Even more Euphoria: Eurovision Asia launches

(image via Eurovision (c) Eurovision Asia)

 

And so it begins …

Eurovision is coming to Asia!

While a launch date and an exact format are yet to be determined, the launch of the official site for the Asian outpost of the great Eurovision Song Contest (brand leveraging here we come!) signals that things are moving along quite nicely in the Contest’s goal to bring it message of love, peace and musical harmony to a region sorely in need of it.

What Asia may lack in harmony between some nations, it more than makes up for with musical creativity, thanks largely to the mammoth South Korean (K-Pop) and Japanese (J-Pop) music industries, with many other countries such as the Philippines making a national sport out of karaoke, a homage to music loving if ever there was one.

It will be able to employ all that love for music and more when 20 countries, drawn from the Asia-Pacific region, compete in a live annual grand final.

The big prize? Well the hoped-for big prize anyway, according to SBS managing director Michael Ebeid (the Australian channel has broadcast Eurovision into Australia for over 30 years), quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald is this:

“Our hope would be for whoever wins Eurovision Asia would get a spot in the final of Eurovision.”

 

 

In a bid to drum up fervent support for Eurovision Asia, the organisers are calling for people to nominate who they would like to see involved …

“Who do you want to see compete in Eurovision Asia? Visit EurovisionAsia.tv and let us know about your favourite Asian music, your favourite singers, songwriters and who you think could win!”

and to get behind the social media that is coming your way!

“In addition to the official Eurovision Asia website, you can also follow the official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to the official YouTube channel.  Don’t forget to use the #EurovisionAsia hashtag to make your voice heard!”

Next stop Asia everyone – or Sydney with a proposal to stage the first event in Sydney; it’s early days yet though so no guarantees – bring your glitter and your love of music and get ready to make a song and dance in Eurovision’s newest incarnation.

(source: Eurovision.tv)

Now this is music #94: PVRIS, Chase & Status and Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls, Ainslie Wills, Akouo ft. Montaigne

 

Done right, and thankfully so much of it is, music should move you deeply and completely and wholly.

Mind, body and sould should be engaged; you should never hear a song and just go “Oh … that’s nice.” Upbeat songs should move you to dance or turn a dark mood into something a little bouncier. More sombre songs should go into the very marrow of your being, articulating emotions you’re feeling in ways that might defy you at the time.

Whatever the song or genre or mood, it must have some effect on you or it’s just been-there-done-that ear candy of limited value.

These five artists have the ability to craft songs that actually affect you in a real, tangible way; no earworm filler, although the songs are undeniably catchy and listenable, but songs that matter, that evoke, that change you … and make your world a better place, even if only for 3 minutes or so.

 

“Winter” by PVRIS

 

PVRIS (image via official PVRIS Facebook page)

 

Hailing from Lowell, Massachusetts, PVRIS (Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, Alex Babinski, and Brian MacDonald) – once known as Paris, they changed their name citing “legal reasons” – are a lush-sounding rock band with a synth-laden edge.

“Winter”, which you might expect to be dour, cold and, well winter-ish, is, in fact, a barnstormer of a song, picking up more and more pace on its full-speed, melodically-rich course.

It’s one of the lead-singles for their sophomore album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, due out 25 August, and it packs quite a punch, musically and lyrically.

It’s very much in the vein of the band’s music to date which is gorgeously epic, cinematic and drenched in what feels, winningly, like every emotion at once; if you got #allthefeels, then PVRIS are your band.

 

 

“This Moment” by Chase & Status and Blossoms

 

Chase & Status (image via official Chase & Status Facebook page)

 

Keep the epic momentum going, with added harmonies, is “This Moment”, an insanely catchy collaboration between English drum & production band Chase & Status, and Mancurian indie pop band Blossoms.

It has grunt, charm and melody and came about, as many great collaborative endeavours do, as Blossoms front man Tom Ogden, who provides vocals on the track, told NME:

“The collaboration came together really quickly and naturally. It was a good buzz to step out of my comfort zone. I believe the kids call such tunes ‘fucking bangers’.”

Bang it most certainly does, a powerful piece of perfect pop that sweeps you up in its non-stop headiness and doesn’t let you go for a second (not that you’ll be complaining).

 

 

“Use Me” by Goo Goo Dolls

 

Goo Goo Dolls (image via official Goo Goo Dolls Facebook page)

 

To be honest, my interest in the Goo Goo Dolls,until recently, came and went with their luminously-affecting song “Iris (City of Angels)” which provided the musical heart-and-soul of the 1998 film City of Angels.

While in many peoples’ minds, including truthfully my own, they were likely marked as One Hit Wonders, but as “Use Me” beautifully demonstrates, the Buffalo-New York formed, multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band are still producing mightily good music.

In fact, so good is “Use Me” that it will be cycling in and around and through your earworm for days after you first hear it.

It’s giddily upbeat, harmonious as hell – the chorus alone is worth the price of admission – with a bit of ’60s-Roy Orbison-esque thrown in for good measure.

 

 

“Running Second” by Ainslie Wills

 

Ainslie Wills (image via official Ainslie Wills Facebook page)

 

Fresh from wooing the hell out of the UK, festival appearances at the likes of Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Festival and with her first headline shows in Sydney and Melbourne since 2015 under her belt, Melbournian singer-songwriter, is making waves with “Running Second”.

Anchored by her pure, fresh vocals, enough emotionally-resonance to affect the hearts of anyone lucky enough to hear her songs, and lyrical insightfulness, Wills’s songs are deep, rich and accessible all at once.

“Running Second” is a stunning example of Wills’ craft, delivering up an important message – “The message within it, is dedicated to all of us who feel that for whatever reason, we aren’t good enough.” (source: Triple J Unearthed) – wrapped in sublimely-moving pop that can’t help but move you.

This is pop at its pinnacle and explains why Wills has become increasingly popular, not just in Australia but across the world where people are flocking to listen to real music that means something.

 

 

“Feel That” by Akouo ft Montaigne

 

Akouo (image via official Akouo Facebook page)

 

“Feel That” brings together two brilliant Australian musical talents – producer Akouo (pron. ah-kooh-oh), known for his exuberantly upbeat electronic masterpieces, and the captivatingly-good Montaigne, whose transcendentally-rich voice slips in effortlessly to this immersive piece of pop.

As Purple Sneakers perfectly notes, the song has a lot going for it:

“Montaigne‘s vocals soar benevolently over Akouo‘s masterful, shimmering production, which elegantly pulsates in the background to create a wondrous sound floor. Carefully curated instruments, trumpeting riffs and beating percussion sets a feel for an exotic wilderness, with touches of echoing vocal samples to coagulate the ambience of this soundscape.”

You can well understand why Akouo is attracting so much interest – he pairs the oft-cold bleakness of electronica with a human warmth and analogue brightness that togetherness creates music both winningly ethereal and remote, and intimate and deeply personal.

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

PINK, one of my favourite music artists in the world has a new song, “What About Us?”, a new album Beautiful Trauma out 13 October, and her finger right on the zeitgeist as Vulture points out.

Rejoice and be glad with insanely appealing attitude.

 

 

You know what you’ve been missing all this time? The gang from Sesame Street performing a series of ’80s pop hits. Hole in your soul remedied! (source: Laughing Squid)

 

Now this is music: Kick back and chill (Louis the Child, MÖWE, Tokyo, Snow Culture, Imogen Heap)

 

Life is a crazy, busy descent into delightful chaos, spirited freneticism and colourful explosions of love, joy, sadness, deadlines and expectations.

Most of us manage this dance of extremes with aplomb because we have to, but also because we have the rhythm down right and we’re perfectly synced to it.

But how much more delightful is it when we can take a step from things, dial down the sound, mayhem and visual cacophony and just chill and be?

Even better than that when we can throw on music that enhances that place of peace, quiet and contemplation in ways that take us away, even for three minutes from busyness and to musical solitude.

In that regard, these five artists are your friends, co-conspirators in turning down the dial, turning up the silence … and kicking back in silence and peace.

 

“World on Fire” by Louis the Child (Feat. Ashe)

 

Louis the Child (image courtesy official Louis the Child Facebook page)

 

There is a languid, loping grandeur to “World on Fire” by Chicago-based Louis the Child, featuring the exquisitely dusky vocals of San Diego singer Ashe, which recalls the soundtracks for classic Hollywood films.

Listening to this gently-meandering song, you feel as you are walking down the streets of 1950s New York with Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn, the city spinning by at a frantic, horn-honking pace while you are wrapped in your own chilled bubble of music.

The song, which The Guard describes rather poetically as “a slow-burning, piano-driven, jazz-tipped lament”, is a slowly effervescent celebration of slipping loose the hyper-connected bonds of our digital age and finding out what it means to be human again.

Sure the world around us can be maddening, exhausting and full-on but it can also be delightful, rich and exuberantly wonderful, and we owe to ourselves to subsume ourselves in it firsthand rather than living vicariously throughout someone’s tweet or post.

 

 

“Skyline” by MÖWE

 

MÖWE (photo by Petr Havranek / courtesy official MÖWE Facebook post)

 

Hello summertime!

That’s how “Skyline” feels from start to finish, its deep house beats and the glorious vocals of an uncredited male vocalist, taking you to sandy beaches, cocktails and slow days under the sun, no matter where you are in the world or what season it is.

Viennese-based Möwe (Melanie Ebietoma and Clemens Martinuzzi) have excelled themselves with this rich, chilled piece of luxuriantly-chilled pop – if the aim of good music is to transport you somewhere else, good or bad, then “Skyline” is a masterclass in making it happen.

Listen for a while, kick off your shoes and imagine your cubicle is a beach hut somewhere, your laptop a bevy of cocktails and your coworkers fellow guests in the most perfect place on earth.

Seriously, it’s that transportively good.

 

 

“Like What I Like” by Tokyo

 

Tokyo (image courtesy official Tokyo Facebook page)

 

Despite its 21st claims to diversity and rampant self-expression, our society still excels in trying to cram square pegs into round holes.

That’s fine if you’re happy to have yourself shaped and moulded accordingly to someone else’s designs, but not all of us are (thank god for that!) and if you’re someone who wants to be yourself, and only yourself, then “I Like What I Like” by Los Angeleno-Tokyo is your anthem.

Tokyo explained this in a quite featured on The Guard:

“The song was written for everyone who has a weird interest or quirk that maybe not everyone understands, even if that weird interest is a song. I wanted something that speaks to everyone’s weird side and reassures them to stay true to themselves – to live loud, and like what you like.”

So go ahead – if you know who you are, who you really are, then celebrate the hell out of it, tell those seeking to make you something you’re not to step aside, and crank up this song until they’re drowned out.

 

 

“Cold” by Snow Culture (Maroon 5 cover)

 

Snow Culture (image courtesy official Snow Culture Facebook page)

 

You can practically feel the snow and ice falling off Snow Culture’s cover of Maroon 5’s hit “Cold”.

The Stockholm-based duo, featuring vocalist Ana Diaz, have crafted a song that is as emotionally resonant as they come, a heartbreaking recognition that the once bright-burning flame of romance has cooled to the point where it cruelly cold and hurtful.

There is an understandable melancholy to this song which was used by Neon Gold Records, to which Snow Culture are signed, to launch their Arctic Cover Chronicles.

As covers go, this is masterful, one that takes the source material and runs with it, in the process investing it with all the pain, mourning, loss and sadness you might expect from sitting in the frigid winter of their relationship’s end.

For all that, it is unquestionably beautiful in a way that many of Annie Lennox’s odes to the darker parts of life manage, a pleasing mix of light and dark that will get into the very recesses of your still warm-and-beating heart.

 

 

“Magic Me” by Imogen Heap

 

Imogen heap (image courtesy official Imogen Heap Facebook page)

 

I have loved gloriously idiosyncratic UK artist Imogen Heap’s music with a passion since the day a good friend lent me the soundtrack to Garden State, which featured the music of her band Frou Frou.

Her latest song, “Magic Me”, which has been fashioned into a movie festival-screening short Escape, encapsulates everything any fan loves about Heap.

It’s lushly melodic, intelligently and emotionally-insightful, and is graced, as always, by Heap’s deliciously-ethereal vocals which add a whole other dimension to what is already an extraordinarily-affecting song.

It celebrates the power of love to transform things, and Escape brings the power of its message and the beauty of its music to vivid life with a bravura piece of storytelling-rich animation that can’t help but move you, and move you profoundly.

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Feist is an artist with passion, lyrical intensity and a strong sense of her artistic self … and now she has a clip with multiple selves thanks to “Century” , which is aurally and visually catchy as hell

 

 

One of the best concerts I have ever been to was Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual 30TH Anniversary Tour in 2013. The music was, quite naturally, amazingly good, as was the celebrated New Yorker’s stagecraft; what really set it apart though was Lauper’s willingness to sit and chat for ages about her memories from making the album. It was a bio doco come to life and it was captivating, as is this clip where she recalls life in ’70s New York (starts at 1.07) (source: EW)

 

 

Oh and they’re changing some of the rules that govern Eurovision, but to be fair the changes make a great deal of sense in light of certain issues that affected this year’s event.

They make a great deal of sense though. For instance after the controversy over Russia’s entry Julia Samoylova this year – she was banned from performing in Kiev after it emerged she’d entered the disputed territory of Crimea to sing in 2015, in direct contravention of Ukrainian national law – any member of a Eurovision delegation must comply with the host country’s “applicable national law.”

There was also a renewed affirmation of the need for the music juries who award 50% of the points – the public allocates the rest – to be fully independent of any of the entrants and not involved in writing or producing their songs.

Again very sensible, as is the requirement for the host broadcaster to stick to whatever timetable they agree with the European Broadcasting Union (who oversee the event), lest they lost the right to host at all.

You can find out more at ESC Today.

Now this is music #93: Wafia, Snow Culture, Daudi Matsiko, Salute, Kiran Leonard (+ Eurovision news)

 

You only have to be in this world for a very short time to realise that there a grand buffet of mixed emotions on offer.

The ecstatic joy of first love. The crushing loss of a romance gone sour. The breathless anticipation of the new and unexpected opportunities and placed to go.

You also come to appreciate pretty quickly that there are very talented, insightful people out there, such as these five fine artists, who are graced with the ability to articulate what it all means and what it feels like far better than we ever could.

So sit back and enjoy, and remember that for every life experience there is a song, and it may just change everything, or at least make it all easier to deal with.

 

“83 Days” by Wafia

 

Wafia (image via official Wafia Facebook page / photo by @823 / @takubeats)

 

There is a haunting, lush cathedral-like melody that ushers in “*3 Days” with Brisbane, Australia-based singer/songwriter Wafia’s deeply emotionally-resonant coming in shortly after to powerfully understated effect.

This is a post-break up song, that beautifully talks about how despite your best efforts, you can’t stop yourself thinking and rethinking key moments and elements of the relationship and whether your ex is thinking about you and all the things you were planning to do together.

The phrase “Are you thinking of me?” repeats over and over, tinged with regret, self-reflection and sobering mourning for what might have been and it reflects a real-life experience as you might expect:

“This song comes after someone I love wouldn’t stay. I developed an obsession with noting down the ways their absence was so loud and present. How intangible they had become. How intangible the memories I was left with are. How I reminisce on only the highest points of the situation that I know were so bad for me. How something that ceased to exist anymore could be felt constantly.” (source: Purple Sneakers)

Even given its heavy lyrical focus, this is a heartfelt, immensely beautiful song that will touch you heart and soul.

 

 

“Cold” by Snow Culture

 

Snow Culture (image via official Snow Culture Facebook page)

 

Oh lord, the goosebump-inducing atmospherics of this song are off the freaking chart.

A cover of Maroon 5 and Future’s collaborative hit, “Cold” is as chilled and appealingly bleak as you could hope for, with Swedish duo Snow Culture investing it with a lifetime’s worth of sadness and loss.

It’s an all-consuming, exquisitely-wrought production that subsumes you into the welter of emotions that overwhelm you tsunami-like when a once rich, warm and sustaining relationship dies in spectacularly awful fashion.

The bewilderment and pain is writ large with vocals that match the mood to a heartbreaking degree, reflective of how soul-crushing these slow relationship deaths can be.

 

 

“Take Me Old” by Daudi Matsiko

 

Daudi Matsiko (image via official Daudi Matsiko Facebook page)

 

Awash with organic guitar strumming, and anchored by UK artist Daudi Matsiko’s fragile, emotionally-resonant vocals, “Take Me Old” is breathlessly touching and poignant as hell.

There is a welcome mellowness to his music and his vocal delivery which opens up the emotional richness of the songs to a resounding degree that can’t help but move you.

This is music that doesn’t just wear its heart on its sleeve; its exposes every last iota of his very soul, the effect on an audience noted by The Low Downunder:

“Hear his song ‘Take Me Old’, and enter a hushed gig venue, all ears and eyes entranced by the music unfolding before them. Daudi’s music hypnotises with an economy of elements. It’s with just guitar, autobiographical lyrics, hints of saxophone and synth that he weaves a magic spell.”

This is intimate stuff, the sharing of one person’s lived experiences with others that results in the kind of shared understanding and commonality that is desperately in today’s polarised world.

 

 

“Light Up” by salute

 

salute (image via official salute Facebook page)

 

Hello jaunty introduction, finger clicking and ethereally-resonant vocals laid over a rich, slightly-warped melody – what a way to start a song!

But why not stop there? If you’re British producer, and have the vocally-rich services of Liv Dawson at your disposal, you up the ante over and over, draping the song in chest-thumpingly loud, insistent beats, a recurrent synth motif and a stunning melange of sound that together delivers up one of those head-turningly good songs that stays with you for days afterwards.

This is not a shy, retiring song by any measure, demanding in the best possible way, to be heard, acknowledged, so densely packed with aural tidbits that you have to pay attention, subsumed in so many deliciously-enticing ways.

It’s catchy as hell and yeah you’ll be pretty buoyed up and lit up by the end of a listen … or 300, inspired by the encouragement to face your fears and go for broke “somewhere in the back of the beyond”.

 

 

“Living With Your Ailments” by Kiran Leonard

 

Kiran Leonard (image via official Kiran Leonard Facebook page)

 

The Guard describe British artist Kiran Leonard’s lead single from his third album, Derevaun Seraun (due September), as “symphonic grandeur”, as apt an assessment of a song as any I’ve ever heard.

It’s a musically-intense song that thrives on the lyrical inspiration provided by The Myth of Sisyphus (Albert Camus) which had a profound on the artist growing up:

“I read it for the first time as an unhappy, nervous 17-year-old and I found it deeply moving and comforting, It’s an essay about taking the cards that we’re dealt – mortality, nothingness, uncertainty – and doing our best with them, in humour and in optimism and in open-mindedness.” (The Guard)

Wrapping up philosophical depth, emotional resonance and stunningly rich piano-driven music, “Living With Your Ailments” is thoughtful, ruminative pop music that will cut right to the soul.

And trust me, in this case, that is a very good thing.

 

 


EUROVISION SONG CONTEST NEWS!

 

We have a host city for the Eurovision Song Contest!

In news that will surprise precisely no one, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) have announced that Lisbon will take on hosting duties for next year’s Eurovision, following Portugal win at this year’s contest after a brilliantly moving performance by Salvador Sobral.

Also confirmed were the dates for next year’s event – the semi-finals will take place on 8 and 10 May and the grand Final on Saturday 12 May – which will see Portugal hosting its first ever staging of the much-loved contest.

To find out all about the announcement and how happy it is officially making everyone, visit Eurovision.tv

 

Now this is music #92: Freya Ridings, Froth, Rationale, Jessie Reyez, Tove Styrke

 

So love huh?

It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times; and while Dickens never really recorded a song about love – on account of there being no recording technology at the time, a minor impediment to be sure – you can’t help feeling that if he had he would touched on both sides of the romantic equation with alacrity.

Since he’s long gone though, we’re lucky that we have these five artists to touch on the good, the bad and the messy mix of both that is present when love comes a-calling, and we’re caught gloriously, messily, heartbreakingly in the middle.

 

“Blackout” by Freya Ridings

 

Freya Ridings (image courtesy official Freya Ridings Facebook page)

 

Much as we all like to think in our more optimistic, Hallmark-clad moments that love is an endlessly wonderful thing, fringed with roses, happy sighs and long moonlit walks, the reality is that it can be damn painful at times.

Londoner Freya Ridings, with a crisp, clear voice that captures every last drop of pain and regretful wondering, has distilled all of the angst-ridden introspection that comes with the end of the hopefulness of romantic love into her song “Blackout”.

It muses on whether we can ever return to the unblemished giddy hope of pre-broken relationship times or whether we’re forever saddled with those scars.

She lands in a place that, for now, at least, recognises she has to go forward, aching sadness and loss and all, unable to black out what led her to this place.

It’s beautiful hearts on sleeves, raw nerves pop at its emotional best, a eulogy to lost love, romantic dreams and the untramelled “undiscovered country” of what could be, and now will never be.

 

 

“Petals” by Froth

 

Froth (image courtesy official Froth Facebook page)

 

Hailing from sunny Los Angeles, Froth is a four piece band that’s heavy on the guitars, studied introspection and ethereal vocals that drag into some deep ruminating of your own.

“Petals”, a light, fey title that contrasts with a darker lyrical underbelly, is all hazy thoughts, half-awaken dreams and emotional wanderings that is beautifully enapsulated by its attendant video.

Band member Jeremy Katz explained to Fader how this perfect marriage of visual accompaniment and rich, laconic slice of naval-gazing pop came about:

“I had seen Cloaking to do some live visuals at shows around LA and they were always amazing. We met up for coffee a few times and we’re throwing ideas around about live visuals for tour and we started talking about music videos we liked. Then we decided to combine the two ideas, having a 3D music video and using the same art in the live setting. I think Cloaking did an amazing job of capturing the mood of the song and creating this world to match it.”

 

 

“Deliverance” by Rationale

 

Rationale (image courtesy official Deliverance Facebook page)

 

Among the myriad swirling emotions that subsume you in the chaotic maelstrom of a relationship breakup, one of the most poignant, and ultimately heartrendingly tortuous idea that maybe, just maybe this emotionally-cataclysmic parting of the ways may yet be averted.

It rarely is of course, but people are the kings and queens of hope springing eternal, and British-Zimbabwean music artist Rationale is their heartfelt troubadour.

In “Deliverance”, a deeply poetic, near-epic gospel-accented mix of mourning and hopefulness, anchored by vocals that ache with passion and desperate wistfulness, we come face-to-face with how it feels to grapple with painful realities, knowing there is no real hope of reconciliation but hoping and praying for it anyway.

This is powerful, ground shaking pop that cannot leave you unmoved, especially if you have ever watched someone you loved passionately walk away, knowing they will never be yours again.

 

 

“Gatekeeper” by Jessie Reyez

 

Jessie Reyez (image courtesy official Jessie Reyez Facebook page)

 

Ushered in by one of the most exquisitely emotional pieces of music, “Gatekeeper” is a castigating piece of pop wrapped in a beautiful piece of inventively-created pop.

Addressing horrific misogyny in the music industry, of which Toronto-based Jessie Reyez has personal experience, the song takes on the gatekeepers and their utterly unethical, abusive demands, with lyrical, damn near poetic precision.

It’s hard to listen to this brilliantly-executed marriage of [Reyez’s] “fragile singing voice with raw rapped verses” (We Are: The Guard) and not be deeply affected by the unvarnished truths contained within.

 

 

“Say My Name” by Tove Styrke

 

Tove Styrke (image courtesy official Tove Styrke Facebook page)

 

Hailing from Sweden where they know a thing or 5000 about the marrying palpably honest lyrics and irrepressibly-catchy music, Tove Styrke hits a home run with “Say My Name”.

It’s all about encouraging a new lover to go all out in pursuing whatever the hell is happening between him – “go ahead and feel what you feel / I want you closer to me.”

This infectiously-luxurious song touches on a theme that is common for many artists but a first for the up-and-coming music star, as she told NME:

“There’s a reason why so much music is about sex and love. It is linked to one’s worst and best experiences. I have not written about love before because I didn’t want to write another love song. But I have changed.  I am tired of being angry, right now I just need to make music that makes me feel good.”

And you know what? It’s a great feel good song that will have you sashaying along, eager to have someone have your name roll of your tongue.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

Do you want to see a joyously happy gorilla dancing to the manic strains of Michael Sembello’s 1983 hit “Maniac”? Yes … YES you do …

 

 

You can see some more animals frantically get their dancefloor groove on at Pigeons and Planes.

Are there monkeys in Ernie’s bed? There are and elephants in the sock drawers too #SesameStreet

Ernie and his animal friends (image via YouTube (c) Sesame Workshop)

 

Next to Grover, who is my favourite Sesame Street monster bar none, I have a huge amount of affection for Ernie (especially) and Bert, the two diametrically-opposite housemates who have long amused and delighted with their Abbott and Costello-ish antics.

Now Ernie is starring in a delightful musical number, which riffs beautifully on a running gag where Ernie wakes an exasperated Bert up in the middle of the night, where he recounts an animal-filled dream he had.

Monkeys playing in his bed, an elephant in his sock drawer, and a crocodile under his where the monkeys were having fun? What’s not to like?

Bert naturally wouldn’t be happy about turning their bedroom into a  zoo or farm but hey it was all a dream so what are the odds of that right?

Now let me just go and grab some socks …

 

Now this is music #91: Fare Soldi, HAEVN, Goldmyth, LAUV, Tyzo Bloom

 

Stop right there! Yes … YOU.

I know modern life is busy af and slowing down seems like anathema, the desperate beats of FOMO drumming mercilessly through every thought and feeling, but there is a real joy and reward in taking a few steps back, finding a seat somewhere and taking things down a notch or 300.

These five exquisitely well-wrought tracks by five very talented artists manage that task with aplomb and in no time at all you will find yourself kicking back and wondering why the hell you didn’t do this way sooner.

Let the bliss begin …

 

“Curly Curly” by Fare Soldi

 

Fare Soldi (image courtesy official Fare Soldi Facebook page)

 

In the bio section of their Facebook page, Italian electronic act Fare Soldi (Luka Carnifull & Santana Pasta) pose this Q & A to their fans (and would-be listeners):

“Smiling while dancing make the people dance better?
Medical research, corrupted by major-driven issues of less importance like deadly diseases, always ignored this matter. But now 2 Italian electronic producers are trying to give an answer.”

Trust me, it is an answer you will not only love but will enjoy listening to over and over.

Combining hip-hop and good old-fashioned disco, “Curly Curly” is an instrumental slice of Italo House heaven that is the perfect finish to a fun night out or the best party starter ever.

However you listen to this trumpet-filled, playful track, you will invariably find yourself dancing and in so doing, discover that, yes, smiling to a mischievously fun song while you’re dancing does improve the rhythm and the groove.

You’re welcome.

 

 

“Finding Out More (EDX’s Acapulco At Night Mix)” by HAEVN

 

HAEVN (image courtesy official HAEVN Facebook page)

 

Ensconced in their studio in Amsterdam, where songwriter Marijn van der Meer & film composer Jorrit Kleijnen began their musical journey, HAEVN have crafted some insanely listenable tunes.

It helps, of course, that they enlisted the services of Tim Bran, who’s worked with the likes of London Grammar and Birdy, before one track even saw the light of day, but you get the feeling that duo, who found great acclaim way back in 2016 with featured track “Finding Out More” and “Where the Heart is”, would have done pretty well for themselves even so.

Now the song that impelled Spotify to label HAEVN as one to watch for 2016 – honestly if you’re still watching them now that’s totally OK too – “Finding Out More” has received some brilliant remix treatment from Italian DJ and producer EDX (Maurizio Colella) which elevates an already wonderful piece of music still further.

It has been described rather poetically, by Graham Porter at Your Music Radar as “a little deep house, a little sunset and little golden nugget for the ears” which nicely sums up a laid-back, blissfully groovy track given an extra bit of sparkle and zing by this perfectly-judged remix.

 

 

“Faded Dream” by Goldmyth

 

Goldmyth (image courtesy official Goldmyth Facebook page)

 

The harp is a wildly-underestimated instrument.

Seen as fey and underwhelming by many, all evidence provided by the immensely-talented likes of Joanna Newsom and Active Child to the contrary, they are never quite given their due.

But if you value deliciously ethereal music, such as that created by Utah-based singer-songwriter Goldmyth, you will come to appreciate how vital a role they play in creating richly melodic musical atmosphere that you can quite happily lose yourself in over and over.

“Faded Dream” is beautiful beyond words, buoyed by the harpist’s soft, light voice which is suffused by an exceptional emotional resonance that carries the track aloft.

This is no exercise in light and fey music making – “Faded Dream” may be ethereal in sound but it is a profoundly substantial piece of music that proves a delicately lush counterpoint to her more upbeat pop songs such as “Lover’s Letdown”.

 

 

“I Like Me Better” by Lauv

 

Lauv (image via official Lauv Facebook page)

 

If you’ve ever wished John Mayer was still making the effervescently-bouyant folk pop of his early days, then you should embrace American musician Lauv aka Ari Staprans Leff with much gratitude.

Bringing his stock-in-trade knack for ruminating with lyrical gift and melodic beauty on the nasty, heartbreaking nature of break-ups to the table once again, he injects a more jaunty air, creating a delicious counterpoint between lyric and melody.

It celebrates how finding romance with someone special elevates all the best parts of yourself, drawing out all the good things, and sending all the crappy parts of you to the back of the class, hopefully to be lost forever.

It’s gloriously, sublimely wonderful and it’s hard not to agree with We Are: The Guard when they describe this feel good gem thus:

“The song is a neat package of expert arrangements and sweet storytelling and its all quite simple, but in the best way possible. What we mean is that We Are: The Guard can presume that this is meant to be a song you can sing along to, to put you in high spirits, and the tune achieves just that.”

 

 

“Tip Toe (feat. Casey Cook)” by Tyzo Bloom

 

Tyzo Bloom (image via official Tyzo Bloom Facebook page)

 

His wonderfully evocative stage name aside, LA producer/songwriter Tyzo Bloom (Casey Chen), has a talent for crafting trippy, beautiful songs that still manage some emotional heft.

In “Tip Toe”, which features the delicate vocals of Casey Cook and a dreamy melody that curls and turns around you and settles over you like an old friend who is comforting and ineffably cool all at once, he has crafted a meandering pop gem that talks about taking it slow from someone who simply wants to savour a sublimely-good romantic journey of discovery.

And don’t let the simplicity of the sound fool you; there’s a lot of good things going on in “Tip Toe” as We Are: The Guard notes:

“Brimming with chimes from what sounds like a digital xylophone, ‘Tip Toe’ is a feast for the ears that is as playful as it is catchy. Besides the percussion, Cook’s vocals construct an atmosphere filled with dreaminess and surreal sense of calm that is the aural version of the chill pill. If death metal gets you amped, this would surely do the exact opposite. Like the other tracks in his library, it is difficult not to feel relaxed after listening to it. Ethereal might be the correct word to describe it.”

Ethereal it mostly definitely, the perfect track to usher into chilling, relaxing and brain-relaxing nothingness, something we all need to aspire to from time-to-time, the better to make the most of life’s most charged moments.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Mini-music review: “Ti Amo” by Phoenix

 

From the get-go, French band Phoenix’s new Italian-inspired album, Ti Amo, is adorably, beautifully, dreamily romantic.

It is damn near impossible not to listen to opening tracks “J-Boy” and “Ti Amo” and not swoon as the band, which has always had a way with rich, synth-drenched textures, and muscularity etherealness, drenches in all the feels with a sophistication and insouciance that seems almost effortless.

Powered by hook after earworm-latching hook, the songs of Ti Amo, and indeed pretty much everything Phoenix has ever released, are gloriously, impossibly giddily happy and content, suggesting all the best kinds of things at the best possible time of the year, as SPIN notes:

Ti Amo is a big, juicy starburst of romantic synth-pop and disco, redolent of Italian summers, flickering like random snippets of Fellini on an improvised beach-towel screen. It suggests nothing more sinister than a roller-skating date; the darkest thing about it is that, being recorded in a Parisian opera house turned tech incubator, it reminds us that everything old and beautiful is now fated to become a tech incubator. Mostly, it’s like seeing how many expensive European candies you can fit in your mouth at once, savoring bright layers of contrasting flavors: artisanal pralines and pastel pistachios, pink scoops of sorbet and yellow gelato. I’m not really being rhetorical—this is an album with songs named things like ‘Tuttifrutti’ and ‘Fior Di Latte.'”

Perhaps it’s growing up in Versailles, France, or perhaps it’s simply being French, a fabulously glamorous people known for their romantic disposition – it may be a cliche but as cliches go, it’s pretty good – but Phoenix are the kings of stylish, clever, artfully-constructed pop songs that radiate love, romance, the possibility of endless good things coming your way, and frankly, who doesn’t want more of that?

Read more about what led to the album’s creation, how it was launched and why Phoenix are so damn cool.

James Corden presents … Crosswalk the Musical: Mary Poppins

(image via IMP Awards (c) Disney)

 

No matter how you slice it, James Corden is a joy.

An actor, singer and host of The Late Late Show With James Corden, he is an imaginatively talented man who is responsible for the viral-happy Carpool Karaoke, very funny skits and interviews, and the subject of this post, Crosswalk Musicals, where he and a very nimble cast perform songs from much-loved musicals during the pedestrian walk intervals at intersections.

It’s an inspired idea, brilliantly executed, with some serious talent, gorgeous costuming and yes, split-second timing, essential if you’re to avoid being run over by impatient city motorists, some of whom don’t see the entertaining side of Corden’s time-sensitive artistic endeavours.

His latest effort, which involves just a little, or a lot, parodying of theatre life, is Mary Poppins, staged live in London to a mostly appreciative audience, save for the white van drivers and one impatient pedestrian who walks across the screen mid-performance.

It’s bright, fun and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly fabulous!

 

Now this is music #90: Jessica Hernandez, Coin, Grizzly Bear, VÉRITÉ, From Indian Lakes

 

Given music’s deserved ubiquity in our society, it’s all too easy to forget how profound an effect it can have on our lives.

For those of who love music, truly deeply, madly, completely love it, it is essential, not just a way of adding colour and flavour to our day-to-day lives, but a way of making sense of them too.

So it is that these five artists, all of whom bring unique sounds and insight to the table, enrich our lives with every listen, reminding that life should never be something that just happens; rather it should be vital, alive, well-examined and beautifully articulated and then set to music so we can live all our days surrounding by songs that remind us how richly wonderful it is to be alive.

 

“Run Too Far” by Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas

 

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas (image via official Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas Facebook page)

 

Hailing from Detroit, a city has experienced more than its share of misfortune over recent years and yet remains stoically vibrant and alive, Jessica Hernandez and the Delta know how to make soul/pop sizzle.

Not that beguiling, tub-thumping genre needs much help in that regard, but even so, there is a rich, muscular vitality to songs like “Run Too Far” that underscore how insanely talented this remarkable band is.

Drawn from their new album Telephone, which follows their 2014 debut album Secret Evil, the song fairly dances across and into your ears, gathering speed, momentum and giddy, pulsing intensity as it goes on.

It’s insanely, drop-dead catchy and is accompanied by a very cool video of which Jessica has this to say:

“The ‘Run Too Far’ video basically came about from a weekend trip with girlfriends. I met photographer Kate Hollowell at a cabin in Mexico through friends and we immediately hit it off and started talking about collaborating in some way. I loved her style of photography and she liked the band and so we started talking about how we could take her skills as a fashion photographer and my wacky style and music and make something we were both really proud of. We brought on our friend Hannah Peterson who filmed, Kate directed, and I styled the shoot. The whole video is basically three girlfriends fucking around in the desert and experimenting with things we’ve wanted to experiment with. We of course had the help of Daniel Yoon who edited the video and assisted the shoot, as well as Sydney Shafer and Penelope Gazin who provided their awesome dance moves.” (Paste Magazine)

It’s all intoxicatingly listenable, the kind of music that fairly throbs with passion, meaning and an urge to run … far, with an infectious soundtrack to speed you on your way.

 

 

“I Don’t Wanna Dance” by Coin

 

Coin (image via official Coin Facebook page)

 

Formed in Nashville in 2012, COIN (Chase Lawrence on lead vocals & synthesizers), Ryan Winnen on drums, Joe Memmel on lead guitar and backing vocals and Zachary Dyke on bass guitar) are an indie pop band that deliciously mix dark and light, melancholic and immensely catchy in one brilliantly good song.

Make than an entire album actually – How Will You Know If You Never Try is the follow up to their eponymous 2015 debut album – which is packed to the sonic rafters with songs that have something to say and music that more than ably helps them say it.

This talented for being creative and thoughtful in equal measure exists to the video for their song which came with a very specific idea as as Ryan told Papermag:

“We exist in a city (Nashville) filled with grungy rock music and country. In our latest video by director Daniel Henry, we focused on the juxtaposition of the New Nashville with that older, grungy/country Nashville. We wanted to shoot whimsical (and intentionally awkward) scenes in locations that showcase Nashville’s history, but also exemplify the rising tourism we see on a daily basis.”

It’s an example of the way this band always comes as a compelling whole, with their music and visuals serving up a band that is enticing to listen to, fun to watch and has a winning sense of its own artistic self.

 

 

“Mourning Sound” by Grizzly Bear

 

Grizzly Bear (image via official Grizzly Bear Facebook page)

 

Grizzly Bear, who have been making brilliant indie pop in Brooklyn, new York since 2002, are showing no signs of succumbing to the kind of creative ennui that catch deleteriously many long-running bands.

Continuing their use of traditional sounds and bewitching electronica, the veteran band have delivered a fine single in “Mourning Sound”, which We Are the Guard describe thus:

“‘Mourning Sound’ is a propulsive, synth-speckled groove driven by a throbbing, low-slung bassline, with frontman Ed Droste topping things off with arguably one of his most sweepingly melancholic, grand vocal performances to date.”

Yes to every part of that pithy, spot-on assessment with “Mourning Sound” rich with substance and meaning, a highly-melodic melancholy pulsing through every compelling note.

 

 

“When You’re Gone” by VÉRITÉ

 

VÉRITÉ (image via official VÉRITÉ Facebook page)

 

There is nothing finer than a song that reaches right into the very depths of your soul and shakes you so hard that you wonder how it is you existed before you know of its existence.

Brooklyn-based VÉRITÉ aka Kelsey Byrne has a knack for drawing together a multitude of influences and sounds, something that Hillydilly notes she uses to characteristically-attractive effect on “When You’re Gone”:

“Leaning more toward the rock-influenced sound she found on ‘Phase Me Out’, ‘When You’re Gone’ is a fluorescent, yearning example of VÉRITÉ’s evolving artistry. She’s no stranger to mixing styles, and she proves this (again) by being able to make the song upbeat and pared-down, electronic and pop-rock, and vocal and instrumental.”

Her music is richly, mesmerisingly thoughtful and intensely beautiful to listen to, an enticing mix of thought and sensation that can’t help but beguile you as it goes deep into your very being and refuses to leave.

And frankly, why the hell would you want it to?

 

 

“Sunlight” by From Indian Lakes

 

From Indian Lakes (image via official From Indian Lakes Facebook page)

 

Headed by California-native songwriter/producer/singer Joey Vannucchi, From Indian Lakes is a band that specialises in a gorgeously immersive blend of ethereal pop and rock, anchored by a voice that aches with a slew of wistfully-rich emotions.

This emotional resonance that fills each and every song with a beautifully accessible emotionality that elevates it from run-of-the-mill indie pop and grants it the ability to touch you deeply and profoundly where other music glances off you with nary a moment of impact.

It has a delightful mix of music that has seen the band tour with the Bad Suns and Balance & Composure, attracting increasing levels of attention and ardour, all the while reminding us that there is great value in simply stopping, listening and being.

“Sunlight” double down on that truth, a soul-restorative blend of blissful truths and sweet melodies, just what the flee-from-stress doctor ordered.

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
It may sound hard to believe but up until a few years ago, I wasn’t much of an Alicia keys fan. I loved many of her songs but never really gelled with her as an artist; but then a good friend who adores her took me to a concert and I fell in love with her artistry, soulful voice and strong sense of self.
All this has led to what I’m widely regarding as one of my favourite songs of 2017, her relatively new single “In Common” – OK it’s not new at all, having been released in May 2016 but it’s new to me and that will do as justification for the purpose of this post.

 

Now this is music #89: Knox Fortune, STRØM, Lxandra, Refs, Ruby Fields

 

One of the things I love about music is its complexity and relatability, the way it helps you to not just make sense of life but to add to it too, even if it all it does is lift you up for a moment.

At the end of a long week, the ability of music to transform a moment or a day is a godsend, a lifting of mood and spirit that can transform a dreary Friday, weighted with the stresses and worries of the week, from “just gotta get through it” to “maybe I can dance just a little.”

The best part of these five artists is that they combine some heady mood-lifting with lyrics that actually ponder life in a substantial way, giving you blissful escape and existential musing all at once, surely the best way to end any week.

 

“Help Myself” by Knox Fortune

 

Knox Fortune (image courtesy official Knox Fortune Facebook page)

 

There’s an exuberant musical diversity to “Help Myself” from singer and producer Knox Fortune, the voice on Chance the Rapper’s insanely-catchy and very popular uptempo song “Up All Night”.

It’s a reflection of the talent of this artist who, as Sterogum rightly observes, “moves from florid orchestral pop to hard, rhythmic old-school soul.”

You can understand why Knox is widely regarded as an up-and-coming artist to watch, someone who can move fluidly from sound to sound, genre to genre, and invest songs like “Help Myself” with a wistful emotional intensity.

He is most definitely one to watch, an artist who has shown with just one song that he is on the cutting edge, capable of blending beautiful music with thoughtful lyrics into eminently listenable and immersive tracks.

 

 

“Mesmerize” by STRØM

 

STRØM (image via official STRØM Soundcloud page)

 

In a sign that the deep well of musical talent in Sweden is nowhere near close to being tapped, 27 year old STRØM has emerged with a brilliant sound that blends etehreally-light vocals with some hard, dark electronica.

His approach finds full voice, quite literally, on “Mesmerize” which, as Hillydilly notes, is a pleasing bringing together of all sorts of sounds and influences:

“When first listening to this, you will hear electronic-pop tones with a definitively dark undertow, yet, it cannot be confined exclusively to that categorization. If isolated, the delicate falsetto and subtle guitar arrangements from STRØM would work just as well in the indie-folk genre, yet “Mesmerize” is given life through dark, pulsing synths that are punctuated by sharp, stabbing percussion to create a sound that is almost otherworldly.”

It very much reflects a Scandinavian musical aesthetic, an enticing mix of light and dark, sweet and bitter, that lends pop music from places like Sweden so much substance and weight, and makes STRØM such an exciting person to keep an eye on.

 

 

“Flicker” by Lxandra

 

Lxandra (image courtesy official Lxandra Facebook page)

 

Hailing from the small Finnish island of Suomenlinna, Lxandra is blissfully, fabulously one of a kind.

Possessing an earthy, rich, emotionally-resonant voice, her songs, though possessed of whimsically pop flourishes, are intensely thoughtful pieces, lyrical thoughtful and and pronounced, coupled with music that is both jaunty and suitably dramatic too.

Marrying all these elements is not something that many people would attempt but Lxandra manages it with aplomb creating something singularly different and utterly compelling in the process.

If you’re looking for a departure from the musical everyday, then Lxandra is most definitely the artist you have been looking for and should keep listening to over and over.

 

 

“Forever” by Refs

 

Refs (image courtesy official Refs Facebook page)

 

It’s been a reasonable break between musical drinks for Refs aka Broolyn singer/songwriter/producer Zachary Lipkins but after making a big splash a couple of years back with debut single “Pain Goes Away, but he’s back with a deeply soulful uptempo number “Forever”.

This is a joyous gem of a pop track, surging forward with a heady, carefree momentum that will quickly wrap you up in its upbeat soul exuberance and belie its lyrical sober context .

Featured on the final season of HBO’s Girls, “Forever” is the product of refs trying to challenge the way he makes pop music.

“I think it was Tears for Fears where I was first like, wow, this is incredible music, but it’s also pop. That was sort of the bridge to pop music. Then I became invested in, okay, how could I take all these textures and environments that I’m familiar with and that are important to me and that I love and make it available for everybody to appreciate? I wanted to make stuff that I was really proud of, from where I was coming from.” (source: The Line of Best Fit)

He can definitely be proud of a song like “Forever” which is about as close to perfect as pop music can get.

 

 

“I Want” by Ruby Fields

 

Ruby Fields (image courtesy official Ruby Fields Facebook page)

 

Life is an altogether complicated, often agnst-ridden beast and you have to suspect that new Aussie artist Ruby Fields has tipped every last existentially-worn bit of it into her giddily upbeat punkish “I Want”.

It’s a driving piece of guitar-driven uptempo music that never stops for a moment but yet contains all kinds of introspective lyrical moments that give the song a thoughtful centre to all its bright, brash musicality.

“I Want” is an aspirational piece of rock – “I want to be more than my parents’ opinion and my ATAR” – an ode to life’s possibilities from an artist who’s clearly not going to settle for the same old same old.

It’s brilliantly good music that captures you instantly and may lead you to make all kinds of life affirming decisions; as life declarations go, you couldn’t hope for a better soundtrack.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

With the Eurovision Song Contest done and dusted for another year, one thing many people can agree on is that the winning song “Amar Pelos Dios” by Salvador Sobral from Portugal was a worthy, inexpressibly beautiful and poignant winner.

As you might expect, the covers have already begun to flow with one of the standouts being this lovely rendition by Alexander Rybak who won the contest for Norway in 2009 with the impishly joyful song “Fairytale”.

Enjoy and waft away on a raft of delightful loveliness and whimsy …