Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. Book coming soon! See my complete profile
This week’s NYC Scene Report features Pros & iCons performing some “Magic,” the “Dreams” of Cassandra Kubinski, Gon wanting to see you “Alive,” and the first new music from Longwave in ten years.
* NYC-based alt-pop band Pros & iCons will be wrapping up their first co-headlining tour with a hometown show on October 28th at Gold Sounds in Brooklyn. The show will mark the first time the band will be performing their upcoming single, “Sword & Stone,” for an NY audience.
While “Sword & Stone” won’t be released until this Friday, October 25th, you can whet your appetite for it by checking out “Magic,” which was released earlier this year. The band explained the inspiration for “Magic,” saying, “Much of what we do is inspired by ‘80s music, so we wanted to capture the pop side of that iConic era in ‘Magic.’ Though we couldn’t forget to tip our hats to the ‘90s. We are ‘90s kids at heart.”
This isn’t a trick, but it is some alt-pop “Magic.”
* Last month NYC-based singer/songwriter Cassandra Kubinski teamed up with Tony Daniels to release a co-written and co-produced EP titled Dreams, and now the title track has an incredibly creative video done by Daniels himself.
Created by hand, shot, and edited by Daniels, the clip features time lapse chalk drawing and animation that perfectly matches the feel of the song.
Speaking of the EP that bears the song’s name, Kubinski said, in a statement, “Each track expresses love for life, fun, family, and the simplicity of looking to the future and chasing dreams,” adding, “The acoustic basis of the project tinged with whimsical musical elements like kazoo, toy piano, and mandolin gives the whole EP this easy breezy feel that we hope will become the soundtrack for people when they want to simply feel good, lighter, and happier, just because.”
Check out “Dreams,” and dream a little with Cassandra Kubinski.
* Rarely do you hear a voice that’s so stunning it immediately grabs your attention. It’s even rarer that there’s a video that matches such a voice, but this is the case with the latest from Gon.
The NYC, by way of Tel Aviv, singer-songwriter with an operatic background will be releasing his debut album, Diagonal Fields, this Friday, and the song “Alive,” and accompanying music video, are truly something special.
Click play, and be prepared to be blown away.
* A decade is an eternity in band years, but that’s how long NYC indie rockers Longwave were on hiatus before coming back together to write and record their fifth album, If We Ever Live Forever, due out this Friday via Bodan Kuma Recordings.
Judging by the title track, there are zero signs of rust, as the band sounds just as good as ever. They’re also ready for the road, as they have a tour of the Northeast that kicks off in early November, including a hometown date at Webster Hall on November 15th.
Check out “If We Ever Live Forever,” and catch this wave.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Katy Perry hopping on a Harley, to Rihanna’s “visual autobiography,” to Foo Fighters putting their own spin on two classics, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* That new Katy Perry song you just started hearing on the radio is “Harleys in Hawaii.” Scrapped potential titles for the song included “Mopeds in Minneapolis,” and “Scooters in Sheboygan.”
* K-pop supergroup SuperM debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with SuperM: The 1st Mini Album. This comes a little over two months after the group was formed. I think only Jordy had a faster rise to fame.
* Rihanna celebrated the release of her new “visual autobiography,” Rihanna, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Do you know what we used to call a “visual autobiography?” A picture book. Of course, it’s tough to charge $150 for a picture book, so “visual autobiography” it is. Those kids at the dentist’s office have no idea how lucky they are with their posh “visual article collections” … also known as Highlights.
* DMX canceled a series of scheduled performances, and checked himself into a rehab clinic for substance abuse. It’s gotta be tough for a guy to go through a 12 step program when he’s used to just four steps – stop, drop, shut ‘em down, open up shop.
* Miley Cyrus and Cody Simpson are pop music’s newest couple. I gotta admit, I find this a bit confusing, because I could’ve sworn I knew of every character on The Simpsons.
* Filter was forced postponed their tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their sophomore album, Title of Record, due to scheduling conflicts involving frontman Richard Patrick’s work in film scoring. So instead of going on tour, he’ll … take a (motion) picture.
* Foo Fighters surprised fans with another unannounced EP, this one titled, 01020225 (which totally just rolls off the tongue). The four track effort has covers of The B-52’s song “Planet Claire,” and the Psychedelic Furs’ “Sister Europe,” as well as Foo Fighters’ originals ”The One," which appeared on the soundtrack to the 2002 movie Orange County, and “Win Or Lose,” which was on the soundtrack to the 2001 movie Out Cold. Quick question – if a Foo Fighters cover band does a cover of Foo Fighters doing a cover, does the universe implode?
* Julien’s Auctions has one of Kurt Cobain’s custom guitars available, as well as the cardigan he wore during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance, as part of a two day auction that will be held this Friday and Saturday. The people who bid, but don’t win these items, will be offered all apologies.
* Echosmith have released the title track off their upcoming album, Lonely Generation (due out January of 2020), and it’s another pop gem. In a statement, the band said of the song, and video, “No matter what situation we’re in, we’re constantly being consumed by our phones, and having the hardest time being present. This video really captures that, while also serving as a sneak peek into every single video we made for this album. We made a total of 12 music videos. So stay tuned.”
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
The story of Tokyo-based trip-hop artist UKICO is one that spans three continents, and includes time spent at multiple musical meccas.
Born to a Japanese mother and a French father, UKICO was raised in France, and attended La Sorbonne. After graduating, she moved to Tokyo before eventually making her way to NYC to study music engineering at the Institute of Audio Research. While in NYC she worked at both Strange Weather Recording Studio, and Birdland jazz club, before returning to Tokyo, which she once again calls home.
UKICO recently released her debut single, “Denial,” which is a trip-hop gem with a local twist.
Owning a strong sense of personality history, UKICO incorporates traditional Japanese instruments in her work, which is why “Denial” features the shakuhachi, a Japanese a bamboo flute. UKICO’s heritage also plays a prominent role in the video for “Denial,” which is the first of a trilogy based on the Japanese mythology of Japan’s creation.
Wanting to know more, I caught up with UKICO to find out about her incredible journey, the story behind “Denial,” and how the visually stunning music video came together.
I gotta start with your name. Does UKICO have a special meaning?
It’s actually my Japanese name, Yukiko, which means snow child.
I spelled it in a different way to be more artistic, starting with a U as in Universe, which is a big theme in my life and projects.
You have a fascinating personal history, with time spent in France, NYC, and Tokyo. Where, in all of this, did you discover your affinity for trip-hop, and how did you go about nurturing that love?
The love for trip-hop came when I was studying music engineering. As I learned manipulation of sounds, and trained my ear, I got to really listen, and discovered a whole new world in music. After that I could hear music so differently, with more depth and details. It became fascinating. Therefore how could I not be fascinated by trip-hop’s legends Massive Attack and Portishead!
I also think that being French made me drawn to the sexiness in their sounds, the slower tempo vibes.
I was also living in Brooklyn, which was a nest for indie music and creators.
When I interned at Strange Weather (in Brooklyn), we got to record Ghostface Killah’s album 36 Seasons. The process was fascinating, starting off with recording drum loops, adding drum machines, bass hooks, guitar hooks, etc., and that’s how I produce now, starting off with vintage drums and samples, sounds that inspire me, creating a mood and vibe first before creating the song structure.
Tell me about the importance of incorporating Japanese instruments into your music.
I wanted my music to reflect who I am, and my roots. I was born and raised in France, but after university I moved to Tokyo because I felt the need to get to know my other culture.
Japanese culture has so much depth, and sensitivity, and the fascinating traditional Japanese instruments express that very well, I think.
After leaving NY, because my Visa ran out, I actually wasn’t sure where to go next. I came back to Tokyo just to see, but I think that was the universe making me come back to have that idea of using these instruments – the koto, shakuhachi, shamisen, taiko.
The day after I decided to use traditional Japanese instruments I immediately got connected with a famous koto teacher at Geidai, the Tokyo University of the Arts. He got so inspired by spreading those beautiful Japanese instruments to the youth, and a different audience, that he invited me to class, and a lot of their shows!
Now I play shows with a shakuhachi musician, or an electric shamisen musician!
“Denial” is your debut single. What was the inspiration for the song?
Looking back at the process of writing my album (which will be released next year), every song reveals a piece, a moment of my growth through my spiritual discoveries and the therapeutic process of creation.
“Denial” was written at the beginning of the journey, after a tough break up. I was in total denial of shutting my heart to love, but when writing this song the chorus’ words came out with the melody unexpectedly – “Hiding from a new romance.”
Looking back now there was another layer of “Denial,” blaming the other for the pain while I was causing it to myself, feeling responsible, etc.
It’s a beautiful thing to uncover your subconscious thoughts, I think that’s where you find strength and growth. Admitting them is the hardest part, which I think writing this song helped me to do.
How did you land on the mythology of Japan’s creation as a visual representation for the song?
My Japanese grandfather is from Izumo, a holy place in Japan where a lot of the mythologies take place.
The music video is about the two first gods who created Japan – Izanagi and Izanami. They birth the land, then the gods, but Izanami (the female), after birthing the god of fire, dies and goes into the underworld.
You can actually find the underworld’s door in Izumo, as well as the tomb of Izanami!
As it is a Buddhist and Shintoist culture, we believe there is a god in everything – wind, mountains, trees, etc. – and every year for one month all the gods gather in Izumo-taisha, which is one of the biggest temples in Japan, to have a meeting about Japan.
All of these stories, and also my personal beliefs, made me want to use mythological stories in my projects. Spirituality is a huge part of my life and creative process, but you can also say that the video is kind of an homage to my family and roots.
How did the video come together – from the setting, to the dancers, to the makeup?
My dear friend Amazing Jiro is an SFX makeup artist who is as good hearted as he is talented, and we always talked about collaborating together. I wanted to be the fallen god Izanami, and have my skin broken into pieces. “Who else could do that!” I thought.
Another dear friend, Yulia Shur, who is a Belarusian photographer and art director living in Tokyo, was also very involved in the project.
From the start we were brainstorming ideas to make my initial idea into a music video.
When I went to Geidai to watch some concerts there were a few with Nihon Buyo dancers, and I was fascinated by them. (They had) beautiful, slow movements, even a bit creepy. Right away I found this amazing Nihon Buyo dancer, Asuna Hanayagi, who is featured in my video.
The butoh dancers were Yulia’s idea. She was actually taking classes, and took me with her. I loved it very much, as it doesn’t involve much technique, but rather pure improv on a theme, and your feelings. (It’s) pure expression, and very therapeutic.
So we got the teachers – Yuri Nagaoka, and Temmetsu – on board to perform a ritual on me, growing the darkness inside to finally push me into the underworld in the video.
We also got the chance to collaborate with an amazing lighting artist, Yosuke Shimada, whose style is very unique.
The gorgeous scenery was actually by luck. I really wanted to shoot in a cave, and the director, Chris Rudz, knew of one in Miura (an hour and half from Tokyo), where he actually had a party, but when going location hunting we discovered this surreal gorgeous beach. It was like the gods showed us where they wanted the scene to take place.
My First Time is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where artists discuss some of the major artistic firsts from their life.
Anna Rose is one of the most badass women in New York City’s indie music scene. Whether she’s rockin’ out, playing a blues tune, or diving into her singer-songwriter side, she never fails to impress.
Her latest album, The Light Between, was released earlier this month, and fans of the television show This Is Us may already be familiar with one of the songs, as “Nobody Knows I’m Here” was featured on the show during season three.
With The Light Between being fresh in everyone’s ears, Anna sat down with me to discuss some of the major artistic firsts from her life.
One of my first times performing on stage
I remember doing a lot of talent shows when I was a kid, and one of my favorite talent show memories was when I was playing in my band, I think we were called The Rip Tides. My guitar teacher had put it together. It was his daughter, and me, and a few other kids, and we played the song “Cocaine,” Eric Clapton. I was probably 11 or 12.
I remember we started doing it, and we got to the first chorus, and I hear from the wings – again, this is at my middle school – I hear from my guitar teacher, my friend’s dad, “Say Rogaine! Rogaine! Just say Rogaine!” So we replaced the word “cocaine” with “Rogaine” for the rest of the song. Obviously some teacher had run up to the side of the stage like, “What the fuck!”
I was dancing as a little girl, too. I started dancing as soon as I could walk. Some of my earliest memories, they’re fuzzy now, but I remember being on stage, very distinctly. It wasn’t so much “how did I do,” because that didn’t really matter. That’s the thing I try to hone in on now – it doesn’t really matter. Yes, the connection with the audience matters, but I find that when I feel joyful on stage I’m connecting with people, and that’s what matters.
My first time buying an album
I remember, distinctly, buying No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom, and being so excited to open it, but I refused to unwrap it until I got home. I was given the option to listen to it in the car with everyone else, but I said no, I don’t want to do that, I want to listen to it in my room, by myself, because I had a CD player in my room.
I remember the unwrapping of the plastic. I remember that moment. I remember looking at the booklet.
That was a pinnacle moment in my life, opening that record.
My (little) sister kept trying to come in to listen to it with me. Bless her, she wanted to spend time with me, and I just wanted to listen to this record by myself. I was that way a lot with records that I loved, I didn’t want to listen to them with anyone else, I needed to listen to them for the first time by myself. It was a rule that I had when I was a kid.
I went to a boarding school when I was in high school, and I had friends who wanted to listen to albums with me, but if I hadn’t heard a record I had to listen to it by myself. I had to be alone, by myself, to listen to an album for the first time, if it was an artist that I deeply cared about.
My first time attending a concert
Honestly, I cannot remember what year this was. I remember it being told to me when I was going to this concert that this is my first concert. I think that maybe this was my first huge concert. I think it was Elton John, which is fucking awesome if that’s actually true.
I think both of my parents took me and my sister. I think we were sitting in nose bleeds, and I think it was Madison Square Garden.
I don’t have (anything from the show), but I do have a lot of my dad’s old concert tees. My dad’s old Rolling Stones baseball tee from the ‘70s … I only wear it on very very special occasions, and I rarely wear it out of the house.
I have an insane collection of vintage t-shirts.
My first time writing an original song
I know I was around five. The first person I obviously played it for was my dad. I think he just overheard me doing it.
I started to take piano lessons when I was two, and around five was when I switched over to guitar. I think I was sort of always taking whatever I learned on my instrument and turning it into my own, whether it was some derivation of what I was learning, or not.
I don’t remember the lyrics. I think if I went through my old papers in my room … I still, to this day, will find old lyrics from when I was really really really young. I must have kept them in a folder, or something, but I did write them down.
My first consistent open mic night
I did open mic nights when I was in high school, and I did a lot of open mic nights in college.
I remember I played this club on Sunset (Boulevard) called the Cat Club (which was sold in 2011). I think it was next to the Whiskey. I used to play there … I think it was once a week. When schoolwork got busy it would be once a month, but I tried to do it once a week.
I remember this guy Ian used to book me there. It was a club that was way more known as a bar for … motorcycle enthusiasts, if you will. At the time I was writing a lot of singer-songwriter, mellow tunes, and they were not super well received.
I played this open mic night over and over and over again, and I remember the moment when I felt like maybe I had honed some performance skills was when they stopped shouting over me and telling me to get off the stage.
Those guys did not care. They would certainly throw things. They were not excited (to hear me).
That was over a year of challenging myself to just get back on stage … not to be intimidated, and to just get back on stage.
I think that if there was one thing I’d tell anyone coming up – because it’s so easy now to record a song on GarageBand, or even if you learn Logic, or even if you learn Pro Tools, and you start getting into recording music at home – there’s really nothing like honing your skills at an open mic night, because there are certain things I learned in those scenarios that you can’t learn sitting in your room.
This week’s NYC Scene Report features steve. dealing with an “Ankle Biter,” Shana Falana with a plea to “Come and Find Me,” No Swoon getting lost in-between a dream and reality, and WIVES making the request to “Hit Me Up.”
* If you’re looking for a band that’s, in their own words, “pop-punk but not THAT kind,” it’s time to meet steve.
The New Jersey-based foursome just signed with I Surrender Records, which will be releasing the band’s upcoming full length album, You Can Do This, Too, on November 8th.
The lead single from the album is “Ankle Biter,” which steve. vocalist/guitarist Kyle O’Connor explained in a statement, saying, “‘Ankle Biter’ came from feelings of not being a good friend, which evolved into realizing I wasn't the problem. It’s about dealing with a manipulative person, one who takes advantage of a friendship for their own personal gain. Kind of like if you’re a rich kid, and your friends are only your friends to hang out in the basement home movie theater of your parents’ split level, open concept house – they’re not your friends, they just wanna fuck your roommate.”
Check out the wildly creative video for “Ankle Biter,” and get to know steve. … and steve.’s monster (don’t worry, that isn’t a euphemism).
* Veteran singer-songwriter Shana Falana is ready to shine her Darkest Light, which is the title of her upcoming album, due out October 25th via Arrowhawk Records.
Discussing Darkest Light, Falana said in a statement, “I’ve been around a while. I was an addict. I worked on the fringe of the sex industry in New York City for two years. I know that even in the darkest lives, everyone still has their light. People still shine. Darkest Light is an album of mantras.”
The first mantra is the single “Come and Find Me,” which she explained the inspiration for, saying, “This is the only song on the record that is not ‘new.’ I wrote it while still living in BK over a decade ago, and at the time (not yet sober) I thought I was waiting for my love, my prince, my savior to come to me. Since then I’ve realized it was a plea to myself. It took me years to get to a place where I felt I could put this song out, and perform it regularly. It’s from the deepest, quietest part of my heart. When we decided to put this on the record I knew it needed to be the first single … so it could stand on its own for a while.”
Check out the video, and come find Shana Falana.
* Shoegaze and dream pop lovers, be prepared to swoon over Brooklyn-based duo No Swoon.
Consisting of Tasha Abbott and Zack Nestel-Patt, No Swoon will be releasing their self-titled debut album on November 1st, via Substitute Scene Records.
The lead single off the album is “Don’t Wake Up, Wake Up,” and Abbott describes the trippy video for the song, saying, “The music video for ‘Don't Wake Up, Wake Up’ follows two people searching for and finding themselves lost, slipping between a dream and reality,” adding, “this song started from a dream of mine. Usually my dreams are very darkly lit, or at night with muted colors, except there is always one or two objects that are highly saturated in a brighter color.”
Check out “Don’t Wake Up, Wake Up,” and wake up to No Swoon.
* Queens-based indie rockers WIVES released their long-awaited debut album, So Removed, earlier this month via City Slang, along with something else many fans had been waiting for – a video for the song “Hit Me Up.”
The clip was directed by Carson Cox (of Merchandise), who explained his vision, saying, “No matter how big the bad wolf, there is always a weakness. We tried to remind ourselves here in this video – things aren’t always as they seem.”
Check out the clip, and enjoy the musical matrimony of WIVES.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, with my 41st birthday being tomorrow, I decided to make this week's Pop Shots a special playlist dedicated to going out in your 40s.
As you know, I attend a lot of concerts, but seeing anywhere from 75 to 100 bands in a year while in your 40s is waaaaay different from when you’re in your 20s. How so? This playlist will explain, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
Winger – Seventeen
I knew that during the final years of Warped Tour I was going to feel like everyone’s dad – partially because a buddy of mine got into the event with a “guardian” pass because he was chaperoning a teenage family member – but over the past year this phenomenon has started happening in music venues that you need to be of legal drinking age to enter.
Multiple times this year I’ve looked around, turned to a buddy, and commented that damned near everyone looked like they should be working on their algebra homework.
In your 40s, everyone under 30 looks like a child, so while someone may actually be 28, as far as I can tell, “she’s only seventeen.”
Ariana Grande – “Problem”
Back in my younger years, having a few drinks, and then having a few more, was easy. I’d feel perfectly fine the next morning, and be able to go on about my day like nothing happened. Now the only thing I’m excessive about is moderation (that actually makes sense. I swear.). After a few drinks I know I could have another, but I’d rather wake up feeling refreshed than feeling like death, so I’ll pass.
When it comes to that extra drink, to quote Ariana Grande, “I got one less problem without ya.”
Mötley Crüe – “Home Sweet Home”
Admission – I have fantasized about my bed while at concerts where one of the bands isn’t especially good, and if the final band I’m there to see isn’t wowing me I have no issue with leaving the show early to catch an extra half hour of sleep.
“I’m on my way / I’m on my way / Home sweet home”
Christina Aguilera – “Come On Over”
Honestly, at this point if I’m going to drink, I’d prefer to do it at home, where the alcohol is cheaper, and I don’t have to worry about driving anywhere. Friends are always welcome to “Come On Over,” however, I’m also fine …
Billy Idol – “Dancing With Myself”
That’s right, I will have a one person dance party, and there won’t be anybody who can judge my moves – or incredible lack there of.
The Dance Dance Revolution will not be televised!
Katy Perry – “Wide Awake”
Ten years ago Semisonic’s “Closing Time” would’ve been on my “Going Out” playlist, because, like Aerosmith, my feeling was “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” In my 40s, however, I’m more interested in being “Wide Awake” the next morning, and being an actual functioning human being … or at least my version of one. Hey, work has to get done, bills have to be paid, weights need to be lifted, errands need to be run. I can only do a few of those things half dead.
The Summer Set – “All In”
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, so even in my 40s, in the right circumstance, and around the right group of friends, there’s a chance I might be going “All In.”
“Now it’s 4AM in the parking lot / We’ll be singing Blink songs ’til the sun comes up / Cause I don’t know if we’ll be here again / Singing, ‘oh, we're going all in.’”
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.