You Sing, I Write: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Joshua Radin Pours His Heart Out in New York

Taking the stage to a swarm of screaming female fans, Joshua Radin played to a packed crowd at Webster Hall last Friday. Radin's performance was nothing short of surprises as fellow singer-songwriters Ingrid Michaelson and Dar Williams accompanied him on two songs throughout the night. Playing nearly an hour set, fans left the venue with the hopes of seeing Radin again soon as he told the crowd he moved back to New York just four days prior.

"Hello New York! My name is Joshua Radin," he told concertgoers after first song, "Free Of Me," as if they didn't already know his name. "It's New York City and you never know what can happen," he continued before Ingrid Michaelson took the stage to assist on "Sky." Their voices blended beautifully together and the crowd was energized from the moment Michaelson entered the stage, drowning out the rest of Radin's introduction.

While he has referred to his music's genre as whisper rock, one might imagine it difficult to hear his soft voice at a concert venue, however this was not the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Radin's vocals remained hushed and undeniably airy at times, but the audience hung on to every lyric sung during his set. Incredulously, on numbers such as "Winter" the room was so silent you could literally (please forgive the cliche) hear a pin drop. He told fans that "Winter" was the first song he had ever written while walking around New York nearly four years ago. Taking the stage alone on acoustic guitar the crowd gave Radin their complete attention as he ended the song to screams.

Radin often introduced each song with the story behind it. One such song was inspired by Bob Dylan's autobiography. Radin said the one thing that stuck out from the book was advice Dylan was given when moving to New York and how he should lose all his envy and fear. "I wrote a song about it because I had so much envy and so much fear and the song is called, 'No Envy, No Fear'." The light percussion, guitar and string features blended impeccably well with Radin's vocals right up to the fade out of the song.

Many of his songs are detailed accounts of former relationships or fantasies. Take "Vegetable Car," a song he told the crowd was written about a girl he had never met while "One of Those Days" is a heartbreaker that surely melted most girls' hearts in the room. Having trouble getting over a former girlfriend that used to tour with him, the lyrics include "Now a year has passed/Alone I stay inside and I await the rain/To wash away your face so I don't have to hide/The sight of you is painful/So I crawl underneath my blanket where I can hide away/I know I can't take it anymore/'Cause I see now it's just one of those days."

"I have two ex-girlfriends and two records. This one is about the second," Radin said before introducing "You Got Growin' Up To Do," telling the audience that the song is about meeting the right person at the wrong time. Ecstatic to have one of his favorite singers, Patty Griffin, accompany him on the track on his album, Radin described it as "the coolest thing ever." Singer Dar Williams then took the stage filling in for Griffin's vocals.

The rest of the night showcased songs from Radin's latest release, Simple Times as well as his previous album. Ending with a cover of his favorite song ever written and recorded, Sam Cooke's soulful "Bring It On Home To Me," Radin promised fans he'll be back soon since New York is now his home. From the crowd's response, I think they'll be eagerly waiting.

If you haven't yet, be sure to visit Joshua Radin on MySpace and catch a show when he's in town! To listen to a stream of single, "I'd Rather Be With You" click here.

Photo credit: Wendy Hu

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Anya Marina Heats Things Up At Record Release

Playing nearly an hour set last Tuesday, California-based singer-songwriter Anya Marina showcased songs from her newly released album, Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II. Receiving rave reviews from fans and critics alike, Marina's New York headline performance at Mercury Lounge demonstrated just what the fuss is all about, proving that the buzz is only beginning.

Having toured with fellow San Diego native Jason Mraz last year, it is clear what makes Marina so distinct — her sultry and seductively mousy vocals. With her quirky, yet intriguing stories she didn't beg for the audience's attention, they gave themselves to her wholeheartedly.

Taking the stage solo playing "Not a Through Street" on acoustic guitar, Marina's softer vocals fit the ballad well. One song later the band joined her onstage to which she enthusiastically told the audience, "Let's hear it for our new President!" A record release and headline show on inauguration day couldn't have been a better way to celebrate.

"I just had a record come out today. I'm so excited!" she exclaimed to the packed room. "Come out after the show and buy 17 for your friends and we'll get acquainted," she joked. The rest of the night was filled with tracks from Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II and Marina's never ending comical onstage banter (ie. "It was weird growing up Russian. Did you have people call you Commie and throw things at you?")

Stand-out track, "Waters of March (Aguas de Marco)" was sung in Portuguese and English, which Marina dedicated to a friend in the audience. With stellar vocals and strong electric guitar accompaniment, the song's Latin groove switched gears a bit as Marina continued to liven up the audience by jumping around the stage while singing.

Marina's dancing wasn't the only thing that affixed concertgoers' attention. Catchy "Afterparty at Jimmy's" grabbed the listener's attention with intriguing lyrics, "So you say you got a band?/Three parts Kinks, one part the Jam/You got soul on stage, boy/How 'bout soul in the sack, huh?" The electric guitar feature throughout the song only complimented the edginess of the song.

Ending the night with hit single "Move You(SSSPII)" (yes, you've heard it on "Grey's Anatomy") Marina exclaimed, "This is a dream come true! Thanks for being here and celebrating 1/20/09 with me." I have a feeling this is only the beginning for Anya Marina.

For more on Anya, be sure to check out her MySpace and watch her video for "Move You" below!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lights Resolve Tear Up Sold-Out Highline Ballroom

Not every band can engage a room full of concertgoers successfully, but Lights Resolve has learned to do so, and quite effectively. Rather than write another show review, I'll let Wendy's pictures do the talking. (But if you REALLY want to read a review of what the LR guys are like in concert, you can check out my MTV post from last summer here.)

I made it to the LR show just in time to see Liam and Me and TV/TV perform and they're definitely fun bands to be on the lookout for. If you need some entertaining reading, peruse Liam and Me's hilarious advice column on their blog here. And, if you're in the mood for some energetic, foot-stomping (did I really just write that?) music, be sure to give TV/TV's songs "Indie Rock Girl" and "Let It Go" a listen on MySpace.











Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Q&A with Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind

Releasing their first full-length album in over five years, Ursa Major (due out later this year) promises Third Eye Blind fans the music and undeniably unforgettable lyrics they are known for. Take already released track, "Non-Dairy Creamer" which begs the question, "Whose side are you on? Are you real or fake?" Listen to "Non-Dairy Creamer" here.

