Category: contemplative

Young in the City “Annie”

Noah Gundersen’s side project Young In The City is everything you would hope it would be: true to his heavy-handed lyrics, but with a new sonic stamp that pushes the envelope without sounding outlandish. “Annie” is a perfect nod to the singer-songwriter’s roots woven together with fresh texture and tone. Let the saxophone nostalgically whisk you away…

Ruston Kelly “Black Magic”

Somewhere between Ryan Adams and Noah Gunderson lies the brilliant Ruston Kelly – and what a beautiful place to be. He delivers the one-two punch of gorgeous pop-lilting melody coupled with gut-wrenching lyrics that leave your throat dry. The entire album Halloween is fantastic, but if you only have a a few minutes, listen to “Black Magic.” You’ll be hooked the minute he croons, “…where I sold my hallelujah when I laid my soul in you.”

Emma Louise “Talk Baby,” “Underflow,” “West Side Kids”

I’ve been following the exceptionally talented Emma Louise for four years. I saw her captivate an audience at the crumbiest venue at SxSW 2013 and was convinced then and there that she’d make a massive splash. The three lead tracks off her upcoming release Supercry are further evidence of that. She has grown into her voice. It’s a powerhouse yet still laser-fine enough to cut glass. These three tracks bring the velvet hammer down in entirely new ways. “Underflow” breaks your heart in all the right places at just the right times – it physically pulls you in. Everything her voice does, you feel. “Talk Baby” is a sultry, hypnotic, bad girl anthem that is as delicate as it is fiery and sexy. “West Side Kids” reminisces in a bittersweet stroll through relationship nostalgia.
Something else to note: her videos for both “Talk Baby” and “Underflow” are next level. Dylan Duclos, the man behind the videos, should be lauded for his flawless visual accompaniment for such heavy, beautiful music. Claps all around. Emma Louise’s July 15th release cannot come soon enough!

Maggie Rogers “Alaska”

Though the banjo doesn’t typically lend itself to the mellow, lilting sounds of gentle vocals and soothing melodies, Maggie Rogers has found a way to accomplish just that. Her work is vastly inspired by dance music and sounds found in nature – a combination which marries inherently rhythmic beats to flowing, striking sonic qualities. The three standout tracks from her former Bandcamp release Bloody Ballet (now removed from the internet) are “Resonant Body,” “James,” and “Drift.” The current and quite remarkable new single “Alaska” is available to stream and download now.

Seramic “People Say”

There is very little out there about the mysterious (UK-based?) band Seramic. I love the gospel vibes of this track, complete with choral call and response. Hopefully they will release more music soon, but in the meantime, snuggle up to this warm blanket of a tune!

BEST OF 2015!

Happy Holidays everyone!
I’ve never made my year end lists public, but this year I’ve decided to shake things up. I present to you my personal best of 2015, both songs and albums. The songs can be streamed here if you would like to listen (honorable mentions included at the end):

Albums (in no particular order):
Wolf Alice – My Cool Is Cool
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
Rayland Baxter – Imaginary Man
The Bohicas – The Making Of
Beirut – No No No
Jason Isbell – Something More than Free
Blitzen Trapper – All Across This Land
Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
The Tallest Man On Earth – Dark Bird Is Home
Coldplay – A Head Full Of Dreams
Ryan Adams – 1989, cover album (Taylor Swift)

Songs (also in no particular order):
“Uptown Funk” (ft Bruno Mars) – Mark Ronson
“Talking Body” – Tove Lo
“Here” – Alessia Cara
“Genghis Khan” – Miike Snow
“Mountain At My Gates” – Foals
“Lydia” – Highly Suspect
“Coltrane” – Amasa Hines
“Your Loves Whore” – Wolf Alice
“Where You At” – The Bohicas
“Getting Ready to Get Down” – Josh Ritter
“Nobody To Blame” – Chris Stapleton
“Heartbreaker” – Daniel Wilson
“OctaHate” – Ryn Weaver
“Electric Love” – BØRNS
“Leave A Trace” – CHURCHES
“Dreams” – Beck
“Stressed Out” – Twenty One Pilots
“Trip Switch” – Nothing But Thieves
“Snakeskin” – Deerhunter
“Adventure of a Lifetime” – Coldplay
“Ship To Wreck” – Florence + The Machine
“Sedona” – Houndmouth
“Pretty Pimpin'” – Kurt Vile
“Spring (Among the Living)” – My Morning Jacket
“Snake Eyes” – Mumford & Sons
“Dunes” – Alabama Shakes
“Brazil” – Declan McKenna
“Gibraltar” – Beirut
“Forget You In LA” – Poema
“Yellow Eyes” – Rayland Baxter
“Empty Handed” – Christof
“Color Decay” – Júníus Meyvant
“Death with Dignity” – Sufjan Stevens
“How Could You Babe” – Tobias Jesso Jr.
“Dark Bird Is Home” – The Tallest Man on Earth
“Between Me And You” – Brandon Flowers
“Hello” – Adele
“Everglow” – Coldplay
“Flagship” – Jason Isbell

