Full-disclosure, I first met Siergio as a freshmen in high school. Fairly quickly, he established himself as a personality due to his singing, and what I recall as a vehement defense of superstar singer Monica’s vocal prowess.
It’s been a joy to hear him pursue his art these last few years. He seems poised to release another excellent set of tunes, if his latest single, a classic R&B slow burner, “Complicated,” is any indication of what else will show up on forthcoming LP, “Before it’s too Late” (available for pre-order here).
Listening through the song, you can hear his appreciation of Monica shine, albeit, through the prism of a variety of other influences. This allows Siergio to do something that strikes me as fairly unique within the world of modern R&B: call to what’s inspired him, but not so loudly, that his influences overwhelm the specifics of his persistent truth as a vocalist.
In a musical landscape in which it can be increasingly hard to tell singers apart, Siergio has found something that is uniquely his own within his voice.
This has come about as a result of pursuing craft with steadfast dedication.
Outside of gorgeous production that manages to create a sense of cavernous depth, the song is marked by Siergio’s control of his voice. His singing reminds of a guitar player who understands that he’s in the business of handling business, but doesn’t feel like he has to let everyone know all the time. Throughout the song’s run, Siergio pulls off a variety of vocal flexes that on their surface, might appear to be light, but speak to careful consideration, and/or restraint on his part. Where he could easily, pop an octave or hit a run, he instead chooses to make his voice swell or fall accordingly.
It’s an incredibly admirable set of choices and keeps a certain amount on tension in play. When release finally arrives, it shows up in the form of a contemplative, three-guitar over/under interplay that sounds like the R&B equivalent of what you mind find on an 80s King Crimson record.
It’s an inspired choice that adds a nice additional flavor to the song, allowing it to fade out with a blissful release that feels earned.
If you haven’t already done so, head back up to the top of the page, and hit play on the YouTube link.
Happy Valentine’s Day fam – self-designated cupid Classy Cassie back again this year for round two of Hot New Singles For You Hot Singles. Unattached and looking for love, these 14 musical singles hot and ready for your eardrums. Remember, the below dating profiles are for the music, not the artist.
Purple Disco Machine, Sophie and The Giants “In The Dark“
Dating Profile: This single is rebellious, independent, goes to the club alone to dance – don’t join this dance party unless you’re ready for a hot makeout sesh on the dance floor that begins and ends with a touch of the lips. Names? Occupation? None of it matters. Pucker up and get ready, this single is already dancing the night away.
DatingProfile: This “new and improved” single is back and ready to date….again. A messy history of gold diggers and unassuming sugar babies has left this single on a skeptic rollercoaster for the last few years – but who knows, maybe you’re the one to help this single feel trust again? Start off with a more casual date to check the vibe before jumping to high stakes dates.
Dating Profile: Soft and gentle, you can take this single for their word. Genuine and authentic, this single will be happy Netflix and cuddling at home, out for a nightly cruise by the beach, or grabbing cocktails at a sexy low-lit bar. Helpful tip: prep strawberries and chocolate for the end of the night.
Dating Profile: This powerhouse single is willing to fight for the connections they believe are genuine, and don’t hide behind their pride. They hold their heart close, but can recognize when someone is worth taking their guard down for. If this single opens up for you, hold them close and ride the vibe. Expect a romantic dinner and grab that sexy outfit you’ve been saving “for the right night”.
Dating Profile: This hot single is new to Los Angeles and is trying to navigate through the sea of F-humans who are looking for a one-night stand (but unable to communicate it), and is naturally on a major f*^% you rampage. You might be able to convince this single to go on a date with you, but expect a lot of hesitation and skepticism. Helpful tips: stay off your phone and look them in the eye for a chance of greater connection.
Dating Profile: This single is a former punk rocker who grew up on Avril, has deep nostalgia for the 90’s, spends half their time on @iamthirtyaf instagram and is definitely into Megan Fox and MFK drinking each other’s blood. Dress in grunge, and meet at the local music bar/pub and reminisce on your favorite 90’s artists.
Dating Profile: Says they’re super California chill but actually has high functioning anxiety and will insist that they’re “not trippin'”, although it is very, very clear that they are indeed trippin’. This single loves long walks on the beach, not because they’re a romantic but because they’re working through shit and need the peace. They’re seemingly easy going and you’ll have a nice time with, but don’t be surprised when they go for insomniac smoke walks.
Dating Profile: Sultry, confident…..and a somewhat slowed down and refined version of a recent ex? Do you have a type, or have you been here in another galaxy? Slow down and connect with this sexy single and you might unlock parts of themselves they lock away.
Dating Profile: This hot single is ready to take the lead – one of you will end up in handcuffs by the end of the night, and hopefully the sexy kind. You’re likely to end at their hotel as this hot single definitely has a quiet roster to attend to.
Dating Profile: This single has spent the last couple years of lockdown really working on themselves and pursuing personal growth. Expect deep conversations, sharing tales of personal growth, and deep, passionate *evening moments* – just be careful of overzealous love bombing.
Dating Profile: This hot single is done being single and ready for love and stability after a seemingly never-ending amount of time spent working on themselves and romanticizing love during lockdown. This single has a TikTok “like” page filled with romantic ideas that would give a Pinterest board a run for its money. Expect a home made dinner with candles and rose petals and be prepared to end the evening in the tub together.
Dating Profile: This single is good times and won’t have a plan in advance, but will do their best work on the fly. If you’re down for a “Yes Night” that will leave you with a mental photo album of fun times, meet this single at the grocery store parking lot and see where the night takes you.
Dating Profile: Summertime rooftop rave, let’s goooo. This single keeps the party going year round and has one of those fancy poolside rooftop bars in their home that would give Enes Yilmazer’s showings a run for their money. You might show up for this single, but once those daytime rays get your buzz going, you’ll be floating around and this hot single will end up just being the facilitating cupid.
A couple of weeks ago, artists Brett Millerand Brainheart joined forces again for “As Long As You Love Me“, the most recent banger on a long list of collaborations between the pair. A few months ago in July, Brett Miller joined me on Indie Pong’s Instagram Live for a special interview regarding a previous project (see interview here) and today I am excited to share an interview with Brett Miller and Brainheart (Roi).
How did you two come into existence with each other and decide to start working together?
BrettMiller: We met over Instagram. Roi messaged over summer of 2020 and shared some of his latest unreleased music, and asked if I could write and record over them. I loved his style and sound and we agreed to start working together. In fact, the first track he shared that I wanted to write on would eventually be “Surface”, which we released in February 2021. After our first project, we made plans to create more music and set a goal to release an EP containing all of our work. That EP is set to release in early 2022.
Brett, we learned a lot about you and your musical variety and your Floridian roots earlier this year when you did a live interview with me. Brainheart, can you tell us more about yourself and your background?
Brainheart : I am an independent music producer, songwriter, and DJ from Israel. Over the years, I struggled severely in the school system and felt that I was wasting my time. My first introduction to music was through playing piano at the age of 15. Music started out as a way to distract myself from struggles at school, but it quickly became much more than that. Today, unbound by genres I want to make a lasting impact and be an inspiration for many generations to come.
How does your partnership work together, especially considering the physical distance? Do you have creative brainstorms virtually, or do you send work back and forth to each other?
BrettMiller: That’s a great question. There’s a bit of a challenge to it, but over time, we’ve gotten very fluid with how we make music. having never met each other in person. We both play different roles for each song we make. Brainheart produces, composes, and engineers the tracks, and I handle writing the lyrics and vocal melodies, and recording my vocals, harmonies, etc, with some involvement on piano for certain songs. It’s a partnership that focuses on each of our strengths as music makers. So, to answer your question, it’s the latter. We send things back and forth to each other, while also having facetimes to go over ideas and notes…which we’re doing right now as we answer these questions. This collaboration is totally made possible by Facebook messenger, WeTransfer, and Distrokid. (Not sponsored)
What was the inspiration for the latest song “As Long As You Love Me”?
Brainheart: I heard the song “Hollywood’s Bleeding” by Post Malone and the production blew my mind. I was inspired to make a dark pop/hip hop song. Honestly I produced a full demo in 2 days and sent it to Brett. He loved it and started to write a story over the production.
BrettMiller: Yeah it was awesome! I knew I wanted to write something big over Roi’s haunting production. The production brought a whole new energy out of me, and it dared me to write something revealing to my personality. Some of it may have been dramatized, but I was inspired to stir up an emotion and thought process I’ve felt before in past relationships and even current ones. In an effort to leave enough to the imagination, suffice it to say, I’m always inspired to write about the dynamic between lovers, since it’s always so electric. In my experience, the highs can be euphoric, and the lows can be heartbreaking. I guess this song is just my way of mitigating risk to maximize reward.
What can you tell me about the music video? Where did you shoot it, what was the experience like, etc.? Is this something the both of you work on together?
BrettMiller: So, unfortunately, it’s a whole different obstacle when we want to make visual content together. We did a great job with our song “Wasted Years” with combining footage; me in the US, and Roi in Israel, but some visual ideas like these don’t always work with the song concept. “As Long As You Love Me” was one of those songs. I handled the scripting and directing of the music video with a small team and cast in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a very memorable experience, with just a healthy hint of stress to get things together on time. Gotta love working under pressure. Shoutout to the Nashville crew: Chaz, Chelsea, Greg, and Fiona (the star of the video).
The two of you have released quite a few songs together – have you or would you consider performing live together? How would that look?
Brainheart: Hell yeah, that would be great. I think it’s really important for collaborators to perform together. The connection between me and Brett can create something really special live. The electronic production + Brett’s voice could work really well at festivals.
Bret Miller: Absolutely! We’re obviously anticipating meeting each other one day soon. Roi really wants to come to the US, and I want to start performing worldwide. All this new music in 2021 is setting us up for some big shows in the future! Picture festival stages at Ultra Music Fest or Coachella, Brainheart behind the mix deck, and I’ll grab the mic to pump up the crowds to throw their hands up and sing these choruses with me! It’s gonna be epic!
Do you feel like it’s necessary to work in collaborations these days, or is your relationship more organic?
Brainheart: Honestly, in the beginning I thought we would create just 1 song together, but after we finished the first one and loved it, we decided to keep making music together and create a full EP. Our relationship has grown very organically. We work really well together, and we are very good friends. Our friendship definitely goes past music.
BrettMiller: There’s no right or wrong answer with making music. Some people do really well by themselves. I’ve experienced both: writing and releasing music independently, and with other creators. I do prefer the latter, since we can divide and conquer. I usually get better quality music out faster than if I did it alone. I’ve enjoyed working with Roi. He’s very driven and his talent level is growing fast. It’s been a very fruitful partnership and friendship. I definitely recommend artists team up with other creators, since you can make music better and faster, and forge strong relationships along the way.
How do you feel about the societal importance of social media tied to musicians’ careers?
Brainheart: It’s really tough. I believe that every artist wants to concentrate on making music. It takes a lot of time to build a fanbase and I believe that every artist should be very active on social media. Honestly, I hate being bothered with it, but it’s a great tool to make more fans and spread my music.
Who are your top 3 most played artists?
Brainheart: 1. Coldplay 2. Illenium 3. Ed Sheeran
Brett: A bit harder for me to list….for now: 1. Kevin Garrett 2. Incubus 3. Leon Bridges
What’s next on the Brett Miller/Brainheart agenda?
BrettMiller: Definitely our EP in early 2022. We are packaging together all our latest releases, with one more new track to release. This EP is the grand finale, and we have a lot of awesome content to surround it leading up. After that, we’ve got our sights set on performing the moment we get the chance to, given the state of the world. Either way, we’re staying patient, staying humble, staying grateful, and can’t wait to share more music and experiences with IndiePong and the world!
Pardon our lengthy delay on this column. Both George and I got incredibly busy over the last few months but we’re back just in time for the holiday week. We decided to cover one album and one song each. George covered Mastodon’s new album and one song from the recently released Iron Maiden album. I covered Between the Buried and Me’s Colors 2 and one song from Dream Theater’s latest album. Anyhow, get that last minute turkey/Tofu Turkey shopping done and settle in for a few reviews from us.
Mastodon: Hushed and Grim
GF: A new Mastodon release is always something that I look forward to.
Have their last three albums measured up to their first three? Perhaps not, but at the same time, even those have tended to get at least a solid few weeks of constant listening from me… sometimes more.
