Spaceland Block Party
Joey Bada$$ is an American, independent hip-hop Recording Artist, who hails from Brooklyn, New York. with his rugged style, an invigorating outcome of his Brooklyn neighborhood and surroundings, Joey Bada$$ has been a staple in the hip-hop industry for maintaining an authentic, unique and versatile sound. whereas other rappers may take less risks with formulaic projects, Joey never shies away from keeping his music raw and original.
He is a co-founder of the collective Pro Era, with whom he has released two mixtapes and toured the globe multiple times. Joey released his debut mixtape, 1999, in June 2012 to critical acclaim and recognition, followed by Rejex in September, and Summer Knights on July 1, 2013.
His debut studio album, B4.da.$$, released on 1/20/2015 through Pro Era Records / Cinematic Music Group, sold an impressive 56,000 units its opening week making it the #1 rap and #1 independent album in the country. The project henceforth received acclaim from his critics as well as his fans and is the catalyst that has placed Joey among hip-hop’s elite, as the album has sold 251,469 copies world wide to date.
After his debut album release in January, Joey spent the better part of 2015 touring; playing overseas festivals; creating original music for soundtracks, such as ’Southpaw,’ as well as a national tour in the U.S, all while establishing the first annual Steez Day Festival in New York on July 7th.
In 2017, Joey was featured in Forbes Magazine as well as in international Adidas and Calvin Klein ad campaigns. Joey performed on the main stage at last year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and debuted his single, “Devastated”, on stage. He also saw a reoccurring role in the 2nd season of the Golden Globe-Winning television show Mr. Robot which airs on USA network. In 2017, Joey is currently gearing up for the release of his forthcoming album “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” featuring J. Cole, ScHoolboy Q, Styles P, & more set to release on 4/7/2017.
At the age of 23, Grammy nominated artist Vic Mensa has already established himself as an
integral part of Chicago culture, first co-founding the SAVEMONEY collective and releasing two
mixtapes in two years and now as a solo artist signed with the Roc Nation family. In 2016 Vic
Mensa released his critically acclaimed EP “There’s Alot Going On” which included the powerful
song “16 Shots” about the tragic shooting of Chicago Teen Laquan McDonald and “Shades of
Blue” which is a reflection on the Flint Michigan Water Crisis. Vic Mensa is currently on tour and
his live performances to date include Wireless Festival, Governors Ball Festival, 2015 Coachella
Valley Music and Arts Festival, Lollapalooza, Budweiser’s Made in America Festival and many
Born out of the bustling indie rock-centric borough of Brooklyn, New York, Cape Cod-bred rockers Highly Suspectformed in 2009 around the talents of Johnny Stevens (guitar, vocals, synths) and twin siblings Ryan (drums, vocals) and Rich (bass, vocals) Meyer. A muscular, hard-hitting power trio in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon, Band of Skulls, and Royal Blood, the group issued a three-song EP (The Worst Humans) before heading into the studio with producer Joel Hamilton (Black Keys, Elvis Costello) to record their debut long-player. The resulting Mister Asylum, which featured the fiery single "Lydia," was released via 300 Entertainment in 2015. Their debut received critical praise, and two unexpected Grammy nominations, that led to an extensive tour in support. The tour finished in early 2016, although they immediately returned to the studio to record a second full-length, The Boy Who Died Wolf, which saw release in November of that year.
Beginning as a big-haired, black-clad garage punk outfit and soon morphing into something more experimental, the Horrors featured singer Faris Badwan, bassist Tomethy Furse, guitarist Joshua Von Grimm, drummer Coffin Joe, and keyboardist Spider Webb. The Horrors formed in the summer of 2005 and quickly gained notoriety around London for their look, sound, and brief but frantic live shows. Loog soon signed them, and the Horrors released their official debut single, Sheena Is a Parasite/Jack the Ripper, in spring 2006. The buzz around the band reached a peak that summer: the Horrors DJ'ed at the Troubled Minds club night, had to reschedule in-store appearances because of crowd concerns, and released their second single, Death at the Chapel. They also reissued Sheena Is a Parasite as a limited-edition DVD single. The song's startling video was directed by Chris Cunningham and featured actress Samantha Morton as Sheena. Late that summer, the band signed to Stolen Transmission in the U.S. and released a self-titled EP that fall. They also issued the Count in Fives single in the U.K. around that time.
The Gloves single arrived early in 2007, heralding the release of the Horrors' full-length debut, Strange House, which arrived in the U.K. that March and in the U.S. in May. In 2008, Webb and Furse formed the analog synth project Spider & the Flies, and released the album Something Clockwork This Way Comes. For 2009's Primary Colours, the band worked with Cunningham and Portishead's Geoff Barrowas co-producers, opting for a very different sound that mixed shoegaze, post-punk, and goth; the album was released by XL that spring and earned several critical raves, including NME's Album of the Year. In between albums, Badwanteamed with Canadian opera singer Rachel Zeffira for the hazy pop project Cat's Eyes, which released its self-titled debut in early 2011. The Horrors self-produced their follow-up, 2011's Skying, which featured a lighter yet still atmospheric sound that drew comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and the Psychedelic Furs. In 2012, they released the remix companion album Higher and embarked on an extensive tour. In 2013, they began recording new material with producer Craig Silvey. Early the following year, the single "I See You" reflected the more expansive direction of their fourth album, Luminous, which arrived in May 2014.
Snow Tha Product
Hip Hop has never seen anyone like Snow tha Product. Every rapper says they’re different, but Claudia Feliciano boasts a certifiably rare design. She may look like a model, but she raps like a marauder. Consider her the fast-rap progeny of Lauryn Hill, Eminem, and the Big Punisher—a versatile star ready to shatter the glass ceiling faced by Latina rappers.
Snow is the rare total package: she sings and writes catchy hooks like a Top 40 radio killer but raps in both English and Spanish with the ferocity of a microphone fiend. That’s why she accrued a massive cult before signing a deal with Atlantic Records. All it took was her viral video for “Holy Shit” to make jaws drop. The lyrics that kick started the song said it best: “could it be that a femcee goes this hard…[but looks] like me?” It could.
“There are two sides to me. I want to go hard with tracks like “Holy Shit,” but there are female subjects that I want to talk about too,” Snow says. “The only thing I’m not rapping about is sex. There are plenty of other rappers to do that.”
This is merely one of the impressive things about Snow. She’s refused to exploit her sexuality—instead relying strictly on rap skill and songwriting ability. Her intricate flow and complex wordplay wow fans of lyricism. Her relatable narratives and integrity inspire girls and women without coming off as condescending or preachy. Her YouTube smash, “Drunk Love” is self-deprecating and slightly sad, as Snow acknowledges relationship failings in the face of intense affection. She’s the heiress to a throne that had been abdicated since the heyday of Lauryn Hill.
“I want to show little girls that if you’re talented, focus on that,” Snow says. “I want people to respect me as a songwriter, artist and rapper. I want people to know the difference between someone who merely wants to get ahead and someone who respects themselves.”
Snow bucked the odds and built her base of “Product Pushas” away from the usual industry hubs of LA, New York, or Atlanta. Raised by two Mexican-born parents, she grew up in San Jose and San Diego and currently calls Texas home.
These surroundings led Snow to grind the old-fashioned way. She’s gained fans with every one of her half-dozen mixtapes and independent records. She’s sold mixtapes one by one on the streets of San Jose and San Diego. She’s paid for her own videos and promotional flyers, but has also worked with legends like Tech N9ne, Three Six Mafia’s DJ Paul, Lupe Fiasco, and Too Short. XXL hailed her as being “part of the new wave of female MCs who are turning heads.” Hip Hop DX predicted, “Snow is set to have a breakout 2013.”
Ultimately, Snow defies categorization. She’s more than a “femcee” or a “Latina rapper.” She’s politically minded and passionate, but resists being pigeonholed as a “conscious rapper.” She contains all the multitudes and contradictions that make any artist interesting. In a world where we’re surrounded by options, she’s the rare product that we’ve never seen.
“I’ve grown and matured as an artist. I’m Snow, not the Mexican rapper girl among the rest of the girls,” Snow says. “You don’t think of Adele as a female singer. You think of her as Adele. I have a message and a people to represent. I’m doing this for so much more than just me.”
There is any number of reasons to put a band together; Black Kids have one of their own. Ask Reggie Youngblood, Black Kids co founder, what drives this much talked about group and he replies. "Our goal is to create music that would incite one to dance and to cry."
On their much-anticipated debut Partie Traumatic, Black Kids -Ali Youngblood (vocals/key), Dawn Watley (keys/vocals), Owen Holmes (bass), Kevin Snow (drums) and Reggie (vocals/guitar) hit that goal dead on. Produced by ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, Partie Traumatic is an infectious fusion of heart and hips; ten songs as energetic and pop injected, as they are emotional and reflective; albeit with a knowing if not sardonic twist. "We've been getting the impression that the record appeals to people of all ages, " Reggie explains, "but really, it's a teenager's record. Those perfect pop records, which deal with women? That inspired us. It made us anxious to get our hearts broken. We want to pass that disease on: chronic, unnecessary heartache and lust."
Witness "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You". Offers Reggie, "I'm Not Gonna..." is by far, the easiest song we've ever written. I conceived it while working in a miserable call center, presented it to the group at our first rehearsal, and we played it then exactly the way we play it now. I've read that it's the kind of song every band dreams of writing. Rightly so. I think the title existed long before the song did." Much like Partie Traumatic, "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boy Friend How To Dance With You" is a nod towards and subsequent reinvention of Black Kids eclectic influences; i.e. The Smiths, Beatles, disco, New Order, 80's Hair Metal, New Wave, Prince and Neil Young. Or as Reggie sums it up, "Every Goddamn thing".
Flat out cool and peppered with New Wave guitars and synths "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You", was released in the UK Spring 2008. Shortly afterwards the single was embraced by the notoriously harsh British press and then made its way on to the UK charts and radio, debuting in the single sales charts at an impressive #11. The song took them from sold out performances around the country to national television, appearing on top music show "Later...With Jools Holland" in April before they returned to the US for a jubilant coast -to-coast tour with Cut Copy. There's not really too much difference between fans over there or here, Reggie says. "Except that US audiences tend to exclaim, "You guys were fuckin' AWESOME!" While UK audiences prefer "fuckin' WICKED!" Even so, Black Kids status as musical exports did throw the kids from Jacksonville, Florida for a loop. "I'm not quite certain why the English took to us so fast, although I secretly hoped it would occur that way, but now, I'm confounded that it has. We were on (talk show host) Jonathan Ross' show recently, and he was convinced that we were English. But if you dissect our lyrics, there's the kind of slang that only an American who grew up in the 80's would know. "
Ranging in age between 22 and 28 years old, Black Kids' story begins with Reggie and his younger sister Ali. As Navy brats, Reggie and Ali moved frequently, living in three continents before the family settled in Jacksonville in 1986. The siblings met Jacksonville natives Kevin Snow and Owen Holmes in the late 90s and as the guys came into their teens they joined a string of rock groups. Owen and Reggie's last musical incarnation was titled Mata Hari and when they broke up Reggie, "through force and coercion" started the process of putting a new band together. First he reached out to Kevin and then "proceeded to bully" his sister Ali who, in turn, insisted on bringing in her friend (and youngest Black Kid) Dawn Watley. Ali and Dawn met a few years earlier, on a "sunny day in the park", and bonded over their shared love for music and crafts. Ali, a guitarist, and Dawn, a pianist, were already collaborating together on songwriting when Reggie came looking for new band mates.
The newly formed group called themselves "Black Kids" a decision, which Reggie explains, was "a clue from the Universe". The significance of the name? "It means quite a bit, and not much. On the trivial side, we think it sounds badass and looks cool. We like how it can be seen as contentious, but are actually innocuous; Besides, at any given moment in pop history, it's young, black people who are the innovators. Who are underground. Ali and I are black and being a black man, I have no problem with copping that imagery."
In 2007 Black Kids put Wizards of Ahhhs on their MySpace page. Along with a demo of "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance" the EP featured early versions of "the anthem for womanizers" -"Hit The Heartbrakes", "Hurricane Jane" and "I've Underestimated My Charm"-all included on Partie Traumatic.
A little more than year after Wizard Of Ahhhs became available, Black Kids were in the studio, and playing sold out gigs in the UK and America, and a spot in Rolling Stone's "10 Artists To Watch" issue; a heady career trajectory to be sure. "I mean, we did expect some sort of reaction," Reggie says, "but not so sudden. We've seemed to skip many steps. Like, touring regionally, signing to an indie label, releasing an album." That zero to sixty successes has caused critics to dub them Next Big Things but as many know that title can be a double-edged sword. "That's true", Reggie admits, "but one side is too dull to matter and the other so sharp you don't feel a thing."
Black Kids road from there to here might have been fast, maybe too fast for some folks liking but at the end of the day, as clichéd as it might sound. It is all about the music and the experience, which gives you the freedom to take that music anywhere it needs to be.
"It's immensely gratifying to play music for a living," Reggie says, "but you don't really get to "clock out". I pursued music as a means to avoid mundane and unsatisfying work. I work now more than ever. Thankfully."
The word 'brat' has followed Nathan Williams around for almost a decade, but at the age of 30, with a fully-fledged business to his name, as well as the ongoing success of band Wavves, his rebellious streak has proven not just purposeful but pretty damn inspiring. The San Diego native knows how to play the system, so when the major labels came knocking a few years ago looking to turn Wavves into the next so-called saviours of radio rock'n'roll, Williams and bassist Stephen Pope made sure they used it to their advantage.
"We were just trying to go to eat at nice places in LA," he laughs. "There were a few people from majors who would not stop reaching out to us. They were obsessed. They thought we had heat and they needed an edgy big rock band like they used to have in the '90s. Me and Stephen were in our shitty apartments, Googling 'nicest restaurants in LA'. We went to eight or nine dinners. At the end we'd say, 'not interested'."
When Warners came along and offered them a cash advance too good to refuse, they accepted while being shrewdly aware of what they were getting themselves into. "We still owned all of our shit, which was the most important part for us. For them it was a shot in the dark." The day to day of being signed to a major, however, was unpredictable and beyond their wildest nightmares. "I figured it would run the same as [prior label] Fat Possum, just with more people. I was wrong." By the time they were readying to release their second Warners album - 2015's 'V' - shots were fired. Williams released single 'Way Too Much' on Soundcloud before the label had approved it, the label forgot to sign off on the artwork and, in the end, Wavves felt swept under the rug. Ultimately it felt like a career step backwards.
"I'd never come in contact with such a poorly run company in my life," says Williams. "It was anarchy. Nobody knew what they were doing. Turnover rate was like an American Apparel. It was really all cons - unless you're a cash cow. For everyone else, major labels can't help you. Maybe at one time they could, but that time is dead." The birds-eye view on Warners' inner mess wound up pushing Williams to legitimize his own business - Ghost Ramp. "I figured if these idiots could get by, we could do it a hundred times better."
With that fighting spirit, Williams took back control and realized his own teenage dreams. Today, during a Monday lunchtime hour, he's making time between meetings to talk about forthcoming sixth Wavves record 'You're Welcome' in the stock room at Ghost Ramp's Chinatown-based LA skate shop. Opening in October 2016, Ghost Ramp is the physical embodiment of a vision that harks back to before Williams made the first Wavves' albums in his parents' garage. It's a merchandise store, it's a label, it's a tangible community in a time when the digital age has taken the confidence out of physical product. And - what's more - it's working. 'You're Welcome' is the soundtrack to this new lease of freedom. It's Williams' tongue-in-cheek rebirth as a self-released, self-actualized, self-promoting punk kingpin, and despite putting his money where his uncensored mouth is, he's emerged not just unscathed but with the upper hand. "I'm my own boss and that feels great," he smiles.
In February 2016, months before Ghost Ramp opened, Williams took himself into producer Dennis Herring's ['King Of The Beach'] studio in Downtown LA, and for the first time since the early records worked regular office hours and almost entirely alone. It was the polar opposite experience to making 2013's 'Afraid Of Heights' record, which took Wavves over a year and was "out of control". "We were so fucked up in the studio - everybody, the producer, the engineer, everyone recording. We'd waste days," recalls Williams. With this, Williams brought everyone in one at a time, ensuring it was the minimum amount of people possible. That prevented the recording from descending into midnight oil-burning party sessions.
