“We’re not so different anymore,” Jimmy Whispers proclaims on the title track of his long-awaited sophomore album, The Search for God. A lot has changed for everyone in the past few years, and especially for Jimmy. In another lifetime, he was that sweet kid from Chicago who stole our hearts with his aw-shucks Midwestern attitude and his knack for writing catchy old-time melodies, who legendary critic Jessica Hopper once called the city’s “greatest new homegrown musical enigma,” who turned a mixtape of iPhone voice memos (Summer in Pain) into a profound racket and covered the city in cryptic anti-police street art and zines. If you caught a glimpse, it was exciting, but it was just a warm-up to his second act.
As for today, Jimmy Whispers is alive and well in Los Angeles. He’s still making music—quite a lot of it. He’s got a blossoming new career as a music video director and filmmaker. He’s become a co-writer for others including Drugdealer and Dent May. He’s got a side hustle as a valet parking attendant, a 1988 Buick Reatta, and a new commitment to making life-affirming art.
Jimmy has always been a dreamer, but it’s a different man who’s wearing the mantle these days. The old Jimmy was raw, whether pouring his heart into a demo or flinging himself off stage in a cathartic act of theatrical self-destruction.The new one has started to find his center and a sound that sparkles and shines, although the wild spirit that’s always animated his work still hasn’t been tamed. After embracing sobriety in 2019, and now as a filmmaker sharing the stories of lesser known Los Angeles community members, he’s brought his dreaming down to earth, while turning its direction even further out.
His new album, The Search for God, out June 9th, 2023 on Carpark Records, is full of real-life problems: confusion, self-harm, police helicopters hovering overhead. But it also abounds with faith that there’s something much bigger that can release us all from the struggles that we’re facing, that we can reach it if we work enough and believe enough. Jimmy calls it “God”; you might call it “Love” or “Peace” or “A Place In the Universe That Makes Some Kind of Sense.” At 10 songs delivered in a brief 15 minutes, The Search for God is an unshakably catchy wake-up call to engage with a troubled world that’s still worth saving. For a minute or two at a time, Jimmy’s music cracks open a space where the divine can enter our lives. The utopia we’ve all been dreaming of is already here if we’re just willing to build it. Jimmy Whispers is there, ready to add his voice, whenever we want to reach out.
Jared Mattson is one half of the duo Mattson 2, and, as his debut album Peanut, proves, one very formidable solo act. He first came on the scene with his identical twin, Jonathan Mattson on drums, honing a sound pulled fully through bebop but also streaked with surf-rock. And both with his brother and in his own evolution as a player and songwriter, he’s been surprising and igniting listeners and audiences ever since.
The Mattsons were already playing Japan while getting their Masters of Fine Arts degrees from the University of California Irvine. Their debut recording, the EP Introducing the Mattson 2, in 2009, showed Jared working in the melodic transition of jazz guitarists like Cal Fallow and Wes Montgomery. Agar, in 2014, was another instrumental record, but that record was a full-out banshee cry and showcased a more explosive scale of exploration. After that, a pivotal collaboration with Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi) led to Star Stuff and displayed an extraordinary marriage of Beach-Boys sharp compositional hooks with the musical muscle of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. That album peaked at number one on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart and brought the Mattson 2 a whole new level of publicity.
A different kind of milestone followed for the Mattsons when they released a full recording of John Coltrane’s masterwork A Love Supreme, in 2018. “The message of a A Love Supreme is a universal message and is meant to reach any and all people,” famed jazz writer Ashley Kahn told The Washington Post Magazine. “So the Mattson 2 are hearing that message. . .And they are hearing it in a big way, and there is a depth of sincerity and reverence, I would say, in what the Mattson 2 are doing that is unquestionable.”
In a career of novel pivots, Paradise, in 2019, showed off the duo’s newly honed pop instincts and, most notably for Jared, featured his lead vocals for the first time. Now, Jared has brought those talents and, in the tradition of Paul McCartney’s and Prince’s debut solo albums, released a solo album in that truest sense: With the exception of Joe Lyle on drums and Anthony Ferraro on bass on “She Ran Away,” and Ferraro proving keys and backing vocals on three other tracks, the guitar, bass, drum programming, and keyboard work all come from the fingertips and musical brain of Jared.
The result is a pure, fully realized pop album that manages to be not at all familiar, with songs that air on the side of restraint vs. bombast. It’s also the work of an ever-flourishing and inventive guitarist who has reimagined the use of his main instrument for music whose influences come from all over the airwaves but that add up to a sound that is entirely original.
Melati ESP is the recording alias of Indonesian-born, New York City-based multidisciplinary artist Melati Malay. hipernatural is their debut album.
Melati (Jasmine in Indonesian) Malay grew up in Jakarta, a sprawling subtropical metropolis with a population of 30 million and the administrative capital of 17,000 Indonesian islands. Like other similar Asian megacities, Jakarta is a bewildering melting pot of ancient traditions and future technologies, which merge in a uniquely Javanese late-capitalist equatorial fusion.
Raised in this environment on a dual diet of western pop music and musik Dangdut (a Javanese form of pop blending Hindustani, Arabic, and Malay influence), Malay eventually relocated to New York City in her early 20’s and collaborated, recorded, and performed with an array of experimental groups, refining her practice at DIY venues across the city.
Malay has released music as part of multinational experimental trio Asa Tone (Leaving Records), however hipernatural is the first of her work recorded entirely in the language of her childhood, Indonesian: “It was liberating, not just phonetically, but also culturally, it was important to me.”
Over the last decade Malay has collaborated with U.K. trip-hop pioneer Tricky, U.S. cellist and composer Kelsey Lu, Keifing-born Vancouver based producer Yu Su, and innovative 70’s French composer Ariel Kalma. In what could feel like the middle of a long career, this new project by Melati Malay hints that she may only be beginning.
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.