Firehorse
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Firehorse

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter

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"Firehorse at Rockwood Music Hall"

Leah Siegel has a mouth like a sailor. Her slender upper arms wrapped in cream-colored lace, she has fighting armor on, balanced with the delicacy of a thin black-and-white trimmed lingerie romper to soften the blow. Backed by her growling vocals and flawless guitar playing, she’s infectious. Siegel, along with the rest of Firehorse, commanded the packed room at Rockwood Music Hall last night.

With striking, shadowy vocals on rocker “Our Hearts,” the barefooted Siegel fell to her knees at one point, taken in by the music as she wailed on her guitar. Like a young Kate Bush, her brunette shag barely showing off her face, her darting eyes, Siegel plunged in on stage. “How you guys fucking doing?” she bellowed out as she patted down her hair from the scorch of the spotlights, wiping the sweat from her face and eyes with one smooth brush. Pausing briefly for response, the band–made up of some solid musicians, including Tim Luntzel on bass (Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III) and drummer Brian Wolfe, who worked with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Joan Jett–moved back into tracks from Firehorse’s debut And So They Ran Faster. Closing their seven-song set, Siegel was surprised to have a few more minutes to spare. “I didn’t think I was gonna do this, so I’ll probably fuck it up,” she said, her voice slightly cracking as she stayed behind for her solo “My Left Eye.”

Following her Rockwood set, the singer squeezed into a tiny equipment room backstage, found a seat on an amp and recollected her musical past. It'd been a long road to Firehorse. She started out with her debut EP in 2004, Leah Siegel Presents, but something wasn’t clicking. “I wrote a lot of stuff as Leah Siegel, but it wasn’t happening,” she said. “If it doesn’t happen the way I want in my life then maybe there’s a reason. “

Busy with side projects like singing backup for Ja Rule and starting her own clothing line, Firehorse is still Siegel’s apex—as it should be, following praise from a rock legend. Prince called Siegel a “brilliant performer” after catching one of her performances. Poised and assured, Siegel was still elevated from her set and upcoming “second” encore (appropriately singing Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill” with New York trio The Kin). “There’s nothing on earth that I’m good at,” says Leah, who told her mom she wanted to play violin when she was 6. After toiling with it for six years, she began teaching herself how to play guitar, and was writing songs before her sweet 16. “I still haven’t figured it out,” said Siegel. “Maybe it was some divine intervention.”
- New York Press


"Artist to Watch: Brooklyn Band Firehorse"

Firehorse is the brainchild of singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Leah Siegel. The Brooklyn group’s debut album, “And So They Ran Faster…” will be released on Sept 27 with the help of a successful Pledge Music campaign. Check out the video and new song!

irehorse features Leah Siegel, Steve Elliot on guitar, the Tim Luntzel (Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III) on bass, and Brian Wolfe (My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens) on drums. Prince, yes the Purple One, and KCRW’s Jason Kramer are fans, and she has certainly captured our hearts here at The Comet.

Thirty percent of the money raised on Pledge Music will go to benefit the The Topsy Foundation, an organization that is distributing a life saving pill for victims of AIDS. (In fact, Siegel wrote a song for a Topsy Foundation commercial, which won a prestigious Clio Award.)

Siegel has a number of side projects: She fronts the vintage soul/R&B outfit Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout and sings in the Citizens Band, a cabaret collective featuring musicians from the group Beirut). Plus, she has a clothing line in the works.

She is an artist to watch. - The Comet


"The Year Of The Firehorse"

Music magazines mostly search for comparisons when they try to describe a musician and her music: "... She sounds like a mix of someone or other...", "...she's the new long-time-no-hear...". I hate this hunt for analogies. Anyway none would fit in this case I think. Leah Siegel (with her band Firehorse) goes her own musical way and it's a real pleasure to listen to her (their) upcoming album "And So They Run Faster". I asked Leah about the funding on Pledgemusic, the album and her further plans...





50K MUSIC: For all those who don't know you yet (if there's anyone at all), please tell us something about Firehorse. Where do you come from, what are your roots?

Leah: please refer to the appendix fig. 1

fig. 1

50K MUSIC: You will officially release your album "And So They Ran Faster..." on September 27th. Please tell us something about this project.

Leah: it's the most honest work i've ever done..... or is it!??!

50K MUSIC: You funded this album on Pledgemusic. Was this your first experience with fan funding?

Leah: it's the wave of the future and no one's doing it the way Pledge is.

50K MUSIC: Do you think fan funding is THE way for you to finance your music in the future?

Leah: well, i'm hoping that people will buy my record and THAT will fund my next one and so on and so forth... but if i have to go back to the fans for funding, that'll be the move

50K MUSIC: What are your further plans after the album release?

