Category: indie folk

New Video: Toronto’s Shirley Hurt Shares Introspective and Gorgeous “Problem Child”

Sophie Katz is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, musician and creative mastermind behind Shirley Hurt, her latest music project. Katz’s self-titled Shirley Hurt debut is slated for a December 2, 2022 release through Telephone Explosion Records.

Recorded with a highly-accomplished backing band that features Fresh Pepper‘s and The War on DrugsJoseph Shabason (sax, flute), Chris Shannon (bass), Harrison Forman (guitar), Jason Bhattacharya (percussion), Jacques Mindreau (violin) and Nick Durado (piano), the Nathan Vanderwielen-produced, nine song album reportedly sees Katz and company traversing into the furthest corners of experimental indie folk, pop and country to create a singular sound that integrates elements of each with self-assured elegance, ease and unpredictability. Sonically, the album’s material is centered around skeletal arrangements that tastefully slink around Katz’s delivery, which subtly recalls the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and others.

“This album feels lonely and roadworn to me. The woman who wrote this was definitely in the winter of her life,” Katz says. “The landscape feels blue and burnt orange. There is a wistfulness and longing, whether I like it or not.” The album’s persistent tone of propulsive contemplation wasn’t by chance; Katz came up with many of the album’s lyrical and structural ideas while on the road.

The self-titled album’s first single “Problem Child” is built around a 70s AM rock/troubadour-like arrangement featuring Bhattacharya’s assertive and propulsive percussion, Dorado’s dreamy and twinkling keys, meditative strummed and looping guitar lines and fluttering bursts of Shabason’s flute. The sparse arrangement allows Katz’s husky delivery and observant, longing and conversational lyrics to take the spotlight. The end result is akin to Nabokov being paired with gorgeous, spectral arrangements.

Directed and edited by Eli Spiegel, the accompanying video for “Problem Child” is set in a warm and gorgeous, suburban home, and features two women — presumably a grandmother and her granddaughter spending an afternoon together. The older woman is teaching the younger woman a recipe for pie. Throughout the video, there’s a palpable sense of tradition and love –and in a very lovely place.

I’ve written a bit about the Ipswich, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Hannah Scott over the past couple of years. And as you may recall much of her work is influenced by her own personal experiences, including  a year she spent working on an olive press in rural Tuscany, Italy in her late teens, her diagnosis with a form of arthritis, which causes severe joint pain and fatigue, as well as the experiences of the people in her life.

Several years later, Scott met her collaborator, Italian-born multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Stefano Della Casa when they were both in London. But as the story goes, they both recognized that they may have encountered each other years earlier, when Scott used to pass through the train station that Della Casa worked in at the time. Interestingly, when Scott and Della Casa began working together, they also quickly recognized that they had a deep and abiding creative 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 relatively happy childhood.

Both artists firmly believe that their musical collaboration has provided an outlet to support each other through difficult times and in a relatively short time, they’ve built up a profile both nationally and internationally with write-ups 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’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.

Since I caught her at Mondo.NYC, Scott has been pretty busy releasing new material including 2018’s full-length Pieces of the Night which firmly established Scott’s sound and approach: emotive and heartfelt songwriting paired with a cinematic production featuring organic instrumentation — acoustic guitar, cello and vocals — with atmospheric electronics. Last year, she released the gorgeous Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head-era Coldplay-like “Walk a Wire,” which managed to be one of the Ipswich-born, London-based singer/songwriter’s most urgent songs, as it’s a plea to the listener to take a chance to open up to life and possibility before it’s too late.

The Della Casa co-written and produced “Shape” is the latest single from the JOVM mainstay and it’s also the latest single off her forthcoming full-length album. Centered around a cinematic production featuring twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, Scott’s emotive vocals and an enormous hook the song further cements the sound and approach that has won Scott attention across the blogosphere. Much like “Walk a Wire,” the song showcases her narrative-based songwriting, with the song recounting the story of how her maternal grandmother refused to accept her mother’s engagement to her father, threatening to never speak to her mother again if they got married. Her grandmother kept her word for over 20 years. As a result, the song expresses an overwhelming sense of regret and loss, as well as the sense of time rushing by and missing the small yet very important things — the birth of one’s grandchild, Christmases and the like.



