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Listen: Does It Make You Happy? – Rowan

We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness.

Rowan, on the sequencing of Does It Make You Happy?

Irish alt-rock band, Rowan, released their debut album, Does It Make You Happy? at the top of the month. The album, with a sound akin to The Strokes, inventories the pain, anger and confusion that typically ensues in tandem with a potentially unhealthy relationship. Having written over 50 songs during the height of 2020’s onslaught of grief, strife and trauma, Rowan whittled that collection down to 12 tracks in the form of their debut album. Does It Make You Happy? garners inspiration from not only collective, societal agony and anger, but the band’s own personal experience with pain as lead vocalist, Dylan Howe, slogged through the aftermath of his own heartbreak.

The album’s intro track, “Apollo,” sets the project in motion with a confining, yet expansive feeling. “We had decided from day one that it was literally going to launch the album,” the band shared about the track, “with a sample from Charles Duke, the space capsule communicator on NASA’s Apollo 10 mission to orbit the moon. We recorded the vocals for this one in a car that we parked outside the studio, to get the tight space that would mirror that of being in a space capsule.” 

Courtesy of Rowan

We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.

Rowan, on writing “Irish to My Bones”

Does It Make You Happy? seamlessly fluctuates between higher energy tracks fueled by anger like “Irish to My Bones” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change” to slower tracks embedded with sorrow and regret, like “I Don’t Wanna Talk” and “Leave Now Go.” “We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness,” the band shared, “with the album starting up high, going through various emotions and then finally ending with a profound cathartic question of ‘Does It Make You Happy?’”

Consisting of only three members, Rowan is unable to realistically recreate each aspect of the song outside of recording. Enjoy watching the music video for “Nothing’s Gonna Change” where the members comically stand, hands-free, as the imaginary bassist plays.

The band, which consists of Dylan Howe, Fionn Hennessy-Hayes, and Kevin Herron, pays homage to, while also rejecting, the current state of their nationality with the lively, punk-infused track, “Irish to My Bones.” The second single from the album, which is frenzied and fuming, was “written to pierce the modern perspective of suppression and shame, brought on by generational trauma in Ireland,” the band shared in a statement. “We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.”

The inception of “I Don’t Wanna Talk” is one that highlights the catharsis of music as well as the healing powers of understanding provided by those who know us better than we may know ourselves. As a way to extend support to Howe, who “was going through a messy breakup around the same time he lost his mother,” Hennessy-Hayes stated. “Unbeknownst to him, myself and Kev made a conscious effort to write lyrics that we thought would resonate with him. My logic was that if I was going through everything he was, I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone.” With one line written, the track’s title, Fionn sent it to Howe and within an hour, Howe returned with a finished song. “It’s about confronting the pain, looking it in the eye and acknowledging it,” Howe stated. “Yes, it’s tough and it’ll always be tough, but it’s important to express yourself.”

“It was like a surge of energy just shot through me and it was finished,” vocalist Dylan Howe shared of the album’s title track. The song features Canadian multi-instrumentalist, Ariel Posen, and is dripping with remorse. “It’s the song I resonate with heaviest on this album,” Howe shared, “it deals with abusive behaviors in a relationship and, in retrospect, how I should’ve demanded better for myself.”

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Listen: “Lullaby” – Grace Ives

A beautiful thing to think about is that stars on earth look like blobs, but in space, really defined structures.

Grace Ives, on her upcoming album, Janky Star

Brooklyn-based DIY artist, Grace Ives announced the release of her upcoming sophomore album, Janky Star in the beginning of April with “Lullaby.” The second single from the forthcoming album is my favorite breed of melancholy music; cleverly disguised with upbeat instrumentals, Ives sings of an introvert’s amplified anxiety on “Lullaby.” “What a mess, what a lovely mess,” she croons on the chorus. Whether she’s describing life, the spectrum of emotion, or the room in which a potentially agoraphobic individual might find comfort while watching the same movie over and over, she’s right. It’s all a lovely mess, isn’t it?

Ives described the song as the “homebody’s anthem” in a press release for the single, saying, “This song is about the comfort and anxiety that comes with isolating yourself.” The track is Ives’s groundhog day song, as it describes her experience of “living the same day over and over again.” A fitting theme for the cultural atmosphere of the times, “Lullaby” was brought to fruition with the help of producer Justin Raisen, who has worked with other avant-garde pop artists, such as Yves Tumor.

