Marlene Oak is a Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up on a small island outside of of Stockholm, where she turned to music as an escape. Oak spent her teenage years busking on the streets of Stockholm’s Old Town, and was serendipitously discovered by someone, who just happened to pass by and catch her playing. After releasing a couple of singles, which helped to develop a reputation for a sound and approach that’s influenced by Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell,Nina Simone and Janis Joplin, the Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist built a following playing shows across her homeland at pubs, clubs and elsewhere, opening for the likes of Miss Li,Whitney Rose and Susto, as well as playing sets at Way Out West Festival, STHLM Americana and Irisfestivalen.
The up-and-coming, Swedish singer/songwriter’s latest single “In The Evening” is centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement of Oak’s soulful and plaintive vocals, accompanied by a strummed, electric guitar fed through gentle amount of reverb. Of course, such a sparse arrangement forces your attention on Oak’s vocals and lyrics — in particular, as the song focuses on heartbreak, sorrow, achingly lonely nights and desperately figuring out some way to move forward with your life. Recorded in one take, the song possesses a you-were-there immediacy which helps pack a walloping emotional punch.
“When I recorded ‘In The Evening’, I wanted to record everything on one take — without a click. And that’s what I did,” Oak says in press notes. “I aimed for keeping the same feeling to the song as I had when I wrote it, and I wanted to sing the words as if they were my last.”
Born Ian Matthais Bavitz in Syosset, NY, the Portland, OR-based emcee and producer Aesop Rock was at the forefront of a collection of underground and alt hip-hop acts that emerged during the late 1990s and early 2000s with his most boundary pushing work being released through El-P‘s Definitive Jux Records. Aesop Rock has also developed a reputation for being a go-to collaborator, as he is the member of a number of different musical projects including The Weathermen, Hail Mary Mallon with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz, The Uncluded with Kimya Dawson and Two of Every Animal with Cage. Throughout his career, the Syosset-born, Portland-based emcee and producer has been largely considered one of the more verbose emcees, known for a flow that’s centered by dense and abstract wordplay and incredibly complex rhyme schemes.
Over the past decade, the Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter TOBACCO (born Thomas Fec) as a solo artist and as the frontman and primary songwriter of Black Moth Super Rainbow has used analog synths and tape machines to record material that rapidly alternates between absurdly bright beauty and the murderously sinister in a way that evokes a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement and pleasure. Interestingly, the duo’s collaboration Malibu Ken can trace its origins back to when TOBACCO and Aesop Rock toured together over a decade ago. “I find his production to be something special, and always wanted to see what I could bring to it,” Aesop Rock says in press notes. ” We recently found time to record some songs, and Malibu Ken was born. I brought a few stories to the table, but also did my best to let the production dictate the subject matter throughout. We hope you like the soup.” Rhymesayers Entertainment will be releasing the duo’s self-titled, full-length debut on January 18, 2019, and as you may recall, the self-titled album’s first single “Acid King” was arguably one of the most forward-thinking, strangest, boundary pushing hip-hop tracks I’ve heard in some time. Sonically, Aesop Rock spit a series of dense, mind-spinning bars full of absurd and gory imagery, betrayals and heartbreaks over a woozy and menacing retro-futuristic production centered around layers of shimmering and arpeggiated synths.
“Corn Maze,” the album’s second and latest single is centered around a dense and junky, retro-futuristic production featuring layers of fluttering, shimmering and woozily whirring synths, thumping beats and anthemic hooks — while Aesop Rock spits dense bars with odd, novelistic detail, describing a narrator who’s an anti-social and paranoid fuck-up. And as a result, the song evokes a sweaty, half-remembered insomniac dream that’s managed to linger.
The recently released video, directed by frequent Aesop Rock collaborator Rob Shaw, depicts Aesop Rock in an insomniac daze in which the late night Japanimation-inspired cartoons he starts watching seem to suddenly become self-aware, commenting on the ridiculousness of their situation. It’s a trippy mix of live action, cheap animation and 80s animation that further emphasizes the song’s junky, retro-futurism.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe, and as you may recall, the act which was founded by primary songwriters Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan can trace their origins to when they met at a party, where they bonded over their experiences playing in a number of local bands in which they felt as though they was pressure to fit into a particular scene through a certain way of playing or looking — and they hated it immensely, feeling that it was unnatural and unnecessarily labored.
Moorhouse and Duncan became busking partners, playing in the London Underground. And in those days, they enjoyed the simple pleasure of playing music they loved — mostly early rock, early Beatles and the like — and earning cash while doing so. They noticed a profound simpatico and began to play their own original material. “We had a very clear idea of what we wanted. For things to be simple, based around songs that are unashamed in their directness, and that we love: The Cure, U2, Springsteen and The Stones. We’d spend years playing through these on the tube, realising you don’t need to break the mould. Its best to ignore all the voices telling you that you need to for the sake of it, and go for something deeper,” the duo explained in press notes. And with Ten Fe, Moorhouse and Duncan wanted to focus primarily on the song with style serving the song —and while centered around rousingly anthemic hooks, their sound is often difficult to describe as it possesses elements of the classic Manchester sound, Brit Pop, electro pop, contemporary indie rock and 70s AM rock.
The pair spent the next two years writing, revising and recording in each other’s bedrooms, including prolonged writing sessions at Duncan’s dad’s house in Walsall, UK, relentless busking, hustling and saving, and an impossibly lengthy list of band members and producers before they signed a publishing deal and briefly relocated to Berlin, where they recorded their Ewan Pearson-produced full-length debut effort Hit the Light. “Its no coincidence that the name of this band means ‘have faith’” says Leo Duncan. After spending 18 months touring to support their critically applauded full-length debut effort Hit the Light, the project officially expanded into a full-fledged band with the permanent additions of touring members Rob Shipley (bass) and Johnny Drain (keys), who are two of Duncan’s oldest friends from Walsall, and Alex Hammond (drums).
As the story goes, the members of the band felt a renewed sense of confidence when it came to preparing to write and work on their follow up effort Future Perfect, Present Tense. They set up shop in a vacant driving license office in East London, where the majority of the writing was done, and as they were nearing the end, they went to Oslo, Norway where they tracked the material before returning to London to finish the album with producer Luke Smith, who has worked with Foals, Depeche Mode, Petite Noir, and Anna of the North— and mixed by Craig Silvey, who has worked with Arcade Fire, Florence & The Machine and Amen Dunes. Thematically, the material reportedly is a mediation on everything that has brought them all to the point of their sophomore album, and everything they’ve willingly (and perhaps unwillingly) left behind in actually getting there.
The album’s second single “Won’t Happen” was centered around jangling guitars, a bouyant groove and a soaring, arena friendly hook while Duncan laments and repents for his past indiscretions — although it’s difficult to determine who he’s repenting to: is it a lover? or to himself? But one thing is certain, there’s a sobering sense of the passing of time and what it means to get older, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser. “No Night Lasts Forever” The album’s third was an atmospheric track that hints at New Order and Unforgettable Fire-era U2 but with a soaring hook; however, emotionally the track may arguably be the most ambivalent and uncertain they’ve ever written. As the band notes “There was a debate when we were writing the song as to whether that’s an optimistic or a pessimistic statement. But we decided we liked the ambiguity — that it didn’t have to be one or the other.” Future Perfect, Present Tense‘s fourth and latest single “Echo Park” is a breezy yet mournful track that will remind the listener of 70s AM rock. Interestingly, as the band notes, the song is a conversation between two friends, in which the song’s narrator spends the song offering his lovelorn friend some advice: “Don’t ache too long for the woman, who led your heart to break.” But it can also be read as a song about a band, who finally made it out to California, after years of busting their asses and while painfully lonely and surreal in that way all new places are, each member of the band recognizes that they share that strange experience together — and that they’d always have it no matter what.
“It was written shortly after getting back from our tour of the States last year,” the members of the band explain. “We’d spent the last few days staying in an apartment in Echo Park, and hanging out in different places around the city, always driving around with the radio on. Our heads were still very much in that place when we returned home, and the more sultry feel of this song was evocative of that time.”
The band will be embarking on a Stateside tour to support their highly-anticipated sophomore effort and it’ll begin with a March 19, 2019 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Throughout this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstay David Alexander, an internationally renowned Malmo, Sweden-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer and electronic music artist, best known for his solo electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart. Over the past year, Alexander has released a single of the month series, 12 Songs of Summer, and according to the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music producer and electronic music artist the series allows him to “show people what I am currently working on instead do what I was doing two years ago, which can be the case if you release an album. It’s definitely a way of challenging myself, thinking less and having more fun creating music!”
The series last single “Touch” is a woozy bit of Teddy Riley and Timbaland-era R&B influenced synth pop centered around arpeggiated keys, wobbling bass, an infectious hook and Alexander’s tender falsetto — and reportedly influenced by Toro Y Moi and Animal Collective, the new single is swooning yet dance floor friendly bit of pop that feels and sounds mischievously anachronistic, as though it could have been released in 1989, 2009 or 2019.
