Tag: singer/songwriter

New Video: Renowned Australian Singer/Songwriter and Guitarist Courtney Barnett Releases Psychedelic Visuals for Expansive Album Single “City Looks Pretty”

With the release of her first two, critically applauded EPs, I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Farris and How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose, the Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett quickly received attention from the North American, British and Australian press witty and rambling, conversational lyrics delivered in an ironic deadpan paired with big, power chord-based indie rock. And although to the casual observer, it may have seemed like overnight success, it actually wasn’t. In fact, Barnett has long been considered one of Melbourne’s best guitarists as once played in Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer’s side project Immigrant Union and had  guest spot on Jen Cloher‘s third album, In Blood Memory.

2015’s full-length effort Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit continued a run of critically applauded releases, and the album’s lead single “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” was promoted with a unique promotional campaign that included scores of giant billboards, posters and murals spontaneously posted around the world — and all of them declared the same unattributed statement in the same exact font. As for the song, it found Barnett and her backing band pairing thundering drumming, dense layers of swirling guitar chords and a scorching guitar solo and Barnett’s bemused and ironic deadpan delivery with a rousingly anthemic, arena rock-like hook. “Elevator Operator,” which I also wrote about on this site, was a stomping and shuffling T. Rex-like song that featured twisting and turning organ chords, handclap-led percussion, and a mischievous yet anthemic hook that described incredibly neurotic people, who are beaten down by boring and soulless day jobs, including one character, who escapes to peer over a rooftop for a brief moment of clarity while dreaming he was playing Sim City.  (If you’ve worked at a boring and soul crushing day job, that song may well be your anthem during the workweek.)

Last year, saw the release of Lotta Sea Lice, a critically applauded and commercially successful collaborative album with renowned guitarist and vocalist Kurt Vile; in fact, the album landed at #5 on the Australian charts, #11 on the British charts and #51 on the American charts. Building upon an incredible run of critical and commercial success, Barnett’s third full-length album Tell Me How You Really Feel is slated for a May 18, 2018 release through Mom + Pop Records, Marathon Artists, and Barnett’s own label Milk! Records — and the album’s third and latest single “City Looks Pretty” finds Barnett eschewing traditional song structures in order to focus on a motorik-like groove, razor sharp hooks and an expansive psych rock-like vibe that’s roomy enough for what may be some of Barnett’s most inspired and bluesy guitar work she’s recorded to date. The song lyrically is an exploration of friendship, place and home centered around the irony of friends treating you like a stranger and strangers treating you like their best friend. 

The recently released video by Courtney Barnett features some appropriately psychedelic imagery shot on what looks like digital cameras and an old Super 8, and in some way it brings to mind 120 Minutes-era MTV. 

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New Audio: Introducing the Gorgeous and Meditative Pop of Treya Lam

Treya Lam is a Brooklyn-based, classically trained vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who specializes in crafting cinematic material centered around Nina Simone-inspired piano, meditative guitar, lush chamber pop arrangements and gorgeously ethereal vocals. Lam has shared stages with Yo-Yo Ma, Billy Taylor and has frequently collaborated with renowned guitarist Kaki King. Interestingly, Lam is the first artist signed to King’s label Short Stuff Records, and her forthcoming Kaki King-produced full-length debut Good News continues Lam’s collaboration with King, as King also played several instruments on the album. Along with King, the album finds Lam collaborating with an accomplished array of female musicians, including Catherine Popper (upright bass), who has performed with Ryan Adams, Jack White and Norah Jones. 

