Welcome to Boss Ladies, the review column written by members for members! Today we'll hear Tori Roze's take on Jessie Lark's latest EP, entitled After Hours.
Image description: Photograph of Jessie Lark, barefoot and dressed in a blue nightgown and robe, sitting on a piano bench in front of a piano. Jessie's right hand is on the keys, and her left elbow is on the piano, with her left hand cradling her head. At bottom of photo in white text reads: "After (H)ours. Jessie Lark"
Mark my words: musical artist Jessie Lark, a.k.a. Jessica Lerner, is going to be a household name. A San Diego-based musician, Lark penetrates the music scene with her honest approach to creating sound at home. As an original songstress who knows the capacity of her heart AND her own personal playing/singing/writing ability, the fact that she practically does everything herself is testament to the beautifully realized and highly-marketable vision that is her debut EP, After Hours.
The EP boasts five “hearty” songs (pun intended), guiding the listener through varying emotions while maintaining an unshakable constant: Lark's dazzling voice. Her placement, nuance, and tonality are untouchable; her lyrics are paramount to the driving force of each song – she’s got a story (or five) to tell. It is a soothing pleasure to listen to Lark envelop your sonic sensors as she easily floats over the entirety of her voice.
Not only does Lark sing like a bird, but she caresses her piano like a lover whose touch will never tire. The musicianship on After Hours comes across as the much-needed complement to Lark’s pristine vocal expression - emotive and thoughtful. The album swirls with piano + synth + lead + backup vocals all provided by Lark, while intermittent “visitors” drop by on meticulously placed guitar (Lark's husband Kevin Viner and Austin Moorhead), saxophone (Dante Lewis), and synthesizer (Viner). The mix (Viner) is delicious, warm, and meaningful. The production (Viner) is diamond clear – this is some of the most cinematic and licensable music, and it’s all on one album: it’s undeniably good.
The first song off the EP, titled “Come On,” begins with gorgeously low piano notes resounding in the abyss. There is a grandness to the production: as if the room in which it was recorded had epically tall ceilings lending to a cathedral of open acoustics. Despite the openness of the sound, this song feels intimate and seductive. The vocals are yearningly confident. Lark paints us a picture of her dream lover, whom she wishes to possess. She enticingly repeats the chorus, “come on, come on, come on, don’t leave me this way...I know that you think about me...I promise I won’t behave.” The urgency of her message grows as the song continues - violins tug at imaginary heart strings as Lark’s volume and strength explode; she, acting as puppet master to the listener’s feelings. This song could easily be inserted into any film whose subject is forbidden love or secretive relations (like the unimaginably successful Twilight series). Lark leaves you hanging on until the very last note, as she hits a final breathy “t,” proclaiming “this is your green light.” Her delivery is so direct that you wish you were the fantasy she needed. This is definitely the most passionate song on the album; a smart choice by Lark as the first track one experiences.
Lark completely switches gears on the second tune, “Love Don’t Change.” Specifically, we’ve moved on to a modern country-pop jam and entered what seems like the world of a romantic-comedy: where lessons in love are a-plenty.
The scene is set with a slow-dancing guitar and piano softly embracing one another. Lark’s voice joins in solid two-part harmony, perfectly-pairing the music and the vocals like great wine and cheese. If Notting Hill hadn’t already existed, this song would belong on its soundtrack. The lyrics express loving reverence for an ex-partner who left a positive and permanent mark on Lark. It’s a story most of us can relate to; it’s also the stuff of great songwriting.
“Go Slow” immediately picks up the rhythmic pace. Playful bouncy guitar (Moorhead) and piano set the tempo – the vibe is road trip music. Flawless vocals and lyrics touch on the beginning phases of liking someone and not knowing where it’s headed. This is an easy-listening song, literally embodying the aural desire to “go slow.” The piano and guitar play in harmonious country-like unison, strengthening the rhythmic core that propels the song forward. The backup vocals add a touch of femininity as they gently appear in support of the chorus. You know a piece of music is well-balanced when all of the instruments as well as the vocals are highlighted; a prime example of masterful production.
“Fly Away” starts out like a proper singer-songwriter tune – piano and vocals. Self-reflective in nature, Lark speaks about letting someone go “over the rainbow,” describing her feelings of that loss as she feels “colder now.” There is an impenetrable dissonance underlying the tone of the song; it is almost as if Lark is acknowledging where there is light, there is also darkness – the good with the bad, new beginnings with bitter-sweet endings, and life with death. The saxophone (Lewis) tastefully sails over the melody, as if it symbolizes the person whom Lark was singing to. Lark ends the song like a prayer, quiet and gracefully calling out to God for the prompt reunion with her friend. This is an affectionately thoughtful love-note to the recently departed.
The final song, “Under These Sheets,” tells you everything you need to know from the title. Much like “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer, this song has a future being played on repeat at weddings. The lyrics are exactly what you would assume they would be – an exploration of the entirety of someone you love while being held in the safety of their personal warmth. A cozy feeling of security overtakes you as its catchy chorus reverberates in your head, “I’m never climbing out from under these sheets.” Romance oozes from the very fabric of this song. Like a lullaby hypnotizing you into a waltz, this song begs to be put on repeat.
Five songs aren’t nearly enough to satisfy the amount of Lark’s music one gets hungry for after hearing it for the first time. The production is excellent and the result of a thoroughly stunning dream-team (props to Viner for mixing/production and Geoff Pesche for mastering), but the true winner here is the songwriting. Great albums come from great music, period. The versatility and self-sufficiency with which Lark composes original music shows that she has a long and lucrative career awaiting her in the music business, whether it be performing the music herself or writing it for someone else. She’s so good, she can do it all. Lark is testament that those mind-blowing records can all be written and recorded at home.
Have a listen to the brilliant EP After Hours on Spotify as soon as you can. You can also catch Lark performing live on Instagram @jessielarkmusic - every Wednesday at 6pm PST and Sunday at 12pm PST.
For more info: www.jessielark.com
Image description: White background with black vertical text on left side that reads: "boss ladies." At center is the artwork for Jessie Lark's EP (see above for description). Layered on top of photograph is a yellow circle with black text that reads: "artist Jessie Lark. ep After Hours. reviewed by Tori Roze."
Welcome to Boss Ladies, the review column written by members for members! In this edition, Lizabeth Yandel reviews Melanie Medina's new single, “Millennial Love Dance," available today on streaming platforms.
If you’re feeling like you could use a little comic relief in this possibly-apocalyptic, so-dramatic-it-would-be-funny-except-that-it’s-real time of coronavirus and quarantine, Melanie Medina’s new single “Millennial Love Dance” may be just the witty kind of medicine you need. It’s a track that so many of us can relate to in our current virtually-charged dating world. The playfulness of the music, combined with the hilarity of cringingly relevant lyrics like “baby, I’m consenting affirmatively,” give millennials of all stripes the chance to laugh at our ridiculous selves while also singing along (and not crying, you’re crying).
The lyrics stand on their own. Medina had been “pretty fed up with overly sentimental love songs full of imagery cliches.” The response that came from her frustration is a string of super specific, well-drawn images that vividly paint an everyday coffee-shop scene that might just be love. “I stop for coffee on my latest walk of shame, and there I find you standing so astute, in vegan leather boots,” she sings, with such a sweetness in her voice that one could easily miss the cynicism and comedy of the actual words. But Medina assures us that she wasn’t trying to paint the current dating world in an “entirely cynical” light.
“I wanted to write something really topical and flippant as a middle finger to, well, romanticizing romance,” she said.
The track was first written in a basement practice room at San Diego State University, where Medina completed her degree in music. Since that first rendition, the song has gone through a few revamps.
“I had to update the references a few times,” she explained. “It originally contained lines about vegan lattes and a beard that was ‘on fleek’. Yikes”.
Medina cut the final track, with references so current it’s almost embarrassing for all of us, with her producer Shandon Campbell in Campbell’s home studio. The track features Sean Hicke on bass, Abran Gurrola on drums, and Melanie Medina’s own killer guitar chops and wonderfully mellow vocals.
Medina’s hope for “Millennial Love Dance” is that, “we can all just have a good laugh about being basically living in a Black Mirror episode.”
Although the theme of the tune might speak to a general disappointment we all feel in the dating world right now, this fresh, clever song with its sprinkles of jazz harmonies and “liberal propaganda” (as Medina puts it) will absolutely not disappoint!
“I've been writing a LOT during the quarantine,” Medina says, adding that she has more singles scheduled to drop in the coming months. Be sure to stream or download “Millennial Love Dance” and keep your eyes wide for more singles from this rad emerging artist soon!
In this edition of Boss Ladies (a review column written by members for members), Unison Colthurst shares her Trouble: A Calamity Adventure, the latest project from the Calamity gang.
I have fallen in love with Calamity! Do yourself a favor and listen to their newest release Trouble: A Calamity Adventure radio play. I just sat in my driveway for 10 extra minutes instead of going into my house, not because I was avoiding the two sticky toddlers that were waiting behind the front door, but because I had to hear how these ladies were getting in and out of their own sticky situations. Calamity has taken a unique approach with this release, weaving five news songs into a half-hour modern radio program. With the surge in popularity of podcasts, radio programs are enjoying a renaissance, and these ladies are riding that radio wave with Trouble.
Trouble: A Calamity Adventure will be available on all streaming platforms in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you hear it here first!
In Trouble, you really get a sense of each band member's personality, humor, and of course, their musical talent all through a girls road trip through the desert. Written by the witty and entertaining percussionist Catherine Barnes, the story's language and imagination (look out for the zombie trash panda!) makes me want to join them on this road trip--well, until it goes horribly wrong. Take a listen to find out what I mean. No spoilers here!
The songs are a testament to why Calamity has been nominated for this year's San Diego Music Awards in the Best County or Americana Album category. Right out of the gate, their cover of Gillian Welch and David Rawling's song “Caleb Meyer" hits you with low velvety solo voices paired with tight three and four-part harmonies, and the soaring fiddle phrases of Patric Petrie, all backed by the band's trademark acoustic instrumentation. The third song, “Crazy Eyes,” co-written by Cathryn Beeks (ukulele/vocals) and Nisha Catron (guitar/vocals), flirts between tango and rock and roll while maintaining tight harmonies and moving the storyline along . The title track, “Trouble,” which features Roni Lee on slide guitar, is a musical version of watching our fab five stroll off into sunrise with the desert surrounding them, probably in slow motion, while drinking tequila.
In Trouble, Calamity sure lives up to their name, and I can’t wait to hear the next part of the adventure. It's clear that bandmates Beeks, Catron, Barnes, Petrie, Marcia Claire (bass), and narrator Claudia Russell had a blast making this at Foxtail Studios in Escondido, and the fun is infectious. Look for upcoming performances (now featuring Lady Brain member Jules Stewart on drums!) on their calendar, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram. I know that I’ll be checking out Calamity at one of the fun shows they have lined up soon.
Welcome to Boss Ladies, the review column written by members for members! In this edition, Jules Stewart reviews “Recently," the debut single from Melanie Medina.
Let me set the scene for you: you’re out catching some live music at your favorite spot, and someone is ripping out artful solos, perfect rhythms, and riffs that float like fog around the rest of the band. You’re feeling the music and so is everyone around you. You look up to find out who’s on guitar and it’s Melanie Medina. It’s always Melanie Medina. Melanie has a degree in Jazz Guitar and gigs extensively around San Diego, but not everyone has had the chance to hear her original music or her sweet, smooth vocals. In her debut single, “Recently," she comes out swinging with a feel-good bop that manages to provide plenty of fun for casual listeners and studied musicians alike. With its syncopated vocal rhythms and funky hits, this song made me smile right off the bat. Conceptually, “Recently" playfully explores the sometimes overwhelming highs that come from adoring someone: lost sleep, studying every attribute, and the deep desire to truly know them.
It’s a terribly difficult thing to orchestrate musical complexity into a finished product that smacks a listener with simple joy. Writing a happy love song that stays away from the trite or cliche is also no small feat. “Recently" manages both. Melanie’s full, layered bed of guitar rhythms and her ultra-melodic solo are woven seamlessly with keys (from Shandon Campbell, who also produced the track) and snazzy trombone and saxophone lines (by Kevin Urzua and Juan Gonzales, respectively). As a drummer myself, I usually have a hard time hearing anything other than drums and bass on my first few times listening to a track, but the parts of this one fit so well together that what struck me first was the feel of “Recently." The relaxed, bouncy groove laid down by Abran Gurrola on drums and Sean Hicke is perfection; it feels just as central to the theme of the song as the lyrics.
You know how animated movies notoriously contain “easter eggs,” or hidden gems that are placed there just for the careful watcher to find? Melanie managed to nestle in a handful of little jokes and puns for jazz-lovers in the same way. They’re worked in so smoothly that I was almost mad at myself when I recognized them, just like I was when someone pointed out the fact Lightning McQueen races with Lightyear tires in Cars. Oh, you thought I was going to point those jazz jokes out? No dice, find them yourself.
All in all, “Recently" is an impossibly great debut single from a musician who is just starting to explore what it’s like to take a lead role in her own musical project. I’m looking forward to the next two singles which are set to be released later this year.
Stream/Download “Recently" Online
Welcome to Boss Ladies, the review column written by members for members! To usher in our first review of 2020, Lizzie Wann gives us her take on 20 Years Here, the latest release from Cathryn Beeks.
Full disclosure: I love Cathryn Beeks. I’ve been friends with Beeks almost as long as she was in San Diego. We’ve both since moved (me in May, she in September) to be with family, but San Diego will always have a piece of our hearts and will always be considered a home away from home.
