Mason Jar Music Project

Thanks to this NPR article, I've spent the past hour immersed in the most heavenly music while learning about a Brooklyn-based audio/visual production company and creative collective called Mason Jar Music (MJM). I'm not entirely sure how I'm just now finding out about this considering my love of all things conceptual and creatively progressive, but I am currently overwhelmed (in a good way) by the brilliance of this project. MJM has created a video concert series that pairs talented artists with original orchestral arrangements and resonant New York City locations called Mason Jar Music Presents. These artists include The Wood Brothers, Josh Garrels, and Abigail Washburn, to name a few. If you know me, you know my love of folk, bluegrass and jazz music so this is right up my alley. Some of the MJM Presents videos take place in abandoned buildings...maybe it's partially about finding the beauty in destruction and decrepitation, but I've always had a thing for photographing and wandering around abandoned buildings. Watching and listening to these amazing musicians perform in these unlikely and utterly breathtaking spaces around New York was so inspiring that I actually just picked up my (terribly out of tune) mandolin that hadn't been played in several weeks. 

A distinct passion rings true in every video produced for MJM Presents; in the musicians, the conductor, the filmmakers, even the person editing the pieces. You can watch them all at their Vimeo page here. To help fund the expansion and continuation of this incredible project, visit their Kickstarter page here - I just pledged my support. Art, of all forms, is worth investing in.

Mia Pearlman Rocks It

One of my favorite visual artists, Mia Pearlman (I wrote a blog about her work here) recently embarked on a new project in the music realm. Her artwork is the main attraction for rock band Thursday's new double album, "No Devolución," which is set to be released on 4.12.11. Back in the day, I was a huge Thursday fan - of course, I also had fuchsia hair and wore glitter on my eyelids. I have no idea what their current music sounds like Okay, wow, I just went to their MySpace page and found out what their current music sounds like and it's pretty rough...but maybe my taste in music has just evolved quite a bit! Regardless, 19 year old me is crapping my pants right now - what a random and beautiful collaboration.

Mia also designed a limited edition laser-cut CD sleeve for Thursday. I'm in love! There were only 500 of these made (available here).

All images via Mia Pearlman. Check out her (lovely) website and many incredible projects here.

Voices that make me melt

Though I don't post about it much here, I'm a huge music junkie and have quite a past with the music industry so you'd think I would write about it more! Anyway, last night I got to thinking about how there aren't many male vocalists out there that just make me melt. I can think of over a dozen female singers (Maria Taylor, Allison Krauss, Lisa Hannigan, Patsy Cline, A Fine Frenzy's Alison Sodul, etc.) with stunning vocals that never ever get old, but only a handful of dudes. My top five male vocalists to make you melt (in no particular order): 1. Tony Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers 2. Andrew Bird 3. Matt Pond, Matt Pond PA 4. Pete Yorn 5. Ryan Adams

Tone, intensity, enunciation, and pitch are the big factors for me. And looks have nothing to do with their "melt factor," just so you know. In fact, I have this idiosyncrasy where if I hear an artist and don't already know what they look like, I paint a picture in my head using only their voice to construct a physical hypothesis of their appearance. In some cases, I avoid looking at anything that would reveal what they actually look like because I don't want my theory shattered. This happened for a LONG time with Great Lake Swimmers. I got really into them towards the end of college and I never found out what the lead singer, Tony Dekker, looked like until years down the line. This of course was only possible because I never was able to see them live and their albums never had photos of them. Once they started releasing music videos, I was shocked to find that he was a spitting image of what I'd imagined him to be: waify and bearded.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ6W_cq-zQ0&w=640&h=390]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-0HgSHYu2Y&w=640&h=390]

And then there are the artists that I hear and have NO clue what to think - I literally can't decide what they should look like from their voice alone. Andrew Bird and Matt Pond were both like this for me. And for the record, if you ever get the chance to see either of these dudes live, DO IT. He generally plays sans shoes but sports some sweet striped or herringbone socks.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnXCzFnkxtY&w=640&h=390]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTbeGDhQlxU&w=640&h=390]

Last but not least, there are the guys that you know what they look like from day one...like Pete Yorn. Oh my God. My one and only experience with Pete Yorn was when I was interning back in the day (2002-ish) at Sony Music in NYC with Columbia Records specifically, when he walked onto my elevator. We were alone for over a minute and I about lost my shit (I also think I may have spilled coffee on myself). But, I digress. His voice is about as close to perfection as it gets for me. And he's been rocking a killer beard lately. And there's totally a past America's Next Top Model contestant in his video for "Don't Wanna Cry." ALSO, many think (myself included) that he made a mistake by releasing a pretty rough album (her fault, trust me!) with Scarlett Johansson called Break Up...except for a single track on it, which I'll hastily admit is fantastic...

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRtydnIycCY&w=640&h=390]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRMI93d2Xtg&w=640&h=390]

Ryan Adams was also one of these. I remember the first time I ever saw him - I picked up Heartbreaker during the first semester of my freshman year of college at a local used vinyl store, and he's been a favorite ever since. Between his solo stuff, Whiskeytown, and The Cardinals, he's made a massive amount of eclectic music and I've enjoyed every single record. Also, he sings one of my favorite covers of all time though I couldn't find a suitable video of it on YouTube...check out "Wonderwall" on his Love is Hell album.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFTOkj2rKhw&w=640&h=390]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvIRk8wvC_A&w=640&h=390]

Just in case you're wondering, my bottom two for male vocalists who I wish would (in the wise words of Rex Manning) "fade away"? Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. Why, you ask? Both of them are particularly NASAL, and overly dramatic about it. Which, for me, is almost painful to listen to. It's a shame since both happen to be pretty stellar song writers.

The Swell Season

I had to interrupt the steady flow of California posts with a quick random one because I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite bands, The Swell Season, last night at Hard Rock Live. If you're not familiar with this band, good gracious you should be! It's comprised of Irish rocker Glen Hansard and Czechoslovakian singer/songwriter Markéta Irglová (the pair starred together in an absolutely brilliant film called Once).

Cameras weren't allowed so unfortunately Matt and I didn't get any photos (and from fourth row center they would have presumably been pretty great). I just found some decent footage from someones iPhone on YouTube from last night though...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZYfHl1LFDs&w=480&h=385]

The ease of watching them play for two hours was insane. With a perfect mix of songs from the Once soundtrack and their debut album, Strict Joy, and even a Van Morrison cover (!), combined with their easy-going and genial demeanor it made for one of the most memorable shows I've been to in years. Since the band is based in Ireland, they had never been to Orlando so I felt honored to have been there witnessing such beauty.

If you're interested, here's The Swell Season's NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance/interview. It is about 30 minutes long, and totally worth your time!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crS5ti-Py7Q&w=640&h=385]