Introducing: Billionaire

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Few people have a better understanding about the difficulties that arise between socioeconomic classes than the Brits. There’s a reason George Bernard Shaw also founded the London School of Economics.

John Sterry (a.k.a. BILLIONAIRE) is the latest London artist to offer his take on class struggle and what it means for individuals overstepping society’s lines. “Poverty Line” meshes a lo-fi sound with a dark message, a combination that makes for a double whammy when the chorus hits. Lines like “Nobody will every love you when you’re at the poverty line” may be blunt, but the song’s minimalist, brooding sound is the perfect vehicle to deliver this kind of message. Stream “Poverty Line” below.

STREAM: BILLIONAIRE – “Poverty Line”

LAYLA – Smokestacks

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Ballads should start with a slow crescendo. This rule isn’t written in stone, but everybody accepts it as fact. Well, at least LAYLA does if “Smokestacks” is any indication. The London artist’s latest track has a hazy beginning, but forty seconds in her vocals cut through the fog like a knife. The track’s replay value becomes evident once LAYLA picks things up at the beginning of the chorus. From there she drives “Smokestacks” higher and higher until a crashing, string-backed breakdown. And let’s not forget the subtle touches LAYLA weaves in throughout the song (like that whistle at 0:49), which provide the finishing touches to a truly epic ballad. Stream “Smokestacks” below.

STREAM: Layla – “Smokestacks”

Premiere: Desert Noises – Mice In The Kitchen

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For a period of time, I lived in Toledo. That’s where I was first introduced  to Desert Noises. The Utah-based foursome uses strong harmonization, old-school rock guitar and infectious drumming to transport the listener to that hazy limbo between dreaming and consciousness. For the uninitiated, songs like “Hey Ah” and “Oak Tree” from their debut LP Mountain Sea embody that sound perfectly.

Now the band is prepping to release their sophomore album 27 Ways. The first preview of the LP, “Dime In My Pocket,” was a folk-gospel number of sorts. Follow-up “What The World Made” revealed a more rock-centric approach, clearly channeling the ’70s power ballads that have defined hard rock for generations.

Today, we’re premiering another track off 27 Ways  “Mice In The Kitchen.” And man, is it good. Kyle Henderson’s voice is in tip-top shape, subtly easing you in before soaring into a powerful chorus, while Patrick Boyer keeps you hooked with intricate guitar-work. Tyler Osmond crushes the bass and drummer Brennan Allen’s rolling drums are the best I’ve heard from him yet. These pieces together make a polished folk-rock track that will keep you coming back again and again.

Desert Noises’ 27 Ways comes out on SQE March 25th. They’ll also be hitting the road this winter. Tour dates posted after the jump.

STREAM: Desert Noises – “Mice In The Kitchen” [PREMIERE]

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Mike Mains & the Branches – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

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Michigan produces some aggressive music. Think Eminem, KISS and Kid Rock. It’s no surprise then that the first descriptor on Wikipedia’s page about Mike Mains is that he has “aggressive vocals.” But the trio got its start in Texas, known for its slower western-style tunes and less for, well, hard rock. Regardless of where home really is, the group’s northern/southern influences have made for a bright and shiny brand of pop music.

The first stanza of their latest track “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” highlights this combination. Though it might begin with a uke, the rest of the track lets that Detroit Rock City ethos do the rest of the work. The aforementioned vocals are countered by poppy guitar and a funky bass groove, and if you don’t believe that everything’s gonna be alright by the end of the song, frankly, you’re not listening hard enough. Stream it below.

Mike Mains & The Branches’ Calm Down, Everything is Fine will be the band’s sophomore album and comes out February 18th.

STREAM: Mike Mains & the Branches – “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

The Both – Milwaukee

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Do you like Ted Leo? How about Aimee Mann? Do you like amazing chemistry? Stop reading and just click play on The Both’s “Milwaukee” below.

For the rest of you, here’s a quick primer. Ted Leo grew up in New Jersey, where, as I can attest, punk was and remains a staple of the homegrown music scene. He later became a cult-like figure in the local post-punk world when he came down to D.C. and started Ted Leo And The Pharmacists. It was experimental, edgy and changed the game for pretty much anyone who listened to it. Effusive enough? Probably not.

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Introducing: Gold Spectacles

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Something is amiss, interwebs. Despite all the NSA snooping technology at our disposal, we just can’t figure out the identities of the two individuals behind Gold Spectacles. Their latest track “Steal You Away” begins with a delightful staccato-picked acoustic guitar riff and funky bass line, both of which lead into the sweet melodic vocals of some anonymous crooner. It’s pleasant to the point of hypnotism, giving you the same feeling you get when staring out a train window at the passing countryside. Give “Steal You Away” a listen below.

STREAM: Gold Spectacles – “Steal You Away”

Sam Roberts Band – Metal Skin

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More than a decade ago, Sam Roberts solidified his role in Canadian pop culture history with The Inhuman Condition. That EP vaulted him from relative obscurity into a homegrown star. I mean, let’s be honest, we have all tapped the table to “Brother Down.”

Fast forward to 2014. Now under the moniker Sam Roberts Band, he is about to come out with his fifth studio album, Lo-Fantasy. His latest single is a pseudo-funky ditty called “Metal Skin.” The simple, steady beat forces you to nod your head, and leads you right into a pleasantly poppy chorus. The riff is nice and easy, and so is the song. If you want something to brighten your day, this should do the trick. Careful though, it’s catchy as hell.

Sam Roberts Band’s Lo-Fantasy comes out February 11th via 100% records.

STREAM: Sam Roberts Band – “Metal Skin”

Mark McGuire – In Search Of The Miraculous

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“In Search of the Miraculous” is a sonic journey through the head of Mark McGuire. Part of the soon-to-be-released, Along the Way, the musician’s latest track is part of a collection that represents a path of feeling, rather than storytelling. It is meant to be experiential, so that you can impart your own meaning on a soundtrack for self-discovery. As Mark puts it himself in the liner notes, “This story is an odyssey through the vast, unknown regions of the mind.” Heady stuff.

That doesn’t, however, indicate any lack of purpose in McGuire’s songwriting. Using acoustic guitar, mandolin, talkbox and a plethora of other instruments, he creates an otherwordly experience not unlike Austin post-rockers Explosions in the Sky. His music is about transportation, so sit back, relax, and let it take over.

Mark McGuire’s Along the Way comes out on Dead Oceans later this year.

STREAM: Mark McGuire – “In Search Of The Miraculous”

GEMS – Don’t Cry (Seal Cover)

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Hot off the release of their phenomenal Medusa EP, GEMS have dropped a cover taking on none other than the mighty Seal. The DC duo’s version of “Don’t Cry” is fresh but stays true to the original, keeping things minimal while also highlighting Lindsay’s haunting voice. The timeless track, played by lonely hearts everywhere, came out just in time for those who just might need an updated version for Valentine’s Day. Stream it below or grab a free download by signing up for their mailing list.

STREAM: GEMS – “Don’t Cry (Seal Cover)”

James Vincent McMorrow – Gold

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James Vincent McMorrow‘s first effort, Early in the Morning, came after six months of isolation in an Irish beach house. The album reflected the minimal production and authenticity of a man wrestling with his thoughts. Its most memorable song From The Woods!!” exemplified his ability to accelerate from a standstill to fevered pitch in heart-racing fashion.

This month he’s releasing his second album, Post Tropical. If the first single, “Cavalier,” was a reminder of his gorgeous, whispered voice, then his second, “Gold,” is a forceful example of his musical prowess. Piecing together varied instruments to make a full-fledged opus, “Gold” soars on a gust of horns, strings and, of course, his voice. Comparisons to Bon Iver are inevitable, but they don’t do justice to the unique spin this Irishman has on songwriting. It’s intercontinental and probably the reason that it feels so transcendent. Stream it below.

STREAM: James Vincent McMorrow – “Gold”