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New Music Friday Chapter 13

May 22, 2020

By Bella Carles

“The best time to make a rock n’ roll record is when you’re broke and pissed off,” says Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Leslie Mendelson. “I deal with depression and anxiety, and I’ve never really sang about it before. So, I got into a room with my demons and we hit record.”

Photo by: Shervin Lainez

The resulting album, ‘If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…,’ is viscerally themed, imaginatively arranged, and sonically dynamic. It overflows with raw elegance—a cornerstone of Leslie’s best work as a songwriter and performer. The approach to recording the ten track collection was largely inspired by ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.’ Along with that album’s emotionally sophistication and topical songwriting, Leslie gravitated towards its no-frills piano, guitar, bass and drums approach. Its influence is instantly felt on set opener, “Lay It All On Me,” a love song at its core that finds the narrator looking to absorb the burden of a lover overwhelmed by the stresses of a world gone mad (Video Below). The dangers of pharmaceutical addiction pervade the intimately reflective ballad, “Medication,” while “Would You Give Up Your Gun?” removes the politics from the gun rights debate to pose a stark question based solely on one’s humanity. On the haunting yet ultimately inspirational ballad, “I Need Something To Care About,” the narrator makes a plea to rise above numbing depression caused by overexposure to modern media in all of its varying forms. Conversely, the album’s title track, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…” is a blast of old school, downtown NYC attitude and garage rock swagger. 

Stream the album Here

“We all want a purpose, and when we feel we have nothing to say, it’s scary, and you fight that by searching,” Leslie reveals. “When you share something this vulnerable you do get some comfort because you realize it resonates with others and that you’re not alone. People need art, they need music, they need songs. It’s a healing service.”

Leslie Mendelson has released two prior albums, including her Grammy Award-nominated debut, ‘Swan Feathers’, and her more acoustic-based sophomore follow-up, ‘Love & Murder.’ In 2019, Leslie and her longtime writing partner Steve McEwan collaborated with Jackson Browne on the stirring composition, “A Human Touch” that was featured in the acclaimed documentary film, ‘5B,’ about the San Francisco General Hospital AIDS ward during the early ’80s. Leslie and Jackson performed the song together at the Beacon Theatre in NYC in June 2019, while she joined him throughout his West Coast tour in August 2019. In addition, Leslie had the distinct honor of opening for The Who twice at Madison Square Garden in May and September 2019.

Leslie will be performing live on our Alice Tea Party tonight 5/22 at 5:10 PM EST

Bands play 20-minute sets + a “virtual” tip jar so you can support our musicians

10% goes to Music Cares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Register using the link below or catch us on Twitch!

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYrc-qorj4qGN09h9likKNUF2PLZ2M81DNn⁠⁠

Find Leslie Mendelson

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Rising artist and producer John-Robert releases his debut EP, Bailey Barley Knew Me today via Nice Life Recording Company and Warner Records. Listen to Bailey Barley Knew Me HERE.

About Bailey Barely Knew Me, the influential music blog Earmilk proclaimed that the EP “beautifully fuses together haunting melodies with an endearing voice that leaves listeners utterly mesmerized.” Last month, John-Robert released “Pelican” and the accompanying video directed by Brockhampton collaborator Spencer Ford.   In March, he released the vulnerable “Urs” which Idolator proclaimed “displays craftsmanship and conviction that belies his age and the subject matter.”  Just over a year ago, John-Robert made his debut with the original track “Adeline,” an Americana patchwork of delicate folk, haunting soul, and understated pop.  “Adeline” has amassed over 1 million streams and received early acclaim from OnesToWatch, who said “John-Robert’s stripped-back style is utterly refreshing and comforting.”  All three songs appear on Bailey Barely Knew Me along with “Love Won’t You Stay” and “Friends.

The 19-year old also reveals an intimate acoustic video for new track “Love Won’t You Stay” which was filmed in his Shenandoah Valley hometown of Edinburg, Virginia, where he is currently spending quarantine.

John-Robert explains, “I wrote ‘Love Won’t You Stay’ when I was at a crossroad, searching for a sense of identity and purpose. At the time I was confused and frustrated to find myself between high school, and college, with no job; no plan. I began questioning my sheltered understanding of sex, drugs, and religion, while recognizing my co-dependent tendencies.”

John-Robert will also be preforming on our Alice Tea Party Tonight 5/22 at 6pm EST

Find John-Robert

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Nadine Shah will release her fourth studio album Kitchen Sink on June 26th via Infectious Music/BMG. Kitchen Sink is the follow up to Shah’s Hyundai Mercury Prize-nominated 2017 album Holiday Destination – a triumphant unification of a political message with an infectiously driving groove which received critical acclaim including AIM Awards ‘Independent Album of the Year’, a #7 ‘Album of the Year’ from BBC 6 Music and #5 from The Quietus. Kitchen Sink was produced by long time collaborator and producer Ben Hillier (Blur, Doves, Depeche Mode) who also co-wrote and played most of the instruments on the album. 

The first single from Kitchen Sink‘Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love)’ was recently released and represents the major themes of the album: what society expects from women. Shah talks about the track: “My brother was making a comment on sexism when he was younger and made a painting of a man embracing a goat with the phrase “ladies for babies, goats for love”. It always stuck with me, I guess cause it sounded daft but really because even back then I knew its true meaning and intent. I was also thinking about a lot of the songs I would have been listening to at the time, songs I sang along to innocently without question of the meaning. ‘Ladies for Babies’ is a direct response to ‘All That She Wants’ by Ace of Base. I reversed the gender and I poke fun at a husband who expects nothing more from me, as a wife, than to carry his child and perform the role of the obeying subservient trophy wife. Only this time the mistress is a farmyard animal. A lot of my album explores subjects of sexism and tradition. It’s not all about bestiality, I promise.”

With the same ferocious determination and distinct voice Shah now turns her sights closer to home with an album that explores her own story as a woman in her 30’s and the societal pressures and expectations that come with that. The album also tells the stories of countless other women she has met and their differing yet equally very similar experiences. Shah explains more saying:

“It’s a conversation between me and so many of my friends in our 30’s. There’s that panic that so many of us have that we are running out of time, when it comes to having children. It’s like when we were younger we all made our own timelines in our minds of when we thought we would do certain things. If you were to tell 14 year old me I’d be 34, unmarried and have no children I’d have never believed it. Lots of my friends I’ve spoken to did this very same thing.

My entire friend circle of women I grew up with now have children. I’ve watched some of the biggest idiots (I say that totally in jest!) become the most amazing mothers. I’m happy for them, properly happy for them. I worry for them whenever they doubt themselves and am here for them to support them when they need me. I’m proud of them. But you can’t help but compare your situation to the ones around you and this is what a lot of me and other female friends are feeling in our 30’s and 40’s. This pressure.

For the album I spoke to so many women. Women who want to have children and can’t physically, women who can physically but choose not to, all different scenarios. My good friend, a woman in her late 50’s chose not to have children and continues to be one of my favourite musicians and most youthful vibrant person I know. Her story is in this album too. Essentially I’m writing about so many women that I just love. The new mothers, the rock stars, the ones doubting themselves who need our support, the ones who are ill but show an indescribable strength.

There are traditions that were set out years ago of how our lives should be and that has changed completely now and I for one am so proud to be a woman and to be surrounded by even greater ones.”

Kitchen Sink is available for preorder now on CD and heavyweight black vinyl. There will also be a limited edition opaque orange vinyl with the artist store offering signed albums and exclusive merch bundles. Shah plans to play N. America for the first time in 2021 with details to be announced at a later date

Find Nadine Shah

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Singer-songwriter Shilpa Ray is excited to release a brand new single. “Manic Pixie Dream Cunt” is out today. She teamed with fellow New Yorker, renowned filmmaker Amos Poe to make a video for the track. Shilpa notes, “I wrote this song as an anthem to myself. It’s my ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ much like ‘Rebel Girl’ by Bikini Kill or ‘Edge of Seventeen’ by Stevie Nicks. I wanted to reclaim two derogatory phrases describing women/ femininity and combine them into something powerful. Nobody wants to be a pussy but everyone wishes they were a dream cunt.”

Manic Pixie Dream Cunt” is the first bit of music Shilpa has released since her 2017 album Door Girl. She is based in Brooklyn and her voice – singular in modern popular music because of its radiant imperfection – takes neither prisoners nor guff as it offers up continuous caustic commentary on the human condition. Hers are observations gleaned from endless nights watching people in their natural habitat.

Shilpa began releasing music in 2006 and a few years later formed the band Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers. The band caught the attention of music critics around the world and the band released 2 albums before Shilpa returned to releasing music under her own name.

Find Shilpa Ray

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