With the release of his critically acclaimed Bullion-produced debut EP, Ark, the London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Will Westerman, best known as Westerman, received national and international attention for writing material that thematically grapes with societal confines and other issues over a shapeshifting electronic backdrops. Building upon a growing profile, Westerman’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Your Hero Is Not Dead is slated for a June 5, 2020 release through Play It Again Sam and Partisan Records, across North America.
Continuing his ongoing collaboration with Bullion (a.k.a. Nathan Jenkins), Your Hero Is Not Dead was recorded in Southern Portugal and finished in London. Thematically, the album is about empathy and compassion, struggle and release, and all the ways we contradict and battle within ourselves on a daily basis — and as a result, the material is centered around moral, political and ethical gray areas with narrators, who attempt to resolve larger external issues by looking inward. Your Hero Is Not Dead’s fifth and latest single, “The Line” is brooding and atmospheric track featuring gentle layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, strummed guitar, the rising London-based artist’s expressive falsetto and a soaring hook. And while bearing a subtle resemblance to Peter Gabriel’s Security and Peter Gabriel 3, the song as Westerman explains was inspired by this thoughts on moral relativism.
“I was thinking about moral relativism when I wrote this,” Westerman says in press notes. “The ever-shifting parameters of what is and isn’t acceptable. This applies to many things – gender, human rights, parenting, politics. I don’t believe that this means there’s no right and wrong, but normative values are constantly in flux – hopefully as we continue to be more compassionate.”
Thomas Anacker is an Italian-French and Swiss singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, videographer and creative mastermind behind rapidly rising solo recording project Mumbling Thom. Influenced by postwar writers like John Fante and Charles Bukowski, Anacker has developed a reputation for crafting hypnotic material that’s dreamlike while focusing on societal issues.
Anacker’s latest single “The O Mind” continues the Italian-French and Swiss singer/songwriter and videographer’s growing reputation for hypnotic material centered around layers of shimmering guitars, subtle bits of Rhodes and keys, samples of Lakota shamans chanting, propulsive Eastern and African inspired polyrhythm and an enormous hook, the song evokes the sensation of being in a the fuzzy daze of a waking dream — while radiating a yearning for a deep inner peace. Much like The Beatles’ late 60s psychedelic work, the song is a seamless mesh of the Eastern and Western. “‘The O Mind’ is a song about being an open mind in an extra narcissistic world,” Anacker explained to me in an email.
Of course, the hypnotic song is accompanied by an equally trippy visual that evokes a Zen-level of peace.
Several years later, Scott met her collaborator, Italian-born multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Stefano Della Casa when they were both in London, but interestingly enough, they both recognized that they may have encountered each other years earlier, when she used to regularly pass through the train station that Della Casa worked in. When the duo began collaborating, they quickly recognized that they had an incredible connection despite coming from vastly different backgrounds: Della Casa had a difficult upbringing and troubled early adulthood while Scott had been lucky to have a supportive family and happy childhood — although as an adult, Scott was diagnosed with a form of arthritis, which causes severe joint pain and fatigue.
Both artists firmly believe that their musical collaboration has provided an outlet to support each other through difficult times, and the duo have received quite a bit of buzz over the past couple of years: they’ve been featured in MOJO, Songwriting Magazine , Clash Magazine and in The Guardian as a “New Band of The Day.” They’ve also received airplay on Bob Harris’ and Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 shows and have been on BBC Introducing’s “Track of the Week” three times. They’ve opened for Seth Lakeman and 10cc , and played at Mondo.NYC Festival a couple of years ago.
Last year’s Pieces of the Night quickly established Scott as one of her country’s emerging singer/songwriters with the album pairing emotive and heartfelt songwriting with a warm and effortless production that meshed organic instrumentation — primarily acoustic guitar, cello and vocals — with atmospheric electronics. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, both Scott and her collaborator Della Casa have signed publishing deals with Ultra Music Publishing and Chelsea Music Publishing respectively.
Scott kicks off 2019 with the gorgeous, Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head-era Coldplay-like “Walk a Wire.” Centered around Scott’s plaintive vocals, a soaring hook and spectral arrangement of acoustic guitar and atmospheric electronics, the song is inspired by a friend of Scott’s, who had a disability and out of fear of rejection and heartbreak, closed herself away. And as a result, the song is a plea to the listener to take a chance and open up to life and possibility.
