Stealing Sheep knows what it takes to stand out in the modern synth pop scene. From Liverpool, UK, the experimental pop band’s latest release is a bold, yet a promising departure from their earlier works. The all-girl group formed in 2010, and have gathered three impressive full-length albums under their belt ever since. Their sound has interestingly enough progressed from folk and rock inspired pop to completely electronically-synthesized production, drawing similarities from iconic 80s synth pop artists like New Order and Depeche Mode.
Fizzy synths and contagiously catchy drum loops aren’t just what make Big Wows such an adventurous work. Conceptually, the album is a response to living in a world run by technology. The odd futuristic-sounding sound effects and synths are a representation of “TVs, computers, and everyday glitches” according to Bex, the band’s frontwoman. The minimal and conversational lyrics add the perfect amount of realism along with the album’s many abstract elements. Mellow tracks like “Just Dreaming” and “Heartbeats” show off with some eccentric chord changes and soaring melodies that complement them, while bubbly anthems like “Jokin’ Me” and “Back In Time” contain tight, upbeat production that’s impossible not to dance to. Countless layers of pads, harmonies and synth countermelodies create a colorful world of chaos, brought to life by the each of the girls’ expressive and characteristic vocals.
Big Wows carries valuable social commentary, but its light and fun side is just as pronounced–knowing when to let loose, and when to take itself seriously. If you’re craving new synth pop that pushes the boundaries a little, definitely check out Big Wows:
Don’t miss Stealing Sheep’s show at Great Scott tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST, tickets are available here!
Tune in to birnCORE on Friday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. for a live broadcast from the Red Room @ Cafe 939 featuring funk/soul artist Nick Black and special guest Zoe Sparks.
Influenced by the feel good music of Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Sting, and Bruno Mars, Nick Black has created a sound that is unique, yet familiar and nostalgic. He grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where soul, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and blues legends made names for themselves. Black released his first album The Soul Diaries in 2012, marking the start of his musical journey. Since then, he’s been featured on Muscle Shoals to Music Row, a concert series filmed at the legendary Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as well as DittyTV, an Americana and roots channel. He also won Juneteenth awards in 2015 for album of the year and band of the year. Venturing into new territory with his recently released single “Grenadine,” Black pursues his curiosity in electronic music, adding dance beats to his versatile sound.
Check out the BIRN interview below:
Coin – Dreamland – indie pop
Coin’s latest album Dreamland is charming and catchy from beginning to end. Chase Lawrence’s vocals give each track a charging energy, and drummer Ryan Winnen and guitarist Joe Memmel perfectly build each song to match this energy. All of the tracks on Dreamland feature creative writing, and one song that really stands out for this is “Cemetery”. It tells the story of a wealthy man who failed to get his priorities in order in life; the man has nothing now except for the fact that he is, indeed, “the richest man in the cemetery”. This story matched with cheerful harmony and an upbeat groove gives “Cemetery” a truly unique feel that you won’t get from any other band. For those who may be looking for something a little different, Dreamland also features some great love songs. The song “Crash My Car” is a more lighthearted love song, with colorful melodies and a story about a heartbreaker. The second track, on the other hand, “I Want It All” is a more timeless love song, describing the all or nothing feeling of love. If you’re looking for a cheerful, creative, and uptempo band to sing along to, then Coin is for you. Check out Dreamland below!
Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (3/8-3/13): Coin, Loose Buttons”
Opus Orange – Miles From Nowhere – folk rock
From ambient drums and layered harmonies, to electronic effects and driving melodies, Opus Orange’s Miles From Nowhere really has something for everyone. The album shows off an eclectic voice, featuring influences ranging from folk, electronic, rock, to pop. One of the most prominent features of Miles From Nowhere is its upbeat tone; each track pushes you forward into the next. One of my personal favorites on the album is “Add up the Years”. The song is one of the more folkier tracks on Miles From Nowhere, as it highlights slightly more rugged lead vocals, full background vocals, and a heavy kick drum. Each element gives the song a natural and exciting feeling. The second song on the album, “Tell It Like It Is”, feels more like an indie rock song with electronic influences. In this song, melodies flow, while synths fill space, and the drums lock everything in perfectly. Overall, Opus Orange’s Miles From Nowhere is a fun listen that any listener can enjoy! Check it out below!
Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (3/1-3/6): Opus Orange, Hello Forever”
Arlo Parks – “Eugene” [single] – bedroom pop
With this mellow new release by British pop artist Arlo Parks marks a new era in the blooming bedroom pop world. Eugene is a style of song that reflects the new change in modern pop, from upbeat and peppy music to the more favorable low-key, mellow arrangements with a far step away from standard and monotonous lyric writing. Parks lyrics are conversational and guide you through the story to leave no ambiguity in what she needs to say. In this track Arlo‘s voice is breathy, intimate and full of yearning which only cements her lyrics about an unrealized love story even further, overall rounding out the entire tune. The arrangement is warm and gentle and simply dances behind the vocal and interlace with one another throughout the song making this an absolutely beautiful piece. This song is a great example of Arlo Parks and her music so if you haven’t heard of her yet, give her a listen below!
Siv Jakobsen – “Fear The Fear” [single] – singer songwriter
“Fear The Fear” is a new take on traditional singer-songwriting by this Norwegian born artist Siv Jakobsen. Siv’s light acoustic arrangement with erie drones and solo acoustic guitar create a haunting picture of self conflict and other cold emotions. The lyrics weave a story of self doubt, feeling lost, and the constant struggle of an artist to perpetually be creating. This predominately comes from the line “But shake it off I can’t, I won’t//Cause what would I write about if I don’t//Fear the fear inside my bones” which make this feel like an internal dialogue that is anxiety evoking and worrisome to any artist who is struggling to create. The light arrangement never gets in the way of the vocals, making what she has to say feel so much more urgent and upfront. This single came off the soon to be released A Temporary Soothing, which Im definitely excited for, and can’t wait to see more of what she can create. Give Siv Jakobsen’s “Fear The Fear” a listen below and see for yourself!
Pinegrove – Marigold – indie rock
Indie rock band Pinegrove has a mesmerizing sound, and their latest album, Marigold, is a prime example of this captivating sound. Featuring various influences across several decades, Marigold has a wonderfully eclectic feel. Each track on the album takes an honest tone, as lead singer Evan Stephens uses everyday language to create lyrics that are unique to Pinegrove. The fifth track on the album, “Moment”, is outstanding. The band does an amazing job of letting the song breathe, all while sharing a story of everyday anxieties. The lyrics match the music perfectly, and they work together to create a true work of art. Another song on the album that stands out is “Dotted Line”. In this song, Pinegrove creates a great introduction to the album. The music starts off simply, but smoothly builds to a sound that features the band’s power. These songs are just two examples of Marigold‘s greatness – each song on the album is incredible. Give Pinegrove‘s Marigold a listen below!
Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (2/24-2/29): Pinegrove, Younger Hunger”
The BIRN would like you to win tickets to see guitarists Raul Midon and Lionel Loueke play live at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Sunday, March 1.
Heralded as a “one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus,” (NY Times) Raul Midón has collaborated with such heroes as Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Jason Mraz, Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg. Blind since birth, Midón produced-engineered his 2017 album, Bad Ass and Blind, using special computer software for the blind. The album, which confronts the challenges of his blindness with verve and grace, received a 2018 Grammy nomination in the category Best Jazz Vocal Album. Midón’s 2018 follow up release, If You Really Want, featuring the Metropole Orkest under the direction of Vince Mendoza, was nominated for a 2019 Grammy award in this same category.
Benin guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke has received critical acclaim from both his idols and contemporaries on his latest release, The Journey. Paul Simon raves that Loueke is “one of a rare handful of guitarists that move effortlessly between his West African roots and modern American Jazz”, and Sting cites Loueke as “one the most original, essential and inspiring musicians on our planet today.” As a Blue Note Recording artist and member of Herbie Hancock’s band for the past 10 years, Loueke has recorded and toured with artists as unique and varied as Terence Blanchard to singers Angelique Kidjo and Luciana Souza. Praised by Herbie Hancock as “a musical painter,” Loueke combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own.
