LA indie duo Carrousel continue an incredible year with the release of their new album Magnificent Desolation. This 10-track album examines the dystopian direction of current life and the spiraling process of depression, both in ourselves and the world we live in.
Joel Piedt (songwriter, vocals, production) and Sharon Piedt (songwriter, vocals) craft pop melodies that are more futuristics and lean towards the prophetic. Carrousel’s music seamlessly lives on the plane of several genre styles cohesively.
Standout track “Exile in NY” focuses on the feelings of depression and its toll on the individual and how that affects those around them. By playing with echo and atmosphere, this track feels like it’s being pulled straight from your inner thoughts. With a slow build up by the middle of the song all sounds and feelings overlap to create a state of unrest. Ending the track with recorded voicemails help show separation between the two subjects of this track, as we know see them drift away from one another.
Consistently, the duo creates music that looks to disorient the understanding of the present, and the over-digitization of knowledge, and does so in a way that does not hold back.
Monday through Friday at 6PM PST over on indie-pop band TWIN XL’s instagram, viewers will find a themed live stream. TWIN XL, is a three piece from Los Angeles, consisting of brothers and former members of The Summer Set John Gomez and Stephen Gomez, and Cameron Walker.
These weekday live streams allow for the band to stay connected to fans during these uncertain times. Each day follows a different theme ranging from Q&A’s, talks about the making of one of their songs, games, and play music.
On Monday March 30, John Gomez and Walker tuned into Instagram for one hour to play songs per request of the audience.
Starting off the stream, Cameron played an unreleased song of the band that they have played at shows called “Melt”, mentioning the possibility of the track being released soon. After that, Gomez and Walker would read the chat in the stream taking song suggestions. Some songs they played included “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional, “Love Like Woe” by The Ready Set, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. Gomez even pulled out an oldie and played “Chelsea” from his former band The Summer Set.
The whole stream felt like a jam session between friends. The two did come to the stream with a song they wanted to perform but the rest was up to the fans. As the stream started Walker joked by saying “we are going to ruin your favorite songs”. From the start it was clear that this stream was about having fun, and that is exactly what the stream was, fun.
TWIN XL set up these weekday live streams that have happened consistently for the last two weeks, to give fans one hour a day for some fun and stay connected. As concerts are being postponed or cancelled, bands are trying to find ways to stay connected with their fans, and provide them with some form of content in lieu of a concert.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known across the globe simply as Hozier, has been an active participant in the live-stream concert trend that is sweeping the globe. The music industry enigma’s most recent endeavor took place on Friday via Billboard Live’s facebook page in an effort to raise money for the Downtown Women’s Center in LA, which focuses on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women. While in his previous livestreams Hozier has been accompanied by bandmate Alex Ryan, he buckled down in his bedroom by himself for this one due to intensification of the lockdown, joined only by his acoustic guitar. After talking a little about the Women’s Center, Hozier jumped into material from his massively successful 2014 self-titled debut, which birthed chart-toppers like “Take Me to Church” and launched him into wide-spread fame.
The Irish musician started off with an acoustic rendition of “To Be Alone”, a bluesy rock number off of his first album. Even without the driving electric guitar and hard-hitting percussion of the original track, Hozier kept all of his power with his soulful vocals and guitar-playing. He then invited fans to send in requests, humbly stating that he could “try and God knows that’s the best I can do” (Yeah, okay Hozier *insert eye-roll here*) before moving into a soft-spoken version of fan-favorite “From Eden”. The beautiful number was accompanied by bright slide-guitar and whispered falsetto brushed across the tops of the airy track’s high notes. “Cool.” Hozier breezily said before diving into some questions from the stream’s viewers.
“What are you some of the ways you’ve been keeping busy during these times?” He read aloud from the comments and questions streaming in at real time. Hozier took the moment to speak of the effect that the pandemic has had on the live event industry and of his own plans for the year. “I’m very very fortunate that I didn’t have touring plans this year. So a lot of musicians and in particular independent musicians, freelancers, anybody involved in event management or gigging….” He trailed off in thought before coming back, restating “I’ve been very very fortunate”. Hozier shared that his plans have not been heavily affected by the pandemic, a fact not all that surprising for a man who’s infamous among fans for backing out of the spotlight for years at a time when he’s not touring to work on his music without the constant pressure typically forced on artists by labels and the public. He did share what he’s been up to though: reading, writing, and walking “at safe distances from other people”.
Hozier spoke a little more about the Women’s Center and encouraged viewers to donate if they could before cutting off his own thoughts. “And- Yeah. What are we doing? I suppose I’ll sing a song” he said with a grin. “That’s what I do”. He spoke on as he tweaked his guitar. “Today was a sad day, sadder than normal. Bill Withers passed away, who I’m sure you’re familiar with, and it’s an absolute tragedy”. He then spoke of Withers influence on him personally before paying tribute to him with a haunting cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”, one of Withers’ classics. Not surprisingly, he did the soulful track justice, effortlessly building the intensity with his impassioned playing and singing before pulling back to let the last section breathe. “Isn’t that a beautiful song?” He mused.
Hozier followed the heartfelt cover with “Cherry Wine”, one of the most beautiful and patient songs from his debut. Seeing that the album version is a live recording with just acoustic guitar as well, his livestream edition sounded eerily similar and was charged with nostalgia for longtime fans. The world stood still for a couple moments as the musician’s remarkable ability to make everything feel alright washed over like a wave of cool and calm, serving as a personal reminder that if Hozier told me to jump into a volcano he’d probably ask in such a way that I’d not only oblige but think it was a fantastic idea. Remarkable.
There seems to be a tendency among musicians who had a giant breakout hit like Hozier did with “Take Me to Church” to avoid playing these hits when they don’t have to, so I was a bit surprised when he busted out the song that launched him into mainstream popularity back in 2014 to close the set. But Hozier, ever a man of the people (even if he hides from them in the woods for years at a time) brought back the hit for his last song of the night.
“I have not played this song on guitar for um, many moon now, for years I would say”. Hozier teased with a coy smile as he tuned his guitar. “There was a time when I’d play it 3 times a day. So hopefully that will sustain in this first time I’ve played it in years”. Hozier thanked his viewers and Billboard before reminding everyone to donate to the Women’s center one final time.
Not shockingly, he followed that intro with a perfect rendition of the dark and soulful tune, reminding everyone of why we fell in love with his music in the first place.
“Or something to that effect” Hozier said before signing off and returning to his preferred state of anonymity, presumably “In the Woods Somewhere” (Hah, Hozier puns) where he belongs.
“And wash them hands,” Hozier said as he waved his way off the air. Your wish is my command, Hozier.
Brett Newski’s fourth studio album Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down centers around regaining control, and we only have to wait until April 17th to experience it in its entirety. At a time of high depression and anxiety because of the current global health crisis, Newski’s newest album sheds some much needed optimism.
Newski creates a call to arms against the destructive forces one may find themselves battling, which pertains to individual struggles with toxic relationships, low self-esteem, loneliness, and apathy to the global challenges we are already facing in 2020.
Newski and collaborator Spatola blend Newski’s lyricism with Spatola’s up-beat tempo and guitar-driven alternative style to create the sound of this record. Tracks like “Last Dance” lay out the challenge of trying to stay informed and engaged while trying to not consume too much that it negatively affects one’s mind. Meanwhile tracks like “Lousy T-shirt” describes the traps of social comparison in the wake of social media.
Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down is a reminder to not let outside forces negatively affect you. Keep up with Brett Newski here.
Chicago singer-songwriter Anna Holmquist formed Ester back in 2017 with the help of friends and collaborators, and now they’re about to release their first full-band LP, Turn Around. The record is a meditation both on major life changes and looking back at the past to help you understand your own growth, and Holmquist, possessing a rare vein of talent in both songwriting and singing, expertly guides their band through this task.
Most of the songs were written within the 6 month window around the beginning of Holmquist’s Saturn Return, which is psychologically viewed as the time that one reaches full adulthood and is faced (often for the first time) with adult challenges and responsibilities. The album’s exploration of adulthood is vulnerable and introspective, presenting a lot of moments for personal reflection.
Turn Around pieces together folk and rock elements around the centerpiece of the album: Holmquist’s honest and confessional lyricism and sensitive and emotional vocals. The songs are well-crafted, with the words written just as artful and important as the music.
“Little Shadow” is draped in haunting strings and gently plucked guitar. The ominous track builds to great heights with Holmquist’s quivering voice pulling mysterious melodies across the night sky.
“Holy Daze” feels like a float down a lazy river, with warm, slow bass coating the track in thick golden honey. Holmquist shows off her control and flexibility, easily flipping into her head voice before landing skillfully back with both feet on the ground. She sprinkles herself over the calm and breezy instrumentation like a colorful candy coating before tapping into her stock of emotionally-charged vocals, the intensity of her feeling evident to even the most casual listener.
“John’s Car” starts off sounding like a simple yet ominous indie-pop track, but Holmquist stuns, expertly building the song’s intensity with precise and attentive skill before it naturally peaks in a cathartic explosion of emotion. Holmquist is not only a powerhouse, but one who is smart enough to form important moments by holding back just the right amount before laying all of her cards on the table and damn, it’s a good hand.
“Thirsty” is reminiscent of a modern Fleetwood Mac while tracks like “When You Wake” channel the power and authority of Florence Welch. “Wildflower” is a breath of fresh air, providing even the most stressed out soul with a breath of fresh country air.
When Ryan Lee of Santa Cruz, Cali was familiarizing himself with his new studio Paradise Garage came his own musical project, Magic Waters. After recording the songs that would make up his debut EP Pinky Swear, it became clear these songs needed to be heard. This 3-song EP showcases Lee’s writing abilities, skills as a producer, and him as a performer. Through his songwriting Lee is able to blend personal stories, and observations on real-world problems.
A big political inspiration of Pinky Swear is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. The title of the EP and the single comes from Warren making pinky swears to young women to be a constant reminder that women can also be leaders.
The single “Pinky Swear” revolves heavily around politics. The chorus and outro shout out female political leaders like Senator Warren, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Katie Hill. Lee also makes reference to powerful women in his life, such as his wife, mother, and grandmother. While the verses tackle the NRA and Trump. This back and forth of female politicians that provide optimism, versus the current political climate showcases Lee’s view of the world today and where he hopes it can go.
Pinky Swear is out this Friday, and will be available on streaming platforms everywhere for your quarantine enjoyment. Keep up with Magic Waters here.