Paula Cole, Ballads: Uncanny and Reverent

I listen to a lot of albums across every genre. I have found myself jumping from Peter Gabriel all the way to Beyoncé, while hitting every step along the way, during a days time. Some may say I have musical ADHD, I think I’m just well-rounded.

There are two categories of albums I listen to. “Albums I like” is the largest category. This consists of the albums I hear and binge on a daily basis. These albums generally rustle my feathers and often give me goosebumps. Then there are the albums that make me stop and say, “Whoa, that is what music sounds like.” Those are few and far between.

Courtesy of Paula Cole’s Facebook

Recently though, I have found one that has jolted me to a complete halt. That album isPaula Cole’s Ballads.

I can barely express how excited I am about this album. Once I listened to it on Spotify I immediately went to her website, ordered the vinyl version with signature, checked tour dates, and read countless articles on Cole’s career. I have never evangelized for an album, but I want to tell everybody about this masterpiece.

This is a Jazz album including many of the great standards like “God Bless The Child” and “Skylark.” But, then a wrench is thrown into the collection with such songs as “I Wish (I Knew How it Feels To Be Free)” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” The album consists of 20 songs and was released by Cole independently on her 675 label.

So now it’s a Jazz/Folk/protest album. Also, did I mention it has a hint of Country?

Ok Gabe, breath, regain composure and try to write….too much greatness

The album begins with “God Bless The Child,” the Jazz classic written by Billie Holiday. The only word that can describe the orchestration to this arrangement is “rootsy.” It’s not your typical arrangement of Jazz, yet it completely encompasses everything that is Jazz. This idea stays with the entirety of the album.

Next, Cole goes into the protest song made famous by Nina Simone, “I Wish (I Knew How to Be Free).” Again Cole evokes an emotion that often gets lost in songs, and that is the core meaning. This song has specific historical significance, but she brought the song to me today and made it relevant. While listening to this song I began to question myself on what it would look like to be free.

The song asked a question, like many songs, but I have never wanted to answer so badly.

Courtesy of Rockport Music.

“I Wish” is perfectly coupled with Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” later in the album. “Lonesome” is one of my top 5 of the entire album. The way Cole sing’s a story song is like a movie. The listener sees everything in detail. She talks about the longing for justice that was desperately needed in the 1960’s and needed now. Her voice literally becomes the rag to dry your tears. The movies continue with the songs “Ode To Billy Joe” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.”

Cole gives the uptempo jazz greats a new facade as well with songs like “Never Will I Marry, ” Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “You Hit the Spot.” These songs show Cole’s skilled vocal technique and her accomplished talent as a vocalist. Not to mention her pitch perfect melancholy tones on the great standards like “You’ve Changed” and “Autumn Leaves.”

The greatest feat of this album is how it portrays Jazz music. All of Cole’s vocals are Jazz in style and soul. Jazz doesn’t belong to a certain instrument or vocal method, it belongs to the approach and deliverance of a song. Jazz encapsulates love, heartbreak, and justice in its purest forms.

Cole then adds a second element to this album. Early in this article, I mentioned how the album feels “rootsy,” but I want to go a step further. This album echoes the foundation of music as a whole. It goes down to the very roots that hold music upright today. This album not only covers some of the best songs ever written, it is a tribute to the great musicians that have shaped modern music.

Inherently, I know Cole collaborated, discussed, and had multiple outside influences, but in the end, she was the sole producer of this album. The framework began in her mind, while others added color, yet she filled in the final details. This album is a testament that Paula Cole is a master at the art of music.

The way Paula Cole weaves the themes of heartbreak, injustice, love, happiness, and sorrow seamlessly on one album is incredible. The album is so relevant it’s uncanny, yet so nostalgic it’s reverent.

Don’t wait for your life to be over to hear this one.


Visit Paula Cole’s official Website here. (Buy the vinyl)

Check out her Twitter here.

Check out her Facebook here.

Bond Villain: Simply Innovative

Lately, I have been listening to a lot of newer music. I go through phases. I generally listen to older artists. Sometimes I lose all hope in music being released today, then I find some kick ass artist that renews my hope in humanity. That happened.

From Bond Villain’s Instagram.

Last night, I tuned into Bond Villain’s Facebook Live. I recently heard their collaboration with Kimberley Locke on “Dangerous Woman,” and I thought it was legit music made with real talent (I’m also a sucker for anything Kimberley Locke lends her vocals too). Now it was time to give Bond Villain a shot on other material.

The first song they shared was “Dying Star.” This is one of their earlier compositions. In Bond Villain’s explanation, this song is about either a romantic relationship or about a family relationship. The song boils down to someone who is burning their life out. This is someone you love, yet they are toxic in where you are in your life right now.

When this song began I thought an army was marching, but then it transitioned to a simple piano riff that hooks you in. The vocals are the sinker. The song crescendos at the chorus giving way to a sound that was equally as epic, or more, as the beginning. The climax (bridge) of the song goes into a near military march of emotion, lyrically and musically, while ending with a simple piano. The song comes full circle.

