Tag: indie pop

 

Comprised of Amanda Blomqvist, Cecilia Wickström and Jakob Lavonius, the Swedish pop trio Birdpeople can trace their origins to the breakup of a previous project, as a result of a sense of diminishing urgency. As the story goes, guitar-based music seemed patriarchal beyond redemption for the trio of Blomqvuist, Wickström and Lavonius, and according to the members of the band, they brought a semi-modular MS-20 analog synthesizer in a fit of desperation. None of them know anything about analog synthesizers  — but that was actually the point in buying one. They projected old science fiction movies onto the wall of their rehearsal space, and began recording improvised music to a portable cassette recorder, and it lead to their Magnus “Existensminimum” Monn-produced EP, an effort recorded despite writer’s blocks with homemade instruments, decrepit, vintage synths and sonorous metal scraps fashioned into a tree-shaped contraction. “We wanted to build a utopia out of all this riff raff, and somehow this became our way of making music feel like it mattered again, the members of Birdpeople explain in press notes. “Using hardware synths makes played parts irrevocable, it limits and hinders – a paradoxical deliverance. There were times when we couldn’t communicate except through the sounds we made; sometimes we were like a harmonious hive mind.”

The members of the Swedish pop act came up with the name Birdpeople after they had finished working on their debut EP, and as they explain, the name is meant to convey the impression of a family, or rather, a cult, as they felt they had become something like that during the writing and recording process — and birds, which had been featured prominently throughout their song’s lyrics had become spirit animals. “We wanted to address the ambivalence of this wondrous-yet-harrowing imprisonment of being human. Nevertheless, music seemed to offer some way out of the compulsory nature of human-being. Bird-being thus became a metaphor for a kind of cyborg-to-be, for the potentiality of being more than human – possessing wings, talons and beak, being able to observe the world from above.” And considering the band’s origins, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that the band draws from a wild hodgepodge of cultural references, including Walter Benjamin, the Hyperobject, Reza Negarestani, Hayao Miyazaki, Andrej Tarkovskij, God, Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene and Alejandro Jodorowsky; a love-hate relationship with contemporary art pop; the zombie-like doggedness of plant life; capitalism; the gender system; the seemingly downfall and collapse of society as we know it; family and the impossibility of breaking free of the; camaraderie; loss, grief, decay; the sensation of having the probers wall from being pulled out from under you; and so on.

Birdpeople’s latest single is a jangling and shuffling track that somehow manages to evoke creeping and unsettlingly anxious nightmare that’s pervasive and inescapable and the eerie quiet of the apocalypse — all while being accessible and hook driven. In some way you can picture the members of the band using claptrap equipment held together by tape, staples and desperate hope to create a sound that’s contemporary, retroactive and  yet kind of alien.

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New Video: Up-and-Coming Dutch Singer/Songwriter Nana Adjoa Releases Symbolic Visuals for Soulful Single “Honestly”

If you follow me through the various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve had an absolutely epic time during my first two days in the Windy City — and everyone I’ve met has been a wonderful and kind ambassador to their hometown. Man, right now, I feel as though Chicago can’t do me wrong. But on to the business end of things  . . . 

Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.

Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down at the Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Directed by Bear Damen, the recently released video for “Honestly” features Adjoa and her backing band, as the backing musical act for a surrealistic play; but underneath that are much deeper interpretations — including, the vulnerability of having someone capture your heart, and knowing that with a cruel or thoughtless act, that they can crush it. 

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about Alice Merton, a Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Understandably, music managed to be a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth her and her family was; in fact, she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five, and when she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. After spending the better part of a decade of her life in classical training, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And as the story goes, from that point forward, Merton went on to study songwriting and began pursing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

While in school, Merton wound up working with a number of producers on projects, and finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator in the creative process is a rarity. And when she met the Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found her musical match; in fact, the duo collaborated on Merton’s swaggering, hook-driven smash hit debut “No Roots,” a song that’s deeply influenced by her own nomadic youth. Speaking of smash hits, “No Roots” held the #1 spot for 2 consecutive weeks at the alternative radio charts here in the states, and held for 8 weeks in Canada. And as a result, she cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts, the Top 15 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts and entered the Billboard Hot 100. Adding to a growing profile, the song is synced in a Mini Cooper ad campaign and was recently featured in Rolling Stone‘s “One To Watch” and Billboard‘s “Chartbreaker” section, which has previously featured artists such as Cardi B and Khalid — and earlier this year, she made her national TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Building upon the buzz of her breakthrough single, Merton’s latest single “Lash Out” comes on the heels of her recently released No Roots EP, and much like “No Roots,” the Berlin-based pop artist’s latest single continues on the first-person perspective of its predecessor and the anthemic, hook-driven song focuses on a woman, who feels the need to speak up boldly (and loudly!) about what you want, need and what you’re ready to fight for; to confidently answer your own needs in your own way.  And in some way, the song is an earnest, empowering feminist anthem.

Merton will be touring to support her debut EP and it’ll include performances on the festival circuit with appearances at Shaky Knees Fest, Hangout Music Festival and Governor’s Ball, and a tour opening for Vance Joy that includes a June 14, 2018 stop at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates:
5/6 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Fest
5/15 Charlottesville, VA Spring Pavilion*
5/16 Columbus, OH Express Live!*
5/18 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE*
5/19 Portsmouth, VA Portsmouth Pavilion*
5/20 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Fest
5/22 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre*
5/24 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live*
5/25 Chicago, IL Rosemont Theatre*
5/26 St. Louis, MO Fox Theatre*
5/27 Napa, CA BottleRock Napa Valley
5/30 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheater*
6/1 St. Paul, MN Myth Live*
6/2 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom*
6/3 – New York, NY – Governors Ball Music Festival
6/14 Brooklyn, NY Prospect Park*
6/15 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion*
6/16 Hunter, NY NY Mountain Jam
6/14-6/17 Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
8/4 Montreal, QC Osheaga Festival
8/7 Toronto, ON Echo Beach^
* W/ Vance Joy
^ W/ Tash Sultana

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.

Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down at the Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

 

Meiko is a Roberta, GA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up in a rather musical home, as her father, who was a singer/songwriter and guitarist used to sing for the Roberta, GA-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter when she was a baby. When she was 8, Meiko began singing in public; in fact, her first performance was at a local, all black, Southern Baptist church, where she sang “White Christmas” on Christmas Eve. “I just recently realized the humor in that — but luckily at the time, everyone thought it was cute . . .,” Meiko recalls on her Facebook fan page.

Shortly after that, the Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter began singing in local talent shows and sang the National Anthem at the opening day of little league baseball. Around the same time, Meiko took up the guitar, playing her father’s beloved Gibson until he brought her a guitar for a birthday present. “As soon as I learned a new chord, I wrote a new song,” the Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist said on her Facebook fan page.

When she was 18, Meiko left her small Southern town and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where she began playing at the Hotel Cafe, a venue known for developing up-and-coming, local singer/songwriters. By 2007, she had released her self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that established the Roberta, GA-born singer/songwriter’s reputation for material that managed to mesh indie pop and coffeehouse folk and as a result the album had every single song featured on a number of high-profile TV shows including 
Grey’s Anatomy, which led to the album landing on the digital folk charts.
Meiko’s latest single, the Wally Gagel-produced, Gagel, Erica Driscoll and Mieko co-written song will further cement her reputation for radio friendly, pop leaning folk that pairs her breathy vocals with a production centered around strummed guitar, swirling electronics and stuttering drums and an infectious hook — and in some way, the track reminds me quite a bit of Dido‘s self-titled album.
 
The Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter is on tour to support the new single. Check out the tour dates below.
 
