Welp, 2016 has been hellish, and we officially all need 200 percent more chill in our lives. And Tel Aviv-born, LA-based Lee Triffon is here to bring us those much-needed laid-back vibes in the form of her new EP Different Sun.
The album begins with Triffon’s wispy vocals projecting an ominous and slightly mysterious energy in her titular opening track. The music ebbs and flows with her airy voice, carrying you on a cushy cloud of low-key electronica. It transitions into her popular single “Mirrors in the Sand” from there. In this track, the songstress stretches her range a bit more, telling a heartfelt tale using raspy vocals alongside a slow synthy backing. The midpoint of the EP sees “Silver Bullet Gun,” which is a more unique style from the previous two tracks, deviating into a more pronounced and ambitious song than her other two–it reaches out and grabs you, holding you captive to its enchanting sound. Although slow, it’s repetitive tracking makes it so the song reverberates around your head. The next song, “Caves,” is a bit faster than the others at times, and has an urgent yet unsettled feel to it. It further complements Triffon’s mysteriousness, a quality which is palpable in all the songs on Different Sun. “Caves” is the last glimpse of sunlight on a particularly brisk winter evening, making it seasonally appropriate, but also a great way to end out an album. The last track is an orchestral version of “Mirrors in the Sand,” which is a more magical and theatrical spin on the original single.
Take a listen to Different Sun below, and maybe it’ll help you feel a bit more reinvigorated for the coming year.
Flowery and airy, carrying you away from the hellscape that our country has become in the last two weeks to instead deliver you to a place where beauty and comfort exists is Ex Reyes’ new EP Do Something.
The EP starts out with their single “Bad Timing,” which is a jazzy, upbeat track that showcases falsetto vocals from Ex Reyes, aka Mikey Hart. It’s epiphanic and revelatory, which is a perfect lead into the piece as a whole. It also flows smoothly into the next track, “If U Come Runnin,” which will tinkle around your head for days with its quirky synths that spiral away.
From there, you’ll experience “Keeping You in Line,” which will do anything but that. You’ll feel yourself floating this way and that throughout this track as the music washes over you and transports you to a different world. Following that is a sobering dose of reality from the brief interlude track “Hard to Stand,” which will ground you after your mysterious journey from the prior song. The EP closes out with “Where U Callin From,” which features Wild Belle. With brassy elements that recall ska days of yesteryear and tinkling keys that dance up and down your spine, it’s a fantastic note to end the album on. Plus, Wild Belle and Ex Reyes’ vocals seamlessly complement one another.
If you’re looking for a bit of music to help you realign and center your soul, then you’ve found the artist to follow.
Heat Thunder, aka Joe Montone, hailing from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is a folk musician whose music you’ll want to become quickly acquainted with. He recently opened for Anthony Green of Circa Survive on his Pixie Queen Tour and also released his long-awaited EP Phoenix. His thought-provoking lyrics and entrancing guitar chords are enough to make anyone more than slightly curious about the man behind the music — it’s immediately apparent upon first listen that Montone has an enviable natural and clear connection with music that goes far beyond being a hobby. Passion is embedded in his music because it has become so deeply ingrained in his life, and Montone’s appreciation for the process behind creating and performing music is humbling.
AudioFemme got a chance to chat with Montone about a bit of his musical history and what plans he has for the future.
AudioFemme: Tell me about your musical background. How did you get to this place in your musical career?
Joe Montone: The summer before I began high school, my suburban world changed and expanded. Skateboarding and music were still cultural rites of passage, and I knew I needed the good stuff. But all I had was Kmart. That year, 2003, my older sister Mary picked me up and drove me an hour away to get my first skateboard. That’s what it took to get to a REAL shop.
She bought me a skateboard video that day—the music behind those skate parts still gives me chills thinking about it. Sunny Day Real Estate, Placebo, and Built to Spill were featured. My cousin John further contributed to this expansion infinitely. He brought me to Warped Tour that same year. 2003 was still legit: Coheed, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New (before Deja Entendu was released!). It’s funny to think about now.
I aspired to start a band all throughout high school. Writing lyrics, playing piano and guitar—it was something I demanded, and it was my entire life.
It was then I found the Doylestown’s punk and hardcore scene and later joined my first band, I Am Alaska, featuring ex-members of Phineas, which was my favorite band at that time. Getting invited to sit in on one of their practices and then becoming a full-time member was an insane honor. I played piano and synth. We signed to a label, toured, put out EPs, and then the main songwriter left. So I followed.
For the next three years, I started really crafting my own songs. I released my first EP as Heat Thunder (Melody, Love & Soul) in 2010 while everyone else was graduating college. It was during this time that I really just played guitar, absorbed music, and worked in a coffee shop on repeat every day.
I have been guided to ever-changing, natural progressions in my life inspired by new friends sharing sounds and art. And I am so grateful.
What does Heat Thunder mean to you?
“Heat Thunder” to me means a space given to listen and express. However fast or slow the rhythm may be. Something I can be enveloped by.
What was the inspiration that led you to create Phoenix?
Phoenix was created while the four-piece band variation of Heat Thunder was fizzling. Another gigantic shift began to happen. I began reading “The Artist’s Way,”living on my own, and listening to Scott Walker featuring Sunn O))), Roy Orbison, as well as any honky tonk/country western song before 1980. The main theme during all of this though was to begin honoring myself and listening to my heart. I began to cultivate a deeper relationship with myself and the artistic process.
How was it touring with Anthony Green on the Pixie Queen Tour?
It was an honor to be invited onto that tour by Anthony. Throughout the past 11 years, Circa Survive has also been a constant. Being on that tour was so deep because I felt like I knew everyone in those audiences. This was also the first time I ever played my own music in a different city other than Philadelphia. With a friend and inspiration like Anthony? It’s an indescribable feeling.
What was the most unique or interesting thing that happened while on the Pixie Queen Tour?
The most interesting and unique thing was on this tour was to meet so many people. Reflecting on mine or Anthony’s music with them reinvigorated and further instilled my own bond with music and the journey of life. This sort of connection was impacting. Everything since has felt more personal than I could have ever comprehended. It is all a gift.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Besides The Beatles: Nirvana, Springsteen, Circa Survive, old Western stuff, weird awesome afro-beat grooves, endless YouTube discoveries—mmm—old blues records. Anything I can get my hands on, truly. It comes back to rhythm and soul for me. Something that moves and I can believe in.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t creating music?
I like hanging. Whether with my girlfriend or close friends. Riding my bike or swimming. Eating sushi. Listening to music.
What are your plans for the future? Any musical milestones or goals you’re looking to hit?
Right now I am navigating how and where to play in other cities. I would like to put out something with label support in the future and connect with a manager. My goal is to keep sharing and feel the changes that come with growing.
Singer/songwriter Joe Montone, under the moniker Heat Thunder, is serving up tasty folk tracks, the latest of which comes in the form of “Wind Whips the Veil.”
An accompaniment of strings alongside acoustic guitar and Montone’s crooning vocals leads to a track you’ll want to either sway or cuddle to (or both). It’s passionate and fiery yet subdued and vulnerable, the perfect accompaniment to a chilly fall afternoon spent indoors sipping tea. Listening to “Wind Whips the Veil” brings you to a musical place that you might not have known existed before, a quality you can find in much of Montone’s music.
Heat Thunder recently opened for Anthony Green of Circa Survive on his Pixie Queen Tour and also released his latest EP, Phoenix. With so much going on lately, it seems that Heat Thunder might be a good artist to keep a tab on.
With his minimalist style and entrancing rhythms, Jesse Mac Cormack is putting out music that’ll have you grooving in no time. His single “Repeat” from his latest EP After the Glow is a shining example of that.
The track is full of gruff vocals, jangly guitar riffs, and rhythmic progressions that get your heart rate going and might just make you dance in your seat without realizing you’re doing so. It’s a great song to have along for a road trip or when you’re making an adventurous decision.
Check out “Relief” below, and head over to his SoundCloud to stream the rest of After the Glow.
New York songstress Alexa Wilding has an upcoming EP Wolves, which sees a transition from her previously more airy folk music. We sat down and talked about where her inspiration came from for the piece, as well as what sort of transition we can expect from her past work. After taking a few years off from music, Alexa realized the pull toward this art form was stronger than she had previously acknowledged, and she found herself creating music when she needed an outlet. It also provided her with a chance to really focus on herself. This is an EP that saw her through a difficult time in her life—when one of her children was diagnosed with cancer—and both its name and content reflect the changes Alexa underwent.
Read on below for an interview with her, and keep an eye out for Wolves, which is due to release on July 8.
AudioFemme: Tell me about your musical history, are any of your family members involved in music?
Alexa Wilding: Yeah, I come from a pretty ridiculously arty family. My dad’s parents were well known opera singers. My mom’s an actress, my dad still is a filmmaker, my grandmother was a painter, so needless to say—and my aunt was a ballet dancer—we’re sort of an arty bunch. And music played a pretty big role in my childhood and in my family’s culture really.
