PLAYING ATLANTA: The “Strange Motion” of Swallowed Sun

You know that feeling you get when you hear a band for the first time and think, “Hmm, they remind me of…someone?” Most of the time – for me, at least – I may never figure out who this brand new find reminds me of, but they have a hint of familiarity and, most likely, a nice little groove underneath that I like.

When listening to Atlanta alternative trio Swallowed Sun, however, there was something in the jazzy, rock-infused lines that reminded me of seeing Tedeschi Trucks Band just a few days ago. Sure, they don’t have a fourteen-person lineup featuring a horn section, but they’re cool, groovy, and just loose enough for you to sink right into the rhythm with them. They just released their self-titled debut this summer, and after talking with lead singer and rhythm guitarist Savannah Walker, I was even more convinced that this brand new band is going to be a major force in the scene very soon. Read on for all the deets!

AF: I love your sound. How did you get started?

SW: I met Aaron and Caleb Hambrick (drums and bass) around a year ago. As soon as I met them, I could tell how talented they were! We played our first show a week later and after that, it just clicked for us. I grew up listening to rock and alternative music while Aaron and Caleb draw most of their influence from jazz, fusion, funk, etc.., so we were starting from opposite ends of the spectrum, so to speak. It’s been a great combination of style for us, and collaborating has been pretty easy to this point. I really love what we’re doing right now!

AF: Were you musically inclined growing up, or was it more of a hobby? What made you decide “Oh, yeah, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life?”

SW: I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t love music. As a child, I was always singing (before I could even talk correctly), and I picked up the violin when I was six. Although I quit playing violin a few years later, it was a great starting point for me to develop my musicality and my passion for playing and learning. It wasn’t until I was around 14 or 15 that I started learning guitar. 

AF: Who do you consider your greatest influences? How have they influenced your style as a writer and performer?

SW: I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but growing up, Zeppelin was a huge inspiration. Houses of the Holy was the only full album I had on my first iPod, way back in ’06. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate all genres more. Aaron and Caleb have introduced me to some great music over the last year, and now I’m actually studying jazz guitar, of all things.  When it comes to making music, anything is fair game. We’ve really tried to avoid tying ourselves down to one sound. 

AF: Speaking of writing, you released your first full-length record, Swallowed Sun, in June. Can you tell us a bit about it? What inspired the record?

SW: We recently did the math and, speaking in terms of hours, our album was recorded in less than two full days. Of course, those hours were stretched out over a few months, so it seems like we spent way more time recording. The writing process was relatively easy; I wrote most of the chord progressions (Aaron helped) and lyrics, and the guys wrote their respective parts. Most of the first ideas we had were the ones we kept and it was a pretty natural process. We didn’t have finished ideas for a few of the songs going into the studio – everyone just played what they felt and the songs took shape on their own. 

AF: What was it like to record a full-length record after the release of your debut EP earlier this year? What kind of evolution have you seen in just a few short months?

SW: I can see so much progress in our music, even though we haven’t been writing and recording for that long.  When we started, it was a little rough, mostly due to a lack of experience and knowledge on my part.  The difference between the EP and the album is very noticeable; for one, we we were very lucky to have Brooks Mason (Eddie 9V) playing guitar on the later tracks, as his ideas really made the songs. I can say that personally, I’ve drastically improved since last year, both musically and creatively. This has been such a learning process for me.  It’s really great to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time! 

AF: What’s it like to get started as a band in the Atlanta music scene?

SW: Atlanta is a great place to be if you’re starting out a band or an individual! There are a ton of musical opportunities here in the city, and getting gigs is way easier than in, say, LA or Nashville. It’s easy to get involved in the scene here and meet other musicians, although you have to know the right places to go. 

AF: What’s your favorite music venue in Atlanta?

SW: My favorite venue that we’ve played here has been the Masquerade. The staff are really helpful and loading in and out is a breeze. My favorite places to go, though, are some of the local jams that Aaron introduced me to. Gallery 992 and Elliot Street are two places you have to visit if you’re ever in ATL. The players there are incredibly talented and you never know who you might see!

AF: What’s next for Swallowed Sun?

SW: Right now, we’re working on writing and recording more music. We’re planning on playing Porch Fest here in Decatur in October and releasing a new single by November!

Follow Swallowed Sun on Facebook and stream their debut full-length record on Spotify now.

INTERVIEW: The Blue Stones Confirm An Album Is On The Way

The Blue Stones

Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, alt-rock duo The Blue Stones performed at Bunbury Music Festival earlier this month after wrapping up their headlining North American tour. This year, vocalist / guitarist Tarek Jafar and drummer Justin Tessier have followed up their 2018 debut album, Black Holes, with several live music releases, including a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and album hit “Black Holes (Solid Ground).”

The pair is currently gearing up to hit the studio in preparation for a new album, set to drop next year. While they’re still in the planning stages, the guys shared some new details about their “swagger-filled” album with Audiofemme to get us excited.

AF: You guys just finished up your Be My Fyre Tour. How was it?

Really, really great.

AF: And it was your first headlining coast to coast tour?

It wasn’t really coast to coast, but it was definitely our first tour through the majority of the North American places that we’ve wanted to play. We missed a lot of places—like Texas—we didn’t get a chance to go there. We want to. Next time we’ll do more of the South.

AF: That’s a big milestone!

It was great. It’s nice to have actually gone out and done it. You don’t really know what to expect. Like Seattle, I’ve never been there before, but there’s a bar full of people that know your music. So it’s really, really nice to have that and that was most of the stops, so we really appreciated that.

AF: You guys have released two bodies of live music this year, one through Audiotree Live and one through SiriusXM Studios. Are you currently recording any new music?

Yeah, we’re constantly developing new stuff. We have a pocket of songs right now that we are actually going to be taking to the studio.

AF: So a full project is in the works?

