Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, I’ll be exploring ‘SEEDS,’ a twelve track endeavor from the independent singer and songwriter Neonomora that was released in 2014. Hailing from Indonesia with an international upbringing, the performer cites an eclectic palette of influence, ranging from the likes of Radiohead to Florence + The Machine. This, of course, has helped her paint a particularly diverse sonic portrait on this debut record. Is ‘SEEDS’ an album worth having in one’s collection of excellent independent music? Let’s dig into the tunes and find out.
From the opening notes of ‘Bentley,’ the album’s introductory track, the aforementioned Florence + The Machine influence is abundantly clear. Neonomora’s bombastic, anthemic sound speeds off the starting line with a production that boasts quite the ‘wall of sound.’ While contemporary parallels like Florence, Mumford & Sons, and Of Mice and Men are all valid, I’d actually align ‘Bentley’ even further back: it has a Phil Spector sound. The drums at the two minute mark are straight out of ‘Be My Baby.’
‘Too Young,’ a track that boasts similar infectiousness to its predecessor, also has some especially fascinating new elements early on in the record. There’s an electronic influence that seeps its way into ‘Too Young’ in a very effective fashion, and it’s also the track where Neonomora’s vocals start to explode out of their cage. She can belt; that’s for sure - the range Neonomora exhibits on ‘Too Young’ is spectacular.
The titular track of ‘SEEDS’ showcases a softer side of Neonomora. “Don’t you ever want to love somebody?” she croons in the chorus with beautiful emotion as synthesized strings rise and fall in waterfalls around her. The track has an inherent passion to it, something that couldn’t be more apparent than in the final thirty seconds, which features an intimate, stripped down vocal section from Neonomora.
One of the stronger vocal exhibitions on ‘SEEDS’ is ‘You Want My Love,’ a track that’s actually at its most poignant in the verses when Neonomora isn’t backed by vocal harmonies or expansive percussion. In fact, ‘You Want My Love’ is indicative of a vocalist that could thrive in a few different genres: blues, gospel, and soul especially. I hope that Neonomora experiments with that versatility throughout her career.
‘Palace In My Dreams’ is one of the more obscure tracks on ‘SEEDS,’ at least, lyrically. It seems to explore a relationship that’s long gone by that’s still affecting Neonomora. There’s a sense of optimism to the track, as if it’s an inspirational ballad of sorts. This is contrasted uniquely by ‘The Man,’ one of the album’s most fierce tracks, and one that gives Neonomora’s persona some more edge. ‘The Man’ even evokes a classic vibe, like Neonomora is channeling a Mick Jagger influence.
The electronic influence on ‘SEEDS’ manifests itself deeper on ‘Fight,’ a track has electronic synthesizers in the vein of eight-bit sound production. It’s more experimental on behalf of Neonomora, especially in the wake of traditionally some ‘safer’ tracks. (Like ‘Palace In My Dreams, for example.) Similarly, the electric guitar focused ‘Verge Of Universe’ is the closest the record gets to pure ‘rock,’ and it’s a fitting sound for the artist that’s also quite experimental. Her intensity is accented wonderfully by thick, distorted bar chords, something that’s unique to ‘Verge Of Universe’ in this collection.
If there is a weak link on ‘SEEDS,’ it may be ‘Demons Gone.’ The track lacks some of the razor focus of its eight predecessors, blending verses and choruses into a larger, more droning monotony of a track. Its exclusion probably could have sharpened the sequencing of ‘SEEDS,’ but the ball is quickly picked up by ‘Republic 106,’ a track that toys with religious imagery, but does so in a truly fascinating way. (Goodness, there’s even a church bell somewhere in the massive mix of ‘Republic 106.’)
There are times when Neonomora’s music does begin to feel a bit safe. She establishes a sound on ‘Bentley’ and there are half a dozen tracks on this album where she doesn’t venture too far off that reservation. With that said, she has honed her sound remarkably well, and there is enough diversity in between those tracks to maintain a listener’s interest. Tunes like ‘Fight’ are notably more experimental as well.
The album does include two remixes in its final tracks. There’s a mix of ‘You Want My Love’ by Adhe Arrio that essentially converts the track into a dance track - a mix that may suit clubs, but listeners will likely prefer the superior original cut. There’s also a Devva remix of ‘Fight,’ a rendition that takes that eight-bit style and infuses it with dance stylings. It’s actually different enough from its original to warrant it being regularly listened to alongside the rest of the album.
Neonomora has put out a debut album that’s infinitely better than the majority of independent music that comes across my desk. The production is sharp, the performances are great, and her vocals are on point throughout. In order to be truly great, she needs to continue to innovate that sound. I’d love to hear her explore even more unusual stylings, and I’d love to hear her stripped down. This album does have a lot of production - I’d be absolutely compelled to hear Neonomora in a more bare bones composition that highlights her vocals at the forefront above all else.
‘SEEDS’ is worth the time of any indie music fan. It’s chock-full of enough influence to bring in listeners from across the spectrum, and it’s indicative of the beginning of a career worth following.