Alexander will be embarking on a 16 date Stateside tour with frequent tourmate Brothertiger that will begin with a February 21, 2019 stop at The Knitting Factory. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Feb 21 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Feb 22 Washington DC – Songbyrd Vinyl Lounge Feb 23 Norfolk, VA – TBA Productions Feb 24 Greenville, SC – Radio Room Feb 26 Atlanta, GA – 529 bar Feb 27 New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa Feb 28 Houston, TX – Continental Club March 1 Austin, TX – Barracuda March 2 Dallas, TX – RBC March 3 Tulsa, OK – Chimera Lounge March 5 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room March 6, Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen March 7 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop March 8 Columbus, OH – Spacebar March 9 Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo March 10 Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA
Born Mathangi Arulpragasam, the London-based rapper, electro pop artist, singer/songwriter and activist M.I.A. is the daughter of the founder of Sri Lanka’s armed Tamil resistance. As a child, Arulpragasam and her family were forced to flee to London, where she became precocious a nd creative immigrant teenager, who her friends called Maya. As M.I.A., Arulpragasam emerged on the global stage with a mashup, cut-and-paste aesthetic that drew from Tamil politics, art school punk, hip-hop beats and the unwavering voice of burgeoning multicultural youth.
Released earlier this year, the documentary film MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A was drawn from a never-before-seen cache of personal footage that spanned several decades of the artist’s life, offering unparalleled and intimate access of her battles with the music industry and mainstream media as she became one of the most outspoken and provocative figures in contemporary music. The film was first released on iTunes and other digital platforms here in the States, Canada and the UK — and recently, the film’s producers announced that the film will be available on digital platforms across Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latin America, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scandinavia, Singapore, Spain and Sweden between March and April 2019 with more countries and regions to be announced. Interestingly, on the heels of the iTunes release of the documentary, the acclaimed Sri Lankan-born, London-based electro pop artist released a previously unreleased song and music video from her archives, “Reload.”
Originally recorded in 2004, before the release of her critically acclaimed full-length debut Galang, “Reload” was cowritten by Elastica‘s Justine Frischmann, who wrote the beats by experimenting with a Roland 505 beat machine with Arulpragasam writing the lyrics — before Arulpragasam began writing and recording as M.I.A. The song is brash, swaggering mix of thumping hip hop, electro pop, feminist art punk that’s dance floor friendly while revealing an artist, who was just about to come into her own as an artist.
The video was shot in Justine Frischmann’s basement and features Maya with her friends Rudy, Marsha and Deborah dancing to the song. It captures a brash confidence of young women, fucking around and grooving to their favorite song, while slapping fuckbois and douchebags away.
Boy Bamboo is a mysterious, up-and-coming Paris-based singer/songwriter and electro pop artist, and his latest single “Lola” finds the Parisian pop artist pairing his sultry and yearning falsetto with a stark and modern production centered around shimmering guitar chords, thumping beats and arpeggiated synths. It’s sleek and incredibly contemporary — and in a way that recalls Steven A. Clark‘s Fornication Under Consent of the King, Blood Orange and others.
The recently released video for “Lola” is arguably one of the most unique videos I’ve seen this year as it stars the Parisian artist, bending and blurring gender roles as he’s dressed in white and touching his body — but as the video progresses, something is disastrously wrong. It ends suggesting that the video’s protagonist has just had a miscarriage.
Featuring founding members Riley Hawk (guitar, vocals) and Bruce McDonnell (drums), the Southern California-Based trio Warish formed earlier this year, when its founding members wanted to try their hand at something a bit more distinct than they’d previous done. “We wanted to do simpler riffs and a fun live show,” Hawk explains in press notes. “A little more punk, a little bit of grunge… a little evil-ish.” Sonically, their sound reportedly draws from a variety of things — early Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, Incesticide-era Nirvana, Static Age-era Misfits. With “Fight,” the first single off their self-titled debut EP, slated for a February 19, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records, the trio quickly make their presence known as the song is centered around Hawk’s effects-laden vocals, enormous grunge rock meet thrash punk power chords, pummeling drumming, mosh pit friendly hooks and an aggressively sleazy, Troma Films-like vibe — and it’s fucking awesome.
Primarily centered around founding and core members Adam Franklin (vocals, guitar) and Jimmy Hartridge (guitar, vocals) and currently featuring Mikey Jones (drums, vibes) and revolving bassists Mick Quinn and Ben Ellis, the renowned Oxford, UK-based alt rock/shoegazer act Swervedriver formed back in 1989. And during their initial run between 1989 and 1998, the band released four full-length albums — 1991’s Raise, 1993’s Mezcal Head, 1995’s Ejector Seat Reservation and 1998’s 99th Dream — while going through a number of lineup changes, management changes and different labels.
