy indie-rock guitar riffs and light synth bells that chime in every so often, like ghosts visiting from the past. She effortlessly brings us into her world of vivid memories through words like “wanna be the sun on your back” and “the water in the ocean all turns to salt on your skin”. Cohen’s soft yet ever-expressive voice carries the record’s core emotions, and contributes a special element. You can hear her vulnerability as she purposefully lingers around the highest point of her range in “What’s This All About”, an aching piano ballad about feeling lost in purpose. Even as her voice fades into the background at times, she makes a statement without feeling the need to steal the spotlight. Her conversational lyrics are comforting, and echo the words of an old friend who’s consoling you through the uneasiness that comes with change. 

As melancholy as the album gets, Cohen knows where she stands in the thick of it all. The album’s opener “This Is Your Life” is a reassuring pep talk with a title that says it all–if you don’t like your life you have the power to change it. The following songs dive into darker subjects, but she circles back to this self confidence in “Wasting My Time”. Although both songs are found in unexpected places, it mimics the rare beauty of finding hope in our daily lives during difficult times.  

It’s hard to say by the end of the album if Hannah Cohen reaches a conclusion on her journey “home”, but this open-endedness makes her message all the more real. 

Hannah Cohen plays live with Shura this Tuesday night, October 22 at Brighton Music Hall. The show starts at 8:30 PM and you can stream it here.

Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/20-10/26): Pearly, Big Search

Pearly – “Chain Of Coral”[Single]  -indie rock

Bordering on ambient, “Chain of Coral” is a mellow,  yet very inviting song that really folds into the scenery of everyday life. This song features a very simple arrangement of acoustic guitar, piano, haunting harmonies that create a very unique sound that only Pearly could get away with. This song is overall intense, haunting and calm; and chugs along with a plethora of ocean imagery and a beautiful sonic pallet, but with an undeniable sense of anxiety. This tune is great and I would recommend the listen!

 

 

 

 

Big Search – ” Thin Veil of Time”- indie rock

Being somewhat reminiscent of 70s soft rock, “Thin Veil of Time” has a very folky throwback sound, and is the latest release by artist Big Search. The tune feels incredibly laid back and loose; with instruments constantly coming in and out, and this ebb and flow keeps this song interesting. The lyrics of this song harken back to the more psychedelic inspired songs of the 70s yet the arrangement makes the tune feel fresh and modern. This is definitely one of the better Indie tunes to come out of 2019! Check it out below!

 

 

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/20-10/26): Louise Burns, Sonofdov

Louise Burns – “Cry” [single] – indie pop

Despite what the title suggests, Louise Burns’ latest single “Cry” will put a smile on your face. Burns’ latest single is such an upbeat, eclectic indie bop – it’s a great listen. Featuring several, “Cry” reminisces on past eras with a contemporary twist. Burns’ clear voice is the centerpiece of the song, and all of the other tracks support her lyrics and melodies wonderfully. Featuring 80’s-style synths, a classic drum groove, and a tasteful electric guitar, this song has something for everyone. It’s a fun listen, and you’ll hit replay the second the music stops. Check out “Cry” below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/20-10/26): Louise Burns, Sonofdov”

Hiromi – The BIRN Interview

Pianist Hiromi Uehara is a wonder. There are times when it is hard to believe that one person could make the sounds that she makes on the piano at one time, and without having more than 2 hands. When you watch her play the piano you think that you can see what she is thinking in that moment, and imagine that you can also feel what she is feeling. If you allow it to, the experience can definitely take you out of whatever space you are in.

I had the chance to talk with Hiromi via Skype about Spectrum, her new album, which was released on October 4 on Telarc records.

Track Listing:

1. Kaleidoscope
2. Whiteout
3. Yellow Wurlitzer Blues
4. Spectrum
5. Blackbird
6. Mr. C.C.
7. Once In A Blue Moon
8. Rhapsody In Various Shades Of Blue – Medley
9. Sepia Effect

BIRN: Why did you name the album “Spectrum”?

Hiromi: The theme of this album, the concept of this album I decided to be color. I wanted to write about different colors and there are some songs under the color of blue, white, yellow, black and white, sepia, so I collected a number of songs which I wrote under the concept of color.

BIRN: Why did you pick Blackbird as a song to include on your new album and why does that song have special meaning for you?

Hiromi: The first time I heard that song I think I was in high school. It’s such a beautiful song and somehow it touched a deep part of my soul. I’ve been playing this song over and over since then and I never really played it at a show or any public occasions but I’ve always been playing the song. It is one of my favorite songs to play. I was always looking for the right time to record and you know this time the theme of the album was colors and it matches the concept and I decided to record it.

