Texas based – Panama native rising artist Billy Vena really knows how to craft irresistible pop tunes.
His brand-new single ‘Rabbit Hole (love is what you make it)‘ combines 80s reminiscences with a modern approach, especially lyrics-wise (“queen in my sheets, but king by noon?“). It’s a playful, colorful track enriched by a killer guitar solo curtesy of rising act Nana Lourdes (Fresh Finds / Lorem).
In Billy’s own words: “‘Rabbit Hole’ is about a sexual awakening and how confusing it can be when you realize it’s happening. I wasn’t necessarily writing about my Teenage rejections but my teenage regrets and how the back and forths in my head, kept me in a “what if” scenario till this day. We may never know what the other person truly feels but maybe love is what you make it.”
Folktronica poet Jolé celebrates his ‘Silver Lake’ EP with the magical song, ‘Tie Dye Sky’. Immediately painting a picture of beauty in the title, Jolé once again perfectly encapsulates his love of friends and family, and his time in Los Angeles.
Dream pop newcomer and Chicago native, Tommaso Veronesi – aka TOMMASO – unveils his eagerly-awaited sophomore offering ‘Better On T.V.’. A friendly reminder not to get too caught up in the digital world, this is a must-listen.
Seraphina Simone delves into the smoke & mirrors world of fame in her sophomore single ‘Hollywood $$$’. Having experienced the celeb world from an early age (her godparents’ were Prince, Miles Davis, Christie Hynde, Pete Townsend and Mary Greenwell), she knows all to well the “predatory darkness under the glitz“.
At just 16 years old, Gillian Heidi treats her music as a conduit for truth and her sync-ready track ‘Desperate’ is no exception. Underscored by layered harmonies and full-bodied instrumentation, Gillian’s R&B-infused pop vocals take centre stage as she sings of the guilt and thrill that comes with having a crush while in a relationship.
London-based songwriter Hedara shares her self biographical song about living with anxiety. It’s a track that showcases Hedara’s raw songwriting ability by stripping the production down to just piano & vocal, resulting in an affecting and honest piece of work from a talented performer.
Rich storyteller Hank Compton creates music that dives beyond the surface level, exposing his greatest highs and lows. His new EP is called ‘Loser’ and portrays a moment in his life when he was experiencing ups and downs, and well, life.
We asked the Nashville native to put together a playlist for us with any chosen theme. His theme of choice is “Music That Keeps Me Going,” which is probably needed, now more than ever.
Duster – Travelogue
The thing about this entire record that really inspired me was this band’s way of making a beautiful soundscape out of gritty, unorthodox instrumentation. Also, music always takes me back to physical places or “era’s” of my life and this is reminiscent of the summers spent skating through the neighborhood with my friends growing up.
Sad Penny – Pissing
This song has some of the coolest, 90’s esque melodies/guitars and the whole story behind the song has this comical yet serious theme, which I adore.
Westerman – I Turned Away
This song has such a lush undertone to it. Something about the voice/production has this beautiful innocence to it without losing its depth.
The Blue Nile – The Downtown Lights
The emotion in Paul Buchanan’s vocal performance is unmatched. One of my favorite 80’s bands.
Lonas – Doesn’t Feel Right
This song is all-around one of my favorites, but the detail that sticks out to me the most is how well the percussion holds its organic quality while the synths and guitars create the atmosphere around it. Also, Lou and I produced my entire “Loser” EP together 🙂
Zander Hawley – Thumbs
I had the privilege of working on this EP with Zander and he never ceases to amaze me with his talent both lyrically and melodically. His voice is so good he could sing the telephone book to me and still find a way to make me cry.
The Cure – Pictures Of You
The Cure is one of my favorite bands of all time. Definitely a song you could catch me unapologetically belting at the top of my lungs at a stoplight.
Kevin Krauter – Piper
The writing and production on all of his stuff has always been so inspiring to me. This song specifically gives me chills every time the guitars come in before the last chorus. So dreamy and dissonant.
Prince – Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?
Prince has not only been one of my favorite artists of his decade but one of my favorite guitarists as well. That being said, the guitar parts on this song are fucking mint.
Roger – I Want To Be Your Man
One word. VOCODER.
The War On Drugs – Up All Night
In my opinion, this band is one of the best at combining folk and new wave into an edible, modern package. Also, this record on a sonic level is incredible. One of my go-to records for a pointless drive around town at dusk.
The Paper Kites – When It Hurts You
This chorus melody KILLS ME. This song/record takes spacious, anthemic production and still makes it feel desperate in the best ways.
The Replacements – Achin To Be
The Replacements have a band mentality that seeps into their music. I’ve always been such a fan of their entire vibe both musically and stylistically. The line in this song “She’s kind of like a movie that everyone rushes to see, but no one understands it sitting in their seats” always gets me.
Shania Twain – Forever and For Always
My admiration for Shania Twain has been apparent ever since I was 5 years old and my mom would play her CD’s as we rode around in our clunker minivan. This song is melodic candy to me and will always have a special, nostalgic place in my heart.
Listen to his ‘Loser’ EP below:
Sounds like: Ten Fé, Ryan Ashley, Zander Hawley, Hardcastle, Lonas, Young In The City
Los Angeles-based vocalist, songwriter and alternative producer Jens Kuross has just released the shadowy single, ‘Done With Dancing’, a new stripped-down take of the track ‘Yard Two Stone’ that he collaborated on with Lane 8 last December.
Having toured the world as the drummer for RY X, Howling, and The Acid (a supergroup comprised of DJ/Producer Adam Freeland, Californian polymath Steve Nalepa, and RY X – who Jens also performs with as an active member of), as well as supported Bonobo, Rhye, GoGoPenguin and RY X, it’s time for Jens to step forward.
First on the list is his playlist called “Jens Friends”. You can check it out below.
Fred and Luna – Mini Song
This was the first song on the first release from a label my good friend Frank Wiedemann started a couple of years ago. It’s very minimal but it really makes the most out of all of its elements. There are no wasted sounds. It sounds like it could simultaneously be a Kraftwerk b-side from 1980 and also a hip new track on some indie-electronic playlist on Spotify…wait…
Point Lobo – Platform
Producer, Engineer, Drummer Miles Senzaki is great at everything he does. And I should know as he’s engineered almost all of my own recordings. His solo project “Point Lobo” is a perfect distillation of his love of Prince, TalkingHeads and I don’t know what else really. It’s beautifully done and impeccably crafted.
Human Barbie – Don’t Run Away
Human Barbie is the brainchild of Bassist, songwriter, producer Chris Hackman. Chris and I met when we were fresh out of school and still playing jazz gigs to make a living, then somehow migrated into the indie-electronic scene together. This project has its fingers in some 60’s psych-rock but Chris also tastily brings some of his jazz sensibilities to bear here.
Tyler Chester – Setting
I knew of Tyler for a while before he and I met, primarily from his work with Blake Mills but he and I eventually ended up collaborating on a track that’s on his most recent record. This track, “Setting”, is from that same record. It has some really beautiful but dirty synth tones that make you feel like you’re listening to Vangelis if he was doing all his composing in a dusty basement with a bunch of broken gear that’s just barely clinging to life.
Howling – Lullaby
This is my favorite track off the Howling album “Sacred Ground”. Probably because I helped write it and I’m feeling a little shameless. “Write” might actually be a generous term here as it was almost entirely improvised. We were all just in a room jamming and Frank (Wiedemann) hit record in the middle of it. Then I came back around later and layered some synth pads. It’s probably the only song you’ll ever hear on an electronic dance record that wasn’t tracked to click.
The Acid – Onyx
This is another song I helped write. I’m super proud of the piano part I played. It’s an odd phrase length but it feels entirely natural and it ended up being the germ that inspired the whole song. The Acid boys ended up going for the jugular in the build and outro which wouldn’t have been my first choice but it definitely works and you can’t argue with the results.
GF3 – Prelude 5
I produced a couple of EP’s for some friends of mine in a jazz trio who wanted their jazz record to sound nothing like a jazz record. I’m super proud of how it all turned out but this might be my favorite offering from that little experiment. It’s the most stripped back of all the recordings but I think the subtle, understated effects on very delicately performed acoustic instruments yielded some really beautiful results.
Nalepa – A Study of Dreams
Steve Nalepa is the secret weapon behind so many amazing electronic tracks that you’ve probably heard. Working with him has really taught me a lot about the beauty and potential of raw sound. My tendency is to get a little lost in the weeds of music theory land and Steve can bring me back to earth by just producing some amazing sound that, once heard, inspires you to write a whole song if not a whole record.
Jeff Parker – Executive Life
I don’t know Jeff, but I do know some of the guys that played on this record. I think this is just a really creative example of incorporating sampling and electronic musical techniques into a jazz/improvisatory context. Usually, attempts at jazz-electronic synthesis go horribly wrong, ending up in the nauseatingly bland category of “smooth”, but the results here are phenomenal.
Louis Cole – Big Green Suitcase
Louis and I both got our start playing drums in the LA jazz scene but he had a bead on his artistic persona long before I could really figure mine out. This might be my favorite track from his eponymous first album. It really captures all of his quirky, beautiful, sincerity and adds a tinge of nostalgia with that pseudo-Bossa Nova drum machine pattern and the line-cliché in the piano.
KYVA is the dynamic new project from Australian-based Kyle Linahan.
Backing vocalist for artists including Adele, Ngaiire, Touch Sensitive, and SetMo, KYVA’s solo project is freshly signed to seminal New York City indie label Frenchkiss Records.
Clear echoes of Prince and tinges of post-punk, his new single ‘Dollar Sign’ considers the complex relationship with money, specifically the temptations and pitfalls of living through late-stage capitalism.
The track – co-produced by The Jezabels’ Samuel Lockwood with Vlossum’s Alister Wright and mixed by Kllo’s Simon Lam – is a retro-futurist reverie in which distant synthetic melodies work their way through a neon-lit fog. Watch the visuals below.
Máni Orrason – I Swear It’s True by Yannic Pöpperling
We are extremely excited about the first of this week’s gems! The Icelandic “cowboy baby angel” Máni Orasson returns with a reflective video about love in ‘I Swear It’s True’.
The visuals typify the hardships Orrason bravely struggles – agonizing fears for the future, unfulfilled longings, obstacles that life throws in the way of those in love – all within a beautiful, glitter-filled backdrop.
Australian singer/songwriter Harry Nathan releases his new single, ‘Sweet Vanilla Sky’.
Created following a break-up, the bohemian dream-pop song has bittersweet energy, which effortlessly resides between the lines of reality and fantasy, as Nathan explores love, loss, longing and remembrance.
…and what a way to finish off this week’s gems! Gorgeous, driving disco-pop courtesy of Finnish artit Onni Boi.
It’s rare to get a warm euphoric feeling that can instantly take over the body, but ‘Tides’ does just that. Boi has achieved the ability to make the whole room dance with his playful machine beats, as well as offering a shoulder to cry on.
Sounds like: Flight Facilities, Joe Goddard, Prince
Meet Gentry, an LA-based, London-bred performer, composer, and producer who creates eccentric, pop-tinged electronica inspired by a broad array of influences.
Born from performances with the Heritage Orchestra since 2013, playing the grand piano, bass, guitar and synths in their Blade Runner and Joy Division performances and keys for the recent Pete Tong worldwide shows and was invited to join Quincy Jones for his 85th birthday celebration this year at the O2, Gentry’s own production perfectly blends classical tendencies with groovy, disco-led “retroisms” and a nonconformist nod to modern dance music.
Check out his double A-side release below:
Sounds like: Ben Khan, Prince, Chromeo, James Blake
Ben Khan has been quietly collecting praise from tastemakers across the music scene. The highly talented, multi-instrumentalist has just released the visuals for ‘Ruby’, his favourite track of the recent self-entitled album, out now via Dirty Hit.
Directed and produced entirely by Khan himself, the visuals perfectly marry the track’s synthetic and futuristic themes with his undemanding vocals, silently driven by anger and sadness.
A year ago, he travelled to Kashmir, the home of his father (who works in textiles, and whose floral art inspired some of the album’s artwork), “and I just walked around and took sounds on my daily rituals, and tried to put that in there somehow, so it felt like a journey through places.” The result, he hopes, is a work of “magical realism.”
Sounds like: Leo Kalyan, Twin Shadow, Jai Paul, JUNGLE, Disclosure, Prince, Blood Orange, Harts, Oyinda, Shy Girls
Big news. Ben Khan returns with the announcement of his debut album (hurrah!) and a self-directed dystopian video for spine-tingling new single ‘2000 Angels’.
The album – set for release in the summer – was produced alongside Flood (PJHarvey, DepecheMode, Nine Inch Nails) and mixed by Spike Stent (Björk, Frank Ocean), with Ben playing every instrument on the record.
Always with a creative hands-on approach, Ben also plans to launch his new interactive website, The Foundation, which offers an insight into the richness and depth of the album’s story.
Sounds like: Leo Kalyan, Twin Shadow, Jai Paul, JUNGLE, Disclosure, Prince, Blood Orange, Harts, Oyinda, Shy Girls
NAVA is the highly energetic project of Persian songwriter Nava Golchini and three other Italian musicians. Visually, NAVA is a mix of horror and fashion inspired by the works of visionary designer Gareth Pugh.
The debut single ‘Ritual’ gives us a glimpse into the NAVA world – full of electro arrangements, tribal instruments and dark metropolitan landscapes.
It could be 2014 again, and boy it feels good! During your visit, expect luscious vocals, addictive synth drops and and nu-disco undertone. All this, courtesy of Betablock3r and the new single ‘Make You Happy’.
It is the first single off their debut EP Monolith, out now.
It wouldn’t be a decent weekly gems feature without some pop in there. This week Tanners is the chosen one.
Tanners is the moniker of New York City-based songwriter and producer Tanner Peterson. Leading the way for women in creative music tech, Tanners has also spoken at TEDxTeen.
Inspired by her childhood love for the beach, ‘Holy Water’ celebrates the beauty and electricity born from allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable and enveloped by the ocean. “It’s a thank you song to the ocean for teaching me to embrace vulnerability,” Tanners says of the track.