The album was put together wholly differently from 'V', too, which was recorded live as a band album together with guitarist Alex Gates, drummer Brian Hill and Stephen in the studio. 'You're Welcome' is mostly comprised of Williams' oddball, sample-led brainstorms. He came up with 40 tracks, now whittled down to twelve, fat-free punk zingers. "I'd come up with an idea, fool around with it, have Brian come in and play drums, then figure it out." A sample nerd, Williams delved into his obsession with 1950s doo-wop and - surprisingly - international folk, including Cambodian pop and '70's psychedelia from South America.
The results make for one of the most diverse and intricate Wavves records yet. 'Come To The Valley' contains a Phil Spector meets Beach Boys '60s High School dance vibe, whereas title track 'You're Welcome' riffs on sound effects that could almost originate from Bizarro World, never mind Cambodia. Some of his ideas ran away with themselves a little too much, as Williams reveals one track was a little too close to Drake's 'Hotline Bling' for comfort. 'Million Enemies' is right in his comfort zone though. Inspired by New York Dolls, Bowie and Gary Glitter, he calls it "the anthem song." "It's a song for the haters," he says. The lyrics "I got enemies, a million enemies, living in the streets tonight" are a call-to-arms for anyone whose detractors are out to get them. "I don't have a million enemies," jokes Williams. "But probably 500,000."
The biggest shift of all, and the ultimate laying down of the gauntlet to Williams' doubters, is the subject matter. Where 'V' was a "buzzkill" record, all hangovers, lovers' tiffs and depression, 'You're Welcome' is less navel-gazing. It's dealing with matters outside of Williams' own headspace. "I'm tired of writing about myself," says Williams. "It got boring. On this record I tell more stories, talk about parts of my life from other people's perspective." 'Stupid In Love' for instance is about a female junkie who lived near him back in San Diego. 'Animal' is his anti-corporate, anti-establishment track. "The whole world covered in gasoline and burning alive/I feel taken advantage of and empty inside" go the lyrics.
On their last tour, Wavves banned members of the audience, including homophobes, anti-abortionists, racists, and Trump supporters. Ghost Ramp's website is currently donating to the likes of ACLU, Planned Parenthood and National Immigration Law Center. On 'You're Welcome' too, it seems Williams has decided to get political, particularly on the song 'Exercise', with its lyrics "dancing while the world is burning down... I can't believe the shit they feed to us/They're lying to our face."
"I never thought I'd write a song like that," says Williams. "I don't know if it's because I'm older or because shit got so fucked up and crazy but at this point now you shouldn't be worried to say something. I wanna make it very clear what side I'm on. If you're quiet about it because you don't wanna upset some of your fanbase, then that's part of your fanbase you need to weed out."
There's also - finally - a love song, called 'I Love You' that lays Williams' emotions bare unashamedly for the first time. Perhaps too, a sign of maturity. "It's just a love song," he says. "I'd always skirt around feelings and find different ways of saying things unless I was literally saying, 'I'm depressed.'"
Offering a tour around Ghost Ramp's store, Williams explains that they're already looking to expand and move into a bigger space next door this year. Back in 2013, he put out Wavves' 'Life Sux' EP by himself. It was too much of a headache and he realized he needed to build a team of capable friends. Now that team runs this daily operation, proving that DIY and business savvy can be bedfellows. It's still hilarious to Williams that even in the early days, people would chastise him for "selling out". "Did people think that when I'm 45 I'd still be recording records in my mom's basement? Being an entrepreneur, having a hold over your own business, being able to employ your friends and create not just a place for fans but for other people to share their ideas too is so cool."
Via Ghost Ramp, Williams isn't just putting out Wavves' new record, he's signing other local garage bands, funding his tours, schooling DIY artists in how to create and distribute merchandise in a way that supports your career and provides future security where nobody else can. As for Warners, that cash advance helped pay for this store. The rest came from the money Wavves made off merch during 2016's Summer Is Forever II Tour with Best Coast and Cherry Glazerr. "I thought Ghost Ramp would be a hobby, doing 7-inches here and there. But now it's a legitimate business," says Williams. "The thing is I'm not just interested in making music for Wavves. I'm too ADD. Being an entrepreneur, being hands-on isn't just smart, it's necessary. Your art is everything you do, every choice you make. I was able to build my own thing, own it and control it all 100%. If I want to do something now I don't ask anyone. I just fucking do it - that's priceless."
Nathan Williams never went away, but now he's made sure he's here to stay far longer. And for that, girls and boys, you're welcome.
With an eye-catching signature blonde pixie cut, delightful nineties superstar fixation, and singing and songwriting prowess befitting of her stadium ambition, Betty Who commands the dance floor.
“I’ve spent the past two years on the road, and I walked away with this intense feeling of wanting to make dance music,” she exclaims. “All of that touring and living developed my sense of self. It’s a really fast learning curve out there. You have to learn how to get better immediately. Because of that, I’m in a place where I feel more aware of who I am and able to be vulnerable in a sincere and blunt way. My band and I have the best time ever. It’s about creating songs that feel huge in front of a crowd of 20 or 20,000. I know that I want to get people moving.”
That’s what the Australia-born and Los Angeles-based songstress has been doing since the release of her explosive 2013 independent EP, The Movement. Who’s 2014 full-length debut, Take Me When You Go [RCA Records], cemented her as a 21st century buzzworthy pop force “replete with skyscraper-size tunes that could rattle the screws in the nosebleeds”—as proclaimed by Vogue. While the lead single “Somebody Loves You” went on to amass over 26 million Spotify streams and counting, she earned glowing acclaim from Harpers Bazaar, Time, Glamour, Elle, New York Magazine, and Spin who dubbed Take Me When You Go the “Best Pop Album of 2014.”
Between high-profile tours with Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue and Kiesza, she performed on The View, The Today Show, and Late Night With Seth Meyers and guested on Troye Sivan’s RIAA gold-selling Blue Neighbourhood in 2015. Her 2016 cover of Donna Lewis’s 1996 smash “I Love You Always Forever” quickly racked up more than 11 million Spotify streams in a few months’ time, went platinum in Australia, and laid the foundation for what would become her sophomore offering.
“There are a bunch of different reasons I went in the direction I did,” she goes on. “I feel like I’ve grown up a lot along the way.”
Recording the bulk of the material in Los Angeles with a few sessions in New York, she quietly cultivated a style that’s equally smart, sexy, and spunky. The single “Human Touch” illuminates Who’s progression. Produced by and co-written with longtime collaborator Peter Thomas, the track begins with a hummable synth as finger-snaps propel the beat. Her inimitable voice takes the spotlight building from a breathy croon into a seductively connectable refrain, “Just need a human touch.”
“It was about this experience I had,” she admits. “When you’re in a relationship with somebody and that relationship ends, you’ll always live in this weird middle ground where you used to be the closest person in the world to this ex—but now you’re not anymore. It’s real to me, and I’m talking about when I got together with an ex-boyfriend for a week after everything between us had ended for a while. It felt universal enough for me to write about. ‘Human Touch’ is the introduction to that new version of myself I’ve found in the last couple of years.”
As a both writer and multi-instrumentalist, she continues to paint pictures with a hypnotic and heartfelt honesty. Drawing on everything from her childhood classical training at Michigan’s Interlochen Center of the Arts to a lifelong Joni Mitchell and Carole King obsession, Who brings a poignant and personal perspective to pop music.
“On this album, I implemented something of a rule,” she says. “All of the songs, except for maybe one or two, can be played at a piano or with a guitar. I can actually sing you the story of the song with everything stripped away. It was so important to me.”
Ultimately, Who is ready to make listeners move worldwide. “I love it when people tell me they’ve listened to my music on a shitty day, and it genuinely made them feel better,” she leaves off. “‘Human Touch’ makes you feel sexy and want to dance. No matter what it is, I want to be there for my fans and anybody who listens to what I’m doing. When a record moves somebody, that defines success for me.”
