Beats Before Midnight – 3rd edition

#girlpower and genre-tornado in the underground music scene of Budapest

On January 6th of this very year, the 3rd edition of Beats Before Midnight took place in Budapest, in the underground cultural space of literary café, Három Holló/Drei Raben (Three Ravens). I was invited to this event by singer-songwriter Puzzls, founder and editor-in-chief of this website, who was also one of the performers of the night for the third consecutive time. Personally, I was so glad I could finally attend this event (even though going alone to any kind of event scares the living hell out of my introverted self), as I’ve been following it with one eye ever since it came around. Beats Before Midnight is basically a series of small concerts held one after another, as the names gives it away – occurring right before midnight, celebrating, and giving space to small, independent, aspiring artists to show and share their talent with music enthusiasts who are open to hear and enjoy various mixes of music genres. The initiative sprung out of the mind of Girl in the mirror, who was also the bubbly, cheerful and devoted host of the night, the heart and soul of the party. It was clear to see how much work and thought was put into the event not only by her, but all the other artists and the staff helping around as well.


I arrived at the location a little bit before the concerts started, so I had a chance to peek into the soundcheck and to see for myself a handful of the artists who were about to perform. On this occasion, the performers consisted only of female singers, and it really felt like a celebration of #girlpower and the uniqueness of women in the smaller parts of the music industry. All the lovely ladies who came up on the stage had their own charm, charisma, style of music and fashion sense. It felt empowering watching them perform with so much confidence; these ladies belong to the surface as well as the indie underground!

The first ones on the stage were Girl in the mirror herself, in co-production with SARSHA, the latter performing a self-made dance choreography and shining brightly while doing so. Her solid fanbase – a very excited, supportive girl community – could enjoy her singing too later on, which felt like a sacred initiation rite with soft undertones and mysterious vibes. You couldn’t even tell this was her first-ever performance, as so much confidence would radiate from her. Because of a technical bug during her concert, the Beats Before Midnight team gave her another chance to perform, this time without any interruptions, which was a heartwarming act to witness.

The next girl on the stage was ANAM ARIA, performing her song called ‘4REAL’. As a self-proclaimed, contemporary R&B songwriter, she was channeling her inner Barbie on the stage, with a stunning pink outfit from head to toe, giving strong independent femme energies through her song and her appearance as well.


Funny and being unapologetically herself would be the best words to describe the third performer of the night, ROSE MAY. Her boldness shone through as she wrote not one, not two, but three (!) of her songs on that very same day, just before the concert. Had she not told us this information, I doubt anybody would’ve noticed as they all sounded just as professional as all her other songs, giving off dreamy vibes with bits of longing. She was also rapping in her song called ‘Oxytocin’ and the whole performance was nothing less than wholesome.


With songs in various genres under her belt, the next performance of the night was none other than Puzzls, with a very enthusiastic audience who was dancing along and enjoying the ride through the wave of emotions provided. Sometimes it felt like being at a punk-rock concert, other times you could imagine yourself laying on your bedroom floor, listening to calm and soothing sounds, forgetting any concerns occurring in your life. I always felt like the songs of Puzzls could be part of any soundtrack of a featurette or a coming of age movie. She was also kind to perform a few songs not yet released to the public, one of which is inspired by the series ’How I Met Your Mother’. She really had her own way of handling the crowd, reaching out and talking to them constantly. And without being too biased, I must also add that hearing her songs live was a blast for me; her professionalism was indisputable.

Girl in the mirror

The night advanced further and Girl in the mirror was back on the stage, this time to guide us into a dreamy, fantasy-like world through the power of her music. The fairytale-like vibes, with heavy anime undertones and a mix of electropop and bass music were well-received by the audience. SARSHA was also called back to help in setting the mood, even having a full choreography ready for one of Girl in the mirror’s songs, who was so amazing that she even played the flute! I really loved her outfit which gave a combination of dark academia and anime styling.


Closing the event but continuing with the tradition of anime-like and electropop vibes, kkoneko was another face of the night’s musical palette. While unfortunately I couldn’t stay until the end of her concert, those few songs I was able to catch before leaving gave off the sensation of an adventurous night spent in the city, storming through it, while blasting music on the speakers of your car. The projected background of her performance was quite melancholic with various anime scenes showing the quiet, grey everyday life of people. With angel wings on her back and a matching angelic voice, she made me feel like I’m hearing Grimes at a rock concert, and even brought back memories of when I was watching the anime called ‘Nana’ a few years prior. It’s safe to say she gave a performance one could easily lose themselves in, in the most positive sense of the word.


