Category: New Audio

Marika Wittmar is an emerging Swedish singer/songwriter, whose work is inspired by folk, world music, blues jazz, 70s prog rock and Buddhist meditation and female mythology. Her debut EP, Underneath Your Arms was recorded at Gothenburg-based Grammofonstudion earlier this year and the effort, which was reportedly inspired by Wittmar’s life, nature and folklore.

The EP’s latest single is the atmospheric and brooding “Ghosts.” Centered around twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitar lines, a soaring hook and Wittmar’s gorgeous vocals, the track possess a mesmerizing quality reminiscent of Kate BushTales of Us-era Goldfrapp, Melanie De Biasio and Portishead.

 

 

 

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November will be a rather busy month: I was just in Syracuse for a wedding — and in 10 days I’ll be in Montreal for the M for Montreal Festival. So I’ll be doing the best I can while on the road with posts. But in the meantime, let’s get back to the work at hand: Kyshona Armstrong is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, who writes and records under the mononym Kyshona. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her musical career to her day job as a music therapist. Initially writing some of her first songs with her patients — the students and inmates under her care, Armstrong felt the need to write independently and find her own creative voice. This endeavor led her to Nashville’s songwriting scene — and since then, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter has learned how to balance her music career with her passion to heal the hurting.

The Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s latest album, the Andrija Tokic-produced Listen is slated for a February 28, 2020 release. Recorded at Tokic’s studio, The Bomb ShelterListen finds Armstrong pairing a sound that effortlessly meshes roots, country soul, country, soul, roots music, rock, R&B and folk with lyrics specifically meant to do two things: uplift the marginalized and to bring awareness of the plight of the marginalized to the masses.

Co-written with her brother Kelvin Armstrong, Listen‘s latest single “Fear” is a strutting, swampy and slow-burning  12 bar blues centered around Armstrong’s effortlessly soulful, powerhouse vocals, twinkling keys, strummed acoustic guitar, blasts of shimmering slide guitar and an enormous hook — and while being both radio friendly and carefully crafted, the song features an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting message.

“Fear is that boogieman that sits quietly in the corner of our minds that can paralyze us the moment confidence enters the picture,” the Nashville-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Rather than listen to that voice that’s telling you why change isn’t possible, call it out. Recognize the fear and move past it. It’s just another wall to be knocked down. We can’t let fear rule our every move. Fear is what has kept us so divided.”

 

 

With the release of her debut Down at the Root, Part 1, the Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  Nana Adjoa began to receive attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s radio-like soulful sound reminiscent of Bill Withers and others. The Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her musical career to  being accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she would study jazz  — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. er/“We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.”

Interestingly, around the same time, the Ghanian singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside of the school environment. Adjoa quickly began to realize that pursing a solo career was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a backing band and started record her original songs (which resulted in Down at the Root, Part 1 and Down at the Root, Part 2).

Several months have passed since I’ve last written about Adjoa — and as it turns out, she’s been busy working on new material that is slated for a release some time over the course of 2020. But in the meantime, Adjoa’s latest single finds her tackling the legendary Ghanian-born and-based singer/songwriter, composer, bandleader, arranger and guitarist Ebo Taylor’s “Love and Death.”

Adjoa’s take on Taylor’s “Love and Death” retains the original’s melody while being centered around an atmospheric and shimmering production and arrangement featuring a sinuous bass line, stuttering beats, twinkling keys, African polyrhythms, shimmering, angular burst of guitar — and most important, Adjoa’s easy-going yet expressive vocals.  Subtly recalling, Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Adjoa’s take on Taylor’s “Love and Death” is imbued with the ache of inconsolable loss, while revealing an artist, who is adventurously pushing her sound in new directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Introducing the Sleek Dance Floor Friendly Sounds of Chicago’s DRAMA

Na’el Shehade is a Chicago-born and-based, Palestinian-American producer and DJ, who inherited an entrepreneurial drive from his late father, who immigrated from Palestine to the States in the 70s to build a better life. Shehade fell in love with DJ culture as a kid and as an adult took up music production and engineering. The Chicago-born and-based producer and DJ’s interest and passion led to a diverse and eclectic array of professional opportunities, including early studio work with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West and music projects for MTV and Bravo. 

Shehade’s collaborator Via Rosa grew up in a rather musical household: her parents played in a reggae band and toured as a family, homeschooling Rosa into her early teens. Although her music listening was limited primarily to oldies, Sade, Brazilian music and Afrobeat, a teenaged Rosa kept poetry journals — and by high school, she started writing songs and making beats. After relocating to Chicago in 2010, Via Roa connected with THEMPeople, a collective at the center of her adopted hometown’s sprawling hip-hop scene. 

Interestingly, the Chicago-based duo’s collaboration together, DRAMA can trace its origins to a chance meeting between them back in 2014. And since its formation, the duo have bootstrapped a subtle yet rapid rise on their own terms, centered around a sound that meshes Shehade’s Chicago house-infused production and Rosa’s soulful delivery, inspired by jazz, hip-hop and Bossa nova while managing to blur the lines between R&B, dance pop, heartbreak and bliss. Along with that, the duo have had a long-held history of a proud and bold DIY ethos, self-releasing several EPs and making multiple tours — on their own terms. 

DRAMA’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Dance Without Me is slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Ghostly International. Thematically, the album’s material reportedly finds the duo recasting romantic tragedy as moonlit self-acceptance while the material pairs  Rosa’s candid lyrics focused on expressionistic narratives about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships with sleek, dance floor friendly production. Instead of wallowing alone in their blues and heartache, the material features characters who sashay and strut, knowing their self-worth while being vulnerable. This album is dedicated to the people watching their friend’s love-lives grow and happen around them, and not having anyone,” Rosa says in press notes. 

“Gimme Gimme,” Dance Without Me’s second and latest single is a sleek and slickly produced club banger, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, Via Rosa’s effortlessly soulful vocals, twinkling hi-hats and a euphoric hook. And while seemingly being a sultry synthesis of Between Two Selves-era Octo Octa and classic, Larry Levan-era house, the track finds its love-sick narrator wobbling between aching vulnerability and proud, self-reliance, as she searches for a sign that it’s okay to love again. 

“The idea was to have a conversation with my myself about what kind of man I’m looking for,” Rosa explains in press notes. “In the chorus I repeat the line ‘I need you to stand and deliver. Cause I need a man that’s not gonna give me any any…’ The end I purposely left blank so listeners could insert what they don’t want from their next lover. Oddly enough the song was inspired by the closing scene in the movie Grease where Sandy sings to Danny ‘You better shape up cause I need a man.’ Only in my world, I’m Sandy, my heart is Danny and I’m telling my heart to shape up and give me what I want.”

I’ve written quite a bit about Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history. And as you may recall, the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay’s career began in earnest at a very young age:she began playing in bands when she nine and even began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. Years later, as an adult Härdig has been hailed the rocktronica queen of experimental music in her native Sweden, developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says about her approach in press notes.

Adding to a growing profile in her native Sweden and elsewhere, Härdig has collaborated with Swedish Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob Hund, BoredomsFree Kitten’s Yoshimi P-We and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. She’s also shared stages with No Wave pioneer Lydia LunchIkue Mori, John Tilbury and a list of others.

Härdig’s recently released, fourth album This Big Hushfinds the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,” Härdig says of the recording process for This Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”

Infatuation,” This Big Hush‘s fist single was written to pay homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and the Banshees — but the decidedly riff driven song seemed to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook. “I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay said in press notes of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”

Radiant Star,” This Big Hush‘s second single was slow-burning and jangling bit of guitar pop that brings Pretenders and the aforementioned Patti Smith to mind. “It was made during many endless nights,” Härdig says in press notes, “on my own and in my studio and also with the band on some more hectic days. Then a lot of other endless days and nights in the studio producing it. My own take of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’; a song I learned as a 3-year old on the grand piano we inherited from my grandmother.”

“Silence,” This Big Hush‘s third and latest single is a slow-burning, lush song that recalls the emotional intensity and lyricism of Patti Smith and Nick Cave with an enormous arrangement centered around jangling guitars, twinkling keys, dramatic drumming, a soaring hook and a gospel-style backing vocal section and what may arguably be one of  Härdig’s most emotionally direct vocal performances in some time.

Deriving their name from a playful, Anglophile nod towards the famed physicist Issac Newton, the Paris-based electro pop act Isaac Delusion was formed back in 2010 by its core duo, longtime friends Loïc Fleury (vocals, guitar) and Jules Paco (keys). Shortly after their formation, the project expanded to incorporate a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators. Interestingly, with the release of 2014’s self-titled debut effort, the Paris-based act began to receive attention for a sound that meshed acoustic instrumentation with electronics — while nodding a bit at dream pop.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them in the French electro pop scene, the act toured extensively across France and Europe to support their full-length debut. The band’s sophomore effort  2017’s Rust & Gold found the duo shifting away from ethereal and atmospheric dream pop and leaning heavily towards more soulful rhythms, tangible emotions and insightful observations on love and the human condition.

Since the release of the French electro pop act’s first two albums, they’ve amassed over 500,000 Spotify streams a month, played Pitchfork Paris, as well as sold-out headlining shows at venues like  L’Olympia and Elysee Montmarte. Now, as you may recall, the duo’s third album uplifters is slated for release this Friday through Microqlima Records, and the album reportedly is centered around a misplaced nostalgia for a long-passed youth (which is fitting for the act’s core duo, as they’ve inched into their 30s). As a result, the material is imbued with a longing for the freedom and unguarded honesty of their younger selves — and reset for the missed opportunities you can never get back. And much like its predecessors, the material off uplifters is primarily written and sung in English with a handful of songs written and sung in their native French.

Last month, I wrote about “pas habitude,” a breezy synth pop song centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, plaintive and dreamy vocals, a sinuous bass line and an infectious, razor sharp hook  — and yet, the song’s breeziness is at best superficial, as the song possesses a bittersweet heartache and nostalgia for a seemingly simpler past. Coincidentally, “pas habitude” is one of the few album tracks written and sung in the duo’s native French. Interestingly, the album’s latest track “disorder” is a taut yet breezy track centered around a disco-like bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios, four-on-the-floor drumming and plaintive falsetto vocals that finds the duo recalling Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk.

“Like natural laws, order can rise from chaos,” the duo says in press notes. “We sometimes need to follow our intuitions and desires, even when they seem to lead towards dangerous ground.”

The duo will be playing a handful of European dates in 2020. Check out the tour dates below.

 

LIVE DATES
25 February LONDON Omeara
28 February KÖLN Artheater
29 February BERLIN Bi Nuu
 2 March HAMBURG Nichtspeicher
 4 March AMSTERDAM Paradiso Upstairs
 6 March BRUSSELS Botanique
 7 March LAUSANNE Les Docks

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays clipping and Shabazz Palaces Team Up on a Trippy and Swaggering New Single

I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio Clipping over the past few years of this site’s nine-plus year history. And as you may recall, the act — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — initially released material without the expectation of receiving commercial or critical success: their earliest releases were built around Snipes’ and Hutson’s sparse and abrasive productions featuring industrial clang, clink and clatter and samples of field recordings paired with Diggs’ rapid-fire narrative driven flow, which is full of surrealistically brutal and violent imagery and swaggering braggadocio.

Sub Pop Records signed the Los Angeles-based trio and released 2014’s clpping. an effort that received attention across the blogosphere, including here. When Diggs went on to star in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit musical Hamilton, winning a Tony Award for his dual roles of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette, the act was on an informal hiatus. But during that time, the members of the acclaimed JOVM mainstays reconvened to write and record 2016’s critically applauded effort Splendor & Misery, a Sci-Fi dystopian concept album that is futuristic and yet describes our increasingly frightening and bizarre present.

Clipping’s latest full-length, There Existed an Addiction to Blood was released last month, and the album which features guest spots from Ed Balloon, La Chat, Counterfeit Madison and Pedestrian Deposit and a list of others interpreting horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant sub-genre of hip hop pioneered by Brotha Lynch Hung, Gravediggaz, which featured The RZA and featured seminal releases from Geto Boys, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and pretty much most of Memphis cassette tape rap during the mid 1990s. And while drawing from the horrorcore movement of the mid 90s, the album is also partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — the title is derived from the film and the members of the acclaimed JOVM mainstays sampled part of the score on the album.

