First up this week we have Austin based rocker Emily Wolfe. Emily has been serving up her unique blend of energetic fuzz riffs, wide open vocals, and electric live performances all over since the self-release of her 2014 debut EP, Roulette. Although Wolfe has been playing guitar since she was 5 and performing live since her college years, it was after releasing her debut EP, produced by Mike McCarthy (Spoon, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead) that she really started turning heads while opening for Allen Stone, hitting SXSW and Austin City Limits etc. She continued to hone her live chops while performing with artists like Gary Clark Jr., The Toadies, The Pretenders and more in 2016.
In 2017, she began to record her first full-length with Alabama Shakes member, Ben Tanner at the producing wheel. With a goal of mixing Demi Lovato with Queens of the Stone Age, the outcome arrived in 2019 with a self-titled rocker that effortlessly blends Emily’s guitar solo chops, honest lyrics and building energies that seem to easily explode at any second. Wolfe’s playing style is a generous blend of Queens of the Stone Age fuzz, Stevie Ray Vaughn leads, and classic singer-songwriter vulnerability and delicateness, resulting in a sound all her own. When speaking about Stevie Ray Vaughan, she says,
I put on his record Couldn’t Stand The Weather, and I was like ‘how in the world can I do that? I want to do this.’ I think that was it guitar-wise. And then also, in terms of tone, Songs For The Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age.Emily Wolfe to Guitar.com
To get a real feel for Emily’s prowess, check out the tracks below.
Emily Wolfe plays Cobalt Regular Slinky strings.
Next up this week, we have Canada’s blues-tinged indie rockers, July Talk. Coming on to the scene in 2012 with their self-titled debut, the band quickly caught the ears of Universal Music Canada and fans alike with their blend of gravel Tom Waits-esque vocal delivery by Peter Dreimanis and soulful layers by Leah Goldstein. Pile on their driving blues riff based guitars, fuzz meets electronics keyboard layers and anthemic choruses, July Talk found their own sound very quickly.
The band is also very well known for their explosive live show which they perfected while on the road with acts like Billy Talent, Weezer, Tegan and Sara, Alabama Shakes and more. Since their 2012 debut, the band has received multiple chart-topping awards as well as a Juno Award. Now with their sights set on 2020, they will be releasing their first new full-length since 2016’s Touch on July 10th, 2020, titled ‘Pray For It’. When speaking about their first new single,”Pay For It,” from the album, Leah Fay said,
I wrote this song after a group of men violently attacked my friends and bandmates in a fast-food restaurant one late summer night. Their rage erupted quickly and violently, like an old habit. This song gave me a chance to reimagine the experience with a sense of agency, to tell it like it is, like it always has been. If we question our ingrained habits which recycle states of violence, greed, destruction and hate, we can disrupt these toxic patterns and heal.Leah Fay
James Vincent McMorrow
If you want haunting vocal tones, melded with dynamic records that float effortlessly between singular acoustic guitars and layers upon layers of synths, horns and samples, look no further than James Vincent McMorrow.
The Irish born and based musician came onto the scene with his debut album, ‘Early in the Morning’, in 2010 (2011 in the US) to wide acclaim. Blending his singer-songwriter vocal patterns and story-telling lyrics, folk style guitar playing, and layered harmonies, James found himself success on both sides of the pond including festival performances, NPR features and more. In 2014, he released his second album, ‘Post Tropical’ via Vagrant Records. The second album brought in much more of a soulful electronic direction, while still holding on to those singer-songwriter qualities.
It’s definitely made my life a little bit more difficult in the sort of label sense of things. When people are trying to sell my music, there’s always that inevitable conversation we have where they’re like, “Well, where will we place it? … I’ve always considered myself as singer/songwriter. … I think that it sort of covers a great multitude of things and makes it easy for me to describe it like that.McMorrow to the Independent
James’ latest album, ‘True Care’, is out now and you can hear those tracks and more below.
When you think sibling bands, you think The Jackson 5, Oasis, and AC/DC. You should also add Australian-born indie-rockers, Atlas Genius. Brothers Keith and Michael Jeffery started the band in 2009 and their self-written, self-produced and self-recorded 2013 debut album, ‘When It Was Now’, hit No. 34 on Billboard’s 200 chart. Their debut single, “Trojans,” won a national radio contest in 2011, jumpstarting their path to success. Drawing from influences like The Beatles, Death Cab For Cutie, The Police and Phoenix, Atlas Genius’ sound has an indie-pop lean to it. Filled with catchy and anthemic choruses, big percussion and an upbeat drive, the band has found themselves comfortably on soundtracks, multiple charts, satellite and domestic radio and more.
The band’s follow-up 2015 album found the brothers digging in to their more electronic alternative rock sounds, departing slightly from their backseat indie-pop debut.
I just really don’t like being safe when I’m writing, I think [drummer] Mike’s the same. If something feels a little too formulaic or easy I don’t really trust it. We get together and search for sounds or something that’s intriguing and feels special. It can be a lyric, it can be a melody, it could be a drum rhythm. That’s about as far as we go with formulas.Keith Jeffrey to Do the Bay
Now based in Los Angeles, Atlas Genius are in the studio working on their new album and recently released a new track, “Can’t Be Alone Tonight.”
Rounding out our list this week is Wikipedia proclaimed “punk musician,” Chris Farren. In reality, Chris is more of an indie-pop, singer songwriter these days, but his past projects like Fake Problems and Antarctigo Vespucci certainly fell within that “punk musician” landscape.
These days, the Florida native has been cranking out the upbeat tunes with a blend of indie rock guitars and pre-recorded electronic dance moments that he takes on the road as backing tracks while performing solo. Chris also has a knack for not taking much too seriously. After one look at any of his headshot, cartoon laced, amazingly entertaining social media accounts, you get a sense that this guy is very comfortable with creating the joke. What makes it work, is that his musical creations back up his sarcastic stance.
I think that’s also kind of a result or reaction of when you’re a solo performer performing under your own name, when somebody says, ‘Chris Farren sucks,’ that’s my name. That’s, like, me. The only way I could feel comfortable doing it is if I was, like, ‘How can I make this entertaining for myself?’ Or so ridiculous that it’s either definitely a joke or you can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake.Chris Farren to MTV
Chris Farren’s latest album ‘Born Hot’ arrived in October 2019 via Polyvinyl Records and was written to serve his live show in every aspect, serving his 80s themed drum machines and synths, blasting guitar chords and tongue-in-cheek lyrics well. Listen to Chris’ tracks below.
**Header image photo by: Andrés Alvarado