Chapell: The Man, the Band, and the Process

Chapell is an indie rocker from NYC who recorded his latest album The Redhead’s Allegations with former Talking Head Jerry Harrison. The album is available on Spotify, iTunes and SoundCloud.

Chapell echoes the nostalgic Gen-Xer in all of us when he says he has a particularly soft spot for the synthesizer sound that was rampant during the 1980s. Chapell feels that translating synth sounds to the instruments the synth was made to imitate can be even more compelling – and can bring new life to old instruments. “A great violinist can bring a level of earnestness that you can’t always capture with a synthesizer”, says Chapell.

The power of a great song can be strengthened with a memorable music video, and (video production company and record label) AbandonBuilding’s interpretations of Chapell’s work are nothing short of astonishing. Chapell found AbandonBuilding while working on his album The Redhead’s Allegations, and he was particularly drawn to the fact that the studio gives its characters a sense of humanity that is not often seen in computer generated images. Chapell’s goal in working with AbandonBuilding was to have “each of [his] videos tell a slightly different, yet complementary story to the one being told by the song lyrics.”

Check out the video for Chapell’s song “Heroes.” This one is worth viewing at least a few times. While the main focus of “Heroes” is a critique of big oil in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill, more social commentaries surface with every re-watch. There are background photos and other hints (keep an eye out for the check-cashing place in particular) that tell a much larger story about the power of personal conviction against even the most powerful adversary.  Listen. Watch. Think.

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Pat Harris

Anna Mae Mitchell and Pat Harris make pretty (and sometimes eerie) music together as Mitchell & Harris, but as a solo artist, Harris carves out a vastly different niche. His most recent release, Hour Before the Mourning (Wiggle Stump Records), features a host of delicate ballads, most of which would make ideal wedding music – not something you would expect from a title with “mourning” in it. Here, Harris strays far from the folk home he has established as one half of Mitchell and Harris and dives headfirst into the shallow end of easy listening territory.

On “Can’t Give Much”, Harris croons, “I can’t afford a ring with a big heavy stone/we’ll never have a life that’s worry-free. Oh baby, I can’t give you much/but you’ve got me.” Who can’t relate (and swoon) to that? Even such instrumental piano pieces as “Wake You” and “Ausable Lullaby” are ostensibly emotional. If these songs were put to film, “Wake You” would play as the couple fell in love, while “Lullaby” would draw tears at their break-up.

“I’ll Wait for You” has a Colin Devlin-esque style, though it is closer lyrically to Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark”. (Sample lyric: “I’ll wait for you/if I’m the first one gone.”) The guitar on “River Song” flaunts a country twang, while “First Color of Fall” mirrors that which is typically found on one of those Time-Life “Best Of” compilations.

Harris uses interludes liberally here, and, as a result, some tracks drag on longer than necessary (“World Left Behind”). Else, “Hour Before the Mourning” is a strong debut with a mature flair that harkens back to the softer rock of love songs from the ’70s.

Humming House

Humming House brings an interesting mix of bluegrass and Americana-you-can-dance-to to a younger generation with what has been dubbed their whimsical style and lyrical depth.  The house is definitely a-humming when these jovial folks play a room.

Justin Wade Tam, Leslie Rodriguez, Bobby Chase, Joshua Wolak, and Ben Jones make up Humming House, and they call Nashville, Tennessee their home.  They have worked with such impressive Grammy Award-winning producers as Vance Powell (The White Stripes) and Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay), and their debut record earned them recognition from both the Live in Studio C and All Things Considered segments on NPR, as well as write-ups in American Songwriter Magazine and even a Daytrotter Session.

Humming House’s single “Fly On” earned a spot in the rotations of both CMT Pure and Zuus Country, and they have also seen their music featured on such television programs as Justified on the FX Network and Hart of Dixie on The CW.

Just as impressive as the producers they have worked with are the acts with which Humming House has played, which includes everyone from Brandi Carlile and Lyle Lovett to Shovels and Rope and Ricky Skaggs.  They have also played such festivals as SXSW, the Americana Music Festival, and Old Settlers Fest, to name a few, and they compare their sound to such artists as The Decemberists, The Avett Brothers, and The Punch Brothers.

Pick up Humming House’s album Live at the Red Clay Theatre as a free download over at Noisetrade.

Choirs

You may hear the name “Choirs” and think you’re in for a chorus of “Hallelujahs,” but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.  The band, consisting of Justin Fitch, Dustin Smith, and Brian Andes who all hail from California, categorize themselves in the pop and rock genres (or even the “pop rock” genre, if you will), and they’ve been around since July of 2010.

Choirs compares their sound to bands like Switchfoot, Maroon 5, The Fray, and One Republic, but they sound more like a conglomerate of the four, rather than mimicking the sounds of any one act in particular.  With regard to their upbeat EP, Colors of Burning Bridges, “Glow” is reminiscent of the material we have heard in the past from acts like Boys Like Girls, provided the latter’s scale tilted more toward the direction of rock and roll, while “Stir” is simply a fantastic demonstration of powerful vocals that belong either on the radio or a film soundtrack stat.  “Take It” is easy to love, while “Can’t Stop” calls to mind the elements of piano and falsetto for which Maroon 5 is so well known.

Colors of Burning Bridges is available now as a free download over at Noisetrade.com.  Choirs also has pages up over at Reverb Nation and Bandcamp for your perusal.

Jillette Johnson

Some female singers are content to fade into the background, letting their vocals become one with the instrumentals to the point where you can’t even pick them out from the piano.  New York’s own Jillette Johnson is not one of those ladies.

Johnson is on Wind-Up Records, a label with significant experience in the strong female vocals department (Evanescence and Megan McCauley are amongst the label’s former acts).  Johnson has been writing music and taking lessons since she was only three years old, and she cites Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, and Prince among her many musical influences.

Johnson can be both tender (“Pauvre Coeur”) and passionate (“Torpedo”), so don’t figure her for a one-trick pony.  She enjoys the music of artists like Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor, and it shows in her own.  Not quite as gritty as Apple, and not nearly as quirky as Spektor, Johnson puts what could almost be considered a fierce but pretty spin on similar styles of music.

Johnson’s delicious-sounding EP (in both title and content), Whiskey and Frosting, is available for free download over at Noisetrade.  You can also pick up a copy of her album Water in a Whale (to which Whiskey and Frosting was a prelude) on Amazon.com.

Gavin Mikhail

Nashville, Tennessee’s Gavin Mikhail is a man who takes great pride in swinging from your heartstrings as he tickles the ivories on his versions of the songs you love.  From Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” to Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” Mikhail has a way of magnifying your adoration for these tunes with his passionate and tender deliveries, respectively.

Far from a one-trick pony, Mikhail is more than a man of many covers.  He has produced full-length albums of his own music as well, including 2006’s Like Normal People Do.

Mikhail has built up quite a following over the years with over 12,000 “likes” on his Facebook page and over 30,000 followers on Twitter, and he addresses his fans as if they were long-time friends – checking in on them frequently via status updates that often include little anecdotes about his family or, conversely, apologizing when he temporarily falls off the radar.

Mikhail’s most recent full-length album, The Acoustic Collection: Volume I, is available for $8.99 in Amazon’s MP3 store.  If there are two songs that should not be missed from this collection, they are Mikhail’s covers of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” and Linkin Park’s “New Divide.”  These tunes are evidence of the fact that Mikhail doesn’t just cover a song – he reinterprets it.

Joseph

Pick a song, any song at all, from their new album Native Dreamer Kin.  It’s no matter which one you choose, because Joseph is sure to captivate.

This sisterly trio of Natalie, Allison, and Meegan hail from Portland, Oregon, and it is apparent that they take great care in choosing names, both for their band and the albums they produce.  The name Joseph comes from their grandfather (“Kin”), as well as the sisters’ hometown in eastern Oregon (“Native”).  The ancient  tale of Joseph was also an inspiration to the band, and they see him as being a beacon of belief and inspiration (“Dreamer”).  Put these three concepts together, and you have an album rooted in life, love, and family.

Joseph refers to their fans as “Kindreds,” an endearment that effortlessly pairs perfectly with their deep appreciation for connected spirits.  In terms of their sound, Joseph compares their style to that of Canadian singer-songwriter Feist – an apt comparison indeed.  Their vocals are just as buttery, and their music is the soundtrack of dreams.

Joseph is enjoying performing in more intimate settings while they still can, like your backyard or living room, so that they can get to know you better before (as they put it) stages get involved.  Catch Joseph on the road for that exclusive chance to say you knew them when.

Pick up Joseph’s album, Native Dreamer Kin, for free over at Noisetrade.