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, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
This week’s NYC Scene Report features the debut track from industrial synth pop artist Lye Marlow, a post-breakup R&B jam from Loveskills, a first listen of indie pop supergroup Blush, and the NYC stories of indie pop-rock artist The Make Pretend.
* I’m a sucker for an artist with a unique sound, and with a mixture of industrial synth pop, and downtempo, as well as a background that includes being a classically trained cellist, Lye Marlow hits the uniqueness bullseye with her debut single, “Headlights.”
Marlow explains the inspiration for the song, saying, “I wrote ‘Headlights’ when I was allowing someone else’s behavior to make me feel like I wasn’t enough. The song is about challenging that inclination, and asserting that anyone who doesn’t see your light is missing the point. ‘Headlights’ is an anthem of self-empowerment, and a stance against anyone who would denigrate your character under the glare of their assumptions.”
Click play on “Headlights,” and get inspired by Lye Marlow.
* Longtime column favorite Loveskills is back with an R&B jam titled “What About Us.” Laced with a funky piano, the song features a message anyone who’s ever had a bad breakup can related to.
As Loveskills sings the lyrics, “Don’t wanna be friends,” and, “Don’t wanna make amends,” all of us have at least one person from our past who comes to mind.
When I asked Loveskills about the song, he said, “I've been told that it's an online dating anthem, but I'd rather leave it up the listener.”
Click play on “What About Us,” and decide what it means to you.
* Oftentimes in the indie scene, a new group arises out of the ashes of one that disbanded. This is the case with Blush, which is the project of Darlings’ Maura Lynch.
She explains the band’s origin story, saying after Darlings’ final show in 2015, “I turned to a cache of bedroom demos I had been recording sporadically under the name Blush — something I honestly came up with just as a way to organize them on my computer. Inspired by my love of straightforward pop songs, simple guitar playing, and layered vocals, the Blush demos became a diary of sorts of my late 20s – songs about loving people who didn’t deserve it, songs about loving people who did, making sense of the monotony of an office job, and finding my own steadier footing along the way. Last year, I felt ready to finally record them for real.”
Lynch then reached out to her friends Jon and Nick Campolo of PILL, and Andy Chugg of Pop. 1280, to complete the Blush lineup, and in the process, form an NYC indie music super group.
Blush’s self-titled debut album is due out December 8th on Arrowhawk Records, and you can check out the lead single, “Daisy Chain,” right here.
* The Make Pretend – which is the performance name of NYC indie pop-rock artist Jason Verlaine – has experienced some very real adventures in his life, and he wants to tell you all about them.
Originally from western Massachusetts, he made his way to NYC in 2002, equipped with an insatiable lust for life. According to his bio, he was “in pursuit of everything … and lots of it. From late nights dancing with men dressed as unicorns at the Boiler Room, to afternoon tea in the Plaza Hotel.”
With a bevy of stories to tell, Verlaine has decided to start telling them through his music, releasing his debut album, Fortune Factory, last month.
The album is a collection of his NYC experiences, and you can check out the video for the lead single, “Sorry I Let You Down,” right here.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.
If you frequent this site, or have ever had a conversation with me about music, you know I love showing up to concerts early enough to catch every act, because I often discover great bands who happen to be opening.
The other week I attended a show at Arlene’s Grocery in the LES, and on the four band bill the opener was a Long Island-based rock trio named Like Minded Criminals. Their set was yet another reminder of why I arrive early to concerts.
What made them so memorable?
1. They want to rock your face off
From the first chord, to the final drumbeat, Like Minded Criminals played a blistering set of hard rock that emulated the ideology of Barney Stinson’s “Get Psyched” mixtape – “People think a good mix should rise and fall. But people are wrong. It should be all rise, baby!”
There may have been one slow song in their entire set, and if you didn’t take the opportunity to breathe then, you blew it!
2. They have some retro hard rock influences
Somewhere around the second, or third, song in their set I felt a slightly familiar vibe. The way the bass was being played, and the drums were sounding, was vaguely reminiscent of The Toadies (if you don’t remember The Toadies, they had a hit in 1994 with the song “Possum Kingdom,” and yes, I know I’m old).
This was very cool to me because, point blank, it’s a great f*cking sound.
3. They have a sense of humor
Like Minded Criminals don’t feel the need to be completely serious on stage. How do I know this? Because I’m the guy who will yell things when there’s a brief lull in the action. For some reason, any sort of momentary silence calls to me to say something stupid, and it occasionally results in some fantastic interactions. One such interaction happened during Like Minded Criminals’ set.
Band: This is a song.
Me: I LOVE songs!
Band: It’s not a love song!
Also, near the end of their set they mentioned their merch table, and noted, “You know how to buy CDs.”
