Chelsea Jade Makes Enigmatic Pop Music for Outsiders with Soft Spot LP

Chelsea Jade has always felt like an outsider in the music industry. Even after making the voyage to Los Angeles from her isolating home country of New Zealand, Jade’s journey in music has always seemed like something that happened despite her plan, not because of it. She went to art school and dropped out after a year to pursue music. She didn’t quite fit in between the lines of dense art history textbooks, but never really felt at home in the star-studded hustle and bustle of Hollywood. In fact, Jade’s life has been full of paradoxes, and her music makes no exception. Her latest record, Soft Spot (out April 29 on Carpark Records), is a collection of songs that contain both the effervesce of a summer day and the nihilism of Nietzsche. Her ability to weave dark metaphors and prosaic story telling into the tight confines of ABAB pop song structure is nothing short of genius, and result is, simply put, a record full of bops.

“Frankly, I appreciate the parameters that pop [music] provides,” says Jade. Once the barriers are in place, you can just bounce around inside so freely.” Take her song “Optimist.” At first glance, it sounds like a lovesick infatuation anthem – “I became an optimist the minute that we touched/I’m positive it’s love/I don’t believe in much/It’s looking up/‘Cuz I became an optimist the minute that we touched.” But if you listen closely, Jade’s lyrics carry a heavier weight. “It’s about manipulating someone with sex,” explains Jade, “or using them as a salve when you feel affection for them but you don’t know how to maneuver through that honestly, because you have no self-esteem. Does that make sense?” Why, yes, yes it does.  

Through this lens, Jade’s record unfolds in a type of dark love story – the kind that paints your whole world blood red and doesn’t give you a moment to breathe until you’re out the other end. The kind that might actually just be obsession, or lust, or just blatant distraction. In “Good Taste,” Jade elaborates on the idea of sex as a band-aid for any unpleasant emotions. “It’s like a miracle/Feeling your charisma getting physical/And yet I’m miserable/But oooh, it’s such a mood getting sexual.” But, as nature has proven, the fruit is always the sweetest before it decays.

Jade points out that the thesis of the record lies in the first phrase of the title track, “Soft Spot” – “I’m gonna love you from the soft spot where the fruit begins to rot.” It’s a nod to the sickly-sweet decadence that characterizes impulsive love affairs, escapist bouts of romance, or a fling that has run its course. Ironically, the title track is stripped of all the embellishments and lushness present in the rest of the record’s eight tracks, and plays out like an intimate soliloquy.

“This is the art school in me I couldn’t resist,” Jade says of the song’s stripped down production style. “It felt like a good opportunity not to abandon context. Which is a new thing for me.” She explains that as she adds production to her practice, she’s not afraid to add crunchiness or texture to the music she makes. On top of that, she’s not afraid to let what feels natural supersede what anything “should” sound like, especially when it comes to pop music. “The person who’s playing the piano [in “Soft Spot”] is not in the music industry or anything, it’s just my friend who has a piano in his house and we were just playing around after dinner, which is nice too.”

These subversive nods exist throughout the record, whether it’s the dark, repetitious bassline in “Optimist” or the bright twinkling bells set against the foreboding metaphor for relationship-induced isolation in “Real Pearl.” Soft Spot finds its home in the spaces between – between self-awareness and escapism, love and hate, indulgence and sagacity. If Chelsea Jade is an outsider, then we are lucky to get a glimpse inside her enigmatic mind.

Follow Chelsea Jade on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

MUSIQUE BOUTIQUE: Laura Love, Low, The Sweet Inspirations, The Beths

Welcome to Audiofemme’s monthly record review column, Musique Boutique, written by music journo vet Gillian G. Gaar. Every fourth Monday, Musique Boutique offers a cross-section of noteworthy reissues and new releases guaranteed to perk up your ears.

Laura Love is the kind of performer who doesn’t readily fit into any one category. Her songs have elements of folk, funk, pop, blues; Love has called  her style “Afro-Celtic.” Her albums feature everything from a Nirvana cover to the ballad “Wayfaring Stranger” to “Amazing Grace.” She was a member of the satiric feminist band Venus Envy; her 2018 album She Loved Red was a searing depiction of recovering from personal loss.

When COVID hit, Love went into semi-retirement, “feeling satisfied that I’d said and done all I needed to say and do.” Then came the insurrection of January 6th, 2021, which galvanized Love into new musical action: Uppity is the result.

The acoustic sounds (dobro, banjo, harmonica) provide a deceptively mellow backdrop for an album that’s a powerful, stirring indictment of racial injustice. “You make me feel like a Nat Turner woman,” is Love’s jesting response to the white rioters she saw overwhelming the Capitol last January in “The Heart of Nat Turner.” In “23 and Me” she explores her own mixed-race history, as seen through the eyes of a young slave woman. The pain of dealing with “sexism, racism, and all the other isms that keep me up at night” runs deep. In “Gentle,” Love sadly admits, “I just don’t know how to mend; “It’s gonna take a long time for us to be fine” is the similar sentiment in “To Be Fine.” But there’s hope as well, in the uplifting “Bayou,” and a wonderfully freewheeling duet with Ruthie Foster on a cover of the Beatles’ “Two of Us.”

Low creates otherworldly sounds like you’ve never heard. Some have attempted to categorize the music of the husband-and-wife team (Alan Sparkhawk, Mimi Parker) by dubbing it “slowcore,” which is hopelessly mundane. Low are sonic shapeshifters, manipulating sounds and crafting them into something unexpected.

On Hey What (Sub Pop), the only element not subject to distortion are Sparkhawk and Parker’s voices, their harmonies serving as a kind of life raft to hang onto in the midst of a surging maelstrom. The heavy, industrial noise that opens the album might make you feel like you’re in for a rough ride. Not so. There may be some occasional turbulence, but there’s a mesmerizing purity in the vocals that provides a soothing balm. This is especially so on a song like “Days Like These,” which begins with the lush sound of the two singing acapella, before a blur of white noise fragments the soundscape.

At over seven-and-a-half minutes, “Hey” is a stately choral piece of symphonic scope, a slice of meditative ambience, classical music beamed in from another dimension. Hey What stretches musical boundaries in a way you never dreamed was possible.

The Sweet Inspirations built their reputation by providing backing vocals for Dusty Springfield, Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett, and Petula Clark, among numerous others. Their horizons expanded when they toured and recorded with Aretha Franklin, and they gained an even bigger audience when they became Elvis Presley’s vocalists until 1969, working with him right up to the day he died (they were waiting on a plane headed for that night’s concert in Portland, Maine, with other band members, when they learned of Presley’s death).

They also released records in their own right, and Let It Be Me: The Atlantic Recordings (1967-1970) (Soul Music Records) covers their most commercially successful period. Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell, and Emily “Cissy” Houston (Whitney’s mother) were previously members of such renowned vocal groups as the Drinkard Singers, the Gospelaires and the Gospel Wonders. So they have a natural affinity for hymns and spirituals like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Down by the Riverside.” But they also had the kind of commercial appeal that led the singles “Sweet Inspiration” and “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)” to find crossover success on the soul and pop charts. This fine collection allows the Sweets to take center stage and let their sublime voices shine.

You can hear the excitement in their voices. Not the voices of the band — the voices of the audience, who are clearly thrilled to be at an actual live concert again. That energy is then naturally picked up by the band — the Beths — and reflected back to the crowd, resulting in a powerhouse performance on their live album, Auckland, New Zealand, 2020 (Carpark Records).

The Beths (Elizabeth Stokes, lead vocals/guitar; Jonathan Pearce, lead guitar/vocals; Benjamin Sinclair, bass/vocals; Tristan Deck, drums/vocals) were home in New Zealand in early 2020, preparing a tour for their upcoming album Jump Rope Gazers. Then the pandemic hit. Performance continued via live-streaming. But there’s nothing quite like being there in person.

From the opening blast of “I’m Not Getting Excited” to the last beat of “River Run: Lvl 1,” the show is one rollicking blast of power pop fervor. Catchy hooks, toe-tapping rhythms, a warm lead vocal backed by cool harmonies — it’s the total package. But tune into what’s being sung, and you’ll find that the bright musical spirits are matched by more downbeat lyrics. Stokes says that’s the intention; “Sweetly sung melodies and super depressing lyrics” are what she aims for. Love’s turmoil is the primary subject; in “Future Me Hates Me” Stokes dreads the inevitable fallout of succumbing to romance (“Future heartbreak, future headaches”), while in “Uptown Girl” she dips into unrequited longing. Then the peppy melody takes over and you know those blues won’t be sticking around for long.

INTERVIEW: Johanna Warren Comes into Her Power with Chaotic Good

Photo Credit: Jeff Davenport

When Johanna Warren was twelve or thirteen, she recalls thinking that if she wanted to be a true artist, she would have to fuck up her life. Her musical idols – Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake – all died as tortured young poets. Warren hadn’t sung in front of anyone since she was a child, writing songs with her little brother as their alter egos, Horsey & Joe. Over the next several years, she’d throw herself first into musical theater, combating crippling shyness to play the parts she’d immediately regretted auditioning for, before preforming jokey songs at open mic nights about surviving apocalyptic floods by taking refuge in the Loch Ness monster’s vagina. It wasn’t until years later, in a grimy punk house basement, that someone took her seriously; even then, she felt a dark pull toward misery and misfortune. “I wanted to be a great artist, so I had to open a chaotic portal to invite in a lot of suffering because that’s where great art comes from,” Warren says. “I think it’s a really grave miscalculation that we’re encouraged to make. I can’t help but feel that there’s some kind of intentionality there, on behalf of some dark, oppressive forces that want us to dim our light and die young and never thrive.”

Fast forward about a decade, and Johanna Warren found herself recording her fourth solo album, Chaotic Good, at Elliott Smith’s New Monkey Studio. It wasn’t the only place she recorded – what started out as angry acoustic demos in her Portland garage transformed over the course of touring behind her 2018 self-released double album, Gemini, as folks she met on the road offered her free studio time from coast to coast. But New Monkey was a significant space for Warren. “Right when I was starting to look for places to record, the owner invited me to have a free day there. It’s all functional as a recording studio, but they have done a really respectful job of preserving things more or less as they were when he was there – it felt like a shrine as much as a studio,” Warren says. “That was so meaningful and that was really the beginning of feeling like alright, I’m making a record. And it felt like it had kind of [Smith’s] blessing. He’s sort of my patron saint of songwriting. I feel like he gave me permission to make a record like this, where it doesn’t have to fit into one neat little genre box, it can just be an expression of my feelings and my own inner hypocrisies and self contradictions.”

Also of particular relevance was the time she spent at the Relic Room in Manhattan, recording with her old bandmates in Sticklips, Chris St. Hilaire and Jim Bertini. Their band had fallen apart in 2012, following the death of Sticklips’ leader, Jonathan “JP” Nocera. JP was the one who, all those years ago, had sat Warren down and made her play every song she’d ever written, recognizing in her something she couldn’t yet see in herself. “He wanted us to keep going with it, but honestly he was the glue that held it all together,” Warren recalls. “I was not capable of keeping it together after he was gone because I didn’t know myself enough musically or emotionally. I wasn’t confident enough in my own ideas because the only music I had really recorded or produced was with them, and they were all slightly older men. At the time I was all too happy to let them take the reins. I was angry about it but didn’t even know that there was another way. My frustrations with that were building but I didn’t have the emotional interpersonal skills to communicate any of that so it just exploded.”

