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lay lowIf you haven't heard of Lay Low, it's not because this talented artist's moniker matches her status within the world of music. Icelandic singer-songwriter Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, with her unusual moniker and all, has a voice of gold. Since being discovered nearly four years ago, she has done anything but "lay low," garnering international critical acclaim for her folk meets blues meets pop signature sound. It is simply impossible to ignore one of the most terrific female vocalists - and songwriters - to come out of Iceland in recent years.

In 2006, Lovísa was contacted by a local label that showed interest in a raw demo she had placed on her MySpace page. Just a few short months after being discovered, she had recorded and released her debut album, Please Don't Hate Me, which topped the Icelandic charts, and became the best-selling original album in the country that year, as well as being nominated for four Icelandic Music Awards (and winning three of them) in the process. Her latest album, Farewell Good Night's Sleep, was released last year to positive reviews, and her MySpace views have top 350,000.

"By and By" - Lay Low from Farewell Good Night's Sleep (2009)

"I Forget It's There" - Lay Low from Farewell Good Night's Sleep (2009)

Lay Low on MySpace

Los Angeles musician Noel Carlon was born in Tijuana and grew up in southern California where he played his uncle's guitar and wore out his father's records. As a child in a "strange land," Carlon found himself isolated, spending countless hours in the local library reading the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Federico Garcia Lorca, and William Shakespeare. During college, he honed his songwriting skills and formed a band called Delarosa. Today, he is continuing his work using the moniker, Noel Carlon and the Dead Poets.

With help from guest musicians, Carlon brought his compositions to life and released his debut album, Insecure, last year. His musical influences include the Beatles, the Smiths, Soda Stereo, Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith, Tom Waits, and Chet Baker.

"Runaway" - Noel Carlon and the Dead Poets from Insecure (2009)

"Lady Kiss Me" - Noel Carlon and the Dead Poets from Insecure (2009)

Noel Carlon on MySpace

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   March 5, 2010    2 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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In the on-going Singer-Songwriter Spotlight Series, we have a backlog of musicians to present to you in the coming weeks, with more new talent coming in all of the time. Most of the artists we feature are those who have sent their music in hoping to strike a chord, and more often than not, they do. With that in mind, we are expanding this particular feature to include more singer-songwriters into each installment just to keep up with them all.

Nashville recording artist Andrew Belle, a native of Chicago, has made quite a name for himself in the past year or so, especially within the Nashville scene. In December, Belle was part of the Ten Out of Tenn tour, a collective of Tennessee musicians who hit the road to entertain concert goers across the midwest and west, performing a range of classic and modern-day Christmas songs as well as rare indie songs. Watch a promo video of the TOT rehearsals for their Christmas 2009 tour.

In addition to Belle, the collective included Trent Dabbs, Butterfly Boucher, Katie Herzig, Andy Davis, K.S. Rhoads, Tyler James, Jeremy Lister, Matthew Perryman Jones, Erin McCarley and Will Sayles.

Due in part to the success of the TOT holiday tour, Belle is now on the road again, performing a series of solo shows in Washington state, mostly at colleges and universities. In March, he will launch another tour of colleges and universities throughout the Midwest in support of the release of his first LP, The Ladder, which will drop on February 23rd. The LP is a self-release, and was mixed by Grammy award-winning engineer Vance Powell (The Raconteurs).

After you hear the magnificent live cover of Bright Eyes', "First Day of My Life," and the wonderfully memorable, "Static Waves," you'll probably not forgot Andrew Belle anytime soon. Remarkably, Belle's voice reminds us both of Johnny Legend and Chris Martin, especially on "Static Waves." Some of you may recognize Belle's voice from his debut 2008 EP, All Those Pretty Lights, from which a couple of songs were featured on 90210 and MTV's The Real World. Last August, Belle won MTV's 'Chicago Break Out Artist' VMA award for the song, "I'll Be Your Breeze."

Amazingly, his superb debut EP is available as a free download from Bandcamp.

