Tag: indie pop

Since their formation in 2014, the Helsinki, Finland-based JOVM mainstays Lake Jons, comprised of Jooel Jons and Mikko Pennanen have managed to walk a fine line between production tandem and full-fledged band, while crafting delicate, electro folk-leaning dream pop. Last year’s self-titled debut, which was released to praise across Scandinavia and elsewhere was written and recorded in an isolated cabin, deep within the Finnish forest thematically and sonically aimed to examine, capture, and represent the tenuous connection that still exists between the natural world and the human world. Building upon a growing profile, JaJaJa showcased the band in London, Berlin and Hamburg.

Lake Jons’ recently released sophomore album The Coast finds the  duo further reconnecting with their roots and delving even deeper into the Towars Forest. Thematically, the album is the duo’s endeavor  to dismantle life, space and time while sonically, the material finds the Finnish JOVM mainstays radically re-inventing their sound: The album’s songs are generally centered around very rough instrumental parts, then layered with harmony-driven toplines, creating the sense that the songs are assembling themselves in a seamless fashion.

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles — “It’s Too Bright” and “Simone.” Both of those singles further cemented the duo’s unusual and forward-thinking approach to  contemporary pop. “It’s Too Bright,” which was built around a sparse production  of twinkling keys, shimmering hi-hats, boom-bap like beats, a driving bass line and Jooel Jons’ plaintive falsetto was a seamless meshing of elements of R&B, electro pop,  jazz, folk and experimental pop while retaining the infectious hooks that won them attention across the blogosphere. “Simone” was centered around a hazy and dusty production of strummed guitar,  fluttering and arpeggiated synths, wobbling low end and stuttering beats. And while continuing  to be a perfect vehicle for Jons’ plaintive falsetto, the song was imbued with a sense of loss, longing and the acknowledgement that there are some connections that seem to transcend physical space and time itself.

“Human,” The Coast‘s latest single is a haunting and lingering fever dream, centered around a dusty and ancient-sounding production featuring strummed acoustic guitar, fluttering synths, thumping drums and Jons’ plaintive and expressive vocals.  Unlike the album’s previously released singles, “Human” finds the Finnish JOVM mainstays walking a fine line between careful and deliberate craft and stream of consciousness — as it evokes a late fall stroll, lost in thoughts and reminiscences.

“I’m fond of lyrics that tare more like thoughts rather than stories,” Jooel Jons says about The Coast‘s latest single. “This one feels like a stroll in the forest for me. Almost a story but not quite. ‘I wanna turn around’ resembles the idea of turning back from the road we once started as humans. Honouring nature more and more. For me it also means dancing in the forest among the trees and animals like a hippie cliché. This song has evolved from two different songs that I felt were at a dead end. Combining them left some good parts unused but made one whole.”


New Video: London’s Genghar Releases a Dance Floor Friendly Single

Deriving their name from Gengar, one of the original Pokemon, the acclaimed London-based Gengahr, comprised of Felix Bushe, John Victor, Hugh Schulte and Danny Ward can trace their origins to when its members met at the Stoke Newington School. Their debut single “Fill My Gums With Blood” caught the attention ofBBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band wound up playing at the BBC Introducing Stage at 2014’s Glastonbury Festival.

Since then the band has released two critically applauded albums — 2015’s debut effort A Dream Outside and 2018’s Where Wildness Grows. The band’s highly-anticipated, third full-length album Sanctuary is slated for a January 31, 2020 release through Liberator Music. Produced by the band’s old friend, Bombay Bicycle Club’s Jack Steadman, the album reportedly finds the band ambitiously pushing their sound in a decidedly pop leaning direction while recapturing the magic and vibe the quartet felt while writing and recording their debut effort. Influenced by Homer’s Odyssey, the album’s material finds the band’s primary songwriter Felix Bushe tapping into personal pain — but while coming out throwing punches and fighting.

Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Heavenly Maybe” is a slinky and shimmering pop song centered around Nile Rodgers-like guitar, a sinuous bass line, a funky, disco-like groove, four-on-the-floor drumming, Bushe’s achingly plaintive vocals and an infectious radio friendly hook. And while being a slickly produced club banger, the song is imbued with a world weary ennui, as Bushe’s narrator details the experience of partying as a way of distracting him from his serious, real life problems. 

Directed by David East, the video follows a lonely man who heads out to a club to catch a band and to dance his problems away — but it seems only temporary. “‘Heavenly Maybe’ is the second part of a two-part video we made with David East in Berlin earlier this year. Across the two, we wanted to create something which captured the thematic essence of the album as a whole whilst allowing each song its own fitting backdrop. The song itself is essentially about going out and trying to forget all of your troubles, and how ultimately problematic that is as a form of release.” 

Last month, I wrote about ZINNIA,a Toronto-based art pop project featuring its creative mastermind Rachel Cardiello along with James Burrows, Chris Pruden, Connor Walsh and Mackenzie Longpre. And since their formation, the Canadian act has developed a layered synth-based sound with driving beats that’s been recently described as Kate Bush meets Meat Loaf as the material manages to be intimate and fierce.

ZINNIA’s recently released full-length debut Sensations in Two Dot thematically focuses on moments of doubt — in particular, creative, societal and personal, while exploring what it means to hold compassion through the multifaceted grey areas of life. Whether in the real life town of Two Dot, Montana (population 143) or the band’s hometown of Toronto (population 2.6 million), the album’s nine songs attempt to probe the complex, unsettling similarities of the human experience. The album’s latest single, the brooding “Yellowstone” is centered around a shuffling and old-timey arrangement of atmospheric synths, soaring strings, guitar, bass and Cardiello’s expressive and aching vocals  — and while continuing a run of material that brings Aimee Mann, Kate Bush and others to mind, the song is rooted in the intense self-doubt, confusion, unease and a longing for hone.





New Video: Dayglow’s Hook-Driven and Sincere Pop for Millennials

Sloan Struble is the 20 year-old, Aledo, TX-born, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind the rapidly rising indie rock project Dayglow. The project, which is centered around a hard-fought, hard-won and palpably sincere optimism can trace its origins to Struble’s adolescence, growing up in a Fort Worth suburb that he has referred to as a “small football-crazed town,” where he felt irrevocably out of place — and as a result, he turned to music, as a escape from his surroundings. “I didn’t really feel connected to what everyone else in my school was into, so making music became an obsession for me, and sort of like therapy in a way,” Struble says in press notes. “I’d dream about it all day in class, and then come home and for on songs instead of doing homework. After a while I realized I’d made an album.” 

Working completely on his own with a minuscule collection of gear that included his guitar, his computer and some secondhand keyboards he picked up at Goodwill, Struble worked on transforming his privately kept outpouring into a batch of songs — often grandiose in scale. “Usually artists will have demos they’ll bounce off other people to get some feedback, but nobody except for my parents down the hall really heard much of the album until I put it out,” Struble says in press notes. After self-releasing Fuzzybrain last year, the Aledo-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer received widespread attention and an ardent online following — primarily as a result of the material’s overwhelming positivity.  “People have been really kind about getting in touch with me and telling me that the album makes them happy, or that it’s helped them through a rough time,” he says. “That was my greatest goal for it, so it’s amazing to hear that people feel that way.”

The recently re-released Fuzzybrain is a fully realized version of his full-length debut. And while featuring the attention grabbing “Can I Call You Tonight,” the new version of the album will include two previously unreleased singles “Nicknames” and “Listerine” — while further cementing his growing reputation for illuminating emotional pain in a way that not only resonates with listeners, but somehow manages to make that pain feel lighter. Both those songs were written around the same time as the rest of the album and very much exist in the Fuzzybrain universe,” Struble says. “Each is deeply intertwined into the conceptual universe and purpose of Fuzzybrain, and it just wouldn’t feel right releasing them in a separate body of work.”

“Listerine,” the album’s latest single is an infectious and sincere bit of pop centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, jagged post punk-like guitar, a sinuous bass line and Struble’s plaintive vocals — and while possessing a self-assuredness beyond the Aledo-born, Austin-based artist’s relative youth, the song’s narrator expresses a mix of confidence, anxiety, confusion and hope that’s beguiling and realistic, as it accurately captures the thoughts and feelings of 20 somethings, who have stumbled into adulthood and adult relationships — without fully realizing who they are and what they really  want. 

Directed  and edited by Jackson Ingraham and Sloan Struble, the recently released video for “Listerine” features Struble alternately walking, dancing and air guitar soloing on an empty stretch of road. Sure it’s a simple treatment but it also emphasizes the DIY nature of the project, while being simultaneously playful and sincere. 

