SUNFLOWER BEAN - "EASIER SAID"
Sunflower Bean will release their utterly brilliant debut album Human Ceremony next month, and last week they shared the album's gorgeous second single and lead track entitled "Easier Said." On this song, Nick Kivlen's lilting, clean guitar is met with Julia Cumming's delicate, gliding vocals, which spiral off into a vibrant hum as she sings simple yet hard-hitting truths. The result is a subtly beautiful single that will prove difficult to forget. Human Ceremony will be released on February 5th via Fat Possum. Drawing inspiration from a vast pool of influences such as Black Sabbath and The Cure, Sunflower Bean have crafted an album that is a potent, heady mix of swirling indie pop, urgent, fuzzed-out guitar bliss, and girl/boy sugar-spun vocal melodies that delivers a modern-day spin on classic rock & roll. Having gotten their start in the DIY New York scene, Sunflower Bean quickly accelerated into one of the foremost up-and-coming bands nationally and overseas over the last few months. Following the release of their singular EP earlier this year, and a 7-inch vinyl this Summer, Sunflower Bean played over 100 shows in one year between the U.S. and Europe, opening for the likes of DIIV, Best Coast, and Wolf Alice, and delivering show-stopping sets at CMJ, SXSW and Great Escape festival.
RJD2 - "PEACE OF WHAT"
Dame Fortune is the deliciously eclectic sixth album from veteran producer and crate digger extraordinaire RJD2, out March 25th on RJ’s Electrical Connections. It’s a wondrous beast, recorded over the past year while living in Philadelphia, before returning to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Streaked with Philly's rep for deeply felt soul music while maintaining a playful sense of adventurousness, Dame Fortune features guest vocalists Son Little (aka Aaron Livingston) and frequent collaborator Phonte, while also presenting the bombastic hip-hop sound that marked RJD2's breakthrough album, Deadringer, and even an orchestral composition for the societal unrest experienced in this day and age (called “PF Day One”…the PF standing for "Post Ferguson"). Check out the debut single, “Peace of What,” which features Jordan Brown and draws inspiration from 1990s rap legends Main Source’s 1991 single "Peace Is Not the Word to Play."
ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER - "SWEETEST GIRL"
Eleanor Friedberger will release New View on January 22nd via Frenchkiss, and last week she shared a new single off of the album entitled "Sweetest Girl." A swinging, anthemic track with punctuated walls of sound leading into each chorus, wise words of advice and a melodic, synth-laden outro, "Sweetest Girl" is the second song off of New View, which is the follow-up to 2013's critically acclaimed Personal Record and is her first album as a signee to NYC's seminal indie label Frenchkiss Records. New View signals a fresh beginning for the former Fiery Furnaces' frontwoman. Friedberger drew inspiration from many of her musical heroes - everyone from Van Morrison, Neil Young and George Harrison, to Slapp Happy, Yoko Ono and Elyse. There are ghost notes of all of those influences on New View, but mostly you hear the singular voice of Eleanor Friedberger, whose warm, inviting alto and incredible word play continue to make her one of the foremost songwriters in the indie rock world today.
MARLON WILLIAMS - "DARK CHILD"
Marlon Williams broke out in stride with his incredible voice and masterful stage presence in Australia and New Zealand last year surrounding the release of his debut, self-titled album. He topped off the year winning Best Male Solo Artist and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards, where he performed new single, “Dark Child,” attended the ARIA Awards in Australia, where he was nominated for Best Blues & Roots Album, and made his morning television debut performing “Hello Miss Lonesome” on “ABC Breakfast TV” in Australia. It’s now time for Williams to make his mark on North America and the rest of the world. His debut album will see its release outside of New Zealand and Australia on February 19th via Dead Oceans. But before its arrival, Williams kicks off the year presenting the aforementioned single “Dark Child.”
NAP EYES - "ROLL IT"
Nap Eyes’ new album, Thought Rock Fish Scale, is a month away from release on February 5th via Paradise of Bachelors. The band shared opening track “Mixer” late last year and are following it up today with “Roll It.” Nap Eyes’ Nigel Chapman says, “‘[Roll It]’ is about theory of mind. You are trying to understand why you didn’t get your way. Imagining what the other person was thinking, did you get past your initial doubt to remember that other people have their own minds, different from yours?” Recorded live to tape with no overdubs on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, Nap Eyes’ quietly contemplative sophomore record refines and elaborates their debut, offering an airier, more spacious second chapter, a bracing blast of bright oceanic sunshine after the moonlit alleys of Whine of the Mystic. But the briny, cold Atlantic roils beneath these exquisite, literate guitar pop songs, posing riddles about friendship, faith, mortality, and self-doubt. Nap Eyes make soul music, in the sense that their music describes, from a position of uneasy humility, the often mundane maintenance of the fragile human soul.
MATT KIVEL - "VIOLETS"
"Violets" is the third single from Matt Kivel's upcoming LP, Janus which will be out on Friday, February 5th via Driftless Recordings. The album was produced by Alasdair Roberts (Drag City) and engineered by Sam Smith at Green Door Studio in Glasgow, Scotland. Kivel announced the new album in September along with the title track "Janus," which Stereogum described as, "a soft and delicate and pure and real - the silky instrumentation starting out quietly before blossoming wonderfully." CLASH Music said the second single "Jamie's" was a "gentle lament" with "expert storytelling" - "Matt Kivel's voice unravels across the minimal sonic template which is occasionally shot through with blasts of feedback." Janus isn’t always an easy record to take in; despite its easy-going recording process, it’s home to some of Kivel’s darkest material yet. However, as a marker of where folk music can go in 2016, and as a document of a friendship between two musicians at the top of their game, it’s essential listening.
CROSS RECORD - "BASKET"
Cross Record begins 2016 by presenting, “Basket,” a new song off Wabi-Sabi, showcasing the eerier elements of Emily Cross’ music, and revealing the distinct potency of the project’s softer side. At its core, “Basket” is built around a series of repeated lyrics in which Cross uses the construction of a basket to discuss the subject of parenthood. While the initial vocals were intended to be a scratch track, Cross discovered a simplistic beauty in their repetition, leading her to build the song around them instead. The idea behind this embodies the spirit of the album’s title, Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic emphasizing the beauty found in impermanence and imperfection. Wabi-Sabi will be released Friday, January 29th on Ba Da Bing Records.
HARRIET - "BRING ME WHEN YOU GO"
Harriet unveiled yet another album track gem, "Bring Me When You Go," from their forthcoming debut American Appetite, which will be released worldwide on January 29th on Harvest Records. Produced by Sean O'Brien (The National, Jeff Bridges) and Tony Berg (Nickel Creek, The Replacements), the forthcoming, 12-track collection showcases new lavish textures to the band's signature indie-rock elements and progressive-pop production. Lyrically, "American Appetite touches on themes of money, greed, power, and corruption," says Death + Taxes. Frontman Alex Casnoff's powerful lyrics were inspired by the American condition, and the controversy, alienation and fear that it ensues.
WINTERSLEEP - "AMERIKA"
After much anticipation, Wintersleep has debuted their new single "Amerika,” which is the first track off of their new album The Great Detachment, set to be released on March 4th via Dine Alone Records. Two years in the making, the album marks a return to the organic approach of the band's earlier works that simultaneously sees the band reaching new pinnacles of songwriting and production. The 11-song collection was recorded at Halifax's Sonic Temple (the birthplace of Welcome To The Night Sky and its preceding 2003 self-titled and 2005 untitled efforts) with producer Tony Doogan (Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai).
JOEL WELLS - "HARMONY"
In his own words, London based singer-songwriter Joel Wells' last three years have been an experiment in how he could evolve from being simply a mouthpiece, into an artist capable of evoking emotion through writing full compositions. The turning point in Wells’ transition can be traced back to the acquisition of his first analogue synths, later investing in a sequencer and microphone - which formed the basis of an early home studio. From here began a fierce dedication to the learning curve - involving 3 years of experimentation with sequencing, electronics, synths and vocals. Armed with a clutch of demos, Pablo Clements (Unkle, Toydrum) came across Joel’s output and agreed to help him make a record at his own Toyrooms Studios. Described by Wells as “a museum of rare and new analogue equipment” it’s a creative hub with all manner of artists passing through, including Nick Cave, Floating Points, Arca, and Orbital. An introduction to one of his heroes Tim Goldsworthy (MoWax, DFA, LCD Soundsystem), who co-produces, helped Wells get the best out of the tracks, sonically, and encouraged him to develop himself, and focus on his own message and identity. Listen to his newest release, “Harmony.”
SHIELDS - "ALIVE"
Northern Alt-Pop quintet Shields have released their latest single, “Alive”, which is on their debut album, How Can We Fix This? out on February 26th. The accompanying visuals to the track, which premiered on Consequence of Sound, charts the story of a crazed serial killer on tour, and is a dark but humorous contrast to the accompanying soundtrack. “With ‘Alive’, we wanted to do something closer to a short film and felt the urge to create something a bit darker than our previous videos,” the band explains. As for the song itself, it’s a bouncy number that Shields says is “about struggling to keep something important alive in the face of adversity.”