Young Parisian indie electro pop artist Epal started her mononymic solo project back in 2021. And with her solo recording project, the young Parisian artist attempts to mesh French chanson with contemporary pop sounds through her own production.
Released earlier this year, “Couer noir,” the first single off her EP released earlier this year, is built around glistening synths, skittering beats and atmospheric electronics serving as a lush bed for the young, French artist’s ethereal vocal, which is run through a gentle amount of autotune and other effects. The song thematically sees Epal detailing her romantic disappointments with a lived-in specificity of embittering heartbreak.
Best known for being the runner-up on the 14th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Camden, UK-born, California-based Lady Camden describes themselves as “American’s very own Spice Girl,” a “British ballerina meets 90s pop princess.”
Stepping back into the spotlight as a pop artist, describes her work as “British grit, American charm, shitloads of talent . . .” served up to you like a motherfucking lady.”
Lady Camden’s latest single “Dirtiest Secrets” is a slickly produced, sultry underground club anthem featuring dark angular house music textures for the song’s verses and euphoric, shout-along-worthy bubble gum pop choruses delivered with a world conquering swagger. The song’s structure is meant to take the listener through feminine and masculine behaviors and energies while inviting you to give in to your deepest and wildest temptations.
Orlando-based sibling duo and JOVM mainstays The Lovelines — Tessa D (vocals) and Todd Goings (multi-instrumentalist, songwriting and production) — emerged into the scene with the late 2021 release of their debut single “Strange Kind of Love,” a slick synthesis of Amy Winehouse-like blue-eyed soul, jazz standadrs and Dummy-era Portishead-like trip-hop centered around Tessa D’s soulful crooning and a dusty production featuring twinkling Rhodes, wobbly guitars and an infectious, razor sharp hook.
Over the past year, the Orlando-based JOVM mainstays have released material from their forthcoming full-length debut single-by-single over that period. Last month, the duo shared “May Be Love,” a slow-burning torch song-like take on trip hop and neo-soul built around shimmering pedal steel and congo-led percussion paired with Tessa D’s soulful vocal expressing an aching longing for love — and to be loved.
The album’s latest single, the hook-driven “What Kind of Fool Would Want to Fall in Love?” features a looped, shimmering and finger plucked acoustic, guitar melody and propulsive percussion paired with Tessa D’s soulful crooning. On one level, the song views love with a healthy cynicism — but as the band’s Todd Goings explains, “What Kind of Fool Would Want to Fall in Love is a portrait of the fool in love. Do only fools fall in love or does love make us fools?“
Last year’s Beharie, The Third, which featured “Simple Mistake,” a single that was praised by Ones To Watch and others. He supposed the EP wby opening for Grammy Award-winning artist Leon Bridges.
Each of those efforts have seen the rising Norwegian artist constantly expanding upon his sound, artistry and message, while refining his focus towards what’s to come.
Beharie’s highly-anticipated full-length debut, the 12-song Are You There Boy? is slated for an October 20, 2023 release. The album reportedly meets the artist where he is right now and invites listeners into a carefully curated sonic world that features vibrant melodies and delicate, smooth vocals. Thematically, the album sees the rising Norwegian exploring theme so love, self-doubt, desire, longing and pain with his heart worn proudly on his sleeve — and with a remarkable sense of nuance. The album follows a multi-faceted, fully-fleshed out character, who seeks meaningful connections, follows his curiosity where it takes him and ultimately discovers himself. As a result, the album sees its creator and its main narrator exploring the ever-changing, versatile aspects of his own humanity and identity, showcasing his growth, insecurities, passions and complexities.
“This album has given me the opportunity to delve into various aspects of my own identity, and in the process, I have explored the complexity inherent in my personality and expression,” Beharie explains. “We have nurtured different characters and played with their distinct expressions. These characters have been assigned unique names: Washed-out jeans boy, float in space boy, constant fear boy, make believe boy, and lost in thought boy.” Fittingly, each of those characters represents fragments of Beharie’s soul, personality and essence — all in search of a sense of belonging.
The album also features collaborations with two rising singer/songwriters — Dublin‘s Uly and The Netherlands’ Judy Blank.
Are You There Boy?‘s latest single, the flirty and playful “Desire” is built around a buoyant melodic groove, skittering boom bap serving as an ethereal and silky bed for Beharie’s tender and yearning delivery. The song’s narrator sweetly wants to prove to a prospective love interest, that he’s the right one for them — and for the rest of their lives. Behave explains that “Desire” is a confident love song about “insisting on being the right one for someone you like and telling them without any doubt, and being willing to do anything to make it happen.”