What inspired you to create your new EP Wolves?
Sort of circumstances I never ever thought I’d be writing a record in. I had twins in 2013. They’re going to be three next month. And unfortunately—well, things are fine now, but my son Lou went through cancer treatment. So the record was written in the most unlikely of places. He’s fine, which is really good for him.
That’s such a relief.
Yeah, it was crazy. It was really crazy. But you know, becoming a new mother, I wasn’t really sure, like am I going to keep doing music? It’s all I’ve ever done, but I was just so sapped creatively from the wild psychedelia of being a new mother and then we were thrown into this crisis. And basically what it meant was weeks on end for six months, we basically lived in the hospital. We switched off nights, my husband and I, so my son at home always had a parent.
But for the first round, I was in such a state of shock that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I would just stare out the window at the East River and be like, “Where am I? How did this happen?” I was so terrified. Then by the second round, I don’t know what happened, but I said, “Okay, that’s it, Alexa. You need to carve some space for yourself.” So I turned to what I always turned to, which is music. I wrote the songs on Wolves on a toy piano borrowed from the hospital playroom.
It was wild. And while my son slept and healed, the songs just came. And mostly it was an escape for me. Like when I tell people that I wrote the songs in these unusual circumstances, they’re like, “Oh my God, this must be a really depressing cancer record.” And I’m like, “Actually there isn’t even a mention of what was going on.”
I so needed an escape, and what I did was I really focused on a time in my life right before I became a mother. That year I was touring nonstop and different relationships were kind of coming in and out of my life, so the record was sort of making peace with some of those loose ends, things that were put on hold to become a mother. And by doing that, I was able to become present.
Pediatricians always joke when you become a parent, and they’re like, “You know, you’re a parent, you need to put the oxygen mask on you first and then your kid.” And I was always like, “What the hell does that mean?” But that’s kind of what I did. So it was very surreal to leave this six-month experience with a cancer-free child, which is obviously the most important thing, but also as an artist, to have these songs that were ready to go. And it was very reaffirming after taking a few years off to be like I don’t really have a choice. I guess making albums is just what I do.
That’s awesome. I’m so glad he’s okay.
Thank you! Me too, me too.
So what does your ideal audience to this EP look like?
That’s a good question. People have joked about me that my following are a small but dedicated circle of very well-dressed people. I was like, okay, yeah, I like that. I feel like this record in particular is my most accessible one to date. But, that said, it’s the one I find most interesting. So I hope I haven’t sacrificed any of the oddness by having my first full-band record. I think that women in particular, hopefully, will relate to it. I am definitely a 90s kid, so I came of age with Lilith Fair. Kim Deal was like my hero, and Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan. Ya know, we all laugh because Sarah McLachlan is so dorky now, but I was listening to her recently when I was on a job, and I was like, “This is good stuff. Everyone’s got to chill out about this. She changed history.”
Yeah, I agree. There’s something about it where you’re like, this isn’t really a guilty pleasure because I’m not guilty about this.
Yeah, that makes sense! Totally. I loved all that stuff. So I am unabashedly saying and hoping to carry on that tradition of women who, ya know, wrote good songs and knew how to play their instruments and told stories that were very personal to the female experience. And that said, you know, I think more men are actually hopefully going to like the record, too, because it has a masculine side to it as well. It’s really—and this is really stereotypical—but it’s really trying to move. Which I wanted, because the whole idea with Wolves was be like, here are these feminine stories that I was trying to summon up in myself, like the wolf, to have the strength to handle my experience. With most of the record, there’s a softness to it, but to be totally blunt, the joke we made in the studio was always, “Boobs and balls, boobs and balls: They have to be in direct proportion, in an even balance.”
So I feel like it’s my toughest record, in a weird way. And I’m really proud of that because I was getting really sick of, ya know, before and people saying, “Oh, it’s just a girl picking her guitar. La-di-da.”
Right, yeah, that’s kind of insulting.
Or you get up to play a show and people would immediately look at you and before you started and be like, “I know what I’m in for.” And that used to make me crazy. I’m hoping it’ll reach a wider audience, and it’s not just the freaky folk thing anymore. When I wrote it, I was listening to a lot of radio and having fun playing with melodies for the first time in a way that I was like, “I want everyone to like this song!” Even the person who’s just tapping their foot, they’ll get that out of it.
Is there anything you’re hoping that your fans will take away from this piece?
Yeah, I mean obviously I can’t divorce the story of the circumstances in which it was written from the music. And my fans were so supportive during our crisis. Ben Lee, who’s a friend, did fundraising for us. So many of my friends used their celebrity to sort of help us. And the story, despite myself, got a lot of attention. And I was really happy to share our story with different media outlets. Because, as Ben said when he started—he did a Plumfund—because something people don’t realize is that I was like, “I’m not fundraising. What will people think? We have insurance! Blah blah blah.” But a medical crisis like that really wreaks havoc. Things you don’t even think about, like going to take cabs to and from the hospital every day. So that was really a lifesaver. But what he said was, “They are us. This could happen to any of us.” And what I’m hoping people get from it is the importance of holding onto yourself during a crisis, whether or not you are a parent. I don’t want to isolate or alienate fans who are not parents, but at the same time I’m pretty sure the record will hold a special place. It really has touched a lot of mothers, at least in New York City a lot of mothers have started following me during this crisis.
But what I hope fans take away from it is the idea that we can make friends with parts of ourselves that we used to be. I think that’s a lot of what the record is about. I talk a lot about different relationships. There’s one song, “Road Song,” in which it’s kind of a cinematic song. I mean, it’s basically a woman saying that she wants to be with somebody who’s with somebody. And that was a really scary song for me to write. I had to sort of make peace with that part of myself. We all have that.
I know I’m talking to a female music blog right now so I can say this, but I think it’s very hard for women to talk about their desire. Men are allowed to say, “I want that!” Or, “I want her!” Or, “I want to go on the road with my rock and roll band.” And nobody really thinks twice about it. And when it comes to women, we have a harder time talking about that. So for me, this record dealt with a lot of love as issues. Like with wolves. Like why can’t that person step up and do what the wolves do and be my partner? Why can’t I step up? In “Road Song,” it’s like I want that—I want what he has. And “Durga,” the last song, the lover is disappointed in the fact that her partner is not leaving his easel to tend to her needs. So like, all these little stories, these little snippets. Also, there’s this song called “Black” that’s a really small song where I just talk about going to a dark place. As women, especially as mothers, we’re not allowed to talk about wanting to go to a dark place. We’re supposed to just keep it together and lay low, so I think I was dealing with a lot of those questions on the record.
That makes a lot of sense. There is that weird expectation, especially with a mother, if you say anything is wrong, people are like, “She can’t handle motherhood.”
Exactly! I was even worried, like what are people going to think? She wrote this record about her son? It’s like what I was dealing with, and people were doubting me. It’s because I wrote a record that I was able to mother him. We’re so judgmental. And women are the worst!
I read a quote recently, a female filmmaker had a really bad interview where she had a movie come out and the interviewer kind of bashed her, and it was a fellow female. And she wrote an open letter defending her films, and in it she said, there’s a famous quote, I forget who said it: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” I love that. All about the sisterhood!
Definitely. So since you feel you’re kind of switching genres, is there any genre that you now feel like you fit into better?
I definitely was sort of occupying—I mean, I was told I was occupying more of a freak folk, folky, flower crowns thing. And I love a flower crown, but I really want to be moving more into just singer/songwriter. And someone like Natalie Merchant is incredible, as sort of the godmother of this sort of genre. People that I normally look up to in my own sort of circle. Also, Adler is incredible; I love her stuff. She’s somebody who made really spooky folk music and is now sort of standing her sound. I see this in a lot of my peers. Merchant has really taken off, which is so good for all of us, but I see it in our circle, and we are really moving away from the pigeonhole of “girl with a guitar.” And I still, I mean, it’s so cliché, but I still hear in interviews or after shows, “Oh my God, you were so incredible. I can’t believe you play your own instruments!” It’s just wild. That still exists.
You’d think we’d moved away from that already. So is there any specific song that you feel more of a connection with than the others?
My favorite song on the record—I mean, I have a couple—but there’s this song called “Stars,” it’s the fourth song, that I really love because it was just such an example of my escaping. It was a memory of being on the road, and I talked about being by the Rockies and the clear skies and the sadness I felt because I was so trapped as I was writing it. I really love that song. The line is, “Sometimes the sky throws a handful of stars in your way.” For me that sort of sums up the whole thing: that life really takes these crazy, wild turns, but you can really get through them in a magical way if you consider the circumstances with the same wonder and curiosity as you would a good situation. So I really tried to do that during my son’s crisis. And people would say during it, “How are you so together? How are you so cheerful?” And I would just wake up every day and I’d wash my face and I’d put on a nice dress and try to make everything look nice and do my best and have the same curiosity toward a bad day as you would a good day, which sounds really Pollyanna, but it really takes fucking guts. And I’m in awe of some of the people who really inspired me to summon up the wolf woman. The she-wolf.
That sounds amazing. What do you have planned for the future right now?
So we’re releasing Wolves in July, and I’m really only playing a limited amount of shows just because I’m with my kids right now and the logistics of three-year-old twins. I don’t know, I am a bit of an overachiever, but I have to sort of draw the line. I’m still going to do what I can to share the songs with the world. And I’m actually beginning the next record, which will be a full-length record. I’m really excited about that. And also, I’m writing a book, basically about the whole experience.
If you could perform at one venue, existent or nonexistent, which one would you choose?
Oh my gosh. One venue. As a New Yorker, I would kill to perform at the Beacon. That’s a real dream of mine. Or Carnegie Hall.I saw Suzanne Vega do something there a few years ago, and she couldn’t help herself and said, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!”
But my one regret is that, before becoming a mother, I didn’t tour in Europe. And I really look forward to doing that in the future. In particular, I just want to play in Paris. That would be a really happy, happy night.
What besides creating music do you do as a hobby? Do you have anything that kind of forms your identity?
Yes, so mother/musician/writer. I’m quiet about my writing, just because music is so in your face. But I write and read constantly. I’m a real bookworm.
Do you have any musical milestones that you’re working toward adamantly?
For me, the biggest milestone is that I’d really love to have a label or a team behind me. I’ve been doing this by myself for so long, and I’ve never really found the right fit or didn’t ask for what I wanted or didn’t have that sort of fateful connection happen yet. And while I know those relationships can be very fraught, whether it’s label or manager, I’m really ready to put the proper team behind what I’m doing simply so we can reach more people with the music. I want it to happen in a natural way, but I’m just hoping I can continue to. And I’m sort of coming back after a long time. And it’s might be a bit of a slow ride, but I’m realizing that my ambition is much greater than I ever thought it was. Again, another thing as a woman is that we’re not really supposed to be like, “I want to take over the world!” But I really want my music to reach everyone.
Brooklyn-based songstress VÉRITÉ creates empowering, emotion-packed music that has a tinge of surrealism, which can best be seen through her latest EP, Living.
The EP kicks off with “Constant Crush,” starting out slowly then steadily building up, both as a song and as a perfect intro to the album. It features Kelsey Byrne’s hauntingly beautiful vocals over an almost dark and foreboding backing. From there it moves onto single “Underdressed,” which tells a vulnerable story shielded by poppy synths and a danceable beat. “Rest” is a perfect midpoint for the EP and is where it changes from a typical synthpop album to one that holds a more eclectic sound. It’s easy to see that Byrne takes inspiration from other genres, like R&B, and weaves that into her tracks “Rest,” “Gesture,” and “Living.” From the beginning of the album to the end, it changes from upbeat singles to a collective piece of varying sounds, showing that Byrne’s isn’t willing to be confined to just one genre.
I was able to sit down and chat with Kelsey for a bit about her new EP as well as her musical influences.
Nicole for AudioFemme: You recently released your EP Living. What were your inspirations behind it?
VÉRITÉ: It’s strange in the writing process because you don’t think that much during it. I think it came together more in the editing process where I was taking moments and hyper-analyzing them and blowing them up. There weren’t any specific inspirations, and it was more me wanting to push myself and elevate myself.
I do a similar thing when writing. Like when I’m editing, it all comes together and seems to make more sense then.
What sort of headspace were you in when you were coming up with the EP? I know you said you didn’t have any specific inspirations or a “Eureka!” moment, but was there anything that led you to these songs?
This was really the first time in my life that I had time to write. It’s an odd struggle to have—the luxury of time. It’s difficult, and there was a lot of anxiety and hyper-analyzing. I was really neurotic about it.
What is your favorite song off the EP?
They’re all my babies. I want to give five different answers. When I wrote Living, it was a good moment for me in life. I wasn’t hiding behind anything, and it really shows when I perform. I love them all.
I had a feeling that was the case! Is there anything you wanted fans to get out of your new EP?
My goal is to have people feel anything. I don’t care what they feel—hopefully it’s not violent anger—but any sort of emotions. I don’t want them to feel nothing.
Do you think your sound has evolved since starting out and the release of your EP?
