Music Friday Blog

  • Kris Angelis is melodic, hypnotic and addictive in the new Heartbreak is Contagious EP

     Heartbreak_EP_cover.jpgI have been listening to Kris Anglis’ new EP, Heartbreak is Contagious over and over since I recently had her on my radio show, partly because I can’t stop and partly because every time I listen I hear something musically and emotionally new.  As with all things Angelis, Heartbreak is Contagious is melodic, hypnotic, and dense with addictive emotion.

    Three of songs on the EP explore the pain of the love’s demise; the fourth is fun, funny, and foot-tapping, but actually a cathartic part of the EP’s soulful narrative. Only Angelis could pull that off --  perfectly blending pain and heartbreak with laughter and catharsis in the same EP.

    Heartbreak is Contagious was written with and produced by Morgan Taylor Reid and Alexander Cardinale, except for my favorite song, “Life Support” which was written entirely by Angelis and produced by  Bill Lefler. The album follows her earlier The Left Atrium and, like The Left Atrium, allows you to understand what an emotionally defective heart feels like with stunning poetic lines like I swear there was a time /when you belonged to me/But I'm a two-way heart/ On a one-way street.  Even deeper than the writing are the concepts: taking a heart off life support in one song and a love as a home built by love but then turned into a solitary confinement prison when love dies in another.

    The title concept is also deep, but, for an emotional EP, very logical.  When a heart breaks, two hearts are damaged and they can’t love others, or as she sings, Heartbreak is contagious, contagious/It's not like we can talk it out/we've run out of words somehow.    Simply put, when you can’t really love anyone, including yourself,  you often end up breaking someone else’s heart…your pain becomes contagious.

    For me, the most powerful song on the EP is “Life Support”. The song’s concept of a heart on life support is true to the broken corazón narrative, and the writing is as poignant and personal as anything Angelis has done, but the arrangement grips your heart and your ears. It begins with her gentle vocal fingers that slowly increase the pressure on your heart until she shocks it with electric paddles in full orchestration and an overdubbed voice drenched with urgency.  And then she takes you off life support and lets you drift free, the pain ebbing back.

    The last song, “Kevin Bacon” is almost from another world, a pop world.  It is bright and snappy and loaded with hooks.  As the drum machine taps out a dance beat she sings,

    There's something, there's something in the air, in the air 
    Running your fingers, your fingers through my hair, through my hair
    and then we're kissing lipstick is everywhere, everywhere.

    Wow; I am dancing everywhere, everywhere.

    This EP was a stretch for Angelis, not only in the addition of a hooky pop song but in the collaborative writing process – not her usual m.o.  She also wrote one of the songs in one day, also not her usual m.o.  The result of this stretch is that Heartbreak is Contagious has won the Best Female EP Award of 2016 by the LA Music Critics and the Best Female Artist in the International Acoustic Music Awards.  The song "Built This House”  won in the Adult Contemporary category of the International Songwriting Competition I suspect it will rack up more awards and add many, many new fans.

    Kris Angelis. www.krisangelis.com 

    Heartbreak is Contagious available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify

  • Alan Babbit and Flora Cash this Friday. Old and new...sort'a

    Flora_Cash_-_300_sq.jpgShould be a fascinating set of stories.  From music to TV music to art to music - that is Alan Babbit.  From Sweden to London to the midwest to LA to Sweden -That is Flora Cash.  Great music in both cases. This Friday.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Derek Davis releases first solo alum and it is a work of genius

    dd_rev_soul_cd_cover_300.pngIt is not often that I encounter an artist that I can’t quite categorize, or even want to. Derek Davis is such an artist.  With 28 years of recording and touring, 12 albums, and three bands,  he is a legend in rock.   Who can forget the machine-gun tempo of  Bad Man Cometh, the howling metal message of American Jihad or the addictive head banging of Love Star? But at the same time, where do you put the sweet melody of Troubadour and or the acoustic pop sensibilities of  The Promise – all songs on the same album.  Davis is a remarkable musician and his first solo album, Revolutionary Soul continues his tradition of remarkable, not-quite-categorizable music.

    In Revolutionary Soul, Davis writes the music, plays all the instruments and produces most of the songs, further breaking the category boundaries.  It’s blues, it’s rock, it’s funk -  is it something that incorporates and transcends all of the above.  And it is addictive.

    Davis is famous for his sharp writing and signature guitar licks and both are shot through Revolutionary Soul.  But the innovative, up-to-the-minute ways in which he uses them feels like the songs are coming from a new band fresh on the scene and skyrocketing to the top of Billboard, not one of rock’s most enduring players.  There is a word for a musician who can do all those things and do them at the highest level of skill and fan satisfaction:  genius.  Revolutionary Soul is indeed a work of genius.

    The album sports an even dozen songs, ranging from the fire-breathing title song, led by Davis’ fiercest voice denouncing the hate in our society. The vocals are carried along with a driving bass riff punctuated by Davis’ guitar solos backed by stripped down, high-tuned drums, all colored with a B3’s angst. It is heavy, but not metal;  it is fierce but not ferocious; it is razor sharp, but not bleeding. It is a revolution.

    Davis continues the revolution with “Rapture”,  led by a funk beat with a Latin flavor grabbing you by the ears as the B3 organ adds urgency and Davies’ stern voice tells you to “make your plans” for the “sweet surrender in this tale of the sexes. The funk continues with his cover of the Amy Winehouse song, “Valerie” and his own “Think About It” but with a higher energy in the guitar and the drum kit – all in service to Davis’s voice. The environment suddenly changes with “Love and Abuse”, opening with a long guitar special effect and then shifting to a driving bassline scaffolding Davis electric guitar chops in the breakdowns and bridges.

    The funk R&B energy carries through the Jimmy Cox blues song, “Nobody Knows You When You Are Down” and then moves to another genre with the heartbreak ballads “Vicious eatHeart.Heart”- an R&B masterpiece that bleeds into gospel –“King of Fools”, Picture of Love”,  and the penultimate song,  “Stop! Wait a Minute”.

    We are off to psychedelic funk with  Davis’ version of Bobby Womack’s “Woman’s Gotta Have It”,  built ground up from a high-octane, volume-muted bassline supporting Davis at his most melodic, weaving vocals in and out among guitar riffs.  The album wraps up, fittingly, with the self-confessional “All Roads”,  tricked out with a funky guitar beat and some of the best solo licks in rock.

    Revolutionary Soul condenses Davis’ 28 years of experience, recordings, touring, writing and playing and then adds new flavors.  Whether you are rock fan, pop fan, a metal fan or you love funk and blues, Revolutionary Souls will go to the top of your playlist.  Pretty damn impressive for a first solo album.  But of course, you expect no less from Derek Davis.

     

     

     

     

  • Two golden voiced women with very different stories– one from London, one from American Idol .

    amanda-singing-300_sq.jpgFriday's program features two women from different parts of the world, different generations and different paths to success. Amanda Campbell started in London and is now the frontwoman for the soulful jazz/rock/blues band in LA.  She is releasing singles now with her smokey voice and gripping lyrics.  Casey McQuillian went the "American Idol" route, gaining experience and connections that amplified her prodigious talent, but had to deal with bullying - and turned that into inspiration for songs. (photo- Hillary Short).

     

     

     

  • Hard Rock Friday this week

    DEREK_DAVIS_GUITAR300sq.jpgActually, it is a coincidence that we booked two hard rock bands this week, especially after booking one last week.  no, we are no going metal, but we do enjoy some head bobbing and banging every once in a while and it is a break from the many, many wonderful singer-songwriters we have had lately.  So tune in and enjoy Derek Davis and his solo launch and Last Giant second album - the first with this band configuration.

     

     

     

     

  • SWIRL and Maggie McCLure. Rock and pop. Friday

    maggie_mclure_300sq.jpgI love contrasts.  SWIRL is really, really hard rock - and really, really good hard rock and deeply literary.  Listen carefully, while you headbob and crowd surf. Maggie McCLure is as bright and fun and pop as you can get and still be a very series, talented singer-songwriter.  Which is why you have heard her music in network television shows.  She knows how to give directors the emotion and the feel they need.

    They won't be on together, but as the two bookends of Friday's show, I think they will be a study in the bookends of American music.  I am going to try to get Maggie to hum or even sing a few tunes.  SWIRL - not so much: my microphone is not geared for it, so we will listen to their latest album.

     

  • Alih Jey and Vanessa Zamora lite up Civic Center Studios

    aligh_jey_with_cunao_300.jpgSapo Verde Music stepped out in a big way this weekend with an all-star program of female artists at the newly remodeled DTLA venue Civic Center Studios. A packed house was treated to Latin-Grammy nominated rock guitarist Alih Jey and wildly popular Vanessa Zamora.  Opening act Ruzzi warmed the house up with her gut-grabbing electric guitar licks and Cuñao backed the girls-with-guitars with their eclectic rhythms and world melodies.

    Sapo Verde Music is Alih Jey’s record label and production company. The Civic Center Studios night was its debut live event and if they are all this good, LA now has another first class promoter of live American Latino Music.

    Set for an 8 pm opening with 9 pm music, you knew quickly that something special was in the offing when the crowd was already thick by 8:30 pm – unusually early in the LA music scene. That something special started with Mexico City-based Ruzzi, who broke from a gaggle of friends and fans in the back of the club to stride onstage, push back her trademark hat, plug in her guitar and welcome an eager crowd.  As the projected light show streamed across her face and body,  she picked a 50’s slow dance rhythm and then looped it. Once the beat got going she caressed her axe’s high strings for a bit of 50’s nostalgia before taking us through a set that included whistling, Vanessa Zamora in a duet, hard rock, sweet ballads, and of course, her magic fingers.  Singing almost completely in Spanish, but talking to the audience in Spanish and English, Ruzzi not only set the stage, but she showed us a rising talent to watch.

