Artist Spotlight: Alyse Black

Hey, I’m back with a new Artist Spotlight. Alas, as always, it has been too long. This post is a milestone for Harmony Avenue…it’s this blog’s 50th post. More celebration of that to come…but first, let’s jump right into talking about an artist I’ve been wanting to spotlight for quite a while now, the amazing…

Alyse Black!

Alyse is a dynamic indie singer-songwriter with a very engaging, interesting artistic vibe. Her music is warm, playful, passionate, unique, alluring…sometimes all at once. I stumbled upon her music while on a road trip with my family through California and Washington up to Spokane (where I lived when I was little for about 4 years, and where a good portion of my family still lives). I was in our hotel room in Spokane, after a long day which included a whirlwind 2-hour visit to Seattle. (Not. Enough. Time. City. So. Awesome.) (Oh, and trying to get out of Seattle traffic when you’re in a hurry? NOT fun.) Since I’m the Wikipedia-browsing fiend that I am, I was looking at the article for Pike Place Market, and since I had seen a few really cool buskers on the street while we were walking to Pike Place, I took special interest in that section. Alyse’s name was mentioned among the many performers that have graced Pike Place, and for some reason (maybe the description of her of “alternative jazz-pop singer-songwriter,” AKA “a combo of genres that Brandon adores”?), I clicked through to her own Wikipedia article, and subsequently started dipping my toes into her music. (There’s also some interesting biographical info on her Wikipedia page…such as the fact that Alyse actually worked in the corporate world before deciding to pursue her passion, music.) Thanks to the fact that the article mentions it “won the 2007 Billboard World Song Contest in the jazz category,” this was the first song of hers I listened to (seen here in a live version, as the studio version isn’t quite embeddable here):

That was the only interaction I had with Alyse’s music for a bit, until late in the fall of 2009, when I was starting out my freshman year at BYU, she came up with a special offer for her fans…to buy one or both of her CDs (“Too Much and Too Lovely” and “Hold Onto This”) for any price. Being a college freshman at the time (I rarely had any money to buy new music), I jumped on this, wanting to hear more of Alyse, and soon I was hearing her two albums for the first time. I really loved what I heard, and as always, the rest is history.

Alyse counts the likes of Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, and Norah Jones among her influences, and while you can certainly hear that sort of atmosphere in her work, she’s created a sound that’s really all her own. Her rich voice is full of character and charm, and it’s a key to bringing her music to life. “Mesmerizing” would be a great word to describe her music…it’s captivating and Alyse really puts her all into every song she creates, even when it’s something more upbeat, such as this fun little number from her debut album, called “Complete With Sound Effects” (sorry for the pictures of random people…you don’t really need to watch the video, per se…but this was the only way I could embed this song):

One of the press quotes on Alyse’s homepage says, “Boy, she’s got a sexy voice” (that would be courtesy of Back Beat Seattle). She uses it to devastating effect on the very slow-burning, breathlessly inviting “Willowing.” (Alyse herself has described it as a song that requires a shower afterwards. :))

Some of her other ballads take a different kind of flavor…they’re similarly stripped-down, but they’re also very vulnerable and introspective as well. Take this beauty from her second album, a song called “B-17 Bomber Girl”:

Here’s another example of that captivating sense of vulnerability and honesty, taken from (naturally) her recent extended-play called “The Honesty EP.” (It’s so named partly because of the concept behind its production…Alyse essentially went back to basics and often sings on it with little more than a piano backing her.) The song is “Dim The Lights.”

http://www.shutterstock.com/music/track/Dim-the-Lights/103546

One of the many reasons that I love Alyse’s music is that her whole artistic sensibility is very uplifting and positive. Her song aren’t always “happy” songs, per se…but they bring a smile to my face (or heart) in some way. Here’s two songs that embody that quality very well…”Wild Child” from her second album, and “Watch Me Jump,” the opening track off “The Honesty EP.”

http://www.shutterstock.com/music/track/Watch-Me-Jump/91291

Finally, even when she’s taking on others’ songs, Alyse’s passion and love for music, as well as her top-notch, authentic artistry, really shines through. Last year she did a little covers series on her YouTube page, and here’s her stunning version of a Regina Spektor tune you may be familiar with:

Alyse is that special kind of artist with the type of music that just begs to be explored and listened to again and again. It’s very individual and unique, and it’s definitely not like much out there in the music world right now, but it speaks to the listener in a very profound way, and that’s a quality that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I highly urge you to check out more of her music, and you can find her website here.

So this is my 50th post on Harmony Avenue. Months ago back in October, when I was starting this little experiment off, I never could have imagined I’d make it all the way to 50. Being the small operation this is (it’s just me, blogging, whenever I feel the fancy to), and looking at my past blogging activities (none of my previous blogs have ever had this many posts or been updated this regularly, at least for this amount of time), that’s a huge milestone for me. It’s been a terrific experience running this site, and although I’m planning to leave on a mission before the year is out, I hope to continue sharing music (and my thoughts on it) for a long time to come. A special thanks to those who have helped get me to this point:

  • The good folks at WordPress, who of course host this blog (for free!), and make it as easy as pie to post, share, and shape this blog into exactly what I want it to be.
  • Sites like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Grooveshark, that help make sharing music simple, universal, and incredibly accessible. Harmony Avenue wouldn’t be the same without them.
  • Although I thanked her at the end of last year (in my end of 2010 spiel), I’d like to take another opportunity to give a shout-out to the amazing Julia Barry, who helped set up an interview AND give-away here on Harmony Avenue (as well as inspiring an album review I did of her last album, “Once, or Twice”). That was back when this blog was still in its infancy (well, even more infant than it is now :)), and it really gave me a boost of confidence, and a feeling that this music blog endeavor could actually be worthwhile. Thank you, Julia, for the terrific music you create, and for seeking me out on Twitter in the first place.
  • Any of you who have ever read this blog, even if it’s just been a post, a paragraph, or a sentence. I harbor no illusions about my readership…it’s rather small, spotty, and potentially nonexistent, and I’m pretty sure at least half of the views I get are by spammers and the like…but I know at least some of you reading this are humans, and I’d like to thank you for taking your time to read what I have to say (and share, music-wise). It means a lot to me.

Making it to 50 posts is great, but I won’t stop here. I hope to continue making this blog better, and finding lots of new artists, songs, and music to share. As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for listening. See y’all soon with a new post, and for now, Happy 50! 🙂

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