Originally from the Parisian suburbs, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lizzy Young spent a few years in Barcelona before eventually relocating to New York, where she’s currently based. The Paris-born, New York-based artist’s work draws from her own personal experiences while being influenced by Leonard Cohen, Louis Malle, Bette Davis, and Molly Nilsson.
Young’s full-length debut, the 10 song CooCoo Banana finds the Paris-born, New York-based artist crafting a refreshingly unique take on modern pop: sardonic humor-laced lyrics paired with lo-fi, bedroom recording — i.e, Casio keyboards and driving, dance floor friendly beats. Thematically, Coocoo Banana finds Young boldly diving into the beauty and ugliness of life. So far, Young has had her music played by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 personalities Janice Long, Tom Ravenscroft, Jack Saunders, Cerys Matthews, and Steve Lamacq. Additionally, Tom Ravenscroft named her a Spotlight Artist and invited her to play a Selector Spotlight showcase.
CooCoo Banana’s latest single, album title track “CooCoo Banana” may remind some listeners of a narcoleptic take on Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl;” handclap-driven beats are paired with shimmering and tinny Casio synth arpeggios and Young’s self-deprecating vocals delivered with an ironic detachment. And while being a decidedly artsy take on pop, the song manages to accurately capture the mindset of a modern woman with all of her strengths and flews with a novelist’s attention to psychological realism.
Produced by GFY, the recently released video for “CooCoo Banana” is centered around a trippy and lo-fi concept: we see Young’s disembodied lips singing the song’s opening lines. We pull out of a lysergic, neon pink haze to see Young from the neck up singing the song in front of an equally neon pink background. As the song progresses, Young rubs a lotion that turns her entire face and hair into a fuzzy, electric rainbow before fading out. It’s trippy as hell.
With the releases of his debut effort, 2017’s Cardrive EP, which garnered an ARIA Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release and praise from Sir Elton John (!), NME, i-D, mixmag and others, the rapidly rising Ghanian-born, Canberra, Australia-based, , 20-something artist Genesis Owusu — born Kofi Owusu-Anash — quickly developed a reputation for being a maverick presence with an ability to conjure powerful and deeply personal storytelling in diverse forms, centered around a genre-defying sound and approach that’s uniquely his own. Adding to a growing profile, Owusu has opened for the likes of Dead Prez, Col3trane, Sampa The Great, Cosmo’s Midnight, Noname, Animé, Ruel and others in Australia.
Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Owusu-Anash has released a handful of highly-celebrated singles over the past year, which have included “Whip Cracker,” and the ARIA Award-nominated smash hit “Don’t Need You,” which quickly became the #1 most played song on triple J radio — and since then has received airplay in the UK on both BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 and recently here in the States on KCRW, KUTX, The Current and Alt98.
“Whip Cracker” and “Don’t Need You” will be prominently featured on Owusu-Anash’s forthcoming 15 song Andrew Klippel-produced full-length debut Smiling With No Teeth. Slated for a March 5, 2021 release through House Anxiety/Ourness, Smiling With No Teeth reportedly sees the rising Ghanian-born, Aussie artist further honing and developing his genre-confounding sound and approach while charting the epic peaks of troughs of mental health struggles and his experience as a black man in a very white world. Centered around raw hip-hop energy, the material routinely veers into industrial, punk, funk and pop, sometimes within the same song. And as a result, the album’s brash and defiant material is dedicated to those who boldly refuse to be boxed in by stereotypes or cultural norms, or at the very least, don’t feel that they fit in anywhere.
“Smiling With No Teeth is performing what the world wants to see, even if you don’t have the capacity to do so honestly,” Owusu explains in press notes. “Slathering honey on your demons to make them palatable to people who only want to know if you’re okay if the answer is yes. That’s the idea, turned into beautiful, youthful, ugly, timeless and strange music.” Each of the album’s 15 tracks can trace their origins back to studio jam sessions with a backing band that features Kirin J. Callinan, Touch Sensitive’s Michael DiFrancesco, World Champion’s Julian Sudek and the album’s producer Andrew Klippel.
“The Other Black Dog,” Smiling With No Teeth’s third and latest single is a cinematic take on contemporary alternative hip-hop, industrial music and pop centered around Owusu-Anash’s breathlessly rapid-fire delivery and barking, and an industrial stomp featuring off-kilter, stuttering beats and wobbling synth arpeggios. Somehow managing to balance dance floor friendliness with a sweaty mosh-pit energy, the song is a full-throttled nosedive into the hell of madness that brings the drug and booze fueled chaos of ODB, and the fury and menace of DMX to mind. Thematically, the single finds the rising Canberra-based artist giving the fearsome inner and outer demons he lives with and informs his life, the “black dogs,” a name. “The track explores the internal struggle between a hopeful spirit of endurance, and a gnashing black hole of ugliness,” Owusu-Anash explains. “One is me, and the other is also me.”
Directed by Riley Blakeway, the recently released video for “The Other Black Dog” brings the track’s kinetic and forceful menace to vividly nightmarish life: the video finds the rising Aussie artist running for his life along a deserted, night time road, desperately trying to outrun a relentless and evil version of himself and the demons that feed off his fear and insecurities. The video suggests something deeply fearful and disconcerting that we all know but don’t want to admit: there’s no escape from the devils that torment our hearts and souls — and there’s no escape from the devils that torment us in our daily lives. You can run but you can never hide.
London-born and -based singer/songwriter Aluna Francis a.k.a. Aluna, is best known as one-half of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful electronic music duo AlunaGeorge. The past year/year-and-half or so have seen momentous changes for the London-based singer/songwriter: last year, Francis gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Amaya — and earlier this year, the acclaimed singer/songwriter announced that she would be releasing material as a solo material, building up buzz for her solo debut, Renaissance, which was released by Mad Decent back in August.
2020 has been a momentous year for Francis: singles off Renaissance have amassed over 30 million streams globally and radio airplay in over 30 countries, including BBC Radio 1, Triple J, KCRW, KEXP, Sirius XM’s BPM and Capital’s Capital Dance. Those singles have been playlisted on Spotify’s New Music Friday in over 20 counties — and she was placed on the cover of their Mint and Massive Dance Hits playlists. She also has been featured on Amazon Music’s Nectar and Apple Music’s New Music Daily playlists.
Back in June, Francis penned an open letter to the global dance community, demanding that the community re-assess platforms and positioning of Black creators within the dance world. “When I started looking at all the challenges I face being a black woman making dance I realized I wanted to do more than just create a space for myself – I want all black people to know that the genre of dance is their heritage and they should feel included and encouraged to create under that banner by expanding the genre to be culturally and racially inclusive,” the acclaimed British artist wrote.
And adding to busy year. Francis launched her own personally curated all Black, POC& F and women-led virtual electronic music festival, ALUNA & FRIENDS: RODEO RAVE, which featured DJ sets from BAMBII, GuiltyBeatz, UNIIQU3, Lady Bee, Kiddy Smile, Austin Millz and a live set from Francis, live streamed on Twitch from the Compton Cowboys Ranch in Los Angeles.
“Originally, putting together my dream festival line up (Black, POC and women DJs who play dope dance music) was an incredible goal, a chance to show exactly how I see the future of mainstream dance festivals.” Francis explains. “Then we found out the Compton Cowboys we’re down to help us put the festival on and all of a sudden you have this parallel of two black people in totally different worlds doing the same thing — re-invigorating the inclusion of black people in a space where we had been erased. Getting to connect like this is really what music should always be about — bringing people together. This is gonna be an epic cultural moment for myself and anyone who is looking forward to the future of dance music.”
Continuing upon that incredibly momentum, Renaissance’s latest single “The Recipe” finds the acclaimed London-based artist teaming up with equally acclaimed producer KAYTRANADA and Nigerian singer/songwriter Rema on a sultry and slinky Afropop and reggae- inspired banger, featuring glistening synth arpeggios, clinking percussion and an infectious hook. And at its core, the song is a feminist anthem, centered around an unvarnished and honest admission of what the song’s narrator — and in turn, creator — needs two make a relationship successful.
“It’s quite a girl power track,” Aluna exclaims in press notes. “As someone who has an inferiority complex and difficulty feeling confident, I’m introducing myself as a new person. I decided, ‘Be honest. Don’t pretend you’re a chill, low-key, and low-maintenance person, because you’re simply not. You’re an absolute basket case, and you need it all, or the relationship won’t work’.”
Directed by Reggie, the duo of Clay Dirske and Jake Herman, the recently released video for “The Recipe” draws from an eclectic array of sources visually and thematically — in particular, Renaissance-era France, Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, the Elizabethan era and others but with gorgeous Black people in the frilly finery. I’m fucking here for it, y’all. “I wanted to play with the way history has been dictated to us. Growing up in England you are constantly exposed to glamorous white history of period dramas without a black person in sight,” the acclaimed British artist explains in press notes. “I feel that since the British Empire was so heavily funded by slavery that history is ours too, we’ve just never been pictured in the finery…and I wanted to see what that would look like.”
The director team of Reggie adds, “This video brings together a lot of elements that you wouldn’t necessarily find in one place, but when combined create something magical. We drew inspiration from Aluna’s album name, Renaissance, the Elizabethan era, dancehall, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Busby Berkely, The Wiz and more. We were very fortunate to collaborate with an incredible cast and crew. Our choreographer Chris Emile, captured the energy of the song and the idea perfectly.”
Joe Stevens is a New York-based singer/songwriter and musician and the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed psych rock project Peel Dream Magazine. Deriving its name from the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, one of England’s preeminent tastemakers, the band’s name is meant to evoke a certain strain of independent music. “I wanted to create an outlet for subcultural wanderers. Something you can subscribe to,” Stevens explains.
Earlier this year, the New York-based psych pop act released their critically applauded sophomore album Agitprop Alterna, an album which draws from a wide set of post-punk, shoegaze and indie pop influences while possessing a self-assured and unique sound. Building upon the attention and momentum they’ve earned earlier this year, Peel Dream Magazine recently released the Moral Panics EP, a companion effort that features previously unreleased songs from the Agitprop Alterna sessions. Far from outtakes, the EP’s material are songs that can stand on their own — while functioning as a sort of corollary to their sophomore effort.
The EP’s title is derived from Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics, a pivotal study of the media treatment of the mod movement and the political, societal and cultural fault lines that the media panic embodied. Unsurprisingly, the EP’s material continues Stevens’ and Peel Dream Magazine’s investigations into those frought and areas where art, culture and commerce meet.
“Verfremdungseffekt,” Moral Panics’ latest single is a fuzzy, half-remembered dream centered around layers of arpeggiated and droning keys, a chugging bass line, shimmering, atmospheric guitars and ethereal vocals — with the end result being a mod-like take on psych rock that superficially sounds as though it could have been released in 1965, 1995, 2015 or — well, yesterday.
Centered around footage of Stevens and Company performing at Chicago’sSleeping Village and Ottawa’s Cinqhole just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the video is an eerie reminder of the things we all miss and can’t have right now — shows, bars, hanging out and bullshitting with friends.
One the home of a prosperous fishing industry, West Marsh, Grimsby, Northeast Lincolnshire, UK has become a terribly bleak place. Its northern and eastern boundaries are formed by Alexandra Dock. Its western border is the smoggy Pyewipe Industrial Area. And its southern border, a major railroad line and Cromwell Road. Tourists have no particular reason to visit. The job outlook is poor and the area’s young people are desperate to escape. From what’s been conveyed to me, it’s the sort of hopeless place that should feel familiar to countless Americans — particularly, if you’ve been in the Rust Belt.
The emerging British post-punk quartet Mint — Zak Rashid. Veggie, Lenny and Bambi — hail from West Marsh, and they can trace their origins to when they all “attended” the same school and bonded while locking horns over their differing musical tastes: Lenny loved Nick Cave, The Birthday Party and The Pop Group and the remaining three band members loved indie classics and harder rock genres and styles
The quartet went on to study at Grimsby Institute and while in school, they started Mint — but started taking it seriously in 2018. Of course, like a lot of contemporary indie bands, the members of Mint all have day jobs: Zak Rashid is a pro skateboarder and surfer by day and he taught himself graphic design on his free time. And when he’s not playing gigs, he runs the only surf shop in town while designing artwork for artists like Lucy Spraggan, Black Honey and False Heads. Lenny works at the cafe net door while Bambi and Veggie work shifts at the local soup canning factories. In a short period of time, they’ve already received airplay from BBC Radio 1 and play listing on Radio X; they’ve also made appearances playing at the major British music festivals. But last year they began to fully develop and realize their own sound: an idiosyncratic fusion of indie melodies to muscular instrumentation.
The rising band’s latest single “Turbulence” is a seething and breakneck post-punk anthem centered around insistent and propulsive drumming, angular blasts of guitar and shouted lyrics expressing unease and anxiety with an increasing menace and uncertainty that evokes the vacillating thoughts and emotions of one seemingly in the middle of a mental breakdown. “It’s a nod to mental health seen through a cinematic plane crash” the band’s Rashid says in press notes.
The recently released video ostensibly captures the fulfillment of the ultimate male fantasy — the horny teenager/young man being seduced by the sexually available and desirable teacher. Shot while adhering to social distancing guidelines, the student’s fantasy is reduced to being more along the lines of live sex shows and sexting — but it ends with a bitter and emasculating irony.
The rapidly rising Newcastle, UK-based indie act FEVA — Sam Reynolds (vocals/guitar), Danny Castro (drums), James Gibbons (guitar) and Thomas Errington (Bass) — had a breakthrough year last year, that saw them open for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Vaccines, Pip Blom, Inhaler, and Lauran Hibberd. Although currently, things are bleak and uncertain, the band hopes that they’ll be able to continue the momentum of last year with the release of new material throughout the course of this year, and hopefully live dates during the fall.
Centered around enormous, power chord-driven riffage, thunderous drumming, rousingly anthemic hooks, Sam Reynolds powerhouse vocals, and a remarkably self-assured delivery, the Newcastle indie quartet’s latest single “I Wanna Know” may arguably be the most ambitious and arena rock friendly song they’ve released to date. To that end, it shouldn’t be surprising that the song has already received praise from the likes of The Line of Best Fit, Clash Magazine and Dork, as well as airplay from BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6.
Interestingly, although the song is an arena rock friendly anthem, the band explains in press notes that the song is actually about reflection — or more specifically self-reflection, “As we make our way through life, it’s easy to lose ourselves and get caught up in things that in time, we realise never ever mattered,” the members of FEVA say in press notes. “This song is about taking a step back and remembering who you are and who you were, when life took its tool on you.”
Helene Alexandra Jæger is a Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the rising recording project Holy Boy. Recorded at Ben Hillier’s London-based Pool Studios, Jæger’s 2017 Holy Boy self-titled debut was released to widespread critical acclaim with EP single “The Blood Moon” receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1 while establishing her sound – a sound that takes cues from The Velvet Underground and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Suicide, the dark side of the 60s, vintage girl bands and West Coast hip-hop and she has dubbed “neon gothic.” Thematically, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s work focuses on “explorations in consciousness,” she explains in press notes.
Building upon a growing profile, Jæger performed sets at that year’s CMJ, NXNE and SXSW. She followed that up with the critically applauded single “Elegy,” which The Line of Best Fit described as being “at once eclectic and utterly immersive; smoky and classic, yet simultaneously futuristic.”
Much like the countless emerging artists I’ve covered on this site over the past decade, Jæger began the year with big plans to boost her profile and her career that included booked sets at this year’s SXSW, which would have corresponded with the release of the first single off her forthcoming 11 song, full-length debut, which is slated for release this summer. Of course, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was cancelled while countless other festivals, tours and shows were postponed until later this year. Interestingly, the album’s first single was released last month – and it turns out to be an eerily fitting and timely cover of The Doors’ classic “Riders On The Storm.” Centered around layers of shimmering organs, including Hammond, Rhodes, Optigan and Vox Continental, vintage 70s drum machines and 80s Casio synths, along with Jæger’s dusky vocals drenched in gentle reverb, delay and other ethereal effects, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s haunting and cinematic rendition retains the somber and brooding tone of the original while adding that seemingly unending sense of dread and uncertainty that we’ve all felt in our lives over the past month or so.
The accompanying video is fittingly creepy and yet highly symbolic: it features a lo-fi, computer generated skeleton in space, walking up a never-ending staircase.
I recently exchanged emails with Jæger for this Q&A. Current events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found a way to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will likely reverberate for some time to come. Because she had plans to play at SXSW until it was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chat briefly about how the pandemic has impacted her and her career. But the bulk of our conversation, we chat about her attention- grabbing cover of The Doors’ classic tune, and what we should expect from her forthcoming debut. Check it out below.
___ WRH: Most parts of the country are enacting social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in-quarantine for the better part of three weeks. It’s been tough – but it’s for the greater good. How are you holding up?
Helene Alexandra Jæger: I love New York, and it’s crazy what’s happening right now. I hope it turns around and that we all learn something from this that can save lives in the future and now. Here in L.A., we’ve been at home for three or four weeks — I can’t even remember — and most things have been shut since then. It’s been strict, but I’m grateful for that – better safe than sorry in this type of a situation.
I’m lucky as an introvert, I’m quite comfortable spending time on my own reading, exploring info online, creating and listening to music.
WRH: You were about to release new material at around the time that SXSW had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career at the moment?
HAJ: The cancellation came so suddenly; the whole festival was shut down less than a week before I was headed there to showcase my album live for the first time. I feel the cancellation of SXSW was a turnaround, for the first time people started to realize how serious this outbreak might get…
Until that, most people I heard from thought the danger was exaggerated, and so I’m really glad the city of Austin made a firm decision, because I don’t know what the situation would have been like if 60,000 people had gathered for SXSW as planned, just a few weeks back.
Since this outbreak, I’ve been trying to manage the “Riders On The Storm” release that was too late to cancel — and somehow turned out to be more poignant right now than I’d ever expected.
I was planning to release my debut album this spring, was working on music video plans, and had live shows in the pipeline around the release, but that’s all on ice now. The good thing is, I get to create more and spend time making more music. I also have a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s given me time to focus on that and prepare for that release.
WRH: How would you describe your sound, for those unfamiliar to you and Holy Boy’s sound?
HAJ: This is always tricky. I feel like it’s a world where it’s dark, but there are neon lights on, and you can see the stars and the moon. There’s a dreamy quality to it, but it can also get gritty and sensual. I sometimes think of it as Moon in Scorpio, 5th house, that’s my placement. It’s a dark and deep place where there’s sometimes a feeling of being closer to space than earth. Musically, I call it Neon Gothic or LA noir, organ rock.
WRH: Who are your influences?
HAJ: I love all kinds of music, but for this coming album, I’ve been immersing myself in what felt like it resonated with the emotions in those songs. Songs like “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, David Bowie’s Blackstar album, “Nikes” by Frank Ocean, Suicide and songs by The Shangri-La’s, Johnny Jewel’s work . . .
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
HAJ: I’m really enjoying the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist where the algorithm presents you with music it thinks you’ll like, and I’ve been going on a deep dive based on doing research for a TV idea I’ve been working on… A beautiful and uplifting raw song I think everyone could benefit from right now is an old gospel type recording “Like A Ship” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and The Youth for Christ Choir… I think it’s a really inspiring song for this time.
I’ve also been listening to demos and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions and it’s been such a revelation to hear how incredibly different the other takes were… To see how fluid his process was, that a song like “Like A Rolling Stone” ended up the way we know it, when the other takes were so different… There’s a real magic to it. Like listening into an alternate reality.
WRH: You recently released an eerie and ominous cover of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” I think if Jim Morrison was alive today, he would have really dug what you did with the song. What drew you to the song? Have the living members of The Doors heard the song? If they did, what did they think of it?
HAJ: That means a lot to me, thank you so much. I know he had an interest in the worlds beyond and the nature of life and death, which I personally resonate with, so it was a great experience to channel one of his/their songs . . .
One of the reasons I was drawn to making a cover of “Riders On The Storm”, besides being a huge fan of The Doors, is it feels like a seeker’s song, and it felt like a kindred spirit to the way I look at the world. A sense of not quite being at home and not quite belonging on earth.
From what I know, they haven’t heard it, but I really hope they would enjoy my version. I hope they are all safe and well, all four of them in this world and the other.
WRH: The recent video for “Riders on the Storm” features a computer-animated skeleton in space, walking up an infinite staircase. It’s fittingly ominous and as eerie. How did you come about this treatment – and what is it supposed to represent?
HAJ: When I saw Andrei/@dualvoidanimafff’s lofi retro futuristic animations online, I knew I wanted to work on something with him. For “Riders On The Storm”, I just saw this idea of a skeleton walking up a never-ending staircase in space… Like man’s ascension, our eternal human quest to become more or to rise out of the limitations of physical life, to reach this idea of heaven or perfection… It felt to me like a logical depiction of the song’s theme, “Riders On The Storm”… The impossibility of our pursuit, but also the beauty – that throughout history we’ve never stopped trying.
WRH: You have an album slated for a late August release. What should we expect from the album?
HAJ: My version of “Riders On The Storm” is definitely in the same world that the record takes place in. An otherworldly atmosphere built around Hammond/Rhodes/Optigan organs, Vox Continentals, vintage 70s drum machines and obscure 80s Casio synths. It’s definitely a nighttime record, it’s happening in the dark, songs that I hope can be cathartic in a time like this and what most likely lies ahead.
With the release of their first two EPs, which have received airplay on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6, the Belfast, Northern Ireland-based indie act Junk Drawer — Stevie Lennox (guitar, synth, vocals), Jake Lennox (guitar, synths ass, drums, vocals), Brian Coney (guitar, bass) and Rory Dee (drums, bass, guitar, synths, piano, backing vocals) — have firmly established a unique sound that draws from Krautrock, post-punk and psych rock while earning quite a bit of acclaim in their native Northern Ireland: they’re the first DIY act to ever win a Northern Ireland Music Prize for Best Single with last year’s critically applauded “Year of the Sofa.” They’re also responsible for spearheading the independent Northern Irish music community with the acclaimed Litany of Failures compilations, which have become something of an institution. And adding to a growing national and regional profile, the act have toured across the UK and Ireland, opening for the likes of Mclusky,Built to Spill, Jeffrey Lewis and And So I Watch You From Afar.
The Belfast-based quartet’s highly-anticipated Chris Ryan-produced full-length debut Ready For The House is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through Art for the Blind Records reportedly finds the rising act channeling Pavement, Silver Jews and Beak> with the album’s material veering between slacker rock, post-punk, kraurock and psych across seven songs that thematically touch upon malaise, self-worth, the transience of mental illness and the fragmented and distorted narrative that it brings with it.
The album’s first single “Temporary Day” is a decidedly krautrock-inspired track, centered around an off-kilter and propulsive motorik groove, droning synths, blasts of fuzzy guitars and Jake Lennox’s ironically detached vocals. And while nodding at Pavement, the song chronicles a struggle with sexual identity and eating disorders and the string of the constant internalization of these issues on mental health. “‘Temporary Day’ is about having a temporary day of relief from all the horrible feelings I usually have.” the band’s Jake Lennox says in press notes. “The fog ascends briefly & I can think clearly for a time. Also about my face not being puffy from burst blood vessels because I hadn’t thrown up in a day or two.”
Deriving their name from Gengar, one of the original Pokemon, the acclaimed London-based indie act Gengahr — Felix Bushe, John Victor, Hugh Schulte and Danny Ward — can trace their origins to when its members met at the Stoke Newington School. Their debut single “Fill My Gums With Blood” caught the attention of BBC Radio 1‘s Huw Stephens — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band wound up playing at the BBC Introducing Stage at 2014’s Glastonbury Festival.
Since then the band has released two critically applauded albums — 2015’s debut effort A Dream Outside and 2018’s Where Wildness Grows. Sanctuary, Gengahr’s highly-anticipated Jack Steadman-produced third album is slated for a Friday release through Liberator Music. Reportedly, the album finds the band ambitiously pushing their sound in a decidedly pop leaning director, while attempting to recapture the magic and vibe that the quartet felt while writing and recording their full-length debut. Interestingly, the album, which is largely influenced by Homer’s Odyssey, also reportedly finds the band’s primary songwriter Felix Bushe tapping into personal pain — but while throwing punches and fighting.
Late last year, I wrote about the slinky and shimmering single “Heavenly Maybe.” Featuring a funky, disco-like groove, “Heavenly Maybe” was imbued with a world weary ennui centered around the experience of partying as a way to distract oneself from their serious, real-life problems. “Icarus” Sanctuary’s third and latest single is a wistful, M83-like song, centered around a sinuous and propulsive bass line, a motorik-like groove, four-on-the-floor-like drumming and Bushe’s plaintive vocals. And while featuring some enormous, soaring hooks, the track is imbued with the awareness of the passing of time; that adulthood ain’t easy: it’s full of dashed dreams, compromises, disappointment and the awareness that nothing in this world works the way it should.
““Icarus” is a song about growing up and coming to terms with the expectations of our youth. As a child we believe anything is possible but as we get older there is a crushing realisation as we begin to understand that the journey of life has its own uncontrollable trajectory.” the band explains in press notes.
Directed by the band’s long-time visual collaborator Dave East, the recently released lyric video for “Icarus” was shot in Cape Town, South Africa and depicts a car driving down a mountain road at night, seemingly in search of another hill, another mountain to climb, another bit of road sliding by.
Last year, I wrote a bit about the rapidly rising Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer, Luna Shadows. The Los Angeles-based pop artist began her career as a touring member of the acclaimed New Zealand-based synth pop act The Naked and Famous— but Shadows went solo, because she felt she had a voice that demanded to be heard on its own terms.
Since leaving The Naked and famous, Luna Shadows has developed a reputation for a staunchly DIY approach frequently writing, performing, producing, engineering and editing every single note of her work — and for crafting sultry, melancholy pop that Billboardhas called “. . . refreshingly soulful and haunting . . . ,” and compared by some critics as Lana Del Rey taking Lorde to the beach. Adding to a growing national profile, the Los Angeles-based artist’s work has amassed well over 35 million Spotify streams with tracks landing on tastemaker playlists like New Music Friday, Indie Pop, Weekend Beats and Weekly Buzz and landing as high as #7 on the US Charts and #18 on the Global Viral Charts. She’s also received airplay on a number of radio stations globally including KROQ, BBC Radio 1 and Beats 1 — all without the support of a label.
Last year saw Luna Shadow begin an ongoing collaboration with Now Now‘s Brad Hale and The Naked and Famous‘ Thom Powers to help shoulder the production and editing load — and she signed to +1 Records, who released three attention grabbing attention: “lowercase,” a track imbued with the bitterness, heartache and confusion of a dysfunctional relationship full of power plays, recriminations and accusations paired with a sleek and hyper-modern, trap-leaning production, “god.drugs.u” which continued in a similar vein as “lowercase” while possessing a plaintive and unfulfilled yearning and lastly. “practice,” a rumination on love and loss featuring Stevie Nicks‘ “Stand Back“-like synth arpeggios and Shadow’s plaintive vocals.
Shadows begins 2020 building up to the release of her highly-anticipated sophomore album with the release of her latest single “millennia,” which was cowritten with Chelsea Jade and continues her ongoing collaboration with Brady Hale and Thomas Powers. Centered around a pulsating and thumping beats, shimmering synth arpeggios and the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays achingly plaintive vocals, the track seethes with an irritable frustration, as it captures a narrator who’s worn out by the passive aggression and mixed messages of a love interest. She’s tired of being left in the dark and being confused as to what’s going on, and as a result the song captures a particular sensation that’s familiar to all of us: being left in the dark by someone we care about.
Shadows elaborates, “”millennia’ is essentially about different styles of dispute and communication. There are some people who prefer to confront things right away and talk until resolution is reached; conversely, there are others who run in the opposite direction and avoid confrontation all together. I personally find that the silent treatment tends to be more painful than confrontation.”