New Audio: Acclaimed Act Thrice Releases An Anthemic Prog Rock-like Single

Comprised of founding members Dustin Kensrue (vocals, guitar) and Teppei Teranishi (guitar) with siblings Eddie Breckenridge (bass) and Riley Breckenridge (drums), the Irvine, CA-based rock band Thrice can trace their origins to its founding members meeting in high school and playing in a local band Chapter 11. When it came to starting their own project, Kensrue and Teranishi recruited Teranishi’s skate park buddy Eddie Breckenridge to play bass, and Breckenridge then brought his brother Riley to play drums, completing the band’s lineup. As the story goes, before their first show they realized that they needed name, and hard-pressed, they decided on going with Thrice, an inside joke between the bandmembers out of desperation. Although they had intended the name to be a temporary one, they began to gain fans and people started to associate them with it, so they were forced to stay with it.

In 1999, the band released the First Impressions EP, which was recorded during a twos-day session at A-Room Studios with Brian Tochilin. Only 1,000 copies were made and the individual bandmembers sold them out of their cars. Working with Death by Stereo’s Paul Miner, the Irvine, CA-based quartet recorded 12 tracks, which eventually became their 2000 full-length debut Identity Crisis, which was released through Greenflag Records. A portion of the album’s proceeds were donated to Crittenton Services for Children and Family, and with growing local buzz, the quartet caught the interest of Hopeless/Sub City’s Louis Posen, who eventually signed the band, and reissued Identity Crisis. To support the album the band toured with the likes of Samiam, Midtown and Hot Rod Circuit.

February 2002 saw the release of the band’s Brian McTernan-produced Hopeless/Sub City debut, The Illusion of Safety. Much like its predecessor, the band donated a portion of the album’s proceeds to a non-profit youth shelter in South Central Los Angeles, A Place Called Home, with the label matching all donations. The album received generally positive reviews and after tours opening for Further Seems Forever and Face to Face, followed by their first headlining tour, Thrice won the attention of several major labels, including Island Records, who signed the band, after agreeing to match the band’s charitable donations in the same fashion as Hopeless/Sub City. After signing with Island Records, the band toured with Hot Water Music and Coheed and Cambria before returning to the studio.

Interestingly with the release of 2002’s Illusion of Safety and 2003’s The Artist in the Ambulance, the band developed a reputation for a fast and punishing math rock-like sound centered around heavily distorted power chords, rapid time signature changes; however, with 2005’s Vheissu, the members of Thrice began incorporating synths, electronic beats and a much more experimental approach to their songwriting that continued through 2007 and 2008 with the release of The Alchemy Index, two albums that actually consisted of a 4-part, 24 song cycle, with each of the four 6-song EPs featuring significantly different styles based on the classical elements of fire, water, air and earth both lyrically and musically. 2009’s Beggars and 2011’s Major/Minor found the band continuing to refine their experimentation and exploration of their sound; but after the release of Major/Minor, Thrice announced a final tour and a hiatus.

In 2015, Kensrue and Teranishi decided to reform the band, and by the following year, they released their first album in four years, 2016’s To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere.  Slated for a September 14, 2018 release through Epitaph Records, the band’s tenth full-length album Palms is their second post-reunion album, and the album which was co-produced by the band and Eric Palmquist reportedly finds the band’s sound encompassing everything from post-hardcore to piano-driven ballads, making it arguably the most sonically expansive album of their careers to date. Interestingly, the album’s latest single, the prog rock-like mid-tempo “Only Us” is centered around pulsating synths, enormous power chord-led guitar riffs, an arena rock friendly hook and Kensrue’s plaintive and earnest vocals. As the band’s Dusin Kensrue explains in press notes. “‘Only Us’ came from thinking about how easily we’re so divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’ when really we have an inherent ability to care for those in our group, and the parameters for who falls into that group are extremely flexible. It’s about how the things that we think separate us are actually inconsequential, and if we could broaden the idea of ‘us’ to include all people, it would help us build a more loving and civil society. “

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Earlier this summer,  I wrote about the Stockholm, Sweden-based garage punk outfit Sudakistan, and as you may recall, the band has a unique backstory: Comprised of Michell Serrano (vocals), Maikel Gonzalez (bass), Carlos Amigo (percussion) Juan Jose Espindola (drums) and Arvid Sjöö (guitar), the band features one native Swede — Sjöö — while the the other members emigrated from South America. And with the the release of their furious and incendiary full-length debut Caballo Negro, the Stockholm-based quartet quickly received attention for a sound that meshes Latin music — in particular, Latin rhythm, percussion and groove that’s part of the musical and cultural heritage of Serrano, Gonzalez, Amigo and Espiondola — with the blistering garage rock and punk of Thee Oh Sees, At the Drive-In and Death from Above 1979.

