2020 was a big year for the acclaimed Malmö-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer David Alexander, the creative mastermind being the critically applauded dream pop recording project and JOVM mainstay act Summer Heart: Alexander signed to renowned Swedish record label Icons Creating Evil Art, who released his critically applauded EP Ambitions.
Continuing upon the momentum of last year, Alexander released his latest single “Oceans” late last month. Centered around a sumptuous bass line, the JOVM mainstay’s plaintive vocals, skittering, blown out beats and twinkling synth arpeggios, “Oceans” finds its narrator running to beach for sea air and quiet as a salve from the heartache and confusion of a relationship, the fervent rush of city life. The track essentially invites its listener to slow down and chill out a bit — sometimes it’s necessary after all.
The track follows on from the wide success of his 2020 EP, ‘Ambitions’ which harboured the support ofNoisey,FADER, The Line of BestFit and The Guardian.
The New York-based pop duo Eighty Ninety — brothers Abner James (vocals, production) and Harper James (guitar, production) — quickly exploded into the national and international scenes with the viral hit, “Three Thirty,” which rose to #2 on Spotify’s Global Viral Charts. Building upon a rapidly growing profile and the buzz surrounding them, followed up the success of “Three Thirty” with their debut EP Elizabeth.
Their debut EP found the duo further cementing their sound and approach: minimalist pop productions featuring a slick mix of electronic sounds and organic instrumentation paired with infectious hooks and sticky melodies, which they’ve dubbed “808s and Telecasters” — a joking shorthand for their sound and their anything goes mentality to their creative process. “We let the emotional arc of the song, rather than any set of genre conventions, lead us to instruments and sounds,” the brothers say of their process.
Since the release of their Elizabeth EP, the duo’s material have amassed over 26 million streams and have been featured on a numerous Spotify playlists, including New Music Friday, Pop Rising, Indie Pop, Chill Vibes, Viral Hits — and was selected by Taylor Swift on her Songs Taylor Loves playlist.
The duo closes out 2020 with their latest single, “Better as Friends.” Centered around a lush arrangement of glistening synth arpeggios, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, thumping beats paired with Abner James’ yearning, ethereal falsetto and an infectious hook, “Better as Friends” is a radio friendly pop confection that brings JOVM mainstays like Washed Out, Summer Heart and Cones to mind. But despite the breezy pop vibes, the song is underpinned by the bitter recognition that both platonic and romantic relationships can be confusing and uncertain.
“Better as Friends” is the second official single off the New York-based duo’s Gian Stone-produced, sophomore EP slated for release next year. In the meantime, the duo released a cinematic and decidedly minimalist video for their new single that’s split between intimately shot performance footage of the band in their studio and the act’s frontman on a rooftop during golden hour in New York. Interestingly, the video manages to capture the brooding and heartache at the core of its accompanying song.
I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of ink over the course of the past decade, covering the Malmö-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music producer and electronic music artist David Alexander, best known to the world, as the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded, internationally acclaimed recoding project Summer Heart.
Alexander began 2020 signing to renowned Swedish label Icons Creating Evil Art, who released his latest effort, Ambitions EP last month. And much like his previously released work, Ambitions draws from the JOVM mainstay’s daily life — with the material conceptually revealing the story of the man behind the breezy and infectious synth pop tunes. Written during a recent trip to California and Malmö, the EP touches thematically touch upon tales about his love-life and allowing himself to let go and experience life as it happens.
“Before going on tour I always make sure to wrap up all the work I have postponed or ignored so I can come back to a blank slate,” the acclaimed Swedish JOVM mainstay says of the forthcoming EP. “But since my tour got cancelled it was the first time in my adult life I actually didn’t have anything to do. It was very freeing and I could sit down and think about what I wanted to create and what I had struggled with in the past. I realised I’ve just wanted too much and never really been able to slow down and see things from a different perspective. The EP itself is about having high ambitions and wanting to do so many things at the same time but not always knowing where to put your focus.”
“One recurring theme in the lyrics is that it is difficult to live in the present,” Alexander adds. “How would it be if you did everything differently? It is the thought of that the grass is greener on the other side, though you know it is not. You just remember the nice things, even though something might have been crap. Like traveling or going to a festival for example. When you are in it, it is neither how you imagined it before, when you where looking forward to it, nor how you remember it afterwards when you remember it as wonderful. It is very much what the texts are about, that you dream away, it is about relationships and life in general. It’s something I’m trying to practice – living in the present, but it’s hard, unfortunately.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about Ambitions single “Good Together,” a swooning pop confection centered round a breezy and atmospheric poduction featuring shimmering synths, strummed acoustic guitar, stuttering beats, a propulsive bass line and the Malmö-born, Los Angeles-born artist’s unerring knack for an infectious hook paired with his plaintive vocals. EP single “Black Jeans” is centered around shimmering and synth arpeggios, skittering trap beats and a sinuous hook. Sonically, the track strikes me as a slick yet earnest synthesis of 80s Quiet Storm pop and brooding atmospherics, making it one of the JOVM mainstay’s more cinematic tracks of his catalog. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its narrator reliving a relationship that has left him with lingering ghosts and regrets with the sort of nostalgia that takes him away from the present he should be paying attention to right this moment.
Directed and animated by James Edwards, the recently released video follows a white-clad, motorcycle riding Alexander, cruising through town. Eventually winding up in a romantic little bar by himself, the animated Alexander has thoughts on one thing — the beautiful women, who got away.
“’Black Jeans’ is episode two in the animated series about Summer Heart. It takes place in Summer Heart’s hometown Los Angeles,” James Edwards explains. “Still in his white suit and on his red motorbike he continues helping people conquer their negative thoughts. At the same time the protagonist struggles on a personal level as he is falling back into bad habits and bad relationships.”
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.”
Interview: A Q&A with New Colossus Festival Co-Founder Mike Bell
Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Lola Live’s Steven Matrick, the second annual The New Colossus Festival, which will take place on March 11, 2020 – March 15, 2020 will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia, and Singapore. By design, the festival takes place just before SXSW: the festival’s co-founders view the festival as a pre-SXSW stopover that will give its emerging acts an opportunity to organically gain exposure – while filling a critical void in the festival circuit.
Of course, New Colossus offers adventurous fans and music industry insiders alike an opportunity to catch many of these emerging and buzzworthy bands before SXSW – and in many cases, the festival will offer the unique opportunity of catching some of these acts playing their first Stateside shows ever. Personally, I’m looking forward to catching JOVM mainstays The Orielles,Summer Heart and A Place to Bury Strangers, along with Beverly Kills, Hanya, Bodywash (who I caught at M for Montreal last year) and Jackie – but I’m also looking forward to some serendipitous discovery of new acts and the opportunity run into old friends, and to network and meet new friends and colleagues. And much like its inaugural year, the second New Colossus Festival will also feature panels and talks that will be of interest to the music community.
I got in touch with New Colossus Festival co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the second edition of the festival – primarily its rapid expansion, the founders hope for the future and more. Check it out below.
WRH: This year is the second New Colossus Festival. In terms of the festival, what makes this year’s edition different than last year?
Mike Bell: We’re thrilled to be back! This year we’ve grown from 6 venues to 9 venues while still keeping everything within walking distance on the Lower East Side. We added MOSCOT Eyewear on Orchard Street as a venue, which will host shows all day Friday. It’s pretty exciting to be teaming up with a wonderful Lower East Side institution. We also added an after-party at Ludlow House on Thursday and a late show featuring our friends A Place To Bury Strangers at Bowery Ballroom on Friday.
WRH: The second edition of New Colossus features a packed lineup of over 100 bands. Much like last year, there’s a big representation of Canadian acts. But I also see a few Norwegian acts, a few Spanish acts, a fair number of British acts, an Irish act or two, a couple of Austrian acts, an Irish act or two, an Australian act and even an act from Singapore on the bill. Was there anything specifically that changed in how acts were chosen and booked this year?
MB: Our prime motive is always the quality of the music and how it makes us feel. We’re booking bands who play music that we love. We aren’t targeting a band from Djibouti because they’re from Djibouti. If there’s a great band from anywhere in the world that is able to make it to NYC and are serious about their careers as professional musicians, we’ll certainly consider them. I will say that there are great festivals and conferences like Halifax Pop Explosion,Focus Wales, The Great Escape and Music Finland that have flown us out to find talent because their governments support exporting their music and art.
WRH: Who comes up with the festival playlist?
MB: That’s all Steven [Matrick]! He’s really good at it and puts a lot of thought into song placement. He’s been sending out playlists to his friends for many years. You can hear his “Best of 2019” here:
WRH: This year’s festival sees the addition of two new venues – Ludlow House and the biggest venue in the festival’s history to date, Bowery Ballroom, which will host arguably the most talked about showcase of the entire festival. Does this give you and the organizers a sense of an even bigger future for New Colossus?
MB: By the time your readers see this, we’ll have announced MOSCOT as another venue that will be hosting bands all day Friday, March 13, with our friends from AdHoc. As mentioned previously, MOSCOT has been part of the Lower East Side community for over 100 years. They’re also a huge supporter of music so it made a lot of sense to team up with them.
The Bowery Ballroom show is a big deal and we’re super excited about it. However, we really don’t see this as a showcase nor as a “headline” show. We definitely don’t want to be the kind of festival that makes fans choose between seeing a more established band versus a smaller one. A Place to Bury Strangers are part of our TNC family and we see their show as another awesome band for festival attendees to see after the other showcases have ended. That said, Bowery Ballroom is a great venue and we hope to expand and do more shows with them next year.
WRH: Festivals like Winter Jazz Fest, New Colossus, SXSW and other festivals with a conference segment have featured talks covering a variety of subjects of importance to their audiences, which will predominantly be musicians, music industry professionals and journalists. How did you and the organizing team come up with the subjects for the various talks that will happen this year?
MB: The topics we chose were the ones that we felt were most useful and interesting to the bands playing the festival. We feel it is important to include speakers who would be the most likely to connect with the artists in a meaningful way. In the age of declining record sales, Indie labels, sync and touring have become vital to survive as a musician. The other panels are on activism, mental health and the history of music in NYC, all very relevant to the bands playing our festival.
WRH: Besides making a living off your art and passion, and how to survive the touring life, one of the biggest issues that concern musicians, music industry types and those who love them is their mental health and wellness. A portion of my readers aren’t music industry insiders. Can you talk a bit about why having discussions on the subject of mental health and wellness is so important for the music community as a whole?
MB: Mental health and wellness is something we need to talk about as much as possible. Professional artists’ lives and livelihoods are dependent on maintaining their wellbeing. We are here are for the artist and want to help them with their careers, which includes making sure that issues like mental health are not stigmatized and that they addressed in an open form. Most touring musicians spend a huge percentage of their lives in bars at music venues and it is a struggle for everyone single one of them to be healthy and sane while touring.
MB: It’s pretty amazing! Tim is also playing his first US solo shows at the festival. Lio has been friends with Simon and his wife Abbey for years and we all love their label Bella Union. In the end it really all came down to them believing and understanding what this festival is all about. Bella Union also sent us two of our favorite bands Penelope Isles and Lowly last year, and Pom Poko and Dog In the Snow this year, as well as the legendary Tim Burgess of the Charlatans.
WRH: Where do you see the direction of the festival next year?
MB: We are already thinking about what we’ll do for 2021 and have some plans that involve integrating more with the community and the neighborhood as a whole. We’d love too partner with a backline company and do more pop up shows in art galleries and stores.
Over the past few years, I’ve written a lot about JOVM Mainstay David Alexander, an internationally renowned Malmo, Sweden-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer and electronic music artist, best known for his solo electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart. Now, as you may recall, the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer and electronic music artist has released a batch of singles in a single-of-the-month series that he has dubbed 12 Songs of Summer. According to Alexander, the series allows him to “show people what I am currently working on instead of what I was doing two years ago, which can be the case if you release an album. It’s definitely a way of challenging myself, thinking less and having more fun creating music!”
Just as Alexander is about to embark on a 16 date East Coast tour with New York-based electronic music artist and producer Brothertiger, the acclaimed Swedish artist released the last track of the series, the woozy and percussive “Buckle Up.” Centered around an ethereal melody, thumping beats, lush vocal harmonies and a sinuous groove, the track evokes swooning and youthful and somewhat uncertain love.
I was working with my friend Chris in his bedroom in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at that point. We had bought smoothies from Brooklyn Standard and were just fooling around” Alexander says of the song’s creation. “I’m normally a Logic Pro guy, but we started this new track in Ableton Live and called it ‘Groovie,’ wanting to make it exactly what the name suggests. I just couldn’t make it happen in Ableton but we wrote the track and bounced a rough demo of it anyway. I had it on repeat in my headphones for quite a while before I knew where I wanted to take it. I put all the stems we had recorded into Logic and started messing around with them. The track changed quite drastically and became a bit more up-tempo. The lyrics are about falling in love with someone that doesn’t fit your criteria – someone you didn’t expect to fall in love with.”
As for the tour, it begins tomorrow night at The Knitting Factory. For the rest of the dates, check them out below.
