Category: singer/songwriters

New Video: The Melancholy Sounds and Visuals of Amsterdam’s Nambyar

Nambyar is a half-Fijian, half-Dutch, Amsterdam, The Netherlands based alt R&B/electro pop singer/songwriter, whose music career was initially centered around guitar-driven melodies and band-leaning projects; however, the Amsterdam-based singer/songwriter can trace the origins of his solo recording career to when he began writing songs on an PolySix and Prophet analog studios in his own studio — and interestingly enough, the solitary time resulted in his uninhibited and bracingly honest, new single “Once More,” a bold statement of an artist and a man, finally letting go of his past and moving forward to a new and uncertain future, alone. In fact, as the Dutch-born singer/songwriter explains “Alone for the firs time, I didn’t need to listen to others and was able to focus on what I wanted to tell,The stripped-down production was layered with three synths, while the high-pitched vocal samples are taken from an old Italian singer, which I pitched to create the grid of the whole song.” 

Sonically speaking, Nambyar’s latest single reminds me quite a bit of Beacon’s initial releases — namely For Now EP and The Ways We Separate, as his achingly tender vocals singing deeply confessional, viscerally honest lyrics are paired with a sparse, ambient-leaning production to create an overall aesthetic that’s eerily spectral and mournful; it’s the sound of someone, who’s lead a full and messy life, reflecting back on it and being haunted by the ghosts of it; of someone who’s readily recognized that we often are drawn to people and situations for reasons we can never really explain; of someone, who recognizes that the relationship at the center of the song is heading towards an inevitable finality; but underneath the surface is a narrator, who’s desperate to free himself and live the life he feels fit — at all costs. 

Directed by Theo Captein, the recently released video for “Once More,” is based around a fairly simple concept that Nambyar came up with, as the video features the Amsterdam-based singer/songwriter earnestly brooding in a stark, white room but shot with slow-motion techniques, shallow depth of field, a shattered mirror and an animated bleeding-heart — all of which further emphasize the melancholy  nature of the song. 

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Comprised of siblings Tim (guitar, vocals) and Lewis Lloyd-Kinnings (bass, keys, vocals) and their best friend and spiritual brother, Cameron Gipp (guitar, vocals), the Brighton, UK/London, UK/York, UK-based indie rock trio  Johnny Kills specialize in a furious, surf rock, garage rock and Brit Pop-inspired indie rock. And with the release of two demos — “Take It Easy” and “Maybe Next Year,” the trio quickly received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere; in fact, as a result, the trio along with North London-based Fin S. Woolfson (drums), the band recored their latest single “Let’s Talk About Me,” a single which will further develop the young upstarts reputation for crafting songs about being in your early to mid 20s and being absolutely clueless and anxious — about anything and everything. And although it’s been almost two decades since I was in my early 20s, the band’s sound reminds me quite a bit of Blur and others, as it consists of explosive power chords paired with propulsive drumming, and an anthemic, shout worthy hook reminiscent of Blur‘s “Song 2.

As the band’s Tim Lloyd-Kinnings explains “‘Let’s Talk About Me’ is about the frustrations of hanging out with people, who spend the whole evening talking about themselves, before realizing you kinda just want to talk about yourself too.” As a result, the song’s narrator recognizes that he’s had enough and wants to put his foot down; but he also seems to reveal a stunning lack of awareness of the fact that his friends are selfish, hateful pricks. But regardless of how far some of us are removed from our 20s, the song captures a sentiment that should be familiar, especially if at any point you may have been desperate for some kind of friendship/companionship.

Brad Byrd is a Los Angeles-based indie rock/indie folk singer/songwriter, who after years of suffering through alcohol addiction and depression, started his music career in earnest in 2003. Since then, he’s received attention both locally and nationally for his off-kilter, hook-driven and soulful songwriting over the course of his two full-length efforts, 2005’s The Ever Changing Picture, 2011’s Mental Photograph and a string of singles in which he worked with Warren Huart, who has worked with The Fray and Aerosmith. Adding to a growing profile, Byrd has had his music appear in a number of TV shows including The New Girl, Happy Endings, American Housewife, Ben & Kate, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians — and he’s shared stages with Bobby Long, Mike Doughty, Son Volt‘s Jay Farrar, Jurassic 5 and others.

Byrd’s third full-length album Highest Mountain was co-produced by the Los Angeles, CA based singer/songwriter and Jim Kimbrough, a member of indie rock trio Walt Mink, who has produced Tenacious D, and it’s not only Byrd’s first recorded output in over 6 years, the album may also be among his most personal work to date, as the album thematically focuses on both self-discovery and Byrd reconnecting with his roots. Highest Mountain‘s latest single “1000 Pink Balloons”  is a jangling and achingly soulful and introspective track that focuses on self-discovery and the strength in letting go; but with repeated listens, the single reveals a thoughtful and provocative singer/songwriter, who makes writing a catchy hook seem effortless while nodding at the work of The Church.

New Video: The Cosmic and Symbolic Visuals for Cody ChesnuTT’s “Image of Love”

With the release of his critically praised 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/songwriter and guitarist Cody ChesnuTT was universally hailed as a modern-day soul troubadour with many critics comparing his work to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, largely because of his frank and socially conscious songwriting focusing on modern Black life. Interestingly, The Headphone Masterpiece was released at the height of the neo-soul movement, which included Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and a lengthy list of others — all of whom proved that artists could still release deeply personal, thoughtful, socially conscious work that was fairly successful both critically and commercial successful. In the case of ChesnuTT, his closest brush with mainstream success was a collaborative remake of “The Seed,” “The Seed 2.0,” which appeared on The Roots’ Phrenology released at the end of 2002.

After the commercial and critically success of “The Seed,” ChesnuTT abruptly disappeared from public view for the better part of a decade, a period in which the singer/songwriter and guitarist spent time raising children and in writerly fashion, reflecting, observing, loving and living. Naturally, those experiences informed and influenced 2012’s Landing on a Hundred, an effort that linked contemporary Black soul and pop with the classic work of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, as Hundred thematically focused on a man’s road to redemption after years of womanizing, drugging and scheming, of the power of a love that eclipses superficial and material expressions of love and devotion and of the power of being truthful to one’s self.

Since the release of Landing on a Hundred, ChesnuTT has been rather productive as he’s contributed to the soundtracks of the Oscar Award-winning major motion pictures 12 Years A Slave and Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela, and writing the material that would comprise his recently released third album, My Love Divine Degree. Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that I wrote about My Love Divine Degree‘s second single “I Stay Ready” an uplifting call to positivity in the face of tremendous adversity — and while further cementing his reputation for crafting frank, earnest songs, the production work of Anthony “Twilite Tone” Khan, a BMI Award, Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and DJ, who has worked with Kanye West, Common, John Legend and Pusha T pushes sonic boundaries as it meshes beat-based hip-hop and soul.

The album’s latest single “Image of Love” continues in a similar vein as ChesnuTT’s soulful crooning is paired with a genre blurring production that features wobbling synths, big tweeter and woofer rattling beats and a slick hook in what may arguably be one of the funkiest and most hip-hop leaning songs ChesnuTT has released in several years. Interestingly, the single much like the material on the album is “inspired by a story of a Man and Woman that exercised their ability to rise about their arresting selfishness — to attain a higher level of communication — that they might willing share in the love of eternal life . . . all to simply win the hearts of men, woman and children to better things,” as ChesnuTT explains in press notes. And much like it’s preceding single, it’s a desperately needed bit of uplift in dark, fucked up times.

Featuring gorgeous, psychedelic and cosmic line animation by Konee Rok that includes Cody Chesnutt walking through the woods and the cosmos, playing his Gibson and singing, kids running and playing in the woods, while nodding at the album’s and song’s themes about the differences between selfish and superficial love, and the sort of love that truly connects you with others and the larger universe.

Live Footage: ATO Sessions: Nick Hakim Performs “The Want”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a while, you’d recall that earlier this year, the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim quietly re-emerged with the first batch of new material in some time, “Bet She Looks Like You” “Green Twins,” and “Roller Skates,” the first three singles off his recently released and highly-anticipated full-length debut Green Twins. Hakim can trace the origins of Green Twins’ material back a bit — back to when armed with the masters for his first two, critically applauded EPs, Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist, relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, Hakim quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder and further fleshing them out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound. However, with Hakim, things are done very differently; in fact, the demos are seen as more akin to building a comfortable, holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, Sarlo was tasked to clean, furnish where necessary and prepare those who entered for a profound, religious experience.

Thematically speaking the album’s material reportedly focuses on unique and particular aspects and events of his life with the bulk of the songs being based on specific experiences, feelings, and thoughts had at the time he was writing and composing. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

Green Twins’ fourth and latest single “The Want” features Hakim’s tender and aching falsetto over a sparse and hauntingly eerie arrangement of shimmering and gently plucked guitar chords played through copious reverb and effect pedals, soaring organ and a gently propulsive rhythm section to evoke a plaintive, vulnerable and undeniably carnal longing for someone, when all you want in this world is the electric touch of their skin against yours, to lay around in an unkempt bed with limbs entwined all morning, kissing, touching, licking, tickling, laughing and bullshitting . . .

New Video: Belgian Art Pop/Art Rock Act Warhaus Return with a Moody Rumination on Love

Best known as the frontman and primary songwriter of Belgian rock band Balthazar, Maarten Devoldere has received attention both nationally and internationally for his solo side project, Warhaus which further cements his growing reputation for deftly crafting urbane an hyper-literate material with an accessible, pop-leaning sensibility; in fact, his latest effort We Fucked a Flame Into Being derived its name from a line in DH Lawrence’s classic, erotic novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover — and unsurprisingly, the material on the album thematically focused on lust, desire, love and the profound inscrutability of random encounters, while being intense, decadent, sophisticated. And if you had been following this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about album single “Machinery,” a moody, slow-burning and sensual song that evoked smoke-filled, late night cafes and intimate jazz clubs just off the beaten path, of nights that take a decadent, debaucherous turn and not being completely in control; but with an underlying yearning and aching loneliness, as the song’s narrator desperately wants more than what he has but can’t put it to words.

“Love’s A Stranger” Devoldere’s latest single continues on a similar vein as “Machinery” as it’s a brooding, slow-burning yet wistful rumination on love’s fleeting and impermanent nature, with the perspective of someone who’s loved and lost, loved and fucked up and has recognized more times than what he’d like to admit that love simply doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Love is indeed a stranger, that comes and goes as it pleases — and you may not know when it’ll return, but it returns as it always does. Sonically, Devoldere’s smoky baritone is paired with a jazz pop sort of arrangement that reminds me a bit of Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun as twinkling keys, strummed guitar, gently padded drums and a supple bass line are paired with Devoldere’s husky and expressive baritone.

Directed by filmmaker and screenwriter Wouter Bouvijn, the recently released video for “Love’s A Stranger” is comprised of footage Bouvijn shot while accompanying the band on a week-long tour of France. Initially meant to be B-roll and for background, the Devoldere and his backing band were surprised that Bouvijn’s treatment was cut from intimate on the road, backstage and live footage, but as the Belgian filmmaker explained to Devoldere, “Did you expect me to put you guys with unplugged guitars on a desert hill?” Ultimately, the result is capturing a band at its most unguarded, rarely seen moments and while revealing the personalities, passions and friendships of its members, it also points at the strange, debaucherous loneliness of the artist’s life.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site around the end of last year and during the first few months of this year, you may recall that I had written quite a bit about the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter BETS. Initially, she came to attention last year with the release of her debut effort Days Hours Night to critical applause. And as the story goes, building upon the buzz of her debt, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and her producer/co-writer/collaborator were set to write and record her sophomore album of original material, when the duo discovered that they shared a mutual love of Violent Femmes 1983 self-titled breakout debut effort. Reportedly, within a few minutes, BETS and her producer decided to put the album of originals on hold to work on a Violent Femmes cover album, in which she and her backing band re-imagine and re-work the familiar and beloved material, turning anxious and angular pop-leaning folk into slow-burning and hazy shoegaze.

 

Just before setting out to finish writing and recording her much-anticipated sophomore album of originals, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter went into the studio to record one last Violent Femmes cover, a cover of “Sleepwalkin'” — this time further cementing her growing reputation for crafting hazy and moody shoegaze with slinky and coquettish seductiveness at its core.

New Video: The Darkly Comic and Horror-Inspired Visuals for Mary Epworth’s “Me Swimming”

With the 2012 release of her full-length debut, Dream Life, the British singer/songwriter, composer and pop artist Mary Epworth quickly received a growing national profile as the album was released to glowing and breathless praise from Q Magazine, who called the album was “psych pop splendour . . . Experimentalism, melody and narrative co-existing in an appealing balance,” and Record Collector giving the album five stars and hailing the album as “a work of bracing originality . . . Immaculately sung and graced throughout with intelligent, song-serving arrangements and inspired production touches.” Adding to her growing profile, album singles “Black Doe” and “Long Gone” were playlisted on BBB Radio 6 — and “Black Doe,” was picked as Zane Lowe’s “Hottest Record in The World.” And as a result, Epworth and her backing band spent a lengthy period of time touring and playing the festival circuit.

Over the past few years, Epworth has been busy with other creative pursuits — she composed the theme for the hit Stateside-based podcast Within the Wires, a spinoff to Welcome to Night Vale, and as a result, Epworth joined the Night Vale team on their successful, sold-out tours across both the US and European Union. However, her forthcoming Thom Monahan-produced sophomore effort Elytral derives its name from the description of the smooth armor beetles wear that gives them an external steeliness that belies the filminess below — and while the album will further Epworth’s growing reputation for experimental pop soundscapes, with elements of prog rock, psychedelia and even free jazz, the album reportedly finds Epworth letting loose of her darker songwriting instincts. But it’s also a continuation of some of the themes of its predecessor — nature and the vastness of the world; in fact, as Epworth explains in press notes, the world elytral is “the central metaphor of this album. It’s about resilience and stamina, but also having this light and colour unfolding from inside.”

“Me Swimming” Elytral’s first single features an atmospheric production consisting of a propulsive bass line, shimmering and gently undulating synths, With the 2012 release of her full-length debut, Dream Life, the British singer/songwriter, composer and pop artist Mary Epworth quickly received a growing national profile as the album was released to glowing and breathless praise from Q Magazine, who called the album was “psych pop splendour . . . Experimentalism, melody and narrative co-existing in an appealing balance,” and Record Collector giving the album five stars and hailing the album as “a work of bracing originality . . . Immaculately sung and graced throughout with intelligent, song-serving arrangements and inspired production touches.” Adding to her growing profile, album singles “Black Doe” and “Long Gone” were playlisted on BBB Radio 6 — and “Black Doe,” was picked as Zane Lowe’s “Hottest Record in The World.” And as a result, Epworth and her backing band spent a lengthy period of time touring and playing the festival circuit.

Over the past few years, Epworth has been busy with other creative pursuits — she composed the theme for the hit Stateside-based podcast Within the Wires, a spinoff to Welcome to Night Vale, and as a result, Epworth joined the Night Vale team on their successful, sold-out tours across both the US and European Union. However, her forthcoming Thom Monahan-produced sophomore effort Elytral derives its name from the description of the smooth armor beetles wear that gives them an external steeliness that belies the filminess below — and while the album will further Epworth’s growing reputation for experimental pop soundscapes, with elements of prog rock, psychedelia and even free jazz, the album reportedly finds Epworth letting loose of her darker songwriting instincts. But it’s also a continuation of some of the themes of its predecessor — nature and the vastness of the world; in fact, as Epworth explains in press notes, the world elytral is “the central metaphor of this album. It’s about resilience and stamina, but also having this light and colour unfolding from inside.”

“Me Swimming” Elytral’s first single features an atmospheric production consisting of a propulsive bass line, shimmering and gently undulating synths, metronomic-like drum programming fed through reverb, some subtle industrial-like clang and clatter and a soaring hook. And much like Roisin Murphy’s incredibly weird and experimental work, Epworth’s latest single manages to possess a radio-friendly accessibility.

Directed by Ben Sommers and starring renowned British character actor Robert Lloyd Parry, best known for performing one-man stagings of short stories by British horror writer M.R. James, the video for “Me Swimming” follows a man, who has a strange and overwhelming obsession — and interestingly enough is based on Epworth’s own concept. As Epworth explains “This video features so many of my favourite things — beasts, landscape, Robert Lloyd Parry’s impeccable acting and blackly comic pastoral horror.”

Emmit Fenn is Berkeley, CA-based indie electro pop artist, who describes his sound and aesthetic as being at the intersection of Flume and James Blake — and as you’ll hear on his latest single “Woman,” Fenn pairs his tender and aching crooned volcano with a minimalist production consisting of propulsive, boom-bap like drumming and gently swirling electronics and shimmering synths to create a sound that reminds me quite a bit of The Ways We Separate-era Beacon but with a plaintive sensuality at its core.