By Jennifer Smith
Bringing the entire family together is easier said than done. This is especially true in these modern times where computers and the Internet have all but completely taken over the lives of teenagers and young adults (and let’s face it: us parents, too). And many family-time options are costly. But music is one perfect option for bringing family together, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.
Consider the following ways in which music brings us closer, all of which make a case for exploring music more with your friends and family:
Learn an Instrument Yourself. Many people feel as if they’re incapable of learning how to play music simply because they haven’t taken the time to do so yet in their lives. The fact is, however, learning to play an instrument doesn’t need to be difficult, and can be an extremely enriching and rewarding experience. You can often find big brand guitars for cheap prices by shopping the sales at your local music stores. Lessons don’t have to expensive either. You can pursua a new interest AND spend time with your family by teaching it to them as well.
Have a Weekly Jam Session. One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning how to play an instrument is having the opportunity to jam with other people. While family schedules can often get in the way of spending quality time at home, you can help to get your family more involved by holding a weekly jam session –every Monday night, for example. This way, you can teach your family what you’ve been learning about music, and can even invite friends over to take part in the jam. This is a fun and inexpensive way to have a truly exciting evening at home.
Encourage Your Family. As rewarding as learning how to play music can be, it can also be an extremely frustrating experience. Those who are trying to learn a new instrument can often get discouraged throughout the process, and many decide to stop playing as a result. You should do everything possible to encourage your family members to stick with music, especially if they begin to show signs of frustration. Explain that nothing worth seeking out is easily attainable, and that music is no exception to the rule; this can be a very encouraging statement.
There is no doubt that music – be it for celebration, expression, ambience, appreciation -has the power to bring people together. Remember to utilize music with your family time as often as possible.
By Sierra Drucker
In the musical era of a major soul re-emergence, Electric Guest come across with a fresh new spin on the genre. Blending it ever so slightly with indie rock and a tinge of hip pop flavor, this Los Angeles duo burst onto the scene with a killer debut.
It’s kind of impossible not to fall in love with their single “This Head I Hold.” It’s catchy, effortlessly stylized, modern and yet tinged with an indiscriminate feeling of nostalgia for the musical decades of yore. From the layered and flowing instrumentation, to those super smooth falsetto vocals, this tune offers a little slice of cultivated perfection.
So who are the masterminds behind it all? Singer Asa Taccone, along with his uber-talented multi-instrumentalist bandmate Matthew Compton, has been busy behind the scenes producing hits for brother Jorma Taccone’s novelty project, The Lonely Island (as made famous by Andy Samberg and Saturday Night Live). Asa’s brother just happened to be longtime friends with the one and only Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse). After hearing some of Asa’s songs, Burton knew he wanted to be a part of this passion project.
You can really hear that signature Danger Mouse sound on the track “American Daydream.” Take a listen and watch Asa completely lose his s&*t in their first official video, directed by Jorma Taccone.
Nearly six years and one stress-induced episode of shingles later, Electric Guest has a Danger Mouse-produced full length, and a shiny new label deal with Downtown/Fontana Records.
By: Wendy Rhein
At 20 months Sam is very clear about his needs: his special music must start when he wakes and go on again when he goes to sleep. Throughout the day it is music that soothes him and engages him when all else fails. Overwhelmed? Music. Overtired? Music. Shortout the general pissiness of an almost two-year-old? Music.
This summer I took the boys to a bluegrass concert. I was poised for it to be a bust because it was late in the evening after a day of playing in the sun. Nate curled up next to me, feet tucked under him, leaning in with his eyes closed. Sam sat on my lap, back rod straight, entranced by the banjos and fiddles, opening and closing his hands, finger tips to finger tips, the picture of joy and amazement.
He learned to snap before he could walk. When he was twelve months old his pediatrician was shocked to see him snapping with both hands while rocking out to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” in his waiting room. He brought out two other doctors to see little Sam snap. Sam just bopped his head and drooled.
I love this about him. Music has been a constant source of comfort in my life as well and like for many of us I know that music is intertwined with memories in such a way that an old song immediately calls up visceral memories of a first sweet kiss or a college road trip with girlfriends. When I was pregnant with Nate I played him music all the time (and was so thankful that I had an office and not a cubicle so I could inch up the volume when I felt the need or felt the extra kicks). His favorites during the end of my pregnancy included Queen, Martina McBride, and John Denver. I developed a birthing playlist and Nate was born to the sounds of the Village People’s YMCA and John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads. I know, I know. I was nine months pregnant, irrationally nostalgic, and huge. Cut me some slack. They seemed like good choices at the time. To this day, Nate loves music with a beat you can dance to, a ditty that Dick Clark would give a 10.
With Sam, like so many things, I wonder where this love comes from. Were his birth parents musical? Did his birth mother play music for him while she was pregnant? Was there music in their home? What did he hear? He loves Bob Marley – did she play him reggae? And what about his penchant for standing up and bouncing to A Capella choirs like the Straight No Chaser my sister has given him? Where did that response come from?
I will never know the answers to my questions about his history and his cell memory. As an adoptive parent, I can’t say he has his mother’s eyes or Uncle Joe’s laugh and that’s ok. In fact it can be a good thing. This is just part of the gift of Sam that I get to unwrap and cherish every day – the unknown looks and half smiles, the blossoming personality that is at times impish and at times ages old. And his deep love for music.
My recipe this week has nothing to do with music but is just plain tasty. I am sure there is a song somewhere that would work – something by Jimmy Buffet. These margarita cookies are savory and sweet, crisp and soft. I wonder if there is a pina colada version of this cookie out there … may need to work on that.
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3c powdered/confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks, room temp. Separated
Pinch of salt
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 medium orange, zested
1/2c coarse sugar (I use organic sugar with a coarser grain and deeper color, sanding sugar would work too)
2t flaky sea salt
Put the softened butter in a mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until silky. Beat in one egg yolk, salt, zests and lime juice. Switch to low on the mixer and add the flour, beating just until incorporated. You want to be careful to not overbeat and can mix any wayward flour in by hand if needed.
Turn the dough out onto a counter, make a big ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
After it has chilled and is easier to work with, take one package of dough and form it into a log (working on a clean surface) so that the end result is a log of dough that is about 1 inch in diameter. The length is irrelevant if you get the thickness right. Do this with each package. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for two hours. You can also freeze them at this point for about a month for ready-made cookies.
Preheat your oven to 350 and line 2 sheets with parchment paper. While the dough is chilling you can put together the coating. Whisk the second egg yolk in a small bowl to use as a glaze.
In another bowl mix the sugar and salt together. Spread the mixture on some wax paper.
Take one log out and unwrap it. Brush it lightly with the egg yolk, using a pastry brush. Roll the log in the sugar/salt mix, pressing the mix in gently so it sticks if needed. Think of it like rolling sushi – use the plastic wrap to help it along, rolled tight. Using a sharp knife or dental floss, slice each log into cookie circles about ¼ inch thick. Place the cookies on the sheets and be sure to leave about ½ inch between them because they will spread a little while baking. When you’re ready to roll the second log, take it out of the fridge. You want to be sure the dough is chilled when you are working with it.
Bake for 12 minutes or until they are set but not browned. The yolk glaze on the outside may brown a bit and that’s fine.
By: Sierra Drucker
Mayer Hawthorne is one smooth crooner for the modern age. He made the move from indie label Stones Throw to Universal Republic for his sophomore release How Do You Do, released earlier this month.
This soul-loving hipster recalls influences such as Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson. And while his music is certainly a revival of these Motown greats, Hawthorne adds his own progressive spin with tight production and a modern hilarity.
Check out his latest video for “The Walk”, which is essentially an abbreviated version of the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Why? Because he can.
Hawthorne knows that trends in music like the throwback genre are short-lived, so he’s clearly having fun while it lasts. Taking a tongue in cheek attitude to the lyrics, he keeps the themes light, even adding Snoop Dogg as a side artist on the decidedly silky and smirk-inducing R&B jam “Can’t Stop.”
One of my favorites, “A Long Time”, is a simple upbeat song about Hawthorne’s beloved Motor City, where much of his musical inspiration came from.
“A Long Time” – Mayer Hawthorne
“A Long Time (Chromeo Remix)” – Mayer Hawthorne
If you like what you hear, check out more goodies on Sierra’s blog, Inland Sounds.
By: Sierra Drucker
Nu-disco King Vito De Luca, aka Aeroplane, is like butter on my turntables. Sleek, rich, and it just sticks. I find that any time is the right time for Aeroplane. Taking a hint from Scissor Sisters, this Belgian is a risk-taker, and not just musically.
Take a look at the video for “Superstar” and you’ll get the idea:
I think Freddy Mercury would appreciate that piano riff. Big, bold, and very ambitious, he takes chances with that standard nu-disco sound. While critics have mixed views on his latest full length We Can’t Fly, I think anyone who challenges the norm is worth a second listen.
Just take the infectious title track, “We Can’t Fly”. Glossy synth and groovy hints of dub mix surprisingly well with gospel-esque vocals. Who would have thought…
Finding an Aeroplane remix is like finding a pot of gold. You just know he poured his shiny disco heart into it. I’ll leave you with a little gem named “Faith”. Enjoy, and be sure to check out more of his music for yourself.
By: Sierra Drucker
AgesandAges graciously found their way into my headphones last month. With each new listen I grow more enamored with this band. Check out their video for “Navy Parade (Escape from the Black River Bluffs).
Filmed from their hometown, indie hipster-rock hub Portland, Oregon, the video illustrates what founding member Tim Perry sought to do when he formed AgesandAges . That is, to revive the disaffected music scene in Portland. A formidable goal, but I can’t imagine a better way to approach it then to gather a sizable seven-member force to spread the word.
The album, Alright You Restless (Knitting Factory Records), plays out like a campfire gospel. These seven troubadours join together for huge clap and sing-along harmonies. It’s such a warm and inviting sound, we don’t even noticed we’ve been charmed by lyrics that beg us to break away from society to live in sort of communal hippyster bliss. Maybe it’s the fanfare of members or the idyllic themes, but this band feels a bit like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sans the LSD.
They also have a bit of a Bishop Allen meets Dr. Dog thing going. You can hear it especially in the title track. Listen below. I’m a sucker for clapping…
I imagine they put on a fun live show with all sorts of audience participation. I hope to find out firsthand at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday April 16th. I should probably bring my tambourine along…
Find more great music on Sierra’s blog
Los Angeles locals The Belle Brigade are getting ready to release their stellar self-titled full-length on Reprise Records. There is a lot of buzz already circling this duo. Take a listen to the toe-tapping anthem “Where Not To Look For Freedom” to find out why.
The Belle Brigade consists of siblings Barbara and Ethan Gruska who happen to be the grandchildren of renowned composer John Williams. You might also recognize Barbara as the badass drummer behind indie pop rock sweetheart Jenny Lewis. With such talent running through their veins, these two forces combined with ease to create a solid and confident debut.
Their sound is wholesome and magnetic, centering around 70’s rock influences like Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon. The album brings a fresh take to classic rock with clean inviting production, shining melodies and honest, spirited lyrics. There are hints of Fleet Foxes in the lush folk harmonies that fill out each track. It feels young and fresh, gracefully riding the line between pop and indie.
These two are the real deal. Just check out their acoustic bathtub performance of the single “Losers.” Love the lyrics on this one.
You can also catch them live (in a non-bath tub setting) at the Troubadour with the one and only K.D. Lang on April 11th. No doubt, will be an amazing show.
You can read more on Sierra Drucker’s blog
Listen closely- I think I heard a little something about 2 dads…
Could the world be changing little by little right before our very eyes?