AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE BRIGHT SIDERS/A MIND OF YOUR OWN

Children’s music is much more complicated than you’d expect. The genre extends far beyond the old days of grown-ups dressing like cowboys or clowns and singing silly songs to entertain the special tykes in our lives. Children’s music is no longer created just to make the kids giggle – it now touches deeper and teaches them lessons. Mostly subtle, the messages are sprinkled in songs that sound simplistic yet are extremely sophisticated in their arrangements and dynamics. It takes a lot to inspire the mind, the heart, and the spirit in any person, young or old, so we must really give a lot of respect to those who have made a difference through the years. From Fred Rogers to Joe Raposo (Sesame Street), Raffi to Sharon, Lois & Bram, music has played an important role in every child’s life. And, in many ways, music has played a key role in how many children behave as they grow up. They often leave those treasured musical artists behind, but there is always a new generation being born each day that will embrace them when the time is right…

Modern children’s music has moved away from silly kiddy ditties to engaging family songs. Over the years, parents have been annoyed by the music their toddlers wanted to listen to over and over and they’d eventually become exhausted in their attempts to ignore the tantalizing audio tidbits. In response, the artists have raised the stakes and are now creating music that is still engaging for children but also easily digestible for older kids and parents as well. In opening that door, the music moves and motivates the entire family. Like having a picnic in the park or a day at the beach, children’s music today is fun for everyone. And to top that off, the music doesn’t get old and isn’t always left behind as a child gets a little older. And the messages become more ingrained in a child’s mind when they begin to understand the ways of the world.

The Bright Siders’ debut album A MIND OF YOUR OWN is the perfect example of a ‘children’s music’ album that will stay with a youngster long after they’ve left their diapers behind. Every song is engaging and fun yet far from annoying. The duo – Kristen Andreassen (Uncle Earl) and Kari Groff, MD – bring emotions to life in wonderfully whimsical ways. But they don’t come to the party alone – A MIND OF YOUR OWN features guest appearances from Ed Helms, The War and Treaty, Gaby Moreno, The Punch Brothers, The Hoke, and others. Mixing Pop, Folk, World Music, Latin Music, and other styles, this is an album that speaks to the head and the heart. Tracks like “The Moon & The Stars & Me”, “The Song About Songs”, and “Vamos a Jugar, Let’s Go Play” will appeal to kids from 1 to 92. With the world draped in a pandemic, the innocent hearts of children need positivity and light and The Bright Siders bring that home on A MIND OF YOUR OWN.

THE BRIGHT SIDERS

A MIND OF YOUR OWN

Available 1.21.21

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: PEARL CHARLES/MAGIC MIRROR

In most cases, when a new artist comes along, you have absolutely no preconceptions of what the music is going to sound like. Sure, you maybe read about the artist on some blog or you saw their release (s) in the local record store bin, but in most situations, that doesn’t really help in describing the artist’s sound. So, when you lay the needle down or press play on your CD player, your expectations are completely blank until the music starts. In many cases, you’ll listen, shrug, and file it away for another day. However, if you’re lucky, you’ll be instantly transported to Planet Awesome as the album unfolds. In the case of Pearl Charles’ 2021 release, MAGIC MIRROR, you’re going to feel lucky. Very, very lucky.

Before her solo career, Pearl was a member of Country Music duo The Driftwood Singers and then the drummer in indie band The Blank Tapes. She made her solo debut with the self-titled release in 2015. Mixing ‘60s Pop with a touch of modern Americana, the album was both thrilling and haunting in equal measures. Regardless of genre, the songs were pure and honest, revealing an artist with a knack for writing songs well beyond her years. In 2018, she issued the album SLEEPLESS DREAMER, another stellar collection of great Pop songs masquerading as ‘60s influenced Americana. However, some of the chord changes and melodies revealed an understanding of what made all those great early ‘70s AM Pop and Soul radio hits work so well. For this singer/songwriter, it was pretty obvious that she was going to take flight on her next release…

