Formed back in 2013, Vola Tila — Johannes Henriksson and Richard Andersson — is an acclaimed Swedish songwriting and production duo that have spent several years writing smash hits for a number of internationally known, major artists, including Passion Pit. Fueled by a desire to create the music they desperately craved, the the duo stepped out from behind the sceneswith the release of last year’s critically applauded, Sonic Boom-produced debut EP Personality Apocalypse, which featured their debut single “New Behaviour.”
The acclaimed Swedish duo’s latest single “Forget That I Love You” is the first bit of new material from the duo since the release of Personality Apocalypse EP. The new single will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting infectious pop bangers with “Forget That I Love You” being centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous and propulsive bass line, falsetto vocals and a soaring hook. And while superficially being an upbeat, 80s synth pop-inspired anthem, the track finds its narrator simultaneously bitterly indicting and yearning for a long lost love, that the narrator feels ambivalent towards.
“This song somehow reflects our thousands of questions about who you really are, and what really remains if you are forced to let go of all that? When we found the chorus, we could loop it for several days and just live in that nostalgic feeling. There is so much sadness in there, but also hope to be on the way,”the members of Vola Tila explain.
Over the past few months, I’ve written about the rapidly rising Persian-born, New Zealand-based emcee and producer, CHAII. When the Persian-born Kiwi-based artist was eight, her family migrated to New Zealand — and as the story goes, she was introduced to hip-hop through Eminem, who at the time had just released The Marshall Mathers LP. Fueled by a growing interest in his music, the rising Persian-Kiwi emcee was rhyming along to his work before she really learned how to speak English. “Mr. Eminem was my English teacher,” CHAII recalls in press notes.
When CHAII turned 11, she started to write her own rhymes to express everything she was feeling and experiencing at the time — from being a confused, third culture kid to her troubles adapting to a new way of life in a new country. By the time, she was in high school. the Persian-born, Kiwi-based artist started to make beats to accompany her rhymes. Around that time, she began to realize a deep and abiding love for all aspects of creating and writing music, including producing, recording and music. And after several years of experimenting, the Persian-born, Kiwi-based artist began developing her own unique sound, which features elements of traditional Persian music, experimental pop, electro pop and hip-hip.
And from that point onward, the material she began to release was “the closest music to me and who I am,” she says. As an adult, she developed an interest in film, which has lead to a synergistic approach to all of her creative efforts, fueled by a decidedly DIY ethos. Earlier this year, CHAII released the Lightswitch EP, an effort that has served as her global coming out party — and as a teaser for what we should expect from her forthcoming full-length debut Safar (Journey). Now, as you may recall the rising Persian-born, Kiwi-based artist has released three attention-grabbing, genre-defying singles this year:
“South:” CHAII’s debut single, which was featured by FENDI.
“Digebasse,” an urgent, club-banger collaboration with Aussie emcee B Wise. Featuring lyrics in English and Farsi, the track offers a fiery commentary on millennial social pressures and urges the listener to say “that’s enough!” and to stand up for their rights — right now.
“Trouble,” continued a run of club-banging material paired with incisive social commentary on the social pressure millennials face — in this case, millennial women.
Her latest single “Wow (Look at Me)” is centered around a dense, club-friendly production featuring thumping beats, synth arpeggios and wobbling low end, the track is a perfect vehicle for the rising Persian-born, Kiwi-based artist’s swaggering and self-assured flow. Of course, the track finds the CHAII at what may arguably be her most brash and bold, challenging any and all comers to battle her, because she’ll soundly defeat them all. Interestingly, the track appears as part of T-Mobile’s attention grabbing ad campaign for the new iPhone 12.
Over the past three or four years or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of ink covering the Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstays The Parson Red Heads. The act — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending college in Eugene OR back in 2004, studying for degrees that as the band’s Evan Way once joked “never used or even completed.”
Now, as you may recall, 2017’s Blurred Harmony found the JOVM mainstays actively intending to do things much differential than their previously released work — with the band recording and tracking themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously record Blurred Harmony‘s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late. And as a result, Way says “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”
After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the members of the band were forced to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The remaining founding members recruited touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time, and then they decided to approach any new material with a completely new lens. The end result turned out to be the band’s fifth album, Lifetime of Comedy.
Slated for a November 13, 2020 release through their longtime label homes Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, The Parson Red Heads’ fifth album reportedly finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed sound and allowing it to be remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Way contends in press notes are the most collaborative they’ve written and recorded to date.
Initially starting the recording of Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year, The Parson Red Heads, like countless acts across the globe, quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. And once studios could reopen, sessions continued at a snail’s place for small, very intimate sessions. With the material being recorded in a delicate, touch and go period, the album’s material seems to be deeply informed by a sense of perseverance and hope. Two things, which we need so much more of in our bleak and uncertain age.