Ultimately, “Desire” to me reveals a songwriter, who is able to effortlessly craft a catchy pop tune rooted in earnest, heartfelt lyricism while eschewing cliches and formulas.
Cincinnati-based synth punks The Serfs — founding members Dylan McCartney (vocals, percussion, guitar, bass, electronics) and Dakota Carlyle (electronics, bass, guitar, vocals) along with Andie Luman (vocals, synths) — can trace their origins back to when McCartney and Carlyle were working the fryers at a local pub and generally wallowing in puddles of despair.
The duo decided to express their grim outlook through the self-hypnosis of drums and synthesizers. After a couple of bungled attempts to play live shows, Luman joined the project, finalizing their lineup.
The Cincinnati-based trio’s third album Half Eaten By Dogs is slated for an October 27, 2023 release through their new label home, Trouble in Mind. The album reportedly sees the trio putting a decidedly Midwestern spin on the modernist twitch of future-forward acts like Total Control, Cold Beat, Skinny Puppy, Dark Day, This Heat, and Factrix while being informed by the existential doom of our current moment — with the album’s material at points featuring doomed proclamations of natural and supernatural disasters.
Last month, I wrote about album single “Club Deuce,” an icy, industrial-inspired banger built around glistening and shimmering synth arpeggios, burnt out, twitter and woofer rattling 808s paired with Lumen’s sultry cooing. Channeling early Depeche Mode and mid-80s New Order among others, “Club Deuce” is specifically designed to make you head to the dance floor and move — right now.
“I thought of the idea for this song at first like a movie in my mind,” says Lumen. “It was the story of a fated man and a modern day Venus with complete and unrelenting control. The set was a quiet corner in a thunderstruck city with endless commotion in the distance. The whole thing glowing like a neon sign. ‘Club Deuce’ churns unhurried until it billows all around you and you’re caught like a fly in the jaws of a venus fly trap.”
Half Eaten By Dogs‘ latest single “Electric Like An Eel” opens with a brief burst of wailing harmonica, skittering beats, surging synth oscillations paired with icy and seemingly detached vocals. It’s a brooding dance floor friendly track that recalls New Order, Depeche Mode and others while evoking our uneasy, uncertain age. The band coyly elaborates: “An ‘electrophorus electricus’ swimming through a sewer on the moon, taking in the sights and making deals, stunning just to feel real.”
Over the course of 2016-2016, I spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering acclaimed Bay Area-based indie electro pop outfit The Seshen. Led by founding members Lalin St. Juste (vocals) and Akiyoshi Ehara (bass, production), the acclaimed sextet have released three albums of material that draws from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Erykah Badu, Jai Paul, James Blake, Radiohead, Broadcast, hip-hop, indie rock and electronica, among others.
Last month, the members of The Seshen made two announcements:
Their return in the wake of the recent separation and divorce of its founding members
Their long-awaited fourth album Nowhere, which is slated for an October 6, 2023 release
Nowhere reportedly not only showcases the sextet’s remarkable musical prowess, but also offers a window into the changing nature of love, the fragility of human connections, and the different ways to embrace impermanence. It also marks the closing of one important chapter and the beginning of a new one for the band, capturing their evolution as individuals and their resilience as a band. The album’s material is shaped and rooted in the experiences of its members, including the impact of St. Juste’s and Ehara’s marriage and divorce.
While St. Juste’s beautiful vocals anchor much of the album’s material, the band’s intricate production work helps to create a sonic landscape that’s simultaneously ethereal and grounded, capturing and evoking the essence of emotional turbulence and self-discovery, while complimenting lyrics based on St. Juste’s journey through the complexities of love and loss.
Last month, I wrote about album single, the trippy and expansive “Hold Me,” which pairs St. Juste’s ethereal and yearning vocal with a sleek and hyper-modern production featuring dub-like glistening and wobbling synth oscillations, a sinuous bass line and skittering beats with the band’s unerring knack for catchy hooks. The song is that desperate clinging to the hope that the relationship won’t end, that your lover won’t leave. But there’s the realization that maybe it’s inevitable, and that there’s nothing you can do to stop it or change it.
“‘Hold Me’ is about that moment before loss – the hope, the longing, the desire for love to stay,” The Seshen’s St. Juste told AFROPUNK. “During the separation between Aki and I, we held onto each other to navigate the darkness …a darkness that was dizzying, disorienting, and unfamiliar. We held on to each other and found our way out. This song is about connection even in the face of change.”