Leah: to work it

50K MUSIC: Will we see Firehorse on stage soon (maybe even in Europe)?

Leah: yes of course. you can catch Firehorse at least once a month in new york. and in LA on the 18th at the bootleg. i'm hoping europe will come by the spring

50K MUSIC: Anything you want your fans to know?

Leah: i love you. i'd be nowhere without you. and that's the truth.





The album will be out next Tuesday (Sep 27th) via Pledgemusic Recordings. So watch out ...

Must listen to:

"Our Hearts" - Free download
"Machete Gang Holiday" - a true listening pleasure
"If You Don't Want To Be Alone" - a rather slow one
"My Left Eye" - where Leah dares some classical stuff

http://www.thisisfirehorse.com
http://www.purevolume.com/new/firehorse
http://twitter.com/#!/thisisfirehorse
http://www.facebook.com/pages/ThisIsFirehorse/142961602436942

- 50K Music


"ALBUM REVIEW: “…And So They Ran Faster” by Firehorse"

Firehorse
…And So They Ran Faster
[PledgeMusic Recordings]
Firehorse: “When the Chinese zodiac was still determining personalities, women born under the sign of Firehorse were an abomination. A female Firehorse embodies all the abhorrent qualities (according to the culture.) Independence, assertiveness, and a free-spirit.” This is how frontwoman, Leah Siegel, explains the name of her fresh-off-the-block band. Dropping September 27th, their debut album …And So They Ran Faster is nothing short of vocal-driven femme fatale goodness: tough-as-nails with an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar spirit.
Though Siegel says, “there’s nothing on earth that I’m good at,” her vocal chord prowess would smirk otherwise. Drifting into the melancholic grit of 90’s female artist alternative, she reminds me of an ethereal Fiona Apple backed with eerie circus jangles, cathartic lyrics, and sometimes uncomfortable (but in
that intriguing sort of way) soundscapes. A track to especially take note of is “Machete Gang Holiday,” with a rousing catchiness rivaling Local Natives.
Heavy with mood, …And So They Ran Faster is an album best listened to with a few cherry blossom candles, a claw foot bathtub (add the bubbles), and the most engulfing headphones you can sink your head into. A solid effort, Leah Siegel. Looks like you’ve found something you’re good at. - The Owl


"October 2011 Comics, Poems, Fables, and Reviews by LMNOP aka dONW7"

Firehorse - And So They Ran Faster... (Independently released CD, Pop)
Firehorse is a band driven by the creative energies of Leah Siegel...a young lady who is obviously meant to accomplish great things in her life. While Siegel's songs weave in and out of a variety of genres...the best all-encompassing descriptive phrase that applies here might be "groove oriented pop." And that would be because the one constant in the tunes on And So They Ran Faster... are the infectious rhythms. Leah has a fantastic voice. Not just a good voice that gets the job done...but a really really wonderful resonant voice that pushes her music to another level. You can tell by her presence that Ms. Siegel believes the words that she sings. Some of these songs recall various dub pop artists in the United States in the 1990s...but that doesn't adequately describe what's going on here. Like David Bowie, Leah seems to be somewhat of a musical chameleon. She effortlessly adapts to whatever style she is singing with ease. This is the second release on the Pledge Music label--the label's first offering was the incredible No One Listens To The Band Anymore by The Damnwells (which we highly recommend...) Whoever's picking the artists for this label is doing an incredible job. Can't say enough good things about And So They Ran Faster... It's a focused ambitious effort and it just gets better with every spin. Killer tracks include "She's A River," "Only The Birds," "Puppet," and "Baby Bird." Highly recommended. TOP PICK. - babysue


"Leah Siegel's new band: Firehorse - CD release on 09.29 at Rockwood"

We've been following Leah Siegel for at least two years, after some of our friends who book bands in NYC's venues directed our ears towards her music by voting her (for two years in a row) as one of NYC's Best Emerging Artists of the Year - she placed 36th in the latest edition. Leah has been working on a new project called Firehorse, which sounds (and also looks) like a departure from her previous alt rock oriented material. From what we can hear from "Our Hearts" - the only track available online - Firehorse offers us a new, sexier sound, and from the band's press pictures we can't help but notice also a welcome sunnier look. Nonetheless, some kind of darkness seems to inhabit Leah's wonderful voice and songwriting, and this is luckily not watered down but brought to the next level in "Our Hearts". The sparse electronic arrangements, the warbly synthetic piano sound, the mechanical electronic drums, and the strong, sad melody lines confer to this melancholic song an existential quality reminiscent of the slower material by Radiohead and Peter Gabriel. We are looking forward to listening to the entire record. Don't miss Firehorse CD release party at Rockwood Music Hall on 09.29 - The Deli Magazine


"Get Into The Van"

"What do we have for entertainment?"....

