Tag Archives: Karla Kane

Karla Kane’s First Solo Album Is a Wonderful, Whimsical,Yet Thought-Provoking, Collection

2 Aug

Karla Kane is the lead singer-songwriter for The Corner Laughers, a sunshine indie pop band from the Bay Area’s mid-peninsula with connections to Stanford University. I’ve written about the past several albums the band has released, and also one the band released under its alter ego, Agony Aunts.

Now Kane has taken the big step of producing her first solo album, King’s Daughters Home for Incurables, and it’s another wonderful, whimsical collection of enchanting, sometimes melancholy acoustic folk for thinking music lovers.

The 11 songs on the album lead listeners into an otherworldly landscape that transports them to distant (and not-so-distant) places and times — from medieval England to California’s golden, tree-studded foothills. At the same time, Kane’s feet are firmly planted on the ground as she addresses many of the topics of the day including feminism and our thirst for hope and respect in a too-often dark world.

The disarmingly simple arrangements on King’s Daughters Home for Incurables are precisely produced, populated with an intriguing mix of instruments and sound effects — from Kane’s signature ukulele to Richard Youell’s nature recordings (birds, bees and rainstorms) and even announcements from a U.K. train station.

While this is ostensibly a solo album, Kane makes good use of her fellow members of The Corner Laughers, as well as guests such as Mark and Helen Luker (U.K.’s Fun of the Pier), Martin Newell, Anton Barbeau, and others.

Track highlights: The title track has a lilting, medieval feeling — offering a quick trip of imagination back to olde England. Kane’s rich vocals and strummed ukulele are at their best here.

Next comes “Wishing Tree,” a bouncy, skipping, happy tune on which Martin Newell (Cleaners from Venus), contributes additional vocals and his distinctive poetry. Track 3, “Skylarks of Britain,” is a stately tune that starts in cathedral-like reverie and builds into rich harmonies and a Beatles-like arrangement.

The first single on King’s Daughters Home for Incurables is “The Lilac Line.” This is an upbeat, strummy celebration inspired by travels through Nottingham on the Lilac bus line.

“All Aboard,” Track 10, presents a soulful commentary on the uncertain age we live in. A train-like vibe is created by Kane’s piano.

Really, all of the songs on King’s Daughters Home for Incurables are excellent — full of wry observations about daily life and the occasional literary reference — so it’s hard to choose which ones to include in a review. But this is definitely an album you’ll want to add to your collection.

I’m planning to see if Karla and friends can stop by KZSU for a chat and some live performances — hopefully on September 1st — so I’ll feature the album that day or the following Friday. The official release date is October 6th.

If you’re interested, the album can be preordered at: http://cornerlaughers.com/album/kings-daughters-home-for-incurables.

 

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The Corner Laughers Create Timeless, Intelligent Indie Pop-Rock

12 May

The cover of The Corner Laughers’ forthcoming album, Matilda Effect — scheduled for release on Friday, June 12th, but available now for pre-orders — shows lead singer-songwriter Karla Kane — apparently materializing through a celestial haze. She is surrounded by her bandmates: bassist (and spouse) Khoi Huynh, drummer Charlie Crabtree, and guitarist KC Bowman — all of whom seem to be standing in awe as she appears in their midst.

That photo is an ideal metaphor for Kane and The Corner Laughers’ latest effort. Kane is an indie pop-rock goddess with an out-of-this-world voice; a gift for writing clever, omniscient lyrics; and an always sunny personality that comes shining through in her songs.

In addition, Matilda Effect — The Corner Laughers’ fourth full-length release — explores a world of topics not normally addressed in pop-rock music. Inspired by the band’s global travels, Kane’s lyrics address everything from stone circles and druids to fairytale tourists…and from the voyages of clipper ship captains to the discoveries of little-known astronomer, Henrietta Leavitt. All of this is delivered in intelligent, intricately arranged sunshine pop, rock and folk — as well as a retro pop-rock number and even a 1920s/1930s-style tune — that transport us to other places and times.

The album has strong feminist underpinnings, starting with its title. (The “Matilda Effect” refers to the practice of denying or diminishing the contributions of female scientists.) There are also heroines in a number of the stories that Kane spins on the album.

Matilda Effect kicks off with “Fairytale Tourist,” a brilliant sunshine indie pop song with incredible hooks and one of the best bass lines ever laid down in a pop tune via bassist Huynh. Kane dreams of being “Cleopatra, bound for Julius Caesar” before awakening to her blankets pulled tight. Rich harmonies and bah-bah-bahs make this a tune that plays over and over in your head after a few listens.

“The Girl, America” is great jangle rock that builds into a terrific power pop song. Kane’s vocals are imbued with a natural innocence as she sings Anton Barbeau’s lyrics. Bowman delivers a ripping guitar solo in the lead break, something that we’ve rarely heard from The Corner Laughers before.

“Queen of the Meadow” is lilting indie rock. The lyrics make a brief reference to Henrietta Leavitt, a Radcliffe grad who used the luminosity of stars to help astronomers measure the distance between the Earth and far-off galaxies. Leavitt’s accomplishments were overshadowed by the discoveries of other (male) scientists that came after her.

“Midsommar,” a song that was released as a digital single last summer, is breezy pop-rock with a languid tempo that’s perfect for the leisurely summer days that are fast-approaching. The song features a catchy melody and looking-glass lyrics.

“Lammas Land” is a light and dreamy, skipping pop number. Kane’s wistful, angelic vocals are supported by her flawless ukulele, Bowman’s ringing guitar and Crabtree’s brushes on drums. The song trails out with an amazingly complex round — with Kane singing all the parts.

The closing number is “Good Hope,” a bouncy rock tune that includes a strummed ukulele mixed with an electric guitar over a reggae-influenced beat. The song tells the story of fearless clipper captains who made dangerous voyages around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope.

If you like smart lyrics, strong hooks, sharp arrangements, and super-clean production, you’ll love The Corner laughers’ Matilda Effect.

Corner Laughers Paint Unforgettable Pop Imagery in New Single

19 Mar

It’s official. The seemingly long wait for the next Corner Laughers album is almost over. The Corner Laughers are an indie pop band based on the San Francisco Peninsula, right near where I DJ on KZSU Stanford. In fact, one of the band’s members, Khoi Huynh, works in Stanford University’s physics department when he’s not playing bass with the band.

Matilda Effect will be available on vinyl or CD, or as a digital download, on Friday, June 12th. Can’t wait! But if you truly can’t wait to get your hands on the album, the band has released the first track from the album to whet your appetite — “Fairytale Tourist.”

The song encapsulates everything that’s so fun about The Corner Laughers. It opens with Khoi’s busy bass line that carries throughout the track. Then, additional layers containing KC Bowman’s guitar, Charlie Crabtree’s drums, Karla Kane’s strummed ukulele, subtle keys, and glockenspiel are added in the precisely produced arrangement.

Finally, Kane’s lead vocals, clever lyrics and impossibly rich, sunshine-pop background vocals tell the story of being a “fairytale tourist,” traveling through time if only through the mind. The Corner Laughers’ music is unapologetically pop — but with a maturity and intelligence that distinguishes it from what passes for pop in today’s celebrity-driven, video kaleidoscope-based, mainstream music industry.

The musical mix appeals immediately and, trust me, will stay with you for hours (or days). I know. I first played the track last Friday on my show, and the song kept repeating in my head all day long on Saturday as I pedaled my way through a 70-mile metric century bicycle ride in the Santa Ynez Valley near the Viking-styled town of Solvang.

The single is available now, streaming free via the Bandcamp app — or available as a high-quality download through The Corner Laughers’ website. The band has included the lyrics to “Fairytale Tourist” on their website and a write-up about the album that will make it even harder to wait to hear it. The Matilda Effect album can also be pre-ordered there.