Good News’ first single “Magic” is a gorgeous and meditative song featuring a hauntingly atmospheric arrangement featuring slide guitar, ukulele and mbira — and while sonically nodding at 70s AM rock, Sting’s “Fragile” and Chris Issak’s “Wicked Game,” the song was written as a gift for close friends, who had just become parents; in fact, the mother, Megan Faye contributes violin and ukulele on the track. As Lam explains in press notes, “In 2012 one of my closest friends had just given birth to a child. The couple met on a flight to Hawaii after having spent some time in Africa and I had hoped to allude to this by incorporating the mbira, ukulele and slide guitar. The chorus was written the week that the Sandy Hook shooting took place. Beyond the unspeakable loss of 20 children and 6 adults, I was horrified by the idea that the surviving children in that community would lose their childhoods. . .This is not a song about a perfect world but rather one that aims to encourages listeners of all ages to look for, hold onto and create as much magic as we can.” As a result, the song has a deeply meditative and sobering vibe, just underneath the gorgeous arrangements; after all, it’s a reminder that in our constantly connected yet fragmented world, that we should be paying attention to the small moment that make us human. 

 

Born Rebecca Maria Molina, the 25 year-old, Copenhagen, Denmark-based singer/songwriter, producer and electronic music artist Molina can trace the origins of her music career to when she was 8. As the story goes, Molina began writing her own music, inspired by the music her mother played for her including Bjork, Kate Bush and Royksopp. “I remember wanting the Basement JaxxRooty album for my birthday at the same age as I was dancing to children’s music.Molina recalls.

In her teens, Molina furthered her musical education by searching the corners of the internet and following a trail of like-minded bands and artists, and as a result the Danish singer/songwriter, producer and electronic music artist quickly became obsessed with Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, 70s-80s new wave and punk , shoegaze and Japanese music — in particular, the work of Miharu Koshi and Mariah among others. And all of those disparate styles and sounds have influenced Molina’s solo work within her solo recording project Molina.

With the release of her debut EP Corpus, Molina received attention internationally from the likes of BBC Radio 6, Beats 1 Radio, The 405, The Line of Best Fit among others for a sound and songwriting approach that embraces experimentation while drawing from  late 70s and 80s synth pop. Her latest single “Hey Kids” is centered around woozy and dizzying arpeggiated synths, boom bap-like beats and Molina’s ethereal vocals. Additionally, the song features a guest spot from Swedish artist and co-writer Late Verlaine, who contributes vocals on the song’s second verse. And while revealing a young artist, who’s self-assured and confident beyond her relatively young age, the track to my ears reminds me quite a bit of Peter Gabriel‘s work in the sense that it manages to be enigmatic and completely out of left field while being accessible and radio friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Sultan is an acclaimed Fitzroy, Australia-born, Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who started playing guitar when he was four and wrote his first song when he turned 10. As the story goes, his mother’s friend gave the young Sultan an old electric guitar, and he began playing gigs at local pubs. In 2000, Sultan met a fellow singer/songwriter and guitarist Scott Wilson at a Williamstown, Australia pub and the duo began writing songs together. As Wilson recalled in an interview “What struck me at first was that he [Sultan] could play piano and guitar, and he was a great foil for what I was doing . . . After a while playing together, he said, ‘Can I Sing this one?’ I said, ‘Do you know the words?’ . . . [he had a] might voice. A lot people can play guitar . . . not many can sing like that.”

Sultan’s  Scott Wilson-produced, full-length solo debut, the genre-defying Homemade Biscuits was released in early 2006 and consisted of tracks written by Wilson or co-written by Sultan and Wilson, and a featured number of local musicians and collaborators, including Lazare Agneskis, Neil Gray, Elijah Maiyah, Lochile McKlean and Ben Wicks. Sultan’s debut also featured two attention grabbing tracks — “Your Love Is Like a Song,” which won a 2007 Deadly Award for Single Release of the Year, and “Rosyln,” a song Sultan wrote about his mother, who was a member of the Aboriginal “stolen generations,” which he performed during 2007’s National Day of Healing concert. Adding to a growing profile that year, Paul Kelly invited Sultan to record a cover of Kev Carmody’s “This Land Is Mine” for a compilation tribute album of Carmody’s work titled Cannot Buy My Soul — and with a backing band of Eugene Ball (trumpet), Ben Gillespie (trombone), Joshua Jones (bass), Peter Marin (drums), Ash Naylor (guitar) and Gina Woods (keys), Sultan and company played Australia’s festival circuit over the next two years or so, including set at the Sydney Festival and the Queensland Music Festival.

Sultan’s sophomore album 2009’s Get Out While You Can was a massive, commercial success as it charted on the ARIA Albums Chart Top 100, eventually reaching #1 on the independent Australian charts and was a Triple J featured album. Along with that, Sultan won ARIA Music Awards for Best Male Artist and Best Blues & Roots Album, and Australian Independent Records Awards for Best Independent Artist and Best Independent Blues & Roots Music Music.

In early 2014, Sultan opened for Bruce Springsteen‘s Melbourne and Hunter Valley shows during his Australian tour, which Sultan promptly followed up with the release of his third full-length album Blackbird, an album that reached #4 on the ARIA Albums Charts and spent 13 weeks in the Top 50 — and the album won a Best Rock Album Award at that year’s ARIA Awards. Building upon an impressive year, Sultan released the Dirty Ground EP, which reached the ARIA Albums Chart Top 100.

 

Sultan’s fourth album, 2017’s Jan Skubiszewski-produced Killer was nominated for three ARIA Awards — Best Male Artist, Best Rock Album, and Best Independent Release. Interestingly, Killer Under a Blood Moon EP which was recorded over the course of four days finds Sultan continuing his successful collaboration with Skubiszewski — but also collaborating with some of Australia’s brightest and most talented, up-and-coming talents, including A.B. Original, Camp Cope, Meg Mac and Gang of Youths‘ Dave Le’aupepe to reinterpret a series of tracks from Sultan’s commercially successful fourth album as a way to give his material new bodies, new ways of being while having a good time doing so. Unsurprisingly, the album is part of a growing trend of artists from wildly disparate genres collaborating together to create music that’s unique and difficult to pin down, frequently challenging the status quo of the major record labels and mainstream genre boundaries.

The EP’s latest single “Drover” features Gang of Youth’s Dave Le’aupepe taking over vocal duties on a swaggering, arena rock-friendly blues centered around power chords, stomping beats, a looped choral sample and an anthemic hook reminiscent of The Black Keys. It’s a marked and muscular departure from the soulful and blues original that manages to retain the song’s bluesy vibe.

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Sofia Härdig Releases Moody Yet Upbeat Visuals for “Illuminate”

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Swedish singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and JOVM Sofia Härdig, and as you may recall, she is at the forefront of an internationally renowned Swedish electro pop movement that includes a handful of JOVM mainstays and others that I’ve written about throughout the course of this site’s history; in fact, in her native country, she’s considered a queen of Sweden’s electronic rock scene. Along with that, Härdig has collaborated with the likes of Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters, Bob Hund, Boredoms and Free Kitten‘s Yoshimi P-We — and she has shared stages with Lydia Lunch and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. 

Härdig’s latest single “Illuminate” is an atmospheric, 80s-inspired, glistening and moody synth pop track consisting of layers of shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a subtle rhythm guitar, a sinuous guitar line and a sultry hook — and while in some way reminding me of Stevie Nicks “Stand Back” and The Cars “Drive,” “Illuminate” is a deeply contemplative and introspective song focusing on the endless and seemingly frustrating search for love and for connection. Although it comes from a deeply personal place, it’s a universal sentiment that we’ve all felt at one point or another — and with a similar yearning to find that sort of love once again.

As Härdig explains in press notes. “I worked with the song ‘Illuminate’ alone in my studio for many long, lonesome nights. It was just the studio, the stars and I, while I played all the instruments, made the soundscape and recorded the single in solitude. Later, I invited over some friends to improvise over the track. Guitarist John Essing and bass player Mats Hellquist, both from the band ‘bob hund’, but also a classical pianist and cellist respectively, added parts to the soundscape of ‘Illuminate.’ I brought all the new recordings back into the studio – tore them apart, rebuilt them and made arrangements, as if I was a mad scientist in my lab. I then brought in Jari Haapalainen to produce the songs. The solitary fashion in which ‘Illuminate’ was crafted reflects the mood of the single.”

 The recently released video by Stefan Sundlof features textured and looped footage of dimly illuminated streets and close ups of Härdig in soft vignette framing — the darkness at the edges of the footage, slowly envelope the Swedish singer/songwriter and producer at one point, leaving only her illuminated. Towards the end of the video, the footage becomes increasingly brighter and day lit, further emphasizing the song’s increasing upbeat tone towards its conclusion. “It’s amazing that three of my best friends are filmmakers, even more so that they’re all involved in some way or another with this album,” Härdig says in press notes “Jessica Nettelbladt took the photos for the singles and the album, Johannes Stjärne Nillson did the covers and Stefan Sundlöf directed this video. The video uses a special version of ‘Illuminate’ that Stefan had fallen in love with; a slower, darker one. Stefan and I often share music and talk about it. When I sent him this edit of ‘Illuminate’ he responded almost right away with a 30 second video clip, that he’d made of what he had in mind for the song. It was stunning. I was convinced and saved the version for the video. So especially for you, here you get a glimpse of another universe of ‘Illuminate’. The one for the video, the one for Stefan.”
 

New Video: Up-and-Coming British Singer/Songwriter Issac Gracie’s Ode to Heartbreak and Lingering Ghosts

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a bit, you may recall the with the release of his debut single “Last Words,” the London-born and-based, 23 year-old, singer/songwriter Issac Gracie quickly established himself as one of Britain’s best, up-and-coming artists; in fact, with “Terrified,” Gracie built upon a growing profile with a self-assured yet deeply personal and honestly song that found him expanding upon the sound that first caught national attention with lush backing instrumentation and the sort of soaring and anthemic hooks that bring to mind Snow Patrol and Jeff Buckley. 

Gracie’s highly-anticipated self-titled full-length debut officially drops today,  and as the British singer/songwriter says in press notes about the album, “Over the course of the two years it took to complete this record, I learnt more about myself and about music than I had in the entirety of my prior life. It was the biggest test I’ve ever undertaken and a winding journey that I won’t forget. To now have the record as a physical representation of a heavy and formative time in my life, that can be traced and re-remembered through listening to it, is an awesome and unique reward for the time and effort and love that was spent.”

The self-titled album’s latest single “the death of you & i” focuses on a familiar scenario for all of us: that moment when you randomly run into a former lover, whose ghost has pervasively lingered in your life, and as a result the song captures the confusingly ambivalent and bittersweet mix of longing, hate, forgiveness (sort of), love, sadness and loss that come up so quickly — and within a song that sounds much like an amalgamation of Jeff Buckley, Roy Orbison and garage punk; in fact, the accompanying video for the song features Gracie, as he goes from heartbroken and pensive, to enraged and heartbroken. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Dutch Singer/Songwriter Nana Adjoa Releases Symbolic Visuals for Soulful Single “Honestly”

If you follow me through the various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve had an absolutely epic time during my first two days in the Windy City — and everyone I’ve met has been a wonderful and kind ambassador to their hometown. Man, right now, I feel as though Chicago can’t do me wrong. But on to the business end of things  . . . 

Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.

Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “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.” 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. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo 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 forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Directed by Bear Damen, the recently released video for “Honestly” features Adjoa and her backing band, as the backing musical act for a surrealistic play; but underneath that are much deeper interpretations — including, the vulnerability of having someone capture your heart, and knowing that with a cruel or thoughtless act, that they can crush it. 

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about Alice Merton, a Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Understandably, music managed to be a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth her and her family was; in fact, she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five, and when she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. After spending the better part of a decade of her life in classical training, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And as the story goes, from that point forward, Merton went on to study songwriting and began pursing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.

