By: Rob Brayl
If you’re looking for a jubilant jolt of girl power spirit, a double dosage of Yuna will do the trick. The Malaysian singer/songwriter recently premiered the music video for Rescue, and it’s nothing short of enchanting. The empowering track is taken from Nocturnal, her newly released Verve Records debut.
The Elliott Sellers-directed video was shot primarily at Big Sur, with select shots in downtown Los Angeles.
Official video + live performance of the track (via Conan) below.
Loving her authenticness!
By: Rob Brayl
Beyonce shows her halo on new track God Made You Beautiful, an ode to her little one, Blue Ivy Carter. A sneak peek of the inspirational song first appeared in the trailer for her HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream, but the full-length version has now emerged with the release of the film’s DVD, which dropped over Thanksgiving.
Listen to the understated gem below.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Sound Strider (aka Sam Waks) is this generation’s answer to Negativland. As with any glitch-hop, his mechanical mash-up’s bound to leave you disoriented. But, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a slice o’ zen within the techno fog.
Sam was exposed to the magic of music at an early age: his dad was the principal cellist of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and in high school Sam made his own break into the musical world by playing the drums in garage and jazz bands. With the 90′s came a new musical frontier in the form of remixes and computerized samples, and it was in the sonic underground Sam found his identity. Not only has he sought to create his own music, but to birth a platform for other artists- he left Australia to convert a 19th century agricultural ruin in France into a recording studio.
He’s already helped new artists break into the scene, all the while honing his own experimentation.
Enter the Intrepid Travels EP, a sophisticated mindfuck. My head’s still unsure what to make of it.
Maybe it’ll make sense when my skull stops spinning.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Most of my ska is cut with punk. I seldom explore the genre in its purified form. Thus, I was excited to step out of my comfort zone when Umbrella Bed was described to me as “2-Tone ska”.
As it turns out, “2-Tone” is a tag ascribed to ska that stuck to the pop underbelly, avoiding the alternative influence of punk and grunge.
For Umbrella Bed, this means less safety pins and more brass.
They’re veterans on the Minnesota scene, with five albums and an ocean’s worth of shows to swim in. They came together in 1995 (when I was still developing motor skills!), and though cogs in the machine have changed (both in musical style and member line-up), the motor has remained resilient- and rearing to jump!
Refill is their latest- a five-track EP, hot n’ fresh for 2013. With echo and bounce, it lends a little splash of summer to my December chills. Fun-loving vocals are energized by trombone, French horn, trumpet and saxophone, a section in turn strengthened by the more traditional guitar, drums and bass.
I’d LOVE to see the whole band make a trampoline out of a stage. Their zest must be infectious! Even watching them in their music video makes me wanna leap.
By: Maria Ciezak
MARIA CIEZAK: For those unfamiliar, can you give us a brief background? How did you meet the band?
ARIANA AND THE ROSE: Sure. I actually started as an actress, doing musical theater, commercials and film from the time I was a kid all the way through college. I wrote and played music on the side as a release. Throughout high school and the beginning of college, I wrote with people in New York, LA and Nashville, but it wasn’t until a year before I graduated from NYU that I decided I wanted to pursue music full-time. I put a band together as soon as I graduated, meeting guys through my managers and friends’ suggestions. I decided to call the band Ariana & the Rose since we perform all the music with live instruments and we’ve been together ever since.
MC: I love the new acoustic video for Heartbeat — the song is beautiful. The video is very raw and personal. What made you choose the dark color theme?
A: Thank you! Well, the song has this theme of a beautiful thing falling apart. I created that video with my friend and fashion designer, Daniel Silverstein. We wanted to make something that spoke to both of our styles. (I’m wearing a dress from his Fall 2013 collection in the video.) There’s something so classic about black and white and we felt that having the color of the video to be completely de-saturated would be a modern way of capturing that classic feel.
MC: What would you say you enjoy more: Recording? Writing? Or performing?
A: I really go back and forth with this. I always say that I enjoy whatever I happen to be doing at the moment the most. I’m currently in the studio writing, so right now I enjoy that more. But I’ll be on tour in a couple weeks and that will be my favorite part. I look at it as a good thing to be indecisive about.
MC: Do you write all of your own material?
A: Yep. I play piano and usually start most of my songs on an acoustic instrument. I do a lot of co-writing, typically me and another writer/producer. I find that writing alone can get a bit lonely sometimes. I’m a really social person and I like having another person to bounce ideas off of.
MC: If you had to place your music into a certain style or genre, could you?
A: I would choose synth pop, as a broad genre. More specifically: singer-songwriter with heavy electro and synth influences.
MC: I see you have been compared to many artists but I think your sound is very original. Do you find it flattering when placed with artists?
A: Thank you. I really try to create music I feel sounds just like me. Of course, it’s always flattering to be compared to other artists, especially ones that have been so successful. I’d like to think that when people compare you to other artists they love it’s because they love you too.
MC: What’s next for Ariana & The Rose?
A: My single Heartbeat came out on Nov 19th and my EP Head vs Heart will be released in early 2014. I’m also headed on a US tour with Heffron Drove (Nov 23-Dec 22). So lots of new material and live shows. It’s the perfect way to end the year.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Got your afro? This band will take you back to the 70′s.
From the crooning double-vocals to the confident guitar, Ron LittleJohn and the Funk Embassy are reviving a movement I thought was forever embedded in nostalgia. Their music makes me want to don bell bottoms and march the streets with signs that read, “Freedom to the people!”.
Seriously. This music is weed. This music is sex. It’s got me grooving, strung out on the bed.
The longer I listen to funk, the more I realize this is where original rock n’ roll had its roots. It all started with soul!
All (good) music is interwoven. Genres are only a way to organize the magic.
These rhymes are simple, the poetry eloquent. It can make you dance, make you swoon, make you sweep stars under your pillow.
Ron’s voice makes me feel things I thought could only be invoked by British accents. It’s endlessly sensual, dangerously hypnotic. Meanwhile Alana offers a sonorous, foot-stomping harmony, vocal chords hitting the highest peak while still packing a punch. Their chemistry is shockingly hot- an ideal front for Thierry’s tight, rich song-writing. Pair that with the silky-smooth beats from the DJs…
But it’s not all a soundtrack for the id! Shining On (the group’s debut) is crammed with gems of honest substance, touching humour, and slick soul. The title track is a message of encouragement from Ron to his unborn daughter, Soul Devotion is a crash course in romance, while Light Me Up stirs the lusty side of life. Seems Like Yesterday faces the reality -and tragedy- of seeing old lovers, and Emma Lee wraps it all up with a perfect credit roll. Combined, you have a layer-cake of lyrical content, iced with flavourful sound. This album has been called a labour of love. I can see why; the sound is virtually spotless.
The amazing thing about this musical project is every musician involved is a master in their own right. Fifteen artists made contributions to this album, whether by snagging guest spots for certain songs or devoting their energies to the entire piece. What a roster!
It would be impossible to choose my favourite song. Luckily, they’re streaming all of Shining On through Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Youtube.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Amelia Scalies caught my attention soon as I sat down to listen.
I was braced with sudden drums, emphatic, easy-going guitar, and a voice twirling on the tightrope between indie and radio pop.
I Should Have Known is her breakaway album, boasting ten original tracks and one cover (a string-fuelled strip-down of MCR’s The Black Parade).
Through this AP, you can get a peak of the world through the eyes of a poetic girl budding into a wise, talented woman. While some may use access to a microphone as a chance to bask in narcissism, Amelia wants to make a difference. Take Don’t Let Them Win, a song encouraging bullying victims to persevere.
I only wish the guitar was ten times harder. However, lots of young artists start with a low volume. I’m sure her mellow playing will empower the next generation.
This is what would have happened to Kelly Clarkson if she’d started a real band. (Though saying that I sell Amelia short.)
It’s encouraging to hear another girl perform songs that are clearly her own. She plucks the guitar, she strokes the violin, she pens the lyrics. Her music is accessible, and not so intimidating that singer-songwriter hopefuls may shy away.
In that sense, Amelia is right at the heart of indie philosophy.
I leave you with Don’t Let Them Win. Not the rockiest tune, but one of the most relatable.
By: Maria Ciezak
MARIA CIEZAK: For those who are unfamiliar with Terminal Gods, can you give us a brief backstory?
ROBERT MAISEY of TERMINAL GODS: Rob Cowlin and I have a firm policy of not talking about how we met in the queue outside the London Astoria, both going to watch a Leeds drum machine rock band that shall remain unnamed.
Josh and I knew each other from school and have lived together for a few years, so we formed the guitar section. Jonno plays in a disgustingly brilliant electro punk two-piece called HotGothic, who we gigged with many times, especially in the early days. When our original bass player left, we poached him. He’s dead good.
MC: Also, the name, some may think of as somewhat controversial. Is there a specific meaning?
TG: It’s pure ego and (justified) arrogance. It’s also a fitting description. It’s part of the name of a really cool Aubrey Beardsley painting (Venus Between Terminal Gods). It doesn’t have anything to do with any pseudo-religious Lovecraftian mumbo jumbo (although I do like a bit of Lovecraft, for personal use only mind you).
MC: Let’s chat about the release of your debut EP, Machine Beat Messiah (released November 25th). I’ve had the chance to listen and I’m totally digging the sound. How did the whole process go? Did the writing come first or the music?
TG: In a nutshell, the songs tend to start life with just me, a drum machine and a 12-string telecaster, usually at about 4 am. We then flesh them out all together in the rehearsal rooms and, if they pass the quality control, Cowlin will write some words and melody.
I wrote the basic music for The Resurrection Man because I had a new 12-string acoustic with butterflies on it and wanted a song that sounded like it’d been written on a guitar with butterflies on it. I failed.
The rest of the songs are just jazzed up Stooges tracks. Seriously. All of them.
MC: Maybe I’m jumping ahead of myself, or it’s wishful thinking, or both (laughs) — but any chance of a full-length in the near future?
TG: We have enough material for a full-length record, which we’ll make when someone gives us enough money and promotion to make it worth releasing.
In the meantime, we’re quite content putting out singles and EPs. This is something more bands should do. If you’re going to spend all of your money on releasing a chunk of vinyl with only a few songs on it, you’d better make damn sure those songs are worth releasing. This is called quality control. We kind of envisage our first album being a kind of best of with all our best singles redone in a really expensive studio, maybe with Steve Albini on guest drum machines. I’m totally sick of bands discovering a sound they kinda like and jumping straight into an album before they have actually written enough good songs to justify it.
I do like the idea of doing a live album though – this is something we’re talking about at the moment. It means we can put out a decent amount of songs on one record without actually committing to a “debut LP”. If it’s really really good, we can just claim it’s our Kick Out The Jams and was meant to be an album all along.
At the moment, we sell small runs of limited edition records to a passionate, but relatively small audience. This is great, but we’re not going to fire all of our guns at once (by releasing an album) before we’ve even got ourselves off the ground.
MC: I also love the video for King Hell. On a personal note, it makes me want to attend a show, for I feel like I’m at a concert when watching. Was that the whole vibe you were going for?
TG: We’re a live band, it’s where the best (and worst) of rock and roll really happens. We also wanted to save the money for studio rental for the video for The Wheels Of Love.
Originally we planned to film the video for King Hell from the back seat of a huge Dodge Challenger while cruising into the oil-smeared sunset of The Badlands, but we scrapped the idea when we realised everyone had already seen Mad Max.
All our videos are made by Andy Oxley of Screen 3 productions. He knows us, we know him. It’s nice to have loyalty to the people you work with, and it gives you a chance to grow as artists together. In my opinion, the main reason our videos tend to look pretty cool, despite shoestring budgets, is because Andy has spent a lot of time getting to know us and our music.
MC: You guys are doing so well in London right now — any chance of coming over to the states in the near future?
TG: Hopefully. We’ll just phone our huge record company and ask them to charter a jet.
But seriously, there are some awesome Americans that have really put their names behind us. A guy called Jason Ledyard who runs a club called Absolution in New York has been our constant champion. Another guy called Ken McIntyre who has an amazing radio show called Advanced Demonology wrote a lovely bit about us in Classic Rock magazine. If more Americans like the record and are willing to go out and tell lots of other Americans what nice guys we are, then I see no reason why we won’t eventually end up in the States. It worked with the Germans.
MC: What are some bands you guys are into right now?
TG: For me, it’s mostly bands rocking the London alt circuit. There’s so much new music out there, I tend to go for stuff I can go and watch live regularly. The new Vuvuvultures LP is pretty swinging and the new Purson album is like a psychedelic sex dream cut to record. I also liked the new White Lies album a lot, but White Lies albums always sound wonderful.
Josh has a huge hard-on for a Sheffield blues rock/stoner doom two-piece called Wet Nuns. Josh is into a lot of Doom right now. We do a live night called Club Roadkill which is dedicated to putting on garage bands of this nature. The next band we’re putting on are called LOOM. They’re an awesome dark punk anger management case making big waves in London right now.
Cowlin runs a night called A New Dusk, which is dedicated to playing vaguely foreign sounding coldwave/darkwave/coolwave two-piece guitar/drum machine bands with loads of reverb on everything. They all sound like Suicide meets Siouxsie and the Banshees and they all claim allude to being from New York, although I’m pretty sure most of them are actually from the suburbs of London.
Cowlin and I are always listening to James Rays Gangwar. I know you’ve never heard of them, no one has. But the fact that they’re one of the most overlooked treasures of rock and roll is one of the only things we can agree on.
As I write this, I’m sitting with our tour manager listening to a Red Lorry Yellow Lorry LP called Blow. It’s really really good.
MC: Sum up in five words why people should listen to Terminal Gods.
TG: Like goth, but not shit.
By: Rob Brayl
The one + only Beck has teamed up with cool eyeglass makers Warby Parker to create a line of hip frames.
To give a little background on the partnership, most recently Beck released Song Reader, a collection of 20 compositions available only as sheet music (and never before recorded). To celebrate this affinity, Warby Parker have released a pair of limited-edition frames, named Carmichael. Inspired by Beck’s genre-bending music and unimpeachable personal style, Carmichael is a tad eclectic, and completely charming.
The collection is sleek-chic and could easily be worn with a variety of styles. To see the entire collection, click HERE.
Glasses + Beck in action below.
By: Rob Brayl
This song is f**king perfect! And before anyone asks why I support Eminem when he uses anti-gay slurs, please read THE FAGGOTRY OF HIP HOP piece I wrote HERE.
FYI: Sia (who is gay) has decided to donate all sales from this track to LGBT homeless youth in Los Angeles. Yay!
Also, I’m not sure why this is a bonus track and not a proper single since it’s the best song on the album. We’ll see if the record label realizes this in the future.
Listen to the incredible Beautiful Pain (featuring Sia) below.
By: Rob Brayl
Underground rapper BluRum13 has a distinct sound worth noticing. Born in New York and later cultivating his skills while growing up in Maryland, he now spends much of his time in Quebec, experimenting with bass, electronica, and drums – fusing a sound that is all his own.
Besides collaborating with many artists (Us3, One Self, Reverse Engineering, Bullfrog, the Russian Percussion), his music has also been featured on prominent shows such as Cirque du Soleil, CSI, The Family Biz (Canada), and Skins (UK).
His new album Inverted is available now.
By: Rob Brayl
Major props to The Walking Dead for playing this killer track (#YayPuns) from Ben Howard — a UK-based artist that we promoted earlier this year. (See related link below.)
This song is flawless + Ben’s melancholy delivery certainly brings the post-apocalyptic chills.
Listen to the haunting Oats In The Water below.
By: Caitlin Hoffman
Hypnosis is a sign of good music. When a musician echoes so loud and long in your skull they become one with your brain, you know they’ve got good stuff going. After all, isn’t music one of the purest forms of connection, liberation, meditation? Some of the best songs only wake you up after they’ve put you to sleep.
Stoney is the UK’s latest snake charmer. He made some bloody fine burrows in Sheffield’s underground before crawling his way up to the surface.
Musically speaking, Stoney’s a connoisseur. His obviously keen ear allows for dabbles in pop, rock, indie and trance, lashing out with tiger’s claws only to slip into a kitten’s coat. His haunting, porcelain voice reminds me of Rob Smith (that accent always helps…), the sweet slush backing it a milkshake of Pulp and The Kinks.
I’ll often argue that an artist is better off releasing an EP, so as to ensure that all songs reap serious quality and leave out the fucking filler. However, Stoney has given us an entire album worthy of replay. More Than Animals is a mountain landscape, rolling from crushing peaks to gentle valleys. More valleys than I’d prefer, but I know most people need kisses between their punches. I like it best when he lets the reigns snap and shows some alternative attitude, like in Devil On My Back or The Score. You know me: I need music sharper than my boyfriend’s shaving kit. If such slicing, sweaty tunes can make me dance, even better.
Despite making ripples in the scene, Stoney’s striking far away from conformity. He’s settled down in Texas, to work on more music while basking in sunshine. This has lead to him picking up other projects (including Bobby Jealousy, a dirty pop-punk band that sounds ready for its own review), keeping a balanced focus between his solo and group works. I guess the best artists need more than one outlet!
The only song from More Than Animals with a vid so far is We Belonged, one of the gentler tracks that I feel falls beneath his full potential. Regardless, the visuals are beautiful, and the emotions real.
By: Rob Brayl
I’m speechless. When I first started BiggerThanBeyonce in 2009, my personal life was sh*t. (Pardon my French.) The plus side was that I had just moved to New York and had the chance to see and meet amazing underground artists.
Ian Axel was the first artist I ever interviewed for this little independent blog. At the time, no one knew who he was, but his music changed my life and I just knew he would go on to become a star.
That’s him on stage last week Christina Aguilera, performing a song that I’ve been listening to since I first discovered him five years ago.
It’s now in the Top 5 on Billboard.
To say that I’m blown away would be an understatement.
Axel recently spoke to Billboard on the collaboration: “‘Say Something’ was danced to on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ almost two months ago, and so many people responded to it. In that whole process, someone on our team played it for someone on Christina’s team, and we got a call that Christina wanted to record it, and then, literally a week later, we were in L.A. recording it with her.”
So happy to see powerful, genuine music getting the attention it deserves!
A Great Big World’s debut album, Is There Anybody Out There?, is set to drop on January 14th, 2014.
Watch the incredible live performance of Say Something below.