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.
Welcome to Boss Ladies, a blog series dedicated entirely toward featuring and promoting our talented Lady Brian Members and their creative work. Keeping with our mission of collaboration and service, each article in this series is written by a member about a member. We encourage you to discover and support not only the subject of each review, but also the writer! Without further ado, check out our first Boss Ladies review featuring Corina Rose, written by Jules Stewart.
Corina Rose’s unique upbringing as the child of two political activists is inherently apparent while listening to her album, Our Love Is Freedom. Her uncommon attention to the beauty in her surroundings and strong sense of spirituality inform each track while she encourages listeners to follow her as she explores the many facets of love. Our Love Is Freedom is an ambitious, confident evolution from her sophomore album, Love Is Everywhere, though the transparent and heartfelt optimism of Corina Rose’s music has stayed fiercely put. The album was released on January 4th, 2019 and was nominated for a San Diego Music Award in the category of Best Pop Album.
Pop seems too small a label, though, as Our Love is Freedom blends genres with unexpected fluidity. Reggae influences are peppered throughout the album and are especially prominent in “I Prayed for You” and “It Takes Love.” Latin rhythms carry “Sweet Potato,” and jazz influences become apparent in “Magick” as well as the album’s title track, “Our Love Is Freedom.” The instrumentation transcends genre, too, from the saxophone woven throughout “I Prayed For You” to the surprisingly fitting synths on “All the Love in the World.”
From the start, “I Prayed for You” sets both the conceptual and rhythmic tone of the album with stirring hand percussion and a hopeful declaration of fulfilled longing. “Magick” eases the listener into a picture of comfortable intimacy despite the fear that comes with trusting another, a message that’s carried by the tentative feel of jazz guitar juxtaposed against a relentless, relaxed groove. The transformative power of that intimacy is explored in the title track and celebrated in “Sweet Potato.”
The album’s most laid-back moment, “Under the Stars,” uses melodic leads to tell a tender love story celebrating the small nuances that pull us toward each other. In what is perhaps the album’s most dramatic tonal shift, “All the Love in the World” makes use of a vast landscape of instrumentation to underscore the fullness love brings. Attention then shifts outward toward community, connection, and compassion as “It Takes Love” cleverly slows time to allow the listener to reflect on the importance of self-care and compassion.
The album closes with the bare-boned, emotional “Love Is Everywhere,” a picture of hard-won self-love that urges listeners to open their hearts to the beauty around them. Taken as a whole, Our Love is Freedom presents a complex vision of love beyond the physical realm and gives a relatable, first-person account of the transformative power of self-compassion and love.
Find Our Love Is Freedom:
Spotify - iTunes - Amazon Music
Meet the Writer: Jules Stewart
Our Lady Brain blog writers work on a volunteer basis in support of their fellow members. If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a small donation to Jules via Venmo, which will help support her creative endeavors.
Welcome to Brain Candy, our monthly-ish roundup of our wonderful members' projects and happenings going on around San Diego. The Lady Brain Collective is an ACTIVE bunch, so check back regularly for our recommendations on all the best woman/womxn-creations to check out in the coming weeks. Enjoy!
The Banduvloons Release New Single and Video, Will Open for Gina Chavez Feb 28
The Banduvloons just released a new single for “Enjoy the Moment" and a new video for “Midnight Sunshine." Listen, watch, like, share, and if you want to #getloony with them in person, go support them this week at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, where they will be supporting nine-time Austin Music Award Winner Gina Chavez. (February 28, 7:30pm, $20-35, 340 N. Escondido Blvd, Escondido CA)
Lindsay White - March 3 at Fallbrook Library
Check out singer songwriter Lindsay White in her natural habitat (a building full of books) at this free Sunday showcase. (March 3, 2-3pm, 124 S. Mission Rd, Fallbrook, CA)
Corina Rose, The Spiritual Motels, and Podunk Nowhere - March 9 @ The Backdrop
ALL of the acts on this bill feature Lady Brain Collective members, not to mention Chance at the Backdrop is an awesome supporter of local music, so you can bet your sweet lady brain it will be a great time. (March 9, 7pm, $10 Cover, 2611 Congress St. San Diego, CA)
Miki Vale - March 10 at the 2nd Annual March for Black Women San Diego
This all-ages event is for all Black Women/Comrades/Co-conspirators/Allies/Non-Black POCS/MEN/Non-Binary folks! The march will begin around 10am and Lady Brain member Miki Vale will take the stage around 11:30am (approximately, when the march ends). For more information, please visit the event page. If you are unable to attend, but still want to support, please donate here. (March 10, 10am, Euclid & Logan San Diego, CA 92114)
San Diego Music Award Week - March 6-11
Congratulations and good luck to all our Lady Brain Member nominees (Whitney Shay, MC Flow, Tori Roze & the Hot Mess, Corina Rose, Veronica May, Becca Jay Band). We are proud of you! Visit the SDMA website to check out all the events and live performances going on during awards week - you can catch the Becca Jay Band March 8 at Navajo Live, and Veronica May will be performing on March 11 at the House of Blues. (March 6-11, Various Locations)
Astra Kelly - March 17 at Orfila Winery
Forget the green beer on St. Pat's and sip wine in the vines at the award-winning Orfila Winery while listening to tunes by local songwriter and Lady Brain member Astra Kelly. (March 17, 4-6pm, 13455 San Pasqual Rd, Escondido, CA)
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