TRACK OF THE WEEK: Cool Company “Slice of Paradise”

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Cool Company is bringing us a bit of smooth jazzy hip-hop in their new single “Slice of Paradise.”

This Bushwick-based duo is full of genre-mashing hits that make you want to move around a dance floor. Their new track holds elements of sexy, passion-packed soul music with raw hip-hop breakdowns, a juxtaposition that’s both unique and completely entrancing. If you’re looking for a song to chill out to after a long week, this should be your go-to—it’ll get you humming and relaxed in no time. They’re planning to release a full-length in September, so keep a tab on these cool fellas.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Metacara “Hornets”

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A forest. A girl dressed all in white. Lanterns swinging from trees, hovering like fireflies. These sound like the elements of a fairytale, but in the hands of Metacara, they’re the ingredients of something far more sinister.

Both Kyla Rae, the vocalist of the electronic outfit, and Vegas Gold, who provides beats and production, appear in Metacara’s video for “Hornets.” Kyla starts the video in a dreamy setting; she’s alone in a dark forest, walking among lights hanging eerily from the trees while she sings. But, foreboding synths hint the scene is actually a nightmare. Soon, the lightbulbs break, Kyla’s face contorts into a scream and back, and she’s joined by a group of dancers from the Pitt Hip-Hop Dance Crew. “Come with me to a dark place,” she beckons, as they surround her. Distorted echoes of her own voice and wobbling bass add to the dream-like feeling of the video. As she and the dancers weave between the swinging lights, Vegas watches from a distance.


The two met while Kyla attended the University of Pittsburgh, and Vegas asked her to contribute vocals to a few of his beats. Their combination of delicate, jazzy vocals and gloomy, heavy beats complemented each other well, creating a smooth, spacey sound that was also soulful. Last May, they recorded their EP, Stone LoveCheck out the video for “Hornets” below.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Jojee “Think of Anything”


Letting go is hard. Memories can act as a quicksand of sorts, keeping us stuck in toxic relationships or negative situations that make us feel shitty, because perhaps there once was light. They say much of what makes up our experience of love is how someone makes you feel. “Think of Anything,” the new track from New York-based future soul artist Jojee is about someone who makes you feel you can do anything. That’s much more pleasant than being stuck in the mud, isn’t it? Despite its uplifting ideals, the song is far from annoying pop, but a darkly beautiful soul track with smooth hip hop beats, like a sly smile that gradually warms your face when you realize you’ve made it to the other side.

“Think of Anything” is produced by Mickey Valen. Listen below.



Enjoy a new track “Diamonds” from German-based duo MALKY. The song saunters into your ears slowly, sexily, before we realize it’s a song of sadness: “Don’t you know how much it hurts me?” asks singer and pianist Daniel Stoyanov, who together with producer Michael Vajna makes MALKY. Their name means “little boy” in Bulgaria, where Daniel emigrated from to Germany as a child. Apparently the two are inseparable “brothers in spirit” and share a nostalgic yearning that’s woven in the thread of their music. The 60’s-era blues on the track is bejeweled with modern beats to create a well-rounded songthat allows the boys to strut their stuff. Add them to your playlist that flows from Otis Redding into Twin Shadow.

Listen to “Diamonds” below. Their debut EP, also titled “Diamonds” comes out in the US April 7.

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TRACK REVIEW: Ava Luna “Billz”

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Ava Luna, that soulful quirky five-piece from Brooklyn, are releasing a new album on April 14th via Western Vinyl. Wow, that’s a long ways away, isn’t it? Well, you can stream one of their new songs right now, on Bandcamp. 

“Billz” is the ninth track on Infinite House, Ava Luna’s latest release since 2014’s Electric Balloon. Typical of the band, it mixes the old-school sound of Carlos Hernandez’s passionate crooning and eclectic, jazzy pop with modern life. Putting words to what we’re all thinking as we go about our lives, he sings “Will it elevate me? Will it educate me?/ But is it gonna pay my bills?”

