Over the past few years, Sweet Crude has managed to take the music and language of Louisiana and produce completely fresh music that thrusts century-old traditions into the present. The six-piece band consistently delivers exciting shows featuring enough drums for a small marching band, exuberantly bellowed harmonies, and lyrics that jump from English to Louisiana French in a single verse. Boasting surnames like Marceaux and Chachere, Sweet Crude seeks to reconnect with their lineage in a way that draws on their own modern influences, while nodding to the music and language of their ancestors.
Sweet Crude released their debut LP Créatures in April of 2017 on Rhyme and Reason Records and followed the release with performances at major US festivals such as Bonnaroo, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and High Sierra. In addition to headlining their own US tour in April and May of 2017, they hit the road with their dear friends, Tank and the Bangas, on a sold-out nationwide club tour that lasted through the summer and fall. In 2018, Sweet Crude is scheduled to record their major label debut album on Verve Records, tour Europe, and return to the US festival circuit.
The Cactus Blossoms
Blood Harmony. Whether it’s The Beach Boys, Bee Gees or First Aid Kit, that sibling vocal blend is the secret sauce in some of the most spine-tingling moments in popular music. The Cactus Blossoms – Minneapolis-based brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey – offer compelling evidence that this tradition is alive and well, with a deceptively unadorned musical approach that offers “creative turns of phrase, gorgeous harmonies, and an ageless sound” (NPR All Things Considered), not to mention spine tingles aplenty. Their 2016 debut You’re Dreaming, a stunning and transporting collection of original songs, earned high praise from Rolling Stone and Vice Noisey, tour stints with Kacey Musgraves and Lucius, and a perfectly cast performance on the third season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Now their unlikely rise continues with new album Easy Way, to be released on their own label Walkie Talkie Records.
While many bands would have been content to stick with the winning formula of their debut, the Blossoms refused to repeat themselves. If You’re Dreaming celebrated their vintage country and rock influences, Easy Way reveals a songwriting style that has changed, evolved, and gotten more modern. Dan Auerbach, another artist who knows from bedrock influences, co-wrote two songs on the album. “Dan’s love for songwriting was inspiring, just the kick in the pants we needed to start writing again after being on the road,” says Page.
The brothers’ decision to produce the new album themselves no doubt led to the new sound. “We wanted the freedom to experiment with our own weird ideas,” says Jack, “We used to joke that the working title album should be Expensive Demos.” As they crisscrossed the nation on tour, the brothers would stop through Alex Hall’s Reliable Recorders studio in Chicago to chase the new sound they were after. The result joins together what would otherwise be distant corners of the American songbook. Both the traditional twang of Chicago pedal steel guitarist Joel Paterson (Devil in a Woodpile, The Western Elstons) and the primal wail of free jazz saxophonist Michael Lewis (Bon Iver, Andrew Bird) are at home on the album. Just as they did with their debut, the brothers found a voice all their own.
By way of familial candor and visceral vulnerability, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Joseph LeMay shares personal trials, tribulations, and triumphs under the moniker SONTALK. Throughout his burgeoning career, the artist had attracted a fervent following and critical acclaim on the 2014 solo offering, Seventeen Acres, released under his legal name. In the years since, the music transformed into a blend of delicate dissonance, distorted slide guitar transmissions, sequenced beats, vinyl samples and warm electronics, culminating in the April debut of SONTALK: Act I EP on Sony Music Masterworks. Initially meant as an introduction to his full-length debut, the EP’s lead single “I Am a War Machine” garnered praise right out of the gate as Stereogum claimed, “LeMay sounds vulnerable, but the sunny thumping instrumentation delivers enough momentum to aid in a kind of soul-saving atonement.”As he took the project on the road, the track generated over a million streams within a few months. The conversation has just begun.
BAILEN’s other worldly musicality springs from a very deep well, in fact, it’s in their DNA. Raised in New York City by their classically trained parents, siblings Daniel, David and Julia Bailen (fraternal twins and younger sister, respectively) immersed themselves in a record collection that included Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and The Band.
Even though they finish each other’s sentences, dissolve into laughter and tell hilarious contradicting childhood stories, BAILEN’s highly collaborative songs and visceral harmonies are formed by three very different individuals. They’re inspired not only by literature and a love of language, but also a myriad of classical and pop influences. Their musician parents didn’t push their kids. “They never said, ‘Guys, music is a viable option for a career,’” Julia explains. “I think they just showed us what the life of a musician was by example.” David affirms, “They normalized it.”
Puma Blue is the alias of producer, songwriter and vocalist, Jacob Allen. Emerging in 2017 from South London's thriving music scene, Puma Blue's debut EP "Swum Baby" picked up plaudits from the likes of Notion, Noisey, i-D, Dazed and the Fader going on to rack up over 6million streams on Spotify alone. Producing the majority of his music in the confines of his bedroom, 2018 saw Puma Blue continue to hone his "voicemail ballads", releasing two singles "Only Trying 2 Tell U" and "Moon Undah Water" via Blue Flowers (Nilufer Yanya, Westerman, Joe Fox) before embarking on sold out debut UK and EU headline tours in February and April respectively.
2018 ended with the release of Puma Blue's most expansive work to date, in the form of 8-track mini-album, "Blood Loss", released November 2nd, again via Blue Flowers. He has since picked up support from a who's who of new music tastemakers in the UK including Annie Mac (BBC R1), Gilles Peterson (6Music), KCRW and NPR as well as the Guardian and NME. In October he embarked on a second sold-out UK run before heading to Asia for the first time to play (again sold-out) dates in Tokyo and Seoul.
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Madeline Kenney keeps a soil-tethered root to the natural world in her art. A move to the Bay Area in 2013 plus a chance encounter with Chaz Bundick (Toro Y Moi) led to their collaborative recording of her Signals EP, followed by Kenney’s debut album, Night Night At The First Landing. Both works are marked by Kenney’s huge voice and unexpected lyrical knots. In October 2018, Kenney released her sophomore work, Perfect Shapes, with help from Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak). Dealing with subjects of femininity, societal pressures, expectation, value and self-worth, Kenney and Wasner presented a deeply collaborative work that resulted in a critically acclaimed moment of musical bravery and harmony.