I have Leah Siegel from Firehorse on the phone this week. Firehorse have just released their debut album "And So They Ran Faster" (Pledge Music). I chat to Leah and play four tunes from her album. Please check out the live dates under my playlist. I also feature music from:The High Dials, John Grant, The Immaculates, Kids On A Crime Spree, Crystal Stilts.

Write a little letter, and mail it to your local DJ: jezzbtr@gmail.com

00:00 Van Starting - Jezz Harkin Intro
00:31 Teenage Love Made Me Insane - The High Dials
03:17 Through The Floor - Crystal Stilts
05:34 Sweet Tooth - Kids On A Crime Spree
07:27 Firehorse Interview
13:55 Our Hearts - Firehorse
17:48 Firehorse Interview
28:54 She's A River - Firehorse
33:28 Firehorse Interview
42:03 Machete Gang Holiday - Firehorse
45:56 Firehorse Interview
49:43 If You Don't Want To Be Alone ( I won't leave You) - Firehorse
53:53 Hey Joe Kelly - The Immaculates
56:36 Jezz Harkin says goodbye
57:12 Chicken Bones - John Grant
60:52 Finish


Firehorse
Oct 18 @ Bootleg Theater - Los Angeles, CA
Oct 19 @ Bowery Electric (CMJ) - New York, NY
Oct 20 @ Rockwood Music Hall (CMJ) - New York, NY
Nov 18 @ Rockwood Music Hall - New York, NY
Nov 16 @ Rockwood Music Hall - New York, NY


The Immaculates
Oct 18 @ Shea Stadium (CMJ) - Brooklyn, NY
Oct 19 @ Cake Shop CMJ Day show) - New York, NY
Oct 19 @ Knitting Factory (CMJ Night show) - Brooklyn, NY


John Grant
Oct 15 @ Iceland Airwaves - Rekyavik, Iceland
Oct 17 @ Savoy Theatre - Helsinki, Finland
Oct 19 @ Auditorio Municipal de Espinho - Espinho, Portugal
Oct 20 @ Sintra Misty Festival - Sintra, Portugal
Nov 08 @ Apolo - Barcelona, Spain
Nov 09 @ Teatro Lara - Madrid, Spain
Nov 10 @ Tatro Dal Verme - Milan, Italy
Nov 11 @ Auditorium Parco della Musica - Rome, Italy
Nov 12 @ Covo - Bologna, Italy
Nov 13 @ Sala Vanni - Firenze, Italy
Nov 15 @ Salon - Istanbul, Turkey
Nov 16 @ Salon - Istanbul, Turkey
Nov 18 @ Festival Ars Cameralis - Katawice, Poland - Break Thru Radio


"New Song + Tour Dates : Firehorse : Our Hearts"

Firehorse (no, not Firehose and certainly not Firehouse) is a shiny new project from singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Leah Siegel that is preparing to trot out its debut and so they ran faster… on September 27, 2011 thanks to the upstanding individuals at PledgeMusic Recordings. Ms. Siegel is hardly a household name at this juncture, but that could all change quickly based upon the talent she has assembled for this record, including bassist Tim Luntzel (Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III) on and drummer Brian Wolfe (Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, My Brightest Diamond), all working under the watchful ear of producer Geoff Stanfield (Mark Kozelek, Sun Kil Moon, Moby).

Ms. Siegel’s evocative vocals recall a more mainstream Kate Bush or Cat Power’s Chan Marshall minus the abstraction, and constantly belie the mechanical musical precision of chippy lead single, Our Hearts. Firehorse might be worth keeping an eye on, starting with a couple live performances at L.A.’s Hotel Café in August. - My Old Kentucky Blog


"CMJ Thursday: Firehorse and Robbers on High Street's Indie Pop Power"

By Night Three of CMJ, music journalists begin to resemble the walking dead. And unless an Adderall prescription keeps them bright and chipper, many start to hallucinate from sleep deprivation. I decided to stake out the Audio Perv and Pledge showcase at Stage 2 of the Rockwood Music Hall in hopes that a chiller, folk pop sort of night could be restorative for the wearied soul. Two bands I found there woke me up and far exceeded my expectations. Here’s how it went with Firehorse and Robbers on High Street.
FIREHORSE

Leah Siegel, frontwoman of Firehorse, is one of those people that gives the audience a reason to poke the person next to them and go, “Wow.” There was the half-intangible stage presence thing—part of it, of course, was that she was wearing a full-length white jumpsuit, part of it was that she was short and dark with a clearly trained, jazzy pop voice (reminiscent of early Gaga, I guess, but with songwriting integrity) and part of it was that she had some sassy one-liner banter, determined to rock out despite a slew of mic problems.

