Since 2005, Alberta Cross has been the songwriting project of Petter Ericson Stakee. The Swedish born singer/songwriter formed the band in London before relocating to their current home of New York City. With a revolving cast of musician friends, Stakee and Alberta Cross have released three EP’s and 2 full length LP’s while playing such famed festivals as Coachella, Lollapoalooza, Bonnarroo, Reading, Leeds, Fuji Rock and Splendour in the Grass. In the past 7 years Alberta Cross has toured the world while sharing stages with the likes of Neil Young, Oasis, Mumford & Sons, Them Crooked Vultures, Black Rebel Motorcycle, Bat For Lashes, The Shins, Phosophorescent and more. In recent months, Stakee has been working out new material at a weekly gathering of like-minded musicians at Randolph Bar in Brooklyn and will soon be going up to record their next record at Dreamland, a church that has been converted into a recording studio in Woodstock, NY. Of the new material, Stakee says “I want it to be more of a live thing, to capture a raw, pure and organic vibe. Like the first few recordings we did as a band but a little more advanced.” Alberta Cross plan to have a new album out in 2015.
Alex Ebert is a singer/songwriter, film composer, writer, and social activist. He won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score this year and is a Grammy winner. His band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a platinum-selling band, are going to begin recording their 4th studio album this year. He lives in New Orleans with his girlfriend, Roehm Hepler-Gonzalez, and their daughter. He is also currently completing a book "on the commodification of individualism" entitled Kingdom Cool.
Southern California rock band Bad Suns formed in 2012 and in the short time since inception, have managed to be musically beyond their years. Made up of Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) the four piece ranges from ages 19-22 yet has a sound reminiscent of rock stalwarts from generations past. “I grew up with a lot of world music playing in the house. When I was 10, I started getting heavily interested in the guitar, and my dad began introducing me to his records from the 70's and the 80's. Initially Elvis Costello, then to The Clash, The Cure, and so on,” notes Christo. “All of these artists and bands had a big impact on me, at a young age, as far as song composition goes. “
The band’s debut EP (January 2014) Transpose was recorded in the studio with producer Eric Palmquist (The Mars Volta, Wavves, Trash Talk) and served as a prelude to the band’s debut full-length (also produced by Palmquist) which hit streets on June 24, 2014. “The writing and recording process is always exciting, because it's constantly changing and unique to each song. Inspiration comes and goes as it pleases, so a night when a song gets written is a very good night,” says Christo. Comprised of eleven tracks, Language & Perspective flows effortlessly from start to finish showcasing the band’s stadium ready anthems and undeniably catchy hooks. “Music has the ability to evoke certain feelings in people, a way that not much else can. The pairing of words and sounds can be an extremely powerful tool, when done right. I think the ultimate goal for this band is to make music that causes people to really feel something.”
2014 proved to be quite busy for Bad Suns, who in a very short time have performed the first single, ‘Cardiac Arrest,’ on Conan and the track hit #13 on Alt Radio Charts, and #11 on AAA charts. They’ve toured with likes of The 1975, Fitz and the Tantrums, Vaccines and Geographer to name a few. “It’s pretty incredible what you can accomplish with time, work, and patience. Playing our songs to receptive audiences, across the country, has been surreal for us; it’s what we’ve always dreamed of. We’re excited for people to hear the album that we’ve made, and then come experience it in a live setting,” says Bowman. “One day I just decided to be a musician, and I never strayed away from that goal. Being in a band is the only thing I could do."
Welcome to Happy Valley—an oddly untouched neighborhood in the corner of Los Angeles, that has served home over the decades to wild buffalo, an ostrich farm, a racetrack, and now, CILLIE BARNES. In a house carved into a hillside of a land that time forgot, is where Cillie, a musician, songwriter, and supernatural psychic, resides…
The house is a mystical artist’s denizen, with walls covered in hanging tapestries, shelves filled with crystals and other apothecary, a garden where you’ll stumble upon a ceramic effigy among the succulents and ferns, and an ever-shifting group of nomadic inhabitants. Inside lays a modest recording studio where Cillie concocts her self-described “gyp-hop” music, which embodies the eclectic, multi-faceted nature of herself. The enchanting Newport Beach native – daughter of convicted bank robber father and art teacher mother – moved to Los Angeles at 17 and has been here ever since.
In her house in the hill, Cillie and musical co-conspirator Joe Keefe wrote and demoed the songs that appear on her debut, a five-song collection, that recounts her time and experiences. It’s the first in a series of four collections, each with its own feel, like chapters in a much longer narrative.
Cillie and Joe developed the songs over the course of a few years, each showcasing her gravelly yet charming voice, hip-hop flow, and literary, but conversational, lyricism. The opening number, “Hey Hi,” takes the listener on a journey from smoky LA bars to the crisp country air in Woodstock, New York. Using Jordan Kolasinski’s music as a backdrop, she explores feelings that arose when she returned to her favorite ride at Southern California theme park, Knott’s Scary Farm, ‘Blood Bayou,’ as an adult (“Halloween Haunt, Halloween Haunt/You don’t thrill me like you used to”).
“Brainwash” slowly builds “like TNT and Dy-no-mite” to explore the emotions after being tied up and robbed in a Hollywood apartment owned by the infamous street artist. She fittingly describes her feelings after the event (“We be like Cleo and Marc Antony/Way we’re going down”).
“Solstice” delves into her Wiccan spirituality, singing, “I’ll be bringing in my solstice/In my Stevie Nicks Dress/Channeling my Energy to make my life/Less of a mess,” while “Veranda” explores the heartache of forbidden love.
And then, fittingly, there’s “Happy Valley.” While it’s a song about a place, it’s also about what she’s created and experienced since moving there, including this collection of music.
Much like the ‘Fool’ in her deck of Tarot cards, is the spirit of Cillie—exuberant, clever, and ready to take on the first steps to a long unknown journey ahead, whatever it may be…
Cornelius is the brainchild of Japanese multi-instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada. Son of a famous Japanese crooner and a performing musician since his teens, Oyamada (Born January 27, 1969) created his creative alter-ego (the name is an homage to the Planet of the Apes),in the early 1990′s from the ashes of his previous project, Flipper’s Guitar.
With the 1997 release of Fantasma, Cornelius gained international recognition for his cut and paste style reminescent of american counterparts Beck and The Beastie Boys. Being called a “modern day Brian Wilson” for his orchestral-style arrangements, Cornelius subsequently he became one of the most sought after producer/remixers in the world, working with artists ranging from Blur, Beck and Bloc Party, to Sting, KD Lang, and James Brown.
With 2002′s Point, Cornelius’ music took a quantum shift, going from electronic based to looping organic sounds, creating lush sound-scapes. From using water drops as the rhythmic backbone of “Drop” to his vocoder-infused cover of “Brazil”, the album dazed and amazed fans and set the path for the next phase of his career.
2007 brought this philosophy to an even higher level with the release of Sensuous. Cornelius live shows are known the world around for its spectacular visuals (all perfectly synchronized to the performance), custom lighting that doesn’t simply augment the performance, but becomes another instrument within it, and a full band of equally talented and diverse players.
In early 2008 “ The Cornelius Group – ‘Synchronized Sensuous Show’” reached new heights in it’s US tour, culminating with an invitation from the LA Philharmonic, and performance at the Frank Gehry Designed Walt Disney Concert Hall to LA’s musical and cultural elite.
Since his last tour date, Cornelius has recorded music for Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, performed as the backbone of Yoko Ono’s reformed Plastic Ono Band, played the Hollywood Bowl with Yellow Magic Orchestra, and co-wrote and produced the Japanese artist. SalyuXSalyu.
If you sought comparisons for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros forthcoming self-titled album, you would hear the soulfulness of The Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, the raw exuberant pop of The Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ and the psychedelic echoes of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Surrealistic Pillow’. But at its roots, the album shows a band evolved and hopeful for the future.
Some tracks from this new release were originally recorded as the bookend piece to their sophomore album, Here, but in their last year of touring, this collection of songs was reimagined, taking on their own shape. They are upbeat, boisterous and passionate, with gospel chorus harmonies, raw, wailing vocals, and deep-in-the-pocket rhythms. “Better Days” mirrors perfectly the feelings of a country emerging from several years of tough times as the light of hope begins to peak through. It may be their most earnest work yet.
Each release by this incredibly talented family of 10+ seems different and transformed from the last, while still maintaining the principles they arrived with—community, exploration and self-relevance. Frontman Alex Ebert, who produced this new album himself, shared, “these songs mean everything to me. It’s the rawest, most liberated, most rambunctious stuff we’ve done.”
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros formed in 2007 after singer Alex Ebert met fellow singer Jade Castrinos outside of Little Pedro’s in downtown Los Angeles. In 2009 the 10-member troupe released their debut album, Up From Below, which featured the hit “Home” as well as fan favorites “40 Day Dream” and “Janglin”. The band has spent the past few years touring the world while winning over audiences at festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Leeds, Austin City Limits and more. Their follow up album, Here, was released in May 2012 and featured the tracks “Man On Fire” and “That’s What’s Up.” The album debuted at #1 on the Independent Music Chart and #5 on Billboard Top 200 Chart the week after its release. Relix Magazine hailed it as “an album full of undeniable folk-rock hooks, gospel overtones, infectious lyrics, orchestral swells and a whole lot of love.” Entertainment Weekly declared, “…they’ve got so much heart, they can crush hipster irony with one squeeze of the accordion.” The album was listed at number seven on Rolling Stone’s “Best Albums of 2012″ List.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - LIFE IS HARD (Live Music Video)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Country Calling [Official Video]
On a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border, ‘Post Tropical’ was born – a collection of sounds and ideas brought to life in rooms where the low frequencies of passing freight trains vibrated in the studio, briefly disturbing the birds in the rafters. And like most new ideas, ‘Post Tropical’ is hard to describe. It requires attention and engagement. It seduces you towards hidden depths.
McMorrow’s acclaimed debut album, ‘Early in the Morning’, reached number 1, went platinum and picked up a Choice Music Prize nomination upon its release in 2010. Along the way, there were shows everywhere from the Royal Festival Hall to Later…with Jools Holland, and a breakout hit in the charity cover of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’. McMorrow’s first record was the formative sounds of a songwriter who suddenly found people giving a damn. “I’m so proud of that album, but I never longed to be a guy with a guitar. You play these songs live as best you can, and suddenly you’re a Folk musician. But the texture of this record is completely different. This is the kind of stuff I actually listen to.”
Wiping the palate of ‘Early in the Morning’ clean, Post Tropical’ is a stunning piece of work. Its broadened horizons may come as a surprise to everyone but James and the people who know him best. “I found a zip drive recently, which dates back to before I made my first record, and I’d re-recorded every single part of the N.E.R.D album – apart from the vocals – just for the joy of it. I wanted to give this record the feel and movement of the hip-hop records that I love.”
It’s a step forward that is immediately apparent on album opener and first single ‘Cavalier’ – a brooding twist on the Slow-Jam, which builds quietly from hushed keys and hand-claps to soaring brass, drums and McMorrow’s idiosyncratic falsetto. Across the album, new sounds and textures are explored: 808s on the haunting ‘Red Dust’, looped piano on ‘Look Out’, and the waterfall-effect of 12 mandolins on ‘The Lakes’. McMorrow’s sometimes-surreal songwriting holds each element in place, an album on which he wrote, produced, and played virtually every instrument.
The framework of ‘Post Tropical’ was constructed over eight months. Coming home from tour, James had hundreds of sound files, none categorised. Pages and pages of lyrics were crossed out and edited. Nothing was written on guitar, and nothing was linear. Yet the recording itself took place on a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border – which the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House, Animal Collective and At The Drive In have all called home at one point. The constraints of three and a half weeks here offered McMorrow a surprising amount of freedom. Sounds were created and changed and painstakingly poured over. The process was up for grabs, right up to the mixing stage.
What emerged was ‘Post Tropical’ – complete with the paradoxical, ‘wish-you-were-here postcard’ artwork (juxtaposing a palm tree with a polar bear). “It’s so exhausting trying to keep up with styles of music that pop up one week, and disappear the next,” says James. “For me, ‘Post Tropical’ evokes a style of music without you having a clue what it sounds like. It’s warm and familiar, but there’s something there that’s maybe not quite what you think it is. I just wanted to make the most beautiful thing that I could imagine. And that was it.”
London-born Christian Letts returned to his native countryside to record his first LP, Hold Fast, with his friend and collaborator Marcus Mumford who produced the record. Hold Fast will be released on February 17, 2015, on Community Music/Vagrant Records. Other friends from their respective bands (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons) joined them at the farm, where, over the course of two consecutive Januaries, they crafted the ten tracks that comprise Hold Fast. The release will coincide with a series of art exhibits of Letts’ paintings and watercolors throughout the United States and Europe.
Letts is a songwriter, singer, painter and sculptor. Across all mediums there is a common theme of overcoming darkness. The sea, the sky, the countryside, the people within and their strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures. Spirits and guardian angels, recurring dreams, the unseen forces that silently sway. He explores himself alongside and within these elements on Hold Fast.
ICES is a celebration of flight, levity, and the conviction that you can leave earth. You take wing in an airplane, you go to real places when you dream, you have out-of-body experiences, you get high, you lose yourself in someone else.
When we started work on these songs, I was beginning a gradual move to California, constantly traveling back and forth from New York. I was experimenting. I was falling in love. Our studio in the Hudson Valley was full of electronics and computers and the sounds of future ships sailing through the vastness of space, and I sometimes forgot where I was. The first songs we wrote were called “flying 1,” then “flying 2,” and so on, which eventually evolved into songs on the album. Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination. The process created a lightness in me, a freedom and positive energy that I’d never before felt or explored.
This recording session became a two year music and spiritual retreat with my psychic twin brother, Eliot. A private journey during which we abandoned old habits and familiar sounds. We got really geeky and experimented in our studio. We obsessed over sympathetic magic, “Ancient Aliens,” and the NBA. We allowed everything we loved to find its way in: Persian percussion, hip-hop beats, lo-fi, hi-fi, Pakistani pop, Link Wray, Jason Pierce, gospel, dub. We developed new systems; we worked with synthesis, software, and samples; we became producers. The Hudson Valley was home base, but I wanted to keep flying. I wrote songs in California, recorded vocals in Atlanta, and worked with Clams Casino in Brooklyn.
Each song became a collage of times, places, and people. Most of them started in the Hudson Valley, where Eliot and I wrote and recorded vocals, guitars, synths, and beat ideas. We’d send those first incarnations to Clams Casino in New Jersey and then we’d meet up in Brooklyn to arrange the new parts together. We worked in the penthouse of the Wythe Hotel – a floating glass box , a blank slate. We’d set up our computer, mixing speakers, midi keyboards, and all our weird gear, plus thai food and red wine. We’d bring up one of our demos and we’d sit behind the midi keyboard and sift through sounds and ideas and beats and find new things together. After the Wythe Sessions we took different tracks to Woodstock and Los Angeles to layer in live drums and percussion, and I went to Atlanta to record final vocals. For the first time, Lia Ices felt like an inclusive project with its own identity, not just a name.
ICES as a whole is devoted to these certainties. While we have evolved, we are still animals. We respond to planets, patterns, and cycles. We require the sounds of our origins. We live in the future but stay bound to the primitive and primordial. We will always want tribe, we will always want rhythm, we will always need music to guide us into our deepest sense of what it means to be human. So we hear sounds from all over the planet in this album. We devour so much music, and with this album we allowed ourselves to claim bits from all of it.
Jena Malone and Lem Jay Ignacio first met at an acoustic Christmas carol party at the Mandrake in Los Angeles, California in 2008. They ended up playing that night and meeting for the first time on stage. They performed “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” but with Jena singing completely in scat-style gibberish and Lem Jay not musically missing a beat. A unique musical friendship and language was born.
Jena had built an instrument she called “The Shoe” which was simply an old steamer trunk she dollied around with a plethora of electronic instruments inside. She brought it over to Lem Jay’s garage to jam soon after they met. Lem Jay, who is a pianist and music producer said “From that night, it seemed like she was always over and we were freestyling, making up songs, playing abstract piano duets, psychotherapy rants and love spells. We’d stay up all night recording all of our jams, sometimes we’d improvise complete songs from start to finish. I think we literally have over a hundred hours of nights like this. Since we did this so much, it was hard to know what it was, whether it was a band or an art project or just two friends constantly making music. Our first EP “At Lem Jay’s Garage” came out of this first year of us getting together in my garage and pressing record.“
That EP came out in 2009 under Jena’s label There Was An Old Woman Records. Their soon to be released full length album “I’m Okay” was recorded again in Lem Jay’s garage during the summer of 2013. Of this newest effort Jena says “This new record means so much more to me because I actually wanted to write songs. I wanted to craft them more than I had ever done. I love the art of freestyle, for me I always start there as a songwriter, but this record was different. I wanted to tell stories everyone could feel and understand, not just me.“
In late 2012, Wild Ones was on the verge of collapse. Guitarist Clayton Knapp had blown out an eardrum, the band’s original drummer left the group and his replacement, Seve Sheldon, was in the hospital with a punctured lung, practicing songs on a drum pad with a tube sticking out of his chest. The band’s members had funneled all of their money into a debut record, Keep It Safe, that had taken a year to write and nine months to record and mix. Fans and followers began to wonder if that record would ever see the light of day. It was make-or-break time. Wild Ones made. Instead of folding in the face of financial drama, injuries and personnel changes, Wild Ones took a deep breath and adjusted to its new surroundings. This band is used to adjusting.
Since its formation in 2010, Wild Ones has insisted on operating as a DIY collective. The band recorded and mixed its debut as a group (with help from engineer David Pollock). Sometimes considering each members’ opinion meant endless revisits and tweaks to the album’s tracks. The process was time-consuming, but it was also worth it. “That was a reaction to the bands we had been in before,” says lead vocalist Danielle Sullivan. “This band was born out of our desire to have a democratic, all-inclusive music-making process.” Going it alone—even the artwork on Keep It Safe was created by Wild Ones keyboardist Thomas Himes—comes with its fair share of challenges. Most of Wild Ones’ debut was recorded in a two-story East Portland warehouse rehearsal space, where the band was surrounded on all sides by rock acts like Quasi and the Thermals. Wild Ones would get to their practice space around 8 am to record, often grabbing quick takes between thunderous drum solos from down the hall. “Somewhere on the record, if you listen close enough, you can probably hear the metal band next door,” Himes says. “When we went in that room in March, it was raining,” says Knapp. “When we finished recording in October, it was raining.” Keep It Safe, the album that finally emerged after well over a year of gestation, is bigger than the sum of its meticulously gathered parts. Even now, the band’s sound continues to evolve. Wild Ones’ members come from vastly disparate musical backgrounds—guitarist Nick Vicario was a Portland punk icon long before he turned 18; bassist Max Stein is a classical composer—and all of their experiences inform pop music that is influenced by everything from german techno to American R&B. These are sounds that don’t usually come packaged together, but in the able hands of Wild Ones, they seem like a perfectly natural fit.