Category: indie R&B

Freja Kirk is a young, up-and-coming Danish singer/songwriter and pop artist, who grew up in a musical home — her father, was a pianist at The Royal Theatre, and as a result, Kirk was exposed to an eclectic array of genres at a young age. After his death, the young, up-and-coming Danish artist felt an urge to make her own music — music that translated her pain and heartache into intimate narratives. Having struggled with her own sexuality and identity, Kirk believes that she’s now in a place, where she can bring this narrative — and in turn, that aspect of her own life — to the forefront of her music. “Thing is, I really need people to see me as a man. And it really makes it complicated to be me sometimes because I don’t want to BE a man, but I want people to see me as one. I don’t feel the need to fit into that ‘girl box’. I don’t understand why it’s harder to live like that, but it is,” Kirk says in press notes.

Kirk’s debut single “Fine Things” is an incredibly self-assured sensual celebration of queer love, centered around a sparse and hyper contemporary production featuring hi-hat led percussion, a sinuous bass line, twinkling and wobbling synths paired with Kirk’s breathy and sultry cooing to create a song that sounds heavily indebted to 90s R&B — in particular, Aaliyah and SWV immediately come to mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Ron Gallo Looks Into Himself — With Weird Results in Visuals for “Do You Love Your Company? “

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve written a quite a bit about Ron Gallo, a  Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and JOVM mainstay, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman of the Philadelphia-based indie act Toy Soldiers. Now, as you recall Gallo was in a long-term romantic relationship with a deeply trouble woman — and once that relationship ended, Gallo relocated to Nashville, where he wrote and recorded material that eventually became his acclaimed 2016 full-length debut HEAVY META. Thematically, the album touched upon a number of themes within his own life, including his own personal ideology of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, self-empowerment, domestication, dead and unhappy love, not truly knowing yourself and the things that could happen to you when you don’t, mental illness from the perspective of both sufferer and close observer, and a burning, misanthropic frustration with humanity and civilization. And yet, there was some level of optimism — that music can wake someone up and get them to change what they were doing. As Gallo said in press notes at the time, “this record comes from my frustration with humanity and myself, and from my wanting to shake us all. At my core, I’m compassionate for humanity and the sickness that we all live with, and from that comes something more constructive.”

HEAVY META’s follow-up Really Nice Guys EP was released earlier this year, and the EP was a concept EP largely inspired by the previous year in Gallo’s life in which he was busy touring and promoting his full-length debut — and the EP’s material wound up being a satirical sendup of the contemporary music industry with the EP featuring songs about rough mixes, broken into three parts — iPhone demo, live band demo and overproduced, autotuned, overproduced to death studio recording; the painfully weird inability for those within the music industry to honestly admit that someone is just an awful musician, so everyone winds up saying “well, they’re really nice guys . . . ,” the number of friends, who will ask to be put on the guestlist so that you can never actually make any money off a show, and more.

Gallo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Stardust Birthday Party is slated for an October 5, 2018 release and the material is inspired by a life-altering, seismic shift in Gallo’s life. Remember the woman who inspired much of the material on Gallo’s critically applauded debut? Well, as the story goes, she had taken a trip to South America, found a healer and miraculously got herself and her life together. Understandably, when Gallo heard the news, his interest was piqued, and he began reading and searching fora  more inward path for his own mental and spiritual development.  Earlier this year, on a whim, the Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist booked a trip to California for a silent meditation retreat. Despite his initial discomfort, Gallo reportedly experienced a profound experience that quickly became the answer for his existential searching — and the thematic core of the album: how inner transformation impacts both the outside world and your perception of it.

Or, as Ron Gallo says in a lengthy written statement about the album:

“Stardust Birthday Party is about human evolution. Specifically, one human’s evolution: mine, Ron Gallo.  That’s the name my parents gave me. Hi.