Yeah, I mean nowadays you record a batch of songs and then put it out and [you] keep doing that, but that’s going to be coming up in the early fall. We’ll be putting out new stuff and then next year the full album will be ready.

AF: You guys have such a special energy when you are performing live on stage – is that what made you want to release live tracks?

Partly, yeah. Other than that, we were just given really good opportunities to do that so we just took it. But yeah, we didn’t have any good quality live stuff from our recent set, so we wanted to make it.

AF: Anything else you can tell us about your upcoming album?

It’s been cooking for a long time, we can say that. I mean, the last time we were in the studio was 2014.

AF: So it’ll be songs from a few years ago and new music?

Yes, songs from years ago to two weeks ago.

AF: For fans that have been with you since the beginning, what will they notice on future releases?

It’s kind of hard to frame right now, but definitely an in-your-face, energetic, swagger-filled batch of songs.

AF: Should we be on the lookout for any visuals?

We’re starting to transition to the new stuff. Like, we’re going to the studio in the next couple months. We love doing cool videos, cool visuals, it’s important. It kind of ties the whole idea of an album together. We take care in making sure that works out.

The Blue Stones
The Blue Stones. Photo by Bill Meis.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Emily Jane Powers “Sullen Days”

With her latest video, Emily Jane Powers proves there’s more than one shade of blue when it comes to feeling sad. The Chicago-based art rocker’s clip for “Sullen Days” is an atmospheric meditation on the spectrum of emotions contained within a sullen or sad mood. The entire video was shot on an iPhone by Powers’ husband, bass player, and creative collaborator Alec Jensen (Dream Version). The couple’s DIY approach and clear creative intimacy yielded a raw visual that coincides with Powers’ honest songwriting.

To capture the phases of sadness, the pair wanted to portray Powers as a passive vessel, experiencing, but not engaging, in the moving world around her. “I think that one of the biggest themes of the video was that things were happening around me, but I was passive and still,” says Powers. “We’re trying to evoke an idea that there’s a loss of control as well, which I think goes along with the mood I’m describing.”

However, it’s not always easy to remain still while hanging out of a moving car, which is how the bulk of the video was filmed. “There were a few times when Alec was driving in circles and I was physically unable to hold on to the car,” says Powers. This explains some of her agitated facial expressions throughout the film, but Powers also describes how the “sullenness” she’s capturing doesn’t hold one distinct characteristic. “To be sullen or sad isn’t just one mood, it’s a range of moods that can change pretty rapidly, and the changes of the moods in the video illustrate that,” says Powers.

Powers’ voice swells and evolves, too. Starting in a calm, hypnotic tone and spiraling into a swirl of inundated emotion, she rattles off stream-of-consciousness lyrics that hint to the depths of her psyche. She even identifies the effect her peers can unwittingly have on her feeling when she sings of “transferred desire.”

“I am pretty hyper-aware of the transference of emotions when I’m with people,” says Powers. “If someone’s sad or I’m with someone that’s happy, I sometimes absorb that too easily. Desire could be a bunch of different things – desire to feel better, desire to belong.”

It’s easy to empathize with Powers’ weighted conscious in “Sullen Days,” a cathartic burst of artistic expression. Watch the video below, premiering exclusively on Audiofemme.

Sullen Days by Emily Jane Powers from EJP on Vimeo.


PLAYING DETROIT: AM People Release ‘Songs for The Mourning’

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Photo by Madeline Toro

Detroit-based three-piece AM People released their debut LP Songs for the Mourning on June 15th, and it’s the perfect soundtrack to accompany the woozy heat daze of summer. The record is a seamless collection of apathetic punk songs, running into each other like strangers at a crowded bar and eventually landing on an unmade bed, room spinning.  

The band — Kyle Akey (drums), Niobe Marasigan (bass), and Ryan Gumbleton (guitar) — describe themselves as “punk goths who go to the beach,” and Songs clearly reflects that. Marasigan and Akey’s vocals are delivered sans any trace of emotion, seemingly detached from the words they carry. However, genius lies in simplicity when it comes to the songs’ lyricism. Instead of clouding their music with hidden metaphors or pretentious vocabulary, AM People just say what they really mean. What a concept.  

The subject matter ranges from unrequited love to budding friendships. The band injects “Friend Request” with playful, melodic guitar as Gumbleton and Akey exchange vocals like a musical game of catch. As simple a concept as making a new friend is, it seems novel in a world full of heads-down-screen-stares and constant paranoia. “Friend Request” makes human interaction cool again and recalls the warm fuzzy feelings that come with making a new friend. “I have been learning more about you,” sings Gumbleton. “What I have learned so far is pretty cool.”

“Back and Forth” epitomizes the many stages of unrequited love – infatuation, rejection, spite, acceptance. It also suggests that maybe, sometimes, what we mistake for love is just another attempt at filling the void. The lyrics, “I was searching for a meaning / I was holding on to a feeling,” suggest that love can be used as a distraction or temporary band-aid for whatever is lacking in our lives. Then, when it doesn’t work out, it’s back to the numb merry-go-round of self-discovery that often plagues the mind. The band mirrors this cycle musically, with a recurring guitar riff and hypnotizing vocal melody.

By intertwining monotone, self-aware statements with sunshine-y guitar riffs and ironically cliche couplets, AM People accomplish the approachably cool sound of their matter-of-fact indie brethren like Parquet Courts or fellow Detroit troupe, Deadbeat Beat. And like any good record, Songs for the Mourning lulls the listener into a trance, pulling us farther away from reality and making our daydreams as clear as water.


PLAYING COLUMBUS: Stems Fearlessly Fuse Prog and Hip-Hop on Debut

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photo by Annie Noelker

Stems started as a high school project, but they’ve come a long way since band class. In the past year, the group – which members describe as “prog-hop” – has released an EP, two singles, and an album; they’ve been featured by Columbus’ Mouth Mag and The Dispatch; and on March 23rd they dropped their debut album with a show at Kafe Kerouac.

