Jay Brannan 04/12/2010
 
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An amazing example of a determined, self-driven person is Jay Brannan.  Growing up in conservative Texas, his singing, acting, and songwriting dream wasn’t necessarily completely supported by his family and community.  After graduating high school, he attended the University of Cincinnati’s acting program for 6 months, then moved to Palm Springs, CA before moving to Los Angeles, CA, and finally to New York where he’s been for the past 6 years.  By creating his own record company and getting by on profit from gigs and merchandise, as well as Internet promotion, Jay Brannan has found himself to be doing what he wanted to do with his life, and in 2003 had a role in the movie Shortbus, as well an original song on the movie’s soundtrack.  By creating music videos as well as just himself singing, he has become a YouTube sensation, but not nearly as big of a fan base as he deserves.

With real, honest, and moving lyrics, as well as a voice that can touch your heart, he can bring everyone to relate to his story in some way or another.  When you see him in any one of his videos or performing his songs, he has the most genuine smile that is humanly possible.  He’s achieving his dreams of singing, acting, and songwriting, and has done much of it on his own, which is something in itself to applaud.  To hear and see him sing, check out his YouTube channel and to learn more about his story you can visit his official website and from there access his other social networking sites, which he updates himself quite often:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jaybrannan#p/u/90/_7CDT820D7c

http://www.jaybrannan.com

 
Evan and Jaron 02/11/2010
 
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Another band originating in the 90s is Evan and Jaron.  I first heard their song Crazy for this Girl on the radio, and after Google-ing the lyrics to find out who was behind the sound, decided I wanted to learn more about them.  This led me to writing a band bio about them.

Identical twins Evan and Jaron Lowenstein were born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and first began pursuing a career in baseball.  Both were driven towards their athletic career choice, and, according to their MySpace, started pursuing music when they realized the guitar very easily might get them more girls than a bat.  However, other reviews of theirband state that it was after they received portable disc players (remember those things?) for their birthdays that they became interested in music.  

They are strict Orthodox Jews, and have not let that be ignored- not playing music on the Jewish Sabbath, nor on religious holidays.  Though they have had opportunities to tour with some of the greats, they turned down some offers due to having to play during times which interfered with their beliefs.

They have also resolved the question of whether or not they write songs together- they do not.  All their songs have been written separately, though Evan has some collaborators outside the brother-duo, and Jaron sometimes writes with Jeff Cohen.

They performed local gigs and every Tuesday night at KaLo’s Coffeehouse, under the band-name Durable Phig Leaf.  After releasing a four-song tape, they released Live at KaLo’s Coffeehouse, which eventually sold 15,000 copies.  Soon after, they formed Evan and Jaron, and released their debut EP, Not from Concrete in 1996.  Only a few months later, Jimmy Buffett contacted the duo and after hearing them live, offered a contract for his own record label.  They got a deal next with Island Records, and worked with guitarist Danny Korchmar to release We’ve Never Heard of You Either, in 1998.

Their sophomore major-album release, Evan and Jaron on the Sony Columbia label, saw its debut in 2001 and features such greats as Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac; and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s the Heartbreakers.  Crazy for this Girl soon became a top-20 hit after being featured on Dawson’s Creek, and led to a spot on MTV’s TRL (when MTV was still Music Television).  Though the appearance did get them some airtime, it is seen as a step backward because it caused them to seem like your typical boy band, which they most definitely are not.

Though they may have missed some opportunities in touring due to their faith, their audience and fan base still seem to have held through.  And with a slight miss on MTV, it doesn’t seem as though they are being grouped with other boy bands of the 90s, something that is probably better for their reputation anyways.

 
Vertical Horizon 02/06/2010
 
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One of the most enjoyable things of blogging, for me, is researching bands and learning more about them: their origin, how each member became part of the band, how they got their first record deal, and their journey to reach where they are now.  This was all especially true about Vertical Horizon, formed in the early 90s when two musicians performed together on not much more than a whim at Georgetown University, and realized they wanted to pursue a career in music.  As undergrads, they got gigs whenever they could, reaching out with their music and reeling in a bigger following.

