Marco Benevento – “At The Show” (Royal Potato Family)

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Listen Now: “At The Show” (Radio Edit)

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Marco Benevento’s latest single “At The Show” will quickly become your new favorite summertime jam. The infectious number is the debut track from Swift, his forthcoming studio album produced by Richard Swift (Foxygen, The Shins, Damien Jurado) that drops September 16 on Royal Potato Family. It’s also Marco’s maiden voyage as a vocalist. To this point, his critically acclaimed solo albums have been instrumental affairs with the exception of two tracks on 2012′s TigerFace that were sung by Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver. For this latest, Marco steps to the mic and the results signal the arrival of a new musical chapter for the fearless young artist.

“I came up with the initial idea for “At The Show” on a Casio drum machine. When my wife heard it, she immediately started dancing and clapping her hands. I added some ideas on piano and quickly realized that a new song idea was upon us,” explains Benevento. “We made a demo and lived with that for a little while. When we started playing it live I would just make up words about wherever we were playing. ‘We hit the room at Jumpin Jays Fish Cafe’ is a line about an incredible place in Portsmouth, NH. And more and more I began to realize that ‘it’s always workin’ at the show,’ nothing else matters and you can forget about all the little problems in the day. Over the last year this tune has become a crowd favorite, especially at the end of the night when you can really let it all hang out.”

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Cold Specks – Bodies At Bay EP (Mute)

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Listen Now: “Bodies At Bay”

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Like an off-label industrial process or cult ritual conducted in the dead of night, an artery flowing open in spurts or a complex society on the verge of
 collapse, Neuroplasticity is both terrifying and morbidly enthralling to witness. Cold Specks has returned, two years and a world map of tours after 2012’s I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Hailed as a masterful and wholly original debut, the follow-up is radically expanded, like an announcer realizing they hadn’t turned on their microphone. In anticipation of Neuroplasticity’s release, we are thrilled to share the Bodies At Bay EP exclusively to radio.

The 26 year-old Canadian singer, under the sobriquet Al Spx, began work on Neuroplasticity while holed-up in a cottage in Wick, Somerset, UK during the winter of 2012. “The record was mapped out in the cottage. I was there for about three months,” she says, “’A Formal Invitation’, ‘Old Knives’ and ‘Absisto’ were essentially written there. They are the more unusual songs on the record. I may have been reflecting on my surroundings. Have you ever been to Glastonbury? It’s a pretty fucked up place.”

When Cold Specks wasn’t writing or touring, she was pinballing between asks from an enviable roll call of collaborators and award panels. Shortlisted for the Juno Award and Polaris Prize, Spx also worked on Moby’s album and was invited to play with Joni Mitchell at the singer’s 70th birthday last year, alongside the likes of Herbie Hancock. She contributed to Ambrose Akinmusire’s new record for Blue Note and the latest Swans album, To Be Kind. These last two partnerships have left a significant impression on Neuroplasticity. The indomitable Swans founder Michael Gira appears midway through on “Exit Plan,” and Akinmusire joins him on the intense closer “A Season of Doubt” as well as permeating most of the record with trumpet lines of an anguished, cracking frailty.

On Neuroplasticity Spx’s words and delivery capture whatever could be said to exist and be perceptible of something beyond ourselves: as a record of the briefest flicker of consciousness counterbalanced against a roaring urge to return to the darkness. It is bleaker than before perhaps but the wintry feel of Cold Specks material, self-described last time as “doom soul,” has the quiet power of seeds cracking through ice. The thematic fixation with blood, animals and earth that spills in from the previous LP ensures that the notion of obliteration remains cradled by some intractable cosmic order, however torrid. Neuroplasticity will be released via Mute on August 25 2014.

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El May – “Thrills” (Rose Quartz Records)

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Listen Now: “Thrills”

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With The Other Person is You songwriter El May – also known as Lara Meyerratken – has created an album full of love, loss, desire, and strength. Get to know the layered and orchestral The Other Person is You – with it’s striking images and auditory delights – and it will come as no surprise that before building a career as a freelance musician and composer, Meyerratken was a painter and printmaker, and still makes time for visual experiments.

The Other Person is You came to be when, after a string of romantic disappointments, Meyerratken embarked on a period of quiet self-evaluation. How does one love without transferring unfair expectations onto another person? What does it mean to take care of oneself? These inquiries led to an inspiring realization: all the people we encounter in our lives, whether they are foes or friends, are only aspects of ourselves. 

Lyrically, the songs on The Other Person is You show a psychological interest in noticing and questioning our patterns in relationships, our habits and tendencies, and the search for their origins. Meyerratken elaborates: “In time it becomes clear that our difficult experiences in relationships help birth us into a new phase. The hurt and frustration that another person can cause us throws into relief exactly what we need to look at within ourselves. People play a role, as if they were under a divine contract to bring us to a certain place.”
 
This realization was the key to unlocking a journey toward personal responsibility and spiritual liberation, and the driving force behind a record that takes listeners on an auditory journey through a young woman’s interior landscape. We meet her demons, her lovers, her friends, her authority figures. Regarding the sunny, harmony-driven ‘Science’ Meyerratken calls it “a bit of a battle between two animals, this best self – the best intentioned self – and our addicted, hypnotized selves.” While in the slow-jam, disco-pop duet ‘Diamonds, Girl’, she suggests that we turn the longing for another back toward ourselves. “The energy we output towards romantic relationships is the same stuff we can use for creativity, and we sometimes find ourselves hemorrhaging precious life force, our libido, on relationships going nowhere.” 
 
The wishes, hopes, and discoveries contained in these songs paint a portrait of a woman determined to transmute her capacity for love into understanding and compassion for herself. The final two songs on the record, the spare and vulnerable “Atlantic, Pacific” and orchestral, heroic “Oh, Get Carried”, are homages to self-care and trust in the divine embrace. “It doesn’t matter how winding, strange and lonely our paths can be, we are carried….We can be hurt, alone and tumbled around, but our faith, our quiet work is what carries us. Our quiet faith is what carries us. Our quiet faith in something that carries us.”
 
Meyerratken wrote The Other Person is You at seldom-used picnic tables in secluded parts of the Griffith Park trails, in her cosy Los Feliz apartment and late into the night at her parents’ dining table when visiting family in England.

When it came time to put the self-produced The Other Person is You to tape Meyerratken spent many solitary early mornings at the commercial music house where she worked. “The huge amount of time I had to spend alone and focused, writing and then recording….it’s satisfying, but after all that time, you still come out with something invisible – music…invisible vibrations.” In response, she resurrected a fervor for painting, dance and ceramics as a way to remember “how to be in my body, relate to people, be in the visual world and work with physical things.”

For all the solitary time Meyerratken spent writing and producing, there’s a celebratory excitement in the album, owing to her recruitment of a “bunch of friends that live around me in LA.” (calling them special guests would be too formal) including Allison Pierce (The Pierces), Koool G Murder (The Eels), Chris Cheney (The Living End), Sean Eden (Luna*), members of The Silver Lake Chorus, Sara Lov (Devics), Blake Hazard (The Submarines), Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines*) and Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham (Luna, Dean & Britta).

The result is a record as a love-letter to the fully-lived life, written by a woman who dedicates her days to searching for answers to her big questions through making music and art.  “The record itself became the resolution to all this searching,” says Lara. ”There’s an alchemy in turning experiences into music that brings about so much of the repair. The discipline, the right to make a noise, being invisible verses existing, intangible hurt into something I can begin to understand, something people might be able to dance to.”

This is the second full-length album written, produced and performed by El May.  Her self-titled debut LP was released in 2010, and received radio support from KCRW and KEXP, and was licensed for television (Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, Melrose Place) and film (Our Idiot Brother).  Prior to recording under the moniker El May, Meyerratken’s impressive capabilities as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist were harnessed by a remarkable variety of artists such as Nada Surf, Luna, Crooked Fingers, and Luscious Jackson.  In addition to her work as a performer and recording artist, she composes music for film and advertising, and is a visual artist. Lara scored original music for Hank and Asha – a darling of the 2013-2014 independent film festival circuit. In 2010 Meyerratken won the lauded Cannes “Gold Lion” award as Musical Director for the Match.com  “Duet” campaign, and in 2005 won an ARIA Award (often referred to as the Australian Grammy) for her album cover art for Ben Lee’s Awake is the New Sleep.

* Sean Eden lives in NY and Eugene Kelly lives in Glasgow, Scotland but they both still count.

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Ephemerals – Nothin Is Easy (Jalapeno Records)

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Listen Now: “Easy Ain’t Nothin”

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Fresh out of London comes one of the hottest soul sensations you’ll hear all year. Meet Ephemerals, whose debut LP Nothin Is Easy was released via Jalapeno Records on June 23rd.

Fans of the Daptone sound will immediately be drawn to Ephemerals, whose LP is a tastefully timeless soul record, taking inspirations from music greats such as James Brown, Syl Johnson and OV Wright and Charles Bradley.

Joined by Franglo-American singer Wolf, originally from New York but who has been living in Paris since the age of 14, Ephemerals deliver a debut album that is fresh and soulful and will command some serious attention. Wolf only began singing in public three years ago, but has quickly established himself as a continental star with his band Marvellous, who supported Hannah Williams and the Tastemakers on a tour date.

Hillman Mondegreen, writer-producer and founder member for Hannah Williams and The Tastemakers, was on a quest to find the singer for his next project when their tour passed through France. Wolfgang Valbrun was singing for the group that was supporting the Tastemakers, and Hillman felt instantly that the New Yorker was the perfect voice.

Soon afterwards, Hillman made the decision to leave Hannah Williams & the Tastemakers to pursue a new musical project, and the first person he called up to sing in his new band, Ephemerals, was Wolf, who he knew was the man for the job.

Wolf learned the songs via grainy acoustic mp3s that Hillman was sending from London, and within a few months, a six-piece backing band of trusted soul musicians were about to create an album. Valbrun arrived in Soho the day before recording and the dynamic partnership was realised for the first time in Hillman’s apartment. In the same way, the musicians who turned up at the studio had barely even heard their parts or seen them written. Some were meeting each other for the first time, and the first full band rehearsal was on the first day of the recording.

Hillman taught the band song by song, and within three scorching days — thanks to a broken air conditioning unit during the July heatwave — the seven-piece had recorded the album live to analogue tape at The Cowshed in North London, and Wolf was on his way back to France. The strings and backing vocals were added in Winchester and Nothin Is Easy was complete.

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Lili Hayden – “Sea Of Gold” (MRI/RED)

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Listen Now: “Sea Of Gold”

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“Unique, creative, moving, bold, sonically beautiful and really fucking clever…. I love this record for its passion, craftsmanship, & honesty. I would go on this ride again & again & again…”–Linda Perry

“Lili manages to mix Kate Bush with modern influences to make a beautifully unique sound based around her amazing violin skills and soulful voice.”–Steve Lillywhite

“I really like the spareness of it, and the content…the strong thread of mid-60′s Haight-Ashbury aggression and looseness to it all, informed by beat making grooves (with some classical influence). [Haydn’s] voice sounds really great…dark and rich. –David Kahne

LILI HAYDN has announced Tuesday, September 16 as the release date for her full- length album LILILAND (via MRI/RED). “LiliLand is the jungle of my mind,” says the distinguished singer, songwriter, composer and violinist of her first album in six years and fourth overall. “Fun, fragile, and ferocious songs about losing everything and getting it back.”

Produced by the Los Angeles-based artist herself and mixed by Darrell Thorp (Radiohead and Beck) with drum work spearheaded by Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Lana Del Rey and Tori Amos), the 12-track album is a blend of quirky pop hooks, soulful melody, and raw grooves. It’s all unified by her unique brand of violin virtuosity, nakedly honest vocals, and poignant lyrics that reflect her passion for social justice and personal soul-searching.

LILILAND—which will come on the heels of her recent (April) EP release How I Got My Brains Back—features a uniquely arranged rendition of the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir” as tribute to the legendary band. HAYDN performed the song live in 1995 with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at The Forum in Los Angeles and subsequently opened for them on their last U.S. tour.

LILILAND was written and recorded in the four years following a freak chemical accident in my home, in which the pesticides in the foundation used to prevent termites made me sick, caused brain damage, and forced me to get rid of everything I owned,” says HAYDN. “After trying every therapy around, I finally recovered by way of practicing my violin.” She adds: “My song ‘How I Got My Brains Back’ starts with a classical melody that helped me get well, and unleashes the healing mayhem of a rock violin concerto.”

“This tune was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth, in which he describes a woman who dreamt of herself laying on a bed of rocks. Inside these rocks was locked all her treasure. Campbell said that as she opened up her heart, her dream changed, and this time, the treasure in the rocks began to pour out. I was really moved by this image, wanting so much to connect and share my gifts with the world, and I started to imagine the gold inside me pouring out into a Sea of Gold, a kind of primordial soup, where all life and creativity is born, where we all connect.’ – Lili Haydn

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Peliroja – Injusticia (Chulo)

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Listen Now: “Injusticia”

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Producer and guitarist Jacob Plasse has united some of his old friends – players from the Daptones, Pedrito Martinez Group and Los Hacheros – to form Peliroja, a New York collective inspired by the sounds of Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Congo.

Their debut album Injusticia will be out August 19th on Chulo Records, a label devoted to the transcendental sounds of New York Latin music.

“Some of the musicians in Peliroja and I would meet up after school on Jane Street in the West Village, at a stoop with some Old English, a spliff and a tape deck,” says Jacob best known as producer and musician for salsa masters, Los Hacheros. “We were gangly, awkward 15 year-olds and not cool by any means. I’m not sure how we became obsessed with obscure 70s funk and Afrobeat music, but that’s what we would listen to: The 3 Sounds, Lyn Collins, Africa 70.” Two decades later, his friends have gone on to become key players in the Brooklyn funk scene, and Jacob has spent the last 10 years refining his music on the road with salsa and bachata bands.

Produced and co-written by Plasse, Injusticia was recorded live to tape at his studio in Brooklyn, in the spirit of the music he was raised on. The groove to this music is deep, and heard in the way the Daptones’ rhythm section – drummer Homer Steinweiss and bassist Nick Movshon – play off the polyrhythms of Carlos Padron’s timbales and Jhair Salas’ congas, forming a new fusion of old sounds. Jainardo Batistas vocals soar over these rhythms, propelled forward by Mike Eckroth’s mercurial arrangements.

“I think the experience of growing up in New York and getting to hear and play with all these wonderful musicians and having them in my life has let me create something that is true to myself, and hopefully them as well,” Jacob adds.

“This album is for those boys on the stoop who hadn’t figured out how to be in this world, but were lucky enough to know what they loved.”

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Leticia Rodriguez – Sagüita Al Bate EP (Self-Released)

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Listen Now: “Milonga Sentimental”

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Leticia Rodriguez is a singer, bandleader, dancer, choreographer and the producer, writer and director of the one-woman show Canciones For Generations. To develop the show, she spent two years interviewing family members and, in the process, rediscovered the music of her aunt, Eva Garza.

Garza was one of the first internationally recorded bilingual artists to crossover in the United States. Her songs “Sabor de Engano” and “Celosa” helped establish Columbia Records in the Mexican market. She was the first Latin American artist to have her own radio show on CBS and, during World War II, was known as the Sweetheart of the Americas. “My mother and aunt told me I needed to record Aunt Eva’s song ‘Sagüita Al Bate,’” Rodriguez recalls. “It’s about a baseball player named Alberto ‘Sagüita’ Hernandez and describes the lamentations of a man being driven crazy by his “lady’s” obsession with baseball. It’s filled with double entendres. My aunt performed in Cuba in the late 50s, but, since I didn’t have a recording of it, I was unable to include it in the show.”

Rodriguez grew up in Texas in a family of performers. “I excelled in school, but my passion was always for the stage and anything that promoted the idea that art was transformative.” Rodriguez married and raised a family, but continued performing as a dancer, actor and musician. “My challenge as a woman was figuring out how to combine living in the world as a Latin mother and artist.” She worked as a teacher, choreographer, producer and writer for Believe in Me, a performance company that brought children onstage for collaborative performances. She created her own company, Performance Encounters, in 2004, writing, performing, directing and producing works that explored the assimilation of Latinos in Texas. While creating Canciones For Generations, she rediscovered her love of singing and the music of her aunt Eva Garza. The show inspired La Americana as well as the Sagüita Al Bate EP. “While creating this EP, I realized that by claiming my full name, Leticia Rodriguez Garza, I could immediately convey my deep connections to family, music and my Aunt Eva Garza. And, so I did.”

Rodriguez Garza will be supporting the EP with live performances and radio and press interviews. She’s currently working on another album for release in 2015. It will feature songs from Garza’s repertoire, as well as original music by Rodriguez Garza and her band.

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Somebody’s Darling – “Bad Bad” (Self-Released)

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Listen Now: “Bad Bad”

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Dallas’ own Somebody’s Darling have played relentlessly over the last five years, clocking in over 500 shows through multiple headlining tours, numerous festival stops and supporting great artists like Shovels & Rope, Lucero and Divine Fits. Spearheaded by lead singer Amber Farris, whose unrefined yet tender vocals belt out blistering songs that command the attention of anyone in earshot, is oft-likened to great singers such as Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi and Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards).

Nearly two years after the release of the band’s last album, Somebody’s Darling is set to release their third LP in September, titled Adult Roommates. The new album was recorded earlier this year at the Echo Lab in Denton, TX, all on 2″ analog tape, with producer Beau Bedford and producer/sound engineer Matt Pence (Midlake, Jason Isbell, Glossary, Jay Farrar, Will Johnson). Check out “Bad Bad” from Adult Roommates, and catch Somebody’s Darling in a city near you.

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The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader (Partisan)

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Listen Now: “Wire Frame Mattress”

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“Punky aggression amid the fuzz tone” -New York Times

“A primordial blues-ooze that suggests Jack White if his music were actually as goth as his haircuts” -Pitchfork

“Scratchy bedding, slurred vocals, and fuzzy, doomy surf-garage rock” –NYLON

“Raw-throat punk, stoner/doom psych, and Bad Seeds swagger, with perhaps just the tiniest hint of Wicker Man folk” -Brooklyn Vegan

“The band recalls the gnarlier moments of ’60s garage-punk a la the Nuggets compilation, and they’ve got the power and stage presence to pull it off.”  -SPIN
   
“This is the kind of psych music that doesn’t serve bowls of potpourri at dinner parties, instead taking surf rock, adding bilious riffs and pushing the drums down the stairs.” – Noisey  

Formed in Brighton in 2011, The Wytches comprises Kristian Bell (vocals, guitar), Dan Rumsey (bass, vocals) and Gianni Honey (drums). Led by Bell’s luminous lyricism, feral delivery and overdriven, surf-like guitar bends, the trio create a sound that is at once raucous and unruly, and yet decorated with semi-automatic poetry and authentic emotional clout.

