Tag: synth pop

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Geographer Releases a Wistful Visual for Soaring and Plaintive “Summer of My Discontentment”

JOVM mainstay Mike Deni is a New Jersey-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electro pop artist and producer, best known for his solo recording project Geographer. As the story goes, Deni relocated to San Francisco while living in the aftermath of the sudden and tragic death of his sister — and then the equally unexpected death of his father. While sleeping on a floor of a friend’s Haight-Ashbury apartment, Deni serendipitously found a synthesizer on the street and began to channel his grief and optimism into the songs that would eventually comprise his full-length debut 2008’s Innocent Ghost. And through the release of two more full-length albums 2012’s Myth, 2015’s Ghost Modern and three EPs, 2010’s Animal Shapes EP, 2015’s Endless Motion EP and last year’s Alone Time EP, Deni has received attention across the blogosphere for his unique, textured and soulful blend of analog, electronic  and acoustic elements, a sound that he has described as “soulful music from outer space.” 

Building upon a growing profile, Deni has toured with the likes of K. Flay, The Flaming Lips, Young The Giant, Tycho, Ratatat, Betty Who and Tokyo Police Club, and he played sets at Outside Lands Festival and Firefly Festival. Interestingly, last year the JOVM mainstay gave up his San Francisco apartment and hopped between tours and friends churches for the next six months, including a month stay back in Jersey and a few weeks in Italy (where both sides of his family are from). And he did that before finally relocating to Los Angeles. During that period of shiftlessness in which he was in limbo between his old life and new life, Deni wound up writing the material, which would eventually comprise his recently released New Jersey EP. 

Many of the songs of the New Jersey EP began in his childhood home and were finished at a friend’s Los Angeles home while he was looking for an apartment; in fact, the EP’s first two singles “Love is Wasted in the Dark” and its latest single “Summer of My Discontentment” were part of the first batches of material written during that period. “Summer of My Discontentment” is a perfect example of the JOVM mainstay’s specialty — swooning and earnest 80s-inspired synth pop, centered around a twinkling and arpeggiated piano, thumping beats, a soaring hook and Deni’s plaintive and aching vocals; but unlike some of his previously released material, the song possesses a wistful air that comes from nostalgia for a long-gone, seemingly simpler time that you can’t have ever again — and the dreams your younger self may have given up for the compromises of adulthood. 

Directed by Patrick Mattes, the recently released accompanying video follows a group of young people, full of youthful hopes and dreams on a gloriously sunny day while Deni broodingly sings the song from a different vantage point, during sunset. In some way, the video implies that the action are the reflections and reminiscing of the video’s central character — from the perspective of a complicated adulthood. 


New Video: Seba Kaapstad’s Forward-Thinking Take on Soul and Electro Pop

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the up-and-coming indie electro pop/neo-soul act Seba Kaapstad, and as you may recall the act, which is comprised of founding members Sebastian “Seba” Schuster, Zoe Modiga and Ndumiso Manana along with their newest member, Philip “Pheel” Scheibel is split between Cape Town, South Africa and Stuttgart, Germany, and can trace its origins to when Schuster landed in Cape Town back in 2013. While studying at the University of Cape Town, Schuster met Modiga and Manana and began working together in an informal setting, in which they jammed playing standards and rearranged songs of their choice. And as they continued working together, the trio recognized a deeper chemistry within their work.

Before Schuster returned to Germany, he asked his future bandmates if they’d be interested in recording material back in his homeland. And over the next few months, Schuster spent time writing and organizing sessions with the focus on what would eventually turn into Seba Kaapstad. After a series of phone calls, emails and trips back and forth to Cape Town, the act’s founding trio had written the material that would eventually comprise their full-length debut, 2016’s Tagore.

The newly-constituted quartet’s highly-anticipated, sophomore album is slated for a May 17, 2019 release through Mello Music Group, and the album finds the act further expanding on a genre-mashing, globalist sound that draws from neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, electro pop and Afro pop — while adding a new member Philip “Pheel” Scheibel. Album single “Africa” was centered around a slick and mind-melting production that features elements of smoky jazz, swaggering hip hop, soul and Pan African vibes that brings Soul II Soul, Erykah Badu, theeSatisfaction, The Roots and Flying Lotus to mind. “Bye,” was centered around glistening and atmospheric production featuring a sinuous bass line, fluttering synths, thumping beats paired Manana and Modiga’s ethereal boy-girl melodies and harmonies describe the self-doubt, anxiety and uncertainty filled moments of attraction at first blush.

The album’s latest single “Don’t” is centered by a trippy Flying Lotus-like production featuring a looped, twinkling piano line, stuttering tweeter and woofer rocking beats, wobbling bass synths, reverb-drenched vocal samples. The song also features Modiga revealing an incredible vocal range, alternating between soulful multi-octave, pop belting solos expressing plaintive yearning and swaggering speak singing — while Manana contributes a plaintive falsetto to the mix. And then song ends with a gorgeous string section. Interestingly, the new single finds the act pushing the soul ballad in a revolutionary new direction. 

The recently released video for “Don’t” continues a run of mesmerizing post-apocalyptic-like visuals featuring grainy, security footage, the act’s vocalists in a variety of different lights and backgrounds and so on, which creates an anxious vibe. 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Holy Ghost! Releases a Funky Two-Step Inducing Single

I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based electro funk/neo-disco production and artist and longtime JOVM mainstays Holy Ghost! over the years, and as you may recall, l, with the release of the their first three full-length albums — 2011’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Dynamics and 2014’s remix album Work For Hire — the duo, which is comprised of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser received attention nationally and internationally. Building upon a growing profile, the duo have remixed the work of Katy Perry, LCD Soundsystem, Moby and a lengthy list of others; made national TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with David Letterman; toured with the legendary New Order; and played sets at some of this country’s and the world’s biggest festivals including Coachella, Outside Lands, Primavera Sound and Bonnaroo.

Work, the duo’s first batch of new, original material in over five years reportedly finds Frankel and Millhiser attempting to revisit the freedom of expectations that was suffered through their earliest recorded output — and interestingly, the proverbial return to form partially stemmed from circumstances: the duo dismantled their basement Brooklyn studio and relocated to a small room that a few musician friends of theirs were renting about a doctor’s office (coincidentally, the same address where they mixed their full-length debut). Because of the room’s limited space, they pared their extensive gear collection down to two synths — a Yamaha CS-80 and a Mini Moog. “Not necessarily the bare necessities, but what would make for the most interesting limited palette,” says Millhiser. “David Bowie didn’t have every fucking synthesizer on earth to make Low. He had two. And that’s one of my favorite synth records of all time.”

Slated for a June 21, 2019 release through West End Records, the forthcoming album’s material will continue the duo’s long-held reputation for crafting each sound from scratch with an unapologetic, exacting precision — and it’s their analog approach to electronic music that heavily informs the songwriting, production and sound of the album. Interestingly, album single “Los Angeles” was centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik groove, ethereal crooning, thumping beats and a sinuous yet infectious hook — while seemingly indebted to From Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk. Interestingly, Work’s latest single “Do This” is another straightforward club banger that meshes early hip-hop, house music and disco in a way that recalls Sugarhill Gang, Nile Rodgers and Pet Shop Boys– thanks in part to arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a two-step inducing hook and plaintive vocals.  

New Video: Mirrorball’s Shimmering Sounds and Visuals for “This Time”

Mirrorball is a newly formed Los Angeles-based synth pop project featuring singer/songwriter Alexandra Johnstone and guitarist Scott Watson, both of whom are grizzled veterans of their hometown’s music scene: Johnstone, who was largely inspired by Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room went on to form Monster, later known as White Dove, as a vehicle for her minimalist, folk-woven leanings that garnered comparisons to the likes of Low and Cat Power. Watson has played in a number of groups during Silver Lake’s early 2000s indie rock heyday. 

Johnstone and Watson’s latest project finds the duo pushing their sound and approach in a decidedly different direction — eerie dream pop sound meant to evoke abandoned shopping malls and 1980s coming-of-age movies, as their sound is centered around Johnstone’s self-assured vocals, atmospheric and arpeggiated synths and percussive guitar lines. The duo’s debut A-side brooding single “This Time” features fluttering and arpeggiated synths, Johnstone’s emotive vocals, propulsive drum programming and shimmering guitars — and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to Beach House, the single reveals a surrealist and poetic sensibility. 

Directed by Jess T. Johnston, the recently released video is split between footage of Johnstone earnestly performing the song in gorgeous, colored lights and brooding in a shallow reflect pool, capturing the eerie pensiveness of the song. 

Over the course of 2017 and 2018, I wrote a bit about Trent Prall, a Southern California-born, Madison,WI--based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, and his solo recording project Kainalu, which derives its name for the Hawaiian word for ocean wave.  The music that the Southern California-born, Madison,WI-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter has worked on for the past decade or so have drawn from psych pop, psych rock, dream pop, Tropicalia, synth pop and funk, as well as his childhood trips to Oahu, HI visiting his mother’s family, coalescing in a breezy and nostalgia-including sound that Prall has dubbed “Hawaii-fi.”

Finding Peace of Mind” and “Folds Like Origami” consecutively landed at #1 on the Hype Machine Charts and received placements on some top Spotify playlists, and with the growing buzz surrounding him, there was high expectations for Prall to quickly write and release a career-launching debut EP. But rather than get swept up into the current of premature opportunities and expectations, the Southern California-born, Madison, WI-based JOVM mainstay spent the next year in isolation, exploring the unfiltered daydreams of a wandering mind and capturing ideas on tape whenever they drifted by. Interestingly, the end result is his long-awaited and highly-anticipated full-length debut Lotus Gate.

Slated for release this fall, the self-produced Lotus Gate is reportedly a retro-futuristic exploration of Eastern philosophy and contemporary groove and self-exploratory  psychedelia. The album’s latest single “Kamikaze Mushroom Palace” is centered around a warm and trippy, disco-tinged groove, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a soaring hook and Prall’s ethereal falsetto — and while the single sonically sounds indebted to Tame Impala, but with the song’s narrator expressing an inward yearning to get their shit straight by any and all costs.








New Video: JOVM Mainstay TR/ST Releases an Intimate 80s-Inspired Visual for Anthemic “Gone”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Toronto, ON-born, Los Angeles, CA-based electronic music producer and artist Robert Alfons and his solo recording project  TR/ST over the past few years, and as you may recall, Alfons has released two critically and commercially successful full-length albums — 2012’s self-titled album and 2014’s Joyland. Alfons’ sophomore album was a decided change in sonic direction for him, with the material reflecting a pop orientated leaning while being club banging.

Five years have passed since the release of Joyland and in that time, Alfons wrote and recorded material in a farmhouse in Southern Ontario and in Los Angeles, where he has since relocated, and worked with an all-star cast of collaborators on his forthcoming two album effort, Destroyer 1 and Destroyer 2. Maya Postepski, Alfons’ collaborator on his self-titled debut co-wrote and co-produced six of the album’s songs. The Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based producer and electronic music artist also worked with co-producers Lars Stalfors and Damian Taylor to further refine the album’s sound. Interestingly, the key ingredient to creating the album’s material — which will be released on April 19, 2019 and in November 2019 — was patience.

“The environment I work in has always guided me. But it took a long time to submit to the kind of patience these songs were asking of me. I was getting glimpses of what I wanted to achieve with the album,” he says. “But it wasn’t feeling cohesive; things weren’t aligning in a clear direction.” Alfons realized it was a question of patience and perseverance. “My first two records were put out so close to one another that I think of them as one,” he says, “They just poured out of me.” With The Destroyer, the process was entirely different. “It was so much more careful. I found myself seeking spaces of absolute quiet; I needed them in order to hear what was going on inside.”

“Gone,” one of Destroyer‘s album singles is centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, stuttering beats, a tight motorik groove, a soaring and incredibly anthemic hook — but the song may arguably be one of the most accessible, pop orientated songs of his growing catalog, as it features a swooning and urgent Romanticism that recalls New Order‘s “Bizarre Love Triangle.

Directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Jordan Hemingway and starring Alfons, the recently released video for “Gone” was shot in a cavern in the hills. Employing a visceral intimacy, in which the viewer is sharing a claustrophobic space with Alfons, the video switches back and forth between Alfons bathed in candlelight and brilliant burst of color and lens flare. “Shot in a cavern in the hills of Los Angeles, the music video for ‘Gone’ is a visual homage to an era of music videos I grew up to,” Jordan Hemingway says of the recently released video. “The jarring angles and visuals mixed with vivid color are meant to match the haunting vocals that sit beautifully over an upbeat sound. Alfons adds, “Filmed over the course of one weekend, I think Jordan did a fantastic job capturing the feeling of desperation and shame in this intimate video.”

New Video: Humble Fire’s Dream-like Take on an 80s Classic

Currently comprised of founding members Dave Epley (guitar) and Nefra Faltas (vocals) with Xaq Rothman (bass) and Jason Arrol (drums), the Washington, DC-based dream pop quintet Humble Fire can trace their origins to when its founding duo met through another project that was formed through a Craigslist ad — although Humble Fire started in earnest around 2011 when Epley and Faltas recruited Rothman, who responded to Dave’s Craigslist ad seeking a bassist with a memorable manifesto. And although Arrol is the newest member of the band, joining in 2016, he’s a long-time friend and DC area DIY mainstay. Interestingly, the band’s current lineup finds the band celebrating the individual influences that each member draws from, including bluegrass, classical, punk. hip-hop and pop through a propulsive rhythm section, plaintive and vulnerable vocals, shimmering, pedal effected guitars and big hooks.

The DC-based dream pop quintet’s critically appalled sophomore album Builder thematically touched upon physical and emotional experiences around loss and reconstruction, including the deaths of loved ones, failed romances and the shocks and stresses navigated as a band. Through all of those experiences, the members of the DC-based dream pop act have come to appreciate that reconstruction isn’t something that you can tackle on your own; it frequently requires a team. And in some way, Builder is as much about the process of putting the pieces back to gather, as it is about the relationships that can either help or hinder that process. Additionally, the album found the band thematically asking questions about changing identities — particularly, “Who am I now, in this world without my parents in it?” and “How can I take care of others without losing myself?”

Interestingly, the band follows the release of their critically applauded sophomore album with a shimmering, dream pop take on Tears for Fears‘ classic “Mad World,” that retains the brooding dread, anxiousness and horror of the original; however, the Humble Fire take is a decidedly political take, meant to explore the outrage and despair felt by people, who want to make a positive change when everything has become a Kafkaesque nightmare. In fact, the band sees the lyrics as proof the the personal is always personal, with the song reflecting how systems of oppression can destroy the soul and humanity of individuals and communities. And although Tears for Fears wrote “Mad World” almost 40 years ago, it should be a reminder that a timeless song always finds a way to resonate while subtly changing for a new time and generation

Directed by Jen Meller and edited by Raul Zahir De Leon, the recently released, dream-like video follows the band’s Nefra Faltas wandering through a maze, struggling to find and reconnect with her bandmates. Through her journey, she encounters some surreal and disturbingly symbolic imagery, including her own death.

New Video: Introducing the Forward-Thinking Electro Pop of Sweden’s they owe us

Comprised of Rane and Kris, they owe us are a rather mysterious Swedish duo of outsiders, who found refuge in music. After a fortuitous meeting, the duo spent a year playing house parties, establishing a reputation for crafting music with disregards to rules and precedents.

Building upon a growing profile, the Swedish duo’s full-length debut, Broken English & Sad Serenades is slated for a June 7, 2019 release and the album, which reportedly finds the duo reveling in unique arrangements such as homemade drums and old, analog synthesizers and draws from a wide and eclectic array of influences including The Beach Boys, Kraftwerk and others. The album’s latest single “Harvest Time” is centered around glitchy drum programming, blasts of scorching guitar, wobbling bass synth and plaintive vocals, and while adding their names to a growing list of Scandinavian acts, who specialize in left of center, forward-thinking pop including Lake Jons and others, the track is ultimately about tight hearts and high hopes about a new and better tomorrow.

Co-directed by the up-and-coming Swedish duo and Annie Hyrefeldt, the recently released video for “Harvest Time” is a gorgeously shot fever dream featuring two masked children chasing each other through the woods. When they come across an upright piano in the clearing, the kids play with it and menacingly pose around it before setting it on fire. Much like, the artists themselves, these two children show regard for rules or structure.