running lights, “one in a million”

running lights, “one in a million”

In their new affection-infused single “One in a Million”, NYC pop trio Running Lights remind listeners to savour the moments in life that we hold dear. The trio wants to stress the importance of cherishing your loved ones, especially in light of the social isolation that has come with the pandemic. If you don’t actively nurture your relationships with love and devotion, it’s easy to lose sight of them. “‘One in a Million’ is a leap of faith. It’s about letting moments that feel like they’re meant to happen, happen,” explains vocalist/guitarist Mike Squillante. The infectious track uses a dance beat and a zealous electro-pop sound to perfectly encapsulate the energy of a romantic late night on the town. It fuses together the tenderness and the intoxicating thrill of love, using romantic piano and adoring lyrics but also zestful beats and electric synths. The words paint an endearing picture of a couple exploring the city in their own bubble of bliss, lost in love-driven oblivion.

Running Lights is made up of siblings Mike and Nick Squillante and their childhood friend Stephen Ranellone. Hard work is their mantra, a deep-rooted concept coming from their Italian working-class upbringing and the perfect pairing to their passion for music. The trio has a plethora of experience in the music industry; Mike has toured as a guitarist and keyboardist for major label acts such as Melanie Martinez and Gnash, Nick utilizes his skills as an engineer at NYC’s Electric Lady Studios, working with legendary artists such as Frank Ocean, Bon Jovi, and Mumford & Sons, and Stephen is the touring drummer with the indie artist Pronoun. Running Lights is the dynamic culmination of each of the members’ unique skills and experience, and “One in a Million” is a testament to their talent and determination.

maps & his mothball fleet, “visit mississippi”

maps & his mothball fleet, “visit mississippi”

Maps & His Mothball Fleet have released “Visit Mississippi”, the second single off of their upcoming album GULF, due out on August 21st on Azteca Records. Matt Wanamaker, nicknamed “Maps” by a young niece who couldn’t pronounce his given name, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 and again to the Gulf of Mexico in 2018. During his time there, he wrote and recorded the rough demos of 50 songs to send back and forth to musician friends using only a handheld cassette dictation machine to record and a metal chair to keep time. Mothball Fleets are collections of rusting Navy ships that are no longer needed but kept afloat in case they may be needed later. The give and take process that ensued during Wanamaker’s time in the military rekindled old collaborations and strengthened Maps’ relationships with his friends, transforming them into his own mothball fleet.

“Visit Mississippi” is the product of Wanamaker’s nomadic exploration of Gulfport, Mississippi while the turmoil of an unresolved and fleeting love churned inside him. He explains, “I was living on the Gulf Coast but had left a relationship up North with unresolved issues and a lot of ambiguity. We had been having problems, but somehow we just didn’t talk about them leading up to my move.” “Visit Mississippi” was written as an almost completely autobiographical account of his experiences, from the lyrics to the music itself. Each verse, each chord change and melodic flourish that Wanamaker offers are a glimpse into his relationship. His tense love and the architectural aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that he observed on the streets of Gulfport moved him to explore a darker style of melodic pop in the single. He captures the feeling of living alone during a long-distance relationship through distorted, gothic guitar pop melodies and an unsettled church organ backbeat. Subtle touches such as the rebounding vocals, mysterious bassline, and minor key further augment the haunted feeling that the track embodies. Even the underlying chord progressions project an untethered wistfulness that ties in well with the subject of the song. 

It’s abundantly clear how much thought went into every detail of this track. From content to origins, “Visit Mississippi” conveys an authenticity that is absent from a lot of today’s music.

You can read more about the humble and awe-inspiring story of Maps & His Mothball Fleet on their facebook page, and look out for GULF, arriving soon. 

xelli island, “02 20 20”

xelli island, “02 20 20”

Xelli Island, the dream pop project of vocalist, songwriter, and shapeshifter Lianna Vanicelli, has released the first single off the upcoming debut EP of Vanicelli’s solo career, which she describes as her life’s work. After fronting various bands starting at age 14, Xelli began to grow tired of the conflicts that arise within a group dynamic, but today she has found strength and a clear creative direction as a solo artist. Growing up in Detroit as the daughter of a gravedigger, Xelli gained a profound appreciation for strong work ethic, survival, and gratitude. As she began to develop her own musical sound at a young age, she took her down to earth perspective from establishing a creative life in Detroit and her whimsical experiences visiting loved ones in the Philippine islands and used them to find her niche in writing music from a place of charming yet humble wisdom. 

“02 20 20” was written during a unique peak of momentum in the eccentric artist’s life. She was adjusting to a new routine and constantly thinking of all the little steps that needed to be taken to get things done. When working with close friends and collaborators on this project, she applied this mindset, and together they have created an uplifting and productive support system that produces music that takes an honest look at both the inner and outer world that Xelli moves through. The track has a great beat that navigates through densely layered and lush synths that sound out of this world. These extraterrestrial synths are the perfect complement to Xelli’s sweet and otherworldly voice which animates the dream-pop sound. Her lyrics read straight from the heart, perfectly detailing the beauty and the struggle that is life in today’s society– something to look forward to on her EP as well. 

Xelli Island is one to keep your eye on, it will be interesting to see how Vanicelli channels her breadth of experience and renewed creative energy into her solo career, and how she will reach new heights with her future endeavours. Stream “02 20 20” today, and stay tuned for her not-to-be-missed debut EP, coming soon. 

idris ackamoor & the pyramids, shaman!

idris ackamoor & the pyramids, shaman!

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids reach their peak powers with their latest album Shaman!. The jazz collective created a stellar album that just adds to their impressive discography. The album was produced by Malcolm Catto at his analogue HQ, Quatermass Studio in London and the cover artwork features an exclusive painting by Japanese artist Tokio Aoyama. The album includes expansive tracks that touch on all different subjects, but blend together like they were meant to be. Ackamoor explains, “I wanted to use this album to touch on some of the issues that we all face as individuals in the inner space of our souls and our conscience. The album unfolds over four Acts with personal musical statements about love and loss, mortality, the afterlife, family and salvation.”

The expansive nine tracks tackle spiritual jazz with introspective themes, a different journey than their last release. Through different moods and emotions, Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids take you on a wild journey. Starting with the 12 minute title track, “Shaman!”, they dive straight into soul-searching and dealing with masucline vulnerability. The variety spreads through the song, showing the lengths they can go to with their talents. However that variety is not limited to this track, it shows through others like “Dogon Mysteries” and “Eternity”. Now more relevant than ever before, “When Will I See You Again” mourns the sudden loss of loved ones. This track could resonate most with people because of the crisis we are fighting everyday. 

“Theme for Cecil” is Ackamoor’s tribute to his mentor Cecil Taylor, whom he studied piano with in the early 1970s. The tributes don’t stop here, they continue with “Salvation” and “The Last Slave Ship”. These tracks are paying homage to their ancestors and referencing the Clotilda, which was the last ship to bring slaves from Africa to the United States. And finally, the best for last, “Virgin”. It is an anthem of forgiveness, new beginnings and self-healing, and the collective’s best track on the album. It encompasses everything they were trying to capture and ties the album together. 

Although the band was formed in the early 1970s, time has done nothing but helped to season these professionals and it shows. It would feel like an injustice to not name those involved on the project, because of the talent and work put into this project. This fresh line-up includes original 1970s Pyramids member Dr. Margaux Simmons on flute, Bobby Cobb on guitar, long-term associate Sandra Poindexter on violin, Ruben Ramos on bass, Gioele Pagliaccia on drums and Jack Yglesias on percussion. Shaman! shows that they are not playing around and that they are here to make the best music they can.

elizabeth young, “i won’t fall”

elizabeth young, “i won’t fall”

Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Young may only be 16 years old, but her wisdom and natural accessibility goes far beyond her years and translate beautifully into her music. Young has a remarkable ability to transform the life of a teenage girl into a universal experience. This sophisticated vocalist has spent years developing her musicality and playing local live shows outside of Washington D.C. where she grew up, but at last she’s ready to show the world her talent with her debut EP in September of 2020. 

We had the honor of speaking to Elizabeth briefly leading up to this release.

Your new single, “I Won’t Fall,” is about anxiety. Could you give us some more insight into what inspired the song, and what you hope that people listening to it take away from it?

I Won’t Fall talks about how I can stand up to the difficulties of anxiety. Sometimes my anxiety can try to get the best of me and it can be hard to fight it, but I have learned that I can overcome, persevere, and not fall into the trap of my anxiety. My producer Chris Keup and I thought of factors in my life that help support me such as my family. My friends and family can help serve as a shield during inner battles with worries or anxiety. I Won’t Fall portrays an important message that means so much to me and I hope has an impact on others to help them feel stronger when fighting against inner worries or anxiety. With this song, I want to encourage others to stand tall and not to fear of being knocked down by their anxiety or have it stop them. 

What is the Washington, DC music scene like? Do you have a favorite venue in that area that you loved to play or see shows at and why?

In Washington DC, I’ve been to the Kennedy Center several times where I have seen Lea Michele sing and other productions. I have played at multiple venues around my town one of which is the open mic night at The Old Brogue. I love playing at the Old Brogue because my family and I have been going there since I was little so it is a very comforting place. Since COVID-19, I haven’t been able to play at local restaurants which is sad!

You have a lovely voice, with a strong command over both soft and belted vocals. Did you have vocal lessons growing up? How did you cultivate your voice into what it is today? 

I first found a love for singing when I auditioned for the musicals at my elementary and middle schools. I discovered how much I loved singing and I began taking voice lessons to grow and learn more about singing. I brought my guitar that my parents gave me to my voice teacher on a spree, and from there I learned how to sing songs with my guitar. I would practice all the time on my own, helping me to improve my guitar skills. I started performing at small live events and quickly discovered how much I loved performing and I wanted to get better at my music. I began to turn my interest away from musicals and found what I loved the most- singing songs with my guitar and creating music. From there I began jotting down some lyrics to some chords on my guitar. I began taking vocal lessons with Katie Talbot from Nashville over Skype where she helped me safely improve my voice. I also love to sing all around the house which can sometimes bug my family! I linked up with the amazing Chris Keup where we wrote songs together and created the EP.

Your upcoming EP deals with topics ranging from narcissism to toxic relationships. How does it feel to be sharing such intimate parts of yourself with the world? Do you feel nervous about revealing yourself or is it freeing? 

It is difficult to open up and share yourself to the world. It’s important to me for my songs to be authentic and real therefore making me a little nervous to feel vulnerable. However, it is freeing to express myself and exciting for others to hear my thoughts through music and I hope people like them and can relate to them. 

Was this your first time recording in a studio? How was that experience for you? Was it time-consuming and a lot of hard work? Did everything go smoothly? Give those of us on the outside a look into the studio life. 

It was the first time I ever professionally recorded in a studio so everything was very new and exciting for me. I was so eager to learn how a song was created from an artist’s point of view. I discovered so many new things and working in the studio opened up a new world for me and I want to keep learning and improving. Chris is a talented producer and was very easy to work with especially for a developing artist like me. Working in the studio was hard work but very fun! I went down to Chris’s studio in Louisa VA on school days, after soccer tournaments, and on weekends to create the EP. The vibes in Chris’s studio made me feel creative and like a real professional! We spent hours each day recording, correcting, and adding to perfect the EP. Before my experience in the studio, I thought it would be quick and easy to record the vocals, but it took lots of time and hardwork to put them together. Creating the songs did go smoothly and I can’t wait to keep working in the studio in the future.

“I Won’t Fall” is a deeply moving song with personal lyrics that make the listener feel like they know you. What is your go-to method of writing songs? Do you have any advice for any budding songwriters out there?

Songwriting is all about authenticity and how the lyrics flow to the beat of the music. I love bringing out thoughts or worries on my mind into the songs to make them more relatable and personal. I really want to discover how to become my own artist and find my unique style to put into my music. I want to keep learning and growing! My go-to method is to take a regular idea on my mind or a topic that may be bothering me and string lyrics together. I use my guitar to find chords that fit my lyrics and the feel of the song.

What is your favorite song or album to listen to when you’ve had a hard week and you want to unwind and why? 

The way I escape through music is to visit playlists I make on my phone. My playlist is made up of country and pop music. I really enjoy almost any music and I have a lot of variety in my playlists. Olivia O’Brien is an artist I love to listen to because I love the way she writes the lyrics in her songs. Taylor Swift is a classic artist but I love listening to her songs because I know most of the lyrics so it helps me to unwind by singing along.

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Pulling from the blues, R&B, and powerhouse female artists she grew up surrounded by outside Washington, D.C., as well as female artists and songwriters like Bonnie Raitt, Alicia Keys, and Taylor Swift, this EP deals with wide-reaching topics in a cathartic and carefree way. Young’s forthcoming single off the EP, “I Won’t Fall”, is a tender anthem about anxiety. It’s filled with rich guitar chords that embrace silence with warmth. Young’s skilled vocals earnestly sing on top of a strong, slow beat that feeds into the anthemic sound. Her sailing melody line on the words “I won’t fall” sweep you off your feet and lift you up, instilling a sense of hope within you. Young’s resolve and softness recall the feminine power that her female influences channel, and hint at what you can look for in the rest of her soon-to-come EP.

In the meantime, check out her latest single, “Ricochet” here

cali rodi, “god save the queen”

cali rodi, “god save the queen”

Pop songs tend to be made for the purpose of going viral or just to get plays on the radio. Sometimes it makes you wonder if the process of making good or authentic music is even a goal anymore. If you look in the right places though, you will be able to find the diamond in the rough. “God Save The Queen” is Cali Rodi’s power move to pioneer pop back to its original feel-good roots. This empowering, punchy pop anthem is a breath of fresh air. The inspiration behind the song came after Rodi being physically assaulted in broad daylight, but no one jumped in to help her. It made her think about how hard it is to be a woman in this crazy world. 

After being discovered by country music star Keith Urban, Rodi moved from Nashville to Los Angeles and has been working hard to create an arsenal of unapologetic pop songs. She even teamed up with powerhouse producer Lindgren (Dua Lipa, BTS) and vocal producer Emily Wright (Britney Spears, Katy Perry) for the track. She calls out to protect women through the lyrics, “angels on our shoulders ain’t enough anymore / all they do is keep me between love and war / so God save the queen”. From a bad situation to a positive song for all, Rodi definitely has some tricks up her sleeve and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Keep up with Cali Rodi here.