austin

Paula Maya Stays True To Her Roots in “Corcovado”

Brazilian music standout Paula Maya stays true to her roots in her new single “Corcovado- Ao Vivo.” Her dynamic vocals are accompanied perfectly by light percussion and jazzy, acoustic guitar. In the world of contemporary music, there’s so much pressure to be “modern” and assimilated to current trends, yet Maya proves that you can still be grounded in tradition while displaying originality and uniqueness. 

Given the quality and nearly flawless execution of the recording, it’s hard to believe that Paula Maya’s latest release is actually a live performance. This decision ultimately enhances the listening experience of “Corcovado.” The faintly audible sounds of chatter amongst the audience makes the listener feel like they are at some hip, Jazz cafe on the streets of São Paulo. Releasing this single as a live performance is admirable not only because of the impeccable vocal delivery and tone, but also because of the overall ambience that enables you to be transported into an alternate reality. 

One of the ways in which Maya straddles the line between contemporary and traditional is by singing half of the song in Portugese and the other half in English. It would be easy for her to be a purist and only sing in Portugese to satisfy cultural norms, but singing in English as well makes her music more accessible to a wider audience. Not to mention, she sings in both 

languages quite beautifully. 

Additionally, Paula Maya’s band deserves a huge round of applause for their utilization of dynamics, subtlety, and flat-out skill. The percussionist plays soft and smooth, without missing a beat. The bass and keyboard players know when to take a back seat to the vocals and when to showcase their talent. And the guitar playing is a perfect example of why Brazil is home to some of the most underrated guitarists in the world. The jazzy chords and mesmerizing guitar solo are reminiscent of Brazilian greats, such as Yamandu Costa and João Gilberto, the latter being the original songwriter of “Corcovado.” The musicianship surrounding Maya undoubtedly accentuates her talent even more so. 

Paula Maya’s spin on “Corcovado” embodies the classic saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Clearly, traditional Brazilian music is an exceptional form of art as is. Maya and her band know that they don’t need to overly modernize the music that represents their culture, yet she uncannily conveys a sound that is fresh and worthy of being played on contemporary streaming outlets, even in the United States. Paula Maya knows exactly what type of artist she is and she absolutely owns it.

 

-- Quinn Donoghue

   

Trace of Lime Reminds Us to Live in the Moment with New Video

            I remember seeing Trace of Lime for the first time several years ago and being blown away by the energy and explosiveness packed into each song. Their latest single, Good Ol’ Days, encapsulates that exact feeling. The song features witty vocals, catchy guitar rhythms and a wildly entertaining music video that utilizes stop-motion stylization. They undoubtedly have their own defined sound that can be categorized as upbeat and cheerful, yet at the same time they express a straightforward rock n roll sound that induces involuntary headbanging. 

When asked about some of the band’s biggest influences, lead singer Jordan ironically listed Rod Serling, Mozart and Mystery Inc. After listening to Trace of Lime, it would be difficult to guess that these are some of the artists who inspire the band. But perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Trace of Lime has such a unique sound that is incomparable to any other band. That being, they don’t try to sound like anyone else. They are who they are and they own it. Jordan elaborates on their effortless ability to solidify their own style, saying “It’s definitely more natural when it comes to the sound... We aren’t married to a specific genre so influence from anything is on the table and everyone is willing to give anything a try.” Though they channel many different influences, their music doesn’t come across as experimental necessarily. You can tell that they incorporate many different ideas, but they always just sound like Trace of Lime, and that is a testament to their creativity. 

The music video supposedly took several years to complete and it’s totally understandable why. Stop motion videos normally take a considerable amount of time to complete, but the final result made the process very much worth the wait. Jordan provides some backstory of the production process, stating “The first verse alone was a picture a day for over a year. Conceptually, The song is saying that the good ol days are currently happening, and to live your life in the day. That’s where the photo a day concept came from. Every day is a piece of the story.” The video was filmed, scripted, directed, and edited by Jordan and his partner, Dusana. I already admired the video before hearing about the ideas that went into it, but now I admire it even more so. The fact that they used stop-motion to accentuate the meaning of the song highlights the band’s artistry. All of their creative decisions are purposeful and impactful, resulting in consistent, high-quality art. 

The four members of Trace of Lime certainly don’t lack any artistic integrity. They make music that satisfies them and it bodes well for their listeners as well. The band mentioned that they have an upcoming record to be on the lookout for, and it supposedly is meant to capture the energy of playing live. If that’s the case, anyone who has ever seen them perform would know that they are in for an absolute treat.

 

   

Langan, Frost & Wane Run the Gamut on New Album

           Folk rock trio Langan, Frost & Wane combine psychedelia and world music elements in their new single, King Laughter. The song shows off melodic acoustic guitar, polished vocal harmonies and exotic percussion sounds. Though they could easily be dubbed as folk-revivalists, the variety of instrumentation and textures opens the door for them to be categorized in many different ways. After listening to King Laughter, you can tell that the trio is rooted in tradition, but it’s clear that they also have found their own sound, thus placing them in their own unique sector of contemporary music. 

A few songs come to mind immediately as the song progresses. The rhythm section is reminiscent of the 2011 mega-hit Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye, as well as Long Gone Day by the 90s supergroup Mad Season. The vocal harmonies draw similarities to the classic band, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and the psychedelic overdubs slightly remind me of the Houston-based trio, Khruangbin. I assume that dabbling in musical styles on this broad of a spectrum was unintentional for Langan, Frost, and Wane, but that’s precisely why they’re so unique. Their sound includes Appalachian Folk, Middle-Eastern flavors and a touch of rock n’ roll. Yet their style remains defined, coherent, and grounded. Folky would probably be the quickest and simplest way to describe King Laughter, but it would be a disservice to stop there because the song consists of many complexities and subtleties that make it much more than just a folk song. 

One of the things I admire about the group’s lyricism is something that contributes to all great writing, that being the use of vivid sensory details. With lyrics like “King Laughter, who will come after/He pranced like a dandee and drank like a fisherman,” we’re immediately able to visualize this story that appears to take place in older times. Additionally, lines such as “White bowl and blueberry wine/Over-flamed all the cock and swine” highlight the use specificity, enabling the listener to formulate distinct images in their minds. Not only do Langan, Frost, and Wane provide something to hear, but they also stimulate sensations of taste, smell, and sight. The poetic nature of King Laughter certainly adds to their artistry and allows for creative visualization to occur. 

A lot of artists who pay homage to older influences, I believe, struggle to obtain freshness and originality so that they can find success in today’s world of music. This issue doesn’t appear to exist for Langan, Frost, & Wane. They have elements to their sound that very well could have made them a popular act during medieval times, but they also incorporate many modern flavors, impressively tying everything together. This trio of musicians have cultivated something that is unlike anything else, and we should all be eager to check out their soon to be released LP.

 

-- Quinn Donoghue


 

   

Dayglow's Latest Effort is Dreamy and Down-to-Earth

 Not since 2018’s Pray for the Wicked by Panic! At The Disco has there been an entire popular album that dares to tackle the topic of what it’s really like to be an older teen or a twenty-something - until Dayglow’s Harmony House.


 The “roaring 20s” summer that was ruined last year by the COVID pandemic meant that more dreams, more adventures and more social possibilities were put on hold until recently, thus providing a particularly fertile ground for the frustration and the desiarate longings common to this life phase.


Twenty-one-year-old Dayglow (real name Sloan Struble) is, for better or for worse, more Cory from Boy Meets World —- upbeat and lacking in an ounce of cynicism, despite some sensitive traumas and feelings —- than he is Panic’s Brendon Urie or a young, sarcastic Beck. (He does look a lot like MellowGold-era Beck as well as resembling 1970’s teen heartthrob Vincent Van Patten which certainly does not hurt him with a young female audience!)  Dayglow’s upbeat personality shouldn’t be surprising given Dayglow’s now well-known love of situation comedies from past eras.


An important question is whether his fans will embrace an entire album of situation comedy joy throughout the growing pains with lessons learned from a supposedly simpler time period, whether they will relate to a whole album of the sweet old-school romance of his 2019-2020 fan favorite single Can I Call You Tonight (Notice that the title says nothing about texting).


The answer is resoundingly a yes. Dayglow has found a way to give advice that could ordinarily sound very annoying to young people if it came from the authority figures in their lives. He makes as many embarrassing confessions as does Brandon Urie (for example in

Crying on the Dancefloor, “Medicine” which has a strong subtext of loneliness and social media). The bonding effect of his honesty is very important to understanding his appeal.


Equally important to how Dayglow can be so appealing and genuine in 2021 with his 1970’s- 1990’s nostalgia and lack of darkness for darkness’s sake is that he wraps it up

In the rambunctious fun of 1980’s to

1985 MTV pop singles. 


Anyone in 2021 of any age who faithfully goes to dance and socialize to the tune of their favorite eighties covers band can tell you that this music took chances in order to create a fun escape from work and classes. The rhythm and tune of Dayglow’s Balcony sounds like My Sharona’s desperate pseudo-confident yearnings (think that damn beat) and Dancing On The Ceiling’s giddy synthesizers. . 


A song from the late 1970’s (along with the early 1980’s, it is the musical era Dayglow professes a love for in interviews) that definitely comes to mind on Dayglow’s tune Whoa Man is REO Speedwagon’s ballad Blazing Your Own Trail Again. It’s a post-breakup song of encouragement that was important to young people in 1979 just as “ Whoa Man” will likely be today. 


His video clips for Harmony House show an strong literacy in eighties MTV. With more bright pinks and teals and striking outfits than a Cars video and more societal observations than a Dire Straits clip, Dayglow is set to encourage his peers while entertaining them as well. There’s some parallel here between these musical acts of the eighties that hit stardom through

MTV and Dayglow’s hitting stardom through Tik Tok and the viral hit Can I Call

You Tonight.


   

Sarah Jarosz' Roots Feel New and Polished At the Same Time

Four-time Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz is bringing new life to the Americana roots musical genre. Serious enough to win the Fresh Grass Foundation’s 2017 commission to write a thirty minute original piece featuring traditional bluegrass stringed instruments yet fun enough to share cocktail recipes during her two online after shows recently, Jarosz is full of surprises.


On her commissioned piece called The Blue Heron Suite, released on May 7, Sarah never fails to amaze even the most faithful Americana music fan with how versatile her octave mandolin, her acoustic guitar and her clawhammer banjo, joined by a bass guitar (Jeff Picker) and guitar (Jefferson Hamer) can truly be. Falling somewhere between classical music and folk rock, Blue Heron Suite will inspire mandolin and clawhammer banjo players for the foreseeable future.


The commission awarded to Jarosz by the Fresh Grass Foundation states the following on its website: “The FreshGrass Composition Commission is our flagship grant, given annually to an artist whose work reflects the FreshGrass mission to preserve and support innovative grassroots music. Composition Commission recipients write a new long-form piece of music for an ensemble that includes some elements of traditional string band instrumentation,” Blue Heron Suite therefore is not a traditional album of songs (unlike her 2020 Grammy winning World on the Ground album). 


This cohesive new album contains songs, interludes and reprises that are most satisfying to listen to in one sitting, preferably with headphones and with the high quality setting if you are using the Spotify app!


Jarosz has not only excelled at writing and performing a piece that fulfills the purpose of  her award. She has also written a testimony to the comforting and strengthening importance of family and friends at a time in one’s life when crummy circumstances are blindsiding a usually upbeat individual. Jarosz’s theme of experiencing her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis ( now in remission) and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey at a much-loved town near her Texas hometown of Wimmerley back in 2017 is proficiently reflected in the way the music finds strength after the suite’s turning point during Interlude Two. 


An example of how her music evokes the storyline of her experience is Interlude Two’s pleasing clawhammer banjo strumming, calling to mind her thinking over what her mother and friends have said. This interlude then leads to the appearance Jarosz’s trademark powerful vocals (rather than the higher-pitched vocals heard up to this point) for the first time on this album. 


For the remainder of Blue Heron Suite, the music becomes more upbeat —- not exactly her boisterous Little Satchel (a bluegrass standard she covered on World On The Ground in 2020) but that’s what makes Blue Heron Suite so beautifully and genuinely relatable to anyone that has come out on the other side of a crisis or a tragedy.


Sarah’s concert swag available online also will delight and surprise her fans new and old. In addition to some of the prettiest t-shirts and tank tops with artwork by her friend Taylor Ashton,  Jarosz offers imprinted kites (!) and bluebonnet seed packets in true Texas fashion. 


Don’t forget, there are imprinted Blue Heron tumblers for enjoying her cocktail recipes!