Along the sonic tidal flats that Sydney Wayser built in her mind for her latest album, it is always sunny and 75 degrees. Clouds crown the majesty of the mountains, and the beaches are the stuff of postcards; the sand grain sifted to a perfect warmth, the water always calm. That this place is ostensibly fictional is no barrier to getting there, thanks to Wayser’s third record, the gorgeous and varied Bell Choir Coast. It is an atlas, a map past difficult years and emotional terrain, to a place of self-understanding and agency.
The road that brought Wayser to Bell Choir Coast started two years ago; Wayser found herself in a gorgeous studio with a talented producer, in the midst of a New York winter that made the Los Angeles-bred Wayser completely miserable. “I was working on a record for a while and it wasn't clicking. After all the work I had put in I was left feeling drained. I felt like I needed to take a minute for myself and create the concept behind the record.” With the problem of the New York winter proving unavoidable, Wayser decided that if she couldn’t go elsewhere, she’d bring other lands to her. Drawing on all of her influences, from summers the French-American Wayser spent in France to painters and other artists, Wayser began to give her new territory shape and shade. “Bell Choir Coast is about a fictional land that I made up, because I couldn't leave New York and I had to make my record. So I made up a new world in my head that was everything I wanted.” In addition to constructing the land, she also created its ideal denizen, Clara-Nova, a distillation of all the qualities Wayser most wished to possess. “She's the newer version of myself. She's a hybrid between Athena, Joan of Arc and Aphrodite. She's a power woman, but still really feminine.”
Wayser set to work recording the topography of Bell Choir Coast; after scrapping the entirety of the initial recording process, Wayser set to work chronicling her journey. “"It made me stop, hole up in my apartment, focus on what I wanted, and figure out how to create it.” When Wayser was ready to start recording again, she decided to use the home recording studio of Dan Molad, a friend who lives in Ditmas Park who would ultimately become the album’s producer. “I was there every day for three months,” Wayser says happily. “It was close to the heart, it was organic, it felt natural.” After ever-more elaborate scenarios and artists becoming involved and the painful realization that it wasn’t working, the return to basics was a salve for Wayser. “Recording the record was healing for me; like ‘I can do this. I can live in New York. Winter is coming again, but I have a different look at it completely, because I've made it lighter. The process had frontier-settling qualities – Wayser called upon friends to help out when needed, a visiting friend would not only make lunch but also sing back-up.
If you listen closely to Bell Choir Coast, you can hear fractures being set properly, wounds stitched and sutured. Wayser’s voice is warm and close throughout, the effect of which is a leaning near, an intimacy shared. Album mission statement “Dream It Up” is a glitching, swift-paced explanation of the place Wayser created. Her voice rings clear and melodic across the song, despite the distortion it’s ringed in. “It’s an ode to the record. I feel like when people understand the concept more, the song is more powerful.” “Wolf Eyes” is a character study of Clara-Nova, a rallying cry for Wayser to get in touch with her assertive side, set to honky-tonk piano and racing drums. Pace-changer “Come Aboard” is a languid invitation, all balmy rhythms and Wayser’s warm vocals entreating the listener to escape the elements aboard a boat set on a course for Bell Choir Coast.
Sydney Wayser set about to make an album, and in the end she cleared a path to a world, and in the process she found her tribe and her sound. Sometimes the prettiest of things can be born of the hardest places. “Whe
Zach Mangan - Percussion
Gabriel Duncan - Bass, Guitar
Sydney Wayser - Vocals, keyboard, Harmonium, casio keyboard
"Bell Choir Coast" - May 2012
"The Colorful" - March 2009
"Silent Parade"- Debut Album- February 2007
Sydney Wayser : The Colorful
[+ Show ]
The Colorful, Sydney Wayser's second album, sees the New York-based singer-songwriter taking a more ...The Colorful, Sydney Wayser's second album, sees the New York-based singer-songwriter taking a more lighthearted tack than on her previous album, 2007's The Silent Parade. The 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist grew up in Los Angeles and Paris, and the cultural impressions of those cities (as well as her adopted New York home) can be heard on The Colorful. The album is full of quirky and sweet tunes, but never strays into saccharine overload. There is a delicate intimacy in Wayser's songs; she never overwhelms and often gives weight to the space between notes. The album kicks off with "Bells," a serene ballad that features softly strummed guitars, piano and glockenspiel. Turns out Wayser has a penchant for toy instruments—they are featured heavily on the album, but never overwhelm her expressive vocals. And "La Di Da" is a playful folk track that was inspired by Annie Hall.
New York might be full of singer-songwriters, but Sydney Wayser stands out among her peers. She seems to have a natural ear for melody, which is showcased elegantly in this collection of songs. The Colorful manages to delicately balance the line between sweet and melancholy, simple and complex, without seeming manufactured.
By Michelle Lee
Sydney Wayser's Secondary Colors
[+ Show ]
by Bob Moses Sydney Wayser has added some brighter, more vivid hues to the many colors on her mus...by Bob Moses
Sydney Wayser has added some brighter, more vivid hues to the many colors on her musical palette. A new recording released today expands the musical territory covered on her debut, Silent Parade. The Colorful moves beyond the cosmopolitan tristesse of a younger artist, and finds a broader canvas for her expressive vocals and sophisticated songcraft.
