Here are some clips from our recent hike to South Willow Lake in Utah’s Stansbury Mountains. The angelic voice issuing from my phone in one clip belongs to Miss Zee Avi. If you must listen to music in the wilderness, it must be hers.
Category Archives: Zee Avi
Why do I like Zee Avi so much? Could it be her novelty? If you’ve listened to her, you know what I mean by that. Avi’s voice is completely unique. And not in a calculated or blatant way. Her sound is a striking mix of Billie Holiday and Norah Jones. The former was known for tailoring her vocals to sound like a horn. Indeed, play some Billie Holiday and walk away from the speaker until the words sound muddled. What you still hear will sound very similar to a trumpet or a sax playing.
Purposefully or not, Avi’s voice shares this characteristic, which may be why the horn accompaniment on her recently released debut album sounds so appropriate. In fact, one of this album’s pillars is the instrumentation used in these songs, my only previous exposure to which were Avi’s minimalist YouTube videos.
The more I listen to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire artists, the more I conclude that ingenious instrumentation is what sets them apart. Somebody (or somebody’s) over in Mango Tree has an impeccable knack for mixing instruments and sounds. I’ve noticed it ever since the Jack’s In Between Dreams. For the record, whoever tweets for Brushfire told me kudos on Avi’s album go to members of Jack’s and Matt Costa’s bands and Ozomatli. Somebody’s calling the shots, though, and I’d like to shake their hand.
Of course the real star on this album is Miss Zee Avi, her songs, and the emotion she conveys in her voice. Avi is one of those artists that make you feel like you know them simply by singing a song. Each of the albums 12 tracks is a musical delight.
I won’t go track by track, but favorites include “Just You and Me,” “Monte,” and “Honey Bee.” If you’re a selective music purchaser like I am, I’d buy these tracks online for a nice introduction. Then, in this case, of course I’d buy the rest.
Noteworthy highlights include the simple guitar melody on “The Story,” a song that is best listened to at night in the mountains, and the horn/vocal duet on “Just You and Me” which illustrates my point about the voice-horn comparison. The rolling “Darling” would sound equally at home on a road trip or in a club.
You might assume, based on my previous doting, that I’d have no complaints about the album. You would be wrong. “Poppy,” Avi’s first original song, and “First of the Gang” are lackluster at best. And “Kantoi” is downright annoying. Mind you, these tracks are fine vocally and musically. They’re just somehow less than the sum of their parts.
I also might have arranged the album differently. Ordering the slow, emotive “Is This the End” right after the bubbly “Just You and Me” takes the air out of things mid-album. “Is This the End” would be better appreciated were it the album closer. A track featuring Jack Johnson in some way would have topped things off very nicely. Here’s hoping that happens on her next album.
These criticisms considered, Miss Avi has me hooked. This album is mature beyond its scope and rich beyond its simplicity. I just ask that after she becomes a mega star, that Avi not forget the little old bloggers like me who had her back from the beginning. Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful career!
A Note on the new Zee Avi album
I know I promised a review, but these last few weeks couldn’t have been more hectic for me. I still plan on writing one, but it defininitely won’t be until next week. Suffice it to say that the new album is excellent. Whoever called the shots on instrumentation is a genius. Avi’s voice is sweet and distinct. Favorite track so far– ‘Just You and Me.’
Iosepa or bust
My family and I attended the annual Iosepa festival last Saturday. If you’re new to this blog, read more about this Hawaiian ghost town here. Below are some pics from this year’s festival:
One of this town’s distinguishing characteristics was its pressurized irrigation system, which exploited 5 mountain streams by converging them into cement and wooden aqueducts. Last year, archaeologist Benjamin Pykles was excavating one of the old lots, he showed me some BLM archaeological papers that mapped out remnants of that aqueduct system. This year, I attempted to locate one of the ruins but turned back when I decided my family vehicle’s axles and tires were more important than a moment of archaeological elation. Read all about it in this week’s Transcript Bulletin column, which I’ll post here this weekend.
Yeah, so I haven’t blogged much the last few days, nor have I had much time to read all of your blogs and leave comments. That’s because the missus and I are frantically preparing to sell our house.
No, I didn’t lose any of my jobs. It’s just that we looked at the number of children we have vs. the number of bedrooms and square feet in our little starter home and decided it might be wise to take advantage of the buyer’s market.
It was split-second decision, and as heart attack inducing as that is for me, most of our better decisions have happened that way (getting married to each other, having kids, and buying our current house all come to mind).
The down side is that gave us a week to re-landscape our yard, redo our bathroom floor, and try to make the place look like 5 kids really don’t live there. All amidst family reunions, weddings, school activities, and work.
Of course if we don’t sell our house, we won’t buy the one we’ve made an offer on, which fortunately is just up the street. Wish us luck.
I’ve been excited for singer/songwriter Zee Avi for quite a while now, and her debut album hit U.S. stores yesterday. I’ve listened to it a few times now and its exactly what I expected. Good stuff. Let me just say that this Malaysian artist is set to take America by storm. I’ll post a review hopefully this weekend or early next week.
For now, please enjoy her new vid for ‘Bitter Heart.’
In “Bitter Heart”, the Brushfire Records newcomer canonizes the signature modus operandi prevalent in her lauded YouTube offerings: An airy, laid-back take on love’s weightier topics.
The track expresses the pent up feelings of a neglected love, but it does so with the happy-go-lucky introspective style popularized by label-mate Jack Johnson. In fact, “Bitter Heart” is reminiscent of several tracks on Jack’s In Between Dreams. A brief horn bridge (provided, I’m assuming, by Ozomatli) adds a satisfying touch.
Avi’s unique sound may not take popular radio by storm, but when you hear it playing in a surf shop or on Pandora, you won’t be able to help but take notice. The fusion of her Billie Holiday-like voice with eclectic accompaniment draws your attention and keeps it until the last happy chord.
Zee Avi’s self-titled debut album is due out May 19.
Brushfire Records plans to release Zee Avi’s debut album on May 19.
The album features “touches” by Brushfire colleagues Zach Gill, Adam Topol, Merlo Podlewski. No word if Jack Johnson joins her in any way on any of the tracks (though I’m hoping he does).
The Malaysian-bred singer/songwriter’ became YouTube sensation last year, when her humble videos were noticed by the guys at Brushfire. Her first appearance for the label came as a breezy track on their multi-artist Christmas release (my review of that album here).
Other than the delightful Christmas song and the DIY YouTube vids, I haven’t heard a lot from Miss Avi. But judging on the stuff I have heard, I think she’s got huge potential. Kudos to Brushfire for snatching her up.
Since YouTube brought Avi her big break, it’s only appropriate that her album’s release date was announced in a YouTube video last week. That video is embedded below (you’ll need to turn up the volume).
May 19 can’t come soon enough!
Previous Zee Avi blogging:
-Excited for Zee Avi (aka Kokokaina)
-Zee Avi’s track aside, Brushfire’s Warm December serves up lukewarm holiday tunes