Sandpoint, ID-born, Portland, OR-based identical twin sisters Katelyn Shook (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, glockenspiel and telephone microphone) and Laurie Shook (banjo, upright bass, djembe, ocarina flute, tambourine, giant golden egg, vocals) formed the acclaimed folk duo Shook Twins back in 2004, and since their formation they’ve developed a reputation for a unique and quirky take on folk that’s centered around unusual instrumentation, the Shook Sisters’ harmonizing, Laurie Shook’s beatboxing a looping machine and a telephone microphone to create a sound that draws from folk, Americana, electro pop and hip hop. They’re also known for adding choruses or lines from other contemporary and well-known songs as a sort of remix-like style.
And with the release of their first three albums — 2011’s Window, 2008’s You Can Have The Rest, and 2014’s What We Do, and a handful of EPs, the Shook Sisters have built a growing national profile as they’ve performed with or opened for the likes of Ryan Adams, Mason Jennings, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sarah Jarosz, Laura Veirs, Trace Bundy, Jonatha Brooke, Michelle Shocked, Crooked Still, Jason Webley, John Craigie, Elephant Revival, The Head and the Heart and others. And adding to that, they’ve played sets across the country’s music festival circuit including High Sierra Music Festival, Suwannee Hulaween, Summer Camp Festival, Electric Forest Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Joshua Tree Music Festival, Arise Music Festival, Four Corners Folk Festival, Fayetteville Roots Festival and others.
The act’s long-awaited fourth full, length album Some Good Lives is slated for a February 15, 2019 release through Dutch Records and the album which features a backing band consisting of Niko Slice (guitar, mandolin), Barra Brown (drums) and Sydney Nash (bass) finds them paying homage to the loved ones, friends and mentors, who have had a massive influence and impact on their lives from a late grandpa and godfather to Bernie Sanders and a host of others. “We realized there was a theme,” Katelyn Shook explains in press notes. “Even though our minds are mostly on the women of today and wanting the matriarchy to rise up, we have several men in our lives who have been such positive forces. We wanted to thank them and honor the good guys who showed us the beauty in this crazy world we live in. So, it’s an album for Some Good Lives that have crossed paths with ours—and to them, we are grateful.” Laurie Shook adds “It’s also an acknowledgment of our thankfulness of the good life that we get to live.”
During 2016, the Shook Sisters planted the seeds for what would become Some Good Lives by thinking bigger — they began intermittently recording at Hallowed Halls, an old library building, which felt full of stories. And with their backing band, they expanded upon the sound that first won them attention. “It took us a long time to find the band that we wanted to record these songs with and for the songs to fully mature,” admits Laurie. “Once Barra, Sydney, and Niko joined us, we really started to explore what our music could be. These amazing players helped us realize that we could be more than just ‘folk pop’. We started adding other genres to the word like ‘disco,’‘psychedelic,’‘funk,’ and ‘soul.’ We really honed in on a new sound.”
Some Good Lives‘ funky latest single “Stay Wild” single begins with shimmering guitars and features a propulsive, dance floor friendly groove, complete with a sinuous bass line paired with the Shook Sisters’ gorgeous harmonizing — and it finds the act’s sound meshing old school folk, deliberate attention to craft, psych pop and electro pop in a heady yet accessible fashion; in fact, in some way, it’s an almost Giorgio Moroder-like take on folk.
Directed by Kristen Mico of Brave Alive Productions, edited by the band’s Laurie Shook and Kristen Mico and featuring effects by Willie Witte, the recently released video stars the Shook Sisters along with Barra Brown and Niko Slice. The video initially begins with a frustrated and stressed out businesswoman, completely in black and white. The brief blasts of color that come into her world revolve around the creative spirts and world of Shook Twins — including the entire band ice skating at a local rink. It’s a goofy and trippy visual that captures the spirit and feel of the song.
Born the daughter of an artist, Hannah Scott is an Ipswich, UK-born, London, UK-based singer/songwriter, whose work is heavily influenced by a year spent working on an olive press in rural Tuscany, Italy in her late teens. Scott met her longtime collaborator, Italian-born and Italian-based multi-instrumentalist Stefano Della Casa when they were both in London, but interestingly enough, they both recognized that they may have encountered each other years earlier, when she used to regularly passed through the train station that Della Casa worked in. And as the story goes, when the two began collaborating, they recognized an incredible connection despite coming from very different backgrounds: Della Casa had a difficult upbringing and troubled adult life, while Scott had been lucky to have a supportive and happy childhood — although as an adult Scott has recently been diagnosed with a form of arthritis, which causes severe joint paint and fatigue.
