Brooklyn via Detroit songwriter Anya Baghina captures the feeling of melting melancholy with fellow Soviet Girls bandmate Jonathan Franco in “Almost Alone.” As the ice drips off the branches and the sun peeks out of the grey Michigan sky, the two friends narrate the passing of time, the weight of seasonal sadness and the comfort of solitude. Written almost by accident during a late night hang-turned-jam-session, the song feels like an uber-relatable, melodic diary entry, written by your best friend.
It’s easy to want to make every line into a metaphor in this song. Take the opening line – “it looks like springtime, but it feels like winter.” Baghina says it started out as the literally, explaining, “We wrote it around this time last year, when the darkness of winter was concluding and hints of spring brought about hope.” But Baghina’s vocal inflection and Franco’s subtle backup also leaves room for interpretation; when they sing “And you’ve got more stories to tell…” it feels as though the whole song is a metaphor for a person or situation that didn’t turn out the way it had seemed.
Even as the season change brings glimmers of rebirth, there’s a sadness attached to the shadow of winter and the doldrums of prolonged cabin fever. It’s the same kind of listless ennui that often accompanies the end of casual fling as it fizzles out. “I can’t regret this yet, because it’s not really over,” the duo sings, describing an anxiety that can feel paralyzing when you’re suspended in a grey area.
The song ends by repeating a phrase that could be comforting or unsettling, depending on how you look at it. “The lyrics ‘I’m almost alone’ follow the small narrative of the song as if someone leaving is followed by a sense of relief,” says Baghina. “But the last phrase ‘almost alone’ captures the bigger picture and refers to that dissociative state of being you can feel even if you’re surrounded by friends.”
Betty Who’s latest single “Human Touch” is the pop dream we’ve been waiting to have.
It’s bubbly and upbeat, danceworthy and synthy—pretty much, it’s everything we’ve come to expect from Betty Who at this point. The Australian songstress’ voice is layered in a way that makes it sound both silky and husky simultaneously, dancing between the varying synths. It’s fun, sexy and exultant, and will have you grabbing your dancing shoes, anxious for the weekend.
With a very Beatles-esque vibe, Goodman is here to bring a bit of sunshine and chill to your dreary winter days with his latest single “Hiccup.”
Singer/songwriter Michael Goodman delivers us this feel-good track that walks the line between pop rock and surf rock, and it’s got us feeling all sorts of feels. Its repetitive beat, peppered with claps and hiccups, will have you grooving in your seat.
Keep an eye out for his full-length album The Vicissitudes, which is expected to drop in February on Invertebrate Records.
The music we’ve come to expect from Kishi Bashi has a certain flair for the ethereal, the magical, and the adventurous. His latest album Sonderlust isn’t a deviation from this; rather, it jumps right into the style and sound that embodies this talented musician.
Sonderlust begins with the single “m’lover,” introducing the album with a gentle tinkling of keys and strings that’ll prick your eardrums and immediately captivate your heart. Pips and pops scattered throughout the track behind Kishi Bashi’s charming vocals as he seductively croons about wanting someone to be his lover—listening to it is pretty much a necessary aural experience. (Seriously, this track is just so many different types of sexy.) The next song, “Hey Big Star,” is as sparkly and otherworldly as a track with the word “star” in the title should be. It’s a true toe-tapper, with an easy-t0-follow beat and a poppy, addictive rhythm. The following track holds a more analog feel to it, sounding like a song from an old Super Nintendo video game soundtrack. It’s a slower jam to groove to, one that feels reminiscent of a chill 80s love song in certain ways. “Can’t Let Go, Juno” holds an air of impending drama, with its heavier (yet still beautifully ethereal) sound. Toward the end, it breaks off into an entrancing keyboard solo, carrying you through its space and time with delicate tinkling.
