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Jen Dan: July 8, 2016

1. Rainsford – “S.I.D. (Sunshine in December)”

Rainsford is the musical moniker of one Rainey Qualley (daughter of actress Andie MacDowell), an actress (Mad Men), model for Vogue, and ex-country singer (She’s opened for greats like Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Williams.). The singer-songwriter/musician was born in NYC, raised in North Carolina, and is now based in L.A. where she is launching herself into the indie pop realm with the seductive new single “S.I.D. (Sunshine in December)”.

Qualley shines like a radiant ascending star as Rainsford. “S.I.D. (Sunshine in December)” slowly unfolds with twisting electro-notes, reflective sweeps of synths, lightly ticking percussion, and a ponderous, hollow drum beat. A delicately vulnerable Qualley immerses herself on the verses, introspectively revealing “Sometimes there’s this emptiness in my chest / Feelin’ like a ghost inside.” On the heavenly, multi-tiered chorus Qualley wraps her delicately alluring vocals around the urban-pop milieu, rapturously cooing in a high register, “Can you take a minute / just to live a different life? / Step out of the shadows…” Qualley is doing just that and deserves more than just a moment in the spotlight.

2. Dust Moth – “Lift”

Seattle, Washington-based, self-described “heavy gaze” band Dust Moth defies the usual musical tags as it melds atmospheric post-rock and blues moods with weightier metal elements. Irene Barber (vocals, keyboards), Ryan Frederiksen (guitars), Steve Becker (bass), and Justin Rodda (drums) are all veterans of other bands including These Arms Are Snakes, Erik Blood, and Giza. They debuted as Dust Moth with their Dragon Mouth EP in 2014 and are set to slay mightily with 1st full-length, Scale, out July 22nd on The Mylene Sheath.

Droning opus “Lift” roils slowly with sludgy guitar distortion, low- floating synths, and a ponderous pace. Barber emerges from the churning mire with drawn out, sweetly longing vocals that push through and take wing. She gently launches her voice, crying out, “I decide when it’s over.” against a thick, cycling miasma of incendiary guitar growl, emphatic drum hits, and constantly simmering cymbals.

3. NAWAS – “Wrong”

Nashville, Tennessee-located (by way of Louisiana) electronic pop/R&B musical collective NAWAS, which includes leader Jake Nawas, is burning up the airwaves with its latest urban-pop number “Wrong”. The members of the group frequently collaborate with producer Sainte and songwriter Luke Foley and are influenced by iconic artists like Prince and D’Angelo. Their debut single “Low” was a bona fide success, slotting in at #1 on Hype Machine and reaching #8 on Spotify’s global viral chart.

The electrifying and seductive single “Wrong” should follow suit and then some. Keening, androgynous vocals that go low down on the verses and rise to exclamatory heights on the chorus dominate the track while grinding electronics, tapping percussion, and a slowly pouncing beat stalk alongside. The male vocalist lays down his processed vox with smooth rumination, pining through the lines, “I need diamonds and summers / I’ve been too cold too long / I need labels and lawyers to leave me alone / I need music… I miss you…” On the intense, wildly escalating chorus he emotes with a gripping fervor, in the throes of passionate angst as he ejaculates, “Baby, tell me what I’m doing wrong.” Sometimes ‘wrong’ can be so right…

4. A Billion Lions – “Better in the Summer”

Energetic and engaging U.K. indie rock/punk band A Billion Lions has been making listeners grin gleefully and bounce around like spazzes for the past couple of years. Leeds/Bradford-based Joe Parr (vocals, guitar), Philly Cheese (vocals, lead guitar), Ryan Olliver (vocals, bass), and Matt Nutter (drums) bring a raw passion and sincere joy to their catchy and rousing tunes. Their debut album Let It Happen is expected sometime next year.

A Billion Lions’ latest single, “Better in the Summer”, is the 4th in a string of releases and it shows off a different facet of the band. Gone are the power-rock dynamics and in their place is a disarmingly laid-back, yet still lively, charm. Where the fiercely euphoric elation of “Torquay” and blazing metal/dance-rock hybrid “Devil’s Dance” (My pick for #1 single of 2015!) thrilled, “Better in the Summer” chills. The song rolls with a mellow flow of harmonious, multi-part vocals, easy-going guitar jags and bass lines, simmering drumkit rhythm, and fun-loving camaraderie. Cheers!

5. Lié – “Failed Visions”

Straight outta Vancouver, British Columbia comes the raw and dark post-punk trio Lié, the members of which contribute to other acts as well. Brittany West is involved in darkwave project Koban, Ashlee Luk crafts electronic material with Minimal Violence, and Kati J participates in the thrash punk band SBDC. As Lié, the members take on serious, relevant subjects like rape culture from the female perspective. The band has released two EPs and 2015 debut album Consent, with next full-length, Truth or Consequences, coming out August 12th on Monofonus Press.

On Truth or Consequences, Lié goes for a closer view into highly-charged issues, focusing on the conflict and vulnerability within the psyche. Astringent and brief lead single “Failed Visions” is a prime example with its (dis)passionately shouted out chorus, “Validate me / Am I worth it?” The track storms by at a cantering pace of sharp and wiry guitar tangles, an agitatedly pushing bass line, hard-thumped drums, and cymbal smash.

6. Polarheart – “Dystopia”

Mary Rose Production (vocals) and Chris Chidiac (guitars, production) of Sydney, Australia-based electro-pop duo Polarheart are set to release their long-awaited self-titled debut EP July 15th on Marshmellow Pavement Records. They’re already off to a very good start with their track “Paralyse” being featured in the first episode of Showtime’s Cameron Crowe -directed TV series Roadies.

The most ear-catching tune of the EP, however, is its opening urban-vibe, synth-pop number, “Dystopia” which follows a softly bright, shooting-star-in-the-night-sky arc. It’s filled with shimmering synths, crisp finger snaps, lightly crackling percussion, a smooth, mid-tempo beat, and Production’s gently airy vocals that are occasionally shadowed by Chidiac. Production sings in a velvety hushed sweep about, “…feeling like a drug in the night.” and that’s exactly what the subdued, but beguiling “Dystopia” accomplishes.

7. Native Gold – “Fickle”

Electronic post-rock duo Native Gold has released its anxious and agitated – and attractive, Radiohead -like EP, A Man We All Admire, July 5th. Michael Weeks and Lee Young are the men to admire under the moniker Native Gold and they create striking, atmospheric soundscapes out of electronic and other sonic turmoil.

Lead single “Fickle” is a jarringly arresting, fast ‘n’ slow lament awash in skittering percussion and looming to abrasive electronic noise. The singer’s spectral voice floats calmly (but with a touch of rue) over the charged, dystopian ambience, as he intones with a drawn out, downcast sigh, “You / fickle and you know it / You blew it.”

8. Matt Bennett – “Fisher King”

Matt Bennett may be best known as a TV/film actor who co-starred alongside celeb Arianna Grande in Nickelodeon’s tween show Victorious, but the performer is also a comedian and singer-songwriter who just released a serious, deeper album titled Terminal Cases. It’s a concept album that takes on Bennett’s parents’ divorce and reworks the dialogue and situations in several of the late Robin Williams’ touchstone films.

Lead single “Fisher King” starts out at a gentle singer-songwriter pace, with Bennett sing-talking in a light, but vulnerable tone as strums away at his acoustic guitar. As the song progresses to its end, the word-smithing Bennett suddenly bursts out into indie rock territory, exclaiming with emotion amid the whirling electric guitar distortion, “They say the worst thing in life is being with people / who make you feel alone.” Bennett’s knotty, but insightful and accomplished, film-themed album makes for good company when in a ruminative mood…

9. Bells and Robes – “Dreamin’ (feat. Miranda Realino)”

Electronic synth-pop duo Bells and Robes drapes its bright, crisp, and glitchy electronic soundscapes with various guest vocalists who make the compositions flow like vibrantly sparkling streams. Luka Sipka (keyboards) and Dean Spaniol (samples, percussion) are the men behind the collaborative music project. Sipka and Spaniol formed Bells and Robes on the Winter Solstice in 2012 and there’s a chill, refreshing vibe to their output.

“Dreamin’ (feat. Miranda Realino)” is engagingly bracing, zipping by with buzzing synths, effervescent electro-notes, clicking fingersnaps, delicate tinkling chimes, and windswept sounds. Guest vocalist Miranda Realino brings her smoothly buoyant, soul-pop vocals to the track, curving through her words as she coos with positivity to, “Walk with me / Let’s move to the places / where we ought to be.”

10. Love Ghost – “Friday Afternoon”

The members of recently-formed, L.A.-based alternative rock band Love Ghost may all be in their teens, but their grungy, gritty sound recalls 1990s alt-rock greats like Alice in Chains and the Smashing Pumpkins. Love Ghost materialized from frontman Finn Bell’s (guitar, vocals) desire to capture the tumult of being a teenager in the suburban milieu. Bell draws from personal experience for his insightful lyrics and mixes atmospheric, cinematic compositions with more direct alt-rock sonics. Bell’s bandmates include Max Toth (lead guitar), Will Toth (bass), Ale Sierra (drums), and Mya Greene (viola).

The densely cloudy, Smashing Pumpkins-like “Friday Afternoon”, with its important message of being true to yourself, scuds by with thick and wandering guitar distortion, a sweetly winding viola line, and steady drums ‘n’ cymbals march. Bell pulls out his words with heartfelt effort, declaring in an earnestly pleading tone, “I want to be brave.” A sharper, hollow guitar line climbs to the sky before the storm clouds break open and the twin guitars rain down in a burst of swirling fire.


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