Both artists firmly believe that their musical collaboration has provided an outlet to support each other through difficult times, and so far the up-and-coming duo have received quite a bit of buzz early on as they’ve been featured in MOJO, Songwriting Magazine and as a “New Band of The Day” in The Guardian, and airplay on Bob Harris‘ and Dermot O’Leary‘s BBC Radio 2 shows, and had been on BBC Introducing as their “Track of Week” on three different occasions. Adding to a growing profile, Scott and Della Casa have opened for Seth Lakeman and 10cc — and if you’ve been frequenting this site you may recall that Scott and Della Casa played an intimate and gorgeous set at last year’s Mondo.NYC Festival.
Scott’s and Della Casa’s newest effort together, Pieces of the Night is slated for release later this year, and the album reportedly consists of material that finds the duo meshing live, organic instrumentation — acoustic guitar, cello and vocals — with slick yet tasteful electronic production, centered around honest songs on the human condition and human connection in an increasingly hectic world. Pieces of the Night‘s first single “Signs of Life” is a rousingly anthemic piano-led song that focuses on the need to push on through difficulties and hard times, no matter how dark and hopeless they may seem. Certainly, in our dark times, the song’s message is desperately needed — and while rooted in the experiences of its creators, the song is both personal yet universal.
Meiko is a Roberta, GA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up in a rather musical home, as her father, who was a singer/songwriter and guitarist used to sing for the Roberta, GA-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter when she was a baby. When she was 8, Meiko began singing in public; in fact, her first performance was at a local, all black, Southern Baptist church, where she sang “White Christmas” on Christmas Eve. “I just recently realized the humor in that — but luckily at the time, everyone thought it was cute . . .,” Meiko recalls on her Facebook fan page.
When she was 18, Meiko left her small Southern town and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where she began playing at the Hotel Cafe, a venue known for developing up-and-coming, local singer/songwriters. By 2007, she had released her self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that established the Roberta, GA-born singer/songwriter’s reputation for material that managed to mesh indie pop and coffeehouse folk and as a result the album had every single song featured on a number of high-profile TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy, which led to the album landing on the digital folk charts.
Juana Molina is a Buenos Aires-born and based singer/songwriter, producer and actress, who interestingly enough is the daughter of renowned tango vocalist Horacio Molina and actress Chunchuna Villafane. Unsurprisingly, the younger Molina grew up in an intensely musical home — her father taught her guitar when she was 5, and her mother introduced the renowned Argentine singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actress to her music collection. As the result of 1976’s military coup, the Molina family fled their homeland and lived in exile in Paris for six years, and during that time, a teenaged Molina’s musical tastes were vastly expanded by regularly listening to a number of French radio stations, known for programs that spun music from all over the globe.
The Molinas returned to their homeland when Juana Molina was a 20-something, and as the story goes, she was determined to become independent and purse a career in music; however, like many young people, her initial career aspirations were to earn some decent money for a few hours of work, and having enough time to write songs, record and tour. Molina had long knew that she had a talent for imitations, and looking for a decent gig, she auditioned for a TV programs, and based on the strength of her impressions, she got hired on the spot. Molina quickly became one of Argentina’s most popular and beloved comedic actors, and three years after her first audition, she had her own show Juana y sus hermanas, in which she had invented and impersonated a serious of incredibly stereotypical characters; not only was the show wildly popular in her native Argentina, the show as syndicated to several Latin American countries.
Seven years after that initial audition, Molina was pregnant and her smash hit show was on hiatus while she was on maternity leave. With a lot of free time on her hands, she found herself reflecting on her rapid rise to stardom, and thought to herself “this isn’t what I wanted to do.” So with a highly popular show under her belt, Molina decided to quit acting to focus on her lifelong passion — music; a decision that many Argentinians held against her for years. In fact her full-length debut, 1996’s Rara was not only critically panned by critics, who resented her departure from TV. Worse yet, fans of her comedic acting would come to her shows, expecting to hear or see jokes but couldn’t quite understand her “folk singer character,” in which she kept singing and there were no obvious jokes. Dejected by the criticism, but desperate to continue what she felt was her life’s true calling, she relocated to Los Angeles for some time, where her music was better received, and began familiarizing herself with a variety of electronic instruments.