When the four members of Preoccupations wrote and recorded their new record, they were in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. Frontman Matt Flegel, guitarist Danny Christiansen, multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro and drummer Mike Wallace all moved to different cities. They resolved to change their band name, but hadn't settled on a new one. And their road-tested, honed approach to songwriting was basically thrown out the window. This time, they walked into the studio with the gas gauge near empty, buoyed by one another while the rest of their lives were virtually unrecognizable and rootless. There was no central theme or idea to guide the band's collective cliff jump. As a result, 'Preoccupations' bears the visceral, personal sound of holding onto some steadiness in the midst of changing everything.
Flegel is quick to point out how little mystery is in the titles of these songs: Anxiety, Monotony, Degraded, Stimulation, Fever. "Monotony is a dead end job; Anxiety is changing as a band," he says. "Memory is watching someone lose their mind; Fever is comforting someone. It's all drawing from very specific things." These things - bigger ones like breakups, smaller ones like simply trying to calm someone down - are ultimately the things that explode our brains, that keep us up at night. And so where their previous album 'Viet Cong' was built in some ways on the abstract cycles of creation and destruction, 'Preoccup... ations' explores how that sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-revelatory trap affects our lives. "We discarded a lot, reworking songs pretty ruthlessly," Munro explains. "We ripped songs down to the studs, taking one piece we liked and building something new around it. It was pretty cannibalistic, I guess. Existing songs were killed and used to make new ones." Sonically, it's still blistering. But it's a different kind of blister, less the the scorched earth of the band's previous LP, more like a blood blister on a fingertip: something immediate and physical that you push and stare at. It's yours.
Opener "Anxiety" articulates that tension: clattering sounds drift into focus, bouncing and echoing off one another until one bone-shattering moment when the full band strikes at once, moving from something untouchable to get to something deeply felt. "Monotony" moves at a narcoleptic pace by Preoccupations' standards, but snaps to attention to make its point, that "this repetition's killing you // it's killing everyone." "Stimulation" opens with a snarl and hurls itself forward at what feels like a million bpm, pausing for one mortal moment of relief before barreling onward. "Degraded" surprises, with something like a traditional structure and an almost pop-leaning melody to its chorus, twisting the bigness of Preoccupations' music to sideswipe the clear, finite smallness of its subjects and events. And the 11-minute-long "Memory" is the album's keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk center. There's love piercing through the iciness here, fighting its way forward in each of the song's distinct sections.
Together, Dante and Drew are THEY., two like minds determined to shatter expectations and trash perceived genre parameters. Their debut album, Nü Religion: hyena, cannot be boxed in as simply R&B. Listen a little harder—to the minor chord guitar ripples on “Motley Crew,” the jarring futurist verses of “What You Want,” with its swaggering pop topline. Then there’s “Dante’s Creek,” with the unexpected lift from the Dawson’s Creek theme tune. THEY.’s inventiveness is stitched into songs full of surprising cadences and musical swerves.
Born in Denver, Colorado (with stints in Oklahoma—after his mother passed when he was 15—and Chicago), Dante grew up pillaging his mom’s record collection. His love for Cameo, Prince, and Ready for the World segued into New Edition, Guy, and Bobby Brown. But he’s also very much a child of the 90s, religiously tuning into MTV and VH1, watching as much TRL as Oasis and No Doubt videos; he voraciously consumed issues of Vibe and XXL, immersing himself in the work of The Diplomats and Juvenile. Likewise, Dante floated between cliques at school. For instance, from his friends on the basketball team he got into Fall Out Boy, Senses Fail, and Circa Survive, meanwhile in secret, on is brother Marvin’s MPC, Dante would make beats and record one-take raps. Early on his focus lay largely in production: “I wanted to be able to sing and Drew encouraged me to sing certain parts on the album. There’s a certain texture to my voice that actually works on a lot of the songs.”
While Dante was spending his teens jumping from genre to genre, Drew—who was born in San Antonio and raised in Maryland—grew up exposed to an equally diverse palette of sounds. In his mom’s car it was Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson; in his dad’s, Funkadelic and Kenny G. He declares Hansen’s “MMMbop” was his favorite song for the first few years of his life, while also celebrating sheeny pop of N*Sync and Britney’s “…Baby One More Time.” Drew would sing in the shower, manipulating his voice to imitate his idols. “I think because of all the different musical influences, I just kind of channel it all into my own jambalaya mix of how I approach everything.”
But Drew’s adolescence was markedly different to Dante’s. His parents were in the military and Drew’s instinct has always been to push against strictures. “I was combative,” he says. “I didn’t like to listen to anybody.” While this innate stubbornness would stand him in good stead as an artist seeking to forge his own sound later, initially, music was simply an escape: “I was severely bullied all through middle school and high school,” he explains. “I was easily the least popular kid in school for sure—the butt of every joke. I always wanted to get revenge on those kids, but not in a violent way. Music gave me an outlet.”
There was one other crucial twist of fate and talent that accelerated the pair’s ascent from the studio to center stage stars: When Dante first moved to LA he fell in with electronic producer ZHU, which organically lead to Dante meeting the Mind of a Genius crew, whose roster boasts ZHU, Gallant, and Klangstof, and now THEY.. So in 2015 when ZHU was looking for that final hook on collaboration with Skrillex, THEY. stepped up. To date “Working for It” has been streamed 150 million plus times.
In many ways, Nü Religion: Hyena is their mission statement, songs that take the traditional and turn that on its head, but also say something. It’s on “Silence,” with its sparse sensuality and rippling hi-hats, that Drew feels the most exposed (“It’s about that moment right after the climax when you hit that cigarette or that blunt, when you’re not saying anything and she’s not saying anything.”) Elsewhere, on the bristling “Say When,” which Dante acknowledges marries Rage Against the Machine’s ferocity with trap tropes, the producer and singer holds a mirror up to society.
THEY.’s record, and indeed their overall mindset, is one of progression—that’s their nü religion. As for the hyena, well what is a hyena? Feline or canine? “They can’t really be classified,” says Dante. “That’s a little bit how we feel, especially with this project: Hyenas are still feared and they’re outsiders too.”
SALES is the collaboration between long time friends Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih.
The Florida indie pop duo self-released their eponymous six-track debut EP on September 22, 2014 featuring the singles “renee”, “chinese new year”, “vow”, and “getting it on”, and were named “Ones to Watch” by Hype Machine + BBC Radio 6 Music. So far, the songs on SALES EP have over 3 million streams on Soundcloud and over 11 million streams on Spotify. They have since headlined tours in the US, Canada, and Europe, selling out concerts in many major cities.
Embracing a DIY ethic, their long-awaited fifteen-track debut album, SALES LP, was self-released on April 20, 2016 along with the singles “big sis”, “jamz”, and “ivy”. The intimate album is an homage to their limitations with time, equipment, money, and space. Working on music tirelessly by moonlight between dead-end jobs, both the LP and EP were recorded from an apartment bedroom studio. The LP was produced, mixed, and mastered by SALES, and created under the duo’s “as is” approach to music — each track explores new territory as they heavily rely on experimentation within their artistic process, whether it is switching lead guitarists, moving over to let someone else hold the mouse, recording vocals through Apple headphones (rather than the stellar SM7B), or inserting a 404 into a ballad.
The distinct sound the duo has created is minimal, yet meticulously crafted, emotive and incisive. SALES LP has caught the attention of Pitchfork, Pigeons & Planes, My Old Kentucky Blog, Crack in the Road, and many others. The addition of the SALES LP to their tiny repertoire is only the beginning of an ever-expanding sound, and a small step in a new approach to music: empowered by the digital listening experience, and completely independent of a record label.
When Aaron Maine looks back on his early work as Porches, he’s often struck by how sad and angry it can feel. “That music turned out a lot more pessimistic than I intended it to be,” he says. “But when I took a sad moment and turned it into a song, it was a cathartic, positive, and clean process. For me, those moments were victories. Feeling better,” he adds, “was making a song.”