And now, MAGIC MIRROR has arrived, and, as expected, it soars while also changing course and sailing into a different musical universe. This time, Charles leaves the ‘60s behind and starts exploring the ‘70s. The great thing about AM radio in the ‘70s was that it embraced everything from Pop and Country to Soul, which is exactly what MAGIC MIRROR does. Armed with a cache of great songs, this album pays homage to everything from ABBA (“Only For Tonight”) to gentle, pedal-steel guitar laced Country Pop (“Sweet Sunshine Wine”, “All The Way”) to touching ballads (“Don’t Feel Like Myself”, “Magic Mirror”). On one hand, MAGIC MIRROR can be seen as a departure from SLEEPLESS DREAMER, but it is, in fact, a continuation of the album’s deep and emotional connection between then and now. Charles is moving forward as an artist yet she is fully aware of Pop music’s history and how it inspired her, directly or indirectly. We all need more artists that show us their roots while taking the listener on a journey to the next destination, wherever that may be. Pearl Charles inspires us to trust her musical instincts. And we do…

PEARL CHARLES

MAGIC MIRROR

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: AARON FRAZER/INTRODUCING…

Soul music, when done correctly, will touch you right down to your… ahem… soul. Anyone can repurpose the Soul and R&B formulas and create something that vaguely resembles the sound of Soul, but it isn’t Soul if it doesn’t have the heart or the passion to affect the emotions of the listener. For the music to really mean something, everything has to be ‘right’: the singer, the song, the arrangement, the production, the band dynamics, etc. However, one must not confuse ‘right’ with ‘perfect’ – they are two different things. Soul music has to have ‘feel’, which doesn’t always come from perfection. For a song to have the right ‘feel’, it has to contain a certain amount of magic… and that magic comes from the human soul.

Bloomington, Indiana’s Durand Jones & The Indications is a band that understands Soul music from the inside out. The group also knows that Soul is not one dimensional – it can be funky like James Brown’s “Sex Machine”, as sweetly sad as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby”, and as passionately joyful as The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”. While Durand is the focal point of that band, drummer Aaron Frazer is more than just the man that provides The Indications’ backbeat. Frazer is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist loaded with talent… and a whole lot of Soul. Since not all of Frazer’s musical ideas could fit on albums by his main band, the only way for him to get them out was to record them on his own… and the world is now a better place because of it.

2021’s INTRODUCING ANDY FRAZER is a soul-stirring collection of songs that are driven by Frazer’s falsetto vocals, which adds an extra emotional layer to the music featured on the album. Produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), the album blends a modern Neo-Soul sound with lovingly constructed songs that delve the depths of emotion while also having a whole lot of fun. While the album initially hits you in the heart and soul, your entire body will fall prey to the music in no time at all. Tracks like “Over You”, “Bad News”, “You Don’t Wanna Be My Baby”, “Can’t Leave It Alone”, “Have Mercy”, and “Love Is” travel down different soulful avenues and are loaded with a passion for real Soul music and emotional connection. This is an album that will stay with you long after the final note fades into the ether. And it will inspire you to hit the ‘play’ button over and over again…

AARON FRAZER

INTRODUCING…

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: SINEAD O’CONNOR/TROUBLE OF THE WORLD (7″)

For many, Sinead O’Connor appeared out of nowhere in 1990 with the heart-melting ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U”. The song and video were everywhere during the first half of that year. You couldn’t escape Sinead and that song. And to be honest, why would you want to? It was a beautiful song – originally written by Prince – and an outstanding performance by an artist that is often misunderstood. However, O’Connor’s career goes back to the 1980s. She made her first high-profile recording debut on the song “Heroine” (with The Edge) from the 1986 soundtrack to CAPTIVE. While the release may have gone under the radar, she received critical acclaim for her powerful voice. But that was only the beginning…

In 1987, her commercial profile was raised quite a bit with the release of the singles “Troy”, “Mandinka”, and “I Want Your Hands On Me” plus her debut album THE LION AND THE COBRA. Early press focused on her beauty and her shaved head, but all of the went out the window when she opened her mouth and sang. At that moment, her talents were on full display. That voice and her songs brought her a decent amount of attention, but nobody expected the massive popularity of her second album, I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVEN’T GOT, and “Nothing Compares 2 U’. While she was never ever able to match the commercial success of the album and single, she did what a true artist does – she followed her own muse. With each subsequent album, she explored different musical avenues but never strayed too far from that unique Sinead O’Connor sound. Often surrounded by controversy, O’Connor continued to travel her own musical path. While she hasn’t quite scaled the commercial heights of 1990, she’s remained one of our generation’s most unique talents.

