Thaïs is an emerging Montreal-based singer/songwriter, who specializes in an atmospheric and delicate pop centered around the French Canadian singer/songwriter’s ethereal vocals. Thematically her work focuses on melancholy, loneliness and dysfunctional and confusing love.
Last year, the French Canadian artist released the Paradis Artificiels EP, which featured “Boreal,” a track inspired by a trip she took to Iceland that evoked the awe-inspiring sense of being in a gorgeous, natural beauty and taking it all in deeply — and “Sushi Solitude,” an atmospheric and delicate bit of synth pop that brought Washed Out to mind.
Since the release of Paradis Artificiels, the emerging Montreal-based artist signed to Bravo Musique, who released Thaïs’ latest single, “Arrête de danser.” Continuing a run of slickly produced pop centered around glistening and atmospheric synth arpeggios and traplike beats, “Arrête de danser” sees the French Canadian artist seamlessly meshing electro pop and trap; in fact, the song alternating between a syncopated trap-inspired flow for the verses and her ethereal cooing for the song’s hook.
While being club friendly, the song is actually a bitter tell-off to an unhealthy and dysfunctional lover that the song’s narrator knows is wrong for her and yet, she can’t quite get over. Despite her relative youth, the rising Montreal-based artist captures the push-and-pull of fucked up relationships with fucked up people.
Directed by Bobby Leon, the recently released, cinematically shot video for “Arrête de danser” follows an incredibly fashionable Thaïs as she goes to a local mall complex, where she’s haunted by memories of this lover at almost every turn, including a movie theater, that shows a movie that’s suspiciously close to her own life.
Lo Ersare is a Umeå, Sweden-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter, musician, and the creative mastermind behind the emerging indie pop project Lucky Lo. Ersare relocated to Copenhagen in 2014 and quickly made a name for herself as a busker and as an integral part of the city’s underground music scene, performing everything from folk to experimental jazz to improvisational vocal music. Along the way, her love for Japan and its music brought her to the island nation, where she has performed, grown a devoted fanbase and gathered inspiration, which has seeped into her music in various ways.
Ersare’s full-length debut, Supercarry is slated for a March 25, 2022 release through Tambourhinoceros Records. The album will feature previously released single “Heart Rhythm Synchronize,” which was about synching heartbreaks through love and song and album title track “Supercarry,” a sleek and seamless synthesis of Annie Lennox and Peter Gabriel, that thematically finds Ersare quickly establishing a major thematic concern in her work — the transformational power of radical love.
Supercarry’s latest single, “Ever” is a swooning and infectiously optimistic pop song centered around glistening synth arpeggios, a strutting disco-inspired bass line, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a rousingly anthemic hook and Ersare’s plaintive pop belter vocals. Arguably, the most dance floor friendly of the album’s released singles, “Ever!” brings Talking Heads, and Annie Lennox to mind paired with the euphoria of Sylvester‘s queer anthem “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”
Lyrically, the song’s narrator has found a way to transform the hardships of living in a cruel and judgmental world that won’t allow them to be themselves into a deep, sustaining hope and confidence; the sort of quiet confidence to be self-assured in whatever your truth may be. As Ersare explains the song is an anthem for queer love.
The inspiration for the song began deep inside a YouTube rabbit hole. Ersara was binging on Freddie Mercury videos one night. That eventually lead to her researching the AIDS epidemic of the 80s, and the blacklash of homophobia the gay community felt back then.
She came across a video of a gay man, who bravely announced to a reporter that no amount of homophobia could keep gay people from loving each other that struck her as timeless. Since the dawn of society, gay people have been — and will keep on — loving in secret, despite antagonism, until the world eventually accepts them.
This video resonated with the Umeå-born, Copenhagen-based artist, who was then inspired to make a song for “anybody, who feels they are living a truth in secret can listen to, dance to, and feel that they will be accepted. By repeating the motion, it’s going to change the world,” she says.
Animated by Isabelle Friberg, the recently released video is a life affirming love song: We follow the video’s protagonists, who have a meet cute at local bowling alley and fall madly in love. They represent the love that man in the 80s video clip talked about. And while we get a glimpse into their lives and their love, we see Ersare and her band performing the song, while looking like characters straight out of Jem. The video manages to be brightly colored, overwhelmingly positive and a sweet visual that emphasizes the song’s swooning euphoria.
Rising Brooklyn-based synth pop trio and JOVM mainstays Nation of Language — Ian Richard Devaney (vocals, guitars, percussion), Aidan Noell (synth, vocals) and Michael Sue-Poi (bass) — can trace their origins back to 2016: Devaney and Sue-Poi were members of The Static Joys, a band that became largely inactive after the release of their sophomore album. And as the story goes, Devaney was inspired to start a new project after hearing OMD‘s “Electricity,” a song he had listened to quite a bit while in his father’s car.
What initially started out as Devaney fooling around on a keyboard eventually evolved to Nation of Language with the addition of Noell and Sue-Poi. Between 2016-2019, the Brooklyn-based synth pop trio released a handful of singles that helped to build up a fanbase locally and the outside world.
Late last year, the Brooklyn-based JOVM mainstays released their critically applauded sophomore album A Way Forward, which featured lead album single “Across That Fine Line.” Featuring glistening synth arpeggios, a relentless motorik groove, Devaney’s plaintive vocals and an enormous, rousingly anthemic hook, “Across That Fine Line” continues the band’s remarkable run of decidedly 80s synth pop inspired material. Certainly, as a child of the 80s, the song reminds me of the aforementioned A Flock of Seagulls, as well as Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones and a few others — and much like the sources that inspired it, the song is centered around earnest, lived-in songwriting.
“‘Across That Fine Line’ is a reflection on that moment when a non-romantic relationship flips into something different,” Nation of Language’s Devaney explains in press notes. “When the air in the room suddenly feels like it changes in an undefinable way. It’s a kind of celebration of that certain joyous panic, and the uncertainty that surfaces right after it.
“Sonically, it’s meant to feel like running down a hill, just out of control. I had been listening to a lot of Thee Oh Sees at the time of writing it and admiring the way they supercharge krautrock rhythms and imbue them with a kind of mania, which felt like an appropriate vibe to work with and make our own.”
Stella Mar is a Seattle-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who makes music that’s inspired by and informed by the challenges and hurdles she’s cleared throughout her life; or as she puts it “pop bangers for the languidly queer.”
As the story goes, when she was 13, Mar was told by professionals that she’d never be a good singer with her vocal tone and range, and that she should give up her lifelong dream of being a performer. She could have been discouraged and quit; but instead, she pushed harder to make her dream come true. Eventually Mar started to play shows in Portland and Seattle.
Mar’s full-length debut, last year’s White Noise was a concept album that featured a blend of electronic production and acoustic guitar — and the album received praise from local and regional press with outlets and podcasts describing the Seattle-based artist and her voice as “part-Jeff Buckley, part-Arlo Parks.”
Building upon a growing profile, Mar worked with Seattle music industry veterans Matthew Wolk and Nic Casey on “The Way” and “Mean to You,” the follow-up to her full-length debut. The Nicholas KZ-produced “The Way” is a crafted pop banger centered around glistening synth arpeggios, thumping beats, a rousingly anthemic, shout-along worthy chorus paired with Mar’s achingly plaintive vocals, which simultaneously drip with heartache and bitter spite. The song calls out, a fuckboi and wannabe player, who’s playing games with the song’s earnest and devoted narrator.
In the song’s chorus, Mar’s narrator begs this person to “show her the way” to their heart. But as the song suggests, the narrator begins to catch on that he’s duplicitous, manipulative, scheming and flat out toxic. As Mar explains, the song is for anyone, who has ever been played and might have given in to the temptation of a toxic personality. The song’s universality paired with its accessibly is part of its charm: if you’ve been there, the song speaks to you deeply and personally, as it’s a much-needed, cathartic tell off.
Rodriguez steps out into the limelight as an artist and as a director with his cover of Eurythmics‘ smash-hit “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” According to the Paris-based artist, the video is forthcoming — but in the meantime, I can talk about the single: Rodriguez’s cover slows the tempo down for the song’s first half, which creates a brooding and uneasy air within a stark atmospheric production that slowly builds up into an up-tempo, club banger with glistening synth arpeggios, soulful, gospel meets Broadway-like harmonizing, thumping percussion and a gorgeous string arrangement before a gentle fadeout.
The French artist explains that Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” held a personal meaning for him: the song gave him the strength he needed to be resilient during the toughest moments of the pandemic. And as a result, the song feels as though it evokes clearing skies after a particularly turbulent period.
Dubbed “this decade’s triple threat” by Love Magazine,Alewya is a rapidly rising London-based singer/songwriter, producer and visual artist. Born in Saudi Arabia to an Egyptian-Sudanese father and an Ethiopian mother, Alewya has spent her life surrounded and nurtured by diaspora immigrant communities: she grew up in West London and after spending several years in New York, she returned to London. Upon returning home, the rising British artist developed and honed her ear for music through the sounds of the Ethiopian and Arabic music of her parents and the ambient alternative rock albums of her brother.
The Saudi-born, Ethiopian-Sudanese, British-based artist’s name translates from Arabic to English into “most high” or “the highest,” and interestingly enough, her work thematically concerns itself with transcendence. She sees her music as an accessible space for her and her listeners to connect on a deeply spiritual level — with her work challenging the listener to remember the last time that they felt truly connected to themselves and their emotions. “I want to move people to themselves. I want them to feel the same way that I felt when I had a taste of a higher power and felt there was a presence over me,” Alewya says. “I want people to feel that.”
Last year, Alewya had an attention-grabbing feature on Little Simz‘s “where’s my lighter,” which caught the attention of Because Records, who signed the rising artist and released her The Busy Twist-produced debut single “Sweating,” a forward-thinking Timbaland-like mesh of trap, reggae and electro pop. The rising London-based quickly followed that up with “Spirit_X.” Centered around a forward-thinking production featuring skittering, tweeter and woofer rattling beats and arpeggiated beats “Spirit_ X” is indebted to classic drum ‘n’ bass while seeing the rising British artist alternating between spitting fiery bars and sultry crooning.
Alewya capped off a big 2021 with the release of her critically applauded debut EP Panther In Mode last month through Because London Records. The EP features the aforementioned “Sweating, “Spirit_X,” “Jagwa,” and the sultry and defiantly feminist anthem “Play.”
“Channel High” Panther in Mode‘s fifth and latest single is a slick synthesis of grime, contemporary R&B, dancehall, electro pop and Afrobeats that’s roomy enough for the rising British artist to pull out another incredibly self-assured, Lauryn Hill-like performance. Much like its predecessors, “Channel High” is politically charged, calling for music to bring about a much-needed paradigm shift.
Directed by Alewya, Simon Lane and Lee Trigg, the recently released video follows the JOVM mainstay biking through an abandoned industrial zone while performing the song.
Deriving their name from the French of word for “track” while simultaneously being a bit of a punny joke based on the French word or voice — voix — and for 1981, a paradigm shifting year that saw massive technological and societal changes, the Paris-based electro pop/New Wave outfit Voie 81 prominently features three female vocalists hailing from Paris, Madrid, and Berlin, who sing unifying and socially conscious lyrics in German, English, Spanish and French.
Their full-length debut, Ralentir, which translates into “slow down” in French finds the act further establishing a sound that’s heavily indebted to and influenced by the analog synth sounds of the 80s while thematically focusing on humans’ resistance to an unfair and unjust world — and the hope fora much better, fairer world.
Last year, I wrote about album track “Nirvana,” a euphoric track with an arena friendly hook and sultrily delivered French vocals that — to my ears — that reminded me a bit of early-to-mid 80s New Order, Giorgio Moroder, Tour de France-era Kraftwerk and even contemporaries like DBFC.
“1989,” Ralentir‘s latest track is centered around a relentless motorik groove, glistening synth arpeggios, angular guitars, thumping beats and brief bursts of industrial clang and clatter. The end result is a song that seems to mesh John Carpenter‘s retro-futuristic soundtracks with New Order. As the band explains “1989 is more than the last year of the 80s! It symbolizes a pivotal stage, when everything has accelerated : technological, climate and enormous geopolitical changes.”
Directed by the members of Voie 81 and Oculusprime.tv, the recently released video, which was also edited by Oculusprime.tv features stock footage of some of the world-changing technology and events that happened in 1989 from new video games, the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as young people partying and just enjoying life.
