Montreal-based singer/songwriter and musician Hélène Barbier has developed a reputation for crafting off-kilter yet beautiful pop centered around imbalance through juxtaposition: four simple notes become evocative alongside four disorienting, different notes — and that simplistic rule has become a basis for complex material.
The Montreal-based musician then recruits musicians who are willing to break from tired chords, worn fills and needless flourish — expertise aside. Barbier switches between English and French atop aggressively uncomplicated yet avant-garde pop melodies, while keeping pretension and contrived professionalism far away.
Deriving its name from the brightest stars, seen in the constellation Leo, Barbier’s sophomore album Regulus was released earlier this year. For the Regulus sessions, Barbier brought together dissident players and ideas high and low to create space pop that’s equally unnerving and comforting.
“Lightly,” Regulus‘ latest single is a woozy and mischievous pop song centered around layers of droning guitars, wobbling and shimmering synths, a steady but propulsive backbeat and Barbier’s seemingly detached vocals paired with a razor sharp hook. Sonically, “Lightly” sounds as though it could have been released in the distant future — perhaps the year 3578 — but with a contemporary irony.
Barbier explains that the song is about letting go of things you can’t control. The childlike, animated visual by Gart Darley follows a girl and a sun-like star flying across the world, past oceans, cities, enormous mountain ranges and the like. “Home movies meets Super Mario World in this high-flying video,” Darley says.
Haya The Hellcat is a Nancy, France-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who writes and records out of a basement studio of an artists’ house called AXLV — All Exclusive. The Nancy-based artist grew up spitting his time between Reunion Island and France, where he studied music and began writing instrumentals when he turned 14. When he turned 26, the emerging French singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist began writing his own lyrics — and recording material singing his own lyrics.
The Nancy- based artist’s debut EP Quarante-Six Kilomètres Dans Les Sable was released earlier this month, and the EP touches upon several themes including travel, emotions and others. The EP’s latest single “Histoire De Se Revoir” is a decidedly post-punk influenced tune centered around a punchy and propulsive bass line, shimmering guitars, plaintive vocals and a razor sharp hook. Interestingly, the song sees the French artist deftly balancing wistful nostalgia with a breezy, radio friendly accessibility.
The recently released, gorgeously shot black and white visual for “Histoire De Se Revoir” follows Haya The Hellcat through Paris — sometimes forward, sometimes backward.
Colatura — Jennica (bass, vocals), Digo (guitar, vocals) and Meredith (guitar, synth, vocals) is a rising Brooklyn-based indie trio that features multiple lead singers while establishing a sound that’s sometimes dreamy and sometimes heavy, centered around pop-leaning melodies and post-punk atmospherics. And as a result, some critics have described them as “Fleetwood Mac with shoegaze guitars.”
With the release of 2018’s debut EP Spring Drew Blood and a handful of singles last year, including “I Don’t Belong Here,” the Brooklyn-based indie outfit have begun to build up some buzz: They’ve been featured by The Deli and Oh My Rockness, and they’ve received breathless praise from Full Time Aesthetic, who covered a recent live show and wrote “the easiest way to describe Colatura is they’re like sunshine streaming out of an amplifier with its volume set at nine.” Adding to a growing profile locally, Colatura has played sets at Rough Trade, Baby’s All Right, Mercury Lounge and Elsewhere as well as house parties and DIY Brooklyn venues.
The Brooklyn-based trio’s full-length debut is slated for release next year. The album features lovingly crafted material that began to take shape as the trio passed demos back-and-forth to each other last year. The album’s creative process culminated in an upstate New York writing retreat before recording sessions across the Hudson Valley, Connecticut and the band’s own Manhattan-based Tessatura Studio.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, the Brooklyn-based trio have released two singles — “King Kalm,” and “The Met.” The album’s third and latest single, the slow-burning and subtly brooding “We Run On Empty” features Jennica and Meredith’s delicately interwoven vocals paired with a lushly textured soundscape consisting of jangling and reverb-drenched guitars, glistening synth arpeggios and a steady yet propulsive rhythm section. Sonically, “We Run On Empty” — to my ears, at least — will draw comparisons to early Beach House, A Storm in Heaven era The Verve, Alvvays and others while revealing the tiro’s uncanny ability to craft a soaring, memorable hook. Thematically, “We Run On Empty” focuses on the steady, almost imperceptible loss of identity that comes when one finds themselves in a toxic and abusive relationship.
