“Papa Was” finds New York City-based songwriter Mimo weaving in references to lyrics throughout the song like other artists would drop in choice sample to craft a beat. It’s a way to connect the artist to her inspirations and place herself in a musical lineage in a creative way in the classic fashion in order to create something new. There’s the obvious reference to the psychedelic soul classic by The Undisputed Truth (made famous shortly after by The Temptations) but also “Killing Me Softly With His Song” first a hit with Roberta Flack in 1973 and then The Fugees in 1996. Mimo’s own song while not a cover draws upon similar inspirations in jazz, soul and R&B without seeming to be defined purely by any of those musical forms. There is a wry sense of humor informing the attitude of the song and that’s one of its charms as it charts a story in which the songwriter is figuring out her path in life and coming back to her roots as an anchor in moving forward with confidence. “Papa Was” is the first single from Mimo’s full-length album Street Candid and you can listen to it on Spotify and follow Mimo at the links below.
“Joyride” is a startlingly wise song from 24-year-old songwriter Adam Melchor. It’s such a sane yet melancholy and resignedly amused take on letting go of the things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things even though you’ve grown up assuming that losing certain things in your existence are a life-ending, or at least life-altering, disaster. In the song it’s on the surface about a stolen car but could also be about relationships splitting up, your own or those foundational to your life like those of close friends and your own parents. Musically Melchor uses horns and minimal guitar to great effect to convey the sense of loss but also that of acceptance, a musical “What are you gonna do?” Fans of Beulah and Red Pony Clock will find much to like in Melchor’s brand of indie pop for not just the choice of instruments but also the clever and thoughtful wordplay using unvarnished sentiments and honest language in a way designed to comfort without pandering. Listen to “Joyride” on Soundcloud and follow Melchor at the links below.
Though writing within the realm of a well-established form of music in the kind of western, bluegrass tradition, Westwood Bluegrass Band’s creativity is immediately evident on “Ever Turning Wheel.” Everyone making traditional, acoustic music strives for the authentic by essentially imitating a past artist. If this trio is so obvious in its hearkening back to a specific artist, I don’t know because there is something disarmingly vulnerable and uncalculated by the performance in the live video for the song. The melodies between the instruments and the vocalists are exquisite and all the more impressive because it is a live recording and the players all create such a warm, atmospheric quality to the song that it stands out in what has long been a crowded field of folk and Americana. Westwood Bluegrass Band take the essence of what that music should be about and spin that into spare yet intricate arrangements that are mutually complimentary. It doesn’t sound like a stylistic museum piece and sits good in the ears even if you’re not necessarily a fan of bluegrass or folk because the songwriting and mood of the song transcends genre with its captivating emotional honesty. Watch the video below and follow Westwood Bluegrass Band at the links provided.
Employing multiple layers of flowing sound, LIGHTSPEAR imbue the single “System” from its debut album Metro with a classic synth pop sound that transcends the standard synthwave style that you hear often imitated. With melodic, distorted washes, syncopated leads, minimal percussion and creatively sequenced arpeggios LIGHTSPEAR invoke the sorts of sounds Tangerine Dream engaged in on its 1980s soundtrack work on films like Thief, Wavelength and Risky Business. There is a sense of edge and excitement just out of reach and embarking upon a journey from which you will return a changed person. On this track LIGHTSPEAR also avoids the temptation to put in the kinds of drops and builds that are intended to create an artificial, dynamic progression but which always comes off lazy. Rather, this project focuses on the dynamics emerging from composing a song with a depth of detail in which its easy to become immersed. Listen to “System” on Spotify below and follow LIGHTSPEAR at its Bandcamp page.
There is a sense of traveling to living video game world in Tekisuto’s “Go Left.” Some of the synth is reminiscent of a more high fidelity version of some kind of early 90s Nintendo game. But the horns and the more urgent and angular melody recall early Depeche Mode as well. The ascending synth line that takes us out of the song with the brief bit of ambient room sound to follow gives a different impression like we’ve been riding a rapid transit shuttle and the jubilant music we’ve been listening to is the theme music for the ride. Like if “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd was a lot shorter, wasn’t a brooding, melancholic dirge but with the same otherworldly quality. The ambient room sound is there at the beginning of the song with some light laughter and indiscernible conversation to bookend the surreal song with a touch of regular life even as it takes us on a trip to a brighter, more fun hyper reality for a couple of minutes, a welcome transport to a fantastical place. Listen to “Go Left” below on Spotify.
With his project Robin and the Modest, Tobi Vogel presents a cinematic experience through the music. His pacing, dynamics, sonic architecture, textures and arrangements suggest a kind of narrative structure and mood. The project’s 2017 debut Eftychia set a high bar for instrumental rock/post-rock but the new album Playground makes good on that promise including the single “Synthie aus Marzahn.” With minimalist synth arpeggiation in the beginning the song quickly segues into haunting atmospherics giving the impression of some kind of unusual thriller plot taking place in a late night cosmopolitan city on the platform of a rail line. The vocal samples make you think of the kind of movie where a passive observer coming from or going to their job is drawn into a drama involving international intrigue and high tech crime. Every song on the album tells a different story but all employ evocative composition to set vivid scenes without explicit use of language. The titles give hints with neologisms like “Raketenfaust” (“Faust Rocket”) and phrases like “Kaltes Herz” (“Cold Hearts”) but even these suggestions pale in comparison to the aural journeys through which Vogel takes us on Playground. Listen to “Synthie aus Marzahn” below and follow Robin and the Modest at the links provided.
The sense of the surreal and sinister to Davi Valois’ “Event Horizon” reflects the political reality of modern Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro, a fascist leader whose bizarre beliefs and ease with the use of violent repressive policies, aren’t far removed from the likes of Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Vladimir Putin or what Donald Trump would do if he could yet get away with it. With processed vocal samples and an unsettling melody cast in luminous piano tones and synth, Valois seems to evoke the demented side of Wendy Carlos’ iconic soundtrack work for A Clockwork Orange—a way to ridicule an awful and dangerous political regime while also invoking how as absurd as it is, those types of figures and governments destroy everything around them from the norms of governance and civic culture, the institutions that brought stability to society and the economic system itself. Given that, by extension, the aforementioned political figures contribute to the destruction of the world itself. “Event Horizon” is part of an album called Bátraquio that addresses these issues as well as the depression and general despair and malaise that infects everyone in ways they may not realize and how not all change should be embraced when it is not so much inevitable as part of a programme to benefit the few at the expense of everyone else in a self destructive spiral that will not even spare the perpetrators. Listen on Spotify and explore Valois work further at the links provided.