Towards the end of last year, I wrote a bit about Marlene Oak, a Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up on a small island outside of of Stockholm, where she turned to music as an escape. Oak spent her teenage years busking on the streets of Stockholm’s Old Town, and was serendipitously discovered by someone, who just happened to pass by and catch her playing. After releasing a couple of singles, which helped to develop a reputation for a sound and approach that’s influenced by Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell,Nina Simone and Janis Joplin, the Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist built a following playing shows across her homeland at pubs, clubs and elsewhere, opening for the likes of Miss Li,Whitney Rose and Susto, as well as playing sets at Way Out West Festival, STHLM Americana and Irisfestivalen.
Now, as you may recall, Oak’s “In The Evening” was centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement featuring Oak’s soulful and plaintive vocals, accompanied by a strummed, electric guitar fed through gentle amount of reverb. Naturally, the sparse arrangement forces your attention on Oak’s vocals and lyrics — with the song thematically focusing on heartbreak, sorrow, achingly lonely nights and desperately figuring out some way to move forward with your life. Recorded in one take, the song possesses a you-were-there immediacy which helps pack a walloping emotional punch. “When I recorded ‘In The Evening’, I wanted to record everything on one take — without a click. And that’s what I did,” Oak says in press notes. “I aimed for keeping the same feeling to the song as I had when I wrote it, and I wanted to sing the words as if they were my last.”
The up-and-coming, Stockholm-based singer/songwriter will be building upon a growing national and international profile with the release of her latest EP Silver Moon, which is slated for a February 15, 2019 release and the EP’s latest single is the jangling “Slip Away.” And while being clearly indebted to Southern California rock and AM rock (Fleetwood Mac immediately comes to my mind), the song is a swooning and urgently romantic song that focuses on grabbing your lover’s hand and escaping a brutal and cynical world with each other’s company for a little while at least. Just as important, the song reveals a self-assured songwriter, who can craft an infectious, arena rock friendly hook.
Aneurysm is a Boston-based alt rock quintet that formed back in 2014 and since their formation they’ve developed a reputation for relentless touring and releasing a handful of 7 inch vinyl releases along the way. Their long-awaited full-length debut Awareness is slated for a February 1, 2019 release through Tor Johnson Records, and the album, as the band’s Dan Bahto explains in an interview with No Echo, the material on the album is sort off a collection of things they had been working on since they started. Interestingly, the album’s first single is the pummeling, mosh pit worthy “St. E’s,” Centered around enormous power chords, thunderous drumming and howled vocals, the track will bring Nirvana, METZ and others to mind; but as the band’s lead singer Mike tells No Echo, “”I was writing from another viewpoint than my own, basically from a hateful, impatient, self-centered adult-child being forced to wait in line behind people whom they feel superior,” Mike says about his lyrics. “I kinda love watching adults lose their cool over minor inconveniences in public.”
Alan Palomo is a Mexican-born, Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist, producer and film maker, best known for his acclaimed solo recording project Neon Indian. And with the release of four full-length albums and an EP — 2009’s Psychic Chasms, 2013’s Era Extraña, the Errata Anex EP and 2015’s Vega Intl. Night School, Palomo established a reputation for crafting a slickly produced synth pop sound that sounds indebted to Prince, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous-era Michael Jackson and the synth funk/synth R&B sounds of the late 70s and early 80s – in particular think of The WhispersHeatwaveEvelyn “Champagne” King’,Cherelle and an even lengthier list of others.
Now, it’s been some time since I’ve written about Palomo and Neon Indian and as it turns out that Palomo had spent the past couple of years working on 86’d, his first narrative short. As Palomo says in press notes, 86’d is “a love letter to New York cinema and in a way, a final recapitulation of the Night School universe. Shot on 16mm over the course of three nights, it was an ambitious undertaking for all parties involved but honestly making it was such a blast that at times felt like just that, a party. I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful people that came together to realize this kooky project and proud to finally be able to share it with music and movie goers alike.
Directed by Palomo, written by Palomo and Kai Flanders, edited by Pete Ohs and Dustin Reid, the film stars Buddy Duress (Good Time, Heaven Knows What), Lindsay Burdge (Easy, Thirst Street, The Midnight Swim), Seaton Smith (Top Five, Mulaney), Chase Williamson (John Dies at The End), Mitzi Akaha (Lowlives, Dark Side of The Moon) and musician Alex Frankel (Holy Ghost) as well as Palomo. Set in Ed Koch-era NYC, Max takes a mouthful of mescaline and desperately tries to make it home before it kicks in. On his way, he decided to stop at an all-night deli for a quick, late night meal. After numerous order delays and full-on trip stampeding into his psyche, he is made to pay witness to the colorful cast of lower east side weirdos, visualizing their stories through his newly altered lens: A Times Square dominatrix meets up with one of her regulars to reveal an answering message left by his wife. Two punks discuss an ultimatum as one reveals his connection to a pistol found in a drug bust. A recording engineer convinces an aspiring singer to re-record a destroyed vocal take from a canonic 80s group and attempts to pass it off as the original. Visually speaking, the short reminds me quite a bit of Martin Scorcese’s After Hours as it describes a New York and New York characters that are sadly long gone.
Along with the film, Palomo wrote and recorded the short’s theme song “Heaven’s Basement,” a fittingly 80s inspired, dance floor friendly track, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a scorching distortion pedal effect-drenched guitar solo paired with Palomo’s dreamy falsetto. Interestingly, while the new track will further cement Palomo’s reputation for crafting slickly produced, dance floor friendly synth pop, it possesses a lysergic, mind-altering air.
Georgia Lee Johnson is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-born indie soul/indie folk singer/songwriter and with the release of her full-length debut album Wandering, the Canadian singer/songwriter drew on her training in experimental performance to use songs as a format for story-telling — with her work centered around vivid imagery and lush harmonics. Largely inspired by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, Johnson’s full-length material touched upon grief, delight, transformation and reverence for all creation.
Building upon a growing profile, Johnson’s soon-to-be released EP Languages is slated for a January 4, 2019 release through Dala Records. The EP’s first single “Here’s a Call” features Johnson with a backing band that includes Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik on ARP Omni synth, Matt Harvey on electric guitar, Miles Arntzen on drums and Jas Walton on flute — a who’s who of local soul. And while the song is centered around shimmering and looping guitar, a moody yet gorgeous flute arrangement, a breezy hook, Johnson’s plaintive vocals and a tight groove, the sonically speaking struck me as being like a slick synthesis of Portishead and Stevie Nicks. Along with Raymond James Mason, Johnson’s latest single reveals a label that’s expanding the sonic boundaries of soul in an organic and exciting fashion.
Comprised of core duo singer/songwriter Max Greenhalgh and multi-instrumentalist Bryce Outcault, along with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act Inspired & the Sleep first received attention across Southern California with the release of their debut album, 2014’s Eyelid Kid, an album comprised of dream pop-leaning material. Since then the act has developed a reputation for a sound that incorporates traditional indie rock instrumentation with electronics and vinyl sampling paired with lyrics that thematically touch upon intimacy, introspection and love both lost and found. And as a result, the duo have been featured on a number of sites across the blogosphere including Spin, Vice Noisey,Pigeons and Planes, Hilly Dilly, this site and others. Adding to a growing profile, Inspired & the Sleep has opened for a number of national touring acts including Switchfoot, Sure Sure, Colony House,Mating Ritual, The Dodos, SALES, Moon Taxi, Cymbals Eat Guitars and others.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written about them; but their latest single “Stay” like much of their previously released material over the past few years is centered around a glittering, dance floor groove, arpeggiated synths and a soaring hook. Sonically the song brings JOVM mainstays Summer Heart and Cut Copy to mind — with a swooning, vulnerable need. As the duo explain in press notes, “‘Stay’ is our piece about swooning in the throes of affection. It doesn’t seem to matter where a lover stands in your life, if the emotions are there you can be convinced to stay the night.”
Last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Massachusetts-based hip-hop duo DJ Manipulator and Louie Gonz — and as you may recall, the duo has frequently collaborated with each other throughout the years; however, 2014’s Private Stock was the duo’s first as a cohesive unit. Their 2017 sophomore effort The Loops was released as a bold reintroduction to the act, whose sound draws from golden era hip-hop — with sincerity and soulfulness.
Earlier this year, DJ Manipulator released The Synth Tape, an album that featured tweeter and woofer rocking instrumentals and beats, including “ARP,” a track centered around a minimalist production featuring shimmering and fluttering synths, thumping beats. Now, you might remember that DJ Manipulator, Louie Gonz and Los Angeles-based emcee Blu teamed up on the soulful and gritty street banger “This Sound” off Louie Gonz’s and Manipulator’s sophomore effort — and “ARP Revisited,” a reworking of the original track on The Synth Tape finds the trio teaming up again to similar, attention-grabbing effect. In fact, the track finds Blu and Louie Gonz effortlessly trading gritty, street shit verses and bars over a murky and menacing production featuring brief flashes of sunny synths.
Suvi is a Finnish-born, Swedish-based singer/songwriter and elecvtronic pop artist, who first emerged nationally and internationally with the release of acclaimed singles “Find You” and “Bleeding For Your Love,” which resulted in an attention-grabbing European tour. Just as she was ready to release her full-length debut Mad at Heart, everything in her life turned upside down.
The Finnish-born, Swedish-based singer/songwriter and electro pop artist had suddenly felt ill and her mood was constantly changing. She began to lose weight and was torn — without understanding what was going on within herself. She stumbled into a black hole that she couldn’t get up from. And as a result, the album wasn’t finished and wasn’t released. “The feeling surrounding all this is very blue. So many feelings that comes to life just by thinking about this time, at the same time it almost feels like a dream from another time and place. It’s unreal. Did it really happen? Another feeling that I get when thinking about it is gratitude, and love, for everyone involved and the journey we did together, it’s shaped me a lot as a person,” Suvi says in press notes.
Interestingly, Mad at Heart will finally be released in February 2019 and the album reportedly is a journey through love, friendship and betrayal while also being about being broken and finding the will and strength to put the pieces back together again. The album’s first single “Come Out and Play” is centered around a production consisting of a looped string sample, thumping beats, and a soaring hook paired with Suvi’s ethereal yet sultry vocals. Sonically speaking, it’s a cinematic take on trip hop that reminds me a bit of Portishead and Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp — but with a subtle Middle Eastern feel.
Marlene Oak is a Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up on a small island outside of of Stockholm, where she turned to music as an escape. Oak spent her teenage years busking on the streets of Stockholm’s Old Town, and was serendipitously discovered by someone, who just happened to pass by and catch her playing. After releasing a couple of singles, which helped to develop a reputation for a sound and approach that’s influenced by Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell,Nina Simone and Janis Joplin, the Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist built a following playing shows across her homeland at pubs, clubs and elsewhere, opening for the likes of Miss Li,Whitney Rose and Susto, as well as playing sets at Way Out West Festival, STHLM Americana and Irisfestivalen.
The up-and-coming, Swedish singer/songwriter’s latest single “In The Evening” is centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement of Oak’s soulful and plaintive vocals, accompanied by a strummed, electric guitar fed through gentle amount of reverb. Of course, such a sparse arrangement forces your attention on Oak’s vocals and lyrics — in particular, as the song focuses on heartbreak, sorrow, achingly lonely nights and desperately figuring out some way to move forward with your life. Recorded in one take, the song possesses a you-were-there immediacy which helps pack a walloping emotional punch.
“When I recorded ‘In The Evening’, I wanted to record everything on one take — without a click. And that’s what I did,” Oak says in press notes. “I aimed for keeping the same feeling to the song as I had when I wrote it, and I wanted to sing the words as if they were my last.”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe, and as you may recall, the act which was founded by primary songwriters Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan can trace their origins to when they met at a party, where they bonded over their experiences playing in a number of local bands in which they felt as though they was pressure to fit into a particular scene through a certain way of playing or looking — and they hated it immensely, feeling that it was unnatural and unnecessarily labored.
Moorhouse and Duncan became busking partners, playing in the London Underground. And in those days, they enjoyed the simple pleasure of playing music they loved — mostly early rock, early Beatles and the like — and earning cash while doing so. They noticed a profound simpatico and began to play their own original material. “We had a very clear idea of what we wanted. For things to be simple, based around songs that are unashamed in their directness, and that we love: The Cure, U2, Springsteen and The Stones. We’d spend years playing through these on the tube, realising you don’t need to break the mould. Its best to ignore all the voices telling you that you need to for the sake of it, and go for something deeper,” the duo explained in press notes. And with Ten Fe, Moorhouse and Duncan wanted to focus primarily on the song with style serving the song —and while centered around rousingly anthemic hooks, their sound is often difficult to describe as it possesses elements of the classic Manchester sound, Brit Pop, electro pop, contemporary indie rock and 70s AM rock.
The pair spent the next two years writing, revising and recording in each other’s bedrooms, including prolonged writing sessions at Duncan’s dad’s house in Walsall, UK, relentless busking, hustling and saving, and an impossibly lengthy list of band members and producers before they signed a publishing deal and briefly relocated to Berlin, where they recorded their Ewan Pearson-produced full-length debut effort Hit the Light. “Its no coincidence that the name of this band means ‘have faith’” says Leo Duncan. After spending 18 months touring to support their critically applauded full-length debut effort Hit the Light, the project officially expanded into a full-fledged band with the permanent additions of touring members Rob Shipley (bass) and Johnny Drain (keys), who are two of Duncan’s oldest friends from Walsall, and Alex Hammond (drums).
As the story goes, the members of the band felt a renewed sense of confidence when it came to preparing to write and work on their follow up effort Future Perfect, Present Tense. They set up shop in a vacant driving license office in East London, where the majority of the writing was done, and as they were nearing the end, they went to Oslo, Norway where they tracked the material before returning to London to finish the album with producer Luke Smith, who has worked with Foals, Depeche Mode, Petite Noir, and Anna of the North— and mixed by Craig Silvey, who has worked with Arcade Fire, Florence & The Machine and Amen Dunes. Thematically, the material reportedly is a mediation on everything that has brought them all to the point of their sophomore album, and everything they’ve willingly (and perhaps unwillingly) left behind in actually getting there.
The album’s second single “Won’t Happen” was centered around jangling guitars, a bouyant groove and a soaring, arena friendly hook while Duncan laments and repents for his past indiscretions — although it’s difficult to determine who he’s repenting to: is it a lover? or to himself? But one thing is certain, there’s a sobering sense of the passing of time and what it means to get older, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser. “No Night Lasts Forever” The album’s third was an atmospheric track that hints at New Order and Unforgettable Fire-era U2 but with a soaring hook; however, emotionally the track may arguably be the most ambivalent and uncertain they’ve ever written. As the band notes “There was a debate when we were writing the song as to whether that’s an optimistic or a pessimistic statement. But we decided we liked the ambiguity — that it didn’t have to be one or the other.” Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s fourth and latest single “Echo Park” is a breezy yet mournful track that will remind the listener of 70s AM rock. Interestingly, as the band notes, the song is a conversation between two friends, in which the song’s narrator spends the song offering his lovelorn friend some advice: “Don’t ache too long for the woman, who led your heart to break.” But it can also be read as a song about a band, who finally made it out to California, after years of busting their asses and while painfully lonely and surreal in that way all new places are, each member of the band recognizes that they share that strange experience together — and that they’d always have it no matter what.
“It was written shortly after getting back from our tour of the States last year,” the members of the band explain. “We’d spent the last few days staying in an apartment in Echo Park, and hanging out in different places around the city, always driving around with the radio on. Our heads were still very much in that place when we returned home, and the more sultry feel of this song was evocative of that time.”
The band will be embarking on a Stateside tour to support their highly-anticipated sophomore effort and it’ll begin with a March 19, 2019 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Throughout this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstay David Alexander, an internationally renowned Malmo, Sweden-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer and electronic music artist, best known for his solo electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart. Over the past year, Alexander has released a single of the month series, 12 Songs of Summer, and according to the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music producer and electronic music artist the series allows him to “show people what I am currently working on instead do what I was doing two years ago, which can be the case if you release an album. It’s definitely a way of challenging myself, thinking less and having more fun creating music!”
The series last single “Touch” is a woozy bit of Teddy Riley and Timbaland-era R&B influenced synth pop centered around arpeggiated keys, wobbling bass, an infectious hook and Alexander’s tender falsetto — and reportedly influenced by Toro Y Moi and Animal Collective, the new single is swooning yet dance floor friendly bit of pop that feels and sounds mischievously anachronistic, as though it could have been released in 1989, 2009 or 2019.
Alexander will be embarking on a 16 date Stateside tour with frequent tourmate Brothertiger that will begin with a February 21, 2019 stop at The Knitting Factory. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Feb 21 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Feb 22 Washington DC – Songbyrd Vinyl Lounge Feb 23 Norfolk, VA – TBA Productions Feb 24 Greenville, SC – Radio Room Feb 26 Atlanta, GA – 529 bar Feb 27 New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa Feb 28 Houston, TX – Continental Club March 1 Austin, TX – Barracuda March 2 Dallas, TX – RBC March 3 Tulsa, OK – Chimera Lounge March 5 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room March 6, Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen March 7 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop March 8 Columbus, OH – Spacebar March 9 Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo March 10 Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA