Category: Indie Pop

With the release of her debut EP Everything I Know, an effort that has amassed over 500,000 streams, the San Francisco-based pop artist ZOLA quickly emerged into both the local and national scene for a sound and approach that meshes genres, styles and languages. Building upon a growing profile, the emerging San Francisco-based artist’s latest single, the Tim Vickers-produced “Crystal Floors” is a genre–blurring David Lynch-like fever dream as the track is centered around a breezy, Bossa nova rhythms, shimmering synths, a sinuous hook, and Zola’s alluring jazz-inspired vocals singing lyrics in English and French.

 

 

 

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Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Oslo, Norway-based singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist Arthur Kay. And as you may recall Kay has been a prominent member of his hometown’s music scene for the better part of the past decade as the frontman of of the galactic jazz act Dr. Kay and His Interstellar Tone Scientists and collaborating and touring with Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave.

Key’s self-titled solo debut EP was released earlier this month, and the EP’s material draws from several disparate and rather eclectic influences, at points channeling Thundercat, James Blake, and Sun Ra Arkestra, all while finding the Norwegian singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist boldly stepping into the spotlight.  Earlier this year, I wrote about “Holiday Pay,” a thumping, house music-based workers anthem with glistening and twinkling synths, cowbell-led percussion and infectious hook that celebrates socialism and socialist policies — in particular, that Norwegian employers are required by law to pay employees a certain percentage of the previous year’s wages to be used for the employee’s vacation time.

The EP’s second single “Higher Ground” was a slow-burning track that was one part dream pop, one part hallucinogenic dirge and one part shoegaze, as it was centered around a sparse arrangement of twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, Kay’s dreamy crooning and narcoleptic drumming. And while arguably the most peaceful song off the EP, the song was fueled by a sweaty desperation.  “Lyrically, it is about the silence and calmness that comes after a big emotional and chaotic event,” Arthur Kay explained in press notes. “Those days or weeks where you feel that if you just put everything in your life on hold, to make it through the next hour without remembering or engaging in those memories, you’ll just barely make it through.”

“Say It Out Loud,” the EP’s third and latest single is a two-step-inducing bit of synth-led dance pop that’s one part Teddy Riley-era New Jack Swing and one part Larry Levan-era house music, as the track is centered around arpeggiated keys and synths, thumping beats, cowbell-led percussion, Kay’s plaintive vocals and a sinuous hook before ending with a shimmering jazz-like. And while focusing on his singular voice, the track manages to reveal Kay’s incredible versatility and dexterous musicianship.

Timothy Nelson is a multi-WAM Award-winning, Western Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and bedroom pop producer, whose solo recording project Indoor Fins has received attention nationally  with two collaboration with DraphtThe Come Down Was Real,” and “Summer They Say,” which was released earlier this year and has received frequent airplay on Australia’s Triple J Radio. And although both of those tracks were much more hip-hop leaning, Nelson’s  Indoor Fins project is self-described “super pop,” as the Western Australian singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s work draws from a variety of things including classic 70s prog rock and French electro pop. 

However, lyrically Nelson says in press notes, his work comes from a much darker place. “A few years back my old band, and my relationship at the time, both fell apart within about a month of each other,” Nelson recalls. “I was in a rut personally. Then, shortly after all that, someone in my family, very close to me, got seriously ill. It wasn’t the greatest time at all. I felt like I’d been on one kind of path from the moment I left high school, and suddenly found myself in a place where I wasn’t sure where I was heading at all. I did a bit of soul searching, there was a lot going on in my head I’d not addressed for a long time and I think it all just collided in one go. In the midst of all that, I did a tonne of writing. I was questioning so much about who I was, that I think I started digging a lot deeper lyrically.”

During what was arguably one of the more difficult times in his life emotionally, Nelson spent his days holed up in his home studio — his childhood bedroom. “I had my guitar, my computer, and a keyboard. I had all these sounds at my fingertips. I think musically, the direction it took, came from a feeling of, ‘Fuck it, do whatever feels right’, and also not wanting to be so down-in-the-dumps about everything. Music, to me, is always the antidote.”

Nelson’s debut Indoor Fins single “Here It Goes” is a rousingly anthemic, breakneck pop track, centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, slashing power chords and layers of Nelson’s plaintive falsetto. Sonically the incredibly infectious song seems to recall Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” and Oracular Spectacular-era MGMT, complete with an overwhelmingly positive message at its core. “I remember waking up and having the guitar riff in my head, but no idea where the song
could go. Something didn’t feel right and I nearly abandoned it altogether, but this voice inmy head was telling me to push through, and I spent all day just trying every possible ideathat could make the song work,” the Western Australian artist recalls about the song’s creative process. “At some point I turned a corner and it all made sense. It
was very much a journey writing it. That’s what I mean by ‘Put me on the road to rhythm
and light’, you know? My subconcious was saying ‘pull yourself together, and get on with it.”

CROOK is an Irish-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Long known as a deeply private artist, CROOK can trace the origins of his music career to when he won a regional radio contest, which led to the recording and release of his Dave Keary-produced debut EP, an effort that went on to win Ireland’s Guinness Amplify program for unsigned artists. The winning prize was studio time, so Crook, who had moved to Berlin a few weeks earlier, returned to Ireland to record his Tommy McLaughlin-produced sophomore EP Calando.

Returning to Berlin, CROOK began honing his live show, playing almost 250 shows, which helped bring attention to his songwriting and production skills — and a result, he’d wind up going on to ghostwriter material for other artists. Last year, found CROOK having a renewed focus on his own material: he released four singles in a monthly series/sketchbook he dubbed CRUSHING. Recorded at Berlin’s legendary Funkhaus Studios, the self-produced series revealed a pop-leaning sensibility, as well as being a clear statement of intent.

CROOK’s latest single, the breakneck “oh, cool” is centered around an intimate, bedroom pop/bedroom rock production, an enormous and rousingly arena rock friendly hook and relatable lyrics, based on lived-in personal experience — in this instance, the song is rooted in a universal experience: the daily anxieties of existing and being a sensitive and thoughtful person in a mad world. 

“I wrote this song during a period when I was having a lot of panic attacks, and was generally feeling terrified about everything, all the time,” CROOK explains in press notes. “For me, those moments are frantic, second-to-second re-ups of terror in the brain. With ‘oh, cool,’ I tried to write a 2-minute shot of pure adrenaline, something that could burst through even my own thick head, and get me to wake the fuck up. I’m probably not the only one who needs it.” 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Lake Jons Release a Feverish Yet Gorgeous and Aching Visual for “Simone”

Formed back in 2014, the Helsinki, Finland-based JOVM mainstays Lake Jons, comprised of Jooel Jons and Mikko Pennanen, have developed a reputation for walking a fine line between production tandem and full-fledged band, while crafting delicate, electro folk-tinged dream pop. Last year’s self-titled debut, which was primarily written and recorded in an isolated cabin deep in the Finnish forest thematically and sonically aimed to examine, capture and represent whatever tenuous connection still exists between the natural world and the human world. The album won attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere — including this site — with JaJaJa showcasing the band in London, Berlin and Hamburg. 

The rising Finnish duo’s sophomore album The Coast finds the duo further reconnecting with their roots and delving even deeper into the Towars Forest. Thematically, The Coast is the duo’s endeavor to dismantle life, space and time. And sonically, the album finds the JOVM mainstays radically re-inventing their sound — the songs are centered around rough instrumental parts, layered with harmony-driven toplines with the material seemingly assembling again in a seamless fashion. Now, as you may recall, last month I wrote about “It’s Too Bright.” Built around a sparse production featuring twinkling keys, hi-hat led boom-bap-like percussion, a driving bass line and an ethereal and plaintive falsetto floating over the mix, the song sonically displayed elements of R&B, electro pop, jazz, folk and experimental pop — and while being forward thinking, the material retained the hook-driven nature that won them attention across the blogosphere. 

The Coast’s latest single “Simone” will further cement the Finnish duo’s unusual and forward-thinking approach to pop music: the track is centered around a hazy and dusty production featuring strummed guitar, fluttering and arpeggiated synths, wobbling low end and stuttering beats with Jons’ plaintive vocals ethereally floating over the mix. And much like their previously released work, thee song is imbued with a sense of loss and longing simultaneously. In press notes, the band’s Jooel Jons explains that the central concept of the song is how connections can sometimes transcend physical loss. “You know the feeling someone close to you has moved on to another time and space? You’re still feeling these sensations of their presence and wonder if all is not lost after all,” Jons says in press notes. “Maybe you’re in denial. But you’ll only know if you stop and try reaching out to something that only you sense. From feelings arise experience; that is vital to our feeling of existence.”

Directed by Petra Lumioksa, the recently released video for “Simone” and stars Minna Karttunen and Maria Autio expressively dancing in a sun-dappled and extremely suburban apartment. Through most of the video, the dancers rarely see one or connect with one another — just barely out of sight, just barely out of touch and yet feeling each other’s presence. And as a result, the visual further emphasizes the song’s palpable sense of longing. 

New Video: Melbourne, Australia-based Pop Artist Elizabeth Releases a “Twin Peaks” Inspired Visual for “beautiful baby”

Starting off her musical career as the frontperson and primary songwriter of acclaimed Melbourne, Australia-based pop act Totally Mild, an act that recorded two albums before breaking up, the up-and-coming Aussie pop artist Elizabeth has stepped out into the limelight as a solo artist. As a solo artist, the emerging Melbourne-based singer/songwriter has been able to reimagine and reinvent who she is an artist — turning into the patron saint of heartbreak and woe. And naturally that has led to her developing a sound apart from her previously released work. 

Elizabeth’s solo debut, The Wonderful World of Nature is slated for a November 1, 2019 release through Our Golden Friend in her native Australia, and the album’s latest single, the atmospheric and slow-burning “beautiful baby” is centered around a Wall of Sound-inspired production featuring shimmering and twinkling keys, gently padded drumming, strummed guitar and Elizabeth’s achingly mournful vocals reminiscing about a love that’s now lost — and the lonely attempt to move forward. “’Beautiful baby’ is about leaving the chaos of a relationship behind,” Elizabeth explained to Flood Magazine. “It’s about trying to understand how a love that was so beautiful could be a thing that ends. We took a lot of inspiration from the music of Twin Peaks, hoping to re-imagine the magical spell of Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise.”

Directed by Triana Hernandez, the recently released video for “beautiful baby” is split between footage of Elizabeth in a red dress, performing the song in a smoky and lonely lounge club — similar to the great concert film, Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night — and flashbacks of Elizabeth’s sweetest moments with her now gone lover.

“The ‘beautiful baby’ music video is an exploration of Elizabeth’s power and allure,” Triana Hernandez told the folks at Flood. “It’s a break up song that works like a spell and speaks of pain as much as it speaks of moving on. The song is emotionally intense, so for this clip we worked with two of the most visually dramatic inspirations out there: Lana Del Rey and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series.”

Oslo, Norway-based singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist Arthur Kay has been a prominent member of his hometown’s music scene for the better part of a decade, as the frontman of the galactic jazz act Dr. Kay and His Interstellar Tone Scientists and collaborating and touring with Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave.

Kay’s self-titled, solo debut is slated for an October 11, 2019 and the EP’s material, which draws from several disparate influences and channels Thundercat, James Blake, and Sun Ra Arkestra also reportedly finds the Norwegian singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist stepping further into the spotlight as a solo artist. Now, as you may recall, earlier this year, I wrote about “Holiday Pay,” a workers anthem and decidedly house music influenced track with glistening and twinkling synths, cowbell-led percussion and an infectious hook that manages to celebrate the fact that Norwegian employers are required by law to pay employees a certain percentage of the previous year’s wages to be used for the employee’s summer vacation time.

Interestingly, the EP’s latest single “Higher Ground” is a slow-burning track that’s one part dream pop, one part hallucinogenic dirge and one part shoegaze centered around a sparse arrangement of twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, Kay’s dreamy crooning and narcoleptic drumming — and while arguably the most peaceful song off the EP that’s been released so far, the song   possesses an underlying sweaty desperation. “Lyrically, it is about the silence and calmness that comes after a big emotional and chaotic event,” Arthur Kay says in press notes. “Those days or weeks where you feel that if you just put everything in your life on hold, to make it through the next hour without remembering or engaging in those memories, you’ll just barely make it through.”

“‘Higher Ground’ was sort of a tribute to Balearic House,” Kay adds. “It was one of the first times musically that I had something that was just for me. A lot of the work you do as a professional musician is taking small pieces of yourself and giving them away to other people’s dreams and visions.” 

 

With the release of their full-length debut, Before It Gets Dark, which was released through German label AdP Records in Europe and BonFire Records in North America earlier this year, the Berlin-based pop duo Wolf & Moon, comprised of Dennis and Stef, received attention across Germany and elsewhere. They made appearances at  SXSW and Reeperbahn Festival, where they received a Best Newcomer Award nomination at the festival’s VIA Indie Awards. Adding to a growing profile, the act has received airplay on several Dutch radio stations including 3FM-FX, ZuidWestFM, BredaNu, A-FM and Indie XL, Chicago’s WGN, and German radio stations like Sputnik, DETEKTOR FM and SWR3. They’ve also been featured in The Guardian.

While establishing a sound that the duo have described on their Facebook Fan Page as “somewhere between the folky sound of Angus and Julia Stone and the electronic influences of The xx . . .,” the duo have developed a reputation for relentless touring with a minimalist live set up — generally, a travel guitar, electronic drum machine, a mini Casio keyboard and their voices. Building upon a growing international profile, the Berlin-based pop duo recently were approached an export grant from the Dutch Music Exchange and will be releasing their highly-anticipated sophomore album next year.

But in the meantime, the duo’s latest single “Situations” is a deliberately crafted, hook-driven pop confection centered around shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and the duo’s hushed boy-girl harmonies — and while bearing a resemblance to thee breezy pop of JOVM mainstays Geowulf and Moonbabies, the track as the band explains is about grappling with what to do when you’re stuck in a bad place, whether it be political or personal.