Above the sum of those parts though, was, duh, the music. Holy moly, this was a performance. Siegel was backed by a guy working three tiers of computers and a keyboard, in addition to a drummer, a bassist, and guitarist Brian Wolfe (of My Brightest Diamond). And, quickly, it all made sense. I had been trying to think of ways to describe Firehorse without comparing her to Shara Worden’s (My Brightest Diamond) brand of chamber punk and grunge for a reason. Like MBD, the band played female vocal driven songs, but each could transition from a jazzy lounge-singer intimacy to a total psych rock breakdown in seconds. That type of versatility, the fusion of funk and pop and grunge, and a trained, confident voice were all the right ingredients, but the songs themselves were some of the best crafted I’ve heard at this year’s CMJ. Firehorse has an album out called And So They Ran Faster…, which I just ordered on iTunes. It’s a little less satisfying and cohesive than the live show, but here’s a stripped down acoustic version of the song “If You Don’t Want to Be Alone” Siegel played for LP33.tv, which should give you a sense of her singular performing chemistry.

ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET

Robbers on High Street is not a baby band. Frontman Ben Trokan has been making music with shifting line-ups since 2002, but it had been a three-year hiatus from releasing new material until this past September, when Robbers came out with their new album Hey There Golden Hair. They had even reached a decent degree of commercial success before, especially with songs like “Japanese Girls” that aired on Californication and Six Feet Under. I had never seen them live, but my inner snob had also never put too much stock in what I assumed would always be the poppy ordinariness that surfaced only in establishing shots on HBO shows.

Wrong, wrong again. It was a six person set up, featuring Trokan, who I can’t help but compare to a baby-faced Paul McCartney, and his bandmates on keys, guitar, bass, drums, with a Thor, God of War look-a-like on tambourine and cowbell. What they played was, yes, adorable, soulful indie rock reminiscent of the glory days of Death Cab or Interpol, but with a sound and energy wholly unique unto Trokan’s songwriting. For those of you who have dined on Brooklyn’s lowest lo-fi for so long, this was welcome relief. I even found something I thought had mostly been buried under cynicism, and it was that cheek-aching grin you get from standing in the front row, watching bandmates give each other goofy smiles when they know they’re playing a good set and enjoying it.

A standout track Robbers played from their new album was “The Man from the Turnaround,” which you can watch (thanks, YouTube!) from a show they played at the Roxy last month. Not only is it danceable, but just has that Beatles “Taxman” riffing guitar thing going on, which simply makes me mushy. They also covered one of the most fun songs of all time, Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman,” which garnered extra brownie points. On the way out, at least four people asked me if I knew “who that band was.” Thank goodness for CMJ, a place where experience first (rather than a numerical rating) can tell us what’s good. - The L Magazine


"Don't be afraid: Firehorse spark at CMJ in New York"

Hundreds of plaid-clad lovers of no-name or scarcely named musicians scurry around New York City for the five-day music concert series College Music Journalists (CMJ). From the bar grunge of Manhattan’s West Village to the hipster chic Williamsburg, synth, jazz, folk, punk and rock acts mish-mashed into the eclectic music fest designed to showcase the best and newest in the global indie music scene.

First up for Virgin Red Room were Firehorse at Rockwood Music Hall Stage Two.

In a stark white jumpsuit, the likes a housepainter would wear, and a red delicious apple clenched between her front teeth, Leah Siegel paced around the stage, pulling computers out of bags and yanking at chords. The one of the endearingly distinguishing traits of indie music: the artist is their own lackey.

“If you all bought an album we could afford a sound check,” she half-joked during her set amid the umpteenth technical glitch. “It’s because I’ve wore white after Labor Day, isn’t it?”

Siegel’s the woman behind Firehorse. After years performing under her legal name, she adopted the spunky moniker and finally released her first LP last month at Rockwood Music Hall in downtown Manhattan. And she came back there to play CMJ’s annual Music Marathon.Backlit by kaleidoscopic red, blue and yellow spotlights – flickering incessantly throughout the set – Firehorse struggled with some technical difficulties – at times microphones or effect pedals would cut out or stop working entirely. The pauses, frustrating for the band, didn’t quell the excitement for those in attendance.

The extensive range and blisteringly honest lyrics of Firehorse left many in the audience with mouths slightly parted, eyes transfixed leering at Siegel on stage. Her presence, beyond her full, strong and controlled voice, is palpable and it comes in the form of powerfully strummed chords and quick musical progressions that drive her to her knees. Her sound is a sort of quirky rock.

It’s what leaves her waving her hands – at times as if in protest, others as if submitting. The emotion, combined with Firehorse’s driving sound, echoes off Rockwood’s red velour diamond-paneled walls.

