Category: Indie Pop

New Audio: Rising Aussie-born Los Angeles-based Singer-Songwriter Hazel English Releases a Woozy 60s Inspired Pop Tune

Hazel English is a rapidly rising Australian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician. Her Justin Raisen and Ben H. Allen co-produced full-length debut Wake UP! is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through Marathon Artists/Polyvinyl Records. Recorded in Los Angeles and in Atlanta, English hopes the album will serve as a klaxon, a sort of warming horn that will give the listener a meaningful shake from their doldrums — and to encourage the listener to become more present in their own lives. “Sometimes, I feel like we’re just sleepwalking through our lives,” English says in press notes. She goes on to say that she hopes the album helps “make people become more aware and mindful.” 

Wake UP!’s fourth and latest single, “Five and Dime” is a woozy, mid-tempo track that sounds indebted to late 50s country and Phil Spector-produced 60s girl group pop. Centered around reverb drenched guitars, finger snap-led percussion, twinkling Rhodes, English’s expressive vocals, some twangy pedal steel and a rousing hook, the track is part playful love song and part bitter lament, as the song’s narrator muses on a love interest, who has become so consuming to her that she’s distracted.  Ah, to be that infatuated! 

“It’s about the desire for space and independence when feeling stifled in a relationship,” English explains in press notes. “I wrote it about a trip I took to Oakland when I just needed to get out of LA for a bit. ‘Five and Dime’ is actually an old slang term for the area code 510 which covers the East Bay, so I thought it would be a fun way to refer to the place that once used to be my home, while also invoking a sense of nostalgia for a time when a phrase like five and dime was very common.”

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New Video: Rising Canadian Pop Artist GRAE Releases a Sultry Jazz Age-Inspired Visual

GRAE is a rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter and pop artist. Initially inspired by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, which she played on repeat as a child, the up-and-coming Canadian started playing piano and guitar when she was very young. Last year, GRAE released her attention-grabbing debut EP New Girl, which landed on the cover of Spotify’s Outliers Playlist — and since its release, has amassed over 2 million streams.

Building upon a growing profile, the Toronto-based artist will be releasing her highly-anticipated sophomore EP Bang Bang — and the EP’s first single is a slow-burning and sultry “Slow Down.” One part seductive Quiet Storm-like soul, one part jazz chanteuse and one part slickly produced pop, “Slow Down” the track is centered around a palpable sexual tension: its narrator is about to give into her temptations and rush into intimacy without knowing if the situation will be good for her. Most of our romantic relationships are initially centered around the confusing push and pull of lust, shame and our desire to be connected to someone — and the song evokes those feelings with an uncanny accuracy.

“‘Slow Down’ was fun to write because I had never explored this kind of topic before,” GRAE says in press notes. “I find, as a woman, sometimes it’s hard to express your wants and desires, in fear of being judged or shamed. So I wanted to touch on this subject to get more in tune with that side of myself.”

Directed by Priya Howlader, the recently released video for “Slow Down” employs a minimalist concept: the up-and-coming Canadian artist as a jazz chanteuse, performing the song in front of a red curtain. While performing the song, she winds up seducing an intrigued onlooker — and as the video progresses, we see that the pair have an unmistakable and irresistible sexual chemistry in which they’re pulled closer to each other.

“The video stems from a vision I had of me singing in a old jazz cafe in front of a classic red curtain,” the up-and-coming Canadian artist explains in press notes. “Priya, the director, really made it come alive with her treatment and ideas. The concept is minimal but so beautifully executed.”

New Audio: Simon Lewis’ Gorgeous and Uplifting New Single

Simon Lewis is an emerging Austrian singer/songwriter, who according to his Facebook fan page cites William Fitzsimmons, Coldplay, Damien Rice and Kings of Leon as influences on his songwriting and sound. Lewis’ latest single, is the slow-burning ballad “Heaven Only Knows.” Centered around a seemingly simple arrangement of twinkling piano and Lewis’ expressive, pop star-like vocals, the gorgeous single manages to subtly nod at John Legend — but as he explains in press notes, “this song is about this particularly harsh feeling of loss we feel whenever we have to leave the ones we love — but it’s also about new beginnings and the hope that lies beyond. It’s not just about loving someone, it’s also about allowing yourself to be loved.”

