Air Circus (feat. DJ Maisie Mais) – ‘The Last Time’

Bournmouth-based duo Air Circus share a refreshing take on pop with their latest collaboration with DJ Maisie Mais.

The group, comprising of Adam Adrian, Dan Follant and collaborator Maisie Mais, have just released the single, which is a wonderfully bizzare combination of eclectic layers and instrumental elements, all tied together by Maisie’s sweet, straight-forward-pop voice.

DJ Maisie Mais performed the lead vocals

The instrumental is a throbbing culmination of warped and detuned, jangly guitars, bouncing electronic elements and retro off-beat synth bass, and the vocals are very Lily Allen. The chorus contains an ingenious instrumental hook intertwined with catchy vocal melodies, on top of a bouncy, fabulously danceable rhythm.

The production draws inspiration from artists such as FINEAS (brother and producer of Billie Eilish), who uses found sounds to create instrumental parts, such as striking a matchstick to create a snare drum sound. Air Circus used the sound of a deoderant can discharging to create a hi-hat sound. It took many takes to get the sound they wanted, and it wasn’t long before they had to open a window.

The track was written and recorded over lockdown, but unlike Leeds-based duo Lines of Flight, Air Circus did not find that working separately really got the creative juices flowing. UK restrictions were only allowing separate households to meet up outside at the time, so the solution? Set up a recording studio in the garden. In fact, two gardens, one at each home. Every part (excluding the vocal, which Maisie Mais recorded at her home and sent over) was recorded outside in this way, with the result that some birds and neighbour sounds can be heard in the recording.

On the meaning of the song, Air Circus explain:

“The Last Time’ explores Maisie’s experience of holding desperately onto friendships and relationships, despite knowing that theoutcome of every single day will be an argument. This self-awareness acts as a sounding board of frustrations, questioning whether she will make it ‘the last time’ or keep getting hurt.”

‘The Last Time’ really is a refreshing take on pop; unusual, interesting yet infectiously catchy. It is the first release as part of a larger project, and we are looking forward to seeing what else will come out of it.

Stream ‘The Last Time’ on Spotify now

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Freddy Hall – ‘Something Good’

Brooklyn-based artist Freddy Hall answers lockdown loneliness with determined optimism in upbeat, Motown inspired single, ‘Something Good’.

The first release in anticipation of upcoming album, ‘Dazy’, Hall delights us with a refreshingly retro track arranged for big band in the style of Amy Whinehouse and Motown artists such as Stevie Wonder or The Supremes. Produced by Anthony ‘Rocky’ Gallo (John Legend, Cigarettes After Sex, Gavin DeGraw) and featuring the wonderful horns arrangement of Broadway director Cian McCarthy (Moulin Rouge, The Book of Mormon), ’Something Good’ takes a stand against what Hall describes as the ‘loneliness epidemic’. 

The bright, upbeat arrangement is counterpointed by Hall’s dreamy indie vocals, and honest lyrics:

“I don’t need much, I just want something good. I’ve been on my own for way too long, and well, something good might stay, yeah, something good might change how I’m feeling now.”

The arrangement is a really interesting blend of 70s soul and indie pop, and it’s refreshing to hear a recording with so many live elements – all the parts are recorded by live players. McCarthy has arranged the horns masterfully, adding wonderful texture, depth and dynamics to the track with bouncing counterpoints and filling the gaps with joyful bursts of melody. Gallo’s production is also top-notch, with a crisp and clear mix that jumps out of the speakers, and the nice additions of crowd ambience add to the message of the song – by adding an atmosphere of live performance, one thing we’ve all been missing throughout the pandemic.

Of all the artistic responses to Covid we’ve seen this year, this one stands out. While many have fully embraced themes such as the ticking clock and boredom, our powerlessness in the face of the situation or the loneliness of isolation, this track boldly antithesises these simultaneously acknowledging them in a tasteful way. The song is about the innate human need to socialise and connect with others.

On the release, Hall says:

“This song has been swirling in my head for many years now but I didn’t know exactly where to take it. I revisited it a few months into isolation and everything just poured out. […] This track has a fun sound juxtaposed with a serious, at times too-honest, and very relateble theme. At the end of the day, don’t we all just want ‘Something Good’?”

The track is also accompanied by a charming stop-motion music lyric video featuring magazine cutout lyrics and a lego concert:

Stream ’Something Good’ on Spotify now!

You can find Freddy Hall on socials using the links below:

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Lines of Flight – ‘Heading Out To You’

Separated by lockdown but connected through technology, Lines of Flight have achieved something special: producing an album worth of material with nothing more than an iPhone each and an internet connection.

The Leeds-based duo, comprising of Matthew Henderson (vocals & synths/programming) and Helen Whale (vocals), met online and began collaborating using the free GarageBand app which comes pre-installed on the iPhone, sending files to each other via WhatsApp and recording vocals using iPhone headphones and mics. By the time the duo finally met each other, they had already written five songs. Five more followed to create a ten-track album, ’Signs of Life’, which Lines of Flight have since had mixed by Leeds-based producer Ed Heaton, are putting out one track at a time throughout 2021.

Track number three is ‘Heading Out To You’, which was recently dropped on Spotify:

‘Heading Out To You’ is a dreamy synth-pop track that calls back to 80s artists such as Depeche Mode, awash with retro synths and underscored by a dramatic piano and computerised drum beat. The vocals are produced in a lo-fi way, which on first listen I thought was a conscious, artistic decision that works rather nicely, rather than due to working around the limitations of iPhone microphones. Multiple layers of vocals fill out the sound nicely, and when coupled with a lo-fi effect, you get that washy sound popularised by artists such as Sufjan Stevens. It’s also nice that the vocals are not over-produced, and still retain that human touch.

The song itself is about yearning for escape. Of the track’s origins, Matthew writes:
‘This song came about following a drive out to the north-east coast. I was reminded of driving up Sutton Bank in the snow, in a wonderful old car that my dad drove – a 1970’s Datsun Laurel. It felt so luxurious! At the time I was driving to a party and all the anxieties of that I had as a teenager, but in the song I reposition it to be my final drive to reach my dad – to be reunited with him, in his car – to travel to the ‘other side’ as referenced in the song (which in itself is a reference to the ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ joke – the dark existential humour of ‘to get to the other side’, always appealed to me). I did this by remembering that when I was driving to the party I nearly crashed – which I then reframed as a means to reaching my dad.’

‘Heading Out To You’ is also accompanied by a music video directed by Amy Cutler, which was also filmed on (you guessed it) an iPhone:

It’s great to hear how Lines of Flight have taken the constraints of the situation, having to work remotely and having no access to a recording studio, and use these creatively to create something new and unique.

To follow Lines of Flight and hear the rest of the album as it is released, follow them on social media using the links below:

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Neon Gru – ‘Moonlight’

London-based 6-piece Neon Gru released their debut EP ‘I Am A Bird’ in March, an eclectic and imaginative blend of sounds and styles that bears the mark of great musicianship.

To promote the EP, they released a music video for ‘Moonlight’, track number 4 of the release. The music video was directed by Anna Andersen and Stephanie Sutherland, featuring the latter as choreographer and dancer evocative of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights.  

‘Moonlight’ is an atmospheric yet vibrant alt-pop track that strays boldly from formulaic song writing.

It is a five-minute musical journey that draws you in from the start, with tasty tones from the guitar and keys setting the stage before a Radiohead King Of Limbs-esque drum beat rolls us through to the verse. Ny Oh’s smooth and acrobatic vocals come in here and sound great throughout. The guitars and keys dance around the lead vocals until the two-minute mark where there is the first main tonal shift on ‘overcomplicated’.

We hear the first backing vocals, spreading out the sound stage, and simultaneously the drums open out to a side-sticked bossa beat with a more major tonality which really contrasts nicely from what came before. Atmospheric guitars and keys continue to noodle in both ears until we reach the music punchline on the lyrics “A beautiful star / Hiding in the moonlight…”

After a moment’s reflection, the music takes a darker turn, with a restless bass riff underscoring menacing pick scrapes on guitar and soundscape elements. Ny Oh’s vocals, previously pure in tone, returns with a distortion effect with the hook, “Coming in hot, I’ve been waiting…”, on repeat with growing arrangements underneath, until the production opens out with the band’s backing vocals taking up the hook and Ny Oh ad-libbing on top in a dramatic climax of the song.

The track dies down again with the return of the familiar verse drum beat and distorted vocalising bringing us to the close of the piece.

‘Moonlight’ deviates notably from verse-chorus structure we are so used to. It is more of an A/B, with everything before the build-up as section A, and “coming in hot” to the end as section B. This, and constantly evolving arrangement, makes for a really interesting and engaging track which really doesn’t feel like five minutes.

We hope you enjoy this introduction to Neon Guru’s music and their debut EP ‘I Am A Bird’. It is definitely worth checking out the other tracks on the record. Find out more below:

Click here to stream ‘I Am A Bird’ EP on Spotify

Neon Gru on Facebook

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Neon Gru on Bandcamp

Graywave – ‘Swallow’

Graywave unveils ‘Swallow’, a heavy yet dreamy track with plenty of guitar and tons of attitude.

The UK-based singer and multi-instrumentalist has just released the track, which features a driving drumbeat and bass riff, hazy shoegaze guitars and breathy vocals. 

‘Swallow’ begins with a twangy guitar riff over the main bass and drums parts, gradually opening up through a filtered effect, as if slowly waking up from a dream, before the voice swishes in for the verse. Heavy guitars envelop the choruses and the drums pick up a more energetic beat. Graywave’s vocals are pleasantly husky and airy, while packing a lot of power.

What sets this track apart is the trippy tonality, often found in songs by Queens of the Stone Age or Lacuna Coil, giving the track an etherial, otherwordly vibe. We especially enjoyed the guitar solo which reminded us Nothing but Thieves.

About the track, Graywave writes:

‘Swallow’ is about feeling a loss of control and losing trust within your own thoughts and actions. It’s about the way I feel when something bad happens that is out of my control – I tend to still blame myself even when I am not at fault and this song captures that. The meaning of this song also coincides withthe theme of the EP; a feeling of inner turmoil and a shift in emotions.  

‘Swallow’ is the final single off of upcoming EP ‘Planetary Shift’.

To find out more about this and discover the rest of the songs, follow Graywave on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Wons Phreely + The Horses – ‘Restless to Run’

Australian-born LA-based artist Wons Phreely releases retro indie pop track “Restless to Run” for our enjoyment.

The singer-songwriter has released the Bowie-inspired song on Spotify, Deezer and on YouTube in the form of an aesthetic music video.

The catchy intro and repeating synth/guitar hook remind us of 70s and early 80s music such as The Who’s Baba O’Riley and Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes.

Falsetto vocals sing of a nostalgic coming-of-age story, leading us into a restless pre-chorus building up to a dreamy yet upbeat chorus.

“I’d like to dedicate this song to the spirit of embracing failure.”, Wons says on the song. “That’s what I connect to in rock and roll. I wrote it after the passing of David Bowie. I actually found myself crying a little, which is something I’ve never done over the passing of a famous person. It felt almost like the end of an era when artists could experiment, and still be accepted by pop culture, with no consideration for commercial results. Just self expression on who they are and how they felt. Bowie’s first few albums completely flopped, and yet an industry and the public still supported him until he had formed his musical identity and began to connect through a very personal expression of who he was. Same goes for artists like Springsteen, Prince and Elton, who were failures for their first couple of records, but carried on anyway in a time when music was not so much an industry. And these artists arrived at some truly unique styles and self-expression that still resonates today. Time is a tricky one. It’s about learning who you are as you grow into yourself. Bowie made me want to make music thats fun, camp, glamours and sexy.”

The music video has a strong aesthetic, featuring Wons drumming and singing in a yellow t-shirt on a yellow background with cutaways to sunny LA suburbs and retro cars. The song’s impact is heightened by the accompanying clip’s suburban angst. “I wanted the video to feel like simpler times,” Wons says. “It was deliberately shot with a lo-fi approach using a handheld iPhone with no lenses or smooth, stabilized shots. The aim was to convey innocence and romanticism—a longing you can only really capture and express through music.”

Listen to the track now on Spotify:

Watch the music video on YouTube:

Find out more about Wons Freely on Instagram and his website.

Track added to the Indie Gems Spotify playlist.

The Sea Suns – ‘Lighter’

The Austin, Tx. / Vancouver, BC based duo release “LIGHTER”, a vibey synth pop single that could be the lovechild of Oh Wonder and Tame Impala.

This laid-back track kicks off with a pounding, disjointed 80’s style bass, before surprising you with a trap-like drum beat. The chorus opens out with a dreamy soundscape of catchy vocal samples, harmonies and the main hook (…”You walk a little lighter”…).Will Evans and Marina Bennett’s voices unison in dreamy melodies throughout the track. You’d be forgiven for associating this format with Oh Wonder, however THE SEA SUNS have their own distinctive style, and their music packs an eclectic mixture of influences. 

‘LIGHTER’ is a fantastic piece, and we’re looking forward to seeing what else THE SEA SUNS have in store.

Find out more about The Sea Suns on Instagram, Facebook and their website.

Song added to the Indie Gems Spotify playlist.

Couch – ‘Black Bear Lane’

Boston-based six-piece Couch aims to reshape familiar pop tropes in fresh ways with the help of extensive funk, R&B, and rock influences. In advance of their EP due to be released on 26th Feb, the band surprises us with a preview, in the form of a single that has just been made available on Spotify. 

“Black Bear Lane” is a special treat for anyone in need of a dose of healthy soul pop. Opening with a delightful, almost orchestral fourteen second overture of lush horns, the track quickly falls back to a stripped-back band arrangement supporting the silky sounds of the lead vocals. With chilled, jazzy harmonies, dynamics accentuated by swelling brass, and a sweet sax solo to boot, this track is the best of Motown and modern indie production combined.

Find out more about Couch on Facebook and Instagram.

Jack Conway – ‘Calluses’

LA based Jack Conway releases ‘Calluses’, a powerful, uplifting pop ballad with traces of Lukas Graham. Calluses hives consideration to the current circumstances and has a simple message that we will emerge stronger from our difficult experiences. 

The arrangement is simple yet effective, with a piano driven verse giving way to a chorus with a satisfying deep bass, wide vocal harmonies and the title hook, ‘calluses’. 

The lyrics of the verses follow a story of pain and anguish, an honest depiction of a troubled life, contrasted with a hopeful chorus: “this one goes out to all the hopeless kids / you’re so much more than all your brokenness”, with a touching message of hope in the falsetto middle eight.

Jack says, “Calluses is the most personal track I’ve ever written. It was inspired by David Goggins, who talks about callusing your mind, just like how you can “callus” your hands – usually from rock climbing or weight-lifting. Calluses are formed through challenging experiences, but they make you a stronger person allowing you to go farther in life.

“Calluses” has all the features of a song one would hear on the radio, and delivers a refreshing message of hope in a well-put together package.

Stream ‘Calluses’ on all platforms.

Find out more about Jack Conway on Instagram and Facebook.