Earlier this year, I wrote about the up-and-coming, Solleron, Sweden-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Winona Oak. And as you may recall, Oak who was born Johanna Ekmark has a rather unique backstory: Growing up on the small, Swedish island known to Swedes as the Island of the Sun, the up-and-coming Solleron-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist spent much of her childhood encountering more animals than people. As the story goes, she grew up as a trained horse acrobat and because she grew up in a musical home, she was encouraged to pursue creative endeavors as much as possible: Ekmark began playing violin when she was 5, piano when she was 9, and she wrote poetry and songs at an extremely young age.
Ekmark eventually moved to Stockholm to pursue a career in music, but a leap of faith that had her attend a Neon Gold Records writing retreat in the Nicaraguan jungle led to her to meet Australian-born and based hit making producer and pop artist What So Not. And from this serendipitous meeting, she went on to co-write ““Better” and “Stuck In Orbit,” before stepping out into the spotlight as both the writer and featured artist on the Aussie producer and pop artist’s “Beautiful,” which was released last year.
Adding to a busy 2018, Ekmark covered HAIM‘s “Don’t Save Me” for Neon Gold Records’ 10th anniversary compilation, NGX: Ten Years of Neon Gold. She then closed out the year with a co-write and vocal contribution of The Chainsmokers viral hit “Hope,” a track that has amassed over 250 million streams across all digital platforms globally — including over 100 million streams on Spotify. And as a result of a rapidly growing profile, Oak signed to Warner-Chappell Music Publishing and to Neon Gold/Atlantic Records.
Oak’s long-awaited debut single “He Don’t Love Me” revealed an ambitious songwriter, who has an uncanny knack for a sultry and infectious hook paired with a sleek, hyper modern production and an achingly bittersweet air. Her latest single “Break My Broken Heart” is a slow-burning and anthemic ballad featuring shimmering and arpeggiated synths, Oak’s yearning vocals and a soaring hook. And while the track sonically manages to recall the atmospherics of JOVM mainstay ACES, it’ll also further cement Oak’s reputation for crafting earnest pop with enormous hooks. “You have to be brave to love someone with all of your heart,” Oak says. “But the biggest risk is not to take any risks at all. As long as we’re breathing, what’s one more scar?”
Directed by Andres Ohman, the recently released video for “Break My Broken Heart” continues their ongoing collaboration, it continues a bit in the vein as its predecessor — cinematically shot but while evoking a feverish dream.
Over the last few months of last year, Liam Brown, an up-and-coming songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and electro pop artist, best known as pizzagirl quickly became a mainstay on this site. And as you may recall, with the release of last year’s An Extended Play EP, Brown was championed by Huw Stephens, Annie Mac and Lauren Laverne, and received praise from DIY, Highsnobiety, Wonderland, The Line of Best Fit and others for an 80s synth pop inspired sound. Brown also opened for the acclaimed — and all too tragic — British indie act Her’s, during one of their last UK tours.
Building upon a growing profile, the release of his sophomore EP, season 2 further cemented Brown’s reputation for crafting swooningly heartfelt, shimmering synth pop with a decidedly anachronistic sound and feel. But 2019 may be the JOVM mainstay’s biggest year to date, as his highly-anticipated full-length debut, first timer is slated for an October 11, 2019 release through Heist or Hit Records, the label home of the aforementioned Her’s, Baywaves and Honey Moon among others.
first timer‘s second and latest single “ball’s gonna keep on rollin” is a hook-driven, 80s synth pop bop with shimmering synths, explosive blasts of horns, dramatic drum rolls and Brown’s pop star vocals — and while sounding as though it could be part of the soundtrack of Stranger Things, the track details the journey of a showbiz wannabe — from wide-eyed, hungry and humble origins to buzz-worthy artist to superstar to broke, washed up and bitter former star. In many ways, the success that the song’s protagonist desperately wanted to attain was his worst nightmare.
“It’s a Twilight Zone-type of tale of hunting for the big ‘success’ whatever that may be,” Brown explains in press notes. “Anyways, just remember that if the grind is getting you down, that ball’s gonna keep on rollin.”
Currently comprised of founding trio Tom Meighan (vocals), Serge Pizzorno (guitar, vocals) and Chris Edwards (bass) along with Ian Matthews (drums) the Leicester, UK-based act Kasabian derive their name from Linda Kasabian, a member of the infamous Charles Manson cult. As the band’s Chris Edwards explained in an interview with Ukula, their former guitarist Chris Karloff had been reading up on Charles Manson, and the name Kasabian just stuck with him. “He thought the word was cool, it literally took about a minute after the rest of us head it . . . so it was decided.” And since their formation, the act has become one of the more commercially successful acts in British music history: the last five consecutive of their six full-length albums have hit the #1 spot on the UK Albums Charts, a feat accomplished by only a handful of artists. Adding to their accolades they’ve been nominated for nine BRIT Awards, winning Best British Group in 2010; they’ve been nominated for 13 Q Awards winning four including 2009 Best Album for West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, 2014 Best Live Act and Best Act in the World Today and 2017 Best Track for “You’re In Love with a Psycho.”