To win a pair of tickets send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Raul and Lionel in the subject line. Please include your contact phone information. There will be two winners and each winner will receive two tickets.
For more information about the show, please click here.
Àsgeir – Bury The Moon – folk
Àsgeir is here to give listeners a little taste of Iceland with Bury The Moon. The album is a stunning folk homage from beginning to end, as Àsgeir gracefully unites traditional folk influences with modern, electronic folk influences. His pure voice and poetic lyrics shine in each song, enhancing the album’s beauty. The first track on Bury The Moon, “Pictures”, stands out among the rest (although, they’re all incredible). Beginning with simple piano, brushes, acoustic and electric guitar, Àsgeir establishes a cold musical scene that sets up his incredible lyrics perfectly. Although the track takes a darker tone, it features wise lyrics that assert a positive message of unity. The lyrics of “Until Daybreak” offset “Pictures” in a pleasing way; they work to tell a more concrete image about uncertain love. The track also features eclectic contemporary sounds that give the song a cool, modern edge. In short, Àsgeir is an extremely talented artist with an amazing album. Give Bury The Moon a listen below!
Continue reading “Kelsey’s Prime Slices of the Week (2/17-2/22): Àsgeir, flor”
Hayley Williams may be best known as the frontwoman of highly influential alternative rock band Paramore, but with the long awaited release of her solo album Petals For Armor I, the powerhouse vocalist and songwriter is carving her path to becoming a legendary rock icon herself.
For dedicated Hayley Williams fans that have stuck around for years, Petals For Armor I may have been taken as a bit of a surprise, but nevertheless a thrilling one. It’s no shocker that Hayley Williams has surpassed the alternative rock world’s expectations again. She has a knack for effortlessly reinventing herself musically, as evident with the development of Paramore’s sound from teenage pop punk to acclaimed contemporary rock with funk, soul, and alternative influences. But don’t be fooled–Petals For Armor I doesn’t rely on Paramore nostalgia to shine. It’s a deeply personal work of Williams created in a different universe.
Petals For Armor I introduces unique electronic and experimental elements to Williams’ hard-hitting rock based sound. Produced by fellow band member and longtime collaborator Taylor York, the complex arrangements, production and song content are vastly different from Williams’ former discography, but doesn’t veer so far that it feels forced, or completely foreign. The album begins with its lead single and arguably most accessible tune “Simmer”. The first few seconds include a haunting synth loop and sporadic unsettling breath samples–right before launching into a catchy, fast moving bass and drum groove with subtle additions of synths. And as per usual, Williams’ powerful vocals fail to disappoint, bringing life to truthful lines like “rage is a quiet thing” and “nothing cuts like a mother”. In contrast, The album’s second track “Leave It Alone” is a mellow, slow paced ballad with odd chord changes, echoing similarities with many of Radiohead’s works. “Cinnamon” and “Creepin'” introduce even more offbeat material to the album, featuring layers of Williams’ voice filtered through a megaphone-like effect, often repeating as a hook. The album’s words feature detailed visuals like “we bleed holy water” and “don’t you know that I’m a moon in daylight?”
The title “Petals For Armor” is a lyric pulled from “Simmer”, revealing quite a bit about what inspired Williams’ writing. In her own words, Petals For Armor is essentially “the idea that being vulnerable is a shield”. We get a glimpse into Williams’ ongoing struggle with depression through Paramore’s 2017 album After Laughter, but Petals For Armor I offers an even closer look–as her lyrics explore personal themes like family and relationship issues, and being at war with oneself.
As dark as Petals For Armor I gets, Hayley Williams unapologetically wears her vulnerability like armor. With or without Paramore, her empowering presence in contemporary rock won’t be fading away any time soon.
Check out our brand new BIRN Alive videos up this week from three amazing singer-songwriters performing of various styles including folk, pop and indie rock!
Irish folk pop singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan gave a beautiful performance in the studio for our first BIRN Alive of the semester:
And in December, Boston based indie rock artist Paper Citizen:
Powerhouse vocalist and Berklee alumnus Nathalie Hernandez: