July 31, 2020

Music Roundup of July 2020

Here we are at the end of yet another month! July has been somewhat less dramatic that June but definitely still full of musical drama. From Rejjie Snow to Zara Larsson, here's ten music moments from this month that you should know about🔥👇

#1 Beyonce

Premiered only a few hours ago, Queen B is back with the music video of 'Already' from her visual album 'Black Is King'. A celebration of African culture, from the choreography to costume design and featuring Major Lazor and Shatta Wale - this track is an absolute win.

#2 Rejjie Snow

Lovable Irish artist and rapper Rejjie Snow came through with his newest playful track Cookie Chips ft. MF DOOM & Cam O'bi. With heavy Tyler The Creator vibes, this track is deffo one for your playlists.

#3 Dua Lipa

On July 10th, Dua Lipa released her newest addition 'Hallucinate'. Channeling early 2000s club energies, the track is yet another bop from the British artist.

#4 Denai Moore

Denai Moore is the emerging British-Jamaican artist that you've been missing out on. Her newest album 'Modern Dread' is a genre-bending merge of R&B, with electronic elements. Prepare yourself to be carried away to a surrealist world.

#5 Troye Sivan

Sweetboy Troye Sivan gifted us with a strange, yet nostalgic pop track for those dance-alone moments in your kitchen. His weirdly wonderful autotune has been described as a hit or miss - what do you think?

#6 Reyn

On July 10th, adored Swedish artist Reyn released his well-awaited album 'Skyfall'.  Combining the best of his hip-hop sounds, the EP is a complete and honest summary of his music, and a celebration of his progress over the last two years. Created from his own experiences, the album is a mix of emotions associated with significant moments in his life.

#7 Zara Larsson

Zara Larsson released a new intense pop song 'Love Me Land'. Carrying dark disco pop vibes and a dance routine that will wanna get you moving, the young Swedish artist hits high notes higher than the clouds. We NEED more Zara.

#8 Taylor Swift

2020 has rocked the boat for every artist, especially those with booked out tours. Nonetheless, Taylor presented a whole new album 'Folklore' in the midst of isolation and its been noted as some of her best work. You can also cop her newest merch...hella cute cardigan with 'Folklore' embroidery.

#9 H.E.R

H.E.R has been doing bits in 2020! Her most recent track is a reggae infused love song and welcomed surprise 'Do To Me'. Sampling Sister Nancy's classic cut 'Bam Bam', this upbeat bop is a major summer anthem.

#10 Pop Smoke

Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon is an ode to the late Pop Smoke. Released posthumously, the debut album exists with the attempts to cement his legacy and role as the voice of Brooklyn Drill. Executively produced by 50 cent, the album carries a glimpse of what could have been his future before his passing.

July 17, 2020

Lofi: Ryan Celsius Breaks Down The Game-Changing Genre

With thousands of dedicated followers, Lofi is the underground music genre that has boomed over the last few years. The phenomenon exploded across channels like Youtube back in 2016, after the introduction of 24/7 live streaming. We caught up with Ryan Celsius, king of Lofi to break down how this multi-faceted genre came about.

Ryan Celsius is widely-known amongst the Lofi community as being part of the a wave of artists to really place the genre on the map. After producing early versions of "fruity loops" in 2007, he ended up creating over 80 tracks that became some his best attempts at mixing and combining sounds. Tragically, a few years later, he lost most of his work when his laptops were stolen during a robbery at his home, leading him to have to re-discover new music and entering a phase of demotivation. The incident lead him to create YouTube playlists featuring and supporting independent artists, in the hopes that it'll keep them encouraged to continue producing. In 2012, he started up his widely-known YouTube Channel creating "unofficial" music videos further promoting artists whilst simultaneously assisting with production needs.

So what exactly is lofi and why is there such a high following? Ryan explains "Lofi hip hop as it is known today can be broken into several sub-genres that play into a distinct common sonic theme of nostalgic simplicity and more slow paced instrumental hip hop production." The genre is built to be versatile, able to be enjoyed as both background and foreground music, completely dependant on the listeners needs. Whilst it comes across as simplistic, the music itself carries a more complex relationship to each individual.

