Category: Indie Pop

New Audio: Introducing the Radio Friendly Sounds of Toronto’s Mute Choir

Toronto-based indie act Mute Choir — founder Sam Arion, along with Milan Sarkadi and Iris Waters — can trace its origins to as a response to its founder’s identity crisis, a long-established songwriting bond between Arion and Waters and a deep passion for musical experimentation. The Canadian trio are involved in every aspect of their work, ardently employing a DIY ethos to everything they do from production, mixing and artwork to ensure that their vision is completely their own without interference. 

The trio define their overall aesthetic as “Organized Chaos” with their sound simultaneously evoking a cluttered urban center and the “lonesome ambience of insomnia.” The band explains that they “seek to make sense of the noise around them, searching for a middle ground between conflicting forces.”

“Shadowboxing,” Mute Choir’s latest single is a slickly produced and hook driven track centered around Arion’s plaintive and yearning vocals, thumping beats, layers of shimmering guitars and a sinuous bass line. Interestingly, the song finds the emerging Canadian trio balancing earnest songwriting rooted in deeply personal experience, deliberate, old-fashioned craft and pop-leaning ambition. Although, the song manages to be a radio friendly, arena rock anthem it simultaneously evokes the uneasiness of an uncertain present while encouraging the listener to take a chance on themselves and their dreams. 

“‘Shadowboxing’ was inspired by a  point of renewal; when you’re starting fresh but can’t escape the tremendous pressure of uncertainty. When the future is wide open, it can be easy to overthink your present decisions in the face of who you might become,” the band says in a written statement. “You can never know for sure if life will turn out the way you hope when you go with your gut instinct. There is always a possibility for failure, an fear of failure can be overwhelming enough to drive you to the wrong kinds of compromises.” 

The members of Mute Choir add, “‘Shadowboxing’ is told from the perspective of someone, who let the weight of ear and negativity break their spirit. They’ve given up and distanced themselves from their passions, only realizing how misguided they were when it’s too late. Each verse laments the unfulfilled mundanity of their day-to-day, while the choruses offer a bleak retrospect. The character was written as a reminder to never look back on life thinking what if? It’s better to fail doing what you love than to know you never tried.”

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New Audio: Introducing the Infectious and Socially Conscious Pop of Victor Marc

Victor Marc is an emerging, Lyon, France-born and -based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Marc started playing the piano when he turned 4 and quickly moved on to writing his original material. And by 2017, the emerging French singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist wrote and recorded an EP which led to a rapidly growing national profile, as well as one-man live shows across the country in which he bounced back and forth between different styles and genres, frequently meshing indie rock, electro pop and folk. 

Marc has an EP slated for a March 2020 release, and its first single is the soulful yet escapist pop tune, “Space.” Centered around an infectious, disco-influenced, two step inducing groove, the song sounds like a funkier version of JOVM mainstay Sam Fender.In fact, as the song has a decidedly political leaning — as it talks about hypocrisy, brutality and inequality in stark and realistic terms. And if you’re a sensitive and thoughtful person, there are a moments in which you’d want to just escape this planet.  “The song’s about the political, ecological issues the world is facing today and that paradoxically makes the unwelcoming space a bit more appealing, Space also has the meaning of something we need to find, a sort of inner peace . . .” Marc wrote to me in an email. 

The recently released video is a visual representation of the song’s lyrics while focusing on the narrator’s desperate desire to escape. 

Born in Beirut, Lebanon to an Irish-American father and a British mother, who was of Arabic and Italian origin, singer/songwriter and actor Michael Malarkey grew up in Yellow Springs, OH. He  eventually relocated to London, where he studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. As the story goes, while studying acting and drama, Malarkey began to immerse himself in music and songwriting, which he found to be a form of poetic journalism and an endless journey of self-discovery.  Interestingly, although Malarkey may be best known for playing Enzo in CW‘s The Vampire Diaries and Captain Michael Quinn in the History Channel‘s Robert Zemeckis-executive produced Project Blue Bookhe has managed to simultaneously carve out a separate career as a singer/songwriter.

Malarkey’s full-length debut 2017’s Mongrels was released through Cap on Cat Records to critical applause from MetroBillboard, Classic Rock, and The Guardian. The album’s material thematically explored the duality of his nature and that of human nature in general. Recorded by Malarkey along with Tom Tapley and Brandon Bush in Atlanta, and from album title track “Mongrel,” the material possesses a subtle old-school Nashville/country vibe that further emphasizes the introspective nature of the song and of the album’s material.

