Spiritual Odyssey – Joss Jaffe Finds Resilience and Restoration on ‘Sun Mountain Sea’ Album

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Joss Jaffe creates a carefree, windows-rolled-down headspace on “Sun Mountain Sea.” Photo – Mariana Shulze

Joss Jaffe closely explores the emotions and experiences of the human spirit.

The Los Angeles chillwave singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist embarks on an invigorating spiritual odyssey filled with resilience and restoration on his latest metamorphic album, Sun Mountain Sea, via Be Why Music.

“From a spiritual perspective, even when you’re in love with someone and it doesn’t work out, you’re still sort of connected to that person. That’s what some of these songs are talking about … trying to see that from the highest perspective, even though you may never see them again. That’s kind of what it’s like to be alive,” Jaffe said.

“When someone dies, you’re just left with the memory of that and how do you process that? These songs aren’t really that heavy, there are a couple that deal with heavier and stronger issues, but they’re pretty light in general. The hopefulness is a good quality. It’s the kind of thing you can play during a road trip and just chill.”

With a relaxed foot on the gas and one hand on the wheel, Jaffe’s Sun Mountain Sea instantly transports listeners to a carefree, windows-rolled-down headspace. Breathtaking waves of mystical electronic soundscapes, effervescent indie-pop sensibilities and lustrous instrumentation propel listeners across international scenic highways from Santa Barbara to Ibiza.

“It’s very honest, like the way a singer-songwriter would sing it. There’s an acoustic element, but it’s laid on top of these electronic beats. It’s been compared to The Postal Service and stuff like that,” said Jaffe, who also took inspiration from Foster The People, MGMT and Tycho.

“In my mind’s eye, I fantasized it would be like Ibiza-style, like Avicii or something. But that’s not me; I’m not really a big, electro-heavy guy. It has more of a chill-out kind of a vibe.”

Continue reading “Spiritual Odyssey – Joss Jaffe Finds Resilience and Restoration on ‘Sun Mountain Sea’ Album”

Ready to Go – Liam Taylor Delivers ‘Wasting Time’ Debut Single with Sam Vallianatos

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Sam Vallianatos and Liam Taylor bring a soulful indie-pop sound to “Wasting Time.” Photo – Miles Walker Whitworth

Liam Taylor clearly shares his personal expectations for long-term relationships.

The Chicago indie-pop artist declares a readiness for true love and commitment on his latest soulful single, “Wasting Time,” via Appealing Orange Records.

“I wrote this song when I was starting to like this boy. I had never been in a serious relationship before, and I definitely yearned for one, but I was so guarded back then as well. I didn’t want to let that guard down for someone who was going to eventually take advantage of me, resent me and just waste my time,” Taylor said.

“And the end of the song though, it’s like I’ve gotten to the point where I’m in deep with this person. Although it’s scary, at that point I was like, ‘How can it be a waste of time if you’re with this person you love?’”

Throughout “Wasting Time,” Taylor unearths a deeply buried vulnerability as sparkling electric guitars, contemplative bass, intimate drums and gentle cymbals gradually ease his hesitation and fear.

He sings, “I’ve only known you for one small bit of my long-ass life/But the way that you’re pressing your lips against mine/Well, it feels so right/Oh, it’s almost as if I have known you for an eternity/So let’s take our time/And get high on each other before we leave.”

“Overall, the song’s theme has appeared in my life multiple times since I’ve written it, but I mainly hope people’s takeaway is that life is short,” said Taylor, who’s currently studying music at Columbia College in Chicago.

“The song is fun and groovy, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a relationship. It’s a bad-bitch anthem overall, because there’s no reason anyone should be wasting your time.”

Taylor created his “bad bitch” anthem with Detroit producer Sam Vallianatos and Chicago bassist Andrew King. “Wasting Time” initially took shape in Taylor’s home studio with Vallianatos early last year.

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Taylor and Vallianatos about “Wasting Time” as well as their backgrounds, previous releases, current collaboration and upcoming plans.

Continue reading “Ready to Go – Liam Taylor Delivers ‘Wasting Time’ Debut Single with Sam Vallianatos”

Waiting to Exhale – Danielle Cosby Breathes Sigh of Relief on ‘Growing’

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Danielle Cosby immerses listeners in newfound relief and closure on “Growing.” Artwork – Danielle Cosby

These days, Danielle Cosby breathes a little easier.

The Nashville, Tennessee indie pop singer-songwriter slowly exhales painful emotions and experiences from the past on her latest curative single, “Growing.”

“This song is about taking a moment to reflect on and accept the journey that I traveled to get to where I am today. This song also serves as an apology to those I was forced to leave behind, or anyone I may have hurt while I was hurting,” said Cosby, who hails from Grand Rapids.

“I’ve had to forgive myself for a lot of things and let go of resentments that kept me tied to my past. ‘Growing’ is my reminder to not look back, but to press on with the full understanding that I can do hard things. It gives me a sense of empowerment and hope for the future.”

Filled with cathartic piano and hopeful bass, “Growing” beautifully immerses listeners in newfound relief and closure. As the third release in Cosby’s “Songstress” series, it’s the ideal anthem for moving forward and rediscovering your sense of self.

Cosby sings, “Gotta cry every once in a while/Write it down, sing a song, walk a mile/In my worn out shoes, from the years I spent with you.”

“‘Growing’ is actually my oldest ‘baby’ in the series. I started writing this song probably in late 2019/early 2020 before COVID and before I moved. I think it started as a hope of what the future could feel like. Kind of a ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ scenario,” said Cosby, who relocated to Nashville in July 2020.

“It sat with me, always playing in the back of my mind, but never really felt authentic and ‘true’ until I moved. Clarity is a powerful thing. Once my healing journey and my feelings kind of ‘caught up’ to the song, I was able to finish writing it, and it feels like one of my most prized possessions now.”

To realize her “Growing” vision, Cosby collaborated remotely with Los Angeles producer (and Grand Haven native) Kevin DePree and recorded the piano at Nashville’s East Iris Studios. Playing on a beautiful Bosendorfer Grand provided Cosby with additional inspiration for the track.

“It’s been such a positive and fulfilling experience working with (Kevin). I think this is my most vulnerable series of music to date, so working with someone I really trust as both a producer and a person was really important to me,” Cosby said.

“(Recording on the Bosendorfer Grand) was pretty much an out-of-body experience. It really boosted my confidence in my piano skills and felt like a gift I was granting myself. I felt really proud of myself.”

Continue reading “Waiting to Exhale – Danielle Cosby Breathes Sigh of Relief on ‘Growing’”

Bounce Back – Au Gres Overcomes Obstacles and Chases Aspirations on ‘DYTWOE’

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It doesn’t take long for Au Gres to bounce back.

The Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter quickly overcomes obstacles and challenges on his latest aspirational single, “do you think we’re old enough (DYTWOE).”

“This song for me is all about what happens when ambitions and dreams are met with disappointment. I don’t consider it to be a ‘sad song’ though,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“The road to success is bumpy, and there’s a lot to learn along the way. The song comes from feeling let down, but I’m optimistic that dreams can be achieved.”

Au Gres keeps his perspective on “DYTWOE” as trilling synths, quaky drums, calm bass, contemplative acoustic guitars and spirited electric guitars melodically provide a reassuring nod.

He sings, “Take apart all the good things/Stripped away, what’s there to do/So many times I’ve tried/But I just don’t remember.”

“I think pursuing your passion is a wonderful thing to do, but it can be disheartening when things don’t go the way you planned,” Kemp said. “My hope for this track is that it will help people feel less alone in that pursuit and encouraged to keep going.”

For Au Gres, the “DYTWOE” journey started last summer with a draft recording. He later ventured to Cincinnati to finalize the track with producer Alexandre Hirlinger.

“We spent about three days working on it and had the best time,” Kemp said. “We’re inspired by a lot of the same music, including COIN and Mini Trees, and it felt like we were synced up the whole time.”

Au Gres also synced up the release of “DYTWOE” with a crafty companion lyric video, which features interchanging magazine cutout letters pasted against a crinkled paper background.

“The video has a sort of ‘scrapbook’ feel to it,” Kemp said. “I made the entire thing myself with found images, and I’m really proud of how it all came together (despite my lack of visual art skills).”

DYTWOE” serves as Au Gres’ first new material and third single since releasing the self-comfort anthem, “At Home in the Dark” last February. His growing catalog of thoughtful indie pop gems continues to play on repeat in fans’ ears and heads.

“My 2022 has been fairly quiet so far, but I’ve been using the time to write a lot of music. I think I’m very lucky to have so many close friends pursuing the same things as me,” Kemp said. “Learning from them and watching them accomplish their goals has always been a great source of inspiration.”

With “DYTWOE” gaining traction, Au Gres wants to share additional new material later this year. It’s likely to be a compelling mixture of solo and collaborative tunes.

“This year is all about collaboration for me,” Kemp said. “I’m working closely with a lot of different artists and plan to release a lot more music, both as a featured artist as well as under my own catalog.”

Assemble with Care – Jon Pattie Finds Rejuvenation on ‘Pieces (IVeY Remix)’

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Jon Pattie tackles depression on “Pieces (IVeY Remix) in collaboration with Jordan “IVeY” Iverson.

Fueled by tenacity and compassion, Jon Pattie boldly rebuilds his sense of self.

The Nashville, Tennessee indie pop singer-songwriter tackles mental health struggles and adopts a renewed mindset on his latest uplifting single, “Pieces (IVeY Remix).”

“‘Pieces’ was one of the first songs I wrote when I began my career as a solo musician. Around the same time, I was struggling with depression and writing this song was a way for me to work through what I was feeling from another standpoint,” Pattie said.

“I originally released it on a demo EP and liked it so much I chose to re-release it with Andy Freeman’s and Brad Lindsay’s production behind it. When I hear it now, I feel happy and successful that I was able to relate such a dark point in my life to others in a concise and melodic way.”

Originally a cinematic pop anthem on his Reflections, Vol. II EP, Pattie transformed “Pieces” into a supercharged remix with Denver DJ-producer Jordan “IVeY” Iverson. Tender, spirited synths, fearless electric guitars, confident bass and steadfast drums cleanse the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.

Pattie sings, “She lies lonely on her side/Shedding tears through window eyes/Let me in, I’ll break apart/So we can restart.”

“It’s not only an opportunity for those struggling with depression to remember there are people who care about and support them, but also an opportunity for their friends and family to know they’re not alone,” he said. “Working through depression is difficult, but so is helping someone with depression. It helps to know we aren’t the only ones out there.”

“Like ‘Dream On,’ I wanted to remix ‘Pieces’ because it’s a very important song to me, and I felt it could use another voice. IVeY was incredible to work with. After a brief discussion of the vision I had in mind, he ran with it.”

Part of that “Pieces (IVeY Remix)” vision includes a gripping guitar solo from Pattie intertwined with IVeY’s sleek production.

“(IVeY) had the idea of adding a guitar solo to the track, which I loved that I got to solo again. Really, the entire production was IVeY’s work. I enjoy giving producers full creative liberty to let them be themselves when working with a track of mine,” said Pattie, who’s known IVeY since high school.

“The solo adds a complex, yet simple beauty to this song. It’s a very slow build with a major payoff at the end with the guitar solo. The fact that it seemingly comes out of nowhere is almost metaphorical to the confusion that depression can cause, yet the resolution goes to show it will end.”

Pattie also visually stimulates fans with a kaleidoscopic lyric video for “Pieces (IVeY Remix).” Directed by Rasel, it features brilliant neon hues morphing into people and geometric patterns along with the track.

“His use of brightly colored visuals created a stark contrast from the slow buildup of the remix. I thought it’d bring a different energy to the track, and it was a very easy process to work through,” Pattie said.

Continue reading “Assemble with Care – Jon Pattie Finds Rejuvenation on ‘Pieces (IVeY Remix)’”

Field Study – The Mommyheads Examine Pandemic-Induced Society on ‘Age of Isolation’

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The Mommyheads’ “Age of Isolation” chronicles pandemic-induced uncertainty. Photo – Kevin Condon

As cultural anthropologists, The Mommyheads thoughtfully document the dawning of a new civilization.

The New York City indie pop quartet of Adam Elk (vocals, analog synths, guitar), Michael Holt (electric piano, vocals, synths), Dan Fisherman (drums, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass, recitation) poetically observes, records and shares the everyday habits of people living in newfound COVID-19 solitude.

Together, they produce and present a compelling 10-track report of recent lockdown life known as the Age of Isolation, which runs rampant with TV dinners, ceiling spots, drippy faucets, overgrown facial hair and extended window gazes.

As a follow-up to last year’s New Kings of Pop, The Mommyheads’ cerebral, contemplative 13th album beautifully delves into the psychological, political and social complexities of residing in suspended animation during quarantine. The Age of Isolation also gives new meaning to existential dread during a prolonged era of pandemic-induced uncertainty.

“I always think of records as snapshots or documents of certain time periods. That’s the main reason I like working through the writing and recording process extremely fast. It keeps you in the moment, especially in terms of the feeling and subject matter,” Elk said.

“The LP almost seems like a concept album, but that’s just because it never has the liberty of veering from its theme. I really hope it’s just a time piece and not the new normal.”

Continue reading “Field Study – The Mommyheads Examine Pandemic-Induced Society on ‘Age of Isolation’”

Conversation Piece – Marty Gray Recounts Memorable Bar Interaction on ‘The Regular’

One summer night, Marty Gray casually walked into a Marquette bar and unexpectedly experienced a life-changing conversation with a random stranger.

The Ann Arbor indie pop artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer went to Flanigan’s Bar with high school friends to sing karaoke and decided to get a drink. Right away, a 36-year-old regular sitting at the bar started chatting with Gray.

“This whole conversation happened the summer before the pandemic. We went on a Wednesday, and there were maybe four people there. This guy says, ‘You have a great voice. Where are you from?’ I said, ‘I’m from Ann Arbor, but I grew up here, and I just wanted to see what this bar was all about,” said Gray about that infamous night in 2019.

“For the next half an hour, the guy starts telling me everything he’s thinking about. His demeanor was friendly and non-weighted. He didn’t present the information like he was suffering or in a bad spot. It was literally, ‘Hey dude, this is what I’m doing. As long as you’re gonna listen, I’ll just keep telling you.”

The regular told Gray about missed opportunities and regrets in his life, including breaking up with his fiancée, being stuck in an unsatisfying job, longing for the carefree days of his youth and feeling scared about the future.

“He clearly felt like he had missed his life, and it was too late for him to experience those early thirties things that all his friends had experienced. The whole conversation left me in a very different mood. It was really nonchalant, but really heavy,” Gray said.

For some reason, that 30-minute interaction resonated with Gray and later served as the inspiration behind his soulful, introspective concept album, The Regular. It beautifully recounts that memorable conversation and glides through the regular’s experiences, preoccupations, choices and uncertainties.

“The whole very human thing that hit me so hard in the gut was that mentality. This guy had been backed into a corner so many times in the last 10 years of his life, and he was in such a desolate, horrible spot where he was just drinking alone at the bar every night or with a couple of friends,” Gray said.

“There’s something about the way he was talking about leaving and the way he was talking about changing something. The whole sentiment was human and on the same wavelength as a fight-or-flight response. You can either lie down and die or give up, or you can make a drastic change.”

Continue reading “Conversation Piece – Marty Gray Recounts Memorable Bar Interaction on ‘The Regular’”

Let’s Dance – The Dropout Brings Fierce Grooves, Infectious Hooks to ‘Bubble Boy’ EP

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The Dropout’s “Bubble Boy” EP shares insightful tales of overcoming addiction, finding renewal and instilling vitality in others.

The Dropout instantly transforms any space into a nonstop, explosive dance party.

The Orlando, Florida indie pop, post-EDM singer-songwriter and saxophonist employs fierce grooves, infectious hooks and lush soundscapes on his latest EP, Bubble Boy, to get fans moving.

“This (EP) has more of a dancey vibe, and it feels more like a pop EDM-like crossover. It has pop song structures, but EDM sort of tones underlining live instrumentation and my vocals. It feels like Dropout songs, but they have an energetic, live feeling,” said Ficker, who’s originally from metro Detroit.

The Dropout captures that contagious, hopeful spirit across six dazzling Bubble Boy tracks, which chronicle a highly personal journey filled with insightful tales of overcoming addiction, finding renewal and instilling vitality in others.

“I like to think by the time the songwriting happens, the learning is already done. It’s almost like the life experiences have been chewed on and now I’m fully digesting them. I definitely tried to be more intentional about the inspirational themes, but if I had to write about everything I learned this year, this might end up being a lot of text to read through,” said Ficker with a laugh.

As a follow-up to 2018’s magnetic, groove-filled Old Parts, New Beginning EP, The Dropout spent three years writing and recording Bubble Boy’s tracks in his home studio. He nailed the saxophone, guitar and vocal parts while collaborating remotely with longtime friend Bob Lemon, who provided the project’s hypnotic, spirited beats.

“We grew up in the same area and had mutual friends, but never really crossed paths. (Bob) reached out to me one day online with a remix of an older song I did (‘Old Parts, New Beginning’), and I was blown away. We immediately started working together on new music and haven’t stopped since,” Ficker said.

Continue reading “Let’s Dance – The Dropout Brings Fierce Grooves, Infectious Hooks to ‘Bubble Boy’ EP”

Light Year – Michigander Rediscovers Purpose on ‘Everything Will Be OK Eventually’ EP

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Michigander’s “Everything Will Be OK Eventually” EP offers hope and optimism for the future. Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Michigander, a new release lights the way after a dark year.

The Detroit indie pop singer-songwriter shares a renewed sense of personal and creative purpose on his third optimistic, six-track EP, Everything Will Be OK Eventually, out today on all streaming platforms.

“I’m hoping these songs will become a soundtrack of a return to normal. I tend to write sad music, but it sounds nice and happy, and that usually kind of tricks people. People resonate with each EP and every song coming out at certain time frames in their lives,” said Jason Singer, aka Michigander.

“It feels weird to know this one will do the same thing, and I know one day I’ll look back on this time, so I try to enjoy it now. I hope it serves as a time stamp and takes people back to where we are right now.”

Released via C3 Records, Michigander’s Everything Will Be OK Eventually instantly transports pandemic-fatigued listeners to a hopeful nearby future filled with highly anticipated face-to-face interactions and group gatherings. Each melodic, expansive track allows people to release pent-up sighs of relief and shed lingering worries as they progress from one song to the next.

That cathartic return to normalcy starts with Singer’s latest exhilarating, spirited single, “Better,” as ascending, vibrant synths, roaring electric guitars, pounding drums and buoyant bass reveal a promising road ahead and a peaceful disruption in time.

Singer reflects, “You’re always scared of getting caught/Always questioning your thoughts/But you can’t hide how you feel/I wanna know how you feel/Feels like time is moving quicker, but I’m getting slower/Guess that’s just a part of getting older/Wish I could look away.”

“I tend to write music with the intention of knowing what’s the opener and what’s the ender, and I fill everything in the middle. ‘Better’ and ‘Together’ are purposely where they’re at on the EP, and it was very intentional to open it massively and close it softly. My favorite albums have great openers and great endings, and it’s something I always want to replicate when I make my music,” he said.

Continue reading “Light Year – Michigander Rediscovers Purpose on ‘Everything Will Be OK Eventually’ EP”

Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single

Josh Kemp embraces uncertainty on his latest Au Gres single, “At Home in the Dark.” Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Au Gres, not every problem requires an immediate solution.

Instead, the Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter finds instant relief in uncertainty on his latest introspective, self-comfort single, “At Home in the Dark,” which dropped Feb. 26 via all streaming platforms.

“I hope this song might encourage others to be more present with each other during hard times, though not necessarily in the physical sense, pandemic and all. I wrote it specifically about someone dealing with depression, but I think it applies to much more than that,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“These moments don’t always call for ‘solutions.’ Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just let them know you’re available to talk and reassure them that they aren’t ‘broken.’”

Au Gres beautifully provides a sense of solace as ascending, sheeny synths, thoughtful electric guitar, delicate drums and soft bass surround listeners while they’re feeling “At Home in the Dark.” Kemp reveals, “I wanna be there when it rains/I wanna know you on your bad days, baby/I wanna be there when you start/To think the wrong things in the right time frame.”

“So much of this track is inspired by my experience with depression (i.e., the dark). I’ve had moments in my life where I really needed someone to help me feel less alone. I’ve also been the one to do that for others,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit, Phoenix and The Smashing Pumpkins.

“The thing about depression is that it’s usually episodic, and when you’re in it, you usually don’t want or need to hear solutions. Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just sit with them while they’re in it. Bringing over a cheap bottle of wine often helps, too.”

Continue reading “Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single”