cehryl Builds Worlds Out of Distant Memories on Her New EP, time machine

Photo Credit: Jonny Ho

Nestled in a bed of mourning, in homesickness for that space between the first youthful lick of freedom and the whiplash that comes when you’re left completely on your own, comes time machine, the latest EP from Hong Kong-based musician cehryl. Breathy vocals glide over subtle, dreamlike instrumentals, seamlessly immersing you into a past to which you’re more tethered than you thought. Her enchanting EP translates to a moving photo album of her early college years, each track a high-saturation vignette blurred at the edges with the melancholy of loss. 

Clocking in at just 21 minutes, the concise EP covers much of its ground through cehryl’s ability to build worlds out of small, intimate experiences. Her lyricism goes hand in hand with the integrity behind production, intention permeating each second of time machine. From the somber opening track “philadelphia,” which recalls lost friendship, to “callus,” where energetic, bouncy plucks parallel the visceral bite of “thorns and scissors and clippers,” each sonic element carries as much weight as her words. By the time you reach the EP’s closer “outside the party, inside the dream” where cehryl wishes for “sugar and honey and trust,” a waltz-like structure lulls you into a wistful rest.

Cehryl is no stranger to transience, having spent time in the UK, Los Angeles, and Boston, where she attended Berklee College of Music. After COVID-19 put tours with Jeremy Zucker and Cavetown on indefinite hold (“I do have goals to play shows again,” she discloses when asked, “still in the middle of planning and gauging the situation!”) returning to her native Hong Kong took some adjustment. She recalls being “very pessimistic and bummed about it” in the beginning. With gratitude for those who surround her, from friends and fans to her management team and label, she’s “adapted to a very different lifestyle,” which includes juggling a day job and creative pursuits while “getting my feet in the tight-knit music community.”

Though her life is markedly different now, accessing seemingly ephemeral memories of her long-ago Berklee days comes second nature to cehryl, who calls herself “sentimental and nostalgic to a fault.”

“I have no problem recentering myself to channel older feelings,” she continues. “If anything, I have a lot of problems staying present and not reminiscing.”

These emotions drive her art in all its forms. She dabbles in drawing, describing herself as “not very good” (though her Instagram highlights will tell you otherwise), edits videos on occasion, and practices photography. “I think all of these outputs come from the same place even though my drawings can feel very different to my photography, which can feel different to my music,” she says. “Through them, I’m able to explore things I am technically incapable of saying in the other mediums.”

Aptly citing Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai as an influence on her videos, she puts songs together like patchwork. It’s her innate creative eye, an intrinsic precision that allows cehryl to immortalize moments in song through the eyes of a visual artist and director: expressive and earnest; reflective, yet raw enough to remain in the moment as though no time has passed at all.

“I find that routines can deaden the magic of making anything from scratch,” she says of her songwriting process. “Sometimes it starts with a phrase of words, sometimes it starts with a melody, sometimes it’s less ‘inspired’ and it just starts with experimenting with a chord sequence. I honestly don’t really evaluate or analyze my own lyrics after I write them. My editing process is just singing through the song and changing words to make the emotion or imagery stronger, but it all feels very ‘zoomed in’ like a small-scale, nit-picky kind of editing and not a pre-planned, big picture, conceptual rubric. More economically put, my process feels very subconscious.”

It’s a stream of consciousness style kept fresh by her commitment to concrete details that keep these songs so present in their stories. “laundry” is a standout for its effortless and poignant poeticism. She invites you to find childlike wonder in yearning for the mundane, singing of a moment “three piles down in our laundry.” cehryl notes that detail is not only “writing 101,” but “memory 101.”

“Without detail, we would not have our own stories,” she explains. “A lot of my writing comes from an autobiographical intent, so each song is like a memoir.”

And that’s the beauty of cehryl’s simplicity. time machine is a collection of songs so honest, they radiate warmth and adoration in spite of sadness, or even within it. When cehryl conjures vivid stories of people who’ve come and gone, though laced with longing, they offer hope, comfort in the belief that maybe you’ve made a mark on someone else’s life as profound as the ones made on yours.

Follow cehryl on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

Supercoolwicked Subverts Pop Paradigm With Shakespearean Self-love Jam “Juliet”

In her new video for “Juliet,” Detroit multidisciplinary artist, singer, and songwriter Morgan Hutson (aka Supercoolwicked) creates a fantasy world of her own – an Afrocentric, baroque daydream that meshes the Shakespearian with the contemporary, the traditional with the subversive. Those who’ve given SCW’s 2019 debut LP High Gloss a spin know that this particular cocktail of familiar and foreign is what makes her music so memorable. And in “Juliet,” she perfects her brand of soliloquiel storytelling both visually and lyrically to deliver a fantasy world full of self-love and artistic actualization. 

Hutson explains that she wrote the lyrics to this song a few years back, when she was going through a breakup, dating through the all-too-familiar string of slacker suitors that seem to follow. “I was just out here swangin’ and just dealing with these men that were not shit and I knew it… but people can be beautiful Band-Aids,” she says. This transition period led her to reflect on what it means to love yourself; she realized she was looking for validation in others instead of within, like so many of us tend to do. “I started to kind of ruminate on it and be like, ‘Girl, you’re everything I need – stop trying with these people, be your own Romeo. Don’t look for romance where it’s not. Or love in general.’”

That realization blossomed into a lavish poetic love letter to the self, released last Friday, just in time for Valentine’s Day. The video for “Juliet” starts out with SCW walking into a medieval-looking church and opening a storybook; as the pages turn, we’re transported into the artist’s shimmering psyche, a romantic realm meshing two of her favorite cinematic inspirations: 1996 Baz Luhrmann classic adaptation William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty. Hutson pays homage to the films throughout, singing lines like “a rose by any other name just wouldn’t be as sweet,” while gazing at herself in a royal-looking hand mirror and, later, framed lying in a bed of roses, all the while embedding her own artistic vision. With a background in musical theatre and a lifetime of acting on her resume, Hutson has a more intimate relationship than most with the Shakespearean. “Anytime I can be dramatic, I love it,” she says. 

But make no mistake – SCW’s creative choices are driven less by vanity or fandom, and more by self-worth, lived experience, and a love for her culture. By inserting herself into the Shakespearean narrative that has historically been dominated by white/European voices and faces, SCW carves out space for herself and her ancestors to be uplifted and celebrated. “It’s Black history month and I’m very proud of my heritage,” she says. “I know that we’ve been through a lot of things, but I wanted to bring the world of this Afrocentric, baroque idea to life…to meet those two [worlds] because I think that’s kind of where I dwell.”

Aside from realizing her aesthetic aspirations in the video, SCW finds a way to squeeze sophisticated couplets into a tight pop/R&B song framework. She credits trailblazers like Mariah Carey for inspiring her to incorporate her expansive vocabulary into her songwriting. “It’s like, how does she fit all that in there and make it sound so cute? I feel like that’s the ultimate flex,” she muses. “I don’t think that we have to mold ourselves into what people think things are because we create the paradigm as artists. So one of my underlying, subconscious things that I have going on is to subvert the pop paradigm.” 

Supercoolwicked does just that without removing the escapism that makes pop music so attractive to begin with – she creates an entire world for the listener to dwell in and make their own. “I feel like pretend is something we’ve forgotten as adults,” says Hutson. “We can really lean into that part of our inner child, especially during this time, because that’s the way through it.” 

Follow Supercoolwicked on Instagram for ongoing updates.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Lost Boy ? “96”


Davey Jones, the prolific mastermind behind experimental bedroom pop project Lost Boy ?, put out my favorite new summer jam this week! Listening to “96” after scrolling through too many friends’ family vacation photos and recovering from an ice cream binge stomach ache succeeded in making me feel less like an apathetic beach sloth. Its “I’ve only got time for love” hook lies on top of a Violent Femmes-y bass line and bright acoustic guitar, immediately sticking in my sun-fried brain and turning it into a more hopeful warm place. Thanks Davey!

Lost Boy ?’s next NYC show is July 29th at Riis Park Beach Bazaar with THICK, Big Huge & Gobbin Jr. RSVP here.

Check out the rest of our Track of the Week playlist below…

TRACK REVIEW: Von Sell “Hell No”

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Segreti

Von Sell is an electro-pop artist who has the genre of “bedroom pop” on lockdown. Born in New York, raised in Germany, and schooled at Berklee, Von Sell eventually moved to Brooklyn in 2012 to pursue his music career in earnest. A degree in Contemporary Writing and Production and ​piano studies shows itself often within the construction of Von Sell’s music; despite his modern voice and the use of electro beats, the composition of his music is often epic in form – sound that paints a landscape.

His newest single “Hell No” takes the airy, sensual quality of his earlier works and injects the kind of strut that reminds one of Kimbra à la “Miracle“. The track opens with Von Sell’s voice gently conversing with a flame: “I am for sale / but I ain’t cheap / I can’t stay but I ain’t gonna leave you / You can take me down but be gentle when you do.” The beat picks up and for a moment we’re dancing, avoiding the inevitable breakup. There is a lovely fluctuation of tone throughout “Hell No;” it toys with the ear, playing a game of tension and release throughout. It’s a tantalizing glimpse of little snippets of a lovers’ quarrel, observed through red rooms and cracked doorways.

Give it a listen below:


TRACK PREMIERE: Mimi Raver “Creatures Of Habit”

The album art for Mimi Raver’s upcoming LP ’06 Female will give you an insight into the songwriter’s knack for duality. At first glance, the cover for Raver’s imminent release bears the precious, painterly image of a grey tabby, sitting pretty by a Kelly green couch. On closer inspection: droplets of blood color the cat’s mouth…and then you see the dead seagull, punctured and pinned between kitty’s paws.

The same secretly sinister allure is at play on Raver’s new single, “Creatures Of Habit,” which digs far deeper than its “bedroom pop” branding suggests. Raver’s music has also been branded as “analog,” which is far more fitting given the warm tape hiss that greets you in the opening bars of  “Creatures Of Habit.” Mimi Raver feels close. Very, very close. Her voice is too interesting to call a whisper, but it is made of a similar softness – gliding lithely on top of pitchy rhythm guitar. So it’s all the more surprising when she coos:

“Frank fell in the kitchen again/And he smashed his head on the window sill/Said he saw his wife at the door/But she’s been gone since 2004.”

Raver’s breed of “dream pop” plumbs far greater depths than songs about chilling at the beach. As for her approach to form, Raver has taken great care to convert her love of analog photography to an album exalting the messiness of tape recording. The entirety of ’06 Female was laid down on a Teac-3440 A 4-track reel-to-reel tape machine, which accounts for the wonderful graininess throughout.

Raver’s subtle songwriting is equally intriguing as her ability to harness discomfort so beautifully – and utilize the unexpected effects of her recording method. As “Creatures Of Habit” tapers off, warbling voices clamor in conversation – a result of radio signals the tape machine picked up from nearby broadcasting stations.

Raver is a quietly captivating songwriter; one that can merge the eerie and the intimate, the analog and contemporary, and a sordid sweetness that makes you want to hear more from her. Much more.

Stream our exclusive premiere of Mimi Raver’s “Creatures of Habit” below; ’06 Female arrives this April.

PLAYING DETROIT: Dear Darkness Slays on Latest EP

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Dear Darkness photo by Elise Mesner

Stacey MacLeod and Samantha Linn are distressed to impress, sharing their wonderfully warped worldview as as post-punk kitsch queens Dear Darkness on their latest EP She’s That Kind of Person, but I Like Her Anyway.

Released last month, their latest effort doesn’t stray far from 2016’s Get it Here EP. Faithful to their unhinged brand of glitter and grime this sonic adventure is less bashful bedroom eyes and more spontaneous arson speckled with deep throat kissing. Tongue between teeth rather than tongue-in-cheek, Dear Darkness revisits their affinity for braiding danger with crossed-legs innocence.

This time around, the girls turned up the fuzz with additional layers of synths and even more reckless percussive outbursts; taken together, their sound feels like a perfectly orchestrated tantrum. “Birthday Party” is a pouty psych-punk update to Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” and “You Had it Comin” could easily soundtrack a David Lynch revenge montage sequence. “Let’s Blow up the Moon” which is, well, about blowing up the moon, is so heavily distorted that you would think they were playing on the moon, loud enough for us to hear back on planet earth but warped by outer space. It’s peppered with enough blood-curdling screams to wake Hitchcock from the dead. Cohesive even in their chaos, Dear Darkness proves once again that you’ve gotta have a light to go on living in the shadows.

Bat your lashes and take names with the latest from Detroit punk princesses Dear Darkness below: