Artist to Watch: Winter Gloves

Winter Gloves
Winter Gloves

Right on the heels of the post I did on Passion Pit the other day, I would like to share with you another artist to watch.

I first heard of Winter Gloves when I happened to catch the track “Invisible” from their “about a girl” CD on XM Radio’s The Verge channel. It was the catchy electric piano riff over a techno beat that drew me into the song. I hit the info button on my radio to find out the artist and saw the name Winter Gloves.

Unfortunately, I never wrote down the name of the band and forgot it hours later. Over the next 48 hours or so, I told my friend Jason and my fiancee Alison about this great song I heard on XM, but that I couldn’t remember the name of the band who performed it.

Then, while at a party for one of Alison’s friends, I checked an e-mail on my phone. It was a message letting me know that WinterGloves was now following me on Twitter. I instinctively blurted out, “Holy crap! That’s the band who did that song I heard! It’s Winter Gloves!”

So thanks to a combination of XM Radio and Twitter, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the Montreal-based band Winter Gloves, which consists of Charles F (lead singer/songwriter/wurlitzer), Pat Sayers (drums), Vincent Chalifour (synths) and Jean-Michel Pigeon (guitar/glockenspiel).

According to the band’s bio…

Winter Gloves began as one guy’s way of figuring out how to plug himself into life in the big city. It was a single microphone and minimal equipment gathered into Charles F’s downtown Montreal apartment to piece together all the distances he’d covered since growing up in rural Quebec.

A three-song EP (“Let Me Drive”) was offered as a digital-only download and created additional buzz in anticipation of the release of the full-length “about a girl” CD in 2008.

I just bought “about a girl” from iTunes this past weekend and had a chance to listen to it a few times while driving up to Scranton, Pa., for a work-related meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to catch Winter Gloves live in the near future.

Here is a video of Winter Gloves performing “Invisible”:


Winter Gloves – Invisible

Artist to Watch: Passion Pit

Passion Pit
Passion Pit

As someone who uses Pandora as a tool for new music discovery and listens to WXPN, the great radio station operating out of Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania, and to the emerging artist channels on XM Radio, I sometimes hear a band I like and think to myself, “You know, I wish I blogged about them sooner. Now they’re everywhere.”

But then I realize the artist isn’t everywhere…just everywhere I go for new music. So even though “those in the know” are raving about a certain artist, when I bring that artist up in a conversation about music, I’m always stunned to hear that most of the people I’m talking to have no knowledge of said artist.

So while I may be late to the party among those who pay close attention to the music industry, that shouldn’t stop me from writing about certain artists. After all, if my blog post connects just a few more people to a deserving artist, it’s worth the time to write it.

For instance, in this piece — my first “artist to watch” post in ages, I’m going to take a look at Passion Pit, an electronic group out of Cambridge, Mass., fronted by songwriter Michael Angelakos. Their first full-length CD, “Manners,” was released back in May, but there was buzz about the band after the ecstatic reception to their 2008 EP, “Chunk of Change.”

Passion Pit also has an interesting “from out of nowhere” back-story. “Chunk of Change” actually began as a four-song CD that Angelakos — who was attending Emerson College at the time — made for his then-girlfriend as a Valentine’s Day gift. The CD, however, wound up becoming quite popular on the Emerson campus and soon Angelakos was getting attention from record labels and promoters.

That resulted in the formation of Passion Pit (which currently consists of Angelakos, Ian Hultquist, Ayad Al Adhamy, Jeff Apruzzese and Nate Donmoyer) and the production of the “Chunk of Change” EP, which included the original four songs on the Valentine’s Day CD plus the tracks “Sleepyhead” and “Better Things.” Additional exposure for Passion Pit came from the use of “Sleepyhead” in a Canadian commercial for Sony’s PSP game system and spots for MTV’s “What the Flip?” promotion.

Passion Pit was named one of the top bands at the 2008 CMJ Music Marathon in New York and placed ninth in BBC’s Sound of 2009 list of emerging music acts. The band was also XPN’s Artist to Watch in June 2009.

Built upon electro-pop bass grooves and punchy synth-based hooks, the tracks on “Manners” draw from a number of musical influences. One can clearly hear touches of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys (“Let Your Love Grow Tall” and “Seaweed Song”), early Prince (“Eyes as Candles”) and even U2 (“Moth’s Wings”). For a taste of “Manners,” check out the video for “The Reeling” (my favorite track from the CD) below.

But Angelakos and Co. manage to incorporate those various influences into a cohesive collection of songs on “Manners” that makes for a enjoyable listen throughout. The one issue I have with “Manners” is the sequencing. While the first track, “Make Light” is a decent enough song, it isn’t quite successful as an album opener. If I hadn’t already heard many of the tracks that were to follow, I’m not sure “Make Light” would have drawn me into the rest of the CD on its own.

But if you like intelligent electronic pop music suitable for dancing or just driving around, pick up a copy of “Manners” by Passion Pit.

More information: Passion Pit on MySpace


Passion Pit – The Reeling

“Christian Beach” CD now available on CD Baby

Christian Beachs CD now available on CD Baby
Christian Beach's CD now available on CD Baby

It’s finally here…the self-titled, solo CD from my good friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach!

“Christian Beach” is now available for sale at CDBaby.com, where you can also listen to 30-second samples of each of the album’s 12 tracks.

And here’s a fun fact for you: I designed the CD artwork around a photo by Charlie Pranio, which means I just did layout and selected an appropriate font.

Anyway, if you want to check out Christian Beach live, he has a few shows coming up:

Sat., Feb. 7, 2009
5:00 p.m.
The Strand Theater
Lakewood, NJ
http://www.strandlakewood.com
with band

Sun., March 8, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Rosie’s Cafe Presents at the Atonement Lutheran Church Hall
Asbury Park, NJ
http://www.atonementlutheranchurch.com/ROSIES-CONCERTSr.html
solo

Sat., March 28, 2009
8:45 p.m.
S.S. Cape May Music Conference Showcase
Congress Hall – The Brown Room Lounge
Cape May, NJ
http://www.sscapemay.com
solo

Fri., April 10, 2009
10:00 p.m.
“Christian Beach” CD Release Party @ The Saint
Asbury Park, NJ
http://www.thesaintnj.com
with band

Thurs., April 23, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Triumph Brewing Co.
Princeton, NJ
http://www.triumphbrewing.com
solo

Thurs., May 21, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Triumph Brewing Co.
Princeton, NJ
http://www.triumphbrewing.com
solo

For information about Christian Beach, visit http://www.myspace.com/christianbeach

Artist to Watch: Baskervilles

Baskervilles

The Baskervilles are a Harlem, N.Y.-based pop act that I first discovered some time ago through Pandora. I just found out that the Baskervilles have a new CD, “Twilight,” coming out June 3, 2008, on Secret Crush Records…and you can listen to the entire CD by visiting their Web site.

Here is an excerpt from their bio:

Harlem-based indie rock quartet, Baskervilles, are no strangers to 60s pop and 70s Sire new wave and it’s evident on their newest album, Twilight, produced by the legendary Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement, Birds of Avalon). And though Baskervilles draw on the past for some inspiration, their songs are infused with buoyant and modern pop sensibilities. The result is one of the finer strains of music likely to brush its melodic tentacles across your eardrums this year. The band consists of Rob Keith (vocals, guitar), Stephanie Finucane (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Chirstoph Gerozissis (bass) and Craig Van Orsdale (percussion, vocals)…

Drawing on classic pop influences, Twilight is an album for fans of proto-punk bands like Talking Heads, Roxy Music, and Blondie as well as contemporary acts such as Belle & Sebastian, Apples In Stereo, and the Shins. There’s no denying that Baskervilles and Twilight are here and now.

I haven’t listened to the entire CD yet, but I do love the sound of the Baskervilles. This band released its first CD in 2004 and put out an EP a year later, so they have been around for a while. Hopefully, “Twilight” will bring the Baskervilles to a much wider audience.

Here is a free MP3 of “Caught in a Crosswalk” that you may also listen to below. Enjoy!

Artist to Watch: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer is a duo from Belfast, Ireland, who recently finished a U.S. tour opening for They Might Be Giants.

I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t care at all for opening acts, but I have had pretty good success at seeing openers who went on to bigger and better things. Actually, the first concert I ever went to was when my parents took me and my sister to what was then Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands for a Hall & Oates show. The opening act that night was a yet-to-hit-it-big band by the name of ‘Til Tuesday fronted by Aimee Mann. About a week later I saw their debut album, “Voices Carry” — on cassette — in a local store and bought it. A few weeks later, the album’s title track was all over the radio and on MTV.

So, anyway, I have had a pretty good history with seeing quality opening acts, especially in recent years. I saw Tegan and Sara open for Ben Folds at The College of New Jersey about five years ago and never heard of them before. Now, they seem to be all over the place. Then, I saw The Zutons and The Redwalls open for Keane a few years ago, the soon-to-be-all-over-the-place Nicole Atkins open for Mike Doughty, and the still-up-and-coming Dawn Landes open for Midlake just a few months ago.

And that leads me back to the point of this post: Oppenheimer has joined the list of opening acts I would certainly like to see and hear again…hopefully, as a headliner. They played a really strong set of synth-based, 2-to-3 minute pop songs, and their debut, self-titled album is more of the same.

And this quote from Oppenheimer’s Rocky O’Reilly reminds me of the days when my friend Christian Beach and I use to stand behind our array of synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and sequencers:

I could never imagine Oppenheimer being more than us Oppenheimers. We write and record all our own stuff, the creation is very studio based. It’s the two of us throwing our ideas back and forth at each other and seeing where it takes us. In that way I hope the live show reflects that process, that it is two people creating the sounds. On occasion people are upset that it’s not guitar/bass/drums, but that’s not really what we are about, it’s about pop/electronica and really it’s about having fun!

Here is dark, grainy YouTube video of Oppenheimer performing “This is Not a Test” during a recent CMJ show in New York City…

(photo and quote courtesy of Pixelsurgeon.com)

Artist to Watch: Nicole Atkins

I saw Nicole Atkins open for Mike Doughty a couple of years ago (in fact, keyboardist Dan Chen left Mike Doughty’s Band to join Nicole Atkins & The Sea a few weeks earlier so the set had a bit of a reunion feel to it).

Anyway, I enjoyed what I heard that night and have kept an eye/ear on Nicole ever since. I downloaded her wonderful “Bleeding Diamonds” EP from iTunes some time ago and her recently released full-length album, “Neptune City,” has been garnering tremendous reviews. She has an incredible voice and is an amazingly gifted songwriter.

Nicole Atkins & The Sea made their network television debut Oct. 30 with a performance of “The Way It Is” on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which you can see in the video above.

Nicole and her bandmates have also been featured in a recent American Express commercial.

More importantly, Nicole is a fellow Jersey Shore native so I really would like to see her succeed. And I think she will. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 2008 is going to be THE year of Nicole Atkins.