The biggest set back about music these days is that there is clearly SO much of it. A vast, seemingly un-ending sea of sonic waves that carries you one way and away from another. You simply cannot hear everything in the world that is being created and many times you miss some of the most moving and impressive ends of the musical universe as a result.
2016 saw many of our old favorites introducing new music into the world and also initiated new found loves from some incredible singers, songwriters and musicians. We live in a world where it would seem nearly everything has “been done” or some artists are extending their influences into perhaps, overly influenced territory. So that when something truly unique, stirring and beautiful comes along it is even more affecting and impressive.
If you aren’t already, then you should be listening to these folks.
Anthony da Costa : There is a tenderness and vulnerability in the way that Anthony da Costa sings. It isn’t a frailty or weakness, there is power in his vulnerability and he owns it. The juxtaposition of some truly rocking guitar riffing and rock n’ roll arrangements with the softness and natural breaking of his voice creates an interesting and curious canvas for his songs. Like a tornado of swirling sounds with his voice as the centerpiece…and it shines. He bleeds emotion in his songs via the conduit of his vocal, and it just kills me every time. His words has a certain self deprecation that is actually quite charming and witty. In a world where so much that falls into the category “singer-songwriter” is acoustic, and often times repetitive of others around it, da Costa’s energy and electricity is a welcome aesthetic to fall in love with over and over.
Mandolin Orange : (Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin) : I could just as easily break the voices of Andrew and Emily out into their own category, but for the sake of brevity we will save that for another time. I have said it once and I will probably say it another million times, but I am fairly certain my favorite sound on earth is the bliss that is created when these two humans sing together. The gentle crack in Marlin’s voice that perfectly fits together with the light beauty in Frantz’s, its just two voices that were meant to sing together. Their songs, while catchy as hell and some quite fun, also have sepia toned, burnt edges that embrace the imperfections that may come their way. It makes them special, real, genuine and at the core of it all: honest. The best band in the business today if you ask me.
Josh Oliver : My knees gave out a little bit the first note that came out of Josh Oliver’s mouth when I saw him perform alongside Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin. There are people who sing and then there are people who are blessed with a voice that simply soars, effortless and completely captivating in every ounce of its being. Josh Oliver commands the latter. There is a subdued nature to Oliver’s voice at times, but his ability to really open up and insert vigor and emphasis into certain lines is stunning and creates a dynamic in his songs that hits you like a ton of bricks. There are few artists who can arouse a feeling deep in my chest. The type of music that can move you to tears and effect you in a way that drills to the core of your being. Josh Oliver is one of the few.
Julie Rhodes : While the influences that weave their way into the tapestry of Rhodes’ music may not necessarily be anything new, in fact the comparisons she garners to blues and soul singers of yesterday are fully warranted (and welcomed). All that being said, in today’s landscape she stands out a cut above the rest for her HUGE voice and the rumble inducing, floor shaking earthquakes it can ensue. To hear Julie Rhodes sing is to be blown away by Julie Rhodes singing…it doesn’t quite matter if you have seen her a hundred times or its your very first, she continues to impress. 2016 saw a big year for the young artist (just penning her first tune in the last couple of years) and with a Boston Music Award under her belt and an ever expanding and evolving fan base, I think it is safe to say that 2017 will see the artist and her killer band on an ever growing number (and size) of stages. Keep an eye out for this gal in the 2017 festival circuit bringing the blues and soul to the masses.
The Brother Brothers : When siblings make music or sing together you often hear “harmonies that only people who are related can create”…well, throw all of that bullshit you have heard previously, then listen to the combined voices of David and Adam Moss…now there is your truth in that statement. The chemistry that is stitched in the fabric of the brother’s songs is undeniable and plain awe inspiring. There is an unending beauty in the lilting and airy quality of their voices and the instrumental pieces of the songs are virtuous masterpieces. Their music is innovative, yet classical. There are pieces that are cemented in folk and roots, but manages to break the mold and meld influences and genres in a way is both pleasing and disruptive, but results in nothing short of brilliance.
Kayla Schureman : There is a deep rooted penchant for gritty and honest story-telling that emanates from artists who come from steel towns or gritty atmospheres that seep their way into the songs of the musician. Schureman hails from just such a place, and while we are sitting back and eagerly awaiting her record, her voice has still managed to dig its way into our heart through video work and as the responded voice on the song “Dear Memphis” from our old pal Zach Schmidt. The second I heard the female counterpart on that tune I immediately sent Schmidt a message as asked “who the hell is that? I need more.” The singer-songwriters roots are firmly planted in the soil of classic country and Americana, with a delicate twang that resonates over the palette of honesty and vulnerability that is equal parts endearing and assertive. Shiver inducing, but warm and inviting all the while.
Hayley Simmons (INFJ) : There is something so incredibly…sweet, about the collaboration between Hayley Simmons and guitarist-songwriter and generally wonderful human Scott Thompson. Often times Simmons harmonizes with herself in the arrangements of INFJ’s previous work and the result is simply sublime and gorgeously jubilant. Its almost like a pool of sound that completely surrounds and leaves you buoyant in its rich and swimming shimmery gloss if you simply dive in. Her voice melts perfectly with the “poignant pop” stylings and clever arrangements that Thompson has conjured up. There is an empty and blue kind of feeling to the music, but damn if it doesn’t make you feel all the feelings that a human can experience in one cyclone of beautiful emotion. This music does things to me and Simmons’ vocal is key to that being unleashed. The band recently released a brand new single from an upcoming EP to be released (hopefully) soon, and in the meanwhile dig into their self titled EP from last year…so good.