TDP Recommends: Mavis Staples- “I Like The Things About Me”

In this groovy and moody song from her latest album One True Vine, Mavis Staples, a legendary American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, embraces her individuality.  Described as vocally-warm by critics and fans, since her beginnings as singer, Staples’s purpose for performing came from her passion for civil rights.  At only fifteen years old, she vocally lead the gospel band, the Staple Singers, often being mistaken for either a man or a grown woman because of the aforementioned warmth and lowness of her voice.  While the majority of her songs contain a religious message, “I Like The Things About Me” applies to all people who have struggled with their self-image.  The song focuses on the positive influence of the singer’s age onto her perception of herself.  The subtle saxophone complements Staples’s low and slow voice to emphasize the maturity within the lyrics, while the electric guitar adds a modern twist onto the classic genre of rhythm and blues.  Mavis Staples’s “I Like The Things About Me” is an overall success through its simple and relatable lyrics as well as its strong potential in empowering the listener.  Dig it, Devils!

TDP Recommends: “Hothouse” by 78Violet

Widely recognized for their Disney affiliations, the Michalka sisters, Aly and AJ have evolved from their rigid, tween-appeal pop into the mature, indie duo, 78Violet.  Their first single as 78Violet, “Hothouse,” focuses on temptation as the main theme, getting back to raw, liberating humanity.  The sisters’ voices combine together in a captivating, siren-like harmony, emphasizing the alluring deception within the lyrics.  Their music video features an array of nature imagery interwoven with soft and subtle lighting effects.  With its artsy and bohemian flare, the video itself becomes a musical reincarnation of an Instagram filter.  Despite being slightly cliched, the music video will make you wish that you, too, were in a field of mustangs and dancing around in a random greenhouse.  “Hothouse” is a great song for the dedicated fans of the singers’ Disney days and the lovers of messy hair and the 70s vibe.  Dig it, Devils!

TDP Review: Glen Hansard- “Drive All Night”

For fans of: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Mumford and Sons


Widely known for his Academy Award and Oscar winning song “Falling Slowly” from the musical film Once, Glen Hansard does not compromise his lyrics or talent, even if stretched thin between many projects.  The Irish musician remains focused on the personal message within his melancholy songs.  He released his first solo album Rhythm and Repose in 2012, embracing an earthy and more traditional folk sound.  While the album reflected Hansard’s passion for his art in the heart wrenching, fan favorites, “High Hope” and “Bird of Sorrow,” it remained inconsistent.  Understandably, “repose” was in the name, therefore the inconsistency may have purposefully supported the distress within the lyrics.  Hansard’s new EP Drive All Night experiments more with the folk genre, rather than solely relying on traditional Irish folk music as its basis, creating a unique sound, while falling behind lyrically with its emphasis on failed relationships and excessive vulnerability.

The EP opens with a Bruce Springsteen classic, “Drive All Night,” in which Glen Hansard’s raspy voice mimics that of the original, while adding another layer of desperation and nods to Hansard’s usual style.  The inclusion of the saxophone is crisper than in Springsteen’s version, slightly modernizing, but not overpowering, the song with Hansard’s acoustic guitar.  The second song, “Pennies in the Fountain,” incorporates Spanish-style guitar fingering and classical piano to create drama and nostalgia.  Like many of Glen Hansard’s songs, “Pennies in the Fountain” is not lyrically long or abstract, but it manages to fit a self-explanatory poem within a four-minute composition through the impressive and expository instrumentals, a lot of which would be able to stand successfully even without vocal accompaniment.  With a prominent rhythm and a slight electronica influence, “Renata” is the liveliest song on Drive All Night.  It still, however, focuses on a narrator feeling inadequate and does not mature past Rhythm and Repose.  The final a capella song “Step Out Of The Shadows” returns to traditional folk music and includes a slight country inspiration.  Lyrically, it is the most different of the songs on the EP, with an optimistic perspective and a unique execution.

The EP, overall, evokes interest instrumentally, but only lyrically succeeds in one song.  To those who have enjoyed Drive All Night, I personally recommend the aforementioned musical film Once, in which Glen Hansard costars with Marketa Irglova, a Czech singer-songwriter whose light, silvery vocals combined with Hansard’s rougher and raspier ones create an incredible dynamic within the soundtrack.  Glen Hansard’s career and conception of The Frames, one of Ireland’s most influential bands, is sure of its message and style, yet leaves many critics agreeing that the artist should move on from his school-boy heartbreaks.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

TDP Recommends: “Pocketful of Poetry” by Mindy Gledhill

Just in time for Poetry Out Loud, off of Mindy Gledhill’s fourth album comes the geeky, lovable song “Pocketful of Poetry” that speaks fondly of embracing creativity and dumping the boring, stable lifestyle that our society just enjoys promoting.  Described on her website as an “indie singer songwriter that will leave you floating like a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a strawberry soda,” Mindy Gledhill does not fail to make her fans feel warm and fuzzy inside.  The catchy lyrics of “Pocketful of Poetry,” such as “I draw doodles of eccentric faces in the margin spaces of important papers,” highlight a free-spirited outlook on life, emphasized even further by the violin instrumental.  The music video embraces whimsical Alice in Wonderland allusions, frilly skirts, and vintage typewriters to mimic this magical characteristic.  Mindy Gledhill is a perfect musician for an artsy soul and the fan of Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor, and the movie Big Fish.  Dig it, Devils!

TDP Recommends: ‘Gold Lion’ by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The alternative/art punk band Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always known how to balance between composing soft and loud songs, while not limiting themselves to the widespread associations with the two types.  In their song “Gold Lion,” Karen O’s voice adopts both husky and ringing qualities to smoothly develop a simple beat into a raucous instrumental.  Starting off slightly rigid and timed, by its end, “Gold Lion” erupts into full-blown crazy-mode in which all of the musicians try to out-do each other.  However, it does not lose the craft of its strong emotional impact in a “first-band-rehearsal” kind of way.  “Gold Lion” is a head-banging song without being solely based on angst and screaming.  It is perfect for spurs of extreme creativity and the mentally-rejuvenating breaks between piles of work.  The eccentric trio released their new LP Mosquito in April 2013 and are currently playing some select shows without yet going on tour.


TDP Music News: U2 premieres “Ordinary Love”

U2 premiered their new song “Ordinary Love” on November 21st through a cool stop-motion lyric video.  Seeing the song formed visually and words scratched out to make way for others wonderfully mimics the actual process of composing lyrics.  U2 wrote “Ordinary Love” for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a biographical movie about anti-apartheid in South Africa that is scheduled for release on November 29, 2013.  The song is modern and slightly resembles the overall feel of Keane’s The Iron Sea.  It is moody, but has moments in which both the instrumentals and the lyrics kick up the appreciation of the world and of the people around us.  Discussing the injustice of segregation, “Ordinary Love” embraces one of U2‘s biggest themes- pure love- to scream out about the humanity of all people and the need for equality.  This new song will definitely become a U2 classic as it is so raw and humbling and Bono’s vocals are just beautiful.  The band released their last album, No Line On The Horizon, in 2008, and despite the wait for a new compilation of awesome, U2 always delivers quality material.  Their new album is expected to be released in 2014 and it is certainly keeping die-hard fans (me) eager.

U2- “Ordinary Love”

TDP Recommends: Tori Amos- “Cornflake Girl”

Disclaimer: The following song features sensitive subject matter. 

Hearing a classically-trained pianist jam out to reggae and alternative is refreshing and inspiring, and Tori Amos’s 1994 hit “Cornflake Girl” combines all three genres to provide Amos with a well-deserved cult following.  Through its puzzling lyrics, “Cornflake Girl” packs the complex concept of female trust and controversial genital mutilation into a symbolic representation.  The slow, moody, and repetitive instrumentals simply make the song hauntingly-beautiful, while the highest notes of Amos’s extensive vocal range emphasize a woman’s pain, suffering, detachment, and confusion in a misogynistic culture.  The seriousness and density of “Cornflake Girl” is perfect for an analytical listener and a lover of revealing and empowering music.  Watch the video below to listen to the wonderfully-creative and intelligent Tori Amos talk more about the conception of “Cornflake Girl.”  Dig it, Devils!

TDP Review: The Jezabels- “The End”

For fans of: Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, Camera Obscura

Even though creative experimentation verges on a line of “will-they-love-it-will-they-hate-it,” artists must always find a way to stay true to their own aesthetic and desires.  Unfortunately, harshly-critical fans can either respect a band’s pursuit of a different sound or disregard a flop as a band’s carelessness towards its audience.  The Aussie alternative/indie rock quartet The Jezabels have recently released their new single “The End” as a sneak preview into their second album, set for release in early 2014, and it is quite the shocker.

Gaining significant popularity after the inclusion of their song “A Little Piece” in Danny MacAskill’s extreme biking video, The Jezabels released their first LP “Prisoner” in 2011.  “Prisoner” was a unique debut, complete with occasional obscure organ instrumentals and the soulful, pained, and siren-like vocals of the talented Hayley Mary.  Truly living up to Mary’s interpretation of the namesake Biblical Jezebel as a misunderstood and scorned woman, The Jezabels’s heart-wrenching songs, like “Long Highway,” were dubbed too mature to be included in major films because of the psychological duality within the former’s strong, yet vulnerable narrator.  If the reasoning behind The Jezabels’s experiment with “The End” was to produce a song with catchiness, pop-appeal, and dance-along potential, then the band has certainly taken a wrong turn towards forgotten songs of the summer.

