Shelby Earl recommends Jonsi

Shelby Earl and Jonsi

Shelby Earl and Jonsi

Shelby Earl’s recommendation: “There are a number of artists who move me or whose music makes me feel deeply, but there is one at the top of the heap – one who regularly takes me somewhere special with his music: Icelandic artist, Jonsi. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jonsi live multiple times, both with his band, Sigur Ros and solo (I even got to see him play IN Iceland!) and every show has been extraordinary. I don’t know what Jonsi’s spiritual beliefs or practices are, but to me he seems undeniably tapped into the divine. He lays himself bare when he plays music and he takes his listeners to church every time. It’s as though he is dedicated to beauty above all else in his art. Through his ethereal voice and his songwriting – both seemingly full of immense heartache AND hope – and through instrumentation so beautiful it’s almost painful (strings, winds, keys, heavy rhythm, layered voices, etc), Jonsi’s music is utterly transcendent. And not only is he a brilliant artist, but I had the opportunity to hang out with him after a Seattle show in 2010 and found that he’s also an incredibly kind and genuine person. How rare and exciting to learn that an artist’s heart is as beautiful as the music they make. He is an inspiration on all levels.”

New to Jonsi? Shelby suggests you start here: “I would recommend every Sigur Ros album – especially Takk (2005) and Með suð í eyrum… (2008) – but above all I would recommend Jonsi’s debut solo album Go (2010).”

Shelby EarlAbout our guest author, Shelby Earl: Shelby’s story is the sort of underdog tale that both inspires and restores faith for artist-wannabe office workers who think about trashing their steady gig and risking it all to pursue their dreams. Shelby spent her days at several arts related jobs in the Pacific Northwest, including stints at The Experience Music Project and as a music liaison at Amazon, but her true calling was song craft and performing. “To be totally honest, I was pretty unhappy those last couple years doing the 9-5,” Earl told Spinner, so she quit, threw herself into writing and caught the attention of two heavyweights on the indie music scene: John Roderick, lead singer of The Long Winters, who went on to produce Shelby’s collection of tunes, and Rachel Flotard, the can-do powerhouse behind Visqueen who also runs Local 638 Records. Her debut, Burn the Boats quickly gained support from Earl’s long time acquaintance, Ann Powers (NPR/LA Times) who passionately wrote “… I don’t want this record to get lost in the avalanche of releases that confronts every critic and music fan…Burn the Boats is an album beyond trends, a classic work of singer-songwriterly craft and beautifully framed confession.” Praise for Earl poured in from other outlets as NPR made At the Start the song of the day and Seattle Weekly dubbed the same track as “…an early frontrunner for best song put out by any artist in 2011.” To cap off this feel good story, Burn the Boats snagged the number one spot on her former employers’ (Amazon) “Outstanding 2011 Albums You Might Have Missed” list. Be sure to visit Shelby’s site for tour dates, to join her Facebook page and more.

MP3: Under Evergreen by Shelby Earl from Burn the Boats

Jason Young of Heartour recommends Nada Surf

Jason Young of Heartour and Nada Surf

Jason Young’s recommendation: “My pick is Nada Surf. Most people remember these guys for their gimmicky 90′s hit Popular, but the records they have made in the last ten years are the ones that resonate with me. The formula is simple: drums, bass, guitar with great melodies and clever lyrics. These guys write great songs that feel good and flow easily into your life. They have this vibe about them that seems to whisper ‘It can be a cold dark world outside but there’s a fire inside’.”

New to Nada Surf? Jason suggests you start here: The Nada Surf record that hooked me was Weight Is a Gift.

Jason YoungAbout our guest author, Jason Young: Jason is the full time drummer for The Ruse, but Heartour represents the place where Jason is boss and becomes a one man maestro that expertly blends calming vocals and driving electronic bleep/bloop filled soundscapes that bring to mind the best of New Order and Yeasayer. His latest album, Submarine Sounds is his strongest yet and we equally love the bouncy opener, Big City Drinking, the bolder sounding Yaaay!, which evokes a sunnier Nine Inch Nails and the gorgeous album closer, The Idea of You (mp3 below). This is an ‘up’ album, so grab your headphones and prepare to move. Check the Heartour web site for more info.

MP3: The Idea of You by Heartour from Submarine Sounds

Joe Grushecky recommends Pat McLaughlin and Eli “Paperboy” Reed

Joe Grushecky and Eli "Paperboy" Reed

Joe Grushecky and Eli "Paperboy" Reed

Joe Grushecky’s recommendation: “My favorite CD of the past couple of years is Horsefly by a journeyman singer/songwriter/guitarist named Pat McLaughlin. I saw Pat play at Douglas Corners in Nashville and was blown away by his band and songs. The CD has everything I look for: great playing, impeccable grooves, intelligent meaningful lyrics, and passionate soulful singing. I think it really speaks to an audience that has a few miles on them (like me!). I have listened to this album endlessly.

Also, I have recently discovered Eli “Paperboy” Reed and his Come And Get It CD. I grew up listening to a lot of soul music, both mainstream and obscure stuff. Eli has an authentic sound. It is timeless, modern, and retro all at the same time. I like the horns and really admire his singing. My son discovered it in my car CD player. “Hey Dad, listen to this!” Listen indeed.”

Joe GrusheckyAbout our guest author, Joe Grushecky: Joe has been making straight forward, righteous rock records since 1979. His first record with the Iron City Houserockers caught the attention of Rolling Stone’s Greil Marcus as he wrote, “…their debut album is strong, passionate and a little desperate…I hope they’re around for a long, long time.” The praise continued into the early ’80s as Joe and the band released three more albums, including Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive which was slugged by Rolling Stone as “a new American classic.” Joe split with his first band and took a position as a special education teacher in Pittsburgh (where he still lives and teaches today), but the rocker was far from finished. He formed a new group, The Houserockers, put out three more three more gutsy, earnest records and in 1995, Joe released American Babylon, a collection produced by fellow working class hero, Bruce Springsteen, whom Joe had met through Steve Van Zandt. Bruce co-wrote two of the songs for the album and even toured with Joe and the band. That marked the first of several collaborations between Joe and Bruce (the most recent being a November, 2011 two-night stand in Pittsburgh, review here) including the pair co-writing Code of Silence which has become a staple in Bruce’s live show. Joe has a new live CD out called We’re Not Dead Yet and you can catch his full-throttle performances by checking his tour page.

* Related: Joe Talks Working With Springsteen – and Teaching High School in Rolling Stone