While bands want to be rock gods, you gotta love a band that also has a sense of humor, and likes to have a little fun while rocking out.
To find out when, and where, Like Minded Criminals will be performing next, check out their Facebook page for show dates.
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 Taylor Swift’s sales domination, to Eminem morphing into being a pop artist, to People’s latest Sexiest Man Alive, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* Taylor Swift’s Reputation sold over one million copies in the U.S. in just its first four days of release, making it the first album to sell a million copies in a tracking week in nearly two years. Taylor’s been celebrating this by reposting pictures fans have taken of themselves with the album, using the hashtag #reputaylurking, and the new Twitter account @reputaylurking. In a related story, if you post a picture of yourself reading Adam’s World, I will definitely re-tweet it!
* Eminem released a new single, titled “Walk on Water,” that features Beyonce. Remember when Eminem ripped pop culture to shreds, and insulted every artist in the Top 40? Now he works with Beyonce, Rihanna, and Pink. This is the equivalent of Uncle Luke buying overcoats for strippers.
* Train frontman Pat Monahan announced his latest venture – Drops of Jupiter wine. For only $20 a bottle you can have the alcoholic version of dental office waiting room adult-contemporary rock. Mmm, now that’s bland!
* Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert are getting their own VH1 reality show, titled Teyana & Iman, this coming February. If it turns out to be like the vast majority of reality shows involving couples, they’ll end up breaking up … or someone will need tuna explained to them.
* Jordin Sparks revealed to People magazine that she is now married, and expecting a child. The fact that none of us knew these things means either she’s fantastic at keeping secrets, or we stopped paying attention to Jordin Sparks a long time ago.
* In a controversial ruling, Meek Mill was sentenced to serve up to four years in prison for violating his probation. Man, this guy loses EVERY battle!
* Carrie Underwood reportedly fell on the steps outside her home, and is currently recuperating from the incident. If she has a good sense of humor, her husband should buy her a Life Alert for Christmas.
* Brand New cancelled its remaining 2017 tour dates after accusations of sexual misconduct against lead singer Jesse Lacey, who reportedly preyed on underage female fans. Leaving aside the whole, disturbing, underage thing, as someone who was around in the ‘80s, and has read a plethora of hair metal band biographies, I gotta say, if you’re in a band, and it requires convincing to get someone to take their clothes off, there’s a pretty good chance your band sucks.
* Blake Shelton was named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. People would've named me the Sexiest Man Alive, but they had a problem with me being too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it huuuurts.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
A friend of mine recently sent me the video for LA punk rock trio TEST’s latest single, “Entertainment Tonight.” This set off a chain of emails with my replied subject line, “Those awful looking nachos.”
When you click play on the video you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
I caught up with TEST vocalist Blake Stokes to find out more about the band’s questionable cooking skills, and what else listeners can expect when taking a listen to the trio’s full length debut, Brain In / Brain Out , which was released earlier this month.
First, I must know, what inspired you to make the worst looking nachos in the history of mankind?
It all came to me in a vision.
You cook a little better than that in real life, correct? Do you have a specialty?
Aside from not adding quarters to food I'm cooking, I do not cook better in real life. The meal you see in the video is not dissimilar from food Wayne and I cooked up when we lived in our rehearsal space.
It's not how it looks, it's how it tastes.
In what ways do you feel the video represents the song?
The viewer is free to make any connection they want between the song and the visuals. They – the song, and the video – both share the same city, the same dirt, the same desperation, and the same deluded joy.
“Entertainment Tonight” is off of your full length debut, Brain In / Brain Out. What’s your most interesting story from the writing, or recording, sessions of this album?
Most people would be shocked to know we started sessions at 8am.
At the time we’re conducting this interview, the album isn’t out yet, but of the people you’ve played it for, what have been some of your favorite reactions?
Anyone that thinks it’s better than the last thing we did. That's always the goal. The next thing is better than the last one.
I’ve read the album represents the bridging of two formative periods of your lives. In what ways do you feel people will ultimately relate to this.
I hope people dig the record, period.
I hope people use their imagination, and make it their own.
I'm happy we get to share it. I'm happy it's out.
There is a lot of my life on this record, some from a very distinct, dark part of my life, and some of it from where I am now. People who listen to this record will hear some real honesty, and people who take the time to listen will always respond to real shit.
Finally, is there any chance you named your band after the deceased pro wrestler Test?
No. However we were recently made aware of his existence.
VISTA are a relatively new name in the pop punk scene, but it hasn’t taken them long to become road tested veterans.
The band, which was formed by Hope Vista and Greg Almeida in 2015, has already embarked on a number of tours, and opened for Against The Current. You may also recall seeing my interview with them here just a few weeks ago.
Recently, I caught VISTA at Arlene’s Grocery in the LES. Here’s what I came away with after seeing them on stage …
1. They are pop punk at its finest
At their core, VISTA are a high energy, female fronted, Warped Tour ready band. Emotional lyrics, combined with a passion for rocking out, make them a pop punk lovers dream, as they can fit into a playlist with just about anyone from the genre.
VISTA are the kind of band where when you see them on a small stage you feel a little lucky, as you know they won’t be on small stages for much longer.
2. Lead singer Hope Vista is your BFF
Many bands have charismatic lead singers. It’s basically part of the job. That said, not every band has a lead singer that treats the crowd as a friend. Hope Vista does this, both on and off the stage.
On stage she creates a fan friendly vibe, and off stage it isn’t unusual to find her talking with fans, taking pictures with them, and genuinely caring about who they are, and their lives.
She also gets hyped about a hype crowd, so your energy level becomes her energy level. It’s quite the symbiotic relationship!
3. They have a real stage show
In the indie world, time, and space, constraints can handcuff a band that wants to create a unique stage set up for their shows.
VISTA, with just a few simple lights, create the effect of a size appropriate illuminated \/ /\ on stage. It may not sound like much as you read the description here, but that \/ /\ gives concert goers a big stage feel in a smaller venue, which is a very cool thing.
To find out when, and where, VISTA will be performing next, check out their Facebook page for show dates.
This week’s NYC Scene Report features some “Dog Days” from singer-songwriter project Strawberry Runners, an art pop tune from Operator Music Band, indie pop artist Sondre Lerche stripping down to reimagine his latest album, and Indo Dhans giving listeners a perfect late night indie electro pop soundtrack.
* The dog days of summer may be long gone, but you won’t miss the extreme heat, and the feeling of melting in your seat, when you listen to the relaxed, singer-songwriter, indie pop vibe of Strawberry Runners’ “Dog Days.”
Frequent readers of this column have seen the name Strawberry Runners – which is the project of songwriter Emi Night – quite a few times here over the past few months, and along with the release of “Dog Days,” Strawberry Runners’ EP, In the Garden, In the Night, is finally available!
The current Brooklynite recorded the EP in Colorado, had it mixed in LA, and recently completed a U.S. tour.
Check out Strawberry Runners’ self directed and edited video for “Dog Days,” and make sure to stay to the end for the ducks!
* Sometimes a band sees the proverbial box, doesn’t want to completely destroy it, but wants to punch enough holes in it to create something musically radical, yet still recognizable. This seems to be the case with Brooklyn’s Operator Music Band.
Take, for example, their latest single, “Realistic Saturation.” The song features elements from multiple eras of NYC’s indie music scene, as the band plays on the edges of both modern, and classic, art pop.
“Realistic Saturation” is off of Operator Music Band’s upcoming Coördination EP, due out December 1st. In a statement, they dove deep into the creation of the EP, saying, “This EP is an interesting chimera of some older ideas with some newer approaches. The songs themselves are left over from the period right after we finished our first LP, so they aesthetically reside there, but we tried a lot of new things once it came time to record. First was bringing in a producer in the form of Henry Terepka, who added a whole new perspective to the project. We additionally decided not to approach the demos so literally, instead spending a lot of the time exploring referenced material and breaking each instrumental line apart to find out alternate arrangements that would really juice the songs.”
Check out what the result of all that hard work, and creativity, sounds like by clicking play on “Realistic Saturation.”
* There are two ways an artist can strip an album down and make it acoustic. The first is to simply play all the songs acoustically. That, however, isn’t all that creative, which is why the really good artists look at going acoustic as an opportunity to dramatically rework their songs. This is what NYC, by way of Norway, singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche has done with his most recent album, Pleasure, turning it into Solo Pleasure.
In addition to reworking the ten songs on Pleasure, Lerche recorded Solo Pleasure to analog tape in just one take to keep it as honest, and pure, as possible.
A special limited edition release of Solo Pleasure on pink marble colored vinyl will be available on Black Friday Record Store Day, November 23rd. Until then, you can give the reworked version of “Siamese Twin” a listen right here.
* Looking for some danceable indie electro-pop? Then look no further than Indo Dhans’ latest, “Who You Kiddin?”
The bouncy track has the feel of bodies moving, late night, in a tiny, sweaty, venue, and that late night turning into early morning, as no one has plans on getting home until the sun is up.
Sure, the drinks are probably wildly overpriced, and you may have just paid $6 for a PBR, but that’s just part of the vibe.
Click play on “Who You Kiddin?” and get that vibe where you’re sitting right now. Did I say sitting? Yeah, you won’t be sitting for long.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.