Aaron EspeVisit artist site
Raised in small-town northern Minnesota, Aaron Espe got his start by opening for the folk duo Storyhill in Minneapolis before dropping out of school to tour solo sets. Espe’s career has taken him across the U.S. and Northern Ireland, playing in coffee shops, bars, churches, and even the occasional yoga studio. He has released over five solo albums including: My Whole Life (2005), Songs From A Small Town (2008), Three (2012), Through Frozen Forests (2012) and most recently Safe Enough To Wander (2013). In addition to his solo success, Espe has opened for The Fray, John Gorka, Juliet Turner and Brian Houston. He’s also secured coveted placements on ABC, MTV, VH1, Animal Planet, as well as commercials for Sainsbury’s, Payless ShoeSource, Volkswagen, The University of Minnesota and the film, “Where the Yellowstone Goes.”
He says his success as a songwriter comes from “taking chances and being open to new discoveries,” a principle by which he also tries to live. One of his major influences is Martin Sexton’s Black Sheep album, which prompted him to focus his songwriting on topics a bit more confessional and vulnerable. One in particular, the song “Glory Bound,” which he says, “lays it all on the table…if you don’t feel something deep inside of you when you’re listening to it, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Outside of music, Espe enjoys working with his hands, sometimes gardening with his wife, or tinkering in the garage while accompanied by his two-year-old son. He also acts as one-half of Bombs Over Nowhere, a collaborative project with his friend and fellow songwriter busbee. Currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee, Espe writes for Nettwerk and Revelry.
Afghan WhigsVisit artist site
Rising up during the grunge movement, The Afghan Whigs evolved from a garage band to one of the most critically acclaimed post-punk bands of the era. The incorporation of their R&B and soul influences into driving punk rock transformed their guitar heavy music into something truly unique.
Afterhrs is a writing/production team from Los Angeles who co-wrote/co-produced “Wolves” and co-produced “Perfect” on One Direction’s new album Made In The A.M. As well as co-produced 4 songs on their album Four (“No Control,” “Spaces” and “Change Your Ticket” ). Afterhrs also co-produced official remixes for 1D’s “Drag Me Down feat. LunchMoney Lewis”, “Steal My Girl”, “Night Changes” and Cheryl Cole’s “Don’t Care” as well as Fleur East’s “Sax” (#1 on iTunes). Additionally, the duo co-wrote/co-produced Ben Haenow’s current single “Second Hand Heart (Feat. Kelly Clarkson). Recent co-writes include Julian Bunetta, John Ryan, Joe London, Teddy Geiger and Ruth Anne Cunningham.
Alex & Alex
Amber Mark is a 22 year old who has inhaled more culture in her short life than most can say in a lifetime. Being the daughter of a German born, Buddhist artist Amber traveled all over the world breathing in music every step of the way. She found herself at home in India, Thailand, Nepal, Miami, New York, and Berlin.. India is the place where she fully fell in love with music from their instruments to chanting and throat singing. It is hard to put genre perimeters on the music that she is currently making but Amber has coined her style of music “Tribal Soul.”
After her mother passed in June of 2013 Amber turned to her music as her outlet for expression and strength. Amber Mark’s upcoming EP “3:33AM” due out in October is an ode to her mother and the grieving process she experienced to overcome the loss of her best friend, mother and forever companion.
Ambrosia Parsley is best known for her work as the principal songwriter and front woman for pop noir adventurers Shivaree, much loved abroad, little seen at home. She’s worked with Laurie Anderson, Benjamin Biolay, Joe Henry, Sex Mob, Dave Sitek, and Hal Wilner, while her songs have been featured in the films of Quentin Tarantino and David O Russell, licensed, as well, for television and advertising in more than a dozen countries around the globe.
Aria PullmanVisit artist site
Aria Pullman is an American musician and songwriter based out of East Los Angeles. Growing up on a hippy farm in Upstate New York, Pullman credits those roots for her love of crafting songs. Pullman’s vocals have been compared to Karen O, Radiohead and Stevie Nicks. She is currently the frontwoman for the dream-pop duo Some Go Haunting, who released their full-length record “Wandering Souls” in 2015. She also co-writes for the band Mondo Cozmo who will be releasing their much anticipated EP early 2017.
Bad SunsVisit artist site
Bad Suns blends the angsty songwriting influence, ala The Cure and Elvis Costello, with a more contemporary style resulting in hook-heavy indie rock that forms the basis of their extremely catchy sound.
Beach HouseVisit artist site
Hailing from Baltimore, MD, Beach House plays an otherworldly brand of low-key, psychedelic dream pop that is dark, ethereal, and alluringly hypnotic. Comprised of the French-born Victoria Legrand and Baltimore native Alex Scally, the duo crossed paths in the Baltimore music scene in 2004 and have since been writing and performing together for over a decade. The recent release of their critically acclaimed albums, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, marks their 5th and 6th full-length albums respectively, and their 3rd and 4th LP’s out on Sub Pop Records.
Ben Free is a lyric/melody writer, singer, producer and classically trained Jazz trumpet player. Ben is originally from Philadelphia and is now based in LA. Recent cuts include Big K.R.I.T.’s “Third Eye”, Jazmine Sullivan’s “Brand New”, Brent Faiyaz’s new single “Poison” and Tory Lanez’s “Loners Blvd”, which he co-produced.
Ben Goldsmith, is a Virginia native and Big Deal writer, who was formerly the creative manager at BMG Chrysalis. Ben is an all around writer who writes lyrics, builds tracks, and has an a solid positive energy that makes him a force to be reckoned with. Goldsmith is on a good streak, garnering multiple holds and his first top 30 single with Jerrod Niemann’s “Blue Bandana”.
Goldsmith participated in ASCAP’s GPS program for new songwriters. His hometown is Lexington, Virginia, and he is a graduate of The University Of Miami.
Birds of Tokyo
Birds of TokyoVisit artist site
Dark. Dystopic. Cinematic. In equal parts a radical departure and a return to their epic rock roots. It’s fitting that Birds Of Tokyo have called their new album, “Brace”.
Over recent years highly melodic radio staples like “Plans”, “Wild At Heart”, “Lanterns”, “This Fire” and “Anchor” have brought Birds Of Tokyo multiple ARIA and APRA Awards plus a string of platinum plaques making them the country’s most popular contemporary rock band. But this new album sees them torching that formula and embracing a heavier, more urgent attitude; making good on the title track’s tidal wave promise to “destroy it all”.
The relentless ten song set was produced with Canadian David Bottrill who has helmed releases for Tool, Muse and Silverchair. Together they’ve created a bold and uncompromising piece of work. According to the band “Brace” was created to be played live – hence the opening lines of the opening track that invite the listener to “come take a seat, enjoy the show”. This is why they are unveiling it with a gig rather than an online stream or suchlike. It’s a muscular but deeply layered journey that’s deliberately conceived to be shared physically – not just digitally.
It should be no surprise that these songs were written during the rise of Trump and the return of Hanson. It’s not an overtly political album but there’s an end-of- days mood pervading each of these tunes and it makes for an unusually cohesive body of work. From the brutal opening riffage of “Harlequins” it’s clear that the band has a point to prove and all is not well. This outlook is most explicit on songs like “Empire” where crumbling walls are torn down and on the closer “Mercy Arms” which literally tracks the final moments of life support. Along the way “Discoloured” (featuring Hayley Mary from The Jezabels) embraces life on the ledge; awash in a sea of paranoia and dislocation. Even the mid-album moment which initially seems like a respite – “Pilot” – grows gradually into a climax of “watching it all fall apart to be new again”.
