best-emerging-bands-artists

Songs of Summer #1: "Heatstroke Summer" by Charlotte Rose Benjamin

The jury’s still out on what (no doubt worthy) song will end up being officially designated the Song of the Summer 2021™ and far be it for us to even acknowledge such a hackneyed premise. But hey that doesn’t mean we can’t start our own highly unofficial list based around a hackneyed premise because who says summer deserves only one song so take that Billboard and Tik Tok Nation. And so here we reveal our first entry in the Deli's summer song playlist, an unparalleled honor bestowed upon Charlotte Rose Benjamin’s “Heatstroke Summer.”

Now mind that this is a song some would call a “B-side” using the no-longer popular parlance (ask your parents) but here at DeliCorp we openly acknowledge that this is a B-side kind of blog so it’s totally fitting. And even Ms. Benjamin herself has stated an affinity for musical obscurities such as B-sides and "deep cuts" (ask your parents) to the extent that she wrote an entire tender aching ballad based around the notion of deep cuts named, quite fittingly, “Deep Cut" based around the premise: “Songs are are like lovers / and if it was a record / we’d be the deep cut / that no one remembered.”

But I digress. Let’s get back to summer songs shall we because right now there’s a good chunk of this country that's undergoing a relentless heatwave like here in New York City with a forecast high of 97 tomorrow, or Seattle and Portland which hit 108 and 116 degrees yesterday (wut?) which is a full 18 degrees above recommended boy band temperature. And that’s not even to mention Canada’s westernmost province British Columbia reaching 116 degrees yesterday which shattered national records. So, you see, if we don’t get around to naming a designated Song of the Summer 2021™ soon we’ll all be melted into a congealed mass of musical indecisiveness before this week is even over.

But I digress again. On “Heatstroke Summer” Charlotte Rose sketches a sonic portrait made up of fleetingly observed slices of life with an evocative Zen-like concision like in the opening lines—“Heatstroke summer / yellow is the color / cowboy in Corona / but the beat goes on and on”—which is either about a cowboy living in Queens or living through coronavirus or possibly both because before long she observes that “you can’t prepare for death anyway.”

And hey I’m not gonna spell out the whole song for you but there’s an appears to be a theme of escape running through some of the lyrics (piña coladas optional) with the song’s narrator dreaming about it being New Year’s Eve again and weighing an invitation to hit the road for parts unknown, until the song’s extended coda rides off into the sunset with overheated dogs barking in the background and an intertwined guitar solo that’s equal parts jangly and distorted/dissonant much like the jangled, destroyed nerves of a heatstroke victim. But with the overall gentle swaying vibe, and with Ms. Benjamin’s voice being as winsome and gentle as a tall glass of pink lemonade, "Heatstroke Summer" is equally suitable listening for backyard barbecues and existential (or literal) meltdowns alike.

And hey we can't ignore the A-side of this two-sided single which is called “Cumbie’s Parking Lot” in reference to Massachusetts-based convenience store chain Cumberland Farms (aka Cumbies) which just happens to be the state where CRB was raised before she returned to her ancestral home of New York City where her parents launched careers as a dancer and a musician/TV jingle singer. Anyway she seems to have a fairly solid grasp of the typical thought patterns of Cumbie's parking lot denizens expressing sentiments like “I wanna separate my brain from my body / I want you to let me use you like a drug” and “I don’t wanna go home yet / you can take pictures of me and post them on the Internet.”

And even if summer isn’t explicitly mentioned it feels strongly implied with the theme of escape still to the fore—escaping home, escaping the city, escaping oneself—and with the phrase “I wanna” employed nearly as much as on a Ramones song. And when the song reaches its first chorus the whole thing opens us like a blooming summer flower with sweet fragrant melodies and lush floating harmonies that'll hit your senses like a face full of pollen (in musical terms it's something like taking all 35 volumes of AM Gold and distilling them into one single refrain).

And hey if the songs don’t do it for you right away then the accompanying music videos just might ("Cumbie's Parking Lot" is even directed by CRB herself) because there’s a clear aesthetic at work. Though be forewarned that based on the video above you really don’t wanna ask Charlotte Rose to serve you up a slice of cake, because she approaches the task of cake cutting like Jason Voorhees and his mother approach cutting up summer campers and you probably don’t wanna drink your cake through a straw. But it’s a minor misgiving and you were already forewarned in the song “Deep Cut” after all. 

But I digress one last time. So anyway now you've at least got somewhere to start with your summer-themed listening and you can continue to check this space for more to come. (Jason Lee)

   

A Conversation With Kendra Sells

I sat down for a Zoom meeting with artist Kendra Sells to discuss her (at-the-time-forthcoming) solo album All In Your Head. This was our conversation.


TR: This album is a departure from your group BluMoon. What made you decide to do All In Your Head as a solo album?

 

KS: Really, it was just the pandemic. It was really scary at first, you know. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, if I am 10 feet away from anyone, who knows? It's gonna happen.” I'm diabetic, so at the very beginning of the pandemic, I was taking everything so seriously, really not meeting up with anyone. And, you know, it's just a hard time, especially being a musician. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I don't know, anything” you know, “I don't know what's going to happen.” And so I was just writing the music, and I guess putting the songs together for myself, just to do it, because I like to make music and it makes me feel better. “I'm just gonna make some music”. And so I normally just write on my guitar, but I got Ableton and a little mini-keyboard. I was just able to kind of build a song head to toe, which I've never been able to do before. I guess that's mostly why, because I was just like, “Oh, this is my first time ever trying this, I just want to see what I can do”.

 

TR: Is it nerve-wracking going from being in a band to releasing your own solo material? Pursuing that kind of art, but without people around to kind of give you feedback?

 

KS: Not necessarily, because I guess that's where I started, for myself, as a kid. I would use like, what is it? Audacity? Yeah, recording my keyboard through the mic. So that lets you know where I kind of started, and I guess I left that for a moment. But I’m still with the band… But I've just done tons of solo shows and all of that stuff, so I guess I have been used to being by myself. If anything, sometimes being in the band makes me feel more like “ah, is this okay? Is that okay? Do you like this? Are you okay with that?” And I don't have to worry about that. It's just me.

 

TR: Was it jarring to stop doing shows during the pandemic?

 

KS: Yeah, for sure. We had a whole tour lined up and some really sick shows here in Austin. I felt the lack of shows in me physically. I feel really good when I'm on stage, when I'm singing, when I'm with the band. And when I'm performing, that makes me feel so great. And I haven't had that feeling in a while.

 

TR: Does it take the wind out of you creatively to not have the excitement of performing?

 

KS: That's not something that I have known that inspires me creatively. I haven't suffered in that way.

 

TR: What does your songwriting process look like?

 

KS: It really varies. I feel like my favorite thing is, some days, I’ll just walk into work in the morning, you know, I have my little caffeine mellow, and I'm just walking down the street and it's sunny and I'm just mellow. Just thinking whatever it is I'm feeling and sometimes I like it, and I'll record. I have so many freakin’ voice memos. I feel like I've written some of my favorite things that way. And other times, I'll just sit with a guitar hung around. Or I'll hear something in another song and kind of dissect it and rearrange it. It'll inspire me in that way. And I'm like, “I really like this, but I hear other things with it”.  And that will inspire me. Yeah, just kind of varies.

 

TR: What is some of the music that inspired the album, like if you had to pick like three recordings that were just like, yeah, without these, there would be no all in your head.

 

KS: Hmm. Well, that's an important question. Maybe like anything by Kimya Dawson. I feel like her, just the DIY approach, like, you can do that in your bedroom, you can do that, with whatever you have. You don't have to have this or that. That really, like for sure just gave me that type of courage to even approach this in the way that I'm approaching it. Because, at first, I was just gonna put this on SoundCloud, and be like, “Look”. But then I met with Quiet Year, and they were like, “hey, let's release this together”. But anyway, yeah, Kimya Dawson. I feel like anything she's done has really inspired me in that way, like sonically. It's kind of hard to say because I really do pull a lot of influences. 

 

Tirzah, her project Devotion, that kind of inspired me. of Montreal inspired me, Kevin Barnes. He's kind of the same way...

 

TR: What is the worst music you've ever heard?

 

KS: Okay, that's so funny you're asking me that. Because, literally, if I'm drunk, I will love anything, I will dance. But something that I don't like… and I know there's something...

 

Okay, no offense. But this guy- I'm not gonna name where I work or anything- but he'll come to my place of work, and just post up outside of it and perform because “yeah, you're at my show”. You know, that's what he's decided. And I call his genre “2008”. I don't even hate the songs, but I hate the songs in this way. And a lot of people do. But, um, you know, like that song “You’re Beautiful?”

 

TR: I'm kind of imagining James Blunt or John Mayer.

 

KS: Yeah! And nothing against those artists, but something against white men doing those artists in this specific way. That and in the year 2021. It's just the audacity for you to come to where I have to be, like they asked you to be here and make this your show? Yeah, that's the only thing I can think of right now.

 

TR: I feel like the song Wondering//Bad Doctorzz would resonate with anyone who's ever been to a medical professional. Was the track inspired by personal experience?

 

KS: I really should look, because I remember when I wrote it, I feel like I wrote it in the middle of the night. But I need to see when I wrote it because I know it did come from a specific moment. Butas of now, it's just been every experience where I've gone to the doctor. I can barely see, I need glasses, and I've gone to the doctor, like, three or four times to get glasses, and they just won't give me glasses. It's weird. It's a combination of so many things like that, being gaslit, being told there's nothing wrong, being all of this, especially being diabetic. I just realized everyone's like, “Oh, yeah, our healthcare system sucks” in the same way that they'll say, “Oh, the justice system is corrupt”, but there's not the same amount of scrutiny. Why isn’t pressure put on the healthcare system in the way that it is on the justice system? 

 

It's frustrating thinking how you're supposed to go to the doctor to feel good and so many people... it brings them so much anxiety to go to the doctor. I shouldn't feel so many negative things about going to someone that's supposed to be helping me, in the same way that police are supposed to be there to serve and protect.., So, I guess just the fact that it fucking sucks is what inspired that.

 

TR: Something that really struck me about the release is not only that you were releasing on cassette, but you were also doing a physical booklet. What made you choose the cassette format, rather than anything else, or why even release a physical copy in the first place?

KS: I just love having physical copies, and whenever my friends release them, I'm like, I want one. I also have this weird paranoia that one day, the internet is gonna stop working or music streaming is going to just... cease, and there's gonna be so much music that I won't be able to hear anymore. That's why I went to do something physical. And then with the cassette, Quiet Year just said “we could do a cassette” and I was like, “Okay, well.”

 

TR: Do you have any nostalgia for cassettes? Did you have them around as a kid?

 

KS: Yeah,I had some nursery rhyme ones. And me and my siblings would record the radio. We'd be  like “Oh, my favorite song is on!” and you'd record it. 

 

TR: What is the significance for you of having the zine as an accompaniment to the cassette?

 

KS: I feel like music is always up for whatever interpretation, but I just wanted to dig deeper into what I was going for with the EP...my willingness to embark on this thing that I've never done before. The zine itself is a really important process that I feel that I could have easily tricked myself out of, or let someone convince me to not do. I feel like that's something that so many people do for themselves. I really wanted to be more open and transparent about the process and how I feel in the process. [the zine] has lyrics and little journaling type things, like open ended questions or whatever, you know, just to really kind of get people just thinking more about themselves in those ways. I just feel like so many people sleep on their own potential, and I feel like that's just the saddest thing. And I just feel like for so long, I was kind of doing that with myself. And so I just wanted to be transparent about that journey. It's not just an overnight type of deal.

 

TR: How do you feel about physical releases and physical accompaniment for music dwindling as streaming becomes more and more omnipresent?

 

KS: I'm honestly not worried about it. Because it's like, if it sells, it sells, and if someone wants it, they're gonna buy it. And people do buy it, I buy it. Other people buy it, and if they're going to stream, then they're going to stream it. If you’re into the physical, the physical is there for you. It's not, in my eyes, a waste to have that option.  It does more for the artists to sell the physical copies then to have it streamed. I think it hurts to stream, but I think that it does you a favor to have physical copies because that's going to make more money from people that care.

 

TR:  Do you feel like your listeners are missing out on anything by not engaging with the physical version and only engaging with the streamed version?

 

KS: Yeah, I think so. I think of any album that I've ever bought, I know all the songs, I love that album, I listen to it from top to finish, you know, multiple times. Not that you can't do that with streaming, I do the same thing on streaming, but it's just the fact that you open it up, put it in, press play, it’s literally drawing you into the whole experience of listening to it.

 

TR: With your zine, and with your videos, too, it seems like a lot of your artwork is present. Do you feel like there's overlap in what you hope to achieve creatively with your music and your visual work?

 

KS: I have a lot of work as far as accepting myself as an artist. With music, I've been down this road. I am a musician, goddammit! It feels like it's only been two years... and with art, it's gonna take me a bit longer. But I have done album covers and t-shirts and  other stuff here and there. 

 

Art is more something that I enjoy doing for myself. And I don't love to do it for not myself. Music I don't only do for myself.

 

TR: How early into the pandemic did you decide that this was something that you wanted to do?

 

KS: I guess I started the songs in May, but I think maybe it was July when I was like, “Oh, I should, you know, release this”. I anticipated it coming out much quicker. But I just wouldn't finish the songs....I just kept going at it, like, “Oh, I need to do this, and I need to do that.” And I didn't come to a stopping point until about November.

 

TR: What has been the process since November?

 

KS: Well the songs on my end were all recorded and tweaked and all of that, and then I sent them over to my friend Jerry to mix and master. It took like four months for that.

 

I really didn't know what I was doing on Ableton. So I just kind of asked him I was just like, “hey, if I did something that was like really stupid or it just didn't make sense like, Can you help me now?” And he was like, “Well, you know, like a lot of your sounds are kind of just like stock and I have a lot of cool ones”, and so he just fluffed it up, you know, just made it sound better for sure. Not, that sounded bad, but he gave it the final finishing touches, he did like some live drums on Wondering//Bad Doctorzz and on Call Me When Ur Dead. He plays for a band called Glasshealer.

 

 

TR: What do you think is after this? Do you have any thoughts on what the next step is going to be for your solo work?

 

Unknown Speaker  24:33  

I want to do some b-sides if I finish them within a time that I feel comfortable putting them out, because I don't want it to be next year. I'm just looking to gig more with the band. We're all vaccinated and places have their procedures and stuff for outdoors. We have a song that we're working on. We're trying to record. I think we might be just looking at doing some singles for a minute. 

 

TR: Do you think it's going to be hard to get back in the rhythm of performing with people again? 

 

KS: During the pandemic we did a livestream thing, it was fine. The production of it was kind of funny. Our key player that we were gigging with before the pandemic moved to Florida, so we've had someone else sit in, but he's dope and does a great job. I just missed performing without the fear of COVID. I'm ready to be in a situation where it's energy and people are there and it's hot, you know, it's just, that's what I love.

 

 

-- Tín Rodriguez


 

   

Emcee/producer MIKE invites you to the psych-soul "Disco!"

It takes some cajones to use one of the most common names in the English language as your single-named moniker and then to spell it out in ALL CAPS no less, But MIKE owns it so convincingly that if your name is Michael now you'd best contact your local justice of the peace and apply for a new appellation at your earliest convenience.

Speaking of “ALL CAPS” if you happen to be into MF DOOM (RIP)—or Madlib or J Dilla or Ghostface or Action Bronson or Earl Sweatshirt or other emcees who spit virtuosic breathless bars over dusty soul samples and smooth grooves and hard beats alike—then you’ve in luck because MIKE’s most recent full-length LP (redundant, I know) called “Disco!” has got you covered with seventeen tracks chock full of these very qualities but still totally distinctive in its MIKEness.

Released one year to the date since his last album Weight of the World with production once again by DJ blackpower (rumored to be MIKE himself in alter-ego disguise but I’m not here to spread rumours) this is deeply felt psychedelic soul for Gen Z hip hop heads (plus broke-ass-but-not-broken Millennials and grateful Gen X old heads) full of spiritual blunted ecstatic vibes that’ll have you floating on cloud nine like a runaway child running wild in route to the psychedelic shack, well-articulated mumble rap for the 2021 boom-bap set. (Jason Lee)

   

Cookie Tongue bequeath a "Soggy Miracle"

I can't claim to know why Cookie Tongue are called Cookie Tongue. But in my imagination they took it from the title to an ancient fable, or a long lost Grimms' Fairy Tale, about a child granted three wishes with her first wish being for her tongue to be turned into a cookie because how great would that be. Except her wish backfires horribly because having a cookie in your mouth that you can’t swallow would be torture. Needless to say the girl nearly goes mad and ends up biting off her own tongue off to end the torment. So she can't communicate her next wish (“I’d like to have my old tongue back”) which is a pretty harsh way to learn a basic lesson like “be careful what you wish for.”

This is no doubt completely off base but much like a Grimms' fairy tales the Brooklyn-based combo are made up of equal parts playful/fanciful and twisted/demented. And it’s not an easy balancing act to pull off which is why not many people write good fairy tales and not many people are in Cookie Tongue. Another parallel is that Cookie Tongue clearly appeals to children and adults alike, a fact I can verify first-hand having just seen them perform live on the opening date of their upcoming (now ongoing tour) summer tour—SEE HERE for dates—because the adults at the show were rapt and the kids were losing their minds they were so into it.

The show was held outdoors on a perfect equinox evening with plenty of little rug rats running amok as their parents drank beer and cocktails no doubt happy to be given a break thanks to the Cookie Tonguers and their exquisitely ramshackle songs playing on a Ren Faire style stage decked out with flowers and mannequins and an array of glockenspiels and puppets and Casio keyboards and other implements of their trade. Rest assured Cookie Tongue know how to put the “freak” in freak folk with an extra helping of dollop of freak on top while providing suitable entertainment for the whole family.

A Cookie Tongue performance feels like if the roustabouts tied up the clowns and took over the circus; and then went on an afternoon-long drinking binge and raided the wardrobe/makeup cabinet and put on a crazy pastiche of stuff; and then went on stage and performed a surprisingly coherent set of calliope-inspired music with bizarrely poetic lyrics sung by a male-female combo in warbling, breathy tones that you're not sure if it's funny or disturbing or just different. But really that’s too easy an explanation, better to just go listen to their music like their last full length, Dream Seed Ceremony (2020), on which Omer Gal and Jacquelyn Marie Shannon inhabit a rogue’s gallery of vocal personas. So you can see why these two would be into puppetry with all the voices they clearly have trapped inside.

On their new EP from earlier this month, Soggy Miracle, Cookie Tongue continue to refine their quaint yet ornate junk store aesthetic forming a bed a sonic fertilizer for the lyrics and their sinuous twisty trains of thought and mantra-like repetitions--like the one sung from the perspective of a ten-year-old child tempted to eat his own baby teeth out of a cereal bowl with milk on them along with his friend but they don't know if they'll be soggy or crunchy.

Soggy Miracle closes with “Orange Sky” which is centered around a rousing yet doom-laden melody that'll make you wanna raise your mug in the air and toast the impending end--a song about taking “the back road out of here / away from the orange sky” which certainly sounds more than a little apocalyptic--especially at the end when the song turns into a swirling miasma of breathy vocalizing and megaphone man ranting and rat-a-tat snare drumming before concluding with a dramatic almost a cappella epigram or epitaph take your pick. (Jason Lee)

n.b. Credit must be given to Michele With One 'L' whose weekly Tuesday afternoon WFMU radio show called "Feelings" first turned this writer on to Cookie Tongue and to several other artists featured on this blog.

 

 

 

   

Trace of Lime Reminds Us to Live in the Moment with New Video

            I remember seeing Trace of Lime for the first time several years ago and being blown away by the energy and explosiveness packed into each song. Their latest single, Good Ol’ Days, encapsulates that exact feeling. The song features witty vocals, catchy guitar rhythms and a wildly entertaining music video that utilizes stop-motion stylization. They undoubtedly have their own defined sound that can be categorized as upbeat and cheerful, yet at the same time they express a straightforward rock n roll sound that induces involuntary headbanging. 

When asked about some of the band’s biggest influences, lead singer Jordan ironically listed Rod Serling, Mozart and Mystery Inc. After listening to Trace of Lime, it would be difficult to guess that these are some of the artists who inspire the band. But perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Trace of Lime has such a unique sound that is incomparable to any other band. That being, they don’t try to sound like anyone else. They are who they are and they own it. Jordan elaborates on their effortless ability to solidify their own style, saying “It’s definitely more natural when it comes to the sound... We aren’t married to a specific genre so influence from anything is on the table and everyone is willing to give anything a try.” Though they channel many different influences, their music doesn’t come across as experimental necessarily. You can tell that they incorporate many different ideas, but they always just sound like Trace of Lime, and that is a testament to their creativity. 

The music video supposedly took several years to complete and it’s totally understandable why. Stop motion videos normally take a considerable amount of time to complete, but the final result made the process very much worth the wait. Jordan provides some backstory of the production process, stating “The first verse alone was a picture a day for over a year. Conceptually, The song is saying that the good ol days are currently happening, and to live your life in the day. That’s where the photo a day concept came from. Every day is a piece of the story.” The video was filmed, scripted, directed, and edited by Jordan and his partner, Dusana. I already admired the video before hearing about the ideas that went into it, but now I admire it even more so. The fact that they used stop-motion to accentuate the meaning of the song highlights the band’s artistry. All of their creative decisions are purposeful and impactful, resulting in consistent, high-quality art. 

The four members of Trace of Lime certainly don’t lack any artistic integrity. They make music that satisfies them and it bodes well for their listeners as well. The band mentioned that they have an upcoming record to be on the lookout for, and it supposedly is meant to capture the energy of playing live. If that’s the case, anyone who has ever seen them perform would know that they are in for an absolute treat.