Malarkey’s sophomore full-length album Graveracer is slated for a February 10, 2020 release through Cap on Cat Records/Kartel Music Group.  The album’s material was written in 2018 in Puerto Rico and Vancouver while the singer/songwriter and actor was working on the 50 Cent-produced crime drama The Oath and Project Blue Booth. That period was one of a physical and emotional turbulence: Malarkey, along with the cast and crew were evacuated from Puerto Rico during the build up of Hurricane Maria. And understandably, that experience has reportedly bled into the material’s lyrical imagery. “During the time I was working on the record, I escaped two hurricanes – as well as a third, I suppose, my own personal one. This record is my Odyssey in a way. It’s the journey back home after being ravaged in the seas of your own mind and finding the strength to carry on after the storm. I was left with a feeling of freedom and I found it through these songs,” the singer/songwriter and actor says in press notes.

Recorded at Sheffield, UK-based Tesla Studios and co-produced by Michael Malarkey and singer/songwriter A.A. WilliamsGraveracer is reportedly centered around a straightforward, heartfelt honesty in its songwriting and tone with the material being reflective without leaning on nostalgia and forward-thinking without being urgent; in fact, it’s rooted in the present, as a portrait of one complex and flawed person, as a work in progress — as we all are.

“Shake the Shiver,” Graveracer‘s latest single is a sparse and brooding single, centered around Malarkey’s sonorous baritone,  atmospheric synths, a simple yet propulsive backbeat, a sinuous bass line, strummed guitar and a razor sharp hook. And while recalling Daughn Gibson and Jace Everett, the track manages to be seductive yet full of a dark and creeping, existential dread.

 

 

Harris Breyfogle is an up-and coming singer/songwriter, guitarist and Berklee College of  Music graduate. His forthcoming full-length Complexus, which is slated for a Spring 2020 release and the album covers the emotional timeline of the Berklee Music School grad’s relationship with an ex girlfriend with the material thematically exploring the journey to find closure and peace in the aftermath of a messy and bitter breakup.

Some of the album’s material has received attention from Hype Machine, Imperfect Fifth and a number of other blogs. Building upon a growing profile, Breyfogle’s latest single “Angela” is breezy, two step-inducing pop confection centered around Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, a sinuous bass line and an infectious, radio  hook. And while the song may stylistically draw inspiration from Daft Punk‘s smash-hit “Get Lucky,” the song also nods at George Michael‘s “Careless Whisper” and 80s yacht rock. Interestingly, the song takes it title from the woman,  who ultimately inspired Complexus‘ material — and as a result, the song is imbued with a mix of ache, longing  and nostalgia.

 

 

 

The Brilliance is an orchestral pop duo comprised of lifelong friends, Marshfield, WI-born, New York-based David Gugnor (vocals, guitar) and Marshfield, WI-born, Chicago-based John Arndt (keys, vocals). While centered around the duo’s friendship, the act can trace its origins to when the then-Tulsa, OK-based Gungor and then-Austin-based Arndt started the band back in 2010. Since their formation, the duo’s music has evolved: they  stared with more liturgical art and moved to peacemaking protest music; but over the past handful of years have focused on music that inspires the listener toward empathy and kindness. (We need much more of that in our morally bankrupt world.)

The act’s more recent release The Dreamer Suite, a collection of songs in a series of “suites” — songs and pieces united by a central theme — found the duo teaming up with World Relief for the organization’s initiative to raise awareness of the plight of DACA dreamers has amassed millions of streams on Spotify and Apple Music — as an independent release.  Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the members of The Brilliance will be releasing The Dreamer Suite‘s highly anticipated follow-up, Suite No. 2 World Keeps Spinning: An Antidote to Modern Anxiety on January 10, 2020.

“How Do We Know,” the duo’s latest single off their soon-to-be released album is a sleek and slickly produced track featuring a song structure that alternates between shimmering and lilting verses and arena rock friendly choruses. And while bearing a bit of a resemblance to Death Cab for Cutie and U2, the song is emotionally centered around life’s biggest question — “why the fuck are we even here and what’s the point of all of this?”

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Joseph Releases a Shimmering and Bittersweet Ode to New Year’s Eve

Deriving their name from their grandfather Jo and the tiny Oregon town of  Joseph, OR, in which he was born and raised, the  Portland, OR-based sibling indie pop trio Joseph, comprised of Natalie Closner Schepman and her two, younger twin sisters Meegan and Alison grew up in a musical household — their dad was a jazz singer and drummer, their mom a theater teacher. However, their collaboration together can trace their origins back to around 2014: Schepman who had been pursuing a solo career as a signer/songwriter, recruited her sisters to join her in a new project. When the Closner sisters began collaborating together, they quickly recognized an irresistible and undeniable simpatico.