Honorable Mentions:
“Outcast” – Mainland
“Mystery” – Boxed In
“Roman Holiday” – Halsey
“Forest Fires” – Axel Flovent
“No Room In Frame” – Death Cab For Cutie
“Borderline” – Tove Stryke
“Hold Me Down” – Mansionair
“Moona Festival” – Polyenso
“Love Grow Cold” – Blitzen Trapper
“Where The Night Goes” – Josh Ritter
“Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread” – Everything Everything
“The Way It’s Always Been” – Brandon Flowers

Axel Flóvent “Forest Fires”

There are so many amazing artists coming out of Iceland lately – my most recent find is 19 year-old Axel Flóvent. He has a tender falsetto similar to that of his Icelandic peer Ásgeir, and also a touch of Nick Mulvey’s calming tone. “Forest Fires” is the most captivating track he’s released thus far. Fingers crossed for a second EP (or full length) to come this year!

SXSW 2015 highlights: Tove Stryke, Jack Garratt, Mansionair, United Fruit + Meg Mac, Ryn Weaver, Broncho, Blank Range, Only Real

The 3rd annual SXSW roundup is here!
As always, I start by the numbers: I listened to roughly 2,300 artists (115 of which I was already familiar with), narrowed it down to 165 artists worth considering, re-listened to those 165 artists, and honed the number to 87. I then proceeded to schedule the 87 artists + some of the artists I already knew. Once at SXSW, I managed to catch 41 gigs in 3.5 days, walking an average daily distance of 11 miles.

And now, the highlight reel based on what I was able to catch (sadly, there were a few I attempted to see and ended up missing due to shifty set times…Daniel Wilson, for one):

Tove Stryke


Wow, what an unbelievable surprise! I heard a lot of hype about this energetic Swedish pop starlet, which usually poisons my first impressions – with the attitude of “Oh yeah? Let’s see it then!” – but she aptly crushed all preconceived notions and blew me away. Not only is she genre-bending with a hard-to-pronounce name (not unlike her fellow Scandinavian Lykki Li), she also has some massively catchy tunes and killer stage presence. I love her air of confidence and quirky style to boot! It is so refreshing to see electronic/pop artists who still play real instruments on top of their tracks. It adds so much life (literally) to the sound, and obviously makes for a more exciting live show. Believe all the hype for Tove Stryke!

Jack Garratt


Despite my preference for a live band over a dude and his computer, I’ve got to hand it to Jack Garratt. He pulled it off with true artistry and kept me captivated the entire time. His vocal versatility was remarkable and the songs actually felt like songs, instead of a never-ending club dance track.

Mansionair


These Aussies were super compelling – so much so that I saw them twice! They played with such intensity and created an amazing vibe that seemed to captivate fans no matter what the venue or time of day. Their sound was incredibly full and rich for a three-piece, and it’s hard to beat a band that’s so obviously in love with being on stage and playing music. It makes all the difference.

United Fruit


This four-piece from Glasgow nearly blew everyone out of the venue. It was 25 minutes of Interpol-meets-Foo Fighters- thundering guitar licks, accented by semi-abrasive, yet undeniably appealing vocal melodies. Their newest material shone brightest and was approachable even for those who aren’t typically drawn to hard rock.

Other outstanding acts include: Meg Mac, Only Real, Ryn Weaver, Broncho and Blank Range. I would highly recommend checking them out live whenever or wherever you get a chance.
Honorable mentions go to The Blossoms and Sego.

I can’t rightfully conclude without mentioning the few favorite bands I allowed myself to see, despite the fact I’ve seen them each several times before: The War On Drugs were lose-your-mind good, Wolf Alice completely slayed, and Catfish and the Bottlemen never cease to amaze me. All three of those bands reinvigorate my obsessive passion for music and remind me that while this business is rough, there will always be diamonds in that rough. And the way those make me feel – make us all feel – is the reason it will always be worth my commitment to it.

Polyenso “Moona Festival”

Wow, this song is movingly beautiful. From the absolutely stunning, patient piano intro to the striking yet delicate Thom Yorke-esque vocals woven throughout, I can’t decide what I love the most. This trio from St. Petersburg, FL released their full length debut in 2013. “Moona Festival” is their latest single, which hopefully precedes yet another LP filled with similarly delicious songs.

Leo Stannard “Please Don’t,” “Why Don’t We,” and “Eliza”

Step aside all other British early-20-somethings with incredible musical sensibility, Leo Stannard (19 to be precise) has entered the scene. He croons with the rasp of Paolo Nutini, hits notes as high as Justin Vernon, yet still fits comfortably in the same space as our beloved Ben Howard. It was incredibly difficult to choose just three of his songs – they are all truly excellent. I adore the undeniable warmth of the horns in “Why Don’t We,” and can’t help but completely melt into the melody and his range in “Eliza.” “Please Don’t” shows off the intricacies of his guitar picking prowess and his peerless sense of timing.

Europe, be on the look out for his debut EP next month! And for us Americans… well, hopefully we will get a piece of Leo before too long!