Tag: indie pop

Born Sophie Stern, Sophie Bom is a Los Angeles, CA-born and-based singer/songwriter and producer, who originally started her music career as a songwriter for mega-hit producer Dr. Luke writing songs for a number of pop stars, including Britney Spears, Kesha and Conor Maynard among others — and after spending a few years behind the scenes, the Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter and producer, decided that she needed to go out on her own as a solo artist. Now, as you may recall, Bom’s solo career began with writing and recording with the Grammy Award-winning producer David Elevator, who’s best known for his work on Beck‘s Morning Phase and Dan Dare, who’s best known for his work with Marina and the Diamonds, Charlie XCX and M.I.A. for her attention grabbing recording project Sophie and the Bom Boms, which released the Shmixtape EP and the Going For the Heart EP before going on a hiatus.

“Broke,” Bom’s latest single, and first official single as completely solo artist finds the Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter her roots — sitting at the piano and writing songs. Additionally, the single finds her producing herself for the first time, and the single features a fairly stripped down production in which Stern’s vocals float over a metronomic beat, warm and expressively blasts of electric guitar, but the spacious and unfussy production has one true star to it — Stern, who’s at her most honest and vulnerable. As the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and producer says of the song, “This song was written stream of consciousness, I hit record and sat at [the] piano and tried to sort out my life. Like, ‘Hello, my name is Sophie, and I’m a broken ass person trying to make a relationship work with another broken ass person. Relationships are funny. Love can be 2 faced. When you’re in a relationship, it can be make you feel so connected and understood by no just the other person, but to everything and everyone, everywhere .  . . and then on the flip side, it touches on the most painful parts of life and yourself and humans, and you feel cheated by the whole fucking world. This song is about about the broken side. Like maybe there’s a wall that you’ll never grow tall enough to climb over. 2 broken people not knowing how to fix something. Like, ‘I love you, but I’m tired . . . and paranoid . . . are you even there? Are we going to fix this? Kiki? Do you love me? Are you riding?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Video: Rodes Rollins Releases Sultry and Self-Assured Visuals for “Nasty Woman”

Now, over the past 12-18 months or so, I’ve written a bit about Rodes Rollins, a Boulder, CO-born singer/songwriter, who spent a stint living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and is now primarily based in New York. Rollins emerged into the national scene with “Young and Thriving,” the first single off her critically applauded debut EP Young Adult, an incredibly self-assured effort written as a portrait of an artist as a young woman, in which the narrator looks back at her most formative experiences with a nostalgic yet wizened flashback — with the perspective of someone, who now sees how her decisions for better or for worse, planned or serendipitous have influenced who she has become and where her life is at this moment.

“Nasty Woman,” Rollins’ latest single is a bold, self-assured, feminist anthem that according to Rollins is largely centered on empowerment and pride, while focusing on ” . . .the multi-dimensionality of what it means to be a woman in society — being who you are, as you are; and being proud of that. This song is not presented from only my singular perspective, or through just one medium. The very point of what I’m trying to express is that being a woman shouldn’t be a restrictive identity, but rather a broad and inclusive one.” Sonically, the song is based around a bluesy and reverb-y guitar line, propulsive drumming from Portugal, The Man‘s Kane Ritchotee  an infectious hook and Rollins’ sultry cooed vocals — and while sultry, the song lyrically features inclusive and intersectional lyrics.

Directed by Louis Browne, the recently released video for “Nasty Woman” is as sultry and self-assured as the song it accompanies. As Rollins says of the video treatment, “‘Nasty Woman’ is my own personal feminist anthem. Tonally and thematically it’s very different from my other material. It was really empowering and fun for me to write and record this one. I wanted that to come through in the visuals for the song too. So, we made an effort for the video to incorporate bold, bright colors and a strong energy. Performing in this video really gave me a platform to showcase the confidence when I sing ‘Nasty Woman.'”

