About Kate Isenberg
San Francisco, CA
"Impeccable songwriting"--in the words of one critic--is what makes San Francisco-based Kate Isenberg stand out from other girls (and boys) with guitars. On GOLD RUSH TOWN, her second studio album, Isenberg offers thought-provoking and funny stories of life's ambitions and detours. With clear, soulful vocals that can show-stop or whisper secrets; guitar riffs that make unusual chords sound easy; and full-band arrangements of chamber-pop and tongue-in-cheek indie rock, GOLD RUSH TOWN is both sophisticated and accessible. Isenberg's listeners play her songs over and over not just for the ear candy, but also the food for thought.
A graduate of Harvard in English, as well as a writer and illustrator, Isenberg has always embraced the power of stories to deepen life's wonder. Many of GOLD RUSH TOWN's stories contain a final twist, compelling a close listen all the way to the fade-out. In the slow-build, anthemic "View of the Ocean," a stood-up would-be lover finds unexpected solace in a coastal drive. In "She's Gone Serious" (whose gothic organ swells, chattering bass, and hyper electric guitars parody teenage angst), a clique of 15-year-olds gossip about a member's newfound individualism--then reject her when she tries to rejoin them. "Promiscuous Heart," which sets brooding electric and acoustic guitars against carefree toy piano, dramatizes the struggle to tame a mischievous heart, which Isenberg admonishes to "return the rhyme and the meter to the shelf." Never afraid to question the role of rhyme and meter, Isenberg writes pop songs deeper for their self-awareness.
Isenberg drew on a talented team to flesh out GOLD RUSH TOWN's multilayered sound. In addition to her core band (Aaron Brinkerhoff, drums; Fergus D. Lenehan, bass), Isenberg enlisted Jon Evans (bassist, Tori Amos), of the Berkeley, Ca., studio San Pablo Recorders, as co-arranger and co-producer. Accordionist/organist Julie Wolf (Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco) and trumpeter Erik Jekabson (John Mayer) helped create a richer, more diverse sound than on Isenberg's previous albums. A recording enthusiast and an accomplished composer, Isenberg conceived and finalized all of the arrangements in her home studio. The result is a collection of songs in which each instrument plays a deliberate, distinctive, and integral character.
Growing up in the Bay Area, Isenberg began studying violin at age eight. In high school, she discovered the smart pop of Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, and the Indigo Girls. After teaching herself guitar in college, she began performing her own songs at top listening rooms, pushing the boundaries of her guitar playing to include alternate tunings. Her first studio album, THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS, won diehard fans and critical acclaim (About.com "Best Unknown Folk Artist"; KFOG radio airplay; Indie Acoustic Project "Finalist, Best Singer-Songwriter Album of 2007").
Far from resting on this success, Isenberg pushes her musical boundaries even further on GOLD RUSH TOWN, from her vocal technique to her ever-evolving musicianship (she now plays electric and acoustic guitar, violin, banjo, and mandolin). The visionary city of GOLD RUSH TOWN may exist within the artist's mind, but its rewards, musical and insightful, are for anyone in the mood to discover treasure.