When the time is right, you can download Infinite House here. In the meantime, check out “Billz” below:

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Track List for Infinite House:

1. Company

2. Tenderize

3. Steve Polyester

4. Roses and Cherries

5. Coat of Shellac

6. Infinite House

7. Black Dog

8. Best Hexagon

9. Billz

10. Victoria

11. Carbon


VIDEO PREMIERE: Celeste “More Lives”

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Monday morning doesn’t have to be glass half empty. With the video premiere of Brooklyn based Celeste‘s “More Lives” your glass can be half full, like the dirty martini you left on the record table as you drifted to sleep after an indulgent Sunday.
Directed by Elizabeth Skadden, the black and white video features Celeste in an evening gown and elbow-length gloves posed on a chaise lounge with the majesty of an Egyptian cat, purring “I’ve got more lives…” Celeste creates electronic R&B with southern-soaked vocals (her roots are in Birmingham, AL). A dancer turned musician, she makes sure she creates “music she can dance to.”
The current EP More Please combines the singer’s soul with elements of her producer Louis Sherman’s electro-psych influence. In the video her dance moves are utilized to seductively tell in motion the message she sings. Celeste captivates the camera with natural talent writhing from both her body and voice. Southern roots mingle in your eardrums with a hip hop snap as she drawls layered vocals while your eye lips peel back to admire the calm, collected cool of her satin-r0bed figure classically strut to the music.

We’ll keep this a post full of pleasures and include below a stream to the full EP More Please.


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ALBUM REVIEW: crash “Hardly Criminal”


Awww yeah.

That’s my initial and abiding reaction to “Motion Animal,” the first single off Chris Richard aka crash‘s solo debut, Hardly Criminal. Crash, backup singer for the Magnetic Zeros and frontman for Deadly Syndromefinally gets to spotlight his tenor at its sultry finest on this dressed-down soul track, and the motown gods are surely pleased.

Anyone familiar with the singer’s work would be surprised to see him stick fully in one genre for a full album, though, and Hardly Criminal expands satisfyingly from soul outward. Crash grew up in Louisiana, imbibing a country-fied blend of Americana, folk, and New Orleans street-performer blues, and he can do all those styles with equally endearing swagger. “Motion Animal” comes two tracks in and holds its title as the catchiest number through the end of this record, but we hear plenty of that danceability on the down-homier “If God Was A Cajun” and the string-happy “All My Friends.” What’s especially impressive about Hardly Criminal, though, is how well crash pulls off the slower, sweeter stuff. On the succinct “Song For The Birds,” crash keeps his oddball charm in the lyrics (“Was feeding you worms/but I forgot that you don’t eat them”) but strums introspective layers of round-like, repetitive acoustic guitar, angling his voice away from soul flourish and towards a simpler, more vulnerable croon. “Britches Catch Fire,” one of the album’s most impressive demonstrations of crash’s sheer power to sustain a high note, hints at gospel in the harmonies. His versatility looms large, and surprises again and again on this record.

All told, the quieter tracks add up to a majority of Hardly Criminal, and I would have liked to see the album filled out with a couple more swingers – “Motion Animal” left me jonesing for more groove – but both in terms of songwriting and vocals, crash skillfully pulls off every style he ambles into on this collection. No matter the flavor, every single track on Hardly Criminal is worth a replay. This cat is it.

Hardly Criminal drops May 6th. You can preorder it here, and check the “Motion Animal” music video below for a soulful blast of groovy get-down:

BAND OF THE MONTH: Leverage Models


“My only rules were that I would shut my conscious impulses as much as possible (my impulse to interrogate and analyze every gesture, ponder what imaginative impulse every sound was for, worry about what outlet would be used to release the music) and just make,” Shannon Fields has written, regarding his approach to music and his new project–and AudioFemme’s Band Of The Month!–Leverage Models. Fields’ creative impulses and internal landscapes are at the heart of this group. Friends and cohorts appear on Leverage Models’ self-titled debut, too, in such high and ever-evolving numbers that trying to count them would be futile, but Sharon Van Etten, Sinkane and Yeasayer all number among Leverage Models’ contributers. Fields, who dreamt up his first band, Stars Like Fleas, in 1999 and played under that name for nearly a decade, has always been inclined towards collaboration.

Listening to Leverage Models is a fantastically colorful experience, so much so that the first few times through the album feel like being in a brand new, exotic and densely stimulating city–it’s hard to have concrete thoughts on the music when you’re so busy just trying to take it all in. In a wonderfully interior journey, Leverage Models presents a mostly-joyous, always-elaborate layering of futuristic soul music, electronic riffs and repetitive vocal lines that sound more like instrumental licks than voices. It’s hard to see the seams of this album: the music’s many aspects seem like they must have simultaneously sprung, fully formed, into being. Since the album bears so little comparison to anything else in its category, finding the songs’ trajectories requires enough listening to get past just being dazzled by the bright lights and shiny metals, but once you do, the album is actually pretty accessible. Some of the songs, like “Sweet” (with Sharon Van Etten) are surprisingly catchy, with strong R&B influence and an endearing sense of excitement swelling beneath the melodies.

In the fifteen-odd years he’s been recording–first with Stars Like Fleas, and now Leverage Models–Fields has put out only four full-length albums, with a few years’ space between each. It’s easy to see why: each complex, densely compiled release packs a hefty wallop. None more so than Leverage Models, which feels like the summation of the full five years Fields took to create it, with an elegant blend of complexity in its instrumental arrangements and sweet simplicity in its intent.

Listen to the oh-so-stunning, “A Chance To Go”, here via Soundcloud


If you can’t catch Leverage Models at our SXSW showcase this Wednesday, cozy up with Shannon right here instead! Audiofemme got in touch with him and asked him a few questions about music, and the internet, and resurrecting his teenage self who would then listen to the new album. Here’s what went down:

AF: Tell us about the process of beginning your new project, Leverage Models. How did you want it to differ from your work with Stars Like Fleas? What inspires your music writing?

Shannon: Leverage Models didn’t really begin deliberately. Stars Like Fleas was a very large family of musicians that was so emotionally volatile, and so draining to keep afloat that when it finally ripped itself apart I just moved to the country and started spending all day in my home studio with absolutely no agenda except to find something to glue myself back together with. I suddenly had a surplus of time and space to create in. But also this sort of crushing weight of having a part of my identity, something I’d built for almost 10 years (Stars Like Fleas, my life in Brooklyn) vanish overnight. I felt free of the albatross it had become for me, but also a huge wave of “what now?” anxiety. The only way I could handle that was to entirely avoid thinking about the “what now?”, or about who I am or what I had to offer anybody. So that was a pretty radical change to my creative process. With the Fleas, the creative process was analytical to the point of compulsion – it was 2 parts sound creation / performance and 98 parts self-interrogation, willful deconstruction, avoidance of any convention, avoidance of anything that might work in an immediate or superficial way for anybody.  And I don’t regret a moment of that. But Leverage Models originated in my just making songs that made me feel better and that I enjoyed living inside, without questioning anything (because at the time I had no intention of doing anything with those songs). Honestly, this was and still is straight up therapy….an approach I hadn’t previously had much respect for.  I don’t want to suggest there isn’t still some of that going on with Leverage Models, but I try to keep the higher functioning parts of my brain out of the room until it’s time to take a step back and look at the big picture of an album, or a mix. Until then I let the lizard parts of my brainstem drive the bus. I think I’m more interested these days in the logic of craft and folk art rather than the trappings of modernism, that constant privileging of newness and confrontation of norms, so Leverage Models focuses much more on the shared conventions of pop music and just trying to be disciplined about writing and arranging well. (That said, lyrics are a different conversation entirely….a different ballgame, and equally important to me).

AF: Now that the album has been out for a few months, how do you feel about it? Do you have a favorite song? 

S: I spent a year on the record and I’m completely happy with it. It’s not the record I would make today, but it’s a good snapshot where I was at a year ago, and I’m proud of the response I’ve gotten from some of the people whose opinions I care the most about. I don’t actually listen to my own records and can’t say I have a favorite song. Right now my favorite song to play live is The Chance To Go.  With most of the songs I wrote and recorded them predominantly at home before bringing in the band to replace demo arrangements. But The Chance To Go came out of a live improvisational session with the band. One morning we woke up, I described a groove to the band, and maybe 15 minutes later we had that song. It feels more spontaneous and live than other things on the record because it is. Also….A Slow Marriage is one that ages well for me….it might be the most open, direct and personal…it feels simultaneously vulnerable and synthetic…which is how I feel most days.

AF: How do you feel about music in the digital age? Would you go to war in order to save the internet from extinction?

S: I’m a little bit confused and alienated by the new relationship to music that the culture has. Music is a little more of a disposable lifestyle accessory and a little less precious then it was when I was a teenager. I don’t know that I have a strong feeling about whether that’s a good or bad thing….I guess it’s a mixed bag, like all change. It’s what culture does. That said, I might not have any kind of social life or a career without the Internet….it’s easier to do everything (except make money), including just talking to people…which has always been difficult for me. It doesn’t carry over into performance, but offstage I have a crippling amount of social anxiety. So email is great. And I think when I moved to the country my music career might have been over in a pre-Internet world. Now it matters much less where I live.

AF: You’ve picked out of the way spots to do a lot of your recording, and Leverage Models was recorded in a farmhouse outside of Cooperstown, NY. Why do you choose such remote locations?

S: Ha!…because I live in that farmhouse in the country outside of Cooperstown! My band lives in Brooklyn but I left before Leverage Models happened. I record mainly in my home studio, in between barn chores (my wife and I are breeding horses) and other work around the property. Splitting my days between physical labor and creative work gives me a rhythm that’s really healthy for me. I feel like a better person for it…even if that’s sentimentalized nonsense, it’s a fiction that helps me get through the day. And I just feel physically and mentally more stable. NYC was breaking me. Also, I should mention that I generally record the full band and mix at The Isokon in Woodstock, NY, — mainly because D. James Goodwin, who runs it, is someone I trust and have a longstanding relationship with. He’s a powerful creative human and he gets me.

AF: What are your strengths as a musician? Would you say you have any weaknesses?

S: I’m not putting my head in either of those nooses. Is this a job interview, Annie?

AF: If one of your songs (while you’re in the process of writing it that is), were a small child (or pet), would you say that it would have a mind of its own or would it generally stay in line and follow the rules?

S: Oh I’m probably training feral animals here, metaphorically speaking.  In my writing process I make a conscious effort not to know where I’m going when I begin a song. Sometimes I do try to generate ideas by throwing myself curve balls (horrible cliché’s, instruments and mixing choices that are steeped in cheesy baggage, pastiche, etc.) but mainly I just work really fast and intuitively up front…so fast I don’t have time to question what I’m doing….following my reflexes and my pleasure centers. I write/record in manic highs and edit when I’m miserable. Then if I’ve painted myself into a corner, finding my way out usually leads to something that’s better than it would be if I tried to really over-direct and control the process.

AF: If you could have any person, living or dead, real or fictitious, listen to a song off Leverage Models, who would it be? What do you think they/it would think about that song?

S: Hmmmm….the only thing that comes to mind would be my teenage self. And….I really have no idea what I would think. But I think I’d be pretty down. I would probably question all the slap bass.

AF: If you could experience your own music through one of your other senses, which would it be? What would it taste/smell/feel/look like?

S: Can I experience someone else’s music this way? That seems like a pretty heavy gift to use in such a self-indulgent way. I’m a little food-obsessed. I think Maurice Fulton’s music would make for a pretty satisfying combination of salt, heat and sweetness, without a lot of heavy starchy proteins.

AF: What is one of your favorite cities to perform in? Do you have any weird tour bus necessities?

S: We’re lucky to get a bar towel and some hot water on a hospitality rider and we tour in my 2008 soccer-mom minivan, packed so full of shit none of us can move our legs. I look forward to having weird tour bus necessities though.

As for chosen cities, I just like performing anywhere that people seem hungry for music and aren’t so self-conscious that they’re afraid to move their bodies at a show. But to be honest, I was just as uptight and self-conscious for a long time. It took a long while to get to the point where I really internalized that I am going to die – I think that’s what it pivots on – and was able to full let go of all those kinds of very Midwestern, probably very male inhibitions. So we love playing smaller towns that are usually passed over; where you play to a small crowd but everyone who comes up to you is grateful and excited. It makes me remember being that kid in Kansas City…remembering the feeling you have – living in what you think is the ass-end of the universe — when you see something that changes the game for you, turns a light on, makes the world feel suddenly larger and more nuanced and more capable of possibility and not limited to the values of whatever oppressive cool-crowd you’re stuck under, shows you a way out or inspires you to remake yourself. Anyway, we seem to find a lot of these places in the south. On our current tour, D.C. (a huge house party with a few hundred people, put on by the Lamont Street Collective), Asheville NC, Charlotte NC, and Jacksonville FL were all surprisingly bonkers. I just like to feel like I’m making some kind of real connection with every person there. If I don’t, I feel like a complete failure as a performer and as a person…no matter how much people might have liked it or how ‘on’ the band was. I always take crowd reactions personally, I’m very motivated to feel that connection, even when I know I’m doing things onstage to actively bait or confront them a bit (which happens).

AF: Do you have any words of wisdom for Audiofemme? Any secrets you’d like to divulge?


1.  No wisdom, but a thanks to Audiofemme for helping to provide a balance to the music journalists’ boys club. I’m not sure boys clubs are our scene. I’m used to getting threatening looks in boys’ clubs.

2.  I’m very good at keeping secrets. You first.




LIVE REVIEW: Valerie June @ Beacon Theatre

As lights went down over a sold-out Beacon Theatre on Feb. 6th, Valerie June sauntered to center stage and assumed the mic without much flourish. The hall was big—and fancy! With seats! And you should have seen the bathrooms! And June looked like she would have just as soon played in a whiskey-sticky dive in the middle of nowhere. She might have felt that way, too: the Jackson-born June played gospel music at her church in Memphis as a kid, took her first job hanging posters around town for her music promoter father, and made her bones as a country-folk singer weathered by hard times and hard work. June’s sensibility expanded markedly with her signed debut, Pushing Against A Stone, which doesn’t channel gospel so much as ragged, rough-edged soul, spiny Appalachian traditional music, and a noisy rock and roll edge courtesy of the album’s co-writer and producer Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys).

And though Pushing Against A Stone was huge for June’s career, and she’s been busy with shows ever since it came out, she still stood in front of Thursday’s crowd like a green performer. She didn’t say a word to the audience. That wasn’t a bad thing in this performance: set against the glamour of the Beacon, her rumpled presentation was actually pretty refreshing. June began her set alone in front of the stage curtains, banjo at her feet and her band members’ stools behind her, unmanned for the moment. Dressed in a lightly patterned floor length dress, her head of dreads piled over her shoulders like Medusa’s snakes, June put her hands on her hips and began to sing “Goodnight Irene.”

She had a sore throat, but you’d never have known it. After her three-man band joined her on stage, the horsepower behind her vocals picked up, and June’s voice expanded to maintain focal status on stage. The songs were louder, weirder, and better than their studio versions. Sung live, the normally mournful “Somebody To Love” was devastating and a little pissed off. The songs were plaintive on Pushing Against A Stone, but carried the meanness and swagger of much louder songs when June performed them live.

“I love you, Valerie June!” a male voice called, while she was between songs. June cast up her eyes in the vague direction of the voice and paused, finally answering, sort of half-heartedly, “That’s more’n I can say for…the man who put the ring on my finger.” It was sort of a half-baked exchange.

“Uh, they don’t let me out much. Can’t take me anywhere. And I can’t be told, neither,” she continued, promptly launching into the last song of her slim set, “You Cant Be Told.” It made sense as a closer: it’s the heaviest, catchiest rock song in June’s arsenal, though the strange power of her voice in songs like “Workin’ Woman Blues” trumped any bass line. When the song was done, June stepped away from the mic, slung her purse over her shoulder, and stalked off the stage.

Though June and headlining act Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings had plenty in common—they’re both soulful, female-fronted groups with blues influences—Jones’ performance was spectacularly theatrical. Flanked by a large, swanky assembly of horns, strings and vocals, Jones danced all over the stage, bending down to touch her fans and exchanging warm shimmies with her band members. The night’s performance was a celebration: Sharon Jones fought cancer in 2013, causing the release of her new album Give The People What They Want to be pushed back to January of this year. She only recently started playing shows again, but Jones went hard. She appeared at the Beacon triumphantly bald in a glitzy gold dress, unabashedly vocal—and funny—about her struggle to get back to music. “I don’t want you to look at my feet,” Jones proclaimed, pointing down towards her shoes. She’d turned her insecurity on its head, rocking out wiglessly and pushing her endurance with a long, acrobatic set.

