Tag: indie synth pop

Last year, I wrote a bit about the rapidly rising Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer, Luna Shadows.  The Los Angeles-based pop artist began her career as a touring member of the acclaimed New Zealand-based synth pop act The Naked and Famous— but Shadows went solo, because she felt she had a voice that demanded to be heard on its own terms.

Since leaving The Naked and famous, Luna Shadows has developed a reputation for a staunchly DIY approach frequently writing, performing, producing, engineering and editing every single note of her work — and for crafting sultry, melancholy pop that Billboard has called “. . . refreshingly soulful and haunting .  .  . ,” and compared by some critics as Lana Del Rey taking Lorde to the beach. Adding to a growing national profile, the Los Angeles-based artist’s work  has amassed well over 35 million Spotify streams with tracks landing on tastemaker playlists like New Music Friday, Indie Pop, Weekend Beats and Weekly Buzz and landing as high as #7 on the US Charts and #18 on the Global Viral Charts.  She’s also received airplay on a number of radio stations  globally including KROQ, BBC Radio 1 and Beats 1 — all without the support of a label.

Last year saw Luna Shadow begin an ongoing collaboration with Now Now‘s Brad Hale and The Naked and Famous‘ Thom Powers to help shoulder the production and editing load — and she signed to +1 Records, who released three attention grabbing attention: “lowercase,” a track imbued with the bitterness, heartache and confusion of a dysfunctional relationship full of power plays, recriminations and accusations paired with a sleek and hyper-modern, trap-leaning production, “god.drugs.u” which continued in a similar vein as “lowercase” while possessing a plaintive and unfulfilled yearning and lastly. “practice,” a rumination on love and loss featuring Stevie Nicks‘ “Stand Back“-like synth arpeggios and Shadow’s plaintive vocals.

Shadows begins 2020 building up to the release of her highly-anticipated sophomore album with the release of her latest single “millennia,” which was cowritten with Chelsea Jade and continues her ongoing collaboration with Brady Hale and Thomas Powers. Centered around a pulsating and thumping beats, shimmering synth arpeggios and the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays achingly plaintive vocals, the track seethes with an irritable frustration, as it captures a narrator who’s worn out by the passive aggression and mixed messages of a love interest. She’s tired of being left in the dark and being confused as to what’s going on, and as a result the song captures a particular sensation that’s familiar to all of us: being left in the dark by someone we care about.

Shadows elaborates, “”millennia’ is essentially about different styles of dispute and communication. There are some people who prefer to confront things right away and talk until resolution is reached; conversely, there are others who run in the opposite direction and avoid confrontation all together. I personally find that the silent treatment tends to be more painful than confrontation.”

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Dylan is a Montreal-based synth funk/electro pop outfit, comprised of T-Spoon (bass, synth), Jalouse (guitar, synth) and Dr. Fill (drums).  Formed back in 2015, the act has developed a genre-defying take on retro-futuristic funk that draws from the ’70s, the ’80s, the 90s’ and 2000s, synth pop, krautrock, Daft Punk, elevator music, spa music and more. The Montreal-based funk/electro pop outfit starts the new year with Astrology, a public, pre-production exercise in which the trio shares their creative process with their audience while challenging themselves to write, record and release a song every month, revealing both the good ideas and the bad ideas.
They’ll then rework each piece — focusing on the good ideas — and compile the results into the best album they could make. The album will also be accompanied by an art book, done in collaboration with visual artist Alexandra Bilodeau.
Centered around a sinuous bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats and found vocal samples, Astrology‘s latest single “Bourritos” which features additional synths and effects from Gary Cobra, is a slow-burning, strutting pimp walk of a track that brings JOVM mainstay Dam-Funk and others to mind.

Earlier this month, I wrote about JackLNDN, a rapidly rising London-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer, who can trace the origins of his music career to when he was a boy: he grew up in a hone in which his family almost exclusively to jazz, funk and classical music in equal measure. When he was 7, he sang in professional choirs — and by the time, he was 10, he had met Queen Elizabeth and recorded material at Abbey Road Studios.

With the release of attention grabbing tracks like “The Feels,” “Never Get Enough,” “Start Over Again” and “All I See,” the British electronic music artist and producer established a unique sound and approach in electronic music/deep house: he contributes his own vocals to his productions, which are frequently indebted to jazz and house music. Building upon a growing profile in electronic music circles, the British artist and producer released his full-length debut Thoughts last year.