Having left Peterborough after feeling stifled by their hometown’s inward-looking hardcore scene, Bell and the semi-professional poker playing Honey relocated to Brighton in the autumn of 2011, applying to the city’s university before enlisting Bournemouth-raised, aspiring adventure novelist Rumsey on bass – the sole applicant of an advert placed on campus. From the outset promoting their own shows in the city, The Wytches have never lost the DIY spirit of their hardcore origins: arranging their own tours; printing flyers; pressing their first single, “Digsaw;” inviting friend of the band Samuel Gull to create their artwork; and producing their own videos – all in spite of squeezed funds. It is this relentlessness and resilience that has led to The Wytches headlining countless shows across the UK and Europe to date, acting as chief support to Blood Red Shoes, The Cribs, Drenge, METZ and Japandroids, amongst others. In 2013 the band released a number of singles and EPs on London’s Hate Hate Hate Records (“Beehive Queen,” Thunder Lizard Revisited EP, “Robe for Juda”), before attracting the attention of Heavenly Recordings in the UK and Partisan Records in the USA, who will release their debut album, Annabel Dream Reader, on August 26 2014.

Recorded at Liam Watson’s 8-track analogue ToeRag Studios in Hackney, Annabel Dream Reader was tracked in two days under the supervision of producer Bill Ryder-Jones (ex-The Coral). Comprising thirteen songs, Annabel Dream Reader sees the three-piece accomplish a dark and heady sound that embraces the black arts and the more extreme limits of rock, but which is never prescriptively macabre. Far from it, the band displays a broadness of influences – all at once the songs reference surf, grunge, metalcore and spy movie scores.

Bell admits to being inspired more by singer-songwriters (Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, Roland S. Howard) than specific bands, and already he is an assured manipulator of his tools, combining Egyptianesque harmonic-minor scales with vivid, assonant wordplay, and utilizing his voice as an instrument in its own right. Recording to rolling magnetic tape at ToeRag – with little room for error – lends an honesty and immediacy to the trio’s performances, while Ryder-Jones supplies the softer songs with flourishes of organ, and allows the self-confessed “obnoxiously heavy” sections to detonate freely.

Not ones to rest on their laurels, The Wytches admit a strong desire to erase and “switch up” their sound with each album – plans are already afoot for a more intricate, more instrumentally diverse second record. Returning from Austin’s SXSW Festival on a wave of praise from the likes of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, FUSE, SPIN and Flavorwire, the band will continue touring extensively throughout 2014 – taking in the UK, Europe and the USA – while promoting Annabel Dream Reader and untethering a slew of singles beginning with a limited edition cassette, “Gravedweller,” their first for Partisan/Heavenly.

Focus Tracks: 6, 1, 3, 5, 11, 12
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ADDS for 7.22.2014

Bob Moses – First To Cry 12″ (Domino)

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Listen Now: “I Ain’t Gonna Be The First To Cry” (Radio Edit)

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“a dark and hazy eclectic mix of blues and electronic with heartfelt vocals” – Combo Rice

“retained arrangement… seems to wring out the emotion of each note” – Clash Music

“… soul of a blues song … with guitar work riding along with the pulse of the beat, the track builds with dark undertones and restraint toward an understated breaking point” – Pigeons & Panes

“We were never happy just making music on acoustic guitars,” says Tom Howie of the organic-electronic sound of Bob Moses, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Canada duo he formed with partner Jimmy Vallance. “Our live show combines what a DJ does with a rock band,” Vallance adds. “Everything flows together in a continuous mix for the dancefloor, but it’s all our own original music, with live vocals and guitar. Then again, we came out of a scene that was trying to change what dance music is – that pushed beyond the expected sonic spectrum.”

That scene grew around the Marcy Hotel – the revered venue that, in its half decade of existence, proved as important for New York’s contemporary underground dance/electronic music world as CBGBs was for the ‘70s punk era. The acclaimed likes of Soul Clap, Wolf + Lamb, and Nicolas Jaar all gravitated around Marcy’s infamous parties, reimagining dance music in their own groundbreaking image. “We were totally inspired by what was happening at the Marcy. It was a small room, could only hold a couple hundred people tops, but it proved to be such a pivotal place,” Vallance says. “Alongside what other promoters like Resolute and Blackmarket were doing in abandoned warehouses in Brooklyn, New York was an inspiring place to be at the turn of the decade.” Also present was Francis Harris, the iconoclastic DJ/producer and co-founder of tastemaker label Scissor & Thread, which fostered a more personal, homemade take on electronic sounds. After meeting at a studio session for techno mavericks M.A.N.D.Y., Harris, Howie, and Vallance found they shared common ground. “Francis set the road map for the sound we needed to find,” Howie says.

Howie and Vallance started writing hooks for Harris’ Frank & Tony project, furthering their collaboration. “We didn’t think much of it until we played Marcy with Frank & Tony in 2012,” Vallance recalls. “Tom sang live to the tracks we’d written, and people went insane! We’d never expected that reaction, which made us think we were on to something,” Howie says. “We woke up the next day thinking ‘We have to become our own act.’ We came up with the songs for our first EP, Hands to Hold, and Francis agreed to put it out.”

Hands to Hold’s infectious title track appeared in two vastly different versions: an electronic mix that combined subtle grooves and tweaked sound design with Howie’s moody vocals, and a drumless acoustic take. Bob Moses upped the anti-genre ante on its next EP, 2013’s Far From the Tree: one track, “Interloper,” was the kind of dark, fractured 4/4 instrumental one might hear at 5:00am on a Berlin dancefloor, while “Stealing Fire” proved a psychedelic downtempo confessional with eerily catchy vocal melodies; the title song, meanwhile, split the difference between those styles. “Out the gate, we wanted to make clear we weren’t just a dance act,” Vallance says.

Bob Moses received its oddball moniker from Francis Harris in homage to Robert Moses, the urban planner behind iconic New York landmarks like Shea Stadium and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But while NYC is definitely in Bob Moses’ DNA, its members actually met as high school students in Vancouver, Canada. The pair reunited randomly years later when, bumping into each other in a Lowe’s parking lot, they discovered they had studios across the street from each other in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. Howie had arrived there after a stint at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, on a partial scholarship as a singer-songwriter. Vallance, meanwhile, had found some success as a producer/engineer/DJ creating commercial dance music – his remix of Sia’s “Buttons” brought him some early attention – but “I’d fallen out of love with making cheesy big-room tracks,” he laughs. “We booked a couple days to write at my studio for fun, and by the end of the week, I told Tom, ‘Come live at my place and let’s do this every day.’”

Bob Moses is currently crafting its debut album for the group’s new label, Domino. That’s preceded by a new EP, First to Cry: taking its title from Bob Moses’ blues-meets-deep-house take on “I Ain’t Gonna Be the First to Cry” by R&B legend Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, it marks Bob Moses as a characteristic addition to Domino’s maverick stable. “We’re massive fans of Domino artists like Four Tet, Caribou, Hot Chip, and Animal Collective, so it just seemed like a natural home for us,” Vallance says. “We feel lucky to be starting this relationship – it’s a big new world.”

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Christopher Denny – If The Roses Don’t Kill Us (Partisan)

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Listen Now: “Watch Me Shine”

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“…it all comes back to Denny’s voice, his singular touch. Androgynous but never distant, like Denny is sitting across the table from you, and he has something he’d like to say.” -Aquarium Drunkard

“a voice pitched somewhere between the winnowy whine of Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the more forceful yodel of Slim Whitman” -Pitchfork

“Denny has a sound that will will leave you speechless… it’s enduring and ageless, built on rock and roll and country and infused with crafted stories.” – Bruce Warren, WXPN

“a high Southern warble that doesn’t defy gravity so much as play with the tension that force creates – an androgynous, time-jumping instrument” – NPR

Christopher Denny has a voice that will stop you in your tracks; a fervent Orbison meets Dylan tenor that fills his songs with a tremendous emotional pressure. It’s the voice of a Southern choirboy who attended the church of alcohol, drugs and self-destruction in a failed attempt to deal with his inner pain and conflicts. He has a gift for infusing simple words with raw sentiment and marrying them to haunting melodies that immediately capture your attention. “The album was inspired by my struggles,” Denny says. “The moments in my life that caused me the most hurt and brought me the most beauty. The songs deal with the self-loathing, fear and thoughts of inadequacy we all struggle with, something I call soft suicide.”

The music on If The Roses Don’t Kill Us, his Partisan Records debut, is just as gripping as Denny’s lyrics; a blend of pre-country Southern music, folk, rock, gospel and singer/songwriter impulses, a style Denny calls Arkansas Soul. The album’s crisp, clean arrangements combine Denny’s acoustic finger picking with subtle touches of electric guitar, pedal steel and a solid rhythm section. It took one month to record the final version of the album, made with a mix of musicians from Denny’s band and A-List studio players. It is the end result of a process that saw some of the songs being recorded three different times over the course five or six years.

When Denny made his debut, Age Old Hunger, he was fighting his dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs. “I started drinking young, but not as young as some,” Denny says. “It’s a southern tradition,” he adds with a touch of bitter humor.

“I saw Chris perform in the back of a club in New York in 2006,” says Tim Putnam, Partisan Records’ co-founder. “He had the kind of timeless, ethereal voice you seldom hear. There’s a sad, beautiful rhythm and poetry in his music that’s hard to wrap my head around. When I started the label, I searched him out and we made an album in upstate NY with versions of some of the songs on Roses. Chris was a mess. Although the album had some incredible moments, it was put aside. Chris went on a massive personal decline and we lost contact. In 2010, when he was putting his life back together, he got in touch. He was in recovery and we made If The Roses Don’t Kill Us. In the process, Chris and his music experienced a rebirth.”

Denny was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. As long as he can remember, he wanted to be a singer. “There’s a home video of me playing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Gimme Three Steps’ when I was four years old,” Denny recalls. “I was dressed up in a cowboy hat and boots with my shirt tucked in, walking around like a grown man with a guitar around my neck. I loved country music and I knew there was a special place out there for me.

In 2008, Denny moved back to Little Rock to take care of his father who was dying of Hepatitis C and cirrhosis. By 2011, Denny adds, “My wife and I were using, living harder than he did at our age. I knew I had to do something.” Meanwhile, Marlboro Cigarettes licensed “Roller Coaster” and “God’s Height,” songs Denny cut with The Natives, for their website. “They sent me a check for 20,000 dollars. I told my wife we could use the money to get clean or die. We got clean.”

As he was putting his life back together, Denny reconnected with Tim Putnam of Partisan Records and began work on If The Roses Don’t Kill Us. When the album was finished, Putnam said he wouldn’t release it until Denny had been clean for six months. With that milestone passed, Denny’s performing again, taking it one day at a time. “At this point in my life I’ve realized it’s more productive to approach my problems by writing songs about them.”

If The Roses Don’t Kill Us was made with Grammy-winning producer Dave Sanger (Asleep at the Wheel) and his partners PJ Herrington and Jay Reynolds. They created a relaxed atmosphere in the studio that gave Denny’s vocals a sharp, visceral presence.

Denny’s jubilant vocal dominates “Watch Me Shine” with chiming acoustic guitar and sustained bell-like synthesizer notes adding to the track’s righteous mood. His shimmering, one-of-a-kind voice reaches you on a deep emotional level, touching your heart and soul to deliver his hard won insights with an honesty that makes his singing and songwriting something unique and rare.

Focus Tracks: 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9
FCC: Clean

Phil Kasper – One Step Ahead of the Boogie Man (Boss Frog)

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Listen Now: “Slip Away”

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If you like Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer you are sure to like Phil Kasper.

His music is fun and easy to listen to with great lyrics and catchy melodies.

Start with “Slip Away” and you will want to hear the whole album. From Hawaii, Phil spent five years perfecting the arrangements and production of this wonderful CD.

Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 6, 9, 12
FCC: Clean

The Relatives – “Don’t Let Me Fall” b/w “Leave Something Worthwhile” (Ever-Soul/Daptone)

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Listen Now: “Don’t Let Me Fall”

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Rev. Gean West had been leading Gospel groups for almost 20 years when he formed The Relatives in 1970. While dedicated to spreading The Word, the new band would have what West called a “street sound” as a response to the increasingly funky music of black America. Two younger members of The Relatives, Rev. West’s brother, Tommie, and guitarist Charles Ray Mitchell, we’re very much under the influence of Eddie Hazel and Funkadelic when they cut the unparalleled Psychedelic Gospel burner, “Don’t Let Me Fall.” “Don’t let me fall, I’ve been as far as I can go,”explains Rev. West of the the song’s plea. Self-released as a tiny batch of 45′s in the early 1970′s — and nearly impossible to find today — this is the first time “Don’t Let Me Fall” has been reissued on 7-inch.

In 1975, The Relatives went into the studio of legendary Texas engineer Phil York with a reinvigorated line-up and a new set of songs. From this inspired recording session came “Leave Something Worthwhile.” Featuring a powerful group vocal soaring over Earnest Tarkington’s funky drums and Zebbie Thomas’ guitar licks, it’s hard to believe this track sat unreleased for over 30 years. After years of requests that “Worthwhile” be pressed as a 45, Ever-Soul is proud to release it here for the first time on 7-inch.

Focus Tracks: All
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Roadkill Ghost Choir – “Slow Knife” (Greatest Hiss)

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Listen Now: “Slow Knife”

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“Combining the experimental edge of Radiohead and the dusty roots-rock of Tom Petty, the five-piece make music that sounds tailor-made for arena-sized, prog-rock festivals and grassy, pastoral stages alike.” – Consequence of Sound

Emerging fully-formed from the desolate heart of Central Florida, Roadkill Ghost Choir make unsettling, powerful American rock, Tom Petty by way of Radiohead and Cormac McCarthy. Set against Kiffy Meyer’s ghostly steel pedal, singer and main songwriter Andrew Shepard triumphantly conjures an allegorical American landscape of drifters, specters and violent saints. Andrew’s brothers Maxx (drums) and Zach (bass) Shepard round out the rhythm section, and Stephen Garza handles lead guitar.

The band released their debut EP Quiet Light in 2013 in the midst of a touring run that saw them opening for Band of Horses and 2013 festival slots at New York’s Governor’s Ball, Austin City Limits and Shaky Knees in Atlanta, GA. In January 2014 the band was invited to perform on the David Letterman Show, where they performed standout track “Beggar’s Guild.” They also were one of the bands handpicked to join the inaugural Communion Presents Tour Dates. Communion, the acclaimed live music promotions team and taste-making independent label is owned by Ben Lovett from the band, Mumford & Sons.

Roadkill Ghost Choir will release their debut full-length, In Tongues, on August 19. It was recorded in Athens, Georgia and in their home studio in Deland, Florida with producer Doug Boehm. Fresh off of their Bonnaroo Festival play, the band will be touring in support of the new album, including stops at this summer’s Lollapalooza and Electric Forest festivals. Jim Merlis (Tom Petty, Alt-J, Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, etc) is on board for press.

Focus Track: 1
FCC: Clean

ADDS for 7.15.2014

Jill Barber – “Broken For Good” (Outside Music)

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Listen Now: “Broken For Good”

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“‘Canada’s Sweetheart,’ otherwise known as singer-songwriter Jill Barber, is full of surprises. She crafts songs inspired by a collection of decades and styles — everything from doo-wop to lounge music. Despite the temptation to perform covers, all of Barber’s tunes are originals, and all are as surprising as how she came to be known as Canada’s Sweetheart.” – NPR Weekend Edition Sunday

“Luckily for you, these are great songs. Also luckily for you, Jill Barber and her co-conspirators recognize no functional difference between torch ballads, Patsy Cline-era country music, and cocktail jazz” – All Music

“Barber’s got another of those soothing voices that sounds as though it’s been around longer than she has.” – MOJO

At first listen, what sets Jill Barber apart is her distinctive voice. But it’s her ability to write an immediately memorable song that has made her one of Canada’s most recognizable artists.

On Fool’s Gold, her 6th studio album, Jill continues to explore different musical styles, from traditional country, to jazz and Motown, though she rarely works neatly within the confines of any one genre. Instead she writes in the spirit of the Brill Building era where hook and melody reigned.

“I can’t help but feel nostalgic for other eras of music. When I listen to Etta James, or Ray Charles or Carole King, I feel almost intoxicated. It stirs something in me. When I write my own music, my greatest hope is that it ends up becoming the perfect soundtrack to some great romance, or at the very least a great cocktail party.”

Fool’s Gold was produced in Toronto by Jill’s longtime collaborators and bandmates Les Cooper (For All Time, Chances, Mischievous Moon) and Drew Jurecka (Chansons).

“Nobody knows me better musically than Les and Drew. We’ve spent years living and breathing music in the studio, on the stage and on the back porch. We speak the same musical short-hand. But most importantly I trust them, I really trust them.”

Much of the album was made at a distance, as Jill was spending some much-needed time at home in Vancouver with her husband CBC Radio personality Grant Lawrence and their newborn baby son Joshua. Many of the early demo recordings that were made for Fool’s Gold feature a baby cooing in the background.

“I won’t try to kid you about how hard it is to be a new mother, and work at the same time. Time becomes the new economy. For that reason, much of the making of this record came down to instinct. If it felt right, we just went with it. No second-guessing. It’s a good way to make music.”

Jill’s songs have always set a romantic mood, and on Fool’s Gold, the romance is still very much alive, but she also introduces a new sexy Motown-inspired sound on the lead single “Broken for Good.”

“What I love about Motown is that musically, it knows exactly how to deliver a message: with a strong backbeat, punctuated by horns, a driving bass line and an immediate pop appeal. It will ultimately get inside your soul but first it’ll just make you want to move your body. I wanted to write some killer songs with this approach and give myself and my band a chance to rock a little.”

“The Careless One” is a song born out of a collaboration with Nashville, TN-based Canadian musician Steve Dawson. Barber and Dawson combined forces with the CBC to pay tribute to the 60th Anniversary of the passing of Hank Williams with a concert of old time country music. During the process Jill was inspired by the often plaintive songs of heartache that define that musical landscape.

“I dreamed up the kind of song that I could imagine Patsy Cline singing. One full of resignation and sorrow, but not bitterness. It hurts me to sing it, just a little. But that’s how I know it is a keeper.”

Jill Barber has become renowned for writing songs that evoke feelings of a bygone era. The songs on Fool’s Gold are delivered by that distinct, evocative voice of an artist who has drawn inspiration from a cross section of musical genres. Regardless of Jill’s influences, the one thing you are always assured of is that you know a Jill Barber song when you hear it, and chances are, you’ll never forget it.

Focus Track: 1
FCC: Clean

FREEMAN – FREEMAN (Partisan)

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Listen Now: “The English And Western Stallion”

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“It’s a disarmingly sweet set, full of lush vocal harmonies and emotional pleas” – Newsweek

“This… finds Freeman back in his twisted classic-rock wheelhouse” – Grantland

“Freeman’s gained a lot of clarity and insight in recent years” – Consequence of Sound

Listening to Marvelous Clouds, Aaron Freeman’s 2012 collection of Rod McKuen covers, fans might have felt that he was ignoring an elephant in his room – a drug-and-alcohol-related onstage flame-out that made viral headlines the year before. But Clouds was just a warm-up for the artist once known as Gene Ween. In the opening minutes of FREEMAN, the self-titled debut from his new band, Freeman addresses addiction and its aftermath with the combination of merciless self-inventory and artful songcraft that earned Ween one of the most devoted fan bases in contemporary pop. This song, the unmistakably autobiographical “Covert Discretion,” is a quiet shocker. “Save your judgments for someone else,” Freeman sings. “Be grateful I saved me from myself.”

