According2g’s Top Debut Albums of 2013

Posted by The G on December 3, 2013 under G Reviews | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.  Autographs obtained in person by yours truly.

2013 was a good year for new artists releasing music.  The hype machine of the internet and anti-social media will do its best to keep you inundated with industry darlings and keep you scratching your head wondering “why in the world are these artists popular?”   If you want an alternative to all that, read on for my list of the 13 best debut albums.  These artists impressed me both on stage and off.  I have my fingers crossed that all of the people on this list become huge stars.  To help make that happen, get these albums and spread the word.

Jessie Ware - Devotion

Jessie Ware – Devotion

1. “Devotion” by Jessie Ware.  Jessie Ware not only has my favorite album by a new artist in 2013 but she also has the distinction of being my favorite album by ANY artist in 2013.  The fact that she beat my beloved Pet Shop Boys in this competition speaks volumes!  Her debut “Devotion,” is a perfect record. She’s got the voice, she’s got the look and she’s got 12 songs that have had me wearing this album out in 2013.  I have listened to this album over 200 times (per my iTunes dashboard) and I cannot get enough of this album.  Think of Jessie’s music as the missing link or a bridge between the power ballads of Adele and the smooth down-tempo R&B grooves of Sade.  From the opening title track, Jessie Ware tells her audience “I need your devotion,” over a silky beat.  I remember the first time I heard this song, my jaw dropped open there was no doubt that she will always have my devotion.  The song “Running,” is one of the sexiest tracks committed to tape and her more danceable songs like “Imagine It Was Us,” “If You’re Never Gonna Move” and “No To Love,” will have you reaching for the repeat button long before the tracks are over.  The slow jams “Night Light,” “Wildest Moments,” “Taking in Water” and the introspective “Something Inside” are all excellent and you may find yourself participating in a private lip-synch competition as you listen to these songs in public.  Jessie Ware has also had a bunch of non-album singles and collaborations with the likes of Disclosure, Sampha, Katy B, Mayer Hawthorne and has released an on-line cover of Prince’s “Love…Thy Will Be Done,” and all of these songs are excellent.  In concert, she doesn’t simply reproduce the studio versions, but instead gives her band the opportunity to change up the music, but one thing remains – her voice is a powerhouse.  Her banter to the crowd in between songs is so precious, you will want to take her home with you.  While we wait for the world to catch up on the greatness that is Jessie Ware, she’s already a mega-star in my book and I am very excited for her future!  Thanks for bringing so many smiles to my life Jessie!

Jake Bugg

Jake Bugg

2. Jake Bugg by Jake Bugg.  When you hear Jake Bugg’s debut album, you will be wowed by the songwriting as the folk/rock singer has so many songs that take you back to a time in the past.  There are times he sounds like Dylan and times he sounds like Johnny Cash.  What will impress the hell out of you is that Jake Bugg is not a 40 year old troubadour, but instead is 18 years old!  Songs like the rockin’ “Lighting Bolt” and “Taste It” are a glimpse of how much he can rock and tracks like “Fire” and “Country Song” are so introspective, there is no doubt that Jake Bugg is going to be a huge star.  The only JB you should concern yourself with is not Justin Bieber, but instead, Jake Bugg!

Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

3. “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic” by Foxygen.  Remember when MGMT jumped the shark and instead of making sophomore pop record, they made a meandering art rock record with few catchy songs?  Well, if they would have made that same record with songs were catchy, it would probably sound like “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic.”  There are songs that have a Beatles/Stones/Kinks quality to them and they have great lyrics such as “There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.”  If you see Foxygen live, lead singer Sam France dances all over the place and has a hypnotic stage presence.  I’ve read a lot on the web this year about various tensions within the band and I hope they are not true because Foxygen has great potential to be the next go-to psychedelic rock band.

Savages - Silence Yourself

Savages – Silence Yourself

4. “Silence Yourself” by Savages.  If Siouxsie Sioux was in a modern hard rock band, the music might sound like “Silence Yourself.”  This album is a no nonsense affair with short and to the point songs that are guaranteed to kick your ass.  The opening track “Shut Up” is a prelude of things to come as the album features no slow songs and each track is a rocking scorcher.  The breakthrough song “Husbands” borrows heavily from the sound of the chorus of Patti Smith’s “Horses,” but in the context of the 38 minute no filler album, all is forgiven.  Who said ladies can’t rock?

Jagwar Ma - Howlin

Jagwar Ma – Howlin

5. “Howlin” by Jagwar Ma.  The Australian trio have made a brilliant debut album.  Before “Howlin” is over, you will hear dream pop on “That Lonliness”, the experimental “What Love,” the dance floor jam “Four” and the trance inducing “The Throw.”  If you’ve only heard a track or two from Jagwar Ma, rest assured that the entire album is not just the same style over and over again, a rarity in this day and age.

Peace - In Love

Peace – In Love

6. “In Love” by Peace.  If you miss the British 90s rock sound, it’s alive and well in the music of Peace.  The quartet from Birmingham feature brothers Harrison and Samuel Koisser, on vocals/guitar and bass.  Tracks like “Higher than the Sun,” “Follow Baby” and “Delicious” are meant to be played in stadiums.  They also have some psychedelic moments such as the album closer “California Daze.”  Follow them baby!

Atlas Genius - When It Was Now

Atlas Genius – When It Was Now

7. “When It Was Now” by Atlas Genius.  I’m starting to notice a trend that great debut albums of 2013 are rarely made by Americans (save for MS MR, Foxygen and The Neighbourhood) and this entry is by the Australian Jeffery brothers.  Of course, with that last name, how could I not like them, but I am not playing favorites.  Atlas Genius’ music consists of dance oriented pop tunes.  If you like Two Door Cinema Club, you will also like Atlas Genius.  There are no unneeded guitar solos, and instead just irresistible grooves, such as “If So,” “Electric” and “Trojans.”  For the ladies and gays, even if you don’t like their music, these guys are extremely hot!

The Neighbourhood - I Love You.

The Neighbourhood – I Love You.

8. “I Love You.” by The Neighbourhood The music of The Neighbourhood (who use the British spelling of the word despite being from Los Angeles) aka The NBHD fuse alternative rock, electronic beats and smooth vocals.  Their songs are ready-made radio hits (however, the radio tends to focus on playing glossy pop trash).  Lead singer Jesse Rutherford is tattooed from the neck down (read: so unbelievably hot) and he shows off lots of skin in the video for “Afraid,” which you should not miss.  Many of their songs work as great call and response tracks when you see them live so check them out!  Highlights are the single “Sweater Weather” and “Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh Oh).”

Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero

Little Green Cars – Absolute Zero

9. “Absolute Zero” by Little Green Cars.  Folk rock has made a big come back over the last couple of years and while so much of it never has a worthy cresendo, Ireland’s Little Green Cars are filled with songs that have satisfying conclusions.  Whether they are signing a capella or harmonizing on songs like “My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me,” you will find yourself enjoying all of their songs even if folk music isn’t your ‘thing.’

Tom Odell - Another Love

Tom Odell – Another Love

10. “Long Way Down” by Tom Odell.  Ok, I got the EP signed since the full length album was not available when I saw Tom Odell earlier this year.  So sue me!  When you hear the soul in Tom Odell’s voice (which channels Chris Martin, Billy Joel and Thom Yorke of Radiohead), you will have a hard time believing that Tom Odell is only 22 years old!  Once again, he has a huge career ahead of him if he can be that young and sound so good.  His debut is filled with lots of power ballads, but to give you a preview of his rockin’ potential, check out the track “Hold Me.”

Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon

Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon

11. “Sing to the Moon” by Laura Mvula. There’s a reason Laura Mvula got nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize overseas – because she’s amazing.  Another master of the power ballad and slow jam, when Laura gives us a beat, such as on the song “Green Garden,” you will find it irresistible.  Prince is an early champion of her music and after you hear “Sing to the Moon,” you will be too!

Lorde - Pure Heroine

Lorde – Pure Heroine

12. “Pure Heroine” by Lorde.  After loving Jake Bugg’s album all year long, it’s hard to be impressed because those mature lyrics and great voice are coming from an 18 year old.  New Zealand’s Lorde is ffffing 16 years of age!  Wow!  She sounds kind of like “Lana Dey Rey Light” with lyrics complaining about being broke and feeling out of place, but it works well.  I think of all the people on this list, Lorde will be the first mega-star of the bunch.

MS MR - Secondhand Rapture

MS MR – Secondhand Rapture

13. “Secondhand Rapture” by MS MR.  Last, but certainly not least, we have “Secondhand Rapture” by American duo MS MR (pronounced Miz Mister).  Lead singer Lizzy Plapinger has a voice that sounds like Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) and has a sense of style that will surely be recognized in the coming months and years. Their songs (such as “Bones”)  have been featured in commercials and it’s a matter of time before MS MR become your new favorite band.

Thanks to all these great artists for the joy their music has brought to me in 2013 and I wish you all unparalleled success in 2014 and beyond!

Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer Discuss “The Phantom Tollbooth” in NYC

Posted by The G on October 7, 2013 under Encounters with G, G Reviews | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.

Jules Feiffer and Norton Juster

Jules Feiffer and Norton Juster

From a young age, I’ve been an avid reader.  One of the books that influenced my childhood (and has carried over into my adult life) is “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.  To celebrate the book’s 50th anniversary, Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer attended the New Yorker Festival to screen the film “The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations” and participated in a Q&A session after the movie.  October 6, 2013 started off with Norton and Jules signing books at McNally Jackson Books in SoHo. At the signing I had the chance to tell them how much this book meant to me (more on that in a few), and several hours later, I went to see a movie about their lives, which is filled with stories of how this classic book came about. What an experience!   By the end of the film, you will be so in love with Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer, you will wish you were related to them so you could basque in their presence on a regular basis.

The Phantom Tollbooth signed by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer

The Phantom Tollbooth signed by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer

“The Phantom Tollbooth” is an “Alice In Wonderland” type story that follows the adventures of Milo, a bored, know-it-all kid who doesn’t really see the value of learning.  After he is transported (via tollbooth) into another space and time,  his mission is to return the princesses (Rhyme and Reason) to the Kingdom of Wisdom.  The book is filled with word plays, puns and the message that learning can be fun and that you should want to learn for the sake of acquiring the knowledge instead of feeling forced to learn.  If you read this book during your formative years, you’ve loved it dearly for your whole life and if you are just discovering the book, you’ll wish your teachers would have clued you in sooner!   “Beyond Expectations” goes into the fact that Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer lived in the same building, which is how their collaboration came to be, and you learn about their pre and post-Tollbooth lives (Juster was an architect and Feiffer drew political cartoons).  The banter between the pair will remind you of the uncles you wish you had and your appreciation of this book will grow exponentially by the end of the film.

Norton Juster and Geoffrey Dicker

Norton Juster and Geoffrey Dicker

Earlier in the day, Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer signed copies of “The Phantom Tollbooth” at McNally Jackson Books in SoHo, and it was such a thrill to meet the men behind a book that shaped my life.  As I was taking a picture with Norton, he told me he was in the market for a camera and liked mine, so we talked about cameras for a bit.  By the end of the conversation, he sincerely thanked me for my advice in this matter and shook my hand! I told him that for the advice he gave me in the “Phantom Tollbooth,” it was my absolute pleasure to ‘pay him back’ so to speak.  WOW!