The Argentine singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actress returned home to Buenos Aires, where she recorded her self-produced sophomore effort Segundo, an album which incorporated an increasing use of electronic instruments; in fact, since Segundo, Molina has developed a reputation for meshing organic arrangements with electronic production, usually through layered and sampled loops of acoustic sounds paired with beats and other electronics. Interestingly 2000’s Segundo and 2004’s Tres Cosas received international attention — The New York Times named Tres Cosas one of their Top Ten Records that year, and she’s been championed by David Byrne, Will Oldham, and others. And while some critics have somewhat lazily compared Molina’s work to that of Bjork and others, her sound and aesthetic has been described by folktronica, ambient, experimental, neo-folk, chill-out, indietronica, psychedelic, indie pop and even progressive folk, and as a result, the Buenos Aires-born and -based artist has been uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole; in fact, Molina has arguably become one of her country’s most experimental artists.
Since 2013’s Wed 21, Molina has done quite a bit of international touring, playing shows across the European Union, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the US, and with the release of her seventh album Halo earlier this year, the Buenos Aires-based artist has been playing a series of international dates to support it, and she will be embarking on a short run of Stateside dates that will include two New York area dates — September 16, 2017 at El Museo Del Barrio and September 18, 2017 at Le Poisson Rouge. (The rest of the tour dates are below.) And unsurprisingly, Halo will further cement Molina’s reputation for being a restlessly experimental artist, and as you’ll hear on the album’s latest single “In The Lassa” the single — hell, the entire album — finds Molina pairing a hypotonic and dreamy production with a propulsive, tribal-like vibe, complete with shimmering loops of guitar and a motorik-like groove. And much like an incredibly lucid dream, the soundscape she creates seem to twist, turn and morph at will, while her ethereal and mysterious vocals float over the mix. But underneath the dreamy vibes, her lyrics touch upon witchcraft, premonition and dreams being used as metaphors for complex emotional states — with her sometimes doing something like scatting to emphasize something much more primal and timeless while mischievously nodding at Radiohead’s “15 Step.”
The recently released animated video for “In the Lassa” follows the surreal yet video game-like adventures of an anthropomorphic (and phallic appearing) bone, set free from its human in an incredibly verdant forest. I won’t give too much away but the video possesses a hallucinogenic and dream-like quality.
Comprised of frontman Daniel Trudeau, along with Schuyler Peterson, Sean Hayashi and Brynley Stoner, the Sacramento, CA-based electronic folk pop quartet PREGNANT bonded over a mutual desire to make music more interesting. And from their latest single “Dead Dog Head,” the quartet specialize in a unique and kaleidoscopic sound in which they stitch together vintage soul and funk samples in a way that nods at Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys, Girl Talk and others, and while trippy as hell it’s all within a accessible, pop-leaning song structure.
Jackson Dyer is an Sydney, Australia-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and is part of a growing number of Australians who have relocated to the Germany city for a creative and personal renewal and to advance their careers; in fact, since Dyer relocated to Berlin three years ago, he has opened for Grammy-nominated acts and countrymen Hiatus Kaiyote and Hozier, and has extensively toured throughout the European Union with Berlin, Germany-based indie folk act Mighty Oaks and Jamie Cullum. Adding to a growing profile, the Sydney, Australia-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter has played at several European festivals.
Dyer’s third EP, Compartments was released earlier this year to critical praise, as the effort thematically and lyrically may arguably be one of the most personal efforts he’s released to date. And as Dyer explains in press notes, “Compartments is an EP of self-reflection that I wrote at a time when I faced a lot of uncertainty and questions about my place in the world. Far away from home, often spending long hours in my studio on the industrial outskirts of Berlin, it was a period of introspection when I experimented with production and songwriting. In this space, I wrestled with many of my misgivings about the music industry, the nature of humanity and my own personal motivations. The title Compartments refers to the lyrics in “Pariahs,” which is about how close many people live to each other in cities and apartment blocks, but still lead very enclosed lives, unwilling to engage with even their neighbours. Ironically, I spent a long time in my own ‘compartment’ writing these songs and it wasn’t until I collaborated with others that they really came alive.”
Compartments’ second and latest single is EP opening track “The Absolute” and sonically speaking the track nods at the work of renowned Swedish singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez and his work both as a solo artist and with Junip, as the song has Dyer pairing bluesy guitar chords played through generous amounts of reverb, swirling electronics, glitchy and stuttering drum programming with his soulful vocals to create a song that’s deeply introspective and achingly earnest; in fact, the song captures and evokes a narrator, who feels profoundly lost and alone and wrestling with the sort of existential questions that don’t have an easy answer. And while capturing someone at perhaps one of their darkest periods, the song manages to possess a resoluteness that suggests while many answers won’t come quickly, the song’s narrator will move forward and many of life’s most difficult questions will resolve themselves accordingly.