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Son Little’s new album is, in its purest form, American music. The artist formerly known as Aaron Livingston knows his nation and its sounds well. He was born to a preacher and a teacher in Los Angeles, where he learned how to listen and how to play before moving east to New York and New Jersey. He dropped in and out of schools and scenes in Manhattan then Philadelphia, and there he collaborated with acts like The Roots and RJD2. He first planted his flag as Son Little with last year’s highly praised EP, Things I Forgot, a small collection of big songs that showcased his ability to hop across genres as well as he does state lines.
And so it only makes sense that the pastiche and reach of his music is all over the map, literally. And he can hear a map in his music. In it, he can recognize the places he’s lived, traveled, and played to, places explored and discovered. “I hear places in the songs without trying to evoke them while writing. I can trace where a lot of my music came from, as my life and my family touch so many different places. I can hear Lake Charles, Louisiana in my voice, the way I say some of the words; I hear New York in my lyrics. Detroit is a place I haven’t spent a ton of time in, but if I explore the music of Detroit, I can hear myself in there, too.”
The songs on Son Little follow suit. They teem with small moments creating a bigger picture, a pointillist art piece made from junkyards and viewed from space. Pulling inspiration from the color wheel diaspora of American music, Son Little draws from a deep well, using different buckets to visit and revisit, finding flourishes to add to the core of his songs. There, at the end of “Doctor’s In,” is a roving banjo; there, at the start of “Go Blue Blood Red,” is a keyboard riff culled from a kid’s Blue Man Group keyboard; there, in “Carbon,” is an electric Howlin’ Wolf stomp and start. For Son Little, studio time is a joy, where every good idea leads to four more.
The much buzzed about Palehound has returned with a brand new single and an expanded line-up, shifting the solo project to a quartet. The band, Ellen Kempner (vocals/guitar), Thom Lombardi (bass/backing vox), Ben Scherer (guitar/backing vox), and Max Kupperberg (drums) formed during the fall of 2013, expanding on the sound of last year’s Bent Nail EP with stunning dynamics and a heavier tone. Wasting no time, the quartet began playing a whirlwind of tight, jaw-dropping shows throughout the East Coast, quickly establishing Palehound as one of the best up-and-coming bands during the CMJ Music Marathon and throughout Brooklyn’s DIY community. Nearly 50+ shows later, the band will release Kitchen 7″ (Holiest b/w Pay No Mind), the first recorded output from the full band, an impressive statement in the evolution of Palehound.
Originally imagined as a revolving cast, the four members of Palehound, dear friends and great musicians, instantly cliqued. Palehound once again headed to Brooklyn’s Gravesend Recordings with producers Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez (of Ava Luna). Kempner described the full band experience in the studio, offering, “recording the Kitchen 7″ was a really rewarding, hilarious, and simultaneously trying experience which allowed us to really solidify our status as a set four-piece and true pals.”
The results of their session captured the feel of the band while still allowing room for Kempner’s songwriting to beam through the muscular compositions with clever lyricism and undeniable charm. “Holiest was written as a dialogue with myself over feeling socially lazy and naive.” said Kempner about the single’s lyrics.
Palehound’s sound has expanded with a natural progression, still composed of impeccable songs and gorgeous musicianship, winding further into tangled bliss as Kempner and Scherer’s guitars glide and twitch together with the bellowing rhythm section. Kempner’s vocals sit confidently within the mix, never obscured or overbearing, allowing her poetic lyrics space to land and connect. You could call Kitchen 7″ (Holiest b/w Pay No Mind) precious, but you wouldn’t want to turn your back on them. It’s dreamy yet unnerving, nearly whimsical while seemingly distraught. Palehound’s music is the collision of a deep understanding of pop magnetism and grizzly indie rock. 2014 looks to be a big year for Palehound, and they’re only getting started.
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GEoRGiA is the moniker of London-based producer and multi-instrumentalist, Georgia Barnes. Georgia’s debut, self-titled album came out in August this year via Domino Record Co.
Written, performed and produced by Barnes in its entirety and recorded in her own home-studio,Georgia is the product of two years of obsessive work, but also a young lifetime of voracious music listening.
Elements of the glacial yet hyper-melodic tone of early 00′s grime, sweltering, mid-summer west London dub and ragga, sophisticated pop, first wave post-punk agitation, the formative influence of Missy Elliott and the high-concept, illuminated sound-design work of contemporary artists such as Holly Herndon and Hudson Mohawke run through Georgia, a record that reveals new layers of intrigue and ingenuity with every listen.
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Monika Christodoulou began playing in local indie bands and writing and performing her original songs on the Athens, Greece music scene when she was barely a teenager. After early breakout success posting her darkly emotional tracks online, Monika’s 2008 debut LP, sung in English, became a platinum seller in her homeland. Soon she was headlining all the major Greek festivals and gracing the covers of music and fashion magazines. Her second LP, another set of beautiful and deeply emotional ballads released in 2010, continued Monika’s broad success at home, but she was already becoming restless, for a different sound and a new direction.
Monika took on projects outside of her pop career, writing scores for two acclaimed theater productions, and began to spend more and more time abroad. On a trip to New York in 2012, she made a pilgrimage to Dunham Sounds Studios Brooklyn headquarters, to see where some of her favorite artists from the Daptone soul scene had recorded; almost on a whim, Monika knocked on the door, and Homer Steinweiss (founding member of the Dap-Kings & Menahan Street Band) answered. Soon she was playing demos she had on her phone for Homer and Thomas Brenneck (MSB, Budos Band, etc). The connection was immediate, and the next stage of Monika’s career began. The whole of 2014, Homer and Monika worked together on her songs and her sound, and together they shaped what was to become Secret in the Dark.
Speaking about her relationship with Steinweiss, Monika says, “I always believed that the greatest songs are born through a friendship. When Homer and I started talking about this project, we would go to the movies, or for long drives listening to our favorite old records. It was like we taught each other to love music from scratch. Musically, Homer came from the ‘60s, I came from the ‘90s… we met somewhere in between. Homer and the guys brought me into their world, and I’ve never had so much fun working on an album.”
The album was recorded by Steinweiss and Brenneck at Dunham, with Homer producing, and a band featuring Steinweiss, Brenneck, Nick Movshon, Victor Axelrod, Leon Michels, and others from the Brooklyn scene. In various combinations this group has worked on classic albums from artists including Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse, Mick Ronson, Adele, Charles Bradley, Dan Auerbach, and many more, and the record puts Monika’s incredible voice and talents as a songwriter and performer into a completely new context, and also pushes Homer and the band in directions they have rarely explored before. For the final step, Monika and Homer mixed Secret In The Dark with John Congleton at Elmwood Recordings. A blend of organic ‘70s-styled left field disco, ‘80s art-pop, and much more, Secret in the Dark is a distinctly New York album with a breezy Mediterranean heart. It’s soulful, arty, and a ton of fun, and will serve as the introduction to the world of the amazing artist and personality that is Monika.
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