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INsiders Guide: AVIV, Elyse Jewel, Boyoca, Stefano May, Dawson Fuss, Juvon Taylor, Talkless, Kitchen Dwellers, Lauren Monroe, Johanna Samuels…..

You know all of those warm and fuzzy first-time feelings you get as a teenager—the ones you wish you could hold on to forever?

AVIV retrofits those emotions into her songs. The 16-year-old Toronto singer, songwriter, and multi- instrumentalist pens the kind of affecting and arresting D.I.Y. pop that’s both nostalgic and prescient (You could think of it like nineties alternative pop born post-social media). After generating millions of streams independently and receiving acclaim from Atwood Magazine and more, she continues to perfect this approach on a series of singles for Photo Finish Records.

“I’m just a teenager who acts much older, still gets excited about little things, and really loves to over- analyze her emotions and put them into music,” she says. “I try to be true to myself with everything I do. The more AVIV the music is, the better.”AVIV grew up in a big family of four siblings, including her twin brother. Every Saturday, they went record shopping together on Queen Street in Toronto, picking up classics by Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, and more. “Most families went to the mall,” she smiles. “We went to the record store together.

At six-years-old, she studied piano under “an old-fashioned teacher who scared me into practicing and getting good!” Around the same time, she developed her voice and eventually picked up guitar. Casual poetry transformed into songwriting as she regularly played her early compositions for friends and family. Throughout high school, she obsessed over the likes of Clairo, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey. They’re my three moms,” she laughs.

Once the Pandemic hit, she found herself listening to more music than ever and, at the same time, writing as well. Working with her big brother’s friend Jackson Follemer as co-producer, she regularly took the train to Montreal to visit them at McGill University and started to record music in 2020. Following “Cookie Dough,” her independent single “Girls In Red” claimed coveted real estate on playlists such as “indie pop & chill” and eventually amassed hundreds of thousands of streams. “Frontlawn” and “Lonely Bitch” only increased her momentum with consistent organic growth.

“Music became a way to convey my emotions,” she admits. “Since I won’t even talk to my friends about a lot of these things, it’s an outlet for me to talk about things I don’t talk about.”

With its glassy synths, simmering guitar, cinematic hum, and candid lyrics, “Black Coffee” represented another evolution. It initially came to life as a guitar and vocal demo by AVIV before producer Rian Lewis [Kiiara, D.R.A.M.] added his touch. The single initially debuted on Spotify’s “New Music Friday” and attracted widespread critical acclaim. Atwood Magazine described it as “a song that acts as an album of memories, a reminder to enjoy the moment and to find a possible way to reconcile,” and Fashionably Early predicted, “This is sure to be a hit.” At the same time, it illuminated her keen melodic instincts and vivid storytelling strained through the hook, “And all of the memories and all of the warnings. Poured it all down in the drain. Yeah, we’re like black coffee. But we could fill it up if we wanna.

Elyse Jewel is breaking the 4th wall when it comes to mental health. As a lifelong performer and a notably kind, playful personality she is out to change the world of Pop stardom by promoting healthy mental practices and leading authentic conversations through her songs. Jewel, who leads the maturing generation of Swifties, takes heart when writing about young love, heartbreak, and dusting oneself off. “My songwriting process feels like a therapy session a lot of times,” she says of sharing authentic storytelling. “I want my music to resonate with people and for those who hear it to think, ‘Hey that’s how I feel’ or ‘I’ve been in that situation.’”

Elyse Jewel isn’t all bubblegum, though. Her new tracks are packed with clever quips and gritty guitar licks as if to follow a warm hug with a jolting push to the ground. In her pre-EP single, “TBH IDK”, Jewel sings about her love interest being sweet one minute and sour the next leaving her with nothing but a song to sing to which she claps back, “I can’t be your therapist”. Despite her lyrical jabs Jewel’s social media is glittered with encouraging notes to followers and “How are you?” captions. The threads of comments are full of heartfelt responses to anyone sharing a struggle or a triumph. Dear Diary, a 6-song visual album set to release late Summer 2022, is the artist’s debut showcase of her ability to craft, and execute, a complete vision. Accompanied by a visual component with each song, the nearly 18-year-old faces heavy emotions head-on, taking listeners through the familiar process of feeling butterflies for someone new, to discovering they aren’t who they projected themselves to be, and coming to terms with what we tend to allow people to get away with for the sake of companionship and cute social media pics. Though this project is new, in every release since her debut single, “Thinking About You” in 2019, Elyse sheds light on the feelings we’ve all encountered with the goal of helping people to feel less alone. “It’s important that I create a safe space with every listener.”

eclectic UK outfit Boyoca share the percussive tribal tendencies of ‘Change’, releasing via EMK; the electronic music platform launched by Kartel Music Group, heralding the start of an incredibly exciting year for the duo. Stream ‘Change’ here.

The first in a selection of pristine forthcoming organic/electronic cuts from the Birmingham-bred, London-based outfit, ‘Change’ builds on the rising momentum cemented by last year’s ‘He’s A Fool’ EP, which saw a remix from Joe Turner and a scintillating guest mix for Magnetic Magazine, plus press and radio support from Pete Tong (BBC Radio 1), Kiss FreshJaguar (BBC IntroducingFAZEmagStereofox and Apple Music.

 Recruiting the gorgeous vocals of Jamaican-born singer/songwriter Janel Antoneshia here, you’re immediately enveloped by deep, sunlit chords and groovy downtempo percussion, gleefully underpinned by the luscious beginnings of Antoneshia’s silky smooth flows. Whether poolside, beachside or clubside, your tastes are fully catered for. Each element is effortlessly diverse and fleeting, gradually melting into a breathtaking breakdown that teases something more just over the horizon.

 As all aspects of Boyoca’s cracking production begin to build, the party kicks back in, but with more energy this time. System-focused and backed up by stellar sample manipulation, ‘Change’ transforms from a chilled percussive trip into a driven house heater before your very ears; a hand-moulded summer anthem that fits just as well in the clubs as it does the festivals.

 Speaking on the track, Boyoca note: “The concept for Change came about a while before the music. We wanted something that threw the rules out of the window for the genre. Starting at 90bpm and modulating to 123bpm midway through probably isn’t the wisest move (in some respects) for a dance track, but it’s definitely a statement.” The promising pairing take these risks, and they’re all the better for it.

Stefano is a singer, songwriter and piano virtuoso who fuses soul, pop and classical for an enthralling musical journey. The talented songwriter’s music is marked by hope, love and connection in the aim to heal.

Born in Soveria Mannelli, Italy, Stefano took to music at an early age and began classical piano  training at age seven. He quickly gained notoriety by performing on popular Italian TV shows, and since then has collaborated with famed songwriters, as well as the famed director Franco Zeffirelli. Honing his craft further, the musician and singer has ultimately composed and scored motion picture soundtracks under the guidance of award-winning filmmaker Jamal Joseph. 

2019 marked the beginning of his solo project, when Stefano began collaborating with famed producer Chico Bennett (Madonna, Lady Gaga, The Killers, Prince). His debut single “Prayer” highlights the songwriter’s warm and confessional vocals brimming with such passion, and yet such delicate vibrato tones. Stefano’s otherworldly vocal delivery glides with memorable melodies over intimate piano. The moving lyrics detail the act of loving again after hardship and disconnection. With comparisons to Sam Smith, Andrea Bocelli, and Michael Bublé, “Prayer” marked a graceful and exciting debut for this generational artist on the rise. 

In Stefano’s latest single “We Are The Power,” the songwriter invites us all to take part in healing the world together. The glorious composition features soulful vocals, a soaring melody, and a vivacious chorus complete with a gospel choir for a most heartfelt demonstration of love, optimism, and vitality.  Stefano confides, “It is a song that describes the importance of every person’s mission to use their individual gifts to unify the world in harmony and peace.” After almost two years of collective hardship and widespread disease, “We Are The Power” is the perfect anthem to inspire bright beginnings for the new year ahead.

“Find My Way” was born as a musical tribute to the Motown world that has been highly influential to Stefano’s musical taste and sound since he was a young child. Thematically, the song was inspired by his mother, who raised Stefano to pursue big dreams and share his gifts with strength, patience, and heartfelt dedication. “Find My Way” is an upbeat, danceable song which celebrates elements of funk, jazz, and soul reminiscent of legendary Motown hits. The song was written starting in the mountains of southern Italy in December and was recently finished in Miami, after a period of deep introspection and gratitude for his family. The result is a collaboration between Travis Mazza, John Smallwood and Stefano May under the production of legendary producer Chico Bennett. In the powerful video, Stefano narrates daily life in Los Angeles during unparalleled times, ultimately alluding to profound messages of compassion, grace, and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Stefano confides, “No matter how challenging your surroundings can be, you will always be able to find your own way…”

Stefano aims to bring people together through the power of music. By sharing his gifts, he empowers others to do the same. “Music is made to heal your soul. People find commonality in the music they listen to and every song has the right time and place for each of its listeners.”

A Santa Barbara native, Dawson Fuss has been singing his entire life, propelling him to pursue a career in music where he can transform emotions into lyrics through songwriting. “I come to life whenever I can perform in front of an audience,” he says.

His unique pop sound is influenced by artists such as Ruel, Rex Orange County and Conan Gray. In a recent interview, Dawson said, “Singing makes me feel liberated. It makes me feel Free. Being able to be completely connected with my body and mind while simultaneously connecting with the audience makes me transcend to a different realm. Any kind of negative feelings I have beforehand immediately vanish as I ease into the space of the song. It’s magic.”

As he matured, Dawson’s passion for music has continued to flourish. Recently, he placed in singing competition Teen Star Santa Barbara, judged by American Idol’s Randy Jackson. After showcasing his original song, “Real Boys Don’t Cry,” Jackson proclaimed of Dawson, “a star is born.” His 2021 EP, edge of adolescence, was met with raves from the press, and garnered over 100k streams and 20k fans and listeners on Spotify. In his latest release, “Nothing Really Changes,” following his 2021 release, Fuss reflects on the simplicities of childhood through rose-colored glasses. His music explores themes of confusion and challenges as he struggles with the difficulties of adolescence and balancing the sharp edge between being a kid and becoming an adult. When Dawson isn’t creating music, he’s a proud advocate of organizations, like The Trevor Project, who he partnered with during his previous release to raise funds, and exploring other mediums of art that he’s passionate about, including fashion and visual arts. Dawson has worked alongside video artist Anastasia Delmark, aptly reflecting his enthusiasm for various artistic means of expression. As he approaches the final months of high school, Dawson also embarks on his own artistic journey towards independence, grappling with the hurdles posed by adulthood and his new sense of autonomy.

My name is Juvon Taylor. I’m a Toronto-based musician whose sound takes inspiration from the Pentecostal Church choir, the guitar, and my city’s local scene.

Today, I’m getting in touch to share, “LMK,” the first of a series of monthly singles.

➾ Listen to “LMK” on your favourite streaming platform.

I wrote “LMK” at a time when my girlfriend wasn’t sure if she wanted to be with me anymore. I wanted her to figure out her feelings and let me know asap!

I find that not everyone is able to stay level headed while dealing with a potential loss.

I was simply trying to have a dialogue about what was going on.

I didn’t want to waste any more time. Either I stayed and we worked it out or I hit the road.

Tell me if you still feel the same

Tell me if I still blow your mind like that

If it’s a no then walk away

These are my favourite lyrics from the track because they’re raw and honest.

To me, “LMK” is open and vulnerable, but in a conversational way.

LMK” is the tale of someone being in a relationship and not knowing if the person they’re with is the one for them. There’s a lot of emotional ping ponging before the break up, or maybe they see it through?

In this song, it’s left a bit unresolved. If you want to find out what happens next, there may be a follow up…

Juvon Taylor

Brazilian-American artist Talkless has unveiled his third single and video “Mind Games” featuring artist Marwang, out now via Uncomfortable Records. The track is a cheery yet moody anthem wrapped with acoustic guitar chords where Talkless’ smoothly burning vocals and Marwang’s breakneck choruses accentuate the chaotic feeling of despair, but unshakeable sense of hope that one carries around when being trapped in an unhealthy relationship. 

“The track is about being in a super toxic relationship, not being able to understand somebody so you constantly feel like you’re playing mind games,” shares Talkless. “Through this song, I want to encourage people to listen to their gut and follow their own intuition about people so they don’t end up feeling trapped in such a toxic situation.”

Kitchen Dwellers are thrilled to share “Sundown” – the newest song to be released off the band’s forthcoming album Wise River. “I had been working on this riff for quite a while in a sort of banjo-metal fashion,” Torrin Daniels told Relix. “I wrote the lyrics during those “peak quarantine” days in the spring of 2020, and the verses definitely reflect my mental state at the time. The phrases about time receding and the hourglass running slow reference the elasticity of time, and how our minds can warp when we’re confined to one space physically. I think almost everyone can relate to that now.”

 Lauren Monroe – singer, songwriter, and healing artist – has released the new single, “Kiss Me Now,” on March 18, 2022. Rick Allen – Def Leppard drummer, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and Monroe’s husband and collaborator – will join her for the next show, which is 5/23 in Nashville at The Lounge at City Winery. DETAILS / TICKETS.

Produced by the legendary Jim Scott and featuring Steve Ferrone (drummer of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), “Kiss Me Now” is Monroe’s first release of 2022 and follows her second solo album, 2021’s Under the Wolf Moon. Bassist Bob Glaub (Jackson Browne/Linda Ronstadt/Bonnie Raitt), guitarist and back-up vocalist Brian Whelan (Jim Lauderdale/Chris Shiftlett/Dwight Yoakam), keyboardist John Ginty (The Dixie Chicks/The Allman Betts Band/Citizen Cope), and pedal steel guitarist Doug Pettibone (John Mayer/Tracy Chapman/Norah Jones) also appear on the track. Scott describes “Kiss Me Now” as “California country,” and Monroe explains it as “a reminder of the impermanence of life – a reminder to be grateful for who we have and the journey we have taken with loved ones.” She continues, “It’s about being happy and free, having fun but remembering it all ends one day. The pandemic challenged our ability to celebrate just being with people, and this song reminds us to celebrate the moments we do spend together.”

 Singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels is thrilled to release her new single “Little Buckets” that is out now and featured on New Commute. “Little Buckets” is produced by Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman, Hiss Golden Messenger, the National, Muzz) and mixed by Dan Goodwin.

Johanna says, “I wrote this song while reflecting on our country’s social patterns — mainly the rise of group bullying and the newly prevalent idea that individuals can and should be cancelled or cast out over a disagreement. Social media has the capacity to be a cruel place. In the summer of 2020, in the lawless world that is Instagram,  I witnessed a few public discourses that felt really unkind. It would sometimes jar me for days and I felt too afraid to speak up even though it felt wrong to me. Both the idea of vocalizing my thoughts and the idea of staying silent brought up a bunch of shame… So I wanted to explore those parts of myself  as well as how we navigate toxic social structures in our communities and as a nation. I still have much to learn.”

neillfrazer@hotmail.com

Socials: @neillfrazer

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Written by Neill Frazer

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