BIRN: I need to ask you about 1 more song on the album, Yellow Wurlitzer Blues because the information in the press release was so interesting. Can you talk about that song and how it came to be?

Hiromi: Yes (laughs.) Some people thought that I am playing a Wurlitzer on this song but actually I am playing a piano. The reason that I wrote this song is that there is one bar that I go to for a hang and I think most musicians want to play when they are hanging. I mean, after you have a couple drinks in you, you want to play your instrument. Unfortunately I don’t play guitar or trumpet so I can’t carry around my instrument. There is one bar that I often go to and I was talking to the owner of the bar, “You know I really want to play, you know, when I’m hanging, but there is no instrument here so I can’t play.” The next time I visited the place, he had bought me a yellow Wurlitzer. “Now you can play at any time.” Now whenever I go there with friends we started to do some sessions. My friends are not necessarily all musicians, they are businesspeople, actors, you know, many different occupations, but I encourage then to sing the blues. Just sing what happened today. How was your day? Just sing along, sing over my chord changes. And they try and it worked! It started to be a lot of fun and we always do that, so that’s why I wanted to dedicate a song to this yellow Wurlitzer.

BIRN: I know the goal of this album is to take a picture of your life and your playing for the last ten years. In 2009 your album Place To Be was a sort of a composite or picture of you as a pianist and as a composer in your 20s and this is the sort of the same thing for your 30s, which is an amazing idea. So my questions is, now that it has been a decade since Place To Be, do you feel very different as an artist, as a composer, pianist or is it more like, you know 10 years is really not that long?

Hiromi: Well, actually, I don’t feel it was that long but as a pianist, I think I feel closer to the piano than I did 10 years ago, put it that way. The more I play, the more time I spend with the instrument, the closer it gets. That’s how I feel. I understand the instrument better. I can get the response I want from the instrument better, so I feel like I am communicating much better than 10 years ago. That’s how I feel. I think I am a little better as a pianist than 10 years ago (laughs.)

BIRN: As a composer, how are you different?

Hiromi: Composing for me is like keeping a journal. I’m trying to write almost every day and some days I can write more than other days. But even one little motif, or just four bars, eight bars, I just try to write what happens, how I felt on that day. Instead of a diary I have this music diary. The more you experience in life, the more things you can write about. I lived 10 years more. I have experienced more things, so as a composer I have a little more to say as well.

BIRN: This is a solo record for you. Tell me what is the best thing about making a solo record and touring solo and what are the harder things about doing that compared to working with other musicians.

Hiromi: It’s a completely different setting, you know, playing with a trio or a duo. When you have somebody to play with on stage it’s like trying to score a goal with passing, like soccer. Being alone on stage is like boxing or judo (laughs). I’m always fighting against yesterday’s myself. I try to play something I haven’t played before and I’m always trying to find new landscapes. In that way I’m making the example of boxing and soccer because we are fighting against ourselves. Having no one to share a thought or be inspired by on stage, like being really alone sometimes is challenging because if you are stuck, you are stuck. You can’t ask anybody. There is nobody to help you. On the other hand you can really be in your own zone because there is nobody to interfere with. When you are there, I feel like, I feel so free. It’s such a beautiful feeling just being on stage, just myself. When you play with other musicians you can’t really hear the overtones of the piano because it’s covered up. You can hear every single detail of the piano (when playing solo) and as a piano fan, I am a piano lover, it is just so enjoyable to hear all these details of the piano and I just enjoy it so much.

BIRN: Is there a difference between your relationship with the audience when you’re playing with a band versus when you’re playing solo?

Hiromi: Well, actually not really. When I play with my band then I would communicate with the band as well as the audience but when I’m playing solo it’s either myself or the audience so it’s not that different, actually. I always try to just enjoy the whole atmosphere. Playing a concert I always feel like I’m the captain of the ship and there are people who just happen to be in the ship who are the audience and I’m the captain to be responsible for the new adventure. When I have a band then I have the crew, right? (Laughs) But when I’m alone and I’m the only captain and the only crew to carry the ship.

BIRN: You seem to share your emotions openly and I think that is one of the many things that people love about watching you is that you’re so expressive, you’re so giving of your emotions whether it’s exuberance or sadness. How does it feel for you when you’re done with a show? Are you completely drained?