That album, Out of Fear, is a forceful premiere. The twelve songs, which range from a breezy 1:36 to 4:14, are decidedly ambitious in their variance. This is not a one-shot album; rather, Stems has been careful to draw from a wide selection of musical references and tools. Mickey Shuman, the group’s guitarist as well as composer, has managed to build out a full album which weaves a wide net: though tonally coherent, Out of Fear wriggles out from under genre-specific descriptors, shifting triumphantly from song-to-song.

The leading song, “Vices,” bounces between vocalist Kendall Martin’s relentless verses and an addictive, staccato guitar riff. It sets the tone for the whole album: beyond Martin’s lyrical explorations, Out of Fear navigates the relationships between disparate compositional elements. It’s reminiscent of a jazz ensemble – elements converse with each other, building the meaning of the song as they stagger in and out of focus. The additional two musicians in the group, Dante Montoto (bass) and Zach Pennington (drums), round out the quartet, grounding the instrumental conversation in a traditionalist four-piece structure.

Given the technical attention on Out of Fear, an initial instinct might be to question whether the album fits within hip-hop. But I’d argue that hip-hop has always been multiply-modal. The introduction of samples, remixing, verses, and electronic adjustment all speak to the relational quality of hip-hop and the importance of multiple voices to each track. What is remarkable about Stems’ work, then, is not the urge to expand their music but the way that expansion highlights each instrument’s vibrancy. Remarkable, too, is the ease with which Stems shifts beats and time signatures within the album, each song, and even within verses. Stems will shrug off one beat and into another so casually it’s easy to forget they’re trying something new each time.

“Out of Fear,” the album’s namesake and second single, is driven forward by an emotional and wrenchingly paced performance by Martin. “My life don’t mean the same as yours / this is America,” Martin raps, “where they judge you by your skin / and not your character.” It’s not the first stirring moment on the album, but it the careful balance Martin is able to strike between clarity, flow, and felt emotion in his lyrics and vocal performance still gives me pause each time I listen.

Stems’ emergence in Columbus comes as part of a long legacy of both hip-hop and rock in Central Ohio. And though, for many reasons, it is often not easy for youth to thrive in Ohio, it’s exciting to see bands like Stems unabashedly experiment with their releases, and to see them collaborating with other young artists, musicians, and makers.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYING DETROIT: Jonathan Franco Gets Inventive on Debut LP

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photo courtesy Jonathan Franco

Finally, someone has been able to put what it feels like to be a 20-something into words and music without sounding devastatingly hopeless. That person is Detroit songwriter, poet, and musician, Jonathan Franco. In his debut album, Swimming Alone Around the Room, Franco puts his deep anxieties, rare moments of euphoria, and goddamn heart on the table for all of us to pick apart and reassemble into our own realities. Written and recorded over the last five years, the 17-track labor of love is a diaristic journey, oscillating between spacious moments of reflection and dactylic snapshots of feeling, accurately mimicking the ebb and flow of, well, real fucking life.

Experimental, yet accessible, Franco uses an unorthodox orchestra – combining traditional instruments with field recordings and experimental sounds – to portray salient feelings and moments. In the album’s stripped-down instrumental opener, “Apartment Pianos,” Franco melds incandescent synths, low machine hums, bells, and indiscernible field recordings to create a feeling of serenity and peace. It’s as if he’s encouraging listeners to clear their heads before delving into the deep and daunting themes that follow, like someone attempting to get their shit together before entering a sweat lodge.

He fully enlists his collage-like composition style on “Applause,” an exploration of mortality and the passing of time. The song starts off with a solo organ note, bare acoustic guitar, and Franco’s vulnerable opening line, “I lay in the grass in a flyover state / Feeling like I am everything you hoped I wouldn’t be,” sang in a low whisper. It feels like Franco is talking to himself here, reflecting on the past and what has led him to this specific place and time. But the ruminative mood becomes unnerving as Franco recalls seeing the ghost of his grandmother over ethereal synths and radio static; the guitar re-enters along with what sounds like a ticking clock or metronome and stack of papers used for percussion. The tension resolves with a sweet trumpet melody at the song’s finish, and Franco is freed from the weight of time – at least for a moment.

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photo by Noah Elliot Morrison

While many of the songs follow this winding, experimental path, Franco also scatters a few straightforward indie-rock tracks throughout the record that reveal considerable influence from bands like Bedhead and The Microphones. Along with alternating between traditional and experimental instruments, Franco occupies different parts of his voice throughout the record. He touches on everything from an apathetic lo-fi drawl in “Wine Lips” to an Elliot Smith-esque falsetto in “Season” and finds a sweet spot in between the two in “18A.”

While Franco adapts a linear storyline into these compositions, he doesn’t sacrifice his poetic lyricism. On rambling stream-of-consciousness tale “18A,” the singer spends north of seven minutes recounting days spent on the same bus and reminiscing about someone he used to love. Throughout the ride, Franco thinks he sees his former partner in various places around town, but he’s not sure. “For my eyes are two weak telescopes and your face is just a crater on the moon / And I hope to see you much more clearly soon,” sings Franco, perfectly encapsulating the disillusionment of estrangement and the longing that comes with it. Although Franco utilizes his talent for metaphor throughout the album, he never comes off as a pompous or melodramatic poet, but more of an old soul who knows exactly what to say.

Add the insurmountable pressure of simply existing to confronting mortality and lost love and you will arrive at the “early adulthood triad.” Franco accomplishes this with “Crashing,” a beautifully unsettling ode to not knowing what the hell you’re doing in life. The song starts out with what sounds like a shower running over a broken transistor radio then shifts to airy vocals and calming acoustic guitar. Throughout the song, Franco’s atmospheric background vocal hovers like a ghost over the lyrics “I don’t know how to keep my world from crashing down.” The phrase is repeated over and over, representing the debilitating paralysis brought on by anxiety.

But, like I said, this record isn’t about hopelessness. It’s about acknowledging and capturing the impermanence of emotions, and that includes the happy ones, too – nostalgia, love, clarity. In “A Topiary,” Franco indulges in replaying messages from loved ones while reminding himself there are still more blissful memories to be made. “I can still call myself young / and it tastes good on my tongue,” sings Franco, atop a collage of bells, knocking, synths, and lo-fi guitar.

At its core, Swimming Alone Around the Room hints that existential dread is sometimes kinda nice. It offers a cathartic safe haven for the uncertain, unconcerned, or over-concerned (so basically, everyone) and an original take on experimental indie music, if confined to any genre at all. Franco’s tendency to shapeshift both instrumentally and vocally elevates the album to a work of art that emulates the human experiences of indecision, change, and growth. 


PLAYING DETROIT: Handgrenades “Tunnels”


Alt-indie five-some, Handgrenades delivered their sophomore LP Tunnels earlier this month, a diversified, hook-laden kaleidoscope that explodes with disciplined revelry. There’s nothing particularly weighty about Tunnels, and no molds were forged nor broken but what is accomplished here are a series of consistent and caffeinated arrangements that propel the record into the new familiar. Each track wants to so badly to be so many things but is done so with equal parts focus and frenzy resulting in a record that ends up being an inspired version of itself.

“Daily Routine,” has a bloody but sunshiny mid-2000’s-vibe alt-anthem with jittery percussions and heartbroken choral bursts of desperation leading into “The Watcher,” with foggy distortion and jutting guitar licks feels trapped between genres without a destination. The albums valiant single “Suffocating,” though lyrically meek, is rescued by its Muse-esque vocals and purposefully and effectively spastic instrumental choreography giving the aural illusion of both gasping for air and receiving it making the track. “In Abesetia” dances with theatrics and “Wrapped in Plastic” parties with Brand New inspired vocals and guitar vs. percussion spacing and when preceding Tunnels eery final track “Daydream” (which is sort of reminiscent of Radiohead’s track “Daydreamers” from their latest but with ample restraint) reminds the listener that this record is a complete thought. All the territories they sought to explore were touched, and in doing so, Handgrenades concocted the perfect formula to fuse their wide and wild expressions with a polished fervor that seems more seasoned than not and more than sincere than flippant.

Find the light at the end with Handgrenades’ latest below:

PLAYING DETROIT: Gosh Pith “Gold Chain”

osh Freed (left) and Josh Smith of Goth Pith. Photograph: Kristin Adamczyk/Shane Ford

I first met Gosh Pith during their soundcheck last month at the Royal Oak Music Theatre while opening for JR JR. I remember walking across the stage and making a snap judgment on their appearance, assuming I knew what they were going to sound like (something I am guilty of time to time). I had almost made it to the stairs leading to the green room when Josh Smith released his voice into the empty theatre without music to back him. It was soulful. It was sincere. It was sensual. It was completely unexpected. “Did that sound alright?” Paralyzed with the realization that I was wrong (and happily so), the other half of the self-described “cosmic trap” duo, Josh Freed, interjected his sultry, carbonated, synth beats which moved me from my frozen stance of disbelief. Smith joined in, and I was suddenly, without wavering doubt, a Gosh Pith fan.

Last week Gosh Pith released “Gold Chain,” the first single on their independently released EP due out next year. The EP could rival The Weeknd, The Neighborhood, and likely any literal weekend or neighborhood. Freed and Smith seamlessly weave indie pop with alternative R&B with a tenderness and clarity that you’d only anticipate from seasoned multi-genre artists. “Gold Chain” is a balancing act, and Gosh Pith commits to handling the track’s softness and its expletive fervor with equal care.

“Gold Chain” shares a common thread with Gosh Pith’s overall catalogue: thoughtful and tapered production. Every element is purposeful and polished with enough room to breathe. When fusing electronic beats with guitar parts and poppy, melancholic vocals, it would be an easy out to over produce or to cram convoluted, excessive texturing into the track’s tight two minutes. The use of restraint is impressive, and allows the duo to shine in their respective lights bound by their synchronistic veil of tone, mood, and sincerity.

The most intriguing element of “Gold Chain” is also my only hangup, but because I’m so intrigued it’s more of a curiosity than criticism. The abrupt ending infuriated me at first. One second I was swaying my hips in my office chair feeling compelled to text my boyfriend something sexy and sappy (something I think Gosh Pith intended to promote) and then suddenly the song dead ends with a dreamy reverb guitar strum. I felt sort of abandoned. Upon a second and third listen I realized my anger was with wanting more. Not because they didn’t give enough, but because the story felt real enough to care. I eagerly await the second act, wondering if they’ll pick up from where they left off.

Listen to “Gold Chain” below.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Stove “Is Stupider”


Self deprecation abounds on Stove’s Is Stupider. It opens with “Stupider,” followed by “Stupid,” and later on, “Stupidest” and “Dumboy.” The record art labels Side A as “Side Stupid,” and Side B as “Side Beer.”

But for Steve Hartlett, who wrote all the songs and played all of the instruments on Is Stupider, stupid doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of knowledge, but maybe isolation, and a lack of identity; Hartlett created Stove after the dissolution of his former group, Ovlov. Stove is a combination of the words Steve and Ovlov. The struggle to find himself is a theme that runs throughout the album. It starts with the 20 second opener “Stupid,” which explains “Don’t  know who I am/ So I act like who I’m with.” He then addresses himself (or possibly a cat with the same name) on “Wet Food,” asking “Steve, where’d you go?” And “Dusty Tree” made the perfect Thanksgiving soundtrack, as it explores alienation from one’s own family: “Don’t you feel a bit insane planting your family tree? All the way the water never finds the seeds to grow.”   