Swedish Cobra, the band’s forthcoming Daniel Bengtson-produced sophomore album is slated for a September 7, 2018 release, and the album reportedly finds the band capturing their raw and raucous live sound on record — with the five bandmembers recording in the same room, live to tape at Bengtson’s Studio Rymden, and with minimal takes and overdubs. As the band’s Michell Serrano says in press notes, “You can hear that on the album. it’s quite raw and very intense.” Interestingly, the material balances blistering fury with an experimental sensibility with the band expanding upon their sound — partially as a result of each individual band member’s role becoming more fluid, and partially through the employment of instrumentation beyond the usual punk rock/garage rock arrangements. “It was much more of a collaboration between the five of us,” Serrano explains. “Things flowed differently. Carlos sings on two or three songs, and Mikael sings on one. We swapped instruments quite a lot, and because we had access to everything in the studio, we were able to use some piano, some acoustic guitar and some mandolin, too.”

Lyrically speaking, the album is purportedly the most personal they’ve written to date — and although it’s not overtly political charged, the material does focus on their day-to-day reality, from partying excessively to moments of deep introspection, with each individual member contributing idea. “Our first album was made over five years, rather than five months, so the themes on it weren’t as heavy as this. Now, we’re talking about a lot of the things that we’ve gone through together since we started the band, as well as personal things – like, why do I keep repeating the same mistakes. We talk about pursuing our own Swedish reality, but that’s just because we’re living in Sweden – it’s relatable in any other country, I think,” Maikel Gonzalez says in press notes.

Swedish Cobra‘s first two singles, the furious and swirling psych punk/surf punk “Whiplash” and the mid-tempo, 90s grunge rock-inspired “Two Steps Back,” were urgent and passionate — but to me there was something sobering about the material, especially in light of a heightened age of nationalism, racism and xenophobia. Cultural exchange has inspired new takes on the familiar, new modes of thinking, new foods, new words — and more importantly, deeper empathy and understanding of our neighbors, of those men women and others from far away.  Interestingly, “Last Love Supreme,” Swedish Cobra‘s latest single is a swooning mid-tempo ballad with soaring hooks and explosive blasts of feedback that sounds — to my ears at least — as though it drew from mariachi, psych rock and garage rock simultaneously, thanks in part to a classic quiet, loud, quiet song structure.

Certainly, from the album’s first three singles, Swedish Cobra may arguably be one of the year’s most unique, passionate and downright interesting albums, and possibly one of the most necessary of any genre, because it affirms what can happen when diverse people and ideas intermingle and influence each other, and perhaps more important that we should protect and honor the immigrant and what they bring.

 

 

Comprised of singer/songwriter Aluna Francis and producer George Reid, the renowned London-based electronic music duo AlunaGeorge can trace their origins back to 2009 when Reid remixed My Toys Like Me‘s  “Sweetheart“. And since their official formation in 2012, the duo have developed a reputation for a sound that slickly meshes 90s and 00s R&B, synth pop, house music and EDM inspired by the likes of Flying Lotus, Chris Clark, Hudson Mohawke, Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah and Mariah Carey among others.

The duo has spent most of the past year working on new material — but in the meantime, AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis teamed up with young, up-and-coming Liverpool-based electronic music producer, songwriter and electronic music artist SG Lewis on the house music club banger “Hurting,” a track centered around shimmering arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and Francis’ sultry vocals singing about the raw, sexual yearnings of the post-breakup blues. Sonically speaking, the song is a slick and modern take on the classic house music sound, while revealing a careful attention to craft.

As Lewis says of the track, “Aluna and I met for the first time in LA earlier this year, and I was talking to her about the album concept, and in particular, Dark. Aluna has been a part of so many dance records that I love, so I knew I wanted to make a club track with her! After we ate burritos and hung out, we made ‘Hurting’ super quickly – the whole process was super natural between the two of us, and she has such an amazing ear for production.”

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Comprised of producer/trombonist Jeremy Phipps, who grew up playing in New Orleans brass bands, marching bands and traditional jazz groups; and composer/vocals Claire Givens, the daughter of an operatic singer and Baptist music minister and a classically trained pianist and choral teacher, who began singing in the churches of rural Northern Louisiana, the New Orleans-based pop act People Museum can trace their origins to when the duo met in 2016. And as the story goes, they were both eager to start a new musical project that incorporated the feelings and vibes of their hometown in a non-literal, un-ironic way while drawing from their own unique experiences — Phipps has toured with the likes of Solange, AlunaGeorge and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, and Givens’ work continues to draw from classical music.

“Eye 2 Eye,” the latest single off the duo’s forthcoming full-length debut I Dreamt You In Technicolor is centered around a regal horn line, stuttering boom bap-like beats, shimmering synths, Givens’ ethereal vocals and a sinuous hook — and interestingly enough, the song sounds as though it draws from Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Superhuman Happiness and Hiatus Kaiyote, as it reveals a duo, who have begun to receive attention for  carefully crafted and breezy, left-field pop. As People Museum’s Claire Givens says about the song,  “’Eye 2 Eye’ is about a one-sided relationship where one person is transparent with their feelings, and the other person hides away, restricting their emotions. The relationship could bloom if only the other person could open up and help to create an environment for true understanding of each other.”

 

 

 

Initially formed as a rock musical octet, the Providence, RI-based act Arc Iris have gone through a series of lineup changes that have cemented the group’s current lineup — founding member Jocie Adams (vocals), formerly of The Low Anthem, with Tenor Miller (keyboards, samples) and Ray Belli (drums). And as a trio, 2014’s self-titled debut and 2016’s Moon Saloon, the Rhode Island-based trio quickly received national and attention for shapeshifting grooves that drew comparisons to Hiatus Kaiyote and others. Adding to a growing profile, the members of Arc Iris have opened for St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Juana Molina, and have played at  major festivals like Bonnaroo, End of the Road and the Rolling Stone Weekender. However, just as the band thought they had beaten the incredibly long odds of the contemporary music industry, the gigs and opportunities dried up.

While most bands would have been embittered and called it a day, the members of Arc Iris decided to reinvent themselves, self-releasing their sophomore effort in the US and adopting an ardent DIY approach to promotion, booking and management. Interestingly, as a result of their DIY approach, the band landed a tour opening for Kimbra and Gene Ween, performed a complete re-imagination of Joni Mitchell‘s Blue at The Kennedy Center  and have seen a growing (and deeply dedicated) international fanbase.

Slated for an October 12, 2018 release through Ba Da Bing Records, Arc Iris’ third full-length album Icon of Ego was recored at Providence’s Columbus Theater, which during the 1920s hosted silent movies and vaudeville, and the album reportedly finds the band crafting vividly expressionistic material that draws from prog rock, art rock and synth pop and meshing wildly disparate styles and elements. Interestingly, Icon of Ego‘s first single “$GNMS” is a completely reworking and re-imagining of “Money Gnomes,” off their debut — and while the original version possessed a folksy sort of looseness, the remake leans towards Peter Gabriel-era Genesis and The Yes Album-era Yes, Bjork and sci fi, as the song features thumping drumming, soaring strings, twinkling synths within a shifting and morphing song structure that reveals several different layers of novelty upon repeated listens. But along with that is a arena rock meets movie soundtrack meets theatrical bombast and swagger and it fits a band that only confidently owns its weirdness.

You can pre-order the album here: https://grapefruitrecordclub.com/products?keywords=arc+iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Palace Winter Return with an Enormous Yet Intimate Ballad on Mortality

Over the couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about Copenhagen, Denmark-based electro pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, and the which is comprised of Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager can trace its origins to the Coleman and Hesselager’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work in a number of different projects, which eventually encouraged the duo to begin collaborating together. And while 2015 saw the release of their debut single, 2016 was a breakthrough year as their  EP Medication and their full-length debut Waiting for the World to Turn were released to critical praise from the likes of The Guardian, NME, The Line of Best Fit, and airplay from KCRW, KEXP, Norway’s P3, Denmark’s P6, as well as by BBC Radio personalities Guy Garvey, Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft. Adding to a growing profile, the duo have a Hype Machine #1 single under their belts, have opened for Noel Gallagher, and have made appearances across the European festival circuit, including sets at Guy Garvey’s curated Meltdown Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Sziget Festival, Latitude Festival and Secret Garden Party among others.

Building upon a rapidly growing international profile, Coleman and Hesselager released their sophomore album together Nowadays earlier this year, and singles “Empire,”  “Come Back (Left Behind)” and “Baltimore,” the album reveals that the act has subtly expanded upon their sound and songwriting approach with Coleman and Hasselager pairing breezy, melodic and radio friendly pop with darker thematic concerns — in particular, the loss of innocence as one becomes an adult, with tough and often sobering life lessons; the recognition of the fear, the freedom and the power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny. But along with that the material focuses on the grief of loss — after all, life is ultimately about accepting immense, inconsolable loss and somehow figuring out how to move forward, even if its fits and starts; and the confusing push and pull between love and lust and the resulting remorse, anxiety, and bitterness. 

“Take Shelter,” Nowadays’ latest single is centered by a dramatic and enormous piano riff, shimmering synths and a soaring hook — and interestingly, the song manages to accurately capture the dichotomy of intimately felt emotions and thoughts inspired by the enormity of life-altering situations; in fact, the song is a ballad about death and grief, and the emotional and mental shelters we make for ourselves as a way to cope with inconsolable loss. As the duo’s Carl Coleman says of the song  “It started with that beat and Caspar’s piano riff which felt kinda urban and like a place we hadn’t really explored yet. Then that droney vocal melody just kinda popped straight into my head. I felt the urgency immediately and knew it was a keeper. Some songs are like pulling teeth but this one was like a light-bulb moment.”

Coleman and Hasslelager, along with touring members Jacob Haubjerg (guitar) and Jens Bach Laursen (drums) went to The Village Recording to film an extensive life session of the entire band performing material off the album, and this version of “Take Shelter” is from that session — and each video has revealed that Coleman and Hasslelager have written earnest, swooning and heartfelt material that’s enormous yet intimate, and crafted in a way that brings 70s AM rock to mind.  

Over the past month, I’ve managed to write a bit about the Austin, TX-based trio Exhalants, and as you may recall the band which features Steve (guitar, vocals), Bill (bass) and Tommy (drums), a member of Body Pressure, can trace its origins to the breakup of Steve and Bill’s previous band  Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes. With the inevitable downtime that happens when a band breaks up, Steve spent his free time further honing his guitar playing before recruiting his former CSSS bandmate and Tommy to complete the project’s lineup.

Exhalants’ selff-titled debut is slated for release next week, and the soon-to-be released album is largely inspired by ShellacUnwound and Cherubs, while nodding at the work of contemporaries like MelkbellyKal Marks and A Dear A Horse — or in other words, the album’s material finds the band balancing pummeling heaviness with an infectious melodicism; however, the album’s third and latest single “If Only” is a slow-burning grunge-era inspired dirge, centered around pummeling drumming, distortion-fed power chords, howled vocals and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure. Sonically, the new single seems to recall Melvins, Soundgarden, Nirvana and Alice in Chains while maintaining their uncanny sense of melody.  And from the album’s first three singles, Exhalants may be releasing one of the hardest hitting albums of the year.

Throwback: Long Live the Queen of Soul

There are a number of incontrovertible truths in life — the most obvious is that people die. Some of us die young. Some of us die tragically. Some of us die when we’re very old. But no matter what, people die, it’s just what people do; however, there are some people, who have larger than life presences, and seem incapable of ever dying. Bowie, Lemmy, ‘Retha (and if you’re black, it’s ‘Retha and only ‘Retha), Keith Richards, Iggy Pop and a few others were on that list, and within the past couple of years that list has gotten shorter and shorter. When I heard that ‘Retha was deathly ill and in hospice care my initial thought was  “Well, she kicked pancreatic cancer’s ass, maybe she’ll do it again. I mean she beat back death — and only a goddess can do that, right?” So when I heard the news that the Queen died, it seemed impossible. It’s been several hours and it still seems as implausible as ever before.

Copious amounts of ink have been spilled throughout ‘Retha’s career, so there’s no real need to delve deeply into her biography; but what I wanted to do was pay a humble little tribute to one of the most influential artists of the past 60 years with some of my favorite songs.