James Clifford is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, and creative mastermind of the recording project Primaveras, which was once known as Modern Howls. As the story goes, Clifford grew up in a rather musical family; in fact, Clifford began playing guitar in his early teens and throughout his high school years, he played in a number of garage bands. Foregoing a formal musical education, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is largely self-taught with his passion for playing and writing stemming from a lifelong passion for everything music, as he’s been known to scour music stores for vintage guitars and synths or to stay up into the wee hours listening to records. Unsurprisingly, Clifford has cited the likes of David Bowie, Prince, The Clash, Funkadelic, Chic, Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, Steely Dan, and The Beach Boys as some of his greatest music inspirations.  Thematically, Clifford and Primaveras draws influence from the stretch of the famed Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Santa Monica — warm breezes through cracked car windows, the soft sound of waves crashing and receding into the Pacific, and the silhouette of the Los Angeles skyline. For many it’s timeless and almost dreamlike; but those who haven’t stuck around long enough fail to notice the effects of salt air on the surroundings — in the form of rust and erosion. In some way, it evokes faded dreams and hopes of a paradise that never really was there in the first place, and in another sense, the faded surroundings evoke a lonely introspection. Clifford’s Primaveras debut Echoes in the Well of Being was written in a way to embody that dualism — with the album’s material generally being sunny psych pop yet possess an underlying longing and introspection.
Interestingly with Clifford’s previously released material and Echoes in the Well of Being‘s latest single, the shimmering and strutting “Better Off,” his sound has been compared favorably to the likes of Tame Impala and Phoenix — and while that is definitely fair, I also hear a subtle nod at Avalon-era Roxy Music as the song evokes bright neon lights, evening faces, Jack and Cokes, the buzz of a coke high and a desperate escape from one’s loneliness and regret. But interestingly enough, Clifford pays loving  homage to The Isley Brothers’Footsteps in the Dark, Parts 1 and 2” with the song’s intro drum break, which not only ties the song to classic R&B, but gives it a subtle sensuality.
As Clifford says of the song, “While most people will immediately interpret as a breakup song, I see the core sentiment as trying to grow up and move on from any sort of worn-out relationship.”
 

New Video: Lola Kirke Returns with Sultry and Expressive Visuals for “Sexy Song”

Lola Kirke is a British-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician and actress, best know for starring roles in Noah Bambauch’s Mistress America and the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, as well as a supporting role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl; but interestingly enough, she’s also the daughter of drummer Simon Kirke, who’s best known for stints in Bad Company and Free and Lorraine Kirke, the owner of Geminola, a vintage boutique known for supplying outfits for Sex and the City. Now as you may recall, last year I wrote about “Not Used,” off her self-titled EP, a song about learning to live with a lover’s absence and their lingering ghosts. 

Kirk’s full-length debut Heart Head West is slated for an August 10, 2018 release through Downtown Records, and the Wyndham Garnett-produced album, which was tracked live to tape, is a deeply personal album that Kirke says is “about basically everything I thought about in 2017 — time, loss, social injustice, sex, drinking, longing — essentially everything I’d talk about with a close friend for 40 minutes.” Heart Head West’s latest single “Sexy Song” is a slow-burning and meditative bit of honky tonk that’s reminiscent of Chris Issak and Roy Orbison, but with a feminine and self-assured sultriness at its core. 

Directed by Mara McKevitt, the intimate, recently released video for “Sexy Song” features expressive and sultry choreography by Elizabeth Sonenberg, and as Kirke told Harper’s Bazaar, “I think that understanding what the core and the truth of women’s sexual desire is really tricky. Is it something that’s just like a man’s? Is it totally different? is it something that is just a like man’s because men told us exactly how it should be or what they would like it to be?” 

Live Footage: Acclaimed and Up-and-Coming Austrian Artist Inner Tongue Performs “2 Seconds”

Inner Tongue is the (mostly) solo recording project of a rather mysterious Vienna, Austria-based singer/songwriter, composer and musician, who grew upon an intensely musical home — his father is a saxophonist, who constantly wrote songs, so musical instruments were always lying around and his parents frequently shared their favorite albums with him; in fact, Inner Tongue formed his first band when he was 6. “We started out using one of my dad’s synths to play a pre-programmed beat,” he recalls. “I’d sing something that sounded to us like English.” Unsurprisingly, the Austrian artist, who cites Bjork, Moby, Portishead, Micheal Jackson, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Pet Shop Boys, Aphex Twin, and The Cure’s The Cure In Orange as influences — although those influences don’t quite correspond to his own sound and songwriting approach continued playing and writing music, playing in a small number of bands, including one that had briefly worked with Duran Duran and David Bowie’s producer before getting dropped by their label. 

Interestingly, with the release of some of his earliest solo work, the Austrian artist quickly garnered comparisons to James Blake, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, Death Cab for Cutie, Sohn, and Chet Faker/Nick Murphy. His quietly released yet critically applauded 2015 debut EP Tz Ka allowed him to open for the likes of Ghostpoet, Everything Everything and others. The Vienna, Austria-based singer/songwriter, composer, and musician’s full-length debut Favours was released earlier this year, and interestingly, the album’s overall sound and thematic concern is inspired by a deeply personal yet remarkable story. Back in 2013, Inner Tongue was diagnosed with a rare vocal-cord disorder that was so severe that only a handful of specialists throughout the entire world were capable of treating it; but eventually his condition required surgery, which left him, for a time unable to talk. Understandably, the months that followed the surgery were emotionally and physically shattering but he began composing music again.  At the time, singing was out of the question and as the Austrian singer/songwriter, composer and musician says in press notes, “I decided to modify my musical focus temporarily by writing songs which could produce a melodic tension without vocals, but which featured the traits of forward-looking pop music. It was as if someone had pressed a resent button on the musical identity I had of myself.” Adds Inner Tongue, “I used to layer many sounds and melodies before, and felt like I hid the core of any idea behind that technique.”

Some of the Austrian artist’s full-length debut was made at home with most recorded in a friend’s stood in Vienna. Foals’ John Catlin, who collaborated with him on his 2015 debut EP assisted once again although his involvement varied throughout; however, as Inner Tongue says, Catlin “was continually involved as a producer and friend,” who also mixed the album with some further overdubbing where necessary. As the Austrian artist readily admits, the entire experience of writing and recording his full-length debut provoked ” “a lot of soul searching, trying to become a better mixing engineer and producer. I’m somewhat controlling when it comes to my music, and I need to get the little details right.”

However, unlike his debut EP, Favours was more of a collaborative effort, as he shared his ideas with a collective of very dear and close friends. “All contributions are built on a vision I initially had and then gain shape during the process,” Inner Thought says. His live backing band contributed much of the music with his father playing sax on “New York.” The live version of “2 Seconds,” Favours’ latest single features a sparse yet soulful arrangement centered around twinkling Rhodes piano keys and Inner Thought’s achingly tender vocals, which manage to express a plaintive, vulnerable need. It’s a delicate, sensitive yet incredibly sexy song that balances earnest emotion with deliberate attention to craft. 

New Video: Bells Atlas Releases Gorgeously Cinematic Yet Surreal Visuals for “Be Brave”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Oakland, CA-based soul pop quintet Bells Atlas, 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) specializes in a forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic, lush and difficult to pigeonhole sound that frequently incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based act has opened for the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle. the side project of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.
“Be Brave” is the first bit of new material from the band in about a year, and  the track reveals a band that has further experimented and expanded upon their sound and songwriting. Centered around incredibly dexterous and percolating bass lines, driving percussion and Lawson-Ndu’s sultry cooing, the track shifts and morphs between time signatures and tone in a sinuous and fluid fashion. And yet the song is underpinned by a resilient, life affirming spirit that seems to say, “When the shit hits the fan, be like a shark. Keep on swimming.” As the band’s Lawson-Ndu explains in press notes, “This song, in a way, is a chant and reminder that we have our own set of super powers and a pool of instincts to lean on. I’ve had instances of loss or fear in my life that hold the kind of weight that, in those exact moments, have felt impossible to navigate out of. At times I’ve felt it’s luck that eventually pulls me out, and in other cases I’ve realized that I’m actually rarely helpless; that just by actively moving through life, I’ve collected survival tools along with a growing sense that I’m not alone. It’s often a wonder to have felt something so strongly, but to eventually make it to the other side and know that you’re ok.”

Directed by San Francisco-based filmmaker Dominic Mercurio, the recently released and cinematic visuals for “Be Brave” follows the band’s Sandra Lawson-Ndu alone in a desert landscape and out of water. After finally succumbing to extreme dehydration, she is abducted and revived by strange, fuzzy Jim Henson-like creatures that perform a ritual to revive her — with a major consequence. And while surreal and almost dreamlike, the video thematically focuses on empathy, sacrifice and communal exchange, reminding the viewer that while things seem incredibly bleak that its those deeply human traits that will win out in the end; they always do.

 

I’ll be pretty busy today, as I’ll be in Coney Island for an annual rite of summer here in New York City — The Mermaid Parade. I’m sure that there’ll be some Instagram posts until I actually get a chance to edit the photos — but in the meantime, let’s get to the business at hand, right? Now, over the past 18 months or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the 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 to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write music inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers.  On an inspired 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.” As the story goes, Baudry wound up having chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing material that eventually became the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s Million Miles debut EP, Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. 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.

Baudry’s latest single is the folksy and effortlessly soulful “If Only,” and while being a fitting vehicle for her equally effortless vocals, the hook-driven track is 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 and while being an incredibly self-assured track that reveals an artist who is expanding upon her sound and approach, the song evokes the swooning pangs of meet-cute first love, but from the perspective of a narrator, who is over it and too busy to care — or so she tells herself. In some way, the song’s narrator takes on a tough veneer to protect herself from the inevitable. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives and as a result, the song manages to be warmly familiar sonically and thematically.

 

New Video: Nana Adjoa Returns with the Mesmerizing and Intimate Sounds and Visuals for “Three”

Over the past few months I’ve written quite a bit about  Nana Adjoa, an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanian singer/songwriter, who began to receive attention across the European Union and elsewhere with the release of her debut Down at the Root, Part 1, and as you may recall Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she would study jazz  — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would.  “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “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.” Interestingly, 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 of the school environment. Adjoa quickly began to realize that pursing a solo career 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 soon-to-be released Down At The Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single was an effortless and breezy affair that seemed indebted to Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody. The EP’s second single, “Part Of It,” much like its predecessor was centered around a lush and plaintive melody, a sinuous and propulsive bass line, and arguably the most straightforward and honest lyrics of the entire EP, with the song focusing on the desire to fit in when you’re an outsider. “Three,” the EP’s aptly titled third single is a stripped down and intimate song in which Adjoa’s lovely and tender vocals are accompanied by simply strummed guitar and some fluttering electronics, which will further the Dutch-Ghaniaan singer/songwriter’s reputation for writing mesmerizing and effortlessly soulful, and thoughtful pop. 

Patrick Phillips is a Portland, OR-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, DJ and multi-instrumentalist, and creative mastermind behind the dream pop/indie pop/psych pop recording project Water Slice. In some way, the project can trace its origins back to when Philips realized that his life in Portland was beginning to closely resemble an unending Portlandia sketch as he worked at a hip gastropub, played packed local gigs and DJ’ed obscure African music. With that realization, Phillips decide it was time to leave Portland, eventually relocating to Los Angeles. In 2014, he moved into an idyllic artist house located in the hills of the Echo Park section — and as the story goes, Phillips would spend a great deal of time on the house’s rooftop, overlooking the city’s landscape in the shade of a  giant rubber tree, contemplating life and writing songs, partially influenced by his surroundings.

