Take a look at four different under-the-radar artists representing four different genres of music that you might find interesting.
Ink to Spill – “Julie Julie”
Coast-to-coast, virtual indie-rock outfit Ink to Spill unveils their brand-new single, “Julie Julie,” a song reminding listeners that we all can fashion our own fate.
“Julie Julie” was inspired by the true account of the daughter of songwriter Bob Sauer’s late father’s best friend. The two men passed away in the same hospital just a few days and a few rooms apart. The following summer, a memorial picnic was held to honor Bob’s father. Julie, just off a divorce, had moved back home from New York City.
Bob felt too many people were meddling in Julie’s business. To try and ward people away, she kept responding, “It is what it is.” Very sad and stoic, she seemed to have resigned herself to her fate. Bob wanted to cheer her up but couldn’t find the words. Instead, he wrote her a song – “Julie Julie.”
The lyrics of “Julie Julie” prompt and encourage.
“Julie Julie, the cards don’t always fall our way / You’re out on your own / For the first time, in a decade / And the power within Will make or break the rest of your days.”
The video depicts Julie in her home, struggling under the residue of her divorce, followed by making decisions to improve her life, relieve stress, and regain her mental and physical health. While walking her dog, she encounters a man walking his dog. Romance eventually blossoms and she’s off on an exciting new life adventure.
Made up of Ryan Behling (vocals, keyboards, bass), Gus Reeves (guitar), Ernie Adams (percussion), and Bob Sauer (songwriter), Ink to Spill’s sound blends elements of soul, R&B, funk, and rock into delicious wide-ranging music, probing into the vagaries of life and the world.
“Julie Julie” opens on an upbeat rhythm featuring tasty guitar accents. Ryan’s deluxe voice, rasping, and half-whispery, imbues the lyrics with scraping tones. Combined with the fat, rolling bassline and the chugging rhythm, effervescent leitmotifs give the tune vibrant, contagious energy.
Brimming with delightful vim and vigor, “Julie Julie” emboldens listeners to eschew saying, “It is what it is,” and say, “Create what it is.”
The Mattoid – ‘Great Lovers’
The Mattoid, aka Ville Kiviniemi, releases his third studio album, Great Lovers, which was recorded in three countries over a span of five years. The album is his first in over 14 years.
Originally from Finland, The Mattoid’s sound defies normal description, having been referred to as psyche-folk, world, lazy new wave, winking goth, freak rock, DIY lounge, and Count Chocula fronting the Velvet Underground. On his part, The Mattoid calls it “sango music,” referring to his guitar rhythm style.
Ville started out in London, where he performed as The Urban Peasant, followed by taking part in NYC’s ‘anti-folk’ scene. Later, while traveling through the U.S. on an open mic tour, his van broke down in Nashville, where he stayed for almost a decade.
He released HELLO, followed by two EPs, followed by The Glory Holy, which was an attempt to appeal to Nashville’s contemporary Christian-rock scene. Instead, the album attracted punkers, rockers, and so-called ‘others.’
Recently, The Mattoid had brain surgery. The story goes like this: swerving to miss a deer, he crashed his van and broke his neck. A CT scan revealed an aneurysm, which led to surgery and a sexy scar on his forehead.
Encompassing 11-tracks, entry points on the album include “Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Peso,” a Leonard Cohen-like tune replete with jazz-rock flavors, a dramatic violin, and The Mattoid’s deep, inflected tones.
The title track conjures up suggestions of Leonard Cohen amalgamated with Chris Isaak and Ray Manzarek on keyboards. Whereas “Hopeinen Kuu (Silver Moon),” sung in Finnish, rolls out on traditional folk tones topped by The Mattoid’s Count Chocula vocals.
A personal favorite, “Beautiful” travels on soft lounge music textures, accented by a sparkling piano. For some reason, this song recalls America’s “Ventura Highway,” low-slung and shimmering with luscious leitmotifs.
Another excellent track, “Lauantai Huumuaa,” features the voice of Lauren Sewell Brown topping rousing alt-rock harmonics with what can only be described as Scandinavian-punk-lite savors. The last track, “Welcome To My House,” rolls out on a mid-tempo rhythm, sleazy alt-country guitars, and ghostly vocals.
Innovative and definitely unique, Great Lovers offers sui generis music approaching the edges of experimental but never crossing over the line.
Deathcruiser – “Under Your Skin”
Adam Roth was laying down tracks for his forthcoming debut solo EP, Deathcruiser, when the name for his new project came to him. He was in the studio staring at a decorative skull associated with Dia de los Muertos, thinking about music.
He explains, “A lot of this music was written during a time when I was grieving. Music’s always been a vehicle to help me get through the hard times and struggles, and it’s always sort of been a salvation, away from pain and suffering, whether it was a breakup when I was younger, or whether it’s death. Music has literally been my Deathcruiser.”
The upcoming self-titled EP, which features Steve Ferrone (drums) of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fame, slated to drop on July 20, encompasses five tracks, one of which is “Under Your Skin.”
Talking about the song, Roth shares, “If there’s any chance life exists outside this planet, I hope this song reaches them. ‘Under Your Skin’ was written as a sort of bat signal, sent out into the universe in hopes of an alien abduction. The song touches on the chaos and misery here on Earth, and a desire to be swept away to a far-off place by celestial beings. Metaphorically speaking, it’s a yearning to know what it feels like to live without the uncomfortable Earthly feelings.”
Roth was a founding member and the vocalist of Grizfolk, the rock/electro-pop outfit that released three albums and toured the world. Yet the Deathcruiser project took a different direction, personal and gritty, with an essence of Americana running through it.
“Under Your Skin” opens on a low-slung melody riding Ferrone’s distinctive style of drumming, giving the rhythm tantalizing cadence. Roth’s velvety, captivating voice imbues the lyrics with seductive savors of longing for authentic connection. On the chorus, the tune takes on shimmering resonance and delicious gliding textures.
“I want to know what it feels like under your skin.”
Vaguely reminiscent of Tom Petty merged with J.D. Souther and Michael Martin Murphey, “Under Your Skin” hits the sweet spot, at once beautifully alluring and cashmere.
Jhelisa – “Oxygen”
Singer, songwriter, and producer Jhelisa recently released “Oxygen,” an expansive 11-minute track that winds, glides, and ripples on an array of sonic colors.
Speaking about the song, Jhelisa shares that “Oxygen” is, “My outpouring of growth; my influences, perceptions, my angles, and transitions that began with surviving Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to navigating the hyper-polarized fragments of American politics over the decades.”
GQ Magazine once called Jhelisa “the cosmic princess of soul.”
Originally from Mississippi, Jhelisa grew up singing in church. Later, she moved to London and sang with Soul Family Sensation, followed by singing on the Shamen’s Boss Drum album. In 1994, Dorado Records offered her a recording contract. 1995 saw her release Galactica Rush, a deliciously smooth album merging soul, jazz, and electronica.
More releases followed, including Language Electric, A Primitive Guide to Being There, and 7 Keys, Volumes 1 and 2. Jhelisa has worked with Jeff Buckley, Chaka Khan, and Massive Attack, and toured with James Brown, Herbie Hancock, and Roy Ayers.
Musicians on “Oxygen” include legendary bassist Oteil Burbridge (Grateful Dead) and Greg Osby, whose piercing alto sax carries the track to another level.
“Oxygen” opens on a tolling bell flowing into syncopated percussion topped by search jazz tones. A searing saxophone backed by African chanting voices shifts the tune. When Jhelisa’s evocative voice enters, the tune glides on a sparkling piano as a fat, vibrating bassline gives the tune blatting hues.
Gospel-flavored vocals accompanied by a blues-dripping harmonica provide a luminous interlude, followed by pressing percussion and fragrant soul-jazz.
With “Oxygen,” Jhelisa demonstrates her genius for blending various rhythms, hooks, and leitmotifs into a profound journey of emotions and soundscapes.