Tag: indie pop

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Oakland, CA-based quintet Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for a lush, forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and difficult to pigeonhole sound that seamlessly incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop, experimental pop and soul.  And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based quintet has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and Bermuda Triangle, and they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Slated for release next Friday, the act’s soon-to-be released SALT AND SOAP EP is reportedly inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you;re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Along with that, the band stumbled upon a new and very different creative and songwriting process that incorporated an unusual sampling method: the use of grainy phone recordings of the act’s drumming eventually became the bedrock for each song of the EP — and in turn, their forthcoming full-length album The Mystic. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent. And as you’ll hear on the EP’s latest single “Downpour,” the result is something that manages to be paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lysergic yet groove-driven, lush and enveloping but while revealing a band radically reinvented its sound and approach in a way that recalls (to my ears at least)Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu simultaneously.

As the band says in a statement: “Growing up it seemed like it was important to hold so many things as secrets, some of which are at this point laughable, some still heavier.

These secrets often gave the sense that there was something wrong and unusual about me or that part of my life. They also gave the sense that if there was actually something difficult it wasn’t necessary to let anyone outside of it know.

This led to a lot of creative improvising and getting used to being a little less like myself.

Eventually I started  to ask “what would be the consequence of sharing versus the weight of holding?”

The track Downpour is about at first getting used to living in a secret, but then facing a growing unease of having to continue to tuck yourself away.”

The band will be embarking on a West Coast tour during the fall. Check the tour dates below.

Bells Atlas Tour Dates: 

9/20 Oakland – New Parish w/ Chanti Darling
10/4 Los Angeles – The Satellite
10/6 Joshua Tree, CA – Joshua Tree Music Festival
10/7 San Diego, CA
10/11 Portland, OR Holocene w/ Chanti Darling
10/14 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/ JusMoni
10/16 Boise, ID Neurolux
10/20 Basalt, CO The Temporary
10/21 Denver, CO Globe
10/23 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s
10/24 Chicago, IL Hideout Inn
11/18 Palm Springs, CA Ace Hotel

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Live Footage: Donna Missal Performs the Sultry “Keep Lying” on Vevo DSCVR

Donna Missal is a New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who initially won the attention of the blogosphere with her sultry and bluesy debut single “Keep Lying” which pairs Missal’s soulful, belting vocals with 12 blues power chords, a propulsive section and enormous, anthemic hooks — and while sonically, the single finds Missal and her backing band effortlessly meshing the blues, old school soul, hip hop, and rock in a way that recalls Amy Winehouse, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, Alicia Keys and others, the song is an urgent and passionate plea to a lover, who may be unfaithful, deceitful or no damn good. Unsurprisingly, once the original demo version of “Keep Lying” was played on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show, the single has climbed up the charts — 18 Alternative radio stations have added the track to their playlists, with the song shooting to the top of Spotify Viral and Hype Machine charts; in fact, “Keep Lying” along with several other tracks have amassed over 11 million streams across streaming services.

Missal’s much-anticipated Nate Mercereau-produced full-length debut This Time was released the other day, and the album will further cement the New Jersey-born Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for soulful and unabashed honest pop, centered on living entirely on one’s own terms. I’ve spent most of my life being hyper-focused on time, which I think is something that a lot of women obsess over,” Missal says in press notes. “We’re in such a rush to make things happen, when really we should take the time to figure out what we actually want out of life. And even though it’s so fucking hard to have that kind of patience, I think it’s so important to believe in yourself enough to let things develop in a way that feels right to you.” Missal continues, “This isn’t a record about love and loss and relationships. It’s about taking chances for yourself, figuring out who you are and really standing behind that. I made a point of putting myself out there as a real person navigating this life at this moment in time, because I want to do whatever I can as an artist to help people feel more confident in navigating their own lives. I’d love for the listener to receive the message that you can take your time to learn and love yourself. That’s been the most important discovery that I want to share with this album.”

Interestingly, Missal and her backing band recorded live to tape with some of the material being sampled to imbue it with a fresh yet timeless energy — and to set her apart from a busy and competitive slate of contemporary pop singers.  “I really wanted this album to reference my history of playing in bands,” Missal   explains in press notes. “It’s all these very pure, talented musicians playing together in a room, but then we took that and sampled it and altered in a way that creates something totally new.” Of course, Missal is touring to support her new album and it includes a sold out show tonight at Rough Trade. (You can check out the tour dates below.)

Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Vevo has a lengthy history of promoting emerging artists and helping them break through to new and wider audiences; in fact, past alumni of the Vevo DSCVR series has included Jack Garratt, James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. Now, as you may recall Vevo DSCVR has invited up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish and Bülow to perform material off their newest efforts, and they recently invited Missal to perform her impressive standout track “Keep Lying” and from the footage, Missal performs with a rock ‘n’ roll-like energy, bouncing around like a young Anthony Kedis.

 

Maria Del Pilar is a Chilean-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician, whose family immigrated to the States when she was a child. After developing roots in her adoptive hometown, Del Pilar became an integral part of the city’s music scene as the frontwoman of the critically acclaimed local act, Los Abandoned. Pilar’s solo debut Songs + Canciones I was released to critical praise for Del Pilar’s ability to craft infectious pop hooks that possess a rock ‘n’ roll grit that recalled her Riot Grrl roots. Interestingly, Songs + Canciones I‘s lead single “En El Dancefloor” skyrocketed to the top of the Mexican radio charts and led to shows at Vive Latino and Mexico City’s prestigious The Zocalo.

Songs + Canciones II, the highly-anticipated follow-up to Del Pilar’s solo debut is slated for a November 2, 2018 release, and while finishing up the album, Del Pilar has managed to collaborate with a diverse array of renowned artists including Chicano Batman, Francisca Valenzuela, and Tegan & Sara; in fact, the album features collaborations with a virtual who’s who of the Los Angeles music scene, including members of Chicano Batman, No Doubt, Las Cafeteras, Fitz + The Tantrums and others. But in the meantime, the Chilean-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has also performed as a backing singer  during tUnE yArDs’ most recent appearance on Conan. Adding to a growing profile, “Se Me Hace Mas” was recently  featured on the new Starz drama Vida.

“Original Dreamer,” Songs + Canciones II’s latest single is of our current sociopolitical moment, as it was written while the Trump Administration and the Republican led house was busily repealing DACA, which struck a chord both personally and politically. After the introduction and approval of 2001’s DREAM Act, millions of undocumented minors were granted legal residency in the States along with their parents and guardians. Del Pilar’s mother and father were among the first DREAMers — but sadly, her mother died when she was 12.  The stories reminded me of what I saw my parents go through when I was a kid immigrating from Chile to the US,” Del Pilar says in press notes. “I had a chance to thank my father for these sacrifices but never got a chance to thank my mom. This song gives me that chance.”

Produced by Poolside‘s Flip Nikolic, the song features looping, psych rock-inspired guitar lines from Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arevalo — and while centered around a fiercely held belief that no one is an illegal alien, the percussive, deep groove-driven song manages to bring Fear of Music-era Talking Heads to mind; but with a bold, distinctly Latin flavor and vibe, along with some infectious hooks. Of course, at its core is a deep (and much-needed) empathy and understanding of the plight of society’s most vulnerable, reminded the listener that a great deal of Americans are descendants of those who have taken great risks and had enormous dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Matthews is an up-and-coming Placerville, CA-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, ukulele, bass, accordion and banjo) whose solo work work under the moniker of MAWD has largely been influenced by The Head and the HeartFirst Aid KitThe StavesNancy SinatraLord HuronAlabama Shakes and others — although her sound has generally leaned heavily towards a rather unique blend of indie rock, folk, blues, blues rock and 70s AM rock. Now, as the story goes Matthews made a name for herself in her hometown of about 10,000; but she found a larger audience when she moved to Chico, where she attended Cal State University, Chico and studied music. And while attending Cal State Chico, Matthews quickly became part of the Northern California music scene, fronting and writing for a number of bands and winning local singer/songwriter competitions.
Adding to a growing local profile, Matthews starting make appearances on regional TV and radio, and received praise from a number of media outlets including Earmilk, LA Weekly, The Line of Best Fit and Live Nation’s Ones to Watch— and as the story goes after catching the attention of Sound x 3 Records‘ Roger Gisborne, who immediately signed her and sent her on a Scandinavian tour, which eventually resulted in sets at several international festivals, including YouBloom. Gisborne also produced Matthews debut EP as MAWD, which was recorded during her final semester in school, and the critically applauded album lead to a SXSW appearance and a Southwestern US tour with a lineup of top British, Irish and American musicians.
Matthews is currently working with Gisborne and Cave producer/songwriter Josiah Mazzaschi on her highly-anticipated sophomore EP but in the meantime, her latest single “Wandering Eye” finds Matthews effortlessly meshing old school soul, thanks to a rich arrangement with jangling indie rock and an anthemic hook — and while some have compared her sound to the likes of Janis Joplin, I hear a fundamentally modern sensibility, that brings to mind JOVM mainstayAlice Merton and others, as the song is centered around a carefully crafted and infectious hook. But underneath the song’s breezy self-assuredness, is a takedown of a cheating and dishonest lover, which gives the song a bitter, emotional heft.
Evalyn is an up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, and her forthcoming EP Salvation, which is slated for a September 28, 2018 release, thematically explores the seven deadly sins, centered around the concept of trying to find something to save you, whether it was religion or a cult, or anything else you might worship. Big Bad City,” the EP’s latest single features an almost arena rock-like production consisting of thumping drums, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook and chorus and while the song manages to subtly nod at the enormity and emotional heft of an old school spiritual, the track is an examination of pride — in particular, an unapologetic passion for a sinful, greedy and vapid way of life.
What makes the song interesting to me is that it reveals a self-assured songwriter, who can craft the sort of infectious, radio friendly hook that could take over the world.
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New Video: Introducing the Atmospheric Dream Pop of Perth Australia’s The Money War

