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Songwriters





King of Nowhere go somewhere beautiful with "Real Men"

The song "Real Men" is a powerful coming out narrative that also serves as a sneak peak of King of Nowhere's upcoming album (King of Nowhere) to be released in January 2022. You can listen to the song directly below, just scroll over the graphic, Bandcamp embeds are sneaky that way! Note: their three previous full-to-fullish length records are embedded throughout the rest of this piece, in reverse order of date-of-release, to help you get boned up on King of Nowhere's past repertoire.

"Real Men" opens with a hushed tone and vivid imagery ("remember we were twelve / covered in mud, hopping downed trees") further intensified by the trappings of youth and fragility on display ("I teared up in my room, under blue curtains / with cartoon bugs on them") intensified further by the fear and confusion indirectly incited by the mud-covered childhood friend’s affection for our narrator who "hadn't learned just yet to recognize that kind of smile" even with his friend wearing a t-shirt with the printed slogan "real men wear pink" and all (to be fair, reading social cues isn’t the forte of most 12-year-olds) and if only we were all so lucky to have a precocious gender-norms-and-other-norms-questioning friend at such an impressionable age the world would probably be a better place.

But in "Real Men," composed by King of Nowhere's singer-songwriter-guitairst-producer Jesse French, the protagonist does have such a friend, and it seems to lead to an awakening, even if it didn’t take hold right in the moment because, in a tone tinged with regret, the lyrics describe how the song's 12-year-old-self reacted: "I said ‘it would suck to be gay’ and / welcome to the USA." At this point Jesse's voice falters and practically folds in on itself, with the music following suit, reduced to near total silence. But then, catharsis...



Up to this point the rhythm section of Dylan LaPointe and Vicente Hansen Atria (on bass and drums, respectively, and let's not forget the second guitarist known only as "Porter") have pushed the song along with a writing-in-my-journal-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-a-flashlight-under-the-covers kind of vibe, with only a slight build in the first chorus to match the shift in perspective to the present day ("I'm sorry I never stood up and told you that you / you were as strong and bright as / I never wanted to be") but it's not until we reach the point where the song bottoms out as described above that it finds the courage to open itself up, and yes I'm describing recorded music as a sentient being and why not, jumping from a whisper to a lighter-waving guitar solo and a final-pent-up-emotional-dam-burst of a chorus, declaring "I'm sorry I never called you up and told you that you / you are an inspiration [...] I am so proud you made it / can't wait to open up like" at which point the song suddenly cuts off--which could be meant to indicate that the future is unwritten, and that the process of "opening up" is ongoing. (or maybe that the band ran out of tape. does anyone still record on tape?)

Final Thoughts: Maybe I'm reading into things here (hey that's what I barely get paid to do!) but one thing I think this song is telling us is that for our "reality" to change we first have to change some of our notions of what's deemed "real" in the first place (e.g. what is a "real man"?) and heck, even if you ignore the lyrics entirely "Real Men" may shake up your reality because between its tender, aching music and equally tender, aching vocals, and its butterfly-emerging-from-its-chrysalis climax, you're likely to find yourself all teary-eyed and gently sobbing under the duvet by the time it's all over. Unless you’re too hung up on masculine archetypes to allow yourself a good cry, that is. (Jason Lee)





Kate Fagan "Champagne Champagne"

We are proud to be able to premiere the new festive single, "Champagne Champagne", from Kate Fagan of Heavy Manners. This single is taken from Fagan's new Holiday album, Ho Ho Ho Holiday Party, which will be officially released tomorrow, November 16th.

"Champagne Champagne" was written by Michael Garley and John Gilmore and features Kate on vocals, Josh Paxton on piano, John Rankin on guitar, Susanne Ortner on clarinet, Rich Collins on drums and Sam Albright on bass.

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Fiona Silver unveils her "Swoon" song and you're sure to swoon too

This past weekend Fiona Silver released her latest single (most of the profiles written to date about the native-New-Yorker-turned-bottle-blond-R&B-and-soul-belter refer to her as a “spitfire” so I’m going to resist that trend oh whoops..) and it’s another corker, a contemporary throwback closing-credits-ready mood piece with some seriously soulful feels (the track was recorded in Atlanta with Randy Michael as co-writer and producer) that’s something like a classic girl group number sans the girl group and it's very appropriately titled “Swoon.”

And by feels I mean it’s an aching atmospheric ballad full of gently caressed drums, shivering strings, mellow groove low end, mournful organ chords, and crying electric guitar (dig that heavy reverb and tremolo not to mention the subtle yet sublime note bends in the solo). And that’s even leaving out the classic-Americana-high-lonesome-style-whistling towards the end, all of which echoes the lyrical content about “deep black skies” and “cry[ing] lovebirds” and the like. And in the chorus, when Ms. Silver reveals that “everyday / from midnight to noon / autumn to June / you make my heart swoon,” not only do you actually believe it but you also feel it because this song is a straight-up declaration of lovesick blues that’s more along the lines of Hank Williams than Doris Day when it comes to coping with the blues (tho' the latter could get a bit emo when she was down for it).

And hell, I’m down for it. In fact I’m sincerely hoping that “Swoon” is the first advance single from an album (or an EP, I'll even take an EP) to be titled Staring Pensively Into Your Whiskey Tumbler While Thinking About What Could Have Been, Or What Still Might Be, Against All Odds, Because You’re A Hopeless Dreamer That Way. Because who couldn’t use an album by that title right now or any time really...

…which is precisely why artists like Fiona Silver (or Lou Ann Barton, or Bettye LaVette, or...maybe just check out Brooklyn-based Dala Records' roster for more contemporary examples) are still necessary in this world, artists who write songs for cutting a rug at the juke joint on a Saturday night and songs for chain smoking Lucky Strikes alone at the kitchen table on a Sunday morning, songs that evoke and update the universal sentiments of dance-ready R&B and good time rock ’n’ roll and gutbucket blooz for modern types who're still cool for cats. (Jason Lee)

photo credit: Michael Lavine; HMUA: Paige Campbell 

 





Nobody's Girl Takes the Town for a Girl's Night Out

Nobody’s Girl’s self-titled album is the quintessential album for twenty/thirty-something post-college career women who have fallen in love with nightlife, shopping, adventurous cuisines and (how can I forget?) all the choice of cute dates in their new city life.

I should know. I was there once myself, and this record glimmers with memories of the excitement, hope and occasional frustrations I experienced when I moved on my own to a larger, vibrant city for the first time. Relatable in the way that Dayglow’s recent Harmony House speaks to and soothes frustrated teenagers looking for an escape from the structured expectations of everyday life, Nobody's Girl is an album embodying a particular demographic in a particular place in their lives.Recorded in 2019 at Texas’ Lucky Hound Studios but only released in late July of 2021 by a trio of woman friends with successful folk music solo careers, the album is by turns folk-pop, country-pop, bar band pop/rock and politically motivating Americana social commentary — all thematically woven together by reflections on the shared experience of post-college, big city womanhood in the internet age.

Abundant with harmonies by BettySoo, Rebecca Loebe, and Grace Pettis —- two classic soprano brunettes and one mezzo soprano redhead —- the band's undeniable vocal chemistry is as much a product of their airtight friendship as their mutual professional training. The accomplished and admired list of supporting musicians with impeccable credentials  include  Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), J.J. Johnson (Tedeschi Trucks), Glenn Fukunaga (Dixie Chicks), David Grissom (Buddy Guy, Allman Brothers, Ringo Starr), and Michael Ramos (John Mellencamp, BoDeans), who produced. These male musicians never overwhelm the musical presence of the strong ladies of Nobody’s Girl, whose lovely singing imbues heartfelt, personal lyrics with effortless vibratto and a subtle trace of the twang from their respective Southern upbringings.

“Kansas” starts out with a raspy rock n’ roll riff mildly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” — very fitting for a pop song about an eagerness to leave home, complete with Wizard of Oz references that makes The Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” seem tame.

“Rescued” is both relatable and funny. Nobody’s Girl sings “Don’t send up flares/Don’t send an SOS/Don’t send the National Guard/It's just a little black dress//The trouble I find is the trouble I run to/I don’t wanna be saved/I don’t want to be rescued.”  The phrase little black dress is sung with amused sarcastic confidence. Often  parents who have not experienced city life or singleness may not be comfortable with the normal hooking up, going out late on the town and other fast-paced city life that they worry will ruin their daughter's reputation or jeopardize her career. The riff and tune on the verses remind me of Survivor’s eighties hit, “High on You”, but the rest of the song displays expansive song-writing (particularly in the delightfully unpredictable bridge). 

Tiger is a complex take on traditional folk-pop tunes. By adopting (and absolutely nailing) a rapidfire hip-hop rhythm  at the beginning of “Tiger," and by subverting the silly “catch a tiger by his toe” nursery rhyme, Nobody's Girl keep the mood light to discuss a serious topic of their struggles with self-control in their new, adventurous life. The woman protagonist in the song successfully resists telling off her boss at a much-needed job that puts her on the verge of tears and she resists a particular booty call that only tempts her in the throes of loneliness and self-pity.  

“Waterline” confidently articulates a first experience with post-college career disappointment with zingers including “This is not where I thought I’d be right now. This is nowhere.” The waterline metaphor and those harmonies are folk song language but the subject matter lies in the here and now situations of a modern pop song. If there’s a bit in the chorus reminiscent of Avril Lavigne singing about her (not) happy ending on the radio in the mid-2000’s, it shouldn’t be surprising because the thirty-somethings in Nobody’s Girl likely grew up with that hit.

 

“The Promised Land” is compassionate political commentary as aesthetically pleasing and emotionally stirring as a Michelle Obama speech. It’s both Americana and pop in it’s style and topic — and its subject matter only works on a fun, metropolitan album because these women sound very invested in their concern for our country that arose out of their tour experiences in 2019. If they weren’t busy with music, they would have been out canvassing, feeling the Bern and pioneering for a better and brighter future.

The track on Nobody’s Girl that should be the one to break them into mainstream commercial success is “What’ll I Do”. Grace Pettis quipped in a Zoom concert that the tine is about “ that lovable mess who got away.” The lyrics’ exuberance are sexy and fun. “ My friends wouldn’t give this the green light/but I’m going to floor it!”  Some of the lyrics remind me a bit of Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”’s sassy comments to the pretty boy love interest who would make a disappointing partner due to his head in the clouds approach to work and finances.  This song is so relatable and likable, that I hope I hear it soon on US-99 radio.

— Jill Blardinelli

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Jennifer Hall "Why Cut Time"

Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Hall has released her latest single, "Why Cut Time". This is her second single of 2021 following-up "SFA" which was released back in January.

You can catch Jennifer Hall at Sleeping Village on December 1st with Tommy Bravos and Denara Auriel.

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