I have realized that the key to my success in 2012 is to master the art of multitasking. As my head spins, I understand that this year is the busiest that I have been in my entire life. The first months have been jam packed with a new job, travel, spending time with family and friends, and continuing to try find the next album that sticks with me. Often, my posts come fast and provide me with an immediate opportunity to share my favorite new music with you. While I am granted a certain satisfaction from my contributions, it is immediate and then forgotten. There is little time to reflect on yesterday while sharing my tastes as there is always something new that I want to be talking about. The best part of contributing to this rapid-fire blog post blitz is when a record stands so tall that I hit a wall and reflect. Overcoming this type of obstacle is a blessing because it forces me to slow down and focus as life moves 100 miles per hour in front of me. This type of record demands a certain focus and a conscious concentration. Although, it is a tower to climb, the journey offers an opportunity to open the door for much needed meditation. Jessie Baylin’s Little Spark is the first record to insert itself in my musical skyline this year and I think it will linger a while before returning to earth.
Singer-songwriter Jessie Baylin uses beautiful arrangements to make Little Spark resonate with its listeners. After the first time I listened to this record, I pondered on its messages and realized that this was one that I could tell my parents about. A stripped down, masterfully orchestrated piece about love bred from a vocal fusion of country and soul made me realize that it not only spoke to different genres, but more importantly opposing generations. Little Spark strikes a myriad emotional chords, which provide a catalyst for thought. Listeners of all ages can relate to this material.
It should be noted that while Baylin’s vocals provide the talking points on this record, it is Richard Swift who has built its backbone with his consistently strong arrangements. Longtime member of The Shins, Swift serves as the chief arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and a pseudo coach for Baylin during the recording. Swift brought Baylin to Oregon to record the first three tracks and then finished the journey with producer Kevin Augunas in Los Angeles. The adoption of a stellar supporting cast displays Baylin’s flexibility and willingness to progress. Early listeners of Baylin will admit that Little Spark does not sound like anything that she has ever recorded. The influence of Swift, Augunas and composer Jimmie Haskell fostered a growth in Baylin’s writing.
“The Greatest Thing That Never Happened”
Track, “The Greatest Thing That Never Happened” begins with simple piano chords and a slow bass line that emphasizes Baylin’s commitment to simplicity. Horns enter to provide emphasis to the melody, a point for Swift that is noted by attentive listeners. Baylin’s vocals remain the centerpiece throughout, with each additional sound strategically designed by the album’s veteran architects. A full team effort that shows that it takes more than a star singer to create a championship recording.
For me, “Yuma” serves as Little Spark‘s signature track. Baylin’s voice peaks as she sings, “Give him Arizona, and I took the California coast, tired of borders, I am going back to where I left my ghost.” This post-breakup seclusion displays the stick in the ground separation that we all demand after heartbreak. The incorporation of specific locations provides value to Baylin’s story as she paints a picture of the power of separation for all her listeners. Eventually, we all realize there is a time to jump the borders and explore new territory. Baylin displays that destination is oftentimes unknown, but the thought of relocation lead by the openness to explore new lands. “Yuma” provides the off the cuff escape that can help fill the void and turn down the blues. A fantastic fantasy laced with hope and message that Baylin drives into following track “Holiday”. These songs present an obstacle for listeners while providing the important opportunity to reflect before having to make that decision.
The structure of ‘Little Spark’ offers an extremely listenable record open to many forums. It goes well with coffee in the morning. It helps to maintain composure while battling a deadline at work. It provides company in a single bedroom apartment. Most importantly, it provides me the opportunity to talk music with Dad. An opportunity that will always slow down time, no matter how insane life gets.
Written by Brett McGrath
To put it mildly, I have been head over heels for Jessie Baylin since the release of her free Pleasure Center EP in late November. The EP, of mostly covers, has been a weekly listen and my go-to before bed spin. January 17th will serve as the release date for her full length album Little Spark. My guess is that you won’t find Baylin gaining much coverage across the indie blogosphere. Her pop music upbringing and marriage to Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill make her too un-hip for the likes of Pitchfork. This is an outright shame, because Little Spark has the potential to contend for one of the top releases of the first half of 2012.
Baylin reached out to some seriously talented folks to add their touch to the album. Richard Swift, of The Shins, served as multi-instrumentalist and played an integral role in Little Spark‘s arrangements. (Pleasure Center EP was recorded in a single day on a four-track in Baylin’s living room, with Swift at the helm.) Legendary composer and three-time Grammy winner Jimmie Haskell played the role of conductor, while Kevin Augunus rounded out the squad as producer. Augunus has worked with a wide range of artists from Sinead O’Connor to Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Watch the trailer for the album below, and prepare yourself for one of the pleasant surprises of 2012.
For a limited time, Amazon is offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of the track “Hurry Hurry.” Stream below.
Written by Rob Peoni
5. She Does Is Magic – She Does Is Magic
I fell in love with this Indianapolis release immediately. Catchy, surf rock overtones without the whiny voices that dominate the genre. If the full length, due out next year on Bloomington’s Flannelgraph Records, is half as good as the sneak peek, we’ll have another Hoosier band to tout.
4. Gary Clark Jr. – The Bright Lights EP
I was late to the bandwagon with Mr. Clark, but boy am I happy to be aboard! Austin’s native son has been gigging on his native Texas turf since the age of 12. His type of music is exactly what the latest Keys album was missing – pure, heartfelt blues of the highest order.
3. Jessie Baylin – Pleasure Center EP
This one came out of left field directly into my heart. The songstress known best for pop vocals and her marriage to The Kings of Leon’s Nathan Followill, recorded this collection of covers in a single day in her living room. It has become my go to pre sleep spin. Download it for free via Soundcloud above.
2. Typhoon – A New Kind of House
I have been certifiably obsessed with Portland’s Typhoon since NPR featured them in a Tiny Desk Concert from South by Southwest back in January. This mammoth orchestral folk has every one of my guilty pleasures: Great lyrics, horns, cute chicks and a touch of timelessness. Their after show at Lollapalooza was one I’ll never forget.
1. Alabama Shakes – Alabama Shakes
The Year of The Shakes. They play tonight in Indianapolis and I could not be any more thrilled about laying my eyes on the soul-infused rockers from Athens, AL. If you follow this blog, you know we’ve thrown just about any material we can get our hands on from these cats. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this epic release tonight at Radio Radio in Fountain Square.
Written by Rob Peoni