Tag: synth pop

New Video: Married, Art Pop Duo, The Parlor Releases a Thoughtful Meditation on Grief

With the release of their critically applauded sophomore album Wahzu Wahzu, the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo The Parlor, comprised of multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, production and husband and wife team of Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans further cemented a growing reputation for a fearless willingness to explore a variety of sound palettes and styles while crafting intimate and thoughtful pop music; in fact, the Altamont, NY-based duo have progressed from indie folk to stomp and clap trance folk to “campfire disco” as Pitchfork described Wahzu Wahzu.

Slated for an April 13, 2018 the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo’s forthcoming, third full-length effort Kiku derives its name for the Japanese word for chrysanthemum. According to O’Connor and Krans, chrysanthemum began blooming in their farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and for the couple, the flower became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. Sonically speaking, the album represents a continued evolution of their overall sound, as Kiku is the duo’s first foray into trigged samples and orchestral synth soundscaping. “Kiku grew into something we never anticipated,” the couple admits in press notes. As they were grieving, they turned to their art and began writing and recording material inspired by what they were feeling and thinking, as the couple says they felt themselves “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead, where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a pice of her, of Kiku, back with us.”

Understandably, the material on Kiku sounds gloomier and more anxious than their previously released work while reportedly balancing a playful and relaxed air at points that suggests that while profoundly serious, the album can be coquettish, sexy and earnest; in some way, the album is meant to be the inner world of a couple, who keep trying over and over again — perhaps, because as cheesy as it may sound to some, they have each other.

Kiku’s first single, album opener “Soon” draws from dream pop, contemporary electro pop, movie soundtracks, jazz and experimental pop in a heady and swooning mix — and while to my ears, bringing to mind the work of Moonbabies, Beacon, Softspot, Mazzy Star and Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS, the members of The Parlor manage to specialize in incredibly slick and lush production featuring soaring hooks paired with fearlessly heartfelt lyrics and sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to break your heart time and time again, but with a deeper purpose — to remind the listener of their empathy. Grief is grief is grief. We all know this and we all experience it at various points in our lives, and we try to move froward; that is what people do after all.

As O’Connor and Krans explain in press notes, “‘Soon’ was intended as a metaphor for the stages of grief. The chrysanthemums represent grief itself. We carry grief around with us, often to unlikely places. We try at times to let it go, to fling our grief from great heights or hope it’s carried off by time — an offering to the flowing waters of the hills. But ultimately we find ourselves steeping in it, drowning in it, and ideally cleansed by it in a baptism of intentional release. Allowing ourselves to stop fighting forces us to experience things that, as humans, we often try desperately to avoid. Allowing ourselves to dance in glowing sunlight empowers us to reclaim our spirit. And we are transported to a deeper place of understanding of one’s self and of the human experience as we know it. ‘Soon’ is an expression of painful hope and illuminated heart.”

The duo directed, shot and edited the video for “Soon” and naturally, the video prominently features chrysanthemums throughout — sometimes the husband and wife duo proudly and defiantly carrying them about, at other points, the flowers are being offered to the proverbial flowing waters of time or treated as a sort of sacrifice; but no matter what the flowers and their grief is inescapable — until they accept it.

New Video: Bülow Releases a Mischievous Video for Attention Grabbing Single “Not A Love Song”

Megan Bülow is a 17 year-old pop artist, who writes and records as Bülow, and who has spent time living in the States, Canada, the UK and Germany and is currently finishing high school in The Netherlands, making the up-and-coming pop artist a true citizen of the world. And with the release of her debut Damaged, Vol. 1 late last year, an effort that featured attention grabbing singles “Not A Love Song” and “Like This Guy” and “Lines,” Bülow became a viral sensation as those tracks have amassed several million streams, cracking the Spotify Global Viral charts, and receiving praise from the likes of NME, Vice Noisey, Pigeons and Planes and this site. 

Now, as you may recall “Not A Love Song” is an incredibly self-assured and sultry track that features Bülow’s smoky crooning over a slick and hyper contemporary production consisting of arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and finger snaps, and unsurprisingly, from this track Bülow remind some of pop contemporaries like Phoebe Ryan, Chelsea Lankes, Sofi de la Torre,  and others, as “Not A Love Song” is centered around a fearless, unvarnished honesty, capturing the messiness, uncertainties and insecurities of a young woman trying to maneuver the complexities of love, her impending adulthood and growing sense of independence. In fact, as Bülow explained to me via email, “‘Not A Love Song’ is about the excitement of meeting someone for the first time. Initially, it feels so new and overwhelming good, but I eventually decided I wasn’t ready for that commitment. Or at least, that’s what I told myself. You can’t let lust fool you. Be honest with yourself. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not mean tot be; but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!”

