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A-Sides with Jon Chattman: Jesse Harris' Borne Identity; Sarah Blacker "Plugs" In, and Conservatory Students See (Desert) Stars

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Stores can't wait to plug their "back to school" sales during the first week of August - even the last week of July. For shame! Summer isn't over year. Sure, August has gone by faster than Ichiro Suzuki in roller skates on ice (it'd make a wonderful show by the way), but there's still some heartbeats in summer 2013 so let's celebrate them shall we? I shall in the only way I know how: sharing some pretty fine music. Today's A-Sides features two talented singer/songwriters and a trippy band from the BK (Brooklyn - not Burger King folks).

Jesse Harris wrote Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why." He won a Grammy for that decade-plus-old huge hit, and that's all I really want to say about it. Ever since and even before that, Harris has been an acclaimed musician in his own right, producing deeply-felt harmonious ditties. Borne Away is his latest, and it's an acoustic gem. Gem, by the way, is a great word to use when referring to anything cool. Few people use it today so let's bring it back. Anyway, the album is the native New Yorker's 12th and it's 14-songs of intimate awesomeness - just Harris stripped down with a variety of instruments including the glockenspiel, which in itself is pretty cool. Earlier this month, Harris stopped by the Music Conservatory of Westchester to film a session with me. There, he played two tracks, and talked about them. Watch these gems below....

"Anything At All"

Watch Harris perform the title track here!

Like Harris, our next two artists filmed their A-Sides sessions at the Music Conservatory of Westchester, but with a twist. Singer/songwriterSarah Blacker and Desert Stars played their respective sessions in front of rock and jazz students at the school. While the New England-based Blacker (along with Bryan Worley, who performed stand-up bass with her) fielded questions from the dozen or so middle schoolers after her performance and interview, the Brooklyn band jammed out with them. Let's chat about Blacker first only because "B" comes before "D."

In an interview earlier this month, Blacker said her forthcoming third album is her personal favorite. She won't be alone in that thinking. The singer/songwriter has gotten a lot of traction from her Precious Little Things EP, which she released this year. Her infectious, well-written songs led to her being named Female Performer of the Year at the New England Music Awards, and has drawn her comparisons to Sara Bareilles. But, comparisons be damned: she's her own artist. Watch her perform "Pluggin' Away" away below followed by an interview. You can catch an additional performance ("Perfectly Imperfect") now on the A-Sides YouTube channel, and later this month, catch the Q&A with Blacker, Worley, and the kids from the Conservatory!

Listening to Desert Stars' recently released Habit Shackles album will make you wish you permanently resided on a beach, or at the very least regularly took drives along it with the top and windows down. With a sound that's sort of a mix of Cat Power and Beach House, the Janelle Best-fronted band make a very sunny debut with their moody, reverb-friendly harmonies. As mentioned, the band's Best, guitarist Eric Altesleben and drummer Gregg Giuffré (backing vocalist Carrie Ashley Hill couldn't make it) stopped by to perform in front of Conservatory students, which lead to an all-out jam session. Watch them perform
"Boys I Like" here, and "Off the Cliff" with aspiring musicians below. A brief interview follows both. Watch. Listen. Love.

"Off the Cliff" with students of the Music Conservatory of Westchester

Interview

A-Sides "Delve Into Twelve" Countdown
Each week A-Sides unleashes its Top 12 tracks of the week AKA the "Delve Into Twelve"based on the following contributing factors: songs I'm playing out that particular week NO MATTER WHEN THEY WERE RELEASED (think overlooked songs, unreleased tracks, and old favorites), songs various publicists are trying to get me to listen to that I did and listened to and liked (phew), posts and trends I've noticed on my friends' Facebook walls, and - most importantly - the songs 1 1/2+ year-old son gravitates toward. Yeah, you read that right. This weeks follows below (LW= last week's rank):

12. "Polaris" - Jimmy Eat World
11. "Best Day Of My Life" - American Authors
10. "You Didn't See Me" (LW-11) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
9. "Hurricane" (LW-8) - MS MR
8. "Gun" (LW-6) - CHVRCHES
7. "Royals" (LW-5) - Lorde
6. "You & I" (LW-4) - Crystal Fighters (Watch them perform the song live on A-Sides here)
5. "Dreaming"(LW-3) - Smallpools
4. "The Wire" - Haim
3. "Hearts Like Ours" - The Naked and Famous
2. "Pompeii" (LW-2) - Bastille
1. "Torches & Pitchforks"(LW-1) - Mona

About A-Sides Music
Jon Chattman's "A-Sides Music" series usually features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I'm hoping this is refreshing.