Short Takes (Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands, Nic Nassuet, The Furious Seasons and Grumsling)

Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands - The Absolute Elsewhere

Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands – The Absolute Elsewhere

Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands – “Fall of the Seraph”

Singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and ethnomusicologist Crystal Bright is the main light of Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands and her latest album, The Absolute Elsewhere, is available in the U.S. on May 19th.  It’s an eclectically diverse album that incorporates various world music styles and instruments with Crystal’s rich, operatic, and engrossing vocals.  Crystal is constantly performing and has played more than 400 shows over the past 4 years. She continually refines her vocal and instrumental craft and has studied Anthropology and Ethnomusicology and learned how to play a variety of instruments including accordion, musical saw, concertina, and Taiko drum.  Crystal has also learned how to sing in different musical styles like Mariachi, Chinese, Ugandan, Samba, and more.

The dramatic, center stage-ready first single “Fall of the Seraph” is a stunning song, although it’s not reflective of the cabaret/folk/world music nature of the rest of the songs on The Absolute Elsewhere.  “Fall of the Seraph” is a lamenting piano ballad that takes flight with Crystal’s powerfully emotive vocals.  The verses may be quiet compared to the soaring chorus lines, but they are full of pent-up drama as Crystal lightly, and then pressingly, bemoans “Rage consumes me / I’m not ready to love” amid contemplative piano notes.  The poignant verses segue into the stormy chorus skies where Crystal pulls out all the stops, pouring out her despair in a rich, deeply passionate, but wounded vocal tone.  Pronounced drum hits, cymbals shimmer, mellifluous piano runs, and brief draws of horns emphasize her torment, until a denouement is reached two-thirds of the way through the song.  An emotionally-fragile Crystal sings in a delicate and higher pitch, backed by thoughtful piano notes and a few angelically floating vocal tones.  A full instrumental accompaniment materializes, replete with expressive horn lines, to finish off the song.

Official Site


Nic Nassuet - Eleutherios

Nic Nassuet – Eleutherios

Nic Nassuet – “When It Falls” and “She Rides Moonlight”

Veteran musician, vocalist, and songwriter Nic Nassuet has starred in dramatic musicals onstage and been the frontman in several punk and metal bands over the years, but he is now ensconced in Hollywood and is ruling over his own stylistic niche of gothic folk-rock.  Nic released his striking and stirring debut album, Eleutherios, just last month and recently won the “Best Male Alternative Artist” for 2015 at the Indie Music Channel Awards.  He combines elements of acoustic guitar-led alt-folk balladry with his powerful rock vocals, melancholic gothic atmosphere, classical symphonic strings, and punk rock attitude.  It’s a potent, diverse, and unusual brew – unexpected, but highly welcome in a world that rewards ephemeral pop fizz and heavy shots of rock.

“When It Falls” showcases Nic’s expressive vocals as he emotes with passion over a smooth-groovin’ Latin rhythm.  The short-strummed acoustic guitar line cycles, laid-back, but dynamic hand drums percussion, and clacking tempo all support Nic’s melodic vocal phrases as he pushes his lyrics out with fervor.  He reveals that “When it falls / I’m never gonna make it without you.”  Another track off the album, “She Rides Moonlight”, takes another aural tack, going Medieval classical with pulled strings of varying pitches and pace (piquant violin plucks playing off of slow-drawn cello) and a plainer toned Nic soothingly singing the disquieting lines “See the strangers in the street / You know they’re living in a lie.”

Official Site


The Furious Seasons - My Love Is Strong

The Furious Seasons – My Love Is Strong

The Furious Seasons – “Wind Blown”

Los Angeles-based folk-pop band The Furious Seasons released its fourth  album, My Love Is Strong, last month and it’s filled with upbeat to low-key, story-telling songs that cross traditional Americana with catchy pop and is topped off with plaintive, pleasant vocals that bring to mind a hybrid of Bob Dylan and Justin Currie, the lead singer of Del Amitri.  David Steinhart (vocals, guitar), Jeff Steinhart (bass), Bob Gannon (drums), and Eric Marin (keyboards, piano) collaborated with Stuart Pearson (harmonizing vocals), Tyra Juliette (harmonizing vocals), and Lee Thornburg (horns) in crafting the 13 songs on My Love Is Strong.

It’s difficult to pick just one standout song from the album, but, at least to these ears, “Wind Blown” is the winner due to its voice-focused format with bittersweet emotive vocals, tenderly raw lyrics, and subdued instrumental accompaniment.  David is in full confessional mode, admitting with heartfelt sincerity on the painful lyrics that “This is not fixed with a coat of paint” and “…I’m not the one / I’m just someone who came before / and I know your world will brighten / when I walk out your door.”  He’s backed by a softly brushed drum beat, cymbal tap, acoustic and electric guitar lines, piano notes, and sustained, but barely perceptible organ notes.  A female vocal choral section appears intermittently on the chorus, expanding David’s downcast tone with lofty wordless vocals.

Official Site


Grumsling - A Church, On a Boat, In the Sea EP

Grumsling – A Church, On a Boat, In the Sea EP

Grumsling – “PreGame”

Oakland, CA-located indie rockers Grumsling released a 2-fold EP set over the course of a year; Full Coverage in March 2014 and A Church, On a Boat, In the Sea this year.  The quartet consists of Carl Flynn (guitar, vocals), D.J. Lowe (keyboards/synths, vocals), Matt Lowe (bass, vocals), and Dominic Rodriguez (drums, vocals) and is creating more than just music with the Grumsling project.  There’s a story behind the band’s name that is slowly being revealed; something mysterious and dark in nature… The band members have plans for producing graphic novels and movies based on the Grumsling character.

The story-telling tunes, meanwhile, on A Church, On a Boat, In the Sea EP, mixes emotive, direct male vocals, unadorned gang vocals from all the band members, kinetic drums, rhythmic bass, and stop-start guitar riffs.  Each song on the EP is connected to each other in a continuous storyline, which makes it difficult to pick out one song from the rest to highlight.  None of the songs are particularly sonically or vocally distinctive either, but the low-key groove of “Pre-Game” holds some interest, at least for its lyrics and modest instrumentation.  It features a subdued backing of steady drum beat, ticking drumsticks, tapped cymbals, short guitar lines, and piano notes.  The main vocalist sing-talks in a plain, upfront style, declaring “Oh, my love is gone / You give me no choice / but to put it on the line / on this foolish game.”  He’s bolstered by occasional, but unsteady, vocal harmonies from the other band members.