Directed and shot by the band, the hazy, dream-like visual for “We Run On Empty” was filmed at a strikingly old-fashioned Upstate New York Air BNB. “We tried to find the weirdest one we could, and lucked out with one that had amazing and different grandmother-style wallpaper in each room,” Jennica explains. “We also bought a fog machine to add some extra ambiance, which was great until we set off the smoke alarm mid-take.”
Initially known as Johnny Utah, the rising Bay Area-born, Los Angeles-based self-taught bedroom pop producer, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist JAWNY has begun to win over the blogosphere through restless reinvention: Since the release of “Honeypie,” JAWNY has released material, in which at one moment, he might be playing a funky pop banger and in another, a distortion-fueled ripper born of an instinct-driven creative process he describes as “very scatterbrained and manic and all-over-the-place,” that’s equally inspired by Luther Vandross and STRFKR.
Vevo, one of the world’s biggest music video networks recently released their complete list for their DSCVR Artists to Watch 2022 campaign: Vevo received over 500 submissions from a variety of acts across the globe — and Vevo selected 21 of them, who the video network believes will break through into the mainstream. Those 21 acts will film two performances in visually unique settings. Appearing on the Artists to Watch list help the artists and bands on it receive critical exposure and promotion that help propel their careers to the next step: All 21 ATW artists and bands will be marketed and featured on Vevo’s expertly curated music video programming — through playlists and editorial features across Vevo’s network. including YouTube and connected TV platforms like Pluto TV, Samsung TV Plus, and Apple TV. Rapidly rising Isle of Man-based duo Wet Leg was one of those 21 acts selected for Vevo’s DSCVR Artists to Watch 2022 campaign.
The latest artist on that list is the aforementioned Bay Area-born, Los Angeles-based multi-hyphenate artist. And for his live session, JAWNY performs the Local H-like “Take It Back.” Centered around a classic grunge rock song structure — quiet-ish verses, rousingly anthemic, power chord-driven choruses, thunderous drumming, “Take It Back” is a mosh pit friendly ripper, featuring a fed-up, lovelorn narrator tired of being played around. We’ve all been there and the song’s universality will likely lead to countless kids shouting along to the chorus in sweaty mosh pits around the country.
“Since taking the internet by storm with ‘Honeypie,’ JAWNY has held our attention by propelling himself into project after project where in one instance, he may be grooving through a funky pop banger and in another he’s shredding on a distortion-heavy, lovelorn track,” James Mecker, Vevo’s Manger/Music Programming, shares. “It’s hard not to be reminded of Beck’s constant reinventions, this time through the voice of a 25-year-old who has experienced global events and personal heartbreak in the span of two tumultuous years. With his first tour since the pandemic currently underway, we’re excited to watch the next chapter of the artist formerly known as Johnny Utah get written in front of our very own eyes.”
Rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter Oliver James Brooks can trace the origins of his music career to fiddling with his father’s old acoustic guitar while growing up in a small Ontario town. About five years ago, Brooks began turning those early fiddlings into fleshed out songs. And since then, the Canadian singer/songwriter and musician has begun to build a national profile: He has received airplay on CBC and has been compared to Kurt Vile and Elliott Smith by Divide & Conquer and Gordon Lightfoot by XS Noize. He has also played at IndieWeek back in 2019.
Brooks’ recently released third album Storm Chasing was recored on an old Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, at Gavin Gardiner’s All Day Coconut Studios with the exception of some overdubs here and there. Written over the course of the past five years, some of Storm Chasing‘s material was written while Brooks lived in Brooklyn. The album thematically and lyrically touches on childhood memories, sadness, love and optimism among others.
In the lead up to the album’s release last week, three of its singles were released to critical applause from Americana UK, Indie88 and The Young Folks. The album’s fourth and latest single, the breakneck shuffle “Ya Ya No” is centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a steady backbeat, Brooks easy-going vocals and an infectious hook within a song that sonically brings Tom Petty and JOVM mainstay Steve Wynn to mind.
If you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you may recall that Carbone and her band were scheduled to go into the studio last May to record what would be he highly-anticipated third album. But unfortunately, as a result of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, Carbone’s plans were indefinitely shelved, much like countless other artists and bands across the world at the time.
Inspired by the lockdowns, Carbone and her band came up with an idea: “What if Rockpalast would let us release that show as a live album?” Taken from her October 2019 Rockpalast set at Harmonie Bonn, the Laura Carbone — Live at Rockpalast is a career-spanning set featuring material from her first two albums.
I had written about three of the live singles:
“Who’s Gonna Save You,” which found Carbone and her band deftly balancing menace and sultriness, while introducing a rock goddess, you need to know — right now.
“Cellophane Skin” which found Carbone and company taking the tension of the original and informing with a feral intensity developed while touring. And as a result, the song finds its narrator — and perhaps, even the artist herself — turning into a seductive, yet vengeful force of nature tearing down the bonds of poisonous social norms that have imprisoned her, while demanding that we — men particularly so — examine ourselves.
“Nightride,” a slow-burning and brooding bit of psychedelia-tinged post punk that sonically and lyrically nods at The Doors “The End” as though covered by PJ Harvey.
Each video from the live session continued Carbone’s ongoing visual collaboration wit Olya Dyer — but the visual for “Nightride” also featured The Underground Youth‘s Carig Dyer as a dark and handsome stranger, who picks up Carbone.
Carbone and The Underground Youth have collaborated on the recently released In Dreams EP, an effort that sees them tackling four Roy Orbison songs, which chart the age-old and universal narrative of falling in and out o love, and the deep yearning for romance and connection we all feel — even if we don’t want to always admit it. (As a personal note, I fucking love Roy Orbison.)
The In Dreams EP shines with its bittersweet blend of a reserved musical background that leaves space for Craig’s earthy voice and Laura’s soaring, ethereal vocals to connect, embrace and unravel again. Centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements, the EP’s material is roomy enough for Craig Dyer’s earthy baritone and Carbone’s yearning and ethereal vocals to seemingly connect, embrace and unravel throughout.
In Dreams‘ latest single “Crying” finds Dyer and Carbone slowing the tempo down and stripping the song down to its barest elements — shimmering guitar. Dyer’s baritone and Carbone’s achingly tender vocals. Turning the song into a duet, subtly changes the song into a conversation between a couple, who both realize — with some aching bitterness — that their relationship has come to an end, and that there’s nothing much they could do to resolve it. At some point, all of us have been there, and the song’s universality and familiarity is what makes it powerfully transcendent.
With the release of Out in the Dark, the Israeli-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay MAGON quickly established a sound that he has publicly dubbed “urban rock on psychedelics.” Sonically, to my ears, the material seemed indebted to Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie and T. Rex.
Late last year, the Israeli-born, Paris-based artist released his critically applauded sophomore album Hour After Hour. Featuring tracks like “Change,” a dreamy meditation on the passing of time, “Aerodynamic,” a decidedly glam rock-inspired take on psych rock and the No Wave meets post-punk like album title track “Hour After Hour,” MAGON’s sophomore album was a decided change in direction with the album’s material being “somewhere between Ty Segall, Allah-Las and The Velvet Underground” according to MAGON.
MAGON’s third album In The Blue is slated for a December 3, 2021 release through Howlin’ Banana and December Square. The soon-to-be released album reportedly finds the Israeli-born, French-based mainstay drawing from two different sets of influences — 70s rock Lou Reed and Led Zeppelin and contemporary influences like Mac DeMarco and Devendra Banhart, while being centered around some of the most introspective songwriting of MAGON’s career to date.
Last month, I wrote about In The Blue single “The Willow.” Continuing a remarkable run of 70s rock inspired material paired with introspective songwriting: The song follows its characters on a trip to Egypt, where the narrator sees the titular willow. But the trip also serves as a larger metaphor for its characters, who are desperately trying to find something — themselves? some deeper, hidden truth?
In The Blue‘s latest single “Egyptian Music” is a slow-burning vibey ballad of sorts, centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars paired with impressionistic yet introspective songwriting — with the song equally evoking nostalgia and regret.
Directed by MAGON, the recently released video is split between gorgeously shot black and white live action sequences with cinematography by Justine Mangin animation and set design by Michael Mîndru.