"Static Waves" - Andrew Belle from The Ladder (2010)

"I'll Be Your Breeze" - Andrew Belle from All Those Pretty Lights EP (2009)

"All Those Pretty Lights" - Andrew Belle from All Those Pretty Lights EP (2009)

"First Day of My Life" (Bright Eyes) - Andrew Belle, live (2009)

Andrew Belle on MySpace

Americana singer-songwriter Chris Volpe is a self-taught guitar virtuoso who executes complex finger-picking styles akin to Leo Kottke and Paul Simon. Volpe taught himself to play piano, banjo, bass and drums, among other instruments and honed his skills for songwriting. After listening to half of a dozen of his songs from different releases, it becomes ever more apparent why Volpe has received as many music awards as he has in the span of five years.

"Don't Go" - Chris Volpe from Shipwrecked (2009)

In 2008, Volpe was picked to represent Nashville at the Forecastle Festival; earlier that year, Volpe won the international Lyric Writer Award for the song "Dusty Bibles," plus the Independent Music Award for the "Singer/Songwriter Album of the Year" category in 2006 for the LP, Refugee Blues. In fact, all 15 songs on the LP were recorded live in one take - a stellar recording feat. He won the studio time to record Refugee Blues as a prize for taking the "best song of the year" at the West Coast Songwriting Association's annual contest in 2004. Volpe's music is sometimes politically charged, as well as evidenced in "Dusty Bibles," which ruminates about Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and David Koresh, and sounds a bit like a Tom Waits song.

Volpe’s top-quality songwriting and performing has also garnered him honorable mentions in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest and Billboard Worldwide Song Contest. The following lyrics from the song "1849 Revisited" are one example of Volpe's songwriting abilities: For all along the river banks there lives/A residue collected in the weeds/It smells of tasteless regret: a faint glimpse/Of hearts that sold the life they own to lease.

With the help of Grammy award-winning producer Phil Harris, Volpe recorded songs that range in style from folk-jazz to Americana and country noir for his 2009 release, Shipwrecked. His band comprises some of Nashville’s finest musicians, including Jeff Coffin (Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band), Bryn Davies (Tony Rice, Patti Griffin), Donnie Herron (Bob Dylan, BR549) and Kenny Malone (Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash).

"Dusty Bibles" - Chris Volpe from Shipwrecked (2009)

Chris Volpe official website

Chris Volpe on MySpace

Check out previous installments from IRC's Singer-Songwriter Spotlight Series.

If you or your band wish to submit music for our review, please read and follow carefully the submission guidelines on our About page.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Singer/Songwriter Spotlight Series, Vol. III: In Memory of Vic Chesnutt, 1964 - 2009

Artist of the Week: French Teenage Singer/Songwriter Louis Aguilar

The Musical Genius of Singer-Songwriter Will Stratton

Best New Releases of the Week: Bear Hands, Local Natives, The Hush Now, Field Music, Son Lux, The Good Listeners

Band of the Week: Oregonian Band The Dimes Present a History Lesson of Colonial Boston in Song

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   February 17, 2010    0 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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What happens to a young, talented musician when he breaks from a major record label contract after being in a semi-famous band? Well, in the case of San Diego area singer/songwriter Brent Nettles, he went completely DIY, and in the process, created a collection of mesmerizing, heartfelt solo recordings that we are grateful to be the first major blog to review.

After leaving Warner Brothers two years ago while a member of the band The Finalist, Nettles returned Houston from California, began putting his song lyrics to music. The results are nothing short of remarkable.

While in Houston, Nettles found himself in an unplanned, three-day confinement in a makeshift studio with producer and friend Tyler Halford, recording a handful of songs that he had been working on for many months. Another friend, Jay Snider, later added drum tracks to some of the songs, and Taylor Johnson sat in on one track to play electric guitar.

The result is an impressive two set EP of mostly acoustic, Americana songs about love, rivers, faith and soul-searching. Nettles' music is completely original, which, for him, was key after being exposed to the corporate side of the music world.

"I write songs that are not all that polished, but are honest, and I want people to hear them...I'm not really 'trying to make it,'" he told IRC, and referring to his former contract with Warner Brothers, "I don't really want to tango with the devil again."

"I'm not bitter or anything like that," he added. "I was young - 17 when we signed the deal. We made a record that was never put out, and they kept us under a contract for a while until we asked to be released because they didn't do anything for us."

At just 22 years old, Nettles' down-to-earth outlook demonstrates a maturity and self-awareness that much older, "established" singer/songwriters we come across all of the time simply lack. He is curiously humble, and low-key, about his musical talents.

"I have worked really hard, and been really honest with these tunes. I have never tried to do a big push, or done any marketing, not because I'm lazy, only because my music is so personal. I didn't know if anyone besides my friends would care to hear it. I have been, and I still am, a bit insecure about my music. There is a lot of fear that comes with being honest."

No reason to fear; we think people will love this music, and be happy that it made its way from relative obscurity to be shared with a wider audience.

The first song from Nettles that we heard was, "It Must Be Nice," a mellow, beautiful song that progresses along smoothly, marked by a simple acoustic guitar strum, well timed drum beats, piano and keyboard infusions, and touching vocals.

"It Must be Nice" - Brent Nettles from Houston, Do You Read Me?

In addition to delivering songs about love, Nettles also has an astonishing talent for writing authentic American songs, as evidenced on songs like "In The Garden" and "Back to the River."

"Back to the River" - Brent Nettles from Hot Shoe Shuffle

Remarkably, his first two DIY EPs - Houston, Do You Read Me? and Hot Shoe Shuffle - are available for free download via Bandcamp, and we strongly recommend downloading them, especially since there are great songs that we didn't include here (because we didn't think it was kosher to re-publish his entire existing discography).

"I am kind of considering the two EPs I have out now as demos. Pretty soon I am going to make a full length record, and spend more time on it. I may have to ask a small amount of money for those recordings, only so I can eat. But who knows...God may provide a way for me create a really good product for free. I am a firm believer that you should give freely as you have been given."

"Leave the Ground Dry" - Brent Nettles from Hot Shoe Shuffle

Nettles has only performed a couple of shows as a solo artist at the E Street Cafe in San Diego, but said he would eventually like to go on a tour. "I would love to tour, " Nettles said. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford it in the near future. But I hope to one day. I love touring."

Nettles lives with his wife in the San Diego suburb of Encinitas, and credits her with inspiring many of his songs. In our opinion, Brent Nettles is already well on his way - it's just a matter of more people hearing his music, and the inevitable progression that will come as he grows as a songwriter, vocalist and musician.

Brent Nettles on MySpace

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   February 8, 2010    0 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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Vic Chesnutt: RIP (1964 - 2009) photo by Eric Lawson

In an on-going playlist series featuring fantastic singer and songwriters, we are honoring the memory of the great Athens, Georgia singer-songwriter, Vic Chesnutt, who passed away on two weeks ago on Christmas after lapsing into coma following a rumored suicide from an overdose of muscle relaxants.

Chesnutt was well known for his witty, dark songs and collaborations with members of various alternative and indie bands, such as Elf Power, Fugazi, Godspeed!, You Black Emperor, Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra,Widespread Panic, Cracker, Lambchop, Throwing Muses and M. Ward, to name just a few. Fellow Athens, Georgia resident and long-time friend, REM's Michael Stipe, produced Chesnutt's first two LPs.

In 1996, Chesnutt received national prominence after an album (Sweet Relief) of his songs were covered by Smashing Pumpkins, Madonna, REM and Garbage. Chesnutt was paralyzed at age 18 in a car accident, and he has required constant medical care ever since. Earlier last year, he told Spinner that he was terrified by the fact that he was being sued by the Athens Regional Medical Center in Georgia for up to $50,000 - even though he had health insurance. "Right now," Chesnutt said, "I am in huge trouble in that the hospital is suing me for $35,000 for payment, which is terrifying - and the rub is that I have health insurance."

In September, Chesnutt released the critically acclaimed LP, At The Cut, and was touring to sold out crowds. In honor of the prolific Chesnutt, here are a pair of songs from his own website - one from At the Cut, and another from his 2007 classic LP, North Star Deserter, and a couple of videos. The irony of the first song in this mix is heart-wrenching. Rest in Peace, Vic; we'll miss you.