Ives’s discography, which consists of her experimental first album, 2nd, and her 2016 EP titled Really Hot, sees the artist on an expedition of musical exploration. Artists tend to explore different sounds with the hope of expansion. For Ives, it seems less about broadening her audience and more about broadening her perspective. In an interview with The FADER, Ives shared the confusing process of using “music as therapy,” saying, “On some of my songs, I don’t even know if I’m expressing something — but I can hear myself really wanting to say something, like there’s this unsettling feeling inside me.”

Janky Star is slated to be released on June 10th via True Panther Records.

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Listen: “For a Moment You’re Mine” – Little Monarch

It satisfied something in me for the moment, and personally, it felt important to put out there and just not care how much attention it got. I can picture a flock of monarchs fluttering around in the bright morning sun. Birds chirping in the distance. I am dreaming and white sun peers through blinds, wasting […]

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Listen: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path

Sali

When I listen to this song, I picture an early spring sunset, blue and pink and yellow form a tie-dye sky. I’m on the train watching the sun slide beneath the city, the world passes by quickly but the song plays at regular speed. I am young and I am managing a difficult love. The song is “Please,” the most recent release by independent, Brooklyn-based artist, Sali. 

This single, released today, April 22, follows her debut EP Charming, released March 2021. Graduating from Boston University in 2018, Sali developed her love of music and music production from her time in the BU Acapella community. This experience comes across in her music as angelic harmonies. She’s spent all her life in music, taking jazz and opera lessons as a child. 

“Please” is more alternative than the previous tracks she’s released, as Sali wanted to bring in a bit more of a surf-rock vibe and branch out from the accessibility of hip-hop and pop production that she’s used to. As the first song she’s produced by herself, the shift is inspired by “living in Brooklyn and being more social.” Reggae with the bass, hip-hop on the drums, and a slow build to the ambient chorus are all components of the track that build this unique sound. “I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path,” Sali explains. “I had this in mind with the cool outro that’s not exactly a bridge or an outro.” 

 Sali started writing this song based on some advice that her mother had given her about people who are withholding love or affection, the kind of people that want you to prove yourself to gain their attention. She explains that isn’t inherently romantic or based on a specific romance; she built it around this idea of having a relationship with a withholding person and the frustrating feeling that develops from managing it. “When you see the opposite of the withholding type of love, it’s so much more beautiful, even if you’re hurt or guarded,” Sali says.  

For Sali, producing her own songs has been a liberating learning experience. She’s no longer working solo, but incorporating talented people from her community and from internet friends she made during the pandemic. “There’s a lot of collaging in songwriting and producing,” she states. “As a black woman in music, it can feel like you’re losing control.” Sali notes that she has to always think about who she’s involving in the process to make sure they respect her wishes and artistic vision. She’s grateful that everyone she’s worked with thus far is incredible, respectful, and supportive. “Please” is mixed by Daniel Chironno, mastered by Joshua Pleeter, recorded musician on bass is Jonathan Kim, and the lyrics and production are, of course, done by Sali. Her friends teach her a lot about production, and she relies on her influences and surroundings to inspire her creatively. 

Her next EP called Other People, which includes “Please,” is set to be released this summer, with a scheduled release party to go with it. She’s just recently begun to perform her tracks live, singing and playing with a band this past Monday, April 18th at the East Berlin in NYC. Of the future, Sali laughs as she says, “Production will always be a process because I want to be really, really good.” Listening to “Please,” you can hear the simplistic yet pleading tone she presents, not only through her poetic lyricism but through her production as well. This is a track for young people in the city, created by one and the same. 

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Listen: “Somebody’s Watching You” – The Jack Moves

People have to feel you through the record. If it doesn’t have feeling, it’s just pointless.

Zee Desmondes, for Passion of the Weiss

Creating what The Jack Moves describe as “sweet soul,” the duo released smooth-as-butter single, “Somebody’s Watching You” last week. The single is a flirtatious, modern funk dance ballad, that generates a whole lot of shoulder swaying and head nodding. The Jack Moves consistently provided sultry, funky throwback-style jams throughout their 2018 album, Free Money, and this single is no different. With nods to the greats like Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Caldwell, The Jack Moves rejuvenate a once-dying genre.

Consisting of Zee Desmondes (vocalist, guitarist, producer) and Teddy Powell (vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer) the Newark, NJ duo seem to simultaneously reject and embrace modernity with their music. The two first met at a skatepark in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, quickly bonding over their mutual love for 70s, 80s and 90s R&B, soul, hip-hop, and funk. You might be surprised to learn The Jack Moves gained their start, individually and as a duo, without any sort of musical training, just a love for a good groove. The two decided to join forces in an attempt to recreate and build upon the classic sounds they loved, acquiring their first workspace in a rundown building in downtown Newark.

In a 2015 interview with Passion of the Weiss, Desmondes shared, “We just started working on stuff. But we were hitting a brick wall because all of the stuff we were into—like, The Delfonics, Stylistics, all that stuff is kind of a mystery…how they did all that. How they did the strings and horns. The way they would layer the background harmonies—all that stuff. It’s like it was a lost recipe, as far as I was concerned.”

As a prime example of the value of knowing one’s own weaknesses and then taking action to improve, the duo’s frustration resulted in the two seeking mentorship from R&B/soul aficionados George Kerr and Paul Kyser. “We were learning with them for a while, working on some of their songs. Going to master class with the real veterans,” Desmondes said.

The learning process wasn’t always easy– the two described the experience as being somewhat strenuous at times. Desmondes chronicled the countless vocal takes Kerr would insist upon, saying, “The takes weren’t bad, I just think he wanted to drill it into me that it’s so important to put every little ounce of emotion into your singing, and to really push. People have to feel you through the record. If it doesn’t have feeling, it’s just pointless.”

With the help and golden touches of their mentors, The Jack Moves have utilized their learned insight to enlighten, and to pass along The Recipe to another generation of music. Close to a decade after working with Kerr and Kyser, The Jack Moves have– with respect to the classics– successfully replicated The Recipe.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Hell of a Woman” – Papooz

As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves.

Ulysse Cottin, on limiting distractions while writing and recording None of This Matters Now

Armand Penicaut and Ulysse Cottin, the key players in French indie-pop duo, Papooz, have been best friends since meeting at a Patti Smith show in 2008. “We would just be kids, smoke joints, talk shit, play guitar, and make up songs,” Penicaut says of the early years of their friendship. The carefree comradery and fellowship of the two overflows into their creations, resulting in three very different albums.

Papooz released their third album, None of This Matters Now just this month. The band’s funk-driven Green Juice (2019) precedes their recent release and differs greatly from folk-infused None of This Matters Now. The former is high energy, filled with songs meant for nights spent dancing, while the latter seems destined to be played on a weekend trip away with friends among the trees.

The entirety of None of This Matters Now was recorded in an all-wood studio, built by the band’s drummer, Pierre-Marie Dornan. “For a couple of weeks we would rehearse the songs during the day, and then record at night while drinking red wine,” Cottin shared in a press release for the album. The ease of the album’s flow is a testament to the band’s natural chemistry and desire for authenticity.

“As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves,” Cottin shared, “We couldn’t just rely on fixing mistakes later. No one could get distracted by their phone or smoking a cigarette. It’s about focus.” The focus was due in part by being surrounded by likeminded and comfortable collaborators: “Plus it’s way easier to be focused in the room when it’s just your best mates, friends coming to visit late at night,” Cottin says.

Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones.

Ulysses Cottin on co-collaborator, Armand Penicaut’s talent for songwriting

The second single from the album, “Hell of a Woman” channels that revered 70s-inspired psych-rock sound that resembles a ray of sunshine, but be warned: the track is misleadingly melancholy. “Hell of a Woman” mourns the loss of light in a relationship that’s lived past its expiration, and accepting that loss with grace. The pre-chorus is especially bleak: “We’ve been together for so long it’s a crime / I’m stealing thunder from the rims of your eyes / You heard the words right / What in the world went wrong?”

With dreamy instrumentation, it’s incredibly easy to get lost while listening to None of This Matters Now, despite its candid lyricism. “Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones,” Cottin shared. With themes of global-warming-induced anxiety on the title track, of remorse and reflection on “I’d Rather Be the Moon,” Papooz creates a tenderly raw listening experience.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Ta main” – Ariane Roy

In 2021, singer-songwriter and guitarist, Ariane Roy was presented with Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Award. Now, although the first, say, 13 times I listened to “Ta main,” it was based on pure vibes alone. After translating the lyrics to English (I do not speak nor understand French– well, maybe a tiny bit now), I see why she was presented with this award.

Ta main,” or “your hand,” is a song written about desire. In the song, Roy describes an exciting, intimate encounter backed by jaunty, infectiously dance-inducing instrumentals. The first verse is pure poetry, even as poorly translated to English: “Your trembling hand / A labyrinth on my skin / All the paths it walks / Get lost on my bones.” The undertones of enchantment in Roy’s voice, the melody, and instrumentals in “Ta main” culminate a perfect spring song.

The single was released in October of 2020 with a beautifully whimsical music video directed by Adrian Villagomez. In the video, we see stunning, sprawling shots of varying landscapes, sexually-spurring shots of lovers and friends, breaking tides and dancers in lobster costumes.

In February of this year, Roy released her debut album, medium plaisir, or “medium pleasure.” In tandem with the album, Roy released Le Grand Plaisir, an incredibly creative visual for the album, also directed by Villagomez. In the 20-minute video, Roy performs in a warmly-lit room with her equally talented band on a circular stage surrounded by walls of curtains.

Performing 6 tracks from the album, Roy and Villagomez create a rollercoaster of an experience. At one point, during “Le paradis de l’amour,” the room is invaded by lovers in rain ponchos, enjoying the physical spoils of human connection. Later, during “Apprende encore,” the lovers return, sans ponchos, and strip the musicians of their instruments, turning the performance into an underwear-clad dance party.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Palm Sunday” – Papercuts

It’s about lost love and unfulfilled potential.

Quever, on “Palm Sunday”

The man behind the curtain of Papercuts, Jason Quever, is a lifetime student of the philosophy of music. Gaining and imparting his wisdom throughout his musical career, his talent for arrangement has graced tracks belonging to Beach House, Sugar Candy Mountain, and more.

Papercuts’ latest single, “Palm Sunday,” was released ahead of the band’s forthcoming album, Past Life Regression, which is set to release April 1. The single is an apt representation of where psych-pop-turned-folk Papercuts excels: lofty instrumentals weighted with wistful lyricism. Quever describes the single as being about “lost love and unfulfilled potential.” In a press release for the single, Quever shared, “It’s about someone you never quite forgot about, but left you feeling epically let down and full of longing.”

The single is paired with a music video depicting phone calls back and forth between lovers. Beautifully capturing the melancholy of “maybes” and “what ifs,” “Palm Sunday” evokes one of the most dreaded human emotions: regret.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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New York City’s ‘Boy Next Door’ Presents “loverboy”

“It’s uncomfortably transparent.”

Jake Brewer needs a lot going on to be productive, as he’s equally indecisive and stubborn. “I’ve always been somebody who does their best work, and feels their best, when there’s so many things going on,” Brewer notes, before listing off each of the projects he’s currently pursuing. He’s currently writing an album, managing other up-and-coming artists, hosting a podcast, and performing live. He lives to be moving constantly. “That’s always been my favorite way to work.”

Brewer is the middle child, happily surrounded by two sisters. “We have such a unique relationship where I can’t even remember fighting with my sisters,” Brewer says. His sisters loved dance, and because of this, he found himself constantly surrounded by the performing arts. But it wasn’t an inconvenience to Brewer; it was where he began to mold his passion. In middle-school, his dance background pushed him into music and theatre. He notes that, “I owe those teachers everything because they really encouraged me to do music. They could tell I had a sense of rhythm.” Soon, he found himself exploring music outside of school.

“I’m a really stubborn person,” Brewer states. “So when I first began to play guitar, I didn’t like my guitar teacher teaching me how to play other people’s songs. I just wanted to play my own thing.” So he did.

Jake Brewer photographed by Rachel Leiner

He released his first few projects in his senior year of high school, really beginning to hone his craft at Boston University (where he graduated in December 2020). “I don’t think Boston gets enough credit for the kind of music scene that it has,” Brewer mentions. “I was really inspired by that environment.” 

