chaka Khan brings funk euphoria to her npr tiny desk concert

chaka Khan brings funk euphoria to her npr tiny desk concert

Maybe it’s just me, but I think Gen Z needs to be more aware of the countless R&B and funk superstars from the 70s and 80s. A lot of these artists just seem to be overshadowed by larger artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, or Stevie Wonder. I love the music of those three too, but there’s so much great music that needs to be rediscovered and praised as classics. One of these artists is Chaka Khan, known as the “Queen of Funk” and has multiple hits with both her band Rufus and her solo career. She still has a large following, but only a handful of her biggest hits have reached younger audiences. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, I can’t recommend her Tiny Desk Concert performed last week at NPR enough as a starting point. 

For those that don’t know, Tiny Desk Concerts are performances held in NPR’s headquarters in DC. What separates them from just a normal concert is that all the musicians and equipment must be able to fit behind the desk where NPR’s weekly podcast “All Songs Considered” gets recorded. That means all the musicians get squeezed just inches apart from each other in an office space. If it sounds awkward, that’s the fun of it! With the audience only a small group of NPR employees right next to the space, it makes the concerts more intimate, up-close, and personal. The limited room makes the music fully center stage instead of surrounding it with other stage effects and unnecessary parts of a more corporate concert performance. Really, just think of Tiny Desk Concerts as a late millennial/Gen Z version of MTV Unplugged except less pretentious and not entirely acoustic. 

Despite the tight space that Chaka Khan and her band have, what’s even tighter are the nonstop grooves and funk rhythms they play for their 30-minute show. (Was that clever writing? I thought it was.) The entire time I was listening to it, I couldn’t stop dancing, swaying, and moving to the music. Chaka’s backing band that accompanies her is absolutely on fire, with the funk starting immediately and never letting up. My favorites were the percussion, shakers, and sparkly chimes, as well as the bass playing. If I had one tiny criticism, it would be that a synthesizer is used to replicate horns and orchestrations, even if a lot of classic synth-funk did that as well. However, it still sounds serviceable (even great during the closing songs), and I doubt they could fit anyone else with the limited space they had.

The concert set list is a collection of seven singles from both her solo career and time with Rufus, spanning from 1974 to 1985, with the most famous singles being at the very end. Okay, let’s talk about Chaka Khan herself during this show. You would never believe that she’s 71 years old because she looks and sounds fantastic. Her energy is loose and fun, her singing hits the high notes with ease, and she sounds almost identical to the original studio recordings. Just as good as her are her backing vocalists, who get moments of their own to shine (see Tiffany Smith getting a solo to show off her pipes on “Sweet Thing”). The onstage chemistry between Chaka, the backing vocalists, and the band is always apparent during the show.

Like many Tiny Desk Concerts, part of the fun is also the interactions between the band and the crowd. A show highlight was Chaka letting the NPR audience sing several verses on their own during “Sweet Thing”, and it’s adorable hearing the enthusiasm and love for the music from the crowd. By the time the show closes with “I’m Every Woman”, it’s impossible for anyone on stage (or yourself, for that matter) to keep a smile off their face. Chaka Khan’s Tiny Desk Concert is nothing but delightful, and a victory lap for a monumental artist.

the video for “swallow” by liily gives us a shot of the cortisone the song seeks

the video for “swallow” by liily gives us a shot of the cortisone the song seeks

Considering the band members that comprise psych-tinged alt-rock quartet Liily – Dylan Nash (Frontman), Sam De La Torre (Guitarist), Charlie Anastasis (Bassist), and Maxx Morando (Drummer) – are all artistic in a variety of ways, it comes as no surprise that the video for single “Swallow” off their fresh drop Liily was so fully ideated and realized by the band, who directed it. The song – which is very specifically about their disdain for trauma porn – is, according to the band, “a pretty simple rock tune, we wanted to keep it straight forward along with the rest of the EP, no bells and whistles! We saw it as our chance to be musical vs over-intellectualizing something that is meat and potatoes.”

About the composition, they are correct. A little bit of a dirty edge to it, with a steady rhythm most can get into, the song is more catchy than one would assume when they think of the subject matter. With both vocals and a video that are sprinkled with the stereotypical bored demeanor of a true rock outfit, the build of energy in the song is almost unexpected, but equally welcoming.

“Swallow” was shot by members of Liily in 2022 with a little help from Keegan James Hurley, Justin Billings, and Andie Jane. Guitarist Sam De La Torre edited it, giving it an admittedly engaging finish.

“i just needed you to know” shows girl scout at their heaviest

“i just needed you to know” shows girl scout at their heaviest

The new single by Swedish indie rock band Girl Scout, “I Just Needed You To Know”, shows the range of the band in terms of their musicianship. It’s entirely in the realms of punk music, with driving drums and bass, distorted guitars, and an intentionally raw and unpolished production. The song never lets up for its entire duration, especially as it approaches noise rock-levels of volume at its climax. The song can appear loose and sloppy, yet it’s still obviously controlled and well thought out as more than just a fun studio jam session.

From what it seems, Girl Scout is still finding a distinct identity based on their previous singles more in line with contemporary bedroom indie pop. However, garage-inspired songs like this and “Do You Remember Sally Moore?” show they refuse to be pigeonholed. They’re successful in part because of the talents of members Per Lindberg, Viktor Spasov, and Evelina Arvidsson Eklind; but also because of the vocal range that front-woman Emma Jansson provides. Throughout many of Girl Scout’s songs, her voice can change from soft and vulnerable, angsty and grungy, or powerful and belting out. The latter is seen especially in “I Just Needed You To Know” as her voice almost becomes a powerful instrument in itself, soaring upwards and refusing to be buried under sludgy guitars.

The song is an easy recommendation for indie rock fans or anyone who’s a fan of fast-paced 90’s alternative rock. Despite only gaining attention last year through the release of two EPs (Real Life Human Garbage and Granny Music, respectively), the band’s popularity is rapidly growing as they embark on a summer tour opening for Alvvays. Considering the mountains of energy contained in the track, I’m sure it’ll become a Girl Scout live favorite for years to come. 

french cassettes reminisce with delicate “when you know, you know”

french cassettes reminisce with delicate “when you know, you know”

French Cassettes, an indie band based in San Francisco, has released their new single “When You Know, You Know” and it’s every bit as dreamy as a song can get! The song is featured on their new album, Benzene, set to come out on June 7th. 

When asked about how the song came about, songwriter Lorenzo Scott Huerta muses, “I was listening to a lot of Bread and Barry White at the time, and this one just came out of that very quickly. I’d never paid more attention to what kind of pick I was using on my guitar; I just wanted it to have that feathery strum sound.”

The band consists of Huerta, guitarist Mackenzie Bunch and drummer Rob Mills, with the song itself mixed by Nick Krill. A fun fact is that “When You Know, You Know” was created at Bunch’s record studio in Oakland, CA.

The music is similar to that of a lullaby, with a slow melody and clear guitar acoustics strumming the song forward. The lyrics are like a diary-entry, describing a dream one had the night before. In the chorus:

Baby don’t wake me every time, no
You don’t have to wake me every time, no
Maybe I seem lucid in your eyes
I don’t wanna see that go

It’s apparent that they are reminiscing about a time with a loved one; they see it as a dream-like experience and express how they don’t want to wake up from it. 

The song is accompanied with an official music video; the visuals add to the haziness of the song, and makes one lose themselves in a nostalgic memory. 

French Cassettes are currently touring around the US, with the exception of Vancouver in late July of this year. In addition to YouTube, you can also stream “If You Know, You Know” on all streaming platforms.

le destroy’s “autonomy” video is a thrilling, anti-capitalist cyberpunk rave

le destroy’s “autonomy” video is a thrilling, anti-capitalist cyberpunk rave

Part of the fun of writing about an artist like Le Destroy (aka Kristina Olson) is that using words like sleazy, grimy, and harsh are encouraging rather than not. Her politically charged songs mix the aggressiveness of punk and industrial with the loose, unchained spontaneity of dance music. Le Destroy’s work sounds like a late-night rave in a soul-crushing dystopia and that’s exactly the appeal.

This style carries over to her recently released album, Trashumanism, which was accompanied by a graphic novel that visualizes each song by chapter, taking the dystopian themes of the album into a fully cyberpunk environment. Olson is no stranger to cyberpunk, figuratively and literally, with her contributing songs to the hit video game Cyberpunk 2077. However, the graphic novel allows her music to become more atmospheric, set against a grubby high-tech science fiction landscape that the audience was clearly meant to visualize her work in from the start.

The music video for the song “Autonomy” was also recently released, and features anime-inspired animation courtesy of studio Ferr. It features the main character of the graphic novel, the Artist, dancing, flipping the bird, and lip-syncing to the song against a neon-lit future noir backdrop. The video is well-animated and visually striking and complements the song perfectly.

As for the actual song itself, it’s really exhilarating and seems inspired by hardcore punk with even some elements of thrash metal (I was reminded a bit of Bad Brains while listening to it) with distorted guitars and Olson screaming out her lyrics. However, Le Destroy builds on these genres by incorporating pulsing synthesizers and industrialism, showing the influence of co-producer Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails fame. It can still function in a dance setting like some of Le Destroy’s other songs, though it would fit more in a mosh pit at a punk club rather than something more EDM-focused.

The song is not only punk musically, but also politically. It’s deeply anti-capitalist with a focus on personal (ahem) autonomy in the face of political unrest, accentuated by its chorus of “fuck your system, let autonomy reign!” Even without the cyberpunk stylings of Le Destroy’s music, “Autonomy” and Trashumanism in general speaks deeply to modern social and political issues that can resonate with a disenfranchised younger audience, as well as being consistently enjoyable.

Direction / VFX and Compositing: Marx Ferreira – insta @ferranimation
Character Design: Luiz Felipe Martins – twitter @lulohre
Background Design: Bruno Tabor – insta @tabor.bruno
Rough Animation / Tiedown: Maíra Colares – insta @colaresmaira.art, Gustavo Mochiuti – insta @ghakusho, Bruno Jordani – insta @jojordani, Giordana Medaglia – twitter @gimedaglia12, Ari Negreiros – twitter @ari_tooniverse, Daniel Santana – insta @danielsantana.ds, Ambrósio Pentú – insta @ambrosio_pentu
Cleanup Animation: Guilherme Manzano – insta @manzart__, Gabriel Alves – insta @gabr1el_alv3s

SONG CREDITS
Produced by: Danny Lohner, Le DestroyMixed by: Danny Lohner
Mastered by: Howie Weinberg
Written by: Kristina Olson

byland’s “two circles” video is a blend of artfully hopeful and haunting

byland’s “two circles” video is a blend of artfully hopeful and haunting

In March, indie darling duo Byland – comprised of husband/wife talents Alie and Jake Byland – released their entrancing, 10-track full-length Heavy For A While. One of our favorites was a very emotional track for Alie, titled “Two Circles.” The music video was released today, and we are massive fans of the use of color to tell a story with the artful visuals.

Alie wanted to explore the idea of post-death limbo with this music video, which explains the stark contrast and richness in the colors chosen. “Chris Cunningham did a phenomenal job of imagining a weird, compelling visual concept and putting together an amazing team to bring it to life,” Alie says.

“As the protagonist (Alie) explores her home, she starts breaking through into this larger space that’s a little bit unfamiliar, but still populated with memories and objects from her past,” explains Cunningham. “She finds herself naturally searching for an exit, no longer content with just existing alone in her old familiar environment (perhaps unconsciously preparing to move on). Eventually, she finds an exit door that leads… well, somewhere else. Where the hell that is, I have no idea. Absolute death? A DMT fever dream in the final firework show of neurons in the brain? An afterlife? Who knows.”

The video has a haunting feeling to it, much like the song it was created to accompany. Check it out in full below.

VIDEO CREDITS: Music video for the Byland song, “Two Circles” off of the record “Heavy for a While.”
Director: Dark Details
Director of Photography: Dylan Priest
Producer: Paul Breslin
Gaffer: Matt Lindberg
Photographer: Nick Ward
Production Assistants: Ayla Cole, Brantley Duke, Marcus Chavez Special thanks to Kate Becker and Harbor Island Studios, as well as Chris Mosson and Retro Camera.