Category: singer/songwriters

Last year, the Swiss-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sam Himself received attention with the 2017 release of his genre-defying EP Songs in D, an effort that featured Americana-inspired torch songs centered around his bluesy, whiskey and cigarettes-tinged vocals.  Now, as you may recall, I wrote about “Out of Love,” an old-fashioned and slow-burning duet featuring denetia and sene‘s denetia that seemed to nod at Johnny Cash‘s and June Carter Cash‘s “If I Were a Carpenter” — but with a subtle twist, as the song according to the Swiss-born, New York-based artist “is a desperate promise to keep a lover from leaving.”

The Swiss-born, New York-based singer/songwriter’s latest single is an 80s synth and guitar-based track that nods at Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run” “Born in the USA,” and “Glory Days” and Caveman‘s self-titled album, complete with rousingly anthemic, fist raising hooks; but interestingly, the song is centered around Sam Himself’s experience of arriving to New York and recognizing that “nobody has been waiting for you here. The apple is pretty big without you, and unless you come up with a pretty good reason, New York doesn’t care. ‘Nobody’ is about that crushing, eye-opening and ultimately liberating experience.”

Sam Himself has a set tonight at Baby’s All Right.

 

 

New Video: The Cinematic and Surreal Visuals for Oddnesse’s Sultry “Are You Down”

Comprised of singer/songwriter Rebeca Arango and producer Grey Goon, the Los Angeles, CA-based indie pop project Oddnesse can trace its origins to when both members independently relocated from the East Coast to Los Angeles haunted by the ghosts of expensive degrees in music, several failed bands and countless gigs at  Cake Shop and others. And as the story goes, Arnago and Goon bonded over a shared vision for infectious and beautiful music with a dark, heavy groove — and initially, they stopped by the studio as two friends jamming and experimenting with ideas before they began to take it as a serious endeavor.

“Are You Down,” the duo’s latest single finds the duo pairing Arango’s self-assured and coquettish crooning with a shimmering Mazzy Star-like production featuring a soaring hook. As Rebeca Arango explained in press notes, “Are You Down,” is her “Pina Colada” song, as “it’s a very confident and laid-back anticipation of my next lover, where I’m getting specific about calling in someone, who can match my energy and approach to life. The question of going ‘slow’ isn’t about romantic pacing per-se (though that is important), it’s more about generally moving slow, never rushing to pack in too much all at once or getting anxious about ‘missing out,’ and preferring to to sink in and explore the depths of all things.”

Directed by Thaddeus Ruzicka, the recently released video for “Are You Down” is a cinematically shot fever dream that subtly draws from old movies and early 80s music videos — and features a protagonist in gorgeous yet somewhat surreal settings.

New Video: Married, Art Pop Duo, The Parlor Releases a Thoughtful Meditation on Grief

With the release of their critically applauded sophomore album Wahzu Wahzu, the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo The Parlor, comprised of multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, production and husband and wife team of Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans further cemented a growing reputation for a fearless willingness to explore a variety of sound palettes and styles while crafting intimate and thoughtful pop music; in fact, the Altamont, NY-based duo have progressed from indie folk to stomp and clap trance folk to “campfire disco” as Pitchfork described Wahzu Wahzu.

Slated for an April 13, 2018 the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo’s forthcoming, third full-length effort Kiku derives its name for the Japanese word for chrysanthemum. According to O’Connor and Krans, chrysanthemum began blooming in their farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and for the couple, the flower became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. Sonically speaking, the album represents a continued evolution of their overall sound, as Kiku is the duo’s first foray into trigged samples and orchestral synth soundscaping. “Kiku grew into something we never anticipated,” the couple admits in press notes. As they were grieving, they turned to their art and began writing and recording material inspired by what they were feeling and thinking, as the couple says they felt themselves “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead, where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a pice of her, of Kiku, back with us.”

Understandably, the material on Kiku sounds gloomier and more anxious than their previously released work while reportedly balancing a playful and relaxed air at points that suggests that while profoundly serious, the album can be coquettish, sexy and earnest; in some way, the album is meant to be the inner world of a couple, who keep trying over and over again — perhaps, because as cheesy as it may sound to some, they have each other.