Interestingly, back in 2017 clipping was commissioned to create a song for a This American Life episode about Afrofuturism. The end result was “The Deep,” a dark sci-fi tale about the underwater-dwelling descendants of African women thrown off slave ships, based on the mythology created by Detroit-based electronic group Drexciya. The song earned the JOVM mainstays a Hugo Award nomination last year — and they constructed a sound installation based on the single at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Sub Pop will be releasing “The Deep” on vinyl and as a digital download globally on November 29. Both the vinyl and digital versions include two previously unreleased tracks “Drownt” and “Aquacode Databreaks,” a collaboration with fellow JOVM mainstays Shabazz Palaces. Centered around an abrasive, industrial-leaning production featuring clang and clatter and glistening synth arpeggios, the track features two of hip-hop’s most dexterous and dense lyricists creating a fantastical world full of blinged out mermaids flossing. dancing — and most importantly being defiantly, boldly black as fuck. 

Interestingly, the 12″ single comes on the heels of the release of The Deep, a novella by two-time Astounding Award-nominated author Rivers Solomon with clipping credited as co-authors,. inspired by the title track and published by Saga Press. 

Ferrari Garden is a mysterious yet emerging synth pop act. The act’s second single “Bridge” is swaggering and self-assured track, centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats, wobbling low and alluring vocals  — and while being simultaneously slickly produced and soulful, the track which manages to subtly recall 80s synth pop like Nu Shooz‘ “I Can’t Wait” was written around some deeply personal, lived-in, existential experience.

“I think about fate, acceptance and inner struggle a lot. ‘Bridge’ is about the inner struggle to accept one’s face,” Ferrari Garden explains via email. “I first began writing the lyrics for ‘Bridge’ while getting ready for bed in the winter of 2018. I was in my thesis year at OCAD at the time and was feeling very isolated and overworked. I guess that subconsciously, I was looking for distractions.

“Art school is a strange world – one which I never felt I quite fit into – and I was beginning to question my place there and as an artist.” Ferrari Garden adds. “Writing this song allowed for respite from the world around me, and showed me a brand new world I could build inside myself. That kind of power is both liberating and intimidating.”

 

 

New Audio: Marcus King Releases an Effortless and Soulful Ballad

Marcus King is a young, rapidly rising, Greenville, SC-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. The Greenville-born, Nashville-based is a fourth generation musician, who followed in his family’s footsteps. Playing professionally since he was 11, King was discovered after a video of him performing at Norman’s Rare Guitars went viral. At 23, King has been performing for the past 15 years, establishing himself as a world class guitarist and vocalist. 

Since 2015, King has been relentlessly touring with his backing band The Marcus King Band — Jack Ryan (drums), Stephen Campbell (bass), Justin Johnson (trumpet, trombone) and Dean Mitchell (sax, still guitar) — playing 140 dates live shows over the course of the past year. Adding to a breakthrough year, King and his backing band have played on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, made his debut at The Grand Ole Opry — and he recently opened for Chris Stapleton during his last US arena tour, playing in front of 17,000 people every night.  

Building upon a rapidly rising profile, King’s highly-anticipated, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut El Dorado is slated for a January 17, 2020 release through Fantasy Recordings. Continuing their previous successful collaboration together, “How Long,” King’s full-length debut was co-written with Auerbach over three days at his Easy Eye Sound studio — and reportedly, the album is a contemporary sonic exploration of classic rock, blues, southern R&B and country soul.

“Marcus is known by so many as a phenom guitar player, and rightfully so,” Dan Auerbach says of his time working with Marcus King. “He’s regularly the best player in the room, hands down. I was equally blown away by the way he can sing — so effortless, so soulful, straight to the heart. He’s a naturally gifted writer too, which was clear right away. Everything for him is so innate — that’s why he can always go right to the heart of a song and connect in a deeper way. He’s really one of a king and I’m proud I got to work alongside him on this record.” 

Interestingly, El Dorado’s second and latest single “Wildflowers and Wine” is a slow-burning track that’s one part Muscle Shoals soul, one part Southern rock, one part R&B and one part classic blues centered around a lush arrangement of twinkling keys, a soulful backing vocal section and a sinuous bass pair line paired with King’s vocals. And while being clearly indebted to 70s AM radio, the song manages to be a carefully crafted and self-assured bit of soulful pop, which manages to belie King’s relative youth while being a perfect vehicle for a his blues-tinged guitar work and his exceptional and effortlessly soulful vocals. 

Back in 2014, keyboardist Ryan Neighbors left his full-time gig with acclaimed indie act Portugal. The Man to pursue his on creative pursuits — namely, his latest electro pop project Hustle and Drone with collaborator Andy Black. With the release of that year’s debut Holyland, the duo built up a profile across the Pacific Northwest, eventually playing the region’s major venues and selling them out. Building upon a growing profile, the band toured across Europe.

Once the dust settled, the duo returned to woodshedding material, confident that they’d craft a competent and worthy follow-up. As the story goes, Neighbors and Black wrote material and flew out their producer Sonny DiPerri to Portland to dig into what they had just finished. DiPerri’s response wasn’t what the duo was prepared to hear. “He asked, If you didn’t write this, would you listen to it?” Neighbors recalls in press notes. “We thought he was flying out to Portland for us to put the finishing touches on our record, but then he told us we needed to start from the beginning. I was pissed.”

As it turned out, DiPerri felt that the material the duo had worked on was inauthentic and that it didn’t mirror the pain and the dark places he saw in Neighbors’ and Black’s life. So he pushed them to identity and dig deeper into something much more representative of where the duo actually was at the time. “He knows me well, so he was also well aware that I wasn’t really in a happy place and had been struggling with depression,” explains Neighbors. “He wanted those feelings to bleed out through the songs; we aren’t trying to be a fun dance band.”

Neighbors and Black started over from scratch, learning new synths and software and dug into new sample libraries. The tough love DiPerri gave them began to yield a dark and cathartic collection of songs, which after more refining and polishing would eventually become their forthcoming sophomore album What An Uproar, an effort that was finished in the remote town of Talkeetna, AK. The solitude of the town, contributed heavily to the focus with which the band took on the finishing touches of the record.

With Holyland, Neighbors and a former writing partner “would kind of operate in a ‘well that’s pretty cool’ type of recording process,” Neighbors recalls. “With Uproar we would say ‘well that’s pretty cool, how can we make it better. Okay, we just made it better; how can we make it perfect? It was a huge change in approach.”

Uproar isn’t as accessible to the average listener as Holyland, but it is the record we wanted to make, and it is a true expression of where we are as artists,” Neighbors explains in press notes. “The atmosphere of What An Uproar is a direct result of us freeing ourselves to make the music we truly wanted to make, not necessarily the music that was expected from us,” Black adds. “If we found ourselves wading into waters that felt vulnerable and uncomfortable, then we knew we were being honest and on the right track. The vulnerability in trying to be as authentic as possible is always scary but being honest and upfront was what we wanted to accomplish.”

Sonically and stylistically, What An Uproar is a departure from the duo’s debut effort, which was a dance floor friendly batch of material. The soon-to-be released sophomore album is centered around Neighbors’ introspective lyrics about anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse and broken relationships — while sonically, the material reportedly recalls Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails and The Faint. “I have always hid behind vocal effects and vague lyrics to mask what the songs are really about,” Neighbors explains. “Not this time. A lot of the lyrical content is about anxiety and depression. Too much boozing and a broken relationship. For a long time I wasn’t trying to feel better and just accentuating what I was going through. I wrote all of these songs while I was still sitting in that dark place.”

“Stranger,” What An Uproar‘s latest single is centered around thumping, industrial-like beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, Neighbors plaintive vocals and a dance floor friendly hook — but interestingly, the track recalls Violator-era Depeche Mode and The Postal Service, while being full of slow-burning dread and anxiety.