Stove is lyrically introspective. Musically, the project is rough around the edges in the best way possible, with elements of grunge and post-punk. The music mopes a bit on songs like “Wet Food” and “Lowt-Ide Fins,” but bursts with energy on “Aged Hype” and “Dusty Tree.” Hartlett’s voice is earnest, if a little sad at times, and has a Guided By Voices-like ability to completely own moods and feelings for a few minutes at a time. Check out “Wet Food” below and you’ll see, he’s the smartest kind of stupid there is.


EP REVIEW: Ruen Brothers “Point Dume”


Sometimes when I listen to a band, I make a judgement: Are they Beatles or Stones fans? The Ruen Brothers answer that question in their bio, stating that, like I suspected, they prefer the Rolling Stones. Generally, a band that likes the Beatles is a little more delicate, concerned with love and peace. A band influenced by the Rolling Stones is usually more brash, aggressive, and more likely to be at least indirectly influenced by the American blues musicians that the Rolling Stones idolized.

That seems to be the case with the Ruen Brothers, who are Henry and Rupert Stansall from the UK. Their first two songs, the bluesy “Aces” and “Walk Like a Man,” earned them the attention of  BBC Radio 1 host Zane Lowe and led to the brothers landing a record deal with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings and Republic Records. Rubin then produced their four-song EP Point Dume, enlisting Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Matt Sweeney (Chavez), and Ian McLagen (Faces) to contribute drums, guitar and keyboards.

Though their sound strays farther away from the blues and into pop on Point Dume, you can still hear their influences – which also include Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker – in each song. Henry has a deep, powerful voice that comes from a place of true sincerity, though a little muffled and rough, as if he’s singing between drags on a cigarette. “Motor City”  is a vintage shuffle that breaks into a pop chorus while exploring familiar topics like not being able to catch a flight home and name-dropping highways. “Vendetta” has a bongo heavy intro reminiscent of the British blues group The Yardbirds, and builds into a dramatic tale about the end of a love affair.

For such a short release, Point Dume is surprisingly solid. The EP’s best moments appear on the opener “Summer Sun,” a love song for summer with chilling background vocals. Henry’s acoustic guitar and his brother’s lead create a solid rhythmic background for the dreamy lyrics. True to the song, which is about waiting for the warmth of summer to return, there is little action in its video: Henry, Rupert, and an unknown woman are stuck inside their separate homes by bad weather, as glimpses of the outside world are shown on TV screens. Check it out below:

ALBUM REVIEW: Palehound “Dry Food”


Palehound is Ellen Kempner, a former Sarah Lawrence student. Former meaning she dropped out, presumably because even if the school did have a 90s-inspired indie rock class, there wouldn’t have been much left for her to learn; the 21-year-old played everything but the drums on her new album, Dry Food. 

Dry Food is the Massachusetts-based artist’s second release after her 2013 EP, Bent Nail. It gets off to an aggressive start with “Molly,” a track that shows off Kempner’s instrumental skills with two guitar lines: one is wiry and playful, and the other brash, a machine-gun explosion of aggression. This duality continues throughout the album: you’ll hear gentle strumming and fingerpicking, twisting guitar licks, heavy distortion, feedback and nose dives down the fretboard – sometimes all in the same song.

The contrast in her music also applies to her singing. Her lyrics get personal, and are deeply aware, but there’s not so much vulnerability in her voice as a deadpan, matter-of-factness that masks most of the emotion. This works well with her songs – though Kempner isn’t afraid to get loud with her guitar; this isn’t dramatic or overly emotive music. Perhaps this is why she’s developed such a serious knack for imagery when it comes to describing feelings. So, the unwanted makeout session on “Easy” becomes “I’m pushing back your tongue/ With my clenched-teeth home security system,” and the tip-toeing of snobby “healthier folk” is revealed through Kempner asking, “Why don’t they hold me? They just cradle me like a homesick child.”

Possibly her best line comes from the title track: “You made beauty a monster to me/So I’m kissing all the ugly things I see.” Another key track is “Cinnamon,” a song that scatters guitar parts wildly over a smooth, shuffling beat. Kempner’s voice is cloaked in a heavy layer of reverb. By the end of the song she’s practically drowning in it, perhaps a result of a few too many rounds of “mixing water with gin and chasing it with cinnamon.”

If you take Dry Food as it is, it’s a short, but solid album. If you consider that it’s Kempner’s first actual album, and she’s still in her (very) early 20’s, the 28 minutes of casual heartbreak become even more impressive.

Dry Food will be available via Exploding In Sound on August 14th. In the meantime, check out “Healthier Folk” below.


ALBUM REVIEW: Mac DeMarco “Another One”

mac demarco photo

For some musicians, it’d be a bold enough move to wear their heart on their sleeve with lyrics like “Feeling so confused, don’t know what to do/ Afraid she doesn’t love you anymore” or admitting they’ll  “Never believe in a heart like hers again.” On his latest album, Another One, Mac DeMarco goes one step further by giving listeners his home address and inviting them to share a cup of coffee in the track “My House By The Water.”

Though certainly bold and unique, it’s not a completely risky move for the Canadian singer/songwriter. There’s little-to-no controversy in his music; DeMarco won’t have to worry about any irate listeners showing up, demanding explanations or apologies because his music has corrupted today’s youth (he lives in the Far Rockaways of Brooklyn, quite a commute even for most New Yorkers). DeMarco’s music is the chillest of the chill: slide guitar lines lazily trail his vocals, whammy bars are invoked gently, and drums keep a crisp, tight beat. His half-asleep voice invokes an incredibly laid back, slightly-stoned version of Jeff Tweedy. It’s so relaxed, some songs bleed into each other, but this gives the album a consistent, thematic quality. And at only 23 minutes long, mixing up the energy with more upbeat songs like “I’ve Been Waiting For Her” is enough variation.

