"Don’t Look Away" From Kate Voegele

Remember a couple of years ago when both Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton emerged on the pop scene and nobody except their hardcore fans could really distinguish between them? Imagine these two women cross bred into a musical lovechild, the result being Kate Voegele. When this up and coming artist left her art education degree at the University of Miami, Ohio to release and pursue her debut album, little did she know that in less than one year she would be receiving national exposure as a recurring character on the CW network’s hit drama “One Tree Hill.”

On the show, Voegele plays Mia, the premiere artist on Peyton’s (Hilarie Burton) newly created record label. Voegele uses this opportunity to play a different song from her record, “Don’t Look Away,” every episode. She portrays them as songs that Mia sings while recording the first album to represent Peyton’s new business endeavor. Since she has become a part of this cult teen television phenomenon, her album has skyrocketed from being unknown to making its way to number 63 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart last week.

Infusing the perfect elements of an ideal pop/rock ratio, it is Voegele’s incredibly unique and distinctive voice that soars on this record that could easily be seen as the twin LP to Ashlee Simpson’s debut “Autobiography.” The album opens up with “Chicago,” an upbeat track about leaving a bad relationship behind to start a new free life. It continues to include tracks such as the inspiring ballad “It’s Only Life,” about looking for light when trapped in darkness, and “No Good,” another fierce anthem of female independence with a hook so catchy that it will stay in your head for at least two days after hearing it.

Next comes “I Won’t Disagree,” the grand prize winner of the 2006 New York City Songwriter’s Circle. This mid-tempo track sticks out simply because it does not follow the theme of the rest of the record. Unlike most of the album which is about a nasty breakup and letting go of someone to grab a hold of herself, Voegele expresses her inner romantic by extending a helping hand and a shoulder for her lover to cry on. “Rock a bye my baby, don’t be blue tonight, oh I’m on my way and I’m gonna make it right” she croons in such a way that the listener can’t help but want to take her up on her offer.

The album closes with the song “Kindly Unspoken,” the current single that is climbing its’ way up the charts (peaking thus far at #66 on the Pop 100). It is this melancholy and raw piano driven ballad that was first featured on “One Tree Hill.” It is the least rock influenced track on the album and sounds more like a trained vocalist pounding her heart away on piano keys at an intimate open mic night in the Lower East Village.

The most refreshing thing about Voegele is her ability to sing mainstream pop music, yet making it seem completely original and her own. She transcends the border between independent artist and featured MTV pop star extremely skillfully, making her sound appeal to fans of various genres. If you don’t want to purchase her album right away, watch an episode of “One Tree Hill” and I guarantee that her rich and gorgeously different voice will have you immediately hooked.

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Self Titled "Simple Plan" Hopes For Another Charm Third Time Around

When pop punk band Simple Plan emerged on the scene in 2002 with their breakout hit “I’m Just A Kid,” they launched a new emo pop revolution. Along with bands such as Good Charlotte and New Found Glory, Simple Plan was riding the wave of heavy TRL and radio rotation with a fresh sound that fans of both pop and rock could enjoy. Fast forward to 2008. It has been four years since they have dropped a new record. Now, on February 12th, the French Canadian-based quintet released their third full-length album, the self-titled “Simple Plan.”

Although remaining true to the style that generated seven million in record sales worldwide and produced more than a handful of Top 40 singles, Simple Plan knew that they had to come back strong in a new market. Today’s music scene is very different from the one they first encountered. In those early days, the airwaves were dominated by the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Against the backdrop, Simple Plan sounded absolutely original. Today, however, these same radio stations play the music of other pop punk bands such as Fall Out Boy and Boys Like Girls back to back. To help them stand out in this very different crowd, the band recruited new producers such as Max Martin (Avril Lavigne) and Timbaland protégé Nate “Danja” Hills, who most recently received recognition as the man behind Britney Spears’ comeback single, “Gimme More,” along with many tracks off her newest album “Blackout.”

Some fans who read about Simple Plan’s switch to different producers to create a more contemporary sound were worried that their favorite band would become a corporate sellout. After the lead single “When I’m Gone” surfaced online, however, fans were able to breathe easy. By adding a synthesized backbeat, the song takes the band’s signature sound and intensifies it. Meanwhile, lead singer Pierre Bouvier still sounds just as whiny and is ready to tackle a new Jonas Brothers generation of angst-filled teens, while keeping the older fans happy.

The opening to the second single “Your Love Is A Lie,” starts out sounding like it’s an electronic remix of an 80’s power ballad. But it morphs quickly into the trademark Simple Plan everyone from our generation has grown to know. It is quite extraordinary how true the band has remained to themselves, yet still finding a way to sound completely different than they ever have before.

One track that truly stands out on the album, simply due to the fact that it is so unlike the rest of the record is “The End.” The song sounds like a mixture between R&B and techno underneath a rock & roll umbrella, making the listener want to both rock out and hit the dance floor at the same time. Similarly, “Generation” incorporates elements of hip hop throughout the verses, before striking the guitar chords and causing the crowd to surf called upon by the heavier chorus.

In the tradition of their huge hits “Perfect” and “Untitled” from their past two albums, Simple Plan includes anoter massive cliché ballad. This time around, the song is “I Can Wait Forever,” a lament about not being able to near the one you love. “When you call my heart stops beating, when you’re gone it won’t stop bleeding, but I can wait, I can wait forever” croons Bouvier over both a full band and orchestra. It is a nice song, but unfortunately relatively lackluster compared to its equivalents on the previous two records.

Overall, the band did a phenomenal job contemporizing their sound while still remaining true to their origins. In today’s market, however, they’ll most likely just be seen as another pop punk band, as opposed to one of the ones that started it all.

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Adele: "19" Going On Stardom

Take the video evidence of drug abuse off of Perezhilton.com and YouTube and you’re left with looking at Amy Winehouse through a musical lens rather than as another troubled wreck of a modern pop star. Now take the soulful sound she brought back to the mainstream market and intensify that to incorporate not only aspects of jazz and pop, but also soul, R&B, and folk. What you’re left with is the new 19 year old British sensation Adele.

With a haunting and beautiful voice that far exceeds her age, she has recently become all the rage across the pond. After her self released debut single “Hometown Glory” (about her place of origin, Tottenham) caused her to become a hit MySpace artist, independent record label XL Recordings signed her as quickly as they could. As a result, her premiere album was just released worldwide and has begun to already spark much attention in places such as Ireland and Australia, as well as a British and American tour that is nearly almost entirely sold out already.

Truly capturing the airwaves is Adele’s melancholy self evaluation anthem “Chasing Pavements.” It is currently at the top of the U.K. Top 40 singles chart for the fourth week in a row. “Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements even if it leads nowhere? Or would it be a waste even if I knew my place, should I leave it there, should I give up?” she sings over a beautiful orchestration full of everything from percussion to strings to piano. Undoubtedly the most “mainstream pop” track on the record, it is clearly the song that is deservingly putting Adele on the map.

Other tracks such as the lead off “Daydreamer” and “First Love” do not have the same big band feel as “Chasing Pavements.” In fact, in comparison these songs are very stripped down and have a very raw acoustic feel to them. Other tracks such as the bittersweet breakup song “Cold Shoulder” still remain within the smoky café genre of the rest of the record, yet at the same time manage to have the feel of wanting to hit the dance floor.

Fitting in perfectly to the diversity of the album is the refreshingly original cover of the Bob Dylan classic “Make You Feel My Love.” No offense to Mr. Dylan, but Adele makes the song completely her own. She gives the listener the illusion that they are inside of a dark, isolated European bar watching her pour her entire heart and soul out on a tiny stage.

Whether or not the United States will embrace the brilliance and uniqueness of Adele the same way so many other places already have, nobody can say for sure. However, anyone with an ear for good music will surely be spinning her record in no time. Rapper Kanye West even recently posted “Chasing Pavements” on his blog site, describing it as “dope.” In December, Adele was awarded with the first ever Brit Awards Critic’s Choice prize and won BBC Music’s Sound of 2008 poll for new artists about to emerge in the new year. With a resume like that, it is only a matter of time before Adele explodes into a global phenomenon.

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Missy Higgins Has A "Clear Night"

When she was only sixteen, Missy Higgins won a national Australian high school songwriting award in 2001 for “All For Believing.” Little did she know that it would be that song that would lead off her debut album “The Sound Of White” released in 2004. The album would later be nominated for eleven ARIA awards, the Australian equivalent of the Grammys. She then won seven, including “Album Of The Year,” “Best Female Artist,” “Best Pop Release,” “Breakthrough Artist” and “Highest Selling Album.”

After becoming an Australian household name, Missy went global. In 2006, she relocated to Los Angeles to record her sophomore effort with veteran producers Mitchell Froom (Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, The Indigo Girls, Randy Newman) and Jay Newland (Norah Jones). The following year, Rolling Stone magazine called her performance at Live Earth a “highlight.”

The release of her second album “On A Clear Night” in April 2007 garnered her a three times platinum #1 record in Australia. The lead single “Steer” stayed on top of the Australian pop charts for several weeks, while the second single “Where I Stood” has recently been receiving heavy rotation on American primetime television, appearing on shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill,” and “Smallville” all within the past two months. As a result, Higgins is currently touring the United States, already having sold out her March show in New York City, and has become a featured “what’s hot” artist on iTunes.

“On A Clear Night” steers away slightly from Higgins’ debut album. While “The Sound Of White” focused a lot on emotionally driven piano ballads, the new record relies heavily on the guitar. It also transforms much of the jazz sound of the first CD into more of a singer-songwriter pop/indie feel, reminiscent of Sara Bareilles or Ingrid Michaelson. Also unlike her previous effort, Higgins seems to be trying something completely different in each song on the record. Rather than having each track bleed into one another for fluid transitions, she experiments with different sounds up against each other. There’s the raw Alanis Morissette grunge feel of “Peachy” followed by the country feel of “Going North,” while songs such as “Where I Stood” could easily appear on a Christina Aguilera record.

Higgins has delivered a beautiful album with a wide range of exposed emotions and influences. It’s easy to understand why legions of fans believe her unique sound and phenomenal self-written lyrics make her a “modern, female Bob Dylan.” Up till now, she hasn’t yet truly broken into the mainstream U.S. airwaves. But the fantastic and musically exceptional album “On A Clear Night” might just be this Aussie’s ticket to American success.

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