Joy Ike's talent was unmistakable on her first two albums, but listening to the appropriately titled "All or Nothing," it's easy to say the third time is a charm.
The Pittsburgh-based singer-songwriter-pianist, who draws easy comparisons to Fiona Apple, Corrine Bailey Rae and Regina Spektor, has produced a record that is soulfully sung, slickly produced, emotionally charged and cinematic in scope, while still feeling as intimate as her gigs at the Shadow Lounge.
"My first album, 'Good Morning,' was very poppy and processed," she says, "while the second album, 'Rumors,' was much more raw sounding and organic. Each exists in its own right, especially as a way to major a change in my sound and growth over the years. But the thing that ultimately makes 'All or Nothing' different is that every aspect -- production, arrangements, songwriting, instrumentation -- are strong. I am proud of this album because we didn't cut corners."
Lending a big hand to all of that was Brooklyn-based producer Saul Simon MacWilliams, a member of Ingrid Michaelson's touring band and an engineer on the "Beasts of the Southern Wild" project. She found him via Grassrootsy, the music marketing blog she writes for independent artists.
"I was connected to Saul through one of my readers," she says. "He had just finished working on her album and after listening to her project, I asked her to connect me. I was pretty sure from the start that he was the person I wanted to work with. In fact, the project was delayed by several months in order to work around his tour schedule."
The album's organic quality also has a lot to do with Ms. Ike and her band -- upright bassist Jason Rafalak, drummer/percussionist Ryan Socrates and cellist Eleanor Graham -- having thoroughly massaged the songs before going in.
"My band and I had been playing solid arrangements of many of these songs before heading into the studio. So for the most part, these tunes were nearly ready when we entered the studio. At the same time Saul had some great ideas on how to make things even better or different. For example Ryan played "Happy" with brushes on a piece of cardboard (an old record case actually) instead of on a jazz kit. A little less jazzy and a little more quirky. It's probably something people wouldn't notice on their own. But there is a substantial difference in sound between the two options."
There's a world music vibe from the first song, the single "Everything You Have," and it carries through "All or Nothing," something that Ms. Ike, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, is proud of. Still, the instrumentation is subtle dressing for her love songs, which range from torchy to quirky.
"Seventy percent of the songs on this album are love songs," she says. "They were written in a season of reflection -- on what 'could have been' or 'could still be' in regards to love and relationships. 'Home,' the final track on the album took a little over one year to write. It's probably the most honest song on the record and was definitely the hardest to finish."
Her last album, with the single "Sweeter," earned her a booking on the Lilith Fair along with other national gigs. It also opened the door for a Kickstarter that raised $12,760 for this project.
"I wish I had more ways to say thank you to all the people who donated to the making of the album," she says. "I have been wrapping and packaging Kickstarter rewards for people over the last four days and I am pacing myself as I mail out over 200 packages to different areas in the U.S. and also a few people internationally. I just really feel blessed. This album is definitely not my own."
She plays a release show at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the New Hazlett Theater, North Side, with her full band and a string quartet. Opening is Colonizing the Cosmos. Admission is $12-$30. Go to www.showclix.com/event/3736524.
Public Enemy Pittsburgh connection
You would expect a Public Enemy video to be shot in one of the New York boroughs, but you'll get a pleasant surprise if you hit the clip for the hip-hop crew's new single, "Everything."
It begins not with Chuck D., but Justin Strong of the Shadow Lounge, mouthing the words to the song, which has the feel of a throwback Motown track. It continues on with Pittsburghers in Pittsburgh places, including comedian Davon Magwood and Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery's Jason Sauer, lip-syncing the song, a powerful statement about being grateful for what you have.
The video was created by Tarentum couple David and Maura Snyder, along with HWIC Filmworks, a film-production company run by David's cousin, John Delserone, that has been making videos for Chuck D.'s SLAMjamz Records label.
The video has more than 182,000 hits on YouTube and is getting raves like "instant video classic" in the comments section. "Everything," which features guest spots by saxman Gerald Albright and singer Sheila Brody, comes from Public Enemy's 12th album, "The Evil Empire of Everything," which was released in the fall.
New Donora EP
Donora, one of Pittsburgh's tastier indie-pop confections, will release a new five-song EP Tuesday on its label, Rostrum Records (also home to Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller).
"Play Nice" is the follow-up to 2011's "Boyfriends, Girlfriends," which got airplay on such stations as KROQ and WXRT, commercial placements for Chase Bank and McDonald's and TV show placements on Fox's "Glee," ABC Family's "Switched at Birth" and MTV's "Cribs," among others.
Donora is doing a private show at Club Cafe on Tuesday, before heading out on a Midwest/East Coast tour in February that will end up at the SXSW conference in Austin.
For more info, go to www.donoramusic.com.
David Throckmorton, one of the city's most active drummers, will be at Club Cafe Saturday for his 40th birthday celebration, featuring Bill Deasy, Good Brother Earl, Thoth Trio and David Throckmorton Trio.
The drummer is a veteran of such bands as Sleeping Giants, Beam, Maynard Ferguson Band and Opek/Thoth Trio/Flexure.
It begins at 10:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Go to www.clubcafelive.com.
Mind Cure/Copacetic $1 Sale
If you have any extra $1 bills, head to Polish Hill this weekend. Mind Cure along with Copacetic Comics are setting shop in the back room of Lili Cafe (right below Mind Cure) for a $1 sale of LPs, 45s, comic books, magazines, cassettes and other things they're looking to purge. It's at 3138 Dobson St., Polish Hill. Call 412-621-1715.
Benefit at Roboto
Roboto has put together a local music gig to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank on Friday night. On the bill, and these are their descriptions, are The Lopez (rockin' 2-piece dance party), One Up (simple pop tunes), Driven Lifeless (Bridgeville pop punk) and Marlon Battad (folk/punk/indie). It begins at 7 p.m. at 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. Admission is $5. Go to www. therobotoproject.org.