At one point, I was a very lost mid-twenties person living in Philadelphia, in a relationship with someone struggling with mental health issues and crippling heroin addiction. I was asleep. I didn’t know how to handle my life. I was also writing songs for HEAVY META – my “frustrated with humanity” album. I laugh about it all now, but at the time it all felt like an absolute nightmare. It was the perfect doorway to look inside the place I’d been avoiding forever: myself.

Stardust Birthday Party is about what is happening underneath all of this life stuff. My path inward. The details of my path are pointless because everyone’s path is different. It is about me sitting with myself for the first time and confronting the big question “WHAT AM I, REALLY?” It’s about the love and compassion for all things that enters when you find out you are nothing and everything. I think at one point I wanted to change the world, but now I know I can only change myself, or rather just strip away everything that is not me to reveal the only thing that’s ever been there. And that’s what this album is about, it’s me dancing while destroying the person I thought I was, and hopefully forever.

In the liner notes of John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme (which we pay tribute to on this album) he wrote: ‘During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.’

That’s it.  That is the pure essence of creativity. Someone embodying what they have realized about themselves and the world that surrounds them. That is why this album exists. ”

Stardust Birthday Party’s first single “It’s All Gonna Be Okay,” was an angular ripper centered around two disparate things — the first a relishing of life’s ironies with a bemused yet accepting smile that points out that there’s a larger connection to everyone and everything; and that the only way we can actually change the world is if every individual on this planet began to take a serious and sobering look at their own fucked up shit and then do the opposite. Until then, we’re speeding our way down to hell with explosives and lit matches in the backseat.

The album’s second single “Always Elsewhere” continues in a similar vein of its predecessor, an angular and furious ripper that evokes our age of perpetual and unending fear and anxiety that has most of us running around like the White Rabbit, looking at our watches in panic and saying “There’s not enough time! There’s not enough time!” As Gallo says in press notes, “Most of the time we perceive the world, ourselves and others as ideas we have about them rather than what they really are. All our fear and anxiety stems from speculation about what COULD happen, not what is actually happening here and now. I’ve done this most of my life and still do, and the best way I’ve found is to become aware that you are not being aware or present, and suddenly you become present, that’s what this song is for — a frantic representation of modern life and our inability to live in the moment.”

“Do You Love Your Company,” Stardust Birthday Party’s third and latest single is a tense and anxious New Wave and post-punk take on garage rock, centered around angular blasts of guitar, a steady backbeat and an enormous, shout-worthy hook but underneath the rousingly anthemic nature of the song is something much deeper, more urgent — the very modern anxiousness and uncertainty that comes about whenever we’re left to ourselves. As Gallo says the song is “about self-inquiry. I think a lot of people struggle with being truly alone or fear silence because it forces them to look inward, but ultimately, i think it’s one of the most important things we can do to understand ourselves and others.”

Directed by Horatio Baltz, the recently released video for “Do You Like Your Company” is a companion piece to the video for its predecessor, beginning where the “Always Elsewhere” video left off — with Gallo opening the box labeled “SELF,” that he had been carrying throughout the video. Interestingly, the video captures a fractured and damaged psyche, plagued with an all too familiar self-loathing, uncertainty and boredom. 

Biig Piig is an up-coming 20 year-old, London-based pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life in a wide array of cultures as she was born in Spain, moved to Ireland, where she spent several years before finally settling in London, where she eventually joined the Nine8 Collective, a London-based crew of 27 creatives, who collaborate and support each other through a number of different artistic disciplines. As a solo artist, the British-based singer/songwriter has received attention for material that assimilates the sort of life experiences — she once worked as a poker dealer and as a tequila bar waitress — that gives her work an intriguing blend of maturity and youthful naivete. In fact, her stage name reportedly came about after drunkenly reading the name off a pizza menu and relating it to a sense of self-acceptance. “The more I called myself it, the more it made sense. I’m just a mess really. Still cute tho,” the up-and-coming London-based artist jokes in press notes.

Biig Piig’s latest single, the Dylantheinfamous-produced “Flirt” is the first official single from her forthcoming debut EP, Big Fan Of The Sesh, and it features the up-and-coming pop artist’s coquettish and jazz-inflected vocals over a dusty, soulful yet minimalist J. Dilla, Madlib-like production consisting of twinkling keys and boom bap beats but underneath the surface is a song with a narrator, quietly suffering through the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and overthinking that typically happens when you’ve started to like someone but don’t quite know what you want to happen — or if you even want it to happen. And while capturing a fairly universal experience, Biig Pigg gives the song subtle yet detailed bits of realistic and intimate psychological detail that makes it seem as though the song was inspired by her own experiences. Interestingly, the EP is conceived as the first of a trilogy of audio-visual stories mixing the deeply personal with the universal, centered around a main character, a young woman named Fran — and the material generally focuses on that first doomed, major relationship, losing yourself in city life but somehow managing to come out o the other side.  “I’d hope,” says Biig Piig, “that anyone that feels they’re in a situation like that would find some solidarity in some of the tracks; understanding that you don’t owe anyone anything, and if you’re in a cycle that makes you unhappy, best believe you can change it compadre.”

 

 

 

New Video: Lion Babe’s Glamorous and Sultry Ode to Ballroom Culture

With the release of their full-length debut Begin, which featured guest spots from Pharrell Williams and Childish Gambino and album singles “Treat Me Like Fire” and “Jump Hi,” and the Sun Joint Mixtape the New York-based electro pop/neo-soul duo Lion Babe, comprised of Jillian Hervey (vocals) and Lucas “Astro Raw” Goodman (production), quickly established themselves for a swaggering and contemporary house music take on neo-soul.

“Rockets,” the duo’s latest single, a collaboration with Moe Moks will further cement the duo’s reputation for their swaggering take on neo-soul as the song features a minimalist production consisting of a sinuous yet jazz-like bass line, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, twinkling vibraphone and a ridiculous infectious hook that has the duo’s sound nodding at Erykah Badu and Jill Scott — but with a subtle, cosmic glow. As the duo told Noisey, the song is about creating “good times in a crazy world.” Certainly, when everything seems to be completely falling to shit, you have to find a way to make the best of things.

Directed by Chalalai Fischbach and Jett Cain, the recently released video for “Rockets” is an ode to classic ballroom culture that effortlessly meshes grit, glamour and sultry seductiveness in a way that nods at the 20s and house music, as everyone has elaborate costumes; however, the video’s last two and a half minutes or so showcases Hervey’s and Goodman’s own creative direction as it features a sparkly dance routine over DJ Moma and Guy Furious’ uptempo remix of the original song. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Singer/Songwriter Malia Releases Ode to Enjoying Life’s Simple Things

Malia is a up-and-coming Seattle, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who at a young age was drawn to music. Although she was extremely shy, she loved to signing and always participated in choir while in school; but because she frequently suffered from crippling insecurity and self-doubt, she initially didn’t pursue her lifelong passion. “For some reason I didn’t allow myself to dream musically, I always told myself that being a singer was too far-fetched and I wasn’t good enough anyway,” the Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter explains.

Putting her passion aside, Malia upon graduation from high school, decided to move to California, where she attended college and ultimately graduate with honors, obtaining a BA in Political Science. “I just went through the motions, I never did anything with music throughout those years, I just told myself I would continue on through the education system.” As the story goes, several years later, while working and enduring through several short-term, unfitting and unfulfilling jobs, she found herself in an existential crisis, in which she realized that everything in her life had to change.

“That’s when I sat down and had the first, honest conversation I’d had with myself in years. I asked myself ‘What makes you truly happy, fears aside?’ . . . and I knew that answer was and always had been music. I had been running from my happiness for years, in fear of what people may say, reaffirming on the regular that my musical skills were not good enough to make it,” Malia recalls. And from that point on, she started to focus on pursuing music. She bought out guitar and taught herself how to play.  “I sought out people to jam with and learn from, and fell into a very fitting situation hanging out at a studio in Hollywood. Every day, I worked on my guitar skills and eventually began to play some small shows. I was able to record my first EP at the studio with the help of friends.”
 
After a West Coast tour with Syd, Malia decided to surprise fans with the early release of the Late Bloomer EP, which features singles “Simple Things” and “Dirty Laundry,” a collaboration with her recent tourmate Syd.  Reportedly, the EP reveals an artist with a newfound confidence and self-assuredness, and from the aforementioned EP single “Simple Things,” Malia specializes in an easy-going, thoughtfully crafted soul that simultaneously nods at Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others while being an ode to slowing down, taking a breath and enjoying the simple things in life and with others. But interestingly enough, the song also suggests that by simplifying one’s life that it leads to a deeper sincerity and happiness in one’s life and relationships; after all, modern life can be complicated enough. 
 
Co-directed by Mali and Quentin Lamont and shot and edited by Dana Rice, the recently released video for the song captures the easygoing, summer afternoon vibe of the song while featuring the young artist hanging out, writing and goofing off — with an enormous, endearing smile. 

Whitney McClain is an up-and-coming, Oregon-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who grew up in a deeply musical family — her uncle, Marlon McClain was a founding member and guitarist in Oregon-based funk, soul and R&B group Pleasure, an act that landed a Top 10 hit win 1979 with “Glide;” in fact, the young, up-and-coming artist credits her uncle with inspiring, encoring and guiding her to go from performing in front of family and friends to writing, recording material that would be performed in front of larger crowds.

Her Mauli B. written and produced debut single, “Bombs Away” was released when she had turned 21, and the single as McCalin explains “sounded like some of the late night talks I have with my girlfriends,” as the song focuses on falling in and out of love, and trying to figure out how to pick the right lover — something that we’ve all experienced at some point or another. “Bombs Away” quickly racked up over 1 million YouTube views and building upon a growing profile, she released her debut EP, Nothing To Lose, which had three singles that also received over 1 million views and an Independent Music Awards nomination for Urban EP of the Year.

McClain’s latest single “Cruise,” which was co-written with Marlon McClain, Davi Jordan and Ralph Stacy, features an incredibly sultry and self-assured vocal turn over a soulful and swaggering production consisting of boom bap drums, punctuated yet sinuous guitar and bass lines and warm blasts of soulful horn, and while being rooted around a contemporary hook-laden production, the song nods at  What’s the 411?-era Mary J. Blige.

As McClain explains in press notes, “I wanted to create a record that pushed positivity and hope that, no matter how bad it might seem, we can always work through it if we love one another. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light. Later, it developed into a love song, but I still think it holds true to the original message.”

BLVK IRIS is an up-and-coming Danish electronic music artist and electronic producer and his debut single single “Put It On” is a sultry, slow-urning, Quiet Storm-inspired pop song featuring a sinuous bass line, shimmering and wobbling synths, an anthemic hook and the warm, interwoven male and female vocals of New York-based vocalists Janelle Kroll and Jeuru. And while being an incredibly sensual song with both vocalists expressing a yearning and urgent sexual desire and longing, the slickly produced, swaggering song also nods at 90s R&B and contemporary R&B simultaneously.

Wallace Gollan is a Wellington, New Zealand-born, Sydney, Australia-based singer/songwriter, who performs under the mononymic stage name Wallace, and she has received attention across New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere for her jazz-influenced, soulful vocals — and for an overall sound that effortlessly meshes jazz, soul, neo-soul, the blues and hip-hop. And unsurprisingly, she’s been compared by some to the likes of Erykah Badu, Little Dragon and Carmen McRae. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you may recall that I wrote about Gollan’s collaboration with Sydney-based emcee and poet  Sampa The Great “Beauty,” which paired Gollan’s expressive vocals singing a positive message of how we all have the power to transform our lives for the better with a skittering, off-kilter production featuring jazz and hip-hop-inspired beats, twinkling keys and a shuffling bass line.

“Diaspora,” the Wellington-born, Sydney-based singer/songwriter’s first single of 2017 is a collaboration with the Sydney-based, Nigerian-Australian producer and vocalist Crooked Letter and interestingly the single is inspired by Gollan’s own experience of being part of a Diaspora as her Dundee, Scotland-born father had moved to Wellington as a child — and the single features Gollan’s brash and almost coquettish jazz phrasing paired with a production based around a looping Nigerian funk sample, stuttering polyrhythm and chopped up yet ethereal samples of Gollan’s own father appearing briefly within the track.  As Gollan explains in press notes about her latest single and her collaboration with Crooked Letter, “I wanted to highlight the connection that we both feel towards places where we didn’t grow up. We bonded over the idea that looking back at our roots gave us a sense of affirmation and appreciation for what makes us who we are.” And as a result, the song possesses a profound sense of gratitude and connection to something far older than where you may currently call home.

 

Featuring brothers Alix, Miles and Reece Melendrez and schoolmate Matt Mumician, Decorator  is an up-and-coming Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock/indie soul quartet, who publicly claim a rather wide and diverse array of influences that include the music the Melenderez Brothers heard quite a deal of while growing up — Jimi Hendrix, The Isley Brothers, Bob Marley and contemporary acts like Lauryn Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Gorillaz and others. And interestingly enough, the project which attribute their name from a famous Frank Zappa quote “without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production headlines or dates by which bills must be paid” can trace their origins to when the Melendrez Brothers taught themselves how to play covers of the songs they heard so much growing up. As high schoolers, the Melendrez Brothers began writing their own music — and their folks drove them to school night gigs in which they played in bars they weren’t even be allowed in without their gear.

 

Wanting to master their instruments and to do their own thing, the Melendrez Brothers enrolled themselves at Silverlake Conservatory of Music, founded by Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Flea, where they met and befriended fellow student Mumician and started writing music together. However, it took several years before the band took their music out of garage rehearsals and house parties and were able to concentrate on their music full-time, as the band’s youngest member, Reece Melendrez honored his promise to his folks to graduate from high school before making music a full-time effort.

With the release of their 2014 self-released debut EP Transit, the band quickly received a growing local profile and fanbase, including their first headlining set at the renowned Troubadour, thanks in part to a sound that draws equally from classic soul, indie rock, contemporary pop and neo soul — and in a way that manages to be uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole. The Los Angeles-based quartet’s latest single sonically speaking seems to owe an equal debt to Tame Impala‘s Currents, the Cascine Records roster, Neon Indian and 80s synth soul as the quartet pairs shimmering and undulating synths with a sinuous groove, an infectious hook and Miles Melendez’s sultry falsetto.  Lyrically, the song’s vulnerable narrator admits to be run around in circles by an unrequited and cruel love interest, with whom he feels desperately and inexplicably pulled towards — and as much as he wants to pull away, to move forward with his life, he feels trapped in a vicious and unfulfilling circle. Certainly, what’s remarkable to me about this band is the fact that their material manages to possess a maturity and self-assuredness that belies their youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up-and-coming, Los Angeles, CA-based producers Mike B. and Mike Nana have quickly developed a reputation as one of their hometown’s go-to production units as they’ve collaborated with the likes of Terrace Martin, Jay 305, Kembe X and Anderson .Paak; however, the duo known as MIKNNA will be releasing their debut EP 50/50 (All Seasons) and from the EP’s second single “Trinity Ave,” will also establish the duo as one of the their hometown’s hottest artists as the single consists of tribal-like percussion, swirling electronics, stuttering 808s, trembling synths, bursts of Nile Rodgers and Prince-inspired guitar playing in a strutting and swaggering song that manages to be soulful, sensual and incredibly contemporary.