While in school, Merton wound up working with a number of producers on projects, and finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator in the creative process is a rarity. And when she met the Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she found her musical match; in fact, the duo collaborated on Merton’s swaggering, hook-driven smash hit debut “No Roots,” a song that’s deeply influenced by her own nomadic youth. Speaking of smash hits, “No Roots” held the #1 spot for 2 consecutive weeks at the alternative radio charts here in the states, and held for 8 weeks in Canada. And as a result, she cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts, the Top 15 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts and entered the Billboard Hot 100. Adding to a growing profile, the song is synced in a Mini Cooper ad campaign and was recently featured in Rolling Stone‘s “One To Watch” and Billboard‘s “Chartbreaker” section, which has previously featured artists such as Cardi B and Khalid — and earlier this year, she made her national TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Building upon the buzz of her breakthrough single, Merton’s latest single “Lash Out” comes on the heels of her recently released No Roots EP, and much like “No Roots,” the Berlin-based pop artist’s latest single continues on the first-person perspective of its predecessor and the anthemic, hook-driven song focuses on a woman, who feels the need to speak up boldly (and loudly!) about what you want, need and what you’re ready to fight for; to confidently answer your own needs in your own way.  And in some way, the song is an earnest, empowering feminist anthem.

Merton will be touring to support her debut EP and it’ll include performances on the festival circuit with appearances at Shaky Knees Fest, Hangout Music Festival and Governor’s Ball, and a tour opening for Vance Joy that includes a June 14, 2018 stop at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Check out the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates:
5/6 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Fest
5/15 Charlottesville, VA Spring Pavilion*
5/16 Columbus, OH Express Live!*
5/18 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE*
5/19 Portsmouth, VA Portsmouth Pavilion*
5/20 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Music Fest
5/22 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre*
5/24 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live*
5/25 Chicago, IL Rosemont Theatre*
5/26 St. Louis, MO Fox Theatre*
5/27 Napa, CA BottleRock Napa Valley
5/30 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheater*
6/1 St. Paul, MN Myth Live*
6/2 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom*
6/3 – New York, NY – Governors Ball Music Festival
6/14 Brooklyn, NY Prospect Park*
6/15 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavilion*
6/16 Hunter, NY NY Mountain Jam
6/14-6/17 Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
8/4 Montreal, QC Osheaga Festival
8/7 Toronto, ON Echo Beach^
* W/ Vance Joy
^ W/ Tash Sultana

 

With her parents Laurie Lynn and Richard Stark being the owners of the high end silvery jewelry brand, Chrome Hearts, which has expanded into gold, diamond accessories, leather, clothing, furniture, incense and eyewear, the 24 year-old, Los Angeles, CA-born and-based singer/songwriter Jesse Jo Stark grew up in an environment that fostered creative expression; in fact, she was initially known as a model, who was photographed as a young teen by Gilles Bensimon for Elle Magazine before venturing into design, creating the Pete Punk collection, which was largely inspired by the punk era. The collection was critically applauded by fashion editors and was a commercial success — and as a result, it lead to a collaboration with Vans.  

Of course, music and fashion go hand-in-hand, and Jesse Jo Starks felt the pull to express herself musically — and under the guidance and collaboration of The Sex Pistols‘ Steve Jones, Guns ‘N’ RosesDuff McKagan and others, Starks began writing and recording her own original material, material that drew a variety of sources from country, punk and rock.

The up-and-coming, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has been busy balancing the busy schedule of her fashion work with writing and recording her debut effort, but she has released a handful of singles over the past year, including her latest “Fire of Love,” a sultry and cinematic track that possesses a dusty, Western Gothic vibe reminiscent of JOVM mainstays Betty Black and Bambara.

Stark will be opening for Sunflower Bean throughout the band’s June, Southwestern and West Coast dates. Check out the tour dates below.
TOUR DATES

6/8       Houston, TX                White Oak Music Hall Upstairs
6/10     Dallas, TX                   Club Dada
6/12     Phoenix, AZ                Valley Bar
6/13     San Diego, CA            Che Café
6/14     Santa Ana, CA            Constellation Room
6/15     Los Angeles, CA         Teragram Ballroom.