Like many of the band’s fans, I’m looking forward to hearing more in the coming months — and finally having the full album to play on KZSU in mid-June. Those of you who tuned last Friday know that I’m also hoping to arrange to have the Corner Laughers play live on my show — perhaps on the album’s official release day of June 12th!

Tune in to hear “Fairytale Tourist” as our featured song of the day tomorrow. If the rest of the album is anything like it, the album will be one of my personal favorites of 2015.

Agony Aunts Deliver Great Power Pop on “Big Cinnamon”

14 Aug

What or who are the Agony Aunts?
From their promotional photo, the four-member band looks suspiciously like The Corner Laughers, a fun, highly creative indie pop group from the San Francisco Peninsula. And indeed, this suspicion is confirmed in the credits of the Aunts’ most recent release, Big Cinnamon. There’s singer-songwriter, Karla Kane, as Heirloom Kate; lead guitarist KC Bowman as Kaiser Buttonwillow; bass player Khoi Huynh as Gil Sans-Herron; and drummer Charlie Crabtree as Johnny the Space Commander.
Where did they get these names? I’m sure that’s a story unto itself!
But lest you think that Big Cinnamon is simply another release from The Corner Laughers, that’s not the case at all. The clever lyrics are still there. So are the creative arrangements, polished productions and always great harmonies. But the Agony Aunts have their own sound. This 12-song set consists largely of guitar-driven power pop — with some “jingle-jangle, bubblegrunge and twee prog” thrown in, according to the Aunts’ Facebook page.
The reason for the band members’ alternative personas is that Agony Aunts seem to be from another time entirely, such as the 1960s or 1970s. Time-traveling musicians! How perfect is that for the Time Traveler program on KZSU?!
The Agony Aunts are helped on Big Cinnamon by Allen Clapp and friends from the Mystery Lawn record label. In addition, standout artists with Northern California ties also collaborate, such as Oakland’s Bradley Skaught of the Bye Bye Blackbirds and talented multi-instrumentalist Anton Barbeau, who splits his time between Sacramento and Berlin.
Big Cinnamon opens with “Twenty-Four Mergansers,” melodic power pop with lead vocals by Kane — excuse me, Heirloom Kate — set to a march-like rhythm. The guitar solo in the lead break is reminiscent of some of the best power pop songs from the 1970s. “Back to Back Bill” is another track with sweet lead vocals by Kane — creating bright happy pop with an old-time barrelhouse piano and hand-clapping throughout.
But while The Corner Laughers tend to feature Kane’s extraordinary voice on almost all of their songs, there are a lot more male lead vocals on Big Cinnamon.
“Uranium My Love” is a power pop standard with dueling guitars and great male harmonies on the lead vocals that could have traveled from the 1970s. Just try to find another love song about Uranium that rhymes “isotope” with “microscope.”
“You’re So Vague” has glistening synths, strings and piano, and the lyrics are even funnier if you know that the title is a takeoff on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” from 1972. “Laughing at the World” is a nice little chamber pop number with male lead vocals and once again, a really well-done guitar solo in the lead break. There’s also a slick reference to “poppy seeds,” which happens to be the title of The Corner Laughers’ most recent album.
Big Cinnamon ends its “Magical Mystery Tour” with a really fun, Beatles-tinged throwback number. The tune has a Ringo-like, folk-rock sound from the mid-1960s and references by name to John, Paul, George, and Ringo — as well as well as Brian Eno. Great stuff!
If you like smart pop with bursts of virtuoso guitar work that will really grow on you over time, you need to check out Agony Aunts’ Big Cinnamon.
Photo of band by Andrew Widdowson, APW Photography.
Agony Aunts Big Cinnamon

Happy Summer Solstice from the Corner Laughers

19 May

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It’s almost summer, so it must be time for something new from the Corner Laughers. And it is! The Bay Area quartet — led by singer/songwriter, Karla Kane — will release a new digital single, “Midsommar,” on June 17th — almost two years to the day since the release of the band’s most recent full-length album, “Poppy Seeds.”

Summer is the perfect season for the indie pop-rockers — although I, personally, enjoy the band’s sunshine sound year-round. Corner Laughers’ songs are bright, light and full of smiles — filled with feelings of fun times, celebrations and places to explore.

The band has been making music for a little less than ten years and has three full-length albums to its credit, with a fourth scheduled for next year. “Midsommar” is the first track from that forthcoming LP.

Light and breezy with a relaxed tempo, the new single is perfect for summertime. The melody is impossibly catchy, with Corner Laughers’ trademark layered harmonies over a solid rhythm track and busy bass line. It starts with Kane on ukulele, and then adds drums and a nice synth orchestra chord before Kane’s vocals enter. Guitarist KC Bowman also gets a chance to demonstrate his virtuosity during one of the lead breaks.

Where the band’s most recent full-length CD, Poppy Seeds, was California-centric — and in fact, primarily focused on the Peninsula from Palo Alto to San Francisco — the lyrics in this song carry us away across the ocean to lands populated by stone circles, druids and stained glass windows. There’s a growing maturity to the band’s sound, and it’s all expertly produced and mixed by Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels) with contributions — including synthesizer and backing vocals — from longtime collaborator, Anton Barbeau.

The European and Middle Eastern references in “Midsommar” foreshadow a fun album in 2015 that will give the Corner Laughers so many new places to explore and people to meet.

I can’t wait!

 

Corner Laughers is Karla Kane, vocals and ukulele; Khoi Huynh, bass; Charlie Crabtree, drums; KC Bowman, guitar. Other contributors on “Midsommar” included: Anton Barbeau, synthesizer and backing vocals; Astrid Smith, violin; and Allen Clapp, producer. Released by Mystery Lawn Music. The digital single is available for pre-order from CornerLaughers.com. Release date is 6/17/14.

Corner Laughers Capture California Goodness in Catchy Pop

22 Apr

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Every so often, I like to take a step back and blog about an indie album that’s not new, but that deserves your attention (or is worth a second spin). I’m traveling this week — enjoying some of California’s most beautiful scenery in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

So now is the perfect time to dust off an outstanding indie pop-rock album from a band that truly captures the California spirit.

Poppy Seeds by the Corner Laughers is a set of sunny anthems dedicated to the Golden State. The four current band members make their home in the San Francisco Bay Area, so there are many local references — from high profile namedropping such as Mt. Tamalpais, the Transamerica Pyramid and SF Giants catcher, Buster Posey — to lesser-known landmarks such as the Aquarius theatre in Palo Alto or “cruising down Judah” in the City.

The album opens with a sugary sweet, lighthearted song called “Grasshopper Clock.” Karla Kane’s vocals are sung with such a smile that the song would be perfect for a kid’s song collection.

“Bells of El Camino” makes it clear that this is going to be much more than a soundtrack from the Nickelodeon television show. The song is reminiscent of 1960s pop, with jangly guitars, Kane’s bright ukulele lead and rich harmonies. In fact, that’s a trademark of the Corner Laughers — wonderful harmonies interwoven throughout their songs.

“Transamerica Pyramid” is one of my favorites on the album — a really strong pop-rock tune with clever lyrics and a solid hook. The track also pays homage to the Beach Boys at one point. Play “Transamerica Pyramid” a few times and you’ll find yourself humming it the rest of the day!

I also really like “Perfect Weather,” the closing track in the 12-song set. It’s another song with a bit of a throwback sound, with frequent Bay Area references in the lyrics.

There are other fun pop songs as well, some with obscure themes such as “Chicken Bingo.” What is Chicken Bingo?

If you haven’t heard of the Corner Laughers, this CD is an ideal introduction to their music. Amazon carries it, or you can always visit their web site. And rumor has it — a new album from the band may be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future. Yay!