Jenkins took some time out to discuss at great length the ever changing music industry and ways the band is adapting, including Indaba Music's interactive web program "Studio Access" where fans can create their own mixes of new 3eb tracks before the album is released. Read below for the exclusive interview including Jenkins' take on the industry, his band ("Third Eye Blind was this band that was marketed and processed and packaged in a way that we didn't really recognize") as well as the upcoming release. You can listen to the MP3 of my interview with Stephan Jenkins here.

What have you been up to the past few years since you released Out of the Vein?
Well, I produced Vanessa Carlton’s album Harmonium. That was a real process. I’m so proud of that album; I think it’s a really beautiful album. That album is on the old record company model. I just don’t think it’s the right model for her at all because we’ve become so much smaller and closer a music community and we can’t tolerate as listeners that sort of layers of obfuscation that I think record companies bring. What I’ve done in the last two years was founded my own label, that’s called Assembly. It’s distributed through RED, which is a very tight, focused, dedicated group of music fans. So I’ve really changed my whole structure. Then I built a studio in this incredible Victorian mansion in San Francisco. It’s got these 30-foot glass ceilings. It was a house that was built for music at the turn of the century so it’s an amazing place.

Finally, the third thing is that we went out and played and toured this year and we had more people come to our shows this year than had ever come before. I think the same thing happened with Weezer where there was this real sort of rediscovery of the band. Third Eye Blind was this band that was marketed and processed and packaged in a way that we didn’t really recognize. After all that marketing wore off, what you have left is a playlist. And fans discovered that in the ways that they do, which was very personal for them and then they share it with each other. And that’s what has been happening and it’s been so great! It’s really this honest and direct exchange between our music and the people who engage it. So we toured and we’ve been writing this album and have been working on this album and I think it’s an album that is very much inspired by our fans.

It sounds like it. You’re partnering with Indaba Music for “Studio Access,” which basically allows fans to compete in mixing your songs.
Aren’t they great? They are so talented! They’re amazing. A lot of it is just like, “Darn, why didn’t I think of that?” I love to see our music go in and see someone else's creativity and content. We want to use the technology that’s available to get closer to people, to actually make the community tighter and not have the sense of people being isolated and kept by themselves through technology and instead, find out what’s going on that’s specific to them. To find their people and their groups through coming together through music and each other and finding problems that they care about and ways that they can express themselves creatively through music. The creative expression part of that is definitely something that’s happening through Indaba. It really helps us as well because we are fueled by it. We wrote this album on the road in front of audiences, we tried songs out in front of them. I think the sound of this album has a big reverberant confident sound that comes from that feeling that we’ve had on the road. We always want to maintain that as part of the sound of making the record.

How much of a play are the fan’s remixes a part of the recording process?
Well, it hasn’t affected the recording process. But, one guy took these marching drums that Brad plays and he put them at the beginning of the song and I said, “You know what, that’s how we are going to opening our tour next year,” which would be super cool. So, that’s a way in which somebody else’s idea sparks an idea in us.

What can fans expect from this album?
Well, you probably got to hear one song, “Non-Dairy Creamer” and got some sense of it. I think “Non-Dairy Creamer,” the song itself – the arrangement keeps building and growing. We love the sense of unstoppable momentum for one. Two, I think that lyrically, I don’t know if we are an architect of emocore. But that’s what some of these magazines have said. I thought we were just fighting the Smashing Pumpkins, but I think that’s a sense of internal politics and really trying to speak to those was our contribution to emo. Me, I have no idea because I had never heard of the phrase until years after we made the record so I had nothing to do with it in trying to design something. Lyrically the difference is, on this record, instead of internal politics, this is more extroverted, it’s more external politics.

I think that’s very reflective of the times we’re in. I think that we’ve been stupefied and dumbfounded by a criminal and negligent administration over the last eight years. I think that the generation that really embraces the music is beginning to get its voice back and we’re beginning to say, “Wow, rebellion is American and we need to begin to speak up the way we know we should.” That’s been my sense in finding an outward voice. “Non-Dairy Creamer” is really just about being real versus being fake. There are all these phrases like, “Threat level orange.” What the fuck is that? All it is is asking you to be afraid. I think that being afraid is a particularly un-American concept that George Bush wants to ram down our throats. And so does John McCain and all his off-takes. “Oh be scared of Barack Obama because I have nothing to offer” crap. I think it is shameless and we are now able to call it for what it is. The song is saying, “Whose side are you on? Are you real or fake?”

Is “Non-Dairy Creamer” your first single?
Well, I think that’s a song we just put out first. But, the concept of a single is like, “Is it gonna get banged 40 times a week on MTV?” doesn’t really exist anymore. There’s really no such thing. I don’t even know what a single is, you know? Is it the track that we pay a marketing guy to go push on the radio? No, no it’s not. It’s just a song. They’re all singles.

You were huge in the 90s during the MTV era. How different is the music industry for you now? Do you think it would be easier if you started today?
I think it was very difficult in the 90s. It took a very long time and one of the reasons why was because music needed to be funneled. The outlets for music were so tightly controlled by a few people who had pretty much no interest in music or understanding or sensitivity to music. They were interested in one thing. They were interested in power and they were interested in competing with each other and egos. And they were interested in smashing that model into the ground, which in essence is what they did. They were these big, powerful dinosaurs that were hit by the comets of digital music. So now what’s happened is it’s become totally democratized. What I’m saying is, the jury is no longer rigged. I think that people with good music can go out and get it put out and it’s eligible to find audiences in ways that it wasn’t before. So I think in a lot of ways, it probably would have been easier for us to come out now. It’s really more exciting because we always have the answer for somebody else. In the end we’re still in some way working for the man, which I never wanted to do.

What is your writing process like? Is it any different on this album than previous albums since I know you said you wrote most of these songs while on the road?
What I do is I tend to write down ideas that occur to me. Then they often times take on some cohesion. The other thing I’ll do is I’ll have an idea and that idea will come in a rhythm. I’m a drummer by training so a lot of what I do is rhythmically based. That’s my primary mode of organizing some kind of emotion or provocation into a piece that makes that emotion travel. That’s the best I could put it.

I read that for this album you had more trouble thinking of lyrics than in the past.
Yeah. I still have trouble with some of the songs and the lyrics because I think that the reason for our shocking longevity is the lyrics. If I don’t feel the idea, the governing ghost of that concept inside the lyrics, it can really, really stump me. I have songs I’ve worked on for three years and I can’t get the lyrics right. Then another song like “Non-Dairy Creamer” just kind of comes together pretty fast.

Do you have any ways that you work on your writer’s block?
No. I just engage in a lot of self-hate and then I procrastinate. I do other things instead of working on music and put it off. That’s why we’re so slow at making records.

Do you have a tentative release date for Ursa Major?
Yeah. March. We’re going to put out “Non-Dairy Creamer” sometime in November digitally. So it will be a digitally release of that and a duet with Kimya Dawson. Kimya’s a friend of mine; she and I did a song on the last album. It will be a song called “Why Can’t You Be.” It’s a back and forth. One thing I love about her voice is its extremely distinctive and totally authentic and that’s a very rare combination plus she’s a really good lyricist. She’s very musical. One thing that’s great about Kimya is she’s got great pitch. I like our voices put together.

You’re also planning to release a follow up, Ursa Minor?
Ursa Minor, yeah. Ursa Major is the constellation of the bear. It’s good for us because we’ve been hibernating and now we’ve awakened and we are hungry for spring and we want to feed and we want to thrive.

Everyone on the boards seems to be curious about your old bassist, Arion. Is he playing on the next album and touring with you?
We love Arion and he’s just had a lot of personal struggles. So the band is not a working place for him right now, but he did play bass and actually co-wrote a song called “Red Star” with me and I love that song. I think he’s very talented, but we’ll be having other people play bass with us. But it’s not because we don’t love Arion, because we really do.

Be sure to check out Third Eye Blind's latest EP release, Red Star and their latest tour dates on MySpace and watch out for their new Web site, coming soon at www.thirdeyeblind.com.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Artist of the Week: Cory Chisel

If you've been following this blog you know I have a special place in my heart for acoustic singer-songwriters. After seeing Joshua Radin this past Friday (review to come soon) I've been finding myself discovering similar musicians and genres of music. This week's "Artist of the Week" is Cory Chisel. Watch his beautiful live performance from NYC's Electric Lady Studios below.


Watch the full concert at baeblemusic.com

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reviews to Peruse

I've been working on a bunch of album reviews for a few different Web sites, most recently ReviewYou.com and inReview.net. Below are three of my latest reviews for you to check out:


Also, I'm currently transcribing my interview with Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind so be on the lookout for that! I'm hoping to edit the audio too so you can listen to my interview with him. Check back soon!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Song of the Week: "The '59 Sound"

Back in October I featured The Gaslight Anthem as my "Band of the Week." Since then, they've been featured on many Best of 2008 lists for their album, The '59 Sound. I've been listening to the album myself continuously this past week and highly recommend it if you haven't picked it up yet.

"The '59 Sound" was declared one of Rolling Stone's "100 Best Singles of the Year" and I keep hearing it everywhere I go — most recently during a set change at Highline Ballroom. Check out the music video for it below and be sure to catch the band on "The Late Show with David Letterman" next Friday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Artist to Watch: Cary Brothers

I first caught Cary Brothers' performance during the Hotel Cafe Tour last spring with Ingrid Michaelson, Joshua Radin and Priscilla Ahn. If the name doesn't sound familiar, Brothers is perhaps most known for his song "Blue Eyes," which was featured on the 2004 soundtrack of Zach Braff's film, "Garden State." The soundtrack won a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album and propelled "Blue Eyes" to the top of the iTunes Folk Chart. While major labels started lining up offers for Brothers, surprisingly he wasn’t interested.

"I've seen too many people go through the major label process — the rapid rise and fall that leaves artists burned out and used up," Brothers said. "That's why I am excited to bring my independent label Procrastination to Bluhammock. They didn’t ask me to write 10 songs that sound like 'Blue Eyes.' They let me make the music I wanted to make."

And that is what he has done. From continuously touring over the past few years (he co-founded the Hotel Cafe Tour) to working on numerous albums, Brothers has been keeping busy.

With a voice that can ease your stresses of everyday life, his music is light and airy but at the same time has so much depth to it. "Honestly" is a beautiful slow ballad with light guitar strumming and even softer piano accompaniment, never overpowering his vocals.

"Ride" is another strong track with Brothers' intriguing vocals and lyrics. Listen to "Ride" here for more of a feel. I'd love to know what you think! If you like what you hear, Cary Brothers will be showcasing songs from his upcoming album live in New York and LA in March, so be sure to check out his MySpace for more info! Take a sneak peak below on his video blog and listen to his cover of Ryan Adams' "Come Pick Me Up."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Preview New Bruce Springsteen Album!

Although it's not due to hit stores until next Tuesday, you can preview all the tracks on Bruce Springsteen's upcoming album, Working On A Dream on his Web site. Click here to listen to the audio snippets. The much anticipated 2009 release will be the Jersey rocker's 24th album. If you like what you hear, be sure to pick up a copy next week! Track listing for Working On A Dream below.


1. Outlaw Pete


2. My Lucky Day

3. Working on a Dream

4. Queen of the Supermarket

5. What Love Can Do

6. This Life

7. Good Eye

8. Tomorrow Never Knows

9. Life Itself

10. Kingdom of Days

11. Surprise, Surprise

12. The Last Carnival

Bonus track:

The Wrestler


Monday, January 19, 2009

Artist of the Week: Ryan Calhoun

I stumbled upon Ryan Calhoun after he requested me on MySpace and I gave his music a listen. The first song that played on his MySpace page was "Who We Are." A moving song with fitting piano accompaniment, Calhoun sings, "Mom and Dad, don't worry about your son/I'll be okay, I'll take these days one by one/Though the times are hard I still know where I belong/I keep looking up so I can hold on." With such ease and gracefulness, Calhoun draws the listener in with his heartfelt lyrics. On the last line of the song he sings, "'Cause at the end of the day all we have is who we are" and you believe him.

Hailing from California, the acoustic pop-rock singer-songwriter writes on his bio: "I'm not trying to save the world. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel or be the next cool indie artist. I just want to write great songs. I draw from my experiences in life. My relationships, my fears, my struggles everything that surrounds me. My songs are honest and I think that's why people can relate to them and have a connection."