In 2020, Sinead O’Connor returns with the 7” single “Trouble of the World”. Still sounding as powerful and emotional as usual, she tackles this traditional song originally made famous by Gospel vocalist Mahalia Jackson. She manages to take the spirit of the original and create something modern and powerful. It remains relevant and inspirational, but she’s added a new emotional layer to the song. And to top it all off, she is allocating all of her profits to Black Lives Matter charities. It is a song for the times, then and now. It speaks to all of us on so many levels. At the same time, it is just a great single that adds to her recorded legacy. Hopefully, O’Connor has more releases just around the corner. Until that happens, this one will hold us over. Embrace it now with all your heart!

SINEAD O’CONNOR

TROUBLE OF THE WORLD (7″)

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: M. WARD/THINK OF SPRING

In many cases, singers, songwriters, and musicians walk in the door and immediately make their presence known. They’ll dazzle you with their songs, they’ll hit your over the head with their charm, and they’ll demand you to pay attention to them. And in the process, they’ll tread the line between arrogance and confidence. Ultimately, many of them never live up to their own hype and they end up wheeling their amp and guitar out through the same door from whence they came. However, there are remarkably talented artists out there that slip in through the backdoor, lurk in the shadows, and don’t draw attention to themselves. Instead, they prove their talents through hard work – they are more interested in creating art than prancing in the spotlight. Eventually, over time, their talents become a part of our musical landscape even if we don’t know their name… at first.  M. Ward is one of those artists.

Since the release of his 1999 debut album, DUET FOR GUITARS #2, M. Ward has shown himself to be quite the talent as a musician, songwriter, and collaborator. He built an underground audience, album by album, until he could not be ignored by the industry that he had now become part of. By the time he released his fifth album, TRANSISTOR RADIO, in 2005, his commercial profile had risen considerably. His next album, POST-WAR, landed at #146 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and exposed his unique and refreshing talents to a larger audience. In 2008, he joined forces with vocalist/actress Zooey Deschanel as She & Him and released their debut album, VOLUME ONE. The duo would eventually release a total of five albums to date. In 2009, he was involved with the Americana/Alternative supergroup Monsters of Folk alongside Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes). The following year, he was a member of another supergroup, Tired Pony, a band led by Snow Patrol member Gary Lightbody and featuring members of R.E.M., Belle And Sebastian, and other beloved musicians. In the meantime, he continued to work on his solo material…

His 2020 album, THINK OF SPRING, is a refreshing change of pace for the now iconic M. Ward. Inspired many years ago by hearing Billie Holiday’s LADY IN SATIN album, this new release finds him reinterpreting 11 of the album’s 12 tracks recorded, each of them sounding warm and intimate. M. Ward says, “The conceit of THINK OF SPRING is to filter the songs and strings from LADY IN SATIN through a single acoustic guitar using various alternate tunings and a minimal amount of textures and studio manipulation. most of the songs were recorded on an analog Tascam four track.” With musical inspiration from Holiday, John Fahey, Robert Johnson, Ray Ellis, and J.J. Johnson, experiencing the album is like spending time with a longtime trusted friend.

M. WARD

THINK OF SPRING

Available NOW

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BRAND NUBIAN/ONE FOR ALL

Like any genre, Hip-Hop evolves. In fact, it can evolve so quickly that by the time any given artist releases an album, it could already sound dated. However, the best albums have their own personality and charm and easily rise above the albums that were once considered ‘groundbreaking’. In Hip-Hop, there have been a lot of albums and songs that have signaled a new movement or direction: from The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, and De La Soul to NWA, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem. These are artists that successfully added their distinct musical vision and created albums that broke down barriers. These are the artists that have created timeless albums without compromise. Another artist to add to that list is Brand Nubian.

Formed in New Rochelle, New York in 1989, Brand Nubian featured three DJs – Grand Puba, Sadat X, and Lord Jamar – and two DJs: DJ Alamo and DJ Sincere. The group’s first single, “Brand Nubian”, was released in 1989. Their debut album, ONE FOR ALL, was released in 1990. The group’s socially conscious rhymes/lyrics floated on a bed of feel-good Hip-Hop flavored with samples and scratches. The juxtaposition of their message with the good-time vibes of the music was truly inspiring. This was a group that understood that the best way to get people to ‘hear’ you was to hit them with some verbal love, and ONE FOR ALL is filled to the brim with love. From the artists that inspired Brand Nubian to the artists that were inspired by Brand Nubian, this critically acclaimed album serves as the bridge between the past, present and future.

