Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Charlie Belle: Young Musicians–Mature Pop

October 14, 2015

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Charlie Belle amazes me with their second EP, I Don’t Want To Be Alone. Seventeen-year-old Jendayi Bonds leads Charlie Belle with her guitar, vocals, and songwriting skills. Her brother, fourteen-year-old Gyasi Bonds, gives their songs sonal depth through the drums. Together, the two sibling prodigies leave a lasting impression with their masterful rhythm & blues/pop fusion sound.

Ironically, mature pop is one way I would describe the sound of the EP I Don’t Want To Be Alone. At first, Charlie Belle’s sound comes off like very happy-go-lucky pop. The drums provide the songs with a driving beat while the guitar strumming adds an easygoing flair, making this EP perfect driving music. Yet, the more closely I listened, the more I noticed the mature R&B elements and poignant lyrics. Particularly when arriving at “You Don’t Know Me,” I am hit with the sassy R&B flavor that Jill Scott is known for, both in the lyrics and overall sound.

The single “Petting Zoo” is another great example of Charlie Belle exploring mature topics in a fun sounding way. The guitar strumming intro sets you up for happiness and rainbows but eventually the weight of the lyrics become apparent. Particularly when the song slows down at the chorus, Charlie Belle emphasizes the weightiness of the lyrics: “Nobody knows me like I do / But everyone is telling me what I’m supposed to do.” “Petting Zoo” depicts the reality of hitting that age where you realize that family, friends, and society are all trying to tell you how to live your life–and then having the maturity to reject parts that don’t fit with your true identity. It’s awe-inspiring that Jendayi Bonds can write such mature lyrics at such a young age.

I cannot finish a review on I Don’t Want To Be Alone without noting Jendayi Bonds’ beautiful voice. Jendayi’s voice has the sweetness of Colbie Caillat with the soul of India Arie. Some tracks emphasize more of the sweet side, such as “Petting Zoo.” Other tracks bring out more of the soulful side of her voice, particularly “You Don’t Know Me,” where she even raps mid-way through. While still maintaining her vocal flavor, Jendayi’s crisp vocals enable the lyrics to be heard clearly.

Charlie Belle’s I Don’t Want to Be Alone is a prime example of truly well-done music by musicians who haven’t even lived two full decades. Never underestimate youth. Krisann Janowitz

Hannah Miller: Soul & Relaxation

May 27, 2015

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Before you listen to this album, you must first grab your favorite bottle of wine, draw yourself a warm bath, light a candle and soak. You just created the perfect listening party for Hannah Miller’s recently released self-titled album. Hannah Miller’s soulful instrumentation and sultry voice create the ultimate arena for relaxation.

At the top of the album, “Help Me Out” sets the mood with a seductively played electric guitar. After a few measures of the solo guitar, Miller’s alto voice enters into the mix. These two elements are quite the power couple; keys and percussion add further flavor, but they in no way compare to the power of the first two. Watch the music video to see what I mean.

The soulful sound of Hannah Miller is akin to many different artists that exist within soul’s extended family. In “Falling” the keys shine, similar to neo-soul artists like Jill Scott. The prominent bass and funky guitar in “You Don’t Call” remind me of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans.”  Throughout the album, Miller’s voice and instrumentation could be compared to Adele’s blue-eyed soul music, particularly in 19. There is no denying that Miller’s sound fits at least partially into the genre of soul, but which sub-genre would be a topic up for debate.

“Soothed” begins similarly to “Help Me Out,” and its calming instrumentation provides the perfect backdrop for Miller’s beautiful voice–her pipes become the focal point of the track. Aptly titled, the instrumentation on “Soothed” is entirely made up of a soulful, beachy-sounding guitar. Miller’s voice lingers in the higher part of her register here, and the outcome is really quite relaxing. Ironically, the lyrics actually speak to her refusal to be “soothed,” while she clearly has no problem soothing others.

One interesting piece of the album is the two versions of “Promise Land.” The chronologically first version has quite a funky instrumentation with the blues-infused electric guitar, soulful keys and a rare addition of background vocals (which adds a ton of depth to the sound). This “New version” of the song has a much fuller sound than the second “Chernobyl version,” but that doesn’t mean it is superior. In the second “Promise Land,” the simple acoustic guitar accompaniment shows off the peaceful aspects in Miller’s voice that might be slightly overshadowed by the full instrumentation of the first. Both versions are beautiful; both have the same lyrics that delve into the world of spirituality, at least in the metaphorical sense.

Song after song, Hannah Miller proves to be a very soothing experience. The sound of Hannah Miller contains great depth while sounding effortless. If your life is filled with stress and you need something–anything–to help you unwind, look no further than Hannah Miller’s self-titled album, out now. —Krisann Janowitz

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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