Dream in Color
Dream in Color is available at:
Indie-Folk; Acoustic; Rock
5th December, 2016
The E.P., Dream in Color, is available at:
THIS review looks at an area of the world I have…
a lot of fondness for. I wanted to look at Brooklyn and the type of music coming out of there. I will look at genres and unexpected sounds; female artists and the chores of starting a career; solo artists and that D.I.Y. approach – songs that explore beauty and original themes. I shall start with Brooklyn and a part of the world I have not been to for a long time now. I can’t remember the last time I looked at the borough but I am fascinated by New York music. There is something about the way they do things: it is such an intriguing and fascinating city to look at. Of course, there are those five boroughs but they are all very different. My first exposure to the area came from Beastie Boys. Aside from name-checking the borough in many of their hits; they seemed to have taken the street-sounds and flavour of the borough in all their music. I know they moved to California at some point and sort of detached from New York a bit. I have spent a lot of time looking at Californian artists and sort of neglected New York. It is a funny thing having a blog: you tend to get requests from people who are associated with other acts – for that reason, because I have not been in New York a while, it has been (mainly) L.A. artists. That is not to say I am ungrateful: Los Angeles is one of the finest areas of music in the world. That said, you cannot deny the legacy and brilliance of New York. Even if you split it into boroughs, there are certain parts that provoke great music. Manhattan is perhaps the best and most productive area for music. The way I see it; Manhattan is that centre and tourist Mecca. It has all that mix of styles and artists there. I feel it is broader than other boroughs of New York and gets a lot of the attention.
It is understandable many people flock there for great new music as it seems to be the place for great New York music. That said; there is a lot of pressure on the borough to perform and continue. I can rattle off the bands and artists that are making Manhattan burst and fizz but it is Brooklyn on my mind. I mentioned Beastie Boys are Brooklyn brothers that had that affinity to the borough. I always associate Brooklyn with raw and edgier music – it has that reputation for some grittier and innovative music. We often associate Brooklyn with Hip-Hop, Rap and music that has a bit more attitude and punch. Maybe that is parallel to the perception we have of the area: it is a little more ‘real’, Urban and dangerous, perhaps. Don’t get me wrong on that, at all. I only mean there is a perception of Brooklyn I think is a little unfair. New York is a state complex and divided: there is a unity between its people but the boroughs are all very different. I have reviewed artists from Queens that have that flair, flavour and pop; those from Staten Island a bit more arty and intellectual, in some respects. Brooklyn, to me, brings the passion and force. Staten Island and Richmond (the capital) has a smaller population than the other boroughs – it is about 474,000 at the moment. Manhattan, despite its bustle and size, has slightly fewer people than The Bronx – both hovering around 1,600/1,700 or there about. Queens has about 2.4 million whilst Brooklyn has 2.6 million – maybe slightly more at the moment. They are rough figures but Brooklyn has Kings as its capital; Queens has Queens. It is a regal balance that is musically appropriate. I often assume Queens is more ‘feminine’ and restrained; Brooklyn has that austerity and iron fist. Again, this is my takeaway from exposure to music from the boroughs. My main point is that New York is a complex girl who deserves more attention. L.A. gets all that acclaim and people lust after its music, sunshine and scenery.
New York has that reputation as being more unforgiving, less tranquil and more crowded. Inside that cosmopolitan clammer is a wealth of musicians. Brooklyn is an absolute Paradise for great artists. I will mention my featured artist in a minute but she slots into a borough overflowing with promise. It is a vivid, variegated hang-out that is inspiring the new generation. I will mention an article by BK Magazine (http://www.bkmag.com/2016/04/25/9-nyc-bands-need-hear/) and their tips but consider the artists that play around Brooklyn. Established artists like Sufjan Stevens hails from the borough and you can just tell, can’t you?! His blend of experimental and eccentric music seems to vibe from Brooklyn and takes from every corner of the place. Those interesting back-alleys and the eye-catching panoramas; the mix of cultures, people and hotspots – sticking his head around every doorway and sniffing in every scent, sight and suggestion. Big bands at the moment like Parquet Courts, TV on the Radio; Yeasayer and LCD Soundsystem hail from Brooklyn and, between them, are among the most interesting and influential modern acts. LCD Soundsystem, like Stevens, represents the complexities and character of Brooklyn in a very different way. In additional the established boys (and girls) of Brooklyn; there is a new wave of talent that is worth keeping a close check on. TORRES is the moniker of Mackenzie Scott: she is signed to Partisan and has captivated audience across the borough – and beyond. Her second album, Sprinter, came out in the middle of last year and engrossed critics. She is someone who is able to silence rowdy crowds with a few notes. A reminder of the beauty and power some of Brooklyn’s finest singers possesses. Stranger Cat is another worthwhile artist and stems from Cat Martino. Her lauded debut album documented break-ups and heartache but did so in a cheery and almost matter-of-fact way. A new approach to the love-mainframe: an artist capable of providing original takes on heartbreak and producing plenty of nuances with it. Similarly, LEIF is an act who compels you to dance and lose your inhibitions.
Color Guard are a bunch of ragtag scruffs who provide thoughtful and earworm Pop. Their music is perfect for chilling out to and getting the blood racing. They are complex and simple; colourful and direct – a great band that is looking set to claim large chunks of America over the coming months. Thanks to http://www.bkmag.com/2016/04/25/9-nyc-bands-need-hear/ for tips: BK Magazine laid out recommendations (last year) for artists worth your time and attention. Eartheater is Alexandra Drewchin’s solo project. She is a multi-instrumentalist and blends jarring, sharp noises with delicacy. Many call her music extreme and polemic but it is broad and varied. Her voice has a tenderness and sophistication whilst the compositions are packed with all sorts of emotions and possibilities. Anyone who thought they had Brooklyn music figured would do well to hear Eartheater. Japanese Breakfast, with that great name, is the project of Michelle Zauner. Her crew put together Psychopomp and projected a volcanic brand of Pop that tackles difficult topics. It is dreamy and rushing but looks at loss, climax and pain with authority, sensitivity and intelligence. It is another case of Brooklyn musicians looking at human emotions but wrapping them in something accessible and detailed. There is never a sense of being dragged into a chasm of darkness and foreboding fire. Laetitia Tamko unveiled Vagabon’s spine-tingling Persian Garden E.P. back in 2014. Back then, there was a lot of attention coming her way. No mystery as her singer-songwriter skin masks a soul that yearns to explode and reveal everything. A bit Post-Punk and Rock: a tantalising thrill-ride of contrasts that is propelled by Tamiko’s incredible songwriting – the band have had several iterations; she is the one constant. She is recording and continuing to produce material at the moment. One of Brooklyn’s most promising and alluring talents – definitely worth fonder investigation.
The last few New York/Brooklyn names I want to bring in begins with Israeli-born Ohal. She is a multi-instrumentalist who released her solo album Acid Park (her debut) last year. She has had an itinerant background and travelled to Paris as a teenager. Only armed with a Casio keyboard; she arrived in America’s Midwest before heading to the New York just days before the attacks on the Twin Towers. That tragedy and atrocity was an eye-opener for someone new to the nation. No safely ensconced in Brooklyn; she is reflecting the times and another songwriter who brings internationality and cosmopolitan strands to her work. Black Marble released A Different Arrangement back in 2012 and have, since then, have been a bit quiet. There is talk of more material and a return to that exceptional album. Diamond Terrifier (Sam Hillmer) is loud and weird – only in a wonderful way – a couple more artists who deserve attention and respect. That is just the tip of the new acts in Brooklyn. I will return to this subject in the conclusion but find it interesting dissecting Erin Pellnat. She has band experience – I will touch on that in the conclusion – but wanted to look at her in the context of Brooklyn and those who mix genres. I have seen some reviewers label her work as radio-friendly. That word tends to throw up images of bland Pop and basic songwriter that does not challenge the mind. In a more accurate way, it is music that is easy to love but challenges deeper thought. Most of my perceptions about Brooklyn stem from those artists that slam it down and dig the grit from the pavements. You cannot assume Brooklyn is all about attitude and flair: it has so many layers and different areas. As Pellnat proves, you cannot define a borough as busy and diverse as Brooklyn. She is making her way as a young musician but is taking inspiration from the streets, people and daily life. What strikes me about her work is a distinct confidence and authority. Her music never seems reluctant or under-cooked: every moment is from a songwriter who knows what she is doing and what she wants to achieve.
I wanted to focus on Dream in Color’s title track as the best definition of the E.P. The four-track explores different emotions and aspects (more on that later) and brings so many different genres together. I always find myself attracted to musicians that push the boundaries and do not go for the obvious. Were Pellnat merely an average radio-friendly act she would not be quite so experimental and considerate. I hear so many new artists produce the most uninspired and basic compositions around. It is aimed squarely at those with short attention spans that do not really want to be challenged. With Dream in Color, one experiences something a lot more crafted and provoking. One gets (in the E.P.) bits of Bossa-Nova, Folk; some Pop and Soul – pretty much everything in-between! It takes a few listens to really appreciate all the E.P. has to offer. I shall get to that later but, for the moment, wanted to single Pellnat out as a female talent with a future. Although she is at the forefront of the music; credit must go to her father, Christopher, who pens the songs – the heartbeat behind the music. It is 2017 and music is as busy and competitive as any time in history. Cities are big and there is so much pressure for artists to succeed. It is hard standing aside and getting your music heard these days. Not to disparage newcomers but things are hard and by no means certain. It is daunting considering being in Brooklyn and launching a debut E.P. You are in a borough that is part of a massive state: from there, you need to connect with local media and engage social media. Performing around Brooklyn – with hundreds of other new artists doing the same – it is can reduce the best of us to tears. With Pellnat, you have someone who realises the challenges and is, rather impressively, producing music that is better than most stuff out there. I have given you a flavour of new Brooklyn music and will go into more depth in the closing remarks. It is a populous borough that is in, debatably, the greatest place for music in the world. I would challenge London could take it in a fight but have massive respect for New York in general. What one hears (from their artists) is something instant and defined. What I mean is you never struggle to find a band/artist that gets straight into the mind.
If you want some great Rock and Punk from Brooklyn; there is enough out there. Go a few blocks away and one can experience some fantastic Pop and experimental Jazz. Flip down a side-alley and in the neon shadow of a local club, your ears can detect some phenomenal Electronica. To get ahead in Brooklyn, one must have a number of things – a steely resolve, fantastic music and the ability to subvert expectations. Pellnat reacts to the life and contrasts of Brooklyn and blends it with observations on universal concerns. There is a lot of personality in her music; you discover hints of her influences and impressions of the area she resides in. Female artists are in my mind this year and ensuring they get proper respect. I have mentioned a few Brooklyn female wonders and an insight into what the borough contains. I love the boys and their music but have a special place in my heart for the girls of music. I feel they are under more pressure and have fewer opportunities. I want to bring it back in – a point I have mentioned frequently – but the issue extend to the U.S. Erin Pellnat is an unsigned musician in Brooklyn which must provide a sense of freedom but some fears with it. She does not need to follow dictate and be moulded by a record label – told how to dress and what to say. That being said, there is a lack of financial and commercial backing one might find with a label. I am sure she will get a deal pretty soon – Dream in Color is a great step that should prick the ears of those labels in New York. Old Flame Records or Sacred Bones have, between them, signed Cloud Nothings and Zola Jesus. I suggest Ba Da Bing – who has Beirut on their books – might be a label perfectly suited to Pellnat. Virtual Label or The End Records are slightly bigger but scouting for fresh talent. I am not sure whether Pellnat favours the lack of restrictions one finds being independent or is seeking the guidance and acknowledgement of a local label. It cannot be too long before her talent catches the eye of an influential name.
With female artists, I almost feel they are on the back foot the moment they come into music. I am uncertain whether Brooklyn is the same as cities in the U.K. – there does seem to be a universality to things. I know there will be female artists in Brooklyn that have enormous talent but being overlooked by male bands and artists. I shall not go too much into the sexism debate but know New York must suffer from that. We see it enough in London and it seems to be an epidemic in the world of music. Pellnat knows she will have to battle that extra bit harder but not someone who wags her fingers are record labels and male peers. Instead, she produces honest and fascinating music that should see her climb the rungs of the commercial ladder. I know for a fact there are some wonderful venues in Brooklyn that are readymade for Pellnat. I have been in love with The Knitting Factory ever since I heard one of Jeff Buckley’s final concerts there. I might be going off-piste but it is important to look at the Brooklyn live scene and opportunities open to new performers. The Knitting Factory is a perfect and evocative space that have seen, as said, legends like Jeff Buckley play – as he was premiering material from his, unfortunately, incomplete album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. It seems tailored for Pellnat and somewhere she could cut her teeth. Not to create a digression but Brooklyn is bursting with great venues and spots the likes Pellnat could own. Glasslands is down in the Williamsburg neighbourhood and promotes Indie bands on the edge of the mainstream. Don Pedro, down in East Williamsburg, has some excellent bands playing there – in addition to some top-notch tacos! Another two great spots would be Silent Barn over in Bushwick. It is a hipster hang-out that is becoming a must-play for D.I.Y. artists. That seems like a great place for Pellnat to showcase her music and get inside the local mindset. Trans-Pecos is on the Queens/Bushwick border and prides itself on experimental sounds and D.I.Y. musicians of all kinds.
Thinking of those great D.I.Y. venues around Brooklyn; it makes me think of Erin Pellnat and her ethics. She is one of those musicians, with Christopher Pellnat as songwriter, who can create vivid intensity and dreamy diversions with minimal technology and studio intrusion. I feel the D.I.Y. route is not only becoming fashionable and preferred but completely necessary. Many new acts have so little revenue coming in: it means their balance sheets are going to be lop-sided and profitability is not going to be instant. I have a lot of love for homemade and self-produced music as it gives control to an artist and forces a different creative mind. If you are unsigned and having to put all your sounds together, the sheer pressure can be immense. That being said, it does force one to be inventive and economical. Is that really true? I would say there is a lot of promise in older recording techniques and technology. You can elicit originality and excitement from eight-track recorders; I have reviewed bands putting music onto cassettes and stripping things right back. Technological breakthroughs have given us a music studio in the palm of our hands: one can sample all sorts of instruments and produce their songs without much fuss. Whilst it is good to have that accessibility and range; I wonder whether too many artists are readily feeding their songs into the machine and negating the importance of real instruments. It is an interesting debate and one I can see validity in. If you look at the struggle and reality of a D.I.Y. artist, you would forgive them for resorting to iPads and sound samples. In a way, you can create some fantastic and direct music that way – I am reminded of The Streets who, back in 2002, uses samples when creating Original Pirate Material. Locked in the bedroom, nary a dollar to your name, how tangible would it be for Pellnat to employ loads of musicians? Dream in Colour is her utilising her own talents and not taking an easy option. Despite the fact she has to graft and campaign on her own – she has managed to produce a fantastic, D.I.Y. album that does not sound inferior to any studio-created effort.
