Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Part II: Top 11 Active/Current Singer Songwriters

Note: Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Paul McCartney are legends and still active and current, but they are not on this list because I wouldn't have anything new or interesting to say about them. Plus, them being on the list isn't really fair to the other artists on this list.
Honorable Mention: Pete Yorn, Alison Krauss (You can't really separate her from the Union Station Band), Joshua Radin, Emmylou Harris, Ray LaMontagne, Sufjan Stevens, David Gray, Dolly Parton, Norah Jones, Missy Higgins.

11. Taylor Swift “Country Pop”
There is no denying Taylor swift is talented. She writes most of her own material, plays the guitar, and really does have a beautiful voice. Now most of her songs are pretty simple and are typically about love or heartbreak, but let’s face it, a lot of the best songs are about those two. To put in perspective how talented she is, Taylor is only twenty-one years old and she’s produced three multi-platinum albums. Her songs may be simple but they’re certainly meaningful and obviously relate-able across the country and world.
Favorite Lyrics: “You lift my feet off the ground
You spin me around
You make me crazier, crazier
Feels like I'm falling and I am lost in your eyes
You make me crazier, crazier, crazier” Crazier (Single)
(“Back to December” Video)

10. Andrew Bird “Indie Rock/Folk”
Andrew Bird is a very unique musician. He doesn’t necessarily have a beautiful voice, but it’s interesting and enticing. What Bird is certainly not lacking in is creativity and talent. He is an accomplished violinist, he plays guitar, and he is an expert whistler. Yep he’s probably the best whistling singer-songwriter out there. With Bird’s calm voice and violin, many of his songs start out beautiful and soothing and sort of lure one into a sense of security, but then he can quickly change to some heavy notes and belt out an anthem when necessary. His creativity is so abundant and palpable through his lyrics and musical compositions.
Favorite Lyrics: “When I was just a little boy
I threw away all of my action toys
I became obsessed with operation
Hearts and minds and certain glands
You got to learn to keep a steady hand
And thus began my morbid fascination” Dark Matter (Armchair Apocrypha)
(“Imitosis” Video)

9. ADELE “Pop/Soul”
Adele, similar to Taylor Swift, is a young singer-songwriter that has already gained much fame and success. Her first album “19” debuted at number one and went four times platinum in the UK. Her follow up album “21” debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and the UK album chart along with the number one spot in 16 other European countries. Adele isn’t your typical female singer-songwriter. Yes she has a wonderful voice and great songwriting talent, but she’s not the pin-up doll like some others. And that speaks more to the power of her voice and pure, exclusive talent.
Favorite Lyrics: “I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque
I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades
I like it in the city when two worlds collide
You get the people and the government
Everybody taking different sides” Hometown Glory (19)
(“Chasing Pavements” Video)

8. Ingrid Michaelson “Indie Pop/Folk”
The lyrics of Ingrid Michaelson really make her stand out in the large genre of female singer-songwriters. She is a very artistic songwriter with a unique sort of “cutsie” voice (that goes along nicely with her cutsie face/body). Her voice is really good, but it wouldn’t be described as powerful. So, what really sets her apart are her lyrics. She does a great job at writing fun; interesting songs that express perfectly what people feel in certain situations. The ability to relate to her songs can be seen all over the media. Her songs have been used in shows like: Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Kyle XY, Parenthood, and Ugly Betty.
Favorite Lyrics: “I'll never say I'll never love
But I don't say a lot of things
And you my love are gone” The Chain (Be OK)
(“The Way I Am” Video)

7. John Mayer “Blues Rock/Pop Rock”
John Mayer knows what the people like and delivers. He may not please everyone with his off-stage antics, but they can’t claim he’s not a talented musician and songwriter. Every major album John Mayer has produced (“Room for Squares”, “Heavier Things”, “Continuum”, and “Battle Studies”) has gone multi-platinum. Mayer’s won 7 Grammy Awards and has been nominated 18 times. Many of his songs contain meaningful, passionate lyrics and that accompanied with his sultry voice tend to attract moms and young girls, but his skill as a guitarist really makes him appealing to everyone.
Favorite Lyrics: “Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for
Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried
It's the chemical weapon
For the war that's raging on inside” Belief (Continuum)
(“Gravity” Live)

6.Josh Ritter “Folk/Alternative Country/Rock”
Josh Ritter is an amazing story teller. The songs he writes are actually fairly complex stories. Some of the stories he’s told through his music include ones about mummies coming back to life ”The Curse”, World War III and the apocalypse “The Temptation of Adam”, and the absurdity of politics and going to war “Girl in the War”. Furthermore, “The Curse and “The Temptation of Adam” are also love songs. His songs are layered with various meanings and metaphors of current events. In order for these stories to be heard, he has combined them with beautiful melodies and sung through an interestingly striking voice.
Favorite Lyrics: “Was it Casey Jones or Casey at the Bat?
Who died out of pride and got famous for that
Killed by a swerve laid low by the curve
Do you ever think they ever thought they got what they deserved?” To The Dogs or Whoever (The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter)

