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Soul

Todd Hearon echoed arcane serenity through his folk-pop-meets-alt-country-reverie, Looking Glass

The warmth of 70s folk-pop radiates through the arcane aura of Todd Hearon’s latest alt-country serenade, Looking Glass, taken from his eagerly-anticipated forthcoming album, IMPOSSIBLE MAN. The rendered with holistic resolve release almost seems out of place in the modern era of music; rarely do new singles so organically pure in their sense-awakening and placating catharsis surface, making Hearon a diamond in the digitised rough.

Very few artists can match the rugged-with-emotion soul-exhilarating appeal of Cat Stevens, but the way the melodies in Looking Glass ascend until they touch nirvana gave the Texas-born, North Carolina-raised and New Hampshire-based singer-songwriter almost exclusive access to that affectingly sincere pantheon.

The lush-with-reverie production, with trippy psychedelic aesthetics in all the right places, pairs shimmering organs with evocative piano pop rock progressions, vintage-hued guitar chords and a vocal register so euphonic you can’t help but melt into it.

With the imminence of his third LP, IMPOSSIBLE MAN, due for release in August, you won’t want to tear your attention away from Todd Hearon for too long. Get a taste of what is to come by streaming Looking Glass on Spotify now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Interview with ARCTISKY: Exploring Love, Sound Evolution, and Musical Heritage

This week, ARCTISKY sat down with A&R Factory to discuss his latest single, “Unreal Love,” a narrative about the complexity of chemical romance and the importance of self-awareness in relationships. In this interview, ARCTISKY delves into his creative process, the instrumental choices that evoke euphoria, and the evolution of his music since his debut. He also shares insights into his journey from the Maldives to Melbourne, the influences behind his genre-fluid sound, and his ultimate artistic goals.

ARCTISKY, welcome to A&R Factory! Thanks for sitting down with us to discuss your latest single, Unreal Love. What does the single, which narrates a tale of chemical romance, mean to you personally?

Thank you for having me! ‘Unreal Love’ happens to be a confusing tale about an intense romance being ignited while two people find love in a super-charged ‘situationship’. The message is like, “Make sure you both know there could be other factors driving the whole interaction.” It’s about being aware of yourself and taking time away from other influences before wasting anyone’s time.

How did you manage to capture the euphoria of love in the instrumentals and production? 

This track is one of those tracks that stayed in the cocoon stage until I was ready skill-wise to bring it up to speed. Ever since my last release, I really took the time to come up with a sound that truly captures all of my core musical influences. With this one, I believe the live upright piano sounds did the final bit of work in bringing this song to the finish line. Initially, I had a very thin-sounding piano sound, which was fine when I was just writing other instrumentation around it, but it still didn’t give that fuller feel I was looking for. So, later on, I decided to record an upright piano with a pair of AKG c414s, with the help of a couple of my peers. That was the final ingredient to this sound I’d say.

I had written the synth parts years ago, in the early stages of the song, so those spacey-arpeggiator sounds at the back were another factor in capturing that euphoric feeling. I tried to stay true to the sounds that evoked euphoria in me as well. It’s still got that core element of rock & roll, but then those influences from other areas weave through. So this song evolved through quite a few stages to achieve the sounds I was after. I’d say it also had a lot to do with being surrounded by the right people who helped nurture my craft.

How do you want your fans to feel when they hear the single and what do you want them to take away from the lyrics? 

Well, the song is kind of like an unspoken conversation between you and that person you found some sort of crazy love with in the heat of a moment. It doesn’t have to be anyone specific either. It’s just one of those tracks that will help people come to terms with the fact that it’s better to let go by connecting to a song, rather than trying to reach out to an old flame. Never a good idea!

It’s been a while since you made your debut with Losing My Control in 2022; how has the break influenced your music? 

I think I realised I had a bit of work to do to bring my writing to something I was happy with. So, for me, it was more about going back to the sounds that felt most natural to me. That’s actually the main reason why I named this album ‘Roots Vol. 1’ – due to it paying homage to my musical heritage, being the classic rock & roll I grew up with. Unreal Love is the first track from this album and showcases this new sound I’ve been working with the best.

All the songs that will be on this album are what I call “journal songs” – they’re songs that hold more to the lyrical content, and have something listeners can take away and project onto their own experiences. It’s nothing more than a bit of art you may or may not be able to relate to. This stuff is written for the introverted side of people. I know I’ve heard those songs, where I listened to it and the music just helped me come to terms with things I had no idea was bugging me in the first place. Music does such a good job of healing people. I wanted to write some music that could help my audience shed light on some of the things they may be dealing with.

This new sound, with the foundation of rock & roll and the blend of fresh sub-genres, is what I got out of my creative break. This project just feels very fun for me! I’m not taking myself too seriously I’d say. I put a lot of trust into giving this another go, knowing I’m writing and releasing music that I loved writing and enjoy listening to.

You gained a fair amount of notoriety in the Maldives, has establishing yourself in Melbourne been a daunting experience?

I’ve been very lucky to learn and work with some extremely cool people since moving to Melbourne in 2019. I got here and realised I had neglected a lot of important theory, growing up as a drummer, so I had a lot to catch up on. I wanted to make sure I understood music to a certain level before trying to enter the live scene here. I’ve certainly had a bit of work to do to polish my craft before starting live gigs. Melbourne’s already got such a vibrant live music scene, so I want to make sure that what I’m bringing to the table here is going to be something a bit different and adds value. I needed to know that if I were to do live gigs, there were no loose ends in the songs. I want my live performances to bring a high level of energy to the venues here, and I needed time to develop my live-act. Live gigs are something I’ve really had to physically and mentally prepare myself for.

How did your genre-fluid sonic signature come about? 

I grew up with brothers who loved rock music, so it was playing around the house most of the time as a kid. I always heard a lot of Bob Dylan, Santana, Bon Jovi, Bob Marley and all that. Then I discovered Pink Floyd around the age of 18. They have the kind of music that helps you open doors in the back of your mind. Around the time I started this project, I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and the ‘Exodus’ record by Bob Marley & the Wailers. They inspired me to get my own messages of love, peace and freedom out with my music – to the individual and to societies. Especially ever since the wars have become a lot more frequent on the news, I wanted to get my message out with these songs. It turned out that when I was writing these “journal songs”, I always wrote music that I felt reflected love, peace and togetherness – “Lead with love and respect,” being the core message. It’s come with trying to strike that chord which resonates with our innate instinct to come together, and to work together and learn from each other.

What is your ultimate goal as an artist? 

My ultimate goal as an artist is to bring my work and artistry to a stage where I can start collaborating with more artists, and to just keep writing and recording music I’m proud of. I want to have songs that my audience can listen to and connect deeply to. I feel like a lot of what I’m hoping to get out of this ‘Roots Vol. 1’ record is to find a true audience that I can take on a new musical journey away from my current sonic blend. Music is such a subjective experience just like any art form. I feel like creating the best art you can do with your abilities and putting it out there is necessary if you have a message that’s greater than what you want to achieve sound-wise. I feel like I’ve been fiddling around with this sound for a while now, but I’m happy knowing this blend was authentic to who I was throughout the writing and recording process. My goal is to story-tell and share some of my crazy experiences with my listeners so that they too can feel and experience those moments. I feel like all my music will have that unique element of ‘me’ in it.

My message is to stay true to yourself no matter what kind of inner demons you may be battling. If you’re still in the thick of that period of your life, I hope some of these tracks I’m putting out can lend a hand.

Listen to Unreal Love now on SoundCloud; find more ways to connect with ARCTISKY via his official website.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Allen Green’s ‘P’s Up’ Is A Soulful Synthwave Journey Through Hip-Hop Nostalgia

Curating only the smoothest samples for his aural doorways into the exultation of hip-hop nostalgia, Allen Green’s harmony-driven approach to sample-based production has proven irresistible throughout his career which kicked off in 2023 with the mixtape 808 Soul, Vol. 1.

His latest lush with soul release, P’s Up, is an invitation to lose yourself in the tonal transcendence of his ingenuity. It’s a neon-lit euphoric hybrid of synthwave, soul, and hip-hop that temporally drifts through eras and styles, evoking sentimentality for each epoch while standing as a testament to Green’s ability to modernise retro rhythms while staying true to his LA roots.

With everyone from the Alchemist to DJ Jazzy Jeff to Barry White influencing his sonic signature which scribes through hazy synth hues and solid backbeats, you’d be more than hard-pressed to find an artist and producer more resolute in staying true to orchestrating originated syntheses that first and foremost strikes a chord within him and inevitably resonate with his ever-growing fanbase.

P’s Up was officially released on May 16; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

NYC’s MG & the Orbs delivered a remedy for self-pity with their timelessly swanky jazz blues alchemy in HELP is What You’re Needin’

With Maria Giorgio at the helm, MG & the Orbs is a peerless ensemble, revered throughout the Big Apple and beyond for their soul-imbued brand of jazz blues. Their latest single, HELP is What You’re Needin’ is enough to make you want to turn back time to add them to your radar earlier.

The resolute rejection of an invitation to a pity party is the ultimate remedy for anyone who finds themselves perpetually employed to do other people’s emotional labour. The soulful defiance in the blues shuffle which Giorgio penned after a writer on a movie set she was working on started to sing his own relationship blues. After instantly finding the inspiration in the exchange, Giorgio enlisted her cultivated collective to breathe life into the upliftingly unreckonable single that proves just how dangerous it can be to bring out the hellcat in a conduit of soul.

MG & the Orbs don’t just believe in music as a healing force, they deliver the cure in their timelessly swanky jazz blues alchemy.

HELP is What You’re Needin’ was officially released on May 24; stream the single on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Sebas De Varona Opened a Portal to the Psychedelic Soul of the 70s with ‘Preachers’

The gospel in Sebas De Varona’s latest single, Preachers, opens a portal to the psychedelic soul of the 70s; it’s a doorway into the mind of a visionary artist you’ll never want to close. As an architect of melodies you instantly melt into and a lyricist that captures your mind as much as your soul, there are few artists of this generation as affecting as Sebas De Varona,

Thankfully, with the impending release of his new EP, Dynamics in the Fourth Dimension, you’ll have plenty more opportunities to trip with Varona’s dynamically electric vocal timbre that rests easy in the rooted-in-emotion synthesis of genres which illustrates the singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and producer’s expansive bedrock of influences. Primed to soak fans of Tame Impala and Pink Floyd alike in celestial euphony, the EP will easily be one of the most cultivated releases of the year.

After hearing the Hendrix-esque fret wizardry which blazes through a divine connection to the soul of blues in Preachers you’ll want to flock to the Floridian artist’s live performances like a moth to an arcane flame.

Preachers was officially released on May 15; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

NYC’s Summer Fling put the soul in funk-rock with ‘Blissful Haze’

NYC’s Summer Fling broke their two-year spell of silence by conjuring an elemental force of feel-good furore in their single, Blissful Haze, which delivers exactly what it says on the titular tin.

Using high-energy funk-rock as the stylistic bedrock of the release and finding room to inject soul, blues, pop, and jazz, the seven-piece powerhouse ensured Blissful Haze transcends sound to visualise a state of mind you can enter simply by hitting play on the single which filters nostalgia through a modern indie pop lens.

Few vocalists could match the electrifying energy of the dynamic instrumental arrangement that layers shimmering organs over funk rhythms and hard-hitting horns, but Eddie Kam, an indomitable emissary of charisma, went supernova on the infectiously zealous soul.

With each member of Summer Fling a recently graduated jazz musician, you can rest assured that you’re in rhythmically safe hands as you get taken through the helter-skelter ride of rapture.

Blissful Haze was officially released on May 10th; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Nick Pritchard promised perpetuity in his pop ballad  ‘Forever with You’

After breaking international ground in the jazz scene, leading to sold-out shows in major theatres across the globe and holding residencies in prestigious venues in London and Dubai, the endlessly ascending artist Nick Pritchard has proven his heart-wrenching mettle as a balladeer in his latest single, Forever with You.

Though the arcane production which amplifies the affecting impact of the singer-songwriter’s velvet-toned serenade resonates akin to a sonic fantasy weaved out of the fabric of an imagination locked into unrealistic romantic expectation, the single narrates Nick’s own life story; how his world was transformed by a chance encounter on a train with his girlfriend.

“This is the most heartfelt, meaningful song that I have released. It comes from a place of pure emotion, that I believe everybody will be able to relate to. Everyone has someone special to them that has impacted their life”

While the piano keys echo the deeply touching progressions of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, the ornate instrumental crescendos match the expansive soul-stirring intensity of earworms in the same vein as Take That’s Rule the World. Yet, Nick Pritchard’s awe-inspiringly dynamic octave range, tenderly flawless pitch-perfection and striking sense of sincerity are beyond compare. Few artists could ever hold a candle to his luminous presence on the airwaves.

Forever with You was officially released on May 10th. Stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Starleen alchemised the key to self-liberty in their electronic alt-pop salve for the soul, Let Me Go

Starleen

Starleen’s latest single, Let Me Go, marks a must-read chapter in the San Antonio duo’s career, showcasing a transcendent synthesis of alt-electronica, trip-hop, soul, and pop, which elevates the listener into a state of auditory bliss and liberty.

From the outset, the track envelopes you in a cocoon of lush dream pop, slowly intertwining with elements of serene yet visceral avant-garde trip-hop to deliver a fusionist sound that is as revolutionary as it is ethereally beguiling. Once the single reaches its full rhythmic momentum, the backbone of Let Me Go becomes its robust and fiery backbeat, which propels the track forward, complemented by layers of sonorous synths that build a crescendo of sound, mimicking the uplifting process of self-liberation.

The masterful production sets the stage for the vocal mettle of Starleen Holmes, whose voice shifts effortlessly between crystalline harmonies and powerful outpours of emotion, matching the sonic complexity crafted by Zachary Holmes, whose production skills shine luminously throughout the track. Each note and beat in Let Me Go is skilfully placed, leaving the listener wide open to the message of the sanctity of freedom; especially when that freedom is by your own hand.

The official music video accompanying the sanctifying ritual of a release mirrors the song’s themes of freedom and self-discovery and is likely to add another accolade to Starleen’s collection of music video awards.

Stream Let Me Go on all major platforms, including Spotify, from May 23rd.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Zen Warship – Get Higher: A Fusionist Riot to Awaken the Soul

The Renewal by Zen Warship

Zen Warship’s latest single, Get Higher, from their forthcoming LP, The Renewal, is a testament to the Washington DC band’s dedication to following anything that grooves. This time, they’ve ignited a fusionist riot that will awaken the soul. With groove pockets as deep as the Grand Canyon, it’s all too easy to nestle into the vibrant euphoria of this release, which signifies the band’s ambition to deliver their listeners from their own funk into an exhilarating synthesis of funk, soul, ska, and disco.

Get Higher is feel-good transcendence at its finest, capturing the effervescently electrifying energy of Zen Warship’s live performance perfectly. As soon as you lock into the groove, your rhythmic pulses will be commandeered by the kinetic rapture. The single’s lush horns and dynamic rhythm section create a contagious beat that elevates the psyche and embodies the band’s ethos of delivering emotional renewal.

Set to release on June 30, 2024, The Renewal reflects the band’s journey through the post-COVID era with new members and a fresh sound. Guitarist Tyler Moselle, bassist Roberto Giberti, singer Preethy Kolinjivadi, and multi-instrumentalist Emre Tufekcioglu have crafted an album brimming with collaborative spirit and creative tension. The addition of a robust horn section, including trumpet, trombone, and saxophones, brings an intricate and layered sound to the compositions of trumpeter Zack Forbes.

Get Higher was officially released on May 14. Stream and purchase the single on Bandcamp now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

New Jersey Heavyweight SirC.A.P delivered raw RnB emotion with his standout single, Toxic Love

SirC.A.P served an authentically fresh RnB flavour in his standout single, Toxic Love, from his stylistically dynamic sophomore LP, What We Became.

The New Jersey-hailing 18-year-old independent artist’s dreamy, cinematically luxe iteration of Afrobeat RnB is definitive proof of how deep trauma bonds dig into the soul. His vocal lines wrap around the wounds inflicted by a relationship which veered from adoration into masochism as the wavy instrumentals depict a mind out of sync with sensibility. Everything about the soul-piercing production signifies a flawless execution; SirC.A.P’s vision came to life and pulsates with its own heartbeat of confessional visceral pain.

The artist formerly known as C.A.P The Rapper adopted his new moniker after sensing a shift in the tides of his creativity and no longer wanting to be confined by the expectations his former creative alias imposed. Together with his producer and co-CEO of 5 Star Records, 22cali, SirC.A.P dawned a new era of expressionism with his hotly anticipated LP, What We Became, which went live on the airwaves on May 10th.

Toxic Love is now available to stream with SirC.A.P’s second album, What We Became, on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast