I don’t wanna make this about politics, but after the election, things looked pretty bleak in New York City. Long faces on the subway. Disbelief and confusion everywhere you turned, especially among my artist friends who, lets be honest, tend to empathize and emote a little bit extra.
It was at a Blake Morgan show shortly thereafter where the ice melted for me. Where a roomful of humans took solace in music and in each other. There was a true catharsis that night, and more than a few emotional hugs and squeezes after the show. That’s when I briefly met Neha Jiwrajka.
“From Everything Turned to Color?” I asked.
“Yes,” she beamed.
“I can’t wait for your new record!”
Since then I’ve had an advance copy of the Morgan produced Life Imagined in heavy rotation. I’ll be singing its praises closer to the official release in June, but for now I can tell you that last night Everything Turned to Color owned Stage 3 at Rockwood Music Hall like the boss-ass Brooklyn troubadours they are.
If you’ve seen them live, you know singer Neha Jiwrajka, and guitarists (and siblings) Bryan and Kyle Weber literally make beautiful music together. Such was the case at Rockwood, augmented by the multi-talented Jonathan Ellinghaus on drums, Blake Morgan on bass, and special guest Ian Sharkey from Zelazowa. The band treated the crowd to the best of Life Imagined, including lead single “When You Wish Me There.”
Neha is the real deal. There’s no other way to say it, taking soulful ownership of the material and possession of every eyeball in the house whenever she’s on stage. The songs, penned with sophistication by Bryan, and expertly adorned by Kyle’s jazzy sensibilities, are lush with harmony and strike a nearly impossible balance of playful melancholy. Even toe-tappers like “Once Upon a Lifetime,” sweeter than a julep on a porch-swing, have an innate twinge of loss that isn’t so much sad as it is c’est la vie.
Maybe 2017 is the year everything turns to color after all.
Neha switched from ukulele to piano for the pensive “Love and Be Loved,” with a wisdom that cuts right to the quick: “We all want the same things / To love and be loved / Before it’s too late.”
The band played swinging renditions of the eponymous “Everything Turned to Color,” the wistful “Adelynn,” and the stirring “Somebody Loves You,” which is slowly becoming one of my favorites this year.
Ragtime comparisons may be apropos, and while I hear some James Taylor, Mark Knopfler, some Ella Fitzgerald by way of Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole and Django Reinhardt, Everything Turned to Color is its own singular concoction. Three unique talents that meld into something truly extraordinary.
Catch them on tour now.
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?