Stockholm-based psych pop/dream pop duo Astral Brain — Einar Ekström (production, composition) an Siri af Buren (vocals, lyrics) — can trace their origins back to the breakup of Ekström’s previous band Le Futur Pompiste. Although the band split up, Ekström continued writing new music with the hopes of eventually teaming up with a new vocalist.
Back in 2015, Ekström was introduced to af Buren, who is also a member of Malmö-based act Testblid!, an act that Ekstrom was a fan of for years. The pair bonded over mutual influences, and they decided to work together: af Buran began writing lyrics and melodies for the arrangements that Ekström had written years before.
Over the past two years, Astral Brain released a couple of singles while working on their forthcoming full-length debut album, The Bewildered Mind, which is slated for an October 15, 2021 release through Shelflife Records. Sonically, the album reportedly find the pair drawing from and blending elements of cinematic soundscapes, jazzy library music, early electronic music, 60s psychedelia and other genres into their own sound.
The album’s first single “Five Thousand Miles” features af Buren’s jazzy delivery ethereally floating over a gorgeous arrangement centered around twinkling keys, a hypnotic motorik groove and a soaring hook. Sonically, “Five Thousand Miles” brings Young Narrator in the Breakers era Pavo Pavo to mind, as it possesses a similar nostalgia-inducing, retro-futuristic sound paired with a careful attention to craft.
Calica is a rising Miami-born and-based singer/songwriter and producer, who can trace the origins of her music career to taking piano and voice lessons when she was six. She attended various performing art schools, eventually graduating from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. After graduating, the Miami-born and-based singer/songwriter and producer began writing and producing alongside Grammy-nominated production duo smle, working on her full-length debut Yes, It’s About You and “Superficial Love” and “Little Girl.”
Last April, Calica began posting on TikTok and within about six months, she amassed over 250,000 followers, 3.5 million likes and over 10 million views while displaying an ability to effortlessly bounce around different genres. Interestingly “Little Girl” went viral after she posted a Tiktok of her father’s reaction to the song — with the post itself being viewed over 3.7 million times. Since then, the rising artist has been writing and producing her own original material, as well as working with other artists and brands.
Calica’s latest single “Letting Go” is slickly produced banger centered around the Miami-based artist’s coquettish vocals, layered harmonies, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a sinuous bass line, skittering beats and a shout-along friendly hook. But underneath its club friendliness, the song’s narrator is grappling with loss, longing and the desire to have a relationship on her terms.
Gold Coast, Australia-based indie pop duo GENIIE BOY — Alisha Todd and Scott French — can trace their origins to earlier this year when the duo, who both come from different musical backgrounds were sitting in Lovestreet Studios decided that “music sounds better with you” and that working together would be something that they wouldn’t regret. Interestingly, the heart of their collaboration is their desire to find balance between the feminine and the masculine, the strange and the familiar, tension and release.
in a relatively short time together, the duo have quickly established a unique sound in which Todd sings lyrics tacking the dark and light aspects of the human psyche are paired with French’s multi-instrumental experimental and sophisticated productions. The duo’s forthcoming EP is slated for release next month — but in the meantime, “Fool’s Play,” which was released earlier this year, is a slickly produced, pop confection featuring Todd’s self-assured and sultry vocals paired with woozy production centered around a sinuous bass line, a fuzzy yet expressive guitar solo and atmospheric electronics. The end result is a song that sonically — to my ears, at least — is a slick and soulful synthesis of Tame Impala and Haitus Kaiyote, while thematically the song tackles affairs of the heart.
Mati Zundel is an acclaimed Argentine producer, musician and DJ best known worldwide as Lagartijeando. Throughout Zundel’s career, his work has been deeply influenced by his travels through Latin America: his psychedelic dance tracks often feature traditional folk sounds from the Bolivian altiplano, shaman chant and charango loops, Brazilian jungle beats and contemporary electronic production.
The Argentine producer, musician and DJ will be releasing a new album through Wonderwheel Recordings, which is slated for an October release Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Sideral Cumbia” is a sculptured soundscape centered around minimalist drums, a bouncing baseline, brief bursts of staccato guitar, delicate synth arpeggios, traditional Latin percussion and an enormous horn section that keeps the song tethered to the earth just before it’s about to float off into the stratosphere. The song will further cement the Argentine producer, musician and DJ’s reputation for blurring the boundaries between Latin music, folk. funk and electronic music with a mischievous flare.
Acclaimed Seattle-based folk/indie rock act The Head and The Heart — currently, founding member Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Theielen (violin, guitar, vocals, Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (keys), Matt Gervais (vocals, guitar) and Tyler Williams (drums) — can trace their origins to a series of open mic nights at Ballard neighbor based bar, Conor Byrne Pub back in 2009: At the time, the band’s Jonathan Russell relocated from Richmond, VA — and Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), who had relocated from Southern California were both relatively recent transplants. Russell and Johnson met Kenny Hensley, who was relocated the previous year to pursue a career in film score writing. Charity Rose Theilen, who returned from a year abroad studying in Paris became the band’s fourth member. Russell knew Tyler Williams from the Richmond music scene: Williams was a member of Prabir and The Substitutes and he quickly relocated to Seattle after Russell sent him a demo of Down In The Valley.” Chris Zasche was a bartender at the Conor Byrne pub and was a member of Seattle-based bands The Maldives and Grand Hallway before joining The Head and The Heart.
As Johnson explained in press notes the band’s name came from a very relatable situation that many musicians have in which “Your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, you know in your heart that this [the band] is what you’re supposed to do, even if it’s crazy.”
The band’s latest effort is a lovingly straightforward and gorgeous cover of the Graham Nash-penned Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit “Our House,” which appears on the act’s 1970 release Deja Vu. (Admittedly, I’ve somehow just loved the since I was a small. I loved the harmonies — and the melody is an earworm, man.) But most important, The Head and the Heart’s cover is a reminder of two things: Graham Nash is an amazing songwriter and that “Our House” is a pretty song full of longing for the sort of domestic tranquility that’s sadly so very rare. Interestingly, the members of the critically acclaimed Seattle-based act recorded the part of an expansive 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Déjá Vu, which features an additional two hours of rare and previously unreleased audio.
Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that the members of The Head and The Heart are huge Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fans — and that the song holds a deep personal meaning for them: “When we first started as a band, we shared a two bedroom apartment where ‘Our House’ was played so much, it became like a mantra of unity and connection to each other, as we discovered what we wanted to do within our music. To say it’s an honor to be asked to cover that very song is an understatement. Happy 50th anniversary to you legends! Déjá Vu Forever!“
The single art for the cover serves as a homage to the original Déjá Vu artwork and features an image of the actual house in Seattle that was The Head and The Heart’s early home.
Quebec City-based indie pop act and JOVM mainstays New Bleach features a duo known throughout Quebec for their work in acclaimed Francophone indie rock act Caravane — — Dominic Pelletier and Raphaël Potvin. And with the release of New Bleach’s first four singles, Pelletier and Potvin’s newest project proved to be a marked sonic departure from their work in Caravane:
“Awake,” the duo’s debut as New Bleach was an Oracular Spectacular-era MGMT-like single centered around a profound philosophical question: “What if death was just a dream?”
“Silver Lining,” a Quiet Storm R&B meets Beacon-like track that’s one part old-school love song and one part plea for hope in a seemingly hopeless and bleak world.
“High.” Kraftwerk meets 80s New Wave-like track centered around the age-old desire to get into the car for a road trip — and maybe pull over to do some hallucinogens and daydream.
“You,” a slow-burning and atmospheric track full of the aching longing and regret of one’s lingering ghosts that featured Ghostly Kisses‘ Margaux Sauvé.
The JOVM mainstays started 2021 with a gorgeously cinematic live session filmed in the Le Massif de Charlevoix, Quebec. Filmed in a mountainous forest cleaning, just off the coast of the St. Lawrence River, with a morning fog gently lifting, the sessions take place over the course of a day and night with the duo performing behind a futuristic lighting rig. The session features three singles I’ve written about previously — “Awake,” Silver Lining,” and “High.” The setting is breathtakingly gorgeous — in a way that only could be Quebec.
Building upon a growing profile, the Quebec City-based duo’s debut EP Impressions was released last Friday through Coyote Records. And just before the EP’s release, the Quebec City JOVM mainstays released “Stranger,” a breezy and vaporous synth pop number centered around delicate and shimmering synth arpeggios, ethereal vocals, skittering polyrhythm and a sinuous bass line that sonically brought 80s synth soul and pop like Billy Ocean to mind. But at its core, the song asked thematically big, existential questions — namely, if true happiness is actually possible.
Interestingly, the EP’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “Night.” Centered around an achingly tender vocal melody and boy-girl harmonizing between New Bleach’s Dominic Pelletier and Ariane Roy, twinkling synths, a propulsive bass line, the song evokes brooding, late night/early morning solitude while slowly unfolding into a rousingly anthemic coda. Written in a single night of solitude, the song invites the listener to meditate on the simple things that keep life worth living — and keep us alive.
With the release of their first two albums, 2013’s Sistrionix and 2016’s Nick Zinner co-produced FEMEJISM, the Los Angeles-based duo Deap Vally — Julie Edwards (drums, vocals) and Lindsey Troy (guitar, vocals) quickly established a blistering take on garage rock that some critics described as Led Zeppelin meeting The White Stripes. Although Edwards and Troy have always relished the challenge of working with the limitations of being a duo, after two full-length albums and years of touring, they felt an urge to reinvent their creative process and sought collaborators to break ties and to allow for an organic, majority rules driven process.
Last year, the duo collaborated with The Flaming Lips on the Deap Lips album. Edwards and Troy also worked on songs for their most recent effort, Digital Dream EP with Warpaint‘s jennylee, KT TunstallPeaches, Soko and The Kills‘ Jamie Hince. Of course, those collaborations led to an age-old question for the duo: “Will you ever add a third member?” And Instead of adding a member, they decided that for them, it would be more of a creative adventure to collaborate with a bunch of different artists and friends rather than to commit to just one.
Slated for a June 18, 2021 release through Cooking Vinyl, the Los Angeles-based duo’s forthcoming Josiah Mazzaschi-co-produced American CockroachEP was recorded at The Cave Studio and finds Edwards and Troy continuing their to collaborate with different artists and friends — including Eagles of Death Metal’s Jennie Vee (who’s also an accomplished solo artist in her own right) and Savages‘ Ayse Hassan.
The duo explain that the EP “is a collection of songs we’ve been working on for while that run the gamut for rom deeply personal, to outright satire and everything in between. These are songs for the underdog, the outlaw, the defeated, for days when you feel like no one understands you or you can’t do anything right.” The EP’s latest single “I Like Crime” is an anthemic and sleazy ripper centered around fuzzy and propulsive bass chords and an ass-kicking, name-taking swagger that reminds me a bit of Crocodiles and others.
“Jennie Vee, as it turns out, is our perfect partner in crime,” the members of Deap Vally say of their collaboration. “We had so much fun jamming out and then creating this song with her. She is SUCH a total shredder. As the song formed, it ended up being about the nuances of right and wrong, legal and illegal, and the compulsion we all have to ultimately do what we will.”
Jennie Vee adds “Recording with Julie and Lindsey felt very fresh but natural at the same time. It was the first time I had experienced jumping into the studio to vibe out ideas that would lead to a fully finished song so quickly. Getting started is often the hardest part in the songwriting process, but in this case with the three of us, we just had to show up that day and from there the music took over as our guide. Then it was up to us to piece it all together. ‘ I Like Crime ’ stands out to me as groovy but urgent, a juxtaposition of mood. It rocks, I had a lot of fun, and would show up for Deap Vally and the music any time!”
Stuart Dougan is a Glasgow-born and-based singer/songwriter, who is best known in his native Scotland for fronting French Wives and Smash Williams. Dougan steps out into the limelight as a solo artist, writing and recording every single part of music on his own terms with his latest project The Quilter.
Dougan’s The Quilter debut, Bolt The Door EP is a collection of bold, alt pop songs, som eo which were written and recorded before the pandemic with others written during the initial lockdown. Interestingly, the EP follows upon last year’s immersive and cinematic visual record Dark Cloud/Grey Area, which was equal parts documentary film, live concert and album.
Bolt The Door’s latest single “The Long Weekend,” is an anthemic bit of synth pop featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, a driving groove and a euphoria-inducing hooks and fueled by nostalgia for hook-driven New Order-like dance anthems and for the things we here in the States are slowly getting back — in particular, being in the company of other sweaty and joyful humans at a summer festival and for other mundane things we’ve been deprived of for the past 15 months or so.
“This song was in part inspired by a viral clip I saw from the set of Uncut Gems where the crew had finished filming and were all dancing to ‘I Feel It Coming’ by The Weeknd. It was just a short clip but I wanted to try and capture the palpable sense of joy that was clearly being felt at the time. It was written during lockdown and is basically a love letter to my friends and daydreaming about getting to hang out and have fun in a post pandemic world. I’m very aware that it’s bombastic and over the top in places but I wanted to purposely try and capture a sense of hopeful euphoria that one day, not too far from here, you’ll get to hug all your friends again.”
Sloan Stumble is the 20-something Aledo, TX-born, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind the critically applauded and rapidly rising indie rock/indie pop project Dayglow. The project can trace its origins to Struble’s teenaged years, 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. Aesthetically and thematically, the project finds Struble crafting material cen nloater red around a hard fought, hard won optimism.
Much like countless other hopelessly out of place young people across the globe, Struble turned to music as an 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 recalled 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 recalled. With the self-release of 2018’s Fuzzybrain, the Aledo-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer received widespread attention and an ardent online following — with countess listeners praising the material’s overwhelming positivity.
In 2019, Struble re-released a fully realized version of Fuzzybrain that featured Can I Call You Tonight,” a track that wound up being a smash-hit last year, as well as two previously unreleased singles “Nicknames” and “Listerine.” With the two new singles, the album further establishes Struble’s growing reputation for illuminating emotional pain in a way that not only deeply resonates with listeners but while managing to make that emotional pain feel lighter.
Continuing upon that momentum, Struble’s highly-anticipated Dayglow sophomore album Harmony House is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through his own Very Nice Records and AWAL. After Fuzzybrain‘s release, Struble had started to write material that was inspired by the 70s and 80s piano-driven soft rock that he had been drawn to — and around the time he had been watching a lot of Cheers. “At the very beginning, I was writing a soundtrack to a sitcom that doesn’t exist,” Struble recalls. And while actively attempting to generate nostalgia for something that hadn’t ever been real — as well as something most of his listeners had never really experienced — the album’s material thematically is about growing up and coping with change as an inevitable part of life.
“Balcony,” Harmony House‘s fourth and latest single may arguably be the most upbeat song on the entire album. Centered around shimmering guitars, bouncy synth arpeggios, four-on-the-floor drumming and an incredibly infectious hook, “Balcony” is a summery, feel good house party anthem that will get everyone jumping up and down and shouting along to the chorus. “I wrote ‘Balcony’ quite a while ago, but it’s been through tons of phases & revisions before landing on this final version,” Struble says of his latest single. “I wanted to make a song that felt like The Cure,BRONCHO, and the Mario Kart Soundtrack huddled up. Not sure why— it just feels nice 🙂 Hope you enjoy it and play it at a house party or something cause that’s definitely what it’s for/about”
The rising Texan artist also announced series of North American tour dates that we hope actually will happen. The tour includes an October 17, 2021 stop at Webster Hall. Check out the tour dates below.
North American Tour Dates:
09/09/21 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
09/10/21 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s
09/11/21 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
09/13/21 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
09/15/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
09/16/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre (SOLD OUT)
09/17/21 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
09/18/21 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
09/22/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Regency Ballroom
09/23/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
09/24/21 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
09/26/21 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox
09/28/21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
09/29/21 – Denver, CO @ Summit
10/05/21 – Indianapolis, IN @ Deluxe
10/06/21 – Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl
10/12/21 – Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage
10/13/21 – Charlotte, NC @ The Underground
10/15/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
10/16/21 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
10/17/21 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
10/19/21 – Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
10/21/21 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
10/23/21 – Toronto, ON @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre