Californian singer-songwriter Denny White emailed me his new single, “Colors,” and gave me permission to share the song with you fine folks. It’s a very polished, ready-for-radio pop-rock tune, so I don’t think he’ll be sending his own press emails for long. You can stream and/or download a free, legal mp3 of the song below. I also found his cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” on his site, check out the video below.
Flipping channels yesterday, I was surprised to see a dark-haired, smokey-voiced girl playing piano on Ellen. I stopped thinking/hoping it was Fiona Apple, only to discover it was British singer-songwriter Birdy. Birdy covered Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” which is featured on her new self-titled debut and which you can stream via the Soundcloud widget below.
You can also download a free, legal mp3 of a demo of the original song “Without a Word” (also on her debut) by signing up for Birdy’s email list at her official site.
Lia Ices’ new sophomore album, Grown Unknown, blends the delicately haunting folk of Judee Sill and Kath Bloom with the eerie atmosphere of Julee Cruise and Kira Lynn Cain. The album features guest vocals by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
The album’s brilliance lies in Lia’s unusual use of instrumental embellishments to punch up her otherwise gentle melodies – whether it be a dramatic crash of piano halfway through the Bon Iver duet “Daphne,” the shake of a tambourine mingling with fingersnaps in “Little Marriage” or militant handclap percussion in “Grown Unknown.”
Elsewhere she livens things up with ethereal backing harmonies layered into the instrumentation or a surprising burst of rock guitar.
When she isn’t experimenting with sound and song structure, Lia’s beautiful voice makes even the most basic ballad absolutely stunning.
*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of label
I’m thrilled to be able to give away 2 copies of Anaïs Mitchell’s magnificent new CD Hadestown (click the album title for my rave review), featuring Ani Difranco, Greg Brown, and Bon Iver. See contest details and download two mp3s from the album below.
2 winners will receive 1 copy of Anaïs Mitchell’s new CD Hadestown
Comment to this entry with the name of your favorite myth or your favorite musical (or both) and your email address. All new comments are moderated to avoid spam, so it may take a day for your comment to appear if you haven’t commented on Muruch before.
Note: This contest is open to everyone, but all contestants must enter with a valid email address in order to qualify. The winners of the contest will also be required to provide me with their full name, phone number, and postal address for shipping purposes.
The contest will end on Friday, February 26th. The winners will be chosen at random and contacted via email.
Go now go! And tell others.
*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep
Anaïs Mitchell is already known as a phenomenal singer-songwriter, but now she has proven herself to be a brilliant poet and playwright with her new album Hadestown. This studio recording of Mitchell’s “folk opera” will be released on March 9th by Righteous Babe Records, and features such well known guest vocalists as Ani Difranco, Greg Brown, Petra Haden, Bon Iver, and Ben Knox Milller of The Low Anthem. In Hadestown, Anaïs transforms the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a post-apocalyptic American fable with Depression era style and indie-folk sensibility. This gorgeous, exciting project reminds me why I love music so much and why I love writing about music so much.
the enemy is poverty and the wall keeps out the enemy
that’s why we build the wall, we build the wall to keep us free
I should preface this review by saying that Hadestown should not be avoided if you dislike musicals or concept albums. I know many people were turned off by The Decemberist’s Hazards of Love since the tracks were difficult to listen to individually. But the songs of Hadestown stand strong on their own and together make a magnificent album. It is what I would imagine Les Misérables might have sounded like if it had been written by Woody Guthrie.
The underworld in Hadestown is a corrupt company town with a gold mine. Surrounded by a country sunk deep into financial crisis, the inhabitants of Hadestown have been tricked into viewing their walled city as a safe haven. The common people mindlessly follow their oppressive ruler Hades out of fear and greed, trading their freedom for a false sense of security.
Anaïs uses this as the setting for a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, in which a devoted musician travels to the underworld to retrieve his dead bride.
Anaïs Mitchell originally wrote the stage musical in collaboration with director Ben Matchstick and orchestrator Michael Chorney, and the folk opera was performed in Vermont in 2006 before going on tour throughout New England. When it came time to record the album, Anaïs reworked many of the songs and put together a new cast of indie stars Ani Difranco, Bon Iver, Petra Haden, and The Low Anthem’s Ben Knox Milller, as well as folk favorite Greg Brown.
I was initially disappointed that Anaïs didn’t choose to sing every song herself. I adored her simple, heartfelt solo interpretation of “Hades and Persephone” on The Brightness and the haunting rendition of “Why We Build The Wall” she performed when I saw her live at Mountain Stage two years ago.
The thought of Greg Brown’s presence in particular made me cringe. Enduring two painful Mountain Stage performances by Brown had put him on my “things I intensely dislike” list somewhere between Taylor Swift and Dane Cook.
I also thought Bon Iver had been horribly miscast as Orpheus. The mythical Orpheus was supposed to be such a supernaturally gifted musician that even nature and inanimate objects fell under the spell of his voice and lyre. I felt that kind of character really called for stronger pipes than Bon Iver’s mellow voice.
However, listening to the album erased all of the disappointments and pre-conceptions I had. I still would have liked a bonus disc of Anaïs performing the songs alone. But in the context of the Hadestown story, every casting choice makes perfect sense and Anaïs has made me love Greg Brown and Bon Iver with the substantial material she gave them to sing.
Bon Iver (credited as Justin Vernon) plays an optimistic, boyish Orpheus. The album opens with “Wedding Song”, a duet between Orpheus and his new bride Eurydice – portrayed here beautifully in the sweet tones of Anaïs Mitchell.
The barking of stray dogs and a lone harmonica herald in the dazzling “Way Down in Hadestown.” The Low Anthem’s Ben Knox Milller (as messenger Hermes) leads Bon Iver, Ani Difranco, Anaïs Mitchell, and a chorus of former Hadestown cast members in a sing-a-long propelled by Tin Pan Alley instrumentation. It only took one listen and I was singing along. This song belongs on Broadway.
“Hey, Little Songbird” finds the dulcet tones of Eurydice tangling with the sinister, seductive growl of Hades. Greg Brown’s Hades is all jaded, bitter, gristled blues, and his voice has never sounded better. The deep gravel of his throat is especially effective in the xenophobic anthem “Why We Build The Wall,” in which Hades and his brainwashed “children” engage in a call-and-response recitation of the wall’s chilling purpose.
Vernon’s Orpheus has taken on a melancholy tone as he follows Hermes’ whispered directions to the underworld in “Wait For Me,” and seems to consider abandoning his quest before regaining his courage in “If It’s True.”
There are no innocent victims in Hadestown. Eurydice and Persephone are traditionally viewed as chaste maidens who are held hostage by evil Hades, but these musical counterparts seem to have brought themselves to the underworld with their own moral weaknesses.
Eurydice pines for her lost love and former life in “Gone, I’m Gone” and “Flowers (Eurydice’s Song),” while The Fates (Petra Haden and her sisters – billled as The Haden Triplets) slide in to taunt her with menacing Andrews Sisters croons on “When The Chips Are Down” and “Nothing Changes.”
Ani Difranco’s rich inflections add a new dimension to the character of Persephone. “Our Lady of the Underground” has a Mae West swagger and runs a subversive speakeasy in her infamous husband’s murky world.
In the original myth, not even the cold heart of Hades can resist the beauty of Orpheus’ music, and so he is granted permission to bring Eurydice back to the world of the living. In Hadestown, however, it’s the persuasion of Persephone that convinces the dark king to release the two young lovers.
Ani Difranco and Greg Brown give the most emotional vocal performances of their respective careers in their duet of “How Long?” – a revamped version of “Hades and Persephone.” As much as I loved Anaïs’ original recording, Difranco and Brown truly bring the characters of Hades and Persephone to life as they argue over the fate of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Hades contemplates the effect his compromise might have on the power he holds over his kingdom in “His Kiss The Riot,” but in the end allows the young couple to escape on the sole condition that Orpheus not look back at Eurydice on the way out.
“Doubt Comes In” as Hades predicts when Orpheus is unable to keep his eyes off his beloved for the entire journey for fear she has fallen behind. As a result of his doubt, she is pulled back into the underworld and he loses her forever.
The tragic tale ends with the lament “I Raise My Cup To Him,” a lovely duet between Anaïs Mitchell and Ani Difranco as Eurydice and Persephone.
*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep Toolshed Media on behalf of Righteous Babe Records
Six-piece vocal ensemble Sonos perform a cappella covers of songs by popular indie artists. But this is no bland choir. Thanks to the presence of human beatbox Ben McLain and the innovative way their male and female harmonies are arranged, their covers are often more interesting than the originals. I was introduced to the group last April when they performed live at Mountain Stage. Their debut full-length SonoSings will be released by Verve Records on September 15th.
The album quietly begins with the Bon Iver cover “Re: Stacks.” I think a stronger song may have been a better choice for the opener. But whether humming in such hushed tones or belting to the rafters as in latter tracks, there’s an elegance to each note the sextet sings.
The cool, vibrating rendition of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” that follows is more impressive, and Sara Bareilles herself joins Sonos for a rhythmic a capella recording of her song “Gravity.” I personally prefer both of these covers over the originals.
However, the studio version of “Again and Again” (originally by The Bird & The Bee) doesn’t translate as well as it did in their live performance. Sadly, this is somewhat true of the album in general. The fault obviously lies in the smooth production, which dampens the dynamics of the individual vocals. I know from hearing them sing unaccompanied in concert that these six voices need no such help or effects.
Still, the studio polish is only a minor irritation in most cases. The delicately atmospheric takes on Imogen Heap’s “Come Here Boy” and Bjork’s “Joga” are much more successful.
Sonos save their most stunning cover for last. To say their vocals on Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” are gorgeous and chill-producing may be cliché, but it’s true.
Sonos – Everything In Its Right Place (mp3 expired) *
*mp3 posted for a limited time w/ permission of ThinkPress PR on behalf of Verve Records