Live Video: The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem's live show is captivating and inspiring - every time I see them, I leave in awe.  The band makes organic, beautiful music that is breathtaking in its purity.  I had the pleasure of seeing them twice recently; the April 20 show from the Paradise in Boston was documented via a crystal clear soundboard recording.  I'm now happy to share some excellent video from the Portland Maine show that took place just two days later.  The combination of a dimly lit stage and brightly backlit backdrop make for tough video conditions - but, with some added effects, I think the result is striking.  The band, cast in sepia tones and playing the melancholy "To The Ghosts Who Write History Books" against a backdrop of pulsing electric blue creates a startling contrast.

There may be more videos to come from this show - stay tuned, and enjoy.


Cover Me: Bruce Springsteen

Cover Me will be a recurring feature on visible voice that will showcase exceptional or interesting covers.  Cover songs are a tricky thing; done well they can highlight influences and similarities between the covering band and the covered that may or may not be apparent at first and in rare cases even transcend the original to become something entirely new.  Done poorly and the result can reduce an otherwise great band to the level of a wedding band, or worse, me in my bedroom playing Neil Young songs on a slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar.

The inaugural edition of Cover Me features Bruce Springsteen, the artist for which this segment gets its name.  With a new wave of artists heavily indebted to Springsteen's work, he is a natural target for the cover treatment.  However, while the songs may be musically straightforward, channeling the passion from which the songs were written and the intensity with which they are performed is a daunting and difficult task, but these bands are up to the task.  Each of bands featured below takes a classic Springsteen song and adds their own original stamp, while still paying respect to the original:

Streets of Philadelphia (Marah)
Atlantic City (The Hold Steady)
The River (Josh Ritter)
Nebraska (Deer Tick)


Vikesh Kapoor: Lizard Lounge Cambridge 5.11.10

Vikesh Kapoor at the Lizard Lounge. Photo by Maria Cristina Romero

Vikesh Kapoor brought his timeless folk songs to the Lizard Lounge last week.  Standing in the single spotlight with harmonica around his neck and guitar slung off his shoulder, he looked the part of a troubador and sang songs of struggle and heartache.  The excellent 40 minute set featured a mix of songs from his debut EP On the Tail of a White Donkey as well as the recently released Newspress Scare 7".  In the dimly lit basement that is the Lizard Lounge, it felt like it could have been 1962.  The songs are pure folk songs that recall the social commentary of Dylan and Seeger, but are wholly relevant to today's unique issues and concerns.  Vikesh Kapoor is a true songwriting talent, and I'm looking forward to hearing much more from him in the future.  Check out more photos from the show here.

Full soundboard recording is available for stream or download below.  Sound is excellent, but we were only able to get a mono feed, which I think gives the recording a vintage feel.  Thanks to Vikesh and the Lizard Lounge for making this recording possible - please support Vikesh Kapoor by buying his music and visiting his myspace.  Check out his live show at Club Passim's campfire festival on Saturday 5/29 - tickets available here.

Vikesh Kapoor
Lizard Lounge - Cambridge, MA
May 11, 2010

Careless Love
Down by the River
Willy Robbins
Butcher Boy
Newspress Scare
If I Had a Song
Mack The Knife

Full set download:  mp3 zip

I was able to capture Willy Robbins on video, one of many highlights. Video quality is somewhat mediocre, but I think it captures the ambiance of the room and power of the live performance pretty well:




New music: Marah - "Valley Farm Song"

Marah circa 2007Marah, more than possibly any other band, played a huge role in shaping and refining my musical tastes.  They entered my consciousness at an extremely formative time - the year was 2001 and I was about to enter my senior year of high school.  Kids In Philly was just about the most exciting thing I had ever heard - a record that channeled the soul and grit of Tom Waits, recklessness of The Replacements and youthful idealism of Springsteen.  As the title suggests, Kids In Philly has an undeniable sense of place, but the stories and characters are universal.  What sealed the deal for me though was the live show.  The marathon shows on 2004's tour in support of 20,000 Streets Under The Sky felt to me like seeing Springsteen in the early 70s.  The band was tight, the shows were long and almost spiritual.  I was mad to live and Marah made me feel alive.  The memories of listening to their music and seeing them live will forever help define my college years.  Those long nights at TTs, Maxwells, The Southpaw, The 100 Club in London are some of the most vivid and beautiful memories I have.

Marah faced a lot of adversity over those years though.  They dealt with numerous lineup changes, critical praise came and went and came again, they shared the stage with legends - but the commercial success they deserved never really came.  After the release of 2008's Angels of Destruction the band splintered, cancelling a world tour just days before it was scheduled to start.  Serge Bielanko headed west towards fatherhood, while brother Dave held down the fort - the Marah as I knew it was done for good.  I haven't seen them live since 2006 and, which might be for the best.  

With all that as background, suffice it to say that my interest was piqued when I saw that the "new" Marah has an album coming out soon, and the first single Valley Farm Song is starting to make the rounds online.  I'm happy to report that it mostly captures the ramshackle beauty of my favorite Marah songs.  Clattering percussion, suczzy guitars and Dave's distinctive nicotine-stained voice.  Check it out, along with a few of my favorite Marah songs (one from each record):

Valley Farm Song (new)
Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft (Let's Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later On)
My Heart Is The Bums On The Street (Kids In Philly)
Soul (Float Away With The Friday Night Gods)
Pigeon Heart (20,000 Streets Under The Sky)
Sooner or Later (If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry)
Can't Take It With You (Angels of Destruction)


Recommended: Vikesh Kapoor


Vikesh Kapoor writes folk songs that sound as if they were teleported from 1960s Greenwich Village - but rather than shallow nostalgia, the songs take real modern issues and wrap them in language and delivery that recall the past.  Newspress Scare, a freewheelin' protest song,  uses a metaphor of a broken newspress to comment on topics such as political deception, the failure of media and public apathy -- or at least that's my interpretation.  Listen for yourself:

Vikesh Kapoor - Newspress Scare

Get the Newspress Scare 7" here.  Vikesh Kapoor opens for John Shade at Lizard Lounge tomorrow (5/11), tickets only $5 - get them here.


Album preview: Delta Spirit - History From Below


New music: St. Claire

You know that fuzzy feeling you get when you find a new song or band that completely blows you away on first listen?  Well, I got that feeling last night when I stumbled onto St. Claire's myspace page and heard tracks from their upcoming debut Everyone Lives Here.  Really excited to share this with everyone. 

I really don't know much about the band beyond what's on their myspace, so I'll just focus on the music.  Emily Forsythe's sultry voice takes these simple, dreamy folk songs to a another level - the result is completely mesmerizing.  While the vocals are what drew me in, these are truly great songs - full of lush melodies and smart lyrics.  Layers of harmonies, background vocals add depth, while banjos, glockenspiel and snare add texture  -- and that's just The Simple Things, which the band has graciously allowed me to post for stream or download:

St. Claire - The Simple Things

The band's debut record Everyone Lives Here is out later this summer - and they'll be celebrating the release of the record July 8 at Great Scott with Hallelujah The Hills, Mr. Sister and Sleepy Very Sleepy.  Get tickets here.  I won't miss it.

Check out more songs from the upcoming Everyone Lives Here on myspace, as well as fantastic covers of Neil Young's Round and Round and John Lennon's Love.


Recommended: John Shade


The fantastic debut from John Shade, All You Love Is Need, is an album that deserves attention.  The songs are musically simple, which allows the beauty and heartbreak of the lyrics to shine through.  Shade (not his real name) is a deft songwriter and lyricist, and his pop sensibilities are apparent.  The arrangements are mostly sparse, but are highlighted with strings, horns and percussion that give the songs life.  Also, this record sounds great - really nice production.  The entire album is available for free - or whatever you want to pay for it - here.  Get it now.

I had such a hard time choosing which song to post, I decided to post three (hope that's okay!).  Little Heart and So Long, Theresa are heartbreaking and beautiful.  I Hate The World... is a bit more uplifting.  All are great.

Little Heart
So Long, Theresa
I Hate The World (And Everyone In It)

John Shade has 2 weeks left on his 3 week residency at Lizard Lounge - get tickets here.  Great openers as well - Vikesh Kapoor opens 5/11 and Jocie Adams of The Low Anthem opens 5/18.  Tickets only $5!


New release: Woods - At Echo Lake


Lots of heavyweights on the "New Release" racks this week.  Broken Social Scene, Josh Ritter, The New Pornographers, The Hold Steady, etc.  However, the release that I'd like to focus on is Woods' At Echo Lake.  The songs that comprise At Echo Lake pick up where 2009's Songs of Shame left off - psych jams built on blues, country and pop foundations.  They continue to have a knack for writing songs that sound tossed-off at first glance, but reveal depth with each listen.  Folk songs with filthy blues guitar licks, sludgy jams laced with pop melodies - this is right in my wheelhouse.

After a few listens, Suffering Season is one of my favorites from At Echo Lake - enjoy and please support Woods:

Woods - Suffering Season

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