In 1992, they released their first LP, There and Back Again, which featured only the duo, their guitars, and amazing voices.  When their paths crossed with Jackopierce, another acoustic group, they went on a short stint together, both widening their fan base.  While touring, other musicians were recruited for a time to fill the place of sounds guitars couldn’t achieve alone.  Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthew’s Band took position for the percussion responsibilities on Vertical Horizon’s sophomore album, Running on Ice.  In 1996, the band became a permanent quartet after the addition of bassist Sean Hurley and drummer Ed Toth.  

In the late 90s, the band released Live Stages, a compilation of live performances, and soon after was signed by RCA, their first major label.  After signing with RCA, they re-released their first three albums and in mid-1999, Vertical Horizon released their major-label debut album, Everything You Want.  A second album with RCA was released in 2003, titled Go, and not long after its release, they left RCA.  In 2005, Ed Toth left the band, and they signed with Hybrid Recordings, and released Burning the Days in 2009, with the help of percussionist Neil Peart.

The song that caught my attention was their title track Everything You Want when I heard it playing on the radio and found myself singing along (not necessarily well) the following times I heard it.  Check out their CDs, especially Everything You Want.

 
The Stiff Dylans 01/31/2010
 
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Yet another group with four talented musicians, each bringing their uniqueness to every song: The Stiff Dylans.  After being introduced and cast to play a band called The Stiff Dylans in the film adaptation of Louise Rennison’s novel: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, the four realized the chemistry of each sound they brought, and formed The Stiff Dylans- this time, off-screen.  The movie was released in the UK in 2008, and premiered in the US earlier in January 2010.

James Flannigan provides the band’s vocals and guitar, while Charlie Wride rocks the lead guitar, Matt Harris the bass, and Tom Slaytor the drums.  The sounds that each of these individuals brings meshes together in such a perfect manner that their first single sounds like they’ve been a band for much longer than they actually have.

Though they haven’t become too popular, they are definitely gaining a wide fan base- especially after being released in the US; their song has become more well-known in this country.  Their single Ultraviolet was released in July 2008, and is featured in the movie they appeared in.  Definitely a band to keep an eye on, because they have an incredible future awaiting them: as individuals and together as a band.  The only way to go from here is up.

 
 
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With 5 members, Between the Trees is not only an amazing band with a great sound, but has incredibly inspirational lyrics.  The quintet was formed in early 2005 in Orlando, Florida, but didn’t start out with 5 members.  Ryan Kirkland and Josh Butler first started playing together when Josh revealed that he was a drummer, of which his friend Ryan was unaware.  When Josh’s brother Jeremy wanted in, Ryan taught him the basics and Jeremy began providing the band’s bass.  Next to enter the band was Wes Anderson, who became the keyboardist for Between the Trees.  Fifth and finally, but certainly not the least, was Brad Kriebel, their second guitarist.

Their debut album, titled The Story and the Song was released in September of 2006, courtesy of Bonded Records.  Their sophomore album was released in 2009, titled Spain.  They have been continuously touring with similar bands, as well as Renee Yohe, who is the inspiration for To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

Between the Trees has two songs inspired by Renee Yohe, titled The Way She Feels, and A Time for Yohe.  For more information on TWLOHA, visit
http://www.twloha.com/vision/.  You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and vote for them in the Chase Community Giving on Facebook, where they are currently in the lead for 1 million dollars to help their organizations.

 
 
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This 90s band is a quartet who attended the University of North Texas, and after graduation, formed the band now known as Deep Blue Something.  Brothers Todd and Toby pipes provided the bands vocals/bass, and vocals/guitar, respectively.  Kirk Tatom brought forth the guitar, and John Kirtland was on the drums.  In 1993, they began selling their disc titled 11th Song at shows they played.  October of 1994 saw the release of their second recording, titled Home.  In June of 1995, they were signed by Interscope and saw the modified release of their album Home.

Though the band saw themselves as an alternative rock band with more of a gothic element, the release of their single Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it became a pop hit, reaching high on the charts.  Home was also a big hit, but the band took a hiatus for several years until they released their next album in 2001, titled Deep Blue Something, after signing with the Aezra label.

You’ll find some of their lyrics featured as this week’s Lyric of the Week.

 
Mayday Parade 01/08/2010
 
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If you’re a fan of alternative rock/punk music and you’re not listening to Mayday Parade, start.  With some of the most meaningful lyrics and unique sound, Mayday Parade is one of my favorites.  Made up of 5 guys, the sound comes together in a way that it couldn’t if they weren’t all present: Derek Sanders is the lead vocalist and keyboardist, Jeremy Lenzo on bass and backup vocals, Alex Garcia on lead guitar, Brooks Betts provides the rhythm guitar, and Jake Bundrick brings forth the drums, percussion, and more backup vocals.  Their first EP Tales Told by Dead Friends saw its release in 2006, and their debut album A Lesson in Romantics appeared in 2007.  In October of 2009, their second studio album Anywhere but Here was released, and their fan base is continuously growing.

Although I only own A Lesson in Romantics, I can’t get enough of it.  Some of the songs are the kind you could dance all day to, some are sad, and some are just plain fun, with everything in between.  The lyrics are easy to relate to in one way or another, and can probably be interpreted in one way or another for every person.  If you’ve never listened to their music, there’s always time to start.

 
Augustana 01/08/2010
 
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Another great band with just as unique of sound as the next is Augustana.  Now made up of 5 members, Augustana’s fan base has grown immensely since their debut album.  Dan Layus provides vocals, piano, and guitar; Jared Palomar brings the bass and vocals; Chris Sachtleben plays the guitar and mandolin; Justin South is on the drums; and John Vincent offers more vocals and the sound of a keyboardist.

Originally the band was founded within the campus of the college that 4 boys were attending in Illinois, with Dan Layus the only remaining original member.  While still in Illinois in 2003, they released Midwest Skies and Sleepless Mondays, which only sold 1000 copies.  When Layus returned to California with ex-member Josiah Rosen, the band released their hit album All the Stars and Boulevards with now-drummer,Justin South in 2005.  

The band’s third album Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt was released in spring of 2008 and has had hit songs appear on shows such as Scrubs, Smallville, One Tree Hill, and was sung by one of the characters on The Big Bang Theory. 

This band has not only a very original sound, but amazing and inspirational lyrics.  You may have heard their song Boston on the radio, the band singing of a girl who wants to go to Boston and start a new life; and their song Sweet and Low has also been popular on the radio.  This band is definitely one that deserves much more recognition, and their fan base has already been growing, with over 300,000 copies of their second album already sold, and over a million copies of the single Boston.  Check ’em out if you haven’t yet.

 
Owl City 12/28/2009
 
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Owl City is the product of insomniac Adam Young.  In Owatonna, Minnesota, Adam Young began playing and recording music in his parent’s basement and then proceeded to upload them to Myspace.  The first album was self-released in 2007, titled Of June.  Young’s fan base grew rapidly and in 2008 he self-released another album, this one titled Maybe I’m Dreaming.  In July of 2009, Owl City saw its first major label album: Ocean Eyes.  In July it was released digitally, with a physical release followed soon after.  The single Fireflies features vocals from Relient K’s Matt Thiessen, as did three other songs on Ocean Eyes.  Both the album and single worked their way up the Billboard charts, and Fireflies can often be heard on the radio.  What more can we expect from Adam Young?  I think it’s safe to say, many great things.  What do you think?  Oh, and a few other songs from Owl City that I particularly enjoy, besides all of them: Hello Seattle, Saltwater Room, Vanilla Twilight, Dear Vienna, I’ll Meet You There.

 
 
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Green River Ordinance is made up of five band members, brothers Geoff and Jamey Ice, providing the bass and guitar, respectively; Josh Jenkins, who brings the vocals, guitar, and piano; Joshua Wilkerson on the guitar; and Denton Hunker, who plays the drums.  The original GRO was formed by the Ice brothers, who were influenced with music their entire lives, especially from their parents.  The other three boys who now make up the group were also musically inclined from a young age.  The band formed in Ft. Worth, Texas.  When all five of them got together and combined their songwriting abilities, they found that they each made equally important contributions.  Their first EP was recorded in their church’s basement, and by the time of its release, their fan base was expanding quickly.

They were soon recognized as The Best New Band of 2003, by Fort Worth Weekly, and Best Live Band in the following year.  At the Fort Worth Music Awards in 2006, they reeled in three more awards: Rock Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Artist of the Year; and in 2008 won another Artist of the Year award.  Their latest album, Out of My Hands, was released in February of 2009, and they continue to impress.  You may have recently heard their song, Come On, on radio stations.  Either way, definitely a band to check out.