Young Summer is a new electronic synth based singer/songwriter whom crafts some more left of the middle dream pop tunes. Her début EP “Fever Dream” is a fantastic introduction to her music which we wholeheartedly give a thumbs up on HPM!
“Fever Dream” opens the EP with a thumbing heat beat kick drum with a pulsating fuzzy bass line providing the undercurrent for more celestial keyboard synths. Young Summer’s vocals are silky smooth like chocolate and are beautifully multi-layered so she sounds like a collage of herself in verses and then punches through the chorus with a more dynamic catchy vocal riff. It’s instantly catchy without resorting to cheese – the perfect combo for dream pop. “The Waves That Rolled You Under” begins really understated with rolling synth arpeggios sonically projecting the waves sung about before luscious guitars and heavily panned vocal collages take over the chorus, The production on the EP is good enough to eat. There’s something about this specific track that makes me think Electro-Enya!
“Letter Never Sent” features a more sombre mood with echoing piano notes and a guest male vocalist Trent Dabbs whom sounds like Alex Wong with his soft thin vocal sound. It’s the moody track on the EP which is followed by the more whimsy free-waving “Half the Time” which incorporates a long of acoustic guitar and muffled drums which have all been softened so it feels like a combing of strings and cymbals with little impact at all. The result is a track that feels very laid back and cosy. “Close To Home” then rounds things off with a simple piano led ballad.
Young Summer has some catchy tunes and a fantastic production value. The combination of a strong vocal and a strong melody is a certain winner – Young Summer crosses the line in front. We want more!
Maria Dunn’s folk root music is as honest as the day itself. Maria has a classic tone to her voice and her master of various instruments makes a formidable combination. Her albums showcase a far more broader range of instruments that just the guitar and violin but this is a beautifully performed number and deserves to be found.
Steve Schultz may be releasing his second album Over The Edge this week but he’s just getting us warmed up to his clean and honest vocals and piano based tunes. There’s something very organic and Simon/Garfunkel about Steve that makes everything feel fresh whilst reminiscent of what a lot of people consider the hey day of “real piano music” when Elton John was number 1.
This is the lead single “Shadow” from the latest album. It’s a cracker.
Artemis launched her career from the original MP3.com and this was one of the first EP’s I was able to buy from the site when I was old enough to wield a card.
“Treasure” leads the EP off as the strong track with its shuffling acoustic guitar beats and background draw organ giving a tinge of Caribbean flavour to the rock track. The slide guitar works very well as the embellishments. Artemis herself as a smooth vocal that never takes over the song but it can certainly hold its on. “Cruel” then daring goes acapella for Artemis to really showcase her vocals properly. This is a soulful blues number and works very well without instruments. It straddles a fine line between vocal gymnastics and passion and by not going overboard on the warbles the track stands out. “Voices” is an acoustic guitar and vocal track that uses some more unusual chord structures to really stand out. It’s quite delicate and beautiful on the surface but slowly more and more minor chords and clashing of notes creeps in and actually the track builds into a powerful ballad. “Rising” keeps the same style but stays more taut as opposed to building up the tension. The EP ends with “Shameless” which see’s a full band return for only the second time and its a blues rock number. It feels like a different recording session as the production feels different but the track is quite catchy with its offbeat mini chord changes in the chorus. There’s much more keyboard production here too hinting at the more electronic route she’d take after this.
Artemis opened up her musical career in the acoustic rock genre before she took on electronica and so for fans this is fun to hear, for the rest of us its a well accomplished EP and the title track is fantastic.
Adult pop rock cross over artist Zain Lodhia makes sharp tracks that are instantly catchy and full of hooks but have more to them than meets the eye. Take the single “Lifetime” for example. Beautiful video, decent lyrics, killer chorus! Zain should go very far indeed.
Young Summer is the monkier for DC based singer/songwriter Bobbie Allen whom releases her début album tomorrow. Entitled “Fever Dream” the lead single and title track is featured below and showcases her low-fi electronic dream pop approach. She has a strong assured and smooth voice that reminds me of Sarah Slean.
Listen to Fever Dream below and check out the album tomorrow. We will have a review of the album in the coming weeks too.
Lisa Germano quietly released “No Elephants” earlier this year and for Lisa, it continues to slide her further into the realms of beautiful breakdown that she’s been exploring particularly over the previous three albums.
Opening with “Ruminants” begins with fluttering wings and bird song before slow and soft piano gently clamber through its chords whilst Lisa brings on her high register on her voice to make words like “Hogwash” actually sound emotive. Quite an achievement in itself. “No Elephants” calls on similar tactics but sounds like it’s been recorded live. You can hear seat cracks and a the piano foot tap. This track is Germano at her best though. She can work pathetic sounding discordant woodwind and bass guitar like no other. The music during this album reminds me of a music box. The chord progressions and the way they are played. It also introduces a key signature that appears in a few songs – the mobile reception feedback buzz. It makes a curious backing for such a sad track.
