Author Archives: Mike Olinger

Needle Drop: Norine Braun, “Sleeping Buffalo”

Vancouver-based, singer-songwriter Norine Braun is a festival veteran whose evocative material has been lauded by her home country, receiving awards from the Canada Council For the Arts, Banff Centre Musician in Residence, and Artists For Literacy.

Today, TVD is pleased to Needle Drop “Sleeping Buffalo,” the lead-off cut from Braun’s superb 2018 release Through Train Windows. It’s an earthy, blues-tinged folk number that paints a striking portrait of the Canadian wilderness through dark, low-pitched hues that dance under a haunting harmonica refrain.

The song swells with the kind resplendent and expansive, ’60s-esque songwriting that made Joni Mitchel a household name. Yet Norine firmly plants her sound in the present, winking at the past while staying in tune with today’s sensibilities.

“Sleeping Buffalo” certainly taps a deeply insular, Northern territory vein, but Through Train Windows takes us from the wild back into civilization, documenting Braun’s recent cross-country tour from Vancouver to Toronto, Ottawa to Quebec City, Montreal to Halifax, basking in the vast panoramas from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic ocean.

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TVD Premiere: Jordan Indiana Gonzalez, “Memory”

Nashville transplant, Jordan Indiana Gonzalez crafts refined, crystalline folk pop that transcends Top 40 platitudes.

Judging by the publicity photo, which features the young songwriter in Dr. Pepper pajama pants, sporting a self-promotional T-Shirt, this is not someone attempting to claw his way to the front of the hit parade. Yet his music could certainly reach those dizzying heights, if he entertained the idea of grooming himself into the mold of a pop star. Sure, some obvious parallels can be drawn to the work of Ed Sheeran, but Gonzalez’s effortless tenor is more suitable to the jazz-tinged balladry that makes his single “Memory” a distinctly original piece of music.

Today, TVD has the pleasure of premiering “Memory” and its stone-chiseled melody, which is just as memorable as Gonzalez’s press pic. That is to say, it’s authentic and resonates as a true to life, “straight up” expression from an artist who is more concerned with gist than he is with gloss. It’s an inspiring thing to behold when a young artist has the chops to meet the standards of today’s current musical marketplace, yet chooses to focus his attention solely on honing his craft.

Jordan’s self-titled album, Jordan Indiana Gonzalez arrives in stores April 5th.

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TVD Premiere: Moniker, “Private Prophet” EP

Richmond-based rockers Moniker may live a long way from NYC, but the quartet’s tuneful punk rock sonnets channel the grit and glory of the Big Apple.

Today, TVD has the pleasure of premiering the band’s latest EP, “Private Prophet,” which lends itself to the uncompromising early stylings of The Velvet Underground and other NYC luminaries. Lead singer-songwriter Jordan Scott’s effortlessly melodic and compact rock nuggets are imbued with the kind of hot and heavy lyricism that endeared millions of listeners to Lou Reed’s musings, while the drums, bass and keys double down with fierce, unpretentious grooves.

The themes at play on the record tend to touch on the push and pull between best laid plans and life’s realities. Scott seems to approach his songwriting with the intention to chart his personal growth, weaving his personal philosophies through the five tracks, veering erratically from big picture ideas to everyday details while keeping the content lean, mean, and meaningful.

“Private Prophet” arrives in stores on March 1.

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Needle Drop: Pancho Morris, “Strangetown USA”

On the heels of Presidents Day, we offer up the sublime, sociopolitical visual opus “Strangetown USA” from Oakland avant-garde rocker Pancho Morris.

The video treatment for the wily track is a thing to behold, offering up a series of epic, carefully orchestrated long shots that follow our hero Pancho through the ghoulish underbelly of America’s caste system. It’s as if the lovechild of Tom Waits and David Lynch was raised in La La Land and fed a steady diet of propaganda while taking musical theater lessons from Charles Manson. Take a look below to see what I mean.

All and all, it’s probably one of the most radical and entertaining music videos we’ve seen all year. Bucking the traditional film making structure, the team behind it worked on a consensus-driven basis with 100 artists in the Bay Area, collaborating for months to create vignettes, props, and the fantastical sets that filled an Oakland warehouse to create “Strangetown USA.”

The track is from last year’s excellent Great Again LP in stores now.

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Needle Drop: Jared Dymbort, “Rearrange”

NYC-based alt-rocker and film composer Jared Dymbort releases a rather convincing blend of retro indie pop rock.

His latest single, “Rearrange,” is executed with a lovely, well-paced arrangement that feels akin the wonderful out-of-the-box pop of Young Americans-era Bowie.

“Rearrange” is off the equally as good EP, “My Old Victories” which is composed of four seriously retro art pop gems that elicit the Talking Heads, The Cure, and the Thin White Duke himself with Jared’s low octave croon and obtuse lyrics taking center stage across the angular, pendulum swinging rhythm section.

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Needle Drop: Mark Vickness, “Prince William Sound”

Today, The Vinyl District places the needle on the masterful new single from Bay Area-based, modern acoustic guitar maestro Mark Vickness. The track may not feature any vocals, but it definitely speaks of the expansive Alaskan wilderness, which is its namesake.

Mark’s 2018 release, Places, was lauded as one of the best contemporary guitar records in recent history by outlets such as Acoustic Guitar magazine. That is quite a bite to chew, but as indicated in this performance video, Vickness displays utter confidence over his instrument.

His precision is masterful, and the arrangements create an atmosphere beyond the constructs of his acoustic guitar.

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Needle Drop: Ashley Wilson, “Paint the Sky”

San Francisco songbird Ashley Wilson’s debut album Paint the Sky conjures up the smooth quality of Come Away with Me-era Norah Jones.

Not only is Wilson versed in the technical and intuitive nuances of jazz singing, but she has a similar ability to conjure up lasting melodies that form like cumulus clouds, hovering in your head for days on end.

The title-track off the LP, streaming here, is perfect example of her mellifluous touch. Floating atop a refined bed of strummed electric guitar and twinkling drums, Wilson’s vocal guides us to a place of mellow surrender, while she lovingly plants her plaintive call to give a romance a chance to bloom. This tender gem, along with 10 other original tracks, will be featured on Ashley’s Paint the Sky LP, due out March 1st.

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Needle Drop: Cathedral Bells, “Ethereal Shadow”

DIY bedroom pop outfit Cathedral Bells serve up a sprawling brew of shoegaze/dream-pop that transcends the time stamped indie rock of the ’80s, the ’90s, and the naughties.

While there is a distinct retro flavor to their musings, the band is eager to innovate, and do so with supplemental flair on their newest single “Ethereal Shadow.”

The band’s self-titled EP saw a cassette/digital release via Good Eye Records earlier this month and is a shining example of the dreamy garage sound the NY indie label is cultivating. It’s also a perfect accompaniment for some late-night mischief, if your lacking in that particular soundtrack department.

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TVD Premiere:
Francie Moon,
“Present Tense”

PHOTO: AVTAR KAY | Traveling troubadour of light, Francie Moon, is a “free spirit” in every sense of the term. Traversing the country in her signature vintage van, Moon has gigged across the entire continental US, releasing a prolific series of lovely psych folk albums along the way.

“Present Tense” is the the first taste of a slightly more unhinged direction Moon has taken since releasing her celebrated self-titled EP in 2016. She whoops and hollers her way through a majestic, surf rock-tinged, shoegaze jungle of jangling tremolo guitars and wiry drums, dropping such altruistic words of wisdom as, “We’re all the same / 
So shine on me / All the oceans will join hands / And all the hills will sing songs
 / And all the clouds will cry tears of joy
 / Everywhere they belong


Reflecting on the inception of the single, Moon affirms, “‘Present Tense’ is about the journey of being patient and loving with yourself when you’re getting back on track with who you are. A lot of people get caught up in the past and in the future, but this is about forgetting all that and just letting yourself be happy and free in the moment. I think when you finally let yourself feel that peace and freedom of being here now, fear and uncertainty usually wash away and sometimes doors start to open for the future you were really dreaming of anyway. It’s so important to feel good, and I think we can do that by not judging ourselves harshly. Easier said than done sometimes, but at least we’re all figuring life out together, all on the same sea, just different boats.”

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TVD Premiere:
Social Gravy,

Los Angeles transplants Social Gravy originally hail from their respective countries of Belarus and Britain, but met up in downtown LA and bonded over their mutual love for vintage, honey-dipped, West Coast ’70s rock. Today, TVD is proud to present the “side a” off of the duo’s forthcoming digital 7″ “California” / “Let it Out.”

“California” is a jangly, yearning slice of pop rock that channels the seminal work of the Eagles, beginning with an intimate vocal and guitar combo that effortlessly expands into a full-blown Oasis-esque chorus. It’s a hook that feels so neatly symmetrical, it’s hard to believe it has not been fashioned before.

Social Gravy produce an interesting and alluring sound, enhanced by the fact that these two foreigners now live in the epicenter of contemporary pop culture. Often it takes an outsiders perspective to objectively nail down what makes something so great, and Social Gravy have certainly proven themselves as honorable LA scribes.

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TVD Premiere: Tyler Boone, “Jealousy” EP

Nashville-based Tyler Boone creates colorful pop rock blues that soothes the soul. Unlike the many other guitar slinging singer-songwriters, Boone is keen to let his songs breathe, savoring the pauses between the twangy embellishments, like a fine whiskey.

Today TVD has the pleasure of premiering his full EP, “Jealousy,” which is one of the first entries into the South Carolina native’s recording repertoire. His live resume, however, reads like a hit list with opening slots for Sheryl Crow, Hootie & The Blowfish, The Avett Brothers, and Old Crow Medicine Show. One can certainly see the potential of reaching mainstream heights with the EP’s finest and most original cut, the Petty-esque “Moving On.”

Reflecting on the long gestation period for the EP, Boone comments, “Releasing this EP has been a project that began back in 2016 after being asked to perform at the “Firefly Music Festival” in Dover, DE. The band on this project was not only apart of the tours but also the writing aspect. I’ll always be apart of the “Americana” world, but releasing an EP like this in the bluesy and heavy rock vein has always been a goal. It’s still pretty cool that “Moving On” is still climbing on radio across the country.”

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TVD Premiere: Hanford Reach, “Asunder”

Brooklyn based neo-shoegazers Hanford Reach create swirling waves of post-punk psychedelia that reflect the anxious nature of our modern times.

The duo of Chris Sherman and Leah Cinnamon have become known for their anxiety-ridden lyrics and dreamy compositions which are punctuated by drone-like guitar arpeggios and hypnotic synths. Today TVD has the pleasure of premiering their newest single “Asunder,” which embodies the best of their drone-like psych sensibilities.

Reflecting on the track, Sherman comments, “‘Asunder’ is about anxieties that leave you feeling scattered in a few different directions, but learning the need to stay in the moment to take yourself away from that mindset. The EP as a whole deals with lingering memories and the process of moving past them.”

The “Nathalie” EP arrives in stores January 28th.

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TVD Premiere:
Aaron David Gleason,
“Bright Lights”

Brimming with technicolor funk, Aaron David Gleason’s ode to the city of dreams is an incendiary slice of electro pop that channels the early work of Lenny Kravitz.

Gleason has been a fixture in the rock community for over a decade, chewed up and spit out by the machine, only to become more grounded in his own convictions. Freed from the shackles of his former label, Aaron is dropping a deluge of unreleased material in the form of a massive, four-album collection spanning each and every vibrant chapter of his musical career.

Today we have the pleasure of premiering “Bright Lights” off the self-aware manifesto This is Aaron David Gleason. The album is chock full of diverse entries, including this weed-laced disco groove, which is punctuated by a “blood on the mic” vocal from Gleason. While remaining cool and upbeat, his performance belies a deeper dissatisfaction with the subject matter.

Reflecting on the soulless nature of his time in LA, Aaron says, “‘Bright Lights’ is a bluesy little tale of chasing the limelight. I was living in Silver Lake, and I could see the bright lights of downtown where I would venture out every night. That’s what this song is about—the feast of lust that is L.A., and how utterly disposable we all can be here after that lust is satiated. I moved to New York shortly thereafter.”

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Needle Drop: HOLY WOW, “Hey Dragon”

Industrial electro rockers HOLY WOW hail from NYC and specialize in the kind of Gothic pop that made household names out of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Their newest single, “Hey Dragon,” is a stadium-primed barn burner that rides a relentless bass groove into a full on Rolling Stones, gospel-tinged climax. The blissed out, fuzz-driven undertones and buzzsaw riffs are a perfect match for lead singer Dmitry Wild’s dynamic vocals which oscillate from Lou Reed-like speak singing to Brandon Flowers-esque rock operatics.

“Hey Dragon” is off the forthcoming debut, Modern Ancient Man, which marks the first time Mr. Wild has taken the leadership role among the prolific line of bands he’s been associated with. The new skin seems to suit him well, as the whole LP is laced with a sweet spot swagger that continues to impress after repeat listens.

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Needle Drop: Violet Sands, “Gone”

Brooklyn-based trio Violet Sands are relatively new to the scene, but their artful electro-pop musings feel crafted by the steady hand of a master.

Spearheaded by guitarist Derek Muro and vocalist Deidre Muro, the band has come to be known by their synthesis of shoegazey riffs and electo-chillwave production. Their newest single, “Gone,” is a dreamy slice of synth pop that isn’t in a rush to prove itself, revealing it’s power through dynamic shifts in arrangement and world-weary lyricism.

Derek shares, “‘Gone’ is about losing your way in life, being confused and still pressing on despite the temptations of escapism. It’s trying to be comfortable in face of the unknown. We started the song as part of our album HOTEL in Los Angeles immediately before I moved back to New York. The song definitely has a quality of a big life move embedded in it.”

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