School of Seven Bells – Ablaze

Artist: School of Seven Bells

Song: Ablaze

Genres: #indiepop #dreampop

Location: New York City, United States

Release date: February, 2016

Comment: The story of School of Seven Bells (SVIIB) is, sadly, a tragic one. It was formed in 2007 by sisters Alejandra Deheza (vocals, guitar) and Claudia Deheza (keyboards, vocals), and Benjamin Curtis (guitar, synthesizers, vocals), but then Claudia left the band in 2010. Unfortunately, Ben, who was Alejandra’s romantic partner, died in 2013 from sudden-onset lymphoma and, as a tribute, Alejandra took some demos Ben had written prior and during his illness and completed the band’s fourth and last studio album, SVIIB, which was released in February, 2016. It is a wonderful album which, despite the circumstances in which it was created, is actually full of hope and even joy.

To me, the best among a collection of great songs is Ablaze, the first track. It’s a cleverly produced song that features Alejandra’s ethereal vocals and sweet lyrics that become even more beautiful knowing the context in which they were written. If you are only going to listen to one SVIIB song, listen to Ablaze, this week’s #ThrowbackThursday entry. You will be happy you did so.

As a bonus, I’m leaving below the link to the video of SVIIB’s cover of Joey Ramone’s I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up) (it is not available on streaming platforms). It was written by Alejandra and Ben quite literally while they were ‘sitting in a hospital bed’ and released just before SVIIB.

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Holly Humberstone – The Walls Are Way Too Thin

Artist: Holly Humberstone

Song: The Walls Are Way Too Thin

Genres: #indiepop

Location: United Kingdom

Release date: May, 2021

Influences: Phoebe Bridgers, Damien Rice

Comment: Holly Humberstone is a young and immensely talented British artist who in just over one year has managed to make a name for herself in the alternative pop scene. She’s preparing to release her sophomore EP in November, whose lead single is the eponymously titled The Walls Are Way Too Thin. She wrote this song after moving to a small flat in London and it is a catchy piece of “dark pop”. If you were not aware of Holly Humberstone before, write her name down. This won’t be the last time you hear it.

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Illicit Ghost – Higher

Artist: Illicit Ghost

Song: Higher

Genres: #indiepop #indierock

Location: New York City, United States

Release date: April, 2021.

Influences: St. Vincent, Hole, The Killers.

CommentHigher is a bright and infectious indie pop-rock song from New York-based artist Illicit Ghost, who also play the violin here. This track could become a big hit if it received enough promotion. Quality-wise, it does not lack anything. Higher is quite a refreshing tune.

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BLÜ EYES – supposed to

ArtistBLÜ EYES

Song: supposed to

Genres: #indiepop

Location: Los Angeles, California

Release date: April, 2021.

CommentBLÜ EYES got a sweet voice that’s hard to ignore. That’s one of the reasons why she’s been collaborating with DJs and electronic music producers as well. However, she’s also a talented songwriter as evidenced by today’s song, supposed to. A humble indie pop track that is very pleasing to the ear. Check it out before this young artist becomes the next big thing.

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AO – Through The Storm

Aria Pullman Ostrander has done a little bit of everything. She’s been a model; an actress, appearing on numerous tv shows and films and on her own comedy show on Youtube with her friend Alexandra Holden, who you might remember from Friends); a songwriter, writing for herself and also for fellow artists, with several of her songs featured on films and tv shows; and a singer, which is the reason I’m talking about her today. By the way, the Ostrander in her name comes from being married to Josh Ostrander, better known as Mondo Cozmo, for whom she co-wrote several songs in both of his albums. Naturally, he returned the favour by helping her produce her debut solo album, Life Out Loud (LOL).

As a solo artist, Aria uses the moniker AO and her music style is moody indie pop in the same vein as Lana Del Rey. They even have a similar tone of voice, which makes the comparison unavoidable. My favorite songs in LOL are Heaven and Through The Storm, ultimately choosing the latter one because it had a lyric video. It is an entrancing and atmospheric track that couples Aria’s ethereal vocals with layers of sounds that give it a rich texture. This is not a song to sing along or dance to, but you can enjoy it in silence all day long without getting tired. Through The Storm pulls you in like a dream you don’t want to wake up from.

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Julia Michaels – All Your Exes

Julia Cavazos, better known as Julia Michaels, made a name for herself writing hits for other pop artists such as Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and Shawn Mendes, just to name a few. Then, in 2017, she wrote a song that she liked so much that she kept it for herself. That tune, Issues, became a hit and even earned her some Grammy nominations (whatever that’s worth). Julia is a established solo artist now and earlier this year released her debut studio album: Not In Chronological Order, which features the single being featured here today.

I hadn’t paid that much attention to Julia before because most of her songs tend to be mainstream pop tunes that are not typically my cup of tea. That being said, I happened to listen to All Your Exes and found it so good that I had to write about it here. It starts as a decent pop track led by an acoustic guitar and Julia Michaels‘ great vocals. So far so good but nothing to write home about. Then the chorus starts and it becomes a very different song, swapping out the acoustic guitar with a gritty electric one. The end result is one of the best #poprock tunes of the year, which comes accompanied by a fun music video that nods to a few psychological thrillers. Well worth your time.

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Chvrches feat. Robert Smith – How Not To Drown

I had been wanting to feature Chvrches here for a long time now but I was waiting for the right opportunity. They they have just released the second single off their forthcoming fourth album, Screen Violence, and I really liked it, so I decided to take the plunge. I’m a big fan of Chvrches’ first two albums but not so much of the third one, Love Is Dead: it was not a bad album but it wasn’t at the same level as the other two. I thought that He Said She Said, the lead single for Screen Violence, could have been in their previous album but this new song, which features the legendary Robert Smith from The Cure, is something else completely. In a sense, it sounds exactly as you would expect from combining the two bands’ styles, while, at the same time, it’s kind of surprising to see how great that hybrid sounds.

How Not To Drown is a song about coping with everything that’s going on in your life and how sometimes you might feel like you just want to go away. If features Chvrches’ electronic soundscapes they got us used to, and, as usual, great vocals from lead singer Lauren Mayberry, one of the coolest and more down-to-earth music artists out there today. Having Robert Smith as well is just the cherry on top. Check this great song out below and start your weekend with a bang.

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Moon Museum – Pleasures of Peace

Moon Museum describe their style as dream rock and after you listen to their debut single, Pleasures of Peace, you’ll understand why. There are some ethereal elements in the track. It kind of makes sense too, considering that songwriter Ryan Joseph got the melody from a dream. The band cites as influences bands like Slowdive and Doves, but for this song in particular, I can’t help but think of Wolf Alice and their song Bros. If you like that song, Pleasures of Peace will be right up your alley.

Moon Museum started as a collaboration between Ryan (vocals/guitar/keys) and Ian Zazueta (lead guitar), who knew each other from the music scene in San Francisco. The pair then contacted Olivia Barchard (vocals/guitar/keys), who was working on her own solo material and after discovering how similar their styles were, she decided to join them and explore the dynamics of having contrasting male and female vocals. Last but no least, they recruited their friend Aaron Hazen to play drums. Unfortunately, the pandemic slowed things down for Moon Museum but they emerged from it with 3 singles ready to be shared with the world. Pleasures of Peace was the first one but they just released a second one called With You that is worth your time as well. I’m genuinely looking forward to their third single.

You should seriously check them out.

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We Wander – Rock And A Hard Place

I talked about Canadian #indiefolk act We Wander back in November (time flies), and they are back now with a new single, Rock And A Hard Place, that’s just as good, if not better. Drums and strings take a more prominent place on this song, which is nice, but just as with Can’t Save You, the secret weapon here is Maddie Little‘s vocals. She’s able to transmit emotions of longing, anger or despair in line with the lyrics, which are about a relationship falling apart. I particularly like the chorus because that’s where the songwriter is coming to terms with what is going on and, in some way, that’s exactly how that section of the tune makes you feel.

I would also say Rock And A Hard Place is a grower: a song that you enjoy more and more each time you listen to it. And if you needed further proof that We Wander was going places, watch the song’s music video below . It’s really well made and worth watching.

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Maggie Lindemann – Knife Under My Pillow

Being a young woman dangling with alternative rock and pop-punk, it is inevitable that Maggie Lindemann gets compared to the likes of Avril Lavigne and Hayley Williams (Paramore). However, in this case, that comparison actually makes sense because her tone of voice is not far from Avril‘s and some of her songs do have a Paramore vibe. There is nothing wrong with that, though. Those two are really talented and successful musicians and, on top of that, Maggie is also able to stand on her own. She could become just as big pretty soon.

She’s not a complete unknown either. In 2016, her breakout single Pretty Girl reached the top ten in several countries including Sweeden, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. I didn’t know her by name back then but that song does sound familiar to me. Early this year, this artist from Dallas, Texas, released her debut EP, Paranoia, which features Knife Under My Pillow as its lead single. This pop-rock banger is a song about fear and paranoia inspired by early 2000s horror movies (which also explains the music video, see below).

With grungy guitars, resounding drums, and a catchy chorus, this tune announces us that Maggie Lindemann has arrived and is here to stay.

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