The trio quickly developed a reputation for playing intimate house shows, in which the siblings accompanied themselves with acoustic guitar and foot drum. Interestingly, within their first year working together, the trio self-released their debut, 2014’s Native Dreamer Kin, which caught the attention of ATO Records, who signed the group the following year. After releasing 2015’s, ATO Sessions EP, an acoustic, two song, digital EP and accompanying video series, the sibling trio went on to release their Mike Mogis-produced, label debut 2016’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not, which featured the smash hit “White Flag.” “White Flag” landed on Spotify’s US Viral Top Ten Chart within days of its release. By October, the track landed at #1 on the Adult Alternative Charts.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the trio made appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Later . . . with JoolsHolland, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conan, CBS This Morning and Today. They also opened for James Bay during a sold out, 2016 arena tour — and they made festival stops at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Sasquatch Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Outside Lands Festival, Pilgrimage Music Festival and several others.

Released earlier this year, the trio’s Christian “Leggy” Langdon-produced sophomore album Good Luck, Kid is the highly anticipated follow-up to their critically applauded and commercially successful label debut, and the album finds the trio pushing their sound in a grittier, more dynamic direction while retaining the gorgeous harmonizing and earnest vocals that won them attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere. “The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life-recognizing that you’re an adult now, and everything’s up to you from this moment on,” Natalie Closner Schepman says in press notes.  “You’re not completely sure of how to get where you need to go, and you don’t have any kind of a map to help you. It’s just the universe looking down on you like, ‘Good luck, kid.’”

I wrote about album single “Green Eyes,” a track that found the sibling trio meshing classic Phil Spector Wall of Sound-era pop with hints of old-school country and contemporary pop with an arrangement that featured twinkling piano, strummed acoustic guitar, dramatic drumming, an enormous hook and the Closner Sisters’ gorgeous harmonizing. And much like their previously released work, the single was a slickly produced, radio friendly pop confection, centered around ambitious yet incredibly earnest songwriting: in this case, the song’s narrator recognizes that their relationship is at a crossroads — and that she will be forced to make a life changing decision. 

The album’s latest single, “NYE” is a shimmering slow-burn centered around strummed guitar, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, the Closners’ gorgeous harmonies and a soaring hook. But at its core, the song — to me, at least — may arguably be the most ambivalent and ambiguous song emotionally that they’ve released to date with the song managing to evoke the confusion swirl of emotions many of us feel when the New Year rolls around: the dashed hopes of a great night that’s gone horribly; the sense of relief that a difficult year or decade has come to an end; the bittersweet recognition that time is rushing by and that you’re getting older; the slow dance or the kiss you’ll hopefully get as the clock strikes midnight, if you have someone — or met someone cute that night; and the hope that the next year (and in our case, the next decade) will be better. 

Directed by Justin Frick, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “NYE” is appropriately set at a New Year’s Eve party with an enormous disco ball. And it accurately captures the ambivalent and ambitious emotions at the core of the song. 

Gabriel Bødker Johnson is a Danish multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known as the creative mastermind behind the emerging solo, pop recording project thirdcurl. Interestingly, Johnson’s latest thirdcurl single “with you,” a collaboration with fellow multi-instrumentalist and producer Casper Iskov can trace some of its origins to when a 14 year old Johnson met Iskov, who was a local music legend at the time. Much like Johnson, Iskov began his music career when he was 12.

Around the same time, Johnson was honing his skills with DJ equipment and FL Studio.  Pioneer released a YouTube ad featuring new DJ equipment, which featured a deadmau5 remix of Daft Punk captured Johnson’s interest — and it began a lifelong obsession with deadmau5. Sometime later, the acclaimed electronic music producer and DJ hosted live streams sharing his creative process, and a young Johnson watched as many of those streams as possible. There’s a reason I mention Johnson’s obsession with deadmau5: you see, the first song that Johnson wrote back in 2011 was a version of his latest single “with you,” which at the time as the Danish multi-instrumentalist and producer explains “was a complete copy of a traditional deadmau5 track. I put it on YouTube because I was simply so proud to have made my own electronic track.”

As for the track “with you” is a radio friendly pop confection, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, Iskov’s plaintive vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook — and as a result, the single manages to sonically nod a bit at New Order and Tame Impala.  “With You” got a brand new life, when Iskov heard an early mix of  the track, loved what he heard and contributed lyrics to the new version — and of course, it marks the first collaboration between the two.

“Casper and I moved in together in an old house outside of Copenhagen together with Emil Kiltsgaard, who helped me to do the cover for the track, and Andreas Frandsen, who plays bass with me on stage,” Johnson says in press notes. “During this time, Casper and I sat down and finally managed to finish the track in 2018. 7 years it took to finish “with you.” We’re very proud of the track, as it features the same lyrics he wrote back then and because it still features the main elements of what I’d made so many years ago. But above all “with you” played a part of us becoming friends.”