It’s rare that an album can be so engrossing, yet casual and conversational. Another One feels almost like a high-production jam going on in Mac’s backyard.  One might be going on right now, in fact- it wouldn’t be too hard to find out, considering we have his address. Road trip, anyone?

Key Tracks:

“Just To Put Me Down”

“A Heart Like Hers”

“I’ve Been Waiting For Her”


EP REVIEW: LVL UP “Three Songs”


Apparently, there is a right way to listen to some records, and I got it wrong when playing LVL UP‘s new EP, Three Songs. According to the lo-fi group’s Bandcamp pagelisteners should “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][dim] the lights, burning all candles found within the dwelling. With eyes open toward the ceiling, the listener feels dull heat from the candles in front of them. Eyes closed now, the listener begins to regulate their breathing and in time presses play on their device.” Since I’ve never been one for rituals, and out of fear of burning down my apartment, I just plugged my laptop into speakers and turned them up past the roar of the AC. The result? Still good. 

Three Songs is just that, and they follow the general format of their earlier work but break some new ground. “The Closing Door” is a melancholy track with heavy distortion and a slow, steady beat similar to songs on their last release, Hoodwink’dbut fades into and out of a slightly psychedelic jam during the bridge. “Blur” is a bright pop song reminiscent of tracks like “I Feel Ok,” but brings a new energy, particularly in the rhythm section, and a crisper, cleaner sound. “Proven Water Rites” is a mysterious end to the EP, containing most of the release’s angst: “Remember me, when I’m free I’ll be easy /Nothing underneath/ Breathing fire, breathing steam.”

Candles or no, Three Songs is a great listen from a band that has always had talent, but continues to evolve and polish their sound.

Check out the EP below, available to pre-order now from Run For Cover Records.


ALBUM REVIEW: Hop Along “Painted Shut”

painted shut

It’s easy to imagine Frances Quinlan, the vocalist of Philadelphia’s Hop Along, as the frontwoman of a stage-destroying punk band. She seems to put every bit of energy she has into her singing until she’s hoarse and out of breath, twisting her voice from a whisper to a howl. The band behind her, though, provides some relief from her intensity. The rhythm section, made up of  Tyler Long on bass and her brother Mark on drums, remains unshakably steady under Joe Reinhart’s wiry guitar.

Painted Shut is Hop Along’s second album, and the first they’ve released through Saddle Creek Records. John Agnello, known for his work with Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, co-produced and mixed the album, and according to the band, it was “finished in the shortest span of time the band has ever made anything.”

Key tracks on Painted Shut are “Powerful Man” and “Buddy In The Parade.” The first tells the story of what Frances calls her greatest regret: not being able to help a child she suspected was being abused. The second is inspired by the jazz musician Buddy Bolden, who suffered from schizophrenia. “Horseshoe Crabs” deals with another troubled artist, the folk musician Jackson C. Frank, and contains my favorite line on the album: when Frances describes waking up to a sunrise as “staring at the ass-crack of dawn.” 

The band is currently on tour, and they’ll be playing at Baby’s All Right on Sunday. If you can’t make it (it is Mother’s Day, after all) you can at least check out the shadowy, illustrated music video for “Powerful Man” below!

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ALBUM REVIEW: Speedy Ortiz “Foil Deer”


“The Graduates” is one of the best songs on the new Speedy Ortiz album, Foil Deer. In the music video, the band takes some strange pills that make them hallucinate a kind of cute, mostly creepy giant rabbit. When their trip ends, they dose some innocent bystanders at a restaurant. It’s a perfect example of their music: charming, funny, and warped. But, I have a serious issue with a lyric Sadie Dupuis sings during the chorus: “I was the best at being second place/ But now I’m just the runner-up.”

This just isn’t true.

On their latest release, Dupuis once again shows off her style of twisted, creeping guitar lines. They perfectly compliment her vocals, deadpan with a hint of twang. The four-piece from Boston got some rave reviews from their SXSW performances, one which featured comedian Hannibal Buress sitting in on drums. Stephen Malkmus has been spotted wearing the band’s t-shirt, and they currently have tour dates which reach into October, including a sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom on Saturday.

And, of course, their sound is great. It’s a unique departure from chord-driven rock, with unexpected melodies that range from light and fun (“Swell Content”) to heavy (“Homonovus” and “Ginger”) to downright sinister (“Puffer”).

Speedy Ortiz is a serious musical contender. So when Sadie Dupuis sings she’s just a runner-up, I can’t take her too seriously. But when she proclaims in “Raising The Skate” that “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” that I definitely believe.

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LIVE REVIEW: Milán @ (le) poisson rouge

Friday night at the self-proclaimed “art and alcohol” gallery of (le) poisson rouge, Maria Neckam, aka the Brooklyn bred and jazz trained Milán infiltrated the far too sparsely populated space like fluorescent spheres of a bubble gun for her self-titled EP release party. Created in junction with DJ Brian Lindgren (Pax Humana), drummer Chris Berry (Holy Ghost!, Ghost Beach) and drummer Tommy Crane (Half Waif) the 11/11 release merges of the mind of Maria filtered through the creative production skills of Jim Orso (drums for Hot Chip, Holy Ghost! and Rush Midnight).

Milan at LPR

In a “let’s do this” moment her thin heels and leopard-print blazer were removed and Milán was unconstricted to align movement with alt-electro beats. Her finely tuned style and quirky dance moves evoke the endearing appeal of Björk, and fans of the Annie Clark-personified pop of St. Vincent will be looking to snag the self-titled EP.

Milan at LPR 1

With an almost unaware intensity, she let the focused crowd intimately in with the seductively vulnerability of “How could I ever let you come so close, to my heart?” in “Miles Apart.”

In a thrashing “DK6” that leaves you curious and craving what’s next, “Nobody asked you to move in here, nobody asked you to be become me…can’t you see that you hold me back?” jabs Milán.

The energy slowed down for the steady rhythms accelerated by the driving eclectic vocals of the haunting yet soft “25.” “When the world gets too close I can’t feel myself…” 

Milan at LPR 2

Like the teeming undercurrents of the up and coming next Brooklyn neighborhood, Milán has mainstream appeal for the next era 2015 of kink-tones.

Photos by Cody Orrell 

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INTERVIEW: Lily & Madeleine



Over the course of the past two years, Lily & Madeleine Jurkiewicz, teenage sisters from Indianapolis, have had a performance go viral on Reddit, written their first original songs, gotten signed to Asthmatic Kitty, released two full-length albums and an EP, and played several tours. The duo’s most recent album, the spooky and elegant Fumes, starts with the basics that have always characterized Lily & Madeleine’s sound–unadorned folk melodies and close harmony between the pair’s twin voices–and twists the basic foundation into something more nuanced and experimental. In what’s perhaps a byproduct of their overnight success coupled with being so young, Lily and Madeleine are still evolving as artists: Fumes pushes at the outer boundaries of folk and indie pop–turf that has by now become familiar to this group–and hints at more experimental, darker territory to be explored in the future. Even “Peppermint Candy,” one of the poppiest tracks on the album, complexifies its catchy melody with a sinister lyrical slant: “Peppermint candy, and a hand upon my gun,” the first verse begins, “I keep it handy, I’ve never been the kind to run.”

The overarching feeling in these tracks, however, is a kind of hopeful independence: the women in the songs are alone but self-sufficient, and just discovering their powers. “We felt inspired to create songs that reflected our current empowerment,” Madeleine explained to me when I called the sisters to chat yesterday afternoon. It was their second tour stop, and they were in Boston, waiting to start soundcheck. Read on to learn about Lily & Madeleine’s writing process, what they’ve been listening to these days, and what’s next for the duo.

AudioFemme: Hi, guys! You just kicked off a tour–how’s it going so far?

Lily: It’s been really fun. We’ve only had one show–we’ve done some radio things–but tonight is our second show in Boston.

Madeleine: We had a show in Indianapolis, right before Halloween. That was our album release show. The first show that we traveled to was in Charleston, WV, and we played on the Mountain Stage, which was really cool because they’ve had, like over 800 shows on that stage and broadcast them on the radio. Now we’re in Boston, and we really love Boston. It’s gonna be fun!

AF: You guys just released Fumes, your second album in 2 years. You’ve been so prolific so far–what’s your writing process like? Do you set a regular schedule or routine for yourself in terms of writing or playing?

Lily: I like to play every day just because it’s relaxing and fun. I like to write too, but you can’t always write a song by pressuring yourself to do it–sometimes it’s better when you’re inspired. So I don’t write every day.

AF: Has your writing process changed since your first recordings?

Madeleine: Honestly, no. The writing [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][on Fumes] was pretty similar to what it was for our first album. We wrote the same way, with me, Lily, and Kenny Childers, who’s our co-writer. The way that Fumes is different from the first album is that once we got into the studio and started arranging the songs, we began to experiment more. We brought in some new musicians and tried out different sounds, different distortions, things like that. The writing itself wasn’t different but the production was a little more involved.

AF: What inspired you thematically on this album?

Madeleine: Once we finished the first album and had some success with that, we knew we wanted to make a second album that was going to be just a little different, a little more evolved. Because we’d grown up, I guess. We were inspired by the tours we had been on, the people we had met, the experiences we had had, the way that our careers were shaping us as artists and as women. We felt inspired to create songs that reflect our current empowerment, I suppose. That’s really the main theme of the record. Empowerment.

AF: And these are all new songs that you’ve written since putting out a successful record. On your first EP, did you include any old songs? Anything that you’d written before knowing there was even going to be an EP to put them on? 

Lily: No, everything that went on the EP was written specifically for the EP. Before then we’d never written songs. So pretty much every song we’d ever written at that point went on the EP.

AF: Wow. So did you start songwriting specifically for the recording process?

Madeleine: Yeah, pretty much. We met our manager and producer and he challenged us to start writing our own music. We just fell in love with the process of creating  together, and we both just love music so much that it totally made sense to write our own material. Before that point we hadn’t really done much with writing.

AF: Did you worry at any point that you wouldn’t be able to write songs?

Lily: Oh, yeah. It was really hard at first. We tried and we didn’t know how to do it. Now it’s great.

AF: Clearly! So what got the ball rolling? Did you enter into the process totally collaboratively?

Madeleine: We did, yeah. That’s kind of how we always do it. Usually one of us will start with an idea and bring it to the other. Once we have a verse or a melody, just something to start on, that makes it easier to develop the song more quickly and turn it into something we both like.

AF: What are the best things about songwriting with a sibling?

Lily: Because we’ve always lived together, we have a lot of the same experiences. At the same time, we have different emotional reactions to things. Under pressure, Madeleine tends to get more anxious, and I tend to get more pushy. It’s a difference in our personalities.

AF: It must be beneficial to you as business partners to have different strengths. How has your personal relationship evolved since you began this project?

Madeleine: Definitely [it is beneficial to have different strengths]. I think we balance each other well. We’ve always been close. We’re not very far apart in age, and so we had the same teachers growing up, and very similar friend groups. This experience has made our relationship stronger, but nothing’s really changed that much, because we’ve always been friends.

AF: Have you always played music together? What were your first musical experiences?

Lily: We would always sing together around the house and things like that. But we never performed together.

Madeleine: Like Lily said earlier, we’ve loved music forever. It was something I would do as a hobby because I liked it and I was good at it. I didn’t think of it as being a career until we started writing and released our songs and signed to a label. Even then, I was really unsure of what we were getting ourselves into. Not until recently have I felt super comfortable with what we’ve been doing, but now I’m ready to be an artist and a musician. I’m letting myself do this and control this. I’m feeling good about it now.

AF: It sounds like you’ve both had to grow up really quickly.

Lily: Kind of. Yeah, probably. What with the places we’ve been, and the challenges we’ve had to overcome. But I do feel that we’d be the same people if this wasn’t happening.

Madeleine: I think about what I’d be doing if I was in college, or whatever, if I wasn’t doing this with Lily. I probably wouldn’t be as strong, and as sure of myself, because we’ve had really cool experiences that my peers haven’t had yet or may never have. So we’re lucky.

AF: Is it hard keeping in touch with friends who are on that other path?

Madeleine: I’ve stressed about that a lot. Like, as recently as last month. More and more, I feel like the people who want to stay in contact with me and support me, they will. Those who don’t, I don’t have any place for them in my life.

AF: Talk to me about blood harmony. I love that phrase. What does it mean, and why is it so special to you? 

Madeleine: I love that phrase too. It’s so creepy and cool. Well, I think it’s really natural for us to harmonize because we have the same voice, and the same genes. It’s really just the way we naturally do things.

AF: You have this amazing story of having a song go viral on Reddit and breaking into recording in this very fast, Internet-based sort of way. What do you think about Internet stardom and “going viral” as a way of breaking into the music industry?

Madeleine: It seems like that’s the way it happens now. We live in this age of technology, and posting stuff to YouTube is super common. Things going viral, it happens all the time, and I think it’s actually an awesome platform for artists to get going and put their art out there. Sometimes you have to search through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff, but I think it’s an awesome way for musicians to get started. I think we’re lucky that it happened for us that way.

AF: Really fast, too! If that hadn’t happened, would you be trying to break into the music business in other ways?

Lily: I think so. I think I’d probably go to college and study something music-related. But this is what I truly want to be doing so I’m glad everything went the way it went.

Madeleine: I don’t even want to talk about what I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing do this. Because obviously this is what the universe has given to us right now, this opportunity, this chance, so I think it just makes sense for us to  keep going with it. If I wasn’t, I guess I would be in college, and have friends and a boyfriend and hang out and go to parties. But I’m doing this, and I want to be doing this.

AF: What are some of your individual influences, and what do you both like to listen to?

Lily: My influences, they shift a lot. I tend to get really obsessed with an artist for a couple of weeks and then it dwindles a bit. I still listen to them, but I calm down and move on to something else. Right now I really like hip hop.

AF: Wow, I would not have guessed that from listening to your album!

Madeleine: Lily’s been sending me some of her hip hop stuff. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. I’m into electronic stuff–not hardcore electronic, but I’m starting to get into the genre a little bit more and take some influences. Maybe on our next album you’ll see some hip hop and electronic influence in our songs!


Catch Lily & Madeleine live tonight in New York City at Le fabulous Poisson Rouge! It’s not too late to pick up your tickets hereand stay tuned for my coverage of the show. To get a taste, watch the official music video for “The Wolf Is Free,” below:


VIDEO REVIEW: EELS “Mistakes Of My Youth” and Foals “Inhaler”


These past few months have brought us two new music videos that showcase the difficulty of youth and nostalgia from bands with animal monikers. EELS, singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett’s constantly developing alternative project has released a video for “Mistakes Of My Youth,” off of the forthcoming album The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. This new record hones in on interiority and personal struggle, a good focus for a fairly inconsistent band. The lo-fi melody of “Mistakes” is nostalgic, steady, and bittersweet.


Uk indie quintet Foalstake on adolescence, “Inhaler,” on the other hand, is rife with wild, passionate movement. Both of these bands seem to be looking back to the early 90s indie rock scene. While EELS’ does so with melancholia, Foals’ channels desperate rage.

The “Mistakes Of My Youth” video hones in on suburban rebellion. Beautiful shots of streets, parks, and backyards frame the world EELS’ youth lives in. He watches old black and white cartoons; he smokes and drinks under telephone lines amid grey skies; he rides his bike around restlessly, listlessly, reminiscing about his childhood with lyrics like “Look back down the road / I know that it’s not too late.” This narrator is attempting to recreate his younger days by “repeating yesterday,” though he knows this is impossible. Behaving wildly as he did when he was younger – graffiti, broken windows – won’t restore his youth. Meanwhile, the boy in the video also represents the invert. He behaves as an adult, smoking, drinking, making out with a girl, in an attempt break free of childhood’s confines, however his angst remains. This complicated juxtaposition captures the spirit of weary teenage rebellion.

Look out for EELS new album The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everrett, coming out 4/22 on  E Works/Pias.

“Inhaler” shows teenagers and Foals as discreet cohorts. A group of kids stand under a train trestle with hoodies, headphones, skateboards, and backpacks. Their  rowdiness is palpable, resting just beneath the surface. The band is physically separate from them yet somehow still part of their delinquent resolve. Both groups cop a strong sense of rage and discontent, as if the sentiment itself is waiting to burst out, as opposed to EELS’ sense of emptiness. Here, the youth are full of temper, of resentment. Foals’ vocalist Yannis Philippakis  yelps hoarsely and glances ominously at the camera. The body’s import to youth is part of the visual motif: they are attempting to find freedom that is outside of their physical selves and we see them strive for this through acts of physical defiance, through the pushing of physical limitations. Their sense of entrapment to the point of sickness is communicated throughout. Their confusion and rage pulls them together, unites them as a force of movement seeking escape.

Foals is currently on a spring tour with Cage The Elephant and will be making stops at Terminal 5 in  NYC on 5/6 and 5/7.