Before founding my current project Madam West, I played and sang solo with my ukulele, usually in reaction to some breakup I was still bitter over. I referred to myself as a singer-songwriter, a term which tends to conjure up an image of a lovelorn twentysomething strumming an acoustic instrument in cowboy boots (which, in my case, was totally spot-on). In the past few years, I’ve come to redefine and expand my own definition of a songwriter. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a plethora of songwriters who push the limits of that stereotype. In addition to singing or playing an instrument, some do their own composing and full band arranging, while others write electronically, producing and/or engineering from home studios. In celebration of Soundfly’s #SongwritingWeek, here is a calendar of great local NYC songwriters to check out:
Rockwood Stage 2 (Record Release), 7pm, FREE
Yoshino composes and arranges pop-influenced originals, interspersed with her own arrangements of jazz standards. A classically trained pianist, her arrangements move in ecstatic fits and starts, holding the room with brief moments of tension before bursting into glorious runs on piano, bass, and saxophone.
Mickey’s got a serious talent for writing relatable, bittersweet lyrics. You can rock out to his growing pain, while his bright guitar soothes. His live shows are pretty rare these days, so make an effort to catch him!
Favorite lyric: “And I’d tell you I love you but I wouldn’t let you know it / cause that’s when it gets too hard not to blow it” —“Not That Kind of a Poet”
Chantel De Lava’s soft synths and laid-bare vocals breathe new life into R&B-infused synthpop. Despite heavy use of electronics, the mix never loses warmth or depth of emotion, leaving room for more open sections and gorgeous vocal runs. Stay late for ZEMA, an electropop singer/producer who writes infectious tunes that will get your hips shakin’ of their own accord.
Favorite lyric: “If it pleases you my darling dear / ask me why I changed my fears” —“Afterwave”
Living Room, 9pm
The frontwoman of the Israeli group Panic Ensemble’s first solo effort covers a lot of ground. Kraus’ versatile pipes carry her through multiple genres from cabaret to orchestral/Balkan pop, maintaining a sensual curiosity throughout. I’m interested to see whether she brings out a full band; her arrangements are as joyously unpredictable as an early Bjork record.
Favorite lyric: “Once in a while I allow myself the pleasure of you / good for the skin, I will have you from within” —“Gourmet”
Bohemian Grove,7:30pm, $5-10
If you’re looking for an intimate house/basement show, local bloggers/curators No Smoking Media are bringing the party on Friday with several bands, including Stuyedeyed. Based out of Brooklyn, Stuyedeyed plays a fresh blend of latin-psych-rock. Nelson Antonio Espinal, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, collaborated with his bandmates to write Birth and Cursed (the two demos out currently) with one goal in mind: “to bring only the most excellent of vibes to any and all listeners.”
Favorite Lyric: “You try to fight, we’re shaking on landlines / breathe it in, where do we begin?”- “Land Mines”
If you want to rock out this Saturday, check out Vagabon at the Silent Barn. They’re opening for Aye Nako (an incredible pop-punk band, releasing their new album), hopefully playing some tunes off of their 2014 release Persian Garden. Laetitia Tamko’s ragged vocals chase distorted lead guitar lines to devastating and gorgeous effect.
Favorite lyric: “Take me as I am, clothes or bare, with despair.” —“Shadows”
Friday 7/24 – Sunday 7/26
Gigawatts Festival, $30-60
I probably cheated by throwing a festival in the mix, but there are a lot of great songwriters playing Gigawatts Festival, a 3-day romp in East Williamsburg featuring 80+ bands spread out at The Wick, The Well, and Our Wicked Lady. My favorites are tight dream-pop weavers Celestial Shore and art-soul-freaks Ava Luna. These guys exemplify songwriting as a true team effort, allowing for lots of colors and variations from each player. My band is playing as well (Saturday at 2:30pm); but it’s hardly worth mentioning, as I assume you’ll all still be in bed recovering after a week of taking in all of the excellent music this town has to offer!
Inspired to work on your own songwriting? Get started with our month-long intensive course, The New Songwriter’s Workshop!