5. Iron and Wine “Folk”
Sam Beam better known as Iron and Wine is a creative genius. The first song that got him some serious recognition was actually a cover song. “Such Great Heights” originally from the indie-electronic band The Postal Service (a side project of Death Cab for Cutie’s lead singer Ben Gibbard) was slowed down and covered by Iron and Wine. The cover song was included in the film and soundtrack for Garden State, as well as, an M&M’s commercial. As good as most of Iron and Wine songs are, Sam Beam would have made this list if he had just completed one, “The Trapeze Swinger”. “The Trapeze Swinger” is a nine and a half minute song that is completely perfect. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and smart and so so wonderful. But really everything he’s done is great and should be listened to.
Favorite Lyrics: “But please remember me, fondly
I heard from someone you’re still pretty
And then they went on to say that the Pearly Gates
Had some eloquent graffiti
Like ‘We’ll meet again’ and ‘Fuck the man’
And ‘Tell my mother not to worry’” Trapeze Swinger (Single)

4. Randy Newman “Jazz Rock/Piano Rock"
Randy Newman is probably one of the greatest active songwriters. He dishes them out like there’s nothing to it. Most of his songs come from the perspective of a character in the song, and they also tell stories. One of his biggest hits “Short People” is written from the perspective of a lunatic who is basically prejudice towards short people. Obviously the meaning behind the song is that it’s crazy to be prejudice towards anyone. He is so brilliant with his song writing it is easy to get lost in the lyrics, and he started out his career primarily as a writer for other singers. Most people know Randy Newman through his success with the Disney films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Toy Story 3. And of course he ended up winning Academy Awards for Best Original Song from Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3. However, he was nominated for fifteen other film scores or original songs (The Natural, Pleasantville, and Meet the Parents to name a few) before he won his first with Monsters, Inc. ; making Newman at the time the most nominated without a win. Regardless, he is still probably the most gifted songwriters and composers today.
Favorite Lyrics: “Grab somebody, come on down.
Bring your paintbrush, paintin’ the town.
There’s some sweetness goin’ ’round,
Catch it down in New Orleans.” Down in New Orleans (Princess and the Frog Soundtrack)
("Political Science" Live)

3.Matt Pond “Indie Rock”
Matt Pond is the lead singer and primary songwriter for the band Matt Pond PA, and honestly the only consistent member of this “band” is Matt Pond, which is important if the band is named after you. Regardless of the varying support, Matt Pond PA Albums continue to impress. He writes such great lyrics and melodies that it’s easy to relate to the stories he tells through his songs. He writes about emotions or situations most everyone has experienced and that is why many of his songs strike emotional cords. Matt Pond continuously creates songs that never really expire. His sound, his voice, and his lyrics are fresh and will never sound dated no matter what’s popular. His songs conjure memories, and a great memory can never grow old.
Favorite Lyrics: "We stand on ledges, kick our feet and throw our shoes
I tried to move a little closer, nothing left for me to lose
There is no argument to get me going hoarse
Misplaced my mind and now I do not have to worry about before." Starting (The Dark Leaves)

2. Brett Dennen “Folk”
Brett Dennen has an amazing voice that perfectly complements his laid back yet often rebel rousing songs. His sound can be reminiscent of some musical greats in folk, acoustic, and reggae; and yet his sound is also astoundingly original. He pleads through his lyrics for change, revolution, and for people to just see the world as it really is. “I Asked When” is a perfect example of a song pleading for revolution and asking those to really take a good look at the current situation. Other songs are not as politically influenced but still tell powerful tales of love or heartache. His lyrics are meaningful and eloquent and because of his knack for powerful, evocative songs he has gained critical praise. Rolling Stone Magazine named him as an artist to watch and Entertainment Weekly categorized him as one of the eight “Guys on the Rise”. Brett Dennen is authentic.
Favorite Lyrics: “I wonder how so many can be in so much pain,
While others don't seem to feel a thing
Then I curse my whiteness,
And I get so damn depressed,
In a world with suffering,
Why should I be so blessed?” There is So Much More (So Much More)
(“Ain’t No Reason” Video)

1. Regina Spektor “Anti-folk/Indie Rock”
Regina Spektor has one of those gorgeous, unique voices that complement her creatively distinctive and quirky lyrics that in turn complement her matchless piano and guitar arrangements. It’s not necessarily one thing that makes her music so wonderful, it is the whole package. Every little aspect adds more color to her material including her good-looks, sweet personality, and her artistic swagger. Similar to Randy Newman, Spektor often writes her songs through the perspective of a character (they are not typically autobiographical). Regina may be one of the harder working artists out there today. She is constantly touring and releasing new albums. Furthermore, she has done more than a dozen live televised performances on late night talk shows and early morning shows. Currently, she is writing the music for the musical Beauty, a modern adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, which will be opening on Broadway. So really what can’t she do.
Favorite Lyrics: “So we made our own computer
Out of macaroni pieces
And it did our thinking
While we lived our lives
It counted up our feelings
And divided them up even
And it called our calculation
Perfect love

Didn't even know
That love was bigger” The Calculation (Far)