The Money War is a Perth, Australia-based dream pop/indie pop/indie rock duo comprised of Dylan Ollivierre, a member of Rainy Day Women and Carmen Pepper, a member of Warning Birds, and the project can trace its origins to a road trip that the duo took across the US in late 2015. Inspired by the trip, they recorded a ton of iPhone demos — and as the story goes, after a chance meeting with producers Thom Monahan, who’s worked with Fruit Bats and Little Joy and Arne Frager, who’s worked with Prince and Paul McCartney in a San Francisco dive bar, the duo were convinced of the value of their demos together, and began working on an album. 

The Perth-based dream pop/indie pop/indie rock duo released their debut EP early last year, and they spent the year touring with Holy Holy and Meg Mac, before headlining a national time in December. Interestingly, “Recall,” off their debut EP was the 5th most played song on Triple J Radio last year — and as a result, they had seen a growing national and international profile, with the duo gaining attention Stateside as they’ve received airplay on SiriusXM, KEXP, CJAM FM, KXRN, WLKK and college radio. 

“Hollywood,” the duo’s latest single off their full-length debut is a moody and atmospheric track that immediately brings JOVM mainstays Still Corners, as the track is centered around Pepper’s ethereal vocals, twinkling synths, strummed acoustic guitar, piano and a sinuous hook — and while possessing a subtly cinematic vibe, the song as the duo’s Dylan Ollivierre explains was written and inspired by a difficult year the duo had in which people close to each individual member had died. “There’s a hospital in Perth called Hollywood, and I was pondered its ironic name,” Olliviere says in press notes. “We were in LA when I got the news that a family member was passing away, and the lyrics started forming from there. We wanted the song to sound like a moving and we took production cues from that idea.” 

The recently released video cuts between daily life footage of Hollywood that captures the bitter irony as its core — while some do manage to obtain massive success, a fair number of people wind up down and out; and footage of the two in the studio performing the song

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Palace Winter Return with an Enormous Yet Intimate Ballad on Mortality

Over the couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about Copenhagen, Denmark-based electro pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, and the which is comprised of Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager can trace its origins to the Coleman and Hesselager’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work in a number of different projects, which eventually encouraged the duo to begin collaborating together. And while 2015 saw the release of their debut single, 2016 was a breakthrough year as their  EP Medication and their full-length debut Waiting for the World to Turn were released to critical praise from the likes of The Guardian, NME, The Line of Best Fit, and airplay from KCRW, KEXP, Norway’s P3, Denmark’s P6, as well as by BBC Radio personalities Guy Garvey, Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft. Adding to a growing profile, the duo have a Hype Machine #1 single under their belts, have opened for Noel Gallagher, and have made appearances across the European festival circuit, including sets at Guy Garvey’s curated Meltdown Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Sziget Festival, Latitude Festival and Secret Garden Party among others.

Building upon a rapidly growing international profile, Coleman and Hesselager released their sophomore album together Nowadays earlier this year, and singles “Empire,”  “Come Back (Left Behind)” and “Baltimore,” the album reveals that the act has subtly expanded upon their sound and songwriting approach with Coleman and Hasselager pairing breezy, melodic and radio friendly pop with darker thematic concerns — in particular, the loss of innocence as one becomes an adult, with tough and often sobering life lessons; the recognition of the fear, the freedom and the power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny. But along with that the material focuses on the grief of loss — after all, life is ultimately about accepting immense, inconsolable loss and somehow figuring out how to move forward, even if its fits and starts; and the confusing push and pull between love and lust and the resulting remorse, anxiety, and bitterness. 

“Take Shelter,” Nowadays’ latest single is centered by a dramatic and enormous piano riff, shimmering synths and a soaring hook — and interestingly, the song manages to accurately capture the dichotomy of intimately felt emotions and thoughts inspired by the enormity of life-altering situations; in fact, the song is a ballad about death and grief, and the emotional and mental shelters we make for ourselves as a way to cope with inconsolable loss. As the duo’s Carl Coleman says of the song  “It started with that beat and Caspar’s piano riff which felt kinda urban and like a place we hadn’t really explored yet. Then that droney vocal melody just kinda popped straight into my head. I felt the urgency immediately and knew it was a keeper. Some songs are like pulling teeth but this one was like a light-bulb moment.”

