Ceilings Floors and Open Doors has a tricky task to pull off. On the one hand, like so many confessional, lo-fi singer/songwriter albums these days, the record finds California singer/songwriter Gwyneth Moreland avoiding the bells and whistles that comes with much of today’s recording software. Ceilings is stripped-down to the most basic level recording-wise; at times, tinges of lo-fi buzz can be heard seeping into Moreland’s acoustic guitar-driven musings. On the other hand, so many lo-fi albums use that austere type of recording as a gimmick, obscuring whatever unique thing an artist might have to say in favor of sounding “authentic”. Fortunately, the latter folly is nowhere to be found on Ceilings, as Moreland uses a lo-fi sonic to enhance her voice and her songwriting, not to obfuscate them. The result is a singer/songwriter LP with the warmth and intimacy of a small house show.
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The Honeyrunners hail from Toronto, but you’d be forgiven for thinking them another retro-minded American rock ‘n’ roll band. The spirit of the Black Crowes is alive and well with this young outfit, whose latest outing, EP 2, features the driving number “Under Control”. On its own, the song is a real jam, with staccato riffs building up a tense mood. The tension builds even more, however, in the song’s video, which opens with a man being knelt down, just about to be shot, and then… well, for that, you’ll just have to watch the rest below.
If Chelsea Wolfe spent a lot of time out in the Southwestern deserts of the US and listened to a lot of old school blues, the resulting sound would probably be quite close to the music of Betty Black, the project of New York musician Sylvia Gordon. “Heartless”, her latest tune, is a brooding affair, capturing the sexual energy of rock ‘n’ roll at its sleaziest with a healthy dose of blues rhythm. The highly creative Black directed and edited the video to “Heartless” herself, pairing the song’s enigmatic energy with a striking contrast between psychedelic flourishes of color and heavy shadows.
Willie Nile is well known as a singer/songwriter and a rock musician, which is why over 30 years into his career, an album like If I Was a River might come as a surprise to some. The LP finds Nile trading in a guitar for a piano, writing tunes centered on the ebony and ivory keys. Of course, Nile has played piano on his records since his 1980 self-titled debut, but never has his music been so rooted in keyboard composition. It’s a move that doesn’t fundamentally change the sound he’s come to build over his lengthy career; rather, it offers a new look at things that have always been present in his style.
His mother named him Richard Wallace, but to you he’s Epic, one of the most exciting, talented and fearless artists making music in Chicago. Best known as a member of the legendary rap trio BBU, he’s been busy since their last release, 2012’s bell hooks. For the past two years the artist, rapper and community activist has been hitting the studio with producer Stefan Clark and artists such as Tomorrow King, Kool A.D. (of Das Racist), and Show You Suck to create a batch of newer, more introspective songs.
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