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Songwriters





Ghost Funk Orchestra soundtracks the "Asphalt Homeland"

If the long awaited Cagney & Lacey movie ever comes to fruition (sorry, I don't consider the TV movies canon) I'm going to immediately start an online petition to make "Asphalt Homeland" the opening credit music--played as the camera slowly pans over the asphalt homeland of Lower Midtown Manhattan until landing on our two sometimes harried but always resolutely determined lady detectives. And sure, the new single by Ghost Funk Orchestra is a good deal less boob-tube bouncy and peppy than the original TV theme song, but that's good because it'll help Cagney & Lacey make the transition to the big screen with the help of some dramatic, cinematic music.

Of course this isn't to imply that bandleader/songwriter/arranger/producer Seth Applebaum only writes music appropriate for a Cagney & Lacey type show. To the contrary, Seth is a one-man "library music" machine whose music could just as easily be used to score urban dramas, medical dramas, gangster epics, or even wild comedies and super action films but with a distinct golden-era approach harkening back to a time when jazz and funk and rock and Latin music and psychedelic music (and many other genres besides) often shared equal space on a single soundtrack.

Take the song called "Fuzzy Logic" for example (see video above) which stays true to its title by rejecting Boolean either/or logic in favor of multiplicity and suggestive ambiguity. It starts off sounding like the dramatic opening moments to a classic spy soundtrack or a caper movie with its dissonant stabs of brass and syncopated hi-hat cymbal--not to mention how the music video's use of color gels and multiple exposure give it a strong Bond pre-credit sequence vibe--before sliding into a groove that's laid back enough to be Sade-approved but with some vaguely uneasy lyrics (and a brief Bill Withers "I know" interlude, may he rest in peace) sung to enchanting effect by regular vocal collaborator Romi Hanoch (PowerSnap). And then about one minute in the song takes another turn with a breakdown section featuring flamenco-style clapping and dub-like echo and surf guitar reverb before circling back to the second verse and then later ending with a concise but still pretty epic solo outro traded between baritone sax and flute.

Seriously, put this song on in the car next time you're cruising around and it's guaranteed to make you feel like a total badass even if you're just heading to 7-11. Or put on almost any GFO song because they rarely skimp on the funkiness, the ghostliness, or the intricate orchestrations. And did I say "one-man show"? In reality, Ghost Funk Orchestra is more like a ten-to-twelve-man-and-woman machine because you know it can't be easy making music this elaborate alone and especially not if you plan to play live. And by the way seeing GFO live is a wonderful thing that will presumably happen again someday soon. 


So, if you lack familiarity with the Ghost Funk prior to "Asphalt Homeland," their most recent full-length An Ode To Escapism (2020) is a good place. The album features a shift array of musical emotional hues that still manage to flow together as a continuous whole--more that fulfilling the promise of the album's title. And just case you happen to forget the stated purpose of the album while listening there's an intermittent GPS Lady voiceover reminding you that "as long as your headphones are on...you're safe, and hidden" and it never hurts to be reminded of that. (Jason Lee)





Elizabeth Moen "Red State Handshake"

Elizabeth Moen rips into her home state of Iowa on her new single, "Red State Handshake". This is the first new music from Moen since the release of her latest EP "Creature of Habit".

With Moen now based in Chicago she finds herself looking back to Iowa and its Governor, Kim Reynolds, and the way most "Politicians pandering to small-town voters without really caring, hearing, or listening to their needs is one of many issues in this country".

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Ryan Sambol Releases New Album ‘Gestalt’

Ryan Sambol has a remarkable and mystical sense of humor. Across barely 23 minutes on his new album, Gestalt, he meanders through his own plucked guitar strings and muddled piano keys to highlight strange observations and theories. The name of the record comes from the German word for “shape” and is often associated with the Gestalt school of psychology, in which the whole is perceived to be far more than the sum of its parts.

