Now this is music #46: ALA.NI, MONOGEM, Marika Hackman, Stonefox, Great Lake Swimmers

Pete McKee's Oasis fan via photopin (license)
Pete McKee’s Oasis fan via photopin (license)

 

There is something utterly wondrous about losing yourself in music.

Cut loose from the biting concerns of the everyday, music, particularly the clever, beautiful kind made by the following five artists, is a refuge from a world that sometimes forgets that our souls need to be courted every bit as much as our bodies and minds.

Simply lying back and listening to music is a way of nurturing that part of you that craves emotional understanding, authentically-articulated thoughts about the human condition and melodies so captivating they take your breath away.

Yes we are functional beings who have to pay taxes, run errands and make the most of our bust work-a-day lives, but we also need to feed ourselves music this kind of artistry.

Your aural therapy session and TGIF holiday from the rat race begins now …

 

“Cherry Blossom” by ALA.NI

 

ALA.NI (image via official ALA.NI Facebook page)
ALA.NI (image via official ALA.NI Facebook page)

 

ALA.NI is a London-based singer and antiques collector who possesses one of the gorgeously languid, soulful voices you’re ever likely to hear.

Having worked with the likes of Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) and Mary J. Blige, and preparing to release four EPs throughout the course of 2015 – the first YOU and I Spring, is due March 23 on French indie label No Format – she is making the most of a love affair with jazz influences and singing, that began when she was just three years old, to create music that Pigeons and Planes rightly refers to as “simple, soulful, heartfelt lullabies.”

Her latest delightful song, “Cherry Blossom”, the follow up the equally beguiling debut single “Suddenly”, is a delicate thing of beauty, channeling the spirit of the 1931 romantically-infused classic “Dream a Little Dream of Me” with a wistful air, a meandering, exquisitely-wrought melody and a dreamy sense of longing and love, a theme which will be continue throughout the four EPs according to an interview ALA.NI gave to Pigeons and Planes:

“I’m really looking forward to this year! I will be releasing four EPs. One for each season. Vivaldi-esque.

The series of EPs tell of a love story from start to….end.”

Each song will be released with an accompanying video which ALA.NI describes as a “a continuation of dialogue for me. From the ears to the eyes.” with all of them no doubt captivating the senses with music you don’t just listen to, you feel.

 

 

“The Glow” by MONOGEM

 

MONOGEM (image via official MONOGEM Facebook page)
MONOGEM (image via official MONOGEM Facebook page)

 

An L.A.-based pop duo with a penchant for heartfelt melodies and ’80s influenced compelling synth work, MONOGEM – like ALA.NI keep to make the most of the upper case of the alphabet – is made of singer/songwriter Jen Hirsh and producer/songwriter Scott Smith.

Together they occupy a genre that we might refer to a electro soul-pop disco but which they, rather charmingly in the way of many modern music couplings seeking to have some fun with what they do, refer to as “A Disco-tinged, California pool party…♥ ♥ ♥” on their Facebook page.

Regardless of the musical niche you slot their synth-drenched, ethereally-voiced music into, it is arresting stuff, nodding to the ’80s without being wholly subsumed by it, and suffused with a deep sense of raw if poetically articulated emotions.

Their latest song, “Glow”, a re-working of a track they initially released last year, is emblematic of their luxurious rhythomically-rich sound, and has been described rather wonderfully by longtime MONOGEM fan and music site Earmilk contributor Cailey Lindberg thus:

“Monogem dips more into their soul side -more than just the vocals- with a funky beat intro on the track written in synth heavy terms and a raw guitar interlude. It’s the kind of tune that could you could sway to in a club or even spin around on retro roller skates, and shows a more dance-y side to the duo, a way to glow even in the dark.”

MONOGEM’s real talent I suspect lies in its ability to grant the sometimes cold sound of electronic music an earthy humanity, with their beautiful harmonies, insightful, clever lyrics and melodies all coming together in such a way that their songs feel like a conversation with an old wise vocally-gifted friend who just happens to have knack for producing divinely lovely music that the soul as much as the mind.

 

 

“Ophelia” by Marika Hackman

 

Marika Hackman (image via official Marika Hackman Facebook page)
Marika Hackman (image via official Marika Hackman Facebook page)

 

Marika Hackman is proof that stepping away from your television, especially at a young impressionable age, can yield dividends a-plenty down the road.

Born to a Finnish father and English mother, both of them worked as animators and encouraged Marika to eschew TV and make the most of her nascent creative talents – it clearly worked; she had taught herself guitar by 12, begun writing songs at 13,  and formed a band with good friend Cara Delevingne when she was just 17 – her music seems to be the outworking of being given the time and freedom to completely pursue doing what she loves all through her childhood with no other distractions.

This singularity of focus has allowed her to craft music that is warmly-rich and immersively-beautiful, described by the Telegraph newspaper in the UK as “brooding folk”, an appellation that seems to fit perfectly given she has titles on her just released EP, We Sleep At Last, such as “Animal Fear”, “Drown” and the song featured here ” Ophelia”, a haunting ode to one of the character’s from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“Ophelia” is a creation of remarkable power and beauty – soft and intimate, winningly melodramatic, its melody seems to float up and around you on a gossamer thread, wrapping itself finally around you in the most welcoming of ways.

For an artist that freely admitted to the Telegraph that she is “trying to take it [her music] somewhere different – I’m drawn to the darker, melancholic side of things”, she is able to make her music wholly lovely and accessible too, proof that it is possible to engage with the darker angels of our nature and of life without losing an appreciation for things of rare, transportive sweetness.

 

 

“This City” by Stone Fox

 

Stonefox (image via official Stonefox Facebook page)
Stonefox (image via official Stonefox Facebook page)

 

Hailing from the southern Australian city of Melbourne, home to a burgeoning and astonishingly creative arts and music scene, Stonefox are a three piece outfit comprised of Jenna Russo (vocals/guitar/synths), Tim Carroll (vocals/guitar/synths) and Monica Spasaro (drums/pad).

Recording their first song “All I Want”, full of exquisite emotional yearning, on a laptop in Russo’s shed – a challenge one must imagine if it smells like most Aussie sheds of lawn clippings and paint fumes – Stonefox has an ear for music that champions a stripped-back aesthetic and allows the sublimely captivating vocals of Russo to rightfully take centre stage.

Their latest song “This City”, a precursor to an EP they are working on with producer Simon Moro, and which premiered on music site Hillydilly, is a lilting, bright, percolating ode to the mellow, chilled vibes of summer and finding a sense of belonging inside yourself rather than relying on the world around you to define you.

It is deceptively simple, lushly relaxed music that is rich beyond words with insights into the human condition, the perfect accompaniment I would think to lazy days lying on a beach somewhere or looking out to sea wondering about life, the universe and everything.

If you have a love of letting your mind wander in such a fashion, then the breathtakingly good music of Stonefox is your new soundtrack.

 

 

“Zero in the City” by Great Lake Swimmers

 

Great Lake Swimmers (image via official Great Lake Swimmers Facebook page)
Great Lake Swimmers (image via official Great Lake Swimmers Facebook page)

 

Now this is music to dream to if ever I heard it.

Centred about the folk rock songwriting of guitarist and vocalist Tony Dekker, Canadian band Great Lake Swimmers, which also currently features Erik Arnesen (banjo, electric guitar and harmonium), Joshua Van Tassel (drums), Bret Higgins (upright bass) and Miranda Mulholland (violin and backing vocals), have been making sweet, beautiful music since 2003.

What makes their music so enduringly interesting to listen to is a willingness to experiment and have some fun with the way they record, and as Paste Magazine notes, where they record:

“It’s hardly the band’s first time recording off the beaten path [their decision to partly record in Ontario’s Tyendinaga Cavern and caves], but their dedication to variety and adventure is where Great Lake Swimmers find its consistency, allowing their sound to adapt as its members’ tastes and influences evolve while remaining true to the rustic, understated vibe that they began with.”

That I think is why I like the band so much.

They have managed that rare feat of staying true to the folk rock aesthetic that underlies their music without becoming utterly hostage to it and recording the same music over and over again.

Their willingness to mix things up has paid off for the band time and again and will likely do so once more when their new album, of which “Zero in the City” is the lead single, drops on April 2 this year.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Blur, the creators of one of my favourite, punchiest tracks ever, “Song 2” have a new album, Under the Whip, in the offing!

It comes 12 years after the release of the band’s last album Think Tank – which didn’t feature original member Graham Coxon – 16 years after their last full record as a band, and in the wake of two new recent single releases “The Puritan” and “Under the Westway” which themselves followed some enthusiastically-received live shows.

Under the Whip, which was recorded in Hong Kong during a week in 2013, is due out April 27 on Parlophone.

(source: The Line of Best Fit)

 

The artwork for The Magic Whip translates as "massive band, more than a decade after their last full studio release" (image via The Line of Best Fit)
The artwork for The Magic Whip translates as “massive band, more than a decade after their last full studio release” (image via The Line of Best Fit)

 

And here is the track list …

 

The Magic Whip track list (image via The Line of Best Fit)
The Magic Whip track list (image via The Line of Best Fit)

 

There is now one standardised release day worldwide!

As Stereogum notes this may seem kind of quaint given we can access music where we like when we like and so many off-label acts are releasing music on a schedule that suits them, but in the case of major releases which came out on different days around the world, it makes for less frustration for everyone involved something the International Record Industry Association made much of in their statement announcement the release day alignment:

“Following consultation with artists, musicians unions, record companies and retailers, it was confirmed today that the release day for new music will be aligned internationally on a Friday.

Release days currently vary from one country to another, causing frustration for consumers when music fans in other parts of the world can access new releases before them. As well as helping music fans, the move will benefit artists who want to harness social media to promote their new music. It also creates the opportunity to re-ignite excitement and a sense of occasion around the release of new music.

The move to an aligned global release day will also reduce the risk of piracy by narrowing the gap between release days in different countries.”

Of course time difference being what they are, there will still be fans waiting impatiently in USA while those in Australia remain wedding to their headphones but all in all, a move for a better, calmer and less (temporarily) musically-covetous future.

 

Now this is music 46 Australia at Eurovision

 

And lastly but not leastly … some exciting Eurovision 2015 news!

As you might have notice, Australia, though clearly not a country in Europe is going to Eurovision this year, and in an announcement that attracted equal measures of support and ridicule – the internet can be a cruel and unforgiving place – host broadcaster SBS has confirmed that Guy Sebastian, winner of Australian Idol in 2004 and a major recording artist with a love of soulful ballads and the voice to do them justice, will be presenting the country at this year’s contest in Vienna, Austria.

He is, as you might expect, excited to have chosen for this extremely rare honour, according to the report on the SBS site:

“I’m pumped. I mean it’s Eurovision. It’s such a huge audience and such a huge production,” he told SBS, at a special event at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday morning.

“To be representing Australia at Eurovision sounds a bit random, but we’re a wildcard entry and I’m stoked to be chosen.”

There’s no word on what song he will song, or more importantly how he will be dressed or choreographed – these things matter at the Eurovision Song Contest where the look and feel of a performance can matter as much as the song – but all will be revealed shortly, adding another exciting dimension to this year’s historic 60th anniversary telecast for Australians who have proved themselves every bit as enthusiastic about the contest, perhaps even more so, as the citizens of Europe itself.

 

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