Category: Indie Synth Pop

Centered around the collaboration between singer/songwriter Gina Leonard and producer and guitarist Tom Freyer, the acclaimed Bristol, UK-based electro pop/trip hop act The Desert can trace their origins to when Freyer had produced some of Leonard’s solo work. And as the story goes, the duo quickly hit upon a formula of Freyer taking the songs that Leonard had initially written with an acoustic guitar and adding layers of electronics and lush, detailed production.

With the release of “Just Get High,” the first single off last year’s debut EP Playing Dead, the act received airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 6 and Radio X. And with the release of further tracks off the EP, the British electro pop/trip hop, the act received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a sound that some have described as being a mix between Little Dragon and Portishead. Building upon a growing profile, the act’s sophomore EP was released last week, and from the EP’s first single “Gone,” the act has revealed a decided evolution of their sound and approach while retaining the cinematic quality that first won them attention; however, the song possessed a desperate, urgent air with a hint of uneasy hope.  The EP’s latest single “Distract Me” is a much more intimate, sensual track centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, plinking, jazz-like piano, Leonard’s achingly plaintive vocals — with synths and electronics added towards the last third. In some way, the EP’s latest track manages to remind me of the film noir-ish tone of Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us.

Lately, the act has been busy working on new material and playing their first batch of live shows across the UK — and for their live shows, Leonard and Freyer have recruited Ryan Rogers (bass) and Jonny Parry (drums, electronics).

 

 

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Live Session: Bells Atlas on Audiotree Live

Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act Bells Atlas. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys)  have received attention for a forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and lush sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the members of the Oakland-based act has opened for the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Released earlier this year, the acclaimed futuristic soul act’s latest EP SALT AND SOAP is inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for their latest EP, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison drumming as the bedrock of each song of the EP — and in turn, their full-length album The Mystic, which is slated for a March 2019 release. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole.

A few weeks ago the members of Bells Atlas were invited to Audiotree Live to do a live session centered around the material of the SALT AND SOAP EP including “Downpour,” a paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lush and lysergic groove-driven track that recalled Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu; “Be Brave,” a sinuous and fluidic track centered around an incredibly dexterous and percolating bass line, driving percussion and rapidly morphing tone and time changes; the incredibly sultry “NCAT,” centered around shimmering and bubbling arpeggiated synths, stuttering drumming and a rolling bass, as well as two other tracks I haven’t written about — “Overshare” and “Find Where You Rise.” Throughout the live session, the material proves to be a perfect foil for Lawson-Ndu’s vocals, which manage to express a visceral vulnerability and human need, awe, strength and resiliency within a turn of a phrase.

Interestingly, during the session the band’s Lawson-Ndu speaks about her own deep, personal experience and love of sci-fi and fantasy and how they’ve influenced her to consider those genres through the experiences of being a woman of color.

Live Footage: Charlotte Lawrence Performs “Sleep Talking” on Vevo DSCVR

Charlotte Lawrence is an up-and-coming, 18 year-old, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and model who quickly rose to national prominence with the release of her debut single last year, which amassed over 16 million streams. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Lawrence released her debut EP Young which she followed up with a tour with Lauv, viral hit collaborations with Nina Nesbitt and Sasha Sloan.

Now, as you may recall Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Vevo has a lengthy history of promoting emerging artists and helping them break through to new and wider audiences; in fact, past alumni of the Vevo DSCVR series has included Jack Garratt,James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. This past year has seen Vevo DSCVR inviting up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish, Bülow and Donna Missal — and continuing with a big year, they recently invited Charlotte Lawrence, who performed “Sleep Talking,” a mid-tempo pop song in which its narrator discovers that her lover has been messing around on her — by talking in his sleep. At the core of the song is a bitter sense of heartache and betrayal, wrapped around a slick and infectious hook. 

New Video: Perth Australia’s Methyl Ethel Releases Their Most Pop-Leaning and Accessible Track to Date

Jake Webb is a Perth, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for his acclaimed solo recording project Methyl Ethel, which features backing touring bandmembers Thom Stewart, Chris Wright, Lyndon Blue and Jacob Diamond.  Over the past few years Webb has seen tremendous commercial and critical success. “Ubu,” became an ARIA Accredited Gold single earlier this year, after landing at #4 on Triple J’s 2017 Hottest 100. They’ve amassed over 25 million Spotify streams — and all of their tour dates across Australia and the UK have been sold out since 2016. Although Webb and company have achieved such success in a relatively short period of time, the project began as a personal challenge as Webb explains in press notes.  “I wanted to see if I could write, record and release some music before the band I was in at the time finished doing the same. I did and subsequently withdrew from some close friends. Relationships were severed. I severed some even closer ones. This was all played out in such a public away, as it invariably does, so I withdrew more. My first album Oh Inhuman Spectacle became the ‘why me?/fuck you/sorry’ album that I wrote as a confused coping mechanism. It helped and I enjoyed it. I continued the introspective journaling with the follow-up, Everything is Forgotten. For me, that album said ‘who cares? all your emotions are irrational and meaningless anyway.’ 

“This year, I found myself in the same city, alone in a room tasked with writing an album to be heard, not as an outlet for personal grievances. I decided to find closure with Triage. The question this time around is ‘what is important? What requires attention?’ I think It’s about living with secrets. Secrets cause the problems. They call them white lies, little things used to manipulate people for the greater good. It’s a triage of truths to maintain an artifice. A poem by T.S Elliot that I referenced on the first EP I recorded says it best:

“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”

Everyone is older, people have moved on. I receive text messages from old friends looking to reconnect. I have a masochistic social complex in so far as I enjoy the company of others, but self-imposed solitude and exile are exciting and useful to me. Its like method acting, which isn’t too far removed from the emotional memory I see people drawing upon every day. I challenge the idea of friendship and trust. I think because I am untrustworthy. At least I’m honest about that.” As a result, Webb’s forthcoming, third full-length album Triage which is slated for a February 15, 2019 release through 4AD Records — and the album, which comes after his 30th birthday, is reportedly a much more reflective album, thematically focusing on time and its passing, of getting older and only sometimes becoming more mature, of the lies we have to keep to keep on getting by and so on.

“Real Tight,” Triage’s latest single is a bit of a departure from Webb’s previously released work as it’s arguably the most pop-leaning and the most emotionally-direct he’s ever written, thanks to swelling and soaring hooks, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, chiming reverb-heavy guitars and a propulsive groove and while nodding at 80s pop like Prince and others, the song’s narrator finds himself making an urgent and desperate plea to someone he cherishes; but emotionally, the song is jumble of guilt, devotion, fear and uncertainty.

Directed by Matt Sav, the recently released video riffs a bit off the video for Janet Jackson’s “The Pleasure Principle,” as a boom box carrying Webb walks into an empty studio to sing and dance along to the music he decides to play but it’s interspersed with psychedelic visuals that emphasize the song’s ambivalence and plaintive need.

Splitting their time between Stockholm, Sweden and Olso, Norway, the acclaimed dream pop trio Postiljonen, featuring Norwegian-born Mia Brox Bøe and Swedish-born Daniel Sjörs and Joel Nostrum Holm quickly received national and international with the release of 2013’s full-length debut Skyer; in fact, the album was nominated for Best Pop album in the prestigious Swedish Award P3 Guld — and as a result, of the growing buzz surrounding the band, they wound up going on several tours across Sweden, the European Union, Asia and the US with stops on the festival circuit. 2016’s sophomore album Reverie, which was influneced by California winds, Chinese gardens, late Lost in Translation-like nights in Tokyo and Swedish forests received raputous praise with Cocteau Twins‘ and Bella Union Records‘ label head Simon Raymonde nominating “The Open Road” as one of the best songs of that year.

“Chasing Stars,” is the first bit of new material from the acclimed Scandinavian trio — and it’s the first taste from their highly-anticipated third, full-length album, which is currently slated for release sometime next year through Hybris Records. Much like their preceeding efforts, the members of Postilijonen holed themselves in an isolated cabin in the remote Swedish woods. As the members of the band explain in press notes, “When making music for Postiljonen, it has always just been us three locked away in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, really. The whole world of Postiljonen is so personal to us and it is a world that we created between the three of us.” The new single will further cement the Scandinavian trio’s growing reptuation for crafting a swooning and achingly nostalgic take on dream pop while expanding upon the sound that has won them national and international attention. Centered around a breezy yet cinematic, 80s-inspired production featuring arpeggiated and shimmering synths, a motorik-like groove, a jazzy but power chord-based guitar solo, soaring hooks and Brox Bøe’s soaring vocals, the song sonically manages to recall John Parr‘s “St. Elmo’s Fire,” as well as Yumi Zouma‘s and St. Lucia’s euphoric synth pop, complete with a lush studio sheen.

But underneath the studio sheen, the song is a buoyant and feverish day dream. As the band explains in press notes, ‘Chasing Stars’ is about the longing for that someone who you used to be very close to. While the lyrics might come across very heartbreaking – there’s still a sense of underlying hope that someday somewhere you’ll be together again, chasing stars. It’s nostalgic as always. It’s the chasing that is the magic and essence, forget about the reaching. We actually started writing this song three years ago but it couldn’t come at a better time for us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Audio: Up-and-Coming Melbourne Pop Act Huntly Releases a Slick and Glossy Video for Club-Banging Single “Wiggle”

Comprised of Elspeth Scrine, Charlie Teitelbaum and Andrew McEwan, the Melbourne, Australia-based trio Huntly have received attention across their homeland and elsewhere for a minimalist take on electro pop. The trio’s latest single “Wiggle” may arguably be the most dance floor friendly track they’ve released to date as the track is centered around a wobbling bass line, a percussive Afropop-like groove, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and a sinuous hook. Scrine’s sultry lead vocal celebrates  space and freedom, of knowing when its time for a relationship to end while Teitelbuam, acting as a second vocalist offers a murkier, moodier counterpoint to the proceedings. Interestingly enough, the song recalls classic house anthems — with a clean, hyper modern sheen. The trio is working on a full-length debut that’s reportedly slated to be released some time in 2019 and as Scrine says in press notes, “‘Wiggle is the poolside-banger track of the record.” As the story goes, Scrine took an early demo of the song to McEwan, who immediately said “let’s make a luxe banger you could drink an aperol spritz to.”

Scrine adds “Musically, it is a homage to all the incredible women making clean, evocative dance music right now like Yaeji, Tirzah and Smerz. Production-wise, this meant an exercise in absolute minimalism.”  – 

Directed by Gianna Mazzeo and shot by Amy Dellar, the recently released video is a slick, glossy and neon-colored fever dream that immediately brings fashion photo shoots and 90s house music videos to mind. 

I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed New York-based electronic dance music/neo-disco outfit Escort and their indomitable frontwoman and bassist  Adeline Michele throughout the course of this site’s eight-plus year history.  Now, as you may recall, the Escort frontwoman will be releasing her self-titled full-length on Friday, and the album is a bit of a sonic and aesthetic reset button from the full-length that she released a few years ago.  In fact, the album’s first single “Emeralds” was a slinky, 80s Quiet Storm-inspired synth soul that brought Prince to mind, while being centered around a a sinuous bass line and Adeline’s sultry vocals. “Before,” the album’s  Chaka Khan and Rufus‘ “Ain’t Nobody,”  Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy,” and Patrice Rushen‘s “Feels So Real”-like featured shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Adeline’s pop superstar vocals. 

“Hi Life,” the latest single off the Escort frontwoman’s soon-to-be released album is a straightforward yet ecstatic house music banger featuring shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a rousing hook and Adeline Michele’s sultry pop superstar vocals. Sonically, the song brings Inner City’s house music classic “Good Life” and Larry Levan to mind but with a modern sheen.

 

 

Perhaps best known as a member of heralded electronic act Sandwell District and the head of underground electronic music label Jealous God, Juan Mendez is an renowned Los Angeles-based electronic music producer, DJ and art director, known for aggressively pushing techno’s sound and aesthetic forward at least twice in his career, with his solo recording project Silent Servant; in fact, Mendez’s solo debut Negative Fascination is largely considered a game-changing modern classic.

Slated for a December 7, 2018 release through Hospital Productions, Mendez’s Silent Servant forthcoming sophomore effort Shadows of Death and Desire reportedly finds Mendez’s sound evolving towards a much more raw, aggressive and abrasive sound; in fact, album single “Damage” walks a careful tightrope between the chilly atmospherics of John Carpenter soundtracks and the tense, harrowing, industrial clang and clatter of Blanck Mass, as the track is centered around layers of arpeggiated synths and thumping beats, but while being dance floor friendly.

 

 

New Audio: Alpines Chilly Yet Urgent Call to Action on the Environment

Comprised of Bob Matthews (guitar, production) and Catherine Pockson (vocals, piano), the London-based electro pop duo Alpines formed in 2010 and since their formation they’ve quickly built up a national and international profile as they opened for the likes of  The Naked and The Famous, Emeli Sande and Florence and the Machine — eventually signing to a major label. Once their stint within the major label system ended, instead of being overwhelmed by a sense of bitter resignation, they self-released their first two, critically applauded full-length albums 2014’s Oasis and 2016’s Another River. 

The duo’s soon-to-be-released third, full-length album Full Bloom is slated for a November 16, 2018 release through Untrue Records and the album reportedly channels some of the duo’s core influences — in particular, Prince, Aaliyah, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Kelela, 90s rave culture and Massive Attack; while lyrically the material touches upon growth, change, ecology, the every day challenges of love, acceptance and hardship. And as a result, the material finds the duo examining the inner and outer complexities of modern life, and our insecurities and vulnerabilities in a a profound mature fashion. Initially, the material was built around a basic piano idea, that they expanded upon within their Kingston-Upon-Thames studio. As the duo says, “There are tracks that lean more towards Catherine’s love of classic singer-songwriters and soul music, and others that are inspired by left-field producers and rap.”  Additionally, the material draw from Netflix’s The OA, the work of architect Rachel Whiteread, contemporary fashion and art, as well. 

The chilly yet soulful, “Full Bloom” is the album’s latest single, and the album title track is centered around Pockson’s soulful, pop belter vocals and a 90s soul meets house music-like production consisting of subtle yet lush layers of arpeggiated synths, twinkling keys, a classic house music breakbeat and a rousingly anthemic hook. And as a result, the song sonically brings Snap!’s “Rhythm Is A Dancer,” Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and Soul 2 Soul’s “Get A Life” among others. Lyrically, the song focuses on the fact that while things may seem difficult, that right now is the time to get it together, and save the Earth because time is a-wasiting; if we don’t, we’re all done for.  “The title is in reference to the beauty of the natural world which is so fragile,” Alpine’s Catherine Pockson explains in press notes, “as well as a nod to what we feel we have achieved musically,” after several years of graft and struggle. The song is inspired by a recently UN Climate Change report that said we have maybe a good decade or so before we irrevocably alter the environment — for the worse. “The song is about the climate crisis, our love of the earth, and how time is really running out,” states Catherine Pockson, “The refrain ‘everything has to change” is both a plea for definitive action, and a wake-up call to those who have yet to accept the reality. If we don’t completely change our way of life within the next few years, the damage to the natural world will be irreversible – some of it already is.”