 

The whole of Sambol’s career is, in fact, far more than the sum of its parts. He’s a well-worn poet and a former garage rocker from the Austin outfits The Strange Boys and Living Grateful and he likes to zig-zag while telling a story. You’d be forgiven for thinking he’s two sheets to the wind, but he’s eerily calm for a storyteller in his element.

 

Gestalt opens with tender chords that unfold like petals to reveal Sambol’s timid vocals on “You’re Still Lovable To Someone” (but it’s your guess who that ‘someone’ could be). “According to this guy / I haven’t seen the greatest movie of all time / I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was blind,” he exhales in his apathetic warble. Aspirational thinking rather than actionable advice drive his motives, if barely—“Let’s raise money for each other sometime / If the need arose it’d be good to know,” is the half-assed yet whole-hearted sentiment of someone trying to be the lovable type.

 

The power of quiet records comes from what’s unsaid more than what’s spoken for all to hear. “We met in the comments / Of one of our favorite singer’s songs,” Sambol sings on “Just Like Golden Hours”—not in the stands, not in the audience, but out in the forum where worlds apart are able to come together. The feeling is immediately resonant like a monostitch from the would-be Twitter account of Joni Mitchell; golden hours are prone to fade, YouTube videos queue to the next one and romances slowly die.

 

If Gestalt is more than the sum of its parts, it surely is a triumph. Its sum is a loosely-hewn batch of emotional country, but what it amounts to is a beautiful and poetic thought catalog of observations too small for the rest of us to catch.

 

- Mike Floeck

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Olivia Flanigan "Mannequin"

Olivia Flanigan has released the lead single, "Mannequin", from her debut album, Girl, which is set to be released on March 26th via Flood Records.

For the album Flanigan gathered together a group of talented musician including Matt Gold (Guitar), Paul Bedal (Piano/Keys), Mike Harmon (Bass), and Nate Friedman (Drums). Together they have created a sound that is rooted in Jazz and vintage torch singing while remaining fresh and modern.

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Powerhouse Singer Cari Hutson Drops New EP "Salvation & Soul Restoration"

As anyone who has ever studied singing can tell you, music fans often define stellar singing according to whether they are partial to singers in the big voice belting camp (Pat Benatar, Brittany Howard) or the sweet, feminine, clear as a bell camp (Diana Ross/Emily Blunt/Katy Perry.) Austin favorite Cari Hutson is however a vocalist bridging both preferences, unexpectedly Carrie Underwood-like for someone who once played Janis Joplin for six months in a very credible off-Broadway production. 

 

On her first EP since winning a coveted Black Fret artist’s monetary grant in late 2019, she sings romantically about domestic bliss, finding me-time as a mom of a four-year-old during a pandemic and the callousness and dishonesty of Donald Trump and Governor Abbott in the funk-blues-dance tune, “Blame”, a throwback to the Stevie Wonder/Sly Stone era where a protest song could be funk and blues to which a person could dance. Hutson’s sweet voice and her rocking gritty voice possess so much impact that her few over-the-top wails seem just sort of there

 

On her video for “My Breath”, the 42-year-old Hutson, backed by her good-natured band (which includes her husband on guitar), takes the stage with the face of a cherub, softly arranged ginger curls, perfect makeup and a tasteful pantsuit that would be so Hillary Clinton if it weren’t for the shawl with  vertical black and white stripes. In true Stevie Nicks fashion, complete with sweet sultry looks, she beckons the audience to come into her spider web. If “My Breath”'s Melissa Etheridge hooks and guitars don’t make it to modern rock radio in 2021, I would be very surprised. 

 

The ironically encouraging thing about the times our society is in is that there is an increased awareness of a seriously flawed America. An EP like Salvation & Soul Restoration, just like a Biden presidency, would be good at any time, but in 2021, the second year of pandemic hell, an artistic AND obviously appealing album release that sounds like the Refinery 29 blog would sound if it was a pop album is going to speak to many, many diverse fans while keeping its integrity and edginess.

 

- Jill Blardinelli

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