And it's true. His songs are bursting with honesty and emotionally-filled lyrics. At times Calhoun's music recalls that of fellow California rocker Matt Nathanson with his sing-along choruses. However, setting himself apart is his ability to cause the listener to relate to his music wholeheartedly. Take his song "Draining" (video below). Calhoun sings, "You're afraid to let me go/'Cause you think I'm all you'll ever know/I'm trying to make things right/But I just need a little time/You wanted more, I needed space/To find where I fit into place/Please let me know that you're okay." The video is even more realistic, tying his lyrics and music in beautifully to the story. Edgier than previous tracks, complete with electric and bass guitar features, "Draining" demonstrates Calhoun's versatility and ability to switch things up and keep the listener intrigued.

Watch the moving video for "Draining" below and if you like what you hear, check Ryan Calhoun out on MySpace. I have a feeling he'll be selling out shows in no time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

You Sing, I Write Featured As Top Reviews Source

A co-worker sent this Boxxet link to me, informing me that my blog is featured as one of their top 10 review sources! I'm not really sure how prominent this site is to begin with, but to be featured No. 7 on their "Top Reviews Sources" right before Rolling Stone is pretty incredible. Still kind of floored to be honest. They feature my review on Kanye West's latest album, 808s & Heartbreak. If you haven't read it yet, you can read it here. Thanks for all your support! It really means the world, and having people find my blog on sites like this is a hint that I'm headed in the right direction. As always, thanks so much for reading!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Song of the Week: "Bitter Sweet Symphony"

Since interviewing frontman Ace Enders of Ace Enders and A Million Different People, and learning that his band's name was inspired in part by The Verve's song, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" I've been hearing it everywhere! Such a great song, I've decided to make it my song of the week this week.



If you read my interview with Enders, you know that both he and a bunch of other bands have recorded a cover of the song and released it in December. The voices heard on the track include Mark Hoppus (Blink-182), Matt Thiessen (Relient K), Kenny Vasoli (Starting Line), Craig Owens (Chiodos), Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low), Aaron Marsh (Copeland), Duane F. Okun (Socratic), and Bryce Avery (the Rocket Summer). Fans can purchase it on iTunes here with all the proceeds going to VH1's Save the Music Foundation. Learn more about the project here. And listen to the cover below:



If you like what you heard, be sure to purchase it on iTunes where you can help Save the Music and get music into schools.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Album Review: "Fiction Family"

A few weeks ago I introduced you to Fiction Family. Having spent over a decade touring and recording with their respective bands — Switchfoot and Nickel Creek — both Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins have strayed from their well-known sing-along choruses and strong guitar accompaniment to a more stripped down, darker release. While it takes a few listens to fully understand the depth of this disc, Fiction Family proves the versatility and staying power of both musicians in a time when not many bands are leaving their comfort zones.

Calling themselves Fiction Family (despite Foreman’s wish for the Real SeanJon) the Watkins and Foreman project formed after a few chance encounters at a local coffee shop in their San Diego hometown. After the urging from friends to collaborate over the years, they decided to give it a shot — never expecting a completed release. Taking turns singing lead vocals and alternating between multiple instruments including guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, baritone, ukulele, piano, organ, mandolin, steel guitar and 12-string guitar, the 12-song self-titled debut will be released January 20 on ATO Records.

A major deviation from each musician’s more well-known projects, Fiction Family presents an emotional musical journey for the listener. Lacking flow at times, the disc presents itself more as being experimental — tossing out the rules and expectations throughout the recording process. In fact, in some instances, Foreman and Watkins didn't even make the tracks together. While one was touring, the other would add parts to a song, then leaving their product for the other to work on when he got off tour. Which, at times works better on some songs than others.

Beginning the album with first single, “When She’s Near” (listen to it here) the listener hears bells, tambourines and light guitar strumming before Foreman’s voice enters. Almost soporific, Foreman's singing style doesn’t belt out as vigorously as many Switchfoot fans may be used to. Not a complete loss, Foreman’s singing does blend well with the musical accompaniment throughout many of the tracks on Fiction Family.

Most of the album revolves around relationships and, like often in life, are made up of heartbreaking stories (see “Betrayal,” a melancholy song that walks you through a friend murdering his best friend with a fitting, almost funeral-like horn feature at the end of the song) and brutal honesty (see “Not Sure” lyrics, “I’m not sure that I’ll get over you/I’m not sure that I want to”).

"Throw It Away" seems a bit more uplifting lyrically than previous tracks. However, the slow and hushed guitar strumming and string accompaniment accented with Foreman's saddened vocals beg the listener to question as he sings, "Throw it away/Give your love/Live your life/Each and every day/Keep your hands wide open/Let the sun shine through/’Cause you can never lose a thing/It belongs to you."

There are strong sections on Fiction Family, but also some peculiar segments as well. One example is "Please Don't Call It Love" where there is an unexpected haunting close, reminiscent to what it may sound like when walking into a haunted house. Either way, fans of Switchfoot and Nickel Creek will surely enjoy the album and embrace the uniqueness and new roles of each musician. If anything is certain of the release, Fiction Family presents an anomaly, the listener never really knows what to expect. But, after all, isn't that what music is all about in the first place?

In addition to their Jan. 20 release, Fiction Family is currently involved in a 21-date nationwide tour. Visit their Web Site for the tour dates and to listen to "When She's Near," an exclusive track off the album click here or watch the video of it below.


Fiction Family - When She's Near from ATO Records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mariah Carey's "The Ballads" Hits Stores Next Tuesday

Back in fifth grade Mariah Carey was my idol — long before she was having emotional meltdowns on "TRL" or marrying Nick Cannon (still having a hard time grasping that one, anyone else?). I remember bringing my portable tape player (yes, remember lugging those things around with big headphones and an assortment of cassette tapes in your backpack) to and from school on the bus. I always attempted to sing all those high notes — rather unsuccessfully — "Fantasy" and "Daydream" being my favorites back then in case you were wondering.

While I haven't been following her career as avidly as my friend Deana, she still remains one of my favorite female vocalists. You can imagine my thrill then to find out that next Tuesday she will be releasing Mariah Carey: The Ballads, a collection of, well you guessed it — her most famous ballads. The album features 18 of Carey's chart-topping hits, including nine No. 1 fan favorites like, "Hero," "Vision Of Love," "One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey & Boys II Men)" and "Dreamlover."

I think I'll pick up a copy for myself. Getting up and walking across the room to change the cassette tape over is exhausting!

Be sure to check Mariah's Web site for more info and music!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Q&A with Ace Enders

"Me and Sergio were in this band called the Early November back when dinosaurs roamed the earth," Ace Enders told a packed crowd at New York's Blender Theatre in November. "When I started, I said I wanted to make music that changed the world . . . eventually [the desire] only to make money drove our band to break up."

Despite previous obstacles with the Early November, Enders' hasn't give up his hope to change the world just yet. His current band, Ace Enders and a Million Different People have been keeping busy. Whether it's releasing albums as free downloads for fans or recording "Bittersweet Symphony" where all proceeds go to the Save the Music Foundation, Enders is fulfilling his dream one step at a time.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Enders while he was on tour with Hellogoodbye in the fall. Throughout 2008 he has toured continuously as well as recorded an album, which fans can download for free on fuze.tv. Enders talked to me about the pros and cons of being a musician, his upcoming album (due out early this year), and his advice to aspiring musicians. Before you decide to download a record from that next up-and-coming band illegally for free read the interview below for some insight on how bands can (or can’t) survive the craziness that is the music industry.

The last time I saw you was at Rutgers in 2006 just as your last album with the Early November was released. What have you been up to since then?
Doing a lot of recording. Lots of new stuff. This last year we’ve toured over eight months. Just trying to get a record out. Hopefully one of these days. It’s been non-stop really.

You just put out a record not too long ago.
Yeah, a free thing for everybody. I’m going to put another one out in December, for free for the holidays and I’m going to have another regular record coming out in February.

So how do you make money if everything is free?
You don’t. I don’t make money anyway; it’s as simple as that.

How do you live and survive then?
I don’t know. It’s hard. Usually it’s a lot of panicking around the end of the month [when] we’ve got to pay our bills and somehow we scrape it together. It’s been a rough year though, I’ll be honest. But, I feel that it will all pay off as long as my head and all our hearts stay in it for the right reason we’ll be alright. Hopefully, anyway.

You also have a record label. How’s that going? I read that it’s located in a grocery store basement.
Yes. That’s where my recording studio is. It’s in a basement of a video store. The label, I just wanted to help out bands that I felt shared the same reason and the same goals and had the same type of inspiration and whatnot. But that’s on hold right now just because of the money thing that we were just talking about. So, once we get a little bit more money again we’ll start that up, but right now that’s just hard to do without any income.

You’re making money from touring at least right now. In the past was it better with the Early November?
It was much easier because people still bought records then. Now, everybody just downloads everything and that’s kind of difficult. Back then we still made some money from that and made some money from other things where it was a little easier to survive. Now it’s like you’ve gotta be hot and if you’re not hot, you’re just floating around with everybody else.

How do you get hot?
I don’t know. Some people are very lucky and just fall into it. Some people are just doing the right thing at the right time. But also nowadays, bands that are hot are out quicker than ever. If you don’t want to be one of those bands ’cause you don’t want everybody to forget about you, [and instead] you want to be the type of band that is just steady and create a really devoted fan base, [that] takes years. It’s hard because you don’t make money, but you have to be able to find a balance until you are at a place where you can have a good living. That’s where I’m trying to get. I’ve been doing it for a long time, trying to not be hot but just be in people’s minds a little bit until the day when it all makes sense.

So tell me about Ace Enders and a Million Different People. Where’d you get the name?
Well, Ace Enders is my name – that’s why I chose that part of it [laughs]. The Million Different People part, I’ve always been a huge fan of the “Bitter Sweet Symphony” song and what it means and everything. I was listening to it one day and was like, “I’m a million different people.” I feel like I change. Sometimes when you’re in that mood where your head is just like, “What am I doing?” Basically, that song says it all for me. You look at it and it makes you look at things differently. Which brings me to my next thing; I actually just covered that song with a bunch of people from bands like Mark Hoppus from Blink 182, he sings on it, and Aaron from Copeland, Kenny from the Starting Line. Just a ton of people got together and it’s all for charity. We covered the song and it’s all going to be for Save the Music to get music in the schools so kids are aware. Should be pretty awesome. I’m psyched about that. It will be available for download December 2.

What can fans expect from your show tonight?
Fire, lots of dragons, a huge light show, lots of pyrotechnics, a lot of fireworks probably. You know, stuff along the lines of that [laughs]. Really, what we try and do is keep it real. We have a thing where it’s like, a lot of bands nowadays want you to dance as much as you can or sing along to whatever, this weird trendy stuff. We just try and keep it old school so it’s just like rock ‘n’ roll. And we just try and rock it as hard as we can, that’s all. That’s what you can expect.

On your MySpace you have a tour video and you’re at a show basically telling the audience, “Do what you want with your life, no matter who says no to you.” As a musician it’s hard to convince people that you’re going to make it as a singer-songwriter or a band. Have you had people hold you back and tell you that you’re crazy for being a musician?
Yeah, of course. I like to try and tell people that because life is too short. Especially the way things are now, everybody’s like you have to be safe and do all this stuff, but that’s going to make you miserable your whole life. You can try something and fail miserably, but if you never try it at all you’re going to go through your whole life wishing you at least tried it. It’s weird because you need to have that security but at the same time, what do you really need to have? Everybody always says to me [they have] a backup plan, they want to do this but they have a backup plan. It’s like; if you’re married do you have a backup plan, if you get a divorce, if something happens? You don’t work on your backup plan while you’re trying your main plan. If you never put what you dream as a first priority, it’s never going to be a first priority unless you luckily fall into it and for some people that works. But for most average people that’s not how it works — it’s a lot of work. What I’m saying is, yeah you can do whatever you want to do – just do it.

What is your advice to musicians who want to tour and make music for a living?
I would say to any musician who wants to do that, if it’s in your heart that that’s what you want to do, nothing’s going to stop you. It is really hard right now. It’s a really awkward time in the music business, but if you know that you can do it then nothing can stop you. Just do it. It’s going to be really hard, but make it work. That would be my advice because everybody is crazy right now and nobody knows what’s going on. Nothing is guaranteed anymore.

It seems like there’s more of an opportunity for independent bands right now.
Yeah, but all the other bands that are on labels are stuck. And right now it is mostly bands that are on labels, but it is definitely changing. For independent bands it is way easier. It’s a lot more freedom and you can get your name out there way easier then you ever could before.

