Currently comprised of founding member Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Matt Geravis, Charity Rose Thielen (violin, guitar, vocals), Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (keys) and Tyler Williams (drums), the Seattle, WA-based indie folk/indie rock act The Head and the Heart can trace their origins to a series of open mic nights at Ballard, WA-based Conor Byrne Pub back in 2009. At the time Russell, who had relocated from Richmond, VA and the band’s other founding member Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), who had relocated from Southern California were relatively recent transplants. Russell and Johnson met Hensley, who also was a relatively recent transplant, who had relocated the previous year to pursue film score writing. Thielen, was the next member to join, and she had recently returned from a year abroad studying in Paris. Williams had been a member of Richmond, VA-based band Prabir and The Substitutes, but after Russell sent him a demo of “Down In The Valley,” Williams quickly relocated to Seattle to join the new band. The last member of the original line, Zasche was a bartender at the Conor Byrne and was member of Seattle-based bands The Maldives and Grand Hallway. Interestingly enough, as Johnson explained the band’s name came from an relatable situation in which “Your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, you know in your heart that this [the band] is what you’re supposed to do, even if it’s crazy.”

Since their formation the band has released three full-length albums — 2010’s self-titled and initially self-released debut (which later caught the attention of Sub Pop Records, who re-issued it), 2013’s Let’s Be Still and 2016’s major label debut, Signs of Light with each record seeing greater attention and the band building a growing profile; they’ve opened for Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen, Dr. Dog, Dave Matthews, The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab for Cutie and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers among a lengthening list of acclaimed acts. Along with that, the band has seen quite a bit of critical and commercial success — their self-tiled debut reached #110 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 10 weeks with  Let’s Be Still landed at #10 on the Billboard 200 and each album has been well received, to boot.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the summer, you may recall that I mentioned that this year may arguably be one of the bigger years in the band’s history, as they’ve played the historic Newport Folk Festival and Coachella, and are in the middle of an extensive tour that includes stops at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, Lollapalooza and Central Park SummerStage last night.

Tonight the band is taking part in an Audience Network Concert Special, which will air at 9:00 ET/PT on DIRECTV (Channel 239) and U-verse (Channel 1114) and DIRECTV Now, and  to build up buzz for the special, as well as to celebrate what has been a successful tour so far, the band has just released a gorgeous and fairly straightforward cover of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” one of my favorite Crowded House songs, and arguably one of the best songs of the 1980s; of course, there are subtle differences — The Head and the Heart rendition has a slightly folky twang, Charity Rose Thielen sings the song’s second verse, which adds a slightly different perspective; and the organ solo at the song’s bridge is truncated by a number of measures; but considering the band’s history, covering Crowded House’s breakthrough hit here in the States is fitting, as the song focuses on persisting in the face of all odds. More important, their cover should remind everyone that Neil Finn is an exceptionally gifted songwriter, who has written a handful of songs that have held up 30+ years after their initial release.

As I mentioned the band is in the middle of a lengthy tour, check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates:
9.22.17 – The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA *
9.23.17 – Thompson’s Point – Portland, ME *
9.24.17 – Green at Shelburne Museum – South Burlington, VT *
9.26.17 – Massey Hall – Toronto, ON *
9.28.17 – Iroquois Amphitheater – Louisville, KY *
9.29.17 – Ascend Amphitheater – Nashville, TN *~
9.30.17 – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – Asheville, NC *
10.1.17 – The National – Richmond, VA *
10.2.17 – Red Hat Amphitheater – Raleigh, NC *
10.4.17 – Alabama Theatre – Birmingham, AL *
10.5.17 – Coca Cola Roxy Theatre – Atlanta, GA *
10.8.17 – Austin City Limits – Austin, TX
10.10.17 – Cain’s Ballroom – Tulsa, OK *
10.11.17 – Orpheum Theatre – Memphis, TN *
10.12.17 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO *
10.13.17 – The Blue Note Outdoors – Columbia, MO *
10.15.17 – Austin City Limits – Austin, TX
10.27.17 – The Anthem – Washington, D.C. *+
10.27 – 10.29.17 – Voodoo Music + Arts Experience – New Orleans, LA
1.31 – 2.4.18 – Hard Rock Hotel – Riviera Maya, MX

 

*w/ The Shelters
^w/ The Lone Bellow
~w/ Dr. Dog
+w/Phosphorescent
Advertisements

The Los Angeles, CA-based desert punk act, ExSage is essentially the solo, recording project of its creative mastermind, primary songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontwoman Kate Clover, who throughout the project’s run has chosen local musicians as part of her touring band, although with the project’s recently released sophomore EP, Total Devotion, Clover has specifically chosen an all female backing band. As it turns out, Clover had initially overlooked being the only woman member of the project, and she believes that it’s a highly symbolic (and necessary) change, that she hopes will inspire women to pursue what they believe in — especially grabbing instruments and kicking ass.

Interestingly, the project’s sophomore EP was inspired by a midnight drive through the Los Angeles area and she was driving, she heard Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” on a left-of-the-dial radio station. Returning home, Clover feverishly wrote new material — with a deeply personal mission: to be true to herself, no matter the cost. Additionally, the material on the EP is reportedly inspired by the work of PJ HarveyLet Love In-era Nick Cave and Black Sabbath while lyrically, the material draws from French Surrealistic poetry — namely the work of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. And although  “Under Your Spell,” the EP’s first single is inspired by Suicide, sonically the song to my ears, reminds me much of Only in Dreams and Too True-era Dum Dum Girls, PJ Harvey and Josh Homme’s renowned Desert Sessions compilation, thanks to a blazing psych rock meets stoner rock-like power chord-based turn towards the song’s last one-third, but the song is under-pinned by a urgent and insatiable desire.

 

(Credit: Violet Foulk)

Currently comprised of founding member Nick Wold (vocals, guitar), Marc Nelson (bass, vocals) a.k.a. Nelson, and Jacob Wick (drums), the up-and-coming Los Angeles, CA-based indie trio DREAMERS can actually trace their origins back to New York. As the story goes, the band’s Wold moved from his hometown of Seattle, WA to attend New York University’s Steinhart School to study jazz saxophone, and he quickly formed a grunge rock-inspired band Motive, along with Chris Bagamery, who Wold had known back in Seattle. Interestingly, after Motive split up, Wold had been living and writing songs in a Brooklyn rehearsal space when he and Bagamery met Nelson, who they recruited to join their new project — DREAMERS.

The trio’s debut single “Wolves (You Got Me)”  was released in July 2014 and quickly landed regular rotation on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation and was included on their Danny Kalb-produced, self-titled debut EP, which was released later that year. They ended the year with Alternative Press naming them one of their 100 Bands You Need To Know. With growing buzz around them, the trio signed a record deal with Fairfax Recordings and with a busy touring schedule, the band eventually relocated to Los Angeles; however, they went through a lineup change with Bagamery leaving the band and being replaced by their current drummer Jacob Lee Wick, who joined at the end of 2015.

 

DREAMERS ended 2015 with the release of their sophomore EP You Are Here, which featured “Shooting Shadows,” which was cowritten by Wold and Atlas Genius‘ Keith Jeffery, “Wolves (You Got Me)” and “Drugs,” among others — and they were wound up being selected (out of 500 aspiring bands) to open for Grammy Award-winning and-nominated act Stone Temple Pilots, during a select schedule of West Coast dates. Adding to a steadily growing profile, the band released their full-length debut This Album Does Not Exist,” which features many of the aforementioned songs and its first official single “Sweet Disaster.”  

Since then the band has been busy with a rather busy touring schedule that has included the summer festival circuit, and in fact, I wound up chatting with the band’s Nelson after their closing day set at The Meadows Music and Arts Festival at Citi Field last weekend. (More on that in future.) Recorded on my trusty iPhone 6s (so you do get the general ambience of a press area at a festival, including the 7 train above us), we chatted about the band’s formation and influences, as well as his advice on how artists can make a name for themselves; but along with that, Nelson shares a touching story about an incredible act of kindness by Chester Bennington during their stint opening for Stone Temple Pilots, and he updates us on Lil’ Trucker, the abandoned kitten the band found while on tour in Texas. Check it out.

 

New Audio: Andrew Hung Returns with a Plaintive Ode to Pushing Buttons to Get What You Want

Perhaps best known as one-half of renowned electronic music duo Fuck Buttons with Benjamin John Power, Worcester, UK-born, Bristol UK-based electronic music artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andrew Hung much like his bandmate has focused on a number of various side projects including  Dawn Hunger, a band he founded with Clarie Inglis (vocals) and musician Matthew de Pulford, production work, co-producing   Beth Orton‘s Kidsticks, as well as releasing solo material with his debut EP, Rave Cave. 

Now, as you may recall, Hung’s full-length debut Realisationship is slated for an October 6, 2017 release through Lex Records and album track “Animal,” found Hung exploring a more organic, lo-fi-like sound featuring a gorgeous and lush string arrangement, buzzing power chords, hard-hitting electronic beats and slashing synths paired with Hung’s primal, punk rock howling.  As Hung explains in press notes “Animal is a warning that oppression brings about consequences; we have bred fear and now we are reaping its effects. We cannot address the external without first addressing the internal.”

Interestingly, “Elbow,” Realisationship’s latest single may arguably be one of the more personal songs on the album, as it’s influenced by an experience Hung had as a small child. As the Worcester-born, Bristol-based electronic music artist, multi-instrumentalist explains in press notes, “Once when I was a small child and wanted to get a fake nose-ring from this shitty shopping-centre stall in Kidderminster but being young, I was really afraid of buying it. Consequently I stood there for a long while trying to pluck up the courage to get said fake nose-ring before the woman came out from behind the stall and told me to fuck off. I went home crying . . . ‘ Elbow’ is about pushing buttons. As for the stall, when my sister found out, she took me back and gave the woman a right bollocking.” 

Sonically speaking the song consists of a mischievous and almost childlike production featuring layers of twisting, turning and twinkling synths, swaggering, hip-hop-like drum patterns,  trippy blasts of guitar and swirling electronics paired with Hung’s plaintive and yearning vocals to simultaneously express the frustration, fears and humiliation of youth — well, of life, generally. But sometimes, you have to break out of your shell and take a ridiculous risk for the things that you really want in life, and the song serves as a reminder of that. 

New Video: The Surreal and Feverish Visuals for METZ’s “Cellophane”

As it’s turned out, over the past week or two, I’ve focused on a number of JOVM mainstays, who are set to release new material throughout the next few weeks — including the  Toronto, ON-based punk rock trio METZ. And as you may recall, the Canadian punk trio exploded into the blogosphere with 2014’s self titled debut and 2015’s sophomore effort II, thanks in part to a sludgy,  face-melting, power-chord based sound reminiscent of Bleach and In Utereo-era Nirvana, A Place to Bury Strangers, Japandroids and others.

The trio’s highly-anticipated, full-length album is slated for release tomorrow through Sub Pop Records, and the the album, which the trio recorded with the legendary Steve Albini at Chicago’s Electrical Audio Studio live to tape and features home recordings and additional instrumentation added by their longtime collaborator, engineer and mixer Graham Walsh back in Toronto.  Reportedly, the new album finds the band pushing their sound and songwriting in a new direction while retaining the furious and intense energy of their live shows — while thematically, the material may arguably be the most politically-charged yet personally written material to date, presumably at least partially influenced by life in the age of Donald Trump, and an urgent sociopolitical climate in which everything seems to be constantly spiraling out of control. “The songs on Strange Peace are about uncertainty. They’re about recognizing that we’re not always in control of our own fate, and about admitting our mistakes and fears,” the band’s Alex Eakins explained in press notes. “They’re about finding some semblance of peace within the chaos.”

“Cellophane,” Strange Peace‘s first single finds  the Canadian punk trio retaining the sledgehammer forcefulness, sludgy power chords and rousing hooks that first caught the attention of the blogosphere and this site, but there’s an underlying, hard-fought maturity and vulnerability within the song — the sort that recognizes that the world can frequently be an unforgivably brutal, unfair and frightening place, and that although there no easy answers, we can (and should) take comfort from others, and fight for them as much as we’d fight for ourselves. 

The recently released video for “Cellophane” was directed by Shayne Ehman and as he explains in press notes, the visuals “depict a sphere where consciousness is split, and a world of contrast unfolds. The resulting disembodiment disperses one’s spatial awareness and new kinds of empathy develop. Two become three, and it’s only half the story . . . ” Oh, and there’s an adorably goofy, rock throwing octopus, too. 

Jesse Medina is an up-and-coming San Jose, CA-born, Bay Area-based emcee whose life experience has helped influence him and his sound. Growing up, he moved from plan to place and was raised by various family members in different socioeconomic situations and different environments, frequently hanging out with skaters, stoners, hippies, punk rockers and others, and as a result he has an incredibly unique style. To celebrate his upcoming collaboration with Granjer Records, Medina released a new single, “Chasin’ Franklin,” featuring a guest spot from the renowned Kool Keith — and the track features the emcees rhyming over slurring and sloshing Mr. Aeks production comprised of layers of bleating horns, sputtering boom bap beats.

Unsurprisingly, the drunkenly slurring track is specifically meant to be a celebration of excess and hedonism as both emcees make references to drug use, drinking, womanizing and the like, while also talking about how dope they are as emcees. Naturally, Kool Keith’s verse will further cement the legend’s reputation for crafting uncannily surreal, out of left field verses with complex inner and outer rhyme schemes, while Medina’s fiery verses manage to weave in and out of the mix like a wobbling drunk. But underneath that, the song also serves as a reminder of several different yet necessary things — namely that there are a number of artists and producers, who are actively challenging and pushing the boundaries of what hip hop should sound like, and perhaps more important that dope emcees can spit bars over anything and it’ll be pretty fucking amazing.

 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based indie rock duo and JOVM mainstays  Surf Rock Is Dead. And as you may recall, the band, which is comprised of Chicago-born, New York based Kevin Pariso and Melbourne, Australia-born, New York-based Joel Wittenberg quickly won attention across the blogosphere for crafting shimmering and anthemic guitar pop with enormous and rousing hooks and a wistful vibe, and for a sound that at times, to my ears at least, channels The Smiths and several other New Wave acts.

The duo’s soon-to be released EP We Have No Friends? is slated for an October 6, 2017 release with a limited edition vinyl run, and interestingly enough, the album’s title is a bit of a running joke between Wittenburg and Pariso and a bitter half-truth. As Surf Rock Is Dead’s Pariso explains “when we formed the project, we would spend late weekend nights jamming and writing music, instead of spending it out with friends. Putting time into a creative project definitely can hamper your social life, but the idea is that the fruit it bears will be worth the sacrifices. ”

As If,” the EP’s second single, which I wrote about earlier this summer further cemented the duo’s reputation for crafting shimmering guitar pop but with some rather ambitious songwriting — while being decidedly hook-laden, the song found the band at what may arguably be their most anthemic. “White Salsa,” We Have No Friends?‘s latest single continues along a similar anthemic vein as its predecessor as the duo pair layers of shimmering guitar chords with propulsive drumming and an infectious hook; but underneath the pristine beauty of the instrumentation, the song bristles with a bitterness of a relationship in which the song’s narrator recognizes a confusing push and pull, and is resolved to walk away.

 

 

Live Footage: Brooklyn-based JOVM Mainstays NØMADS Release Buzzing Synth-based Mediation on the Fear of Loneliness

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brooklyn-based JOVM mainstay act NØMADS. And if you’ve been frequenting this site you’d recall that the duo, primarily comprised of Nathan Lithow  (vocals, synths, bass) and Garth Macaleavey (drums) spent the better part of last year writing writing and recording the material that would eventually comprise their sophomore album PHØBIAC, a concept album in which each song focuses on a different phobia, approached in an abstract, almost clinical fashion. Naturally, the material captures and evokes the innermost thoughts and anxieties of someone in the grips of a deeply crippling fear; but at its core, is a cautionary message for our heightened and uncertain times — that whenever we succumb to the irrationality of our fears, chaos and self-destruction will be the result.  

Throughout the course of the year, the duo have released new singles off PHØBIAC every month but recently the duo announced that they’d be splitting the album into two separate EPs — the organic instrumentation-driven PHØBIAC Part 1 and the synth-driven PHØBIAC Part 2. Last month’s single “Phasmophøbia” featured drummer Brian Wolf, who’s best known for his work with David Byrne, St. Vincent and the legendary Dap Kings, and focuses on the fear of the paranormal and of ghosts — both literal and figurative. Recorded live in Pittsburgh in the murky shadows of an abandoned Catholic school’s furnace room in one full take with no edits, “Phasmophøbia”  consists of a fast and loose, improvised jam-like arrangement featuring swirling and twisting synth chords paired with boom-bap hip-hop-inspired drumming which evoke a sweaty, nauseating paranoia. That shouldn’t be surprising as the song focuses on an ex-lover, who perpetually haunts the street of the paranoid narrator’s daily world; and in fact, the song’s narrator recognizes that his past is sickeningly inescapable.

PHØBIAC Part 2’s latest single “Autophøbia” focuses on what may arguably be the most prevalent and shared fear of all clinical phobias — the fear of being alone or isolated, as though you may be the last person on earth or being so misunderstood that you can’t find any common ground with anyone. Certainly, the fear of being alone influences our behavioral patterns, our relationships and our concept of what constitutes a happy, organized, successful life. Continuing the group’s ongoing collaboration with Brian Wolf, the track features twisting and turning synths paired with rolling and propulsive drumming while lyrically, the song’s young narrator gazes into the future through a picture of himself a lonely old man, who knows that death is imminent and unavoidable and while tinged with an underlying sense of regret, there the creeping realization that his worst nightmare will come true — that he’ll die alone, forgotten and obsolete. 

Much like the previous single, “Autophøbia” was recorded live and in one full-take with no edits within the murky shadows of an abandoned Pittsburgh area Catholic school furnace. 

Maybe it has to do with coming off age in the 90s but I prefer my hip-hop rugged as hell, so when I saw an email that about Heltah Skeltah‘s and Boot Camp Clik‘s Rock teaming up with M.O.P., my first thought was “I need to check that out — immediately.” Interestingly, the three Brownsville natives have collaborated together in varying capacities throughout the years, and “Fax Machine” features the three imitable emcees spitting fire over a menacing and hard hitting Ford Tuff and Pascal Zumaque production that features enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats — the sort that you can hear rattling from about 3/4s of a block away.  And while Rock is preparing his long-awaited full-length debut Rockness A.P., which is slated for release on Friday, he manages to pay homage to his late Heltah Skeltah partner Sean Price — while making a braggadocio-filled Transformers reference to how he and M.O.P. are like “the cannon on Megatron’s arm/And that ain’t gon’ change ’cause MegaSean gone,” that should remind the listener and any other emcee out there, that although Sean Price is gone, Rock is ready to fuck shit up in his partner’s honor.