Tuesday, April 20, 2010


You may very well have seen this coming. Then again, maybe not. In the 2009 Year In Review, I discussed the tough year One Note Ahead had, explaining that after reaching a peak of popularity in 2008, ONA slipped in '09 -- and powerful forces seemed to be working against it. But I ended by saying, "As long as people are reading and I have the time, I'll keep ONA going."

About that....

Since last July, I've been trying various methods of attracting and maintaining interest and visibility, and I've been paying close attention to the results. There have been some signs of promise here and there, but it seems that overall, the long-term trend has been a definite decline in both interest and visibility. Readership was not the only key component of this blog to suffer. There have also been too many instances in which I haven't even been able to find new artists to write about -- and too many instances in which it no longer made sense to write about the same artists, either because getting reviewed on ONA no longer mattered to their careers or because my relationships with those artists had reached a point where writing about them would not have been appropriate.

As for time, well, I'm not so sure I have it anymore. Posting on ONA has become a chore: "SJ, remember to put something up on One Note Ahead this month," operating on the premise that posting at least once a month would help to keep readers on board. But since the end of last year, my work as a music publicist has reached exciting, and sometimes exhausting, new levels, and posts on ONA have become rather perfunctory: "Okay, let me just review this so I can get back to work." I truly feel that the quality of my posts has suffered this year, both because of the time factor and the shortage of artists to write about. The new "Top 5 of the Moment" series does not represent the kind of blog One Note Ahead should be.

So after three years and seven months, I am ending One Note Ahead while it still has some dignity. It will remain online for now. You can take this time to look through posts you might have missed. Most of them are good or even great -- and even the ones I'm not proud of are still not bad!

I'd like to take a moment to spotlight the artists who, when all was said and done, gave One Note Ahead its own special character. Not the artists I wrote about once or twice and never mentioned again, talented though they all were, and not the classic artists who have received plenty of coverage elsewhere. I'm talking about the contemporary artists who made a lasting impression to the end of the blog's lifespan and whose music really represents what One Note Ahead did best: championing, often pioneering, great new sounds from artists who lived outside of the proverbial box. In order according to their first ONA appearances, they are:

Matt Duke

SuperJimenez (R.I.P. -- "Rock In Perpetuity," as Artie Wayne would say)

Andrew Lipke

Laura Cheadle

Downtown Harvest

The Swimmers

The Idles

Jim Boggia

Nicole Atkins

Ingrid Michaelson

Jake Snider (don't forget to support him in the College Battle of the Bands!)

April Smith

The Guggenheim Grotto (new song just released: http://www.guggenheimgrotto.com/wisdom/)

Tim McGlone

Diane Birch

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles

Sharon Little

The Bacon Brothers

Panic Years

Honorable mention to these artists who might've become ONA essentials if they'd only had time:

Butterfly Boucher

Reality Stricken (now known as The Escape)

Tippy Canoe

Chris Bruni

In truth, I must thank all of the artists I've ever covered in any way here because they all gave me something to write about. And I sincerely thank you, the readers, for being an audience and for giving me feedback and support through the years. One Note Ahead has been a pretty amazing journey in itself, but now it is time to travel new roads. Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Oh, and....rock on!

Copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Top 5 of the Moment - 4/17/10

I was not expecting to do a second installment in this new series so soon after the first, but hey, the times call for it!

1. Jake Snider heading towards the big time?

I told you in January that our buddy Jake Snider is in college in NYC but still comes back home to the Philly area when he gets a chance. That's all still true, but what's also true is that out of thousands of submissions, Jake Snider will be one of a mere three acts representing the New York area in the College Battle of the Bands -- sponsored by AT&T and Gibson! The NY battle happens on the 29th; the winner goes on to the North Semi-Finals in May, whose winner plays the Grand Finale in Las Vegas in June! BUT if you know anything about Battles of the Bands, you know that you need to help the artist advance. In this case, you can go vote for Jake and rate his ONA-favored track "All You Need" here: http://www.collegebattleofthebands.com/Jake_Snider/

More info is available on that page as well.

2. Thom McCarthy

Quickly becoming a celebrity on the Philly music scene, this guy is not your average singer/songwriter. Proof? His brand-new EP is called I Lost Half My Album & My Favorite Hat in the '92 Flood. It's like someone mixed folk, soul, and showtunes that are not at all ready for Broadway but will be appreciated someday by future generations. Except these tunes are being appreciated NOW by a growing number of Philly music fans, as demonstrated by the crowd's raucous singing along at Thom's EP release earlier this month. Yeah, I was there, wailing right along with everyone else, and you might be doing the same thing if you ever make it to one of his shows. Just don't talk loudly while he's playing....he doesn't like that.


3. Dani Mari

If you read One Note Ahead enough, you know how I feel about Jersey Girls. Especially Jersey Girls who can sing. For about three years, I've watched and listened as this Jersey Girl shared her fascinating songcraft and developed into a hell of a singer, bringing an endearing quirky jazz slant to her pop-sensible folk-rock. And she always seems to be organizing events or hosting Open Mic's, so if you're trying to avoid her....good luck. She's got a big music video and an album in the pipeline, but meanwhile, enjoy the catchy and haunting single "Vampire," which you can find on iTunes.


4. So you wanna make money in the music business?

World Cafe sent this out through Facebook yesterday. Some artists say they make more money from selling CDs at shows than they do from online record sales, but I never realized just how true that could be: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/04/chart-of-the-day-4.html#more

5. The mysterious Mr. Gibson revealed!

I started with a Battle of the Bands sponsored by Gibson, so I'll end with a musician named Gibson. Years ago, I picked up an oldies CD of questionable legitimacy which contained a mysterious instrumental entitled "Midnight," the artist identified as "Johnny Gibson." I had no idea who he was, but the instrumental, fast-paced beat and dramatic orchestration aside, was simple, basic rhythm & blues. Or so I thought until I tried to play it by ear and realized it was a lot more complex than it seemed. But who was Johnny Gibson? All I could find was that he was an R&B pianist and that "Midnight" was a minor hit in 1962. And I couldn't find a clean copy of that track to save my life.

Well, there is a clean copy available on iTunes now, on Twirl Records Story Volume 3. (There is also an entire Johnny Gibson comp on iTunes, but "Midnight" is a scratchy vinyl dub on that one.) And there is now a bio of Johnny Gibson which has me intrigued enough to want to check out his other recordings.

Here's "Midnight" for the uninitiated:

And here is the informative bio: http://home.comcast.net/~twirlrecords/johnnygibson.html

And that's my Top 5 of the Moment!

Text copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Top 5 of the Moment - 3/29/10

As much as I love the "One Video Ahead" and "Now Hear This!" series, I must say they can be a bit constricting. So while those series will continue, I've decided to start a new one to share whatever I happen to be into at the moment, as long as it's relevant to music.

1. Liam and Me - "Say It Out Loud"

It seems as though everyone I know in the music business already loves this band. Maybe I just know a lot of people with good taste. I haven't seen Liam and Me in person yet, and so far they only have one single out -- but what a single! "Say It Out Loud" sure is some snappy, melodic pop-rock with sly lyrics; it's got "hit" written all over it. Also, you know that I rarely enjoy music videos, but I genuinely like this one!

2. "Somewhere" in '60s pop music

So how great is West Side Story, anyway? Well, I don't know.....I've never seen a dancing, singing gang in real life.....but how about those songs? "Somewhere" has long been one of my favorite tunes of all time, and lately I've been thinking about two rather quirky hit versions from the 1960s. The best-known to American audiences, as well as the easiest for us in the US to find, is by Len Barry, done in a stomping Motownish style with some downright odd vocal acrobatics and....recognize that horn riff in the intro? It's one of those records that shouldn't work, but does.

And then there's P.J. Proby's version, a minor hit in the US but a sensation in the UK. I could go to the trouble of describing just how he came up with this interpretation, but those would be mere words, and mere words cannot do it justice. It just has to be heard to be believed:

There's also a very good, albeit much less quirky, version by The 4 Seasons, from their Entertain You album. Any other '60s pop versions I should know about?

3. Birdie Busch

She's a favorite on the Philly music scene, and I've recently come to understand why. This delicate-voiced young woman excels at writing songs that are intelligent without being pretentious, and can she ever play some rootsy guitar. And as if her musical talents weren't enough, she keeps us both entertained and enlightened with her fascinating musings on her blog: http://birdiebusch.blogspot.com/ I must admit to being a late-comer to her fan base, but better late than never, right?

4. Ringooooo!!!!!

Ringo Starr's solo work seems to be extremely polarizing; just look at the comments below any of his online videos. Okay, so his solo talents don't quite measure up to those of his former bandmates, but he has come up with some charming and even moving material over the years. "Walk With You," the lead single from his new album Y Not, has received a lot of attention for featuring a prominent harmony vocal from Paul McCartney. That's all well and good, but if you ask me, it deserves to be recognized as a genuinely good song, too! Its message about the triumph of love and friendship is just what we need in these times of bitter discord. To hear two old friends, who happen to be the only surviving members of the Fab Four, sing it together just adds an extra layer of poignancy. Yes, these guys are truly survivors, and it's comforting to hear two of The Beatles' voices together again.

I don't have the whole album as of yet, but Ringo recently did a great World Cafe interview about it: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123380813

5. Makes no difference if the man in the mirror is black or white.

The question that has puzzled us for decades: did Michael Jackson really have a skin disorder or did he deliberately make his skin lighter? The answer to both questions is: yes. If you haven't heard the news, check it out: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100327/ap_on_en_mu/us_michael_jackson_investigation

While you're at it, compare that article to this one. I don't remember how or when I found it, but it really makes you think: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090716f1.html

And that is today's Top 5 of the Moment!

Text copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 22, 2010

EP Review: The Panic Is On!

"And all I want is to go farther than my mouth will let me." (from "Farther")

If we think of life and its soundtrack as part of a continuum, the past few months in the One Note Ahead universe have made perfect sense. For example, at the end of 2009, Panic Years' self-titled debut and Reality Stricken's Signal Fire ran neck-and-neck in the "EP of the Year" stakes, with Panic Years getting the nod. Here I am three months later, now Reality Stricken's publicist, beginning another phase of campaigning on their behalf but taking a little time out to review Panic Years' second EP.

Finally, Today Is Tomorrow is not a radical departure from the first EP. Yes, the band's influences are somewhat more pronounced this time around, Foo Fighters and Silversun Pickups in particular, but Panic Years still don't really sound like anyone else to my ears. The basic elements that made the band so special in the first place are still here: fluid-but-driving guitars, complex drumming patterns, raw vocals, and the juxtaposition of beautiful melodies with downbeat lyrics.

However, Finally is not a mere retread of the eponymous debut. Finally has a more straightforward rock sound overall, with a greater focus on electric guitars and drums presented more aggressively in the mix. Considering what singer Ed Everett does to his voice, it's a wonder he even has one left, but on this EP he explores new dimensions of it: from soft near-whispering to throaty growling to shouting like Mick Jagger, as well as the pained screaming we so loved on the first record. There is also a higher level of complexity to the song structures and arrangements, although this seems a natural progression given that the songs and arrangements on Panic Years were hardly simple.

EPs are proving to be an ideal medium for this band, with two strong five-song collections that have their own identities and personalities. It'll be interesting to see where Panic Years go next artistically, but meanwhile they will be literally going a few places to celebrate tomorrow's release of Finally, Today Is Tomorrow. Catch them on Volta Radio tomorrow night, March 23rd, at 7:30 PM (EDT) and on Radio 104.5 Friday, March 26th, at 5 PM (EDT). If you're free that night, at least 21, and can get there and back home, consider their CD release show at North Star in Philly.

For music and more info: http://www.myspace.com/panicyears
Panic Years EP review: http://onenoteahead.blogspot.com/2009/08/spotlight-on-panic-years.html

Copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Album Review: Bruni Is "Here"

In a blog entry on MySpace last year, Philly singer/songwriter Chris Bruni wrote: "Just a reminder, I've posted yet another song from my new album for you to take a listen. This song is called 'Use It.' I suppose it's somewhat political, but not necessarily. Take it however you'd like to, I just hope you like it."

That laid-back vibe pretty much dominates on Chris' second album, I've Been Here, though you'd hardly know it from the work he put into this thing. It's an increasingly familiar storyline for recording artists these days: he and his label parted ways, and he turned to his fans to fund the recording and manufacturing of his next album, getting some local heavy-hitters to help him bring his musical vision to life. The finished product sounds great; I've previously praised Tim Sonnefeld's skills as a producer and I'm not about to stop now.

I've Been Here
presents Chris as a soul-influenced folk-rock singer/songwriter with a touch of David Gray in his voice and a knack for writing lyrics that paint pictures in your mind but are also open to interpretation. It's a pretty mellow affair by Chris' own admission, so don't go running to this album if you're looking to rock out; personally, it's helped me to wind down a bit during some hectic times in my work life! Some of the highlights for me so far are as follows: "Too Late," with downbeat lyrics and exquisite cello from our friend Krista Nielsen -- you know, Andrew Lipke's cellist; "Bobby Run," a moody, rootsy story-song in the finest folk tradition; the romantic drama "Standing By Your Room," superbly performed as a duet with local fave Laura Shay; and the uptempo "4th of July," with Chris' rhythmic vocal delivery.

For music and more:

Copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.