“Waiting for Dawn,” Nowhere‘s latest single is built around a balafon rhythm, pitched percussion, glistening synths, wobbling bass synths and warped and pitched background vocals. St. Juste’s achingly plaintive vocal ethereally floats over the production. The result is to evoke the feeling of being untethered and fraying at the edges from anticipatory grief, knowing that the relationship will end — but you don’t quite know when, where or how.
“‘Waiting for Dawn’ is an expression of anticipatory grief – saying goodbye to something you thought you couldn’t live without,” The Seshen’s Akiyoshi Ehara shared regarding the track, which contends with his separation with St. Juste. “Lalin and I were both beginning to feel untethered and struggling with our mental health. The lyric ‘I’ve been fraying at the edges, coming undone from another lost night, waiting for dawn’ really captures what those days were like – both of us sleepless, trying to hold it together while individually falling apart.”
“I had a period of being really into pitched percussive sounds and balafon music and some of that definitely made its way into this tune,” Ehara says of the song’s production. “Throughout the song, I relate the warped/pitched vocals to those disturbing voices/narratives that can circle around in your head. When engaged in catastrophic thinking and grappling with anxiety it can be hard to discern what your voice is vs. what anxiety and depression are telling you. The way that the vocals start as a natural, unaffected voice and warp into something that becomes less of a voice and more part of the tapestry of the song reflects the difficulty of parsing out what is real and what isn’t when we’re struggling to keep things together.”
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates-born, New York-based Irish-Persian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam R. spent the bulk of his formative years split between the third largest Emirati city and Monterey, CA. He fell in love with music listening to Pet Sounds and Graceland on his way to school in the mornings. “It was that juxtaposition of hearing Brian Wilson’s harmonies in a very barren, desert/Arabian landscape that I think planted the seeds for my love for making music that mixes different influences and challenges associations you might have with certain instruments,” Sam explains.
Started over seven years ago, Sam R.’s solo recording project Glassio has seen him amass millions of streams across digital streaming platforms and a loyal fanbase globally as a result of a sound that has seen apply a melodic sweetness to brooding dance beats — and often bridges influences from Big Beat to Chamber Pop to New Wave.
His debut EP 2016’s Poptimism was released to critical acclaim and featured viral single “Try Much Harder,” which peaked at #9 on the Global Viral Charts on Spotify. A series of singles and 2018’s Experience EP saw the New York-based artist quickly establishing an approach that paired electronic music with insightful storytelling.
2020’s full-length debut For The Very Last Time amassed over 7 million streams through digital streaming platforms and was named one of the best electronic records of the year by Bandcamp. Last year’s See You Shine charted at #1 on multiple iTunes Charts globally and made ways in Europe — perhaps as a result of “Breakaway” being featured in Amazon Studio’s Don’t Make Me Go and Netflix’s Locke and Key.
The next year or so will see the acclaimed New York-based electro pop artist release a string of singles collaborating with a number of artists — and the first single “A Friend Like You,” features Los Angeles-based dream pop artist Beauty Queen.
Hawaiian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Katie Iannitello is the creative mastermind behind rising dream pop project Beauty Queen. Iannitello crafts sun-bleached, washed out music that has been described as the perfect soundtrack to crying in the bathroom during a high school dance.
Her Henry Nowhere-produced EP Out of Touch was released to critical praise across the blogosphere for material that drew from her laid-back Hawaiian upbringing paired with 1950s and 1960s songwriting influences and her lilting croon.
Their collaboration together “A Friend Like You” is a dreamy lullaby built around twinkling keys, thumping toms, bursts of angular post-punk like guitars and an anthemic hook paired with Iannitello’s plaintive crooning and the duo’s soaring harmony for the song’s hook and chorus. But despite the song’s anthemic nature, the song is actually a bittersweet and heartbreaking farewell to the “friend that sends you down bad choice road” that recognizes that this is indeed, a farewell forever.
Nicola Ormiston is a Montréal-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind the solo recording project Ormiston.
The Canadian producer’s latest single “Cherry Picker” sees crafting a breezy, hook driven pop confection built around a disco-inspired bass line, reverb-soaked Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, glistening and wobbling synth arpeggios and the Canadian artist’s plaintive and yearning delivery. “Cherry Picker” continues a remarkably run of breezy, effortlessly crafted pop that’s both lounge and club friendly.
Inspired by an old acquaintance that always left the Montréal-based artist starry-eyed, the song manages to evoke the swooning, starry-eyed sensation of being near a crush/love interest — and not quite knowing what to do or how to go about it.
Ali Sethi is a Pakistani-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and author, who is best known globally for his attempts to revive ghazal, an ancient poetic form that was taken by Sufi mystics from the Arab world to Persia and throughout the Indian subcontinent, where it captivated the royal court. Over the last few decades, ghazal has been unfashionable and viewed as a heavily mannered style associated with decadence and misfits and madman who speak in puns about the charms of forbidden love.
Sethi has given the ancient poetic form a new lease of life through playfully revisionist covers and renditions, which draw from his years of training in raga music, and his own journey as an out-of-place queer kid back in Pakistan, who relocated to New York. His most popular single “Passori,” was one of the most Googled songs of last year, with hundreds of millions globally tuning into its timeless message of forbidden love.
Nicolás Jaar is a Chliean-born, New York-based musician, electronic music artist and producer. Throughout his career, improvisation has been the core of his work. Before he started writing and recording electronic music, Jaar jammed on accordion with friends on the streets here in NYC.
Sethi has long been a fan of Jaar’s music, long before they began collaborating together. He’d absorbed the sounds over a number of years, listening casually and taking in their subtleties in bars and rooftop parties across Lahore and London. “It felt familiar to me, that sense of adventure you have when you hear his music, like a tale that teases you and plays with your expectations as it unfolds,” says Sethi. “In that sense it resembled the leisurely improvised ghazals and qawwalis I grew up hearing in Pakistan.”
When the pair were introduced by Indian visual artists and frequent Jaar collaborator Somnath Bhatt, Sethi was prepared. He had began to sketch out voice notes using loops snipped from Jar’s acclaimed 2020 album Telas, improvising vocalizations and seductive Urdu poems of the Chilean’s ethereal, time-bending productions. Jaar was amazed by the result. “It was what ‘Telas’ had been missing,” he explains.
The result of the vocal sketches is the acclaimed duo’s collaborative album together Intiha, a Ghazal-driven re-working of Jaar’s 2020 album, Telas. Slated for a November 17, 2023 release through Other People, Initha draws from Sethi’s life — and it gives the album’s material a gently subversive edge paired with the addition of new, improvised elements, prompting a playful back-and-forth echoed throughout the record.
Genre is constantly evoked but in gesture. But overall, the music transcends formula, using cultural reverberations and distinct repetitions that lull listeners into a placeless trance. It’s “a sound that I hope can operate on multiple levels,” says Jaar, a borderless, playfully ambiguous set of improvisations that sing confidently of love, loss and belonging.”
The album’s first single “Muddat” is built around a soulful and mischievously anachronistic production featuring skittering castanet-like percussion, glistening organ arpeggios that veers briefly into club rocking techno. The production serves as lush, silky bed for Sethi’s plaintive and yearning delivery, crying for out desperately for union with his beloved.
The song takes the opening lines of a canonical ghazal written as the British were decimating India’s precolonial traditions and the elaborate rituals and ettiequte of its courtesans and noblemen. But at its core, the pair evoke the loss of a cherished — and mythical — milieu, that as a native New Yorker feels deeply familiar. Ultimately, the result is a song that’s simultaneously ancient and modern, while evoking an old and very human longing.
Following a North American tour that included sold-out shows in NYC, Los Angeles and Toronto, Sethi will be embarking on a run of world-wide dates to close out the year and start 2024. You can check out those dates below. More dates will be announced in the upcoming weeks. But you can grab tickets here.
Ali Sethi on tour
10/8 – Austin City Limits – Austin, TX
10/9 – House of Blues – Dallas, TX
1010 – House of Blues – Houston, TX
10/12 – Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
11/11 – Dubai Opera House – Dubai, UAE
11/14 – Saint Luke’s – Glasgow, UK
11/17 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK
11/18 – O2 Institute – Birmingham, UK
11/19 – 02 Shepherds Bush Empire – London, UK
2/24 – District of Raga Washington, DC – Vienna, VA
Founded in the early 2000s, Aswefall is a collaboration between two grizzled and accomplished music industry vets:
Clement Vaché, a DJ and electronic music producer, known for being a pioneer of the French Rave scene, an organizer of the Borealis Montpellier Festival back in the 90s, and for being the resident DJ of the Kill the DJ parties at renowned Parisian club Le Pulp back in the 2000s. However, over the past few years, Vaché has become one of the most sought-after musical directors in luxury and fashion.
The duo’s full-length debut, 2005’s Bleed was released through Kill the DJ Records and features “Between Us,” a track used in ad campaigns for Air France. Since then, “Between Us” has amassed close to five million streams on Spotify.
The duo’s latest single “La nuit s’évapore” is a brooding track that sees the pair meshing elements of coldwave, goth and electro pop into a danceable, club friendly banger built around glistening synth arpeggios, icy and seemingly detached vocals and skittering boom bap with some incredibly catchy hooks.