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INsiders Guide: Josh Stevens, Fonkynson, Blonde Diamond, Cooper Phillip, Laraw, John Adams, Tafari Anthony, Chin Injeti, STRØM, Aqua Seca, Nature Of, Elise Lieberth, thanks., Elk Run + Riot, Jess Knights

Josh Stevens is a Los Angeles-based Singer, Record Producer, Songwriter and Engineer. His works are Grammy Award Winning, RIAA Platinum Certified, Billboard Award Nominated, Juno Award Nominated (Canada) and ARIA Music Awards Platinum Certified (Australia). His early career was based around hip-hop working for the likes of Warren G, Snoop Dogg, The Game and Clyde Carson. However, Josh found his modern sound in pop/indie-rock/dance working with the likes of LMFAO, Pitbull, J-Lo, Steve Aoki, Young Jeezy and Ne-Yo.

Photo by Adrian Villagomez

“I spent last winter in Mexico, enjoying some time off and nourishing my inspiration. I brought a little simple light setup to compose so I could work on some ideas everywhere. One day, in front of Lake Bacalar, I dropped some ideas; the naturally magnificent landscape led me to use more organic sounds, a beat with a house-feel and bouncing basses. I quickly thought, “wow, this needs some lyrics now!” Recording my new single, “Mind Games (Ft. Desiire)” was a unique experience as I was away. I remembered a guy on SoundCloud who had contacted me just to say “Hello man, great music!” I went to his profile and listened to a couple of tracks. He was a singer/songwriter from Toronto, and I really liked his style. His name is Desiire.

A couple days later, after sending over the “Mind Games (Ft. Desiire)” instrumental, Desiire sent me an almost complete song. After plugging in my headphones to have a listen, I found myself very impressed; I loved it right there on the spot. I then polished it in the studio back in Montreal and voilà! I hope that you experience the same feeling I had when I first heard Mind Games (Ft. Desiire).” Sunny afternoon by the pool sipping a drink, hearing the velvety voice of Desiire telling you it’s all in your mind. You’ll feel pretty good. Thank you for listening!”—Fonkynson

Shaping a soundscape of dreamy synth-pop bliss with unapologetic and captivating lyricism, Blonde Diamond have been on a trajectory that is hard not to be dazzled by.

The Vancouver based dream-pop band have graced stages across Canada, Europe, Australia, the US, and India, sharing bills along the way with stalwarts such as Portugal. The Man, Broken Social Scene, Bishop Briggs, Chromeo, Mother Mother, and more. 

Blonde Diamond’s newest offerings hone in on their strongest assets—frontwoman Alexis Young’s vocal prowess, reinforced by the band’s ethereal instrumentals. The first course they’ve prepared for us, single ”4AM Eternal” is due out January 10, 2020. Equal parts sexy and accessible, swirling guitars are accentuated by arpeggiated bass synths and snap-tight rhythms, and a bridge that is sure to lure you in to their siren call. 

Their debut single, “Feel Alright” (2016), peaked at no. 6 on the Spotify Viral Charts within a week of its release, with the rest of the Feel Alright EP now quickly approaching 1M streams. In 2017, Blonde Diamond were the winners of the coveted nation-wide JUNO Master Class mentorship program.

The band’s second EP “Fantasy Love” was premiered on CBC’s First Play Live in October 2018 featuring 6 freshly minted tracks, including the first single and video for Better When You’re Close, and second single Dark Place.

As they careened toward the end of the decade, Blonde Diamond smartly took a conscious step back from their guns-ablazing approach to prepare themselves for the next chapter of their career, shedding their former name (Youngblood) and paring down to a 4-piece powerhouse. Now, as Blonde Diamond walks the catwalk into 2020, grab a front-row seat to catch all the new delights they’ve prepared.

Russian born, Los Angeles based pop soul artist Cooper Phillip succeeds in capturing the undivided attention of listeners across the globe. With her intense drive, soaring vocals and passionate songwriting, Phillip is elevating herself to the top of her genre.

Born in a small town in Russia to a family of accomplished classical musicians, her early years were shaped being raised by her grandmother and aunt while her mother, a master violin player, toured around the world with various symphonies. This separation led Phillip to take comfort in music where she was enamoured  by the vocal stylings of Ella Fitzgerald. A young Phillip taught herself Fitzgerald’s songs inside and out, noticing every nuance of phrasing and jazz intonations. Phillip eventually enrolled at the prestigious Moscow State Classical Academy where she studied classical piano, music theory, harp, jazz, blues, ballet and voice. The songstress worked diligently to expand her vocal range and control, taking everything that came in her path and feeding off of the challenge.

Recognizing her daughter’s talent and charisma, Phillip’s mother gave up her flourishing career to accompany a young Cooper on tour throughout Russia. Determined to pursue an international career in music, Phillip moved to New York City at the age of 17. With barely a dollar to her name, the singer worked and hustled, performing in weddings and clubs and sleeping in the storeroom of a restaurant where she sang. It wasn’t easy but she would not be deterred. After a few years in the city, Phillip jumped at an opportunity to sing at an important gig in Los Angeles. She never went back.

Phillip’s music features an underlying theme of strength, grace and empowerment. “I believe we underestimate ourselves often and our fear takes over. My goal is to show people that they are stronger and can do much more than they think they can”, she admits. Using true life stories, hardships and experiences, the songwriter emits authenticity and courage throughout her music.

Cooper Phillip has seen success with her previous single garnering over 10 million listens online. She has also developed an impressive and loyal fanbase, particularly on social media and has performed at some of Los Angeles most prestigious venues.

“I’m serving you my breakup anthem “ Breakup Tutorial” ! My last breakup was traumatic and I wrote a song about it… cause that’s what we should all do after crying our hearts out, right? A story of my past that still hits home. Hope you’ll cry, It’s out today!

Thank you for taking the time, I’ll announce shows soon!  Follow me on InstagramTwitter & Facebook for updates.”–Laraw

Welsh singer/songwriter John Adams kicks off 2020 with the release of his new single ‘Kiss Every Stranger’ on January 31st. This new song is a unique blend of his heartfelt songwriting and pop beats with minimal electronic production.  ‘Kiss Every Stranger’ questions the idea of ‘finding the one’ in romantic relationships: ‘It’s easy to find what you’re looking for if you know what it looks like, but what if you have no idea?’ John says about the track. 

With a reach in his tone to match Sam Smith and James Blunt, John Adams draws influences from the likes of honest songwriters such as James Morrison, Damien Rice and David Gray. Having spent nearly all his adult life as a songwriter playing gigs in venues across the UK as well as busking on the streets of Cardiff, John took a leap of faith in 2016 as he quit his job as a Mathematics teacher to perform full time. The gamble paid off, and John has gone on to support acts such as Take That, Lemar, Stooshe, T’Pau and Katherine Jenkins. 

‘Kiss Every Stranger’ follows the release of  John Adams’s EP ‘No White Lies’ last year which peaked at #2 in the iTunes Singer – Songwriter charts. His last album ‘You Never Know Who’s Listening’, released in 2018 has received praise from media and fans alike, accumulating over 9.7 million streams on Spotify.

‘Kiss Every Stranger’ is now available on all digital platforms. A lyric video will be released on Feb 3rd as well as an official music video directed by Rhys Davies from Furball Films on Feb 13th.

Tafari (pronounced Ta-far-eye) Anthony is a Toronto based artist whose music blends R&B, pop, and soul. He is a creator who embodies the spirit of the modern musician. Not just a musician, but a creator. Known for his sleek vocal tones, sultry melodies and music which oozes with personality, Tafari leaves listeners in awe – somewhat apt considering his name means “He who inspires awe”.

His influences range from artists like Prince and John Legend, to more contemporary artists like Lennon Stella and Charlie Puth, among others. Often described as a mix of Sam Smith and MNEK, Tafari creates deeply emotional songs that resonate across generations. “All of these artists are creating music that is pop in its own right, but also so different from each other”, shares the musician. 

Following the release of his two previous EP’s, both of which received considerable notoriety in Toronto, Tafari made a conscious decision to take a break in 2018 and focus on creating new material which explored his own personal soundscape. “I wanted to take a moment to feel uncomfortable and nervous again. That break was crucial for me”. Now Tafari is unveiling the confident new single “Centerfold”. The track sees the musician taking a different direction, to what he calls his own interpretation of pop music. Soaring with atmospheric synths and cascading pop melodies, Tafari showcases his impressive velvet vocals, with a hint of sass. “Centerfold” is the ultimate “go fuck yourself” send off to a self centred ex-lover. Tafari confides, “I’m a pretty calm guy, but when I get to my breaking point, it’s hard to hold my tongue. This song was written from sheer frustration of trying to let him down gently and realizing that he just refused to understand”. 

Working alongside Brandon Unis (Juno Nominated. Billboard Charted. 1X Gold Producer / Mixer), Kelly Alaina and OBLVYN, in Edmonton, Alberta, Tafari was able to illustrate his desire to create something out of his usual realm, pushing his boundaries. He explains, “I was in a new city, new space and with new people. I think all those factors combined allowed me to step out of my comfort zone to try new things, be open to new sounds and melodies, and be comfortable to be whoever I wanted to be that day”. 

Thematically, Tafari’s music often details love, relationships, life’s hardships and finding self identity and worth in a world where most people feel they need to blend in to be happy. “I’m not afraid to write about those dark moments and truths that may be hard to hear. I would hope that my music would inspire someone to be less afraid of being themselves. Be less afraid of offending people by expressing how you truly feel. And to be less afraid of wanting the things you desire and deserve”. 

Tafari’s music has been nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award, receives regular airplay on CBC Radio, with one of his singles being named one of CBC’s Most Influential Songs of 2016. He’s also performed with Shangela (RuPaul’s Drag Race) and New York’s up-and-coming pop star MAX, toured across North America and Asia as part of the award winning a capella band Eh440, as well as having performed at Toronto’s Dundas Square and Massey Hall and receiving praise from Michael Buble himself

When you have become a representative of the term, it’s your narrative that provides the elements that form the answer.

To illustrate, Chin Injeti.

Born in Hyderabad India, Chin is the middle child to a father who was a classical vocalist and a mother who was a surgical nurse.

Having to survive polio from birth, his parents thought it best for the whole family to move to Toronto, Canada.

Chin was surrounded by music all his life and in the family home the exposure ranged from classical to folk, ragas to Stevie Wonder, and to his parents favorite, ABBA.  At every turn there was a rhythm or melody that would draw him in – footsteps down the hall, heart monitors, the sound of passing cars – it was everywhere.

At the age of five Injeti sang in three languages. At the age of eight he was in music therapy treatments to help facilitate his motor skills. This changed his life.

More than just something he heard from day to day, music became a healing force that started to transform his body and help it realize it’s full capacity.

With embodied renewal came a clarity of purpose.

His shyness in high school paved the way for him to use solitude to grow his passion for all things music. While the rest of his world was partying and doing what most teenagers do, Injeti locked himself in his room with his Bass and studied the greats like Jaco, Marcus Miller, Paul McCartney, Bootsy and many more.

Although he never tried to draw attention to himself, as the only student with a visible disability in his school he had to get used to more than enough attention. So when school started again after one summer holiday, he joined the jazz band and excelled. This was the genesis of recognition of his artistic giftedness and his journey toward acceptance of his relationship and identity with music.

In University Injeti was part of a jam band that played (what seemed to him like) every party on campus. They  created a loyal following all around the city and as the band’s lead singer and bassist, his personal notoriety grew. He was the charismatic kid on crutches that always got the party lit!

During the last year of school, Injeti recorded an indie album of the band in a home studio built by his father & brother.  That CD ended up selling 70,000 copies and served as his introduction to the music industry!

The band (by then known as Bass is Base) went on to win fans all over the world and garnered a deal with Universal Music and Island records in the United States.

Fronted by Injeti, the group won a Juno (Canadian Grammy) for best R&B record, a Much Music Video award for a song called “Funkmobile” and Chin was awarded with Songwriter of the Year from SOCAN.

But like all good things, Bass is Base came to an end and Injeti moved to the west coast where he found love and some space to redefine himself as an artist.

With the passage of time, Chin also got rooted in his affinity for songwriting and production which was later matched by proficiency and graceful ease behind the board.

With many years of creating, touring and performing all over North America with the likes of The Fugees, The Roots, Jamiroquoi, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and so many more, Chin learned the craft of carving out frequencies and the importance of an impactful lyric and melody.  For years he just listened and watched until he was able to take a selfless approach to his craft, where he put the song and the artist before everything.

Injeti once said that his talent took him from “impression” to a place of “expression” The purpose of the song was always the most important.

His purpose, indeed, became crystal clear when Injeti teamed up with then partner DJ Khalil; with whom he made music with and for the likes of Dr Dre, Eminem (“Recovery,”and “Survival” which he later won 2 Grammys for), Drake (“Fear”), Pink (“Here comes The Weekend”), Aloe Blacc (“I’m the Man,” “Can You Do This”), The Clipse (“Kinda Like a Big Deal” feat. Kanye), Lecrae (“Mayday” and another Grammy win), K’Naan (“Waving Flag” and another Juno award) and so many other artists.

Injeti’s impact on music was slowly taking shape with millions of records sold and Gold & Platinum plaques as evidence, and, perhaps most significantly, his being able to pick and choose the artists that he wanted to work with.

Integrity as a core value was always very important to him and he was now beginning to realize that music was not only his superpower but also a universal language that could connect people to each other. These realities converged in a decision to step back from the ever changing music industry to teach and create a curriculum for Vancouver based music school NIMBUS. Additionally, he crafted and delivered a Tedx presentation on the healing properties of music where he shared his story of how music saved his life.

Recently, he was awarded a star on the prestigious Granville walk of Fame in his adopted hometown of Vancouver for his contributions to the music community and artistic sphere.

Chin Injeti is a force of nature – an inspiration, a teacher, mentor, leader, innovator, singer and multi instrumentalist, writer, collaborator, student; and yes, Icon.

(Credit: Oscar Olsson)

Swedish artist / producer STRØM has debuted a brand new single titled “Mermaid.” Listen to the track everywhere now here.

The song is released via This is Scandinavia / Sony Music and is a precursor to the release of STRØM’s forthcoming debut album, Immortal, out February 21.

Further showcasing STRØM’s captivating production prowess set against sweeping melodies and crisp, whisper-like vocals, “Mermaid” follows first album single, “Last Try,” which saw a release last month and set the tone for a highly anticipated debut release. “Last Try” has seen widespread love from the likes of The Line of Best Fit, HillyDilly, Variance Magazine + many others. The song also hit #1 on Hype Machine and saw playlisting on Spotify’s ‘New Music Friday.’ Listen to “Last Try” here.

STRØM’s 2020 output is the first material he has released since his first breakout a few years back when his debut track as STRØM was born out of sheer coincidence after composing a song for a BMW commercial. He later finished and released the song in 2017 as “Mesmerize.” The song drew acclaim from a slew of music outlets and quickly shot to #1 on Hype Machine. 

Growing up in Värmdö, an island off the coast of Stockholm, STRØM began experimenting with musical instruments around age 7 and later formed a string of bands through his teen years. As he grew up, he took a greater interest in production and eventually moved to Berlin for a period to study music production and sound design.

A project whose purest intention is an experimental outlet for musical expression free of genre bounds, STRØM’s forthcoming debut album embodies this ethos. Titled Immortal, STRØM finds inspiration in the reading of ancient tales and timeless prose that showcase the mystical notion that, in story, immortality can at last be attained. 

Be on the lookout for more to come soon from STRØM’s debut album, due out February 21. 

Aqua Seca has released their debut album, titled Neural Stereo, a highly anticipated project consisting of eleven original tracks that further show off the band’s talent and love for the psychedelic rock community.

“The Great Salt Lake in Utah is the setting for “Don’t Care” and was one of the most exhausting and physically intensive obstacles Aqua Seca has ever been through, which is why they loved every part of it.”- New Noise Magazine
Neural Stereo begins with five already released singles, followed by six new tracks written by frontman, Trent Hankinson. Each song is unique in its own way, being first created through fleeting voice memos about different personal experiences from Trent. Now, Aqua Seca has fully grasped their sound as they fill each track with a psychedelic, laid back ambiance. Trent Hankinson (main vocalist and guitarist), Derek Stewart (on drums), and Jacob Horne (bass, guitar, and keys) decided to take on the music scene following the attention they received for the music video for a previous single, “Whipped Cream,” which has garnered over 13k views on YouTube. Since the release of “Don’t Care,” it has gained over 32K streams on Spotify.
“At the end of the day, these songs will never be something I will be able to explain the exact meaning. The stream of consciousness in my head is what has literally been put onto this album. But just because these songs have a certain meaning for me, doesn’t mean that those same meanings will apply to you. Best thing I can recommend is to simply listen to it and take from there, feel the music, play it loud, please please please play it loud, that is how these songs were meant to be heard, with the bass drum beating your chest and the guitars filling your ears…” – Trent Hankinson

The guys have known each other since they were freshmen in high school and have always enjoyed jamming out together in their spare time. At the time that Trent began writing songs for the upcoming LP, focusing on music was the last thing he should have been doing. He was a full-time student in college with an overloaded class schedule and an internship, with his songs just voice memos he had on his phone. When Trent decided to stop holding himself back from his dream, he reached out to Derek and Jacob to be permanent fixtures of Aqua Seca. Like Trent, Derek and Jacob had other commitments such as a full-time apprenticeship and school. However, the pull towards their music was something neither of them could ignore and now the songs are more than just melodies in Trent’s head and memos on his phone.

Photo Credit: Levi Manchuk

One of Edmonton’s most beloved indie rock bands, Nature Of, are excited to announce the release of their third full-length album The Mean on February 21st, and today marks the release of their brand new single ‘Behave’.

Nature Of teamed up with producer Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire) to record The Mean.  Paquin’s production shines on the album’s first 2 singles ‘Middle Of The Morning’ and ‘You And Only’He takes them to a place somewhere between your favourite song ever and a radio ear-worm.

On their latest single ‘Behave’, Nature Of’s honest persona and chill melodies are front and centre. The sparse yet expansive production  allows the song to breathe which is fitting for a song about forgiveness.

‘Behave’ is about letting go of the past and learning to forgive yourself,” says Nature Of vocalist Steven Schneider. “The older I get, the more I collect, good and bad. I know some of the things I carry need to be sent on their way in order to be the person I want to be.”

After meeting through the skateboard community in their hometown of Edmonton, the band released their self-titled debut album in 2014 and their 2nd album Cherish in 2017. Nature Of is poised to breakout with their upcoming release and have already been featured on CBC Music, the Edmonton Journal, and recently toured with Close Talker.

Nature Of’s new single ‘Behave’  is available NOW on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, and other digital retailers and streaming services. For more information, please visit:

Colorado mom, entrepreneur and musician Elise Lieberth is a survivor. Behind the beautiful lilting voice, there lies a dark past that she rose above, transforming into a fighter with big dreams. Since emerging onto the Internet music scene over a decade ago, Lieberth has amassed over 10 million Spotify streams, 25K YouTube subscribers, and over 3 million YouTube views.

Today, Lieberth physically releases her third album of original music, Invincible, out today. Co-written by Elise Lieberth and Rachel James who also produced the songs, the album features 8 original songs of heartbreak, forgiveness, beauty, redemption and being unbreakable.

Having developed a love for singing and performing at a very young age, Lieberth knew that music would be her lifelong passion. Music also became the vehicle that carried her through some of the darkest periods of her life. Determined to never let her circumstances break her spirit, Lieberth poured her pain, fears, and anger into her music. Blessed with her vocal abilities, she forged ahead with her music, singing in various bands. In 2009, she met local musician-turned-YouTube-sensation Tyler Ward, who co-wrote and produced her first album, Letters From Elise, which was released in May 2010.

From 2010-2013, she gained a solid YouTube following and fanbase while releasing over 80 songs, both originals, and covers, along with four albums. Her cover songs “Holding Out For A Hero” and “She Keeps me Warm” peaked at #26 and #43 respectively on the iTunes Singer-songwriter chart. Her “We are the World” collaboration with YouTuber Tyler Ward went viral in 2010, launching her and many artists’ YouTube careers. She released her self-titled original album in 2013, and it quickly climbed to #72 on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. 

She eventually took a break between 2013-2018 to focus on her family. Although she has not released music in nearly 7 years, her cover song “According to You” is still making waves. Just this past August, her version of the song was used in over 100,000 videos on TikTok. When Lieberth’s teenage daughter decided to have her mom make an appearance in her TikTok video, it reached over 1 million views in 4 days!

With her fanbase continuing to skyrocket, Lieberth realized this was a sign that she needed to create more music. Today, Elise Lieberth remains standing stronger than ever. She will be performing tonight at The Soiled Dove Underground at 8 pm to celebrate her new album, Invincible!

thanks. is Steve Pagano and Mario Borgatta. Combining psychedelic pop, cinematic vibes and electronically influenced beats and melodies, thanks. have succeeded in creating catchy indie pop with an edge.

The duo emerged after meeting at Berklee College of Music in 2009. It was then that Pagano and Borgatta realized they shared the same sentiment for music and how aligned their goal really was. Together they have accomplished this goal in crafting a sound which is simultaneously unique and accessible to the masses. They set out with the intent to express their story through an artistic portrayal of music and lyrics, and prevailed in culminating a winning formula which can resonate with their audiences.

Having taken a year out from releasing music, thanks. are now dropping two new singles. The duo express, “We’ve been taking the time to experiment with our overall sound and further develop the identity of thanks”. Now stronger than they’ve ever been before, the duo have crafted a fresher sound, fusing their signature style of indie pop with funk and hip hop, putting their own stamp on contemporary music.

Leading single ‘Busy’ draws inspiration from a number of things, but the whole concept of the song was to just have fun. Borgatta shares, “We write tons of styles, we have songs that sound like Bruce Springsteen and we have songs that sound like Post Malone. It’s a very open-minded workflow when we’re working on thanks. It’s always for fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not thanks.” Featuring swirling soundscapes and sultry basslines, accompanied with impressive falsetto vocals, ‘Busy’ is the perfect uplifting track. ‘Get Over It’ showcases playful lyrics, colorful synths and infectious melodies, creating the ultimate feel good jam.

Pagano and Borgatta have seen previous success with numerous TV placements on major networks including MTV, ABC and Netflix, as well as having worked on records from world renown, critically acclaimed artists such as Muse, Death Cab For Cutie, Foster The People, Powers, Mallrat and many more. ‘Busy’ is set for release February 2020.

Photo Credit: Bojan Cosic

Alberta indie folk rock group Elk Run + Riot are excited to announce the release of their fourth full-length album Morning Lightout today on all digital music platforms. They will also be touring in support of the album starting on February 14th in Field, BC. See below for full tour schedule.

Morning Light was written by Elk Run + Riot in one night in a cabin in Golden, BC. The guys went on a songwriting retreat for a night to come up with new material and ended up with enough songs for an entire album! With this album, the band really tried to create a sound that is as true to their live sound as possible.

“We feel like oftentimes artists tend to lose a bit of themselves in the studio, creating something that by the end of the project sounds nothing like how they actually sound, and we always try to be as honest with our fans as we can,” says vocalist/guitarist Ryan Schepens. “This album was written in one night and recorded live off the floor in just two days and we are super proud of the end result. We hope our fans enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it!”

Morning Light was recorded at Studio D in Calgary, Alberta by Steve Dierkens, who co-produced the album with Elk Run + Riot. The album touches on things like addiction, love/friends lost, growing up, and he many times they’ve been crammed in the back of a Dodge Caravan for weeks and months at a time just trying to make a name for themselves.

Formed in 2013 in Canmore, AB, with each release Elk Run + Riot have consistently built on their strengths—three and four-part harmonies and a no-nonsense group mentality reminiscent of The Band. Since releasing their 3rd album Animalia in early 2018, Elk Run + Riot have been tearing up western Canada, and in the process winning over scores of new fans with their high-energy brand of alternative folk.

Elk Run + Riots new album Morning Light is available NOW on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, and other digital retailers and streaming services. For more information and the most up-to-date tour listings, please visit:

Feb 14 – Field, BC – Field Community Centre
Feb 28 – Banff, AB – Banff Legion
March 7 – Panorama Resort, BC – T-Bar and Grill
March 21 – Castle Mountain Resort, AB – Beats In The Base
March 27 – Revelstoke, BC – The Last Drop
April 3 – Calgary, AB – Ironwood Stage & Grill
April 11 – Lake Louise Resort, AB – Kokanee Cabin
April 12 – Lake Louise Resort, AB – Kokanee Cabin
April 23 – Edmonton, AB – The Aviary
April 25 – Saskatoon, SK – Capitol Music Club

For all of love’s agonies, Calgary soul-roots singer-songwriter Jess Knights isn’t sulking over old wounds. On her debut full-length, Best Kind of Light, due out on May 20, 2020, Knights comes out on the other side of love and loss without all the bitterness, but rather a sense of self-assuredness knowing that she’ll be just fine on her own. 

It’s this triumphant reclamation that frames the album’s title track, about a graceful end to a relationship. “When you get older your priorities change, and what was once catastrophic is no longer a big deal,” Knights says. “You choose where to put your energy and how to spend your time. ‘Best Kind of Light’ is about choosing to move on with grace and integrity, and not feeling the need to burn your ex’s clothes on the front lawn anymore.”

Of the 11 songs contained on Best Kind of Light, there are traces of the blues that have always informed her sound. Case in point: the gloriously sultry ‘Try a Little Harder,” where she offers the best clapback to lazy courtship. “I know your kind/You come around here saying ‘Damn girl, you’re fine’/But I ain’t the type to fall flat and cold to a man with a line/You gotta try a little harder,” she sings to an eruption of scorching blues licks. 

But the blues are a mere reference point to the classic soul the album is mostly rooted in. There are whirling organ sojourns (“Leave Me for the Last Time”), piano-pop bops (“Cover Your Eyes,” “One Last Shot”), and on “Baby, Won’t You Stay” her backup players channel a Dap-Kings level of throwback energy.  

All the while, some lap steel and country strains find their way into a few songs. The most welcome surprise, though, is the sparkling dub beats heard on “Halfway.”

To achieve the revivalist vibe she was after, Knights headed to Toronto in 2019 and assembled the crème de la crème of songsmiths and sidemen, including award-winning producer Joshua Van Tassel, Donovan Woods, Joey Landreth, and others. The lineup adds dimension to Knights’ songs while bringing into focus the moody, dimly-lit spectrum of her classically-trained voice, which has drawn comparisons to U.K. luminaries Amy Winehouse and Eliza Doolittle.

“I often have serious imposter syndrome,” Knight confesses. “But when you’re making music with the right people, in the right place, you don’t think about it. It just feels so good. The right people for this record were in Toronto and I’m so grateful to have worked with, and learned from, all of them. I went outside of my Calgary comfort zone and found a really authentic sound with the help of some really talented musicians.”

Upon the release of her heartfelt debut EP Won’t Wait in 2017, Knights landed on several year-end lists with the Calgary Herald and TheYYScene naming her one to watch. The EP received significant play on SiriusXM, enjoyed spins on CBC Radio, and charted on college stations throughout Canada. 

While Won’t Wait captured the grit of the dive bars where she found her voice, the polish of Best Kind of Light places her in sleeker settings. Indeed, it’s a sign of where she’s headed, and the only way is forward.

What do you think?

Written by Neill Frazer

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