Hiromi: (Laughs) Yes, completely drained. You know It’s hard to fall asleep after a show even though I’m so tired because I give everything I have in the show. I always try to think that this is my first show and the last show because the same audience never happens. The same group of people will never be on the ship again, so it’s always new. I always try to make a once a lifetime adventure for me as well as the audience. So when I finish the show, I’m super exhausted. It’s such an interesting feeling that I’m tired but at the same time I’m energized because I love performing. I get so much from the audience as well as I give so much, and it’s like mucho communication. Even though the show is finished I feel like a mini Hiromi is running around in my brain and I’m like, trying to calm down, trying to calm down. It takes a couple of hours to feel, OK, now I can go to sleep.

BIRN: You said during the press tour of your last solo record that you had to be the entire orchestra by yourself in that recording. Has that vision of a solo piano record changed in 10 years?

Hiromi: No, it’s still the same. You know, it’s always my goal and my challenge. Piano is like a complete instrument to me. It’s like the full orchestra itself. It’s the full big band itself and that’s why I wanted to record Rhapsody In Blue this time. When I first heard it I think I was in elementary school, probably like 11 or 12. I was fascinated by all of the orchestra instruments. I found the condensed score for the solo piano version and started to play Rhapsody In Blue solo. I realized, wow, piano can be clarinet, piano can be trumpet. Piano can be bass. Piano can make a groove. Piano can be anything. That’s why I always thought that if I ever have the opportunity to record Rhapsody In Blue, the first time has to be solo, not with an orchestra, just to prove that piano is an orchestra itself. That’s how I felt when I first heard that song.

BIRN: From reading the press release, your version, Rhapsody In Various Shades of Blue, there are some influences that one might not think would fit together. Can you talk about that?

Hiromi: Yes. So, I’ve been playing this song for about 30 years (laughs). I started to just play around with it. I started to insert some other favorite songs of mine within the song. This time the concept of the album is color and Rhapsody In Blue is under the theme of blue, so I decided to gather my favorite songs with blue in the name. One of the songs that I inserted is John Coltrain’s Blue Train and the other is song is Behind Blue Eyes by The Who. It’s like in and out and it comes and goes. In a way it’s probably surprising when you first hear it and it’s like “is this The Who?” Yes, it is surprising but it’s really naturally done. You don’t feel sudden change or anything. It naturally comes and naturally goes. I thought that it’s really interesting that composers see different kinds of blue. I thought that if I insert “blue” songs that I can make the gradation of color. That’s why I decided to put these two songs in. The song is actually 22 minutes and 25 seconds. It’s not actually radio friendly.

BIRN: It is on our station.

Before you came to Berklee in 1999, you did some jingle writing for some companies in Japan, is that correct?

Hiromi: Yes!

BIRN: Was there anything about that experience that you still carry with you or was it like, “I don’t want to do this”?

Hiromi: Oh no! Actually, I got the gig because I was doing some live shows and the boss of the company happened to be in the audience and he said “I think you want to write for visuals.” I always saw visuals when I wrote songs. Sometimes something really clear and sometimes a little more blurred but I always saw certain kinds of landscapes. He encouraged me to do some jingle writing because it’s like writing for short film. 15 second, 30 second film. That’s how I felt. What I remember most was writing for this Nissan car commercial starring Mr. Bean. That was fun. How he moves, his facial expression. You write along with his expression. I really enjoyed it and I still want to write for visuals and hopefully longer scoring. Yea, I enjoy it.

BIRN: Are there a couple of things that you learned at Berklee that you can say are the most important things you learned while you were at school?

Hiromi: The first and most shocking thing that I learned in school is probably that there are countless musicians in this world. Learning the fact of the number of musicians in this world. I had never been to music school. I had some musician friends but not like everyone around me were musicians. I moved to Boston. I’m sitting in the lobby in the 150 building and everyone around me of course are musicians. I think it was like first or second day I realized, wow, all of these people are musicians and all aiming for the same dream. And once I stepped out of the building, I’m walking down the street and I realize there is New England Conservatory, Boston Conservatory. The whole street is packed with musicians. There are only musicians on that street. Wow, if there are that many musicians in the world, what do I really have to say? Why do I really want to connect to the audience? Do I really have something special to say among these people? That had a really big impact on the very first weeks entering Berklee. Than meeting all of these musicians from around the world and playing music with (them). That was another amazing treasure that I had. How they feel rhythm is very different (depending on) where they come from. Everybody has a different way of feeling the groove and feeling the pulse and I thought it was very interesting to learn all of these differences in cultures. In class I was studying composition and arranging, you know studying about all of the instruments that I don’t play. That was really helpful. Even writing for solo piano it is very helpful to understand all of these other instruments. I do write for orchestra. I do write for big band. It was always my dream to write for large ensembles so to make that happen studying that in school was very helpful.