So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles:
“All I Wanted,” a classic Parson Red Heads song that superficially sounded as though it could have been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions but with a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe that evoked the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness centered around incredibly earnest lyricism, born from lived-in experience.
“Turn Around” is a heartfelt deflation of devotion seemingly influenced by 80s and early 90s jangle pop that’s simple yet absolutely necessary. After all, sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”
“Coming Along,” Lifetime of Comedy‘s third and latest single continues an incredible run of anthemic material centered around the sort of introspective songwriting that can only come from living a full and messy life. And as a result, there’s an accumulation of weariness and regret mixed with resiliency, wisdom and hope that feels intimately familiar and necessary. Personally, much of their material has felt as though it speaks to me about my life, and the things I know and have felt with the exact words I would have said if I could put it all on paper. But at its core, the song has a road trip playlist friendliness paired with a lush yet unfussy arrangement and production.
“’Coming Along’ resulted from countless rehearsals, just spending lots of time playing it through, finding the arrangement that felt right, where each little piece fit,” The Parson Red Heads’ Evan Way explains inn press notes. “It’s a really fun song, because over the course of its 5 minutes, it manages to feature each member of the band in really great ways: the engine of the song, Brette and Robbie holding down the driving underpinning that bookends the song; Jake’s beautiful and melodic electric guitar skipping over the top of the driving groove; Raymond’s counterpoint pedal steel swells and Farfisa instrumental breakdown; my gritty guitar solo that comes in towards the end before handing things back off to the power of the full band; and the signature lush vocal harmonies filling out the verses.” –
Victor Jansåker is an emerging Stockholm-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who writes, records and performs under the moniker Alec Baker. With a background in jazz and a deep and abiding love of hip-hop and pop, Jansåker cites Chet Baker, Tirzah and Chance the Rapper as influences on his sound and approach.
Jansåker spent the past couple of years traveling between Stockholm, London and New York, writing and recording material in bedrooms and studios. And as a result, the material on Jansåker’s full-length Alec Baker debut will evoke a much different, seemingly more careful time in which artists, creatives and everyone else could freely travel from place to place, absorbing the musical and cultural influences they came across during their travels. While circumstances have forced everyone to change, the emerging Swedish artist’s desire to connect and collaborate have remained a large part of his mission.
The emerging Stockholm-based artist’s latest single “Say What’s On Your Mind:” is a breezy pop confection, centered around thumping beats, finger snaps, twinkling synth arpeggios, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, Jansåker’s plaintive vocals, vocodered baking vocals and an infectious hook. Sonically, the song may bring Stockholm-based JOVM mainstay Summer Heart to mind; but just underneath its exuberance and playfulness, the song features melancholic lyrics that focus on the confusion and heartache of a relationship in an uncertain flux. And as a result, the song has an ironic yet deeply emotional punch if you’ve been in the sort of situation the song describes.
According to Jansåker, the song “is a result of accidents leading us in new directions, and a bit different from my previous releases. It’s an uptempo hopeful song that I had so much fun creating so I wish it can bring some thoughtfulness and joy to the listener.”
Los Angeles-based duo Junaco — Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa — derive their name for a term that generally means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, and not just running on autopilot. The act can trace their origins to the duo having a mutual desire to make music for music’s sake, and to write honest songs that meant something for them — and that listeners may be able to have mean something to them, as well. Much like the term that inspired their name, the duo have developed a deliberate creative approach, eschewing the commonly-held attempts to placate the short attention spans of the blogosphere.
The Los Angeles-duo released their Omar Yakar-produced EP Awry last year, an effort that featured the lovelorn “Willow,” which to my ears brought Caveman,Eliza Shaddad and even Fleetwood Mac to mind — and “In Between,” which seemed equally indebted to 70s AM rock and Mazzy Star. Interestingly, Junaco’s latest single “In Between (Reprise)” is a reworking of the successful “In Between.” Collaborating with James McAllister, the reworked song is an ethereal and softer take on the song, evoking the confusing feelings of change, uncertainty and progress with a plaintive slow-burn.
“’In Between’ was one of the first songs we ever wrote, at a time when we both felt a lack of control in our own lives – unsure of how to get to where we wanted to be,” the duo explain in press notes. “Leaving town and writing felt like a step towards something – even though we didn’t know what that was. We didn’t intend to write stories, we just wanted to describe a feeling.” And with the reworked version the song, the band feels the song has come full circle from its original intent, now more than ever.