I hope so. I think that with this EP especially I wanted to move away from “electro-pop.” It’s easy to get lost in the alt pop world. I wanted to really push it sonically. “Gesture” was more laid-back, “Living” is a downtempo R&B style. I was trying to really push it more.
What does your musical history look like? And what brought you to writing and performing?
Performing was always in my nature. I’ve been playing little shows since I was eight or nine when my dad was my band. I lived in a small town in upstate New York, and it was a conducive environment for that. I began writing more at 16 and 17. I developed this probably more into how I want to be interpreted. It’s been a slow process.
If you could collaborate with anyone—living, dead, whatever—who would that be?
Oh shit. Loaded question. Just, so many. I feel like lately my number one is James Blake. I feel like I’m supposed to say The Beatles or something, but based on what I’m listening to right now, I’d have to go with him.
Tell me about your plans for upcoming shows and releases.
Right now it’s just mainly finishing my current tour. Chicago last night was incredible, and I’m going from Minneapolis to Seattle to LA. I’m holding off on doing any festivals this summer and am focusing more on an album. I’m slowly plotting for future plans.
If you were craving some imitation Pavement-esque languid LoFi rock, look no further than Ypsilanti-based Minihorse, who released their drowsy EP More Time earlier this month. Comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Collins, Christian Anderson on bass and John Fossum on drums, Minihorse is noticeably affected, pleasantly dehydrated college indie; nothing swells or lends catharsis, but instead encourages driving aimlessly around the same few square miles with a broken tape deck that you had installed in your new 2016 hybrid. The single, “FYEA” is a callused late-summer-of-1994 track that radiates a trippy teenage petulance worthy of a hangover. It’s catchy, yes, but hard to remember. The closing track, “Under My Head” is the most complete thought on the EP, with Jon Brion vibes paired with a whispered deprecation that sneakily depresses you with the lyrics: “The things I could be/if I could get out of bed.” More Time, at the very least, is consistent. Not meant to serve as some grand feeling-prodder, Minihorse found their sweet spot even if it does feels like buying expensive jeans with manufactured stains and holes; fashionably wearable with questionable authenticity. Having said that, I like More Time. I get it. It feels lightly stoned, slightly tipsy, peppered with a hazy self-indulgence that makes you wonder where you’ve heard this before even if you’ve never heard it before.
Rarely do I say this about music. Perhaps I’m a bit jaded, but while all of us lovers were kissing on Valentine’s Day, Detroit-based Earth Engine dropped their self-titled debut EP, a beautifully confused collection nearly five years in the making. Earth Engine’s EP is a spastic, satiated cluster of baroque rock that has wrangled a plethora of genres and in the process created their own. Although it sounds schizophrenic the first time around, it becomes progressively more coherent. If King Crimson collaborated with MUSE on some hyper-theatrical Jeff Buckley directed stage production of how the universe was created (and how it will subsequently be destroyed), you might be able to understand where Earth Engine is coming from. For an EP that carries a tangible weightiness and at times delves into disparity, there is an ethereal airiness to its structure and intricate layering that takes the album into cathartic flight (and the listener along with it).
“Red River” is a slinky Dead Weather-ish caffeinated jazz jam that shifts gears into “A Fever of Static,” which opens with classic piano that morphs into a jutting, metallic, percussion heavy nod to anthemic rock. And just when you thought you were getting the hang of Earth Engine’s aesthetically challenging vibe comes the closing track (and my personal favorite) “Year One” where the tension from the previous tracks finally breaks through the atmospheric barrier into masterful resolve. You hear the protagonist overcome defeatism or whatever earthly shackles were holding him to the ground. “I rather die than wait,” he repeats with whispered heroism, adding “I’ve never been one to yield to reason,” which, in context, is a beautifully understated summary of the entirety of the EP.
My dozen or so listens have not answered my original question. In fact, it has been replaced with “What. The. Hell. Was. That?” Earth Engine caught me off guard and off balance. I am completely enthralled by this unexpectedly powerful EP that carries with it a determination that I feel that rock music has been missing for the past decade. Excitedly, I am left scratching my head while making room for new feelings, genre-defying reference points, and redefined sensations of unconventional beauty. Earth Engine is on to something (and I’ll be the first to tell you as soon as I figure it out).
