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Songwriters





Reinvention or Reimagination: Sho Humphries Urges Us to "Dream Again"

Before embarking on his next great adventure, Austin ukulele sensation Sho Humphries made sure to bestow his loving local community with a parting gift. Sho’s debut EP Dream Again is a triumph of creativity, an exploration of sound and style from a young musician whose bravery surpasses even his immense talents.

In Sho’s nimble hands, the ukulele is transformed. Empowered. Liberated. He embraces the instrument as something far beyond its simplistic representation in public perception—more than a toy, more than an instrument for beachside celebration and casual singalongs, the ukulele is an embodiment of possibility itself. In Sho’s hands, the ukulele seems infinite, irrepressible. It breathes water and whispers fire and sings of a bright tomorrow.

The growth showcased between earlier releases and this new EP are striking. Sho’s 2017 instrumental album Making Summer Memories flirted with musical expressionism, pushing and pulling at the boundaries of expectation while staying firmly rooted in a larger framework for what ukulele music is and can be. Opening track “It’s Shotime!” is a notable exception, its near-frantic urgency and rock-and-roll aesthetic harbingers of both Sho’s sonic fearlessness and profound, near-brooding pensiveness. The rest of the album tends toward bright and buoyant, though the assertive percussiveness of each strike sometimes seem to belie an underlying (and typically teenage) impatience.

2020 single Love You! was the virtuoso’s first foray into electronic looping, his airy, math rock-y riffs given ample room to breathe and, in turn, breathing life into a lo-fi trend threatening to sedate swaths of the younger generation. The track showcases a young musician at peace with the process of finding peace — more patient, perhaps in love with the simple joy of making music. The chorus is endearingly heartfelt, and all the more powerful for it: “Breathe in, breathe in/Love out, love in.”

 With the Dream Again EP, Sho emerges more confident, more hopeful, that familiar sense of urgency appearing again but tempered now by faith in himself and the future. He is more accomplished than ever on the ukulele itself — every finger-picked run impeccable, every strum irresistible. But the sentiment underlying each song feels more profound, more mature, more complex. What might once have felt like emotional reactions are transformed into careful reflections and reimaginations.

The echoing, atmospheric emptiness of the title track slowly evolves, swelling with elegantly amplified ukulele riffs that complement, rather than overpower, Sho’s stirring baritone (on debut!). Tight songwriting and a deep appreciation for the power of empty space cultivate in a wonderfully distorted crescendo, with Sho’s direct poeticism lending a sense of urgency to Sho’s pleas for the world to “dream again,” to build a better future and to avoid our own mutually assured destruction.

A return to Sho’s sonic roots — hopeful, determined, vibrant — “Rising Hope” builds on that momentum. It is the song of rebirth and reimagination, the sound of grass beginning to grow again as a new sun shines a light on far-off horizons. There is a sadness of sorts underpinning it all, a recognition that new beginnings demand their own sacrifices — what once might have been innocent idealism is tempered by an acceptance of reality that makes Sho’s resolute optimism all the more impactful.

Vision and imagination, determination and dynamism — these are traits we desperately need in our younger generations, who we have collectively burdened with so much responsibility and expectation. Armed with his ukulele and a searching spirit, Sho Humphries is stepping into the world ready to make a change.

 — Adam Wood





Single premiere: Nihiloceros preps for imminent self-destruction with "Dirty Homes"

It’s one thing to know that the end will come one day (easy enough to ignore) but it’s another to know when that day will come (not so easy to ignore). The new single put out today by Brooklyn-based three-piece Nihiloceros (“Dirty Homes”) is based around the latter condition which Dr. Nessa Coyle, co-editor of The Nature of Suffering and The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Care Nursing, both of which make for excellent beach reads, has termed the “existential slap” i.e. the very moment where a soon-to-arrive demise is realized and internalized alongside the attendant trauma likely to follow a time-stamped death sentence.

Despite being something best-avoided in real life, the “existential slap” is a popular plot device in the movies like in all those ticking-clock-countdown-to-a-life-or-death-deadline type films, even if many of them cop out and allow the hero to live at the last minute. Existential slap movies also tap into our curiosity of how we’d react if we learned we’ve got only one year or maybe just 24 hours left to live, just like Ethan Hawke in that movie from a few years ago called (*ahem*) 24 Hours To Live. But my personal fave in this genre is Miracle Mile, an obscure 1988 film that’s grown a cult following over the years due to what Black Mirror sicko-satirist Charlie Brooker once labelled “the biggest lurch of tone” of any movie ever.  

Basically (warning: skip this paragraph if you hate tangents and/or spoilers) the movie starts off as a quirky “meet cute” rom-com that’s just about as Totally ‘80s as they come. And then it ends with our nerdy-adorable couple slowly sinking into the La Brea Tar Pits in a crashed helicopter as nuclear bombs rain down on Los Angeles (a surprisingly tender scene believe it or not). But most of the movie revolves around the existential bitchslap that arrives about 30 minutes in when Anthony Edwards first finds out (before anyone else) that nuclear armageddon is on its way in about an hour or so, and all the batshit crazy shit that transpires as a result.

But hey we’re here to talk about music, right? (thanks for the reminder!) While not on the same level as movies there are at least a few well-known albums (concept albums, natch) that deal with this very same theme—notable examples being Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction, the Del/Dan/Kid underground hip hop classic Deltron 3030, and of course David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which opens with the conceit of being down to “five years left to cry in” before the end.

But a “concept EP” that takes the existential slap as its central conceit, well this is breaking new ground. And Nihiloceros have done just that with Self Destroy (released digitally on 9/17 and then physically on 10/1 from Totally Real Records) perhaps the world’s first “existential slap EP” (make that “ESEP”) and there’s no bisexual rock aliens falling to Earth to spread moorage daydreams before the inevitable rock ’n’ roll suicide in the Nihiloceros's rendition. Instead, we have a six-song self-described meditation on “the imminent evolutionary unraveling of the human condition and the absurdity of the end of the world” which obviously should make for good beach listening.

And guess what “Dirty Homes” is the lead-off track on the EP so we got a sneak preview now of how it all begins. Eschewing any “meet cute” gambits, the song instead charges into your earholes with a needle drop straight into a rush of Superchunky distorted intertwining bass and guitar and propulsive beating of skins (Chris Gilroy on the skins as well as production/engineering/mixing duties, whereas Siberian transplant German Sent handles current live drumming duties, got it?) and an eerie high-register melody. Meanwhile, right off the bat the narrator faces “youth erod[ing]” and “ages torn down” and the impending demise of humanity (difficult to imagine, no?) and just like Anthony Edwards in the phone booth scene above, humanity’s first reaction is flat out denial. When we talked the other day guitarist/lyricist Mike Borchardt called the song a “fairy tale vs. reality” type fableand that seems about right because the cognitive dissonance is palpable in both the lyrics and music.

Contrasting the titular “dirty homes” with pristine “white cathedrals” it seems humanity may have miscalculated in not taking better care of the places where we actually live (the dirty homes in question) instead tending to ritual spaces where we imagine our ideal selves as looked after by a beneficent god (this could be any type of “god” or "gods" take your pick). As further described in the lyrics through snatches of arresting imagery, we’ve travelled to the point of no return on “the yellow bricks [that] lead to Rome” and well now I’m picturing Dorothy hooking up with Caligula and bringing the whole gang along to a gladiator match (you know the Cowardly Lion is freaking the fuck out) followed by an imperial orgy (every tried to have sex with a scarecrow?) which all ends in chaos of course. 

Likewise on the musical side of the things the song swings between extremes—the bouyant melodies of the verses masking apocalyptical imagery of locked jaws and rusted suns and “cities built on your cries” that is until the song gets stuck in its own groove with our narrator repeating “YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!” in the chorus in an echo of the egotism and individualism and freedom-to-be-stupid-but-fully-satiated-at-all-times-at-all-costs that got us into this end times mess in the first place. Then later there’s a breakdown section (talk about literal!) and finally an outro that opens with a nice crunchy ’n’ catchy guitar solo that soon unravels into swelling sonic murk and doomsday countdown-clock rhythms before glitching out and ending on a bass and guitar single-note that hisses and crackles like a burnt out element. 

And if this all sounds a little on the dismal side it’s not so much really because much like Miracle Mile the songs on Self Destroy are the musical equivalent of action set pieces, adrenalized and strangly exhilarated by impending doom (thought don’t get me wrong “the shit goes down”) and plus the band creates such a powerful slab-of-sound that you’ll likely be mesmerized anyway—at times I still can’t tell which parts are bass or guitar, nevermind theremin or effects-laden Rhodes piano—which could be down in part to bassist/co-vocalist Alex Hoffman designing a custom line of pedals for the record (!) that’ll be available to the buying public at some point (plus an entire line of tie-in hot sauces, I shit you not) so check out “Dirty Homes” for now and then clean up your pig-sty why don'tcha and then get ready to blast off when Self Destroy drops because, well, it’s gonna be “a thrill ride into oblivion” (potential pull quote!) and you may as well sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds as it goes down. (Jason Lee)





Elizabeth Moen "Is Heaven Just A Waiting Room?"

Elizabeth Moen released her latest single, "Is Heaven Just A Waiting Room?", this week.

The track finds Moen enlisting the help of Nick Levine, VV Lightbody, Tristan Huygen, and Abby Black.

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Try Not to Cry: Scott Collins and Kydd Jones Release Powerful New Single

Austin talents Scott Collins and Kydd Jones come together for an unexpected, yet powerful collaboration that pairs an outpouring of emotion with beautiful melodies and poetic lyrics. Both artists have a considerably different musical background, with Collins sticking to a folk-rock, americana type of sound, and Jones being exclusively hip-hop. But it’s undeniable that they were able to mesh their styles together in a seemingly effortless manner, resulting in an alluring piece of music that will compel listeners to play this song on repeat.

The opening piano chords are perfectly complemented by Scott Collins’ high-pitched vocals, which serve as the lifeblood of the song. As is the case with many songs, the simplicity of the music really allows the vocals to shine with the aid of Jones’ production. Having known Scott for a while, I was initially a bit surprised to see him take a step into the hip-hop universe. But supposedly, this has been a prolonged goal for the local legend. He explains, “First off and above all, I've been listening to rap and hip hop my entire life starting with Kriss Kross, and since my youth playing basketball out in LA, Compton, Watts and more on a traveling basketball team… It's been a dream and career goal of mine to start singing with rappers and on hip hop records.” Collins was able to make this dream a reality through his relationship with the rising star known as Kydd Jones. Scott also mentioned that he wrote the hook roughly nine years ago, indicating that he was waiting for the perfect opportunity and partner to showcase what he had in store for so long.

There of course have been many collaborations from artists who cross genres to collaborate. But in some instances, the collaboration might seem forced or unnatural. One of the impressive things about “Headlights” is that it is so easy to digest despite these two artists being considerably different from each other. According to Collins, the creation process was indeed as effortless as it seems. “I already had the hook written so I just hopped into my studio with Engineer Dylan Fischer and recorded my vocals, acoustic guitars and keys… Kydd then rocked out all the production and his verse within a week, got it mastered and released it immediately the same day!” To assist in the process of creating such a cohesive track, Collins referenced “Love” by Kendrick Lamar as an inspiration to the track. There is definitely a smoothness to “Headlights” that is relatable to the Kendrick Lamar classic. “Headlights” consists of thought provoking lyrics, a silky beat, and a catchy hook, bridging these two artists together superbly.

Overall, the professionalism, skill, and creativity is undeniably palpable in this song. These are two musicians who appear to be approaching the prime of their careers. If it were up to me, I’d say Kydd Jones and Scott Collins should make an entire album together. But in the meantime, playing “Headlights” on repeat will have to suffice. Hit Scott's Bandcamp to check the track out and stay up to date with future releases.

— Quinn Donoghue

 





Songwriters

Time: 
20:00
Band name: 
Mary Bue
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
http://facebook.com/marybuemusic
Venue name: 
Hotel Cafe
Band email: 
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