Nathan Pacheco

Guest Post By: Brendan

I opened Nathan Pacheco’s new self-titled album with some hesitancy. Another “Popera” voice attempting covers of “Hallelujah” and the requisite “Nessun Dorma?” No thanks. But then I pressed play and here I sit with a huge smile on my face. Pacheco’s voice is very good and deserving of the Josh Groban comparisons.

Particularly noteworthy are the original songs on the album, co-written by Pacheco. The centerpiece is an astonishing quartet of new songs which deserve to become modern classics – “Oyela,” “Infinito Amore,” “Tears from Heaven” and “Don’t Cry.”

They are followed by the slightly disappointing original track “Que L’Amour” before Pacheco climbs the summit of Lucio Dalla’s ode to “Caruso,” also covered on Jonathan and Charlotte’s debut. To my ear, Pacheco’s version is more accomplished.

Another standout on the album was a cover of “Now We Are Free,” originally performed by Dead Can Dance‘s Lisa Gerard for the Gladiator soundtrack. Matt Chamberlain’s drums help to make this a triumphant recording. I also appreciated the Celtic flavor added to the song and several other tracks by Eric Rigler’s uileann pipes and tin whistle.

My favorite song from the album, “Infinito Amore,” can be streamed below…


Nathan Pacheco Official Site

Amanda Palmer: Theatre Is Evil

Amanda Palmer just released her sophomore solo album, Theatre Is Evil, with her new band, The Grand Theft Orchestra. The album explores pop, New Wave and synth rock in a way that is quite a departure from Palmer’s old punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, but it often has the same twisted wit, high energy and frenetic pace. The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the bombastic Theatre Is Evil is the best argument for fan-funded albums. It more than lives up to the excitement stirred up by the mp3s Palmer has shared over the past few months.

I heard that if you see a star at night
And the conditions are just right
And you are standing on a cliff
Then you can close your eyes
And make a wish and take a step
And change somebody’s life

Theater Is Evil begins with an unsettling blare of German blasting through a megaphone courtesy of Australian “Kamikaze Cabaret” artist, Meow Meow. The English translation is “Ladies and Gentlemen, how can I slit my wrists when I can’t stop dancing?” I could do without the grating sound of the introduction, but it does sum up the album pretty well. Palmer isn’t abandoning her Goth roots, she’s just mixing them with uptempo beats and rhythms. She herself describes the album’s style as “crancing” – simultaneously crying and dancing. Which is probably why so many songs remind me of a mix of The Cure and Depeche Mode.

“Smile (Pictures or It Didn’t Happen)” floats in on swirling, crashing waves of piano that build with Amanda’s voice into a crescendo of melodic melancholia.

The deliciously dark pop number “The Killing Type” sweetly seethes with stalkerish self-denial. It’s one of many standout tracks. Somewhere Siouxsie & The Banshees are smiling.

“Do it With a Rockstar” is a swaggering, taunting glam rock anthem, while “Melody Dean” is catchy New Wave with a spectacular, horn-burnished instrumental interlude.

The downbeat “Grown Man Cry,” in which Amanda skewers an overly needly and maudlin male friend, is a scornful albeit atmospheric answer to The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry.”

The classically arranged punk-rock instrumental “A Grand Theft Intermission” reveals why Amanda’s band is called The Grand Theft Orchestra. The song would have fit well on Muse’s The Resistance.

“Bottomfeeder” seems to be both a wry indictment of spotlight chasers and a bizarre and lovely tribute to those lurking in the shadows. Amanda abandons her signature frantic playing for a beautifully sprawling piano melody.

Theatre Is Evil is Amanda Palmer’s greatest work since The Dresden Dolls’ debut (which was my #1 of the last decade) and sure to be on my best of the year list.

Amanda Palmer – Do It With a Rockstar (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – The Killing Type (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Want it Back (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Trout Heart Replica (mp3)*

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep


Amanda Palmer Official Site

Amanda Mair: New Mp3s & Album!

Amanda Mair is one to watch. The seventeen year old, Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist will release her self-titled debut on June 5th. Amanda puts a refreshingly twist on girl with a piano ballads and summery Swedish pop. Her label is offering three of the album’s standout tracks as free, legal mp3s, all of which you can download below. “House” grows from quiet, heartfelt Birdy-like verses into full-fledged, ethereal piano pop that hints at early Kate Bush. “Sense” and “Doubt” are purely catchy, somewhat ’80s-influenced pop numbers.

Amanda Mair – Doubt (mp3)*

*all mp3s posted w/ permission of label


Amanda Mair Official Site

Wilson Phillips: Dedicated

Wilson Phillips are back with Dedicated, a tribute to The Mamas & Papas and The Beach Boys. Despite my fondness for all three bands (Wilson Phillips’ self-titled debut is tied to many a childhood memory), I expected this to be a disappointing, overtly sentimental album. Yet this homage to their respective parents – Beach Boy Brian Wilson is father of Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips’ parents were Mamas & Papas’ John and Michelle Phillips – is actually quite good. Wilson Phillips may be better known for their reality show antics now than for their music, but their harmonies are as lovely as ever and very reminiscent of the two bands who spawned them. Dedicated is a pleasant, melodic and fun soundtrack for summer.

Highlights on the album include the uptempo, true-to-original covers of “California Dreamin’,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Monday Monday.”

Other favorites are the pretty ballads “Dedicated To The One I Love” (featuring Cass Elliot’s daughter, Owen) and “God Only Knows” as well as the mellow Mamas & Papas song “Twelve-Thirty.”

The only tracks I find a bit irksome are “I Can Hear Music” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” but I feel the same about the original songs.

The a capella finale “Good Vibrations” is another standout. The use of multi-layered vocal hums as instrumentation reminds me of a capella groups like Sonos.

Overall, Dedicated is a sunny, summery, very catchy and surprisingly well orchestrated collection of classic pop covers.

I wasn’t granted permission to share an mp3, but you can stream the entire album at AOL.


Dedicated - Wilson Phillips

Wilson Phillips Official Site

Eliza Doolittle

Brendan shares his enamour with Eliza Doolittle’s self-titled album below…

Eliza Doolittle is the stage name of Eliza Sophie Caird, who comes from an arty London family. Her father, musical writer and director John Caird, recently worked with André Previn on Brief Encounter, and her mother won a Tony award for her performance in Les Misérables.

Eliza’s self-titled album was released in the UK in 2010, in the US in 2011, came to my attention through her performance on the Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson last month, and is plumb full of perfect pop hits! Perhaps my status as a recovering pop addict makes me more susceptible to this sort of thing – yes, I was the proud owner of cassettes by Take That and many issues of Smash Hits magazine in the 1990s – but this has quickly become one of my favorite albums of recent years, and is one of few I can listen to all the way through repeatedly.

Every day, a different song from this album comes to mind and I can’t wait to hear it again. One standout track is “Pack Up,” which features a superb guest vocal from British Gospel singer Lloyd Wade. The fact that he’s sampling a song published in 1915 is one of many reasons why I love this album.

More reasons? Hand clapping, mandolin, maracas, melodica, glockenspiel, whistle, cello and ukulele are among the many instruments used on the album. A toy drum kit is used on one track (“Rollerblades,” currently featured on a Toyota commercial), and on another, Eliza tweets – as in makes sounds like a bird (‘bird’ as in ornithology, not as in slang for chick). Also, Eliza co-wrote all the songs on the album.

If you need music that will make you happy, and I know you do, you need to seek out Eliza Doolittle.


Eliza Doolittle Official Site