Thank you, Hiromi!

Hiromi is currently touring in support of her new release, Spectrum.

Click here for upcoming live dates.

This week on the BIRN – Win Tickets to see Tom Speight at Cafe 939!

Our birnCORE has a full week packed with amazing live music broadcasts. The week starts off with the upbeat, smart alterna-pop sounds of Okey Dokey. The Nashville based band, led by visual artist Aaron Martin and The Weeks’ guitarist Johny Fisher, released every track on their latest full-length release, Tell All Your Friend as a single beginning in late 2017 before the full album was release this past July. Multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter, Claire Gohst leads her indie rock project, Paper Citizen in for the opening set. The music starts at 8:00 p.m. live from the Red Room @ Cafe 939 on Monday, October 14. Listen to the entire show here.

Salt Late City’s Cinders blends acoustic pop with punk vitality and Sterling, VA’s Sub Radio has an arena sized pop-rock sound. Those two bands are sure to get the crowd going during their live performance on Tuesday, October 15 at Cafe 939. Stream the show from wherever you are here at 8:00 p.m.

Indie folk Singer/songwriter Tom Speight has channeled personal hardships into a stunning collection of songs on his debut full length release Collide. Speight stops in to Boston in the midst of a 13 city world tour. Opening the show is Boston based singer and songwriter, Cheekie, a.k.a. Tyler Maez and Scotland’s Tommy Ashby. Tune in on Thursday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m. for a full night of great songs and performances here. The BIRN would like to give you a pair of tickets to see this show live at Cafe 939! To enter to win the tickets, email tickets@thebirn.com with Tom Speight in the subject line and be sure to include a contact phone number where we can reach you. The winner will get two tickets to the show! Good luck.

Tune in to birnCORE on Friday, October 18 for a full night of inspired live music featuring Stratford, Ontario’s Cat Clyde and LA’s Jamie Drake. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. For more information and to listen to the entire show, click here.

BIRN Alive continues this week with Indonesian born pop and soul singer/songwriter, Jessica Nathania. The show airs live on Saturday, October 19 at 4:00 p.m. on BIRN1. Nathania is currently finishing up her debut album and plans to release it before the end of the year. She has an incredibly rich vocal presensce that is not to be missed. Tune in here to listen to the live set and interview.

Check out Tom Speight‘s music Video for Hearshaker:

Show Review: The Head and the Heart at Agganis Arena (10/12)

Saturday night was one for the books at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. In a crowded and vibrant space that is often used for hockey games, the Washington-born band The Head and the Heart did something incredible – they made a room built for thousands of people feel like home.

From the moment The Head and the Heart greeted the audience, the 6-piece Americana band had everyone’s attention. The band’s unique energy was clear from the moment they walked on stage and began their set with crowd favorites like “Missed Connection”. In each song, lead singers Jonathon Russell and Charity Rose Thielen did an incredible job of welcoming the audience into the band’s world through their high-energy performances.

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Ryan’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/13-10/19): The Snuts, LOVING

The Snuts – “Maybe California” [single] – indie rock

Brought to you by the band who has been producing indie anthems for the last four years, The Snuts new single “Maybe California” Is a fun catchy new tune to ring in Fall 2019. The  retro arrangement and upfront vocals make this tune an easy listen, and it’s sure to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day! The chugging baseline and melodic background vocals give this song a fun bouncy vibe and yet emotional enough where you can decipher the meaning of the lyrics. This song is highly recommended, but check it out and see for yourself!

 

 

LOVING – “VISIONS” -[single] -indie rock

Theres a new player in the lofi indie scene, and no one does it better than LOVING. “Visions” is a track that is greatly needed for this fall. Being the sonic equivalent to a roaring fireplace in a snow storm, this tune feels loose and free but obviously carefully crafted making the atmosphere presented, that much more immersible. Anyone who loves the warmth of wobbly tape will just have a blast with this tune. Check out “Visions” Below!

 

Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/13-10/19): Allen Stone, Macseal

Allen Stone – “Brown Eyed Lover” [single] – R&B

Allen Stone’s timeless voice and classic songwriting are the focus in his single “Brown Eyed Lover”. The track has an amazing groove with electric guitar counter melodies, ear-catching harmonies, and solid bass lines. Each of these elements creates sections that transition into one another seamlessly, and they work together to tell Stone’s simple love story of his care-free lover. It’s hard not to fall in love with Stone’s “Brown Eyed Lover”. Give it a listen below!

Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (10/13-10/19): Allen Stone, Macseal”