Paul Shapera is a pulp opera writer who’s albums span a 180 year period of his fictional city called New Albion. The fantastical story element of his work is what drives the popularity of his music. It’s reminiscent of the old school radio plays, but far more entertaining. “My work is very much like an epic science fiction book series, but told in highly emotive music, like an opera cycle made with various forms of popular music.”
Paul’s newest album, Jill’s Psychedelic Sunday, is a continuation of the character Jill’s story from previous albums, The Dolls of New Albion and The Post Human War series. Differing genres of each album represents a certain time and place within the 180 timespan. Jill’s Psychedelic Playlist explores the many sides of psychedelic music ranging from 60 psych folk to Floyd, 90s rave to jam bands, and creepy tech to Space Rock. Overall, we take a journey with Jill as she takes some sort of psychedelic as part of an initiation ritual.
What makes Jill’s Psychedelic Sunday so unique is that the story is non-linear, unlike Paul’s other albums. You can listen to any song and understand the story because it’s just snapshots of Jill’s wired mind. The spoken snippets in each song guide you so that the listener is never lost, no matter what song you listen to.
“This album more than any other in recent memory was made because it was the album I wanted to listen to,” shares Paul. “Other albums are the story I want to tell right then, or the music that I feel I need to express, or the style I most want to explore. This one was the one I just simply wanted to listen to.
Singer/songwriter Ariel Arbisser’s music and performances make her audiences feel seen, heard, and offers a unique glimpse into how she experiences the highs and lows of the world. Her music is raw and passionate, a brand of pop that you won’t find in other artists.
She just released her new electro-pop single, with a hint of funk, “Rabbit Hole,” the follow up single to her last release “Bloodshed.” “The core of this song came to me last year and it’s had a chokehold on me since,” shares Ariel. “Thematically there’s some crossover, but ‘Rabbit Hole’ comes down from the rage-filled fever pitch of ‘Bloodshed’ to this which is a more restrained, sexy, slow-burn. Things haven’t settled yet. The ‘dark side’ is still enticing, maybe even more comfortable than it was before. The full song sonically is true, addictive journey downward.”
“Rabbit Hole” has a contemporary meets retro electro-pop sound, almost like a Sara Bareilles meets Harry Styles. Her voice carries such strength, similar to an Alice Russell or Brandi Carlile, or even an Adele.
Through her lens as a white, Jewish, queer woman, she is transparent when learning out loud and participates in ongoing conversations about mental health, body neutrality, sex positivity, social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, and more. In a world that’s dangerous for far too many and uncomfortable for almost everyone, she creates a touchstone by creating art, appreciating simple pleasures, and taking dedicated and intentional risks for love.
“With love comes inevitable pain– miscommunication, betrayal, heartache, loss… Allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to experience love, however briefly, is brave. And it’s worth it in the end.”
Nature Loves Courage takes the bounds of genre and blurs the lines, creating sounds with instrumentation and electronic elements. After years spent solo, bassist Jacob Bergman and drummer Garrett Smith join McKenna as LA-based Nature Loves Courage, the electronic art-rock group bending entire genres to their will. Out summer ’22, their self-titled debut confronts the absurdities of the digital age, proposing a brave return to humanity’s fabled roots atop McKenna’s multifaceted sound.
Their latest single “Dark Horse” and the accompanying video is going to be what makes their mark. It’s mysterious and aids in the story of the song. The red lighting with the horse imagery and the band coming in and out of frame helps create this space that’s unknown and intriguing.
We got a chance to speak with McKenna Rowe, the band’s front woman, about the video for “Dark Horse”:
Tell us the story of this song, why did you choose to visualize this song specifically in this way?
This song was inspired by friends of mine exploring the polyamory scene and their stories about their experiences. The arrangement and feel to this song is dark and mysterious, as if it could serve as the soundtrack in a movie with a scene with a swingers’ club or party. For the video, we chose not to literally depict such a scene, due to the complexity of hiring so many extras, and with the goal of not being quite so literal. Instead, we decided to allow some more room for interpretation on the part of the viewer, depicting the band going into a “dream state” or “surreal dimension” when the song kicks off.
What was the inspiration behind this video?
The biggest influences behind the video concept are David Lynch and graphic novels. I have always loved how David Lynch depicts different dimensions of existence or timelines his characters move through. In nods to Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, our video shows the discovery of a mysterious object that then “sucks” you into dream-like dimension, where the band appears to be trapped, eventually “spinning out of control” until the “escape” at the end…although we don’t really know if the ending is a return to “normalcy” or a teleportation into yet another strange dimension. The blacked out background and intense red color on subjects are also influenced a lot by Lynch’s choice of cinematography and lighting, and how we framed my face in many shots was influenced by how you might see a story depicted in comic book panels.
What was the process of making this video?
A big thank you to director Alyssa of Holy Smoke Photography (and assistant Claire!), who was able to take some tricky abstract ideas and translate into the finished product! She and I met before the shoot to discuss concepts…I made it clear that creating a mood was more important to me than telling a literal story with start-middle-end. Alyssa put together a shot list which is extremely helpful for a band to have…we had a good idea of how the day would go and what to expect. We used Peerspace (shout out!) to rent out a stage in Boyle Heights that had the blackout capability we needed to be able to achieve the surreal, red look to everything. Another thing we did was shoot some of the video performing the song at 150% speed, so that when it was slowed down to match the normal speed of the song, our motions themselves would seem more surreal. Alyssa also sometimes used a prism in front of the camera lens to create interesting transitions/effects. We went through about 3 revisions of edits to the video until we reached our final. I think it turned out very well considering the limited time, budget and resources and the fact that this was our first time making a music video. Personally, I learned a lot from the experience… have lots of ideas for the next video and how to set up shots so that I photograph best.
Norine Braun, the award-winning singer/songwriter based in Vancouver, has been on the scene since 1996, with an impressive discography and stunning performative resume. She thrives on live performances and connecting with audiences around the world. Her creative has only grown with time and there’s no sign of slowing down.
She just released her 13th full length album, Songs For Trees, a groove filled jazz meets blues rock album, each song interconnecting to tell an important story about climate change. She wrote it during the pandemic to focus on the incredible healing power of trees and their necessity to our own survival. She was able to go into the forests of the coastal west and took a guided walk with a traditional wisdom keeper from the Squamish nation of the west coast. She read up on so many book and article on trees and climate change to find the right lyrics.
“I was both inspired and overwhelmed by the wealth of information and number of people from so many disciplines from around the world working hard to bring awareness to save the trees, planet and ourselves. This was a benefit as there was much to draw upon for writing.”
Much like the roots of trees, the songs on the album feed off each other and build each other up. Between each song is an ambient sound that guides us through the story she takes us on. She seamlessly blends the lyrics and music together to become one. They work off each other and converse in a way you won’t find in any other album.
Her voice is soft and hypnotic. The music is smooth and groovy. Her lyrics are poetic and thought provoking. Everything you want in an album is what you’ll find in Songs For Trees.