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Interviews

An interview with Lucky Bamba

An interview with Lucky Bamba

Lucas Noguera Wainer, also known by his stage name ‘Lucky Bamba,’ is no stranger to success on an international level. In 2016, he worked as a producer and performing musician for the album Las Mejores Canciones De Navidad, which was the best-selling Christmas album on iTunes Spain on December that year. His abilities as a multi-instrumentalist are showcased on that hit album, where he can be heard on the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. As a trained multi-instrumentalist, Lucky Bamba has performed at prestigious events backed by big name sponsors, including Jazz en Ville, a French music festival sponsored by major companies such as BMW, Mini, Air France, France Bleu, Paris Premiere, Ouest France, Casino de Vannes and Espace Culturel.

Q: How would you describe your new single, and what was the songwriting process like?

A: Musically speaking, I would describe my new single “Let You Go” as a combination of a pop song, mainly regarding its structure and catchy chorus melody, with jazzy/bluesy guitar licks and an overall soul essence. I always tend to start my songwriting process with my guitar. In this case I was just playing around until I stumbled upon an interesting chord progression. Then this catchy melody came into my head and by adding the looping lyrics “but my heart won’t let you go,” the chorus of the song was born. That was kind of a kick-start for my inspiration, and the rest just grew easily from there. I completed the chords and structure for the whole song, and finally composed the melody and lyrics.

Q: What inspires your lyrics?

A: I usually tend to write about things that most of the people can relate to. I want to make music that can connect with as many souls as possible, and therefore I try to write about things that kind of happen to everyone. I believe that love and human relationships have a very important role on everyone’s life. It could be related with your couple, a friend, a sibling, your parents, etc., but love and relations are always there. Either as a successful story, or as a failure, no one can deny that these themes are extremely important and rule our emotional worlds. I, therefore, frequently search for my inspiration through these topics that can definitely awaken passions and sensations on everyone.

Q: What instruments do you play, and how did you learn?

A: At the age of six, I started learning how to play piano with a classical teacher. I learned how to read and write music, and started off by playing classical pieces from Bach, Chopin and Mozart. Some years went by, and by the age of 12 my parents bought me my first guitar, a wooden classical guitar. It was like love at first sight. I became completely obsessed with this instrument and since then, it became my favorite, my passion. Some years went by, and I was very tempted to learn the different roles inside a classical band lineup. By the age of 15, I started to play bass and drums. I formed different bands along my adolescence. In some I sang and played the guitar, in others I played the bass, and in others the drums. This was very important for my musical growth, as I gained a sense of entirety, being able of perceiving the music from different perspectives.

Q: How many tunes do you normally write?

A: Well, I don’t have a schedule or a very clear measurement for my songwriting. It really varies from time to time. The number of songs and compositions I make depend entirely on the moment I’m going through, my feelings at that moment, and the free and calm time I have for sitting down and opening my heart and inspiration.

Q: Did performing covers assist you in helping your own artistry evolve? In what way?

A: Definitely, yes. Performing works from other artists is certainly very enriching. You learn from the different approaches other artist take to create, regarding their songwriting, vocal-phrasing, guitar-playing, soloing, etc. If you aspire to become an artistic creator, I think that learning and performing other artist’s pieces is very inspirational training.

Q: What would you like to achieve ideally by this time next year?

A: I just released my debut single entitled “Let You Go,” and I’m planning on releasing more of my original music soon. By this time next year, ideally I expect to have shared my music with as many people as possible.

Q: What’s the source of your ambition?

A: My love for music is the main source for my ambition. I love it because of its definition, because of what it represents. I think that music is the closest thing to magic we have as human beings. Just by the combination of sounds we are able of awakening emotions, make us feel happy or sad, make us cry or jump of excitement. Isn’t that magical? Music is so powerful. Therefore, being a musician and being able of communicating all these emotions is my number one ambition.

Q: What albums have had the greatest impact on you?

A: Definitely the album Continuum by John Mayer had the greatest impact on me. The perfect combination of pop, soft rock, and blues. His extremely soulful and heartfelt guitar playing and songwriting on that album were very inspiring and awakened a lot of motivation on me to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter. The album Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses was also an album that marked me. I remember I got that CD when I was 15-years-old. I was just starting to play electric guitar and got totally obsessed with Slash’s guitar playing. I wanted to learn every solo and riff, and I grew a lot as a guitar player listening and playing along to that album.

www.luckybamba.com

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Music Reviews

Katie Herzig

Katie Herzig

Apple Tree

Marion-Lorraine Records

Arising from the morass of overwrought, overdone, virtually tuneless music coming out recently, Katie Herzig’s Apple Tree is certain to become a favorite of those looking for something fun, fresh, and memorable. The Colorado born Herzig gained some notice while fronting the band Newcomers Home before needing to move to Nashville to aid her career. She has toured with Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, and The Fray. The fact that her songs have already been featured on TV shows and movies including One Tree Hill, Sex in the City, and Grey’s Anatomy proves that the move was a good idea.

Herzig’s folky pop feels quite modern and seems to owe more to Juliana Hatfield than Joni Mitchell and will fit nicely alongside CDs by the likes of Erin McKeown or Eleni Mandell. The blond songstress has a chirpy, quirky voice that thankfully never gets into Minnie Mouse mode, and is wonderfully infectious. The record is remarkably well produced and manages to be nicely layered with some unconventional instrumentation without detracting from Herzig’s voice and lyrics. The songs on Apple Tree range from moody ballads to jauntier songs like “How the West Was Won” and “Forevermore” which seem to fit Herzig’s talents the best.

Katie Herzig’s is the kind of CD that threatens to take over any iPod it is on and become a soundtrack to summer 2009.

Katie Herzig: www.katieherzig.com

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Music Reviews

Raya Yarbrough

Raya Yarbrough

Raya Yarbrough

Telarc

There’s always a place for a gorgeous-voiced woman in a slinky dress leaning on a piano. After a few apple-bacon-infused martinis she can do no wrong, and you can do nothing but wrong. Raya Yarbrough not only leans on the piano, she writes her own material, arranges it, and makes it sound like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington. Her gracious and melodic voice is the perfect accompaniment to the slow moody sound of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” or the subtly urgent “Joy Spring” by Clifford Brown, but she’s more than that.

Ms. Yarbrough writes most of her own material, and before reading the liner notes I confess to spending time trying to remember what show or album I’d heard these songs on. She’s that good, and on this debut album her material slides gracefully into the canon of jazz, lounge, and show music that America contributed to the world. Songs like “Listen, Emily” and “Vice and Vanity” carry little stories and if they don’t move her story forward, they at least get the exposition out of the way and make you wish it went on a little longer. Raya Yarbrough’s worth watching, she’s a singer/songwriter who could take on Carol King and Joni Mitchell.

Telarc: www.telarc.com

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Music Reviews

Bottom of the Hudson

Bottom of the Hudson

Songs From the Barrel Commando

Happy Home

That Bottom of the Hudson conjure up images of American indie rustics like Grandaddy, Red House Painters and Early Day Miners isn’t that surprising. They’re all hewn from various portions of the rural, lo-fi Americana landscape, where clattering guitars and shambolic rhythms tend to give way to an unexpected level of grandeur, when the band hits its stride. Hudson errs more on the grimy edge of this territory, vaguely thorny and unapproachable, where tuneless singers attempt three part anti-harmonies, where the distortion is allowed to creep much more liberally into the mix, careening half of the album headlong into the waiting arms of plodding dirges of the other half. This predilection for buzzsaw guitars and big pop riffs via moog places them close to Scandinavian greats like Moonbabies or homegrown bar-band stompers like The Replacements. It’s nice to hear a new, weird take on folk music that doesn’t lead to a flowery collective in San Francisco. More please.

Happy Home: www.happyhomerecords.com

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Music Reviews

Frida Hyvonen

Frida Hyvonen

Until Death Comes

Licking Fingers

Aside from Tori Amos’s Samara-like resurfacing every few years from the well of obscurity and a couple of neo-soul holdouts, the piano has lost favor as the singer/songwriter’s choice for weapon of melody. While inextricably linked to the era of such greats as Elton John, Carole King and Burt Bacharach, it’s borderline depressing that the most commercially viable ingénue for the instrument these days is Vanessa Carlton. Such a bleak future reflects well on Sweden’s Frida Hyvonen’s debut, Until Death Comes, a collection of ballads rife with minor chords and a jaunty simplicity stricken, like all good Scandinavian music, with melancholy.

Despite the deceptively skeletal arrangements, Hyvonen is no slack at the ivories; her songs channel enough nervous and elegant energy to firm up a rhythmic backbone. However, Hyvonen states, “I need silence to be present in the music, I think of it as beauty.” This silence becomes the defining aspect of her sound in the lopsided lilt of “Djuna!,” the stark and sturdy ode to the Big Apple “New York” and her sole foray into full band arrangements, “Come Another Night,” which is to be seen “as a romantic ballad… in an up-beat surrounding. When it ends, you come back to the empty room again.”

Hyvonen’s themes of isolation aren’t limited to her musical phrasing, they’re readily accessible in her lyrics where she continually skewers them in an indistinct world of squirmy romance. “One wonderful thing about [songwriting] is that you have the possibility to create new worlds, and find connections between things you remember, things you vaguely remember, things you vaguely remember someone else talk about, and things you know for a fact,” she says. One has to wonder the percentage of fact in “Once I Was Serene Teenage Child,” a tale of a young girl’s sexual awakening at the hands of an older man. It plays out like a Todd Solondz script condensed into three minutes. Later, she espouses obscure feminism on “The Modern,” in which she makes her male lover pregnant with their child, an undisclosed “word.”

Understandably, Hyvonen has caught fire in her homeland thanks to intelligent pop pathways forged by Jens Lekman, El Perro Del Marr and Jose Gonzalez, among others. Her rapidly expanding fan base is even more bizarrely charged than the characters in her songs, running from teenage girls in need of consolation, to fans of the last generational piano revolution, to men and women between 25 to 35 years-old “telling me how much they would like to be my lover, and why,” she says.

The video for the album’s first single, “The Modern,” shows a nearly feral Hyvonen building a piano from debris found in the woods and playing the song’s chorus before finally immolating her muse on a beach. “It was thrilling and very sad, even a bit dangerous, but it had to be done.” It’s a fitting Nordic end for her fallen comrade and a fine analogy for the first step of her career. With no one else giving a damn about the piano, she’s free to build it from the ground up or to destroy it.

Frida Hyvonen: www.fridahyvonen.com

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Music Reviews

Castanets

Castanets

First Light’s Freeze

Asthmatic Kitty

I dislike feeling in the dark when it comes to quality indie rock. After attempting to crack the code to Castanets’ previous album and their recent, near mirror effort, I’m still in need of someone willing to tell me what it is that I’m missing. There’s nothing on First Light’s Freeze that I feel is particularly objectionable; it’s just lacking in inspiration. Head Castanet Raymond Reposa writes decent minimalist songs, but he his voice doesn’t ring as weary as the rugged ambience he’s attempting to create demands. It simply sounds too Saddle Creek, and too O.C.-ready for me.

What really gets me about this album is the lack of progression from the last. Reposa even maintains the same programming order, having his lyric songs interspersed with short-lived instrumentals. Of course, I might be alone on this. His last release was well-received in quite a few circles, and it stands to reason that those same folks will enjoy another similar song cycle from the band. Me, I’ll just wrestle with the confusion for another year and hope Reposa can do something to break the mold the next time around.

Asthmatic Kitty: www.asthmatickitty.com

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Music Reviews

Nedelle

Nedelle

From the Lion’s Mouth

Kill Rock Stars

Two years ago, the Von Trapp children performed a seasonal-themed show at an establishment that called itself “the world’s largest Christmas store,” which was near where I was living at the time. I flirted briefly with the idea of going to bask in the spectacle, but even then thought such overwhelming saccharine kitsch gave me a headache. I’d like to think that if one of that family’s younger female members ever managed to extract herself from the pandering nostalgia circuit, she’d probably make an album like Nedelle’s From the Lion’s Mouth. With songs drenched in technicolor, the disc toes a fine line between pop, jazz, bossa nova and doo wop. Nedelle pulls this off despite keeping the instrumentation to a minimum — mostly just one finger-picked guitar. Her perfect songbird voice easily picks up the slack, providing nearly all the melody. Occasional assistance from outside sources bolster the energy on some tracks, most notably the deliriously off-kilter rhythm section of “Good Gried,” perhaps the album’s best moment. Lion’s Mouth is a breeding ground for unbridled optimism and eternal sunshine that lead to some overly precious lyrics, but these just add to Nedelle’s iconoclasm. Being on Kill Rock Stars — a label known for politics, attitude and distortion — Nedelle could still toe the label line and slay the modern rock hacks. She’d just do it singing sweetly, leading the fools straight back through the lion’s mouth and into the clutches of her riot grrl brethren.

Kill Rock Stars: www.killrockstars.com

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Music Reviews

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

A Sun Came

Asthmatic Kitty

This reissue of A Sun Came, in the shadow of Sufjan Stevens’s most recent work, is rather underwhelming and eclectic almost to a fault. The folkish core of Stevens’s best material is easily discernable on the wood flute/Scottish highland vibe of the opening trio of tracks, “We Are What You Say,” “A Winner Needs a Wand” and “Rake.” The theme begins to derail right afterwards…

For whatever reason, Stevens includes a handful of superfluous spoken word pieces that deal with various bodily functions and other unpleasantries, played at a sped-up chipmunk pace. Also not helping are the forays into sludgy, ponderous grunge and Middle Eastern raga on “Demetrius,” the ungainly quasi-funk of “Super Sexy Woman” and the truly horrific free-jazz attempt “Rice Pudding.” Even some of his better songs are marred by false, or extended, endings that drag simple pop archetypes past the six-minute mark.

The strength of Stevens’s subsequent work makes the voice-finding nature of this disc forgivable. I, for one, am thankful that from such a mash-up and wreck of genres that he was able to recognize and nurture only his strengths — intimacy, delicacy, brevity — and leave his shortcomings entirely out of his future songbook. As it is, A Sun Came is a hit-or-miss collection that’s better than college rock but still too sophomoric for all but the most devoted fan.

Asthmatic Kitty: www.asthmatickitty.com

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Music Reviews

Girlyman

Girlyman

Remember Who I Am

Daemon Records

Here’s a fun, smooth and entertaining folk trio with a name completely unrelated to recent political arguments. The members take turns writing, singing and playing, and all approach the varying assignments with skill and poise. Doris Muramatsu is my favorite, with the touching “The Shape I Found You In,” a smooth, folksy ballad with a slick, big city feeling.

The other members of this band, Nate Bronsky and Ty Greenstein, carry a tune just as well, and the three together turn in some amazing harmonies. The songwriting is quite strong, and some of their lyrics can bring you to tears if things are messed up enough in your life. For some reason, the little line “rope ladders to your heart” (from “Shape I Found You In”) really got me. Brrr….

This is what mellow music SHOULD sound like: cutting but not sappy, reassuring without being overly optimistic. Girlyman has a timeless sound and a magical delivery.

Girlyman: www.girlyman.com

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Music Reviews

Jens Lekman

Jens Lekman

When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog

Secretly Canadian

After reviewing Jens Lekman’s three introductory EPs, it’s starting to get difficult to heap praise on him without sounding overly repetitive. If you’re not familiar with Lekman from these four-to-five song spurts, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog should be the album that ropes you in. All the bright spots from his back catalog are here: beautiful lo-fi orchestration, proto-punk fervor, strings copped from ’50s lounge acts, etc. Lekman also throws in a nod to alt. country with some very prominent mandolin as well as some a capella on the anarchic Gothenberg affair “Do You Remember the Riots?”

Lekman outdoes himself in the lyric department yet again, capturing both heartbreaking emotion and random whimsy perfectly. I mean, come on … the opening line of the first track is, “Did you take tram number seven to heaven? / Did you eat your banana from 7-11?” Who else could pull off lines like this and give them equal gravity as, “In church on Sunday making out in front of the preacher / you had a black shirt on with a big picture of Nietzsche?”

This is undoubtedly one of the best releases of 2004, and I could prattle on about its merits at greater length, but I’ve got to save some of my sycophantic adjectives for his releases next year…

Secretly Canadian: www.secretlycanadian.com