Elijah Kessler has had a connection to rap music since the day he was born. His actual first name, Mason, was given to him by his mother in tribute to the 90s superstar rapper Mase. Although this auspicious beginning may have foretold his future, Elijah didn’t actually start rapping himself until he turned 8. After absorbing some of the sounds that he heard on his mother’s car stereo, the inspired young Elijah began attempting to write rhymes. He remembers one early foray when, after hearing Eminem on the radio, he hurried home and excitedly wrote a rap about a cat chasing a mouse. As he continued to explore this newfound mode of expression, his subject matter soon turned more personal. By the age of 10, Elijah was already grappling with difficult personal subjects including an alcoholic mother and an absent biological father. Even at that young age, he began to find solace in musical expression amidst a somewhat unstable home life. Elijah began singing to himself constantly throughout the day and night, a habit that he carries to this day.
As his childhood became his teenage years, Elijah continued to find a sense of personal expression in music, but he mostly kept this hobby private. He almost quit rapping altogether when a teammate on his high school football team exposed him as the talent behind an anonymous YouTube channel. Elijah’s creative spark wasn’t reignited until he was sent off to boarding school and befriended Aidan Peterson. Peterson had his own project–he released electronic music as Instupendo and had been garnering some acclaim. Through the remainder of their highschool years, Elijah and Instupendo spent much of their time collaborating and putting track after track on Soundcloud. It was at this point that Elijah’s career experienced a true turning point – Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi found one of his songs and immediately reached out to see if Elijah would be interested in working together.
That initial exchange between Bear and a teenaged Elijah would turn out to be the beginning of a collaboration that would unfold over the course of the next 5 years. During that time, Elijah graduated high school and moved to Miami for college. His day-to-day life at this time was largely occupied by classes, relationships, soccer, video games, and anime. But between college semesters, Elijah would make trips to meet up and work with Bear in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, or New York. On each of these respective trips, Elijah found himself feeling a new spark of inspiration, as the cities themselves unlocked his sense of wide eyed imagination. During these sessions, Elijah’s constant practice would make itself evident, as his knack for improvisationally writing hooks in the studio became abundantly clear. Along the way, several other producers became involved in the project, including Nosaj Thing and Elijah’s early collaborator Instupendo. These intermittent sessions would eventually coalesce into Elijah’s debut album, LIGHTSPEED.
Brooklyn’s Foyer Red makes sweet yet abrasive songs that careen into delightfully unexpected places. They bounce between time signatures, boast bass lines and guitar riffs that clang and shimmer, and feature vocals that seamlessly crisscross over each other. Whenever the songs feel like they might dissolve into near-chaos, they’re reined in by earworm hooks and masterful leftfield pop songwriting. It’s organized clamor.
The band started as a trio with singer and clarinetist Elana Riordan, drummer Marco Ocampo, and singer/guitarist Mitch Myers. The three would email each other song ideas and record the ones that stuck. In 2021, they started playing music together in the same room and immediately came out with the Zigzag Wombat EP, which Pitchfork raved about, writing, “They make fuck-you crayon rock. At its best, their debut is a little bit freaky and more than a little bit funny.” Though they had been a band for only a few months, their self-recorded and charming debut proved that they had hit the ground running almost fully formed with a distinct, tongue-in-cheek, deconstructive take on indie rock.
Instead of sticking to their guns and retreading similar ground, Foyer Red reinvented itself as a five-piece, adding singer and guitarist Kristina Moore and bassist Eric Jaso. “We were working on a song called ‘Toy Wagon’ that needed a guest vocal, so we reached out to Kristina Moore, and as soon as we saw the way she approaches music, we knew we needed her in the band,” says Riordan. “Plus, Marco and Eric have held down a rhythm section together for seven years in Hypoluxo. They’re just super locked in and super tight and know each other so well.” As a quintet, Foyer Red’s songs have gotten fuller and stranger thanks to their egalitarian songwriting approach. “Everyone’s invited with their ideas,” says Riordan “We are always all encouraging each other to take the idea further, so everyone has an equal part in what we make.”
Emerging into a trepidatious live music scene, Foyer Red made the most of their time, playing all over New York and the Northeast with acts like Cola, Empath, Babehoven, Why Bonnie, Peaer, Momma, Mamalarky, and Diane Coffee; they embarked on their first tour in 2022 with New Orleans’ post-punk outfit Lawn, taking them through the midwest and into Chicago.
@ (pronounced “At”) is the folk-pop project of vocalist/guitarist Victoria Rose and multi-instrumentalist Stone Filipczak, who owe their musical bond to the power of text messages. Although the pair initially met years ago, it wasn’t until spring 2020 when they began sending each other music between their respective cities — Rose based in Philadelphia and Filipczak in Baltimore. A few exchanges down the line, Rose sent Filipczak an early recording of a song she’d written called “Star Game” asking him to contribute drums. She didn’t anticipate what he returned to her: “I didn’t like it at first. It felt jarring to hear my music so arranged,” she says. “I almost plotted to end the collaboration.” But it wasn’t long before she came around to the potential of what she and Filipczak could create together.
Filipczak’s version of “Star Game” wound up being the second track on @’s debut album Mind Palace Music, initially released in April 2021. Rose admits that she didn’t even think her bandmate would ever want to work with her in a formal capacity, given Filipczak’s niche background sharing bills with artists like Black Pus (Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale) and Guerrilla Toss. But with his keen, inventive ear for musicianship and Rose’s penchant for confessional lyrics and vibrant melodies, @ grew as an amalgam of their unique musical backgrounds and complementary strengths.
Tanukichan is the solo project of classically-trained Bay Area native Hannah van Loon, whose music screeched to a halt when she discovered what she affectionately calls “dad rock” in her tween years. Throughout her self-described “sheltered” adolescence, van Loon taught herself guitar by spending hours in front of the radio, replicating riffs and chords from omnipresent bands like The Beatles and Incubus.
Although van Loon is the creator and leader of Tanukichan, the project can be considered a collaboration between her and the Grammy-nominated chillwave pioneer Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi. After seeing an early Tanukichan show in 2016, Bear expressed an interest in working with van Loon; Radiolove, Tanukichan’s first headbanger of an EP, arrived on Bear’s own Company Records that same year. The promising four-song project was followed in 2018 by van Loon’s breakout debut LP, Sundays, which prompted her first solo headlining tour and dates opening for artists like Kero Kero Bonito and The Drums. Sundays earned Tanukichan enthusiastic critical acclaim, with Pitchfork writing that it “captures the spirit of a day whose wide-open nature fosters anxieties as well as ambitions” and Rolling Stone lauding its “bruising riffs, taut grooves, and open-road-ready guitar anthems.”
Tanukichan’s sophomore album GIZMO is out on March 3rd, 2023. While still rooted in the eerie shoegaze she’s become known and loved for, it also sees her go beyond her comfort zone, incorporating elements of grunge, industrial synths, nu metal basslines, and electric guitars that culminate into a captivating wall-of-sound. The result is her most fun-sounding work yet.
Though Hans Pucket has been performing frenetic and immediate indie rock in Wellington, New Zealand for years, their collaboration dates back even further when twin brothers Oliver and Callum Devlin decided to start making music together. In 2014, with Oliver on vocals and guitar and Callum on drums, the duo self-released a self-titled EP on Bandcamp. The loose and rambunctious collection of songs caught the ear of drummer Jonathan Nott who quickly joined the band and Oliver says “knew the songs better than we did.”
As a three-piece with Callum Devlin now playing bass, Hans Pucket released a string of increasingly hook-laden and sophisticated EPs and singles. In 2016, they released the Jalapeño EP and in 2017 put out their breakout single “Fuck My Life,” which boasted a sax-led outro that hinted at a side of the band the Devlins affectionately refer to as “Horns Pucket.” These releases culminated in the band’s first full-length Eczema in 2018, an LP that garnered cosigns from their compatriots The Beths and RNZ. For their sophomore effort No Drama, the band decamped to Jonathan Pearce of The Beths’ Auckland studio. Though the result is a much fuller, more ambitious sound, Hans Pucket decided to stick to their strengths: being a fun live act. “Rather than being a Steely Dan studio band, our intention was to make songs that are fun to play live,” says Oliver Devlin.
No Drama came together over several years and during its creation, the band added multi-instrumentalist Callum Passels, who provided all the horn arrangements on the LP. With Pearce producing, his other The Beths bandmates Benjamin Sinclair added string arrangements while singer Elizabeth Stokes provided backing vocals. The result is Hans Pucket’s most sparkling and confident collection yet. While it’s danceable and fun, it’s also a thoughtful exploration of anxiety, a call for empathy in a turbulent time, and a relatable reminder that it’s hard to figure things out.
