New Video: Humble Fire’s Dream-like Take on an 80s Classic

Currently comprised of founding members Dave Epley (guitar) and Nefra Faltas (vocals) with Xaq Rothman (bass) and Jason Arrol (drums), the Washington, DC-based dream pop quintet Humble Fire can trace their origins to when its founding duo met through another project that was formed through a Craigslist ad — although Humble Fire started in earnest around 2011 when Epley and Faltas recruited Rothman, who responded to Dave’s Craigslist ad seeking a bassist with a memorable manifesto. And although Arrol is the newest member of the band, joining in 2016, he’s a long-time friend and DC area DIY mainstay. Interestingly, the band’s current lineup finds the band celebrating the individual influences that each member draws from, including bluegrass, classical, punk. hip-hop and pop through a propulsive rhythm section, plaintive and vulnerable vocals, shimmering, pedal effected guitars and big hooks.

The DC-based dream pop quintet’s critically appalled sophomore album Builder thematically touched upon physical and emotional experiences around loss and reconstruction, including the deaths of loved ones, failed romances and the shocks and stresses navigated as a band. Through all of those experiences, the members of the DC-based dream pop act have come to appreciate that reconstruction isn’t something that you can tackle on your own; it frequently requires a team. And in some way, Builder is as much about the process of putting the pieces back to gather, as it is about the relationships that can either help or hinder that process. Additionally, the album found the band thematically asking questions about changing identities — particularly, “Who am I now, in this world without my parents in it?” and “How can I take care of others without losing myself?”

Interestingly, the band follows the release of their critically applauded sophomore album with a shimmering, dream pop take on Tears for Fears‘ classic “Mad World,” that retains the brooding dread, anxiousness and horror of the original; however, the Humble Fire take is a decidedly political take, meant to explore the outrage and despair felt by people, who want to make a positive change when everything has become a Kafkaesque nightmare. In fact, the band sees the lyrics as proof the the personal is always personal, with the song reflecting how systems of oppression can destroy the soul and humanity of individuals and communities. And although Tears for Fears wrote “Mad World” almost 40 years ago, it should be a reminder that a timeless song always finds a way to resonate while subtly changing for a new time and generation

Directed by Jen Meller and edited by Raul Zahir De Leon, the recently released, dream-like video follows the band’s Nefra Faltas wandering through a maze, struggling to find and reconnect with her bandmates. Through her journey, she encounters some surreal and disturbingly symbolic imagery, including her own death.


New Video: Denver’s Kissing Party Focuses on Small Town Daily Life

Currently comprised of founding member Gregg Dolan (vocals, guitar), Deidre Sage (vocals), Joe Hansen (guitar), Lee Evans (bass) and Shane Reid (drums), the Denver-based indie rock act Kissing Party can trace its origins to when Dolan prematurely booked the band’s first show — without actually having a band to play it. With only thirty days to pull together the slop-pop band he had been dreaming about ever since he had turned eight and saw Purple Rain for the first time. Initially, the band wound up being comprised of a then-rag tap group of strangers that Dolan says he met “by fate:” Dolan recruited Sage to join the band on the basis that “her name sounded cool,” their first guitarist was a guy who worked at a local bank because he actually owned a guitar and Reid reluctantly joined, despite having never having heard any of Dolan’s songs.

Hansen replaced the band’s first guitarist, and Evans joined the band to complete the band’s lineup. Within their first year of being a band within Denver’s DIY scene, the band quickly became a local staple as a result of their described “slop pop” sound; in fact, their full-length debut Rediscover Lovers landed at #3 on The Denver Post‘s Best Albums of 2007. Building upon a growing profile, their sophomore album, The Hate Album received attention from Three Imaginary Girls, Filter Magazine, Skope Magazine and a number of other national outlets. The Denver-based quintet signed to local label Hot Congress, who released their third full-length album Wasters Wall, Looking Back it was Romantic, which also received a limited cassette tape release from Austin, TX-based Fleeting Youth Records.

Hot Congress also released their Christmas album, 2017’s Winter in the Pub and their most recent effort, a split EP with labelmates Bleak Plaza. The band’s fourth album Mom & Dad, which is slated for a May 17, 2019 release will be the inaugural release from the band’s own label BBYV, a Kickstarter effort that pooled over $5,000 from some of their most dedicated and devoted fans. And interestingly, the album as the band’s Dolan says in press notes isa 31 minute opus, featuring “everything [he’s] wanted to say in a record.” Thematically, the material reportedly portrays moments of small town life — the attempt to find yourself and your place, the attempt to find like-minded souls and desperately trying to make it through yet another dull, repetitive day, as well as debt, regret and heartbreak.

Mom & Dad‘s latest single, the 120 Minuteslike “A Little Star” is centered around jangling and distorted guitars, a soaring hook featuring boy-girl harmonies and while the song is generally hopeful, there’s a subtly bittersweet air to the proceedings. And while generally capturing the at times ambivalent and vacillating feelings of young lover — hell, of most love, really — the band does so with a much-needed earnestness.

The recently released video follows a young couple killing time and goofing off at a small town hotel complex — and while initially wholesome and sweet, the video takes a dark turn with the couple attempting to rob their local pizza guy. Much like the song, the video captures the day-to-day life of being young and in a small town without much to do.

New Video: Acclaimed Italian Psych Rock Act Juju Releases Glitchy Visuals for Sweaty and Lysergic “I’m In A Trance”

Perhaps best known for stints in Italian indie acts Lay Llamas and his solo folk music recording project Herself, Giole Valenti, is a Palermo, Sicily, Italy-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. Valenti’s latest musical project, Juju derives its name from a West African term, used to designate objects, such as amulets and spells used ceremoniously — but the Palermo-based singer/songwriter and guitarist broadens the scope of the term to encompass a mix of rhythmic psychedelia, ancient myths and Mediterranean neo-paganism.

Through music, Valenti hopes to tell the story of an on-going exodus from Africa that more often than not ends in ignored tragedies at sea, “a total defeat for humanity.” Inspired by sources of Earth magic and soil secret, Valenti’s latest project strives to turn that defeat into a celebration of spirit and modern psychedelia.

With the release of 2016’s self-titled Juju debut, which was released through Sunrise Ocean Bender Records, collaborations with Nicola Giunta in Lay Llamas, a European tour with internationally acclaimed psych rock act and JOVM mainstays GOAT and co-signs from Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue and GOAT’s Goatman, Valenti and his latest solo recording project have developed a profile across the international psych rock scene. Building upon a growing profile, Valenti began an ongoing collaboration with renowned psych rock label Fuzz Club Records that begun back in 2017 with the release of Our Mother Was a Plant — and last year, Valenti played at Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia.

Slated for a May 31, 2019 release through Fuzz Club Records, Valenti’s third Juju album Maps & Territory reportedly finds the Sicilian psych rock musician building upon and expanding the sound that first won him attention. Collaborating with avant-garde composer and improviser, Amy Denio, the forthcoming album’s material reportedly retains the unique blend of psych rock, Mediterranean Folk, New Wave and African polyrhythms but deconstructed with some of the material subtly influenced by jazz and other genres.

Thematically, the album’s material concerns itself with territory — and its physical and ideological representation on map. And unsurprisingly, the material sonically will further cement Valenti’s reputation for a globalist, genre-blurring sound and approach.

The album’s latest single “I’m In A Trance,” which features GOAT’s Goatman is a feverish and lysergic track centered around propulsive African polyrhythm, looping angular attack-based guitar, twinkling keys and chanted, call and response vocals. Sonically the song evokes a stomping, hallucinogenic voodoo ritual in which its practitioners are in a deep trance — while bearing a resemblance to Here Lies Man. The recently released glitchy video follows a hooded and masked man in the woods, foraging for food and running as though he’s being chased; it’s eerie and yet appropriately trippy.

New Video: Introducing the Forward-Thinking Electro Pop of Sweden’s they owe us

Comprised of Rane and Kris, they owe us are a rather mysterious Swedish duo of outsiders, who found refuge in music. After a fortuitous meeting, the duo spent a year playing house parties, establishing a reputation for crafting music with disregards to rules and precedents.