Now, 30 years after it’s original release, ONE FOR ALL has been remastered and expanded – with two bonus tracks – and is being reissued by the legendary Tommy Boy Records. Featuring the singles “Brand Nubian”, “Feel So Good”, “Wake Up”, “Slow Down”, and the title track, ONE FOR ALL is a wonderful mix of Hip-Hop, Rap, Soul, R&B, and Pop. The album charted at #24 on Billboard’s US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, and its influence continues to leak into modern music. Rolling Stone Magazine proclaimed it as one of the “Essential Recordings of the ‘90s” and who can argue that? Looking beyond the hit singles and the critical praise, ONE FOR ALL is still beloved for a reason: it is a strong album that has stood the test of time. This remaster serves as a reminder for long-time fans and a wonderful introduction to a new generation of listeners (brand nubians?). It is a mighty piece of work, indeed.

BRAND NUBIAN

ONE FOR ALL (30th Anniversary)

Available NOW!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: HATEBREED/WEIGHT OF THE FALSE SELF

Formed in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1994, Hatebreed has been one of the most respected Hardcore and Metal bands for over a quarter of a decade. From their original Hardcore demo that was released on a split 7” single in 1995 to their most recent recordings, the band has evolved over the years, sticking to their Hardcore Punk roots but also embracing a menacing Metal sound. This blending of two aggressive styles has been referred to as Metalcore. Alongside other Metalcore band such as 36 Crazyfists, Senses Fail, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, From Autumn to Ashes, and Bullet for My Valentine, Hatebreed has been on the forefront of a musical scene that swept the nation and invaded every country, large and small. For many, Hatebreed has been the perfect gateway from Hardcore to Metal and vice versa.

Thirty six years after forming, three of the original members remain in the line-up since those early demos: vocalist Jamey Jasta, bassist Chris Beattie, and lead guitarist Wayne Lozinak (who took a 13 year break from the band from 1996 to 2009). While the rest of the line-up has changed over the years, their musical vision has remained the same – create music that evolves but still retains that classic Hatebreed sound. The band released their debut album, SATISFACTION IS THE DEATH OF DESIRE, in 1997 and followed that up with a series of albums that became stronger and more powerful: PERSEVERANCE (2002), THE RISE OF BRUTALITY (2003), SUPREMACY (2006), HATEBREED (2009), THE DIVINITY OF PURPOSE (2013) and THE CONCRETE CONFESSIONAL (2016). Always moving forward, Hatebreed has built a catalog that continues to inspire a generation of new Metalcore fans.

Their 2020 release, WEIGHT OF THE FALSE SELF, is Hatebreed’s eighth album and finds the band’s new music arriving at a very strange and unique time in our history. With a pandemic spreading across the globe and politics dividing the U.S., the album may not lyrically address the issues, but the music reflects the anger and confusion that the world is experiencing on a daily basis. The album was produced by Zeuss and follows up the enormously successful 2016 album THE CONCRETE CONFESSIONAL and a 25th Anniversary tour in 2019. With songs like “Let Them All Rot”, “Dig Your Way Out”, “Instinctive (Slaughterlust)”, and “The Herd Will Scatter” are amongst the highlights of this long-awaited release from one of the country’s most reliable Metalcore outfits. They never fail to satisfy and surprise in equal measure.

HATEBREED

WEIGHT OF THE FALSE SELF

11.27.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: NICK CAVE – IDIOT PRAYER: NICK CAVE ALONE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE

Nick Cave has been on one hell of a musical journey over the years. From his early 1970s beginnings in Australia to his more recent recordings, he went from being a post-punk outsider to a critically adored elder statesman of Alternative Rock. Although he’s worked with a few different bands over the years – The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party, Grinderman, and, of course, The Bad Seeds – the music that he creates is purely Nick Cave. He’s managed to maneuver his way through a career filled with highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies. Even when he flavors the music with different instruments and atmospheres, Cave still manages to sound entirely unique. Some have called him ‘Goth’ in the past, but Nick Cave doesn’t pretend to occupy the darker side of the music industry. Instead, he walks alone on a dusty road, always wondering if the oasis ahead of him is real or just a trick of the light. Along the way, he does what he wants… and does it very well.

Nick Cave’s best-known work are his recordings with The Bad Seeds. Since 1984, the band has evolved alongside Cave’s songwriting skills. From harrowing heroin tales to sad songs filled with loneliness and confusion, his work is never without hope. They lyrics may take you down a dark alley, the music is often filled with hopeful beauty. And vice versa. Critics fall all over themselves when a new release is dangled in front of them. His fans are devoted and the wait with bated breath for new Nick Cave material. Never one to let his fans down, Cave continues to release albums of that are deep in emotion and wide in ambition. From darkness to light, Nick Cave’s musical journey continues to travel down a road that is filled with suspense and surprise.

2020’s IDIOT PRAYER – NICK CAVE ALONE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE is an album that was born in the shadow of COVID-19.  In June 2020, after a long period of isolation and confusion, the UK slowly lifted sanctions and people were able to slip out and experience little snapshots of real life again. While others marveled at the joy of being able to gather down the pub, Nick Cave plotted a musical re-emergence – a way to connect with his audience. While he still had to follow social distancing rules, Cave stepped on to the Alexandra Palace stage, sat down at a piano and performed a tender, emotional set of songs spanning his entire career. During this performance, there was no band behind him, no Charlie Hodge-like henchman wiping the sweat off his brow… and no audience. Well, at the venue, anyway. IDIOT PRAYER – NICK CAVE ALONE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE was originally an online-only event, a gift of music and emotion to his fans. The audio of the show is now available on CD and vinyl and is just as heartbreaking and beautiful as you’d expect – just Nick and a piano performing some of his finest material. While it is stripped back, haunting, and gentle, the listener will be inspired as they are met with wave after wave of emotion.

NICK CAVE

IDIOT PRAYER- NICK CAVE ALONE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE

11.20.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: LAMBCHOP/TRIP

While Pop, Soul, and Dance music usually celebrates the lighter, happier side of life and love, Country, Folk, and Americana are genres that embrace the more realistic – and often heartbreaking – darker side of things. Yes, there are plenty of powerfully positive Country/Folk songs that are out there, those genres are also prone to tackling less popular subjects like drinking, divorce, abandonment, death, infidelity, and struggle. To be honest, it is hard to convey a ‘feeling’ of loss if the production is slick and glossy, which is why modern Top 40 Country songs stick to more lighthearted subjects. However, take a deeper dive into Country, Folk, and Americana and you’re going to find songs that your weary heart can relate to. Sometimes, we need a band that reflects what we are thinking and feeling…

Lambchop is more than just a band. Ever since their first official album – I HOPE YOU’RE SITTING DOWN (aka JACK’S TULIPS) – in 1994, this collective of musicians led by singer/songwriter Kurt Wagner has created a body of work that is inspiring. Often minimalistic in tone, the music that Lambchop creates is never without huge waves of emotion. Like a lonely dog sitting on a porch and waiting for his owner to come home, Lambchop albums leave the heart yearning for something more yet grateful for the life that they’ve stumbled into. Wagner and band create little masterworks that you can hear and ‘feel’. And isn’t that the point of creating art?

Lambchop’s 2020 release, TRIP, offers the listener a chance to experience life in real time while adding elements of melancholy and nostalgia. Quite a different release for the band, TRIP is a collection of cover versions chosen by the other members of Lambchop and then presented to Wagner. Instead of this release sounding like a musical diversion until the next proper album, TRIP sounds like a proper Lambchop album complete with tears of sadness and joy. Amongst the highlights is “Reservations” (originally by Wilco), a 13-minute immersion in emotion – joyous in its beauty yet heartbreaking in its execution. “Shirley” (originally recorded in the mid-‘70s by Cleveland’s Mirrors) is a jaunty, upbeat track with a slightly menacing vocal. “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone” (originally by Diana Ross & The Supremes and Michael Jackson) gets a complete makeover – it is still upbeat but in a completely unusual way. TRIP is an album of many moods and rhythms. It is exactly what you’d expect from a Lambchop album but… completely different. It is a truly atmospheric and ultimately rewarding experience.

LAMBCHOP

TRIP

Available NOW!