Now, as you may recall, since the release of his full-length debut, JackLNDN enlisted two of his favorite electronic music artists and producers — Fluida and Frameworks — to remix two of Thoughts songs. Fluida’s euphoric, drum ‘n’ bass-leaning remix of “With You” was centered around propulsive tribal beats while retaining the shimmering synth arpeggios, gorgeous melody and sinuous hook. Thoughts track “Unknown” was centered around shimming and arpeggiated keys, thumping polyrhythm, a trippy vocal melody and a crowd pleasing populist vibe. Interestingly, Frameworks’ remix of “Unknown” features layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, chiming percussion — and while retaining familiar elements of the original, it gives the song a mediative, world music feel.

 

 

New Video: Jonah Mutono Returns with an Intimate and Gorgeous Visual for “Circulation”

Initially starting his music career under a deliberate and international cloak of mystery Kidepo, the Ugandan-born singer/songwriter Jonah Mutono stepped out into the spotlight  under his own name with the release of his debut single “Shoulders,” an achingly intimate pop song that was one part diary entry of the painfully lonely and one part yearning daydream about suddenly stumbling upon long-lasting love that reminded me — a little bit– of Jef Barbara‘s “Song for the Loveshy” and Avalon-era Roxy Music.

Mutono begins the new year with the Lil Silva and Al Carlson co-produced “Circulation.”  Centered around Mutono’s achingly tender vocals, skittering beats, chopped up vocal samples, layers of shimmering and arpeggiated synths and atmospheric electronics, the song manages to be an anxious confession of love — the sort in which you may not be able to express, discuss or openly admit out of fear of rumor mongering, rejection and of bodily harm by others. And as a result, the song possesses an underlying tension that’s palpably uneasy. 

Continuing an ongoing collaboration with director Isaac Eastgate, the recently released video for “Circulation” was filmed in a gorgeous, cinematic black and white in Mutono’s native Uganda. We follow two young men, walking silently through a small village. Interestingly enough, they’re walking completely in tune to the music before suddenly moving like zombies during the song’s hook. But throughout the video, there’s a sense of something deeply unspoken between the two — an intimacy and familiarity that’s expressed through a much more physical dance routine between the two. 

“We filmed this video last year in Uganda, near a place that’s very important to me. The piece is about tension – physical and emotional – and in this particular case, political,” Mutono says in press notes. “There is little kindness and space given to queer stories in that corner of the world. It was astounding that we got to be there and capture this. All I can really draw from is my own experience and this is a big part of that story for me. 

“Isaac [Eastgate, the director] and I wanted to create a scene that evoked something quite universal – that rudimentary magnetism and connection that we crave. The lyrics I wrote as a physical manifestation of this feeling, but I wanted to contrast the video to where they hardly touch at all.”

New Video: DRAMA Releases a Surreal and Otherworldly Visual for “Years”

Tracing their origins back to a chance meeting between its core duo back in 2014, the Chicago-based pop duo DRAMA — producer and DJ Na’el Shehade and vocalist Via Rosa — have managed to bootstrap a subtle yet rapid rise with a proudly DIY ethos, releasing several EPs of material that blurs the lines between R&B, dance pop, heartbreak and bliss, centered around a sound that meshes Shehade’s Chicago house-infused production and Rosa’s soulful delivery, inspired by jazz, hip-hop and Bossa nova. 

Now, as you may recall, the Chicago-based pop act’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Dance Without Me is slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Ghostly International. The album’s material reportedly finds the duo recasting romantic tragedy as moonlit self-acceptance. Instead of wallowing alone in their blues and heartache, the material features characters who sashay and strut, knowing their self-worth while being vulnerable. This album is dedicated to the people watching their friend’s love-lives grow and happen around them, and not having anyone,” Rosa says in press notes.

I’ve written about two of the album’s releases singles so far: “Gimme Gimme,” a sultry synthesis of Between Two Selves-era Octo Octa and classic, Larry Levan-era house — and “Nine One One,” a slow-burning, cinematic bit of Quiet Storm-like soul pop. “Years,” Dance Without Me’s fourth and latest single is a decidedly R&B-tinged affair that nods at What’s the 411-era Mary J. Blige and Robin S.; however, at its core, the song is full of uneasy conflict and bitter uncertainty : the song’s narrator recognizes that they’re deeply devoted to someone, who isn’t right for them. “This track is a bittersweet song about the conflict of wanting to let go but still hold onto someone you love, but you know they’re not right for you,” DRAMA’s Via Rosa says in press notes. “It’s about knowing you should walk away but also wanting to confess your unconditional and eternal love.”