New Video: Angela Muñoz Celebrates Young Love in Visuals for “In My Mind”

Over the past handful of months, I’ve written quite a bit about  The Midnight Hour, a 10 member ensemble founded and led by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammadand Adrian Younge, a Los Angeles-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and Linear Labs founder. Now, as you may recall, the project prominently features singer/songwriter and guitarist Jack Waterson, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Loren Oden — and , singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and 18 year old Los Angeles-born and-based phenom, Angela Muñoz.

The 10 member ensemble released their self-titled debut in 2018 — and the effort firmly established their sound: jazz and orchestral inspired soul and hip-hop heavily influenced by  David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White and Jazzmatazz-era Gang Starr. Since the release of their debut, Muhammad, Younge and the rest of the Linear Labs crew have been extremely busy: last year saw the release of Jack Waterson’s psych rock, solo debut Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson, and a lengthy tour that included a Brooklyn Bowl stop last September — and this year will see three releases from the collective and its members: the ensemble’s highly-anticipated sophomore album and solo efforts from Loren Oden and Angela Muñoz.

The young, Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and phenom has a beguiling voice and mature presence that belies her relative youth, who recalls that Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Welcome to The Jungle” was the catalyst that sparked her desire to play music and become a star. As a girl, she learned to play guitar and piano — and with practice, she began to dominate singing competitions, leaving unexpected audiences in a trance.

Interestingly, a few years ago Muñoz’s brother Brandon introduced her to the Adrian Younge-produced Something About April. Muñoz was intrigued by the quality of the music, and as a result, she found herself thinking about how it would be interesting to create music that encompassed various perspectives — similar to how Younge does so with his analog recordings. Shortly after being introduced to Something About April, the Los Angeles-born and-based phenom serendipitously found herself working with The Midnight Hour, who recorded her song “Bitches Do Voodoo” on their full-length debut. They’ve since took Muñoz on tour, where she’s blown away audiences with her self-assured stage presence, her dexterous musicianship and her soulful vocals.

Earlier this month, I wrote about Muñoz’s neo-soul meets Quiet Storm-like debut single “I Don’t Care,” which featured her remarkably self-assured and effortlessly soulful vocals over an arrangement of twinkling keys and harp, soaring strings, a sinuous bass line, wah wah pedaled guitar and an enormous hook paired with an underlying youthful brashness. “In My Mind” the second single off full-length debut Introspection is a gorgeous and cinematic track centered around a pop standard-like arrangement featuring soaring and fluttering strings, a sinuous bass line, some expressive bursts of guitar, twinkling harp and Muñoz’s expressive vocal. Sonically, the song manages to recall George Gershwinand jazz ballads. From her first two singles, Muñoz is a certifiable star in the making.

“I wrote this song thinking about the journey of love,” Muñoz explains. “Despite my age, I have an awareness of what expressing love looks like. As I was writing this song, I wanted to challenge myself as a songwriter. This led me to imagine myself in the place of George Gershwin. If I could choose anyone to interpret this song it would be Sarah Vaughan. Ultimately, love can manifest itself in many ways.”

Directed by The Midnight Hour’s Adrian Younge and based on a story written by Angela Muñoz captures the swooning idealism and hope of young love in a way that proudly celebrates it. 

Muñoz’s full-length debut Introspection is slated for a May 19, 2020 release through Linear Labs.

New Video: Beauty Queen Releases a Playfully Absurd Visual for Shimmering and Nostalgic “Two Of Us”

Katie Iannitello is a Maui, HI-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the rising indie pop act Beauty Queen. Growing up Iannitello had a distant apathy towards pop music that marked most of her teen years; however, she had instilled, an appreciation for 50s pop and doo-wop. The Maui-born, Los Angeles-based artist learned to play piano and sing as a teen — but it wasn’t until she was in her early 20s that she started writing her own songs. 

Interestingly, the material that Iannitello has written with Beauty Queen is on the sonic edges of dream lo-fi, hazy alt-pop and dream pop with the material centered around coming-of-age stories where bewilderment can turn into clarity and with narrators lost in the reveries and aches of loneliness and unrequited love. 

Last year, Iannitello’s Beauty Queen debut EP, the Henry Nowhere-produced Out of Touch was released through pronoun’s Sleep Well Records. Iannitello has started off 2020 with new material written and produced over the course of three days at Tennis’ Alaina Moore’s and Patrick Riley’s Denver-based home studio — and those sessions ended with “Sweet Memory” and her latest single ‘Two Of Us.” Centered around shimmering, analog synths, a galloping 70s AM rock drum pattern, an infectious and soaring hook, a chugging motorik-like groove and Iannitello’s expressive vocals, the song manages to sound like a slick synthesis of The Carpenters and JOVM mainstays Pavo Pavo — but while capturing a romantic couple that’s so much in love that they just escape the world. 

Directed by Budd Diaz, the recently released video for “Two Of Us” depicts the songs lyrics through the prism of the absurd: we follow two Sasquatches, who are so much in love that they’re oblivious to the Sasquatch hunter, who’s relentlessly stalking them as they go about their annual day out in the world, which includes a much-needed shave, a stop at the movies and a Beauty Queen show. Thankfully, for their sake the Sasquatch hunter is as inept and incompetent as Elmer Fudd! “This music video was an absolute blast to make. If all my future videos could be Sasquatch based, I would be pleased,” Iannitello shares. “It’s two Sasquatches on their ‘day out’ where they shave and go out in the world. Huge thank you to Budd Diaz and his team and the actors involved for making this happen!”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times. 

New Video: Francesca Blanchard Releases a Haunting Visual for “Did It To Myself”

Francesca Blanchard is an acclaimed French-born, Burlington, VT-based singer/songwriter. Since the release of her bilingual folk debut album, 2015’s Deux Visions, Blanchard has developed a reputation for relentlessly redefining her wheelhouse, her aoudad and approach. Following a year of extensive touring throughout the States and the European Union, Blanchard took time to rediscover what she wanted to say — and how exactly she wanted to say it: she started to experiment with a growing interest in production, which is a decided departure from the acoustic and folksy sound of her earliest material. 

The end result is melodic, indie pop that may arguably be the most vulnerable, cathartic and self-aware that the acclaimed French-born, Vermont-based singer/songwriter has written and released in her growing catalog — while revealing a songwriter, who has an unerring ability to write an infectious hook.  Blanchard’s latest single is the slow-burning and brooding “Did It To Myself.” Centered around atmospheric electronics, shimmering strummed guitars and Blanchard’s achingly plaintive vocals, “Did It To Myself” sounds as though it were indebted to Kate Bush and Dido — and it may be the most heartbreakingly honest song she has written to date. 

As Blanchard explains in press notes, “‘Did It To Myself’ is about admitting my part in my own pain. It is masochism veiled in heartbreak. Sometimes were ask to be hurt without realizing, and we eventually (hopefully) catch ourselves. I wrote it in between saying goodbye to someone I thought I needed and opening a door to something that would change me for the better.”

The recently released video features Blanchard dressed in an old-fashioned blue gown wandering the streets and subways of my beloved New York — in particular, Times Square, a G train passing past Bergen Street, Central Park, the 34th Street and 11th Avenue 7 train station, 9th Street and 4th Avenue G, F and R station and several other locations. And with most of the known world in quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the video is an eerie reminder of the world we’ve (hopefully) temporarily lost. 

Over the past handful of months, I’ve written quite a bit about  The Midnight Hour, a 10 member ensemble founded and led by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge, a Los Angeles-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and Linear Labs founder. Now, as you may recall, the project prominently features singer/songwriter and guitarist Jack Waterson, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Loren Oden — and , singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and 18 year old Los Angeles-born and-based phenom, Angela Munoz.

The 10 member ensemble released their self-titled debut in 2018 — and the effort firmly established their sound: jazz and orchestral inspired soul and hip-hop heavily influenced by  David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White and Jazzmatazz-era Gang Starr. Since the release of their debut, Muhammad, Younge and the rest of the Linear Labs crew have been extremely busy: last year saw the release of Jack Waterson’s psych rock, solo debut Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson, and a lengthy tour that included a Brooklyn Bowl stop last September — and this year will see three releases from the collective and its members: the ensemble’s highly-anticipated sophomore album and solo efforts from Loren Oden and Angela Munoz.

The young, Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and phenom has a beguiling voice and mature presence that belies her relative youth, who recalls that Guns ‘N’ Roses’Welcome to The Jungle” was the catalyst that sparked her desire to play music and become a star. As a girl, she learned to play guitar and piano — and with practice, she began to dominate singing competitions, leaving unexpected audiences in a trance.

Interestingly, a few years ago Munoz’s brother Brandon introduced her to the Adrian Younge-produced Something About April. Munoz was intrigued by the quality of the music, and as a result, she found herself thinking about how it would be interesting to create music that encompassed various perspectives — similar to how Younge does so with his analog recordings. Shortly after being introduced to Something About April, the Los Angeles-born and-based phenom serendipitously found herself working with The Midnight Hour, who recorded her song “Bitches Do Voodoo” on their full-length debut. They’ve since took Munoz on tour, where she’s blown away audiences with her self-assured stage presence, her dexterous musicianship and her soulful vocals.

Earlier this month, I wrote about Munoz’s neo-soul meets Quiet Storm-like debut single “I Don’t Care,” which featured her remarkably self-assured and effortlessly soulful vocals over an arrangement of twinkling keys and harp, soaring strings, a sinuous bass line, wah wah pedaled guitar and an enormous hook paired with an underlying youthful brashness. “In My Mind” the second single off full-length debut Introspection is a gorgeous and cinematic track centered around a pop standard-like arrangement featuring soaring and fluttering strings, a sinuous bass line, some expressive bursts of guitar, twinkling harp and Munoz’s expressive vocal. Sonically, the song manages to recall George Gershwin and jazz ballads. From her first two singles, Munoz is a certifiable star in the making.

“I wrote this song thinking about the journey of love,” Munoz explains. “Despite my age, I have an awareness of what expressing love looks like. As I was writing this song, I wanted to challenge myself as a songwriter. This led me to imagine myself in the place of George Gershwin. If I could choose anyone to interpret this song it would be Sarah Vaughan. Ultimately, love can manifest itself in many ways.”

Munoz’s full-length debut Introspection is slated for a May 19, 2020 release through Linear Labs.

 

New Video: Introducing the Glitchy and Blown Out Pop of Montreal’s Ivytide

Formed back in 2018, Ivytide — Adam Nutbey (keys), John Zambito (drums), Jamie Snytte (lead guitar), Kyle Ruggiero (bass) and Nathan Gagné (vocals, rhythm guitar) — is an emerging Montreal-based indie act. The band will be releasing their debut EP Pardon our distance this year, and the EP’s first single is the washed out “Blurr.” Centered around glitchy, blown out and distorted beats, shimmering and wobbly synth arpeggios, whirring electronics and dreamy vocals, the narcotic new single evokes the feeling of things slowly fading out of distance. Interestingly, as the band explains in press notes, the song is “about the feeling of losing touch, and reflects the distance between two people that comes from a disparity in perceptions, emotions and perspectives.” The band adds that “the production on ‘Blurr’ embodies the feeling of distance with the dreamy and washed out qualities that pair with lyrics describing the struggle of self-identification.”

The recently released video for “Blurr” features the band’s Nathan Gagné standing alone in a wintry Montreal park and as he sings the song’s lyrics, the camera pans in and out in perfect timing to the accompanying song’s glitchy beats. “Our lead singer, Nathan, developed frostbite while filming the song’s video, shot at 7:30am in -18 degrees Celsius. After taking a break in a cafe, he toughed it out through the rest of filming, where we made sure he was warm and cozy in between shots,” the band says of the video. 

New Video: Introducing the Coquettish and Playful Pop of Montreal’s Laura Gagné

Laura Gagné is a young, emerging Montreal-based singer/songwriter, who has received attention across Quebec for crafting sweetly earnest material centered around the deep and spiritual reflections of a modern, young woman -with a disarming sense of humor and playfulness. But at the core of her work is her deep belief that God’s love is accessible to all. 

Her latest single is the playful and coquettish “Loveland.” Drawing from 50s and 60s pop including period specific finger snaps, twinkling keys and reverb-drenched guitar, the song finds Gagné crooning singing about a desire to escape the world to be surrounded by love. Considering how bleak things are the moment, an escape seems more necessary than ever, doesn’t it? In the song’s case it’s a bit of a double entendre: the song and its accompanying visual clearly talks about faith and church — but it also possess a sultry coquettishness.