SoCal singer and songwriter Genevieve Artadi’s new album is called Dizzy Strange Summer, a title which feels entirely appropriate at present. The summer, which is currently reaching its final weeks, has been nothing if not dizzy and strange. Yet most of the songs on the record, including “Living Like I Know I’m Gonna Die” and “Hot Mess,” were written in 2016 and 2017.
“It’s funny,” Artadi says via a Zoom call. “I was hoping to release it sooner, but the timing just naturally kept getting pushed off and then this whole pandemic happened. We were like, let’s just keep going and go for the release. But it fits.”
It really does. Much like recent releases from Fiona Apple, X and Sparks, the songs on Dizzy Strange Summer may not have been written about the pandemic but they certainly offer a soundtrack to it. Moody, infectious tunes framing raw, honest lyrics — the record will appeal to fans of trip-hop, pop and jazz. It’s the culmination of years of shaping her sound.
“I was always singing for fun, but really terribly,” she says. “I joined a band when I was 16 and we would record all the time, but my pitch would be above, below or in the middle — I couldn’t control it at all. But that’s when I started being really interested in music, and then when I went to college, I took a lot of music classes and ended up becoming a music major. I thought that maybe I would be a photographer or do cinematography, because my bandmates were in film and still are. But I decided to go full in for music. I developed a love for jazz and was in a lot of vocal groups. I met Louis in 2008 or 2009 and we started making music together. That’s when I started feeling solid about myself as a musician.”
That’s Louis Cole she’s talking about, her partner in the electronic music duo Knower that has been around since 2009 and released four albums, the most recent being 2016’s Life. Cole also appears on this new album, on the track “Edge of the Cliff.” There are similarities between the two projects, but clear differences too. The press release describes her sound as “psychedelic jazz,” which tells a portion of the story.
“I think it’s kinda funny,” Artadi says. “I do relate but I also think of psychedelic as having long sections of music, vibing out and stuff. My music so far is very: ‘Here’s a thing, here’s a thing, here’s a thing, goodbye.’ But yeah, sure. There’s jazz influence, but I wouldn’t describe it as psychedelic jazz by itself. I think it’s more like pop.”
The pop element is strong — even an introspective song such as “I Hate When I Can’t Feel My Heart” has a hook that sinks in deep. That desire to write stronger melodies is a marked difference between the last solo album and this one.
“I also worked with a lot of people to get the sound to be bigger,” she says. “The first album was really demos, and I was planning on expanding them production-wise, but I ended up liking the sound and felt that it fit the whole process and my mindset. The second album, I did the same thing as far as making a lot of demos, but then I brought in friends to come and play all over the record. Also, they were written in two different stages of my life. The first record was more during a time when Louis and I were working heavily on Knower and I was very focused on that so it was my escape from the perfectionism and scrutinizing every little detail. That was the first album. I would escape into whatever space I could find and be alone with my computer. The second album was more like, we moved into this house with musicians coming and going all the time, and it was like a free for all.”
The overall theme, Artadi says, is of letting go and getting lost in whatever she was feeling at a particular time. Stretching her brain, exploring outside of herself, and seeing how far she could stretch her brain. “I Hate When I Can’t Feel My Heart,” for example, is about a specific relationship but stretches out to general feeling about the same topic.
“I think something that is really important to me is listening and interaction,” she says. “There’s always something to learn from another person. I’m not so angry now as I was when I was in that situation. It was weighing on me and I felt like I wasn’t able to deal with it that well. But it was definitely a relationship where I would feel like the other person was talking at me and feeling like I was there to provide something for them. But now I’m in a different place and I would probably interpret that whole thing differently, as much as I would still think that listening is important. I think everyone had their reasons.”
While the lockdown hasn’t put the brakes on the release of the new album and singles, it has sort of squished everything together. Meanwhile, Artadi has kept busy playing piano, making vegetable tacos, and mixing a forthcoming big band record. Oh, and she’s been attempting to contact aliens via meditations. Yup, you read that right.
“Louis showed me this movie called Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind — there’s this guy called Dr. Stephen Greer, and he has a theory that technology and aliens has to do with consciousness being the force throughout the whole universe,” she says. “It flows through everything and everyone. The technology that fuels UFOs is actually all based on psychic consciousness transcending space and time, traveling through it. So, you can communicate with them through meditation. You envision the universe and then the galaxy, the solar system, where you are, and keep repeating those images. I’m totally new at it, but I just think it’s interesting. At the least, even if I can’t make contact it’s nice to go out into the desert and see the stars.”
Can’t hurt to try.
Genevieve Artadi’s Dizzy Strange Summer album and animated video for “All I Want for Now” is out now.