Bringing back a portion of The Jezabels’ symbolically-packed lyrics, the band does not return the slightly mournful instrumental background.  Understandably, “The End” contrasts with the rest of The Jezabels’ songs in that it emphasizes a life worth living.  Oftentimes, juxtaposition between thought-provoking lyrics and a poppy tune works very well and provides the listener with an unexpected surprise and appreciation of the genius deceit.  However, in the case of “The End,” the joyful instrumentals are not different enough from just another “upbeat-summer-song.”  At moments, Hayley Mary’s silvery voice is once again highlighted, but the over-the-top, chaotic instrumentals still desperately overpower the easy-going power of her vocals.  The jolly beat tries to end dramatically and abruptly, but only leaves confusion.  Overall, “The End” was too happy and too derivative to be a The Jezabels’ song.

Currently nameless, The Jezabels’ new album is an enigma.  With the release of a song that possesses little of what the band has previously utilized, The Jezabels are either introducing their fans to a completely new sound or just seeing the response.  While they have always written diverse music, it still possessed a certain moody, seductive quality.  Will their new album touch upon their usual or diverge completely into “driving-to-the-beach-and-I-guess-this-song’s-okay” territory?  The bright and cheery “The End” does not make us bright and cheery.  Stay tuned for a review of The Jezabels’ full new album in early 2014!

Overall Rating: ⅖

TDP Recommends: “Right Action” by Franz Ferdinand

Not all bands enjoy drastic change, and with their signature chaos the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand has not altered their sound greatly since their debut album.  Their indie/pop/punk summer tune “Right Action” is just one more upbeat song to add to their repertoire.  Not particularly inspiring or greatly influential with its lyrics, it still makes for a great energetic, pump-up song.  The music video is pure fun with people walking backwards, trippy backgrounds, and the floating/jumping/occasionally-possessed lead singer Alex Kapranos.  So, although Franz Ferdinand have not diverged from the usual, “Right Action” is still enjoyable and playful.  Dig it, Devils!

TDP Review: Andrew Belle- “Black Bear”

For fans of: Mat Kearney, Greg Laswell, Ingrid Michaelson, Radical Face


Observing a musician’s personal journey through his or her music has always been a committed fan’s greatest and most perceptive talent, especially in genres like indie rock that are not motivated by catchiness and pop-appeal, but rather by the relationship between the musician, the music, and the listener.  Influenced by a personal reinvention and commitment to his fans, the indie rock singer-songwriter Andrew Belle has poured himself into yet another creative venture.  The Chicago-based artist recently released his second album, “Black Bear,” in August 2013.  He stated that “Black Bear” is “a continuation of the story that [he] began with “The Ladder” [his debut album]” and introduced his audience to a different part of him.

While Andrew Belle’s debut album, “The Ladder,” focused on soft, acoustic, instrumentals accentuating his contemplative and poetic lyrics, “Black Bear” takes a creative risk with electronic layering to create an ambient and distant sound.  Contrasting with his usual “piano-guitar-violin” combo, Belle utilizes heavy rhythm to magnify the true impact of his music.  Similar to his widely-known song, “Sky’s Still Blue,” Belle experiments with echoes and slight distortion to his natural voice.  However, his slow and calm vocals are not lost!  While oftentimes voice distortion is associated with extreme Auto-Tune, Belle’s overall vibe, on the other hand, still reads as pure and raw.  The final song,“I Won’t Fight It,” barely uses any electronica, as its prominent piano tune overpowers the melody to remind fans that Belle has not completely abandoned his old style.

Despite Belle’s new sound, he has retained his defining artistic characteristic as the writer of deep poetry.  It would not be an Andrew Belle song if it did not unpack a heavy load of confusion about life reflections and provide listeners with a decent dose of nostalgia.  With a spiritual inspiration, Belle’s thoughtful and well-crafted lyrics once again continue the trend of self-discovery and perception of the world.  Metaphorical statements like “All I breathe is grey/But through the disarray/You’re the emissary vein/To my left right brain” truly accentuate Belle’s talent as not only a singer, but also as a writer (“Dark Matter”).  He links his songs with the common theme of love and acceptance and allows his music to provide a harmonizing and humbling experience.  On “Black Bear,” Belle speaks of innocence, disconnect, strength, vulnerability, and pure humanity, showing his maturity as an artist and ability to connect to his listeners through a variety of topics.  “Black Bear” suggests an older, confrontational, and more determined narrator, rather than a young, lonely, boy who sang his poems in “The Ladder.”  Even though both “The Ladder” and “Black Bear” were conceptual albums, fed with Belle’s personal journey, the interpretations of either of the LPs are loose and thus can be tailored by each individual listener.

Andrew Belle’s transition from indie rock to a slightly more alternative and electronic style has been a smooth one as he plays up his previous, unique melodies to fit his current shifting genre.  “Black Bear” is a “headphones-on-shut-the-world-out-find-yourself” kind of album and will leave listeners feeling inspired and hopeful.

Andrew Belle is currently touring with Leagues and will be at the Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA on November 11.  Unfortunately, this concert is for ages 18 and older.  Next time, Baby Devils!

Overall Rating: 5/5