Perhaps best known as Kasabian’s creative mastermind during their enviable and unprecedented run, the band’s Serge Pizzorno has gone the solo route with his new recording project The S.L.P. Slated for an August 30, 2019 release through The Orchard, Pizzorno’s solo debut, The S.L.P. reportedly draws from hip-hop, psych funk, New Wave, EDM and electro pop and others — and finds Pizzorno collaborating with an eclectic array of artists including the acclaimed London-based rapper Little Simz. “Moving forward, I’d like to collaborate more and open that door more,” Pizzorno says of his new project. “The S.L.P. project will become this sort of place I can go and just do whatever. It’s so important to have that.” Continuing he says “My life in the band and my boys, that’s part of me that will be there forever, but then there’s something else I have to get that out or I won’t be able to move forward.”
The S.L.P.’s third and latest single “The Youngest Gary” initially seems like an extension of Pizzorno’s work with Kasabian — distorted guitar riffs, a motorik groove, boom bap drum programming, a sinuous bass line and Pizzorno’s imitable vocals — and while the stadium rock bombast is turned down quite a bit, the track manages to be a hook-driven club friendly bop.
Initially formed in 2009 as Sister Crayon, the acclaimed Los Angeles, CA-based electro pop duo Rituals of Mine, currently comprised of singer/songwriter Terra Lopez and percussionist Adam Pierce have received attention for a sound that draws from 90s trip hop, footwork and downtempo R&B — and for years of relentless touring up and down the West Coast, playing house shows, DIY venues and basements with the likes of The Album Leaf, Built to Spill, Antemasque, Le Butcherettes, Maps & Atlases, Doomtree and others. Adding to a quickly growing profile, the Los Angeles-based duo’s first two albums — 2011’s Bellow and 2013’s Cynic — were released to critical acclaim.
2015 was a profoundly harrowing and difficult year for Lopez: her father committed suicide and several moths later, her best friend Lucas Johnson tragically died in an accident. Reeling from the grief of inconsolable and unexpected loss, Lopez in a period of deep reflection felt the need to reassess her life and her work in Sister Crayon. She decided to put the Sister Crayon name to rest, moving forward with a new moniker — Rituals of Mine. As Terra Lopez wrote at the time, “It was a mantra that I repeated under my breath on a daily basis when the loss I was experiencing felt too heavy at times. Music, the act of creating, performing, touring, writing, singing, experimenting – all the rituals we have created to get through life.”
After years of obscuring her own story and emotions through metaphorical lyrics, Lopez felt a sudden confidence to write much more directly about her experiences and life as a queer woman of color. Lopez began fleshing out the material on what would become her Rituals of Mine debut Devoted with her longtime collaborator and producer Wes Jones, who helped turn her heartfelt writing on her trauma and personal growth into urgent and pulsating electronic tracks. Lopez then enlisted Adam Pierce to play drums, knowing that their background in metal percussion would provide an intensity that could match her own.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you might recall that last year was a very busy year for Lopez and Pierce. They opened for a handful of dates for The Afghan Whigs and Built to Spill’s co-headliing tour, including a Chicago area stop last April. They also opened for Garbage during the multi-plantium Grammy Award-winning band’s US tour. They also went on their first UK tour with JOVM mainstay Geographer and The Seshen.
Interestingly, the duo’s highly anticipated Wes jones and Neal Pogue co-produced follow-up to Devoted, Sleeper Hold EP is slated for an October 4, 2019 release through Carpark Records — and the EP will include the urgent anti-Trump anthem “No Time To Go Numb,” a track that forcefully reminded the listener that now isn’t the time to slink back from the horrors of a power mad, greedy and hateful administration; that we have to be fueled by righteous anger and fight like hell for the things that truly matter. “Burst,” Sleeper Hold’s second and latest single is a glitchy and hyper-modern bit of electro R&B that’s centered around stuttering beats, tweeter and woofer rocking low end and Lopez’s sultry, self-assured vocals. And while the track may recall Timbaland’s forward-thinking work with Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, Rituals of Mine’s latest single is driven by Lopez’s commitment to unvarnished emotional honesty. “I made a promise to myself that I’m no longer going to play small or hide behind metaphors, that I’m going to really lean into self-confidence, self-reliance and take up space,” Lopez says in a statement to Billboard. “‘Burst is the beginning of that.”
