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It’s Midnight in Copenhagen. Sweater-clad Danes are packed tightly into a pedestrian underpass in the heart of the city, anxiously awaiting a show that is truly out of the ordinary (and likely illicit). Bass, drums, trumpet, keys, and voice echo off of the concrete walls, filling the whole chamber with the disco beat. A confetti cannon explodes, and hundreds of sweaty bodies shake their hips in unison to the sound. This is the spell of Midnight Magic, New York City’s larger than life disco boogie ensemble that has captivated audiences from Copenhagen to Colombia.
While today a Brooklyn staple, Midnight Magic actually traces it’s roots to Los Angeles. Morgan Wiley and W. Andrew Raposo first bonded over a shared love of Rawkus Records in a USC dormroom, eventually forming the hip-hop meets no-wave band ‘Gaijin.’ Gigs throughout LA eventually led the two to cross paths with Hollywood native Tiffany Roth, then lead singer of performance art group ‘The Come-On’s.’ Soon after Morgan and Tiffany began recording songs together, building a base for what would become Midnight Magic.
Andrew and Morgan were the first to make the move eastward, being recruited to join major label outfit Automato in New York City. By 2007, Andrew and Morgan were dividing time between their newly opened Midnight Sun Studios and playing and recording with many DFA acts including LCD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean, Still Going, Shit Robot, and Hercules And Love Affair. They also started Jessica 6 with fellow Hercules alum Nomi Ruiz before focusing their full attention on Midnight Magic.
Tiffany’s arrival in the Big Apple sparked the formation of Fidelio with Andrew, Morgan, Max Goldman, and Carter Yasutake. The addition of Jason Disu, Nick Roseboro, Caito Sanchez and Andrew Frawley made for a bigger sound, and thus deserved a bigger name. The band adopted “Midnight Magic” in 2008, and released their debut single “Beam Me Up” in 2010. Hypnotic drums, punchy piano riffs, and an epic vocal performance by Tiff collided to create label Permanent Vacation’s “most ecstatic moment”, according to Resident Advisor. Even today, the disco anthem is one Spin Magazine confirms “still hasn’t worn out its welcome on dance floors.”
The group’s anticipated follow up “Drop Me A Line,” also released on German label Permanent Vacation, solidified Midnight Magic’s status in underground nightlife. The “banger,” simply put according to Magnetic Magazine, let to the group’s first tour, in support of Cut Copy, and later Holy Ghost!. These two tracks laid the foundation for their debut album Walking the Midnight Streets, self-released in 2012. The full length, according to KCRW, takes listeners on “a wild ride” through over two years of the band’s material.
A forthcoming EP Vicious Love was released on October 13/14 by dance label Soul Clap Records. The new material’s darker edge puts the ‘midnight’ in Midnight Magic, exploring the darker realms of the group’s disco sensibilities. Coupled with remixes from Soul Clap, No Regular Play, and Dimitri from Paris, the release exhibits a musical versatility that spans from the DJ booth to the live stage.
TEEN’s second album, 2014’s The Way and Color, was a stunning creative breakthrough. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson’s voice is starkly highlighted, but the whole record is a conversation between her; Katherine Lieberson’s crafty, minimalist drumming; Boshra AlSaadi’s lithe, sinuous bass lines; and Lizzie Lieberson’s irresistible synth hooks. Now the group is back with its strongest release to date: the third full-length of their discography, Love Yes.
Born out of a creative process that included a dismal winter workshopping in Woodstock, a writing renaissance for lead-singer Teeny Lieberson in Kentucky, and a triumphant return to home in Nova Scotia to record, Love Yes is a lush, bold new creation that builds upon the group’s previous efforts and takes off.
On the album cover, the quartet is bejeweled in crystals and bathed in Venusian red. This red is the color of vitality and pulsing life—unmistakable traits of Love Yes. It is the iconic red of Dorothy’s slippers and Eve’s apple—potent with society’s tales and notions of innocence lost. In Love Yes, something else more mysterious and tender is gained.
TEEN was founded in 2010 by lead-singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson (Here We Go Magic). She self-recorded and self-released the beguiling lo-fi Little Doods LP the following year, then formed a band that included sisters Katherine and Lizzie, and signed to Carpark for 2012’s In Limbo. Produced by Sonic Boom (Spectrum, Spacemen 3), In Limbo encompasses everything in between sprawling, ethereal ballads and trancey but kinetic pop. Rolling Stone listed its opening track “Better” as one of the “50 Best Songs of 2012.” The Carolina EP followed in 2013 and was even more varied and accomplished; the band was growing by breathtaking leaps and bounds. TEEN’s second full-length, The Way and Color, mixes the band’s melodic psych with the sound of post-millennial R&B. The LP has its share of darkness—fear, regret, and loss are all in the picture—but it’s always redeemed by the sheer soulfulness and powerful ingenuity of the music. The album is a reflection on the aggressive times we live in, one that often lacks selflessness. TEEN’s response is one that uplifts and brings a sense of happiness and joy. Love Yes continues this communication, this time exploring the disharmony and empowerment that both sexuality and spirituality can create within the modern woman’s psyche. Universal ideas of loyalty, pleasure, purity, power, aging, and love are confronted with a knowable specificity. There is a quality of wholesomeness, but also an edge—a kind of wise anger and electricity.
Photo credit: Hannah Whitaker
Jamil Rashad, a/k/a Boulevards, is the embodiment of funk. Taking queues from pioneers such as Prince, Rick James, and Earth Wind & Fire, Boulevards seamlessly delivers cheeky, party-themed jams that range from raw and risqué to soulful on his debut LP Groove!
From an early age, Jamil’s father, a R&B Radio DJ, exposed him to jazz, blues, and R&B. This pushed him to get involved in the city’s local music scene early on in his youth. In his teens, he embraced the punk and metal scene in his hometown of Raleigh, NC; genres that would later go on to influence Rashad’s songwriting by way of their tight technical precision and power. After an art school education and several stints in local bands, Jamil rediscovered and returned to his first true love: funk.
Boulevards evokes a spirit from a time that combined intricate production with a focus on rhythm and getting people back on the dance floor. With Groove!, Boulevards does just that. On tracks like “Patience,” Rashad melds pop with vintage hip-hop elements – think Eddie Murphy meets The Sugarhill Gang – and it just works. “Cold Call” introduces a slow hypnotic groove before a symphony of synths, creating a rhythmic cadence that stays with you even after the party is over. However, to give Groove! Merit solely based on nostalgia would be a mistake. Groove! is not just a rework of a classic sound – it is an intelligent collection, an evolution to reign in a new era of funk – heard via the disco pulses on the tracks like “Weekend Love” and “Up On Your Love,” nodding to industry giants like Pharrell and Breakbot.
Bringing back producers Roller Girl! And Taste Nasa, who helped craft his critically received self-titled EP. Groove! delivers catchy songwriting, infectious bass lines, and plenty of hooks to keep you grooving until dawn, a clear indicator that there is still room for funk in 2016 – and that room will be occupied by Boulevards.
Photo credit: Lauren Gesswein