Now this is music #83: Golden Coast, Darling James, Julie Bergan, MUNA, Maribelle


Life is not easy on us.

There are twists and turns all over the shop and coping with it all, whether it’s resolving what troubles us, or finding some temporary sanctuary in the midst of the hurt and madness, can be a real challenge.

None of the five artists featured today claim to be wise sages and have the answers to all the problems of being alive – who on earth would be that arrogant or just plain silly? – but they look at life square in the idea and talk about how handle they handle the difficult, the confounding and the downright hurtful.

It’s great music and it says something deeply important and you’ll be glad in a lot of ways that you took the time to listen.


“Comeback Kid” by Golden Coast


Golden Coast (image via official Golden Coast Facebook page)


There is a light and breezy, nay bouncy quality to Golden Coast’s music, reflecting their California locale and you can assume a fairly upbeat view of the world.

Lest you think I’m trading in Californian tropes, take a listen to “Comeback Kid” which is joyously celebratory, announcing to the world that I’m the comeback kid, you can’t shut me down.”

The song talks about being pushed down and having people take shots at you but rising back from those attacks, come what may.

It’s hard to sing along to this song and find yourself becoming enormously inspired and buoyed by its lyrical intent and its musical verve, both of which richly combine to deplete lower motivational reserves. Once you’re finished with this gloriously good song, your first response will be “Life, let me at it!”



“God’s Graffiti” by Darling James


Darling James (image via official Darling James Facebook page)


Melbourne, Australia-based Darling James aka James O’Brien is a man with a gift for clever, emotionally-intuitive pop that goes far beyond the usual run of the mill songs out there.

But don’t just take my word for it. Superlative Aussie artist, Kate Miller-Heidke, herself no stranger to music that leaps out of boxes with delightful rapidity, had this to say about Darling James’ songs:

“… his songs are consistently surprising, playful and boundary-pushing, but still with an accessible emotional core.” (source: Tone Deaf)

He is a remarkable artist, conjuring up all kinds of musical magic in his studio, and giving us songs as different as “God’s Graffitti” that in its magnificently upbeat way ponders some pretty big questions about life.

It’s all done in a 3 1/2 minute so elegantly and beautiful that you realise you have come across someone very special indeed, able to knit philosophising and innately listenable music into one very appealing, soul-nourishing package.



“Blackout” by Julie Bergan


Julie Bergan (image via official Julie Bergan Face book page / Photo: Stephen Butkus)


Life can take its toll; that’ll surprise no one, with all of, at one time or another, being the recipient of the shittier end of life’s stick.

There are many ways to handle it, and while going all out blotto may not be the most responsible way to go, sometimes losing yourself to oblivion is the only way to pursue the lingering stinking odour of reality gone wrong.

Norwegian electronic pop artist, Julie Bergan gets that a “Blackout” makes sense sometimes, and talks about in a song that is all edgy, hugely-compelling pop, with every punchy synth moment feeling like an emotional lurch one way or another.

It’s gripping, incisive stuff, all sealed up in a song dripping with avant garde pop seamlessly melded with a Top 40 sensibility and infused with a raw emotionality that elevates this song to something truly special.



“I Know a Place” by MUNA


MUNA (image via official MUNA Facebook page)


Immensely catchy though they may be, there are some pop songs whose reason for being transcends simply making a road trip a little more enjoyable or a long commute a little brighter.

“I Know a Place” by MUNA, an American three-piece band made up of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson, all of whom identify as queer, is just such a song, birthed out of some very important circumstances as Project U TV notes:

“… the song began as an attempt at a new pride anthem after the US Supreme Court allowed marriage equality in mid 2015. But as realisations that whilst that particular battle had been won – LGBTI people were still dying (particularly trans women) – and that rates of suicide, homelessness and violence were still going to remain higher amongst those that don’t necessarily fit in, the focus shifted to making a song about a space where no one needed to feel afraid. That place is a dance club.

“After the Orlando massacre this became even more of a poignant space to discuss – and its done with taste & celebration whilst still acknowledging that every step forward we take, we’ve still got a long way to go.”

The breezily upbeat electronic pop belies a message that centres around the need for all of us to feel safe to be ourselves, with the need for those wielding the weapons of unacceptance and hurt to “lay down their weapons”.

For every step forward in LGBTQI rights, there are sadly several back and it’s compelling songs like “I Know a Place” that remind everyone of sound heart and purpose that we must never stop fighting for the right of the beautiful rainbow of humanity to be celebrated and honoured, no matter who or where they are.



“Shout” by Maribelle


Maribelle (image via official Maribelle Facebook page)


Life is a technicolour wonderland for 21 year old Melbourne, Australia Maribelle, who comes roaring to captivating musical life with “Shout”.

Complete with an insanely vivid video clip that pops off the screen, the song, which encourages anyone who will listen, and you should, you really should, that there is a deeply-releasing balm to letting it all hang out, to purge the soul with healing confession.

And frankly with music as catchy as this, which combines a decidedly upbeat danceable beat with a ’90s visual aesthetic, it’ll be hard not to want to talk your head off as you send your feet into glorious dancefloor oblivion.

It’s a dance pop spectacular that the clip’s producer, Jeremy Koren aka Grey Ghost wonderfully describes as an early-90s-astral-hyper-colour out of body experience”, and it is truly a stellar piece of fun, damn near therapeutic pop.





Let’s face it – The Eurovision Song Contest, peaceful though it is in its mission, isn’t always surrounded by calm and untroubled waters.

Latest case in point is news that almost the entire production for this year’s event in Eurovision has quit just three months ahead of the glitter hitting the fan. Will it stay in Ukraine? Go to Germany (which is usually the emergency back-up)? Or will it all work out in the end? Stay tuned, and while you’re waiting, read more here.


(image courtesy

Now this is music #82: The xx, Contessa, SOFI TUKKER, Matoma & Becky Hill, Half Waif


Life is a complicating thing.

Depending on events or circumstances, we are either happily content, in pain, in love, unsure of what’s next or a mixture of all or none.

Regardless of where life might have deposited you and what you’re dealing with, these five artists are proof that great insight, emotional truth and artistry can result from whatever life throws at you, and make music that is compelling as it is deeply truthful.


“Say Something Loving” by The xx


The xx (image via the official The xx Facebook page)


Drawn from the first album from English band The xx in 5 years, I See You which released 13 January, “Say Something Loving” is a gem of a track, all warm vocals (courtesy Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft), dreamy upbeat melody and meaningfully heartfelt lyrics.

It’s a departure of sorts for the group who decided to experiment with their sound and see what resulted. It’s wasn’t always a smooth process as third member Jamie ‘xx’ Smith noted:

“We were definitely in the mind-set that we would just try everything, and we did,” Jamie xx told [The New York Times] of I See You. “And we made some terrible music in the process. I’ve got a hard drive full of stuff that’s never going to get heard. A lot of it was learning to realize that the first thing that you’ve done is by far the best, but having to take every possible route before you get back to that.”

