Music Video of the Day: “Everything You Didn’t Do”

I’m still working on catching up on the music I wasn’t able to check out in the past 2 years or so, and one of the first artists I searched out again was one of my absolute favorites, British jazz-pop wonder Jamie Cullum, who has been spotlighted on this blog before. He released an outstanding new album, “Momentum,” last year, and it’s a terrific progression into a bit more pop-oriented territory for Jamie, while still featuring the same terrific mix of jazz and other styles, originals and covers, that has kept Jamie’s music so riveting. For the return of a feature closely related to the Song of the Day, the Music Video of the Day, here’s a great one…

“Everything You Didn’t Do” by Jamie Cullum!

This has grown to be one of my absolute highlights on an album full of them, and the music video concept is simple but clever, starting out with just Jamie and then growing (while the camera continuously rotates) into a rollicking full band. It’s a ton of fun as things unfold, and as the song gets bigger. You can also check out a lyric video of the song by Jamie here.

I’ll try to be a bit better at updating this blog than I have so far in its revival, as I have lots of big plans for more great music to share. For now, thanks for reading, and as always, let me know what you think in the comments.

Song of the Day: “The Draw”

Now that I’m (finally, hopefully) back to posting regularly again, and I just made my 100th post, it’s time to return to a regular Harmony Avenue feature…the Song of the Day. Like I explained before, I won’t necessarily be featuring a Song of the Day each day (though that would be the ideal…I’ll see if I can get that happening), but every so often at the very least, you’ll find a new song to discover in one of these posts. Today’s, inspired by a special day celebrated every year on July 14, is…

“The Draw” by Bastille!

In case you’re wondering if the band’s name has any connection with Bastille Day, the aforementioned holiday celebrating the storming of a French fortress, according to Wikipedia it was so named because lead singer Dan Smith’s birthday falls on the same date. Joyeux Anniversaire, Dan! Anyways…given I’ve been out of the country for the past two years, I was unaware of Bastille’s music until I returned home and my sister introduced me to a bit of their work. (They’d already become fairly popular through their hit single “Pompeii,” so chances are you’ve already heard of them, or perhaps already are a fan.) This song, “The Draw,” has become one of my favorites. It’s tense, atmospheric, and features a gorgeous, darkly infectious chorus. (The a cappella repeat of said chorus towards the end of the song is particularly haunting.) You can find this track on their extended version of their album “Bad Blood,” entitled “All This Bad Blood.”

I’ll be coming to you soon (perhaps even later today) with more posts. I’ve fixed all the song streaming links that I could find, so feel free to search away through all 101 of these posts to listen to songs right here on the blog. If there are any errors or broken links I missed, please let me know. I’ve also changed up the blog theme, so if you visited before, you may notice Harmony Avenue has a new look. Thanks, as always, for reading, and if you’re so inclined, be sure to comment and share! (I always do love feedback.)

Sketches: Wanting Memories

(Apologies for the incredibly long delay in getting this tribute posted.)

This will be a bit of a difficult post to make. It will also be somewhat of a personal one. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the words out the way I want them to, or the way they should be, or something along those lines. More than a month ago, on a Saturday night, while consulting my Facebook for a moment, I received the news that my high school choir teacher, German Aguilar, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away while on tour in Italy. He was incredibly young and to say this was a shock would be an understatement. Absolutely no one saw this coming.

There are many who know him better than I do, and it’s been years since high school now, so it’s not my intention to make a post quite exactly about his life…there are others who know him better and were closer to him, and that is a task they are much more qualified for than I. However, his influence on my life, especially thinking over it now, these past few days, after seeing tributes to him from other friends, I’ve come to realize is something very special, and I couldn’t go without trying to express that a bit more in detail.

