The Los Angeles-based dream pop duo United Ghosts, comprised of Sha Sabi, who came to Southern California after stints in New York and San Francisco; and German-born Axel Ray, who spent a 12 year stint in London before relocating to the States — although on some level, it’s a bit of a misnomer, as they’ve received attention for a classic 4AD Records-like sound centered around boy-girl harmonizing and draws from dream pop, psych rock, shoegaze and krautrock.
The duo’s 2013 full-length, self-titled debut and its follow up, Dear Electric Sun EP received airplay from BBC’s Steve Lamacq and Lauren Laverne, KCSN’s Nic Harcourt, KLOS’ Mark Sovel and XFM’s John Kennedy and a number of others. And after three successful UK and European Union tours, a number of Stateside dates that included CMJ and SXSW, followed by an L.A. residency, the duo of Ray and Sabi returned to the studio to work on their Mark Rains and Axel Ray co-produced sophomore album, Saturn Days, an album that thematically and lyrically explores modern life, love and disconnect in a world that’s equally dystopian and beautiful, in which hope is laced with paranoia and where dreaming your way out might be the only chance to survive.
Saturn Days’ latest single “Waves,” will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting material 4AD Records-era dream pop, the prerequisite shimmering guitar chords, motorik grooves, enormous power chord-based soloing and dreamy boy-girl harmonies — but with a subtly modern touch,.
The recently released video for “Saturn Days” is comprised of performance footage of the members of United Ghosts with their live band shot by Arian Soheili with superimposed drone footage by Steve Payne, underwater footage by Alex V. and images of Saturn courtesy of NASA and the Saturn Cassini mission.
Currently comprised of founding member and frtonwoman Natalie Carol (vocals, guitar) and Shawn Morones (guitar, vocals), along with newest members Neil Wogensen (bass, vocals) and Mike DeLuccia (drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock band Valley Queen can trace their origins back to their formation in 2014. With the release of a handful of singles, the band’s profile rapidly rose — and it resulted in a relentless touring schedule with an increasing amount of time spent on the road. Although the band found their groove, the stress was way too much and the band went through the first of many lineup changes that found Carol continuing onward with a series of session musicians.
Despite the lineup changes, the band eventually found themselves becoming buzz worthy, playing bigger clubs; however, for the Valley Queen’s founder and frontwoman, the chemistry that she had felt and began to depend on to create and perform was missing. They landed a record deal — a dream that countless bands desperately wish to achieve; but as Carol began to recognize, the band was much more than her concentrating on writing lyrics while session musicians were being paid to play and record the material as directed. What she had long desired was for the band to be what it originally was about — the chemistry and relationships between the members of the band, all of which helped the band land their record deal in the first place.
As the story goes, before writing and recording the material that would eventually comprise their Lewis Pesacov-produced, soon-to-be released full-length debut Supergiant, Carol called Doot, who couldn’t re-join the band; however, Mike DeLuccia joined. Then Carol called Shawn Morones, who after a series of lengthy conversations, before decided that re-joining the band would be worth the risks involved.
Interestingly, Pesacov, who has worked with Best Coast, Fool’s Gold, Nikki Lane, FIDLAR and JOVM mainstays The Orielles, continues to cement his reputation for raw production that focus on the urgency of the album’s material and the musicians’ performances. And for the members of Valley Queen, the experience writing and recording was ultimately about the collective exploring and creating together. Now, as you may recall, earlier this year I wrote about album title track “Supergiant,” and the album’s latest single “Chasing the Muse” continues in a similar vein — 70s AM rock inspired indie rock with an earnest emotional heft that comes from living a full and messy life, complete with its frustrations, crushing defeats and small victories. Ultimately, both tracks are centered around Carol’s powerhouse Linda Ronstadt-like vocals, a deliberate attention to craft and some exceptional and passionate musicianship.
Valley Queen will be touring to support their new effort and the initial batch of tour dates are below.
VALLEY QUEEN TOUR DATES
July 5-8 Winnipeg, MB – Winnipeg Folk Festival
July 28 Los Angeles, CA – The Moroccan Lounge
August 01 San Francisco, CA – Cafe du Nord
August 02 Davis, CA – Sophia’s Thai Kitchen
August 03-05 Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon
August 07 Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
August 08 Spokane, WA – The Bartlett
August 09 Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
August 11 Denver, CO – Lost Lake Lounge
August 12 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
August 15 San Luis Obispo, CA – SLO Brew
Throughout the past few months, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based emcee and producer Evidence. Now, as you may recall, the emcee and producer, who was born Michael Taylor Perretta is best known as member of renowned hip-hop act Dilated Peoples with whom he has released four full-length albums — and as a producer, Perretta has worked with Beastie Boys, Linkin Park, Swollen Members, Defari, Planet Asia, and has a co-production credit on on Kanye West’s Grammy-winning, full-length debut The College Dropout.
Perretta’s fourth album Weather or Not was released earlier this year, and the album is the first batch of new material from the Los Angeles-based emcee and producer since the 2014’s The Alchemist-produced Lord Steppingstone. Interestingly a number of singles from the album have been released, including the DJ Premier-produced third single “10,000 Hours,” which featured a swaggering and strutting West Coast gangsta hip-hop meets East Coast boom bap production paired with a criminally unheralded emcee rhyming about the dedication and time he has spent practicing, developing and honing his skills to become one of the very best. The album’s fourth single “Powder Cocaine” continued Evidence’s ongoing collaboration with The Alchemist, who contributed an atmospheric yet soulful production consisting of boom bap beats, warm blasts of bluesy guitar, a chopped up choral vocal sample and a soaring hook, and yet the production managed to be roomy enough to allow Evidence and Slug to trade bars full of diverse metaphors and descriptive symbolism. “Bad Publicity,” Weather or Not’s Nottz-produced fifth single continued in a similar vein as its predecessors as it was centered around a golden era hip-hop production that was roomy enough for Evidence and Strong Arm Steady‘s gravelly-voiced Krondon to spit fiery, braggadocio-filled bars.
The album’s latest single is the Twiz the Beat Pro-produced “The Factory,” a track centered around a kaleidoscopic and somewhat ambient production consisting of explosive blasts of scratching, twinkling strings, tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats — and much like its predecessor, the production manages to be roomy enough for one of contemporary hip-hop’s most dexterous emcees displaying an uncanny ability to craft complex rhymes with witty and hilarious punchlines.
With the release of 2006’s full-length debut Olessi: Fragments of an Earth released through Stones Throw Records, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, musician and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow quickly established herself as a key member of her hometown’s avant-garde hip-hop/jazz/soul scene; in fact, while on Stones Throw Records, Muldrow befriended and collaborated with Madlib, Oh No, MED, Wild Child, DJ Romes and her future partner Dudley Perkins, also known as Declaime.
Along with Perkins, Muldrow co-founded SomeOthaShip Connect Records in 2008 and through their label, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, musician and producer released forward-thinking, genre-defying material under a number of monikers and including Ms. One, Pattie Blingh & The Akebulan 5, Blackhouse, an electro fusion project with DJ Romes and the critically renowned jazz project Jyoti, which garnered Jazz Album of the Year honors at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards back in 2011 for Ocotea. Since then Muldrow has developed a reputation as a musician’s musician, who has been praised and championed by Yasiin Bey, Bilal, Erykah Badu with whom she collaborated of Badu’s New Amerykah Part Two and Robert Glasper, with whom she collaborated with on the Miles Ahead soundtrack.
Fittingly, Muldrow signed with Brainfeeder Records and her first Brainfeeder release is the Mike & Keys-produced “Overload,” a somewhat anxious yet swooning track centered around a slick and retro-futuristic and soulful production featuring stuttering beats, arpeggiated keys and an infectious hooked paired with Muldrow’s effortlessly soulful, Erykah Badu-like vocals — and while being clearly indebted to the neo-soul sound of the late 90s and early 00s, the song is about “the process of building loving relationships in spite of the malfunctions of Western Society.”
With the release of their first two albums — 2013’s Sistrionix and 2016’s Nick Zinner co-produced FEMEJISM, the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock duo Deap Vally, comprised of Julie Edwards Pirrone (drums, vocals) and Lindsey Troy (guitar, vocals) quickly developed a reputation for crafting blistering garage rock that had been described by some critics as Led Zeppelin meeting The White Stripes. However, their Chris Kaysch co-produced FEMEJISM (Unplugged) EP found the duo playing stripped down, acoustic interpretations of four songs from FEMEJISM, revealing a band that had begun to experiment with their sound and approach.
Despite the success and attention the duo have received, working together hasn’t always been easy; after all, trying to make it financially and spiritually as a musician in a hyper competitive industry — one that’s typically unfair for women, can cause fissures in even the most solid relationship. The duo went to couples therapy to help them — and the duo feel that it’s rejuvenated their creative process, with the duo exploring and expanding upon their sound and songwriting approaching, embracing freedom and looser sound structures; in fact, the duo’s latest single “Get Gone” finds the duo adopting a ramshackle surf rock sound reminiscent of JOVM mainstays High Waisted and others.
Directed by John Stavas, the recently released video further evokes the song’s throwback feel and vibe, as it uses footage of the band duo playing for the Volcom for Every Body, all -inclusive sizing denim campaign official video but played through distorted, multi-colored, kaleidoscopic filters. It’s trippy as hell while kicking ass.
Massage is a Los Angeles-based indie rock act comprised id of Alex Naidus (guitar, vocals), who was once a member of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Michael Felix (drums), Andrew Romano (guitar, vocals), David Rager (bass) and Gabrielle Ferrer (keys, vocals), and in a relatively short period of time, the band has received attention for crafting a jangling guitar pop sound that as the band’s Andrew Romano says in press notes was “inspired by a new generation of Australian bands like Twerps and Boomgates and Dick Driver, who are ostensibly doing a very retrograde thing — I mean they’re mostly white guys playing guitar rock — but somehow finding a sweet spot that Americans, who tend towards the muscular and melodramatic, always seem to miss: messier and more casual, but also catchier somehow.”
The band’s full-length debut Oh Boy is slated for a July 27, 2018 release through Tear Jerk Records, and the album’s latest single, album title track “Oh Boy,” will further cement their growing reputation for writing shimmering guitar pop and gorgeous melodies — but with a loose, ramshackle vibe. As the band’s Romano says of the song “‘Oh Boy’ is our California version of that ramshackle vibe. When I wrote it, I was listening to a lot of 16 Lovers Lane-era Go-Betweens — ground zero for today’s Aussie scene — and I think that their influence may have come through in all the droning chords and the domestic imagery. The last lines of the song were dummy lyrics that suck. I realized what they were about — how honest they were about things I hadn’t even realized I was feeling; about family and fatherhood and settling down and ambition — and the rest of the words were written in response. Sometimes a song tells you what it wants to be.”
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.