The latest musical offering from Beeks is not only a testament to her undeniable force in the San Diego music scene but is also replete with wonderful songs, podcasts, special shows, compilations, stories, photos, recipes, and much more. Because the project itself is separated into two parts, I’ll follow suit.
20 Years Here
This collection of 7 songs is Beeks's self-proclaimed “goodbye note” to San Diego. And it’s lovely. These songs represent Beeks completely, firmly planting her amongst the great songwriters and musicians in town. Included with each song is the story behind the song as well as their lyrics. She really pours herself into her songs, using them to express all she’s feeling.
To kick off the album, she revisits an old tune, “Begin Again,” that she wrote in 2001 with then-bandmate, Clint Welch. It was originally written about leaving Cleveland to move to San Diego, so it’s a perfect way to bookend this time with a fresh recording. The song ponders the power we have within ourselves to start over.
Next up is “Burning Star” with exceptionally lush production and vocal layering. The first verse examines her newfound depression with the resilient answer of, “You’ll never break me.” The second verse pays tribute to the relationship of her friends Carina Wheatley and Jeffrey Joe Morin, and the third verse anthropomorphizes “life” as a woman who is full of joy and who also destroys. Again, the hopeful and perseverant refrain of “You’ll never break me” closes the song.
“Daylight,” track 3, is a heavy rocker that pays tribute to music itself, as well as performing and songwriting. Beeks's voice sounds as awesome with rock guitar as it does with ukulele or acoustic guitar. Her style and range suits many genres.
Track 4, “Framed,” uses the metaphor of a stick thrown into a river as dreams and wishes that may or may not manifest or surface. I just love it. Backed by the amazing Back to the Garden on this tune, it’s a standout.
“Hey Desert” is the song she wrote when she and her husband, Jon Edwards, decided to move back to the high desert to be with her parents. Each verse lovingly speaks to the important people in her life – her mother, father, and husband, and finally speaks to the desert itself. This song is especially poignant now, as she lost her father in December. You can tell she means every word she sings, which is sometimes difficult to capture, but in the masterful hands of Jeff Berkley, it’s a guarantee.
Track 6, “Small Town,” is a clever social commentary about how friends and family sometimes end up on different sides and how sometimes the clash proves too much to overcome. It’s a plaintive and effective song that begs people to please evolve because “we’ve got problems to solve.”
The final song, “20 Years Here,” is a delightful autobiographical song that recaps her time in San Diego from meeting her husband, to the parties they hosted at their house(s). But in the 2nd verse she turns the song, as she does with nearly every project she’s ever created, produced, or otherwise been a part of, to the musicians she’s met, promoted, and loved. She sings:
this city is beautiful
but it's all about you, you know
All of your music, I ain’t gonna lose it
taking you all along, I’m gonna share your songs
20 years here I know most of the words to your songs
20 years here and I love to sing along
(I loved the callback to her song, “You Know,” from her album Desert Music!) The song finishes with letting it go and acknowledging the love that fills her up. It’s a beautiful ending to a wonderful collection of personal, meaningful, and well-penned songs from the one and only Cathyrn Beeks.
Beeks chose to release 20 Years Here on a USB drive. She says, “Since there was plenty of room I included every song I’ve ever recorded plus a bunch of other stuff, too. It’s a “time capsule” of my life in San Diego. So many memories are stuffed on this stick, a few decades of a life I am proud of and grateful for.”
This ‘bonus stuff,’ dear readers, is gold!
Like with the songs on 20 Years Here, Beeks took the time to write forwards for each file that details each step of her musical journey. You get all three The Ordeal albums: Desert Music, Mood Swing, and Life, Love, the End. You also get albums from other projects (8ball RACK, The Ghandi Method, and Garbo). There’s an album she made with Josquin Des Pres for potential TV and film placements. Plus there’s a file of “Random Songs” with covers, one-off recordings, and more. But that’s not all.
There’s a Listen Local Memories file, and even if this file was the only other thing on this USB, it would be worth your hard-earned cash. Hell, even just the forward to this file is worthy of San Diego’s musical archives as she gives an overview of the 16 years she put in to Listen Local San Diego. But the items in the file are equally spectacular: Celebrating Our Sisters calendar and compilation, Find Your Voice compilation, Listen Local podcasts (from 2005 – a woman ahead of her time!), Gillian Welch tribute show, Listen Local Cooks cookbooks and compilations (2006 & 2011), 4 episodes of Listen Local Lounge at Berkley Sound, and 4 episodes of Production Interruption.
Finally, there are 5 written stories by Beeks and a file of band photos. She also provides a list of links to videos, more podcasts, other special audio shows, and Facebook groups.