Interestingly by 1993, the band’s lineup settled to include Franklin, Hartridge, Jez Hindmarsh (drums) and Steve George (bass), and with that lineup they developed a reputation for having a much heavier sound than their shoegazer contemporaries — although over the last five years of the band’s initial run, their sound eventually evolved to include elements of psychedelia, pop and indie rock.
The members of Swervedriver’s longest tenured lineup went on a lengthy hiatus in 1998 in which the individual members went on to pursue a variety of professional and creative pursuits. Franklin embarked on a solo career that would rival Swervedriver’s creative output, first fronting he experimental electro pop/electro folk act Toshack Highway, whose releases ranged from sextet ensemble works to four-track bedroom recordings and then with the more traditionally guitar rock-driven Adam Franklin & Bolts of Melody. Hartridge founded a distribution company. Hindmarsh founded Badearth Management, eventually managing Scottish rock act Terra Diablo and others. Interestingly, in early 2005, Franklin, Hartridge, Hindmarsh and George reconvened to collaborate with Castle Music to choose songs on what would be a two disc anthology Juggernaut Rides ’89-’98, which featured 33 tracks remastered from the original DATs. Half of those tracks were non-album tracks along with four previously unreleased tracks — Shake Appeal’s “Son of Mustang Ford” demo and the remainder of Swervedriver’s recordings during 1998, which included “Just Sometimes” and “Neon Lights Glow.” The compilation was critically applauded and in some way, it helped to build up interest in the shoegaze pioneers’ work.
2006 was a busy year for the members of Swervedriver — Franklin began collaborating with Interpol‘s Sam Fogarino in Magnetic Morning. Hindmarsh went on to publish Rider, which chronicled his experiences and observations on the road touring with the band between 1992 and 1998. Somewhat inspired by the successful 2004 reunion of the Pixies, Franklin, Hartridge and Hindmarsh went on an international reunion tour in 2008, garnering the attention and acclaim that evaded them a decade earlier. 2015’s I Wasn’t Born To Lose You was the first album of original material from the band in 17 years — although they managed to remain consistent, as they went through another series of lineup changes between the reunion tour and Born.
Swervedriver’s sixth full-length album and second of their reunion, Future Ruins is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Dangerbird Records. Having written and recorded I Wasn’t Born To Lose You immediately after their
Australian tour, the band decided to repeat the process after a lengthy Stateside tour, playing Raise and Mezcal Head in their entirety. “That’s a good way to record,” Franklin says in press notes, “because you’ve literally just seen the whites of the audience’s eyes and you’re thinking, ‘If that audience from last night were here now…’ You can’t get too mellow. We came home with 30 different songs.” 10 more days of vocals and overdubs at Brighton UK‘s Seaside Studios with Grammy Award-winning engineer TJ Doherty quickly followed.
The album’s 10 tracks were mixed earlier this year, as the band was touring across Europe. And while the material finds the band retaining the escapist vibes that they’ve been long known for, the album’s material is centered around an uneasy tension, inspired by our current sociopolitical moment. Now, as you may recall, Future Ruins second single “Drone Lover,” actually predated the Future Ruins sessions. Although interestingly enough, as the band’s Adam Franklin explained in press notes, “I have no recollection of where this tune came from. It’s a song that’s been knocking around for a few years, but for some reason had never been presented to anyone until we were in the studio this time and I clicked play on the demo while searching for something else. TJ and Mikey both went “what’s this?” and then “so why aren’t we recording it?” – and so we recorded it. The lyric mentions love but it’s really about war – remote war and killing from a distance whilst chomping on last night’s leftover pizza or something.” Obviously, it’s an incisive commentary on the depersonalized nature of 21st Century techno-warfare — including some hellish and fucked up imagery of bombs falling from the air, and neighborhoods in flames; but centered around buzzing power chords, a steady and propulsive backbeat and an infectious hook that brings an updated take on the beloved 120Minutes alt rock sound.
Future Ruins‘ latest single is the shimmering “The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air,” a track that Franklin admits found the band thinking of The Clash, “even though it doesn’t sound anything like them, but it’s like a punch on the nose from a velvet glove.” Franklin goes on to say that “the title came from a misheard Supremes lyric and the words came out of that.” Centered around shimmering and fuzzy power chords, the track may arguably be the most nostalgic and wistful track on the album, with the song’s narrator thinking about all the directions his life may have taken, if he made a different decision at some key point in his life. Continuing the album’s overall vibe and feel, there are references to weapons — of one “choosing their weapons wisely” — and a begrudging acceptance of the world being fucked up and broken, it’s a heartbroken sigh.
Dedicated to Buzzcocks‘ Pete Shelley, the recently released video is a mix of footage shot on glitchy VHS camera, and archival footage, which emphasizes the heartache at the core of the song.