“We really feel at home with a lot of worlds of people that don’t really seem to fit together,” says Alynda Lee Segarra, an observation that seems perfectly in sync with Segarra's namesake Hurray For The Riff Raff. And, she continues, "we find a way to make them all hang out with our music." Small Town Heroes (February 11, ATO), the self-produced, highly anticipated successor to 2011's praised Look Out Mama, tosses folk, country, blues, southern soul and New Orleans roots into a fragrant and satisfying musical gumbo, elevating Riff Raff songs from campfire strumming and street corner busking to essential primer on modern Americana. Born in New York and settling in the Crescent City after a coast-to-coast wandering, the 26-year-old singer of Puerto Rican descent found a special kinship with the city, particularly after the devastating wake of Katrina. Songs like the devastating "The Body Electric" and the lovely title track (click through to stream) resonate with an assured clarity of artistic vision, songwriting and musicianship. Segarra, a major new voice, makes Small Town Heroes a very big deal.
Hurray For The Riff Raff - "The Body Electric" (from Small Town Heroes)
In advance of his 2014 album This Marauder's Midnight, Gabriel Rios has released a couple new videos of new songs including "Gold" and "Madstone" with a new song due the third Thursday of every month. The Puerto Rico-born, Belgium-educated and now Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter encamped to a small wooden chuch in upstate New York with Ruben (bass) and Amber (cello) to lay down tracks that may be demos or may be the final versions -- we'll have to wait and find out. Though he's been based in New York for the past three years and performs locally, Rios' bread and butter is still Europe, particularly Benelux, where he can regularly sell out clubs and theaters. Click through to watch the equally fine "Madstone."
Since we last checked in on House By The Lake a year ago, what was once the solo project of Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Strandskog Arnesen has been expanded to a full-fledged band. The output of Amesen and crew has been moving pretty much at glacier pace with the new track "Redwood" our first -- and only -- bit of new music since 2012's fine "Dark Horse" (click through to stream). And even "Redwood" is a band remake of Amesen's earlier solo version from a couple years back, a track that takes a while to get moving but ends up as a rather potent bit of indie folk/rock goodness.
Irish singer/songwriter and force of nature Wallis Bird has announced the release of her fourth album Architecture for April 11 so we figured we'd celebrate the occasion with this stark solo performance of one our favorite songs off her eponymous 2012 album: "Feathered Pocket." Legendary for her high energy performances -- "The sheer visceral energy of Wallis Bird could kick-start an entire economy," said the The Irish Times -- Bird turns in an intimate, if no less impassioned, performance courtesy fine German video website HausKonzerte. The song, she says, is about "documenting the electricity within you and the chemical charge that happens when falling in love…a great and good love."
"Nothing matter more than the vibe" became the mantra for the Australian alt-pop trio Whitaker when it came to recording their new EP Wichita. And the vibe, as it turned out, was not in any stuffy studio. Across their native Melbourne, Ryan Meeking, Simon Rabl and Brett Scapin along with engineer and producer Jono Steer and drummer Leigh Fisher searched for random spaces in old halls and various buildings that lent a special ambience to their on-the-fly recordings. The resulting five song collection, the follow up to their self-titled 2012 debut LP, is meticulously constructed and loosely constrained, songs like "Devil On Your Mind" those rare examples of folk/pop melodies worn comfortably, easily and without the need for shout-and-stomp grandstanding. Click through to hear "Hurricane" and stream the EP at Whitaker'sBandcamppage.
Whitaker - "Devil On Your Mind" (from the WichitaEP)
Belgium's Mount Meru play a distinctive type of chamber-esque art/pop featuring moody jazz-orchestra arrangements, unpredictable time signatures, minor chord mystery, a cabaret-styled intimacy and vocalist Sanne Huysman's dramatic and freewheeling performances of her own lyrics (en Français). Debut album Arbres (trans: trees) is a self-described "craft of songwriting and freedom of play...musicians who wander about in the open water of free improvisation (to) return to one of their old loves: songs." All in all, a description that comes into focus when you actually hear the music. A good place to start is with the artful and eyecatching video for "Le bonheur." Close the door. Push play. Expand to full screen.
While Brit songwriter Olivia Broadfield was busy putting the finishing touches on her fanfunded third album --tentatively titled Paper Dolls -- for an early 2014 drop, she recently rediscovered this interesting acoustic cover of Peter Gabriel's breakout '80s hit single (and award-winning video) "Sledgehammer." It may or may not make the final cut for the new album but we think its low-keyed reinterpretation is something of a revelation. More DC on Broadfield's 2011 album This Beautiful Warhere...
Olivia Broadfield - "Sledgehammer" (Peter Gabriel Cover)
It would be tempting to simply dismiss Twin Forks as the folk/pop and Americana side project of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carraba. But, as the name of this quartet would indicate, taking another creative route can often be a new, liberating experience. "When I started playing acoustic-based music, I wasn't trying to avoid traditional folk because I didn't love it -- I just loved it so much and didn't wanna do an injustice to it," says Carraba. But as he delved back into his own folk and alt-country influences when working on the 2011 covers album Covered In the Flood, he found he needed a "twin" outlet for his songwriting and performing. He tapped a few friends and collaborators -- mandolin player SuzieZeldin, bassist Jonathan Clark and drummer Ben Homola -- and began to explore what he calls "the parameters of a traditional template" to write and perform songs based on his new passion for finger-picked music with a Lumineers-styled drive and energy. A debut EP this fall set the stage for a self-titled Twin Forks project due February 25 via Dine Alone. Click through for "Hard Times" and the full bio.
Melbourne singer Meg Mac -- aka Megan McInerney -- has one of those powerhouse voices that one smitten listener says "puts your soul through the ringer." With just a couple of songs under her belt (so to speak) including the R+B-tinged new track -- and impressive video -- "Every Lie," Ms. Mac walks the fine line between sleek soulful pop and the occasionally turn towards gritty, rockin' R+B. Needless to say, experiencing Meg Mac's live show would be the proof in the proverbial pudding. Does she have the skills and charisma to pull if off on stage? We'll wait to see -- for now, click through to watch the "Every Lie" video and stream (and watch) "Known Better."
DC readers will recognize many of the artists featured on the new compilation Nashville Indie Spotlight, the second annual recap from some of the best songwriters and performers in Music City. Angel Snow, Butterflly Boucher, Mindy Smith, Peter Bradley Adams, Amy Stroup, Trent Dabbs, Amy Speace, Shannon Labrie and many more have graced this site with their remarkably un-country songs. New collection gathers up 30 songs from 30 artists (with a couple of collaborations like Matthew Perryman Jones and post-rock wonders Hammock) for the low, low price of just $7.99 via iTunes. Plus it's available for a limited time only, so do it, well, now. “I had this desire to find a way to let the world know about the independent talent here in Nashville and shine a spotlight on the growing independent artist community here," says artist wrangler and Tone Tree Music chief Shawn Fowler. "These are artists that are independently creating music, building teams, marketing, releasing and touring their art in their own distinct way.” Click through to stream Butterfly Boucher's "Another White Dash" (Birthday Version), a remake from her '04 debut album, and check out the full artist and track listing...