Category: Indie Pop

With the release of her debut single in late 2015, which she promptly followed up with at the release of a critically EP and full-length debut, the Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Mira Aasma quickly received attention across both Scandinavia and elsewhere; in fact, as a result of a growing profile. Aasma played sets at some of Europe’s largest festivals, including Denmark’s Spot Festival, Scotland’s Xpo North and a residency at Berlin’s Red Bull Music Academy. Building upon a growing profile, Aasma’s forthcoming Nighttime Memos may arguably be one of her most deeply personal and haunting efforts to date, as the production throughout the album is sparse and meant to focus on Aasma’s vocals and lyrics — while backed with instrumentation full of unique angles and percussion made from materials outside the recording space.

Album single “Witches,” which was released earlier this year was a politically charged song that demanded gender equality; however, the album’s latest single “Sunday” is a much more introspective song featuring an arrangement of Hammond organ, mournful saxophone, twinkling keys paired with Aasma’s plaintive vocals. Sonically, the song evokes a few things simultaneously — the sensation of a vivid yet half-remembered dream, moonlit strolls with a lover on a chilly early autumn night while recalling Young Americans-era David Bowie and Quiet Storm soul.

 

 

 

 

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New Video: JOVM Mainstays Pavo Pavo Release Cinematic and Feverish Visuals for Achingly Gorgeous New Album Single

Over the past couple of years of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about the Brooklyn-based indie pop act Pavo Pavo, and as you may recall the band, which derives its name from the southern constellation Pavo (Latin for “peacock”) can trace its origins back to when its founding trio Eliza Bagg (vocals, violin and synths), Oliver Hill (vocals, guitar, synths) and Ian Romer (bass) met while studying at Yale University. And since their formation back in 2015, individual members of the band have collaborated with the likes of  Here We Go Magic, John Zorn, Dave Longstreth, Porches, Olga Bell, Lucius, Roomful of Teeth and San Fermin among others while the band has received attention both from this site and elsewhere for a retro-futuristic sound that draws from 60s psych pop, synth pop, prog rock and New Age.

Since the release of the band’s critically applauded debut album Young Narrator in the Breakers, the band has gone through a series of massive lineup changes as the band has become centered around two of its founding members — Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg. Interestingly, much like Rubblebucket’s latest album, Pavo Pavo’s forthcoming (and long-awaited) sophomore album Mystery Hour is thematically and narratievly focused around the breakup of the duo’s six-year romantic relationship and the changing of their relationship; in fact, the album and its creative process began as a way for Hill and Bagg to process their breakup and what it meant both for them and the band — and in some way, it also became a feedback loop, influencing their separation and the new roles they would have in each other’s lives. And as result, the album manages to be a cinematic yet intimate mediation on relationships from different angles — but primarily on messy, incomplete endings between equally messy and incomplete people. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album’s first official single, album title track “Mystery Hour” is an incredibly tight yet swooning pop song that recalls Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles, as its driven by a gorgeous orchestral arrangement, a soaring background choir arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, and the duo’s haunting harmonies before a celestial fadeout; but the song is an acutely bittersweet and aching lament centered around the line “I realize love is to see every side of you/but mon cheri, I’m designed to be unsatisfied.” It’s a painfully sad reminder that eventually all things end — and we’re left to figure out some way to pick up the broken pieces and move forward. 

Directed by Harrison Atkins, the video is a vibrant and gauzy fever dream full of joy, ache, longing and regret in the wild and confusingly ambivalent mix that life throws at us. As Pavo Pavo’s Oliver Hill explains of the video’s treatment: “Our new record was written after Eliza and I were separating after a six–year relationship. For the title track, we wanted to make a video that introduced us as two characters meditating on relationships from all angles, while matching the romantic melodrama of the orchestra and choir with lots of cinematic action and narrative. John, the 7–foot protagonist of the video, is an angel of love and sex, and serves as a superhuman mascot for the record – he represents the search for intimacy and connection. The human heart tattoo on his neck is the core of his power, and within the tattoo lives us, Pavo Pavo, casting spells and guiding his movements as he makes out with everyone in sight.”

Mystery Hour is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings. 

Founded by some of the originators of CMJ and its long-running CMJ Marathon, Mondo.NYC is a music, technology and innovation-based festival that within its first couple years has quietly taken the place of both the CMJ Marathon and New Music Seminar’s New Music Nights Festival. Now, as you may recall, the third edition of Mondo.NYC took place last week and it found the global, emerging music, technology and innovation conference moving a few miles east across the East River to Williamsburg, Brooklyn with  The Williamsburg Hotel,Rough Trade and Brooklyn Bowl hosting daytime conference-related events hosted by  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Guild of Music Supervisors,Record Store Day, and others meant to connect fans, artists, music industry professionals, business pioneers and leading names in tech and music to network, trade ideas and learn in a rapidly changing industry landscape. Additionally, the panels, talks and other events were meant to inspire young people to take control of their careers — whether they were heading towards a technological-based career, behind the scenes in A&R, marketing, promotion, management and publicity or up in front as an artist.

Live music showcases took place across a handful of venues in the New York metropolitan area, including the aforementioned Brooklyn Bowl, Piano’s, Berlin, Arlene’s Grocery,  Coney Island Baby, The Delancey, DROM, Hank’s Saloon, Niagara, N.O.R.D. and Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall that featured artists from the US, Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, Canada, France and elsewhere performing music across a wide array of genres and styles.

One of the artists who played during the music festival portion was the Swedish adult contemporary pop artist ELINDA, the collaborative music project of the Ekerö, Sweden-born, Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter and dancer Linda Östergren Frithiof and her husband, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mikael Frihiof. Linda Östergren Frithiof can trace the origins of her performing career as a trained dancer, studying at  the Lasse Kühler Dansskola School and the Ballet Academy, one of Scandinavia’s leading dance schools. While training as a dancer, it was discovered that Östergren Frithiof had a commanding voice and once she graduated dance school, she began performing at nightclubs, cabarets, vacation resorts, cruise ships and corporate events before landing gigs as a backup singer for a number of major Scandinavian artists including Magnus Uggla, Markoolio and E-Type, Shirley Clamp, Martin Stenmarck and Charlotte Perrelli, as well as Lutricia McNeal. She’s also sang vocal demos for Celine Dion, and collaborated with the likes of Leif Larsson and Anders Borgius for Swedish artists like Björn Skifs and David Hasselhoff. (Yes, David Hasselhoff.)

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Adding to a rather diverse and eclectic career path, Östergren Frithiof has played Sally Bowles in the Stockholm-based production of Cabaret and Joanne in the Stockholm-based production of RENT before joining The Original Band — The Abba Tribute, which features a number of musicians who have played with ABBA either on their records or tours. Additionally, Östergren Frithiof, was involved in the casting, choreography and scripting for the show, which has toured across Sweden and has performed in China several times, including a televised audience of more than 100 million viewers for the Chinese New Year broadcast.

Östergren Frithof, has been building up a profile as a solo artist largely inspired by the sounds, vocal styles and stage shows of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Prince, Justin Timberlake,Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars. With her husband and collaborator Mikael, they formed a label Breaking Records and began writing and recording original material that draws from her own life, centered around her struggles and victories as an artist and mother of five. Interestingly, her MONDO.NYC set at Piano’s was her Stateside debut and I spoke to the up-and-coming Swedish adult contemporary pop artist and her husband at P.J. Clarke’s Lincoln Center location about her career to date, the MONDO.NYC Festival, her dance floor friendly, feminist anthem “Superwoman” and a lot more. Check it out.

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Oakland, CA-based quintet Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for a lush, forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and difficult to pigeonhole sound that seamlessly incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop, experimental pop and soul.  And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based quintet has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and Bermuda Triangle, and they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Slated for release next Friday, the act’s soon-to-be released SALT AND SOAP EP is reportedly inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you;re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Along with that, the band stumbled upon a new and very different creative and songwriting process that incorporated an unusual sampling method: the use of grainy phone recordings of the act’s drumming eventually became the bedrock for each song of the EP — and in turn, their forthcoming full-length album The Mystic. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent. And as you’ll hear on the EP’s latest single “Downpour,” the result is something that manages to be paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lysergic yet groove-driven, lush and enveloping but while revealing a band radically reinvented its sound and approach in a way that recalls (to my ears at least)Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu simultaneously.

As the band says in a statement: “Growing up it seemed like it was important to hold so many things as secrets, some of which are at this point laughable, some still heavier.

These secrets often gave the sense that there was something wrong and unusual about me or that part of my life. They also gave the sense that if there was actually something difficult it wasn’t necessary to let anyone outside of it know.

This led to a lot of creative improvising and getting used to being a little less like myself.