Of the entire collection, Beeks says, “Once I started compiling it all I realized all of the cool stuff I'd accomplished over the last two decades and how much amazing music had been and was being made in San Diego. I am so proud to have had a hand in helping to share that music.”
The legacy Cathryn Beeks created in San Diego is one we should honor and cherish. And the best way to do that is to own it. Be sure to get your hands on this amazing time capsule as well as her new songs. You won’t regret it.
Welcome to Boss Ladies, the review column written by members for members! In this special holiday edition, Carissa Schroeder reviews “Just a Sad Xmas," new from Tori Roze and The Hot Mess.
You’re at a bar – the kind that is still “cash only” – the kind where the bartender’s a certified asshole unless you’re a regular. Green glitter naugahyde covers the booths along the wall; it’s December and gobs of tinsel wind around the ceiling, competing for attention with the disco ball, eternally spinning over the black and white checkered dance floor. You swill your Wild Turkey old-fashioned and mash the bright red maraschino cherry and orange wedge together in the bottom of your rocks glass.
Now, imagine a Christmas song coming on the jukebox. But not the jolly, saccharine, Hallmark kind. This kind of Christmas song – a sad and soulful one – warms you like the whiskey, from the inside out. It’s noisy, it’s busy, and it’s got some stank on it. The fat bass lines (played by Harley Magsino) and the criss-crossing vocal riffs (cue guest artist Nina Leilani Deering) create the perfect holiday storm.
That’s exactly where Tori Roze and The Hot Mess take me with their version of 1969’s lost ode to the holidays, “Just a Sad Xmas.” If you’re already a fan of Roze, you won’t be disappointed. (If you’re not already a fan, it’s time
to catch up). She shows up on the track with nothing less than her signature style of vocals – soulful, free-flowing, expectation-bending, and seemingly effortless. Deering executes the backing vocals just as they should be – with the intentionality of a lead vocal but the timbre and intensity of a supporting part. Her tone choices are the perfect complement to Tori’s.
The cover is an underground cut, originally written by Ida Sands of The Soul Duo, about getting dumped right in the middle of the holidays (ouch). Brought back to life with a respect for the genre, thanks to Rashaad Graham’s clean and simple drumming and Alan Sanderson’s production style, the track remains closely related to the original while fitting into the Hot Mess setlist seamlessly. Props to the band, overall, for having the discipline (and musical maturity) to not overplay. Johnny Alexander achieved the ideal guitar tone for the song, making really
tasteful choices in his playing. How the hell Deering was able to pull off an accordion track in a song that could easily be on the soundtrack for a holiday themed installment of the Shaft franchise, I’ll never know. But it works.
The traditional, quoted Christmas lyrics (such as “Jingle Bells”) sprinkled through the song set the scene for us. The protagonist of the song is lamenting, “why can’t loneliness let me be” while being physically surrounded by the joy of the season. About halfway through the song, the tone changes from wallowing in the misfortune of the circumstances, to looking forward to a “New Year’s resolution” to reunite the love affair.
The listener never gets to know if the couple in question does, in fact, reunite – but you can absolutely put yourself in the shoes of someone, turning the facts over and over in their mind, trying to make sense of the juxtaposition of “green, red and blue (…) lights and décor” and a mood that is “grim, gray, and black.”
Overall, this is a solid pull from the Hot Mess crew. If you, yourself, were experiencing a less than joyful holiday season (perhaps drinking alone at a dive bar), this would be the kind of song that would get you swaying on your stool – or maybe even up on the dance floor. With this kind of late sixties soul laying the foundation for the sonic landscape, you might even snag yourself a new lover. This thing’s got some ass on it.
Support by downloading “Just a Sad Xmas” on iTunes on or after December 7.
In our latest Boss Ladies review, Heather Marie shares her take on “Wondrous Woman," the latest single from Julia Sage and The Bad Hombres.
Press play and discover that “Wondrous Woman” by Julia Sage and the Bad Hombres is a deliciously dirty blues track. Employing a style reminiscent of gritty, soul-pounding, hip-swaying Chicago Blues, the band transports me to the Windy City of yore, where smoke still filled the rooms of dark and dingy dive bars, the drinks were cheap and stiff, and where the best blues players of all time were laying infinite claim to the blues sound stage. Instantly, I want to light up a smoke and sip whiskey on the rocks (which I do).