New Video: Berlin’s Mighty Oaks Release a Hazy and Nostalgic-Tinged Visual for Contemplative “Lost Again”

Mighty Oaks is a Berlin-based indie folk/folk rock act comprised of American-born Ian Hooper (vocals, acoustic/electric guitar, mandolin and ukulele), Italian-born Claudio Donzelli (vocals, acoustic/electric guitar), piano, mandolin, banjo) and British-born Craig Saunders (vocals, bass, mandolin).  The act can trace its origins back to early 2010.  As the story goes, after completing college, Ian Hooper relocated to Hamburg,  where he had begun working on material as a solo artist. While in Hamburg, Hooper met and befriended Craig Saunders, who was also working on material as a solo artist. Several months later, Hooper and Saunders met Claudio Donzelli at a small, acoustic music festival and the trio managed to keep in touch, bonding over a mutual interest in indie rock and folk rock. 

The members of Mighty Oaks wrote, recorded, produced and self-released their 2011 self-titled, debut EP. Recorded in Donzelli’s apartment, the EP eventually amassed several hundred thousand hits on SoundCloud.  Building upon a growing profile, the trio self-released their first studio recorded EP, 2012’s Just One Day, which was distributed by Rough Trade Records. The band supported the EP with a busy touring schedule that included — a European tour, opening for Shout Out Louds; opening for Kings of Leon at the Waldbuhne in Berlin; and joining acts like CHVRCHES on Intro Magazine’s “Introducing!” tour of Germany. By the all of 2013, Mighty Oaks played a sold-out, headlining tour of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. 

Early 2014 saw the release of their full-length debut Howl through Universal Records in Europe. The album was a critical and commercial success with the album peaking at #10 on the German and Swiss charts. The album also landed on the charts of several other countries. Additionally, several singles off the album charted. The band also made the rounds across the international festival circuit, playing sets at Melt! Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Latitude Festival, Way Out West Festival, Exit Festival and Valkhof Festival. 

The band closed out 2014 with  the release of the Brother EP in the States, as well as a headlining European tour. And by the beginning of 2015, Howl was released in the States. The members of Mighty Oaks went on to play SXSW — and then followed that up with a Stateside tour with Milky Chance. 

After spending almost two years of uninterrupted touring, the members of the band took the bulk of 2016 off, with each individual member temporarily returning to their home countries. They eventually reconvened at Ryan Hadlock’s Washington State-based studio to write and record their sophomore album, 2017’s Dreamers. The band supported Dreamers with a sold-out European tour during that spring, a fall North American tour and a follow-up, sold-out winter European tour. Interestingly, just before their winter European tour, the band self-released the four song Storm EP. 

2018 was rather busy for the band: that summer, they played a number of major European festivals including Hurricane Festival, Southside Festival, Traumzeit Festival, Zermatt Unplugged and Milky Chance and Friends Open Air. They closed out the year by returning to the studio to write and record their third full-length album, All Things Go, which is slated for a February 2, 2020 release through BMG. 

Last year saw the release of two album singles — album title track “All Things Go” and “Forget Tomorrow,” and building up buzz for the album, the band’s third and latest single is the contemplative  “Lost Again.” Centered around gently strummed acoustic guitar, swirling and atmospheric electronics, Hooper’s plaintive vocal delivery and a gorgeous bit of harmonizing that recalls Crosby Stills and Nash, the song focuses on a narrator, desperate to turn back back the clock a bit and iron out the wrinkles, mistakes and bad decisions he made when he was younger. “If I had known then, what I know now,” the song’s narrator seems to say in a moment of reflection. At the same time, the song and its narrator seem to acknowledge that he wouldn’t be the person he is right now, if it wasn’t for those mistakes and missteps. Things happen for a reason. And hopefully you learn from it and move forward with some wisdom. 

The recently released video by Andrew Saunderson and no.odds features the members of Mighty Oaks performing the song, but superimposed over them are images of their past — mainly places they’ve seen and been, along with some beautiful shots of nature, which help create a sense of time flashing by. It’s as contemplative as the song while adding a hazy sense of nostalgia to the proceedings. 

Forming back in 2009 under the name Les Poules a Colin (Colin’s Chickens, a reference to a popular French folk song “La Poule a Colin), the Montreal-based bilingual indie rock/indie folk act Rosier (French for rosebush)  — Colin Savoie-Levac (mandolin, banjo, lap steel), Marie Savoie-Levac (bass), Sarah Marchand (vocals, piano), Eleonore Pitre (guitar) and Beatrix Methe (violin, vocals) — have developed a reputation for reimagining age-old folk songs in a fresh context. The band recently changed the name after making the decision to take their music and their story in a new direction. In fact, as the band told Atwood Magazine, the rosebush embodies the quintessential values of an ever-inventive group of musicians, who are eager to celebrate life as it is — the peaceful coexistence of strength and vulnerability. “Rosier is our true selves,” the band said to  Atwood Magazine. “We are romantic people [ . . .] who evolve and grow together as one.” 