For those who might find Firehorse overwhelming, Siegel had some careful advice: “Don’t be afraid.” - Virgin


"Top 10 bands to watch at CMJ in New York"

Our countdown of the best new music to devour at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York reaches its climax - here's our top ten bands to see at CMJ.

10. Neon IndianWebster Hall, Friday October 21st, 2011 7:00pm - 7:45pmThe soft synth from nowheresville Denton, Texas has been covered by dozens of other artists across the indie scene. They’ve toured with France’s Phoenix of Lisztomania fame. Last year, Rolling Stone called them the hottest new band. CMJ’ll showcase waves from their third album Era Extraña released earlier this year.


9. The PostellesWebster Hall, Wednesday October 19th, 2011 8:00pm - 8:45pm

This upbeat quartet of genuine New Yorkers offers a sort of tap tap rock ‘n roll. Their upbeat, bouncing sound echoes of an updated 50s rock without the lameness that gets trapped in your head. Okay, so maybe you’ll be humming it when you go to sleep.


8. Islands

Dominion, Saturday October 22nd, 2011 8:30pm - 9:15pmDiehards still know them by their founding name “The Unicorns” but indie pop rockers’ upbeat sound has the light rapid tones of an Americanized Caribbean island. Gentle drums and floaty top-layer instrumentals and the boyish voice of lead singer Nicholas Thorburn is a head-bobber.


7. Miracle FortressPublic Assembly, Thursday October 20th, 2011 3:10pm - 3:50pm

The indie pop trio has a youthful smoothness to their sound with echoing chorus breaks and solid backbeats, accompanied by a twanging guitar riff, every so often. Their sound isn’t too far from fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire.


6. Metronomy

Music Hall of Williamsburg, Thursday October 20th, 2011 11:30pm - 12:30amThe London group is reliable for a syncopated spin on typical electropop loop. Not quite synth, not quite live instrumentation, they’re a more grown, less drugged up MGMT. At least according to sound alone.


5. FirehorseBowery Electric, Wednesday October 19th, 2011 9:00pm - 9:45pm

The quirky brand new Firehorse is an alt twist on the former folksy New York indie darling Leah Siegel. She released her first LP “And So They Ran Faster…” last month and is guaranteed for a quirky performance. Siegel’s vocal tone has the controlled maturity of an established talent. She’s Judy Garland meets Florence and the Machine.


4. HolleradoSpike Hill, Thursday October 20th, 2011 10:30pm - 11:15pm

The Canadian power pop are most well-known for their song Americanarama that has a twinge of the Ramones original punk and 90s angst but their bouncing performance and light-hearted voice has Vampire Weekend written all over it. They’re your standard effortless listen for a chill anthemic group.

Memoryhouse // "Lately" from Church and Steak on Vimeo.3. MemoryhouseMercury Lounge, Thursday October 20th, 2011 10:00pm - 10:45pm

Toronto-based shoe-gazers Memoryhouse have a soothing lull that’s a perfect mid-night pallet cleanser. Their self-described dreampop has a subtlety of entrancing long held notes and gentle backup keys.


2. Dum Dum Girls

Cantora Labs' Smartlounge, Thursday October 20th, 2011 7:00pm - 7:45pmCalifornian chick power group has the fem spunk of the 80s with rapid harmonies and strong drums. Their jingly sounds are made for hip-shaking but be forewarned, the catchiness of some of their choruses are more soft than the noise pop genre they classify themselves by.


1. Dinosaur Bones

Arlene's Grocery, Thursday, Oct 20th 12:00-12:45 amThey can sound like a skewed music box sound with boyish descending vox sliding up and down the scale but Dinosaur Bones aren’t fossils. Sometimes they take on the tinge of radio speaker roughness, but it’s updated by swinging top-layered sounds of indie pop trills and slow guitar strums. Made for the head-nodding crowd. - Virgin


"Download Firehorse's "Our Hearts" For Free (For Serious!)"

We were recently introduced to the music of Brooklyn's Firehorse--the group led by singer/songwriter Leah Siegel—and thank goodness for that.

Explaining the choice of band name, Siegel says: “When the Chinese zodiac was still determining personalities, women born under the sign of the Firehorse were an abomination. A female Firehorse embodies all the abhorrent qualities (according to the culture) independence, assertiveness and a free-spirit.” The music fits those descriptions perfectly—and we haven't stopped listening to first single "Our Hearts," which you can download for FREE here. (Seriously. You'd be crazy not to download this track.)