Brewer released his debut album, Boys Do Cry, right before the pandemic. He was meant to tour that summer, but was unable to do so. Then, following some rest time and isolation at his parents’ home, Brewer put together an EP, What Love Did to Me. This EP was centered on the process of falling out of love and losing your identity.

During this time, he began speaking with some of his close friends involved in entertainment. Brewer came to the conclusion that the industry doesn’t take performers as seriously if they don’t have representation. To put together that first tour, he used a friend’s email address and emailed from that, pretending to be his own agent. “It kind of blew me away how seriously people took me,” Brewer reminisces. “It was the same press kit and everything.” The only difference being he now had “representation.” 

Brewer wasn’t, and still isn’t, the only one jumping over similar hurdles to make an impact on the entertainment business. He discovered that friends all around him were also in need of agents. Because of this, “we decided to start a management company that was much more fluid, gravitating towards trends,” to help artists in the ever-evolving industry, FRNDLY media.

With the new EP under his belt, Brewer was able to bring some content to FRNDLY. Their success has taken off from there. He established a podcast titled “Groundbreaking,” dotingly called the heartbeat of FRNDLY, where Brewer talks to other young creatives in the industry about ambition and artist branding. Brewer says, “it was such a great way to connect with people, especially during the pandemic.” He also had the opportunity to present as a TedX speaker, discussing the notion of different perspectives and letting go of control within his experience as a creator thus far. 

FRNDLY hosts an annual summer festival for new artists, describing it as the festival that welcomes everybody. “I really wanted it to be personal,” Brewer says. “I called each of the artists [for the first festival] and wanted to make sure they knew this was solely a platform to elevate them.” This was another experience that truly inspired Brewer to write and create, watching other young creatives express themselves in the live show.

Getting to perform live shows in the last year has been the highlight of Brewer’s beginning. “The process of recording a song isn’t as enjoyable to me as performing it live is,” Brewer admits. “It’s hard to conceptualize your reach as an artist, which is what makes the live performance so significant.” He lives for that butterflies feeling that clenches your stomach before you’re about to do something scary, like sing your heart out.

His new album, which is set to release late spring of this year, is an introspective and reflective study of life in your early 20s. “It’s uncomfortably transparent,” Brewer notes. “I wanted to release this album in a really unique way where I’ve slowly released the singles so you can hear the progression of the new sound.” 

For a long time, people have labeled Brewer as a “nice guy.” This is a notion that he’s taken the time to explore in his new music. “I’m not really sure how it happened,” he laughs. “But I’m just embracing it.” There’s a real contradiction between this identity and some of the themes presented in the new album, as he aspires to bring emotional breakdowns to life through lyrics and melody. After listening to this album, “I think people are going to see me in a really different, more comprehensive light.”

“loverboy,” the next single off his new album, is the first song Brewer has put together without overthinking. “I hate writing upbeat songs because I find it really hard not to be cheesy,” Brewer laughs. “So ‘loverboy’ was tricky for me.” But it was also the song that took the shortest amount of time to write. This new track is much more audience-focused than his earlier music, echoes and ‘oh-yeahs’ fill out the chorus, as Brewer wants this song to be fun for crowd engagement in the live performance. It’s available for streaming on February 2nd

After having accomplished so much in just a few years, Brewer advises that fellow young artists focus their attention on creating for them and developing a unique presence that’s going to draw an audience’s attention. He mentions that it’s okay to care what people think and how they’ll react to your art: “You just have to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the right kind of people.” People who will equally provide support and challenge. “If you want to relate to the masses, you have to understand how the masses feel,” he concludes. 

For the future, continuing live performances is at the top of Brewer’s To-Do list. He also plans to continue growing FRNDLY media and looks forward to the second annual FRNDLY fest this summer. Brewer states, “I’m going to keep doing things that scare me.” He chases that feeling of discomfort that comes from doing something frightening, knowing that overcoming obstacles in life is inherently the most relatable, human thing. This is how he registers his growth as an individual and as an artist. 

“There’s no better way to motivate me than by telling me that I can’t do something,” Brewer says. The music industry should watch out for what this next something is, because there’s no doubt Brewer will tackle it head on.

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

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Soul-Pop Band, Couch, is Easy to Love

At one of Couch’s very first shows, playing in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Harvard Square, keyboard player Danny Silverston returned to his keyboard post-show to find a pillow with the face of Jeff Goldblum planted on the keys. To this day, the origin of the pillow remains a mystery. However, it has become a pinnacle of the band’s personality and charisma, making an appearance at each show. 

