Listening List

Posted: October 6, 2006 in Music

I hope to write a longer piece on some interesting artists and bands that I’ve come across lately, thanks to a good friend.

Some of the more interesting acts I’ve come across the past month were Esthero (pronounced Es-there-o), Kate Earl, Kaki King and just last week, the new album from Mars Volta.

kate earl


Kate Earl hails from Alaska from a Filipino immigrant mom and a Dutch-Welsh truck driver dad. She grew up in a gas station then moved to LA. She plays the piano and guitar. If you like Fiona Apple, Sarah Maclachlan and Norah Jones, Kate Earl would be a refreshing voice on you CD/MP3 player. (I know artists just don’t want to be compared, yet it seems to be the easiest way to have some initial point of reference in appreciating their music.) Some interesting tracks to check out are Officer (I’m not drunk, i wanna go home officer…), Free (which reminds me Sarah Mac’s Angel), Cry Sometimes, When your older, and Sweet 16.

kaki king2

The very petite Kaki King on the other hand is a young guitar virtuouso. She doesn’t sing much but boy can she play that guitar, and not in the way we’re used to seeing a guitar played. After watching her performance, everything I knew about the guitar just flew out the window. She uses different tunings, lots of harmonics and presses the strings in an inverted kinda way. (You have to see her on youtube to see what inverted means). What I found most interesting is how she would use the guitar as a percussion instrument in ways I hadn’t thought possible. She would constantly tap the guitar as if it were a pair of bonggos, tap the fret board for harmonics, then go on creating something that sounds so simple yet unbelievable. She has gone way beyond the six-string, standard-tuning guitar playing and opened so many creative possibilities for such a simple instrument. Check out the tracks “Playing with pink noise” and “Close your eyes and you’ll burst into flames”. These two tracks can also be viewed on youtube.

Esthero is Jen-Bea Englishman, a Canadian-born singer-songwriter now based b0007xt87q01_sclzzzzzzz_.jpgin LA. Her music is a fusion of jazz (nice horn section), hip-hop and trip-hop. (Again, hard and fast categories and comparisons suck, but these are all just for initial reference.) Esthero has very strong stage presence and can carry tunes exceptionally well, whether full-band or stripped-down acoustic. She has been compared to Bjork and Portishead (check out the track Country Livin’ too see what i mean. What made me like Esthero was not just her kind of music but her in-your-face lyrics that doesn’t give a rat’s a** what other overly-sensitive people might think. She’s very honest, I’ll give her that.=)

In the song “We are in need of a musical revolution”, she says she’s so “sick and tired of the sh*t on the radio and MTV”, and everywhere she goes she sees Ashanti and Brittney on the video screen. At the end of the song, she gives an indictment of the music industry and asks why “A grown man can rape a little girl, but we still hear his sh*t on the radio/A grown-ass man can videotape a little girl but we still see his mug on the video screen/I want something more!” (check out

Then there’s the song If tha Mood about a girl who broke up with her boyfriend but tells him that if he ever feels the urge to get it on with her, she’s available. (If tha mood should hit ya and ya wanna, baby I don’t mind.) Yes the message is lewd and screwed up by many standards, but it’s still cool listening. (See her perform live on

Also check out Esthero’s Bad Boy Clyde, another easy listening number with great vocal harmonies.

Will discuss Mars Volta in the next post.

  1. Rachel says:

    I love Esthero…Mars Volta’s Amputechture is growing on me.

    You and your music. I just had a flashback when you had like 5 different versions of Sexual Healing played one after the other in the office and then laughing while you were belting them out thinking I had left to get some food. Too funny…