MEIKO ON THE ROAD:
3/22 – Austin, TX – One World Theatre
3/23 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater
3/25 – Houston, TX – The Heights Theater
4/7 – Tampa, FL – Safety Harbor Songfest

Camille Trust is an up-and-coming, Tampa, FL-born, New York-based soul/pop artist, who’s influenced by the likes of Janis Joplin, Lauryn Hill and Etta James — although with her energetic and dynamic stage presence and raw, unvarnished honesty, her work seems much more indebted to the likes of Mary J. Blige. Now, as you may recall, I caught the Tampa-born, New York-based soul/pop artist performing an opening set Baby’s All Right that featured sultry covers of Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” and Stevie Wonder‘s “Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” and a collection of singles that she’s released over the past few years, as well as material off her recently released EP — including her latest single, “Lose You,” which pairs Trust’s effortlessly soulful vocals with a modern production consisting of stuttering beats, brief horn blasts, twinkling keys and an explosive, radio friendly and rousingly anthemic hook; but underneath the swaggering and thumping production, is a plaintive and urgent plea to a lover, who seems ready to bolt.

 

Biig Piig is an up-coming 20 year-old, London-based pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life in a wide array of cultures as she was born in Spain, moved to Ireland, where she spent several years before finally settling in London, where she eventually joined the Nine8 Collective, a London-based crew of 27 creatives, who collaborate and support each other through a number of different artistic disciplines. As a solo artist, the British-based singer/songwriter has received attention for material that assimilates the sort of life experiences — she once worked as a poker dealer and as a tequila bar waitress — that gives her work an intriguing blend of maturity and youthful naivete. In fact, her stage name reportedly came about after drunkenly reading the name off a pizza menu and relating it to a sense of self-acceptance. “The more I called myself it, the more it made sense. I’m just a mess really. Still cute tho,” the up-and-coming London-based artist jokes in press notes.

Biig Piig’s latest single, the Dylantheinfamous-produced “Flirt” is the first official single from her forthcoming debut EP, Big Fan Of The Sesh, and it features the up-and-coming pop artist’s coquettish and jazz-inflected vocals over a dusty, soulful yet minimalist J. Dilla, Madlib-like production consisting of twinkling keys and boom bap beats but underneath the surface is a song with a narrator, quietly suffering through the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and overthinking that typically happens when you’ve started to like someone but don’t quite know what you want to happen — or if you even want it to happen. And while capturing a fairly universal experience, Biig Pigg gives the song subtle yet detailed bits of realistic and intimate psychological detail that makes it seem as though the song was inspired by her own experiences. Interestingly, the EP is conceived as the first of a trilogy of audio-visual stories mixing the deeply personal with the universal, centered around a main character, a young woman named Fran — and the material generally focuses on that first doomed, major relationship, losing yourself in city life but somehow managing to come out o the other side.  “I’d hope,” says Biig Piig, “that anyone that feels they’re in a situation like that would find some solidarity in some of the tracks; understanding that you don’t owe anyone anything, and if you’re in a cycle that makes you unhappy, best believe you can change it compadre.”

 

 

 

Featuring Chuck Bronson, Brodie Conley, Nicolas Hyatt and David Lacalamita, the members of Canadian indie rock quartet Future States is a band with members based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, making the band a long distance affair, reportedly held together by the band member’s long-time friendship — and the Greyhound bus. Since their formation, the band has developed a reputation for crafting material that straddle the line between accessible, radio friendly pop and experimental pop based around arrangements of keys, guitar, sampled sounds and propulsive rhythms paired with pop melodies and reverb-drenched harmonies. And while, their latest single “Heaven” will further cement their reputation for crafting propulsive, left field (and incredibly breezy) pop reminiscent of Talking Heads and others, it also reportedly finds the band experimenting with new sounds and refining their overall production as the song is centered around a tight, propulsive rhythm, and a deceptively simple chord progression and verses; however, the song features an irony-tinged skepticism — of whether heaven exists, if it would be how it’s described and if the song’s narrator would even want to go there.