“Vie Pneible,” (which according to the band’s Beatrix Methe translates as “A Painful Life’) the first single off the band’s forthcoming self-titled EP continues the band’s ongoing thematic concern of time and its passing that sonically and thematically brings Neil Young’s “Old Man” to mind — but centered around an old-timey arrangement of shimmering acoustic guitar, plinking keys, a soaring hook and a gorgeous harmony. Interestingly the song reportedly deals with temporality and mortality in a decidedly overt fashion, which makes the song a sort of bittersweet musing on the passing of time, of getting older, and wondering what you’ve done with yourself and your life. But the song isn’t completely melancholy; there’s an implicit understanding that the passing of time generally means the accumulation of experience and wisdom — and in turn, new  perspectives.





New Video: Brisbane Australia’s Future Haunts Release a Nostalgic DIY Visual for “Weather Vane”

With the release of their debut EP Rubicon and “Make Time,” the up-and-coming Brisbane, Australia-based indie rock quartet Future Haunts quickly emerged into their homeland’s national scene, landing opening slots for Middle Kids and Horror My Friend, a well as a set at Hidden Lanes Festival. Interestingly, besides making a handful of live appearances last year, the members of the Brisbane-based act spent most of last year writing and self-recording new material — including their latest single “Weather Vane.”

Recorded at Plutonium Studios and mixed by Miro Mackie, the up-and-coming Aussie quartet’s latest single finds the band gently pushing the boundaries of their sound and songwriting in a new direction. Now, while the song will further cement the band’s growing reputation for crafting atmospheric 4AD Records and 120 Minutes-like jangling guitar pop, the track is centered by a rousingly anthemic hook that suggests that the relatively young band has grown more self-assured and ambitious in their songwriting and overall approach.  Lyrically, the song as the band’s Ben Speight explains in press notes, “discusses breaking through the endless amount of choices life throws your way and finding a sense of direction. It’s about learning to accept the things you can’t change, becoming comfortable with who you are and placing your energy on the things that you can.”

Shot by the members of the up-and-coming Aussie indie rock band on film and camcorder, the video follows the the band as they self-record the single at Plutonium Studios, play pool and watch Australian Rules Football at a local pub, shoot hoops, goof off and play a gig at a local club. While focusing on the immediate present, the video manages a subtly nostalgic tone — imbued with the recognition that youthful good times don’t last. 

New Audio: Lily & Madeleine Release a Gorgeous and Swooning New Single

Over the past month, I’ve written quite a bit about the Indianapolis, IN-based folk pop duo, Lily & Madeleine, and as you may recall, the act which is comprised of siblings Lily and Madeline Jurkiewicz can trace its origins to when the Jurkiewicz Sisters began singing together while in high school, uploading home videos of various covers songs YouTube. Those videos catgut the attention of Bloomington, IN-based producer Paul Mahern, who invited the sisters into his studio to record what would become their debut EP, 2013’s The Weight of the Globe when their class schedule permitted. Kenny Childers (Gentleman Caller) assisted by co-writing the material off the EP with the sisters; but it was video of the sisters singing in Mahern’s studio reached the front page of news aggregator Reddit — and as a result, Sufjan Stevens signed the Jurkiewicz Sisters to his label Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Adding to a rapidly growing profile, John Mellencamp asked the Jurkiewicz Sisters to contribute guest vocals to the soundtrack of his musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. The duo’s self-titled full-length debut was released in February 2013, and received praise from a number of major media outlets including The New York Times, which praised the album for their extraordinary sibling vocal blend, “deep and seamless and relaxed.” Since then the Indianapolis-based sibling folk pop duo have released two more albums — 2014’s Fumes, which was released through Asthmatic Kitty and 2016’s Keep It Together, which was released through New West Records.

The Jurkiewicz Sisters kicked off this year with the inclusion of “Just Do It” on the first Spotify New Music Friday playlist of 2019 and the track, which was co-produced by Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuck,  pairs Lily and Madeleine’s gorgeous and effortless harmonizing with a shimmering dance pop-like production centered around a sinuous bass line, twinkling keys, hand claps and fluttering electronics; but at its core, the song not only talks about taking chances, it talks of confidently coming of age as a woman — and demanding what you need and want from yourself and others. “Can’t Help The Way I Feel,” the sibling duo’s second single of this year was centered what may arguably be the tightest and funkiest groove on the entire album — but perhaps more interesting is the fact that the track features a razor sharp and infectious hook, handclaps, winkling keys. shimmering and arpeggiated organ lines and the Jurkiewicz Sisters easygoing yet gorgeous harmonizing. At its core, the song’s narrator is proud and defiant, openly saying that while her friends may disapprove of her love interest, she simply can’t help how she feels — even if the relationship isn’t good for her. 

Co-written by Lucie Silvas and the Jurkiewicz Sisters, their third single of this year is the swooning and atmospheric “Analog Love.” Centered around shimmering steel pedal guitar, shuffling drumming, acoustic guitar and the Jurkiewicz Sisters gorgeous vocals, the track is a sweet love song that sonically seems to draw from honky tonk country and Phil Spector pop while evoking the sensation of the sort of love in which the world fades away, and for a few moments, it’s you and your love; but there’s also the underlying recognition that nothing lasts forever and as a result, there’s this desire to hold on to what you can for as long as you can. 

Georgia Lee Johnson is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-born indie soul/indie folk singer/songwriter and with the release of her full-length debut album Wandering, the Canadian singer/songwriter drew on her training in experimental performance to use songs as a format for story-telling — with her work centered around vivid imagery and lush harmonics. Largely inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, Johnson’s full-length material touched upon grief, delight, transformation and reverence for all creation.

Building upon a growing profile, Johnson’s soon-to-be released EP Languages is slated for a January 4, 2019 release through Dala Records. The EP’s first single “Here’s a Call” features Johnson with a backing band that includes Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik on ARP Omni synth, Matt Harvey on electric guitar, Miles Arntzen on drums and Jas Walton on flute — a who’s who of local soul. And while the song is centered around shimmering and looping guitar, a moody yet gorgeous flute arrangement, a breezy hook, Johnson’s plaintive vocals and a tight groove, the sonically speaking struck me as being like a slick synthesis of Portishead and Stevie Nicks. Along with Raymond James Mason, Johnson’s latest single reveals a label that’s expanding the sonic boundaries of soul in an organic and exciting fashion.

New Video: Acclaimed Singer-Songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou Releases a Trippy 70s Inspired Single from Forthcoming Sophomore Album

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the Cape Town, South Africa-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alice Phoebe Lou. And as you may recall, Lou grew up in a rather creative home — her parents were documentary filmmakers, who took the budding artist to piano lessons as a child. As a teenager, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist taught herself guitar. The summer she turned 16, Lou went to Paris to visit her aunt. Armed with an acoustic guitar, the young artist met a number of that city’s buskers and street performers — with some of them teaching her poi dancing. 

Upon completing her schooling, Lou returned to Europe, first landing in  Amsterdam, where she made money as a poi dancer. She then relocated to Berlin, where she became a well-regarded busker and developed a reputation for a fiercely independent, punk rock-like DIY approach to her career. With the release of 2014’s self-released debut EP, Lou began receiving international attention, eventually spending the following year performing at a number of TED events in London and Berlin. Building upon a rapidly growing international profile, Lou released her full-length debut Orbit in 2016. The album garnered a nomination for Best Female Artist at that year’s German Critics’ Choice Awards and a set at the 27th Annual Conference for the Professional Business Women of California, which featured keynote speakers Venus Williams, Judy Smith, and Memory Banda. She ended the year, touring on bills with Sixto Rodriguez, Boy & Bear, Allen Stone and Crystal Fighters, as well as three, sold-out multimedia events at the Berlin Planetarium. Those Berlin Planetarium shows were so much in demand that she added two additional planetarium shows to her 2017 itinerary. 

Besides touring, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has had the live version of “She” amassed over 4 million views on YouTube and was featured in the major motion picture Bombshell: The Heady Lamar Story — all before the studio version of the single was even recorded or released. Additionally, Lou spent time working on her much-anticipated, Noah Georgeson-produced sophomore effort Paper Castles, which is slated for a March 8, 2019 release. And as Lou explains, the album is “about nostalgia, about growing into a woman, about the pain and beauty of the past, about feeling small and insignificant but finding that to be powerful and beautiful, about acknowledging that childhood is over but bringing some of it with you.”

The album’s first single is a slow-burning, 70s AM rock and 70s soul-like “Something Holy.” Centered around a shimmering guitar line, hushed drumming, a sinuous hook, a psychedelic tinged bridge and Lou’s aching vocals, the song is a deeply introspective and unvarnished look into the narrator’s complicated relationships with sex, love, men and herself. As Lou says, the song reflects “the moment that I managed to get over the main hurdle of my past traumas with sex, with men and with my own deeper understanding of intimacy and what it means to be intimate.” Sonically speaking, the song reminds me quite a bit of Amber Arcades’ European Heartbreak. 

Made by Manners Studio is a heady mix of brightly colored, cinematically shot footage of young people brooding and looking bored in a stylish chamber room, animation and Lou earnestly performing the song.