"When focusing on something else, a lofi hip hop beat tape or track can comfortably wash over the listener and provide a soothing backdrop. If given a bit more attention that same tape can provide a wealth of depth upon further analysis and really show case interesting sound design, unexpected percussive patterns, and melodies that seem vaguely familiar."

In 2016, there was a major boom in listeners of the genre after YouTube introduced 24/7 live streaming capabilities. This was the start of the common 'Anime Study Girl Loop' and the variations that followed. Lofi, specifically the sub-genre of 'Study Beats', was then marked as the perfect accompaniment for those late night study hours, merging with easy anime and cartoon animations. However this mix of anime and lofi isn't a new phenomenon and actually came around in the early 2000's as Ryan explains:

"During this time in the US, Cartoon Network began playing anime that had heavy hip hop and jazz components. This nostalgic association with anime and beat tape style bumps is a huge reason for the existence of anime within lofi hip hop currently. However, it has definitely evolved and taken on a new form with the consistent pushing of these aesthetics through YouTube livestreams."

Whilst the 'Study Beat' sub-genre may be considered the most popular version of lofi hip hop in todays time, there are in fact multiple versions of the genre out there, in which the scene is constantly evolving with many producers connecting various other genres to "craft new soundscapes that help them establish a unique sound".

With the current global pandemic causing havoc to many areas of the music industry, strangely enough, the lofi hip hop scene hasn't necessarily been affected. As Ryan shares "The lack of performance venues and live shows does not particularly hurt the scene at all, as the majority of popular lofi hip hop artists do not tour or perform shows that commonly."

Many, if not most, lofi artists share a common theme of being 'DIY bedroom producers', so being able to totally focus on their EPs and albums during self-isolation has been a majorly productive time within the lofi community. With the lofi hip hop community constantly evolving into new mixes of genres, who knows what will be produced next.

"As producers seek to stand out and innovate within a genre that many attempted initially to place into a box of 'background music', the community becomes more dynamic. With YouTube channels focusing on more and more specific styles of lofi hip hop."

Did you know that Ryan curates some of our Spotify Playlists and that they're open for submissions? Read more about how you can apply here and check them out on our Spotify profile!

June 30, 2020

Music Roundup of June 2020

From the global pandemic to a major shift in the Black Lives Matter movement, the first six months of 2020 has certainly left a defined dent in history. Even so, it seems that artists have delivered with statement tracks and game changing albums. We've rounded up some of the top music moments, from emerging to experienced artists, over this last month🔥🤩

#1 Beyonce

Starting with the Queen herself, Beyoncé dropped an unexpected new track 'Black Parade' on Juneteenth. "I’m going back to the South, I’m going back where my roots ain’t watered down,” Beyoncé sings in the opening line of the song. With all proceeds going to Black-owned businesses, this track will no doubt wake up the 'unwoke'.

#2 Chloe x Halle

After passing on their album 'Ungodly Hour' to Beyoncé for feedback, in which to receive A+ results and a record deal with her label, Chloe and Halle Bailey are all that have been missing from your playlists. Their newest track 'Forgive Me', part of 'Ungodly Hour', is a power house of emotions and strength...someone call the Grammy's.

#3 Anderson .Paak

Not only is the track the perfect summary of .Paak's funk sounds and easy beats, it hits a political level relevant to the last few weeks. Featuring big names in the industry, like Syd and an impressive verse by Jay Rock, and directed by Dave Meyers (Kendrick Lamar collaborator) the track is an intimate portrait of this significant uprising in history, and the aftermath of protest.

#4 Yasin

Whilst technically Yasin released his newest masterpiece 98.01.11 in late May...we couldn't help but throw this album into the mix (shhh! don't tell anyone). With various tracks from the album staying up on Spotify Sweden's Top 10 for multiple weeks, this young rapper is on his way up, watch this space.

#5 Haim

The sweetheart sister trio is back with their third studio album 'Women In Music Part. III', featuring their recent hits 'Summer Girl', 'Hallelujah' and 'Now I'm In It' as bonus tracks. Proceeds from their first live performance of the newly released album raised over $5000 for The Bail Project. If you live in the UK, make sure to check out their bundle, in which you can receive a personalised voicemail message from one the team!

