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USA TODAY Gives Indie Ari Hest A ‘Listen Up Playlist Pick’ For Track That “Comforts And Haunts"; Hest Opening For Suzanne Vega On U.S. Tour
USA TODAY Gives Indie Ari Hest a ‘Listen Up Playlist Pick’ for Track That “Comforts and Haunts,” as Experimental CD is Praised as “Easily His Best Album to Date”
Currently Opening For Suzanne Vega on U.S. Tour
“A Sterling Effort from a Seasoned Performer”
Indie singer-songwriter Ari Hest has earned meaningful pre-release praise for his upcoming experimental album, ‘Shouts and Whispers,’ available June 8th. In a USA TODAY ‘Listen Up Playlist Pick,’ rock critic Elysa Gardner selected the song ‘Into the Empty White’ as a track that “comforts and haunts”:
USA TODAY – THE PLAYLIST
http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/04/14/lana-del-rey-playlist/7709359/ By Elysa Gardner 4/14/14
Into the Empty White, Ari Hest: The singer-songwriter's lovely latest effort, Shouts and Whispers, includes this twinkling bit of reflection that comforts and haunts.
Other writers have hailed the new CD as “easily his best album to date,” and “clear, direct and deeply moving” – see an early review, below.
Ari Hest is currently opening for Suzanne Vega for a month of concerts – an itinerary follows below.
On ‘Shouts and Whispers’, Hest creates a non-typical collection of tracks that ultimately form a cohesive narrative. With songs of sadness and resignation giving way to lucidity and catharsis, Hest’s introspection and intelligence are on display, creating moments of magic within his poetic, spare lyrics and backing them up with his ear for haunting melodies.
He conceived half the album as an acoustic set, while the other half took shape via keyboards, as he explains below. ‘Shouts and Whispers’ begins with the swirling, hypnotic ‘Harvest’, soon followed by a centerpiece track, the stunning, understated ‘Into the Empty White’. ‘How We’ll Always Be’ is perhaps a declaration of giving up the fight, and the melancholy ‘No One Can Stay’ has an elegant darkness. There’s a glimmer of hope within ‘Bona Fide’, and finally a cathartic yowl as ‘After The Thunder’ builds to its crescendo.
ABSOLUTEPUNK – CD Review
4/30/14 by Gregory Robson
In the early aughts (00’s) Ari Hest had it easy. While John Mayer and John Mraz were making waves churning acoustic rock into radio gold, Hest found himself a major label deal. 2004’s Someone To Tell was a study, confident effort from the New York singer-songwriter that pointed towards hints of greatness. A second major label effort, 2007’s The Break-In soon followed and Hest seemed well on his way to making a dent somewhere on the Billboard charts. But the exact opposite happened. The Break-In marked his last foray with the corporate suits and Hest went about making albums on his own terms, dabbling in co-writes and doing whatever he could to keep his head above water.
Nearly a decade later, the industry scenery has changed. With the advent of both indie-folk and EDM competing for top dollar, Hest found himself independent and crowd-sourcing. His eighth album, Shouts and Whispers, made via PledgeMusic donations, is easily his best album to date and the first since The Break-In that finds Hest tapping into something both accessible, immediate and promising. Often criticized as being too earnest, Shouts and Whispers is clear, direct and deeply moving.
The disc opens with the twinkly “Harvest,” a song that opens with just Hest and his powerhouse baritone before segueing into an airy stew of shimmering guitars, celestial piano and a gossamer veneer that seems tailor-made for a Sunday evening stroll in Greenwich Village. Drawing on the same sonic landscape as its predecessor, “Here To Be Forgotten,” pushes for the same vibe but digs a bit deeper, due in large part to a rising chorus and some indelible piano lines.
The disc’s first half concludes with “Middle Man” and “Covering Up.” The former is a swirling current of buoyancy that is both slow-moving and decidedly British. One can’t be certain if Hest took his cue on Shouts and Whispers from the likes of Peter Gabriel or Tears for Fears, but the song’s celestial leanings has a vibe that definitely pays homage to those distinctly British sounds. While it can be argued that much of the album draws on these same sonic tomes, “Middle Man” is the first song that does it in such a distinct manner. “Covering Up” on the other hand is a romantic and yearning effort about the furtive nature of a blossoming romance. Hest has always had a keen and perceptive eye for the nuances of the human condition and “Covering Up” is another effort that proves just how introspective Hest can be.
After a thirty-second interlude (which unoriginally bears that very title), Side B opens with “Less,” a homespun acoustic affair that proves how powerful just a voice and a guitar can be. Ostensibly a paean to counting one’s blessings and cherishing the small moments, it is as perfect as a song can get. No overtly witty lines, no bells or whistles, just a man, his guitar and his comforting words. The barren and stark “Into the Empty White” begins similarly to “Less” but chases after something a bit more playful, a bit more vernal and a bit more triumphant. Piano, which has been a hallmark of this album to date, once again makes a brief cameo and gives the song some additional ebulliency.
After the disappointment of the unneeded “How We’ll Always Be,” a song that sounds little different from much of Hest’s back-catalog, he returns to form on the brilliant “Bona Fide,” an open-hearted foray into daydreaming and 1970s era folk that does very little if any wrong. Ditto for the plaintive and pensive “No One Can Stay.” Though it can be argued it is as much a throwaway as “How We’ll Always Be,” a gentle piano helps rescue it from the depths of disappointment. Shouts and Whispers concludes with the near-perfect “After the Thunder,” a piano ballad that takes its cues from both “Harvest” and “Less” and revisits just how impacting Hest and his voice truly are.
Though it probably has little chance of entering into the mainstream, Shouts and Whispers is a sterling effort from a seasoned performer who knows his way around a song. Nothing about the album is extravagant. In fact, its subtlety and understatement is what makes it so magnetic. More than a decade removed from his dalliance with the big-time, Hest is more than comfortable making albums on his own terms. And if they’re as expertly crafted as Shouts and Whispers, well then, hot damn, us music listeners, are pretty damn fortunate.
THE RECORD-JOURNAL – Meriden, CT –
Hest comments on the process of making the album:
“At first I wanted to write and record some songs where I put the guitar down and focused on keyboards…I’ve always been into music from Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, and Bruce Hornsby, and was excited to experiment in that direction. So I asked my buddy Carl Barc if I could invade his studio for a while to experiment with some ideas on his Juno and CP70 keyboards. I loved creating in a way I hadn’t – using those instruments as the backbone of tracks and leaving guitar largely out of it.”
“In the middle of working on those songs I began playing solo shows supporting Judy Collins around the U.S. and Europe. Her show and her audience beg for a more acoustically minded set, so I’d go on stage with just a guitar and occasionally play songs that were fresh out of the oven. I enjoyed being able to take a break mentally from what I was doing with Carl. I was able to focus on how I could arrange these other new songs sparsely.”
Eventually Hest found the time to record a few of them with the help of producer Matt Pendergast at Q Division Studios in Boston, MA. Then he listened to both projects. “After hearing the two finished batches of songs I saw two distinct themes, not only in a musical sense but also lyrically. The vibe of the keyboard driven tracks is intense. I wrote a lot about the uncertainty of what I do for a living. On the contrary, the acoustic songs come from a place of lucidity. I started thinking it’d be cool to combine the two somehow.”
The result is an album that isn’t an album in the traditional sense, but it manages to flow like a complete thought.
As mentioned above, Hest has been honored to tour with the legendary Judy Collins, and is even featured in her new PBS special - JUDY COLLINS LIVE IN IRELAND, currently airing on PBS stations nationwide. On the program, the two of them join together to sing one of Ari’s songs.
ARI HEST ‘SHOUTS AND WHISPERS’ TOUR
Opening for Suzanne Vega:
May 7, 2014 South Orange PAC South Orange, NJ
May 8, 2014 Ram’s Head Annapolis, MD
May 9, 2014 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA
May 10, 2014 Carolina Civic Center Lumberton, NC
May 11, 2014 Booth Playhouse Charlotte, NC
May 13, 2014 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI
May 15, 2014 The Old Town School of Folk Music Chicago, IL
May 16, 2014 Barrymore Theatre Madison, WI
May 17, 2014 Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis, MN
May 19, 2014 Aladdin Theatre Portland, OR
May 20, 2014 Triple Door Seattle, WA
May 22, 2014 Center for the Arts Grass Valley, CA
May 23, 2014 Great American Music Hall San Francisco, CA
May 24, 2014 El Ray Theatre Los Angeles, CA
June 6, 2014 solo Univ. of Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK
June 18, 2014 solo Seven Steps Up Music Spring Lake, MI
June 20, 2014 solo City Winery Chicago, IL
June 25, 2014 solo Eddie’s Attic Decatur, GA
More about Ari Hest
"I’ve always been the introspective type. I guess as a singer-songwriter you're gonna have some of that anyway in your makeup. My previous records were inward most of the time, but ‘Shouts and Whispers’ has another distinct angle, one of understanding the world I live in and embracing how I fit into it a bit easier than I used to.”
Hest has released seven albums, three EPs, and "52" in 2008, an innovative project whereby he wrote, recorded and released a new song every Monday for a full year. In addition, Hest is half of the folk pop duo The Open Sea, along with longtime friend Rosi Golan.
His music has been featured on numerous television shows including Private Practice, Army Wives, and One Tree Hill. Recently, Ari’s song “The Landlord” appeared in an episode of NPR’s “All Things Considered”. He's also scored a film called ‘Dreamriders,’ which won several independent film awards. And throughout his career, he has toured worldwide to support his records, most recently in Germany as well as several European countries, and built the kind of loyal fan base any musician would envy.
While Shouts and Whispers is an excellent indication of what Hest is capable of, his live show may leave even more of an impression. Watching him play, one can't help but be thrust into his world, hanging on every word like a child listening to a ghost story.