mokita, “down”

mokita, “down”

by: leigha stuiso

Mokita is here to remind you that you are not alone in the music video for his latest single, “Down”. With the somber piano introduction, the video zooms in on Mokita in an old Mercedes Benz. The video was directed by Mika Matinaza and takes the viewer through a journey Mokita’s inner battle. With vibrant yellows and reds that highlight his figure as he sings the hopeful lyrics. The Nashville singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist took to Instagram to talk about struggling with mental health problems. The track is a love letter for those who are struggling, as he has in the past.

“I’ve had some really rough seasons in my life where my depression was just so bad and I didn’t feel like I was ever going climb out of it, but through those times I’ve had some close friends who have walked with me through those seasons; who have encouraged me and just been present,” Mokita writes about the track. “I think the theme of this song was really just a letter to those friends who are going through those things, and to anyone who is having a hard time. Everybody needs a friend to walk with them through the hard seasons and sometimes just being present, being available to listen, and being faithful, is the best way to love someone through those times.”

After working with other artists such as Ella Vos and Maggie Rogers, he is making a name for himself. With the success of his debut EP in 2019, Mokita has been releasing more singles and gaining praise from fans and the press. Check out “Down”, Mokita’s downtempo pop number now. 

alex the astronaut, “caught in the middle”

alex the astronaut, “caught in the middle”

by: leigha stuiso

Alex The Astronaut released her debut album, The Theory Of Absolutely Nothing, along with a music video for the single, “Caught In The Middle”. The Sydney-based singer takes to the tennis court with Australian music legend and drummer from The Go-Betweeners, Lindy Morrison. The video is directed by Tatjana Hamilton and playfully follows along with the song. All of this would not be possible if Alex Lynn, Alex The Astronaut, hadn’t moved from Sydney, Australia to New York in 2017 o a soccer scholarship to study Math and Physics at Long Island University. It was here that she turned her bold experiences in life into these heart-swelling songs.

The folk-infused pop track describes the trials and tribulations of life and how being caught in the middle puts you in an odd position. However, the video catches Alex in the middle of a tennis match. After being very serious and focused towards the beginning, both players lighten up and end up having fun. At one point, the two give up and start playing the drums with tennis balls whizzing past their heads. The back and forth of the hits by Alex and Lindy serve the purpose of moving the song’s storytelling forward. Between her abilities as an artist with her music and the power of the music video, Alex creates stories that you will find yourself falling into headfirst.

anna wolf ft. pop morrison, “the unfamiliar”

anna wolf ft. pop morrison, “the unfamiliar”

by: katy mombourquette

There’s something about a folk/indie vibe that feels so incredibly creepy in the context of horror. (“Tiptoe Through The Tulips”, anyone?) Singer-songwriter Anna Wolf and songwriter/producer Pop Morrison certainly bring this spine-chilling energy to their title track and music video for the horror film “The Unfamiliar.” Wolf is a singer-songwriter and holder of many awards for her sharp and highly idiosyncratic music. Morrison is known as Jamie when he drums for the rock band The Stereophonics, but he transforms into the eccentric and explosive Pop Morrison when he takes on music production. 

The music video intersperses scenes from the movie with close up, blurry shots of the duo. With Wolf and Morrison lingering outside the narrative, the video feels like a micro-horror work in its own right. It plays with the dynamics of dark and light, and though it’s simple on the surface, there are layers of intricacy that reveal the deep amount of thought that was put into it. As Wolf sings “the dark and the light” the shot moves from the darkness surrounding her to the light shining on Morrison’s guitar. A fleeting scream cuts through the song as the visual flashes to and from a shot of a child from the movie. These subtle touches add a lot of depth to the video, creating a haunting and memorable performance that finds its own beauty amidst the occult psychodrama of the film.   

The music itself is atmospheric, but sparse, leaving you feeling exposed and vulnerable. Voices sweep across the background like the wails of a ghost. Drums beat gently but ominously beneath Wolf’s searing vocals. Her voice takes on the supernatural quality of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom, helping her to embody the eerie, possessed nature of a ghoul. Even Pop’s guitar has the transient, mystic feel of a phantom, thanks to his precise production. While the rest of the track feeds into the sinister feel of the film, the acoustic guitar adds an interesting fairytale quality that projects elegant indie-folk imagery for the audience. There’s a lot in “The Unfamiliar” that reveals things about the film. Morrison says, “The song sets a tone before you’ve even seen the film, the same way the movie leaves a mark after you’ve seen it.” The duo did an excellent job of executing the vision of the filmmakers, with  the film’s director and co-writer Henk Pretorius saying, “Anna Wolf and Pop Morrison’s music dreamily conveys the dark lure of The Unfamiliar. I got emotional when I heard what they created.”

About The Unfamiliar
The Unfamiliar is an independent horror film, set in the UK and Hawaii, showcasing a melting pot of rising British, European and South African crew and cast members. Directed by Henk Pretorius and produced by Llewelynn Greeff and Barend Kruger, the Anglo-French Jemima West (Indian Summer, The Mortal Instruments) stars as British Army doctor Elizabeth ‘Izzy’ Cormack, returned from war to rekindle her relationship with her estranged family. Alarmed by the numerous inexplicable activities around the house, Izzy seeks ineffectual professional help before confiding in her husband. He believes that she is going through PTSD and advises her to rest and recuperate in Hawaii. It’s there that she gets sucked into the underworld of Hawaiian mythology, as she attempts to piece together the elaborate and elegant puzzle to reveal an ancient and terrifying spiritual presence haunting her family. You can watch the trailer here

tomberlin, “wasted”

tomberlin, “wasted”

by: leigha stuiso

Tomberlin announced a new EP, Projections, with the lead single “Wasted”. The track is out with a Busy Philipps-directed video (Yes, you read that right!), from an iPhone in quarantine, that was shot and edited by Marc Silverstein. The song is an uptempo journey about a relationship that withholds as much as it gives. The video captures the innocence in the lyrics, creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. Tomberlin shines bright in a neon green dress following the journey of a day in the life of two young best friends. The scenery around the subjects of the video changes naturally, not overdoing the simple concept of it all. It’s as if she is reflecting back on these times with her best friend, remembering and trying to keep up with all the things they did together. 

On the subject of the video and song, Sarah Beth Tomberlin says:

‘Wasted’ was the most fun song to record. I brought the song with the guitar part and knew I wanted drums, but wasn’t sure what kind of beat I wanted. Alex played this drum beat for me and was all ‘kinda left field but maybe this would be cool.’ It took the song to a whole new level. Sad song or summer banger? You tell me. The video was made with the help of Busy Philipps (who directed) and Marc Silverstein (who shot it), who are more like family than friends at this point. I was quarantined with them and their girls in South Carolina and we came up with the idea and shot it in about 4 days on an iPhone.

The “Wasted” music video truly feels like the fleeting memories of a childhood summer. The ending of the video, when the day comes to an end, connects all the emotions with the two looking towards each other. It’s simple, beautiful and then gone in an instant. The song and EP were co-produced by Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) and bandmate Sam Acchione. Following her critically acclaimed 2018 debut, Tomberlin continues to prove she is a force to be reckoned with. Check out the video for “Wasted” now.

lisel, “die trying”

lisel, “die trying”

By: Leigha Stuiso

Lisel (Eliza Bagg) released “Die Trying”, the other half of her double-single “Night & Day”. The project is a collaboration with Jarvis Taveniere (Woods and Purple Mountains), who produces and plays bass on the track. The multi-talented artist is ready to “Die Trying” to convince herself of something that is not true, despite her want for it to be. In a post on Instagram, Lisel said:

The song is actually one of the first I ever started writing as lisel, years ago, but I wasn’t able to finish it until recently. over the past few years, I’ve tried to internalize the idea that my mind is dumb and my body is smart. I might be so willing to convince myself that something could be true that I’ll literally die trying to bend reality to my will. I think sometimes we’re not just eager, but desperate, to warp and bend our vision of the truth in order to match something we only wish could be true.

Her voice flies high above the strong combination of sounds from the bass, violins, drums and mellotron. The single is bringing a new sound to the forefront, playing into her avant-pop style. “Say that we will but we won’t / this time might be true / say that we will but we won’t / all the way through”, she sings. Reminiscent of situations many have been through, Lisel’s lyrics are truly relatable and perfectly crafted to her style. The mellotron and vocoder, played by Bagg herself, create a sound that is unmissable. It drags you in, making the listener curious to what other tricks are up her sleeves. “Die Trying” is a slam dunk for Lisel following her solo debut, which is only the beginning of what is to come for her.

donna missal | bedroom sessions

donna missal | bedroom sessions

Earlier this summer, Donna Missal released her beautifully raw and utterly powerful album Lighter. Its soulful vocals, touching lyrics, and country-meets-90’s rock sound garnered an impressive amount of praise from publications like Billboard and The New Nine. But releasing an album in the midst of a global pandemic is different. It’s missing that live performance component that usually goes hand-in-hand with the release. To remedy this, Donna offers her evocative “Bedroom Sessions”: four reimaginations of songs off of Lighter in the form of intimate live performance videos shot in her L.A. bedroom and childhood backyard in New Jersey. Each video was directed by Missal, and features projections of footage from the process of creating Lighter superimposed on top of her. The immersive projections, the personal setting, and the newly envisioned instrumentals aim to recapture the connection of a live performance environment in an intimate space. Missal explains, “From the shifting paradigm for the way artists connect to listeners, along with the inability to tour an album live, we’re all trying to fill the void – connect, and create. ‘Bedroom Sessions’ is a take on the challenge of staying close to others through music, even from far away.” What results are fresh snapshots of the acclaimed album that elevate Donna’s exceptional vocals, sending out shockwaves that crumble walls even in her gentlest moments. 

Delving into the wounds of a relationship, the original studio version of “Carefully” overflows with emotion. Backed by solid drum, string, and piano parts and embellishing harmonies, Missal’s words ring out like a reflex, unable to keep the depth of her feelings inside. In the bedroom session, her voice is much softer and accompanied only by her brother Stevel Missal on guitar. The emotional effect of the original is powerful, but here, in her bedroom, this intimate space, watching her untouched motions and expressions… her voice is absolutely earth-shattering.

In a similar way, the familiarity of Missal’s room in the bedroom session of “Bloom” augments the sincerity of the message, which in the original version depended only on the humble guitar and voice combination. As she sings “I don’t want to be the reason you don’t shine, realize I’m standing in your light…I don’t want to be the reason you don’t bloom,” she makes eye contact with the camera, supported by multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Liv Slingerland’s rustic guitar playing. Watching her face, her eyes are the colour of integrity, and you can’t help but to hang on every word she says. 

“Who Loves You” is the most avant-garde endeavour of the quartet. While the original has this nostalgic, well-rounded sound with slight blues-rock vibes, the bedroom session uses an omnichord and lushly layered vocals to create an otherworldly atmosphere. The musical texture is much more sparse, allowing it to feel untethered from the earth itself. Missal used two microphones to record the layers of vocals, an impressive feat to accomplish from home. By the end, each of the voices soars and crash into one another, drawn to and pulled away from each other in an immersive and surreal soundscape. 

Set against the others, “Slow Motion” endeavours to offer a new take on the original meaning of the song. As it was in the original, the bedroom session is an ode to letting go, but rather than being recorded in Donna’s bedroom in L.A., it was recorded in the backyard of her childhood home in New Jersey, drawing up memories of the past and showing how far she has come. The studio version is a moving piano ballad with understated but powerful energy that peeks through in the belted chorus. In her backyard, Missal is less firm and more gentle, singing on top of a thinly dispersed assortment of shimmering strings. Her voice is not nearly as supported as it is in the original with its resonant piano accompaniment, but Donna doesn’t need a musical foundation at all. The strings are just sparkling ornaments on her already magical voice. As she sits on the grass in a sequined gown and belts out the chorus in an effortless vocal performance, the effect is staggering. 

Missal’s bedroom sessions are a brilliant way to stretch the novelty of her recently released album, but also to connect both to her fans and to new listeners through the universal experience that the pandemic has brought to all of us. They are simple, but thoughtful and extremely affective, and in a way, exactly what we need in the world right now.