It is really difficult getting attention if you do not have a record label behind you. I interview and review a lot of acts who have the backing of P.R. companies and labels. They still have to work hard but have someone else taking care of promotions and gig bookings. The D.I.Y. artist, conversely, shoulders all the workload and has to divide their time between recording, promoting and touring. With Pellnat, she is in a great part of America that provides sufficient venues and wonderful local acts. It means she is in a competitive market and a borough that has a lot of great music. She is one of the better artists of Brooklyn because of her ethos and drive. There are few more passionate and determined musicians than her. It is exciting seeing a new artist coming through and making their first moves. Whilst the challenges and daily life of a musician can be daunting it does not mean everything is bad. In fact, it is one of those industries with limitless possibilities. I am not too sure what 2017-Brooklyn sounds like but I know there are some great acts coming out right now. Pellnat will vibe from that but is determined not to be compared with anybody else. It is an exciting and busy time for music: 2016 was a bad year for many reasons so there is that collective need to bring joy and magic to this year. Pellnat does freelance work for a local studio and fronts her own band – I shall go into that later. She has that experience that will help her rise above most her peers and gain her respect. I wanted to look at Dream in Color’s title track – whilst mentioning the rest of the work – because it brings together that wonderful rich music and vintage touches. You get a sense of history and bygone glory (in her work) together with modern dynamics.
That brings me – just before I come to look at her work – to songs and music that do things differently. Dream in Colour (E.P.) has Bossa-Nova and accordion. There are some fantastic beats and so much going on in the music – the combination of father-daughter Christopher and Erin. I find a lot of bands are stifled by rigidity and do not stretch their creative palette that much. Too many solo artists are not extended their range which means you get some rather beige and insipid artists around. Those who go the extra mile and put imagination in their music will always be more appreciated and respected. Dream in Color’s title track is about someone unable to see the beauty in life – too closed off and not willing to let the light in. So many songs address love and that comes at the expense of an original thought. Pellnat (Christopher) has crafted a song that, one suspects, refers to a lot of people but could be about a specific subject. It is an interesting idea and one relevant to the time we live in: there is a lot of bad out there but plenty of good out there. Many reviewers have been buzzing about the song and eating up its messages and brilliant sound. It is a stunning track from an artist who wants to be known for her original voice. I am impressed by her songwriting because you get that lyrical freshness – it makes you think and raises some great points. The music is varied and lush; it mixes genres and sounds whilst sounding natural and flowing. That central vocal is commanding and has that tough exterior – able to project vulnerability and sensitivity when required. All this comes through in an E.P. blossoming into life and seducing press in New York. Stay is a love song (couched as a song of thanks) aimed at mothers and fathers – how they equip us to love. Blues Skies and Happiness is a Bossa-Nova-flavoured jam that is a breakup song – never one that sounds depressed or resigned. Forever Kisses has that accordion-drenched Waltz that is a homage to the passage of time. You get ideas of love and life but a unique perspective on common themes.
Before I come to look at Dream in Color’s title track, it is worth having a brief look at the other E.P. tracks. Blue Skies and Happiness begins with a soft and romantic guitar introduction. Pellnat’s voice is smooth and graceful; it has beauty and power in it. Maybe looking at a particular friend or sweetheart: they were lying and not a prince. It is, with him, all “grey skies”. Things are not blue and sunny as they should be. Pellant’s voice is commanding and gorgeous throughout in a song whose composition is quite minimal. There is a brief hiss of percussion and some breezy guitar notes – for the most part, it is a slinky and slight backing. It reminds me of a classic singer like Julie London scoring a Riviera-set song during the 1950s. It is an instant track that has that cool breeze but keeps you hooked with the lyrical meanings and depths. Stay opens with that vocal and another chance to hear a singer in a league of her own. You get all sorts of emotions coming through. Christopher Pellant’s lyrics intrigue from the early stages – “I’m the daughter of my father and on his behalf I welcome you to stay/This house is mine until the end of time” – and you are caught in something rather captivating. It is another vocal performance that has a sensuality and smoothness to it. Never does it become too hot or heavy but never too slight. Pellnat’s control and talent keep you curious and brings the listener into a world of song – you picture the lyrics and put yourself directly in the scene. As it continues, those Gallic strings come out and provide a wistful sense of romance. You imagine rolling hills and the countryside come into view. The story unravels as the heroine plays it sly – she is quite shy – and wants her subject to stay. Whether a lover or a close acquaintance; you hear that desire emerge from the vocal performance. Again, the composition has its moments but the emphasis is on the lead vocal.
By the final track, you have a sense of Pellnat’s vocal strengths and the beautiful variations of lyrics/composition. Forever Kisses has a sway and sound that reminds me, strangely, of The Cardigan’s album, Life. That mix of sounds and perfect Pop blend puts me in mind of the Swedish band. The E.P. closer is something that looks at sunshine and sandwiches; walks on the beach – that need to preserve something happy and pure. Pellnat’s voice is lullaby-like and swinging. It has that sway and dance that makes the song waltz-like and beautiful. Backed by slight percussion and effectively rousing guitar strings; it is a song you wish would go on for longer. Ironic of its title, you yearn for more as it gets into the heart and creates all sorts of reactions. Like the other tracks on the E.P., there is that incredible vocal but you get different compositions and themes explored on each track. Life in Color is an E.P. that can accompany you on a sunset drive or occupy your mind when you are on a beach – it can go anywhere and perfectly lift the mood. Those 1950s shades and old-time, black-and-white romance emerges: it is rare to hear that from a modern young artist. The bond and connection between the two Pellnat’s is clear throughout. I was amazed by the range of sounds and that comparison to The Cardigans is not rash. Life, their 1995 album, contained lush productions and varied composition; a perfect 1990s’ Pop album and that balance of exuberance and tenderness. In the same way the songwriters for The Cardigans – before Nina Persson took up scribbling – were Heavy Metal fans – and subverted that with brilliant Pop songs – you would not expect Pellnat, a Brooklyn native, to have that sound. Her songwriter is an established musician and producer so has got that background and skillset – able to weave incredible songs and take the listener in different directions. Life in Color is dexterous and expansive: suggesting there is plenty more material and promise in the future.
The other three tracks on the E.P. have a somewhat luxurious, tenderness that mixes in beauty and grace with cinematic swathes and heartfelt, vivid lyrics. The title track is a bit of a different affair. From the opening bars, you know it is a darker and deep song that its sisters. There is a hint of an organ and hard, plucked strings. That marriage has an edginess and shadow to it: combining with light and relief, it is a compelling opening that leads to an incredible vocal. In terms of style, you hear some shades of Lana Del Rey, perhaps, but I get some Country vibes. The guitars definitely wear cowboy boots but the lyrics themselves defy genre and restriction. The opening lines – “Think fast, faster than you can haul ass/Away from your deep and dark past” – are delivered in a very special way. It is another song where there is such movement in the vocal dynamic. There is syncopating but the lines rise and then dip”: there is a skip and step to the delivery which brings them right into the mind. Instead of the more straightforward delivery of the other tracks; here, there is a different agenda and style. Our heroine asks why (you) do not dream in colour (sic.). It is a question that raises a question: maybe someone who has got that troubled background but not willing to think big and have ambitions. Pellnat lets her voice cut to the quick and right into the mind of her subject. Perhaps it is a reflection on herself – wondering why she is letting the past affect her – but you feel it is aimed at somebody else. The next verse offers some sage advice: breathe deep, the cycle, it’s said, is complete; you can dream in colour. Again, that vocal flows and jumps: it is a performance that brings all the nuance and strands of the song to the forefront. At the earliest stages, one imagines whether the song refers to the way people can identify too strongly with their mistakes and unable to rectify that. Maybe we all become too hesitant and confine ourselves in life. We are unable to dream and have those ambitions; perhaps it is hard to move on and transition from a difficult past.