Chad Pittman (bass) and Tom Peart (drums) establish an infectiously sensual groove that holds deep in the pocket all the way through. Matthew Strachota’s intensely satisfying electric guitar tone is the bedrock for his profoundly emotive riffs, which bring to mind Muddy Water-like blues licks infused with roadhouse rebel undertones. I’m instantaneously spellbound when Sage’s voice enters the mix. It’s deep, sultry, and intimate on a level that’s almost disarming. I feel the real. I’m struck by the way Strachota’s guitar consorts with her vocals; it’s as if I’m listening to a duet at times. He plays with feeling and intent, from which is born a sound that so perfectly emulates authentic human emotion, it becomes another voice itself.
When I turn my attention to the lyrics, I am even more enamored. “Wondrous Woman” is an anthem of female strength and independence. Each carefully constructed line bellows liberation and unapologetic feminine resilience. It’s hard to pick a favorite verse, because I love them all, so here’s merely one fantastic example:
I’m not a woman
who speaks empty words
I’m not a woman
who follows the herds
I’m the kind of woman
who’s free as a bird
The well-calculated chorus, both from a musical and lyrical perspective, is a sonorous soliloquy that teems with a gloriously gut-punching tenacity; it hails as the antithesis to feminine uncertainty. Sage’s voice unfurls into a low-hanging howl of a crescendo as she affirms “I’m Strong” and “True” in a way that packs pure, guttural, goose-bump worthy punches. I believe every word she sings because I can tell she believes it, too.
as the wind that lifts your wings
as the voices of the angels who sing
as the honey you only taste in your dreams
a woman who lives in eternal spring
I could ramble on for days how great this song is line by line, note by note, and beat by beat. This is truly authentic stuff here and it’s beyond refreshing to hear. Bravo to Julia Sage and The Bad Hombres (which also include the incredibly talented GrandpaDrew and Natasha Cruz) for keeping genuinely good and undeniably cool original music circulating in the San Diego music scene. I’m sold. You’re turn, now. Go check it out.
This edition of Boss Ladies is brought to you by member Carissa Schroeder, who reviews “Amulet," the latest single from Lizabeth Yandel.
If Lizabeth Yandel ever decides to throw in the proverbial music towel, it’s safe to say she has a solid future letting her subconscious mind design interiors for the trendy, San Diego restaurant group, Consortium Holdings (Born & Raised, False Idol, Craft & Commerce). Her latest single, “Amulet,” was born from a dream in which she sat, having a drink alone, “in a narrow little tavern lit by small star-shaped lights. It was decorated with vining plants and pieces of stained glass strung from the ceiling, which was almost completely comprised of windows.” The moon was out. She sat in her booth and sang the first verse of “Amulet” – a song that was fully completed and already in existence in dreamland – when an oddly specific 2000’s version of Erykah Badu appeared with her squad and started singing along in lush harmony.
You’ve gotta love dreams.
What I wouldn’t give to step inside this woman’s head for a day! It seems so magical. Truthfully, she did an incredible job of capturing that sense of whimsy and magic in the song. Her ability to bring her inner world out through music is uncanny. I could place my own two feet in that tavern if music could physically transport my body.
By experiencing the audio playground that is “Amulet,” it’s clear that Yandel embodies the reason that people need to start paying better attention to the local music that is happening right beneath their noses. This song has everything it needs to become a favorite in your rotation – it’s (literally) dreamy, well-written and recorded, and it has a lyrical, soul-forward, message that we so desperately need right now.
Yandel, who has admittedly battled with depression, feelings of hopelessness, and even mild suicidal thoughts, calls this song, “a heart-aching celebration of music for all the ways and times it has saved my life.” Her lyric, “Be alive,” swirls around repeatedly at the end of the song, like a mantra, reminding us that it’s a “constant choice to stay alive” and fight life’s battles.
I believe that this is truly what we need to hear, right now, as a collective. When so many of us these days report suffering from anxiety, depression and isolation, it’s no wonder we are maligned with what seems like endless news of suicide, mass shootings, and unspeakable violence.
If American society is teetering on a narrow ledge – dangerously see-sawing between a destructive past built on problems swept under the rug, and an unforeseen future where we publicly acknowledge our wounds and heal them – Yandel fits neatly into the pocket of the phrase, “Think globally, act locally.”
How many lives could be changed, or even saved, with music like this? How many people need to hear the words, “it’s your one true light, let it guide you through, you don’t have to hide…” or, “at the center of all our darkest secrets is one same song, beating right in time…”?
Yandel has a new fan in me, and the next time I’m feeling disconnected from others, or untethered to my purpose, I will revisit this dream. I will let this multi-dimensional, creatrix of a womxn remind me that “we are lyrics written from the stars,” and that “we can be free inside our minds.” I will find solace here in her divination, and a peaceful knowing that I am not alone in this fight to stay alive.
Stay connected: http://lizabethyandel.com
Drums & Intrument Tracking - Jules Stewart
Bass - Melanie Medina
Backing Vocals - Siena Beacham, Jillian Wilding, and Shala Harmony (from SD Resistance Revival Chorus)
Mix/mastered by Victor Franca, Track Town Records in Eugene, OR
Single art - Johnny Hoolko
This edition of Boss Ladies is brought to you by member Tori Roze, who reviews Gaby Aparicio's new album, La Bella Vita.
A love letter to her mother, La Bella Vita rounds out seventeen plus years-worth of Gaby Aparicio creating alluring audio - seamlessly blending Latin-based music, pop, and that of the traditional singer-songwriter. A musical rarity of deep substance and beauty, Aparicio delivers her unique musical Uruguayan, Italian, North American flavor in three languages with the perfect amount of passion, precision, and intention. As the writer of every song on an album that generously rotates through a considerable amount of San Diego all-star talent; Aparicio definitively conveys her wishes to grow, to love, to help others, to dream, to experience life, to succeed, to fail, to show you her heart, and to embrace all of herself throughout the process.
The album opens with the enigmatically seductive song “Captivate Me.” Spanish guitar (played by Aparicio and Israel Maldonado) gently invites you into the cozy arms of Aparicio’s unbelievably clear voice. Her vocal quality bears a whispery closeness - the cinematic picture in one’s mind of an all-consuming love affair becomes imaginatively vivid once she begins singing. A range of majestic animals hits you between the eyes as her lyrics paint gorgeous metaphors over a tapestry of meticulously layered music. While this song is written in English, it hints at what is promised to you as a listener entering the world of La Bella Vita – a fastidious melting pot of sound with a clear message: to authentically “be you.”
The second track, “Se Va,” kicks-off with a rootsy nylon-stringed guitar, bringing forth Aparicio’s singer-songwriter musical foundation. With the music and vocals in tandem, there is a driving undertone of yearning to its sonic affect. The first song of many where we get to experience lyrics in another language; one gains an even better sense of the primo vocal clarity Aparicio touts regardless of the language she is singing in. The rhythm section (Gaby Aparicio, Gregg Montante, Saul Timba, James East, and Jake Najor) is tight. Aparicio tastefully conquers Spanish-style nylon-stringed guitar techniques while singing all of the female vocal parts. Many will venture, but few will succeed – and Aparicio elicits vibes reminiscent of Lila Down’s notable genre-bending multi-lingual music.
“Tango Triste” sounds and feels like a song directly out of a Cirque du Soleil show. There is an inescapable sensibility of heavy emotion affecting you from the first note. Leading with a thematic picky surf-rock electric guitar echoed by a writhing violin (played by Jamie Shadowlight), the emotional tug-and-pull of dissonant music unavoidably grabs you. The layered percussion, played by Julien Cantelm, is so well-executed that you can hear each and every tonal and textural detail. The bass (played by the producer of this particular song, Jacob “Cubby” Miranda) picks up at the chorus and pushes the action of the song forward. Speaking from a filmic perspective – “Tango Triste” might find itself strategically placed in a suspense movie just as easily as it could fit into a scene between fiery lovers. Violin enhances the intense sultry vibrancy that the song effortlessly embodies. There is an immovable strength to the Spanish-sung lead and backing vocals as they reinforce the melodious back-and-forth sewn into the fabric of the music. This song makes you involuntarily feel the lustful torture of longing for a once familiar love with its impassioned chorus: “Una tristesa, bien colorante//Me penetra desde el cielo//Como me llena//El tango llorante//Devo cantarlo asi.”
“Corazon” cools the heat of the previous song and gives off a vibration of peaceful existence with a bouncy nylon guitar as your guide. There is a sense of calm that washes over you as the dynamic percussion - with the combined efforts of Julien Cantelm (drums), Marcus Alcantarilla (Cavaquinho), and Halysson Silva (percussion) – gently caresses your ears. Altogether, it feels like a pleasant vacation you never want to return home from.
Aparicio’s voice on “Best Version of Me” evokes Sara Bareilles’ tonally bright musical style, but with an easy-going twist of Uruguayan/Italian zest. The brush work provided by Julien Cantelm sustains a rhythmic pace while a tenor saxophone, played by Stefanie Schmitz, dances over a delightfully balanced rhythm section. Aparicio speaks to the simplicity of loving yourself to be the “best version” of you. She adds that through the vehicle of receiving and accepting love from another, one stands to become a consummate version of oneself.
Aptly named “Tangled Heart,” bongos and shakers (played by Enrique Platas) juxtaposed against a pyramid of flowy guitars (played by Aparicio and Maldonado) temper a self-reflective sentiment ever-present in both the music and lyrics. There is an intentional conversation between the instruments and lyrics; each replying to the other like a dialogue in smoothly-laid-out time. As Aparicio illustrates with candid vulnerability, our internal selves can be a dazzling yet chaotic place to navigate. Aparicio comments on her own internal complexities as she acknowledges that her heart will always be an exquisite work in progress: the journey is the destination and acceptance of one’s humanness is vital for growth in one’s personal evolution.
The backing vocals on “Bella Vita” enter the scene like a breeze blowing through a seaside town. An audible warmth overtakes you as three distinct languages envelop your ears. Love, as described here, is comparable to the natural relationship between land and water at a coastal meeting point – they are always touching and whirling into each other, ebbing and flowing. That type of relationship is the quintessential depiction of a complimentary part: one lends to the other harmoniously counterbalancing where the other falls short. This song is so unmistakably enjoyable that one could imagine themselves singing the choral “la, la, la’s” whilst driving along the Mediterranean Sea in a convertible car with the top down.
“Matter” closes out the album with a final message straight from Aparicio’s heart – to remember to be present and act out of love towards the people around you. Recorded and engineered by San Diego favorite Jeff Berkley, the intimacy and balance of sound is pure. Believing this to be by design, it is the only song on the album solely comprised of vocals and nylon-stringed guitar. The tender conveyance of the backing vocals is similar to a lullaby that softly cradles you. Aparicio’s wish to leave her audience with a sense of hope, self-kindness, and patience towards pursuing their own personal transformation is the culmination of her intention to create. She urges you to find out who you are and where you fit into the world, but in your own time.
La Bella Vita is a more than just a love letter. With rich musicianship and catchy musical earworms abound, these eight tracks will leave you humming along while inspiring you to reflect on your own life’s path. Aparicio’s multi-faceted and vulnerable elegance are a gift she lovingly bequeaths to her listeners. And although it was primarily recorded by Alan Sanderson at Pacific Beat Recording, this album is clearly a collaborative labor of love by all involved. They say “it takes a village” and what a handsome waterfront village Gaby Aparicio has built. Life truly is beautiful, and this album is proof.
Link to buy album - https://www.gabyaparicio.com/music
This edition of Boss Ladies is brought to you by member Jules Stewart, who reviews “Ahuevonao," the latest single from Julia Sage and The Bad Hombres.
This year has already been wildly successful for Julia Sage and The Bad Hombres. They were nominated for a San Diego Music Award in the category of Best New Artist, secured a residency at the consistently hip Bar Pink, and have garnered radio airtime with their song “Ni de Aquí Ni de Allá.” The momentum continues to build for the San Diego-based band with their recent release of a new single called “Ahuevonao” from their upcoming album Desnuda.
The opening guitar from Julia Sage and bouzouki riffs from Drew Douglas are catchy and percussive and beckon like the outstretched hand of a willing dance partner. The blend of unique instrumentation and more conventional rhythms provides an immediate dose of the band’s characteristic SouthAmericana style. Shortly, the rhythm section, anchored by Chad Pittman on bass, drops into a solid, feel-good groove that ushers in the main refrain of the song:
No seai ahuevonao loco
deja de rascarte el coco
porque no sabís lo que querís
If you speak Spanish and find yourself scratching your own head at a few words, it’s because the song is written in Chilean Castellano, a slang dialect. A direct translation of the refrain for those of us who need to work on our Castellano reveals a playful jab at indecisive would-be lovers:
Don’t be a dolt, you crazy guy
stop scratching your head
because you don’t know what you want
Between refrains, the song briefly settles into mellower moments to allow the listener to hear of nights spent together with drinks and dancing, talking until the early hours, and longing for a kiss. The oblivious partner can’t be trusted to take action, though, and the longing continues.
Throughout the song, the performance is vibrant and dynamic, in part due to the fact the song was recorded live with Christopher Hoffee at Chaos Recorders. In a time when live recording has become less common, conquering the logistical challenges pays off in a big way for Julia Sage and the Bad Hombres, a band known for their energetic, intensely entertaining live performances. The lively movement of the keys (from Matthew Strachota) and full rhythmic landscape painted by hand percussion (Natasha Cruz) and drum set (Tom Peart) keep the danceability high from start to finish.
Julia Sage and The Bad Hombres hope to be sharing their upcoming full album with you by the end of 2019. Prepare for impressive variety; this band certainly can’t be limited to a single genre and the band’s members boast mastery of a staggering and eclectic variety of instruments (including a saw, should you need more convincing). If “Ahuevonao” is any indication of what’s to come, there’s much more success in store for this band.
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