Tag: Arts & Crafts Records

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Cold Specks Returns with a Spectral and Heartbreaking New Track Off Forthcoming Third Album

With the release of her first two critically applauded and commercially successful albums,  2012’s I Predict A Graceful Expulsion! and 2015’s Neuroplasticiy, the Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter Ladan Hussein, best known as Cold Specks received national and international attention as both albums received Polaris Music Prize nominations and a Juno Award nomination for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, with the release of Graceful Expulsion! And in between writing, recording and touring, Hussein collaborated with Moby, Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock, Swans and others.

After touring throughout 2015 and 2016 to support Neuroplasticity, Hussein returned back to Toronto, where she began working on her third full-length album, Fools Paradise, which is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through renowned Canadian indie label, Arts & Crafts Records. Now, as you may recall Fool’s Paradise’s first single “Wild Card,” was a slow-burning and atmospheric song, largely inspired by the refugee experience and an act of unusual kindness to a stranger from far away. As Hussein explained in press notes “There was a man in my family’s store, a new refugee, who had travelled from Somalia to Canada. By water and by foot he had travelled half way around the world to establish a better life for himself and his family who were still at home. My mother had never met him before. He was a complete stranger from a familiar place. She took him to a local restaurant, fed him and found him somewhere to stay. I was astonished by her selflessness and kept humming ‘I’ll be there for you. Don’t know why’.”

The album’s title track and second single may arguably be some of Hussein’s most deeply personal song, as the song — and of course, in turn, the album — finds the Somali-Canadian singer/songwriter focusing on and exploring her identity as the daughter of immigrants and as a black woman in a world that’s relentlessly hostile to black folk, while also focusing on finding the resilience to survive through difficult times. Interestingly, “Fool’s Paradise”  manages to further cement her reputation for crafting moody and slow-burning pop but while revealing an aching longing and vulnerability paired with  steely resolve.

“New Moon,” Fool’s Paradise’s third and latest single was produced and mixed by long-time collaboration Jim Anderson at Toronto’s Easy Life Studio and features a sample from Jim-E Stack.  Sonically speaking, Hussein’s imitable vocals, which convey heartache, longing and desperate desire for clarity are paired with a sparse and atmospheric production consisting of undulating synths, stuttering beats, swirling electronics and what sounds like a mournful horn sample. As Hussein explains press notes “The song is a document of a lost year. It was all very strange, beautiful and manic. I found myself developing these intense relationships with strangers and cities. I kept looking up at the moon for some sort of clarity. It would help me measure my lost time, fleeting desire, and frantically plan for the future. Each phase carried more weight. I guess it explores the aftermath of heartbreak. I had to learn to detach, self-care and whisper sweet nothings to myself over and over again.” And as a result, the song evokes that sense of struggling to find both stability and oneself when life has thrown you for a complete and devastating loop. 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Cold Specks Returns with a Haunting and Vulnerable New Single

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall the with the release of her first two critically applauded and commercial successful albums, 2012’s I Predict A Graceful Expulsion! and 2015’s Neuroplasticiy, the Canadian-Somali, Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter Ladan Hussein and her recording project Cold Specks received national and international attention; in fact, both albums received Polaris Music Prize nominations and a Juno Award nomination for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, with the release of Graceful Expulsion! And in between writing, recording and touring, Hussein collaborated with Moby, Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock, Swans and others.

Up until recently, two years had passed since I had last written about Hussein but as it turns out, the renowned singer/songwriter had been busy. After touring throughout 2015 and 2016 to support Neuroplasticity, Hussein returned back to home to Toronto, where she began working on her third full-length album, Fools Paradise, which is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through renowned Canadian indie label, Arts & Crafts Records. As you may recall earlier this summer, I wrote about Fools Paradise’s first single “Wild Card,” a slow-burning and hauntingly atmospheric song, largely inspired by the refugee experience. There was a man in my family’s store, a new refugee, who had travelled from Somalia to Canada. By water and by foot he had travelled half way around the world to establish a better life for himself and his family who were still at home,” Hussein explains. “My mother had never met him before. He was a complete stranger from a familiar place. She took him to a local restaurant, fed him and found him somewhere to stay. I was astonished by her selflessness and kept humming ‘I’ll be there for you. Don’t know why’.”

Fool’s Paradise’s second and latest single, album tittle track reveals that the new album consists of what may arguably be her most personal work to date, as the song — and in turn, the album — finds her exploring her identity as a Somali-Canadian and as a black woman, while simultaneously focusing on existing through difficult times. And while the new single further cements her reputation for crafting moody, slow-burning pop, it’s a subtle yet decided change in songwriting approach as the song’s narrator expresses an aching longing and vulnerability; but just under the surface is a steely resolve to survive and thrive. 

New Video: The Bittersweet Sounds and Visuals of Leif Erikson’s “Concrete and Steel”

Deriving their name from the name of the famed Icelandic explorer, believed by many to have been the first Westerner to reach the shores of the Americas, the London-based indie rock quintet Leif Erikson have developed a reputation in their native UK for crafting what they’ve described as “quietly emotive, effortlessly, exploratory Transatlantic pop” centered around disarmingly honest, thoughtful lyrics based on intimate observation and personal experience, but interestingly enough as you’ll hear on “Concrete and Steel,” off their self-titled debut mini-album, slated for an August 25, 2017 through Arts & Crafts Records, the British-quintet’s sound, to my ears at least, reminds me quite a bit of Gold Coast, Australia-based JOVM mainstays FAIRCHILD as the band pairs an atmospheric arrangement featuring shimmering guitar chords, four-on-the-floor drumming, soaring synths and an rousing hook with plaintive falsetto vocals. However, in the case of “Concrete and Steel,” the song is a aching and meditative rumination on trying to make it as an artist in one of the world’s biggest cities while juggling the daily struggles of surviving — sometimes with a soul-sucking day job. But at the heart of the song is a narrator, who is doing whatever they have to do to survive and make their dream become reality, suggesting that on occasion you have to seek freedom and spiritual sustenance whenever and wherever you can find it.

The recently released animated music video features people, who are drawn like ants marching single file unceasingly day and night towards a city where they never escape — and in some way, the city is viewed as cruel and unforgiving.  The visuals further emphasize the narrator’s desperate struggle to survive and make himself known as a unique person in arguably difficult circumstances.