As it turns out, Maine is very good at making songs. Over the last few years, the 27-year-old singer and songwriter has released a wealth of material on a number of influential labels, including singles on Terrible (2014’s Prism), Birdtapes (2013’s Townie Blunt Guts) and Seagreen (2014’s Leather), as well as a beautiful yet crushing full-length on Exploding in Sound (2013’s Slow Dance In The Cosmos). And in the process he’s become a magnetic live presence while playing out in New York, gaining the notice of discerning listeners and labels alike. February 2016 marks the much-anticipated release of Pool, his debut full-length for Domino and a major step forward for him—as an evolving singer/songwriter, and as a nascent producer. Written and recorded almost entirely in the Manhattan apartment he shares with his partner and frequent collaborator, Greta Kline a.k.a Frankie Cosmos, Pool is an elegantly drawn set of gorgeous, synth-driven pop songs that were influenced, in part, by settling in the city as an artist and a person. “I’m feeling like I’m in a more permanent situation than I’ve been in before,” he says. “There is something special about recording at home. It’s why it sounds the way it does. Being able to obsess over it on your own time and being in your own little cube knowing you’re surrounded by the city, being able to go so deep into it and to spend hours building it, loving it: all of that allowed me to reflect and focus on things a little closer.”
The album was recorded twice - the first time a crash-course in learning Logic and navigating his first synthesizers and drum machines, the second time starting from scratch with a better hold on the recording process - and eventually mixed by Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Tobias Jesso Jr.) in his Los Angeles studio. Sometime in 2014, Maine, a long-devoted Neil Young fan, began listening to house and electronic music and contemporary pop music more closely and frequently than he ever had before. What followed is a hypnotic and expansive re-articulation of the melancholy we’ve come to expect, from the pristine harmonies of “Hour” to the undulating R&B of “Underwater” to the Auto-tuned majesty of the title track. “I feel like the lyrics are like mood boards or collages of my experience in New York,” he says. “Rather than focusing on a particular incident or story like I have in the past, I wanted to be more abstract, in order to paint a very specific mood: ideas of lightness and darkness, water, air, movement, acceptance and security.” The result is a sophisticated and fully immersive listening experience, with Maine’s voice at its center. “I’m getting a little older and a little more in touch with my emotions,” he adds. “I just wanted to make this album more positive and to make sure that my message was coming across clearly this time. I never wanted my music to bum people out. I feel like I naturally gravitate towards the more melancholic experiences in life, but this time around I tried to dissect those moments and somehow extract what was so beautiful about them to me. With this record, I want people to feel something different, something subtler. I want people to feel dark, beautiful and strong when they hear this new record. I want people to put it on at a party and go wild, to put it on just walking or driving around. I want them to fall in love to this record.”
The Tijuana Panthers are from Long Beach, a great band, staring at the sea, staring at the sand… POSTER is their latest album.
POSTER? As in Post Punk? Post Surf? Post Cowpunk? How about post any wave that has come and gone and will come back and go again? Post all that. How about putting the ‘post’ back in posterity? POSTER is another great record by the Tijuana Panthers! Not just for posterity’s sake – for RIGHT NOW!
Earlier Tijuana Panthers albums were urgent – as if cranking out the hits was objective number one. They cranked out the hits and they did it true. From point A to point B. But POSTER is the Tijuana Panthers now, at their most confident and present minded. They have arrived. They’ve stepped out of the past or future and into the now. Go back if you must to revisit the hits, but POSTER is now, I say! There is no longer a race against time.
On this album the hit feeling is all around you. They are exploring the time and space of that feeling. Sounds come and go, maybe to return, maybe not. This is the Tijuana Panthers freed from the tried and true structure. They have freed themselves only to be trapped again and again, in this moment, making noise, stretching out, letting odds and ends fall where they may. After all, this album was recorded in just two days! No time for fallacy! No time for façade! POSTER is but a moment to be lived and continually re-lived! What else do we have? Truth itself?! All I know – and can ever know – is this moment now, POSTER, apartment windows opening and closing, lyrics passing like ads on buses, tones swelling and crashing through breezeways…
Oddisee & Good Compny
The son of Sudanese and American parents, Amir Mohamed was born and raised in the United States capital city of Washington DC, spending hot summers in Khartoum learning Arabic and swimming in the Nile. Growing up amidst the sounds of New York hip hop, his father playing Oud, Go-Go, and gospel, Amir took his first steps as an MC producer in the analog basement studio of his legendary neighbor, Garry Shider (Parliament Funkadelic).
Convincing his entrepreneurial father that he too had business acumen, Amir laid the check from his first commercial release on the kitchen table before his 21st birthday and never looked back. Though Oddisee has gone on to perform with The Roots, produce for Freeway, Jazzy Jeff, Little Brother, De La Soul & Nikki Jean, and has MC’d on production from Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke and Kev Brown, his proudest moment was the birth of his critically acclaimed group Diamond District with fellow Washingtonians X.O. and yU.
Known in the music industry for his independence, Oddisee consistently debunks the scatterbrained artist myth - doing everything from booking international tours to photography to marketing and promoting himself and even other artists. He now works as both artist and consultant with Mello Music Group, one of the foremost emerging independent labels to take advantage of the digital revolution to build a successful business.
German-born, Los Angeles-based Noah McBeth, aka NoMBe, is a singer/songwriter/producer known for atmospheric, minimalist modern R&B. A native of Heidelberg, Germany, NoMBe was born into a creative family with a drummer, producer, songwriter father and a mother who worked as a fashion model. He is also the godson of iconic R&B-vocalist Chaka Khan. Early on, NoMBe was encouraged to listen to classical music, and studied piano while growing up. Along with his formal training, he began exploring more pop, dance, and R&B sounds and experimenting with songwriting and production. After spending time in New York, NoMBe relocated full-time to Los Angeles in 2013 where he launched his solo career. He initially garnered attention with his 2015 single "California Girls." Two years later, he announced the arrival of his debut full-length album, They Might've Even Loved Me, by releasing one song a month. Included on the album are the tracks "Wait," "Young Hearts," and "Freak Like Me."
“Hidden Driver,” the opening track of LVL UP’s third album and Sub Pop debut Return to Love, never stops moving. What starts with unassuming guitars and vocals adds new lines, depths, and intensity, until its unrestrained, triumphant finish. “God is peeking, softly speaking,” repeats the chorus, working through the relationship between spirituality and creative inspiration, and introducing a band that is always pushing further.
LVL UP – guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin – is a true collaboration, a band that takes the stylistically distinct ideas of four members and brings them together into something new. Caridi, Benton, and Corbo write and sing equally, bringing their work to the group to be fully realized, resulting in an album built on different perspectives but a common drive.
“We have very different inspirations across the board,” says Benton, noting his own admiration for the writer and documentarian Astra Taylor, Corbo’s interest in the mystical and the occult, and Caridi’s attention to personal storytelling. The music itself grows from a shared melodic and experimental sensibility, as well as a nod to iconic influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie. But each songwriter has a different vision every step of the way, and there isn’t always alignment–it shouldn’t make sense, but in the end it does.
LVL UP was formed in 2011 at SUNY Purchase as a recording project between Caridi, Benton, and their friend Ben Smith, with the original intention of releasing a split cassette with Corbo’s then-solo material. They instead released that album, Space Brothers, as one band, and Rutkin joined shortly afterwards for the group’s first show. Smith left the band for personal reasons just before the release of second album Hoodwink’d, a joint release on Caridi and Benton’s label Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound. DDW also put out records from other artists in the tight-knit community that launched the band.
“There’s not really a town associated with the school, so there’s no bar or club that you could go play in easily,” says Corbo. “But there was a student center on campus that was all student run. That was a great place to play, and also take care of a lot of practical issues like a place to put your stuff and a place to practice weekly. It was almost like an incubator situation for us and a lot of other bands – it gave us a little bit of experience and confidence, so it wasn’t as scary when we decided to go on tour for the first time.”
Also part of that university community was Return to Love’s producer Mike Ditrio, who mixed LVL UP’s previous records and “was basically a fifth member of the band,” says Corbo. “He played a huge role in developing the sound, without butting in too much. He also navigated our personal dynamic really nicely.”
That sound is marked by reverb, harmony and tape distortion, with a keen balance of pop and experimentation. From the fast yet flowing lines of “Blur” to the all-consuming wall of guitar in “The Closing Door,” each song pushes and pulls in compelling, unexpected ways. There’s deliberation as well as spontaneity – the latter developed with the help of a song-a-day project, which pushed Caridi and Corbo to write and record full songs in a single day. Some of that material, including “Naked in the River with the Creator,” made it onto the album.
“I ultimately made this half-drone, half-really loud guitar song, because it was an idea I had floating around in my head but never got around to doing until I had to write a song in a day,” says Corbo. “The thing that pulled me through was grasping onto words and images, but instead of pulling from an infinite sea of all the images that you could pull from, it’s easier to constrict yourself a little bit.”
Jesse Boykins III
Alternative R&B singer Jesse Boykins III boasts a five-octave vocal range and a wide scope of inspirations that stretches from classic soul to the contemporary likes of Björk and Bilal. He has also soaked up the music of the various cultures to which he has been exposed, including reggae and salsa, but his output is rooted in R&B, occasionally accented with off-center electronics. Born in Chicago, Boykins spent a few years of his childhood in Jamaica prior to settling with his family in Miami. Involvement with his elementary school's choir proved to be a springboard, one that led to being picked as a member of the Grammy Jazz Ensemble. Later, at New York's New School University, he developed not only his vocals but songwriting, arranging, and production skills. The next logical step was releasing his music. Dopamine: My Life on My Back and The Beauty Created were issued in 2008. The albums placed him in the company of accomplished, not-quite-mainstream R&B artists such as Dwele, Eric Roberson, and Darien Brockington. He worked with MeLo-X on Zulu Guru, a full-length collaboration released on Ninja Tune in 2012. Love Apparatus, featuring productions from Travis Stewart (aka Machine Drum), followed in 2014. Boykins has also appeared as a featured guest on recordings by Chin Chin, the Foreign Exchange, Zo!, Theophilus London, Zodiac, Vic Mensa, and TOKiMONSTA.
With their long-awaited third album Everyone Else, Slothrust deliver ten riveting anthems that reward repeated listens. The songs grab the ear and pierce the psyche with complex arrangements and lyrical depth intensified by guitarist/vocalist Leah Wellbaum’s penetrating vocal delivery.
Slothrust is Wellbaum, Kyle Bann (bass), and Will Gorin (drums). The trio first staked out their unique strain of jazz- and blues-afflicted rock as students at Sarah Lawrence College. The band’s 2012 debut Feels Your Pain, and its successor 2014’s Of Course You Do, established the band as a breed apart, serving up deceptively clever epics that veer satisfyingly between incandescent riffing and pop hooks, winsome anxiety and powerful heft.
“People have always had trouble comparing us to other bands, but someone recently described us as Nirvana meets Wynton Marsalis, and I loved that,” says Wellbaum. Even the band’s name inspires a beat of thoughtful consideration as the eyes take in the letters and the brain makes its snap judgement: Slo Thrust? Slot Rust? Slo Trust? Sloth-Rust.
We all studied jazz and blues, so I often use chords and voicings that aren’t quite as conventional for contemporary rock,” she continues. “Certain harmonic movement can get stale, so I try to incorporate colorful notes to give it more depth. The improvisational spirit of blues music is also something we try to always keep with us, even in more composed playing. I am drawn to musicians a bit further outside of the rock tradition, such as John Fahey, Elizabeth Cotten, D'Angelo, and Portishead. Growing up I listened to a lot of R&B and classical music. And musicals."
While Everyone Else clearly shows Wellbaum fulfilling her early promise as a singer, it’s where she hits her stride as a lyricist: Pulling the listener under the surface to explore a submerged world brimming with exotic creatures. Water motifs abound, detailing oddly off-kilter observations about floating, submerging and drowning that are anything but morose. Instead, they contort and reflect worldly truths about life on dry land.
Nowhere is this vision clearer than on the slow burn of the album’s centerpiece track “Horseshoe Crab.” Here, with storm cloud riffs and Will Gorin and Kyle Bann’s perfectly calibrated rhythmic undercurrent, Slothrust’s erupts in a geyser of emotional and spatial distance, as Wellbaum observes, “I don’t have anything in common with myself, except that I came from the sea, like everyone else did.”
“Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone" opens like some bizzarro world lullaby dispensing sage advice: “Drink seltzer, smoke weed when you can’t sleep. Think about shooting birds, everyone has got a violent streak.” Then, as the guitars explode, the rhythm section dials into stylish, disciplined groove to set up an expansive instrumental break that gently floats to a close with Wellbaum, at peace: “Hold me under the water. My lungs are filling with plankton. But the lake is not lonely. No need for you to come with me.”
Above all the overriding ethos of Everyone Else is its sense of inclusiveness: all people, every feeling, quiet, loud, any time signature. With a snap of the neck the band launches into the hyper-adrenalized “Rotten Pumpkin” with Wellbaum singing in a rapid-fire vomit burst, “I’ll make you sick because I’m soft water. Reach inside of me, and scoop out my seeds.” This midpoint between grunge and art rock is the aesthetic Slothrust elevates: sharp-eyed individualism, serious musicianship, humble intelligence, controlled abandon.
Cende formed in 2013 when Dave Medina, Cameron Wisch, and Greg Rutkin graduated college and moved into David Blaine's The Steakhouse. After bonding over their love for the classic 1996 film "That Thing You Do", they decided that they too would start a band and take over the world. Soon after Bernard Casserly (Normal Person) was added to the lineup. His epic bass playing and good looks immediately brought the band to the level of "world class" with many referring to the group as "LITERALLY the best band besides Porches, Pile, Ovlov, and Krill."
Get Gone, the potent debut album by the Shreveport, Louisiana natives in Seratones, makes a strong case that this little-known corner of the state is fertile ground, musically speaking. A.J. Haynes (vocals), Connor Davis (guitar), Adam Davis (bass) and Jesse Gabriel (drums) serve up a combination of Southern musicality, garage rock ferocity, and general badassery.
Haynes’s powerful singing voice, first honed at Brownsville Baptist Church in Columbia, Louisiana at age 6, rings across every track. Davis’s bass and Gabriel’s playing propel every song with the grit, energy, and rawness of punk, the feeling of soul, and occasionally, a little jazz swing. The other Davis offers a clinic in guitar riffs, from swaggering blues to searing interstellar leads.
Roger Sellers is a lot of things. He’s a minimalist composer with a knack for making hypnotic, enveloping songs from a few repeated musical phrases. He’s a gifted musician who is mostly self-taught, having abandoned formal study because it was draining the life from his work. He’s a self-described disciple of Phil Collins. What he is not, however — despite multiple press reports to the contrary — is a DJ.
“I started developing a decent following in Austin,” he says, “but most of the time when I would play, the press would say something like ‘Local DJ Roger Sellers,’ or ‘Roger Sellers is playing a late-night DJ set.’ I think it was maybe because my live set involves a table full of gear, a drum set and headphones, but the average person probably knows more about DJing than I do.’” To combat the misunderstanding, Sellers printed up stickers reading, “Roger Sellers is Not a DJ,” and eventually adopted the alias Bayonne, changing his name without altering his approach.
And it’s a good thing: Primitives, Sellers’ debut as Bayonne, is a rich, complex work, the kind with no clear rock parallel. In its winding, maze-like structures are hints of both Steve Reich and Owen Pallett, each instrument working a single melodic pattern over and over and over, as Sellers threads his soft, reedy voice between them. On songs like “Appeals,” the effect is hypnotic: notes from a piano crash down like spilled marbles from a bucket, as Sellers’ ringing-bell vocals swing back and forth between them. The end result is spellbinding music, meticulously-crafted songs where each tiny piece locks into another, and hundreds of them joined together create a breathtaking whole — like dots in a Seurat, or tiny bones in a dinosaur skeleton.
Sellers’ journey to Bayonne began when he was two years old, situated in front of Eric Clapton Unplugged at his home in TK. “I’d just watch it over and over again,” he laughs. “I would get paint cans and bang on them, trying to imitate what I saw in the video. My parents got me a drum set when I was 6 years old and I became obsessed. I wanted to be Phil Collins for so many years as a child. He was my hero. I feel like you can hear that a lot in Primitives, that big drum sound, because so much of the way I play was learned from Phil Collins.” Though Sellers studied classical piano as a child and music theory in college, rather than developing his skill, he found both to be deadening. “It became homework,” he says. “It made me come home and not want to write. That’s not at all how I’d thought about music — it had always been something fun — almost like a kind of therapy. It was an escape, not a chore.”
