We truly have gone global with the Saturday Sampler November 12th edition. This mini-playlist is like an around-the-world trip, but the medium is music as opposed to an airplane. Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy this sonic journey, which begins in Sweden and then heads to Denmark, France, England, Norway, Cameroon, USA, Indonesia, and Australia.
Flora Cash – “Sadness Is Taking Over” (Stockholm, Sweden & Minneapolis, USA)
RIYL: Mt Wolf, Phoria, Poliça
Slowly but surely transboundary duo Flora Cash are starting to make waves for their music, which can only be described as stunning. Their popularity increased recently thanks to the release of a handful of remixes, including a terrific one by Brandyn Burnette on “For Someone”.
For us, it began 18 months ago when they shared the thoughtful and moving “Save Me”. Our love affair with Cole Randall and Shpresa Lleshaj intensified with the original version of “For Someone“, which was like a modern-day tale of Romeo and Juliet. With their latest single, “Sadness Is Taking Over”, we are prepared to say, “I do!” The song is ravenously hypnotic, as Flora Cash have created a dark, ethereal soundscape akin to the atmospheres created by Mt. Wolf and Phoria. The journey, as such, is to a place where only our darkest secrets and deepest desires exist, yet its haunting beauty keeps us from escaping. Such is the power and brilliance of Flora Cash.
“Sadness Is Taking Over” is available via Swedish boutique label ICEA (short for Icons Creating Evil Art).
The Freezing Hands – “Comeback Kid” (Tucson, AR, USA)
RIYL: The Romantics, Marshall Crenshaw, Raspberries
Everything old is new again, especially in modern music. While many bands are embracing a retro sound based in ’80s synth pop, Tucson’s The Freezing Hands are diving a bit deeper into the history books. Their latest single, “Comeback Kid”, is the kind of upbeat, jangly power pop you need to take your mind off whatever current events are your biggest buzzkill.
Their sound is inspired by ’70s-era power pop but without the polyester and bellbottoms. This is fun music, along the lines of Raspberries and Marshall Crenshaw, with more hooks than a tackle box. If you need a sonic pick-me-up, crank this one and keep it on repeat. Your freshly-elevated mood will thank you for it.
The Gods Themselves – “Tech Boys” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Operators, Divine Fits, VHS or Beta, Crushed Out
Sultry swagger, thy name is The Gods Themselves. The Seattle-based trio makes synth-driven dance rock that’s straight out of another cosmic dimension. (What do you expect from a group whose name comes from an Isaac Asimov novel?)
“Tech Boys” is pure, unbridled confidence set to a funky, amplified sound. It may remind you of the upbeat power chords of Divine Fits and Operators, but it also echoes the outta-this-world vibe of emerging indie duo Crushed Out. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get this song out of your head. Their brand of deliciously danceable post-punk is nothing short of irresistible.
Be My Animal is due in January 20 with pre-orders from the group’s Bandcamp page. The Gods Themselves are Astra Elane (guitar/vocals), Dustin Patterson (guitar/vocals), and Collin O’Meara (drums).
Lowly – “Word” (Aarhus, Denmark)
RIYL: Austra, Warpaint, Anteros
If you were lucky enough to attend (or stream online) the incredible performances at Iceland Airwaves last week, you may have heard Danish five-piece group Lowly. Their gorgeous indie pop is ethereal and hypnotic, as heard on their new single, “Word”. The song’s slow build begins with a hypnotic synth refrain. When lead singer Nanna Schannong’s vocals begin, you simply close your eyes and say “Ahhhh.” This is some of the most captivating new indie dream pop we have heard in awhile.
The chorus repeats the line “I can’t get a word in,” but our reaction when we listen to this is that we can’t get any words out. This music may well leave you breathless and speechless. Their forthcoming album, Heba, drops February 10 via Bella Union with pre-orders from the label and iTunes. You can find tour dates on their Facebook page.
Lowly are Nanna Schannong (vocals/guitar), Soffie Viemose (vocals), Thomas Lund (bass/synth), and Steffen Lundtoft (drums/percussion).
Margaux Avril – “Soon” (Paris, France)
RIYL: BANKS, Lana Del Rey, Broods
As music becomes more accessible, opportunities to discover other countries’ hidden gems and rising stars become plentiful. Case in point, Margaux Avril, one of France’s brightest, young artists. Just 25 years old and a full-length album under her name, Avril has been compared to Lorde and Lana Del Rey for her intimate style and thoughtful lyrics. Now Anglophones everywhere will get to know what the hype is about as she enters into the crowded English-speaking realm.
Her new single sees her gravitate towards a new soundscape and influence. Akin to the brooding electro-pop of BANKS, “Soon” is beautifully brooding ballad. The touches of the piano keys and electric guitar are terrific complements to the electronic effects, giving the song a feeling that it is balancing reality and possibility. But Avril’s songwriting steals the show. This isn’t an introspective love ballad, but rather a message of perseverance and responsibility. A song that is real and possible, and a perfect message in this time of uncertainty.
Margaux Avril’s sophomore album is expected in the first half of 2017. She is also a gifted photographer, and her portfolio can be found here (definitely worth a look).
Mr Little Jeans – “Fevers” (Los Angeles, USA via Grimstad, Norway)
RIYL: Kristin Kontrol, Psychic Twin, GEoRGiA
Norwegian electro-pop singer Monica Birkenes – aka Mr Little Jeans – has such an arresting voice that you may find yourself frozen and spellbound when you hear her sing. On her newest single, “Fevers”, the now Los Angeles-based artist delivers soaring synth-pop melodies that dazzle the ears. The coolness of her native land mixes with the sunniness of California on this track, and the result is stunning.
You may have already heard her music on TV shows or recent movies, but she isn’t a household name – yet. We predict it won’t be long until the artist who rose to prominence covering songs by Arcade Fire and Beyonce is selling out packed arenas worldwide. If you want to catch her on tour now in smaller settings, check out her list of tour dates on her website.
Her Fevers EP is out now via Nettwerk Music Group.
POND – “30000 MEGATONS” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust), Elton John (70s’ era), Tame Impala
On many occasions, circumstances force us to do things out of necessity. For musicians, that might be writing a song on the spur of the moment or releasing a track earlier than anticipated. The latter is the case for Australia’s other great psychedelic band, Pond.
Just the other day, they unexpectedly dropped, “30000 Megatons”. As they posted, this unfinished song was to be released on their forthcoming new album. However, given the circumstances of the past week, they opted to share it immediately. The song is brilliant, both sonically and lyrically. Whereas their previous efforts shared similarities to their former bandmate and friend, Kevin Parker (a.k.a. Tame Impala), they channel a new influence – Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie. The neo-psychedelic sounds are spacey, trippy, and wondrous. Similar to the late artist, Pond slowly build the drama in the song, which describes a warmonger with an itchy finger on the nuclear codes. The ending is cataclysmic (hopefully it won’t be in real life).
Pond are Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Shiny Joe Ryan, Cam Avery, and Jamie Terry. Details on when the new album will be released have not been shared, but we now have confirmation an album is forthcoming.
Rainbrother – “Riverside” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Lord Huron, Tallest Man on Earth
One thing we love about live music is discovering emerging artists when they tour with established bands. That’s how we first came to know about Danish group Rainbrother. Lead singer Bjarke Bendtsen (formerly of The Migrants) has toured in support of Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, and Villagers.
“Riverside” finds Bendtsen returning to his roots more with Rainbrother. The psych-folk elements of The Migrants can still be heard here, but the tone of Rainbrother is gentler folk-rock on par with Fleet Foxes, Lord Huron, and Tallest Man on Earth. To say it’s soothing is an understatement. When Bendtsen’s warm vocals blend with the shimmering backing of his fellow Danish musicians, you feel instantly transported. “Riverside” is the soundtrack to mental escape. It’s from his forthcoming debut album, Tales From the Drought, due February 3 from General Bird.
Stars and Rabbit – “Man Upon The Hill” (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)
RIYL: Björk + The Tallest Man On Earth, Radical Face
Surprises are found everywhere. All one needs to do is open her ears, eyes, and mind. So when searching for the next indie-folk group that will transform the genre one must look beyond the usual places. Not the US nor Canada. Not in the UK or Sweden. Instead, it is in Indonesia where we must turn our sights, as duo Elda Suryani and Adi Widodo – a.k.a. Stars and Rabbit – are doing the unexpected.
More than a year ago, they released their debut album, Constellation, which was a hit in their home country and around parts of Southeast Asia. They have re-released the record and select singles in order to spread word about their music. And while we, like many others, are 18 months late to the party, it is never too late to discover something as innovative and brilliant as “Man Upon The Hill”.
Suryani’s unique vocals have a Björk-esque pitch and delivery. Widodo’s work on the acoustic guitar may sound familiar, the fluctuations in the arrangements and tempo lift the song from another folk tune to one that is dreamy and cinematic. These two adjectives also describe the fable that Suryani sings about – a lonely man at the top of a hill seeking redemption. Hmmm, this song could describe all of us.
Vagabon – “Fear & Force” (New York City, USA via Cameroon)
RIYL: Waxahatchee, Big Thief, Sharon Van Etten
A breakout candidate to watch for 2017 is Vagabon, the project of Cameroon-born, New York City-based Lætitia Tamko. In 2014, she released her debut EP, Persian Gardens, which piqued some interest across the blogosphere. Now, she is preparing to release her debut full-length early in the new year and the lead single is the immensely thoughtful and moving “Fear & Force”.
The simple instrumentation gives way to Tamko’s stirring vocals, as she tells the tale of a person named Freddie. Like so many of us, Freddie is a dreamer, who longs to return to a place or moment in her past. But somewhere along the way, she has gone off course, where the unsettling feelings of lost start to grow. These feelings are echoed in the roaring intensity of the electric guitar and drums, which transform from subtle to a burst of fierce energy. The song is raw but it is real, dynamic, and a thing of immense beauty.
Vagabon’s debut album, Infinite Worlds, arrives February 24th, 2017 via Father/Daughter Records.
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