“Apathy And the Devil” introduces distorted drum loops slowly echoing in the background whilst everything else aside from the piano riffs get lost in swirling electronic buzzes, hums and telephone beeps. Clearly Lisa has been inspired by the way how the phone technology is infiltrating all life as she sings “I watch the world explode”. The message is more pointed with the interlude “Back To Earth” which takes dial tones and puts them on a repeating echo. “Haunted” goes for uncomfortable chords and makes the piano sickly sweet to make it all the more eerie. ”A Feast” appears to be Lisa’s idea of a Christmas song with sleigh bells and evil tuned bells not quite being in tune as random interludes to a more swinging track compared to the songs before it. “Up In The Air” follows a similar vein only in a more start/stop momentum. The track really comes alive during the violin sections as Lisa knows how to make a lot of emotion in a short space of time. “Dance of the Bees” brings back the mobile phone buzzing noises again for another percussive interlude with some nice uke making a welcome return from her old albums too.
“Diamonds” along with tracks two and three are the standouts on the album. There is a beautiful ebb and flow with the string accompaniment that’s not present on a lot of the album but here its in abundance. It really pushes the track along and makes it more dynamic and expressive. “…And So On” is a cute ditty that’s one of the warmest tracks on the album before “Last Straws For Sale” showcases Lisa’s lyrical talents over a broken track. The album closes fittingly with more phone dial tones and a simple track playing over the top. “Strange Bird” reminds me very much of the Lullaby album and this album is probably the closest to that album tonally.
“No Elephants” is curious because it works better as a collective then as tracks on their own separately. It also needs time to bed in. There’s very little immediately hookable here but its all about the emotion that ebbs and flows over the twelve tracks. I also think that actually making something that was not full of hooks was part of the point. It feels like a subliminal attack on phones and with that, their immediacy. “No Elephants” sticks completely to its apparent vision and for that Germano should be commended.
Jim Guthrie’s “Corporeal” EP comes from the game Sound Shapes where the music from this EP is broken down into interchangeable sound snippets. The four track EP effectively then puts all the snippets together so we can hear what the original tracks actually sound like.
Opener “Personnel” takes the electronic sound palette and builds a nice cross over between sneaky and slightly sinister electric piano that happily bounces along its meaty beat. “Research and Development” then takes a tuned steel drum or wooden log and then turns the percussive drum into the main melodic pulse during a more driven track. Behind it there’s a well-built up kaleidoscope of shimmering keyboard synths that you can barely hear sometimes but they are there strengthening the main pulsing beat. “Purgatory” is a more complex track with a variety of riffs and loops filling out the more rustic percussive sounds going on around it. The title also lends itself well to the more damaged and distorted synth pads and the tolling bell at the end is a cute touch. “Event Horizon” completes the EP with more mid tempo electronica but this brings the beats and bass more to the fore and makes the track more punchy than its counterparts. What’s interesting is you can hear pieces of the previous three tracks sliding effortlessly in and out of this track. It really sums things up nicely especially as the drum loops change throughout and yet everything still feels rounded and tied together.
“Corporeal” is an interesting game music release because with Sound Shapes the music is integral to the game itself, it feels slightly strange to hear the tracks removed from it. Whilst there’s not anything here that’s going to blow you away, it’s a well made EP that uses some good tricks up its sleeve. Fans of the game will get more out of it, especially if you’ve ended up remixing the songs effectively yourself. This shows you just one iteration of what is achievable. Did someone say a remix album? *cough cough*
Radhika Shankar gets a special mention today after having a small chat on Twitter.From India, Shankar is truly a one lady wonder. She writes, composes, plays, sings, records, cuts, shoots and edits. So basically she does everything herself. For that, we salute you – and it’s not half bad either!
Recommended to me by the similar artists tab on Amazon (oh you have a lot to answer for cries my bank balance) comes the dreamy Rachel Zeffira. “The Deserters” is primarily an album about atmosphere and emotion over direct hooks. The hooks and melodies are there but its like the album takes place under a morning haze. Everything feels blurred and milky, like it’s slowly sloshing into itself.
Opener “The Deserters” showcases this well with rolling piano, pulsing tub beatings and sublime woodwind all in a mixing pool. It sounds ethereal but like it wants to break out into something more edgy – like it’s the swoop before the attack. “Here On In” then reveals a rockier side to Rachel as drums and electric guitar hide behind the mask of an intricate string arrangement. The interplay is gorgeous when the marimba’s give added warmth. It feels like a laid back psychedelia trance. “Letters From Tokyo (Sayonara)” they flits back to the more organic keyboard/piano/synth side with Rachel’s soft airy vocals really shining. It reminds me of a more haunting version of Emmy Rossum. I love how there’s a real driving force to the track but it’s never pushed to the fore as it makes the track feel more dramatic than it ever lets on it is. “Front Door” is a sweet piano/vocal ballad with some warming subtle strings. It really is time to pause in the album and is also the most conventional track so far.
“Break The Spell” then gives us orchestral rock with a rocking drum beat, some background synths and a speedy string arrangement to push the track forward. I would describe the track as if you were taking flight in the lightest plane alive. “Silver City Days” then goes virtually classical with the clever used of arpeggios on the piano that sound like they are going at a maddening speed whilst the vocals are slowly delivered. It sounds like time was paused for three minutes. “Star” is a sumptuously warm track that is five minutes of slowly evolving melodies and lyrics. It’s spacious and milky with just the right amount of reverb and echo to make things feel otherworldly. “To Here Who Knows” is more synth-string based with a cute flute providing some great touches. The second half of the track repeats the same phrase over and over as it goes up the chords and expands – it’s a really touching moment in the album that certainly feels like an emotional peak.
“Waiting for Sylvia” turns to the harp and bells for breathy delivery before the organ heavy “Goodbye Devine” closes out the album with a complete lack of bass throughout most of the song. I’ve said it before but a lack of bass in a song always makes for a more emotive delivery if pulled off well and it is here.
Rachel Zeffira’s album is a strange beast. She’s so multi-instrumental that her rock side and her classical side go at odds with each other. She has managed to manage them both so well and created an album that’s like a space microcosm. I think you’ll need to hear samples to decide if its your thing or not but it’s frankly a beautiful work of art and I hope people “get” it.
Marla Mase is a rock crossover artist whom has piqued my interest with her latest release entitled “Speak”. “Speak” has since gone on the road to become a multimedia live show incorporating spoken word, visual cues, dance and imagery along with of course a live rock band. The whole thing is designed to help portray women and their world. She will be appearing at SummerStage 2013. Take a look at the video for “Piece of Peace” below.
On a complete side note, she looks a spitting image of one of my bosses at work!
Linda Draper has a new album arising on the 21st of May entitled “Edgewise” and by all accounts it will be acoustic finger guitar bliss. Linda is a new artist to me but I’ve been hooked in when I heard to quiet intensity of the lead single when I found it online. You can listen to and download “Hollow” below. Wonderful production – so warm.
Hello? I’m Marc Almond’s Long Lost Brother! Welcome to “I Synthesist”, whose just released his third album “Somewhere and Everywhere” last week. He has a retro-future synth pop vibe that is dark, dank and soaked in sweat but in a slightly menacing way instead of the cheesy pop way. It heavily reminds me of any Soft Cell work after their first album and that can only be a good thing! Here’s “Hello Virginia”
Jim Guthrie, of Sound Shapes fame among others has released his latest solo album and it’s a beauty. HPM will be reviewing it quite soon but until then I suggest you swim in the serenity that is Bring on the Night:
“Sugarbread” is the three track single that rounds off for Anna Plaschg the “Narrow” section of her music. Seemingly not fitting on the short album, these three tracks make their own morbid dance on the soul.
The title track “Sugarbread” showcases Anna at her demonic best. Warped string and brass sections march out a beat over heavily reverberated percussion smashes and kick drums. Anna’s backing vocals are duelling and screaming over her own calm yet venomous main vocal whilst the occasional choir bursts in for a holy burst of evil. It’s suitable screwed to the nth degree and that’s why I love it. “Me and the Devil” is a cover yet you’d never guess it as the strings and drums march and soldier on whilst Anna gets more angry and shouty on this track. Although there’s not much progression in the overall sound it holds a mechanical marching space that certainly enraptures your mind. “Pray” rounds off the single with a short, almost abstract piano led track which starts off very similar to her début as word after word jelly rolls out purposefully.
Essential for all Soap&Skin fans, it rounds off this period of Anna’s music perfectly. What will she bring next?
Jordan Reyne returns next month with her latest album “The Annihilation Sequence” and HPM is a huge fan. Jordan popped up a preview track showing some of the songs and well… I’m chomping at the bit. Her unique blend of Industrial Rock and Celtic folk always draws me in.
I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this… any suggestions? Bizarrely catchy, going out of his way for comedy value in vocal delivery and if you’re going to jump around on my bed with your shoes on then you won’t get very far with me!
Mike Tyler’s upcoming album is called Erection and I’m very curious as to what on earth it will be like!
NYC singer/songwriter Erica Glyn works her way onto the site with a weird and wonderful mash up of various different genres. It starts out very slow and organ-tastic before breaking out into a righteous rock out.