Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shine a Light, Already

There's plenty of time allotted for sarcasm, wit and nonsense on this here blog..but tonight it's all PRAISE baby. I promise.

I can worship with the best of them. I'm mighty good at it and wear the badges of my heroes on my sleeve and plant them right up in your grill thank you very much. I am a vocalist and it is vocals first and foremost which draw me towards(or repel me from)songs and groups of any genre. It could be the most melodic, raucous, lyrically beautiful thing I've ever heard but if the vocals aren't there...neither am I.

This is probably why I never dug most of everything the Foo Fighters did. Dave Grohl is one heck of a songwriter and a monster drummer....but he can't sing for shit. Lots of painful wretched screaming and whispering.. no heart..Back away from the mic Dave...but I love that Probot album you did..cuz you ain't singin'!

But that's just an example...and I did say this post would be PRAISE-a-RIFIC! So I'd like to shine a light on some vocalists from the last ten years or so who have really tugged my earlobe, tilted my head like a dog and made me listen. Listen REAL GOOD LIKE.

No classic rock vocal legends this time around....these are the new(ish) vocalists who should really be on your radar..the new breed..to be considered for the rock pantheon in my opinion. My criteria for a great vocalist is as follows...

He or she should stand alone from the music as well as enrich its message in accompaniment.
He or she should have a voice that is instantly recognizable with the rest of your ear closed.
He or she should move you with the emotion of a mini god through melody or character.
He or she will sound like their technique is non existent, but their delivery is effortless.

I'd like to start with Ben Ottewell from the British band Gomez. Gomez' music is loose, bluesy, folky and psychedelic at times and Ben's voice is this heavenly growl with a smooth push that washes over the songs he sings. He is one of three singer songwriters in the band but in my opinion, the stand out.His voice runs ragged in total control and is convincing and warm to my slightly cold ear.
Here's a track from Gomez' 2006 album How We Operate called "See The World" http://www.fileden.com/files/2008/8/31/2075145/02%20See%20The%20World.mp3

My next mad scientist of a singer is Ethan Miller from two great bay area bands Howlin Rain and the(on hiatus?) Comets on Fire. Ethan plays guitar too. Howlin Rain is spaced out boogie rock with minor hits of stoner and free jazz and Ethan's voice is a pleasant rasp wandering around the high registers..Its a meth-ed out bong hit of the blues kind of voice but I love it.It takes you places,man. Seek out Howlin Rain's two albums...Magnificent Fiend from this year and their debut Howlin Rain from 2006. This track is a nine minute ocean of an opus called "The Hanging Heart" from their debut... http://www.fileden.com/files/2008/8/31/2075145/04%20-%20The%20Hanging%20Heart%201.mp3

The next gentleman on my list is Caleb Followill from semi buzz band Kings of Leon. I loved The Kings first album from 2003 Youth and Young Manhood which showcased their rave up punchy rawk side spewing out songs like "Holy Roller Novocaine" and the single "Molly's Chambers"...but they have since cut off all their Skynyrd hair, put the U2 and Joy Division on heavy rotation..and continued to experiment.all the way up to their just released album Only By the Night..all the while Caleb's vocal style is one of a kind. Its hard to describe and decipher...sort of a gasped out drawl that creeps up on you until its got its arms around your head and is giving you a noogie. Here's a track from their 2004 Album Aha Shake Heartbreak called Slow Night, So Long http://www.fileden.com/files/2008/8/31/2075145/01%20Slow%20Night%20%2C%20So%20Long.mp3

My last offering this time around is my best offering. This man's voice has moved me more than anyone's(besides maybe Mark Lanegan) this past 10 years. His name is Ray Lamontagne. He arrived on angels wings and will go out their leader...I cannot say enough about his hushed heartfelt bleeding voice, with tinges of wear and feelings of hibernation and woe weaving in and out of extremely personal lyrics.I first heard his voice on a song called "Forever My Friend" driving around listening to KFOG in San Francisco some sun/foggy day in 2004...I had never heard anything like it. You just know when you hear greatness...like the first time I heard Buckley, this guy hit me right there in the gut where all singers field their blows... His new album Gossip in the Grain further showcases his prowess on songs like "Winter Birds" and "Let it Be Me"...and whatever he lays his nodes on.....Shine a light on this man already. This is what real sounds like. Here is a video of the song Shelter recorded recently on the BBC.

I hope you like my picks. You know I'm right. You really do.


  1. Thanks for sharing your humble opinion! I'll check these guys out. Don't know any of them except Followill.

  2. Awesome taste! Came over here from Barbara's blog.

    Gomez, Kings of Leon, and Screaming Trees? Wow. I'm listening to the others I don't know right now.

    My wife just gave me a KOL keychain for my birthday, shiny bottle opener. Sweeeeeet! We've seen both KOL and Gomez a bunch of times. Great live bands.


  3. Lamontagne, wow. The instant I heard his voice, my head thought Damien Rice, but a raspier/fuzzier.

    Then I found this.