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Free MP3: LeVar Thomas’ “Missing You”

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When I introduced LeVar Thomas a few weeks ago, I compared this South Carolina singer’s music to the Chi-Lites and Boyz II Men. For his encore, LeVar’s feeling his inner Stevie Wonder.

It’s the opening notes — the two-part harmony over a simple Fender Rhodes chord progression — that makes me think of Stevie when I listen to “Missing You.”

The harmonies become more complex, the string parts begin to weave in and out and we’re feeling all full of Philly soul, like Gamble and Huff are back at the desk working their magic.

Along with my girl Ayah and Boyz II Men kick we dropped yesterday, I’m putting together a little “midnight magic” mix tape. All I need is a little wine, a medium size fire and a big desire for a little one-on-one time.

Originally written for MP3.com.

Buy LeVar Thomas’ music on iTunes.

Levar Thomas – Missing You

Forrest Day

Forrest Day’s “Hyperactive”

Forrest Day

Forrest Day claim they perform a “ferocious, high-energy blend of rock, hip-hop, circus music, cabaret, reggae and jazz.” With their single, “Hyperactive,” they aim to prove it.

Forrest Day (the band) began as Forrest Day (the singer) when the Lafayette, California-born vocalist dropped his first EP back in 2006. Surrounding himself with a seven-piece band that adopted his moniker and dropping anchor in Oakland, Day has spent the last several years selling out Bay area clubs after which he and his band retire to an all-night diner and make plans to conquer the rest of the world over Spanish omelettes and cheeseburgers.

When I say their single, “Hyperactive,” sounds like a combination of Frank Zappa and Barenaked Ladies we hope to god that F. Day and his crew dig that as the highest of compliments. Lyrically elastic like the well-toned ligaments of a Chinese gymnast (that’s the Barenaked Ladies part, no pun intended) and musically muscular like the forearms of home run hitter (that would be the Frank Zappa part), “Hyperactive” needs at least a half-dozen listens to sink in…and by then you’ve been infected.

File under “a band that gives Phish a run for their phreakin’ money.”

Ivy

Free MP3: Ivy’s “You Make It So Hard”

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Launched in New York City in 1994, Ivy blend the melodicism of Burt Bacharach, the stylish simplicity of the Smiths and sexiness of Francoise Hardy into an infectious pop blend that’s as cool as a strawberry smoothie and as fun as a day at the water park.

The seeds of Ivy were planted in 1990 when Andy Chase met Dominque Durand at a party in New York. Saying that being in a band “wasn’t her cup of tea,” Durand said “no” to Chase’s invitation to join him for a demo session. Three years later, the pair wrote a tune together and, with the help and encouragement of bassist Adam Schlesinger, stepped into the studio to record a five song demo. So marked the official beginning of the trio known as Ivy.

With the release of their EP called Lately and its subsquent album, Realistic, the three Ivy’s found themselves almost immediately in the pop spotlight. Opening slots with OasisEdwyn Collins andYo La Tengo gave the band momentum and, by 1997, they released Apartment Life, their second long player.

Seventeen years later, Ivy have put out five full length albums and and five more EPs, including this year’s All Hours. It’s an 11-song collection of songs that includes today’s Free MP3 of the Day, “You Make It So Hard.”

“Hard” is the last word tha comes to mind when we listen to this bouncy, bubbly spray of pop and roll. If chocolate could sing, it would sound like Dominique Durand. If a piano could make a request for itself, it would ask to play the sneaky-cool lick from this song. If summer time could dance, it would request this song.

Ivy – “You Make It So Hard”

The Gift

The Gift’s “Race Is Long”

The Gift

In today’s world where fast is everything and nearly everything is disposable, it’s unusual for marriages, much less bands, to last for 17 years. But, since 1994, the four close friends from Portugal who call themselves the Gift have been honing their craft and making music together.

Indeed it was in 1994 that the Gift, while still teenagers, came together to start making music. It’s their friendship, they say, that’s the foundation to the musical endeavors, knowing they can rely on each other regardless of what happens professionally.

Fronted by the sultry singer Sonia Tavares, who counts male singers like Depeche Mode’s David Gahan among her strongest influences, the Gift have released four albums since their 1998 debut,Vinyl, and have become one of Portugal’s most popular and critically-awarded groups.

Their fifth offering, Explode, is their latest collection, featuring our Free MP3 of the Day “Race Is Long.”

What we hear in this this bouncy synth pop piece is the result of those many years together making music: glossy guitars and simmering synths underscore perfectly tuned harmonies, delivered as if one singer intuitively knows what the other is thinking. It’s a song flawlessly fitted for your pop music radio, whether you’re dancing about the living room, hanging on the beach or driving in your car.

Originally written for MP3.com

The Californian Band

The Californian’s “Billion Grains Of Sand”

The Californian Band

The Californian are an LA-based band of five who’ve just put the finishing touches on their debut Kickstarter-financed album. ‘Cuz they’re a fine bunch of gentlemen, they’ve given up a track from the collection you can have for free.

We can’t tell you much more about these alien beings from Los Angeles (whose website promises they’re not here to do us any harm) except to say the troupe consists of John Graney, Jonathan Price, Darren Robinson, Michael Hopkins and Jake Gideon and that they like — in no particular order — Cinderella Hotel, Anna Calvi and Charles Mansion.

They don’t say anything about 1979-era R.E.M.Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, the criminally underrated Volebeats or the legendary Ventures so we figure they’ve never heard of them (being that they come from L.A., isolated that it is.)

But they sure sound a lot like them and we think that’s pretty brilliant.

Download. Dance fast. Repeat.

Originally written for MP3.com