In the middle of the album, you reach the climax and resolution of the built-up tension from the previous track in “Ode to my Next Life.” It feels alien and galactic: like you can see yourself walking along the surface of the moon in a spacesuit, defying gravity while this soundtracks your life. It’s a confidence boosting, ego touting song, which, if we’re being totally honest, should probably become a necessity on all albums moving forward. “Who’d You Kill” is smooth and savory, yet quirky, calling to mind the type of music you might hear in a movie like “Ocean’s 11,” but with a very Kishi Bashi twist added to it. “Why Don’t You Answer Me” has a sense of urgency to its fast-paced beat, as if something depends on an answer to its posed titular question, and “Flame on Flame (a Slow Dirge)” feels like a perfect continuation of the previous track. It flows together perfectly, slowing the previous vibe down in a natural way where a listener won’t feel disjointed or jarred. Sonderlust closes out with Kishi Bashi’s fun, energetic single “Honeybody.” It’s a pop song that reaches out and grabs you, then holds you close to dance you around the room. It’s a fantastic way to end an album because it leaves you in a place where you need to hear the entirety of it again immediately and will probably find yourself clicking replay as soon as it closes.
So what are you waiting for? Hop on the Kishi Bashi bandwagon (if you haven’t already, that is).
Have you ever listened to a song that feels both fast and slow at the same time? Well, once you’ve listened to Memoryy’s “Read My Lips King Deco Remix” you can say you have.
Memoryy’s remix adds a sultry, sexy twang to King Deco’s original track, commanding your attention with spine-tingling synths and bass. The song carries you along a slow build up of snaps and airy vocals to end with a fiery synth explosion that’s endearingly cacophonic. It grows outward and upward, climbing like a vine along a wall, and before you know it, you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat sitting straight up, fully immersed in its beauty as it blooms before you.
Take a listen to the track below, and let it shape your week.
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.
Lyric videos aren’t always the most captivating or memorable, but Ben Talmi’s video for “Play” is one that’ll entertain and impress. On top of that, it’s an overall fun, catchy song that’ll be sure to get stuck in your head.
The video follows an artist creating the same image over and over: a series of straight lines meeting at a central point. It gives viewers the feeling of looking at a sun setting or rising on a horizon, creating depth and dimension to the flat surface. Throughout the video, these lines flicker and waver alongside the upbeat music, disappearing or multiplying in accordance with the tempos. While this happens, the words also seem to play with the music, twisting and turning as the vocals increase and decrease in pitch.
“Play” plays with your mind and engages you in the way we wish more lyric videos would.
It’s been some time since our eardrums have been graced by new music from Regina Spektor. At long last, the Russian-born New York-bred songstress has released a new full-length, Remember Us to Life, and while it isn’t a total deviation from her past works, it was also incredibly much-needed.
The album kicks off with her leading single from the piece, “Bleeding Heart.” It sees Spektor flexing her usual impressive vocal range, as well as an overall upbeat and high-spirited aura. It tinkles around in your head and ends on a more aggressive note, promising coming music that you’ll be captivated by. “Older and Taller” and “Grand Hotel” take more sentimental tones, which is completely expected with Spektor–a mix of high and low energies interspersed with intimacy and vulnerability.
From there, the album takes a turn toward the quirky and ethereal with “Small Bill$,” and just as quickly switchbacks to contemplative and personal with “The Light.” The back and forth continues as “Tornadoland” is full of energetic keys while “Obsolete” takes more of a solemn approach.
If you’re looking for a new sound and a reinvention from Spektor, then you might find yourself disappointed. However, if you’re looking for good vibe-y music and the talents of Regina Spektor that we’ve all come to know and love, then you’ll be head over heels for Remember Us to Life.
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.
Beautiful cinematography, chill vibes, and impressive Mardi Gras costumes and makeup are to be found in Ex Reyes’ recent video for his single “Bad Timing”—meaning, it’s a video worth watching. It gives a dark spin to the otherwise celebratory NOLA holiday, with standoffs and groups of people chucking guns into a burning police car as Ex Reyes hangs out in the periphery the entire time. Oh, and there is a lion mascot and baton twirlers that probably dance better than most people you know, too.