Kiku’s first single, album opener “Soon” draws from dream pop, contemporary electro pop, movie soundtracks, jazz and experimental pop in a heady and swooning mix — and while to my ears, bringing to mind the work of Moonbabies, Beacon, Softspot, Mazzy Star and Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS, the members of The Parlor manage to specialize in incredibly slick and lush production featuring soaring hooks paired with fearlessly heartfelt lyrics and sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to break your heart time and time again, but with a deeper purpose — to remind the listener of their empathy. Grief is grief is grief. We all know this and we all experience it at various points in our lives, and we try to move froward; that is what people do after all.

As O’Connor and Krans explain in press notes, “‘Soon’ was intended as a metaphor for the stages of grief. The chrysanthemums represent grief itself. We carry grief around with us, often to unlikely places. We try at times to let it go, to fling our grief from great heights or hope it’s carried off by time — an offering to the flowing waters of the hills. But ultimately we find ourselves steeping in it, drowning in it, and ideally cleansed by it in a baptism of intentional release. Allowing ourselves to stop fighting forces us to experience things that, as humans, we often try desperately to avoid. Allowing ourselves to dance in glowing sunlight empowers us to reclaim our spirit. And we are transported to a deeper place of understanding of one’s self and of the human experience as we know it. ‘Soon’ is an expression of painful hope and illuminated heart.”

The duo directed, shot and edited the video for “Soon” and naturally, the video prominently features chrysanthemums throughout — sometimes the husband and wife duo proudly and defiantly carrying them about, at other points, the flowers are being offered to the proverbial flowing waters of time or treated as a sort of sacrifice; but no matter what the flowers and their grief is inescapable — until they accept it.

Live Footage: Alice Merton Performs Viral Hit “No Roots” on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

Alice Merton is a Canadian-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Of course, music was a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth she was; she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five and by the time she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. As the story goes, after spending the better part of a decade being classically trained, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And from that point forward, she went on to study songwriting and began pursuing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

Naturally, while in school Merton would up working with a number or producers on projects and as you can imagine, finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator is a rarity. And when she met Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she finally found her musical match; in fact, the duo have managed to specialize in an anachronistic  sound that features Merton’s soulful pop belter vocals over a slick production consisting of analog synths, classic soul music-inspired instrumentation paired with hook driven, contemporary songwriting. 

Merton’s swaggering and bluesy debut single “No Roots,” features Merton’s self-assured and soulful pop belter vocals paired with a Rebscher production that features enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a sinuous bass line, brief blasts of funk guitar, squiggly blasts of synths and a rousingly anthemic hook that nods at Amy Winehouse, Lorde, Taylor Swift and others but while managing to feature a narrator that simultaneously expresses a wizened and resilient spirit; but just underneath there’s a visceral ache over a life frequently thrown in disarray with sudden moves before the narrator could get adjusted to a new place, and the realization that she’s never quite belonged. 

Already “No Roots” has won the up-and-coming Merton an immense amount of attention across the European Union, Stateside and elsewhere, as the song has already seen millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube, and has recently been added to the playlists of several Stateside Adult Alternative Album radio stations, including stations in Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Minneapolis, the NYC area, as well as Sirius Alt Nation. Adding to a growing profile, thanks in part to the success of her debut single, Merton recently signed to renowned indie label Mom + Pop Music. Recently Merton, along with her backing band recently made their national television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she performed her viral hit. 

New Video: Bülow Releases a Mischievous Video for Attention Grabbing Single “Not A Love Song”

Megan Bülow is a 17 year-old pop artist, who writes and records as Bülow, and who has spent time living in the States, Canada, the UK and Germany and is currently finishing high school in The Netherlands, making the up-and-coming pop artist a true citizen of the world. And with the release of her debut Damaged, Vol. 1 late last year, an effort that featured attention grabbing singles “Not A Love Song” and “Like This Guy” and “Lines,” Bülow became a viral sensation as those tracks have amassed several million streams, cracking the Spotify Global Viral charts, and receiving praise from the likes of NME, Vice Noisey, Pigeons and Planes and this site. 

Now, as you may recall “Not A Love Song” is an incredibly self-assured and sultry track that features Bülow’s smoky crooning over a slick and hyper contemporary production consisting of arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and finger snaps, and unsurprisingly, from this track Bülow remind some of pop contemporaries like Phoebe Ryan, Chelsea Lankes, Sofi de la Torre,  and others, as “Not A Love Song” is centered around a fearless, unvarnished honesty, capturing the messiness, uncertainties and insecurities of a young woman trying to maneuver the complexities of love, her impending adulthood and growing sense of independence. In fact, as Bülow explained to me via email, “‘Not A Love Song’ is about the excitement of meeting someone for the first time. Initially, it feels so new and overwhelming good, but I eventually decided I wasn’t ready for that commitment. Or at least, that’s what I told myself. You can’t let lust fool you. Be honest with yourself. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not mean tot be; but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!”

The recently released video for the song was shot in Berlin and captures, the up-and-coming pop artist in a rather natural setting, capturing a young woman who can be equally confident, awkward, vulnerable and mischievous. As Bülow says of the video treatment, “I wanted this video to be natural, just being myself in a fearless city. Berlin is a special place to me.”

New Video: Up-and-Coming London-based Pop Artist Jodie Abacus Releases Swooning Visuals for Euphoric New Single “Meet Me In The Middle”

With the release of “I’ll Be That Friend” and “She’s In Love With The Weekend,” the up-and-coming London-based pop artist Jodie Abacus quickly saw a growing national profile, as both singles received airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and BBC Radio 1xtra — and as a result of his growing profile, Abacus has collaborated with some of the UK’s hottest producers, writers and artists including Julio Bashmore, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Duke Dumont, Ariel Rechtshaid (who has worked with Beyonce, Adele and HAIM, and others), Rahki (who has worked with Kendrick Lamar), SOHN and others.  Adding to a growing profile, the up-and-coming, London-based artist has received praise from The Fader, who hailed him as “irresistible” and i-D Magazine as “somewhere between a less animated Thundercat and a more off-the-wall Stevie Wonder.” 

Abacus’ second EP, Mild Cartoon Violence derives its name from his desire “to capture the flavour of what goes on in my mind at any point in time when I write songs. I have an aggressive and playful approach towards everything I write within the creative process . . . I stand up, jump around and get excited. I envision the past, the present and the future feel of the storyline like a movie in my head in a cartoonish way and then scrutinise and bash away heavily at anything that may not feel right. This EP is about love, sex and torment.” The EP’s latest single, the POMO-produced “Meet Me In The Middle” pairs Abacus’ easy-going and soulful vocals with a shimmering neo-soul meets house music production featuring arpeggiated synths, stuttering drum programming and an infectious and euphoric hook — and that shouldn’t be surprising as the song is a swooning and euphoric track that the up-and-coming, British pop artist says is about a new romance, when you’re trying to get with someone sensually, physically, mentally and spiritually. 

The recently released video was shot in South London and follows Abacus as he meets cute with a beautiful woman, chats her up and invites her to a local house party. As Jodie Abacus says in press notes, “We had such fun shooting this as it turned into a full on party after the cameras stopped rolling.” 

New Video: King Tuff Releases Surreal and Meditative Visuals for Shuffling and Cosmic Album Single “Psycho Star”

Kyle Thomas is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who’s the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded indie rock recording project King Tuff. And much like countless other musicians, Thomas grew up in a fairly musical home, where he was encouraged to play several different instruments — particularly guitar, keyboard and drums; but interestingly, it was a Fender Stratocaster that his father brought for him when he was 7 that served as a constant source of inspiration. After high school, Thomas spent his time writing songs and playing with a number of bands. “I would go on tour, but i never really took it as a serious job up until a couple years ago, when I decided to really make an effort at it. It’s been a real long, slow practice,” Thomas once publicly said. 

Thomas’ first release was a self-made CD-R distributed by Spirit of Orr Records, and the album consisted of rough version of songs, white he later released on his official debut 2008’s Was Dead, which was released through Tee Pee Records’ sister-label The Colonel; however, after not receiving much attention for his work as King Tuff, Thomas went on to other creative pursuits including stints in bands like Witch, Happy Birthday and Ty Segall’s backing band, The Muggers. Thomas’ 2012 sophomore, Bobby Harlow-produced, self-titled, full-length effort was released by Sub Pop Records and charted at #21 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Albums chart while debuting at #14 on CMJ’s charts, before eventually climbing to #2, knocking Jack White’s Blunderbuss from its top charting position. 2013 saw the re-ssiue deluxe edition of Was Dead, which charted at #8 on Billboard’s Heatseeker charts. 

Thomas’ third, full-length effort, 2014’s Black Moon Spell continued his ongoing collaboration with Bobby Harlow and featured Ty Segall as a guest drummer on the title track — and the album continued a run of critical and commercial success, with the album debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker charts, and was once #1 on the CMJ College Radioplay chart. 

Last week, Thomas released his first single in four years, “The Other” the album title track off The Other, which is slated for an April 13, 2018 release through Sub Pop Records. And while his self-produced effort will continue his reputation for hook-driven rock, the material reportedly finds Thomas ditching the goofy, rock-‘n’-roll bacchanalia for much more expansive arrangements, a diversity of instrumentation with lyrics that also reportedly straddle the fence between painful rumination and reconnecting with the childlike and innocent aspect of yourself. Additionally, the album features guest spots from Ty Segall (drums), Jenny Lewis (vocals), Greta Morgan (vocals) and Mikal Cronin (saxophone).  And while being a decided change in sonic direction, Thomas views the album as a psychic reset of him. “I let the songs lead me where they wanted to go, instead of trying to push them into a certain zone. King Tuff was always just supposed to be me. When I started doing this as a teenager, it was whatever I wanted it to be. King Tuff was never supposed to be just one thing. It was supposed to be everything.”

“Psycho Star” is The Other’s first official single is a funky and soulful track based around an arrangement of arpeggiated keys, sinuous bass line, shuffling drums, wah wah pedal effected guitars and a disco-like hook but lyrically the song finds its narrator musing about his place in an indifferent and mysterious universe. It’s obvious that the viewpoint on the album is to look upward and outward towards the cosmic, the infinite.  

Directed by Cameron Dutra, the recently released video for “Psycho Star” is a surreal concept that follows the video’s director, King Tuff and backing dancers as they’re about to shoot their video but pulls back to focus on some of the random passerby, a roller skater lost in her music, and a paranoid truth-teller and psychic. At times, the visuals are gloriously lo-fi, nodding at VHS video and cheap car dealership commercials while at other points, being remarkably slick, as well as a mediation on life and death. 

Live Footage: Ruby Boots Performs “I Am A Woman”

Bex Chilcott is a Perth, Australia-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has led  the sort of life that could easily have inspired a dozen or or more country and western albums.  At 14, Chilcott left a dysfunctional and conflicted home and eventually worked her way up the desolate Western Australian coast, before she ended up in Broome, a ramshackle and culturally diverse, tiny dot on the map, where reportedly it didn’t pay to ask people too many questions about their pasts — or why they ended up there. While in Broome, Chilcott worked for weeks at a time on a pearling trawler, where she worked with incredibly hardened men, doing backbreaking, exhausting labor and alcohol was forbidden.  Naturally, the time on the seas, the backbreaking work and the men she worked with was profound and in her free time, the young Chilcott spent hours contemplating life and teaching herself guitar and songwriting — and then later, to eventually sing her own material. 

Returning from a self-imposed exile from civilization, Chilcott learned that people actually wanted to listen to her originals — and that was when she began to perform as Ruby Boots. 

Chilcott’s first two Ruby Boots EP received attention for bold, unafraid and unabashedly honest music that told tales of tough and unlucky souls, who see both their lives and affairs of the heart as deathly serious matters. And as a result, Chilcott has shared stages with the internationally acclaimed artists like Father John Misty, Shakey Graves, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, Nikki Lane, Reverend Horton Heat, Tony Joe White, Kris Kristofferson and others. Adding to a growing profile, Chilcott released her full-length debut Solitude, an effort that was released back in 2015 and featured guest spots from The Waifs’ Vicki Thorn, along with some of Australia’s top alt-country talents, including Dewey Lane, Jordie Lane, Bill Chambers, The Sleepy Jackson‘s and Eskimo Joe‘s Lee Jones, who has been one of Chilcott’s frequent collaborators.

Chilcott’s long-awaited sophomore, full-length effort Don’t Talk About It was officially released through Chicago, IL-based label Bloodshot Records today, and the Beau Bedford-produced album features the acclaimed country and Southern rock band The Texas Gentlemen as her backing band. Lyrically and thematically, the album charts this drifter’s restless odyssey, tattered and beaten up passport in hand, capturing the life of someone who’s been tossed ashore by the breakers and currents of life, but hasn’t lost hope or her will; but with the recognition that life will break your heart more ways to count, and when you think you can’t go on much further, life pushes you forward anyway.

Don’t Talk About It’s latest single is the sparse, bare-knuckle, a capella “I Am A Woman,” and the single, which will further cement Chilcott’s growing reputation for crafting personal and unabashedly raw and honest songs, full of the ache and regret of a messy life featuring shitty decisions influenced by shittier situations, dysfunctional and furious relationships with irresponsible, dangerous lovers and good, decent ones. And throughout, there’s the quietly defiant and self-contained resiliency and pride that from my experience I’ve only seen in women.  Interestingly, in some way the song makes a subtle nod at Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” spiritually and thematically — but clearly from a very modern sensibility. As Chilcott explains in press notes, “‘I Am a Woman’ was conjured up amid recent events where men have spoken about, and treated women’s bodies, the way no man, or woman, should. This kind of treatment toward another human being makes every nerve in my body scream. These kinds of incidents are so ingrained in our culture and are swept under the carpet at every turn—it needs to change. As tempting as it was to just write an angry tirade I wanted to respond with integrity, so I sat with my feelings and this song emerged as a celebration of women and womanhood, of our strength and our vulnerability, all we encompass and our inner beauty, countering ignorance and vulgarity with honesty and pride and without being exclusionary to any man or woman. My hope is that we come together on this long drawn out journey. The song is the backbone to the album for me.”

The live version features Chilcott with three of her Nashville songwriter friends contributing backing vocals — Philip Creamer, Nicole Atkins and Kashena Sampson and was shot in the lounge room/living room of Chilcott’s best friend Nikki Lane.

New Video: New JOVM Mainstay Miles Francis Returns with a Tender Meditation on Love

Last week, Miles Francis, released his highly anticipated debut EP, Swimmers and as you may know, the EP finds the 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has had stints as a member of Superhuman Happiness, and Antibalas, fronting Afrobeat/Afropop collective EMEFE, as well as collaborating with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others, stepping out on his own. 

Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as an adult, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” featured a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming and an incredibly infectious hook; but despite that, the song’s narrator seemingly finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which gave the song a tense and conflicted vibe. The EP’s second official single “Complex” featured a slowly strutting groove, undulating synths, a sinuous bass line, boom bap-like beats and a slow-burning, unexpected sultry hook — and that single will further cement the young artist’s growing reputation for crafting danceable, left field pop. 

“Deserve Your Love” is an emotionally ambivalent track — and it someway that shouldn’t be surprising as Miles Francis explains that the song “deals with the complexities and risks in a new romance. Where there’s overconfidence, there’s deep insecurity; where there’s a sweet exterior, there’s evil brewing underneath — all within one person. It’s sung from the perspective of either a self-conscious, wounded lover or an unemotional jerk.” And if there’s one rare thing in our lives that’s certain it’s the fact that love is a strange thing that can bring out both the very best of us and the very worst of us — simultaneously and without warning or comprehension. Despite the song’s emotional ambivalence, it’s a swooning and intimate song, a confession of sorts of one’s sense of worth or lack thereof in which the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter sings the songs’ lyrics with a tender falsetto before the song’s soaring hook. Throughout, he’s accompanied by gently billowing guitar chords and metronomic-like drum programming, which gives the song it’s achingly lonely vibe; but oddly enough, the song is arguably one of the more Beatles-like songs he’s released to date. 

The recently released video continues Miles Francis’ ongiong collaboration with director and filmmaker Charles Billot and as the New York-based pop artist explains, the video’s protagonist is depicted as an unemotional jerk, who has a terrible night. The threesome he enters ends unexpectedly with a slap in the face. And as he’s driving back to his place, the video switches between shots of Miles and an older man (who turns out to be Miles’ father). Perhaps the older man is an older manifestation of the young protagonist, full of his own regrets and mistakes? In any case, Miles stops suddenly when he sees a body in the middle of the road, and he gets roughed up by a gang and has his car stolen. The video ends with the protagonist stopping for an ice cream cone, and returning home seemingly unfazed over everything that’s just happened to him.