What is your ultimate goal?
When I feel like I’ve actually done something right is when somebody comes up to me and is like, “You’ve helped me get through something.” That’s pretty much all you can ask for, unless you’re the type of person who’s like, “I’m just going to do this for money and that’s it.” Which is great, if you can make money, then you can make money. But it doesn’t work like that for everybody. I believe that there needs to be more people trying to be artists in this business rather than just making it a business. My ultimate goal would be to help that happen, to bring respect back and make it a place where people can come to forget about their everyday horrible days or great days or make your day even better.

What can fans expect from your next album?
I actually recorded three records this year. The first one was a little too slow so I did another one and I just did another one. There’s definitely a concept in it. I think it’s the frustration of the past year or couple years that I’ve been going through. It’s hard to wrap up; it’s one of those things you just have to hear to get it. I really can’t put it into words yet. I haven’t thought about it enough. I actually just finished recording the day that we left for this tour. Pretty crazy.

Do you have a special writing process? Do you carry a pen and paper everywhere?
I try to as much as I can, just in case anything comes to me. My process is just do what feels right. It’s different. It always changes with me. I could be banging on the table and come up with something or I’ll actually sit there and write it. It’s always different.

Do you have a favorite song you’ve ever written?
I don’t know. People always ask that question but it’s kind of hard for me because whenever I write a song it’s usually my favorite song as soon as I write it and then I’ll write another one and that’ll be my favorite song. It changes at all times If I wrote a song right now it would probably be my favorite one.

Do you have a song you like to perform most?
On this tour I definitely enjoy performing a song called “Body Like Mind” that I just released on that free album I did. It pretty much walks through the past year of my life and I just enjoy playing that one.

Be sure to check out Ace Enders and A Million Different People on MySpace and download his free album here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Artist of the Week: April Smith

I first stumbled upon April Smith's music during CMJ week in October when I met her publicist, who then gave me two of her most recent EP's. Throughout CMJ Smith kept showing up wherever I went — whether it was her EP on display in a cute coffee shop right off of Ludlow Street or just overhearing her name mentioned by other concertgoers.

While at first Smith reminds me of a mix of Australian songstress Sia and English singer Duffy, there is something quite unique about her. Her EP, The Great Picture Show is a carnival-esque blend of quirkiness, but seemingly classic music all at the same time. Smith's MySpace page describes her music much better than I ever could: "Her music is like this: combine the dramatic presence of Freddie Mercury, melodic sweetness of Buckley, range and power of Ann Wilson, smoky sarcasm of Tom Waits, and the ornate imagination of Michel Gondry and you’re getting close. Sounds good, we know. We call it vocally-driven-cinemelodic rock (for short)."

On MySpace you can listen to "Terrible Things" which has an eerie organ-like introduction reminiscent to something you might hear during Halloween. Quickly, Smith segways into a more jazzy vibe while singing, "All of the things that I've done/Terrible things you would never believe/The things that I've done." Extremely catchy, just one listen begs for more.

"Color" exemplifies the diversity of Smith's music. A fun number with kazoo accompaniment, it's a danceable track with hand-clapping rhythm. "Wow and Flutter" may be the most fun track with Smith intertwining lines from infamous 80s Dead or Alive hit, "You Spin Me Round" with a much slower, jazzy take that works incredibly well for her.

Do yourself a favor and check out April Smith. She's currently on tour and I've heard only great things about her live show. I plan on checking it out for myself. Visit April Smith on MySpace.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blast From the Past: Meeting Patrick Swayze


Nearly three years ago, while writing for my college paper — Rutgers University's Daily Targum — I was assigned to cover a heart disease event at one of the local hospitals. None other than Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze would be making an appearance and talking about the disease, as it hit close to home for him having both his father and grandmother die from heart disease.

In addition to the assignment of attending the event, I was also asked to write a preview to bring awareness to the campus and surrounding communities. After speaking with one of the organizers I found out the event was sold-out; not a huge surprise given the notoriety of Swayze. I knew I had to start the article with something extremely catchy, but intros were always my weakness. While brainstorming with some roommates it hit me — possibly the most famous line from Dirty Dancing was in the final scene when Swayze goes up to Baby's parents and says, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." So, why not turn that around to heart disease since he's been a major advocate for promoting education of the disease? Alas, that's where — still to this day — my favorite intro comes in: Patrick Swayze doesn't put heart disease in the corner.

The day's event was a huge success with well over 600 people attending. I was struck with how down to earth and comical Swayze was throughout the day — even grabbing one of the announcers to dance with him. At one point the press was ushered over to him for a quick Q&A. I remember being so incredibly nervous introducing myself and shaking his hand (I'm talking to Patrick Swayze!!??) but he was so humble and politely asked how I was while answering all of my questions honestly and sincerely.

Below I'll include my full write-up of the event as well as Barbara Walters most recent interview with Swayze. For those of you out of the loop, Swayze is currently battling with pancreatic cancer. Walters interview last week was his first public interview since being diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. An extremely moving interview, it's really remarkable to see his positive outlook on life and his conviction to beat the odds and survive until they find a cure.


February 27, 2006

Patrick Swayze Promotes Heart Awareness
By Annie Reuter

Patrick Swayze doesn't just want you to have the time of your life; he wants to make sure it lasts.

On Saturday at the third annual Day of Dance for Heart Health at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Swayze — star of Dirty Dancing — was on hand to inform women about protecting themselves against heart disease.

"I know so many women take care of their families and not themselves," Swayze said. "To me, if we start this concept of taking care of ourselves we might take care of the planet. If we don't, we'll never break the vicious cycle [of heart disease]."

For many who attended the event, heart disease struck close to home. Swayze was no exception. He said his father died from heart disease at a very young age, leaving much of the responsibility of taking care of the family on him. His grandmother also died from heart disease.

"When it's so curable, why should women die?" Swayze asked. "It's so easily fixable."

More than 600 people swarmed the Arline & Henry Schwartzman Courtyard of RWJ Saturday afternoon in an effort to learn about heart disease and prevention.

Marianne Balay, assistant vice president of Medical Affairs at RWJ, opened the event with a welcome address and a speech titled "Love your Heart" — addressing various symptoms women may feel and disregard, not realizing they can be attributed to heart disease. Heart disease kills more women than all cancer combined, Balay said.

"There is more to women's health than just the anatomy that makes us different from men," Balay said. "We don't want women's heart disease to be confused, dismissed or disregarded. We're doing this to win the war."

Other speakers addressed the crowd, such as Dr. Archana Patel, who spoke of symptoms of heart disease and ways to prevent it by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Jeff Levine was also on hand to talk about his appearance on the NBC reality show, "The Biggest Loser."

Weighing more than 400 pounds at the time, Levine submitted a video to appear on the show. By exercising four to six hours a day and controlling his diet, he lost a total of 183 pounds since being on the show. "I consider myself an obesity survivor," Levine said.

The program also included a demonstration by Bryan Fischberg from RWJ Emergency Medical Services on how to use an Automatic External Defibrillator to save someone having a heart attack.

When Swayze did arrive, he was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation as music from the movie Dirty Dancing played over the speakers. Swayze told the crowd he was bad with speeches, but said he felt if you talk from the heart, people hear you.

"It's amazing to me that heart disease is the number one killer [of women]," Swayze said. He talked about ways women should take care of themselves and go to the hospital if a symptom appears.

"If we take care of ourselves, we might take care of our brothers," Swayze said.

Watch the opening segment of Barbara Walter's interview with Patrick Swayze below. For the remaining clips of the interview, go to YouTube.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Song of the Week: "Cowgirl"

I've read numerous band bios over the years, but never have I come across one as moving as Stephen Wesley's. Over a decade ago Wesley and some friends nearly went to trial for armed robbery. Instead, he offered himself up to take their punishment — eight years behind bars. During that time a prison chaplain noticed Wesley teaching himself guitar and singing along. The chaplain loved his voice, offering him a spot in his choir which traveled throughout the town.

Fast forward to 2009. Today, Stephen Wesley's single "Cowgirl" is being released nationwide, featuring none other than Slash on guitar. It's a catchy and extremely radio friendly track. And, from the sound of his MySpace page, Wesley definitely isn't a one-hit wonder. He has worked with well-known musicians, writers and producers such as BC Jean (wrote Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy") as well as Stevie Salas on his debut album.

Take a listen to "Cowgirl" here and be sure to check out Wesley's MySpace for more of his bio and to purchase his album, on iTunes now!

Watch the video for "Feels Good To Me" below.

Stephen Wesley - Feels Good To Me

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Artist to Watch: Taylor Swift

I never considered myself a die-hard country music fan, but this past week I've been continually listening to country artists on Pandora and it definitely helps the work day fly by. My latest favorite is Taylor Swift. She not only has cross-genre appeal (country, pop, rock — even punk bands are covering her songs) but she seems so incredibly down to earth (see her homemade touring videos on her MySpace page) not to mention she's just 19-years-old. Extremely talented, she writes her own music about her life (boyfriend's names included) as well as plays guitar. It also helps that her most recent album, Fearless has been No.1 on the Billboard charts for five weeks. She'll be performing on "SNL" this weekend so be sure to check her out! In the meantime, watch four of my favorite songs of Taylor's below!

"Love Story"



"Should've Said No"



"Our Song"



"Tim McGraw"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hellogoodbye/Ace Enders Concert Photo Collage

Yesterday I introduced you to Hellogoodbye in my interview with frontman Forrest Kline during their nation-wide BBQ tour. An extremely diverse line-up, Hellogoodbye and Ace Enders and a Million Different People drew packed crowds to their fall tour and left concertgoers who went to see one band walk away avid fans of the other.

Both had extremely energetic and fun sets when I saw them in New York. Rather than give you my take on it, I figured I'd post Wendy's photos of the show below so you get a feel of each performance. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words right? Did you get a chance to see the BBQ tour? I'd love to hear your reviews of it! Be sure to tune in next week for my interview with Ace Enders!








Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Q&A with Forrest Kline of Hellogoodbye

I spoke with Hellogoodbye frontman Forrest Kline a few weeks ago while their national BBQ tour was at it's height. The tour, aptly titled "The BBQ Tour" involves, well you guessed it, BBQing before each concert. Forrest explained that the band tries to set up a potluck before each show (depending on the weather, venue location, etc.) where they invite fans to come hang out, grill, and eat some veggie dogs while he plays an acoustic set. Not your typical pre-show ritual, it gives fans the chance to meet the band in a different setting before each show.

Forrest was nice enough to take some time out from driving with the rest of the band (and playing what sounded like a hilarious, but painful slapping game) to chat with me about the tour, their next album and the history behind their name. Having an energetic, albeit quirky set at times, Hellogoodbye kept the crowd at Blender Theatre alive at their recent performance in New York. From taking, what sounded like, a painful stage dive at the show to playing his ukulele, Kline is definitely an entertaining frontman. Read below for my exclusive interview with Hellogoodbye and be sure to check out their MySpace to listen to their tunes.

How’s the tour going so far?
The tour is going great. We’re getting some great responses. We’re playing some great shows, they’re filling up. We just got done with Florida and they were all really, really good shows. We’re actually playing a game right now where if you ask a question and someone can answer it they get to slap you so the morale is at an ultimate high because we’re all just really enjoying ourselves. I think this might be the first tour where the band feels really connected. We’ve always had a connection, but we’re at a place where we all just feel like best friends. So, whether we’re jamming together or eating at Panera Bread (which happens to be our favorite stop), or slapping each other in the van, we’re just all having a great time. The tour couldn’t go better. We had a couple of van problems in the beginning, but sometimes if you want the dog you’re going to have to deal with the fleas, am I right? And if you want to tour, you’re going to have to say, “Maybe the van’s going to bust.” That’s just part of the job.

What can fans expect on this tour?
The band is tight and things are going good. We’re playing three new songs on this tour which is good, so we’re switching the set up. We haven’t played new songs in over a year, and those are getting a good response. We’re selling an EP at the shows; a limited edition three-song EP. We sell 25 per show and they go like hotcakes. So, if anyone reads this before they get to the next show, they better run over and get those EP fast. And if they say they know Jon Cheese, they get a mustache kiss. A little mustache rub on the cheek, make the kids happy.

Is this tour any different from previous tours?
Our tour manager Duncan has really stepped it up in being more part of the act, instead of tour managing and that’s changed a lot. He’ll jump on the drum kit, he’ll grab a guitar, he’ll dress up as Batman and sing in the microphone and that’s really been awesome. There’s been a lot more stage dives than normal. Luckily, Travis, the bass player, is always there to catch Forrest, which is me, on the stage dives so it’s good.

So tell me about your new EP.
It’s our new EP with three of our new songs, but ukulele versions. It’s not the actual album version, so it really is a limited edition. These things are going to be extinct soon

Are you working on a follow up to your debut full-length, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! album?
Oh yeah, we’ve been working on new things all year. As soon as this tour is over we’re going to finish recording them, hopefully have it done real soon. So, watch out America ’cause Hellogoodbye is coming to town!

