Tag: Single Review: Illuminate

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years of its eight year history, you’ve likely come across an article featuring renowned Swedish singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and JOVM mainstay  Sofia Härdig. And as you may recall, Härdig is part of a rapidly expanding list of Scandinavian artists, who have received attention internationally — and just as importantly, she’s at the forefront of a blogosphere attention grabbing Swedish pop movement that includes several acts that I’ve written about at some or another; in fact, in her native Sweden, she’s considered the queen of electronic rock. Adding to a growing profile, the Swedish-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has collaborated with the likes of Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob HundBoredoms 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 NicksStand Back” and The CarsDrive,” “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.”

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Texas-born, New York-based singer/songwriter Melany Watson has been performing music for as long as she can probably remember — but she can trace the origins of her music career to two particular events: performing in school choirs and touring the Southeast Texas Ol’ Opry circuit alongside her mother, as the mother and daughter country music duo Melva Lee and Melany. According to Watson, her own artistic self-discovery was inspired by Whitney Houston and The Bodyguard soundtrack, and a lengthy list of 90s R&B vocalists, which naturally opened a new world of expression to her. After singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at a local karaoke bar when she was 12, Watson had what she has called an epiphany — that she was singing and performing the music she had to devote her life to. And as a result, Watson realized that she needed to set out on her own path.

So far Watson has had quite an accomplished career, as she’s performed at PBSChristmas at Belmont with Trisha Yearwood while as an undergrad at Belmont University, was a Top 100 Finalist during Season 6 of NBC‘s The Voice and she recently backed YouTube pop sensation Tori Kelly during Kelly’s performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy FallonAnd among some within the music industry, Watson has been compared favorably to Etta James, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and others — but with a country music leaning towards lyrics that tell stories informed by her own experiences.

“Illuminate,” the first single off Watson’s forthcoming EP, Lilith in Virgo pairs Watson’s effortlessly soulful vocals with a slick, modern production comprised of skittering percussion, shimmering synths, swirling electronics and twinkling piano chords in a way that meshes 90s inspired R&B and soul, contemporary electro pop and a very subtle nod to the country music that Watson grew up listening to and performing. While possessing a dramatic and moody heft, as the song thematically discusses what it truly means to be in a relationship and to be someone’s soulmate, the ethereal production suits Watson’s vocals perfectly, as the arrangement allows room for Watson’s vocals to soar and dart through and above the mix.

If you’ve been following the blogosphere over the course of the past year, you’d likely know that this year has been a big year for pop music — and an even bigger year for women artists, as a number of women artists have dominated the attention of the blogosphere. And with the release of “Illuminate” Watson adds her name to a growing list of artists that are making a name for themselves.