Interview: Soulful Singer/Songwriter Jen Miller

This month, brilliant indie vocalist, ukulele master and all-around musical badass Jen Miller – representing Columbus, Ohio – tolerates my line of questioning for the second time around.

She covers the recording process, Kickstarter, her favorite bands, The Red Wedding, her quirky but beloved fans, how she’s grown as an artist and more. Read on, dinosaurs…

It’s been two years since you released your first EP on iTunes, what do you think the major difference between your new album, Overgrown, and Forget the Dirty Hearts is?

I think the major difference between the EP and the album is that I really got my hands dirty here. For the first EP, it was my first time in the studio. We did it all in one weekend and the songs didn’t really have a chance to ripen in the studio…we just recorded them as quickly and as well as we could in one 48 hour weekend.

This time around, I worked with a producer, Derek Snowden, who really helped me push my sound. Some days I would come in the studio and be like “Derek, I wrote a song last night! Let’s see what we can make of it!”, and that’s what we would do for the night. It would come in as vocals and a ukulele and get transposed to electric and banjo by the end of the night. That’s just how it goes. So the sound is definitely more developed and the songwriting more solid.

Kickstarter and YouTube seem to have been your friends over the years… What projects have you backed on Kickstarter? 

Kickstarter burnt an imaginary hole in my pocket for a second there. I actually found it thanks to Julia Nunes…I am a massive fan of hers and she and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole are the combined reason I started teaching myself uke. She crowdfunded her first 2 albums which I (of course) backed obsessively.

Who are you into of these days musically? Anyone you fangirl over who readers might not have heard of?

I AM FANGIRL CENTRAL. A little less crazy than the One Direction fans though. I riot less.

Huge fan of Ohio natives Twenty One Pilots…Allen Stone, Kate Nash (swoon), Ed Sheeran’s new album, Nina Nesbitt, Passenger and Stu Larsen.  Continue reading “Interview: Soulful Singer/Songwriter Jen Miller”

Best Pop, Rock, Rap and Indie Albums of 2013

Halcyon Days, Ellie Goulding

Key tracks: “Burn,” “Under Control,” “How Long Will I Love You,” “Midas Touch,” “Flashlight” feat. DJ Fresh

Pure Heroine, Lorde

Key tracks: “Royals,” “Team,” “White Teeth Teens,” “Tennis Court”

Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara

Key tracks: “Closer,” “I Was A Fool,” “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend,” “Goodbye, Goodbye”

Cupid Deluxe, Blood Orange

Key tracks: “You’re Not Good Enough,” “Always Let U Down,” “It Is What It Is,” “Chosen”

Ciara, Ciara

Key tracks: “I’m Out” feat. Nicki Minaj, “Read My Lips,” “Backseat Love”

Days Are Gone, Haim

Key tracks: “Don’t Save Me,” “Falling,” “Forever”

Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam

Key tracks: “Getaway,” “Lightning Bolt,” “My Father’s Son”

The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake

Key Tracks: “Mirrors,” “Suit & Tie” feat. Jay-Z, “Body Count,” “TKO”

The Bones Of What You Believe, Chvrches

Key tracks: “Recover,” “The Mother We Share,” “Gun”

Long. Live. A$AP, A$AP Rocky

Key tracks: “1 Train” feat. Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf, & Big K.R.I.T, “Fashion Killa,” “Fuckin’ Problems” feat. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar

Night Time, My Time, Sky Ferreira

Key tracks: “Nobody Asked Me If I Was Okay,” “Boys,” “I Blame Myself”

Free The Universe, Major Lazer

Key tracks: “You’re No Good” feat. Santigold, Danielle Haim & Yasmin, “Get Free” feat. Amber Coffman, “Scare Me” feat. Peaches & Timberlee, “Bubble Butt” feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga & Mystic

Bitter Rivals, Sleigh Bells

Key tracks: “You Don’t Get Me Twice,” “Bitter Rivals,” “Love Sick”

Trouble, Natalia Kills

Key Tracks: “Problem,” “Saturday Night,” “Stop Me”

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Honorable mentions: Don’t Look Down, Skylar Grey, Nothing Was The Same, Drake, Beyoncé, Beyoncé, Weekend, The Sounds, My Name Is My Name, Pusha T, Yeezus, Kanye West, Delta Machine, Depeche Mode, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem



Video: Jen Miller – “Stay” (Rihanna Cover)

Lately, Ohio indie artist Jen Miller has been busy promoting her EP, Forget The Dirty Hearts, but she’s back on YouTube with new music. A cover of Rihanna’s latest single “Stay.”

“Not usually a massive fan of Top 40 songs but I really, really love this song,” Miller (Jenerally Speaking, on Facebook) wrote. (I still have NO IDEA why she hasn’t been signed to a major label.)

Video: Solange – “Losing You”

For once, being the underappreciated sibling of a massively famous pop star has worked out for someone. Yes, Beyonce’s sister Solange is cool as hell.

Her hair is real, she dresses like edgy urkel, sings like it’s the 80s and collaborates with indie favorites like Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and rapper Theophilus London (check out “Flying Overseas”).

Continue reading “Video: Solange – “Losing You””

Taylor Swift Removes Hipster Testicles With Rusty Acoustic Guitar Strings

In an interview with The Guardian Taylor Swift talks about all the things you’d expect her to talk about – fairy tales, boys, youth, and hipsters.

She tells the publication that the line “And you, will hide away and find your piece of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” from “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is inspired by a guy who despised the mainstream.

That was the most important line of the song. It was a relationship where I felt very critiqued and subpar. He’d listen to this music that nobody had heard of … but as soon as anyone else liked these bands, he’d drop them. I felt that was a strange way to be a music fan. And I couldn’t understand why he would never say anything nice about the songs I wrote or the music I made.  Continue reading “Taylor Swift Removes Hipster Testicles With Rusty Acoustic Guitar Strings”

Video: Eternal Summers – “You Kill”

Here’s what I know about Eternal Summers: They’re from Virginia, they’re members of something called “the magic twig community” (a bunch of local bands jamming in the woods), and their new song “You Kill” is a sweet, post-punk masterpiece produced by Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes.

Three people who not Nicole Yun, Daniel Cundiff and Jonathan Woods appear in the video, riding bicycles, drinking beer in the car, attending house parties, and looking decidedly season-oriented.

Continue reading “Video: Eternal Summers – “You Kill””

Video: Chairlift – “Met Before”

I’ve been on a Chairlift kick lately. Chairlift on repeat. Chairlift-themed Tumblrs. All of it. I’m late to the party though. The party being their album Something, which was released in January.

“Met Before” is the second single from a five-star-flawless album and a band that once intended to make music for haunted houses. How cool is that?  Continue reading “Video: Chairlift – “Met Before””

Interview: Brooklyn Singer/Songwriter Vieem

Vieem (pronounced vie-em) is an East Coast songstress on the rise. Oddly, I had just been telling myself that I need to interview someone again, since my correspondence with Spektor-soundalike Jen Miller was completely painless and massively beneficial to myself and anyone reading.

Of course I couldn’t think of exactly who to contact about an interview. Then, like a slap of fate, I get a message in my inbox from an indie artist with a link to her SoundCloud.

Now, this barely ever happens, musicians contacting me, but when they I do I feel the looming presence of shame, like I’m going to let them down somehow. After the mild anxiety, I realized that this was actually perfect timing!

So I wrote to her about her album, Be It Hated, the industry, and much more and she did a great job of answering my sometimes amateur questions with depth.  Continue reading “Interview: Brooklyn Singer/Songwriter Vieem”

Ashton Kutcher As Steve Jobs? I Guess.

I’ve seen Ashton Kutcher in exactly one movie where his acting could be considered above-average and dramatic and it wasn’t The Butterfly Effect, it was the 2009 drama Personal Effects. Obviously, I have mixed feelings about Kutcher starring in Jobs.

It seems like Tom Cruise would have been a better choice but perhaps that’s where Sony will take their separate version of the mogul’s life, based on the biography. Kutcher, a former biochemical engineering student UI, can be credited for the success of Twitter and has invested money in Skype and Foursquare. Continue reading “Ashton Kutcher As Steve Jobs? I Guess.”

Video: Girl In A Coma – “Smart”

Video from the San Antonio natives fourth CD, Exits and all the Rest on Blackheart Records. (Joan Jett hand-picked GIAC for her label after seeing them perform in 2006 at the Knitting Factory in New York)

Director Jim Mendiola, who has worked with sisters Nina Diaz and Phanie Diaz plus bassist Jenn Alva several times in the past, says the video (like their name) is inspired by The Smiths.

Video: Summer Camp – “Down”

This London indie duo (Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey) gives us a Halloweeny clip for “Down,” off their album Welcome To Condale, due out November 8th.

[Random fact: Before Warmsley and Sankey’s identities were revealed, people speculated that Summer Camp was a side project from Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow]

Video: Friends – “I’m His Girl”

Latest video from retro-hipster-tween-indie-pop up and comers called “Friends” are here with a song that does not include the lyrics “I’ll be there for you” and hand-clapping/Jennifer Aniston in a fountain, though it is on the East Coast. Watch it/listen anyway…

Continue reading “Video: Friends – “I’m His Girl””

Hesher Is THE Underrated Indie Dramedy Of 2011

The opening scene of Hesher immediately has you asking questions, a kid on his bicycle, chasing a car that is being towed away. Is that a young Hesher? Why is he chasing the car? Is this movie even about what I think it is? Well, yes and no, it’s not about what you think, in fact the brilliance in Hesher lies in that it is not necessarily “about” anything. This is a reality, with a slight filter of misfortune or anguish. Why Hesher earned only limited release in the U.S. and a mere 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me. I instantly feel that this is a misunderstood movie, and want to jump to it’s defense much like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character does for T.J., the young boy in the film, a classic victim of bullying played by Devin Brochu. (In The Valley Of Elah, Rubber)

Continue reading “Hesher Is THE Underrated Indie Dramedy Of 2011”

Liam Finn – FOMO Album Review

Liam Finn hasn’t quite achieved the respect or fame that he might deserve, though something tells me that might not bother him as much as other artists. He is the son of one of the best pop singers of all time (Neil Finn of Crowded House) but more importantly, he is a sturdy songwriter and studio perfectionist. Finn hails from New Zealand, has toured internationally for his first solo album, I’ll Be Lightning, and has just unleashed upon us his second shiny LP entitled FOMO.

Continue reading “Liam Finn – FOMO Album Review”

Cults – Cults Album Review

Remember these two names, firstly, Madeline Follin, second, Brian Oblivion. These are the sole members of a shy NY group called Cults, a group with a “cult” following sure to grow into a full-fledged mania of devout hipsters in no time. You can hardly throw a discarded walkman into the music world without hitting some new band who are adorably capable of recreating sensory 60′s euphoria. Among them are notables such as She & Him, Best Coast and The Raveonettes.

Continue reading “Cults – Cults Album Review”

Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow Album Review

Auckland, New Zealand, City of Sails, home of the Sky Tower, various volcanoes and rugby. Not to mention the band Cut Off Your Hands, which I used to confuse with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and in turn Does it Offend You, Yeah? Both great indie bands in their own right, though out of the three, Cut Off Your Hands is the most relatable.

Singer Nick Johnston has more than just brooding good looks on his side, he’s got the versatile vocals to match. The soothing side of Robert Smith and the lighter side of Ian McCulloch, with that familiar but never tiring indie kick to it. Cut Off Your Hands are now on their second album, and first since 2008′s You and I. The sophomoric effort from this kiwi quartet, Hollow, is a step down in pace from You and I, though never a step down in quality.

Continue reading “Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow Album Review”