Diana Tejera is a Rome-born and-based Spanish-Italian multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer. Tejera can trace the origins of her music career to her childhood: she started studying the piano when she was nine and guitar when she turned 13.
In 1997, she went to CET Mogol, where she studied composition. The following year, her career started in earnest when she joined pop duo Pink! The duo’s first album Sixtematicamente, which Tejera wrote herself, was released to critical praise.
By 2000, Pink! expanded into a quartet — and then rebranded themselves as Plastico. That same year, Plastico won the 11th San Marino Festival with “Strani sintomi,” which was written by Tejera. The band went on to write and record Sensible al tatto, an effort they supported with a tour opening for Lúnapop — and a national tour across Italy.
In 2002, Plastico appeared at the 52nd Sanremo Festival, where they performed the Tejera penned “Fruscìo. They then released incontri casuali, which was also written by Tejera.
By 2003 Plastico broke up and Tejera went forward with a solo career that featured original material, as well as collaborations with a number of fellow Roman artists, including Tiziano Ferro. Her collaboration with Ferro lead to “E fuori è buio,” which appeared on Ferro’s 2006 album Nessuno è solo and “Scivoli di nuovo,” which appeared on 2008’s Alla mia etá.
Tejera is also an composer for short and feature-length films. Her work on Francecso Colangelo’s short films L’ultimo passo,il male assoluto, and La decima onda have won several awards.
The Spanish-Italian artist’s latest EP Aún was released last month. The EP, much like her forthcoming full-length album features material written and sung in English, Spanish and French. Interestingly, a number of Aún‘s songs have appeared on Rai3’s Kilimangiaro.
The EP’s latest single “Volveré” is sleek and slickly produced bit of pop centered around glistening synths arpeggios, skittering beats, a relentless motorik groove paired with Tejera’s yearning vocals. The end result is a glittering bop that may remind some listeners of Little Boots and others — but that focuses on coming back to someone, which gives the song a euphoric yet relieved air.
Critically applauded Aussie electro pop act Haiku Hands — Claire Nakazawa, Beatrice Lewis and Mie Nakazawa — embarked on their first Stateside tour back in 2019, and the tour included a number of applauded, attention-grabbing sets at SXSW, opening slots for the likes of Japanese punk act CHAI, JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and Sofi Tukker, Chicago-based emcee CupcaKke and footwork producer DJ Taye.
Building upon a rapidly growing national and intentional profile, the Aussie trio released their self-titled, full-length last year through Mad Decent. Primarily recorded in Melbourne with Joel Ma (a.k.a. Joelistics), the Aussie electro pop outfit’s self-titled debut further cemented their reputation for a sound and aesthetic that’s rebellious and unconventional.
While featuring collaborations with Sofi Tukker, Mad Zach, Machine Drum, Mirac, Hermitude‘s Elgusto and Lewis CanCut, the album thematically probes technology, relationships and the absurd — with incisive social commentary. “The record explores an attitude of empowerment, humour and positivity whilst also delving into darker themes and expressions,” the members of Haiku Hands explain. “We aimed to be original in our creative choices, we were influenced by multiple genres and artists but were aiming to create something that sounded new and different.”
“Conclusions” is the first bit of new material from the acclaimed Aussie electro pop outfit since the release of their self-titled debut. Centered around thumping and driving beats, pulsating blown out bass lines and ethereal melodies paired with a chanted hook, “Conclusions” is a head banging club anthem with a spontaneous, stream of consciousness feel.
“‘Conclusions’ is a driving in the car late at night, volume maxed, head banging, face scrunching kind of track,” the Aussie electro pop trio say in press notes. “Pulsing burnt basslines and driving drums juxtaposed by floating melodic vocals instantly transport you to the organised chaos of Haiku Hands’ car yard complete with guard dog. Written in full stream of consciousness mode and off a beat written on an iPhone on a plane by Suburban Dark, it’s a timely effortless take on human differences, ideas and why none of it matters when you’re in the zone.”
The recently released video for “Conclusions” was shot by three a cinematographers in three different cities late at night. Featuring the members of the acclaimed act taking late night rides through misty, two-lane blacktop, deserted Sydney parking lots and Melbourne median strips, the video is wild trip through lucid, fever dreams, glitches in the matrix and some unpredictable and unexpected moments.
“Conclusions” will appear on a limited edition, classic black vinyl reissue of their self-titled debut, slated for a February 4, 2021 release through Spinning Top Records and Mad Decent.
Brooklyn-based psych pop/dance pop act Psymon Spine — Noah Prebish, Sabine Holler, Brother Michael Rudinski, and Peter Spears — can trace its origins back to when its founding duo of Noah Prebish and Peter Spears met while attending college. Bonding over mutual influences and common artistic aims, Psymon Spine’s founding duo toured the European Union with Prebish’s electronic project Karate. And as the story goes, while in Paris, Spears and Prebish wrote their first song together. By the time, they arrived in London, they were offered a record deal.
When Psymon Spine’s founding duo returned to the States, Spears recruited Micheal “Brother Micheal” Rudinski and their Karate bandmates Devon Kilbern, Nathaniel Coffey to join their new project. And with that lineup, they fleshed out out the demos, which wold eventually comprise their full-length debut, 2017’s You Are Coming to My Birthday. The band went out to support the effort with immersive art and dance parties like their Secret Friend party series across Brooklyn and through relentless touring.
Prebish was also splitting his time with rising Brooklyn-based dream pop act Barrie and around the same time, Barrie began to receive attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere as a result of a handful of buzz-worthy singles, and 2019’s full-length debut, Happy to Be Here. Interestingly while with Barrie, Prebish met his future Psymon Spine bandmate, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sabine Holler.
The rising Brooklyn-based outfit’s sophomore album, Charismatic Megafauna was released earlier this year through Northern Spy to critical applause from the likes of Paste Magazine,FLOOD, Brooklyn Vegan, Under the Radar and NME. The album and its material was added to a number of playlists including NPR Music, Spotify‘s New Music Friday, All New Indie, Undercurrents and Fresh Finds, Apple Music‘s Midnight City and Today’s Indie Rock and TIDAL‘s Rising. And the album received airplay internationally from BBC, KEXP and KCRW among others. The album explores the complicated feelings and catharsis involved in the dissolution of human relationships through hook-driven, left-of center electronic dance meets psych pop.
In the lead up to Charismatic Megafauna‘s release, I managed to write about three of the album’s released singles:
“Modmed,” an Andrew VanWyngarden-produced and cowritten, strutting disco-tinged track that’s captures the ambivalent and confusing mixture of frustration, doubt and relief of a relationship that had long petered out and finally wound down to its inevitable conclusion. Interestingly, the song is inspired and informed by personal experience: Prebish and Holler’s difficult decision to leave Barrie to focus on Pysmon Spine full-time.
“Confusion,” a hazy and lysergic banger centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a wobbling bass line and looping guitar solo paired with Prebish’s plaintive vocals and a trippy, spoken word-delivered break that sonically reminded me of Tame Impala‘s Currents.
Psymon Spine caps off a big 2021 with the digital 7 inch release, “Mr. Metronome”/”Drums Valentino.” “‘Mr. Metronome’ and ‘Drums Valentino’ were among the first song ideas we came up with when first starting our sophomore record” says founding member Noah Prebish. “We wrote them near the end of a two year hiatus which was spent pursuing various other projects by the individuals in the band. Following the break, we were all feeling hungry to make a new Psymon Spine record and we quickly began exploring the new sounds that would ultimately define the album. This process left us with two tracks which were a bit too crazy for Charismatic Megafauna, but too good not to finish.”
“Mr. Metronome” may arguably be the most straightforward, club friendly track of the band’s growing catalog. Featuring a German vocal hook sung by Sabine Holler, which translates to “I saw your message, I have to go work,” followed by a repeated refrain of “my schedule, my schedule,” “Mr. Metronome” is centered around tweeter and woofer rocking beats, glistening synth arpeggios and a relentless, motorik groove. Inspired by Kraftwerk, Soulwax and others, the song’s lyrics features musings on dating and social dynamics while reflecting the band’s restlessness and desire to quit all unfulfilling obligations to focus on what really matters to them — music.
“Drums Valentino” is a New Wave-like single featuring industrial clang and clatter, shimmering guitars, glistening synths and an off-kilter yet dance floor-friendly groove. Sonically, the song helps to emphasize the song’s lyrics, which talk about feeling uneasy and uncertain with a psychological precision.