Friday, August 29, 2014

TGIF: Band To Watch - Osca

With a climbing spot on Hype Machine's list of most-blogged and some props from Zane Lowe's BBC broadcast, London-based quartet Osca are finally making a little noise with their accessible take on alt-pop. Their mixture of powerful piano and incredibly capable vocals evoke strong (and fond) memories of early Coldplay, Keane, Stereophonics or The Fray's popular balladry - which, honestly, is completely fine by me. It's not hard to miss that straightforward, feel-good, romantic rock songwriting that seems to have dwindled with this experimental era in music.

Have a listen to "Illume" below - it's unequivocally pretty. That voice!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dreamy New Cyril Hahn: "Open" feat. Ryan Ashley

All of the songs that rising producer Cyril Hahn has dropped from his forthcoming EP Voices have so far sounded like golden tracks, but his new single "Open" is on a whole other level of perfection - it's a bundle of summer bliss in under five minutes.

Featuring labelmate Ryan Ashley's gorgeous croon, Swiss (but Vancouver-based) producer Hahn mixes emotive, pulsing synth and easygoing house beats to create an airy electro ballad meant for the remaining summer sunsets.

If I've listened to this once, I've listened to it 20 times today. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


When I first wrote about San Francisco duo CATHEDRALS, everyone was gradually catching on to their unique brand of R&B-infused electro-pop, which was slowly starting to peak up from the underground. Now with a boatload of buzz under their wings and noticeably more traction, the boy-girl pair have dropped one of their most polished track to dates, titled "OOO AAA," off their forthcoming EP, which is set to drop September 8.

Johnny Hwin's soft harmonies layer over Brodie Jenkins' skilled croon like clockwork while the beat and guitars buzz beneath them - creating an amazing mixture of dark and light vibes on the new single.

Have a listen below, and don't miss that September 8 release.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Porter Robinson Enlists Stars' Amy Millan on Album Opener "Divinity"

22 year-old emerging EDM superstar Porter Robinson only just released his debut album Worlds, and while I haven't delved deep into the song listing thus far, I've become more-than-aware of his genius idea to feature Stars' leading lady (and Canadian) Amy Millan on the album opener.

"Divinity," a twitchy banger off the bat, starts on the highest gear before intermittently toning down for Millan's famously soft coo and a dreamy piano break. Of course, it blasts back up into soaring synth territory, but not without maintaining the frontwoman's gorgeous vocals which, in my opinion, make the track what it is.

The American producer was quoted saying "Divinity" was the collaboration he was the most excited about, because Millan's songs with Stars were such a huge part of his adolescence. Although a handful of years older, I can attest to that one.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On The Rise: Erik Hassle

I try to never judge a book by its cover.

But, I can admit that when I first read about young Swedish pop star Erik Hassle, I didn't exactly expect his voice or songs to sound like this. Boasting a skilled R&B growl beyond his age, Hassle's single "Pathetic" has him sounding like a milky blended mix of Prince, Miguel, and some other notoriously soul-savvy pop stars. And, despite the fact he's been around for a few years and contributed songwriting for the likes of Rihanna and Shakira, maybe he'll join that class himself after a few more singles drop from his new EP, Somebody's Party.

This song has enough groove to stand the test of time, and I look forward to the mainstream recognizing that soon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Canada's Most Unconventional Pop Star: Lowell

Two days in a row of writing about the same chick? Weird, I know. But, what can I say - it's the end of the week, I'm feeling generous, and I'm particularly pumped about Arts & Crafts' newest pop heroine who's straight out of downtown Toronto.

I feel an undeniable affinity for any Canadian - let alone Torontonian - artist, and have no qualms with the fact that these acts are normally packaged into some form of unique indie-rock or electro-pop format, maybe with the odd classical, EDM or hip-hop tossed in. But pop - one of the world's most all-encompassing "genres" - rarely gets an interesting new Canadian class member who's unlike the Biebs or Magic! mold.

Which is where Lowell comes in. 23 year-old Elizabeth Lowell Boland was signed to Arts & Crafts last year, before releasing her debut EP I Killed Sara V to widespread praise. I'll admit even I didn't get what the big deal was at first. I mean, I understood the intrigue of this newcomer; Lowell had dropped out of U of T after spiralling into drugs, before becoming a stripper and putting her musical aspirations on hold. (I Killed Sara V. is a reference to the end of her stripper persona, Sara V.) Now clean, signed to Arts & Crafts, openly bisexual and one of the rarities who experiences a neurological phenomenon called synesthesia (where vision and sound are interchangeable), Lowell is about to drop her anticipated debut full-length, We Loved Her Dearly and every single preemptively leaked has blown me away.

Aside from the single discussed yesterday, this song, and video, are two more bits of evidence that Canadian pop's newest noisemaker is something to pay attention to. In both her music and how she quirkily conducts herself, Lowell denies every bit of typical pop conformity, without sacrificing the ingredients of a catchy-as-hell, feel good song. Her messages are deep - I mean, the girl has clearly been through a lot at a very young age - but she subtly disguises her wisdom in likeable pop melodies and dangerously sweet vocals.

Listen to"The Bells" below (and dive into yesterday's post while you're at it) for a taste of Canada's next big thing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Favourite New Song: Lowell's Power Pop Ballad "Summertime"

Honestly, if I write anything more about this song one more time within a 24-hour period - I'm going to be labelled some sort of stalker. And, the funny thing? Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn't yet come around to this current person of interest - Toronto-based artist Lowell - or her unique brand of indie-pop. I found it interesting (and understandably thought her ex-stripper, drug-filled old life was fascinating), but never went out of my way to hear more. But, then, I started stumbling upon and having new Lowell songs sent to me, and more and more, I began to see the value of the pop oddities from one of Arts & Crafts most recent signees.

And then this happened. Yesterday morning, Spin Magazine premiered Lowell's latest - an unequivocally likeable power-pop ballad titled "Summertime," off her forthcoming September release, We Loved Her Dearly. At first listen, not only did I notice how it was far more accessible than any of her other work - but I noticed that her voice was exquisite. Her pipes and the soulful choral harmonies reached new heights, complimenting the plainly pretty piano melody and eventual percussion thump.

One day later, I think I've probably listened to it 75 times - always ready for that acrobatic chant that chimes in around 2:45. And, with that, I finally get the Lowell thing. (Man, do I ever.)

You can only listen to the single over at Soundcloud - so, be sure to make the jump. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sufjan Stevens Covers Arthur Russell's "A Little Lost"

I'm unsure I need to say much about Sufjan Stevens' recent cover of Arthur Russell's 1994 single "A Little Lost" other than what the renowned indie-folk artist had to say about the song himself:

"I like “A Little Lost” because it’s all about kissing. I love kissing. If I could kiss all day, I would. I can’t stop thinking about kissing. I like kissing more than sex because there’s no end to it. You can kiss forever. You can kiss yourself into oblivion. You can kiss all over the body. You can kiss yourself to sleep. And when you wake up, you can’t stop thinking about kissing. Dammit, I can’t get anything done because I’m so busy thinking about kissing. Kissing is madness! But it’s absolute paradise, if you can find a good kisser."

Fair enough - I think we can all agree with that. Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell, The Red Hot Organization's highly-anticipated tribute to Arthur Russell, the musician and composer who died from AIDS in 1992, is out October 21 via Yep Roc. In addition to Sufjan's cover, it features new spins from Robyn, Hot Chip, Blood Orange, Phosphorescent, Jose Gonzalez, Devendra Banhart, Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, Scissor Sisters, Cults, and more.

I've always loved this Arthur Russell classic so much, so I was delighted Sufjan tried his hand at it. I think it came out lovely. Listen to the cover and original below:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stream Bahamas' Rich New Folk Record

Bahamas' third release, Bahamas is Afie, has been sufficiently hyped over the past couple of months and, alas, we're able to hear the album in whole thanks to a free stream from Spin before the August 19 release. The much-anticipated follow-up to his exceptional 2012 album Barchords is just as beautiful as expected - a mix of lush folk ballads and soulful blues jams that showcase the Canadian artist's often subdued guitar expertise.

Listen to the full stream over at Spin. In the mean time, here's one of my favourite Bahamas covers of an absolute classic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Goldroom Single: "Till Sunrise"

Some people say that smell most powerfully triggers memories, but I've always felt like sound - and song - are actually the best for that. My first summer in Toronto, I would sit on my balcony during really hot nights and crank Goldroom's mellow beats.  Still, whenever I hear a glittery Goldroom track, I feel like I'm right back in my first apartment in the Big Smoke, 25 floors up in the summer sky with a cold drink in hand.

Quite fittingly, Goldroom (or, Josh Legg) says that the new single he dropped today "is for all of those nights that you just don't want to end." Appropriately titled "Till Sunrise," it features breathy vocals by Mammals and nails that soulful, fit-for-summer sound the LA producer is best known for.

This should make your Monday a hell of a lot better.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Jenny Lewis Soul Searches on 'The Voyageur'

I have the fondest memories of being about 14 years-old, sitting in my bedroom and rocking out to unequivocally likeable indie-rock band Rilo Kiley, fronted by oh-so-cool Jenny Lewis and her easy croons. Despite the fact that she's a red-haired bombshell, and their feel-good rock was good enough to rule airwaves, Lewis never technically sold out to the mainstream - despite the fact that she quickly became revered as one of the most powerful leading ladies in indie music.

Last week, Jenny Lewis swung back with The Voyager, her first solo album in six years and an honest collection of Ryan Adams-produced songs that detail heartbreak, the death of her estranged father and being eternally restless. With each song carrying either a folky sway, surf-rock bounce or complete Fleetwood Mac resemblance, the formidable front woman has vocally never sounded better, cooler or braver.

Age, experience, gender, whatever - if you're in that soul searching period of your life, Jenny has you covered. Aside from the title track, here's my favourite song off the release - the shimmery album opener titled "Head Underwater" which has her singing, "There's a little bit of magic/ Everybody has it/ That's a little bit of fight left in me yet." I like the sounds of that.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A New Classic: Low Roar's "Nobody Loves Me Like You"

Remember how yesterday I said that Nate Eisland's solo single might be my favourite ballad of the summer? I take it back.

Only a few hours later did I stumble upon this 6-minute song - a magical new classic - which is already so precious that I almost considered keeping it to myself. Of course I'm not operating under the misconception that no one in the world has heard the ballad off Low Roar's second album 0, but it's just new enough that it hasn't yet been added to a Grey's Anatomy episode or every indie kid's slow dance playlist. 24 hours later, I really can't stop repeating it.

Either way, like an awesome secret, I couldn't keep "Nobody Loves Me Like You" just for me - so, have a listen, melt a bit and promise not to spread it so thin that you stop appreciating its simplistic beauty.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nate Eiesland's Stunning Ballad: "Drifting"

While we haven't been treated to anything new from underrated indie outfit ON AN ON in some time, handsome lead singer Nate Eiesland returned with a solo single that's amounted to one of my favourite ballads of this summer.

"Drifting" is one of the dribble of singles released from the mysterious The Red Album - a collaborative project between Eisland, Nygel Asselin (Half Moon Run's producer) and STACEY - and it's an undeniable time-stopper. Eisland's voice is like milk overtop a moving bed of chords, singing pretty honestly about the pain of love lost. He maintains that heartfelt composure until mid-song, when cries out in an Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse)-sounding moment of desperation that he's "gotta get out." It's something else.

If you're in the trenches of a break-up, this might not be the tune for you at the moment. But, if not, it isn't hard to see the beauty in both the dreamy and sad of this song.

Friday, August 1, 2014

TGIF: The Hood Internet - Sock It 2 Summer (Missy Elliott x Blood Cultures)

Oh man, I feel like I'm back in the 90s heyday of these kinds of amazing and anthemic R&B jams. You know, the ones that ignited a high school party like no other? But no, it's 2014, the beginning of a hot long weekend, and I think we can all agree we're happy as freakin' clams that The Hood Internet mashed up the always-supaflay Missy Elliot with Blood Cultures on this "Sock to 2 Summer" rework.

Do yourself a favour and give this song some air this weekend - it's going to sound about thirty times better perched on the park grass or blasting through rolled-down windows.