Sydney comes by the cosmopolitan point of view honestly. The daughter of a French songwriter, she tells us in an interview videotaped before a recent show at The Living Room that listening to her father play and compose, and spending time in the French capital formed strong impressions. The music on Silent Parade, recorded just after she moved on from Boston’s Berklee School of Music, demonstrates the influences. An impressionist collage in shades of blue, Silent Parade set Sydney’s intimate vocals and piano among accordions, string ensembles, 3/4 time and a smattering of French.
The Colorful picks up the sunny California side of her family story. More importantly, the recordings present a band at work in one space rather than an assemblage of various collaborators, with Sydney’s singing finding a comfortable space in more percussive, assertive arrangements. The accent on the rhythm section highlights the work of her articulate drummer Zach Mangan and fluid upright bass player, Rob Lundberg. The addition of Blaze McKenzie on guitar (he also co-produced the recording at Boston’s new Squid Hell studio) brings a welcome grit and attack to the material. While still occasionally written in minor modes, songs such as “Moonbowl” swell to a satisfyingly rocking coda featuring McKenzie’s electric guitar – and he gave a good account of himself at The Living Room show, taking the solos even further than his work on the record. In Part 2 of our interview, though, Sydney points to the arrival of Pat Spadine as a catalyst for many of the new songs. Now instead of the timbres of strings and woodwinds, Spadine’s collection of toy instruments and noisemakers provide the distinctive counterpoint to Sydney’s vocals and piano. (You’ll find a free download of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” here.)
The show at The Living Room (see the clip of "Bells" in the sidebar) was being taped for From The Living Room to The Loft on XMSirius radio, so there was intermittent fussing with microphones to get the best possible sound. Far from being thrown by the stop and start, Sydney altered the set, and picked up an autoharp — for the first time in public — and gave a heartfelt rendition of “Lilac Wine,” a song made indelible by Jeff Buckley. The choice was bold as Buckley’s spirit hovers as paterfamilias to many of The Living Room artists. Sydney’s soft strumming and hushed vocal stilled the crowd and drew them to her. And there they stayed for the night.
While she sang, at the piano, cradling the autoharp, with long, blonde hair flowing over high-cheekboned, angular beauty, it was hard not to picture a young Joni Mitchell. While Mitchell’s voice and songs are truly singular, we can hope Sydney’s inspiration and creative ambition put her on a similar path, challenging and rewarding listeners with sophisticated music of many colors.
NRP Review : Papa Don't Worry
[+ Show ]
Singer-songwriter Sydney Wayser wears her heart on her sleeve. It's a risky move for any musician wh...Singer-songwriter Sydney Wayser wears her heart on her sleeve. It's a risky move for any musician who wants to be taken seriously — particularly for one like Wayser, whose song stylings are a bit theatrical to begin with. But on her debut CD, a collection of piano-driven siren songs called Silent Parade, Wayser manages to tread the line between mawkish melodrama and heartfelt elegance with few stumbles.
At the core of Wayser's music is her unabashed love for gloomy orchestrations and waltz rhythms. There's the tinkling glockenspiel, a lone oboe, accordion and creaky string arrangements, with Wayser's piano work steering the ship. It's an appropriate backdrop for her brooding meditations on misery and heartache, all set in a world inhabited by lurking strangers and ghosts of the past. Think Tori Amos or Fiona Apple with fewer dramatic flourishes.
Silent Parade opens with its strongest and most surprising track. "Papa Don't Worry" is lyrically spare, while the instrumentation provides a lush mix of marching drums, strings and piano, with a harmonica that sounds like it was fed over a phone line. The song's most poignant moment arrives in the final minute, as the music fades and gives way to a tenor choir singing a cappella.
"Place De La Bastille" is the album's cheeriest track, with washboard rhythms and rollicking piano lines. The song was inspired by Wayser's love of the film Amelie and her own French roots. Wayser's father is French, and she spent her early years growing up in Los Angeles and Paris.
Just 21 when she wrote and recorded Silent Parade, Wayser possesses a natural gift for melody and musicianship typical of more experienced artists. But her preoccupation with melancholia means there's little change in mood throughout the album, making it difficult at times to distinguish one song from the next. And it's hard for a singer to use words like "grenadine" or "filigree" without eliciting at least a few eyerolls. But Silent Parade holds enough sonic and lyrical surprises to remain affecting.
