Singing the Praises of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Heyyyyyy… Remember when I made a New Year’s Resolution to write up at least one blog post per week and then didn’t put one up in the first week after said resolution was made??  Classic! 😛

At any rate, this past Sunday night was the Golden Globes ceremony.  I don’t put much stock into awards shows, and Sunday’s fare was pretty boring, in my opinion. But I did get super excited when Rachel Bloom won Best Actress in a Television Series Musical/Comedy for her work on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!

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Crazy-Ex Girlfriend is a strange little show that seems to have flown underneath most people’s radars since its debut last fall.  Bloom –who co-created the show along with The Devil Wears Prada writer, Aline Brosh McKenna — stars as Rebecca Bunch, a New York lawyer who struggles with depression and a sense of unfulfillment in life despite her successful career.  When she randomly runs into an old childhood sweetheart named Josh Chan (played by Vincent Rodriguez III), she impulsively decides to move to his hometown of West Covina, California.  …But not because Josh lives there!  It’s totally just a coincidence.  Yeah…

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Musical Monday/Happy Labo(u)r Day

Happy Labor Day to my fellow Americans and a Happy Labour Day to our Canadian neighbors!  Hope you all have an enjoyable day today!  To start off your free day, here’s some music from a new obsession of mine, Run River North:

Run River North, formerly known as Monsters Calling Home, is an indie folk rock/pop band from Southern California.  The group is comprised of Daniel Chae (vocals, strings), John Chong (vocals, drums), Joe Chun (vocals, bass), Alex Hwang (lead vocals, guitar), Sally Kang (vocals, strings), and Jennifer Rim (strings).

The LA-based, Korean-American sextet has a great sound.  I would liken them to fellow indie folk artists Of Monsters and Men or The Head and the Heart.  The band’s line-up of multiple vocalists allows them to create lush harmonies that create a beautiful wall of sound behind lead singer Alex Hwang.

In addition to their musical style, I was initially drawn to Run River North by their poetic lyrics.  The band members come from a Christian background, and many of their lyrics are tinged with biblical allusions and spiritual metaphors.  As evident by some of the other bands I’ve highlighted on the blog, I really appreciate musicians who are willing to be upfront about their faith without giving up their own artistic integrity, and Run River North does a great job finding that balance.

As an Asian-American Christian with a love for indie folk music, Run River North is right up my alley.  But even if I wasn’t either of those things, I would definitely still be a fan.  With a rich musical sound, poetic lyrics, and a great group of talent, there is certainly much to be enjoyed from this terrific band.

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Musical Monday/Coffee Time with Wise the Simple

Hello, friends!  Hope you all had a wonderful Father’s Day with loved ones.  Sorry that I’ve been AFK for awhile.  While I drink my morning coffee, here are a few things that have been happening on my side of the blogosphere:

  • I was sick for a few days last week.  I used to never really get sick, but lately my body has been doing this thing where I have a cold for two days and then a lingering cough for weeks.  Not cool, respiratory system…
  • A large portion of my week was dedicated to Ingress.  You see, this past Saturday was the Persepolis Anomaly event in Milwaukee, WI. So this week was dedicated to “farming,” i.e. Hacking high level portals to stock up on inventory for the big battle.  I’ll write up a post about the event to be published some time in the near future.  I currently have a backlog of quite a few posts I have promised you in days long past, but I’m on an Ingress high, so this one will likely come out soonish.
  • I, along with the rest of the entire human population, saw Jurassic World on its opening weekend.  It was enjoyable.  Good, even.  Sure it had story problems and a lot of flaws in character development, but it was still fun.  I wasn’t let down by it or anything — it was exactly how I imagined it would turn out.  All in all, not a great film, but not a horribly bad one either.  It’s an entertaining flick meant to be a popcorn movie and nothing more.
  • Father’s Day was a laid-back affair at the Simple household this year.  We had a cookout, watched some movies and the U.S. Open golf tournament, and just hung out together.  Sometimes big celebrations aren’t necessary — sometimes playing fetch with the family dogs, eating ice cream, and simply chatting to catch up are the elements needed for a great summer day.

And now for some good music to start your week off right —  Jamie Cullum is a jazz-pop pianist and singer-songwriter.  I had the good fortune to see him live in Chicago a few years back, and he is not only an incredible musician, but an amazing performer as well!  Here he is performing a cover of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” at Jazz à Vienne in 2014:

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Musical Monday (Also, an apology and note on promises)

Eesh.  I am not good at keeping my promises, am I?  I feel like the majority of my posts lately have been me making promises and then me apologizing for breaking the aforementioned promise.

The post I alluded to last week will now go up this Thursday.  It’s taking me a lot longer to work it into what I want it to be.  But I’ll try to have it done later this week (and will have a fun post tomorrow as well.)

I’ve come to realize that I need to stop making promises I cannot keep.  I know it comes from a good place (in that I’m trying to force myself to keep to a blogging schedule), but I feel awful whenever I miss a deadline.  So for now, no more promises.  I intend to keep posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I’m going to stop with the incessant apology posts that I keep making every time I falter from the schedule.

I realize that this non-committal attitude is a terrible way to run a blog — “Mehh, blog posts will go up wheneverrrr…”  But it’s kind of what I need to maintain my sanity right now as I juggle this and a handful of other creative endeavors.  I just don’t want to disappoint, so I’ll set the bar incredibly low.  Again, a terrible attitude.  But it is what it is for now.

To try and make things up to you, I thought I’d share some awesome music to make your Monday a bit more exciting.  So here’s a performance of “Stairway to Heaven” as performed by Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Jason Bonham in tribute to Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012:

Thanks for stopping by on our first Musical Monday.  Will this become a regular feature?

(via tumblr) Legend of Korra is property of Nickelodeon

Lake Street Dive Goes Down Smooth

I first heard of Lake Street Dive when they did a live set on NPR’s World Cafe last year.  I was driving home from work when I caught the beginning of their interview and the first song.  My ears instantly perked up at their harmonies and unique sound.  As soon as I got home, I ran from my car and quickly flipped the radio on to catch the rest of their performance.  I was an instant fan.

Lake Street Dive is a jazz-pop quartet featuring Rachael Price on lead vocals, Bridget Kearney on upright bass, Mike “McDuck” Olson on trumpet and guitar, and Mike Calabrese on drums.  The four met while they were all studying jazz at the New England Conservatory of Music.  Now, as Lake Street Dive, their style ranges from jazz to pop to folk, from ’60s soul to rock-and-roll.

The band came to prominence when their cover version of The Jackson 5‘s “I Want You Back” went viral.  And deservedly so!  Have a listen:

From there, the band booked several televised gigs on late night talk shows, as well as being asked to participate in the T Bone Burnett-curated concert, “Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis.”

When I get into certain bands, I will put them into rotation on a constant loop for weeks, or even months.  Lake Street Dive has received continuous play from the first time I heard them last year.  They are truly fantastic musicians!

Go check out their newest album Bad Self Portraits, a compilation of cover songs called Fun Machine, or their self-titled release.  Better yet, give all three a listen.  I promise you won’t regret it!

L is for The Lone Bellow

While I enjoy a variety of music genres, I’ve really been into this reemergence of the folk, bluegrass, Americana scene.  I first heard The Lone Bellow via a Youtube link posted by my friend on Facebook.  This video of “You Never Need Nobody,” in fact:

Intrigued, I watched some more videos of the trio — Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin — and quickly downloaded their self-titled first album.

What first drew me to The Lone Bellow was the passion and raw emotion made evident in their music.  When certain people sing, you can hear their soul in the sound of their voice.  Zach Williams is one of those people.  Because of this, and the excellent chemistry between the three vocalists, The Lone Bellow are fantastic live performers.  (I personally have yet to see them perform live, but by all accounts and the live recordings available online, this is known to be true.)

It was a bit of a let down then, when I heard their first album.  Don’t get me wrong — it is fantastic.  The music is great, and they sound great.  However, it all sounds a bit over-produced compared to their actual performances.  That’s not to say that it sounds like a pop record, rather, it just sounds too clean.  This is probably just a personal preference.  I guess I like the lo-fi, gritty sound of live recordings.  But after my initial qualms, the actual musicianship and songwriting won me over.  I may not like the feel of the record (if that makes sense), but as to the actual content, I have no complaints.

Their recently-released second album, “Then Came the Morning“, was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National.  While their first record was more or less a straightforward bluegrass sound, “Then Came the Morning” draws on other influences as well, such as gospel and rockabilly.

Where the first Lone Bellow record sounded too clean, “Then Came the Morning” is perfect.  It’s interesting, because overall, the second album has a much fuller sound with more complex instrumentation; but the production gives it a much more rootsy/organic feel than the first record which was primarily acoustic-based.

While I prefer the second album, both “The Lone Bellow” and “Then Came the Morning” contain incredible songs with magnificent performances by the trio.  I really hope I can catch these guys live some day.  I love their music, and am excited to see where they continue to go as they evolve as a band.

G is for The Gray Havens

Here at wisethesimple we’re big fans of music.  And by we, I mean me.  (And me!)  …And Boldy.

I like a lot of different kinds of music, and am always on the lookout for new artists and genres to try.  One band that I am currently listening to is called The Gray Havens.

The Gray Havens is singer-songwriter duo formed by husband and wife, Dave and Licia Radford.  They have described their sound as “narrative pop-folk-esque.” The Gray Havens tend to write songs that tell stories and deal with faith.  Lyrically, they are inspired by C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and more.

I love the sound of Dave’s singing voice.  He started out as more of a jazz crooner (even making it to the top 20 of American Idol while he was in high school), and that timbre is still evident in his singing style.  Licia provides beautiful, clear harmonies that blend perfectly with her husband’s voice.  I’m a sucker for good vocal harmonies, and these two do not disappoint.

The Gray Havens hit so many of my musical buttons.  They’ve got great vocals and harmonies, play an acoustic/folk style with jazzy influences, and have excellent lyrics that tell interesting, beautiful stories as well as make me assess my own heart and spiritual standing with Christ.  I highly recommend The Gray Havens’ EP, “Where Eyes Don’t Go,” and their new album, “Fire and Stone.”  Check ’em out!