“Get up and dance!” Jones commanded. The entire house obliged and began to dance. The high-energy performance included a lot of new songs off Give The People, polished and boisterously strong. The set was long, and neither Jones nor the dancing audience showed any signs of slowing down. After about an hour and a half of the bluesy soul music—the brass, the dancing, the acrobatic vocals—I was exhausted. Sharon Jones was not. As I slipped out the back, the party raged on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones and her soul party were still whooping it up on the Beacon’s stage right now.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Nick Waterhouse “It No. 3”

Nick Waterhouse Audiofemme

Nick Waterhouse‘s R&B-inflected debut Time’s All Gone came out in 2012, and may seem like a non sequitur coming from a twenty-something white guy from California. The album borrowed substantially from the bluesier end of sixties rock, meshed interestingly with a soulful Motown slant. But so much of modern music mixes up decades and blends stylistic influences—especially those from the sixties—that it no longer seems fair to dock points for anachronism. Waterhouse’s particular musical blend, while not unique, is certainly endearing—Time’s All Gone radiates with the kind of garage rock that lets you notice each instrument individually, without them being much treated or blurred into each other.

Waterhouse doesn’t change that aesthetic in “It No. 3,” a Ty Segall cover just released off his upcoming sophomore album Holly, out March 4th. The minimal production on this track doesn’t matter a bit next to the sheer vocal personality. Maintaining the jumpy soul of Waterhouse’s first album, “It No. 3” indicates Waterhouse is gaining a greater comfort level in the music he makes, having more fun and paying less attention to the many—and formidable—influences that contribute to his work. His ownership of this song is especially impressive given that “It No. 3” is a cover, and though the rendition is a fairly faithful one in many respects, the personality behind it is all Waterhouse, no Segall imitation. Shrinking Segall’s original down from fifteen minutes to three, Waterhouse creates a concise, likeable sound that offers a lot for what it asks.

Go here to pre-order Nick Waterhouse’s new album, Holly, out March 4th. Listen to “It No. 3” below:

LIVE REVIEW: Eli Paperboy Reed 11/14

elireedmusicsep0ct20102Eli Paperboy Reed‘s live set at Union Pool last week showcased with gusto what his forthcoming album from Warner Bros, of which we’ve heard snippets, only intimates. Reed, who performs live with a full band, including a mighty talented brass section, drums, synth and bass, is standing squarely atop the tipping point on which artists find themselves right before they launch into mega fame (I will not be a bit surprised when I see him on stage at a mainstream music awards show. However I’ll be insanely surprised to find myself watching a mainstream music awards show). His talent, and the extent to which his songs will invariably garner mass appeal, is evident when watching him live in a way it’s not when listening to his studio recordings (see our track review for “Woo Hoo“, here). This is likely because his singles’ high gloss production quality (as amazing as it is to hear with headphones on), actually deters from the grittier, more compelling aspects of his musical style.
These creative leanings are shaped mostly by a 90’s era soul/funk throwback, whose revival we’re experiencing now in full force, transcending pretty much every strata of the music industry, and whose roots herald back to the days of Jamiroquai, New Radicals, Tribe’s The Love Movement, etc etc (btw can we talk about how “Virtual Reality” came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO?!?!). When performed live, with all the bells and whistles attendant with polished live performance intact (especially when that performance is perfectly executed as it was by him that night), his music translates into something more unique than I would have given him credit for previously. He played much of his new work, including the dancy “Woo Hoo” and others. My personal favorite, however, was his cover of Robyn’s ever-pertinent-to-my-life “Call Your Girlfriend”, which had me nearly swooning, not gonna lie, and even compelled me to cheer for an encore.
Union Pool was the perfect venue in which to debut his new work and showcase the ethos his music generates: retro but unique, and hip yet unassuming. Walking into the show felt like entering a movie set, with the small stage’s velvet curtains, vintage flood lighting and impeccably dressed hipsters framing the scene. And even from the band’s opening chords, the crowd was dancing. What better way to announce yourself to the world? We can’t wait to see more from this young talent.
Catch him on December 11th, performing on Letterman with Nick Lowe.