New Video: JOVM Mainstay Washed Out Teams Up with Caroline Koning for an Intimate Meditation on Longing and Touch in the Age of COVID-19

Throughout the course of this site’s ten year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of ink covering Ernest Greene, a Perry, GA-born, Athens, GA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known as the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed synth pop/chillwave act Washed Out.  The project can trace it origins back to around 2009: After earning an undergraduate degree and a Master of Library and Information Sciences degree from the University of Georgia, Greene was unable to find a job as a librarian. Greene moved back in his parents and began writing and producing material in his bedroom studio as well as with a local electro pop act Bedroom.

Shortly after posting Washed Out material on his MySpace page, the Perry-born, Athens-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer was discovered and championed by a number of influential blogs, who compared his sound to Neon Indian and Memory Tapes. He released his first two Washed Out EPs in rapid-fire fashion in August and September of that year. Building upon a growing profile, 2010 saw Greene continue the amazing momentum of the previous year: he played that year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and “Feel It All Around” became the opening theme song for the acclaimed TV series Portlanadia.

In early 2011, Greene signed with Sub Pop Records, who released his his full-length debut Within and Without, an album of icy yet plaintive synth pop to critical applause and commercial success: the album peaked at #26 on the Billboard 200 and #89 on the UK Albums Chart. He ended a breakthrough 2011 by co-curating that year’s ATP Nightmare Before Christmas in Minehead, UK with Battles. 

Greene’s sophomore Washed Out album 2013’s Paracosm was a decided change in sonic direction, as it featured a warmer, tropical-inspired sound that paired organic instrumentation with electronic production — all while retaining the ethereal quality of his previously released material.  

2017’s Cole M.G.N. co-produced Mister Mellow was released through renowned hip-hop label Stones Throw Records, and the album took on a bit of a J. Dilla-esque beatmaking feel. Since the release of Mister Mellow, Greene released a handful of singles including “Face Up” as part of Adult Swim’s applauded Singles Series. Earlier this year, the Perry-born, Athens-based artist released “Too Late,”  a swooning yet bittersweet bit of synth pop centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, stuttering beats, Greene’s ethereal and plaintive vocals and a soaring hook — but with a subtly Mediterranean feel.

As it turns out, “Too Late” was unofficially the first single off Greene’s highly-anticipated and long-awaited fourth album Purple Noon. Written, recorded by Greene with mixing handled by frequent collaborator Ben H. Allen, the album’s production followed a brief stint of writing with other artists — most notably writing with Sudan Archives on her debut Athena. Those collaborations allowed Green to explore R&B and modern pop and those sounds have made their way into Purple Noon‘s material. Not only is the material reportedly the brightest and more robust sounds he’s ever worked out; it’s also a decided step forward: unlike his previous released work, the vocals are placed front and center at the mix, with slower tempos, bolder, harder-hitting beats and a more comprehensive dynamic depth.

Deriving its name from Rene Clement’s 1960 film Purple Noon, which was based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mister Ripley, the album’s material is deeply inspired by the coastlines of the Mediterranean — with Greene paying tribute to region’s island-based culture, elegance and old-world charm. But the surroundings serve as the backdrop to stories of passion love and loss — with a deeper, perhaps more urgent emotional intensity: the album’s first single “Too Late” is a tale of a first meet, with all the confused and swooning emotions that come about. Continuing in that same vein, Purple Noon‘s second single “Time To Walk Away” told the story of a the disintegration of  relationship with an aching sense of loss, confusion and longing. 

“Paralyzed” Purple Noon’s third and latest single continues in a a similar vein — brooding, shimmering yet ethereal synth pop with twinkling keys, thumping beats and subtle Mediterranean flavor through the addition of fluttering flute. Greene’s plaintive vocals sing lyrics detailing the power of love and lust with an ache and longing that should feel familiar to all who have been there before. 

Directed by acclaimed fashion film director Caroline Koning and shot in her native Holland, the recently released video follows a real-life couple Shay and Dories in their most unguarded and intimate moments, conveying love, lust and longing with a simple look, a smile, a touch of the hand. Considering how dangerous human touch is during an age of pandemic, the video will bring back memories of far simpler times — of intimate moments we all may have had with lovers and even with random hookups. 

“Human contact, and something as simple as a touch, has new meaning in the context of today,” Caroline Koning explains in press notes. “These special times make the viewing experience of physical togetherness a different one, and I wanted to tap into that sentiment in a pure way. The couple we follow in the film capture this simplicity beautifully, and what we see on screen all happened very organically. Encapsulating a perhaps general longing for closeness through a very unpretentious narrative gives this spot a natural honesty that I think visualizes the track in a strong manner.”
 
Washed Out has also announced Purple Noon Nights, a culmination of four months of new tracks and visuals leading up to the new album’s release over four nights this weekend. Beginning this Thursday, August 6th and ending on Sunday, August 9th at 8:30 pm ET/5:30 pm PT each night, Washed Out’s Ernest Greene will be hosting a different Purple Noon-related event each night:
 

Thursday, 8/6: Purple Noon listening party
Friday, 8/7: the Washed Out live band’s first live-streamed concert, performing selected tracks from Purple Noon along with highlights from his catalog
Saturday, 8/8: Q&A with fans via @realwashedout’s Instagram Live account
Sunday, 8/9: Greene will host the sixth in his popular Magic Hour Mix DJ sets, with this set focusing on the Washed Outcatalog
 
The listening party, full band set, and Magic Hour DJ set will be broadcast live from Washed Out’s YouTube, Facebook, Instagram TV, and Twitch accounts.
 

Lyric Video: Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver Releases an Anthemic and Vulnerable New Single

Led by its accomplished, Los Angeles-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontperson Jessica Dobson, the Seattle-based indie rock act Deep Sea Diver can trace its origins back to when Dobson was 19: Dobson, who has had stints  playing with a who’s who list of contemporary acts, including Beck, Conor Oberst, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shins signed with Atlantic Records. And while with Atlantic Records, Dobsons wrote and recorded two albums that she wasn’t completely satisfied with — and Atlantic ultimately shelved the material and dropped her from the label. 

After leaving Atlantic, Dobson wrote and recorded her official solo debut EP New Caves under the name Deep Sea Diver. The project expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of John Raines (bass) Dobson’s spouse Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth), who helped to flesh out the project’s sound. Since then the band has released two albums — 2012’s self-released debut History Speaks, 2014’s Always Waiting EP and 2016’s acclaimed Secrets. 

Slated for an October 16, 2020 release through High Beam Records/ATO Records, Deep Sea Diver’s third album Impossible Dream follows a busy year of touring with Wilco and Joseph. The album’s sonic and emotional expanse reportedly stems from a period of sometimes brutal self-examination — a process that began for Dobson, not long after the Seattle-based indie quartet finished touring to support Secrets. “We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson recalls in press notes. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”

Stepping back from music and the studio, Dobson focused on dealing with the depression she had been struggling with, and soon started volunteering for Aurora Commons, a  drop-in center for unhoused people, most whom are drug-dependent and frequently engage in street-survival-based sex work. “I spent a lot of time with the women who frequent the Commons, and it taught me a new depth of empathy,” she says. “They’re people who don’t have the luxury of going back to a home at the end of the day and hiding behind those four walls, so they’re sort of forced to be vulnerable with what their needs are. Talking with them and listening to them really freed me up to start writing about things I’d never written about before in my songs.”

Co-produced by Dobson and Andy D. Park and recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice, Impossible Weight finds Dobson and company digging far deeper emotionally than ever before — and pairing it with a bigger, more grandiose sound. While revealing Dobson’s dexterous and powerful guitar work, the album’s lush textures and mercurial arrangements allow room for Dobson to fully demonstrate her vocal range in a way that she hadn’t before. “’I’d never produced a record before and I started out with low expectations for myself, but at some point I realized, ‘I can do this,’” Dobson recalls. “I decided to completely trust my voice and make really bold decisions in all my production calls—just push everything to the absolute outer edges.” 

Interestingly, for Dobson redefining the limits of her artistry goes hand-in-hand with deeper identity issues that came up while Dobson and her bandmates were working on the band’s third album. “I was adopted and just recently met my birth mother, and found out that I’m half-Mexican and half-Jewish,” Deep Sea Diver’s frontperson explains. “Discovering my heritage and learning things about myself that I never knew before really fed into that question of ‘Where do I belong?’” Simultaneously, Dobson rediscovered the sense of possibility, adventure and joy that she first felt when she started out as a 19 year-old.  “I think being signed at such a young age messed me up in terms of the expectations I put on myself,” she says. “Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my own vision, but after making this record I feel a much larger freedom to go in whatever direction I want with my music.”  

With Impossible Weight, Dobson hopes that others might reclaim a similar sense of freedom in their emotional lives. “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel,” she says. “I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own. Because the point is that the impossible weight isn’t yours to carry alone—that’s why it’s impossible.”

Impossible Weight’s third and latest single “Lights Out” is a track that’s defiant and anthemic, yet delicate and vulnerable, centered around a slick production, Dobson’s expressive work, thunderous and propulsive rhythm section, enormous, raise-your-beer-in-the-air and shout along worthy hooks and Dobson’s equally expressive vocals alternating between an achingly tender croon and a self-assured defiant growl. And while reminding me a bit of Bad Bad Hats and Nicole Atkins, “Lights Out” features a narrator expresses her needs with a bold and fearless vulnerability. “‘Lights Out’ was written around the time I hit that wall when we first started working on the record; it’s about fumbling through the darkness and knowing I damn well need help getting out,” Dobson explains. 

The recently released lyric video was created by Dobson and features the guitar tablature for the song as the notes are being played. 

James Chatburn · Jewellery And Gold

I’ve written a quite a bit about the Sydney-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and producer James Chatburn over the past five years or so. With the release of his first two EPs and a string of critically applauded, commercially successful collaborations — including Aussie hip-hop act Hilltop Hoods‘ certified Gold single “Higher,” Chatburn quickly established himself as an in-demand songwriter and producer, and one of indie soul’s rising talents, developing and honing a sound that features elements of soul, blues, electro pop and neo soul.

Chatburn’s highly-anticipated full-length debut, Faible is slated for release later this year, and the album reportedly finds the Sydney-born, Berlin-based artist further cementing the warm, soulful sound that has won him attention internationally  — but while pushing his sound in a subtly psychedelic direction: the album’s material sonically is influenced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, D’Angelo, Donny Hathaway, and Shuggie Otis among others. Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “In My House,” a warm and vibey two-step inducing track centered around introspective songwriting. “Jewellery and Gold,” Faible‘s latest single continues a run of vibey and dusty neo-soul featuring twinkling, old-timey keys propulsive boom bap-like breakbeats, a sinuous bass line and Chatburn’s effortlessly soulful crooning.

Interestingly, the song may be among the funniest, most tongue-in-cheek leaning song he’s written, as the song finds him — er, his narrator — looking forward to a future where he’s flush with cash and all of his issues would just dissolve, because — well, money.  Those of us, who have worked hard to live check-to-check understand that one implicitly.

“It started off as a noughties Pharrell/Neptunesy kind of vibe, but then I replaced the original synth with a piano and I decided to go for this throwback soul feeling, coming back to this Neptunes vibe in part c,” Chatburn says of his latest single. “As an indie artist I don’t live off much money, but sometimes I think, damn it would be nice to have a little more, even if I know that’s not gonna solve anything.”

Luna · Fix (Luna Musiq & Effy Lowan)

 

Luna Musiq is a Manchester, UK-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, whose earliest musical memories were of her folks playing The Supremes, Boney M., Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and 80s pop — all of which were early musical influences. As she got older, New Jack Swing, 90s hip-hop, downtempo electronica, chill-hop and acoustic soul also have influenced the emerging British artist and her work. The Manchester-based artist can trace the origins of her music career to when she was 5: her grandmother had given her a keyboard as a gift — and along with her brother, who had a Casio mini keyboard, they’d create beats, sounds and songs, which they recorded into their beloved tape recorder.

Luna Musiq learned several different instruments during her teens but she stopped playing in her early 20s. Interestingly, Musiq started writing songs in 2017 and went to a a week-0long songwriting trip in the Andalusian Hills, where she met a collection of singers, songwriters and musicians with whom she currently collaborates, as well as  some multi-talented and multi-skilled artists, songwriters, producers, composers and vocalist, who have become mentors.

Since then, the emerging British artist has been writing constantly — both as a solo artist and for other artists, with whom she collaborates with.  Her latest single, “Fix Me,” finds her collaborating with British indie R&B artist Effy Lowan. As Luna Musiq explained to me . Both our music explores topics around hardship to love, trust, betrayal and the difficulties navigating the relationship with yourself as well as others. Having both worked on previous R&B projects, Effy and I came across each other through the same songwriting network. We thought our styles blended well together and decided to collaborate, resulting in Fix being the first release. We’re working on some more joint projects together for the future, but are both solo artists in our own right (I’ve released 6 tracks so far and featured on a few other releases) and often write for other artists too.”

“Fix Me” is an anachronistic R&B/pop song that’s centered around a warm and soulful production featuring twinkling keys, stuttering boom bap beats, Lowan’s effortless vocals  and a swaggering hip-hop verse. And while sounding mischievously anachronistic, with the track sounding as though it could have been released in 1997, 2007, 2017 or just the other day, the track displays earnest songwriting, informed by deeply lived-in personal experience. In this case, the song details the weird mix of co-dependency, need, longing and desire of almost every romantic relationship with a novelist’s attention to detail.

 

 

New Video: Up-and-Coming French Artist Aurélie Billetdoux Releases a Trippy Animated Visual for “The Path”

 
Aurélie Billetdoux is a Paris-born and-based singer/songwriter, composer and multi-disciplinary artist, who also studied classic dance for about 15 years. In her early 20s, Billetdoux relocated to London, where she busked in the Tube while working a local restaurant. The Parisian-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist returned to Paris, where she spent three years studying at the Superior National Conservatory of Drama School. And while attending drama school, Billetdoux created a live show covering the work of old-school French vocalists, accompanied with an accordion player. 

After the success of her show covering the old-school vocalists, Billetdoux decided that it was time to focus on her own original material — eventually completing her debut EP which is slated for an October release. In the meantime, “The Path,” the latest single off the EP is a decidedly cinematic track, centered around a Ennio Morricone-like arrangement of shuffling drumming, reverb-drenched guitars and Billetdoux’s sultry vocals. 

While possessing an anachronistic quality, the track sounds as though it could easily have been part of the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film — perhaps The Hateful 8 or Django Unchained? — but with a swooning romanticism and aching longing. After all, the song is a brooding meditation on fate and destiny — that questions when people know if it’s fate or free will. 

The recently released video is an animated visual that features constantly morphing shapes and figures — at one point, a glass of wine turns into a person and so on. But at its core it captures the longing at the heart of the song,