Jules Feiffer and Geoffrey Dicker

Jules Feiffer and Geoffrey Dicker

Jules revealed that the Whether Man is his caricature of Norton and that the character Milo was named after the actor Milo O’ Shea (who played Durand Durand in ‘Barbarella,’ one of my favorite movies!  It all makes sense now!)  A brief video will be coming soon from the Q&A session where someone asked, “who gets the tollbooth next?”  Stay tuned to hear the answer.  Thanks a million to Norton Juster for Jules Feiffer both for being so gracious in person and as well as writing a book that has made such a lasting impact on my life!

An Encounter with Simon LeBon of Duran Duran

Posted by The G on May 31, 2013 under Encounters with G | Read the First Comment

Photo by G.

Simon LeBon of Duran Duran and Geoffrey Dicker

Simon LeBon of Duran Duran and Geoffrey Dicker

Since you all know that Duran Duran is one of my all time favorite bands, I will take advantage of any opportunity I have to be in their presence.  I guess that makes me a Dur-man-ie. In this particular case, lead singer Simon LeBon was in town (and 3 blocks from my house!!!)  He signed several of my favorite DD cds and happily took a photo with me!  Simon’s been doing a bit of jet-setting lately as he was recently performing at the Cannes Film Festival in France and will be back at a benefit concert in England tomorrow.  Needless to say, meeting Simon again made my night and I just want to express my gratitude for countless songs and albums that have been a major part of the soundtrack of my life!   Thanks again Simon!

Rio (alternate cover) signed by Simon LeBon

Rio (alternate cover) signed by Simon LeBon

An Encounter with Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes

Posted by The G on January 10, 2013 under Encounters with G | Read the First Comment

Photo by a complete stranger.

Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes and Geoffrey Dicker

Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes and Geoffrey Dicker

I’ve heard good things about how nice Natasha Khan from the indie pop band Bat For Lashes is, but sometimes you just have to find these things out for yourself.  I am here to confirm every good thing I’ve ever heard.  What a sweetheart!  Natasha Khan was in New York making a rare live appearance when I met the singer.  In town to promote her latest album “The Haunted Man,” Natasha told me that she does have some proper gig dates lined up already, but at present moment – nothing on the east coast.  We hope that changes!  And if it does, I’ll be seeing you again Natasha!   Thanks again for being so cool.  “The Haunted Man,” whose cover is super awesome (as you can see below) is out now!  Get it.

"The Hunted Man" by Bat For Lashes.  Out Now!

“The Haunted Man” by Bat For Lashes. Out Now!

 

Review: Yeasayer live at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Posted by The G on August 16, 2012 under Encounters with G, G Reviews | Be the First to Comment

Photos by G.

(from left) Anand Wilder and Chris Keating of Yeasayer

On August 15, 2012 after a pretty intense rainstorm, Brooklyn’s own Yeasayer played an incredibly sold out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  It was my first time seeing the electronic/psych-pop band and I had a good time.  For those that could not be in attendance for the band’s first show in quite some time, the show was recorded and will be streamed on youtube for a limited time.

Yeasayer

Yeasayer

Yeasayer’s stage set up was pretty cool with fresh flowers, disco balls and flashing and colorful lights.  The band (now a 4 piece) has a new album called “Fragrant World” coming out next week and the band played many new songs from it including the title track and the 2 singles (so far) “Henrietta” and “Longevity.”  Classic songs like “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E.” received the most cheers, but aside from the trippy lighting, one of my favorite parts of the show was lead singer Chris Keating’s anecdotes in between songs.

Yeasayer

Yeasayer

Several times, before the bass dropped, Chris Keating was dedicating the next beat to various cities across the world and he asked us to give youtube viewers in Serbia and Poland shout-outs.  Chris also mentioned that he lives near Music Hall of Williamsburg and rather than arrive to the venue in a limo, he rode his bike to the show.  I can verify that he was not lying.  Yeasayer will be back in September playing Central Park, so if any of these descriptions are your “thing,” don’t miss them.

See the set list after the jump.

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