To sum up this whole musical experience, Beats Before Midnight was a very inclusive environment, an enjoyable and safe event with talented and dedicated individuals who were not afraid to show parts of their personality, feelings, and to put themselves out there and shine before a crowd of friends, as well as strangers. Relatable and hard-working, it’s worth keeping an eye on all these talented performers who all have a chance of getting bigger in the near future. One more thing I can say is that I’m rooting for all of them and wishing for luck and prosperity in the journey of their music career.


*Photos of ANAM ARIA and SARSHA are by @encs.luca; photos of ROSE MAY, PUZZLS, Girl in the mirror and kkoneko are by @kitty.somewhere 

Twenty One Pilots: Cinema Experience

Have you ever felt so good at a place that you hardly wanted to leave? Have you ever had such a cathartic experience, that it nearly skyrocketed you to another dimension? I’m trying hard not to overpraise this, but truth be told, the extended cut of the livestream concert that Twenty One Pilots hosted in the middle of the pandemic, released in the movie theaters for one night only, has made me feel exactly like that.

It’s not surprising, though. I have been a big fan of this band for six or seven years, I can proudly say I grew up with them in a way. They aren’t just a band to me; as cheesy as it sounds, the way I always describe them is: they are a second family, a second home, as they took a very influential part in my long journey of inner growth and self-discovery. It always amazes me how their songs are so happy in terms of sound but so dark if you listen to the lyrics, as if the music is the body that withholds the pain, the anxiety, the depression or any other kind of emotion that the lyrics represents. And when those emotions become too much, the body releases them in the form of nosebleeds or tears or even deep, haunting screams which for someone who’s dealing with these emotions themselves, could be a cry for help, a safe space, a sense of understanding and being understood. I am so sure that Twenty One Pilots saved multiple lives by now and they are continuing to do so. This is the point where a band ceases to be just a band anymore; they are saviors, superheroes in flesh and bone.

The cinema experience was something else. It was a movie, a concert and a documentary all at once. The whole show started with a quiz on the band – not to hype myself up, but I answered all of the questions correctly – and continued with what seemed like a talk show hosted in Dema. Long-time fans must know that Twenty One Pilots build their discography around an entire storyline, which is just peak genius. So yes, the cinema experience had everything: Blurryface, Dema, the bishops and even our favourite little alien-thing, Ned. The most amazing moment, however, was when it switched onto the concert mode; Tyler sitting on a couch, suddenly bursting out the lyrics of ‘Choker’ without any music in the background, one hundred percent caused goosebumps on everyone’s skin . His vocals are just mesmerizing throughout the entire show. The songs are remixed, but in a fully enjoyable way, being new and nostalgic all at once. It is especially fun when the songs morph into each other and you begin to recognize which album they are from. Funny enough, I myself ended up changing my mind every time I heard a song, saying things like: “Yes, I always knew deep down that I am a Trench era girl” or “Now that I begin to think about it, Vessel must be my favourite album after all” or even “Neah, forget about it. I came in during the Blurryface era, this is the album I am going to stick with”. So yes, being a Twenty One Pilots fan is being unable to decide which album you like the best. They are all unique and each represents different states of one’s life. And this movie is, after all, a journey through time, through the lives of Tyler and Josh, as we do not only listen to a concert, but we get glimpses of where Twenty One Pilots came from and how much has happened since then. Watching the journey of their growth and expansion brings tears to every fans eyes; it is impossible not to acknowledge what these two, incredibly talented men accomplished with their love for music. The power they captured everyone’s hearts with is really special. Music, and art in general, is the best medicine for the soul, and this band is one of the most fitting representations of that idea.

I do not know if we’ll get the chance to see this version of the livestream concert ever again, but if we do, I advise everyone to just go and watch it, because as hard as I am trying, I just cannot express or emphasise enough how amazing this experience was. It never bored me for a second, even though it was a series of switches from the talk show to the concert, from the concert to Dema commercials, from the commercials to the production and behind the scenes of the concert – which is amazing by the way – and from the production back to the concert again, or even to the youth of Twenty One Pilots and their very first concert with a tiny crowd, which must have been my favourite part of the whole movie. Now that I think about it, the phrase that stuck with me the most was a young Tyler Joseph on the screen, saying something along the lines of: “I am not getting paid for this yet, but I really hope I will someday.” This sentence has shaken me to the core and keeps on inspiring me, knowing that passion, hard work and dreaming on a larger scale are always worth pursuing, as they can turn into something amazing overtime. 

All in all, I cannot say anything I haven’t said yet, maybe besides the fact that sometimes I even forgot I am not physically at a concert; the guys truly outshined themselves and seeing how much hard work, dedication and effort it required to bring this idea into fruition is truly remarkable. Truth be told, I entered the movie theater feeling drained and tired of life, yet excited to see something I know would be amazing, but in the end, I left with so much more; something I will cherish and remember until the day I no longer am.

cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air – Album Review


Genre: Jazz-fusion, Instrumental

‘cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air’ is Athletic Progression’s third album, released last month on Touching Bass (13th August 2021). The Danish-trio hailing from Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, reference the likes of Herbie Hancock, D’Angelo and Flying Lotus as inspirations for their distinctive sound.

The album opens to the simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar sounds of a ringtone. It resonates in a minor key with a descending cadence that acts as a precursor for the album’s subsequent earthy jazz meanderings. The 7 second prelude jump cuts to percussive bass kicks, introducing us to the distinctive drum patterns of Jonathan J. Ludvigsen in JUNGELEN. Then enters Jonas Cook’s ethereal keys and Justo Gambula’s bouncing bass licks.

There is a fury to the jazz that is interspersed with melodic narrative, keeping things hopeful and undeniably funky. The drums trip over one another in cascading rhythm reminiscent of the late Tony Allen and Afrobeat. The track OSAKA, clearly speaks to this with the footwork and uptempo bounce of the hi-hats and snare overplayed with luscious key melodies. 

The album oozes dramatics and the Officer Jimmy interlude recordings beautifully juxtapose the Danes’ sound with the new jazz that has permeated South London’s scene since the seminal work of Yussef Kamaal’s 2016 ‘Black Focus’ (which producer Eric Lau also worked on).

Cooked Ones, Pt. II  offers a sumptuous slow groove that earths the listener after the freneticism and intricate journey through DEBRA. The highlight of this album for me is definitely MOUSSAS FINEST. The soulful base groove and the high energy drums immediately had me on my feet, before it breaks down into rippling piano keys and rising bass lines. The discordant chords that end the track perfectly encapsulate the album’s title ‘cloud high in dreams but heavy in the air’.

There is a fury to the jazz that is interspersed with melodic narrative, keeping things hopeful and undeniably funky.

Although the album would be in safe hands as a jazz record this would be too simplistic a diagnosis, as there are undeniably cross-genre influences from hip-hop, afrobeat, neo-soul and broken-beat to pick a few. While I had the pleasure of first listening to the album on vinyl, it would be foolish of me not to state that this impressive album would be best appreciated live. 

If you like the following artists, then this album will be right up your street: Yussef Kamaal, Mansur Brown, Kaidi Tatham, KOKOROKO

Favourite Track: MOUSSAS FINEST.

Upcoming Athletic Progression UK tour dates: 9th – 16th November 2021

Highlight upcoming gig:

16th November 2021 – Touching Bass with Athletic Progression & Demae – The Blues Kitchen, Manchester.

Buy full album on vinyl + digital album


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Two-Minds – Album Review

Genre: R&B, Classical Minimalist, Electronica
A lilting falsetto voice breathes, falters and soothes on Two-Minds, the beautifully considered new album by Sheep, Dog & Wolf. Each song is packed with organic textures – clarinets, saxophones, flutes, and horns – alongside a balanced use of electronic effects and samples. Considering the number of instruments in the mix, you might expect a complete line-up of band members. Incredibly, the album is weaved together at the sole hands of young Aotearoa New Zealand artist, Daniel McBride. This reveals how the theme of isolation core to Two-Minds directly mirrors McBride’s music-making process, giving an immediate sense of how deeply poignant this album is. Amongst restrained wails and softly croaked melodies, McBride sings lines like “Isolation is my home” as he wrestles with themes of mental illness.
The depth of McBride’s musical storytelling is evident in Two-Minds, particularly when he weaves together music and lyrics through use of metaphor. Take the opening track, ‘Months’. If the music was an engine, it would be that of an old car left unused and in disrepair for too long. The key turns and the engine hums to life before it quickly chokes out leaving you in silence. A second attempt is somewhat hopeful. In McBride’s case, breathy wind instruments play slow chords with a tired energy. There is a sense of fighting against a heavy inertia. The ensemble comes in and out, each time trying to gather momentum. The first words he sings? “Months out of time/I feel nothing but this pain and exhaustion”. The rest of the album follows in a similar effort to overcome inertia as McBride asks of himself, or the music, or perhaps anybody listening: “Give me something/I haven’t been me in a year”.
Released in April of 2021, Two-Minds comes a year after the pandemic took hold, landing at a time when ‘not feeling like yourself’ was a symptom many of McBride’s listeners likely shared. McBride tackles the ugly multi-headed beast that is depression, anxiety, and isolation with catchy rhythms and memorable melodies. With a touch of dark humor and a quick pace from the opening track, McBride asks: “Who would I even be/Without my anxiety?”. The approach to scoring these heavy emotions is clever and can often leave you caught off guard. Take, for example, the track ‘Fine’, where words “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine…”are looped, growing from a faint background texture until it squeezes into the foreground. The realization of meaning is hard hitting as you consider the voice, echoing endlessly, is akin to the cycling nature of depression. The loop continues until the cycle finally falters and the rest of the song fades away.
On the track ‘Cyclical’, McBride sings “Stagnation/The screams come through the walls/I’m losing the day”. Despite these lyrics, the music never feels stagnant. Each song is a careful observation with McBride choosing to re-cast dark and deeply personal experiences as colorful jazz chords mixed with pop-sensibilities. The result is a highly relatable album that suggests mental illness could be more common than we think. It’s easy to assume that this was an album created during the pandemic when we were all feeling these emotions to some degree – disconnected, worn down, exhausted, and unable to get on with normal life. In reality, McBride completed this album four years earlier in 2017. This might owe to the reason why Two-Minds carries a great deal of authenticity; it draws on experiences that precede the current moment and will likely hold up for future listeners to come.
But it’s not all a foregone conclusion. In the album’s final track titled ‘Feeling’, a driving snare drum conjures an image of a beating heart while a rolling piano line gathers momentum. The music swells and with unbridled joy McBride sings: “Happiness as I find/I’m alive/and feeling”. Finally, we reach that high.
Necessary, real, and above all else, a pleasure to listen to, the pure honesty of Two-Minds is a much-needed album that captures our post-pandemic Zeitgeist.

