Artist: William Fitzsimmons Location: Pittsburgh, PA Genre: Acoustic/Ambient Album(s) Released: Goodnight (2007)
I listened to William's music based off a recommendation from a friend and I immediately fell in love with it. His music is what I like to call "movie trailer-esque" as it catches your attention quickly, draws you in and leaving you wanting more. His voice is so smooth as it glides over the various echos, effects, and drum loops.
With his trademark overgrown beard, William doesn't seem all that interested in trying to impress people with his appearance. Have no fear, his music definitely commands all needed attention. One notable song, "Please Don't Go" is the epitome of the sun coming crashing down into the earth at the realization that your boyfriend/girlfriend just broke up with you. I don't care what mood you are in when you listen to this song, but by the time it ends, you will either be thinking about the one that got away or the one that you will call immediately to make sure that they still love you.
William's music has so many layers that every time I listen, I discover something new, be it a soft background vocal, a faint echoing piano or perhaps a drum loops that I missed the first time. Not only do his songs envoke such delicate emotions upon every listen, but it feels like I am listening to them all with fresh ears every time I press play. Mark my words, William's songs will be a staple on mix tapes for years to come.
Sounds like: Joshua Radin borrowing The Postal Service's snyths for a night as you listen in a dimly lit room with your arms around the one you love. Must-listen Tracks: "It's Not True", "Please Don't Go", "Everything Has Changed"
Artist: Brooke Waggoner Location: Nashville, TN Genre: Pop/Folk Album(s) Released: Fresh Pair of Eyes EP (2007)
I always make it a point to listen to all the tracks that an artist posts on their MySpace because I never know if one will strike a chord with me and perhaps give all the other tracks a second listen. This is exactly the case with Brooke Waggoner. I was initially turned off by the seemingly lack of direction in the first few of her songs as I wasn't prepared for the shuffling drums in "Hush If You Must". It seemed as if she was trying to emulate Regina Spektor's odd vocal stylings and adding as much melody as she could fit into one song. But, nonetheless, I continued on down the list of songs until I reached the last song, "I Am Mine". Stuffed full with a flowing string emsemble, delicate piano work and the light picking of an acoustic guitar, this song seems destined to be in the closing montage on the next episode of Grey's Anatomy. Her voice dances through the guitar so lightly that it almost seems like she doesn't need all the extra flair that her previous songs are loaded with as she does so well with so little.
This could quite possibly be my favorite song at the moment and it is surprising that as of tonight, this song only has 493 total plays. I have tremendous respect for all singer/songwriters who tough it out despite the seemingly unending road of hardwork and the lack of recognition. What makes Brooke even more unique is that she is not at all like the other singer/songwriters out there. I gave all of her songs a second listen and found myself tapping my feet to the accelerating drums and ragtime piano solos (see "So so"). She is clearly a talented pianist and has the ability to cater to a wide range of musical tastes all within a three minute song. As the title suggests of her song "I Am Mine", her music is unique and refreshing. It is hers.
Sounds like: Regina Spektor-esque vocals with a hint of Imogen Heap with occasional outbursts of happy clown carnival drum shuffles. Must-listen Tracks: "I Am Mine", "So so"
Artist: Jessie Baylin Location: Los Angeles, CA Genre: Folk/Jazz Album(s) Released: You (2007)
As I perused through Cary Brother's MySpace page, I stumbled upon Jessie Baylin listed in his top friends. Out of sheer curiousity as to whether she was a friend of his or perhaps a fellow singer, I clicked on her picture and was quite surprised to see John Mayer's name listed as her number one friend. She also became good friends with a girl she met in high school. Her name was Scarlett Johansson. Even before hearing the opening chords to her first song, I knew that this girl had connections. Now, as I press play, does she have the songs to get me hooked?
After listening to "Leave Your Mark", I can say that this 22 year old singer/songwriter has it. Yes, she has that crossover appeal that kept John Mayer in the spotlight even after abandoning his Your Body is a WonderBread poptastic radio hits for the more experimental jazz toned record Continuum. Ten years ago (or even five for that matter), "Leave Your Mark" would not be played on the radio, but thanks to the success of Norah Jones and Amy Winehouse's recent MTV airplay, the public is now accepting of jazz and folk music in more than just the casual encounter at Starbucks admist the clammering of ringing cell phones and espresso machines.
Even at her young age, her voice comes across as confident, yet humbling at the same time. It's as if she is singing in front of crowded room, standing front and center, yet immediately blushes when someone in the back cheers. She's got that girl next door look. (Yes, I hate that phrase). Okay, she's got the girl who sits in the back row of the classroom hiding behind her books look. Better? Regardless of how she looks, her voice is mature enough to captivate your attention. Even though her lyrics are quite simple (see "Contradicting Words"), they seem to settle nicely into the music as if one could not stand on its own. Her songs seem to bring to mind visions of sitting on a giant couch with soft pillows with the wind blowing through an open window, tossing the curtains over the cushions as you read a book and toss off your shoes.
On her MySpace pictures, she has a screenshot of one of her songs listed on Zach Braff's page. Clearly, the man has good taste supporting the likes of Cary Brothers, Joshua Radin and has lead to the success of many other indie artists through airplay in his movies and television shows. Ten years ago, I would have said that Jessie needs backing from a major label and some radio play to make it big. Today, she just needs her microphone and her smile. Perhaps a spot on the soundtrack of Braff's next movie wouldn't hurt a little as well.
Sounds like: Corinne Bailey Rae and Norah Jones lounging in a coffee house on a sunny day as you stumble in with your book of poetry and messenger bag full of notes on your next heartbreak romance screenplay. Must-listen Tracks: "Leave Your Mark", "Contradicting Words"