Comprised of core duo singer/songwriter Max Greenhalgh and multi-instrumentalist Bryce Outcault, along with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act Inspired & the Sleep first received attention across Southern California with the release of their debut album, 2014’s Eyelid Kid, an album comprised of dream pop-leaning material. Since then the act has developed a reputation for a sound that incorporates traditional indie rock instrumentation with electronics and vinyl sampling paired with lyrics that thematically touch upon intimacy, introspection and love both lost and found. And as a result, the duo have been featured on a number of sites across the blogosphere including Spin, Vice Noisey,Pigeons and Planes, Hilly Dilly, this site and others. Adding to a growing profile, Inspired & the Sleep has opened for a number of national touring acts including Switchfoot, Sure Sure, Colony House,Mating Ritual, The Dodos, SALES, Moon Taxi, Cymbals Eat Guitars and others.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written about them; but their latest single “Stay” like much of their previously released material over the past few years is centered around a glittering, dance floor groove, arpeggiated synths and a soaring hook. Sonically the song brings JOVM mainstays Summer Heart and Cut Copy to mind — with a swooning, vulnerable need. As the duo explain in press notes, “‘Stay’ is our piece about swooning in the throes of affection. It doesn’t seem to matter where a lover stands in your life, if the emotions are there you can be convinced to stay the night.”
Throughout this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstay David Alexander, an internationally renowned Malmo, Sweden-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer and electronic music artist, best known for his solo electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart. Over the past year, Alexander has released a single of the month series, 12 Songs of Summer, and according to the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music producer and electronic music artist the series allows him to “show people what I am currently working on instead do what I was doing two years ago, which can be the case if you release an album. It’s definitely a way of challenging myself, thinking less and having more fun creating music!”
The series last single “Touch” is a woozy bit of Teddy Riley and Timbaland-era R&B influenced synth pop centered around arpeggiated keys, wobbling bass, an infectious hook and Alexander’s tender falsetto — and reportedly influenced by Toro Y Moi and Animal Collective, the new single is swooning yet dance floor friendly bit of pop that feels and sounds mischievously anachronistic, as though it could have been released in 1989, 2009 or 2019.
Alexander will be embarking on a 16 date Stateside tour with frequent tourmate Brothertiger that will begin with a February 21, 2019 stop at The Knitting Factory. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Feb 21 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Feb 22 Washington DC – Songbyrd Vinyl Lounge Feb 23 Norfolk, VA – TBA Productions Feb 24 Greenville, SC – Radio Room Feb 26 Atlanta, GA – 529 bar Feb 27 New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa Feb 28 Houston, TX – Continental Club March 1 Austin, TX – Barracuda March 2 Dallas, TX – RBC March 3 Tulsa, OK – Chimera Lounge March 5 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room March 6, Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen March 7 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop March 8 Columbus, OH – Spacebar March 9 Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo March 10 Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA
Throughout this site’s 8 year history, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstay David Alexander, an internationally renowned Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for his solo electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart. Now, as you may recall Alexander has received attention for being among the first wave of Sweden’s contemporary electro pop and dream pop movement with the likes of Moonbabies, The Land Below, Hey Elbow, Blind Lake and Emerald Park,as well as for a sound that has been compared to Caribou, Washed Out, In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy, Painted Palms and others.
Over the past year, I’ve written about a handful of singles from Alexander’s 12 Songs of Summer, a single of the month series that according to the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer allows him to “show people what I am currently working on instead do what I was doing two years ago, which can be the case if you release an album. It’s definitely a way of challenging myself, thinking less and having more fun creating music!” Interestingly, 12 Songs of Summer‘s latest single “Ace of Pentacles” finds Alexander collaborating with Chicago-based electronic music artist and producer Elias Abid on a slow-burning and percussive production centered around ethereal vocals (which are chopped up at points), shimmering synths and a sinuous yet radio friendly hook — and while recalling Washed Out, the song manages to feel like the bitter come down of a love affair gone horribly wrong. While further cementing Alexander’s long-held reputation for crafting breezy synth pop, the song possesses an uncanny sober quality.
As the story goes, Abid and Alexander caught up in Abid’s new home of Chicago, the duo bonded over a mutual appreciation and admiration of each other’s work — and unsurprisingly, the duo quickly took the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other. Speaking about their collaboration in press notes, Alexander said, “Both hanging out and working with Elias Abid was extremely inspiring. We shared the same work ethics and had similar ideas both when it came our craft but also in general. In a creative situation it’s worth a lot when you can comfortably put everything aside and focus on what’s important; the music. To me ‘Ace Of Pentacles’ ended up being about being open-minded and confident in yourself. About daring taking opportunities that are right in front of you.”
Abid adds “Besides creating some amazing ideas, what I appreciated the most out of hosting Summer Heart for his week in Chicago were the conversations we had between sessions. There was something that felt really familiar about the way he looked at life, relationships, music, art, etc.. His energy and approach as a creative person was inspiring and instilled a lot of confidence in my own process as a new artist. Not only did we create something we’re both proud of, we started a new friendship that I’m very grateful for!”