If you need a point of reference, Firehorse sounds like the sister of Bat for Lashes or the first cousin of Cat Power and Florence & the Machine. Firehorse's latest album, And so they ran faster..., is out on September 27th via PledgeMusic. For more info check out thisisfirehorse.com. - Teen Vogue


"Firehorse - 'And So They Ran Faster...' [Album Stream + Free Song]"

Discussing Firehorse, it's best not to use the B-word. But we might as well get it out of the way nice and early, just to clear the air. Björk. There, we said it. Now we can all move on and really talk about And So They Ran Faster..., a marvelous album by a true artist who simply can't be B-worded into a box.

Taking as many cues from Eels as from that Icelandic weirdstress, Firehorse, AKA New York's Leah Siegel, is an impressively diversified, honest songwriter. The debut album is as jammed with genuine pain and contemplation as it is with sing-songy fun. Equal parts operatic and sparse, fusing indie clap-rock with a grimy congregation of garage/circus/haunted house rock, And So They Ran Faster... is a twisting, turning joy. And you can snag a download of "Our Hearts" to take home with you. - PureVolume


"CMJ Discoveries: Casiokids, Firehorse, Caveman, More"

As it does every fall, the CMJ Music Marathon came to New York City last week. They don't call it a marathon for nothing: For a band, performing in the festival can mean playing 10 shows in five days. For a fan, the choices of what to see are daunting and distant. Alabama Shakes might be playing on Delancey Street, while Teen is in Brooklyn and The Lonely Forest is playing KEXP's Showcase at the Ace Hotel, 20 minutes away. For music journalists, it's hard not to wish you could clone yourself to take it all in. In the end, the best way to have a rewarding CMJ experience might be to talk with a friend whose taste you trust.

On this edition of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen sits down with two New York journalists: Maura Johnston, music editor for The Village Voice, and Sydney Brownstone, a writer and videographer for The L Magazine. Together, the three pick a dozen favorite acts from this year's CMJ, while sharing stories of their disparate journeys through the festival.

Check out a video of Zola Jesus in concert, performing in New York during the week of CMJ. - NPR Music


"10 Great Bands From CMJ 2011"

CMJ is nothing if not a marathon. For five nights, in dozens of clubs spread across Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, more than 1,000 bands did their best to impress college-radio programmers, writers, booking agents, record labels and music fans. Here are 10 that impressed us.

10. Clubfeet
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
For Fans Of: Junior Boys, Hot Chip, Justice
Australia’s Clubfeet brought their brand of synth-pop to Piano’s on Wednesday afternoon, and while their sound isn’t particularly groundbreaking, it was still great fun. Fans of Junior Boys will dig their danceable grooves, and anyone with a sense of humor will smirk at the cheeky lyrics to “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It).”—Bonnie Stiernberg



9. Exitmusic
Hometown: New York
For Fans Of: Portishead, Florence + the Machine, Cat Power
Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church sound more like a score to a dramatic film than your traditional indie duo from NYC. Perhaps Palladino draws from her experiences as an actress on shows like Boardwalk Empire to get that poignant, atmospheric touch.
The band’s debut EP from Secretly Canadian came out earlier this year.—Adam Vitcavage



8. Radiation City
Hometown: Portland, Ore.
For Fans Of: Mercury Rev, Typhoon, Yo La Tengo
The dream-pop outfit, originally composed of Cameron Spies and his girlfriend Lizzy Ellison, released an album called The Hands That Take You on their own cassette-only label Apes Tapes. After an onslaught of positive buzz surrounding their relatively small number of live performances, the two decided to abandon their multiple side projects and focus on recording the album properly.—Dacey Orr



7. Little Red
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
For Fans Of: Foster the People, Rubblebucket,
These polite Australian kids have a legitimate hit on their hands with the infectious “Rock It.” The band has already done all right Down Under, and shouldn’t have a hard time finding an audience in the U.S.—Josh Jackson



6. Firehorse
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
For Fans Of: Of Montreal, St. Vincent, Esben & the Witch
“We’re gonna play everything three times as fast to get everything in,” Firehorse’s Leah Siegel after some technical difficulties caused a late start. “It might be a shitshow, but it’ll be a show.” Turns out, she was half-right: she and the rest of Firehorse put on a show. Siegel’s powerhouse vocals were the highlight of the set, at times haunting and at other times providing the perfect soundtrack to what quickly evolved into an indie-pop dance party.—Bonnie Stiernberg

5. Phantom Family Halo
Hometown:
For Fans Of: Isis, Dead Meadow, Talking Heads
This next-gen psychedelic rock band effortlessly combines acid-inspired progressions with gummy hooks that will bounce around in your head for hours. Their music is like eating candy-flavored mushrooms. The clip below of older material doesn’t do the new poppier direction justice.—Sean Doyle



