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Songwriters

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Single Premiere: Adem Dalipi "Empty Promises"

We are proud to be able to premiere the latest single, "Empty Promises", which will officially be released on September 17th, from Rockford's own Adem Dalipi. This is the Singer-Songwriter's third single of 2021 and the follow-up to "Through Another's Eye", which was released back in April.

The creation of this single began with Dalipi finding himself listening to a lot of John Mayer and wanting to produce a more guitar driven song. The result finds him successfully exploring the pop side of rock music.

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CHNNLL "The Test"

CHNNLL recently released his latest full-length album, The Test. This is the work of the multi-talented musician Chris Davidson.

The album's lead single, "Kill The Messenger", is accompanied by the video below. Of the single, Davidson had this to say; "I wrote this song in my Chicago apartment during quarantine. It was the happiest and saddest time of my life - my daughter was born, then my mom suffered a massive stroke a few months later. Lockdown was stressful, but it forced a great deal of reflection. I realized life is a series of ‘tests’, and we’re all just trying to do our best, we’re all just trying to ‘make the grade’.”

You can help CHNNLL celebrate the release of his album on September 18th at Downstairs (at Subt).

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Half Gringa "Sevenwater"

Half Gringa has released a new single called "Sevenwater". This is the first new music from Half Gringa (aka Isabel "Izzy" Olive) since the release of her 2020 album Force to Reckon.

You can catch Halg Gringa at Lincoln Hall on September 25th with Andrew Sa and Niika.

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Petite League teach old dog "New Tricks" in music video premiere

I’m not usually one to quote other critics here but since I’m feeling a little lazy, and because there’s some provocative opinions on the latest album by Petite League out there, I’ll just share a couple quick ones here. Like the quote from the Americana Highways writer who says there’s no hyperbole at all in calling Joyrider “a lo-fi Pet Sounds” or prematurely naming it “the best album of the year” because “it’s just hard to image [sic] something topping this.” Congrats with that pull quote gentlemen! And over at The Family Reviews, in describing the overall vibe of the album, another writer observed that “the dominant force on this album [is being] blissful in the moment even with the knowledge that when the high wears off the hangover is going to be psychically shattering.” Which sounds a lot like Brian Wilson while making Pet Sounds so I think we have a running theme here. 

When it comes to the song “New Tricks” off the album and it’s newly released music video, Petite League demonstrate their considerable talent for making loneliness and regret and daydreams and succeeding-against-all-the-odds sound transcendent in a low-key/lo-fi kinda way, luxuriating in sharp, sweet suffering like teasing a loose tooth with your tongue. And while I can’t help but think of Rob Gordon at the beginning of High Fidelity when he wonders aloud whether the music or the misery came first, finally you gotta say “who cares!” when you can simply bask in the winsome strains of Petite League and the heart-rending tale of an old dog trying to learn “new tricks" in the parallel realms of romance and roulette.

Now that I think about it, this song’s scrappy shaggy-dog story is straight out of a hardcore country song--talk about a genre that knows how to confront everyday forms of sadness or at least it once did--about a gambler who definitely does not know when to hold ‘em or when to fold 'em as evidenced by all-night booze and baccarat filled bender at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City spent “betting it all on the wrong dog” and returning dejectedly on the 4AM bus back to the city smelling like ashtray butts and “the bottle I was sleeping in” and then showing up on your doorstep unannounced declaring “I’ve made a terrible mistake please consider loving me like you once did” and boy does this kind of stuff pull at your heartstrings, especially given the dogged optimism of the narrator holding out hope for “one more lucky strike / one more lucky hand / one more lucky night” a lot like the tragic protagonist of nearly every movie ever made about doomed dreamers and gamblers.

And when you’re this hard up you can sometimes find a perverse succor in being a sucker, that is, in giving yourself so entirely over to something or someone so that no matter how hopeless the reality of it you at least manage to escape yourself--like our narrator drawn to pretty faces that “always drinks for free...like sugar and wine in my veins,” providing comfort to “a broken, broken man,” not unlike “the comforting heat from the warmth of a gun” or some other metaphor about being inextricably-drawn-to-what’s-worst-for-you in a way that's “hard to explain and harder to change” but hey just raise your hand if you haven’t been there before. (Yeah, I thought so!) Then if you dress up the quasi-story-song with gently shimmering Andy Summers guitar chording and bounding basslines and in-the-pocket timekeeping (courtesy of drummer Henry Schoonmaker) and blankly blissful vocals (courtesy of songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Gillis Cook) all wrapped up in the warm glow of the record's lo-fi production, and you’re likely to experience a slowly spreading sense of deep contentment whatever your current circumstances in life.

And speaking of being bathed in a warm glow, the music video only amplifies this sense of womb-like comfort and warmth with the band’s members ensconced in colorful mall-walker windbreakers kind of like oversized Members Only jackets as they wander around and lounge on a city rooftop decorated with pin-striped partitions and it certainly looks like a pleasant way to spend a day--especially with all the magic tricks and money flaunting and dice playing happening up there. This warm nostalgic aesthetic is only heightened by the video being filmed on Super 8 and 16mm film by band ally and video director KD Sampaio (Good Relation Records) with the resulting visual full of artifacts and vertical hold issues evoking the hazy, sentimental vibe of unearthed home movies discovered in the attic. 

And so the moral of the story may be "why not bet all your chips and shoot for the big jackpot, perhaps followed by a joyride in the Mojave Desert, because what else have you got to lose?" or at least that's my takeaway. At worst, you’ll experience a psychically-shattering hangover and then write a great song about it like this one. (Jason Lee)

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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

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