Initially formed in the summer of 2018, Couch consists of seven members: Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith, Jared Gozinsky, Danny Silverston, Will Griffin, Eric Tarlin, Tema Siegal, and Zach Blankstein. Being such a large group, everyone takes control of their own instrumentation. This, in turn, enables different flavors and a conglomerate of influences to create their cohesive sound that falls somewhere in the soul/pop category. 

Couch members, left to right: Zach, Jared, Eric, Tema, Jeffrey, Danny and Will

Couch is a long-distance band, with its members spread across the country. In their first few years, the recording process was completely remote. Each member added their instrumentation and vocals and passed it to the next, like Popcorn. The members play this same game as they rotate calling on each other to share their prominent influences. Jared, Jeffrey, and Eric discuss jazz, blues, and pop as their primary influences; Tema shares Carole King, Rachel Price, and Tracy Chapman as a few of her inspirations; Will highlights his love for classic and heavy rock, pointing to the Beatles album covers decorating his wall; Zach reminisces on growing up listening to Jewish music, motown, and modern pop soul bands such as Lake Street Dive and Lawrence. All of these different backgrounds mesh into the strong lyrics and melodic forms that make up Couch’s music. 

Lead singer, Tema Siegel discusses the development of their early songs, such as “Easy to Love.” After putting together the lyrics, Tema shared, “Zach and I would share voice memos back and forth of chord progressions, and we’d meet up over school breaks with ideas.” More of the members became involved during the pandemic and with the creation of the EP. 

For Couch, the songwriting process is morphing by transitioning to more in-person meetings and practice time. “Before, we’d cram like eight hours of rehearsing into a day, since we had limited time meeting together in person,” trumpeter Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith explains. “There were a lot of times when being a long-distance band was exhausting.” Because of these changes, Couch’s debut EP Couch , released in 2021, includes three or four credited writers on most tracks. 

The band explains how sometimes a song can start with one particular vibe and chord progression, but it ends up sounding completely different through the production and collaboration process. The identity of the song is flexible through all of the pieces beginning to come together through recording. 

“The identity of a song can seriously change,” saxophonist Eric Tarlin explains. “With ‘Still Feeling You’, that song was originally guitar and voice driven, an upbeat singer-songwriter song. But we pushed it more towards a disco-pop track, like Dua Lipa or Charlie Puth, with dramatic builds and a groovy chorus.” 

Through the recording process, the band is constantly keeping in mind the different ways in which the audience is listening, from streaming the music to the live shows. “When we play these songs live, we’re adapting to the arrangements to work with just the actual number of bodies we have on stage,” Tarlin says. “We rely more on our individual acts of brute force as we each contribute to the project.” Couch has managed to translate this immaculately on stage. 

This past fall, Couch went on tour for the first time as a whole, cohesive band, opening for Sammy Rae & The Friends, along with finishing the late fall tour with Juice. “This experience has been a dream come true. It was a joy,” guitarist Zach Blankstein says. 

Being around creative inspirations and meeting other musicians has helped the band transform their own sound and gain confidence in their performances. “It was so valuable and educational to simply watch them,” Siegel says of the experience. “Our personalities began to show more in the live performance. We became goofier on stage.” 

Couch performing at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT

The transition from completely remote production and collaboration to touring was unusual for the band, but seeing their hard work pay off and watching the audience react was worth the wait. “We’re all musicians who are used to performing, so I don’t think any of us joined a band with the idea that we’d be in a band for three years without playing any shows,” Siegel laughs. “Now we’re finally able to play together.” 

Couch’s entire catalog to date was released before the band had performed live this fall. With that in mind, the band has had to adapt their music for live performances, adding acapella moments, clapping, and improvised solos and riffs. “We’ve opened up a lot more with this and have gone in a more jammy direction,” Blankstein summarizes. “We’re combining the two processes, and trying to find the balance between studio and live performances.” 

The fall touring experience is just the beginning for this Boston-based band. Just before the new year, Couch was featured on Firehouse Music Sessions, where they played acoustic versions of some unreleased tracks. They’ve recently signed with the booking agency, Royal Artists Group, which represents some of their favorite artists. “We’re working with two people who’ve helped us book shows and gotten us into the summer festival scene,” Blankstein mentions. “It’s already helped a ton with our time management and making connections within the industry.” 

New music is in the works and two upcoming shows have already been announced: March 5th at the Knitting Factory in NYC and March 18th at the Met in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. For the latter show, Couch will be sharing the stage with another band, Orange Guava Passion, where the theme is Spring Fling. The band calls for fans to dress in their school dance attire, another testament to the importance of connecting with the audience. The band is active on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube with more updates and content. 

“We wouldn’t be the band that we are without that initial remote time,” Tarlin concludes. This experience allowed Couch to go into their first tour with a fan base already established. “It was really rewarding and cool to see people familiar with our songs, singing along in the audience.” 

For Couch, being able to perform live, meet fans, and connect with them through shows has been the most notable part of their musical journey. “Without listeners and without fans, Couch wouldn’t really be a thing,” drummer Jared Gozinsky says. “In one way or another, we’re always writing for the people who are listening to us.”

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

Categories
Roundups

2021 Roundup

Dear friends,

If 2020 was purgatory, 2021 was hellfire. Both personally and universally, 2021 was an absolute mess. Throughout the year, I felt as though I was missing something from music. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to enjoy it. One could call it depression, some may call it “being in a funk.” However you spin it, I was frustrated with myself. Here, with the world at my fingertips, with the help of the supercomputers we’re all so dearly attached to– and yet, no interest in what once was my refuge. So imagine my annoyance when I sat down to write the annual roundup for TGG. No, really, just imagine it. Me, staring at a blank white page on my computer screen, sifting through my library, in an attempt to scrounge for enough to create a list worth writing about. “Impossible,” I thought to myself with Imposter Syndrome pumping through my veins, “Nobody cares and nobody wants to read old news.” 

Upon further reflection of the previous year, I’d realized that I had actually enjoyed quite a lot of music this year. Then– faint, like a whisper in a long hallway, a different thought came to me. What if you just wrote about what you want to write about, how you want to write about it? The little devil on my shoulder taunted me. I couldn’t do that, could I?

I could, and I did. Enjoy. 

XOXO, Jessica

Heaux Tales – Jazmine Sullivan (2021)

At the top of a somewhat chronological list, we have Jazmine Sullivan’s EP, Heaux Tales. Although 2021 ultimately felt like scraping the barrel for music, there were a few exceptional releases. Sullivan’s January release of Heaux Tales presented me with hope for the year to come. As a single woman in her late 20s, it felt like Jazmine was singing directly to me. With anecdotal interludes about relationships and sex, Sullivan and company created an experience similar to a night in with the girls, sipping wine and talking shit.
Favorite tracks & interludes: “Put It Down,” “On It” (with the ever-lovely, ever-real Ari Lennox), “Donna’s Tale”

Come Over – Kowloon (2021)

Up next, we have Los Angeles musician and filmmaker, Kowloon’s Come Over. In addition to the ladies of R&B, Kowloon’s debut album restored my faith in music in 2021. Written, recorded and mixed entirely in Kowloon’s apartment, Come Over is, essentially, a post-apocalyptic love story with hefty amounts of tragedy weaved throughout. Kowloon’s voice– reminiscent of Matt Berninger of The National– exudes a natural melancholy that bodes incredibly well in contrast to the somewhat upbeat, 80s-inspired instrumentation.
Favorite tracks: “Life In Japan,” “Wake Up,” “Paradise”

Skin – Joy Crookes (2021)

British singer-songwriter and TGG favorite, Joy Crookes, released her debut album, Skin, in October. A soul album with jazzy instrumentals (think: brass, wind, bass– all of our favorites, and lots of it), Skin was a breath of fresh air among some questionable releases this year. Crookes’s raspy vocals paired perfectly with timeless lyrics and violins on “To Lose Someone” should be enough for you to consider giving the rest of the album a spin.
Favorite Tracks: “Skin,” “To Lose Someone,” “When You Were Mine”

Vince Staples – Vince Staples (2021)

July was, by far, the best month for music in 2021. With artists like Charlotte Day Wilson, Snoh Aalegra, Isaiah Rashad and many others releasing full length albums, I was almost overwhelmed. Joining my July playlist of “to-listen-tos” was Vince Staples, who released a self-titled EP, produced by Kenny Beats. Clocking in at just over 22 minutes, Vince Staples was easily one of my favorite releases this year. A more mature project, Vince Staples highlights Staples’s best attribute: his ability to interweave humor with somewhat grim lyrical content. Vince Staples is an artist with an abundance of personality; with this EP, we’re privy to just one evolution (of, hopefully, many more) of the spectrum of his character.
Favorite tracks: “The Shining,” “Take Me Home,” “Law of Averages”

Inside Out – Nilüfer Yanya (2021)

London-born singer-songwriter, Nilüfer Yanya, released 7-track EP, Inside Out ahead of her upcoming sophomore album, PAINLESS, in October. Yanya’s unique voice maneuvers itself over airy melodies and ear-catching chord progressions so well that you almost forget about the somber lyrical content. A collection of previously released and unreleased tracks, Inside Out‘s sequencing is what left a lasting impression on me. The steady transition from anger and confusion on “The Florist” to dismal melancholy and fear on “Sliding Doors” presents a full range of emotion to sift through, both sonically and lyrically.
Favorite tracks: “Sliding Doors,” “Thanks 4 Nothing,” “Small Crimes”

Limbo Cherry – LAUREL (2021)

“I was expecting a lot of people who did listen to my old music to maybe say they weren’t liking the new music,” LAUREL shared with Pile Rats earlier this year. “Sometimes people want us to just stay the same, and not change anything.” As a continuation of her 2020 pop rebrand, UK’s LAUREL released her EP, Limbo Cherry in June. The artist made last year’s roundup with the first ideation of her newfound sound, Petrol Bloom. With the four-track collection, Limbo Cherry seems an apt sequel of exploration of sound and artist persona for LAUREL. 
Favorite tracks: “You’re the One,” “Wild Side”

The House is Burning – Isaiah Rashad (2021)

The long awaited third studio album from TDE’s Isaiah Rashad presented another glimmer of hope for music in the previous year. This one, I couldn’t wait to spin. With a five-year gap in his discography, it’s guaranteed that Rashad felt the pressure of millions to conceive a project that would be as indelible as 2016’s The Sun’s Tirade. I’d wager he succeeded in those endeavors with The House Is Burning. Rashad enlisted the talents of several others on THIB, including the talented Amindi. 
Favorite tracks: “Darkseid,” “HB2U,” “Lay Wit Ya”

A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – Aly & AJ (2021)

Keeping up with the alt-pop rebrand trend, up next we have Aly & AJ‘s Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun. The duo’s fourth studio album follows 2020’s We Don’t Stop, a project that I also thoroughly enjoyed (“Take Me” was at the top of my “Dance Alone and Drink Wine” playlist– don’t judge me). A Touch of the Beat is a 47-minute drive along the coast, with the wind and groovy basslines intertwining your fingers and tangling your hair. Forgive me, but listening to it makes me wanna leave it all behind.
Favorite tracks: “Slow Dancing,” “Lost Cause”

soft thing – LOONY (2021)

Neo-soul songstress, LOONY released soft thing, an 8-track EP in June. LOONY wears her heart on her sleeve with soft thing. Beautifully narrating the charms of unabashed vulnerability and trust in love with tracks like “raw” and “mine,” soft thing ended up being one of my favorite releases this year.
Favorite tracks: “beg,” “ours”

A Good Night in the Ghetto – Kamaiyah (2016)

This one is just for fun. Although fashionably late to the kickback, coming across Kamaiyah‘s 2016 mixtape was the most enjoyable musical experience I had this summer. When personal problems felt overwhelming, I called on Kamaiyah to remind me to, despite everything, “live every damn day like it’s Friday.” With bangers like “Ain’t Goin Home,” A Good Night in the Ghetto transports us back to a simpler time, when going out was more socially acceptable.
Favorite tracks: “Freaky Freaks,” “Mo Money Mo Problems”

Honorable Mentions:

Elephant in the Room – Mick Jenkins
Home Video – Lucy Dacus
the melodic blue – Baby Keem
Not Your Muse – Celeste
Both All the Time – Faye Webster
USEE4YOURSELF – IDK
Alpha – Charlotte Day Wilson
Lionel Boy – Lionel Boy
Lyrics To Go Vol. 2 – Kota The Friend