Building upon a growing profile, the Swedish duo’s full-length debut, Broken English & Sad Serenades is slated for a June 7, 2019 release and the album, which reportedly finds the duo reveling in unique arrangements such as homemade drums and old, analog synthesizers and draws from a wide and eclectic array of influences including The Beach Boys, Kraftwerk and others. The album’s latest single “Harvest Time” is centered around glitchy drum programming, blasts of scorching guitar, wobbling bass synth and plaintive vocals, and while adding their names to a growing list of Scandinavian acts, who specialize in left of center, forward-thinking pop including Lake Jons and others, the track is ultimately about tight hearts and high hopes about a new and better tomorrow.

Co-directed by the up-and-coming Swedish duo and Annie Hyrefeldt, the recently released video for “Harvest Time” is a gorgeously shot fever dream featuring two masked children chasing each other through the woods. When they come across an upright piano in the clearing, the kids play with it and menacingly pose around it before setting it on fire. Much like, the artists themselves, these two children show regard for rules or structure.

New Video: Copenahgen’s IRAH Releases Aching and Nostalgic Visuals for “Cinematic”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the Copenhagen, Denmark-based duo IRAH, and as you may recall, with the release of 2016’s mini-album Into Dimensions, the duo, which is comprised of Stone Grøn (vocals) and Adi Zukanović (keys) quickly received attention across the blogosphere for a unique take on atmospheric pop that’s ethereal yet earthy. 

Slated for a May 24, 2019 through Tambourhinoceros Records, the Danish duo’s forthcoming Mads Brinch Nielsen and IRAH-co-produced full-length debut Diamond Grid was written in between tours across Europe, features renowned drummer Seb Rochford, who has toured with the band, playing drums on all but one track — the album’s gorgeous Kate Bush and Junip/Jose Gonzalez-like first single “Unity of Gods,” a track that was centered around a sparse yet propulsive arrangement of twinkling keys, hushed  drumming, and ethereal and plaintive vocals singing lyrics about seeking oneness. Diamond Grid‘s second single was the Kate Bush meets Bjork-like”Siu Hinama,” which featured Grøn’s primordial chanting ethereally floating over atmospheric synths and propulsive drumming — and while continuing in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor, the track manages to evoke an ancient tribal ritual.

“Cinematic,” Diamond Grid‘s third and latest single is centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement featuring shimmering keys, hushed drumming and Grøn’s plaintive vocals, the aptly titled song possesses an achingly plaintive quality.

The Sarajevo, Bosnia-born, Copenhagen-based Zukanović and his family fled to Denmark, when the bloody and brutal Balkan War broke up. At the time, Zukanović was 4. Interestingly, in the refugee center’s playroom, a young Zukanović found a small keyboard and quickly discovered the power and tranquility of music. As an adult, Zukanović is one of the most sought-after keyboardists and pianists in Denmark — and he has arranged music for several Danish symphony orchestras.

Directed by Jakob Steen and Samina Bazai, the recently released video primarily consists of home video footage that Zukanović and his family shot during his first years immigrating to Denmark and his first trips back to Bosnia after the war. While imbued with an inconsolable loss over the people and homeland that he will never have again, the video brings the consequences of war and time directly to the viewer — in particular, a war that now seems both distant and yet somehow relevant. “We dove into the picturesque colors of the VHS tapes, and deliberately tried to listen to, and understand, the material, rather than manipulating it, or making it more aesthetically appealing, the video’s directors explain in press notes. “We tried to follow the song’s own logic and inherent narrative structures, as well as the associative connections between the sound, imagery and words.”

New Video: Lisel’s Gorgeous Visuals for Ethereal Debut Single “Ciphers”

Perhaps best known as one-half of the acclaimed JOVM mainstays Pavo Pavo, multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, producer and experimental artist Eliza Bagg has spent the last few years developing a prolific career in her own rite, collaborating with Helado Negro, Julianna Barwick, John Zorn, and Caroline Shaw and performing in avant-garde operas by Meredith Monk with the L.A. Philharmonic.

Bagg has stepped out further as a solo artist with her latest recording project Lisel, which grew from Bagg’s desire to turn inwards as a way to get in touch with her own sense of authenticity. “I had found space in the classical world that made sense for me,” says Bagg, “but I realized I needed to make something that was truly mine, that sprung from my own voice.” Naturally, that realization led to a year-long writing and recording process with Bagg waking up every morning to spend time alone with just a microphone and her computer.

“My main instrument is my voice, not a keyboard or a guitar, so I wanted it to be the genesis of every song,” Bagg explains. “I was trying to use the resources I had within me, within my body, to make something that feels true about the way we live our lives now, in 2019. That’s why I wanted to focus on my voice-I wanted each song to be literally made out of me.”

Bagg’s debut Lisel single “Ciphers” is an ethereal song built around a spectral arrangement of shimmering synths, flute, glitchy beats and Bagg’s vocals, which manage to be intimate, crystalline and achingly tender — with a plaintive yearning. Directed by Jing Niu, the accompanying video is a hazy and feverish dream that emphasizes the song’s plaintive and yearning quality.

“The word cipher has two meanings — it can be a coded message, but it can also be an empty hole, a zero,” Bagg says of her latest single. “The song is about the haunting uncertainty in the pathways that have been set out before you, and realizing these courses have become more ambiguous and disorienting than you thought – at best entangled, at worst empty. There’s also, however, the glimmer of trying to find authenticity within that reality – the background choir serving as the basis for the song is simultaneously pure and glitchy, faulty but still true.” Adds Bagg, “The video is set in three surreal, manufactured landscapes: a celestial beach next to a reflection pool, a dark space where a shadow figure mimics and supports my movement, and a river of red silk. My identity is echoed in the pool and splintered in the shadow figure.”

Over the past month or so, I’ve written a bit about the Helsinki, Finland-born and-based, Bolivian-Finnish singer/songwriter, producer and percussionist Bobby Oroza, and as you may recall Oroza was raised by a family of musicians and artists. Naturally, as a result, a young Oroza was exposed to a wide range of music; in fact, family parties and get together frequently featured his Bolivian-born grandfather playing Latin and Cuban classics on his guitar or his parents playing albums from an eclectic and diverse record collection that included early jazz and blues, Motown, gospel, doo-wop, soul, as well as Brazilian, African, North American and South American folk, and Nuyroican salsa, all of which influenced the music he began writing and working on.

Before completing high school, Oroza decided that he needed to experience and soak up the rhythmic source that inspired him the most, so he would up traveling to Santiago de Cuba, where he intensively studied percussion and singing. Since returning to Finland, the Bolivian-Finnish singer/songwriter, producer and percussionist has been busy producing, recording and performing music to make a living. He eventually teamed with Timmion Records’ house band/production duo Jukka Sarapää and Sami Kantelinen, best known as Cold Diamond & Mink, along with guitarist/composer Seppo Salmi, who have helped achieve his artistic vision — smokey, late night, lo-fi soul paired with Oroza’s plaintive tenor crooning over the mix.

The Bolivian-Finnish singer/songwriter’s full-length debut This Love is slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Big Crown Records, and album single “Deja Vu,” revealed a young, up-and-coming artist, who specializes in singer/songwriter soul that sounded as though it could have been released sometime between 1971 and 1974. The shimmering, mid-tempo “Your Love Is Too Cold,” which was centered around Oroza’s plaintive vocals, jangling guitars, soaring organs, a punchily delivered hook, punctuated with oohs and ahhhs, and a propulsive rhythm section , sounded indebted to classic 60s era Motown soul — while being a bitter tell off to an indifferent, careless lover. “Alone Again,” This Love‘s latest single continues the late night, Quiet Storm-like vibes, centered around shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and Oroza’s plaintive and tender vocals, as his narrative laments over another late night wandering the streets alone. And in some fashion the song nods at a bit at Smokey Robinson’s “Crusin.'”

“This song was inspired by the particular thought of riding alone in an automobile in the night when the streets are empty,” Bobby Oroza says in press notes. “You are as free as your gas tank contains but no matter how far you drive your past experiences will follow in every turn. We started off with some thematic references here. I’m talking about the lowrider sound. We wanted a track we would put on when cruising aimlessly around. It’s your own space then and the whole setup is prone to a certain philosophical tone. We wanted to catch a moment we felt we all knew.”





New Video: Gemma Ray’s Creepy Visuals for Slow-Burning and Gothic “Death Tapes”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Basildon, Essex, UK-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Gemma Ray, and as you may recall, Ray has collaborated with the likes of SparksAlan Vega and members of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds while releasing 8 full-length albums that have found the Basildon-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist meshing a number of disparate genres into what’s been described pop-noir, sideway blues and gothic folk.G

Bronze Rat Records, the Basildon-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter’s longtime label home released her latest effort Psychogeology earlier this year, and the album which was recorded at Candybomber Studios and Ray’s Berlin-based studio found her expanding upon her sound and approach throughout the incorporation of elements of sci-fi synthscapes, girl group dramarama, gothic surf disco, blues cantatas, Melody Nelson-era Gainsbourg groove, and harmony-laden reverb-drenched folk-pop among other things. Album single “Blossom Crawls” was a Stevie Nicks meet Phil Spector Wall of Sound-era bit of girl pop that revealed some ambitious songwriting, centered around a careful attention to craft.

The Basildon-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is gearing up for a 2 part evening of music that will feature two audio installations presented for the first time and for one night only — Psychotic Gemmation: A sonic tapestry process, progress, madness and form, which is a psychedelic and personal appendix to the new album and ‘The Gemmatron, an interactive instrument/choir generator. Musically,. the night will feature Ray and her backing band playing material from the new album as well. But in the meantime, Psychogeology‘s latest single is the Western gothic-tinged “Death Tapes.” The brooding track is centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, buzzing synths, Ray’s sultry delivery and some girl group harmonies — and while bearing a bit of a resemblance to PJ Harvey and The Black Angels, the song possesses a swooning, Edgar Allan Poe-like Romanticism.

Directed by Ziska Riemann, the recently released video is split between sequences of Ray wearing an elaborate headdress with her backing band performing the song in the studio and what appears to be a mass grave robbery among other weird goings-on.

New Video: Follow an Astronaut in Search of the Happiest Planet in the Galaxy in Adorable Animated Video for Mind of Max’s “Lost in My Love”

Max Weiner is an American-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist. His visual art is influenced by the folk and psychedelic movements of the 60s and 70s, as its centered by a bold and trippy vibrancy, while his music with his solo recording project Mind of Max has been comparably to the likes of Fleet Foxes, Paul Simon, and Bon Iver.

Following the release of his second EP, 2013’s Seasons, Weiner was invited to The Netherlands to open for Dutch folk rock act AlascA on a two-week tour of Germany and Holland. While driving to Amsterdam, AlascA’s Frank Bond played an album by the country folk act Plainsong. And as the story goes, Weiner was hooked by the melodic bend of the pedal steel, the delicate slide of the dobro and the close knit vocal harmonies of the band.

Returning home from the tour, Weiner began writing and recording demos influenced by the sounds he’d heard while on tour; in fact, he purchased a pedal steel guitar and taught himself how to play in a style that he felt would compliment his new sonic direction. Those demos would eventually inform the material on his full-length debut The Key.

Unable to secure a producer that felt right for the album, Weiner produced and performed the songs on the album by himself. Four years later, the album was finished. “Recording an album on your own can be a brutal process,” Weiner says in press notes. “At times, I felt like I was losing my mind and I wanted to call it quits. But I’m so proud of the work I’ve done on this record. I’ve grown in my ability to serve the song and not my ego. Above all else, I’ve learned to believe in and trust myself as a musician and producer. I’d like to feel that everyone can find something within these songs that identifies with their struggles as well as their triumphs. We’re all on a similar path in this world, and I hope you feel a bit of peace knowing you’re not alone on your journey.”

The Key’s latest single is the breezy, Crosby Stills and Nash-like “Lost in My Love.” Centered around twangy, country folk-like guitars paired with some gorgeous layered harmonies, the song is a tale of being so infatuated with the idea of having someone in your life that you miss the obvious red flags — and learning from it so that the next time you’re in that situation, you see it with clear eyes.

Featuring bold and colorful animation from Aishwara Sadasivan, who wrote the video’s story in partnership with the folks at The Wild Honey Pie, the recently released and adorably sweet video follows an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest planet. “We pulled from design elements used on my album cover and Aish’s vibrant, colorful creatures and world building brought a real sense of whimsy and magic. Her unique narrative of an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest player was a fresh approach and I’m thrilled to see it all come together so well.”