June 8th, 2019: Underneath the warm acoustic rafters of Voltiv Sound in Los Angeles, Maggie Dave rolled up its sleeves and got down to work on its first single. It was invigorating to hear musicians like Brian breath life into our demos, what once were tidy attempts to simulate a “live” band, now pulsed with rhythm and soul. It’s been a blessing to involve so many of our friends and fellow artists we admire on this project, and with so much album left to go, we can’t wait to share these experiences together, again!
If you don’t mind spoilers, Sean Wing has composed a soaring musical climax to Wet City, an Adult Swim SMALLS limited series created by Nate Sherman & Nick Vokey (Fired on Mars). Set in an oceanic, post-apocalyptic seascape reminiscent of Waterworld, Wing provides (in addition to his laconic character narration) a wistful, future-pop score that beautifully gallops towards the final episode’s conclusion. Watch the entire series here, its three episodes make for a great mini-binge!
Created by Nate Sherman & Nick Vokey
Co-Producer & Supervising Animator: Matthew Incontri
VO and Music by Sean Wing
Animation by Matthew Incontri and Nick Vokey
Storyboards by Olivia Pecini
Character Design by Nick Vokey
Backgrounds by Liesel Plambeck and Nick Vokey
Editing, Compositing, Sound Design, Music Supervision by Nate Sherman
Special Thanks Liesel Plambeck, Amy Vokey, Cam Vokey, Elise Wine
Produced for Adult Swim SMALLS by Matt Harrigan & Dave Hughes
Working as a graphic artist for the USC Thornton School of Music has given me the opportunity to help visualize some incredible stories about its students & faculty. One of my favorites from last year was “The Magnificent Seven,” about a group of seven legendary drummers brought together to honor the legacy of professor Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. Faced with the challenge of completing her friend and colleague’s remaining weeks of instruction after his untimely passing last February, Patrice Rushen, Chair of the Popular Music Program, “…called seven legendary drummers, asking each to fill in for one week. They all said yes.” Having grown up listening to Chancler’s work with artists such as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Lionel Richie, it was a honor to express how much his impact on the music communities, both at USC and around the world, will be cherished and missed.
Story by Julie Riggott / Illustrated and Animated by Sean David Christensen / Music by Ricky Berger
I've been experimenting with making cut-and-paste collages from my own illustrations, scrambling them in order to find new shapes or meanings. Music usually keeps me company while I do this, and one of the most delightful songs to do so last year was Boy Pablo's "Everytime." The music video is a delight, sun-dappled friends playing together on a dock in Norway. As the guitars swell and ring, you can almost feel the brisk of the afternoon by the water and the joy shared by all the musicians. Unexpected and effervescent, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
I recently got back into composing music and writing songs, several of which I made demos of in the winter of 2015 and the following spring. One of these, "Family Tree," is now available to download online through SoundCloud if you are so inclined. It's good company, and plays well with others on your music device or phone.
It's a rough draft though, unmastered & recorded in my mom's kitchen. Maybe a bit soft. Normally I'm leery of sharing works-in-progress, but I've always been intrigued by the organic quality of a demo that's still finding itself - stretching its connective tissue to other instruments yet to be added. To that end, I feel comfortable sharing it this way, because my main goal with my music hasn't always been sonic perfection, but rather, evocation of emotion & memory.
I hope, if anything, it's a pleasant aural diversion that isn't too much of a drag to listen to. Lord knows I love the darker shades.
I came across Beach House's Bloom while sifting through the CD rack at my local Goodwill on the corner of 16th and Indian School in Phoenix, AZ. A pleasant textural surprise, the raised cover art of a seemingly endless array of white dots vanishing into inky darkness caught my attention and drew me in. I knew not of any of their prior releases, but loved the cover, and followed my gut. It was doubled-packed with a homemade Ritmo Latino Vol. 6 CD, complete with a torn Avery label face sticker, which was a bonus.
I went jogging that night and couldn't believe my good fortune of plucking such a sublime, rich nocturnal drift of an album from the void. Bloom is a gorgeous record, soaked in reverberated guitar, fragile Casio keyboard drum loops and haunting vocal arrangements that hang perpetually suspended in smoky atmosphere.
"Myth," the album's opener and first single, is a Cocteau Twins-inspired sonic lullaby that is equal parts mourning the decay of what's "dead and gone," and embracing change of what's yet to come, as you find yourself "...in a new direction, eons far from the sun." Even though you're hurtling through pitch black darkness, of which there is much to go around on when listening to Bloom, there is a luminescence to the milky light that shimmers off of songwriters Victoria Legrand & Alex Scally's work that keeps you inspired to move forward.
Earlier this month, my dear friend Ellyn Maybe & Robbie Fitzsimmons released their debut LP, Skywriting With Glitter, an essential release for the adventurous listener who yearns for something brave and new. A composer and vocalist of prodigious talent, Fitzsimmons dances alongside Maybe's intricately-crafted poems that are intimate, yet cosmically gorgeous in scope. Each song is crafted like a miniature universe, and seems to limitlessly expand with each repeat listen.
When I go running in the evenings, I rely on a stable of "night albums" to carry me through the twilight. They range from Harry Nilsson's ethereal 1973 standards album A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night to Deep, Peter Murphy's third solo album. Each one is laden with its own atmosphere, and chosen thusly. When I bought Ellyn's new album on iTunes shortly after getting a sneak peek, I put it on my iPod and went for a midnight run, not knowing that I'd only get about 27 feet before I'd have to stop and walk slowly down the sidewalk for the rest of the way, so as to not disturb the delicate soundscapes that Maybe, Fitzsimmons and the recording engineers had created.
"The shadows seem familiar," is a line taken from "The Girl in the Wishing Well," a stand-out track on this album strengthened by the most consistent and heartrending motifs of Ellyn's writing that she's been exploring for the better part of the past twenty years - the intrinsic sweet sadness of a family's love, longing for a sense of belonging & dreams that seem just out of reach. At the bottom of the well, you can hear Fitzsimmons angelic vocals and Maybe's distinctive voice echoing upward - yearning to escape, and the emotional resonance of the song is devastatingly powerful.
"The Life of a Raindrop" is a nimble showcase of Fitzsimmons dynamic range as a performer and virtuosity on the piano, shifting from thunderous to sprinkling keys that skip along with his soaring vocalization. "Marathon" is propelled forward by a truly haunting refrain, "...one shoe at a time," and the piece addresses the struggle of trying to find your footing in a world that has lost its way. The entire composition stirs with a sense of weariness & dread, with trembling piano rolling ceaselessly underneath Maybe's sharp use of imagery and evocation of anxiety and fear. In the end, no matter where the needle drops in between the ten songs on this record - you're gonna land on a captivating piece of songwriting that you won't be able to shake for days after.
Skywriting With Glitter is available on Spotify, iTunes and through Amazon in both digital and physical format. You can also visit them at ellynandrobbie.com for more information about seeing them live in the Los Angeles area and beyond. If you have an appetite for poetry and music combined in a way that commands your attention, you cannot miss this release. If anything, it'll give you a great soundtrack for your next moonlight mile in your favorite pair of sneakers.
I was working on some 1/12 scale miniatures this summer, and in the background, I listened to a pretty steady diet of late 80s/early 90s Pet Shop Boys - one of my, along with my sister's, favorite musical groups.
They fused fragile humanity with the muscular aural language of 80s synth pop and created a unique combination that is so quintessentially proper and very evocative for me. It always brings me back to the white linen hallway outside my sister's old bedroom, hearing the rolling bass lines on their landmark 1993 album Very pumping through the walls.
One such track is "Can You Forgive Her?," whose video is enriched with some terrific art direction & costumes by theatrical producer/artist David Fielding. It's a drama-laden track, which makes me think of its spiritual cousin, the stone cold 1987 classic "It's A Sin." The two songs address closeting one's feelings to avoid shame, rejection and ultimately the devastation of one's soul. Each character in the song is haunted by their past, the former by his repressed homosexuality, the latter by his oppressive Catholic upbringing.
Through it all, I just love the fact that both Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are dressed like nightmare candy corn while they sing about psychic torment. Such a bold choice at a pivotal shift in the band's trajectory, all the while fully realizing their marriage of orchestral sound with programmed synthesizers that would come to define them for the next decade.
Give it a listen, enjoy those fantastic pointy hats, wish you had some & have a look around. I'm glad you're here.
-Sean (8/21/16) *The first of what he hopes to be many posts.