"Flirted With You All My Life" - Vic Chesnutt from At the Cut (2009)

"You Are Never Alone" - Vic Chesnutt from North Star Deserter (2007)

Download a free six-song sampler from Vic's official website.

Vic Chesnutt on MySpace

Michael Stipe, Patti Smith and others talk about the passing of their friend.

See other posts in IRC's Singer and Songwriter series.

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   January 9, 2010    0 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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Artwork for Old Man Poems by Agripine

Louis Aguilar, a 19-year-old French musician who composes mellow, minimalistic folk songs, has already made a name for himself by opening and performing with artists like Moriarty, Micah P. Hinson and Devendra Banhart, among others.

One of Aguilar's newest songs, "Six Feet Under," from his latest LP, Old Man Poems (released by Noize Maker Records), is a nearly eight minute long track that will get stuck in your head for a very long time. Aguilar also provided us with another song, "Sailor Jerry," from his latest LP, available for purchase from Amazon.

Aguilar started playing music when he was merely seven years old, picked up the guitar at 11, and wrote, recorded and produced his first album, Hairly Tales, at the age of 16. He quickly gained an underground following throughout France, which paved the way for appearances with established artists.

While admittedly lofty comparisons, Aguilar's music has been likened to Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan by the French music webzine La Blogotheque. We were immediately struck at how mature Aguilar's voice sounds - far beyond his years - and couldn't help but to hear a likeness to M. Ward in his singing, with a sensibility similar to singer-songwriters like Nick Drake and the late Vic Chesnutt (RIP; look out for a special dedication to Chesnutt in the next few days). Aguilar told IRC: "I was a big fan of Vic Chesnutt. I am still really upset by his death."

Currently, Aguilar is majoring in Art at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, with the goal of becoming a tattoo artist; however, we hope he does not abandon his career as a musician. Thankfully, he plans to return to France and go back on tour after completing his schooling in Missouri.

He has recently begun writing new music, he told IRC. In response to a question about how he approaches his writing, Aguilar said: "I don't really have a songwriting process. It just kinda happens, you know. It sometimes comes from the melody, and most of the time from the story."

Aguilar's previous recordings before Old Man Poems were all released via Ohayo Records: Hairy Tales (2007), Green, Green is the Live (2008), Cloud Blowin' Child (2008).

"Six Feet Under" - Louis Aguilar from Old Man Poems (2009)*

"Sailor Jerry" - Louis Aguilar from Old Man Poems (2009)

Watch the YouTube video for "Short Stories"

Watch the Vimeo video for "Everlasting Sunshine and Queen Butterfly"

Louis Aguilar on MySpace
Aguilar's Homeless Heroes blog

Bad Panda Website

*Track is provided under Creative Commons licensing.

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   January 8, 2010    0 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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If you haven't heard of the young and brilliant singer and songwriter Will Stratton, here's your chance. Stratton's 2007 debut album, What the Night Said, was written and recorded while he was a teenager. Even popular indie artist Sufjan Stevens contributed to the record.

Stratton just released his new album, No Wonder, on November 3rd, via the indie label Stunning Models on Display. We are excited to share with you songs from the LP, which we strongly encourage purchasing, not just because it's magnificent, almost magically splendid, from start to finish, but also to help encourage this prodigy to continue crafting his warm, heart-felt compositions.

In fact, NPR called Stratton's music "disarmingly proficient"; PopMatters declared No Wonder "pretty damn close to a straight-up masterpiece" and the highly respected All Music dubbed the album, "stirring and hyper-personal yet universally beautiful."

Stratton was born in California and grew up in New Jersey where he began composing songs on piano at three years old. Fans of Nick Drake and Mark Kozelek will likely hear why comparisons of Stratton's music have been made to these prolific songwriters. In fact, Stratton's favorite album of all-time, he said, is Drake's classic Pink Moon.

If you enjoy Stratton's breathtakingly beautiful, and deeply personal, music, please vote for him as Deli Magazine's Artist of the Month. Last month, Stratton performed a set at New York's CMJ supported by the blog Pop Tarts Suck Toasted. In addition, he has previously toured with Sam Moss and These United States. Stratton one of the most gifted musical geniuses of our time, and we hope to hear much more from him in the months and years to come.

"Your California Sky" - Will Stratton from No Wonder (2009)

"Who Will" - Will Stratton from No Wonder (2009)

Earlier this year, Stratton self-released a free EP, Vile Bodies; even more reason why we'll be following Stratton's career for a long time to come.

"Vile Bodies" - Will Stratton from Vile Bodies EP (2009)

"Lying in the Dark" - Will Stratton from Vile Bodies EP (2009)

Note: After downloading and unzipping the free MediaFire EP, make sure to add .mp3 extension to the song titles so you can listen to them in your preferred music player.

Finally, here are just a couple of the amazing tracks off Stratton's stunning 2007 debut LP, plus a cover from his mentor, Nick Drake. Special thanks to and for the following tracks.

"I'd Hate To Leave You" - Will Stratton from What the Night Said (2007)

"Night Will Come" (Demo) - Will Stratton from What the Night Said (2007)

"Place To Be" (Nick Drake) - Will Stratton from

Will Stratton: Official Website
Will Stratton: MySpace
Download a free zip of Stratton's demos, out-takes and B-sides.

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   November 12, 2009    4 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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chadvangaalenChad VanGaalen is a singer-songwriter who garnered all kinds of praise and interest for his 2008 album release Soft Airplane. The album was recently nominated for Canada's 2009 Polaris Music Prize, sharing the list of nominees with Patrick Watson, Great Lake Swimmers and K'naan, among others.

The good news for VanGaalen, a Subpop recording artist, came just a couple of weeks ago, and coincided nicely with his newest music project. Using the moniker of his electronica alter-ego Black Mold, VanGaalen released his new album, Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz, August 11th on Flemish Eye Records.

VanGaalen spent the past couple of years experimenting with vintage analogue and hand-built modular synthesizers to create a new and electifying sound that has drawn parallels to the works of his previous recordings, including the albums Infiniheart and Skelliconnection. But VanGaalen's latest work is an album of instrumental electronica that mixes some old-school techniques, dips and pitches, minialistic themes and touches of distortion in various forms.

On the song "Metal Spider Webs," it's almost as if you can hear a 'metal spider' building a web, which is quite surreal, but poignant. The track "Tetra Pack Heads" is laden with sound glitches that would be annoying to most people, and perhaps intriguing - or not - to fans of VanGaalen's respectable catalog of songs as a singer-songwriter.

While Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz is unlikely to get nominated next year for a Polaris as Soft Airplane has been this year, it is a commendable side project with some impressive mixes. It's always a good sign when artists break out of their known format to take a risk and try something new, most especially when it is driven by a true passion and executed with heart and soul.

"Willow Tree" - Chad VanGaalen from Soft Airplane (2008)

"Metal Spider Webs" - Black Mold from Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz (2009)

"Tetra Pack Heads" - Black Mold from Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz (2009)

Note: It's no secret to regular readers of IRC that we have a deep fondness for Subpop Records, not just because they have an amazing lineup of artists and bands, but also because of their unique relationship building efforts with music fans, bloggers and the media. There are other labels that do this as well - Merge, Labrador, Matador and Saddle Creek, to name a few. Along with Subpop, they serve as models for the successful record company of the next decade.

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   September 2, 2009    1 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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Today marks three years since the passing of one of the most talented and introspective singer/songwriters of a generation.

Elliott Smith committed suicide at the age of 34 in Los Angeles on October 21, 2003 after suffering years of depression and drug abuse. His deep and melancholy songs moved millions of fans. His music and memory will live on. That is for sure.

Smith rose to national prominence, unfortunately, after his songs appeared in blockbuster movies like Good Will Hunting and American Beauty. He continued to release highly acclaimed, heart-wrenching music up until he unfortunate passing.

"Say Yes" - Elliott Smith from Either/Or (1997)

Here are some Elliott Smith sites to explore:

Fan Memorial and Complete Lyric Set -
Fan Site -
Professional Profile -

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   October 21, 2006    0 Comments     Vote Songs on Hypem   MP3 Policy 
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