Despite the buzz around the band’s two LPs, 2009’s It Is Like a Horse. It Is Not Like Two Foxes. and 2012’s more minimally-named Zemi, Warren had decided to go it alone, and moved to the West Coast, touring with the likes of Iron & Wine and Julie Byrne. “It was definitely kind of traumatic because I felt like I’d always wanted to be in a great band – I was obsessed with The Beatles and Radiohead. Right as things started to really gel, it all fell apart. And I was so young at the time, it was really formative. I’m just now starting to open the door to collaborating with other people again, cause I’ve been licking that wound for the last decade.” Her first solo album, Fates, arrived in 2013, followed by numun (pronounced “new moon”) in 2015. After recording both Gemini records, but unable to find a label that would release them, Warren formed Spirit House Records from the ashes of a label that JP had gifted her upon his passing. Over time, it has evolved into a collective of experimental folk artists, mostly in and around the Portland scene. Later, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz would re-release the Gemini records on her Carpark imprint Wax Nine, as well as put out Chaotic Good.

In the process of recording Chaotic Good, Warren says she looked to that younger version of herself for gems of wisdom and truth that had gotten buried and forgotten over time. “That’s sort of a theme of the album – burying the dream that never came true, and the presence of death and the spirits of the dead, but then the rebirth and new life that springs from the ruins of whatever you’ve buried and grieved,” Warren explains. “This last couple years have been all about a kind of return. It has led to me stepping into my own power, and then also remembering: I have a band – I left them in New York ten years ago. I just need to hit them up and make some amends.” Warren did just that, reuniting with St. Hilaire and Bertini to add drums, synth, and bass to her demos. “It was so healing for everybody to play together again in a completely different context, and for me to be able to assert myself and hold my own. It felt so satisfying to pick up that loose thread and weave it back into the tapestry.”

It was validating, too, to be in control of that process – the band added their parts over the vocals she’d recorded in Portland, as opposed to Warren adding her parts over Sticklips tracks. Back then, Warren says, “I was like the icing on the cake – even though it had been my song that was the foundation around which all of the other instrumentation had been built, I always felt like my stuff was just an afterthought. I didn’t even have the vocabulary to say I can’t hear myself, it doesn’t sound like me, it doesn’t sound like my song anymore. So to work this way with the same people, but have my parts actually be the backbone of the whole recorded construction was really cool. It was such an amazing testament to the collective work we’ve all been doing in the last ten years around gender and power and breaking down these oppressive hierarchical structures.”

The metaphor of excavating her old selves pops up in two videos for the album’s early singles, the graceful stop-motion of “Bed of Nails” and “Only The Truth,” which posits Warren as a Druid resurrected in present-day Los Angeles, still able to find magic in a neon-lit roller rink. “It was so fun to play that character for a couple days, cause I realized, I didn’t really even have to act – this is how I’ve always felt moving through the world, especially places like LA. So much of her world has been lost and destroyed, but magic still exists in everything, and that’s kind of what the song is about too,” she says, before quoting a lyric from the song: “I see light everywhere I go, I see the love in all of you.”

Warren, for what it’s worth, has long identified as a witch “as kind of an eco-feminist fuck you to the patriarchy,” though she doesn’t rely on ritual these days as much as she once did. She practices plant medicine and reiki, and her spiritual beliefs are subtly integrated throughout the album. “What you call God, I call the mysteries of the universe/What difference does it really make after all?” she asks on “Rose Potion,” a song that hints at her experience weaning herself off of pharmaceuticals prescribed for chronic illnesses that only worsened until she was able to find natural remedies and process past trauma. Piano-driven, woodwind-embellished album closer “Bones of Abandoned Futures” describes, in essence, a binding ceremony, in which Warren releases herself from the spells of the past: “Expell from my body the putrid mess inside me and call back my magic to me,” she sings, describing the process as “killing” and “slaughtering” the darkness before she comes to the final, poignant lines, “The time has come for stillness and mindful cultivation of light/Removing the sting and the sorrows of losing by singing with all of my might.” In that way, Chaotic Good is medicine all on its own – the album sees Warren confronting abusers past and present, personal and political, and stepping into her own power and anger as a woman.

“A big part of it [was] just recognizing that I have always had anger in me, inviting that energy into the room, learning how to scream, and giving myself space to do that vocally for the first time,” says Warren, who is at her most brazen on “Twisted,” a seething send-off that sees the singer posit herself as a warrior broken by loving someone incapable of empathy or understanding. “In my previous work I tried to repress it, because I thought it was ugly and scary and bad. I’d been limiting myself to this really pretty, clean, crystalline quality that gets praised a lot. But [for] this record and this time in my life, I’ve given up on prettiness and just gotten more interested in being whole, embracing all parts of myself and not trying to cut things out cause I don’t think they’re pretty.”

Parts of Chaotic Good still rely on the haunting beauty of Warren’s voice – like hushed ballad “Hole in the Wall,” rambling confessional “Every Death,” or wistful, warm acoustic number “Thru Yr Teeth” – but juxtapose them with with the same bitter emotions. As Warren lived her nomadic lifestyle, touring behind Gemini and snatching up time to experiment with newer songs in whatever studio spaces she could, the instrumentation on Chaotic Good grew more robust than any of her previous work, drawing that bitterness out sonically on songs like “Faking Amnesia” and “Part of It,” on which she sings “This is a time for me, everything else can wait/Whatever is meant to be will be and everything else can fall away.”

Indeed, Warren herself is the centerpiece of Chaotic Good, even as springy bass and shuffling drums give the tracks more punk rock energy than the pristine folk she’d cultivated in the past. “I was the only consistent player throughout – it was just me and my guitar and my traveling hard drive flitting around the whole country and working with different people in different places,” Warren says, noting that such an usual way of working was incredibly freeing in that it allowed her to explore different elements and ideas. “It was re-enlivening to get so many pairs of fresh ears on it, a day at a time. It was such a unique way of working. I’m not in any rush to go back to doing it the other way because it gave me so much time and space to reflect and change things up with low stakes.”

“That’s part of the namesake – the chaotic nature of recording it,” she continues. “I was like some little pollinating insect flying around flower to flower and getting the nectar of each moment in time in space,” she says. “I’ve never worked like that before… I feel like it translates to me synaestehtically; when I listen to the record all my senses are flooded with this feeling of variety. I feel like I see rainbows when I listen to it because there are so many moments in time, so many places, so many people, it feels like a travelogue of the last couple years that have been so beautiful really. So chaotic, but so good.”

More than any other song on the album, “Only The Truth” encapsulates Warren’s tumultuous journey, not only as a singer- songwriter, but as human being drawn into a series of co-dependent relationships. As the track builds, she calls out her past reliance on creating songs out of personal tragedy, describing “the sacred well of pain that I’ve returned to time and time again to fill my vessels with the nectar torture poison that my thirsty muse took a liking to.”

“That is to me, an encapsulation of a big over-arching process that I’ve been really invested in personally,” Warren admits. “I’ve taken a real stance against that in myself and in the world around me. It is possible to be happy and make great art and thrive and be healthy and live to a hundred twenty. And I want to do it. I want to prove to myself that that’s possible.”

Warren is currently holed up Wales, following the postponement of a European tour in support of Chaotic Good; she’s planting a garden, foraging wild foods and setting up a recording studio in a spare room, realizing that she needs this time to heal the body she’s put through years of touring. “I feel really happy right now, and honestly, I haven’t had that burning desire to create that I did when I was a tortured 20-something, when that was my only outlet,” she says. “Now, I feel really peaceful when I just wake up and walk outside and plant my beans. I don’t feel the urgency that I did, but I feel that I am making good work that I stand behind that is serving a purpose. And I feel very invested in dismantling that programming that has been running itself out in my mind for a long time and creating and alternative.”

Follow Johanna Warren on Facebook for ongoing updates.

INTERVIEW: Madeline Kenney Sets Boundaries and Explores New Sounds on Perfect Shapes

When I call Madeline Kenney, she’s almost home – driving back to Durham from a brief West Coast tour after a stop in Austin to drop off her band. On this return trip, she’ll cross the Continental Divide for the ninth time this year. Her first crossing, in January, was part of a move from the Bay Area to North Carolina to record her sophomore album, Perfect Shapes. It had scarcely been six months since Carpark Records put out her Toro Y Moi-produced Night, Night At First Landing, but Kenney was compelled by opportunity – she’d been offered free recording time in Sylvan Esso’s home studio, with none other than Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes mastermind Jenn Wasner as producer.

At the time, Kenney and Wasner had not yet met face-to-face – the match-up came at the recommendation of folks adjacent to the Durham music scene, whom Kenney met while touring behind Night, Night and would later move in with. But it couldn’t have been more appropriate; though Night, Night is a distinctly dream-pop affair, its hazy guitars nearly obscuring Kenney’s presence, Perfect Shapes brings out all of Kenney’s quirkiest ideas, equal parts art rock and indie pop. “It’s not that I don’t like [Night, Night] or am not proud of it,” Kenney cautiously explains. “I think I was pretty naïve when I made Night, Night, pretty eager to please. I think I said yes to a couple of things production-wise that, looking back, maybe I didn’t really mean to say yes to.”

That idea crops up on Perfect Shapes over and over again – that Kenney, at 26, is still learning about and setting her own boundaries, and her songs are a fantastic reminder to anyone listening not to back down from their own. “I can’t go out… I’m in the hustle to my elbows,” she sings on “No Weekend,” describing all too relatably the plight of so many millennials. But over a fluttering sax interlude (courtesy Wasner’s Wye Oak cohort Andy Stack), she concedes, “I’m so good at giving in.” Even before we get there, we have album opener “Overhead,” in which Kenney complains of others “calling me empty / just because I know my own limits.” The following track, “Bad Idea,” dissolves an “In The Air Tonight”-reminiscent intro into a pulsating synth line, its lyrics ambiguous until Kenney cries, “So I showed up, just like they told me to / Drilling it all in my head / So, that’s what the girls do – Showin’ up for you, for you.”

Her interrogation of emotional labor and unapologetic tenacity belies the record’s soothing composition – vocal layers lap softly over one another; relatively sparse braids of springy bass, warbling synths, sped-up samples, and twangy guitar lines give the entire record a swirling, almost aquatic feel, and make it an exceedingly pleasing listen on a visceral level. Lead single “Cut Me Off,” is a perfect example; Kenney sternly advocates for doing things on her “own time” over a nimble, Dirty Projectors-esque riff, kitschy but subtle slurping sounds augment the words “drink it up,” and just as she proclaims she’s “got a good thing going,” the song ends abruptly, as though someone, somewhere, just hit a mute button. It’s equal parts wit, social commentary, and unexpected earworm.

And while Wasner’s sonic thumbprint is certainly visible, Kenney emphasizes the collaborative nature of their working together. Kenney had demoed the songs but most of them were recorded from scratch over a two-week session, with drummer Camille Lewis joining them halfway though the process (Lewis, along with her Dead Recipe bandmate Kyle Albrecht, comprise Kenney’s live backup). “We recorded some things on top of my demos because both of us had this feeling about a couple of them that there was a mood that we couldn’t recreate if we started fresh,” Kenney says. But for the most part, “it was Jenn and Camille and I in a room getting to know each other as musicians, as people, and learning and making mistakes and really exploring a lot of different things and allowing ourselves to just be free in the space and make something that was interesting to us and not affected by anything from the outside world.”

It’s the kind of creation myth told over and over again, from Big Pink to Bon Iver – but rarely are the protagonists women, and Kenney says the experience was eye-opening. “Oftentimes in studios with men… it’s this internalized misogyny where you’re constantly second guessing yourself – like I don’t wanna speak up or I don’t wanna ask this question cause I don’t wanna look like I don’t know what I’m doing. I think we had to learn, literally together, to feel comfortable with that because of how long we’ve been trained by the world to second-guess ourselves.”

Kenney also recognizes that women have been socialized to nurture, particularly in their relationships to men – at one point, she studied neurobiology while simultaneously supporting herself as a baker and pastry chef. “I think the neurobiological predisposition to be a caretaker is a beautiful thing, and I personally get a lot of satisfaction and deep emotional reward from taking care of people,” she admits. “That’s why I loved being a baker – I like making things for people and making them happy. But I just get totally depleted by it, because of how people are socialized to take from women.” It’s a personal sentiment that’s easily applicable in a wider setting, as women all too often bear the brunt of emotional labor professionally, personally, and even politically. Album standout “The Flavor of the Fruit Tree” is both a prod at a relationship that Kenney ended after feeling like she had to be a mother to someone six years older than herself, but she says it’s also “a commentary on how society allows men to act like children.”

It’s here the album takes a turn – on the following track, Kenney announces “I went home, I got tired / of standing up, of giving up my time / Of getting offers, Of being mother,” and its last three songs (including the stellar title track) are concerned mainly with aesthetic appreciation – the shapes, colors, sunlight, art and music that propel Kenney forward. No longer relegated to caretaker, Kenney can become the creator, the observer, the appreciator. While it’s clear that she’s taken efforts to carve out her own space as a musician, Perfect Shapes finds Kenney simultaneously prepared to hold fast to the new boundaries she’s set for herself, but also to share her talent with others. “I think once you make a song and put it out, it really isn’t yours anymore. It’s going to be consumed by another brain who’s been though a different set of experiences and understands things differently,” she says. Through her kaleidoscopic sonic palette, she’s invented a new way of interacting with an otherwise demanding world, and says that working with Wasner left her with the confidence to keep pushing. “I was interested in doing something different and exploring some new sounds,” she says. “I guess I’ll always have a million interests. I’m sure the next one will be different too.”

Madeline Kenney plays Baby’s All Right on November 1. For a full list of tour dates, click here

PLAYING DETROIT: Palm Brings East Coast Experimental Rock to Marble Bar

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Palm photo by Dylan Pearce

Thanks to Detroit-based booking company, Party Store Productions, Marble Bar – a venue generally known for hosting electronic and house DJs – has been bringing in a steady roster of local and visiting rock bands. This week, Philadelphia-based prog rockers Palm were joined by Spirit of the Beehive and local Detroit band Double Winter for a delightfully disorienting show. Palm’s outré time signatures, erratic vocals, and incandescent synths make for a refreshingly novel sound arriving at what can be described as “mathy-Beach Boy-grunge-jazz.”

Although the complex tempo changes and musical layers sound like a bunch of technically trained musicians blissfully nerding out, none of the band’s members – Kasra Kurt (guitar/vocals), Eve Alpert (guitar/vocals), Gerasimos Livitsanos (bass), and Hugo Stanley (drums) – are classically trained. They formed Palm as more or less novices after meeting at Bard College in 2011. However, the band has more than made up for their lack of conventional training by rehearsing for hours on end, resulting in virtuosic experimental playing. If anything, the band’s lack of classic training adds to their novel sound by freeing them from adhering to any set of musical parameters.

Performing songs from recently-released sophomore album Rock Island as well as last year’s short-but-sweet Shadow Expert EP, Palm completely captivated the audience with their transcendent sound. The band shows their full musical palette with songs like “Composite,” where Kurt’s Brian Wilson-esque vocals are fragmented by puttering guitar patterns and syncopated drum beats. Instead of attempting to keep up with Palm’s insane changes in tone and time signature, the audience seemed content with falling into a euphoric trance.

In a world where it’s hard to capture someone’s attention for more than 15 seconds, much less an entire concert, Palm had most in the room hanging on to every last distorted guitar jab.