“People say ‘no drama’ all the time when they really mean at least, ‘some drama,” laughs Callum Devlin of the album title. “It works because No Drama is actually a super dramatic record.” The LP is out October 28th, 2022 via Hans Pucket’s new label Carpark Records.
Devotion to music has driven Spacemoth’s Maryam Qudus—a performer, composer, and now sought-after producer—for as long as she can remember. At age twelve, she traded chores for guitar lessons; at sixteen, she took on after school jobs to pay for voice lessons, learning to drive so she could take herself to both. As a first-generation Afghan-American child of working-class immigrant parents, finding a place in music has been nothing short of a challenge for Qudus. “Women are often discouraged from pursuing music in the Afghan & Muslim community, and those who follow that path receive a lot of heat,” she explains.
Qudus’ earliest creative pursuits began with her solo project Doe Eye, which found quick success with radio play, magazine features and blogosphere buzz after 2014’s T E L E V I S I O N—a lush collection of indie pop and spacey rock produced by John Vanderslice at his legendary San Francisco co-op-turned-studio Tiny Telephone. Working with Vanderslice opened new artistic avenues for Qudus: “Seeing the lit up VU meters on the console and multiple tape machines running really inspired me. I realized the studio is an instrument and if you know how to use it, you can take advantage of that in really cool ways.” She began studying at Bay Area recording arts non-profit Women’s Audio Mission, eventually interning both there and at Tiny Telephone before becoming a staff engineer at both. Studio tricks picked up from clients like Wax Nine’s Sad13, Toro Y Moi, Sasami & Tune-Yards gave new inspiration for her own arrangements. And in between sessions, she was able to toy with electronic ambience and tape experimentations for Spacemoth—her latest solo project.
Spacemoth’s debut album, No Past No Future, will be released July 22nd, 2022 on Wax Nine / Carpark Records. Rich in intergalactic, avant-pop, No Past No Future serves as a reckoning point between nostalgia and nihilism; it explores the struggle to hang on to a moment as it warps in time. The bulk of performance and production comes from Qudus herself, who favors vintage synths like the Yamaha CS-50 and Korg Polysix alongside fluttering tape manipulations; creating cosmic, lush soundbeds, drawing comparisons to beloved projects like Broadcast and Stereolab. Every track flows with Qudus’ low timbered vocals, in harmony with the watery, glowing synthesizers that anchor the album. The result is an album radiating in astonishment at the emotional landscape humans contain within ourselves, and in wonder at the preciousness of our time on earth.
childhood songs on a toy cassette player, she spent her teen years in the crowd at DIY shows rather than onstage. But a relocation to Philadelphia for college found her woodshedding in her dorm room, and Deer Scout’s earliest songs were born. Centering Miller’s singular voice and intimate lyricism, Deer Scout was quickly welcomed into Philly’s legendary DIY scene, especially at fabled punk fraternity Pilam and erstwhile house venue All Nite Diner. Early cassette release Customs formally introduced Miller’s studied sparseness and pointed songcraft. 2017’s “sad boy,” satirized liberal arts’ special brand of toxic masculinity over plotted drum machines and gossamer synths (produced by Miller’s father, Mark, who she describes as a favorite songwriter and major influence). Along the way, Miller grew the project by touring storied alternative showspaces like Silent Barn, Flywheel and PhilaMOCA, and sharing stages with artists including Waxahatchee, Yowler and Told Slant.
Six years after the project’s start, Miller has moved back to her hometown of New York and is ready to release her debut full length, Woodpecker, with Carpark Records. Though its earliest songs were written during that prolific freshman year—like “Synesthesia,” penned almost instantly on a train ride home from a basement show—Miller’s taken time to fastidiously rearrange, working alongside trusted friends and collaborators: Ko Takasugi-Czernowin on bass, Zuzia Weyman on cello, Henry Munson on pedal steel, and Madel Rafter on drums. With primary engineering and mixing from Heather Jones at Philly’s So Big Auditory, Woodpecker was eventually completed at home by Miller, whose piecemeal approach to finishing the record results in its lush intentionality. The family folk influence shines through in Miller’s distinctive playing and voice, but tension-building string arrangements, droning pull-off riffs, and rattling drum play complicate the mix, channeling Americana and lo-fi forebears like Cat Power. Though the stillness in Miller’s arrangements may give an initial sense of smallness, Deer Scout’s songs are like dollhouse miniatures, laden with complexity. Through Miller’s open-hearted yearning, Deer Scout’s music feels at once safe and limitless.
Before the world came to a standstill last year, the artist Chelsea Jade found herself in the middle of a particularly mobile time. A tour with Allie X was due to follow on the heels of a run of sold-out shows in her native New Zealand in February, a U.S. tour with Neon Gold’s Your Smith in January, and her first-ever U.S. tour with Muna in the fall of 2019.
Muna’s Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin play guitar on Soft Spot, Jade’s forthcoming second album, as does Elizabeth Stokes (The Beths). These collaborators and others that recur throughout the credits Jade’s work –– like Leroy Clampitt, Justyn Pilbrow (The Neighbourhood), Brad Hale, Tyler Spry –– are friends foremost, people she knows and enjoys outside of music. “Everybody who I’ve worked with is very high-achieving in their own right, but that’s not why we work together,” Jade says; community is the starting point. “That’s the nucleus of how these things get made.”
Jade grew up in New Zealand, where early forays into music held conspicuous promise; a band she formed in high school went on to open for José González and Cat Power; her first solo project drew national awards. In 2015, after being declared the nation’s “Accidental Dream Pop Hero” by Vice, Jade moved from Auckland to Los Angeles, settling in a city that continues to offer “infinite mystery” that lends itself to her inquiry and her writing. “I prefer,” she says, “not knowing too much.”
Jade’s debut album Personal Best was self-released to international acclaim in 2018. “Life of the Party,” one of its masterpieces of droll, truculent pop, was shortlisted for a Silver Scroll Award for songwriting in 2017, in the company of Lorde and Aldous Harding, in 2017. “Laugh It Off” earned Jade her second such nomination the following year, alongside Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Marlon Williams. A dynamic pre-Personal Best single, “Afterglow,” has made several TV appearances, most recently on the hit Netflix series “Emily in Paris.”
On the strength of this work and more, Jade was presented with an APRA Professional Development Award in 2018; wrote a Chainsmokers single (“You Owe Me”); signed a publishing deal; and co-founded a fxmale songwriting/producer camp in New Zealand with tutors like Susan Rogers (Prince) and Wendy Wang (Greg Kurstin).
2021 began with some of the mobility that tapered off at the start of the pandemic; Jade toured in New Zealand in February and March. She returns to the U.S. this spring for the release of her characteristically luxuriant and sophisticated second album, Soft Spot, via Carpark Records.
“I think my music provides space for me to say the things I can’t always say in real life.” says Virginia native songwriter and multi-media artist Corrinne James. While studying New Media and Cinematography at the University of Virginia, James created a secret Bandcamp under the alias Naomi Alligator, and began uploading her intimate home recordings online. Although her primary creative practice has been experimental animation—producing several shorts and music videos for artists like Slow Pulp and Emily Yacina—James found a way to broaden her storytelling through music. “I grew up playing piano, but I was actually learning how to play guitar on the first few Naomi Alligator songs.” James admits. “At the end of high school my friend Ruby sent me a Google Drive zip of all the Girly Sounds recordings and told me ‘You need to listen to this!’” Inspired by the sparse and confessional qualities of Liz Phair’s early portastudio recordings, James decided to create her own musical journal to share and process personal anecdotes. “I was nervous to show it to other people because I was just scared about what they might think, but eventually I started sharing it with friends in college and they would share it with more people.”
This fall, five years since her first upload and over a dozen releases later, James will share her new four-track EP, Concession Stand Girl, while making her debut on Carpark. Self-recorded at home, Concession Stand Girl features Corrinne James playing guitar, synth, and banjo. “That banjo was actually a gift from my old professor and mentor, Lydia Moyer.” James recalls. Her modern folk production and poetic songwriting links the sounds of artists like Joan Baez and Steeleye Span to a 21st century context. James wrestles with guilt, purpose, and jealousy through vivid narratives in the songs on her new EP, as well as much of her self-released music and films. James says “I kind of feel like a kid when I’m writing music—it’s just about sharing whatever you’re feeling and getting that out, you know?” Following the release of Concession Stand Girl, James hopes to expand the sound of Naomi Alligator, experimenting with new recording techniques and layered instrumentation, while maintaining her warm songwriting.