Instead, Sellers struck out on his own, buying a looper and slowly amassing a stockpile of tiny melodies. “I found out that I could make these songs really spontaneously and have this really good idea without having to get into the studio to capture it right away. Most of these songs came out of me just fucking around, hooking up keyboards and experimenting.” The experiments cohered into music that is beautiful and densely layered. The composition of the individual musical phrases may have been spontaneous, but assembling them to create Primitives was anything but. Instead, Sellers constructed the songs from a collection of loops he’d built up over the course of six years. Some of those patterns were created on stage at his shows, where Sellers threads melodies together in real time, augmenting them with live drums and vocals. Others were written during downtime, improvising at home. Once he had the basic melodies, he had to figure out how they went together, and how to layer them meticulously to make songs that were rich in deep detail but still immediately engaging.
You can hear all of that in “Spectrolite”; taut apostrophes of guitar enter first, pinpricks of barely-there sound that blink like Christmas lights. Bone-dry snare enters next, but the guitars keep echoing their same hypnotic phrase; it’s followed by grumbling bass and, finally, Sellers’ airy, high-arcing voice; each piece follows their charted course again and again, but as the song goes on, it gets more engrossing — it gives the effect of slipping slowly into warm water. “That one came from an older loop that I had,” Sellers explains. “It was about a stone that my girlfriend at the time had brought me back from Australia, a spectrolite stone. We had some things happen between us during that time, so that stone meant a lot to me. I had it with me the entire time I made the record. It’s a song about forgiveness, and keeping those people who matter most to you close around you, and caring for those that you love.” In “Waves,” surging piano replicates the sound of the ocean, lapping slowly forward and back. Giant tribal drums enter, filling the blank space, giving the song a soft, calming, see-sawing rhythm. “That’s a song I basically wrote by performing it live,” Sellers says. “That’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written because of the simplicity of it,” he explains. “You feel like you’re in the ocean or something.” But as the song goes on, it skews darker. “I know that there’s something else, something else, something else,” Sellers sings, “And I know that you’d be there for me.” As the song goes on, the object of his affection drifts away, like a boat toward the skyline. Like all of Sellers’s songs, it centers carefully constructed music around the soft, glowing core of the human heart.
“That’s all of it — emotion,” Sellers says. “I want the music to carry people in some way, and I want them to feel what I’m feeling. I want my music to be an emotive expression.” On Primitives, Sellers creates music that’s nuanced, layered, complicated and soothing — easy to get lost in, impossible to ignore.
MOURN’s self-titled 2014 debut LP gave the world an interesting idea: Catalonian teenage wunderkinds making authentically great guitar-based music in an era where it’s considered almost unfashionable. Since that period, the band has faced some very real issues, both personally and professionally, things that 17-to-20 year olds normally don’t have to worry about. When dealing with such a youthful band, you worry about how they will live up to the early attention as it begins to dissipate. Upon hearing Ha, He, He. for the first time, it turns out, we never needed to look forward to MOURN growing into a great band; they already are one.
As the opening bars of “Flee” gallop into “Evil Dead,” it’s instantly evident that MOURN will continue their speedy ascent from local curiosity into an international band on the rise. Ha, He, He. is sonically deep, heavy and manages to retain all the immediacy of their successful debut MOURN. It’s one of those rare records where you watch a band’s level of sophistication grow leaps and bounds without losing the foundation and simplicity of what made people take note in the first place.
Ha, Ha, He. has all the twists and turns of Post-Rock from its Chicago heyday bolstered by the melodic quirkiness of a new influence for the band, Throwing Muses. On “Brother, Brother” and “Howard,” we see MOURN through a pop lens: undeniably catchy, but intricately performed and still somehow “heavy.” This is a band that can play around with the pop format in a way that doesn’t degrade their songwriting talent to the lowest common denominator. Not an easy task. Further on, the track “Storyteller” goes on it’s own trip through downtempo drudgery, into a melodic bridge, and concludes with anthemic sing-screaming. On the equally challenging-yet-beautiful “Second Sage,” it becomes apparent that MOURN have begun to carve out their own niche and their songs are no longer fits of inspiration indebted to their heroes, but just the band being themselves.
The penultimate “Irrational Friend” takes its chorus, “Ha. Ha. He.” from William Blake’s “The Laughing Song,” a poem from his Songs of Innocence and Experience. Much like the poem itself, the song is sort of a last gasp of screaming laughter on an album that’s marked in real time. You can sense the band working through their experiences as a group of young and talented people entering their 20s. They face a future that can be equally rewarding and cruel, with respect to their career in music as well as life in general.
Dude York’s Sincerely opens with a blast—the massive opening chords of “Black Jack,” a squealing track that blends the swagger of glam with the heavy riffing and ringing hooks of arena rock. The Seattle-based trio—Peter Richards on guitar and vocals, Claire England on bass and vocals, and Andrew Hall on drums—is announcing itself with an album that couches its themes of anxiety and eroding mental health in rock tracks that amp up the sweetly melodic crunch of powerpop with massive distortion and bashed-to-heck drums. Sincerely is a loud, sweaty rebuke to those moments in life when it seems like nothing’s working, a testament to the power of friendship, staring problems directly in the face, and finding solace in art.
Richards, England, and Hall have been through a lot during their four years of playing together, and tracks like the speedy, dark “Paralyzed,” the Creedence-echoing “Twin Moons,” and the frustrated yet ebullient “Something in The Way” combines lyrics that play on the trio’s travails with jumpy, riff-heavy distorto-pop. England handles lead vocal duties on the zinging kiss-off “Tonight” and the slowly grinding “Love Is,” the first time she’s done so on a Dude York record. “Times Not on My Side,” an intimate farewell note sung atop jangling acoustic, caps the album.
A first pass at a home-recorded version of Sincerely led to the band being told that there was “drywall in every piece of [the record],” says Hall, and they had to go back to the drawing board. Longtime Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill producer John Goodmanson and JR Slayer (aka The Blood Brothers’ Cody Votolato) helped Dude York craft a record that captured the energy of their live show while finding new ways to expand upon its ideas.
The band’s thoughtful approach to putting together Sincerely’s songs echoes the album’s overarching themes of almost-punishing inward focus.
“I feel like it’s about losing perspective—a spiraling-inward perspective despite what may be ready support networks around you,” adds Richards. “It’s like, ‘I don’t need anybody’s help. I should be able to do this myself, because it’s just, like, living.’”
Bringing England’s straightforward drawl into the mix underscores that idea, and its contrast to Richards’ excited yelp heightens the tension on Sincerely, a chaotic, yet ultimately triumphant album that’s a vital tonic for these increasingly confused times.
“Your back’s against the wall,” says Richards, “so all you can do is fight.”
Even in the frenetic metropolis of New York there are moments of still. You have to wait, bide your time until the early hours, but in the short window between closing time and the early-morning commuters you can find a twilight period of pure, nocturnal, solitude.
I Go Missing In My Sleep – Wilsen‘s debut full-length album – was born during these snatched moments. Ensconced in a tiny rented apartment in Brooklyn, Tamsin Wilson would sit, wait for the twilight and then begin moulding her day’s thoughts into fragments of song.
Using a nylon-stringed acoustic to pick out gentle melodies she drew inspiration from this pre-dawn. The calmness and soundlessness. Everyone asleep and inactive. During these moments time slowed and creative threads could be following without interruption; without the fear of someone hearing her mid-process.
What slowly, methodically, took shape was a collection of delicate songs that valued, even cherished, the creative power of stillness.
The finger-picked melodies, dreamy whistles and Tamsin’s whisper of a voice, all of which underpin I Go Missing In My Sleep, were born during these moments of still, but it wasn’t until bandmates Drew Arndt & Johnny Simon Jr’s involvement that the use of lightness and space was drawn into beautiful contrast with moments of post-rock ambition.
Coming together – alongside producer & friend Ben Baptie – initially in the UK, then upstate New York and then finally at The Farm Studio in rural Philadelphia the trio nudged and corralled each delicate wisp of a song, gradually layering it with washes of icy guitar, short staccato drums & Arndt’s restrained basslines.
The band’s previous offerings, 2013’s double-EP Sirens & 2014’s EP Magnolia, had hinted at a creative trio wrestling to balance the folk intimacy of Tamsin’s hushed tones with a more muscular, experimental side. With I Go Missing In My Sleep there’s a sense of much more at play than a mere delicate balancing act; this is a rich, dynamic mix that’s coalesced into a singularly musical form that’s pure, confident and unique.
From the opening creep of “Centipede”, a shuffling, eerie masterpiece that questions self-honesty, through the multi-layered fan-favourite “Garden”, buoyant on a bed of intricate finger-picking & recently surpassing 2.5 million Spotify streams, and onto the climactic ‘Told You”, this is a record of detailed perfection.
With I Go Missing in My Sleep on the horizon, Wilsen begins the process of introducing the outside world to these moments of crystallized calm, before releasing ‘I Go Missing In My Sleep’ in spring 2017.
Forget the Quiet, things are about to get a little Noisy.
I Go Missing In My Sleep was April 28 2017 via Secret City/Dalliance.
In a few short years Tanika Charles has transformed from an emerging solo artist to a commanding performer and band leader, a staple in the Canadian soul scene, both on stage and off. Edmonton raised Charles presents an immutable charm, at times endearingly abrasive and honest in her vulnerabilities. If Tanika’s singing it, she’s lived it!
Her touring career has seen her supporting the likes of Estelle, Mayer Hawthorne, Haitus Kayote, Lauryn Hill, Bendouin Soundclash and Macy Gray. Highly impressive, considering she is only just releasing her debut album to the world, after her low-key EP release, ‘What! What? What!?’, back in 2010.
‘Soul Run’ is an album which strikes a seamless balance between that warm authentic vintage soul sound, yet contains a contemporary twist to it. A tricky thing to accomplish, however, Tanika has undeniably managed to achieve this, judging by the glowing reviews she has already received from her native Canadian press.
Aside from the distinguished reviews circulating in her home country, she has also performed on some of the most prestigious TV shows in Canada; such as CTV’s show ‘Canada AM’, Global’s ‘The Morning Show’ and City TV’s ‘Breakfast Television’ and her songs are regularly aired on Canada’s national radio station CBC. ‘Soul Run’ has also garnered her a Polaris nomination. (Canada’s Mercury Prize equivalent).
Growing up on a musical diet of Patti Labelle, Jill Scott, Bob James, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Bjork and The Black Crows, Charles’ eclectic music taste subconsciously shines through in ‘Soul Run’. A name which came from a tragic part of Tanika’s life.
“Soul Run is a post breakup album. It’s not about a breakup as such, but about finding yourself after hitting the reset button”, Charles makes clear. Trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship in rural Canada, resulted in her “borrowing” her then fiancée’s car and running away to Toronto to begin her singing career, never looking back.
Tanika’s interest in music was very much inspired by her older brother, a musician and producer who is very active locally in Edmonton. “My older brother actually suggested I start singing and recording. He opened a studio up and I remember the TRITON keyboard being his pride and joy. He played most brass instruments and wrote music. He even attracted interest from the likes of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. While he never really pursued fame, a lot of artists in the city sought him out for music. He just really enjoyed making music” she clarifies.
Singing was always a passion of hers but never once did she imagine it would become a full-time career. Encouraged by a friend to attend a background singing audition, Tanika reminisces; “I couldn’t believe it, I actually got the part and ended up touring the globe with Bedouin Soundclash, something I never dreamt I would be doing!”.
After a couple of years singing other people’s songs, she figured out it was time to start telling her own story, and began to gather some of her friends and peers in Toronto together. The outcome was a beautifully crafted eleven track album, ‘Soul Run’, cobbled together in various Toronto studios on a shoestring budget.
All but one of the songs on the album were co-writes, mostly with local songwriter, Ian James Jones. ‘Darkness And The Dawn’, which happens to be Tanika’s favourite song on the album was written solely by herself. A song about a heart-breaking relationship she experienced. “Once the song was recorded and finished, I cannot begin to tell you how therapeutic it was”.
Production was handled by Slakah The Beatchild (BBE Records) best known as a producer for artists such as Drake and Justin Nozuka, Daniel Lee (Hooded Fang & Phedre), Jesse Bear (Sean Kingston, Zaki Ibrahim), Matt ‘Emdee’ Reid and Anthony Corsi.
Tanika explains her recording process; “We initially began to follow a sort of Motown-revival sound that has become increasingly popular, but along the way the decision was made to embrace the instrumentation of that era, while still seeking contemporary sonics”.
Part of the charm of ‘Soul Run’ is Tanika’s natural ability to wear her heart on her sleeve, “I am inherently open and forthcoming emotionally and for me it was important to showcase who I really am to those willing to listen, there is no façade, this is the real me.”
Bearing witness to the baroque clusterfuckery of the world is no longer voluntary. We are all forced to watch. Every possible catastrophe vibrates in our pockets, demanding to be witnessed. A busboy in Tulsa with a below average data plan now holds more of the world in his head than Alexander the Great. The human burden continues to increase and empathy begins to seem like something belonging to a nostalgic past, like a handwritten letter or sex on a train. The classic response to this predicament has been a figure of ironic detachment, a well-groomed young man drinking out of a red plastic cup at a rooftop party. He explains with a smirk why the good thing is actually bad, the bad thing actually good. But now Alex Cameron approaches with his righthand man, Roy Molloy. Cameron knocks the cup from the young man's hand and Molloy threatens him with his life.
With Forced Witness, Cameron's solution to the difficulties we face is a danceable and dangerous earnestness, a sense of honesty that heals and relieves even as it cleaves us or makes us laugh in self-defense. He's offering vivid portraits of misfits' views of the world, presented without illusion.. Recorded in Berlin in an old East German radio station and produced by Cameron along with Foxygen's Jonathan Rado, these tracks at first seem shamelessly entertaining, the driving rhythms and rousing melodies embellished at every turn by Molloy's warm hornwork. But the love songs and anthems contain as much raw humanity as they do a savvy grasp of the impossible loneliness of the times, especially apparent in the song "Stranger's Kiss" -- Cameron's affecting duet with the American singer Angel Olsen. The defiantly bloody knuckles in "Runnin' Outta Luck" and the grime of wet dreams in "Country Figs" occupy the same space as the great sadness of the internet in the catchy and contemplative song "True Lies," in which Cameron sings about that buzzing hive of randomized sexuality where we can either submit to the stirrings in our own laps or let our fragile hopes catfish us. Alex Cameron details penultimate track "Marlon Brando" as "a character portrait, a study of a man in the hopeless pursuit of a woman. He is a familiar character in the world, a self-assured jock, a dullard, a low grade human who uses a specific kind of language when he finds a situation outside of his control. In examining this character, the song's lyrics present an honest, eye witness account of an angry man, a damning indictment of homophobia and misogyny and their genesis in toxic masculinity."
If there is darkness in these songs, it is not because taboos can titillate but because Cameron knows that confession has a redeeming power and that people are often at their most vivid when their skies have fallen. These songs are alive with the rich detail of life lived and the radical distinctiveness of the stories they tell feel universal. In these chaotic times when we aren't able to look away, Cameron is offering us a pure account of the world as he's seen it.
Formed by British twins Joe and Luke McGarry when they were still teenage students at the Orange County High School of the Arts in Southern California, Pop Noir quickly built a following in the indie clubs of Los Angeles. To date, the band has shared a stage with Doves, The Wombats, Robyn, Sebastien Tellier and Fitz & The Tantrums, and headlined shows in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, London, Manchester and Paris.
Pop Noir’s first three releases all debuted in the top 10 of the FMQB Speciality Radio charts. Syncs have included episodes of ABC’s “The Gates” and “Fly Girls” as well as the hugely popular Tap Tap Revenge video game. The band’s debut video was Spinner.com’s Video of the Day and was voted mtvU’s “Freshmen of the Week,” after which it spent two months in heavy rotation on the channel. Subsequent releases have received strong support from the likes of UK tastemaker magazines Artrocker and Clash.