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Stolen Jars came out of 2011, out of the lead up to graduating High School, out of leaving home. During that year spent recording guitar loops in my bedroom, I was brought back to the punk and ska records I listened to as a kid, and still listened to, brought again to the many indie, art-rock, and pop artists who had opened my eyes to what was possible, to what I liked about music. All of this somehow turned into an album, and then, with Molly three years later, into a second one. Stolen Jars came out of our hometown, out of the growing music scene that somehow cropped up in Montclair, NJ, but it became something more. It became music about leaving home, finding a new one, and trying to remember.
“Beautifully layered harmonies and droned out drums drive Shana Falana’s upcoming shoegaze-y record.” – Noisey
“the most entrancing modern psychedelic pop now being made” – Chronogram
“a kaleidoscopic, trippy gem that shines as brilliantly in 2015 as it would’ve in a Berkeley drug den during the Summer of Love” – Village Voice
It’s been a busy couple of years since New York’s Shana Falana went solo, self-releasing 2011’s In The Light EP. The veteran dream pop artist has toured all over the US and Europe. She’s released two Bandcamp-only collections of lo-fi works, Channel and Velvet Pop, as well as a cassette-only document of her early-career music, Shana Falana Sings Herself To Sleep, which raised over $10k for the Euro Tour. She frequently throws new song ideas onto her Soundcloud, often recorded directly to her phone. But for all her globetrotting, archiving, and micro-releasing, this is the moment we’ve been waiting for: Set Your Lightning Fire Free.
A lightning fire is exactly what it sounds like, the earth at odds with itself, burning itself to the ground and starting from scratch. On this, her debut LP, Shana Falana makes a point of breaking her own rules. “I’ve always kept the different sides of my music separate. The ambient ballads, the fuzzed out stuff, they all needed to exist as their own statements,” says Falana. “I would have two or three bands at one time: a sludge rock band; a Bulgarian women’s choir; a pretty, dreamy organ and guitar duo. This is the first record where I’ve combined all of that, sometimes in the course of one song.”
Rather than spending months in the studio, laboring over arrangements and fussing over takes, Falana ripped out SYLFF in just over a week. The songs were already compact and fully realized from years of touring. Recorded at ISOKON studios in upstate New York with producer Dan Goodwin (Devo, Kaki King), SYLFF’s working mantra was a) get the idea down b) move on c) don’t look back. Shana chose to record the vocals herself alone in various locations, everywhere from her bathroom to a little girl’s bedroom. And for the first time, Shana wrote and performed her own lead guitar parts.
The result is a record of stark confidence. Muscular guitar riffs and thundering drums prevail, while Shana’s two decades of songwriting and performing lend authority and emotion to one or two word refrains like “Gone,” “Go,” and “There’s a Way.” “Anything,” with its Bollywood strings and industrial groove, climaxes with repeated shouts of “No, you didn’t take anything from me!” in a way that would make James Murphy sweat. Lead single “Heavenstay” takes the lilting “higher, higher, higher” refrain of In The Light’s “Light The Fire” and absolutely soars with the most explosive chorus of the LP. Day-Glo guitars are smeared across this record, along with Falana’s veritable army of vocals stacked and vibrating with her eastern European influences.
The other noticeable difference is the addition of steady drummer and creative companion, Mike Amari. The two met at a garden party Shana was playing, bonding over a love for Bauhaus. A few weeks later they were on their first date at a Bright Eyes concert (which Nate from Team Love invited them to), and soon after they were setting up to play together for the first time in an abandoned theater in Kingston, NY. Mike’s minimalistic and tribal approach to drumming was a perfect fit with Shana’s droning dream pop, and within six months they were heading out on their first national tour.
Her debut full-length album set to release on April 7th on Team Love Records.
To merely call Christian Lee Hutson an old soul would be to deny the vibrancy of his sound. Championed by LA Record as “sparse and graceful,” Hutson writes songs that the SF Bay Guardian describes as, “… Foreboding, bluesy love ballads laden with longing nostalgia.” Despite the maturity and commitment to tradition found in the 23-year-old singer-songwriter’s songs, they vibrate with a youthful energy as if a drunk and sedentary George Jones was being channeled through a drunk and animated Conor Oberst.
Hutson’s debut solo E.P. Will Never Break Up marked his stylistic shift away from the dustbowl-era sound of his past project The Driftwood Singers in favor of a more recent tradition of country songwriting in the vein of Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. This lean towards the modern continued with Hutson’s full-length debut The Hell With It, released on Trailer Fire Records in March 2013. The Hell With It found Hutson working once again alongside Grammy-nominated producer David Mayfield, who also produced the Driftwood Singers’ debut.
Hutson released his second full-length solo album Yeah Ok, I Know last year, and in a non-traditional way. Instead of putting out the album in its entirety, Hutson released it in installments over the course of 2014. Each month, a new song was made available for digital download through Hutson’s web site and Bandcamp page. The full album was released physically January 6.
Christian Lee Hutson still maintains the same rigorous touring schedule that took the Driftwood Singers across the U.S. and back any number of tread-wearing times, so come out and join him for a sour drink of some sort and some newborn songs that retain a feel so well-worn, weathered, and welcoming that they whimper and creak as they pull a stool out for you at the bar.
There is strange dissonance resonating in the Chicago-based musician J Fernandez. You might also find it strangely familiar. While his tunes catch you with their impeccable hooks, hypnotic grooves, warm tones, and crafty structures there lies subtle darkness in these songs. Whether it comes from the woozy combo organs fighting frequencies or the bummer lyrics that leave you feeling hollow, Fernandez is grasping for something real. While “nostalgia” is a comfortable word to describe these tunes, not all pop music has to fall into that blasé carefree zone. In fact, that might undermine not only Fernandez’s craft but also the amount of painfully, self-conscious awareness that makes his compositions so reflective and true. They are personal tunes but ones crafted so well as to ring in our collective unconscious, instantly begging the question Where have I heard this before?
Tuff Sunshine is a 3-piece pared-down indie-rock trio that Time-Out New York accurately describes as “cool, emotive indie fare that skillfully fuses funky soul with wiry post-punk.” The band features Johnny Leitera (guitar/vocals), Ani Cordero (drums/vocals) and Turner Stough (bass). Those online offering accolades and critical praise include My Old Kentucky Blog, The Huffington Post, Tom Tom Magazine, Obscure Sound and BPM, among others. The band were AOL/ Spinner.com’s “Download of the Day” and were prominently featured by Nic Harcourt (“America’s most influential DJ”) on his nationally-syndicated “Connections” radio show. They were recently named a “NY Band You Oughta Know” by stagebuddy.com and “New Band of the Day” by the UK blog Louder Than War.
Influences range from the punk and post-punk of the 80’s and 90’s to the great Stax recordings of the 60’s and 70’s, with a concentration on evocative lyrics and a direct, no-frills approach to production. Each member brings their own vibe to the arrangements, solidifying the band’s distinct sound, which continues to define itself while it continues to expand in scope.
Tuff Sunshine has been playing consistently in NYC and beyond, including a string of East Coast dates with legendary Brazilian band Os Mutantes (who Ani has toured with in the past). Their first EP, Half-Mast Steadfast set the pace, being recorded after the band had been together for less than 3 months, leading to the 2nd EP Kids Know , which was recorded and mixed by famed no-wave pioneer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Brian Eno). The band is currently working on their first full-length, due out early 2015 to be entitled Fire In the Hero Building.