The recently released video for the song was shot in Berlin and captures, the up-and-coming pop artist in a rather natural setting, capturing a young woman who can be equally confident, awkward, vulnerable and mischievous. As Bülow says of the video treatment, “I wanted this video to be natural, just being myself in a fearless city. Berlin is a special place to me.”

New Video: Up-and-Coming London-based Pop Artist Jodie Abacus Releases Swooning Visuals for Euphoric New Single “Meet Me In The Middle”

With the release of “I’ll Be That Friend” and “She’s In Love With The Weekend,” the up-and-coming London-based pop artist Jodie Abacus quickly saw a growing national profile, as both singles received airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and BBC Radio 1xtra — and as a result of his growing profile, Abacus has collaborated with some of the UK’s hottest producers, writers and artists including Julio Bashmore, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Duke Dumont, Ariel Rechtshaid (who has worked with Beyonce, Adele and HAIM, and others), Rahki (who has worked with Kendrick Lamar), SOHN and others.  Adding to a growing profile, the up-and-coming, London-based artist has received praise from The Fader, who hailed him as “irresistible” and i-D Magazine as “somewhere between a less animated Thundercat and a more off-the-wall Stevie Wonder.” 

Abacus’ second EP, Mild Cartoon Violence derives its name from his desire “to capture the flavour of what goes on in my mind at any point in time when I write songs. I have an aggressive and playful approach towards everything I write within the creative process . . . I stand up, jump around and get excited. I envision the past, the present and the future feel of the storyline like a movie in my head in a cartoonish way and then scrutinise and bash away heavily at anything that may not feel right. This EP is about love, sex and torment.” The EP’s latest single, the POMO-produced “Meet Me In The Middle” pairs Abacus’ easy-going and soulful vocals with a shimmering neo-soul meets house music production featuring arpeggiated synths, stuttering drum programming and an infectious and euphoric hook — and that shouldn’t be surprising as the song is a swooning and euphoric track that the up-and-coming, British pop artist says is about a new romance, when you’re trying to get with someone sensually, physically, mentally and spiritually. 

The recently released video was shot in South London and follows Abacus as he meets cute with a beautiful woman, chats her up and invites her to a local house party. As Jodie Abacus says in press notes, “We had such fun shooting this as it turned into a full on party after the cameras stopped rolling.” 

New Video: Hearts Hearts Returns with Feverish and Surreal Visuals for Genre-Defying Single “Phantom/Island”

Comprised of David Österle, Daniel Hämmerle, Johannes Mandorfer and Peter Paul Aufreitet, the Vienna, Austria-based quartet Hearts Hearts developed a reputation for crafting brooding, slow-burning and elegiac music indebted to classic musical and electro pop that drew comparisons to Sigur Ros, Flying Lotus, The Darcys and Radiohead as you would have heard on “I Am In” and “AAA” off their critically applauded debut album Young, an effort that thematically focused on tension and release — in the sense of someone desperately trying to break through and out of the familiar and debilitating patterns of their own life. 

During the release of the Austrian act’s debut Young, the band’s Peter Paul Aufreiter and Johannes Mandorfer sent two radically different sound snippets to their bandmate David Österle — an aggressive and jazzy piano loop titled “Phantom” and an electronic drum take recorded overseas titled “Island,” which interestingly enough is the German word for the country of Iceland. And as the story goes, Österle frantically began attempting to put these disparate pieces together; to synchronise what was never meant to be unified, and start singing over the results. The genre-defying album reportedly draws from the work of Bon Iver, Jamie XX and Son Lux while taking its thematic cues from the in between spaces and undefined borderlines in meaning, symbolized by the slash in every title on the album — with the band exploring both emotional and moral ambiguities, the ineffectiveness and confusions that the dichotomies and borderlines that define modern society. As the band’s Hämmerle says, the band prefers to think “think in options,” seeing the slash as representing an openness and flexibility in meaning; in similarities as much as in difference. 

The album’s first single “Phantom/Island” offers a heady and trippy taste of the overall aesthetic and sound of the album, as the band draws from jazz, electronica, indie rock, experimental pop in a way that immediately brings Kid A-era Radiohead, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington — and while being at their most sonically expansive and genre-defying, the track finds the band conjuring a mix of anguish and ecstasy, yearning and desire within a turn of a musical phrase, as you’ll hear a propulsive, almost dance floor friendly motorik groove during the song’s verses and a soaring, cinematic hook that conveys yearning and ache. The song finds the band at their most intimate yet cinematic,  experimental yet accessible, feverish and frenetic in what is arguably one of the most gorgeous and transcendent songs I’ve heard this year. 

Filmed and directed by Austrian artist Gabriel Hyden, the breathtakingly gorgeous visuals are a surreal and feverish dream inspired by Iceland’s equally surreal and gorgeous landscapes.  

Comprised of husband wife duo Aslyn and Kalen Nash, the Joshua Tree, CA-based synth pop duo DEGA features two accomplished, veteran musicians: Ashlyn had released two solo albums, Lemon Love through Capitol Records and The Dandelion Sessions through Lemonade Records, and she has a stint was a touring keyboardist and backing vocalist for Grammy nominated artist Kesha. Kalen Nash was guitarist and vocalist for Athens, GA-based indie rock act Ponderosa, a band that released their critically applauded, Joe Chiccarelli-produced album Midnight Revival, which was released through New West Records.

Unsurprisingly, the origins of the Nashes latest project can be traced back to 2008 when they first met and eventually fell in love — and although they married in 2011, they were so busy with their own respective musical projects, that they hadn’t seriously considered working together. Eventually, the loneliness of the road led the Nashes to consider a different path. “I remember a phone call when I was out with Kesha and Kalen was on tour with Ponderosa,” recalls Aslyn. “We were a country apart and hadn’t seen each other in months. I told him that we needed to start collaborating so, at the very least, we could see each other more often.”

Ashlyn and Kalen Nash formed DEGA with the idea that they could shed any and all of their preconceived notions about their previous work and freely explore new sounds and musical ideas — in this case anthemic, synth-based indie pop in which they merged their talents and ideas into a unique sound and approach. Now, as you may recall, the duo’s self-titled debut effort is slated for release later on this month through Lemonade Records, and the album reportedly is one of the most personal either has released to date as it focuses on the highs and lows of their lives together; in fact, album single “Phoenix” focuses on Asyln’s pregnancy and miscarriage during the recording sessions. With both Asyln and Kalen touring with their various projects, the duo would record whenever they were both in the same city and had free time, and as result, the album took two years to complete with sessions helmed by  Justin Loucks and Jon Ashley at various studios across the States.

Don’t Call It,” which I wrote about late last year was a carefully crafted yet urgent song that remind some quite a bit of Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back,” St. Lucia, Washed Out and In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy as layers of shimmering synths were paired with a sinuous bass line, African-inspired percussion and a soaring hook. The duo’s latest single “Mirrors” continues the 80s vibes of its predecessor — but in this case Purple Rain and 1999-era Prince, as well as A Flock of Seagulls as the song features some blistering guitar work paired with propulsive drumming, layers of shimmering and arpeggiated synths and a rousingly anthemic hook. And while being a remarkably slick, radio friendly track, it reveals some incredibly ambitious and earnest songwriting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Introducing the Ethereal 80s Synth Pop Sounds of Barrie

While now currently based in Brooklyn, the individual members of the up-and-coming indie pop act Barrie, comprised of founding trio featuring lead songwriter Barrie Lindsay, who worked as a studio assistant for a sculptor; Spurge and Noah, who both work at The Lot Radio, a community-run online, radio station, where the band’s founding trio met through a mutual friend and eventually connected with their drummer Dom; and their bassist Sabine, who was recruited through a Tinder profile set up by the band to meet a bassist, each individual member can claim the following as their hometowns — Baltimore, Boston, Sao Paulo, Brazil, London, and Upstate New York. 

“Canyons,” the Brooklyn synth pop act’s debut single is a slow-burning track that finds them pairing gossamer vocals with wobbling arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, propulsive drumming and a feathery and ethereal hook in a minimalist song that draws from 80s synth pop but possesses an underlying bittersweet barb similar to Yumi Zouma, as well as JOVM mainstays ACES and Beacon. 

New Video: Introducing the 80s Synth Pop Sounds and Early MTV-Like Visuals for CROATIA’s “Make Circles”

Currently comprised of Justin Campbell, Steve Mitchell, Matt Dell and Ben Erickson, the up-and-coming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada-based synth pop quartet CROATIA are heavily influenced by 80s synth pop and New Wave, and as Canadian quartet tells me via email, they “aim to create their own meaningful — and at times, darker — alternative to conventional pop music.” Interestingly, “Make Circles” is the first single off their forthcoming Half Dreams EP, which is slated for release this spring — and while it marks the first recorded output with their new vocalist, the quartet pairs gossamer-like vocals with shimmering and ethereal, arpeggiated synths and soaring hooks punctuated with propulsive percussion to create a cinematic yet plaintive song that ironically points towards its own cliches as it thematically celebrates the ridiculous and cliched moments of intimacy (or what we think is intimacy) that we frequently find ourselves in, despite our best efforts. But interestingly, if it’s cliched, it suggests that while it may be beautiful and feel beautiful, that sometimes that intimacy may be rooted in something not quite our own, which should feel — well, awkward and disturbing. 

Directed by Rob Willey at Tall Grass Films, the Canadian pop act tell me that the wanted to reflect the songs themes within the video as simply as possible while keeping each scene and every visual as engaging as possible. As Willey says in press notes,  “The band first approached me with the idea of the opening shot: a cigarette burning in a kind of David Lynch style motel room. The original plan was to simply shoot various hands picking up the cigarette. We’d also shoot a few different images to overlay, including one of the band in the pink/blue light that I had set up. As soon as I saw the band in the light I became really excited about how vibrant it looked. We came up with a variety of ideas for shots on the fly as we were filming. During the editing process I wanted to cut and overlay the images together in a way that would really enhance the moodiness of the song.” 

Interestingly, as the members of CROATIA note the last minute decision making that comprised the video shoot with the trust that it’ll turn out, was a secondary and subtle theme throughout the song — while the song may be about trusting that a new relationship may be worthwhile, the band does joke that the same went with trusting that being in a room for 4 hours or more with a group of strangers in s small garage with cheap cigarettes in the summer was kind of the same thing. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Strange Names Release Surreal and Mischievous Visuals for “UFO”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Minneapolis, MN-born, New York-based trio Strange Names, and as you may recall the trio’s highly-anticipated effort Data is slated for release through Frenchkiss Records later this month. Now, while Data’s first single  “Into Me,” managed to further cement the New York-based trio’s reputation for crafting breezy, 80s inspired synth pop, “UFO,” the album’s second and latest single leans towards a funky, dance floor friendly direction with the song nodding at the likes of Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait,” Cherelle’s “Saturday Love” and “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” but with a post modern angst. 

Directed and shot by the band’s friend Pedro Lopez and then edited by the members of the band, the recently released video for “UFO” as the band’s frontman Liam Benzvi explains in press notes was heavily inspired by the Bauhaus school while generally encapsulating the overall stylistic message of the record. “The video should make you seize a little, giggle, stew in confusion and hopefully move around. I envision it in the background of Elizabeth Hurley’s hell nightclub in the early 00s Bedazzled remake.” Interestingly enough, while the video manages to be wild, unsettling and confusing  there are several sequences that remind me of videos I’ve seen sometime in the 80s — but with a mischievous, we’re going to fuck with your head for a few minutes vibe. 

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.”

With the release of her first two singles “Touch” and “Almost Here,” which both amassed over 900,000 streams on Spotify, the Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Annika Schmarsel, quickly exploded into the national scene with her solo recording project Alice Ivy. Adding to a growing profile, Schmarsel played Australia’s festival circuit, including sets at Strawberry Fields, Paradise, Queenscliff, Listen Out and NYE on The Hill, BIGSOUND and went on two national, headlining tours before a series of dates in Singapore and the States.

Slated for a February 9, 2018 release through Last Gang Records, Schmarsel’s forthcoming, full-length debut I’m Dreaming was written, recorded and self-produced in her home studio and features the up-and-coming Australian producer and pop artist collaborating with the likes of Georgia Van Etten, Cazeaux O.S.L.O. and Tim De Cotta, RaRa, E˄ST and Charlie Threads and ARIA Award-winning singer/songwriter Bertie Blackman, among others.  Interestingly, I’m Dreaming‘s latest single “Chasing Stars,” a collaboration featuring Bertie Blackman can trace its origins to when Schmarsel met Blackman while they were both opening for Urthboy, and they quickly bonded over a mutual appreciation of each other’s work. As the story goes, Schmarsel reached out to Blackman with a slickly produced instrumental track that featured shimmering and soaring synths, trippy blasts of horns and thumping beats that that reminded (and gave) Blackman the sensation of flying. And although Schmarsel typically takes the reins of the entire creative process, she let her collaborator take the lead lyrically; in fact, Blackman’s tender and aching vocals add a yearning quality to the endeavor, with the ARIA Award-winning artist’s lyrics reaching for something that’s just beyond her grasp.

“’Chasing Stars’ is one of my favorite moments on the album,” Schmarsel explains in press notes. “Being given the opportunity to work with Bertie was a dream come true for me. The dynamics of the instrumentation are the perfect fit to the strong and sometimes fragile moments of Bertie’s vocals on the song, which are so rich with emotion and meaning. Bertie and I started writing it over email, however the finished song came together in a couple of hours in the Joyride’s studio above a pub in suburban Sydney. The vocal tracking only took three hours; however, the instrumentation is what took the longest. I’ve hung onto this song in demo form for about a year and a half now. Lyrically, ‘Chasing Stars’ is about Lincoln Beachey, the first man to do a loop to loop in an airplane. The music has many layers which depict the endless landscape of the sky.”