It’s no secret that Portland, OR holds one of the most diverse local music scenes in the States. With artists ranging in genres from experimental avant-pop to heavy metal, the Northwest city houses artists always looking ahead and making attempts to push boundaries in their sound. While these artists look forward, others tend to look back at what made music great, and what opened those doorways for the rest of them. In these cases, a nostalgic look back to a bygone era produces an oft richer, and more timeless product.
On her latest record, Be Loud, Portland songwriter Karyn Ann has done just that. Ann has said before that she often feels she was born in the wrong decade. There’s validity to this claim, and it comes in the form of her soulful sound, demonstrated at the very beginning of her sophomore release.
Be Loud opens with “Be Still,” a pop rock cut that explodes with nostalgia, taking listeners back to the 60s, evoking memories of songwriters such as Carole King or Joni Mitchell, the boundary pushers of their generations, who opened the floor for artists like Karyn Ann to thrive. In looking to the past, Ann pays tribute to the greats who paved the way.
As “Be Still” grows and swells with Ann’s unique voice, a choir of voices breaks out in the chorus, offering texture and an awakening moment in the song, grabbing attention and leading you hand in hand into the rest of the record.
As Karyn Ann continues to take you through this journey, not once does her sound break character. Everything, from her vocal performance, to the mixing and production, to the songwriting itself, lends itself to a time passed, labeling Ann a classic voice for our modern era. “Same Old Thing” opens with a swanky southern riff, painting a picture of a late night at a 60s bar, before booming into a brass chorus. “After Burns” quickly follows with its emotional balladry, pairing Ann’s classic, echoing voice with a beautiful piano refrain and lush acoustic guitar.
Only halfway through the albums concise 10 tracks, Be Loud offers up yet another highlight in its title track of sorts, “Quiet Love.” Once again drawing in with a low balladry, Karyn Ann’s songwriting explodes as the chorus come to, a choir of voices once again joining her in the titular refrain:
“You’ve gotta let your love be loud!”
Though Karyn Ann’s magnificent second album packs in only 10 tracks, the beauty and poetry within them flow smoothly, clocking the running time of the record to a hearty full-length time of around 42 minutes. As a whole record, Be Loud achieves exactly what Karyn Ann set out to do. If she truly was born into the wrong decade, she is using her talent to live within the right one. With a voice and style like hers, this album can sit comfortably beside King’s Tapestry and Mitchell’s Blue to be played on a sunny summer day.
You can hear music from Karyn Ann’s new album ahead of it’s official release at her show tomorrow night, July 26th, at McMenamins Mission Theater in Portland, with support from Hayley Johnsen and Leo London. Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm. For more information, click here. Otherwise, look out for Be Loud when it drops on August 3rd. The album is available for preorder via iTunes here.
Article by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx.
Since the age of 9, Chelsea Johnson’s life has revolved around music. Growing up with influences ranging from Stevie Wonder to Biggie Smalls, her own sound has been long in the making. Her experience in the scene exceeds just her role as an artist. Johnson has found roles ranging from songwriting, producing, to work in music publishing. She’s seen all parts of the industry, and she’s not slowing down until she’s conquered all.
As iamchelseaiam, Johnson’s music has very much reflected her influences. Her previous work held a personable singer-songwriter vibe, interlaced with touches of her R&B and soulful upbringings. Her sound has worked up to this point, but there was an untapped potential lurking just beneath the surface. On her latest offering, A Beautiful Mess, Johnson has let it bubble to the top.
Her latest EP, dropped just last Friday, shows Johnson fully embracing the R&B parts of her sound. This choice for the project accomplishes two things that helps propel iamchelseaiam to the top of the pack:
The heavier influences in R&B allow Johnson to really show off her vocal chops, which float and harmonize all over the EPs 5 tracks. Her voice blends and melds, layering samples and hooks upon each other to create an intoxicating sound. The project also allows for a more polished production, with trap beats and airy piano and synths giving the project a glossy finish.
With a step forward in production and vocal performance, Johnson has found her niche in the R&B sound of A Beautiful Mess, and it all allows her to show off her songwriting in a way that will make an even heavier impact.
On opening track “Pity Party,” Johnson sets the tone for the EP, seemingly fed up with the bullshit and taking the upperhand post breakup. “I made it crystal clear that I don’t want you in my life,” she sings. “You must be crazy if you think I’m spending one more night with you.”
Following the independent strength and fuckyouitiveness of the first track, the project takes a turn to a more vulnerable place on “Hurt People,” looking back on the relationship and the hurt it caused: “I never thought you’d be the one to treat me like, to hurt me like hurt people hurt.”
For the remainder of the EP, Johnson continues to explore herself and the relationship in a very open and honest way. She addresses the hurt that caused its break, the aftermath of watching it all crumble, and reflects on all the complex feelings that follow, all eventually leading to acceptance of its end.
On A Beautiful Mess, Johnson has let her strongest assets shine. With a more polished production and stronger vocal performance, her personable lyrics cut even deeper, and are sure to reflect with anyone who can relate to the topics explored. As her musical journey continues, she would surely find advantage in continuing down this avenue. However, with a mind and skill as sharp as hers, there’s no telling what may come next. Her talent will carry her in any direction her creative winds may blow.
Review by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG @indiealtpdx.
Portland, OR based singer songwriter and #WomenCrush Music alum Josephine Relli is back with a new release. The song, “For Loving You”, puts a unique spin on your typical love song. A love note to the everyday things we see and experience that make you feel whole, the song’s sweet melody coupled with its thoughtful lyrics make it a standout hit of Relli’s already impressive repertoire. The song is the third release from Relli’s album Make A Change, coming in April.
“For Loving You” is a bold statement from Relli, who diverged from the piano and acoustic guitar and experimented with new sounds. A flute carries the melody throughout the song, and is a great compliment to Relli’s sweet vocals. As always, Relli’s lyrics are pulled straight from the heart. She encourages listeners to be their authentic selves, and spread love wherever possible. The release itself is perfectly timed; the entire song screams warm weather, sunshine, and spring!
Josephine Relli, at the ripe old age of 16, is already a force to be reckoned with. Writing, performing and producing all her own songs is no easy task, but it’s one she wouldn’t trade for anything else. Relli explains her writing process on her blog, which features everything from song inspiration to poetry, and tells how the song helped her through a time where she doubted herself and her ambitions to pursue music.
“I have had many supportive, and loving people help me throughout the journey, but even then, some don't quite understand. I've had people doubt me and my choices,” writes Relli. “It doesn't matter what people say about what I'm trying to do or where I'm headed in life. I am going to make it happen. Not being successful isn't even a possibility. I won't let it be. I am going to work hard for this because I want it so bad and I love it more than anything else.”
Having a supportive community is also a crucial factor in times like these. Relli notes in her blog post that she’s been lucky with the support she’s received from friends and family, and even the #WomenCrush Music community. Having recently performed at #WCM’s Future Boss Ladies showcase, Relli thanked the #WCM team for creating an environment where she not only felt supported, but she was able to relate to people on a similar path to her’s.
You can find all of Josephine Relli’s music on her site, as well as other blog posts that take you inside the mind of the artist. Keep an eye out for her EP, Make A Change, coming April 20th with a release show to celebrate at The Old Church in Portland on Sunday, April 30th.
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