In the midst of seasons changing, between days full of light and a hint of warmth to snow days, restlessness is approaching. So, thank god for indie pop newcomers, Blondfire, and their anthemic four song EP, Where The Kids Are. Brother and sister duo Bruce and Erica Driscoll may be the younger generations voice, writing one of the most catchy songs about transitioning from childhood to adults in indie history. “Where the Kids Are” is full of indie pop electronic goodness, with a chorus that will make you belt your face off, “live it up, you’re growing up/parties in the wilderness of life/light it up, just give it up/where the kids are running free tonight”. It’s a rebellious anthem–one that has blown up on alternative radio. Moving through their EP, the songs become slightly more tamer but that undertone still has that “awkward transition” feeling, allowing tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings to really fall in love with Blondfire and understand the trials and tribulations of growing up. It’s also a great party EP, with a little bit of disco hidden in these gems. Disco is having a great revivalist movement within the indie world, and while that may make some shudder, it’s a great addition to indie pop/electro groups, each song is its own, they don’t sound exactly the same, yet there is a constant flow of groove. “Waves” is the best example of this funk; just an all out example of how disco and electro-pop can come together and be friends. If this EP is a clear indicative of the direction Blondfire is going in, they are going to become the indie darlings of their sub-genre, they understand their audience and themselves, but still grasping the need to have fun within the music they write.
I’ve heard and read too many descriptions of this Brooklyn based band, ranging from R&B to 80′s pop-centric to indie disco darlings. Well, the truth is, it’s almost impossible to put a label on Friends’ debut album, Manifest! It’s no wonder why people all over the music world write staggeringly different articles as one wrote that they ruined the album with over production, while another wrote that the band has yet to define themselves. But the common denominator in all of these reviews, Friends knows how to concoct a catchy tune. So let’s get down to the real reason why Friends should be successful. Does the indie world have a Lady Gaga, no. We do have M.I.A. but she can be a little spotty at best. What the indie world needs is a brass, pop goddess. Singer Samantha Urbani can be that girl. Her voice is laced with pop goodness (and not today’s version of “pop” music), there is truth to the 80′s pop centric label, mixed with 70′s sunshine pop. Add all those things but put it into a modern world, and you get this beat heavy, afro-sunshine pop blend that is more than original nowadays. The 2011 single, “I’m His Girl” is anthemic, it’s girl power, yet it’s still slightly a love song. It’s a warning. It’s cool. It’s borders M.I.A’s “Paper Planes”. Without much focus on lyrics, Friends knows how to make a hook, and they continue that gift throughout the whole album. It is very 80′s pop centric, but I’ve been saying that that genre is making an extreme comeback for a while now, and it’s no wonder. 80′s kids are growing up and wanting to harken back to the old days right? Soon 90′s grunge and emo will make its comeback (or is it already?) It’s a trend that’s not soon to die. From “Stay Dreaming” with it’s lush and dreamy (ha!) flow to the very disconnected and jerky and electronic “Mind Control”, the band may have not “defined” themselves yet, but does it matter when every song is a journey within itself and nothing on the album seems out of place or questionable. It’s crazy, Friends is crazy, but in this case, the crazy is good.
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With the rise and fall and rise, again, of Fiona Apple, is it possible that other female singer-songwriters have taken the angst queens place? While Foreign Slippers (alias of Swede, Gabrielle Froden) may not have that power in her melodies, her lyrics truly pack a punch. It’s always a hit and miss with singer-songwriters nowadays, most can be boring and repetitive and get immediately tossed into my computer’s trash can, but Foreign Slippers’ album, Farewell To the Old Ghosts certainly hooked me from the first track so aptly titled, “It All Starts Now”. What I thought would be simply simple acoustic guitars, I was grossly mistaken–full of wind instruments, drums, brass instruments and yes, the occasional acoustic guitar. Instead of a quieted singer, she is more like Annie Clark of St. Vincent or even Regina Spektor in her more wilder days. With quite a beautiful vibrato, it seems Froden was classically trained, and if not, she deserves praise for her ability to sing like an angel. She has that smoky jazz quality while being able to still fall into the “indie female rockers” genre, and it completes the album. But first, let’s break down why this record is perfect and now on repeat –firstly, her songs are refreshingly new with repetitious melodies that evolve into a whole other being during a 4 minute song and while sometimes the songs linger they complete the whole story of the song, specific rhythms may change, but it always returns to the beginning but is never the same and it takes a real musician to be able to accomplish that. Next, the lyrics are frighteningly resonant and relatable–without fluffing up the lyrics, Froden tells it like it is. Towards the end of her album, the song “Is That You” is perfect for the experience of seeing your ex and wondering why, “I saw you in the light of day, you didn’t look that pretty anymore, there was something about you I hadn’t noticed the night before.” If there is one thing I love in indie music is the ability to be completely honest in a song, lyrics wise, and allow the lyrics to tell a story that everyone has experienced . It makes music so much more personal, and Foreign Slippers. With all of these qualities melding together to form this album that is shockingly full of surprises in every song, it’s no wonder that Foreign Slippers has been on repeat, for there is nothing more exciting than an album the revives your love for music in a 45 minute album.
England knows what they doing. It’s not a secret that I’m an insane anglophile, but more often than not the music being released in England is superior. Signals, a four-piece piano indie rock band from Southampton is no exception. Asked on my music tumblr if I would listen and review their music, I instantly agreed–their sound is refreshing and harkens back to an early 2000′s time of indie/alternative music. Much like Eisley or The Hush Sound, the piano driven music compliments singer, Ellie Price’s subtle but almost haunting vocals. Much like another British band I blogged about before, Daughter, both songs have subtle melodies and rhythms but almost out of nowhere, the songs progress and create swooping anthemic power-ballads that just kind of take your breath away. For some reason, British songstresses are infinitely more powerful and Price’s gorgeous voice makes you wish she sang every song in the world. However, the most important part of this band that may or may not be overshadowed by the wonderful music, is the lyrics. Especially within, “Square Wheels”–Price sings, “and your bed’s now dirty and my lips are sealed and I said from the start that I’m in with this deal and we tried to work and rise above but all that we did was fall out of love”. A non-love, love song. A great premise that is often attempted, but normally falls short. But, between the mixture of sweeping melodies and harmonious vocals, the lyrics are successful. Releasing their debut EP soon, Signals should be watched carefully, if they continue the path of piano indie rock, they will most likely make themselves stand out amongst other indie musicians. Stating inspiration from Bon Iver, Local Natives, and Manchester Orchestra, it could be very soon that Signals makes their mark as well.
In an age where Adele and Florence and the Machine rule the female diva world, chantress Alex Winston provides a rivalry. Undeniably and irrevocably full of life, King Con proves that Winston can pack a punch in the indie pop genre. With a voice like a louder Joanna Newsom and a tamer Paloma Faith, Winston takes the soul and upbeat tempo of a Danger Mouse production and creates an inspiring album throughout. It’s the Top 40 sound without being overproduced and fake. Each song can stand alone and be its own anthem, but together it creates a power album that never stops its ride of hooks, turns and downright fun. There is no doubt that Alex Winston is full of soul, but she contains it in a way that makes it more intense yet subtle to the listener. The whole time while listening to the album, you are waiting for her to explode in power and vocal range much like the previous diva’s mentioned to. But she concentrates that power and puts it against a more lush background than her predecessors. Her melodies recreate the same idea, waiting to dominate the song but keeps its punch restrained. This does not mean that this album isn’t explosive in sound, in fact, that’s quite the opposite. Every song is its own creature, and each allows the listener to show the range of Alex Winston as a singer, songwriter and performer. From anthemic songs like “Sister Wife” to the more Grimes-esque high pitched electronic “Guts”, this album has a song for everyone and while that may not sound cohesive by any means, it works. And only a woman like Winston understands the power this kind of indie pop has over listeners in this day and age.
If people thought Zooey Deschenal was quirky, I have found her a queen. Singer, Cherilyn MacNeil absolutely takes the cake in her catchy indie pop that is often more humorous than serious. From Johannesburg, South Africa, Dear Reader instantly captures the heart with their hooks, lyrics, and melodies. From pop ballads to weird electronic loops–this band pretty much does it all, but they do it with an odd sophistication that may not be evident on a first listen. Mostly every song title has something to do with an animal, but in parentheses, perhaps the songs “real” title. Perhaps a more realistic title that allows Dear Reader to give the audience something real instead of all the silliness–which is still, truly wonderful. MacNeil’s voice is absolutely darling, reminiscent of Regina Spektor’s but with much more power and stability. Put together against equally darling melodies full of pianos and violins, the one thing that shockingly puts it together is the use of electronics in the album. Never brash or harsh to the ear, it is another example of how electronics can be used for good within music (and not for the bad…*coughAutotunecough*). While most of the songs are simplistic when everything is taken away, they are like She & Him songs–easy 50′s songs beats, but Dear Reader builds upon that, creating lush sounds that creates a dynamic sound that masks the simplicity but also allows it to be recognizable at the same time. Just quite a a fun listen, I can’t use the word darling enough, but it is just nice to listen to something that is what it is.
Check out their website here.
Or their Facebook here.
Straight off the bat, I have to dedicate this to my father, who absolutely adores female singers and is always pressing me to send him these singers to him. I tend to listen to bigger bands mostly, my female singer list is infinitely smaller, but I’ll be proud to say that I have found one for you dad! Full of everything good about solo female artists, piano, whistling, intricate melodies, Dillon is what’s right with the female world. Only 19 years old (much like a young Zola Jesus), German Dillon de Byington is making a scene in the indie world with her creative use of hip-hop beats matched against piano and more pop oriented stylings. Almost like a mini-Bjork, her vocal range is absurdly impressive and her array of instruments is even more so. Opening up with a more minimalistic song, “This Silence Kills” is electronic in nature, but deep within the track are these beats made with her computer, a piano and her voice–nothing intricate at all. Yet, this album blossoms (oh I can’t believe I just used that word) into her intricate world, some of it almost reminding me of a Broadway soundtrack or like previously said, a Bjork album. Totally showy in every aspect, it’s not over-done with cheesy lyrics but the music makes you pay attention–which is hard nowadays. Like another album I recently reviewed, this album changes genres easily and with some kind of flow: at one point Dillon can be doing an Adele soul-inspired song, and then instantly move into an epic pop ballad. Definitely reminiscent of Regina Spektor’s and Kate Nash’s vocals, simplistic yet absolutely gorgeous, Dillon can easily carve out a niche in the indie world, setting herself apart from most female singers who tend to get lumped into one group. So, to all the dad’s out there that love these female singers, this one’s for you. Don’t not listen, it’s too good.
Check out her website here.
What to expect when you see two kids with tiger face paint grace the cover of an album of a band you know nothing about? Everything. Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguiella have come together to create an EP that gives hope and immense excitement for the future of this band. I normally do not post or talk about EP’s because they tend to be rough cuts or they will appear exactly as they are on the full length, but this band has gotten me so excited, I decided to throw my rules out the window. Where to start? With Elena’s gorgeous spot on vocals, the melodies that capture what I like to call “California desert” music, or the fact that they are quickly gaining popularity within the indie world? Let’s start with the most important aspect of this band, Elena’s voice. The word beauty just not do it justice–a woman who eerily sounds like Florence Welch without the big hoopla behind her, almost as if Florence Welch did acoustic music. Yet Elena makes it her own, simplistically quiet but warm and comforting, a perfect voice for when you’re feeling down but in time she will lift you up. The band has the shoegazy quality of Radiohead with the intricacies of hazy sounding instruments (for some reason I call this the California desert music because it always reminds me of a sweltering day at Coachella). This blend of music is a mood changer, a sort of calming effect that makes you want to belt out to some songs or go on an epic adventure. I want to go on an adventure and listen to Daughter the whole time now.
Check out their Facebook here.
Or their Bandcamp here.