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Los Angeles, CA-based indie pop project and JOVM mainstays Oddnesse over the past couple of years — and as you may recall, the act, which features core duo, singer/songwriter Rebeca Arango and producer Grey Goon has received attention from this site and elsewhere for crafting infectious, hook-driven material centered around dark and heavy grooves. But with each successive single, the do has managed to subtly expand upon the sound that captured this site and the rest of the blogosphere.

Interestingly, the duo’s latest single “Lover’s Calling” continues a run of hooky, synth-driven tracks, centered around atmospheric synth arpeggios, blasts of shimmering guitars, Arango’s plaintive vocals and a chugging rhythm — and while seemingly drawing from 80s New Wave and pop, the song is actually about a deeply personal yet universal, lived-in experience. “I was restless when I wrote this song,” Rebeca Arango says in press notes. “Change was inevitable, but I was afraid to act. I imagined all sorts of destructive consequences—hurt feelings, loss of status, judgement, stability—none of them real. In avoidance, I went numb for a while. Then one night came a full moon, a new experience, a new flirtation. It was just enough of a taste, of a fuller, deeper, mountaintop connection, to remind me that I still had life in me and something better was waiting. So I stopped clinging and let the cards fall. Because no one wants to be on their death bed wondering “what if?”





New Video: Rising British Pop Artist Jordan Mackampa Releases a Symbolic Visual for “Parachutes”

Jordan Mackampa is a rising London-born and-based Congolese-British singer/songwriter. With the release of “Under” earlier this year and 2016’s Physics EP, and 2017’s Tales From The Broken EP and Live from the Grand Cru EP, Mackampa has received critical praise from NME, The 405, The Line of Best Fit, Clash, Indie Shuffle, Wonderland and others — with all of his previously released material amassing over 50 million Spotify streams.

Mackampa’s work is inspired by his Congolese roots and his mother’s love of legendary soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield. And much like his influences, Mackampa has a developed a reputation for pairing an old school singer/songwriter soul-like vocal delivery with earnest songwriting and catchy melodies with a modern approach. Building upon that momentum, Mackampa’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Foreigner is slated for a March 13, 2020 release. Along with that the rising Congolese-British artist is currently on tour opening for Amber Run  and he has been confirmed to play at next year’s SXSW.

Mackampa’s latest single, “Parachutes” is a breezy yet deliberately crafted track centered around a radio friendly and loose arrangement of twinkling keys, shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and propulsive drumming. But the star of the show is Mackampa’s easygoing and expressive vocals — in this case, Mackampa’s voice evokes the soaring high of being in love and the embittering low of heartache and betrayal within the turn of a phrase.

“‘Parachutes’ encapsulates those situations with people you’ve come across in life; who aren’t who they pretend to be and the person they are with you, isn’t someone you want to be around,” Mackampa explains in press notes. “However because you love them, either platonically or romantically, you’re conflicted by your feelings for them until it gets to a point where you don’t want to be hurt anymore… Nobody is perfect, but if you were trapped in an airplane with them and they had a parachute but you didn’t you would jump out regardless, because any pain you would experience afterwards, won’t be as bad as what you’ve already gone through.”

Directed by Tom Ewbank, the recently released and deeply metaphoric captures the psychological and physical battles of any relationship — essentially saying that sometimes other people can be hellish and torturous. “I wanted this video to capture the mental, and sometimes physical battles we go through in relationships, whether they are platonic or romantic with people in our lives,” Mackampa explains in press notes. “It can sometimes feel as though you’re dealing with two different people, but no one else sees the other person you encounter who brings you pain and hurt, rather than joy. You become inwards within yourself until you can’t take it anymore and have to walk away from them, even if it’s hard.”

Marika Wittmar is an emerging Swedish singer/songwriter, whose work is inspired by folk, world music, blues jazz, 70s prog rock and Buddhist meditation and female mythology. Her debut EP, Underneath Your Hands was recorded at Gothenburg-based Grammofonstudion earlier this year and the effort, which was reportedly inspired by Wittmar’s life, nature and folklore.

The EP’s latest single is the atmospheric and brooding “Ghosts.” Centered around twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitar lines, a soaring hook and Wittmar’s gorgeous vocals, the track possess a mesmerizing quality reminiscent of Kate BushTales of Us-era Goldfrapp, Melanie De Biasio and Portishead.