GL Music Review - Sydney Wayser
[+ Show ]
Most people just describe Brooklyn’s Sydney Wayser as indie or indie-pop. That mainly tells you what...Most people just describe Brooklyn’s Sydney Wayser as indie or indie-pop. That mainly tells you what she doesn’t sound like (mainstream music). So let’s try to describe her music for you. Sydney’s main instrument is piano and her band consists of electric guitar, upright bass, drums and toys (toy piano, toy xylophone and some others). Her songs combine elements of classical, show music, rock and
chanson française (Sydney’s father is French and she spent some time in Paris growing up). But the most impressive instrument in Sydney’s band is her voice. Extremely expressive and perhaps a touch breathy, it is the hook that ultimately pulls you into her music. Sydney’s been on our radar for a while now, so we made it over to The Living Room last Saturday night to see her roll out the songs from her new album, “The Colorful” (although the album is not due out until later this month, songs from it have been posted on Sydney’s MySpace). Among the stand outs played before the appreciative crowd on Saturday were “La Di Da,” “Bells,” and a rousing version “Drive In Not Drive Through” (which sounds like it should have the title 1953). Sydney will be playing at The Rockwood Music Hall next on March 11 and will be here in the borough on April 11 at Spike Hill. She is well worth catching.
Rock and Reprise Review
[+ Show ]
I don't believe I've heard better use of percussion on an album this year than on Sydney Wayser's Th...I don't believe I've heard better use of percussion on an album this year than on Sydney Wayser's The Colorful. She deserves a Grammy for that alone--- or the band does. But I get ahead of myself.
With alto voice textured like soft velour, Sydney Wayser takes us through a wonderland of songs on The Colorful, and what songs they are. Mini-compositions, actually, movements segmented in just the right portions and repeated marginally, if that. More than a few have four or more separate segments, astonishing in songs of four minutes and less. No verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus for her. She takes each song where it naturally wants to go and after just a few listens, you begin to hear how involved this seemingly simple music is.
As it flows, it is easy to miss the juxtaposition of instruments or the constantly changing rhythm patterns or the insertion of one measure or even one note which, after it passes, is gone for good. Or the fluctuating percussion on tracks like La Di Da, which changes every four measures or so, and covers the gamut from semi-march snare (both stick and brush, at different points) to full-on Phil Spector-ish reverbed tambourine to slight syncopated rock riff.
Speaking of La Di Da, it is Brill Building pop with Spector-style genius. At one point a verse ends with one simple power chord, probably synthesized in some way and sounding like our Spector-ish ghost corraling the entire trombone section of the New York Philharmonic for just that one note. If the song wasn't so complicated, I would say that that one moment makes the song, but there are moments like that throughout the song and, indeed, the whole album. Everything about La Di Da, though, screams hit--- the intriguing sense of melody, interplay of toy bells (?) with plucked violin (?), the beat (You can dance to it. I give it an 87)--- everything. To really appreciate the song, put headphones on and crank it up. It overpowers you.
Of course, that is Wayser's “commercial” side, meaning the most accessible to the average music lover, I suppose. There are eleven other gems here, though, ranging from the soulful and slightly jazz-tinged Oh The Places You'll Go, the starkly dramatic Pomegranate (odd electronic and percussive effects and all), the almost symphonic Whistles and Kazoos which breaks the spell on the chorus and throws in a bridge which could be a whole other song itself, Banjo Bayou with sharply percussive piano and banjo lead-in to the chorus and beyond (when you hear how they change tempo by the simple inclusion of handclaps, you begin to get what I said earlier about the use of percussion).
Musicianship? Man, this album has it. I have to assume that the band lineup was responsible for the vast majority of the music on The Colorful because I am working off of MP3s and can find no specific album info on Wayser's pages, so let us so assume. On bass, ladies and gentlemen, Rob Lundburg, who plays as solid a standup bass as I've heard in some time. He is not just bedrock (or another pretty face), but an integral part of each piece. On guitar, Blaze McKenzie, who does everything short of strangle the guitar to squeeze the right notes out. On “hittables”, as listed on the MySpace page, Zach Mangan, who hits anything and everything with a magic touch. And on keyboards and vox, Ms. Wayser, who has jumped from a name on the Internet to Musician and Composer of Great Consequence in twelve unique steps.
Oh, in case you run into the “toy instruments” rap, don't let that fool you. Wayser and crew could have done the album with whatever instruments they had handy, they are that good. Toys? Why not? They sound great.
Sydney Wayser has an earlier release available titled The Silent Parade which garnered some positive press. Benji Rogers of Marwood mentioned it more than once on his pages, but I came a bit late to the parade and had to either purchase it (which I would have done, if I was solvent) or await The Colorful. I waited. While it was well worth the wait, I am now curious about that parade and will eventually, I am sure, slake that curiosity.
Seriously, this is one talented lady here. The Colorful is more than likely only the second step to a long and successful music career. If you want to wait to pick up on her when everyone else does, that's fine. But I tell you, it is better to dive in with both feet when it comes to music this good and it is always fun to stand around at parties and listen to your friends rave about someone you've already had on your playlist for some time. It is called being ahead of the curve, my friends. It's nice up there. Trust me.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
OurStage Pick: Sydney Wayser
[+ Show ]
Swirling piano, jumpy acoustic guitar and jaunty strings make “Carousel” feel like the amusement par...Swirling piano, jumpy acoustic guitar and jaunty strings make “Carousel” feel like the amusement park ride it’s named after, but Sydney Wayser’s sweetly French American-accented vocals make the song.
My song "carousel" was voted as a 'Song We Love' by PASTE Magazine!
PDF RiderStage Plot, Input list, & Hospitality Rider
There are no upcoming dates at this time.