Category: New Audio

20-something Aledo, TX-born, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Sloan Struble is the creative mastermind behind the rapidly rising, critically applauded indie rock/indie pop project Dayglow. The project can trace its origins to Struble’s teenaged years, growing up in a Fort Worth suburb that he has referred to as a “small football-crazed town,” where he felt irrevocably out of place. Aesthetically and thematically, the project finds Struble crafting material centered around a hard fought, hard won optimism.

Much like countless other hopelessly out of place young people across the globe, Struble turned to music as an escape from his surroundings. “I didn’t really feel connected to what everyone else in my school was into, so making music became an obsession for me, and sort of like therapy in a way,” Struble said in press notes. “I’d dream about it all day in class, and then come home and for on songs instead of doing homework. After a while I realized I’d made an album.”

Working completely on his own with a minuscule collection of gear that included his guitar, his computer and some secondhand keyboards he picked up at Goodwill, Struble worked on transforming his privately kept outpouring into a batch of songs — often grandiose in scale. “Usually artists will have demos they’ll bounce off other people to get some feedback, but nobody except for my parents down the hall really heard much of the album until I put it out,” Struble recalled. With the self-release of 2018’s Fuzzybrain, the Aledo-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer received widespread attention and an ardent online following — with countess listeners praising the material’s overwhelming positivity. 

In 2019, Struble re-released a fully realized version of Fuzzybrain that featured Can I Call You Tonight,” a track that wound up being a smash-hit lat year, as well as two previously unreleased singles “Nicknames” and “Listerine.” With the two new singles, the album further establishes Struble’s reputation for illuminating emotional pain in a way that not only deeply resonates with listeners but while managing to make that emotional pain feel lighter. 

Struble kicked off 2021 with the infectious and sugary pop confection “Close to You,” a track indebted to 80s synth-led soul — in particular Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald‘s “On My Own” Cherelle’s and Alexander and O’Neal‘s “Saturday Love” and other duets, but imbued with an aching melancholy and uncertainty. He then made his national late night TV debut on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he, along with his backing band, played “Can I Call You Tonight.

Continuing upon that momentum, Struble’s highly-anticipated Dayglow sophomore album Harmony House is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through his own Very Nice Records and AWAL. He’d been writing new material after the release of Fuzzybrain and at the time, he found himself drawn to piano-driven soft rock from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Simultaneously, he was also watching a lot of Cheers at the time. “At the very beginning, I was writing a soundtrack to a sitcom that doesn’t exist,” Struble recalls. And while actively attempting to generate nostalgia for something that hadn’t ever been real — as well as something most of his listeners had never really experienced — the album’s material thematically is about growing up and coping with change as an inevitable part of life.

“Woah Man,” Harmony House‘s third and latest single is a carefully crafted, slow-burning ballad. Featuring an airy, soft rock-inspired arrangement of strummed acoustic guitar, electric guitar and atmospheric synths, “Woah Man” is centered around lyrics informed by personal experience and newly acquired wisdom — and Struble’s unerring knack for writing an incredibly memorable hook. Interestingly, the song reveals a young artist, who is readily accepting that the only certain thing in life is change and that moving forward often means letting go and experiencing the ride for better or worse.

“’Woah Man’ is one of my favorite songs I’ve written so far. I initially wrote it for a friend who was going through a hard time, but then later realized that I was really writing about myself,” Struble explains in press notes. “In the middle of so much change, growth, and responsibility, I found myself feeling a lot of pressure. After months of feeling like I had the world on my shoulders and that I was growing up too fast, I realized that in order to grow, you have to move on sometimes. You have to let some things go. And for me, what I needed to let go of was the feeling of being in control of everything. I had to let go of holding on (very meta, I know). I just remember finishing the song and feeling so much relief and clarity about who I am becoming. The song has continued to help me through so many different stages of growth in my life— I hope it does the same for you.”

John Andrew Stallings is a McKinley, TX-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, and the creative mastermind being the emerging solo indie dream pop recording project Juno Uno. Much like countless other singer/songwriters across the globe, Stallings began songwriting exploring sounds and song structures with an acoustic guitar but he quickly expanded upon his sonic palette when he learned other instruments, eventually finding his voice with electric guitar and various synths.

During a brief relocation to Austin, Stallings began to further explore his expanded sonic palette and began prolifically writing material. He started a few musical projects under various names and identities, but then decided to leave Austin to travel across the country. Inspired by a newfound spiritual growth and mysticism, Stallings returned home to McKinley, where he built studio and committed his time to writing and recording material inspired by Tame Impala, Toro Y Moi, 1980’s synth pop with his latest solo recording project Juno Uno.

Stallings’ Juno Uno debut, “Sides” is a dreamy single centered around a sinuous bass line, atmospheric synths, squiggling guitars, Stalling’s plaintive falsetto and a shimmering guitar solo, that may remind listeners of Tame Impala and Washed Out. As Stallings explains in press notes, the song “is about a shift in perspective. It is about how the world is changing and it is up to each individual to interpret what that change means.” Stallings adds that “‘Sides’ came out of a time spent living in an apartment with rappers and electronic music producers. Their influence pushed me in a direction I was uncomfortable with at first, but eventually led to an expansion in my sonic development. This experience taught me how to trust the flow of the universe, as well as may own confidence in the creative process.”

With the release of their debut single “Island of Promise,” the Budapest-based electronic music production and artist duo  Belau — Peter Kedves and Buzas Krisztian — quickly exploded into their homeland’s scene for establishing a buoyant, summery and dance floor friendly sound that according to the band meant to evoke “cheerful places, filled with sunshine, where one can relax, unwind and find peace and harmony.” Since its release, “Island of Promise” landed at #1 on Deezer Hungary, one of the country’s largest string services, amassed over 500,000 streams, was featured in the HBO Hungary series Aranyélet, and in an international  Pepsi ad campaign shown in 33 countries.

Belau’s full-length debut, 2016’s The Odyssey won a Hungarian Grammy for Best Electronic Music Album. The duo supported the album with an intense touring schedule — 120 shows in 19 countries with stops across the international festival circuit with sets at Eurosonic, SzigetReeperbahnUntold, and SXSW. After The Odyssey, the JOVM mainstays released a series of remixes of The Odyssey tracks, which they followed up with their sophomore album, 2019’s Colourwave featured a number of singles I’ve written about, including:

  • Breath,” a sultry, dance floor friendly collaboration with Sophie Lindinger centered around glitchy beats and a sinuous yet anthemic hook
  • The Massive Attack-like “Natural Pool.”
  • Rapture,” a collaboration with Blue Foundation‘s Kirstine Stubbe Teglbjærg centered around a trip hop-inspired production featuring shimming synth arpeggios, wobbling low end and Stubbe Teglbjærg’s sultry vocals. 
  • Essence,” a collaboration with Sophie Barker that features Barker’s sultry vocals gliding over a shimmering production centered around looping, reverb-drenched guitar shimmering synths, skittering beats and an enormous hook that brought Third-era Portishead and Octo Octa to mind  – but a with a brooding air.

Although the duo haven’t been able to tour as a result of the pandemic, they’ve been busy: earlier this year, they released “Luz,” a one-off single with Sexto Sentido that was decided sonic departure for the duo: the single reminded me quite a bit of fellow JOVM mainstays Ibeyi. Interestingly, as the duo explained in press notes, “’Luz’ is kind of a bridge to our future album; it’s a bit different from our earlier releases.,” the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays explain. “This single is a harmonic blend of traditional Afro-Cuban folk music and modern electronica, the lyrics in yoruba and spanish. This song is a spiritual journey for us, it will be the part of Colourwave DLX album with some remixes, reimagined versions and live sessions in April.

For Colourwave DLX‘s latest single, the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays recruited Ohxalá to remix album single “Breath” with Sophie Lindinger. Interestingly, the Ohxalá remix meshes dub and house music by retaining Lindinger’s sultry vocals paired with a chopped up hook, skittering beats and shimmering synths,. Interestingly enough, the remix gives the song a subtle yet completely different feel: in this case, the Oxhalá remix possesses a bracing chilliness that reminds me quite a bit of Octo Octa’s Between Both Selves.

“‘Breath’ was one of the first single from the album and also one of our favourites. We had some nostalgic feelings about that era, for example the day when we got the final master, that was the first time when we ever met with Sophie,” the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays recall. “Fun fact it was in Texas, where we played at SXSW. After the success of the song, we thought it would be great to have an alternative version, and asked Ohxalá to make a remix. We love their style because they blend traditional folk music with modern electronica, and they made a unique song which also has a new mood.”

Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays Junaco — Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa — derive their name for a term that they say generally means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, and not just running on autopilot. Much like the term that inspired their name, the duo have developed and honed a deliberate creative approach, decided to eschew the commonly-held attempts to placate the blogosphere’s short attention span with constant releases of varying quality.

Over the past few months, the duo have been busy releasing material including two singles, which I’ve written about:

  • In Between (Reprise) ” an even more ethereal and softer take on their Omar Yakar-produced Awry EP single “In Between” that retained the confusing sensations of uncertainty and progress.
  • Blue Room” a gorgeous bit of hook driven indie rock that’s both a sigh of contentedness and frustration that thematically touches upon a familiar concept to all of us — that home can be a place of safety, security, peace and love, as well as a place full of stifling boredom and uncertainty.

The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays’ latest single “Weight Of The World” is a slow-burning bit of jangling dream pop that to my ears brings Beach House to mind, as Jaffer’s achingly soulful vocals are paired with an arrangement that features lush and swirling layers of shimmering and jangling guitars drenched with reverb, atmospheric synths, a chugging rhythm section and a soaring hook. And much like the rest of their gorgeous and heartfelt work, “Weight Of The World” dives headfirst into the experience of slowing down to look around and dig what’s around you.

“When we were writing the new tunes, we were listening to a lot of Amo Amo, Big Thief, Rodrigo Amarante, Sam Evian, Broncho & Hannah Cohen,” the JOVM mainstays explain. “The writing style of ‘Weight of the World’ was inspired a lot by Mike Viola‘s record The American Egypt. His songs are so visual and visceral, he really puts you there with him. It feels like all your senses are activated when listening. When writing this song, we felt like we had a strong message to convey — being overwhelmed with the constant change and forward motion & evolution towards what feels like being less human. We were heavily inspired by this podcast, The Time Sensitive podcast episode with Jesse Kamm, where she talks about the quality of life and level of happiness when communities are full of creation & purpose, something we may have lost when big corporations began to seep into our everyday lives. 

“It was a lot of fun to work on this song with producer James McAlister and our great friend and collaborator Tejas Leier Heyden. It was actually written as a somber piano ballad and we had no idea what we wanted it to be when we went into the studio, so it was a lot of fun experimenting with the possibilities.” 

The new track is a part of a much bigger project, a 360 degree music and art project coming together as a forthcoming EP.

With the release of their debut EP I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t, the rising Brighton-based dream pop act Hanya — Heather Sheret (vocal, guitar), Benjamin Varnes (guitar), Dylan Fanger (bass) and Jack Watkins (drums) — received attention nationally and across the blogosphere for a sound that meshes elements dream pop and shoegaze. 

Much like countless other bands across the globe, Hanya had plans to build upon a rapidly growing national and international profile: earlier this year,. they released their acclaimed sophomore EP Sea Shoes and they made their Stateside debut at New Colossus Festival last year. Sadly, their New Colossus Festival set at The Bowery Electric was among the last sets of live music I’ve seen since the pandemic hit. Of course, without the ability to tour or play shows, the rising Brighton JOVM mainstays have been rather busy writing and releasing new materail including:

  • Texas,” a shimmering bit of dream pop that nods at 70s AM rock, and focuses on the longing and excitement of a new crush/new love/new situationship. 
  • Monochrome,” which found the Brighton further establishing a gorgeous sound and approach that sets them apart in a crowded and talented field.

The JOVM mainstays’ latest single “Lydia” is a slow-burning and gorgeous track centered around shimmering guitars, Sheret’s ethereal yet plaintive vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook that continues the band’s winning mix of 70s AM rock and Beach House-like dream pop. And much like its immediate predecessors, “Lydia” is carefully crafted, introspective and hauntingly nostalgic.

“‘Lydia’ started as a sweet acoustic number but kept getting bigger the more we played it,” Hanya’s Heather Sheret explains in press notes. “I think that’s the nature of things right now: big gestures only. This past year has involved a lot of contemplation, and so ‘Lydia’ was written about a chance to dwell on our memories and see people, situations and relationships in new light as time progresses. The reminder that rights and wrongs are ever-evolving, perspectives shift and over time you shape your own memories.”

With the release of their full-length debut, 2019’s ten-song Kenny Jones-recorded and produced Blind Reflection the Metz, France-based act OSTED quickly established a sound that blues the lines between indie rock and post punk with an expansive sonic palette.

Although they weren’t able to tour as a result of pandemic related lockdowns and quarantines, the emerging French act managed to have a rather auspicious 2020: they returned to the Jones’ London-based Alchemy Studio to record the follow-up to their debut, the forthcoming Collecting Memories EP. And they signed with Endless Night Records at the end of last year.

The EP’s latest single “Sarajevo” is a brooding song centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, shimmering guitars, thunderous drumming, rousingly anthemic hooks and dry yet achingly plaintive vocals within an expansive song structure. Interestingly, the song is a perfect example of their sound: a subtle mix of Joy Division post-punk, shoegaze and 120 Minutes-era MTV all rock with seemingly lived-in lyrics.

Look for Conflicted Memories EP on April 30, 2021.

Back in 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. As the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local bluesman Omar Coleman, a local blues legend, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. 17 years later, Roberts wound up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and loved.

Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times‘ latest single, album title track is a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues within a classic 12 bar blues structure featuring a looping bluesy guitar line reminiscent of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, an enormous horn line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would make Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

Roberts’ recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’s Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul SoundsChris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.”

New Audio: Orions Belte Releases a Slinky and Funky Bop

Norwegian-born musicians Øyind Blomstrøm (guitar) and Chris Holm (bass) have spent the bulk of their careers making a living a touring musicians, and as a result, they’ve frequently been on the road As the story goes, when Blømstrøm and Holm’s paths crossed for what seemed like the umpteenth time, they bonded over a desire to create instrumental music — and they decided to start a band together. They recruited Holm’s Bergen scene pal Kim Åge Furuhaug to join the band and to complete Orions Belte lineup.

With the release of 2018’s Mint, the Norwegian trio quickly established a reputation for crating a genre-defying, style-mashing sound that draws from 70s Nigerian rock, postcards from French Riviera, Formula One traces at Monza and 1971’s “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It’s follow-up, 2019’s Slim EP featured inventive reworkings of songs they love by artist’s they love — including Ghostface Killah’s “Cherchez La Ghost,” Milton Nascimento’s Tudo O Que Você Podia Ser” and an original cut that pays homage to Norwegian beat group The Pussycats and the Mac Miller. 

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of last year, the acclaimed Norwegian trio managed to be productive: they released 600m, another EP of experimental instrumental music that derived its title from the name of an elevator in Tokyo that can transport 40 people at a time a maximum speed of 600 meters per minute, and found the trio continuing to push the boundaries of instrumental music as far as they could.

Slated for an April 9, 2021 release through Jansen Records, Orions Belte’s sophomore album Villa Amorini derives its title from a popular Bergen nightclub, which was the place in town where everything happened — and where you needed to be to be a part of it. Originally opened in the 80s as a fine dining spot, the business evolved into an extravagant nightclub where you’d see artists and DJs in loud t-shirts and oversized sunglasses. Sonically, the album is reportedly still a mix of the sounds they like — including underground pop, psych and world music — and continues their reputation for their ability to pull in listeners of diverse genres and styles while being simultaneously calm and chaotic. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the album’s material sets up a particular scene: the energy of a busy downtown sidewalk with the instrumentation being intricately layered to draw you in and leave you wondering where it will lead. According to the trio, the album is a “homage to an era of loud music, club nights, ugly shirts and long afterparties.”

Villa Amorini’s latest single “Mouth” is a laid-back, hotel lounge-like bop, featuring a slinky and strutting groove, shimmering guitars, twinkling Rhodes and synths, sinuous bass lines and jazz like drumming that sonically finds the band drawing from and meshing elements of Return to Forever-like jazz fusion, dusty hip-hop samples, soul and neo-soul and funk in a way that feels familiar yet very different.

Lyric Video: Rising Paris-based Pop Artist Jenn Sarkis Releases an Infectious Feminist Anthem

Rising Paris-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Jenn Sarkis is a true global citizen with her music influences informed by her Lebanese upbringing, French education and a childhood spent in the United Arab Emirates — and her longing to define her own sense of identity.

Sarkis emerged in 2016 with her debut single “Breaking Boundaries,” which received airplay from Virgin Radio and playlisting on Spotify New Talent. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding her, the Paris-based pop artist released her debut EP, 2017’s Stay, which featured “Here We Go Again.”

The Paris-based pop artist’s full-length debut is forthcoming — and in the meantime, she released the album’s first single, “When A Girl Says No,” strutting and defiant feminist anthem, seemingly rooted in lived-in personal experience an featuring a slick club thumping and radio friendly production with thumping beats, squiggling Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, a sinuous bass line, Sarkis’ self-assured, take no prisoners and take no bullshit delivery and a rousingly anthemic hook. On multiple listens, I could easily envision the women in my life shouting along to the song while pregaming for a night out, while driving, when hearing the song in the club and so on.

“When a Girl Says No,” was written to support to the woman across the world, who are speaking up and screaming out “we’ve had enough!” — and then going out to change the world.

New Audio: Montreal’s Paupière Releases an Infectious Pop Anthem

Possibly deriving their name from a portmanteau of the French words for skin peau and stone pierre, Montreal-based indie electro pop duo Paupière, visual artist Julia Daigle and Polipe’s and We Are Wolves‘ Pierre-Luc Bégin, have established a unique take on synth pop that draws from 80s English synth pop, New Wave and French chanson with the release of 2016’s Jeunes instants EP, 2017’s full-length debut À jamais privé de réponses and 2019’s Jettatura EP. But just underneath the breezy melodies and infectious hooks, the duo’s work thematically touches upon naive, adolescent and hedonistic romanticism paired with a post-modern disenchantment.

The Montreal duo’s sophomore album Sade Sati is slated for a May 7, 2021 release, and the album continues Daigle’s and Bégin’s successful collaboration with Bégin’s We Are Wolves bandmate Vincent Levesque, who has produced their previously released material. Earlier this year, I wrote about Sade Sati album single “Coeur Monarque,” an infectious and sugary sweet pop confection that sonically stuck me as being a sort of playful mix of Phil Spector-era pop and late 80s and early 90s synth pop. Thematically though, as the duo explain, the song is much darker” “‘Coeur Monarque’ is an imaginary tale about a girl, who lives her life according to her moods. Her freedom contributes to her isolation and she loses herself in it. ‘Coeur Monarque’ is a light and poppy piece, just like the protagonist of the story.”

The album’s latest single, album title track “Sade Sati,” derives its title from a term in Indian astrology, the Montreal-based duo explain: “it is a period of 7 ½ years that involves many challenges but also recognition and great achievements. Sade Sati is karma, the sum of the acts of this present life but also of previous ones. Leaving marks over time leading to true destiny.” Much like its immediate predecessor, the track is sugary sweet pop confection, centered around an enormous hook, shimmering synth arpeggios and Daigle singing lyrics about the movements of the planets — in this case, Saturn — and how they impact and influence all things in our lives.