Directed by Adam Chiayat, the recently released video features the members of DRAMA performing through a series of surreal and otherworldly transitioning spaces. “Filmed practically, we set out to create a series of otherworldly, constantly transitioning spaces for DRAMA to perform through,” the video’s director says in press notes. “Emotions can feel like they take us on a ride, floating us forward and bringing us towards things we need to tackle in our lives. The floating and the spaces seek to represent the themes of the song – speaking to your own heart, confronting your past and opening yourself back up to vulnerability.”

Toronto-based electronic act Holy Fuck — Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid and Matt Schultz — have a long-held reputation for playing by their own rules, never being overly concerned about chasing the limelight or after genre-based trends. They’re also known for employing the use of instruments and non-instruments including a 35mm film synchronizer, toy keyboards and toy phaser guns to achieve electronic-sounding effects without the use of laptops, programmed backing tracks, splicing and so on.
Last year, I wrote about two singles off acclaimed electronic act’s soon-to-be released fifth album, Deleter:  “Luxe,” which managed to be both the first bit of new material from the act since the release of 2017’s Bird Brains EP. Clocking in a little over six minutes, the song can trace its origins back to a spontaneous encore jam at Luxembourg, Belgium. As the story goes, once they had the early elements of the track worked on in the studio, they sent it to to their good friend and casual musical mentor Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, who picked the early version of “Luxe” as a standout. The Canadian quartet then invited Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to contribute vocals. Taylor not only jumped at the opportunity but went to Jack White‘s Third Man Studio in Nashville to record his vocals on White’s 1947 Voice-O-Graph.

“Among more literal translations, ‘Luxe’ is the short form of Luxembourg – the city in which the nexus of the song was created,” the members of Holy Fuck explain in an extensive statement. “On this particular night, during soundcheck, we had a pulsing minimal synth loop we’d been tinkering around with. (We were listening to lots of TRAX Records stuff on that tour.) We decided that if the crowd demanded an encore we’d go for it. ‘Luxe’ was the result. Or – as it was then called on the live recorded MP3 – ‘Luxembourg Encore’. Once home from tour we took all the live demos back to the drawing board. We shared everything with our friend Kieran Hedben aka Four Tet. His always-intuitive advice was that he heard a great club track in his ‘very favorite thing here’: ‘Luxembourg Encore’”.
The next moment of discovery came when Graham suggested the band scrap Brian’s vocals and give it to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. When we presented Alexis with the concept our reference notes to him, based around Brian’s temporary vocals, were ‘like an old sample you’d dig up off an old folk record… and approached more like a classic house track’. He responded, ‘We could try to record the vocal in a Voice O Graph booth (an obsolete 1940s coin operated phonograph booth) if we can access one…’. As far as we’re aware, there are only two in the world – one in Liverpool (that apparently doesn’t work anymore) and the other at Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville. And that is where Alexis sang ‘I’d like to scrap all of this and start over again.’ Fittingly, it was New Year’s Eve.”
Interestingly, “Luxe” serves as the first official single off the band’s soon-to-be released fifth album Deleter. Slated for release this Friday, the album’s material finds the Canadian electronic act pushing their sound in a very different direction — polyrhythmic and pleasure focused, the members of Holy Fuck mesh elements of krautrock and deep house with motorik percussion. Thematically, the album reportedly explores what happens when humanity and technology coalesce into one big, semi-organic celebration of the joys of spontaneity, repetition and individuality. As the band puts it, “the robots are smarter than ever, and the algorithm knows more and more what we like as individuals, but we have to remind ourselves that there is music in the margins that can go missing and that that music is more important than ever.”
Deleter‘s second single, the expansive, roughly six an da half minute “Free Gloss” was centered around a glistening synth-like arpeggio and atmospheric feedback, a sinuous bass line, a motorik groove, and plaintive and ethereal vocals from POND‘s Nicholas Albrook. And much like its predecessor, the album’s second single wound up being a seamless synthesis of hypnotic and driving pulsation, ethereal atmospherics and dance floor friendly thump. “Deleters,” the album’s third single and sort of album title track continues a run of motorik groove-led, euphoric club bangers centered around thumping four-on-the-floor, retro-futuristic-like sounds, a propulsive bass line and guest spot from Liars’ Angus Andrew, who contributes backing vocals.  “The song ‘Deleters,’” write Holy Fuck, “started at a party in the woods of rural Quebec. Set up on the forest floor, literally over moss covered tree roots we decided to make up a new hour-long improvised set in front of a crowd of people dancing amongst the trees. From that session two songs emerged and found their way onto the new record. This is the first time we selected a song from the record to also be a title track — but there really isn’t a reason for it other than we thought it sounded cool, like a modern version of Fugazi‘s Repeater or Depeche Mode‘s Violator (or even KissDestroyer, though in name only). Our friend Angus from Liars doubles Brian’s vocals giving the track a nice punch.”
The act will be embarking on a roughly two month North American, UK and European Union tour to support Deleter. The band recently added a handful of East Coast and Canadian tour dates. The added tour dates include a June 12, 2020 stop at Elsewhere Hall.
Check out the tour dates below.
Tour Dates:
Holy Fuck Tour Dates:
03/23/20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
02/24/20 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
03/25/20 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
03/27/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
03/28/20 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
03/30/20 – Portland, OR @ Lola’s Room
03/31/20 – Seattle, WA @ Nuemos
04/01/20 – Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club
04/03/20 – Calgary, AB @ Broken City
04/04/20 – Saskatoon, SK @ Amigo’s Cantina
04/06/20 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
04/07/20 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
04/24/20 – Antwerp, BE @ Trix
04/25/20 – Luxembourg @ Out of The Crowd Festival
04/27/20 – Birmingham, UK @ The Hare & Hounds
04/28/20 – Brighton, UK @ Chalk
04/29/20 – Cardiff, UK @ Clwb lfor Bach
04/30/20 – Manchester, UK @ Yes (basement)
05/03/20 – Glasgow, UK @ Slag & Dagger Festival
05/05/20 – Barcelona, ES @ La Nau
05/06/20 – Oviedo, ES @ La Lata de Zinc
05/07/20 – Vigo, ES @ Radar Estudios
05/09/20 – Valencia, ES @ La Pérgola
05/23/20 – London, UK @ All Points East
06/09/20 – Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
06/10/20 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
06/12/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ ELSEWHERE: Hall
06/13/20 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
06/15/20 – Montréal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB
06/17/20 – Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Centre
06/19/20 – Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace

New Video: Rising Swedish-born, Los Angeles-based Pop Artist Winona Oak Releases a Mischievously Twisted Visual for “Control”

Last year, I wrote about the rapidly rising Solleron, Sweden-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Winona Oak. Oak, who was born Johanna Ekmark has a rather unique backstory: Growing up  on the small, Swedish island known to Swedes as the Island of the Sun, the Solleron-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist spent much of her childhood encountering more animals than people. As the story goes, she grew up as a trained horse acrobat and because she grew up in a musical home, she was encouraged to pursue creative endeavors as much as possible: Ekmark began playing violin when she was 5, piano when she was 9, and she wrote poetry and songs at an extremely young age.

Ekmark eventually moved to Stockholm to pursue a career in music, but a leap of faith that had her attend a Neon Gold Records writing retreat in the Nicaraguan jungle led to her meet Australian-born and based hit making producer and pop artist What So Not. And from this serendipitous meeting, she went on to co-write ““Better” and “Stuck In Orbit,” before stepping out into the spotlight as both the writer and featured artist on the Aussie producer and pop artist’s “Beautiful.”

Adding to a busy 2018, Ekmark covered HAIM‘s “Don’t Save Me” for Neon Gold Records’ 10th anniversary compilation, NGX: Ten Years of Neon Gold before closing out that year with a co-write and vocal contribution to The Chainsmokers viral hit “Hope,” a track that has amassed over 250 million streams across all digital platforms globally — including over 100 million streams on Spotify. As a result of such incredibly early success, the Swedish-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist signed to Warner-Chappell Music Publishing and to Neon Gold/Atlantic Records.

Now, as  you may recall, last year, I wrote about the Swedish-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist’s long-awaited debut single, the slickly produced, hook-driven and sultry “He Don’t Love Me,” and the slow-burning and anthemic ballad “Break My Broken Heart.” Both singles managed to further cement Oak/Ekmark’s growing reputation for crating incredibly earnest pop with enormous hooks. Oak ended last year with the release of an  alternate version of her last single of 2019 “Let Me Know.” The “Let Me Know (Johan Lenox Stings Mix) ” reimagines the propulsive, dance floor friendly original by pairing Oak’s vocals with a string arrangement from Johan Lenox, who has worked with Kanye West, Travis Scott and Vic Mensa. 

Building upon that momentum, Oak released her debut EP CLOSURE through Neon Gold/Atlantic Records last week. The EP’s latest single “Control” continues a run of slickly produced synth pop centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, an enormous hook and Oak’s achingly plaintive vocals. And while sonically the song recalls Kylie Minogue and others, the song evokes the swooning and fluttering pangs of new love and the uncertainty, insecurity and obsession it can sometimes bring. “‘Control’ is about meeting someone that makes you weak in your knees and never knowing how they actually feel about you,” Winona Oak explains in press notes. “You make risky decisions, act irrationally and tolerate things you normally wouldn’t. You’re feeling nervous, insecure and are constantly afraid that they are gonna leave you. Oh and this is when you learn – the difference between love and obsession.” 

Shot and co-directed by longtime visual collaborator Andreas Öhman and Julian Gillström, the recently released video for “Control” stars Winona Oak as a desperate and hopelessly obsessed woman who stalks the object of her affection, before trying to build a Ken doll-version of him. “For the video, we wanted to target this hopeless feeling with a twisted sense of humor,”  Oak explains in press notes. 

New Audio: Jai Wolf Teams Up with Wrabel on a Shimmering and Cinematic Single

Last year, I wrote a bit about the Bangladeshi-born, New York-based electro pop producer, songwriter and artist Sajeeb Saha. Best known for his solo recording project Jai Wolf, Saha’s work is inspired by a diverse and eclectic array of music, including indie rock, punk rock, hip-hop, classic music and Bollywood while thematically, much of his work draws from his experiences growing up as an third culture child. 

Saha’s Jai Wolf full-length debut The Cure to Loneliness was released last April through Mom + Pop Music, and as Saha said in press notes at the time, “In my heart, this album is me,” professes. From the sounds to the lyrics, it’s everything that I’ve always wanted to do.” I wrote about two of the album’s singles  the M83-like “Your Way,” a collaboration with Day Wave that was a bitter lament from a lonely and disconnected narrator — and the swooning and cinematic instrumental  “This Song Reminds Me Of You.”

The Bangladeshi-born New York-based electro pop producer, songwriter and artist starts off the new year with “Moon Rider,” the follow up to his full-length debut.  Featuring a guest spot from Wrabel, who contributes his achingly plaintive vocals, “Moon Rider” is a shimmering and cinematic bit of synth pop that sonically recalls Geographer, the aforementioned M83 — and perhaps more than ever, 80s movie soundtracks, as the song posses a cinematic sweep. 

New Video: Forever Releases DIY Visuals for Bittersweet and Triumphant New Single

Born on a remote Canadian island, June Moon is a poet, provocateur and pop artist, known as Forever. Moon started the Forever project around 2013. “I was going through a very dark time because my father had passed away, and I actually quit making music, quit performing, quit writing — I quit everything. Then I met Michael Brock [Mind Bath], and he asked me to open for him at one of his shows. I’ll never forget that moment — he was texting me about it, and I was at a library and an angel whispered in my ear and told me to say say, and that my new name was ‘Forever.’ Two weeks later, I played my first Forever show. ”

So after spending a nomadic decade of traveling, Moon relocated to Montreal to pursue a music career and shape her recording persona of Forever. With the help of Brock and her friend Patrick Holland (Project Pablo), she wrote and released her 2016 self-titled debut, an effort that was a mix of pop and downtempo influences paired with her effortless and ethereal vocals. 

Reeling from the breakup of a lengthy and complicated relationship, Moon went to work, hoping to find healing from songwriting. Working with her frequent collaborators Brock and Holland, she also turned to fellow Montreal artists Ouri,Cecile Believe, formerly known as Mozart’s Sister and TOPS’ David Carriere on the material that would eventually comprise her forthcoming EP Close to the Flame.“Ouri was so influential in her ability to facilitate the development of my sound on this EP,” Moon says in press notes. “Patrick helped me alchemize my heartache by turning my sad songs into dance tracks. David was a special collaboration for me because I really look up to him and Jane [from TOPS] as songwriters.”

Slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Cascine Records, the six song EP reportedly captures the beauty and ugliness of love and loss, centered around a dysfunctional and troubled relationship. “I was in a relationship that was killing me, and I had to plan an escape to save my life,” Moon explains in press notes. “The record is haunted by a ghost. I sing about her murder on the first track ‘Blur,’ but then she turns into a angel on the last song ‘Adonis.’ I channeled her one night when I was writing because I was so scared to talk about what happened to me; I didn’t know how to tell my story. She came to me and told me to use her story as a channel for my own pain. This release is dedicated to her.” 

The EP’s first single is the propulsive, 90s house-inspired “Make It Happen.” Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, stuttering beats, Moon’s plaintive and ethereal vocals and a guest verse from Just John, the song’s narrator expresses relief and joy over the end of a relationship that has held her back personally and emotionally. The song’s narrator releases that it’s time to move forward and better herself — and a result, it’s triumphant but subtly bittersweet. After all, life’s a series of transitions from one situation, one circumstance to another, until the end. 

Directed and edited by Moon, the recently released video is set in a small cafe. Although there’s a brief cameo by Just John, the video primarily focuses on its protagonist and coworkers as they get their cafe ready for a small gathering of friends for coffee and cake before ending with a passionate reunion.