Penelope Antena - Alyssa Joseph - Joe Taylor Sutkowski - Mara Simpson
Living and creating in the shadow of an esteemed family legacy, alone in the woods on a mountaintop in the Occitanie region of southern France, Penelope Antena is the heir to a musical throne of mythological stature… and one she lives up to with newfound ambition to push tradition into a 21st Century soundscape. Her 2019 self-produced LP Antelope (KowTow Records) put her otherworldly production style on full display, declaring Penelope as a visionary songwriter and creative force.
Her mother is the renowned singer Isabelle Antena (a pioneer of Electro Samba), her grandfather jazz pianist Marc Moulin (the reason Blue Note opened its EU headquarters, and who was sampled by the likes of Jay Dilla). Fast forward to today and Penelope is carving out her own genre melding path that has garnered praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, France Inter, and many others.
By integrating tradition and technology, Penelope provides a unique voice in international indie and electronic music. Her forthcoming 2021 release (via Brooklyn’s boutique label Youngbloods) exemplifies an expansion of her creative inspirations, adapting folk, Americana, and gospel sensibilities.
Recent highlights include performing at legendary venue, La Villette in Paris, touring the US in the fall of 2019, 2020 singles “20 Down” and a collaboration with Minneapolis based artist Peter M, “First PO”.
Rising indie-rock singer Alyssa Joseph releases a beautiful lyric video for her song “leaning”, which can be found on her critically acclaimed “alive” EP that dropped last month.
“leaning” describes the period after she graduated college when she was forced to move back home with her parents in New Jersey and face judgment from the world while she longed to move to Nashville. The lyrics candidly expose the difficulties young millennials go through post-grad, as she declares “all my money goes to student loans and the god-damn government”.
The lyric video, which Joseph recorded while driving around Nashville, takes the song full circle. Showcasing the lyrics in the video allows viewers to understand the meaning behind this vulnerable song on a deeper level. When she sings, “they say it’s strange that I’m still leaning, but I’m still leaning” she is being honest that even as an adult she doesn’t have it all figured out and it’s okay to ask for help. The video showcases the understated beauty of “Music City” and offers a sense of hope that dreams can still come true. Even though Joseph was stuck in New Jersey living with her parents when the song was written, her dream of moving to Nashville materializes in the video.
Alyssa Joseph is a thriving singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. She has toured through Texas and up and down the Northeast, playing at Sofar Sound shows in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Louisville. Her recent EP -- titled “alive” and released on June 4th, 2021-- received wide acclaim from the local and national press, including Guitar Girl Magazine, Music Crowns, Broadway World, and a five-out-of-five star review on Square One Magazine. She is an advocate for body positivity and creating a more diverse and inclusive space within the music industry.
The New Jersey-born now Brooklyn-based artist, Joe Taylor Sutkowski is today announcing details of his debut album, Of Wisdom & Folly alongside sharing the first single, "What Luck, Goodbye." Sutkowski, who is known for his work fronting Dirt Buyer and playing under the Jotay moniker wrote the forthcoming ten-track record, which is out via LA-based artist-run label, Danger Collective Records on August 13, 2021, as a series of five different pairs of stories, each telling the tale of a different character.
While taking a run through pandemic-stricken Brooklyn in 2020, Sutkowski found himself inspired by the odd and visually appealing lyrics of Chocolate USA (a lesser-known project of Elephant 6 / Neutral Milk Hotel collaborator Julian Koster). The endearing depiction of a pretzel-headed schoolgirl named Sherry inspired a swirl of ideas and characters for Sutkowski, who wrote the first song – "Sherry Had a Pretzel Head" – for the record immediately after returning home from the run.
Sutkowski’s warm, emotive vocal delivery and fingerstyle classical guitar are the clear foundation for the album, something cemented with this first single, "What Luck, Goodbye". As a narrative, it arrives as the mirror track to the album opener, "Jordan Was a Little Bottle Rocket" and tells the story of Megan, a desperate dreamer who finds a bottle rocket named Jordan in the pocket of her jacket who she flies away with.
In addition to its precise instrumentation, Of Wisdom & Folly showcases Sutkowski’s ability to paint colorful and defined lyrical illustrations, while maintaining a creative voice and vision that keeps the album grounded. Though the album’s puzzling nature often feels like a dream, the perspectives of the characters are lively, heartbreaking, and ultimately human. “It’s supposed to be vague and make you feel strange, but also at ease,” Sutkowski says, “but I express many real feelings through the medium of characters and their stories.” The performances on the album feel connected to its content and vulnerability, with ominous outros and the inclusion of imperfect studio moments that create a tangible intimacy.
Mara Simpson - In This Place.
UK multi-instrumentalist and story-teller Mara Simpson has announced her new album In This Place will be released on September 24th, 2021. A heady blend of alt-folk, analogue synth and classical composition, In This Place is a tale of quiet rebellion and taking back control. Fittingly, the new album marks the start of another new journey for Mara. In This Place will be the first record to be released on Downfield Records, a non-profit imprint set up by Simpson, placing artists at its centre. “I want to try and promote transparency and equality, assist other artists to get public funding and to ‘pay’ forward the time and resources I’ve benefited from,” she says. The label’s mission is to see musicians paid fairly and release records through a creative and joyous process.
Whilst the struggles of 2020 will go down in history, for Mara it was 2019 that was the tough one. A year spent consumed by worry, whilst in and out of hospital with her one year old daughter, had left Mara feeling like she was playing a constant game of catch up with a world that wouldn’t slow down. With songs ready to be recorded for her new album, she headed into the studio to record with her producer.
“I stepped into the studio not needing my hand held, just my voice heard” explains Mara, who quickly came to the realisation that she was working in a toxic environment with a producer whose moods everyone had started to dread. “Ironically, at the end of a year spent managing my daughter’s breathing issues, I had an asthma attack induced by the studio’s hypoallergenic cat,” she laughs. “Enough was enough.”
It was whilst waiting for a train that she had the sudden realisation that the album she was recording would never see the light of day. Struck by an overwhelming feeling of failure, Mara began to ruminate on the time and money she had wasted but then something clicked. “Perhaps it’s something about train stations, the coming and the goings, that allows a stagnating frame of mind the grace and space to clear,” she says. “The funny thing is, upon realising failure, the despair I’d been feeling was now replaced with something else...Relief”.
Feeling re-energised, Mara called her dream producer Ellie Mason, of Voka Gentle, and together the pair began working on a new record. “I’ve been more hands-on with this album than I’ve ever been, taking a much more active role in production. Throughout the whole process Ellie has heard my voice, and been open to any possibility” explains Mara. “We’ve stumbled across golden moments, recording four part harmonies in Brighton’s oldest church, using every drum there is in Brighton Electric, layering New Zealand bird song with tape delayed piano, all thanks to her nurture, playfulness and kindness,” she continues.
Title-track ‘In This Place’ is about the confrontation between mother and newborn child. The ‘sizing-up’ of one another as they embark on a new journey together. “When I left home to travel around the world and was so worried about breaking my Mum’s heart,” says Mara. “I just remember her saying that your children are never yours to keep. This is a song about the rawest of loves, and the fact that however much we love someone, they are never ours, and the beauty in that.”