Category: Single Review

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about Alice Merton, a Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany-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. Understandably, music managed to be a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth her and her family was; in fact, she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five, and when she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. After spending the better part of a decade of her life in classical training, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And as the story goes, from that point forward, Merton went on to study songwriting and began pursing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

While in school, Merton wound up working with a number of producers on projects, and finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator in the creative process is a rarity. And when she met the Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found her musical match; in fact, the duo collaborated on Merton’s swaggering, hook-driven smash hit debut “No Roots,” a song that’s deeply influenced by her own nomadic youth. Speaking of smash hits, “No Roots” held the #1 spot for 2 consecutive weeks at the alternative radio charts here in the states, and held for 8 weeks in Canada. And as a result, she cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts, the Top 15 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts and entered the Billboard Hot 100. Adding to a growing profile, the song is synced in a Mini Cooper ad campaign and was recently featured in Rolling Stone‘s “One To Watch” and Billboard‘s “Chartbreaker” section, which has previously featured artists such as Cardi B and Khalid — and earlier this year, she made her national TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Building upon the buzz of her breakthrough single, Merton’s latest single “Lash Out” comes on the heels of her recently released No Roots EP, and much like “No Roots,” the Berlin-based pop artist’s latest single continues on the first-person perspective of its predecessor and the anthemic, hook-driven song focuses on a woman, who feels the need to speak up boldly (and loudly!) about what you want, need and what you’re ready to fight for; to confidently answer your own needs in your own way.  And in some way, the song is an earnest, empowering feminist anthem.

Merton will be touring to support her debut EP and it’ll include performances on the festival circuit with appearances at Shaky Knees Fest, Hangout Music Festival and Governor’s Ball, and a tour opening for Vance Joy that includes a June 14, 2018 stop at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates:
5/6 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Fest
5/15 Charlottesville, VA Spring Pavilion*
5/16 Columbus, OH Express Live!*
5/18 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE*
5/19 Portsmouth, VA Portsmouth Pavilion*
5/20 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Fest
5/22 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre*
5/24 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live*
5/25 Chicago, IL Rosemont Theatre*
5/26 St. Louis, MO Fox Theatre*
5/27 Napa, CA BottleRock Napa Valley
5/30 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheater*
6/1 St. Paul, MN Myth Live*
6/2 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom*
6/3 – New York, NY – Governors Ball Music Festival
6/14 Brooklyn, NY Prospect Park*
6/15 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion*
6/16 Hunter, NY NY Mountain Jam
6/14-6/17 Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
8/4 Montreal, QC Osheaga Festival
8/7 Toronto, ON Echo Beach^
* W/ Vance Joy
^ W/ Tash Sultana

 

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Best known as a member of Charles Bradley‘s backing band The Extraordinaries and Sharon Jones‘ backing band The Dap Kings, Lee Fields‘ backing band The Expressions, Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson and others, the Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since founding the label, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based artists including singer/songwriter, John Fatum, The Rad Trads, Michael Harlen, Patrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.

Last year, I wrote about a Dala Records split 7 inch single “Breathing Hard (Over You)”/”Honey Bee” featuring Camellia Hartman and its founder Aukstik, with both artists backed by the Dala Records house band, The Soulful Saints. And as you may recall, Hartman is an East Village-born and-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who as a child studied the Suzuki method on violin, bass and guitar at rock ‘n’ roll day camp, trombone in middle school and a cappella in high school.  Hartman’s latest single is the Billy Aukstik penned, “Return the Favor,” which is centered around the East Village-born and -based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s effortless and old-timey soulful vocals and an arrangement featuring twinkling keys, shuffling drums, and a loose, bluesy guitar line and a sultry horn line. Sonically, the song, which draws from Northern Soul production brings to mind the sounds of The Supremes and others, complete with a swooning and aching longing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born Elizabeth Lowell Boland, Lowell is Calgary, Alberta, Canada-born singer/songwriter and up-and-coming pop artist, who spent time living in Carcross, Yukon Territories, near a mountain that once offered passage to gold hunters — and was also once a preying haven for wolves; the up-and-coming pop artist has also spent time living in Massachusetts, Ottawa, Georgia and Calgary, before splitting her time between Toronto and London, UK.

Early within her career, she won the attention of Martin Terefe, who has worked with KT Tunstall, James Blunt and Jason Mraz; Sacha Skarbek, who has worked with Lana Del Rey, Adele and Miley Cyrus; James Bryan, who has worked with Nelly Furtado and The Philosopher Kings; and Paul Herman, who has worked with Dido.  The quartet of songwriters and producers invited them to London’s Kensaltown Studios to write with them; however, what they all worked on wasn’t in sync with Lowell’s vision, so they scrapped what they had and started over again with the end result being her I Killed Sara V. EP and her full-length debut, We Loved Her Dearly, which was released on renowned indie label Arts & Crafts Records. Both efforts received attention for songs, which openly focused on topics like sexual abuse, rape, abortion, women’s rights, the lack of LGBTQ rights, as well as our cultural ignorance about (and simultaneous) obsession with homosexuality.

Ultimately, Lowell’s first efforts were fueled by the need to empower her and her listeners to challenge gender conventions and inspire freedom from social limitations, rules and misogynists’ abuse of power, and to celebrate and uphold individuality — and while those are understandably heavy and urgent subjects, the up-and-coming pop artist pairs that with accessible, downright radio friendly melodies and upbeat vibes. Much like Fela Kuti and others, she’s used music as a weapon — suggesting as they did, you can challenge social norms and speak truth to power while dancing. Interestingly, Lowell remained friends with Terefe et. al. and it lead to her working with Terefe as a member of his band Apparatjik, and to her mini album If You Can Solve This Jumble. Following that, it lead to four days of writing and recording with A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Coldplay‘s Guy Berryman, Mew‘s Jonas Bjerre and Terefe, who she joined onstage at 2012’s Roskilde Festival.

After the release of her full-length debut, Lowell took up residency in her own studio space, where she began writing for other artists, including Icona Pop, Dragonette, Netsky, Grandtheft and Bulow, and where she also spent time working at writing, producing and practicing her craft, as well as guitar and piano (which she is classically trained), so that she could be ready for a self-financed UK tour, where she was backed by a drummer. Since then, she’s played showcases at Canadian Music Week, CMJ, Sled Island, and performed at David Lynch’s Club Silencio in Paris, headlined in Oslo and Copenhagen, opened for Chad Valley in Berlin, Padova and London; and opened for The Raveonettes in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid.

Lowell’s sophomore effort Lone Wolf was recently released on Friday, and the album’s material focus on the power an influence of youth — particular as a teenager, but from a more mature viewpoint; from someone, looking back on their own youth as an adult, who isn’t too far removed from it. And as a result, the album thematically focuses on self-discovery while retaining the upbeat, anthemic and dance floor friendly production that has won her attention.  In fact, the album’s first single “War Face” is an infectious and soulful track centered around an arrangement featuring bluesy guitar, handclaps, a propulsive battle rhythm and an infectious shout worthy hook that brings to mind The Black Keys and Alice Merton, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born the daughter of an artist, Hannah Scott is an Ipswich, UK-born, London, UK-based singer/songwriter, whose work is heavily influenced by a year spent working on an olive press in rural Tuscany, Italy in her late teens. Scott met her longtime collaborator, Italian-born and Italian-based multi-instrumentalist Stefano Della Casa when they were both in London, but interestingly enough, they both recognized that they may have encountered each other years earlier, when she used to regularly passed through the train station that Della Casa worked in. And as the story goes, when the two began collaborating, they recognized an incredible connection despite coming from very different backgrounds: Della Casa had a difficult upbringing and troubled adult life, while Scott had been lucky to have a supportive and happy childhood — although as an adult Scott has recently been diagnosed with a form of arthritis, which causes severe joint paint and fatigue.

Both artists firmly believe that their musical collaboration has provided an outlet to support each other through difficult times, and so far the up-and-coming duo have received quite a bit of buzz early on as they’ve been featured in MOJOSongwriting Magazine and as a “New Band of The Day” in The Guardian, and airplay on Bob Harris‘ and Dermot O’Leary‘s BBC Radio 2 shows, and had been on BBC Introducing as their “Track of Week” on three different occasions. Adding to a growing profile, Scott and Della Casa have opened for Seth Lakeman and 10cc — and if you’ve been frequenting this site you may recall that Scott and Della Casa played an intimate and gorgeous set at last year’s Mondo.NYC Festival.

Scott’s and Della Casa’s newest effort together, Pieces of the Night is slated for release later this year, and the album reportedly consists of material that finds the duo meshing live, organic instrumentation — acoustic guitar, cello and vocals — with slick yet tasteful electronic production, centered around honest songs on the human condition and human connection in an increasingly hectic world. Pieces of the Night‘s first single “Signs of Life” is a rousingly anthemic piano-led song that focuses on the need to push on through difficulties and hard times, no matter how dark and hopeless they may seem. Certainly, in our dark times, the song’s message is desperately needed — and while rooted in the experiences of its creators, the song is both personal yet universal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of founding member Luisa Black (vocals, guitar), August Churchill (guitar), Jonny Naismith (guitar) and Gavin Haag (drums), the New York-based indie rock band, which specializes in a sound that meshes elements of British art work with American garage rock initially began as a solo project of its then San Francisco, CA-based founding member, after the breakup of her previous band The Blacks, and evolved around a series of demos Black wrote while she was living in London. Since then, the band has worked with a rotating cast in which they’re often a trio but occasionally a duo — and interestingly enough, with the release of a handful of EPs, the band has developed  following in the UK and the European Union.

Rich Girls’ recently released full-length debut Black City finds the band pushing their moody minimalist sound into new directions, and while they retain the reverb-drenched guitar-based sound that first won them attention, the album’s material employs the use of vintage, analog synths and marimbas, as well as some ambitious songwriting that finds the band further blurring genre lines as the material swings back and forth between a pop-leaning focus on melody and a punk-leaning focus on urgency.

“Wayne” Black City‘s latest single is a slow-burning and anthemic, ballad that sonically reminds me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps,” Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” and Mazzy Star, thanks in part to a sparse arrangement centered around reverb-drenched power chords, thundering drumming, a soaring hook and Black’s vocals singing heartbreaking lyrics on a post-addiction love; but underneath the song’s ache is the self-assuredness of old pros, who can craft an ambitious, arena rock friendly torch song in a way that feels both profoundly sincere and effortless.

 

 

With her parents Laurie Lynn and Richard Stark being the owners of the high end silvery jewelry brand, Chrome Hearts, which has expanded into gold, diamond accessories, leather, clothing, furniture, incense and eyewear, the 24 year-old, Los Angeles, CA-born and-based singer/songwriter Jesse Jo Stark grew up in an environment that fostered creative expression; in fact, she was initially known as a model, who was photographed as a young teen by Gilles Bensimon for Elle Magazine before venturing into design, creating the Pete Punk collection, which was largely inspired by the punk era. The collection was critically applauded by fashion editors and was a commercial success — and as a result, it lead to a collaboration with Vans.  

Of course, music and fashion go hand-in-hand, and Jesse Jo Starks felt the pull to express herself musically — and under the guidance and collaboration of The Sex Pistols‘ Steve Jones, Guns ‘N’ RosesDuff McKagan and others, Starks began writing and recording her own original material, material that drew a variety of sources from country, punk and rock.

The up-and-coming, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has been busy balancing the busy schedule of her fashion work with writing and recording her debut effort, but she has released a handful of singles over the past year, including her latest “Fire of Love,” a sultry and cinematic track that possesses a dusty, Western Gothic vibe reminiscent of JOVM mainstays Betty Black and Bambara.

Stark will be opening for Sunflower Bean throughout the band’s June, Southwestern and West Coast dates. Check out the tour dates below.
TOUR DATES

6/8       Houston, TX                White Oak Music Hall Upstairs
6/10     Dallas, TX                   Club Dada
6/12     Phoenix, AZ                Valley Bar
6/13     San Diego, CA            Che Café
6/14     Santa Ana, CA            Constellation Room
6/15     Los Angeles, CA         Teragram Ballroom.

 

 

 

New Audio: Here Lies Man Returns with a Hallucinogenic New Single

Founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Mann, both of whom have been members of renowned Afrobeat act Antibalas, the Los Angeles, CA-based act Here Lies Man received attention here and elsewhere for a song that seamlessly bridges classic Fela Kuti-era funky Afrobeat grooves with classic, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era power chord-based rock.

Building upon a growing profile, the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort You Will Know Nothing is slated for a June 15, 2018 release through RidingEasy Records and the band’s sophomore effort finds the band refining and expanding upon their sound, and as the band’s co-founder Marcos Garcia explains in press notes “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s (Black Sabbath) innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song. We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” Along with that, the album reportedly finds the band writing catchier, more anthemic material with a slicker, crisper production — while lyrically, the band focuses on a more conceptualized effort, focusing on states of being and consciousness.  As Garcia continues “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished.” 

Interestingly, while continuing to focus on the gritty grooves and power chords that first captured the attention of the blogosphere but while being centered around some conceptual mathematics. “There are interludes between each song that are 2/3 to 3/4 of the tempo of the previous song,” Garcia says. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa.” As the band’s Geoff Mann says “We dove deep into the texture of the music, beyond the groove and the riff. Although something might sound like one instrument, there are subtle layers shifting through. It’s definitely a headphone album.”

However, much like the previous album, the duo of Garcia and Mann recorded You Will Know Nothing a their Los Angeles studio on a Tascam 388 8-track recorder. Congas later recorded by percussionists Richard Panta and Reinaldo DeJesus. Then Garcia traveled to New York to record the interludes with former Antibalas keyboardist Victor Axelrod. Mixing took the most time of the entire process, as they had to found the proper sonic space of each layer of musical detail with their first album engineer Jermey Page mixing the drum parts and the band tackling the remainder while balancing a busy touring schedule. 

You Will Know Nothing’s latest single is the  hallucinogenic yet anthemic “Fighting” which is centered around a blistering guitar psych rock meets Black Sabbath riff, a shout with your beer aloft in the air hook, and a bridge led by propulsive African percussion — and much like the album’s overall theme, the song evokes the sensation of a lingering, half-remembered, anxious nightmare. 

 

Arieh Berl is an Oakland, CA-born and raised singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind psych pop act Pink Skies. Interestingly, Berl has a lengthy history playing in a number of Bay Area-based punk and indie rock bands and while writing for one of those bands, it became clear to him that the material he had been writing were meant for a completely different project, as he began writing songs that drew from psych rock, pop, R&B, 70s AM rock and chillwave — or as Berl describes his sound in press notes, “Escapism Pop.” Although he initially didn’t intend on releasing his personal, home recordings made in Oakland, Boston and Los Angeles, Berl decided to release the material after attending a creative retreat in the Berkley Hills.

Last year was a big year for Berl as he released his first Pink Skies single “Start.End,” played guitar on BOSCO‘s b and released a re-interpreation of 6LACK‘s “Gettin’ Old.” Adding to a growing profile. Berl signed to Huh What & Where Recordings, the label home of KAYTRANADA, Fwdslxsh, Pomo and others. Building upon his big 2017, Berl’s latest Pink Skies single is the decidedly Tame Impala-like “Just To Get By,” a song that Berl recall was written “when I had been in Silver Lake for a little bit, and was feeling pretty lost. I was kind of in a zone where every time I tried to take a step forward, I fell two steps back. I was feeling like an outsider, being in a new place with no real direction to go.  I just eventually holed away in my room for a couple months, and really isolated myself unintentionally. This song really consumed me in an obsessive and passionate way. Sometimes the pain comes from life, and music is the place to exercise that out of your body. That’s what I did with this song.”

 

Comprised of founding member and primary songwriter  Jason Nott (vocals, guitar), Drew Smith (bass), Bryan King (drums), and Yan Clermont (guitar), the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock act Beachwood Coyotes can trace their origins to when its founder’s first band, a band he had played and toured in since he was 16 had broken up. And for the first time in his life he had faced a rather uncertain future. One night, he’s tripping on acid for the first time, while maneuvering a vortex of geometric shapes and wild colors on the streets of Hollywood at 2:00am. Suddenly, Nott decides that he must go on a night hike up the Beachwood Canyon trail to the iconic Hollywood sign. And as the story goes, as he approached the trailhead, Nott spotted a group of coyotes heading down towards him. Terrified, the band’s founder retreated back to his apartment, where he wallowed in disappointment at another lost opportunity to do something cool.

The next morning, Nott discovered that three decapitated bodies were discovered on the same trail he was on, the victims of an apparent gang hit.  It was also revealed that the time of death was around the same time he encountered the coyotes. And in some way, Nott has credited those coyotes for saving his life.

Inspired by that experience and the years of relentless touring, Nott began writing songs about the loneliness of the touring life, and his hometown’s seedy underbelly — and then he recruits Smith, King and Clermont to flesh his ideas out. After writing a batch of songs, they design a DIY light show and develop a reputation for energetic live shows that feature stage diving and in-crowd performing — and with the release of their 2017 debut EP, Scrubby the members of Beachwood Coyotes received attention and airplay from KROQ, as well as several placements on MTV.

Building on a growing profile, the Los Angeles-based indie rock quartet went into the studio with producer Austen Moret, to record what the band feels is some of their most ambitious material to date, as Moret helped to push the band’s sound in different directions; in fact, Moret seamlessly blended samples and electronic elements into their arrangements and helped incorporate some broader influences including hip-hop, hard rock, jazz, funk and some barbershop quartet. Interestingly, the band’s latest single “Discipline” finds the band employing the use of shimmering synths, unusual yet driving syncopation, jangling guitars, and a rousingly, arena rock friendly hook. But underneath the swaggering the song is focuses on the reality of getting older, learning how to accept it gracefully and grow with it — and you know, as I gradually inch towards my 40s, the song reverberates in a familiar way. I’m getting older and shit, I better get used to it.

I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed, New York-based electro pop duo Sofi Tukker over the past handful of years, and as you may recall with the release of their debut EP Soft Animals and a lengthy list of blogosphere dominating singles, including “Awoo,” a mischievous collaboration with vocalist Betta Lemme; as well as recently released singles “Energia,” “Fuck They,” international smash hit “Best Friend,” which received a Grammy nomination and was featured in an ad campaign for the iPhone X; and Baby I’m a Queen,” which they performed on Conan

Building on a growing internationally recognized profile, the duo comprised of  Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern will be releasing their highly-anticipated full-length debut, Treehouse next week, and interestingly the album’s latest single “Batshit” finds Halpern taking up lead vocal duties within a swaggering house music production, which features tweeter and woofer rocking beats, blasts of disco-tinged guitar, subtle hints of tribal percussion and heavily arpeggiated synths — and while the song is a sinuous and seductive, it furthers the duo’s reputation for mischievous club bangers; but at the same time, the track finds Halpern introducing himself to the world as being absolutely out of his gourd. 

Along with the release of the album’s latest single, the duo announced the first part of their world tour to support their full-length debut, and the tour includes a sold out April 21, 2018 stop at Brooklyn Steel. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

Tour Dates:
4/18: Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
4/19: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
4/21: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel (SOLD OUT)
4/21: Brooklyn, NY @ Schimanski (DJ SET)
4/23: Providence, RI @ The Met
4/25: Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair (SOLD OUT)
4/26: Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair (SOLD OUT)
4/27: Montreal, QC @ Théâtre Corona (SOLD OUT)
4/27: Montreal, QC @ Newspeak (DJ SET)
4/28: Toronto, ON @ The Danforth Music Hall (SOLD OUT)
4/30: Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
5/1: Detroit, MI @ El Club
5/2: Chicago, IL @ Metro
5/4: Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
5/5: Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
5/7: Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall (Upstairs)
5/8: Dallas, TX @ House of Blues (SOLD OUT)
5/9: Austin, TX @ Vulcan Gas Co
5/11: Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre
5/12: Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
5/14: Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
5/16: Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre (SOLD OUT)
5/17: Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
5/18: Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
5/20: Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
5/21: Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
5/22: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
5/23-5/28: Bradley, CA @ Lightning in a Bottle Festival
5/26 Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl
5/27: San Diego, CA @ Observatory North Park
6/7: Tel Aviv, Israel @ Hangar 11
6/8-6/9: Kaltenberg, Germany @ PULS Open Air
6/29: St. Gallen, Switzerland @ OpenAir Festival
7/11-7/14: Bern, Switzerland @ Gurtenfestival
7/13: Madrid, Spain @ Mad Cool Festival
7/27: Moscow, Russia @ Park Live Festival
8/11: Budapest, Hungary @Sziget Festival
8/11-8/12: Buftea, Romania @ Summerwell Festival
8/17: Kiewet, Belgium @ Pukkelpop Festival
8/17-8/19: Biddinghuizen, Netherlands @ Lowlands Festival
9/8: Berlin, Germany @ Lollapalooza
9/21-9/22: Ithaca, NY @ Cayuga Sound Festival