Coleman and Hasslelager, along with touring members Jacob Haubjerg (guitar) and Jens Bach Laursen (drums) went to The Village Recording to film an extensive life session of the entire band performing material off the album, and this version of “Take Shelter” is from that session — and each video has revealed that Coleman and Hasslelager have written earnest, swooning and heartfelt material that’s enormous yet intimate, and crafted in a way that brings 70s AM rock to mind.  

New Video: JOVM’s Newest Mainstay Million Miles Finds Herself in a “Girl-Meets-Boy” Driven Love Triangle in Visuals for Sultry Single “Honey”

Over the past year or so, I’ve written a bit about Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music. After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned home to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write and record her own original music, largely inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers.

Now, as the story goes, on a whim Baudry took a trip to Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here. I’m a songwriter and I’m looking for like-minded people to collaborate with.” While in Nashville, the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter wound up having chance meetings with two local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within about an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing the material that eventually became Baudry’s Million Miles’ debut EP Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s home studio in the Berry Hill neighborhood of Nashville. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the folksy and effortlessly soulful “If Only,” a hook-driven song centered around a loose, jam-like arrangement of funky, Bill Withers-ike strummed guitar, twinkling keys and gentle yet propulsive drumming and a funky bass line. While evoking the swooning pangs of meet-cute first love, the song is actually from the perspective of a narrator, who’s over it in some way, and too busy to care one way or the other — or so she tells herself. Baudry’s highly-anticiapted sophomore EP is slated for a November release through AntiFragile Music, and her latest single “Honey” is the first official single off the forthcoming EP,  and the song is arguably one of the sultriest and most soulful tracks the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter has released to date — and while still drawing from Still Bill-era Bill Withers, the track reveals an artist, who has become increasingly self-assured in her songwriting and approach, but maintaining a lived in, emotional honesty that’s rare for most contemporary pop. As Baudry explains in press notes, the song is “about unconditional love and dedication to someone, who isn’t very interested in committing in any way. In this kind of situation, no matter what, if you’re in love, you’re in love, and you’d do everything and anything to make it work, even if it means doing crazy things and losing yourself . . . ”

Directed by Tom Ewbank, the recently released video is set in an old-fashioned American diner, where Baudry works as a waitress. The video finds its protagonist caught in an unwanted love triangle, as she falls for an attractive customer, who isn’t all that interested in committing or doing much of anything. Throughout the video, Baudry self-assuredly seems to tell her love interest “look, fool, I’m dope and you need to recognize.”

New Video: Up-and-Coming Singer/Songwriter Minke Releases Intimate and Cinematic Visuals for Soaring Single “Maybe 25”

With the release of her first two singles “Gold Angel” and “Armour,” the London-born and-based based singer/songwriter and musician Minke (pronounced as to rhyme with the word “link”) quickly became a buzz-worthy artist: “Gold Angel” received airplay on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show, was featured on Spotify‘s New Music Fridayand Pop Rising playlists and was a Hype Machine#1  — within a two week period. The track also received praise from the The Line of Best Fit for its “elements of pop, rock, soul and R&B,” and “guitar riffs, mingled with understated vocals like curls of smoke in a darkened bar.” Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming London-born and-based singer/songwriter and musician released “Armour” to praise from Billboard, who said the song was “a female empowerment anthem about letting go of your defenses and learning how to be vulnerable, especially with those closest to you.”

Minke’s latest single “Maybe 25” was co-written by the up-and-coming British artist and her producer Rory Andrew and the single which pairs Minke’s tender, ethereal and yearning vocals with twinkling piano, reverb drenched guitar chords, thumping beats, brief bits of industrial clang and clatter, and a soaring hook within a song that to my ears makes sonic nods to Adele and London Grammar but with a self assured, effortless yet soulful quality. Interestingly as Minke explains in press notes, the track was written about the emptiness and frustrations of online dating, and the hold technology has over us. “As I started to write, it became less and less about that, and more a general observation on connection. We’ve never been more connected by disconnected at the same time. It’s made us more insular, less open to having a conversation with a stranger and maintaining eye contact for more than a second without looking at your phone. So it’s about longing about something more than that, whatever that is. Something real in a seemingly disposable world. Questioning if that’s still possible. Questioning if it’s got the better of you.”

The up-and-coming British artist is currently working on her debut EP, which is slated for a Fall release, and there are plans for a North American tour to support it but before that I think we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from her; in fact, the recently released video, which was directed by Tess Elliot Harrison features the up-and-coming British singer/songwriter in the desert in the eerie isolation of the desert — and as a result it further emphasizes both the disconnection and longing at the song’s core.