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flwrs. & Girl in the mirror release Backpack EP

Genre: Soft Pop

Girl in the mirror introduces herself as a self-releasing Budapest-based track-maker, vocalist, coffee lover & firm believer in broken clocks that are right twice a day. She began with producing happy EDM but experimented with many genres over time. Nowadays she makes softer tunes. “Backpack” was produced in collaboration with her boyfriend flwrs., while some other vocalists jumped on a couple of songs as well. flwrs. is an indigenous producer from South Dakota, currently based in Oklahoma. He blends hip-hop, pop and orchestral elements in his songs and has released four albums and many singles since 2012 when he first discovered music producing. He is a self-taught producer, learning from the internet and from friends. He loves cats and wants to bring home every cat he meets.

Let’s listen to the EP and see what they offer:

The first track is “I don’t want to go” and it features Two:22 and leorinda, a Chinese/Vietnamese vocalist-songwriter based in Toronto, Canada. A love-hate relationship is described with smooth pop vocals and sad lyrics. The lyrics and melodies are complete opposites, the production sounds happy and bubbly but the words are talking about people who misunderstand each other and are suffering in a not so happy relationship. It is always interesting when songwriters approach their writing with this contradiction in mind which gives the songs a unique sad-happy atmosphere.

“You and I” continues with another relationship, this time a happy one that has different struggles, more specifically the issue of distance. Long-distance couples don’t see each other as often as they would like to, and being so far away for so long is hard on relationships sometimes. This song, however, is from the perspective of two characters who still love each other very much, and no matter the spatial difference, they keep waiting for each other. The words that pop into my mind when trying to describe the production are: cute, soft, video-game-like and heartwarming.  

Girl in the mirror and flwrs.

“Staring to the Sea of Wishes” is the third track, and according to the artists, it was born on the border of lockdown and freedom. We all can agree that the first few weeks of lockdowns were quite disheartening and demotivating. Reading and seeing bad news one after the other, experiencing people’s indifference to others’ sufferings and not knowing what is coming next took a toll on a lot of people’s mental health. In a time where half the world is burning, half flooding with water, half flooding with plastic and so on, there is a need for songs that help you stay motivated and hopeful. What is the thing that keeps us going forward through hard times and what would you ask for if you would find the Sea of Wishes? – these are just some of the questions the song arises. kim saesol features on this one. 

Track 4 and 5 are the same, but in different languages: “Butterfly Light” and “Lepkefeny” . As someone who understands both I have to admit that I like the Hungarian version better, and after I first heard both, I was sure that it was the one written first. Later when I received the press release, this feeling was proven to be correct. Right off the bat I have to say that the vocal melodies of this song are my favourite out of all and I also believe it has the most complex lyrics filled with a lot of subtlety and vulnerability. The words were written by poet Fanni Sütő and are about a blossoming summer romance when nothing is certain yet but the other person seems perfect in every way and you are wondering if whatever this is can have a future. The English version features leorinda.

The last track, “Neighbourhood puppy”, was released a year prior, when they did not know that there is going to be a finished EP. This is what the artists said about the song: “A cute song about how Sam met a puppy on the streets of New York City. Well, he had to sing about it because the puppy was so cute.” And what can I say to that? It is a cute song and who doesn’t like a happy neighbourhood puppy?

Overall, “Backpack EP is a sweet pop romance made of cute bubbly synths and soft sine waves, guitars and smooth vocals”. If you like soft pop and cute songs, do check it out:


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