Artist of the Week CD Reviews

Artist of the Week: Brooke Fraser

New Zealand’s Brooke Fraser has been readying the release of her stand-out third album, Flags. With angelic vocals reminiscent to singer-songwriters Ingrid Michaelson and Colbie Caillat, Fraser’s 11-track LP combines descriptive songwriting with remarkable musical accompaniment.

Flags begins with the energetic “Something In the Water.” With a catchy beat and a chorus that is bound to stay stuck in your head long after the last verse is sung, Fraser kicks of the album strongly. Next track, “Betty,” co-written by Fraser, Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman and The Real Efforts of Real People’s Ben West, segues nicely with horn features, a driving percussion beat and Fraser’s relentless vocals.

Of Flags, Fraser says, “I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record. On my previous albums, I was singing completely as myself, which is why I think I got so burnt out from touring.”

Last album, Albertine, Fraser says was inspired by “incredibly significant events and people and every time I’d sing I’d go back to that moment where my heart was ripped open. So singing such heavy songs nearly every night for three years took a toll … On Flags, it’s still me speaking, but it’s me speaking the voices of different characters and their stories. It’s more survivable.”

A new character is woven into each of Fraser’s 11 songs while her angelic voice captivates on all. “Orphans, Kingdoms” impresses with a steadfast drumbeat underneath her slower singing style while “Ice on Her Lashes,” a beautiful ballad, introduces soaring string features for the first time.

Continuously showcasing her versatility, on “Jack Kerouac” soulful electric guitar accompanies the Caribbean folk influenced track while moving ballad “Sailboats” displays Fraser’s more serious side. With a release this strong, Americans can expect to hear much more from the New Zealand native.

Watch Brooke’s video for “Something In the Water” below and be sure to visit her Web site to download “May Waltz.”

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Ingrid Michaelson Debuts Tracks Off Upcoming Release

Photo Credit: Deborah Lopez

Indie songstress Ingrid Michaelson is revealing a song a day from her new album Everybody leading up to her release next Tuesday. With hit songs like, “The Way I Am” landing in episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and radio stations everywhere, Michaelson quickly became an artist to watch last year.

In fact, it’s her honest lyrics and relatable stories that have found refuge in many music lover’s ears and as a result have garnered her an ever growing fan base. She has said this album is totally autobiographical, but then again isn’t that what draws the fans even closer? Visit her MySpace or check out the widget below as she discusses the story behind each track as well as listen to each song in it’s entirety.

8/20 “Everybody”
8/21 “Are We There Yet”
8/22 “Sort Of”
8/23 “Incredible”
8/24 “Mountain and the Sea”

What do you think? If you like what you’ve heard, be sure to catch Ingrid on tour this fall. Check out her MySpace for complete tour dates.

Concert Reviews

Joshua Radin Pours His Heart Out in New York

Taking the stage to a swarm of screaming female fans, Joshua Radin played to a packed crowd at Webster Hall last Friday. Radin’s performance was nothing short of surprises as fellow singer-songwriters Ingrid Michaelson and Dar Williams accompanied him on two songs throughout the night. Playing nearly an hour set, fans left the venue with the hopes of seeing Radin again soon as he told the crowd he moved back to New York just four days prior.

“Hello New York! My name is Joshua Radin,” he told concertgoers after first song, “Free Of Me,” as if they didn’t already know his name. “It’s New York City and you never know what can happen,” he continued before Ingrid Michaelson took the stage to assist on “Sky.” Their voices blended beautifully together and the crowd was energized from the moment Michaelson entered the stage, drowning out the rest of Radin’s introduction.

While he has referred to his music’s genre as whisper rock, one might imagine it difficult to hear his soft voice at a concert venue, however this was not the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Radin’s vocals remained hushed and undeniably airy at times, but the audience hung on to every lyric sung during his set. Incredulously, on numbers such as “Winter” the room was so silent you could literally (please forgive the cliche) hear a pin drop. He told fans that “Winter” was the first song he had ever written while walking around New York nearly four years ago. Taking the stage alone on acoustic guitar the crowd gave Radin their complete attention as he ended the song to screams.

Radin often introduced each song with the story behind it. One such song was inspired by Bob Dylan’s autobiography. Radin said the one thing that stuck out from the book was advice Dylan was given when moving to New York and how he should lose all his envy and fear. “I wrote a song about it because I had so much envy and so much fear and the song is called, ‘No Envy, No Fear’.” The light percussion, guitar and string features blended impeccably well with Radin’s vocals right up to the fade out of the song.

Many of his songs are detailed accounts of former relationships or fantasies. Take “Vegetable Car,” a song he told the crowd was written about a girl he had never met while “One of Those Days” is a heartbreaker that surely melted most girls’ hearts in the room. Having trouble getting over a former girlfriend that used to tour with him, the lyrics include “Now a year has passed/Alone I stay inside and I await the rain/To wash away your face so I don’t have to hide/The sight of you is painful/So I crawl underneath my blanket where I can hide away/I know I can’t take it anymore/’Cause I see now it’s just one of those days.”

“I have two ex-girlfriends and two records. This one is about the second,” Radin said before introducing “You Got Growin’ Up To Do,” telling the audience that the song is about meeting the right person at the wrong time. Ecstatic to have one of his favorite singers, Patty Griffin, accompany him on the track on his album, Radin described it as “the coolest thing ever.” Singer Dar Williams then took the stage filling in for Griffin’s vocals.

The rest of the night showcased songs from Radin’s latest release, Simple Times as well as his previous album. Ending with a cover of his favorite song ever written and recorded, Sam Cooke’s soulful “Bring It On Home To Me,” Radin promised fans he’ll be back soon since New York is now his home. From the crowd’s response, I think they’ll be eagerly waiting.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to visit Joshua Radin on MySpace and catch a show when he’s in town! To listen to a stream of single, “I’d Rather Be With You” click here.

Photo credit: Wendy Hu

Concert Reviews

The Hotel Cafe Tour Stops in NYC

The Hotel Cafe Tour hit New York City Monday night to a standing-room-only crowd at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza. The night featured 15- to 20-minute rotating performances from Ingrid Michaelson, Cary Brothers, Joshua Radin, Meiko and Priscilla Ahn.

While Michaelson may have been the main draw, with her MySpace success and songs featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” all the musicians featured throughout the night impressed the crowd. Whether it was Ahn playing the kazoo during one of her songs or all the performers accompanying Brothers on backing vocals for his song “Blue Eyes,” they kept the audience attentive.

I’ve never been to a concert that rotated performers every 15 minutes or so, but surprisingly enough the show ran extremely smoothly. Each performer played three to four songs every time they were onstage, sometimes bringing out previous performers to sing with them. For the most part, the musicians were a bit mellow — many playing acoustic guitars — but Michaelson’s set as well as Brothers’ livened up the audience.

Michaelson started out her first set of the night by playing “Breakable” from her latest album, Girls and Boys. The piano accompaniment throughout the song was strong but never overpowered her vocals. “Overboard” featured Michaelson’s falsetto singing range as she sang “To fall” — lyrics from the song — repeatedly, hitting a higher note with each repetition.

She explained “The Hat” as being her hoedown song, and at the end of her first set she joked with the crowd, promising that she’d be back after “one more of the whole buffet of singer songwriters” took the stage. “We’re going to make you cry tonight,” she said, alluding to the mellower, down-tempo sets of songs.

Ahn took the stage shortly after, with her light, airy singing style and guitar and strings accompaniment. She introduced her song “Astronauts” by saying, “This song is called ‘Astronauts’ and it’s about astronauts.” Another song, “Leave the Light On,” she told the audience, was inspired and written when she was 18 and living in Pennsylvania with her parents, practically in the middle of the woods. Coming home late at night, her parents would never leave the lights on and she was constantly scared that she was surrounded by “cougars, bears and rapists” in the dark.

Radin took the stage next with his guitar, and later Ahn came back out to accompany him as well as Allie Moss from Michaelson’s band. Solid and soothing vocally, Radin joked about one of his songs, which was inspired by falling in love on a train while in France. “This song gets tons and tons of airplay … on my mom’s iPod.” He had the audience singing along to “What If You,” a beautiful vocally driven song with his light guitar playing blending well with his soft vocals.

Michaelson took the stage again awhile later, playing a few more from her latest album. “Die Alone,” she told the crowd, was inspired by her constant fear of dying alone. “I know everyone feels that way sometimes,” she said. While her voice in the song sounds pretty lighthearted, the guitar accompaniment portrayed a feeling of anxiousness and fear.

Crowd favorite of the night seemed to be Michaelson and her radio hit, “The Way I Am.” With classic lines such as “I’d buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair/Sew on patches to all you tear/‘Cuz I love you more than I could ever promise,” she had practically all in attendance singing along. At times she seemed like a choir teacher directing those in the audience who helped her out by clapping along during certain points in the song.