Do you have a favorite song you like to play on tour?
Probably “Shimmy Shimmy.” Just because it was one of the first songs I wrote, and it’s nice that people can still be rocking out to it since it was written six years ago or so. That’s a lot fun; real simple song.

Does there seem to be a crowd favorite?
I think “Here (In Your Arms)” is probably the crowd favorite right now.

“Here (In Your Arms)” was huge for you guys. It was on the Top 40 and Billboard charts. Do you feel any pressure to make another hit and surpass the single?
You know, the same way I was feeling when I wrote “Here (In Your Arms)” I’m feeling that again. And I think the hits are going to start pouring out to tell you the truth. I don’t really feel pressured. I have been blessed with the gift of music and it just comes natural.

What is your typical writing process like?
It usually involves a little Pete and Pete, some veggie dogs and an Italian soda. And then I’m usually accompanied by Winnie and Gordie who are kind of my co-producers and Chelsea, my girlfriend, is my main inspiration as you know most of the songs are love songs.

You started out playing in high school.
Yes. I started in high school. I went to Huntington Beach High School. We played the talent show, me and my friend Aaron Flora. We played the talent show and our band was called A Colorful Symphony and we won first place. We were the closing act. And after that we were like, “We should start a band!” So we grabbed a couple of other friends and we started playing locally and things just started to go from there.

Did you ever imagine you’d be touring the US and Europe?
It was always a dream of mine, so to be doing it is a real privilege.

I read that the band name was originally inspired in part by popular TV show “Saved By the Bell” and a Beatles song. Is that true?
“Saved By the Bell” is just a real big inspiration, Zack Morris and the gang. I got beat up a lot in high school. I was skinny and had kind of a high voice so I would run home as fast as I could and what always got me through the day was quesadillas and “Saved By the Bell.” I felt like “Saved By the Bell” was a high school that I always wanted to be in because mine was so brutal.

I read in a past interview that you didn’t shop your music around at all before signing with Drive Thru records, how did that come about?
We had been playing local venues and just been getting a good response. I used to work at Drive Thru as a Web designer so I kind of had a relationship with them already and when they heard I was playing music again they contacted us and brought us in there and we signed to Drive Thru.

Do you still design all your T-Shirts and Web sites?
We still design the Web site. This last batch of T-shirts was designed by an artist that I really like, but usually we do all of our own designing and arts.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
I don’t know. I think we’re just really excited about what we do. That’s a tough one. It’s unique to our surroundings and growing up in California and drinking smoothies and running on the beach.

If your life was a book, what would the title be?
It would be I listen to country music.

Really? Does that inspire any of your music?
Yeah, I think that’s kind of the underlining theme of it all. Well, the fact that I listen to country music. It goes much deeper than that itself.

Watch a brief tour recap from the BBQ Tour below and check out their MySpace for more.



Feel free to watch Billboard hit, "Here (In Your Arms)" below as well.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Artist of the Week: Matt Nathanson

I've seen Matt Nathanson a few times in concert, most recently opening up for Lifehouse last spring. I completely forgot how much I love his music until it came on Pandora today. Sure, he may sound like your typical singer-songwriter but there's something different. His vocals are so relaxing and I can easily listen to his MySpace page all day without getting bored.

"Come On Get Higher" is such a classic. With lyrics like, "So come on, get higher, loosen my lips/Faith and desire and the swing of your hips/Just pull me down hard/And drown me in love/I miss the pull of your heart/I taste the sparks on your tongue/I see angels and devils and God, when you come on" you can't but help to continue and listen. In fact, all his songs have those impeccable catchy choruses. Instead of boring you with my take on Nathanson, watch some of his videos below and let me know what you think! If that's not enough be sure to check out his MySpace with a hilarious song titled "Philadelphia" — you guessed it correctly, dedicated to the city of the same name.

"Come On Get Higher"



"Car Crash"



One more song for you live from Matt's home. Listen to "All We Are" acoustic below.



What do you think? For more on Matt Nathanson be sure to visit his Web site or listen to him on MySpace.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Album Review: Kanye West's "808s & Heartbreak"

Possibly the most hotly debated release of 2008 was Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak. I've been listening to the album off and on since the November release, in hopes that it would grow on me and I'd find some rare gem or piece of inspiration behind it. Alas, I'm still quite dumbfounded and undecided. There's no party without one of Kanye's club hits, whether it be "The Good Life," "Stronger," "Gold Digger," etc. but this album lacks the energy and fun vibe that West is known for.

Using T-Pain's technique for Auto-Tune, 808s & Heartbreak introduces a new side of West. His usual cockiness and danceable tracks are now masked by robotic-like vocals and even more somber lyrics. While the album lacks many of his club-thumping hits from the past, current singles "Heartless" and "Love Lockdown" have been gaining heavy rotation.

Understandably, West has had quite the emotional year. With the death of his mother and a broken engagement, his album, aptly titled 808s & Heartbreak, brings about a side many haven't seen before. Whether he's lamenting about his life on opening track, "Welcome to Heartbreak" ("My friend shows me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs/He said his daughter got a brand new report card/And all I got was a brand new sports car") or how past girlfriends have done him wrong — see most of the album — if one thing is certain, this is definitely not your typically confident, entertaining Kanye West. Though, not necessarily a bad thing.

West distinguishes himself on 808s & Heartbreak. Sure, it's a breakup album but this record exemplifies that even world renown musicians like West don't always have it so easy. West opens up and shows listeners that he is just like them — struggling with death, heartbreak and questioning it all the while, albeit with a more luxurious lifestyle. He is dealing with heartache the only way and best way he can — by immersing himself into his music, giving the listener and the world a little more of himself.

As depressing as the record may sound on the surface with titles like "Welcome to Heartbreak," "Heartless" and "Bad News" West does bring about some surprises. Six-minute long track "Pinocchio" exemplifies his powerful live performance as well as his complete honesty in the heartfelt song. A man of his word, he has told fans and media alike that he wants to reinvent the industry and be "the next Elvis." While he hasn't accomplished that goal just yet, 808s & Heartbreak proves that he's willing to take the plunge and try something new, regardless of what critics or fans think, once again differentiating himself from the crowd.

What are your thoughts on Kanye's new album? I'd love to hear what you think.

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