Live footage of Steve’n’Seagulls performing “Thunderstruck” at The Knitting Factory on 9/18/19.
Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a Finnish act, comprised of Irwin Remmel, Pukki Kaalinen, Puikkonen, Hermann and Wild Till Hiltunen that has received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for bluegrass-like renditions of well-known metal and hard rock songs, including this amazing cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which has amassed over 88 million streams on YouTube. Interestingly, much like Gangstagrass, Steve ‘n’ Seagulls make a vital connection between bluegrass and metal and hard rock, reminding listeners that they all essentially come from the same source.
Jonathan Bree is a New Zealand-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and producer, who can trace the origins of his musical career to when he was a child: he began writing his own songs when he was nine and performed as a drummer in his cousin’s band until he was 13. This was interrupted for some time, as he was sent to Australia to live with his father, who was an aspiring cult leader. Bree subsequently left home and navigated his teenage years independently.
When Bree returned to New Zealand, he formed The Brunettes, an indie rock act that released material through Sub Pop Records and his own label, Lil’ Chief Records. The band managed to tour across the world to support their material — but the frustrations of taking the traditional route to success found Bree taking a long hiatus from releasing his own music. During that hiatus though, Bree produced Princess Chelsea’s “The Cigarette Duet” and directed its accompanying music video, which has amassed over 47 million views.
Bree’s solo debut, 2013’s The Primrose Path was initially released to little fanfare and an unusual bit of promotion — an accompanying album-length video of himself watching TV on his laptop in bed with his girlfriend and cat. His sophomore album, 2015’s A Little Night Music saw the New Zealand-born and based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer embrace a cinematic and classically influenced sound, centered around strong melodies, tight hooks and his brooding baritone crooning lyrics focusing on modern life and love. During the campaign for A Little Night Music, Bree introduced his period piece masked band with the video or “Weird Hardcore” featuring his backing band appearing as though they were in a skewed timeline that some have described as Amadeus meets classic BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Since then, Bree has amassed a cult following around the world for his unique live show which features masked band members in pioneering clothing, set against a backdrop of cinematic projections specifically created for each song. Two dancers also perform other-worldly choreographed routines along with the music.
Bree’s third album, 2018’s Sleepwalking continued a run of material drawing from orchestral pop with the material centered around string and horn arrangements, celeste (a smaller, keyboard operated instrument that kind of sounds like a glockenspiel) and soprano vocals — and while sounding as though it came from a bygone era, the material touches upon avant-garde in a way that’s very modern. Album single “You’re So Cool” and its accompanying video went viral, amassing over 12 million YouTube views, while further cementing his reputation for crafting gorgeous yet brooding pop.
Centered around a soaring and swooning string arrangement, a sinuous bass line, propulsive drumming, chiming celeste, arpeggiated synths, a remarkably tight hook and Bree’s brooding baritone, “Waiting On The Moment,” his latest single manages to be both carefully crafted and danceable pop that manages to be an uncannily anachronistic synthesis of 60s and 80s pop — with a subtly modern filter. At its core, the song is a breakup song about the lingering ghosts of a past relationship — primarily, the places that you and your former lover once went that had significance between you. Apparently in the song’s case, it’s a karaoke bar that its narrator once went.
Rather than being a tearjerker ballad full of bitterness, heartache and recrimination, the song revisits the past relationship at its center with a sense of a joy that it all happened and a sense of optimism. As a songwriter once wisely wrong “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” And they’ll be new loves, new places to hold significance and new heartache — but all of it is worth it.
Directed by Jonathan Bree, the recently released video for “Waiting On The Moment” features Bree, his backing band and dancers performing the song in a sparse studio appearing in the wardrobe they do on stage — with each member covered head-to-toe in white zentai suits, wigs and monochromatic clothing.
I’ve written quite a bit about the Toronto-based punk trio and JOVM mainstays METZ over the years and if you’ve been frequenting this during that same period, you may recall that their third album, 2017’s Strange Peace found the band pushing their songwriting in new directions with their most personal and politically charged work to date — and while retaining the furious and blistering energy of their live sets, the material managed to capture the anxiety, uncertainty, fear and outrage that many of have felt over the past couple of years.
Earlier this year, Sub Pop Records released Automat, a collection of METZ’s non-album singles, B-sides and rarities dating back to 2009 on vinyl for the first time — including, the band’s long out-of-print (pre-Sub Pop) recordings. Essentially, the album is designed as a chronological trip through the acclaimed Canadian JOVM mainstays lesser-known material. Interestingly, the vinyl version of Automat included a bonus 7′ single of the band covering three very diverse songs, which will offer fans and listeners a glimpse into their wide-ranging tastes — a cover of Sparklehorse’s “Pig” off a very limited 2012 Record Store Day split single, originally released by Toronto-based record store, Sonic Boom; a cover of The Urinals’ “I’m a Bug” originally released on YouTube in 2014′; and lastly, a previously unreleased cover of Gary Numan’s “M.E.” Today, the three bonus tracks were made available to all digital services. So with that in mind, check out METZ’s explosive, feedback-driven take on Gary Numan’s classic “M.E.”
Featuring a three-headed Pleasure Principle hydra illustrated by Kirin Booth and animation by Martin MacPherson, the recently released video for “M.E.” is a mesmerizing and hallucinogenic romp.
Micheal Lane is a German-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who was raised in the States. As the story goes, he began singing at a very young age, using music as an escape from the troubles he was going through at any point during his life. After spending six years in the Army with three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lane realized that his life was going in a very different direction from the dreams he had. And in 2012, Lane left the States and returned to Germany, where his mother’s family still resides.
Lane participated in the second season of The Voice of Germany, eventually finishing third. His cover of Sarah McLachlan‘s “Angel” and his own original song “Mrs. Lawless” both placed in the Top 50 of the German Music Charts — and with a growing national profile, the Berlin-based singer/songwriter wound up playing at some of Germany’s largest, best known venues. Since then, Lane has released three albums and toured across Europe with his work amassing over 2 million Spotify streams and 1 million YouTube views to date.
Slated for release this fall, his self-produced, fourth album Traveling Son thematically finds Lane sharing intimate moments about both his childhood and his adulthood — while sonically, the material is subtly influenced by jazz. Traveling Son‘s latest single “Believe” is a carefully crated, beguiling pop song centered around Lane’s crystalline and plaintive vocals, strummed, acoustic guitar, blasts of shimmering electric guitar, and a huge, anthemic hook. And throughout, the song encourages and dares the listener to stop sitting on the sidelines and go for their dreams.
Born Tessa Violet Williams in Chicago, the up-and-coming, Nashville-based indie pop singer/songwriter and vlogger, Tessa Violet can trace the origins of her music career to a school project in which she began daily vlogging in 2007 for a school project with the screen name Meekakitty while working in Hong Kong and Thailand as a model; however, by 2009 Williams quit modeling and relocated to New York, to focus on her vlog, which primarily focused on storytelling, skits and music videos — particularly, fan-made music videos for popular artists like Reliant K, Family Force 5 and MIKA.
Wiliams gained national attention after winning $100,000 in a YouTube competition by receiving the most comments on her video entry. In 2011, Williams was featured in fellow YouTube creator Nanalew’s fan-made “Sail,” which went viral and has amassed over 310 million views. In 2012, The Chicago-born, Nashville-based indie pop singer/songwriter followed her appearance in “Sail” by appearing in the video for Family Force 5’s “Cray Button,” and then directing the act’s video for “Chainsaw,” which featured Tedashii.
By 2013 Williams began to focus on writing, recording and releasing music and the focus on her YouTube channel shifted to her original music, eventually leading to her dropping the Meekakitty moniker and using her real name Tessa Violet across all of her online platforms.
So far the past year or so has been a breakthrough, whirlwind year for the up-and-coming Chicago-born, Nashville-based indie pop artist: she’s released two critically applauded singles “Crush” and “Bad Ideas” — “Crush” has amassed over 18 million Spotify streams and the video has received over 36 million views. “Bad Ideas” became a viral hit. As result of the success of those two singles, Williams toured with her first live, backing band, which featured Jess Bowen (drums) — and that tour included her first sold-out headline shows at Los Angeles‘ The Troubadour and the Mercury Lounge.
Building upon an exploding profile, she just finished her first UK tour, which featured a sold out London show, and Billboard featured her as one of 10 new festival artists to look out for this year. She was also named the first YouTube Foundry Artist of 2019 — and she’ll be making her Lollapalooza debut this year. Her full-length album Bad Ideas will be released one song a month or so throughout the year, and the album’s third and latest single “I Like (The Idea of) You” recently premiered on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist and YouTube Music’s Pop Before It Breaks playlist. Centered around a disco meets New Wave-like bass line, the Chicago-born, Nashville-based pop artist’s latest single is a sultry and coquettish, late night strut that recalls DFA Records heyday.
“I was seeing this guy at the time, who I knew wasn’t into me. And even though I could see that, it was still so much fun to think and obsess about him,” Tessa Violet says of the song. “Replaying the way he said my name on the phone, imagining what I would wear or say the next time I saw him, thinking of things I could write about him. I remember that I could logically see it wasn’t going anywhere, so I thought maybe I should feel embarrassed about how much time I was spending on him. But it didn’t make me feel embarrassed, it made me feel sexy and powerful. So what if they’re not that into me? I like the idea of it and I’m going to enjoy that.”
I’ve written quite a bit about the internationally acclaimed synth pop Yumi Zouma throughout the nearly nine year history of this site. The act, which is comprised of Christie Simpson, Sam Perry, Charlie Ryder and Josh […]
Ryahn is a 20 year-old, Broward County, FL-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and pop artist, who grew up listening to her parents’ Al Green, Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams and The Delfonics records — and those records would eventually inform the up-and-coming Floridian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s own self-described soulful music. “I call it soulful music ’cause it comes from my soul,” Ryahn says in press notes.
While in middle school, Ryahn taught herself how to play ukulele from watching YouTube videos and from there, she picked up guitar, eventually writing songs in her bedroom. Her father’s death wound up being the impetus for the young singer/songwriter to start sharing her music publicly, and in 2015, she released her debut single “Babyboy” on Soundcloud, which has amassed about 500,000 streams to date. Since then she has released three singles “Ease Your Mind,” “Studio” and her latest single, the Sango-produced “Popstar.” Centered by a subtle and understated trap beat, skittering beats, brief blasts of electric guitar, Ryanh’s self-assured and sultry cooing, a sinuous hook and breezy, tropicalia vibes, the song which reveals a superstar in the making, is about manifesting what you want and living your fantasy — right this very second.
Directed by Yavez Anthonio, the recently released video, which was shot in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil further emphasizes both the song’s tropicalia vibes and the song’s theme of living out your fantasy by following the up-and-coming pop artist and her friends surrounded by the city’s gorgeous landscapes.
“Popstar” will be included on Ryahn’s soon-to-be-released debut EP Light Blue, which is slated for release next month. The EP’s title pays homage to her career’s journal so far. “I started this project when I was feeling at rock bottom and looking for a way out of the mental hole I was in. It’s about coming from your lowest point to a place of peace and clarity. Light Blue,” the Broward County-born, Los Angeles-based artist explains in press notes.
Initially formed as the solo recording project of its founding member and primary songwriter Issac Flynn (vocals, guitar), the Kansas City, KS-based indie rock at Hembree expanded to a full-fledged band with the additions of Garrett Childers (bass, vocals), Eric Davis (keys, synth) and siblings Alex (guitar) and Austin Ward (drums). Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that with the release of “Can’t Run Forever,” a shimmering, dance floor friendly track, which amassed well over 500,000 streams on Spotify and YouTube, the Kasabian and Primal Scream-like “Holy Water,” which was featured in an Apple ad campaign, and a self-assured debut EP, the members of the Kansas City-based band quickly established a regional and national profile. Adding to the growing buzz surrounding them, last saw saw the band named as one of the “Best Artists We Saw at SXSW” by Rolling Stone and one of NPR’s “Spotlight Artists of the Year” — and they went on their first headlining tour of the UK.
Building upon a growing number of accolades, the band’s highly-anticipated full-length debut House On Fire is slated for an April 26, 2019 release through Thirty Tigers — and the album, which features attention grabbing singles “Almost,” which Earmilk called “contagiously upbeat” and the viral hit “Culture,” which has amassed over 850,000 streams and has landed in the Top 50 of the Alternative Charts may arguably be their breakthrough effort. Interestingly, House On Fire‘s third and latest single is the atmospheric, mid-tempo anthem “Heart.” Centered around an enormous hook, some swooning and deeply earnest songwriting, shimmering synths and guitars and a propulsive rhythm section, the decidedly 80s inspired synth pop/synth rock track, the song as the band’s Issac Flynn says is “about lying awake next to the one you love, and feeling completely at peace in that moment. It’s also about the realization that so many of life’s stresses are somewhat insignificant at the end, and the people we love are what really matter.”