During his first month in town, Phillips met James Supercave‘s Joaquin Pastor and spent the next 2 years as that band’s bassist. After leaving James Supercave, the Portland-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had time to process his past life in Portland and to dive back into his record collection of power-pop, post-punk and world psychedelia — and this period was for him, the definitive spark that led him to write his own material under the moniker Water Slice. Of course, the material he had begun to write drew deeply from his own personal experience — particularly, a lengthy romantic relationship that dissolved and friendships that fell by the wayside (as many do), and the lingering ache and confusion of a past that’s continually just out of reach and the acceptance of a present that barely makes sense.

With the release of “This Way,” the first single off his forthcoming self-titled debut EP, slated for an August 10, 2018 release, Philips quickly received attention for a sound that pairs buoyant and breezy grooves with dark lyrical content. As Philips told Ones to Watch, “Many of my favorite tunes, whether post-punk, power-pop, or reggae, are stories of suffering, while staying undeniably groovy. I love this contrast of heavy lyrics with otherwise sunny music, and I kept this tradition in mind when writing ‘This Way.’ At the time I was stuck deep in a rut, ‘This Way’ is about accepting my flaws and pushing into the future with the people I love.” Interestingly, the EP’s second and latest single “Please Remember” is the only track produced by Gus Seyffert, best known for his work with Roger Waters, Beck, The Black Keys, Dr. Dog and James Supercave, and while the single will further cement Philips’ growing reputation for crafting breezy and buoyant pop with a wistful and nostalgic air; but there’s also an underlying acceptance and celebration of how life seems to constantly shift around you, forcing you to shift lanes, change direction  or stop whatever it was you were doing In the first place. After all, no one really has an answer to anything and nothing really works the way it’s supposed to — and yet, we usually find a way.

 

 

 

 

New Video: Alice Merton Returns to Inspire Youthful Rebellion in Visuals for Anthemic EP Single “Lash Out”

Over the past year or so, I’ve written quite a bit about Alice Merton, a Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, and as you may recall Merton has lived a rather nomadic life: most of her formative years were spent in Canada but she finished high school in Germany before relocating to England. Unsurprisingly, music managed to be a major part of her life, no matter where she was; in fact, as the story goes, Merton started taking classical piano lessons when she was five, and when she was nine, she was introduced to formal, vocal training. After spending the better part of a decade in classical training, the Frankfurt-am-Main-born, Berlin-based pop artist and singer/songwriter discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses while in Germany. And from that point onward, Merton went on to study songwriting and began pursuing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter. 

Of course, while studying in school, Merton would wind up working with a number of producers on a variety of producers, and finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator in the creative process is an increasing rarity. But when she met Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found a musical match, and so far their collaboration together has been wildly successful — the duo’s swaggering, hook-driven and attention grabbing smash hit debut single, “No Roots,” which was inspired by her nomadic youth held the #1 spot for 2 weeks on the Alternative Radio Charts in the States and held it for 8 weeks in Canada. The song cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts, the Top 15 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts and entered Billboard Hot 100. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the song has been synced in a Mini Cooper ad campaign — and earlier this year, she was featured in Rolling Stone‘s “One To Watch” and Billboard‘s “Chartbreaker” section, which has previously featured artists such as Cardi B and Khalid. Also, she’s made the rounds of national, late night TV with appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

And now, building upon the buzz surrounding her since the release of “No Roots,” Merton’s latest single “Lash Out” is an incredibly hook-driven song centered around a young woman narrator, who feels the need to speak up boldly (and loudly!) about what she wants and needs, about what she’s ready to fight for — and perhaps, more important to confidently answer her needs as she felt fit, in her own way. It’s an earnest, empowering feminist anthem that says to its listener, you better go out there, be bold and get what you deserve because no one else is going to be paying attention or care. 

Co-directed by Max Nadolny and Jonas Stark, the recently released video features sequences shot in Berlin and South Africa and focuses on a diverse cast of people, including Merton, who through a series of similar yet very different circumstances have rebelliously broken out against tormentors and social norms.