Mikey Hart, aka Ex Reyes, showcases his smooth falsetto vocals in this relaxed out single alongside crashing cymbals and an entrancing saxophone breakdown. It’ll have you wanting to hang with the cool kids (pretty much every single person in this video) while also inspiring you to head to New Orleans ASAP to see these festivities for yourself (as if you need further encouragement, though).
You can catch Ex Reyes on tour through October this year with How to Dress Well. Watch “Bad Timing” below.
Looking for a unique spin on the whole #ThrowbackThursday craze, or perhaps a new way to interpret 90s nostalgia? Well, It Was Romance is five steps ahead of you with the new video for their single “Hooking up with Girls.”
The video pays an homage to Fiona Apple as a shot-by-shot remake of Apple’s 90s hit “Criminal,” which frontwoman Lane Moore went above and beyond to recreate. She sought out similar clothing as to what Apple wears in her video, and aimed to find a matching setting as well. And on top of this already diligent fangirl tribute, it was also recently the 20th anniversary of Apple’s album Tidal. If that’s not dedication to a release, I don’t know what is.
Similar to “Criminal,” “Hooking up with Girls” is emotional, raw, and vulnerable. “I’ve always been obsessed with 90s music videos, and Fiona Apple has been a musical inspiration to me since I was a kid,” Moore shared. “The ‘Criminal’ song and video are both so sexy and frustrated and angry and conflicted, all of which were themes in ‘Hooking up with Girls.” It’s the sort of video that inspires emotional purges and can serve as the track that plays in the background of your own personal documentary as you come to an epic love life realization.”
On top of acting in the video and providing the spine-tingling vocals, Moore also directed “Hooking up with Girls” with a diverse crew, including many LGBT folks. It’s the true definition of a passion project, one that Moore has been working on for over a year. “I love the original video so much, so to be able to take that original and add a queer element, and then tie it to this song that I’ve been dying to release as a single forever feels wonderful.”
Check out the official video below, then head over to It Was Romance’s Bandcamp or Spotify to hear more of their captivating tunes.
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.
Ryan Egan’s new video for his single “Finest Hour” showcases some groovy dance moves, hypnotizing falsetto vocals, and an overall air of mystery.
The video sees Egan decked out in a white turtleneck showing off simple yet perfected dance moves. Once the chorus hits, some shadowy background figures shimmy out from behind him and bust into their own more fluid moves. It’s the perfect contrast between black vs. white, light vs. shadow, simplistic vs. ornate. And Egan’s airy falsetto only reinforces the video as a mysterious yet enticing piece.
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.
For those still reeling from the breakup of Pearl and the Beard last June, we completely empathize with you. But alas—there is a light on the other side, and it’s here in the form of Jocelyn Mackenzie breaking out as a solo act! Her first single, “Kids,” is an upbeat pop dream where Mackenzie leads us through a breathy tale of a romance that begins in childhood. Unsurprisingly, the track brings to mind characteristics of her former band, but it’s also completely unique to Mackenzie’s new breakout style. “Kids” holds plenty of synthy goodness and spine-tingling vocals, making for a song that’ll kick your week off on a very positive note.
Take a listen to “Kids” below, and try to catch this Brooklyn songstress on her first tour, which begins at the end of April.
Brooklyn singer/songwriter Kelsey Byrne, better known under the moniker VÉRITÉ, recently released her latest track, “Underdressed,” and boy does it pack a punch. The single weaves a tale of vulnerability in romance; and points to one’s willingness to bend to the needs and desires of their partner, especially when trying to keep the relationship afloat.
At first, you might not pick up on the sobering content of track if you’re just grooving along to the poppy synths and Byrne’s upbeat vocals. It’s a powerful sentiment sung by a powerful lady, and it’s sure to be a track you’ll keep on repeat for some time.
Catch VÉRITÉ on tour this spring, and listen to “Underdressed” below.
The delightfully bespectacled Justin Townes Earle dependably releases a record every year or so, and has done so since 2007. He can be counted on for more than just punctuality, too. Not one of Earle’s records is a dud: at worst, he’s palatable and bland, and at his best, he expertly shines a light into fresh quadrants of the well-traversed territory of outlaw Americana. He comes honestly by his “darlin'”s and “mama”s–the son of Texas songwriter Steve Earle, who gave him his middle name in honor his godfather Townes van Zandt, JTE is the heir apparent of modern country, and despite what’s perhaps an understandable reluctance to fully embrace the Nashville lifestyle, the stuff seeps out of his pores. Every song is a story, piled high with neatly turned guitar work and vocals that can be mournful or flirtatious, contemplative or charming.
Often, in his songwriting, Earle plays the suave but troubled rambler. First there was “Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving,” off his full-length debut The Good Life, wherein he balks at romantic commitment and assures a protesting lover that she’s better off without him. Then came Midnight at the Movies, which included the similarly self-depracatory but audibly grief-stricken “Someday I’ll Be Forgiven For This.” As is often the case, true stories are behind the good lyrics. The years since he released his first EP Yuma haven’t been entirely smooth for Earle, who struggled with drug abuse and an arrest that led him into rehab in 2010.
He’s been sober for a couple of albums now, but his music still dips into the lonely, complicated character that defined the folk singer’s early work. The somber sections of Single Mothers, though, crystallize around the simple and deep-rooted sadness of an abandoned child–as opposed to the empty braggadocio of a loner who just can’t be tamed, not even by the love of a good woman. Maybe this interpretation reads into the title a little too much. The son of an absent famous father, Earle grew up with a single mother of his own.
But the title track–its steady beat and simple, symmetrical lyrical structure–sets the tone for the rest of Single Mothers in terms of gravity and mutedness. Reduced to its essential components, Earle’s songwriting doesn’t always grab your attention the way that his younger, more caddish self might. But there’s a payoff: you get to hear his voice at its most vulnerable.
Which isn’t to say that JTE has totally lost his swagger. “My Baby Drives” provides some rockabilly-ish, dance hall relief from the intimacy of “Single Mothers” and the forlorn next track, “Today and a Lonely Night.” “Wanna Be a Stranger” floats along with all the lightness and insta-nostalgia of small towns you drive through and don’t stop in. As a collection, though, Single Mothers tends towards interior songwriting that favors quiet payoffs over flashy country licks. In fact, it is as if Earle particularly avoided that kind of sexy troubledness that falls to those who walk out of their homes and go wandering, opting instead for the unshowy and exhausted hardship left for the single mothers who remain behind.
Single Mothers dropped September 9th on Vagrant Records, and you can order the album here. Check out the music video for “Time Shows Fools,” off Single Mothers, below!
The long-locked, regally bearded songwriter Israel Nash Gripka marries spacey psychedelic guitar work to wind-chilled vocals that pay a nod to Neil Young; Gripka’s songs amble, they meditate, they conduct experiments in theme and variation. His third and latest studio album, RainPlans (out August 19th!) finds Gripka signed to independent British label Loose Music–an apt enough match, given Loose Music’s strong stable of Americana standards like Townes Van Zandt, Neko Case, and Steve Earle. And Gripka has some history in common with your average modern cowboy: originally of Missouri, he moved to New York City to release his first two albums, then split for Dripping Springs, Texas, where he soaked up what he refers to as the area’s “desert folklore” as inspiration for this forlorn, majestic new release.
I’m always interested to see what comes from a matchup of psychedelia and Americana. Despite the genres’ shared theme of wanderlust, the former tends to focus on that wandering’s texture and color, whereas the latter deals in oral history and storytelling. Long stretches of Rain Plans feel like deliberate efforts to let the songwriting move on a long leash, to see where the mind will go when it’s left to its own devices, in the absence of the civilization or plot. The musical patterns are cyclical, the melody unhurried, even listless. In one of the album’s most interior portions, in the back half of the title track, all vocals melt away, leaving a swirling and seemingly endless cycle of mesmerizing guitars. The only thing that remains fixed is the pace: held firm, as if by a metronome, at a slow stroll.
So it’s clear that the album is a journey, but one that moves in circles, and it may test many listeners’ patience not to see the point of all this meandering. With all due respect to the virtues of wandering without being lost, these songs are so relaxed that they sometimes don’t appear to grow from start to finish. There isn’t necessarily going to be development from one end of a song to another; in the worst case scenario, the music instead restates the same idea over and over again, in different ways. Rain Plans isn’t necessarily an album that’s going to tell you a story that has a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end.
But if you have time to sit with it a while, the album proves that, for Gripka, spaciousness rarely equals stagnancy. Consider the shimmeringly gorgeous “Iron of the Mountain,” which establishes a single, circular melody–one moment in time, one color–and then extends it for almost four and a half minutes. Rain Plans richly evokes the vivid aesthetic of folklore: it’s a snapshot, rather than a story, of the landscape. Think of it as a collection of moments, which bear loose connection but don’t need each other in order to function.
The only exception to that logic is the closer, “Rexanimarum,” which is Rain Plans’ most unabashedly rootsy track, with lyrics like “pour me out just like sour wine,” and even echoes of old country songs, “got the money if you got the time.” With a lovely and light touch of backup vocals, this song may be the album’s sunniest, and is certainly its most singalong-friendly.
Check out the full album stream over at the A.V. Club, and go here to order your physical copy of Rain Plans! Listen to “Rain Plans,” with all its swirly melodies and smooth vocal harmonies, below via SoundCloud:
At eighteen, Nathaniel Rateliff moved from his hometown of Bay, Missouri, population 60, to Denver. He focused first on finding work, but after a mysterious bout of health issues forced him to take a break from his job at a trucking company, he slid into the indie folk scene sideways, quickly becoming a local darling of Americana and indie folk. American music, as Rateliff knows, comes from a patchwork of styles, half accidentally thrown together, half borne of different kinds of musicians playing together. Rateliff’s path into music reflected some approximation of this same amalgamation. He’s played in a number of groups, including folky rock group Born In The Flood and his more recent soul project The Night Sweats, and he released an early, homemade batch of recordings as Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel. Monikers and fluctuations of style notwithstanding, though, Rateliff is recognizable in any project he lays hands on, and that’s all due to the reedy, pulse-happy rhythms of his singing.
On his second full-length solo album, Falling Faster Than You Can Run, Rateliff takes us further down the direction of interior, quietly catchy songwriting he established on his Rounder Records debut In Memory of Loss, which came out in 2010. The two albums also share a penchant for bleakness. The acoustic spaciousness of the tracks on Falling Faster highlight Rateliff’s voice, and that voice often sounds pretty sorrowful: sharp, emotional volume spikes on the choruses make each song into a miniature nervous breakdown, with plenty of room for wallowing in the acoustic guitar line. Many of the tracks were written on the road, when Rateliff was touring, and you get a real sense of nomadic loneliness listening to this collection. The lyrics are songwriter-intimate but bear far remove, as if the songs look down at their subjects from thirty thousand feet.
Falling Faster‘s best lyrical moments come when Rateliff reveals the cheekier side of his charm, as is the case on the comparatively bouncy and lighthearted “Laborman” (“I’m begging your pardon if I kinda like the way it feels,” Rateliff sings, and you can practically hear him smirking into the microphone.) Those moments of sunniness serve the album well, and a few more would have not only expanded Falling Faster‘s range, but placed well-deserved focus on the gorgeous flexibility of Rateliff’s voice.
Watch the official video for “Still Trying,” off forthcoming album Falling Faster Than You Can Run, below:
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