Circuitous the route may have been, something that anyone with even the merest hint of creativity ability will attest is always part of the process, but it’s resulted in a delightful song that celebrates the joy of unfettered romantic connection and giddy happiness that results with the results of the simplest and yet most profound of utterances.



“Running” by Contessa


Contessa (image via official Contessa Facebook page)


Stepping back into the musical limelight after a brief hiatus, Polina (Goudieva) has re-invented herself as Contessa, an artist who through her extraordinary outfits and sensibility for epic songwriting cannot, and should be ignored.

“Running”, which it has been rightly observed by the likes of NME, bears some homage to Kate Bush – as well as Florence and the Machines more majestic balladry – underlines how much visual and musical flair Contessa is capable of generating.

It’s a beautiful, movie soundtrack grandiose song that is the result of a lifetime of thinking, pondering and feeling.

“This album is a true testament to my life’s journey. It’s a musical and artistic expression threaded from songs, ideas and visions I’ve been collecting and creating for a long time.”

If only all of us had lives so much larger-than-life and full of real, deeply-affecting insight; thank goodness Contessa does since we’re all the richer for it.



“Matadora” by SOFI TUKKER


SOFI TUKKER (image via official SOFI TUKKER Facebook page)


My lord but I love artists who carry me an impossible to not dance to sound, folk elements and a good bit of quirk together in one beguiling package.

Drawing from Brazil (specifically a poem by the Brazilian poet Chaca), New York-based SOFI TUKKER (Tucker Halpern and Sophie Hawley-Weld) are a fold-dance duo who delight into mixing a slew of interesting inspirations and see what results.

In this instance, it’s “Matadora”, which was released a year ago – yes I am little behind but it was worth the wait – was the second single of their debut EP Soft Animals.

And as they told The Fader, the genesis for the song, which the music site observes “features a backbone drumbeat that hits like a heard of hooves and the melodramatic wail of an Andean string instrument called the charangocame”, from a very interesting source:

“While we were making it, we envisioned a female matador in an ornate red and gold costume teasing a dangerous bull. We love performing this song because we get to jump around and hit things.”

It’s utterly unique, innately danceable music that is addictively compelling in a press repeat till your fingers bleed kind of way.



“False Alarm” by Matoma & Becky Hill


Matoma & Becky Hill (image via MTV)


As anyone who has ever fruitlessly searched for love, and been beaten down time and again for the effort, will attest, finding real love is no walk in the park.

And when it does finally come around, it’s easy to be suspicious that you’ve found the relationship of your dreams, as “False Alarm” from Norwegian DJ/Producer Matoma (Tom Stræte Lagergren) and English singer Becky Hill, attests with a celebratory joy that is damn near contagious.

it captures perfectly, through a loping, bright synth beat, the giddy happiness of that realisation that you’ve found the real thing and that it’s every bit as wonderful and delightful as you hoped it might be.

New lovers, and frankly anyone still deeply in love with their “The One”, this song is for you.



“Frost Burn” by Half Waif


Half Waif (image via official Half Waif Facebook page / photo (c) Brandon Speers)


There is a glorious, cathederal organ-esque distortion to “Frost Burn” which is quickly added to by Half Waif’s (Nandi Rose Plunket) tremulously light but emotive vocals and a soaring waifish melody that is never less than immensely beautiful and arresting.

Borne out of a writing retreat in rural western Massachusetts, the song reflects twin influences – that of being the daughter of a refugee and the child of divorce, events that left their mark and which continue and inform her artistry, as NPR notes:

“The shimmering, moody slice of indie pop reckons with the idea that our geography cannot change our history; we carry our demons with us wherever we go. Despite Plunkett’s retreat from her home in Brooklyn to a more bucolic space, she says, painful memories and self-doubt accompanied her as she wrote. This knowledge is reflected throughout “Frost Burn”: ‘And on my island,’ Plunkett sings in the song’s refrain, ‘I cannot keep out all the violence.'”

It is an immensely heartfelt song that resonates with the truth and authenticity of life, set to music that NPR calls “meditative” and “hypnotic” and a balm for anyone who has ever wondered whether life can do anything good with pain.

“Frost Burn”, real and true to the core, is proof that it can.





It’s been a while between musical drinks but the good news is that Nelly Furtado, who shot to fame in 2000 with songs like “I’m Like a Bird” and “Turn Off the Light” is about to release a new album, The Ride, which comes complete with its introductory trailer (see below) and a catchy first single “Cold Hard Truth”.

The Ride releases 31 March.



Celebrate diversity: Eurovision gets ready for this year’s epic event

(image courtesy


The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956 as a means of cementing new bonds of European togetherness, forged in the ashes of World War Two, using music and song to draw people together in peaceful intent.

While you could argue that things haven’t always been peaceful in ensuing years, the reality is that has provided an important focal point, one drenched in flamboyant spectacle, glitter and unexpected key changes, for the people of Europe to celebrate their diversity and their common ideals.

So it’s entirely fitting that The Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – Ukraine is hosting this year’s event which it will host in the capital Kyiv – have taken diversity as its theme.

It’s even more poignant a theme when you appreciate, and honestly at the moment you can hardly miss it, the state of the world right now with diversity taking a pounding from the likes of ISIS, President Trump’s fascist leanings, and Brexit to name just three.

If ever we needed to be reminded this is more that unites us than divides us, and that we should be looking for points of common understanding rather than sealing ourselves off in mutually-antagonistic ivory towers, it’s now and Eurovision has once more come to the party.

As Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, Jon Ola Sand said: “The notion of celebrating diversity builds on last year’s theme of Come Together and is at the heart of Eurovision values: it is all-inclusive and all about countries around Europe, and beyond, joining together to celebrate both our common ground and our unique differences, as well as some great music”. (source:

Even the beautiful logo includes this much-needed and welcome theme of inclusion:

Celebrate Diversity is the central message for this year’s event and is complimented by a creative logo design based around a traditional Ukrainian bead necklace known as Namysto. More than just a piece of jewellery, Namysto is a protective amulet and a symbol of beauty and health. It is made up of many different beads, each with its own design and celebrates both diversity and individuality.

The logo will appear everywhere during Eurovision 2017, reminding everyone that fun, loud and colourful though the contest is, that it serves a serious purpose too, one that is being celebrated in a year where that very ideal is more under threat than ever before.



Another major step forward is the allocation of the semi final draw.

This determines which of the 37 participating countries – there are actually 43 but the Big Six as they’re known which includes UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and last year’s winner which in this case is Ukraine go straight through to the Grand Final on Saturday 13 May – end up in which semi final, which will be held on Tuesday 9 May and Thursday 11 May.

The draw took place on 31 January in Kyiv live from the Column Hall of Kyiv’s City State Administration where the 37 countries were allocated their berth – see below in images courtesy of awesome Eurovision site Wiwibloggs – and which Big Six countries would vote in which semi final.

And the results, delivered by a drum roll and a stray Russian grandmother are:


(image courtesy Wiwibloggs)


(image courtesy Wiwibloggs)


And far as we who in the Big Six votes when …

United Kingdom


To get the full lowdown on the minutiae of the voting and how Eurovision attempts combat bloc voting, once a scourge of the contest, go to Wiwibloggs.



And finally what is the point of everyone turning up to sing – who exactly that will be is being determined by a slew of national singing competitions at the moment with the best known, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, kicking off this weekend – if there’s not a stage to sing upon?

Behold Kyiv’s beautiful stage, which is circular celebrating diversity and reflects the fact that Ukraine will be the centre of attention come May.

Let the singing begin!


(image courtesy


For all the updates your glitter-loving heart could possibly want, go to and Wiwibloggs.


Beyond La La Land: the top ten toe-tapping film musicals (curated article)

(image courtesy Summit Entertainment)


In the Great Depression, movies were an escape from life, and musicals gave audiences hope that things would get better. The recent release of La La Land – a contemporary twist on a classic formula – has reignited interest in the musical genre. At the Golden Globes this week, the film won Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director (Damien Chazelle), Best Original Score, Best Screenplay, Best Original Song (City of Stars), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling) and Best Actress (Emma Stone).

I enjoyed the escapism of La La Land, and appreciated the bravery of both director and cast as they stepped into a challenging field. But there are other musicals that qualify as greats.

As a musical tragic, here is my list of the ten most memorable musicals. It’s not conclusive. It excludes silent films like The Jazz Singer (1927); the first official Hollywood musical The Broadway Melody (1929); ground-breaking films like Grease (1978) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971); cult musicals like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia! (2008). Credit should also be given to shows that reference classic music theatre, for example, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a made-for-television musical comedy-drama series.

However, the following musicals continue to influence today’s world of music theatre. Each has a unique quality that lends to its iconic status.

42nd Street (1933)



The plot of 42nd Street, based on the creation of a musical show during the Depression, launched the career of Ruby Keeler, a name synonymous with early musicals. The film showcases the visual imagery of choreographer Busby Berkeley, whose method is still unrivalled today. Berkeley was famous for his filming from above. It meant that his choreography was not only visually stunning for a seated audience, but when viewed from above, each step helped illustrate an image. For instance, a series of dancing girls might spin in a circle in flowing gowns. A dancer in the centre would spin in the other direction and the viewer would see a beautiful, spinning flower.

Top Hat (1935)



Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the leading dancing duo of the 1930s, starring in 10 films. Their pairing happened by accident, when they were brought together for the first time on the set of Flying Down To Rio (1933), as support characters. The production team was stunned by the chemistry between the pair – as the saying goes, Ginger could do everything that Fred did, but backwards and in heels. This was the first film written specifically for them as leading characters, and as The Oxford History of World Cinema puts it, in a Fred & Ginger musical, “boy meets girl; boy dances with girl; boy gets girl”. In the film’s classic song and dance scene, Cheek to Cheek, Rogers wore a dress swathed in feathers, which kept floating off during filming. If you look very closely, you can see one errant feather that fell on the set and was missed in the post-production editing.

An American in Paris (1951)



This Oscar-winning film brought together dancers Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly. The tale of an American painter living in Paris who falls in love is fairly straightforward. But the dance sequences are sumptuous. One of them, An American in Paris ballet, is a 17-minute extravaganza choreographed by Kelly. It features costumes inspired by a smattering of French painters (including Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec) and a beautiful George Gershwin score.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)



With the recent passing of Debbie Reynolds, this film has a new poignancy. Reynolds was just 20 when she made it, starring alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. One of the most successful musicals ever filmed, it is filled with memorable songs, lavish dance routines and of course, that scene-stealing title song. This film is a light-hearted look at Hollywood, at the time when silent films gave way to “talkies”. Amongst surveys of the greatest American films, Singin’ in the Rain inevitably ranks in the top ten. Several stage revivals have appeared in recent years. And everyone I know is able to sing (or hum) along to Good Morning.

Oklahoma (1955)



This first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, based on Lynn Riggs’ play Green Grow the Lilacs (1931), explores the love story between a cowboy (Gordon MacRae) and a farm girl (Shirley Jones). It develops the idea of the “book musical” – a musical play where the songs and dances are an integral part of the narrative, emerging from the story to evoke profound emotional responses.

There is a darker side to this story, with the secondary character Jud, a farmhand, in love with the leading lady. Some classic numbers from this production include “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and the title song.

My Fair Lady (1964)



This Lerner & Loewe adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion is a tale of transformation. A cockney flower girl wants to “better” herself, so she can work in a flower shop. An arrogant phonetics professor wagers that he can teach her to speak “proper” English, and training ensues. Audrey Hepburn charmed as the wayward Eliza – although her singing was dubbed by another. Her partner in musical crime was Rex Harrison, who, strangely enough, doesn’t sing, but is completely convincing as Higgins. Eliza’s father was entertainer Stanley Holloway, who delighted audiences with the classic “I’m Getting Married in The Morning”, sung in a pub, his favourite place on earth. The film ends with hope, unlike the play that inspired it, and won eight Academy Awards.

The Sound of Music (1965)



Adapted from the Broadway musical of 1959, this Oscar-winning film introduced audiences to Julie Andrews. As Maria (Andrews) and the Von Trapp children sang and danced their way across the Austrian Alps, songs such as Do-Re-Mi and My Favourite Things became classics. Though not a dance musical, per se, it is still one of the most commercially successful films of all time, and has continued to enjoy revivals throughout the world.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)



This rock opera began as a concept album, before launching on Broadway in 1971. There is no spoken dialogue, hence the term “opera”. It is a loose depiction of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, with added struggles between the key protagonists. This musical was the launching pad for singers, such as the late Jon English, Marcia Hines, and more recently, in the West End, Tim Minchin. Again known for its singing rather than the dancing, the title song, and Mary Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, were softer moments in an intense score. The film of the show was released in 1973 and is a leading work in the rock opera genre.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)



Lloyd-Webber’s composition is based on Leroux’s novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The plot focuses on a soprano ingénue who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius. This musical is surprisingly popular, because its main hero is an anti-hero. He is unbalanced, unattractive and his only saving grace is a God-given talent for composing. Which, I must say, holds him in very good stead. If the Phantom is well cast, one sympathizes with this sad creature. The opening sequence with the chandelier suspended above the stage reduces my sister to tears each time, and is truly a spectacle to behold. And who can resist an overacting opera singer with a dodgy Italian accent and musical spectacles such as the amazing choreography of “Masquerade”, or the simplicity of Christine’s singing to her father’s grave, in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”? The 2004 film featured Gerard Butler in his first singing role, which, as an accomplished actor, he performed very creditably, alongside Emmy Rossum as Christine. The standout however, as the obnoxious opera singer, was Minnie Driver, who put in a sterling performance, evoking much laughter.

Les Misérables (2012)



Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, this Tony Award winner is another sung-through musical, having run continuously in the West End since 1985. This story of love, freedom and morality, set within the tragedy of the French revolution, evokes great emotion and composers Schönberg and Boublil manage to sustain the intensity throughout. The 2012 film was a vision of cinematic brilliance, with Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as Valjean and Javert respectively. Jackman has sung with great artistry in other productions, but I felt that in making himself physically portray the struggles and weakness of Valjean, his vocal performance suffered. However, Crowe’s portrayal of Javert showed his moral compass swaying, and he sang with technical proficiency and artistic expression. There are so many pieces of note within this score, but “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, as the revolutionaries face their death, is perhaps for me, the most touching moment. This is a classic piece of music theatre history. It will bring you emotionally to your knees.

If I had to choose one of these as my favourite, I’d be hard pressed. However, Oklahoma stands out as a performance full of love and laughter, where something good can come out of something bad. I like hope in my musicals – as Rosie O’Donnell said to Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle: “You don’t want to be in love – you want to be in love in a movie”. Well, I want to be in love in a musical.

The Conversation

Nicole Thomson, Associate Lecturer – Theatre, CQUniversity Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Now this is music #81: Maggie Rogers, Ama Lou, Grandtheft/Delaney Jane, Tanukichan, Tom Misch



Life can feel like SO MUCH sometimes.

It’s hard to catch your breath, to stop and think and take a good look around and think about what’s happening to you, what it all means and where it might take you.

That’s why we have artists like the beguiling five featured in this post.

They do the stopping for us, helping usher us to a place where life can be look at from above and below, where all the things we miss in our pell-mell existence are visible and appreciated.

It’s music for the soul as much as the ears and you should take the time to listen and let it reach right down into you.


“Alaska” by Maggie Rogers


Maggie Rogers (image courtesy official Maggie Rogers Facebook page / Photo by Katia Temkin
Edit by Nick Das)


Describing herself rather playfully as ” a banjo player from the Eastern Shore of Maryland”, Maggie Rogers is also a hiker, an environmentalist, and apparently a loud optimist.

She is also one of the most consummately enthralling new music talents to emerge in the last year with songs like “Alaska”, and latest single “On + Off” confirming her as that rare person who can move seamlessly between genres and still have every song like it belongs to a cohesive, gloriously listenable whole.

“Alaska” kicks off with a light, bouncy beats that sound like sonic raindrops dancing on and off the ground, ushering in a song that makes good sense of deliciously stripped-back melodies, and light, heartfelt vocals that sing about “walking off you” and then “I walked off an old me.”

It’s a song that speaks of things finishing but ironically, in a very good way, it has been the start of her career, one given a viral boost by one Pharrell Williams.

You can see why he was enraptured – “Alaska” is a dreamy, emotionally-rich soundscape that you will want to visit again and again.


“TBC” by Ama Lou
Ama Lou (Image courtesy official Ama Lou Facebook page)


There is an atmospheric ethereal quality to both the music and the evocative vocals in Ama Lou’s “TBC” which sustains through its beguiling almost four minute run.

But don’t mistake an enticing laid-back vibe for lack of lyrical muscularity.

In an article on Nylon, Lou describes the song as “as a take on ‘current events and historical issues experienced by the minorities of the world.'”

She goes on to say:

‘”I write both from primary and observatory points of view. The verses portray a sense of group and togetherness, standing together and fighting against archaic societal rules opposed by modern feminism and the millennial generation. The pre-chorus references the infamous last words ‘I can’t breathe,’ uttered by Eric Garner, the Staten Island New Yorker choked to death by police in July 2014.'”

It’s a powerful message that sits comfortably in its melodically minimalist musical home.



“Easy Go” by Grandtheft and Delaney Jane


Grandtheft and Delaney Jane (image via official Facebook pages for both artists)


Fellow music artists from Toronto, Canada, DJ/Producer Grandtheft and “singer/songwriter/wild child” Delaney Jane spent a year crafting ” Easy Go”, a funkily danceable song that speaks of the way life goes from one reality to another in an instant.

In this case, it’s the seismic shift from single life with its freewheeling whatever mindset to a life intertwined with a lover, where you forsake the “easy come, easy go” imperative that drove your life for something altogether more committed and stable.

It’s always a euphoric transition and “Easy Go” celebrates it beautifully, talking raptly about the joy of taking it slow with someone you’re growing to love.

The music is warm, rich, and deliciously beat-catchy, capturing that loping sense of life changing by degrees on a minute-by-minute and the joy that brings.



“Enough” by Tanukichan


Tanukichan (image courtesy official Tanukichan Facebook page / photo by Anya Kamenskaya)


There’s a compelling discordant dreaminess to Tanukichan’s “Enough” which wafts dreamily and haphazardly along its utterly beguiling path.

Tanukichan aka Oakland, California-based singer/songwriter Hannah van Loon sings, has this to say about the reason she creates her hypnotically-arresting music:

““mostly I want to convey an emotion or a state of mind, and not necessarily a specific story.” (source: Company Record Love)

In this instance, her wonderfully-expressive voice laments how taking everything you can is not always enough, no matter how much you feel like it might push you onto where you want to go.

It’s rich, insightful pop augmented by vocals that convey a deep sense of being weary and hopeful all at once and reverb guitars, all of which grant the song a sense of being removed but still very much in your face.



“Dance With Me” by Tom Misch


Tom Misch (image courtesy official Tom Misch Facebook page)


There is an appealing melancholic longing to the opening bars of London-based singer/songwriter/DJ/producer Tom Misch‘s “Watch Me Dance” that does weigh you down for a second; rather it loosens your bonds and let your spirit begin to float free.

It’s that kind of music; stripped back folk pop that grooves along at little more than a lo-fi beat but which captures you immediately, a pleasing vice-like grip that doesn’t let go till the end, helped along by Misch’s graceful, emotive vocals.

A prolific musician who made a name for himself releasing a song a week on the internet, he is an assuming guy for whom the music is king and everything that follows is simply icing on the cake.

You can see the value of that music-centric approach on “Watch Me Dance” which is intricately-woven together in a way that marks as the work of someone who loves every part of the creation of new music.

It’s easy to listen to sure but there’s so much more going on with Tom Misch and you owe it to yourself to listen along and see where it all takes him, and you.





In exciting news for fans of the Space Cowboy, Jamiroquai, it’s been announced that not only will a new album, Automaton, be forthcoming sometime in 2017, the first since Rock Dust Light Star in 2010, but that the band, headed by lead singer Jay Kay, would be embarking on a tour of Asia and Europe.

The announcement made on Jamiroquai’s Facebook page via this characteristically quirky teaser video.




Play it again, Sam! My favourite songs of 2016



I cannot imagine a life without music.

It is quite literally the soundtrack to my day, adding lustre to the banality of commuting, providing melodic breaks to otherwise frantic work days and making parties, dinners and just time alone that much richer with atmosphere-enhancing tunes.

And unlike many people my age who long ago gave up on listening to new music – not judging at all; that’s simply how it is – I love coming across new artists with great exciting genre-pushing which manifests in obsessive following of music blogs and the acquisition of CDs (yes I still buy select ones!) and downloaded songs.

Needless to say that the average year includes lots and lots of news songs but there are a number in particular, 16 to be exact, that have cut through some very pleasurable clutter and risen to the top of the iPod heap.


“Tearing Me Up” by Bob Moses


Bob Moses (Photo by Tim Saccenti via official Bob Moses Facebook page)
Bob Moses (Photo by Tim Saccenti via official Bob Moses Facebook page)


I discovered New Yorkers Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance known collectively as Bob Moses on The Ellen Show and their song “Tearing Me Up” immediately grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. A slow-pulsing, growling affair of a song, it’s full of unrequited loss and messy intentions and sounds like it.

You can read my full review of “Tearing Me Up” at Now This is Music #63.



“Feel My Love” by Phebe Starr


Phebe Starr (image via official Phebe Starr page)
Phebe Starr (image via official Phebe Starr page)


Sydneysider Phebe Starr writes powerful, well-nigh anthemic pop that cuts through to your soul. It’s deeply melodic, emotionally-resonant and deeply, intensely listenable. “Feel Your Love” is a perfect exemplar of her style and add some punch to some quite inert weekdays.

You can listen to my full review of “Feel My Love” at Now This is Music #64.



“Help Me Run Away” by St Lucia


St. Lucia (image via official St. Lucia Facebook page)
St. Lucia (image via official St. Lucia Facebook page)


I love ’80s-inspired music – I am a child of my time – especially when the artist has taken it, reformed as they see fit, thrown in some driving beats and used their powerful voice to push all the emotions in the world through its brief 3 minute timeframe. St Lucia, originally from South Africa, is a talented man who has done all that and more in the infinitely listenable “Help Me Run Away”.

You can read my full review of “Help Me Run Away” at Now This is Music #64.



“Appeals” by Bayonne


Bayonne (image via official Bayonne Facebook page)
Bayonne (image via official Bayonne Facebook page)


Oh my lord but I loved this song from the moment I heard it and to my unending frustration it took months for it to reach iTunes Australia. But I was happy to wait because I am firmly against downloading songs illegally, not for some holier-than-thou reason but simply because I value the music that artists like Texas native, Bayonne and I want them to keep making it. It was well worth the wait with the hypnotically-beautiful tune transporting me to dreamy, mystical landscapes far from the everyday every single damn time.

You can read my full review of “Appeals” at Now This is Music #63.



“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake


Justin Timberlake (image via official Justin Timberlake page courtesy Dreamworks)
Justin Timberlake (image via official Justin Timberlake page courtesy Dreamworks)


This is a brilliantly, danceably infectious song, much like “Happy” by Pharrell Williams that lifts your spirits, sets your feet to moving in gleefully joyous directions and makes your day undeniably better. It’s been the song to lift me up after the many times I got pushed down this year and I don’t care what the music snobs say – this is crazy good stuff.



“Yeah Yeah Yeah” by Jax Jones


Jax Jones (image via official Jax Jones Facebook page)
Jax Jones (image via official Jax Jones Facebook page)


This song was actually released way back in June 2015 but I only came across it this year during one of those down the music rabbit holes that YouTube is so good at engineering. Driven by dance beats and some absolutely powerhouse vocals, this was an instant favourite that has stayed near the top of the pile since I first heard it a few months back. And the clip is a ton of fun, very much in keeping with this amazingly catchy song.



“Fading” (mix by Duncan Murray) by Two People


Duncan Murray (photo by official Duncan Murray Facebook page)
Duncan Murray (photo by official Duncan Murray Facebook page)


Did I like this song? Yes I did …

“You might think that a song like “Fading” is going to be all ambient lightness and fey sensibilities but Two People, which consists of Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough, fuses a percussive intensity with an insistent late night vibe that grabs your attention from the word go.

“Chilled though the melody may be but with guitar loops and a consistently rising intensity, this is one song that refuses to go quietly into the good summer night, either musically or lyrically.”

You can read my full review of “Fading” at Now This is Music #73.



“Capture” by Lilt


Lilt (image via official Lilt Facebook page)
Lilt (image via official Lilt Facebook page)


Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, Louise Penman (who provides the soulful, deeply-emotive vocals), Matt Mclean and Brendan Walsh, have delivered up a hauntingly evocative song in “Capture”. Reminding me of Chairlift at times, there’s a edge to their prettiness, a dark and sombre undertone to the song which is quite beguiling. All of which makes the song the kind of emotionally-immersive tracks that I love to get lost in and stay in for a good long while.



“Boy” by BoyBoy


BoyBoy (image via official BoyBoy Facebook page)
BoyBoy (image via official BoyBoy Facebook page)


My lord this song is SMOOOOOOTH. All slinky, sensuous electro-pop, it’s a hymn to accepting yourself, to let yourself be with yourself and not letting anxiety about anything else affect you. In other words what my therapist calls being “in the moment”. It’s a compulsively chilled piece of music that gets under your skin and trust me you’ll be happy to let his track by the Indianopolis-Indiana-baed BoyBoy stay right there for the duration.



“Tilted” by Christine and the Queens


Christine and the Queens (image via official Christine and the Queens Facebook page)
Christine and the Queens (image via official Christine and the Queens Facebook page)


Hearing “Tilted” for the first time, which is as much a serious of intricate, highly-emotive dance moves as it is a captivating song, was a revelation. I came across it by chance on The Graham Norton Show one night and sat transfixed by the smooth, easy-flowing tune that talks about not being quite in step with the mainstream, with the usual way of doing things. I remain transfixed and happily so by this delightfully idiosyncratic French artist.

Read my full review of “Tilted”.



“Hell No” by Ingrid Michaelson


Ingrid Michaelson (image via official Ingrid Michaelson Facebook page)
Ingrid Michaelson (image via official Ingrid Michaelson Facebook page)


If you have to break up with someone, and for your sake I hope that never happens, then at least you have the most kickass song since Icona Pop’s “I Love It” to do it with! This song bites and snarls, full of defiant energy that defies the idea that the end of a relationship is the end of everything, and furthermore, that you should go slinking back at the first sign of things looking better. Nope that’s it and Ingrid Michaelson will not be revisiting that piece of heartache thank you very much. Another point of recommendation is the awesome sign language clip that Michaelson created with the Deaf West Theatre Company.



“Burn the Witch” by Radiohead


Dear Air Space by Radiohead (image via official Radiohead Facebook page)
Dear Air Space by Radiohead (image via official Radiohead Facebook page)


I am sure there will be a collective gasp from the musicerati heard around the world but I have never really been a massive Radiohead fan. I like a song here or there but they never really grabbed my attention until “Burn the Witch” which Pitchfork rightly says possesses a “deep sense of dread and skepticism manifests into the kind of music that is capable of spurring what Yorke would call a ‘low-flying panic attack.'” It’s expansively atmospheric, chill-inducing stuff, a masterpiece of haunting worry and concern that grips you to the core.



“10 Pounds” by Mwansa


Mwansa (photo via official Mwansa Facebook page)
Mwansa (photo via official Mwansa Facebook page)


“10 Pounds” is an impressive song on many levels.

“Fuelled by Mwansa’s deeply resonant voice, and a meaningfulness that comes from the artist’s quest to invest his music with a thoughtful presence – he got into creating and playing music as a way to deal with the death of his brother – “10 Pounds” is an airy yet gravelly intense exploration of living astride two different worlds, something the immigrant from Africa knows a great deal about.”

You can read my full review of “10 Pounds” at Now This is Music #75.



“Run Devil Run” by Crowder


Crowder (image via official Crowder Facebook page / photo cred: B.J Smith)
Crowder (image via official Crowder Facebook page / photo cred: B.J Smith)


It’s been a long time since I listened to any Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) as it was, and might still be, called, but there was something about Atlanta-based Croder whose song “Run Devil Run” was used in a promo for The Flash season 3 that grabbed me from the first HARD and would not let go. This is driving, powerful passionate rock with a message and it gets in and gets in good.



“I Can Only Stare” by Sleigh Bells


Sleigh Bells (image courtesy official Sleigh Bells Facebook page)
Sleigh Bells (image courtesy official Sleigh Bells Facebook page)


“Brooklyn-based Sleigh Bells (vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Edward Miller) are one of those bands whose music always marks some kind of impressive progression.

“And the emotionally-powerful resonance of “I Can Only Stare”, the latest single from their forthcoming album Jessica Rabbit (11 November), is no exception blending their trademark intense musicality and pop knowingness with a lyrical profundity and searing melodic follow through that is never less than utterly compelling.”

Read the rest of my review at Now This is Music #77.



“Up All Night” by Alex Clare


Alex Clare (image via official Alex Clare Facebook page)
Alex Clare (image via official Alex Clare Facebook page)


One of my favourite new TV shows of 2016 is Class, a Doctor Who spinoff about a bunch students at Coal Hill Academy (which appeared in the first Doctor Who episode in 1963) who have to fight all manner of alien threats coming through rips in space and time. It’s brutal, high-octane, emotionally-intense stuff and thus it needs as song as driven and powerful as Alex Clare’s “Up All Night” which as you might suspect is all about being awake through the wee small hours and finding it hard to get to bed. Not a situation I, a veteran “morning person” have ever faced but clearly this artist has and he sets all the emotions and events of the night into this utterly addictive song.



Hey don’t just take my word for it! Here are the 50 best songs of 2016 as called by Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine and and NME.

On 12th day of Christmas … I listened to Christmas Party by She & Him

(image (c) She & Him)
(image (c) She & Him)


There’s an earthy loveliness to pretty much everything She & Him records.
With their retro jazz cabaret sensibilities in high gear, and an ability to channel the very essence of Christmas through each and every song, this is on full display on their second festive album Christmas Party kicks off with that perennial new classic “All I Want For Christmas is You”.

While there is no denying the euphoric vivacity of the original by Mariah Carey, She & Him, composed of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, invest their take on the song with a joyous warmth, courtesy of Deschanel’s emotionally-evocative voice, that takes the jubilation and adds in a luxurious acoustic bent to go with the festive momentum.

The talented twosome take things down a notch or two with “Let It Snow” which conjures up images of a 3 a.m. gathering of friends around a fireplace, knowing all too well that their Christmas is turning white around them but that they are content and safe together in their warm idyll. The innate collegiality of the piece is brought to the fore by the duo’s chilled, laidback take on a song that dares inclement weather to even try and derail their Christmas bonhomie.

The album kicks on through the 1960 Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks song “Must Be Santa” and Irving Berlin’s mid-war ode to the happier things in life, “Happy Holidays”, two songs that fit beautifully into She & Him’s Christmas aesthetic which celebrates the songs that make this season so special but without a slavish adherence to tried-and-true arrangements.



It’s these songs, and others like 1949’s Hawaiian-infused song “Mele Kalikimaka” that underscore what makes She & Him such a pleasure to listen to.

They know that any Christmas record worth its myrrh and incense must sound and feel like Christmas, incredibly intangible elements that can be near impossible to bottle but which we know when we hear it, but they’re also not afraid to place their own retro stamp on proceedings.

That approach means that some over-tweaked songs can lag such as “Christmas Memories” but by and large this album manages to sound impressively different and true to She & Him’s sound while still being the sort of Christmas album you’ll want to play throughout the lead-up to 25 December.

And that is a real gift. (Pun completely intended and revelled in.)

Taking a song such as “Winter Wonderland”, which is rightly regarded as a classic of the season, and pulling back on the tempo and even the zest could be considered risky but Deschanel and Ward invest it with a country flavour that suits it perfectly. It restores some sense of meandering whimsy to the song, making a chronological walk through an ideal snowy Christmas day every bit as wondrous as Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith intended.

Granted She & Him’s idiosyncratic take on Christmas songs may not be to everyone’s tastes – although how could you not be delighted by the magnificence of their guitar-driven take on the magical song “A Marshmallow World” – but if you like artists who can both capture the unmistakable Christmas-ness of Christmas and yet create something wholly and new at the same time then you’ll want to take a Christmas Holiday with this delightful duo.

On 8th day of Christmas … I listened to Wonderland by Sarah McLachlan

(image via Video Viewer)
(image via Video Viewer)


There is an exquisite beauty to Sarah McLachlan’s voice no matter what she is singing. Frankly she could sing her way through the tax code and I daresay it would sound heavenly.

Thankfully she has chosen to channel her beautifully emotive voice to delivering up 11 new Christmas tracks (the deluxe edition includes 2 additional songs “Amazing Grace” and “Snow”), a mix of traditional carols and popular 20th century classics, all of which are given a unique treatment by the Canadian singer/songwriter.

On her second Christmas collection which follows 2006’s Wintersong (it was repackaged with five additional songs in 2015 and released as The Classic Christmas Album), she moves between faithful renditions such as on “O Come All Ye Faithful” which soars with quiet delicate restraint and divinely melancholic strings, and “Go Tell It On the Mountain” which resonates with delightfully reassuring acapella folk touches, and songs like “Away in a Manger” which is given a refreshing country lilt, lending the song a sweetly sparse atmosphere that fits perfectly with the well-known lyrics.

Elsewhere she has some fun with classic festive songs such as “Winter Wonderland” which, while still gleefully upbeat and carefree, is winningly threadbare and some what stripped back while “Let It Snow”, with its bells and bright jaunty beat is graced by an orchestral background which beefs it up without diluting its fey happy air.

These fresh interpretations are the result of her openness, she tells The Hamilton Spectator, of being willing to see what happens in the studio.

“I don’t go into the studio with a preconceived notion.

“I’ll start noodling around either on piano or guitar and see where it goes. Just build on it and go where the song asks to be taken. It usually tells you.”




It’s that ability to be faithful to traditional sounds such as on “Silver Bells” and “Huron Carol” and yet still have some creative fun and leave a distinctive stamp on proceedings that lends “Wonderland”, surely one of the most festively evocative titles to grace a Christmas album, it’s own quite individual feel.

It manages that most intangible of accolades which is feeling like Christmas – t’s nebulous idea but listeners usually know it when they hear it – without once feeling such a slave to tradition that you wonder why Sarah McLachlan bothered.

It’s refreshing to see an artist so wholeheartedly place their own stamp on Christmas classics, something which is a mark of McLachlan’s artistry as well as her ongoing collaboration with long time producer Pierre Marchand who infuses her music with an ethereal whisper-quiet majesty and a sweet melodic sensibility that melds seamlessly with her nuanced voice.

It’s even more impressive given the album was birthed, initially at least, out of a dearth of new material for a new album, with a Christmas collection offering a number of advantages as McLachlan told The Hamilton Spectator:

“Christmas records are great because the songs are already written.

“I can do it in my home studio, I don’t have to tour per se.”

Wonderland though is not simply a product of musical expediency with the article noting that “McLachlan has a soft spot for the aura of Christmastime. She loves the festive energy and the flurry of emotions sparked by the season.”

That much is evident in Wonderland which lives and breathes the warmth and joy of the festive season, a refreshing mix of old and new, traditional and modern, a celebration of a time of year that draws much of its power from our ability to find the wonder amidst all the busyness.

McLachlan has given us another superlative musical entry point to finding the special moments in the festive season, the perfect accompaniment for all the many special activities that make Christmas so special.


Now this is music festive chill: Jai Wolf, ECHOS, Jordan Rakei, NxWorries, Whilk and Misty



So you’ve been busy, what with decking the halls, falalalalalalalala-ing and watching chestnuts roast on an open fire – not to mention all those sleigh rides and worrying about how cold it is outside – and things don’t look like slowing too soon.

Behold the festive stress reducer – 5 songs from amazing artists who understood that taking some time out to think, ponder and chill is worth your time, no matter what time of the year it is.

But do you particularly need a breather now? Why yes, you do … and here it is.

“Like It’s Over” by Jai Wolf (feat. MNDR)


Jai Wolf (image via official Jai Wolf Facebook page)
Jai Wolf (image via official Jai Wolf Facebook page)


There is a haunting other-worldliness to “Like It’s Over”, much of it courtesy of MNDR who invests the song with a panoply of melancholic emotions which perfectly match the divinely beautiful music of NYC-based Jai Wolf, an artist who’s been attracting quite of attention of late.

The result of the combination of these two talents, the precursor to Wolf’s just-released Kindred Spirits EP, is mesmerisingly good, the song redolent of every emotion you feel when you crave being close to someone, even as that closeness ebbs away.

In fact so close and intimate is this song that you feel like you are witnessing a closed loop between two people, something you shouldn’t necessarily be witnessing because of its raw emotional intimacy but are, a moment in time when life has ground to a halt and all that matters is the here and now.

It’s deeply immersive in ways you might not expect notes Bit Candy:

“If you experience synesthesia, expect to see a variety of silver and gold constellations as you listen, and if you don’t, expect to be dazzled regardless.”



“Fiction” by ECHOS


ECHOS (image via official ECHOS Facebook page)
ECHOS (image via official ECHOS Facebook page)


There is some deliciously discordant percussion in “Fiction” by Portland-based duo Echos, with warped, twisted beats lacing themselves in and out of this passionate song about how easy it is to become lost in that limbo between reality and the lies we tell ourselves.

Says frontwoman Lexi Norton of the song (via Dork):

“This track is about feeling lost inside of the fictional stories we tell ourselves. Blending in between the lines of positive and negative thinking seems to be quite a common theme of mine.”

There is a deep emotional resonance to Norton’s lyrics and to her sublimely transcendant voice that seems to have the full expression of human emotional experience embodied in it.

And much of it seems to be in “Fiction”, aching regret, loss and confusion that can’t help but touch a nerve.



“Rooftop” by Jordan Rakei


Jordan Rakei (image via official Jordan Rakei Facebook page
Jordan Rakei (image via official Jordan Rakei Facebook page


Brisbane-born, London-based singer/producer Jordan Rakei is a master of delivering up gorgeous songs of exquisite love and heartache, propelled by an emotionally-resonant voice that captivates with every word sung.

“Rooftop”, which draws on his soul and hip-hop roots is emblematic of his exquisitely moving musical style, contemplates where the love he’s feeling is really as substantial as he thinks it is.

I found love
Has this love even found me?
Felt deep for nothing
Still I’m falling for you
I found love
Has this love even found me
Felt deep for nothing
Still I’m falling for you

It is a hauntingly beautiful song that comes with an inventive clip that shows a man in tears and the rewinds showing how he came to be in that emotionally-ruinous position.

Love may not always be beautiful and uplifting but when it turns dark, you want to have someone as soulful as Jordan Rakei documenting its regretful decline.



“Get Bigger” by NxWorries


NxWorries (image via official NxWorries Facebook page)
NxWorries (image via official NxWorries Facebook page)


“Get Bigger” is as smooth as they come.

The result of a collaboration between Californian singer/producer Anderson .Paak and LA-based instrumental  hip hop musician KNXWLEDGE, is a loping, relaxed affair that is the perfect accompaniment to those rare moments when you stop, put your feet and kick back and enjoy life.

As Pitchfork illuminates, this most supremely chilled of songs shows what can happen when two eminently-talented artists joined forces:

“As the cut reminds us, Knxwledge and .Paak excel at highlighting each other’s strengths while maintaining their individual flair. Here, Knxwledge’s drums swing with J Dilla-esque abandon over a sample that Madlib might pick (but would never chop the same way). Meanwhile, .Paak looks back on his hip-hop ascent (“Closing my eyes/’Visioning Monte Carlos with tinted windows and balling legitimate”) and, simultaneously, his relationship’s literal descent (“Open my eyes, she was kissing my constituent/I pushed that bitch off the cliff”). He pivots not only between those emotional extremes but also James Brown-worthy yelps and Andre 3000-style drawls.”



“Rain Dance” by Whilk and Misky


Whilk and Misky (image via official Whilk and Misky Facebook page)
Whilk and Misky (image via official Whilk and Misky Facebook page)


The opening line “I can feel a storm coming” underscores how gloriously grittily dark and moody “Rain Dance” by Whilk and Misky, a London-based duo who describe their division of labour thus:

“Nima produces and Charlie does the vocals. Together we co-write the songs.”

The track is rife with sensual atmospherics, underpinned by a blues-tinged beat and husky vocals that leave you feeling as if you are out in the storm with the twosome, letting the wildness of the outside world wherever it so wills.

I particualrly like the way Bit Candy describes this most individual and earthy of songs:

“The slow burning track draws you in with deep vocals, soft snaps, and rain-like instrumentals that get you ready for what comes next —Raw electric guitar, soft percussion, and gospel backing vocals that build into a dramatic climax at the 2:20 mark that you wont expect.”

This is song that builds and builds echoing the swirling eddies and currents of a storm and I can only imagine what it must be like to listen to the song as the heavens open with furious majesty and power.





OK GO are a group known for their amazingly creative videos.

Whether they’re leaping from treadmill machines in perfect sync (“Here It Goes Again”) or expertly executing zero gravity choreography (“Upside Down and Inside Out”), they create memorable visual companions for their songs.

Their latest creation for “The One Moment” is no exception and you can find out more about how it came to be at IndieWire.



Now this is music #80: Cruel Youth, Luna Shadows, VHS Collection, Kimbra, Handsome Ghost



Christmas may be less than a month away, and festive music may be everywhere you go but that shouldn’t be your sole source of musical sustenance during December (and this is from someone who adores Christmas music).

So try out these five amazingly-talented, clever artists who don’t just deliver up memorable pop but give you something to ruminate on as the year draws to a close.

It’s the perfect package and proof that you can end the year with meaning and not just a succession of ever more exhausting Christmas get-togethers.


“Diamond Days” By Cruel Youth


Cruel Youth (image via official Cruel Youth Facebook page)
Cruel Youth (image via official Cruel Youth Facebook page)


There is a dreamily anthemic quality to the opening of “Diamond Days” from Cruel Youth, a band comprised of husband and wife duo Teddy Sinclair and Willy Moon who created a minor scandal on New Zealand’s X Factor in 2015 when they were both judges.

It begins with a drumbeat and standout movie star diva vocals by Teddy who channels everyone from Amy Winehouse to Lana Del Rey on this smoky wine bar torch song.

This isn’t a song you listen to so much as experience, as if an epic gothic love story is unfolding in your mind, all Hollywood-esque extravagant gestures and melodramatic moments.

It’s emotionally-powerful, oddly danceable and melancholic in an engaging way which suits a song mourning the end of halcyon days of a relationship.



“Hallelujah California” by Luna Shadows


Luna Shadows (image via official Luna Shadows Facebook page - NYLON by Lindsey Byrnes at #LifeIsBeautiful festival)
Luna Shadows (image via official Luna Shadows Facebook page – NYLON by Lindsey Byrnes at #LifeIsBeautiful festival)


Describing herself as “a sad girl writing songs under palm trees”, Luna Shadows is a New York native who has transplanted herself to Los Angeles and found herself utterly and irrevocably in love, as she tells Billboard.

“The way some people feel like they were born in the wrong body, I feel like I was born in the wrong part of the country.”

“Hallelujah California” is a love song to her new adopted home, one that resonates with a haunting intensity, a lush, loping beat that moves sinuously between melancholic and enchantingly sweet and fey.

Drawing on an immensely talented, complex musical background which Billboard notes includes “classical piano, jazz composition and vocal training to musical theater to production”, Luna Shadows, who is anything but the Disney princess she resembles, has crafted deeply-resonant, beautiful songs that sound every bit as softly euphoric as they are meanderingly introspective.

This is highly-intelligent, emotionally-rich alt-pop testament to an artist who wants to make beautiful music and say something worthwhile while she’s doing so.



“Floating” by VHS Collection


VHS Collection (image via official VHS Collection Facebook page)
VHS Collection (image via official VHS Collection Facebook page)


“Floating” doesn’t so much waft into being as you might expect from its title as come charging in like an electronic pop bull, eager to begin beguiling and enchanting you.

And yes, get you dancing with the kind of joyous abandon that all good pop songs deliver in spades.

VHS Collection (James Bohannon, Conor Cook and Nils Vanderlip), who hail from New York City where the duo formed in 2014, have deliver up a song that pulses, jumps and dance with a giddy momentum that you will find almost impossible to resist.

It’s a dancefloor powerhouse of a song that ends much as it begins with passion, a richness of synth-augmented melody and an insatiable urge to keep going on and on.

Trust me, that’s exactly what will happen as you play this impressive piece of pop on endless repeat every chance you get.



“Sweet Relief” by Kimbra


Kimbra (image via official Kimbra Facebook page)
Kimbra (image via official Kimbra Facebook page)


You have to admire an artist who dares to go interesting places with just about every song she releases.

The New Zealand recording artist, who attracted quite a bit of attention with her vocal turn on Gotye’s 2012 monster hit “Somebody I Used To Know”, has gifted us with a trippy, psychedelic piece of pop in “Sweet Relief” that is, in the words of Bit Candy, “state of pure Prince- like funkyness.”

Surging with an infectious soul R&B funk sound that builds and builds, underscored by some damn near irresistible sensuous vibes, “Sweet Relief” is the kind of song that harkens back to a bygone era without slavishly copying it.

What we get is a crazily catchy song that makes good use of Kimbra’s emotionally-resonant vocals and will have you dancing in no time … and frankly who knows what else …



“Promises” by Handsome Ghost


Handsome Ghost (image via official Handsome Ghost Facebook page)
Handsome Ghost (image via official Handsome Ghost Facebook page)


“Promises” has to be one of the most beautiful, goosebump-inducing songs released this year.

Drawing much of its emotional power from Handsome Ghost’s (Boston native Tim Noyes) deeply emotionally-redolent vocals, the song moves boldly forward on a confident beat and a melody that fuses folk-ish elements and a pounding pop sensibility that it meshes seamlessly.

Its music that you will move and affect to the core of your being; unless you’re made of concrete in which case best of luck to you, you unfeeling sociopath.

And not content with insanely divine music, Noyes also delivers up lyrics ton spire, motivate and propel you forward.

“… been living like a pretender”, but now he’s, “made a decision / I am finished fading into the dark / I need another shot at beginning / Let’s restart.” (courtesy Little Indie blog)

So the total package – pop smarts and lyrical depth and maybe a whole new life on the way? Perfect.





Recalling early Disney animated cartoons such as “Steamboat Willie” and Betty Boop cartoons from the 1930s, the new video for “Are You Lost in the World Like Me” by Moby and the Void Pacific Choir uses gorgeous oldtime animation by British illustrator Steve Cutts to brings its evocative tale to life.

(source: Laughing Squid)


As many of you will be aware, Leonard Cohen died recently, leaving behind an impressive artistic legacy that went behind the extraordinary literate, beautiful music he recorded. As an added glimpse of how talented he was in so many respects, check out this poem recitation from an interview conducted in 1974. (source: Laughing Squid)