As bitter as it sounds, the track clears the air. FREEMAN represents a new beginning – Aaron Freeman’s first album of original material since disbanding Ween and getting sober – but it isn’t a record mired in its maker’s private struggles. It’s simply a collection of gorgeous, subtly offbeat songs – in other words, a continuation of the thread that runs through the entire Ween catalog. The lush psychedelic pop of “The English and Western Stallion”; the melancholy plea of “More Than the World”; the unflappable, Plastic Ono Band–esque blues-rock of “Gimmie One More”—these are songs that bear the unmistakable Aaron Freeman stamp.

And to hear Freeman tell it, they wouldn’t have been possible if he’d stayed in his old band. “There was so much of ‘Aaron had to break up Ween because of addiction’ and ‘Aaron broke up Ween in order to pursue his solo work,’ ” he says. “But I broke up Ween because we were at a creative dead end way before our last record, La Cucaracha. Basically we were going through the motions, becoming a showcase band.”

Freeman stresses that FREEMAN is more about renewal than turning his back on the past. “I want this record to pay homage to Ween,” he says. “These are the same songs I would’ve written in Ween – except without [ex-bandmate] Mickey.” Several tracks hark back to the role-playing that was a hallmark of Freeman’s back-catalog: “(For a While) I Couldn’t Play My Guitar Like a Man,” a badass blues-rock meditation on lost mojo; or “Black Bush,” a trippy, heavily stylized ode to the natural beauty of Freeman’s recently adopted hometown of Woodstock.

But there’s also a fresh perspective here, the sound of a shadow lifting. “Delicate Green,” which savors life’s everyday blessings, is one of the sweetest, most sincere songs Freeman has written. And “All the Way to China” and “El Shaddai” reference Jewish texts—Kabbalah readings and James A. Michener’s The Source, respectively—that guided him through his darkest times. “There’s a lot of spiritual stuff on here because that really helped me,” Freeman says. “I listened to a lot of reggae—’Jah gonna help me through Babylon,’ you know? I listened to a lot of Paul McCartney too, and I thought, if he can do this, break up the fucking Beatles, I can certainly break up Ween and be okay.”

Aaron Freeman has also turned his back on substance abuse, a fact that might concern fans who mistake intoxication for inspiration. “I wrote the songs I wrote in Ween despite all the drugs and alcohol I was doing, not because,” Freeman says. “Most people don’t get sobriety at all. They assume you’re this better-than-thou monk sitting on a mountain, judging everybody. It’s not that way: You have to let everybody do their thing, and you get weirder.” A song like FREEMAN’s “Golden Monkey,” which rivals Ween’s underrated Quebec for sheer mind-warping brilliance, proves Freeman’s point.

In order to get to FREEMAN, Aaron Freeman had to make a clean break. “If I hadn’t left my partnership, there wouldn’t be anything,” he explains. “I’d probably be dead too. I know that at the end of the day, this is the best thing I could’ve done for me and for every Ween fan.” FREEMAN, an album that distills the Aaron Freeman aesthetic—built on equal parts wonder and malaise, frankness and mysticism, defiance and vulnerability – to its headiest essence, proves his point. This man, known for so long by another name, is finally free.

Focus Tracks: 2, 4, 3, 5, 8
FCC: 1

Hikes – Hikes EP (Raw Paw)

Click to download – DIGITAL ONLY

Listen Now: “Spring Forward”

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If you aren’t familiar with the rapturous math-folk exclamations of up and coming Austin band, Hikes, the brand new self-titled EP should get you there in approximately twenty-six minutes. Familiarity with Hikes includes increased appreciation for the beauty of nature, humanity and as the lyrics of the lethal, almost pop-y first track “Spring Forward” suggests, pure, genuine sensitivity. Nathan Wilkins, the primary songwriter of Hikes has found his sound in the spindly intricacy of his tapping compositions and the band’s euphoric breakdowns led by drummer Chris Long that seem to shear through the fabric of whatever you think music is supposed to sound like.

Chico Jones recorded the four songs of the EP at Ohm Studios (White Denim, LITE) where an adept amount of time and care was taken to ensure the live quality that the album exudes. The single, “Tinker Creek,” freshly re-recorded from the it’s first release, sings the praise of Spring-time and sets forth the theme of the album. From the quiet bossa-nova influenced beauty of the shortest and only acoustic song “Chamomile” to the surely abrasive comfort that “Quilt”, the eight and a half minute delight, imparts, this album covers the full range of Hikes’ considerable capability.

Catch Hikes on tour NOW. Visit www.distillerpromo.com for dates.

“ … some of the most heartfelt and ambitious music coming out of Austin” – The Deli

“With their brand of buoyant math rock, Hikes channels what it is to be alive, all the joy, restlessness, and fury. Their songs amble forward, notes and beats bouncing against each other in orchestrated chaos before exploding into cathartic heights.” – Pop Press International

“I have an instinctive reaction to songs longer than, say, six and a half minutes. I tend not to give them much of a shot. Life is short! However, if every long song were as interesting as a Hikes track, I would listen to a lot more of them. They describe themselves as Math-Folk, but don’t let that deter you. This is smart, challenging music that still has a heart.” – OVRLD

Focus Tracks: All
FCC: Clean

How To Dress Well – “Repeat Pleasure” from “What Is This Heart?” (Weird World)

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Listen Now: “Repeat Pleasure” (Radio Edit)

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“A pop album of the highest caliber… How to Dress Well’s modern masterpiece” – PITCHFORK (“Best New Music”)

“… the kind of record that could potentially launch him into a different arena of success.” – THE FADER

“… an unimaginably gorgeous, utterly unique advancement in modern music” – STEREOGUM

“ … as soaring and spectral as you’d expect, but also remarkably direct about its depth of feeling.” – SPIN

Since the release of his debut album Love Remains in 2010, Tom Krell – AKA How to Dress Well – has crafted a reputation as one of America’s most original, focused and beguiling young songwriters. Merging ever surprising production choices and aesthetic detail with a sensual but sincere R&B influence and a deep, grounded emotionality, Krell has steadily established himself as one of the most influential figures in contemporary experimental pop music and a new How to Dress Well release has become something of an event.

Arriving two years after the haunting, glacial neo-soul of 2012’s much-loved Total Loss, “What Is This Heart?” is the next step in this most unique and searching artistic trajectory. Its twelve songs were conceived and written during months of grueling international touring and realized with co-producer Rodaidh Mcdonald in a Berlin studio in the height of summer 2013. The result is an ambitious 21st century pop album that creates and inhabits its very own hinterland of spiritual fragility, fearless love and sexuality, deep pain, and overwhelming joy. It’s an album that celebrates the possible healing power of American pop music in its various guises while also exploding predictable pop conventions and once again asserts Krell as an artist of great courage, taste and craft.

“What Is This Heart?” is a record that delves deeply into the core of the psyche and touches on themes of isolation, loss and existential anguish, but in the end finds something like redemption in the infinite possibilities of love. Its songs tackle feelings of anxiety, fear, lack of control, nightmare, death, pain, pleasure, pride and shame, trust and commitment with an honesty and intimacy that is rare in the contemporary age.

“One of the major themes that’s stuck in my thinking over the last year and a half is the question of whether or not the contemporary social order has room for love,” says Krell. “It strikes me that the contemporary order truly threatens a really important constellation of basic human emotions, i.e. sympathy for self and other, existentially rooted and rooting sadness, tenderness, and again love. But I’ve also seen and been in amazing love. Several pairs of my best friends got married this year and in the presence of these ceremonies, witnessing people declare their love for one another out loud, I felt so fundamentally moved.”

Krell describes his tastes as being “omnivorous,” and cites Spiritualized, Lou Reed, Prince, Everything but the Girl, and PM Dawn as recent listening that had a profound effect on what is certainly his most eclectic work to date. One can hear the shimmering pads and distant beats of Burial’s most recent work underneath elegiac declarations in “A Power,” one of the record’s darker, more foreboding songs whilst effervescent, almost gospel-like lead single “Repeat Pleasure” is without doubt his most perfect, pure-pop moment to date despite containing one of the album’s most melancholy lyrics, a juxtaposition which in itself neatly encapsulates the How to Dress Well project.

“This is at once my most extremely personal and most universal record yet,” suggests Krell. “Pushing further in these seemingly opposite directions at the same time has always been my goal. I’ve always believed that in the deepest part of each of our hearts, there where each of us are most specifically ourselves and no one else, that weirdly at that moment we are actually as close as possible to what is universally human— that in the extreme, the personal is the universal. I think that in asking this question we can go to that place: this is how and why I’ve asked myself, “What is this Heart?””

Focus Track: 1
FCC: Clean

Joel Jerome – Psychedelic Thriftstore Folk (Manimal)

Click to download – DIGITAL ONLY

Listen Now: “Everyday”

GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS

Joel Jerome has made a name for himself in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles as “Papa Joel,” after producing records by local artists featured on Manimal, Burger, and Lolipop Records. His hometown of Hawthorne is where you’ll find nearby beaches, important musical history and a tireless working class. This combination of SoCal casual cool and an intense, dedicated work ethic is infused in some of the prolific and important artists of the area, such as Brian Wilson, Black Flag, Red Kross and Emmit Rhodes. It’s this tradition that Joel Jerome embraces and maintains.

Signed in the early 00′s to Startime (an imprint of Columbia/Sony), Joel’s group dios was a timely convergence of dreamy pop and brash, urban toughness. Since then Joel has reinvigorated his dedication to the studio arts, much of his time to engineering and production. While writing, performing and recording his own music he also spends time nurturing up and coming L.A. bands who have recently begun coming to him to help them maneuver through their musical explorations like an old spirit guide. His production has been on numerous local releases as well as making its way to YSL runway shows in Paris. On August 26, the hometown hero will go solo with Psychedelic Thriftstore Folk, his one-man debut via Manimal. His certain “psychedelic thriftstore” approach to pop music yields recordings of both lush delicacy and schizophrenic arrangement while delivering some of the most memorable vocals you will ever hear. Catch Joel Jerome on tour this summer with Cherry Glazerr!

Focus Tracks: 8, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 1
FCC: 6

Various Artists – PDX Pop Now! 2014 (PDX Pop)

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Listen Now: Aan “Daylight”

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Since 2004, the PDX Pop Now! Annual Compilation has provided a glimpse in to the Portland music scene, highlighting established and trending local artists. Past compilations have featured Red Fang, Blitzen Trapper, Chromatics, Colin Meloy, Stephen Malkmus, The Thermals, The Gossip, and hundreds more. PDX Pop Now! will be releasing their 11th annual PDX Pop Now! compilation on Tuesday, June 10th, to their largest audience yet. Regarded as an independent musical hotbed, PDX Pop Now! takes pride in showcasing Portland music in the best possible light.

As in years past, the compilation track-listing is determined by a purely democratic process. Songs are assembled through artist submissions, and are then filtered anonymously through a panel comprised of around 100 volunteers and board members. After continuing on after the listening panel, final tracks are then selected with attention to diversity, representation and popularity.

All proceeds benefit PDX Pop Now! an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating and expanding participation in Portland music. Each year PDX Pop Now! hosts an annual free and all ages three day music festival, in addition to yearly educational art events in schools across Portland.

The PDX Pop Now! Festival returns July 18-20th at AudioCinema in Portland, Oregon.

Disc 1 Focus Tracks: 2, 1, 4, 5, 16, 19 // Disc 2 Focus Tracks: 12, 1, 7, 15, 21
FCC: Disc 1: 9, 12 // Disc 2: 5

Warren Cuccurullo & Ustad Sultan Khan – The Master (Six Degrees)

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Listen Now: “The Holy Man’s Plea”

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Lost tapes always raise an eyebrow. Unexpected sessions by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Marley and the Beatles suddenly emerge to great fanfare. When dealing with India’s greatest sarangi player of modern times, Ustad Sultan Khan, an entire planet of classical Indian music fans are certain to turn up the volume.

Khan’s collaboration with former Duran Duran and Frank Zappa guitarist Warren Cuccurullo weren’t exactly lost, just put on hold since the 1998 recording session in London. Recorded during a predominantly spontaneous weekend, The Master (Six Degrees Records) features Khan’s inimitable sarangi playing and singing with a lushly textured ambient guitar soundtrack provided by Cuccurullo. You’ve never heard either of these musicians in such a context.

“My first exposure to Indian music was the Ed Sullivan show with Ravi Shankar via George Harrison,” says Cuccurullo from his home in Venice, CA. “I was 10 years old. When that sound came over here, I was instantly attracted to it—just the Indian classical music itself, forget about ‘Within You, Without You’ and the stuff on Revolver.”

While Cuccurullo was entranced by Shankar’s hypnotic sitar playing, it was Alla Rakha’s tabla that truly seduced him. The young musician threw himself into the world of classical Indian sounds being introduced to America by the Beatles and Shankar’s tireless efforts. The young guitarist proved to be an open-minded musician: enamored with the music of Frank Zappa, he went from loving fan to the man who played all the rhythm guitar and some vocals on the Joe’s Garage albums, as well as touring the world with Zappa.

A few years later, when Zappa stopped touring, Cuccurullo co-founded the new wave band, Missing Persons, alongside Dale and Terry Bozio, before joining Duran Duran in 1987. He went on to co-write some of their most famous songs, including “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” One of the top pop songwriters in the world, Cuccurullo never forget his passion for Indian music, especially the one sound that kept playing in his mind: the sarangi, a bowed, short-necked stringed instrument that figures prominently in Hindustani music.

“The first time I ever saw the actual instrument played live it was on stage in 1991 at Royal Albert Hall,” says Cuccurullo. “Duran Duran was doing a benefit concert, and Sultan Khan and Zakir Hussain were performing at the same show. It was him sitting there, the guy playing on all those records with George Harrison in the Dark Horse period. I was able to see who makes that noise.”

Khan was legendary in India until his passing in 2011. He single-handedly kept the sarangi tradition alive, awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2010, India’s third highest civilian award. Like Shankar, his outreach efforts were ambassadorial: he composed for Hollywood blockbusters, joined Bill Laswell’s East/West supergroup Tabla Beat Science and cut a record with Swedish bassist Jonas Hellborg.

Cuccurullo remained a fan after the benefit concert. In 1996 while working on the Duran Duran song, “Buried in the Sand,” he remembered an alap by Khan that he thought would fit perfectly. Cuccurullo secured a contact at Navras Records and cleared the sarangi line, perhaps the first time that instrument was heard in American pop music.

A year later Khan’s management contacted the band when they were in New York, wondering if they wanted the maestro to perform with them. Cuccurullo was floored; suddenly the sound of his youth was being performed with him at the Roseland Ballroom live on stage. Thus began their friendship.

A few months later Khan visited Cuccurullo’s house in London; his living room doubled as Duran Duran’s recording studio. Cuccurullo previewed an album of acoustic and ambient guitar music that he was about to release, when Khan told him he had to play and sing over it. The guitarist was about to call his engineer when Khan informed him that it was Ramadan. There would be no playing that day. He returned in July 1998.

The piece that Khan referred to is now “The Holy Man’s Plea,” the album’s gorgeous, cinematic opener. What follows is “4D Suite,” an epic, sweeping 12-minute landscape of guitar and sarangi. “We only had one day to do that one,” Cuccurullo reminisces. “We did all the other tracks on Saturday. There was a lot of drama. The mridagnam [cylindrical double-head drum] player couldn’t do it—the time signatures looked like phone numbers.”

The bass and drums were added in 2014, after Cuccurullo had dug out the tapes. Yet no changes exist to the guitar or sarangi playing. It was written as a duet; Cuccurullo had no intention on changing the magic that occurred over those two days. Sixteen years is a long time, though. When asked why it took so long for The Master to be released, the guitarist turns reflective.

Recorded on outdated 24-track Tascam tapes, Cuccurullo was able to retrieve the three cassettes from a stack of boxes marked “WCSK.” While he remembered the music as sweetly as the weekend it was recorded, the first pass of “4D” was initially shelved, now released as the five-minute ambient “The Lost Master.” The cinematic masterpiece, “Mirror Margana,” is also close to Cuccurullo’s heart, his shimmery guitar playing buoyant above Khan’s earthy intonations.

Since he was given his first sitar when visiting Frank Zappa in 1977, Indian music has circulated throughout Warren Cuccurullo’s life, predominantly as a fan, occasionally as a player. With the release of The Master, Cuccurullo is the same age that Khan was when they sat together in his London apartment sixteen years ago. The rest, as they say, is history…one that we can listen to now, for the first time.

“The growth in your forties and fifties is incredible,” Cuccurullo says. ‘There’s a curiosity factor built into musicians that helps you get through these levels. By the time you reach my age, 58, you realize you’re going to be learning until you die. You’re going to enjoy the wonderment of it until you drop.’

Focus Tracks: 1, 4, 5, 7
FCC: Clean

ADDS for 7.8.2014

Bassnectar – Noise vs. Beauty (Amorphous Music)

Click to download

Listen Now: “You and Me”

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Bassnectar is one of the longest standing and most respected artists in American electronic dance music. He is the original long hair behind the tables, having been in the game well before most of his contemporaries and amassing an epic fan base and having sold over 160,000 tickets to his solo shows alone in 2013. His art brazenly oversteps the bounds of contemporary EDM, pulling from a dynamic array of source material and attracting lovers of all genres, from dubstep to metal, punk rock, hip hop, and all forms of EDM (drum & bass, trip hop, etc) and beyond. His art is more than just an auditory experience; it serves to evoke all human senses with live shows that feature unparalleled light shows and awe-inspiring visual queues. Bassnectar intends to not only foster its own community of loyal Bass Heads, but also contribute to the global community at large through charity and social change by giving one dollar from every ticket sold to a non-profit, as part of his “Dollar Per Bass Head” Program.

Bassnectar is the brainchild of Lorin Ashton, a San Francisco-based DJ, producer and artist. Lorin, who released his first album in 2001, began the project as an open-sourced musical experiment exploring the interplay between music and community. His music fuses everything into an electro-synthesis of intense basslines and hypnotic soundscapes. Coming from a background in death metal, Ashton was not intent on approaching EDM from a traditional standpoint and it was a very natural and unique progression. It is this openness to exploring new ways of creating dance music that has attracted droves of loyal fans to Bassnectar’s recordings and live performances. Being purposely limitless, Bassnectar is as diverse as it is heavy, as raw as it is meticulous, and as fierce as it is imaginary. This explorative take on music led to a deep involvement in the death metal scene of the nineties. Ashton started a band called Pale Existence and began playing and promoting underground shows.