While a bit too long and slightly unfocused, I thought, “The Hunter,” had some magnificent music on it— including one or two of the band’s best songs. “Once More Round the Sun,” was pretty underrated for my money, and perhaps the album where they figured out that they could write arena-worthy hooks with the best of them. “Emperor of Sand,” was something that I enjoyed quite a bit too. The quieter moments almost outshone some of the heavier stuff, and Brent Hinds continued to solidify his status as modern day metal’s most exciting soloist.
Those releases bring us to today, with, “Hushed and Grim,” an album that has rightly been hailed as their best work since, “Crack the Skye.”
This is a long album, but it goes down easy. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, I feel like it touches on just about everything the band has done, and done well, over the course of their career.
While Scott Kelly’s once mandatory guest slot is dearly missed here, new collaborators pop in to fill the void, chief amongst them young country phenom Marcus King, and OG metal titan Kim Thayil.
In both cases, these gentlemen provide some rather brilliant lead guitar work, with the former injecting some down-home flavor into the Brent Hinds-led, “The Beast,” and the latter, adding a patented sonic exorcism, to “Had it all.”
As this album is so long, there are AMPLE opportunities for solos, and Brent Hinds plays like a man possessed all throughout the album. His uncanny, one-of-a-kind, fretboard slip-and-slide routine is still unlike anything practiced by his contemporaries. Here, he’s as good as he’s ever been, turning in career-best performances on songs like, “More Than I Could Chew,” and the album’s final three songs, most notably, closer, “Gigantium.”
Though the album has its more uptempo numbers, its overriding vibe is heavy, and sorrowful. A tribute to late band manager Nick John, these are sad songs reflecting on loss: songs that sound most honest when they’re crawling as opposed to running. The melancholy found on the slower numbers is beautiful in its own particular way, and the half-time numbers allow Mr. Hinds his best opportunities to flay his guitar alive.
While Hinds is certainly the star of the show here, it’s a bit of a bummer that he only has a few vocal turns on the album. Mastodon has become the Brann Dailor and Troy Sanders show in the singing department, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I do miss his voice. Dailor in particular is more than happy to pick up the slack, and his singing only continues to improve. If he’s not the best singer in the group at this point, he’s just behind Hinds.
With its greyscale cover art, save for a spare hit of gold, “Hushed and Grim,” is not only an astonishing piece of metal, but the perfect soundtrack for the bleak skies that we experience here in the midwest, during the fall. If you’re feeling down, this is an album that invites you to lean into your feelings, and be at peace with them.
Where the band goes from here, I’m not quite sure, but I feel as though they have certainly come upon a new stretch of their path. I’m very excited to hear what’s next, and I’m very thankful for the fact that they were able to channel their grief into such a tremendous piece of art.
Iron Maiden – The Parchment
GF: I feel like sometime around 2006, Iron Maiden very comfortably glided into what I’ll call mid-tempo Maiden mode.
This might sound like a knock, but it’s not. Save for the opener, “Different World,” their album, “A Matter of Life and Death,” was almost exclusively, full of numbers that stopped just shy of the band’s trademark gallop.
The frantic speed under which the band used to operate had been replaced. Here, in its stead, was epic proggy grandeur. It was a cool transition that 100% worked– it allowed the band to continue to make thoughtful and exciting music at a point in their career where most folks have run out of gas.
The music found on their most recent album, “Senjutsu,” cruises very comfortably in the new lane that the band carved out for themselves 15 years ago. These are long songs… knotty songs… that feature ample fireworks from the band. Of particular note, is the playing that we’re treated to, courtesy of Janick Gers, and Nicko McBrain, who steal the show.
While it’s ludicrous to expect men in their late 60s to go at things with the fury that was on display for songs like, “Gangland,” “Aces High,” or, “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” I did find myself wanting to hear the band mount up just ONE more time on the album, and I feel like they got as close as they’re going to get during the grand finale of, “The Parchment.”
The song has three guitar solo sections. The best of course is the final one, and the proceedings kick off at the 9:52 mark. After a particularly epic, and proggy climb to the top of the mountain, (aided by a motif that recalls the verse riff of, “Hallowed be Thy Name,”) the band is finally ready to plant their flag, and show everyone what the business is.
As time has gone on, it’s become a bit harder for me to discern Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s leads, so until we’re graced with a live version of this, I’m not gonna know who plays the second solo (but it’s probably Murray). That said, I think we can all safely say that it’s Mr. Gers who fires the first shot across the bow in the song’s final solo section.
And wow-wee, what a shot it is.
In the past, I’ve seen mumblings criticising his soloing within the band, as folks say it sounds a lot like Rainbow-era Ritchie Blackmore. I don’t think that’s necessarily unfair, but in recording this, he’s proven that he’s transcended.
Even Ritchie wasn’t cooking this kind of shit.
Here, rampant whammy bar abuse, and speedy runs galore, feel like a shotgun blast to the head, as Gers’ tone is absolutely WHITE HOT. It sounds like perhaps he’s playing through a cocked wah, but whatever it is, he’s rolling out the most vicious shit of his life. At its most frantic, it sounds like he’s trying as best as he can, to literally disembowel his guitar.
It recalls Pete Cosey, when he played the Osaka afternoon show, back in 1975– fully diabolical.
Against a boosted tempo, and killer rhythm work from the rest of the band (check Nicko McBrain’s Bill Bruford-indebted cymbal work) it might be his most picture-frameable moment as a soloist within the band E-V-E-R.
The solo that follows is more tempered, and reminds me of the spaced-out bliss that we were treated to on “Powerslave.” It’s classic Maiden, and the ideal piece of punctuation for the longest (and for my money) most epic cut on the album.
Between the Buried and Me – Colors 2
BH: I recently got back from seeing the band in my first concert since the Before Times and boy did they put on a show. While the setlist mostly focused on celebrating The Great Misdirect record and their 21 years of being a band, they’re clearly excited about the new record. And they absolutely should be. This may very well be the Paddington 2, T2, Empire Strikes Back-all rolled into one-best Sequel we could have possibly been lucky enough to receive.
While it’s somehow not the only sequel record of the year (I’m looking at you The Night Flight Orchestra), Colors 2 has been easily one of the most anticipated albums of 2021. Any time Between the Buried and Me put out a new record, it’s reason for excitement but Colors 2?? Colors is not only one of the bands best efforts but also one of the defining prog metal albums of all time.
“Monochrome” starts off the album in a somewhat traditional manner for the band (and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all). A soft key-laden intro that eventually gives way to the overall heavier direction this album will go in. It’s a really nice lead-in to one of my favorite tracks on the album, “The Double Helix of Extinction”. Tommy’s vocals are as harsh as ever and then how about that break around the two minute mark with the basketball game sound fx, mixed with some great percussion work from Blake. Also, while I wouldn’t normally be into a band shouting their name on a song, it works really well in this instance. It feels like a perfect live song too. Next up is the single, “Revolution in Limbo”, which was really the track that made me feel most confident about a Colors sequel pre-release. It reminds me of elements from “Sun of Nothing” from the OG Colors but is really its own thing.
The other single, “Fix the Error”, we covered a bit here but I’ll just say it has only grown on me further since then, particularly as the band played it live. Blake nailed the solo section all by himself and it was glorious. “Never Seen/Future Shock” is one of the two longest songs on the record but it glides by for me. There’s also an Affinity era Haken section here in the first four minutes that made me super amped. Paul’s guitar work on this song is really impeccable. I would say this album is loaded with memorable riffs and licks but really dig everything he does on this particular track. Oh and then there’s the incredibly beautiful final two minutes of the song that remind me of sections from the Alaska era. “Stare Into the Abyss” feels like a transitional song leading into the back half of the album but it certainly makes an impact with a catchy chorus and a brutal final minute. “Prehistory” AKA the song with Crash Bandicoot SFX! I love this track and it pairs really nicely with the following track “Bad Habits”. This song is another favorite and has a great callback to “Ants of the Sky” from Colors I both lyrically and in the structure of the song itself. Tommy once again delivers great vocal lines throughout this track. Also at the five minute point of the song, there’s a really top-tier bit of musicianship with everyone that takes us through to the final minutes of the song.
I’m not sure why “The Future is Behind Us” became initially controversial between fans but for my money it’s a definite favorite song here. The 80’s vibes here kick so much ass. The keys mixed with Tommy’s vocals and chorus is so insanely good. Plus any song with a Ferris Bueller reference gets major props from me. “Turbulent” feels a bit like a second act to “The Future is Behind Us” and has Blake go properly mad on his kit in the second half. “Sfumato” is a one minute track that primarily sets us up for the finale similar to what “Viridian” did for “White Walls” on Colors I.
The final song on Colors 2, “Human is Hell (Another One With Love)” doesn’t attempt to be “White Walls” part two. Instead it sets its own path of monstrous destruction with a fifteen minute runtime that never overstays its welcome.
I’ve got to say Colors 2 is one of my favorite albums this year and this may be one of the best albums the band has done to date.
Dream Theater – Answering the Call
BH: I thought about reviewing the entire new Dream Theater album as it’s really good (and who knows maybe I still will) but in the meantime, highlighting one of my favorite cuts on it entitled Answering the Call.
Before I jump into it though, I want to point out that this is the fifth album since Portnoy left the band and fifteenth overall. It’s impressive that the band keeps creating innovative new music and pushing their boundaries. It’s not easy losing such a key member of the band and fortunately at this point, drummer Mike Mangini has really gelled with the group. He’s a phenomenal player anyhow but between this album and their previous, Distance Over Time, he’s really come into his own with the virtuoso musicians in the band.
Anyhow, this song is one hell of a banger and actually has some Octavarium vibes on it which as a long time fan, is greatly appreciated. That opening riff is super catchy, the chorus is strong and the outro (and build to it) might be one of the strongest moments in a DT song in some time. It reminds me of a Gojira outro and is really heavy.
When I gave the new album its first spin, I was immediately drawn to this track. It’s classic DT through and through. I also noticed that not only with this song but the majority of the album, the band is doing a great job of balancing the technicality with accessibility.
Jordan’s keys here are mostly subtle layers and work nicely alongside Petrucci’s riffs. Also, Myung is really crushing it. I really dig his interplay with Petrucci on the previously mentioned outro.
For whatever reason, part of the fanbase has felt Labrie is the weak point with the band but quite honestly Dream Theater wouldn’t be the same without him. He has a knack for catchy vocal lines and he still sounds top-notch. Particularly on this track he’s really on his game.
Dream Theater remains one of the most important bands in the prog space and Answering the Call further proves this is the case.
I’ve been MIA for a bit, I almost feel like I’ve been speed dating around with music this summer, partially due to absolutely SMASHING IT in the Song of Summer Series: Bangers Only playlist competition we’ve been running. The Drake v Kanye album sitch got me back into the album groove and I finally decided to settle down and commit to a listening session with PawPaw Rod.
He kicked off A PawPaw Rod EP last year with single “HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS” and has since released bangers “Glass House” and “Thin Lines”. Today’s EP release brough “Lemonhaze”. Honestly, if you haven’t listened to HEWIH or Glass House WTF are you doing with your days?!
LET’S GET INTO ITTTTT
I’m all about tunes you can groove to on a rooftop sans clothes, and I feel like PawPaw Rod is the best way to close out the summer. Grab a joint, flower, drink, or any vice of choice and start letting those seaweed arms flow.
Hailing from Oklahoma, PawPaw Rod has a pretty solid following, but he is definitely one of those artists who you either know and love or have no clue who he is. After today’s EP release, I imagine his numbers will soon see a spike as Spotify placed him on the cover of Pollen – no big thang!
We’re just starting to get a taste of what he has to offer, and I can’t wait to what else dear ol’ PawPaw will bring to the table.
Not only are these demos awesome, but this 18 minute visual album is a BLAST. We see Roksana dance suggestively while dressed as a bee on “Only Plants”, invent a new kind of currency, run for her life, party her ass off, and enjoy(?) an interesting afternoon on roller skates. By the end we are cathartically led to the conclusion of this short film’s essence- the end of the world.
An absolute rocketship of a debut from Los Angeles based Roksana, for whom the future seems bright.
From what I understand, there were limitations to the music in this visual album. The reason these were released as demos and not full songs was because they COULDN’T be, so the fact that Roksana pivoted and made this visual album with the help of “The Commune” in order to launch her career is impressively resilient and thoughtful.
My favorite track off of the album is the first one:
but they all hit.
I mean, just look at some of these screenshots from the same 18 minute visual album:
Summer is here! And we’re doing something exciting.
For the next 3 months the Indie Pong bloggers are going to be highlighting the songs of the summer on our summer playlist:
And then at the end of the summer we’re going to vote on what truly was the song of the summer. This is something we’re doing every summer, so blast that follow button to keep track.
There have been some bangers so far this summer on the playlist (we’ve been doing this for a month, I was supposed to have wrote this blog already oops), but I’m definitely winning so far. These are the piping hot absolute heaters I’ve chosen so far for song of the summer:
Here’s how I think the competition is going so far of the Indie Pong bloggers who have submitted entries:
Me (by a mile)
Definitely winning. Don’t forget to blast that follow button to follow along all summer:
Here’s a super casual dive into some 2021 releases that have been on repeat so far this year:
‘Head Cheerleader’ – Pom Pom Squad
We love Pom Pom Squad. So this absolute banger of a new single is much welcomed:
‘Found My Friends’ – Hayley Kiyoko
I absolutely love Hayley Kiyoko and it’s not just because she’s a fellow J-person, it’s because of one of the unequivocal best songs of 2018 that she made with Kehlani called “What I Need”. Banger.
‘But She Loves You’ – Merk
I’m straight up obsessed with this song. To me this is firsthand evidence that you can make songs that can compete with the likes of LCD Soundsystem and The Weeknd with one hundredth of the production budget, as long as you have the vision and passion. Love this track.
BH: Perturbator’s first full length album in five years, Lustful Sacraments, is dropping in June. The two singles that have hit so far have been some of his bleakest and darkest synthwave tracks to date.
I was first introduced to James Kent AKA Perturbator with a super cool remix he did for Cult of Luna.
His style contains notes of John Carpenter meets Vangelis a la Blade Runner. You know, think pitch black sky, neon signs, big city synth-y vibes.
“Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze” feels like an expedition through the dreary, rain soaked streets of LA in 2040. It feels futuristic but not too far away.
The vocals used sparingly here remind me of Robert Smith’s on a particularly depressing day.
The songwriting overall on this track is still very much in line with what Perturbator has been doing on his other releases, but also injects a bit of what makes some of the post metal groups like Cult of Luna tick.
I do think this is a grower of a song but I’ve given it probably fifteen spins so far and it has only continued to become more interesting on each listen. I can’t wait to hear the full album.
George, are you familiar with Perturbator’s work? Are you a fan of dark synthwave in general?
GF: You were actually the person who put me on to them! I think it was March, or February of this year that you sent me their music?
In any case, you hit the nail on the head with your descriptor of, “John Carpenter meets Vangelis a la Blade Runner.”
This is not especially uplifting, or happy music, but that’s okay, because ooh, boy– the atmosphere, the atmosphere, the atmosphere.
I can appreciate the Robert Smith comparison too. Strangely enough, when I first heard this, it kind of struck me as like a very dark detour for the James Bond theme song, “The Living Daylights,” that 80s superstars A-ha, did?
I’m sure absolutely no one else is going to feel that way, but yeah… if Morten Harket was having a real bummer of a day, I feel like he’d be singing something along the lines of this.
Regarding dark synthwave, I can’t say that it’s a genre I’m super familiar with. We might have to have a sidebar conversation where I get some recommendations from you, because both of the tunes that you’ve shown me from Mr. Kent hit nicely for me.
Epica – The Skeleton Key
Epica is a band I’ve known of for years and despite loving Nightwish, Blind Guardian and others in the symphonic metal scene, I just haven’t ever given them a proper chance.
Enter “The Skeleton Key”.
This track really puts the epic in the band’s name. This is a super catchy, well written and orchestrated track.
It does bring to mind a song like “Nemo” from Nightwish but with some harsh vocals, mixed in with the beautiful operatic vocals from Simone Simons. I really like her vocal lines here and she has terrific range.
The piano intro is strong and a great way to start off the song. Really beautiful stuff.
There’s also some solid riffage in here too, especially towards the back half of the song. It’s a nice balance of both light and heavy.
If I chose one song to listen to while slaying some orcs in a forest, this might be it. In all seriousness though, the chorus in particular has a way of staying in my head for days and I’ll definitely be returning for some more Epica.
Spirit of the Beehive – There’s Nothing you Can’t do
GF: Full-disclosure, I was fully ignorant to this band’s music until a day ago or so, but I’m pretty much 100% on board now that I’ve discovered them.
This doesn’t fall into the confines of what we usually write about over here as it’s ostensibly a pop song, but I’m inclined to include it, because of how experimental and outright… WEIRD it is?
