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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.
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Pop Shots – Celebrating Turning 40

Vid Pick: Angela Saini – Black Sheep
Friday, November 16, 2018

How can you possibly resist a music video that features an animated black sheep bucking the rules, and creating his own path in life?

That’s the visual for Toronto-based singer-songwriter Angela Saini’s latest single, “Black Sheep.” A modern country/folk pop tune with a ‘90s adult-contemporary pop vibe, the song is meant to inspire people to go their own way.

The animated black sheep was created by Derek Mok, who also directed and edited the video.

Wanting to know more about Saini’s “Black Sheep,” I caught up with her to ask her about her own rebellious ways. She also discussed getting second chances in life, the time her band was hopelessly lost in rural Massachusetts, and her favorite cartoons.

Your video for “Black Sheep” features an adorable rebellious black sheep. When in your life have you found yourself to be a rebellious black sheep?

I was pretty rebellious in high school. I decided to stop trying to fit in with the cool kids and instead started playing in a band. We rehearsed every day after school, and from there I pretty much only hung out with other musicians; we kind of started our own gang.

I started playing in clubs at the age of 16.

To my east-Indian side of the family (my father’s side) I was definitely a badass, especially compared to my brother, who was an accountant.

In what ways have you found it advantageous to be a black sheep?

Not following the crowd makes it easier to decide what your parameters for success are. You set the bar.

No one can be the judge of my life because I play it by my rules. I don’t measure myself by other people’s expectations.


Are there any drawbacks you can think of?

Yes, there is the flip side. Markers for how to measure your success are harder to assign.

It can also feel lonely living an unconventional life compared to many of your friends.

For Halloween you dressed as Jem of Jem and the Holograms. I’m sensing an animation theme in your life. What were some of your other favorite cartoons growing up, and do you have any cartoon related memorabilia?

When I was a kid I distinctly remember watching Inspector Gadget every day after school. I absolutely loved it and wanted to be Penny!

I also have an entire plush doll set of the characters of South Park. When I was a teenager I convinced my parents to buy them when we were visiting the U.S. I was so floored when I found them because the show was new and you couldn’t find them in Canada. My parents were so confused, and hadn’t even heard of the show.

In your bio you note that you’re all about second chances. Have you experienced being blessed with a second chance in some aspect of your life, or career, and can you tell me about it?

In some ways my entire solo career is like a second chance. I played the first 10 years of my music career in a rock band, and then moved with them across the country from Calgary to Toronto, which in itself was a life changer. When I recorded my first solo album it was a scary leap, but I started breathing a new musical life with a whole different focus and sound.

I am certainly grateful to have the chance to dance to the beat of my own drum, musically and career-wise.


You’ve toured throughout Canada, and internationally. What’s the most lost, or out your element, you’ve ever been on the road?

The craziest drive I ever had was with my first band, driving to our drummer’s aunt’s house in rural Massachusetts. We were running out of gas, close to midnight, and realized we were lost when we passed the “Welcome to Vermont” sign … TWICE. Then it started raining.

We were right about to find a house with the lights on to knock on the door when we drove past a gas station. It turned out we were driving in circles around the house in the mountains for hours because one traffic sign had been turned to face another direction.

That’s both awful and hilarious! Now, let’s see if we can make some dreams come true here. Which artist, or artists, would you absolutely love to tour and/or collaborate with, and why?

I would love to sit in a room with Dolly Parton and see what we come up with. Her story telling capabilities, and catchy melodies, would drum up something magical, and probably sassy!

I think I would die if Stevie Nicks came and sang on stage with me.

Finally, “Black Sheep” is off your upcoming album Hope on the Stereo. What can you tell us about the album, which is set for release in early 2019?

This album sounds exactly like “me.”

For the first time I had a role in the production process, and it turned out exactly how I heard it in my head. I also enlisted my live band to record live-off-the-floor, and it really is an organic capture.

Lyrically there is some yin and yang to it. I am certainly known for my positivity, but how would you know you were in the light if you have never experienced darkness? There are some themes of uncertainty, confusion, and fear that I have never explored before, and with that there is some radical honesty that people will be able to relate to.


For more Angela Saini, check out angelasaini.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NYC Scene Report – Kash, The Rungs, & more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This week’s NYC Scene Report features R&B songstress Kash going acoustic, dreamy alt-pop from The Rungs, a synth pop meets R&B gem from DUVV, and alt-rockers Moonwalker looking for some “True Love.”

