Thursday, July 15, 2010

April Smith and the Great Picture Show

It’s rather uncommon for an opening act to not only catch, but also hold my interest. The only other times I can recall this happening was when Patty Griffin (now one of my favorites) opened for the Dixie Chicks in 1999 and when a young, unknown singer by the name of Celine Dion opened for Michael Bolton in 1992. Yes, I just admitted I went to a Michael Bolton concert. Don’t judge. It was my first concert ever and I rather enjoyed it, even though my taste in music has changed dramatically since then.

That being said, I recently caught Jenny Owen Youngs at Hotel CafĂ© in Hollywood where the opening act was April Smith and the Great Picture Show. I had never heard of them before, but after five minutes of their performance, I had to ask myself WHY I hadn’t heard of them before. They were incredible. Fun, catchy, lively and loud. And even – dare I say? – a little Rilo Kiley-esque with a vintage flair.

If you haven’t heard of April Smith and the Great Picture Show yet, I suggest you jump on the bandwagon. Their song, “Terrible Things” is currently being used in the season six promo for Showtime’s “Weeds.” Their fan-funded new album, “Songs for a Sinking Ship” is full of ‘30s and ‘40s inspired music fused with jazzy vocals. Smith can’t be much more than five feet tall and 100 pounds, but when she hits the power notes, it’s hard to believe that such a fiery, growling voice can come out of that little frame!

The album kicks off on a high note with “Movie Loves a Screen,” which is full of energetic beats. “Drop Dead Gorgeous” is the best premise for a song I’ve heard in a long time. It’s all about dating someone who is devastatingly good-looking, but lacks the brains to even carry on a conversation: “Oh you’re so enchanting when your mouth closed/And with a mouth like that, who needs politics and prose?”

In “Colors” (my personal favorite on the album) Smith seemingly evokes the likes of Patsy Cline while singing “I’ll wear your colors my dear until you’re standing right here/Next to the one who adores you, whose heart is beating for you.” The album takes a somber turn during the heartbreakingly poignant “Beloved.” Smith’s dynamic vocals are paralyzing in this deeply affecting, morose number. “Stop Wondering” features a playful piano as she flirtatiously muses about emphatically telling her ex that she is absolutely not thinking of him, even throwing in a comedic “B*tch, please!”

The modern and quirky lyrics paired with nostalgic, old-fashioned melodies make for a musical genre rarely heard these days. “Songs for a Sinking Ship” could also be called “Songs You Want to Sing Along With” or “Songs You Want To Dance To” or even “Songs That Can Bridge the Generational Music Gap.” I can’t wait to see them live again and I’m curious to see what they do next.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lyrics of the Day/The Genius of Taylor Swift

My lyrics choice for the day:
"Romeo save me, they're trying to tell me how to feel
This love is difficult, but it's real.
Don't be afraid, we'll make it out of this mess,
It's a love story, baby just say yes."

Okay, let's talk about Taylor Swift for a moment, shall we? The first time I heard her first single, "Tim McGraw," I had a gut feeling this girl was gonna go places. Imagine my surprise when I learned she was only 17 at the time! Then came "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Our Song" and I knew this was not the last we'd be hearing from Ms. Swift. She was a huge hit in the world of country music and had infinite potential to cross over, but I never thought that, when it happened, it would be this huge. Sold out arenas, a number one album ("Fearless"), several top 20 hits...the list goes on and on. What is it about Taylor Swift that makes her so relatable? Just listen to her lyrics and there's your answer. They are simple and sweet and every young girl at one point or another has felt exactly what Taylor sings about. Love, heartbreak, friends, growing up, revenge on a not-so-nice ex. It's all there.
And it makes me wonder how different my life would be if Taylor Swift had been around when I was in high school. That would have been...for lack of a better word...AWSOME. I would have had an anthem for every emotion I was feeling. Every broken heart I suffered, every teen angsty feeling I had, every regret, every mistake I made, every new relationship...I would have had words to convey it all. "You Belong With Me" is the ultimate unrequieted love song. "Love Story" is the ulitmate forbidden love song (to which i can actually equate my current relationship to). "The Way I Loved You" is the ultimate song about an intense, passionate romance gone wrong that you sometimes still long for. And "Fifteen"...that is the ultimate 'high school sucks, so i'm just going to get through it the best i can' song. I love it. I love it all. It brings out the teenager in me.