It also, low-key, shifts into an almost NIN-type dirge for the last third of the proceedings– one that includes some shouted vocals, so I feel like it gets some credit in that department.
In any case, what drew me to the song outside of its generally experimental nature is the fact that it flirts with, and perhaps, outrights LEANS into dissonance in some of its melodies.
A guitar figure that runs through about the first two thirds of the song has a few chromatic notes in it that plays against the really pleasant vocal leads in an mildly uncomfortable, but delightful way.
It’s like an appetizer to the full-on chaos and terror that defines the song’s home stretch, and I appreciate the subtle nature of that build.
Brandon, I know you hadn’t heard of these folks either, so I’m curious to hear what your knee-jerk reaction was to hearing their music. What elements immediately stuck out to you, upon first listen? In terms of the song’s structure, do you think the payoff of the closing section was earned? What were your favorite moments or elements?
BH: I think right out of the gate I appreciated just how weird this song is.
As you mentioned, it’s pop but only kinda. It’s not really structured in a traditional way and there are some experimental almost avante-garde touches here.
I didn’t quite know what to make of it all initially but I dig what they’re doing. After several spins, it started opening up a bit more to me.
Regarding your question on the payoff, I do think it was earned and like you, I greatly appreciated the subtle build and the shift right at the end. The song is unsettling throughout but as it gets towards the climax, it gets damn near terrifying.
As in, I could totally see this being a jam for Buffalo Bill.
The songwriting actually reminds me a little of what Greg Puciato is doing at the moment with some of his solo work. There are some abstract pieces in here and it can feel a bit uncomfortable at times, but it comes together in a satisfying way.
Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
GF: So, this is the title cut from, “Dry Cleaning’s,” debut album, released by legendary label 4AD. Previously, I’d not heard of them, but I’ve liked what I’ve heard.
The band’s sound occupies a lane that seems inspired equally by Blondie, Talking Heads, and 80s King Crimson. The guitars here sound almost exactly like Adrian Belew’s and Robert Fripp’s work circa 1981-ish, and you’ll find no complaints from me.
Structurally, some of the riffs flirt with what those gentlemen were doing too, but not in a way that’s derivative. The rhythms don’t ever get knotty in the way that some of those King Crimson songs did, and they’re propulsive in a way that makes me want to cook something?
I feel like that probably sounds strange, but hearing this, I feel like it’s kinda what I want to have playing in the kitchen if I’m trying to groove while I chef.
The vocals, courtesy of Florence Shaw, are delivered without any real sort of enthusiasm, but that strikes me as very intentional. To be clear, it’s tremendous, as she’s able to make droll delivery gel so successfully with the rest of what’s going on. It kinda reminds me of some of what Lou Reed used to do, the difference being that Shaw is British, so you get that accent in there too, which gives things a nice added bit of dimension.
Bottom line, it’s a great tune, and I can’t wait to dive further into the rest of their album.
Are we still in the point of the pandemic where I’m allowed to pretend like I don’t know what day it is and use that as an excuse for why I haven’t written about a new artist in two months? Yeah? Cool. Let’s celebrate 420, Earth Day and new music (or new to your ears perhaps).
Let’s talk about Psychic Twin, the dreamy, wonderful synth-pop brainchild of songwriter, producer and cool ass human Erin Fein (read more with her interview with VoyageLA). Her latest single is from 2019, so let’s hope that means she is working on a dope new project for us! In the meantime, “Water Meets Land” –
This track has rooftop vibes all over it – again folks, if you have a rooftop, USE IT. Shed those layers, grab a vice or two and get movin’ to Psychic Twin. 2016’s Strange Diary features some of my favorite PT tracks, including “Strangers”, “Stop In Time” and “Hopeless”.
Honestly, I should have told y’all about this album on Tuesday, but I hope your ears found your way to this music anyways. And just like Earth Day, isn’t 420 every day anyways?
I feel so lucky to call this musician my neighbor as she is also the badass human behind the Echo Park Trash Club, one of the coolest clubs in LA that meets Sundays to help clean up our neighborhood. And do I smell a whiff of a future community garden in our neighborhood? Tune in to Indie Pong’s Instagram for a live interview with Psychic Twin tomorrow, Saturday 4/24 at 11am PST!