* NYC-based R&B singer Kash recently debuted an acoustic version of her latest single, “Don’t Let Me Go” with a live performance clip straight from her living room (well, from someone’s living room. I can’t guarantee the place is hers).

The performance is her first since recovering from a nasty case of strep throat, and it’s safe to say she’s 100% back in action, as she sounds fantastic.

A video for the official version of “Don’t Let Me Go” is on the way, as are more live clips, as Kash asked viewers to request covers, and original songs. For now, however, enjoy her acoustic version of “Don’t Let Me Go,” because when it comes to dope R&B, Kash is money. (see what I did there? I’m a hoot!)


* Brooklyn-based alt-pop band The Rungs have released a new single, and it will have you burying your head in the books … the “King Of Books,” that is.

“King Of Books” features the ethereal, dream pop vocals of Mandy Gurung, and the synthy goodness of her husband, Diwas Gurung, with Steven Bartashev on drums.

According to the band, their music – which they record and produce entirely in their home studio – draws inspiration from the sounds and stories that surround their life in Brooklyn.

“King Of Books” is off The Rungs’ new EP, Everyday Visions, which was released this past week, and you can check out the single right here.


* New York-based Trinidadian-American recording artist DUVV just appeared on my radar, and with her smooth vocals, and old school synth pop meets modern R&B vibe, I’m looking forward to keeping her in rotation.

Her latest single is titled “Was You,” and it’s off her upcoming EP, ACID. The project was reportedly inspired by DUVV’s exploration of Seoul, Korea’s club scene when she was a student there. (Side Note – If this is what that scene sounds like, those clubs must be awesome)

Check out the video for “Was You,” and get enamored with DUVV, as she’s an artist that’s about to take flight in a major way.


* New York-based alt-rockers Moonwalker know a thing or two about “True Love.” On their single of the same name they openly admit, “True love is difficult.”

Speaking of difficult, check out the choreography in the video for “True Love,” which features a couple dancing through the challenges of a relationship. Incidentally, much like the video, my idea of true love prominently features a jukebox, so it’s nice to see one here, as well.

“True Love” is off Moonwalker’s debut EP, Vol. 1, which is out now on Standby Records, and you can check out the video for the song 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.

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Pop Shots – 5 Songs on the Radio That Don’t Suck
Monday, November 12, 2018

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week I’m hitting you with something new that I hope you’ll really like. Longtime readers know how much I’ve enjoyed taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100; unfortunately, that chart has been ruined by the inclusion of streaming. Now, whenever an album people are interested in hits streaming services, every song from that album ends up charting, regardless of whether the songs are singles, or even something people want to hear twice.

With that in mind, I’m replacing “A Look At The Charts” with this brand spankin’ new concept – 5 Songs on the Radio that Don’t Suck. When you turn on the radio, it can be a crap shoot, but these special editions of Pop Shots will let you know what isn’t crap!

(FYI, I’ll still be doing retro looks at the charts, because those are really fun)

Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.


5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood


When 5 Seconds of Summer debuted they were kinda-sorta viewed as a boyband, despite playing instruments. With the group’s vocals, and lyrical content – and I’m sure a record label’s strong desire to compete against the likes of One Direction, and The Wanted – it almost made sense. That said, calling them a boyband at this point would be a miscategorization – they’re a pop-rock band, and their latest single, “Youngblood,” is a damned good pop-rock song.

It looks like 5 Seconds of Summer will get far more than 15 minutes of fame.


Panic! at the Disco – High Hopes


“High Hopes” is an undeniably great song, but I gotta be honest, the first time I heard it I legit thought it was a Fall Out Boy song. Go ahead, shame me. It’s all good, I can take it.

Being that I like Fall Out Boy – and I’m not afraid to admit this publicly – and I like Panic! at the Disco, nothing about my appreciation of the song wavered once I learned who actually did it. Also, when it comes on at the gym it’s quite the motivator!


CHVRCHES – Miracle


This synth-pop gem doesn’t get a lot of play on Top 40 radio, but if you have an alt-rock station in your area there’s a good chance it has “Miracle” in rotation. Lemme tell ya, I crank this one all the way up every time it comes on. From a song construction standpoint it’s one of the best pop songs of the decade. The build up to the chorus is fantastic, and when those drums kick in … wooo! That’s good stuff, yo!


Bebe Rexha – I’m A Mess


Longtime readers of this column already know I’ve appreciated Bebe Rexha’s work for quite some time. Seeing her live at Warped Tour a handful of years ago only deepened this appreciation. The woman knows how to write damned catchy songs, and choruses that get stuck in your head for days. “I’m A Mess” is yet another great example of this (as is the fact that her “Meant To Be” collaboration with Florida Georgia Line has spent nearly an entire year at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart).


Ariana Grande – Breathin


When it comes to making great pop music with an R&B influence to it, nobody does it better than Ariana Grande. You already know I’ve been a fan of hers since her first album, which featured songwriting and production by Babyface.

Grande continues to be a grand force in pop music, and I’m happy whenever her music comes on the radio.


And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.

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Stacking The Deck with L’FREAQ
Friday, November 09, 2018

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

NYC, by way of Arizona, alt-pop artist L’FREAQ has a provocative name, and equally provocative sound.

Raised on a combination of Elliot Smith, and opera, she admits that when it comes to music, “I didn’t really have a traditional upbringing.” That non-traditional upbringing has led to L’FREAQ creating some non-traditional, boundary breaking, music.

Her unique sound can be heard on her recently released EP, Weird Awakenings, which features elements of dark synth pop, trip-hop, and downtempo.


I caught up with L’FREAQ before her EP release show at Coney Island Baby in NYC to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about musical inspirations, Doctor Who, and surviving in a hypothetical dystopian future.



Ziggy Marley

I went to Jamaica for a wedding, and I ended up staying on this huge compound. There were probably 30 people – Jamaicans, Americans, British people, people from all over the world – and it was just so full of love, and so cool, and they were playing Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, everything was pretty much the Marleys. It was pretty cool.

When you were coming back home did you write something on the plane that was reggae influenced?

Reggae is so interesting because I’ve never been immediately drawn to it, but I love Amy Winehouse, and Amy Winehouse has some reggae influences. I hear that sometimes in her writing, especially on Frank, her first album. When I heard Frank I was like wow, maybe I actually really like reggae.

I also like the culture behind it, just the way that people act with each other when they listen to reggae.

It sounds like you’re in the stages of discovering what you love in the genre.

Yeah, I’m just starting with that genre, and it’s pretty amazing.

So if I ask you this question a year from now …

I could be a completely versed reggae-head. {laughs}



Huey Lewis

Amazing musician, and also one of Patrick Bateman’s favorite artists in American Psycho. Which artists can you put an album of on and give a Patrick Bateman style speech about them, and their music?

Number one would be Jeff Buckley. I can do that with every song that he’s done. I’m absolutely obsessed with him.

Maybe Edith Piaf.

I have a lot of older influences that I think people that I love were also influenced by.

Probably Amy (Winehouse), actually.

I read the book American Psycho, and it’s funny because for Huey Lewis specifically he has four whole pages on his records. And I saw the musical, which was hilarious.

Didn’t the musical have Matt Smith from Doctor Who?

Yes.

Wasn’t that only in London?

It was on Broadway here, but it was only on for like a month or two, but I loved it. It’s very violent, it’s very disgusting. {laughs}

I thought it was an interesting casting choice.

I kind of love it, though. Matt Smith was my first Doctor.

So you’re a fellow Doctor Who fan!

Yes. Well, I’ve only seen Matt, David (Tennant), and Peter Capaldi.

And now Jodie (Whittaker).

I haven’t seen any of those episodes yet.

Jodie’s awesome.

I’ve heard that she’s really good, and I think people have been waiting for a female Doctor for a long time, so it’s cool to see that.


We’re totally transitioning from Huey Lewis to sci-fi, but are you a fellow sci-fi nerd?

I don’t know about sci-fi. I like more fantasy, probably. I do really like dystopian sci-fi. I was really into BioShock growing up, and Black Mirror I find really interesting.

I do like kind of weird, dystopian, futuristic TV shows and movies.

Has that played any role in your look on stage?

It has, especially the outfit that I’m wearing tonight by Jason Triosi, who was on Project Runway. He is very influenced by Mad Max, which I love, and he designed this custom outfit for me tonight which is part Mad Max, part Star Wars, and a little bit Cabaret.

In a dystopian future, what level of badass do you think you’d be?

I think everybody would like to think they’re super badass, and would just beat everybody to death, but I don’t know how long I’d survive. {laughs}

I’ve thought about this before, too, because when The Hunger Games was so big everyone was like, “Would you survive?”

I feel like I would probably just try to hide out.

That’s a way of surviving.

Exactly, or lure people with my music.

And get them to bring you food.

Or just get them close and then kill them.

And … cook them?

Well, kill them and maybe cook them. I don’t know.

I did not expect this to take a slight cannibalism turn, but OK, sure.

{laughs}



Jimi Hendrix

When I was growing up my guitar teacher was obsessed with Jimi Hendrix. How could you not be if you’re a guitar teacher? He was always giving me homework assignments to go home and listen to Jimi, and The Beatles.

I feel like every guitar teacher is obsessed with Jimi and The Beatles.

So I kinda got versed on those artists early on.

Do you play guitar?

I do. I’m left handed like Jimi, but Jimi turned his guitar upside down. He could take a right handed guitar and play it upside down. I have to restring it. I’m really left handed.

I also assume you don’t light yours on fire … yet.

I do not light my guitar on fire yet, but that might be at a future show.

That’s why we have to keep going to your shows.

Yes. That’s true.



Belinda Carlisle

Belinda was a really strong, kick ass, woman in music at a time when it was pretty difficult to be a strong, kick ass, woman in music. With the music scene today, while there are a lot of female artists, the male dominance has not changed, so … how the heck do you deal with us?

{laughs}

Man, that’s a big question to unpack. I don’t know. I feel like the tides are changing with female artists, and they’re being celebrated. I just feel like there are so many female musicians that are rising above, and proving that gender doesn’t really matter, and that you can be really talented at something and still be a female, and you don’t have to be a “female producer” you can just be a producer, and I love that.

I’ve started producing, and it’s cool to get together with other women and discuss the strange coincidences that we all have in this industry.

Strange coincidences. I like the way you put that.

It happens to everybody.

But it’s cool to be on stage, and I take a lot of inspiration from male rockers. I love David Bowie, for example. David Byrne, I love. I’ve watched their concerts so many times that sometimes you take certain mannerisms from them, and you bring them into your own performance, and I love it when people look at me and they’re like, “I want to be her. I want to take her movements.” That’s really what it’s all about, it’s about inspiring people.

David Bowie was very androgynous as a rocker, and I know you have sexual fluidity, which is evident throughout your performances and videos, so it makes sense that you and him would be kindred spirits.

Yeah, I love Bowie. I mean, who doesn’t? He’s amazing. Prince, also.

I love that they were so unapologetically them, and they just didn’t care what other people thought, which is part of being a rock star. I love that.


For more L’FREAQ check out lfreaq.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NYC Scene Report – Big Village Little City, Otis Clapp, & more
Wednesday, November 07, 2018

This week’s NYC Scene Report features a jazzy, soulful, hip-hop jam from Big Village Little City, hip-hop artist Otis Clapp taking aim at those who give “Fake Love,” indie rock duo Soft Center dealing with some “Loose Ends,” and singer-songwriter Saul Rivers creating some “Change.”

* If you were listening to music in the ‘90s you enjoyed the heyday of when hip-hop had major jazz influences, and created vibes that were dope on multiple levels. NYC’s Big Village Little City is a throwback to that era, combining jazz, hip-hop, and soul. Rather than sampling the sounds, however, they have the band to make it happen live.

The group was founded in 2016, launched by Minneapolis-bred rapper Forefeather and veteran NYC jazz singer Amy Grace, and their debut album, Over the Weather, is due out November 9th.

Grace described the album in a statement, saying, “Each song will make you dance in a different way. Every track has a vibe that inspires its own kind of movement. The live show is high energy, and you can really feel it through the recordings.”

Give the album’s lead single, “Snake Oil,” a spin, and move your body to Big Village Little City.


* Queens-based emcee Otis Clapp has no time for “Fake Love,” and his latest song takes aim at those he’s been there for, but haven’t had his back in return.

“This is my way of nonchalantly telling my fake ‘friends’ to eat a frank,” he says of “Fake Love.”

The song is the fourth single off Otis Clapp’s Quentin EP, which was released in August of this year and was produced entirely by Ricky Vaughn.
 
Check out the video for “Fake Love,” and crank up the volume if you happen to see one of those types of people walking by.


* Brooklyn-based indie rock duo Soft Center released their debut album, No Pattern, last month, and according the to band, recording the project involved a little bit of time travel.

In a statement, the twosome of Gina Pensiero and Sean Lango described the recording process, saying “Some of our earliest memories of playing music together are from the pre-smartphone era, but all of our past recordings together have been partially, or totally, digital in process. When we had the opportunity to escape NYC to John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studio in California and immerse ourselves in the analog world, we jumped right into it. This recording was about opening up to the vulnerability that’s inherent in leaving computers and screens out of the work. Recording this way not only let us focus more on the sounds themselves – rather than their digital, visual representations – but also helped us embrace imperfection. Neither of us are technophobes, but sometimes some beautiful things happen when you don’t get a thousand re-dos and limitless editing capabilities."

Check out the video for the single “Loose Ends,” and hear how going old school created an indie rock gem.


* Indie singer-songwriter Saul Rivers is down for a “Change.” “Change” being the recently released single from his new live EP, The Pineapple Sessions.

Rivers described the inspiration for “Change” in a statement, saying, “I know that for many people, including myself, it can be hard to get out of your own way. We all have flaws that slow our growth down, and I wanted to write a song about realizing those flaws in myself, and making a conscious effort to change them so that I can reach my goals more efficiently. Basically I’m getting older, have more grey hair, and have started ‘adult-ing’ more.”

Another “Change” for Rivers came in the recording of the EP. “I had been performing these new songs at various shows and wanted to put together a raw and organic recording of them,” he explained, “There’s always so much that can be done in the studio to change the nature of a song, and I wanted to put something out that was truly real, with no edits or do-overs, that would capture the nature of their origins. Everything was recorded and filmed live in straight takes, and we had to choose the best full take from each song as we played it – something that can make any perfectionist uneasy, but is also a great exercise in allowing the imperfections of reality to make these recordings as unique and original as possible.”

Check out this live performance of “Change,” and you’ll hear why raw and real was definitely the way to go.


For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Pop Shots – Tasty Stuff
Monday, November 05, 2018

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 Lana Del Rey taking a bite out of an Apple, to Little Mix sinking their teeth into the Nicki Minaj vs. Cardi B beef, to Miranda Lambert getting a taste of the single life, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* Lana Del Rey closed out Apple’s special event in Brooklyn, NY, this past week, performing two songs from her upcoming album, Norman Fucking Rockwell. This makes sense, since much like most of Apple’s products, Lana Del Rey’s music exists on the theory of planned obsolescence.

* An unlikely set of voices chimed in on the beef between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, as girl group Little Mix made it known that while they like both artists, they actually contacted Nicki for their new single, “Woman Like Me,” before offering a guest spot to Cardi (which Cardi turned down). This came after Cardi attempted to tell the world Nicki was her replacement on the track. I think when Little Mix pulls your card it’s time to bow out. I mean, just imagine if when LL Cool J and Canibus were trading jabs the Spice Girls suddenly came through with damaging info.


* 50 Cent claimed he bought 200 tickets to an upcoming Ja Rule concert just so the seats near the front would be empty. Soooo he wanted to make it look like one of his own concerts?

* Hilary Duff and Matthew Koma welcomed a daughter into the world this past week, but I’m sure Duff considers this news “So Yesterday.”


* KISS announced a multi-year farewell tour that will kick off in January. After the tour ends the band will face the challenge of what to do with their time now that they’ll no longer rock and roll all night, and party every day.

* Police arrested Ice-T after he failed to pay a toll at the George Washington Bridge. I just gotta say, it’s a bold move to arrest the guy who wrote “Cop Killer.”

* Universal Pictures’ Last Christmas, which was inspired by Wham!’s 1984 holiday hit of the same name, will feature previously unreleased music from the late George Michael, who helped create the concept for the film. This makes me wonder … when are we going to get a holiday movie based on Lady Gaga’s “Christmas Tree”?


* In disgusting human being news, rapper and admitted pedophile 6ix9ine was sentenced to four years probation by a Manhattan judge for charges dating back to a 2015 arrest for the use of a child in a sexual performance. The arrest came after video emerged of 6ix9ine engaging in sexual acts with a girl who was reportedly 13 years old at the time. The rapper pleaded guilty in October of 2015, and took a plea agreement. I’m sure R. Kelly has already filled up his voicemail asking to work with him.

* To close things out on a far more enjoyable note, Miranda Lambert led trio Pistol Annies are back with a song titled “Got My Name Changed Back.” I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this one probably won’t be on any of Blake Shelton or Gwen Stefani’s playlists. That said, when it comes to the video, I’m all for confetti cannons at the DMV!


And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.

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