I had the privilege of singing and working with German (also known as Mr. A, a nickname his students always knew him by) for about 3 years, starting with rehearsals for a Regional Honor Choir I had gotten into, before I entered high school, until his departure from Mesa High at the end of my junior year. In those 3 years, there are a lot of memories, a lot both remembered and forgotten through the years, and it’s hard to know where to begin…first off, Mr. A truly helped us be better. His passion for music was incredibly evident. His belief in us was as well. He pushed us, had us sing music we sometimes didn’t think we could sing, and helped many of us individually as well develop our talents and expand our musical horizons. Singing in a choir or working as a soloist with Mr. A wasn’t just any old chance to sing, it was a journey, and an incredibly exciting one at that.

More than anything, I remember vividly his vibrant personality, and it was evident that he cared about each and every one of us. I had the opportunity to work with him one on one from time to time, and it was great to see how much he believed in me and my potential. High school can be a pretty awkward time, and in retrospect, it was a bit, but I was able to grow immensely as a musician thanks to Mr. A’s guidance. I remember he had his heart set on me being a tenor when I first starting singing at Mesa High…and I most certainly didn’t. My first year, in the men’s choir there called Music Men, the second semester he informed me that I would be singing in the Tenor II section…something I dreaded. Then the baritones (my previous section) spoke up and pointed out that the section would be without a piano player for section rehearsals if I went to the tenors. Mr. A reluctantly relented and let me stay with the baritones. At the end of the year, while auditioning for a higher choir, after listening to me sing, Mr. A informed me, once again reluctantly, that he had been mistaken…I wasn’t quite tenor material. I was relieved, and thinking back on that, it was incredibly perceptive of him to notice that in my voice, and also (I believe) take into account my own personal misgivings about switching parts. It was a little thing, but something that really made a difference for me, especially along with other observations he made about my voice later on that helped me understand myself better as a singer.

He had an incredible sense of humor, too. We choir kids had a lot of inside jokes with him, and the choir room was really a fun, positive place to be in general. The atmosphere was never toxic, never too crazy…things weren’t perfect, sure, and like any other typical high school setting, sure, there was drama. But thanks to Mr. A, that drama never got too terribly into our main goal…to sing. One summer while getting ready for the school year, I was in the choir council and we stumbled into an unofficial motto: “We solemnly proclaim to sing and live it up!” That pretty well describes how the choral experience with Mr. A was.

I grew to love choral music because of my time singing with him. I came to appreciate music more in general. I grew as a person as well…I remember once Mr. A urged me to be more assertive, and while it took me a while to get to that point, and I’m still getting to that point, I feel like, that comment stuck with me through the years, and still helps me out today. Simply put, I’m not the same because I got the chance to sing with him. I’m better. I’m happier. I’m stronger. That’s the mark of a truly great teacher, a truly great person…that powerful influence for good that he didn’t just have on me, he had on so many of his students, colleagues, and friends. Like I noted towards the beginning, I didn’t get to know him that well…but I knew him well enough to say, without question, that he won’t be soon forgotten.

One of the many wonderful songs I was privileged to sing with Mr. A, and one of the last ones, was a Sweet Honey in the Rock tune called “Wanting Memories,” that he picked specifically for his last concert at Mesa High. I have the recording on my iPod, and it was one of the first songs I turned to after hearing of Mr. A’s passing. A few of the lines from the song sum up my feelings very well:

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you’re with me.
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a “Please”, a “Thank you”, and a smile will take me far.
I know that I am you and you are me, and we are one.
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand.
I know that I am blessed,
again, and again, and again, and again,
and, again.

I truly am blessed, again and again and again and again. Thanks to German Aguilar and the difference he made in his own little corner of the world, we all are. Thank you, Mr. A, for the memories, the guidance, and most important of all, the music.

Back To Scratch

It’s been a little over 2 years since I’ve made a post on this blog. Those who know me personally are already well aware, but as I previously stated, I left for 2 years to serve as a full-time religious missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (we’re also known as Mormons), in Peru. For that time I was unable to post, and while I considered sending home a goodbye post to have someone put up, I never really got around to it. Now, after much thinking and brainstorming over these 2 years (it always came across my mind from time to time), I’m ready to get back to posting and going forward with more music-related posts. When starting this blog nearly 4 years ago, I never really imagined that it would go much of anywhere…now, 99 posts later, it’s great to see that it has, in fact, been able to go somewhere. Thanks to all of you who read and visited before the 2-year hiatus, and possibly during it as well, and for those of you visiting for the first time…welcome. Those of you who are returning, welcome back. As always, I highly welcome any feedback, commentary, tips, requests, anything of the sort (as long as you’re not a spammer). I need your help, after all, to keep this all going…otherwise I’m just blogging and sharing at a wall. :) I’ll definitely be changing and updating things as I go…new features, new posts (the first official new post, coincidentally this blog’s 100th, will be a tribute to a friend and teacher who had a big influence on me both musically and in general, who recently passed on. It’s a post I feel like I should make, and hopefully I can get the words out right), new looks possibly, all that. I’ll also get to work on fixing any broken links (looking through, I’ve noticed there’s quite a few), and making sure this blog is once again running smoothly. Thanks for visiting, and welcome back to Harmony Avenue!

Song Sampler of the Day: “Never Forget You,” “Help Me Close My Eyes,” & “Revolution”

Another great Song Sampler of the Day, coming right up. One of these might be one of the more unique songs I’ve posted on Harmony Avenue. First off, though, it’s…

“Never Forget You” by the Noisettes!

I’m not too familiar with the Noisettes at the moment (as is often the case with artists whose tunes I feature in Songs of the Day), but I definitely would like to get to know their music a little better. (Mildly amusing tidbit: I first came across their work when another song by them, “Atticus,” was playing on our Pandora station at work, and I really was intrigued by it…at which point it was promptly skipped, since no one else thought it sounded any good. Sigh.) This is a very retro-tinged song…a way to describe it best might be Motown gone modern. It’s deliciously catchy, yet with a sneaky sort of depth that elevates it above the level of bubblegum. Lead singer Shingai Shoniwa (who apparently is British, but with Zimbabwean heritage) ties everything together nicely with a textured, impassioned vocal. (My sister said it reminded her a bit of Amy Winehouse.)  I’ve definitely been coming back to this song quite a few times.

Next up, by way of Sweden, it’s…

“Help Me Close My Eyes” by Those Dancing Days!

This song, by all-female Swedish indie pop group Those Dancing Days,  is somewhat stylistically similar to “Never Forget You,” in that it’s musically upbeat, but lyrically bittersweet. (Wow, I used both alliteration AND rhyme in that sentence. Since I’m posting on a music blog, not writing a Dr. Seuss book, that probably wasn’t for the best…) However, it’s definitely a bit more dance-oriented than the aforementioned tune. (Not that you’d hear it very often at a dance club or anything, but it’s fairly beat-driven.) It’s subtly intoxicating, haunting, and all those kinds of wonderful things that indie pop music should be.

And last but not least, an intriguing entry into the Harmony Avenue Song of the Day oeuvre…

“Revolution” by Dr. John!

Dr. John is a legendary New Orleans musician with credits and honors as diverse as five Grammy Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, contribution to the soundtrack for Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” (he sang the opening tune, “Down In New Orleans”), a collaboration with Hugh Laurie on his recent musical debut, and membership in the first incarnation of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. His very cool new record, “Locked Down” (which I haven’t gotten around to checking out fully yet, but I’ve heard a bit of so far), produced by Black Keys member Dan Auerbach, is in some ways influenced by all of those things (and more)…but at the same time, none of them. The vibe of this song (and of the album) is very hard to describe in terms of genre. In terms of atmosphere, on the other hand? Words that come to mind for me: funky, gritty, honest. Things get down and dirty here, but thanks both to Dan Auerbach’s innovative production, as well as Dr. John’s unique artistic vision, this tune stays incredibly, vividly accessible. I’m not usually attuned to this vein of music as much as I should, but songs like this just might change that.

Artist Mini-Spotlight: Kimbra

Quite often while brainstorming posts, I want to highlight artists that only have an album or so out, whose music I’ve only recently discovered, and usually I end up doing this by way of a Song of the Day post. (There have been a lot of them lately, hmmm. Harmony Avenue should not live by Song of the Day alone…) However, a lot of the time, there’s a good deal of songs by said artist that I enjoy, yet not enough to expand into a full-blown Artist Spotlight post. Enter a new spinoff of the Artist Spotlight I’m trying out, the Artist Mini-Spotlight. (I floated making this a combo post like I did with the Song Sampler a day or two ago, but I thought it would be nice to give each artist their own space, since it’s a bit of a different situation than a song.) This will likely be shorter than most Artist Spotlight posts, provided I don’t get too long-winded (yeah, I’m already losing that battle), and will feature some of my favorite tunes by said artist, and good introductions to their music. Without further ado, the inaugural mini-spotlighted artist…

Kimbra!

If you’ve been listening to the radio lately, you might have already heard her voice. She’s the featured artist on Belgian-Australian artist Gotye’s deliriously catchy little-indie-hit-that-could, “Somebody That I Used To Know.” (Her appearance is a high point of an already pretty darn terrific song.) I, like a growing number of people at this point, had heard and fallen in love with the song, when a good friend of mine (the same one that recommended I check out Andy Grammer’s music, as noted here) suggested I look up her solo work. I found out she had an album, “Vows,” released in New Zealand and Australia (her home country and its friendly neighbor, respectively), and took a few listens to some of the songs…and oh baby, I was hooked. She has such a stunning, expressive, vibrant voice that it seems like she can do pretty much anything with. If you were impressed by what you heard of her on Gotye’s single…you are in for a treat. It gets even better.

Something I’ve noticed about Kimbra (besides her terrific music) is that so far, her music videos have been firing on all cylinders. Not since the days of Feist’s triple-threat of “1234,” “My Moon My Man,” and “I Feel It All” have I seen three video clips of  this caliber. They’re quirky, beautifully shot, engaging, dazzling, and tons of fun. I could of course introduce you to Kimbra strictly by audio, but I think it’s better if you check out her amazing visual aesthetic as well.

First off, “Settle Down,” her first single. There are shades of Bjork-style influences throughout (her use of vocal loops and harmonies is wonderfully innovative), but overall, it’s really a song that can’t be classified. The way she builds and tosses and turns…it’s intoxicating. In the best way. Here is the song, with its (literally) fiery music video attached:

The second single (P.S.: these singles sadly have only been released outside the U.S. for now, though her debut is set to bow in the States on May 22, and she does have an EP in the U.S. iTunes store), “Cameo Lover,” is insanely catchy and, to use a highly technical phrase here, pumping. I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to it the most out of all the Kimbra songs I have. There’s a bit of a ‘girl-group’ sound in here…but once again, Kimbra ends up turning it on its ear, and the result is something quite unique. The music video, featuring some infectious dancing by Kimbra herself (accompanied by a throng of female backup dancers), matches the song’s brilliance very nicely:

And because it’s her only other song with a music video, and I’m on a music video kick, the slinky, throwback-esque “Good Intent,” which shows yet another side of Kimbra’s musical vision:

In case you’re wondering whether she’s any good live…here’s a great clip of her singing another song off her debut, “Two Way Street.” If this is how she is in a studio, I can only imagine how terrific she is onstage:

To close it all off, a fun 80s-R&B-tinged number, “Call Me.” (No relation to the Blondie song of the same name…well, maybe a little.)