#6 H.E.R

A voice like heaven, 23 year old H.E.R released this extraordinary track, 'I Can't Breathe' in light of the Black Lives Movement. Honestly using her platform to expose the tragic consequences of police brutality. The track itself shows the true bravery from the artist, her pure talent and we can't wait to see what's next.

#7 Doja Cat X Gucci Mane

Whilst Doja Cat has been involved in her fair share of controversies this last month, she still came out on top with this release alongside Gucci Mane. The track 'Like That' is classic bop from both artists with Sailor Moon animations...make sure you watch to the end and catch Doja in the splits.

#8 Janice x Oscar Zia

Swedish artist Janice came through with this classic rendition of 'Älska Mig' (translating to 'Love Me'), a well-known track originally by the Ainsbusk Singers in 1991. After televising the cover, with Oscar Zia, live on Swedish National day, Janice realised the heaviness of the words and took it upon herself to release a cover in which all proceeds are donated to Afripedia, an organisation focusing on creating opportunities for creatives of African descent.

#9 Fenty Summer Playlists - Steve Lacy

Just as you thought Fenty couldn't get any better, they've gone ahead and created your ideal playlists to get you ready for the summer ahead. Collaborating with big names to host the selection process, like Steve Lacy and Imaan Hamman, with their intention to "soothe your soul and lift your spirits" - sign us up!

#10 Orion Sun

REC Philly's own, Orion Sun has produced a beautiful yet somewhat saddening track, 'Mamma's Baby' as way of coping during the uncertain changing time. The track raised over $18,000, in which all were donated to Breonna Taylor's gofundme and the Loveland Foundation."i won't stop fighting just like my ancestors even with the world stacked against me im 24 now but i'll always be mama's baby".

June 22, 2020

Janice Talks Us Through Her New Release ‘Älska Mig’

Swedish singer, activist and role-model Janice Kavander has released a powerful cover of the Ainbusk Singer's 1991 track 'Älska Mig', translating to 'Love Me'. After being presented with the opportunity to perform the song live on television, part of Swedish National Day celebrations, Janice took it upon herself to record the track, alongside friend and artist Oscar Zia. In the hopes to shed light over the current major civil rights movement occurring across the world, all proceeds from the single will be donated to her chosen organisation, Afripedia, an online community space connecting and celebrating creatives of African-descent. Janice explains the emotional attachment she has with the song, how singing it became more meaningful than ever and openly discusses her experience as a black woman in the music industry.

A: Introduce yourself!

J: My name is Janice, I’m 25 and I’ve been in the music industry for 4 years now. I released my first song in 2016, but previously I toured with many other artists, part of the backing vocals. I usually say I’ve almost done backing vocals for every single Swedish artist! I have a choir background, so I used to, and still do actually,...sing in a gospel choir, which I’ve been doing for around 10 years. I have a hard time letting it go! 

A: When was your big breakthrough? 

J: I think if you ask different people you’ll get different answers. I released my first three singles independently, my first song was actually listed on P3 (A Swedish radio station) as one of the best songs of 2016. I found this funny because my manager and I went to talk to labels and everyone said about my music that "they don't think it's for the Swedish audience”, that was fine because I wanted to go international. Of course it would’ve been nice to have my home country enjoy my music, so that’s why I chose to release independently.

And I mean...it went very well here. I was grateful to play in my hometown and at festivals in Sweden. I say that my single ‘Queen’ that I released in 2017 was not necessarily my big break but a good moment in my career, it was also the year I was nominated for a Swedish Grammy.

A: What was the thought process behind choosing the song ‘Älska Mig’?

J: In January I got a question from SVT that they were doing a programme on Swedish national day, where they were doing a celebration of Swedish classics, and they wanted relevant artists to sing them. When choosing the track I was thinking how I love to sing in Swedish but never make music in it. I ended up choosing a classic song, ‘Älska Mig’ from 1991 by Ainbusk singers. I’ve loved this song since I was a little kid, I remember when I heard it for the first time, it was the first time I actually got chills from music. That song has been with me for quite sometime and with all that’s been happening in the world, with the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the song became even more meaningful to me. I felt like there were days where I didn’t have any words. All my energy, all my force was basically taken, so when I sang the song I was like ‘shit this really hit me’. I was performing it with a great artist and friend of mine, Oscar Zia, and we hadn’t sang together before but that day when we sang the song, I can’t even describe it, it was so uplifting but still, it felt like we were screaming.

A: How has your personal experience in the music industry been as a black woman? 

J: It’s been hard, actually, ‘cause I mean, even though people don’t really wanna see it or even think it, racism exists everywhere and it exists here in Sweden. I’ve felt like as a black woman and as an artist, I have to be better, I have to be EVEN better, I have to be 10/10 to get the recognition I deserve. I always want to work for what I do and challenge myself but it comes to a point where it feels meaningless because you’re here and you’re shouting and you feel like you're doing the same as everyone else but you don't get the same reaction. When I go on a TV show, I always have to check who is going to do my makeup and hair. There's been endless times where I’ve come to the studio and they don’t even have the colours for makeup and they especially don't have hairstylists experienced in curly hair or afro. It gives you a feeling that you're not even accounted for, that they’re not even thinking about you.

A: How have you been taking care of yourself during this time? 

J: I've been hanging out a lot with my family, friends, and with other musicians. Just staying with my community and definitely staying off social media has helped a lot. There was a time when I was getting headaches just because I was on my phone all the time, trying to write, absorb everything whilst trying to stay updated. But I think it’s really important to get offline because it's a traumatic experience in many ways, seeing all these posts and videos all the time. Just reminders that you’re a black person without the same human rights. But I feel a lot better now that I make myself watch TV series totally disconnected to what’s happening in the media. 

A: How long did it take you to record the track? 

J: So it was a very quick process, I haven’t even registered that it happened. I contacted my friend Mats Sandahl aka MASAKA who is an amazing producer and also part of the black community. I had a strong feeling that I wanted to do something more, even before discussing it with my managers. I was like “I’ve already decided!”. Mats mentioned that he never watches TV but then randomly chose to switch it on one evening and there I was on his screen singing ‘Älska mig’ for SVT, he really felt everything I was feeling so thought why not, let's do this. We got into the studio, Oscar and Mats and I, and we recorded for around three hours and then it got sent off for mixing. 

A: What do you want people to take away after hearing the track? 

J: I would actually like to leave people with a force of energy, but also understand why I’m even putting it out. There are many people thinking that we ”import ideas from the US” about racism and that’s bullshit. Structural racism is here, in Sweden too. Also, I really hope the black and POC community in Sweden really connect with it, and get strength from the lyrics, because it’s lifted me during this time.

So, I hope to bring some light but I also hope white people who listen to the song will understand it, and that they actually educate themselves and make an effort to have these difficult conversations, and look within themselves too. It’s ‘great’ that you’re posting a black box in solidarity but that’s not nearly enough. Being anti-racist is not political, it’s an act of human rights.

A: Can you tell us about Afripedia? 

J: All proceeds will be donated to the organisation Afripedia, who work with creative talents from Sweden and around the world who are of African descent, helping them to create more job opportunities and reach the million-dollar businesses that wouldn’t have been previously possible. I wanted to donate to an organisation where we can actually see where the funds are going. If you listen to the song, you can create a difference and change the future for the better. It’ll be so uplifting for me to follow up and see how the proceeds have created an impact.

A: Were you scared or nervous to release this track? 

J: There could be some people who could be strongly against this, but I’ve been more “political” in my own music and interviews, and I’ve got enough backing so no, I’m not scared.

A: How do you feel that the track is was released on Juneteenth? 

J: For me it’s quite symbolic because Midsummer is a holy Swedish tradition and falls on that day too. I think people should do more of these types of “projects”, because what we’re really doing is shining a light on what our society looks like. What we see in the media is not close to that. Representation is very needed and yet it is lacking. Sweden is far from just people with blue eyes and blonde hair. I’m a swede, born and raised, and I’m here too. So hopefully people aren’t too busy and spend a minute and listen to the song. I think it’s more important than ever, to take a stand, not just show solidarity, but also take action. 

Listen to Älska Mig here.

May 21, 2020

Isanna Guides Us Through Her New Ethereal Music Video

We caught up with the talented American-German producer, Isanna, ahead of her newest release 'Moshpit of Emotions'. After creating the entire music video from her living room under self-isolation and with limited resources, we discussed how she and her team went about producing the unique and dramatic visuals to her new track during these unprecedented conditions.

Introduce yourself!

Hey I’m Isanna, a German/American songwriter and producer currently based in London.

What was the inspiration behind the music video for Moshpit of Emotions?

We really wanted to capture the feelings of isolation, wonder, and awe that I felt while writing the track. The character I play in the video is floating through space, and through life in general, to mirror that. She’s lost in the middle of nowhere, but still refusing to lose her sense of wonder.

Did you have any assistance creating the film? If so, who?

My amazing brother Alex co-directed the video with our wildly talented VFX editor Harry Lindley. I did my own makeup and styling, and my mom did my hair haha. It was a family effort, to say the least.

Can you explain the process behind the production?

Alex and I filmed the video in front of a green screen in our living room during lockdown. It was the most chilled process ever. It was honestly just like hanging out at home, but every 5 minutes my mom was running around, touching up my flyaways and decreasing the green screen. She’s such a legend, shout out mom!! Then we handed the shots off to Harry to create a whole CGI world on earth, in space, and somewhere in between :’)

How long did the entire filming process take?

The filming took approx. one and a half days as we didn’t have much to work with, so we wanted to make sure all of my performance shots were as good as they could be. The editing and VFX process happened over the span of four weeks, with Alex and Harry collaborating remotely to make the whole thing as fantastical and wild as it could be.

Were there any major obstacles that you encountered?

Our living room is teeny tiny, and the green screen wasn’t massive, so we kept having to re-film scenes where my arms and legs would have disappeared off screen once we put in a background. Also, we were working with really limited lighting, which makes a green screen edit super difficult. We had to get creative with ways to bounce light off of my face, like using a small plastic card as a reflector. 

How did it feel to create a music video under the conditions of quarantine?

It was difficult, but if there’s one thing my team loves, it’s a challenge. 

How did being in lockdown affect the final result?

I think filming during self-isolation was beneficial for my performance. It really helped me get into character because I was running through the gamut of emotions in real life as well, as I’m sure many people are during this time.

What's next for you?

I’m writing/producing towards my debut EP at the moment, so I’m still in a place of exploring what I really want to say with my first bigger body of work. We’re releasing my next single at the start of summer as well, so I’m really psyched for that! Sadly the festivals that I was meant to play at this summer got cancelled, but on the bright side, it allows more time for writing and introspection.

Follow Isanna on Instagram for more.

May 19, 2020

Harry Styles’ New Music Video Is A Quarantine Dream

The newly released music video for the track 'Watermelon Sugar' is a juicy ode to 'touching', and a tease for life before and after lockdown.

Harry Styles has returned with a deliciously succulent new visual part of his Fine Line album, giving us fans a more traditional 70s sepia-toned energy and a celebration of summer. Whilst most of us are still in lockdown mode, this new video transports us to warmer climates and is a big ol' tease to traveling and touching. "DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Practice social distancing," Styles pranked on Twitter.

Fuelled by shots of tanned bodies swimming under sand, fruit being seductively eaten, and plenty of watermelons, this video is a tortuous gift that has been blessed to us by the prince of pop himself. Thank you Harry -we love you.

May 18, 2020

Music-related Podcasts You Need in Your Life

Lets get real, podcasts are underrated. Sometimes a great podcast can be the catalyst to new ideas, the ideal remedy after a stressful day or even just the perfect accompaniment when you need some 'you' time. We've rounded up some essential music-related podcasts to add to your daily routines 😌🙌

#When you just want to know more

Named 'Best podcast of 2018' by The New York Times, Dissect is a podcast dedicated to breaking down the meaning of various albums from pivotal figures in the music industry. From The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to the mystery of Frank Ocean, each season looks to dissect and forensically examine the music, lyrics and the backstory behind one song. Hosted by Cole Cuchna, Dissect is every music nerd's dream come true 😎 Listen here.

#When you need inspiration

Hosted by Musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, 'Switched on Pop' is the necessary podcast tackling the latest trends in popular music. The podcast is there to convince that maybe 'the worst song you've ever listened to' still has had huge time and effort poured into it. From Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga, the podcast is a refreshingly open and an energised way of viewing the music industry 💕 Listen here.

#When you need a self-care day

Okay so this isn't exactly a *podcast* more of a playlist but nonetheless the wonderfully addictive NPR Tiny Desk Concerts (which has recently revealed to be not so tiny after all) have kindly transformed their originally video based series into a podcast so that you can listen to live music on-the-go. A perfect accompaniment to your 'you' days 🤩 Listen here.

#When you need new music

Recorded in NYC, Not97 is the podcast you've been needing your whole life. Three hosts and a guest industry-expert meet to discuss music from talented, under-the-radar artists around the world, with each of them presenting two recently released tracks and breaking down the reason behind their choosing. The podcast is the perfect solution for when you're in need of some new music to switch up your playlists 🔥Listen here.

#When you need that 'Gurls Talk'

The Gurls Talk Podcast is here for your every need. Whilst it's not directly a music-related podcast, its a collation of stories and discussions from strong independent womxn, making moves in life and unravelling the truths of what it means to be a 'woman' today. Hosted by it's creator, activist and model, Adwoa Aboah and featuring the likes of Dua Lipa and Jorja Smith, this podcast is one to inspire. Send to your sister, mother, grandmother, girlfriend, partner and anyone in-between that you think could connect with these open and honest conversations 💁Listen here.

May 11, 2020

7 Must-See Music Videos of All Time

We've curated a selection of music videos we believe are amongst the best ever have been made. There are so many fantastic pieces of art out there - new magical videos are created every year! From Childish Gambino to Björk, we've got you covered with some of the must-see videos on the web👌

#1 This Is America - Childish Gambino (2018)

This never ending journey of horrific surprises won a Grammy for Best Music Video in 2018. Directed by Hiro Murai, this genius body of work is filled with symbols and metaphors about race and gun violence in the US. The four-minute long one-shot video will sure hit you hard - be aware that there is graphic violence.

#2 Nothing Compares 2U - Sinéad O'Connor (1990)

Originally written by Prince, Sinéad O'Connor made this song a huge hit with this cutting, exceptional video. The focus on just her face, exposed while going through the stages of anger and sadness that comes with losing someone loved. It feels so real, so raw and so, so beautiful - probably because all the emotions in the video are real. Sinéad O'Connor thought about the death of her mother while recording it - and wow - it sure worked. In 1990, the video won three VMA’s - amongst others ‘Video of the Year’.

#3 It’s Oh So Quiet - Björk (1995)

This iconic video for Björks remake of Betty Hutton’s It’s Oh So Quiet, made in collaboration with the Hollywood director Spike Jonze, has become one of her most famous releases. The playful choreography, each shot looking like a real-life Disney movie, sure is something special. The delicate slo-mo during the verses makes the chorus feel like a trip on sugar. The video received six nominations for the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996.

#4 Humble - Kendrick Lamar (2017)

This gorgeously-shot music video, directed by Dave Meyers, took Kendrick Lamar’s track Humble to a whole new level. Bursting with symbolism - the video brings an edge to the song since it fearless shows the opposite of humbleness. The way Lamar looks into the camera, with such power in his eyes, makes it impossible to look away. Nominated for eight VMAs in 2018, it took home six - of course including Video of the Year.

#5 Cranes in the sky - Solange (2016)

This magical piece of art is something truly unique. Solange way of acting in front of the camera is somehow meditative. Art directed by Carlota Guerrero and co-directed by herself and her then husband Alan Ferguson, it was shot in 42 (!) different setups, all between New Orleans and New Mexico’s mountains through the deserts of Texas. It took them two, completely dedicated, weeks to film everything - impressive!

#6 Yellow Submarine - The Beatles (1968)

This classic, groundbreaking film was revolutionary when it came out in 1969. This video is a short part of the full movie - 87 minute long - that changed the animation industry. John Lassester (Toy Story etc) and Josh Weinstein (The Simpsons) have both claimed that the film gave birth to modern animation and that without it, we probably wouldn’t have either Family Guy, Frozen or Shrek.

#7 Bad Girls - M.I.A (2012)

M.I.A has always been controversial - it’s her thing. This video was no exception. Bad Girls is a middle finger to Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, which is now legal since 2018 - this badass video took the world by storm when it was released in 2012. Women armed with machine guns, racing in the beautiful deserts of Morocco, dragging their feet alongside the car at 60 miles/hour - this video is as much of a political stand as it is visually mind blowing.

May 7, 2020

5 Iconic Albums Made in Isolation

It's coming up to week...who knows at this point...in lockdown and most of us are starting to adjust to this temporary life of forced solitude. Whilst isolation is associated with negative connotations, it can be a great opportunity for us to invest time and patience into our masterpieces. We've selected 5 albums that were created in total isolation to show that great work can come from moments of self-reflection.

#1 Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Released in 2008, 'For Emma, Forever ago' was created by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Created in complete solitude after a depressing phase of his life, with him being bedridden from catching pneumonia and the dissolution of his band mates. Vernon impulsively chose to move to his fathers hunting cabin in rural Wisconsin during his recovery and chose abandon his usual life for a moment of self-reflection. The album later went on to being one of the greatest indie folk albums of all time.

#2 Grimes - Visions

Described by Grimes' Claire Boucher as an 'equally enjoyable and tortuous' experience. Visions is one the most extreme cases of self isolation dated in the music industry. Created in a three week concoction of amphetamine-binging and a nine-day record of no sleep and food, the album went on to be a breakthrough for Grimes and the catalyst to her fame. Perhaps not a great way to live but credits to Boucher for her dedication.

#3 ABRA - Rose

ABRA is a genius in creating music in an isolated environment, in which the self-taught artist has recorded all of her so-far released tracks from either her parents closet or the laundry room in her apartment. Her DIY settings have given her low quality recordings compared to a big flashy studio but the unfocused, hazy nature of her music has become a statement within her material. Her work is often a product of 'not belonging', with her moving between New York, London and Atlanta from a young age - ABRA indulged in these feelings and has since became a well known character in the R&B scene.

#4 Radiohead - OK Computer

Radiohead's OK Computer (released in 1997) was created in two halves of isolations, the first in a converted shed based in Oxfordshire and the second in a backwoods mansion in Somerset. The five band members would split into different rooms of the mansion to work individually and then come together to fuse their pieces into one. Both weren't ideal studio set ups but this unconventional approach worked in their favour and album went on to labelling the band as geniuses in the rock scene.

#5 Kanye - Ye

Released in the summer of 2018, Kanye's album Ye is an ode to self-isolation. After slashing tour dates and spending time hospitalised in psychiatric care, Kanye created this comeback album after much time away from the limelight. Recorded in his unnecessarily huge Wyoming ranch, standing a six thousand acres, the album went on to be a controversial mixtape with his brutally infamous lyrics "I said slavery is a choice/ they said ‘how Ye?".

April 30, 2020

Amuse presents ‘Alone Together: a Collaborative Album Breaking the Boundaries of Self-Isolation

We caught up with the artists behind the project to talk about the record, the collab process, and the future of independent music in a post-pandemic era. 

‘Alone Together‘ was initiated just a few weeks ago by London-based musician, writer and mix engineer Adam Lee and LA-based singer-songwriter Jessica Louise, and leads with an inspiring cover of The Beatles’ classic ‘Come Together’ as well as 13 completely new, original songs.

The record has been created collaboratively in teams over the past three weeks from the homes of an impressive list of talent from across the world, including musicians like UK based Zack Knight and Daley, New Zealander Emily Browning and producer and keyboardist Anomalie from Montreal, along with Victoria Canal, Nikki Flores, and David Ryan Harris from the U.S.

Collaborating together to create an album of music to document this unique point in history, ‘Alone Together’ is released in collaboration with Amuse, with our team providing free subscriptions to our upgraded Amuse Pro tier to the artists participating in the project, helping facilitate the album making process with tools like automatic royalty splits and team accounts.

We caught up with Adam Lee and Jessica Louise to find out more about the project and the future of independent music in the post-pandemic era.

How did you come up with all of this?

It honestly started with a PayPal note. Adam was doing a mix for me in exchange for me letting him stay in my living room on his most recent visit to LA to go to NAMM. I ended up paying him his full rate and I had attached a note saying “I knew you wouldn’t have accepted this payment if I had told you about it before, but please accept it now. I have it that this exchange will bring the both of us great fortune.” 

And immediately after receiving the note, he called me and said “let’s make an album” and I said “OK!”. So here we are now with a project that has over 40 artists and 14 songs, in total! I still can’t believe it.

Tell us about the collab process - how did you coordinate the artists? 

Jessica: We realized shortly after bringing everyone together that what we were doing was something that had never been done before. We had artists creating teams with people they had met for the very first time over Zoom and FaceTime! It was remarkable and still blows my mind. 

Adam: Artists did everything from building entire backing tracks for people to write to, through to building entire tracks - including harmonic arrangements - out of WhatsApp voice notes! I think, perhaps, this was the beauty of the project, for me. To see how creative people were about working together. 

Why did you choose ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles as the main track? 

Jessica: This idea came from the genius mind of Juan Ariza. He approached Adam with this idea and I remember thinking, “can we do that?” and Adam saying “Juan’s got it,” and then we were all on board. I love the song “Come Together” because it speaks directly to the mission of this project which is to encourage and inspire unity, community, creativity and staying at home during uncertain times. 

Adam: He threw together the most incredibly inventive arrangement in just one day, and by the following day, we had a track to send to artists. Over hours of calls, we mapped out the song, assigned artists to particular lines, verses and time stamps, and I began the mission of contacting each individual - with a tailored text message - outlining exactly what we required from them, together with a landscape phone video to collate and edit together into a music video - picked up generously by my talented friend, Eastwood Allen. The 394-track behemoth of a Logic session he handed to mix engineer Jon Rezin was truly a work of art.

What do you think this crisis means for the future of independent music, do you think that independent artists actually have more power now? 

Jessica: I think the crisis has shifted the entire music industry, honestly. Ever since the inception of streaming platforms and distribution channels like Amuse, independent artists have had every tool that they needed to succeed. I think the difference is the focus. People are looking to artists and musicians more than ever now, to give them a sense of comfort, joy, entertainment, community and freedom. With the ability to put up a song and have people stream it from anywhere in the world at any time, the power is definitely in the hands of the independent artist who takes advantage of this opportunity. 

How do you think the pandemic has changed the future of music production? Do you think home studios will be here to stay? 

Adam: The pandemic, for me, was a reminder that investing in a home setup was possibly the best creative decision I ever made. I just needed the time to be locked away and make the most of it - something that the directive of Alone Together preaches from its core.

What’s your favourite Amuse Pro feature and how has it helped you?

Jessica: My favorite Amuse Pro feature is definitely the Team feature. I love how Amuse Pro handles all of the data tracking and then lists everything out to each member on the team. It’s so transparent and makes everything so much easier! 

Adam: For me, having full, accurate control over royalty splits, is a great asset to projects like this one, where precise divisions between artists and our chosen charity are so necessary. This is a great platform, and a great chance for us to focus on the music, while Amuse focuses on getting it to our audience.

‘Alone Together’ is released on Friday May 1 via Amuse. Click here for a pre-save that saves the track to your collection as soon as it drops!

Ready to go pro? Amuse Pro is the set of tools that helps you unlock the next level of your independent music career. Get access to fast lane releases, add team members with royalty splits and put your music on Instagram and TikTok. Sign up for Amuse Pro here

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