Co-directed by Kris Esfandiari and Colette Levesque, the recently released video for “Burst” features Rituals of Mine’s Terra Lopez playing basketball against a team of evil and monstrous figures. At one point, her younger self appears and helps Lopez win the game. According to the statement Lopez wrote to Billboard, the recently released video represents overcoming past trauma to effectively move on in your life, with the young protagonist representing a younger version of herself. “The opponents all represent obstacles I’ve had to face being a queer woman of color in this industry … this video was a way for me to confront both my childhood traumas and adulthood obstacles through the activity that has always grounded me,” she says. “Also, I just really wanted to create our version of a Queer Space Jam for 2019.”
Caroline Kingsbury is an up-and-coming, 23 year-old,. Florida-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist, best known as Kingsbury. And with her latest single “U Take It Back,” the up-and-coming pop artist’s sound has evolved to an atmospheric, hook-driven 80s synth pop-like sound that recalls Kate Bush, which perfectly complements Kingsbury’s big, earnest vocal s and shimmering guitar work.
8/13 – Los Angeles, CA – The Troubador
8/14 – Phoenix, AZ – Valley Bar
8/16 – Austin, TX – Antones
8/17 – Dallas, TX – Deep Ellum Art Co.
8/19 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
8/20 – Nashville, TN – Exit/In
8/22 – Washington D.C. – U Street Music Hall
8/23 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall Of Williamsburg
8/24 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brendas
8/25 – Allston, MA – Great Scott
8/27 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
8/28 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
9/1 – Vancouver, B.C. – Biltmore Cabaret
9/3 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
With the release of their debut single “Visions of You,” feat. Electric Youth, the up-and-coming Stockholm and Los Angeles-based electronic production and electronic music artist duo ROOM8 — Ezra Reich and Nic Johns — quickly established a reputation for crafting a sound that draws from electro pop, electronic dance music and film soundtracks. Building upon a growing profile, the duo produced, wrote and/or cowrote a series of attention-grabbing singles including Electric Youth‘s “Without You” which was praised by NPR, as well as “No Hard Feelings,” feat. King Deco and “This Place Again,” feat. Polina, which received praise form Neon Gold, Huffington Post, Noisey, Blackbook, Flaunt and elsewhere. “Better Than Music,” a collaboration with acclaimed British electro pop artist Little Boots premiered on Billboard.
This year has been an incredibly busy and productive year for the duo. They’ve produced the score for the forthcoming motion picture Cuck — and their latest album, Transduction is slated for an October 11, 2019 release. The album’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric ballad “Only You.” Centered around shimmering synths, trembling beats, the achingly plaintive vocals of The Sound of Arrows and a soaring hook, the song manages to sound as though it could easily be on the soundtrack of at least a dozen different 80s films, while also recalling JOVM mainstays ACES and others. But at its core. the song is a contented sigh — the sort that comes when you’ve discovered that one person, who understands everything about you, when you feel the most out of place and misunderstood.
I’ve managed to write quite a bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Justin Phillips, a.k.a Crywolf over the past 12-15 months or so. When Phillips started writing and releasing his own music. he was practically homeless, living in a room roughly the size of a closet and subsiding on food stamps. Since then, Philips has developed a growing profile that has included amassing several million streams across all of the various streaming platforms, a headlining slot on the second largest stage at Electric Forest and praise across both the blogosphere and the major media outlets, including Consequence of Sound, Alternative Press, Billboard, Nylon, Complex, as well as this site.
Now, if you’ve been following this site over that same period, you might recall that Phillips sophomore album widow [OBLIVIØN Pt. 1]. Building upon the momentum of his sophomore album, Philips recently started a new series THE OBLIVION [Reimagined], which will feature reworked versions of tracks off widow [OBLIVIØN Pt. 1]. The first single in the series featured the Chicago-based producer Mielo tackling “DRIP” — with Mielo releasing an arpeggiated synth-driven, cinematic remix that recalled A-Ha’s “Take on Me” and Depeche Mode while retaining the urgency and frenetic feel of the original. Earlier this week, Seattle-based producer Levit∆te released a glitchy, murky and hyper-futuristic remix of “ULTRAVIOLENT Pt. 2” that retained Philips plaintive vocals.
widow [OBLIVIØN Pt. 1] album single “QUIXOTE [i am alone, and they are everyone] features Philips’ achingly plaintive vocals floating over a cinematic and glitchy production. Recently, SWARM, a dark, industrial metal-influenced electronic artist released his own take on the song — a take that places Philips’ plaintive vocals within a gritty and jarring, industrial production featuring thumping, industrial clang and clatter, aggressively arpeggiated synths and a soaring hook. Evoking the increasing automation and brutality of our contemporary world, the song manages to pull upon and tease out the dark, gritty psychological detail of the original, placing in a new context without stripping the emotionality or the intent of its creator.
“There is something about ‘QUIXØTE’ in particular that is deepening haunting to me,” SWARM says in press notes. “I could feel my own emotions in every aspect of it, from the cathartic atmosphere to the painfully raw lyrics. In my re-imagination, I wanted to bring the psychological grit to light in a more aggressive way by using my own background in metal and industrial music.”