Six Of The Best: Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazar Davis - The Cut Losses - James Parry - Harlea - Laurel - SIANspheric

Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazar Davis - Magic Lamp.

Background promo - Brooklyn based Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazar Davis will release Let It Be You on Oct 21 via Reveal Records/BFD/RED Distribution. The band will celebrate the album's release at The Good Room in Greenpoint on 10/26. Also on the bill is another of Ben's projects, Cuddle Magic.

Initially announced under the moniker ‘2001’ the duo released a pair of partner videos directed by Benjamin Gregory featuring Fred Armisen (SNL, Portlandia); one for the song “Overloaded” with Ben on lead vocals and “Broke Me In Two” featuring Joan on lead.

A deeply soulful artist, Joan As Police Woman (Joan Wasser) has famously worked with Antony (Anohni), Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed and David Sylvian. Benjamin is a talented multi-instrumentalist who currently performs with his band Cuddle Magic, Okkervil River, and Bridget Kearney (Lake Street Dive). Joan and Ben met each other after separate trips to Africa; Ethiopia for Joan as part of Damon Albarn’s Africa Express,  and West Africa for Lazar to study traditional music. They initially bonded over Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns and wrote this album together loosely inspired by this music. The band recently performed at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival.

The band will be touring Europe in November and December. Performing with a full band, Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazar Davis will showcase songs from the new album and re-imagine recordings from the four previous Joan As Police Woman albums (Real Life, To Survive, The Deep Field, The Classic). Click Here for a full list of dates. Joan As Police Woman website here, Benjamin Lazar Davis here.

With artists of this calibre 'Magic Lamp' ought to be one fine song, and for me it's all of that. Stripped back to the vital musical ingredients the duo bring the vocals to the fore, and allow the steady rhythm, to sit nicely behind the melodic singing.


The Cut Losses - My Valentine.

Background - Emerging shoegaze artist The Cut Losses put out a dreamy new single My Valentine. Self taught from the drum kit in Rock Band, Patrick McWilliams was a high school student playing drums for local bands, soon transitioning into the multi-instrumentalist virtuoso creator of the solo project The Cut Losses. Outcasted in his fine arts high school for having weird music tastes, the young Patrick McWilliams soon emerged as a unique voice, dominating numerous battle of the bands competitions, radio contests, and establishing a name for himself as a musician before the age of 17. 

He possessed only two albums growing up: a Beatles “Greatest Hits” album, and The Beach Boys “Endless Summer,” establishing his musical foundation which emphasises the power of melody and harmony as a song’s driving force. As he exposed himself to more music, he consistently found himself making connections to these two foundational albums, particularly in bands with psychedelic references such as Tame Impala and MGMT. He additionally enjoys experimenting with electronic music. As a result, his music is described as a hybrid of 70s Psychedelic, 80s Electronic, and Motown Revival.

More than sonic influences however, The Cut Losses most remembers the feeling of isolation in their youth, and through their music hope to provide a voice for unity and acceptance. Drenched in the love for 80s music, The Cut Losses wants their music to get people to dance again, instilling fast paced tempo behind the dreamy textures and evocative lyrics touching on themes of isolation, fear of insanity, and acceptance. The two together, they hope, will inspire people to embrace all the weirdness the world has to offer.

From being pulled on stage to sing with Surfer Blood, to signing with Cedar Street Records, The Cut Losses’s musical journey has been filled with exciting, unexpected moments. Gaining hype and traction from blogs, and their opening spot for LA surf-punks Together PANGEA in both 2014 and 2015, The Cut Losses are now developing their debut album with internationally acclaimed producer Felix Fung this year. Facebook here.

I was give a choice of two songs to feature and went with 'My Valentine' as I really like the arrangement and production. With sweet chorus harmonies and the vocals immersed in a swirl of sounds, it's sometimes psychedelic feel is quite appealing.


James Parry - Young Emotions.

Background - James Parry lives in Hobart, Tasmania and writes independent pop songs. After playing in bands throughout high school, he released his first solo EP, Eastern Shores, in 2008, followed by his first album, Almost At The Ivory, in 2011. James is now excited to announce his latest album In The Lights. Sweet and juicy guitar riffs, de: drums and uplifting organ support James’ straight-shooting vocals, which tell a nostalgic tale of heady young love with a dark twist. Young Emotions is the opening track from In The Lights, and ripples from its story reach the furthest corners of the concept album.

James has supported artists including Alex Lloyd, The Gin Club, Leah Flanagan, Jackson Dyer and Ryan Downey, and a review of Almost At The Ivory declared that James’, “signature voice and passionate harmonies have led him to become a solid gold chip in the Tasmanian wedge of Australian independent artists.”  

Inspired by what an ace drum line could do for a recording such as Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, he used his search for the right recorded drum sound to pick a studio and settled on Toyland in Northcote, better known for heavy rock recording. The final mixing was finished at Head Gap Studio in Preston, where the likes of fellow Tassie-tinged successes Courtney Barnett, Ivy St and Augie March have also been seen. The recorded tracks were carefully mixed to find the light but definite pop sound for which James was aiming. “Young Emotions” will be in Digital Stores on the 30th of September James Parry’s Album In The Lights will be released 14th of October 2016. Website here.

Musically 'Young Emotions' is bright and breezy, with James Parry's vocals bringing in some heart and soul. As introductions go this is really positive stuff, story telling lyrics and an excellent musical arrangement, indicate the album could well be a splendid one.


Harlea - Miss Me.

Background - Birmingham born, North London raised Harlea is set to raise hell with her first offering. ‘Miss Me’ introduces a sound that pushes against conformity – music with relatable themes, played with real instruments, to pop arrangements.

The track opens with a jaw-breaking riff that instantly sets it apart from a current trend of mood-based, playlist friendly pop songs. Harlea’s distinctly British vocal reveals razor sharp lyrics, which culminate in a siren call “What do you feel when you’re not with me, is your body cold, do you miss me?”.

Harlea explains, “The song is about the intense pleasure you get from a relationship, regardless of its consequences. Giving in to an obsession, it describes the reckless abandon with which you are drawn in. 'Miss Me' expresses an emotional addiction which is felt when you are separated - even a destructive relationship can pale next to the pain of not being together." With blues inspired riffs and female-lead, incessantly catchy pop melodies, ‘Miss Me’ serves as a fitting introduction to a major new artist. Facebook here.

'Miss Me' kicks off with some feisty riffs and an expansive rock sound. Harlea's vocals mix gritty rock'n'roll moments, alongside melodic an softer choruses. The song suggests we are in for some good and interesting material to come.


Laurel - Hurricane.

Background - Southampton-raised, 22 year old London-based singer, songwriter and producer Laurel Arnell-Cullen is to release her Park EP, and has signed to iconic English independent label Counter Records (an imprint of Ninja Tune). Brand new track 'Hurricane', taken from the EP, made its radio debut recently courtesy of Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1. The Park EP was written, performed, recorded, produced and mixed by Laurel in her East London bedroom based studio. The first taster; 'Hurricane' demonstrates a maturity of sound beyond her 22 years, her breathy vocals sitting atop exquisite melodies with heartfelt, intimate delivery.

It follows the release of singles 'Life Worth Living' and 'San Francisco', which Laurel released on her label Theia earlier in the year. The tracks saw her garner a wealth of support from BBC Radio 1, Beats1, Apple, Spotify, New York Times, The Guardian, and many more, reaching Top 3 on Hype Machine's Popular Chart and surpassing half a million plays in under a month - her Spotify listener figures are in excess of 300k every month.

With a debut album scheduled for early 2017, Park EP further enhances Laurel’s position as a phenomenal new talent, mixing raw organic production with striking yet touching songwriting and powerfully enchanting vocals, (Out 18th Nov on Counter Records). Website here. Laurel has played numerous live shows over the summer and has recently announced her very first UK headline tour, to take place this November. Dates as follows:

23rd Nov - Crofters Rights, Bristol
24th Nov - Green Door Store, Brighton
25th Nov - Eagle Inn, Manchester
26th Nov - The Attic @ The Garage, Glasgow
27th Nov - Think Tank Underground, Newcastle
29th Nov - Brudenell Games Room, Leeds
30th Nov - Servant Jazz Quarters, London.

With such a distinct and appealing voice and songs as good (and heartfelt)  as 'Hurricane', it's no surprise that Laurel is clocking up big numbers on the listening front. One to watch out for, if ever there was.


SIANspheric - I Have It (Edit).

Background from the band - 'I Have It' is the first single off the upcoming SIANspheric album "Writing The Future in Letters Of Fire". Coincidence or not, "I Have It" translates to "Yo La Tengo" ... and the song does have the flavour of those indie heroes. The song features local friends Earth, Wind and Choir and their soaring vocals on the choruses, it's probably our most ambitious song to date.

On the topic of perhaps the longest gestating album title of all-time (we were selling "Writing the Future in Letters of Fire" t-shirts in 2010), that title is a reference from American Gods by Neil Gaiman... just as our previous album "The Sound of the Colour of the Sun" is from Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland. Literary references have played an important role in our lyrics and song titles as well... "Ending is Better than Mending" is from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, "No Space" is via No Logo by Naomi Klein and "This All Happened" is from the book of the same name by Michael Winter.

And it's our pleasure to also announce that our debut album 'Somnium' from 1995 will be released on vinyl for the first time. A 20th anniversary surprise... after the 20th anniversary has passed... we're old. Website here.

If there is a hint of Yo La Tengo in the song 'I Have It', then I would consider it as fine seasoning that just brings out the flavour. Dreamy and absorbing, the vocals and music interact beautifully as does the choir. I am left anticipating the new album, that said as it's taken this long, I reckon I can handle a few more weeks.