    Ruzzi perfectly set the stage for the first headliner, Latin-Grammy nominated Alih Jey, backed by the incredibly talented LA-based world folk band, Cuñao.  Jey is known for her hard rock blues and pop in English and Spanish (”Steal My Boyfriend” “Aqi Voy”) but she surprised everyone with songs by her father and grandfather – both cherished musicians in her native Dominican Republic as is her mother.  Jey got very personal, telling us the stories of her family, especially her grandfather, one of whose songs, popularized by his son – her father -  she gave us.   Her sweet voice and superb acoustic guitar filled Civic Center Studios high-ceilinged space, carried by the percussion and color of Cuñao’s joyful, energetic music. The effect was one of songs swirling around like the dynamic designs projected on the walls.  She was joined at the end of her set by Alexandro Hernandez of ¡Aparato! who deepened and extended Jey’s guitar notes with his own world-class playing.

    Closing the night was Vanessa Zamora, Tijuana-born and, like Jey, from musician parents. Zamora began playing piano at 8 and developed her voice and style throughout university at Guadalajara,  releasing her first album, Hasta la Fantasia in 2014 – an instant success. She has followed up with a series of singles, building a deeply dedicated fan base on both sides of the border. Talking to the audience in English and Spanish, but singing in Spanish, Zamora was often echoed quietly by audience members softly singing the memorized lyrics to her popular singles.  Ruzzi, joined Zamora onstage for two songs, adding her electric color to the acoustic rainbows that Zamora shaped with her liquid gold voice and seamless guitar. Seeing Zamora onstage is always surprising. She draws little distinction between audience and entertainer, standing with friends or circulating through the crowd during other performances, inviting other musicians onstage with her, carrying on conversations with the audience while she tunes (which she does often and precisely). Her casual clothing (bomber jacket over black tights and sleep length t-shirt) emphasized that this is the music of the people, and the people only get the best.

    A silent talent in the room was the room, the Civic Center Studios.  A high-quality boutique film and video studio that reconfigures itself for public and private music events, CCS is a white room for colorful music.  With a bar at one end and a stage at the other, full lighting and a cracker-jack sound system, plus full dressing rooms for musicians and an upstairs lounge, it has the facilities to make both the audience and talent feel like they are getting the royal treatment.  The curved white walls lend themselves to visual projections and the studio is well equipped to use them to change reality and create a vibe. While a few of projections on the artists were distracting, especially in the dim light selected for the evening, the overall result was one of comfort, luxury and quality.  The remodeling is still underway, but CCS is bringing a welcome touch of class to the DTLA music scene.

     

     

     

  • Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars rock us this Friday

    full_band_on_stage_300sq.jpgEver since I returned from Cuba I have been looking for ways to bring Cubana musica to MusicFridayLive!, but it has not been easy because it is so hard for Cubanos to come to the US to play.  That is our loss, not theirs;  Cuban bands tour Europe and Asia all the time, it is just those of US 90 miles away from Havana that can not enjoy them. This week the embargo broke, at least for one band.  Juan de Marcos recorded the first albums of the Buena Vista Social Club 20 years ago nd he has assembled an all-star band of Cuban artists - some of them from various iterations of the BVSC and managed to get permission to tour the US.  That tour lands in in LA next week (I will be there!) and we get to talk with him Friday.  This will be musical history.

     

  • Jenny Ball - twice this week. Bliss

    jenny_along_trumpet_up300_sq.jpgJenny Ball of Jenny and the Mexicats is our guest live this Friday and I just got done interviewing her on the radio.  How's that you say?  How could I interview her before she is interviewed?  Easy, she was on my other show, MusicaFusionLA - the bilingual English-Spanish show I co-host on Wednesday afternoons ( 1 pm blogtalkradio.com/musicala).  And that is fortunate because we had an hour to talk with her and learned a whole bunch that will guide the conversation this Friday - such as she moved to Spain and started a band with a Spaniard and two Mexicans without speaking a word of Spanish, and the police tried to stop a fan from singing her lyrics at a how, so they invited him on stage to sing with her.  We will talk about those things and more and play songs from her crackerjack new album Mare Abierto.

     

     

  • Top producer and hot new star this week

    I love it when we have a look at the full spectrum of how songs and stars get made.  We start the show with a hot, rising new star who worked up to the finals in The Voice and is now making waves on her own, Lauren Ruth Ward.  In the second half of the show, we talk to Jared Faber, one of LA's top producers for stars like Lauren, plus TV shows and films and his own Latin-Grammy winning music.  Should be a great show!