A welcome slice of warm levity, “Open The Windows”, the freshest release from Oregon-based project The Color Study, is what happens when The Microphones’ “The Glow Pt. 2” meets the demos from Hippo Campus’ latest album Bambi.
Beginning with sunny tambourine met by frontman Scott Oliphant’s chorused vocals, the indie-folk sweetness quickly launches into a dusty, lo-fi indie-punk banger marked by sleigh bells, muddy electric bass, and grounding bass drum as the only things rooting the sky-high dream back down to Earth. Oliphant welcomes the change of scenery, and perhaps the company, musing, “Invite all the ghosts that look inside at me / Open the windows and set them all free.”
Oliphant launched The Color Study in response to the sunset of a 16-year relationship – which makes “Open the Windows” all the more gratifying. Said the musician, “It was an incredibly tough time. I was living in my recording studio while trying to figure out which end was up. I threw myself into making something instead of passing the time doing what I was doing which was not very productive or healthy.”
With “Open The Windows”, Oliphant seems to be taking a deep breath of much-needed fresh air following a period of seclusion – A seclusion not unlike the process of self-recording his first releases as The Color Study, singles “Without” and “Dead Leaves”, both released in 2019. While The Color Study is a solo project, Oliphant is often joined by up to six other members for live performances, including Matt Jackson on bass and Andy Jacobs on drums.
On March 12th, DED, the four-piece nu-metal powerhouse from Phoenix, AZ,released a 2-track mini EP titled Mannequin Eyes – and it’s worth screaming about. Not one to be missed, this heart-pounding release is features radio hit “A MANNEQUIN IDOL (Lullaby)” as well as premiere single “Eyes Sewn Shut”.
The elements present in Mannequin Eyes represent the best of DED’s idiosyncrasies, including riffs that move at the speed of light, haunting vocals that invoke the fear of God, and messages that scorn the replicated and mundane. But with track “A MANNEQUIN IDOL (Lullaby)”, DED manages to weave aspects of three distinct genres into one robust arrangement, not unlike multiple personas battling over the mouthpiece in conveying DED’s distaste. Bearing themes of disgust for the conveyor-belt machine of the modern music industry and all things ingenuine, vocalist Joe Cotela leads the wind-tunnel dynamic of this thrashing headbanger by employing a refreshing variation vocal styles that push the affect of the track over the listener’s head and through the roof. Through verses of this track, the transitions between intense, horrifying whispers to screams representative of classic “metal” reveals DED’s talent within their wheelhouse – But Cotela’s switch to a resounding pop-format chorus marked by vocals more reminiscent of modern alternative rock display the band’s versatility in managing a tidal wave of emotion as it pulls back and forth, over and over.
“Eyes Sewn Shut” is closer to a standard nu-metal/metalcore screamer, with lyrics like “I won’t be silenced, don’t make me violent / You get what you deserve”. This track continues DED’s message of rejecting the reality forced upon the many by the few, and like “A MANNEQUIN IDOL (Lullaby)”, features a chorus that has leanings toward modern alternative rock laced between its slamming accompaniments from guitarist David Ludlow, bassist Kyle Koelsch, and drummer Matt Reinhard.
Mannequin Eyes is DED’s first release since 2017 breakout album MIS-AN-THROPE, which pushed the ceiling with a sky-high stream count from the moment of its inception. Prior to the album’s debut, the group released three singles in anticipation: See “FMFY”, “Anti-Everything”, and “Dead to Me”.
DED is set to release another full length album in 2020. Starting March 24, the group will tour with In This Moment, Black Veil Brides and Raven.
New release “Noodle” from up-and-coming project Oscar Louis totters whimsically between resignation and acceptance. The solo venture of Canadian singer-songwriter Oren Lefkowitz, Oscar Louis blends blog era hip hop with detached chillwave, presenting a placid, steady head-nodder.
While Lefkowitz has explained that “Noodle” touches on tensions between Louis and his father, it stays light, with Lefkowitz’s raspy hum meandering through hip-hop verses over a minimalistic backdrop. Lefkowitz describes the conflict, explaining,
“I began writing “Noodle” after getting into a bad fight with my dad. I had just gotten really drunk at my cousin’s wedding, and ended up puking in front of my parents. This incident opened up a tricky scab rooted in my father’s disapproval of me and my decision to pursue music. “Noodle” is my attempt to show him love regardless.”
“Noodle” is Lefkowitz’s third single, following “Your Call is Important to Us” and “Find a Way,” both released earlier this year. His work has been featured on several Spotify playlists.
California indie-pop duo Ruby Red have dropped a sultry smooth single that can be described as deeeply vibey. New track “Superbloom” is boiling over with chunky beats and thick bass, suavely melded with nostalgic synth that invites a contemporary indie spin.
Like waking up to an electro-pop disco dream, the first few seconds of “Superbloom” are washed out, before bursting forth into stunning clarity. Wavy, texturizing synths envelop echoing vocals into a hazy vacuum, their syncopation weaving as glittery guitar riffs pepper the remaining space. For all its pleasantries, the song is also lyrically hyperconscious, featuring lines like “I can’t help but feel the heat of the moment controls me / I can’t help but feel like my shoulders are weighed down by truth.”
Not to submit to cliché, but “Superbloom” truly does deftly blend many current musical styles; including chillwave, electro-pop, indie rock, hip hop, and disco. This track is what happens when Toro Y Moi meets Tame Impala – with just a dash of Post Malone-reminiscent vocals – yet it still feels innovative and brand new.
Multi-instrumentalists Daniel Laner and Fernando Fine of Ruby Red have been longtime friends since elementary school, officially forming the band in early 2018. The group released a 5-track EP in 2018 titled “LOVELOCK”, with “Superbloom” as their second single of 2019 following previous release “How It Should Feel”.
Berlin indie rock group The Usual Boys have released what will be a bar venue classic: The meandering bassline of “I’m Not the Asshole” stumbles through the back of dive bars, down drunken alleyways, and around the street corners of a chaotic night out. Though The Usual Boys supply influences of established Britpop, the sarcastic tone of this track is peppered with garage grit and topped off with a smoky-cool smoothness that goes down like one last shot – maintaining its freshness even after many listens.
“I’m Note the Asshole” paints a muddled scene of friendly banter between friends gone sour, giving way to drunken conflict and frustrated dialogue. Vocals from Aleksi Oksanen wind, warble and drag in all the right ways; slurring slightly at the end of each note for a healthy dose of theatricality. With dusty snares and sweeping cymbals, drummer Patrick Pevsner pulls The Usual Boys behind a curtain of cool, filling the room with smoke that contrasts the gritty forwardness of lead and rhythm guitar trills from Ethan Dalziel and Oksanen, respectively. The resounding bass, via Rasmus Schmidt, drives this track the whole way, temporally unwinding any starting point of logic and illustrating the narrator’s descent into resentment.
The Usual Boys formed in Berlin in 2017 and have been haunting the scene since, wielding a fervent mania into the fabric of their punk-spirited shows. They’ve just finished a tour through their native Germany preceding the release of anticipated single “I’m Not the Asshole”, released October 4, 2019.
The newest single from one of the freshest names rising in pop is titled “Long Game” – an apt expression of 22-year-old singer/songwriter Gavin Haley’s dedication to making it work. “Long Game” simmers and twinkles, finger snaps and pop-anthem beats clicking along reliably. Haley’s smooth, breathy vocals sweep through his profession to a significant other that despite difficulties, they can count on his loyalty.
That loyalty is reflected in the mono-tempo, mono-mood of this track, which feels chill and reassuring, yet perhaps overly cautious. Parsing through Haley’s other reveals that he has the vocal prowess to produce interesting melodies in both pop songs and acoustic ballads alike, so while “Long Game” definitely fits on a late-night drive playlist, we’re looking forward to seeing both his influences and willingness to push boundaries expand going forward.
Dori Freeman’s new album titled Every Single Star is a perfect follow up to her 2016 break out year. Produced by Teddy Thompson this album features a sparkling voice over simplistic instrumentals allowing her Appalachian style to fully shine through. The powerful way she talks about heartbreak in so many of the tracks allows you to feel a connection to the pain she has been able to withstand, leaving hope for women who are in similar situations. Though Freeman’s personal life has changed between the release of her first album to this one, her message remains clear as she is loyal to the roots that have gotten her this far in music.
Choosing to sing about motherhood and the music industry itself Freeman is able to bring to light a little-discussed topic in the business. Taking on the role of the contended mother instead of a rejected lover Freeman speaks to her experience making this album by saying, “Musicians that are also moms and have to juggle touring and being at home and spending enough time with your child; that’s something that’ really hard for me to find balance in.” In the track “Like I Do” she expresses her love for her child singing, “nobodies gonna love you like I do” a lyric I’m sure almost every parent can relate to. The song plays an important role in her need to include her daughter into the album without making it all about her; a charming tribute this song is definitely one to take note of.
Providing a classic feel Freeman does an exceptional job making her songs sound like they’ve been around for ages in a comfortable and quintessential way. As a listener, you will often experience hints of Reba McIntire, Loretta Lynn, or Dolly Parton through the old twang and lofty notes of the tracks. This is most noticeable in songs “How I Feel” and “Darlin’ Boy” with the way she utilizes the instrumentals to accentuate her lyricism.
The most unique track on the album is definitely “2 Step”, where produce Thompson joins in for a duet with Freeman, creating a mystical blend of dazzling harmony. As a song about dancing, it’s no wonder the track sets forth a desire to stand up and let yourself loose as the music flows through you with a strong mountain soul.
Creating an album with songs of all emotions, Freeman has done what so many artists strive to do in crafting a complete story of songs to settle into. Her sophomore album Every Single Star should definitely not be overlooked and will provide endless hours of joy and powerful feministic inspiration. Be sure to catch the release of Every Single Star and to follow Dori Freeman on Instagram.
Incendiary, vengeful, and all-around kickass: The first full-length album from New Zealand powerhouse Miss June slams from start to finish. Brimming with fiercely punk riot grrrl anthems and self-deprecating moodiness, Bad Luck Party spans captivating rock methodsacrosseras; from the stadiums of the early 80s to 90s alt-rock radio hits alike.
What do you get when you cross the youthful rebellion of 00’s pop-rock with contemporary punk? The answer is opening track “Twitch”; a smoldering, mile-a-minute plunge into the inferno that is Bad Luck Party. The first single of Bad Luck Party dropped in May of 2018, it acts an effective launch into the zeitgeist of the album, with dripping, electric fuzz stacked behind racing drum fills. “Twitch” especially stands out on BadLuck Party because it could fall first, central, or middle on the album’s track listing, and its catharsis would be perfectly timed regardless.
With track two – titled “Best Girl” – Miss June welcomes us into the first of many sarcastic rejections of the drags of femininity. A tongue-in-cheek nod to the album’s title, the chorus chants again and again: “It’s a bad luck party and nobody wins but me”, as voiceovers from vocalist Annabel Liddell whisper gossipy taunts over the anxiety of a tight snare.
Bad Luck Party never takes a breather, yet it does breathe a satisfying range of moods and dynamic differentiation. Tracks “Anomaly”, “Orchid”, and “Double Negative” are moody, narrative-focused, and feature toned-down vocals relative to their accompaniments on the album. Heart-swelling anthem “Anomaly” takes you right to a high school football stadium, where a protagonist fawns over a crush, with just a tinge of jealousy. Following suit in the spirit of reflective indie influences is “Orchid”; a pensive look into a dirty mirror that shatters if you stay too long. The lyrics of “Orchid” offer some of the clearest feminist commentary on Bad Luck Party, deftly melded with wracking heartache, as Liddell croons: “Ma says it’s easier for men to move on / There’s plenty of fish in the sea for a shark”.
The middle track on the album, “Double Negative”, is a simmering, melancholy beacon that carries with it an emotion not found many other places on Bad Luck Party; the urge to mourn. A cavernous cello carves out the space around Liddell’s vocals, creating a landing space for her regrets as she tosses them over the edge: “There was no time to talk”. An eruption follows, with any remaining boundaries combusting into unresolved questions.
There are more songs on Bad Luck Party album guaranteed to triple your heart rate than not. An anthem of repudiation, “Please Waste My Time” is arguably the wildest and most fun on Miss June’s spectrum of alt-punk. Just before her breakneck squeals send the chorus into chaos, Liddell’s contrasting shouts of “You make me feel old” break the tension, expertly shifting from frenzy back into musicality. On “Two Hits” and “Aquarium”, Liddell lobs rapid, ear-splitting screeches in rapid pace, demanding the forefront of attention, even over the thundering, metal-style guitars. Second-to-last song “Scorpio” is no less thrashing, but is marked by the softer, melodic singing of a ballad as opposed to the ravenous contempt wreaked on earlier tracks.
“Enemies”, a single released earlier in 2019, opens gradually and dramatically, drudging through a nightmarish yet fascinating landscape of stinging feedback and reverbing leads, before trenching into Liddell’s warning lyricism. This track is an ode to massive stadium rock acts of the past like Metallica, as well as extant subgenres like metalcore– all with Miss June’s defining riot grrrl explosivity. Matching the doom of “Enemies” is final track “Polio”, a finisher welded together with every trick in Liddell’s arsenal: Cautioning whispers give way to spoken directness, gradually ascending into screeching ferocity; nearly eclipsing the deafening crash of the surrounding scape.
Miss June is comprised of vocalist and guitarist Annabel Liddell, guitarist Jun Cheul Park, bassist Chris Marshall, and Tom Leggett. Next month, the group will begin their world-wide tour in celebration of the album’s release. The Bad Luck Party Tourwill kick off in Wellington, New Zealand and October14 sees the band play Brooklyn’s Rough Trade which marks the start of the North American run that includes shows in Toronto, Chicago and LosAngeles. All dates are listed below. Tickets and more tour info can be found here.
With this freshest release, songwriter Jeremy Ferrara sounds as if he’s lived through his own life a few times before, only to come out wiser. Melancholy, observational, yet still bright; “This Trouble” weaves influences both sedentary and explorative, sketching a freewheeling character borne from folk-rock classics such as Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers, and Wilco. Twangy electric guitar leads stir Ferrara’s migration on to the next place he’ll call home, while sporadic trickles of piano fall like midmorning rain. “This Trouble” breathes of Ferrara’s desire to roam. He sings, “Like the weather in south California, some things they never change.” Though nature cycles without end, this letter to venturing peaks with a compelling guitar solo that is an essential, fulfilling catharsis.
Ferrara has a growing accruement of EPs and singles released, with 16 total tracks released over a two-year span.
9/5 – The Liquor Store
9/26 – Kreuzberg California
9/29 – MadeWest Brewing Company
10/4 – Neck Of the Woods
10/5 – Shanty Shack Brewing
10/10 – Bunk Bar