4. Chris Bathgate
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
For Fans Of: Alexi Murdoch, Jason Molina, Damien Jurado
Amidst all the crowds, lines and packed rooms outside various venues on Friday night, Ann Arbor singer/songwriter Chris Bathgate played his lone CMJ set to 30 people upstairs at The Living Room. His late-night performance stripped down much of the precise orchestration from his lush, lonesome 2011 record Salt Year, but was equally impressive as the core of his songs shone through.—Max Blau



3. The Lumineers
Hometown: Denver
For Fans Of: The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, The Head and The Heart
The Lumineers were part of our Best of What’s Next issue, but this was the first time we got to see them live. The band got its start in New York before moving to Denver, and the return was triumphant as the raucous call-and-response songs made the club feel more like an old-time pub where everybody was happy to raise a glass and join in.—Josh Jackson



2. Robert Ellis
Hometown: Houston
For Fans Of: Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Drive-By Truckers
We saw the wise-beyond-his-22-years singer play solo Wednesday night at City Winery, realizing just how great a songwriting talent he is. Then we saw him at the Paste party with a full band and realized what a badass he is, as the quintet deconstructed old bluegrass songs and borrowed as much from Radiohead as George Jones. We recorded him on the shores Lake Michigan earlier this year for the video below.—Josh Jackson



1. Alabama Shakes
Hometown: Athens, Ala.
For Fans Of: Sharon Jones, Janis Joplin, Charles Bradley
At some point, God decided to take the voices of Janis Joplin, Robert Plant and Tina Turner and roll them all up into the body of Brittany Howard. She also happens to front a band that sounds like it just sprouted fully formed from the clay of Muscle Shoals, just an hour away from the Shakes’ hometown of Athens, Ala.—Josh Jackson - Paste


"With Firehorse Leah Siegel stops self-sabotaging her career"

Leah Siegel has been something of a hired gun. She was asked to sing on the upcoming record from rapper Ja Rule, has written or co-written numerous songs for commercials, and clients have asked her to sound like everyone from Julie Andrews to Kelly Clarkson to Nina Simone. It paid the bills, barely, but it also wreaked havoc with Siegel's attempts to get a solo career up and running.

"I’m lucky that I have that range of character and identity, but it sure has been confusing," said Siegel, who will perform Tuesday night at the Bootleg Theater with Holly Miranda and ex-Shudder to Think singer Craig Wedren. "It’s a big bag of tricks, and I started feeling like my life was really fragmented because of it. I started feeling confused all the time. For someone who is already confused about most things, it was not helpful."

In order to be herself, Siegel adopted a new identity. With her debut album as Firehorse, she has crafted a nine-track album that shows off her vocal range and drapes it in adventurous orchestral pop arrangements.

The album, "And So They Ran Faster…," ranges from the playfully eerie electronics of "She's a River," a more down-to-earth-sounding Björk, to the grand movie-musical pop of "Machete Gang Holiday." There's plenty of melodic oddities between those extremes, such as "Puppet," a breathy, warped take on vintage soul with Portishead-like effects, swooning backing vocals and a snaking, classic rock guitar.

"I don’t mean to say I’m split personality," she said, "or to say I have a really bad mental disorder, but if I had to choose to be one thing, I don’t even know what that would be.

"One of the things I really wanted on the record was huge, huge backing vocals that reminded me of the great Disney movies I loved as a kid. I was always inspired by that sound and continue to be, once I realized that’s the same sound on some great Elvis and Roy Orbison records. That was part of my thesis."

That childhood Disney reference is key to understanding Siegel's fearless mix of styles and collision of modern-day studio effects with time-honored pop arrangements. The 32-year-old Brooklyn resident released her solo debut, "Little Mule," under her own name back in 2006, an album that hints at Siegel's ambitions but that sticks more closely to sultry acoustics. While she's proud of the record, she reflected on it by comparing it to a photograph in which she was unrecognizable.

"It was kind of a façade of me," she said. "I was really scared to go all the way me, but I got over it. What’s the point if you’re not going to really do it? Everything I did was in conflict with itself. I knew I was supposed to be a performer. I knew that singing and songwriting was the thing I did best. At the same time, I felt bad asking people to pay attention to me. That’s the stupidest thing ever. It’s a bizarre type of self-sabotage."

She broke free from her insecurities with Firehorse, and numerous songs on the album document the emotional torment. "Machete Gang Holiday" is a bouncy sing-along about being unapologetically happy, even when a city is populated with "kamikaze feral cats" and sword-wielding criminals. "Our Hearts," meanwhile, strikes a somber tone but does so with handclaps and strums of a guitar that sound like strikes of a harp. The song was written shortly after Siegel moved into her own apartment, only to have it burglarized weeks later.

02 Our Hearts

"The song was written when I realized I had no control over anything," she said. "I have no control over my apartment and my security. I have no control over my security and my home even when I am there. I have no control over what happens when I so much as step off the curb. We all have to live in some sort of denial to even get out of bed every day. Every day is a risk, and you have no control over any of it. I finally accepted all that in a 12-step program sort of way. Once I realized that, it was one of the most amazing feelings."

The burglary eventually helped Siegel get over her personal hang-ups, in which she said she would talk herself out of composing or writing for fear of how those close to her might receive it. By choosing the name Firehorse, she said, she could create the "mental space" in which she could play whatever character she wanted. That in itself was freeing enough that Siegel isn't concerned at the moment about the debt the album racked up.

"I made a music video earlier this year, and between that and taxes, I knew I would run into serious trouble," she said. "I’ll tell you something: I do not have a dollar right now. All the money has to go right back into the art. I’m sure I could have been smarter about a bunch of stuff, but I have no idea how I’m paying rent next month. I don’t regret any of it."

Is that a childishly carefree attitude? Perhaps, but that's the point.

"I could take care of myself and I was independent, but I was naïve about people’s perceptions of me," Siegel said. "I had spent so much time thinking that I was a broken person. Then I had the memory of being a little girl -- it’s hard to explain -- but it was the realization that I’m not broken. I took a couple massive leaps of faith and started accepting myself. I started doing things that I hadn’t done before because I had always judged them.

"I started dancing a lot," she continued, "and just started playing -- playing the way you would when you’re a child."

Firehorse with Holly Miranda and Craig Wedren at the Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $10. - LA Times


"Aaron Lee Tasjan and Weird Ohio + Global Noize + With Lions + Robbers on High Street + Firehorse and more"

CMJ. Tijuana Gift Shop PR shows off its cool, eclectic roster, including the body-movin' electrofunk concern Global Noize and arresting soul-folk diva Leah Siegel (leader of Firehorse). - Time Out NY


Discography

and so we ran faster (CD) - September 2011

Photos

Bio

When Prince calls you a brilliant performer, you know it’s a high compliment. The Purple One was referring to Leah Siegel, the singer/songwriter/instrumentalist behind the Brooklyn group Firehorse, after witnessing a performance of hers. Prince was certainly onto something, as Siegel’s full array of musical talents are on display on Firehorse’s eclectic debut album and so they ran faster….

The gorgeously hypnotizing music of Firehorse references luminaries like Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey and Florence and the Machine. However, Firehorse makes a world unto their own, complete with ethereal flourishes, electronic beats and Siegel’s smoky vocals. Hypnotic and sexy grooves (“She’s A River”), haunting vocals that recall singers like Judy Garland and Doris Day (“My Left Eye”) and even bouncy pop rhythms (“Machete Gang Holiday”) all figure into the Firehorse repertoire. These seemingly disparate influences can be attributed to Siegel’s ability to design and assume different personas, sparked by a background in theater and singing in and co-writing commercials (Siegel wrote a song or a Topsy Foundation commercial, which won a Clio and an award at Cannes). This chameleon-like ability serves Firehorse well in creating a captivatinglisten.

The myriad of influences that Firehorse draws from should come as no surprise, given Leah Siegel’s background. A classical violinist from ages six to twelve, Siegel taught herself to play guitar and sing, resulting in her first songs at fifteen. During her teenage years, she became enamored with musical legends like Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, the Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin and both Tim and Jeff Buckley. Her love for many genres of music continues today. When she’s not with Firehorse, Siegel fronts the vintage soul/R&B outfit Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout and sings in the Citizens Band (a ragtag cabaret collective that features musicians from the group Beirut).

The name Firehorse carries quite a large amount of significance to Leah Siegel. As she puts it, “When the Chinese zodiac was still determining personalities..., women burn under the sign of the Firehorse were an abomination. A female Firehorse embodies all the abhorrent qualities {according to the culture}: independence, assertiveness and a free-spirit.” These qualities are evident in not only Siegel herself but the group’s music. Siegel commented, “As I wrote and so they ran faster…, I challenged myself not to be afraid of my desires, all my desires, and each eac one seemed potentially in conflict with the next. Firehorse reminds me to be exactly who I am, even if it means I’ll end up destitute and alone.” The writing for the album allowed Siegel to find the courage to write her true feelings and deepest fears, such as experiencing joy after a moment of total surrender (“Our Hearts”) and the illusion of childhood innocence (“Young”).

Even with several side projects (and her own clothing line in the works), Leah Siegel remains deeply committed to Firehorse. As she says, “I spent 6 years in the trenches barely breathing and built a career entirely on my own. No agent, no manager - just based on the strength of my voice as a singer and a writer. I'm a work horse. I want to work, and I want to work HARD. Horses, you know, they run until they kill themselves. That's how I am.” There’s no doubt, based up on the strength of and so they ran faster…, Firehorse will be running for quite awhile.