Freddie Mercury was such an iconic performer that it can be hard to listen to him and not re-create some of his famous body language: the pensively clenched fist, the hand reaching out as if to grasp an elusive feeling. We’ve all done it. The protagonist in the latest video by Buffalo trio the Tins takes things a step further, donning a fake mustache and taking his Freddie impression out onto the streets alongside a remarkably chill feline friend. The jagged power pop of “If You Want to Navigate” is a world away from Queen’s bombast, but the catchy tune plays well with the clip’s muted black-and-white tones and oddball energy.
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As a producer and one half of the multi-instrumentalist duo the Rondo Brothers, Jim Greer has worked alongside acts like Foster the People, Galactic, and Yoko Ono, but the untimely loss of his three-year-old son to pediatric cancer almost drove him to quit music entirely. His new album Little Wings, which he’s releasing under the stage name Jim on Aug. 31, documents his struggle through the experience and will benefit the Teddy Berger-Greer Neuroblastoma Research Fund, which Greer set up through the nonprofit Pablove Foundation for pediatric cancer.
The album’s lead single, “I Will Belong,” highlights how despite the serious subject matter, Greer’s continuing to make uplifting music. “I wrote it as a mantra after spending over 100 nights in a hospital,” he says. “At that point, I needed to remind myself that I would not be beaten by the cancer my son was fighting, and that I would be able to once again participate in life. For me, the song fuses hope with anger in a way I’ve never experienced.”
Brooklyn duo BLKKATHY sit at a unique confluence of R&B, experimental electronic music, and K Records-brand eccentric indie pop. Added together, it’s a bit like a more accessible, less aggressively quirky tUnE-yArDs—combined with lyrics that are by turn emotionally raw and mordantly funny. There’s a lot on their SoundCloud that can “make your booty bounce and ruin your makeup,” per their mission statement. READ FULL STORY
Denver’s BLKHRTS are part of an insurgent movement that’s given hip-hop its own version of punk rock, overflowing with anarchic energy and intensely distorted sounds. They’re a little more gothed out than the other acts that fall under the umbrella of “noise rap,” like CLPPNG and the recently disbanded Death Grips. In an interview with their hometown alt-weekly, the Denver Westword, the group’s producer Yonnas Abraham–who makes the band’s beats on an outdated, not entirely functional, 20-year-old sampler–calls himself, “obsessed with romance, obsessed with death, and obsessed with the color black.”
BLKHRTS goth tendencies come through loud and clear on “Porties,” where they rap about romantic complications over a beat that samples Bauhaus’ “She’s In Parties.” The video, with its moody, high-contrast visuals and party-hardy action, sums up the group’s mission nicely.
Golden Coast hails from Los Angeles, and their electronics-enhanced pop projects some of the same eternally sunny optimism that the city often gives off in movies. The band’s latest single, “Dream and an MPC,” is a follow-your-dreams anthem about hustling in the music biz, a trope as old as rock ‘n’ roll that they’ve updated with a modern technological twist, both in the shout-out to Akai’s iconic sampler and the streaks of ravey synthesizers laced throughout. Between the synths and a bouncy vocal melody that recalls Vampire Weekend’s cheerier moments, it should satisfy EDM fans and indie rockers alike.
With the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack recently winning both the top spot on the Billboard 200 album chart and a place in the hearts of the movie’s surprisingly enthusiastic legion of fans, ’70s soft rock is once again back in vogue. That’s good news for Toronto band Zeus, whose upcoming third album, boldly entitled Classic Zeus (out Sept. 2 on Arts and Crafts), draws from a wide range of influences but leans particularly hard on a similar strain of AM gold.
Classic Zeus offers a look inside the minds of a group that has matured greatly over the past few years, and particularly so during a bumpy period of time after their last album that brought them to the verge of breaking up. It’s weighty material, but for their latest single, “27 is the New 17,” they lighten things up with a presentation that resembles a fuzzy, indie-fied take on ELO’s brand of effervescent psychedelic pop.
When Chilean singer-songwriter Yael Meyer began working on the song “Human Divine,” it was “much more mellow and acoustic track than it is on the record,” she writes. “I wrote it late and night and recorded a very rough demo of it and you could hear the keyboard making this really cool clicking sound that kind of made it sound like there was a beat underneath the song. So even though it was very mellow song, the implied beat made gave me the feeling that maybe this could be a dance song.”
The end result is bouncy, ebullient electropop that should appeal to the considerable number of people who are still waiting for Grimes to write another “Oblivion.” It also contains a timely, uplifting lyrical message: “You always hear in the news about the worst possible things happening in the world,” Meyer writes, “because that’s what sells, and that generates a fear-based society built on the idea that everything that happens is horrible. But I believe that there is a balance between good and evil. Yes, there is a lot of bad stuff happening, but there are also a lot of people doing good and it makes me believe that really good is leading the way after all.”
Meyer’s Warrior Heart drops Sept. 16 on KLI Records.
Meshell Ndegeocello has had a remarkably long and successful career in the music industry for someone who’s steadfastly refused to fit in one of the easily recognizable categories that that usually entails. Since the late ’80s, she’s dabbled in pretty much every genre imaginable, from roots rock to techno. (Trivia tidbit: She got her start in the funk-heavy D.C. go-go scene.)
Her latest single, “Shopping for Jazz,” dabbles in several distinctly disparate styles at once, combining a bossa nova foundation with a country slide guitar and slinky soul vocals. It’s the first video from her new album, Comet, Come to Me, which features contributions from a fittingly broad range of guests including Amp Fiddler, Doyle Bramhall, and My Brightest Diamond.
Ndegeocello will start touring behind Comet in September. You can find her itinerary here.
The ability to make and distribute music videos used to be limited to a relatively elite level of performers, but with cheap technology and free digital distribution, anyone with at least a song and a smartphone can make one. Consequently, there’s been a biblical-level deluge of them, forcing creators to take increasingly contrived routes to getting noticed—hence the numbing amount of NSFW clips trying desperately to shock viewers, or elaborate, Rube Golbergian ones like nearly all of OK Go’s videography, where the gimmick far overshadows the music itself.
Compared to its stunt-dependent competition, the video for indie-pop duo Amoureaux’s “Lost the Plot” is an elegantly understated breath of fresh air. It stars dancers Reshma Gajjar and Hunter Hamilton (who in the past have done work for Madonna and Sia), choreographed by Kitty McNamee and directed by Miles Crawford, with little to distract from their performance. Amoureux bassist Holiday J and drummer Nicole Turley are both former dancers, and the collaboration with McNamee and Crawford highlights how much they’re still focused on rhtyhm.
“I fell in love with the rawness of this song,” writes McNamee in an email. “It swept me in. I think it triggered a very personal response to the music.”
“I was intrigued by the idea of stalemate,” Crawford adds. “All the moves have been tried, and yet we aren’t ready to give up the game. In the repetition we lose our way, our purpose. We go at it again and again, finding the same result, until finally there is nothing, but to let it go. That, and I wanted to play with flour.”
Singer-songwriter Emily Beanblossom played in about a million bands and released one LP under the name Ruby Fray while she was living in indie-rock mecca Olympia, Washington. Then, she packed up and moved to the more southerly hipster hotspot of Austin, Texas. Her move, her new hometown’s suffocating weather, and its local fauna all had a direct influence on the second Ruby Fray album, Grackle, which comes out on the illustrious Olympia label K Records on Sept. 30.
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