We spotlight 5 attention-grabbing folk artists sharing stories from the heartland.
Ready to Pop is here to sink its teeth into the newest, obsession-worthy additions to folk music. We look at up-and-coming songwriters who are following in the footsteps of legends like Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley, Tracy Chapman, Woody Guthrie, and John Prine, as they sing about life, death, sorrow, and bliss in the American heartland. Check out these featured artists, rated on a scale of "Super Chill" to "Shook" to "Obsession-worthy."
J. R. Harbidge - "Older & Sober"
J R Harbidge/Facebook
One of the best moments on J. R. Harbidge's record First Ray of Light is "Older & Sober," in which his heart aches for a former flame who continues to haunt his dreams. "If you come back to me, you set me free," he sings. The song's honky-tonk sound highlights Harbidge's warbling vocal style, which veers between tender and commanding.
Sylvia Rose Novak - "The Road"
Sylvia Rose Novak/Facebook
Reminiscent of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Sylvia Rose Novak's "The Road" is a harrowing musical companion to Cormac McCarthy's 2006 novel of the same name. Novak interprets the narrative's post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son making their way through the ruins of modern civilization: "The trains all sit in silence, as if they might redress / They were the start of the expansion that turned into this mess." The music gains power as she croons, "But you can't blame coal and iron when a man is at the helm / Turning mountains into oceans into some ungodly realm..."
Jesse Daniel - "Hell Bent"
On Jesse Daniel's new self-titled album, he energetically declares his love with "Hell Bent," a charming and relentless ode that's worthy of Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. He's rough around the edges, and therein lies the power of his declaration: "I'm hell bent on loving you / Can't think of a single thing I'd rather do," he sings, his voice riding the waves of guitar and jaunty drums.
Sarah White - "Apple in B Major"
"Apple in B Major" is Sarah White's forlorn tribute to a broken heart. Her ethereal vocals buoy the song with hope, as she turns heartbreak into a dedication to inner strength: "Shine it bright onto what you really want." The guitar is a steady constant as the arrangement swells around her celebration of "light, oh my light."
Scale: Super Chill
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The folk tunesmith breathes new life into a classic
This melancholic Springsteen cover by Wilder Adkins is worthy of the music legend.
Bruce Springsteen is the kind of rockstar we all adore. He's The Boss for a reason, with a legacy that stretches far beyond classic rock into much of mainstream pop, hip-hop, country, and folk music. He's inspired many of today's storytellers and performers to follow their dreams.
Wilder Adkins is among an exceptional class of musicians and songwriters whose music, while undeniably entrenched in the past, still manages to push forward in thrilling ways. This artistry is best shown with "Marietta," a slow-burning and sobering reinvention of Springteen's "I'm Going Down." Here, Adkins peels away the boisterous, arena-style production for a far more subdued and nuanced performance.
The idea to cover such an iconic tune popped into his mind when he was asked to pay tribute to Springsteen at an ATL Collective concert in 2017. Adkins tells Popdust, "As someone who works mainly in the folk genre, I had never played with a saxophone before. I really liked the way the Baritone sax sounded."
"Someone told me at the show that I was too melancholy and not angry enough to sing Springsteen's version of 'I'm Goin' Down,' so I rewrote the verses to make it all my own," he said. His new song and video premiere today.
While he dares to explore with the arrangement and composition, Adkins lingers on the old blues roots embedded within the song's echoing chambers. "I guess I'm just adding to the lineage," he thinks out loud. "To me, it's a song about a guy who's got to leave his girl because he knows it's not going to work out. He knows he's going to get some flack for it, and he's also probably sad for wasting so much time."
Adkins hails from Marietta, Georgia but now resides in Birmingham. In addition to Springsteen, he credits his early exposure to Neil Young and Van Morrison as influences on his craft.
In the music video animation by Atlanta artist Ross Boone, Adkins uses literal imagery to heighten the material. He explains, "I told Ross that I thought it would be cool to have a lion playing saxophone, and he just took it from there."
"I think every little scene in the video has a bit of meaning, but hopefully people will take different things from it," notes Adkins. The visual carries with it a heavy magic, harkening to days of innocence and longing for truth in tragedy.
Adkins' voice is as bitter as it is sweet, dancing on the notes swiftly but tenderly. His chords pair nicely with Molly Parden's thrilling harmony work, which is both light and untouchable.
While this angsty version veers significantly from the fist-pumping nature of the original, there is enough of the melodic smoothness and charm to keep the listener engaged and thinking of the unspoken words behind the lyrics.
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The Irish folk duo discusses honing their craft & new album, Bear Creek to Dame Street.
The duo balances recording and live show energy.
September 26, 2018 | Musicians Harry and Alfie Hudson-Taylor draw blood in their music. On their second studio record, called Bear Creek to Dame Street, out now, the brother folk duo unleashes some of their most visceral and engaging songwriting to date. From the haunting breeze of "You Don't Wanna Know" to the gently burning waltz tilt of "Shot Someone," a ballad worth of Johnny Cash or Eddie Arnold, the album is equal parts proper recording and live showcase, featuring five songs captured in the heat of a concert, including the rupturing "Care" and a bonus track called "Chasing Rubies."
In all, the self-proclaimed "mini-album" illustrates exactly why they're teetering on the edge of true superstardom -- just listen to the audience singing along to every single word. The four new songs allow them to find their footing thanks to the towering talents of producer Ryan Hadlock, most known for his work with The Lumineers and Vance Joy, at Bear Creek Studios in Seattle. The songs stand squarely in the courtyard of traditional folk music but are flavored with classicisms of the rock and singer-songwriter mold of the '60s and '70s. That in and of itself allows Hudson Taylor to draw out deeper and richer meanings, while also framing their youth in the glow of a bygone era.
The brother duo recently stopped by the Popdust studio to play a tune and discuss family upbringing, Irish dancing, honing their craft and live shows and their new record. Watch the interview above.
Hudson Taylor first issued their debut long-player Singing for Strangers back in 2015. The remarkably tall-standing 21-track splash is noticeably glossier in delivery, and while it still adheres to their folk roots, their full potential wasn't unlocked until the follow-up. Bear Creek to Dame Street feels grittier, allowing Alfie and Harry to spread their wings. "One in a Million" kicks off the set with a sultry bang, leading up to "I Love You and You Don't Even Know," which casts a doo-wop-infused honky-tonk whirl. Between flecks of vast musical influences, they plant their feet center stage.
Hailing from Dublin, the multi-instrumentalists have done their fair share of busking but have since hopped aboard a string of dates with alt-pop singer-songwriter Hozier. The tour continues throughout the rest of the month. See the remaining stops, including San Diego and Portland, below.
Watch "Battles" | Live & Acoustic
Check out the rest of the duo's upcoming tour dates:
October 8 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
October 9 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
October 10 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
October 12 - Los Angeles, CA - Hotel Cafe (Hudson Taylor headlining show)
October 14 - Tempe, AZ - The Marquee
October 15 - San Diego, CA - The Observatory North Park
October 16 - Oakland, CA - Fox Theatre
October 18 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theatre
October 19 - Portland, OR - Roseland Theatre
October 20 - Portland, OR - Roseland Theatre
October 22 - Vancouver, Canada - Orpheum Theatre
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The alt-pop duo also releases their brand-new album, Pretty Colors for Your Actions.
The duo taps into workplace frustrations.
The 9-to-5 grind can take a toll on your heart. But for many, it's the price they pay to make a living. Living wages are down; tempers and blood pressures are up; and the American heartland is gasping for breath. Whether you're Dolly Parton, The Animals, or Johnny Paycheck, you know the itch to tell your boss where he can shove it when you feel it. You'd know it anywhere. Alt-pop duo Tall Heights ⎯⎯ of Tim Harrington and Paul Wright ⎯⎯ throw their hat into the proverbial ring with their own tired-eyed lament on "working for the heartless," as they sing on "House on Fire," a cut off their just-released new record, Pretty Colors for Your Actions (out now).
"I wait it out / I get off from working on the wrong long job in town / Awake, awake for now / When I'm off and walking to the song of clocking out," Harrington sings, as Wright swings in from the ceiling with equally-weepy harmony. On the hook, they draw parallels to a burning house, with suffocating smoke rings curling and feathering into the night sky, "Hey I'm getting raucous / I'm living in a house on fire / I walk home in the darkness / But now I'm seeing twice as far / Don't matter if I want this / I'm living in a house on fire..."
In celebration of their new record, the duo hit up Brooklyn's The Creamery Studio for a smooth throwback-soul overhaul of "House on Fire," which now glistens with sultry sax and a more creamy caramel texture. They're joined by a roundup of talented fellow musicians, Stephen Rodes Chen of San Fermin & Behaviorist, and producer Oliver Hill and Ian Romer of Pavo Pavo. The performance, packed together into a somehow comforting, straight ahead visual, premiering today, acts as a medicative agent to the senses, and the listener comes to cope with their own tragic (but beautiful) reality.
"In the creation phase, I knew what shapes I wanted to use but didn't have lyrics yet," Wright tells Popdust. "I showed the idea to Tim, and he called it 'the soundtrack for getting out of work on a Friday from a job that's eating your soul,' and the lyrics came to us easily after that."
As the very last entry for the new record, "House on Fire" lingers on the lips and explores a tone that's rather "zippy and conversational, two words you won't hear us say much when we talk about our music," says Wright. "And there's lots of space around the vocals, filled by that riff. It could've been a guitar or vocal hook, but once we had Stephen try it on sax, it was a done deal."
Tall Heights just finished a round of dates on tour with Ben Folds and CAKE. Next Thursday (October 11), the band embarks on a slew of solo headlining dates starting at Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. The tour continues through early December, and you can check out a full list of shows on their official website.
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From 'The Land Down Under,' the pop newcomer offers up inspired, quirky songwriting.
CXLOE will show you her true worth.
September 19, 2018 | CXLOE is not necessarily anti-establishment, but her brand of pop is dipped in dyes of alternative music, playing with expectations of rhythms and vibes. And it's always soaring, as you'll witness with her new single "Show You," which bends around a quirky Sigrid-like vivacity and a Felicity kind of height-defying sensibility.
Of course, she certainly can compete with the likes of Sara Bareilles, Julia Michaels and Tove Lo, while also make her own kind of off-beat, left-of-center moves. "I saw in you / A light that read 'go', uh huh / So I followed you / But your body read 'no,' so stop," she acknowledges, before extending a full-stop proposal. "Am I being clear? / I could show you if you want / 'Cause I want what you got."
On the pre-chorus, climbing between the cracks of synths and building that unhinged tension. "Don't be polite, on your side / Not making moves / Say you can't tell my vibe but I'm holding on tight," she sputters, situating his lack of assertiveness against her more aggressive nature. "Come over tonight, what would you do? / Can't read my vibe, are you gonna make your move? / I can show you, if you like." Already, the song is closing in on nearly three million streams, her biggest viral hit to-date.
CXLOE Breaks the Mold for Pop Superstardom on Popdust Presents
During a recent promo stint, CXLOE stopped by the Popdust office to sit down with host Brent Butler. In the session, the pop upstart discussed writing anti-pop songs, bringing in "big crunchy bass" into her work, opening for Maroon 5 this coming February, navigating the music business and other topics. Watch the interview above.
Watch "Show You" | Live & Acoustic
"Show You" follows the admirable success of such pop gemstones as "Monster" and "Tough Love," which have collected a combined one million and change in Spotify streams. From the 'Land Down Under,' a native of Sydney, she braids personal insecurities, darkly-laced vulnerabilities on love, loss, and misfortunes and gleaming production. The song's accompanying visual, filmed in a basement in downtown Los Angeles, takes those uneasy feelings to the extreme.
The Studio Version
"The Jade Collective and I wanted to use lighting as the main vehicle to convey the sporadic and intense emotions behind the song. The color palette is very dark and ominous which reflects the dark and sensual thoughts behind the lyrics but also the chaotic changing colors give it a sort of playful vibe, as well," CXLOE says. "It also cuts to complete blackness a lot to symbolize the cat-and-mouse game of showing and hiding your feelings."
Watch "I Can't Have Nice Things" | Live & Acoustic
CXLOE's debut single "Tough Love" became a No. 1 hit on the Spotify Australia / New Zealand Viral Hits streaming chart, an achievement that has set an entire career in motion. The mood-stricken and satisfyingly haunted jam "was written from a place of angst and frustration. I've had this song boiling in me for a while. I have felt that my kindness gets mistaken for weakness, often leading to being underestimated and misjudged," she says in a press statement. "So in essence, when it gets tough, get tougher."
She transforms her agony into pop songs that go so against the grain, it hits you like a firestorm across the eyes. She later paired the original version of "Tough Love" with an equally electric acoustic version, of which she says, "The stripped version of this song uncovers the vulnerability behind the lyrics and transforming all angst into hurt. I wanted to reveal a different side to not only me but the meaning behind the lyrics. As an artist, that is the most exciting part – getting to show the many sides of our complicated hearts and brains."
CXLOE Popdust Presents
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Also, Thomas Abban & Roosevelt let the music guide them into rich soundscapes.
Heartbreak can make you do crazy things.
Ready to Pop gets lost between delicious waves of new essential pop tracks. From dizzying synths that shock the system to vocal power that's both commanding and vulnerable, the latest lineup is sure to quench your thirst. Below, check out our latest obsessions, rated on a (slay) scale of "Super Chill" to "Shook" to "Wig Snatched."
Taylor Grey - "Back to Bite"
If you haven't gotten the memo, Taylor Grey is positioned to take pop by storm. "Back to Bite" is a fierce, uncompromising club banger that drives an empowered social message between each gummy beat. "I wish I could key your car / Or just total it," she spins hard-candied gravel on the verse. "Guess I don't have the guts 'cause I was raised right / Unlike you who never learned how to treat a woman / With basic human rights..."
Grey plays both roles as the voyeuristic onlooker and karma itself, turning the song into not only a forlorn manifesto but an underdog anthem. She sings on the second stanza, letting her exact motives to be known, "I could write a letter / To all of your ex lovers / All the future ones too / Tell them your secrets / All the signs you're cheating / But I guess this song will do."
Slay Scale: Wig Snatched
Roosevelt - "Losing Touch"
Synths bang off each other like star-like orbs scattering 'cross the darkness and against planetary cycles. Roosevelt's voice glues each one together into a dazzling cluster, his fingertips grazing each lyric before letting them fall away like dust particles into the ether. "Call me up / Did I fail to notice from the start / Hit me up / Can we talk it out when I'm home," he pleads, the production melting around his towering shoulder blades. "It's been too long / Since I've been around in this old town / All along / I thought I'd come to terms with my past..."
He at least confronts his own flaws, which come to a fevered pitch in the gooey chorus. "I'm losing touch / Come back wherever you are / Yeah I'm losing touch / Let's go back to the start / Guess I'm losing touch / Come back wherever you are...." Then, on the second verse, he reflects on becoming trapped inside his own head, further endearing the listener to his plight. "Pull me out / Save me from the voices in my head / Take me out / To the places we used to go / It's been too long / Since I've been around in this old town / Here's a song / To the dreams we lost on the way."
Slay Scale: Shook
Thomas Abban - "Sinner"
Angelic but brutish, Thomas Abban's "Sinner," perhaps the most remarkable entry on his new album, A Sheik's Legacy, is drenched in a distinct alternative style. It's a little bit rock, a little bit classic singer-songwriter and a whole lotta avant-garde. Ancient rhythms and strings work against each other, often feeling orchestral and larger-than-life, but the next second, the song dips into the ruins of a lost soul grappling with reality, disastrous and a bit unnerved. "Though our time was short / Memories maintain a life of a sort," he sings, digging up every skeleton bone. "And reflect all our fears / And infect all our tears..."
He continues, scrawling religious parallels, "So, baby don't you come back home / And I'll stay on my throne / Instead of feeling like a sinner in the arms of an angel..."
Slay Scale: Wig Snatched
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