The Black Angels
The Black AngelsVisit artist site
Having taken their name from a Velvet Underground classic, “The Black Angels’ Death Song”, The Black Angels’ sultry neo-psychedelic sound is tastefully reminiscent of the fuzz and drone of ’60s and ‘70s psych rock.
Blake MillsVisit artist site
Since quietly making his debut album, Break Mirrors, which critics hailed as one of the best albums of 2010, Blake Mills has been consistently busy. In 2015, he produced the highly acclaimed sophomore album Sound & Color for Alabama Shakes, which reached #1 on Billboard charts and was nominated for six Grammy’s, winning Best Alternative Album, Best Engineered Album, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. Additionally, he has produced music for an eclectic group of artists, including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Sara Watkins, Conor Oberst, Moses Sumney, Jesca Hoop, Sky Ferreira, and Fiona Apple, with whom he toured extensively in 2013 and 2014. Currently he is producing upcoming albums for John Legend, Dawes and Laura Marling.
Mills composed original music for David O’Russell’s Academy Award nominated film Joy. As a session player and sideman he has worked with Beck, Cass McCombs, Jackson Brown, Lucinda Williams, Band of Horses, Frank Ocean and Neil Diamond, among others. Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett frequently call upon his services as a guitarist, and equally enamored is Eric Clapton who recently told Rolling Stone magazine “Blake Mills is the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.”
Bonnie BakerVisit artist site
Bonnie Baker started piano lessons at age five and her love of music was born. Raised in a very strict environment, playing piano and reading books were her passions and where she spent most of her time. She studied creative writing and literature in college earning a Bachelors degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
She moved to Nashville in 1992 to learn how to write songs. Joining ASCAP in 1993 she became aware of the long road from paper to radio. Baker signed a publishing deal in 1997 with a small independent publishing company, McSpadden Smith Music Publishing. Her first cut was Ordinary Life and that was released on Warner Bros. Nashville in 1999. Hamstein Music was her next publishing stop. Universal Music Publishing Nashville was the company where she landed for two years. After her time at UMPG she spent two years at Warner Chappell Music. In June 2008 Baker decided to put her artist / writer development skills to work and she launched Devan Publishing. In 2010 she partnered with Kim McCollum at Words & Music Administration to form Devan Publishing / Play Fairchild Music.
Big Deal Music Publishing purchased Baker’s Play Fairchild Publishing interest in October 2015. The release of the Rachel Platten album Wildfire will help 2016 get started in the best way. Having songs on great albums has been and will always be the focus for Baker and her writing.
Bonnie Baker has learned from some of the best songwriters that the world has to offer. She still works daily to be better at her craft. Her passion is living a creative life. After 23 years of writing she feels like she is just now getting started. Her hobbies are music and reading great books. Not much has changed since age five.
A Connecticut native, Brad Tursi grew up around country music as a kid. After a stint as lead guitar player in Atlantic/ Showdog Record act, Army Of Me, Tursi moved to Nashville to write songs as well as play guitar for artists like Greg Bates and Brett Eldredge. Now an all around performing songwriter, Brad recently enjoyed his first three #1s with Tyler Farr’s “A Guy Walks Into A Bar”, Kenny Chesney’s “Save It For A Rainy Day” and Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him”. In the last year, he’s also had songs recorded by Luke Bryan, David Nail, Maddie & Tae, Swon Brothers, Dallas Smith, William Michael, Josh Turner, Randy Houser and many others. Tursi recently has teamed back up with his old college pals Whit Sellers and Geoff Sprung, along with Matt Ramsey and Trevor Rosennow, to form the Sony Nashville rising star act Old Dominion. When he’s not touring the country with Old Dominion, Tursi continues to write songs with, and for, some of Nashville’s the best and brightest.
The Budos Band
The Budos BandVisit artist site
While wizards use books of spells and alchemy to mix their masterful potions, the Budos employ heavy doses of continent-spanning psychedelic rock to beckon the occult and conjure the supernatural. Hence the title of the band’s fourth album: Burnt Offering.
“We made a conscious decision to embark on a new sound,” explains baritone saxophone player Jared Tankel. The heavy, trippy side the group unveiled on The Budos Band III reaches full flower on new tunes like “Aphasia,” “Trouble in the Sticks” and particularly the title track “Burnt Offering.” “We were messing around with an old Binson Echorec at practice one night and this loop emerged,” recalls bassist Dan Foder. The droning fuzz guitar is a call to the gods from below and encapsulates the band’s sonic progression perfectly. “This record is fuzzy, buzzy and raw, and more obviously psychedelic,” adds Profilio.
Like a cratedigger’s classic from a parallel universe, “Tomahawk” melds heavy, distorted guitar riffs with bright blasts of brass and bubbling drums. An eerie, ceremonial vibe awakens the slumbering giant “Into The Fog” and prods it to life.
Driven by melodies, rhythms, and changes that animate muscle and bone to move, yet compel the ear to lean in closer, these full-bodied instrumentals push Budos’ music deeper into new territory.
Busbee is a songwriter, producer, and musician who has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Maren Morris, Jon Bellion, Christina Aguilera, and 5 Seconds of Summer, among others. Recent cuts include Maren Morris’ Grammy nominated hit single “My Church” and “80’s Mercedes”, Lady Antebellum’s current single “You Look Good”, Florida Georgia Line’s hit “H.O.L.Y” and Keith Urban’s “The Fighter (feat. Carrie Underwood)”. Other cuts include P!nk’s hit single “Try” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side”. Busbee is based in Los Angeles.
Cameron AveryVisit artist site
Be it with a woman or an existence, infatuation and sentimentality seem to rule the world of West Australian artist Cameron Avery. Sonically his music reeks of classic familiarity, paired with lyrics laden with romantic debris, so it’s no surprise he has made Los Angeles his creative playground over the past two years.
Cameron cut his bread in the Perth local music community and has been heavily involved in the relentless touring exploits of POND and Tame impala for the past 5 years. Not unlike his prolific Perth cohorts he has also managed to release an EP, ‘Clever Leaver’ and a full length album ‘What Would Christ Do??’ in a project of his own brainchild called ‘The Growl.’
His solo debut, due out sometime in 2017, flips in-between introverted thought and extroverted comment, all the while drawing on the environment he has been submerged in. Very clear, ambitious and cinematic, likening more to influences such as Serge Gainsbourg and Lee Hazelwood, stepping away from the carnal, distortion soaked sound of a Growl record. Avery quotes, “I tried to keep the raw masculinity in the tunes, which I like in music, but also felt there was some room for some fragility and honesty. In saying that, I don’t think I could have been overly metaphorical if I tried, love songs are the best songs.”
Caroline RoseVisit artist site
A master of wit and charm, Caroline Rose has spent the last two years sharing the stage with artists such as Violent Femmes, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lake Street Dive, and Shovels & Rope, to name a few. She is currently writing and getting ready to record her next full length album.
CavemanVisit artist site
Since Caveman first formed in 2010 they’ve claimed a spot for themselves at the center of the New York music scene, become in-demand DJs, toured the world (sharing stages with The War on Drugs Jeff Tweedy, and Weezer), and gotten love from everyone from Pitchfork to the New York Times. Now the band–Matthew Iwanusa, lead guitarist James Carbonetti, bassist Jeff Berrall, keyboardist Sam Hopkins and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Prescott Clark–is aiming higher.
Otero War was created over the course of three years, completely inverting the ramshackle methods used to make 2011’s CoCo Beware and their 2013 self-titled LP. This time frontman Matthew Iwanusa has taken the wheel of the creative process, bringing to it a level of patience, precision, and quality that exceeds anything he’s ever done before.
Charles BradleyVisit artist site
Charles Bradley has made a name for himself as a riveting live performer and was named to the top spot on Paste Magazine’s Best Live Acts of 2015. He has taken his show to venues and festivals across the globe including Coachella, Glastonbury Festival and Primavera Sound. The Brooklyn-based 67-year old will release his third album Changes on April 1 via Daptone Records, which Rolling Stone calls one of the “Most Anticipated Albums of 2016.”
The remarkable against-all-odds rise of Charles Bradley since the release of his 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming has been well documented. He transcended a bleak life on the streets and struggled through a series of ill-fitting jobs before finally being discovered by Daptone’s Gabriel Roth. The year following the release of No Time For Dreaming was one triumph after another including a breakthrough performance at SXSW, several television performances and having the album named to many year end “best of” lists. The soul singer’s ascent continued with the 2013 release of his triumphant second album Victim of Love, which saw Bradley emerging from his past heartaches stronger and more confident, overflowing with love to share.
Crass MammothVisit artist site
Making guitar driven rock in a world that seems to be steered from such, Crass is held fast by their want to strike the chords in hard enough to change the world’s path. Their monster riffs and vintage guitar tones make for a refreshing return to good ole fashioned rock n’ roll, but this time it’s being made in a kitchen, not a garage.
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Cymbals Eat GuitarsVisit artist site
“We wanted to make a more energetic record. I personally looked to artists like Springsteen, 70’s Bowie, The Smiths, The Cure, Neil Young as inspiration for—not really for sound as much as for that dichotomy of bands who were entertainers still making, at times, weird dark music and writing songs that seem totally over-the-top by today’s rock band standards,” says Cymbals Eat Guitars bassist Matthew Whipple of his band’s wildly ambitious fourth LP, Pretty Years.
The band, composed of singer/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino, bassist Whipple, keyboardist Brian Hamilton, and drummer Andy Dole, have indeed crafted what’s easily their most sonically enigmatic and most rewarding album to date. Their trademark cacophonic guitar rock and innate propulsion are still abundant, but they’re buttressed by raucous synth and keyboard lines, and an extemporaneous saxophone performance, which enrich when they could easily clutter these songs. The band also worked more quickly and efficiently than they had in the past, facilitated by years on the road in which they’ve played close to a thousand shows, which rendered them a tight, fully-oiled machine in the studio.
D’Agostino emphasizes that the band always goes into the studio with an edict of crafting an album that replicates their live sound, but haven’t had that come into full fruition until now. “With this record…I think we nailed it this time. First or second takes of everything, real hunger in the performances. Just something to prove.” He stresses that he’d be happy with the band’s chaotic yet tight performances on songs, yet would expect producer John Congleton to ask him to do multiple run throughs. To his surprise, Congleton would say pithily, in D’Agostino’s words, “ok, what’s next?,” obviously satisfied with the results. Remarkably, the band tracked the album in four days.
This looseness is apparent from the outset, on the epic grandeur of opener “Finally,” which shimmers with complex beauty, leading into the sweet rush of “Have a Heart,” which finds D’Agostino singing, “I’m so out of sync / And you’re out of sync with me,” which could well be a mantra for the visceral appeal of this superb record.
The entire album is rife with electrified, flashbulb moments—“4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” conveys the madness of life on the road, exhibiting D’Agostino’s uncanny ability to transform minutiae into profundity. This skill is evident in spades on the record’s centerpiece and opus, the disarmingly vulnerable “Dancing Days.” The song also exhibits the contributions of Whipple, and slyly invokes the album’s title in its magisterial chorus, as D’Agostino contritely croons, “Goodbye to my pretty years.”
“In a dark moment on tour for LOSE, I said something to Matt about losing my pretty years quickly because of touring, how the lifestyle ages you,” explains D’Agostino. “Months later when we were writing for the record, he came to me with the lyrics for that chorus and I wrote the song around them.”
D’Agostino gets to the crux of his emotions on the album’s closer, “Shrine,” in which he veers from the ghosts chasing him into fever dream territory, seemingly coming to terms with demons past. The instrumentation itself is a gorgeous storm-cloud of guitars, building glacially to a cathartic denouement, as D’agostino sings with mounting emotion, “Where will it all go when I die / Never know while I’m alive.” Circumspect about discussing his lyrics’ meanings, D’Agostino laughs when the dark nature of the song’s broached, “This is a record that has many moods!”
And indeed,Pretty Yearsis a roller coaster ride, both lyrically and sonically, that encompasses what it’s like to be alive and in the moment. But ultimately, this is an album that keenly captures the magic and loss attendant to living life wide-eyed, and hints that these “pretty years” may portend even prettier ones to come.
D.D DumboVisit artist site
Dan WilsonVisit artist site
Dan Wilson is a singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and occasional cartoonist. He is best known as the lead singer of the band Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare. As a songwriter and producer, he has worked with a diverse group of artists including Adele, Dixie Chicks, John Legend, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Taylor Swift, Jim James, Pink, Dierks Bentley, Nas, Josh Groban, Weezer, Carole King, and many others.
Daniel Martin Moore
Daniel Martin MooreVisit artist site
Often, you’ll find DMM working/recording/touring/drinking tea/throwing frisbee with Dan Dorff, Jr., Joan Shelley, Jim James, Kevin Ratterman, Dave Givan, Ben Sollee, and a whole host of other talented musicians from around the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the country, & the globe. He is currently in the studio with his band & a few other pals making a new record. Stay tuned.
Dave HarringtonVisit artist site
Dave Harrington is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. A native New Yorker, Harrington has worked across many genres and musical communities including the downtown improvised scene, Brooklyn indie rock, substrates of the jam band zone, and the city’s burgeoning electronic milieu. Perhaps best known for his collaboration with Nicolas Jaar in the duo DARKSIDE, Harrington has run with the synthesis that also drove the band and carved out a space for himself. Improvisation is central to all that he does, a freewheeling and psychedelic approach that is applied to everything from jazz to techno. He recently released his debut solo LP as the Dave Harrington Group on Jaar’s Other People label and has been touring in support of it, performing headlining shows across Europe and the US, as well as appearing at festivals ranging from Pitch Festival in Amsterdam to We Love Green in Paris and the Gent Jazz Festival.
Dave PalmerVisit artist site
A great American session keyboardist and composer, Dave Palmer has toured, performed, or recorded with Air, Fiona Apple, Seal, Chris Isaak, Joe Henry, Bobby Previte, Wayne Horvitz, Fleetwood Mac, Ponga, Critters Buggin, MC 900 Foot Jesus, Aimee Mann, Solomon Burke, Turin Brakes, Cake, Lindsey Buckingham, Tegan and Sara, Avenged Sevenfold and many more.
David Sitek is a Baltimore-bred songwriter, guitarist and producer best known as founding member of revered ’00s experimental indie-rock titans, TV on the Radio. As a writer and/or producer he’s been recognized for his work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, Foals, Celebration, Little Dragon, Scarlett Johansen, Kelis and Beady Eye. He continues to captain Maximum Balloon, while authoring free jazz-influenced remixes of songs by artists like Beck, Nine Inch Nails and MF Doom.
Deep Sea Diver
Deep Sea DiverVisit artist site
Deep Sea Diver is the tuneful if not always obedient pet of guitar wiz Jessica Dobson (The Shins, Beck, yeah yeah yeahs). Sharp, intricate, polyrhythmic indie-pop songs that showcase her voice as well as her chops.
Donna MissalVisit artist site
enrapturing and passionately raw vocal proved she could capture even the most jaded of listeners. Her mighty set of pipes fits somewhere between the smoky pop softness ofLana Del Rey, the soulful strength and grit of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and the retro rocker howl of Janis Joplin, the songstress’ trifecta appeal carries her with a lighted torch to the forefront of today’s crowded musical landscape.
now slowly, you know me, tell me I’m your only, even if it hurts.”
Originally from the great state of New Jersey, Dylan has been writing songs and performing in Nashville for over 23 years. He’s had #1 songs for Tim McGraw (Watch The Wind Blow By), Jake Owen (Barefoot Blue Jean Night), and Jason Aldean (Take a Little Ride), as well as cuts with Trace Adkins, Joe Nichols, Chase Bryant, and the Eli Young Band among many others.
Dylan GardnerVisit artist site
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Dylan is the kind of inspired artist who seldom comes along. Possessing sophistication well beyond his years, Dylan writes and sings about his dreams, goals, and aspirations with the pop prowess of the greats from our era.
Ethan GruskaVisit artist site
At once minimalist and expansive, Ethan Gruska’s solo debut, the luminous Slowmotionary, embraces a range of sounds and styles, with influences from jazz and folk to ambient and alternative, Slowmotionary integrates everything into a whole that is original, idiosyncratic, and embraces its own imperfections. “I really tried to let that humanity in and to not only leave these quirky blemishes in, but to highlight them,” says Gruska. “I didn’t want perfect. I wanted true. I wanted honest.” He made room for a little serendipity in his creative process, sensing that too calculated an approach would diminish the impact of the music. That spontaneity provided a wonderful counterpoint to his thoughtful and revealing lyrics.
“What I hope is that people can sense the vulnerability in the writing,” says Gruska. “I hope that they can sense it’s someone telling the truth.” The deeply personal songs on Slowmotionary chronicle a period of transition in his life: The Belle Brigade, which he had started in 2008 with his sister Barbara Gruska, went on hiatus. He got engaged and moved in with his fiancé, leaving the neighborhood where he had lived for years. One chapter was closing, another opening, and the in-between-ness of the experience motivated him to write songs with no real expectations in mind—writing for writing’s sake—with no sense that he was working on an album or anything beyond the song itself.
Before he even knew he was making a solo album, Gruska had a handful of songs in his notebook—what he calls “vignettes”—vivid, wistful sets of melodies and lyrics, visually evocative and emotionally acute, inspired by short stories and short film. And poetry. Gruska avidly devours verse, which informs his songwriting. Each of these songs could live on the page without losing life or meaning. “The poet who has always had my heart is Pablo Neruda. I love Wordsworth and a lot of the Romantic poets, but Neruda was the first one who really killed me and I’ve never been able to move on from him.” Using these writers as guides and muses freed him up from the lyrical constraints he felt previously. “You have this freedom to be surreal and opaque and playful. The narrative doesn’t have to be clear all the time, so you are free to attach your own meanings to the words.”
Only gradually did the songs cohere in his mind into a statement, and with it came certain ideas of what he could express about himself, what he should leave unstated, and what the listener might interpret in the music. “I wasn’t worrying about whether every song had a chorus or a bridge or a hook. I threw all of that out the window for this, and it felt really liberating.” He let the songs themselves dictate their shapes and sounds, their repetitions and arrangements. Some needed to be short, needing less than two minutes to conjure their worlds in vivid details. Others depended on the echoing repetition of lines to conjure the inner workings of his mind. “Where is it you want to be?” he asks, over and over, on the hypnotic “Rather Be,” with its swirl of icy synths and delicate guitar picking. The song culminates in an epiphany about his own emotional dislocation: “We’re never where we want to be, we’re never where we want to be.”
Showcasing Gruska’s hushed vocals and subtle arrangements, these songs resonate with the intimacy of an internal monologue, as though we’re sharing in his darkest worries. On “Reoccurring Dream,” he reaches into his upper register to express romantic hesitations. “Reading your mind is never going to yield and answer,” he sings, as the song gently erupts into a flourish of strings and bass harmonica, like a fleeting memory of Pet Sounds. “Most of the time it’s just uneducated guessing that just leads to depression.” Similarly, opener “The Valley” turns mundane experiences into harrowing emotional ordeals: driving through Los Angeles, letting his mind wander at each stoplight, daydreaming about an ex-girlfriend, pondering his parents’ divorce and his own upcoming nuptials. “It’s family that defines me,” he sings wistfully, over a quiet cascade of piano chords. “I can’t help if they remind me of the fear that can be blinding: that history repeats itself in me.” It’s a quietly devastating moment, all the more powerful for being as uncertain as life itself.
These songs took their time from written verse to skeletal demos to finished album. With several friends and family members—including his sister Barbara, with whom he had played in the Belle Brigade—encouraging him to tackle them in the studio, Gruska called up Tony Berg and asked if he might advise. “Tony is a godfather to so many musicians, because he’s been very open to giving advice and helping people out without there being a caveat,” says Gruska. “I was pretty confused about what I was going to do and he really helped sort things out. I played him eight songs, many of which were very short iterations at that stage, and he said to me, ‘I’ll do this with you. Let’s not worry about the cost or the time.’”
Both Gruska and Berg emphasized unorthodoxy in these recordings. The basic tracking of Gruska’s performances was done live in the studio, as if he were performing for the listener. They worked in bursts and starts, a few days at a time with long breaks in between, a scattered schedule that allowed them to get some distance on the songs and hear them with fresh ears. “It gave us a lot of time to live with it.” Gruska played most of the instruments while never losing focus on the lyrics and what he wanted to communicate. A few friends and family added subtle flourishes. Gabe Noel played cello and bass; Blake Mills guitar; Rob Moose added gentle string arrangements; Barbara Gruska played drums on a few tracks.
“The goal was to have it be like a sound collage that I had made. It was really exploratory, with a lot of sampling and reversing—techniques I had tried in the past but had never gotten to fully explore.” The results are beautifully minimalist: songs as whispered confidences, with what Gruska calls an “arctic” sound, windswept and cold, befitting lyrics that depict moments frozen in time. “I didn’t want to hide behind anything. That’s why it’s produced and arranged the way it is. It’s very barren at certain moments. These songs slow down time for me, which is why I called it Slowmotionary. I needed to put myself out there musically and lyrically.”
And that meant not making it perfect. It meant making these songs sound like the results from something other than a studio. It meant conveying the sense of music that is being written at the same moment you hear it. “A lot of the record is mysterious, even to me. It’s not something you always tap your foot to. You’re listening to my thought process.”
Ethan JohnsVisit artist site
Ethan Johns is a record producer, engineer, mixer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who has worked with artists such as Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne, Paul McCartney, and The Vaccines. He debuted his solo music career in 2012, and continues to work as a collaborator, producer, and solo act.
FIDLARVisit artist site
If you don’t know what their namesake acronym is, you’re just not cool. FIDLAR, birthed from the Southern California skater-punk scene, is a tongue-in-cheek powerhouse and a real force to be reckoned with.
Fort LeanVisit artist site
Their sound is a distinct collision of moods and tones, approachable and ambitious but delivered with a sideways subtlety. The collective songwriting is cohesive yet contains the disparate perspectives of its five writers. Their versatility is appropriate for both a crowd at a party or for the introspective headphoner.
The FrightsVisit artist site
Beginning as a way to kill boredom in the summer of 2012, following their senior year of high school, The Frights began writing surf punk and recording simple, catchy songs in their free time. A short time after, each of the original members parted ways for college and work, but soon got back together just weeks later with a new sound and new influence. They signed to Postmark Records after their first show, where they released their first 5 records including their debut full length self titled album. They then moved to Dangerbird Records for their sophomore LP release, You Are Going To Hate This. The Frights sound like something you would hear at a 1950’s Underwater Halloween party. With Mikey Carnevale (Lead vocals, Guitar), Richard Dotson (Bass, Vocals), and Marc Finn (Drums), The Frights are a surf punk band with a special hint of dirty doo wop.
G.SmithVisit artist site
G.Smith is an artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She produces every aspect of the music as well as all visual elements. Her sound boasts hard hits, haunting vocals, and an overall push for gritty electronic sounds. Her lyrics feel lonely and vulnerable with an edge to them that makes you scared that’ll bite your hand off. Originally a visual artist, she started creating videos that were in need of sound. From there she started fleshing out elaborate soundscapes using just her voice (and a washing machine), and discovered a love for producing.
Hannah BlaylockVisit artist site
Hannah Blaylock started her first band as a freshman in high school with her parents and a family friend. That first band eventually became Eden’s Edge. After later moving to Nashville, Blaylock was mentored by Nashville songwriter Kye Fleming, who helped her country-pop mature into infectious sing-along’s, fueled by a certain southern fun-loving sincerity, which Blaylock’s voice makes knocks out of the park.
HawaiVisit artist site
Hawai is a band not a state. When one hears the WORD, you might think of hula, resorts, beaches, palm trees and luau’s; when one hears the BAND, that’s trickier. It’s familiar but fresh, unique but recognizable, bright yet strikingly emotional. Someday when one hears the word HAWAI, the thought will not be of tropical splendor, but of a band from California.
HealthVisit artist site
Rising from the DIY art-noise scene in Downtown Los Angeles, HEALTH make mathy indie-rock with tribal drums, squealing guitars, asymmetrical basslines, and a homemade guitar/vocal pedal called a Zoothorn. They have been described as having “artfully crafted noise and raw synth, haunting monotone vocals, and drum skills that are borderline insane.
Homer has provided the indelible backbeat of Daptone Records since day one and, since honing his craft writing songs for Sharon Jones, has developed his own bright career as a producer and writer, most recently producing and co-writing the majority of Diane Birch’s Speak A Little Louder (S-Curve, 2013), co-writing on Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special (2015), and writing for the Dan Auerbach fronted band The Arcs’ Yours, Dreamily (2015), for which Homer also plays drums.
Homer’s creative contributions as a principal Extraordinaire have also proved fruitful in the sample world, having been used by Travis Scott on his summer hit, “Antidote”, as well as by Jay-Z (“Rock Boyz”, “Open Letter”), Eminem (“Groundhog Day”), and the Black Eyed Peas (“Imma Be”).
Homer wants to continue writing with pop and indie artists, both established and developing acts. He is open to any and all possibilities. He is a skilled engineer and producer and proficient in the analog world as well as Pro Tools.
Jared is an idea person/ lyricist who also plays guitar and sings. In his first year a Big Deal writer, he has garnered multiple major label cuts with Parmalee, Jake Owen, Justin Moore, and Chase Rice. Jared is based in Nashville and loves writing country songs with track people of all genres.
Jason WhiteVisit artist site
In 2000, Jason White released his seminal album, Shades of Gray, which earned him both critical acclaim and commercial success, and went on to influence a generation of Nashville songwriters. Fifteen years and three genre-defying albums later, White is poised to release his newest work, a double-LP set entitled Sundown on Sweeney Bluff.
Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, by a small-town Yankee father and a Louisiana-bred Southern belle mother, White is a man who defies typecasting, a restless artistic spirit who refuses to be pigeonholed. If pressed to describe his music, he calls it “American Hash,” a hodgepodge of the styles spawned in the U.S. that forever changed the world’s listening habits: the blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll.
The songs that make up White’s American Hash have been recorded by a fittingly eclectic group of artists: country legends Tim McGraw and Diamond Rio; alternative stylists Swan Dive and Liam Titcomb; soft-rock crooner Russell Hitchcock; string-band icons Old Crow Medicine Show; and pop/rock divas the Muddy Magnolias, to name a few.
As guitarist and lead singer for the Ohio-based band the Janglers, White toured relentlessly through his 20s, learning the joys and heartaches of the road. Inking a deal with Universal Records in 1996, White moved to Nashville to launch his solo career. Since then there have been many deals: with record labels, music publishers, managers, booking agents, publicists, et al. There have been successes and letdowns. But through it all, he has been driven by a love of melody and harmony, joy in the turn of a lyrical phrase, savoring the complexity behind a simple song arrangement, and harboring an unquenchable need for self-expression.
Jenny Owen Youngs
Jenny Owen YoungsVisit artist site
Jenny Owen Youngs is a singer-songwriter, and topline writer, from Brooklyn via New Jersey, who combines perceptive and brashly funny lyricism with carefully orchestrated folk-pop music. Her music gives listeners a seemingly one-on-one confessional experience.
Jim JamesVisit artist site
Jim James is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of the indie rock band My Morning Jacket.
Joe HenryVisit artist site
If an artist is known by the company he keeps, then Joe Henry must have baffled more than a few people. Over a career that spans more than two decades, the critically acclaimed songwriter and Grammy-winning producer has recorded albums that have been loosely and inaccurately categorized as rock, folk, jazz, and alt-country, and has worked with artists as diverse as Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, The Jayhawks, Solomon Burke, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Brad Mehldau, Mavis Staples, Rosanne Cash, The Milk Carton Kids, Emmylou Harris and Madonna.
Joe London is a writer/producer who co-wrote and co-produced of Jason Derulo’s single “Wiggle” featuring Snoop, Pitbull’s single “Fireball” feat. John Ryan, Robin Schulz’s single “Headlights ft. Ilsey”, Travis Mills’ “Young & Stupid (Feat. T.I.), Fifth Harmony’s single “BO$$”, Tim McGraw’s “The View”, LunchMoney Lewis’ “Real Thing” and Thomas Rhett’s new single “Die A Happy Man”. Joe is based in Los Angeles.
John GoldVisit artist site
John Gold crafts breezy, nuanced indie pop gems that suggest a long, steady diet of West Coast classic rock and contemporary indie folk.
John Ryan is a songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Recent cuts include One Directions new singles “Drag Me Down” and “Perfect” as well as past singles “Steal My Girl”, “Night Changes”, “Best Song Ever”, “Story of My Life”, “You And I” and “Midnight Memories”, Pitbull’s “Fireball” (on which he’s featured), Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle” featuring Snoop, Deorro & Chris Brown’s “Five More Hours”, Robin Schulz’s “Headlights ft. Ilsey”, Tim McGraw’s “The View”, Cobra’s Starship’s “Never Been In Love” featuring Icona Pop, New Politics “Everywhere I Go”, Nick Jonas’ “Take Over” and Walk the Moon’s “Work This Body”. John is based in Los Angeles.
Jonathan WilsonVisit artist site
The gentle vibe of Jonathan Wilson’s songs is an echo of the Laurel Canyon mellow rock scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s, and it’s no surprise that he found a home in the very same section of California years after the fact. where he continues to write, as well as collaborate and produced records with other artists.
Kamasi WashingtonVisit artist site
Kamasi Washington is an American jazz musician based in Los Angeles, CA. Born into a musical family, Kamasi began playing saxophone at the age of 13, later attending the prestigious Hamilton High School of Music followed by UCLA. He has toured and recorded with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Rapahel Saadiq, Kendrick Lamar, Gerald Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Harvey Mason and Chaka Khan, to name a few. Along with his own 10-piece band, “The Next Step,” Kamasi released his groundbreaking solo album, “The Epic,” on May 5th, 2015. The 172-minute, triple disc masterpiece, which includes a full string orchestra and full choir, debuted at #1 on several iTunes Jazz charts, including the US, Canada, Australia, Russia and UK. In addition to composing his own music, Kamasi is part of a west coast musical collective called the “West Coast Get Down.
Karl HydeVisit artist site
Best known as the vocalist for the electronic act Underworld, Londoner Karl Hyde was also in the pre-Underworld group Freur and continues to maintain a solo career. Through his lyrics and creative vision he has become recognized as a pioneer of modern electronic music. He continues to write, innovate, and collaborate; most recently with respected producer and soundscaper, Brian Eno.
Cypress, TX native and rising country singer songwriter, Kayla Conn watched as her debut EP album roared into the Top 40 on iTunes Country albums chart just weeks before her sophomore year in high school came to a close. Grounded by her faith, family, and fearless nature, Kayla relishes the challenge of reaching larger and larger audiences with her earnest music and message.
LandladyVisit artist site
Adam Schatz is a conservatory-trained reed player of great skill and imagination (Man Man). With Landlady, he slums lustily, Brooklyn art rock magician and feel good shaman. Amen.
Lightwave EmpireVisit artist site
Lightwave Empire is the primary musical identity of Copenhagen’s Bjarke Niemann whose creative partner is noted American and multiple Grammy award wining producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, Marilyn Manson, LCD Soundsystem). 2017 sees Bjarke relocating to Los Angeles and the release of Lightwave Empire’s debut album Heart of Noise. The band (which also includes Anders Christiansen) made their debut with an enormous show at Roskilde Festival (one of Europe’s largest) in 2016 and the video for “Pleasure And Pain”, directed by the noted Anders Malmburg was premiered by Noisey who called it “marvelous”. Upcoming single “Sundown” will be launched with Big Deal Music this Spring.
In addition to Lightwave Empire, Bjarke collaborates with internationally noted fashion designer Rasmus Bak in Death Has No Dominion. Their atmospheric debut album was released to great acclaim in 2014 and the follow up is expected in the summer of 2017. The video for “Coming Like A Hurricane” is a spectacular visual piece
Bjarke Niemann is also a composer and multi-instrumentalist, and really much more than that. As a composer he is a go-to for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (the Danish equivalent of the BBC). He is recognized as a video game composer best known for his collaboration with IO-Interactive on the successful game “Hitman”. He has worked consistently with acclaimed director Michael Noer including both the 2013 feature Northwest and a spot for the Danish national soccer team. He has also teamed up on composition with Dave Sardy who has scored multiple #1 films including 21 and Zombieland.
All told, including previous bands Spleen United and Pantherman, Bjarke Niemann’s collective output ranges from abstract compositions to electronic rock. He won a Danish Grammy for Spleen United in 2013 and has been recognized on multiple occasions by the Danish Arts Council.
Local NativesVisit artist site
Much has happened between the band’s critically-acclaimed album Gorilla Manor and the imminent release of Hummingbird. From rave reviews to brilliant television performances, Gorilla Manor launched the band onto the global stage, saw them headlining theaters throughout America and Europe, opening for bands like Arcade Fire and The National, and winning them lauded slots at major festivals around the world.
Upon their return home from the road, the band built out a rehearsal space and studio in an abandoned bungalow in Silverlake, allowing them to write and experiment extensively with new sounds and arrangements. Keeping their uniquely collaborative process intact, this ultimately led to the band utilizing new instruments and songwriting approaches, challenging themselves to grow from the comfort space of their established aesthetic.
The band says Hummingbird was created from the emotional framework of being stretched between two opposite poles. In the two years following Gorilla Manor’s release, the band saw the highest highs and the lowest lows they had ever experienced together. While many of their wildest musical ambitions were coming to fruition, personal relationships faltered or fell apart, and a close family member suddenly passed away. The songs on Hummingbird embody that similar dichotomy – they are fragile and powerful, opulent and spare, tense and poised. When it came time to properly set these songs to tape, the band did their initial tracking in Montreal, and then decamped to Brooklyn, enlisting as co-producer The National’s Aaron Dessner, whom they had recently befriended while touring together. It was the first time they had ever recorded outside their native California, and relocating became the physical manifestation of working beyond what was familiar for them.
Shining opener “You & I” is the album’s calling card, bathing synthetic drums in warm organs and surfy guitars, and the band’s signature sky-high harmonies. “Heavy Feet” marries hand claps and sparse chords with a driving snare and one of the most remarkable choruses on the album, while “Ceilings” sounds like Fleetwood Mac with a dub bass groove. “Colombia,” written for a member’s mother who passed away unexpectedly last year, is the album’s swollen heart moment, a love letter from a son to a parent which grows in beautiful, orchestral complexity around a simple, plaintive chorus. Like all of Hummingbird, the song carries with it not just a melodic richness, but a quality of catharsis and grace – a moment to be examined and ultimately enjoyed.
Los ColognesVisit artist site
“Only the living feel the ﬂow/only the loving let it go”- Unspoken
One of the highest and rarest aspirations in popular music is to reach for the transcendental, to access the spirit. On the third album “The Wave” by Nashville based Los Colognes, they succeed just this- in breaking through the confines of everyday pop song lyricism to tell a sort of holistic story. It’s not a concept piece, but it’s a brooding and still joyful song cycle filled with philosophical rumination, effortless hooks, inspiring musicianship, and expansive arrangements. It’s an album perfectly suited of the current zeitgeist of unease and hope.
“The Wave” is an album about archetypes and about the everyday. There are allusions to the Great Flood, to Plato’s Cave, to Poe, to the hero’s quest so iconically deﬁned by Joseph Campbell. There are recurring metaphors about the water, about the vastness of the ocean and the delicate balance between riding the wave and being pulled under. There is struggle, there is dread, there is hope, there is ultimately the knowledge only gained by a journey. It’s an album about attempting to gain acceptance with the ﬂow of adulthood, life in the music business, the changing awareness that only time and maturity can hand to someone.
Lucy DacusVisit artist site
Lucy Dacus is a 21 year old, singer-songwriter from Richmond, VA. She self-released her debut album No Burden on February 26, 2016. Recently signing to Matador Records, Dacus has been called one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “10 New artist You Need to Know” and has already drawn comparisons to the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Courtney Barnett and Angel Olsen. So far this year she has toured with Lord Huron, Head and the Heart, and Houndmouth, and will have upcoming festival appearances at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
Luke BellVisit artist site
A classic honky-tonk country writer and performer with a wink and a yodel that summons the sleeping ghosts of country better than any voodoo spell ever could.
Martie Maguire & Emily Robison
As the mainstays of the Dixie Chicks, which they formed in 1989, it goes without saying the music of these sisters and country songwriting partners is undeniably recognizable. Martie and Emily continue their career writing and performing with Dixie Chicks, as well as with their “solo” project Court Yard Hounds.
Menahan Street Band
Methyl EthelVisit artist site
Jake Webb started Methyl Ethel in 2013 as a way of getting his bedroom recordings out there and into ears and minds. The gentle-eyed polymath got his start playing with underground bands in Perth, Western Australia. Webb’s playing was textural and moody, less about look-at- me riffs, more close-your- eyes-and- let-this- wash- over-you- like-a- curling-Margaret- River-wave. Lush.
Since then Methyl Ethel drew the attention of tastemakers from the northern hemisphere after debut US shows at New York’s CMJ conference. Their electric live performances impressed Rolling Stone, NME, The Guardian and 4AD, the latter will give Oh Inhuman Spectacle its worldwide release in 2016. Closer to home, Methyl Ethel were voted into the Triple J Hottest 100 and Oh Inhuman Spectacle has been shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize, up against Courtney Barnett and fellow Perth act Tame Impala.
Jake Webb is a one-man band in the studio with endless sonic ideas for pop songs. Now, having gained so many plaudits from pundits in their home country, Methyl Ethel are ready to leave Perth for the rest of the world. And the heat is on.
Missy HigginsVisit artist site
With a flair for poignant ballads and pop/rock singles, Missy Higgins became one of Australia’s most popular artists of the early 21st century.
My Morning Jacket
My Morning JacketVisit artist site
Emerging from Louisville, Kentucky, My Morning Jacket has successfully expanded on their rock and country roots, to fuse everything from neo-psychedelia to funk, prog, and reggae into their sonic experimentation…and their fans can’t get enough.
Nick LoweVisit artist site
Nick first made his mark as a producer (Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Pretenders, The Damned), has written scores of classic songs (some of which you know by heart), enjoyed a short-lived turn as pop star, then a lengthy term as a musicians’ musician. In his current ‘second act’ as a silver-haired, tender-hearted
Nick van Hofwegen
Nick van Hofwegen aka Young & Sick is an artist, writer, producer and illustrator who is signed to B3SCI Records. In addition to his artist project, he’s co-written songs for other artists including “Caught In The Middle” for Charli XCX’s album Sucker. Nick is also a member of the band Mr Sanka, which is signed to PMR Records. As an illustrator he’s created artwork for Foster the People, The Velvet Teen, Maroon 5, Robin Thicke, Mikky Ekko, and more.
Hailing from England’s Isle of Wight, Paul Butler is who NME calls “a maker of some damn fine albums”. A founding member and producer of psych rock band The Bees, Butler and co famously recorded the band’s debut in a garden shed, leading to a record deal with Virgin Records and a Mercury Prize nomination for ‘Sunshine Hit Me’ in 2002.
The Bees quickly gathered acclaim from critics and peers alike, which led Butler to produce Devendra Banhart’s first major label release, ‘What Will We Be.’ He would soon return to the Isle of Wight to produce and record The Bees’ ‘Every Step’s A Yes’ – and, that same year recorded and produced North London artist Michael Kiwanuka’s debut album ‘Home’ (Polydor Records) in his own Steam Room Studios. This led to his second Mercury Prize nomination an even decade after the first.
More recently, Butler picked up a Grammy nomination in 2015 for Jarle Bernhoft’s Islander, which he produced, collaborated with Danger Mouse on Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate, and produced the Stax-inspired LP Sea of Noise from St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Now based in Northern California, Butler is currently recording and mixing the forthcoming record from Caroline Rose.
PavementVisit artist site
The strangest thing about Pavement? Not that there were ever many non-strange things about Pavement? Even though they made their era’s finest rock albums, the albums only told half their story. Pavement also made some of the Nineties’ best albums that *never* happened. Until now.
Every proper Pavement album, from the out-of-nowhere debut Slanted and Enchanted to the summer-upper Terror Twilight, was accompanied by a flurry of slay tracks and stray slack—songs that got scattered on B-sides, EPs, compilations, radio sessions. Any other band could have hopped on a lost nugget like “Circa 1762” or “Sensitive Euro Man” and milked it into a legend, or at least a check from an imminently sadder-but-wiser major label. But Pavement were too busy writing and recording great songs to worry about where to stash them, and they moved too fast to leave a tidy trail. So they left these songs off their albums. Some never got released at all.
Pavement made five proper album-as-albums: Slanted and Enchanted (1992), Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994), Wowee Zowee (1995), Brighten The Corners (1997) and Terror Twilight(1999). Each has its own sound. Each has its own legend. But each of their official albums has a shadow album—and it’s usually as strong as the album that actually *did* come out. It’s time for the world to hear the albums Pavement could have made, if they’d been a little less ambitious about music and a little more ambitious about the music business. If they’d been the kind of band to sweat the legacy. But if they were that kind of band, would they have written so many great songs? Much less *these* great songs? No.
– Rob Sheffield, on the release of Pavement’s The Secret History, Vol. 1, May 2015
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Preservation Hall Jazz BandVisit artist site
Originally house band at the famed Hall in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, faithfully performing the indigenous classic jazz canon since 1963, 2nd generation steward Ben Jaffe continues minding that hallowed store while also writing and performing with the group all around the world. Their outreach and alumni programs are a beacon for arts combines of all stripes, while the music has been hailed by everyone from Louis Armstrong himself to The Arcade Fire.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (aka Nadya Tolokno) is a Russian musician, conceptual artist, and political activist. She’s the founder of the feminist punk collective, Pussy Riot, and has a history of political activism both in and out of the group. In Moscow in 2011, Pussy Riot began staging unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in public locations, later editing footage of the performances into music videos, promoting gender equality, LGBT rights, and opposition to Russian President, Vladimir Putin. In 2012, she was convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after being arrested during a performance in Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. According to Vladimir Putin, the work “undermined the moral foundations of the Russian nation,” sentencing Nadya and two others to two years’ hard labor in Siberia.
She was recognized by the Russian human rights group “Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners,” named a “prisoner of conscience due to the severity of the response of the Russian authorities” by Amnesty International, and received the LennonOno Grant for Peace in 2012. Her first collaboration with Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kelis), “Chaika,” was released in February 2016, and her debut EP, “xxx”, is out October 28, 2016.
Ray LaMontagneVisit artist site
Ray LaMontagne has a voice that recalls a huskier, sandpapery version of Van Morrison and Tim Buckley. He creates folk songs that are alternately lush and intimately earthy.
Sarah Emily Parish
Sarah Emily ParishVisit artist site
An amazing country and pop songwriter, producer, track writer, top-liner, and vocalist, Sarah Emily Parish’s beautiful songbird voice has been compared to artists like A Fine Frenzy, and Sara Bareilles. Parish combines her classical background with real-world experience in her music and has contributed to countless projects including Blake Shelton, Jewel, Vince Gill, Frankie Ballard, Luke Laird, Ashley Gorley, Dallas Davidson, Eric Paslay, Nikki Williams and more. Recent synchs include ABC’s “Nashville”, ABC’s “Mistreses”, and Pretty Little Liars. Sarah Emily writes pop and country and is based in Nashville.
sElf is largely the creative vision of singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Mahaffey. With Mahaffey’s vocals at the helm and the intermittent beeps and sweeps of analog synthesizers, self makes a contagious kind of energetic art-pop that makes it nearly impossible to resist a head-bob or a hip-shake.
SemisonicVisit artist site
After the breakup of Trip Shakespeare, Minneapolis natives Dan Wilson and John Munson teamed up with drummer Jacob Slichter to form Semisonic in 1993, embracing a tightly crafted sound that proved to be more appetizing to mainstream audiences. “Closing Time” was the band’s biggest hit, dominating the airwaves in 1998 and picking up a Grammy nomination the following year. Although Semisonic disbanded after the release of their third album, 2001’s All About Chemistry, Wilson continues to garner many accolades as a solo artist, songwriter, and collaborator.
Shakey GravesVisit artist site
As the Americana Awards Best Emerging Artist of 2015, Shakey Graves plays a gnarly composite of blues and folk as a one-man-band of epic sonic proportions.
Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van EttenVisit artist site
Often slow, sad, and unashamedly frank, these are the hallmarks of the work of the incomparable Sharon Van Etten. It is always, however, anything but soft, and her voice is ever the tonic, equal parts bourbon and honey, slicing through all those hard knock toxins, straight into hearts unknown.
Sleater-KinneyVisit artist site
Among the most critically acclaimed bands of the 1990s, Sleater-Kinney reaches new heights with this year’s celebrated “No Cities To Love.” Fusing meta feminist rigor with wry humor, instrumental precision and punk fury, the trio decades later re-asserts itself as alt-rock royalty. Drummer Janet Weiss and singer/guitarist Corin Tucker continue to amaze nightly on tour, while guitarist/singer Carrie Brownstein can now also boast of two TV shows (“Portlandia”, “Transparent”) and a memoir, Modern Girl.
Sonny J. Mason
St. VincentVisit artist site
Dallas-bred Annie Clark is St. Vincent, whose prodigious output has led her steadily over the past decade to a consensus “album of the year” and Grammy nod for her most recent (eponymous) offering. Pop balladry, squalling electric guitar virtuosity, surgical wit, and boundless ambition mark each of her LPs, and a 2013 collaboration with David Byrne whet her appetite for bracing choreography in live performance. All of which means: the best is yet to come.
While some people see in color, Steph Jones sees in melody. She’s a genre chameleon whose songs and collaborations have found homes in clubs, TV shows, and even churches. Recent cuts include top 30 pop single “Goodbye” for Who Is Fancy (Republic), Cole Plante’s top 10 dance hit “If I Fall” (Hollywood Records) , Julie Bergan’s top 10 Norwegan Hit “All Hours” (Warner Norway), multiple cuts with hit EDM group Tritonal, many Disney channel placements, and the current Coca-Cola Lite national commercial in Germany. In addition to actively writing, Steph has been gaining popularity as a vocalist in the EDM world under the psuedonym of ‘Ruby O’Dell’. Steph is based in LA, but takes regular trips to Nashville.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Stephen Malkmus & The JicksVisit artist site
Stephen on Wig Out at Jagbags (2013) –
new album called Wig Out at Jagbags. Jagbag is a great word. A smeared aspersion, not profanity, but derived from one….. watered down for the airwaves, or the assembly line. To Wig out–we’ve all been there. We ARE there, at least i Am.
And the “I” on a record is speaking for/as/to you, so If you’re not wigging out, go no further, dear reader…
(and then there is Dag Nasty, which I wont bother justifying , just a first flourish of the unstoppable need to name drop).
produced by the band and Remko Schouten, the Dutch soundman of Pavement fame, and owner of IJland studio in east Amsterdam.
I don’t know where to start… again. This record is inspired by Cologne Germany, Mark Von Schlegell, Rosemarie Trockel, Von Spar and Jan Lankisch, Can and Gas. Imagined Weezer/Chili Peppers, Sic Alps, UVA in the late 80’s, NYRB, Aroma Charlottenburg, inactivity, Jamming, Indie guys trying to sound Memphis, Flipper, Pete Townshend, Pavement, the Joggers, The NBA, home life in the 2010’s…
We (Remko) found a studio over in the Ardennes with a” farmhouse vibe”. It was isolated, rural Belgium… near Luxembourg, the cradle of morbid Tax relief. It went very well cuz the band is quite good….We were (are?) pretty psyched with results.
I’ve spent the last couple years in Berlin. Berlin, while very hip and in some ways the “center” of Europe, is still isolated. At least if you are an American Dad. Pretty amazing place as you probably already know, and so easy to disappear into. Perhaps any ” big” city has this quality– but a New one (to me), where they speak German(mostly)….well, you can almost cease to exist. Which is of course a liberating fantasy.
But after two years there, we were Starting to Exist. It was like an average birth, without pain. I worked the lyrics/chords out on a computer on someone else’s table in someone else’s apartment. And This is what you get: Projected Imaginings of ROck and ROll from the freezing north, rendered by West Coast stalwarts and a Dutch Uncle.
And we feel compelled to share it with you.
— SM (& Jicks)
SWMRSVisit artist site
There’s never been a punk band like SWMRS. That’s probably because it’s too limiting to label the Oakland quartet, “a punk band.” You might initially detect the caustic broadsides of The Clash and the amphetamine bubblegum of the Ramones. But within the carefully penned lyrics, propulsive energy, and raw honesty, you can hear the echoes of Public Enemy and Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest to Kurt Cobain.
Sylvan EssoVisit artist site
Sylvan Esso was never meant to be a band; a chance tour-stop encounter between Mountain Man’s Amelia Meath and Megafaun’s Nick Sanborn birthed this extraordinary and improbable collaboration. Meath’s Appalachian soul melodies hover proudly above Sanborn’s spare electronic beats: the groove is truly in the heart.
Terence RyanVisit artist site
Whether working double jobs in high school, trying college for a bit or a warehouse job at a mom and pop hardware company he always found his way to the basement of the family home to make music. A self taught musician, producer, engineer Terence spent years down there refining, what is today, his craft.
Terence makes a modern brand of folk; infused with indie rock and hip hop he seems to effortlessly meander between genres and influences – Coldplay, Kanye, Death Cab for Cutie – using his history as the tach. Like so many before him in this storytelling artform he simply relies on the tools at hand; nowadays that means the Internet, an outdated version of Logic Express, an old banjo, midi keys and a cast of neighbors, friends, family and strangers all struggling to carve out a life.
Terence is full time at the warehouse now and stays through the night to write and record. The Will Word & Hand EP is a testament to that hard work. Five beautifully constructed songs that ache with a life so full it can’t help but spill over into dream…
Tom started as the 19 year old wunderkind guitar player for the Dap-Kings and has graduated to running his own world class studio, writing alongside artists such as Cee Lo Green (“Georgia”), and Mark Ronson & Mystical (“Feel Right”), as well as producing sessions for the Alabama Shakes, The Black Lips, Theophilus London, and Low Cut Connie, among others.
Tom’s creative contributions as a principal Extraordinaire have also proved fruitful in the sample world, having been used by Travis Scott on his summer hit, “Antidote”, as well as by Jay-Z (“Rock Boyz”, “Open Letter”), Eminem (“Groundhog Day”), and the Black Eyed Peas (“Imma Be”). You may have also heard of Tom’s latest collaborator….Lady Gaga (“Joanne”).
UnderworldVisit artist site
Underworld is a British electronic group formed in 1980 in Cardiff and the principal name under which musicians Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have recorded together. Known for visual style, droned out grooves, and dynamic live performances, Underworld have influenced a wide range of artists and been featured in many soundtracks and scores for film and television.
Wake OwlVisit artist site
The songs of Wake Owl’s Colyn Cameron give a departure from straightforward-acoustic-guitar-driven songs. The result is a sound that is quite bucolic, yet very worldly. It harvests playful experimentation and raw emotion in perfect harmony.
The WalkmenVisit artist site
American indie rock stalwarts known for power-pop melody and grand mal delivery, all ringing guitars and vocal fervor driven by a rhythm section that hits like a life-or-death concern. “The Rat.” Say no more.
WolfmotherVisit artist site
Led by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Stockdale, the Grammy-winning (2005 Best Hard Rock Performance) Wolfmother have amassed a global fanbase, played to packed-house crowds around the world, delivered show-stealing sets at star-studded festivals, and have been invited to share stages with rock icons Aerosmith and AC/DC. Led Zeppelin personally invited Wolfmother as their guests for their induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
For most artists, such accomplishments usually mark the culmination of a career – it they’re lucky. But ten years after their massive breakthrough debut, Wolfmother have returned with what could arguably be called their best work to date.
“Wolfmother strikes a balance between meaty vintage metal and crisp, stoner-rock melodies” – Pitchfork
Wye OakVisit artist site
Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack make music together as Wye Oak, pushing and pulling at song after indelible song where want battles need, fear tortures desire, and a cast of ever humble characters continue to get themselves up out of bed and on with it. Whatever “it” is. Andy somehow holds down both a drum kit and a bank of electronics onstage, while Jenn alternates between bass, keys and some of the most expressive post-Young-ian guitar you’ll hear anywhere. Oh, yeah, she also sings like an angel.