By the way, she’s only 22. (A fact I found out today while looking at her Wikipedia article as brief preparation for this post.) My mind, it is forever boggled. (She’s only got 2 years on me and is making this kind of incredible music? Wowsers.) Thanks for reading and listening! :)

Song Sampler of the Day: “Comme des enfants,” “Death By Perfection,” & “Reset”

So I have less than a month, officially, until I’m due to leave on my mission and depart for the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Crazy, I know. But that means I have 29 days (according to the handy little countdown widget on your right) to keep the Harmony Avenue party going, and I have tons of artists & songs I still want to share. My solution (for now, at least)? I’m going to experiment with some ways to expand my posting repertoire, while still sticking to the (hopefully) simple ways I’ve done things on this blog since the beginning. (P.S.: Helpful feedback on what’s working and what’s not is always appreciated. A blogger can’t do it all on his own. :)) And thus, I introduce to you…the Song Sampler of the Day! It’s the Song of the Day we all know and love, but thrice as nice at the same price! The first song in this trio of musical delight? A tune in French called…

“Comme des enfants” by Coeur de Pirate!

Coeur de Pirate is the stage name for young French-Canadian singer/songwriter Béatrice Martin. (“Coeur de Pirate is French for “pirate heart.”) I first heard another song of hers on our Pandora station at work, and I had been meaning to check her music out further, but before I did, I saw her name pop up again, this time while perusing Musicnotes, one of my favorite sheet music sites. This song was on the front page, so I took a listen to the audio sample of the sheet music, was intrigued, listened to the 90-second clip on iTunes…and boy, was I hooked. Such a beautiful song, and the kind that’s appealing and lovely regardless what language you speak. (I’m personally not the best at French, and I’m much less familiar with it than I am with, say, Spanish, though I do kind of admire it from afar. And we’re singing a song in French, from the opera “Carmen,” for the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization’s upcoming concert. It’ll be very fun.) Light and airy, yet haunting and riveting, this song is, as English-speaking people say in a clichéd fashion, thinking they’re all French…très magnifique.

Next, take a gander (with your…ears?) at…

“Death by Perfection” by Maia Sharp!

In this link by NPR, you can find a little story about the song (funnily enough, it was actually their Song of the Day…connections!), which is really insightful. Anyways, before I talk about that a tiny bit, Maia is an unbelievably talented songwriter and performer who has helped write songs for the likes of the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, and according to the little NPR article, even Cher. The Dixie Chicks song, “A Home,” was co-written with her dad Randy Sharp, and was one of the standouts (for me, at least) from the Chicks’ stunning album “Home.” One of the songs she contributed to Bonnie Raitt’s last album, “Souls Alike,” is one of my all-time favorites…a stark, heartbreaking tune called “The Bed I Made.” She’s a gifted composer, but also a vibrant and dynamic performer. David Browne of NPR (who penned the article I linked to) states the essence of this song’s appeal best, I think: “A subtly ingratiating song, it makes its point with grace and nuance — in other words, a protest song for adults.” I just love the lyrics…Maia is skilled at putting things in unique ways, yet making them intensely relatable, and she’s also terrific at creating just the right musical setting for her lyrics. Plus, this song features a fine guest appearance by none other than Bonnie Raitt herself.

The last song in today’s trio? A breathtaking song that I have a favorite artist of mine to thank for introducing me to (more on that in a moment)…

“Reset” by Lucie Silvas!

(Play the full song using the Bandcamp widget in the tweet below. Just click the play button on the picture.)

Lucie Silvas is, from what I understand, a British singer-songwriter. This is the only song of hers I’ve heard. (I’ll soon have to remedy that.) I found about it via Jamie Cullum, one of my musical idols, and one who’s been previously featured on this blog. His brother, Ben Cullum, is a songwriter who’s co-written for Jamie and for other artists, and he made the following tweet about a song his brother had worked on:

I saw it by chance while checking out his website for possible news about his upcoming new album (JAMIE JUST GIVE IT TO US PLEASE), and I went to listen to the song…sweet mama, is it good. It’s sweeping, and emotional, yet beautifully confessional and honest. (It also increases my desire/dream to someday co-write with Ben Cullum. He is terrific.) You’ll be hitting the play button quite often on this one.

There you have it! Harmony Avenue’s first Song Sampler of the Day. I have no idea how often I’ll be utilizing this combo format for Song of the Day posts, but it was worth an initial try at any rate. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be sure to make this final month of posting an exciting one!