If you like voices, they don’t get much better than Rachel Bearer, Ben McLain, Chris Harrison, Jessica Freedman, Paul Peglar, and Katharine Anne Hoye, the sextet who form the Los Angeles-based “supergroup” SONOS. Their recent release, December Songs, features original compositions as well as traditional holiday tunes. It’s more of a “winter” album, rather than a “let’s kiss under the mistletoe” one, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy its sounds as we slowly make our way toward spring.
Our latest 10 to Spin comes from Harrison and Freedman of SONOS. They don’t just give us their picks, they give us some cool stories to go along with the tunes, too. Enjoy.
Chris Harrison: Most of the songs that have found a home in my random access memory mark an emotionally colorful event or chapter of my life. In most cases, they served as the soundtrack. These songs either remind me of feeling at home emotionally, or returning home after a journey away.
Jessica Freedman: As we have learned in the past few years as touring musicians, home is where your bags are. The collection of songs I chose speak to the idea of home as a feeling rather than a place – how you may feel when you are home, missing home, leaving home, or rediscovering it. Enjoy 🙂
The Dillards – Hey Boys [listen]
The first music I remember is live bluegrass in our family room. Loud, fast, and incredibly joyful, my Dad’s band, “The Unstrung Heroes” would tear through every tune in their repertoire at break-neck speed. “Hey Boys” was my favorite, and I’d stand wide-eyed in the hallway peering at them from around the corner, trying to keep up with the lyrics as they flew by. I’d always get a kick of giddiness when each voice took its place in the big stacked chord on the words, “won’t do us any harm…” (CH)
Frou Frou – Let Go
When I listen to this song, I am immediately transported to the summer after high school graduation before leaving home for college in L.A. It reminds me of driving around late at night with lifelong friends, knowing our lives were about to split off in a million different directions. It was exhilarating, inspiring, and scary all at once. This song brings me right back to that feeling of just surrendering, letting go; being right there in the moment as you never know what’s to come. Oh, and the arrangement/string parts take my breath away. Gotta love Imogen! (JF)
Joni Mitchell – California
Every time we’re (SONOS) finally on a plane headed for LAX or Burbank, this plays loud and clear in my mind’s ear. The “home” association in this case is rather obvious. (CH)
Kurt Elling – Leaving Again/In the Wee Small Hours
Kurt Elling is probably my favorite vocalist EVER for so many reasons besides his mindblowing technique, improv skills, and honest, emotional delivery. In my opinion, as far as jazz singers go, he is sort of super-humanly creative, as evidenced by fusing this composition of an original “verse” with the old standard “in the wee small hours of the morning.” I have been especially identifying with this song in the past year as SONOS has been touring non-stop. Whenever we return home, it is only for a brief moment before we are off again. “Sleeping, waking, leaving again.” (JF)
The Pharcyde – Passin’ Me By
When I was in seventh grade, I was pale, non-sporty, and endowed with a 13 year-old’s imagination and emotional capacity. No concept was more relatable than the inability to express one’s heavy feelings for/to the girl out of reach. Just about every night of that year, I’d lay awake in my bed, listening to the local hip-hop station, waiting for this song to play. Ridiculous as it sounds to me now, it felt at the time like “the pharcyde” were four other seventh-graders with the eloquence to put to words what we were all going through. Thanks, fellas. (CH)
John Mayer – In Your Atmosphere
I was at the concert where this live track was recorded in Los Angeles a few years ago. As a pretty obsessive John Mayer fan, I had never heard this and was completely mesmerized. He tends to gets a lot of flack, but he is truly an incredible songwriter and musician – his lyrics & guitar playing really shine in this song. I identify with the sentiment a lot in terms of having a hard time going back home when someone you associate with everything about it is no longer a part of your life there – “I’d die if I saw you, I’d die if I didn’t see you there.” (JF)
Chet Baker – Look for the Silver Lining
No voice makes me more comfortable or at ease; like I’m floating. This song feels like every sunny drive without a hint of traffic that I’ve ever taken around Los Angeles. I think there have been about four of them. (CH)
Louis Armstrong – The Home Fire [listen]
My mom loves Louis Armstrong, so this album was always playing in my house growing up. It makes you feel warm, comfy and loved, just like his voice. 🙂 Reminds me of coming home for the holidays (where I am right now as I write/listen to this!) (JF)
Simon & Garfunkel – A Heart in New York
Kathy from SONOS introduced me to this lesser-known (at least to me) Simon & Garfunkel gem. I love New York City & this song just flows and breathes with the same energy as the city…inspiring. I hope to one day experience what it feels like to actually live there. (JF)
SONOS – Home
Okay, so bear with us as we shamelessly include a brand new song of ours (written by vocal percussionist Ben McLain) that just came out on our winter album, December Songs!! It serves as a great example for the album as a whole in that it’s not your typical Santa’s-coming-to-town holiday album, but rather a collection of songs about what this whole time of year makes people feel 🙂 Thank you so much for listening, we hope you like it!!!!