“There’s something about accepting the unknown that’s very comforting, almost feeling like a surrender. Each time we’ve played the song live, I’ve always felt a relief from just saying ‘i don’t know.’ Now, we’re experiencing a collective feeling of uncertainty – no matter who you are and what you believe. The reprise is a reminder.”
The term ‘Junaco’ means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, not just running, which is what they seem to be doing with “In Between (Reprise).” With lyrics “I know this is the way I have to go, but I don’t know, I’ll be back and I will be what I show, when I go home,” Junaco expresses the conflicting feelings of change and progress through soft and lush vocal
With James McAlister as a collaborator, the expression of emotions in the song began to adapt and change: “Working with James McAlister in revisiting the song has given it a new color; he solidified our intention of creating a mood with our music.”
Café Bizarre — Fabien (vocals), Giles (bass, guitar), Jean-Michel (drums, percussion), Granlu (guitar, bass) and Jean-Marc (guitar) — is a Paris-based indie rock act that can trace its origins back to the 1990s. And since their formation, the Parisian indie rock act have largely been a musician’s musician band, and arguably one of the bigger influences of the indie music scenes of early 90s New York, Hoboken and Chicago.
As the story goes, Mark Ibold, who played bass on a number of Pavement and Sonic Youth albums in the 00s met members of the band in a Lower East Side bar. This chance meeting wound up cementing a deeply rooted 25 year friendship between the Parisian band and the members of Pavement. According to Café Bizarre, Pavement’s “Shoot The Singer” discreetly pays homage to them — but interestingly enough, the band says that the song was originally written the year, as a tribute to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.
The band’s first recorded output, 1995’s 13 song album Avenue A saw distribution through small shops and then disappeared from public consciousness — until a Télépopmusik fan came across the album on e-Bay. 1997’s four song EP Manipulate Men was originally distributed and sold through their local record store. Much like its predecessor, it disappeared until someone found some copies, 12 years later in a box in the store’s basement.
1998 saw the band’s lineup expanded into a quintet with the addition of a new member. And as the band joke, they continued their musical careers with personal funds and the logistical support of dear and steadfast friends.
1998 saw the band’s lineup expanded into a quintet with the addition fo a new member. And as the band joke, they continued their musical careers with personal funds and the logistical support of dear and steadfast friends. A few years later — 2001, to be precise — the Parisian band wrote and recorded a 3 song effort, aptly tired 3 that wasn’t distributed. By 2002, the band went on hiatus with its members spending time raising families and doing responsible, adult things.
In 2011, Café Bizarre released a CD-DVD boxed set of their Fallentfest Music Festival appearance at La Cigale. The following year, the band gave away the live album portion of the CD-DVD boxed sets to fans upon request.
After several attempts at self-production, the band recruited Mattéo Apher to produce the band’s first vinyl record, a 10 song effort released in 2017. The effort found the band blending 90s alt rock influences with loud, guitar-driven anthems. The album is available is also available digitally through Bandcamp.
Earlier this year,. the Parisian indie rock band released a 7 song EP Don’t Swim Tonight My Love , which boldly recalls 90s rock, complete with enormous hooks. The EP’s latest single, EP title track., “Don’t Swim Tonight My Love” is a shimmering rocker centered around Fabien’s plaintive vocals, a propulsive backbeat and a shout-along worthy hook that sonically brings Pablo Honey-era Radiohead and 120 Minutes-era MTV to mind.
Throughout the past handful of years of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man. The act, which was founded by Antibalas’ Marcos Garcia and Geoff Man has developed and honed an attention-grabbing sound that aesthetically (and seamlessly) bridges Fela Kuti Afrobeat grooves with classic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock through their first three albums — 2017’s self-titled debut, 2018’s You Will Know Nothing and last year’s No Ground to Walk Upon, as well as an EP Animal Noises.
The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays’ fourth album Ritual Divination reportedly finds the band crafting arguably the best rendering of their long-held aesthetic — with heavier and bluesier guitars while maintaining the rhythmic formula of the clave. “Musically, it’s an opening up to more traditional rock elements, the band’s Marcos Garcia (vocals, guitar) explains in press notes. “It’s always been our intention to explore. And, as we travelled deeper into this musical landscape, new features revealed themselves.” Interestingly, Ritual Divination is the first album recorded as a full quartet, featuring JP Maramba (bass) and Doug Organ (keys).
Here Lies Man’s fourth album continues their ongoing concept of the band writing and crafting the soundtrack to an imaginary movie with each song being a scene. “It’s an inward psychedelic journey, the album is the trip,” Garcia explains in press notes. “The intention and purpose of the music is to create a sonic ritual to lift the veil of inner space and divine the true nature of reality.” And as a result, the album’s material is self-reflexive: “On this album the feel changes within a song,” Garcia continues. “Whereas before each song was meant to induce a trancelike state, now more of the songs have their own arc built in.” But unlike their previously released material, the band actively giving attempting to give the album a live, dynamic feel — with the band eschewing the fuzz pedals and going for a much more direct approach.
“I Told You (You Shall Die)” Ritual Divination’s swaggering first single is an trippy ripper, centered around scorching Black Sabbath-like power chords, Afrobeat-inspired polyrhythm, and enormous arena rock friendly hooks within an expansive, mind-bending song structure. And unlike their previous material, “I Told You (You Shall Die)” reveals a rawer, more forceful sound than ever before.
Ritual Divination is slated for a January 22, 2021 release through their longtime label home RidingEasy Records.
Soema Montenegro is a Buenos Aires-based experimental singer/songwriter. Arguably one of South America’s most unique artists, Montenegro’s work mixes the sounds and images of the jungle and mountains with her original poetry, which is primarily centered around a theatrical and emotional narrative — and transports listeners to her native Argentina.
Tremor — Leonardo Martinelli, Geraldo Farez and Camilo Carabajal — is an acclaimed South American trio that meshes electronic production and sound manipulation with traditional folkloric instrumentation and influences. Featuring rhythms and sounds known across the region, the trio’s sound fits component parts of varying traditions together in a way that crosses and defies genre-borders.
Medelin, Colombia-based experimental. electronic music artist, producer and guitarist Juan Esteban Herrera is the creative mastermind of Ruido Selecto, an electronic music project that’s largely influenced by Jamaican and tropical rhythms, and other black music.
Tremor and Soema Montenegro collaborated together on “Cuando Oigo Sonar la Caja,” which appeared on a tribute album to Argentine singer/songwriter Leda Valladares, El Caimon de Leda (Un Tributo a Leda Valladares). Centered around undulating and atmospheric synths, traditional indigenous percussion, twinkling guitar, and flute paired with thumping beats and Montenegro’s sing-song vocals, the track is a brooding synthesis of the ancient and the modern.
Ruido Selecto’s remix is a subtle, dubby remix, featuring finger-snapped percussion, wobbling low end while retaining most of the dreamy and brooding instrumentation and Montengro’s vocals. The end result is a remix that feels like a slow-burning psychedelic trip.
Patrick Kapp is a Chicago-based signer/songwriter, guitarist and creative mastermind behind the solo recording project Midwestern Dirt. Since the project’s formation in 2017, the Chicago-based Kapp has written, recorded and self-released three full-length albums including his most recent, this year’s Sayonara.
Midwestern Dirt’s sound is informed by Radiohead, Deerhunter, Wilco, and Pavement: reverb-drenched guitars paired with propulsive drumming and lyrics that thematically concern themselves with both personal experiences and the world at large.
Sayonara was recorded last May in Atlanta’s Sleeping Partner Studios on 16-track tape machine. The album finds Kapp continuing to make Midwestern Dirt a family affair: “We recorded over four steamy days in Georgia on a 16-track tape machine with two of my wife’s other brothers playing bass and drums. This has essentially been our recording setup for all three Midwestern Dirt LPs to date,” Kapp says in press notes. Additionally, the studio was run by Kapp’s brother-in-law.
The album’s latest single “Black Lotus” is a slow-burning track centered around reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming, Kapp’s plaintive falsetto and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet structure and slowly builds up in intensity until the song’s euphoric coda. Sonically, “Black Lotus” reminds me The Bends-era Radiohead with a shoegazer-like quality to it. “The chords to this track were written the day after David Bowie died and sat around for awhile sans lyrics as a voice memo on my phone,” Kapp recalls. “Years later the words started to take shape. Musically, the verses have a meditative energy while the drums slowly build in expression, intricacy, and power as the song grows, with the final chorus being a burst of sonic euphoria.”
Formed back in 2013, Mariachi Las Adelitas, which features members originally from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and the UK, is Europe’s first all-female mariachi band. Created by its members to shatter stereotypes within a very male-dominated genre, the septet features a collection of fantastic instrumentalists and no less than three lead vocalists. Their repertoire includes the mariachi classics, as well as mariachi-styled arrangements of well-known and beloved classics — in English.
The septet’s debut single “El Toro Relajo” is a gorgeous rendition of a mariachi standard that was rearranged by the band’s founder Anita Adelita (a.k.a. Anna Csergo) and recorded during pandemic-related lockdowns. Of course, the song reveals a band that can really play — and a vocalist, who at points reminds me of Linda Rondstadt. i’ve mentioned this on Twitter: I adore mariachi. This particular single reminds me of the mariachis I used to see on the subway — in full uniform, too. And every single one of them was outstanding.