When it’s catchy, it’s C.A.T.C.H.Y Tonemillers, and Clifford has c.a.u.g.h.t us with his new track, “3AM” (#whysocatchy). The minute Clifford sings, “Tonight, imma stay up till 3/ In the morning thinkin’ ‘ bout you”, the melody is already lodged deep into your brain. It’s the type of line Max Martin and his songwriting scientist buddies work tirelessly to create. In fact, it’s just the type of hook that once it starts playing in a club, you squeal and grab your closest girlfriend and you guys shriek/sing together at the top of your lungs. Did we mention we think it’s catchy?
The minimalist production feels like a more sophisticated take on an early 2000’s club song, and Clifford’s mature and memorable voice is a perfect match. There is a hypnotic quality to the driving rhythm and circular melodies which emphasize the very theme of the song: to have love on the brain. Clifford himself says: “this song is about how love puts you in a dream state even when you’re awake.” Relatable much? Yeah, your Tonemamas would be lying if we said we hadn’t found ourselves skipping along in those love dreams from time to time, and Clifford is sending us right back!
Listen for: 1:05 when we get to hear Reeves’ voice clearly in the verse, and it’s quite a voice
Best listened to: Getting ready to go clubbing with an open heart, wallet and liver (those days will return Tonemillers, those days will return…)
Once upon a time there was an old man living in a swamp. He’d been by himself for so long he could barely remember the last time he saw people. One day he finds a six year-old girl who is lost, hungry and sick. He takes her in and tries to heal her with leeches and mud (the days before WebMD, clearly) thinking she’s probably going to die, but she doesn’t. When she awakens she calls him Grandpa, and decides not to leave. When she’s twenty five, the old man dies and only she remains.
And that, my Tonemillers, is a quick summary of the story Rosa Tu tells in her latest single “The Swamp”. It’s been so long since we’ve heard such a specific story in a song that it took the Tonemamas a second to understand what we were experiencing: this artist is managing to tell a story that spans over nineteen years in less that five minutes! And not just any story, a hauntingly captivating one – we actually feel invested in the characters by the end of the five minutes.
The artist sings with such warmth in her voice that it feels like a mother gently rocking her newborn to sleep. We feel comforted and cared for when listening to her ethereal voice. Wait, the Tonemamas are becoming…Tonedaughters? So Rosa Tu is like a Tonegranny rather than Tonebaby? *Cue sound of Toneminds being blown… *
Best listened to: Actually, best listened to while watching the animated video that plays out the whole story of the man and the girl in the swamp! Link here
Listen for: 0:28 when Rosa’s beautiful voice enters (chills and goosebumps!)
Your Tonemamas, despite our fresh-faced youthful appearances, are old souls at heart. Although alive in 2020 (unfortunately), we have a deep affinity with music of times long passed. So, when we came across Snick Foley’s new track, “Rhymes with Borrow”, we were halted in our constant time-travelling tracks and responded with a resonant, “YES”.
“Rhymes with Borrow”,“borrows” its rich soundscapes of the ‘40s and ‘50s jazz ballads (that smoky horn sound!). The old school samples are put into a contemporary beat that accompanies his lyrical, poetic, flow perfectly. Queens-based Snick Foley describes himself as a poet and historian, with this track being a product of both “his own personal experiences and the classic novel, ‘The Great Gatsby’”.
Snick Foley’s flow is truly impeccable with an arrangement of rhymes that fit so beautifully into this musical puzzle, it makes you wish the track extended beyond its 2:13 duration. “Not born, to succeed, that’s a tough pill to swallow/ Think they being deep, but they mind run hollow /I’m a God to all you amateurs referred to as Apollo”…are just some examples of gorgeously crafted lines, which over that sampled horn sound and contemporary beat manifest into a combination of the best of both era-distant worlds.
Best listened to: When you’re dressed to the nines, sipping a martini, smoking a cigar staring meaningfully out of the window.
Listen for this moment: 0:23, when Snick Foley begins rapping; effortlessly and smooth.
Put on your comfy pants, pop some corn and get cozy because today’s feature is the plot of a good movie!
The Bergamot’s latest single “L.A.” sounds like Florence + The Machine and Mumford and Sons got together to write the next “Midnight Train to Georgia”. The duo has been at it for a while and the single is from their third album“Mayflies”. In a dreamy landscape of guitars and synths, The Bergamot is describing someone who’s on the move, searching for something they perhaps were hoping to find in LA, but didn’t. The song is from the perspective of the person left behind. Yes, it’s like the plot of all the best Sunday movies where you’re rooting for the person to find themself and live their best life but also for the person that’s left behind, and before you know it you’ve just salted your popcorn even more with your tears…
The production of the song is tidy and feels deliberate. The two singers compliment each other perfectly with their highly breathy voices, soaking wet in reverb effects. The guitar- and synth lines fit with each other like a perfect puzzle over the acoustic guitar plucking. The whole track has a captivating dynamic arc and they hold our attention the whole way (which says a lot for the millennial generation that forgets about the food they ordered three minutes ago on their phones…)
We can promise that when shows are a thing again, The Tonemamas will have front row seats to The Bergamot!
Listen for: 0:50, when they sing “she’ll be gone”, and cut to “her” driving away from LA while the beautiful interlude is playing with more percussive elements bringing in that forward motion.
Best listened to: When you had your last day at work/ moving/ just broke up with someone or something else ended and you need to reflect and soak in that horrible universal experience of having to say goodbye.
You know that feeling when the ice caps are melting at alarming rates, your president sounds more like a toddler arguing on a sugar high than the leader of a country, when a global pandemic virtually presses ‘pause’ on everyone’s collective dreams and aspirations and all you can do is shake your head and offer a resigned and fatigued: “…cool.”
This is the wonderfully effective, detached tone of Brooklyn-born Justy’s new single, “Cool”, except substitute the aforementioned global matters with matters of the heart. When your partner no longer surprises you, not with flowers or chocolates, but rather when you’re no longer surprised by your partner’s ability to hurt you. “I ain’t tripping over you /When you hurt me /I don’t worry /’Cause you know it’s nothing new” sings Justy in a gorgeously smoky voice reminiscent of Amy Winehouse. The point of indifference is a particularly heartbreaking stage in any relationship, but Justy delivers a meditation on this very topic over an easy-going LoFi beat with smooth rhythmic guitar riffs as well as a lone saxophone. There is an intensity in her lack of intensity, a drama in her avoidance of drama…it’s the beautiful complexity in a song the Tonemamas are all about.
Listen for this moment: 0:22 the addition of the saxophone just takes this song from Cool to Cool 2.0
Best listened to: When you’re hanging out with your best friend Mary Jane on someone’s balcony contemplating the meaning of life (conclusion: it’s deep.)
At some point in the ‘90s (Tonemama history lessons aren’t going to get more specific than that) a couple of Swedes shouted “Eureka!” in their pop-lab. They had come up with a formula, the formula. Fast forward slightly to the early 2000s and pop music is thriving as a result. Remember that glorious time in pop music, Tonemillers? Yes we had super stars like the Britney bish, Shakira Shakira, Jenny from the Block and InSynC, but we also had Nora Jones and Corinne Bailey Rae. Everyone owing some of their success (directly or indirectly), to that dark and stormy night in the Swedish pop-lab. “Okay, Tonemamas, why are you rambling on about a long lost time” you may ask? Because children and adults, today’s feature is someone who has decided to bring this school of pop-music back and now that you’re appropriately educated, we can begin.
Canadian-born, New York-based, singer-songwriter Jenny Kern is contemplating a break-up in her latest single “Now We Know”. There’s an appreciated maturity to Kern’s performance. She sings about a heartbreaking situation, but in a past tense without desperation – “Now We Know” is not about the heartbreak itself, but about coming closer to the point of acceptance about the decision. She guides us through her moment of introspection in a relaxed, breathy and warm that pays tribute to singers like DIDO.
We love this classic throwback production with a tidy arrangement of guitar layers, a simple groove in the classic drum set and bass (yes people… we’re talking about a regular four piece band with some synth layers like it’s a thing of the past – have actual real instruments really become retro?) Another sublime aspect about this production is the form of the song: they’re giving us exactly what we want exactly when we want it. And we want it now, and so should you – head over to your referred streaming platform and hit play to Jenny Kern’s, “Now We Know.”
Listen for: 0:48, when Kern sings “Don’t come around again, is what you say.” She delivers these heart-aching lyrics in a cool and distanced way which makes them even harder to bear.
Best enjoyed: When you’re having a pretentious moment of acceptance while walking home after an evening of fun that you initially didn’t feel like going to, but then it turned out great – you know what we mean?
The Tonemamas can be a little bit pretentious at times, we know. We love a good existential crisis explained over some jazzy chords or a love story that ends in tragedy/heartache played out with some contemporary dance and a drone synth. But sometimes all we want is just a groovy track with a catchy melody and that is exactly what today’s feature, Maxtallies, serves us on the polished silver platter of POP.
Our mysterious artist released the single “Text Me” this spring. The track starts in a minimalistic fashion with a single synth and Maxtallies’ rich and daring voice singing a repetitive melody about someone who’s clearly ghosting him (take the hint, Max… kidding, as we said, the Tonemamas love a good conflicting love story!). This production caters to our generation’s short attention span and keeps moving forward and building for the whole two minutes and twenty three seconds. The artist keeps us in each part for just long enough for us to get into it, but without lingering too long.
It’s easy to overlook the quality of Maxtallies’ voice, because it is so highly processed. But there is no question that the gentleman can sing. He seems to have full control over his breathy falsetto as well as a beautiful tone at the lower part of his register. Text this song rec to all your friends, because it’s a goodie!
Listen for: 0:40 when the groove really settles in and you just can’t help but lowering your point of gravity and start moving your joints… (#whenthetonemamasareclubbing)
Best Enjoyed: When you need to boost your attitude a little bit, put this track on as you’re walking down the street and pretend to be the star of the music video!
One of the many, many things a time traveler from, say, the ‘90s would notice about today’s society is that people do everything online. We meet lovers, friends, foes, business partners and fellow music collaborators all on the wide web of the world. The last one is particularly relevant for today’s feature, Almost Sex.
Nick Louis and H. Warren LaSota (sounds like a fantasy author, we know!) met in what they describe as a “chance online encounter” and spent several months collaborating remotely on their new project. In the beginning of September of this godforsaken year, the duo released their debut single “Knockoff”. Almost Sex (…band names, are we right?) creates a beautiful soundscape of guitars and synth swells. The overdubbed vocals are singing a repetitive small-range melody in a relaxed, cool manner. They’re giving us that movie-soundtrack-indie-pop sound we all know and love. “Knockoff” is a one-gear song: there’s not much dynamic difference, but it doesn’t need it. Instead they’re putting on cruise control and letting us hang out in a place we can enjoy thoroughly.
The track describes someone who’s hanging onto a relationship even though they know they’re compromising themselves: “Maybe I’m a knockoff but I’ll still get your rocks off”. They’re talking about an all-too-familiar situation in a poetic way. I mean, who doesn’t relate to this lyric: “You’re giving me the time I need, I know that I’ll just concede, again. I’m pretending to believe in yoga and astrology.” The Tonemamas may or may not have exaggerated one or two interests over the years…Look us in the eye (yes, we share one all-seeing Tonemama eye) and tell us you haven’t done the same!
Listen for: 0:42at the first chorus when they introduce the female voice that takes the song to new heights.
Best enjoyed: When you’re wearing your big hat and sundress, biking on a beautiful summer day! *Sigh…. We miss summer!
Dearest Tonemiller, bare with us for a minute as we get a little dry. In January of 2020 the USC Annenberg Inclusive Initiative published a rapport on inclusion in American popular music from 2012 – 2019. For artists the ratio of men to women was 3.6:1 in 2019. For producers it stood at 37:1 and of these women only 8 out of 1093 were of color. Only 12.5% of the working songwriters are women and less than 1% of 800 popular songs have only female writers. You get the point: according to their study it is as we all expected: women are still underrepresented in the music industry (shocker). Why is this and how can we change it? To help us answer these questions we have invited music founder and CEO of the radio and podcast “Women of Substance”: Bree Noble.
A SOLVER – Introducing Bree Noble
Bree greets us in our meeting room on the 9th floor where the sun always shines and they serve cold drinks and fresh sandwiches all day (just kidding, it was Zoom of course…) For some reason our Tonemama hearts are beating a little extra… afterall, she was featured in Forbes magazine under the title “The Power of Podcasting to fight the Patriarchy”.
Bree Noble lived a double life for many years: at night she was a singer/songwriter and during the day she could be found working within finance for a big shot opera company. One day a lightbulb went on over Noble’s head and she realized she should treat her own artist career as a small business: “I had all these business skills, yet I’d never thought about actually using them to forward my music career!” She quit her job and spent the next seven years touring and working as a singer/songwriter. (Woop woop! We LOVE when the story starts out with someone quitting their boring and serious job to follow a passion in the arts!)
“As I was touring I connected with a lot of other female artists and I loved what they were doing and I was like ‘oh my gosh these people have amazing music why am I not hearing it anywhere?’ And so I decided to create a platform for female artists to get their music out there and I called it Women of Substance.” She initially just did it for herself as a hobby, but then it started catching on, and she realized there was something to this. Within five years she had built a substantial community with thousands of female artists on her mailing list as well as hosting a successful podcast (they currently have over a thousand episodes).
A SOLUTION – All female music platforms
Why is it important to promote women? “It was important to promote women in music when I first started out because I don’t think they were getting the promotional opportunities they should have. Some people think it’s counterproductive to have a separated platform just for women, but the end goal is to get more of this music out in the mainstream and see that women are equally represented on any playlist or radio channel and I felt that in order to do that I had to create a platform that only highlighted women.”
Why is music a male dominated field to begin with? Bree tells us as an apropos that she was listening to an old episode of a radio show from 1978 where a band was being interviewed. They had a female guitar and bass player who spoke about the consistent public belief that they didn’t play their own instruments, but rather to a track (a female guitar and bass player…how outrageous, 1970’s!) Just forty-two years ago this was a reality and that like most other fields, the inherent patriarchal structuring takes time to undo..
How do we make the next generation different? “Luckily there are alot of organizations like Soundgirls and Women’s Audio Mission that are focusing on educating girls from an early age that this is a field they can enter into. It starts with that, they need to have role models. I think that if we can raise up women through these all-female platforms we will eventually create equality.” Noble goes on by saying that you can also insist on being equal at certain events and tells us about when she hosted her first profitable musician summit in 2018 their goal was that at least half the speakers were women. “If we set goals like that for certain events, these talented women are going to get known out there and again – we will create equality.”
What’s the advice for women who feel they are being held back in their careers because of their genitals? “The first advice I would give is to always get involved in a community, that is why I have a community on Facebook that is free, I also have a paid community called the Female Musician Academy, but the free one is really about providing a safe place where women can talk about these issues.” She goes on to say that some people feel they’re alone in being discriminated against, and that talking to and hearing about other people who have been through similar experiences help them feel more empowered to fight against it.
Remember yesterday when you looked at your budget and solemnly swore to yourself “no more splurging”, but now it’s Monday and you’re on your second organic, homegrown, short-lived, self-picked almond milk pumpkin spice latte, and it’s like, what even is budget?
“What even is budget” is the deep existential question that British-born, NYC-based artist, theatre maker and actor Charlie O’Connor answers in his latest single “Living Loving Large”.
In a former life, the Tonemamas actually had the rare pleasure of seeing today’s feature live at Rockwood Music Hall (we miss you Rockwood), and what a night it was. O’Connor dazzled us with his tantilizing charisma making us laugh while simultaneously wiggling our butts. He was and is a rare breed that combines comedy and rockstar-dom. Need a mood booster? Go see Charlie play live when that’s possible (we’ll certainly be there giggling and grooving!
But enough strolling down memory lane. Last week O’Connor released his latest single “Living Loving Large”. The sleek and minimalist opening reminiscent of a Robin Thicke/ Justin Timberlake production with some sultry staccato vocals inviting us to to get reckless tonight (or this morning in our more PG coffee adaption). This track is a celebration of living bigly (Trump knows what we’re talking about) – that whole who-cares-we’re-all-going-to-die-anyway-so-let’s-have-fun-in-the-meantime attitude that social distancing makes slightly harder, but is still a fun notion to bop your head along to. O’Connor’s theatre background is evident in the excellent rise of tension in the pre-chorus and then that immensely satisfying drop in the chorus which can only be described as deliciously funkalicious.
Best listened to: When you’re giving yourself a fashion show of the new clothes you bought on a H&M binge in the mirror, strut to the beat sister!
Listen for this moment: The chorus – how you don’t get that stuck in your head is a question we cannot answer for you