Eventually I started  to ask “what would be the consequence of sharing versus the weight of holding?”

The track Downpour is about at first getting used to living in a secret, but then facing a growing unease of having to continue to tuck yourself away.”

The band will be embarking on a West Coast tour during the fall. Check the tour dates below.

Bells Atlas Tour Dates: 

9/20 Oakland – New Parish w/ Chanti Darling
10/4 Los Angeles – The Satellite
10/6 Joshua Tree, CA – Joshua Tree Music Festival
10/7 San Diego, CA
10/11 Portland, OR Holocene w/ Chanti Darling
10/14 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/ JusMoni
10/16 Boise, ID Neurolux
10/20 Basalt, CO The Temporary
10/21 Denver, CO Globe
10/23 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s
10/24 Chicago, IL Hideout Inn
11/18 Palm Springs, CA Ace Hotel

Live Footage: Donna Missal Performs the Sultry “Keep Lying” on Vevo DSCVR

Donna Missal is a New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who initially won the attention of the blogosphere with her sultry and bluesy debut single “Keep Lying” which pairs Missal’s soulful, belting vocals with 12 blues power chords, a propulsive section and enormous, anthemic hooks — and while sonically, the single finds Missal and her backing band effortlessly meshing the blues, old school soul, hip hop, and rock in a way that recalls Amy Winehouse, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, Alicia Keys and others, the song is an urgent and passionate plea to a lover, who may be unfaithful, deceitful or no damn good. Unsurprisingly, once the original demo version of “Keep Lying” was played on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show, the single has climbed up the charts — 18 Alternative radio stations have added the track to their playlists, with the song shooting to the top of Spotify Viral and Hype Machine charts; in fact, “Keep Lying” along with several other tracks have amassed over 11 million streams across streaming services.

Missal’s much-anticipated Nate Mercereau-produced full-length debut This Time was released the other day, and the album will further cement the New Jersey-born Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for soulful and unabashed honest pop, centered on living entirely on one’s own terms. I’ve spent most of my life being hyper-focused on time, which I think is something that a lot of women obsess over,” Missal says in press notes. “We’re in such a rush to make things happen, when really we should take the time to figure out what we actually want out of life. And even though it’s so fucking hard to have that kind of patience, I think it’s so important to believe in yourself enough to let things develop in a way that feels right to you.” Missal continues, “This isn’t a record about love and loss and relationships. It’s about taking chances for yourself, figuring out who you are and really standing behind that. I made a point of putting myself out there as a real person navigating this life at this moment in time, because I want to do whatever I can as an artist to help people feel more confident in navigating their own lives. I’d love for the listener to receive the message that you can take your time to learn and love yourself. That’s been the most important discovery that I want to share with this album.”

Interestingly, Missal and her backing band recorded live to tape with some of the material being sampled to imbue it with a fresh yet timeless energy — and to set her apart from a busy and competitive slate of contemporary pop singers.  “I really wanted this album to reference my history of playing in bands,” Missal   explains in press notes. “It’s all these very pure, talented musicians playing together in a room, but then we took that and sampled it and altered in a way that creates something totally new.” Of course, Missal is touring to support her new album and it includes a sold out show tonight at Rough Trade. (You can check out the tour dates below.)

Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Vevo has a lengthy history of promoting emerging artists and helping them break through to new and wider audiences; in fact, past alumni of the Vevo DSCVR series has included Jack Garratt, James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. Now, as you may recall Vevo DSCVR has invited up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish and Bülow to perform material off their newest efforts, and they recently invited Missal to perform her impressive standout track “Keep Lying” and from the footage, Missal performs with a rock ‘n’ roll-like energy, bouncing around like a young Anthony Kedis.

 

Maria Del Pilar is a Chilean-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician, whose family immigrated to the States when she was a child. After developing roots in her adoptive hometown, Del Pilar became an integral part of the city’s music scene as the frontwoman of the critically acclaimed local act, Los Abandoned. Pilar’s solo debut Songs + Canciones I was released to critical praise for Del Pilar’s ability to craft infectious pop hooks that possess a rock ‘n’ roll grit that recalled her Riot Grrl roots. Interestingly, Songs + Canciones I‘s lead single “En El Dancefloor” skyrocketed to the top of the Mexican radio charts and led to shows at Vive Latino and Mexico City’s prestigious The Zocalo.

Songs + Canciones II, the highly-anticipated follow-up to Del Pilar’s solo debut is slated for a November 2, 2018 release, and while finishing up the album, Del Pilar has managed to collaborate with a diverse array of renowned artists including Chicano Batman, Francisca Valenzuela, and Tegan & Sara; in fact, the album features collaborations with a virtual who’s who of the Los Angeles music scene, including members of Chicano Batman, No Doubt, Las Cafeteras, Fitz + The Tantrums and others. But in the meantime, the Chilean-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has also performed as a backing singer  during tUnE yArDs’ most recent appearance on Conan. Adding to a growing profile, “Se Me Hace Mas” was recently  featured on the new Starz drama Vida.

“Original Dreamer,” Songs + Canciones II’s latest single is of our current sociopolitical moment, as it was written while the Trump Administration and the Republican led house was busily repealing DACA, which struck a chord both personally and politically. After the introduction and approval of 2001’s DREAM Act, millions of undocumented minors were granted legal residency in the States along with their parents and guardians. Del Pilar’s mother and father were among the first DREAMers — but sadly, her mother died when she was 12.  The stories reminded me of what I saw my parents go through when I was a kid immigrating from Chile to the US,” Del Pilar says in press notes. “I had a chance to thank my father for these sacrifices but never got a chance to thank my mom. This song gives me that chance.”

Produced by Poolside‘s Flip Nikolic, the song features looping, psych rock-inspired guitar lines from Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arevalo — and while centered around a fiercely held belief that no one is an illegal alien, the percussive, deep groove-driven song manages to bring Fear of Music-era Talking Heads to mind; but with a bold, distinctly Latin flavor and vibe, along with some infectious hooks. Of course, at its core is a deep (and much-needed) empathy and understanding of the plight of society’s most vulnerable, reminded the listener that a great deal of Americans are descendants of those who have taken great risks and had enormous dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Matthews is an up-and-coming Placerville, CA-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, ukulele, bass, accordion and banjo) whose solo work work under the moniker of MAWD has largely been influenced by The Head and the HeartFirst Aid KitThe StavesNancy SinatraLord HuronAlabama Shakes and others — although her sound has generally leaned heavily towards a rather unique blend of indie rock, folk, blues, blues rock and 70s AM rock. Now, as the story goes Matthews made a name for herself in her hometown of about 10,000; but she found a larger audience when she moved to Chico, where she attended Cal State University, Chico and studied music. And while attending Cal State Chico, Matthews quickly became part of the Northern California music scene, fronting and writing for a number of bands and winning local singer/songwriter competitions.
Adding to a growing local profile, Matthews starting make appearances on regional TV and radio, and received praise from a number of media outlets including Earmilk, LA Weekly, The Line of Best Fit and Live Nation’s Ones to Watch— and as the story goes after catching the attention of Sound x 3 Records‘ Roger Gisborne, who immediately signed her and sent her on a Scandinavian tour, which eventually resulted in sets at several international festivals, including YouBloom. Gisborne also produced Matthews debut EP as MAWD, which was recorded during her final semester in school, and the critically applauded album lead to a SXSW appearance and a Southwestern US tour with a lineup of top British, Irish and American musicians.
Matthews is currently working with Gisborne and Cave producer/songwriter Josiah Mazzaschi on her highly-anticipated sophomore EP but in the meantime, her latest single “Wandering Eye” finds Matthews effortlessly meshing old school soul, thanks to a rich arrangement with jangling indie rock and an anthemic hook — and while some have compared her sound to the likes of Janis Joplin, I hear a fundamentally modern sensibility, that brings to mind JOVM mainstayAlice Merton and others, as the song is centered around a carefully crafted and infectious hook. But underneath the song’s breezy self-assuredness, is a takedown of a cheating and dishonest lover, which gives the song a bitter, emotional heft.
Evalyn is an up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, and her forthcoming EP Salvation, which is slated for a September 28, 2018 release, thematically explores the seven deadly sins, centered around the concept of trying to find something to save you, whether it was religion or a cult, or anything else you might worship. Big Bad City,” the EP’s latest single features an almost arena rock-like production consisting of thumping drums, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook and chorus and while the song manages to subtly nod at the enormity and emotional heft of an old school spiritual, the track is an examination of pride — in particular, an unapologetic passion for a sinful, greedy and vapid way of life.
What makes the song interesting to me is that it reveals a self-assured songwriter, who can craft the sort of infectious, radio friendly hook that could take over the world.
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