At first click, I saw visions of Janis Joplin singing “Loaded Gun,” the single off Chrystyna Marie‘s upcoming EP (also named Loaded Gun). She’s a Toronto-native chick and sultry vocalist—also super stunning. She’s no alien to performing and making music; she has won the Kiwanis Music Festival a couple times. When she’s not seeing Infected Mushroom, she’s writing and releasing her own material. Now, her next feat—the EP is definitely grungy, but melodically so. Her voice compliments lyrics like “Yeah, your love is a loaded gun. You shoot me down, just for fun. But tonight, you better run.” Loaded Gun is a brief ensemble of tracks, yet shows the different sides of her blues-y style. In “Down The Road,” she croons like a pre-swing jazz musician, although the track is very much gritty and grungy. Then she tunes down in “No More” and “The Tower,” to a more personal struggle. Adding more piano than guitar riffs in “The Tower,” Chrystyna Marie delivers a more haunting tone. “There will be no breaking down, just breaking through. When it all falls down, who will wear the crown,” she sings. The EP finishes on a poetic note. Look out for the release of Loaded Gun on February 29.
Folk pop singer Cassandra Violet came out with a new music video for the track “Lady” from her upcoming Body & Mind EP, to be released this coming January.
Inspired by the infamous cat-calling video documenting the verbal and sexual harassment we femmes in the city know all too well, Violet portrays a young woman helpless to the control of a male cult leader. While the period garb, desolate backdrop, and hazy effects might set the video in the past, when the two sisters escape the oppression of the cult leader, they overlook a modern city, fearful of what awaits them.
Thus, the story hauntingly answers the question of what it’s like to be a woman in society, even to this day.
Violet’s vocal prowess is reminiscent of folk pioneer (and fellow blunt-banged beauty) Joni Mitchell, with her effortless command of the drum-powered build up that helps drive the narrative through.
Strange Dave has found us. (Sorry David, I had to!) A man of my own heart, the rocker has the confusing wizard sex appeal of Willy Wonka, except his wisdom doesn’t come across at all as sinister but rather sweet. Most creative pervy weirdos do have a secret heart of gold, a glittering calm aurora settling from the delightful shit storm of crazy that’s scattered all over them. On his self-titled EP he poses nearly naked, in a top hat and fur coat while holding a fish over his crotch. (What are you trying to say with that fish, huh?) The more you learn about the man the more it all makes sense. David Strange was a session musician and former guitarist for Courtney Love, all the while diving and digging into his own music on the side. Then one fine day Charlotte Kemp Muhl (The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) took a listen and asked to become his producer. In addition to production, Charlotte contributes vocals and plays the drums on the fruits of their labor, the upcoming self-titled EP, David Strange, which was created in Yoko Ono’s home studio.
On the opening track “Mean World” he takes a feminist stance with lyrics to warn women of the dangers of being female in modern society over a steady, sublimely sleepy melody driven by Charlotte’s drums. “It’s a mean world, they’ll make you get down on your knees, girl.” Special shout to to David for addressing men’s tendency to assume desired friendship means desire to fuck; it doesn’t, and is an especially annoying facet of being female we gotta deal with. They twist the knob up to psych-rock on the hypnotic raunchy, in-your-face track “Aztec Corn.” The entire EP feels like it should be played amongst friends, around a bonfire in the desert while your goofiest buddy eats enough peyote to spit poetry like Jim Morrison.
“Call me by my Christian name…cocaine,” he begs in the red-waxed rock star seal of approval tune, “Cocaine.” Electric guitars wail through the slowed down, stripped away ballad of affection and sadness to the powder that launched a million brilliant conversations then wilted into just as many fetal positions. The EP waves farewell on the final track “Lion Tattoo” with slowed down strums, an au revoir from a sailboat flickering with lights as it heads out to sea. “And the strangeness is weird, like a girl with a sneer, whose tongue kisses me like atiger…” In the single “Vitamin Pills” he relays “Don’t try to change me.” We won’t, if you keep doing you.Enjoy the video for “Vitamin Pills” below. Directed by Charlotte Kemp Muhl (multi-talented lady!) it uses carnival-esque macabre imagery (animal heads and pogo sticks) drenched in pink to convey the gypsy pop buzz of the song. Quite fitting for a musician who believes “reality is inherently psychedelic.” The EP comes out January 20.
The Black Honey EP, which remains nameless, gives way to haunting echoes that give the listener insight into the longing nature of the songs. The lyrics in “Sleep Forever,” the first track, beg for a sampling of a situation over and over.
Black Honey hails from Brighton and consists of Izzy Bee, Chris Ostler, Tommy Taylor and Tom Dewhurst. The group stays mysterious in the way that public information is pretty slight- even though they plan to tour “forever” and keep their music fresh and personal. The group will release their debut four song EP in a limited edition physical form which is made available only in the flesh at their shows.
The EP is made up of four demos, all full bodied and ready to blare.
The first track, released about four months ago, “Sleep Forever,” opens the album longingly with the lyrics: “I wish I could sleep forever ooh, I wish I could sleep forever with you.”
The song continues on in a sleepy way and the second track, “Teenager,” widens the scope of Black Honey’s capabilities. Unlike bands that stay stuck in one sound, Black Honey gets raw after showing a softer side on the first track.
“The night unfolds, hold me without your claws,” and throws “I don’t mind you got the war inside,” into the middle of the verse, sharing that openness with the listeners right at the get-go.
The third track, “The Taste” gets a bit sultry and more upbeat and almost slurs, “I can’t help myself.”
The closing demo track, “Bloodlust,” was released mere days ago and helps the EP run full circle, ending it on an upswing with an almost angry and annoyed tone.
“Bloodlust” closes in a sea of egging on with repeated, “Come on’s” that leaves you with nothing but the desire to follow.
Last April, Pittsburgh native Girl Talk dropped his latest EP Broken Ankles in collaboration with Philly rapper Freeway. Several years had passed since his last album, 2010’s All Day, and he had taken a pretty significant hiatus from his relentless tour schedule in 2013, so needless to say, fans have been waiting for something big in the making. The EP doesn’t fail to disappoint, and sees the performer taking bold risks.
Girl Talk – a.k.a. Gregg Gillis – is known for his mash-ups and samplings, combining hip hop, rock, and pop songs into single tracks for a lively, up-beat listening experience. From his first album Secret Diary in 2002, to his breakout 2006 LP Night Ripper and its successful follow-ups, he has sampled everyone from Avril Lavigne to Outkast. But during his break last year, he decided to create more focused beats. With over seventy tracks under his belt, he approached Freeway in the hopes of doing their first collaboration together. In a press release, Gillis says he chose Freeway because of the rapper’s creative, improvisational ability; Freeway is known to have written all of his verses in his head without ever writing down his lyrics. “I wanted the album to be diverse, and I wanted someone who could maneuver around quick changes mid-song. Freeway is the rare rapper who sounds natural on all types of beats, ranging from cut-up soul to menacing synth-jams. His energy is unreal, and he’s able to keep up with any production,” said Gillis.
Gillis has a reputation for vigorous performances, so the team-up with the prolific rapper has, as expected, produced a vital, high-energy collection of tracks. It’s hard to tell that it’s the duo’s first collaboration; Girl Talk’s production and Freeway’s flow is impressively cohesive and full of life.
The EP opens with “Tolerated”, a track heavy with anthemic trumpets and a forceful flow that will have listeners throwing their bodies to the steady, hyped beat. Featuring a verse from Waka Flocka Flame, this track is all about power and showing these haters who’s really the boss. The transitions in this EP are smooth and endless, melding one track to the other much the way that Girl Talk has stitched together tracks on his previous LPs. “Tell Me Yeah” has a more melodic, soulful beat that somehow seamlessly transitions to the harder, grimier “I Can Hear Sweat”. The EP mellows out a bit with the angelic rhythms for “Suicide” and then turns to something more pronounced and confident with “Lived It,” highlighting the deliberate placement of each track as a stand alone but also as an interconnected entity. Freeway delivers his lines with grit and strength which perfectly mixes with Gillis’ relentless beats.
Broken Ankles is fire, lit with endless vitality and intensity. With featured performances from Jadakiss and Young Chris as well as the aforementioned Waka Flocka Flame, this EP was made for sweaty, muggy summer nights spent in crowded basements on makeshift dance floors. It’s an especially important moment for Gillis to show that perhaps his mash-up mixing days have moved on to something more sustainable, placing him in a realm of all-star hip-hop producers primed for future collaborations.
Broken Ankles is available for free download on DatPiff. Watch the video for “Tolerated” below and scroll down for tour dates:
Also check out Girl Talk’s live show dates:
Fri. June 20 – Dover, DE @ Firefly Music Festival
Wed. June 25 – Sun. June 29 – Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest
Sat. July 12 – Seattle, WA @ CHIVEFest Seattle
Thu. July 17 – Sun. July 20 – Pemberton, BC @ Pemberton Music Festival
Sat. Aug. 16 – Portland, OR @ Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Sun. Aug. 31 – Philadelphia, PA @ Made in America Festival
Fri. Sep. 5 – Sun. Sep. 7 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
Fri. Nov. 7 – Sun. Nov. 9 – Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Fest
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.