Who needs an intro when the music on the Saturday Sampler June 17th is this decadent and sumptuous. Literally, just dive right in because these nine songs will be the highlights of your day.
Cathedrals – “With You” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Chairlift, GEMS, Sylvan Esso
Taking time away from writing music can be a reinvigorating exercise and new, creative ideas blossom in that time period (just ask Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes). For Cathedrals, the duo comprised of Brodie Jenkins and Johnny Hwin, their two-year hiatus has been immensely beneficial. Their first single back (“Don’t Act Like a Stranger”) was one of the most stunning singles of the year. Song number three is another dazzling gem.
Whereas “Stranger” was a vibrant and spellbinding number, “With You” is an intimate, bedroom affair that is absolutely breathtaking. Hwin’s production work and crystalline guitar create a sensual, stirring soundscape in which you want to wrap yourself. Jenkins’ vocals, meanwhile, are enthralling, rising and falling with the emotion of a woman wishing to be close to her loved one. Her story, however, isn’t exactly about love. It is about finding peace, tranquility, and a “safe place to stay” in this chaotic world. Hopefully, everyone has their piece of utopia.
No word on whether Jenkins and Hwin will release an album, but we have our fingers crossed because we love this band.
The Dears – “I’m Sorry That I Wished You Dead” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Belle and Sebastian, The Smiths, The Stills, Doves
If British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka is a “black man in a white world,” then The Dears’ frontman Murray Lightburn is his obvious predecessor, at least in the indie music world. Lightburn cut his teeth on The Smiths and often channels Morrissey vocally (case in point: their 2003 hit “Lost in the Plot”), so it surprises some fans to learn he’s not a sulking white guy from Manchester. Since forming The Dears in 1995, Lightburn and his wife, Natalia Yanchak, have amazed fans and critics alike with their gorgeous vocals. “I’m Sorry That I Wished You Dead” is another example of why The Dears remain indie favorites.
Their upcoming seventh LP, Times Infinity, Volume 2, is the long-awaited follow-up to the first volume released in 2015. “I’m Sorry That I Wished You Dead” is a lush, soaring baroque pop masterpiece with a bite. It’s mellower than the album’s first single (“Of Fisticuffs”) released last month, but it still delivers plenty of sonic depth, baroque-pop charm, and the band’s usual wry wit. Who among us hasn’t had these exact same thoughts about someone?
“I’m not sick / I’m just tired of you / so I’m going home / I’ve learned some things should be left unsaid / so I’m sorry that I wished you dead”
The Dears are Murray Lightburn (vocals/keys/guitar/bass/percussion), Natalia Yanchak (vocals/keys), and Jeff Luciani (drums).
FAIRCHILD – “So Long and Thank You” (Manchester, England via Gold Coast, Australia)
RIYL: Rick Springfield, Foals, Sundara Karma
We’ve been enamored with FAIRCHILD for two years now, just as they were finding their feet in their new hometown of Manchester. Over this time period, they wowed us with their ’80s-inspired pop-rock, taking us back to our childhoods. By our count, we’ve shared six of their singles, which puts them near – if not at – the top of the pack. Well, here’s number seven, and it’s a cracker! (That’s for the gents to remind them of home.)
“So Long and Thank You” is arguably the band’s best song they’ve released, which is saying something. FAIRCHILD masterfully takes their trademark retro sound and merge it with contemporary indie rock. The result is a number that at first shimmers and grooves like a Rick Springfield, ’80s radio hit, but then its intensity and drama heighten, reaching the searing with the energy of Foals and Sundara Karma. The final 90 seconds are absolutely awesome, at which point the song is scorched by a blazing electric guitar and frontman Adam Lyons’ urgent vocals. Whether it is 1984 or 2017, “So Long and Thank You” would be a hit in any era. It’s that good.
The song is from FAIRCHILD’s forthcoming, debut album, So Long and Thank You. It drops August 4th via their own label, Canvas Sounds.
Fairchild are Adam Lyons (vocals), Nathan Lyons (keyboard), Tim Voeten (guitar), Patrick Huerto (guitar),Tommy Davies (bass), and James Alexander (drums).
The Federal Empire – “What Are We Fighting For” (Houston, USA)
RIYL: Kaleo, X Ambassadors, Bastille
“What are we fighting for? I don’t know why.” The question so many of us ask ourselves is the title of the newest single from Los Angeles-based indie Americana/rock trio The Federal Empire. This rousing anthem features bold hooks, powerhouse vocals, and strings that will tug at your heart. As the question is repeated throughout the chorus, you can easily envision a live performance of the song to huge crowds with arms raised high in solidarity.
If you’re not already familiar with this band, know this: you will be soon. “What Are We Fighting For” has all the earmarks of a mega smash hit along the lines of Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go.” The Federal Empire first made a splash with the October 2016 release of their debut EP, The American Dream. Now they’re following up with a song that examines the darker side of that dream. Don’t be surprised if this tune becomes one of this year’s biggest songs. Their pointed lyrics don’t shy away from controversial topics, nor do they mince words:
“The price of our freedom / is blood in the water / we’re looking for hope / what will it take? We keep on repeating / the fate of our Fathers / somehow there’s got to be a change.”
Grapell – “No Longer Free” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: early Portugal. The Man, Alt-J, Sade
Around a year ago at this time, a relatively unknown duo from Sweden mesmerized us with their dazzling kaleidoscope of sound. Jazz and trip-hop. Gospel and pop. Adult contemporary and R&B. All these genres were encompassed in Grapell‘s sophomore EP, Love Chamber, which was one of our favorite extended players of 2016. As we said last year, “(t)hey are one of the very few bands who make the sultry sound spectacular.” Every song truly was a “wow” moment.
We weren’t expecting to hear from Emil Erstrand and Nils Nygård so soon, but we are not complaining. Yesterday, they unveiled, “No Longer Free”, which is another intoxicating and breathtaking single. If music is comparable to automobiles, this would be the Rolls Royce of the industry. It is luxurious yet stylish, smooth and engrossing. However, it’s not pretentious one bit but extremely inviting. Nygård’s orchestration of organ, saxophones, guitar, bass, and drums (probably missing a few instruments) welcome us in with its sensual yet groovy pop-jazz-soul vibe. Erstand’s falsetto, meanwhile, entrap us, occupying our minds with his wonderful voice and a story that reveals his own imprisonment. My goodness, this band continues to stir every emotion.
More of Grapell’s seductiveness will be heard later in the year, as their debut album will be released later this year via Roll Call Records.
HYMMJ – “Guillotine” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Foals, Arctic Monkeys, Brand New
A lot of new bands and artists make very good first impressions, but then there are those will make our eyes burst open and our ears point in the direction of the speakers. It doesn’t happen that often, but it did yesterday when Berlin-based quartet HYMMJ shared with us their debut single, “Guillotine”.
Truthfully, the band has written a handful of demos over the past two years, but they never mastered any of them. Whether they were still experimenting, figuring out their identity, or both, is unknown. What it does tell us is that this band is deliberate and thoughtful, taking their time to make sure they are making music that will move people. And where they’ve landed with “Guillotine” is just perfect.
“Guillotine” is a fiery and mind-blowing epic. The stark bass line and slight hammering of the drums that open the song grab your attention immediately and leave you possessed. Sönke Piet Flucke’s vocals, meanwhile, are tantalizing, drawing you in with his soft delivery. His lyrics are superb, telling the story of a person who is trying to find his way in this chaotic world filled with lies, greed, and obsession. Just as it seems the song will ease, it explodes into a tidal wave of blazing guitars, hammering rhythms, and sizzling keys. Flucke, meanwhile, is shouting through the cascading wall of noise, “I don’t know where I come from. I don’t know what I believe in.” One thing we believe is that HYMMJ could one day reach the heights of Foals and Arctic Monkeys. Their potential is extraordinary.
HYMMJ are Sönke Piet Flucke (vocals/guitar), Elias Weber (bass), Samuel Gestrich (keys), and Max Jännerwein (drums).
KALEIDA – “Echo Saw You” (London, England)
RIYL: Rhye, London Grammar, Poliça
In the spring of 2015, electro-pop outfit R-music wrote a short feature for us, where they identified five hidden gems. On it were electronic duo KALEIDA, who at the time were online sensations thanks to their incredible debut EP, Think. In the two years that have passed, they have risen well above Hidden Gem status, although they still fly under the radar and are very under appreciated. This has to change. It must change because vocalist Christina Wood and keyboardist/production Cicely Goulder are creating music that is euphoric and spellbinding.
Their latest single, “Echo Saw You”, is an example of their majestic and otherworldly brilliance. The dark, trippy beats are suspenseful and hypnotic, pulsing incessantly like a person nervously tapping their fingers waiting for the arrival of the end. Wood’s vocals are alluring, enchanting, and gripping. It is a voice that will forever be forged in your mind. Together, they have crafted a world that is simultaneously fantasy yet real. As Wood sings, “Give me your hand / Where are we running the further we get?”, you might find yourself reaching out and wishing to join them on the journey.
Where they will take us will be revealed when their long-awaited debut album, Tear The Roots, arrives September 15th via Lex Records.
La Bête Blooms – “Lost and Found” (Hull, England)
RIYL: Twin Peaks, Heyrocco, NE-HI
If we have learned anything about La Bête Blooms over the past year (besides the meaning of their name), it’s that these four youngsters only know two speeds – sonic and lightning. Actually, there’s one other item we know. The Hull-based quartet write hard-hitting songs that reflect the state of the world, just like the punk bands of the ’70s used to do.
Their new single, “Lost and Found,” is another super-charger of a track. Like everything they’ve done so far, the start is explosive, and the band never lets up. The guitar and bass work are fantastic, where you’ll be doing your best air version. The drumming is deliberately controlled to keep the song grounded and allow Daniel Mawer’s story to take shape. That story is about the oncoming apocalypse told through the eyes of two people, who are consumed by the internet and the material world. As the world comes to an end, they need to learn to “let go,” which Mawer hollers a few times. The song isn’t the typical protest or political song. However, given when the song was released – just a day after the UK election – it’s safe to say La Bête Blooms may have foreseen the future.
The single is out now via Adult Teeth. La Bête Blooms are Daniel Mawer, Jack Gallagher, John Copley, and Louisa Robinson.
Neu Yeuth – “Make a Move” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Broods, GEMS, Oh Wonder
If you love electro-pop, now is time for you to get on the Neu Yeuth bandwagon. The Seattle-based duo has one of the most dazzling debuts we’ve heard in a while. “Make a Move” isn’t simply a stunning tune; it’s the kind of song you hear once and become immediately infatuated with every note. For starters, the harmonies will bring you to your knees. Claire Grayson and Huntington Filson intertwine their vocals with dizzying fluidity, guided by equally hypnotic layers of synths and percussion.
Fans of male/female synthpop duos (Broods, GEMS) now have a new favorite musical pair. This song hits every possible sweet spot, and you can’t help but keep playing it over and over. Each repeated spin reveals another element that dazzles and delights. Neu Yeuth are most definitely a band to watch, as their star power shines so brightly on this song that they’ll soon conquer fans worldwide. When they croon “Let’s be reckless” on the chorus, be prepared to sigh in awe.
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