I mentioned that composition and how it differed from the sounds across the other E.P. tracks. Once more, it never grows too large; instead, it accompanies the vocals and provides plenty of reflection and strength. The vibe/genre is a mixture of Country and Folk. Throughout the E.P., there have been steps into Bossa-Nova, Pop and Indie: here, it is a softer and calmer affair; one of those songs that want to lifts the spirits and keep its heart pure. On one of the E.P.’s finest lines – “Watercolors bleed from a brush in a glass on the table” – one sees the hero/heroine as an artist – only willing to paint in shades of grey. Here, there is a real question put at the feet: why not hope for the best and realise things will be okay? That use of colour and art to express emotions and the song’s themes is handled very well. It could be a cliché – one of the lyrics actually goes: “I know it sounds corny” – but you have a song that has originality and intelligence. Were this an offering from a modern-day Pop star, words relating to colours and art (as symbolism and metaphors) would be rather clunky and immature. Here, Pellnat (Christopher) pens a fascinating and impressive song that has already resonated with many critics. Pellnat (Erin) delivers the words with a mixture of concern and support. This subject has had a broken past and made mistakes but has the chance to change all that. I am not sure what has compelled the pivotal change, an opportunity to be free or something, but it is definitely the time to strike. Dream in Color is a song that will make everyone think and look at their own lives. Do we really take the time to think big and improve things? It is an interesting idea and one that will motivate repeated listens.
As the song comes to its final stages, the song looks at love and trueness – our heroine asks her subject to love truer than they have before – which might suggest romantic issues and relationship problems have affected them. Maybe that trust is gone and it will take a while to reclaim confidence. Our heroine knows it will be a rainbow and everything will be good: they just have to get past the part of them that’s holding them back. Everything is grey with the hero; they are looking at the worst-case possibility and not able to get past that. Pellnat is willing to sit down and act as mediator: help vanquish that part of their brain that is holding them back. I like the way the song shifts from that accelerated, urgent beginning to something much more sedate and sober. It is a shift you barely notice and one that changes the meaning of the song. At first, you are caught in that vocal flow but start to settle into the song in the later stages. Throughout, one wonders who the song’s subject is and whether they managed to evade the funk they are in. They are asked to haul ass from that past and shift the shackles of the darkness that imprisons them. It is a universal sentiment that will connect with many listeners. Most of us struggle to, if we are caught in a miasma, see a brighter side and find that colour. Because of that, Dream in Color is a song that will have international appeal and reach music fans of all genres. It is a song that shows the songwriting strengths of Christopher Pellnat and the incredible vocal pull of Erin Pellnat; a brilliant song that showcases a rare talent. I would love to hear more from Pellnat in the future as, on the strength of her E.P., we have a striking and unique artist in the midst.
Before I take this all down, I wanted to look back at themes of New York, Brooklyn and venues/bands around the area – what defines the place and how it all hangs together. I’ll revisit Pellnat in the context of D.I.Y. artists and spend a bit more time exploring originality and depth in music. Before I get there, it is an exciting time for Erin Pellnat. She has gathered a lot of great reviews for Dream in Color. It is no surprise journalists are showing a lot of love for her E.P. At its heart is a work that connects with people and brings them in. You get 1960s’ Pop and heritage with some Spaghetti Western vibes – twanging and evocative; a black-and-white showdown about to unfold. Down another street, one can discover Gaelic touches and the evocativeness of rolling hills and stunning vistas. One gets an aural blast of the open countryside and far-off streams. Pellnat is a modern-day artist who finds greater inspiration from the past. Reviewers have noted a connection to Judy Collins or Nico – some modern artists are mentioned but not as much as the 1960s/’70s examples. Blues Skies and Happiness takes you down another street: it is a familial affair where Pellant’s father (Christopher) joins the E.P. A smooth, Jazz workout that boasts maturity and accomplished musicianship. You get a sound of home and D.I.Y. with the professionalism and quality one might expect from a huge studio. Pellnat has a musical family and fronts her own band, Caretaker. They are one of the most colourful and intriguing acts in New York and have a definite future. Pellnat uses her experience from the band and brings it to her solo material. Whilst a different sound to Caretaker; there is never a sense of doing this as a side project. She is committed to both ventures but going solo is tough and fraught. She understands how hard it is for genuinely great music to get attention and respect. There is that never-ending demand for something fake and commercial.
Pellnat prides stunning music and personality over commercialisation and something easy. The artists I review go beyond the demands of the charts and write from their heart. She has that experience and family tie but does not let anyone else define her work. One experiences a strong and unique individual who has potential to create many more works. I hope Dream in Color is going to be followed by other work. I can see Pellnat going a long way and creating loads more music. I wonder whether she will have energy and inspiration for another E.P. this year or thinking about an album. Certainly, with her talent and potential, you will get much more music in the future. I am sure balancing between band and solo life will be challenging but something she is handling very well. I hope Pellnat finds the finances to come and do some gigs in the U.K. at some point. It would be great to hear her here and have fans connect with her music. Britain is well set-up to welcome artists like Pellnat. I have seen quite a few American acts come over here and be afforded a hospitable welcome. She would likely get a few gigs in London and plenty of chances to go up and down the country. In Europe, there are nations that would welcome her to heart. It makes me wonder whether international gigs are a reality for modern musicians. Unless you have that gig revenue and label backing; how logical is it to cast your mind across the oceans? Whatever her plans for 2017, Pellnat (with her father) has crafted a superb E.P. that demonstrates raw and real talent – plenty more potential to come in the future.
I’ll wrap it up by talking about Brooklyn and New York; a bit about originality and depth – D.I.Y. artists and their potential. Thanks again to BROOKLYN – http://www.bkmag.com/2016/04/25/9-nyc-bands-need-hear/ – who I will borrow from and return to those New York/Brooklyn acts worth watching. Eddi Front is led by Ivana Carrescia (Dan Chen on piano) and has impressed local reviewers and fans with incredible songs and huge talent. Songs have been surfaced on the Internet since 2012 but it seems this year will be a vital one for Eddi Front. Noise-Punk trio Bambara have been in New York since 2011 – moved from Atlanta, Georgia – and harnessed their vibrant, snarling sound on 2013’s Dreamviolence. They are more honed and focused since their beginnings and has provided the band with a solid and loyal fanbase. WALL – what it with bands/acts that capitalise their names?! – are a four-piece consisting Vanessa Gomez, Vince McClelland with Elizabeth Skadden and Sam York. Their eponymous E.P. thrilled the Internet; the Texas-born quartet are a fixture in New York and likely to increase in stature and confidence. If you want to talk about great Brooklyn artists then Woods must be near the top of the list. They have managed to transform Folk-Rock and Psychedelia. Their songs are bright but never too cheery and create musical interjections and diversions that keep you hooked – every song has its own life and nuance. Emmy the Great is doing fantastic work at the moment and one of the most prominent artists from Brooklyn. She is back with female contemporaries like Emma-Lee Moss – who makes soft and thought-provoking songs about growing up. She proves the diversity and polemics of Brooklyn music: going from bracing and pummelling acts to those calmer and more reflective. There are plenty of other great Brooklyn artists to recommend this year so suggest people do some research. I am excited at how productive and fertile the borough is.
As I said earlier; it is the most-populous of the five boroughs and always has that reputation. Many see it as a harsher and less forgiving part of New York than, say, Staten Island. Queens might be the most direct comparison to Brooklyn: both are a bit more ‘real’ and show the true nature of New York. Many think of Manhattan when looking at New York as it is the place most tourists go to. Brooklyn is not too far away but not one tourists and international visitors flock to. That is a shame because it is, in my view, one of the most exceptional areas for music. There is no stopping the phenomenal acts and brilliant sounds oozing from every crevice. I have mentioned some live venues around the borough but that is just the start of it. Look beyond the obvious and you can discover so many great bars and venues one can witness fine and impactful music. I am always going to root for those who do things on their own and have that D.I.Y. aesthetic. It is tough getting acclaim when you do not have a record label – Pellnat will get there but is starting on her own. At the moment, her music is resonating with critics and fans and attracting new support. Her songs have all sorts of instruments and side to them. Some moments (on Dream in Colour) have Irish/countryside vibes whilst others are more exotic, tropical and colourful. It is a consistent and exceptional work that keeps on provoking reaction and emotion. Its title track is a perfect statement from a New York artist who is working tirelessly getting her music out there. Because of that, in my humble opinion, she is someone who…
DESERVES a long and successful career.
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