In 1995 Ashton went to his first rave and was instantaneously switched on to electronic music and its culture. In the following years, he became exceedingly more involved in the scene, promoting shows, distributing food and assistance to concertgoers, buying records and eventually learning to DJ after studying electronic music production. Lorin equated the turntables to drumming and could match beats immediately in an almost savant-like way. He started to throw parties in venues ranging from dorm buildings and warehouses to beaches and artichoke fields, where he spun psychedelic trance (which was most similar to his familiar death metal in his opinion). As he entered college, Ashton began to refine his skills as a producer, splicing up a wide array of music and experimenting with old school synthesizers. Taking cues from his metal background, Ashton decidedly kept all of his musical workings strictly underground, a sentiment that he has continued to foster throughout his career. As time progressed Lorin garnered more and more notoriety and started to play larger parties, first in the Bay Area and then eventually nationally and internationally. All this hype led to appearances at large scale festivals in the early 2000s, including Burning Man and Shambala. Always a very hands-on artist, Ashton climbed the rungs of the EDM ladder on his own, starting proudly from his own unique standpoint.

Ashton went on to found and be the head-producer of Amorphous Music and has utilized his label as a launching pad for a series of groundbreaking releases, including 2010’s Wildstyle, 2011’s Divergent Spectrum (reached #3 on the main iTunes chart as well as #1 on the electronic chart for months) and 2012’s Vava Voom featuring the self titled single featuring Lupe Fiasco. Through his self-run Bassnectar Labs studio, he has collaborated with the likes of KRS-One, Perry Farrell, Gogol Bordello, Fever Ray, Spearhead and STS9, and has worked on remix projects with the likes of esteemed producers Z-trip, Diplo, BT, 6Blocc, DJ Vadim, and RJD2. In particular, his remix of Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” was a major hit (was in the top 10 on iTunes Electronic chart for 28 weeks straight and at #1 for 12 weeks) and helped to expand his fan base into the global realm of indie-pop lovers.

Bassnectar’s 2012 Album Vava Voom has been critically acclaimed by the likes of Rolling Stone, Spin, The New Yorker, NPR and many others. It was followed by a sold out North American tour that brought 80,000 attendees to solo shows in just under three weeks, plus two sold out nights at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre (10,000 cap). The fall of 2012 saw the release of the Freestyle EP and Mixtape which teamed Ashton up with acclaimed artists such as Angel Haze, Mimi Page and DC Breaks while in the midst of his fall tour. In 2013 Ashton also sold out his third consecutive New Years Eve show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena bringing his year end ticket count to just over 160,000.

In 2014, Bassnectar shows no signs of slowing down. On June 24, he will release his follow-up record, #NVSB, with features from Rye Rye, Fashawn & Zion I, and Donnis among others. Lorin will also kick off the summer with two sold out shows at Red Rocks, his fourth sold-out appearance in as many years. Additionally he will play headlining sets at Tomorrowland, The Hudson Project, North Coast Music Festival, TomorrowWorld, EDC New York and Paradiso Festival, among others.

Bassnectar is particularly infamous for incomparably raucous live shows that feature state of the art lightshows and enough bass to work crowds into palpable frenzies. His performances are so successful and sought out that in 2011 he made the top 3 hard ticket sales along with fellow EDM artists Deadmau5 and Tiesto. The Bassnectar tour, which travels with its own custom sound rig, has headlined stops at some of the most noted venues and festivals in the country and always attracts massive sold-out crowds, some numbering over 10,000 for non-festival solo show dates. In addition to celebrated sets at Coachella, Lollapalooza, ACL, Bonnaroo, Hang Out, HARD and Ultra Music Festival, Ashton has inaugurated his own daylong extravaganza for EDM lovers of all ages. Dubbed the Bass Center has featured the likes of Zedd, A-Trak, Glitch Mob, Wolfgang Gartner, and Big Gigantic.

Focus Tracks: 4, 7, 3, 6
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El May – I Played A Role (Rose Quartz Records)

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Listen Now: “I Played A Role”

GOING FOR MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS

“I Played a Role” is the first track from The Other Person is You, El May’s second full length album.

With The Other Person is You songwriter El May – also known as Lara Meyerratken – has created an album full of love, loss, desire, and strength. Get to know the layered and orchestral The Other Person is You – with it’s striking images and auditory delights – and it will come as no surprise that before building a career as a freelance musician and composer, Meyerratken was a painter and printmaker, and still makes time for visual experiments.

The Other Person is You came to be when, after a string of romantic disappointments, Meyerratken embarked on a period of quiet self-evaluation. How does one love without transferring unfair expectations onto another person? What does it mean to take care of oneself? These inquiries led to an inspiring realization: all the people we encounter in our lives, whether they are foes or friends, are only aspects of ourselves.

Lyrically, the songs on The Other Person is You show a psychological interest in noticing and questioning our patterns in relationships, our habits and tendencies, and the search for their origins. Meyerratken elaborates: “In time it becomes clear that our difficult experiences in relationships help birth us into a new phase. The hurt and frustration that another person can cause us throws into relief exactly what we need to look at within ourselves. People play a role, as if they were under a divine contract to bring us to a certain place.”

This realization was the key to unlocking a journey toward personal responsibility and spiritual liberation, and the driving force behind a record that takes listeners on an auditory journey through a young woman’s interior landscape. We meet her demons, her lovers, her friends, her authority figures. Regarding the sunny, harmony-driven ‘Science’ Meyerratken calls it “a bit of a battle between two animals, this best self – the best intentioned self – and our addicted, hypnotized selves.” While in the slow-jam, disco-pop duet ‘Diamonds, Girl’, she suggests that we turn the longing for another back toward ourselves. “The energy we output towards romantic relationships is the same stuff we can use for creativity, and we sometimes find ourselves hemorrhaging precious life force, our libido, on relationships going nowhere.” 

The wishes, hopes, and discoveries contained in these songs paint a portrait of a woman determined to transmute her capacity for love into understanding and compassion for herself. The final two songs on the record, the spare and vulnerable “Atlantic, Pacific” and orchestral, heroic “Oh, Get Carried”, are homages to self-care and trust in the divine embrace. “It doesn’t matter how winding, strange and lonely our paths can be, we are carried….We can be hurt, alone and tumbled around, but our faith, our quiet work is what carries us. Our quiet faith is what carries us. Our quiet faith in something that carries us.”

Meyerratken wrote The Other Person is You at seldom-used picnic tables in secluded parts of the Griffith Park trails, in her cosy Los Feliz apartment and late into the night at her parents’ dining table when visiting family in England.

When it came time to put the self-produced The Other Person is You to tape Meyerratken spent many solitary early mornings at the commercial music house where she worked. “The huge amount of time I had to spend alone and focused, writing and then recording….it’s satisfying, but after all that time, you still come out with something invisible – music…invisible vibrations.” In response, she resurrected a fervor for painting, dance and ceramics as a way to remember “how to be in my body, relate to people, be in the visual world and work with physical things.”

For all the solitary time Meyerratken spent writing and producing, there’s a celebratory excitement in the album, owing to her recruitment of a “bunch of friends that live around me in LA.” (calling them special guests would be too formal) including Allison Pierce (The Pierces), Koool G Murder (The Eels), Chris Cheney (The Living End), Sean Eden (Luna*), members of The Silver Lake Chorus, Sara Lov (Devics), Blake Hazard (The Submarines), Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines*) and Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham (Luna, Dean & Britta).

The result is a record as a love-letter to the fully-lived life, written by a woman who dedicates her days to searching for answers to her big questions through making music and art.  “The record itself became the resolution to all this searching,” says Lara. ”There’s an alchemy in turning experiences into music that brings about so much of the repair. The discipline, the right to make a noise, being invisible verses existing, intangible hurt into something I can begin to understand, something people might be able to dance to.”

This is the second full-length album written, produced and performed by El May.  Her self-titled debut LP was released in 2010, and received radio support from KCRW and KEXP, and was licensed for television (Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, Melrose Place) and film (Our Idiot Brother).  Prior to recording under the moniker El May, Meyerratken’s impressive capabilities as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist were harnessed by a remarkable variety of artists such as Nada Surf, Luna, Crooked Fingers, and Luscious Jackson.  In addition to her work as a performer and recording artist, she composes music for film and advertising, and is a visual artist. Lara scored original music for Hank and Asha – a darling of the 2013-2014 independent film festival circuit. In 2010 Meyerratken won the lauded Cannes “Gold Lion” award as Musical Director for the Match.com  “Duet” campaign, and in 2005 won an ARIA Award (often referred to as the Australian Grammy) for her album cover art for Ben Lee’s Awake is the New Sleep.

* Sean Eden lives in NY and Eugene Kelly lives in Glasgow, Scotland but they both still count.

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Gulp – Season Sun (Everloving)

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Listen Now: “Vast Space”

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Optimism can be a hard quality to come by, especially in a world that seems to pride itself on cynicism and negativity. But that’s exactly why we need a band like Gulp in our lives. The lush Welsh/Scottish pop group is happy to consider itself an antidote to the creeping pessimism of modern life.

“It’s what comes out of us naturally,” says Gulp’s vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lindsey Leven. “Everything that you’re writing from the heart is a reflection of what’s going on in your life.” Her husband and bandmate Guto Pryce agrees, “It’s even in times of adversity that we try to remain optimistic.”

In 2014, Gulp has plenty to be enthused about! Pryce has a musical legacy to be proud of, having spent the past 20 years as a founding member of UK pop superstars Super Furry Animals. And Pryce and Leven are both glowing from the joy of writing and recording music together.

But even amid that, there could have been a turn towards more moody and desperate material. Instead, the pair, with bandmates Gid Goundrey (guitars) and Gwion Llewelyn (drums/vocals), came out with Season Sun, a fuzzy, buzzing upbeat ode to the changing seasons, watching plants grow, dancing, and as they sing on “Vast Space,” being willing to “open up your heart and let the love flood in.”

The “vast space” isn’t just the one within, either. The natural world played a key part in the creation of these songs, some written while Pryce and Leven were vacationing in the California desert, others while road tripping through the Scottish Highlands (you’ll find images of these adventures with the album art) .

There’s some connection to be found between these sounds and what Pryce accomplished as a member of the Furries – the two projects share a love of warm vintage synth sounds and a burnished brand of psychedelia. But Gulp expresses itself with almost throwback sentiments. Apart from a few moments, Season Sun could easily be mistaken this for a lost gem of the late ‘60s unearthed by a studious crate digger.

For as verdant as Gulp’s sound is, the core belongs the musical relationship between Pryce and Leven. When the project began back in 2012, their first efforts centered on just the couple and their trusty drum machine, a Roland 505 donated to them by Leven’s yoga teacher. And even amid the fine contributions of Goundrey and Llewelyn, the heart of each song is the harmonic interplay between Leven’s vocals and the warming synth and bass notes from her musical co-pilot.

Gulp’s humble beam of multicolored musical light has already made its way through the band’s native UK thanks to a well loved lead single “Game Love” and a tour supporting Django Django. The quartet is now looking to taking their message of optimism through the US with their first stop being this year’s SXSW Festival and hopefully some more touring to round out the rest of 2014.

Focus Tracks: 4, 1, 10, 5
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Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens – Cold World (Daptone)

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Listen Now: “It’s a Cold, Cold World”

GOING FOR TOP 200 AND AAA ADDS

In the six years since the release of their last full-length record, Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens have toured extensively, playing main stages at some of the most prestigious festivals in the world, including Bonnaroo, The Monterey Jazz Festival, Montreal Pop, and The Ottawa Blues Festival. Though seasoned veterans, these last years of touring played a crucial role in the creation of the songs that would become the forthcoming album Cold World. With Gabriel Roth (Bosco Mann) at the helm, Naomi and company went into the studio in June of 2013 and cut twelve inspired new songs live to eight-track tape.

Though the music is most unapologetically gospel, most of the lyrics on the record would fall under what could be called “message songs”. That is, music containing uplifting spiritual messages, reminiscent of the more inspirational moments of The Staple Singers or Curtis Mayfield. However, the relationship between gospel and soul music does not need to be discussed again here. It is as plainly and naturally inherent in these grooves as it is in the singer’s every word and motion. There is no one alive today that has a voice or spirit more capable of lifting an audience than Naomi Shelton. On this record, the grooves are pure Soul. “Sinner” sits atop Side One as a dark welcome into the soulful stomping world of the Queens. They flow effortlessly from the Sunday stomp of “Get Up, Child” to the country-twinged swagger of “One Day” and “I Earned Mine”; from the river’s edge lilt of “Everybody Knows” and “I Don’t Know” to the energetic boogie of “Thank You Lord”, “It’s A Cold, Cold World”, and “Bound for the Promised Land.”

At the heart and soul of the band’s sound lie Naomi’s raw, gritty vocals, commanding attention with every heart-wrenching syllable. Veteran Queens Edna Johnson and Bobbie Jean Gant – who have been singing with Naomi for the better part of 20 years – joined rookie Queen Angel McKenzie – who joined the group in the winter of 2013 – to provide perfect answers to Naomi’s calls. The band, whose ages range from 17 to 82, is led by Brother Cliff Driver with a musical pedigree that includes working with legends Baby Washington, Little Willie John, King Curtis, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Solomon Burke. On bass guitar is the infamous Fred Thomas, who spent the better part of his musical career backing up The Godfather of Soul himself, Mr. James Brown – in the eponymous JB’s. Rounding out the group are Jimmy Hill, who played alongside Wilson Pickett in the late 60’s, guitar whiz Max Shrager, who at the tender age of 17 composed two of the album’s tracks, and Mikey Post on drums, who spends his 9-to-5’s helping run the business at Daptone HQ.

Focus Tracks: 5, 1, 11
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Nickodemus & Brian J – “Wanted Man” (Wonderwheel)

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Listen Now: “Wanted Man” (Radio Edit)

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The ongoing musical relationship between Nickodemus (Turntables on the Hudson) & Brian J (The Pimps of Joytime) continues with this new collaboration aimed at the dance-floor this Summer 2014!

“Wanted Man” original version is a tech-house floor burner giving space to Brian J’s vocals within the backdrop of a heavy filtered synth. The second version of the song is an organic galloping Ska Reggae version at 125 BPM’s full of brass & verb. The song & video drops early July 2014.

Stay tuned for the full Nickodemus & Brian J EP this September/October! It will be a series of collaborations that include writing & studio work through pads, pens, old amps & dusty keyboards.

Focus Track: 5
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The Rosebuds – “In My Teeth” (Western Vinyl)

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Listen Now: “In My Teeth”

GOING FOR TOP 200, AAA AND MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS

“The Rosebuds exude quality.” – PITCHFORK

“…some of the year’s catchiest hooks and sing-along choruses.” – NPR

“… fresh and invigorating…pretty amazing.” – A.V. CLUB

“…intoxicating…gorgeous indie-pop…”  – SPIN

“…thoughtful, catchy and soothing…a record that can, if only for an instant, give the listener a glimpse of hope that better days are yet to come.”  – FADER

“I highly recommend listening to it — at night, in dim light, if possible…”  – STEREOGUM

After spending two years living on opposite coasts and pursuing their own creative projects, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp returned last spring to set to work on the sixth full-length album from the Rosebuds. Joining up with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon (a friend and former bandmate who, in a 2011 interview, noted that the Rosebuds make “some of the most important music in the world”), the North Carolina-bred duo spent a week in Vernon’s studio teasing out a batch of songs that effortlessly weave the hooky songcraft of classic jangle-pop, the cagey romanticism of new wave, and a refined yet full-hearted sensibility all their own. Featuring Vernon on guitar and synths—as well as Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan and Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn on bass, both longtime pals and cohorts of the Rosebuds—the resulting Sand + Silence radiates both a graceful intensity and the loose, joyful energy that comes from making music with friends.

Extracting brilliance from easy collaboration is old hat to the Rosebuds, who formed in 2001 and carried out their first live shows as performance-art pieces that turned the stage into a replica of their own living room. “From the beginning we knew we weren’t going to be a regular band, that we wanted to keep it fun and creative, like an ongoing art project,” says Crisp. With their most recent releases including collections of original Christmas and Halloween songs and a record of Sade covers, the Rosebuds catalog reveals the restlessness of their creative appetites by shifting from the acoustic balladry of 2005’s Birds Make Good Neighbors to the dark synth-pop of 2007’s Night of the Furies to the dreamy indie-rock of 2011’s Loud Planes Fly Low. “One of the main things that’s kept this band going is we have no rules about what kind of music we should record or who can help us record it” says Howard. “We’ve always kept it free and open, and never been scared to go in strange directions. The songs themselves, whatever they want to become, are always first.” But despite the anything-goes approach, the Rosebuds invariably stay true to a melody-centric musicality that’s driven by their singular chemistry, delicately crafted songwriting, and untamable excitement about the possibilities in making art.

Co-produced by the Rosebuds, Vernon, and BJ Burton, Sand + Silence began when Howard (who had recently launched a solo project under the name Howard Ivans) came to New York in early 2013 to work with Crisp (who had newly entered Columbia University’s graduate program for fiction writing). While their original intention was to revamp a number of songs cut from Loud Planes Fly Low and turn those tracks into an EP, Howard ended up sitting down at a piano in the studio and sketching out a whole new series of songs. “I decided to quit trying to force the older songs into something that worked for us, and instead write some new ideas and just see what happened without any pretense,” he says. “Right away it just felt really good and sounded like a new Rosebuds record to me—the tone and melodies reminded me of the lightness of the early Rosebuds days, with this feeling of the music being new and inspiring but still so simple that almost anybody could play it.” Once they settled into Vernon’s April Base Studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the Rosebuds devoted a week to bringing those new songs to life by recording live (a previously unexplored tactic for the band). “Everyone in the room we were working with is such a great musician, so we’d hit record and the whole thing would just sail,” says Crisp. “Everything would get done in just one or two takes, and the songs all ended up having this buoyancy to them.”

On Sand + Silence, that buoyancy’s abundant in songs like “In My Teeth” (a darkly charged but groove-laced stunner steeped in bittersweet memory), “Blue Eyes” (a summery-perfect pop powerhouse built on Motown-inspired rhythms), “Mine, Mine, Mine” (an early-Beatles-esque lark of a love song), and “Death of an Old Bike” (a track that wraps its swirling guitars and woozy harmonies around lyrics about finding hope at the most down-and-out times). But even in its moodier moments (such as the high-drama synth and urgent harmonies in the home-state homage of “Esse Quam Videri”), Sand + Silence shimmers with a sense of promise and possibility—a dynamic that the tense but breezy title track twists into lyrics like “Lonely blue above/Give me a cloud or something right here/‘Cause I’m unfolding in the light right now right here.” And in the doo-wop waltz of “Looking For,” the lovesick sway of “Give Me a Reason,” and the stripped-down yet soaring reverie of “Tiny Bones” (whose vocals were recorded in the woods outside Vernon’s studio, serendipitously capturing the start of a rainstorm and which can be heard closing out the album), Sand + Silence’s starry-eyed melancholy takes on a near-transcendent quality.

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