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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Michal the Girl

by Frank Gualtier -- 06/22/06

Michal the Girl is 1.7 yards of mind bending raw musical talent. She doubles as life support for a wickedly proficient voice.

She's the creator of infectious hooks in both the horizontal and vertical aspect and rhythms that dance in your head long after your legs have given out. She serves it up with a copious helping of her powerful and undeniably sexy voice.

Her first album Tongue Tied meanders near the garage with the overdriven guitar of 'Hook Line & Sink Me', the power-world/alt-rock arena with massive beat backed 'Bittersweet' and an ethereal hint of things to come with the haunting strings in my favorite MTG song 'Swivel It' (all three songs mentioned can be sampled at CD Baby).

'Swivel It' deserves special mention because it's such a break from anything you'd normally hear. Steeped in a soup of chilling cello drone it takes the mind everywhere from the highlands to deep beneath the waves with a bit of bowed whale song. The beat syncopates around a basic rock pattern and bass line with some chop that strangely brings some of Page and Bonham's (1/2 of Led Zeppelin) work to mind. Perhaps you had to see Jimmy Page bowing a guitar or hear John Bonham thrashing demons out of his kit to fully appreciate my words but the point is Michal takes you places you'd not expect. Wonderful places. And if you're curious about her voice this is a perfect song to sample -- impressive in all regards.

Her second album Strung Out yields a more unplugged Michal. As the name suggests you'll hear a lot more strings. Here we net the effect of cellos placed squarely in the path of her intense sense of flow and rhythm. Read her bio and you'll see she's no stranger to dance music. Listen to her music and it's obvious why. I did say 'intense'.

Celtic/irish flavors crop up often in Michal's music. More so in the vein of folk than 'world'. In all she runs a curious line from neo-punk straight through irish folk dance and somehow remains consisent enough that you'd readily put all songs from both albums on the same playlist at a party or on your iPod.

Check her out and see why Michal the Girl's music is even cooler than her name.

Links for Michal the Girl:

Friday, June 16, 2006

Celeste Lear

by Frank Gualtier -- 06/16/06, 06/17/06

Celeste LearHer voice and on camera presence are as dramatic and expressive as her music. With a rich mix of world/electronica/trip-hop'ish/dance and a flair for counterpoint Celeste Lear is a virtual smith of the arts who knows how to hammer out audio and visual delight.

Her voice is sexy and unique. The closest I can compare would be Berlin's Terri Nunn low end (strong -- dramatic) combined with Sarah Rabdau's high end (wispy -- sensual). Close at best -- as I said she's unique. Take a listen -- you will like. She does some really awesome layering and tagging and easily replicates herself at the octave. She also frequently uses her voice as a raw instrument with an innate understanding of the pleasure/pain window.

Visually she's stunning -- a real beauty -- and quite the actress. I highly recommend checking out her videos. In this regard she brings back memories once again of Terri Nunn.

Not one to slouch she weaves her art sans the synth sustain handicap so often found since synths first became affordable to most individuals. The patches and instrumentation she uses run from traditional guitar and exotic Erhu to rhythmic effect and real world sound synthesis and no excess organs or strings sus'ing would-be dead air between extremes. She leaves no dead air.

Her musical prowess might have you believing that some of the effects are actual instruments when in fact they don't exist. In that sense perhaps H.R. Giger would be her bio-mechanical creative analog except Celeste is much more colorful. Point is -- she could take a box of rocks and a rack of hangers and give them a voice people would want to hear.

I first heard about Celeste from War-N Harrison and Christa Belle (Hungry Lucy) in one of their podcasts. A visit to her website landed my ears on such songs as 'Tears in the Garden' and I've been a Lear fan ever since. In fact if you love Hungry Lucy's music (esp the 'Glo' and 'To Kill a King' albums) you'll most likely love Celeste Lear's music. She does a bit more with eurasian/indo/middle-east sounds, guitar and dance beat whereas HL is a bit more darkwave but overall they compare well.

Links for Celeste Lear:

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Clare Burson

by Frank Gualtier -- 06/15/06, 06/17/06

Clare BursonI just got ahold of Clare Burson's IDAHO ep and am floored. It's a bit dark in hue but there's an undeniable beauty in that as it explores feelings most of us understand yet don't always know how to put into words. And music is a medium that can tug at emotion without even saying a word. When word is given and it's as poignant as the music the draw becomes larger than the sum of it's parts.

Whether it's the ticking pulse and dark atmosphere of 'Take Good Care' or the acoustic charm of the ode spirited waltz 'Long After Midnight' Clare delivers.

Reading what others have written it's obvious she appeals to folk and country fans but when I hear things like the overdriven guitar that smolders mournfully in 'Blue Pearl' I'm certain this music would appeal equally to rock and other genre lovers as well.

She tends to pull you into each song with her music then keep you there, riveted, with her voice. I do mean riveted.

Her voice is crisp -- salient. Combining smoke with warm sibilant breath she carries both high and low end color at the same time and shimmers between the ethereal and the haunted. It's amazing and beautiful and creates endless permutations in how it's perceived depending on the song, how much emotion she articulates, and the mood you're in when you listen.

She's an artist of the highest caliber and will forever be a favorite of mine. My only regret is not having had her music in my life sooner.

Because IDAHO is a limited edition press hurry and get a copy before they run out.

Check out Clare Burson -- I'm confident you'll love her music.

Links For Clare Burson:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ingrid Michaelson

by Frank Gualtier -- 06/01/06, 06/17/06, 07/04/06
Photo by Jon Goodrich
Ingrid MichaelsonI sat down the other night to strum along to Ingrid Michaelson and quickly realized the level of genius she is. Her music is incredibly detailed and yet she puts it across as far more simple.

I first heard of Ingrid about a month ago when I read a review on her Slow the Rain album at I was smitten the very instant I first listened to her.

"Slow the Rain" is mostly piano based except for guitar accompanied "A Bird's Song" and the surprisingly divergent finale "I'll See You in My Dreams" which is reminiscent of one of Sam Brown's ukulele songs "I'll be Here". The album is filled with driving rhythm, lively and pulsing bass lines, melodious vocals, and beautiful harmonies. All of it executed with Ingrid's consistent vivacity.

Since then she has released the album Girls and Boys.

"Girls and Boys" shows incredible growth and forwards "Slow the Rain" like the next chapter of a book you just can't put down. She dives much deeper into guitar and the bass lines are yet more prevalent. As always the rhythm's are driven and breathtaking.

Ingrid's voice is immediately likeable for it's color, her contagiously dynamic manner of execution and it's exquisite technical purity. Because she sings seemingly without effort her voice has a constant essence of being fun. At times this makes you want to bob your head up and down and sing along. When the mood tempers, however, it becomes haunted and stirring.

Her lyrics are usually introspective, almost always personal, and sometimes sage. She has a gift for phrasing that never leaves me feeling awkward at the level of intimacy she shares.

UPDATE -- 07/04/06

Ingrid is a bell that you just can't ring too many times because she sounds so good. Take a look at what had to say this past Sunday about her new 'Girls and Boys' album. Also take a look at what Joe Szczepaniak of Stage Hymns had to say about it last week. We all seem to agree.

Check Ingrid out for yourself and see if you can listen without getting hooked.

Links for Ingrid Michaelson: