Author Archives: Mike Olinger

Needle Drop: XIMXIA, “Pretend”

Versatile Los Angeles singer/songwriter XIMXIA is gearing up to release her debut EP, leading off with a dynamic new single that is already drawing comparisons to Portishead and Ellie Goulding.

Turning moody orchestrations into sweeping, widescreen digital productions seems to come naturally to the songstress who delays the song’s sugary Top 40 hook for a good minute before allowing its fangs to sink in. Clearly she is not interested in immediate clickbait, prefering to reward the listener for hanging through the dark curvature of the verse.

The resulting track is refreshingly bold and a wonderful introduction to an artist intent on pushing the boundaries, navigating the modern pop groove of Halsey and Robyn while leaning into the alternative nuance of Son Lux.

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Needle Drop: Philip Brooks, “I’m So In Love With All Of My Friends”

London-based dream-popper Philip Brooks produces nostalgic and emotionally charged tunes that land like bedroom bop Fleetwood Mac. “I’m So In Love With All Of My Friends” is a particularly bittersweet entry into their catalogue, examining regrets over having lost friends by admitting feelings for them. The German-born singer-songwriter has recently come out as non-binary.

Philip says about the track:
 “I wanted to write a love song for my platonic friends, because deep platonic love is so underrated in my opinion. In the past I was always seeking affection and I famously fell for my friends all the time—like, that was basically my brand. Every time I took the courage to be candid to find out if my crushes felt the same, people kept disappearing from my life until I found myself all alone.”

“Feeling both emotionally and physically distanced from my loved ones over the last few months led me to reflect on that, and writing this song helped me manifest that deeply loving people platonically is okay and enough and actually it’s really awesome. The track means a lot to me, especially because so many of my super talented friends are on it.”

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Needle Drop: Ora Violet, “Delicious”

Following in the great rock and roll tradition of crafting unrequited love songs, Ora Violet have returned with the story of a man in love with a woman who was born a man.

The ambiguous rock newcomers deliver on the promise of their previous single, landing a sonic boom of fresh rock and roll that fuses early ’70s proto punk of The Stooges and The Modern Lovers with the contemporary versatility of The Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age.

It’s a wily blend that defies easy categorization and an intentional move on the part of the band. “Sometimes normality, no matter how peaceful it may appear, needs to be disturbed,” they assert. “We don’t need to wear a label that when scanned will shunt us forward to the applicable box. If you want a label, just start with ‘Delicious.'”

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Needle Drop: WaxFeet, “Dream”

Santa Cruz-based duo WaxFeet craft lush and soulful electronica that soothes the soul.

Their breezy new single, “Dream” is light on its feet yet substantial, feeling a bit like a Zenned-out DJ Shadow. Lo-fi piano melodies drift upon a bed of ocean ambience until they are nailed down by a spry chillhop beat. The entire composition feels as if it’s summoned from the ether, with the spacey ska vocals adding the perfect world flavor to the mellow and eclectic blend.

WaxFeet is gearing up to release an EP this Fall, followed by a full LP. If “Dream” is any indication of what we can expect, these releases will be ideal vacation companions, even if you’re simply planning on taking a break from the harsh compression of modern pop.

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Needle Drop: Eli Moon, “Phases”

South Londoner Eli Moon pushes contemporary R&B into fresh waters with his electro-pop banger, “Phases.”

Moon is a dark and brooding character, yet everything he does shimmers with pop perfectionism. According to the singer-songwriter, “Phases” is about feeling restless about the natural ebb and flow of life. What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of this tug of war? Does one simply “scrap everything and start all over?” or “ride it out into the next phase?”

“I suppose life does happen in phases, which is why it’s important to understand that no situation lasts forever,” Moon reflects. “There is never a situation where you have no power to affect it, but I wanted to capture this emotion in a song, so that I have it forever and can always use it in times where I need to be reminded of this.”

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Need Drop: WaxFeet, “Holding On”

Do yourself a solid and take a moment to dip into the rich audiovisual world of WaxFeet.

The Minneapolis-based chillhop duo create lush sonic grooves that sit somewhere between J Dilla and Ta-ku. This is easy riding, high flying electronica, marinated in neoclassical melodies and lo-fi hip hop grooves. WaxFeet is a word derived from surf terminology, which is fitting seeing as the band specializes in liquid flow electronica that is intended to act as a de-stressing agent.

Reflecting on their process, the duo assert, “We often ask ourselves: to chill, or not to chill? There is enough commotion in life without jacking up brain waves further. We are driven to write music that heals. Without words.”

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Needle Drop: Eli Moon, “killmeinmysleep”

South Londoner Eli Moon has carved out a niche as one of Britain’s most promising R&B upstarts. His debut EP, “Bodies,” dropped back in 2019. and boasted a fully-realized sound that combined contemporary soul pop with classic rock poeticism. Despite his young age, Moon seems to have an innate knack for crafting groovy, cutting-edge songs that are imbued with the human touch.

“I wrote and produced ‘killmeinmysleep’ from the bedroom in my childhood home,” Moon reflects. “The song is an introspective expression of both the inner turmoil I face everyday with not wanting to deal with people and the self-sabotaging results of that behavior.”

“With all that’s going on in the world today, I think it’s fair to say we have all found ourselves feeling claustrophobic and out of touch with reality, and if this song can help ease the tension for just one individual, then I have done my job.”

“killmeinmysleep” is a one-off single released on the MERIDAN label, and is in stores now.

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Needle Drop: Llargo, “Clouds”

Llargo, led by Italian singer-songwriter and producer Christian De Cicco, is an open ensemble that explores a common ground through downtempo electro jazz. Influenced by the work of Bon Iver, The Cinematic Orchestra, and Massive Attack, Llargo conjures up a dreamy and captivating world of mystical folk progressions and otherworldly ambience.

Regarding his unique and eclectic blend, Christian says, “I’m always searching for new ways into music and sounds, always pushing outside of my musical comfort zone.” Reaching out to one of his favorite vocalists, Heidi Vogel of The Cinematic Orchestra, was one of the ways he pushed himself.

“I wrote ‘Clouds’ with Heidi’s voice in my mind. I’m a huge fan of her tone and I thought she would be perfect for this song as her voice would blend really well with all the other instruments. We then met and recorded her vocals in London. What a magic experience!” The resulting track is pregnant with sonic potential, begging for further exploration of this one-off collaboration.

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Needle Drop: Babbling April, Days of Retreat

PHOTO: MIKE KIM | It’s unclear whether Washington, DC-based Babbling April intended for their newest album, Days of Retreat, to be a perfect companion piece for ongoing quarantine, but their new tunes fall perfectly in step with the conscious consensus of millennials across the nation.

“We are finding that what we value may not be the same as generations past,” band member Vivienne Machi asserts. “This album is particularly relevant to those who have grown up through one national tragedy after another, graduated into a global recession, and now face a global pandemic.”

Tracks like “City to Spit In” offer up a hilarious spin on gentrification, boasting an unhinged, Violent Femmes vibe that feels like a breath of fresh air in an era of streamlined pop. The gorgeously adorned “Worst Kind of Parties” is another winner, exposing the kind of empty social norms that got tipped on their head after the pandemic and ensuing protests.

It’s a joy to see the band switch it up and indulge their punk ethos, swimming against the tide in a town full of workaholics focused on lofty career ambitions. When things finally mellow out on the acoustic closer “Fumbling for the Mute Button,” one can’t help but think of Babbling April as a contemporary Yo La Tengo, voicing their generation’s misgivings while exploring their internal creative potential.

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Needle Drop: Ora Violet, “Feel The Same”

London-based rockers Ora Violet fuse the early ’70s proto punk of The Stooges and The Modern Lovers with the contemporary versatility of The Strokes and Queens Of The Stone Age.

Their wily new single, “Feel The Same,” solidifies these mysterious rock newcomers as a force to be reckoned with. Their previous single, “Honey, You Did it,” received extensive play from award winning indie station Soho Radio, but many saw it as a one-off collaboration between multi-instrumentalist production duo Black Tiles and guitarist Nick Ferman.

Clearly, they have more to say… The band explains, ”Feel The Same’ is a story of mental struggle, of feeling unsatisfied despite having the perfect life on paper.”

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TVD Video Premiere: Silver Liz, “Microwave S’mores”

PHOTO: MATT SCHWERIN | Chicago-based Silver Liz is the recording moniker of Carrie and Matt Wagner who have been creating shoegaze-y indie jams since they bonded over a mutual love of The Strokes in college. But the band’s current vibe feels more akin to Sonic Youth, as Silver Liz has the uncanny ability to produce lush, fuzzed out indie pop that is both gritty and sensitive. Their latest single is also timely, diving into the pros and cons of being an introvert in modern society.

Matt shares, “‘Microwave S’mores’ is about embracing the tendency to be a homebody. When I showed one of my friends the song, he asked ‘you okay, bud?’ The lyrics are not meant to be depressing and it wasn’t out of irony that we chose to put them with music that is light and in a major-key; the music suggests that the lyrics are a celebration of accepting your introversion.”

Carrie adds; “The song, which we actually wrote last year, is about wanting to stay indoors. Of course, many of us are desperately wanting to go outside these days, but this song might help some remember all the times they wished they’d had an excuse to stay in and not go out.”

All proceeds from the track, set for release on May 23rd, will be donated to the MusicCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund.

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Needle Drop: Jordan Rome, “Charon”

Rough-hewn, Kansas-based singer-songwriter Jordan Rome peppers his bluesy tunes with folk, punk, and hardcore flavors, falling somewhere between Lead Belly and Eddie Vedder. It’s dark and deeply metaphorical material that tends to rattle around in one’s brain before crystallizing into thoroughly conceived folk song meta.

His newest single, “Charon,” is a world-weary lament about the Greek mythological figure Charon who ferries damned souls across the River Styx and into the underworld.

It’s told in the first person, which locks the listener into a subjective journey into the inky darkness without any kind of tether back to reality. This could certainly be the last song you hear, on the last stop, to the last bar, at the end of the tracks.

Rome will be dropping the B-Side to “Charon” at the end of May.

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Needle Drop: Erinn Alissa, “Over You”

LA-based singer-songwriter Erinn Alissa crafts the kind of impeccable country pop that hits all the sweet spots without falling victim to formula.

Her debut single, “Over You” is soulful and smooth, falling somewhere between the classic twang of Shania Twain and the hook-driven Cali vibes of Colbie Caillat. It’s got a good rhythm, a catchy melody, and is dangerously easy to remember and sing along with. These are often sure-fire signs that the production team behind the track have toiled away, systematically designing the earworms to enter and embed without consent from the listener.

But Alissa’s music doesn’t feel prefabricated. It’s brimming with authenticity and heartfelt delivery—the way good ol’ fashion country used to be. The subtle pop dynamics just make it all the more impactful.

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Needle Drop: oh?no!ok., “Wheel of Fortune”

PHOTO: MEIRA BASHIR | Salt Lake City buzz band oh!no?ok. are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but certainly know how to spin it with joyful abandon.

Their latest single, “Wheel of Fortune,” is one part ’80s pop rock, one part ’90s alternative slacker psychedelia, 100% riff-roaring good time. The band’s freewheeling vibe embodies punk rock’s counter-impulse toward joy, color, and self-deprecation, and certainly gets one excited for their debut record, randy warhole (or something), which is set to arrive in stores later this year.

With songs that probe entitlement, video game addiction and idolization, it’s clear we are dealing with a wildly fresh take on slacker rock.

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Needle Drop:
The Roseline,
“Counting Sheep”

PHOTO: LINDSEY KELLENBARGER | Kansas alt-country sextet The Roseline have always thrown caution to the wind, crafting deeply personal socio-political songs that are as impactful as they are soulful, conjuring up the sophisticated musings of Gram Parsons, Neko Case, and Conor Oberst.

Their newest track, “Counting Sheep,” takes aim at the pan-nationalist headlines becoming more and more prevalent in the media.

Band spearhead Colin Halliburton has been quoted as saying the track was written in a bit of a rage-induced state, which isn’t quite apparent upon first listen—the sterling melody is baked in a warm twang and falls across the jangly guitar chords like a charm bracelet, eliciting a modern Dylan-esque vibe.

The Roseline’s new LP, GOOD/GRIEF, arrives in stores on April 3rd.

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