Author Archives: Mike Olinger

Needle Drop: Death
Party Playground,
“Still Memories”

Waterloo, Ontario-based Death Party Playground create wily power pop anthems, soaked in the tradition of Springsteen and Tom Waits.

Their latest single, “Still Memories,” boasts some thick, nostalgic vibes, sparkling with hope and reflection. “It’s a bit of a rock lullaby about resolving the pain of the past into something positive,” lead singer Kyle Taylor says. “A holistic reminder to appreciate the entire experience, both good and bad.”

Taylor’s poignant songwriting is accompanied by bright, folky guitars, all the way until the final lift, towards the end of the song, where the listener is invited to sing along, dance, and just have fun despite it all.

“These songs squeeze a little joy out of a darker time,” Taylor reflects. “It’s trying to have fun in spite of it. It’s purposefully not letting something break you.”

“Still Memories” is lifted from the band’s debut album Little Joy, due in stores January 17th.

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TVD Premiere:
Prismatic Mantis, “Return to Sender”

Riding on a magic carpet composed of crisp beats and dusty samples, Prismatic Mantis has arrived with a brand new single that is sure to provide a sonic fix for all those beat junkies out there.

“Return to Sender” is the latest sonic vision from the multi-instrumentalist / producer Mark Reynolds whose progressive moniker, Prismatic Mantis, has managed a steady output of flickering downtempo electronica since 2008.

Coming off as a slightly left-of-center fusion rock version of Flying Lotus, Mantis’ work doesn’t endeavor to break new ground as much as it nods back to the experimental, crate digging production of the early ’90s, infusing those delicate beats with deep spiritual undertones.

The single will arrive in stores this Friday, and will be available through all the major platforms.

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Needle Drop: Madelin, “Girl I Never Was”

Brooklyn, NY-based singer-songwriter Madelin has consistently produced rebellious, oddball pop that feels eerily in step with the times.

Her newest single and accompanying video, “Girl I Never Was,” continues this tradition, boasting an unyielding narrative on total self-acceptance in the face of an inherently chauvinistic society.

The song was conceived directly after Madelin discovered her bi-sexuality and illustrates this awakening without coming off as heavy-handed. In fact, for such a deeply personal song, “Girl I Never Was” bubbles with a whimsical effervescence.

“I think people will gravitate to this video because it portrays the female experience in a deadpan, comedic way,” Madelin says. “I’m not a super serious person. I touch on real emotions and big concepts, but I do it with a wink.”

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Needle Drop: The Soft Underground, Anemoia

NYC-based duo The Soft Underground have a knack for undeniably groovy alt jams that color outside the traditional rock song structures.

Anemoia is the band’s third full length album, and is a clear indication that their unconventional format is working. The two band spearheads, Andrew McCarty and Charlie Hickey, are primarily a studio duo who build their instrumentals first and then cast individual vocalists to embody each track.

This results in a surprisingly cohesive aesthetic, with an overall vibe that conjures up Seattle’s ’90s scene with a dash of deep cut ’70s psych rock. It’s a trippy, modern take on the sounds of yesteryear, falling somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and The Velvet Underground.

“Thematically, it’s a happy album,” McCarty reflects, knowing that their material often boasts an impenetrably moody veneer. “We tried to capture that state of euphoria where you can appreciate all facets of life, including the lows.”

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Needle Drop: Jarod Lawley, “Everything That I Need You To Be”

London-based Jarod Lawley has been described as the lovechild of Lana Del Rey and Alex Turner and that comparison certainly holds up on his latest offering, “Everything That I Need You To Be.”

It’s only his third official single, but the moody, introspective and vigorous track feels like the kind of assured work we might expect from a seasoned artist. The neo noir visuals help drive home the nostalgic yearning that emanates from Lawley’s brooding, surf rock-soaked songwriting. The hard lighting and projected images melt into the song’s twangy ambiance as Jarod layers his baritone vocal over the trap-inspired drums.

“Everything That I Need You To Be’ represents my longing for a time that I didn’t even live through,” Lawley asserts. “An anthem for people who feel they have old souls and wish things could be how they used to be. An homage to the dark side of the vintage era.”

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TVD Premiere: Underorder, “Never Quite There”

Underorder deliver distorted euphoria on new single “Never Quite There.”

The track is lifted from Other Ways To Be Apart, a larger work, broken into three EPs which are intended to mirror the changing seasons. Written primarily in 2015 and 2016 by songwriter Gabriel Zucker, at the end of one long-distance relationship and the beginning of another, the intensely personal songs often explode more inwardly than out.

The lush, ambient vibe of the music ultimately gives the impression of a single shape pushing outwards over time, echoing meditations on love and distance. “I’ve grown increasingly fond of this triptych for the way it showcases the band’s impulsive creativity,” Zucker asserts. “These songs are rather simple and under-composed, and much of the arrangement was improvised in the studio. I layered in synths and samples afterwords to heighten the choices the band had made, but the choices themselves happened organically at the time, and I think that vitality is audible.”

The 3 act structure will be released in installments throughout the coming months.

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TVD Premiere: Populuxe, “It’s Happening Again”

PHOTO: RUBY & KEATON SHAPIRO | LA-based trio Populuxe craft soulful glam nuggets, imbued with brutal truths.

The band’s latest single, “It’s Happening Again,” is a potent and bittersweet take on old adage “history repeats itself.” It’s prophetic, writing-on-the-wall message is one that has been put to song by many of the great artists but never quite as succinct as its done here in under two minutes.

Lead singer Rob Shapiro delivers a lilting falsetto over a circular guitar part, waxing poetic about the deep wounds which we, as a society, continue to bandage without weeding out the root cause. In many ways our current socio-political turmoil reflects the 1960s, and this song could have just as easily been released back in that decade in reference to previous national fallout. The parallels are clear but the track is not preachy. It’s bittersweet and honest, like a soothing balm for those who prefer to address something of this magnitude head on.

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TVD Video Premiere: ZAALWE, “Lakeside”

Zane Allen West, aka ZAALWE, has been a fixture in many different notable bands, collaborating with artists ranging from R&B to progressive metal (Tiny Gun, Joanna Teters, Citris, Jak Lizard, Mid Atlantic Title, to name a few). Now he is releasing his first solo project, a long overdue venture into his fully-formed artistic identity, ZAALWE.

The multi-instrumentalist has an innate knack for lush arrangements, crafting dreamy bedroom pop that is chock-full of substantial, heartfelt songwriting. Concerning the pastoral music video, ZAALWE notes, “The ‘Lakeside’ visual was captured in rural Alabama. I felt the property that my partner and I briefly stayed on was a Garden of Eden type paradise. We all have to leave what we perceive to be paradise sometime, be it a relationship that is comfortable but may not fulfill you. Leaving the comfort of your family home to create your own life.

Quitting a job you’re unhappy at that may afford you more than enough but isn’t close to what you want to be doing with your life. These types of life events that require this leap of faith that we all go through, which the dive is symbolic of. It’s about the feeling of responding to that call to grow that you can’t refuse—honoring the inevitable growing pains.”

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Needle Drop: Ferris Pier, “Lift Me Up”

LA-based Ferris Pier creates incandescent pop anthems for the dreamer in us all.

The producer’s latest composition features The Voice standout Abby Cates who lends a soothing and soulful color to his bubbly production. The video for the single spins a vivid narrative of a girl who daydreams of dancing under LA’s bright night lights, and leaves her small town life behind to do so. It’s a lively tribute to that pivotal moment when you finally decide to answer the long-suppressed urge for a change.

It’s an apropos theme, as the man behind Ferris Pier, Jonathan Pasma, cut back his hours as a professional sports physician to pursue his music. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but Pasma knows that he couldn’t listen to the peanut gallery when he felt it was time to segue into a music career. “Lift Me Up’ is about being creatively constrained by people who are afraid of change. People who are afraid to explore and be brave,” he reflects. “I want the song to inspire people to follow their passion despite the obstacles.”

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Needle Drop: Katrina Parker, Stars

Katrina Parker calls back to the classic desert folk pop of yesteryear with lovely new LP Stars.

LA, along with all its starry-eyed glitz and gloom, is clearly the focus of Katrina Parker’s expansive new collection of songs. The singer-songwriter has been fortunate enough to experience the fame, red carpets, and flashbulbs that accompanied her stint on Season 2 of The Voice where she reached the semi-finals. But she also experienced the fallout, making heady choices that derailed her artistic integrity.

For the past few years, Parker has chosen to return to a bit of normalcy and to try to get back to the reason she began singing in the first place. The image she recalled was from her childhood—swinging in the backyard, singing her heart out all by her lonesome, bathed in the natural reverb of her rural surroundings, doing exactly what she was born to do. She continued to cultivate that feeling and began writing again, this time with a clear touchstone for why she was making music.

The result is a heartwarming album that channels the clear-eyed nuance of Gillian Welch, while harkening back to the joyful country pop of Patsy Cline, placing Parker’s rich and tender voice front and center—natural and unadorned as she has intended it this time around.

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TVD Video Premiere: Terrane,
“Let It Never Be”

Mystical London-based, alt-pop artist Terrane drops ethereal visuals for new single.

“Let It Never Be” is lifted from Terrane’s upcoming debut album, Underwater, which has already gathered support from Neon Music and Mystic Sons. It’s a gorgeous fusion of earthy songwriting and electro impulses which call to mind the dreamier side of Trevor Hall and the more accessible work of Bon Iver. The watery visuals only make the song’s delicate fingerpicking and hushed vocals more hypnotic, causing one to be swept up in its ethereal alt-pop groove.

Human connection via digital circuits seems to be key throughout both Terrane’s output and creative environment. Living and working from below London’s infamous BT Tower, his music seems to have assimilated both the technical complexity and simple human connections supplied by the myriad of conversations and signals the telecom tower processes and transmits on a daily basis – and perhaps its transparency has rubbed off on him.

In an age where most creatives are desperate to tell you all of their story, all the time, across a hundred different platforms, Terrane’s new album is content to deliver his narrative in one clear, single transmission.

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TVD Premiere:
Aaron David Gleason, “Rock ‘n Roll With Me”
ft. Mike Garson

NYC-based singer songwriter Aaron David Gleason has had a storied career in the music industry, resulting in the kind of self-assured output that one would expect after 17 years of solid gigging and recording. Clearly, he has solidified his artistic aesthetic, falling somewhere between Josh Groban and Randy Newman.

Being comfy in his own skin has also afforded him the confidence to take risks, and he is one of the few artists brave enough to tackle an idiosyncratic track such as “Rock N Roll With Me,” which originally appeared on David Bowie’s 1974 album, Diamond Dogs. Working alongside original David Bowie band member Mike Garson, Gleason helmed an impromptu jam of the song which was captured by director/editor Paul Chart and director Paul Boyd.

TVD is pleased to present the premiere of the live video in tandem with a Q&A about how Gleason’s intense connection with Garson led to the one-off collaboration.

How did the connection with Mike Garson come about?

I met Mike 13 years ago when my professional name was still Gilly Leads. He was an awesome mentor from day one and what a champ—he played bowling alleys with me at 12 am in Highland Park. Also, Mike and I performed once for my grandparents and their friends—they loved it! Mike was always and is always up for doing something with heart and eccentricity. I think that is our formula, and I think that’s why we are musically attracted to each other. Also, we’re just… intense, but really admire each other’s intensity.

I wouldn’t say we drifted apart, but years went by and we were just doing our own thing. I took a break from music to find myself again. Mike and I would periodically check in with each other.

Read More »

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Needle Drop: Sirenety,
“Watch It Burn”

London-based singer-songwriter Sirenety backs her serene vocals with eerie ambience, imbuing her angelic electro pop with a slightly aggressive edge.

“Watch It Burn” is her fourth stand-alone single, each subsequent release revealing a more impassioned artist. This track picks up the mantle from Portishead and Mandalay, taking their deep sonic exploration even further into the darkness.

Sirenity is clearly a fan of Gothic themes and low slung production, but does a fantastic job pairing those elements with the candid and direct lyricism typical of British pop. “It wasn’t that long ago, you promised me the world,” she sings in a hauntingly empowered timber. “You don’t get to just walk away.”

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Needle Drop: Just
Like Honey, “How
Does It Feel?”

NYC-based Just Like Honey are known for their iridescent shoegaze vibes, which we were turned onto last year via the release of their full length LP The Weight of the Stars.

In an interesting turn of events, the band is back with an understated acoustic album called The Woodroom Sessions which emphasizes the gorgeous female vocal stylings of Darlene Jonasson and Bianca Yan.

Standout single “How Does It Feel” is a poignant, delicately delivered cut that begs to be added to a rainy day playlist. It’s quite impressive to see the band transfer it’s dialed-in dream pop aesthetic over to a more rustic, Americana template, allowing their ace songwriting and heavenly production value to speak for itself. The resulting recordings conjure up the soulful early ballads by The Cranberries, pushing the interplay of intimate, emotive vocals over hook-driven acoustic nuance.

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Needle Drop: Alex Krug Combo, “Woodlands”

Asheville-based songstress Alex Krug calls back to early ’90s heart-driven blues-rock on new single “Woodlands.”

The Americana six-piece keep things nice and rootsy, building upon the sound they put forth on their 2015 debut EP, “Gentle Spotted Giant.” “Woodlands” is a deeply felt ode to what the Japanese call “forest bathing,” which is basically spending time out in the open, enjoying the natural rhythms of life. “I think I wrote the lyrics while I was on a walk by a large, fast-moving creek. I was with some friends, but I dropped back and wrote it down,” Krug recalls, knowing that she had captured something special.

The track is lifted from the band’s new “Sleeping on the Woodlands” EP, which is flush with four organically-produced slices of Americana. Recorded at Echo Mountain Recording, the collection is a steam locomotive barreling down the tracks—the team behind the release is an exquisite lineup, including executive producer Jessica Tomasin, mixers Michael Selverne (also primary producer), and engineer Julian Dreyer. Even more, Jackson Dulaney’s work on lap steel is astonishingly tight, as is Zack Page’s upright bass, yet both permit the arrangements to really breathe on their own. Truly, it is Alex Krug and her mountain-crushing vocals and evocative storytelling driving the industrial-sized apparatus.

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