Weekend Wonders: Skybaby Siren - A Shoreline Dream - Touché Amoré - John K. Samson - Ptarmigan

Skybaby Siren - Day By Day (feat. Elia).

Background promo - Hailing from Sydney but now residing in London, producer/songwriter Craig Beck, aka Skybaby Siren, has been an established artist and writer for years. After finally deciding to start investing in his own music, he began releasing tracks periodically as an outlet from his usual work producing music for others. A multi-instrumentalist he see's the value in collaborating with singer-songwriters to enhance the music he composes and hopes that this somehow strikes a chord with music lovers.

Skybaby Siren’s latest release is ‘Day by Day’, featuring the vocal stylings of Elia and showcasing what the band self-describes as their brand of Sonic Psychedelic Rock Pop. It’s a sleekly produced track, that shows off the act’s typically 80’s influenced style, with hints of the serene pop of modern dream rockers DIIV. Elia’s cool vocals float through the song, ushering in the infectious harmonies of the track’s smooth chorus.

‘Day By Day’ is about being in a relationship where one person is more ahead with feelings than the other. It's about wanting to stay in the relationship but getting scared and wanting to control the pace.

The previous release, ‘I Love Everything About You’ - was cowritten and was the first Skybaby Siren track to feature Elia. Elia is a singer/songwriter from Melbourne. A graduate of the Australian Institute of Music, Elia's music style is mellow electro containing influences of Contemporary Jazz and Popular music. Since her first release in 2013, Elia has been composing all genres focusing mainly on top line work. It was through this work she began collaborating with Skybaby Siren.

 The band not only are releasing this brand new single, but an accompanying music video. The promo video explores the life of Neon, a young agoraphobic girl who lives "day by day" in a wardrobe taken care of by her very loving and understanding boyfriend Sam. Frustrated by the lack of human touch and the need to want to help Neon find her happy place Sam devises a very clever and cute solution to encourage Neon out of her little tiny house. (View here).

'Day By Day' definitely benefits from the inclusion of Elia on vocals, on what is a smooth, catchy pop/rock song. It's a collaboration that works, leaving us with a polished melodic piece.


A Shoreline Dream - Whirlwind.

Background - 'Whirlwind' is the third single from the ever-evolving new record by A Shoreline Dream, which is being released song by song before its completion. This new track dives into the harsh reality of the constant changes occurring around us and the fact that everything continues to speed forward throughout our short lives. Originating in Barnum, Colorado, A Shoreline Dream is Ryan Policky (vocalist/guitarist/producer) and Erik Jeffries (guitar). Together, the two crafted this latest 'Whirlwind'.

With the recent death of singer Ryan Policky's father, and a murder occuring right next door to where A Shoreline Dream writes, practices and records, the motivation to finish and release this track was high on the band's to-do list for the summer. Riding a fine line between alternative rock, goth and post-punk and with a bass heavy overtone, the song dips and dives into layers of guitars and vocal chants, heavily influenced by the changing of seasons, and the speed of life for this band now celebrating its 10th year of music experimentation.

As autumn comes and the release of 'Whirlwind' hits, new music will be developed that brings in the next wave of what’s to soon become A Shoreline Dream’s first vinyl album. A Shoreline Dream makes what is best described as “progressive shoegaze”, combining lush sampled textures, organic instrumentation and vocals layered like a synth. Their sound is an invigorating mixture of sounds from the likes of Bauhaus, Ride and Sigur Rós mixed with early Dead Can Dance.

Over the past decade, the band has produced numerous acclaimed releases under their own label (Latenight Weeknight Records) and has intensively collaborating with legends such as Ulrich Schnauss and Mark Kramer. Recently they landed distribution by cult UK indie label Rocket Girl Records while recording with Ulrich in Leytonstone, and have also remixed an Engineers' song for progressive label gods K-Scope.

It's been a few years since we featured A Shoreline Dream, the song 'Whirlwind' confirms their consistent status of creating sonic delights. They can develop something nearing a wall of sound, and yet leave enough room for melodic hooks, that for me ensures a compulsive second listen.


Touché Amoré - Skyscraper.

Background - 'Skyscraper' is the closing track off the band’s new album Stage Four, out September 16. In addition to front man Jeremy Bolm singing melody, the song also features guest vocals by acclaimed singer-songwriter Julien Baker.

As Jeremy Bolm explains “I'm a Leonard Cohen fanatic, and I feel he figured out early that his range can be brought to life with the accompaniment of a beautiful female voice over his. So taking a page from his book I asked Julien to join me on the track. I adore Julien and her talent. I couldn't have been more excited when she was down to do it.”

'Stage Four' is the band’s follow-up to their 2013 critically-admired album 'Is Survived By…' . It was recorded in Studio City, California with producer Brad Wood. Fans can pre-order 'Stage Four' at toucheamore.com and receive previously released tracks 'Palm Dreams' and 'Displacement' as instant downloads. Pre-order bundles are also available at toucheamore.com.

Since forming across 2007 and 2008, the Burbank, California band’s sound, with its melodic sonic assault and impassioned vocals, has grown tighter and more refined throughout their upward-moving career. Lead singer Jeremy Bolm, guitarists Nick Steinhardt and Clayton Stevens, bassist Tyler Kirby, and drummer Elliot Babin have created a trajectory for themselves through hard work and dedication. And now with Stage Four, their fourth and biggest album to date, they are cementing their status as one of rock music’s most talented, relatable, and visceral acts.

'Skyscraper' may have a hint of Leonard Cohen about it vocally and the inclusion of Julien Baker is a master-stroke, however this is an original song in it's own right. It is also a massive tease as we have to wait another four weeks for the album.


John K. Samson - Postdoc Blues.

Background - Singer/Songwriter John K. Samson Enlists The Rhythm Section From His Renowned Band The Weakerthans For Much of His Second Solo Album,  Winter Wheat, Available From Epitaph/ANTI, October 21st, 2016.

Inspired by the search for connection and community, his hometown of Winnipeg, and our individual and collective struggles with addictions to drugs, screens, and fossil fuels, John K. Samson’s new full-length album, Winter Wheat, is a sprawling, masterful and timely work by a writer at the peak of his powers.

Winter Wheat was produced in garages and homes through a Winnipeg winter by Samson’s partner and collaborator, Christine Fellows, and his Weakerthans co-founder and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Tait, and mixed in the spring in Toronto by Robbie Lackritz (Bahamas, Feist). The spare and thoughtful arrangements also feature Greg Smith of The Weakerthans on electric bass, Ashley Au on double and electric bass, Leanne Zacharias on cello, and Shotgun Jimmie on electric guitar.

Several of the 15 songs, most directly Select All Delete, Vampire Alberta Blues, and VPW 13 Blues, are inspired by Neil Young’s enduring 1974 album On the Beach, and that record’s honest and unvarnished spirit is evident throughout Winter Wheat. Postdoc Blues follows an aging student struggling to maintain faith in the possibility of a better world, while Fellow Traveller is loosely based on the life of the British art critic and Soviet spy Anthony Blunt. 150 years of Winnipeg’s history is revealed in the two and a half minutes of Oldest Oak at Brookside, and Samson’s recurring characters Virtute the cat and her troubled human companion (from The Weakerthans songs Plea from a Cat Named Virtute and Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure) make their final appearances in 17th Street Treatment Centre and Virtute at Rest.

Like the crop itself, which is planted in the fall, sprouts, goes dormant through months of snow and rises in the spring, Winter Wheat is a determined, beautiful, resilient response to difficult and extraordinary times.

'Postdoc Blues' certainly suggests that we are in for something a little special with the October album release 'Winter Wheat'. The song is gently melodic, and has a crisp, defined sound allowing all elements to shine.


Ptarmigan - O Zephyr.

Background from the band - 'O Zephyr' is about the best example of what Ptarmigan is as a band. In the track, acoustic instruments like banjo and mandolin are layered and blended with synthesized and electronic textures. This rich layering is what we are constantly trying to achieve as a band. Lyrically, the song is my attempt to come to terms with the source of my musical creations and inspiration. I think of art as a sort of palimpsest, that is, a manuscript that is constantly written, wiped of its contents, re-written, but on which the traces of previous creations remain.

I don't think of any music as purely original, but interesting re-imaginations or tapestries of previous cultural creations. I think we've sort of learned to embrace our nerdiness as a band, which is pretty critical to understanding our music. We are all really inspired by fantasy and mythology and this definitely comes out in our music. There is a certain epicness to it, though we really try to maintain a level of good aesthetic taste. (August 26th release date, Eastern Canada tour planned for October).

Release shows:
Aug 26, 2016 - The Spill - Peterborough, ON w/ Nick Procyshyn
Aug 27, 2016 - Burdock Music Hall - Toronto, ON w/ Isla Craig
Sept 1, 2016 - Baltimore House - Hamilton, ON w/ Grey \ Water and Dizzy

I have to say I can't help but agree with the sentiments in the second paragraph above regarding the originality of  music in general. 'O Zephyr' therefore does pretty well in that it does have some unique attributes, and more importantly is one fine song. Maybe it's time for us all to embrace our nerdiness, if it leads to high quality music....