Whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, there’s a new bunch of tasty tracks ready to sample.
The July edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will whet your musical appetite with shimmery pop-rock, upbeat country, mesmerizing post-rock, metalized modern rock, steamy blues rock, soulful folk, spunky hip-hop, groovy R&B and more freshly-squeezed tracks.
Throughout their latest uplifting single, “Sailors,” the Monterrey, Nuevo León pop-punk trio of Adrian Garth (vocals, guitar), Eduardo Guajardo (guitar) and Pablo Gonzalez (drums) energetically chronicles encountering rough waters en route to uncovering a buried musical treasure outside Mexico.
“The chorus says, ‘We are the sailors who don’t leave this ship.’ Well, the ship is the band and our dreams. I know for every band it’s super difficult to make it and have success, but I find it extremely more difficult to be in another country and try to make it in a scene that’s not in your country or in your hometown,” said Garth, who wrote “Sailors” in February and co-produced it with Mauricio Colunga.
“We were talking about that right before we got on the plane to LA for the music video for ‘Break Me.’ We were like, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter if it’s difficult, and it’s not going to get easier anytime soon, but it doesn’t matter because we want what we want, and we’re gonna get it no matter what.”
All At Once’s admirable determination surges throughout “Sailors” as reverby, crunchy electric guitars swirl amid echoey background vocals, exuberant bass, humming synths and pounding electronic drums. About 20 seconds into the track, the trio erupts into a Blink 182-esque, sea-faring fury as driving electric guitars, rhythmic bass and thumping drums bounce listeners from one sonic wave to another.
While moving full-speed ahead, Garth enthusiastically sings akin to Owl City, “The warmest lights are here right now/We’re shining bright up in the sky/Together we can touch the clouds/We’ll sail this boat until the end/We are the captains once again/Roller-coasting our way.”
“The ‘captains’ part is about us handling ourselves and not letting anyone else interfere with us, but I really like the lyric that says ‘Roller-coasting our way.’ I love roller coasters, and this was something that took me a long time to figure out – everything you do no matter what it is has its ups and downs, so that’s what I meant about it. It’s gonna be good, it’s gonna be sad, and I’m gonna be angry sometimes, and I’m gonna be super happy, but I’m going to be crying sometimes,” Garth said.
All At Once beautifully captures their optimistic outlook through a “Sailors” companion lyric video, which features an 18th century-inspired ship coasting along a pink turbulent ocean in a pastel neon dreamscape.
“We decided to include the lyrics on the screen with these really cool movements from side to side that mimic a ship on the water. My bandmates really liked it, and we couldn’t wait to release it,” said Garth, who created the lyric video.
As summer kicks into high gear, get ready to test-drive a new batch of tunes from emerging local and regional artists.
The June edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will gain traction with grungy alt rock, lo-fi jazzy soul, inspirational pop rock, indie folk, bouncy pop punk, dancy pop, melodic prog rock, bouncy pop punk and uplifting country.
Last year, Torrey Mercer unknowingly penned a fitting anthem for 2020.
The Los Angeles pop singer-songwriter co-wrote a peppy, ironic new track, “This is Fine,” about perpetually living in disarray with pop-rock singer-songwriter and producer Una Jensen.
“We wrote this in December of 2019, which is wild to think about, considering the times we are in now. It was meant to be a song about feeling like a ‘hot mess,’ little did we know. The song is meant to be a pick-me-up in some hard times, which I hope it can be for others during the times we find ourselves in,” said Mercer, who released the track in May.
Mercer beautifully exposes that frustrating, turbulent world throughout “This is Fine,” which fuses gleaming acoustic strums, bouncy synths, thumping bass and striking electronic drums in a poppy, cheeky ode to bad days. She nonchalantly sings, “My bank account just froze/Bedroom full of dirty clothes/Of course I stubbed my toe/What day is my cycle/There it goes.”
“It was inspired by a meme we are both familiar with on the Internet originally created by KC Green. The original artist gave us permission, and we recreated his art for the album art of the song, which was fun. The song has lots of quirky details in it, which started with both of us listing things that we were feeling at the time,” Mercer said.
“We wrote this song in its entirety in about two and a half hours, all in one sitting. And we spent a few weeks nailing down final vocals, production and mixing. It was actually a total fluke we wrote this song before the current moment we are facing in the world, and when everything started happening, I realized it might be the perfect moment for this song. I’m glad we got to release it.”
“This is Fine” isn’t the only shiny, effervescent new material Mercer has dropped this year. In February, she released Boys/Girls, a vibrant, inspirational six-track EP filled with bisexual anthems, misogynistic tales, patriarchal challenges, changing relationships, inner revelations and personal empowerment.
“This EP was meant to be a liberation for me as a woman and as a bisexual. In the music industry, there’s a lot of pressure to perform a version of yourself that is more likeable to others. This project was about taking the duct tape off my own mouth and embracing what makes me different and outspoken,” she said.
The Los Angeles indie folk singer-songwriter quickly attracts the “nano” emotions buried deep within the atomic structure of our subconscious on his latest album.
Out Friday via all streaming platforms, Negative Space reveals a microcosm of inner thoughts and deep revelations about failed relationships, reluctant confidants, unspoken feelings, hidden anxieties, turbulent endings, personal resignations, unexpected transitions and closed chapters.
“The overarching themes include a lot of regret and a lot of trepidation until we get to ‘Round January.’ Some of the songs are more personal in that sense than others, and others were more conceptual like ‘Cause for Concern,’ which I had thought of as an album name initially. I thought, ‘People are going to hear these songs, and they’re going to be concerned about my well-being,’” Summit said.
Summit poignantly addresses that fractured sense of well-being throughout Negative Space’s raw, honest 10 tracks. Despite a barrage of dark emotions and difficult experiences, each track moves Summit and listeners one step closer to stronger, wiser and better versions of themselves. Fittingly, Negative Spaceis akin to chronicling years of internal growth and self-acceptance in a 30-minute span.
“Most of the songs were written in a songwriting class at USC. Some of those came from specific prompts like ‘Round January.’ I probably wouldn’t have written that song had it not been for the prompt,” said Summit, who studied songwriting and graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in May.
“Obviously, you always want them to sound personal, like on ‘Doomed from the Start.’ For that song, I was thinking about my first serious relationship, which started in high school, and how it didn’t last because it was all about learning how to be in a relationship.”
With an emerald Ibanez, Ania strums toward a new antidote for personal and societal toxicity.
That antidote appears as her latest melodic pop-rock single, “Poison,” which combines slow, vibrant electric guitar, delicate cymbal taps, rhythmic bass, steady drums and swirling synths into a soothing remedy with bassist-drummer Matt Ward.
“This song was about me letting go of a toxic relationship. Lyrically, I wanted to be vague and express how this relationship broke me. This relationship literally broke my ‘shit’ in a grunge way. I feel as if I lost my sense of self and who I am,” said Ania, a Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso.
Throughout “Poison,” Ania cathartically sings, “Complications come from meditation/Your privilege gets me down again/Dusky skies are filling up with poison/And we keep breaking our own shit/Air is filling up with poison, and you keep breaking my shit/Air is filling up with poison, and you keep breaking my shit.”
“I tried to create a dark pop song that’s similar to ‘The Hand That Feeds’ by Nine Inch Nails. I also wanted to incorporate some synth electronic modern textures that I have been hearing in St. Vincent’s music to make the song more current,” she said.
Ania will extend her personal undertones of “Poison” to growing societal struggles in a new video out June 26. Wrapped in vivid shades of neon pink and green, the “Poison” video transports Ania to Hollywood’s infamous Melrose Avenue where she laments society’s self-destructive tendencies.
Throughout the “Poison” video, Ania adorns a white long-sleeve T-shirt, pink pants and black combat boots while shredding her emerald Ibanez, smashing records on alley walls and battling an evil Trump-masked drummer. This contrasting mix of vivid and muted colors also symbolizes Ania’s lingering frustrations with the superficiality of life and image of perfectionism in Los Angeles.
“I wanted the ‘Poison’ video to expose the inauthenticity of the beautiful and vibrant image that many people associate with Los Angeles. Hollywood glamour is part of the city, but it’s got an angsty side, too,” said Ania, who teamed up with filmmakers Will Milvid and Alex Ioanoviciu for the video.
“We all have an impact on the world around us. I want people to wake up and think critically for themselves and understand that we can all fight for change if we aren’t absorbed in our own image. Sometimes we’re blinded by it, but if we look up from our phones, we can fight for change and a better future.”
Michaela DeBenedictis glistens in vivid southern California sun.
The Los Angeles blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist radiates strength, positivity and growth on her debut sun-drenched album, Resilient, with The Sea Tease.
“All the songs are super personal, and I was diagnosed with PTSD five years ago. This album was, ‘Here’s everything that I had to process and all the people I had to process it with.’ ‘Resilient,’ the title track, really came out of that,” said DeBenedictis, frontwoman for The Sea Tease.
“My mother-in-law actually said to me when I was a couple of years into my recovery, ‘Baby girl, you’re resilient. No matter what happens to you, when you get knocked down, you just pick yourself right back up.’ That just really stuck with me, and I ended up writing ‘Resilient’ off of that.”
Released May 1, Resilient includes poignant lyrics beautifully draped in DeBenedictis’ soulful vocals and illustrious bluesy guitar solos alongside vibrant piano, rhythmic bass, soft percussion and tender acoustic guitar. Together, the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation unearth a “desert magic” vulnerability that emits courage and authenticity throughout The Sea Tease’s seven tracks.
Part of that vulnerability shines on “Gold,” a majestic track beaming with echoey sitars, bluesy electric guitars, light cymbal taps, bouncy percussion and bright acoustic guitar.
In a sense, DeBenedictis has become a “Gold Dust Woman” of the southern California desert weathered and worn as she sings, “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea/And that’s where you should be/You can only drain so much life out of my bones/Before they fossilize and turn to gold.”
“It’s been so long now, and I’ve noticed a part of the healing journey is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I used to think that hiding yourself, being tough and not letting anybody in, I thought that was strength. But I realized strength is when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your story with other people,” she said.
With a raw, honest sound, The Gutter Daisies vigorously confront society’s deep fascination with a celebrity’s personal tragedy.
The Los Angeles pop-punk trio of Doug Rockwell (vocals, guitar), Miles Franco (bass) and Mike Diggs (drums) explodes with frustration about the public’s and the media’s treatment and exploitation of mental illness and depression on their latest single, “Celebrity Suicide.”
“We all grew up dealing with anxiety and depression. I feel like nowadays it’s even more common because of social media. It can be a great platform, but it’s also an extremely vain one that has created a false reality that’s unfortunately become an extension of actuality. It’s a place where everyone sees other people’s ‘best of section’ and then automatically assumes their own lives will never be as glamorous,” Rockwell said.
“Celebrity Suicide” opens with deep-tone, grungy guitars and quickly transforms into a rage-filled power protest as Rockwell angrily sings, “I wanna be like my idols/All fucked up in the brain/I could see it play out/Won’t play my songs while I’m around/Unless my life goes down the drain.”
“The same goes for the media. Paparazzi look for people’s weakest moments so they can sell that to media outlets so they can then bring in ratings. It’s all about making a fortune and not so much about the misfortune. ‘Celebrity Suicide’ is a song about just that with some sarcasm sprinkled on the wound,” Rockwell said.
“Celebrity Suicide” is the first new track The Gutter Daisies have released since covering The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in 2018. Their energetic banger of a cover nicely pays tribute to the legendary hip-hop and rap-rock trio’s 1994 classic.
“We were looking for a song to cover that everyone would know no matter who they were, but we didn’t want it to be something you’d hear a run-of-the-mill cover band playing at a local bar,” Rockwell said. “We also wanted it to represent us as a band. ‘Sabotage’ is pretty punk rock, and as soon as it was suggested, we knew we could make it our own without disrupting what the original song had already accomplished.”
The Los Angeles art pop collective brilliantly emits abundant ‘60s-infused rays of doo-wop, jazz, skiffle, R&B, classical and baroque rock throughout their sparkling 12-track, full-length debut, “Whatever It Is,” which drops Friday.
“It’s about acceptance and equanimity, and it’s about making peace with yourself,” said Samuel Joseph, Hello Forever’s lead vocalist. “It wasn’t a choice or decision. I find that when I try too critically to control the music, it doesn’t work out. The things that came through on the songs came on their own.”
Along with bandmates Gabe Stout, Andy Jimenez, Joey Briggs, Molly Pease, Anand Darsie and Jaron Crespi, Joseph spent 200 days in bedrooms and borrowed studios throughout Santa Monica and Castaic, Calif., to create and record elaborate arrangements for a sunny collection of concise pop songs.
“Some songs I wrote in five minutes and recorded the entirety in a single session. Other songs took a little longer than that,” he said. “I was doing everything I could to serve the creative process. It was awesome having the time and places where I could write and record these songs.”
Hello Forever’s scintillating “Whatever It Is” adventure starts with “Some Faith,” a two-minute head trip filled with high-tone energetic guitars, lush mash-ups of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and sticky pop melodies – “I saw you in the light for the first time/Heaven cried ‘open’ and rained down on me/It was love, it was love/Why’d it terrify me?”
“‘Some Faith’ is about trusting your feelings or at least learning to trust your feelings when you care about somebody,” said Joseph about the band’s first single and video.
The Boston singer-songwriter will make her first live appearance at the intimate 48-seat music club with world-renowned bassist Freebo, who’s performed with Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“Freebo and I have been working together for the last three years. He produced my last record, ‘Visions,’ which came out in May of last year, and he and I have been touring together a lot. For this show, we’re billing it as he will be my special guest, so he’ll do an opening set, and then he’ll back me on the bass,” said Howe about her set with Freebo for Friday’s sold-out show.
“It’s really fun because I get to sing harmonies on his songs, and it’s a really collaborative thing that we’ve put together that just works out really well for both of us. We’re excited to take that to Black Crystal.”
Howe forged a fateful partnership with Freebo nearly four years ago at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. After meeting and chatting with him, she went through her record collection at home and discovered his musical collaborations with Raitt, Young and a host of other rock legends.
“That was a very cool moment for me where I realized, ‘Wow, I’ve met somebody,’ and we had a lot in common as far as our taste in music and production styles and singing styles and all this stuff was so in line with each other,” Howe said. “I grew up listening to the era of music that he really came up under, so for me to meet somebody from that time was like, ‘Oh my god, I felt like he was sent to me.’”
Having Musical ‘Visions’
Those similarities quickly led Howe to enlist Freebo as her musical mentor, collaborator and producer for “Visions,” a 10-track, introspective folk-blues expedition filled with striking originals and smashing covers from Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. It’s a gorgeous extension of her 2017 debut folk EP, “You’ve Been Away So Long.”
For “Visions,” Howe relocated from Boston to Bakersfield, Calif., to record her full-length debut with Freebo, Fuzzbee Morse (electric guitar), John “JT” Thomas (keys) and John Molo (percussion). In fact, her creative expedition begins with the nature-inspired “Twilight” and includes a much-needed Michigan winter sonic escape to a serene world dotted with dirt roads, sunlight, ocean and trees.