by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz
AM — makes you think of the morning, right? Imagine watching the golden sun beam in through your curtains while you blink your eyes lazily as the day slowly approaches. This is the mellow vibe conjured by the music of highly acclaimed AM, a singer/songwriter currently residing in Los Angeles. Choosing to remain nameless except for the initials as alias (he wouldn't even reveal his name to The Washington Post), AM lets his music mark his identity. His lyrics and sound are simple and pure. His backup band is comprised of AM on vocals and guitar, Mark Gettten on bass, Jesse Nason on piano, organ, and synths, and Chris Lovejoy on percussion. Altogether, their groove is laid back, soothing, and often endearing.
For such an enigmatic artist, it may be surprising to note some of AM’s major accomplishments. On his website he boasts that his tunes have been played on HBO’s Big Love, MTV’s The Hills, and his song "Live A Lie" was featured recently on the 2-hour special of ABC's Brothers And Sisters. More relevant and notable to the music world, AM recorded his latest album, Side By Side Duets (released in the spring of 2008) in the late Elliott Smith’s house where it was produced by Charles Newman of the Magnetic Fields.
Though iTunes awarded its Best Indie Album of the Year award to AM's Troubled Times in 2006, ultimately, his solo work didn’t hype up the indie in me. The music feels somewhat conventional, but also polished and comfortable. However, I would not say that this is inherently bad. I find it well suited for pop-culture, and the television shows and movies where AM's music tends to reside offer it a pleasant and profitable home. Its sweet and leisurely melodies provide ideal backgrounds for any scene.
It was not until I heard his latest collaborative project Side by Side Duets that AM really caught my attention. The album is delightful. The people AM selected to play/sing with him speak highly of his taste. "New Road," performed with Meiko, brushes the folk realm and flows fantastically. The “stand by you I will” chorus strokes a personal and heartfelt note. Other collaborators include Rick Garcia, Buddy (the band), Tina Dico (who sometimes plays with Zero 7), Julianna Raye, and Susie Suh.
Overall, AM’s greatest success is his flexibility. His music can be molded to fit a diverse set of desires. As he noted on his website after producing Soul Variations in 2007, “I try to write songs that can be applied to different situations so the listener can be free to interpret the songs and not be restricted by what I intended." Not only that, it is the versatility of his voice that allows him to partner so fluidly with the wide variety of aforementioned artists. Smooth and light, AM is easy on the ears, and appropriate for numerous occasions.
(The promotional photo of AM is from Visionworks Music. AM will play the Roxy in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 4. To see AM's video for "Hear Me Sing" with Buddy from Side by Side Duets, please check below.)
Side by Side Duets
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by Emily Norton