Secondly, they shared “Body Like a Knife” This song is a little less heavy on lyrics while staying incredibly creative. This song is a mix of EDM, hip-hop, and pop. This song was made for the stage. It is filled with dramatic elements, including another epic bridge. Again, it’s the vocals that get you.

The next song “Let Me Go” is my personal favorite. This is a relatively new song for Bond Villain. He describes this song as a mix of emotions that are nostalgic, equating them to a place in your childhood. This place once meant something to you, but its meaning has changed. You find loved ones who had an impact on your life, but you now realize you are different now then who you were then.

For me, this song deeply relates to my life. I am upcoming on my one year anniversary of moving to New York from my childhood home of Oklahoma. As I reflect on the last year I have discovered a new person; a person, who I think is more of who I am. I have a lot of situations and people back home that I need to let go and that need to let go of me.

“Let Me Go” comes with another dramatic intro that immediately takes me home through its lyrics. I find myself walking the corridors of where my life once was (minus the cow patties). The chorus is mid-tempo, but the passion is astounding. It’s a precursor to what the song morphs into. The song then takes on a gospel vibe, with Bond Villain being joined by what sounds like choir. Locke lends her voice here to add some diversity in vocals, passion, and soul. This is the goosebump moment.

From Bond Villain’s Instagram

This song is a ballad in nature, yet it stretches the elements. “Let Me Go” moves ballads into a new era. It has the same sentiment of a ballad and the orchestration of the song has many of the same elements. What this song does is combine orchestration and vocals into one unit. You don’t hear a singer, then a piano, some beats, and back ups. You hear one full composition. This song is simply innovative. It’s moving into my favorite rack.

Lastly, Bond Villain shared the video of “Dangerous Woman” with Kimberley Locke. One would initially consider this song a cover of Ariana Grande, but really it’s anything but. Grande is the original singer, but Bond Villain and Locke make it completely new, bringing it a fresh identity through heavy piano and elastic vocals.

Tonight I listened to a lot of music. I always say my musical choices are a little ADD. I can go from one extreme to the other. That is what happened tonight, yet it came from one artist instead of many. This combination doesn’t show a lack of direction from Bond Villian, yet it creates determination. A determination that is willing to push music past it’s proper composition. A determination defined by a placement of a note beyond the staff. An idea that music is anything but restrictive.

Bond Villain is simply innovative.

———

Check out all his new songs here.

Visit Bond Villain’s official site here. (Seriously, buy a shirt)

Follow Bond Villain on Instagram and Twitter @BondVillianBand

Like Bond Villain’s Facebook here.

A Modern Review: Goodbye June “Danger In The Morning”

Yesterday I did something I usually don’t do. I decided to look through the new releases on Spotify. I always love discovering new music, but I’ve lost hope in a lot of the artists that are coming out today. Everything just seems commercial and superficial. A person or band can’t just sit and play anymore, they need lights, dancers, and fireworks.

Well, except for Goodbye June.

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Courtesy of Twitter, @GoodbyeJune

I had never heard of Goodbye June until I found their newly released EP right next to the Britney Spears album on Spotify. I just pressed play to see what happened, without much hope, yet I was immediately hooked.

Goodbye June is made up of three cousins Landon Milbourn, Brandon Qualkenbush, and Tyler Baker. They formed the band after Baker’s brother was killed in a car accident while on leave from the military, which lended the band their name. They began focusing on their music after this tragic, life altering experience, and it is nothing short of authentic.

The EP opens with “Oh No,” a song with a “screw you” attitude. The song starts off with a bang and Milbourns vocals quickly grabbed me. This song teeters on rock, folk, country, and metal all at the same time. It was like Mumford and Sons meets Led Zepplin meets Chris Stapleton.

The next song, “Daisy,” was equally intriguing, talking about how that one lady can drive you crazy. They then go into the power anthem “Man of The Moment,” relishing in confidence. This song and “Oh No” seem to be related. That one lady seemed to have taken it too far, but these guys aren’t ones to lay down and die. They begin to sound reminiscent of Jack White, post White Stripes, but less chaotic.

Next comes “Darlin.” This ballad song knocks right at Led Zepplin’s door. I was hooked by its lyrics initially (“Darlin’ I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but it works and I hate it”), then the composition took over. The guitar is immaculate and the vocals as smooth as silk, yet as gritty as sand paper, same goes for the content. This is my favorite from the EP.

Lastly, they close with “Danger In The Morning.” This song mixes in heavy banjo that shows the guys southern and midwest roots. That mixed with heavy guitar rifts finishes this EP with a semi colon. For there seems to be a whole new thought brewing with this song and this EP is only serving as an introduction to the music to come.

In the end this EP can be summed up by a line from “Oh No:”

“I’ll take a bow and I’ll show you how to survive.”

For this EP may be over, but there’s a lot of staying power behind Goodbye June.

Connect with Goodbye June on Twitter, Facebook, and their official website.